|Reviews for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality|
| Dwst chapter 60 . 11/24/2010
I like the story, I like the conceits, I like the writing. I have developed a set of axes for my own self-examination of my liking or disliking something that I am reading. One of those aspects of my enjoying what I am reading is how much the author presents his ideas in a preaching manner. I appreciate this story as a vehicle for philosophic discourse, yet still feel that some chapters fall in the unpleasant range of the preachy axis. This chapter strikes me as one of those.
Yes, it IS an essay in philosophy, and it will have to have some explanatory sections. I believe this chapter could present the concepts the characters are espousing in a more believable manner; for example, emotions could have been more directly expressed and displayed, not just described. And, I wonder if too many questions are raised in one chapter, and left unanswered, to allow the reader any hint of denouement. Would a soupcon of pity be so out of place for the reader? He has just finished an absolutely harrowing adventure through Hell, after all, and might benefit from a minimal analgesic from the author.
| HoosYourDaddy chapter 52 . 11/24/2010
An absolutely riveting chapter, but how on earth would Quirrell be able to convince Harry that Bellatrix, of all people, did not deserve to be in Azkaban? The brief recap of Q's argument - that she had been twisted by the dark lord and needed a psychiatrist(wtf?)-seems laughable. Why would Harry be duped by it?
| anon chapter 60 . 11/24/2010
HoosYourDaddy: If you could give arguments for Dumbledore in chapter 29 I think Less Wrong would quite appreciate it.
Your "Surely an intellect as remarkable as yours can see that blindly privileging science over love, compassion, friendship, kindness, etc., is just as foolish as the reverse?" seems to be the exact same thing that Dumbledore actually said in that chapter. Are you asking that Dumbledore repeat himself?
| HoosYourDaddy chapter 46 . 11/24/2010
Raemon - my apologies. We were butting heads primarily over semantics, and I certainly didnt mean to imply anything at all about personality types.
I was speaking of 'thought' in the purely logical, argumentative sense, and took you to mean that 'rationalists' could simply reason at a level that was too advanced for the rest of us cretins.
You were speaking of 'thought' in a broader sense that included emotions and personality. Some people are more emotional than others. I understand that and I'm not making any moral judgment whatsoever.
| HoosYourDaddy chapter 47 . 11/24/2010
"Every life is precious, everything that thinks and knows itself and doesn't want to die. Lily Potter's life was precious, and Narcissa Malfoy's life was precious, even though it's too late for them now, it was sad when they died. But there are other lives that are still alive to be fought for. Your life, and my life, and Hermione Granger's life, all the lives of Earth, and all the lives beyond, to be defended and protected, EXPECTO PATRONUM!"
Sigh. I hardly know where to begin. This passage is so simple and beautiful and noble that it could start a religion. I apologize, Less Wrong, for the less than subtle insults I hurled at your character. They were unfair, and henceforth I'll stick to purely literary criticism.
I'll stop repeating the same tired observation, and note only that the sentiment Harry expresses in this passage flatly contradicts what we've seen of his behavior up to this point. He simply doesnt behave toward other people as if he believes what he says here.
Harry seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder, and I dont mean in the sense that he's got a dark side or that he's got a piece of LV's soul in him. I mean that there is just no way such words could leave the mouth of the boy who arrived at Hogwarts holding everyone around him in quiet contempt because they werent as smart as he was.
Harry's observation about how precious another person's life is cannot be arrived at through science - no amount of pure logic or observation can produce such a conviction. It is an irreducibly moral belief about the world that cannot be falsified or verified by experimentation.
So my question is: how and when did Harry acquire this belief? When he arrived at Hogwarts he did not have it, but now he does.
Also, ending the chapter with the discovery of Harry's parselmouth ability was a stroke of comic brilliance. :)
| Elisyniac chapter 60 . 11/24/2010
I just read this story in two days, nonstop, and I am more or less speechless. I went into this story having no idea what it was about; I just saw a link somewhere and clicked on it. This story is better than any fanfiction I have ever read, and the fact that you are updating so frequently and that you're so devoted to this story blows my mind. Thank you.
| mitremlap chapter 60 . 11/24/2010
great chapter, thank you
| Tall Tails - Feline Jaye chapter 60 . 11/24/2010
No - such a cliffhanger.
Again, a lovely chapter. I'd mention all my favourite parts but I'd end up writing the chapter.
| HoosYourDaddy chapter 45 . 11/24/2010
Very impressive way to get rid of the dementor, and a very stirring speech from Harry. Well done.
| felix chapter 60 . 11/24/2010
This is the only fanfic I have ever been a big enough fan of to actually mention in conversation in decent company. That in itself is a major success.
Love the social psychology tie-ins. I liked the story arcs that were lighter, personally, but my favorite so far has got to have been the Chaos army. I would have loved that when I was ten.
| Raemon chapter 1 . 11/24/2010
HoosYourDaddy: This'll be my last post on this topic here, but if you want to continue the discussion my e-mail is raemon777 at gmail dot com. (If you don't have much more to say I think another small post here to wrap up isn't a big deal)
I didn't intend any condescension at all regarding different ways of thinking. I didn't say which was better. Differences in how people think and feel is not something I just made up, it's a pretty established psychological phenomenon (if you're unfamiliar with the Myers Briggs Test you may want to look it up.) People have different ways of perceiving and making sense of the world. Some are more empathetic and respond to emotions (of themselves and other people) and some are more logic oriented. This is different from simply being more or less intelligent.
The value of the Myers Briggs test (in terms of actually predicting useful things) is up for debate, but the spectra of personalities it examines are definitely real. It's not a simple dichotomy (I was exaggerating there) but the people close to Harry's end of the spectrum are genuinely rare.
I definitely agree that Harry is arrogant, disrespectful and likes to be the center of attention. He doesn't actively think "this person is unworthy of my respect," but he does generally ignore people he doesn't perceive as intelligent. When it comes to people like Neville, he DOES value them as people, but he doesn't value them as genuine friends.
At the point in the story you last commented on, he hasn't learned much except that he needs to get over himself when it comes to losing. But the surrounding story (such as statements by Hermione and McGonnagal) have indicated that the author is aware of Harry's failings. And by chapter 60 (specifically, chapter 50), Harry has begun to realize them as well. He hasn't fixed them yet, but realistically people don't actually fix their worst behavioral traits in a few months when they're 11 years old.
What I do take objection to is your description of Harry as "inhuman" with a "cold void in his heart." That is certainly true when he goes over to his "Angry side" (that's the whole point -it's a mysterious dark side) but it is not true the rest of the time, and the way you wrote about it felt insulting to me, given that I share the "robotic" traits you were complaining about.
Re: the Dumbledore/Harry debate. This chapter is flawed, but not for the reason you think. The authors notes actually indicated that Dumbledore was intended to be portrayed as calm, considerate and wise in his own way (whether or not he was wrong about a particular issue) and Harry is supposed to be portrayed as angry and arrogant in a bad way. I think the author fails somewhat there - despite his efforts, Dumbledore comes across as a straw man. I think the reason for this is that Eliezer DOES share these traits with Harry, recognizes them as flaws, but being aware of them doesn't make them go away completely and trying to write about them in the meta way he's doing hasn't quite worked out as well as he'd hope.
| Lemur chapter 60 . 11/24/2010
I'm not sure that I understand the point of your objections regarding Harry's character and the "polemic" which valorizes it.
At the risk of "spoiling" something for those who may not have picked up on this point, Harry is a divided soul. He does not have that burning need to be ackowledged as "more intelligent", or "better" than his parents, or Hermoine. He loves them.
At the same time, he is a boy possessed. Correct? The things to which you seem to object are the very things that worry Harry himself, and for good reason. What Harry has to fix is the ... well, the riddle at his core.
| kutta chapter 60 . 11/24/2010
| kutta chapter 59 . 11/24/2010
| HoosYourDaddy chapter 40 . 11/24/2010
Thanks for the interesting response, Raemon. I dont want to start a huge debate in reviews, but I would like to comment on a few of your points:
"My guess from reading some of the author's other works is that this story is intended to parallel, to some degree, a series of essays he wrote called "Coming of Age", which describe various beliefs he had over the course of his life, most of which were very wrong despite him thinking at each given time that he was a "strong rationalist." My sense is that yes, Harry does represent the author to some degree, but that he is showcasing a lot of important lessons that young, snide intellectuals often need to learn."
If this were the point of the story, I'd have no objection to it whatsoever. The trouble is that Harry-the young, snide intellectual-is NOT learning these lessons. He does NOT lose arguments, except when he acknowledges that someone is a more clever manipulator than he is. He has had no great revelation that made him abandon, or even question, what he believes about himself.
"I've noticed a dichotomy between readers: people whose minds really do work like Harry (and the author) and people whose minds do not. To the people who DON'T think like Harry, they assume he is cold and emotionless, because the entire way he thinks feels so alien to them.
We (Harry and real people similar to him) are not emotionless. We are not amoral. We are not sociopaths. We care about individual people around us and we care about the wellbeing of the world. The difference is that our brains, in addition to feeling those things, are constantly examining the world, drawing connections, testing. If your brain DOESN'T do those thing, then it can be weird reading a story about someone who does. If they spend so much time thinking "robotic" thoughts, how can we also be thinking "people thoughts?"
That was a simply marvelous display of condescension, and I salute you for it. This dichotomy you create-the kind of thinking that Harry does vs. the kind of thinking that everyone else does-is false, and displays precisely the kind of arrogance that I was decrying. We all *think* in the same way and use the same methods. Some people are simply better at it.
Think of it like playing chess. Most people cant see more than a couple moves ahead, but some people, the 'smart' people, are capable of seeing 5, 10, 15 moves ahead. But everyone's playing the same game and following the same rules. To say that there are 'robotic thoughts' that only the godlike rationalists can understand, and 'people thoughts,' which the rest of the rabble can understand, is astonishing in its arrogance and falsehood.
I understand Harry's thoughts, and I use the same methods of logic (induction, deduction, etc.) to understand my world that he does. It's not his *method* of understanding the world that I find loathsome. It's his very personality. I agree with almost all of his conclusions about the world, and I am not challenging any of the science or philosophy that he espouses.
What I am trying to point out is the way he sets himself up as an infallible god in his little universe. Only his opinions matter, only his goals are laudable, and the sole purpose of other people is to recognize this fact. This would not be an issue if the author himself clearly didn't think of Harry (himself?) in exactly the same way. I simply disagree that there is a critique of 'flashy egotism and intellectual showmanship' in this story. That's what this story *is*.
I concede your point about Hermione. I dont know why I lumped her in with the rest of that group, but she certainly has a moral compass that the other characters in the story don't.