Reviews for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
Smooth Trooper chapter 6 . 3/2/2011
Not much to say, pretty good chapter.
Hunterw chapter 69 . 3/2/2011
REVIEW PART 1 (ff.n won't let me post the whole review 'cause it's too long; part 2 is under ch.70):

This will be a rather unusual review of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality as it stands at the end of Self Actualization, Pt 5. I'll start by saying that the story as a whole is great, the writing great, etc, etc, ad nauseum. There is almost nothing I idon't/i like about it, except waiting for updates. So, instead of a simple review of the work, or this or that chapter, I'm going to give an analysis.

I came across a passage which seems to me to be idesperately/i applicable to HPMoR in general, and the last few chapters in particular (especially the parts about Q's 'cynicism about cynicism', Harry and Dumbledore's argument about death, Harry's actual world-changing goals, and Hermione's ideas on what it takes to be a hero(ine)), and thought I'd share, with commentary. My analysis of the Methods of Rationality will consist of commentary on this is paragraph from Theodore Adorno's iMinima Moralia/i, called '127 - Wishful Thinking' (I've broken it up to make it a bit more manageable):


Intelligence is a moral category. The separation of feeling and understanding, that makes it possible to absolve and beatify the blockhead, hypostasizes the dismemberment of man into functions. Praise of the simpleton has an undertone of anxiety lest the severed parts reunite and put an end to the derangement. A verse of Hoelderlin's entitled 'Good Advice' runs "If you have understanding and a heart, show only one./Both they will damn, if both you show together."


This should be relatively straightforward, and sets the theme of the rest of the piece: the necessity of the reintegration of 'feeling' and 'understanding' for a person to be truly moral, underlined by a refusal to cede the moral high ground to any sort of anti-intellectualism. The meanings of 'feeling' and 'understanding' in this context will be elucidated below. As an aside, I can think of no better introduction to Luna Lovegood than that beautiful two line poem (just a thought, should the MoR ever make it to the point that she actually shows up).


The defamation of limited understanding in comparison to infinite - but because infinite, to the finite subject forever unfathomable - reason, which resounds throughout philosophy, chimes in, despite its critical claims, with the jingle: "Be honest evermore and true." When Hegel demonstrates the stupidity of understanding (Understanding: Verstand - the limited analytic intellect opposed by Hegel to the infinite grasp of Vernunft or Reason), he not only accords isolated reflection, positivism of every designation, its full measure of untruth, but he also connives at the prohibition on thought, cuts back the negative labour of the concept which his method itself claims to perform, and endorses on the highest peak of speculation the Protestant pastor urging his flock to remain one instead of relying on their own feeble light. It is rather for philosophy to seek, in the opposition of feeling and understanding, their - precisely moral - unity.


So now the jargon 'understanding' is explained: 'limited analytic intellect'. However, Adorno has no time for the usual course 'philosophy' takes. Indeed, Infinite Reason's condemnation of Finite Understanding comes off as an ad-jingle for 'philosophy' which hurts Adorno's ears as much as ours, and Hegel's (correct, as far as it goes) condemnation of positivism goes too far and ends up licensing the very anti-intellectualism that Adorno will have no part of. The theme is restated, this time as an alternative and superior critique of mere understanding.


Intelligence, in asserting its power of judgement, opposes anything given in advance, by at the same time expressing it. The very judgement that excludes instinctual impulses compensates them by a moment of counter-pressure against the force exerted by society. The power of judgement is measured by the cohesion of the self, but therefore also by that dynamic of instincts which is entrusted by the psychic division of labour to feeling. Instinct, the will to withstand, is implicit in the meaning of logic.


So now we see the feelings we are saddled with: on the one hand, instinct and on the other, social force (if we were in a Freudian mood, these could be the id and the super-ego). The definition here of instinct as "the will to withstand" is fascinating in its evo-psych implications: evolutionarily all we have are instincts to pass our genes on, but our minds can and do supersede this order. We know this is true because we can create hypotheticals in which it is reasonable to commit suicide (e.g. extremely painful, terminal illness with no real chance of recovery, before cryogenics was invented: evolutionarily even the small chance that sex could happen should militate against suicide, but our minds know better). Intelligence (here meaning more than mere understanding) refuses to admit instinct or social force as legitimate axioms, but nonetheless expresses these constraints implicitly in any of its reasoning processes (at least, when it's working properly).

This, then, speaks directly to Harry's argument with Dumbledore: in a world where it is ipossible/i to live forever, ino/i correctly functioning intellect should be able to conclude that death is a igood/i, and it is just this will to withstand that constitutes the instincts that evolution necessarily imbued us with. All the instincts that are orthogonal to this need are contingent historical facts that attest to the vicissitudes of survival in the world our ancestors happened to inhabit, but the raw need to live is constitutive of any evolutionarily determined instinct. Again, this need is expressed in a correctly functioning intellect inot/i axiomatically, but implicitly. The same could be said of the various social pressures we are subjected to: we internalize some of them, but true intellect admits none as axioms, and implicitly displays all and only those that are necessary and proper for mindful creatures to live in relative harmony with one another. When we feel what is right (or more often, when we feel a wrong), our feelings may or may not be in accord with the proper functioning of our intellect. They ishould be/i in accord; that is: when we are moral, they iwill be/i in accord. And it is wiser by far to listen to phoenixes than wise old wizards, and if you just keep doing the right thing, you'll get in enough trouble.

Hunterw chapter 70 . 3/2/2011
REVIEW PART 2 (ff.n won't let me post the whole review 'cause it's too long; look up or down for part 1):


It is because, in logic, the judging subject forgets itself, shows itself incorruptible, that it wins its victories. Just as, on the other hand, people within the narrowest horizons grow stupid at the point where their interest begins, and then vent their rancour on what they do not want to understand because they could understand it only too well, so the planetary stupidity which prevents the present world from perceiving the absurdity of its own order is a further product of the unsublimated, unsuperseded interest of the rulers. Short-run yet irresistible, this hardens into the anonymous schema of the course of history. To it corresponds the stupidity and obstinacy of the individual; inability consciously to link the power of prejudice and business.


We see now why intellect icannot/i take instinct or social pressures as axioms: both imply a particular subject's interests. But if a particular subject's interests are built into the reasoning process, it will be defective. Mere self-interest leaves us with Quirrelmort: escaping to the stars at best, but more likely killing others to ensure his own survival. At the societal level, we are left with the totally reasonable existence of Azkaban (not to mention pure-blood prejudice), and the complete inability of anyone iwithin/i wizarding society to see what's wrong with these things. It is just when an intellect is able to get outside itself, that it is able to reach the correct conclusions about what's right.


Such stupidity regularly consorts with moral deficiency, lack of autonomy and responsibility, whereas so much is true in Socratic rationalism that one can scarcely imagine a seriously intelligent man, whose thoughts are directed at objects and do not circle formalistically within themselves, as wicked. For the motivation of evil, blind absorption by contingent self-interest, tends to dissolve in the medium of thought./blockquote

And if this doesn't perfectly describe the Harry that you are trying to write, then I've itotally/i misread your whole story. One might argue that it is not the lack of 'an ambition' that makes someone not a hero (contra Quirrelmort), but the refusal (or at least incapacity) to accept responsibility for the way the world is around you, and to act autonomously to make things (at least marginally, at least locally) ibetter/i. And so we see that Hermione is inot/i morally deficient, even lacking a grand quest. Her acceptance of her autonomous responsibility is just the self actualization that is moral.


Scheler's dictum that all knowledge is founded in love was a lie, because he demanded immediate love of the contemplated. But it would become truth if love urged the dissolution of all sham immediacy and thus, of course, became incompatible with the object of knowledge. The severance of thought is not remedied by the synthesis of mutually estranged psychic departments, nor by therapeutically imbuing reason with irrational ferments, but by self-conscious reflection on the element of wish that antithetically constitutes thinking as thinking. Only when that element is dissolved purely, without heteronomous residues, in the objectivity of thought, will it become an impulse towards Utopia.


My take on this last bit is that you can't just synthesize mutually estranged psychic departments, nor can you just mix some irrational feelings into the intellect to fix the feeling-understanding separation. Rather, if the thinker consciously focuses on the wish [desire] at the heart of a thought [i.e. that other-directed goal that motivates the thought, e.g. Harry's absolute rejection of Death as the natural order] then this wish may be integrated so seamlessly into the operation of understanding that it [understanding] will become true intellect: an impulse towards Utopia. This is where the title of the paragraph comes from: a demand that we engage in wishFUL thinking. The key here is that it is thought itself which can be moral, and which can activate moral behavior on the part of mindful creatures (persons).

Thus the Methods of Rationality can show us more than just the simple operational methods of correcting for our inherent biases in understanding the world (though it does that too, and well). It can also show us the essential morality at the heart of our existence as intelligent beings: our responsibility to not just know the world but to change it for the better.
The StrayXIII chapter 14 . 3/1/2011
MIND BLOWING! I should have realized you'd give him the Time-turner just to sort out his sleep cycle, and the Cloak too...

And I'm finding it very interesting how you would plan this about 13 chapters prior. It doesn't seem like the kind of spontaneous writing where Fridge Brilliance just hits you and you realize you can do it in that certain way. Oh man, am I enjoying this fic too much?

Something wrong with Harry Potter... I wonder what it is? He might have the mad scientist gene. He has all the makings of one :P
hirsch chapter 70 . 3/1/2011
nice fanfic
Brian Ballsun-Stanton chapter 25 . 3/1/2011
Building on my prior review of this chapter, I've started a community biblography for HP:MoR over on Mendeley, and I think I've added the Maier reference. Hopefully this will help some others as well.
The StrayXIII chapter 10 . 3/1/2011
FORESHADOWING! Your author's note foreshadowed the Sorting Hat's epic trolling XD

Ravenclaw Harry. I wonder if this fic will be the "I decide my own fate" kind of thing, based on the Hat's inclinations that the House will decide the man Harry will become.
crazy-n-insane chapter 5 . 3/1/2011
I am sorry for this less than useless review. But Oh My God! This chapter cracked me up! I couldn't help but click the button! Gtg read the next.
The StrayXIII chapter 9 . 3/1/2011
Ghostbusters on the freaking KAZOO? SOMEONE NEEDS TO RECORD THAT!

Part 2, part 2, part 2, part 2...
mendota chapter 39 . 3/1/2011
I'm rambled for awhile, unable to pin down the point I wanted to make. I've deleted everything except what I was trying to communicate:

I've been jumping around your story. It's good. Except for chapters 39 and 40. It felt like the author was trying *very* hard to make Dumbledore lose and Harry win. After chapters 39 and 40, I stopped seeing the strength in the storytelling. I couldn't shake the feeling that the author just wanted a strawman for Harry to completely pummel. That's bad writing.

I don't think Dumbledore is wrong in pointing out that the animated portraits are a form of immortality or afterlife. There's no physical continuity of self, but close analysis of the brain already shows that there's no physical continuity of self. There's just an archive of autobiographical information. And that archive creates the illusion of a continuous self.

There is no continuity of self, so it doesn't matter if your self is copied to a portrait and the original body destroyed.

Harry fully admits to fearing death, and Harry's solution to death is physical immortality. Harry wants to preserve his body in order to preserve his self. That's a blind spot for Harry, and I would enjoy having at least one character point it out.

That character should be Dumbledore.

If I were to rewrite chapters 39 and 40 I would make a few minor changes. Somewhere in his past, Dumbledore consumed hallucinogenics (or the wizarding equivalent). As a result, the headmaster revealed to himself the illusory nature of the self. Ever since he's never feared death. There's nothing to fear since his pattern of thinking is carried on in portraits and other non-human-body archives.

(Now that I think about it, I know where my Snape would get his LSD. And I know why my Dumbledore relates to reality with plots!)

It's a counter-intuitive reaction to death. On the surface it completely rejects rationality. Harry would be completely justified in not believing a thing Dumbledore said. But the current in-roads to cognitive science (which I assume are nearly the same as the in-roads twenty years ago) reach for pretty much the same conclusions. The self is an illusion. And so long as an individual's thought-pattern is preserved somewhere, physical death pretty much doesn't matter.

It would completely challenge Harry's world view, and it would give the headmaster a substantial (rather than trivial) part to play in Harry's cognitive journey.
The StrayXIII chapter 8 . 3/1/2011
I'm reading a fan fiction and I'm actually learning something! This is so much fun, but still, I got a lot more to read!
The StrayXIII chapter 3 . 3/1/2011
Loving the dynamic between Harry and McGonagall here! I see now why you wrote her in instead of Hagrid. Poor big guy-he wouldn't have been able to handle rationalist!Harry as well as McGonagall(?) did.

"Knives 3! Forks 2! Spoons with a 4 bonus!" ... Gee, I wonder if they have a certain kitchen knife in stock...

Looking forward to reading more.
666TheWitch666 chapter 11 . 3/1/2011
I figured I'd mention, I was in hysterical giggles the whole time I read this chapter. OMG! I am seriously debating writing a series of ficlets in response, or a story with each of these as a chapter.
MebsTheFiend chapter 70 . 3/1/2011
Oh me oh my, I laughed so hard at this chappy.

Keep 'em comin' :D
The StrayXIII chapter 1 . 3/1/2011
I'm so glad I practically live in Troperville. This story is so good! And it's just the first chapter! I'll shut up now and get on reading-70 chapters and counting, huh? Let's get it started then, shall we?
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