Litany of Instrumentarski

Or should it be Pragmatarski? Neither portmanteau sounds good. Anyway, basically a copy of my recent Less Wrong post:

Eliezer Yudkowski created the following affirmation, which he calls the Litany of Tarski:

If the box contains a diamond,

I desire to believe that the box contains a diamond;

If the box does not contain a diamond,

I desire to believe that the box does not contain a diamond;

Let me not become attached to beliefs I may not want.

This is all fine and dandy, but how would an instrumentalist like myself interpret “If the box contains a diamond”? It clearly talks about the territory in the overrated map/territory meme. So I would like to restate it in a more instrumental way, which does not presume existence of territory:

If believing that there is a diamond in the box lets me find the diamond in the box,

I desire to believe that there is a diamond in the box;

If believing that there is a diamond in the box leaves me with an empty box,

I desire to believe that there is no diamond in the box;

Let me not become attached to inaccurate beliefs.

Here I replaced the statement about the territory (“box contains…”) with the statement about models (“believing that there is…”) and inputs: “lets me find the diamond…”

For some reason this caused confusion, people decided that I find diamonds useful, so I modified it a bit to be clear that even if don’t care about diamonds, I do care about good accounting:

If I will find a diamond in the box,

I desire to believe that I will find a diamond in the box;

If I will find no diamond in the box,

I desire to believe that I will find no diamond in the box;

Let me not become attached to inaccurate beliefs.

This more explicitly states that I value accurate models, i.e. those best predicting future inputs. However, Vaniver said that s/he prefers the unmodified version as a stronger one. I am not sure about the reasoning, but I find either one more palatable than the Eliezer’s original. Well, the name still sucks.

 

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2 comments on “Litany of Instrumentarski

  1. Berry says:

    “If believing that there is a diamond in the box lets me find the diamond in the box,

    I desire to believe that there is a diamond in the box;

    If believing that there is a diamond in the box leaves me with an empty box,

    I desire to believe that there is no diamond in the box;

    Let me not become attached to inaccurate beliefs.”

    —————————

    Why make up a new name if you can just use William James’ version of Pragmatism, which is basically this?

    • shminux says:

      Thank you for bringing William James to my attention, I am not a trained philosopher, and so reinvent a lot of existing ideas. Judging from the Wikipedia article on William James, he did indeed define truth instrumentally: “A belief was true, he said, if it worked for all of us, and guided us expeditiously through our semihospitable world.” It is not the same definition I would use. Well, I prefer to not use the adjective “true” for beliefs, and stick with “accurate” instead, to minimize confusion. Anyway, his qualifier “if it worked for all of us” is what I find overly restrictive.

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