Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Ayn Rand as Word-Thinker and Persuader

Scott Adams, the creator of "Dilbert," has recently gained a bit of notoriety for claiming that there is a method behind all the Donald Trump madness. Trump, Adams insists, will probably win the Presidential election "in a landslide" because The Donald is a "master persuader." As bewildering and counter-intuitive as this assertion may seem at first blush, Adam's claims are, at least in part, based on a scientific understanding of human nature. That doesn't mean, of course, that Adams is right about Trump. He may be guilty of reading into Trump what isn't there. But Adams' view of human nature, nonetheless, remains largely sound. And for this reason, it might be illustrative to view Ayn Rand through the lens of Adam's own views on human nature and persuasion.
In a blog post, Adam's defined his view as follows:

When you are trained in the ways of persuasion, you start seeing three types of people in the world. I’ll call them Rational People, Word-Thinkers, and Persuaders. Their qualities look like this:

Rational People: Use data and reason to arrive at truth. (This group is mostly imaginary.)

Word-Thinkers: Use labels, word definitions, and analogies to create the illusion of rational thinking. This group is 99% of the world.

Persuaders: Use simplicity, repetition, emotion, habit, aspirations, visual communication, and other tools of persuasion to program other people and themselves. This group is about 1% of the population and effectively control the word-thinkers of the world.

If you’re a trained scientist, engineer, or other technical person, you might use data and reason sometimes, especially while others are watching and checking your work. But off-duty – and when it comes to anything important – we’re all irrational creatures who believe we are rational. At least that’s how trained persuaders see the world.

You can easily spot word-thinkers when they talk about politics. Their go-to strategy involves identifying enemies and fitting them into whatever category matches their biases and cognitive dissonance. Look for this form:

Examples: Person X is liberal, or not

Person X is a conservative, or not

Person X is an insider, or not

Person X is a racist, or not

Persuaders know that most people are word-thinkers, so a big part of political persuasion involves defining people to be in or out of a certain category. This creates a substitute for thinking that the public likes. It makes them feel as if they used data and reason to form opinions. 

Social psychology pretty much confirms most of what Adam's is asserting (see Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind). When it comes to thinking about abstract matters (such as politics), people tend to be "irrational creatures" governed by sentiments and other emotional biases and proclivities (many of them colored by innate predispositions). However, people in civilized societies like to put a logical veneer on their irrational sentiments, so they make use of labels and word definitions to convince themselves that their opinions are based on "reason" and evidence rather than on deep-seated emotional inclinations.

Rand was very much aware that individuals allowed their political inclinations to be determined by emotion, and she often railed against such emotionalism. "Emotions are not tools of cognition!" she would insist. Rand thought of herself as one of Adam's "Rational People." In her writings, she would frequently praise "reason" and rationality, while denouncing the horrors of the irrational and the mystical. Nonetheless, Rand's belief in rationality (particularly her own rationality) is largely illusory. The category she fits in -- and fits in quite comfortably -- is that of Word-Thinker. Her epistemology, with its emphasis on concepts (i.e., meanings ) and definitions (which she claimed, in defiance of all evidence, could be true or false), constitutes a perfectly rationalized version of the Word-Thinker creed. So much of her philosophy involves labeling views she didn't like, often accompanied with shoddy and ill-informed rationalizations. Rand is a Word-Thinker with a vengeance wrapped in a pretense of rationality.

Rand sought to be a Persuader as well, but because she did not experience the same kind of emotions that most normal people experience, and because she was not rational (and, even worse, clueless about human nature), she was very bad at persuasion. Given the intensity of her following, this might seem anomalous, if not blatantly untrue. However, it must be kept in mind that the number of people whom Rand persuaded is, relatively speaking, very very small. She appeals mostly to be people who are emotional outsiders like herself. But a Persuader must reach more than a handful of fierce acolytes. Donald Trump persuaded enough people to get himself the Republican nomination for President. Rand, with her miserable persuasion shtick, would have trouble persuading enough people to get her elected dog-catcher.

Rand's attempts at persuasion, if judged from Adam's point of view, are really quite dreadful. Her categories are too jargonistic. They're based on pseudo-philosophical categories that don't resonate with anyone outside of the narrow confines of Objectivism. A glance at some of the insult-words she used to pigeonhole her enemies will show how useless they are as instruments of persuasion: anti-conceptual mentality, concrete-bound, social-metaphysician, second-hander, moocher, altruist, appeaser, pragmatist, collectivist, socialist, fascist, Attila, Witch Doctor, mystic, mystics of muscle, mystics of spirit, Byronic, non-entity.

As instruments of persuasion, most of these laughable. Imagine calling someone a social metaphysician in a debate! No one but a few Rand acolytes would know what on earth you were talking about. The only half-way decent insult-category in that list might be "moocher." The mere sound of the term conjures up something low and disagreeable. However, the class of people this term is designated to describe constitutes, at least in part (and probably in large part), those who are considerably less well off than the majority. In a society dominated by egalitarian and humanitarian sentiments, it's just not very effective to target such people. And this can readily be illustrated by examing how easy it is to deflect such targets. President Obama easily deflected the moocher charge (in terms of emotional persuasion) when he said, "And then you’ve got cold-hearted, free market, capitalist types who are reading Ayn Rand and think everybody are moochers." Of course, Objectivists will complain that Rand never said "everybody," and that, therefore, Obama is wrong. But Obama is speaking rather loosely: he doesn't literally mean "everybody," and so complaining about the term "everybody" means you're trying to score points on the grounds of a pedantic technicality, which tends to alienate people, as pedantry is generally frowned upon.

"Non-entity" was one of Rand's favorite terms of abuse; but as a category of emotional persuasion, it simply won't do. A term like "fascist" has become sort of cliche: it's overuse has greatly lessened its resonance. The same could be said, though on a smaller scale, of such terms like "appeaser," "collectivist," "socialist." "Altruist" and "mystic" are generally seen as positive or neutral terms, not necessarily as negative.

Perhaps the least effective term in the list (other than the jargonistic terms hardly anyone understands) is pragmatist. If you're an Objectivist, it's an insult to be called a pragmatist. For some people outside of Objectivism, it's possible that the term conjures up lack of principles or even machiavellianism; but for the majority of people, especially in an age when partisanship is increasingly seen as a liability, pragmatism conjures up someone who is results-orientated and doesn't allow artificial principles to take sway over the demands of reality.

Pragmatism is, curiously, a term Objectivists seek to apply to Donald Trump. As Yaron Brook inveighed:

He is a pragmatist. He is a philosophical, unequivocal, pragmatist. And as a consequence he will fold as president, he will fold. He will not get anything done.... Donald Trump is the ultimate in being a pragmatist.

As an attempt to persuade people by using labels, this is really very ineffective stuff. To many non-objectivists, chastizing Trump for pragmatism and claiming this pragmatism will cause Trump to "fold" and "not get anything done" doesn't make any sense. When people are confronted by claims that don't make sense (on an emotional level), their gut reaction is to think: these are crazy people. Given that the common perception in the world at large of Ayn Rand and her beliefs is that they are outside the mainstream (and hence perhaps "crazy" or "unbalanced" in some way), if you are trying to spread Objectivism, you want to do everything you can to avoid reinforcing this common perception.

I realize that Objectivism has it's own narrative about pragmatism which seems to support the charge against Trump. But if the claim does not have emotional resonance with the non-Objectivists you're trying to persuade, then it's counter-productive to make it. Even worse are those Objectivists who think that the claim is fine as long you try to explain it. But if you have to explain it, you've already lost.

240 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Granted she couldn't be elected President.

But she did sell a million novels and is still in print 30 years after her death.

I can't even get one Sci/Fi story published!

Perhaps I could run for President.......

B.W. said...

Does it need to be pointed out that Adams is basically doing the same thing he is describing? I mean, you guys get that, right?

gregnyquist said...

Does it need to be pointed out that Adams is basically doing the same thing he is describing? I mean, you guys get that, right?

Yes, Adams is the (self-appointed) Master Persuader attempting to persuade us that Trump is a Master Persuader, too. But Adams is also doing something else. He's betting on what is widely considered, at least by the experts, as an unlikely outcome in the hope of a much larger payoff. If Trump wins, Adams comes off looking appreciably smarter and more insightful than all the experts who predicted the Trump's defeat. And if Trump loses, Adams can point to all the ironical and sarcastic things he wrote in his blog, claiming that he was just playing with us and we should never have taken his claims about Trump seriously.

But she did sell a million novels and is still in print 30 years after her death.

Selling novels is very different matter than persuading enough people to change a culture or a society. And further, how many of the millions of people who have read Rand's novels were (1) converted to her philosophy; and (2) remained converted to her philosophy 20 years after they first read one of her novels?

Jzero said...

And how many of the people who read the novels were WHOLLY converted? Many a conservative endorses her market stances while glossing over her atheism, for example - which leads me to think they aren't being persuaded so much as latching onto things they probably already believed in, to some extent...

Lloyd Flack said...

As others have said before here Rand's influence has been mostly as an inspirational myth-maker. Not many follow her philoophy. And even among objectivists few pay attention to her aesthetics.
You have to look elsewhere for the source of the beliefs of those that quote her.

B.W. said...

Yeah, I tend to cringe when I hear that some conservative or another is a "Big Ayn Rand Fan," when it seems like they got the pro-business element out of it and that's about it. Say what you want about Rand, but I think there's at least a little more to her ideas that the superficial understanding that some of these people have.

I've heard of "Vulgar Nietzscheism." I wonder if "Vulgar Objectivism" could also be a thing.

Anonymous said...

.....latching on to things they already believed......

Yes, and not just "objectivists"!

Man is not a rational animal;he is a rationalizing animal.

All except Pareto,Greg Nyquist--------and me!

B.W. said...

"Man is not a rational animal;he is a rationalizing animal."

Being rational more or less just means to use your mental faculties to understand reality in an honest and clearminded why, while rationalizing is a matter of engaging your mental faculties in a practice of self-deception. Therefore this basically amounts to saying that people never use their brains to figure things out; they only use them to lie to themselves. (It even kind of implies that people are INCAPABLE of doing otherwise.) You'd have to wonder how the human race ever achieved ANYTHING if that were even remotely true.

But hey, whatever. I'm sure you think it sounds SUPER clever. So bravo, I guess.

ungtss said...

"Word thinker" is an invalid concept as defined by Adams. What he describes as "word thinkers" are people who place people into boxes as "good" or "bad" based on sloppy analogies. This is not "word thinking," but "black and white sloppy thinking."

"Word thinking" means "thinking in words." And we all do that, by necessity. In order to think logically and rationally, we must develop concepts and assign words to those concepts, in order to string together longer and more complex lines of thought. "Rational thinking" requires "word thinking."

The interesting question is whether our "word thinking" is conceptually valid or not. His term "word thinking" is not conceptually valid, because it defines it not as "thinking in words" (which we all much do,) but as "irrational, superficial, black and white thinking."

Rand's concern with word definitions was critical to avoiding the sort of "irrational, superficial, black and white" thinking that Adams is engaged in, because it prevents words from being misused and switched around, which gives irrational thinking the veneer for rationality. "Liberal," for instance, must have something to do with "freedom." "Selfish" must serve the self. Defining "liberal" as favoring control or "Selfish" as self-destructive muddy our thought and make it easy for us to be taken in by irrational ideas.

So it is here. "Word-thinking" must have to do with thinking in words. And we all think in words, by necessity. Defining "word-thinking" as "black and white, irrational, conceptually invalid" thinking is itself conceptually invalid.

Anonymous said...


Note to B.W.

No,not all human thinking is rationalization-----

just a lot of it.

But thanks for the bravo!

ungtss said...

rational thought and rationalization can be seen as two types of the same thing. Rationalization is an effort to make sense of particular feelings. When those feelings are a combination of hatred and self-righteousness, rationalization concocts false ideas to bridge the gap and make sense of the conflicting feelings. We call this "rationalization."

But rational thought can be seen as a rationalization of different feelings. Instead of trying to make sense of feelings like, for example, hatred and self-righteousness, rational thought tries to make sense out of healthy feelings like curiosity, passion, the drive to live, and love. Because these are healthy, proper feelings to a human being, the products of our rationalization of those feelings is also healthy.

By this reasoning, the quality of our rational processes is determined by the quality of our feelings. At times of healthy feeling, we produce rational thoughts. At times of unhealthy feeling, we produce rationalization.

therefore, to the extent, as adams claims, that "rational people" are mostly imaginary (with which I disagree), it is only because people are suffering emotionally, and using their minds to rationalize in order to cope with it.

B.W. said...

@ungtss: I suppose rationalization could be understood as an introspective coming to terms with emotions in a way that could be either honest ot dishonest. I saw a few dictionary definitions that corroborated this.

But I'm most familiar with the term in the negative sense, as describing a disingenuous effort at self-justification. To give an example, I quit smoking many years ago, but sometimes when the craving for a cigarette hits me, I think, "It wouldn't hurt if I just bummed ONE cigarette off of someone. As long as I don't buy my own pack. What's the big deal? I've quit before. I can quit again," and so on. I would consider this kind of dubious bargaining with my self to be rationalization. On the other hand, the thought that kicks in and says, "Stop kidding yourself. You know this is how people give in to their addictions. You knkw this is how people get started down that road. You know you're just trying to give into the craving, and you know damn well that it will probably lead to you smoking again," to be the more rational assessment of the situation.

Now, granted (and this is where it gets kind of interesting), I can only really classify these things this way based on the assumption that the latter argument is right and the former is misleading and deceptive. It's possible that the former argument is perfectly sound (one cigarette won't actually cause me any trouble), and the latter argument is clouded by emotions like hestitation and an over-exaggerated fear of falling back into addiction. It takes a very difficult effort to try to refer all this back to reality in as honest and clearminded way as possible.

To me, I think one of this biggest problems with Objectivism is that some people walk away with the sense that it's much, much easier to tell rational thought and rationalization apart, and it's ONLY some deliberate intellectual dishonesty that ever leads people to make that mistake. In reality, I think it's very difficult to try to stay rational. Even with a ruthless commitment to truth, it can still be hard to navigate the labyrinth of your own emotions (as in my cigarette example.) Things are rarely perfectly clear cut.

B.W. said...

My problem with the cynical attitude that anonymous expresses is that it amounts to a call to give up. It basically says that I'm lying to myself about the cigarette either way and so I should pick the lie I'm most comfortable living with because as a "rationalizing animal" that's the most honest that I can hope to be. If I thought like that, if I didn't believe that I had SOME hope at looking at things honestly and rationally, then I would probably just give up and just indulge in the worst rationalizations I could come up with. Because why not? Because as a "rationalizing animals" that's all us humans can hope to do.

When people makes statements like that (and anonymous certainly isn't the first I've heard say that), the impression that they give is that they DON'T make that effort to try to be honest in their thinking and they resent other people who do and they want to mock them for it and make them feel like their pursing a fool's errand.

ungtss said...
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ungtss said...
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ungtss said...

Totally agree, B.W. It's an equalizing and discrediting rationalization -- the equalizing rationalization goes "everybody rationalizes, so it's not that big a deal that i do." the discrediting rationalization goes "everybody rationalizes, so i don't have to listen to anybody."

You know it's a rationalization because it's illogical. if "humans are rationalizing animals," then so is the person speaking. which means that "humans are rationalizing animals" is most likely a rationalization.

My view is that rational thought is also a rationalization, but a rationalization of the best emotions humans are capable of. the love of honesty and integrity. curiosity. passion for life. those are the feelings that make is think rationally. without those feelings, i'm afraid rational thought is beyond our grasp.

Your cigarette example is an interesting one, and worth some thought. What feelings does "one cigarette won't hurt" rationalize? Seems to me it rationalizes the feelings of "good enough is good enough" and "i need some relief right now." those aren't necessarily bad feelings. they're just not the best we're capable of. under ideal conditions (which are hard to maintain) "good enough is good enough" can be replaced with a drive to be better, and "i need some relief right now" can be replaced with "i need to change my circumstances so i don't need relief."

but "good enough is good enough" and "i need some relief right now" are actually quite human emotions, particular when we're under difficult circumstances. If I'm on a boat headed to Normandy for D-Day, i'd be perfectly right to let myself be "good enough" and get some relief from the terror i'm feeling.

ideally, though, i'd prefer to get off the boat, or find better ways to manage my anxiety. but i may not be in a place where i can do that.

There's actually a lot of research showing that "willpower" is a limited commodity in our bodies, and that an exercise of willpower in one area actually drains our ability to exercise willpower in another. In that context, rationalizing "good enough is good enough" may actually be advantageous under circumstances where you need more willpower than you have.

I actually use this principle fairly consciously at work. Recognizing that I have limited willpower, I will control my eating and exercise better when I'm not under too much pressure at work, and then relax my eating and exercise standards when i'm under pressure. if smoking gave me relief (which it doesn't, for some biological reason i don't understand) i would probably let myself slide in that area too. But the principal is the same, regardless.

Thinking of it this way, it's not rationalizing "good enough is good enough" and "i just need some relief right now," so much as "i have limited resources and i need to expend my will-power on the most critical projects under these circumstances." some outcome, but radically different thought process.

Jzero said...

"But rational thought can be seen as a rationalization of different feelings. Instead of trying to make sense of feelings like, for example, hatred and self-righteousness, rational thought tries to make sense out of healthy feelings like curiosity, passion, the drive to live, and love. Because these are healthy, proper feelings to a human being, the products of our rationalization of those feelings is also healthy."

The problem in assuming that certain feelings are automatically healthy is that sometimes - they aren't. A wife-beater, for example, might truly feel love and passion - which can drive jealousy and possessiveness. Curiosity is fine, but unrestrained by caution can lead to recklessness, and potentially danger.

It's also a mistake to make an assumption that "negative" feelings are automatically unhealthy. If someone attacks you physically, it is not unhealthy to feel hate for them - particularly in the short term, where that hate may drive actions suited for self-preservation.

Feelings and emotions are not rational, though they are quite natural and in many cases benign. We should not dismiss them out of hand for not being rational, but at the same time we should not attribute any extra properties to them - especially the ones we regard as "good". That in itself is a rationalization: "This feeling feels good, therefore it must be correct."

gregnyquist said...

"Word thinker" is an invalid concept as defined by Adams. What he describes as "word thinkers" are people who place people into boxes as "good" or "bad" based on sloppy analogies. This is not "word thinking," but "black and white sloppy thinking."

Since concepts are essentially meanings used as mental representations, to describe a concept as "invalid" is silly. Would anyone say that a meaning is silly? Moreover, Adams does not quite describe "word thinkers" as people "who place people into boxes as 'good' or 'bad' based on sloppy analogies. This rephrase of Adams, curiously, contains a fair measure of editorializing and exaggeration. Indeed, ungtss seems to be guilty of the very thing he's caricaturing.

"Word thinking" means "thinking in words."

When Adams uses the term "word thinking," it means whatever he actually does mean by it! To contend or imply that the term means something else, that the words have meanings other than what Adams' is attempting to convey, is not entirely honest. It involves claiming that Adams doesn't mean what he does in fact mean. It is intentionally distorting/changing what Adams is saying in order to gain a cheap rhetorical victory over him. And it's definitely an example of rationalization and "word thinking" (in Adams' sense of the term).

It's important to note that Adams' views here are not something he came up with on his own through some type of "armchair speculation" or intuition. His views are based on extensive experiments in social psychology, which make it hard to deny the extent to which human beings, outside of domains of experience where methods of accountability may prove somewhat effective (e.g., peer reviewed science), engage in some measure of rationalization, often without even realizing that they are doing so.

gregnyquist said...

But I'm most familiar with the term [i.e., rationalization] in the negative sense, as describing a disingenuous effort at self-justification.

That moralizing the issue, which is not an entirely rational way of looking at it. In science (which is a "rational" rather than "rationalizing" pursuit), we don't moralize, we merely describe. The point is to understand, not to judge (there are other domains of experience where judging might be more appropriate — just not in science!).

The sort of rationalizing that social psychology tends to focus on involves rationalizing emotions and behavior. These emotions and behaviors may be entirely benign. Indeed, they may even be beneficial. The rationalizations made on their behalf may contain great deal of truth, even wisdom. But they may also contain some exaggerations, errors, and dubious assertions which don't altogether accord with the facts. Often rationalizations involve merely a kind of "spinning" which involves simply downplaying facts which make the individual look bad while emphasizing facts that make him look good.

It's important to understand as well that the degree of rationalization that may be taking place differs depending on what domain of experience we're talking about. Rationalization (particularly of the "bad, dysfunctional type) tends to be much worse in electoral politics, because of the lack of unambiguous accountability, experience, and sophisticated knowledge among the vast majority of people involved in the democratic process. Most people are too busy to be experts about politics. The fact that politics tend to be very agenda-driven makes it even more difficult to assume the detached, agenda-neutral view necessary to understand what's actually going on. Hence politics is just rife with deeply emotional and often dysfunctional rationalizations. The emotionalism is so bad that Jonathan Haidt, the leading social psychologist on the psychology of morality and politics, has suggested that we should really explore the idea of widespread cognitive behavior therapy for the population at large, so that people in our democracy won't be so dysfunctionally emotional about their political agendas.

ungtss said...

JZero:

“The problem in assuming that certain feelings are automatically healthy is that sometimes - they aren't. A wife-beater, for example, might truly feel love and passion - which can drive jealousy and possessiveness. Curiosity is fine, but unrestrained by caution can lead to recklessness, and potentially danger.”

This is where the most valuable conversation could take place, but for some reason doesn’t ever seem to. The dominant culture draws a connection between “love and passion” and “jealousy and possessiveness” that doesn’t exist, and that needs to be challenged. Love values the good of the object, not merely the object’s usefulness as an extension of one’s self. If I love my wife, it is because I want the best for her, not because I want her to be with me. There is no room for jealousy or possessiveness in a loving relationship. Jealousy and possessiveness arise from narcissism, not love. Love has no patience for them. This is one of Rand’s most powerful themes. Her heroes are always willing to let go of their beloved – to let their beloved choose for themselves.

“It's also a mistake to make an assumption that "negative" feelings are automatically unhealthy. If someone attacks you physically, it is not unhealthy to feel hate for them - particularly in the short term, where that hate may drive actions suited for self-preservation.”

I agree with that. That's part of what I was trying to say.


“Feelings and emotions are not rational, though they are quite natural and in many cases benign. We should not dismiss them out of hand for not being rational, but at the same time we should not attribute any extra properties to them - especially the ones we regard as "good". That in itself is a rationalization: "This feeling feels good, therefore it must be correct."”

Feelings or emotions may or may not be rational, as you point out. Being angry is healthy under some circumstances, unhealthy under other circumstances. Rational thinking is what helps us to tell the difference. Being angry when someone attacks your family is healthy. Being angry when your girlfriend is polite to a grocery clerk is not healthy. Healthy feelings breed rational thoughts.

ungtss said...

Greg,

“Since concepts are essentially meanings used as mental representations, to describe a concept as "invalid" is silly. Would anyone say that a meaning is silly?”

I believe we’ve talked about this before. Our language includes syntactical structures by which prefixes, suffixes, infixes, compound words, and hyphens modify the meaning of a root word. Thus “Blue” has a particular meaning, "ish" has a particular meaning, and the meaning of "blueish” is a combination of the meaning of "blue" and "ish." To define “bluish” as a species of orange is extremely misleading and invalid, because "blue" means something, and "ish" means something, so "blueish" means something.

It’s the same with compound and hyphenated words. If I breed a lab and a pit bull, I’ll have a "lab-pit mix." It's invalid to define the term “lab-pit mix” as a type of Chow. If I do that, I’m being misleading and trying to hide what I'm saying.

By your reasoning, there’s nothing wrong with defining “lab-pit mix” as a type of Chow, because “words are just representations.” As I've shown above, that’s utter nonsense. Lab means something. Pit means something. "Lab-pit" means something. Defining "Lab-pit" as something other than a cross being a lab and a pit is playing word games. It serves only to hide your true meaning. Which is what people need to do when they're being deceptive.

Jzero said...

"The dominant culture draws a connection between “love and passion” and “jealousy and possessiveness” that doesn’t exist, and that needs to be challenged."

Well, the connection is drawn because there's not always - perhaps not even commonly - a clear line where one begins and the other ends, despite your assertions to the contrary.

I would take exception with your characterization of Rand's version of love and letting one's beloved "choose" - as discussed in earlier posts, Rand had some moments of rape-like scenarios in her books, where possession and mastering were heavily in play. Choice is not a universal trend for Rand.

---

While I wouldn't presume to reply on behalf of Nyquist, I can clearly see the flaws in your argument regarding word meanings: "lab-pit" is a very specific combination of ideas - "word-thinker", not as much. But in an ironic twist, this means you're criticizing Adams for the same thing people criticize many Objectivists for.

As an example: when describing the system of government used by the United States, the most common term used by the layman is "democracy". However, Objectivists in my experience will often bicker over that, insisting that what the US has is not "real" democracy, as defined by ancient Greeks or some other stringent criteria. Any non-Objectivist knows what any other non-Objectivist means by "democracy", and it is only the Objectivists who make a point of insisting on a non-common definition by today's standards. There is no need for this, unless it is to seek a sort of verbal one-upmanship.

Adams, for his part, openly and directly defines what he means by "word-thinker", he doesn't simply drop the term and expect everyone to innately understand what he meant. So nobody can claim an attempt at obfuscation, and as long as everybody is aware of what he means (and if they read his post, they have to be aware - or dim, or deliberately obtuse), then the term cannot be "invalid". Arguing over it, then, is pointless, and serves no beneficial purpose: one cannot be said to be clarifying Adam's words for better understanding by insisting on dismantling his stated definition. Quite the opposite, in fact.

And that's the big problem: you're not actually addressing the core concepts of what Adams is saying, you're dickering over his choice of words, making their definition the issue rather than actually bothering to grapple with Adams' assertions.

Jzero said...

I'll come back and amend one statement:

"Lab-pit" may not necessarily be a specific statement. After all, I only know you referenced dog breeds because you said so. Had I seen that apart from that context, I might easily have assumed it was a pit dug in a laboratory.

ungtss said...

"The dominant culture draws a connection between “love and passion” and “jealousy and possessiveness” that doesn’t exist, and that needs to be challenged."

“Well, the connection is drawn because there's not always - perhaps not even commonly - a clear line where one begins and the other ends, despite your assertions to the contrary.”

Well that certainly depends on how you define love. Defining love as being adjacent to possessiveness, rather than opposed to it, reflects a certain philosophy of life that I find abhorrent. It’s the philosophy of pathological narcissists who persuade their victims that “I only control you because I love you so much, sorry I crossed the line.” This philosophy persuades their victims to let down their guard and fool themselves into believing that this person controlling them actually loves them. Which he does not.


“I would take exception with your characterization of Rand's version of love and letting one's beloved "choose" - as discussed in earlier posts, Rand had some moments of rape-like scenarios in her books, where possession and mastering were heavily in play. Choice is not a universal trend for Rand.”

I’d say those famed scenes are loaded with choice. It’s unambiguously clear that Dominique wanted to be possessed and mastered by Roark at that time, communicated that clearly to him, and that he only gave her exactly what she communicated she wanted. And when that same woman chose to punish herself by marrying a man she despised, Roark let her go without a word, because that was her choice. And when that same woman chose to punish Roark by having sex with him everytime she sabotaged the career he loved, he permitted her to do that. And when that same woman chose to finally love him as an equal, he was ready.

Dominique’s character arc was stunningly true to life, reflected a pattern of emotional development that is more common than you realize, and reflected Roark’s deep respect for that development.

“While I wouldn't presume to reply on behalf of Nyquist, I can clearly see the flaws in your argument regarding word meanings: "lab-pit" is a very specific combination of ideas - "word-thinker", not as much.”

“Word” means only one thing. “Thinker” means only one thing. How can “word-thinker” mean “black and white, out of context, irrational thinker?”

“As an example: when describing the system of government used by the United States, the most common term used by the layman is "democracy". However, Objectivists in my experience will often bicker over that, insisting that what the US has is not "real" democracy, as defined by ancient Greeks or some other stringent criteria. Any non-Objectivist knows what any other non-Objectivist means by "democracy", and it is only the Objectivists who make a point of insisting on a non-common definition by today's standards. There is no need for this, unless it is to seek a sort of verbal one-upmanship.”

I learned in grade school what a true democracy was, and that the US system is not a true democracy, but a mixed system of checks and balances, with some elements of true democracy, some elements of representative democracy, and some elements of authoritarianism. I learned that that was the strength of our system – that there was a “check” on the will of the people, and a check on the people in power. I’ve never heard that view contradicted by anyone with any reasonable degree of relevant education. That is not an “objectivist” issue. I don’t think you’ll find a social scientist in the world that would call the US a “True democracy,” because it isn’t.

ungtss said...

That said, do laymen use the word “democracy” incorrectly? Sure. They also use the word “theory” incorrectly – as a synonym of hypothesis, which it isn’t.

The question isn’t whether they’re using the word correctly or not (which they aren’t) but rather whether arguing about their use of the word is useful or simply pedantic. I don’t argue with people who use “democracy” or “theory” incorrectly, unless it matters in the context of what they’re saying. For instance, “The united states is a true democracy that reflects the will of the majority, and that is why it is a great system.” In that context, it matters that they are using the word incorrectly, because they mistakenly think our system reflects the “will of the majority,” which it doesn’t, thank goodness.

But if somebody says something like “I want to advance American democratic values around the world,” there’s no reason to be pedantic about their use of the word “democratic.” Even though it’s wrong, because America expressly does not have “democratic values” and that’s why it’s able to persist and advance despite a population dominated by easily manipulated, semi-literate imbeciles.

“Adams, for his part, openly and directly defines what he means by "word-thinker", he doesn't simply drop the term and expect everyone to innately understand what he meant. So nobody can claim an attempt at obfuscation, and as long as everybody is aware of what he means(and if they read his post, they have to be aware - or dim, or deliberately obtuse), then the term cannot be "invalid". “

The deception is not in what he means by his words. That’s superficial. The obfuscation is in the rubric he sets up. By using “word-thinking” to describe “bad thinking,” he suggests, without ever supporting, the idea that for some reason “word-thinking” is irrational.

The next step is to place “Rational thinking” in opposition to “word-thinking” and define it as basically imaginary. This appears to work because of an implicit equivocation -- we all implicitly understand that we all think in words all the time by necessity. Therefore, if thinking in words is irrational, then it stands to reason that “rational thinking” – which must proceed somehow without our thinking in words – a thing we can’t even imagine doing -- must be imaginary.

We’re primed to accept his belief that rational thinking is imaginary, and he hasn’t even proven it yet. All because he defined the only sort of thinking we can do – word-thinking – is irrational.

Adams is a master persuader, because he knows how to play word games that take people in. He’s doing it in this article, and it’s working.

But there are rational thinkers out there, who don’t fall for it. They see the word-game he’s playing, and the illusion of an argument he’s creating. They see it because they think both rationally and in words.

I am attacking the heart of his idea. But in order to see the problem, you have to see the equivocation he is using the create the illusion of a valid argument.

Jzero said...

" I don’t think you’ll find a social scientist in the world that would call the US a “True democracy,” because it isn’t."

Perhaps, but you just ignored what I said to pursue the definition - essentially as I described! The average person does not use "democracy" in your sense of "true democracy". And yet they use that word all the time. Not everyone is a social scientist, in fact, relatively few people are. So congratulations for just talking past the point.

"“Word” means only one thing. “Thinker” means only one thing. How can “word-thinker” mean “black and white, out of context, irrational thinker?”"

One: Obviously, that's not exactly what Adams said. So first, stop trying to edit his stated meaning. And you know very well how he arrives at the term: By saying that people think in particular kinds of words, i.e, labels, analogies, and - hmmmmm - definitions. Does the fact that you're going on and on about these definitions mean that you are, in fact, one of Adams' "word-thinkers"?

Two: Because Adams called a particular style of thinking "word-thinking", set it down, explained it to all and sundry, and used that term to reference that concept in his essay. It can mean it because he declared it so. Whether the population at large accepts that definition may be another matter, but for the purposes of his blog, it functions just fine despite your complaint.

Jzero said...

I see you've made a further post while I was replying.

"The question isn’t whether they’re using the word correctly or not (which they aren’t) but rather whether arguing about their use of the word is useful or simply pedantic."

And how useful do you think this debate actually is?


"I am attacking the heart of his idea."

Where? I have yet to see any of that. What is it you're attacking? The idea that most folks think in a non-rational fashion? Well, you haven't exactly been making your case in that regard. Claiming that Adam's definition is flawed or faulty does not automatically reveal rationality in the human mind.

ungtss said...

" I don’t think you’ll find a social scientist in the world that would call the US a “True democracy,” because it isn’t."

Perhaps, but you just ignored what I said to pursue the definition - essentially as I described! The average person does not use "democracy" in your sense of "true democracy". And yet they use that word all the time. Not everyone is a social scientist, in fact, relatively few people are. So congratulations for just talking past the point.


I don’t believe I talked past the point. I said, in essence, “The average man uses the word the way you say. He’s wrong. The word means something very specific to everybody who actually knows anything about the subject. But even though the average man is wrong in his use of the word, it’s not always worth picking a fight about. Although sometimes it is.”

"“Word” means only one thing. “Thinker” means only one thing. How can “word-thinker” mean “black and white, out of context, irrational thinker?”"

One: Obviously, that's not exactly what Adams said. So first, stop trying to edit his stated meaning. And you know very well how he arrives at the term: By saying that people think in particular kinds of words, i.e, labels, analogies, and - hmmmmm - definitions. Does the fact that you're going on and on about these definitions mean that you are, in fact, one of Adams' "word-thinkers"?


My point is that everybody thinks in terms of labels, analogies, and definitions, and must. Even you. There is no way for a human being to think without words. It's in how our brain works. So by defining that sort of thinking – the only sort of thinking we can do – is irrational and invalid, Adams has given you a “label” you can place on anybody at any time.

My point is that because we all think in labels, analogies, and definitions, the important issue is whether those labels, analogies, and definitions are valid or not. But by Adams’ reasoning, they are invalid simply because they are labels, analogies, and definitions.

Through this little word game, he suggests to you that all identifiable thinking is invalid. This is a classic "anti-concept" -- setting up a rubric designed to invalidate thought itself.

"I am attacking the heart of his idea."

Where? I have yet to see any of that. What is it you're attacking? The idea that most folks think in a non-rational fashion? Well, you haven't exactly been making your case in that regard. Claiming that Adam's definition is flawed or faulty does not automatically reveal rationality in the human mind.


I’m attacking his effort to create a rubric in which all actual thought is invalid because it occurs in words, analogies, and labels, and rational thought is imaginary. This is an epistemological argument he’s making, and it’s one designed to destroy the validity of thought, leaving nobody on the scene but the manipulators and the manipulated.

ungtss said...

Let me put it this way:

1) All human thought occurs in words, whether or not it is valid thought.
2) Adams had defined “word-thought” as invalid and "rational thought" as "mostly imaginary."
3) By Adams’ argument, since all thought is word-thought and word-thought is invalid, all thought is invalid.
4) Therefore, there exist only the manipulators and the manipulated.

Adams (and people who agree with his argument) now have a new weapon that they can use to invalidate any argument they don't like: "you're thinking in words." Yes, logical thought and argument always takes place in words. That doesn't make it wrong.

He does this all by making an equivocation out of the word "word-thinkers."

Jzero said...

"But by Adams’ reasoning, they are invalid simply because they are labels, analogies, and definitions."

Well, no. He's saying they are invalid because they are reductive and simplistic; categorizing a person into a label and dismissing all they do because their label is "bad". For example, ignoring anything one does that could be considered "liberal" or "progressive" politically because they've been labeled a "conservative" or something else.

"Adams (and people who agree with his argument) now have a new weapon that they can use to invalidate any argument they don't like: "you're thinking in words.""

Except that's not really what he's saying, if you actually take the time to read.

In fact, what is the essential difference between "you're thinking in words" and "that's an anti-concept"? None, really. If the former is a simple way to invalidate someone else's argument, so too is the latter.

ungtss said...

"But by Adams’ reasoning, they are invalid simply because they are labels, analogies, and definitions."
Well, no. He's saying they are invalid because they are reductive and simplistic; categorizing a person into a label and dismissing all they do because their label is "bad". For example, ignoring anything one does that could be considered "liberal" or "progressive" politically because they've been labeled a "conservative" or something else.


Yes. And they engage in reductive and simplistic thinking because they are “word-thinkers.” “Word-thinking” is, supposedly, reductive and simplistic by definition. Word-thinking --> simplistic --> invalid. He then goes on to “reduced the world into three ‘reductive and simplistic’ labels – “word-thinkers” who are reductive and simplistic, persuaders who know how to manipulate, and rational thinkers that are imaginary. Talk about reductive and simplistic.

“Except that's not really what he's saying, if you actually take the time to read.”

He’s not saying it explicitly. It’s implicit. That’s what makes it so effective. By defining “word thinker” in this way, you start to run around calling people a “word thinker” everytime they use labels in a way you don’t like, without actually understanding what a “word thinker" is, except that you can use it as a “Reductive and simplistic label” to invalidate what you don’t want to hear.

“In fact, what is the essential difference between "you're thinking in words" and "that's an anti-concept"? “

“Anti-concept” has a very specific meaning – it’s a rationally unusable term designed to destroy a legitimate concept. His division of people into these three groups fits that definition, because it divides people into “manipulator,” “manipulated,” and “imaginary.” In this system, the existence of thoughtful people has been wiped from reality. If you accept his view, you must choose whether to be a manipulator or a manipulated, because nothing else exists. The effect of this division is to cause people who truly accept this idea to stop even attempting to be rational.

By analogy, I could divide lawyers into “cheats,” “suckers,” and “good lawyers who are imaginary.” If I accept this division, I’d be foolish to try and be a good lawyer. I must choose between being a cheat and being a sucker. Naturally I will choose to be a cheat. Why try to be something imaginary, or something that gets me screwed over?

A better categorization scheme is more like a triangle. At the top you have perfectly rational people, on the bottom right you have perfect manipulators, and at the bottom left you have perfect manipulateds. Everybody is somewhere in between these three poles, with some measure of all three attribuates. The further you go toward each pole, the fewer people you find. At the extreme end of all three poles, you find nobody.

This scheme accounts for all of Adams’ observations, without the equivocation and resulting anti-concept.

ungtss said...

That said, he does start his blog off by saying this is how you start to see the world when you're trained as a persuader. And that's probably true. As a person spending the vast majority of your energy being trained to manipulate people and not be manipulated yourself, you probably would start to see the world in exactly these terms. Rational people would seem imaginary to you, because they are not relevant in the world of pure persuasion he's talking about. Even when they were staring you in the face.

So to the extent he's describing the way he's come to see the world through his own experience and training, I have no argument at all. I just think it's a rather 1-dimensional view of a much more complex world.

Rational people are out there, holding the world on their shoulders. You just don't meet them all that much when your primary focus is becoming an expert manipulator.

Jzero said...

"“Anti-concept” has a very specific meaning – it’s a rationally unusable term designed to destroy a legitimate concept."

First: there's no such thing as a "rationally unusable term". You either use a term or you don't, it's either understood by the person(s) to whom you present it or it isn't. Any term can be used if there is common agreement, even if it is etymologically awkward.

Second: "designed to destroy" gives terms like this and the people who coin them far more agency than I think is sensible. But I suppose if you can think that Adams is deliberately trying to destroy other concepts, then you can rationalize a whole host of other conspiracies.

Finally, none of that changes my assertion that it is a pat label that Objectivists and their kind can slap on an argument in order to outright dismiss it, just as you claim Adams is doing with "word-talkers".

ungtss said...
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ungtss said...

First: there's no such thing as a "rationally unusable term". You either use a term or you don't, it's either understood by the person(s) to whom you present it or it isn't. Any term can be used if there is common agreement, even if it is etymologically awkward.>

okay, i'll invent a term -- "zookb" -- that means "colorless green trees sleeping furiously." show me how you can use it rationally, other than sentences "the term 'zookb' is nonsense" or "there is no such thing as zookb."

"Second: "designed to destroy" gives terms like this and the people who coin them far more agency than I think is sensible. But I suppose if you can think that Adams is deliberately trying to destroy other concepts, then you can rationalize a whole host of other conspiracies."

Then you haven't watched master manipulators at work. Can't change that. But why not drop Adams a line and see if he agrees with you that nobody ever invents an idea in order to destroy another idea in the minds of his followers.

"Finally, none of that changes my assertion that it is a pat label that Objectivists and their kind can slap on an argument in order to outright dismiss it, just as you claim Adams is doing with "word-thinkers"."

this shows exactly why "work-thinkers" is bad. you're now claiming it's invalid to "slap a pat label on something" simply because it's a "pat label," regardless of whether the label fits. The real issue is whether the label is valid but you've managed to convince yourself that its status as a label makes it somehow invalid in and of itself.

you're showing exactly why this idea is destructive. it allows you to apply "pat labels" to "pat labels" simply because they are "pat labels," without ever dealing with the question of whether the "pat label" fits. that's the whole point of the idea. watch how it works.

Jzero said...

"okay, i'll invent a term -- "zookb" -- that means "colorless green trees sleeping furiously." show me how you can use it rationally, other than sentences "the term 'zookb' is nonsense" or "there is no such thing as zookb.""

"Ungtss invented the term 'zookb'."

Look, just because you strung together a non-sequitur and named it "zookb", that doesn't make it inherently irrational. Silly, perhaps. The definition of the term itself may be nonsensical, but as long as everyone concedes that yes, that is in fact the definition of "zookb", how is it irrational to use that term to mean that thing? It is not irrational to use the word "unicorn". The concept exists, even though unicorns do not.

"this shows exactly why "work-thinkers" is bad. you're now claiming it's invalid to "slap a pat label on something" simply because it's a "pat label," regardless of whether the label fits."

No, I'm pointing out an inherent double standard in your argument. I am not making any claim whether slapping a pat label on something is bad; I'm saying that if you are complaining about Adams enabling people to use such labels to dismiss arguments, then you and Objectivists have an extensive library of easy labels that can likewise be used - which makes it just a wee bit hypocritical to complain about it.

ungtss said...

JZ: First: there's no such thing as a "rationally unusable term". You either use a term or you don't, it's either understood by the person(s) to whom you present it or it isn't. Any term can be used if there is common agreement, even if it is etymologically awkward.

U: okay, i'll invent a term -- "zookb" -- that means "colorless green trees sleeping furiously." show me how you can use it rationally, other than sentences "the term 'zookb' is nonsense" or "there is no such thing as zookb.""

JZ: Look, just because you strung together a non-sequitur and named it "zookb", that doesn't make it inherently irrational.


I invented that term in response to your saying "First: there's no such thing as a 'rationally unusable term'". I'm using it as an example of a rationally unusable term. That means I think its existence disproves your claim that "there's no such thing as a 'rationally unusable term.' And I'm asking you to disprove my evidence by showing me how that term can be used rationally in sentences other than those like "there's no such thing as zookb."

show me how you can rationally use that term, to support your claim that every term is rationally usable.

i don't think you can. because i think it's entirely possible to come up with a rationally unusable term. You don't. So show me how you use this one.

I'm saying that if you are complaining about Adams enabling people to use such labels to dismiss arguments,"

that's not what i'm concerned about. what i'm concerned about is his advancing anti-concepts as labels because labels of that type are harmful. labels are neither good nor bad just because they're labels. the question is whether or not they are rational labels.

Jzero said...

"I'm using it as an example of a rationally unusable term."

Only it's not! You defined the term, that's what it means. Despite the fact that it's nonsense, if I stipulate to its meaning, then it can be used to reference that particular definition. Therefore: usable!

The zookb are deliciously less green today, ungtss.

The fact that the above sentence has no connection to real life does not make the statement "irrational" any more than telling a tale about transversing the 8th dimension.

The only way it can be irrational is if nobody assigns it ANY meaning.

"the question is whether or not they are rational labels."

In that case, your argument is already lost.

ungtss said...
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ungtss said...

"The fact that the above sentence has no connection to real life does not make the statement "irrational" any more than telling a tale about transversing the 8th dimension"

The problem with that term is not just that it has no connection to real life. the problem is that you can't even fantasize about it because it's self-contradictory. A tree can't be both "green" and "colorless." This makes it unlike a unicorn, which, although it doesn't exist, is not self-contradictory. Meaning you're able to actually fantasize about it.

The second problem is that you've dropped context. we are talking about the use of anti-concepts with reference to things in real life, like descriptions of how real people think in the real world, because of the effect those concepts -- when used with reference to things in real life -- have on real world concepts and lives.

you're now thinking you've won an argument because you can put the word in a sentence (without actually using it in fantasy, because you can't). that's not the relevant context.

Jzero said...

" the problem is that you can't even fantasize about it because it's self-contradictory."

Well, maybe YOU can't.

There are theories in physics and the analysis of the universe that postulate the existence of more spatial dimensions in the universe than 3 (and time isn't one of them). The human brain can't imagine a 4th or 5th dimensional object, but we can carry around that concept.

Even if "colorless" and "green" are contradictory, I can still carry around the idea that whatever "zookb" might look like, it is both things. I don't actually have to have a clear picture in my head of a zookb to understand that.

"you're now thinking you've won an argument because you can put the word in a sentence (without actually using it in fantasy, because you can't). that's not the relevant context."

Well, putting it in a sentence was YOUR bugaboo. It's actually irrelevant to the point I've been making.

ungtss said...

"Even if "colorless" and "green" are contradictory, I can still carry around the idea that whatever "zookb" might look like, it is both things."

That's not rationally using a concept. It's recognizing that a concept is self-contradictory, but still believing it might be possible, without actually using the concept at all, because it can't be "rationally used."

Rational thinking doesn't accept the possibility of contradiction. Rational thinking requires as a starting point that contradictions are signs of error. That if you think you see a contradiction, you're wrong about something. Rational thinking then requires us to pursue that contradiction until we identify and eliminate the error. This process is how human knowledge develops and grows.

If we give up on that premise entirely, we have no means by which to detect error. But nobody really does that, because that would leave us completely powerless.

What we typically do is exactly what you're doing -- employ a double standard. We say that contradictions are okay when you want them, not okay when you don't want them. You tell me I'm wrong because you see contradictions in my thinking, but then refuse to accept that contradictions in your thinking indicate that you are wrong.

Jzero said...

"That's not rationally using a concept. It's recognizing that a concept is self-contradictory, but still believing it might be possible, without actually using the concept at all, because it can't be "rationally used.""

Well, now you're putting words in my mouth (and: don't). I don't believe a zookb is POSSIBLE any more than I believe unicorns exist. But I can accept its given definition and use zookb as a reference for that concept, regardless of how useful or practical the concept may or may not be in everyday conversation.

And that's where we're differing: I say a rational mind can use a nonsensical reference without the mind itself falling into irrationality; you seem fixated on the idea that if a concept is somehow "self-contradicting" then somehow it can't even be used in its own context and all rationality falls apart. I am not convinced that "anti-concepts" even exist, at least not the way you describe them.

"You tell me I'm wrong because you see contradictions in my thinking,"

No, I tell you that it's hypocritical to complain about labels and "anti-concepts" when the arguing tactics you use are much the same as the ones you complain about. That's the real double standard here.

ungtss said...
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ungtss said...

“And that's where we're differing: I say a rational mind can use a nonsensical reference without the mind itself falling into irrationality; you seem fixated on the idea that if a concept is somehow "self-contradicting" then somehow it can't even be used in its own context and all rationality falls apart. I am not convinced that "anti-concepts" even exist, at least not the way you describe them.”

That’s not the issue as I see it. When I say you “can’t rationally use” a self-contradictory concept, that doesn’t mean “all rationally falls apart.” It means the concept can’t be used rationally. It can either be used irrationally, or not used at all. That's what the word "used" means.

Let me illustrate.

I can use the concept "dog" rationally as a veterinarian, facing a customer. What do i do with this animal in front of me? First thing I do is determine what species it is, so i know how to diagnose and treat its symptoms. If I think it's a cat, instead of a dog, I'm not going to treat it properly. I'll diagnose it incorrectly and give it the wrong medicines. Bad idea. This is how i can use the concept "dog" rationally.

What am i to do with "colorless green trees sleeping furiously?" how do i use this thing?

It's my contention that you can't. Not that your mind will somehow "fall into irrationality." Just that you can't use it. You can stick it in your pocket as a weird word some idiot on the interwebz made up. You can say things like "it doesn't exist" or "is an example of a self-contradictory concept."

But you can't use it.

I'm not sure how you got from "can't use" to "will cause rationality itself to fall apart." Maybe you can help me understand your thinking there.

Jzero said...

"But you can't use it."

But you can! Just not, oh, in an obvious, materialistically productive way. It is not tangibly useFUL, but you can use it as a reference to the concept you described, which is how we use words anyway. I can't "use" "unicorn", either, in the way you demonstrate "cat" or "dog". The fact that people use the word with reasonable frequency is due to its longterm existence in mythology; nobody's come up with much use for zookb because you just created it the other day.

Just because YOU haven't thought of a way to use it (not that you've really tried) doesn't mean it couldn't be used, if the concept of "colorless green trees sleeping furiously" happens to gain traction in the world at large. Hell, I don't even have to think too hard to imagine a science fiction story where an invisible alien species of tree is colored green, but that green can only be observed in the 8th dimension or something. Maybe it has two aspects of sentience in the 7th and 9th dimensions where it can both sleep and be furious simultaneously. See? Child's play. Such is the nature of zookb, young Padawan.

And that's the flaw in your argument: you want to limit "use" to some practical real-world example, but to use a concept is a purely mental act, not limited to things that actually exist or that meet some standard of logical purity.

ungtss said...

It is not tangibly useFUL, but you can use it as a reference to the concept you described, which is how we use words anyway

Fair enough. To satisfy you, we can clarify that "useful" means "tangibly useFUL." In my view, they mean the same thing. I'm not sure what "intangibly useful" would mean, since we are tangible creatures. Google seems to agree, since it defines "useful" as able to be used for a "practical" purpose.

Having clarified that "useful" means "tangibly useFUL," we can agree that there are concepts that are not "tangibly useFUL." And if we can find a word like that that serves to destroy another concept, then it would be an "anti-concept."

One term that satisfies both criteria is "word-thinker" as adams defines it. it's not tangibly useful because it can't be used rationally. Specifically, it hands you a "package deal" in which thinking in "labels" necessarily means thinking in "superficial, misleading labels." This necessarily equates "labels" and "superficial, misleading labels."

which destroys the concept of "labels" by suggesting to us that all labels are superficial and misleading.

in fact, labels are neither good nor bad simply because they are labels. the question is whether the label is rational or not. "word-thinker" as adams defines it is a bad label, for the reasons above.

Jzero said...

"I'm not sure what "intangibly useful" would mean, since we are tangible creatures."

We are also mental creatures, where intangible mental constructs are used, and have utility.

"And if we can find a word like that that serves to destroy another concept, then it would be an "anti-concept.""

Only we can't. How can you destroy a concept? How can you destroy intangible ideas? You can't. You may find ways to make them irrelevant, you may find better ideas that push them to the side, you may find contradicting ideas that refute them, but you can't destroy them. The concept of the world being flat still exists, even though science shows that concept to be factually wrong.

You're setting up a false crisis and accusing Adams of inflicting it on the world. But Adams' term cannot destroy any other concept any more than you could. And if you disagree with his assertions, the sensible thing to do would be to prove his assertions wrong, rather than insist that his choice of words is somehow a threat to other concepts and thus dodge the question of what Adams was getting at entirely.

ungtss said...

"We are also mental creatures, where intangible mental constructs are used, and have utility."

Yes, but when those intangible mental constructs are used, they are used tangibly. That's the nature of their utility.

"How can you destroy a concept? How can you destroy intangible ideas?"

Lots of ways. The easiest way to destroy a concept is to load a contradiction into it. Colorless I can use. Green I can use. But simultaneously Colorless and green? I can't use that except in the context of self-contradictory fantasy about the 8th dimension:).

Another way is to load a non-essential into it that corrupts or destroys its usefulness. For instance, loading "ignorant" into your concept of a particular race, say "Arabs." If your concept of Arabs is limited to a particular ethnic group, without reference to their ignorance or intelligence, then you have a good concept. But that concept can be damaged or outright destroyed if you load a non-essential like "ignorance" into it. This causes you to believe that everyone of a particular ethnic group is ignorant, which is plainly false. It can cause you to make enemies with an entire ethnic group, despite the fact that many of them are wonderful people and potential allies.

To avoid this problem, you need to pull the non-essential "ignorance" out of your concept of Arab, and limit "Arab" simply to the ethnic group. This allows you to conceptualize at least two different types of Arabs -- ignorant Arabs and non-ignorant Arabs.

By separating "ignorance" from "Arabs," you preserve a clear concept of ignorance and Arabs. If you try and combine them, you corrupt both.

To see the effects of this destroyed concept, look at how your average redneck views Arabs. He literally can't conceptualize one who isn't ignorant, because the non-essential "ignorance" has been loaded into his concept of Arabs. If faced with a non-ignorant Arab, he's forced to either claim he's ignorant, or that he isn't Arab. His brain won't let him do anything else.

You're setting up a false crisis and accusing Adams of inflicting it on the world. But Adams' term cannot destroy any other concept any more than you could.

It's quite easy to destroy or corrupt a concept, as I showed above. You just need to know how to do it.

ungtss said...

For the sake of clarity, i should add that my concept of "valid concept" has "tangible usefulness" loaded into it as part of a concept's "validity." In my view, you can have all sorts of concepts, but concepts are only _valid_ if they can be used tangibly.

The reason I believe a concept must be useful in order to be valid is that I view concepts as tools of cognition. And if you can't use something, it isn't a tool.

This applies a sharper razor to concepts than most people do, and certainly than you do, based on what you've said. But since it underlies virtually everything that's being said, it should probably be made explicit.

This is important because it explains how concepts, like tools, can be destroyed. A screw is a tool. Strip it, and it can no longer serve that purpose. Even though you still have a piece of metal in your hand, it's destroyed because it can no longer be used.

Ideas are the same. They are tools. Destroy their usefulness, and you destroy them.

Jzero said...

"Yes, but when those intangible mental constructs are used, they are used tangibly."

Not always. How do you tangibly use "unicorn"?

"I can't use that except in the context of self-contradictory fantasy"

It isn't "self"-contradictory, necessarily. A fantasy can have its own internal logic that does not jibe with reality, but does not contradict itself. Or are you one of those who eschews any fiction not fully grounded in reality? Is there no whimsy in your world?

And I like how the goalposts shift: "I can't use that" to "I can't use that except this" to "I can't use that except for this AND this other thing you just did..." And the whole line about "valid concepts" is much the same. Why should I accept your definition of what a valid concept is? There is no benefit to it, other than to add an unnecessary layer of pedantry to everything.

"It's quite easy to destroy or corrupt a concept, as I showed above."

But you didn't. No concept was destroyed. You have competing concepts with the same name, but no concept was actually destroyed (and now you're salting in terms like "corrupt", I'm guessing because you've realized this). At most, you're postulating that some people are abandoning the more benign definitions. And the argument you seem to be making is that dumb people can be manipulated into irrationally subscribing to these derogatory concepts, which is much the point that Adams himself was making - you just want to bicker about the words he uses to say it! To gain what, make what point? What are you even objecting to?

ungtss said...

Not always. How do you tangibly use "unicorn"?

I could work on genetically engineering one, for one thing. Actually create one by modifying a horse to give it wings and a horn. Nothing impossible about it. I can't create anything that's simultaneously "colorless" and "green" though, obviously.

"A fantasy can have its own internal logic that does not jibe with reality, but does not contradict itself. Or are you one of those who eschews any fiction not fully grounded in reality? Is there no whimsy in your world?"

I have no problem with that sort of fantasy, although I don't enjoy it myself. I'm a practical guy and I like fiction that helps me in my practical pursuits.

Why should I accept your definition of what a valid concept is? There is no benefit to it, other than to add an unnecessary layer of pedantry to everything.

Because it improves the efficacy and efficiency of your conceptual framework, giving you more power to function and accomplish your goals on Earth. To the extent you're not interested in achieving those goals, by all means accept a different definition.

At most, you're postulating that some people are abandoning the more benign definitions. And the argument you seem to be making is that dumb people can be manipulated into irrationally subscribing to these derogatory concepts, which is much the point that Adams himself was making - you just want to bicker about the words he uses to say it! To gain what, make what point? What are you even objecting to?

I'm objecting to the fact that he's using the same manipulative methods that are used to make dumb people think "all arabs are dumb." except his goal is to make dumb people think that "rational thinking is mostly imaginary." He's accomplishing a different goal by the same manipulative means -- a word game.

Jzero said...

"Because it improves the efficacy and efficiency of your conceptual framework, giving you more power to function and accomplish your goals on Earth."

You may believe that's what's going on, but I seriously doubt it.

"except his goal is to make dumb people think that "rational thinking is mostly imaginary.""

Perhaps you have completely ignored the bulk of Nyquist's post above where he essentially confirms the essence of what Adams said - and I quote:

"Social psychology pretty much confirms most of what Adam's is asserting (see Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind). "

So are you lumping in Nyquist and his source(s) in with those dumb people Adams is trying to persuade? Do you feel that rational thinking actually exists in greater quantity than Adams asserts? Because now you're coming up with your own "anti-concept", to wit: if rational thinking is more prevalent than Adams states, then one would assume that his persuasion techniques would be rendered largely harmless by those superior thought processes. But if Adams can succeed with his persuasion to some significant degree, then it would indeed seem that rational thinking is in short supply.

ungtss said...

Do you feel that rational thinking actually exists in greater quantity than Adams asserts? Because now you're coming up with your own "anti-concept", to wit: if rational thinking is more prevalent than Adams states, then one would assume that his persuasion techniques would be rendered largely harmless by those superior thought processes.

As i said on the 16th, "A better categorization scheme is more like a triangle. At the top you have perfectly rational people, on the bottom right you have perfect manipulators, and at the bottom left you have perfect manipulateds. Everybody is somewhere in between these three poles, with some measure of all three attributes. The further you go toward each pole, the fewer people you find. At the extreme end of all three poles, you find nobody."

We all have some rational thought in us, some manipulator, and some manipulated. The question is how much of each.

How narcissistic to fancy onesself gazing down upon irrational humanity from above, categorizing 99% of people as irrational. To see a hoi polloi of ignoramuses just waiting to be manipulated from on-high by your genius-ship.

I'm not that arrogant. I know I'm a mixed bag of reason, manipulator, and manipulated. Depends on the subject matter, the day, sometimes even the hour. And as far as I can tell, everybody else is too.

Jzero said...

Well, that's a diplomatic way to go about it, but you haven't actually addressed the basic conundrum in that quote from me. You are concerned about Adams' "anti-concept" on the basis that people might actually take it seriously while at the same time complaining about his assertion that rational thought is rarely used. It's as if you're saying "Don't use words like that, you might confuse the stupid people. But people aren't that stupid!"

ungtss said...

on the contrary, my deep faith in the ability of both of us to think rationally is what drives me to have this conversation with you. if i thought rational thought was imaginary and all that existed was manipulation, then this conversation would make no sense. instead, i should be trying to manipulate you or get you to manipulate me.

i believe that i can learn rationally from you and you can learn rationally from me. even if we're not doing it right now.

the reason i believe that is threefold: number one, i see a lot of rational thought in what you have to say. it's not all rational, but a lot of it is. number two, i see a lot of irrational thought in what i've had to say, which i can sharpen through conversation with you. and number three, if rational thought is impossible, then humanity is doomed because nobody can ever learn anything. given the choice between doom and believing rational thought is possible even when i can't see it, i choose the latter.

i don't think you're stupid. i think that adams' argument, just like similar arguments made by kant and others, are very seductive because they appeal to the narcissism we all have, and because they use pretty sneaky wordgames to suggest ideas to us without ever actually defending them. it takes a lot of rational thought to learn how to debunk them, and a lot of rational thought to see that they've been debunked. i believe we're both capable of that. that's why i'm talking to you.

Jzero said...

" if i thought rational thought was imaginary and all that existed was manipulation,"

I haven't implied you think that. I'm quite certain you put much stock in the distribution of rational thought in the general populace - but at the same time you seem particularly aggravated with the way Adams has framed his argument, because you claim these "anti-concepts" will hoodwink or deceive people.

But if rationality holds sway, then such tricks ought to be largely ineffectual, and thus nothing to be concerned about. If, on the other hand, non-rational thought is dominant, then you could reasonably hold some concern that these ideas would be more powerful and influential.

I'm just saying there seems to be two opposing stances there - either we're smart and Adams' anti-concepts aren't worth the trouble to worry about them, or we're dumb and anti-concepts are trouble indeed - but in a way, that's exactly what Adams claims.

"i think that adams' argument, just like similar arguments made by kant and others,"

Whoa, wait - what, specifically, has Kant said that is anything like what Adams said?

ungtss said...

I'm just saying there seems to be two opposing stances there - either we're smart and Adams' anti-concepts aren't worth the trouble to worry about them, or we're dumb and anti-concepts are trouble indeed - but in a way, that's exactly what Adams claims.

I'd offer a third option: that we are all somewhere between perfectly smart and perfectly dumb, and that different manipulative schemes require different levels of "smart" to see through, so that the smarter you are, the less vulnerable we are to manipulation. But we always remain vulnerable to schemes that require more smarts to see through than we have at any particular time.

In my view, schemes that frame "all of humanity" as irrational take a lot to see through, because they use sophisticated word games to accomplish their goals, while appealing to our narcissism, because It's pleasant to write off the masses as irrational and posture as superior. It takes a lot to let that go, and a lot to see through word-games. So even very intelligent and rational people can still be taken in.

Whoa, wait - what, specifically, has Kant said that is anything like what Adams said?

Adams' scheme, like Kant's scheme, purports to place the believer "above" ordinary reason, and to invalidate ordinary reason. Kant does it by "critiquing" pure reason. Adams does it by assuming (without proving) that it is "mostly imaginary." This rationalizes the believer's desire to adopt arbitrary beliefs and behaviors without the inconvenient limitations reason imposes.

If reason is "mostly imaginary," then I don't have to impose it on myself. Kant's "critique of pure reason" has the same purpose and effect.

Both are also flawed in the same way: the arguments invalidate themselves.

Jzero said...

"Kant does it by "critiquing" pure reason."

Yyyyyeah I think I'd need to see some citations on that one.

ungtss said...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critique_of_Pure_Reason

See subsection on "Kant's approach." In short, reality and the self both unknowable "in and of themselves" because knowledge requires categories and categories get in the way of "true knowledge"

Jzero said...

Okay, well, one: The wikipedia bit does not say anything like what you state, and two: I still don't see how that comes close to what Adams said. You'd have been better off to not have mentioned Kant at all.

ungtss said...

"Things as they are "in themselves"—the thing in itself or das Ding an sich—are unknowable. For something to become an object of knowledge, it must be experienced, and experience is structured by the mind—both space and time being the forms of intuition, "Anschauung" in German, (for Kant, intuition is the process of sensing or the act of having a sensation)[19] or perception, and the unifying, structuring activity of concepts. These aspects of mind turn things-in-themselves into the world of experience. There is never passive observation or knowledge.

According to Kant, the transcendental ego—the "Transcendental Unity of Apperception"—is similarly unknowable. Kant contrasts the transcendental ego to the empirical ego, the active individual self subject to immediate introspection. One is aware that there is an "I," a subject or self that accompanies one's experience and consciousness. Since one experiences it as it manifests itself in time, which Kant proposes is a subjective form of perception, one can know it only indirectly: as object, rather than subject. It is the empirical ego that distinguishes one person from another providing each with a definite character.[20]"

I don't know how much clearer it can be than that.

It's similar to Adams not in the substance of the argument, but in its purpose -- to invalidate reason so the believer can believe as he wishes, without constraint.

Jzero said...

Horseshit.

For one thing, "because knowledge requires categories" as you put it is not what Kant is saying in that Wikipedia quote.

For another, as I read it, what Kant says is that we can't know a thing directly ("the thing in itself"), all we know comes through our sensory experience and is thus always a step removed from a "pure" understanding of a thing.

Whether or not you believe Kant, this does not invalidate reason AT ALL. It certainly isn't intended to let the believer believe "as he wishes", and how you get to that point is incomprehensible.

Every time I think we're just about to reach some kind of equilibrium, you yank something like this out of left field. Am I being trolled?

ungtss said...

I hadn't expected you to zero in on Kant since my only point in bringing him up was to say that Adams is not unique. There are lots of similar arguments, and Kant was just the first one to come to mind.

"For another, as I read it, what Kant says is that we can't know a thing directly ("the thing in itself"), all we know comes through our sensory experience and is thus always a step removed from a "pure" understanding of a thing."

That's correct. That's his point. To postulate some sort of "pure" understanding of things that is beyond our reach precisely because we "know" things by a particular method, through particular categories. To learn about how he used the categories in his argument, just google Kant categories, and you'll find a wealth of material on it.

"Whether or not you believe Kant, this does not invalidate reason AT ALL."

Unsurprisingly we disagree on this point. Especially unsurprising since you don't think Adams' argument invalidates reason either, even though he calls its application "mostly imaginary."

I believe Kant's argument invalidates reason by claiming that things in themselves are "unknowable" simply because we need to know things by a particular method. On the contrary, I think that human methods of reasoning -- properly applied -- permit us to understand things in themselves.

As an example: I know that the normal human heart "in itself" has four chambers. The fact that I need to rely on observation and the observations of others to draw this conclusion does not make the heart "in itself" unknowable. Rather, they are the means I use to know things "in themselves."

The effect of Kantian thinking is to leave us believing that we don't "really know things" that we really do know. In other words, to cast doubt on our knowledge simply because our knowledge is acquired by a particular means. That doubt invalidates our reason.

I know the heart in itself has four chambers. I know it by particular means. The fact that I know a thing by particular means does not mean I'm somehow "removed" from that knowledge.

ungtss said...

P2

Reason-invalidating arguments have a long and insidious history. You can find them all over the Bible. Starting in Genesis 3, when God sentences humanity to death for discovering morality, continuing through Job 31, a naked attack on reason in the form of "what the hell do you know? I'm so much bigger than you!" And continuing all the way through the gospel of John, in which "truth" is defined as a particular person, rather than a metaphysical reality.

All of these arguments serve to sabotage our reason. As do Adams and Kant, and literally hundreds more.

Sabotaging human reason is critical to man's effort to dominate man. Somebody figured it out millennia ago and they've been at it ever since. People whose reason is hobbled are much easier to control.

Jzero said...

"As an example: I know that the normal human heart "in itself" has four chambers. The fact that I need to rely on observation and the observations of others to draw this conclusion does not make the heart "in itself" unknowable. Rather, they are the means I use to know things "in themselves.""

Only you're not knowing them "in themselves", at least not as Kant seems to define the term. And that still does not invalidate REASON - in fact, it necessitates it. If we must know a thing only through our senses, we must then use reason as carefully as possible so as to not misunderstand the nature of what we do know.

Doubt never invalidates reason - quite the opposite. Certainty is what invalidates reason, by leaving a person convinced they KNOW what is true, and no other possibility can exist, that their confidence in their own reasoning denies the possibility of error, and thus the possibility of further learning and growth.

What's more, I defy you to find anyone who actually practices "Kantian thinking" that thinks in the way you describe.

On second thought, I think this is the part where I throw my hands up in the air and give up. We're way afield now, and I don't see an end apart from just stopping.

ungtss said...

You asked for an example of Kantian thinking as I describe. Here it is:

"Doubt never invalidates reason - quite the opposite. Certainty is what invalidates reason, by leaving a person convinced they KNOW what is true, and no other possibility can exist, that their confidence in their own reasoning denies the possibility of error, and thus the possibility of further learning and growth."

Kantian thinking tells you that certainty invalidates reason, and doubt validates it. Kant at work.

My epistemology goes like this: "method validates reason, not certainty or doubt. The better and more reliable our method in a particular context, the more certainty. action, in turn, requires different levels of certainty. Once we reach a sufficient level of certainty for a particular action, we should act."

Jzero said...

No, I asked you to find someone who practices Kantian thinking (as in, professes to follow his precepts, and not just someone you slap the Kant label upon, you Adams-esque label-slapper) and demonstrate them thinking in the way you described.

The point is, you have this trend of declaring the motivations and goals of people who you don't actually know or haven't made any effort to understand, and declaring them to be a member of this or that type of category - Rand did this to Kant, as an example, and it's doubtful she read one word of his herself. Hell, since you simply quoted a Wikipedia article, I question whether you've read Kant yourself.

So put your epistemology back in your pants.


ungtss said...

Kant's thinking is so influential that nearly everybody thinks the way he taught us to think without realizing it. And nobody runs around calling themselves a "Kantian" outside of philosophy departments. So your test is unfair.

But i see we've devolved into name-calling and other mindless drivel, so I'll make my exit.

Jzero said...

"Kant's thinking is so influential that nearly everybody thinks the way he taught us to think without realizing it. And nobody runs around calling themselves a "Kantian" outside of philosophy departments. So your test is unfair."

What's unfair is making blanket decrees about other philosophies when it seems apparent one does not actually know anything about said philosophies - except perhaps second-hand, from the writings of a woman who never read a word of them. The "test" is to remind some people that their pronouncements are far from reality, that it is likely that anyone who's actually made a study of Kant interprets it far differently than someone whose philosophical prejudices prevent them from any understanding besides dismissal or willful misinterpretation.

You should not have mentioned Kant; it brings that flaw in your argument out in stark relief.

ungtss said...

You should not have mentioned Kant; it brings that flaw in your argument out in stark relief.

If I were trying to manipulate you, this would be valid advice. After all, if I wanted to manipulate and deceive you, I would want to hide flaws in my argument. But since I'm trying to reason with you, I don't want to hide any flaws in my arguments. I want my thinking out there, in the open, so you can expose any you can find and I can learn from that experience.

Your assumption that I would want to hide flaws in my argument is interesting. Do you typically hide flaws in your arguments, so people can't find them?

In this case, you haven't told me why or how what I've said about Kant is wrong. He does indeed claim that "things in themselves" are unknowable "in an of themselves" because our use of categories prevents us from some sort of posited "perfect" knowledge. I made the argument that it's entirely possible to know things "in and of themselves" through our means of reason, and gave an example. You claimed that didn't invalidated reason. I showed how it creates unnecessary doubt about things we actually know by valid means. You said that was absurd, that doubt validates reason and certainty invalidates it. I said that our method validates reason, that better methods provide more certainty, and that particular actions require particular degrees of certainty.

Lucian T. Gruberhausenstiz-Ansatzbart said...

Look, folks, there is practical truth and mental truth. If I define a thing a certain way, it is mentally true **for me** and anyone else who wants to come along. The correspondence theory of truth is just one type of truth. So if I say dogs are cats, it's true -- as long as I know what I mean and/or my listeners know it too. Some would say it can't be true. They're playing with semantics. I defined it to be true, therefore it is true. Some would say it is neither true nor false. They believe definitions have nothing to do with truth/falsity. That's fine if this is what they feel, but I happen to feel that they are merely expressing their preference for the correspondence theory of truth. There is no rational way to validate their preference or taste. Anything that we feel can be definitionally true for us. Live and let live. Isn't that what freedom's all about, folks? Don't tell me how to think or what to do.

ungtss said...

It sounds good in theory until you try to apply it in two different contexts: itself, and science. It invalidates itself because if I apply that theory, then I can say a person who rejects that theory is just as "right" as a person who accepts it, because both are "true" to the believer. It fails in the real of science because Gravity is gravity no matter what "truth" you prefer.

Jzero said...

"Your assumption that I would want to hide flaws in my argument is interesting."

Your assumption that that is my assumption is interesting.

My assumption is actually that you are nearly blind to your flaws, even when pointed out. But be that as it may...

"In this case, you haven't told me why or how what I've said about Kant is wrong."
[...]
"He does indeed claim that "things in themselves" are unknowable "in an of themselves" because our use of categories "

See, right there, you get into "categories" again, and for the life of me I'm not seeing how you pull that out of any of the things you quoted me (which, incidentally, have as yet been not actually what Kant said, but what others have interpreted him to have said).

So first off there's a question about how much you actually comprehend about Kant that isn't lifted directly from Rand's "must hate Kant" dictate.

" I made the argument that it's entirely possible to know things "in and of themselves" through our means of reason, and gave an example."

However, your example was not actually knowing "the thing in itself", at least not as it appears to be defined by Kant, which I'm reading as being some sort of perfected knowledge of a thing as if it were a Platonic form of some kind. You seem to be interpreting it as "knowing about a thing" in a fairly prosaic sense, and that seems to be another way in which you are arguing against your mistaken ideas about Kant, rather than Kant's actual arguments.

"You claimed that didn't invalidated reason."

Because: there is no such thing that "invalidates" reason. Reason does not disappear if someone makes a rhetorical argument against it, somehow - not like anyone ever actually does that, despite your claims. Whether Kant is right or wrong about knowing "a thing in itself", the rules of logic do not change just because what we know gets filtered through our senses.

"I showed how it creates unnecessary doubt about things we actually know by valid means."

No, you asserted that, you did not "show" it. You do not demonstrate something by simply declaring it to be so.

To no longer have doubt is to be satisfied with what one knows on a subject - and thus to cease inquiry. After all, if you "know" something to be true, why question? Why investigate further? That is the end of the use of reason - for what use is it when a question is "settled"? - and the beginning of dogma and complacency.

To bring this back around, the reason your statements on Kant work against you is in part because as we go on it becomes more and more likely that you, like Rand, know precious little about Kant, yet despite this you are willing to make authoritative judgements on his philosophy at which even the most casual layman has to cock an eyebrow.

As one tries to sort out whether this is simply intellectual clumsiness or deliberate mis-representation borne of prejudice, one has to take this into account with the original topic - Adams' statements - and consider more closely how much of THAT argument of yours is similarly ill-founded, a result more of naked bias than any particular reasoning. If you want a demonstration of "unnecessary doubt" brought into a discussion, you bringing up Kant was a prime example.

ungtss said...

P 1/2

See, right there, you get into "categories" again, and for the life of me I'm not seeing how you pull that out of any of the things you quoted me (which, incidentally, have as yet been not actually what Kant said, but what others have interpreted him to have said).

JZero, my use of the term “categories” is evidence that I’ve actually studied Kant, because Rand never talked about them to my knowledge. On the other hand, the fact that you don’t understand Kant’s use of the “categories” in this context makes it clear to me that you haven’t studied him, and are just trying to attack my knowledge of Kant without having any knowledge at all yourself.

“Categories” are Kant’s defining concept – the basis of everything that followed. Here is Kant himself, explaining that because we use “categories” to understand things, there is a priori doubt as to whether we grasp the things:

The categories of the understanding, on the contrary, do not represent to us the conditions under which objects are given in intuition at all, hence objects can indeed appear to us without necessarily having to be related to functions of the understanding, and therefore without the understanding containing their a priori conditions. ' Thus a difficulty is revealed here that we did not encounter in the field of sensibility, namely how subjective conditions of thinking should have objective A90 validity, i.e., yield conditions of the possibility of all cognition of objects; for appearances can certainly be given in intuition without functions of the understanding. I take, e.g., the concept of cause, which signifies a particular kind of synthesis, in which given something A something entirely different B is posited according to a rule.b It is not clear a priori why appearances should contain anything of this sort (one cannot adduce experiences for the proof, for the objective validity of this a priori concept must be able to be demonstrated), and it is therefore a priori doubtful whether such a concept is not perhaps entirely empty and finds no object anywhere among the appearances.

You can find it on page 222 of this PDF: http://strangebeautiful.com/other-texts/kant-first-critique-cambridge.pdf

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article discussing Kant’s categories:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category_(Kant)

ungtss said...

p 2/2
However, your example was not actually knowing "the thing in itself", at least not as it appears to be defined by Kant, which I'm reading as being some sort of perfected knowledge of a thing as if it were a Platonic form of some kind.

That is exactly the point. Kant is defining “knowing a thing in itself” in a mystical, platonic sense, detached from the human tools of perception and reason. That definition of knowledge is the problem itself. To “really know” something, according to Kant, we must not use any of the tools we have available to know things. This makes all of our knowledge “substandard,” and less than “fully real.” That is the problem with it. By this argument, I don’t “really know” my car is a black Toyota Solara, because for me to “really know” it I would need to somehow know it without using my eyes, experience, and reason. He defines “really knowing” something as not knowing it at all, and makes our tools for “Really knowing things” (experience and reason) substandard. The effect of this is to create “doubt” where none is merited. To create “unreasonable doubt.”

Because: there is no such thing that "invalidates" reason.

We have an ambiguous use of language here. It’s true that in reality nothing can invalidate reality, but it’s also true that there are many arguments which if accepted, invalidate reason in the mind of the believer. There’s Descartes’ “evil demon” argument, for instance, that says that everything we think we know “might be” a deception by an evil demon. From this he moves onto “systemic doubt” – a fundamental doubt about virtually everything, because everything “might” be an illusion.

This argument doesn’t invalidate reason, but it purports to. And if you believe it, you start to doubt everything you know just because some dead French dude came up with some bizarre hypothesis without any evidence to support it. The effect is to invalidate your reason if you believe it.

True reason doesn’t play these games. One of its basic principles is occam’s razor – that the simplest answer adequate to explain the evidence is the most reasonable, and to be preferred. Occam’s razor slices Descartes’ “evil demon” off, and with it, all the false doubt Descartes tried to manufacture.

To no longer have doubt is to be satisfied with what one knows on a subject - and thus to cease inquiry. After all, if you "know" something to be true, why question? Why investigate further? That is the end of the use of reason - for what use is it when a question is "settled"? - and the beginning of dogma and complacency.

The question is not whether we have any doubt, but whether the doubt we have is reasonable. This principle is built into our legal system with the concept of “proof beyond reasonable doubt.” When something is proven beyond reasonable doubt, is it still possible to have an unreasonable doubt? Sure. But it’s unreasonable.

Kant, Descartes, the Bible, and many other authorities try to implant “unreasonable doubts” in order to prevent us from acting confidently on what we know beyond reasonable doubt.

Jzero said...

"On the other hand, the fact that you don’t understand Kant’s use of the “categories” in this context makes it clear to me that you haven’t studied him, and are just trying to attack my knowledge of Kant without having any knowledge at all yourself."

I don't have to have much knowledge of Kant at all to know when you've pulled an assertion out of nothing, such as Kant's work being an attempt to destroy reason. That on the face of it is so ludicrous that I could know absolutely zero about Kant and still confidently call it wrong.

But still, why harp on "categories" but not actually cite all this directly to me in the very first place? My original complaint was simply that you provided no reference for it, but seemed to use it out of the blue as part of your evidence of Kant's perfidy or whatever. For being part of a movement that ostensibly values reason and clarity, you sure don't seem to be handy with the latter.

Now as to the nature of "categories" themselves, it appears that Kant uses the term to refer to conditions that all objects share. In fact, your Wikipedia link shows Aristotle - Rand's favorite - using them as well. It also says, "Such a category is not a classificatory division, as the word is commonly used. It is, instead, the condition of the possibility of objects in general, that is, objects as such, any and all objects, not specific objects in particular." And later it also says, "Any object, however, must have Categories as its characteristics if it is to be an object of experience. It is presupposed or assumed that anything that is a specific object must possess Categories as its properties because Categories are predicates of an object in general."

Given that, the bit you quote from Kant above makes it clear that in that quote he's referring not to objects that we encounter in the real world, but objects and concepts that are generated through intuition and mental exercise. Since they don't share the characteristics of real objects (those characteristics being called Categories, here), we can't experience them in the same way as real objects, and he is cautioning us not to blindly accept them as being "real" in the same way - which hardly seems unreasonable or irrational to me.

I only have to enter "kant" in this very blog's search feature to get a series of entries that discuss Rand and Objectivism's disagreements with Kant. None of them are particularly exonerating of Kant - he certainly wasn't a perfect philosopher - but they pretty well debunk all the old Randian complaints about Kant.

It seems to me that your main complaints against Kant are to take some minor flaw or feature and amplify it to an absurd extreme. The doubts Kant encourages are the natural skepticisms that any questing mind should have - you want to characterize them as a deliberate attack on reason itself. Kant discusses how one can't know a thing perfectly, you want to go on about that's somehow supposed to make you doubt your Toyota's very existence as well as all of reality, oh noooooo! You're drawing the most extreme, absurd conclusions over abstract details of philosophic discussion, and setting up the strawmen of people falling for this thinking and being deceived in the same way an old-style preacher talks about demon possession.

And about reasonable doubt: Rand herself was dead certain in her writings about things she could have known nothing about (Kant being one). What is "reasonable" doubt to such a certain mind? From what we can tell, she resisted all critique greatly. Her certainty has kept her philosophy marginalized and stagnant; she could have used a bit more doubt now and again.

ungtss said...

I don't have to have much knowledge of Kant at all to know when you've pulled an assertion out of nothing, such as Kant's work being an attempt to destroy reason. That on the face of it is so ludicrous that I could know absolutely zero about Kant and still confidently call it wrong.

As you pointed out earlier, people tend to want to hide flaws in their arguments. Nobody comes out and says "I want to destroy reason." That would be too obvious, and therefore ineffective. In the same way, no lawyer comes into the courtroom and says "My purpose is to get my client money he doesn't deserve." Instead, he lies, and does his best to cover up his lies with an illusion of reason.

People don't say they want to attack reason. They say things like "God is above reason" (Bible), Reasoning is mostly imaginary (Adams) or Reason does not allow us to know "things in themselves (Kant). They attack it insidiously, in ways you barely notice until it's too late.

But still, why harp on "categories" but not actually cite all this directly to me in the very first place?

I don't believe I harped on them. I just mentioned them as being part of his argument, because they were. I hadn't intended this to be an exposition on Kant. And I didn't want to go to the trouble of digging through an online Critique to find it, but ultimately did so when you started accusing me of not having ever read it, and in doing so made clear to me that you had never read it.

The doubts Kant encourages are the natural skepticisms that any questing mind should have - you want to characterize them as a deliberate attack on reason itself. Kant discusses how one can't know a thing perfectly, you want to go on about that's somehow supposed to make you doubt your Toyota's very existence as well as all of reality, oh noooooo!

We have methods for inferring motive from action. Our starting point is always that when people act intentionally, they generally intend the results of their actions. For instance, if you see me stabbing somebody, you're going to start with the assumption that I wanted to kill them. A second starting point is looking at what people typically intend when taking an action. For instance, most people who stab people intend to kill them.

The starting point is not the ending point, of course. You need to look at the circumstances to see if something else might have been at play. Ask yourself, "Why else might he have been stabbing him?"

All three of these lead me to believe that Kant's intent was to hobble reason in the minds of his believers. Conscious or unconscious, I can't say. But reading Kant, there's no "reasonable doubt" in my mind.

One thing in particular that makes this interpretation make sense is seeing the attacks on reason in other contexts that are much more obvious. Genesis 3. Job 31. John 1. Once you've seen people attack reason in numerous contexts, it becomes less implausible that somebody else would be trying to do the same thing.

Her certainty has kept her philosophy marginalized and stagnant; she could have used a bit more doubt now and again.

Her occasionally rigid certainty -- worsening with age -- was contrary to her philosophy. It was consistent with an aging woman in a shame-inducing romantic relationship that forced her to protect herself from her own shame through rationalization and denial. People do not always live up to their ideals. And it becomes especially hard to live up to our ideals as we age, particularly in the context of guilt-inducing relationships.

That does not invalidate their ideals. Instead, seeing that the consequences of failing to live up to your ideals are harmful validates the ideals themselves.

ungtss said...

p2/2

I'm not sure if you've had any experience with cults, but they also provide a reference point for how and why people undermine others' confidence in their own reason. In a cult, the attack on the rank and file's self-confidence is relentless. The faithful are taught constantly not to think for themselves -- thinking for yourself is "pride" which "cometh before the fall." They are taught to submit to the will of god, and wait for the "still small voice." Those who dare to think for themselves quickly find themselves surrounded by resentful others trying to break down that threatening independent thought.

Everything about a cult is designed to undermine individual thought and self-confidence in one's reason. From Christian cults to UFO cults. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from a cult member named Rio D'Angelo, the 40th member of the Heaven's Gate cult that did not commit suicide.

He explained on Prime Time Live:

"If I were to write an note to Individual Needs, for deodorant, for example, or a toothbrush, or something, I would say that um, um, 'I may be wrong but it seems that my deodorant may R.Quo.be running out.' Now the reason for that is because we have been taught to not be so confident in what we're saying to be true. For example, there may be some possibility that my deodorant isn't running out. And I may have the wrong deodorant."

The last thing a cult wants is for its members to know anything, even that the deodorant is running out.

Reason, of course, give us the tools to know whether the deodorant is running out. Observation, consumption rates, inference.

But cults don't like that sort of thinking. It's threatening.

They demand irrational doubt.

Jzero said...

"As you pointed out earlier, people tend to want to hide flaws in their arguments."

Actually, I have not said this. It's a small point, and would not be worth mentioning except that it demonstrates a tendency to imagine or invent portions of conversations. I mentioned that bringing up Kant highlighted your arguments' flaws, but nowhere have I said you or anyone "tend to want to hide flaws". It's not unreasonable to assume that's true, but I never said it. I never pointed it out, and inasmuch as anyone discussed it, it's been your flag to wave.

If you're willing to just make stuff up and put it in my mouth, how can we trust your judgement on what Kant or any other figure thinks or intends?

"Nobody comes out and says "I want to destroy reason." That would be too obvious, and therefore ineffective."

It would also be the motivation of a cartoon supervillain. It strains credulity. Maybe they don't say it because, hmm, just maybe they don't think anything of the sort.

"I don't believe I harped on [categories]. I just mentioned them as being part of his argument, because they were."

You made a point of saying things implying that these categories were much the cause of Kant's claim that we can't know reality. When in fact, just as I said above in the part you didn't quote, his use of "categories" would appear to be wildly at odds with the statements you made. If you supplant "characteristics" for "categories" (because that's the basic meaning, characteristics which real objects possess) in any of the posts where you mention categories, your argument becomes incoherent.

So perhaps you have read Kant, but if so, I am in doubt that you have fully grasped Kant - certainly I don't think you're qualified to judge and then declare what his true motivations may have been. Also, cf. the opening part of this post.

"For instance, if you see me stabbing somebody, you're going to start with the assumption that I wanted to kill them."

Probably, but first we have to establish that I actually saw you stabbing someone. Plenty of police shootings give evidence that it can be easy to mistake a wallet or a toy or sometimes even nothing for a dangerous weapon. Perhaps you were trying to swat away a wasp from the other person.

I don't think you've actually seen anyone get stabbed, at least in Kant's writings. I'm sure you're looking eagerly for a stabbing, and I'm sure you've taken anything that could remotely be considered to resemble a stabbing, like poking a finger on a jelly stain on someone's shirt, and interpreted it as a stabbing so you could stand in judgement and make a big frowny disapproval of all the stabbing that's going on right in front of everybody.

"Once you've seen people attack reason in numerous contexts, it becomes less implausible that somebody else would be trying to do the same thing."

Sure, once you've seen your first reptilian, they're just everywhere!

"I'm not sure if you've had any experience with cults"

Besides Objectivism?

Seriously, though: It ought to be obvious that the irrational doubt of a cult and the healthy skepticism of scholarly exploration are two different things, and that your bar for what constitutes "irrational" doubt is skewed at quite an odd angle. The fact that a cult might convince someone to prevaricate about whether there's any deodorant left really has no bearing on the philosophical question of whether we can claim to fully and completely know a thing through our senses and reason. It's guilt by association.

"This doubt is harmful and wrong! But instead of actually proving how this OTHER doubt is also harmful and wrong, I'm going to act as if they're basically the same thing - let me get out my broadest brush!

ungtss said...

"As you pointed out earlier, people tend to want to hide flaws in their arguments."

Actually, I have not said this. It's a small point, and would not be worth mentioning except that it demonstrates a tendency to imagine or invent portions of conversations. I mentioned that bringing up Kant highlighted your arguments' flaws, but nowhere have I said you or anyone "tend to want to hide flaws". It's not unreasonable to assume that's true, but I never said it. I never pointed it out, and inasmuch as anyone discussed it, it's been your flag to wave.

If you're willing to just make stuff up and put it in my mouth, how can we trust your judgement on what Kant or any other figure thinks or intends?


You made that argument through an “enthymeme” – an argument in which one of the premises in unstated, as defined by Aristotle. Here is an article on enthymemes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enthymeme

In this case, you used the enthymeme: “Your argument reveals a flaw, therefore you should not have made it.” The unstated but necessary premise is “you do not want to reveal flaws in your argument.”

You used this premise without making it explicit. This is not only a recognized form of argument, but a very effective one, because it allows you to sneak things by that you wouldn’t be able to sneak by explicitly.

So no, I didn’t put it in your mouth. I pointed out that it was a necessary and implicit premise.

The question is, do you agree with it? And do you agree it’s a necessary premise of what you said? If not, why? And if so, why are you pretending I “Put words in your mouth?”

I don't think you've actually seen anyone get stabbed, at least in Kant's writings.

Well how about in Adams, since that was the subject of this post? The man says “rational thinkers are mostly imaginary.” He doesn’t defend it. Doesn’t provide any evidence for it. It’s at odds with the last 300 years of human progress, which occurred by the use of reason by a lot of people, a lot of the time.

Stabbing? Or no stabbing?

The fact that a cult might convince someone to prevaricate about whether there's any deodorant left really has no bearing on the philosophical question of whether we can claim to fully and completely know a thing through our senses and reason. It's guilt by association.

No, it’s evidence that it’s a common tactic for people to attack the reason of others in order to control the others. It isn’t that outlandish. It's not the "reptilian" you think it is. It’s actually quite common. i've given you half a dozen examples you haven't disagreed with. And all I'm saying is that Adams and Kant are more sophisticated examples of the same thing.

Jzero said...

""In this case, you used the enthymeme: “Your argument reveals a flaw, therefore you should not have made it.” The unstated but necessary premise is “you do not want to reveal flaws in your argument.

The question is, do you agree with it? And do you agree it’s a necessary premise of what you said? If not, why?”

First off, there is a bit of a difference between "you do not want to reveal flaws" and "people tend to want to hide flaws in their arguments" - so already you're sliding around a bit.

Since you went on a bit back then about how you did NOT want to conceal your flaws in order to refine your arguments, obviously this premise of yours is supposedly not factually true. And I offered no judgement as to whether you want to hide flaws or not, so at best you could say that the necessary unspoken part of my statement was if you do not want to reveal your flaws, then you should not do that thing you did.

So, in fact, I do not believe that any of the things you have attributed to me, which seem to morph around according to your rhetorical need, are necessary to what I actually said. And regardless of whether they're an implicit part of my argument (they're not), the fact remains that you did not say anything like "as your argument implies", you claimed it was my assumption and then claimed I "pointed it out", saying that I stated something I did not state. Putting words in my mouth.

This is why your views on anyone else become suspect: you're willing to rush forward with snap judgements and assumptions about what other people say and mean based on your own theories about their intent which may not be (and certainly in my case, aren't) accurate.

"Well how about in Adams, since that was the subject of this post? The man says “rational thinkers are mostly imaginary.” He doesn’t defend it. Doesn’t provide any evidence for it."

Well, and who is Adams? A writer, a cartoonist, whose stock in trade is making quips and one-liners for comedic effect. His writing style on his blog, if anyone cared to investigate, is often irreverent and sarcastic (not to mention a bit smug-seeming at times). Given that, how likely is it that he literally meant almost nobody uses reason? How likely is it that it was a flip gross characterization of the idea that most people do not use strict logic to go about their daily lives - which is true, according to Nyquist and his sources (which, one presumes, are empirically derived)? How likely is it that if he was deadly serious about it, he would have offered such evidence as he might have?

Furthermore, Adams says this, right there in the quote above:

"If you’re a trained scientist, engineer, or other technical person, you might use data and reason sometimes, especially while others are watching and checking your work. But off-duty – and when it comes to anything important – we’re all irrational creatures who believe we are rational. At least that’s how trained persuaders see the world."

Here he says two things: One, he concedes that people DO use reason - when they have to, when accuracy is required, just not when such accountability is removed. Two, he presents this as the opinion of a "trained persuader", how THEY see the world - not necessarily how it is, even if it might be implied that it's so.

So he's "walked back" some of the absolutism of his original statement. Did you take that into account? I'm guessing not.

Jzero said...

My "reptilian" comment was intended to point out the kind of confirmation bias that takes hold of those people who subscribe to conspiracy theories, where once you latch onto that premise, any vaguely suspicious thing becomes one more bit of "evidence" to support it. The fact that President Obama's eyes look kind of weird in a grainy YouTube video isn't evidence of how video compression can distort images, no, it's proof that the president has nictitating membranes over his eyes! Occam's razor goes unheeded.

In that same way, I believe you are so fixated on the idea of someone destroying reason that you will interpret anything even remotely suggestive as being evidence of clear intent. It seems highly implausible to me that Adams is in any way trying to destroy reason - in fact, if I had to guess, he's disappointed there isn't more of it going on in the world - and the worst crime I could accuse him of is trying to place himself in the role of "smartest guy in the room", which is a far cry from plotting the downfall of reason itself. Certainly it would be a stretch to cobble a motive: what would he get from such a feat, if it were even possible?


"i've given you half a dozen examples you haven't disagreed with."

Well, you've given me examples I haven't had time or inclination to look up and verify or disprove. The fact that I haven't chosen to die on the hill of what Descartes may or may not have said shouldn't be taken as any concession in the overall argument.

ungtss said...

p 1/2

And I offered no judgement as to whether you want to hide flaws or not, so at best you could say that the necessary unspoken part of my statement was if you do not want to reveal your flaws, then you should not do that thing you did.

Your exact language was "You should not have mentioned Kant; it brings that flaw in your argument out in stark relief." The word "should” is defined by Google as "used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions." There's no room for an "if" there. You were telling me I "shouldn't" do things that reveal flaws in my arguments. That I have some sort of "obligation, duty, or correctness" to conceal flaws in my argument:). I was being charitable by interpreting it more softly as relating to what i allegedly "want" to do. In fact you told me what I "should" do.

"This is why your views on anyone else become suspect: you're willing to rush forward with snap judgements and assumptions about what other people say and mean based on your own theories about their intent which may not be (and certainly in my case, aren't) accurate."

On the contrary, by telling you my judgment right up front, I give you a chance to tell me you think I'm wrong, and why you think that. That's how the reasoning process works in a conversation.

To send somebody to jail, I need proof beyond reasonable doubt because I'm seriously impacting somebody's life. To win in a law suit, I just need preponderance of the evidence because it's about money, not punishment. To arrest somebody, I just need probable cause. The consequences of our action determine the applicable standard of proof.

But what's the standard for proof for an open-ended conversation over the internet? Can't I just tell you what I think and wait for you to respond, showing me how you think I'm wrong? Can't I learn from you? What's the harm in me saying what I think, so you can rebut it?

On the other hand, if I’m not allowed to tell you what I think, how can I learn from you?

But you want me to shut that process off -- to not allow myself to develop a judgment and bounce it off you. Instead I must neuter my own judgment so you don't have to get your feewings hurt.

Look at this process at play. You're telling me my views are suspect because you think I'm willing to rush forward with snap judgments. I could get my panties in a wad and cry about your "snap judgments." But instead, I'm showing you why I think you're being unfair: because we're in a reasoned conversation, where in order for me to learn from you, I need to say what I think. And this is what I think.

I remember getting in conversations like this with cult-members in the past. I would say what I thought about a theological issue, and they would become very upset at how certain I was.

I would respond, "look man, this is your chance to explain why I'm wrong. I just told you what I thought . Can you explain why I'm wrong? Because if i'm not allowed to tell you what i think, how am i supposed to learn from you?"

Of course, the real reason they did not want me to say what I think was because they couldn't explain why I was wrong, and wanted me to soften my views to make themselves feel less uncomfortable about the weakness of theirs. But I didn't figure that out until later.

ungtss said...

p 2/2

Two, he presents this as the opinion of a "trained persuader", how THEY see the world - not necessarily how it is, even if it might be implied that it's so ... So he's "walked back" some of the absolutism of his original statement. Did you take that into account? I'm guessing not.

Here's something I said on the 16th:

"That said, he does start his blog off by saying this is how you start to see the world when you're trained as a persuader. And that's probably true. As a person spending the vast majority of your energy being trained to manipulate people and not be manipulated yourself, you probably would start to see the world in exactly these terms. Rational people would seem imaginary to you, because they are not relevant in the world of pure persuasion he's talking about. Even when they were staring you in the face.

So to the extent he's describing the way he's come to see the world through his own experience and training, I have no argument at all. I just think it's a rather 1-dimensional view of a much more complex world."

I think that's pretty good evidence that i took "point 2" into account. In fact I made that point for you.

Point 1, on the other hand, is pretty meaningless, because it excludes "anything important," leaving only hard sciences. People have thought rationally about a lot of "important stuff" other than hard sciences. The law, for instance.

So point 1 doesn't impress me, and I already made point 2.

"Certainly it would be a stretch to cobble a motive: what would he get from such a feat, if it were even possible?"

Power. Adams lays his desire for power right out front, in discussing his training to become a "master persuader." A persuader seeks to exercise persuasive power over others. He wants the power to make other people think and act as he wishes. He wants power.

Reason is a great equalizer. It reduces that power. When my children and I reason together, we are all equal. Reason leaves me with no power over them. If they use reason better than I do, they win. Which happens regularly. My 7 year old more often than my 2 year old, but even my 2 year old outreasons me sometimes.

Because we reason together (rather than getting our panties in a wad about "snap judgments") we're able to adjust and move forward as a team of equals.

In a world of reason, a “master persuader” cannot use his tactics to control people's thought and behavior. Instead, his audiences analyze his ideas, accept what they find true and reject what they find untrue. This leaves the "master persuader" with no power over his audience.

Why does a man seeking to be a “master persuader” not want others to reason well or at all? Because he wants to be a master persuader.

Gordon Burkowski said...

@ Jzero:

“I believe you are so fixated on the idea of someone destroying reason that you will interpret anything even remotely suggestive as being evidence of clear intent.”

Bingo. And this is particularly obvious in the addled discussion here of Immanuel Kant.

As always, a little context is useful. The Critique of Pure Reason is Kant's attempt to resolve the problems created by David Hume in his Treatise of Human Nature.

Hume says that any meaningful knowledge must be based solely on what he calls "impressions": tastes, sounds, colours, pain and pleasure, emotions. That sounds reasonable. But Hume then goes on to show that if you restrict yourself exclusively to those “impressions”, you can't provide a meaningful base for notions that seem at the heart of our thinking. Among them: causality; personal identity; grounded moral judgments; even material objects.

Kant was a Rationalist in the tradition of people like Leibniz. He states that reading Hume woke him from his “dogmatic slumbers”. He tried to solve the problems posed in Hume's Treatise by maintaining that our minds are structured so as to perceive the world in a particular way – specifically, as a place where we, as persons, perceive objects causally related to each other and located in time and three-dimensional space.

It is quite possible to argue vehemently against this response to Hume. Many people have. But it is absurd to suggest that the whole thing is some kind of sinister, hidden scheme to subvert reason. And it's downright crazy to maintain that Kant's "real" purpose in a detailed, highly technical philosophical work is to gain power over people by destroying their capacity for rational thought.

The Critique is exactly what Kant says it is: it is an attempt to solve a philosophical problem that loomed large in the eighteenth century. From a longer perspective, Kant's work was another turn in a conversation that goes back at least to Socrates.

My account of the background to Kant's Critique presents nothing new. But it can be overwhelmingly documented. You can learn about it in any first year course on the history of Philosophy. On the other hand, if you go looking for “evidence” that Kant is some kind of arch-villain out to destroy man's reason, you'll only find your proof within the minds of people who have drunk far too much Randian Kool-Aid. This paranoid, ahistorical approach to philosophers like Kant is one reason why the overwhelming majority of professional philosophers just don't take Rand seriously.

ungtss said...

I think my favorite anti-Rand rhetoricL is to sidetrack every conversation into a rant about her views on Kant. But to be really effective, the rant needs to ignore the context in which the person in front of you mentioned Kant, and all the similar arguments listed alongside it. That really gives the tribe the ego-hit it needs to make it through the day, while safely failing to make any novel or useful points.

Gordon Burkowski said...

zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Jzero said...

"In fact you told me what I "should" do."

Yeah, well people often don't want to do what they should do. So I still said nothing about what you wanted to do.

"In a world of reason, a “master persuader” cannot use his tactics to control people's thought and behavior. Instead, his audiences analyze his ideas, accept what they find true and reject what they find untrue. This leaves the "master persuader" with no power over his audience."

That's interesting, since Adams makes several blog posts about how persuaders use persuasion, essentially laying it out for the readers what's going on and how it works.

Adams would have to be an excellent persuader indeed, in order to trick people while at the same time revealing the trick.

Does Adams want power? Probably. But then, who doesn't, to some extent? If Adams wants to influence people towards thinking as he wishes, and that is a quest for power, then you too seek power, inasmuch as you're attempting to persuade anyone here towards your point of view.

The difference being that you'll be happy to paint your own variety of persuasion as somehow noble, while not cutting Adams any similar slack. All because he dropped a bit of hyperbole that got your back up.

"Can't I just tell you what I think and wait for you to respond, showing me how you think I'm wrong?"

It would help if you actually said "I THINK" up front, instead of "This is how this is." There is a difference between offering an opinion and declaring something to be an established fact.

"Why does a man seeking to be a “master persuader” not want others to reason well or at all?"

Why does a man seeking to further the cause of reason invent unverifiable motives and accusations?

ungtss said...

"Does Adams want power? Probably. But then, who doesn't, to some extent? If Adams wants to influence people towards thinking as he wishes, and that is a quest for power, then you too seek power, inasmuch as you're attempting to persuade anyone here towards your point of view."

Your question was "why would Adams want to attack reason?" My answer was: "power." You've now conceded that I'm "probably" right about that motive and changed the subject to whether wanting power makes Adams bad or not, and whether or not I'm worse than him.

One interesting theme I've found in these sorts of conversations is the topic regularly shifts away from the substantive issue to childish arguments about who's better and worse. I suspect this habit is picked up in childhood, but i'm not sure how. Any ideas? Some sort of dominance behavior used by parents maybe?

""Can't I just tell you what I think and wait for you to respond, showing me how you think I'm wrong?"

It would help if you actually said "I THINK" up front, instead of "This is how this is." There is a difference between offering an opinion and declaring something to be an established fact."


This is another one I hear a lot. Reminds me of how the heaven's gate cult demanded we preface every opinion with self-effacing expressions of uncertainty of doubt. "in my opinion, we may be running out of deodorant."

Are you really that thin-skinned that you need everybody else doing that for you? My 2 year old isn't. When I incorrectly tell him "your diapers are over there," he looks, comes back, and says "no daddy they're not." Nobody gets pissy.

He understands that when I say "x is true" I'm expressing my opinion. And he's mature enough to test that opinion out without needing me to preface every sentence with "in my opinion."

"Why does a man seeking to be a “master persuader” not want others to reason well or at all?"

Why does a man seeking to further the cause of reason invent unverifiable motives and accusations?


As far as I can tell, you've conceded that Adams "probably" has exactly the motive I ascribe to him -- power. And you've also conceded that attacking another person's reason gives you power. You haven't conceded that attempting to persuade others that reason is imaginary attacks other people's reason, but you haven't come out with any counterarguments either.

So I think I've connected the dots for you pretty well. But instead of expressly conceding, you've begun a different conversation about whether I want power too.

Jzero said...

"Your question was "why would Adams want to attack reason?" My answer was: "power." You've now conceded that I'm "probably" right about that motive and changed the subject to whether wanting power makes Adams bad or not,"

Well, because "power" is such a BANAL answer. Technically, we ALL want power of one kind or another. The problem is that you're not really going to be able to come up with some sinister type of power he gains, the kind that justifies dark foreboding warnings against anti-concepts and the very destruction of reason. It's not like we can reasonably infer that Adams is going to reap some kind of undeserved reward of money or sex or political influence in any significant amount simply by his magic persuasion powers.

I mean, if just power itself is the crime, I can't imagine anyone who isn't in some way guilty. It's so general as to be nearly meaningless.

So if power is what you fear as Adams' motive, then how is his quest for it any more bad than anyone else's - you included?

"Nobody gets pissy." (ungtss says, getting pissy about it.)

Oh, put a sock in it. Or better yet, wadded panties, since you were fond of that phrase a post or two ago. Repeating the accusation of childishness is not the sign of being the more mature individual in the forum. If anything, it seems you can't take the heat if you have to resort to that.

I mean, if you're going to imply some sort of childhood conditioning, then who is it that's REALLY trying to shift the subject? If fair's fair, ought I start taking shots at your children and how they're being raised?

"As far as I can tell, you've conceded that Adams "probably" has exactly the motive I ascribe to him -- power."

But that's a far cry from verifying it. And there's a subtle difference between "Adams probably wants power" and "Adams can, and intends to, get power by the implausible means of attacking reason itself."

"And you've also conceded that attacking another person's reason gives you power."

I don't recall that. I'm sure you'll come up with a convoluted reason why some comment of mine implies it, but without rereading all this I can't feature what you're talking about.

"You haven't conceded that attempting to persuade others that reason is imaginary attacks other people's reason, but you haven't come out with any counterarguments either."

Well, what is it that Objectivists like to say about arguing over the existence of God? The one with the more outlandish claim has the burden of proof, or something to that effect. To concede any of that I first have to believe that Adams is actually seriously trying to convince people that reason is imaginary, which I don't. At the very least, he's not making any more of an effort than Nyquist or his sources. And that's not outright denying reason, just arguing that it's rarer than most folks assume. And if somehow per impossible I do think Adams is deliberately trying such a thing, then I have to be convinced that a person's reason can be so easily attacked. My counterargument, such as it is, is simply that you have not (and can not) sufficiently made your case.

Since you are almost certainly not a mind reader, your conclusions have to be based on sheer conjecture - you cannot "verify" them in any other fashion - and I am not convinced you are qualified to judge other people so accurately so as to proclaim them able to do things I think are highly unlikely in the first place.

ungtss said...

1/2

"Your question was "why would Adams want to attack reason?" My answer was: "power." You've now conceded that I'm "probably" right about that motive and changed the subject to whether wanting power makes Adams bad or not,"

Well, because "power" is such a BANAL answer. Technically, we ALL want power of one kind or another. The problem is that you're not really going to be able to come up with some sinister type of power he gains, the kind that justifies dark foreboding warnings against anti-concepts and the very destruction of reason. It's not like we can reasonably infer that Adams is going to reap some kind of undeserved reward of money or sex or political influence in any significant amount simply by his magic persuasion powers.


The fact that it’s a banal motive makes it plausible. As you point out, most people want power. It’s not a stretch then to think he does too. And banality is exactly what I’m proposing. Attacking others’ reason is a very banal and common thing. You can see elementary school bullies doing it on the playground, and parents doing it to children. This does not negate the damage it does. It just means that a lot of people do that damage in a lot of different ways. If you want to see the results, look around.

To your second point, nobody’s suggesting he wants power in the form of sex or political influence. In fact he's pretty obviously seeking market power by branding. In his blog, Adams is branding himself as a “persuasion” guru, presumably so he can get ad hits to his blog, speaking fees for “persuasion” seminars, book sales, or something else. By selling his audience a world in which reason is imaginary and persuasion is omnipotent, he is selling his readers a world in which he can sell them the means to attain power. He is also posturing himself as a thought-leader in the realm of persuasion, which makes his audience likely to look for ways they can pay to get his advice. This translates into market power, with translates into purchasing power.

How’s that for banal?

The problem is that even though he’s saying it for banal purposes, what he’s saying isn’t true. And if you take it seriously rather than as the naked marketing effort it is (a mistake Nyquist made), you’re in for a world of hurt.

I mean, if just power itself is the crime, I can't imagine anyone who isn't in some way guilty. It's so general as to be nearly meaningless.

The crime is not in wanting power, but in how to attain it. You can attain power by learning some marketable skills, getting a job, and buying what you want. Or you can attain power by abducting young girls and keeping them locked in your basement as sex slaves. Attacking others’ reason is not as overtly evil as trapping people as sex slaves, but in the long run it can do more damage because of how insidious it is. Often, even the person trapping sex slaves does so only because his own reason was damaged by somebody else – oftentimes a parent who didn’t know how to maintain power over his or her child except by destroying his ability to think properly.

Oh, put a sock in it. Or better yet, wadded panties, since you were fond of that phrase a post or two ago. Repeating the accusation of childishness is not the sign of being the more mature individual in the forum. If anything, it seems you can't take the heat if you have to resort to that.

Again with the “who is better” thinking. Now it’s “who is more mature?” I’m not interested in who’s more mature. I’m interested in why you care about that. Why do you perceive us as being in a competition? If you don’t have an answer or aren't willing to share it with me, I’ll look elsewhere for it. Just giving you a chance to explain it if you can. That's how reasoning works.

ungtss said...

2/2

"Adams can, and intends to, get power by the implausible means of attacking reason itself."

It’s only implausible to you because you’re ignoring all the evidence of how common it is. Go into any church for an hour and you’ll hear them tell the audience “trust not in your own understanding, but wait upon the lord.” They’ll tell you reason is prideful, that the lord loves only the lowly and humble.

Or go to a playground and watch the bullies at work. My favorite move is when a bully tells a plausible lie and then laughs at you for believing it. Or points at something that isn’t there and says “made you look!” He’s psychologically conditioning other children not to listen to others – not to trust, not to believe, because they anticipate being mocked for it.

To concede any of that I first have to believe that Adams is actually seriously trying to convince people that reason is imaginary, which I don't.

Well if his dividing human beings into three groups, one of which is “Rational People: Use data and reason to arrive at truth. (This group is mostly imaginary.)” doesn’t convince you of that, I’m not sure what will.

Since you are almost certainly not a mind reader, your conclusions have to be based on sheer conjecture - you cannot "verify" them in any other fashion - and I am not convinced you are qualified to judge other people so accurately so as to proclaim them able to do things I think are highly unlikely in the first place.

In a world where what Adams says is true, you don’t have any means to determine whether I’m qualified to judge anybody at all. One of us must manipulate the other. Nobody is qualified to determine anything.

But I guess you don’t think that hurts reason.

Jzero said...

"The problem is that even though he’s saying it for banal purposes, what he’s saying isn’t true."

Well, SO YOU SAY. Adams never actually says reason does not exist, just that it's in short supply. So all you can dicker with him on that regard is the quantity or proportion. So far all YOU'VE said to counter that is that history "shows" a lot of people using reason a lot of the time. But this is an assertion with no more basis in fact than Adams. Neither one of you is coming up with an empirical study to show just how much reason gets used on a day-to-day basis. What actual percentage of human existence goes on where reason is largely ignored until it is needed? You don't answer any question like this, and don't "prove" anything in any way, and I'm guessing your opposition to Adams' statement is mostly from your gut, a hunch. You FEEL there is more reason being used and go from there.

"Why do you perceive us as being in a competition?"

I don't - so why do you make up things about what I supposedly think?

(I mean, I'm pretty sure I know this one, it's a diversionary tactic, to try and make the conversation about my supposed personal flaws so we talk less about the holes in your argument. Not exactly honest debate, but whatever.)

"Well if his dividing human beings into three groups, one of which is “Rational People: Use data and reason to arrive at truth. (This group is mostly imaginary.)” doesn’t convince you of that, I’m not sure what will."

Completely ignoring all I said earlier about Adams' use of humor and hyperbole.

"In a world where what Adams says is true, you don’t have any means to determine whether I’m qualified to judge anybody at all. One of us must manipulate the other. Nobody is qualified to determine anything.

But I guess you don’t think that hurts reason."

And we've gone over THIS before, too. And if by "what Adams says" you mean that "reason doesn't exist", then logically in that case reason couldn't BE hurt, being non-existent.

ungtss said...

"The problem is that even though he’s saying it for banal purposes, what he’s saying isn’t true."

Adams never actually says reason does not exist, just that it's in short supply.


That’s not what I see him saying when he says “But off-duty – and when it comes to anything important – we’re all irrational creatures who believe we are rational.” He uses the word “All,” and applies it to all of us whenever we’re dealing with anything “important.”

Of course when I try and pin down his use of these words, you cry “hyperbole” and “humor.” But that’s not what Nyquist saw when he described Adams’ views as “mostly sound,” said that “social science pretty much confirms” it, and cited the “Righteous mind.”

The problem is that Nyquist, Adams, and these “Social scientists” all ignore the logical contradiction in this point of view -- if all people are irrational creatures, then so are the social scientists saying people are irrational creatures. Which gives us no reason to take them seriously.


Of course they don’t want to let us pin them down on this point, because they don’t really think “all people” are irrational. They really think that they are rational creatures, and everybody who disagrees with them is irrational. They just can’t say that out loud, because it’s too obviously ridiculous. So they claim “Everybody” is irrational, hoping nobody notices the obvious contradiction.

So far all YOU'VE said to counter that is that history "shows" a lot of people using reason a lot of the time.

I haven’t presented any more specific evidence on that point because I’m not debating Adams, I’m debating you, and you haven’t taken a position on whether you agree with Adams on that point. Do you think we’re all irrational creatures who think we are rational whenever we’re dealing with anything important? Including yourself? For instance, are you an irrational creature in the context of this conversation? If not, then why are you defending it? If so, then why not just give up the pretense of making any sense at all?

"Why do you perceive us as being in a competition?"

I don't - so why do you make up things about what I supposedly think?


My belief that you think we’re in competition comes from the sentence “Repeating the accusation of childishness is not the sign of being the more mature individual in the forum. If anything, it seems you can't take the heat if you have to resort to that.”

I don’t understand the relevance of the first sentence unless we’re in a competition of some sort. Why are you talking about who’s “the more mature individual?” I’m not.

Jzero said...

"The problem is that Nyquist, Adams, and these “Social scientists” all ignore the logical contradiction in this point of view -- if all people are irrational creatures, then so are the social scientists saying people are irrational creatures. Which gives us no reason to take them seriously."

But the actual problem is that nobody says reason doesn't exist, or that we can't use it - just that most of the time we as a species DON'T use strict reason, not in everyday life, and that using it is an effort, not the way the brain naturally operates. It's not a contradiction at all. I think you WANT it to be, because if you can dismiss the claim on some sort of verbal-logic "gotcha", it saves you the effort of having to actually consider the claim on its own merits.

To dispute this claim you'd have to counter empirical studies that support it (and since this blog has been on that subject several times, there have been references to such). And you'd have to do a better job of filtering out your bias over what people supposedly mean but don't say and concentrate more on what they actually say, and in what context they say it. The studies exist and the results are not affected by your accusation of contradictions.

"My belief that you think we’re in competition comes from the sentence “Repeating the accusation of childishness is not the sign of being the more mature individual in the forum. If anything, it seems you can't take the heat if you have to resort to that.”"

By which I mean two things: 1) By trying to portray me as childish, you're moving away from opposing my actual argument to personal attack, which suggests a shift in rhetorical tactics. In other words, since you can't actually make your case on the facts, you're trying to bait me with personal shots. And 2), characterizing me as childish by implication leaves you as theoretically less childish, or more mature - you want to present yourself as the actual grown-up in the debate, although resorting to this kind of attack, and insinuating things about my upbringing, hardly strikes me as a mature thing to do.

If anyone's making this a competition, it's you, by showing your willingness to use such tactics to attempt to gain rhetorical points.

ungtss said...

But the actual problem is that nobody says reason doesn't exist, or that we can't use it - just that most of the time we as a species DON'T use strict reason, not in everyday life, and that using it is an effort, not the way the brain naturally operates. It's not a contradiction at all

That's the second fall-back. It goes like this: "Oh when i say 'people are irrational whenever they do anything important,' what i really mean is "most of the time" they don't use it.

Of course nobody argues with that, least of all me. My whole job is dealing with an navigating irrational human behavior, which is the majority of human behavior, the majority of the time. I know rationality is the underdog.

The thing is, when you see rationality as the "underdog," rather than completely marginalized as Adams frames it, then you're left with the question "don't we need more rationality in the world? And if so, how do we get it?"

The answer to that is not the manipulative "master persuader" tricks of the trade Adams is peddling. It's something much bigger, much harder to grapple with. But also more noble. It's learning how to inject reason into unreason.

Of course by marginalizing "rational people" as irrelevant, we never ask this question, much less answer it.

ungtss said...

2/2

"My belief that you think we’re in competition comes from the sentence “Repeating the accusation of childishness is not the sign of being the more mature individual in the forum. If anything, it seems you can't take the heat if you have to resort to that.”"

By which I mean two things: 1) By trying to portray me as childish, you're moving away from opposing my actual argument to personal attack, which suggests a shift in rhetorical tactics. In other words, since you can't actually make your case on the facts, you're trying to bait me with personal shots. And 2), characterizing me as childish by implication leaves you as theoretically less childish, or more mature - you want to present yourself as the actual grown-up in the debate, although resorting to this kind of attack, and insinuating things about my upbringing, hardly strikes me as a mature thing to do.


Let's remind ourselves where this come from. I didn't call you childish, but I called it childish to divert from the actual subject matter to discussions of "who's better." Here's what happened:

"Does Adams want power? Probably. But then, who doesn't, to some extent? If Adams wants to influence people towards thinking as he wishes, and that is a quest for power, then you too seek power, inasmuch as you're attempting to persuade anyone here towards your point of view."

Your question was "why would Adams want to attack reason?" My answer was: "power." You've now conceded that I'm "probably" right about that motive and changed the subject to whether wanting power makes Adams bad or not, and whether or not I'm worse than him.

One interesting theme I've found in these sorts of conversations is the topic regularly shifts away from the substantive issue to childish arguments about who's better and worse. I suspect this habit is picked up in childhood, but i'm not sure how. Any ideas? Some sort of dominance behavior used by parents maybe?


There are three ways to respond to this: a) i didn't divert attention from substantive issues to who's right, b) it's not childish to divert attention from substantive issues to who's right, or c) you're more childish than i am, because you're calling me childish.

seems to me you picked option c. You explain:

"By which I mean two things: 1) By trying to portray me as childish, you're moving away from opposing my actual argument to personal attack, which suggests a shift in rhetorical tactics. In other words, since you can't actually make your case on the facts, you're trying to bait me with personal shots. And 2), characterizing me as childish by implication leaves you as theoretically less childish, or more mature - you want to present yourself as the actual grown-up in the debate, although resorting to this kind of attack, and insinuating things about my upbringing, hardly strikes me as a mature thing to do."

Choice c is of course an endless spiral into nonsense-land. In calling me childish for calling me childish, you're being childish, etc. So i propose dropping that option, and going with a or b. You obviously don't agree with b, since you're telling me that calling people childish is childish. So that leaves option a -- that you didn't do what i said you did.

Care to tackle that one? Or do you have a different idea?

Jzero said...

"The thing is, when you see rationality as the "underdog," rather than completely marginalized as Adams frames it, then you're left with the question "don't we need more rationality in the world? And if so, how do we get it?""

I would submit that taking Adams to task for his choice of words and accusing him of aiming to destroy reason does not, in fact, add one iota more of reason to the world. Nor is it particularly noble, nor does it "inject reason into unreason". Nor does the rest of this ongoing forum debate.

Let's be honest, this is all happening on a forum only tangentially related to Adams' blog, in that his words have been discussed in a post here. Since you and I began to debate in earnest, only two people have chimed in to offer any additional thoughts, and only one was a regular. That's the only indication we've had that anyone besides ourselves has been reading these words - unless you've been passing them on somewhere else. I certainly haven't.

Adams' own blog has comments disabled. So of all the people Adams may have somehow drawn to the dark side, how many has this debate reached, let alone redeemed? NOT MANY, I'LL WAGER.

So if that's really the question you want to solve, perhaps you need a change of strategy.

"Let's remind ourselves where this come from. I didn't call you childish, but I called it childish to divert from the actual subject matter to discussions of "who's better.""

For someone who had to whip out the flaming enthymeme in order to try to tell me I said something without actually saying it, you have a lot of gall to try to pretend this wasn't a crack at me, implied if not explicitly stated. Because if it wasn't, it was an entirely irrelevant, space-wasting digression, apropos of not much. So you choose yourself whether you were taking a shot at me or just gasbagging a useless extra paragraph into the mix.

"So that leaves option a -- that you didn't do what i said you did.

Care to tackle that one? Or do you have a different idea?"

Well, let's see - if you said I conceded that Adams' motive was power (debatable, but whatever), that would make that issue settled, and if that issue is settled, then there would be nothing to do BUT to either quit altogether or alter the topic, in this case to the naturally following progression of the topic: If power, then what makes Adam's quest for power worse - because ALL THIS FUSS implies that somehow it IS worse, otherwise, why would you have even brought it up in the first place?

So: option D. Things are actually being linked up in a sensible progression, not diverted at all, and it is not a childish argument to ask what or who is worse, and better yet WHY, when one side of the argument hinges on that very premise.

If not, then what bloody topic would YOU have expected to carry on past that point?

ungtss said...

"The thing is, when you see rationality as the "underdog," rather than completely marginalized as Adams frames it, then you're left with the question "don't we need more rationality in the world? And if so, how do we get it?""

I would submit that taking Adams to task for his choice of words and accusing him of aiming to destroy reason does not, in fact, add one iota more of reason to the world. Nor is it particularly noble, nor does it "inject reason into unreason". Nor does the rest of this ongoing forum debate.

Let's be honest, this is all happening on a forum only tangentially related to Adams' blog, in that his words have been discussed in a post here. Since you and I began to debate in earnest, only two people have chimed in to offer any additional thoughts, and only one was a regular. That's the only indication we've had that anyone besides ourselves has been reading these words - unless you've been passing them on somewhere else. I certainly haven't.

Adams' own blog has comments disabled. So of all the people Adams may have somehow drawn to the dark side, how many has this debate reached, let alone redeemed? NOT MANY, I'LL WAGER.

So if that's really the question you want to solve, perhaps you need a change of strategy.


Your argument assumes that the project of "adding reason to the world" is limited to adding it in the minds of others. I disagree with that assumption. I think that adding reason to the world begins with onesself. And if you read this thread, you'll notice that both of us have been adjusting our thinking to account for the others' input. We may not agree with each other, but we're both more reasonable than we were before. And if you're unwilling to admit that you've become better through this process, i'm content to be the only person who has become better through it.

Reason is a process, you see. We become better at it through practice. And I can't speak for you, but I've been practicing and improving. Web conversations are a wonderful low-threat, no-consequence way to improve one's thinking. That way, in the future, when I need the things I learned through this process, I'll have them.

I don't understand why you assume that the goal of "adding reason to the world" would be limited to others, rather than ourselves. Could you elaborate? Or if you [again] don't agree that you're actually assuming that, can you explain how your argument makes sense without it?

So: option D. Things are actually being linked up in a sensible progression, not diverted at all, and it is not a childish argument to ask what or who is worse, and better yet WHY, when one side of the argument hinges on that very premise.

that's both a and b. "i didn't do what you said i did" and "what i did wasn't childish." i consider it childish to focus on whether i'm any "worse" than adams, when i haven't said that i am. you asked why i thought he was doing what he was doing, and i gave you a sensible motive that you agree we all have. Why do we have to start talking about whether i'm any better or worse than him? It's like you assume when i say he wants power than i'm saying he's worse than me for wanting power. Which I'm not.

Jzero said...

" It's like you assume when i say he wants power than i'm saying he's worse than me for wanting power. Which I'm not."

Well, let's recap: How did we come about to "power"? By you complaining about Adams' attack on reason itself, his statement that reason is "imaginary", et al. All along you've been painting a picture of Adams as a scheming manipulator with Big Dramatic Accusations - reason itself is at risk!

So when we finally reach the question of "what on earth could such a supervillain be doing all of this FOR," you come up with, "oh, power."

Power over what? Life and death? The ability to buy and sell? To rule countries? "Oh, market share."

Well, hell, you could describe Ayn Rand herself THAT way.

So what Adams wants is apparently no more outrageous than any other person, if you don't want to say he's somehow "worse". Fine. So is it just the method or the phraseology he's ostensibly using to get it that gets your back up? Perhaps, but we've been around the block a number of times on that score, and I still don't think you've proven any significant level of harm.

What's more, we still come back to the conundrum that Adams' supposed web of deceit only works if people are not using sufficient reason to judge it - and if it works, then Adams' statements can't be all that untrue - but if it doesn't work, then there's no real risk to worry about.

Taken altogether, the basic gist of this becomes, as I see it:

Scott Adams: not THAT much of a problem.

Talking about whether you're worse (or more accurately, whether Adams is somehow worse) is just another part of sorting out where on the peril scale he's being placed, and why, by offering you to compare Adams to other handy examples. You don't like to do that? Fine. But that makes it all the more likely that in the end the threat of Adams to any aspect of reason has been blown well out of proportion, and aside from some innuendo you don't really have much of a case against him, beyond: he just used some words you don't like.

And I think that's about as good as any spot to end this.

ungtss said...

I find it interesting that you continually drive this conversation toward my supposed belief in supervillains. If you read my initial comments, they were simply saying why Adams was wrong, and that I believed his error was intentional. But you keep circling back to these supposed "supervillains" high on the "peril scale." You were particularly interested in backing me into a corner based on an off-hand comment about Kant.

I'm interested in this tactic of yours and I'd like to learn more. I don't believe in supervillains, never called Adams one. I've compared Adams' argument here to the behavior of elementary school bullies playing "made you look." Why do you keep trying to corner me into some sort of strange belief that Scott Adams is a scourge upon the Earth? Is it easier for you to maintain an illusion of dominance if you convince yourself I believe stupid things that are easily dispatched? Or does it serve as a convenient distraction from the substance of my comments, which you've consistently failed to address? Or perhaps you are feeling threatened, and it relieves your sense of threat to paint me in such bizarre terms?

Here's what I've been saying, and you've been ignoring:

1) People are not irrational whenever they deal with important things. Everybody is a mix.
2) "Word-thinker" is a bad label for irrational superficial thought, because we all necessarily think in words.
2) Believing people are irrational whenever they deal with important things rationalizes the wish to be irrational ourselves.
3) In advancing number 2, Adams is contributing to a problem. He's not a supervillain. But he's wrong. And his mistake hurts, if you believe it.

This is the substance of what I'm saying. Not supervillains.

Jzero said...

"I’m attacking his effort to create a rubric in which all actual thought is invalid"

All right, one last thought. Then I really am done.

Look at the above quote from you, plucked half at random by jerking the scroll tab up a ways: That is a fairly bombastic statement. ALL ACTUAL THOUGHT, INVALID! Heavens! You can look for yourself (if you're truly interested and not just being rhetorically snide) and note how many times you phrase things in absolutist, all-or-nothing terms when you're trying to make the case that something is bad or wrong. Do you not think that you are at least prone to exaggeration? Plus many of these things require certain assumptions to even work, like the idea of anti-concepts.

Deny it if you choose: I got the impression that these were supposedly Big Important Issues that have now turned out to be, well, not so important as they were dressed up at the start. You certainly spent a lot of time over them.

ungtss said...

In my view, the truly bombastic statement is "whenever people are doing anything important, they are irrational creatures who think they are rational." That is a massive generalization about every human being on earth. It's also an enormous overstatement. But you cut him slack, this is only hyperbole of course.

But when somebody else comes in and calls a spade a spade, saying "he just said reason is basically imaginary in real life and that's bullshit," he's "bombastic."

Do you see the inconsistency in your thinking? The man who says nobody ever reasons about anything important is to be heeded, but the man who says that's not right, that everybody's a mixture of rational and irrational, and that we need more reason in the world is bombastic and to be attacked?

Gordon Burkowski said...


@Jzero:

"All right, one last thought. Then I really am done."

Good call.

Anonymous said...

On a recent peikoff.com podcast, Brook went on a tyrade against the critique of pure reason, arguing that "Kant knew what he was doing." Just a few months ago, Brook said his knowledge of Kant came from Rand and Peikoff. So he knows Kant's motivations w/o even reading a biography of Kant?

-Neil P.

Gordon Burkowski said...


"So he knows Kant's motivations w/o even reading a biography of Kant?"

Sure. Why not? After all, Rand critiques Kant's philosophy, apparently without ever having read his work. So Brook is just following in the footsteps of the lady.

Incidentally, if the Ayn Rand Archive ever opens its doors to independent research, I think that the first thing likely to come to light is how narrow Rand's knowledge base really was. She got most of her views by picking the brains of others: Isabel Paterson for American politics; Branden for psychology; Peikoff for philosophy; and Greenspan for economics. That may explain why she was smart enough to stay away from debates with experts in any of those areas.

Anonymous said...

"because she did not experience the same kind of emotions that most normal people experience,"

Nyquist is getting close again....

Is he willing to touch the third rail?

Anonymous said...

What does that even mean?

Echo Chamber Escapee said...

Gordon - I think you're right about Rand's narrow knowledge base. Some years ago, Second Renaissance Books published a volume of Ayn Rand's Marginalia, consisting of notes she had made on various books she read. That list of books does not include anything by Kant or Hume or Bertrand Russell ... or any of the other philosophers she vilified over the years. One would think that if the Archives had anything of the sort, they would have eagerly published it.

Gordon Burkowski said...


@ECE:

Also revealing are some of the articles Rand wrote for the Objectivist and The Ayn Rand Letter. These include a critique of an article on Capitalism from the Encyclopedia Britannica(!), and another on a Papal Enyclical. Talk about picking soft targets.

She also produced a critique of Rawls' book A Theory of Justice - based not on her own reading of Rawls but on someone else's report about the book.

Bush league stuff. Very, very sad.

Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand's Marginalia is one of the odder pieces of the postumously published material.

Michael Prescott did an excellent review:

http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2005/07/the_importance_.html

It's "edited" by Robert Mayhew. In other words, probably rewritten.

-NP

Anonymous said...

Say what you will about her powers of persuasion but she did found a cult-----

albeit a small one.

In fact I am starting one myself.

Would any of you be interested in joining?

I haven't worked out the details but it involves giving lots of money to me!

Anonymous said...

"Would any of you be interested in joining?"

Does your cult involve abuse, like the kind described by Ellen Plasil in the book "Therapist"?

Anonymous said...

We're days away from the election, so I'm wondering if we will see Trump endorsements here in the comments section, as we have for other Republican presidential candidates in the past...

In recent years, the ex-Ayn Rand Fan Boys here (who actually are still fans in many ways) have aligned themselves with conservatives (rebranded as "traditionalists" in these pages) when its comes to national elections. It is logical for them, after all, since they largely agree with Rand's economic theories, despite their other qualms with her.

So how about it?

ungtss said...

Well, there is something lower than a Trump supporter. It's a person who pokes and prods Trump supporters to come out of hiding just to have someone to poke fun at. This person is lower than they are because he feeds on the ignorance of others to give himself the illusion of superiority.

Anonymous said...

It is a documented fact that several commentators here at the ARCHN blog have freely and openly endorsed Republican presidential candidates in (at least) the last two national election cycles.

It appears that these commentators (who are aligned with "traditionalists") agree with low taxation and an aggressive foreign policy.

Will some of these intellectuals now endorse Trump?

It is a fair question.


ungtss said...

Fair, but uninteresting. Trump was selected by the DNC as a "pied piper candidate" and by the media as a hate figure, because Clinton was chosen to be the next president, but both the DNC and media recognized early on that Clinton is unelectable against an opponent even mildly more tolerable than Trump because of her documented history of corruption, illegality, and enabling the sexual abuse of women for her personal benefit. But the mindless left much prefers to fixate on the intolerable antics of Trump than grapple with the fact that neither they nor their candidate have a conscience. So the election goes to a psychopathic criminal enabler instead of an insufferably narcissistic buffoon. 'murica.

Anonymous said...

Occam's Razor: How does the DNC "select" Trump? I'm interested to see what conspiracy theory explains how the powers that be from the opposing side got the Republican voter base to reject all other nominees and choose Trump as the best candidate on which to hitch their wagon. Is it going to be "oh, both parties are controlled by the same illuminati", or some sort of Clinton-as-master-puppeteer angle?

"I loaded the gun and pointed it at my own foot, and then pulled the trigger - but CLINTON is responsible!"

I mean that's ALMOST as good as Scott Adams saying that if ISIS doesn't attack before Election day that means they are endorsing Clinton.

ungtss said...

https://www.wikileaks.org/podesta-emails//fileid/1120/251

Anonymous said...

So the conspiracy is that the DNC just stood back and let the Republican party pick Trump, and then exploited the awfulness of Trump to make Clinton look miles better by comparison. HOW SINISTER! What a Machiavellian plot, to give the GOP enough rope to willingly hang themselves with. The fix is in!

And let's examine your evidence: even if we take it to be genuine, and leave aside the Russian activity and suggestions that some of these emails are forged, all this details is a strategy for handling things for all the candidates. They have a plan of attack for Jeb Bush and the rest right there too. Do you really think this is somehow out of line with what's going on behind the scenes in the Republican camps?

But perhaps you didn't mean "selected". Perhaps you meant "identified".

ungtss said...

If you see "stood back" in "tell the media to take him seriously" then you've got a pretty amazing ability to lie to yourself. And if you see "Machiavellian conspiracy" in "chose," then you've got a pretty amazing ability to lie about others. These mental defects of yours are widespread, which is why people like Clinton get elected. They are also not he sorts of mental defects that can be fixed in a blog thread. Good day.

Anonymous said...

Hey, don't say dumb stuff and then get all huffy if people call you out on it. A little sensible discretion before you open your virtual yap would save you from a lot of this.

Do you mean to tell me, as you seem to imply above, that when someone in the DNC talks about "telling the press" something, that you take that as being some kind of implicit instruction, as opposed to, say, just saying these things when the press points a camera at them? Because people TELL the press all KINDS of stuff. Trump was on Bill O'Reilly the other night TELLING him that he was winning in all the polls (except for the fixed ones). The press is told all kinds of things every day, some of which it may take more seriously than others. I suppose if you've eaten up the repeated "liberal bias" label that gets slapped on any news source not kowtowing to the hard right you might assume that means some sort of collusion.

Obviously saying "Machiavellian plot" was sarcasm, because you presented some piss-poor evidence to buttress your statement that it was the DNC, and somehow not Republicans themselves, that "selected" Trump. So good job there, sport, for not only failing to prove your case but flailing around with the "liar! mental defect!" attempts to belittle someone you can't prevail over with logic. Awesome job.

ungtss said...

If "tell the press" means "tell them in front of the camera," then somebody would be telling the press to take Trump seriously in front of the camera. Who in the DNC told the press, on camera, to take Trump seriously? If nobody, WTF are you talking about?

If an internal strategy memo is piss-poor evidence of an internal strategy, then what would be good evidence?

Watching a mind like yours as work is like a train wreck. I tell myself I'll look away but I can't.

ungtss said...

No no, I get it. It makes perfect sense for a DNC strategist to plan for DNC victory by going on camera and telling the press to take Trump seriously. Siding with Trump in public.

No wonder politics is where it is. They're selling horseshit to people who think like you.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, to anyone not wrapped up in reading more into something than is actually there, what the DNC letter is saying is that, when interviewed, DNC representatives are to treat Trump (or other "pied piper" candidates, which have since become moot) as a serious candidate, instead of just brushing him off as a raving loony. Instead of telling the press "Oh, Trump is too ridiculous to get close to winning" they act as if he's the natural fit for the GOP. It's right there in the letter.

Occam's Razor! Which is more probable, that the DNC is talking about tweaking its message to the press, what it will say in interviews, OR that they actually have some kind of heretofore undiscovered, literal pact with the press behind the scenes? If you believe the latter, then the email is pretty short on specifics. Exactly WHO are they supposed to be "telling"? Which executive is going to hand down the edict to its reporters and talking heads? Is all the press included? Do you suppose they tell Fox News who to take seriously? There's just no reason to assume some kind of collaboration, and you haven't even tried to explain how all this works in any practical sense. You've just seized on a turn of phrase that you've interpreted into a command, and are going to double down on it to the bitter end, like Slim Pickens riding that bomb.

What you've given is evidence of AN internal strategy, but it's not evidence of the internal strategy YOU believe in. Unless you find actual behind-the-scenes discourse between the DNC and some actual press, common sense would indicate for a more sane interpretation.

ungtss said...

One principle of effective reasoning is that when you are interpreting what someone is saying, you have to refer to their words. You don't get to make things up, no matter how good it makes you feel to make things up.

The email says "We need to be elevating the pied piper candidates and telling the media to take them seriously."

From this, you make up the following:

Obviously, to anyone not wrapped up in reading more into something than is actually there, what the DNC letter is saying is that, when interviewed, DNC representatives are to treat Trump (or other "pied piper" candidates, which have since become moot) as a serious candidate,

You have turned "tell the media to take them seriously" into "take them seriously yourself while interviewed by the media." You have turned "we need to elevate them" into "we need to stand back and let the GOP elect who they like."

These are borderline delusional interpretations of the email, demonstrating severely hampered reality testing.

Which is more probable, that the DNC is talking about tweaking its message to the press, what it will say in interviews, OR that they actually have some kind of heretofore undiscovered, literal pact with the press behind the scenes?

Direct evidence of "pacts" is rare precisely because they are behind the scenes. That's why people capable of reasoned thought infer "pacts" from the circumstances.

If I tell Ron I'm going to tell Amy to steal Joe's wallet on Tuesday, and then Amy steals Joe's wallet on Wednesday, that is good evidence that I had a "pact" with Amy. Direct evidence? No. But extremely strong circumstantial evidence. Enough to send me to jail.

Applying that basic principle of reasoning, Here are the facts of our situation:

1) DNC strategy memo says they're going "elevate" Cruz and Trump and "tell the media to take" Cruz and Trump "seriously."
2) Cruz and Trump get a disproportionate amount of media coverage at the expense of other candidates
3) Cruz and Trump are the last two candidates standing.

These circumstances make it extremely likely that the DNC has some "pact" behind the scenes with the media. A told B they were going to tell C to do something. C did it. That's enough for any rational person to put the pieces together.

Anonymous said...

After re-reading the email, I have to amend my assumption that it was from the DNC. Actually it is addressed TO the DNC. From someone in the Clinton campaign, I assume now?

And, what the email says verbatim is: "We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so that they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to them seriously."

So already we're inferring that there was a typo of some sort and the word "take" was intended to be put in there - it's a natural enough fit, but other words could work.

If we operate under that assumption though, what none of your histrionics does is detail in any but the vaguest way how any of this is supposed to work. HOW does the DNC elevate any Republican candidate? Doubtless a Trump candidacy was what they wanted, and if they could encourage that I'm sure they would. But is any Republican going to vote for Trump because the Democrats told them they should? Is the right wing susceptible to the "liberal media"? Already we're in improbable territory.

You still haven't made a reasonable argument that "tell the press" ought to be interpreted as "instruct the press" as opposed to "give them our spin on things when we're interviewed". And once more, is it probable that such a broad target as "the press" could be effectively "told", and then be expected to obey? But even if there was collusion, do you think that GOP members were going to be more likely to select Trump just because MSNBC might have put the spotlight on them more? Wouldn't that mean the right-wing was a pack of gullible, pliable suckers?

Your "reasoned thought" is the paranoid delusion of ladies who stare at the rainbows seen in their lawn sprinklers and "infer" that dark forces are putting stuff in the water supply. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c6HsiixFS8 ) You assume "facts" not in evidence. Was the Trump and Cruz coverage really so disproportionate? They were willing to say outlandish things to get attention, and they got it. Do you honestly think, say, Jeb Bush would have performed any better if this email writer had called upon their allies in the press to focus on him? I'll remind you that they had their own plans for what to do if he became a serious contender. Why make contingency plans if you have the power to cause the GOP, by virtue of the liberal media's boundless influence on right-wing voters, to select whatever candidate you (and not they) prefer? For your theory to work, everything else in that letter has to be hand-waved away or blatantly ignored, along with plain old common sense.

ungtss said...

After re-reading the email, I have to amend my assumption that it was from the DNC. Actually it is addressed TO the DNC. From someone in the Clinton campaign, I assume now?

Yes, a memo attached to a Clinton Campaign email to DNC. which is why I said the Clinton campaign chose him. Because they did.

HOW does the DNC elevate any Republican candidate?

by working with their friends and contacts in the left-leaning media to give them nearly exclusive air time. which is what happened.

You still haven't made a reasonable argument that "tell the press" ought to be interpreted as "instruct the press" as opposed to "give them our spin on things when we're interviewed".

I did, you just ignored it. No DNC officials or Clinton campaigners took Trump seriously, ever. So they didn't do what you're suggesting. On the other hand, the media did take Trump seriously. So they did what I'm suggesting.

Your "reasoned thought" is the paranoid delusion of ladies who stare at the rainbows seen in their lawn sprinklers and "infer" that dark forces are putting stuff in the water supply. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c6HsiixFS8 ) You assume "facts" not in evidence.

nonsense. you're just ignoring my argument because it's more convenient for you not to deal with what I said. What I said was this: 'When A tells B he's going to tell C to do D, and C does D, the most reasonable inference is that A did what he said he was going to do, and told C to do D.

That's not "assuming facts not in evidence." It's assuming that somebody did as they said they planned to do.

The "ladies watching sprinklers" argument is refusing to believe the obvious: when somebody says they're going to do something, and it happens, the reasonable conclusion is that they did it.

Anonymous said...

Nobody in Clinton's camp took Trump seriously, you say, ignoring all the camera time given to people intoning how much of a disaster a Trump presidency would be. If nobody took him seriously (or at the very least if nobody ACTED like they took him seriously) they would have just brushed him off and treated him like Ben Carson. Your standards for "not taking him seriously" are somewhat skewed, then.

You have no actual evidence of any collusion, so you have to take a fact that could easily have come about without any sort of collusion (that a loud-mouthed controversial braggart candidate with a long-standing love/hate relationship with the media would attract a lot of media attention), combine it with an English-as-a-second-language interpretation of one phrase in an email, and presto! Chemtrails everywhere.

If A tells B that they (A&B) will tell C a story, and C happens to pass that story along, E can call it a plot because he has no clue what "reasonable interpretation" is.

ungtss said...

Ah, now you've turned "we need to elevate the pied piper candidates" into "we need to tell everybody what a disaster they would be, and decided that "admissible circumstantial evidence sufficient to support conviction" is not "actual evidence" (according to some standard for "actual evidence" you've invented and failed to identify). The human capacity for self-deception is endless. Good day.

Anonymous said...

You don't have "sufficient" evidence for anything, let alone to support a conviction. At best what you have is hearsay. You in no way have demonstrated a plausible mechanism for this "elevation", besides saying "this thing happened, therefore however implausible it would be to assume X is responsible for that in Y way, we should ignore all other factors and assume the more implausible thing to be true! Blurrr good day!"

Self-deception is your stock in trade, rainbow-watcher.

ungtss said...

FFS, hearsay is a statement offered for the truth of the matter asserted, and does not include statements of intent. Learn what hearsay is before you start throwing it around. The "mechanism" for elevation is contacts and influence.

Anonymous said...

It's hearsay: you are reading someone else's words, and saying what you think (wrongly) that they mean. You say "it is true that it happened because I read it to be so," when if this were some kind of actual case, people would be reading the words without your particular spin on them.

As for your "mechanism", that's not good enough. You said the DNC *chose* Trump. First we have to establish that someone in the Clinton campaign or the DNC has enough of these contacts and influence (and you are as vague as any conspiracy theorist about actually WHO in "the press" they have such a hold on) in order to cause "the press" (again, ALL of the press? more vagueness, more improbability) to "elevate" Trump.

What's more, to actually be some kind of collusion, "the press" would have to do it on the DNC's behalf when it otherwise would not. If, for example, I told you not to shoot yourself in the head, and a month later you still had not shot yourself in the head, that would not be any indication of any pact between us - unless one adopts the standards you set for this "proof" you cite, in which case it would be incontrovertible evidence that I chose for you not to commit suicide. The only evidence you have that the press gave any *untoward* attention to Trump is that they *gave* attention to Trump, which is Biblical-level self-validation. (How was the attention untoward? You offer no standards or explanation by which to judge, you merely assert it.) Anyone getting Trump's numbers in the GOP primary polls would be getting attention, regardless of whether it was of benefit to the DNC/Clinton campaign or not.

THEN, assuming against probability that the DNC has this influence over the press and that the press is willing to somehow give more attention to Trump than he would otherwise get as the attention-demanding media-savvy narcissist that he is, we have to establish how the GOP voter base would somehow vote against what ostensibly should have been its own better judgement due to the influence of the press, which right-wingers have long decried for being liberally biased. And you don't even TRY to deal with that one, and it may be the most improbable link in an already improbable chain.

Occam's Razor. Which is more likely, that all of these things can and have come to pass just so, against all odds, OR that you just made a dumb statement and can't bear to back down from it?

ungtss said...

It's hearsay: you are reading someone else's words, and saying what you think (wrongly) that they mean.

That's not what "hearsay" means. Hearsay is a statement made for the truth of the matter asserted. Look it up. What you're describing is basic communication. It's what I have to do with you and you have to do with me -- read and interpret. Hearsay is something different. You really should look it up before you reveal your ignorance and willingness to make shit up any further.

The rest of your argument plays a stupid old game called "raise the standard of proof." When ignorant and self-deceptive people don't want to believe something that's obviously true, they simply raise the standards higher and higher until nobody can possibly satisfy it, then they cheer to themselves, thinking they've proven something other than their own stupidity.

Rational people define a standard of proof, and apply it.

Anonymous said...

Top of Google:

"information received from other people that one cannot adequately substantiate; rumor."

Well THAT describes your theory to a T.

"the report of another person's words by a witness, usually disallowed as evidence in a court of law."

And as I said, the idea that the Clinton campaign or the DNC can command the press to do anything is your particular spin, requiring one particular interpretation that is less plausible than some others. Your spin, as evidence, is hearsay. The words of the email themselves may not be hearsay, but it would be up to people less obsessed with your conspiracy to decide that.

My standard of proof has not changed. You've just been ignoring it all along, because you can't make it work. I said much the same from the start, when you talked about the DNC choosing Trump, I've just had to repeat it with more detail to try and drive it through your thick-brained denial. How does this selection work? What's the evidence? And all you have is one email, no corroboration, and more importantly, no coherent way to explain how the DNC got all those Republicans to choose Trump. I mean, if you could have pulled out an email from Wolf Blitzer saying "sure thing Hillary, I'll get right on making Trump out to be the GOP's best chance, I know how to get them to listen to me," that might have had a CHANCE to be convincing. Likewise, if you could have presented a halfway plausible theory as to how the GOP was influenced by the liberal media beyond just repeatedly showing Trump's face whenever he said something outrageous, that maybe could have gone some way to bolstering your theory. Instead, you nitpick about the definition of hearsay and stonewall any questions about how this conspiracy of yours is supposed to function. Ten to one that in your reply to this you STILL won't offer any insight into the actual mechanics, and will continue to try and divert the subject away in an attempt to avoid having to face up to saying a dumb thing.

ungtss said...

"Hearsay. Broadly, an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of whatever it asserts. "

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/hearsay

"Hearsay evidence is "an out-of-court statement introduced to prove the truth of the matter asserted therein".

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearsay

Both of your definitions also describe a statement offered to prove the matter asserted. A rumor is _about the matter asserted_. A rumor is not "somebody saying they intend to do something." A statement of intent is not a "rumor." It's a statement of intent.

The statement in the email is a statement of intent, so is not hearsay.

Also, neither definition is "reading and interpreting something," as you said it was. So you're wrong. Get used to it.

You say your standard of proof hasn't changed, but you haven't said what it is. You've just told me I haven't satisfied it. What's the standard I need to satisfy, and why?

Anonymous said...

I was right, you did continue to evade the mechanics.

ungtss said...

I told you what I thought the mechanics were. You said that wasn't good enough. So I'm asking what "good enough" is to you. One of us is evading, but it isn't me.

Anonymous said...

Really?

You think "Durr, contacts and influences" draws a causal line that explains how we get to "The DNC chose Trump"? Of course that's not good enough for me, and I'm almost (almost) embarrassed for you if that's good enough for YOU.

Look, I've repeated this a few times in a few different ways, so let's see if you evade it again.

1) The Clinton campaign sends an email to the DNC. We differ on its interpretation, but just for the sake of argument and this step-by-step let's suppose it's what you say it is, a command to the press to highlight Trump.

2) You don't have any real answer about who "the press" actually is, or how widespread these "contacts and influences" supposedly are, there's no corroboration, you don't answer the question about Fox News and other right-wing press entities, but again, just for the sake of argument and this step-by-step let's suppose there is some liberal media influence that can make Trump more visible than he otherwise would be.

3) The missing piece in this dubious chain is: how do we get from there to the GOP voting for Trump? Unless you're WAY off in the deep end of the conspiracy pool, we have to assume that it's the GOP and its right-wing members that ultimately made Trump the nominee. And it's well established that the right considers "the press", aside from the aforementioned Fox and like elements, to be liberally biased. So what is it that makes them vote for Trump above and beyond the response he would ostensibly get without any DNC interference? How does liberal media make it happen, unless you're actually proposing that the DNC has sway over Fox, et al?

And that's what I predict you'll evade once more. You have no workable theory for that so you toss out some crappy vagueness and declare that's a "reasonable standard", when it's barely a standard, let alone reasonable. You could believe the Bible was a factually accurate account of history by using that kind of standard. That's good enough for you?

ungtss said...

You're still playing "raise the standard of proof." You're asking for a detailed, substantiated timeline of what happened, who did what when, because you know I don't have access to that information. Therefore, by demanding detail that you know no human being can provide without warrants and subpeonas, you can create the illusion that you have a point.

Your first attempt to do this was by calling a statement of intent on an email "hearsay," until I explained to you what "hearsay" is, after which you changed the subject.

What I'm doing right now is refusing to let you play your stupid game. You tell me what the standard of proof is, and why, for me to believe this is what happened. Do I need to have been in the room? Proof beyond reasonable doubt? Clear and convincing? Preponderance of the evidence? Probable cause?

What exactly do I need to have in order to hold this opinion?

The reason you're evading this issue is that you want to keep playing "raise the standard of proof." I won't play.

Anonymous said...

Evasion!

The standard of proof is to have a theory that actually functions. That has never changed. Why demand such a standard? Because as it stands now, for reasons already detailed, yours does not.

You can hold whatever opinion you want, it's a free world. But if you're going to spout it off, and it's improbable and ridiculous, it'll be challenged, and if it doesn't stand up under scrutiny, under common sense, it will be called the conspiracy BS that it is.

You say "the DNC chose Trump". All I have been asking is "How?" And in return I get a lot of vague improbable and INCOMPLETE notions that don't add up. But apparently this is enough for you to believe that the DNC had that power. You "won't play" because you won't back down from your claim, but you can't substantiate it, so you fling up "raising the standard" as a smokescreen.

This is a direct quote from my first message on the subject: "I'm interested to see what conspiracy theory explains how the powers that be from the opposing side got the Republican voter base to reject all other nominees and choose Trump as the best candidate on which to hitch their wagon."

And that is essentially what point #3 is, detailed in my last post. It's the same basic question, which you have weaseled around all this time. How does it work? How do you know this to be true? Because nothing you have presented from that point to this really answers that question.

ungtss said...

The standard of proof is to have a theory that actually functions. The standard of proof is to have a theory that actually functions.

I already have you that. The DNC has high level contacts in the major media outlets. Media outlets rely on insiders to feed them their spin and stories -- that strategy gives the media easy access to stories, and gives the insiders a quick and easy way to put their spin out. In this case, the insiders were DNC operatives.

They told those contacts to take Trump seriously. The media outlets did as they were told in order to maintain the inside contacts.

Maybe you're just so insulated from the real world that you don't know this is how it works at every level of media. Media rely on insiders for stories. The insiders, therefore, get to call the shots. If you piss the insiders off, you lose access to the stories, which hurts your career and outlet.

There's a theory that works. I've satisfied your standard.

Now feel free to change the standard so you can pretend I haven't.

Anonymous said...

You have not.

You've left out how this makes the GOP vote in any way they otherwise would not have. You've left out point 3. Even if we concede to all the things that you've just detailed, you still continue to avoid dealing with that one nagging detail, which has been asked from the beginning.

It doesn't work. You still haven't completed "how". You can't get halfway there and say you've reached the goal.

ungtss said...

Sorry, I guess I gave you too much credit. I thought you understood that in a political race, as well as any other type of mass marketing, name recognition is a critical and often deciding factor.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Name_recognition

So to fill in that blank for you, people vote for trump and Cruz because they recognize those names. They don't recognize other names because those other names get no air time.

Anonymous said...

That's the best you can do?

The GOP chose Trump and Cruz because they got mentioned more, and somehow Jeb Bush, son and brother of two previous presidents, up until that season considered one of the strongest GOP contenders for the nomination, didn't get "recognized" as much?

Well, at least you've made a half-hearted effort to TRY and tie it all together, finally, after dodging it repeatedly. It still doesn't hold up as particularly plausible, but at least there's an implausible chain. If that shaky skeleton of an idea is sufficient evidence for you to believe that the DNC actively made Trump the GOP nominee, then I guess I can see how you became a Rand fan.

ungtss said...

And… The old game of "raise the standard." You asked for a theory that worked, I gave you one, and now you give me the old "that's the best you can do?" Trying to raise the goalposts, as predicted.

No. that's what you asked for. That's what I gave you. You don't want to see that, so you ask for something more. Just like clockwork.

Sometimes I wonder what it's like to live inside a self-deceptive mind like yours, but I get physically nauseous thinking about it.

As to Jeb Bush, the Bush name had extraordinarily negative connotations from GW. Extremely negative connotations with a name trumps name recognition.

Here's an article about how this works.

https://www.princeton.edu/csdp/events/Kam04282011/Kam04282011.pdf

So now that I've dealt with that shift in the goal posts, how are you going to shift the goalposts next to maintain the illusion that you're capable of developing a rational opinion?

Anonymous said...

Your theory "works" only if you assume certain things happened in certain ways. Note all the times I have voiced my doubt about what you've said about various parts of your chain, but let them slide for the sake of argument. Those concerns didn't go away, and you don't really address them, but, in the interests of getting you to actually come up with something that doesn't stop halfway through, I didn't press them.

That done, though, Occam's Razor still applies. Given that there's a simpler and easier to achieve explanation for Trump's ascendancy (i.e., he rode a populist GOP wave that is the ongoing result of the GOP heading further politically right, and the GOP voted for him using mainly their own judgement) than it being the DNC's doing, I still think your theory, and ultimately your declaration about the DNC "choosing Trump", is so much garbage taken as a whole.

That wasn't likely to change, and there's nothing so revelatory and clear about your theory that I ought to be convinced by it, BUT I did ask mainly how it was supposed to WORK, which you've kind of answered. As I said before, if that's good enough for YOU, well...

In other words, the goalpost of "How is this supposed to work" has not shifted. But if you're aiming for "convince me that this is true", that's a whole different game, and you'd have to do better than you have so far.

ungtss said...

Your theory "works" only if you assume certain things happened in certain ways. Your theory "works" only if you assume certain things happened in certain ways.

That is true of all theories. Therefore not a meaningful critique.

In other words, the goalpost of "How is this supposed to work" has not shifted. But if you're aiming for "convince me that this is true", that's a whole different game, and you'd have to do better than you have so far.

I've satisfied the only standard of proof you've offered. If you want me to satisfy another one, offer it and justify it. "Whole new ballgame" and "better than that" are not standards of proof. They are just hackneyed ways stupid people try and keep the standard of proof undefined so they can continue to play stupid games while maintaining a thin illusion of rational thought.

Anonymous said...

Well, a theory that assumes something improbable is itself an improbable theory. "Intelligent Design" assumes some sort of sentient creator of the universe; actual evidence to support that claim is iffy at best.

I'm not going to offer you a new "standard of proof", for a couple reasons.

One, I'm not really that invested in getting you to prove your ramshackle theory is true. What I asked for, and practically had to drag it out of you with pliers, was some way it could possibly work. We've done that. I still don't think it's TRUE, but there's kind of a path to show how it might be POSSIBLE, if if if. Whether you WANT to prove it to be true is up to you, but I'm not going to coax it out of you or anything. Now, if you say something that has a big logical hole in it, I'll be happy to point it out. You don't get a free pass to blither without receiving critique just because I choose not to lay out some kind of formalized standard of evidence.

Two, this whinging about standards of proof and shifting goalposts is really just so much evasion dressed up as having a discussion. There are plenty of things mentioned in the above previous posts that you could have addressed, but chose not to. Instead of going on interminably about these ground rules you want to impose, you could have been far more convincing if you had addressed them. Would it have been a sufficient standard of proof? I don't know, but it certainly would have been a HIGHER standard of proof. As it is, ignoring those points simply makes it seem like you have no answer for any of them, the length of time it took just to get the mechanism out of you makes it seem like you're playing for time until you can cobble up a theory on the fly. So now it's me not playing YOUR game. I'm not going to waste my time defining a standard that you'll likely just find a reason to bitch about, anyway.

Make your attempt to prove it, or don't, as you see fit. I've already detailed plenty of reasons why I don't think your theory is plausible, so I don't feel the need to put in any extra work on that score.

ungtss said...

"Well, a theory that assumes something improbable is itself an improbable theory."

It's impossible to determine whether a theory is "improbable" without reference to a standard of proof, because the standard of proof tells you how probable your theory needs to be under the circumstances. It's the goalpost for probability.

But of course you won't identify a standard of proof. Because in failing to do that, you can keep moving the goalposts for what "probable" means.

This is how delusional ideas are maintained -- with ever shifting, undefined concepts of "probability" that get lowered for ideas you like and raised for ideas you don't like.

Far from "whining" or "evasion," a standard of proof is prerequisite to a rational discussion. Getting into the weeds without a defined goalposts is pointless because you'll just keep moving them.

Anonymous said...

No, a standard of proof is not a prerequisite to a rational discussion. Plenty of people have rational discussions without demanding that kind of thing. It's just the excuse you want to use.

And what do you even need it for? Suppose I laid one down, then what? You'd complain that it was unreasonably impossible to achieve, or flip out some barely-relevant Wikipedia article that "proves" something (and then bitch when I didn't accept some half-assed rationale as a smoking gun).

I mean, go back to the start. You said, in a fairly authoritative manner, that the DNC chose Trump. I asked, just how is that supposed to work? In reply, you posted one single link to a WikiLeaks email. No explanation, no connecting the dots, you just RESTED YOUR FUCKING CASE. Had I not made further posts, it seems likely that would have been your final word.

In actual sports terms, you just kind of nudged the ball with your foot, rolled it a couple inches, had to be browbeat into taking a half-hearted few actual kicks at the ball, and then began griping about the goalposts being moved.

For someone who seems to value reason and intellectualism, you don't seem to be willing to actually DISPLAY much of it.

ungtss said...

No, a standard of proof is not a prerequisite to a rational discussion. Plenty of people have rational discussions without demanding that kind of thing.

Having one and demanding one are different things. Rational people already have an implicit understanding of applicable standard of proof in a context, so they can just have a conversation. But you don't fall into that category, because you like to play "raise the standard of proof," demanding evidence and proof that no human being could reasonably have in order to create the illusion that you have a point. Demanding a standard only becomes necessary when one of the participants (in this case you) plays "raise the standard of proof."

It's just the excuse you want to use.

An excuse for what? The last time I gave me one I immediately satisfied it. What did I use it as an excuse for?

And what do you even need it for? Suppose I laid one down, then what? You'd complain that it was unreasonably impossible to achieve, or flip out some barely-relevant Wikipedia article that "proves" something (and then bitch when I didn't accept some half-assed rationale as a smoking gun).

The last time you gave me one I satisfied it. If you picked another reasonable one, I'd satisfy it too. The problem is you don't want to pick a reasonable one. And that's why you won't name one. And that's why you're pretending I won't satisfy it, even though that's what I did last time.

I mean, go back to the start. You said, in a fairly authoritative manner, that the DNC chose Trump. I asked, just how is that supposed to work? In reply, you posted one single link to a WikiLeaks email. No explanation, no connecting the dots, you just RESTED YOUR FUCKING CASE. Had I not made further posts, it seems likely that would have been your final word.

Because out here in the real world, if you have a murder in which a body is thrown in a river, and a letter written by somebody with a motive to kill him saying they're going to kill him and throw him in the river, that's as close to case closed as it gets. Rational people understand that without any further commentary.

Then of course I had to deal with the fact that you didn't understand how the world works -- how the media gets political stories, how name recognition affects elections, or even how hearsay works.

But we got over those gaps in your knowledge of how the world works, at which time you decided to start playing "raise the standard of proof" to avoid facing inconvenient facts.

Gordon Burkowski said...

@Anonymous:

I think that by now two facts should have become apparent to you:

1) Yes, the argument you have been rebutting is just as stupid as you think it is;
2) You will never get U. to admit it.

Quite some time ago, Ungtss presented his “argument” very clearly before the whole thing started to go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole:

“What I said was this: 'When A tells B he's going to tell C to do D, and C does D, the most reasonable inference is that A did what he said he was going to do, and told C to do D.”

This is course an elementary logical error: post hoc ergo propter hoc. Saying one thing causes another solely because it comes after it gets you a failing grade in logic 1100. That really closes the case right there.

Your mistake, Anonymous, has been in allowing yourself to get lured into a discussion of the proof or lack of it for this remarkably silly explanation for the success of Donald Trump.

Dozens of books are going to be written about the election of 2016, and I doubt that any single explanation is going to be convincing. There's certainly lots to discuss: white working class disaffection in the rust belt; paranoia about terrorism; the media's moth-and-flame attraction to a candidate who makes good copy: it goes on and on. I doubt that much time is going to be spent on the idea that the whole thing was a DNC conspiracy.

That's the reality. I've enjoyed your posts, but maybe you should consider exiting the rabbit hole and getting some fresh air.

ungtss said...

“What I said was this: 'When A tells B he's going to tell C to do D, and C does D, the most reasonable inference is that A did what he said he was going to do, and told C to do D.”

This is course an elementary logical error: post hoc ergo propter hoc. Saying one thing causes another solely because it comes after it gets you a failing grade in logic 1100. That really closes the case right there.


Ah, there's Gordon again, misapplying "post hoc" because it makes him feel smart to use latin words without knowing what they mean.

Inferring causation from expressed intent is not post hoc fallacy. Gordon would flunk out of Phil 101 for saying it was.

Post hoc is inferring causation solely because one thing follows another. If there's something else involved in the inference, then it's not the post hoc fallacy. And when the earlier event is a person saying he intends to do something, you are now inferring causation from the fact that somebody said he was going to do something, and the fact that people tend to do what they say they intend to do.

Good old Gordon. You can always count of him to make an ass of himself by misapplying terms he doesn't understand. And now I suspect he'll resort to your favorite evasion tactic -- saying "Zzzzz" to try and shame people into silence when his own ignorance betrays him again.

Anonymous said...

Actually Gordon, from the point ungtss finally dropped "name recognition" I haven't really been seeking any real debate with him. But I have been going on just to see how far he'll go. Not that I've been making any points up out of nothing, but obviously now this is just arguing about the rules of arguing, there's no attempt by him to even be slightly more convincing about his DNC statement.

My current activity is to just keep replying and goad him into making more replies himself, because I have the hunch that it is compulsive for him: he won't be able to resist getting in the last word, no matter even if I lay it out openly like this.

(I apologize if anyone out there finds this boring or cringeworthy to read, but it's not like it's interrupting any other conversations.)

ungtss, you use "standard of proof" and "moving goalposts" as excuses to avoid actually stating things. I will explain it, since now you're pretending that you don't know how the "world works": I ask a question, you provide a half-answer or even a non-answer, and when I press for more detail you bring up "moving goalposts". "Standard of proof" is a roadblock. You could have answered the questions I posed at any time, but by insisting on having me follow this arbitrary rule you can avoid having to actually answer the question, you can play for time.

What if I HAD "moved a goalpost" after you gave an answer? Are you harmed, then? Do you lose the great ARCHN debate olympics? It's not as if you're avoiding wasting time, you ate up a lot of the page on irrelevant dickering. If it just upsets your sense of propriety somehow, well, get over your pompous self. At least if I had done the thing you said, then you'd have an actual thing to complain about, as it is your gyrations to avoid some imaginary shenanigans on my part just make you look evasive.

Gordon Burkowski said...


@Anonymous:

Yes, I suspected that might be what you were doing.

I myself have a settled position on this guy, which I stated clearly late last year: I don't take him seriously (hence ZZZ), but reserve the right to call him out when he's being particularly absurd. Like now.

Have fun in the rabbit hole: hope it's air-conditioned. ;)

Gordon

ungtss said...

My current activity is to just keep replying and goad him into making more replies himself, because I have the hunch that it is compulsive for him: he won't be able to resist getting in the last word, no matter even if I lay it out openly like this.

That fits diagnostic criteria for psychopathic, narcissistic, and manipulative behavior. Pretending to have a conversation with somebody just so you can convince yourself they have some sort of compulsion or other psychological problem? That is not a psychologically healthy motive for engaging in conversation. Healthy people speak with people as people, for the sake of the subject matter.

Even more amusing, you’re breaking your own rules. You just told me it’s “hearsay” to interpret what what people say from what they write. But here you are, inferring from that fact that I respond to you that I’m “compulsive” and “have to have the last word.” You don’t have any other evidence that I’m compulsive or have to have the last word except that I’m responding to you.

See how your rules change depending on what you want to believe?

ungtss, you use "standard of proof" and "moving goalposts" as excuses to avoid actually stating things.

You have no evidence for this. The last time I asked you for a standard of proof and you gave me one, I gave you exactly what you asked for. Given that behavior, you have no basis to conclude I used it as a roadblack or an excuse. The only evidence you have is that I’m asking you for clear expectations so I can satisfy them.

All of the relevant evidence supports my view. None of it supports your view.

What if I HAD "moved a goalpost" after you gave an answer? Are you harmed, then?

Yes. You’ve wasted my time.

It's not as if you're avoiding wasting time, you ate up a lot of the page on irrelevant dickering.

That’s not a logical argument. If I choose to waste 10 minutes dickering with you and you waste 10 more minutes of my time by jerking me around and moving the goalposts, you’ve cost me 10 minutes I didn’t want to spend.

If it just upsets your sense of propriety somehow, well, get over your pompous self. At least if I had done the thing you said, then you'd have an actual thing to complain about, as it is your gyrations to avoid some imaginary shenanigans on my part just make you look evasive.

You’ve managed to drag this entire discussion off topic because you won’t set out clear expectations for what a person is expected to prove to you. It’s been days now. You could have just said “probable cause” and we’d have moved on. I could satisfy probable cause. But you don’t want to do that. Why? Given that the last time you gave me a standard I satisfied it, the only reasonable explanation is that you don’t want to give me clear goalposts because you don’t want me to satisfy them again.

Anonymous said...


"My current activity is to just keep replying and goad him into making more replies himself, because I have the hunch that it is compulsive for him: he won't be able to resist getting in the last word, no matter even if I lay it out openly like this."

Hunch confirmed. As many people already know.

ungtss said...

Gordon, when you misapply "post-hoc," I call you out on, it and you pretend to be sleeping and so far above me that I'm not worth lowering yourself to speak with, you're the one who looks like an ass.

ungtss said...

"Hunch confirmed. As many people already know."

What standard of proof are you using, such that my responding to you convinces you that I have a compulsive need to have the last word? Sounds to me like the standard is "if i find any evidence consistent with what I want to believe, then what I want to believe is true." That's an extremely low standard, more commonly known as "wishful thinking."

Anonymous said...

For whatever it's worth, that last Anon was not me, the same Anon who's been posting from "10/27/2016 02:30:00 AM". But they were essentially correct: my theory is that you have a compulsive need to get the last word in. The evidence for that theory is that so far you seem to BE always getting the last word in, not only between you and I but scrolling up the page and skimming past conversations. Even when you go "good day", which was likely meant to be dismissive and "end" the debate, you don't let it drop if someone continues to reply.

Now, an effective bit of evidence to the contrary would be if there was evidence of someone saying something to you, to which you left no reply whatsoever. I'm not going to count Gordon's "zzzzzzz" posts, because they aren't actually saying much of anything, they're the equivalent of a raspberry noise or rude gesture. But certainly, while there's plenty of things I've said that you've blatantly ignored, you've never failed to reply to my posts in some fashion.

So as I see it, each reply weighs a bit in support of the theory. Even when I state outright that I'm goading you, you felt a need to scold me for that, instead of what many people would do, i.e., say to themselves "I'm not playing his game!" and stop responding.

Either way benefits me. You either continue to reply and make my case for me, or you actually clam up for a bit.

I do intend to come back to the subject of "standards of proof" in a while but it's late and I'm too tired right this moment. But for now, if your compulsion holds sway, perhaps you might enlighten us as to what sort of standard of proof you think you've already fulfilled, as to the question of whether it's true that the DNC "chose" Trump. Because I skimmed a legal article about standards of proof in the courts, and it's my impression that if this were an actual case of some sort you'd be fined for wasting the court's time.

Gordon Burkowski said...


@Anonymous:

"I'm not going to count Gordon's "zzzzzzz" posts, because they aren't actually saying much of anything, they're the equivalent of a raspberry noise or rude gesture."

Well, not quite. For future reference, the message intended is: "Boring. Valueless. Will not get any better. Time to sleep."

ungtss said...

The evidence for that theory is that so far you seem to BE always getting the last word in, not only between you and I but scrolling up the page and skimming past conversations. Even when you go "good day", which was likely meant to be dismissive and "end" the debate, you don't let it drop if someone continues to reply.

That’s evidence that I’m compelled to respond, but not that I’m motivated by a need to have the last word. Whatever my motive to respond, I’m going to respond. So the fact that I respond is not evidence of any particular motivation to respond.

Second, it's old news that I’m compelled – I told you myself that I can’t look away from your mind because watching your mind at work is like watching a train wreck. In other words, that I’m compelled by morbid curiosity and schadenfreude. The real question is whether I’m motivated by morbid curiosity as I say, by some need to “have the last word” as you say, or by something else entirely.

You don’t have any evidence at all to sort that question out. You just see me responding to you, and conclude that it’s to “get the last word.” But let’s look at the evidence.

1) You showed me that you didn’t understand what “hearsay” is. I corrected you. You changed the subject.

2) Gordon showed me that he doesn’t understand what “post hoc” is. I corrected him. He went to sleep.

3) I asked you for a standard of proof regarding the podesta emails, you gave me one, and i satisfied it. You then said that wasn't good enough, so I asked for a standard of proof again, and you’ve been refusing to do that without giving a reason.

These are incidents in which you and Gordon have been glaringly wrong and stupid about basic things, I’ve corrected you, and you’ve changed the subject.

It looks to me a lot like the reason I'm compelled to respond is that I’m flabbergasted by the combination of ignorance and arrogance I find on this board, and I can't look away, just like watching a train wreck. It's that I can't allow myself to believe that minds like yours and Gordon's are out there.

In a rational discussion, your next move is to provide evidence falsifying my hypothesis and/or bolstering yours. In an irrational discussion, you either a) change the subject, b) socially intimidate (Gordon's favorite move), c) lie about basic facts, d) throw around words you don't understand, or e) disappear.

Your move.

Anonymous said...

"I asked you for a standard of proof regarding the podesta emails, you gave me one, and i satisfied it."

No, and really, NO. The standard of proof isn't about the email (singular, you only provide one), which is an entirely different issue which has not been resolved. The standard I sought was a working theory as to how you could speak with certainty that the DNC chose Trump. The email was merely your opening salvo in that regard, and an incomplete one at that. Since all this has been covered, the fact that you would refer to "podesta emails" like that would indicate either a careless use of language or perhaps a deliberate attempt to slide the facts around.

Either way, you go on about how I could have just stated a "standard of proof" and wrapped all this up. But conversely, you yourself could have offered up proof so irrefutable and compelling that there could be no debate. A real smoking gun of an email exchange that has "the press" (whoever that's supposed to be) responding to the DNC, agreeing to "elevate" Trump, for example, might prove collusion between the press and the DNC/Clinton campaign (but not complete the chain of events). But at any point you have been free to whip out anything you've got that would put the definitive nail on the coffin, and also end the debate.

Why not do that? The most logical answer would be that you do not actually have such evidence. The best you will be able to do is craft a compelling hypothesis as to how such a feat might work. (And what you have now isn't compelling.) So you have to get me to set a "goalpost", some sort of inferior standard of proof that doesn't actually prove anything. You want me to set a standard that I agree beforehand to accept, so you can make a half-assed attempt to fulfill it and then claim that you've succeeded, thereby allowing you to chide me for not accepting said half-assery.

The standard has been implied by the things I've asked (which have been ignored or elided). But if you need a formal declaration, how about: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

for reference: https://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=6363

Quote: "This standard is comprised of two equal and important parts: the burden of production and the burden of persuasion. The burden of production requires the prosecution to supply adequate evidence to place a fact in issue. If the prosecution does not aptly satisfy the burden of production, the judge can direct a verdict. The burden of persuasion requires the prosecution to persuade the jury of the veracity of each element."

Now, I can almost hear the keyboard clicking as you rush in to say, "but wait! Justify that standard to me! Why should I?"

1) This is your assertion, that the DNC chose Trump. It's your burden to prove.
2) You have not expressed one iota of doubt in saying it, and have not backed down from this assumption at all. You appear to have not even a reasonable doubt, so therefore you either have good evidence beyond such reasonable doubt (unlikely) or your own standards for accepting that assertion as fact are weak and shaky.
3) Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Gordon Burkowski said...


@Anonymous:

"Beyond a reasonable doubt" is a pretty stiff test. It would probably eliminate 99% of the history books that have ever been written.

The appropriate test in these matters is: "balance of probabilities". Is it probable that news and media organizations take their marching orders from the DNC (I think the DNC's reaction to that - especially in the last week - would be: if only it were true!) Indeed, is it probable that emails from any organization could produce the sort of unexpected year that we're getting? And is the DNC the only organization trying to influence news coverage? Or the only one that gets listened to? As Obama would say: Come on, man!

Key point here: anyone's theory not only has to stand up to the "balance of probabilities" test when viewed on its own; an advocate also has to show that it is more probable than competing theories. This election year has already produced many, many such theories; and most are a lot better than the loopy one being argued for here.

We are witnessing a vast change in American voting patterns, one that even well-informed analysts have barely started to understand. The final explanations are certain to be complex and varied. Casting the DNC as some kind of master Svengali is not a horse worth betting on. Bad news for conspiracy theorists; good news for those of us who believe in common sense.

ungtss said...

The standard I sought was a working theory as to how you could speak with certainty that the DNC chose Trump.

And we’re going with irrational option c), lie about the basic facts. You did not ask for a working theory as to how I could speak with certainty. On 10/30/16 at 0919 am, you asked for: ”The standard of proof is to have a theory that actually functions. That has never changed. ”

“A theory that actually functions” is not a “working theory as to how you could speak with certainty that the DNC chose Trump.” You see how this game of “raise the burden of proof” works? You ask for a working theory, I give you one, and then all of a sudden “working theory” becomes a justification for certainty?

But of course when I ask you for a standard, you won’t tell me “certainty.” Because that’s insane, of course. Civil litigation doesn’t require certainty, but only preponderance. Even criminal conviction does not require certainty, but only proof beyond reasonable doubt (permitting doubts that are less than reasonable, and therefore permitting some degree of uncertainty).

Either way, you go on about how I could have just stated a "standard of proof" and wrapped all this up. But conversely, you yourself could have offered up proof so irrefutable and compelling that there could be no debate.

And now we use irrational tactic f) double standard. I am supposed to provide proof so irrefutable and compelling that there could be no debate, so that you don’t have to identify an actual standard of proof that a human being could actually satisfy in this context. “Proof so irrefutable and compelling that there could be no debate” is impossibly high, because people are capable of debating any issue, no matter how good the proof. So you’re asking me to do the impossible.

You see how your game of “raise the standard of proof” plays out? If you actually say “you should prove things so well that there’s no possibility of debate” out loud, you sound like an utterly unreasonable buffoon. That’s why you won’t say it out loud. You’ll just hold me to it without admitting what it is.

But if you need a formal declaration, how about: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
Thank you. And I’ll admit, I don’t have the evidence to satisfy that standard. But that does not invalidate my believing it in this context. Reasonable doubt is required to send people to jail or to the electric chair. It’s a very high standard because the stakes are so high. Civil litigation only requires preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), because the stakes are usually only money. But I don’t want any money. Arrest requires only probable cause (a reasonable basis for believing). But I’m not trying to arrest anybody.

My purpose is what’s called a working hypothesis. Just my opinion, as educated as possible for me under the circumstances. Nobody’s going to jail, no money is changing hands, nobody’s being arrested. No real impact on anybody at all. Stakes are ~ 0. Based on that purpose, I’d argue the applicable standard is “consistent with all the evidence I have available.” I think the evidence I have and that I’ve presented to you meets that standard. If it doesn’t meet that standard for you, then tell me what evidence you have that is inconsistent with it. If you’d like to propose another standard, go for it. If you’d like to continue to hold me to the standard of “beyond reasonable doubt” without my having the power to subpoena or arrest anybody, then I’ll quietly move on, because that’s unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

Gordon, that's probably true, but ungtss' mouth writes checks his evidence can't cash, and this is mainly to see how he'll complain how unfair it is.

When it comes right down to it, the real underlying issue in all of this is that ungtss presents himself as more of an authority on the DNC matter than he could possibly be without actually being part of the DNC's inner circle, which I HIGHLY doubt. All this is him trying to lamely justify talking out of his ass about these things, and me calling him out on this horseshit.

Anonymous said...

Oh, look, he replied while I was writing. No time to answer right now. But we'll get to it eventually.

Anonymous said...

The official newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan endorsed Trump today.

Anonymous said...

I'm back.

"You did not ask for a working theory as to how I could speak with certainty."

You're right, I did not ASK you for that. But that is what I sought. I was attempting to see if you would have a ready answer for how it could be that the DNC had the power to choose Trump, above and against all other naturally-occurring factors, how it could be that the DNC and nothing else was somehow primarily responsible. I even said as much, above. I didn't think you would, and as it turns out you didn't. I asked for a basic standard, a way in which such a selection could possibly work, which EVENTUALLY you provided.

But the fact that a thing can POSSIBLY work in a particular way is not actually proof that it DID work in that way. Even if the ostensible goal is achieved it doesn't mean it was necessarily achieved by a particular hypothesis.

I could say to a friend, "I need a million dollars to buy my dream house! We need to tell the bank to give me a million dollars!". If an outside observer hears this, he may think I have power over the bank to make them give me money. But is this reasonable to assume? Well, not really. Why would the bank give me anything? Do banks commonly just give money to people? I would either have to be an extraordinary person in some way, or what I meant would have been better said as "we need to *convince* the bank to give me a million dollars!"

Even if I later started walking around spending a million dollars, that is not conclusive evidence that the bank gave it to me. I might have a rich uncle. I might have robbed a bank. My goal was reached, but without further info it can only be conjecture as to whether it was reached in relation to my earlier statement. Nobody even knows for sure if I told the bank anything, or what their reaction might have been. So even my acquiring a million dollars somehow isn't necessarily a smoking gun.

I'm going to break this up into more than one post, because I might go a little long in this next bit. Hang tight.

Anonymous said...

So when you say "the DNC chose Trump", that implies that they have the power and the will to do so, that in the end it is THEIR decision above anyone else's that made Trump the nominee, and that if they had chosen someone else, say, Ben Carson, it would be HIM who would now be the nominee.

The only hard evidence you have to support such a claim is the one email you linked to. While it certainly establishes the desire to have Trump (or others) as the nominee, ostensibly to make Clinton's campaign easier, I don't think it can be reasonably assumed that the DNC has any kind of pact with the press. We've gone over our differing interpretations of the text itself, and I think there's additional common-sense reasons why one can't assume a pact:

"The press" is a pretty vague target. It would be one thing if he'd said "our contacts in the press" or something even slightly more specific, but without that, exactly who is he referring to? It is unlikely to be THE ENTIRE PRESS, WORLDWIDE, because it isn't really all that reasonable to assume there's a universal pact with everyone, especially not with press elements like Fox that are openly hostile to liberal elements.

If there were such a widespread pact, it seems highly unlikely that it could be effectively kept secret. If Podesta and the DNC got hacked, why isn't there talk directly between the press and the DNC to be leaked as well? Not to mention that someone actually in the pact, unsatisfied with the state of things, could easily leak it at any moment.

Given that, it seems to be quite unlikely that there is any pact between the DNC and the press, certainly not as a whole. If there is any pact with some fractional portion of the press, there's no indication of who or how widespread it is. Without any additional hard evidence to support this idea, I have to judge "the pact" as being improbable.

I have given the opinion that "tell the press" is more meant as a plan for being interviewed, to act as if Trump is a serious candidate and thereby convey to the press the idea that the Clinton campaign is not just brushing him off as a loon. It's meant to convince the press to treat him seriously as well. I've tried to convey this idea in a few ways, but you seem either unable to wrap your head around the idea or are too busy trying to use minor differences to score some sort of rhetorical gotcha points to pay attention.

The thing about my interpretation, though, is that it doesn't explicitly imply success. The press could be swayed by such a tactic, or it might not be. Even if it is, there are many other reasons that could explain the attention Trump gained far more easily than any tactic of the DNC. Of all those possible reasons, any DNC plot would seem to be improbable, or at the very least would have only a minor effect, if any.

Anonymous said...


That goes for "name recognition", as well. Again, Ben Carson is a good example. This wasn't his first attempt for the GOP nomination, he had numbers well over many of the other 17 contenders, BUT, when it comes right down to it, how likely would it be that the press could have generated enough attention to have gotten Carson to the top of the ticket?

To make that work, to give the DNC/press pact THAT much power, is to assume that the audience (or at least that portion of it belonging to the GOP) is particularly malleable, to the point of being nearly irrational, and that ALL of the press is so in lockstep as to overwhelm any opposing elements not in the "pact", not to mention all non-press influences.

If it seems highly improbable that the pact could have secured the nomination for Ben Carson, then it follows that even if it exists, it's not so powerful as to be able to decide the GOP nomination, that it could at best be only partially influential.

In fact, since there are no hard numbers and no corroborating evidence to establish exactly what DID happen and to what degree, the entire supposed mechanism cannot rationally be accredited as the primary driving force behind Trump's ascendancy. Each step relies on something improbable happening and cannot account for any contradicting evidence or alternative theories.

ungtss said...

I hear you saying you find it improbable for the reasons I quote below.

"So when you say "the DNC chose Trump", that implies that they have the power and the will to do so, that in the end it is THEIR decision above anyone else's that made Trump the nominee, and that if they had chosen someone else, say, Ben Carson, it would be HIM who would now be the nominee."

I wouldn't say that. Smart tacticians recognize that their own power and influence is limited, and factor in the likelihood of success when selecting targets. One would never assume that one has the power to choose whoever one likes. You choose targets for whom your likelihood of success is high. For instance, if I "choose" a little old lady to rob instead of an armed football player, I do so because my chances with the little old lady are higher.

Trump had higher name recognition to start with, because he has been on the national stage for decades, has huge hotels with his name on them, and has a TV show where he postures himself as knowing how to manage businesses. He had natural advantages over Ben Carson, who has significantly less name recognition, a smaller war chest, fewer contacts, a less bombastic personality.

"If there were such a widespread pact, it seems highly unlikely that it could be effectively kept secret. If Podesta and the DNC got hacked, why isn't there talk directly between the press and the DNC to be leaked as well? "

Anonymous leaks only work when a group of people has the information. If only one or two people know what happened, then the leak isn't anonymous and somebody gets fingered for it.

If a leak is identified, then leaking conversations like that destroys the contacts that keep media outlets in business. For instance, I have a friend with our local newspaper who learned about a story and called up a contact of hers in the government, who told her what happened. However, the story she learned from this contact would have made the contact look bad. She told her editor about the story, and the editor wanted her to run it, but she pushed back hard, saying that if she ran it she would lose that contact and all his stories. So the editor relented. No story. She told me about it because it was interesting. But I'm not going to leak it, because it would hurt my friend. In other words, nobody has incentive to leak it. Everybody wants to keep their relationships intact because they need in them in place for next time.

That said, there were leaks that Bill Clinton spoke with Trump by phone and subtlety encouraged him to run, within only a week or two of the Podesta email and memo.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/politics/bill-clinton-called-donald-trump-ahead-of-republicans-2016-launch/2015/08/05/e2b30bb8-3ae3-11e5-b3ac-8a79bc44e5e2_story.html%3F0p19G%3De?client=safari

If the Clintons really believed Trump was a threat to the country as they claim now, why were they encouraging him to run? Their strategy is explained in the Podesto memo. They knew he was a pied piper candidate. They wanted him in the race.

Given that, it seems to be quite unlikely that there is any pact between the DNC and the press, certainly not as a whole.

I wouldn't (and didn't) suggest a one time "pact." What I'm suggesting is a media strategy. As the Clinton Campaign and DNC are feeding stories and spin to the media throughout the election, those stories and spin consistently frame Trump as a serious contender. Not a one-time command complete with whisky and cigars in the back room. A constant framing, reframing, and direction with each story.

Anonymous said...

"If the Clintons really believed Trump was a threat to the country as they claim now, why were they encouraging him to run?"

The article you link to: "The tone of the call was informal, and Clinton NEVER URGED TRUMP TO RUN, the four people said. Rather, they said, Clinton sounded curious about Trump’s moves toward a presidential bid and told Trump that he was striking a chord with frustrated conservatives and was a rising force on the right."

(Caps my doing.)

It's possible that the Clintons did think that Trump would serve as a Pied Piper candidate. It's also possible that Bill Clinton was simply schmoozing with a past associate and talking politely with him. (As also implied in the article.) Trump had tried it before and not got nearly as far - no reason to antagonize the fellow in case he flopped again. So again, there's nothing definitive there. Even your own article goes on with bits like this:

"And on Wednesday, Trump wrote in a Twitter message: “Do you notice that Hillary spews out Jeb’s name as often as possible in order to give him status? She knows Trump is her worst nightmare.”"

So at that point, it would seem (according to Trump, at least) that the Clinton campaign was focusing on Jeb, not Trump. This article was from August. The email was from April. If the DNC was "telling the press" to elevate Trump, why is Trump having to Twitter to get attention for himself?

"What I'm suggesting is a media strategy."

Curious, because that's essentially what I was suggesting as well, without any form of collusion on the part of the press. I've been characterizing your view of the pact as a back-room deal for some time now and you have only just now managed to come out with a correction of that view. Did you simply not notice?

ungtss said...

"If the Clintons really believed Trump was a threat to the country as they claim now, why were they encouraging him to run?"

The article you link to: "The tone of the call was informal, and Clinton NEVER URGED TRUMP TO RUN, the four people said. Rather, they said, Clinton sounded curious about Trump’s moves toward a presidential bid and told Trump that he was striking a chord with frustrated conservatives and was a rising force on the right."


That's "subtle encouragement," as I said it was. This is how saavy people communicate about things like this. You don't outright tell somebody to run for president against your wife. You tell him he is right for the job -- flatter him -- approach it obliquely -- you tell him he is "striking a chord with frustrated conservatives and a rising force on the right." Telling him to run against your wife is too obvious -- it raises too many questions. This is WJC we're talking about -- Mr. Slick.

It's possible that the Clintons did think that Trump would serve as a Pied Piper candidate. It's also possible that Bill Clinton was simply schmoozing with a past associate and talking politely with him.

The Podesta email shows that the former is the case. HRC's own campaign strategy team sent emails to the DNC describing him as a pied piper candidate to be elevated. It's obvious that's what HRC thought. To accept your conclusion, we need to believe that WJC was somehow insulated from his wife's campaign strategy and was just calling his old buddy up to shoot the shit. Extremely unlikely.

he email was from April. If the DNC was "telling the press" to elevate Trump, why is Trump having to Twitter to get attention for himself?

Because he's taking all he can get. Is he somehow supposed to satisfy himself with a certain amount of attention without seeking more? Of course not. The only rational position in that position is to take all you can get and go for more.

I've been characterizing your view of the pact as a back-room deal for some time now and you have only just now managed to come out with a correction of that view. Did you simply not notice?

I was focused on getting you to commit to a standard of proof so we can have the rational conversation that we're currently having. I wasn't going to allow myself to go down endless rabbit trails trying to prove or disprove things without common epistemological ground. Now that we have that common ground, we're able to communicate like humans. I'm enjoying it.

ungtss said...

For an example of how media and DNC work together, see Donna Brazile scandal and firing. Media feeding debate questions to HRC. That's how it happens. One person, one thing at a time.

Anonymous said...

"The Podesta email shows that the former is the case. HRC's own campaign strategy team sent emails to the DNC describing him as a pied piper candidate to be elevated. It's obvious that's what HRC thought. To accept your conclusion, we need to believe that WJC was somehow insulated from his wife's campaign strategy and was just calling his old buddy up to shoot the shit. Extremely unlikely."

Well, except your article also says this:

"“Mr. Trump reached out to President Clinton a few times. President Clinton returned his call in late May,” a Clinton employee said. “While we don’t make it a practice to discuss the president’s private conversations, we can tell you that the presidential race was not discussed.”"

So there's a differing account there. They do follow up with:

"People with knowledge of the call in both camps said it was one of many that Clinton and Trump have had over the years, whether about golf or donations to the Clinton Foundation. But the call in May was considered especially sensitive, coming soon after Hillary Rodham Clinton had declared her own presidential run the month before.

At the time, Trump was touting a “foolproof” but undisclosed plan to defeat Islamic State terrorists and ramping up his presence on the airwaves, including interviews where he was asked about his donations to the Clinton Foundation. He entered the race June 16."

So sure, WJC might have thought he could encourage Trump to run, but he might have just been getting back to the guy, who supposedly had been trying to call him a few times prior. Obviously, everybody notes the timing. Surely WJC might well have been aware of his wife's campaign strategies. But by the same token, as HRC declared in April (and was informally prepping for it well before, as was Trump), Trump would certainly have been aware of her candidacy, or at least its likelihood. Why try to contact a guy whose wife you might likely be having to fight later on? These questions go both ways.

And WJC would know that Trump would know, etc, etc. So either Slick Willie can out-slick Trump and give him the mental nudge he needs to run, or Trump was probably going to run anyway and wanted to pick WJC's brains on some matter while things were still cordial, or they were just shooting the shit. Maybe all of this at the same time.

As for the Twitter, it's not that Trump wouldn't want more attention so much as it is why Clinton wasn't giving more, if that was the strategy. If, in fact, she was focusing on Jeb Bush at the time, it would have been a deviation from the plan.

On Donna Brazile: I think there is a distinction that has to be made between "the media" and "some elements within the media". This is how we slide from identifying a handful of possible bad actors, to Trump standing at a podium broad-brushing "the media" while supporters yell "L├╝genpresse".

ungtss said...

"The Podesta email shows that the former is the case. HRC's own campaign strategy team sent emails to the DNC describing him as a pied piper candidate to be elevated. It's obvious that's what HRC thought. To accept your conclusion, we need to believe that WJC was somehow insulated from his wife's campaign strategy and was just calling his old buddy up to shoot the shit. Extremely unlikely."

Well, except your article also says this:

"“Mr. Trump reached out to President Clinton a few times. President Clinton returned his call in late May,” a Clinton employee said. “While we don’t make it a practice to discuss the president’s private conversations, we can tell you that the presidential race was not discussed.”""


That's the official story by his employees, aides, and himself. Clinton then went on Colbert to give the same story, claiming he didn't tell trump to run "because it would have been smart." More evidence that WJC knew the HRC strategy was to "elevate Trump." He knew having Trump in the race was great for HRC. He told the country so on Colbert.

As to the comvo itself, you need to gauge credibility. If Clinton and Trump in fact had this conversation, could either of them afford to admit it? Of course not. Clinton cannot afford to be tied to Trump in this way -- it hurts HRC. And Trump is running _against Clinton._, with a base of supporters that _hate her_. If they admitted they had this phone call, Trump's support would evaporate.

So you have 4 people saying X, and two people saying Y who can't afford to say X. Credibility goes to the 4.

Why try to contact a guy whose wife you might likely be having to fight later on?

Because you've had a personal relationship with the guy for many years, including his coming to your wedding. You want to gauge his support for you in the primaries. I'm not saying Clinton "gave trump the mental nudge he needed to run." I'm saying he encouraged it. If Clinton was really worried about this guy, why would he do that?

As for the Twitter, it's not that Trump wouldn't want more attention so much as it is why Clinton wasn't giving more, if that was the strategy. If, in fact, she was focusing on Jeb Bush at the time, it would have been a deviation from the plan.

You're taking _trump's twitter account_ as an evaluation of who Clinton was focused on :). _He's_ saying she's focused on Bush.

On Donna Brazile: I think there is a distinction that has to be made between "the media" and "some elements within the media".

That was my point :). Rule number one of objectivism is that all action is individual action. There is no collective action. But the fact is there are many individuals in the media in high places that work very closely with DNC on individual issues, usually for personal gain. In Brazile's case, it got her a high-ranking position at DNC about 5 months later.

Anonymous said...

"That was my point :). Rule number one of objectivism is that all action is individual action. There is no collective action."

In that case, one would think one ought to be more careful about referring to simply "the press" or "the media" as if they were a monolithic whole. One might give the wrong impression.

"Clinton cannot afford to be tied to Trump in this way -- it hurts HRC. And Trump is running _against Clinton._, with a base of supporters that _hate her_. If they admitted they had this phone call, Trump's support would evaporate."

And yet this article came out, and not much has changed. I'm sure there was some squawking around the edges, but the relationship between Trump and the Clintons was widely known. Certainly video of Trump praising HRC in the past has been circulating about. This revelation isn't that much of a shock, as the article itself seems to concede. It might be awkward timing, and if you're predisposed to be against one side or the other you might well infer some sort of funny business going on. Still, Trump's support seemed stable until the leak of his off-color remarks about grabbing women. HRC doesn't seem to have lost much even in the face of renewed FBI investigations.

We can't know for sure how likely Trump was going to run with or without any prompting from Clinton, we can't magically wind back time, remove any questionable influence and see what happens.

Do we know that Clinton encouraged Trump? Not as an absolute fact, anyone who might know that for sure isn't saying so.

Do we know that Trump would have been swayed by such influence if it occurred? Do we know whether Trump would have been aware of such an attempt, and whether that would have affected its effectiveness? We can only infer from scant evidence.

Does the existence of a plan mean that everyone connected with the plan will follow it to the exclusion of all other considerations? I.e., just because WJC will know HRC's tactics, does that mean he must have acted on them talking to Trump? Again we can only assume. The arrangement between WJC and HRC hasn't exactly been lockstep coordination throughout their careers, each has been known to act apart from the other, though there's certainly a general cooperation at work. It's possible WJC used his own judgement on the call, whatever that might have been.

Any time you bank on a chain of assumptions and inferences, and particularly if the action you intend to identify is "subtle", you run the risk of inferring something that may not be there, or may not be as powerful as you think.

Do I think WJC tried to encourage Trump? The article says no, but if we bring everything else in, then... maybe? I give it a 50/50 probability of happening, with much less of a chance of it having any measurable effect if it did happen. It could also just as easily have gone down as everyone involved said it did.

ungtss said...

P1/2
I think we've lost track of the issue here. Remember, the issue is whether HRC and her campaign actively used the tools at their disposal to "elevate" Trump because they knew he would be the perfect opponent. The call between WJC and DJT is only corroboration of the main issue, it's not the issue itself.

Even granting that the odds of a Trump/Clinton phone call are 50/50 (i think they're better as i discuss below), that's not the issue. The issue is the probability of the chain itself. And the more semi-probable links in a chain going a particular direction, the _more probable_ the entire chain.

For instance, if the issue is whether Joe killed Jane, and there's a letter saying he wanted her dead that's 50% likely to have been written by him, a 50% chance he was in her neighborhood on the night he died, and DNA evidence that hair at the scene is 50% likely to be his, the existence of three semi-probable links in the chain makes it _more_ likely, not _less_ likely that he killed her. The longer the chain, the better the odds of the whole.

So in addition to this phone call, you need to factor in the other events consistent with the same hypothesis -- the Podesto email expressly laying out their strategy to elevate Trump, WJC on Cobert joking it would have been too smart for him to do, the fact that Trump did get disproportionate media coverage from day 1, and the fact that their plan did actually work out, etc. These facts together (including some that are uncertain) make the real issue -- whether HRC implemented her strategy to elevate a narcissistic buffoon to be her opponent and get him one news story away from being president -- more probable.

"Clinton cannot afford to be tied to Trump in this way -- it hurts HRC. And Trump is running _against Clinton._, with a base of supporters that _hate her_. If they admitted they had this phone call, Trump's support would evaporate."

And yet this article came out, and not much has changed. I'm sure there was some squawking around the edges, but the relationship between Trump and the Clintons was widely known.


Remember, the issue here is whether we should believe WJC and DJT about what was said or not said, not whether this phone call was a significant event in determining the outcome. Nothing changed as a result of this precisely because both Clinton and Trump said it never happened. I think we both agree that if either of them had said differently, the outcome would have been different, because both HRC and DJT are running on the platform of not being the other clown. The fact that they _couldn't say otherwise_ without significantly harming their own plans draws their credibility into serious question.

We can't know for sure how likely Trump was going to run with or without any prompting from Clinton, we can't magically wind back time, remove any questionable influence and see what happens.

Do we know that Clinton encouraged Trump? Not as an absolute fact, anyone who might know that for sure isn't saying so.


The heightened standard of proof is slipping back into our conversation -- we're again talking about absolute certainty, rolling time back, and knowing absolute facts. Those are impossible standards -- even for court -- and therefore irrelevant.

The standard I've proposed is "a working hypothesis consistent with all reasonably available evidence." I've argued that my hypothesis is consistent with the available evidence, and yours isn't. If you'd like to change that standard, let me know and we can discuss it. But we can't have a rational discussion with two standards in play.

ungtss said...

p 2/2

Do I think WJC tried to encourage Trump? The article says no,

That's not quite right, it said he didn't "urge" him to, but it also shows exactly what he said to encourage him to ... by telling him he was "striking a chord with frustrated conservatives and was a rising force on the right." That's encouragement. Not urging, but encouragement.

As one astute commentator described it, "This is something a political genius would tell someone with a desire to run for president, especially if that person was a known self-promoter, capable of sucking the air out of a room full of his opponents—and especially if the genius’s wife happened to be running in the party against that known self-promoter."

http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/08/bill-clinton-called-donald-trump-before-presidential-run-2016

Yes. That's exactly what it was. It was how an intelligent and saavy person would encourage a conspicuously narcissistic middle-aged man to run. By posturing as some sort of disinterested authority on the political scene who sees Trump's merit and would like to see him "give voice" to people.

The fact that the story says WJC said _this_, rather than something more obvious like "urged him to run" makes it more probable, not less probable, that it happened, because this is how people at that level speak to each other. If the journalist or leakers wanted to make something up, they would have made up something more obvious to the hoi-polloi -- i.e. they would have claimed he straight out told him to run.

I would not believe that story, because it would be inconsistent with how people like WJC get things done, and consistent with shit that dirtbags make up. I believe this story, because it's exactly what you would expect sophisticated people to do under those circumstances, and not what you would expect some idiot off the street to make up.

Jzero said...

For me, the amusing irony in all this is that if the DNC did choose Trump as argued, it pretty much supports Scott Adams' claim of people not using rational means to make important decisions. If the GOP chose Trump based on name recognition, that hardly seems like a logic-based process.

ungtss said...

For some reason i got an email that anon had posted a new comment, but the comment has not shown up here. I won't respond to it because I'm not sure if he intended it to be here.

JZ, the issue is whether _all_ people's choices are dominated by irrational considerations, or only some. It's obvious some do. Even a majority. Certainly enough that irrational considerations will determine every election once the general public is involved, and always have. But Adams' argument was dismissive of the existence of rational people and rational thought.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for the "conservatives", oops sorry I mean "traditionalists" here to declare their votes for Donald Trump.

Paul Ryan, (a well known Ayn Rand enthusiast) proudly declared his vote for the Republican presidential nominee without naming him.

*Mr. Ryan is not an Objectivist. However, he remains extremely enthusiastic about Ayn Rand's writings and ideas. Therefore, I refer to him here as an "Ayn Rand Enthusiast". He's an ex fanboy who just can't shake free of her, completely. As one observer noted about Alan Greenspan, “You can take the boy out of the cult but you can’t take the cult out of the boy.” Some Ayn Rand Enthusiasts post here on occasion. They share Mr. Ryan's ideas regarding low taxation and no doubt the elimination of Social Security, or its transformation into the private sector. Paul Ryan just voted for the Republican nominee who so far has not yet expressed an overt desire to change Social Security. Perhaps Mr. Ryan has some strategy in mind that isn't clear to the public. But the question remains, will "conservatives", "traditionalists", advocates of Chicago School Economics and other Ayn Rand Enthusiasts endorse Donald Trump?

Gordon Burkowski said...

"Perhaps Mr. Ryan has some strategy in mind that isn't clear to the public."

There's no mystery here at all. He can't stomach Donald Trump and neither can most of the GOP establishment. However, a huge number of GOP voters love him - enough to kill off a lot of senators and congressmen in the 2018 primaries if they don't toe the line now. Hence Ryan's vacillations and contemptible equivocations.

Anonymous 2:30 said...

Since we're getting multiple Anons now I guess I'll start using an identifier.

I did post a comment in the late-night hours, but it seems to have vanished even after appearing to post just fine. Not sure why.

Anonymous 2:30 said...

Well, without trying to recreate it fully, my lost post pointed out that we judge the import of the events linked to this hypothesis differently. I don't think Trump got "disproportionate" coverage at all, considering who Trump is and how he operates, for example. Plus I don't automatically credit that having a plan, and a subsequent event occurring, can be counted as that plan being responsible, especially if there are other and more probable reasons why an event occurred.

I also talked a bunch about confirmation bias, which I think could very well be at play.

ungtss said...

I’m happy to recreate your post from my email. Just didn’t want to be presumptuous if you wanted it to go away for some reason.

"So in addition to this phone call, you need to factor in the other events consistent with the same hypothesis -- the Podesto email expressly laying out their strategy to elevate Trump, WJC on Cobert joking it would have been too smart for him to do, the fact that Trump did get disproportionate media coverage from day 1, and the fact that their plan did actually work out, etc."

The problems are multiple here. For one thing, we differ in assessing these various factors.


My point here was only that a chain of semi-probable events makes the ultimate conclusion more likely, rather than less likely. You’re pointing to a disagreement with the probability of the factors I listed, and not with the epistemological principle that the more semi-probable events pointing in a single ultimate conclusion, the more likely the ultimate conclusion. Can I safely conclude we agree on that principle? Without agreement on that point, there is no point in discussing the likelihood of any individual events, because we'll lack the common ground to move forward any further.

It's not about achieving a standard of absolute certainty as much as being part of the total analysis, reminding us where we stand as regards to a fact in question. We can't know absolutely, regardless of how much other bits we may infer. We (or at least I) must be aware of this, and not fall into the trap of giving supposition more weight than it should have.

That’s tautological, because that’s true of our knowledge regarding all things for which we aren’t physically present (and even many for which we are physically present). Because it "proves too much," it’s not a relevant consideration. The human condition requires us to take action, and action requires us to draw conclusions based on the evidence available to us. The degree of certainty required prior to action depends on the proposed action. Here, everybody agrees there is no certainty available to either of us. Therefore it is irrelevant. What we are working toward is a working hypothesis consistent with all the evidence reasonably available to us.

I share your contempt for those who use confirmation bias to create the illusion of evidence (I'm reminded to GWB saying we didn't need to send the Afghans evidence of Bin Laden's guilt because we already know he's guilty). But that’s not what we're doing here. What we’re doing is developing a working hypothesis by assessing the likelihood of a specific event in light of specific evidence, in the recognition that the evidence is necessarily ambiguous, but still must be assessed in order to reach a working hypothesis consistent with all the evidence reasonably available to us.

Anonymous 2:30 said...

"You’re pointing to a disagreement with the probability of the factors I listed, and not with the epistemological principle that the more semi-probable events pointing in a single ultimate conclusion, the more likely the ultimate conclusion. Can I safely conclude we agree on that principle?"

I don't know that you can. Because this very principle you state is in fact how confirmation bias sets in. And I don't know that you can judge a question like what we have here in some kind of aggregate collection of probability. One could interpret this principle as saying that if you have a thing that is 20% probable and another thing that is 10% probable and another thing that is also 20% probable then the evidence adds up to 50%. Which is not how probability works. In the case of a chain of events, any failure in the chain wrecks the entire system, and each link has to stand on its own. If a hypothesis depends on Trump getting disproportionate coverage, for example, it fails if he is not actually getting disproportionate coverage, it doesn't just tick the probability meter down a few points.

ungtss said...

Fair points. Let’s take them one at a time.

Because this very principle you state is in fact how confirmation bias sets in

I’m not sure that’s right. As I see it, confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs. What I’m suggesting is evaluating the probability of each piece of new evidence independently, and evaluating the likelihood of the ultimate conclusion based on the likelihood of each piece of evidence.

Concretely, confirmation bias reaches a conclusion first, and then interprets a 50% likely piece of evidence as being 60% likely, a 70% likely piece of evidence as being 80% likely, etc.

What I’m saying is the inverse of this. Evaluating each piece of evidence independently, in the recognition that the more semi-probable evidence you have, the more likely the conclusion.

One could interpret this principle as saying that if you have a thing that is 20% probable and another thing that is 10% probable and another thing that is also 20% probable then the evidence adds up to 50%. Which is not how probability works.

One could interpret it that way, but it would be incorrect. You wouldn’t be adding probabilities in this context – you’d be using Bayes’ theorem. Here’s a video explaining how it works:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Df1sDAyRvQ

In the case of a chain of events, any failure in the chain wrecks the entire system, and each link has to stand on its own. If a hypothesis depends on Trump getting disproportionate coverage, for example, it fails if he is not actually getting disproportionate coverage, it doesn't just tick the probability meter down a few points.

That would be true if our hypothesis depended on any particular link in the chain, but it doesn’t. Our hypothesis is that the DNC and HRC’s campaign systematically told their media contacts to “take trump seriously” and fed them stories that “took trump seriously” during primary season. Our hypothesis could still be true even if the coverage was not disproportionate, because our hypothesis is qualitative, not quantitative.

Anonymous 2:30 said...

"That would be true if our hypothesis depended on any particular link in the chain, but it doesn’t."

Well, it kind of does. The chain, as we've established, is:

1) DNC/HRC decides to elevate Trump.
2) They convince the press to do so.
3) Trump gets elevated with increased coverage.
4) Through name recognition, the GOP is influenced to select Trump as nominee.

Mission accomplished, it would seem, if these things did in fact happen.

The first difficulty with this chain, however, is that there are other ways that Trump can be made the nominee. For this chain to be probable enough to be considered the primary factor in the choice of Trump, not only does its evidence have to be strong, but it has to be more plausible than any alternate theories.

We have strong evidence that Podesta wanted Trump to be the nominee, or at least thought it would be to HRC's advantage if he was. We also have an intent to try to influence the press.

What we don't have is any way to measure the success of that intent. Trump got a lot of coverage. But he's a celebrity. He was getting a fair amount of coverage long before declaring his candidacy, just because he's The Donald.

So naming "disproportionate coverage of Trump" as a fact is something that as of yet is unsupported by any real evidence. In fact, there's a circular fault forming in the margins: How do we know the DNC succeeded in its plan? A disproportionate coverage of Trump. But how do we know the coverage was disproportionate? Because the DNC had a plan.

So already steps 2 and 3 are shaky, because trying to establish some independent verification of this supposed increased coverage would be challenging to people who study the media for a living, let alone a couple people on a messageboard who likely don't have the will or methodology to do some kind of proper research on the subject.

If you can't establish that there was coverage above and beyond what there would have been without the DNC push, then the chain breaks, and the fact that the DNC hoped Trump would be the nominee and the fact that he became the nominee become coincidental, there's no causal effect from one to the other.

Step 4 hasn't even been touched on much yet, and it will have a very similar problem, in that I can see no way to actually measure, with what information we have, what influence if any this supposed increased coverage has had. How strong was the effect? Was it strong enough to sway the GOP away from any other outcome? Is there any way to know? I'm doubtful. If these things can't be shown, then we have to rely on conjecture, banking on the idea that something MIGHT be possible rather than any form of hard evidence.

And again, this theory not only needs to show how it's possible, but also that it's more probable than any other. I judge that as quite the leap with what we currently have.

ungtss said...

That wasn't quite the argument I was making:). I agree with you that that chain is too attenuated to be meaningfully proven.

But I wasn't saying the DNC caused the GOP to nominate trump. If you go back, you'll see I was saying that a) the DNC selected trump to "elevate," b) the media selected him as a hate figure, c) the left preferred hating trump to recognizing their own nominee is a narcissistic psychopath, so d) the election goes to a psychopath.

In other words, my argument is with the mentality of the left -- that the DNC was concerned with elevating somebody they could beat rather than somebody who was actually a decent human being, and that the rank and file are more interested in hating trump than examining what sort of person they're electing.

And they're electing the sort of person who knew Qatar and KSA were bankrolling ISIS, took millions of dollars from KSA and Qatar through her charity, and kept mum about what she knew.

They're electing the sort of person who lies bald faced about what happened in Banghazi, blaming some youtuber who had nothing to do with it to divert attention from herself.

And the left does not care because they are having too much fun celebrating their own righteousness and hating trump.

I'm making an observation about their minds and character, not their concrete ability to influence elections.

So while I agree with you that the chain you're describing is too attenuated to be meaningfully proven, that's not the chain I'm talking about.

Anonymous 2:30 said...

"But I wasn't saying the DNC caused the GOP to nominate trump."

And yet that's what we've been arguing about explicitly all this time. So you've either been stringing this along for the entire debate without bothering to correct this impression, knowingly allowing the discussion to proceed, even going so far as to try and offer evidence for something you don't believe, or it's actually you that's "moving the goalposts".

All you really had to do was say something like this in the first place. If you had said something like "The DNC preferred Trump" or "Trump worked out great for Clinton's campaign", I would have pretty much agreed, and not felt a need to challenge that kind of statement.

Oh well!

ungtss said...

"And yet that's what we've been arguing about explicitly all this time."

I'm afraid not. Read again what I've been writing. Just yesterday I said "our hypothesis is that they systematically told their media contacts to take him seriously," but I never said I could prove it impacted the outcome. You then told me the issue was whether it impacted the outcome, and I again told you that wasn't the issue.

Based on what's in this thread, it appears you made up an argument that would be easy to disprove, and told yourself I was making it.

Anonymous 2:30 said...

"I'm afraid not."

I'm afraid so. That's what I'VE been talking about all this time, that's what I've been saying, that's the supposed argument that I've been addressing. You have not bothered to correct this in any way until now, much like your stance on the "pact" shifted. So either you haven't been paying attention at all, or you're terribly dense, or you're outright lying.

In any case, its obvious you no longer intend to have a serious discussion on the matter.

ungtss said...

everytime you've tried to change the issue to that, i've corrected you.

"I think we've lost track of the issue here. Remember, the issue is whether HRC and her campaign actively used the tools at their disposal to "elevate" Trump because they knew he would be the perfect opponent."

"Our hypothesis is that the DNC and HRC’s campaign systematically told their media contacts to “take trump seriously” and fed them stories that “took trump seriously” during primary season."

it's only now that you've understood what i'm saying.

Anonymous 2:30 said...

Nah, I think we're back to seeing how far you'll go to have the last word, now.

Anonymous 2:30 said...

At first I wasn't sure I'd do this. I even expected there to be some after-the-fact post editing that might attempt to remove any evidence of previous positions. But the words are right there.

A: Do you mean to tell me, as you seem to imply above, that when someone in the DNC talks about "telling the press" something, that you take that as being some kind of implicit instruction, as opposed to, say, just saying these things when the press points a camera at them?

U: If "tell the press" means "tell them in front of the camera," then somebody would be telling the press to take Trump seriously in front of the camera. Who in the DNC told the press, on camera, to take Trump seriously? If nobody, WTF are you talking about?

So this would seem to indicate an implicit instruction, since those were the options offered. But there's more:

A: Which is more probable, that the DNC is talking about tweaking its message to the press, what it will say in interviews, OR that they actually have some kind of heretofore undiscovered, literal pact with the press behind the scenes?

U: Direct evidence of "pacts" is rare precisely because they are behind the scenes. That's why people capable of reasoned thought infer "pacts" from the circumstances.

So at this point the literal pact is inferred, and we're NOT talking about tweaking a message, or some kind of media campaign. Yet more:

A: You still haven't made a reasonable argument that "tell the press" ought to be interpreted as "instruct the press" as opposed to "give them our spin on things when we're interviewed".

U: I did, you just ignored it. No DNC officials or Clinton campaigners took Trump seriously, ever. So they didn't do what you're suggesting. On the other hand, the media did take Trump seriously. So they did what I'm suggesting.

There's been every opportunity to clarify by this time, and it still sounds like we're talking about an actual backroom deal. Another:

U: They told those contacts to take Trump seriously. The media outlets did as they were told in order to maintain the inside contacts.

More suggestion of a pact with the press, so that the press won't lose their contacts in the DNC. This is on Oct. 30. But on Nov 2 the stance is altered, to say that what was meant all along was a "media campaign", not an actual backroom pact of any kind. There doesn't seem to be much room for alternate interpretation, ungtss either is amazingly inattentive to what he's been saying, or he's outright lying, contradicting what he's said himself. Why? Either to avoid conceding any kind of error or rhetorical point, or because he's been trolling all along, arguing for the sake of arguing. Nothing else really makes sense.

ungtss said...

I absolutely suggested that the DNC and HRC campaigns worked with the press to elevate trump. What I don't think can be meaningfully proven is that their strategy was the _deciding factor_ in trump winning the primaries, or even how much impact it had It's your "step 4" above that I haven't ever suggested and wouldn't suggest, because that's too complex of a problem. But that's where you keep trying to redirect us. You keep trying to change the issue to whether the DNC is responsible for Trump winning the primaries. I'm not saying that and never have. What I'm saying is that the DNC and press worked consciously toward that goal. How much impact they had gets into waters too murky for me. Plus that's a fairly uninteresting question for me.

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