Overreaching example – psychopaths

Brett Hall made a YouTube video about a Twitter discussion about psychopathy being heritable. In the Twitter thread Claire Lehmann, who edits a magazine called Quillette sez that a twin study shows that psychopathy is heritable. David Deutsch points out that bad behaviour is partly a result of the institutions of the society in which a person is raised.

Brett Hall then made a video criticising Lehmann in a slightly different way. He sez that behaviour is caused by beliefs. He sez we can change our beliefs by conjecture and criticism, that all knowledge is created this way and that genetic beliefs are no exception to this rule. Brett also mentions anti-rational memes without explaining what they are.

Brett’s video is bad. I can work out Brett’s point cuz I know the correct version of his position already, but I think most of the people watching the video will get lost. Brett doesn’t even refer the watcher to a source where he could get a good explanation of memes and genes, e.g. – The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch.

This is related to another problem. Who is the video’s intended audience? That material is too advanced for most YouTube viewers. And for people who understand enough of the video to follow along it doesn’t deliver any value as a result of many mistakes made in the video. For example, beliefs don’t cause behaviour. A person chooses behaviour and he may take his beliefs into account when making that choice. Saying the behaviour is caused by belief imports a lower level concept, causation, into a situation where higher level concepts like choices are relevant. In addition, animals don’t have beliefs since they can’t understand explanations but they exhibit behaviours. So some behaviours arise despite the absence of beliefs.

Brett’s video is an example of overreaching. Overreaching is where a person takes on a project that is far too hard for his current abilities. Since the project is far too hard the person makes a lot of mistakes. He makes so many mistakes that he can’t correct them all. In Brett’s case, he’s trying to think through all of the issues I listed above while making a video with technology he doesn’t understand very well.

This is a wider problem than Brett Hall. Most political and moral discussion online is conducted by people who are overreaching. Brett’s video is not the worst example I have seen this week. What is the solution to this kind of problem? One solution is to refrain from overreaching yourself. I saw Brett’s video and started making slides to reply. Then I realised that a correct account of the issue Brett brought up would take several videos and that Brett was overreaching. I decided it was better to explain overreaching than to respond to somebody overreaching and possibly do it myself.

A correct account of the issues brought up by Claire Lehmann’s tweets with no major omissions would require a very long series of videos, which would include issues like epistemology, philosophy of science, mental illness and political economy as well as material on memes. Most political commentators don’t make such long series of videos or long discussions because they’re too busy reacting to the immediate issue to learn about the issue properly. Political commentators overestimate how much attention people actually pay to their work. Most readers are also overreaching and will at most get a distorted gist of what you write.

If people want to have productive political discussions then they need to start by learning how to discuss properly instead of overreaching.

About conjecturesandrefutations
My name is Alan Forrester. I am interested in science and philosophy: especially David Deutsch, Ayn Rand, Karl Popper and William Godwin.

One Response to Overreaching example – psychopaths

  1. Brett left FI because he found criticism hard to deal with, so he looked for some less critical people to interact with instead. So of course his work is shit – instead of learning to address criticisms, he looked for a way to dodge them.

    (The specific criticisms that most alienated Brett were about how he is a teacher who hurts children for his job. He didn’t want to think about that *so much* that he abandoned the only serious CR forum … and then he supposedly is some kinda CR philosopher. He also apparently fucking hates me now and was doing his best to be mean to me, on purpose, on Twitter. A few years of rationalizing why he isn’t participating in serious philosophy discussions anymore and I guess the best way he could justify it to himself was to hate me personally.)

    > Most political commentators don’t make such long series of videos or long discussions because they’re too busy reacting to the immediate issue to learn about the issue properly.

    also, suppose i made those videos. would Claire Lehmann give a damn? who would actually change their mind *or* refute what i said? people don’t want to discuss and actually understand criticism and resolve the issue.

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