Rationality Quotes With Attributions Hidden: from Mein Kampf to Men****x

post by lessdazed · 2011-09-28T04:50:23.745Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 70 comments

This thread has an experimental format for posting rationality quotes. Here is the format:

For those posting quotes:

Post the quote as usual, but not the author, original language translated from, or other information. That information is to be input after the quote according to the following format:

[Source](http://linkgoes.here "hovertext goes here")

For example:

>When an idea is wanting, a word can always be found to take its place.

[Source](http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/30216.html "Goethe, translated.")

The source information will be available by hovering the mouse over "Source", without opening a new page. This format allows quotations to be evaluated with less context available, with all that entails. I hope this allays some of the uncertainty regarding why words of the Bible or authors such as Nietzsche are sometimes poorly received. People are encouraged to vote without considering the source information. If locally idolized people said genuinely silly things even considering the context, feel free to post those as well, but please use your best judgement as to whether or not taking it out of context is fair to the speaker.

Please use your own judgement in deciding which quotes thread to post material. This isn't intended to compete with the main thread, it's an experiment to see if people like a different format better. Some people thought this format, or something like it, should simply be tried on the next regular quotes thread to minimize any disruption caused by having multiple threads, while others thought disruption wold be minimized by having a separate thread and leaving the main thread as normal. This is what I decided to do.

The usual rules apply, except that there is no fixed limit to the number of quotes one may submit, because I'd like to populate this thread without taking too much from the usual thread.



Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-09-28T05:16:42.095Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"To know what question one should, reasonably, ask is already a great and necessary proof of one’s sagacity and insight. For if the question is in itself absurd and demands answers that are unnecessary, then it not only embarrasses the person raising it, but sometimes has the further disadvantage of misleading the incautious listener: it may prompt him to give absurd answers and to provide us with the ridiculous spectacle where (as the ancients said) one person milks the ram while the other holds a sieve underneath."


Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-09-28T09:00:25.307Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is it bad that I called it once the second sentence started wearing on and on and on ...?

Replies from: lessdazed
comment by lessdazed · 2011-09-28T17:24:10.776Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think that this would be so highly rated were it in the regular quotes thread. I think this is the type of thing it is helpful to see without seeing the author first, even though it was guessable.

Replies from: Tyrrell_McAllister
comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2011-09-28T22:39:40.843Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By way of comparison, here's a Kant quote that I posted in a normal quote thread. Actually, I'd say that my quote was pretty close to mjcurzi's along a lot of axes, including length, tone, vividness of imagery, and agreement with LW conventional wisdom.

At the moment, mjcurzi's quote and mine have a similar number of votes: 15 for mjcurzi's and 16 for mine.

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-29T00:55:37.705Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth to see it like it is, and tell it like it is, to find the truth, to speak the truth, and to live the truth.


Replies from: MichaelHoward, RichardKennaway
comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-29T12:42:49.419Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

More authentic source

(Edit as this is getting downvoted: a request was made for better sourced quote to confirm authenticity, but I didn't want to just overwrite the original source as that would have unfairly made RichardKennaway's perfectly valid suspicions given the evidence he had at the time look rather odd).

Replies from: RichardKennaway
comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-09-30T07:36:42.483Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for the source.

Nyy V xabj nobhg Avkba vf gung ur erfvtarq va qvftenpr gb nibvq vzcrnpuzrag sbe uvf ebyr va Jngretngr. Gung fcrrpu, sebz (cnhfr gb pbafhyg Jvxvcrqvn) sbhe lrnef orsber gubfr riragf vf n terng srfgbba bs nccynhfr yvtugf, juvpu bs pbhefr vg vf, orvat n cbyvgvpny ivpgbel fcrrpu. Naq va vgfrys gurer'f abguvat jebat jvgu gung. Gurer'f n gvzr sbe fubjvat nyy lbhe jbexvat naq n gvzr sbe vafcvevat qrpynzngvba bs lbhe pbapyhfvbaf.

But I'm curious to know how the original context is regarded by those closer to the matter. N zbahzragny fyno bs ulcbpevfl sebz n gubebhtutbvat fpbhaqery, be n tenaq fgngrzrag bs vqrnyf sebz n terng yrnqre yngre oebhtug ybj ol gur wnpxnyf bs gur yrsg?

Replies from: MichaelHoward, MichaelHoward, MichaelHoward, MichaelHoward
comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-30T10:30:36.301Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can't believe you just straight out named the source!

Please rot13 this (the entire paragraph, it's a blatant clue).

Replies from: RichardKennaway
comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-09-30T10:50:44.176Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-30T11:15:25.746Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ur'f bsgra creprvirq nf n pynffvp rknzcyr bs plavpny qvfubarfgl fb vg frrzrq n tbbq dhbgr sbe guvf cntr. Vg unf n pbzcyrgryl qvssrerag zrnavat & vzcnpg nsgre gnxvat fbhepr & pbagrkg vagb nppbhag.

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-30T10:27:34.614Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can't believe you just straight out named the source! Please http://rot13.com/ this spoiler (the entire paragraph, it's a blatant clue).

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-30T10:19:47.624Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please rot13 this comment! It

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-09-29T09:57:37.958Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Absent evidence that the author knows how to arrive at the truth, this is no more than an applause light. "Telling it like it is" is in public discourse usually used as a substitute for any real examination of how, in fact, it is.


Well, there you are.

Replies from: RichardKennaway
comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-09-29T10:04:58.423Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(Replying to myself to avoid the "this comment was edited" mark.)

The link is to an unsourced quote, and Google just turns up repetitions of it. Given the striking relationship between the quote and the reputation of its purported utterer, I am inclined to doubt its authenticity; not because it sounds like something he wouldn't have said, or that he would have said, but because the idea that he said it is attractive enough to explain its repetition in quotes files everywhere.

Replies from: MichaelHoward
comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-29T12:56:16.639Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was writing a reply arguing about fully general counterarguments & motivated skepticism, then I realized that doesn't make you wrong plus my reply was clearly guilty on both those points, so I deleted it and instead I've had a closer Google & replied to the original with a more authentic source.

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-28T23:19:50.382Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The dreams you see most clearly are most likely to come true.


Replies from: Normal_Anomaly
comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-10-02T16:34:22.257Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What are people interpreting this to mean that they upvoted it to +13? Source aside, I don't see anything particularly rational about it.

Replies from: JoshuaZ, MichaelHoward, MichaelHoward
comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-02T20:43:38.312Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I interpreted it as meaning that the goals you have are more likely to be accomplished if you have clear paths to those goals and a clear understanding of what those goals are.

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-10-02T20:39:27.152Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll answer in rot13 so others can make their own interpretations first. (If you don't think people would be influenced, note the quote is now mostly getting down-voted (currently +11) since the last interpretation!

Sbe zr vg uvagrq ng n ybg bs gur iveghrf (cnegvphyneyl #9), naq va n jnl gung nyfb nccyvrf gb vafgehzragny engvbanyvgl, naq zber fhppvapgyl V pna erzrzore frrvat orsber, naq tvirf tbbq nqivpr nobhg ubj gb fnir gur jbeyq. bs pbhefr vg pbhyq whfg or n genc.

Replies from: MichaelHoward
comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-10-05T09:52:59.983Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm surprised. Does no-one think the quote is good advice for saving the world? That's the first thing that jumped out at me about it.

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-10-02T20:37:11.780Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll answer in rot13 so others can make their own interpretations first. (If you don't think people would be influenced, note the quote is now mostly getting down-voted (currently +11) since the last interpretation.

Sbe zr vg uvagrq ng n ybg bs gur iveghrf (cnegvphyneyl #9), naq va n jnl gung nyfb nccyvrf gb vafgehzragny engvbanyvgl, naq zber fhppvapgyl V pna erzrzore frrvat orsber, naq tvirf tbbq nqivpr nobhg ubj gb fnir gur jbeyq. bs pbhefr vg pbhyq http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=153051 http://cheezburger.com/kalipinky42/lolz/View/2570506496.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-09-29T21:32:43.147Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"I'm asking how you can compare the value of a great piece of art to that of a human being's life."

"Ohhhhh! You'll want to use what are called 'fractions'."


Replies from: Normal_Anomaly
comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-10-02T16:32:15.215Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your source has no mouseover text.

Replies from: Fyrius
comment by Fyrius · 2012-09-03T12:54:59.605Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This time it's an actual link.

comment by Manfred · 2011-09-29T06:13:28.562Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To presume that your 1 in 64 million chance is a miracle is to significantly underestimate the total number of things that there are.


comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-09-29T05:15:31.358Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wanted to be sneaky and fool people into up-voting something they agreed with, but eventually I couldn't resist collecting together these amazing Dark Arts quotes. It's almost unbelievable that this guy, unlike most masters of the Dark Arts, told anybody who cared to read his work exactly what he was doing - and it didn't matter. Just as he probably would have said that it wouldn't matter.

I doubt that a political candidate could run for office in any country with internet if he/she had written things like this. Maybe the press really is doing a better job of being substantive.

Suggestion: Downvote this if you either A) think people should not be exposed to how the Dark Arts work, or B) believe most of these statements are false. Upvote it if you think most of these statements are true.

The broad masses of a nation are not made up of professors and diplomats. Since these masses have only a poor acquaintance with abstract ideas, their reactions lie more in the domain of the feelings, where the roots of their positive as well as their negative attitudes are implanted. They are susceptible only to a manifestation of strength which comes definitely either from the positive or negative side, but they are never susceptible to any half-hearted attitude that wavers between one pole and the other. The emotional grounds of their attitude furnish the reason for their extraordinary stability. It is always more difficult to fight successfully against Faith than against knowledge. Love is less subject to change than respect. Hatred is more lasting than mere aversion. And the driving force which has brought about the most tremendous revolutions on this earth has never been a body of scientific teaching which has gained power over the masses, but always a devotion which has inspired them, and often a kind of hysteria which has urged them to action. Whoever wishes to win over the masses must know the key that will open the door to their hearts. It is not objectivity, which is a feckless attitude; but a determined will, backed up by force, when necessary.

The soul of the masses can be won only if those who lead the movement for that purpose are determined not merely to carry through the positive struggle for their own aims but are also determined to destroy the enemy that opposes them. When they see an uncompromising onslaught against an adversary the people have at all times taken this as a proof that right is on the side of the active aggressor; but if the aggressor should go only half-way ... the people will look upon this as a sign that the aggressor is uncertain of the justice of his own cause and his half-way policy may even be an acknowledgment that his cause is unjust.

The future of a movement is determined by the devotion, and even intolerance, with which its members fight for their cause. They must feel convinced that their cause alone is just.

The art of leadership... consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary... The more the militant energies of the people are directed towards one objective the more will new recruits join the movement, attracted by the magnetism of its unified action... The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category; for weak and wavering natures among a leader’s following may easily begin to be dubious about the justice of their own cause if they have to face different enemies. As soon as the vacillating masses find themselves facing an opposition that is made up of different groups of enemies their sense of objectivity will be aroused and they will ask how is it that all the others can be in the wrong and they themselves, and their movement, alone in the right.

In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.

There is a better chance of seeing a camel pass through the eye of a needle than of seeing a really great man ‘discovered’ through an election.


Replies from: Craig_Heldreth, MixedNuts
comment by Craig_Heldreth · 2011-09-29T15:23:00.333Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very nicely done. I would be keen to see a parallel set for Leo Strauss.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-09-29T08:11:25.572Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Guessed the source by the second sentence of your intro. You should obscure it a bit.

Replies from: Multiheaded, lessdazed
comment by Multiheaded · 2011-09-29T08:40:24.397Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"The big lie" is a dead giveaway too.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-09-30T06:22:01.201Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I thought it was equally likely to be this guy at that point.

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-28T23:16:00.240Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.


comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-10-02T09:39:59.742Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Be precise. A lack of precision is dangerous when the margin of error is small.


comment by lessdazed · 2011-09-28T04:45:24.064Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When an idea is wanting, a word can always be found to take its place.


comment by Alejandro1 · 2011-09-30T04:02:45.776Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Related to atucker's, but I had thought of posting it independently:

This sentiment [that evil is unreal and the universe is perfect], which as much as any other deserves the name of pantheism, is often expressed incoherently and with a false afflatus; but when rationally conceived, as it was by Spinoza, it amounts to this: that good and evil are relations which things bear to the living beings they affect. In itself nothing—much less this whole mixed universe —can be either good or bad; but the universe wears the aspect of a good in so far as it feeds, delights, or otherwise fosters any creature within it. If we define the intellect as the power to see things as they are, it is clear that in so far as the philosopher is a pure intellect the universe will be a pure good to the philosopher; everything in it will give play to his exclusive passion. Wisdom counsels us therefore to become philosophers and to concentrate our lives as much as possible in pure intelligence, that we may be led by it into the ways of peace. Not that the universe will be proved thereby to be intrinsically good (although in the heat of their intellectual egotism philosophers are sometimes betrayed into saying so), but that it will have become in that measure a good to us, and we shall be better able to live happily and freely in it. If intelligibility appears in things, it does so like beauty or use, because the mind of man, in so far as it is adapted to them, finds its just exercise in their society.


comment by atucker · 2011-09-29T04:08:12.563Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nothing regarded in its own nature can be called perfect or imperfect; especially when we are aware that all things which come to pass, come to pass according to the eternal order and fixed laws of nature. However, human weakness cannot attain to this order in its own thoughts, but meanwhile man conceives a human character much more stable than his own, and sees that there is no reason why he should not himself acquire such a character....

This, then, is the end for which I strive, to attain to such a character myself, and to endeavor that many should attain to it with me. In other words, it is part of my happiness to lend a helping hand, that many others may understand even as I do, so that their understanding and desire may entirely agree with my own.

In order to bring this about, it is necessary to understand as much of nature as will enable us to attain to the aforesaid character, and also to form a social order such as is most conducive to the attainment of this character by the greatest number with the least difficulty and danger.


Replies from: pedanterrific
comment by pedanterrific · 2011-09-29T04:17:40.818Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've just realized, to my horror, that whenever I see the name Fcvabmn from now on I'm going to flash back to a certain post in the Open Thread.

Feels bad man.

Replies from: atucker
comment by atucker · 2011-09-29T04:51:06.620Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh no! Should not have clicked...

I'm going to go burn his wikipedia image into my mind for a while until it goes away.

comment by EvelynM · 2011-10-28T14:42:19.022Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And finally the moment came when I pushed aside what I had done and started to begin again with the announcement that Jupiter himself had never existed; that man was alone in a world in which no voices were heard than his own, a world neither friendly nor unfriendly save he made it so…

How terrifying and glorious the role of man if, indeed, without guidance and without consolation he must create from his own vitals the meaning for his existence and write the rules whereby he lives.


comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-09-30T11:10:59.256Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness to the past, exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future's counselor."


Replies from: Alejandro1
comment by Alejandro1 · 2011-10-01T13:51:36.810Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I thknk that is an actual quote from Preinagrf (or if you prefer, from Cvreer Zraneq), not created by Obetrf.

Replies from: RichardKennaway
comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-10-01T15:20:55.754Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course -- at least, although I have not searched for it where Obetrf claims to quote it from, I expect it is there.

My posting this quote is a comment about this thread.

Replies from: Alejandro1
comment by Alejandro1 · 2011-10-02T01:21:41.564Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, I see now. Nice!

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-30T10:43:34.464Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please be careful not to give away people's sources in your replies. rot13 is your friend.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-09-29T03:50:47.599Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you indent quotes?

Replies from: pedanterrific
comment by pedanterrific · 2011-09-29T04:03:40.402Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Precede each separate paragraph with a greater-than sign (>).

Alternately, click the little green "Help" to the bottom-right of the commenting box to learn this and other Markdown syntactical notations!


Replies from: PhilGoetz
comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-09-29T04:53:50.260Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh... that used to create a vertical line on the left-hand side.

Replies from: pedanterrific
comment by pedanterrific · 2011-09-29T21:25:36.807Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

...It still does? If that's not what you were asking about I'm not sure what you mean by "indent".

Replies from: PhilGoetz
comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-09-30T03:02:28.412Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah... enabling the Anti-Kibitzer messes up the website. It makes the vertical lines left of quotes disappear, and it also makes the text box that I type my comment into tiny (horizontally). This is with Firefox 7.0 on Windows XP and Firefox 6 on CentOS.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-09-28T08:48:30.768Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


What is that? Google thinks it is X-men...

Replies from: saturn, gjm, wedrifid
comment by saturn · 2011-09-28T10:23:25.874Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fill in the blank with "tife"

comment by gjm · 2011-09-28T09:26:16.008Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A Google search for kook obfuscatory paraphernalia mind faq returns a relevant document as its first hit, at least for me.

I don't know whether the censoring of his handle is done for fear that he googles himself. In case it is, I have avoided (1) saying his name explicitly and (2) using words that he'd be likely to be searching for to find discussion of his "work".

Replies from: MinibearRex
comment by MinibearRex · 2011-09-28T15:41:25.185Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He does. Less Wrong has adopted a general policy of never mentioning his name, because we don't particularly want him to show up here.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-03T21:14:41.809Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by lessdazed · 2011-12-23T18:12:49.639Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It really seems like if you’re thinking quantitatively like a good utilitarian consequentialist (note: this is a codeword for “being sane”) then this shouldn’t be a difficult call.


comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-30T10:42:43.879Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please be careful not to give away people's sources in your replies. http://rot13.com/ is your friend.

comment by MichaelHoward · 2011-09-30T10:42:04.703Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please be careful not to give away people's sources in your replies. http://rot13.com/ is your friend.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-09-29T04:04:10.392Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reading is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Its chief purpose is to help towards filling in the framework which is made up of the talents and capabilities that each individual possesses... The material which one has acquired through reading must not be stored up in the memory on a plan that corresponds to the successive chapters of the book; but each little piece of knowledge thus gained must be treated as if it were a little stone to be inserted into a mosaic, so that it finds its proper place among all the other pieces and particles that help to form a general world-picture in the brain of the reader. Otherwise only a confused jumble of chaotic notions will result from all this reading.


comment by Pavitra · 2011-10-01T16:42:22.572Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

An argument is only as good as the job you accomplish with it.


comment by Morendil · 2011-09-28T15:39:46.768Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My sense of the holy is bound up with the hope that some day my remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which love is pretty much the only law.


Replies from: Morendil
comment by Morendil · 2011-09-28T16:33:50.064Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, I'm not playing this game anymore then. :)

Replies from: lessdazed
comment by lessdazed · 2011-09-28T20:08:46.096Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Try to find Jaynes or Hanson or Eliezer or the like saying something equally silly, and post that with citation hidden. ;)

Replies from: Morendil
comment by Morendil · 2011-09-28T20:23:58.612Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe I'm extra stupid today; I didn't think that quote was silly, and still don't.

My best guess is that with the source (and context) stripped away, people had a knee-jerk reflex to the word "holy".

Replies from: lessdazed, Desrtopa
comment by lessdazed · 2011-09-28T20:30:58.122Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I thought that the conclusion was an applause light, but didn't consciously mind "holy", at least, the end was sufficiently bad that I didn't feel the need to parse the beginning for problems.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-09-28T23:22:43.427Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had the same reaction as lessdazed. "Love is pretty much the only law" isn't a coherent proposition, it's designed to sound nice, but it gives no indication that there's an idea for a sensible societal arrangement behind it.

Replies from: Morendil
comment by Morendil · 2011-09-29T14:58:04.252Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay. I guess I need to take that as evidence that I was blinded by a halo effect around the source, when I first came across the quote.

So, in that sense, the experiment is working so far. :)

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2011-09-28T22:49:28.440Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Any inquiry, as an inquiry about something, has that which is asked about. But all inquiry about something is somehow a questioning of something. So in addition to what is asked about, an inquiry has that which is interrogated. In investigative questions—that is, in questions which are specifically theoretical—what is asked about is determined and conceptualized. Furthermore, in what is asked about there lies also that which is to be found out by the asking; this is what is really intended; with this the inquiry reaches its goal.


Replies from: PhilGoetz
comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-09-29T05:55:56.522Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have never seen stating the obvious taken to such levels.

Replies from: Tyrrell_McAllister
comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2011-09-29T16:19:24.532Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For what it's worth, I see this quote as a practical answer to the problem of meaningless questions. Meaningless questions are endemic in philosophy, so this seems like a worthwhile thing to lay out explicitly.

The quote is saying that, if your question is not meaningless, you should be able to do the following:

  1. Describe the specific thing A that you are trying to learn about.

  2. Describe the specific thing B from which you intend to learn about A (which raises the question of why you think that B can provide information about A).

  3. Give an explicit description of the kind of information about A that you are seeking. (Just saying "Tell me about A" might work if you're talking to a human who knows what you need to know, but usually a productive inquiry needs to be guided by clearer goals.)

Perhaps this all seems too obvious. But is it so uncommon to see people, especially philosophers, ostensibly setting about an inquiry when you doubt that they could meet the above criteria?

comment by lessdazed · 2011-09-30T16:43:40.193Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The one thing I know, everyone respects the true person. Everyone's not true with themselves.