Quotes from Paul Graham: What You Can’t Say

February 18, 2011
2 min

Paul Graham’s What You Can’t Say is social commentary on heretical thinking and intellectual fashions. It is a really good gym for our brain: how can we detect, analyze and handle our social environment, especially the parts that are unthinkable or at least unsayable.

Paul Graham

Here is my (semi-random) selection of quotes from the article, and I hope you’ll find them interesting enough to read it through:

Changes between the past and the present sometimes do represent progress. […] By the time you get to social questions, many changes are just fashion.

Most struggles, whatever they’re really about, will be cast as struggles between competing ideas. It’s easier to get people to fight for an idea. And whichever side wins, their ideas will also be considered to have triumphed, as if God wanted to signal his agreement of that side as the winner.

Whatever the reason, there seems a clear correlation between intelligence and willingness to consider shocking ideas.

Training yourself to think unthinkable thoughts has advantages beyond the thoughts themselves. […] If you can think things so outside the box that they’d make people’s hair stand on end, you’ll have no trouble with the small trips outside the box that people call innovative.

When people are bad at math, they know it, because they get the wrong answers on tests. But when people are bad at open-mindedness, they don’t know it. In fact they tend to think the opposite.

I have translated the essay to Hungarian.

Last updated: June 12, 2014
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