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-   -   Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe) (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=7225)

badhatharry 12-16-2011 09:39 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 234812)
Your concerns are similar to Stephanie's so I'll try to respond to both of you here. I apologize for not being able to make myself clear so far on this point.

Thanks! Your post is very clearly written and I largely agree. As an aside, I have read Jonah Lehrer's, Proust was a Neuroscientist.


So we now know how one gets to the grocery store to buy coffee beans. But how does one decide, based on your analysis, who to vote for for president? Or how does one decide whether or not to support the invasion of Iraq?

Ray in Seattle 12-17-2011 02:18 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 234860)
So we now know how one gets to the grocery store to buy coffee beans. But how does one decide, based on your analysis, who to vote for for president? Or how does one decide whether or not to support the invasion of Iraq?

Or how does one decide what profession to pursue - or whether to ask a particular person to marry you - or if a young newlywed should decide to stay home to raise her kids and give up a long dreamed of professional life?

My view is that one is far more likely to use reason to figure out from which market to buy coffee beans - than to answer any of those other questions. For one thing, reason is very unlikely to yield a logical answer to such questions. It is with the most important of life's questions - the questions that will have the greatest effect on our happiness for the rest of our lives - where the limitations of reason and logic are often the most apparent. How could someone logically determine whether a career as a lawyer or an auto mechanic will provide them the most happiness in life, for example. One simply "knows" (intuits) the answer to such questions by the time they are 15 or so, perhaps earlier.

It is in these areas where the elegant mechanism of intuition shows its greatest strength. In these cases, intuition makes its opinions known through those top levels of one's belief hierarchy where one's identity is taking shape as we "try on" various identities. Even at 15 years old one has significant blocks of those identity beliefs taking shape. And those will start yielding reliable emotional guides to such questions - narrowing the possibilities as our identity becomes more complete in those areas. But it is those high level beliefs that define who we are (or who we are becoming) where the answer to those questions lie - not in some impossible to apply multi-variable logical analysis.

It is important to stress that it is the emotional power of such beliefs and not their manifestation in logical (or sometimes illogical) words that affect our behavior. The words we use to describe our motives in these cases are often simply justifications to make others (or ourselves) feel better about our choices after the fact - not the result of logical deliberation - which, as I noted, is almost impossible to apply to such huge questions with so many unquantifiable variables. When imagining ourselves arguing a case in court or modifying a high performance engine - one or the other of those will obviously feel satisfyingly right or uncomfortably foreign - to the person we imagine ourselves to be some day.

After the first few of our basic identity beliefs become anchored - even by three or four years old - we will tend to acquire new identity beliefs in a way that our personality becomes coherent and free of epistemological contradictions as far as possible. i.e. we will favor new beliefs that support our existing beliefs and reject those that are not compatible. In that way we progress on our path to maturity acquiring a set of useful beliefs that tell us how to get by in life with the greatest happiness.

Added: We can acquire new identity beliefs and edit existing ones as the result of reasoning. I think everyone probably does this occasionally in life. By experience and use those logical results can become new intuition-producing beliefs. But I think it's not nearly as common as most of us believe. In most cases we acquire beliefs that emotionally support what we already believe to be true about the world.

But sometimes we do acquire seemingly compatible beliefs that turn out to be not so compatible later and may cause us problems life. I knew many women in the sixties who read "The Feminine Mystique" and faced the contradictions caused by the clash of career dreams and motherhood that you mentioned. I suspect many young women today face that same dilemma. But if, at some time in their life if they believe both of those are noble aspirations (compatible with their identity) and they become pregnant - I'm sure making that choice has to be painful. I know those women get through it somehow and come out on one side or they other - in many cases only after a lot of self doubt and anguish.

I have also seen that some women who make that choice will (non-consciously) edit their identity beliefs as a result. They will find themselves to be a different person to some extent after that wrenching experience. They may even become outspoken advocates for the path they chose to follow - and disparaging of women who chose the other path - perhaps to hide any doubts they still carry with them.

I also know some women who have done a good job of combining their motherhood and career aspirations. It takes a lot of effort I'm sure but I've seen it done very well.

In any case, I find that trying to understand my own and others' behavior through this window - the emotional power of identity beliefs acquired starting early in life and reinforced as we mature, to shape one's personality, behavior, beliefs and choices - can be pretty helpful.

Added: In case it is not obvious to others by now I find this window applies very well to the range of questions explored and the views expressed in this forum.

stephanie 12-17-2011 02:46 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 234897)
Or how does one decide what profession to pursue - or whether to ask a particular person to marry you - or if a young newlywed should decide to stay home to raise her kids and give up a long dreamed of professional life?

I suspect reason is possible here, but obviously it depends on one's goals, what one things is most valuable. So ultimately on those base beliefs. But that we can't reason all the way down doesn't mean reason isn't used.

I found your explanation helpful, and compatible with my views in some ways, but I just don't agree that because we are able to drive on instinct (which we clearly cannot when learning) or because most moral decisions are made that way (compatible with my belief in habituation), that means that all decisions are made in that way. To the contrary, there's a difference we perceive.

Quote:

My view is that one is far more likely to use reason to figure out from which market to buy coffee beans - than to answer any of those other questions.
Yes, this is where we disagree, yet I wouldn't disagree if you said a woman (or man) did whatever because it felt right, based on emotion reactions. I think one may often (I know friends who have) reason and worry a lot about the best way to care for one's kids. Part of this is preexisting beliefs, but that doesn't mean that you are not employing reason. Again, I think this is about the impossiblility of reasoning all the way down.

If it's just intuition, you aren't explaining different results, which are clearly visible if you compare decisions over time and from culture to culture. Certainly a large part of my views of these things depends on what I observed about my parents and other families, what I understood as my options, what I observe now about others. These are all variables.

Ray in Seattle 12-17-2011 03:27 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 234900)
I suspect reason is possible here, but obviously it depends on one's goals, what one things is most valuable. So ultimately on those base beliefs. But that we can't reason all the way down doesn't mean reason isn't used.

I agree with this. I could have made that clearer. We will attempt to apply reason to parts of those questions I'm sure. I think what happens is that to the extent we trust our "reasoned" conclusions in those areas and how "intuitively" relevant they are - we will selectively apply reason and incorporate those results in our ultimate decision. I read someplace (I think it was Jonah Lehrer) where he suggested the best way to answer such complex and important questions in life is to carefully and logically explore as many facets of the problem as possible and from as many different angles - let those deliberations sit for a while - then try to forget all the "thinking" and go with what just feels right at that moment. i.e. he's advocating to honestly allow your intuitions to incorporate as much "reasoning" as they can and as seems intuitively relevant. Then go with your gut.

Quote:

I found your explanation helpful, and compatible with my views in some ways, but I just don't agree that because we are able to drive on instinct (which we clearly cannot when learning) or because most moral decisions are made that way (compatible with my belief in habituation), that means that all decisions are made in that way.
I hope my answer above is satisfactory here as well.

Quote:

Yes, this is where we disagree, yet I wouldn't disagree if you said a woman (or man) did whatever because it felt right, based on emotion reactions.
But that is exactly what I'm saying. Intuitions produce emotional forces pointing us toward behavior decisions.

Quote:

I think one may often (I know friends who have) reason and worry a lot about the best way to care for one's kids. Part of this is preexisting beliefs, but that doesn't mean that you are not employing reason. Again, I think this is about the impossiblility of reasoning all the way down.
OK

Quote:

If it's just intuition, you aren't explaining different results, which are clearly visible if you compare decisions over time and from culture to culture.
Actually, I believe such different intuitions acquired as (cultural) identity beliefs do account for those "different results". That's one reason I like this window - it gives me plausible answers to confounding questions relating to cultural conflict.

Quote:

Certainly a large part of my views of these things depends on what I observed about my parents and other families, what I understood as my options, what I observe now about others. These are all variables.
Yes. And those all have contributed to your identity beliefs and to the intuitions (emotions) that arise in you when you face questions in your own life where they might apply. Even as to whether or not you will attempt to apply reason and logic to some parts of those questions. http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/images/icons/icon7.gif

Added: I think what I am saying is that we certainly use reason to explore questions - but only to the extent that our logical conclusions shape or create new intuitions (beliefs) - will they be incorporated into our important life decisions.

To take an extreme example, even if we logically understand that our child might die without medical attention we might withhold that attention and let them die if we have acquired strong religious identity beliefs that such medical attention is contrary to God's will. The most obvious logic has no power to affect our life decisions unless we first integrate those logical results into our identity at some level. Before we can allow doctors to treat our child we must become - to some extent - a person who believes that taking responsibility for and caring for our children in the best way we can is more important than following any religious dogma that would have us not do that.

badhatharry 12-17-2011 05:32 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 234905)
I agree with this. I could have made that clearer.

Just want you to know I have read your posts with interest and don't have anything very intelligent to ask or add at this point...except I am wondering if there is a tie-in to Kant here.

Quote:

In Kant's view, a priori intuitions and concepts provide us with some a priori knowledge, which also provides the framework for our a posteriori knowledge. Kant also believed that causality is a conceptual organizing principle that we impose upon nature, albeit nature understood as the sum of appearances that can be synthesized according to our a priori concepts.

In other words, space and time are a form of perceiving and causality is a form of knowing. Both space and time and our conceptual principles and processes pre-structure our experience

stephanie 12-17-2011 07:35 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 234908)
Just want you to know I have read your posts with interest and don't have anything very intelligent to ask or add at this point...except I am wondering if there is a tie-in to Kant here.

I was trying to figure out in my initial posts if Ray was taking a Hume vs. Kant approach, but he seems to be resisting that terminology and the basic argument.

badhatharry 12-17-2011 09:53 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 234915)
I was trying to figure out in my initial posts if Ray was taking a Hume vs. Kant approach, but he seems to be resisting that terminology and the basic argument.

but certianly Hume and Kant were not diametrically opposed.

Ray in Seattle 12-18-2011 02:18 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 234915)
I was trying to figure out in my initial posts if Ray was taking a Hume vs. Kant approach, but he seems to be resisting that terminology and the basic argument.

Ray is not resisting that terminology or the basic argument. He has no idea what it means. He tried to learn something about philosophy once and even passed an undergrad survey course long ago. But his eyes still glaze over at about the third paragraph of whatever he reads. He's now Googling around trying to understand enough about the question to provide a non-idiotic answer. http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/images/icons/icon6.gif It's probably an interesting question. He'll get back.

sugarkang 12-18-2011 06:58 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 234933)
but certianly Hume and Kant were not diametrically opposed.

With regard to ethics, they're pretty opposed. Although, Hume seemed to have more of an impact on science even though Kant spent a significant amount of energy trying to make Hume wrong. As far as permeating through to public consciousness, Kant seems to have won. Everything I believe in starts with a Kantian principle. It's also pretty clear to me that Kant was wrong, at least for what he's most famous for.

Ocean 12-18-2011 09:36 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 234951)
Ray is not resisting that terminology or the basic argument. He has no idea what it means. He tried to learn something about philosophy once and even passed an undergrad survey course long ago. But his eyes still glaze over at about the third paragraph of whatever he reads. He's now Googling around trying to understand enough about the question to provide a non-idiotic answer. http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/images/icons/icon6.gif It's probably an interesting question. He'll get back.

Ray should be praised for his enthusiastic googling around and learning. It's good to get motivated by interacting with others, and then go do some reading here and there. Sometimes we discover that the topic isn't for us, and sometimes we may have a surprise and find ourselves immersed in an area of study from which we shied away before, or simply never had the opportunity.

Good for you!

badhatharry 12-18-2011 11:29 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 234958)
With regard to ethics, they're pretty opposed. .

We were (I think) talking about epistemology.

Quote:

As far as permeating through to public consciousness, Kant seems to have won. Everything I believe in starts with a Kantian principle. It's also pretty clear to me that Kant was wrong, at least for what he's most famous for
Maybe you could explain this...what is Kant both wrong about and famous for?

AemJeff 12-18-2011 12:01 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 234958)
With regard to ethics, they're pretty opposed. Although, Hume seemed to have more of an impact on science even though Kant spent a significant amount of energy trying to make Hume wrong. As far as permeating through to public consciousness, Kant seems to have won. Everything I believe in starts with a Kantian principle. It's also pretty clear to me that Kant was wrong, at least for what he's most famous for.

Humility, that's what we love about kang! I love the use of an unspecified argument couched in vague and relative terminology, the filling in of which is left as exercise for the reader. Masterful.

badhatharry 12-18-2011 12:19 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 234979)
the filling in of which is left as exercise for the reader.

Or you could descend from your high horse and ask him for clarification.

AemJeff 12-18-2011 12:34 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 234980)
Or you could descend from your high horse and ask him for clarification.

Why? And all I have is a little, limping donkey.

Ocean 12-18-2011 12:50 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 234981)
Why? And all I have is a little, limping donkey.

!!!

Merry Christmas, Jeff!

AemJeff 12-18-2011 12:56 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 234983)
!!!

Merry Christmas, Jeff!

:) And to you Ocean. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMtuVP8Mj4o

(And yeah, I know it's an obvious choice, it feels exactly appropriate and I love the joyousness of this song.)

stephanie 12-18-2011 01:18 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 234977)
We were (I think) talking about epistemology.

That's what I understood, but they had important differences. Initially, I thought Ray was arguing for the idea that we can't really reason about things, that all our "knowledge" comes from the empirical.

Ray in Seattle 12-18-2011 02:03 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 234908)
...except I am wondering if there is a tie-in to Kant here.

OK - I've gone to several links now in my attempts to expand my knowledge on these topics. I'm afraid that again, by about the third paragraph of whatever I'm reading, I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of obviously crucial terms being used to make some point - each of which would require a week or more of in depth meditation and further reading to comprehend well enough to make sense of it. Not only that but I suspect that to be fully certain I grasped the material I would need several years of immersion and meditation. And so to avoid reaching conclusions based only on partial knowledge, for now I will leave your question unanswered.

OTOH I don't mean in any way to deprecate the philosophic questions that several members here like you and Stephanie seem to value and find relevant. I encourage you to enlighten me - if you wish - by perhaps putting the question in your own terms in the context of this discussion rather than referring to Kant and Hume's ideas on these things.

****************

Your question has caused me to reflect on why I have so much trouble thinking about philosophical questions. I think the problem is that I am (almost passionately) drawn to understanding human nature - behavior. I see philosophy only as an interesting side-effect of human nature - our ability to conceptualize to extremely deep levels of abstraction. I'm sure the product of philosophical minds has intrinsic value - and I'm sure it provides intense intellectual stimulation for many smart people. But I doubt that it holds answers to the puzzles I find most interesting and so I feel I'm getting off-track when I do wade in to the philosophical waters even if only up to my ankles - like now.

To verify that I have no deep-seated antagonism toward the field of philosophy or philosophers you should known that in the early sixties when I was about twenty - I took to hanging out at book stores and coffee shops known as "beatnik hangouts" - where I would wear turtle neck sweaters and smoke a pipe - but without inhaling. Unfortunately this did not cause any remarkable improvement in my sex life and it was also difficult keeping track of the pipes, tobacco, lighter, pipe cleaners, etc. One of them was always missing. And so I eventually went back to souping up my '51 Ford Victoria to make it the ultimate chick magnet - which was more fun and at least not less successful. http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/images/icons/icon7.gif

stephanie 12-18-2011 03:27 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 234992)
OK - I've gone to several links now in my attempts to expand my knowledge on these topics. I'm afraid that again, by about the third paragraph of whatever I'm reading, I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of obviously crucial terms being used to make some point - each of which would require a week or more of in depth meditation and further reading to comprehend well enough to make sense of it.

I think this is an insightful comment, as often the references are to existing debates that frame the discussion but make it harder for people to initially understand what is being said.

One of the crucial issues is how we can know things -- or if we can. For Kant (and this is super simplistic), we can't know things in themselves, as our understanding of everything can't be separated from what our minds bring to it -- space and time contributed by our minds, for example, yet they are essential to how we see things. He argues (contrary to Hume) that these are not learned empirically, but are inherent to our minds. (Hume had said we canít learn from reason, that all ideas are acquired from the senses, from experience, and thatís where I thought you were going.) Kant wanted to rescue us from this and the resulting conclusions, and in particular to establish a basis for laws of nature, for a priori truths, for universal claims.

Ray in Seattle 12-18-2011 06:01 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 234997)
One of the crucial issues is how we can know things -- or if we can. For Kant (and this is super simplistic), we can't know things in themselves, as our understanding of everything can't be separated from what our minds bring to it -- space and time contributed by our minds, for example, yet they are essential to how we see things. He argues (contrary to Hume) that these are not learned empirically, but are inherent to our minds. (Hume had said we canít learn from reason, that all ideas are acquired from the senses, from experience, and thatís where I thought you were going.) Kant wanted to rescue us from this and the resulting conclusions, and in particular to establish a basis for laws of nature, for a priori truths, for universal claims.

Thanks, that helps. For me, if organisms can "know" something then that implies there's an evolutionary purpose for knowing. I see that evolutionary purpose as facilitating organisms with brains in their production of survival enhancing behavior.

Wonderment 12-18-2011 10:11 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Merry Christmas War (on Xmas) is Over

sugarkang 12-19-2011 06:15 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 234977)
We were (I think) talking about epistemology.

If the argument was about epistemology, then my earlier comment shouldn't really apply; I thought we were talking about morality. As for epistemology, I thought Hume was first to destroy solipsism (Descartes). Nietzsche also makes fun of Descartes, but I don't really see that it gets us anywhere. The problem seems to lie in language, itself. The issue is supposed to be tackled by Wittgenstein, but I still haven't gotten around to it as my immediate problems aren't so abstract as to question what it is we really know.

Quote:

Maybe you could explain this...what is Kant both wrong about and famous for?
I'd say he's most famous for his categorical imperative. With regard to morality, I say he's been much more influential than Hume because Kant is the basis for law, itself. Obviously, there were laws enforced by the state long before Kant. However, even if the "golden rule" doesn't quite match principles that can be universalized, it still comes pretty damn close for people who don't want, or have no time, to think much about the subject. Universal rules that apply equally, to everyone, is the basis for our legal system. We cry injustice when laws aren't equally applied, or when some animals insist on being more equal than others. This is uncontroversial, I think; I also think it's incorrect. But I do not have, and therefore do not propose, a solution.

The moral correctness of having universal laws depends on free women to exercise their free will. Do you recall Julian Sanchez making a passing comment in another thread that he does not believe in free will? This can become a weedy, meandering and pointlessly dumbed down conversation really quickly: "I ain't no fucking robot." I'll just point to the empirical. Brian Leiter and Joshua Knobe provided some data on twin studies; they cite the outcomes of twins in different environments. My memory is fuzzy on the exact details as it's been a while since I've read it. I also don't have the book on me at the moment. With that caveat, the comparison variables looked something like this:

adopted children (criminal biological parents) raised by law abiding adoptive parents;
adopted children (law abiding biological parents) raised by criminal adoptive parents;
biological children living with biological criminal parents;
and so on.

The data quite refutes what we think of as "common sense." The data also tells me that we have much less free will than we generally suppose, and IMO, should point us toward a more humane incarceration system. However, politically, I see the danger that it would be used for the exact opposite.

sugarkang 12-19-2011 06:47 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 234979)
Humility, that's what we love about kang! I love the use of an unspecified argument couched in vague and relative terminology, the filling in of which is left as exercise for the reader. Masterful.

Another fine example of resentment masquerading as rationality. The reason I don't take you seriously, Jeffrey, is not because you troll exclusively with ad hominems. It's because you assume that I'm the sort of person that wouldn't provide the substantive evidence that negates your silly superstitions. Never mind that I always provide the actual evidence that you never expect me to have. Never mind that you always assume bad faith on my part. That's really all fine and good. But if I provide you with evidence from the real world, you can respond with counterevidence, or you can continue pretending that facts don't exist. Sadly, you always opt for the latter. How can I put this in terms that you might understand? Hmm... I suppose it's like trying to convince people of the perils of global warming, but they'd rather put their faith in God.

I'm sorry your Krispy Kreme investment hasn't been doing so well, but there's really no need to take it out on others. You can always be joyful for the donuts resting in your belly and in your face: past, present and future. Have a very glazed Christmas, homie.

AemJeff 12-19-2011 08:46 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 235035)
Another fine example of resentment masquerading as rationality. The reason I don't take you seriously, Jeffrey, is not because you troll exclusively with ad hominems. It's because you assume that I'm the sort of person that wouldn't provide the substantive evidence that negates your silly superstitions. Never mind that I always provide the actual evidence that you never expect me to have. Never mind that you always assume bad faith on my part. That's really all fine and good. But if I provide you with evidence from the real world, you can respond with counterevidence, or you can continue pretending that facts don't exist. Sadly, you always opt for the latter. How can I put this in terms that you might understand? Hmm... I suppose it's like trying to convince people of the perils of global warming, but they'd rather put their faith in God.

I'm sorry your Krispy Kreme investment hasn't been doing so well, but there's really no need to take it out on others. You can always be joyful for the donuts resting in your belly and in your face: past, present and future. Have a very glazed Christmas, homie.

Wow, kang doesn't take me seriously! Tragedy or comedy? I leave that question as an exercise for the reader - to the extent that anyone has read this far, or cares enough to have an opinion.

Is that crickets?

badhatharry 12-19-2011 03:37 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 235034)
If As for epistemology, I thought Hume was first to destroy solipsism (Descartes). Nietzsche also makes fun of Descartes, but I don't really see that it gets us anywhere. The problem seems to lie in language, itself. The issue is supposed to be tackled by Wittgenstein, but I still haven't gotten around to it as my immediate problems aren't so abstract as to question what it is we really know.
.

I see these people as engaged in a conversation. One will write what he thinks is a complete idea or refutation of something someone said prior and on it goes. Kant says Hume's skepticism awakened him from his dogmatism. It seems to me that Hume was arguing against reason...that we must rely on habits. We can assume cause but we can only experience a succession of events

But Kant went further and posited that in order for the mind to be able to grasp knowledge there must be an architecture (such as time and space) in place which can organize the input. He called this a priori knowledge and I think was the first attempt to describe what later would be known as innate abilities and structures of the human mind.

But what do I know? This stuff is all so hard to grasp, as Ray has pointed out.

sugarkang 12-19-2011 06:53 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 235053)
Kant says Hume's skepticism awakened him from his dogmatism.

Yes.
Quote:

It seems to me that Hume was arguing against reason...that we must rely on habits.
I don't think Hume goes as far as arguing against reason. If you have a link for Hume advocating anti-reason, I'd be interested to read it.

Quote:

But Kant went further and posited that in order for the mind to be able to grasp knowledge there must be an architecture (such as time and space) in place which can organize the input. He called this a priori knowledge...
To which Nietzsche replied, "what is the cause of a priori knowledge?" That's the end of Kant for me, succinctly put. Or at least, to adopt any kind of first principles, you have to adopt it as a matter of faith. And I do.

badhatharry 12-19-2011 07:27 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 235064)
Yes.

I don't think Hume goes as far as arguing against reason. If you have a link for Hume advocating anti-reason, I'd be interested to read it.


To which Nietzsche replied, "what is the cause of a priori knowledge?" That's the end of Kant for me, succinctly put. Or at least, to adopt any kind of first principles, you have to adopt it as a matter of faith. And I do.

But it's a conversation with different aspects to it. I don't know what Kant thinks he achieved but I think he may have described the kinds of things which Pinker points to when he says man is not a blank slate... human nature, the facility to organize and comprehend language that we are born with and without which we would remain blank slates. What Neitzsche seems to be saying is because Kant couldn't say what is the cause of human nature, he didn't do anything remarkable by saying that there is one and describing some of its characteristics.

I would say that Hume didn't so much argue against reason as point out it's limitations as previously defined. (is that sufficiently vague?)

Quote:

Hume sets out a two-stage argument that purports to show that even the conclusions reached in the demonstrative sciences are no more than probably true from an epistemic standpoint, and that no purportedly probable claim ever possesses any greater degree of epistemic probability than that possessed by its logical contradictory.

sugarkang 12-19-2011 10:58 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 235067)
But it's a conversation with different aspects to it. I don't know what Kant thinks he achieved but I think he may have described the kinds of things which Pinker points to when he says man is not a blank slate... human nature, the facility to organize and comprehend language that we are born with and without which we would remain blank slates.

I think Pinker is pretty persuasive. His theory also seems to line up well with Haidt's empirical data. But one thing that makes human beings distinct is that we can willfully choose to disregard our natural impulses for the sake of other goals. That need seems to be just around the corner.

Ray in Seattle 12-20-2011 12:29 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 235074)
But one thing that makes human beings distinct is that we can willfully choose to disregard our natural impulses for the sake of other goals.

But is that not the same as saying that we always choose the goal that we value most - at that moment of decision? And why would that not be a "natural impulse"?

sugarkang 12-20-2011 04:34 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 235078)
But is that not the same as saying that we always choose the goal that we value most - at that moment of decision? And why would that not be a "natural impulse"?

If I reduce your argument to barebones, it seems to be something like this: "everyone acts in accordance with their desires; to want is the most natural of impulses."

I agree that we all have desires and those determine which goals we pursue. However, when I think of "natural impulses," I think of a special category of base instincts common to all people that transcend ethnicity, culture, time, etc. Basic physical desires, e.g., sex, food, companionship, etc., seem to fit; we might include Haidt's five moral foundations as well. But what about people with long term goals or abstract desires? I don't think those are aptly described as "natural impulses."

When a Japanese man commits harakiri in order to preserve the honor of his family, that seems antithetical to the idea of a natural impulse. The most natural human impulse is to live one's life and to avoid death. Sure, there are exceptions. A terminally ill patient may want to die to be free from physical suffering; or a grieving widow may take her life to free herself from emotional sorrow. These are rational actors seeking relief. But a man who deliberately disembowels himself based on his sense of duty? That sounds like the most unnatural impulse in the world.

Ray in Seattle 12-20-2011 12:37 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 235081)
If I reduce your argument to barebones, it seems to be something like this: "everyone acts in accordance with their desires; to want is the most natural of impulses."

I agree that we all have desires and those determine which goals we pursue. However, when I think of "natural impulses," I think of a special category of base instincts common to all people that transcend ethnicity, culture, time, etc. Basic physical desires, e.g., sex, food, companionship, etc., seem to fit; we might include Haidt's five moral foundations as well. But what about people with long term goals or abstract desires? I don't think those are aptly described as "natural impulses."

I see in your reply what I call cognicentrism. This is the belief that we humans effectively have two brains; an emotional brain that follows our primitive desires and an improved cognitive brain that's capable of guiding us to more enlightened behaviors - such as those based on morality, altruism, reasoning, etc. It follows from this narrative that our cognitive brain is where our humanity resides - which is what sets us apart from other animals. This is a pervasive cultural belief that almost every member of Western civilization has internalized to the extent that even thinking about other possibilities feels disorienting and uncomfortable. I am in a small minority that question this belief.

I suggest that our brain takes the result of our cognition - when we apply it to a behavior decision - and based on its past experiences it (intuitively) assigns an emotional salience appropriate to the situation at hand. It is then that salience that competes for its choice against any other perhaps less enlightened alternatives. I suggest that the final choice is left to that intuitive part of our brain - which I believe has evolved a very exquisite and nuanced ability to arrive at behavior decisions that will prove beneficial. The brain is predicting which choice will optimize our emotional well-being - which is what all mammalian brains do when choosing behavior. But in this case it has included the results of any human reasoning that we may have applied to the question - appropriately weighted to reflect its prior experience using cognition in similar circumstances.

Did evolution create a separate decision-making brain in humans over the last 200,000 years that can over-rule the older decision-making brain that evolved in mammals over the last 200 million years. (Actually, we share that older decision-making apparatus with all vertebrates, not just mammals, and similar mechanisms can be identified in almost all animal life. The basic mechanism of organisms making behavior decisions to optimize their well-being must go back to the first life forms on Earth - otherwise they would have died out.)

Or, did the human mammalian brain simply evolve along with its newly evolved cognitive apparatus to recognize that module's behavior-guiding outputs - using the same tokens (emotional salience) that the brain was already wired to recognize? I suggest this was the case. One reason I prefer this explanation is that it offers a more reasonable accounting for what you describe as an "unnatural impulse" such as your example of Harikiri.

Harikiri was an extremely potent cultural belief in the Samurai class in feudal Japan. It was a member of a set of identity beliefs centered around the notion of personal honor which was always subject to risking one's life to preserve. Based on a Samurai's identity beliefs - risking one's life in combat or taking one's life to preserve one's honor was the norm. And so the Samurai's brain gave such a choice - in a relevant context - more than enough emotional salience to overcome any "natural impulse" to avoid death.

sugarkang 12-20-2011 07:06 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 235086)
I see in your reply what I call cognicentrism. This is the belief that we humans effectively have two brains; an emotional brain that follows our primitive desires and an improved cognitive brain that's capable of guiding us to more enlightened behaviors - such as those based on morality, altruism, reasoning, etc. It follows from this narrative that our cognitive brain is where our humanity resides - which is what sets us apart from other animals. This is a pervasive cultural belief that almost every member of Western civilization has internalized to the extent that even thinking about other possibilities feels disorienting and uncomfortable. I am in a small minority that question this belief.

I agree that the rational vs. emotional brain is a false dichotomy. Actually, I argued against this very idea somewhat early in this thread. I believe there is only the emotional brain, i.e., the rational brain is the emotional brain. The same applies to altruism and morality, IMO, as they also get their marching orders from the emotional brain. People donate money to the causes they feel strongly about; they support the political issues they feel strongly about. And all the people argue about why they feel this way or that way, but what they're really doing is expressing a preference for chocolate over vanilla; chocolate is asserted as correct and vanilla as incorrect -- as if they were math problems. Our views are probably closer than you previously suspected or, at least, not so incompatible.

When people say that rationality should trump irrationality, they aren't only expressing personal preferences. Sometimes, they are also advocating more importance placed on long term interests while sacrificing short term desires. Parents do this all the time with their children: turn off the xbox and study hard. Not only do kids know it's in their interest to go to a good school, get a good job and earn a lot of money; they know that hard work now will be worth it later. And yet they procrastinate, set aside thinking about homework and promise to just play one more game. This aligns with what you've said here...

Quote:

I suggest that our brain takes the result of our cognition - when we apply it to a behavior decision - and based on its past experiences it (intuitively) assigns an emotional salience appropriate to the situation at hand. It is then that salience that competes for its choice against any other perhaps less enlightened alternatives.
...

Quote:

One reason I prefer this explanation is that it offers a more reasonable accounting for what you describe as an "unnatural impulse" such as your example of Harikiri.
I don't think there's much substantive disagreement. The problem seems to stem from a disagreement about the meaning and implication of words. After all, your explanation is more biological/evolutionary and mine is more cultural/environmental. By natural impulse, I mean those that are universal to all men. When I talk of "unnatural impulses," I mean desires, virtues, morals, goals, that are not universally shared by all. These values are shaped by culture and environment, which may in turn affect how many and what kind of children are born, and so on.

Ray in Seattle 12-21-2011 12:17 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 235107)
I agree that the rational vs. emotional brain is a false dichotomy. Actually, I argued against this very idea somewhat early in this thread.

I remember that now. Sorry I missed it on your last comment.

Quote:

After all, your explanation is more biological/evolutionary and mine is more cultural/environmental.
Yes, I think that explains a lot. What line of reasoning - or path of discovery - led you to this view if I could ask? Are there any authors writing about this from the cultural/environmental perspective that you agree with? Or are you perhaps one of those authors?

sugarkang 12-21-2011 10:18 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 235119)
Yes, I think that explains a lot. What line of reasoning - or path of discovery - led you to this view if I could ask? Are there any authors writing about this from the cultural/environmental perspective that you agree with? Or are you perhaps one of those authors?

I'm definitely not one of the authors. In 2008, Jonathan Haidt had two diavlogs on this site. A "fun" version can be found on TED's site as well, but BHTV talks are always more substantive. Haidt's data is supplementary to Hume's basic hypothesis on rationality and morality. The Jesse Prinz / Will Wilkinson diavlog is also good related subject matter.

My thinking has changed in recent years to be more skeptical about my own personal views and to place more effort in trying to understand my smartest adversaries. Hume, Hayek, Nietzsche and Edward Bernays have probably influenced me the most in the past four years, but someone else who reads these authors would probably walk away with different theories than my own.

Ray in Seattle 12-21-2011 12:17 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 235138)
I'm definitely not one of the authors. In 2008, Jonathan Haidt had two diavlogs on this site. A "fun" version can be found on TED's site as well, but BHTV talks are always more substantive. Haidt's data is supplementary to Hume's basic hypothesis on rationality and morality. The Jesse Prinz / Will Wilkinson diavlog is also good related subject matter.

My thinking has changed in recent years to be more skeptical about my own personal views and to place more effort in trying to understand my smartest adversaries. Hume, Hayek, Nietzsche and Edward Bernays have probably influenced me the most in the past four years, but someone else who reads these authors would probably walk away with different theories than my own.

Thanks for this. I'm 12 minutes into the first Haidt diavlog and stopped long enough to download "The Happiness Hypothesis" to my Kindle account. Hope to compare more opinions with you in some future BhTV thread after I catch up a bit. http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/images/icons/icon6.gif Need to read some more Hume too - as Bad Hat Harry has suggested.

badhatharry 12-21-2011 06:42 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 235147)
Thanks for this. I'm 12 minutes into the first Haidt diavlog and stopped long enough to download "The Happiness Hypothesis" to my Kindle account. Hope to compare more opinions with you in some future BhTV thread after I catch up a bit. http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/images/icons/icon6.gif Need to read some more Hume too - as Bad Hat Harry has suggested.

hope we're all still around by then!

Ray in Seattle 12-21-2011 06:54 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 235189)
hope we're all still around by then!

Don't worry. I'll be sure to insert several less-well-educated comments before then.

I watched the 1st diavlog w/ Haidt and am 2/3 through the second. This is cool stuff. http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/images/icons/icon6.gif


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