[ExI] Meta question

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Thu Aug 18 20:16:38 UTC 2016

On 2016-08-18 17:32, William Flynn Wallace wrote:
> Given that, we cannot define irrational behavior.  spike
> Weight in on this Anders - please?

Huh? I thought Caplans definition is pretty clear. There is epistemic 
rationality - trying to believe true things - and instrumental 
rationality - trying to choose the most effective means to get one's 
goals. People can fail at these, and then we may say they are irrational.

Sometimes we overestimate how much they know or can think, so it can be 
unfair. Sometimes they have goals we do not fully understand, so we 
think they are irrational about something while they are actually pretty 
rational (a lot of economics is about this). Rational irrationality is 
simply due to having goals that make it instrumentally rational to be 
epistemically irrational: there is a goal (which is often hidden to 
outsiders) that is best served by not being too epistemically rational.

A philosopher friend told me about her religious mother responding to 
her probing questions about religion when she was young by saying that 
she also had that kind of questions, but she decided she was better off 
not inquiring. That is rational irrationality: the mother benefited 
(perhaps emotionally) from being religious, and suspected poking too 
much at her belief foundations would lose the benefit.

> I think if one cannot define a word one should not use it. On 
> Match.com, which I was on a few years ago, I had to pick:  Religious, 
> Spiritual but not Religious, neither Spiritual nor Religious.  I 
> picked the second one but cannot to this day say what Spiritual 
> means.  I just did not want to severely limit my matches.  But I do 
> not use words that if I were asked I could not define to my 
> satisfaction.  So, for ex., I do not use these words:  intuition, 
> instinct, spiritual.
> (as for your engineers, I would think that 'whatever works' is 
> rational and whatever doesn't, despite theory, first impression, or 
> expert opinion to the contrary, is irrational)
> bill w
> On Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 10:06 AM, Dan TheBookMan <danust2012 at gmail.com 
> <mailto:danust2012 at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     This discussion reminds me of Caplan's concept of rational
>     irrationality:
>     https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_irrationality
>     <https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_irrationality>
>     Regards,
>     Dan
>     Sample my Kindle books via:
>     http://author.to/DanUst
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Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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