Recent comments

Connection to ACT values

Kate A 2021-04-12

Commenting on: Misunderstanding meaningness makes many miserable

I am really enjoying this book, a lot of my friends are trying to find their meanings in rationalism and utilitarianism and other moral philosophies, that seems to be a plight of our field, and I have always been conflicted about it, as I don’t have this drive to have a purpose, but it seemed like I have to, both because others create this discourse and because I felt like the alternatives are not very pleasant (now it sounds ridiculous, being peer pressured into finding the meaning of life). It was really bothering me for around 7 years. But recently I found a therapeutic approach, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which seems to work really well for me, and one of the main points in it is finding your values, things you personally find meaningful on their own. I found it pretty helpful. I think that this might be similar to what you’re talking about, at least this is what it sounds like to me, and to be fair I might just use this to nudge some people who are too into ethical philosophies into idea of therapy =) I think there is also a lot of Buddhism in ACT, but I’m not familiar enough with it.

Meaning is obvious

David Chapman 2021-03-24

Commenting on: Preview: eternalism and nihilism

Well, read on. The rest of the book attempts to answer your questions.

If you want to skip ahead, you could try the “Extreme examples” page, which might be particularly relevant.

I Don't Understand

Darya 2021-03-24

Commenting on: Preview: eternalism and nihilism

“Meaning is obvious everywhere, and it takes elaborate intellectualization to explain it away. Attempting to live without significance, purpose, or value leads to rage, anguish, alienation, depression, and exhaustion.”

I see no evidence to support this. Genuinely. Provide genuine, objective evidence, please. No really, if you CAN, this would change my life, so I would really appreciate it if you could try. Also, frankly, I found your explanation to not hold any actual meaning. I could just be misunderstanding your point, but it seems as if your point is that you dont think nihilism and eternalism are correct, so you’re throwing your hands up in the air and coining a new synonym for giving up: meaningness.

Am I understanding this correctly?

Anachronistic oxymoron

David Chapman 2021-03-22

Commenting on: A malign modern myth of meaningness: cognitive “science”

This sentence at the end of “Perfection Salad” was probably the most misleading in that regard

Ah, I see, thank you! Remember that I wrote that thirty years ago, so my prediction has come due, and I was mostly wrong.

I do think the field has lost a lot of the credibility and prestige it had when I wrote that, but hardly anyone considers its name an oxymoron.

The point of 4E is that you can’t meaningfully investigate what’s going on in brains without investigating how they are interacting with what’s going on elsewhere. Typically, cogsci has tried to do this, and “cognition” is taken as something that just happens inside brains. If that’s what “cognition” means, it’s not really possible to investigate it scientifically (because it isn’t really a thing). If you take 4E seriously, it’s not “cognitive” science anymore. It’s “how people do things.”

Got it

ralitso 2021-03-21

Commenting on: A malign modern myth of meaningness: cognitive “science”

To clarify, I am not opposed to studying minds or brains scientifically. Did I seem to be saying that? If so, could you point out where? It may need revision.

OK, thanks for the clarification. This sentence at the end of “Perfection Salad” was probably the most misleading in that regard:

I think it likely that “cognitive science” will seem as much of an anachronistic oxymoron in thirty years time as “domestic science” does now.

I suppose that could be read as saying that the current “death” of cognitive science would harm the credibility of studying cognition at all for a while, until some new paradigm revitalizes the topic.

In terms of conceptual approach, “4E cogsci” is more nearly on the right path, I think, although it still doesn’t take nearly seriously enough social and cultural embedding. If you do take that seriously, then “cognition” pretty much falls apart as a concept. It’s not a thing, because all activity is interactivity. (Part Two of In the Cells of the Eggplant is about this.)

Interesting, thanks - I do want to learn more about “4E cogsci.” I have learned a bit about “embodied cognition” from classes; not enough to dramatically change my perspective, but it did seem important. And my curiosity about Cells of the Eggplant is also sufficiently piqued at this point that I’ll probably take a detour from this book for a bit to check it out!

Actually-existing cognitive science

David Chapman 2021-03-21

Commenting on: A malign modern myth of meaningness: cognitive “science”

To clarify, I am not opposed to studying minds or brains scientifically. Did I seem to be saying that? If so, could you point out where? It may need revision.

The problem is not that the project is bad in principle, but that it has been bad in practice.

There are two separable reasons for opposing actually-existing cognitive science. First, most of it is just bad science. The methods are inadequate, the models mistaken, and the conclusions false. There certainly are exceptions, but overall the quality of work in the field is poor.

Second, the mainstream approach is wrong a priori, not just empirically. In the Cells of the Eggplant explains this in some detail.

If there is to be progress, there need to be both better methods and a better conceptual framework.

In terms of conceptual approach, “4E cogsci” is more nearly on the right path, I think, although it still doesn’t take nearly seriously enough social and cultural embedding. If you do take that seriously, then “cognition” pretty much falls apart as a concept. It’s not a thing, because all activity is interactivity. (Part Two of In the Cells of the Eggplant is about this.)

As far as methods… on the whole I think at this stage it would be better to do a whole lot more informal observational work before attempting hypothesis testing.

Accidental vs. fundamental limits to science?

ralitso 2021-03-21

Commenting on: A malign modern myth of meaningness: cognitive “science”

Hi David,

Thanks for the quick response to my comments. I’ve already gotten a lot out of reading this book up to this point - in two concrete ways, I’ve recognized the eternalism that permeates some of the groups I’ve been a part of, something I’ve sensed in a negative way but couldn’t put a finger on; and I’ve started to see how certain confused stances regularly distort my view. I hope the book can reach and help a much wider audience once it is complete.

I think I understand what you mean when you say “The methods available in cognitive neuroscience mostly don’t work.” I myself was greatly disillusioned after my first research experience with fMRI, when I realized just how severely the indirectness of measuring a BOLD response and its low resolution limit the interpretability of results. There are certainly many pitfalls, from experimental designs plagued by confounds to coding errors in data analysis; there are many contradictory results and a reproducibility crisis. These issues have all been recognized and written about, and newer standard methods are supposed to be improving the situation, but I remain skeptical.

My skepticism doesn’t extend to all of cognitive science and neuroscience, as yours does. But I know you have been thinking about these problems for longer than I have even been alive, so I doubt I could (nor should try to) change your mind. Based on the comments on your stub about the Representational Theory of Mind, there seems to be a disconnect between how we think about the mind, and I eagerly await the full page so I can see whether you will be able to change my view about this.

However, I know your point in this section of the book isn’t supposed to be specifically about cognitive science, but rather the eternalism of “scientism.” My view on this is somewhat different, but I think I am starting to understand the point you are trying to make.

From an outside perspective (reading a textbook about cognitive science), or for a scientist evaluating the state of the literature, it would be a mistake to think that we know something about cognition just because we’ve been doing “cognitive science” for 40 years. The assumption that anything called “science” is continually pushing society forward (as in “SCIENCE, it works b*tches!”) can be distorting. We should always view research methods and results with a critical eye, and if they don’t seem valid or successful, take that as a sign that there is a problem, either with incentives, rigor, assumptions, or tractability given current technology.

On the other hand, unless the object of study is metaphysical in nature, and thus untouchable by science, should one not aspire to create the technology to eventually study it scientifically? Paradigm shifts may be necessary, but we have to start somewhere. Scientism is blindly using the tools current in the field without regard for whether they are any good, but if we accept the limitations, whence this defeatist attitude that we should give up rather than do the best science we can using them while working to create better tools?

(Or maybe the issue here is semantic, if you interpret a paradigm shift as the creation of a new field rather than a new chapter in the existing one, although I would argue that creating a new word for a field with the same original epistemic goal as the old one is misleading.)

(Also, if you are a scientist and you believe science can explain something like the hard problem of consciousness that comes down to metaphysics, I see that as a different kind of eternalism from scientism - denying the limits of science despite philosophy, rather than despite the realities of current scientific practice. This ambiguity was the source of my confusion.)


CC 2021-03-21

Commenting on: Wreckage: the culture war

“Wreckage: the culture war”
I agree with most of the points in this essay and have previously thought about many of them.
I believe the main take away is that the culture war is at the very heart of what is wrong in America today and no matter what side of the war you’re on, you are contributing to societal destruction.
Destruction which is caused by both side constantly calling on government to regulate every detail of human existence, based on mythical thinking and the desire to punish “those awful people over there” rather than logic and reason. I can see why you would believe if these warring factions could just understand the things you outline here, they would stop this incessant call to self-interested politicians (government) who have a monopoly on the use of coercive violence. Good idea.
I would go a step further and say people need to seriously question whether or not an entity like government, which wields exceptional and extraordinary power over the vast majority of humanity should even exist.

Accurate and postmodern

David Chapman 2021-03-21

Commenting on: Sartre’s ghost and the corpse of God

I think your view here is entirely accurate. It’s also the current default view within educated mainstream culture.

Technically, it could be called “postmodernity.” That’s what we all live in now, because we can no longer take any system of meaning as absolute. We’re all aware of the possibility of (limited) choice, and the partial arbitrariness of such choices.

Historically, existentialism was a precursor to, and contributed to, postmodernity.

Postmodernity does also tend to collapse toward nihilism. The way of avoiding that is sometimes called “metamodernism” (although that term is contested).

You might find interesting Meaningness and Time, which traces how and why meaning fell apart (postmodernity) and how we can rebuild it.

The content

David Chapman 2021-03-21

Commenting on: A malign modern myth of meaningness: cognitive “science”

what else are people who really want to make progress toward understanding how cognition works supposed to call themselves?

The problem is not with what we call it, but the content of it.

Calling something a science doesn’t make it a science. The methods available in cognitive neuroscience mostly don’t work. When good-enough methods become available, science may become possible. (There are some promising new ones; perhaps that may happen in this decade!)

There are many other things that are not currently possible to study scientifically, because there isn’t technology available. Quantum gravity comes to mind. Just wanting to have a theory of quantum gravity doesn’t mean you can make progress on one (as we’ve seen over the past fifty years). Just wanting to have a neuroscientifically-grounded theory of cognition doesn’t mean you can make progress on one (as we’ve seen over the past century or so).

Existentialism with inheritance?

ralitso 2021-03-21

Commenting on: Sartre’s ghost and the corpse of God

I learned about existentialism in high school (Sartre and Nietzsche). I found the ideas very appealing and they had a major influence in how I thought about planning my life at that stage. But apparently I never got the memo that existentialism had collapsed.

I think one reason it worked for me was that I didn’t assume that all meaning had to come from the individual per se. Before you are old enough to formulate your own thoughts about purpose and meaning, you already associate various things and concepts with values that are either “built-in” by evolution or conveyed through your perception of the people around you, especially your parents. Thus cultural and familial meanings can propagate between individuals; they are not localized to any one mind, but they are also not innate in the objects they imbue.

In my view, the existentialism comes in when the individual is free to choose to weigh cultural values more or less highly depending on what they think is important, or even come to see new types of meaning (for example, through philosophizing). But any individual “customizations” do have to interact with the cultural meanings held by most of the people one interacts with - one is not free to do anything one wants without consequences. Still, everyone’s values/meaning could be completely different if past and current circumstances (and perhaps biological facts) were different, so in that sense all meaning is collectively subjective.

Does this view have a name? Is it just another flavor of existentialism that is equally susceptible to collapse?

Studying something carefully = what if not science?

ralitso 2021-03-20

Commenting on: A malign modern myth of meaningness: cognitive “science”

Full disclosure, while I have no sympathy for nutrition, I am a graduate student in neuroscience.

The gist I got from both this stub and the previous pages is that nutrition science and cognitive neuroscience should be considered pseudosciences because they have failed to make net progress over several decades. They have failed to justify being respected as “real” sciences. (I’m assuming you’re not talking about other sub-disciplines of neuroscience that have basically equal success as any biology).

My question is: what else are people who really want to make progress toward understanding how cognition works supposed to call themselves? Even if new epistemological methods will have to be invented in order for this to succeed, would we not still call them scientific tools? Or are you claiming that the disappointing track record of cogsci in the past 40 years implies that science can never be successfully applied to cognition?

I do agree that over-hyping/scientism is a problem, particularly in neuro these days. On the academic side we are a bit shielded from that compared with silicon valley, I assume.

Thank you and here are my thoughts

Amy Seefeldt 2021-03-18

Commenting on: New Earth, Big Lie

I came upon this website of yours because I I am searching for a rebuttal to Eckhart Tolle. I believed and still kind of believe in the things he says but I don’t want to believe things that are not true and I don’t want to be manipulated by a guru leader. I am extremely interested in philosophy and I listen to the philosophy podcast almost every day now and the post suggested that if you have a belief, it is a leap of faith because beliefs cannot be proven to be true or untrue and if you choose to believe it that is fine but you should really realize that it is not truth. It is a leap of faith. Most people believe in things because it makes them more comfortable. I know that Eckert tolle’s work makes me feel more comfortable. But being comfortable does not mean it is true. There are plenty of truths out there (or at least things that most humans unanimously believe to be truth) that are uncomfortable. But we will never know pure truth as mortals. We can only try to get closer to it as much as we can. But the thing that we also have to realize is that Our beliefs don’t only affect us. We affect others as well. There are some beliefs out there that hurt others but people believe them because they want to believe them. A person can really convince himself to believe anything if they try hard enough and if they want to. If I were to meet Eckhart Tolle so far I have two questions I would ask him. The first question would be why do you make money off of your books and seminars and merchandise? Some of his seminars are very very expensive. If you do not do anything with your money, which I know that is not the case, then why? Are there charities that you give to? Apparently Eckhart Tolle is one of the richest men in America. I have been told that the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh don’t make money off of their wisdom but honestly I would have to research that more to see if it was true. The second question that I would ask, which is much more philosophical, is when you say that something is true, which after he says he knows it because he just knows it or it’s in his heart, isn’t that egoic? Because what if someone else says that what he saying saying is not true because they know and it’s in their heart. Who is right? If Eckert tolle says that something he believes or says is right or true doesn’t that make him egoic? When people believe in and follow what another person says, even if they are spouting wisdom, they have the potential to be manipulated. Knowing that you were manipulated is a very difficult thing, especially when you are following someone that says something that you want to believe. We are manipulated all the time in our society. That’s a huge part of capitalism. The clothes that we wear, the products that we buy etc. the news that we watch, i’ll come from a source. And often times those sources are popping up on her computer screens, billboards, TVs and even through our friends. If we are not aware of what or who we are manipulated by or could potentially be manipulated by then we are not really in control of ourselves. Being in control of yourself is a huge part of freedom. I know that you can’t be completely control of yourself when you live in a structured society but your goal should be, I think as a human being, to be conscious and aware as Tolle says and if you are conscious and aware you will be aware of who and where your thoughts and beliefs and motivations stem from. I once saw a therapist who, on the first day of therapy, said that the goal of our therapy sessions is to not need the therapist anymore. I don’t know if that is Tolle’s goal but it should be. But if he said that then he would have less followers and make less money. I also wonder where Eckardt would turn if he ever had a question or something he was unsure of. Himself? If he’s so high up in his wisdom and knowledge then he can’t even ask other peoples opinions because he is the all knowing. He has the answers. But if he doesn’t have all of the answers to everything then he would need to feel comfort with not knowing. And perhaps that is the central thing that People need to develop. The ability to be ok with not knowing. I think that is a point of wisdom that should be addressed. But the problem is, he is and example for so many people and people want to become like him. And what he represents is this all knowing being with answers to everything. Or at least almost everything. Is that how we all want to be? Is that what we should strive to be? The kind of person who sits on a stage above people and answers their questions that are written on a piece of paper? That position holds A LOT of power. Thank you for the work that you are doing. I totally support it because we really should question our beliefs. You are doing the work that many people aren’t willing to do or can’t do. You will get a lot of anger and discomfort from people but don’t let that discourage you. Please forgive me if I have any typos. I basically spewed this all from the top of my head and I don’t feel like going back and correcting all of the typos!

Maybe it's you

ralitso 2021-03-18

Commenting on: The illusion of understanding

Bad Horse, you say:

So, yes, they are making a claim, but I’m not interested in talking with anyone who would question that claim, and would characterize such a person as insane.

You are by your own admission not a philosopher, who you call “stupid” and “lousy mathematicians.” Unfortunately, philosophy is not math, and it’s also not generally very simple. Enough people who have devoted their lives to philosophy disagree with consequentialism for competing frameworks such as value ethics not to be considered fringe. Is it really a rational response to dismiss all of these people as “insane” rather than considering that you may be missing something? Are you sure what David calls “rationalist eternalism,” which you might see as a good thing, isn’t restricting your view?

With that out of the way, here’s what I came up with when thinking about why I don’t find consequentialism fully satisfactory:

Let’s assume a harmful action has both an internal cause (the will) and an external effect (the damage). (I don’t want to get into whether “true” free will exists here (which I doubt) - let’s assume that some approximation of will is an emergent phenomenon.) Consequentialism asserts that only the damage matters.

When considering what action to take among a set of alternatives (the most prototypical type of ethical question), I agree.

When determining how damage should be compensated for in an ideal judicial system, it also makes sense to only consider the damage.

But in practice, ethics is often applied to a different question: in an ideal judicial system, what consequences should the perpetrator face, other than compensating for damage? Here, I believe we must consider the will/intention. If we believe the purpose of a corrections system is to reform behavior and prevent it from happening again, a malicious act should be taken much more seriously and admonished more harshly than an accident.

I appreciate the followup

Demko 2021-03-17

Commenting on: Ethics

Thank you, your brief comment has been helpful, in the sense that I have never heard of “axiology”, so at least now I have a thread to pull on.

Types of value

David Chapman 2021-03-16

Commenting on: Ethics

FWIW, in boring academic philosophy, “axiology” is the field that studies value, including ethics, aesthetics, and sacredness. They all have some things in common and some differences.

I don’t expect to get to discuss sacredness here for several years, if ever, I’m afraid, and definitely never aesthetics. So if you’d like to explore this, some other source would be a better bet.

The road less traveled

Demko 2021-03-14

Commenting on: Nobility

This topic seems to have a lot of potential for getting your point across. I would expect that most people are extremely familiar with both the “special”and “ordinary” stances, but for some reason I’m not aware of really sophisticated ideas in the public consciousness on this topic, the way there are for ethics and purpose.

So with fewer established ideas jumping to mind, maybe people will face less resistance in considering your thinking from this point of view?

Ethics and Sacredness as sources of value

Demko 2021-03-14

Commenting on: Ethics

I’ve been reading through the book, roughly front to back, and mostly feel that I’m following your project. I’m most confused by a topic you haven’t spent a lot of time on yet: Sacredness.

I am confused about Sacredness, because it was the one topic where I didn’t feel any attachment to the confused stances you presented, and so far as I can tell, never have. Given how well the other topics resonate with me, I’m tempted to think I have just misunderstood what you were trying to convey, or that I might have recognized it more clearly if you had used a different word.

So I was intrigued when you brought it up in this chapter on ethics, as a (mostly lost) source of values.

I have for many years (honestly, decades) been unsatisfied with what I knew of all ethical systems on offer, but remained intensely and unhealthily interested in the subject. I was keen to have a standard by which to measure the quality of ethical decisions, so that I could still think and talk about ethical questions, and by chance I decided to adopt something akin to Aesthetic choice. This allowed me to feel satisfied about my reasons for making and (when relevant) advising a wide range of actions in a wide variety of circumstances, without risking being totally incomprehensible to people around me. I felt good about the judgements because they were aesthetically pleasing to me, and I was roughly consistent with the thinking of others, because aesthetic judgements do seem to be widely and at least approximately shared (greater alignment across people who are “closer” to me, culturally, than “more distant”, but still not completely alien even to complete strangers, I suspected). When presented with a question about how a person should behave, I could answer questions like “given what I know of the situation, am I likely to be happy with the outcome of this choice?”, “Am I happy with the choice itself?” and even “Do I really care all that much about the specifics of how a person should act here, so long as they don’t do something purposefully and obviously harmful?”

One way of looking at this is that I might have chosen to do roughly the opposite of what you are described as pushing Ethics to encompass things that aren’t really ethical. Rather than Ethics replacing other parts of my thinking, I had adopted a strategy of replacing Ethics with something that wasn’t Ethics. And by and large, it hasn’t done a lot of harm - so far as I can tell. My most regrettable choices have mostly occured on occasions when I had concluded that a decisions strictly needed to be handled Ethically, and I ended up adopting one of what you would call the confused stances, for want of any alternative.

Which brings me back around to the question of what it was that you meant by Sacredness. Because if you are saying that many interesting decisions that we face are less questions of Ethics than they are questions of Sacredness, then it is possible that what I had been doing with what I considered to be Aesthetics was working primarily because I was mostly in practice facing questions around what you might call Sacred values, and that the words we have chosen (sacred/aesthetic) mean something very similar to each of us respectively.

It is hard for me to tell though, because I have seen so little of your thought on the topic. And I have unhelpfully said very little about what I mean by “Aesthetic”… I am being purposefully greedy and want to hear your side of the story first.

Paper Towel Roll nihilism

Alice 2021-03-14

Commenting on: You’ve got nihilism wrong

It is entirely possible to find a life of hitting yourself on the head with a paper towel roll meaningful.

YOU, James, do not find this meaningful because you have experienced a culture with various norms and beliefs which has shaped what you consider meaningful.

Most feral children, raised independent of such cultures, find masturbation to be the height of meaning. You might too, if you were raised without a culture to covey to you a template on which to base your assessments.


Wendi wonderly 2021-03-09

Commenting on: Why both countercultures failed

The counterculture failed due to lack of boundaries. What once was liberating quickly became irresponsible. The whole movement just collapsed under its own weight.

Sacredness vs. Morality

James 2021-03-02

Commenting on: Kadag

I had a thought a while back that seems worth sharing. On another page, you mentioned that contemporary culture collapses sacred value into moral value.

I think the temptation to do this comes from the idea that sacred values are more important than any other values. But moral values also have that claim in our culture, and the only way to reconcile those two claims is that sacred values are moral values: specifically, the highest moral values.

But thinking about the origin of the word “sacred,” the idea that sacred values are more important than any other value is a misunderstanding. The word “sacred” comes from a root that literally meant “set apart.” So maybe the primacy of the sacred over the mundane comes not from the former being categorically higher values than the latter, but that simply from the fact that sacred contexts are set apart from mundane context; mundane concerns are supposed to be put aside as much as possible when in a sacred context.

The higher-lower ordering strikes me as the result of attempts to rationalize values. If someone has a heart attack in the middle of a ritual, obviously you need to stop the ritual and deal with it, as a matter of morality. Does that make the moral value of saving their life higher than the sacred value of the ritual? In the moment, perhaps. But you can also see it as the intrusion, or emergence, of the mundane into the sacred: literally, it’s an emergency.

(Of course, maybe the simpler approach is simply that treating morality as having ultimate value is also a mistake, and there just is no context-free ordering of types of values.)

Ecstatic experience

Mu_(negative) 2021-02-23

Commenting on: Renegotiating self and society

You wrote: “Modernized, rationalized Christianity had mostly also eliminated experience of the sacred and transcendent, emphasizing this-worldly humanistic ethics. Both countercultures produced new religions and quasi-religions emphasizing ecstatic practices, “direct experience,” and the supernatural.”

It immediately leapt out to me that the communal practice of “speaking in tongues” is maybe the prime surviving example of ecstatic Christian tradition (at least as of the 90’s?) I know of. It is obviously forced and unnatural for most participants (watch any video) but there’s also an obvious “there” there, a possibility of a tradition towards release from socially structured roles into communal and equal experience that is more powerful for the ridgid context. This further caused me to think of this really excellent series of Kenneth Copeland * Metal mashups (linked). The similarity off the ecstatic experience between the cultures is the obvious subtext of the video; with, to me, a clear implication that Metal is more enlightened / self aware, but the validity of the experience being the main point.

A slightly different take from a fanatic...

Chris Blarsky 2021-02-12

Commenting on: Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths in subculture evolution

I find that mediocrity is accepted by the group. A half assed effort is always accepted by the group.

Put more actual effort into it and you might end up LEADING the group.

Do even more work and you will LEAVE the group behind and no longer need them. But early on in your initial joining of the group you feel comfortable and accepted. That is usually based on the perceived mediocrity, that you feel… your center are better than. Fanatics will find a way to the top, but rarely will stay there.

By the time we reach the top of the mountain, we are already ready to climb the next one, and mostly forget about the last ones. It’s about the journey not the destination or the politics.

As Riddick says, “I’m just passing through!”


Rob 2021-02-05

Commenting on: Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths in subculture evolution

Watched the last stages of this take hold in the “comics” industry. At that point there were still a few pros keeping their heads down and cashing their checks along with some indies huddled about scraping by month to month. We were constantly having new members join the board and post “look how diverse this is” comics as well as passing around literal “draw comics for change, join Antifa” fliers around. Soon after the last of those capable of going solo jumped to greener pastures and the rest sank with the ship…

Nobody Here Will Like What I Say...and That's OK.

Dave 2021-02-02

Commenting on: Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths in subculture evolution

Cute modern-day sociology essay. Of course, as I read through the nicely laid out analogies and metaphors, I can only see the creators, geeks, mops and sociopaths driven by either greed, envy, selfishness, lust or power; and in some cases all. Then we get to the answer for the issue; the creator should ‘be slightly evil’ or be ‘a bit like the sociopath’. And there you have it…an answer that might actually be worse than the issue. I would rather the answer turn to the Ten Commandments and the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. But, that just aint gonna happen; now is it? Especially when the title of the essay contains the word ‘evolution’ :-)

The 3 'keys to thought' are Causality, Complexity & Compositionality

mjgeddes 2021-01-29

Commenting on: Probability theory does not extend logic

Ultimately, I realized that technical facts about this or that system of inference are not as important as trying to explore the fundamental explanatory principles behind those technical systems. As you’ve always said David, we must ‘go meta’ ;) What queries about thinking were these technical systems of inference trying to answer?

After thinking long and hard, I concluded that each of the 3 main areas of computer science I mentioned (probability theory, coding theory and constructive logic), encapsulate deeper principles, of sufficient generality that they may indeed in some sense ‘solve’ intelligence when they’re combined together. But the resulting system will never be fully formalizable. It will, I think always be open-ended and amenable to further revision.

Here then, are what I think the 3 keys to thought are:

CAUSALITY: Probability theory in it’s fullest sense is really about cause and effect and how to do prediction, retrodiction and imputation. We don’t just want to know about correlations between things, we want to know about causes and counterfactuals, which outcomes are possible, and how would those outcomes change if we intervene in some way.

COMPLEXITY: Coding theory in it’s fullest sense is about dealing with complexity. We want to compress our representations of the world, to find efficient encodings to deal with limited resources in terms of space and time and limited information. In the real word, we are confronted with complex adaptive systems, and these embody a mix of randomness and determinism that makes them complex. How do such systems achieve open-endedness, efficiently exploring and creating new possibilities ?

COMPOSITIONALITY: Constructive logic in it’s fullest sense is about compositionality: how are large systems built from smaller ones, and going in the other direction, how do we manage to split the world into smaller parts, objects and the relations between them? Mereology studies the relationship between the whole and it’s parts. We want to know how to engineer and combine ontologies based on the principle of compositionality.

So there you have it! The keys to all thought are

Coding Theory (Computational Complexity) is the true foundation of rationality!

mjgeddes 2021-01-29

Commenting on: Probability theory does not extend logic

I’m updating my thoughts a few years later. I thought long and hard and eventually I saw in principle how to unify logic with probability.

The ‘laws of thought’ (as a consequence of computer science) basically do come down to 3 main areas I think: probability theory, coding theory (complexity) and constructive logic.

In order to determine the nature of the relationship between them, I tried to trace them back to their roots in pure math, finding direct analogies with linear algebra (probabilities), analysis (complexity) and category theory (logic).

Eventually David, I came to the conclusion that logic and probability are on an equal footing, one doesn’t in any sense ‘extend’ the other. You simply have 2 different foundations. However I believe they can both be unified in computational complexity theory (or coding theory).

Ultimately I think both probabilities and truth values convert to complexity measures. Coding theory is about efficient encoding of knowledge (complexity), and ultimately I think this is what encapsulates both probability theory and logic.

How you like the pair of $55 dollar lights?

Chris 2021-01-28

Commenting on: MORE LUX: light bars for SAD

Any noticable difference with SAD yet?

A "budget-friendlier" option

Charlie A. 2021-01-25

Commenting on: MORE LUX: light bars for SAD

First, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with SAD and light therapy – I’ve found it incredibly helpful.

I took a shot at getting 10k - 15k lux at 3 feet for around $50 (US). After a a lot of poking around on Amazon, I ordered these:

They are a pair of plug-n-play LED flood lights rated at 100W/each, and the pair cost me $55 US on Amazon. My photometer reads about 12,000 lux at 3 feet, with only modest heat dissipation from either unit. After a week of owning them, my preliminary report is nearly 100% positive. The brackets on the back are sturdy and provide a number of different mounting options – and could be particularly good for a mobile set-up. The thick tempered glass, and powder-coated aluminum body / heat-sink appears to be tough enough for use as a work light (and it’s IP 66 rated for water-resistance). Sorry for the commercial, but wanted to share the information in hopes it might help someone else!


Michael Taft 2021-01-24

Commenting on: Selfness

Looking for a good source for adorable pet aardvarks. Thanx.


KJA 2021-01-23

Commenting on: How meaning fell apart

Reading your comment that “Dzogchen” means “completion” reminded me that there is also an interesting use of “complete” in Early Buddhism. The steps of the eightfold path are each prefixed in Pali by “samma-” – that is, sammaditthi (right view),… up through sammasamadhi (right concentration).

But “right” is a very poor translation of “samma.” The root is much closer in meaning to “complete.” We are asked to practice “complete view” and “complete action” and “complete effort.” What does this mean? Perhaps another reasonable translation is “appropriate.” The view that is part of the eightfold path is whatever view is appropriate in a situation such that it becomes a step toward liberation. This view will be “complete” in that it accounts for all relevant aspects of the situation. “Complete action” has a totality to it – it is done from a perspective that includes the big picture as well as the details, and is appropriate for the moment. [One can imagine similar descriptions for all the steps: view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, concentration].

I have the sense that this idea of “complete” fits well with your use of the term as a meta stance that rises above contradictory stances.

How to "just" accept pattern

David Chapman 2021-01-03

Commenting on: Pattern

Excellent question, thank you.

Recognizing and participating in the intertwined nebulosity and pattern of everything may take some work, actually doing things. A conceptual, philosophical “accepting” may be inadequate and impossible initially, in which case it’s not a matter of “just.”

On the other hand, the work is simply to notice how things normally are, and to feel and act accordingly. For many people, that’s easy because how things are is pretty obvious: some things are meaningful, and some are not, for example. Everything in this book grows out of such simple observations.

The complete stance chapter has a detailed answer to the “how” question. You might start with “Textures of completion” to get the flavor, and then go back to start at the beginning of the chapter. There’s a step-by-step recipe in “Finding the complete stance,” and then additional detail following.

Darn Pattern

Bee Liano 2021-01-03

Commenting on: Pattern

I read this and wonder how one simply accepts the idea of patterns as just ‘there,’ and by doing so, somehow resolves the problem of HOW and WHY they are there. Perhaps the same reason why evolutionists won’t discuss language. Of course, I’m an eternalist, but I’m one who seeks to assign responsibility to the patterns we are told to just ‘accept.’ Neither nihilists nor eternalists should be content just ‘accepting.’

A subjective (mis)understanding

David Chapman 2021-01-02

Commenting on: Ethical nihilism

a disappointingly short page

It’s a placeholder, as it says…

picking an arbitrary ethical standard myself

This sounds like what I describe as “existentialism” rather than “nihilism.” It’s a subjective theory of meaning, not a rejection of all meaning.

And, it doesn’t seem at all arbitrary to me. I would guess, further, that 97.8% of the ethical judgements you make comport with that of your peers… in which case they are neither arbitrary nor personal. (I could be wrong about the 97.8% … I hope I am not.)

Here’s a challenge for you if you think anything at all about ethics is objective

You may find this page interesting. It explains why meaning is neither objective nor subjective.

I think you’re strawmanning nihilism

Amos 2021-01-02

Commenting on: Ethical nihilism

Well, this was a disappointingly short page :)

If ethical nihilism is indeed as wildly implausible as you say it is, it should be easy to disprove it in depth. As someone who is in fact a strong proponent of it, I will instead have to engage with something you wrote about in a different page that links here:

If ethics is merely cultural convention, there is no way to condemn evils such as the “honor killing” of women who have been raped.

Just because I recognize that all ethical standards are ultimately arbitrary doesn’t mean that I’m prohibited from picking an arbitrary ethical standard myself and criticizing others based on that.

This criticism is of course useless when directed at those who don’t share the same basic values I do. The most I can do if I find such folks inside my society is to get somebody to lock them up for honor killing their own daughter. Neither I nor you can actually logically prove honor killing to be objectively immoral, because any such proof rests on arbitrary ethical axioms that those doing honor killing simply don’t hold.

As arbitrary as ethical axioms may be, those who live inside any particular society often hold similar axioms to one another, so meaningful ethical dialogue can still exist.

In short, unless “ethical non-criticism” (for lack of a better term) is part of your cultural convention, nothing about cultural convention prevents you from criticizing others for not following your cultural convention. What you’re attacking isn’t a steelmanned ethical nihilism, it’s at best a weak, constricted version of it.

Here’s a challenge for you if you think anything at all about ethics is objective: prove something to be objectively immoral. Anything at all. The most heinous act you can think of. Prove that any rational entity must conclude that heinous act to be immoral.

I’ll be delighted if you could prove it. I don’t believe you can, because unless I’ve missed something, it seems to be an impossible task. And if you do, I dare say that would be good content to put on this page, instead of a simple “wildly implausible” statement that only ridicules but does nothing to actually refute the idea :)

Awakening the Balrog

David Chapman 2021-01-02

Commenting on: The collapse of rational certainty

Lol… I shall illustrate this with a suitable image from DeviantArt when I finish writing it!

Quoting Saruman

Michael Taft 2021-01-02

Commenting on: The collapse of rational certainty

The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dum… shadow and flame.

Re: brands

James 2020-12-01

Commenting on: Countercultures: modernity’s last gasp

On second thought, I think brands work better as analogues for subcultures. That had been my initial thought, but I changed my mind right before posting because of an analogy between the console war and the culture war.

Brands as countercultures

James 2020-11-30

Commenting on: Countercultures: modernity’s last gasp

It seems to me that brands have become a contemporary analogue of countercultures, providing a kind of coherency to a small corner of your life. Hence the “console war,” or the hostilities between iSheep and Fandroids.

Apple in particular arguably sells coherence as its main product, most noticeably in the fantastic interoperability between the various iDevices. But even its choice to offer only a few options for each device is part of the picture: where PC and Android afford choices galore, Apple sells the confidence that you made the Right Choice, something that’s hard to get in an otherwise atomized culture.

This obviously doesn’t apply to all brands; I doubt very many people draw a sense of identity/meaning from preferring General Mills’s breakfast cereals rather than Post’s. My first guess was that it’s a price thing: expensive items can be emotional as well as financial investments. But then I think of In-N-Out Burger, which is a source of meaning for many people, as evidenced by recent events in Colorado.

(Full disclosure: I had In-N-Out once, when I was on a road trip out west. It was OK.)

I found a cheaper, and easier alternative.

Michael Watts 2020-11-15


So I just spent about 2 hours looking up research papers and reading what you said. I don’t want to build a set up so I found an alternatives that gives enough light/wattage etc with a single item. It’s meant for garages and large spaces but it’s something you can simply install above your head. Please check it out and let me know (250W version) 5000k