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A Few Principles for Thinking Clearly

https://medium.com/the-polymath-project/a-few-principles-for-thinking-clearly-d18a74a2ebe9

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A Few Principles for Thinking Clearly
One of my favorite essays I wrote this year was A Few Principles for Intellectual Freedom . In that piece, I took scenes from the life of the scientist James Lovelock to illustrate some principles for pursuing a life of intellectual freedom.

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Read widely, with maximum curiosity

The clearest thinkers tend to be those that draw from multiple disciplines.

Develop the habit of reading and eliminate/reduce the things that might stop you from doing that (e.g. mindl...

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Put reality first and theory last

Confusing models with reality is a cardinal sin of clear thinking. 

If you believe too strongly in your models of the world, you can start to ignore evidence that your model is wr...

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Campbell’s law

The basic idea is that when you reward people for a particular measure — clicks, dollars, likes, etc. — people will find a way to “game” the system.

For example: If journalism is fuel...

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Having principles

It’s easy to sell out or self-censor because you’re afraid of (a) financial or (b) status pushback.

The cure might be to hold fame and financial success in low regard.

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Manage your identity

The more a particular issue is wrapped up in your identity, the harder it is for you to think clearly about it.

Also, when people are exposed to evidence that contradicts their identit...

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Components of a good essay

Many people think a good essay is persuasive. But more importantly, an essay should be useful.
There are four parts to a good essay:

  • correctness
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Correctness

An essay should be correct. However, to be correct is not enough if it is vague. 

Don't publish anything unless you're sure it's worth hearing. Write the first draft of an essay quickly, trying out all sorts of ideas. Then rewrite it very carefully, being sure to sift out anything that you're not sure of, or that is not true. Useful writing makes claims that are as strong as they can be without overstating it.

Strength

Strength comes from two things: thinking well, and the skillful use of qualification.

Qualifications can express many things: how broadly something applies, how you know it, how happy you are it's so, even how it could be falsified. As you try to refine the expression of an idea, adjust the qualification accordingly. The more you refine an idea, the less you'll need to qualify it. However, don't underestimate qualification. Learn to use its full range.

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