Level 0: “model free” methods. These often work quite well and are cheap to compute.

Level 1: A model, but it’s too simple and therefore wrong. In the general case, assumes some variables - like culture and values - are freely changeable. Add enough free variables and you can explain anything. These appeal to would be authorities, as the temptation of any theorist is to say their theory is real.

Level 2: A model that includes historical data and thus binds certain parameters within fixed ranges. Sufficiently complex models are often just, “well, here’s what happened but we don’t really understand why.” This is deeply unsatisfactory to persons who believe if they could just get everyone to see things their way, they could fix the world.

Level 3 then attempts to play the level 2 game, and says, “oh, you broke my toy model by adding some constraints? Well, the root constraint is that none of us know anything!”

Level 4 is a simply a recommitment to common sense which says, yes, reality exists, and we can kind of intuit it with our senses, so we need to integrate both theories and historical data into a synthesis. We are constrained in what we can know, but not so constrained that we know nothing.

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Nov 16, 2022·edited Nov 16, 2022Liked by Tree of Woe

Perhaps the stories of the Zen masters provide examples of Level 5+.

Professor (Level 3): What we call Reality is just Consensus Fiction.

Zen Master (5+) [smacks professor with a large salmon] That was a pillow.

and then the professor was Enlightened.

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A super-genius associate of mine, submitting a comment by email, gave me permission to share the following:


I think you're underestimating yourself and you have been interacting sometimes two levels above what you wrote, levels 5 and 6!

Level 5: Impossibility theorems. A level 4 argument states that the general postmodernist arguments are self-defeating. Gödel's incompleteness theorem isn't relevant because it's too general and impractical, but for this particular argument, you can show that there is a specific impossibility theorem that shows that you can't know you're right, and you might be wrong. Examples include Meyerson-Satterthwaite, Arrow, the literature behind Bayes-Nash equilibria and the revelation principle, the no free lunch theorem in search and optimization, etc.

Level 6: Max entropy. Level 5 is not wrong in its arguments, but isn't showing the whole picture. If you assume max entropy, which means the mathematical minimal assumption argument, there is a "best" truth that is also most likely to be true, and assuming anything else is largely a waste of time (unless you can show it's not). This is rich, tailored application of Shannon entropy, the best, most advanced parts of game theory and decision theory (e.g., max ent correlated equilibria https://proceedings.mlr.press/v2/ortiz07a/ortiz07a.pdf ), calculus of variations ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calculus_of_variations ), etc.

I think the limit of level 6 is the pure transformation between anecdote, data, knowledge, and wisdom. Von Neumann was one of the core framers behind what I just outlined as 5 & 6, especially in his collaborations with Claud Shannon.

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Nov 18, 2022Liked by Tree of Woe

Im not sure "levels of argument" is the best name. I think you may be describing something else in society. It seems moreso a continuing conversation drilling down to the fundamental rift in our current society which seems to be Truth vs Belief (nature vs nurture, God vs atheistic cosmopolitanism, modernism and metamodernism vs postmodernism and postpostmodernism, etc). Currently we have AI mass controlling people's belief systems and regulating it with dopamine hits (upvotes and likes) and censoring dissentors and for now the "Belief" side is winning until some sort of apocalypse happens that puts an end to this long arc of rebuttals and conversation.

Great article. Thank you.

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Nov 16, 2022Liked by Tree of Woe

Back in my computer programming days, we used to have a similar framework for how to understand another programmer's source code. Instead of IQ, our system worked on caffeine levels. Our theory was that in order to understand a complex program, one would have to have at least the same level of caffeine flowing through his or her bloodstream as the author of said program. In addition, the more complex the program to be written, the more caffeine that needed to be ingested.

Looking back, those were uncomplicated and sweetly naïve days indeed.

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Nov 19, 2022·edited Nov 20, 2022Liked by Tree of Woe

One aspect you missed is that arguments tend to trickle down the levels over time. For example several centuries ago your level 0 argument against communism would have been considered a shocking Level 3+ argument not to mention an insult to everyone (avarice is a deadly sin, you're basing the organization of society on a sin!!)

As recently as a century ago the argument hierarchy would look very different:

Level 0: Communism is an affront to people's natural rights/God, king, and country.

Level 1: Actually God commands charity towards the poor. The behavior of the capitalists is an affront to that.

Level 2: Science has shown that belief in God is nothing but a superstition, and Darwin has shown that advancement occurs by weeding out the weak, therefore charity is dysgenic.

Level 3: Bourgeois science exists to justify the bourgeoisie's control of society. Your need to praise God, king, and country is due to your psychiatric complexes and/or false consciousness. The theory of "natural law" has no empirical basis, Law is whatever a judge decides it is.

Isolated Level 4 thinkers: Ludwig von Mises, Carl Jung, Ayn Rand.

Incidentally, a Level 4 thinker has recently formulated an objective grounding of natural laws based on evolutionary game theory (https://web.archive.org/web/20100109011143/http://jim.com/moralfac.htm, https://web.archive.org/web/20100129005359/http://jim.com/rights.html).

"Natural law is, or follows from, an ESS for the use of force: Conduct which violates natural law is conduct such that, if a man were to use individual unorganized violence to prevent such conduct, or, in the absence of orderly society, use individual unorganized violence to punish such conduct, then such violence would not indicate that the person using such violence, (violence in accord with natural law) is a danger to a reasonable man. This definition is equivalent to the definition that comes from the game theory of iterated three or more player non zero sum games, applied to evolutionary theory. The idea of law, of actions being lawful or unlawful, has the emotional significance that it does have, because this ESS for the use of force is part of our nature."

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Another story, this time from the future:

In the capital city of the human population on Gabal V, there was a university.

After going on a seemingly interminable binge of sheer, unrestrained solipsism, Doctor Albert W. Quimbal of the philosophy department couldn't decide on what to explain in his next lecture. It was a sticky problem, the worst since he refuted the invalidation of Zeno's paradox which proved that motion didn't exist. It even had the gall to follow him to lunch. And so, in a miracle rivaling the parting of the Red Sea, Professor Quimbal found a seat in the cavernous dome of the main cafeteria while contemplating philosophical problems without bumping into anyone else. His fellow faculty members stared in fascination out the corners of their eyes as he absently salted his milk and sliced his sandwich with knife and fork.

"Why worry about the students anyway?" he mumbled to himself. "They only exist in my mind."

As he lifted his sandwich piece with his fork he noticed the other professors turning away. "And you don't exist either!" he said aloud.

Unfortunately, his paycheck still existed, if only in his mind. He had to explain *some* great philosophical problem. But which one? He turned to his sandwich and picked it up properly. The meat inside was surrounded by two slices of bread. Two! he thought. "There is a twoness in all the universe: male and female, right and left..." Only three trays were knocked out of hands as he skipped away.


As has been human tradition for many years, the philosophy class was rather small. A mere 250 students sat in the class while Quimbal gave what he considered to be his best lecture.

"...so you see that there is a twoness inherent in all things. Contrast is the basis of all thought. Can there be right without wrong? Like without dislike? This twoness goes into the physical world also: action and reaction, attraction and repulsion, positive and negative, and so on. In fact this twoness is a necessary law of the universe. There is either two or nothing. Thought is based on relationship. 'One' is beyond theoretical comprehension.

"But we have a problem here. I have already proven that I am the only one who exists, and you exist only in my imagination. That would mean but one being. Thus I cannot exist either because just one thing to constitute the universe is not a thought; there must be a complement. Therefore you do not exist even in my imagination because I do not exist! Now let use see how philosophers throughout history have contemplated this idea. Even though they of course did not really exist..."

The lecture went on. The students were beginning to wish Dr. Quimbal really didn't exist in reality, at least not in their reality. After class one of the more active students shouted, "This is getting ridiculous. I say we protest. There hasn't been a protest on campus in nearly three weeks, and we haven't had a really good riot in over two months!"

"Yeah!" roared a chorus of philosophy students as they scattered to recruit demonstrators outside the philosophy department.


Dr. Quimbal settled into his office chair quite pleased with himself. He even considered unlocking his office door so students could come in for help. His complacency was shattered when he looked out the window to see thousands of students marching in his direction shouting: "WE WANT TO EXIST! WE WANT TO EXIST!"

They crashed into his office and carried him around the campus. Fortunately, the university managed to call in the new Runiog [TM] K-76 model galvanized androids to disperse the rioters. Being metallic, they didn't need weapons to do the job. They easily carried away the students one by one. Eventually, they got to Dr. Quimbal.

"Thank you very much," gasped the relieved professor to the android. "Hmmmmm, I wonder if you exist."

"Ho ho!" laughed the android in a metallic voice. He rapped his thorax with his fist making a resounding "bong." "I'm zinc; therefore, I exist."

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Nov 17, 2022·edited Nov 18, 2022Liked by Tree of Woe

This is what makes Cultural Marxist/Postmodernist/Relativist Ideology so sneaky one may as well call it Satanic. It is used to appeal to 'Level 0' people because the arguments often have a grain of truth to them- "Racism Exists, some people are treated unfairly because of it." then because of the *emotional* resonance that has been created, this makes the listener vulnerable to the lie- "The United States is still an incredibly racist country & huge changes need to be made."

It is also capable of appealing to the other, lower levels by means of a lot of impressive-sounding language & intellectual jiggery-pokery. It is often still an emotional argument but in these instances, appeals to the Ego & the desire to conform.

Ultimately though, the True Believer of CMPR does not give a tinker's damn about all the terrible things they claim exist & need to be fixed. Those are just some of the tools they use to get what they want. Reason *itself* is a tool they will happily dispose of if a more efficient, pragmatic tool presents itself. Blackmail, say.

The quickest way to find out who is a True Believer is to have someone in one of the 'protected', 'victimhood' classes, disagree with their marching orders. In short order that dissenter will be dropped like a bad habit, usually with a buzzword(term). Woman disagrees with the die-hard Feminists she is with- "Oh you poor dear, you're just a victim of internalized misogyny." Black Man finds it offensive that his skin color is valued over his Character- "Man, stop being such an Uncle Tom, we have a war to win here!"

Have I said what I'm about to say before? Feh. My brain is like oatmeal, I don't remember, but it bears repeating:

Even many long-term professing Christians have this misunderstanding & the secular world certainly does, in fact, this misunderstanding is encouraged, mainly through entertainment media.

See, when the Serpent in the Garden made his pitch to Eve that she would be, 'Like God, knowing Good and Evil', most believe it refers to a basic lack of knowledge, that in our childlike innocence we didn't know Right from Wrong. Many Sci-Fi stories have used this incorrect understanding to say it was a GOOD thing Adam & Eve ate the Fruit of Knowledge, because our 'Childhood' needed to 'End'. (and yes, Mr. A. Clarke's book with those two words uses that misunderstanding, though I suspect he knew better...)

But that's not what the Bible actually says at all. The Hebrew word, 'Know' is one used in a Marital sense, as in, a Husband 'Knowing' his Wife. It literally means, 'To take Possession of'. So what the Serpent actually told Eve is that she would be like God, DECIDING what is Good and what is Evil.

That's the goal, that's the aim. To have enough power to make their own internal wants & desires the equivalent of the immutable moral character & law of God.

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I think there's a significant potential for people to understand arguments that are outside their respective level with persistent study and consideration, then be able to apply these arguments persuasively in a wide variety of contexts. To use one of your examples, do you really need a 145+ IQ to be able to read and understand the Hicks book? It seems like you could integrate that work while being at a level 2, then easily apply the arguments therein to routinely crush level 3 arguments. The biggest issue that I see with communication and resolving disagreement over issues isn't IQ, it is prior assumptions and self-awareness of motivations and biases. Two unassuming individuals aware of their own biases who are in rapport and interested in productive dialogue will be able to identify any priors that they don't share and focus the discussion there. I see a lot of argument as stemming from operating on different priors, and when this isn't recognized and the depth and breadth of such fundamental differences begins to be revealed in an argument the "agree to disagree" sentiment is triggered if the focus isn't rapidly shifted to some particular prior that isn't interdependent on too many others such that it is open for discussion and review within the span of a single conversation.

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Nov 16, 2022Liked by Tree of Woe

Midwit level discourse (the most predominant in social media) appears to fall into level two. They can formulate level one and sometimes weak level two arguments but mostly parrot level three arguments they’ve heard. And are incapable of understanding or at least overcoming their confirmation bias to understand a level four rebuttal. IQ 110-129

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Nov 16, 2022Liked by Tree of Woe

This is perhaps an accurate description of online arguments, where each tier is a contrarian response to what the last poster said.

However it only captures half of the tiers of reasoning, because there is also a possible constructive reaction at each tier.

Imagine an intellectually honest frictionless sphere in a vacuum. His tier 1 argument would not be "well actually," but it would be a simple explanatory model of the tier 0 belief.

We do see this type of reasoning in reality.

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"If you’re a Level Five or Six thinker, be sure to drop some baffling commentary citing scholars I’ve never read to demonstrate that I’m totally wrong or, perhaps, right but for all the wrong reasons."

Way to close the intellectual door behind you! I was about to drop blockquotes from Kessmuda, Tefflani, and Bolgerberger utterly eviscerating your position, but instead I'll just have to go be inscrutable and unapproachable in the tiny lab of my obscure field.

On a more relevant note, to which level of argument are fertile and desirable females most susceptible? Is it a straight up IQ arms race, or are there other dynamics at play? The offspring ground game indicates... ahem... well, either lot's of women are very good at carpentry, baking, and farming, or wooing and seduction are not dialectical forms of argumentation.

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Nov 17, 2022·edited Nov 17, 2022

Fascinating look at the impact of IQ on argument and thinking. However, I was mainly struck by how little these levels impact, in a positive way, our public discourse and culture. I am in the 3rd level and when I was working, I found it helpful to work on a complex project with 3rd and 4th level team mates. However, when it comes to having a rational conversation and listening to the arguments of others about the Current Thing or our culture, I find more rational arguments and thought among 0 and 1 than 3 or 4.

As Orwell famously put it: there are some ideas so stupid only intellectuals believe in them (or something like that).

Now that the Current Thing is purposely retarded yet is professed by high IQ people who use that high IQ to argue for dumb ideas, I think the answer can be found in:

1. Tom Wolfe's theory that all public disagreements are really a battle over status. Most smart people really want to be seen as smart just like most rich people want to be seen as rich. Problem being what you have to publicly advocate is intentionally stupid to serve as a loyalty test. You might be a 150 IQ young professor with a major discovery to your credit but if word gets out that you doubt whether we need to eat bugs and ban fossil fuels so that mother Gaia can win her battle against the Sun God, well forget tenure. But it isn't a stick without a carrot. By arguing for the dumb thing you get to feel that you are superior to all those low IQ people who are not smart enough to understand that it is obvious that a man in a dress is a woman.

2. Smart people don't want to feel that they have to advocate/argue for really dumb ideas so they simply convince themselves that the dumb idea is really smart. It is hard for smart people, who get recognition for their intelligence, to think that they might not have the answer and some lower IQ person who probably watches Fox News was right (see Covid hysteria and the jab.)

3. Karens. The fact that it isn't optional in most organizations of any type to go against the Current Thing and the CT is probably dumb to make it a loyalty test, we now have the powerful Karen in organizations and online. You might be a high IQ engineer who is working on a mission critical project but if a Karen hears you use your high IQ thinking skills to argue in a level 4 way that expresses doubt that St. Floyd ascended to heaven after he died for our sins, off to HR you go. Otherwise there is an unsafe work environment.

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I've seen a lot of college professors. A lot of them are not that bright. They may do level three out of rote and mimicry, but most survive by not allowing challenges.

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The inventor of IQ tests, Alfred Binet, would screw this document up and toss it in the bin because, as he attempted to explain to the abmysmally stupid members of the American Association of Psychiatrists, intelligence is not linear, therefore it cannot be measured.

In fact, intelligence is global. It is a microscopic globe as we form in the uterous and, as we are born and interact with our environment, the globe expands accordingly. However, some individuals are pressured to develop more in one or two directions, at the expense of the others. Depending upon just how useful these knowledge areas may prove to be, this results in: an idiot, or an idiot savant, or an academic or scientist. In certain cases, this person may be identified as a genius or prodigy. It rather depends upon what stage of history in which we make our appearance.

The most intelligent person is one who can make the most balanced application of knowledge, because his globe is near-perfectly spherical. Some of us refer to such people as a generalist. I am a generalist, but not a particulalry intelligent generalist because I deliberately chose multi-directional personal development in 1964, so I am a contrived generalist. But I also am good at identifying people with useful knowledge zones, which enables me to siphon their data and adopt these for my own. Occasionally, I am described as a genius but this is eroneous. I once met an actual full-globe genius, a young doctor from England, who so grasped my own comprehensions that he finished off all my sentences for me. I must track him down because, right now, the world desparately needs a genuine genius. As do I.

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Interesting Breakdown of "Argument"!

I am reminded of the SEP breakdown of "Argumentation": https://iep.utm.edu/argument/#H3

If this model of Levels-0 to 4 holds, then using the aforementioned SEP entry, we can go to sub-heading #2 (i.e. "Types of Arguments") and find some interesting points of overlap.

Level-0 appears to be the domain of the "Trivial"

(Relevant Usage : https://www.etymonline.com/word/trivial#etymonline_v_17850 ; in particular from the Latin trivium "place where three roads meet" ) and so would be rightfully classified as "Deductive Argument" of the simplest sort: namely, standalone syllogisms (i.e. 'Conclusion-only') & those syllogisms that have as premises 'properly basic beliefs' (Relevant Plantinga piece that defines 'proper basicality': https://www.jstor.org/stable/2215239 )

Level-1 appears to be the those Arguments which span from the Complex-Deductive to the Simple-Inductive.

For the former, that would be syllogisms with premises that can be reasonably challenged (i.e. 'defeaters' brought forward by those of sane mind) as lacking aforementioned 'proper basicality'. The latter would be those Past Instance-Regularities giving rise to Future Instances-General Principles that have fulfilled the move from 'particular to Universal' which Aristotle envisioned when outlining "epagogue". Normatively, there is thus an element of 'rightness/goodness' intrinsic here with regard to said move, such that rational+sane individuals are unable to simplify the 'form' of the argument further with putting in additional premises (or by subtracting already existent premises).

Level-2 appears to span from the Complex-Inductive to the Simple-Abductive.

We have for the former an 'improper' epagogue such that the 'particular to Universal' move can be reasonably challenged a la the 'form' of the argument now being targetable by premise addition and/or deletion. And for the latter we get the observation of relevant facts yielding conclusions drawn as to what necessarily *explain* the occurrence of said facts

Note: this usage is the formal, philosophical usage of "explanation", Relevant: https://www.etymonline.com/word/explain#etymonline_v_29818 In particular, the PIE-root of *pele-/*pelə- meaning "flat; to spread." Also Relevant: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/metaphysical-explanation/

Level-3 appears to span from the Complex-Abductive to the Simple-Analogical.

We now have for the former those relevant facts that yield conclusions drawn as to what are merely possible to explain for the occurrence of said facts. And for the latter we begin to see the following schema:

1. S is similar to T in certain (known) respects.

2. S has some further feature Q.

3. Therefore, T also has the feature Q.

In particular, the similarity relation of the S-T pair where S has some Q which is salient and 'appears' in T in a very 'graspable' manner. For "Simple-Analogical" no Q* is needed, since the relation is simply straightforward Reduction.

Level-4 likely spans from the Complex-Analogical to the Simple-*insert higher order format here*.

For the former, we see the familiar schema:

1. S is similar to T in certain (known) respects.

2. S has some further feature Q.

3. Therefore, T also has the feature Q, or some feature Q* similar to Q.

Where we see now that S-T has an S with a Q that does not Reduce. Rather, Supervenience to Q* is needed which then tracks onto T and becomes salient.

As for the Simple *insert higher order format here*..... most likely it resembles the "Trivial" noted at the very beginning in some respect and as we go further up (be it Levels 5, 6 or beyond) that trend/pattern likewise holds as well.

Henceforth let's shorten *insert higher order format here* to "HOF"

A "Guess": If we break down "Analogy" into its PIE roots we get the following:

(Relevant: https://www.etymonline.com/word/analogy#etymonline_v_13393 )

>> *leg- (1)

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak" on the notion of "to gather words, to pick out words."

It forms all or part of: alexia; analects; analogous; analogue; analogy; anthology; apologetic; apologue; apology; catalogue; coil; colleague; collect; college; collegial; Decalogue; delegate; dialect; dialogue; diligence; doxology; dyslexia; eclectic; eclogue; elect; election; epilogue; hapax legomenon; homologous; horology; ideologue; idiolect; intelligence; lectern; lectio difficilior; lection; lector; lecture; leech (n.2) "physician;" legacy; legal; legate; legend; legible; legion; legislator; legitimate; lesson; lexicon; ligneous; ligni-; logarithm; logic; logistic; logo-; logogriph; logopoeia; Logos; -logue; -logy; loyal; monologue; neglect; neologism; philology; privilege; prolegomenon; prologue; relegate; sacrilege; select; syllogism; tautology; trilogy.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek legein "to say, tell, speak, declare; to count," originally, in Homer, "to pick out, select, collect, enumerate;" lexis "speech, diction;" logos "word, speech, thought, account;" Latin legere "to gather, choose, pluck; read," lignum "wood, firewood," literally "that which is gathered," legare "to depute, commission, charge," lex "law" (perhaps "collection of rules"); Albanian mb-ledh "to collect, harvest;" Gothic lisan "to collect, harvest," Lithuanian lesti "to pick, eat picking;" Hittite less-zi "to pick, gather." <<

So if the pattern holds, then the Simple-HOF Argumentation would have the following features:

1. Able to 'gather'/collect explanatory vectors more efficiently than the Complex-Analogical.

2. Able to generate derivatives that account for salient notions more efficiently than the Complex-Analogical.

3. Is somehow "Simple" in the sense that lower level argument formulators (and their peers) can identify 'basicality' of a sort that does not need further explanatory clarification.

.... All that Now being said, "Argumentation" will never beat the Lash/Pliers/Gummy Sack/*insert instrument of pain and torture here* with regard to Persuasive force. So whilst the linear account you have sketched above (i.e. from Blue collars to Professors) is certainly accurate with regard to "how things ought to be"... the fact of the matter is that most people are persuaded less by arguments (be they low or high level) and more by Torture, Pain, Consequence, Misery, Culling, etc.

So it is an Open Question (and I firmly am on the side which says "Answer the Question with a NO!") whether "Argument" and "Argumentation" is even Relevant anymore considering how the efficiency and network parsimony of alternate methods of Persuasion (Torture and Cullings being the Tool of choice in the History Books) have a much higher Success Rate overall.

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