Losing a belief in free will has not made me fatalistic—in fact, it has increased my feelings of freedom. My hopes, fears, and neuroses seem less personal and indelible. There is no telling how much I might change in the future. Just as on wouldn’t draw a lasting conclusion about oneself on the basis of a brief experience of indigestion, one needn’t do so on the basis of how one has thought or behaved for vast stretches of time in the past. A creative change of inputs to the system—learning new skills, forming new relationships, adopting new habits of attention—may radically transform one’s life.
Becoming sensitive to the background causes of one’s thoughts and feelings can—paradoxically—allow for greater creative control over one’s life. It is one thing to bicker with your wife because you are in a bad mood; it is another tot realize that your mood and behavior have been caused by low blood sugar. This understanding reveals you tot o be a biochemical puppet, of course, but it also allows you to grab hold of one of your strings: A bite of food may be all that your personality requires. Getting behind our conscious thoughts and feelings allow us to steer a more intelligent* course through our lives (while knowing, of course, that we are ultimately being steered).
- Free Will, Sam Harris
Morality, politics, awareness, etc.
*But note how Harris uses “intelligence” as a concept here — note the level of application.
The more I accept that we are different “people” moment to moment, the more greater the responsibility I take on.
It goes like this: “some people” are reasonable; people change moment to moment; ergo, there are “moments” when people are reasonable. Id est, there are moments when I can effectively communicate with them. And that means it’s up to me (and all rational beings, moment to moment… goddammit, Kant) to find a way to bide my time until that moment arrives. Or… worse yet, to find a way to evoke that moment.
I trust Haidt, but I… I haveto hope that I define rationality differently. I have to hope that reason — I have to hope that—… Fuck that — fuck “hope”.
Reason for me is a thing that implores us, as rational agents (hey there, Aristotle), to evoke reason in others. It’s a state of being that can be, must be shared. It’s anti-paradoxical (again, my definition) and it implores a long-term, well-defined view.
And its dictate is fucking infinite.
When it gets late… or eight, which rhymes with late… I (far too) often pour myself a glass of scotch to wind down my evening. Usually, that evening will be something prima facie vacuous: TV, films, video games — that sort of nonsense.
But I find myself inadvertently connecting with the situations at hand. Empathetic, almost. I find myself — as I remember having often done in years past — making up dialogues for the characters involved. He’s not going to get upset and storm out, no… no, he’s going to take a deep breath, try not to cry, and then he’s going to tell her why he’s mad, why he’s scared, why he cares so much. And then she’s going to apologize and they’re going to take care of that whole — let’s say — zombie apocalypse thing. Without the drama of things left unsaid. Because, goddamn, there are zombies and that should be enough to deal with.
It’s not so much that I get chatty as that I get overwhelmed with the urgency of communication. I don’t need to hear or say anything, but I do want to see everything played out at this sincere, authentic, check-your-character-at-the-door sort of fashion.
And, of course, on the other hand: it’s hard to tell the difference between articulating feelings and making them up. But I like to think I feel a bit more after a few drinks… Well enough, I suppose, as I continue to stamp emotion out of my normal life.
Every time I get an email from my father, I get angry/upset/disheartened. It’s not that he’s dumb, it’s that he’s not dumb. It’s that he’s spent his life working for this or that reason. And now he’s left to forward specious editorials, misattributed rants, and decontextualized quotes. He’s left to try to repeat soundbytes — phrases, initialisms, project code-names — that somehow support his belief that something is wrong. And there are so things to blame, let’s get started.
That’s where I lose him. Something is wrong, yes, but what? I wish I could talk to him instead of the pundits and “strategists” on the TV and radio.
He rants about freedom and liberty, the usual holy of holies. And I know we’re fundamentally separated from the start on this point. Freedom for him means freedom from dependance — or, at least, from acknowledging that dependence. For me, it’s about being educated and aware. About not being used.
There’s some connection between Dunning-Kruger and the oracle’s assertion on Socrates. And maybe that’s all I need to know; better to remain silent and be thought a fool…—all that.
I’m not sure if I’m suffering from a lack of useful insight, or just a lack of sharable insight… I’m still thinking, still organizing, still making predictions—everything just seems equal parts trite and useless. Knowing how the world is broken (whether “genuinely” or, more likely, from the ivory tower perspective) is almost useless without knowing how to fix it; worse, even, because there’s
no less kidding yourself about things. And when you add “intelligence is making predictions”, you’re stuck with watching it break even more…
And conversations, with or without me, seem more like a circlejerk in seeing how objectively we can paint those cracks rather than anything that moves us forwards.
Then, there’s always Siddhārtha: getting to whatever degree of enlightenment (again, genuine or egotistical) and finding it unsharable and, thus, useless. Part of that, surely, is realizing how small one person is. Coupled with the certainty of death… Surely it’s apparent, the reason for my detest of the “individual”. Inefficient. Ineffectual. Illusory.
When they appeared he had to fight the tendency to slight them, shove them under the carpet, throw them out the window, belittle them, and forget them. These were the underdogs, the outsiders, the pariahs, the sinners of his system. But the reason he was so concerned about them was that he felt the quality and strength of his entire system of organization depended on how he treated them. If he treated the pariahs well he would have a good system. If he treated them badly he would have a weak one. They could not be allowed to destroy all efforts at organization but he couldn’t allow himself to forget them either. They just stood there, accusing, and he had to listen.
Pirsig is referring to note cards with random ideas scribbled on them, ideas that aren’t fitting into well-defined (or otherwise “useful”) categories.
Just prior to this, the narrator had pointed out the concept of a system of organizing data as a set of data in itself — rules, regulations, processes that were able to be defined and redefined as needed. The system had to evolve with its subject… or subjects.
Anyhow, the allegory is pretty apparent, right? Or maybe that I go with “allegory” instead of “similarity” is more telling than I yet realize.
The speaker feels it necessary to being by apologizing for his youth. The rule that young me should keep silence was a good one so long as the older generation were managing affairs competently, but those for whom the prosperity of the city is only hearsay and its disasters their own experience—disasters moreover which cannot be blamed on heaven or chance but only on the incompetence of those in charge—must speak out. He cannot submit to deliberate mismanagement or carry the blame for the unprincipled plotting of others. We have seen, he says, the city pass from peace to war and peril and from internal harmony to quarrelling and confusion. Elsewhere it is prosperity that leads to arrogance and faction, but we kept our heads in the good times and have lost them in adversity. The parties are simply fighting mindlessly for power. They may think their policies are opposed but in fact there is no real difference between them. What, if one goes back to first principles, are both sides looking for? In the first place it is the question of the ‘ancestral constitution’ which throws them into confusion, though it is the easiest thing to grasp and more than anything else the concern of the whole citizen body. Then in the last sentence of the extract, presumably with his own comparative youth still in mind, the speaker says that for matters going back beyond our experience we must rely on the accounts of former generations or when they are within the memory of older men, learn direct from them.
Guthrie is referring to a speech by Thrasymachus to the Athenian Assembly (not given by Thrasymachus, as he was not a citizen) on the civic failures in the later stages of the Peloponnesian war. It’s a plea for action, for reconciliation — for actual goddamn governance — that Guthrie found resonant with his own time (late 60s).
Other Sophists would say this is inevitable of any democracy. I would join them.
"But they don’t really believe in freedom — freedom to. They believe in freedom from.”
(positive vs. negative liberty, yay)
I’m not the person to comprehend the emotion associated with the typical
communal social reaction to events like today’s. …We “feel”, but none of us “comprehend”. But, hopefully, I can offer suggestion as to what could (again — “hopefully”) come next.
I don’t think I have a stance—a coherent one—on gun laws. There should be laws, but we do have that looming Amendment in the room. I think I like the Swiss model (of lots of things), but I’ve never really debated it. I’m pro-… something, but I haven’t really defined it.
We need to have a discussion about something. About what it means to “keep and bear arms” and form “militias” because it’s “necessary to the security of a free state”. And we need to talk about what it means when one side says it’s about the Constitution and the other side says it’s about… today.
We need to be able to come back from this vapid, partisan posturing—as soon as that’s over—and start talking again. Because there are some pretty important things that we are apparently getting wrong. There are, quite frankly, other things on our agenda.
Because… well, today happened.