Dude’s got issues like time magazine.
He quoted Nietzsche, the fave of every reactionary gasbag, before the prologue of the first book and it is all down hill from there. It is a deconstruction if the fantasy genre from a very messed up perspective.
You didn’t make an argument for your lists of things in the first place, just a list of claims. If there isn’t anything there then what is there to argue?
Now that you have tried to defend your point. No Orwell clearly doesn’t. To the extent that he makes any arguments about the Arendtian totalitarian state it is in dialogue with his apologetics for the British empire. Arendtian totalitarianism as a concept was an interesting theory back in the fifties but even then people pearl clutching about the evils of certain states produced more grounded analysis than bland totalitarian theory. Orwell wrote 1984 as a polemic against his enemies and how they would ruin Britain. It wasn’t sci-fi of some projected future. It was his hatreds boiled onto the page with an Orwell Stan as the hero. His hatred of the Irish as a people comes out in his choice of name for the villain of 1984, O’Brien.
Considering that those states you mentioned don’t really resemble 1984 because it is a cartoon I don’t see what there is to take from his book.
I do take the research lightly because the models were built on basic assumptions that I think are flawed. The genetic basis of these things didn’t explain much of anything. Going looking for evidence of genetic difference and finding a bunch of temperamental differences and then positing that those differences are caused by genetics to a significant enough degree that it actually explains anything sounds tautological. Plus the creepy racist implications of a “genetic” basis to people’s political choices requires more thorough inspection for the claim it is making.
Can’t really get to your fixation on the words left and right and their broader relevance in history but the terms were a historical occurrence that emerged from a historical process and focusing too much on the superficial similarity they bear to biology has gotten you lost. The hemispheres/brain thing doesn’t explain anything.
It’s a brain dump, and I would need solid evidence to prove any of it to anyone. But I also put forth a testable scientific hypothesis—the brain being, in essence, a tightly-woven bundle of differently-motivated reinforcement learning agents. The main thing I’m asking for is if anyone has evidence that would easily disprove my hypothesis, because that would save me a bunch of time going out and looking for strong enough evidence to make a case to anyone else, and possibly taking the time to actually do the scientific research myself.
As for your opinions on Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Prince of Nothing series, they appear to be completely colored by your views of the authors. It’s almost as if you have flipped a “bad person” switch, and that a book written by such a “bad person” must necessarily be a “bad book”, and therefore nothing useful can come of it.
You seem to have completely missed a fundamental point about Nineteen Eighty-Four. The core underlying theme of the novel is how deeply human thought is vulnerable to external manipulation, to ideology and propaganda. Orwell focused in particular on language (e.g. compare against his essay Politics and the English Language), but of course language is a key part of human thought.
A point-by-point comparison between Orwell’s fictional totalitarian state and currently existing ones, even North Korea, misses the point entirely. The key point to be made about states like Russia, China and North Korea is just how dangerous, how powerful, the influence of propaganda can be.
It’s not just the influence they have within their borders, either; propaganda also played a major role in the UK Brexit vote, and in the 2016 U.S. election. Russia had a clear hand in the latter, and quite possibly in the former.
Take, for instance, these examples of Trumpist propaganda in the U.S.:
I’m sure that, so far, these things are happening on a relatively small scale. But it would be deeply foolish not to take the matter seriously.
I agree with you that Haidt’s “moral foundations theory” and the split into dimensions of care, fairness, loyalty, authority, etc. is flawed. It’s a rather arbitrary spectrum, and not necessarily one that is particularly reflective of where differences may lie, if any.
But insofar as human genetics have an influence on human thought patterns, and it’s rather hard to imagine that they don’t, it’s important to understand them. There is nothing “racist” about positing that genetics can influence political thought, and the suggestion is not that people’s political beliefs are fully determined by such factors, but merely influenced by them.
Not a fixation; I posted the historical context as a tidbit; I don’t think it’s particularly strong evidence of anything, but it’s an interesting thing to think about.
The hemispheres/brain thing, however, is an important part of modern cognitive science and neuroscience. The split brain experiments, which I linked a video about in my second post, are extremely important and counter-intuitive; you can look here for some interesting research results on that topic:
Good points, definitely. For reasons along those lines I’m very skeptical of these kinds of connections, especially when we’re talking about things like the history of politics. The human tendency to look for patterns is extremely vulnerable to failure, for sure.
As for the point about Western thought: one should also go a step further back and ask why Western philosophy and metaphysics ended up having deep-rooted obsessions with those dualities and polarities in the first place.
Right now I definitely feel like Buddhism was onto something, especially Zen; I haven’t really read much about it, but from a cursory glance some of what I see aligns so closely with some of my own realizations that the coincidence seems very striking indeed. Of course, I’ve picked up quite a lot about Buddhism from the cultural milieu over the years, so it’s also not surprising if I internalized many of those ideas without ever realizing it; that would also explain the coincidence pretty well.
Perhaps the main thing the Buddha lacked was a proper understanding of modern mathematics, science and empiricism. Introspection is vastly more powerful when your mind (especially the subconscious parts of it) has the right tools to work with, I suspect.
I am left to wonder how rational this current self will appear in light of the thought that I am still in the midst of what is likely to be hypomania. Knowing this fact is enough to reduce my current confidence levels, but my hypotheses about how different fundamental motivations are embedded as essentially competing agents within the brain, and how these same motivations are reflected within society at large and especially on the political spectrum, still seem to reflect a number of important facts about reality.
I agree with “Dude’s got issues like time magazine”, but I wouldn’t call it Men’s Rights or Gamergate. Kinda interesting that a post he made in 2012 in the context of his published books then and his published books now mean slightly different things. Like at the end of the third book the only powerful characters are men and the only remaining significant female character is a prostitute. Over the next four books the female characters are three of the most powerful in the setting and essentially all the things that men do to women in the first trilogy they start doing to each other ten fold and worse. Not saying it’s “good”, but it’s definitely a very different angle to view the same quoted comment.
Honestly cheese, this post makes me question how informed you are about Buddhism. There are fundamental incompatibilities in the foundations of Western philosophy and Buddhist thought boiling down to anthrocentrism and the roles & authority (or lack thereof) of human subjectivity, conceptualization, & perception in defining & understanding existence. Obviously that’s an oversimplification, considering the many branches of Eastern philosophy, or even Buddhism and their history and evolution through historic and political contexts.
It’s why I’m letting his own words represent him, and outside of his books. I don’t know what he really thinks, and while he’s definitely got some issues, he also doesn’t seem to come across as a card-carrying member of the He-man woman hater’s club - but he might also just be decent at hiding it. After all, wouldn’t be the first time, we know Julian Assange is a shitbag right now, but for a long time we thought he was alright, even though people who know him have been telling us he’s like this for years. Fuck’s sake, Joss Whedon, we thought for a long time that he was an upstanding feminist dude, and it turns out he’s actually just a creepy weirdo who liked to take advantage of his position of power to get laid. That’s just what I grabbed some of his own commentary about his own work, and why he thinks(or thought) that it should be how it is.
I could have pointed to his books, but I didn’t think it was relevant - since I’m doing examples right now, let’s go for another: Ender’s Game doesn’t exactly come across as a deeply homophobic religious screed, despite Orson Scott Card being a deeply homophobic, very religious man. You might point to small sections of it and say “This suggests it”, but it’s clearly not the best way to show what he’s about.
Also, I’m making no comment, or even attempting to comment, on the content of his books. I’ve read two, they’re not for me, but I don’t really want to comment on them since I’ve not read the majority of them.
I also parallel OSC and RSB. The way he details women and their thought processes is very reminiscent of Larry Niven, which is not a compliment.
Just had a re-realization that people often take me most seriously when I’m being the least serious… I always forget, but looking back it explains so much.
I wouldn’t mind a further discussion of this, because I have done very little reading about Buddhism and there’s probably a lot I don’t know that might be useful for me to learn.
I also am extremely skeptical of a lot of Western philosophy; I think it gets a huge number of things wrong. There is a very long history in Western philosophy of people being very confused about things, and of different philosophers having grand arguments in which they mostly talk past one another. In particular, Western philosophy has a long history of being deeply confused and likely deeply wrong about the nature of consciousness.
So, let me go further (along with some basic Wikipedia reading) in deconstructing some of my thoughts about Buddhism and philosophy more generally, then.
- The notion of a “Middle Way” is very important; it points to the need to find balance in one’s life, and to avoid the dangers of addiction (whether it be to sex, drugs, video games, or w/e else).
- The Eightfold Path gets a couple of things right, but it’s still overly ascetic; e.g. the degree of sex-negativity is completely unjustified.
- The fact that actions have consequences, and one should avoid harming others, is essential. But there are also trade-offs involved; materialistic concerns can be extremely important in achieving much more important non-materialistic goals.
- The dedication to truth (c.f. “Right Speech”) and the importance of not deceiving and not being deceived by others is vitally important.
- But the problem with considering “truth” in isolation is that humans cannot reach truth merely via introspection and discussion with others.
- Humans’ thought patterns are, by their very nature, extremely vunlerable to delusion and irrationality.
- In discussions with others, the truth is necessarily warped by the fluid and imprecise nature of human language, and by the aforementioned nature of human thought. Many different people can read the same sequence of words and come away with completely different perceptions of what was said.
- Despite these factors, very few human beings are willing to come to terms with human irrationality, especially their own irrationality.
- Because of this, and because people’s models of other people are all too often in significant ways based on themselves (which makes perfect sense computationally; modeling other humans without leveraging your self-model is something that just wouldn’t work).
- Because people are unwilling to grasp how irrational they themselves are or can be, this leads to consistent failures in their models of other people. When they think about why they did something bad, they make excuses for themselves, but when they think about why another person did something bad, they assume it must be because that other person is, due to some intrinsic characteristic, a “bad person”.
- Because they don’t want to think about their own vulnerability to delusions and irrationality, people very rarely stop and truly think about how another person’s bad actions might be caused by that other person’s own delusions and irrationality.
- The above issues are the reason why mathematics, science, skepticism, and empiricism are essential. Without mathematics and science you cannot force yourself to pin down your thoughts to the point where you can be later willing to admit, to yourself and to others, that you were wrong. Without skepticism and empiricism, i.e. the willingness to repeatedly bash your delusions head-first against the wall that is Reality, you will never truly rid yourself of your own delusional thoughts.
- The “cycle of suffering” or saṃsāra is not entirely wrong, but it mostly misses the point. There are plenty of good things in life that are not suffering, and so seeking to “end the cycle of rebirth” seems like a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
- Mindfulness is vitally important, i.e. being conscious of what is happening around you, and perhaps most importantly of all seeking to be increasingly conscious of the subconscious workings of your own brain.
Most of what you read in the wikipedia article is like saying that the ten commandments encompasses the whole of Christian doctrine and history.
This is where Buddhism contrasts with Western thought. Western thought says that the world is separate than the man, and that it can be known objectively without the influence of self. Thus the endless effort to divide, categorize, label, equates to understanding. Despite some acknowledgment that the individual self is unreliable, Western thought doubles down on it and tries to eliminate subjectivity through quantity and universality.
If we’re talking about Buddhism is, it’s first important to recognize how much older and diverse it is, and the various divisions in it. This is why I was talking about historical context, and while a wikipedia article is not enough (Apart from being a bit insulting, western descriptions of buddhism are inevitably framed and understood via western concepts), here you go https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schools_of_Buddhism. So for anything below, there’s probably a sect that believes the exact opposite. Pff!
The super basic version is that the concept of self is an illusion. That not only is the self as defined by consciousness a dynamic, mutable, nebulous, and transient thing (The cloud as a classic metaphor), but it is desire and definition that fuel suffering (in the form of a truism). This is why this (and any) explanation is wrong (although there is a very consequentialist thread in Buddhism) The practice of Buddhism is to exist and act with awareness – so unlike introspection, it does not delineate where the awareness should stop, except that it should exist in the present (except that it shouldn’t because nothing should). The noble truths & precepts are strong suggestions at best (“How probably not to contribute asshole-ness?” by The Buddha), and the heavy rules are believed to be later political additions. To complicate things further, while the “goal” of Buddhism is enlightenment and freedom from sorrow, the very existence of goal-ness is a source of suffering. There’s a lot of love for the uncertainty principle. Zen sects embrace the contradiction through the use of meditation and koan, while others focus on the practical, political, spiritual, religious, transcendental, or dogmatic. While some sects like appeal to authority and the “one true ____”, others are perfectly comfortable with the natural evolution of a belief system and have incorporated it into the belief.
The closest Western philosophy (to Zen, that I’m aware of) would be the existentialism of Sarte, in the frightening and delightful abyss of freedom, although it is similar and opposite like two sides of glass.
Am I a Buddhist? I’m a pretty terrible buddhist, and perfectly ok with it.
Ugh. Time for a snack.
That’s quite a fair criticism; my own lack of knowledge about Buddhism is a major reason why I thought the topic was worth bringing up. It’s also not very fair of me to bring it up without going to the effort of doing more serious research, but my time is limited and it’s much easier to figure things out if I can get other people to point me in the right direction.
I can see that this is frustrating for you, but I’d like to thank you for making the effort nevertheless; I hope my responses can make it clear that the effort was worthwhile.
I completely agree. Western philosophy has a very long history of going wildly wrong with confused and sometimes incoherent notions like the soul, free will, solipsism, and generally lots and lots of confusion about the nature of consciousness. For an obvious example of how Western philosophy can (and does) go deeply wrong, you only need to look at René Descartes; he is a clear example of a deeply confused person who claimed to start with one or two reasonable principles and ended up justifying a bunch of obviously wrong ideas like dualism and the existence of God.
In particular, I strongly agree with you about the danger of labels and categorization. Attempts to oversimplify complex concepts almost invariably result in confusion and failure; a running theme in Western philosophy.
I emphasize mathematics because mathematics is a language is precise in so many ways that every single human languge is not. Attaching labels to things leads to confusion, but attaching math to things leads to understanding.
I emphasize empiricism (i.e. the need focus on sensory input) because the only way to understand the world and thus to achieve goals in the world is via channels of information about it. That information cannot simply appear in your mind by pure happenstance; it must end up there by coming from the world.
But then even one’s senses can not be trusted. Perhaps the most obvious example is looking for typos in your own writing. You have trouble noticing those typos because your senses are being processed by your brain, and thus even your senses can lie. Consider, as another example, people who repeatedly fail to correctly pronounce words, even when their incorrect pronunciation is directly pointed out to them. They do this because, in their own model of the world, their pronunciation is correct, and any efforts to correct it are worthless; thus they continue to remain in denial about this incorrectness.
Your senses are not reality; they are a model of reality, and like any other model they are subject to update and critique whenever they fail to be accurate. People who assume that their senses are wholly reliable are confusing the map for the territory.
Even though your thoughts and your senses can and do lie, you can still use your thoughts and your senses in more creative ways (e.g. to conduct a scientific experiment) in order to analyse your thoughts and your senses, and come to more reasonable conclusions.
Understood. I may have read about this before, but from outside influences I’ve generally come to the notion that Zen in particular tends to be much more reasonable than other schools.
I definitely agree that the concept of “self”, and especially “consciousness”, is inherently confused; I’ve had thoughts along those lines for a while now. Not necessarily an illusion per se; it likely does refer to something real, but the real thing that it refers to may be completely different from one’s experience of it.
Either way, I am extremely hesitant to make assumptions about, or reach conclusions about, the nature of “self” or of “consciousness” in the absence of more concrete mathematics or any kind of scientific theory that would pin the notion down.
As to your point about introspection, I see what you mean. I think that somewhere in my mind I must have been conflating the nature and purpose of things like mindfulness and meditation with the much more Western concept of introspection.
I also completely agree with you re. the vale mindfulness and the need to act with awareness. This is something I have started doing to a much greater degree in the past couple of days, and I find that I’ve started to pick up on a whole bunch of signals, especially social signals, in the world around me that I would otherwise have been oblivious to. This change in myself, and a newfound interest in trying something like meditation, is perhaps the main reason why I feel an increased interest in Buddhism more recently.
But where I disagree with Buddhism, or at least Buddhism in the form that you’ve put forward in your latest post, is in the assertion that goal-ness or should-ness leads to suffering, and yet that we should aspire to freedom from suffering.
If suffering is, in some deeper sense, an intrinsic badness that means there is something wrong with the world, why is it not also the case that things like pleasure and joy are something that is right with the world. Why not simply accept that the former should not and the latter should?
Where I think Buddhism goes wrong is in the assumption that desire necessarily leads to suffering. While, in some sense, you cannot have suffering without desire, it does not follow that any and all desire will always lead to suffering.
In my view, the true sources of suffering are twofold:
- When your desires are driven by delusional thinking or irrationality; such desires are liable to end in frustration and suffering.
- When one person’s desires are in conflict with another’s.
The importance of (1) and (2) can be linked quite easily to the notions I linked previously. The answer to (2) is game theory, which at its most basic level is about conflict resolution. The answers to (1) are skepticism, empiricism, mathematics, and science; Bayesian inference in particular is important. The reason why is simple: those are by far the best tools we have in forming accurate beliefs about the world.
I disagree, from the bottom of my heart, with the notion that all desires are bound to end in failure, frustration, and suffering. Suffering can be mitigated by making the world a better place, and even though there is and will always be some suffering in the world, that suffering is worthwhile because alongside it there will also be happiness, joy and pleasure.
It’s more accurate to say that the suffering could not exist without desire and definition. That’s why I said “In the Truism sense”. But like I said, I am insufficient to explain it, and trying to give you the cliffs notes does both of us a disservice.
Saying “Where I think Buddhism goes wrong” is flat out arrogant when you aren’t even familiar with it, or its centuries of thought, by your own statement.
Anyway, I have no stake in convincing you. If you’re interested, I can pass along some recommended reading, but otherwise, I’m good.
Literally none of these are “obviously false” (some of Decartes god stuff is pretty bad but I’m just referring to “a bunch of obviously wrong ideas like… the existence of God”) and dismissing all of these out of hand like this is insane.
Again, you’ve made some important points.
You are quite right to call me out for arrogance for being so dismissive. Although I try not to be, I am definitely a person who is vulnerable to being arrogant. But then there are also many people who would call me arrogant for being dismissive of René Descartes or dismissive of all of Christianity, which also has centuries of thought associated with it.
It was wrong of me to say “where I think Buddhism goes wrong”, because as you said earlier there are many different schools of Buddhism. What I should have said instead is “where I disagree with you”, or perhaps even “where this conflicts with my own intuitions”
In regards to Buddhism, and Zen in particular, I have a distinct feeling that there a a number of strains of genuine wisdom behind it that appear to be completely absent in Western philosophy; thus I feel it would be beneficial to me to become more acquainted with it. Please keep in mind that when I express skepticism over Buddhism I am not buying into any kind of Buddhism vs Western philosophy dichotomy; I am, in general, quite skeptical of both, especially when you drill down into any particular school of thought.
Additionally, since it appears that there may be significant disagreement between my philosophical views and yours, I’m more interested in learning what your views are rather than what the views of Buddhism are. As you said there are many different schools and so it would probably not make sense to talk about those views as any kind of coherent whole.
I am also open to recommended reading. What I’m interested in:
- The value of mindfulness and of acting with awareness.
- The practice of self-control.
What I’m not interested in:
- Being told that my desires and my emotions are a problem in and of themselves, even if they are appropriately controlled and consciously mediated.
- Being told that pleasure, happiness, or joy are any less valuable just because they are temporary.