Opinions everywhere

Secondly, I say something like this: “I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself, maybe to head off an argument or bring one to a close. Well, as soon as you walk into this room, it’s no longer true. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.”

~ Patrick Stokes from, https://theconversation.com/no-youre-not-entitled-to-your-opinion-9978

Stokes is a professor, and I rarely find myself in a teaching context. When I hear someone express an opinion, I make an assessment of their argument. Did they actually give a coherent argument? Did they give a sketch of one? Do they seem the sort of person who could give an argument in support of their opinion? To be clear, I’m not judging the person, but rather I’m trying to judge the ideas espoused.

Surprising to me, it’s become clear it’s often not obvious when something is a fact versus an opinion.

On the flip side, I try to signal my level confidence in my opinions. I’m trying to banish the phrase, “I think…” because it carries no meaning. Instead I try to say, “It seems obvious to me that…”, “I read somewhere that…”, “So-and-so told me that…”, or “It happened to me that…”


Go forward

I’m not trying to sound like Mr. Smiley Positive Guy. That guy ignores the hard truth. That guy thinks a positive attitude will solve problems. It won’t. But neither will dwelling on the problem. No. Accept reality, but focus on the solution. Take that issue, take that setback, take that problem, and turn it into something good. Go forward. And, if you’re part of a team, that attitude will spread throughout.

~ Jocko Willink


Two guides

Two ways exist to guide human activity. One is to force a person to act against his wishes; The other is to guide a person’s wishes, to persuade him with reasoning. One is the way of violence: It is used by ignorant people, and it leads to complete disappointment. The other is supported by experience, and is always successful.

~ Abraham Comb


Reasons and persons

You’ve probably heard this scenario before. It originally comes from Derek Parfit’s 1984 book Reasons and Persons, where he actually answers the question. (Though you may not like the answer.) To answer it, he has to go though a set of even weirder scenarios. Here’s most of them, edited aggressively.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/no-self/

This article turns a number of complicated thought experiments into a disorienting dash through a hall of mirrors. I’ve not read Parfit’s book, but I’ve encountered these sorts of thought experiments before. On one hand I’m drawn to thinking about them because I feel I should be able to have some foundational, (although not necessarily simple,) principles that I can use to answer them. Which is a working definition of, “I want to be rational.” Until I start really digging into the experiments and things get really complicated. Why, it’s as if being a limited-in-resources mind forced to interact with in an intractably complex world, may not be something with a clear, correct, let alone singular, solution.


Everything has two handles

Everything has two handles, by one of which it may be carried, and by the other not. If your brother wrongs you, do not take it by this handle, that he is wronging you (for this is the handle that it cannot be carried by), but by the other, that he is your brother, that he was brought up with you, and then you will be taking it by the handle by which it ought to be carried.

~ Epictetus


Doing discourse better

Do conversations have known best practices? How much do they improve the odds of landing on the truth?

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/2020/09/29/doing-discourse-better-stuff-i-wish-i-knew/

I hate this terrific article. It’s completely stuffed with great ideas and great questions… and exactly zero answers. It starts talking about the particular type of conversation where two people acting benevolently are trying to find the truth about something under discussion. (Here I snicker at all of humanity, and myself, because we’ve been having conversations for like a gazillion years and we don’t yet know how to do it well.) It then narrows down to discussing just online conversations. Said narrowing feels like a great idea because there are a lot of online conversations and it feels like something we should be able to be good at. (Again here, snickering is warranted.) Anyway, at least some people are trying. Maybe, just maybe this is the epoch we get it sorted out?