Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nosology of Human Thought

If a statement follows logically from all relevant empirical facts, it must be true, which is why anyone bothers with logic and experiment in the first place, and so I would say strictly speaking every untrue philosophical statement must stem from a mistake empirical or logical. I also think David Stove was right. As one of those empirical matters, reasoning depends heavily on the subconscious. While it is possible to consciously apprehend and appreciate every assumption, it is painstaking work; plausible but disastrous statements are far too cheap and abundant to counteract so inefficiently. (Though I recommend a bracing dose of serious logical archaeology from time to time.)

While happily the list of conscious logical fallacies seems comprehensive, and indeed we similarly have a relatively accurate about biases, for the most part the fallacies of subconscious reasoning remain unexplored.

"We will know what is wrong with our thoughts when, and only when, we have identified (for example) all the five different things (or however many there are) which go wrong in a paragraph of Berkeley intended to prove that physical things cannot exist 'without the mind'."

Alrighty then, Stove. Let's stop screwing around and start this thing up.

As the work of a sole individual, I don't expect it to be particularly accurate for some time. The main purpose at this point is to collect hypotheses to refine.

First, a general hypothesis: the laws of logic, being an immutable fact of the universe, are easily accessible to evolution and so it isn't surprising that even the smallest children can appreciate and use them. However, humans are also masters of hypocrisy and falsehood, which over time can generate corrupt heuristics which replace previously logical habits.

This means there should be patterns to ill-logic; if I correctly diagnose an illness, it should predict how a sufferer will incorrectly reason in other situations. (This in turn means it may eventually be possible to use a list such as this to generate a diagnostic set of logical problems.)


Machine-Brain Disease

Overview: Privileges institutions, algorithms, or recipes over their own reasoning.
Reality: Institutions and processes must necessarily be designed by humans, using judgment. Results of these processes can only be evaluated by human judgment.
Symptoms: Heavy reliance on simple statistics to explain complex phenomena. Worship of trusted authorities, such as inability to question science journalism. Becomes irate if presented with doubters. In severe cases, inability to generate own ideas, entirely dependent on logical authorities.
Source: Naive conclusion from observing abuse of authority.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Sacrificial Materialism Disease
Overview: Materialism contaminated with religious crusade propaganda, privileges ideals over the individuals that created those ideals.
Reality: Materialism cannot justify human-external values. If a materialist doesn't satisfy a human need or desire, then nobody is being satisfied and the effort is wasted.
Symptoms: Sacrifices material well-being for abstract ideals. Struggles with inner conflict between desires and ideal. Attempts to proselytize ideal in an attempt to assuage guilt. Becomes irate if ideal is questioned; has difficulty even considering a compromise truth. In severe cases, sufferers become bitter and lash out against non-believers for being happy.
Source: Enlightenment philosophy.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: The moral against guns and shooting found in TV and movies is a good example - shooting is opposed even when it saves innocent lives.

Abstraction Intoxication Disease
Overview: Privileges abstract logic and discussion over concrete details.
Reality: All abstractions either apply to concrete reality or are pointless. Often caused by exposure to socially-respected abstraction-intoxicated individuals.
Symptoms: Inability to or disinterest in relating thoughts or writings to actual experiences. When pressed, evades and deprecates the necessity. Inspires audience to name them sophomoric. Often absorbed with extreme idealistic discussions with little or no bearing on their actual behaviour. Becomes confused and uncertain when asked for clarification or details. For severe cases, consult an academic paper; look for extreme intricacy and an inability to write clearly, applied to describing little or nothing.
Source: Working memory limitations, see note.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown, though prevention is likely easy.

Note: When the abstractions alone overflow the working memory it can give the impression one has appreciated all there is to appreciate about an issue, by contrast to day-to-day tasks, which fit entirely in working memory by dint of practice even if not by dint of simplicity. (E.g, driving is complex but well-practiced and the problem of getting from A to B fits easily in human memory.)

Connotive Logic Disease
Overview: Privileges the connotations or associations, such as emotions or group identity, over the logical denotations of words.
Reality: While symbolism is nifty and sometimes important, symbolic meaning depends on concrete manifestation, but not vice versa. Causes extreme communication difficulties for anyone who does not share their specific associations. Often co-morbid with abstraction intoxication.
Symptoms: When confronted with logical denotations, sufferer will agree, but will not admit to using them incorrectly. Sufferer will usually be able to reason forward correctly from explicitly presented logical denotations, but revert to a contradictory stance once strongly-associated word is substituted back in. Becomes irate if confronted with with the contradiction. Sufferers can often deliver inspiring speeches, spreading or worsening the infection. Severe cases often cause a complete disconnect between words and actions.
Source: Implication of properties of human genome; error in affective balance.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Liquid-Phase Belief Disease
Overview: Sufferer's beliefs are insensitive to new evidence they explicitly agree with.
Reality: One of several learning-disabling diseases. This is an extremely common disease.
Symptoms: Sufferer will agree with provider of new information, sometimes even able to entertain light discussion of new idea. After a period of ten to thirty minutes, sufferer will revert to previous misconceptions, like a liquid flowing back to the shape of its container. Appears oblivious if confronted with the difference - either declares there's no difference, or insists the provider asserted their current belief. Becomes outraged about wrong test answers. Becomes scared if pressed by concrete evidence of the discrepancy. Luckily, even severe cases cannot affect acquisition of all information.
Source: Uncertain.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Possibly incurable. Best case scenario, caused by public schooling.

Right, that should do for a start.
Update: Naturally, I immediately thought of two more.

Anti-Bias Bias Disease
Overview: Privileges conscious logical deduction over everyday reasoning strategies.
Reality: Every single bias exists for a reason; you had potential ancestors without them, but they all died.
Symptoms: Attempts to consciously reason through problems far beyond their conscious reasoning skill, resulting in pain for themselves or others. Frequent inconsistencies between actions and logic due to keeping previously working solutions, no matter how biased. Declarations of superiority by reason of being reasonable. Becomes irate if the perceive a proposed solution is biased, especially if it works, in which case they issue comically dire warnings of future trouble.
Source: Enlightenment philosophy.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Pyrrhic Bias Cure Syndrome
Overview: A catch-all for poor decisions and false assertions that could have been avoided by being biased, instead of curing the bias.
Reality: Similarly, biases are not independent, but rather each bias takes for granted all biases formed before it, which means that curing one bias alone tends to cause more problems than it solves.
Symptoms: Rejecting common solutions and habits in exchange for even worse solutions and habits. Feeling all superior about the intention despite the inferior results.
Source: Enlightenment philosophy.
Treatment: Biases don't go away. Release it from its cage, and experiment with side-by-side comparisons between 'rational' solutions and the reflex solution; adopt the more effective one.
Cure: The cure will involve identifying which realms and goals each specific bias in fact impedes, so that curing biases can be undertaken strategically instead of idealistically.

Note: Often co-morbid with materialistic crusade disease - the sufferer believes being unbiased is an end unto itself, instead of a means.

As you can doubtlessly imagine, this list is going to get very, very long. Where a cure is even possible, it is not well known or anywhere explicitly written down. It is of utmost importance to not contract them in the first place, which means identifying and practising intellectual hygiene.

Ingroup Suite Disease
Overview: Beliefs adopted due to identifying with a group.
Reality: Human beings instinctively try to identify themselves by comparison with other individuals and groups, and additionally seek respect from groups. Humans uncritically mimic anything they identify with, and even if that fails, will often intentionally conform to perceived group norms to attain perceived respect.
Symptoms: Beliefs arranged in suites; each suites is easily identifiable as belonging to a group. Presence of one suite member predicts the presence of all members. Criticism of one suite member is seen as criticism and skepticism of all members; if cornered, no choice is seen but to reject suite wholesale. Use of counter-arguments of the form "That's not very X," where X can be Christian, rational, progressive, patriotic, et cetera. In severe cases, all beliefs will be predictable from a single question.
Source: Implied by properties of human genome.
Treatment: Isolation from or effective smear campaign against identified group. In rare cases, debunking the logical links between suite members can be effective.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: The simplest suite has two members, "I am part of a group, G" and "Everyone who's a G believes B." Showing evidence against B, causing doubt, also causes sufferer to believe they're not really in G. If sufferer depends on G-ist identity for perceived respect, effective criticism on B will be seen as an attack on the sufferer, e.g. "You're just trying to make me doubt my faith!"

Intuition Validation Disease
Source Via
Overview: Privileges feeling a certain way over accurate beliefs.
Reality: It is always possible to have accurate beliefs AND validate the intuition - usually the problem is misinterpreting the intuition. In the rare case that, for example, economic optimism is entirely unwarranted, denigrating the evidence also denigrates high-level values: do you prefer feeling optimistic, or do you prefer appreciating reality so you can do something about it?
Symptoms: Intuitive conclusions that are taken as given; the world must be shaped to reflect them. Evidence that feels contrary is rejected through argument, denunciation, or outright wilful ignorance. Rebuttals are often simple and monotone. Once inflamed, monotone rebuttals can often spread to logically unrelated discussion; feelings subside slowly, which means the feeling of being under attack hasn't gone away, which causes continuation of the counter-assault. In severe cases, criticism of intuitive idea is seen as personal insults.
Source: Uncertain.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: Ironically, in severe cases, measured criticism is a personal insult: the sufferer recognizes the reasonableness of their critic at some level; rejecting reasons for emotional satisfaction is something the sufferer themselves holds in contempt.
It is sometimes strategically sound to feel a certain way rather than to think certain well-supported thoughts. For example, unwarranted confidence can sometimes cause success where measured doubt causes failure; it is a quirk of the neuronal belief system's interaction with the behaviour bits.
Strongly related to cognitive dissonance. 

Novelty Aversion Disease
Overview: Privileges evidence for existing beliefs over evidence for new beliefs.
Reality: One of several learning-disabling diseases, possibly related to the necessity of repetition for growing axons and dendrites.
Symptoms: Imbalanced criticism of new ideas, and scoffing at evidence against old ideas, characterized by attempts to whitewash the rejection as reasonable. Age is a risk factor. Shows placid confidence in the face of overwhelming evidence, if the evidence is new. I've never observed a severe case.
Source: I hesitantly guess that it is due to being repeatedly hurt by novelty, hence 'aversion.'
Treatment: Repeated exposure both erodes the novelty and gives the idea an air of social acceptability and relevance.
Cure: Possibly incurable.

Note: It is often strategically sound both to doubt new evidence and to hold onto time-tested beliefs. However, if the novel proponent knew how to find their measurement or logic error, they wouldn't have committed it in the first place, which means both accurate and wrong proponents will find no errors in themselves. The onus to find the error and tell the difference falls on the skeptic, because nobody else is capable.

Criticism-Supremacy Disease
Overview: Privileges plausible criticism over plausible confirmations.
Reality: Charitable interpretations are almost always more useful for the reader. New ideas or ways of doing things can be extracted from even the most heavily diseased/biased/fallacious subjects, and it appears that everyone can recount usefully unique experiences.
Symptoms: Confuses criticism with refutation. Especially, confuses criticism of side-points with a refutation of the main thrust, due to associating the feeling of valid criticism with refutation. Will contradict previous refutations to pursue new criticisms. Routinely misunderstands complex ideas as simpler-to-refute ideas. Usually unable to apply critical methods reflexively to criticism: severe cases are post-modernism and nihilism; criticism targeted at own ideas results in no conscious beliefs in anything.
Source: See note; implications thereof.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown

Note: A subtype of intellectual dominance syndrome. The overarching goal is social dominance along the scholar hierarchy, at the expense of accurate beliefs - or at least accurate assertions. 

Oh hey, I found an ur-disease. I should probably record intellectual dominance as well.

Sinthought Syndrome
Overview: The idea that some ideas are morally wrong. A disease group covering many varieties of specific sinthoughts and interactions with other diseases.
Reality: You can't know a priori which ideas are morally wrong; they must be evaluated. You need a concrete realization of the idea to evaluate. If some ideas are wrong, it is wrong to (find out)/(know if) they're wrong.
Symptoms: Reliably responds to certain ideas with moral outrage or crimestop. Often refuses to believe allies think the thought or refuses to believe enemies don't. Use of, "But that implies [sinthought]!" as a refutation.
Source: Standard human genome; sinthoughts are defined by the culture you're raised in.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Intellectual Dominance Syndrome
Overview: Discounting the ideas of perceived social inferiors in an attempt to realize social superiority. A disease group covering many varieties of specific tactics.
Reality: The scholar dominance hierarchy is determined by who submits to whose arguments. Scholars often attempt to hack the process by rejecting sound arguments.
Symptoms: Various. Can be seen as a specific kind of ad authoritam fallacy, as the sufferer will often asymmetrically accept arguments from indisputably higher-status scholars.
Source: Human desire for status combined with scholar values.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Philosopher's Arrogance Disease
Overview: Radically overestimating how often you're right, due to thinking you're good at logic.
Reality: Logic does make you better at being right. However, first learn how surprisingly high is the baseline rate of being wrong.
Symptoms: Lack of curiosity and experimentation. Lack of fact-checking. Frequent inconsistencies with objective sources combined with resistance to any presentation of those sources. Severe cases are self-contradictory, resulting in behaving as if formally using logic isn't necessary to reach good conclusions. Such severe cases can cause total epistemic shutdown.
Source: Primarily caused by wanting to be seen as good at logic. Can also be caused by actually being good at logic, then concluding too much.
Treatment: Falsify the Ignorance Hypothesis. Assume you don't know until the evidence forces you to change your mind.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: Could also call it Rationalists' Disease. However, it would be solely because all the instances of the disease I've seen have been due to rationalism.

Affect Blindness Disease
Overview: The belief that one's subjective states, such as emotions, don't strongly affect one's behaviour.
Reality: The limbic system and insula are permanently wired into the rational parts of the brain.
Symptoms: Specific denials of biased judgment, often unprompted. Alternatively, passionate denials of feeling passionate. Stubbornly sticking by declarations no longer agreed with.
Source: Also caused by wanting to be seen as good at logic.
Treatment: Uncertain. Sleeping on it can be a patch job.
Cure: Unknown

Note: Reference.

Uncertainty Acceptance Disease
Overview: Excessive doubt in one's own judgments and perceptions.
Reality: In fact, most get through life fine, without any epistemic training (or equivalent) at all. Their first instincts must be good enough, no matter how objectively bad they are overall.
Symptoms: Repeatedly concluding against obvious and true conclusions. Occasional inability to even think of the obvious; insensitivity to certain nuances; they cannot ever be verified and so they're not even noticed. Inability to have confidence without corroborating evidence, even if such evidence is impossible to obtain. Hesitation in the face of unimportant decisions. In severe cases...I don't know, because: see implications of note.
Source: A result of noting the errors in the judgments and perceptions of others, and reflecting on one's self.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: This is one I've got a full-blown case of, so I can describe the symptoms in uncomfortable detail. This disease makes thoughts feel softer, the opposite of hard-and-fast. It's relaxing until there's a need to rely on that thought. It's somewhat terrifying when everyone around me believes a thing and just moves forward assuming it, and I cannot. Especially when it should be obvious.

I would say it's worthwhile overall, because concluding wrong is usually far more harmful than concluding right is helpful.

Epistemic Hypocrisy Disease
Overview: Makes false claims about how they have learned certain conclusions.
Reality: Actions are predictable based on beliefs not claimed relevant.
Symptoms: The sufferer is unable to decouple beliefs they believe should be decoupled. Inability to disavow parent belief. Inability to accept evidence about child belief due to immovable parent belief.
Source: Usu. tribal affiliation. Tribe requires parent belief; sufferer wishes to remain in tribe.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: Possibly always a symptom of another disease; not independent.

Ontological Hypocrisy Disease
Overview: Makes false claims about what they believe.
Reality: Actions are found to be inconsistent with claims.
Symptoms: Inability to see logical connection between hypocritical belief and personally relevant actions. Forms a rift between logical realms - logic and argument style will differ between realm near belief and all other realms.
Source: Advanced form of epistemic hypocrisy.
Treatment: Uncertain.
Cure: Unknown.

Note: Usu. unaware belief is not really believed.


Convenience Template Disease



Anonymous said...

This is definitely not what Stove was thinking about when he wrote about nosology of thought. Only the last item (what you called 'Ingroup suite' and Tyler called the 'mood affiliation fallacy') is in the right direction. Others are merely classes of symptoms, like 'bellyache': more definite than a general 'ill', but not by much.

Alrenous said...

What modifications to my strategy would you suggest, then?

Alrenous said...

Saying it better:

What does 'what Stove was thinking' actually look like? If I walk into a store and ask for one, what do I get?

According to you, I don't know what it is. I'm not going to be hit by a sudden inspiration simply because you mentioned that I don't know. If you don't describe it, preferably in detail, I will remain in ignorance.

baduin said...

Ingroup Suite Disease seems actually to a case of an Anti-Bias Bias Disease and Pyrrhic Bias Cure Disease.

Knowledge is a cooperative endeavour. Most people are not equipped for sophistical reasoning and are far better off leaving that to trusted specialists.

But if the specialists turn out to be untrustworthy, all beliefs endorsed by them are untrustworthy, also.

St. Louis apparently said:

“….No one ought to argue with [non-Christians] unless he be a very good scholar; but a layman, if he hear the Christian law defamed, should undertake its defence with the sword alone, and that he should use it to run them straight through the body, as far in as it will go!”

Alrenous said...

"Ingroup Suite Disease seems actually to a case of an Anti-Bias Bias Disease and Pyrrhic Bias Cure Disease."

You could look at it that way, yeah.

The bias being non-authoritative == trustworthy evidence, and therefore curing it means always taking ad hominem to be a non-fallacy.

However, I want to start excessively detailed, so I don't miss any relevant distinctions. Secondly, I suspect the mechanisms are different.

I'm a bit wary about your use of 'sophistical,' as the point of this project is to recognize modern sophism, so I can kill it with fire.

Alrenous said...

Well, that's about it for my patience. "what would you suggest?" Nothing, apparently.

First, this is a philosophy blog. Bare assertions will get you nowhere. This is not just because bare assertions are epistemically weak, but because I have only the vaguest idea what your criticism is. Even if I were taking it seriously, I wouldn't be able to figure out which details I should do differently.

Second, let me repeat myself, as you apparently glossed over this bit. As the work of a sole individual, I don't expect this to be accurate at first. But I need a concrete thing to refine: I need to be able to compare what I'm thinking to reality so I can find where it doesn't match.

Third, what you wrote implies the project is doomed and/or a waste of time. However, I don't much care what Stove was actually thinking; what I want is a systematized description of an important facet of reality that is currently lacking one. Stove gets credit for giving me the idea, but frankly his conception of it was highly flawed; his examples of various mistakes about the number three is hopelessly misdirected. Perhaps his mistake is one of communication rather than thinking, in which case good for him, but it still doesn't matter.

Fourth, even if you were right and the project was doomed, then the idea is not to give up but to change it into something not-doomed.

I'm so very, very tired of this bullshit.

Especially as I actually wrote this comment moments after I posted my first reply, expecting no response. I did not have to modify it, even after waiting three weeks.
This shit's recognizable from a mile away...I just like to give reality a chance to show me when I'm making a mistake.