What does it mean to be a rat?

Discussion for all topics (until the forum becomes large enough to justify splitting things up this will be where all topics go)
liskantope
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue May 02, 2017 11:33 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by liskantope » Mon May 22, 2017 8:15 pm

(Wanted to muse on this one a bit, sorry for arriving so late to the party :P )

It seems that the most relevant way to approach this question (in the context of hanging out in this forum) is to ask what it means to identify with the broader rationalist (or rationalist-adjacent) community on the internet, rather than being part of Less Wrong culture, etc. Since a community is defined by the people that comprise it rather than a platform, I think going for a prescriptive definition makes sense here. From what I've seen, there are just a few very distinctive qualities pretty much all people who participate in this community seem to hold in common.
-- Holding rationality supreme as a method for truth-seeking, not just with regard to empirical truths about our universe (as do most scientists), nor to philosophical positions (as does much of the atheist/skeptic community), but to every facet of lifestyle and concrete decision-making. This often leads to one taking paths that society-at-large tends to make one feel uncomfortable for choosing (e.g. polyamory, effective altruism, putting money and energy into AI research)
-- Putting upmost priority on intellectual honesty and objectivity within discourse, by trying to respect certain meta-level rules regardless of how one feels about the object-level issues being discussed
-- Focusing a lot on understanding the workings of human minds, especially one's own, studying and tinkering with one's own irrational tendencies as an objective observer rather than defaulting to confidence in one's own rationality

I identify strongly with the priorities I listed above; therefore I identify as a member of this community. (There is also "membership" in the sense of playing a big part in the social circle, which I certainly do not, but that's another issue altogether.)

Of course, some of what I mentioned in the bulletpoints above are values that many communities would claim as their own. For instance, many communities dedicated to some sort of intellectual discourse or truth-seeking view themselves as putting a high priority on intellectual honesty and good rhetoric. But I've never come across any subculture where the actual norms in practice succeed in putting such a high priority on it, and the same goes for the other values listed above.

Raininginsanity
Posts: 51
Joined: Tue May 23, 2017 4:50 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by Raininginsanity » Tue May 23, 2017 5:19 am

I just think of the community as anyone who wants to become more rational, is interested in how to become more rational, and engages in the community in order to come to more rational conclusions.

(Which is very virtue ethics-esque)

If that is too broad, then I argue against your disagreement by pointing out your No True Scotsman fallacy ;)

archon
Posts: 59
Joined: Thu May 25, 2017 11:02 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by archon » Thu May 25, 2017 11:43 am

This is a bit of a issue. I have had quite a bit of issue describing this group to people, even on the basic level. Its hard to describe things without sounding either a. conceited, b. insane, or c. both. The kinds of thought I most associate with this community are ones of self-assessment and epistemology. But it is hard to tell people that without sounding silly. Like, I say, we are people who are very invested in finding the truth, and so are wrong a lot of the time. I think part of the issue might be that I am bad at explaining it.

(I also think the community is just a lot of shared context, and as the size of the community grows, the line gets blurrier and blurrier. Lots of things are just concepts which we all know, and can use to communicate.)

Sorry if I didn't say much original stuff there, just wanted to put in my two cents.
"Don't be silly -- if we were meant to evolve naturally, why would God have given us subdermal implants?"

Rachael
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu May 25, 2017 7:28 pm

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by Rachael » Thu May 25, 2017 7:44 pm

Knowing some logical fallacies and cognitive biases, being able to spot them in oneself and others, and trying to avoid committing them.

Critically examining taboos. Not elevating knee-jerk reactions to moral principles.

Understanding, either by intuition or intentional learning, what does or does not logically entail what.

Knowing, or at least being able to understand when told, some basic terminology from statistics, economics, psychology, philosophy, etc. to serve as useful building blocks for discussion.

Even having any meta-level principles or discourse norms at all. Being able to distinguish between the object and meta level, to keep track of which level an argument is on, and to move levels by mutual agreement.

(These are my attempts to express some of the things I find distinctive and valuable about the community at Slate Star Codex and places like it.)

liskantope
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue May 02, 2017 11:33 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by liskantope » Fri May 26, 2017 9:44 am

Just noticed, rereading my comment above, that I wrote "prescriptive" instead of "descriptive"... oops :P

archon
Posts: 59
Joined: Thu May 25, 2017 11:02 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by archon » Sat May 27, 2017 12:12 pm

liskantope wrote:
Fri May 26, 2017 9:44 am
Just noticed, rereading my comment above, that I wrote "prescriptive" instead of "descriptive"... oops :P
That's an ... inconvenient ... mistake. Also a bit Freudian, in some senses.

I assume we can edit posts in some way?

EDIT: Yes, apparently we can.
"Don't be silly -- if we were meant to evolve naturally, why would God have given us subdermal implants?"

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