“It would be a great mistake to suppose that vague knowledge must be false. On the contrary, a vague belief has a much better chance of being true than a precise one, because there are more possible facts that would verify it. If I believe that so-and-so is tall, I am more likely to be right than if I believe that his heigh is between 6 ft. 2 in. and 6 ft. 3 in. In regard to beliefs and propositions, though not in regard to single words, we can distinguish between accuracy and precision. A belief is precise when only one fact would verify it; it is accurate when it is both precise and true. Precision diminishes the likelihood of truth, but often increases the pragmatic value of a belief if it is true — for example, in the case of the water that contained the typhoid bacilli. Science is perpetually trying to substitute more precise beliefs for vague ones; this makes it harder for a scientific proposition to be true than for the vague beliefs of uneducated persons to be true, but it makes scientific truth better worth having if it can be obtained.”

Upon encountering passive and active resistance, and apathy regarding my persistent (- but I will be the first to note, of questionably formal precision -) focus on logic, rationality, limits, formalism: I ponder some more on the relationships of the above to emotions, building of opinions and changing of minds.

It was said that logic, formalism, rationality and evidence are all fine and dandy, but they do not comprise what it takes to influence minds into doing XYZ. It was said that people make up their minds, change them et. al. based on emotions and no strength of logic will get Joe/Jane to do something they wouldn’t do if it weren’t for another’s influence. In other words, an appeal to people’s reason is inconsequential. Shouting against the wind. Also, who is to say nonformal, haphazard, inconsistent or whimsical means, methods and frameworks do not contain truth or do not offer equally valid approaches at getting at answers.

There is a lot of truth in the above statements, and they contain little I would disagree with if presented as such. However, I have to state where logic, formalism, demonstration of evidence, appeal to reason etc. do play a role. Perhaps I will present this as a laundry list.

  • We are minds that do not start out with complete knowledge of everything. In other words, we need to learn to fill in the incompleteness in our knowledge.
  • We need to exchange information in order to learn.
  • If it were true that one needs to influence a mind in a write-only (or more write-only than read-write) fashion, then a formal system that uses logic, reasoning to build on established ideas and principles is probably not the most effective instrument.
  • I am more interested in the “read” part of “read-write” than in the “write” part.
  • The “read” part of “read-write” is important. This is what enables learning.
  • For the read part of read-write to be effective, demagoguery is not the right instrument. The below bullet-points on this.
  • If my mind were to provably advance in knowledge-update, it has to convey information to another mind in clear, transparent ways where the path traversed to labels are visible to the other mind. Elaboration in next bullet.
  • When a held position and its motivations are transparently exposed to another mind, that is when the other mind can offer checks and guidelines to further knowledge-update to my own mind. By occluding the traversed paths i.e. introducing any non-transparency, I may protect myself from criticism, but I will be stubbing out learning along that unexposed vector.
  • The above bullet point means that while an argument by emotion, or to emotion, such as appeal to emotion may hold truth value and may convey truth to a mind, this truth value may not be establishable in a framework where the path-transparency is guaranteed. In other words, this truth that may be felt is not provable leading to lack of transparency, leading to lack of utility in further guaranteeable knowledge update.
  • This is why, while a statement such as “I’ll vote for Clinton, because I feel good about her” may hold intrinsic appeal and may be above reproach, and that is how people may decide on their voting, its intercommunicability-value with another mind is low. Lack of transparency means lack of communicability on a commonly establishable basis.
  • The role of logic, formalism and reasoning is to provide a framework which if accepted by minds engaging in answer-seeking, lead to establishable ideas the trails to which remain transparent, and further provide transparent trails to other ideas following the same system that led to the labeling of intermediate nodes.
  • This, in my opinion is the value of reasoning and frameworks. It is “establishability” of meaning that can be held common across minds.




“In The Simpsons episode Itchy and Scratchy Land during a robot attack Lisa attempts to defeat the robots with the liar paradox only to find they have already been introduced to it unlike Homer who go crazy trying to figure it out.”




The writers of The Simpsons imagined a Homerian brain going crazy upon encountering the liar paradox. However this does not demonstrate to me the dumbness of the H-brain. Unsmartness, perhaps. By going loopy over the paradox, Homer’s mind redeems itself quite well imo and demonstrates its nondumbness. A truly dumb H-brain (Homer*) may (I am speculating here) not see the paradox at all; in any case, may not consider it even slightly noteworthy. I would have Homer* go looking for donuts or something, upon encountering the paradox.

One instance of the failure to self-diagnose the fallacy of composition that I have come across in a real conversation is this: Person X that I am conversing with says “Anything you observe in the universe has a cause/has something else outside of it/there was a time before which the thing existed. There has to be a cause for the universe/there is something else outside of it/there was a time before which the universe existed.” This fallacy is very common, but this example is one of the classic ones.

Check out these two portentous videos: Reassembling modular robot, Replicating robot

[Jail. Inmate Bulldog walks up to inmate Newbie. Bulldog is a hulk of a man, with false teeth, gruff baritone voice; his sunburnt skin is covered with swathes of scars and tattoos. A Hulk Hogan type towering mass of testosterone. Newbie is an excuse for a man, deathly pale, speaks in squeaks and whimpers; spectacles too heavy for his face. Napolean Dynamite type. They’ve been forced to introduce themselves to each other by the warden.]

Newbie: Wh-wh-what you in for, sir?

Bulldog: Terrorism, genocide, baby-killing, drug-peddling, running over 5 wives for insurance money, producing chemical weapons in my bathroom…

Newbie: I..I..

Bulldog: ..and I kicked a 3 legged puppy on the way here. What did you do, you little *$%#$?

Newbie: I.. (clears throat) computed the value of pi to the 1349193136497th decimal place..

Bulldog: So? that’s not a crime, you ^$#% $%%!

Newbie: ..and then.. (there is lightning and thunder, amidst sudden pitch darkness as Newbie’s voice deepens to an inhuman bass. Mephistophelian music is heard) ..I – computed – the – 1349193136498th – decimal – place!

Bulldog: (shrieks incredulously) Aayiiiiiiiie! No, you didn’t!

Newbie: (solemnly) Yes, I did.

Bulldog: (Horrified) You heartless, vile, subhuman cretin! (Retreats to the corner, lies down, to assume fetal position and cower).

What the hell is overanalysis and what is so evil about it?