nhaliday + prioritizing   34

Why read old philosophy? | Meteuphoric
(This story would suggest that in physics students are maybe missing out on learning the styles of thought that produce progress in physics. My guess is that instead they learn them in grad school when they are doing research themselves, by emulating their supervisors, and that the helpfulness of this might partially explain why Nobel prizewinner advisors beget Nobel prizewinner students.)

The story I hear about philosophy—and I actually don’t know how much it is true—is that as bits of philosophy come to have any methodological tools other than ‘think about it’, they break off and become their own sciences. So this would explain philosophy’s lone status in studying old thinkers rather than impersonal methods—philosophy is the lone ur-discipline without impersonal methods but thinking.

This suggests a research project: try summarizing what Aristotle is doing rather than Aristotle’s views. Then write a nice short textbook about it.
ratty  learning  reading  studying  prioritizing  history  letters  philosophy  science  comparison  the-classics  canon  speculation  reflection  big-peeps  iron-age  mediterranean  roots  lens  core-rats  thinking  methodology  grad-school  academia  physics  giants  problem-solving  meta:research  scholar  the-trenches  explanans  crux  metameta  duplication  sociality  innovation  quixotic 
june 2018 by nhaliday
Contingent, Not Arbitrary | Truth is contingent on what is, not on what we wish to be true.
A vital attribute of a value system of any kind is that it works. I consider this a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for goodness. A value system, when followed, should contribute to human flourishing and not produce results that violate its core ideals. This is a pragmatic, I-know-it-when-I-see-it definition. I may refine it further if the need arises.

I think that the prevailing Western values fail by this standard. I will not spend much time arguing this; many others have already. If you reject this premise, this blog may not be for you.

I consider old traditions an important source of wisdom: they have proven their worth over centuries of use. Where they agree, we should listen. Where they disagree, we should figure out why. Where modernity departs from tradition, we should be wary of the new.

Tradition has one nagging problem: it was abandoned by the West. How and why did that happen? I consider this a central question. I expect the reasons to be varied and complex. Understanding them seems necessary if we are to fix what may have been broken.

In short, I want to answer these questions:

1. How do values spread and persist? An ideology does no good if no one holds it.
2. Which values do good? Sounding good is worse than useless if it leads to ruin.

The ultimate hope would be to find a way to combine the two. Many have tried and failed. I don’t expect to succeed either, but I hope I’ll manage to clarify the questions.

Christianity Is The Schelling Point: https://contingentnotarbitrary.com/2018/02/22/christianity-is-the-schelling-point/
Restoring true Christianity is both necessary and sufficient for restoring civilization. The task is neither easy nor simple but that’s what it takes. It is also our best chance of weathering the collapse if that’s too late to avoid.

Christianity is the ultimate coordination mechanism: it unites us with a higher purpose, aligns us with the laws of reality and works on all scales, from individuals to entire civilizations. Christendom took over the world and then lost it when its faith faltered. Historically and culturally, Christianity is the unique Schelling point for the West – or it would be if we could agree on which church (if any) was the true one.

Here are my arguments for true Christianity as the Schelling point. I hope to demonstrate these points in subsequent posts; for now I’ll just list them.

- A society of saints is the most powerful human arrangement possible. It is united in purpose, ideologically stable and operates in harmony with natural law. This is true independent of scale and organization: from military hierarchy to total decentralization, from persecuted minority to total hegemony. Even democracy works among saints – that’s why it took so long to fail.
- There is such a thing as true Christianity. I don’t know how to pinpoint it but it does exist; that holds from both secular and religious perspectives. Our task is to converge on it the best we can.
- Don’t worry too much about the existence of God. I’m proof that you don’t need that assumption in order to believe – it helps but isn’t mandatory.

Pascal’s Wager never sat right with me. Now I know why: it’s a sucker bet. Let’s update it.

If God exists, we must believe because our souls and civilization depend on it. If He doesn’t exist, we must believe because civilization depends on it.

Morality Should Be Adaptive: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/04/morals-should-be-adaptive.html
I agree with this
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Docta Ignorantia – quas lacrimas peperere minoribus nostris!
One minor advantage of cultural homogeneity is that it gives you tools to figure out exactly how ignorant a society’s authors and intellectuals truly were. In an era when the pool of books written on any given topic was small, then if someone says something quirky we can eventually, given enough time and coffee, figure out exactly where he got his quirky ideas from.

...

However it may be, Schelling was a genius, and his contemporaries recognized his genius at an early age and rewarded it. For us this may be slightly difficult to parse, at first: how can you recognize the intellectual talent of a man — of a boy, really — who is in fact deeply ignorant of his own field, philosophy? How can you make him a professor and expect him to lecture on what he has only just started to study?

In our already-degenerate culture, talent has become synonymous with grinding. Having no common standards for the good, the beautiful, and the true, we have no easy way to judge whether someone who disagrees with us is far-sighted or short-sighted. (Imagine looking at Monet’s haystacks for the very first time.) With no consensus on the questions that matter, to seek standards for expertise we have no choice but to turn to the things that don’t matter: the raw mass of (relatively) uncontroversial background material that anyone hoping to become an expert on a certain subject would find useful.
gnon  canon  literature  big-peeps  philosophy  reflection  culture  society  prioritizing  studying  info-foraging  history  early-modern  germanic  ranking  info-dynamics  cultural-dynamics  diversity  unintended-consequences  community  track-record  letters  academia  rot  homo-hetero  matching  virtu  egalitarianism-hierarchy  communication  explore-exploit  memetics 
january 2018 by nhaliday
Relative Effects of Forward and Backward Planning on Goal PursuitPsychological Science - Jooyoung Park, Fang-Chi Lu, William M. Hedgcock, 2017
Compared with forward planning, backward planning not only led to greater motivation, higher goal expectancy, and less time pressure but also resulted in better goal-relevant performance. We further demonstrated that this motivational effect occurred because backward planning allowed people to think of tasks required to reach their goals more clearly, especially when goals were complex to plan. These findings suggest that the way people plan matters just as much as whether or not they plan.
study  psychology  cog-psych  intervention  self-control  discipline  the-monster  gtd  productivity  social-psych  gotchas  decision-making  workflow  bootstraps  akrasia  mindful  prioritizing  procrastination  🦉  environmental-effects 
september 2017 by nhaliday
mental gluttony – Snakes and Ladders
Again, while it is a great blessing that a man no longer has to be rich in order to enjoy the masterpieces of the past, for paperbacks, first-rate color reproductions, and stereo-phonograph records have made them available to all but the very poor, this ease of access, if misused — and we do misuse it — can become a curse. We are all of us tempted to read more books, look at more pictures, listen to more music than we can possibly absorb, and the result of such gluttony is not a cultured mind but a consuming one; what it reads, looks at, listens to is immediately forgotten, leaving no more traces behind than yesterday’s newspaper.

https://twitter.com/eli_schiff/status/860648590854762498
Clearing up browser bookmarks of saved reading. Realizing that having way too much to read for a lifetime isn't something to be proud of.

https://twitter.com/GtaGrothendieck/status/886639545583886336
letters  pinboard  info-dynamics  info-foraging  attention  the-monster  temperance  prudence  culture  big-peeps  aristos  old-anglo  aphorism  quotes  rhetoric  advice  regularizer  prioritizing  workflow  twitter  social  discussion  techtariat  internet  notetaking  exocortex  multi  unaffiliated  gnon  right-wing  explore-exploit 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Read History Of Philosophy Backwards | Slate Star Codex
https://twitter.com/robinhanson/status/810281385852276736
Philosophy is mainly useful in inoculating you against other philosophy. Else you'll be vulnerable to the first coherent philosophy you hear
ratty  yvain  ssc  rhetoric  contrarianism  prioritizing  info-foraging  learning  philosophy  multi  twitter  social  discussion  hanson  impetus  reason  truth  cynicism-idealism  telos-atelos  meaningness 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Leaving Social Media Taught Me How Broken The News Cycle Is | FiveThirtyEight
Informing Ourselves to Death: https://secondnaturejournal.com/informing-ourselves-to-death/
Neil Postman appears on The Open Mind on December 8, 1990 to discuss the problem of information glut with host Richard Heffner.
news  org:data  attention  serene  tribalism  internet  media  social  polarization  prioritizing  culture-war  multi  journos-pundits  big-peeps  org:mag  right-wing  interview  video  ascetic 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Arthur Schopenhauer: Chapter XXIV, On Reading and Books
§290
Ignorance degrades a man only when it is found in company with wealth. A poor man is subdued by his poverty and distress; with him his work takes the place of knowledge and occupies his thoughts. On the other hand, the wealthy who are ignorant live merely for their pleasures and are like animals, as can be seen every day. Moreover, there is the reproach that wealth and leisure have not been used for that which bestows on them the greatest possible value.

§291
When we read, someone else thinks for us; we repeat merely his mental process. It is like the pupil who, when learning to write, goes over with his pen the strokes made in pencil by the teacher. Accordingly, when we read, the work of thinking is for the most part taken away from us. Hence the noticeable relief when from preoccupation with our thoughts we pass to reading. But while we are reading our mind is really only the playground of other people’s ideas; and when these finally depart, what remains? The result is that, whoever reads very much and almost the entire day but at intervals amuses himself with thoughtless pastime, gradually loses the ability to think for himself; just as a man who always rides ultimately forgets how to walk. But such is the case with very many scholars; they have read themselves stupid. [...]
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march 2017 by nhaliday
What was the hardest part of doing your Ph.D.? - Quora
I think it’s a 5-way tie, each hard in its own way:
- Picking a good topic.
- Figuring out how to bound it.
- Actually getting started.
- Going on when nothing works as you had planned.
- Knowing when to stop.

A good advisor can make some of these things easier, but you’re the one who has to do them all.
q-n-a  qra  grad-school  phd  planning  scholar  success  advice  prioritizing 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Advice to a new graduate student
first 3 points (tough/connected advisor, big picture, benchmarking) are key:

1. There is often a tradeoff between the advisor from whom you will learn the most vs the one who will help your career the most. Letters of recommendation are the most important factor in obtaining a postdoc/faculty job, and some professors are 10x as influential as others. However, the influential prof might be a jerk and not good at training students. The kind mentor with deep knowledge or the approachable junior faculty member might not be a mover and shaker.

2. Most grad students fail to grasp the big picture in their field and get too caught up in their narrowly defined dissertation project.

3. Benchmark yourself against senior scholars at a similar stage in their (earlier) careers. What should you have accomplished / mastered as a grad student or postdoc in order to keep pace with your benchmark?

4. Take the opportunity to interact with visitors and speakers. Don't assume that because you are a student they'll be uninterested in intellectual exchange with you. Even established scholars are pleased to be asked interesting questions by intelligent grad students. If you get to the stage where the local professors think you are really good, i.e., they sort of think of you as a peer intellect or colleague, you might get invited along to dinner with the speaker!

5. Understand the trends and bandwagons in your field. Most people cannot survive on the job market without chasing trends at least a little bit. But always save some brainpower for thinking about the big questions that most interest you.

6. Work your ass off. If you outwork the other guy by 10%, the compound effect over time could accumulate into a qualitative difference in capability or depth of knowledge.

7. Don't be afraid to seek out professors with questions. Occasionally you will get a gem of an explanation. Most things, even the most conceptually challenging, can be explained in a very clear and concise way after enough thought. A real expert in the field will have accumulated many such explanations, which are priceless.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Thoughts on graduate school | Secret Blogging Seminar
I’ll organize my thoughts around the following ideas.

- Prioritize reading readable sources
- Build narratives
- Study other mathematician’s taste
- Do one early side project
- Find a clump of other graduate students
- Cast a wide net when looking for an advisor
- Don’t just work on one thing
- Don’t graduate until you have to
reflection  math  grad-school  phd  advice  expert  strategy  long-term  growth  🎓  aphorism  learning  scholar  hi-order-bits  tactics  mathtariat  metabuch  org:bleg  nibble  the-trenches  big-picture  narrative  meta:research  info-foraging  skeleton  studying  prioritizing  s:*  info-dynamics  chart  expert-experience  explore-exploit 
september 2016 by nhaliday
On Refusing to Read - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The activity of nonreading is something that scholars rarely discuss. When they — or others whose identities are bound up with books — do so, the discussions tend to have a shamefaced quality. Blame "cultural capital" — the sense of superiority associated with laying claim to books that mark one’s high social status. More entertainingly, blame Humiliation, the delicious game that a diabolical English professor invents in David Lodge’s 1975 academic satire, Changing Places. In a game of Humiliation, players win points for not having read canonical books that everyone else in the game has read. One hapless junior faculty member in the novel wins a departmental round but loses his tenure case. In real life, the game has been most happily played by the tenured professor secure in his reputation. Changing Places had apparently inspired my adviser’s confession to someone at some point, and the information then wound through the gossip mill to reach me, standing around in the mid-1990s with a beer, trying to hide my own growing list of unread books.

Consider, however, the fact that, as Matthew Wilkens points out, in 2011 more than 50,000 new novels were published in the United States alone. "The problem of abundance" is a problem for every person who has an internet connection, and it is a professional problem in every corner of literary study. Nonreading, seen in this light, is not a badge of shame, but the way of the future. Franco Moretti has been making this point for years about the literary production of the 18th and 19th centuries, inspiring a few labs-worth of scholars to turn to machine reading — for example, using algorithms to find patterns in a particular era’s literary works. This is a form of not reading that holds tight to the dream that our literary scholarship should be based on the activity of reading as much as humanly or inhumanly possible.
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september 2016 by nhaliday
soft question - How do you not forget old math? - MathOverflow
Terry Tao:
I find that blogging about material that I would otherwise forget eventually is extremely valuable in this regard. (I end up consulting my own blog posts on a regular basis.) EDIT: and now I remember I already wrote on this topic: terrytao.wordpress.com/career-advice/write-down-what-youve-d‌​one

fedja:
The only way to cope with this loss of memory I know is to do some reading on systematic basis. Of course, if you read one paper in algebraic geometry (or whatever else) a month (or even two months), you may not remember the exact content of all of them by the end of the year but, since all mathematicians in one field use pretty much the same tricks and draw from pretty much the same general knowledge, you'll keep the core things in your memory no matter what you read (provided it is not patented junk, of course) and this is about as much as you can hope for.

Relating abstract things to "real life stuff" (and vice versa) is automatic when you work as a mathematician. For me, the proof of the Chacon-Ornstein ergodic theorem is just a sandpile moving over a pit with the sand falling down after every shift. I often tell my students that every individual term in the sequence doesn't matter at all for the limit but somehow together they determine it like no individual human is of any real importance while together they keep this civilization running, etc. No special effort is needed here and, moreover, if the analogy is not natural but contrived, it'll not be helpful or memorable. The standard mnemonic techniques are pretty useless in math. IMHO (the famous "foil" rule for the multiplication of sums of two terms is inferior to the natural "pair each term in the first sum with each term in the second sum" and to the picture of a rectangle tiled with smaller rectangles, though, of course, the foil rule sounds way more sexy).

One thing that I don't think the other respondents have emphasized enough is that you should work on prioritizing what you choose to study and remember.

Timothy Chow:
As others have said, forgetting lots of stuff is inevitable. But there are ways you can mitigate the damage of this information loss. I find that a useful technique is to try to organize your knowledge hierarchically. Start by coming up with a big picture, and make sure you understand and remember that picture thoroughly. Then drill down to the next level of detail, and work on remembering that. For example, if I were trying to remember everything in a particular book, I might start by memorizing the table of contents, and then I'd work on remembering the theorem statements, and then finally the proofs. (Don't take this illustration too literally; it's better to come up with your own conceptual hierarchy than to slavishly follow the formal hierarchy of a published text. But I do think that a hierarchical approach is valuable.)

Organizing your knowledge like this helps you prioritize. You can then consciously decide that certain large swaths of knowledge are not worth your time at the moment, and just keep a "stub" in memory to remind you that that body of knowledge exists, should you ever need to dive into it. In areas of higher priority, you can plunge more deeply. By making sure you thoroughly internalize the top levels of the hierarchy, you reduce the risk of losing sight of entire areas of important knowledge. Generally it's less catastrophic to forget the details than to forget about a whole region of the big picture, because you can often revisit the details as long as you know what details you need to dig up. (This is fortunate since the details are the most memory-intensive.)

Having a hierarchy also helps you accrue new knowledge. Often when you encounter something new, you can relate it to something you already know, and file it in the same branch of your mental tree.
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june 2016 by nhaliday
When does Robert Cottrell just stop reading? (from the comments) - Marginal REVOLUTION
I read full-time to edit The Browser, and I abandon a hundred articles for every one that I finish. I generally stop if I hit “eponymous”, or “toxic”, or “trigger warning”, or “make no mistake”. Summary labelling of anything in an article as “complex” means that the writer does not understand or cannot explain the material. I don’t often read beyond headlines that use the words “surprising”, “secret”, “really”, “not” or “… and why it matters”. Any headline ending in a question mark is a bad sign. I know writers don’t usually write their own headlines, but the headline represents a best effort to say what is useful in the article by a sympathetic person who has been paid to read it.
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may 2016 by nhaliday

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