Sunday, June 6, 2021

Epistemology of Common Sanity

One practical epistemology is the epistemology of sanity. To act as though you believe, or to encourage yourself to believe, so that you do what is likely to bring you success on the scale of your own personal life, both in terms of mental and physical health, as well as socially and materially.

It is "insane" (by this definition) to try to do something that is unlikely to work but which has high expected value, because you are likely to fail, no matter how good the outcome would be if you succeeded, even if it is in some sense rational to pursue it (the likelihood of outcome times value of outcome exceeds that of your other options).

Also, you should do things that appear reasonable to other people, because it is unpleasant to try to do things that do not. So sanity is partially defined by your culture, whether your culture is benefited by the "wisdom of crowds" or held back by historical collective traumas, or has established traditions which are good, or bad, in their effects, or whatever else goes into culture.

"Sanity" in the sense given in this post could also be called "common sanity", what would be sane if there was a one-size-fits-all definition of what was sane to believe. There are no special people according to this. Does it make sense to think that you're exceptional? The odds are always against it, by definition. What is sane is to take care of yourself, and caring people, or helping professionals, will see the value of this "common sanity" but filter out the value of the great reward which a "high expected value" person might seek.

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