Make it Obvious Where You Went Wrong

You are trying to get it right, but you might not.  Maybe though you got almost there.  If you got almost there, don’t cover your tracks.  Don’t make it seem like your work is perfect.  Make it very easy to see what you did and why.    Make it easy to see where you are wrong, if you are wrong.  That way those who come after may be able to succeed where you failed, or perhaps avoid a blind alley, if that is where you have strayed.

All the steps in the argument should be clear. All the language should be defined so a thirteen year old can understand it.

Don’t claim confidence you don’t have.

Those points you are unsure about: reveal that you are unsure.   Make an honest attempt to learn the truth.   Do not try to persuade, seduce, or convince.

We are all in this together, there is no room for tricks.


6 thoughts on “Make it Obvious Where You Went Wrong

  1. N.S. Palmer says:

    The paradox is that if you know how to make your error clear, you can probably do just a little more work and make it correct.

    A propos of your general point, Cambridge number theorist G.H. Hardy said that he didn’t think he really understood an idea until he could explain it to any person next to him on a bus.

    On a sadder note, you probably saw that Hilary Putnam died.

  2. Pfft, we’re not all in this together! Or more to the point such an urging only makes sense where you’re directly involved providing the food and shelter of the person urged. If ‘we are all in this together’ is a promise, how do you check you will be able to fulfill that promise? Most likely you have no way of providing food and shelter for another as a way of fulfilling such a promise. So maybe it’s essentially just trying to persuade them?

    Beyond that, how do you know when you’re wrong?

  3. N.S. Palmer says:

    I was looking at one of Putnam’s books this evening and he mentions Wittgenstein’s statement that the goal of philosophy is “to take you from something which is disguised nonsense to something which is undisguised nonsense.”

    Not exactly the same thing, but it’s certainly along the same lines as your post.

  4. Pingback: Make it Obvious Where You Went Wrong (scandals, too) | lara

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