Twelve Virtues of Rationality

Came across an elegantly written essay that I found pretty powerful. It’s subtle and not for everyone, but if you’re one of the people it’s for, you may find it transcendent.

The Twelve Virtues of Rationality:

  1. Curiosity: a burning itch to know is higher than a solemn vow to pursue truth.
  2. Relinquishment: “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.” Do not flinch from experiences that might destroy your beliefs.
  3. Lightness: let the winds of evidence blow you about as though you are a leaf; surrender to the truth as quickly as you can.
  4. Evenness: beware lest you place huge burdens of proof only on propositions you dislike; do not seek to argue for one side or another, for if you knew your destination, you would already be there.
  5. Argument: strive for exact honesty; you cannot move forward on factual questions by fighting with fists or insults. But move forward. Those who smile wisely and say: “I will not argue” remove themselves from help, and withdraw from the communal effort.
  6. Empiricism: the roots of knowledge are in observation and its fruit is prediction.
  7. Simplicity: “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
  8. Humility: take specific actions in anticipation of your own errors. The most humble are those who most skillfully prepare for the deepest and most catastrophic errors in their own beliefs and plans.
  9. Perfectionism: the more errors you correct in yourself, the more you notice. As your mind becomes more silent, you hear more noise. Do not be content with the answer that is almost right; seek one that is exactly right.
  10. Precision: The narrowest statements slice deepest, the cutting edge of the blade. Each piece of evidence shifts your beliefs by exactly the right amount, neither more nor less.
  11. Scholarship: study many sciences and absorb their power as your own. Every idea that you consume makes you larger.

“Before these eleven virtues is a virtue which is nameless. Miyamoto Musashi wrote, in The Book of Five Rings:

The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy’s cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him. More than anything, you must be thinking of carrying your movement through to cutting him.

“Every step of your reasoning must cut through to the correct answer in the same movement. More than anything, you must think of carrying your map through to reflecting the territory.”

Source: Twelve Virtues of Rationality

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