Sunday, February 26, 2012

Another Utility Post

(Note: this refers to nobody in particular, I just want this here for when I need it)

I am attempting to have a conversation with you.

Why? Because we have a fundamental difference about not just taste (about which it is easy for reasonable people to disagree), but about the nature of reality.

This can only be because:

1) We have different underlying assumptions about how the world works. Since I don't know what these differences are yet, they might be interesting, informative, or enlightening to explore (and that exploration might--hey--even change my mind),


2) You are insane.

Since me just assuming (2) and moving on with my life is condescending and would put me in a position where I'd have to view anything you said from now on as suspicious and probably not worth listening to and would cut me off from any wisdom or insight you might actually come out with in the future, it is way safer to assume (1) at this point.

Therefore, in order to find out what the assumptions behind (1) are, I am going to ask questions.

...because I am curious about the experiences that lead people to do, say, like, and believe different things. It's one of the very few good reasons there are to talk to people you don't know on the Internet.

If you want to answer these questions and therefore maybe make the world smarter for anyone who reads the dialogue now or in the future, answer them.

If you don't want to, don't. (And if you feel like being nice, tell me that now.)

In the best of all possible worlds (for me and my particular goal here) you'd also want to understand what creates an assumption-gap between reasonable people and you'd want to assume I'm sane and ask me questions, too. If you do, know now that I'll always answer them--but you asking questions is not essential.


You might assume I am asking you questions in order to change your mind--since asking, essentially 'In the case we're looking at, I just think X, what's wrong with X?" can look more like an attempt to explain the validity of X than an attempt to understand whether there are unexpected-but-reasonable objections to X that I hadn't thought of, but there we are. I am not trying to persuade you of anything, I probably don't even know your name and will probably never meet you.

I just would like to know how a reasonable person came to decide X was a bad idea. It may make me re-evaluate X.


  1. I run into this trouble way too often, but I worry that it's condescending for me to link to someone else's blog post as a shorthand for explaining myself.

  2. You have my permission to copy and paste it and pretend its yours until such time as it starts getting you mad pussy at which point you have to admit I wrote it.

  3. I was just talking about this, and you, today.

  4. There might, at times, not be a decision process involved at all Zak. Depending on the difference you may be focusing on, the basis could well be cultural expectation/worldview, particularly where the culture in question is not as rooted in rationalism.

  5. @DHBoggs

    If someone's point of view is not rooted in a culture of rationalism, I would like to hear about that.

    And then arrange to have them quickly slain.

  6. @ Zak

    Many people are loathe to admit that they aren't driven by ruthless realpolitik like everyone else.

  7. @troll

    You spelled "too" wrong.

  8. I have no idea what this is about but here is my half-assed two euro-cents.

    Some people do not discuss matters they only argue or debate, it is all they know. Too many people pose as reasonable information seekers without inkling of honest intent and discerning dishonest intents or related tactics like concern trolling out of genuine interest is actually pretty hard. So it is often better to just curl up.

  9. It's amazing how many people are adamant about their viewpoint but fold quicker then Superman on laundry day just as soon as you start asking them questions.

  10. I have lots of times found myself folding when occasional not so friendly gamer at FLGS has started out of the blue to argue about systems, editions or game theory with line of questions not asked in good faith.

    I can't usually find wherewithal to engage and defend my views in such situation and I politely remove myself by saying some clumsy, empty evasion that just first pops in my head.

    1. And that clumsy, empty, evasion will then be presumed to be what you actually think and will be the only explanation of behavior like yours available to the interlocutor until someone who is a little more hardcore shows up and explains you for you.

    2. Yes, that will sadly be it but in my spesific example that is loss I have to take to browse the selection in peace.

  11. Heh, that would give you common ground with Hugo Drax (Moonraker). Me too, I guess, since it was the only bond film where I wanted the bad guy to win.

  12. I'd just like to say that it's these 'utility posts' that keep me coming back to your blog, Zak.

    No offense intended towards your crazy dnd ideas, your pretty lady-friends and your dark, scratchy illustration, tho.