Dis­solv­ing the Question

TagLast edit: 17 Mar 2021 19:15 UTC by abramdemski

Dissolving the question is the act of making a question no longer necessary: satisfying all associated curiosity, resolving all related confusions, but without answering the question. The classic example is the question “If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”. The apparent paradox of the question is, in this case, resolved by pointing out the ambiguity of the term “sound”. The question can be dissolved by distinguishing between “Sound” as referring to auditory experience and “Sound” as referring to vibrations in the air.

“Many philosophers—particularly amateur philosophers, and ancient philosophers—share a dangerous instinct: If you give them a question, they try to answer it.”—Eliezer Yudkowsky, Dissolving the Question

Sometimes a question does have a strong answer as stated, but also needs to be dissolved. This is (arguably) the case with Free Will, for example:

This is (probably) not just a case of “the other side is being silly”: there does indeed seem to be something weird about the question which deserves scrutiny.

In other words, answering the question doesn’t fully address the confusion that the question represents!

A failure mode in this step is giving justifications instead of explaining the process itself. Arguing that the reason we have an illusion of free will was that it was evolutionarily adaptive falls into this failure mode, as it doesn’t explain the cognitive algorithm which produces the feeling of free will, and so doesn’t dissolve the question. This can also be thought of as answering the “Why” instead of the “How”, or as failing to provide a gears level model.

Dissolving a question usually (always?) involves providing a cognitive reduction of the question.

See also: deconfusion, cognitive reduction

Dis­solv­ing the Question

Eliezer Yudkowsky8 Mar 2008 3:17 UTC
92 points
117 comments5 min readLW link

Dis­solv­ing the “Is the Effi­cient Mar­ket Hy­poth­e­sis Dead?” Question

Alexei2 Aug 2020 4:46 UTC
35 points
4 comments7 min readLW link

Dis­solv­ing Con­fu­sion around Func­tional De­ci­sion Theory

scasper5 Jan 2020 6:38 UTC
22 points
12 comments9 min readLW link

Dis­solv­ing the Fermi Para­dox (Ap­plied Bayesi­anism)

shin_getter3 Jul 2017 9:44 UTC
16 points
10 comments1 min readLW link

Dis­solv­ing Sleep­ing Beauty

Chris_Leong24 Jan 2021 8:10 UTC
9 points
21 comments4 min readLW link

Towards dis­solv­ing the mys­tery of consciousness

GeometryOfTheShadows6 Jul 2018 21:36 UTC
40 points
7 comments1 min readLW link

See­ing Red: Dis­solv­ing Mary’s Room and Qualia

orthonormal26 May 2011 17:47 UTC
51 points
154 comments6 min readLW link

[SEQ RERUN] Dis­solv­ing the Question

MinibearRex20 Feb 2012 4:58 UTC
11 points
8 comments1 min readLW link

A bit of word-dis­solv­ing in poli­ti­cal discussion

[deleted]7 Dec 2014 17:05 UTC
7 points
40 comments8 min readLW link

The Truth about Scots­men, or: Dis­solv­ing Fallacies

Tesseract5 Dec 2010 21:57 UTC
37 points
36 comments3 min readLW link

The raw-ex­pe­rience dogma: Dis­solv­ing the “qualia” problem

metaphysicist16 Sep 2012 19:15 UTC
−4 points
341 comments5 min readLW link

Were atoms real?

AnnaSalamon8 Dec 2010 17:30 UTC
90 points
156 comments4 min readLW link

Tarski State­ments as Ra­tion­al­ist Exercise

Vladimir_Nesov17 Mar 2009 19:47 UTC
12 points
10 comments4 min readLW link

My cur­rent take on the Paul-MIRI dis­agree­ment on al­ignabil­ity of messy AI

jessicata29 Jan 2017 20:52 UTC
20 points
0 comments10 min readLW link