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why LessInsane > LessWrong
GK Chesterton points out that the insane man is logically consistent.
An insane man believes “everyone is secretly out to get me,” and when everyone responds “no we’re not,” he thinks “that’s just what they would say if they were indeed out to get me!”
This is logically consistent! Yet usually wrong, or at least, not very informative.
What’s dysfunctional about the insane man is that his logical circle is very small. Information can’t mean anything, except “They’re after me.”
Therefore, he cannot break out of his circle by receiving new information into it.
He cannot merely “be skeptical” until “evidence” “compels” him to change — he can only LEAP to a new circle. His logic will stay circular — but there’s a chance it will be a bigger circle!
Becoming less insane is an exercise of the will, not of the mind! It’s an action from within, not an input from without.
Virtually all of our belief systems work this way.
Our worldviews feel infinite and all-encompassing because they are, in a sense. They’re logically consistent, but their correctness and usefulness are limited — just like the insane man’s. It’s just a matter of degree.
Like the insane man, we cannot merely “be skeptical” until “evidence” “compels” us to change our minds. We must leap. We must try on new conclusions. Learning involves taking real risks — venturing real pain and loss. And without crossing these gulfs of risk, it’s impossible for us to know what the world looks like from within a bigger circle.
We will stay as insane as we are — and hopelessly so — until we leap.
From within our current circles, anything we don’t yet believe will appear to be “extremely unlikely.”
Of course we think that! If we thought a thing were likely, we’d believe it already. We tell ourselves we doubt because “it’s unlikely,” but it’s the reverse — we think it’s unlikely because we doubt.
The insane man would say, “It’s extremely unlikely that I’m just paranoid.” He can’t judge likelihoods from within his circle. Neither can we.