That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be assumed to should be destroyed by it

post by Thac0 · 2024-07-09T19:39:57.887Z · LW · GW · 0 comments

This is a post about bringing a concept from German law, Beweislast, which is most likely also present in all legal systems worldwide, to rationality, specifically to this old but central tenant of it. 

Beweislast means burden of proof, and is the framework under which it is decided that who has to proove what before court. If Kurt says Kevin hit him, and neither has any evidence, this case goes to Kurt if Kevin has the burden of proof and to Kevin if Kurt has the burden of proof. 

Beweislast is the obligation to prove, that reality aligns with your version of the story more, than that of the other guy. Having the Beweislast is a massive drawback, as it forces you to argument for a point, while the other guy can just sit back and try to dismantle your arguments.

While Beweislast is bad for you, it is of course not the end of all things, if Kevin has the Beweislast, but he has evidence that Kurt hit him, then Kevin will win the case. He had the burden of proof, and he delivered on it. 

Now there is a really simple rule of thumb as for who should get the Beweislast, Everyone has to prove that which benefits them

This rule of thumb alone is probably worth internalising, as it is highly effective at producing accurate legal judgments, and as such is good for human relations, or more broadly conflict mediation, in general. 

In some cases however the Beweislast is inverted. German has the cute name Beweislastumkehr for this, literally inversion of burden of proof. This is for cases in which it is generally unfair for the party to prove their version of events, the most common case for in German law being business-customer contracts. If you as a customer purchase something from a business, then you are usually buying from a huge corporation, and if something breaks, it will be really hard and annoying for you to prove it was their fault. In this case there is a Beweislastumkehr, and the business has to prove that it was your fault that the thing broke, and if not, they have to send you a new one. (this is limited to six months to avoid some shenanigans).

Why am I telling you about Beweislast and Beweislastumkehr?

Because I think it solves the second virtue of rationality. [LW · GW]

Relinquishment wants you to destroy all beliefs which are not aligned with reality with the truth, no matter the circumstance. "Rules without exceptions last eternally", sings one of my favourite singers Roy Khan, as he plays a young man, submitting his soul to the devil. A rule without exceptions is quite likely to have some edge cases where you will be gotten got, and then you really wish you had these exceptions. 

There has been some discussion [LW · GW] on the old adage, "That which can be destroyed by the truth should be", or also called the Litany of Hodgell [? · GW].

It is not that hard to think up cases where this litany is wrong, cases where telling a friend the truth would hurt him more than it would serve either of you, cases where your assumption of what is the truth differs from the actual effective truth, or cases where the convenient lie plays a really important role you could not understand yet, and pulling it out causes everything to tumble like a Jenga tower.

I wonder if this game is popular in the US aswell?

One case, and I warn you as this is culture-warry and goes against some very old lesswrong roots, where this might have happened is religion. It can be argued that the crusade of religion is what lead to the rise of woke. 

(The less statistical version of the argument goes kind of like this: There is a religion shaped hole in the human psyche, some desire to have trascendental beliefs stuck from our time as a tribal hunter-gatherer. Religion slotted into this religion shaped hole very nicely. Forcing people to become atheist to aggressive cultural revolution leaves them with the pressure to not be religious, but the desire to be religious, which leads to abberations of psychotechnology and culture, like the SJW culture, which most people now agree to be not that beneficial, even in liberal circles.

Shoutout to my postrat brothers on twitter trying to forge a new religion for a post-postmodern [metamodern] age. On the forefront are imo Mycellium Mage and Vivid Void also read his excellent take on the cultural shift.)

Unrelated as to wether you agree with this quite divisive and polarising example of an untruth that should not have been destroyed, it is the perfect example as for how Beweislast can improve the Litany of Hodgell. That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be assumed to should be destroyed by it. 

Or in simpler words, that which is not true, has to prove that it is still worthy of not being destroyed. 

If you keep your mind open to the fact that some things might have value beyond their truth, then the adage gets that important exception which keeps it from becoming a faustian pact. And best of all, the assumed untruth does not get away scott free, it gets the nasty Beweislast. Doubly so, in fact, since it can both prove to be either true despite being very unlikely to be so, and to have so much value it should not be dismanteled yet, or maybe ever. But it has to work for it. It has to argue, has to fight.

This argument is very similar to that of High Modernism that James Scott makes in his books. Partiularily Two Cheers for Anarchism is amazing. A short rundown:

Informal systems, which are naturally grown under market dynamics, instead of being top down planned and enforced, sometimes heavily outcompete rational logical systems, because they obey some natural laws which are far outside of the comprehension of the logical thinker. His prime example is that US Capitalism utterly shredded the top down, logic based planned economy of the Soviets. 

There are circumstances where pure logic, truth and rationalism has its limits. 

But the things it should stay clear off have the burden to prove that they are sacrosanct.


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