Reasoning by rhetoric and why principles can’t work
And the general issues with reasoning by rhetoric.
Intuition is far stronger. Operating with rules is only useful in the absence of strong intuition behind those rules.
Creating generaliseable principles from your mistakes is actually really hard. So many times I’ve made a mistake and written up some breakdown of it with a principle that would’ve helped in that situation but that was actually wrong and mistaken in and of itself.
Using principles is like getting your system 2 to replace everything.
How people who actually succeed have done a lot of success is by trying stuff a lot then they fail then they understand, mostly not in words really, the lessons, then they summarise it in words which is a pointer to the experience inside thesmelves. Trying to copy this yourself doesn’t mean it will work. Real life is a bit more complicated than that.
If Ray Dalio is talking about how Principles were really effective to him, that doesn’t mean that if you copy paste them you’ll experience all the benefit, because you probably don’t understand all the nuance.
The learning happens out there in reality.
You try stuff, and then stuff happens, and you’re massive system-1-intuition-thingy learns lessons on a gut level, and you don’t have to try or manually take the wheel and redirect your actions or anything. When you really understand, you want to do it naturally, and don’t need a principle.
And whatever you write about what you’ve learned will be pretty hard to capture. And any one-sentence summary will end up sounding like “always try your hardest”, or “life is better with friends” or something, even if what you’re actually feeling is infinitely more grand and laced with nuance.
But the really really really most important thing about this, and the meta aspect of this, is the
“x, therefore y, therefore z, therefore godhood, therefore x is the path to godhood”.
You see this all the time. All the time.
But after you’ve read enough things like this, then tried it, then it’s failed, then you summarise everything you’ve learned by uttering something like [Stop trying to form habits], or “Stoicism vs the methods of rationality”, or “why your online communit will probably fail and what you can do about it”, after you’ve heard reasonable-sounding rhetoric explain why X is the greatest thing and is the path to goodhood and read out the logical progression of ideas and believe truly and fully that because it sounds so logical and because the author is freaking MARCUS AURELIUS or NAVAL RAVIKANT or RAY DALIO and he sounds so confident and he describes his idea as obviously true and right that because of all of this this is actually the exception and this untested idea is actually true you think it’s true.
But reality is the final arbitrar.
I am so sorry, but it is actually a red flag when something has no scientific evidence.
It doesn’t mean by default it’s wrong, but it means you shouldn’t stake on it. You can’t be as confident in something that has no evidence compared to what does.
It’s impossible to communicate the feeling of believing something so fully and truly for a spell and then realising it’s fatal flaw and realising that a part of your could see it all along but you didn’t want to believe it. You can’t communicate a lack of trust, because trust can only be broken by the thing breaking before your eyes when no part of you expected it to.
But this has happened to me about three times over the last year and a half, three great idea. You learn that with every great idea, no matter what it is, you will be able to find extremely smart, successful people praising it and explaining why it’s obviously true.
And once this actually happens, you’ll realise that it takes more than for someone you think is super smart to say something for it to be true….
… and that, again, you actually can’t rely on anyone.
If you actually want to know if your thing works, do an experiment. If you can’t design an experiment, huge red flag. No exceptions. Don’t stake anything huge on it, unless you’re willing to lose a lot or waste a tonne of everyone’s time.
I’ve been insanely lucky that every step along the way of my huge central beliefs being crushed, I was protected from extreme harm, despite desperately taking actions I thought would help me.
Do not count on that luck.