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Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 274

Well, you are ignoring polysemy here; yes "bullshit" can refer to tall tales like your drinking fifty gallons of beer. However there are other senses of the word, including topics of serious inquiry in the field of epistemics.

I refer you to Professor H.G. Frankfurt's seminal work, On Bullshit (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-691-12294-6.) for more information.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 274

I find that Socratic debate usually convinces the other person that you are attacking them and their stated belief fairly quickly even if actually just honestly wanting more information.

Well, you're in good company on that one. As I recall Socrates ruffled his share of feathers.

That said, I'm talking about satisfying yourself. Convincing others necessarily involves making allowances for their muddy thinking.

Comment Re:Trump on Sweden (Score 1) 365

Except I have seen no data from the Swedish government, which publishes extremely comprehensive crime data (something we would do well to copy), to support the Syrian crime wave story. I've gone through Brottsförebyggande rådet data and it's just not there.

What I have seen is a lot of sloppy correlation and overprojection of statistical noise. For example Sweden amended its legal definition of "sexual assault" to be much, much broader, generating a spate of spurious stories about a Swedish rape epidemic.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 274

Again, you're confusing "lying" with "bullshitting". Lying is about establishing belief in a false version of the world, which is best done, as you point out, by omission. That's because lying depends on peoples' regard for the facts; it exploits that. Being caught in a false assertion destroys a lie's effectiveness, so a smart liar sticks to the facts.

Bullshitting is about inculcating the desired feelings and attitudes in the audience. While a bullshitter doesn't hesitate to use facts when they suit his purpose, he doesn't hesitate to make shit up either, because it doesn't matter if he's caught. It doesn't even matter if he asserts two inconsistent things in the course of a single sentence.

Why?

Because bullshitting doesn't aim to establish belief in propositions; propositions are completely disposable. Once it has done its job, a piece of bullshit (unlike a lie) is a nullity. You can show that it is false, but the bullshitter's adherents won't perceive that as inconsistent; not as long as the bullshitter is conveying the same attitude.

That's why fact checking a bullshitter is a waste of time, once you've established that's what he is. It doesn't matter if you prove something he said was wrong, unless you do it in a way that changes his audience's feelings.

Comment Re:Trump on Sweden (Score 1) 365

Actually the policy conclusion is not correct, however without a sophisticated understanding of statistics it's easy to be misled.

It is true that a higher proportion of immigrants commit crimes in Sweden than natives. However, if you break down immigrants by socioeconomic status and educational attainment you don't see any difference between immigrants and natives. This is because of something called Simpson's Paradox.

What's happening here is that Sweden is a wealthy advanced country with a low birth rate, and it's been importing low-education poor workers to augment it's own dwindling underclass in filling low-paying jobs. Now poor, uneducated people commit many kinds of crimes at a higher rate that affluent, educated people. Whether they are native or immigrant makes no difference. So what the Swedish statistics actually tell us is that uneducated low-wage workers make up a higher proportion of immigrants than they do of natives, which should be no surprise because that's why the largest proportion of immigrants have been admitted.

This also raises another possibility: you can actually reduce crime rates with immigration, if you let in the right people. In fact there is evidence this is happening in Canada, which places a premium on education and language skills when deciding who to admit.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 2) 274

Actually the defining characteristic of conspiracy theories is that they get you to believe things which contradict things common sense tells you are so unlikely they're bound to be false, e.g., that people do things that are against their interests, that mutual enemies act with perfect trust in each other.

It is no conspiracy theory that the Nixon White House covered up Watergate, even though that is a theory about a conspiracy. In fact Watergate shows you the problem with most conspiracy theories: massive cover ups are impossible to maintain for very long. Something as big as the government leaks information constantly.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 5, Interesting) 274

As I get older I realize how big and difficult objective "truth" is. It's easy to get hold of bits of the truth, the challenge is to get hold of enough of the truth and enough kinds of truth to make sound judgments.

That said, detecting bullshit is not intellectually challenging -- in fact I'd argue that's the defining characteristic of bullshit. Bullshit is easy to detect when it's aimed at other people. So why is bullshit so hard to resist when it's aimed at you?

Because bullshit tempts you to believe what is easy, convenient and apparently self-serving. A person with perfect moral courage, who is incorruptibly fair-minded and objective, such a person would be completely impervious to bullshit. But all of us, no matter where we fall on the political spectrum, fall far short of that ideal.

That's why advance-fee scams hoodwink people who manifestly have the intellectual ability to see through them ... when they're directed at other people. But as soon as the opportunity for personal gain enters the picture it becomes a struggle between greed and intellect. Even if your intellect is formidable it's useless to you once your greed is engaged.

That's why I say detecting bullshit is an exercise in moral character.

Comment Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 5, Interesting) 274

A conventional lie is detectable because of the network of falsehoods that must necessarily support a consistent sounding alternative picture of the world. Often the best way to detect a liar is to invite him to elaborate on his statements, until the entire fabric of falsehood is unsupportable.

Bullshit doesn't try to create an elaborately self-consistent fabric of false beliefs. Bullshit doesn't even bother being consistent with itself. Bullshit persuade through the power of how it makes you feel in the moment, and as a bullshitter rattles on he keeps his audience enthralled moment by moment even as he contradicts himself.

So to detect lies you need epistemological skills. To detect bullshit you need strength of character.

Comment Re:Hard to read (Score 1) 365

Even anti-Trump people want to hear about something else once in a while.

Actually not. Our appetite for anti-Trump information is apparently insatiable, and that's a problem for us. In fact I think it's one of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost the electoral college.

Like everything else, negative information reaches a point of diminishing returns. There comes a point where more bad news doesn't hurt you any more, but crowds out other news. In a divisive election, you win by getting more supporters to the polls than your opponent, and for that you need media bandwidth. So while Hillary's favorable/unfavorable ratings were consistently far better than Trump's even when they were under water, Trump was hogging all the media attention she needed to make the most of that advantage. Trump was ratings gold, because people who despised him as a buffoon simply adored stories which confirmed that fact.

And if you're a Trump supporter, take heart: we haven't seemed to learn anything. We still haven't figured out we can't rely on Trump's buffoonery, that we have to craft a positive message and deliver it into places where he has support.

Comment Re:I'm not surprised. (Score 3, Insightful) 871

I'll go farther: everyone has bad days where they do things they shouldn't do. Especially in matters of the heart and loosely affiliated organs. I'm not a big fan of knee-jerk firing in response to an accusation.

It's the inevitability of this that means an organization needs to be prepared to handle problems like this, and that's the problem here: the organization, not the supervisor. If the atmosphere described here is accurate, then management and HR aren't doing their jobs.

Comment Re:I'm not surprised. (Score 2) 871

First of all, moderators, while I disagree with this guy's opinion, it's not a troll. It's just an opinion we disagree with. Learn the difference.

That said, making a sexual advance to a subordinate right off the bat is just plain stupid. You don't know each other, and anyone in her position would feel uncomfortable. It's an office, not a bar. People are there to work, and what's more they can't avoid each other. That's why you need professionalism in your job conduct.

HR's response was also stupid. In business you often get into trouble by saying too much, and that's exactly what they did. They could have said, "We've issued a verbal and written reprimand and will be watching this situation closely; let us know if more this kind of thing happens." Instead they had to bring in the fact that this guy was a "high performer", implying at least that this gives him a license ordinary managers don't have. Now I think we can all assume that on some level high performers get leeway that low performers don't. But saying so is stupid. It's pretty much tantamount to a confession that you don't take this seriously.

Then they compound the stupidity by telling her to expect a bad review from this guy because she brought this up. This pretty much is an admission that HR and management countenance unprofessionalism, allowing managers to use employee reviews to pursue personal issues rather than evaluating the employee's contribution to the company.

That's just asinine. If it's false you're undermining employee confidence in the review and performance reward system for no reason. If it's true you should be fixing it, an in the interim keeping your mouth shut.

Now I'd say you should keep your work and personal (e.g. sex) life separate, but I know some companies don't give employees time to have a personal life. If a company does that you're absolutely right, your HR people are going to have a tough time navigating the line between advances and harassment. All the more reason not to be sloppy. If someone in such an environment can't broach the subject with tact, he'd better be prepared to be celibate.

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