I posted a few comments to the website http://curi.us recently, but I have now been effectively banned from posting. The owner deletes my posts and any other comments that are in any way supportive of what I’m saying. They appear and then a few minutes later they’re gone.
The owner (Elliot Temple a.k.a. “curi”) calls himself an Objectivist – a philosophy all about the rational pursuit of one’s own happiness – yet the way Elliot talks to and about people seems irrational to me. That is, it produces all kinds of negative outcomes in his life. For example, several people have recently started a discussion group about the ideas of the physicist-philosopher David Deutsch. Elliot wants to join the group but the owners refuse to have him due to his behavior.
Here are some of the comments Elliot made in the course of a critique of a radio show appearance of David Deutsch:
> DD you suck. > more boring crap > he's at the same time managing to be too much of a wordy blowhard and also not including substance. cuz he wastes most of his time on useless status junk. > jesus fuck this sentence structure. > WHAT THE FUCK DD, DIAF > did his minder teach him never to contradict an interviewer? > this is so pathetic. > and why does DD say he is "afraid"? that's dumb. > long ass lecture
David Deutsch is an extraordinary mind. He has written two incredible books – The Fabric of Reality and The Beginning of Infinity. In the past Elliot has apparently been lucky enough to spend a lot of time conversing with Deutsch. He thanks “David Deutsch for answering thousands of questions” But now, Elliot appears to treat him like a piece of shit on his shoe. Perhaps Elliot believes he has “surpassed the master”? I don’t know.
In case you aren’t aware, the expression “DIAF” quoted above means “Die In A Fire”. He’s telling David Deutsch to die in a fire. Nice. [CLARIFICATION: As I said on Twitter, I’m pretty sure this isn’t supposed to be taken literally, so don’t get too het up about it. It may not even be that Elliot thinks he has “surpassed the master”. An alternative explanation is that the bile is actually just Elliot’s rather unusual way of communicating how bad he considers a mistake – the more scathing, the more evil the mistake. Some Objectivists read Ayn Rand’s essays and come away with ideas about training your emotions to hate “evil” and taking every opportunity to pronounce moral judgment. I’ve summarized a couple of relevant essays.]
The critique I’m talking about was posted in a comment on another page of criticism of David Deutsch. Before I go on, I want to make something clear. If you haven’t heard of Critical Rationalism (CR) or read David Deutsch or Karl Popper who originated the idea, you may be thinking that criticism – particularly negative and public criticism – is bad. That may be the prevailing view, but it’s completely wrong. Criticism is good! It’s the mechanism for rejecting bad ideas – a necessary part of creating new knowledge. So, unlike most people, David Deutsch would appreciate pages of criticism. They are gifts. Or at least they should be.
The problem is the attitude and style of the criticism. The more sneering the criticism, the harder it is, in general, for people to take on the substance because their emotions are stinging from the accompanying barbs. I doubt that David Deutsch would have a problem, but most people would. And it’s not just David Deutsch who is reading the criticism. It’s posted publicly. The reaction, predictably, has been negative from a large number of people (I’m not sure quite how large because Elliot deletes the comments). But people are thinking “David Deutsch is a nice guy, a massive intellect. Who the hell is Elliot Temple to talk about him in this supercilious way?” So they don’t like Elliot.
And, in my view, it’s all so unnecessary. There is no need for Elliot to adopt that style. He can make the points just as effectively – more effectively – without the invective.
In the comment thread, I also had a conversation with someone going by the pseudonym “Alisa” (Ayn Rand’s name at birth).
Alisa’s last comment asked me:
I guess a lot of people would use the term “emotional outburst” to refer to a communication that is *not* a product of reasoned thought. Is that consistent with how you mean it?http://curi.us/2017-david-deutsch-interview-undermines-his-philosophy#15330
As I mentioned earlier, I have been banned from the site, so I will make a reply here in the hope she sees it.
My best guess is that Elliot’s emotional outburst is not a product of reasoned thought. I’ve asked him to provide a rationale but he prevaricated by telling me that to understand, “It’s more than 10 books of material”.
My view is the same as the Anonymous comment , “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it.” though I am prepared to listen to an explanation as to why this is not true.
In any case, as I said to Elliot, I don’t need to understand the rationale to know that there is one. If he states the context of knowledge that is required and then goes on to explain his rationale given this context, even if I don’t have that context, I can at least see that he has a rationale. Those that do have the context will be able to understand and maybe begin to criticize it. Criticism is good and he should know this. But shortly afterwards he banned me from posting on the site.
Why is it better to ban me than answer my question? I can only think that he does not have a clear rationale for his angry style, and for some reason does not want to admit it. That would be fine and, even expected, for a “normal” person – someone who didn’t understand Popper’s Critical Rationalism or David Deutsch’s. But Elliot does understand these ideas. His website is all about the value of criticism, the value of explanations and how bad it is to prioritize popularity over reality. So why is he so reluctant to explain his reasons?
Alisa also said:
I think disagreements over whether an idea is *true* have priority over disagreements about the *choice of words used to express the idea*. In general, I don’t see how you can expect to reach agreement on the latter without reaching agreement on the former.http://curi.us/2017-david-deutsch-interview-undermines-his-philosophy#15330
I agree that truth is more important than the choice of words. But I don’t see any inherent conflict. You can express the same truth in different ways.
Why choose to say “WHAT THE FUCK DD, DIAF” with all the negative ramifications that produces? It makes no sense to me.
Anyway, I’ve written this post mainly so that Elliot can’t go on to say that I evaded. I don’t want to be added to his List of Fallible Ideas Evaders. I think his name could be added to that list, however! (Hence the title of this post).
I don’t want to hurt Elliot. This post isn’t intended to embarrass him or be mean. I respect Elliot. I have learnt a lot from his writing. I want him to be more widely appreciated. I genuinely think he will get better results from toning down his language and that he has a wrong assumption somewhere. I wish he would at least consider that he has a wrong assumption and open his reasoning to proper criticism – if not from me, from others with more of the context that he believes is necessary to understand it. That said, I do think I share similar context so maybe I could help.
UPDATE: It turns out the reason I’ve been turfed off Elliot’s site is because he believes I have been posting (criminally) malicious posts on his site under different names. I absolutely haven’t. But I’ve used a VPN, so I assume I’ve been tarred with the brush of someone else’s crimes. It’s completely unjust. https://anon99.news.blog/2020/02/02/falsely-convicted/
Even so, I am glad to have an explanation for his confusing and seemingly hypocritical behavior in terms of promoting criticism but then evading it. I hope he will not evade my criticism of his techniques for determining the culprit of the malicious posts. They are nothing to do with me.