Judging and Fixing Your Own Errors [CF Article]

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Sub-discussions about errors tend to be about prior, easier topics. If your background knowledge is solid, then you shouldn’t make a ton of mistakes in most sub-discussions.

This seems really significant.
One thing I’m trying at the moment is to treat criticisms as more significant, and by default: correct.[1] If I do have the background knowledge to understand it, then I should be able to do significant work to figure out what the criticism meant (or have a reasonable criticism of that criticism). But I’d still fail at that if I’m too hasty to respond, or if I respond casually/unseriously (which would reflect that I’m treating the subject casually – not good for learning philosophy). If I don’t have the background knowledge, then trying to seriously understand the criticism should make it obvious to me that I don’t have the bg knowledge.

I think, maybe, that when most people write down (or think / act on) complex ideas, they often have more background knowledge than they use. But partial use of bg knowledge, I suspect, means that they’re not addressing contradictions between ideas, or haven’t fully integrated all the relevant background knowledge.

  1. This is something I’m doing b/c of reading AS. Maybe a crude way to explain it: a criticism of something I’m confident in is a claim that I’m faking reality in some way. If that’s correct, then I can learn from it and fake less. If it’s not correct, then it’s possible to figure that out (and in doing so, would have a criticism of that criticism). ↩︎

It’s the same kind of thing as

The method of constructing P2 [problem number 2] goes like this: given we disagree about P1, what should we do? P3 is constructed like this: given we disagree about P1 and P2, what should we do?

The new problems tend to get easier. If they didn’t, the method wouldn’t work well.

A reason sub-discussions tend to be simpler is they tend to challenge one or two parts of what you said. You have a tree of knowledge, and a critic looks through it and disagrees with some parts, and those parts are less than the whole. And disagreements are generally on the same level of abstraction as your top level comments or lower – a critic won’t usually comment on a higher level than anything you said, since then he wouldn’t be commenting on something you said. But he can easily comment on a lower level than your main point, and that’s common.

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I did some exploratory writing (below) about this for two different cases and convinced myself that neither case were an issue.

(If people were creating sub-discussions that were more complicated than the prior discussion, then complexity would escalate and there’d be no realistic hope of resolving the issues. The occasional sub/tangential/branch discussion can increase complexity, but most shouldn’t.)

Is philosophy an exception here? Like, maybe there are (seemingly) simple ideas / questions with a mistake, where understanding the mistake is a bigger task (and maybe that’s common). But the sub-discussion doesn’t have to be about the whole topic – maybe this can always be avoided if the more knowledgeable person can reduce the scope of the sub-discussion to address a specific error? Taking a step back, if two ppl discuss philosophy and at least one can identify some errors, but their sub-discussions get increasingly complex, well that sounds like either: neither understand enough to succeed at that discussion anyway, or that it’s an error in discussion methodology. So this gets resolved by focusing on the bottleneck and figuring out how to find and resolve simpler or more foundational mistakes. I’m not sure if Paths Forward would help, but there is definitely a way to make progress. In fact, simply knowing that increasing complexity indicates some generic issue like this is enough for people to identify it – so there is always a sub-discussion topic of: “how do we reduce sub-discussion complexity instead of increase it?”

Another thought – what if someone were a malicious discussion partner, maybe they could always increase the complexity of sub-discussions. I don’t know why it wouldn’t be possible to arbitrarily inflate the complexity of a sub-discussion. But a malicious discussion partner might be easy to detect (and so you could opt out) and if not then Paths Forwards solves that problem.

In both cases, the problem of increasing complexity isn’t the issue that really matters – there are bigger problems, but they’re soluble.

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thanks, fixed. somehow when i updated it from Ulysses it set it to draft mode instead of published.