Rationality Quotes 3

post by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2008-01-18T02:20:32.000Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 15 comments

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."
        -- Philip K. Dick

"How many legs does a dog have, if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."
        -- Abraham Lincoln

"Faced with the choice of changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
        -- John Kenneth Galbraith

"I'd rather live with a good question than a bad answer."
        -- Aryeh Frimer

"It ain't a true crisis of faith unless things could just as easily go either way."
        -- bunnyThor

"My best test for a libertarian so far is to ask what needs to be done to protect ancient sequoias.  If you say you need to buy them, you pass."
        -- Rafal Smigrodzki

"Mystical explanations are considered deep. The truth is that they are not even superficial."
        -- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

"Some people know better, and they still make the mistake. That's when ignorance becomes stupidity."
        -- Aaron McBride

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
        -- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Skill is successfully walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. Intelligence is not trying."
        -- Unknown


"The fact that one apple added to one apple invariably gives two apples helps in the teaching of arithmetic, but has no bearing on the truth of the proposition that 1 + 1 = 2."
        -- James R. Newman, The World of Mathematics

"Giving a person a high IQ is kind of like giving a person a million dollars. A few individuals will do something interesting with it, but most will piss it away on trinkets and pointless exercises."
        -- J. Andrew Rogers

"Fatal stupidity is inefficient: idiots take other people out with them way too often."
        -- Mike

"Surprises are things that you not only didn't know, but that contradict things you thought you knew. And so they're the most valuable sort of fact you can get. They're like a food that's not merely healthy, but counteracts the unhealthy effects of things you've already eaten."
        -- Paul Graham

"So many times I found myself on the receiving end of unkind treatment, or on the giving end of the same, that there is not often a space in which I can find peace to escape from this woman I have become. I want so much to not know the things I've known, to not feel the things I've felt, to not have hurt the ones I've hurt."
        -- Sara

"I am an undrawn Grand Master of the Game, and you cannot lose well against me, no matter the form. But as with all my children, I will play this game or another against you every day that you are here, and in time you will learn to lose well, and you may even learn to lose brilliantly."
John M. Ford, The Final Reflection

"When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion -- the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right."
        -- Asimov's Corollary

"Stupid gods! Don't they realize how important this is?"
        -- The Wings of Change

"Laws do inhibit some citizens from breaking them, and laws do specify punishments for crimes, but laws do not prevent anybody from doing anything."
        -- Michael Roy Ames

"I have often been accused by friends and acquaintances of being very logical. What they really meant was that I take some principle or insight and apply it further than other people that they know."
        -- Lee Corbin

"If the meanings of "true" and "false" were switched, then this sentence wouldn't be false."
        -- Douglas Hofstadter

"Make changes based on your strongest opportunities, not your most convenient ones."
        -- MegaTokyo

"You are not ready to count your enemy's losses until you have learned to count your own. And remember that some enemies will never have learned to count."
John M. Ford, The Final Reflection

"Our brains live in a dark, quiet, wet place. That is the reality. It is only by means of our senses that we get the illusion of being out there in the world. In a way, our bodies are a form of telepresence, operated by our brains, huddling safe in their little caves of bone."
        -- Hal Finney

"If you do not wish a thing heard, do not say it."
        -- John M. Ford, 
The Final Reflection

"The four points of the compass be logic, knowledge, wisdom and the unknown. Some do bow in that final direction. Others advance upon it. To bow before the one is to lose sight of the three. I may submit to the unknown, but never to the unknowable. The man who bows in that final direction is either a saint or a fool. I have no use for either."
        -- Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light

"The assassin's gun may believe it is a surgeon's laser. But the assassin must know the task."
John M. Ford, The Final Reflection

"Man has Nature whacked," said someone to a friend of mine not long ago. In their context the words had a certain tragic beauty, for the speaker was dying of tuberculosis. "No matter," he said, "I know I'm one of the casualties. Of course there are casualties on the winning as well as on the losing side. But that doesn't alter the fact that it is winning."
        -- C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man


Comments sorted by oldest first, as this post is from before comment nesting was available (around 2009-02-27).

comment by Tim_Lundeen · 2008-01-18T03:56:28.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK, I ordered a copy of The Final Reflection :-)

comment by Paul_Gowder · 2008-01-18T04:46:06.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hofstadter just gained a bunch of points with me.

comment by Unknown · 2008-01-18T06:17:13.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That one from C.S. Lewis is just great.

comment by Hugo_Mercier · 2008-01-18T09:38:19.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

the one about the Niagara falls reminded me of this one: "Les cons, ça ose tout. C'est même à ça qu'on les reconnaît." (Michel Audiard) roughly translated: "Morrons dare everything. That's how you recognize them."

comment by Ben_Jones · 2008-01-18T12:57:03.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's great from Hal Finney. Can't find the whole thing on the net - is anyone here on the Extropians email list? I'd love a look at the rest of that essay if anyone has a copy.

comment by Caledonian2 · 2008-01-18T13:39:21.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A shame that more people don't recognize that defeating Nature means destroying ourselves in the process... but at least the problem is a self-correcting one.

comment by Ben_Jones · 2008-01-18T14:43:27.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's an interesting take Caledonian. Can you clear up what you mean by 'defeating Nature', and 'destroying ourselves'? At what point in history did humans stop being part of Nature and start destroying it?

comment by Anonymous22 · 2008-01-18T15:07:22.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like this bunch. Here's a Bertrand Russell quotation I'm fond of: "A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand."

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2008-01-18T15:40:50.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"How many legs does a dog have, if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."

No, it has five. There's nothing special about the word "leg" that requires that a dog have four of them. Of course, if you equivocate between the two definitions and conclude that a dog has five paws, you have a problem, and I assume this is Lincoln's point.

comment by B.H. · 2008-01-18T15:52:41.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Regarding the quote from J. K. Galbraith, all I can say is he was a major practitioner of exactly that point. I don't believe he ever ran a single statistical test in his life, I never heard him ever doubt his own beliefs, and I don't believe he ever changed his mind (or at least admitted to changing his mind) on a single point of economics. He tended to regard his own private observations has infalliable evidence. One could do a major study of bias just studying the work of Galbraith. Galbraith is a great example of how a large ego is the greatest barrier to seeking truth. The world needs more genius, but it needs more humility more.

comment by rcriii · 2008-01-18T20:46:16.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"My best test for a libertarian so far is to ask what needs to be done to protect ancient sequoias. If you say you need to buy them, you pass." -- Rafal Smigrodzki

So now I have to be an expert on ancient sequoias to be a Libertarian? I'm less of one every day...

comment by rcriii · 2008-01-18T20:46:36.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"My best test for a libertarian so far is to ask what needs to be done to protect ancient sequoias. If you say you need to buy them, you pass." -- Rafal Smigrodzki

So now I have to be an expert on ancient sequoias to be a Libertarian? I'm less of one every day...

comment by JulianMorrison · 2008-01-18T21:23:17.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hah, I super-pass the libertarian test, by saying "find a way to make farming them profitable". Nobody worries about the extinction of wheat.

comment by BillK · 2008-01-19T12:12:41.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't worry. That libertarian quote was a joke, just to see if anyone was paying attention.

If you want to solve the problem of poverty, get a libertarian to buy all the poor people.

comment by Robin_Z · 2008-05-18T14:56:50.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oddly enough, Lincoln didn't actually say exactly that. A minor distinction, true, but there it is.