Strained argument

by Eliezer Yudkowsky Jul 18 2015 updated Dec 16 2015

A phenomenological feeling associated with a step of reasoning going from X to Y where it feels like somebody is stretching a hand across a cliff and not quite making it.


Alice: "Hey, do you think that guy there is stealing that bike?"
Bob: "They could be the bike's owner."
Alice: "They're cutting the lock off with a hacksaw."
Bob: "Maybe they lost the key. They'd have to get the bike back somehow, after that."
Alice: "So what do you think will happen if I go over there and ask to see their driver's license and maybe take a picture of them using my cellphone, just in case?"
Bob: "Maybe they'll have a phobia of being photographed and so they'll react with anger or maybe even run away."

At the point where Bob suggested that maybe the bicycle thief(?) would have a phobia of being photographed, you might have detected a sense of strained argument - even by comparison to 'maybe they lost the key', which should sound improbable or like an excuse, but not have the same sense of 'somebody trying to reach across a cliff that is actually too far to cross', or overcomplicatedness, or 'at this point you're trying too hard', as "Maybe they have a phobia of being photographed".