Motte-and-bailey is a term that’s starting to be less niche than it used to be, which is great.
It describes a kind of strategic equivocation, or bait-and-switch, that fuels a lot of gross social stuff. One common instance of it is that you find a label or description for something that technically fits, given a narrow definition, but then once you’ve made the label stick, you abuse it by stretching out to the broader definitions.
So, for instance, someone might loudly declare “all cops are bastards.” That sounds pretty extreme, so you might raise your hand to object.
Author’s note: this was originally written as a Facebook post on August 20th, 2020. There’s a small update at the bottom.
The first plane crash took almost a week. 7 deaths on March 13th, 10 more on March 14th, 15 on the 15th. It wasn’t until March 19th that the first full plane crash was achieved, and the second began.
(A 737–800 seats about 160 people, you see. On the morning of March 19th, we’d only lost 130 human lives. By midnight, the number was at least 199.)
The second plane crash took two and a half days. We hadn’t…
I’ve been trying and trying and trying to write the essay that lays out the justification for the following in clear, calm, emotionless, objective detail, including all the little bits of game theory and decision theory and consequentialism and history that make up the overall worldview, but I am so very tired and I do not know if that essay will ever see the light of day.
Absent that legwork, I say the following merely on the strength of my own character and judgment:
As someone who is allied with neither political party and often openly dismayed by and publicly…
This was a Facebook comment that a few friends asked me to make permanently available as a blog post. Lightly edited but largely off-the-cuff; source is my own conversations with primary sources while investigating the history of parkour between 2006 and 2016 (ish).
It’s tempting to draw invalid links between one’s foundational interests and one’s new interests, but parkour really does in fact have its roots deeply embedded in both rationality and altruism.
Rationality, because it’s all about figuring out the path to the goal, regardless of the obstacle—curiosity, humility, investigation, determination. Efficiency. Minimal waste. …
Note: I am not a medical professional, and furthermore this essay does not apply to clinically-sufficient levels of anxiety, i.e. anxiety disorders. If you are experiencing life-disrupting levels of anxiety, please contact a medical professional.
Recently, I made a Facebook post strongly recommending that my friends and acquaintances purchase a book that I think is Important and Worth Reading.
One of the replies to that post was:
This looks like the kind of book that will give me anxiety…
I had a strong and complex reaction to the comment.
I think that sentiments like the one expressed by my Facebook…
This essay is not about dunking on Facebook. In fact, I think it’s actively good for opt-in groups/activities/platforms to have their own rules and standards and fences, and for people who don’t like those restrictions to go elsewhere.
But the “we removed this because it doesn’t follow our community standards” thing is a good instance of the class of things I’m objecting to when they happen out in the broader society—when they’re not merely the price you pay to join some small, opt-in enclave, but instead become restrictions that bind us in general.
(Related: Anger As Evidence)
A major part…
The following is a metaphor that someone else invented, but which I haven’t seen put forth in public and think is a pretty useful way to talk about minds and mental states.
Imagine a dirt trail, baked hard by the sun.
It’s basically “rock,” at this point—you could chip away at it with something sharp, but the footprints and tire tracks and other depressions are approximately immutable …
Anger is one of the most valuable signals we have, but only if we attend to it correctly.
The emotion of anger is produced (most often) by the violation of expectation. You’re mad at other drivers for failing to follow commonsense rules; you’re mad at your roommate for failing to do their fair share of the cleaning; you’re mad at your child for doing what they’ve been told a thousand times not to do. Even more deep and serious anger—at rapists and murderers, at corrupt politicians, at one’s mortal enemies—it almost always has its roots in some kind of should.
Previous entry: Open Problems in Group Rationality
Quite often, I will make an agreement, and then find myself regretting it. I’ll commit to spending a certain amount of hours helping someone with their problem, or I’ll agree to take part in an outing or a party or a project, or I’ll trade some item for a certain amount of value in return, and then later find that my predictions about how I would feel were pretty far off.
Sometimes, I just suck it up and stick it out. But sometimes I renege on the agreement. In this essay, I’d like…
I encounter lots of people who don’t or can’t do what they said they would do.
By this I don’t mean they mess up once in a while. I’m talking more like people whose predictions and commitments get broken on the regular, 20–80% of the time.
My response to these people used to be something like “Gain some self control, please.” If that didn’t happen, then after a couple more times getting burned counting on them, I’d write them off and distance myself.
More recently, I’ve become a bit less of an asshole, and started making a different sort of…
Duncan Sabien is a writer, teacher, and maker of things. He loves parkour, LEGOs, and MTG, and is easily manipulated by people quoting Ender’s Game.