Tag Archives: justice

Poets are intelligence assets

Aeschylus’s Oresteia is an ancient Greek tragedy about the dialectic between the natural desire for vengeance, order, and the rule of law. This is most likely what contemporaries thought the play was about, including Aeschylus himself.

It is also a play about sexual politics, and the relationship between the idea of the rule of law as actually implemented in the West, and patriarchy.

This is a good example of the well-known phenomenon in which literary criticism and other forms of textual analysis frequently get something “out of” the text that the author had no apparent intent of putting into it - and that many coherent narratives can be extracted from the same text. Far more than an author could plausibly have meant to put into the text. This is often taken as evidence that such readings are spurious.

Robin Hanson argued that one way to extract information from published studies that was comparatively uncontaminated by publication bias, was to look at the coefficients of control variables. The idea is that if your study is about, say, the effect of alcohol on life expectancy, journals may be unwilling to publish it if you get an improbable-seeming result, or no significant result. But less scrutiny is applied to the estimated effect of alcohol if you’re studying something else, and simply “control for” alcohol (i.e. include it in your model as a possible predictor).

Likewise, great literature is typically an integrated, multi-dimensional depiction. While there is a great deal of compression, the author is still trying to report how things might really have happened, to satisfy their own sense of artistic taste for plausibility or verisimilitude. Thus, we should expect that great literature is often an honest, highly informative account of everything except what the author meant to put into it. Continue reading


I didn’t really have good role models for boundaries, and didn’t hear them talked about much as a kid, so when I first heard people talking about them, I tried to fit them into my existing categories. But that didn’t work very well, so they felt like nonsense.

It looked like when people were expressing boundaries, they were drawing on nothing but their own preferences to determine them - so maybe boundaries were a kind of strong preference? But people seemed to use some sort of moralistic language around boundaries. People who “violated boundaries” weren’t just costly to interact with, but behaving wrongly, viewed as dangerous, to be excluded from one’s life. Then maybe boundaries were like absolute standards of right and wrong? But that didn’t work either, since they were determined so subjectively. Continue reading

True friendship is being counterfactually hugged by vampires

Justice, reciprocity, and the trader principle

I continue to be pleased and surprised by how much and how strongly I stand by this poem. I keep wanting to bring it up in conversation, as a summary of my feelings on friendship and what one true friend owes another. This post is an attempt to make these ideas more explicit.

There is a transactional model of doing good to others, whereby one immediately receives some benefit. There is separately an idealistic model where one tries to help people simply because they are good. There are also some bridging categories in between, and I think various types of friendship are intermediate categories.

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Is It Unfair that Social Workers are Underpaid?

Social Work Is Not So Hard

This (via Miri) is a piece by Margo, a social worker, talking about how people talk about social work as being unusually hard, and call social workers "saints." Margo doesn't much care for the assumption that social work is unusually hard, and I'm glad I read this, because it will temper the advice I read in this post, suggesting that the universally appreciated response to finding out someone's profession is to say that their job must be hard:
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