Saturday, December 17, 2016

My views on Objectivism, Socialization and Human nature



Sorry, no editing, just a straight out copy-paste from a discussion. Parts may seem to be somewhat missing context, but the main points are still all there, and this is such an important subject that I have to post about it.


I used to think a lot more "through Objectivism" rather than through my life experiences/ induction. That course by Peikoff changed a lot for me. While I was always striving toward independent thinking I didn't realize how much of the philosophy I was just adopting without real understanding.

It seemed very convincing, (and it is!) and so I decided it is the right thing to adopt and defend it. I refuse to hear from all the smartasses that they are doing it differently. I can recognize original thoughts when I read them.

But anyway.
The more interesting topic is why I think some aspects of socialization belong in philosophy and not just psychology.

Philosophy is about the most fundamental ideas relevant to human life.
So not every detail about relationships belongs in philosophy because a lot of it is detailed and involves more knowledge about how the subconscious works. (Psychology).
We can compare it to politics. Not every detailed information in the field of politics is part of philosophy. Only the most fundamental aspects and also only because living in a society is a fundamental aspect of human life. It underlies all our productive endeavor. Going to continue in a follow up comment so I don't lose what I typed so far)


Similarly, we are born and wired as social beings. Even more so, in some ways, than other animals that live in a pack.

Our species is the only one that has a very advanced network of facial muscles that are responsible for nothing more than creating facial expressions. Not for chewing meat or running faster but solely to be able to communicate emotions to other humans.

On top of that we have a built in need for love and we are born with the capacity and the mechanism to love and bond. That is also a fundamental aspect of our nature. Not all organisms are born with the ability to love or bond. The existence of this mechanism goes parallel to our rationality and is not born out of it. This is why babies can become attached before they have a single concept.

And this accompanies us our entire life and becomes more and more guided by our philosophy and psychology as we grow up and our brain matures as our thinking is more informed. But the fact that we are metaphysically built to live a social life is is fundamental and extremely central to our lives.


That makes relationships a lot more than just an optional value.

Yes, we have a self regulating consciousness (as Harry Binswanger brilliantly wrote) which gives us the option to choose even against our own nature. Our ability to reason and override immediate emotions is a very powerful one. We can even decide to stop eating and starve ourselves to death out of a strong belief in an ideology. That's freakin amazing.

However that is not a reason to ignore our other aspects.
Our species evolved to survive through cooperation and bonding. Babies can't survive without love care and guidance and as adults we become severely depressed as a result of isolation.

All these things make socialization a value in a similar way eating is. We can choose not to eat but we still need it.

And in actuality our life is social in almost every aspect. Our productivity is based on trade and on learning from past knowledge, our enjoyment comes from loving others and being loved and even our entertainment is all about human beings.

When people finally get home after a long day at work, they turn on the TV to look at more humans doing various things.
It's not a coincidence.

So my point is that it should be an integral part of ethics and not mentioned as a mere "optional value".


I love that you asked me how it fits in with everything else. See I've spent the last few years just coming up and putting into words all the stuff I wrote above.
And the social aspect of our existence seemed missing from Ayn Rand's philosophy. In politics we just say "the most efficient way to live is as a society of traders. Therefore (... +a few more reasons) -> Capitalism. But that is a superficial reason as to why we live as a society. We live in society because it is in our nature. Because we are social animals (who are also and primarily capable of functioning alone).
But that leap from ethics of individualism to politics based entirely on living in a society is not fully explained, I think. There's a missing link.

But that's not even where we should start exploring socialization as a value. It should start way before politics, in ethics. (Tbc in the next comment)


Ethics is what informs you of what kind of entity you are, it clarifies for you, what is your nature, because when you know it, you have conscious clarity about your desired course of action in life.

For example, we can still function OK if a philosopher never stresses the fact that we are rational beings. We will still be rational in some limited capacity because it is in our nature. But once they tell us "you are a rational being", well that opens up the way for us to pursue and preserve rationality in our life. We now understand that this is something good.

Similarly, we are social beings. As kids and as adult we continue to pursue connection with others as a value, even if no one tells us that it is in our nature.
However when such a thing IS clarified the same thing happens in this department as with rationality. You consciously pursue it as a value and you think of good and bad ways to do it and you have clarity that this is the right course of action for you in life as oppose to being more blindly lead by your nature.


Philosophy only discusses the fundamental aspects of our existence, not all aspects of our existence.
For example, we are creatures with thumbs, and that's certainly important for putting on socks in the morning, but it doesn't underlie everything else you do in life.

Being social does. It just about touches nearly every area of our lives.
Even the man who isolates themselves from human company and then writes books researching the origin of species is being social. The books are their way to connect to humanity.


So now ethics deals with forging our own soul or personality as well as the primary values we need to pursue as dictated by our nature and the nature of the world.

The fact that we have a self regulating consciousness is the reason we need ethics. In order to know it we have to reason and learn it.
I don't think socialization goes as deep as epistemology, except maybe to say that our consciousness develops through interaction with other human beings at our early stages and that this is what enables us to know.
I think it also gives a fuller picture to what it means to "know" as a human because we don't only discuss the mature adult but also address knowing at earlier stages of being human.

But anyway to go back to ethics.
So we need guidance as to what virtues are required in the context of our top values. Reason purpose and self esteem are the core values Ayn Rand identifies... I think relationships would be high up there as one of the core values.

I never really thought of this so everything i I say from this point on is more of a "rough draft" as far as I'm concerned and maybe I'll change my mind and realize part of it is wrong later on.


I think her emphasis on individualism was spot on. You have to become your own person and not part of a hive. And then pursue relationships as a fully formed individual.

I do think some of the traits we need to develop though have to do with creating connections with others and not just skills to survive on a desert island.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Phosphenes

So. I decided to digitally draw this image that I see when I close my eyes and press on them. After a short research I discovered that it is a well known phenomenon called "phosphenes".

But an image search didn't yield a visual image of those things.

I was surprised to discover that I could create one that resembles the real thing. Initially, I thought those colors can't be replicated in real life because they don't really exist in the real world, but actually I think they do. It's a very bizarre color combination and certainly not one we normally see in the world with our eyes open.


Friday, October 21, 2016

"Not even Wrong"



"Not even Wrong"; Believed to be first coined by physicist Wolfgang Pauli. It means that the premise fails at a fundamental level.

Isn't it interesting that not all statements are either right or wrong; a meaningless statement for example is neither true nor false. "Blue diamonds fall from Africa".

What else? The first thing that comes to mind are arbitrary statements. Like asserting that a god exists. Except lots of arbitrary statements can also be wrong and not merely arbitrary, right? (Please don't type undigested answers ok? It will drive me crazy and I will spend half an hour figuring out how to tell you it's awful without being too offensive. Too much hassle!).


"God created earth" is arbitrary, but isn't it also wrong? I think it's indeed just arbitrary and "not even wrong".

Ambiguous statements would also be "not even wrong"; if you are never clear about what you're saying then it can never be judged as correct or incorrect.

The statement "Art is everything" is "not even wrong" (but it can look good on a Tee shirt at a hippie concert). I guess ambiguous is just another form of "meaningless".

Lastly I plead you not to type stupid half digested comments. Because when you try to think of something seriously the last thing you want is to hear someone's attempt to feel smart without actually thinking.



I posted this online. One of my friends brought up a question: "My question is this. When someone who is indoctrinated into something like Christianity, they use what they have been taught as a filter through which to answer the question "Is there a god?" and respond "Yes God exists". Is that error in teaching/thought still "not even wrong"? Or is there some allowance for honest if incorrect thinking due to ones culture or upbringing or genuine ignorance?"



And I shall now just copy-paste my reply, because it contains some VERY interesting things about thinking (psycho-epistemology).

And actually, I feel that it should be the beginning of a philosophical research, on generalizing all the different ways in which thoughts can be "held". But anyway here is what I replied:



Hmm you know, your question brings up an interesting distinction. The distinction between the evaluation of truthfulness of a statement, and the evaluation of the mental process that lead someone to make a statement.

My point is that an idea may be evil, but still pronounced completely innocently. Right? I can easily imagine a little kid repeating something like: "sacrifice is great" (or whatever), if his parents taught him that.

But anyway to go back to what you brought up. I think we need different words/ concepts to identify someone's thought process. Something that corresponds to "arbitrary" (which describes a statement but not a thought process).

you know, it's actually VERY interesting to study the different ways in which someone can "hold" an idea. I don't think I ever read about that in depth/ detail.

For example, one way to "hold" an idea is by association. Like when people say "art is everything", and they feel that because many different things can be beautiful, and that art is vaguely about beauty, that the sentence makes perfect sense. There is no attempt to criticize or try to apply the idea to make sure it works as a general rule, and that's why people become convinced, or acquire the feeling of being convinced, that "art is everything" is perfectly logical.



What would you call that process? It's not logic, because logic involves applying a certain method of scrutiny to form conclusion, and here, it is based on partial logic only without the later, final parts of scrutinizing a generalization to make sure it is correct. But it is not entirely based on emotions either.
It is mostly based on loose association and much less based on logic. I think this is the most common method.

Another way in which someone can come to hold an idea is by being taught that idea from a young age... I'm not yet sure that this one is very different from the first, but let's entertain the option and see.
So say, at the beginning, you sort of repeat the word, and have something associated with them. It could even be a state of mind, an atmosphere, a mood or a personality trait.



Like say your mom always felt very calm and "clean" whenever she lit the candles on Saturday and said prayers. You then start associating certain sentences you hear (with religious meaning) with certain emotions.



So then the sentence stands in your mind as connected to those emotions, and maybe also some images, and bits and parts of concretes that the words stand for.
We need an example here. I'm trying to remember something from the bible. No luck. OK how about something like "Holy Sabbath", the meaning being, that this is the day blessed by god to be holy. Now what does it actually mean that the day is "holy"? It stands in our mind as an emotion, mostly, and also as something unique or important, maybe with calm and quiet. And maybe you imagine some entity deciding that something is more important than another, and that stands in your mind as the idea of "god blessed this day". It's vague, but it still works as a thought. It doesn't bother you that it's vague because you never adopted logic as a method.
And actually maybe it is not properly developed as a theory, what steps you actually have to make when thinking. Like: 1. observe similarities 2. form a generalization 3. test the generalization by reducing it to a new concrete case

It could be as simple as, were you exposed to this method of thinking as a kid by listening to one of your parents?



So then the sentence stands in your mind as connected to those emotions, and maybe also some images, and bits and parts of concretes that the words stand for.
We need an example here. I'm trying to remember something from the bible. No luck. OK how about something like "Holy Sabbath", the meaning being, that this is the day blessed by god to be holy. Now what does it actually mean that the day is "holy"? It stands in our mind as an emotion, mostly, and also as something unique or important, maybe with calm and quiet. And maybe you imagine some entity deciding that something is more important than another, and that stands in your mind as the idea of "god blessed this day". It's vague, but it still works as a thought. It doesn't bother you that it's vague because you never adopted logic as a method.
And actually maybe it is not properly developed as a theory, what steps you actually have to make when thinking. Like: 1. observe similarities 2. form a generalization 3. test the generalization by reducing it to a new concrete case

It could be as simple as, were you exposed to this method of thinking as a kid by listening to one of your parents?



Also, Roderick Fitts (one of my Facebook friends) wrote: "Ambiguous statements are arbitrary due to the fact that they aren't delimited to one specific meaning. They are closer to a meaning than meaningless statements; the meaning of a meaningless statement is infinite, but the meaning of an ambiguous statement is only several (perhaps more or less) meanings."

Sunday, October 9, 2016

I don't have a good title for this post

Because I'm still organizing my thoughts as I'm writing this. But what started this was watching episode 14 of Season 1 ("Nightmare"). It's a cool episode, and when I first saw it, I didn't think much of it except that it is entertaining. But it has a deeper meaning; In this episode, there are two adult men who experienced the same key event in their infancy. Their moms were killed by a demon in a horrible way. After this event, the dads of the two kids coped with it in an entirely different way.

Both families were loving and normal prior to the event. But Sam's dad and the other kid's dad dealt with murder of their wives in two different ways.
Sam's dad remained loving of his kids, but he became militantly protective and started raising them in a strict but loving atmosphere, teaching them skills they need to survive and becoming a demon hunter in an attempt to get vengeance on the thing that killed his wife.
The other dad became bitter and blamed everything on his son. He physically abused his son throughout his childhood and adolescence.

The episode makes you look at people's life through a kind of a special prism, a prism that can reflect alternative lives had a critical event never took place.
Seeing how Sam's family was like before the murder, you get a clear sense that had the murder not happen, Sam would have grown up to be a completely normal kid, instead of the more soldier-like psychology he has grown into.
The kid from the other family could have also grown up to be normal, but instead he grew up to be a hateful, insecure and violent adult. The way the two dads coped with the situation made a huge difference in who their sons grew up to be.

But I guess what I found most interesting about it was how a seemingly completely normal person, faced with unusual circumstances, can change themselves to be a warrior, not just skill-wise but also psychologically; that they have it in them all the time, but that life often leaves some personality traits dormant. But a person with a seemingly normal life and sweet temper, can change to be tough, resilient, persistent, accustomed to dealing with difficulties and not letting those difficulties stop them.

And lastly, I realized, the character of the Winchester's dad in the show is a great man. A man that stayed loving in the face of a terrible event and at the same time became active about it rather than just accept it as a "weird accident".

The same episode shows another moment, where he talks to his son, Sam, and tells him that when Sam was born, one of the things he did was p[en a savings account for Sam's college, for when he grows up. And he said it with such joy and love. The ability to love someone else like that is one of the most important things in life. I don't know if that, by itself, is the deepest joy, but I think that someone who can get so much happiness from giving to someone else at least has the capacity to be very happy. When we lose the capacity to love we also lose the capacity to be happy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Just The Right Name

I'm (re-)reading Anne of Green Gables. It is such a unique, lovely book. One of the dialogs is about names and it has such a fresh perspective on it, suggesting that the right name for things is very important. Anne always goes around renaming things to reflect their inner qualities. It reminds me of the same idea from The Never Ending Story where a whole world would die unless someone will give the princess exactly the right name.
It's a lovely idea and I think it has a parallel in real life.. That identifying something truthfully, precisely and thoroughly gives it strength to survive and flourish (or in some other cases, the ability to destroy it, but good or bad idea, identifying it opens the door to action). If you can't identify something it may show up randomly and eventually shrivel away unnurtured.
Well here is the dialog from the book:
"My father's name was Walter Shirley, and he was a teacher in the Brolingbroke High School. My mother's name was Bertha Shirley. Aren't Walter and Bertha lovely names? I'm so glad my parents had nice names. It would be a real disgrace to have a father named - well, say Jedediah, wouldn't it?"
"I guess it doesn't matter what a person's name is as long as he behaves himself," said Marilla, feeling herself called upon to inculcate a good and useful moral.
"Well, I don't know." Anne looked thoughtful. "I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thristle or a skunk cabbage."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The physical appearance of evolved species

Watching some sci-fi movies got me thinking about the idea of humanoids and different evolved, intelligent, self-aware species having different appearances and originating from different species, such as a crocodile-resembling humanoid, an ape-resembling humanoid (us), and so on.
But here's what I'm thinking... Are all those options equally plausible? I think not. Human beings evolved to have diminished predatory characteristic as well no distinguishable characteristics of prey.
I mean, we have the right teeth to chew meet, but we don't have a vicious mouth designed to kill an animal by chewing on its neck, and we don't have long ears and super strong legs like rabbits do so they can escape a predator. In fact we developed in a rather new direction and in a leisurely way. We developed more and more toward the ability to self regulate (this is an observation made by Harry Binswanger).
But here is the main point: Because we're intelligent we don't have an evolutionary pressure to develop either in the direction of prey OR predator. And the same thing will be true of EVERY evolved species, by which I mean mentally evolved.
The only way that will change is if somehow, a lot of only evolved species would exist and would have to kill one another to survive. But then let me ask you this: Have they all forgotten how to raise chickens??
Conclusion, such conditions will never be met for evolved species and therefore all of them will have a peaceful appearance, and not like a T-Rex's.
Sure, you can have an intelligent predator, more intelligent than the others, but once they cross a threshold and become intelligent enough to farm, they no longer have an evolutionary pressure to maintain their predatory qualities and those traits will disappear over time.
Also one last observation: It seems like there is a certain path evolution takes when there is abundance and low pressure to survive in a certain area; seems like species start to develop more toward appearance and sexual selection becomes a more dominant factor. That's how you get the bright colors and patterns of fish and corals you see in exotic climates (like the red sea). Right?
So it seems like, unless some disease or natural disaster will create a specific evolutionary pressure (like resistance to a certain virus), the most dominant factors for our survival and reproduction become things like: Our ability to think, to self-regulate, ability to get along with others, physical beauty and emotional well being.
For example if I try to think of a mutation that leads to something new, like say a few people start getting purple eyes, they might be more sexually sought after (similar to a colorful fish).. So basically one possible form evolution will take for humans is some kind of prettier human XD
I personally hope it won't involve any neon colors though, because I think that's just too much. It's one thing to look at it in an aquarium and a whole different thing to stare at it across the desk in business meetings every day.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Being "Too much"

Here is a personal-diary type of blog post about the theme of my life lately. And mostly in the last few years of me living here in the US.

I'm tired of being "too much". Rather than having my honesty appreciated as a refreshing change, people here rather see it as me being "too much".

I think they're much happier with the bunch of normal folk who play by the rules, never try to bring deep issues to the surface or discuss anything in a genuine way. People who play a social game of going behind their backs, of hinting their criticism rather than ever stating it.

I've had close friends like that before. The relationships seems close, and fulfilling, except for small little things that are not quite right. Like maybe they don't like how much attention you're getting from guys, so here and there they tell insulting jokes at your expense. If you bring it up it becomes about you: "Why do you have to make a big deal about small things like that?"
Try to discuss what's really bothering them, it is an impossible task. People would rather marginalize you as crazy than face the reality of their insecurities.
Are those relationships really that good? I've had close friends over the years. Eventually, when I couldn't solve these little "currents of malice" the friendship fell apart.
Some people can live with these friendships and be happy; apparently I can't.

And quite frankly, I think I'm fed up with being "too much". Why do I ever give that sort of judgment my sanction?

I think I rather just stay alone than try to be "normal" if that's what it comes down to. There's plenty of "normal" around; I don't find it particularly inspiring.


And who knows, maybe eventually I'll find people who want to be close to me who don't try to escape "too much honesty" "too much complexity" - but that have the inner desire to face something and understand it if there's truth to it, because being true is more important than being "normal".

I only ask myself, in a world where this approach is so unwelcome, can I really tolerate staying alone? Shouldn't I try to have those in-between friendships where a lot is really great except for small things here and there, which you're supposed to never bring up or acknowledge?

I feel like a misfit. Not just here in the US but possibly in the world in general. I see a lot, I understand a lot, and the feedback I get for that is "You are weird. You are not normal". You damn right I'm not normal. The only thing that seems to change lately is me questioning if I should aspire to be more like you and less like me.