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.

Legere: Gather and Bind

We are a collection of thoughts. The self is a recollection: a continual recollection.

The Latin word legere is based on the PIE *leg- “to pick together, gather, collect”. Lego (λέγω) in Greek means “to count, tell, say, speak”. It is the root for the Gk. words lexis (λέξις) and logos, where we get modern words lexicon and logic and the like. Lexis  means “speech, diction”, whereas Logos means “word, thought, idea, account, reason”. Originally used by Homer as “to pick out, select, collect, enumerate;” cf. Gk. legein translates as “to say, tell, speak, declare”. The word Lecture is based on L. legere which means “to pick out words”.

The word Religion is derived from the Latin words re- “again” + legere “read, collect, gather up, select” from which the word “lecture” is based. What I found interesting is that within the word religion I notice the root ligare or lego which means “tie, bind, unite” and the word “ligature” comes to mind which means “bind, connect”. In this way religion can be interpreted as a way of ensuring the repeated gathering and binding of text to the mind through reading or, alternatively, the reuniting or reconnecting of people.

This is also where the word Intelligence is derived, from the Latin words inter- “between” + legere “choose, pick out, read”. Translated literally, the word intelligence refers to the ability to “select among”. Upon further reading I discovered that the word Diligence in Latin originally meant “to pick out, select,” from dis- “apart” + legere “choose, gather”.

*

It is also where the word “liege” comes from, referring to a lord to whom his subjects or “liege men” were bound.  Additionally it is where the word Allegiance is derived (although this translation is disputed).

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.

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

Thoughts and Books

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” -Buddah

Although it’s been coined in different ways by different people throughout the ages, the message is the same. We are what we think. We become what we think. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. A man is what he thinks about all day long.

The first step I took in personal development was fully recognizing the significance of these aforementioned words. It’s not enough to read them or understand the base meaning of them. You need to get meta. Their power is contained in reflection. ‘We are what we think’ implies that you have a degree of control over what you think about, and how you think about things. You must look at your thoughts as if they are not you. They have been following you your whole life, attached to the proper name that you are: Michael. All those thoughts that follow you are not you.

You can change what you think about by changing your actions. We are a product of our environment. This means our thoughts are influenced by the things we are surrounded with, be it the geography, the people, the culture, the religion, the media, the education, etc.

Changing your thoughts means exposing yourself to new knowledge, new experience, new environments. One of the first and best ways I came across for exposing myself to this knowledge was through books. Books offer insights that men took a lifetime to glean from their life experiences. In many cases, the collective lifetimes of several men. They contain gems of knowledge.

I recently took to reading some of the best Literature and Philosophy that has ever been written. These books have inspired genius, started cultural revolutions, and elevated the consciousness of men since their inception. Here are some works that immediately come to mind:

Literature

  • The Brothers Karamazov
  • Nausea
  • East of Eden
  • Brave New World
  • 1984
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • The Fall
  • Walking on Water

Philosophy

  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  • Genealogy of Morals
  • The Will to Believe
  • Nichomachean Ethics
  • Self Reliance
  • Civilization and It’s Discontents
  • Plato’s Five Dialogues
  • Meditations on First Philosophy
  • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  • An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
  • Truth and Lies in the Non-Moral Sense
  • The Gay Science
  • Candide
  • Philosophical Investigations
  • The Social Contract
  • In Defense of Anarchism
  • On Liberty
  • Man’s Search for Meaning
Books. Yum.

I admit, I feel a bit of shame for not including more. This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. I’ll have to supplement, revise and refine this list later.

What I Want

what i want
right now.. and i mean at this moment…i dont wanna know anyone. i wanna live in a hole and think and do what i want. and read. forever. and honestly drink coffee in a tree. or maybe on some moss surrounded by ferns. and continue reading into the day until i find myself in a flowery grassy meadow where the rivers gurgling is heard not too far off. and i can read and smoke a pipe. and drink tea. and sit under a great tree thats wide and full with life. and ill sit under it in the middle of a field. and maybe that girl will be waiting there. and we’ll sit there and read and reflect and have intelligent conversations. and not worry about time or anything like that. ill have a pocket watch(only for looks) and she’ll be wearing a white dress and ill only be wearing jeans. and ill have long blonde hair and she’ll have long flowing blonde hair. and there will be a path i follow home thats been trodden with barefeet all summer long. i want to be able to breath deep and with every last breath, savor the aroma of life all around me. the nectar and the blossuming flowers and the lush green leaves. i really want to get lost in a book. and nevermind the little bugs that fall onto the pages, but shoo them along and smile. i want to climb trees and pick apples and look at the beautifully pristine blue sky dotted with white cotton clouds and the suns soft rays. i want to look up at lively weathered trees as tall as sky scapers and run through the forest. i want to go home to a cozy cottage with all the necessities and none of the excessities;). i want to have a little wood stove and a little wood table with little wood stools and a little wood desk tucked away in the corner by the window. i want a library and a bedroom lined with decor from my adventures. there will be no wants or needs. i will provide for myself and her. and there will be no distractions. no image. no drama. no lies. no wants. no evil. nothing unecessary or distracting from living a simple and fulfilling life of happiness and the persuit of knowledge and wisdom. i want a pretty little woman with no selfish desires left because ive taken care of all her needs. because i love her. and she’ll love me.

and when i gather all the wisdom a man can carry ill go out into the world and share it with everyone. and everyone will listen because im wise and ill know how to appeal to the longings of their deepest desires.and they will know everything i say to be true because it will be the sweetest thing they’ve every heard. and ill share with them my secrets and many men will find true meaning and they will share this meaning as i have done. and slowly the world will become a better place.

until then. i need to focus on developing myself despite my circumstances so one day this might happen.

🙂