Periscope Depth

but your name is on a lot of quotes in this book

It’s good to know that time, new ideas and exposure to different people can change my outlook on life.

This is an odd point to make, I know, since most people hold up ironclad devotion to one’s declared ideals as the highest good. Is there any easier attack on a political candidate, for instance, than to call him a “flip-flopper” – someone who changes his mind on the issues? If I told you that Ronald Reagan used to be more conservative when he was married to Jane Wyman than when he was married to Nancy, would you respect him more or less for having altered his views?

But I’ve come to believe that being able to shift your mindset proves a greater rationality than sticking to it. You wouldn’t put much stock in a scientific theory that hadn’t changed from a hundred years ago (or even ten years ago). And if our goal is to be as scientific as possible with our philosophy – to adapt in order to explain the evidence, in other words – then why shouldn’t our philosophies change?

All of the above is prologue. The meat of the matter: a post made about sexism. The conservative of eight years ago, or maybe even five years ago, probably wouldn’t have given that much weight. But having known Christine for the past four years and having talked these things out with her at length, my opinions on the matter have changed (viz). She explained her point of view to me and, in doing so, changed mine.*

This is the sort of thing Eliezer Yudkowsky talks about all the time at Overcoming Bias. You don’t measure the strength of your philosophy in your ability to rebuff attacks; that just tells you how good you are at rhetoric. Even “internal consistency” is not a sufficient test, in and of itself – a canny debater can find consistency between just about any two viewpoints.

You measure the strength of your philosophy in how accurately it reflects the real world. And sometimes, as you’re exposed to new pieces of the world, this means changing your damned mind.

Five years ago, I might have read a post like that and said, “Pfft – feminism.” Today I read a post like that and say, “Y’know, I think she’s right.”** The virtues of a rational mindset, people!

* The obvious rejoinder to this is “hurh hurh, changed his politics to match the girl he was sleeping with, no shocker there.” But Christine can tell you that I’m no less the hardcore markets-and-free-exchange advocate than I was when we started dating. Or since our break-up. Hell, our opinions on legalized prostitution – an area where my forte of economics and hers of feminist philosophy clearly overlap – would probably spark a fire in a dry season. So suck it, haters.

** I don’t have much to add to the discussion itself, except to reiterate earlier points. ‘Offensive’ humor, when it’s funny – Dave Chappelle, for instance – is funny because it still hits the criteria for being funny: the reversal of expectations, the highlighting of the absurd, etc. I don’t find Sarah Silverman funny at all, but I can see where people do: the juxtaposition of a cute woman with a sweet-sounding voice saying filthy things. But just leaning on the ‘crude’ button? The hell’s funny about that?