Harry Potter Character Explains Common Sense August 1, 2012

Harry Potter Character Explains Common Sense

All I’ve ever needed to know I learned from Hermione Granger.

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  • Varun Shankar

    Have you heard of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality?


  • amycas

    I think Hermione is one of the best written skeptic characters in fiction. Even though she lives in a world of magic, she still waits to believe something until there is evidence. She’s not skeptical of inappropriate things, and once something is shown to be true she believes it. She’s not a straw vulcan/skeptic either. She doesn’t disbelieve in things for the sake of disbelieving, she displays a good range of emotion (anger, pity, empathy, love, etc., unlike the usual straw vulcans in fiction), and she uses logic and rationality consistently without assuming that others would necessarily do so. Anybody else know a better example of a skeptic in fiction?

  • Tiffany Brown

    Hermione is one of my favorite all time characters in fiction. And yes, many things I have learned, I learned from her 🙂 Her skepticism is just one of her best qualities.

  • dorothy30

     i guess i missed the religious connotation of this passage when i read the books. just now looked up rowling’s religious views on wiki. she identifies as a christian but her comments in interviews express doubts and sound more agnostic and skeptical than she admits to

  • Just one more example of why Harry Potter is much healthier reading for children (or adults) than any religious writings.

  • Randomfactor

    The Resurrection?  PROVE that it didn’t happen…

  • Unfortunately, it turns out that against all odds the Stone does exist. Hermione’s a good skeptic but she’s not very genre savvy, and the standard for this is pretty simple in all sorts of movies and literature: the skeptic turns out to be wrong. The X-Files are one of many examples. 

  •  She’s still right that “nobody’s proved it doesn’t exist” is a crappy argument, though. So there’s that.

  • Sinfanti

    I’m eagerly awaiting my daughter being old enough to read the Harry Potter series.  Hermione is a great role model.

  • No, the skeptic was right. Her choice was the right one when the question was asked. And the skeptic was willing to change her mind when it turned out the stone existed.

  • mobathome

    Exactly!  From what I’ve read of Harry Potter’s universe, it is best in that place to assume something exists until shown otherwise.  The only limit to the possible is imagination. (I know there’s a claim in the books that magic cannot make food, etc.  So?)

  • Baby_Raptor

    Ginny was too, until JRK gutted her character in Deathly Hallows. That pissed me to no end…

  • Gunstargreen

    At least she’s not the usual straw-skeptic trope where the person continues to refuse to believe *insert supernatural element here* no matter what, making it look like skeptics are just contrary assholes.

  • Gunstargreen

    Dr. House is a pretty good example (though people have complained about some of the other negative aspects of the character). Especially because the supernatural doesn’t exist in his universe.

  • Ron3

    The problem is that what she’s rallying against is pretty much the basis of science and progress.  I’m fairly certain it would have been hard for people 1000 years ago to either prove or disprove the existence of the internet.

  • Vieativjoze

    You should all read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (hpmor.com).
    That’s some really cool stuff (beside doing propaganda for LessWrong)

  • Vieativjoze

    I forgot to say, it’s a fanfiction about Harry Potter where Petunia married a college professor and Harry grew up as a rationalist.
    When he discovers magic exists, he of course wants to investigate it scientifically.

    It has suspense, it is intelligently written…

  • I’d say Ginny’s character jumped the shark when she hooked up with Harry in HBP; their entire relationship development got dropped into the white space between two chapters.  Cho Chang made a more compelling love interest because we actually got to see some romantic interaction between the characters, even if they did screw it up (in an entirely believable adolescent sort of way).

  • And it’s freaking AWESOME.  J. K. Rowling has well above average intelligence, but she also has a literary, rather than scientific, mentality, and thus simply ignores an awful lot of Fridge Logic.  Eliezer Yudkowsky, the author of HPMOR, has a genius-level IQ and extensive (if sui generis) scientific training.  His version of Harry is brilliant, rigorously rational, and also genre savvy from reading lots of sf and fantasy.  The results are hilarious.

    Lest you assume it’s all comedy, though, Yudkowsky also follows an excellent rule for maintaining drama and suspense in fan fiction: if you make Frodo Baggins a Jedi Knight, then you MUST give Sauron the Death Star.  Lord Voldemort in the original novels, when you come down to it, was a rather shabby sort of villain; Yudkowsky’s Professor Quirrell is something else entirely, and it’s far from apparent how Harry can possibly prevail against him… or whether he’ll even want to.

  • amycas

    That’s a good example. I think The Doctor would be a good example as well. Every other episode he says “Well that’s impossible,” and then proceeds to investigate to find out what *actually* happened. Of course, he’s not as overtly skeptic as House or Hermione.

  • amycas

    Hermione is a way better skeptic than Scully. When Hermione doubts something, she always has good reasons for it. Later, when there’s evidence that it does exist, she accepts that evidence and changes her views.

  • Tom

    The fridge logic that bothers me the most about the Potter universe is this: how can destitution exist in a world with magic?  The Weasley family is repeatedly described as poverty-stricken, but they are also depicted, as I recall, conjuring food out of thin air on at least one occasion.

  • Pedro Lemos

    But that´s what being skeptic is all about, not believing something until evidence tells you it´s credible. A rational person does not  believe in god, but not for the sake of contradicting other people or cause fuss, but simply because it doesn´t make sense.
    If, against all odds, god appeared before me, said Boo! and started turning seawater in blood, or made frogs rain, setting trees on fire, killing gay people, or any of these weird things people say he´s into, I´d have to stop calling me an atheist and believe in his existence…
    Until then, though, I´ll keep thinking such a being is really unlikely to exist, just like Miss Granger.

  • Ultima001

    your will regret your decision if you do not wake up and turn around, if you seek God you will find him, He promise that.   if your self righteously  skeptical and believe your smarter than God and know everything your far away from the truth by your own choosing.  God reveals himself to those who look for him and look for the truth.  turn before its too late, humble yourself you will not be sorry.
    it happened to me.  He is more real than this world. 

  • laine

    harry potter is a book about a witch/wizard who puts himself above God (in his own mind) and gets his power from the dark side (portrayed as a friendly satan). 
    these are lies meant to decieved you and take you far away from reality and the truth.   usually those who follow this line of thinking want to believe in something other than God and do not want the truth.   
    i would suggest for everyone here to read the near death experiences of your fellow unbelieving atheist.  even thought they do not believe they are all confronted with God, Jesus, or the angels  or satan and demons upon death.    no one just goes into nothing according to your fellow atheist who died and lived to tell about it.  all your higher thinking cannot change the truth.   all your denials cannot change the what is.   WAKE UP BEFORE ITS TOO LATE.

  • Ultima001

    college professor atheist near death experience CHANGES HIM FOREVER

  • Pedro Lemos

    Right… thank you for your opinion, but I´ll stick with my skeptcism.

  • And you’ll regret yours if you wake up from death and Odin is standing there. Which is no less likely than God being there.

  • Harry Potter is series about a fictional world where the rules of nature are different. It tells the story of children coming to age in dangerous times, and their path to maturity and wisdom. In this make believe world God, Satan, Jesus, and angels are simply not present. Lessons in morality become more sophisticated as the series progresses.

    Methinks you need to take a deep breath, and maybe a little Xanax.

  • Houndentenor

    Friendly Satan?  What books did you read?  I read the whole series more than once and that doesn’t even sound remotely like the books I read.

  • Houndentenor

    Yes, and she’s also the one who bothered to learn things that prove quite useful to the others at every turn.  They mock her for reading all those books but that information saves them over and over.  She’s a wonderful character and a good example of so many things that children should aspire to.

  • Houndentenor


  • But, but… they had black candles at a feast once!  They’re obviously Satan worshipers!

  • Cee

    Ugh.  I’d like to like those books more but it’s painfully obvious that a guy wrote them–not one well-rounded female character in the story, and Nice Guy-ism to boot (Lily is To Blame because she didn’t return Snape’s affections–classic Nice Guy argument).

  • Pat

    What is the “what” in “no matter what” that you feel so strongly that denial of makes one an “asshole”.

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