# Reasoning without assumptions

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### Ron Garret

May 12, 2019, 9:24:51 PM5/12/19
In a blog post I wrote about four years ago [1] I asserted that “all reasoning has to start from assumptions”, a claim which was recently challenged by Elliot Temple in the comments. He offered to explain why he believed this claim to be wrong on the condition that I post the question in this forum, hence this post. Elliot, the floor is yours.

rg

[1] https://blog.rongarret.info/2015/03/why-some-assumptions-are-better-than.html

### Elliot Temple

May 13, 2019, 7:05:27 PM5/13/19
to FIGG, FIYG
RG wrote (start of linked blog post):

> All reasoning has to start from assumptions. Assumptions by definition can't be proven or disproven. So how can we evaluate our core assumptions? If we try to use reason, that reasoning must itself be based on some assumptions like, "Reason is the best way to evaluate assumptions." But since that is an assumption, how can we evaluate it without getting into a infinite regression?

And near the end of the post:

> The point is: the apparent infinite regress of rationality bottoms out in its *effectiveness*

> BTW, I very much doubt that CR actually claims that reasoning is possible with no assumptions. If Popper (or Deutsch) ever actually said this, it's news to me. It seems self-evident to me that all reasoning has to start with assumptions. Whatever else a reasoning process consists of, there has to be some point in the process at which you assert for the first time the truth of some proposition. That assertion cannot be based on the truth of any previously asserted proposition because, if it were, it would not be the first time you asserted the truth of some proposition. A proposition that is asserted to be true without any prior assertions to support it is *by definition* an assumption.
>
> (Note that even this argument makes assumptions, e.g. that reasoning has a beginning, that it involves the assertion of propositions, that words like "assert" and "proposition" have coherent meanings, etc. etc. etc.)

RG declined to share info about his familiarity with Popper. I understand that he’s read FoR and BoI and liked them. This is a big, hard topic, so I’ve made many guesses (with little info) about where to begin, and what to include and omit.

The word “assumption” is ambiguous. This is a flaw inherent in the English language. But I don’t want to get hung up on details like that. There is a major difference in philosophical viewpoint here which I’ll try to focus on despite imperfect terminology. BTW making progress despite a flawed starting point, like ambiguous language, is a relevant example for what I talk about below.

The view described by RG is the standard, non-CR view. It is regarded by CR as incorrectly relying on *foundations* and *justification*, and as not having the right paradigm. Example quotes about foundations (partly to explain, partly because of RG’s doubts that KP or DD disagree with him):

KP, LScD:

> The empirical basis of objective science has thus nothing 'absolute' about it.[4] Science does not rest upon solid bedrock. The bold structure of its theories rises, as it were, above a swamp. It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above into the swamp, but not down to any natural or 'given' base; and if we stop driving the piles deeper, it is not because we have reached firm ground. We simply stop when we are satisfied that the piles are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being.

DD, BoI:

> The whole motivation for seeking a perfectly secure foundation for mathematics was mistaken. It was a form of justificationism. Mathematics is characterized by its use of proofs in the same way that science is characterized by its use of experimental testing; in neither case is that the object of the exercise. The object of mathematics is to understand – to *explain* – abstract entities. Proof is primarily a means of ruling out false explanations; and sometimes it also provides mathematical truths that need to be explained. But, like all fields in which progress is possible, mathematics seeks not random truths but good explanations.

DD, BoI:

> there can be no such thing as an ultimate explanation: just as ‘the gods did it’ is always a bad explanation, so any other purported foundation of all explanations must be bad too. It must be easily variable because it cannot answer the question: why that foundation and not another? Nothing can be explained only in terms of itself.

KP, C&R:

> The question about the sources of our knowledge can be replaced in a similar way [to replacing the “Who should rule?” question in politics]. It has always been asked in the spirit of: ‘What are the best sources of our knowledge—the most reliable ones, those which will not lead us into error, and those to which we can and must turn, in case of doubt, as the last court of appeal?’ I propose to assume, instead, that no such ideal sources exist—no more than ideal rulers—and that *all* ‘sources’ are liable to lead us into error at times. And I propose to replace, therefore, the question of the sources of our knowledge by the entirely different question: ‘*How can we hope to detect and eliminate error?*’
>
> The question of the sources of our knowledge, like so many authoritarian questions, is a *genetic* one. It asks for the origin of our knowledge, in the belief that knowledge may legitimize itself by its pedigree. The nobility of the racially pure knowledge, the untainted knowledge, the knowledge which derives from the highest authority, if possible from God: these are the (often unconscious) metaphysical ideas behind the question. My modified question, ‘How can we hope to detect error?’ may be said to derive from the view that such pure, untainted and certain sources do not exist, and that questions of origin or of purity should not be confounded with questions of validity, or of truth. This view may be said to be as old as Xenophanes. Xenophanes knew that our knowledge is guesswork, opinion—*doxa* rather than *epistēmē*—as shown by his verses (DK, B, 18 and 34):
>
> The gods did not reveal, from the beginning,
> All things to us; but in the course of time,
> Through seeking we may learn, and know things better.
>
> But as for certain truth, no man has known it,
> Nor will he know it; neither of the gods,
> Nor yet of all the things of which I speak.
> And even if by chance he were to utter
> The perfect truth, he would himself not know it;
> For all is but a woven web of guesses.
>
> Yet the traditional question of the authoritative sources of knowledge is repeated even today—and very often by positivists and by other philosophers who believe themselves to be in revolt against authority.
>
> The proper answer to my question ‘How can we hope to detect and eliminate error?’ is, I believe, ‘By *criticizing* the theories or guesses of others and—if we can train ourselves to do so—by *criticizing* our own theories or guesses.’ (The latter point is highly desirable, but not indispensable; for if we fail to criticize our own theories, there may be others to do it for us.) This answer sums up a position which I propose to call ‘critical rationalism’.
>
> [...]
>
> So my answer to the questions ‘How do you know? What is the source or the basis of your assertion? What observations have led you to it?’ would be: ‘I do *not* know: my assertion was merely a guess. Never mind the source, or the sources, from which it may spring—there are many possible sources, and I may not be aware of half of them; and origins or pedigrees have in any case little bearing upon truth. But if you are interested in the problem which I tried to solve by my tentative assertion, you may help me by criticizing it as severely as you can; and if you can design some experimental test which you think might refute my assertion, I shall gladly, and to the best of my powers, help you to refute it.’

The standard, non-CR view involves problems like a regress because it tries to do things like argue for ideas "based on the truth of any previously asserted proposition” (RG’s words above). RG acknowledges some of the problems with arbitrary foundations or, in the alternative, an infinite regress. He tries to solve them by suggesting an *effectiveness* criterion for judging ideas. This doesn’t solve the problem: it is an arbitrary foundation or leads to a regressing debate about the effectiveness of the effectiveness criterion, and the effectiveness of whatever arguments are used in that debate, and so on.

The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions. We proceed to brainstorm *guesses about solutions*. We do not assert that our guesses are true; we expect our guesses to one day be discarded as obsolete falsehoods because progress is infinite. And then we *criticize* the guesses. This leads to fixing the errors in some guesses and rejecting other guesses, and generally to progress.

The CR paradigm is not about establishing things on the basis of assumptions or on any other basis or foundation, nor is it about choosing a criterion for what types of theories are best (e.g. effective ones or simple ones). The CR paradigm is about *error correction*. CR says we learn not by making foundational assumptions and building from them to other ideas, but by making unjustified guesses to try to solve our problems, which we then expose to error correction.

Both CR and the standard view try to deal with the problem of differentiating good and bad ideas. The standard view seeks to find a good starting point, and good methods of thinking, so that bad ideas can never be introduced (or at least are hard to introduce). The CR view accepts there is no way to avoid error or even to make it uncommon, and instead focuses its primary effort on error correction. We can’t make error uncommon because we’re all alike in our infinite ignorance (as KP said) and we’re always at the beginning of infinity (as DD said) with infinite stuff left to learn. (There are also other arguments about fallibilism.)

The CR view on assumptions and foundations is that we can start anywhere. We can start with high level ideas or low level ideas. We can start in the middle. Anything goes because we aren’t trying to solve the problem of avoiding error by limiting where we begin our reasoning. What’s important is that all ideas be held open to error correction. Nothing is beyond question or criticism. There are no limits beyond which we can’t delve further and learn more. No matter where we start, we can always work in any direction. We can flesh out prior or lower level ideas more. We can flesh out later or higher level ideas more. We can go sideways. And things don’t organize neatly into levels anyway, for all is a woven, tangled, chaotic, web of guesses, not a pyramid hierarchy.

What stops the regress of asking “Why?” and “How do you know?” infinitely? Nothing formal. CR isn’t about proving we’re right. A CRist will say, “I’ve explained why I think this, and how I know, in what I think is an adequate level of detail to solve the problem I’m trying to solve. Do you see an error I’ve made?” CR is about searching for and fixing errors, not establishing that our answers are correct. We expect our answers will be improved in the future. We follow our interests in our attempts to live our lives, solve problems, and learn. There are infinite places we may direct our attention and we make judgments about which to prioritize. These interests and judgments, like everything else, are themselves open to criticism.

There is no way to provide infinite detail about one’s reasoning. This is not actually a problem unique to foundations. It applies just as well to the consequences of one’s reasoning (the further implications). But we don’t need infinite detail if we aren’t after a guarantee of correctness. If instead we know we may well be wrong, but we’re doing our best to find and correct errors, then the finite detail is adequate for that purpose. And there are no bounds on where we can go into more detail. Any part that people think could use more questioning can be critically considered more. We never have to stop, we just stop when we think our attention is better used elsewhere (and we don’t know of an error with that).

A criticism is an explanation of why an idea does not solve the problem it’s claiming to solve. The reason we shouldn’t accept (or act on) criticized ideas, even tentatively, is because we have an explanation of why they won’t work. And all criticisms are themselves open to criticism. (What do you do if people keep throw infinitely many dumb criticisms at an idea? In short, criticize infinite categories of idea all at once. Criticize patterns of error. Don’t criticize all the criticisms individually. In general, good will and good faith are helpful and make things better. But if someone wants to throw infinitely many criticisms at an idea, they may try it. It’s easy to do that if you generate the criticisms according to a pattern, but then they can also be criticized as a group because they fit that pattern. To defend against this, we’ll only need one counter-argument for each pattern the critic thinks of to form an infinite set of criticisms from. So we don’t have a greater burden than he does. And actually it’s better than that if we can identify a meta-pattern – a pattern to his patterns – and criticize that. If we use powerful criticisms with high “reach” (DD’s term meaning broad/wide applicability), which deal with the right issues, it becomes harder and harder for a critic to think of anything new to say which isn’t already addressed by our criticisms. And we can write them down and reuse them with all future critics. That is one of the main projects intellectuals should be engaged in.)

Our guesses can be arbitrary non sequiturs. They need not be based on anything – the source or basis is not the important thing. However, it’s hard to make them survive criticism if they don’t use any existing knowledge. It’s hard to start over, without the benefit of any existing knowledge (which has had a bunch of error-correction effort already put into it) and make something good. So we often build on, e.g., the English language. However, just because I use the English language to help me formulate my idea does not mean my idea depends on the English language in some kind of chain of logical implication. The English language is not necessarily assumed or an important basis. My idea may well be approximately autonomous. Maybe we’ll one day find huge flaws in English, and find that Japanese is much better, and then notice that my idea can be easily translated to Japanese because it was never actually tightly coupled to English in the first place. It’s like how the C programming language isn’t based on any particular CPU architecture and code can be recompiled for other architectures (so while my code needs a CPU to run, it’s not based on whatever CPU I’m currently using).

The CR paradigm lacks the solidity sought by the standard view. It doesn’t justify its ideas. It doesn’t provide justified, true belief. It doesn’t offer ways to demonstrate that an idea is *true* so that we need never worry about it having an error again. It doesn’t offer ways to positively establish ideas. It differentiates good and bad ideas by criticism of the bad ones, not by anything to bestow a good, positive status on the good ideas (which CR views as merely ideas which are not currently known to be wrong). CR is all we can have due to logical problems that the standard view has been unable to deal with century after century. And CR is enough for science to work, among other things.

I suggest rereading the DD and KP quotes (that I gave above) at this point. I think they’ll make more sense after reading the rest (both what they mean and how they are relevant), and they’ll also help clarify my text. See e.g. how KP talks about the sources of our ideas not mattering.

This is all a lot to understand. As far as I’ve been able to determine, DD and probably Feynman are the only people who ever understood CR by reading Popper’s books, without the help of a bunch of discussion with people who already knew CR (like Popper, Popper's students, or DD). We’ve never found a single person who has understood CR well from DD’s books without discussing with DD or DD’s students. I had many large confusions after reading FoR, which took years of discussion, study and DD help to resolve. CR is deeply counterintuitive because it goes against ~2300 years of philosophical tradition, and those ideas have major influence throughout our culture. Supporting people’s CR learning processes, if they’re interested, is one of the important purposes of this forum. Questions are welcome and you shouldn’t expect to fully understand this already or soon.

Note that CR theory explains this (the previous paragraph). Errors are inevitable and common, including when understanding even one sentence[1]. Trying your best to correct your own errors is a good start, but critical discussion has big advantages. People have different strengths and weaknesses, knowledge and ignorance, biases and irrationalities, etc. People differ. External criticism is valuable because other people will catch errors you miss (including errors they made in the past and already fixed). Because error correction is such a big deal, critical discussion is approximately necessary for ambitious people (the alternative plan is to be one of the best thinkers ever who is so much better than ~everyone at ~everything that external criticism doesn’t add much). Critical discussion also lets people share explanations, problems, and other knowledge which isn’t criticism, which is also helpful.

[1] DD, BoI:

> SOCRATES: But wait! What about when knowledge *does not* come from guesswork – as when a god sends me a dream? What about when I simply hear ideas from other people? *They* may have guessed them, but I then obtain them merely by listening.
> HERMES: You do not. In all those cases, you still have to guess in order to acquire the knowledge.
> SOCRATES: I do?
> HERMES: Of course. Have you yourself not often been misunderstood, even by people trying hard to understand you?
> SOCRATES: Yes.
> HERMES: Have you, in turn, not often misunderstood what someone means, even when he is trying to tell you as clearly as he can?
> SOCRATES: Indeed I have. Not least during this conversation!
> HERMES: Well, this is not an attribute of philosophical ideas only, but of all ideas. Remember when you all got lost on your way here from the ship? And why?
> SOCRATES: It was because – as we realized with hindsight – we completely misunderstood the directions given to us by the captain.
> HERMES: So, when you got the wrong idea of what he meant, despite having listened attentively to every word he said, *where did that wrong idea come from*? Not from him, presumably . . .
> SOCRATES: I see. It must come from within ourselves. It must be a guess. Though, until this moment, it had never even remotely occurred to me that I had been guessing.
> HERMES: So why would you expect that anything different happens when you do understand someone correctly?
> SOCRATES: I see. When we hear something being said, we *guess* what it means, without realizing what we are doing. That is beginning to make sense to me.

When you read books, you guess. Many guesses are wrong. You fix many of them yourself. Critical discussion helps fix more errors. People routinely overestimate how well they understood moderately difficult books that they read, and it becomes a huge problem with very hard material like CR books. Understanding of books should be *tested*, and one of the best methods of doing that is to write down your understanding and then share it with people who already understand the book and see if they agree that you have their position right. (You can do this test of understanding whether you agree or disagree with the material).

Elliot Temple
www.elliottemple.com

### Ron Garret

May 13, 2019, 8:40:47 PM5/13/19

On May 13, 2019, at 4:05 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

> RG declined to share info about his familiarity with Popper. I understand that he’s read FoR and BoI and liked them.

Yep. That’s a reasonable first-order approximation.

> The word “assumption” is ambiguous. This is a flaw inherent in the English language. But I don’t want to get hung up on details like that.

That’s a pretty big detail to just sweep under the rug given that the word is an essential part of the position that you have chosen to criticize. How do you know that we are not in 100% agreement, and that you’ve simply misinterpreted what I mean when I say “assumption” or “reasoning”?

> The view described by RG is the standard, non-CR view. It is regarded by CR as incorrectly relying on *foundations* and *justification*, and as not having the right paradigm.

Neither the word “foundation” nor the word “justification” appears in the post that you are criticizing, so I am a bit nonplussed how you could reach the conclusion that I am describing the “standard non-CR view”.

> Example quotes about foundations (partly to explain, partly because of RG’s doubts that KP or DD disagree with him):

[Snip]

I don’t disagree with any of these. I think you’re attacking a straw man.

> The standard, non-CR view involves problems like a regress because it tries to do things like argue for ideas "based on the truth of any previously asserted proposition” (RG’s words above).

You elided some crucial context in that quote. The complete quote was:

"Whatever else a reasoning process consists of, there has to be some point in the process at which you assert for the first time the truth of some proposition. That assertion cannot be based on the truth of any previously asserted proposition because, if it were, it would not be the first time you asserted the truth of some proposition. A proposition that is asserted to be true without any prior assertions to support it is *by definition* an assumption.”

Note that I am NOT trying to “argue for ideas based on the truth of … previously asserted propositions.” In fact, I am saying that exact opposite, that it is *not possible* to argue for ideas based [solely] in the truth of previously asserted propositions because (at the risk of repeating myself) among all the assertions of truth you choose to make, one of them has to come first, and that one cannot be based on the truth of previously asserted proposition because there aren’t any.

> RG acknowledges some of the problems with arbitrary foundations or, in the alternative, an infinite regress. He tries to solve them by suggesting an *effectiveness* criterion for judging ideas.

No, I don’t try to *solve* them with an “effectiveness criterion”, I’m simply making the *observation* that some assumptions are more effective than others for solving problems. That’s all. (I’m also making the judgement call that the more effective assumptions are “better”, but that’s just my personal opinion because I like effective solutions. But that’s a matter of taste.)

I’m going to stop responding point-by-point because if I do this will spin wildly out of control. I will note, however, that the foundational motivation behind that post was David Deutsch’s observation in Chapter 7 of TFOR that “Languages are theories”. So I would like to suggest that you re-read your own advice at the end of your response (which I’ve modified slightly for the occasion), and consider the possibility that we are not as far apart as you think:

> When you read [blog posts], you guess. Many guesses are wrong.

Indeed.

rg

### Elliot Temple

May 14, 2019, 2:44:31 AM5/14/19
to FIGG, FIYG
On May 13, 2019, at 5:40 PM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:

> On May 13, 2019, at 4:05 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

RG removed the link to the blog post under discussion from the quotations he kept. If you quote from or refer to a webpage (RG did both), then your email should include the URL so your quotes are properly attributed and your references can be followed. Re-adding it:

https://blog.rongarret.info/2015/03/why-some-assumptions-are-better-than.html

>> The word “assumption” is ambiguous. This is a flaw inherent in the English language. But I don’t want to get hung up on details like that.
>
> That’s a pretty big detail to just sweep under the rug given that the word is an essential part of the position that you have chosen to criticize. How do you know that we are not in 100% agreement, and that you’ve simply misinterpreted what I mean when I say “assumption” or “reasoning”?

I said multiple things, later, about how CR deals with assumptions and how it differs from the blog post's claims about how reasoning and assumptions work. You didn't respond to them even though they were main points. Nor have you now tried to clarify the matter, and solve the problem that concerns you, by giving a precise statement of what you mean by “assumption”.

>> The view described by RG is the standard, non-CR view. It is regarded by CR as incorrectly relying on *foundations* and *justification*, and as not having the right paradigm.
>
> Neither the word “foundation” nor the word “justification” appears in the post that you are criticizing, so I am a bit nonplussed how you could reach the conclusion that I am describing the “standard non-CR view”.

Do you believe you could write a statement of what CR means by those terms that a CR expert would agree is accurate? If you believe you can, I think that’d be worth doing. If not, let’s hold off on this until after getting further in the part of the discussion where I’m explaining CR.

>> Example quotes about foundations (partly to explain, partly because of RG’s doubts that KP or DD disagree with him):
>
> [Snip]
>
> I don’t disagree with any of these. I think you’re attacking a straw man.
>
>> The standard, non-CR view involves problems like a regress because it tries to do things like argue for ideas "based on the truth of any previously asserted proposition” (RG’s words above).
>
> You elided some crucial context in that quote. The complete quote was:
>
> "Whatever else a reasoning process consists of, there has to be some point in the process at which you assert for the first time the truth of some proposition. That assertion cannot be based on the truth of any previously asserted proposition because, if it were, it would not be the first time you asserted the truth of some proposition. A proposition that is asserted to be true without any prior assertions to support it is *by definition* an assumption.”

No I didn’t. Review my previous post (Re: [FI] Reasoning without assumptions, May 13, 2019, at 4:05 PM) to see that I quoted that paragraph in full (everything given here and more – this version is actually incomplete and begins mid-paragraph, contrary to the completeness claim).

> Note that I am NOT trying to “argue for ideas based on the truth of … previously asserted propositions.” In fact, I am saying that exact opposite, that it is *not possible* to argue for ideas based [solely] in the truth of previously asserted propositions because (at the risk of repeating myself) among all the assertions of truth you choose to make, one of them has to come first, and that one cannot be based on the truth of previously asserted proposition because there aren’t any.

That problem is an artifact of not thinking in/with the CR paradigm, and the blog post did not present or mention the CR paradigm that I explained. Seeing a lot of importance in the insolubility of the problem you discuss would make you something like a crypto-justificationist and crypto-foundationalist (in DD’s terminology from FoR). Unless your point was merely “non-CR views are wrong, here is one of the standard arguments for why, but CR doesn’t have this problem, so no solution is needed, this only matters for the purpose of criticizing non-CRists”, which is not what I took the post to say.

>> RG acknowledges some of the problems with arbitrary foundations or, in the alternative, an infinite regress. He tries to solve them by suggesting an *effectiveness* criterion for judging ideas.
>
> No, I don’t try to *solve* them with an “effectiveness criterion”, I’m simply making the *observation* that some assumptions are more effective than others for solving problems. That’s all. (I’m also making the judgement call that the more effective assumptions are “better”, but that’s just my personal opinion because I like effective solutions. But that’s a matter of taste.)
>
> I’m going to stop responding point-by-point because if I do this will spin wildly out of control. I will note, however, that the foundational motivation behind that post was David Deutsch’s observation in Chapter 7 of TFOR that “Languages are theories”. So I would like to suggest that you [...] consider the possibility that we are not as far apart as you think:

Here is the main, important part of my email which I primarily want a reply to:

I regard this reply as failing to engage substantively with me (or CR) re epistemology. It does not attempt to discuss most of what I said about epistemology. I think you want to clear up some discussion framing matters first. OK:

I find your reply ambiguous about whether you agree with the bulk of what I said (you say I’m attacking a straw man and suggest we aren’t so far apart) or if you disagree with it (you said replying to most of it would make the discussion spin wildly out of control. Why? I would think due to many disagreements. Saying “I agree” every few paragraphs would not spin the discussion out of control.)

So I don’t know if you agree or disagree with the stuff I wrote about how epistemology works. I think you should pick one or a few points (from my previous post, about how epistemology works) that you disagree with and comment on those, or else clearly state that you didn’t find anything significant to disagree with in the text that you didn’t respond to. In the second scenario, I would guess the main outstanding issue would then be that you don’t see how my wise-and-agreeable (in your opinion) CR knowledge conflicts with the blog post. If so, say that and I’ll give more details. But also, in that scenario, maybe you could also say something about a couple parts where I attempted to fairly directly challenge the blog post.

I think this will productively move the discussion forward.

Elliot Temple
www.fallibleideas.com

### Ron Garret

May 14, 2019, 1:06:36 PM5/14/19

On May 13, 2019, at 11:44 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

> On May 13, 2019, at 5:40 PM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>
>> On May 13, 2019, at 4:05 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>
> RG removed the link to the blog post under discussion from the quotations he kept. If you quote from or refer to a webpage (RG did both), then your email should include the URL so your quotes are properly attributed and your references can be followed. Re-adding it:
>
> https://blog.rongarret.info/2015/03/why-some-assumptions-are-better-than.html

Yeah, I did some editing to try to keep this from spinning out of control. This discussion list has a ban on top-posting. That makes it hard to respond to a lengthy post without either doing some pruning or creating a horrible tangled mess. But I’m in your house so I’ll do my best to play by your rules.

>>> The word “assumption” is ambiguous. This is a flaw inherent in the English language. But I don’t want to get hung up on details like that.
>>
>> That’s a pretty big detail to just sweep under the rug given that the word is an essential part of the position that you have chosen to criticize. How do you know that we are not in 100% agreement, and that you’ve simply misinterpreted what I mean when I say “assumption” or “reasoning”?
>
> I said multiple things, later, about how CR deals with assumptions and how it differs from the blog post's claims about how reasoning and assumptions work. You didn't respond to them even though they were main points.

Here are all of the occurrences of the word “assumptions” in the text that you wrote:

"The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions.”

"The CR paradigm is not about establishing things on the basis of assumptions or on any other basis or foundation, nor is it about choosing a criterion for what types of theories are best (e.g. effective ones or simple ones). The CR paradigm is about *error correction*. CR says we learn not by making foundational assumptions and building from them to other ideas, but by making unjustified guesses to try to solve our problems, which we then expose to error correction.”

"The CR view on assumptions and foundations is that we can start anywhere.”

I don’t deny any of this. Note that the title of the blog post was not, “Why reasoning has to start with assumptions” or “Why reasoning should start with assumptions” it was, “Why some assumptions are better than others."

> Nor have you now tried to clarify the matter, and solve the problem that concerns you, by giving a precise statement of what you mean by “assumption”.

That’s not true. The second sentence of my blog post is "Assumptions by definition can't be proven or disproven.” Maybe that’s not precise enough for you, but your criticism here is starting to feel more like trolling than a good-faith attempt to reach common ground. I didn’t give a precise definition of “reasoning” either, so it is entirely possible — in fact, I think it’s likely — that this entire disagreement stems from you ascribing a meaning to the word “reasoning” that I did not intend, i.e. that you are making a false (and tacit) assumption.

But just for the record: an assumption is a proposition that is taken to be true for some reason other than that it follows logically from propositions that have already been taken to be true. For example, in the syllogism “All men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal” the statements “All men are mortal” and “Socrates is a man” are assumptions, but “Socrates is mortal” is not.

Also, as long as I’m being pedantic, “reasoning” is the process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true.

My claim is that some assumptions are better than others (and, BTW, some modes of reasoning are better than others) because they are more effective at solving problems. Solving problems is the whole point of making assumptions (if you prefer you can call them “hypotheses” rather than “assumptions”) and engaging in reasoning.

For example: one assumption that I believe is better than others for solving problems is that no ideal sources of knowledge exist (that’s one of the quotes you cited from KP). Not everyone accepts this. In particular, the audience of my blog includes a substantial number of religious people who believe that there is an ideal source of knowledge: God. Mounting a principled argument against this is much harder than most non-religious people appreciate.

>>> The view described by RG is the standard, non-CR view. It is regarded by CR as incorrectly relying on *foundations* and *justification*, and as not having the right paradigm.
>>
>> Neither the word “foundation” nor the word “justification” appears in the post that you are criticizing, so I am a bit nonplussed how you could reach the conclusion that I am describing the “standard non-CR view”.
>
> Do you believe you could write a statement of what CR means by those terms that a CR expert would agree is accurate? If you believe you can, I think that’d be worth doing. If not, let’s hold off on this until after getting further in the part of the discussion where I’m explaining CR.

The fact that you would even ask this question indicates that you have failed to grasp a critical aspect of CR: languages are theories. (That’s a quote from TFOR chapter 7, which you apparently need to review.) There is no such thing as an “accurate definition”. There are only definitions that are more or less effective at solving problems, just as there there is no such thing as a “true theory”, only theories that are more or less effective at solving problems (because languages are theories). I believe that words like “proposition” and “true” and “reasoning” and the foundations of mathematics and logic comprise an effective theory for solving problems, and so I accept them (provisionally, of course). The existence of assumptions follows from that as a logical tautology, and the fact that some assumptions are better than others (by the quality metric of being more effective for solving problems) is just an empirical observation (though, if you think about it, it would be very surprising if it didn’t turn out to be true).

So no, I don’t think I could "write a statement of what CR means by those terms that a CR expert would agree is accurate” because a real CR expert would recognize that entire project as being contrary to the fundamental tents of CR.

>>> Example quotes about foundations (partly to explain, partly because of RG’s doubts that KP or DD disagree with him):
>>
>> [Snip]
>>
>> I don’t disagree with any of these. I think you’re attacking a straw man.
>>
>>> The standard, non-CR view involves problems like a regress because it tries to do things like argue for ideas "based on the truth of any previously asserted proposition” (RG’s words above).
>>
>> You elided some crucial context in that quote. The complete quote was:
>>
>> "Whatever else a reasoning process consists of, there has to be some point in the process at which you assert for the first time the truth of some proposition. That assertion cannot be based on the truth of any previously asserted proposition because, if it were, it would not be the first time you asserted the truth of some proposition. A proposition that is asserted to be true without any prior assertions to support it is *by definition* an assumption.”
>
> No I didn’t.

Well, yes you did. Just because you quoted the complete passage elsewhere does not change the fact that in the sentence I quoted you presented an edited version that substantially changed the meaning of the original. The fact that you did this, and the fact that you are now denying that you did it (despite the fact that you clearly did) is further evidence to me that your agenda here is something other than a good-faith attempt to find common ground.

> Review my previous post (Re: [FI] Reasoning without assumptions, May 13, 2019, at 4:05 PM) to see that I quoted that paragraph in full (everything given here and more – this version is actually incomplete and begins mid-paragraph, contrary to the completeness claim).

The sentence that I quoted is verbatim from your original.

>> Note that I am NOT trying to “argue for ideas based on the truth of … previously asserted propositions.” In fact, I am saying that exact opposite, that it is *not possible* to argue for ideas based [solely] in the truth of previously asserted propositions because (at the risk of repeating myself) among all the assertions of truth you choose to make, one of them has to come first, and that one cannot be based on the truth of previously asserted proposition because there aren’t any.
>
> That problem is an artifact of not thinking in/with the CR paradigm, and the blog post did not present or mention the CR paradigm that I explained. Seeing a lot of importance in the insolubility of the problem you discuss would make you something like a crypto-justificationist and crypto-foundationalist (in DD’s terminology from FoR). Unless your point was merely “non-CR views are wrong, here is one of the standard arguments for why, but CR doesn’t have this problem, so no solution is needed, this only matters for the purpose of criticizing non-CRists”, which is not what I took the post to say.

My position is exactly what the post says: some assumptions are better than others, in the sense that some assumptions are more effective at helping you to solve problems than others. Furthermore, you have no choice but to make assumptions. It’s a logical impossibility to reason without assumptions (as I’ve defined them above), so you might as well choose effective ones. I don’t see how that could possibly be controversial.

Note that not everyone accepts that the object of the game is to solve problems. The audience of my blog includes religious people who believe that the object of the game is to achieve salvation. I’d be surprised if that view was prevalent here (but I’m new here, so I don’t really know who’s lurking).

>>> RG acknowledges some of the problems with arbitrary foundations or, in the alternative, an infinite regress. He tries to solve them by suggesting an *effectiveness* criterion for judging ideas.
>>
>> No, I don’t try to *solve* them with an “effectiveness criterion”, I’m simply making the *observation* that some assumptions are more effective than others for solving problems. That’s all. (I’m also making the judgement call that the more effective assumptions are “better”, but that’s just my personal opinion because I like effective solutions. But that’s a matter of taste.)
>>
>> I’m going to stop responding point-by-point because if I do this will spin wildly out of control. I will note, however, that the foundational motivation behind that post was David Deutsch’s observation in Chapter 7 of TFOR that “Languages are theories”. So I would like to suggest that you [...] consider the possibility that we are not as far apart as you think:
>
> Here is the main, important part of my email which I primarily want a reply to:
>
> I regard this reply as failing to engage substantively with me (or CR) re epistemology. It does not attempt to discuss most of what I said about epistemology. I think you want to clear up some discussion framing matters first. OK:
>
> I find your reply ambiguous about whether you agree with the bulk of what I said (you say I’m attacking a straw man and suggest we aren’t so far apart) or if you disagree with it (you said replying to most of it would make the discussion spin wildly out of control. Why? I would think due to many disagreements. Saying “I agree” every few paragraphs would not spin the discussion out of control.)

I thought it was obvious, but for the record, yes, I agree with the bulk of what you said.

> So I don’t know if you agree or disagree with the stuff I wrote about how epistemology works. I think you should pick one or a few points (from my previous post, about how epistemology works) that you disagree with and comment on those, or else clearly state that you didn’t find anything significant to disagree with in the text that you didn’t respond to. In the second scenario, I would guess the main outstanding issue would then be that you don’t see how my wise-and-agreeable (in your opinion) CR knowledge conflicts with the blog post. If so, say that and I’ll give more details. But also, in that scenario, maybe you could also say something about a couple parts where I attempted to fairly directly challenge the blog post.
>
> I think this will productively move the discussion forward.

I think I agree with nearly everything you said and quoted (modulo my uncertainty about our disagreement over the meanings of certain words). The main thing I don’t agree with is that my blog post is at odds with any of it.

rg

### Elliot Temple

May 14, 2019, 10:47:25 PM5/14/19
to FIGG, FIYG
On May 14, 2019, at 10:06 AM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:

> On May 13, 2019, at 11:44 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>
>> On May 13, 2019, at 5:40 PM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>>
>>> On May 13, 2019, at 4:05 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

>> https://blog.rongarret.info/2015/03/why-some-assumptions-are-better-than.html

>>>> The word “assumption” is ambiguous. This is a flaw inherent in the English language. But I don’t want to get hung up on details like that.
>>>
>>> That’s a pretty big detail to just sweep under the rug given that the word is an essential part of the position that you have chosen to criticize. How do you know that we are not in 100% agreement, and that you’ve simply misinterpreted what I mean when I say “assumption” or “reasoning”?
>>
>> I said multiple things, later, about how CR deals with assumptions and how it differs from the blog post's claims about how reasoning and assumptions work. You didn't respond to them even though they were main points.
>
> Here are all of the occurrences of the word “assumptions” in the text that you wrote:
>
> "The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions.”
>
> "The CR paradigm is not about establishing things on the basis of assumptions or on any other basis or foundation, nor is it about choosing a criterion for what types of theories are best (e.g. effective ones or simple ones). The CR paradigm is about *error correction*. CR says we learn not by making foundational assumptions and building from them to other ideas, but by making unjustified guesses to try to solve our problems, which we then expose to error correction.”
>
> "The CR view on assumptions and foundations is that we can start anywhere.”
>
> I don’t deny any of this. Note that the title of the blog post was not, “Why reasoning has to start with assumptions” or “Why reasoning should start with assumptions” it was, “Why some assumptions are better than others.”

I was disputing several issues including the claim that "All reasoning has to start from assumptions.” (which is the first sentence of the blog post). I don’t know why that not being the title is relevant. Here is what RG’s first FI post said ("Reasoning without assumptions”, May 12, 6:24pm US pacific):

> In a blog post I wrote about four years ago [1] I asserted that “all reasoning has to start from assumptions”, a claim which was recently challenged by Elliot Temple in the comments. He offered to explain why he believed this claim to be wrong on the condition that I post the question in this forum, hence this post. Elliot, the floor is yours.
>
> rg
>
> [1] https://blog.rongarret.info/2015/03/why-some-assumptions-are-better-than.html

The specific claim that "all reasoning has to start from assumptions” was the primary issue this topic began with.

When I said, "The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions.” I was trying to debate the main issue. Now I’m told that you “don’t deny” my claim, but doesn’t it contradict your post?

I’ll try to be extra clear since something went wrong the previous time:

RG:

> All reasoning has to start from assumptions.

ET:

> The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions.

So on the one hand RG thinks reasoning starts from assumptions, and on the other hand ET thinks that reasoning starts with problems, not assumptions. That’s a contradiction, a disagreement. But RG denies disagreeing with ET. Explain?

(Given these specific wordings, RG could agree with ET about what the CR view is, but believe CR is false. But I don’t think that’s the issue here.)

> an assumption is a proposition that is taken to be true for some reason other than that it follows logically from propositions that have already been taken to be true. For example, in the syllogism “All men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal” the statements “All men are mortal” and “Socrates is a man” are assumptions, but “Socrates is mortal” is not.
>
> Also, as long as I’m being pedantic, “reasoning” is the process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true.

The term for that is “deduction”, not “reasoning". It’s not what CR means by reasoning (nor anyone else – e.g. inductivists believe that induction is a form of reasoning). CR holds that brainstorming and criticism is a reasoning process.

> Solving problems is the whole point of making assumptions (if you prefer you can call them “hypotheses” rather than “assumptions”) and engaging in reasoning.

According to CR, making assumptions is not the way one solves problems. One solves problems by brainstorming solutions and doing error correction on the solutions. And while doing that, CR holds that it’s important to recognize the fallibility of all of our ideas. We should hold our ideas open to critical questioning and improvement, and expect that they can be improved, not take them to be true. (Here I'm contradicting the text quoted above which advocates using “assumptions” meaning propositions "taken to be true”). CR holds things like: *Don’t* assume your ideas are true; keep looking for errors.

Also, according to CR, one does not solve problems by “engaging in reasoning” as RG explains “reasoning" above (deduction). One solves problems by a multi-part method of which deductive reasoning is only one sub-part. See e.g. FoR figure 3.2 (p 64 in some editions), titled “The problem-solving process”. Deduction is a sub-part of part 3, criticism – it’s one tool, of many, that can be used to help criticize things.

>> I find your reply ambiguous about whether you agree with the bulk of what I said (you say I’m attacking a straw man and suggest we aren’t so far apart) or if you disagree with it (you said replying to most of it would make the discussion spin wildly out of control. Why? I would think due to many disagreements. Saying “I agree” every few paragraphs would not spin the discussion out of control.)
>
> I thought it was obvious, but for the record, yes, I agree with the bulk of what you said.
>
>> So I don’t know if you agree or disagree with the stuff I wrote about how epistemology works. I think you should pick one or a few points (from my previous post, about how epistemology works) that you disagree with and comment on those, or else clearly state that you didn’t find anything significant to disagree with in the text that you didn’t respond to. In the second scenario, I would guess the main outstanding issue would then be that you don’t see how my wise-and-agreeable (in your opinion) CR knowledge conflicts with the blog post. If so, say that and I’ll give more details. But also, in that scenario, maybe you could also say something about a couple parts where I attempted to fairly directly challenge the blog post.
>>
>> I think this will productively move the discussion forward.
>
> I think I agree with nearly everything you said and quoted (modulo my uncertainty about our disagreement over the meanings of certain words). The main thing I don’t agree with is that my blog post is at odds with any of it.

OK, I’ve begun addressing that above.

Elliot Temple
www.curi.us

### Ron Garret

May 15, 2019, 2:38:36 AM5/15/19

On May 14, 2019, at 7:47 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

>> Also, as long as I’m being pedantic, “reasoning” is the process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true.
>
> The term for that is “deduction”, not “reasoning”.

No, deduction is a very specific kind of reasoning. It’s not the only kind. There’s inductive reasoning, abductive reasoning, Bayesian reasoning, appeal to authority (which can often be surprisingly effective if you choose your authorities wisely)...

> The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions.

No, the CR view is that we *should* start our reasoning with problems, not that we *do*. The proposition that we *do* start our reasoning with problems is plainly false as a universal generalization. *Some* people do this (adherents to CR in particular) but clearly not all people do this.

But even the proposition that we *should* start our reasoning with problems is based on assumptions. What one *should* do can only be assessed with respect to some quality metric, and quality metrics are matters of opinion, not objective fact. So the real CR claim is something like “we *should* start our reasoning with assumptions because that is more *effective* than the alternatives” or something like that. But that assumes that effectiveness is something to be desired. I don’t dispute this. I accept that effectiveness is something to be desired. But I don’t see any way to *prove* it or even *argue* for it. It’s just something that I happen to find appealing. So I accept the assumption that effectiveness is desirable in a reasoning method. But it’s still an assumption.

> CR holds that it’s important to recognize the fallibility of all of our ideas.

Indeed. But “all of our ideas" includes CR. (BTW, it’s important to recognize the *potential* fallibility of all of our ideas. Every now and then we actually do get a few things right, or at least close enough to right that the difference no longer matters. And one of the reasons that CR is a desirable process to follow is that it tends to converge.)

rg

### Elliot Temple

May 15, 2019, 5:06:23 AM5/15/19
to FIGG, FIYG
On May 14, 2019, at 11:38 PM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:

> On May 14, 2019, at 7:47 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>
>>> Also, as long as I’m being pedantic, “reasoning” is the process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true.
>>
>> The term for that is “deduction”, not “reasoning”.
>
> No, deduction is a very specific kind of reasoning. It’s not the only kind. There’s inductive reasoning, abductive reasoning, Bayesian reasoning, appeal to authority (which can often be surprisingly effective if you choose your authorities wisely)...

Can you describe the abductive reasoning process, as you understand it? I don’t believe it fits the description "process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true”.

>> The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions.
>
> No

You now say “No” to my sentence, whereas in your previous email you said "I don’t deny any of this.” about it. Since you’ve both agreed and disagreed with this statement, you've contradicted yourself.

And, before, you said you agreed with what I said but didn’t see how your blog post is at odds with any of it. Now, when I answer that, you switch topics from

1) whether or not my claim is at odds with your claim

to

2) whether or not my claim is true.

That’s an unannounced, unexplained goalpost change.

> the CR view is that we *should* start our reasoning with problems, not that we *do*. The proposition that we *do* start our reasoning with problems is plainly false as a universal generalization. *Some* people do this (adherents to CR in particular) but clearly not all people do this.

This discussion is about a blog post. Stop deleting the link to the thing being discussed:

https://blog.rongarret.info/2015/03/why-some-assumptions-are-better-than.html

The claim you made at the link, which we are debating, which you removed from the quoting and seem to have forgotten, is "All reasoning has to start from assumptions.”

Here you say that *some* CR adherents start reasoning with problems, not assumptions. That means the claim that *all* reasoning *has* to start with assumptions is false. Will you now concede?

Elliot Temple
www.elliottemple.com

### Ron Garret

May 15, 2019, 1:28:03 PM5/15/19

On May 15, 2019, at 2:06 AM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

> On May 14, 2019, at 11:38 PM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>
>> On May 14, 2019, at 7:47 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>>
>>>> Also, as long as I’m being pedantic, “reasoning” is the process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true.
>>>
>>> The term for that is “deduction”, not “reasoning”.
>>
>> No, deduction is a very specific kind of reasoning. It’s not the only kind. There’s inductive reasoning, abductive reasoning, Bayesian reasoning, appeal to authority (which can often be surprisingly effective if you choose your authorities wisely)...
>
> Can you describe the abductive reasoning process, as you understand it? I don’t believe it fits the description "process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true”.

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

An example: “The earth appears to me to be flat, therefore it is in fact flat.” (Abductive reasoning is not generally valid, though it often leads to conclusions that are close enough to being correct that abduction can be a useful tool in certain circumstances. For example, “The sun has risen every day in the past, therefore it will continue to rise every day in the future.”)

>>> The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions.
>>
>> No
>
> You now say “No” to my sentence, whereas in your previous email you said "I don’t deny any of this.” about it. Since you’ve both agreed and disagreed with this statement, you've contradicted yourself.

No :-)

The meanings of utterances depend on their contexts. When I said, “I don’t dispute any of this” in response to about a dozen paragraphs of text what I meant was, “There is nothing here that is so mistaken that it is worth initiating a dispute. I agree with the substance of what is being said here, modulo some reasonable assumptions (!) and interpolations.”

By way of contrast, when I said “no” in response to a single sentence drawn from that text which you were now focusing attention on, I did not contradict myself. I was pointing out that the meaning of the sentence is ambiguous. As stated, it is a claim about a matter of fact. The truth or falsehood of that claim depends on the meaning of the word “we”. For some values of “we” the claim is true, for others it is false. So on that view, that sentence contains no information. I was making an effort to interpret the sentence charitably in a way that it would contain information. I did that by adding the word “should”, which I believe brings the sentence closer to its intended meaning (at least as intended by Popper, perhaps not as intended by you).

Like I said, languages are theories. I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt (i.e. I’m assuming — tentatively) here that the theory embodied in the language you are using has merit. But I am beginning to have doubts.

> And, before, you said you agreed with what I said but didn’t see how your blog post is at odds with any of it. Now, when I answer that, you switch topics from
>
> 1) whether or not my claim is at odds with your claim
>
> to
>
> 2) whether or not my claim is true.
>
> That’s an unannounced, unexplained goalpost change.

No, #2 was simply an explanation of why I was adding the word “should”.

>> the CR view is that we *should* start our reasoning with problems, not that we *do*. The proposition that we *do* start our reasoning with problems is plainly false as a universal generalization. *Some* people do this (adherents to CR in particular) but clearly not all people do this.
>
> This discussion is about a blog post. Stop deleting the link to the thing being discussed:
>
> https://blog.rongarret.info/2015/03/why-some-assumptions-are-better-than.html

> The claim you made at the link, which we are debating, which you removed from the quoting and seem to have forgotten, is "All reasoning has to start from assumptions.”

Right. Well, if you want to refute that claim it’s very simple: just show me an example of reasoning that does not start with any assumptions. I predict that for any piece of reasoning that you exhibit I can identify a tacit assumption that that reasoning relies on.

> Here you say that *some* CR adherents start reasoning with problems, not assumptions. That means the claim that *all* reasoning *has* to start with assumptions is false. Will you now concede?

No, sorry, I misspoke. I was trying to read your language charitably, and I assumed (!) that you would extend me the same courtesy. I see now that I was wrong, so I will endeavor to be more precise:

CR adherents *believe* they are starting their reasoning with problems but in fact (I claim) they are starting with some tacit underlying assumptions. For example, they are assuming that the word “problem” has a coherent meaning, that it actually identifies something that exists in reality from which a reasoning process can start. Furthermore, they have to assume that they are able to reliably identify problems, i.e. that they thing they are starting with that they think is a problem is in fact a problem. Furthermore, the process of *criticism*, which is so integral to the CR program, is also carried out in large part using natural language, to which the same issues apply. Words have to be defined somehow. This can be done in terms of other words, but that’s circular. You can ground out the recursion in sensory experience (as I tried to show in my blog post) but even that relies on a whole host of assumptions.

(By way of contrast, consider the alternative theory that “all reasoning starts with God.” Some people actually adhere to this theory. I believe that this theory is vacuous because “God” does not have a referent in the real world. But of course the people who adhere to this theory disagree with me rather vehemently about that and think I am deluded and misguided.)

But all of this is a distraction from what I think is a much more interesting question: why is this so important to you? Specifically, why is it so important to you to convince *me* that I’m wrong about this? There are literally billions of people out there who are wrong about billions of things. Why spend so much time and effort on *me* and this one question? Do you not have any more important things to do? Have you not seen https://xkcd.com/386/? Do you rally think that this is a substantive dispute? I’ve conceded that we *should* start reasoning from problems, that we should accept whatever underlying assumptions that requires and move on. Why is that not good enough for you?

rg

### Elliot Temple

May 15, 2019, 2:15:24 PM5/15/19
to FIGG, FIYG
On May 15, 2019, at 10:28 AM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:

>
> On May 15, 2019, at 2:06 AM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>
>> On May 14, 2019, at 11:38 PM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>>
>>> On May 14, 2019, at 7:47 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>>>
>>>>> Also, as long as I’m being pedantic, “reasoning” is the process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true.
>>>>
>>>> The term for that is “deduction”, not “reasoning”.
>>>
>>> No, deduction is a very specific kind of reasoning. It’s not the only kind. There’s inductive reasoning, abductive reasoning, Bayesian reasoning, appeal to authority (which can often be surprisingly effective if you choose your authorities wisely)...
>>
>> Can you describe the abductive reasoning process, as you understand it? I don’t believe it fits the description "process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true”.
>
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abductive_reasoning
>
> An example: “The earth appears to me to be flat, therefore it is in fact flat.” (Abductive reasoning is not generally valid, though it often leads to conclusions that are close enough to being correct that abduction can be a useful tool in certain circumstances. For example, “The sun has risen every day in the past, therefore it will continue to rise every day in the future.”)

>>>> The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions.
>>>
>>> No
>>
>> You now say “No” to my sentence, whereas in your previous email you said "I don’t deny any of this.” about it. Since you’ve both agreed and disagreed with this statement, you've contradicted yourself.
>
> No :-)
>
> The meanings of utterances depend on their contexts. When I said, “I don’t dispute any of this” in response to about a dozen paragraphs of text what I meant was,

You did not say that. You’re misquoting yourself even though the correct text is right there in my paragraph that you’re replying to.

Further, you did not say it (the actual quote) in response to dozens of paragraphs of text. You said it in response to 5 sentences of text which you had selected.

It’s important to get facts right in order for discussion to work well.

> CR adherents *believe* they are starting their reasoning with problems but in fact (I claim) they are starting with some tacit underlying assumptions.

So your actual position is that you believe CR is false? (That is not what you communicated before.)

> But all of this is a distraction from what I think is a much more interesting question: why is this so important to you? Specifically, why is it so important to you to convince *me* that I’m wrong about this?

I'm trying to have a rational, critical discussion in hopes one or more of us could learn something from our errors. Why you? Because you claimed to be interested in this project and in CR, and claimed to have significant, relevant knowledge, and you are willing to write things online and have written a significant amount in the past. The world doesn’t have enough people meeting those criteria.

However, what I’m finding is that you are not a curious person. You aren’t trying to learn. You have no questions about aspects of CR you want to learn about. You’re trying to debate in an adversarial way, but you keep contradicting yourself and moving goalposts, and you don’t have the skill to track details well enough. I hoped that after you found out you were wrong about some of your claims then you would become less arrogant and then consider that maybe you have more to learn, but I now doubt that will happen (and, in the alternative, it would be wonderful if you could teach me something, but I also now doubt that will happen due to all the errors I’ve pointed out).

Elliot Temple
www.fallibleideas.com

### Ron Garret

May 15, 2019, 2:59:48 PM5/15/19

On May 15, 2019, at 11:15 AM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

> On May 15, 2019, at 10:28 AM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>
>>
>> On May 15, 2019, at 2:06 AM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>>
>>> On May 14, 2019, at 11:38 PM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>>>
>>>> On May 14, 2019, at 7:47 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>>>>
>>>>>> Also, as long as I’m being pedantic, “reasoning” is the process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true.
>>>>>
>>>>> The term for that is “deduction”, not “reasoning”.
>>>>
>>>> No, deduction is a very specific kind of reasoning. It’s not the only kind. There’s inductive reasoning, abductive reasoning, Bayesian reasoning, appeal to authority (which can often be surprisingly effective if you choose your authorities wisely)...
>>>
>>> Can you describe the abductive reasoning process, as you understand it? I don’t believe it fits the description "process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true”.
>>
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abductive_reasoning
>>
>> An example: “The earth appears to me to be flat, therefore it is in fact flat.” (Abductive reasoning is not generally valid, though it often leads to conclusions that are close enough to being correct that abduction can be a useful tool in certain circumstances. For example, “The sun has risen every day in the past, therefore it will continue to rise every day in the future.”)
>
> I didn’t ask for an example or link, I asked for a description of the process.

Sorry, I don’t have time to write my own description of abduction. Pointing you to a description written by someone else is the most I am willing to do. (I don’t see why you think this matters.)

>>>>> The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions.
>>>>
>>>> No
>>>
>>> You now say “No” to my sentence, whereas in your previous email you said "I don’t deny any of this.” about it. Since you’ve both agreed and disagreed with this statement, you've contradicted yourself.
>>
>> No :-)
>>
>> The meanings of utterances depend on their contexts. When I said, “I don’t dispute any of this” in response to about a dozen paragraphs of text what I meant was,
>
> You did not say that. You’re misquoting yourself even though the correct text is right there in my paragraph that you’re replying to.

You’re right, I carelessly substituted the word “dispute” for “deny”. Do you really think that made a substantive difference?

> Further, you did not say it (the actual quote) in response to dozens of paragraphs of text. You said it in response to 5 sentences of text which you had selected.

Good grief. Yes, we’ve been through this. I elided a lot of text in order to try to keep my response from getting too long. You chided me for that, and I’ve tried to stop doing it. That doesn’t change the fact that the meaning of what I wrote — both times — is that I believe there are no substantive differences between what I believe and what you wrote.

> It’s important to get facts right in order for discussion to work well.

It’s also important not to spend too much time focusing on trivial details.

>> CR adherents *believe* they are starting their reasoning with problems but in fact (I claim) they are starting with some tacit underlying assumptions.
>
> So your actual position is that you believe CR is false? (That is not what you communicated before.)

What would it even *mean* for CR to be false? CR is not a factual claim. CR is a description of a process, a recipe for doing reasoning. I believe it’s *effective*, but asking whether it is true or false is a category error. It’s like asking whether or not justice is green.

>> But all of this is a distraction from what I think is a much more interesting question: why is this so important to you? Specifically, why is it so important to you to convince *me* that I’m wrong about this?
>
> I'm trying to have a rational, critical discussion in hopes one or more of us could learn something from our errors.

That claim is not supported by the evidence. It seems to me that what you are really trying to do is to get me to concede something so that you can claim intellectual superiority over me.

> Why you?

Because I am an adherent of CR and so I am always willing to have my ideas subjected to criticism. If I’m wrong about something, I want to know. So far you have not convinced me that I’m wrong. At best, you’ve convinced me that I’m occasionally careless, but I would have conceded that right away.

> Because you claimed to be interested in this project and in CR,

Sure.

> and claimed to have significant, relevant knowledge,

Did I? I don’t think so. I have no idea whether my knowledge is significant or relevant. You invited me here, and it seemed interesting, so I came.

> and you are willing to write things online and have written a significant amount in the past. The world doesn’t have enough people meeting those criteria.

OK, I’ll accept that. But let me make a constructive suggestion here: I read some of the material on your web site. If you really want to argue about something substantive I suggest you start with this:

http://blog.rongarret.info/2013/03/murray-rothbard-was-idiot.html

I’m pretty sure you will find plenty there to disagree with me on.

Or we could drop this and pick up with MWI. Your call. But given the level of precision you are demanding from me I am only going to be able to sustain one thread at a time.

> However, what I’m finding is that you are not a curious person. You aren’t trying to learn.

Funny, that’s exactly the impression I’m getting from you.

> You have no questions about aspects of CR you want to learn about.

That’s right. That’s because I see no evidence that you understand it any better than I do, or that you have anything worthwhile to teach me about it. To the contrary, I see quite a bit of evidence that you don’t understand some fairly critical aspects of CR, and that you are not willing to entertain this as a serious possibility. In particular, you are not conducting yourself as someone who understands what is meant by “languages are theories.” If you did, you would not be quibbling over the difference between “dispute” and “deny”.

> You’re trying to debate in an adversarial way, but you keep contradicting yourself and moving goalposts, and you don’t have the skill to track details well enough.

Don’t confuse “not having the skill” with “not being willing to invest the time and effort.” The question of whether or not all reasoning starts with assumptions is ultimately a trivial and unimportant one. I made that claim in a particular context and for a particular audience. That context does not apply here, and that audience is not present here (AFAICT). If you perceived the situation completely and correctly you would realize that I was making that claim to advance a goal that you and I at least ostensibly share, and you would be trying to work with me to try to find common ground and a way to work together towards that common goal rather than giving me a hard time over the fact that I can sometimes be absent-minded.

An important part of CR is choosing the right problem to start with, and knowing when to cut someone some slack. Because life is short and resources are limited.

> I hoped that after you found out you were wrong about some of your claims then you would become less arrogant and then consider that maybe you have more to learn, but I now doubt that will happen (and, in the alternative, it would be wonderful if you could teach me something, but I also now doubt that will happen due to all the errors I’ve pointed out).

Yes, well, that train is currently running both ways.

rg

### Alan Forrester

May 15, 2019, 5:07:09 PM5/15/19
to FIGG, FI
On 15 May 2019, at 19:59, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:

> On May 15, 2019, at 11:15 AM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>
>> On May 15, 2019, at 10:28 AM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>>
>>>
>>> On May 15, 2019, at 2:06 AM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>>>
>>>> On May 14, 2019, at 11:38 PM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> On May 14, 2019, at 7:47 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>>>> Also, as long as I’m being pedantic, “reasoning” is the process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> The term for that is “deduction”, not “reasoning”.
>>>>>
>>>>> No, deduction is a very specific kind of reasoning. It’s not the only kind. There’s inductive reasoning, abductive reasoning, Bayesian reasoning, appeal to authority (which can often be surprisingly effective if you choose your authorities wisely)...
>>>>
>>>> Can you describe the abductive reasoning process, as you understand it? I don’t believe it fits the description "process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true”.
>>>
>>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abductive_reasoning
>>>
>>> An example: “The earth appears to me to be flat, therefore it is in fact flat.” (Abductive reasoning is not generally valid, though it often leads to conclusions that are close enough to being correct that abduction can be a useful tool in certain circumstances. For example, “The sun has risen every day in the past, therefore it will continue to rise every day in the future.”)
>>
>> I didn’t ask for an example or link, I asked for a description of the process.
>
> Sorry, I don’t have time to write my own description of abduction. Pointing you to a description written by someone else is the most I am willing to do. (I don’t see why you think this matters.)

You claim that there is a process called abductive reasoning. At the link you gave, the first sentence reads:

> Abductive reasoning (also called abduction,[1] abductive inference,[1] or retroduction[2]) is a form of logical inference which starts with an observation or set of observations then seeks to find the simplest and most likely explanation for the observations.

This is different from your earlier description of reasoning: "process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true”.

One reason for asking you to explain is that you should either give a clear account of how adductive reasoning works, or admit that you’re confused. We will then be in the position of agreeing that you have a problem that you should work on solving.

>>>>>> The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions.
>>>>>
>>>>> No
>>>>
>>>> You now say “No” to my sentence, whereas in your previous email you said "I don’t deny any of this.” about it. Since you’ve both agreed and disagreed with this statement, you've contradicted yourself.
>>>
>>> No :-)
>>>
>>> The meanings of utterances depend on their contexts. When I said, “I don’t dispute any of this” in response to about a dozen paragraphs of text what I meant was,
>>
>> You did not say that. You’re misquoting yourself even though the correct text is right there in my paragraph that you’re replying to.
>
> You’re right, I carelessly substituted the word “dispute” for “deny”. Do you really think that made a substantive difference?

Misquoting is very bad for discussion. We disagree about substantive issues. Changing quotes makes it more difficult to have a discussion because you might change stuff. We may disagree about what changes matter. So you may end up writing something that misrepresents my ideas or your own ideas.

>> Further, you did not say it (the actual quote) in response to dozens of paragraphs of text. You said it in response to 5 sentences of text which you had selected.
>
> Good grief. Yes, we’ve been through this. I elided a lot of text in order to try to keep my response from getting too long. You chided me for that, and I’ve tried to stop doing it. That doesn’t change the fact that the meaning of what I wrote — both times — is that I believe there are no substantive differences between what I believe and what you wrote.
>
>> It’s important to get facts right in order for discussion to work well.
>
> It’s also important not to spend too much time focusing on trivial details.

You shouldn’t think that you get to decide what details are minor in a disagreement with another person since you may have different standards.

>>> CR adherents *believe* they are starting their reasoning with problems but in fact (I claim) they are starting with some tacit underlying assumptions.
>>
>> So your actual position is that you believe CR is false? (That is not what you communicated before.)
>
> What would it even *mean* for CR to be false? CR is not a factual claim. CR is a description of a process, a recipe for doing reasoning. I believe it’s *effective*, but asking whether it is true or false is a category error. It’s like asking whether or not justice is green.

CR describes a process that is used to generate knowledge, and claims that all knowledge is generated by that process. So CR would be false if that process is impossible or some knowledge is generated by another process.

>>> But all of this is a distraction from what I think is a much more interesting question: why is this so important to you? Specifically, why is it so important to you to convince *me* that I’m wrong about this?
>>
>> I'm trying to have a rational, critical discussion in hopes one or more of us could learn something from our errors.
>
> That claim is not supported by the evidence. It seems to me that what you are really trying to do is to get me to concede something so that you can claim intellectual superiority over me.

Knowledge is created by finding and eliminating error. This can’t be done without pointing out error.

So pointing out an error gives you an opportunity to learn a better idea if you’re wrong, or point out why your ideas are wrong. This allows everyone involved in the discussion to have a chance to make progress.

>> Why you?
>
> Because I am an adherent of CR and so I am always willing to have my ideas subjected to criticism. If I’m wrong about something, I want to know. So far you have not convinced me that I’m wrong. At best, you’ve convinced me that I’m occasionally careless, but I would have conceded that right away.

If you’re careless then you could take more care and improve your discussions. Are you going to take more care?

>> Because you claimed to be interested in this project and in CR,
>
> Sure.
>
>> and claimed to have significant, relevant knowledge,
>
> Did I? I don’t think so. I have no idea whether my knowledge is significant or relevant. You invited me here, and it seemed interesting, so I came.

You’re writing a blog in which you claim that DD and others have made mistakes. That is a claim of significant knowledge.

>> and you are willing to write things online and have written a significant amount in the past. The world doesn’t have enough people meeting those criteria.
>
> OK, I’ll accept that. But let me make a constructive suggestion here: I read some of the material on your web site. If you really want to argue about something substantive I suggest you start with this:
>
> http://blog.rongarret.info/2013/03/murray-rothbard-was-idiot.html
>
> I’m pretty sure you will find plenty there to disagree with me on.
>
> Or we could drop this and pick up with MWI. Your call. But given the level of precision you are demanding from me I am only going to be able to sustain one thread at a time.

You have misquoted people and said you’re careless. These are substantive problems. If you think they’re not substantive problems that in itself is a substantive disagreement. And for reasons pointed out above, these problems would make discussion of other problems more difficult. So fixing your carelessness and misquoting is more important int eh current context than your views on other topics.

>> However, what I’m finding is that you are not a curious person. You aren’t trying to learn.
>
> Funny, that’s exactly the impression I’m getting from you.
>
>> You have no questions about aspects of CR you want to learn about.
>
> That’s right. That’s because I see no evidence that you understand it any better than I do, or that you have anything worthwhile to teach me about it. To the contrary, I see quite a bit of evidence that you don’t understand some fairly critical aspects of CR, and that you are not willing to entertain this as a serious possibility. In particular, you are not conducting yourself as someone who understands what is meant by “languages are theories.” If you did, you would not be quibbling over the difference between “dispute” and “deny”.

Quoting from FoR (p. 153):

> Languages are theories. In their vocabulary and grammar, they embody substantial assertions about the world. Whenever we state a theory, only a small part of its content is explicit: the rest is carried by the language. Like all theories, languages are invented and selected for their ability to solve certain problems. In this case the problems are those of expressing other theories in forms in which it is convenient to apply them, and to compare and criticize them.

Since languages are theories you can be mistaken about their content, as you can with other theories. So you should avoid changing sentences when you quote them cuz you might change the substance of their content.

>> You’re trying to debate in an adversarial way, but you keep contradicting yourself and moving goalposts, and you don’t have the skill to track details well enough.
>
> Don’t confuse “not having the skill” with “not being willing to invest the time and effort.” The question of whether or not all reasoning starts with assumptions is ultimately a trivial and unimportant one.

We are having a disagreement about whether that question is trivial.

> I made that claim in a particular context and for a particular audience. That context does not apply here, and that audience is not present here (AFAICT). If you perceived the situation completely and correctly you would realize that I was making that claim to advance a goal that you and I at least ostensibly share, and you would be trying to work with me to try to find common ground and a way to work together towards that common goal rather than giving me a hard time over the fact that I can sometimes be absent-minded.

We’re having a substantive disagreement about the importance of accurate quoting. You think it doesn’t matter, I do think it matters.

> An important part of CR is choosing the right problem to start with, and knowing when to cut someone some slack. Because life is short and resources are limited.

If you’re making mistakes that matters and you should aim to stop making those mistakes instead of saying they don’t matter. You should also be looking for related mistakes that happen as a result of the ideas that led to your mistakes:

https://curi.us/2190-errors-merit-post-mortems

>> I hoped that after you found out you were wrong about some of your claims then you would become less arrogant and then consider that maybe you have more to learn, but I now doubt that will happen (and, in the alternative, it would be wonderful if you could teach me something, but I also now doubt that will happen due to all the errors I’ve pointed out).
>
> Yes, well, that train is currently running both ways.

You’re being hostile. That is a mistake that makes intellectual progress more difficult since hostility isn’t a substantive response, so it clutters up your posts with irrelevant text. Hostility also gets in the way of you admitting and fixing errors.

Alan

### Ron Garret

May 15, 2019, 6:53:41 PM5/15/19

On May 15, 2019, at 2:06 PM, 'Alan Forrester' via Fallible Ideas <fallibl...@googlegroups.com> wrote:

> On 15 May 2019, at 19:59, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>
>> On May 15, 2019, at 11:15 AM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>>
>>> On May 15, 2019, at 10:28 AM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>>>
>>>>
>>>> On May 15, 2019, at 2:06 AM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> On May 14, 2019, at 11:38 PM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>>> On May 14, 2019, at 7:47 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> Also, as long as I’m being pedantic, “reasoning” is the process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true.
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> The term for that is “deduction”, not “reasoning”.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> No, deduction is a very specific kind of reasoning. It’s not the only kind. There’s inductive reasoning, abductive reasoning, Bayesian reasoning, appeal to authority (which can often be surprisingly effective if you choose your authorities wisely)...
>>>>>
>>>>> Can you describe the abductive reasoning process, as you understand it? I don’t believe it fits the description "process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true”.
>>>>
>>>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abductive_reasoning
>>>>
>>>> An example: “The earth appears to me to be flat, therefore it is in fact flat.” (Abductive reasoning is not generally valid, though it often leads to conclusions that are close enough to being correct that abduction can be a useful tool in certain circumstances. For example, “The sun has risen every day in the past, therefore it will continue to rise every day in the future.”)
>>>
>>> I didn’t ask for an example or link, I asked for a description of the process.
>>
>> Sorry, I don’t have time to write my own description of abduction. Pointing you to a description written by someone else is the most I am willing to do. (I don’t see why you think this matters.)
>
> You claim that there is a process called abductive reasoning. At the link you gave, the first sentence reads:
>
>> Abductive reasoning (also called abduction,[1] abductive inference,[1] or retroduction[2]) is a form of logical inference which starts with an observation or set of observations then seeks to find the simplest and most likely explanation for the observations.
>
>
> This is different from your earlier description of reasoning: "process of taking propositions that one believes to be true and using them to derive other propositions that one believes to be true”.
>
> One reason for asking you to explain is that you should either give a clear account of how adductive reasoning works, or admit that you’re confused. We will then be in the position of agreeing that you have a problem that you should work on solving.

I see. Just to make sure I understand what you’re saying, are you taking issue with the difference between “proposition that one believes to be true” and “observation”? To me it is obvious that an observation *is* a (particular kind of) proposition that one believes to be true, e.g. “I see a black crow.” So I’m not sure I understand the problem.

>>>>>>> The CR view is that we start our reasoning with *problems*, not assumptions.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> No
>>>>>
>>>>> You now say “No” to my sentence, whereas in your previous email you said "I don’t deny any of this.” about it. Since you’ve both agreed and disagreed with this statement, you've contradicted yourself.
>>>>
>>>> No :-)
>>>>
>>>> The meanings of utterances depend on their contexts. When I said, “I don’t dispute any of this” in response to about a dozen paragraphs of text what I meant was,
>>>
>>> You did not say that. You’re misquoting yourself even though the correct text is right there in my paragraph that you’re replying to.
>>
>> You’re right, I carelessly substituted the word “dispute” for “deny”. Do you really think that made a substantive difference?
>
> Misquoting is very bad for discussion. We disagree about substantive issues.

Do we? You are Alan Forrester, yes? I have no record or recollection of having corresponded with you before. What substantive issues do we disagree about?

> Changing quotes makes it more difficult to have a discussion because you might change stuff. We may disagree about what changes matter. So you may end up writing something that misrepresents my ideas or your own ideas.

Yes, that’s possible. But it is also possible that stating the same concept in two different ways will make it more likely that the concept that forms in your head from reading my words will match the one I was trying to communicate.

>>> Further, you did not say it (the actual quote) in response to dozens of paragraphs of text. You said it in response to 5 sentences of text which you had selected.
>>
>> Good grief. Yes, we’ve been through this. I elided a lot of text in order to try to keep my response from getting too long. You chided me for that, and I’ve tried to stop doing it. That doesn’t change the fact that the meaning of what I wrote — both times — is that I believe there are no substantive differences between what I believe and what you wrote.
>>
>>> It’s important to get facts right in order for discussion to work well.
>>
>> It’s also important not to spend too much time focusing on trivial details.
>
> You shouldn’t think that you get to decide what details are minor in a disagreement with another person since you may have different standards.

Sure. But I get to decide what matters *to me*, and how I allocate my time. So if someone cares about engaging with me, they will be more likely to keep my attention if they take my priorities into account when they decide what to focus on.

>>>> CR adherents *believe* they are starting their reasoning with problems but in fact (I claim) they are starting with some tacit underlying assumptions.
>>>
>>> So your actual position is that you believe CR is false? (That is not what you communicated before.)
>>
>> What would it even *mean* for CR to be false? CR is not a factual claim. CR is a description of a process, a recipe for doing reasoning. I believe it’s *effective*, but asking whether it is true or false is a category error. It’s like asking whether or not justice is green.
>
> CR describes a process that is used to generate knowledge, and claims that all knowledge is generated by that process. So CR would be false if that process is impossible or some knowledge is generated by another process.

Ah. I was not aware that CR made such a claim.

The truth or falsehood of that claim turns on the definition of “knowledge” which is highly controversial. So it seems like a very uninteresting question to me. CR is *effective* and that, for me, is reason enough to pursue it. There might be other processes that also produce results that could reasonably be considered knowledge. I’m not going to take a position on that here. This conversation has already spun way too far out of control for my tastes.

>>>> But all of this is a distraction from what I think is a much more interesting question: why is this so important to you? Specifically, why is it so important to you to convince *me* that I’m wrong about this?
>>>
>>> I'm trying to have a rational, critical discussion in hopes one or more of us could learn something from our errors.
>>
>> That claim is not supported by the evidence. It seems to me that what you are really trying to do is to get me to concede something so that you can claim intellectual superiority over me.
>
> Knowledge is created by finding and eliminating error. This can’t be done without pointing out error.
>
> So pointing out an error gives you an opportunity to learn a better idea if you’re wrong, or point out why your ideas are wrong. This allows everyone involved in the discussion to have a chance to make progress.

Yes, but two things: first, you have to be a little judicious in your choice of which errors to point out because some errors matter more than others and life is short. And second, you have to consider the possibility that you are in error when you are pointing out an error.

I am more than willing to consider the possibility that I’m wrong when I claim that all reasoning must start with assumptions, but so far I have not seen anyone present an actual *argument* to that effect. I am also far from convinced that the matter is worth pursuing at all, though I’m also more than willing to be convinced that I”m wrong about *that*. But again, I have yet to see anyone raise an argument for it.

>>> Why you?
>>
>> Because I am an adherent of CR and so I am always willing to have my ideas subjected to criticism. If I’m wrong about something, I want to know. So far you have not convinced me that I’m wrong. At best, you’ve convinced me that I’m occasionally careless, but I would have conceded that right away.
>
> If you’re careless then you could take more care and improve your discussions. Are you going to take more care?

That depends. Are you going to explain to me why it would be worth the effort?

>>> Because you claimed to be interested in this project and in CR,
>>
>> Sure.
>>
>>> and claimed to have significant, relevant knowledge,
>>
>> Did I? I don’t think so. I have no idea whether my knowledge is significant or relevant. You invited me here, and it seemed interesting, so I came.
>
> You’re writing a blog in which you claim that DD and others have made mistakes. That is a claim of significant knowledge.

Three things to note:

First, the post in which I claim that DD has made a mistake was written ten years ago, so it’s not exactly current.

Second, that post has two updates. The second one is:

"Deutsch just referred me to this paper which is the more formal formulation of his multiple-worlds theory. I must confess that on a cursory read it seems to be a compelling argument. So I may have to rethink this whole thing.”

If that doesn’t convince you that I’m willing to seriously consider the possibility that I might be wrong then I cannot imagine what would.

Third, the thing I am challenging DD about is not the physics but rather the *dramatic narrative* of shadow photons. So I don’t think it’s at all clear that I making “a claim of significant knowledge.” It could very well be an admission of confusion, like a physics student who thinks the twin paradox disproves relativity. (But I don’t think so. I’ve learned a lot about QM since I wrote that post, and at the moment I’m still standing by my original position, though not quite as confidently as when I first wrote it.)

>>> and you are willing to write things online and have written a significant amount in the past. The world doesn’t have enough people meeting those criteria.
>>
>> OK, I’ll accept that. But let me make a constructive suggestion here: I read some of the material on your web site. If you really want to argue about something substantive I suggest you start with this:
>>
>> http://blog.rongarret.info/2013/03/murray-rothbard-was-idiot.html
>>
>> I’m pretty sure you will find plenty there to disagree with me on.
>>
>> Or we could drop this and pick up with MWI. Your call. But given the level of precision you are demanding from me I am only going to be able to sustain one thread at a time.
>
> You have misquoted people and said you’re careless. These are substantive problems. If you think they’re not substantive problems that in itself is a substantive disagreement. And for reasons pointed out above, these problems would make discussion of other problems more difficult. So fixing your carelessness and misquoting is more important int eh current context than your views on other topics.

I didn’t misquote *people*, I misquoted *myself*. And the “misquote” was substituting the word “dispute” for “deny” (or maybe it was the other way around, I don’t recall, and I don’t feel like looking it up). If you think the difference between “dispute” and “deny” is substantive, well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree about that. I intended them to be synonyms.

> We’re having a substantive disagreement about the importance of accurate quoting.

No, we are having a stupid disagreement about whether or not “deny” and “dispute” mean the same thing. I neither deny nor dispute that accurate quoting is important in general. I deny and dispute that it matters in this particular instance.

You know what? This is a waste of time. I’m done.

rg

### anonymous FI

May 15, 2019, 7:08:53 PM5/15/19

On May 15, 2019, at 3:53 PM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:

> On May 15, 2019, at 2:06 PM, 'Alan Forrester' via Fallible Ideas
>
>> On 15 May 2019, at 19:59, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:
>>
>>> On May 15, 2019, at 11:15 AM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:
>>>
>>>> On May 15, 2019, at 10:28 AM, Ron Garret <r...@flownet.com> wrote:

Discussing:

https://blog.rongarret.info/2015/03/why-some-assumptions-are-better-than.html

>>>>> CR adherents *believe* they are starting their reasoning with
>>>>> problems but in fact (I claim) they are starting with some tacit
>>>>> underlying assumptions.
>>>>
>>>> So your actual position is that you believe CR is false? (That is
>>>> not what you communicated before.)
>>>
>>> What would it even *mean* for CR to be false? CR is not a factual
>>> claim. CR is a description of a process, a recipe for doing
>>> reasoning. I believe it’s *effective*, but asking whether it is
>>> true or false is a category error. It’s like asking whether or
>>> not justice is green.
>>
>> CR describes a process that is used to generate knowledge, and claims
>> that all knowledge is generated by that process. So CR would be false
>> if that process is impossible or some knowledge is generated by
>> another process.
>
> Ah. I was not aware that CR made such a claim.

material he's familiar with.

>>>>> But all of this is a distraction from what I think is a much more
>>>>> interesting question: why is this so important to you?
>>>>> Specifically, why is it so important to you to convince *me* that
>>>>
>>>> I'm trying to have a rational, critical discussion in hopes one or
>>>> more of us could learn something from our errors.
>>>
>>> That claim is not supported by the evidence. It seems to me that
>>> what you are really trying to do is to get me to concede something
>>> so that you can claim intellectual superiority over me.
>>
>> Knowledge is created by finding and eliminating error. This can’t
>> be done without pointing out error.
>>
>> So pointing out an error gives you an opportunity to learn a better
>> idea if you’re wrong, or point out why your ideas are wrong. This
>> allows everyone involved in the discussion to have a chance to make
>> progress.
>
> Yes, but two things: first, you have to be a little judicious in your
> choice of which errors to point out because some errors matter more
> than others and life is short. And second, you have to consider the
> possibility that you are in error when you are pointing out an error.

The only way to know how much an error matters is to figure out the
solution. Only after you figure out the solution can you look backwards
and see what the consequences of the error were. You don't know, in
advance, whether there will be small, quick fix or you'll have to change
lots of ideas connected with the error. Otherwise you're trying to
predict the future growth of knowledge, which BoI explains you can't do.

Similarly, if someone points out an error, yes the criticism could be
mistaken. The only way to find out which idea is mistaken (the original
or the criticism) is to resolve the issue – to take the intellectual
steps to figure the matter out – not to ignore it.

There exist approximate methods for guessing the importance of errors.
Although their reliability is rather questionable (b/c of the above),
using them is not out of the question, but the method should be
carefully examined for potential problems. If you have and use such a
method, you (or someone else) should write it down and critically
analyze it and also make it available for your discussion partners to
critically analyze (because it significantly affects your discussions
with them).

This is related to the general issue of writing down and sharing your
discussion methods and rules, instead of having them be unwritten rules
which are not exposed to criticism and which you want other people to

### anonymous FI

May 15, 2019, 7:20:46 PM5/15/19

On May 15, 2019, at 4:08 PM, anonymous FI
In other words, RG did not give his discussion partners access to his
error-importance estimation method/function. Nevertheless, he expects
them to run it, get the same output he gets, and then ignore the errors
it says are low importance.

How can he have such an expectation? Because his error-importance
estimation method is, to some approximation, culturally-standard common
sense. RG thinks all reasonable people think as he does (within certain
error bars in various dimensions, not identically) so there's no need to
communicate about thinking methods with them. This is a really common
error.

But common sense isn't so common. Conventional, unoriginal people, who
are just accepting what they've picked up from their culture, still
differ quite a bit. So even with people who don't have a different way
of thinking (e.g. CR), what RG is doing wouldn't work well. This is a
really common error and is behind a lot of the bickering you see in
online discussions. Two reasonably normal people try to converse and
find out, indirectly (and often quite frustratingly), that their
discussion methods (including unimportant error estimation methods)
differ significantly. Meanwhile the same people are generally hostile to
the idea of writing down their discussion methodology, even though they
don't claim anyone else has ever written it down in a way they would
agree with, endorse, and take personal responsibility for.