The difference between what I strive for (and would advocate) and “epistemic learned helplessness” is that it’s not helpless. I do trust myself to figure out the answers to these kinds of things when I need to—or at least, to be able to come to a perspective that is worth contending with.
The solution I’m pointing at is simply humility. If you pretend that you know things you don’t know, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you don’t wanna say “I dunno, maybe” and can’t say “Definitely not, and here’s why” (or “That’s irrelevant and here’s why” or “Probably not, and here’s why I suspect this despite not having dived into the details”), then you were committing arrogance by getting into a “debate” in the first place.
Easier said than done, of course.
I think “subject specific knowledge is helpful in distinguishing between bullshit and non-bullshit claims.” is pretty clear on its own, and if you want to add an example it’d be sufficient to do something simple and vague like “If someone cites scientific studies you haven’t had time to read, it can sound like they’ve actually done their research. Except sometimes when you do this you’ll find that the study doesn’t actually support their claim”.
“How to formulate a rebuttal” sounds like a very different thing, depending on what your social goals are with the rebuttal.
I think I’m starting to realize the dilemma I’m in.
Yeah, you’re kinda stuck between “That’s too obvious of a problem for me to fall into!” and “I don’t see a problem here! I don’t believe you!”. I’d personally err on the side of the obvious, while highlighting why the examples I’m picking are so obvious.
I could bring out the factual evidence and analyze it if you like, but I don’t think that was your intention
Yeah, I think that’d require a pretty big conversation and I already agree with the point you’re trying to use it to make.
I did get feedback warning that the Ramaswamy example was quite distracting (my beta reader reccomended flat eartherism or anti-vaxxing instead). In hindsight it may have been a better choice, but I’m not too familiar with geology or medicine, so I didn’t think I could do the proper rebuttal justice.
My response to your Ramaswamy example was to skip ahead without reading it to see if you would conclude with “My counterarguments were bullshit, did you catch it?”.
After going back and skimming a bit, it’s still not clear to me that they’re not.
The uninformed judge cannot tell him from someone with a genuine understanding of geopolitics.
The thing is, this applies to you as well. Looking at this bit, for example:
What about Ukraine? Ukrainians have died in the hundreds of thousands to defend their country. Civil society has mobilized for a total war. Zelensky retains overwhelming popular support, and by and large the populace is committed to a long war. Is this the picture of a people about to give up? I think not.
What about Ukraine? Ukrainians have died in the hundreds of thousands to defend their country. Civil society has mobilized for a total war. Zelensky retains overwhelming popular support, and by and large the populace is committed to a long war.
Is this the picture of a people about to give up? I think not.
This sure sounds like something a bullshit debater would say. Hundreds of thousands of people dying doesn’t really mean a country isn’t about to give up. Maybe it’s the reason they are about to give up; there’s always a line, and whos to say it isn’t in the hundreds of thousands? Zelensky having popular support does seem to support your point, and I could go check primary sources on that, but even if I did your point about “selecting the right facts and omitting others” still stands, and there’s no easy way to find out if you’re full of shit here or not.
So it’s kinda weird to see it presented as if we’re supposed to take your arguments at face value… in a piece purportedly teaching us to defend against the dark art of bullshit. It’s not clear to me how this section even helps even if we do take it at face value. Okay, so Ramaswamy said something you disagree with, and you might even be right and maybe his thoughts don’t hold up to scrutiny? But even if so, that doesn’t mean he’s “using dark arts” any more than he just doesn’t think things through well enough to get to the right answer, and I don’t see what that teaches us about how to avoid BS besides “Don’t trust Ramaswamy”.
To be clear, this isn’t at all “your post sucks, feel bad”. It’s partly genuine curiosity about where you were trying to go with that part, and mostly that you seem to genuinely appreciate feedback.
My own answer to “how to defend against bullshit” is to notice when I don’t know enough on the object level to be able to know for sure when arguments are misleading, and in those cases refrain from pretending that I know more than I do. In order to determine who to take how seriously, I track how much people are able to engage with other worldviews, and which worldviews hold up and don’t require avoidance techniques in order to preserve the worldview.
The frequency explanation doesn’t really work, because men do sometimes get excess compliments and it doesn’t actually become annoying; it’s just background. Also, when women give men the kind of compliments that men tend to give women, it can be quite unwanted even when infrequent.
The common thing, which you both gesture at, is whether it’s genuinely a compliment or simply a bid for sexual attention, borne out of neediness. The validation given by a compliment is of questionable legitimacy when paired with some sort of tug for reciprocation, and it’s simply much easier to have this kind of social interaction when sexual desire is off the table the way it is between same sex groups of presumably straight individuals.
For example, say you’re a man who has gotten into working out and you’re visiting your friend whom you haven’t seen in a while. If your friend goes wide eyed, saying “Wow, you look good. Have you been working out?” and starts feeling your muscles, that’s a compliment because it’s not too hard for your friend to pull off “no homo”. He’s not trying to get in your pants. If that friend’s new girlfriend were to do the exact same thing, she’d have to pull off “no hetero” for it to not get awkward, and while that’s doable it’s definitely significantly harder. If she’s been wanting an open relationship and he hasn’t, it gets that much harder to take it as “just a compliment” and this doesn’t have to be a recurring issue in order for it to be quite uncomfortable to receive that compliment. As a result, unless their relationship is unusually secure she’s less likely to compliment you than he is—and when she does she’s going to be a lot more restrained than he can be.
The question, to me, is to what extent people are trying to “be sexy for their homies” because society has a semi-intentional way of doing division of labor to allow formation of social hierarchies without having to go directly through the mess of sexual desires, and to what extent people are simply using their homies as a proxy for what the opposite sex is into and getting things wrong because they’re projecting a bit. The latter seems sufficient and a priori expected, but maybe it leads into the former.
I want there to be a way to trade action for knowledge- to credibly claim I won’t get upset or tell anyone if a lizardman admits their secret to me- but obviously the lizardman wouldn’t know that I could be trusted to keep to that,
The thing people are generally trying to avoid, when hiding their socially disapproved of traits, isn’t so much “People are going to see me for what I am”, but that they won’t.
Imagine you and your wife are into BDSM, and it’s a completely healthy and consensual thing—at least, so far as you see. Then imagine your aunt says “You can tell me if you’re one of those BDSM perverts. I won’t tell anybody, nor will I get upset if you’re that degenerate”. You’re still probably not going to be inclined to tell her, because even if she’s telling the truth about what she won’t do, she’s still telling you that she’s already written the bottom line that BDSM folks are “degenerate perverts”. She’s still going to see you differently, and she’s still shown that her stance gives her no room for understanding what you do or why, so her input—hostile or not—cannot be of use.
In contrast, imagine your other aunt tells you about how her friends relationship benefitted a lot from BDSM dynamics which match your own quite well, and then mentions that they stopped doing it because of a more subtle issue that was causing problems they hadn’t recognized. Imagine your aunt goes on to say “This is why I’ve always been opposed to BDSM. It can be so much fun, and healthy and massively beneficial in the short term, but the longer term hidden risks just aren’t worth it”. That aunt sounds worth talking to, even if she might give pushback that the other aunt promised not to. It would be empathetic pushback, coming from a place of actually understanding what you do and why you do it. Instead of feeling written off and misunderstood, you feel seen and heard—warts and all. And that kind of “I got your back, and I care who you are even if you’re not perfect” response is the kind of response you want to get from someone you open up to.
So for lizardmen, you’d probably want to start by understanding why they wouldn’t be so inclined to show their true faces to most people. You’d want to be someone who can say “Oh yeah, I get that. If I were you I’d be doing the same thing” for whatever you think their motivation might be, even if you are going to push back on their plans to exterminate humanity or whatever. And you might want to consider whether “lizardmen” really captures what’s going on or if it’s functioning in the way “pervert” does for your hypothetical aunt.
I get that “humans are screwed up” is a sequences take, that you’re not really sure how to carve up the different parts of your mind, etc. What I’m pointing at here is substantive, not merely semantic.
The dissociation of saying “humans are messed up”/”my brain is messed up” feels different than saying “I am messed up”. The latter is speaking from a perspective that is associated with the problem and has the responsibility to fix it from the first person. This perspective shift is absolutely crucial, and trying to solve your problems “from the outside” gets people very very caught up in additional meta level problems and unable to touch the object level problem. This is a huge topic.
I had as a strong an aversion to homework as anyone, including homework which I knew to be important. It’s not a matter of “finding a situation where you notice part of your mind attempting to write the bottom line first”, but of noticing why that part of your mind will try to write the bottom line first, and relating to yourself in a way that eliminates the motivation to do so in the first place. I don’t have situations where part of my mind attempts to write the bottom line first… that I’m aware of, at least. There are things that I’m attached to, which is what causes the “bottom line first” issues and which is still an obstacle to be overcome in itself, but the motivation to write the bottom line first can be completely obsoleted by stopping and giving more attention to the possibility that you’ve been trying to undervalue something that you can sense is critically important. This mental move shifts all of your “my brain is being irrational” problems into “I don’t know what to do on the object level”/”I don’t know why this is so important to me” problems, which are still problems but they are much nicer because they highlight rather than obscure the path to solution.
“I want some kind of language to distinguish the truth seeking part from the biased part”. I don’t think such a distinction exists in any meaningful sense.
In my model, there’s a part of your brain that recognizes that something is important (e.g. social time), and a part of your brain that recognizes that something else is important (e.g. doing homework), and that neither are “truth seeking” or “biased”, but simply tugging you towards a particular goal. Then there’s a part of your brain which feels tugged in both directions and has to mediate and try to form this incoherent mess into something resembling useful behavior.
This latter part wants to get out of the conflict, and there are many strategies to do this. This is another big topic, but one way to get out of the conflict is to simply give in to the more salient side and shut out the less salient side. This strategy has obvious and serious problems, so making an explicit decision to use this strategy itself can cause conflict between the desire “I want to not deal with this discomfort” and “I want to not drive my life into the ground by ignoring things that might be important”.
One way to attempt to resolve that conflict is to decide “Okay, I’ll ‘be rational’, ‘use logic and evidence and reason’, and then satisfy the side which is more logical and shut out the side that is ‘irrational and wrong’”. This has clear advantages over the “be a slave to impulses” strategy, but it has it’s own serious issues. One is that the side that you judge to be “irrational” isn’t always the side that’s easier to shut out, so attempting to do so can be unsuccessful at the actual goal of “get out of this uncomfortable conflict”.
A more successful strategy to resolving like these is to shut out the easy to shut out side, and then use “logic and reason” to justify it if possible, so that the “I don’t want to run my life into the ground by making bad decisions” part is satisfied too. The issue with this one comes up when part of you notices that the bottom line is getting written first and that the pull isn’t towards truth—but so long as you fail to notice, this strategy actually does quite well, so every time your algorithm that you describe as “logical and reasoned” drifts in this direction it gets rewarded and you end up sliding down this path. That’s why you get this repeating pattern of “Dammit, my brain was writing the bottom line again. I shall keep myself from doing that next time!”.
It’s simply not the case that you have a “truth seeking part” and a “biased part”. You contain a multitude of desires, and strategies for achieving these desires and mediating conflicts between these desires. The strategies you employ, which call for shutting out desires which retain power over you unless they can come up with sufficient justification, requires you to come up with justifications and find them sufficient in order to get what you want. So that’s what you’re motivated to do, and that’s what you tend to do.
Then you notice that this strategy has problems, but so long as you’re working within this strategy, adding the extra desires of “but don’t fool myself here!” becomes simply another desire that can be rationalized away if you succeed in coming up with a justification that you’re willing to deem sufficient (“Nah, I’m not fooling myself this time! These reasons are sound!”, “Shit, I did it again didn’t I. Wow, these biases sure can be sneaky!”).
The framing itself is what creates the problems. By the time you are labeling one part “truth seeking” and one part “biased, and therefore important to not listen to”, you are writing the bottom line . And if your bottom line includes “there is a problem with how my brain is working”, then that’s gonna be in your bottom line.
The alternative is to not purport to know which side is “truth seeking” and which side is “biased”, and simply look, until you see the resolution.
1) You keep saying “My brain”, which distances you from it. You say “Human minds are screwed up”, but what are you if not a human mind? Why not say “I am screwed up”? Notice how that one feels different and weightier? Almost like there’s something you could do about it, and a motivation to do it?
2) Why does homework seem so unfun to you? Why do you feel tempted to put off homework and socialize? Have you put much thought into figuring out if “your brain” might be right about something here?
In my experience, most homework is indeed a waste of time, some homework very much is not, and even that very worthwhile homework can be put off until the last minute with zero downside. I decided to stop putting it off to the last minute once it actually became a problem, and that day just never came. In hindsight, I think “my brain” was just right about things.
How sure are you that you’d have noticed if this applies to you as well?
3) “If your brain was likely to succeed in deceiving you”.
You say this as if you are an innocent victim, yet I don’t think you’d fall for any of these arguments if you didn’t want to be deceived. And who can blame you? Some asshole won’t let you have fun unless you believe that homework isn’t worthwhile, so of course you want to believe it’s not worth doing.
Your “trick” works because it takes off the pressure to believe the lies. You don’t need to dissociate from the rest of your mental processes to do this, and you don’t have to make known bad decisions in order to do this. You simply need to give yourself permission to do what you want, even when you aren’t yet convinced that it’s right.
Give yourself that permission, and there’s no distortionary pressure so you can be upfront about how important you think doing your homework tonight really is. And if you decide that you’d rather not put it off, you’re allowed to choose that too. As a general rule, rationality is improved by removing blocks to looking at reality, not adding more blocks to compensate for other blocks.
It’s not that “human minds are messed up” in some sort of fundamental architectural way and there’s nothing you can do about it, it’s that human minds take work to organize, people don’t fully recognize this or how to do it, and until that work you’re going to be full of contradictions.
As an update, the 3rd thing I tried also failed. Now I ran out of things to try.
I wouldn’t be discouraged. There are a lot of ways to do “the same thing” differently, and I wouldn’t expect a first try success. In particular, I’d expect you to need a lot more time letting yourself “run free”—at least “in sim”—and using that to figure out what exactly it is that you want and how to actually get it without screwing anything else up. Like, “Okay, if I get that, then what?”/”What’s so great about that” and drilling down on that felt sense until something shifts.
Sure took me a while, at least. And I wouldn’t claim to be “finished”
The problem is that anything that is non-sexual love seems to be corrupted by sexual love, in a way that makes the non-sexual part worse. E.g. imagine you have a female friend that you like to talk to because she is a good interlocutor. [...] I expect that if you would now start to have sex with that female friend your mind would get corrupted by sexual desire. E.g. instead of thinking about what to discuss in the next meeting, a sexual fantasy would pop into your head.
How sure are you that this is actually a problem? Is it the hypothetical female friend that has an issue with just focusing on sex as much as you’d be tempted to, or is it a you thing? The former can definitely complicate things, but if it’s the latter I’d be inclined to just run with it and see what happens. It’s a lot harder to get distracted by the possibility of having sex immediately after having it.
My current strategy is to just not think anything sexual anymore, and be sensitive to any negative emotions that arise. I then plan to use my version of IDC on them to figure out what the subagents that generate the emotions want. So far it seems that to some extent realizing this corruption dynamic has cooled down the sexual part of my mind a bit. But attempt 3 only failed yesterday so this cooling effect might only be temporary.
Yeah, that’s the inhibitory side of the equation. Kinda like fasting for a while and realizing that it’s not necessary/helpful/appropriate to panic about being hungry, and chilling out for a bit.
But if you don’t eat sooner or later or make an earnest effort to obtain sufficient food, it might not stay so easy to continue to set the hunger aside.
I feel like I have figured out a lot of stuff about this general topic in the last month. Probably more than in the rest of my life so far.
I also realize now that this just solves the problem that I have had with romance all along. That is the reason why I did not like how my mind behaved. My mind normally just starts to love somebody immediately, overwriting all of the other aspects of the relationship. This is exactly not what I want love to be.
This does sound like premature/overattachment. I bet watching what happens to the other aspects of the relationship puts a damper on that impulse.
The ideal version of this is getting maximally close in a relationship via some context, and only once you get maximally close in that context do you extend the context. And then again you optimize for getting as close as possible in the new extended context, before extending the context again. And you add things to the context sorted such that you add the less impactful stuff first. Adding the component of love to the context should be very late in this chain. [...] I want love to be the thing that follows after everything else is maximally good. And I want the same to be true for other attributes. E.g. before feeling friendly with somebody, you should like them as much as possible, and get as close to them as possible, without that friendliness feeling there.
This sounds pretty idealized. “Should” is a red flag word here, as it covers over what “is”, the reasons things are the way they are, and why you want things to be another way instead. In context, “maximally” is too because “maximally” on any dimension rarely matches “optimally”—so whence this motivation, and what is being avoided?
That’s not to say that it’s wrong or misguided as ideals often have important value, but the real world tends to be messy and bring surprises.
Good, I’m glad my comments had the effect I was aiming for.
It’s an interesting and fun project for sure. A few notes...
* I wouldn’t expect to get it all figured out quickly, but rather for things to change shape over the course of years. Pieces can change quickly of course, but there’s a lot to figure out and sometimes you need to find yourself in the right experience to have the perspective to see what comes next.
* I’d also caution against putting the cart too far ahead of the horse, even if you have pretty good justification. “Extension of non-sexual love” sounds right, but also just so much weird and unexpected stuff that it’s hard to foresee in sufficient detail that it’s likely that your perspective on what this entails isn’t complete.
* Freedom to explore is freedom to learn, but also freedom to fail—like removing training wheels from a bike so that you can engage with the process of balancing, but also risk falling. Managing this tradeoff can be tricky, especially when the cost of failure gets high.
* “Allocating specific periods of time to run free” reminds me of how I’ve been approaching my daughters developing appetite. Monday through Saturday she has to eat what we make her so that she gets good nutrition and builds familiarity with good foods, and on Sunday’s she’s free to learn exactly how much ice cream is *too* much and otherwise eat whatever she wants. I’m not entirely sure what to think yet and the arbitrariness of it bothers my sense of aesthetics a bit, but I’m relatively happy with how it’s going so far and I’m not really sure how to do it any less arbitrarily in context.
I feel like had the technique been “Imagine ice cream tastes like pure turmeric powder”, it would basically be the same technique.
In that case, I predict people would not have had these (from my perspective) very weird reactions.
We would. I would, at least, and I predict that others would too because the fundamental reason remains.
I haven’t tried this, but maybe this would work for somebody who is fantasizing about eating ice cream, which causes them to eat too much ice cream.
If you think that you’ve been eating “too much” ice cream, presumably you have reason to believe some undesirable consequences will follow from eating this much ice cream. In this case, you can just imagine this will be the result of eating ice cream. There is no need to live in fantasy land in order to not eat things that reality supports not eating—you just have to exit the fantasy you’re in that is driving you to eat it.
I don’t mean theoretically. While it does get more nuanced, this is the basis of how I relate to my tastes for food, and as a result I don’t have any temptation to eat too much ice cream or anything else I recognize to be unhealthy. I used to, but it no longer appeals to me. Writing this reminds me how delicious liver is, and that I need to eat some more.
I am not reflectively stable.
Right. And these are your opportunities to work towards fixing that :)
I have the problem of having random sexual thoughts. It’s not about imagining having sex with some person you love or anything like that.
I’m not making any assumptions about what kind of sexual thoughts must have prompted this, nor any stance about what kind of sexual thoughts would be appropriate for you. That’s for you to decide with yourself. If you say it’s not working the way you want it to, I believe you. It’s not uncommon.
What I’m pointing out is that you don’t actually need to feed yourself false training data in order to do this, and doing so actively impedes the process of cohering into something resembling reflective stability. Whatever the valid reasons to not do the problem behavior, those can be used to motivate change, and when you do that you get far more interesting and better results.
It’s not as simple as “Here’s something I’m convinced is a valid reason, now will it go away?”, but it is not theoretical either. Integrating one’s sexual drives does change their shape, and this can have quite pronounced effects in ways that you wouldn’t know to anticipate in advance.
Reality is that you have junk between your legs. You engage in this thought experiment “What if I didn’t?”. You realize that if reality were different than it is, it would call for a different response than it seems to call for when you are looking at reality. So far so good, no darkness in noticing this.
You then go on to apply the response to the imagined falsehood to reality, knowing that you only reached this response because you were imagining a falsehood. This is fundamentally “dark” and “irrational” because it is building and acting upon known delusion.
The fact that you are still aware that you have primary sexual organs and expect the result to get instantly reversed when it stops doesn’t mean it’s not dark, it’s just an argument that you will be able to contain the darkness, but it’s really really hard to actually do that.
If nothing else, having a technique like that which “works” removes the motivation to figure it out without deluding yourself. This process of “imagine a different premise, get a different felt result” works just as well when the imagined premise isn’t false or known to be false, so you can just as easily imagine a different accurate premise and reach your desired conclusion—if you can actually justify your desired conclusion, that is.
The “hard part” isn’t in “changing desires to match what they should be”, its figuring out what they “should be” in the first place. If sex feels more meaningful than rubbing flat skin on flat skin, maybe it is. And maybe you should grapple with that until you know what to do with it. If you think you know why it isn’t, then maybe you should picture that, and see if you actually feel compelled by your own argument.
It’s not that flat earth arguments sound equally persuasive to people (they don’t). It’s that the reason they don’t sound persuasive is that “this group they like” says not to take the arguments seriously enough to risk being persuaded by them, and they recognize that they don’t actually understand things well enough for it to matter. The response to a flat earth argument is “Haha! What a silly argument!”, but when you press them on it, they can’t actually tell you what’s wrong with it. They might think they can, but if pressed it falls apart.
This is more subtle than the “guessing the teachers password” problem, because it’s not like the words have no meaning to them. People grasp what a ball is, and how it differs from a flat disk. People recognize bas things like “If you keep going long enough in the same direction, you’ll end up back where you started instead of falling off”. It’s just that the reasoning required to figure out which is true isn’t something they really understand. In order to reason about what it implies when things disappear over the horizon, you have to contend with atmospheric lensing effects, for example.
In a case like that, you actually have to lean on social networks. Reasoning well in such circumstances has to do with how well and how honestly you’re tracking what is convincing you and why.
Setting aside the object level question here, trying to redefine words in order to avoid challenging connotations is a way to go crazy.
If someone is theorizing about a conspiracy, that’s a conspiracy theory by plain meaning of the words. If it’s also true, then the connotation about conspiracy theories being false is itself at least partly false.
The point is to recognize that it does belong in the same class, and how accurate/strong those connotations are for this particular example of that reference class, and letting connotations shift to match as you defy the connotations where appropriate.
If you try to act like a conspiracy theory “isn’t a conspiracy theory” when it’s true, then you have to write your bottom line before figuring out whether it’s true or not, and that doesn’t actually work for coming to correct beliefs.
There’s an important and underappreciated point here, but it’s not quite right.
Conspiracy theorists come up with crazy theories, but they usually aren’t so crazy that average people can see for themselves where the errors are. You can have flat earthers debate round earthers and actually make better points, because your average round earther doesn’t know how to deduce the roundness themselves and is essentially just taking people’s word for it. For the round earther to say “Hm. I can’t see any problem with your argument” and then to be convinced would be an error. Their bias towards conformity is an active piece of how they avoid reaching false conclusions here.
However I don’t think any of the round earthers in those debates would say that the flat earthers were convincing, because they were never charitable enough to those arguments for it to sound reasonable to them and the opposing arguments never felt strong relative to the force of conformity. “Don’t change your beliefs” doesn’t just protect against being persuaded by flat earthers as a round earther, it protects from being persuaded by round earthers as a flat earther, and being persuaded that you don’t have a boyfriend anymore after he dumped you. If something *actually* seems convincing to you, that’s worth paying attention to.
The defense here isn’t to ignore evidence, it’s to recognize that it isn’t evidence. When you’ve fallen for three or four scams, and you pay attention to the fact that these kinds of things haven’t been panning out, they actually get less convincing. Like how most people just don’t find flat earth arguments convincing even if they can’t find the flaw themselves (“Yeah, but you could make up arguments of that quality about anything”).
And if you try critical thinking, you’ll either agree with the expert consensus (having wasted your time thinking), disagree with the experts (in which case you’re still more likely than not to be incorrect), or suspend judgment (in which case you’ve both wasted your time and are still likely to be incorrect). Exceptions only exist when the expert class is biased or otherwise unsuitable for deference. It’s better in most cases to avoid thinking for yourself.
This presupposes that you are not giving the experts the respect they deserve. It’s certainly possible to err on this side, but people err on the other side all the time too. “Expert class is biased or otherwise unsuitable for deference” isn’t a small exception, and your later point “most of the views you hear aren’t independent at all” further supports this.
The goal is to take expert opinion, and your own ability to reason on the object level, for what they’re worth. No more, no less.
Any advice to simply trust one or the other is going to be wrong in many important cases.
Don’t take ideas seriously. Disagree with them even without any arguments in your favor.
Don’t take ideas any more seriously than you can take your own ability to reason, and don’t ignore your own inability to reason. If you can’t trust your own ability to reason, don’t take seriously the idea that any given idea is wrong either. Humility is important.
A Spanish windlass works (in part) on the same principle.
I’d say “Don’t be that guy who injects themselves into the middle of a conversation about something else, and cause everyone to oppose you by trying to coopt the conversation to make it about your pet cause”.
And “Instead, introduce your influence into the things people are already fighting for and not looking at, so that they get the most progress on the issue they’re fighting by building on your input (rather than choosing to pick an additional battle with you).”
For example, I certainly wouldn’t position myself by saying “Regardless of where we draw the line on abortion (i.e. how much we murder babies/attempt to control women by regulating their bodies), what matters more is...”
On the other hand, I would argue for gun rights by emphasizing that the purpose of the second amendment is to protect minorities from oppression by giving them “veto power”, since it shifts the direction gun rights advocates would be pulling from, and the response is that gun rights advocates will pull along that line too instead of fighting it. Importantly, this isn’t just a “rhetorical trick”, but the actual better foundation in the first place, which is more widely recognizable as a solid justification and is in fact what many/most gun rights advocates are trying to pull towards in the first place even though they don’t know how to and can’t verbalize it well enough to pull accurately. “Shifting the direction of pull to one that is more true” is a good idea, as a rule of thumb.
It’s a little more complicated of a maneuver since it also positions the debate in a way that it connects with another line the opposition tends to try to pull in an opposing direction, and in which the directions people think they’re pulling and are actually pulling are very confused, but I think it demonstrates the “pull from behind” concept regardless.
Here’s a thought experiment to illuminate what I expect you’re seeing:
You’re pulling a rope south against a group of people pulling the rope north. The group in front of you now starts pulling towards the rope north north west. What do you do? Do you A) begin to side step west so that you can continue to pull due south, attempting to rotate the rope from it’s current direction, or B) shift your weight so that you don’t get pulled sideways, and continue to pull against the rope which now means pulling somewhat easterly?
Now imagine you’re pulling a rope south against a group of people pulling the rope north. Only this time, the group behind you begins pulling the rope south south west. Do you A) shift your weight as as to retain your position on the ground and pull the rope against both groups of people, attempting to kink the rope, or do you B) side step to maintain your position along the line, and continue to pull along the rope which now means pulling somewhat westerly?
I’m guessing that people are going to choose B and B, which means that the middle is the worst position to pull from, since you cause everyone to automatically and unthinkingly oppose you. If you pull from the rear instead, and have people on the back of each team pulling to the same side, I bet you’ll get different results.
He was essentially gaslighted into thinking he had to sit there and suffer about it, rather than saying “oops” and laughing it off.
He already knew how to relate to pain pretty well from his older brothers playfully “beating him up” in what is essentially a rough game of “tickling” that teaches comfort with mild/non-harmful pain. In fact, when I stopped to ask him if it was the pain that he was distressed about, his response—after briefly saying “Yeah!” and then realizing that it didn’t fit—was that when he feels pain his brain interprets it as “ticklish”, and that it therefore it didn’t actually hurt and instead “just tickles”.
Everyone else was uncomfortable for him though, and while he was prepared to laugh off a burn that was relatively minor all things considered, he wasn’t prepared to laugh off a strong consensus of adults acting like something definitely not okay happened to him, so as a result he was pressured into feeling not-okay about it all.
I disagree with the notion that we should come up with different words for things which share underlying structure but which don’t conform to our expectations about what “trauma” looks like, or that we should treat “meditators who have Seen The Matrix” as weird edge cases that don’t count and should be ignored when coming up with language.
The alternate perspective I offer is to view the successful meditators as people who simply have a more clear view of reality and therefore a better idea of how to define terms which cleave reality at the joints. The reasons it’s important to cleave reality at it’s joints are obvious in an abstract sense, but less obvious is that by doing this you actually change how pain is experienced and it doesn’t require years of meditation.
My favorite example of this is when my kid cousin burned his hand pretty bad, and I found him fighting back tears as everyone tried to console him and offer ice. No one had any idea that their understanding of pain/suffering was meaningfully flawed here because the kid was clearly a central case of their concept of “hurt” and not some “meditator who has Seen The Matrix”. No one saw their own responses to the situation as “trauma responses” because “it’s not overwhelming” and “just trying to help, because I feel bad for him”, but their actions were all in attempt to avoid their own discomfort at seeing him uncomfortable, and that failure to address the uncomfortable reality is the exact same thing and led to the exact same problems.
It’s worth noting that they were doing it because they didn’t know better and not that they didn’t have the mental strength to resist even if they did, but it’s exactly that “Well, it doesn’t count as trauma because it’s not that intense” thinking that allowed them to keep not knowing better instead of noticing “Wow, I’m uncomfortable seeing this kid injured and distressed like this”, and proceeding as makes sense. In that case, simply asking if it the pain that was distressing him is all it took for him to not be distressed and not even perceive the sensations as “painful” anymore, but you can’t get there if you are content with normal conflations between pain/suffering/meta-suffering/etc.
When people don’t see themselves as “trauma limited” it’s sometimes true, but it’s also often that they don’t recognize the ways in which the same dynamics are at play because they don’t have a good reference experience for how it could be different or a good framework to lead them there. Discarding “intuitive” language and working only with precise language that lays bare the conflations is an important part of getting there.
If any onlookers (possibly aligned with Bob, possibly not) say, “Hey, um, you might not want to say that, it carries some risk of escalating to violence”, I want the culture to provide a strong answer of “No, Bob will not do that—or if he does, it proves to everyone that he’s monstrous and we’ll throw him in jail faster than you can say ‘uncivilized’. Civilians should act like there’s no risk to speaking up, and we will do our best to make this a correct decision.”
I see where you’re coming from, but it doesn’t actually work except for in the egregious cases and NVC highlights a more complete picture that includes the non-egregious cases. If you can’t say “I think maybe we should get pizza” without Bob explicitly threatening to punch you in the face, then yes, that is a serious problem and it is crucial that Bob gets shut down.
However, there are two important points here.
One is that even if people respond in the way you prescribe, the person being threatened probably doesn’t want to be punched in the face before you haul Bob off, and will likely be swayed by the threat anyway. If you try to pretend this doesn’t exist, and say “Oh no, Bob isn’t threatening because if he did that would be bad and we’d respond then”, then Bob gets to say “Oh yeah, totally not threatening. Would be a shame if someone punched you in the face for suggesting we get pizza. Wink wink.” and carry out his coercion while getting off scot free. This isn’t good. In order to stop this, you have to make sure Bob feels punished for communicating the threat, even though the threat was “just words”.
The second one, which gets at the heart of the issue, is that your prescribed response to Bob threatening violence is to threaten counterviolence (and in the spirit of this conversation, I’ll explicitly disclaim here that I’m not saying this is “bad”). It’s important that people feel free to express their values and beliefs without fearing violence for contributing to the cooperative endeavor, but “No risk to threatening violence” can’t work and is the opposite of what you are trying to do with Bob “speaking up” about what he will do to anyone who suggests getting pizza.
Most real world conflicts aren’t so egregious as “I will punch anyone who suggests getting pizza”. Usually it’s something like Adam lightly bumps into Bob, and Bob says “Watch where you’re going, jerk”, Adam says “Don’t call me a jerk, asshole”, Bob says “Call me an asshole again and see what happens”, Adam says “If you touch me I’ll kill you” and then eventually someone throws the first punch. Literally everything said here is said from a place of “I’m only threatening violence to suppress that guy’s unjustified violence”, and the “initial aggression”—if there was any—was simply not being careful enough not to bump into someone else. And “How careful is “careful enough?” isn’t the kind of question we can agree on with enough fidelity and reliability to keep these unstable systems from flying off the rails.
The idea that “Unprovoked violence should be suppressed with zero tolerance [backed by willingness to use violence]” immediately explodes if “microaggressions” are counted as “violence”, and so given that policy there’s reason to push back applying the term “violent” to smaller infractions. However, that’s just because it’s a bad policy. Smaller levels of aggression still exist, and if you have to pretend to not see them then you de facto have infinite tolerance for anti-social behavior just below threshold, and clever Bobs will exploit this and provoke their victims into crossing the line while playing innocent. It’s a pattern that comes up a lot.
The idea of NVC is to respond to threats of violence with less threat of violence, so that violent tension can fizzle out rather than going super-critial. That doesn’t mean you let Bob threaten to punch people who express a liking for pizza, but it does mean that you recognize “Watch where you’re going, jerk” as the first step of escalation and recognize that if you do that—or if you respond to a line like that with “Don’t call me a jerk, asshole”—you may get punched and you will have contributed (avoidably) to that outcome.
but to call non-careful speech violent (either implicitly, or biting the bullet and making it explicit as you do) seems to imply it’s your fault for making Bob punch you. Which is kind of true in a causal sense, but not in a “blame” sense.
Seems to, yes. But that “seems” is coming from preexisting ideas about “who to blame”, and NVC’s whole idea is that maybe we should just do less of that in the first place.
The question is “How much do we want to avoid speaking truth so as to avoid people jumping to wrong conclusions when they combine the new truth with other false beliefs of theirs?”. Sometimes we’re kinda stuck choosing which falsehood for people to believe, but a lot of times we can just speak the truth, and then when people jump to the wrong conclusions, speak more truth.
Yes, there’s something “violent” about a lot of incautious communication. No, that does not call for further aggression, physical or otherwise. Quite the opposite.
Calling it provoking—”non-provoking communication”—would be somewhat better, though I’m not entirely happy with it.
Provocation isn’t a bad thing in general though, and doesn’t necessarily contain threat of violence. Provocation can be done playfully and cooperatively even when not playful, and is critically important whenever the truth happens to be uncomfortable to anyone involved. Heck, NVC can be quite provocative at times.
“Nonthreatening communication” would be a better fit, IMO. Or “Nonadversarial”. “Collaborative communication” works too, but kinda hides what makes it different so I do like the “define by saying what it isn’t” kind of name in this case.
“How To Communicate With Uncivilized People Who Are Dangerously Prone To Violence” would be ideal in this sense.
That is a great use case, heh. But that undersells the utility among people who aren’t uncivilized or dangerously prone to violence, and obscures why it works with those who are.
But, for abovementioned reasons, I don’t want the terminology to have any shred of implication that escalating from speech to violence is justifiable.
I guess I’m less worried about that. I’d prefer those misunderstandings have a chance to surface and be dealt with, because without that it’s hard to actually convey the important insights behind NVC.