Friday, December 14, 2007

Subjectivity vs Objectivity, Segue into Existence

(There's also a discussion of time in here, lots of physics including philosophical underpinnings, and some preliminaries on consciousness.)

You can look both objective and subjective up in the dictionary, but it won't tell you anything you don't already know.

What you may not know is the unifying concept of objectivity. To say something is objective is to say it exists independently of our consciousness.

To say something is subjective is to say it exists entirely within our consciousness.

Now, science likes to tell you that subjective phenomena are 'not real.' Now, if you stop and think about this at all, you realize it's nonsense. In fact, the whole objection that an observation is 'subjective' is complete bunkum.

To see this, and in fact the whole problem with this dichotomy, consider my consciousness. It is subjective, yes? The things I experience require me to be a subject.

But, does it exist independently of your consciousness, or not?

Similarly, when one of us observes an objective phenomenon, for instance the readout on a thermometer, is the experience of the measurement entirely within your consciousness, or not?

Because of this problem, I have been forced to modify objectivity and subjectivity.

Objectivity: The state of being commonly experienced; a phenomenon which other consciousnesses may share.

Subjectivity: The state of being individually experienced; a phenomenon which is private.

These definitions are extremely dense. For instance, if an experience may be shared by multiple consciousnesses, and is self-consistent, then it must exist when being experienced by no consciousnesses. There are several other conclusions, all of which confirm things you believe, contained non-obviously, but inevitably, in these definitions.

From these definitions, I can actually view objectivity as secondary to subjectivity. (I get into this debate in detail below.) Conceptually, we are not consciousnesses floating in a sea of objects. Rather, subjectivity is the primary principle. Occasionally, some subjective sensations are shared across subjects; this is objectivity.

While we learn from physics that if two things look the same, they are the same, the principle can be difficult to apply correctly, as is common in physics.

Consider the fact that either principle can be considered primary, and also, as I demonstrated above, every objective phenomena can be reduced to a subjective one, and every subjective phenomena can be reduced to an objective one.

What I learn from this is that objectivity and subjectivity are parallel and symmetric.

Because of this, and the physical principle that two things that look the same are the same, is that objectivity and subjectivity are actually two parts of the same principle.

The underlying principle evades me for the moment, but I'll get to it in the end.

Still, due to various reasons that for some reason I find impossible to enumerate, it's important to keep the distinction.

I will make a digression for solipsism. True solipsists are a minority, but their arguments are considered a priori respectable, which they are not. As a result a great deal of unnecessary doubt exists in the mind of far too many non-solipsists.

Solipsists say that only their consciousness is real. The deep reason for this is because of the probable fact that subjectivity is primary. From the point of view of a solipsist subject, their subjectivity can be verified, as can every objective fact. However, other subjects are dubious at best.

Taking the view of logical positivism, the solipsist concludes that their consciousness exists, but no others do.

In reality, the solipsist actually obtains this conclusion not through thought or logic, but through pure association. Scientists usually associate subjective measurements with lies, and so the solipsist associates any non-verifiable subjective claim with a lie.

On the other hand, you can say that Ockham's razor suggests that if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. Other humans do exactly what you'd expect them to do if they really are subjects, and therefore they are.

Both of these demonstrate the error of the solipsist. But neither are the real reason the solipsist is completely wrong. The real reason is that, if you're ever doubting the subjectivity of another subject, there's a test you can do.

Though there is an underlying truth of which both are a part, subjectivity is clearly different than objectivity. As such, subjectivity must have some objective consequences, or else it doesn't exist.

The naive test is to simply describe something intimately related to sensing things as a subject. Discuss the contrast between the emotions associated with different colours, for example. While a full proof of subjectivity will either have to evolve, or await a full understanding of what objects are capable vs subjects, this is starting point good enough that you can use it tomorrow.

There's a problem here, in that scientists, especially professors, have a unified philosophy, but they refuse to name it. 'Atheism' is just the belief that no gods exist, but in practice people describing themselves as atheists, such as Dawkins, have a whole host of even more questionable but never questioned beliefs, such as strong egalitarianism, that make up their whole philosophy. The God Delusion is a proselytizing text for this philosophy, not an attack on theism per se. Skeptic magazine is another. Scientism is derogatory, which is a point against it as a label for this philosophy, but it's convenient enough for this article. So.

The other common, completely wrong, perspective is the idea that subjectivity doesn't really exist.

Now, given Axiom One you don't have to work hard to determine my perspective. I think it's lazy to stop there, however. While I am generally extremely lazy...

The simple fact that science cannot explain with any current tool or any of their foreseeable future evolutions, is that experience is completely different from fact.

Science can, foreseeably, find the exact neurons that light up when you see the colour green. Science can then disrupt those neurons to deprive you of the colour green. Science can redirect the pulse so that you see red instead. Science can recreate those neurons and plug them into a suitable computer and verify that they function to define green.

Given all this, science cannot even describe the sensation of green, let alone explain it. Science cannot even find any plausible mechanism whereby it could determine whether the neurally enhanced computer is now experiencing green. This is the hard problem.

No, the implicit theory is that the indescribable doesn't exist, and that perspective completely insane. You can cure yourself of it by trying to describe, in words, everything in your room right now. Do it in enough detail that someone reading them could photo-realistically model your room from the words alone. AI: science you can do at home!

There are some rather extreme limits on what humans can describe to each other, at least so far.

I think this is because science is as incomplete as a human with no emotion.

Subjectivity: Let's Try This Again
Obviously, current ideas about subjectivity are wildly incomplete, jarring, insane, and all over the place.

Contrarily, we have objectivity pretty much nailed.

So, what is subjectivity?

I always have trouble with this. I'm dancing nervously along the knife edge of the describable. Unfortunately, to think logically, descriptions and therefore definitions are vital.

While I have figured out, to a degree, what subjectivity is, and can talk ad nauseum about the consequences, the words for its actual nature, the general theory, are very slippery.

As such, this passage is probably going to be extremely long and difficult.

Incidentally, your brain is totally a computer. It has almost exactly the same high-level architecture as a computer, and even uses a more interesting version of Google's PageRank to sort memories. In fact, I suspect that PageRank works to the extent that it approximates our actual memory algorithm.
Think about this for a second, because it's really beautiful to see how it all fits together.
The brain also uses Bayesian reasoning and the Scientific Method, and probably Free Market supply and demand as well. (Update: it attempts to minimize an equivalent to free energy.)

The basic facts about subjectivity are thus.

Subjective experiences, qualia, experiences, or sensations, are reactions to other objective or subjective phenomena. The chain of sensation can always be followed to some initial objective input. That is, a physical interaction that chains into physical interactions with subjective representations.

Sensations, despite lots of leeway for individual customizations, adhere remarkably well to faithful representations of whatever they are supposed to represent.

That is, sensations are clearly non-logical. The logical content of the colour blue is zero, while the logical content of the photon-eye-brain system is huge. There is no reason for the sensation of blue be consistent with the sensation of green, and yet the contrast between blue and green is consistent across all instances. Blue always looks blue. Also, encoding is arbitrary. There's no reason why green is represented by green, instead of any other possible sensation. Because we don't know what the sensation of blue is, because we cannot describe it, we have no idea why blue is always blue. We can't see a reason why blue can't change. Despite this, sensations represent logical phenomena extremely faithfully.

We have no idea why such a representation is necessary. While we have to suspect that consciousness evolved, since the platform for consciousness is the brain, which evolved, we have no idea what benefit the evolved organism has gained by doing so.

Actually, I suspect that the perception of consciousness evolved, not consciousness itself.

Are all living brains conscious? Can we remove consciousness and see what the objective drawback is?

In practice, of course, A: we have no idea and B: no. In theory, it's still extremely difficult. To answer A we have to know what consciousness is so we can positively identify it. B is a little more tractable.

When we fall asleep, we are losing consciousness. We can also observe living things that lack a brain.

I will spare you the details, but doing so yields the fact that consciousness is apparently for making choices. This is opposed to the mechanical instincts or Pavlovian associations, which are simply neural equivalents to a protein cascade.

According to Axiom One, we have to conclude that when we make choices, they are real. Indeed, what would be the point of evolving a brain that fooled itself into thinking it was making choices? Wouldn't this just be unnecessary overhead?
In fact, the whole apparatus to create the sensation of choice must be extremely complex. Realize that since the brain doesn't have a hard drive, nor a CPU. It is basically an absolutely freaking enormous field-programmable gate array. As such, every program exists as the processor to run that program.
There is a program to create indecision, decision, action, memory retrieval, the weighing of pros and cons, nearly every distinct process in decision making you can think of. Each of these has to work in near perfect harmony or you don't get the sensation of making a decision.

Now imagine how much harder a simulation of choice would be.

(The idea that consciousness is just a monitor for the actual deterministic processes is supposed to support the idea that consciousness isn't special, to nuke the idea free will, which is obviously outside the purview of modern physics. However, the inevitable conclusion is that sensation is an accident which unfortunately only supports a spiritualist view of things, because of the incredible organization of the subjective mind.)

As such, we can assume that the point of consciousness, in terms of evolutionary success, is choice.

It's primarily what you do. There's only one other thing that's unique to consciousness; non Pavlovian learning or creative induction, and this is tied to choice anyway. (For instance, we can recognize consciousness in other humans even though we can't define its properties. For the link, go to the article I'm referencing and read the third page, which has a list of things consciousness definitely isn't.) There are many variations, combinations, and other interesting interactions with subconsciousness and conscious versions of subconscious processes such as the regular deduction and induction, but those two are the only thing we can definitively label as unique to consciousness. (I'm fairly sure I haven't made this clear, but I'm not sure how exactly to fix it.)

So what's a choice, exactly? This is, apropos to it being the core function of consciousness, pretty well indescribable. Any serious attempt to do so that I've ever seen pretty well just describes a normal transistor gate array; such a thing is deterministic and cannot meaningfully make choices.

(How exactly do we know that, since we can't define choice?)

Nevertheless, I will now define choice.

A choice is when, given alternatives, the consciousness is perfectly capable of choosing any of them. What determines the decisions is nothing other than consciousness itself. Certainly, memories and preferences weigh the various decisions, but you can, as a consciousness, choose any alternative you can come up with, with the minor caveat that it has to be physically possible.

The truth of the perception of choice is unfortunately obscured by the essence of time. This has let many people conclude that your choices are pre-formed by the reasons you come up with for choosing your choice.

The way we experience time is like walking backwards through a dusty cave. We can choose to walk in the centre of the cave or at one side, and we can see our footprints in the dust. In this particular cave, we can't turn around, nor can we stop walking or intentionally change our speed; we can only choose which side we walk on.

We observe that wherever we walk, our footprints appear in front of us. (Remember, walking backward.) If we walk with faster gait, setting our feet down more often, there are more footprints, if we start leaping there are less, etc...

Because we are walking backward, there is no direct evidence that our footprints aren't there before we step into them, like some maniacal fairy is painting them with a duster.

Still, we observe that our footprints always match our footwear. Also, we cannot, no matter how hard we try, trip up this fairy.

Thus, the theory that our choices are somehow made for us in advance is a non-physical theory. It cannot make predictions.

Unfortunately, the idea that we do make our choices is also non-physical. Nevertheless, these theories are extremely important to our emotions.

(I actually think this is by design. It's supposed to be possible to choose the viewpoint that choice is impossible, at least for some value of 'supposed' and 'design.')

This, unfortunately for my credibility, leads me directly into an alternate theory of randomness.

I believe that randomness or stochastic events, are the basic building blocks of consciousness. In a very real sense, when an electron collapses into spin up or spin down, it is choosing spin up or spin down.

Yes, I am proposing that every particle has a minute spark of consciousness, which decides how to collapse.

Now, the electron doesn't have a brain to influence this decision. It is not alive and therefore has no goals. As such, the decisions will appear completely random.

In a conscious brain, this essentially random process is biased. One of the choices is made much more appealing than the others. However, because you are basically conscious, this is as far as the brain can go. It cannot force you to take any particular alternative. Consciousness is the power of choice, and therefore the power of freedom.

Certainly, we will always make our footprint in the dust, and no matter where we make it, some person will say that the unseeable fairy painted it there before you stepped down. They can bring up the fact that people act statistically. We can poll and predict with a fair accuracy that, say, 76% of adults will decide to drive a car this week. We can predict that a study 'proving' that cars are awful and hideous will move that number down by, say, 5%.

However, you can always bring up the fact that these polls are always changing.

Notably, because this is a theory of choice, of consciousness, it is therefore a non-physical theory, and there is no evidence that can force you to believe, one way or the other.

I find this highly suggestive for consciousness as freedom, but this could be simply a direct manifestation of my use of Axiom One.

None of this needs contradict the neural theory of consciousness. Because we live in a physical world, every action must have a physical component. This is what we actually mean when we talk about existence.

To explain this, first of all realize that nothing truly has independent existence. Physics is the study of interactions. It is only through an interaction that anything may be experienced, and it is only through interactions that the so-called 'internal properties' may be investigated.

All actions, physical or otherwise, must follow the laws of logic. Identity or A=A, and non-contradiction. Because of this, through a chain of logic only of interest to physicists, all of physics is interdependent. Every physical fact depends on every other physical fact. Now, because physics is the study of interactions, we can use the term physics to describe any system of interactions, even ones we would recognize as having vastly different assumptions than our world's physics.

Thus, even in other worlds, such as a putative spiritual world, a world of consciousness, must have self-consistent laws of interaction. Thus, they are all in some sense physical.

However, these laws of interaction may or may not allow interaction with our physical world. If they do, then these laws must be consistent with our physical laws. Such interactions would look exactly like normal physical events. There would be nothing in particular to differentiate them; otherwise it would represent a contradiction with the other laws of physics. Such a contradiction would, I am not exaggerating in the slightest, destroy everything. Either an infinite energy explosion going at the speed of light would form, or the infinite energy would in fact accelerate an infinite amount of the infinite mass particles to infinite speed and destroy everything instantly.

Such outside yet consistent laws are, unfortunately, impossible for us to imagine. Our physics-based brains would, when faced with the requirement that the laws be consistent with our own, simply come up with a copy of our laws, and therefore conclude that the putative other world was in fact our own world.

It is no exaggeration to say that given an electron and a perfect computer, it is in all likelihood possible to definitively derive all of the laws of physics. That is how consistent and interdependent they are.

Since the universe still exists, we can assume that the laws of physics have never been contradicted, which means that if indeed consciousness is embedded in each particle, and relies on some process that transcends physics, it's physically consistent for it to do so.

With that in mind, let me reverse the conventional wisdom.

What if Subjectivity is Primary?
Obviously this still has to be consistent with our sensations, and our sensations tell us of a physical universe. Clearly, I can only conclude that the subjects like sharing experiences. This immediately makes sense; sharing experiences is the basis of debate, both in the direct sense and by bringing previously different experiences into alignment with each other.

In other words, when I assume that subjectivity is primary, I come to the conclusion that subjects are in the business of making things objective.

This inevitably, though certainly not trivially, means that the consistency of physics is a primarily subjective world is not surprising at all, but actually inevitable.

This also immediately makes sense. If subjects are to interact, they must follow some consistent set of rules for interaction, which I've previously outlined as a physics.

Even if the individual worlds of the subjects were wildly different internally, they would only be able to interact with each other to the extent that they are the same, which means that if there was a subject that did not like interacting with others, the subjective universe would allow it, but no other subject would ever hear of them, nor would this autistic subject be able spy.

Therefore, even by assuming the most subjective universe possible, logic leads me to the existence of objectivity. Objectivity and subjectivity inevitably imply each other; they are in reality, two facets of the same concept.

We take existence for granted. You cannot prove or disprove existence; any action, any action at all, is a manifestation of existence. To prove it is to create, bring into existence, a proof. To disprove it is to bring into existence a disproof. This isn't just an artifact of linguistics; in all possible representations the proof requires the concept of existence to express.

First, lets take objective existence for granted. Let's say that we investigate using our consciousnesses, but that the things we investigate exist independently, existed before we came, and will exist after we're gone.

Objective truths are always true and for that reason can be verified by independent observers. Subjective truths are beliefs about the world and not guaranteed to be true, however it can be seen that it is objectively true that a subject holds a false belief - it can be verified that a belief is held, and that it is false. Subjectivity is subordinate to objectivity; beliefs cannot exist without being verifiably existent.

For example, atoms existed before anyone believed that they exist; indeed, the minds to believe so were made out of atoms. Unicorns, even though some believe they exist, cannot be verified.

Actually this is a bit of a farce. While it's true as far as it goes, it ignores non-belief subjective phenomena. If you examine the logic in the above paragraphs, you'll find that beliefs are but a small part of subjectivity, and the greater part is ignored. This is not accidental, though it's also not by design. It is adaptive; it is done because it works and reproduces itself. Nevertheless, as I've shown above, my sensations exist independently of you, and thus are in some sense objective. While the logic is incomplete, the general conclusion holds when the argument is repaired.

Now lets take subjective existence for granted. I'm going to call it experience for clarity.

Subjective experiences are always true; only that which is experienced exists. Objective experiences are those that can also be experienced by other subjects, and for that reason must be consistent across subjects. (The opposite is clearly false; two people experiencing something different cannot coherently claim to be sharing the experience.) However, it can be seen that all objective experiences do indeed exist, but not all experiences can be shared. Objectivity is subordinate to subjectivity; an experience that no one shares is not an experience and does not exist.

For example, atoms cannot exist without being experienced. While our knowledge of them is limited to recent times, their effects on our experience has been consistent throughout time. Compare unicorns, which have never been experienced.

Subjective and objective are in fact qualitatively different arenas, but you must either conceive subjectivity as subordinate of objectivity or vice-versa. They can't be quite thought of as equal, nor can you do without either.

However, there is no objective (Ha ha! Hello, irony!) criteria for choosing one over the other. The criteria for decision are entirely meta-physical; they have absolutely no effect on physics. You may pick which one you like best. This is true of all metaphysical claims.

It's still very important to choose, however, for the purposes of clear communication and clear thinking. You cannot form a consistent philosophy without taking a stance, speaking with someone from the opposite camp without making allowances for the necessary logical transformations creates misunderstandings like cellular automata fill cells.

Similarly, anyone trying to force you to take one stance over another doesn't understand the concepts involved, and regardless there's no logical path to success. Such a person is a jerk, although I'm sure they have specific incidents in mind which they'd like society to avoid. Nevertheless, arguing in favor of one side or the other is not an effective method.

And that's why I had to write this essay. Which side have you chosen?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Induction and Deduction, Segue Into A Priori

The problem of induction has always bothered me. It has never seemed to me like a problem at all.

And now I can prove it.

Deduction works by elucidating the relationships between concepts. The problem is, for creatures;born, there's no way to obtain concepts except through induction. This includes evolving to be born with certain concepts, as the genetic material does not inherently know anything, and must learn entirely through trial and error.

As a result, in practice, deduction is always a sub-discipline of induction. Thus the 'problem of induction' was itself found using induction. As a result, to throw out induction is to throw out the problem of induction, allowing induction once more...and there's a barber I'd like you to meet.

Also as a result of this fact, a priori is clearly an invalid concept. All concepts are a posteriori, including a priori.

No, the only way the problem of induction is an actual problem is if you're actually some kind of infinite consciousness, in which case you'd know things just because you're an infinite consciousness. Presumably, you'd then use your mighty infinitude to solve the problem in an infinitesimal instant.

First Principles

Because deduction is in effect a species of induction, a priori knowledge in the usual definition doesn't exist.

Therefore, I will redefine it.

A conclusion reached from first principles or a priori was reached through the logical consequences of the definitions of the concepts involved.

Such a proof always applies if the concepts apply; this is why a priori proofs are so valuable, which is why they are so prized.

My favorite type of proof is what I call an a priori hammer of Thor. Such a proof is true a priori, and even if you disprove the existence of some of the premise-concepts, you end up at the same conclusion. While the details of the proof will change under various assumptions, the conclusion will not. Such a proof is a thorough examination of a full tree of yes/no questions, where each terminating twig is identical.

Such proofs are transcendentally true. They are true regardless of concepts, and depend only on the rules of logic themselves. Such conclusions are probably true in not only all universes, but all possible universes. (Including that infinite consciousness.)

Immediate Corollories of Axiom One

So. We, here, at AI, are trusting our senses.

What do we immediately conclude?

We Don't Live in the Matrix
The world appears to be real. Ergo, it is.

We Do Have Free Will
We appear to make choices. Ergo, we do.

Taxation is Wrong
No one likes being taxed. Ergo, it is wrong. We don't even know why it's wrong yet, but it is. You've probably run across a few arguments against it yourself. But the real reason we know it's wrong is because we sense that it is.

Schools are Wrong
Everyone hates school. I know why schools are wrong. It's because they're brainwashing prisons.

Compulsive Charity or Saving is Wrong
If people don't want to give, then they need to trust that. If people don't want to save for retirement, they need to trust that.

In fact, we can just categorically say that any interference with people's drives is wrong. This includes things as mild as verbal pressure or rhetoric.

This leads inevitably into...

Children are Horribly, Systematically Abused
What is 'raising' a child but repeatedly telling it that it's feeling the wrong thing?

So what do you do? What if someone's drinking their savings and family into oblivion? What if your child really is a hellion?

Well, here's the thing. If you feel like you need to interfere, you need to trust that. Though Axiom One taketh away, it also giveth.

But, interfering is wrong. What to do?

The thing is, interfering with you is also wrong. So, if your child is a hellion, they are interfering with your instincts. Sit them down, and tell them that what they're doing is wrong. Now, if you've used this before and they're aware of Axiom One, they'll tell you that they really want to break your lamps, or whatever.

Here's where the finesse comes in.

Your senses will immediately tell you they're lying. They are. Their senses aren't telling them anything contrary to yours. They're probably bored by the moralistic lecture because they already know.

So how do you deal with a willful child? I don't mean stubborn, I mean willfully testing limits. Well, with finesse. Try to respect them as much as you can, but at the end of the day just make sure your lamps stay in one piece.

If you're angry, it's because they've hurt you. You're allowed to stop people from hurting you. If they weren't deliberately hurting you, they would probably help you come to a compromise where you can both be happy.

It's as important to keep your child from exhausting your patience as it is to avoid excessive displays of anger. Aside, watch out for sneak-attack anger.

The thing is, when you're trying to get someone to stop hurting you, don't do it by hurting them.

With the drinker, it's the family's responsibility. They are the ones being hurt. As a bystander, you can certainly mention that you have something to say to them, but you can't, morally, just start lecturing them, because pressuring someone might make them violate Axiom One.

Because pressure is wrong, (I will explain in more detail later, it has to do with intellectual property rights) they have to come to you. They have to ask about your opinion. Certainly, it's reasonable to assume that they aren't aware you have one. But if they know and don't ask, there's no point in forcing it.

This obviously means...

The Evolution vs Creation Debate is Horribly Degenerate
Both sides are trying to force the other side to violate their senses. This of course means that the apparent 'logical debate' with 'reasons' and 'evidence' has nothing to do with what's actually going on.

If it were really about changing minds, each would try to foment curiosity in the other side.

Now, this is a game I can play all day. I certainly could, but I'm going to stop out of respect for readers who may disagree. I think this is enough for illustration.

If you do agree with me, why don't you add some more for me?

Self Trust and Axiom One

This essay is about basic self-trust.

In modern society, things such as the post-modern 'everything is illusion' theory have gained currency. Similarly, ideas that this may all be a simulation in a computer or that we're really brains in vats a la Matrix are respectable.

They are all the most vile nonsense.

Not trusting yourself means not trusting the idea or the source of the idea not to trust yourself. Since your default is trusting yourself, you immediately revert. Then, you encounter the idea that you can't trust yourself, and then...

The idea is self-contradictory. If you believe it, it disproves itself. It explodes on contact with logic.

Notice how deep this idea is. What if you don't trust your judgement? Then you judge your judgement as worthless.

What if you think your opinions are baseless? Then your opinion is that your opinions are worthless.

What if you don't trust your emotions? What if you buy all the negative connotations usually associated with the word subjective?

This one is especially tragic. If emotions were like sight or hearing it would be bad enough. Your eyes are ears are, very obviously, responding directly to objective stimuli. Certainly, the experience of colour or music is subjective, but the direct objective correlation is undeniable.

It's no problem to say you can't see X-rays without a machine. That statement; I can negatively trust my eyes to see X-rays; doesn't mean you basically distrust your eyes, because you can clearly delineate their purpose.

Conversely, if you are actually seeing artifacts, actual hallucinations, it sucks. But at least you can check with someone to see if they see it too. You can make predictions, like "That car will crash into that little girl," and see if they're borne out.

But emotions don't obviously, directly, correlate with anything. And, as I hope I don't have to explain, we don't even suspect a purpose for our emotions, especially not one that doesn't invalidate the emotions. When you don't trust your emotions, you don't know if it's because you're colourblind or because you have schizophrenia.

And, for some arcane reason, if we don't trust some emotion, we all assume we have schizophrenia. We assume our emotions, the basis of our personality, are noise.

Once you've assumed your emotions are noise, you really are insane.

Uncertainty sounds very sterile. It isn't. Emotional uncertainty, self-doubt at the most basic level, is lethal poison.

Your emotions don't go away because you don't trust them. They don't become any less valid. However, you are now barred from acting upon them. When there's a problem, and there is, you won't be able to do anything about it. Even if you provisionally allow a particular emotion through your anti-trust filter, you won't be able to deal with it adequately because you'll always be looking for some objective proof that this one isn't a neurosis, or selfishness, or whatever.

There's none. Emotions are not objective.

"So," I can hear you asking, "what do I do when it seems like I'm angry for no apparently reason?"

"Well," I will answer, "What's happened is that you came up with a reason, but rejected it as clearly wrong. There are two possibilities. First, you aren't wrong. Second, you are.

"In the first possibility, you rejected the explanation for your anger, probably for social reasons. These socials reasons are crap and probably came from post-modernism. Realize that you're angry for a real reason, that your anger isn't the result of anger-pixies, that your anger is because someone has hurt you.

"Second, you were wrong. Now, emotions are not objective. But, they are causative reactions to objective phenomena. Therefore, there is some reason you are angry. You don't normally just get angry for no reason in an empty room, do you?

"The problem is that you don't know why you're angry. It's probably some reason much more complicated than you realized. Your job, now, is just to find that reason."

But, as I say, all this is an axiom of mine. While yes, I can tell nice stories about it, there's no way for me to tell which came first, the proof or the assumption.

And of course emotions aren't your only sense. There are plenty of others. You can trust them too; you have to. If you can't trust your senses, what exactly are you going to use to find what you can trust?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Truth vs Falsehood, Cagematch vs Effectiveness

So, truth is a rare bird in today's Anglo society.

Still, the sky does not fall. If truth is such a useful, and often necessary thing, how is it that humans get by just fine without it? Why do we get fine without it?

If truth is so desired, so highly valued, why is it that philosophers are ridiculed? Not that I disagree in general.

In fact, the most powerful civilization yet, America, is built on a lie! Democracy does not and has never worked. If you're not convinced, you can see, or

Basically, democracy is the rule of the people. Clearly, at best, a democracy is influenced somewhat by the people, but is in fact ruled, depending on how evolved it is, by elected republican representatives or outright by the bureaucracy.

Note, there's an association between 'elected' and 'controlled by the electorate' which is completely false. I hope I don't have to hold you by the hand here.

The farcical democratic states of today, far from rising above the muck of totalitarian monarchies, are in fact the most authoritative and powerful states ever. Democracy was a victory, all right, but not for the people. It was a victory for the power elite.

And indeed, how could it not be? The very definition of power elite means that they wield most of the control. If it were possible to really root them out, they wouldn't be the elite.

Also, America is basically a communist state now, with a few free market adjuncts because they happen to support the overall socialist climate, or simply haven't yet been engulfed by the states amoeba-like pseudopods.

Fat lot of good the War of Independence actually accomplished. The constitution really is just a piece of paper, and was always doomed to be.

Still, this is all just detail.

The State of the Society
First, let me refer to my first essay on truth. The truth is obviously useful - that's part of what defines it as truth. It is important to note this - I'm sure that this essay, if strategically placed in certain hands, would inevitably evoke the response, "But is the truth really that useful?" or the related, "But it's impossible to reach the real truth." Don't get sucked into this nihilist, post-modern nonsense. These statements are tools of control.

Nevertheless, the fact is, aside from a few things that deal directly with physics, like bridges, our society simply doesn't use truth. This is startling to naive people such as myself, and needs to explained.

Even in the case of where and when to build the bridges, the actual function of a bridge is ignored. For the most part, bridges are pork - patronage, except where absolutely necessary.

This pattern holds across nearly all endeavors.

It is my contention that our people inhabit the world of other people's ideas - most efforts in our society are directed at the realm of perception. Power is necessary to do anything, by the strict definition of power. In our society, power is maintained by public opinion, even if you're an employee and your 'public' is your boss or co-workers.

To maintain this opinion, especially in the face of public hypocrisy, (which I should hope is obvious) requires the cynical manipulation of emotional associations, rather than adherence to truth.

The result is that enterprise is enslaved to untruth.

Because the basic cause is human hypocrisy, the 'problem' of reality's non-conformation to the twisted beliefs of the powerful (remember, no matter how small the power) is not actually a problem. When necessary, the human self-deception circuit kicks in, delivering a potent shot of rationalization, allowing the subconscious reality-processor full control.

While I hope that this deception-power structure is unique to our type of society or at least relatively rare, I fear that it is in fact the human condition.

This is my belief.

And this is my proof!

The Human Beast
Humans are neohominids. We are the latest in the bipedal offshoot of the primates.

Primates are extremely social, one of the most social of all mammals, who are in general the most social organisms alive, including both dolphins and elephants.

Societies, even canine societies, automatically confer hierarchy. Someone has to lead, otherwise the society isn't a society at all, but a collection of individual actors calling itself a society. This means that every species with any kind of language will have a hierarchy at least two deep - the leader, and everyone else.

Further, the leader will prefer some individuals over others, generally for very personal reasons as opposed to immutable qualities. This results in further ranks of the hierarchy, either informally by the 'ear of the king' mechanism, or formally with betas ruling omegas.

Because the leader is a person with personal preferences, the most effective way of manipulating the hierarchy isn't direct action, but simply manipulation of the perceptions of the leader.

As such, lying will always emerge in evolving societies.

Primates are very advanced, socially, and of course neohominids are by far the most advanced. The evidence suggests that large brains evolve mainly for the purpose of keeping track of societal factors. Humans have by far the largest capability for tracking individuals - 150, the Dunbar Number.

Par for the course, humans are also the most skilled dissemblers. We are also, by necessity, the best at spotting lies. We really don't want to be lied to, and thus honesty is a virtue. In fact we've gotten so good that we've apparently evolved a unique adaptation - the large-scale habit of self deception.

You see, if you're trying to manipulate a human, it's best if you yourself wholeheartedly believe your lies.

Of course this leads to a problem, in that the humans doesn't really want to act on the lies.

So the self-deception kicks in once again for rationalization, and simply lets the non-conscious mind take over the decision making process.

Now, because the human wants to continue believing their lies so that they can continue manipulating other humans, truth gets a bad rap.

Between this and the fact that we're so rich that we can mess around with politics all day, there's almost no one who has to deal with truth on a regular basis - a few engineers and scientists, soldiers, and that's about it. Even then, the scientists take steps to make sure truth doesn't infect them too heavily. Can you tell a scientist apart without the lab coat? Or are they just like everyone else - just a regular guy with a regular job?

Soldiers, of course, you can spot at forty paces - because ignoring reality means their life. Also boot camp, but that's a detail, and could be changed.

Thus, we have political formulae. And advertising. And fanatics of every stripe, texture, and fragrance.

The Mind's Machine
So what about this rationalization-to-subconscious control dealie? How can I show that more clearly?

One of the ways is to simply look at extremes. A Muslim basically thinks that if they eat in the day during Ramadan, they will go to hell.

But what if they were starving? Say, lost in a forest, and they get out in the middle of Ramadan? Will their religion stop them from eating?

In general, no. During the other extreme, complete comfort, if you asked them about it before, or even after the experience, they will rave and rant about how important it is to fast during Ramadan. When their situation changes, so do their values.

From a logical perspective, this is a slippery slope. Without a clear logical or qualitative boundary between allowed violations and the disallowed, there's nothing to stop me from using a light bruise or even 'general malaise' to justify breaking fast. Given that, even the threat of hell is empty, because if I can risk hell in extenuating circumstances, the only barrier to me declaring a circumstance extenuating is an emotional-associative rejection. We can see the result of that in today's majority 'Christian' America. Erosion is the key word.

Similarly, when an abortion protester becomes pregnant, they often suddenly find sisterhood with their pro-choice least until they've recovered and are ready to go back to the picket line.

None of this causes a reworking of the beliefs of the hypocrite. Instead, a rationalization occurs.

If you're still not convinced, test it yourself! Accepting Ignorance: science you can do at home.

Go watch people. Just people you meet anyway; no need to go out of your way. Check each of their actions against what you know of their beliefs, and if it clashes, go ask them what their reasoning is! Don't confront them or try to catch them in the contradiction - just verify that a contradiction occurred, and that a rationalization is the enabling factor.

The prediction of this theory is that when it's convenient, people will drop everything they believe in, by engaging in rationalization. I don't believe you will find this prediction anything but useful, at least if you remember that being watched, 'the boss is in,' is an effective antidote to this behavior.

The Machine's Mind
Now, because the conscious mind is engaged in creating and maintaining lies, it's natural to wonder where the reality-based planning comes from. I turn to observations of how people actually come by decisions, including myself.

People, as I'm sure you know, rarely think through the things they are going to do. Outside engineering circles, the impact of theory on action is less reliable than the impact of weather.

So how do people come by decisions, at least as we perceive it?

People achieve their decisions mostly by instinct, with some help from tropisms.

By instinct I don't directly mean inborn knowledge, like how a snake can feed itself straight out of the egg, because in humans the instincts are completely swamped by the influences of higher brain functions.

Instead, I mean actions humans take that are basically instinctive - actions that require no thought at all. Habits, essentially, though not all instincts are quite as repetitive.

This is because our instincts as adults are direct lines to the real decision maker - the subconscious. Instinctive or gut reactions, including evaluations of truth statements, are much faster than conscious thought but clearly involve some kind of processing. These two facts combined requires that the subconscious in humans is a powerful logical computer in its own right.

Tropisms are simply the more emotionally-weighted version of this. People have direct emotional attractions and repulsions, which entrain instinct and conscious thought.

This is something you can't directly observe in other people, though you can observe it in yourself. You have instincts, yes? And attractions and repulsions? You will find that I've described them accurately. Similarly, you will find that human behavior closely follows this model.

Now, if I'm right and the subconscious is the true ruler of the hypocrite, you won't ever need to know a person's 'most deeply held values' to predict their behavior. You just need a representative list of likes and dislikes. Their values are irrelevant, unless for some reason you want to construct their rationalization before they tell you about them.

But doesn't that falsify my contention that society is run by lies? Doesn't it mean that the conscious mind is simply window dressing? In fact, doesn't it counteract the whole point of the self-deception circuits?

No. The subconscious is a powerful computer, but it is limited. Without an alliance with the conscious side of things, anything that isn't directly, physically affecting the organism is beyond its scope.

Society as the Interplay of Fictions
And thus, war.

War is never a good idea. It shouldn't even be possible anymore. While in William the Conqueror's time, with armies of a whopping 7000, you could promise real power to each soldier. In other words, actually involve them in the spoils of conquest. Now, however, a soldier has to be paid in lies. If the soldiers of both sides simply refused to give up their life so that some random politician could obtain some random goal, wars would be impossible. There's nothing material that a soldier can gain through soldiering that they cannot gain elsewhere - only the politician has a unique use for the soldier.

In fact, basically every political or religious debate is completely dominated by conscious entities - which unavoidably means that it's based on lies.

No wonder the American experiment resoundingly denied its hypothesis.

Of course, then, true philosophers or anyone who loves truth is going to be ridiculed and shamed. With the entire society set up by liars in accordance with the prophecy of liars, taking into account that liars will crop up all over the place, truth has a small and ever diminishing role to play.

Indeed, unless the philosopher takes all this into account, they themselves will simply be a new node on the web of lies. In fact, it would appear that philosophers are actually the greatest experts at lying, the most erudite and adroit manipulators of opinion.

The only reason philosophers are reviled is because people really do hate being lied to.

The End
So, I've explained how the lies set up residence and maintain themselves; I've explained how people maintain their physical selves and their bridges; I've outlined how the lies interact and create our society as we know it. I've even, in a roundabout way, shown how useful the lies are to the liars.

Now, I'm not actually in a position to judge. While I happen to abhor hypocrisy, and see it everywhere, there's good reason to believe that it may be inevitable. As such, a condemnation is pointless at best.

Indeed, it would appear that nearly all of people's major goals are getting achieved just fine as it is. What, exactly, could I propose as necessary to improve?

What I'm saying is that these lies are not in and of themselves bad. They exist; if you want to make precise predictions or live in harmony with your fellow human you have to take them into account; but most people don't seem to see a need to do so.

Despite the length, breadth, and depth of this essay, there isn't a single moral reason to stop lying to yourself.

It's a matter of personal preference.

The question for the naively honest is, "But how do I deal with all these liars? How do I best relate to their clear contradictions?"

And the answer is that their real self is contained in their subconscious; their conscious mind is a mass of lies, often self-contradicting, and can be safely ignored as a person. Whatever they tell you, don't bother to take it seriously.

Instead, find their real preferences and attractions, and deal with them around those. Don't bother to affect their beliefs; they're not their real beliefs anyway. I wonder if that's why it's so hard to argue someone down from their insanity; you're not arguing with their real beliefs at all, so their emotional apparatus, a part of the subconscious mind, engages weirdly, indicating irrelevancy on your part or something like that.

Occasionally, just occasionally, you'll find someone who really prefers truth. Then, and only then, should you take their overt protestations as truth. It may not be, but if they really value truth they will like it when you change their mind, just like I do. Otherwise, you'll quickly find that their protestations are immovable, in which case you misjudged their values.

On the other hand, you might be a liar yourself. If so, congratulations! You're a normal, well-adjusted human being, adored by your friends and respected by your enemies. I have no idea how you made it through this essay.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Human Nature

Thought on human nature has formed a continuum, between Locke's Blank Slate and between the Unknown Philosopher's Caste System. Equality and Aristocracy. Nurture and Nature. Sadly thinkers cluster at the extremes.

Naturally, as in most cases like this, rigorous consistent thinking from either idea as a pure principle ends up including the other.

I will do both.

So, are people blank slates, just waiting to be written with the programming that makes up their habits, intelligence, talents and personality?

No, obviously not. At the very least, there are things humans are physical incapable of doing. Flying without mechanical assistance. Others more subtle, such as resistance to learning obviously contradictory things, like Orwellian counterlogicals. These things shape the personality, as undoubtedly as culture does.

So, are people then simply a product of their pre-birth programming, whether that comes about through an eternal soul or through their ancestors?

Clearly not. At the very least, the language in which they express themselves is arbitrary. The clear contradictions in 'offensive' gestures across cultures also exposes the effect of environment.

The question remains then where the line is drawn. First, what exactly is the cause of human actions? Is that question even meaningful? Second, where is the line drawn, what are the exact causes?

In reality, Nurture blends continuously into Nature. The environment is natural. The word artificial does not have a profound meaning. Similarly, relative to your mind, your genes are part of your environment, as are your emotions and your memories.

In fact, rigorously speaking, the idea of identity is very sticky. I will go into this later.

So that's the Nature and Nurture thing in a nutshell. In other entries, I'll be addressing some of the more cogent objections, discussing coherent definitions of various important words, and outlining what my evidence suggests human nature is.

The Purpose of Life

The reason I developed my thinking skills in the first place was so I could answer the important questions I saw plastered all over newspapers.

While I now know how generally useless journalists really are, at least their modern species, they nevertheless communicated some interesting questions to me.

The reason I wanted to answer important questions is of course a complete mystery.

The two questions that pop out of my availability bias* as most important are "What is the purpose of life?" and "What does it mean to be human?"

*(Contra cognitive psychology's basic assumptions, biases are quite useful, as long as you know what they're good for.)

The evidence suggests that philosophy is in a sad state. (These are even recursive, which I'll discuss later.) The sad state of philosophy is highlighted by these newspaper profundities, because they're actually very easy to answer. Straightforward, at least.

The meaning of life is happiness and choice.

The proof is simply this: what one thing do humans strive for simply for itself? Happiness. How? By actions they choose themselves.

There! I apparently just owned every philosopher in existence. But, just perhaps, the short version isn't quite satisfying? :-)

A true theory has to be consistent with reality. This can be very helpful with problems like this one, because direct investigation is really hard. Predictions based on any hypothesis of the purpose have a fatal flaw - all the evidence is subjective. This is true even for much simpler machines than a hominid. In archeology, figuring out the purpose of some artifacts can be hellishly difficult, as there's no objective test. The fact we can do it at all is very interesting, and I'll go into it later.

Since the theory has to be consistent with reality, it's worthwhile to simply come up with a bunch of theories, and take the one we can't eliminate as true.

I'm using generalizations, of course, because much of the theorizing has been variations on a theme, and I'm going to eliminate whole themes at once. Taking this approach, there's only three themes.

Onto the proofs.

First, if there really is some sort of benevolent overlord, whose purpose may be mysterious, it doesn't matter. Humans all strive for happiness anyway, so talking about the 'true' purpose is quite pointless - it's not getting done. It's exactly like speeding. Talking about the posted limit is kind of silly if you're trying to explain traffic. You need to talk about the speed, the action, that they're actually undertaking.

Second, if that overlord is in fact running the show, with their noodly appendages reaching into every facet of life, imposing, top down, the values that they hold, it's also irrelevant. This theory is just passing the buck - while human happiness drives may be illusory, the puppet-master still seems to value human happiness, as all their puppets are striving for it.

Third, you are your own overlord, in which case you define your own purpose.

Humans are free, humans are serfs, or humans are slaves, the purpose of human existence is still happiness. Even if humans are some kind of dream and don't really exist, no one has come up with a reality where the real actors aren't somehow scheming for their happiness.

The real purpose is somewhere in the hybrid of happiness and choice, because our choices create the world. While I stole this idea from a hardcore Subjective Reality type, even a hardcore logical positivist has to concede the point. Certainly, the laws of physics are not open to the decisions of its conscious fruit, but our world most certainly is. Nearly everything in your environment has been profoundly altered by the choices of some entrepreneur or another, not to mention the efforts of philosophers regarding your interpretation of these things and events. Finally, unless you were just born, the things and people around you have been profoundly influence by your conscious actions.

I'm currently in an apartment I chose, working on a computer I essentially commissioned, surrounded by furniture I placed myself, not surrounded by anything I chose to throw away. The state of all my money and relationships have been almost entirely decided by how my beliefs affected my actions.

While it would be nice if I could add, "In a jurisdiction I myself endorsed," and "In a neighbourhood of which I approve," these are relatively minor impacts on my life.

I've noticed but cannot prove that almost everything that people say is beyond their control is actually well within it, and the few things truly beyond gain stature by their very difference.

It's similar to the childhood dark ritual of ridicule. Children make fun of someone who is noticeably different in a small way. They don't make fun of plants, or dogs, or even other apes, and this isn't simply because they can't understand. It's because the outsider is different in so few respects. Similarly, the worst warfare is between similar governments, such as sectarian disputes. Protestants don't make war on Hindis. They're simply too different - it provokes disinterested non-understanding, not violence. At least, they don't get nearly as upset by Hinduism as by Islam, or by, heaven forbid, those commahippajewanaziist Catholics.

With this theory, if you agree with me, you know why people value freedom. A person is never going to pursue a course of action they think will lower their own happiness, so any outside interference automatically means that their expected happiness will decrease. There's not a single shred of evidence otherwise, though it can be hard to see. I will happily go through any example you care to bring up.

If you're feeling astute today, you may have noticed that I have completely neglected an important point.

One interpretation of the reason people want to know the purpose of life is so that they can compare it to the purpose of, say, a brick.

The purpose of a brick is to build walls, that's why they're made. The purpose of life is to ____ that's why it was made. While you can use a brick to hold a door or papers, it's better to get a doorstop or a paperweight. Similarly, a life can be used for nearly anything, but it's better to use it for ____.

The problem with this approach is that there isn't any objective creator of life. The universe is not, as Alan Watts says, a pot. It wasn't made by a potter for a purpose, nor does it need to be constantly tended by that someone. It's probably also not the updated fully automatic model that runs all by itself, axiomatically. Nevertheless, there's no way that we know of to prove that the universe isn't just some automaton, such as some message from the creator of life about what to do with yours.

Regardless, such a message would be part of the buck-passing scenario. What would be the purpose of this putative creator's life?

Indeed, the best way to manage a conscious life form is simply to make it want to do whatever its purpose is. As such, if humans do have, in some sense, a creator, unless that creator is a dumb fuck, the best thing to do is simply whatever you want. The creator could also be sadistic, I suppose. Not malicious, as some people put it. When my writing isn't saying what I want it to say, it's not my enemy, 'malicious' doesn't quite describe the feeling.

Nevertheless, with a machine as complicated as a hominid brain it takes some sophistication to even do what you really want properly, but this is just a detail. A very interesting detail I wish to discuss later, but just a detail.

Indeed. What is the purpose of searching for the purpose of life? Quite simply, people think that they'll be happy once they've found their purpose.


Unless, of course, the purpose is forced on the people - the people have to freely choose to follow their immutable purpose. :-) But, again, this is a topic for a later time.

So go forth, equipped with truth, and find or forge your own happiness. Do what you want to do, what you need to do, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Philosophical Descent

When I was growing up, I was of the opinion that everyone was just interpreting reality in the best way they could, notwithstanding those evil brainwashed Christian commahippajewanazies.

Since no one felt the need to disabuse me of the notion, I assume you did too. Now, however, you will be treated to a full analysis of the real situation.

First, let me say that I'm aware of the irony and hubris of this statement, and will be slightly chuckling to myself for this whole essay. Second, I am aware of how this idea applies to me.

Specifically, while I haven't found a school of thought that I follow well, I've borrowed heavily from several, such as logical positivism, capitalist anarchy, Buddhism, and what I now call Universalism.

The stage is set. The actors walk into the limelight, and they ask each other, "Are people really coming up with their own ideas about the world?"

Are they at least selecting from the most cogent ideas available from a board of articulated and snappily dressed intellectuals?

In short, obviously not. Notwithstanding this fact, people carry on as if their ideas were really theirs. An astounding achievement, that is. I wish I could convince people that my ideas were really theirs. I'd have an army in no time and take over the world.

The problem with this, of course, is that it already happened. Specifically in Massachusetts, but I digress. (On a blog, no less!)

In reality, most people are members, in whole or in most, of some intellectual dynasty. Christian, atheist-Universalist, Libertarian, or something. What's more, each of these dynasties have either one person or a small cabal that made up their main ideas, possibly their axioms, which have passed unchanged through time.

For instance, the idea of souls that we now hold today, whether we agree or disagree with the notion, would not have bothered Plato at all. He's the dude who came up with the basic idea, at least as far as our records show. Descartes later added some refinements, which we now call Dualism.

Platonic ideals - entities existing 'above' this plane of existence, perfect and unchanging, do not appear as far as I know in history before Plato, and the idea of souls, far from being 'obvious,' is completely dependent on this idea. While uncertainty is great when we're talking about ideas this old, the basic point stands: nearly every widely held idea started as a kooky thought in the head of some weird old guy.

In fact, a truly well educated person wouldn't even bother talking about their ideas at all. None of this "Well, I believe that..." nonsense. Instead, they'd just have a list of problems, with an attached list of philosophers. Getting to know such a person would go something like this:

"Who are you on race relations?"

"Martin Luther. You?"

"Oh, Malcom X, definitely. What about the God issue?"


So the hypothesis:
Ideas spread by presenting themselves, received ideas, as created, and usually in blocks or what I call 'suites.' As in, "the full office software suite." Or, "the full Democrat suite, with some customizations on finance."

It may not always have been this way. For instance, when Christianity was dominant, certain things were called sacrosanct and were privileged. They were labelled explicitly. Now, certain things are still holy, but go out of their way to present themselves otherwise, usually as self-evidently true, and yet still questionable. It may be, then, that holding other people's ideas as your own is an innovation, or it may not be.

The suites will warp logic in the suite user. If it were not so, the suites would rapidly decay on contact with either evidence or competing or more useful ideas. My evidence implies that the confirmation bias and identity biases are the main culprits. The suites encourage the user to say, "I am a progressive," and thus to take progressives conclusion, lest they allow insults to their personality. Having taken the conclusion, they build up evidence below it.

The suites are usually not full personal ideologies. The person who gets all of their understanding from any one source is rare. Usually, they are sets of related ideas from a small group of thinkers.

Take a person self-labelled as a freethinker. Anyone likely to take offense to statements like, "You just believe that because you're a progressive."
Get to know what they think. That should be enough, as you'll be able to clearly see which dynasty they fall into.

When I did the test, I found it's really amazing to see ideas just pop out as clearly the work of some weird old guy. Consider how often the random person finds themselves incapable of remembering what you said even last week, and combine that with a widespread distrust of authority. It's incredible to see how strongly influenced they are by well-known philosophers, like Kant or Hobbes.

Did they ever read Critique of Pure Reason? Did any of their friends? Their teachers? No. Yet, even a casual perusal of La Wik's article on Kant finds several ideas that are in common parlance. Similarly, lots of ideas that are supposedly just common sense are actually exact copies from Hobbes and Hume.

In fact, reading even Shakespeare naively, such as during the high school English classes, one tends to say, "What cliched hackwork!" But of course, this is just because so many people wanted to imitate the Bard, followed by imitators of the imitators who recognized a nice turn of phrase.

Similarly, reading the ideas of the famous philosophers, one is tempted to use that ever present 'obvious!' to describe their ideas, to say, "But certainly this is simply a recording of what people were already thinking." This is false. Even if it were half true, or even 90% true, these philosophers got their ideas seeded into the English consciousness. That is exactly why they're considered great.

And now, poor ignorant us, think we're coming up with our own ideas. Ideas we will, too often literally, defend to the death. Pathetic.

On Truth: Because the Title is Insufficiently Overused

Truth is a virtue, so they tell me. They also tell me the truth will out.

No, don't give me that crap about 'who is they.' You know exactly who they are.

By now you've probably surmised that I disagree. Indeed, what would be the point of writing an entire article about how awesome someone else's idea is?

This isn't a newspaper, dammit.

Regardless, here's what I interpret when I read the letters, 'truth.'

Truth is always true, for all people at all times and places.
Truth has two parts, objective and subjective.
Truth is necessary to live a happy life.

Seeing other people refer to truth is very annoying, as it's usually misused, from my perspective. :-)

Truth is Always True
So, is the first part even possible? I've used the word true in my definition, which would be a no-no if hominid brains weren't so good at parsing crap like that.

It's possible because I can define anything that isn't self-contradictory. If it's not completely out there, it probably exists. Truth is what's constant across all situations. It's what we can ultimately agree on. It's something I can say that can't somehow be refuted.

Anything that fails these tests can't be truth. It must be something else.

How much truth exactly there is in the world is an area of heavy debate. Since this seems to be an axiom war, I'm not going to expend much effort on it.

By experience I can say this both a very broad and very restrictive definition. It's exacting to have to say things such that they are exactly true. It's extremely easy in standard English to accidentally include or exclude too much. Conversely, while thinking strictly conceptually* it's almost too broad. It can actually be difficult to find the parts of an idea that aren't true, simply because of the vast area of ideas that needs to be trawled over.

*(The idea that people think using words is blatantly false. Any evidence to the contrary is illusory. It's therefore very easy to figure out how deaf people or babies or animals think - exactly like you do.)

However, the definition highlights very effectively the extreme importance of definition. For instance, the simple statement of "I have a computer," is a nightmare of definitional tragedy to a philosopher who hasn't thought about it yet. Still, since I'm writing this post, you can probably agree that it's true.

But what does 'I' mean? What does 'have' mean? How can I define these so that I can't go somewhere else or to someone else's perspective and negate them? Simultaneously, I have to encompass everything they mean in common parlance. The definitions can't be used, unless absolutely necessary for consistency, to go around telling people they don't mean "I" when they say "I."

So, cogently, what do I mean by agree? Can we disagree on the beauty of the sunset? Yes, but only because we're using disagree and truth loosely. The real statement of truth is, "I, Alrenous, do not find sunsets compelling." How can you disagree with that? By noticing me appreciating a sunset when I think no one's watching. You won't, but that's the method. The statement is irrefutable, and therefore true. Looking at our actual statements, you can see that we don't really disagree at all.

Running around the aforementioned way and telling people they don't really disagree, while amusing, can be avoided by simply noticing when people are making statements of truth, and when they're just making statements. You can't make statements of objective truth about beauty, because beauty is subjective, and so any statement that looks objective is obviously not what it seems. I personally think you shouldn't make such statements because it's a mild form of lying, but if you stopped completely you could never have a conversation with anyone.

Truth is Either Subjective or Objective
Given that truth must be true for everyone, and also various norms in English, I have to divide truth into subjective and objective types. Preferably, the language would recognize this difference implicitly - perhaps subjective descriptors like beauty and other emotions would have their own articles, and so it would be impossible to grammatically state subjective truth as objective.

Nevertheless, it is not so. Therefore, I have to describe truth as either objective, having to do with objects, or subjective, which needs a subject.

Notably, all subjects are also objects, but objects aren't necessarily subjects.

Take an orange. The orange is an object, and has certain objective properties like mass and frequency-dependent light reflection. The experience of orange, however, is subjective. If the orange reflects photons of wavelength approximately 590 nm in a forest and no one sees it, does it make a colour? No, of course not. While it is objectively true that I see oranges as orange, and objectively true that most people see oranges as orange, the subjective truth that I'm seeing orange requires the subject.

In the case of orange, I can even say something objective about the world given this experience, regarding the aforementioned photons of 590 nm. However, subjectivity ranges from these instances which are very close to objective, to things that are way way off like taste and emotion. It's pretty rare that I can say something objective from the subjective experience of emotion, though not impossible.

Here, incidentally, I see the real non-division between these two ideas. Is it objectively true or subjectively true that I'm feeling a bit annoyed right now? Is it objectively true or subjectively true that I have found something annoying?

The real reason for the label subjective is simply that people insist on talking normally, instead of warping their diction around the constraints of truth, which means I have to run around labelling some statements as subjective and some as objective. People also insist on thinking that other people are important. Think of the last movie or book that had as its main character a non-human? Can you imagine a nature documentary following, say, a crocodile and letting its actions speak for themselves? How about a non-living thing?

Even the idea of a subject itself is Cartesian dualism. Still, I find it rather useful. Given that, I can now say that objective truths exist in our shared reality, and subjective truths exist for me the subject, and therefore cannot be objectively verified, at least with current technology.

So, subjects are inherently distinct, while objects are inherently shared. I'll have more to say on this later.

Truth Is Necessary for Happiness
Having figured out what I mean by truth, I was still left in something of a quandary. Truth is considered very important, and the hominid brain posts error messages to our shared space when they find they have been intentionally led away from the truth.

Despite these, most endeavors in modern society seem to depend rather heavily on keeping the truth at bay. Almost every argument I run across explodes violently when exposed to logic.

Clearly, it's quite possible to live at least a somewhat happy life, and to achieve one's goals without acceding to anything more than the most basic truths. I'll have more on this later.

What, then, is the purpose of truth? Even if I had a whole warehouse of the stuff, what can I do with it? I can explain the anti-lying complex as a simple hominid dominance-managing device, which, even if statistically untrue, I can't rule out. I can say that the basic truths run at a different level of thought and therefore don't heavily interact with the philosophical level. Thus, truth doesn't appear to be very useful to the average person. In fact, to the level that people are hypocrites, they hate truth.

Still, engineers have to respect at least physical truths, or the bridges and skyscrapers will all collapse, and the production lines will jam. But beyond our specialist truth-managing caste, society seems to get along fine with the current truth level minimizing strategy.

If I were to start a company, and the whole point was to peddle the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help us God, and to make shit-tons of money because everyone wants some, what would I have to sell my product for?

It turns out I would have to sell it for freedom and happiness.

I suspect but cannot prove that the truth makes you happy directly, that being a hypocrite is inherently painful.

Even if that's untrue, when you believe untruths you are under the control of the untruth peddlers.

When you are told a lie, the purpose is to control you. Sure, the lie-teller will try to put as much truth and comfort and other benefits in the suite with the lie, but the point is control. They lie to you so that you will do what they want you to do. If you continue to buy their lies you will continue to buy their product, physical or political. The lies will be set up so that to challenge any one important lie will be to challenge all of the lies.

You can buy a lie, but the only currency is your soul.

So, do you believe that you need to be controlled, for you own good? If so, I suspect that my first axiom, Trust Your Senses, will grind unbearably against your sensibilities. We probably have nothing to discuss.

Otherwise, you want truth. Whether you think so or not.

Nevertheless, society does work. People are happy. Freedom does exist. So, truth is not critical. But, society is not working well. People are not very happy. Freedom is on a relentless decline.

If you want to continue to believe your lies, there's nothing actually wrong with that.

If you want to be actually happy, profoundly happy, you need to know the truth. The truth clearly does not out on its own, but if it does it will set you free.

Further reading: Philosophy Now

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The First Step

Naturally, I believe I have a coherent theory about truth. About what is truth, and about how to find more. I'm going to share it with you for several reasons. If I'm correct, this theory of truth, this epistemology, is superior to any other that I've found, if for no other reason than that it includes all their good parts. I assume that you want to know truth, not lies, yes? If nothing else, you can update yours the same way I update mine. Also, by sharing it, I have the benefits of peer review, which given standard conditions is enough to find every logical error in triplicate. Finally, if there's anyone else like me it'd be nice to talk to them, and if I can't find them on the internet, I'll be damned if I can find them at all.

Following Socrates either literally or by convergent evolution, every person seeking truth must start with accepting their own ignorance. Preferably just the ignorance they actually have, rather than going Decarte's route.

So! I've accepted ignorance. I've found zero. Where is one?

Already the metaphor breaks down. There isn't a one. There's only Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.

Godel's theorem is incredibly broad in valid application, right up there with causality and Newton's Third. In English, Godel realized that every theory has a finite volume, and at the edge are things that are unprovable within that theory. For every provable truth, somewhere along the chain of proof is an axiom, simply taken as true. In the case of ontology, it means you have to start somewhere.

In humans, this starting point is simply memories. Since babies aren't philosophers in a strict sense, anyone practicing philosophy already has some understanding of the world. At a deeper level brains are already preferably wired to understand things like gravity and 3D space and the concepts of past and future.

However, at some point a philosopher will have reduced every memory they own into principles they use to explain the world. I exaggerate and simplify for logical effect, but even having done this, the explanations will depend on axioms.

Now, often two people meet and discuss with the goal of coming to a common understanding, taking the democratic idea that if more people agree it's more likely to be true. However, it is nearly always impossible for two people to come to a common understanding, as their axioms will differ, and how are you going to convince someone that their axioms are wrong?

Luckily, our brains are all hominid brains. Most of the axioms are the same. Even still, this axiom changing crusade seems an ongoing obsession with anyone even slightly contaminated by intellectualism.

How do we form our axioms? Well, I certainly can't figure it out yet, and I've never run across anyone even beginning to examine this question. For the moment, I'm just going to enumerate mine.

1. Our perceptions are trustworthy.
2. Self-consistency is proof on its own merit.

That's basically it. Number one I've had as long as I remember, while number two I created later.

Still, number one needs some additional explanation. It means that when I see an object, that object is really there. It doesn't matter whether it's actual sight or hearing or emotional seeing, it doesn't matter if I can tell what it is - that's interpretation - but if I see something, it's really there.

Now, for the physical senses this is pretty obvious, and you can easily define disorders as simply the physical senses not obeying this simple rule.

Notably, there are far more than five senses, though there seems to be wide agreement on those five. To tell when you're hungry, do you taste or touch your hunger? How about the sense of where your limbs are, your proprioception? Your sense of balance? When you're sick, what hurts, exactly? Based on an article in New Scientist exploring the issue, a conservative estimate for total senses is about 50. Some of those are unconscious, like your blood pH, and perhaps shouldn't be counted, but the point is that five is way too few.

However, for emotional or mental senses, the objects under scrutiny do not apparently exist in our shared physical space. Put this way, it's not surprising at all, of course. It means that disorders of emotional and mental perception are nearly impossible to define, and may even mean that they don't exist at all. I don't normally find sunsets beautiful. Does that mean I have a 'disorder?' Are they objectively beautiful but I'm simply emotionally blind? Or, does it mean that what I see is true? Does it mean that, for me, sunsets are kind of boring?

I assume that when I have an emotion, while I may not know what it means, just as I may not know what an object is when I see it, but I assume it's trustworthy. I assume that I am in fact sensing something that is exists.
The only proof I can offer is that emotions are extremely consistent across similar situations. If I have a particular feeling when someone is bullshitting me, I'm going to have that feeling again and again every time someone is bullshitting me. I just have to figure out the association once.

Notably, the opposite contention of post-modernism is logically inconsistent. If you can't trust your senses at all, how can you trust your perception of the idea that you don't trust your senses? Same goes for brain-in-a-vat hypotheses and similar trash.

This is subjectivity. It's not invalid or somehow beneath (or above!) objectivity, but simply different.

However, there is at least one problem with my axiom. Logic. I want you to go find or construct a logical progression so you have it to play with. A true one, specifically. What you think is true, not necessarily what I think is true. B, therefore C, something like that.

Now, how do you know that C follows from B? Is it 'obvious?' Okay, now define obvious.

You don't know, do you? I certainly don't. Accept ignorance. We can name it though: this is our logical sense or senses.

But that's not the real problem. Even though you can't describe it, you know it when you see it. That's emotional consistency. The problem is that logical senses are very dependent on previous conclusions, through things like the confirmation bias. 'Obvious' is a shifting mire.

"Be rational! Use your reason! It's the golden age of enlightenment!" That's nice. What's rationality? What's reason? Is it your logical sense? Is it deduction? Induction? Bayesian averaging?

Luckily, there's a hack solution. Your logical sense is exactly like a muscle, and can be trained. The process is often called science, but the label is being eaten away by corruption.

Hypothesis, testing, conclusion. Use your logic, make a prediction, and find where you've gone wrong. If you look hard enough, you'll find something. Use that to find the flaw in your thinking. Repeat.

After an interminable time, you can eventually have some confidence in your logic alone. Most experts need about a decade of practice to truly master their craft. For me, there were ten years between the time I wanted to make people laugh and the time I did.

I say science is corrupt because most scientists do not go through this process. Even though science is supposed to be the great culmination of rational thought, most scientists can't think their way out of a paper bag. They seem to rely on the 'scientific method,' that fuzzy beast, to do their thinking for them. And of course emotions are but poisonous 'subjectivity,' which I will talk about later, because my ideas on that are a result of my axioms.

My axioms are not true axioms. They can, with a few clarifications, be confirmed or refuted. That's not the point of the essay. The point is that they are my axioms. They didn't come from some analysis of the evidence, I didn't logically disprove all the other possibilities. I simply jumped up one day with them in my hand, and started hacking away at the jungle of reality.

As such, if you disagree with them, and want to argue with me, realize that if your goal is to change my mind, you will axiomatically fail. We can still debate some more minor points, the subset of axiomatic towers that work have to overlap, especially in the fine details. However, the true bedrock of my thoughts really is adamantium against the weathering of argumentation, and the sediments above are like Ultima's Blackrock - only powerful magic will ever change them.

In return, I will attempt to respect your axioms. If I find a flaw in your reasoning, I will try to present it in a way that does not contradict your most basic beliefs. It's polite, and frankly a waste of time otherwise.


The purpose of this blog is basically so I can think in public.

What, then, is the purpose of that? What do I hope to accomplish?

Is it simply some deep and nonrational 'psychological' need?

Or perhaps I actually have a concrete goal?

Certainly, I can invent justifications, meanings, incentives. But these are, most likely, all rationalizations. The only way that I know to truly find the purpose is to do it. Just do it.
Then, look at what I've done, and see what it is. Carve out a statue, and then see what the statue is of.

That is what I'm truly doing.

Regarding the name, mostly it's just poetic. I like it. But I'll tell you a story about it anyway.

Accepting ignorance has many levels and consequences. First, it means not fighting ignorance. Indeed, what purpose is there to attacking a lack of knowledge? You going to move up to assaults on the clear sky next?

Logically, it means doing the Socrates thing. Realizing how little I and the people I want to listen to really know. Only then I can go beyond Socrates, to know something as true. By accepting that we are ignorant we create the possibility of learning.

Also, it's an expression of humility. While certainly, I want to think I have found some knowledge, and want to spread it, yet without incredible wealth and power, such as owning a school board or a church or the New York Times, I can produce but a drop in the bucket, a ripple soon lost in the noise. I must accept that whatever I find will most likely be lost, in time, and find a purpose for it other than increasing the sum total of human knowledge.

So naturally I have every blogger's ambition: replace the New York Times. However, I accept that I am ignorant as to how to bring this about. I accept that most people will be ignorant about things that I know, often aggressively so.

In the second level, it's also the acceptance that people will always be 'ignorant' of what I know in the sense that they will disagree. Imagine a comment thread, on anything, going like this:

"Your ideas are horrible, I can't imagine how bad they must be from the inside, and this is why."

"Oh really? Well, all your objections are but farts in the wind, and vanish as soon as they are fully formed."

"Oh dear! How wrong I was. I must thank you for the incredible gift of changing my mind."

How often have you seen anything like that?

This seems like one of the hardest things for people to accept. They aren't, apparently, convincing anyone. Idea and anti-idea cancel out and only the status quo wins. Only those childishly empty and accepting ever seem to absorb the ideas of others.

And yet, must there not be other reasons? Surely each mind is not unchanging adamantium in the face of arguments weathering the bedrock of reason? Christians become atheist and atheists become Christian. And yet, how? Not, certainly, because anyone reads Dawkins.

It's also because I want to use this blog as a repository for questions. I have many questions, which I seem to be really good at answering. Some of these questions are of general interest, and I would like to publish them.

Accepting Ignorance contracts to AI. Deliciously ironic.

Writing a lot will probably improve my writing style.

Finally, one of the most compelling explanatory ideas that I have found is that we simply don't know. Why is modern physics so hard to unite? Because we don't know what time is. Our ignorance is nearly perfect, as we should accept.

So why am I really writing this, here and now? Ha! As if I could know.