Quitting CF (for now)

Topic Summary: I decided to quit CF, and I want to share my reasons.

Goal: I remember reading some stuff where Elliot was bemoaning the fact that so many people have quit CF/FI over the years without explaining why, and I agree that that’s a problem, so I thought it would be good for me to explain my own reasons. It’s also possible that someone will say something that will change my mind, but I doubt it.

CF relevance: obvious

Do you want unbounded criticism? (A criticism is a reason that an idea decisively fails at a goal. Criticism can be about anything relevant to goal success, including methods, meta, context or tangents. If you think a line of discussion isn’t worth focusing attention on, that is a disagreement with the person who posted it, which can be discussed.) Sure.

The central reason is that I’m much more happy with my life situation than I was back when I posted frequently on CF. I have found a project in mathematical physics that I’m very excited about, and I want to devote all my energy to it.

That doesn’t explain everything, though. Couldn’t I still continue to devote a small fraction of my time to CF? Yes, but I am choosing not to do so. Why?

For context, I will first note that I have greatly enjoyed learning about philosophy from the books I’ve read, as well as from some of Elliot Temple’s essays. I also have enjoyed doing the small amount of grammar / discussion trees / etc exercises that I’ve done. It’s all fun. I like philosophy.

However, there is a large percentage of ET’s material which I do not enjoy reading. I disagree with a lot of what he writes, including some specific points but also some broad / hard-to-pin-down worldview things. He has a view of the world which I find to be very dark and depressing, as well as very ugly and sterile and robotic.

I believe it is always good to know the truth. Insofar as ET’s worldview is correct, it is in my interest to understand why. The problem is that 1) at this time, I am unwilling to put in the work to understand and/or refute this worldview, and 2) because of that, there are serious perils to me engaging with it at all. I will explain what I mean below.

  1. The “specific points” I disagree with are things which I could argue against, but I mostly don’t try because—given my present level of skill—it would require significant effort on my part. I am unwilling to put in such an effort, because I am content with the stuff I’m putting effort into right now. The broad / worldview points are things that I don’t even know how to argue against, because I don’t think I can even pin them down into a concrete statement with which I would disagree and ET would agree.

  2. I think it’s bad for me to engage with ET’s material in a half-hearted way, because that effectively means I just let his ideas stand there in my head rather than trying to tear them down. If it’s an idea that I dislike, then it can cause havoc in my mind. For example, in the physics thread, I think I conceded some things much much too quickly, and the effect was that I gaslit myself (for a while) into thinking I’m a much less competent physicist than I in fact am. This was an extremely negative experience for me, and I do not wish to repeat it. There have been similar events like that where something ET writes really bothers me or makes me sad.

The only logical stone left unturned is: I stated above that I think these exercises ET recommends are fun, and I think I have stated elsewhere on CF that I agree they are important for developing philosophy skills. So why don’t I just stay on CF and only do stuff like grammar exercises?

The answer is that as a person who has successfully taught himself a huge amount of difficult technical physics/math/CS material (and also a foreign language), I am very accustomed to doing hard exercises on my own, correcting my own errors, and not fooling myself. I think that a more typical person could benefit from sharing exercises publicly, but I do not need or want the help or encouragement of others for something as straightforward as grammar. On the other hand, the downside of sharing is that it takes time to explain what I did, and—more importantly—I run the risk of reading something that I don’t want to read.

In conclusion, I plan to not come back here until I am willing to devote significant effort to philosophy learning, or until I have reached a much higher level of mastery with textual analysis and writing stuff. I can’t say when this will be, but it will be a long time.

P.S. I just want to say that one of the things that drew me to CF originally was a hope that I might find some like-minded friends. Besides me, there are 0 crit rats and 0 objectivists in my life, and it can be quite isolating. Unfortunately, because of the way CF is run or because of the culture here or something, it is very much not an appropriate place for finding friends. I think this is really tragic, but I don’t know exactly what could be done to change it.

I’ll be pretty brief since I don’t think you want to discuss much. Two points:

Paths Forward

If you’re right about some of your disagreements with me, there’s no way for me to change my mind and improve, since you haven’t shared explanations of the disagreements.

If you’re wrong, there’s no way for you to change your mind and improve, since you’re avoiding debate.

This looks to me like a typical example of proceeding in a way without effective error correction mechanisms. At least one of us is wrong and is going to stay wrong. I think you are asymmetrically causing that, while I’m taking clear steps to enable other outcomes.

Negativity, Competence, Greatness

I think some of the problems you were having were important/serious but solvable. I want to acknowledge that there are some real issues there. It’s bad to experience things as depressing and ugly. It’s important how one handles open questions or candidate ideas that one doesn’t yet have a conclusion about, including so those things don’t lead to negative emotions. Engaging with unconventional ideas well takes skill; there are dangers to be addressed.

Some issues seem potentially based on misconceptions, misremembering, or your own ideas (it’s hard to tell though without more detail). For example, when I say that Kraft and other big companies do fraud, I’m not unhappy or upset about it. I like having a better, truer model of the world so that things make more sense. There are pre-existing problems in the world which I’m trying to explain and understand, which makes them easier to deal with. Knowledge is a step towards solutions. Although reforming the food industry is difficult and isn’t my goal, I can replace some foods I eat with better foods. Some negativity that you attribute to me may be your own interpretations/perspective/ideas that I disagree with.

Or you mentioned your competence at physics. I don’t think I challenged that. I think you could very plausibly go through school, pass your tests, successfully graduate, be above average, get hired, have a career where you do some useful things and keep your job instead of being fired for incompetence, etc. Our discussion was about your goal of greatness. Example: “I am ambitious and I want to do something groundbreaking”. I don’t think I took this the wrong way because e.g. later clarifications included wanting “the pinnacle of achievement” and “the ideal man, whom I aspire to be”.

I tried to challenge the plausibility of being a rare genius who makes major breakthroughs in physics – like Einstein or Feynman – without some kind of huge edge (such as philosophy or much better math automatizations, intuitions and concepts). Universities don’t currently provide that edge, aren’t creating great physicists, and have some systemic problems that conflict with greatness. So I thought your career plan was inappropriate/ineffective for achieving your stated goal of being a great outlier. I think your very high aspirations require very high standards, but that’s not negativity about your competence.

I wonder if you think Inadequate Equilibria (book) or we’re always at the beginning of infinity (paraphrase) are “very dark and depressing”. If not, in what way is CF darker?

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