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“Sapir-Whorf for Rationalists” by Duncan Sabien

LessWrong (Curated)

Audio version of the posts shared in the LessWrong Curated newsletter.




Casus Belli: As I was scanning over my (rather long) list of essays-to-write, I realized that roughly a fifth of them were of the form "here's a useful standalone concept I'd like to reify," à la cup-stacking skills, fabricated options, split and commit, and sazen.  Some notable entries on that list (which I name here mostly in the hope of someday coming back and turning them into links) include: red vs. white, walking with three, setting the zero point[1], seeding vs. weeding, hidden hinges, reality distortion fields, and something-about-layers-though-that-one-obviously-needs-a-better-word.

While it's still worthwhile to motivate/justify each individual new conceptual handle (and the planned essays will do so), I found myself imagining a general objection of the form "this is just making up terms for things," or perhaps "this is too many new terms, for too many new things."  I realized that there was a chunk of argument, repeated across all of the planned essays, that I could factor out, and that (to the best of my knowledge) there was no single essay aimed directly at the question "why new words/phrases/conceptual handles at all?"

So ... voilà.