this is lit.
I have to ask - was this by any chance inspired by a line in GK Chesterton's "Orthodoxy"?
"Becket wore a hair shirt under his gold and crimson, and there is much to be said for the combination; for Becket got the benefit of the hair shirt while the people in the street got the benefit of the crimson and gold."
I try to build trust by telling people I agree with them before they’ve had a chance to state any kind of opinion and then just keep carrying on and talking until they feel too awkward to object anymore.
I call it preemptive agreement.
PRophet is not the worst name for a PR consulting firm. Looks like he did pretty well for himself, mostly. Sure, there was that unfortunate setback with his second-to-last client, but then he got to Heaven and even got to advise God. The most impressive part is that all advice was unsolicited.
"“Fine,” said the Prophet. “God forgives you. But He will send you to Hell anyway, because He doesn’t want to get soft.”"
Does God get sexually aroused by sending people to Hell?
I am not gonna lie, I kinda want a hair shirt now.
This God person sure is demanding, and that prophet is a dick.
In the current employment climate, I think I'll just pop along and see whether other gods have avoided employing anyone like the prophet...
Ngl, I kinda thought the secret hovel within a palace was going to have its own hidden underground palace. If you wear enough layers of disguises, you always have plausible deniability!
I love these parables so much, thank you for writing this :)
Reminds me of the "Debating Rabbis" genre of Jewish tales.
What moral if any did you take from this, SSC commenters?
What kind of writing is Scott inspired by to come up with these kind of stories? I mean, I get the Kaplan / Tabarrok-esque econ aspects, but besides that.
I feel spiritually moved reading this
Minor point, but hair shirts are always supposed to be undetectable: you wear them next to your skin under normal clothes. Because Jesus said, "Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
Afterwards, the Church became a non-prophet organization.
After getting through to the end of that, I feel like I've just spent an hour speed dating with a sequence of the wokest of the woke, and the stain on my soul can never be eradicated
Where do you come up with these things?
the bishop should simply live in a wework
"You’re doing the best you can, conditional on being a bad person. When you die, God will give you the best afterlife possible, conditional on sending you to Hell." I laughed so loud at this. It might just be the greatest put-down I've come across on the internet.
My own experience is that telling other people what to do and how to act doesn’t work. But when I really nail my own standard for how I want to be, it seems to be maximally effective at making people very very close to me, like my wife, want to do likewise.
And from my internal experience, i am sometimes naturally motivates to emulate people when I see their example as obviously correct.
I think this prophet is more interested in telling people they're wrong and going to hell than in upholding some specific principle.
It did make me want to find John Huston's adaptation of Flannery O'Conner's Wise Blood.
Strong Lemony Snicket vibes from this one.
Why don't you slip out of that hair shirt and come down to my cellar? I have nice cask of Amontillado down there...
For the Bishops...
Esse quam videri, sed videri etiam bene.
To be rather than to seem, but it's fine 'to seem' too.
For the Prophet before being sent to Hell.
"OMNIS HOMINES QUI SESE STUDENT PRAESTARE CETERIS ANIMALIBUS SUMMA OPE NITI DECET! SICUT CAELO ET IN TERRA."
"All who wish to be more worthy than the other animals must strive for the highest cause. As in Heaven so it is on Earth."
As for God...
Quis ut Deus? Nemo.
Who is like God? Odysseus, in that, when he returns the suitors are gonna get rekt.
Pending passage of my "burnout test," I think this will go down as my favorite Scott Alexander work.
In my experience, prophet-types can get so focused on being AGAINST things, they lose all comprehension of what they're supposed to be FOR, and wind up pronouncing self-contradictory "woes" on the targets of their prophecy.
Somewhere, an earlier article had a Twitter-post collage of environmental advocacy, demonstrating opposition to fossil fuels of course, but also against specific wind and solar projects.
I greatly enjoyed this, as much because of all the counter-examples of saints it made me think of 😁
(1) The luxurious bishop and (2) the ascetic bishop - well, No. 1 is not the only cleric to have royal relations. When it comes to "go serve God in the way that serves Him the actual best", St. Thomas Aquinas can answer our Prophet that sure, his family have a plum position all set up for him in a Benedictine monastery, where in time he probably would have succeeded his uncle as abbot. But he wanted to be one of those new wandering Dominican friars instead. And that *was* where he would better serve God, than taking up what was basically a political career as a Benedictine. St. Benedict could then acerbically ask our Prophet what was he supposed to do, when even when he went to live in a cave in the wilderness, people kept coming to bother him so that he ended up moving around and founding twelve monasteries. So what you're telling me is to go live luxuriously so I can do *worse* when it comes to converting people, is that it?
For (3), if that bishop goes to Hell, it will be on account of following the Prophet's advice, which is a very bad look-out for the Prophet.
For (4), we have St. Thomas à Becket and again, our Prophet is wrong: “Fine,” said the Prophet. “God forgives you. But He will send you to Hell anyway, because He doesn’t want to get soft.”
But God *is* soft! He revokes His decision to destroy Nineveh, even though Jonah is very annoyed about this change of heart. He lets Abraham bargain Him down from fifty just men in Sodom to ten, in order to avert its destruction. And let our Prophet not worry about what will happen the penitent bishop, it's likely he will end as did St Thomas, murdered by the king's cronies and centuries later, having a jealous and petulant little man pillage his shrine to waste the riches on his own vanity projects.
As for (5), (6), and (7), our Prophet should really recommend to them instead the book of advice "Introduction to the Devout Life" by St. Francis de Sales, about how to live devoutly in whatever station of life you are placed:
"Unlike many other writings in this category, it is distinguished by addressing itself to all Christians in any state of life, rather than to just those who have been called to a religious vocation. Charles Borromeo had a great influence on Francis de Sales because of his pastoral approach to bringing devotion to the Christian in the world.
de Sales said, "My purpose is to instruct those who live in town, within families, or at court, and are obliged to live an ordinary life as to outward appearances."
"It is an error, or rather a heresy, to wish to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the mechanic's shop, the court of princes, or the home of married people. ... Wherever we may be, we can and should aspire to the perfect life."
So if you need to wear silk robes. live in a golden palace, and drink fine wines, sure! But here's how to make sure you don't lose the run of yourself doing that.
Regarding (8) St. Augustine would like a word here, as would St. Mary of Egypt and the other Desert Mothers. And St. Paul is probably getting out the same stick he beat the Corinthians with about stuff like this, while reminding our Prophet of the sixth chapter of the epistle to the Romans that you can't make a bad situation better by doing the same bad thing.
And for (11), our Prophet really should have remembered what he said to (5):
“Or perhaps I’ll do what I want, and God will send overly-clever bastards like you to Hell for trying to take advantage of the system,” said the Prophet.
Ah well, what else can we expect? He's only a Prophet, not a saint or martyr.
“Woe unto you!” said the Prophet. “I thought I told you to stay in Belazzia!”
"Dear brother Prophet, remind me where YOU'RE from, again?"
The moral is, of course, that the truth will set you free - which really sounds like something Yudkovsky said, but isn't.
I confess that sometimes when reading ACT posts I feel like something is missing. But then there's a long, weird, allegorical, and incredibly funny narrative and I realize that on the old blog too, masterpieces can only come so frequently.
All I can request is another post as divinely inspired as the My Immortal one, but God speaks through his prophets as he chooses.
Cragmacnois is not, of course, to be confused with Clonmacnoise:
Hmm, a fable whose moral produces an ethical disequilibrium akin to being spun around blindfolded during a game of pin the tail on the donkey. Nice!
Love it; it's like a more elaborate version of Aesop's fable of the man, his son and their donkey.
The Prophet in this story is a superb metaphor for EA. Utilitarianism rests on the presumption that one can predict things that one cannot, in fact, predict.
This story is a good illustration of why wisdom is stupid.
What is wisdom? When someone gives advice which is based on reason and evidence, which considers the context and the numerous possible results of a variety of actions, we don't call that "wise", we call it "smart". "Wise" is reserved for sayings you can fit on a bumper sticker, with no room for subtlety or context.
Wisdom is, in short, the name we give pithy and emotionally resonant sayings that confirm our worldview, to excuse them for being stupid. If they weren't stupid, we'd call them "smart", not "wise". All the world's wisdom literature confirms this. Nearly everything called "wisdom" gives advice that's good some of the time, and bad the rest of the time. It's pseudo-wisdom, because for any "wise" saying, you can find another "wise" saying giving the opposite advice. Determining which piece of "wisdom" to follow in any given stituation--well, that takes intelligence. Which means the "wisdom" is useless.
I always enjoy fiction updates
What's the proper name for the image that appears with the post on the blog homepage? Publicly stating my expert analysis that this one is AI-generated and looking at the archives to see if it's not the first.
Somebody's been reading The Grand Inquisitor...
Hard not to read some of this as akin to the "should EAs be vegan even if it hurts their effectiveness" discourse.
What an incredible demonstration of no one having any interest in actually being in a community with the poor or helping them actually solve their problems.
I recently read Conspirata by Robert Harris, which gives some important and ironic context to the saying about Caesar's wife.
In all seriousness, this is somewhat correct, just loose in its definition of a prophet...
The JBP article SSC had was essentially spot on, prophets point out there is good and evil, and to tell people to stop doing evil. What makes our hypothetical prophet so bizarre is that he's not pointing out big enough evils. A prophet essentially does one of three things:
1) Recognize that, if we are all honest with ourselves, it is obvious which clear evils need addressing,
2) Address those evils,
3) Occasionally foot the bill and risk themselves to address those evils.
1. Sort of eliminates the need to moderate between the greater good and the will of the public.
2. Eliminates the "Hide it for later, sleep with everyone" tactic,
3. Means saying "Yes this is what I did, I accept the punishment but know I am right" claim
In exchange for all of this the prophet also has the power to "cover the bill" by forgiving sins.
This reads as a story about democracy more than anything. It's a tale of campaign messaging, balancing the needs of your constituents, and ultimately failing your key demographic. The Pope might be interested or offended by this, Hillary Clinton has lived it.
Yes, overconfidence in your conviction you are smarter than everyone else and will be able to trick them is dangerous.
All those considerations were very reasonable but assuming (as in the usual args about killing ppl for organs re: utilitarianism) that there wasn't a very significant chance the truth would be discovered was dumb.
Ah, Ecclesiastes! My favorite book in the scriptures. My go to verse is 9:11. I'd like to imagine the oral culture that produced such wisdom, but it's beyond my ken.
Some of this reminded me of early Taoist philosophy for rulers which was basically “whatever the fuck your do don’t let the peasants see how truly wealthy you are or they will never get over their jealousy. By all means live it up, but keep an iron clad barrier between your real life and the life your portray.”
You got it right. Interpretations is what they are, but suddenly they become gospel truth. That's the issue. Jesus' mention of Gehenna (not Hades, because Hades is a Greek concept) was a metaphor analogizing the local garbage dump. It was not a concept like Hades.
First post I meet you through. Insanely cool writing
So, is this postrationalist fiction arguing that, ultimately, simply acting virtuously results in better outcomes than trying to think consequentially?