Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

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Kisama
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Kisama » Tue Feb 17, 2015 9:18 am UTC

Something I'm confused about:
Spoiler:
Why would Quirrelmort go to all that trouble to trick Harry into arriving at the 3rd floor corridor under those circumstances, drag all those other people into it, reveal his secret identity and evil plot, and coerce Harry's cooperation at gunpoint, when he has already demonstrated a willingness to go to great lengths (e.g. capturing a unicorn) to prolong Quirrel's life? He also knows that Harry is strongly pro-immortality, would be furious with Dumbledore for hiding the cure for death, would definitely want to obtain it and use it for all mankind, and therefore would surely be a willing assistant in the quest to obtain it. Maybe he's worried it would seem too convenient/suspicious? But Harry has already demonstrated a sufficiently effective blind-spot for his beloved professor's questionable actions, and he could always just pull the gun out later if it became necessary.
Also:
Spoiler:
Harry's mouth seemed to know the answer before his brain could manage to focus on the question. "Tom Riddle is your name. Our name. That's who Lord Voldemort is, or was, or - something."
That still doesn't make sense... is Harry Tom from an alternate timeline/parallel universe? I ruled out some form of possession as a possibility since the sorting hat told Harry that it would know if there were any other personalities under it. I don't know if I can hope for a clearer in-story explanation now since it seems that Harry, knowing the answer, won't ask about it again :/
Professor Quirrell nodded. "Better. You have already vanquished the Dark Lord, the one and only time that you will ever do so. I have already destroyed all but a remnant of Harry Potter, eliminating the difference between our spirits and enabling us to reside in the same world. Now that it is clear to you that the battle between us is a lie, you might act sensibly to advance your own interests.
This is clearly referring to the prophecy, i.e. "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches" and "either must destroy all but a remnant of the other, for those two different spirits cannot exist in the same world", but I don't understand how all but a remnant of Harry Potter has been destroyed? He seems alive and well to me. Also the prophecy said either, not both, must destroy all but a remnant of the other. Edit: Oh wait, maybe that's what he's saying - Harry vanquished the Dark Lord, and he destroyed all but a remnant of Harry (somehow). Seems like someone is playing games with semantics, but I guess that's a time-honoured tradition for prophecies.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby jules.LT » Tue Feb 17, 2015 9:53 am UTC

It's about how horcruxes work in hpmor
Spoiler:
He most likely overwrote HP's personality with his own (going around the problem of personalities mixing, since infants haven't formed much of a personality yet)
Bertrand Russell wrote:Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
Richard Feynman & many others wrote:Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Kisama » Tue Feb 17, 2015 4:52 pm UTC

jules.LT wrote:It's about how horcruxes work in hpmor
Spoiler:
He most likely overwrote HP's personality with his own (going around the problem of personalities mixing, since infants haven't formed much of a personality yet)
Ohhhhhhhh that makes sense. I also finally have a satisfactory explanation for EY's introducing the idea of
Spoiler:
Merlin's Interdict - so that Harry could be Voldemort's horcrux victim without gaining all his game-breaking magical knowledge and abilities. It seemed pointless to me until now.

But now I'm wondering about the Pioneer probe, which I think is pretty widely accepted to be one of MOR!Voldemort's horcruxes... In chapter 102 we learned that the horcrux spell requires a second victim to pick up the horcrux device, and that's when it restores its backup into the victim's mind. It doesn't somehow "anchor" the caster's spirit to life, as in canon!HP. So was that just a (really really really) long-shot in case some day it gets picked up by some alien being who will then promptly have a young Voldemort shoved into its mind?
Last edited by Kisama on Tue Feb 17, 2015 5:32 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Tue Feb 17, 2015 5:07 pm UTC

The problem now is,

Spoiler:
I have to go through and read all the Parsletongue parts to pick up on truths.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Adam H » Tue Feb 17, 2015 7:09 pm UTC

Kisama wrote:
Spoiler:
But now I'm wondering about the Pioneer probe, which I think is pretty widely accepted to be one of MOR!Voldemort's horcruxes... In chapter 102 we learned that the horcrux spell requires a second victim to pick up the horcrux device, and that's when it restores its backup into the victim's mind. It doesn't somehow "anchor" the caster's spirit to life, as in canon!HP. So was that just a (really really really) long-shot in case some day it gets picked up by some alien being who will then promptly have a young Voldemort shoved into its mind?
Spoiler:
Voldemort explained how horcruxes work in parseltongue, too. :)

I'm not sure that it's so improbable. The probe will be floating around out there for a long, long time. And the thought of taking over an alien mind could have been intriguing enough to justify the effort.


Do we know why Voldemort's dying?
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Tue Feb 17, 2015 7:37 pm UTC

Adam H wrote:
Spoiler:
Do we know why Voldemort's dying?


Spoiler:
According to Voldemort, he is not. He would be able to return no matter what.

I cannot be truly killed by any power known to me, and lossing Sstone will not sstop me from returning, nor sspare you or yourss my wrath.


So, he is merely ill, and perhaps this form will wither and "die", but the soul(consciousness?) itself will live on.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Jorpho » Tue Feb 17, 2015 11:09 pm UTC

Whizbang wrote:
Spoiler:
According to Voldemort, he is not. He would be able to return no matter what.

I cannot be truly killed by any power known to me, and lossing Sstone will not sstop me from returning, nor sspare you or yourss my wrath.


So, he is merely ill, and perhaps this form will wither and "die", but the soul(consciousness?) itself will live on.
That one is readily apparent, at least.

Spoiler:
Quirrel still does not know about partial transfiguration – this is a power unknown to him.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby douglasm » Wed Feb 18, 2015 12:21 am UTC

Jorpho wrote:
Spoiler:
Quirrel still does not know about partial transfiguration – this is a power unknown to him.

Spoiler:
A partial transfiguration... made permanent by the philosopher's stone? Not sure how this would bypass or defeat whatever "impregnable" defenses Voldie has, but that's in large part because we don't know what those defenses are.

Crazy theory: Voldemort tried to get around the prophecy by turning Harry into essentially a clone of himself, what if Harry turns it around and - via permanent partial transfiguration - does the reverse to Voldemort? Transfigure the Dark Lord's brain, soul, spirit, or whatever, to directly change his moral outlook. This would of course be impossibly complicated from a real world science perspective, but magic may have abstractions that simplify it and a copy of the relevant portions of Harry would suffice without needing much customization.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby phlip » Wed Feb 18, 2015 12:44 am UTC

Spoiler:
The particular phrasing of "human transfiguration" stood out to me a bit, but that's probably because I only just watched Full Metal Alchemist for the first time a few weeks ago...

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Jorpho » Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:04 am UTC

phlip wrote:
Spoiler:
The particular phrasing of "human transfiguration" stood out to me a bit, but that's probably because I only just watched Full Metal Alchemist for the first time a few weeks ago...
Aye, he was probably going for that. Of course, we have no idea how exactly that's supposed to work in this universe to accomplish anything. Kinda pulled out of nowhere, that.

One thing I didn't get:
Spoiler:
Was Draco wearing an imperfect invisibility cloak, or something? Have those come up before? I can't recall.


Also, calling it now:
Spoiler:
Hermione's body has been transfigured into Harry's glasses.


ETA:
Kisama wrote:Something I'm confused about:
Spoiler:
Why would Quirrelmort go to all that trouble to trick Harry into arriving at the 3rd floor corridor under those circumstances, drag all those other people into it, reveal his secret identity and evil plot, and coerce Harry's cooperation at gunpoint, when he has already demonstrated a willingness to go to great lengths (e.g. capturing a unicorn) to prolong Quirrel's life? He also knows that Harry is strongly pro-immortality, would be furious with Dumbledore for hiding the cure for death, would definitely want to obtain it and use it for all mankind, and therefore would surely be a willing assistant in the quest to obtain it. Maybe he's worried it would seem too convenient/suspicious? But Harry has already demonstrated a sufficiently effective blind-spot for his beloved professor's questionable actions, and he could always just pull the gun out later if it became necessary.


Spoiler:
I'm guessing that he expected Harry to not bother to stop and think and just blunder on forward to the stone, thus not requiring him to reveal his secret identify and evil plot. After all, Harry hadn't figured it out earlier, and he already fell for the spoofed parchment.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Wed Feb 18, 2015 1:27 pm UTC

Jorpho wrote:One thing I didn't get:
Spoiler:
Was Draco wearing an imperfect invisibility cloak, or something? Have those come up before? I can't recall.



Spoiler:
Harry asked that all the high value targets (ancient and noble children) be given an invisibility cloak. According to HPCanon, regular invisibility cloaks are not nearly as good or durable as the Deathly Hallow one, and can be detected by regular spells.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby jules.LT » Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:57 pm UTC

Jorpho wrote:
Spoiler:
I'm guessing that he expected Harry to not bother to stop and think and just blunder on forward to the stone, thus not requiring him to reveal his secret identify and evil plot. After all, Harry hadn't figured it out earlier, and he already fell for the spoofed parchment.

Spoiler:
The text is rather explicit about what triggers Harry's suspicion:
* Quirrell asking for the stone for himself
* Quirrell acting like this very minute is critical to his condition
Rather predictably so, too, so I think that he either wanted to be found out or simply didn't mind at this point.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Wed Feb 18, 2015 3:28 pm UTC

Spoiler:
So, I'm still stuck on how (permenant) transfiguration will bring Hermione back. If you could just transfigure someone to life, even temporarily, then wouldn't that happen all the time? Say someone is murdered, just transfigure them back to life, ask them who killed them, then let the transfiguration revert. Boom. Case closed. Or a loved one dies, just transfigure the fresh body into a ring or something (as Harry has done), then when you want to speak (among other things) to the person again, you transfigure them to life, do your business, and change them back into the ring. Or say you are the apprentice to a powerful wizard who dies before they can teach you everything and the Interdict of Merlin prevents you from learning it on your own. Just transfigure your master back to life on a regular basis to teach you the rest. Or better yet, say you are Salazar Slytherin (or Voldemort), create an item like a troll that continuously self-transfigures, only instead continuously trasnfigures your body back to life.

That of course doesn't even begin to explain how to transfigure a dead person back to life. It seems like you'd need a clear idea of what exactly back to life means. If all that is being done is reparing/replacing damaged tissue, then fine, but the damaged or missing tissue no longer contains the information(memories) stored in it. So, by necessity, there would be memory gaps and potentially other issues. You can't just replace the memories unless they are stored somewhere else as a backup (potentially Voldemort could replace her memories since he thoroughly legilamized her). It just seems that you'd need more than just a permanent transfiguration tool.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby WaterToFire » Thu Feb 19, 2015 3:30 am UTC

Spoiler:
I think this is because of the nature of Hermione's death. If I remember correctly, the troll ate her legs and she bled out. Her brain was still intact, as were her major organs. It seems like she could be saved by restoring her blood supply, restarting her heart, fixing the massive wounds, and reversing whatever systemic shock she was experiencing as a result of the trauma. That all seems like something a transfiguration could accomplish without major problems, if you didn't have to worry about all of her re-built blood reverting to air or dirt or whatever at a moment's notice. Does that sound reasonable to you?

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Feb 19, 2015 9:54 am UTC

Posting here just to put this thread on my View My Posts. (Blitzed through HPMOR late last year and excitedly reading the finale with you all now; nice to hear some analysis of it in a familiar place).
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby jules.LT » Thu Feb 19, 2015 11:30 am UTC

WaterToFire wrote:
Spoiler:
I think this is because of the nature of Hermione's death. If I remember correctly, the troll ate her legs and she bled out. Her brain was still intact, as were her major organs. It seems like she could be saved by restoring her blood supply, restarting her heart, fixing the massive wounds, and reversing whatever systemic shock she was experiencing as a result of the trauma. That all seems like something a transfiguration could accomplish without major problems, if you didn't have to worry about all of her re-built blood reverting to air or dirt or whatever at a moment's notice. Does that sound reasonable to you?

Nah, blood loss is not that rare as a cause of death.
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Richard Feynman & many others wrote:Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Adam H » Thu Feb 19, 2015 7:34 pm UTC

WaterToFire wrote:
Spoiler:
I think this is because of the nature of Hermione's death. If I remember correctly, the troll ate her legs and she bled out. Her brain was still intact, as were her major organs. It seems like she could be saved by restoring her blood supply, restarting her heart, fixing the massive wounds, and reversing whatever systemic shock she was experiencing as a result of the trauma. That all seems like something a transfiguration could accomplish without major problems, if you didn't have to worry about all of her re-built blood reverting to air or dirt or whatever at a moment's notice. Does that sound reasonable to you?

Spoiler:
There's gotta be much more to fixing a blood-deprived brain (and rest of body) than that. Or rather, "reversing systemic shock" is orders of magnitude more complicated than you imply.

If human transfiguration can actually be used to bring people back to life, I'd guess that it's a simple matter of "turn corpse into Hermione" or something. If it was anything more than that then I'd expect the wizard would need a completely thorough understanding of anatomy and neuroscience that neither wizards nor muggles currently possess.

Perhaps temporary resurrection transfiguration is commonly used by dark lords and such? And hogwarts keeps it quiet because it's seen as extremely unethical (the transfigured human will die all over again) and discomforting (goes against the worldview of "death is the natural next step"). I doubt this theory is true; they let Harry be alone with Hermione's corpse, for one, and I haven't picked up on any hints of it.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Jorpho » Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:37 am UTC

Should we keep spoilering what happened to Hermione? I guess we should.
Spoiler:
Hermione suddenly convulsed, her arms twitching into the air as though reaching up for something, and her eyes flew open again. There was a burst of something that was magic and also more, a shout louder than an earthquake and containing a thousand books, a thousand libraries, all spoken in a single cry that was Hermione; too vast to be understood, except that Harry suddenly knew that Hermione had whited out the pain, and was glad not to be dying alone. For a moment it seemed like the outpouring of magic might hold, take root in the castle's stone; but then the outpouring ended and the magic faded, her body stopped moving and all motion halted as Hermione Jean Granger ceased to exist -
I'm still thinking it has something to do with this. What if the resurrection spell works by transfiguring the body back into what it was at the moment of death, via some sort of temporal-relocaiton? That would indeed be pretty useless for something non-permanent.

Oh! And what if Voldemort needs Harry to perform the Transfiguration spell to resurrect his old body? But of course, he doesn't know Harry can do partial Transfiguration, and something something trick with the pencils that was just mentioned something something.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Feb 20, 2015 9:31 am UTC

Ok so all caught up on this thread now. General comments along the lines of various things people have discussed throughout it:

I've been loving this story since the beginning, and (early on at least, less as it's gone on) I've identified strongly with MoR!Harry, including his flaws, which remind me of my own from my youth. He's basically, not quite, but very much like, what I at that age thought I was like. (I like to think I've grown in important ways since then, working past Harry's flaws that seem quite obvious to me now, but I still take pride in having been the prodigal autodidactic independent-studied walking encyclopedia more comfortable carrying on serious conversations with adults than with kids my own age).

I've most enjoyed most the parts of the story where the magical world is being approached through intelligent, rational, Muggle-science eyes; Harry sees magic and wants to do science to it. I've also really enjoyed how it pokes fun at "plot holes" (that's not quite right right term, but I'm struggling to think of a better one) in the original text; that is, loopholes that sufficiently intelligent characters would exploit or avoid better than the character in the original story did. I also also really like the story's sense of humor in both those respects, and the references to other fiction. I saw the Ender's Game reference coming from miles away but still loved it when it happened.

I don't really like how there's not a single point of divergence anymore, as all the differences in this universe can't just stem from that one spell cast on Petunia. I understand the need to balance the villain's intelligence with the protagonist's, lest the protagonist just waltz through all the problems, but Voldemort and Harry should be different from because of some same common cause, or one because of the other somehow, not just coincidentally both different for unrelated reasons. One of the things I like about AU fic in general is the process of revealing why this universe is different in the way that it is, from the canon universe.

I also don't like how summarily Ron is dismissed from the story, not because I especially care about Ron at all, but just because it feels too pointed, like a "take that"; and like it's being somehow "dishonest" (not sure that's quite the word I want again here) to the original story, in that it's losing the Harry-Ron-Hermione trio that was central to it. I get that there's still the trio of Harry-Draco-Hermoine, but that just makes it feel even more "take that!", like annoying shipper fics that write out a canon relationship and replace it with the "better" one that "totally should have happened instead". It would be nice if Ron still featured significantly somehow, even if less prominently than in canon. Given how bad the Gryffindors look from MoR!Harry's point of view, maybe Ron could have been the token "not all Gryffindors are bad" friend. Maybe start as an antagonist even, and gradually become less of one as Harry learns that not all Gryffindors are stupid bullies; basically swapping Draco and Ron's roles in the story, which would feel much more like a legitimate twist on the universe and less like the author just wanted to write out one character and write another in his place.

And I haven't enjoyed how tedious the scheming and counter-scheming has become. I understand that all the scheming is to demonstrate intelligence and rationality, but though I understand the value of that and endeavor to be good at it myself, I find it a really tedious unpleasant experience to engage in, and reading about it at length is tiresome too. I would like it if a character in the story, Harry preferable as the protagonist but Hermione would do as well, was fully capable of and talented at that kind of skill, and still didn't like to do it, but was just forced to do it in defense. Like a character who's a skilled fighter and yet a pacifist. And where possible, said character could show this trait by just flatly telling another character all the scheming he can see through and what he would have to do to counter it and how the whole scheming and counter-scheming would play out, and then just refuse to play that game; like... Slytherin aikido you could call it, a demonstration of martial (manipulative) talent employed to non-violently (non-duplicitously) diffuse a conflict. As it stands now the story feels like it has the message of "if you're not constantly scheming and duplicitous then you're just being dumb".

Speaking of which, also don't like how summarily dismissive (or more like erasing) the text is of other concepts of rationality besides the author's narrow conception of it, but that's a general critique of LW overall, and how he and his followers seem to paint a dichotomy between, on the one hand, his consequentialism, confirmationism, and overall justificationism (which is only one narrow and not-uncontentious conception of how to rationally approach both reality and morality), and then on the other hand, utterly irrational faith and superstition; completely erasing in the middle there plenty still-rationalist approaches like critical epistemology and deontological ethics. (Which it now strikes me as odd, because the thing those two have in common with each other, and in opposition to both LW's consequentialism and his confirmationism, is a focus not on being right per se, but just on being... less wrong). I can totally accept that LW would want to make his protagonist support his own positions, but it would be nice if there were another character who could put up an intelligent argument against them at least, without being an obvious mockable strawman embracing mysticism and authoritarian traditionalism. Although, since the only sufficiently intelligent character in the story as-is who could do that is Quirrel, I'm not sure it'd be better to have those positions put into the mouth of the villain, rather than ignored entirely. Maybe Hermione could be a good mouthpiece for those kinds of ideas, though it feels like it would be a bit out of place for her and Harry to argue about that kind of stuff, since it doesn't seem like he would need to lecture her the way he lectures others, and she isn't usually there when he's giving author tracts to other characters.

So, spoilerific stuff about current events:
Spoiler:
It strikes me that Harry can easily kill Voldemort if he can just escape the current situation alive and get his hand on a wand. Just send his True Patronus to "give Voldemort a hug", and let destructive interference between their magic do its thing. Might kill Harry in the process (as far as he knows), but that could be a sacrifice worth making for the greater good of the whole world; he's already considered whether to do things that would get himself killed for the greater good before.


Though really, I would rather prefer to see Harry reason Voldemort out of being evil, since this is a rational fic. Even something as simple as asking him what the point of whatever his evil plans are when he's clearly powerful enough to have whatever he wants without having to hurt anyone else to get it, and pointing out how irrational it is to just wantonly want to hurt others, for no reason, just because. Basically I'm thinking an infinite regress here of "But why, what's the point...? Ok, power, and that gets you what? ...And what do you want from that? ...And what do you need that for?" and so on. There is a defense against that kind of infinite regress of "why", but it's "why not?" and now suddenly the shoe is on the other foot and Harry gets to start levying reasons why not. You can only escape from an infinite demand for justification by either abandoning rationality entirely with foundationalism (faith) or coherentism (circular reasoning), which is the rock Harry can put on one side of Voldemort; or else making the kind of Copernican shift in perspective that is abandoning justificationism for critical rationalism (and thereby opening yourself up to criticism), which is the hard place Harry can put on the other side. I'm not suggesting that villains in general can be just talked out of their evil plans by someone sufficiently persuasive, but Voldemort seems to care greatly about being rational, so trapping him with reason seems like something that would be effective in that case. But, since the author doesn't seem to believe it's really possible to reason about morality in the first place, just about the most efficient means by which to achieve to one's irrationally selected ends (and I suppose the coherency between one's irrationally selected ends), I guess that's unlikely to happen. But I find that really disappointing, as it seems like the most appropriate ending for a rationalist fic like this.

That makes me realize, I'm not sure exactly what Voldemort's actual goal was in the Wizarding War, either in canon or MoR. It's clear that Voldie mostly wants to live forever, and he's got Horcruxes made, so... mission accomplished, no? What does he not have that he wants that the First Wizarding War (or the Second Wizarding War in canon, or whatever equivalent thereof MoR!Voldie is planning) would get him? Or more to the point, that such a large and obvious conflict is the most efficient way to get him? Given that the Philosopher's Stone seems to be well-known in the wizarding world and is the most obvious key to immortality, why were not all of Voldemort's efforts not directed either at obtaining it or better still making one of his own? Did he really need to conquer all of Magical Britain to accomplish that? Honestly, most of Voldemort's actions seem like just plain irrational evil for evil's sake, and while he hasn't clearly been doing stuff like that throughout MoR, it seems implied that the First Wizarding War happened pretty much as canon, which doesn't seem like something MoR!Voldie, if he's really as rational as he tries to play up, would do.

Philosophical stuff that makes references to possible spoilers from throughout the story; I don't know if this really needs to be spoilered, so feel free to not-spoiler your responses if you like:
Spoiler:
On the topic of Harry and Dumbledore's arguments about accepting death or not... While Harry is clearly right that it is obviously better to have the option to not die rather than to have to die, and for lack of any evidence to the contrary they must rationally assume that death means actual cessation of existence and not just "moving on to a better place" or something, Dumbledore also has a point about accepting death. Of course try to keep living, but expect to fail, because basically everybody in all of history has and you're really probably not that special, whoever you are. But try anyway even though you expect to fail; and when you probably fail in the end, oh well, that was the expected outcome anyway, no big deal, you just tried to live forever just in case it turned out to be possible, but didn't expect it to actually work, so no real loss relative to expectations. This was simultaneously how I began digging my way out of the darkest depths of my depression, and became the foundation I had been searching for for my academic philosophical system, and my personal motto: "fortasse desperato sed conor nihilominus" — it may be hopeless, but I'm trying anyway. Embrace hopelessness. Accept it. You are probably going to die and the universe will never remember you existed amongst the noise of all the other meaningless nobodies like you. Now, given that as the baseline expectation, just in case it's possible, try to do something amazing and positive with your life anyway. It probably won't work, but it can't hurt, compared to your baseline expectation of inevitable meaningless death, and if you can be OK with that, anything you manage to accomplish with your life will seem awesome in comparison.

Relatedly, the indifference necessary to cast the second-level killing curse actually seems like a source of strength to me. Not caring is a good ability to have, a position of strength to fall back on; if you don't really care, then trying is easier. Someone earlier in the thread said something comparing the second-level killing curse to proposing to someone you're indifferent to marrying, and I think that's a good analogy. It's easier to do something you might potentially fail at if you don't really care about success or failure. That said, caring anyway even though you have the ability to not care, caring because you choose to care, because you've rationally decided it's right to care about this, not just because you just feel compelled to, is a more noble kind of caring than a base emotional compulsion to care about something. It's the "second level" of the kind of moral fortitude necessary to do right even by someone you hate; being able to do right by anyone and everyone, even though you don't really, emotionally, care about them at all, just because it's the objectively right thing to do. Because it doesn't matter how you feel about someone, they have value nevertheless, whether or not the primitive mammal part of your brain sorts them into the box of "important, my tribe, care about" or else "stranger, disregard or use as instrumental to things of actual importance". So foster a general indifference and apathy toward everything. And then, from that position of abject emotional invulnerability, do whatever the right thing to do is, to the best of your ability to determine what that is and the best of your ability to make that happen... even if you don't really care to.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby rmsgrey » Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:08 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Philosophical stuff that makes references to possible spoilers from throughout the story; I don't know if this really needs to be spoilered, so feel free to not-spoiler your responses if you like:
Spoiler:
On the topic of Harry and Dumbledore's arguments about accepting death or not... While Harry is clearly right that it is obviously better to have the option to not die rather than to have to die, and for lack of any evidence to the contrary they must rationally assume that death means actual cessation of existence and not just "moving on to a better place" or something, Dumbledore also has a point about accepting death. Of course try to keep living, but expect to fail, because basically everybody in all of history has and you're really probably not that special, whoever you are. But try anyway even though you expect to fail; and when you probably fail in the end, oh well, that was the expected outcome anyway, no big deal, you just tried to live forever just in case it turned out to be possible, but didn't expect it to actually work, so no real loss relative to expectations. This was simultaneously how I began digging my way out of the darkest depths of my depression, and became the foundation I had been searching for for my academic philosophical system, and my personal motto: "fortasse desperato sed conor nihilominus" — it may be hopeless, but I'm trying anyway. Embrace hopelessness. Accept it. You are probably going to die and the universe will never remember you existed amongst the noise of all the other meaningless nobodies like you. Now, given that as the baseline expectation, just in case it's possible, try to do something amazing and positive with your life anyway. It probably won't work, but it can't hurt, compared to your baseline expectation of inevitable meaningless death, and if you can be OK with that, anything you manage to accomplish with your life will seem awesome in comparison.

Relatedly, the indifference necessary to cast the second-level killing curse actually seems like a source of strength to me. Not caring is a good ability to have, a position of strength to fall back on; if you don't really care, then trying is easier. Someone earlier in the thread said something comparing the second-level killing curse to proposing to someone you're indifferent to marrying, and I think that's a good analogy. It's easier to do something you might potentially fail at if you don't really care about success or failure. That said, caring anyway even though you have the ability to not care, caring because you choose to care, because you've rationally decided it's right to care about this, not just because you just feel compelled to, is a more noble kind of caring than a base emotional compulsion to care about something. It's the "second level" of the kind of moral fortitude necessary to do right even by someone you hate; being able to do right by anyone and everyone, even though you don't really, emotionally, care about them at all, just because it's the objectively right thing to do. Because it doesn't matter how you feel about someone, they have value nevertheless, whether or not the primitive mammal part of your brain sorts them into the box of "important, my tribe, care about" or else "stranger, disregard or use as instrumental to things of actual importance". So foster a general indifference and apathy toward everything. And then, from that position of abject emotional invulnerability, do whatever the right thing to do is, to the best of your ability to determine what that is and the best of your ability to make that happen... even if you don't really care to.


Something that people keep getting wrong despite the right answer having been in the public domain for thousands of years, is that death is not the enemy - it's just what happens when living gets to be too hard. Would it really be any better to be always able to choose to not die? For every single death to be a suicide? For your friends and acquaintances and family to know that you made the deliberate choice to leave them forever?

Immortality also creates serious resource issues - if nobody ever dies, then any non-zero birth rate is a population crisis, and the ultra-low replacement birth-rate would cause all sorts of other problems - it'd make the Chinese one-child policy seem libertarian by comparison... Even if you can magically violate conservation of energy and the second law of thermodynamics to keep a population alive and active indefinitely without an adequate food supply, living space is also a finite resource...

Then there's the question of personal identity - even within our threescore and ten, we Ship-of-Theseus multiple times, with our adult selves bearing, at best, a familial resemblance to our infant-selves. How much more different would you be after another thousand years? And how much of that thousand years of personal experiences would you actually remember? For that matter, how much would actually be worth remembering? And how much just the same things in mildly different configurations? At some point, our selves at 20 don't even share common memories with our much older selves - and our closest successors are actually our descendants, not our ancient selves who no longer remember having been us...



As for being indifferent but choosing to act anyway, that's a lesson shared by boardgames ("When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning." - Reiner Knizia) and much Eastern philosophy (desire is suffering, etc). What matters in the world is not which afterlife we end up in nor how history remembers (or, more likely, forgets) us - life is lived in the now, not in the distant future, and we are what we choose in the now, not what we might someday become.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:31 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:Something that people keep getting wrong despite the right answer having been in the public domain for thousands of years, is that death is not the enemy - it's just what happens when living gets to be too hard. Would it really be any better to be always able to choose to not die? For every single death to be a suicide? For your friends and acquaintances and family to know that you made the deliberate choice to leave them forever?


Uh, yes. Yes, that would be WAY better. Death forced upon someone is a tragedy. A death freely chosen is still sad, but less horrible and tragic.

Immortality also creates serious resource issues - if nobody ever dies, then any non-zero birth rate is a population crisis, and the ultra-low replacement birth-rate would cause all sorts of other problems - it'd make the Chinese one-child policy seem libertarian by comparison... Even if you can magically violate conservation of energy and the second law of thermodynamics to keep a population alive and active indefinitely without an adequate food supply, living space is also a finite resource...


Generally, those in favor of immortality are also in favor of expanding beyond Earth. The observable universe is...large. So very large that conservation of energy and limiting space are not serious limiting factors. Oh, yes, in a *very* long time, the universe will probably cease to exist. So, defeating death really isn't absolutely infinite. But it's ridiculously similar to it compared to our current perspectives.

Then there's the question of personal identity - even within our threescore and ten, we Ship-of-Theseus multiple times, with our adult selves bearing, at best, a familial resemblance to our infant-selves. How much more different would you be after another thousand years? And how much of that thousand years of personal experiences would you actually remember? For that matter, how much would actually be worth remembering? And how much just the same things in mildly different configurations? At some point, our selves at 20 don't even share common memories with our much older selves - and our closest successors are actually our descendants, not our ancient selves who no longer remember having been us...


So? This doesn't pose a significant existential problem to anyone nowadays, and people are already extremely different from their infant-selves. Why should we care? What's wrong with changing?

As for being indifferent but choosing to act anyway, that's a lesson shared by boardgames ("When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning." - Reiner Knizia) and much Eastern philosophy (desire is suffering, etc). What matters in the world is not which afterlife we end up in nor how history remembers (or, more likely, forgets) us - life is lived in the now, not in the distant future, and we are what we choose in the now, not what we might someday become.


The future will eventually become your now. What you plan for the future, and what you strive for is important. You're taking a very strange interpretation of these statements.

Who do you fear you will be now, if you strive for immortality? Why would you fear this?

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby rmsgrey » Fri Feb 20, 2015 5:02 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:Something that people keep getting wrong despite the right answer having been in the public domain for thousands of years, is that death is not the enemy - it's just what happens when living gets to be too hard. Would it really be any better to be always able to choose to not die? For every single death to be a suicide? For your friends and acquaintances and family to know that you made the deliberate choice to leave them forever?


Uh, yes. Yes, that would be WAY better. Death forced upon someone is a tragedy. A death freely chosen is still sad, but less horrible and tragic.


You really prefer knowing that everyone you know will someday deliberately choose to reject you? That it's partly your fault whenever someone you know dies because you couldn't offer them enough of a reason to go on living? That they chose to cease to exist rather than to continue to spend time with you? I prefer believing that my dead loved ones would have stayed in my life if they had the choice to knowing that they chose not to.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby jules.LT » Fri Feb 20, 2015 6:09 pm UTC

:shock:
Everything your loved ones do is not necessarily about you, you know...
But then again, in a world with immortality people would have more experience to appreciate that.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Feb 20, 2015 6:31 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:Something that people keep getting wrong despite the right answer having been in the public domain for thousands of years, is that death is not the enemy - it's just what happens when living gets to be too hard. Would it really be any better to be always able to choose to not die? For every single death to be a suicide? For your friends and acquaintances and family to know that you made the deliberate choice to leave them forever?


Uh, yes. Yes, that would be WAY better. Death forced upon someone is a tragedy. A death freely chosen is still sad, but less horrible and tragic.


You really prefer knowing that everyone you know will someday deliberately choose to reject you? That it's partly your fault whenever someone you know dies because you couldn't offer them enough of a reason to go on living? That they chose to cease to exist rather than to continue to spend time with you? I prefer believing that my dead loved ones would have stayed in my life if they had the choice to knowing that they chose not to.


Nah. They made a choice not to live any longer. That isn't necessarily about rejecting me. People have many reasons for what they do.

It seems far more depressing to believe that everyone will eventually reject me(and it's all my fault somehow), unless I'm lucky enough for them to die first. It's the sort of view of marriage that results in describing two people walking away from it healthily as a failure, and one of you sobbing over the corpse of the other as a success.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Yakk » Fri Feb 20, 2015 6:47 pm UTC

I would rather my loved ones live to "reject me" in the fullness of time, rather than die earlier.

Because that is the choice here. They die *before* they "reject me", or not.

The alternative is the logic of the family annihilator, who would rather people die than have the choice to "reject" them.

I frame this in the context "for someone I love, would I grant them the ability to live as long as they choose to live". With or without myself having the same choice, the answer is pretty similar.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Fri Feb 20, 2015 6:56 pm UTC

There is also accidental death. "Immortality" here means not dying of illness. I am pretty sure that getting incinerated in a nuclear blast or falling into a black hole is not reversible. I would imagine in a universe where people do not die of aging related illnesses that most people will die of accidents rather than suicide.

I am probably wrong in this, but in such a universe, people who get tired of life would most likely either travel to a different location to experience some other way of living, or else go into a coma to be awoken at some pre-ordered time to give things another go when perhaps things are different.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Yakk » Fri Feb 20, 2015 7:28 pm UTC

Yes, with age and disease gone, we live 200-300 years on average (with a long tail).

Now, throw in magical emergency healing to eliminate most accidental death and distributed backups to deal with worse accidents, and human lifespan is mainly bounded by suicide, society collapse, murder or other means to disrupt the distributed backup system.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Fri Feb 20, 2015 7:34 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Yes, with age and disease gone, we live 200-300 years on average (with a long tail).


Do you mind explaining your reasoning here? Why 200-300 years? If age and disease are gone, what is killing use at 300?

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Yakk » Fri Feb 20, 2015 7:58 pm UTC

I was off by a factor of 10. Accidental death rate in the USA is 41/100k so an expected lifespan of 2439 years.

My back-of-brain calculation had it 10x higher, but it is 0.05% not 0.5% per year.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Feb 20, 2015 11:26 pm UTC

Ok, new chapter was awesome and I feel like LW read my last post here before writing it even though that's impossible.

Spoilers about that chapter, don't read until you've read it:
Spoiler:
Harry reasons with Voldemort about why and though it's not quite the method I had hoped for it's close and it still kinda works a little. In the process the rationale behind the Wizarding War is explained, although I still feel like pointing out, in Harry's shoes, that all of that rationale boils down to the rather irrational "I was bored and annoyed". (I also want to argue to him that since it's pretty clear the thing he hates most is annoying stupid people and the only thing he seems to actually enjoy at all is intelligent conversation, his grand life plan should be to make people smarter and less annoying, which would also have the side-effect of improving the human condition in general; another nice thing he could have done to achieve his own selfish ends). Harry even says good things about deontological ethics, explicitly by name, in a way that's totally natural to the flow of the story. I am very happy with this chapter, and eagerly looking forward to finding out what the "nice things" Voldie has thought to do today will turn out to be.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby notzeb » Sat Feb 21, 2015 3:35 am UTC

Spoiler:
I caught the fake time travel message as soon as it was handed to Harry. Bit of a "what the hell, hero?" moment there.

Right now my theory is that Quirrelmort's plan somehow hinges on Harry betraying him. There has been way too much foreshadowing involving bargains and dark rituals...

I also really like the idea someone had in the comments about possible uses for the name collision. Things like Harry making unbreakable vows tied to the name "Tom Riddle" might end up having hilarious consequences. At this point, the law of conservation of detail demands at least an attempt at shenanigans along these lines.
Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­Zµ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«VµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«VµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«ZµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­Z

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Jorpho » Sat Feb 21, 2015 5:50 am UTC

It better not be something lame like
Spoiler:
You said, "I do not intend to raisse my hand or magic againsst you in future, sso long ass you do not raisse your hand or magic againsst me." "Well, I'm not raising my hand, I'm raising my GUN! DUH!"
But the specter of literalism has now been raised, so I wouldn't discount it.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby jareds » Sat Feb 21, 2015 6:05 am UTC

Jorpho wrote:But the specter of literalism has now been raised, so I wouldn't discount it.

Spoiler:
Doesn't need to be that weasely. It could be that he's already instructed Bellatrix to kill Harry once he has the stone.

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Edict of Merlin (again).

Postby wumpus » Sat Feb 21, 2015 5:47 pm UTC

Whizbang wrote:
wumpus wrote:
Spoiler:
First point: Does Harry's "included the casting directions in case the Ministry grader didn't believe that Harry knew it." violate the Edict of Merlin? Or would the casting directions be useless to anyone who hadn't been directly taught them?


Spoiler:
The Edict of Merlin only applies to high-level spells, I thought. Common stuff can be transmitted via writing (hence libraries), but the truly powerful stuff must be taught.


Spoiler:
"When I was fifteen I made myself a horcrux as a certain book had shown me, using the death of Abigail Myrtle beneath the eyes of Slytherin's basilisk."

Not confirmed by Parseltongue: lie or slip-up? Only reason I can think for Voldie is hiding his mentor, but couldn't he claim to have killed her *after* learning from the Basilisk?


edit: fixed quotation box.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Jorpho » Sat Feb 21, 2015 5:53 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
Spoiler:
I am very happy with this chapter, and eagerly looking forward to finding out what the "nice things" Voldie has thought to do today will turn out to be.
Spoiler:
All this is technically happening before the Quidditch match – implying that he survives long enough to obliterate the Snitch and presumably rig the tie for the House Cup.

Wouldn't it be nifty if Harry ends up sending the fake parchment to himself in order to set up a stable time loop? And that the key to victory ends up in messing with time travel, as he was expressly warned not to do?
I'm kinda hoping there's another Omake Files once this is all over. I'd buy that for a dollar.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby notzeb » Sun Feb 22, 2015 7:21 am UTC

Harry Potter towards the end of chapter 108:Also, wow, double meaning (guess which meaning I didn't notice until just now):
Spoiler:
It was possible that Harry was the only person in the world against whom Professor Quirrell wouldn't be able to use a Killing Curse.
Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­Zµ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«VµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«VµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«ZµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­Z

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby jules.LT » Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:03 am UTC

notzeb wrote:
Spoiler:
It was possible that Harry was the only person in the world against whom Professor Quirrell wouldn't be able to use a Killing Curse.

Spoiler:
True, but with their magic resonance he can't perform any magic on him anyway, and he has quite a few workarounds.
Bertrand Russell wrote:Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
Richard Feynman & many others wrote:Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Mon Feb 23, 2015 4:39 pm UTC

You know...

Spoiler:
I realize that Voldemort couldn't find any intelligent discussion in such a small, and stagnant, population of wizards. But now that he realizes that Muggle Scientists are actually very intelligent (as a community, perhaps less so individually), wouldn't it be obvious for him to seek out the cream of the Muggle crop for discussion? If Harry meets his standard for intelligent conversation (though perhaps only barely), then surely leaders in the fields of philosophy and science will surely meet that standard as well.

All Harry has to do is to point this out.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Adam H » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:03 pm UTC

Whizbang wrote:You know...

Spoiler:
I realize that Voldemort couldn't find any intelligent discussion in such a small, and stagnant, population of wizards. But now that he realizes that Muggle Scientists are actually very intelligent (as a community, perhaps less so individually), wouldn't it be obvious for him to seek out the cream of the Muggle crop for discussion? If Harry meets his standard for intelligent conversation (though perhaps only barely), then surely leaders in the fields of philosophy and science will surely meet that standard as well.

All Harry has to do is to point this out.

Spoiler:
I think Voldemort values magical ability and ambition in his companions as well as intelligence. Though I agree it might be worth it for Harry to try to convince him.

Chapter 109 is now up! And it's wonderful.
Spoiler:
I assume Dumbledore appeared at the end because the mirror recognized Voldemort. Is that because Dumbledore programmed it to do that? Or because Voldemort deeply desires to talk with Dumbledore? :P

Wild theory: Dumbledore is the mastermind behind Quirrelmort, who is not Voldemort but instead an imprinted horcrux of a self-confunded Dumbledore. :lol:
-Adam

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Whizbang » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:36 pm UTC

On Immortality and Talking To Yourself:
Spoiler:
Voldemort said he intended, with Harry, to create a Horcrux Clone, who can be his nemesis and friend throughout eternity, to keep things interesting.

Wouldn't someone who invented the Sorcerer's Stone, a tool for creating immortality, think to do just that? What if, and this is crazy, but what if Voldemort, Harry, and Dumbledore are just Horcrux Clones of the maker of the Stone, set on keeping things lively and interesting?

Probably too far-fetched, but it is fun to think about.

In other news, the long awaited battle between Rational!Voldemort and Dumbledore is about to start. Get your popcorn.


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