The Deception of Self

“You must become an expert concerning your own habits of self-deception. Most of us deceive ourselves with little dramas all the time. We have blind spots of which we’re not even aware. We intentionally avoid seeing things because we believe that what we’ll uncover about ourselves will be too painful to bear. Self-deception is so insidious because its very process “covers its tracks”– so when you look back, you not only don’t know what you deceived yourself about, but you don’t see the method by which you did so.

Tony Bevacqua

“Self-deception, by its very nature, is the most elusive of mental facts. Self-deception operates both at the level of the individual mind, and in our collective awareness of the group. To belong to a group of any sort, sometimes the tacit price of membership is to agree not to question anything that challenges the groups way of doing things.”

Daniel Goleman, “Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception”

 

What is self-deception?

I’m reading the book Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception by Daniel Goleman, PhD

This idea that we deceive ourselves has been a fundamental aspect of my journey toward self-mastery. It’s what propelled my interest in philosophy since, for me, philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom, of what is righteous and real and optimal, devoid of bias and self-interest. Philosophy as a process, as a method of discovery, is about identifying inconsistencies in thinking, about examining the nature of problems and determining the most empowering methods for overcoming them. This process directly involves dissecting our assumptions, or the values we bring to experience about the way things are, their order of importance, the nature, and their relation to other aspects of perceiving.

What are assumptions?

Assumptions are inherent in our perception. They are unconscious. They operate as fixed values about the nature of things, consisting of the properties and relationships inherent in objects of perception. Thus, assumptions are the foundations of perception. They are the material that construct the schema’s in which we organize our point of view. They are the intellectual and emotional structures occupying our frame of reference, which we use to derive meaning, to determine cause and effect, to prioritize our attention, to conclude understanding.

Assumptions exist as an absence. They are not conscious. They exist as a result of our conditioning, a consequence of repetition, of repeated confirmations of reality which highlight pain or pleasure, and thus validate their veracity or truthfulness of the world.

Assumptions are implicit. They are rarely observed until there is a conflict, a dissonance, a disagreement, or pain or a threat to our existence, either physically or socially, as in the threat of ego annihilation.

Philosophy is the process of challenging assumptions. Socrates referred to himself as a “gadfly”, an annoying pest which diverts attention and causes discomfort.

If humans never existed, problems would never exist. Problems only exist in man, as a result of a dissonance, a conflict in his will to survive, to self-preserve, or his will to power, which is to exert influence amongst his human peers in a way that organizes him around his self interest for his preservation.

Problems exist in the mind. They are what separates us from what we want. Its when the internal doesn’t match the external. It is a cognitive dissonance which produces an emotional distress, which is directly proportional the threat of physical existence.

We wish to avoid this threat at whatever cost, by denying its reality, by compartmentalizing, by diverting our attention to more comforting or resonant thoughts and activities, which reinforce the existing state of self, or any state of self which is more comfortable or more stable, which is at equilibrium with a more predictable and familiar world “outside” the self, or us.

“The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency — the belief that the here and now is all there is.”

Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

“Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“It is a self-deception of philosophers and moralists to imagine that they escape decadence by opposing it. That is beyond their will; and, however little they acknowledge it, one later discovers that they were among the most powerful promoters of decadence.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Why we need Philosophy

To many of my friends out there: I’m concerned you don’t appreciate the utility or function or nature of philosophy, apart from pop-culture’s pallid understanding.

When you say things like “Philosophers often have the luxury of thinking continually without conclusion or an end state” it is very concerning, because you are assuming all too much, and throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

There is good philosophy, and there is bad philosophy. But philosophy is chiefly concerned with getting to the bottom of things so that life and living can be improved upon. The word philosophy literally means “the love of wisdom”. And wisdom is defined as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment”. It is concerned with good “judgement” or the ability to decide the quality or soundness of things.

Philosophy is responsible for EVERY single school of thought or academic discipline today.

Biological sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, astronomy, psychology, economics, archeology, paleontology, neuroscience, anthropology, aesthetics, sociology, ethics, engineering, politics, etc etc etc etc.

And they all very much have an end in mind.

It’s called refining the quality of our thoughts, so that they reflect “reality” and improve our “utility” as humans striving to live optimally.

Discarding faulty or poor assumptions, uncovering false assumptions, shedding light on self-deception, probing deeper into arguments, into the nature of things, the relationships of things, etc.

Talking and asking questions is not necessarily “philosophy”. If its meandering or pointless or noise, its called “bullshit”.

Everyone should study philosophy, and practice it regularly, and employ it in their daily lives.

It would improve society from being so mindless, from not challenging bullshit dogma by self proclaimed and often deluded “experts” or “authority figures” that spew hot air which may sound good, and may be emotionally appealing or temporarily self serving, but is just…. total… utter… garbage. Because it’s false or deception or lies or fantasy or inaccurate or outdated, etc.

Philosophy is the process or vehicle of getting us quality information about our world and our relation to it, and refining and improving our understanding of this process.

Before mankind thought about these things, he asked questions: how? what? why? when? where? who?

The first philosophers conversed with his fellow man, who shared their reasoning and their experiences. They continually challenged each other’s experiences, their perceptions, their “reasoning” and came up with rules for good arguments, formulating formal and informal logic, and examined the very nature of perception and experience.

Overtime, from the Greeks until now (and before the Greeks the Egyptians and Babylonians and other civilization’s contributions we lost in the fire of the Library of Alexandria), these conversations coalesced and became more specific, with specific ends in mind, and they developed into separate conversations, or schools of thought.

These schools of thought now comprise the disciplines or studies or “majors” we encounter in academia today.

When you have exhausted the fundamental understanding of each of these disciplines, you are considered a “doctor of philosophy” or Phd. You can now expand the bounds of this school of thought, and add additional knowledge to the cannon of that specific discipline.

Unfortunately “modern” academia doesn’t teach people “how to think” or educate people on the process of philosophy like they once did, which was always considered the “queen of the sciences”.

Now they just force you to memorize what everyone else already thought, and you don’t challenge it. Just sit there. Read and memorize. Don’t question.

This is a problem.

This is a problem because we need thinkers, we need people who can think originally, who can generate new information and perspectives to problems all on their own, and not rely on others or outside knowledge to guide their way. This not only prevents the spread of false knowledge, it stimulates inquiry into new ways of thinking, and generates new questions about things and problems and dilemmas previously overlooked.

This is exactly why I believe our society needs more philosophy.

The Concept of Mind: Structures of Experience

After many conversations with friends about experience vs. reflection, I decided I should attempt to extricate how it is I grasp consciousness and its inhabiting structures. These are simply ongoing notes and reflections written for my own personal reference. Though it may not be immediately obvious, there is a certain logic to the order in which these thoughts are introduced.

Being

A living organism is a subjective being, and a subjective being possesses a body. A subject possesses a perspective, while an object is possessed by a perspective.

Stimulation

Stimulation occurs due to a change or transference of energy, otherwise called an affect. Stimulation acting on the body produces an affect which leaves an impression on the mind. Sensory stimulation occurs due to an affect on the sensory organs located on the body.

Reflection

Memory is produced by recalling past impressions

Reflection is a synthetic process which integrates past memories with present experience; by retrieving past impressions, of varying quantity and quality, and creating new associations.

Reflection extricates concepts from their originally generated, or prior applied, context and introduces the concepts into the present consciousness.

Experience

Experience is a feature of all living beings, rendered by responding to stimulations derived from the external world.

Experience is feeling: the production of sensations on the mind.

Experience, prior to the introduction of any and all structural concepts, is a swirling chaos of pure feeling and sensation, with each sensation represented to varying magnitudes and degrees. The absence of any order is confusing, swirling, melting, blooming, variegating; a storm of senses, containing  every color, sound, smell, touch, taste; with all the accompanying pain and pleasure; boiling of shade, hue, tint, tone.

Experience can be conscious or unconscious.

Consciousness

Consciousness is produced by active reflection. Unconsciousness is produced by inactive reflection.

Consciousness is marked by reflection: it is the feature of reproducing impressions—memories— and hold them before the “mind’s eye” for consideration (for application or entertainment).

Reflective consciousness may produce the feeling of experience by reproducing memories of prior experience, otherwise known as imagining, but this experience is not actively “living”, but presently “dead”. According to the sensations produced, that which is living is fluid and changing; while that which is dead is static and persisting.

Consciousness has many levels: it is not simply being “alive”. There are many levels— or orders— of consciousness. Higher order consciousness arises in proportion to complexity: the greater the complexity, the greater consciousness.

The complexity of consciousness is proportional to the quantity and quality of reflection. By quantity I speak temporally of “how often”, specifically done. By quality I speak spatially of “how many”, specifically kinds.

The faculties of consciousness relate to both the sensory input organs and the sensory integration organs. The five senses constitute the input organs, while the integration organs relate to associative memory.

The sensory input organs are developed according to their sensitivity which arises from exposure. Each input organ develops independently from or in combination with other input organs. Independent exposure produces depth; while combinatory exposure produces breadth, with depth increasing in proportion to exposure of combinations..

The integration organs break down further into two aspects of integration, being intelligence and creativity. Intelligence relates to efficient associative memory, while creativity relates to effective associative memory.

Efficient associative memory arises from similar stimulation, repetition, or repeated exposure, or routine; which produce strengthened habits of thought.

Effective associative memory arises from dissimilar stimulation, instances, or diverse exposure, or novelty; which produce weakened habits of thought.

Conceptual Structures

How concepts structure experience into knowledge:

Concepts render conscious experience; that is, concepts render experience conscious.

Concepts are the lens, the paradigm, the filter, the mold, the scope, the structure, the order with which experience is made conscious.

Conceptual structures arise from reflection.

Concepts order experience; they serve to distinguish distinctions among the spectrum of colorful feeling so that colorful feeling can be indexed according to its kind and utilized when the appropriate context calls for it.

All knowledge resembles a polyhedron bi-pyramid. Each domain of knowledge (experience or thought) is a triangular face on the pyramid, with every domain representing a specific context, or culture or social structure.

Concepts are geometric shapes or tools; they exist as structures that organize the integration of experience.

When I imagine what a single concept is within a single domainmy thoughts produce a two dimensional geometric shape that resembles a snowflake.

If the concept is complex and developed by experimental experience, and incorporates many domains of thought, I imagine a three dimensional solid, with one face visible to the domain, and the interrelations with other conceptual blocks hidden from sight, existing internally within the pyramid.

Context

A context is the associations established among objects by circumscribing the area around the location of a given point.

A context is determined by the degrees of relation among objects proximate to the given point of a subject’s location.

A context is an ecology and system: an ecology is the entire sum of objective demands acting within the context; a system is a series of connections produced by cause and demand.

The context produced by conscious experience is a domain of thought; a perspective of mind.

Each context is a unique, temporally and spatially located, experience with specific environmental demands, being physical or social. Context is the situation of a given organism or subjective being, in present or past.

Context is defined as the problem; the environmental demands. Every organism is programmed to self-preserve: survival is an organisms priority. As such, every context poses a problem, with the ease of the problem increasing in proportion to the level of adaptation.

The greater the problem or struggle or chaos or confusion, the greater the need for reflection, and the greatest potential for generating new concepts.

Concepts are always generated within a specific context, to solve the problem of context and its individuated environmental demands; therefore concepts are anchored to the context in which they were generated. Concepts may be unanchored when they are reproduced through reflection, introduced to the consciousness, and applied to the context of present or past experience.

Division of labor diversifies contexts by delineating and indexing concepts according to the specific context in which they were generated. In this way division of labor acknowledges the utility of context and the accompanying specialization of concepts.

Each face of the geometric solid represents a the conceptual structure of a single perspective.

Environment is determined by the temporal and spatial location of a subjective being in an external world constituted by finite matter composing infinite entities.

Particulars

All particulars are ideas of consciousness:: All facts are particulars of experience.

All ideas are indexed concepts; ideas are truth, and cannot be challenged by experience.

All facts are indexed experiences; facts are probable, and can be challenged by experience.

An untested fact is only an idea.

A tested idea is a fact only in the context in which is was tested.

All premises must be grounded in experience.

All facts must be grounded in experience.

Convergence

Convergence occurs due to association.

Convergent lines  intersect at angles which represent logical connectors, or operators or associations.

Operators connect or hold the concept together and give it shape.

Dualities of Consciousness

I come to possess concepts in two ways: passively or actively.

1. Passive concepts are yielded deductively, as given ideas.

2. Active concepts are yielded inductively, as created facts. .

1. Knowledge is ideas that have been passively structured with concepts: knowledge is rote, analytic, two dimensional, logically sequential, abstract and monochromatic

2. Wisdom is experience that has been actively structured with concepts: wisdom is intuitive, synthetic, three dimensional, holistic, concrete and colorful.

1. I passively receive concepts through books or passively listening to lecture or discourse. These concepts arrive prefabricated and incomplete. In this way passive concepts exist a priori to experience until the extent of their full nature fully tested through experimentation and the geometric solid can be developed. These concepts are linked

When I receive a passive concept, each sentence or logical operation produces or adds black lines, points, or angles to the shape. The lines are the premises; and the angles are the operators. The concept itself is hollow and possesses no internal color and therefore no way of distinguishing it from other similar concepts without an external indicator. In fact, when I think about an abstract concept, it’s sometimes difficult to see where premised lines begin and where they end, which angles of logic are part of the line or part of two separate premised lines intersecting.

2. I actively produce concepts though the process of organizing chaotic or confusing experience. That is, a problem imposes disorder on my experience and by turning over the problem within my mind— by reflecting and describing and rotating its nature; and asking how and why and when it works and where it comes from and what it associates with— I produce an erect a structure which orders the experience. This structure is a concept.

Every actively produced concept is a result of applied pressure, applied work, constantly squeezing, testing, stretching, challenging, and undermining its ability to yield a concept that orders and explains experience.

Synthetic Unification

New concepts are constructed when the particulars of mind converge in a context, as a result of reflection.

Wisdom is synthesis of contexts, or disparate domains of knowledge, and the concepts located within.

The process of testing particulars yields experience.

The process of testing concepts within a context yields understanding.

The process of testing concepts in various contexts yields wisdom.

The bipyramid capstone is the unifying concept; the pinnacle is the all seeing eye; the concept located at the highest point is the higher order self, or a consciousness that is fully aware of its self, due to reflection.

The top of the pyramid is where synthesis occurs: all concepts exist under this synthesizing capstone.

Structuring Consciousness

No matter what the domain, there is always a single unifying concept at the top, which resembles a capstone, in which all other concepts are built upon. This concept possesses the same shape and is positioned in the same location for every domain. Reaching the very point of this  capstone requires emptying all concepts from the mind, and feeling entirely. When this occurs synthesis can occur among other domains of thought and their concepts.

The concepts extending from under this unifying concept all resemble irregular geometric shapes. The farther down, the more irregular, and the less compatible with concepts horizontal to it. Extending away from the unifying pinnacle located at the tip of the capstone, the base extends down infinitely as each additional concept justifying existing concepts indexes a new aspect of experience.

Each concept possesses very unique features that allow it to integrate seamlessly with other concepts that possess inversely congruent features, so that they rest stable on one another. In this way all compatible concepts are inversely related (dualistic), like puzzle pieces, possessing a supply or demand that links them together, a void or an instantiating, a cause or effect, a deficit or surplus. Every concept contrasts with an interlinking, compatible concept in which it is connected.

New domains of knowledge cannot be built up from passive concepts. They can only reconstruct an existing domain of knowledge. Passive concepts can build down, developing or elaborating new concepts, from existing domains of knowledge.

Only when the unifying concept located at the point of the capstone is established can active concepts build up new domains of knowledge.

Adaptation and Evolution

Adaptation is an equalizing response; adapting is a response which creates equilibrium between two objects.

Adaptation is the appropriate response to environmental demands.

Adaptation of a subjective being is the appropriate response to proximate objective demands imposed by the given context.

The necessities, struggles, and demands original to a context does not guarantee adaptation.  If the subjective being is perfectly adapted to its environment– the objective demands of its context–, appropriate responses will occur fluidly and seamlessly.

Energy must be supplied to a system to produce change.

If a subjective being  is produced by the context, it is perfectly adapted. Wherever energy is highest, adaptation is fastest. Potential energy allows for future adaptation.

Concepts allow for adaptation by producing appropriate responses to changing demands.

Access to concepts and active reflection is imperative to adaptation.

Concepts without reflection cause functional fixation because they only consider the concepts—and the context in which they were generated— presently occupying the consciousness, which is incompatible with the demands of the current context.

Some personalities possess a chronic struggle which produces creative thoughts and solutions: madness of creative genius, anxiety, bipolar, depression, and the like.

 

Information Evolution: Language and Real-life Structures

Random thoughts on language as information evolution. And technology and digital information.

Continue reading “Information Evolution: Language and Real-life Structures”

manifestum philosophiae

I want to start a culture. Specifically, a school of thought. This school will operate independently from any existing cultural institution; moreover, it will remain free from the influence of any existing governmental, religious, academic, or community organization. It will be a community school ipso facto, a social organism composed of collaborating individuals. To attend, you must be a participating citizen who lives and works within the community.

The following is a preliminary framework in which this culture will embody:

This evolving draft is the culmination of all the principles of wisdom I have distilled throughout my life.

These are the core ideas embodying this manifesto: Subjective, Objective, Synthetic, Exponential, Evolution.

praefātiō

I exist. Specifically: the statement I exist posits the objective from the subjective.

Existence is paradox.

Paradox is contradiction. Specifically: Paradox is conflict.

Within the space of the present moment is duality:  a priori and a posteriori: infinite and finite, divisible and indivisible, continuum and locus, composite and prime, even and odd, whole and part, totality and partiality, relation and position, dimension and point, possibility and necessity, subjective and objective, relationship and entity, essence and existence, type and population, abstract and concrete, concept and fact, mental and physical, inclusive and exclusive, spiritual and corporeal, mind and body, passion and reason, deduction and induction, wisdom and knowledge, intrinsic and extrinsic, holism and perspective, monism and pluralism, conclusion and premise, God and man, ad inifinitum. (Consider exploring the following: sufficient and necessary, antecedent and consequent, fluid and static, life and death, )

Composite is the whole.

Prime is the parts.

The greatest number is one, 1. Specifically: One establishes a subjective perspective.

The second greatest number is two, 2. Specifically: Two establishes an objective perspective.

Each subjective perspective establishes a relationship with the other. Specifically: the apprehension of a second perspective is impressive.

Being the first odd prime number, three, 3, Δ, is the most divine, the most excellent, the strongest.  exemplī grātiā: triangle, logic (two premises, third conclusion), et cetera.

The number three represents change, as delta, Δ.

Given two points, any third point may be deduced. Specifically: given an infinite series of points, the existence of any two points establish a third point. More precisely: Presented with a third, the established relationship between any two exclusive subjective perspectives establishes an inclusive objective whole. The triangle signifies this inclusive relationship, Δ.

I.

terminus a quo: all “matter” exists as static energy. Specifically: “matter” is equivalent to static energy.

Energy is present totality. Specifically: energy is the existing universe.

Energy is an indirectly observed quantity. Quantity is an assigned value, a symbol denoting a numerically assigned point of magnitude or multitude.

Energy is observed as a transference, a change, Δ, in state, between objects.

“Matter” is an object that occupies space and possesses mass.

Space is the n-dimensional extent dictated by underlying structures within a boundless continuum in which objects and events possess a relative position and direction. Specifically: Space is context.

Mass is a quantitative measure of an object’s resistance to change, Δ. Specifically, the greater the mass: the greater the inertia; the greater the gravity, ergo the greater resistance to change.

II.

terminus a quo: the universe exists in perpetual flux. Specifically: the natural world exists as continual change. 

Flux is change.

Change is exponential. Specifically: change is signified by increasing returns. More precisely, change: progresses or regresses, increases or decreases, expands or contracts, develops or diminishes.

Where there is no change, there is equilibrium. Specifically, the absence of change is: homeostasis, preservation, status quo, routine, habit.

III.

terminus a quo: all life, all living organisms, exist under a single axiom: “Self-preservation”. Specifically: the preservation of body and/or mind.  More precisely: the preservation of the living organism’s body or mind; genetic or psychological information. “Self-preservation” is homeostasis.

“Self-preservation” is the product of evolution. Specifically: the ability of an individual organism to adapt to its natural world. More precisely: the capacity of an individual organism to adapt to the context in which it is presently situated.

Adaptation is evolution. Specifically: Adaptation is flourishing. Ergo, evolution is flourishing.

IV.

The ideal culture must embody two axiomatic principles: “Know thyself” and “I know that I know nothing”.

Combined together they form paradox. 

Paradox is conflict, contradiction. The presence of paradox produces the elemental state of the evolutionary life: synthesis.

Synthesis is creation. Specifically: understanding, resolution, harmony, union, learning.

V.

Regarding the first axiomatic principle: to “know thyself” requires apprehension of self. Specifically: acknowledging the extent or bounds of your individual subjective consciousness. The subjective consciousness is finite part.Thus, terminus a quo, “know thyself” is finite knowledge. It exists in parts and i through action, through experimentation, through testing of your self, your reactions.

Regarding the second axiomatic principle: “I know that I know nothing” requires apprehension of world. Specifically: the extent of the general objective world.  The objective world is infinite whole. Thus, terminus a quo, “I know that I know nothing” is ignorance.

Thus, the synthesis of the first two axiomatic principles is paradox. 

VI.

The process of mental evolution, termed “learning” or “education”, will embody a key tenant: “praxis“. More precisely: a posteriori inductive experience and a priori deductive reflection. Specifically: action and reflection, empiricism and theory, experimentation and hypothesis, divergence and convergence, doing and thinking.

Praxis embodies two features: “novel experience” and “meditative reflection”. More precisely: broad stimulating exposure and deep introspective thought. Specifically: gathering new sensation and establishing existing memory.

VII.

Synthesis is a process that individuates conscious experience, holistic phenomenal consciousness, individual subjective perspective.

The external world provides the parts. The internal world provides the whole. The process of synthesis occurs through reflection.

Synthesis is a product of the will to power.

VIII.

Will to power is a manifestation of the first axiom: “self-preservation”. Specifically: will to power is the manifested intention to “self-preserve”.

Will to power is the driving mechanism of the process of synthesis. Specifically: synthesis is a result, a consequence, a corollary, a conclusion

Will to power is produced through a conflict of intention: through struggle, through frustration, through challenges, through obstacles, through pain, through confusion.

IX.

Conflict is exists either externally or internally. Specifically: the phenomenon of conflict exists a posterior experience or a priori thought; body or mind.

Conflict of intention achieves synthesis through active inquiry, through inquisition, through curiosity, through wonder, through asking questions.

Critical inquiry or critical thinking is the process of recalling the two axiomatic principles as a means of identifying subjective theory, or latent mental assumptions, and criticizing or challenging new experience or information about the world.

X.

Recall: The more mass the more resistance to change.

Education and Genius: Boredom and Learning

If you are having a conversation with someone and you find yourself struck with boredom, chances are it is not a failure on your part, not a result of your mere laziness. I would bet that the failure rests with the person your speaking to, your interlocutor. I’m under the opinion that there no boring ideas. Just boring people.

After all, we’re sensual creatures. We thrive on stimulation. Nearly all of communication is nonverbal (Knapp). Sight and sound comprise 94% of our sensory inputs, 84% and 11% respectively. The American educator Marva Collins said that “The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another.” I couldn’t agree more. I believe that at the heart of this contagion is a resonating passion, an enthusiasm that generates a visceral reaction, a mutually shared connection with another person.

Regarding education, why do we find that the responsibility for learning and adequate understanding rests with the student? Assuming that students have a vested interest in gaining knowledge of the material, why would we dismiss them as merely lazy or unmotivated when they find it unbearably difficult to fight through boredom and apprehend a classroom lecture?

When a student enters a classroom prepared to learn new material, they begin without a context. Even when reading the text is a prerequisite to coming to class, there is still an absence of ultimate relevant context: why should a student be expected to understand the relevancy and relationships within the context being presented? They shouldn’t. But this is the prevailing attitude maintained by formal education.

The result of an attitude insisting that the better part of learning rests in the hands of the student rather than with the teacher is a system of education where disengaged teachers instruct and lecture to students who are discouraged to engage in critical, mutually beneficial dialog, but sit as semi-passive observers to be inculcated with remote, vague ideas devoid of a context that is immediately relevant to the schema they bring with them to the classroom.

What kind of thinking does this promote? I would bet that the direct manifest of this classroom emphasis produces analytic, auditory-sequential thinking. This type of thinking is rote, routine, automatic, and poor in relevant context necessary for robust comprehension. Outside of what meaning is directly issued by the dictated insistence of the educator, there is no meaning. As a result students know all the words to all the questions, but they fail to ever develop a comprehensive semantic web that poises all the questions, and therefore lack the capacity to critically inquire, to ask original questions, for themselves. The contrary of analytic, auditory-sequential thinking is nonsequential, visuo-spatial thinking characteristic of geometric visions of reality.

I recommend reading Two Ways of Knowing for a preliminary elaboration on the virtues of auditory-sequential learning (left brain hemisphere) versus visuo-spatial learning (right brain hemisphere). To briefly note, highly gifted individuals utilized visuo-spatial thinking, exhibiting greater brain activity in the right brain hemisphere. But allow me to continue this line of thought a little further down. (Also another interesting article on Temporary and Spatial Processing)

Wonder. This word encompasses the attitude of children— model geniuses in their own right. They are absorbed with curiosity, captured with wonder, and intensely interested in the prismatic, multifaceted world around them. Children learn at exponential rates, partly due to their physiological development, but even more importantly, due their excitement for discovering novel experiences and the process of knitting new understandings regarding how these experiences work.

But what happens to that childlike wonder? Where does it go in age? In the past psychologists speculated that the brain is programmed for critical periods of development that allows for exceedingly fast neural growth in childhood that eventually tapers off with age. They posited that brain plasticity and cognitive fluidity wanes as knowledge becomes more crystallized with age. Due to recent research dispelling notions that brain plasticity declines and ceases with the onset of adulthood, and due to my own experience with learning, I do not embrace this paradigm.

Instead I would like to introduce a paradigm that explains how sparkling wonder for the world fades as individuals become more enculturated, as their questions about the world are met with more of the same answers, the same flat predictable responses. The corollary? They grow more desensitized, their brain is starved of stimulation, and their minds slowly harden and calcify into a crystallized understanding of the same old  phenomenon they find themselves routinely bombarded with.

In effect, the loss of childlike wonder, the lack of curiosity for the world and all its treasured enthusiasms for understanding, is a result of mental oppression. Sounds harsh, right? While this may sound like an overt plot by big brother, I assure you it is not. Rather it is the natural progression of culture.

Allow me to digress momentarily and introduce my thoughts on the sociological philosophies of Bourdieu and Althusser.

Bourdieu discusses the phenomenal progression of enculturation that begins before we are born, beginning with a room and crib and name and clothes assigned to us by our parents. As we emerge from the womb and into this world with an open mind, tabula rasa, we adopt the world that has been carved out for us. Aside from the aforementioned articles, our parents may even have an idea of what kind of person we’ll be, what personality and character they believe we should possess, what religion we’ll practice, and maybe even what job they envision us to have one day, perhaps as a doctor, or lawyer, or entrepreneur.  As we grow older, we learn the various cultural conventions that should govern our behavior appropriately within the context of our given family practices, within school, within church, or within the public domain, such as how to think, how to speak, how to act. We are corrected whenever we venture outside the realms of customary convention, such as when we use foul language in certain public settings, and are reprimanded and corrected, otherwise censured.

This external censure slowly becomes adopted and internalized by individuals until they no longer need external ques for regulating inappropriate and appropriate behavior. In a sense, we learn to censure ourselves. We learn the act (or art) of self- censorship. The proper behaviors we adopt are cultural capital endemic to the social or cultural context in which we find ourselves most exposed to and influenced by.

Bourdieu describes this as the habitus, or the set of socially learned dispositions, skills and ways of acting that operate unconsciously without our awareness. When we do become aware of this habitus, it is often when we find ourselves in a foreign or unknown context that allows us to recognize the incongruencies in behavior, say when a well groomed wealthy elite finds herself at a barbecue in the deep south.

I apologize for the digression but the point I’m making is all important, so allow me to state it plainly: the education system of today fosters a habitus that discourages self-guided open-ended critical inquiry in favor of directed, closed, routine memorization. I am speaking in absolute abstracts, of course, but if you take time to draw parallels to your experiences with formal education I am sure your true conclusions will be the same as mine. The reason why this is the case falls with the aim of education: to produce a work force proficient at undertaking assigned orders, finding answers to given questions, and completing a set of tasks dolled out by superiors. If you look at the hierarchical structure of the classroom as a training ground for the hierarchical structure of the workplace, this doesn’t seem like such a preposterous explanation of education’s existing state.

The individuals proposing and influencing education policies, the wealthy elite, can only think in terms of their own self-guided interests. What benefit would it serve them to have a free thinking, critically minded, independently motivated work force? While I would argue that it would do our nation a great service in terms of creation, innovation, and invention, from an executive’s perspective I can’t see how that’s the most desirable employee. On the contrary, they want workers who work quietly and do the exact job they are given. More precisely: to passively accept what they are told and perform accordingly to expectations.

But in my opinion that’s an outdated paradigm organizational and labor systems. Societies are organisms, like cells or animals, where every part of the whole is as important and valuable as the next for operating at maximum efficiency and effectiveness. To deny the capacity to openly challenge and critically think about work processes is a form of self-sabotage. Fortunately there are organizations such as Google and 3M that employ the practice of critical and creative thought in their workplace.

But again, I digress. And allow me to clarify a point: I am not diminishing the role of intelligence in formal education and the work place either. In fact, it is the only facet or trait of an individual of any worth in contemporary education. What is intelligence? Does it differ from problem solving? Let’s explore these questions.

In the mainstream sense, intelligence is the ability to arrive at correct answers. Sounds good enough. In Greek, intelligence translates as intelligere which means to “select among” from inter meaning “among” and legere meaning “to gather”. More precisely, intelligence is a convergent style of reasoning that utilized deduction to arrive at conclusions. It is analytic and sequential. Does it differ from problem solving? Not if the problem is defined among a given set of premises or facts.

But what if a problem exists as open, without any apparent premises or facts with which to reason from? What if the questions are not given? This is where the utility of intelligence breaks down and an indication that some other important element necessary for problem solving begins gaining apparency.

Allow me to cite Leonardo de Vinci’s response when asked of the secret of his creative genius: saper vedere. In Latin this translates as “to know how to see.” From this brief phrase we can draw some tentative conclusions about what he might have meant, namely that creative genius, or rather problem solving, is the ability to formulate a novel perspective, an original point of view, that rearranges and reprioritizes the saliency and valuations of phenomenon, of facts, within the context of a given problem. This is where visuo-spatial thinking is paramount.

It would seem that the ability to gain the proper perspective necessary for solving open-ended problems rests with the ability to think divergently through a visuo-spatial context of thought. That is, to diversify and differentiate different modes of thought, perhaps through analogy or metaphor, in order to gain an alternative and, ideally, an original point of view.

So I must ask: What type of thinking does our contemporary formal education system encourage? One that deviates from the “norm”? One that tests various processes of reasoning through problems? One that explores alternative solutions to a given problem? Or how about the most striking question of all: Does contemporary education encourage independent thought or novel perspective in the classroom?

If I were to generalize all my experiences in education, and even defer to the data regarding increases in standardized testing, my answer to all these questions would be a resounding no.  Is more standardization, more conformity and uniform perspective the answer? No and no again.

What we need are better teachers who are more adequately equipped to facilitate open discussion and lead critical thinking. In addition, we could do away with rigid, inflexible curriculum’s and standardized tests, as well as the stifling behavioral expectations of structured class settings. We also need to toss out this notion that intelligence— the ability to utilize deductive reasoning to converge at correct answers from a set of given premises— is not the only measure of value, and that other critical thinking skills— such as those that produce an ability to transcend bias, create new perspective, and generate novel questions and original solutions— are being totally overlooked and underutilized.

Truth Hear

In customary social interaction, I tell people what they want to hear: the truth. And for that reason truth is the most insidious instrument ever to have been invented.

When I want to move people into feeling, I talk in terms of their truth, what they perceive to be real, however far from reality and actuality that may be. Does this cause injury or harm? Do we like being shaken from our dreams?

That is why I let people sleep. Very few people want to be woken from their slumber.

Truth anesthetizes the senses the same way repetitive knocking becomes silent background noise: first it is salient, then it is comforting, finally it disappears.

Repetition lulls man to sleep. It dulls his senses by incessantly chipping away at his resistance until he is made more facile and docile, more tolerant to the beating drum, the inculcation.

Very rarely do I talk in terms of actuality. Far too many people shiver at the prospect of losing ground in their truth. Very rarely do I have the courage to disrupt their cool delusions. Am I wrong? Does this antagonize their delusional trance?

Though exceedingly rare, it is only when someone opens a conversation with hope and self-criticism simultaneously do I test the waters of actuality with my toe, making sure to create the most gentle ripple across their placid consciousness so that I may observe how they react to these waves. If there is no hope, such a ripple will likely cause them to thrash and drown. Where there is hope they will tread water, perhaps reluctantly; and where criticism can churn waters and whip waves high above their head, they will rise with the wake and achieve greater perspective.

What is unfortunate, however, is that most have no hope. No hope in their ability to think critically, to tread in tumultuous waters, and gain perspective. As a result they shirk from novelty, they preserve misaligned bias, and they maintain a certain xenophobia to all things foreign.

While I strongly resist any notion that man is inherently limited by nature, rather than strictly limited  by self, I can only conclude that most prefer the tranquility of sleep, the plush luxury of feeling comfortable in their current state, and that the herd, though bewildered and duplicitous, offers the only mentality capable of capturing this feeling of familiar.

 

Ressentiment

Ressentiment refers to the “sentiment of resent” towards one’s frustrations, be they resulting from natural or socia phenomenon. This resent causes man to transcend himself, to delve deeper into his reflective consciousness, and create a new valuation, a new system of morality, that allows him to perceive and therefore interact with the world in a more advantageous way, a way that is reflective of and suited for his intentions, his interests.

Ressentiment is a good thing. It indicates struggle. Struggle provides the fertile ground necessary for all flourishing, for all growth. Without struggle, without challenge, there is no development, no adaptation, no transcendence of mind and circumstance.

Resentment indicates conflict. Its byproduct is struggle and frustration. Paramount to realizing the value of ressentiment is the inability of escape, whether this is a physical or social or psychological consequence. If one escapes the conflict, there is no struggle, and therefore no opportunity to create and transcend and ultimately actualize private intentions and valuations. Oppression, notably slavery, is the typifying situation that breeds ressentiment. In every culture is it revolution that describes the overthrowing of impeding structures, paradigms, values, and modes of thought. Slavery to a single man or a single system makes no difference, whether it is a political dictator or a prevailing system of scientific process.

Philosophy is a product of this conflict. It epitomizes struggle through its process of resolution through inquiry, meditation, dialogue, and dialectical method. Its very nature seeks to reconcile paradoxical and contradictory themes, ideas, values,  and modes. Kant describes philosophy as Kampf, or struggle.

Ressentiment is a deep, invidious, ruminating state of being that possesses an individual’s mind. It results as the conscious mind, exhausted and taxed with futile attempts to overcome the obstacle of intention, retreats inwardly to seek self-generated solutions, to create alternative worlds of ulterior values. It calls upon the wisdom of the divine, the daemon or genius, to synthesize a deviant psychology for overcoming the conflict. It is a purely creative act, a purely spiritual enterprise that taps into the mental faculties embodying the holistic condition of man as a spatial and temporal creature, a product of historical conditions situated in a present context.

They say, familiarity breeds contempt. I would posit, more aptly, that familiarity breeds ressentiment. Familiarity is none other than an indicator of security, the status quo. The phenomenon of familiarity is an index of malignant stagnation, a threat to life, to change, to evolution and adaptation.

The will to power, as Nietzsche believed, was the mechanism of overcoming this ressentiment and, when exercised freely, a healthy manifestation of man’s ability to adapt, overcome, and dominate impeding obstacles, challenges, and forces that trap, stifle, and oppress man’s natural physical and mental propensities to flourish.

How do we leverage the power of ressentiment towards human flourishing? Push back on the world. Harbor a bitterness that rejects that familiar, a resentment for anything static and unchanging and unevolving. Take disparate domains of thought and force them together, insist that they occupy the same place, the same context, however foreign the landscapes of their genesis may appear. Never mind the revolting perversity this produces in you. Embrace the tendency to reject the revulsion as a healthy indicator, a mark in the nascent production of wisdom, of progressing latent understanding and perspective into actuality. What is revolting is good. Use the visceral revulsion, the revolt, to produce a revolution within you: a revolution that transcends present being.

Ressentiment: Frustration and Flourishing

Ressentiment refers to the “sentiment of resent” towards one’s frustrations, whether they resulting from natural or social phenomenon. This resent causes man to transcend himself, to delve deeper into his reflective consciousness, and create new valuations, a new system of morality that allows him to perceive and therefore interact with the world in a more advantageous way, a way that is reflective of and suited for his intentions, his interests.

Ressentiment is a good thing. It indicates struggle. Struggle provides the fertile ground necessary for all flourishing, for all growth. Without struggle, without challenge, there is no development, no adaptation, no transcendence of mind and circumstance.

Resentment is a manifestation of conflict. Its byproduct is struggle and frustration. Paramount to realizing the value of ressentiment is the inability to escape, whether this is a physical or social or psychological consequence. If one escapes the conflict, there is no struggle, and therefore no opportunity to create and transcend and ultimately actualize private intentions and valuations. Oppression, notably slavery, is the typifying situation that breeds ressentiment. In every culture is it revolution that describes the overthrowing of impeding structures, paradigms, values, and modes of thought. Slavery to a single man or a single system makes no difference, whether it is a political dictator or a prevailing system of scientific process.

Philosophy is a product of this conflict. It epitomizes struggle through its process of resolution through inquiry, meditation, dialogue, and dialectical method. Its very nature seeks to reconcile paradoxical and contradictory themes, ideas, values,  and modes. Kant describes philosophy as Kampf, or struggle.

Ressentiment is a deep, invidious, ruminating state of being that possesses an individual’s mind. It manifests as the conscious mind, exhausted and taxed with futile attempts to overcome an obstacle interfering with its intention, retreats inwardly to seek self-generated solutions, to create alternative worlds of ulterior values. It calls upon the wisdom of the divine, the daemon or genius, to synthesize a deviant psychology for overcoming the conflict. It is a purely creative act, a purely spiritual enterprise that taps into the mental faculties embodying the holistic condition of man as a spatial and temporal creature, a product of historical conditions situated in a present context.

They say, familiarity breeds contempt. I would posit, more aptly, that familiarity breeds ressentiment. Familiarity is none other than an indicator of security, the status quo. The phenomenon of familiarity is an index of malignant stagnation, a threat to life, to change, to evolution and adaptation.

The will to power, as Nietzsche believed, was the mechanism of overcoming this ressentiment and, when exercised freely, a healthy manifestation of man’s ability to adapt, overcome, and dominate impeding obstacles, challenges, and forces that trap, stifle, and oppress man’s natural physical and mental propensities to flourish.

How do we leverage the power of ressentiment towards human flourishing? Push back on the world. Harbor a bitterness that rejects that familiar, a resentment for anything static and unchanging and unevolving. Take disparate domains of thought and force them together, insist that they occupy the same place, the same context, however foreign the landscapes of their genesis may appear. Never mind the revolting perversity this produces in you. Embrace the tendency to reject the revulsion as a healthy indicator, a mark in the nascent production of wisdom, of progressing latent understanding and perspective into actuality. What is revolting is good. Use the visceral revulsion, the revolt, to produce a revolution within you: a revolution that transcends present being.

Thoughts: Novelty, Education, Society, Theory

I could write for days on end with all that’s been on my mind. But I guess I’ll just dump some random thoughts circulating about at the moment. I apologize if my line of thought appears a bit erratic and nonlinear.

Recent research regarding the genetic basis for novelty seeking behaviors in honey bees parallels that of humans. ADHD is characterized as a novelty seeking behavior, one that thrives off of new stimulation, hence the title Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. These genes are hardwired to the benefit of the group to seek new enterprises, to explore and discover new directions for growth.

Society is a historical phenomenon, a developmental product of inherited traditions to preserve functional behavioral aspects for survival. Pure theory disregards the empirical element to any social science. The biggest culprit in perpetuating opaque theories in the social sciences is Economics.

I will state that pure theory of any kind breeds a certain phenomenon of necessity by reducing evolving organic elements into statical-atomistic parts, consequently quelling any perspective that accommodates for change. Theory requires assigned values in order to quantify and logically justify its conclusions. Indoctrination is the method that achieves this end.

So long as economics is a practical exercise whose applications deal with and affect the organism of society, it should have no business perpetuating pure theory over historical-empirical observations, which is science. Psuedo-science is pure theory. Recall the utility of metaphysical speculations rooted in pure machinations melded from minds rooted in supernatural causation, totally detached from the socio-material world. Perspective, or rather the amalgam of perspective, is paramount to achieving accurate explanations. Think on the process of peer review.

Necessity breeds slavery, i.e. denies man. The phonomenon of Necessity is a testament, not to its excellence, but its power [sic Ellul]. Necessity is convergent. Possibility is divergent, as is potentiality. Equilibrium is convergent. Evolution is divergent. Preservation is convergent. Adaptation is divergent.

A college degree, and contemporary formal education, is tantamount to receiving confirmation through the Christian church. I reject the value of indoctrination in both.

Have we witnessed a surge towards the value of divergent thinking or convergent? Does our education system reflect valuations of standardization or differentiation? Has standardized testing, formality, rigid class structure increased or decreased? What is our fate?

You cannot stand within and move without: escape bias by escaping context. Transcend perspective by losing it.

That I know myself to be a common man makes me uncommon. Recall the maxim of Thales: “Know thyself.” Recall the wisest tenant of Socrates: “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing, for when I don’t know what justice is, I’ll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy.”

Many know the words, few know the meaning. For that we can praise propaganda’s subversive process of inculcation perpetuated by the forceful effect of formal education: memorization, recitation, regurgitation, repeat. Where is Comprehension? Where is dialog? Propaganda ceases where dialog begins.

Economics is a social science. Society is a historical phenomenon. History is an empirical development. Why are we perpetuating pure theory over empirical practice? Let us cultivate the value of individual consciousness, each man’s theory of mind, and marry it with the prevailing practices to yield a praxis of reflection and action that prizes the individual’s contribution to the well being of the social context in which he is situated. To deny the value of a single perspective is to sabotage evolution’s law of accounting for every variable to render a more perfect adaptability.

Where you look determines what you see. Look farther, look wider, look deeper.

“Men must talk about themselves until they know themselves.” Journal reflections. Engage in dialogue. Objectify the subjective; discover its fruits and failings. Dialogue, so long as it is an honest portrayal of your current convictions, destroys propaganda, dispels ignorance, and produces a finer eye with which to feed the mind.

Recent science has reaffirmed the powers of LSD as a means of disrupting habits of thought. This bodes well for the prospect of freeing the mind of man, i.e. addiction, but poorly for a politik aiming to strengthen its control through conformity.

Mental diseases, as diagnosed by contemporary medical criteria, and most notably depression, bipolar, and anxiety, have been associated with great genius and leadership in every domain of society. Contrary to popular belief, recent science has discovered that depression is due to a hyper activity in the brain that leads to potential paralyzation of thought, hence the symptoms of rumination, chronic worry, listlessness and the like.

ADHD is also characterized by hyperactive brain activity. Individuals with ADHD are in upwards of 2.7 times more likely to simultaneously have depression (Other notable correlations include bipolar disorder, anxiety, and oppositional defiance disorder. See herehere, here, here, here, and here)

Individuals with mild depression, as opposed to those with major depression, are more skeptical and therefore rational than those without the diagnoses. (Listen to this presentation on Optimism Bias)

I posit that the same reason people retain a optimism bias, despite being confronted with contradictory facts, is the same reason people exist in a state of denial. (See here)

“[Michael Shermer’s] latest book, ‘The Believing Brain’, is a fascinating synthesis of 30 years of research on the subject. Shermer’s conclusion, about our belief-forming machinery, is disturbing. Most beliefs are not formed by carefully evaluating the evidence in favor or against a particular claim. Instead, they are snap decisions made for psychological, emotional and social reasons in the context of an environment created by family, friends, colleagues, culture and society at large. Only after the belief is formed, do people try to rationalize it and subconsciously seek out confirmatory evidence which, upon finding, reinforces the belief in a positive feedback loop.”

I can appreciate the evolutionary utility of bias as a means of maintaining inherited beliefs and preserving the status quo, but one needs to dwell on the implications of how this bias can be exploited, specifically by propaganda.

That leads me to another issue that I’ve been giving plenty of thought: the social construction of reality. What got me started thinking on this topic was my development economics course (which I despise due to the highfalutin exaggerations regarding its ability to actually explain economic development). The only piece of information I found valuable at all was the only piece of information it absolvedly claimed to be the single dictator for a society’s developmental economic success: institutions. This struck me as acutely profound, and odd since it was a mere footnote amongst an oceanic backdrop of theoretical constructions and descriptive statistics.

Since then I began to explore the weight of this idea that institutions are the sole determinate of economic development and success. I began asking myself ‘What are these institutions?’, ‘Why are they so important for economic development?’, ‘What makes one institution better than another?’, ‘How are these institutions created and sustained?’, and many others.

Because of this prick to my curiosity, and because of a massive paper I’m developing for a Macroeconomic policy class, I picked up my old History of Economic Thought book and reread about fifty percent of it, trying to uncover a scintilla of insight into what the history of economic thought may have said about this idea of institutions, and I was more than rewarded for these efforts. In addition to accruing a renewed interest in classical economists such as Smith, Malthus and Ricardo, my eyes were once again opened to the oft-misinterpreted and misaligned message of Marx, and futhermore I discovered just the veins of thought that satisfied by curiosities most exactly: Historical Economics and Institutional Economics. Wow.

Due to my interest in evolutionary economics and political economy I previously read books by Galbraith, Schumpeter, Marshall, Boulding and others but I was totally ignorant to the extent at which these involved socio-economics, specifically institutional economics. Moreover, meta-connections between economics, politics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, and evolution were made abundantly clear.

My philosophically minded interest in gaining traction in these seemingly disparately domains to gain a broader, fuller, and more comprehensive understanding of the world in which I am situated lead me to my original fascination with power, which I gratuitously thank Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Thucydides for instilling within me. Specifically, power as the mechanism for all change: be it in the reality of the natural world or in the phenomenon of the conscious mind. The impetus of power occupies the seat governing change in every domain, from physics and math, to politics and business, and all the cultural manifestations in between, from science to religion. The force and intensity of power can be traced to both intentional and accidental confluences.

At the time I had this revelation in the power of institutions, I just so happened to be reading Veblen Thorstein’s The Theory of the Leisure Class. I picked up his book due to my growing fascination with domestic and current account imbalances (debt) and the wealth disparities they create. Thorstein Veblen just so happened to be not only an economist and sociologists, but one of the original proponents of institutional economics.

Other factors that influenced this fascination was my study of Greek civilization. Being a professed model for American Democracy, I felt compelled to investigate the various factors involved in the production of Greek culture. Greek religion appeared as a marvelous area of study due to my corrected ignorance of its role in shaping the nomos or conventions governing social affairs, rather than solely providing a metaphysical comfort like modern Christianity seeks to accomplish.

In addition, I coincidentally read Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion for a humanities class in Crisis and Creativity. This sealed the connection between the role of institutions in shaping mass culture and individual psychology.

From here I began studying sociology more intensely.

I’m nearly finished reading Berger and Luckmann’s seminal work, The Social Construction of Reality, on the formation of social knowledge, which they declare dictates our conception of reality more generally. It’s a fascinating read that I recommend everyone pick up. I don’t have time to elaborate on my revelations, insights and comments at the moment. Another time.

Berger’s reading elevated by insight into the mechanisms that create the social consciousness and the social knowledge that accompanies it. As a result of that reading I also began looking into the various apparatuses within society that perpetuate social knowledge. I purchased the book Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes by Ellul and this has further reinforced by understanding of the mechanisms driving social behavior.

An interesting, but not surprising, study reveals that “Large numbers of authors of DSM psychiatry ‘bible’ have ties to the drugs industry.” (See here) This reaffirms my conviction that psychiatry is a purely cultural phenomenon. And culture, as I have mentioned, is a product proportional to the authority and power bestowed by institutions within society. While the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is a large institution with vested authority, it is dwarfed in power by the profit motives of the Pharmaceutical industry.

And what dictates the extent of profit motives for big pharma? My thoughts turn immediately to the legal and political realm governed by lawmakers in congress as well as the upholders of that law in the judicial branch and the enforcers in the executive branch.

What motivates these political individuals? The preservation of their power or, at the very least and being most charitable, the preservation of the power of their ideas about the way things ought to be, specifically their values, which are at base purely subjective constructs that reflect a means of preserving their ego.

I could go on but I have other work to due.

Last thoughts. I’m looking forward to reading Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War as well as Althusser’s Philosophy, Lenin, and other essays. I need to finish reading Das Capital by Marx, something I began reading with great enthusiasm a month or two ago but got distracted with all these new insights.

Other author’s also on my reading list are Max Weber, Kahneman and Tversky, Mitchell Waldrop, Alfred Schutz, Karl Mannheim, Alfred Weber, Max Scheler, Colin Camerer, and Tacitus.

I’ll dump more thoughts later.

Raten: Intellectual Fodder

So every once in a while I buy more books for my library and indulge in a fervent reading craze. Over the past few years the desire to improve my intellect has grown, causing me to read and consume books that most would consider odd, or at least deem a strange way to spend my free time. My first serious purchase was Whitehead and Russell’s Principia Mathematica, considered the greatest treatise on mathematical logic– and some say philosophy– in history. This is not to be confused with Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica which is widely regarded as the most important work in the history of science. At any rate, logic has been a passionate past-time of mine and I continue to study it when I can.

More recently I’ve developed a growing interest in physics which has consequently nurtured a fascination for geometry which, after all, serves as its foundation. As a result of this interest I purchased two of the seminal works in the discipline, specifically Euclid’s Elements and Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. According to historians, Euclid’s Elements is one of the most widely published books in all of history with over 2000 editions, second to only the Bible. It was so well know that references to I.47 were automatically attributed as the 47th proposition of the first book of Euclid’s Elements, much in the same way we assume that 1 Kings 2:11 refers to the Bible.

At any rate, here is a list of my new reading material:

  • Euclid’s Elements Translated by Sir Thomas Little Heath
  • Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Newton
  • The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. I: The New Millennium Edition: Mainly Mechanics, Radiation, and Heat by Richard Feynman, Robert B. Leighton, and Matthew Sands
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman
  • Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Path by Richard Feynman
  • Relativity: The Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein
  • What is Life?: with “Mind and Matter” and “Autobiographical Sketches” by Erwin Schrodinger
  • One Two Three…Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science  by George Gomow
  • Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
  • Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics by William Dunham
  • Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms by D. Borror
  • The Evolution of Physics by Albert Einstein & Leopold Infeld
  • Process and Reality by Alfred North Whitehead
  • An Essay on the Principle of Population by T.R. Malthus

All of these should make for amazing reads. I hope to study Euclid’s Elements in depth for many, many months before getting into Newton’s Principia. Eventually I’ll make my way to Feynman’s famed lectures on Physics. In the meantime I’ll need to devote serious time studying these works in depth, working them out on paper, and reflecting about them in my journals before I gain any appreciable proficiency with which to call myself a master of the subject.

But you may ask, why on earth should I ever take up such a task? Why read such obscure books on such abstruse domains of knowledge?

To that I have two responses. The first is that I am not so concerned with acquiring the knowledge of these books as much as I am concerned with learning the process of acquiring. I recognize that mastery of these subjects offers little direct relevancy to my life at the moment, but I’m preoccupied with the ancillary benefits of undertaking such difficult pursuits. To read and understand these subjects requires the utmost of mental discipline, the highest exercise of intellect that very few people throughout history have attempted to undertake, save only the greatest. But those who did endure the crucible of this study were prepared to become the greatest, most powerful and influential minds this world has seen.

Regarding the study of Euclid’s geometry, aside from his obvious influence on scientists such as Newton and Leibniz or philosophers such as Spinoza and Cicero, the Elements influenced even mighty political figures like Napoleon Bonaparte and Abraham Lincoln. It was said by Lincoln’s biographer, Carl Sandberg, that as a young lawyer Lincoln bought the Elements and carried the twenty-three hundred year old book in his carpet bag as he went out on the circuit. At night he would study Euclid by candlelight long after others dropped off to sleep. Many have noted that while Lincoln’s prose was influenced and enriched by the study of Shakespeare, his cogent and sound political arguments derived their character from the logical development of Euclid’s proposition.

Studying this material is good and well if you are interested in physics and engineering and anything requiring an entrenched understanding of analytic reasoning, that much is true. But I must believe, as many others did before me, that there is no greater exercise in intellect than to study the most logical of disciplines no matter what your domain of specialty. Even the earliest thinkers acknowledged the role of this training as a requisite for critical thinking. According to legend, etched across the archway to Plato’s renowned Academy read the words “Let no man ignorant of geometry enter here”. Powerful.  There is a balance to be achieved as well, but I confess that for all my knowledge and experience I am lacking most proportionally in this type of training. And this is despite the years of educational training in mathematics and the rigorous application I encounter throughout my studies in economics and finance.

The additional advantage of studying this type of material is precisely the content, but not simply the content. I believe that metaphor is probably one of the greatest vehicles of semantics, of meaning. Metaphors allow us to transpose relations from disparate domains and uncover otherwise hidden relationships among a webs of facts. Despite their lack of linguistic flexibility and variegation, I believe that this holds true even for the rational disciplines such as mathematics, geometry and physics.

In sum, I’m excited to make these books apart of my past time studies the next few years.

Problems Don’t Exist.

Passion is powerful. You can’t be all thought, all machine, calculated and cool. You need warmth, fire, some fuel to spread your light. But I despise drama. Drama is unnecessary theatrics.  It is passion with problems. Problematized passion. It takes good genuine energy and creates problems rather than solutions. People who attract drama feel insignificant without it. They lack an ability to exist in tranquility. It’s almost as if they think that drama gives their life character, somehow makes them strong or resilient for persisting through these problems, problems they create within abstract of their mind. They take a perfectly good life, and instead of applying their passion, their life force and energy to synthesizing new solutions, they problematize a good thing. Of course they talk like they don’t like the drama, like it weighs on them, like a millstone they carry with them. They are constantly talking about the day when they don’t have so many problems. They are the first ones to talk about discarding this laboring load and equally quick to point out how  badly they want to set it down and dispel the drama, but they continue talking, thinking, seething about their problems, adding potency to their diluted delusion.

Problems do not exist. There. I said it. Problems are only problems when you identify them as problems. Before they are identified, we accept circumstance and situation, absolving that that’s just the way things are, for better or worse. Perhaps it is a skill to be able to identify problems, to label things are deficient, broken, and I bet it takes a critically inquiring eye to do this. But where do you draw the line?

Problems are not problems. Drama is not drama. These are facets of life. Contrary to the clamoring chorus of capitalist commercialism, our life does not need to be problematic and dramatic to be glorious and grand. They profiteer off such knave  propensities for ease, for life without suffering. They drain you of your liquid wealth and welling life as you train to maintain and gain a greater sense of self, a sense of self complete with all the accessories they sell your squeaking soul. But your soul needs no oil. Let the soul, that broken squealing soul, scream, let it scream and burst forth in melody, let it create harmony with other squeaky souls. Do not oil. Warm yourself with its friction, these triturations of life. Soon your stridulating soul will begin to warble and transform into a beautiful hum, a harmonious vibration that echoes across cold chambers where copious copies of silent, gunky souls reside, soiled and slow from the years of feeble fabricated fixes. There is nothing wrong with your soul. You are perfect as a diamond is flawed, stronger than all the universal forces and extraterrestrial elements, pressed and latticed in structural perfectitude, lined with innumerable inclusions and trace elements that straddle its knitted bonds, strontium and nitrogen, rubidium and barium, adding to the refracting flash that douses the senses when you allow transparency and light to work their way within you and shine forth.

Problems do not exist. They are in your mind. If there were no mind to observe, no eye to see, there would be no problems to probe. Overcoming yourself is a task which has no end. The road up a mountain is the same road down it. Do not confuse your life’s task, your journey. Do not tire yourself with the trifling pursuits of climbing the insurmountable where barren cliffs and cleft rifts and ice tips are all that waits you. Go instead down the road, where momentum is your friend, and follow the valley where the streams merge with rivers and  gather into looming pools and luscious lakes and lead to opulent oceans that provide cooling relief under the dense shade of living vegetation. Go where there is life.

Problems do not exist. Life begins in consciousness. Life is not simply physical minutia, else the moons and marbling spheres and stars and solar systems be living. Life is not simply movement. It is purely imagination. No mind exists apart from the life giving force of their imagination. Our eyes cannot capture meaning. That is reserved for our minds. Do not forfeit your mind and believe your eyes. Do not let your ears consume the drunken speech of other grey minds, their crannies and crevasses all canvassed in web, caught in a tangle of dense delusion, of smog that blocks the breathing flue, changing flowing channels into choking chimneys, and strangulating the stronghold of being.

Problems do not exist. They are created, by us, to achieve ends, fabricated ends, short sighted ends, poor hallow ends. Until we believe that our means are greater than our ends, we will fail to dream, fail to see opportunity where there is challenge. Our lives will encapsulate a silent storm of tears, sleeting, frozen over from lack of warmth, from lack of friction with the world, lack of authentic abrasion that causes aural ambage.

Problems do not exist. People sell you problems, don’t sell yourself problems. Don’t add insult to injury and do the job that capitalism, commercial advertising, has perfected. Problems. Everyone wants you to believe that there is a problem free life– that can be achieved by means they can provide if you forfeit a small payment in price, a small piece of your time, a fraction of your wage. We will provide you the happiness, the comfort, the pleasure, the distress-free existence if you pay for it. But this is a lie. There are no problems. And the people who buy into the problems die poor, poor in pocket and poor in spirit. They failed to save, failed to build, collect and create. They diluted themselves with the quick fixes, the shabby solutions that clutter their consciousness, until they are wrapped in flax linnens and preserved in a perfect state of lifelessness.

Problems do not exist. What exists is desire for power, power over circumstance, power over passion, power over thoughts. These people die a slave. They never learned to revolt, never embraced the chaos, the flowing flux that embodies a living life, and rebel as a self-sustaining individual, perfectly punctual in the moment. Defining and confining, constraining and restraining.

Problems do not exist. Mind exists. When our mind identifies a problem with some thing, it is not the thing that changes, but our mind, our relation to that thing. Our mind is eternal, but our attention is finite. We cannot allow ourselves to be preoccupied with any thought or feeling that does not deliver grandeur to house of being, or fails to cleanse our doors of perception. We have one life, one spectacle, a single show, a solemn act to perform. We must choose the words that echo into the ears of eternity with heart, with care. We cannot think our way out of a state of being, a dramatic scene of tragedy, we can act our way out, only feel ourselves into another line, continue playing a developing role to an ambivalent audience.

There are no problems. There is fate. There are ends. There are expectations: faulty suspensions, wry calculations, aslant anticipations. Properly viewed, problems are merely  stepping stones that carry you through life.

 

Anyway.

I believe that love for a subject, passionate unrequited love, is the only way to let yourself gain any appreciable acquaintance, since love is selfless devotion. But I’m not sure we can love people before we love ourselves. We love the me we see in thee.

 

The Great Dichotomy: Passionate Power

Random musings.

Money to get power, and power to guard the money.”
~Medici family motto

Dichotomies are interesting. Many are none other than existential paradoxes: mind and body, thought and matter, possibility and necessity, spiritual and physical,  and the list goes on. Kierkegaard, as well as Nietzsche and other agents of enlightenment, was a literary guru when it came to expounding upon how to live with these irreconcilable realities. Over the years I’ve learned to cope with the resulting blindness of these realities, the otiose character of life and the recondite disunion of body and soul. I’ve compromised with myself and learned to live with one eye pointed inward and the other pointed outward so as to balance introspection and aspiration.

In recent years I’ve faced a dilemma of deciding what to do with my life and career. It’s not like I didn’t see this crisis coming, but I guess I didn’t realize how many times I would be wrestling with my conclusions and convictions. Despite the temporary setbacks and failures mottling my youth, I’ve orchestrated my education beautifully over the years, exploiting a multitude of disciplines of thought and growing ever cognizant of how achievement is actualized. I’ve gone to great pains to realize the context of my condition and the contingencies of my aspirations.

Out of my experience grew two concentrations of study, economics and philosophy, each representing the broader dichotomies encompassing life. One satisfies my intuitions about what I perceive other people to value, the other regards what I value in my heart. I’ve tried to reconcile these over the years and explain why this dichotomy exists, whether a balance can be achieved, or what direction I should favor. For a long time I decided to refuse to sell out. But this clashed with the omnious system that I would face upon entering the workforce: success seemed tantamount to abiding to the myriad of expectations laid out by others.  As I have no trust fund to lean on for support, no assets to buy my way into fortune (compounding investment: you must have money if you wish to accumulate more money), I faced the reality that no upper echelon would endorse my musings, my art, my thoughts, unless I belonged to them, to their network or, by chance, satisfied their criterion of worth.

The citizen of the world in me refused to conform to the ‘system’, to the authority that dictates standardized achievement and propagates worldly values. The autonomy within me bucked as I studied philosophy and developed the tools and methods for critical inquiry, tools I used to ridicule the backward nature I learned to see in the world. The pragmatic element of my spirit recognized the utility of conformity and uptook various preoccupations that would fashion my mind according to them, such as the study of economics and finance.

But I ask myself: what does it take to be successful? I always like referring to the context in question. I’m American. I live in a ‘democratic’ country where the few rule the many. The few in this case are not the parasitic politicians (although in many cases, when it’s convenient, they are one in the same). The politicians are figureheads, merely the arm or scepter of power, not the head of governance. The true source of governance and power resides in the wealthy, the capitalists, the business owners, the stock holders. These are the greats that arbitrate the economic and political atmosphere. They embody the will to power. They pass the laws, set the wages, orchestrate the commerce, conduct the symphonious marketplace we’re lead to believe is free and open. The current sentiment is that if governance is left to the people, we’ll be in a real mess. The populous is simply a bewildered herd, uneducated and incapable of self-rule. (The Wagner Act of 1935 was the last real effort of the masses to mobilize. Since then these efforts have been squashed. Unions are ‘evil’ and communist.) This is why we live in a ‘democratic republic’ where we elect a small group of ‘leaders’ to instruct the masses on which policies they should live by.

To be successful you must be a sycophant. More specifically, you must possess utility for those in power. If you cannot help these people achieve more power, you are worthless and will amount to nothing more than a cog, expendable and interchangeable. But the wealthy will not extend a job or opportunity to just anyone with ample capacity and a strong will. No. They must be familiar with you. You must possess some wealth, influence, charisma, intelligence, talent or power that they can leverage for their own gain. Posterity is as empty as truth. Rationality is an instrument of the powerful: they dictate the rules of the game, the vernacular, the premises and logical structure of your success.

“All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” (Nietzsche)

Rationality is a function of motives, of intention. Pin-point desires and motivations and you can construct a cathedral of reason to leverage against those in power to mutually achieve independently contrived ends.

The questions that have wracked my mind most over the years: Do I follow my heart or my mind? Do I follow my passions or my prudence? What it’s come down to is that, given the current state of affairs, given my context as a young American, passions are prized only in youth, as is freedom. With the coming of age what is most prized is security, with the passions left to fantasy much like the irrealism of dreams are left to enamoring vagaries. We discard our passions and convictions, our fantastical visions of grandeur for a better world, in favor of a ‘realism’ scented with a dark cynicism that dispels illusion, that acquiesces under the ‘system’ that we obey out of sheer necessity grown from our will to survive. What has been trampled is our will to power, but it is never too late to revive this urge.

The artists, when they are not lining the capitalists pockets with profits, are simply muses in the most passive sense of the term. These artists are no longer concerned with inspiring as much as they are fixed on entertaining, or ‘amusing’, for their agenda is the same as the capitalists: money. They render the audience as docile and facile as possible, getting them in a blurred frenzy, caught up in emotion, totally distracted from the realities that oppress their sad existence. The poorest, the most impoverished left with only their intangible dreams, love these entertainers the most. Since they cannot live through possessions and materialism they escape through fantasy, artificial emotions induced through hollow emotives.

I’ve decided I want to sell out, for a time. I want to master the system so I can one day create the system. Considering my background, I’ve played my cards right up until now: the best university, the best internships, solid degrees, great grades. What is necessary now is to capitalize on these achievements instead of forfeiting them for the preponderances of my heart, the longings of my spirit, the existential conundrums I unravel in my reflections.

What I need to do is exploit the source of power for my ends: finance. I need to get into the industry where all the wealthy have a mutual stake. Wealth is the common denominator of power. Investment banking, wealth advising, asset management.

I need to toss these ephemeral thoughts about passion, about right and wrong, about selfless creation, to the garbage. They are fruitless. If I want to succeed, I must capitalize on my strengths: people skills, smooth talking, will-power, vision, charm, intelligence, good nature, pleasant appearance. I can be obedient. My rebellious nature was resistant to obey arbitrary authority, and my attitude throughout school and to my superiors proves this. But this needs to be corrected if I am to succeed and dominate. I must fawn these superiors in order to advance. There are many who wish to succeed, but only those who stroke the ego’s of those holding the keys to power will allow be to ascend to their true potential. I look around me and I see so much talent. Young automatons do everything right, except they haven’t a clue that doing everything right has a ceiling. You must not only serve the interest of your superiors, you must also create value for them, you must learn to hijack and supplant their vision with yours in order to aid them in their accumulation and concentration of capital. In this way achievement is guaranteed.

Morality does not exist. There are no facts, only interpretations. You cannot have a universal moral conscience as a businessman, as a ruler of wealth: only a fabricated justification that accepts the inequality of man as a rule. Nietzsche said, “The reasons for which ‘this’ world has been characterized as ‘apparent’ are the very reasons which indicate its reality; any other kind of reality is absolutely indemonstrable.” Those in power dictate these reasons. Their are the moral clergymen.

It’s interesting to consider the influence of media control. The media is the mouthpiece of the powerful. As Chomsky said in his book Media Control, “Propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”

Who rules the world? The powerful, the elite. These are the American ruling class. We elect proffered politicians which have been paid for by these elite with the single agenda of taming the bewildered herd, of keeping the masses complacently compliant.

Slavery was replaced by share cropping, which has been replaced by credit and loans: all of these forms of debt rob the citizens of equality, life and liberty, and it’s legal. Bankruptcy laws. Capital gains taxes. Trickle down economics. Sub-prime mortgage lending. Failed education reforms: No child left behind. The war on drugs. The rise in pharmaceutical psycho-therapeutics. Currency manipulation: Coinage Act of 1972. Foreign wars and fear mongering, communism, creating enemies like Russian and terrorists as a means of keeping the populous paralyzed and fearful, of keeping their attention turned outward instead of inward. All creating fear. All manufactured to suit the ends of the elite. All propaganda.

Truth and lies are one in the same. They condemn or praise according to which subjective end you are most vested.

 

Justification for the Death Penalty

Is the death penalty an acceptable punishment? Is it moral? Is it prudential? I will take a pragmatic position, arguing that the death penalty is an instrumental and symbolic act for maintaining order and harmony. Morality, that which appeals to a higher good, is typically codified by societal conventions and expectations. Arguing whether the death penalty is moral would require appealing to what is traditionally acceptable, or asking whether it benefits society in some way. In this case the question of the death penalty is a pragmatic one.

A society based on liberalism is characterized by the mutual collaboration of free and equal individuals working towards certain ends, with the most general end being the growth and flourishing of all of its constituent citizens. This is a feature of life more generally. Laws are created to preserve order and to ensure that this collaboration occurs justly, where liberty and equality are preserved for all. Why do we use the death penalty? This form of punishment is reserved for those who undermine the harmonious order, order that is instantiated to ensure the well-being of society, and is used for punishing the most heinous of crimes, most typically those committed by individuals who murder.

I argue that the death penalty is justifiable on moral and prudential grounds, that the authority established in the formation of the government, in which all citizens tacitly consent to, has ultimate power to exercise its interpretation of the law in order to justify punishments. Speaking broadly, this authority is derived not from its power to exercise rule, but because of the constitutional document which established it and the tacit consent of its citizens to exist under the rule of this document.

Continue reading “Justification for the Death Penalty”

Know Your Enemies: Insecurity and Threat

You can always spot those who are threatened by you because they will be the first to compete with you. Anyone who sees you as a threat is an enemy. The surest way to crush your enemies is to avoid competition. This does not make you weak; rather it makes you superior. Those who want to compete are attempting to bring you down to their level, to their preoccupations, and judge you according to their inferior criterion of worth. To preserve your prestige and remain impervious to your enemies, stage all competitions according to your rules and only your rules. By acquiescing to another standard of competition you compromise your integrity and forfeit the very values used to justify the individual greatness that they view threatening.

Your enemies suffer from insecurity; therefore they are threatened. Their lack of self-confidence is a lack of responsibility, a lack of faith in their ability to rise to the challenge or overcome or equate to external values. If they possessed faith in themselves, they would be secure. They would not be threatened by anyone or thing, nor would they compete in a test to measure their worth against another man.

Men of greatness compete with themselves and themselves alone, never compromising their self-generated criterion of worth. When someone extols their personal achievements, you can be sure that they struggle to possess an authentic sense of self. If the measures of greatness are self-generated and self-imposed, what need is there to publicly announce your achievement? The only hope for this announcement is an external affirmation of self.

When you live authentically, self-worth is derived through a process of becoming. Each man lives according to his own ends, as each man possesses his own set of demands afforded to him by life. He becomes more of what he embodies, of what values presuppose his every thought and action. It is vital that these values bolster the purest and greatest sense of self, the highest self-esteem possible.

Competition is death. Domination is the elimination of competition through sheer superiority of values. Would any competent man compete with an invalid? This is how the superior man, the over-man, must think. His values place him above such competition, out of sheer pity or principle. In this way he is morally superior: any competition must occur out of charity alone. I maintain that charity is the gravest form of oppression as it leads to domestication and enablement. Charity is a false generosity that ensures conditional dependency and establishes a hierarchy between the self-sufficient and the self-deficient.

Do you want to maintain superiority? Never compromise your values through competition except when you dictate the rules of the game. Otherwise, let the success of your self-guided actions speak for themselves. Never compromise your integrity, your authenticity, by playing to the rules of another game. Other’s will pine for your competition, but you must never stoop to their level unless the guarantee of winning is indisputable and inevitable.

Recall: familiarity breeds contempt. If you wish to know your enemies, see how they behave when they are lead to believe that they know you. Present yourself plainly as if there is nothing more than meets the eye, nothing deeper below the surface, and see what reaction this elicits. If there is insecurity, your enemy will capitalize at first chance to highlight the superiority they believe to perceive. Do not let this sway you into competition or emotion. Your self-worth, your value, is internally generated, not externally imposed. Any insecurity they voice through comparison or judgement reveals a chink in their sad suit of defense. Capitalize on this error at a later time.

Remain quiet. Do not speak of your achievements. Genius is often seen and seldom heard. When other’s pass judgment, do not flinch in their direction: remain stolid and steadfast. If need be, recalculate the rules of your game and press on toward self-mastery. Those who continue living in competition never reach heights of greatness because they fail to realize that greatness is attained from within. Greatness is demonstrably true, not by way of judgment, but of effect. Your impact on the world will be proportional to the original value you create within yourself.

Liberalism: Making Mankind into Cattle

Liberalism is the transformation of mankind into cattle.
-Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human (1878). I.67

What does this mean? Liberalism, in the philosophical sense that Nietzsche is using it, is an ethical framework in which man is free, equal, and autonomous. While this conception of man resonates with most as evidently true, I maintain that this is an illusory conception of man. Do we really believe that we are free? Equal? Autonomous? As with most comforting notions, we avow these ideals simply as a means of preserving the familiar, a mechanism of evasion that allows us to avoid the biting reality of our situation; namely, that we are not free, nor are we equal and autonomous.

What does Nietzsche mean when he says that liberalism is the transformation of mankind into cattle? It is the process in which individuality is smoothed over en masse, in which minds are watered down into a cloudy collective consciousness, where man is no longer a thinking spirit that possesses a unique soul but a mere facsimile. Being lead to believe that our thoughts are freely chosen, that we are as valuable as any man, that we can choose according to a unique volition, we cease to employ our internal reason, fail to reflect on our position, and assume that the ideals in which we derive our greatness are a right rather than a product.

I insist that freedom is a state of being that follows from mind, but my fellow man would hold that freedom is a state of existence that follows from body. Where these most evidently diverge, in my opinion, is when man finds himself in a state of perfect equilibrium.

When man has all his bodily needs satisfied, with every desire or whim or passion cared and provided for so that nothing is wanting, do we have a free man? Such a man would be no more free than a domesticated animal whose instincts have been muted and dulled, like an animal coddled and conditioned with pleasures generated by no necessity of its own. My fellow man, swept up in his allegiance toward the sensational, would insist that a man with all his desires satisfied is free, for what more could he want? But I would ask whether this standard– of having pleasure metted out in proportion to wants– is a good mark of freedom. Where does this standard leave man? In a perfect state of equilibrium. But is equilibrium man’s greatest achievement, his highest aim, the natural denouement of successful living?

I must ask myself more about equilibrium to discover whether this is a good measure for judging man. What is equilibrium? A state of rest or balance due to the equal action of opposing forces, an equality of balance, a calmness. From this definition I would ask whether we could equate equilibrium with man’s desire for self-preservation; is their aim one in the same?  Self-preservation is a process of maintenance of body and mind, so as to keep alive or conserve existence, or make lasting. In this light, equilibrium and self-preservation seem to be compatible states, achieving one in the same end, namely balance or preservation.

I must implore, however, as to whether this situation is reflective of nature, or a product of man’s mind? Is nature constantly seeking to retain equilibrium? Is life characterized by preservation?

Let’s observe the most obvious characteristics, in my mind, of natural experience: when my mind meets with the impressions afforded to me by my senses, there are two reigning features which traverse through all collective experience past and present. These being the continuity of consciousness and the constancy of change. The continuity of consciousness, I can conclude, is not a feature of experience, for even when I sleep I possess a consciousness, but a feature of mind alone. The constancy of change, however, is a guarantee endemic to nature, indelibly present throughout the physical world, that renders every moment of experience wholly unique and never the same.

Can we say that equilibrium and change are synonymous features? Certainly not. Does life stay the same, or is it in perpetual change? I would reply that life is in perpetual change, for I am not the boy of  my youth, neither is a frog still a tadpole or butterfly a caterpillar.

To exist occurs in the moment, to live occurs over moments. I hold then, that equilibrium is death, whereas disequilibrium is life. In this way existing is a mode of self-preservation, whereas living is a mode of thriving.

In summation, the satisfaction of desires, the end of want, places man in a state of equilibrium that is typified by the complacent tranquility which is characteristic of death. For man to be truly alive he must evolve, he must seek out disequilibrium, living in a state of anxiety and incertitude. To do this, man must not feign satisfaction, nor be satisfied with equilibrium.

Freedom, then, is disequilibrium, a form of living that transcends and expands consciousness. When change occurs, the man living in disequilibrium, having no complacent expectations, and always ready for change, does not flinch nor does he hesitate to move or act or think. His life is a fluid change.

This is freedom. Not all men possess it. Those who do act alone.

“Companions the creator seeks, not corpses, not herds and believers. Fellow creators the creator seeks—those who write new values on new tablets. Companions the creator seeks, and fellow harvesters; for everything about him is ripe for the harvest.”
—Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

Part I: Commentary on “Adam Carolla explains the OWS Generation”

My motivation for this post arose out of the hoopla I perceived concerning the wisdom attributed to Adam Corolla’s unreflective rant regarding the OWS movement. For the sake of open discussion, I’m going to disagree with some of his premise. I’ll summarize and reply to the two primary premises underlying his arguments in two separate posts.

You can view his rant here.

Argument 1: The 1% own 50% of the wealth. The 99% expect the 1% to pay for them. Carolla believes that the 1%  deservedly earn 50% of the wealth because they have worked harder than the 99%. Because the 1% pay 50% of the taxes, the 99% are lazy and ungrateful, leech off the wealthy tax dollars, and should work harder to increase their share.

My response to argument 1:
The 1% have not earned their 50% of the wealth, so to speak. Possessing wealth does not mean that it was earned “morally”, in the sense that you can earn wealth by exploiting people, which I maintain to be the case, or you can inherit it, in which case it is not earned at all. Furthermore, if the 99% had more of the wealth, they would be paying a greater percentage in taxes. It is not as though the 1% are charitably paying taxes. They pay the portion of taxes they due because of the current graduated tax structure which requires people with greater income to pay more taxes, which I should mention has decreased significantly in recent years.

Continue reading “Part I: Commentary on “Adam Carolla explains the OWS Generation””

Part II: Commentary on “Adam Carolla explains the OWS Generation”

My motivation for this post arose out of the hoopla I perceived concerning the wisdom attributed to Adam Corolla’s unreflective rant regarding the OWS movement. For the sake of open discussion, I’m going to disagree with some of his premise. I’ll summarize and reply to the two primary premises underlying his arguments in two separate posts.

You can view his rant here.

Argument 2:
The OWS movement typifies a society that is self-entitled and narcissistic which has caused envy and shame when they compare themselves to the 1%. Corolla believes this self-entitlement is a result of a society that glorifies being average and treats every individual as special despite their work-ethic and achievements.

Response to Argument 2:
Disregarding the economic reality of potential inequalities, I believe that the denigrating qualities typifying society which Corolla has attributed to the OWS movement are the natural corollary of what happens when the 1% dominates and possesses so much of the power as incarnated in accumulated capital and influence.  In this light the 1% is directly responsible for the values– attitudes and expectations– directing and justifying their behaviors.

Continue reading “Part II: Commentary on “Adam Carolla explains the OWS Generation””

Socratic Philosophy as Preparation for Death

This essay argues that Socrates provides a clear and consistent attitude towards philosophy that is justified by and grounded in religious conviction. The core of Socrates philosophical beliefs concern his convictions regarding death, with him stating that “the primary aim of those who practice philosophy in the proper manner is to practice for dying and death.”(64a) His philosophy provides a method for ensuring that the soul will enter Hades in its purest form and attain the highest reward by being granted access into heaven. (113;114c). Socrates’ definition of philosophy is thus inextricably bound to his religious convictions. Although philosophy’s literal translation means “lover of wisdom,” it was not just an activity that one casually partook in, but a mode of living that pervaded every aspect of life as a way of transcending the physical world and possessing near-divine wisdom.(82c) Continue reading “Socratic Philosophy as Preparation for Death”

Random Reflections

Modes of Expression:

Hard/ complete: Georg Cantor- Continuum hypothesis: Embodies rationalist/ modernist/ analytic movement

Soft/ incomplete: Godel- Incompleteness Theorem: Embodies relativist/ postmodern/ creative movement

Synthetic: Hegel/ James- Dialectics/ Pragmatism: Synthesizes these two perspectives for subjective ends according to their utility to solve and achieve dilemma/ inquiry

All modern studies and disciplines, being defined by prescribed rules and expectations, are limited in their ability and scope, and will be inhibited in adequately addressing novel problems.

In addition, Hegel, and Neils Bohr, saw necessity in taking counterfactuals or contradicting ideas, and holding them together in the mind, suspending their rigidity, dissolving boundaries, and creatively synthesizing their properties into a single, third, idea that is able to satisfy the initial counter-facts.

Relativist attitudes: revolution, creation, destabilization, individuality, synthesis, deconstruction.

Will to power- those who master language are the masters. Masters of language- more specifically, masters of delineation, or description- are the creator of causes.

Those who possess language, and the ability to manipulate language- proliferate perspectives and justify actions for everyone else.

To not have language, to not have education, is to be dispossessed, to be dominated. He who develops language, specifically his own language- be it borrowing from others or creating neologisms- can manipulate and dominate. Nietzsche understood this: the jews were masters of language- specializing in the oral and written tradition of the torah- owned and mastered language and eventually used this strength to manipulate the language of their ‘masters’ or the ‘gentiles’ by inverting their values of their language to subversively overpower and dominate them—see the New Testament, or Christ’s message.

The use of existing language can be used to justify by assimilating it into a final vocabulary by removing it from its original context. Decontextualizing is the ability of the pragmatic and creative types: they use existing language (tools), to manipulate and justify a unique (individual) end/ intention (action). Derrida attempts to capture the gestures of decontextualization. He seeks to pervert the internal semantic structure of words and language in order to recontextualize words, or leave them totally suspended in semantic ambiguity.

The reason manipulation can occur is that terms/ facts/ meanings are formed within a ‘present’ context. When the word is borrowed at a later time, it is referring to a previous/ past context, yet its use is always in the present. No two perspectives are alike, for all are subjective and indexed to individual/ unique direct experiences and the prevailing ideology of the context/ culture mutually shared by your social peers.

Language is social. Perspectives, thoughts, are formed to due direct experience, i.e. senses, impressions, experimentation, and ideologies, i.e. the semantic code and historically rooted structure contained in the language maintained by peers.

Perspective takes direct subjective experience and indexes it to the inherently ideological lanugae of yoru social peers. In this way subjective experience (individual consciousness) is censored by language. Likewise, language is compromised by ‘misusing’ semantics (metaphors, metonymies) and ‘decontextualizing’ it from its prevailing paradigmatic ideology.  Rorty alludes to this practice when he refers to the accumulating and building of “final vocabularies”.

The ability to use language is the ability to control the mind. Religion once controlled all language, and priests were the arbiters of its meaning—the interpretation of the bible, gods word, his divine will. This allowed the priests and prophets to govern the thoughts, and therefore actions, of their people.

The world tells us—leads us to believe—that language captures facts and truths. This is a form of ‘natural’ domination. ‘Natural’ in that man lives and persists through the “will to power” which enables them to thrive (dominate) in society by leveraging the minds of other men. This “will to believe” is uniquely distinct from other animals in that animals do not leverage the minds or ‘intentions’ or other animals. Instead they possess a “will to survive” which manifests through killing (predators) or compromise (prey).

Pragmatism recognizes the utility of using language—its conventions, rituals, customs, traditions, and accepted practices semantically assumed it contains – and uses it to justify intentions (ends/ actions). Continue reading “Random Reflections”

The Philosophy of Parmenides

          The fragments of Parmenides provide the earliest formulations of the laws of thought[1] that Aristotle later most famously formalized. (p. 58, 2.B2) His philosophy runs in direct contrast to that of Heraclitus who sought to create a philosophy that could accommodate the flux of the universe with the simultaneous paradoxes arising from change. Most likely influenced by the Pythagoreans and their conceptions of the capacity to reason, Parmenides sought to rely on understanding (capacity to reason) as a means of discerning the truth of what-is. This essay will begin by summarizing Parmenides’ account of what-is and what-is-not before exploring the question of why we cannot investigate what-is-not. It will conclude by discussing whether it is possible to learn about what doesn’t exist and delve into the potential implications of such a possibility. Continue reading “The Philosophy of Parmenides”

opprimere

Lots of unrefined, undeveloped rambling:

I believe that oppression is man’s greatest asset. I believe that when man is not oppressed, he has no need to adapt, no need to grow and acheive and strive and thrive. I would say that oppression is the ultimate good. Since I can think of nothing pleasing about actively undergoing oppression, I would say that it is tantamount to suffering. But like suffering, oppression presents an opportunity to tap into previously unknown potentials in order to endure and survive.

What is oppression? More or less, it is “the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner”, or “the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, anxiety, etc.” If man is to live as a truly free and autonomous being, one can argue that there is no such thing as just authority and that all authority is a burden.

The etymology of oppression? Coined mid-14c., as “cruel or unjust use of power or authority,” from Fr. oppression (12c.), from L. oppressionem, noun of action from pp. stem of opprimere. Meaning “action of weighing on someone’s mind or spirits” is from late 14c.

Oppression is nothing more than demands. Demands are the effect of some initial cause. Demands instantiate voids to be filled, or requirements to be satisfied, with a response such as thought or action. Humans respond to these voids by exercising human ingenuity, innovation and invention. These responses exist as conceptualizations, systems, meanings, or structures where they inhabit the mind and manifest as through our action.

I believe that our efforts to escape from oppression, from physical or mental demands and the duress they may cause, provide us with the ultimate salvation by rescuing us from our previously cramped conceptions of human possibility and forcing us to expand our horizons of what it means to be fully human. When we commit to escaping oppression we commit to adapting, we commit to conceding outdated paradigms and belief systems for a novel, alternative perspective.

Where does oppression take place? It can occur to the mind and the body. I believe civilization has capitalized on the venture of oppressing the mind. Nature imposes its own form of oppression. Natural, or environmental, oppression, was much more of an issue in the past due to our failure to capture the nature of cause and effect as well as our frail ability to leverage physical laws to alter or overpower the course of physical phenomena. Throughout our evolution, however, we’ve managed to innovate and invent ways of overcoming the oppression of natural physical constraints.

Body and mind are inextricable, so that what oppresses the mind manifests simultaneously in the body, and what oppresses the body manifests simultanesouly in the mind. In this way, as man alleviates physical oppression, he simultaneously frees his mind. But where does that leave the mind?

All life wishes to not only survive, but thrive. Existence depends on ensuring a continuity. Life does not want equilibrium. Life wants the power to create its own equilibrium, to impose its own balance, its own demands, on the world.

The oppression that occurs in the mind originates from abstractions generated and perpetuated by culture, from power relations vying for authority and dominant influence.  What are these abstractions? They are belief systems, language, meaning, conceptions like truth and law, etc. What are these power relations? The forces generated by competition between opposing ideologies. These forces present themselves as the will, or the emotional driver reinforcing every form of action.

Culture is a conglomeration of these abstractions and power relations. Culture shapes and programs individuals with the systems of abstractions and relations necessary for navigating, acting and reacting, within the culture.

Culture produces individuals and these individuals produce new physical boundaries that expand or contract oppression.

Was man ever a blank slate? There was never a garden of eden. The first oppression was natural environmental oppression. Out of human’s adaptation arose social relations and ultimately oppression.

Does scarcity drive oppression? When there is plentitude, is man oppressed? Only when social oppression continues to persist.

Oppression forces you to make a choice between fighting to anhiliate and overpower the oppression or acquiescing the mind and body under its force. One is active, the other is passive.

Education is oppressive. This oppression, when actively overcome, is positive. When this oppression overcomes, it is negative.

What is value? What determines value? Does all value maintain an equivalent price? Is value determined by emotional attachment? Utility? One can say that anything that is useful possesses an emotional attachment, since our emotional reflexes arise from deep primal impulses to survive.

What is value? Clearly utility has something to do with it, but then again, hardly anything at all. One can agree that just about anything can be useful to someone at sometime, but not someone at just anytime or all the time. So value has something to do with utility. Is art valuable? It produces an emotional response that aids in your well being. Love is valuable because, in some other degree, it does the same.

Because we cannot use every useful thing all the time, we must consider how we use our time. In this way we establish a hierarchy of values that serve us according to the proportional time we spend in any given activity.

Some abstract, qualifiable values are information, experience, feelings, thoughts, and I’m sure the list goes on, but these seem to be the most basic.

Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Hume’s Empiricism, Skepticism, and Naturalism

The whole premise of Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding was to delineate the limits of human understanding and put a rest to metaphysical speculation by grounding philosophical reasoning in experience rather than pure reason. From the outset Hume’s preferred method of inquiry is scientific, based on observation and experimentation, rather than purely abstract reasoning. He posits that any fruitful beliefs about the world must be rooted in experience rather than wholly reflective theorizing.

I will begin by briefly summarizing Hume’s primary claims regarding his empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism and illustrate his emphasis on each of these in an effort to show that his philosophy is consistent and equally supports all three. I will ultimately conclude that his account of naturalism is the least developed of the three. This paper will then examine the methods and their accuracy that he employs in developing each of these. Continue reading “Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Hume’s Empiricism, Skepticism, and Naturalism”

Thoughts on Rorty’s Neo-pragmatism

Rorty lays out a compelling case for his rendition of pragmatism. Ultimately his claim produces the same effect as the sentence “This sentence has no significance.” By throwing out the ideas of essential truths and knowledge as simply products of social convention, he adopts a pseudo-relativistic view of the world where truth and knowledge are contingent upon the starting points afforded to us by our language. However, he maintains that conversational inquiry has a purpose and maintains a utility, despite where its conclusions may lead. As the aforementioned sentence demonstrates, despite its futile conclusion or message, we are engaged in an activity that allows us to converge in understanding. In the event if we decide to evade the contingency of our starting points and continue the pursuit of higher essences, we do so not as a means of establishing something essential, but to satisfy some “Metaphysical Comfort”.  Continue reading “Thoughts on Rorty’s Neo-pragmatism”

Mer

Why don’t I write? Some inadequecy that lurks beneath. Something that grips my motives and violently shakes me into retreat. Why? I mean, I’m not sure exactly. Sententious speak.

As predicted, the world’s boiling over. This world, this society, living in delusional states, it’s vapid affairs simply rolling along, not because there’s any inherent meaning and necessity to the madness, but because us men, us intrepid sheep, are suckers for tradition, for the familiar inheritances we deem as having so much value. When, in reality, it’s nothing but mindless manipulation. When we try to escape, we escape only deeper, not beyond.

Drunk.

This summer is coming to a close. A good amount of drinking, and reading, and traveling has been accomplished. I like to think every experience amounts to some value, but I must remember that context determines all meaning, all utility, all purpose. Am I any more of a person? Eh. Let’s define the context, right? Well, I sure as hell don’t have an answer at the moment.

I need to expunge so much. Blah. I’ve been working two jobs. One, at Wells Fargo Advisors working for a wealth management group. The other, a manufacturing job at International Ceramic Engineering. There’s a pretty steep contrast between the two jobs. One is saturated with intelligent, driven, ambitious white collared workers; the other involves the illiterate, mostly foreign, blue collar laborers. At the engineering company I press buttons all day. I literally bring a book to work that I read while I’m on the job. It’s too un-stimulating to bear otherwise. I read a book every other day. It’s been great for reading. It’s also been great for showing me what the vast majority of uneducated American’s do every day to provide for their families and make a living. Vastly different dispositions in the working peers I encounter each day. Vastly different experiences gained. I’ll add more later.

Our world is pretty messed up at the moment. Or, at least, that’s how it’s being portrayed in the media and news. I’m not sure if they are capitalizing on the opportunity to inflate mild market shifts to instill fear, or if there really is reason to be concerned for the stability of the world. Riots, market volatility and crashes, unemployment, violence, political bickering and selfish debating, fiscal irresponsibility and mismanagement, misplaced policy priorities: the list could continue along.

I need to contemplate more, extract more from my mind, my experiences. It’s not enough to have an expeirence. You must make an experience work for you, make somehting of it, recall it and give it meaning, contextualize it. You know? Many people have experiences, and

Dure

What’s wrong with our country? Our economy, our politics, our propaganda, our values, our media, our individuals: our culture: a fabricated fortress of rhetoric that keeps more in than it keeps out. We are at the pinnacle of our glory. It could be argued that we’ve been improving along the way, but I don’t think we’re any further along than the Romans or Greeks or Egyptians once were. We’re proud and gluttonous and utterly facile. We’ve built a society that takes care of the harder tasks of life and we’ve grown grotesquely dependent on it. We seek to escape the struggle to survive as if we were above it, as if we were gods and not crawling creatures and defacating animals. Every culture seeks to mimic the glorified, be it Christ or Buddha or Caesar or America or celebrities or politicians or businessmen. I’m not convinced we’re free or further along at all. In the struggle for survival it seems humans quite naturally seek to rob themselves of the very skills to survive until they are at the mercy of a machine of influence and power that they claim is a true reflection of their wants and wishes. Somewhere along the line this towering confluence of congenial compromise conquers its makers it a brash and booming way. And I think we’ll all be around to see it happen. I read that scientists believe that the first person that will live to 150 years of age has already been born, and within the next fifty years the first person to live to 1,000 years of age will be born. Man is obsessed with conquering. It’s the heroism that bolsters the ego out of its wormy condition. The ultimate obstruction for man to surmount is death. I do not think we’ll accomplish this feat. I believe we’re terribly blinded to the realities of our physical nature. The economy, the government, the science- it’s all supported by a delicate web of beliefs built purely on faith. And once the pacification is jarred and we’re confronted with our frailty? it will unravel and crash. Until then, the media and government and society- the culture- will continue perpetuating it’s childish myths as fact and not fiction. It serves the utility of contemporaneousness community and comfort.

I feel like history repeats itself. I watched Doctor Zhivago this evening (If you didn’t know already, the novel is amazing, and the 1965 is equally riveting and moving).  While I was watching the movie a particular quote struck me quite profoundly and I kept it in the back of my mind until now:

In bourgeois terms, it was a war between the Allies and Germany. In Bolshevik terms, it was a war between the Allied and German upper classes – and which of them won was of total indifference. My task was to organize defeat, so as to hasten the onset of revolution. I enlisted under the name of Petrov. The party looked to the peasant conscript soldiers – many of whom were wearing their first real pair of boots. When the boots had worn out, they’d be ready to listen. When the time came, I was able to take three whole battalions out of the front lines with me – the best day’s work I ever did. But for now, there was nothing to be done. There were too many volunteers. Most of it was mere hysteria.

This quote made me think of our current situation. Wars all across the globe, on foreign fronts where the massacre and murder can be fed to us second hand at a safe distance. Who makes the decisions for our country? Our government, almost synonymous with the lobby powers of business and political influence, our modern bourgeois. They speak and the masses listen with hysterical enthusiasm to whatever call that strokes their insecurities and passions.

*

I made music tonight. It felt good. I went to Vladik’s this evening to celebrate his completion of the DAT examination. We conversed while drinking shots of Silver Tequila and smoking cigarillos. I played guitar and he produced beats and rhythm on the keyboard and computer. We got about a minute of music and lyrics down. It sounds good. I’ll post when we’re finished.

 

Reflexivity

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of reflexivity. What is reflexivity? It is the bidirectional relationship of a subject as both a participant (manipulative function) and observer (cognitive function) between “cause and effect”. As an observer I watch a fire burn; as a participant I add fuel to the fire or stifle its flame: my beliefs about the observed fire, if it is growing or dwindling, influence how I engage with it.  Maybe a more accurate example relates to prices: my current willingness to buy a good is influenced by the price I observe and, in turn, the act of buying drives up demand which increases the price and influences my price observations, affecting my future willingness to buy (I’ll work on a clearer example).

While I’m fascinated with the sociological implications, I’m even more fascinated with how these implications manifest within economic decision making. I really need to investigate and read up on behavioral economics more thoroughly.

I’ve been aware of the concept of reflexivity for quite awhile but only recently has it perked my interest in the context of economics and finance. Before that my understanding was confined to the psychological decision making aspects. What really brought these two together was my recent interest in how mass speculation affects the market place. Two books cultivated this interest, specifically “A Short History of Financial Euphoria” and “The Big Short”.

So reflexivity. Karl Popper introduced this idea into social theory, and social theory and economics, as you can imagine, are intimately linked. George Soros, a pupil of Popper, really capitalized on the utility of synthesizing and applying the two concepts to finance. That’s where I want to continue my study.

There are three areas of study that fascinate me at the moment: Evolutionary Economics, Reflexivity and Social Theory, and Disequilibrium States (more specifically, the process of creative destruction as coined by Schumpeter).  I’d really like to apply some philosophy and social theory to economics and come up with a qualitative economic system that capitalizes on the current short comings of neoclassical thought and market structures. Soros has done it, but I’d like to master his ideas and continue progressing with them. There’s gotta be some piece of the puzzle, or pie, that I can really develop and utilize for gain. I found this lil’ power point to be a helpful introduction to some of Soro’s ideas. My next readings will involve the works of Karl Popper (Philosophy of Science), Robert Schiller (Behavioral Economics), George Soros (Reflexivity), and Hyman Minsky (Disequilibrium States).

Soro’s provides a brief introduction to his concept of reflexivity in his book The Age of Fallibility:

”On the one hand, we seek to understand our situation. I call this the cognitive function. On the other hand, we seek to make an impact on the world. I call this the participating function. The two functions work in opposite directions and they can interfere with each other. The cognitive function seeks to improve our understanding. The participating function seeks to improve our position in the world. If the two functions operated independently of each other, they could in theory serve their purpose perfectly well. If reality were independently given our views could correspond to reality. And if our decisions were based on knowledge, the outcomes would correspond to our expectations. But that is not the case because the two functions intersect, and where they intersect they may interfere with each other. I have given the interference a name: reflexivity. . . .”

Here’s a video where Soro’s goes further in depth with his thoughts on reflexivity titled The New Paradigm for Financial Markets.

http://mitworld.mit.edu/flash/player/Main.swf?host=cp58255.edgefcs.net&flv=mitw-01094-sloan-econ-soros-financial-mkts-28oct2008&preview=http://mitworld.mit.edu//uploads/mitw01094sloaneconsorosfinancialmkts28oct2008.jpg

 

Why I think this concept is so interesting is that it incorporates a multitude of qualitative cognitive functions as well as mechanisms that result from enculturation and socialization that guide choice and action.

All that aside, today I read an amazing article on evolutionary economics titled Evolutionary Economics and the Extension of Evolution to the Economy. I’d recommend the read if nothing else but to expand your knowledge on the promising subject of evolutionary economics.

More thoughts later.

I’m never sold on one person’s theory or another’s. My aim is always to understand and synthesize them all into my own unique perspective that I can successfully apply.

Thoughts on Reflexivity

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of reflexivity. What is reflexivity? It is the bidirectional relationship of a subject as both a participant (manipulative function) and observer (cognitive function) between “cause and effect”. As an observer I watch a fire burn; as a participant I add fuel to the fire or stifle its flame: my beliefs about the observed fire, if it is growing or dwindling, influence how I engage with it.  Maybe a more accurate example relates to prices: my current willingness to buy a good is influenced by the price I observe and, in turn, the act of buying drives up demand which increases the price and influences my price observations, affecting my future willingness to buy (I’ll work on a clearer example).

While I’m fascinated with the sociological implications, I’m even more fascinated with how these implications manifest within economic decision making. I really need to investigate and read up on behavioral economics more thoroughly.

I’ve been aware of the concept of reflexivity for quite awhile but only recently has it perked my interest in the context of economics and finance. Before that my understanding was confined to the psychological decision making aspects. What really brought these two together was my recent interest in how mass speculation affects the market place. Two books cultivated this interest, specifically “A Short History of Financial Euphoria” and “The Big Short”.

Karl Popper introduced the idea of reflexivity into social theory, and social theory and economics, as you can imagine, are intimately linked. George Soros, a pupil of Popper, really capitalized on the utility of synthesizing and applying the two concepts to finance. That’s where I want to continue my study.

There are three areas of study that fascinate me at the moment: Evolutionary Economics, Reflexivity and Social Theory, and Disequilibrium States (more specifically, the process of creative destruction as coined by Schumpeter).  I’d really like to apply some philosophy and social theory to economics and come up with a qualitative economic system that capitalizes on the current short comings of neoclassical thought and market structures. Soros has done it, but I’d like to master his ideas and continue progressing with them. There’s gotta be some piece of the puzzle, or pie, that I can really develop and utilize for gain. I found this lil’ power point to be a helpful introduction to some of Soro’s ideas. My next readings will involve the works of Karl Popper (Philosophy of Science), Robert Schiller (Behavioral Economics), George Soros (Reflexivity), and Hyman Minsky (Disequilibrium States).

Soro’s provides a brief introduction to his concept of reflexivity in his book The Age of Fallibility:

”On the one hand, we seek to understand our situation. I call this the cognitive function. On the other hand, we seek to make an impact on the world. I call this the participating function. The two functions work in opposite directions and they can interfere with each other. The cognitive function seeks to improve our understanding. The participating function seeks to improve our position in the world. If the two functions operated independently of each other, they could in theory serve their purpose perfectly well. If reality were independently given our views could correspond to reality. And if our decisions were based on knowledge, the outcomes would correspond to our expectations. But that is not the case because the two functions intersect, and where they intersect they may interfere with each other. I have given the interference a name: reflexivity. . . .”

Here’s a video where Soro’s goes further in depth with his thoughts on reflexivity titled The New Paradigm for Financial Markets.

 

Why I think this concept is so interesting is that it incorporates a multitude of qualitative cognitive functions as well as mechanisms that result from enculturation and socialization that guide choice and action.

All that aside, today I read an amazing article on evolutionary economics titled Evolutionary Economics and the Extension of Evolution to the Economy. I’d recommend the read if nothing else but to expand your knowledge on the promising subject of evolutionary economics.

More thoughts later.

I’m never sold on one person’s theory or another’s. My aim is always to understand and synthesize them all into my own unique perspective that I can successfully apply.

Droplets in the Sea

“…for the time being I gave up writing – there is already too much truth in the world – an overproduction which apparently cannot be consumed….” -Otto Rank

This is how I often feel. About everything. Sometimes I get comparative and I forget that the driver behind my actions should be purely expressive and therapeutic. There is no absolute truths, no direction to speak of, no purpose for all. I often think that I am speaking or writing over a clamoring chorus of cacophony so that my contribution only adds to the confusion, to the dissonance. So I decide that I’d rather not write. But it needs to come out. It is a compulsion that bubbles up and bursts into a full spectrum of epileptic color. I need to get in the habit of writing again, or thinking consistently, with a purpose that I can arbitrarily delegate to myself and justify through my actions, not because there’s any inherent merit.

So what have I been thinking about lately? Generally speaking, how everything is an illusion. How we are so totally blind to ourselves. It’s wacky just thinking about how inane our belief systems are, our quirks and world views. We justify what we’re comfortable with. Humans attract more of the same. I heard on an NPR segment these academics call it an ‘echo-chamber’, or an ‘identity silo’, if I’m not mistaken. The speakers were discussing information systems like Google or Facebook that have algorithms that feed us more of what we like by accessing our browsing or interaction history. It all operates off of confirmation bias. The vast majority of people do not deliberately seek out information that conflicts with our world view or philosophy. In fact, many people get agitated when they are exposed to systems of thought with which they disagree. Instead they find information that confirms and reinforces an insular world view or belief system. This creates a concurrent resonance so that information going out is confirmed by information going in. It is a reverberation that amplifies beliefs. The result is a severely skewed picture of the world. The threat is radicalism.

Anyway. We all do this. People are not prone to novelty or newness or anything foreign or unknown that may threaten or unravel our nice picture of the world. People like the path of least resistance, comfort and ease.

All belief system’s are lies (‘Myth’ is a nicer word). Mine as much as any one else’s. But why I think mine has more legitimacy lies in the fact that it has no legitimacy. (Legitimacy is an ethical claim, not a quantitative or measurable claim. My belief system would not produce a successful priest, or lawyer. Perhaps, only a good citizen of the world, or philosopher. Perhaps it’s only good for me, Michael.) My beliefs are arbitrary. Most people would never dream of throwing their beliefs to the wind and calling them arbitrary. Why? Because our belief systems offer us techniques for dealing with the world, with other people, with ourselves, with mortality. Beliefs make everything sweet and sanguine. “The believer is happy; the doubter is wise.” But the longer we hold onto a single belief and fail to venture into new perspectives of the world, the longer we are exposed to sheer ignorance, and the harder it is to escape.

Yea. Beliefs. Character. What the hell is character? It is a defense mechanism. Like all of our ideas that provide us with an orientation when confronting the world. If we fail to maintain character, we fail. Our shortcomings are exposed, our wretched limitations lay open for us and the world to see. Inconsistencies in a world where people depend on consistencies, on ideals and values that endure beyond temporal constraints and natural rotting.

Yea. Beliefs are limitations. We spend our entire lives building these vast belief systems that serve one function: to limit us. They limit us to the overwhelming possibility that has confronted us since our birth. What in the hell is this place called earth, mom, food, hot, pain, god, lies, trust, etc? These ad hoc, explosions in our face, these phenomenon that we didn’t choose but were thrust upon us. The sheer ridiculousness of entering a world overflowing with sensations and ideas.

The moment we exit the womb we begin to limit, to delineate the contours and trace out boundaries of experience, cutting off and segmenting this ocean of possibilities into more manageable pieces for consumption. We ‘rationalize’ this world by limiting it. By censoring it. By condensing it. By symbolizing it. Ugh. It’s all a myth. We are afraid of possibility, of potential. If we weren’t, we’d be something else, we’d be continually born anew.

So much to think about.

So my current situation. I need to get active. Analysis paralysis. A general listlessness about life has settled on my mind. It’s pathetic.

I ran today. I will run tomorrow, and lift. I am spending the remainder of my summer restricting my caloric intake and subjecting my body to intense physical stress. I’m well aware that the mind is connected with the body, the heart, the soul, whatever. A sound body is a sound mind.

I will read more. I say, more than six hours a day. Very doable. A book a week.

I don’t understand people who live on a superficial plane of existence. There are multiple layers that we wear. There’s the superficial layers filled with linguistic clichés and verbiage that allow us to navigate through interpersonal interaction. Then there is a layer that yields our beliefs, our defense mechanisms, our reflections and questions. The final layer is a recognition of our fear, our denial of our inadequacy, our frailty, our inevitable death that will arrive no matter how much we make, what we know or achieve or believe. That is the breaking point for most people, when serious changes and restructuring occurs in their mind. When the other layers have failed, this layer takes control.

Anywho. I don’t get superficiality. I’m great at it, at bullshitting. Most people exist in this layer. Banter. That’s all it is. Useless noise that gets us what we want, a reaction out of people, out of our world. But most people don’t move beyond it. Ever. They exist there. Their mind is so pathetically shallow. That’s why we have Television and the internet and games and amusement. It placates our superficiality. If we actually had to think about life, about our beliefs and actions and deliberations and consequences, most people would unravel or lose themselves.

I watch these people rush to watch their favorite television shows. Their TV. They don’t read. They listen to their music. They read their fantasy novels. They indulge in religious services or shopping sprees. All superficial techniques for avoiding the self.

It’s insane. They don’t write. They don’t read. They don’t converse about meaningful projects. About feelings, about dreams, desires, goals. Knowledge and creativity isn’t prized like it used to be. It’s all about amusement, or power.

So. The human condition has been swiped aside. The humanities departments across the country bear signs of the recent insignificance that plagues them in the face of power. What thrives? Engineering, business, law, science. Disciplines that allow us to master others, master our world. Why do they have the greatest growth? Because they allow for the accumulation and application of power.

Everything comes down the this will to power. I need to think more on it and write more later.

Language. Ideas are public goods. There is no private language, just as there is no private ideas. If it is an idea, it must be accepted and shared by the community, otherwise it will fail to flourish, and die. Ideas are public. You cannot escape the conversational constraints dictated by the public arena. Artists do this though, or attempt to. They create feelings and ideas where there was none previously.

My language traps me. I cannot think beyond it, I cannot communicate about it except with the language I have been afforded by my culture. That is why reading is so amazing. It allows me to transcend my limited abilities so that I can articulate and convey ideas to a broader audience.

/end rant.

<Bed time>

 

Draft: Science as a Pragmatic Social Utility: Implications on Freedom

All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Continue reading “Draft: Science as a Pragmatic Social Utility: Implications on Freedom”