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Psychiatrist Scott Alexander blogs at SlateStarCodex.com:

I remember one time one of my patients missed a session because his flight back from vacation was delayed. I told my supervisor this and he got angry with me, saying it was superficial to blame it on the flight instead of talking about which of my comments had triggered the patient and made him decide to miss his plane. I insisted that we’d had a perfectly good session the week before, that the delayed plane had just been a delayed plane, and me and my supervisor got angrier and angrier at each other for both missing what the other thought was the point. Finally I got on the Internet and managed to prove that my patient’s plane really had been delayed to the point where it was impossible for him to have made my appointment, at which point my supervisor switched the discussion to why it was so important to me to believe that his plane had been delayed that I would do an Internet search about it, and whether I was trying to defend against the unbearable notion that my patient might ever voluntarily miss one of our sessions. …

But this method also reminds me of something else. This is Christopher Hitchens:

“I think Hannah Arendt said that one of the great achievements of Stalinism was to replace all discussion involving arguments and evidence with the question of motive. If someone were to say, for example, that there are many people in the Soviet Union who don’t have enough to eat, it might make sense for them to respond, “It’s not our fault, it was the weather, a bad harvest or something.” Instead it’s always, “Why is this person saying this, and why are they saying it in such and such a magazine? It must be that this is part of a plan.”

The avoidance of object-level discussion in favor of meta-level discussion can get really nasty, really quickly. … This can be more insidious when complaints are less dramatic and less binary – I know a lot of psychiatrists who will respond to people saying their medication isn’t working (or is causing side effects), with analyzing their motives for wanting to piss off their psychiatrist or stay unhealthy. And finally, this is absolutely fatal to any kind of complicated social discussion – the thing where instead of debating someone else’s assertion, you bulverize what self-interest or privilege causes them to believe it.

From Wikipedia:

The Bulverist assumes a speaker’s argument is invalid or false and then explains why the speaker came to make that mistake, attacking the speaker or the speaker’s motive. The term “Bulverism” was coined by C. S. Lewis to poke fun at a very serious error in thinking that, he alleges, recurs often in a variety of religious, political, and philosophical debates.

I get this all the time: What kind of horrible character flaw must have motivated me to have learned so many quantitative facts and have thought so logically about the topic that everybody agree is important: diversity?

 
89 Comments to "Bulverism"
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  1. Kylie says:

    “I get this all the time: What kind of horrible character flaw must have motivated me to have learned so many quantitative facts and have thought so logically about the topic that everybody agree is important: diversity?”

    The only thing I’ve ever wondered about you is whether you laugh out loud when you come up with an especially funny remark.

    It seems obvious to me that you wander wherever your interest leads you.

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  2. The Z Blog says: • Website

    I get this all the time: What kind of horrible character flaw must have motivated me to have learned so many quantitative facts and have thought so logically about the topic that everybody agree is important: diversity?

    Clearly, you are literally Hitler. Only Hitler would not know this.

    Read More
  3. Langley says:

    Marx’s False Conciseness.
    Don’t trust anyone over 30.
    Its a Black Thing – you wouldn’t understand.
    Basket of Deplorables.
    Possessed by the devil.

    Variations on “We don’t have to talk to you. We can kill you.”

    What is really interesting is that there is still the need of the speaker to justify his own actions instead of just killing his enemy.

    This may be a new development.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Gary in Gramercy
    "Marx's False Conciseness."

    Is this (i) a simple error (Marxist thought includes the concept of "false consciousness"), (ii) a neologism, or (iii) a subtle joke (Marx was nothing if not prolix)?
  4. Kylie says:
    @The Z Blog
    I get this all the time: What kind of horrible character flaw must have motivated me to have learned so many quantitative facts and have thought so logically about the topic that everybody agree is important: diversity?

    Clearly, you are literally Hitler. Only Hitler would not know this.

    Is Steve Hitler or Trump?

    Read More
    • Replies: @White Guy In Japan
    Both are Hitler. In the future everyone will be Hitler for 15 minutes.
    , @JohnnyWalker123
    Eisenhower.
  5. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    speaking as a youtube commenter – motives are important, too. let’s face it, there’s just no talking to some people – sjws, ethnic agitators, CtR trolls (it helps if one can prove it, which, on the Internets, one mostly and sadly can’t, so it becomes a losing debate strategy)

    the purpose of the ((())), too, is to signal possible ulterior motives.

    I agree it’s a problem when it’s the only mode of conversation in a society, though

    PS site won’t let me post under my usual handle – ussr andy

    Read More
  6. Alfa158 says:

    David Steinberg used to hilarious skits on the Smothers Brothers show in which he played a deranged psychotherapist. I have known a few people in the profession and it definitely seems to attract a disproportionate share of somewhat out of whack people like the supervisor described.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Langley
    We go into psychology looking for answers to our problems.

    In graduate school all of my classmates did me-search instead of research.

    Trudy Narikio wrote on Asian women trying to live up to European standards of beauty.
    Jon Shiraki studied gifted underachievers (before he dropped out).
    Amando Cablas looked at the challenges of first generation college students.
    My research investigated moral superiority in hansom, brilliant, athletes.

    We never did find those answers.

    , @Anonymous Nephew
    "it definitely seems to attract a disproportionate share of somewhat out of whack people"

    In both psychiatry and mental health nursing they're a minority, but a larger minority than you'd expect by chance.
  7. Marina says:

    Shrinks are so used to looking for secret emotional reasons why therapy might not be working that they refuse to accept other explanations beyond your own naughty psyche. My parents, brother and I were supposed to have our first family therapy session (he was acting out quite badly toward me then) and I had taken ill a day or two before with inexplicable, severe vertigo and headaches. My parents realized I was sick and told me to stay home and attended the session with just my brother. At the session, the psychologist assumed I was malingering to get out of attending. When my parents insisted this was impossible, the therapist instead decided this was a pyschosomatic response due to my feelings about the family therapy session. Nothing could sway her from this.

    A few days later, a real doctor and a blood test confirmed I had Lyme disease. I’m still cheesed off about this and it’s been a decade.

    Read More
    • Replies: @James Edward
    Real doctors try to base their diagnoses on medical facts. Head shrinkers live in a world of incorporeal vapor, where facts are at most an annoyance. So it's no surprise when a "psychologist" leaps to a conclusion about your state of physical health without having any actual, you know, "facts." Like they say, when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
  8. Glossy says: • Website

    Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here. When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost. The “arguments” and “facts” they cite are usually inept window dressing. Their main value is to help you figure out other people’s motives, which are usually different from the ones they advertise.

    Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards. The rest of the world isn’t even trying most of the time.

    Scott came up with an example where thinking about motives led to the wrong conclusion, but anyone could think of examples that would show the opposite. The general rule of thumb should be “think about the possible motives, think WHY this person would want to say this? What are his background and history, what are his relationships to other relevant people? What does he want from you and others?”

    Those should be your first questions. Common sense and life experience tell me that on average this approach is better than taking people’s claims at face value.

    Read More
    • Replies: @SFG
    I think it depends on the situation. Politics tends toward Bulverism because people in the political arena almost always have ulterior motives. In some cases they may not even be aware of them themselves. Late planes, well, sometimes the plane is late.

    Similarly, in business there's always an ulterior motive because you're actually trying to screw each other. But people will prefer one movie over another because it's more fun most of the time.
    , @SPMoore8
    "When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost." That may be true on an inter-personal level but it is not appropriate on the intellectual or scholarly level, which is where a lot of thus stuff is actually done.

    For example, Steve is clearly interested in HBD, like many here. I would guess that they came to this study because of the reactions to intelligence/genetics research (screaming and yelling always attracts attention, after all), then looked at it, then spent a long time puzzled by it, and then pursued it. That is actually the way people study things.

    However, the usual contextual explanation for such things is to say something along the lines of "The only reason that X is studying Y is because Z personal failure and/or personal shortcoming." That's the typical way of dispensing not only with someone else's intellectual work but also their mere intellectual interests.

    It goes way beyond the typical method for dispensing with comments and even entire subjects you don't like: "X is crazy, deluded, or else is a dishonest hater." It assumes that even to raise the subject for analysis is wrong.

    Simple fact is, sometimes people study things, and write about things, because their curiosity is aroused, and they sense the current discussion is distorted by affective attitudes which are irrational at best. No more, no less. Curiosity is the one motive that gets somewhere.
    , @Anonymous
    An important distinction I would make is between claims that rest on the credibility of the speaker and claims that can be verified or falsified independently. If someone says they witnessed a murder, you might have no better alternative than to question their motives and history to determine how credible that claim is. This isn't ideal because they might be telling the truth regardless of how much it serves their interests for you to believe them.

    On the other hand, most claims about public issues are not like that. A person can say that some statistic is in a government report, and if you don't believe them, you can check that for yourself. No matter how self-serving it might be, if it's there, then it's there. CS Lewis is quoted in the Wiki article making the point like this:

    Suppose I think, after doing my accounts, that I have a large balance at the bank. And suppose you want to find out whether this belief of mine is "wishful thinking." You can never come to any conclusion by examining my psychological condition. Your only chance of finding out is to sit down and work through the sum yourself. When you have checked my figures, then, and then only, will you know whether I have that balance or not. If you find my arithmetic correct, then no amount of vapouring about my psychological condition can be anything but a waste of time. If you find my arithmetic wrong, then it may be relevant to explain psychologically how I came to be so bad at my arithmetic, and the doctrine of the concealed wish will become relevant — but only after you have yourself done the sum and discovered me to be wrong on purely arithmetical grounds. It is the same with all thinking and all systems of thought. If you try to find out which are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must first find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like, go on and discover the psychological causes of the error.
     
    , @Desiderius
    Taking this approach fails simple tit-for-tat, and you end up missing out on a lot of easy positive-sum interactions. People that grow up in an environment dominated by such interactions can lose their capacity to accurately assess motive and are thus vulnerable to being taken advantage of, but that's no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    , @Anon
    When I want to hamstring someone for their political views in face to face interactions, I just let them talk. Most people who argue politics talk past each other and get nowhere. I sound all sympathetic like I really get their point of view--and I usually do--and then I point out all the flaws in their argument. It discombobulates them to be understood and yet still have the scaffolding knocked out from underneath them. I don't attempt to ram my point of view down their throat at all, I just point out the weaknesses in their own thinking and let them draw their own conclusions.
    , @Cletus Rothschild
    “Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here.”

    You're giving us a factual statement based on what you yourself describe as a lack of trust that other people's motives cannot be genuine. It's the opposite extreme of being gullible, and it's no more helpful in coming to an understanding of other people's motives.

    “Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards.”

    “Common sense and life experience tell me . . .”

    You provide us with a dismissive view of math and hard sciences along with a preferential trust in “common sense” and “life experiences”. It's the stereotypical conflation of skepticism and denialism.
    , @Anonymous
    I find the older I get, the more a person's potential motives hang around in the back of my mind while I talk to them (or read what they claim). I still evaluate what they say for content, but a healthy dose of skepticism seems to be just common sense.
    , @iffen
    A) We can have an honest dialogue in an effort to ascertain “the truth.”

    B) We can use persuasion and polemic to push our point of view.

    Some people pretend A while doing B, and that is why motive is as important as what is said.
    , @Negrolphin Pool
    Seems like it makes sense to first engage on the merits. If they repeatedly make unfalsifiable or wrong claims then evaluate on competence. If they seem competent or willfully incompetent, then question motives, if you must stick around. Else resort to other rhetorical means.
  9. JohnnyD says:

    Sadly, this is what today’s journalists do. They ignore one of the most basic rules of journalism: Never speculate about your subject’s motivations and character.

    Read More
  10. Langley says:
    @Alfa158
    David Steinberg used to hilarious skits on the Smothers Brothers show in which he played a deranged psychotherapist. I have known a few people in the profession and it definitely seems to attract a disproportionate share of somewhat out of whack people like the supervisor described.

    We go into psychology looking for answers to our problems.

    In graduate school all of my classmates did me-search instead of research.

    Trudy Narikio wrote on Asian women trying to live up to European standards of beauty.
    Jon Shiraki studied gifted underachievers (before he dropped out).
    Amando Cablas looked at the challenges of first generation college students.
    My research investigated moral superiority in hansom, brilliant, athletes.

    We never did find those answers.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Langley
    Steve, thinking about Trudy Narikio reminded me of some of her other research.

    She did a re-analysis of Ronald Johnston's work - The Hawaii Family Study of Cognition.

    http://blog.hawaii.edu/hfsc/research-highlights/

    She found that - yes - stereotypes DO have empirical validity.

    Her dissertation is probably available at Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii.
  11. I get this all the time

    No you don’t. We never ask you about this, and neither does your family or HL Mencken Society journalists, etc. What would compel you to make such a statement?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous Nephew
    If you google Steve's name, one of the top hits is a site called RationalWiki, which seems to bely its name by the hysterical SJWry therein. You would not recognise our esteemed host, whose posts always seem more in wry amusement or pity than anger, from his description.

    Yet he bears such things "with a patient shrug, for sufferance is his badge".
  12. Langley says:
    @Langley
    We go into psychology looking for answers to our problems.

    In graduate school all of my classmates did me-search instead of research.

    Trudy Narikio wrote on Asian women trying to live up to European standards of beauty.
    Jon Shiraki studied gifted underachievers (before he dropped out).
    Amando Cablas looked at the challenges of first generation college students.
    My research investigated moral superiority in hansom, brilliant, athletes.

    We never did find those answers.

    Steve, thinking about Trudy Narikio reminded me of some of her other research.

    She did a re-analysis of Ronald Johnston’s work – The Hawaii Family Study of Cognition.

    http://blog.hawaii.edu/hfsc/research-highlights/

    She found that – yes – stereotypes DO have empirical validity.

    Her dissertation is probably available at Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Negrolphin Pool
    No crap? Shoot, I was kinda hoping the SJW's were right about stereotypes. After my lying eyes had been stereotyping walls as not being 99.999% empty space for so long, it would make a neat parlor trick to go ahead and walk through one.
  13. SFG says:
    @Glossy
    Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here. When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost. The "arguments" and "facts" they cite are usually inept window dressing. Their main value is to help you figure out other people's motives, which are usually different from the ones they advertise.

    Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards. The rest of the world isn't even trying most of the time.

    Scott came up with an example where thinking about motives led to the wrong conclusion, but anyone could think of examples that would show the opposite. The general rule of thumb should be "think about the possible motives, think WHY this person would want to say this? What are his background and history, what are his relationships to other relevant people? What does he want from you and others?"

    Those should be your first questions. Common sense and life experience tell me that on average this approach is better than taking people's claims at face value.

    I think it depends on the situation. Politics tends toward Bulverism because people in the political arena almost always have ulterior motives. In some cases they may not even be aware of them themselves. Late planes, well, sometimes the plane is late.

    Similarly, in business there’s always an ulterior motive because you’re actually trying to screw each other. But people will prefer one movie over another because it’s more fun most of the time.

    Read More
  14. If you argue that races and genders aren’t all alike, one of the most common “rebuttals” you encounter, online and in real life, is that there must something wrong with you for “obsessing” about race and gender the way you do. Why do you care so much? Who but some sort of racist or misogynist or bigot or hater would bother to learn so much about the subject?

    Of course, that there are people, publications, academic departments, departments of government, diversity officers, etc., whose entire lives are dedicated to those very issues seems completely unremarkable to those “rebutting”.

    Goodthinkers are never to be compared to Badthinkers, except to say that they are Good, and those others are Bad.

    The notion that knowing what’s really true, as opposed to what’s said to be true, might actually allow one to understand and predict the world better, is just the sort of thing a racist and misogynist would say in defense of themselves. Because what else can they say?

    Read More
  15. SPMoore8 says:
    @Glossy
    Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here. When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost. The "arguments" and "facts" they cite are usually inept window dressing. Their main value is to help you figure out other people's motives, which are usually different from the ones they advertise.

    Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards. The rest of the world isn't even trying most of the time.

    Scott came up with an example where thinking about motives led to the wrong conclusion, but anyone could think of examples that would show the opposite. The general rule of thumb should be "think about the possible motives, think WHY this person would want to say this? What are his background and history, what are his relationships to other relevant people? What does he want from you and others?"

    Those should be your first questions. Common sense and life experience tell me that on average this approach is better than taking people's claims at face value.

    “When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost.” That may be true on an inter-personal level but it is not appropriate on the intellectual or scholarly level, which is where a lot of thus stuff is actually done.

    For example, Steve is clearly interested in HBD, like many here. I would guess that they came to this study because of the reactions to intelligence/genetics research (screaming and yelling always attracts attention, after all), then looked at it, then spent a long time puzzled by it, and then pursued it. That is actually the way people study things.

    However, the usual contextual explanation for such things is to say something along the lines of “The only reason that X is studying Y is because Z personal failure and/or personal shortcoming.” That’s the typical way of dispensing not only with someone else’s intellectual work but also their mere intellectual interests.

    It goes way beyond the typical method for dispensing with comments and even entire subjects you don’t like: “X is crazy, deluded, or else is a dishonest hater.” It assumes that even to raise the subject for analysis is wrong.

    Simple fact is, sometimes people study things, and write about things, because their curiosity is aroused, and they sense the current discussion is distorted by affective attitudes which are irrational at best. No more, no less. Curiosity is the one motive that gets somewhere.

    Read More
  16. Okie says:

    Isn’t this the whole idea behind mansplaining? I don’t have to listen to or even respond cuz it comes from a male mouth?
    FYI Apple spellcheck knows that word

    Read More
    • Replies: @SPMoore8
    I would assume the female equivalent to mansplaining would be womansplaining but maybe it's c*ntext. I do like this word, Bulverism. Doesn't actually have the reach I would like, but it will do.

    This is a good time to bring up Sapir-Whorf, again.
    , @Calpine
    Just switch it on them.

    "Oh, you're "Femsplaining" or "Gynoplaining", or that's a "Gynoplaint".
  17. @Langley
    Marx's False Conciseness.
    Don't trust anyone over 30.
    Its a Black Thing - you wouldn't understand.
    Basket of Deplorables.
    Possessed by the devil.

    Variations on "We don't have to talk to you. We can kill you."

    What is really interesting is that there is still the need of the speaker to justify his own actions instead of just killing his enemy.

    This may be a new development.

    “Marx’s False Conciseness.”

    Is this (i) a simple error (Marxist thought includes the concept of “false consciousness”), (ii) a neologism, or (iii) a subtle joke (Marx was nothing if not prolix)?

    Read More
  18. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Glossy
    Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here. When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost. The "arguments" and "facts" they cite are usually inept window dressing. Their main value is to help you figure out other people's motives, which are usually different from the ones they advertise.

    Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards. The rest of the world isn't even trying most of the time.

    Scott came up with an example where thinking about motives led to the wrong conclusion, but anyone could think of examples that would show the opposite. The general rule of thumb should be "think about the possible motives, think WHY this person would want to say this? What are his background and history, what are his relationships to other relevant people? What does he want from you and others?"

    Those should be your first questions. Common sense and life experience tell me that on average this approach is better than taking people's claims at face value.

    An important distinction I would make is between claims that rest on the credibility of the speaker and claims that can be verified or falsified independently. If someone says they witnessed a murder, you might have no better alternative than to question their motives and history to determine how credible that claim is. This isn’t ideal because they might be telling the truth regardless of how much it serves their interests for you to believe them.

    On the other hand, most claims about public issues are not like that. A person can say that some statistic is in a government report, and if you don’t believe them, you can check that for yourself. No matter how self-serving it might be, if it’s there, then it’s there. CS Lewis is quoted in the Wiki article making the point like this:

    Suppose I think, after doing my accounts, that I have a large balance at the bank. And suppose you want to find out whether this belief of mine is “wishful thinking.” You can never come to any conclusion by examining my psychological condition. Your only chance of finding out is to sit down and work through the sum yourself. When you have checked my figures, then, and then only, will you know whether I have that balance or not. If you find my arithmetic correct, then no amount of vapouring about my psychological condition can be anything but a waste of time. If you find my arithmetic wrong, then it may be relevant to explain psychologically how I came to be so bad at my arithmetic, and the doctrine of the concealed wish will become relevant — but only after you have yourself done the sum and discovered me to be wrong on purely arithmetical grounds. It is the same with all thinking and all systems of thought. If you try to find out which are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must first find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like, go on and discover the psychological causes of the error.

    Read More
  19. SPMoore8 says:
    @Okie
    Isn't this the whole idea behind mansplaining? I don't have to listen to or even respond cuz it comes from a male mouth?
    FYI Apple spellcheck knows that word

    I would assume the female equivalent to mansplaining would be womansplaining but maybe it’s c*ntext. I do like this word, Bulverism. Doesn’t actually have the reach I would like, but it will do.

    This is a good time to bring up Sapir-Whorf, again.

    Read More
    • Replies: @SFG
    Heartiste came up with 'femoting', which didn't spread as far as I'd like.
  20. SFG says:
    @SPMoore8
    I would assume the female equivalent to mansplaining would be womansplaining but maybe it's c*ntext. I do like this word, Bulverism. Doesn't actually have the reach I would like, but it will do.

    This is a good time to bring up Sapir-Whorf, again.

    Heartiste came up with ‘femoting’, which didn’t spread as far as I’d like.

    Read More
  21. For some reason I always get Bulverism mixed up with the Warren Beatty film Bulworth.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Harry Baldwin
    For some reason when people talk about Whit Stillman films I always think of Slim Whitman music.
    , @Jim Don Bob
    Did you hear about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac who lay awake at night pondering the existence of dog?

    Ba-dum.
  22. @Glossy
    Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here. When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost. The "arguments" and "facts" they cite are usually inept window dressing. Their main value is to help you figure out other people's motives, which are usually different from the ones they advertise.

    Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards. The rest of the world isn't even trying most of the time.

    Scott came up with an example where thinking about motives led to the wrong conclusion, but anyone could think of examples that would show the opposite. The general rule of thumb should be "think about the possible motives, think WHY this person would want to say this? What are his background and history, what are his relationships to other relevant people? What does he want from you and others?"

    Those should be your first questions. Common sense and life experience tell me that on average this approach is better than taking people's claims at face value.

    Taking this approach fails simple tit-for-tat, and you end up missing out on a lot of easy positive-sum interactions. People that grow up in an environment dominated by such interactions can lose their capacity to accurately assess motive and are thus vulnerable to being taken advantage of, but that’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Glossy
    People that grow up in an environment dominated by such interactions...

    Who are these people? Aspie guys raised in monasteries? There's a wide spectrum of literal-mindedness among men, but all women misrepresent their motives daily. Anyone who deals with women would benefit from the skeptical approach. And it's useful in dealing with most men too.
  23. Mr. Anon says:

    I agree that it is worth considering the actual substance of a claim or argument, however that doesn’t mean that one should never also consider the motives of those making that claim or argument. Certainly one can be too suspicious and too meta. But one can also be too trusting.

    In evaluating the claims made by a use-car salesman about the car he is trying to sell you, it is worth remembering………..that he is a used car salesman and he’s trying to sell you a car.

    Generally, I subscribe to Steve’s maxim “Knowledge is good” – knowledge about particular facts, and also knowledge about possible motives.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dieter Kief

    “Knowledge is good” – knowledge about particular facts, and also knowledge about possible motives
     
    Yeah, I agree, and I add one more type of knowledge - it's even helpful to understand, that there are three types of knowledge.

    Factual/metering ((cf. Critique of Pure Reason))

    Socially generated (Norms, laws etc.) ((Critique of Practical Reason))

    Taste (subjective/aesthetic) ((Critique of Judgement))

    It took a genius once to figure this out - now there's lots of bright people who ignore it. At best - sometimes they even labor around this wonderful little system, which indeed is the offspring of three practically completely forgotten books by Immanuel Kant, who's now mostly known for being - mysogynic, racist, power-blind - and what - - irresponsible and unreadable (and for sure not understandable) - - - alltogether - - - . This is like saying you stop drinking water, because, you know: People d r o w n !!

  24. @Kylie
    Is Steve Hitler or Trump?

    Both are Hitler. In the future everyone will be Hitler for 15 minutes.

    Read More
    • LOL: Harry Baldwin
    • Replies: @Jim Don Bob
    No, it's like Iran's description of the US as the Great Satan and Israel as the Lesser Satan.

    DJT (PBUH) is the Great Hitler and Steve is the Lesser Hitler.
  25. Glossy says: • Website
    @Desiderius
    Taking this approach fails simple tit-for-tat, and you end up missing out on a lot of easy positive-sum interactions. People that grow up in an environment dominated by such interactions can lose their capacity to accurately assess motive and are thus vulnerable to being taken advantage of, but that's no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    People that grow up in an environment dominated by such interactions…

    Who are these people? Aspie guys raised in monasteries? There’s a wide spectrum of literal-mindedness among men, but all women misrepresent their motives daily. Anyone who deals with women would benefit from the skeptical approach. And it’s useful in dealing with most men too.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Frau Katze
    All women misrepresent their motives daily.

    That's a massive generalization. Give me a break!

    Life is far more complicated than that.
    , @Desiderius

    Who are these people?
     
    Your fellow citizens. You should get to know us sometime.
  26. Fine and dandy, but to quote Lenin: What is to be done? Media and Academe spew agitprop 24/7 getting paid full-time by government and donors. What’s Joe Sixpack to do against that, what even gifted and honest academics? Steve counters speech with more speech and irony as one should but still we keep losing, getting more diverse every day. The corrupt bulverize and win, we argue and lose.

    When challenged by progs I offer honest discourse but at the first sign of motivated reasoning I go for the rhetorical kill. Makes for the eventual honest debate and lots of valuable life time saved at the expense of civility. Still–whether you try wearing them down with rational debate or give short shrift we still lose. So what’s to do? A macher like Trump has other options but most of us aren’t. I guess we’ll have to learn from the enemy without giving up integrity which is a bit of Zen thing, clapping with one hand. Ethics of responsibility demand that we find a workable solution for everyman’s everyday use.

    Read More
  27. Anon7 says:

    Lewis has this canonical example, which I think is highly significant:

    Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third — “Oh you say that because you are a man.”

    “At that moment”, E. Bulver assures us, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument.”

    Read More
    • Replies: @Big Bill
    Vox Day comments regularly on the distinction between dialectic (i.e. refutation) and rhetoric, the other half of argumentation. Lots of eyes have been opened, particularly on the futility of dialectic when dealing with SJWs.
    , @SFG
    I am just now discovering Lewis. He was quite a guy. Heck, nerd that I was, I read the Space Trilogy, and I thought, wow--a literate, bright conservative with a sense of history and culture!

    I've always wondered what intellectual traditions might have developed if soft-Marxism and postmodernism hadn't taken over the academy. I wonder if Lewis is a first step on that road not taken.

  28. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @Glossy
    Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here. When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost. The "arguments" and "facts" they cite are usually inept window dressing. Their main value is to help you figure out other people's motives, which are usually different from the ones they advertise.

    Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards. The rest of the world isn't even trying most of the time.

    Scott came up with an example where thinking about motives led to the wrong conclusion, but anyone could think of examples that would show the opposite. The general rule of thumb should be "think about the possible motives, think WHY this person would want to say this? What are his background and history, what are his relationships to other relevant people? What does he want from you and others?"

    Those should be your first questions. Common sense and life experience tell me that on average this approach is better than taking people's claims at face value.

    When I want to hamstring someone for their political views in face to face interactions, I just let them talk. Most people who argue politics talk past each other and get nowhere. I sound all sympathetic like I really get their point of view–and I usually do–and then I point out all the flaws in their argument. It discombobulates them to be understood and yet still have the scaffolding knocked out from underneath them. I don’t attempt to ram my point of view down their throat at all, I just point out the weaknesses in their own thinking and let them draw their own conclusions.

    Read More
    • Replies: @calpine
    Asking questions is always more powerful than making statements.

    i.e. "What is your favorite policy that Hillary has promoted?"
    That knocked the legs out from under her most ardent supporters. "Oh you know, there are a lot of them"
    "Name one"
    "She respects women"
    "That's not a policy position, nor a bill she introduced" etc.
  29. The words Bolshevik, Bullsh$%t and Pulverize were put into a blender……

    Looking at how winning 2016 was for our side, it stands to reason that the anonymity of social media is a huge bonus at put a wrecking bar in the gears of the Bulverizing machine. You can’t attack pro-Trump patriots as easily if they can fight behind the shield of a nom de plume. Doxxing, and delegitimizing Paleocons is much harder if you don’t know their place of work, age, sex, ethnicity. Of course you can simply assume, privilege, cis, gendered, whitey, etc. but that just reveals the bias of the Cultmarx accuser.

    3 Cheers for the Bulverizing Shield.

    Read More
  30. Until one can actually know another human heart, all efforts to know or to explain another human’s motivations are simply judgments. And, because those judgments are not informed by an actual knowledge of that other’s human heart, they are usually false judgments.

    When that happens, one should perhaps turn to a process that happens in military strategy. Instead of trying to figure out another person’s intentions, look instead at that person’s capabilities. In the instant case, instead of trying to second guess the intent of the fellow who missed his meeting, look to see whether he was able to come to that meeting. All else is secondary, and, quite frankly, quite stupid conjecture.

    Of course, since the above is simply both logical and true, I fully expect to get subjected to accusations of patriarchy, or sexism, or ‘mansplaining’. So it goes…

    Read More
  31. Striking lack of psychoanalytic sophistication by both Dr. Alexander and his supervisor.

    Read More
  32. Steve,
    Signing off the web for a few days, so want to wish you a Great 2017.
    Thanks so much for the consistently high quality content here.
    Never can predict what you’ll post, but at least 90% of it is rock solid or better, always leavened with your wry sensibilities.
    Of all the dissenting voices on the right, this site (and Unz.com in general) seems Top 3 on the web IMO. Hard to imagine how the coming year will be more intense than 2016, but it feels inevitable that it will be so. It seems like we’re in the front seat of a roller coaster about to enter the steepest dive.

    Keep up the good fight.
    -Crunchy

    Read More
  33. @Desiderius
    For some reason I always get Bulverism mixed up with the Warren Beatty film Bulworth.

    For some reason when people talk about Whit Stillman films I always think of Slim Whitman music.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Trelane
    I know right? I always confuse William Jennings Bryant with Newscaster Peter Jennings, Philosopher William James and conservative activist Anita Bryant. Can't keep 'em straight for the life of me!

    , @Desiderius
    I blame Kylie.
    , @Johan Schmidt
    I'm in the same boat. I keep confusing Poe Dameron from Star Wars 7 with Cameron Poe, Nic Cage's hero from Con Air.
  34. Trelane says:
    @Harry Baldwin
    For some reason when people talk about Whit Stillman films I always think of Slim Whitman music.

    I know right? I always confuse William Jennings Bryant with Newscaster Peter Jennings, Philosopher William James and conservative activist Anita Bryant. Can’t keep ‘em straight for the life of me!

    Read More
  35. @Glossy
    People that grow up in an environment dominated by such interactions...

    Who are these people? Aspie guys raised in monasteries? There's a wide spectrum of literal-mindedness among men, but all women misrepresent their motives daily. Anyone who deals with women would benefit from the skeptical approach. And it's useful in dealing with most men too.

    All women misrepresent their motives daily.

    That’s a massive generalization. Give me a break!

    Life is far more complicated than that.

    Read More
  36. anon says: • Disclaimer

    And now, it’s time to enjoy the comedy of the Muslim
    Immigrant’s answer to Harold Lloyd!!

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=9dd_1483058460

    Read More
  37. @Glossy
    People that grow up in an environment dominated by such interactions...

    Who are these people? Aspie guys raised in monasteries? There's a wide spectrum of literal-mindedness among men, but all women misrepresent their motives daily. Anyone who deals with women would benefit from the skeptical approach. And it's useful in dealing with most men too.

    Who are these people?

    Your fellow citizens. You should get to know us sometime.

    Read More
  38. @Harry Baldwin
    For some reason when people talk about Whit Stillman films I always think of Slim Whitman music.

    I blame Kylie.

    Read More
  39. anon says: • Disclaimer

    The Bulverist assumes a speaker’s argument is invalid or false and then explains why the speaker came to make that mistake, attacking the speaker or the speaker’s motive. The term “Bulverism” was coined by C. S. Lewis to poke fun at a very serious error in thinking that, he alleges, recurs often in a variety of religious, political, and philosophical debates.

    So the strategy is assuming conspiracies, while discounting or ignoring of the cause and effect of the actions themselves…

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=b50_1483170000

    Read More
  40. @Alfa158
    David Steinberg used to hilarious skits on the Smothers Brothers show in which he played a deranged psychotherapist. I have known a few people in the profession and it definitely seems to attract a disproportionate share of somewhat out of whack people like the supervisor described.

    “it definitely seems to attract a disproportionate share of somewhat out of whack people”

    In both psychiatry and mental health nursing they’re a minority, but a larger minority than you’d expect by chance.

    Read More
  41. @Chrisnonymous

    I get this all the time
     
    No you don't. We never ask you about this, and neither does your family or HL Mencken Society journalists, etc. What would compel you to make such a statement?

    If you google Steve’s name, one of the top hits is a site called RationalWiki, which seems to bely its name by the hysterical SJWry therein. You would not recognise our esteemed host, whose posts always seem more in wry amusement or pity than anger, from his description.

    Yet he bears such things “with a patient shrug, for sufferance is his badge”.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Chrisnonymous
    My comment was in jest.
    , @gregor
    Lol at that article. Such a rational, dispassionate write-up! I do like this sentence though:

    "Sailer was alt-right before it was cool."
  42. @Anonymous Nephew
    If you google Steve's name, one of the top hits is a site called RationalWiki, which seems to bely its name by the hysterical SJWry therein. You would not recognise our esteemed host, whose posts always seem more in wry amusement or pity than anger, from his description.

    Yet he bears such things "with a patient shrug, for sufferance is his badge".

    My comment was in jest.

    Read More
  43. My only experience with this type of thinking made me think it was a Jewish way of thinking. Jewish former coworkers frequently attributed some insidious motives as the cause of things I believed were obviously caused by outside forces. I didn’t get it. Listening to Howard Stern, I hear him do this with people and with employees frequently. People are not late by accident or because an alarm clock did not go off, but are sending a message or trying to get fired. Making a mistake about which tape to play is an attack on the boss. The connection could be psychiatry/psychology, or just my very limited experience with it. Sample size is >10, but 100% .

    Read More
    • Replies: @SFG
    It's not just Jewish--remember that Turks are fond of conspiracy theories, for example. I suspect the experience of Weimar Germany made a lot of Jews afraid their previously nice neighbors would turn on them and made them a lot more suspicious of hidden motives.

    Also, Howard Stern has to make jokes to keep the show going. If the guy puts the wrong tape on, he can get flustered or he can make a joke about it.
    , @Ivy
    That type of boss or co-worker is a sight to behold, as the behavior is pretty random. Think of it as the impact of a sub-conscious mind flickering on and off like a bad neon light, likely influenced by hormonal transient spikes. You may have seen a few of those over the years. After a while, other employees almost start responding as if asked "Is it safe" or "Kenneth, what is the frequency?"
  44. @Glossy
    Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here. When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost. The "arguments" and "facts" they cite are usually inept window dressing. Their main value is to help you figure out other people's motives, which are usually different from the ones they advertise.

    Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards. The rest of the world isn't even trying most of the time.

    Scott came up with an example where thinking about motives led to the wrong conclusion, but anyone could think of examples that would show the opposite. The general rule of thumb should be "think about the possible motives, think WHY this person would want to say this? What are his background and history, what are his relationships to other relevant people? What does he want from you and others?"

    Those should be your first questions. Common sense and life experience tell me that on average this approach is better than taking people's claims at face value.

    “Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here.”

    You’re giving us a factual statement based on what you yourself describe as a lack of trust that other people’s motives cannot be genuine. It’s the opposite extreme of being gullible, and it’s no more helpful in coming to an understanding of other people’s motives.

    “Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards.”

    “Common sense and life experience tell me . . .”

    You provide us with a dismissive view of math and hard sciences along with a preferential trust in “common sense” and “life experiences”. It’s the stereotypical conflation of skepticism and denialism.

    Read More
  45. NeonBets says:

    I’m going to give Scott Alexander another dose of Bulverism: Something about his anecdote (or whatever you want to call it) seems a bit contrived to me.

    Why did Alexander do this?

    Either Alexander wants to continue this dysfunctional relationship with his Supervisor by griping about him on the Internet.

    OR

    He’s simply propping up this ‘Supervisor’ as a strawman, so Alexander can discuss Bulverism.

    Does his motivation even matter? Either way, I did get to learn about Bulverism, which is an interesting concept.

    Unfortunately, it’s these types of rationalizations that also provide cover for dishonest race-baiting characterizations we read about every day: “Did the Racial Justice Studies Professor really come to her office one morning, only to find a noose hanging above her door accompanied by a sign that read–The KKK Rules!?”

    Who cares?! This is an opportunity to have a discussion about racial injustice!”

    Read More
    • Replies: @a Newsreader
    Alexander usually changes the details in his anecdotes to protect his patients' anonymity. Sometimes this causes the anecdotes to lose some coherence.
  46. @Harry Baldwin
    For some reason when people talk about Whit Stillman films I always think of Slim Whitman music.

    I’m in the same boat. I keep confusing Poe Dameron from Star Wars 7 with Cameron Poe, Nic Cage’s hero from Con Air.

    Read More
  47. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Glossy
    Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here. When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost. The "arguments" and "facts" they cite are usually inept window dressing. Their main value is to help you figure out other people's motives, which are usually different from the ones they advertise.

    Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards. The rest of the world isn't even trying most of the time.

    Scott came up with an example where thinking about motives led to the wrong conclusion, but anyone could think of examples that would show the opposite. The general rule of thumb should be "think about the possible motives, think WHY this person would want to say this? What are his background and history, what are his relationships to other relevant people? What does he want from you and others?"

    Those should be your first questions. Common sense and life experience tell me that on average this approach is better than taking people's claims at face value.

    I find the older I get, the more a person’s potential motives hang around in the back of my mind while I talk to them (or read what they claim). I still evaluate what they say for content, but a healthy dose of skepticism seems to be just common sense.

    Read More
  48. Big Bill says:
    @Anon7
    Lewis has this canonical example, which I think is highly significant:


    Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third — "Oh you say that because you are a man."

    "At that moment", E. Bulver assures us, "there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument."

     

    Vox Day comments regularly on the distinction between dialectic (i.e. refutation) and rhetoric, the other half of argumentation. Lots of eyes have been opened, particularly on the futility of dialectic when dealing with SJWs.

    Read More
  49. SFG says:
    @Anon7
    Lewis has this canonical example, which I think is highly significant:


    Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third — "Oh you say that because you are a man."

    "At that moment", E. Bulver assures us, "there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument."

     

    I am just now discovering Lewis. He was quite a guy. Heck, nerd that I was, I read the Space Trilogy, and I thought, wow–a literate, bright conservative with a sense of history and culture!

    I’ve always wondered what intellectual traditions might have developed if soft-Marxism and postmodernism hadn’t taken over the academy. I wonder if Lewis is a first step on that road not taken.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Desiderius

    I wonder if Lewis is a first step on that road not taken.
     
    Post-progressives are becoming less rare. It's the latest thing, which is an idea which would both amuse and annoy Lewis.
    , @ATX Hipster
    Illustrated reading of Lewis' "The Poison of Subjectivism" essay from The Abolition of Man:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgcd6jvsCFs

    Pretty cool YouTube channel.
  50. gregor says:
    @Anonymous Nephew
    If you google Steve's name, one of the top hits is a site called RationalWiki, which seems to bely its name by the hysterical SJWry therein. You would not recognise our esteemed host, whose posts always seem more in wry amusement or pity than anger, from his description.

    Yet he bears such things "with a patient shrug, for sufferance is his badge".

    Lol at that article. Such a rational, dispassionate write-up! I do like this sentence though:

    “Sailer was alt-right before it was cool.”

    Read More
    • Replies: @Desiderius
    Cognitive dissonance causes actual, physical pain to the self-consciously more-rational-than-thou.

    Steve's like a mental dentist and they've developed a lot of cavities in their thought.
  51. @Desiderius
    For some reason I always get Bulverism mixed up with the Warren Beatty film Bulworth.

    Did you hear about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac who lay awake at night pondering the existence of dog?

    Ba-dum.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Stan Adams
    Now all the dyslexics are wondering what Mud-ab means.

    It sounds like a Stormfront-ish term for an African-American's lower-torso musculature.
  52. @White Guy In Japan
    Both are Hitler. In the future everyone will be Hitler for 15 minutes.

    No, it’s like Iran’s description of the US as the Great Satan and Israel as the Lesser Satan.

    DJT (PBUH) is the Great Hitler and Steve is the Lesser Hitler.

    Read More
  53. On “diversity,” there is Peter Thiel 101.

    “Tell me something that’s true, that almost nobody agrees with you on.”

    Read More
    • Replies: @Desiderius
    Also a great question if you want to find out if someone is genuinely in the top 1% (or better yet, .001%) intellect-wise, and not just a skilled rule-follower.
  54. Tulip says:

    I think the concept of false consciousness is a useful one.

    It is simply the idea of a group that has been ideologically programmed by a dominant and hostile elite in a way that fools the group to behave in a way that is contrary to its own interests.

    The only issue is, of course, this sort of thing could never happen in America. We have a free press, yes?

    Read More
  55. @SFG
    I am just now discovering Lewis. He was quite a guy. Heck, nerd that I was, I read the Space Trilogy, and I thought, wow--a literate, bright conservative with a sense of history and culture!

    I've always wondered what intellectual traditions might have developed if soft-Marxism and postmodernism hadn't taken over the academy. I wonder if Lewis is a first step on that road not taken.

    I wonder if Lewis is a first step on that road not taken.

    Post-progressives are becoming less rare. It’s the latest thing, which is an idea which would both amuse and annoy Lewis.

    Read More
  56. For several decades now I have seen conservatives make the argument that you should not attack a person’s motivations, but instead only attack their facts, position, argument, whatever. I have come to the conclusion that this is a big reason why conservatives are such losers. When in good company by all means take the high road, but when you are in a machine gun fight do not pull out your dueling pistols and white glove and demand that everybody act like gentlemen.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Desiderius
    Good faith should be met with good faith, indeed initially assumed.

    Bad faith with bad until an appreciation for good faith is regained.

    https://plus.maths.org/content/mathematical-mysteries-survival-nicest
    , @SFG
    Depends on whether your goal is understanding or power. Over here I think most of us are trying to learn things that are otherwise forbidden...but Breitbart or Fox News play all the black arts of influence, and do so brilliantly.

    Also, I read a lot of left-wing stuff, and they are always arguing that the right-wing is the one that acts unethically, appeals to racism/sexism/homophobia/etc., fights for the rich and powerful, whereas they are the ethical, rational ones who accept science on global warming and evolution and defend the poor and oppressed.
  57. Numinous says:

    I get this all the time: What kind of horrible character flaw must have motivated me to have learned so many quantitative facts and have thought so logically about the topic that everybody agree is important: diversity?

    Excellent point, Mr. Sailer, but can you not see that you (and the entire alt-right) often question the motives of people who are pro-diversity and pro-immigration exactly the same way? The reality of the world is that some people like sameness and stability while others like diversity and dynamism. But both sides assume their views and values must be universally held; therefore, the other side has ulterior motives in promoting the opposite viewpoint.

    Anyway, thanks for putting a name (“Bulverism”) to a phenomenon that I have been observing with increasing distaste over the past few years.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Desiderius

    But both sides assume their views and values must be universally held
     
    cite needed
  58. @ Trelane Just don’t mix either Peter or William up with that cool dude from West Texas – can’t seem to remember his name …….

    Read More
  59. @gregor
    Lol at that article. Such a rational, dispassionate write-up! I do like this sentence though:

    "Sailer was alt-right before it was cool."

    Cognitive dissonance causes actual, physical pain to the self-consciously more-rational-than-thou.

    Steve’s like a mental dentist and they’ve developed a lot of cavities in their thought.

    Read More
  60. @Numinous

    I get this all the time: What kind of horrible character flaw must have motivated me to have learned so many quantitative facts and have thought so logically about the topic that everybody agree is important: diversity?
     
    Excellent point, Mr. Sailer, but can you not see that you (and the entire alt-right) often question the motives of people who are pro-diversity and pro-immigration exactly the same way? The reality of the world is that some people like sameness and stability while others like diversity and dynamism. But both sides assume their views and values must be universally held; therefore, the other side has ulterior motives in promoting the opposite viewpoint.

    Anyway, thanks for putting a name ("Bulverism") to a phenomenon that I have been observing with increasing distaste over the past few years.

    But both sides assume their views and values must be universally held

    cite needed

    Read More
  61. @Tangerine Dreamer
    For several decades now I have seen conservatives make the argument that you should not attack a person's motivations, but instead only attack their facts, position, argument, whatever. I have come to the conclusion that this is a big reason why conservatives are such losers. When in good company by all means take the high road, but when you are in a machine gun fight do not pull out your dueling pistols and white glove and demand that everybody act like gentlemen.

    Good faith should be met with good faith, indeed initially assumed.

    Bad faith with bad until an appreciation for good faith is regained.

    https://plus.maths.org/content/mathematical-mysteries-survival-nicest

    Read More
  62. @Jim Don Bob
    Did you hear about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac who lay awake at night pondering the existence of dog?

    Ba-dum.

    Now all the dyslexics are wondering what Mud-ab means.

    It sounds like a Stormfront-ish term for an African-American’s lower-torso musculature.

    Read More
  63. @SFG
    I am just now discovering Lewis. He was quite a guy. Heck, nerd that I was, I read the Space Trilogy, and I thought, wow--a literate, bright conservative with a sense of history and culture!

    I've always wondered what intellectual traditions might have developed if soft-Marxism and postmodernism hadn't taken over the academy. I wonder if Lewis is a first step on that road not taken.

    Illustrated reading of Lewis’ “The Poison of Subjectivism” essay from The Abolition of Man:

    Pretty cool YouTube channel.

    Read More
  64. utu says:

    “What kind of horrible character flaw must have motivated me to have learned so many quantitative facts and have thought so logically about the topic that everybody agree is important: diversity?”

    Actually, it is a good question. Why do you trust your own logic so much? What do you miss? Which or what kind of quantitative facts do you omit?

    Where did the bias come from to make you be like that?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Desiderius

    Actually, it is a good question.
     
    Please. When did you stop beating your wife?

    Why do you trust your own logic so much?
     
    What evidence are you presenting that he does? What does "own" logic even mean? A fallacious argument is fallacious whoever you determine it's owner is. Steve notices flaws and offers speculations/hypotheses. Neither of these require trust.
  65. iffen says:
    @Glossy
    Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here. When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost. The "arguments" and "facts" they cite are usually inept window dressing. Their main value is to help you figure out other people's motives, which are usually different from the ones they advertise.

    Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards. The rest of the world isn't even trying most of the time.

    Scott came up with an example where thinking about motives led to the wrong conclusion, but anyone could think of examples that would show the opposite. The general rule of thumb should be "think about the possible motives, think WHY this person would want to say this? What are his background and history, what are his relationships to other relevant people? What does he want from you and others?"

    Those should be your first questions. Common sense and life experience tell me that on average this approach is better than taking people's claims at face value.

    A) We can have an honest dialogue in an effort to ascertain “the truth.”

    B) We can use persuasion and polemic to push our point of view.

    Some people pretend A while doing B, and that is why motive is as important as what is said.

    Read More
  66. SFG says:
    @william munny
    My only experience with this type of thinking made me think it was a Jewish way of thinking. Jewish former coworkers frequently attributed some insidious motives as the cause of things I believed were obviously caused by outside forces. I didn't get it. Listening to Howard Stern, I hear him do this with people and with employees frequently. People are not late by accident or because an alarm clock did not go off, but are sending a message or trying to get fired. Making a mistake about which tape to play is an attack on the boss. The connection could be psychiatry/psychology, or just my very limited experience with it. Sample size is >10, but 100% .

    It’s not just Jewish–remember that Turks are fond of conspiracy theories, for example. I suspect the experience of Weimar Germany made a lot of Jews afraid their previously nice neighbors would turn on them and made them a lot more suspicious of hidden motives.

    Also, Howard Stern has to make jokes to keep the show going. If the guy puts the wrong tape on, he can get flustered or he can make a joke about it.

    Read More
  67. SFG says:
    @Tangerine Dreamer
    For several decades now I have seen conservatives make the argument that you should not attack a person's motivations, but instead only attack their facts, position, argument, whatever. I have come to the conclusion that this is a big reason why conservatives are such losers. When in good company by all means take the high road, but when you are in a machine gun fight do not pull out your dueling pistols and white glove and demand that everybody act like gentlemen.

    Depends on whether your goal is understanding or power. Over here I think most of us are trying to learn things that are otherwise forbidden…but Breitbart or Fox News play all the black arts of influence, and do so brilliantly.

    Also, I read a lot of left-wing stuff, and they are always arguing that the right-wing is the one that acts unethically, appeals to racism/sexism/homophobia/etc., fights for the rich and powerful, whereas they are the ethical, rational ones who accept science on global warming and evolution and defend the poor and oppressed.

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    • Replies: @Desiderius
    The underlying philosophy of the (fake) Left, and indeed for some on the actual Left, is that good faith itself is little more than an illusion. Things degenerate from there. Forsaking truth, they unsurprisingly come to believe all sorts of things that aren't true, starting with the nature of their adversaries and extending to their picture of themselves.
  68. Ivy says:
    @william munny
    My only experience with this type of thinking made me think it was a Jewish way of thinking. Jewish former coworkers frequently attributed some insidious motives as the cause of things I believed were obviously caused by outside forces. I didn't get it. Listening to Howard Stern, I hear him do this with people and with employees frequently. People are not late by accident or because an alarm clock did not go off, but are sending a message or trying to get fired. Making a mistake about which tape to play is an attack on the boss. The connection could be psychiatry/psychology, or just my very limited experience with it. Sample size is >10, but 100% .

    That type of boss or co-worker is a sight to behold, as the behavior is pretty random. Think of it as the impact of a sub-conscious mind flickering on and off like a bad neon light, likely influenced by hormonal transient spikes. You may have seen a few of those over the years. After a while, other employees almost start responding as if asked “Is it safe” or “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”

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  69. @NeonBets
    I'm going to give Scott Alexander another dose of Bulverism: Something about his anecdote (or whatever you want to call it) seems a bit contrived to me.

    Why did Alexander do this?

    Either Alexander wants to continue this dysfunctional relationship with his Supervisor by griping about him on the Internet.

    OR

    He's simply propping up this 'Supervisor' as a strawman, so Alexander can discuss Bulverism.

    Does his motivation even matter? Either way, I did get to learn about Bulverism, which is an interesting concept.

    Unfortunately, it's these types of rationalizations that also provide cover for dishonest race-baiting characterizations we read about every day: "Did the Racial Justice Studies Professor really come to her office one morning, only to find a noose hanging above her door accompanied by a sign that read--The KKK Rules!?"

    Who cares?! This is an opportunity to have a discussion about racial injustice!"

    Alexander usually changes the details in his anecdotes to protect his patients’ anonymity. Sometimes this causes the anecdotes to lose some coherence.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I sometimes change potentially identifying details of private life anecdotes, too. When I do, I try to match up the fictitious details to the factual ones pretty closely so the point doesn't get lost.
  70. @Christopher Chantrill
    On "diversity," there is Peter Thiel 101.

    "Tell me something that's true, that almost nobody agrees with you on."

    Also a great question if you want to find out if someone is genuinely in the top 1% (or better yet, .001%) intellect-wise, and not just a skilled rule-follower.

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  71. @utu
    "What kind of horrible character flaw must have motivated me to have learned so many quantitative facts and have thought so logically about the topic that everybody agree is important: diversity?"

    Actually, it is a good question. Why do you trust your own logic so much? What do you miss? Which or what kind of quantitative facts do you omit?

    Where did the bias come from to make you be like that?

    Actually, it is a good question.

    Please. When did you stop beating your wife?

    Why do you trust your own logic so much?

    What evidence are you presenting that he does? What does “own” logic even mean? A fallacious argument is fallacious whoever you determine it’s owner is. Steve notices flaws and offers speculations/hypotheses. Neither of these require trust.

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  72. @SFG
    Depends on whether your goal is understanding or power. Over here I think most of us are trying to learn things that are otherwise forbidden...but Breitbart or Fox News play all the black arts of influence, and do so brilliantly.

    Also, I read a lot of left-wing stuff, and they are always arguing that the right-wing is the one that acts unethically, appeals to racism/sexism/homophobia/etc., fights for the rich and powerful, whereas they are the ethical, rational ones who accept science on global warming and evolution and defend the poor and oppressed.

    The underlying philosophy of the (fake) Left, and indeed for some on the actual Left, is that good faith itself is little more than an illusion. Things degenerate from there. Forsaking truth, they unsurprisingly come to believe all sorts of things that aren’t true, starting with the nature of their adversaries and extending to their picture of themselves.

    Read More
  73. @a Newsreader
    Alexander usually changes the details in his anecdotes to protect his patients' anonymity. Sometimes this causes the anecdotes to lose some coherence.

    I sometimes change potentially identifying details of private life anecdotes, too. When I do, I try to match up the fictitious details to the factual ones pretty closely so the point doesn’t get lost.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Jenner Ickham Errican
    I think you must be baiting me to post more Metropolitan quotes.

    NICK: And basically it's all true. I mean, Von Sloneker's doing those kinds of things all the time. Though Polly Perkins is, essentially, a composite... based on real people, like New York magazine does.

    TOM: But you really do have some factual basis for saying all those things about him?

    NICK: Of course, there's a factual basis.

    I’m not actually that big of a Whit Stillman fan relative to a fair number of my readers.
     
    I could see Whit Stillman being a big Steve Sailer fan. Although he’d never admit it.
  74. TimWB says: • Website

    Given the volume of data available in the world, could it be argued that any assertion in soft sciences (psychology, economics, sociology, etc.) can be supported by logic and evidence?

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  75. Felix M says:

    Reminds me of when, as a late teenager, I was becoming a Catholic. Another guy asked me why I was doing this, so I told him.

    Then he says, “You’ve got it all thought out, haven’t you”. I guess the subtext was something like, “You’re ultra-logical and totally unconvincing”. And I’m still at a loss on how to respond to such irrationality.

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  76. @Langley
    Steve, thinking about Trudy Narikio reminded me of some of her other research.

    She did a re-analysis of Ronald Johnston's work - The Hawaii Family Study of Cognition.

    http://blog.hawaii.edu/hfsc/research-highlights/

    She found that - yes - stereotypes DO have empirical validity.

    Her dissertation is probably available at Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii.

    No crap? Shoot, I was kinda hoping the SJW’s were right about stereotypes. After my lying eyes had been stereotyping walls as not being 99.999% empty space for so long, it would make a neat parlor trick to go ahead and walk through one.

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  77. @Glossy
    Scott Alexander is very smart, but wrong here. When dealing with people, think about their motives first and foremost. The "arguments" and "facts" they cite are usually inept window dressing. Their main value is to help you figure out other people's motives, which are usually different from the ones they advertise.

    Math and the hard sciences are supposed to work differently from the above, but even they sometimes fail to live up to their self-described standards. The rest of the world isn't even trying most of the time.

    Scott came up with an example where thinking about motives led to the wrong conclusion, but anyone could think of examples that would show the opposite. The general rule of thumb should be "think about the possible motives, think WHY this person would want to say this? What are his background and history, what are his relationships to other relevant people? What does he want from you and others?"

    Those should be your first questions. Common sense and life experience tell me that on average this approach is better than taking people's claims at face value.

    Seems like it makes sense to first engage on the merits. If they repeatedly make unfalsifiable or wrong claims then evaluate on competence. If they seem competent or willfully incompetent, then question motives, if you must stick around. Else resort to other rhetorical means.

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  78. Calpine says:
    @Okie
    Isn't this the whole idea behind mansplaining? I don't have to listen to or even respond cuz it comes from a male mouth?
    FYI Apple spellcheck knows that word

    Just switch it on them.

    “Oh, you’re “Femsplaining” or “Gynoplaining”, or that’s a “Gynoplaint”.

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  79. calpine says:
    @Anon
    When I want to hamstring someone for their political views in face to face interactions, I just let them talk. Most people who argue politics talk past each other and get nowhere. I sound all sympathetic like I really get their point of view--and I usually do--and then I point out all the flaws in their argument. It discombobulates them to be understood and yet still have the scaffolding knocked out from underneath them. I don't attempt to ram my point of view down their throat at all, I just point out the weaknesses in their own thinking and let them draw their own conclusions.

    Asking questions is always more powerful than making statements.

    i.e. “What is your favorite policy that Hillary has promoted?”
    That knocked the legs out from under her most ardent supporters. “Oh you know, there are a lot of them”
    “Name one”
    “She respects women”
    “That’s not a policy position, nor a bill she introduced” etc.

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  80. SFG says:
    @ATX Hipster
    Illustrated reading of Lewis' "The Poison of Subjectivism" essay from The Abolition of Man:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgcd6jvsCFs

    Pretty cool YouTube channel.

    Good stuff, thanks!

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  81. @Steve Sailer
    I sometimes change potentially identifying details of private life anecdotes, too. When I do, I try to match up the fictitious details to the factual ones pretty closely so the point doesn't get lost.

    I think you must be baiting me to post more Metropolitan quotes.

    NICK: And basically it’s all true. I mean, Von Sloneker’s doing those kinds of things all the time. Though Polly Perkins is, essentially, a composite… based on real people, like New York magazine does.

    TOM: But you really do have some factual basis for saying all those things about him?

    NICK: Of course, there’s a factual basis.

    I’m not actually that big of a Whit Stillman fan relative to a fair number of my readers.

    I could see Whit Stillman being a big Steve Sailer fan. Although he’d never admit it.

    Read More
  82. @Marina
    Shrinks are so used to looking for secret emotional reasons why therapy might not be working that they refuse to accept other explanations beyond your own naughty psyche. My parents, brother and I were supposed to have our first family therapy session (he was acting out quite badly toward me then) and I had taken ill a day or two before with inexplicable, severe vertigo and headaches. My parents realized I was sick and told me to stay home and attended the session with just my brother. At the session, the psychologist assumed I was malingering to get out of attending. When my parents insisted this was impossible, the therapist instead decided this was a pyschosomatic response due to my feelings about the family therapy session. Nothing could sway her from this.

    A few days later, a real doctor and a blood test confirmed I had Lyme disease. I'm still cheesed off about this and it's been a decade.

    Real doctors try to base their diagnoses on medical facts. Head shrinkers live in a world of incorporeal vapor, where facts are at most an annoyance. So it’s no surprise when a “psychologist” leaps to a conclusion about your state of physical health without having any actual, you know, “facts.” Like they say, when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

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  83. @Mr. Anon
    I agree that it is worth considering the actual substance of a claim or argument, however that doesn't mean that one should never also consider the motives of those making that claim or argument. Certainly one can be too suspicious and too meta. But one can also be too trusting.

    In evaluating the claims made by a use-car salesman about the car he is trying to sell you, it is worth remembering...........that he is a used car salesman and he's trying to sell you a car.

    Generally, I subscribe to Steve's maxim "Knowledge is good" - knowledge about particular facts, and also knowledge about possible motives.

    “Knowledge is good” – knowledge about particular facts, and also knowledge about possible motives

    Yeah, I agree, and I add one more type of knowledge – it’s even helpful to understand, that there are three types of knowledge.

    Factual/metering ((cf. Critique of Pure Reason))

    Socially generated (Norms, laws etc.) ((Critique of Practical Reason))

    Taste (subjective/aesthetic) ((Critique of Judgement))

    It took a genius once to figure this out – now there’s lots of bright people who ignore it. At best – sometimes they even labor around this wonderful little system, which indeed is the offspring of three practically completely forgotten books by Immanuel Kant, who’s now mostly known for being – mysogynic, racist, power-blind – and what – – irresponsible and unreadable (and for sure not understandable) – – – alltogether – – – . This is like saying you stop drinking water, because, you know: People d r o w n !!

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  84. Jim Given says:

    Dear Steve Sailer,
    Take your initial example of Freudianism. (Marxism or any modernist pseudo-religion works equally well.) If you rationally attack the conclusions of analysis, you are doing it because of your defenses; if you attack its worldview and conclusions on moral grounds, the analyst maintains that Freudian theory is simply “scientific truth” that is confirmed by analysts every day in their practice. The moral and the rational aspects shield each other from inspection in a kind of “tag-team” process. Michael Polanyi, in his brilliant, essential book on modernity, “Personal Knowledge”, speaks of the “dynamo-objective” coupling to describe exactly this tag-team sort of process.

    Once one grasps this basic idea, they see that it provides an insightful picture of each one of the pet theoretical projects of academia in the past decades (say, post WWII). Post-modernism seems to be an attempt to explain this tag-team process in favorable terms, explaining why critics have observed that Deconstruction is the essentially irresponsible exercise of power (because its practitioners deny they have power); and have claimed that Deconstruction seeks to create an invulnerable discourse.

    I think the description of Bulverism here is a glimpse of the same deep analysis. People keep rediscovering it in various guises.

    Jim Given

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  85. […] to evaluating them on the basis of his motives.  C.S. Lewis apparently called this shift Bulverism; Paul Ricœur’s “hermeneutics of suspicion” is a related but perhaps broader […]

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  86. […] He even coined the term to describe how they argue: […]

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