Quotes

[Last Updated: 4-2-19]

“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no grounds for preferring either opinion.” – John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

“Intuition comes first, strategic reasoning second.” – Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind

“I’m not saying that both sides are necessarily equal; centrism doesn’t commit me to splitting the difference, or saying that both sides are always partially right in any dispute. But centrism does commit me to listening carefully to arguments from both sides, and taking my own biases into account, before trying to render any verdict.” – Jonathan Haidt, “I retract my Republican-Party-Bad Post

“What you do if you really want to have an argument with someone is you help them … You want to make their argument as magnificent as you possibly can, and then see if you can undermine it … Because then you’re getting somewhere … Any idiot can make a strawman and light it.” – Jordan Peterson, skillful vs unskillful discussion, Dostoevsky knows cop watching

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.” – G.K. Chesterton, The Thing (1929)

“[Y]ou have no idea how difficult it is to successfully renegotiate the terms of a timeless Platonic contract that doesn’t literally exist.” – Scott Alexander, In Favor of Niceness, Community and Civilization

“[I]ntellectual honesty demands that, occasionally at least, we go out of our way to confront strong arguments opposed to our views. How else are we to protect ourselves from continuing in error? It seems only fair to remind the reader that intellectual honesty has its dangers: arguments read perhaps at first in curious fascination may come to convince and even to seem natural and intuitive. Only the refusal to listen guarantees one against being ensnared by the truth.” – Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974)

“One view about how to write a philosophy book holds that the author should think through all the details of the view he presents, and its problems, polishing and refining his view to present to the world a finished, complete, and elegant whole. This is not my view. At any rate, I believe there is also a place and a function in our ongoing intellectual life for a less complete work, containing unfinished presentations, conjectures, open questions and problems, leads, side connections, as well as a main line of argument. There is room for words on subjects other than last words.” – Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974)

“[D]efects in one account do not obligingly disappear with the appearance of defects in another.” – James Griffin, Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement and Moral Importance (2003)

With the truth, all given facts harmonize; but with what is false, the truth soon hits a wrong note. – Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics

“You’re probably wrong in some important way. And you might think, “Well, so what?” But […] it’s not so simple. Being wrong in some important way is like having a map that doesn’t correspond to the streets. If you’re wrong in some important way, when you go to where you’re going you will get lost. And you might end up in a neighborhood that you don’t want to visit. So it actually matters if you’re wrong. And so now if you’re talking to someone who is acting in opposition to you, it’s possible that during your contentious discussion, they will tell you something about how you’re wrong, that’s accurate. Now you’re not going to be very happy about that. Because […] who wants to discover that they’re wrong? But it’s better to figure out that your map is inaccurate than it is to get lost. And so one of the things you have to remember when you’re discussing things with people, even if they’re out to defeat you, let’s say, is that there is some glimmering of the possibility that you can walk away with more knowledge than you walked in with. And […] that can be worth paying quite a price for. – Jordan Peterson, The Art of Argument

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