Philosophical Staggerings

January 11, 2014

He or she who does not hesitate
is lost.

So the first word of this book, which is usually invisible, should be "Errr...."

"Explain the world to me."

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

I can explain many things to you. How planes can fly, why America exists as a political entity, how to make a milkshake, where babies come from.

And why do you need "the world" to be explained? You have a good life. You can and do exist in the world successfully.

Yes I can get to work, and do what I need to do to get a paycheck to live my life with a modicum of pleasure, but I am confused. There are so many different philosophy books, and so many religions. Which one is right? Which one should I study? How can I even decide between them? Are any of them right?

Are these real questions? Are questions without answers real questions? How do we know there are answers to these questions?

They seem simple enough. And traditional - smart people have always answered such questions.

There are many things, philosophical, religious and political, where many intelligent people will disagree with you. The metaphor we use here is of something like a math problem (not all higher math problems), or a measurement, or a simple fact where in most common cases there is indeed a right answer. Alternatively we could use the metaphor of a point of view, or alternatively of a taste, which does not demand one way of looking at things.

But we argue about these things as though we are in a contest for truth. This leads us to the first set of metaphors. At the same time we despair of having a correct answer. Which points us towards the second. (Philosophy, though not philosophers, does not even attempt a clear answer. We leave it at that.)

So the question is

What am I attempting here?

April 25, 2015

To state the obvious, This is not yet completely clear to me.

Setting aside the many personal reasons, and the noble metaphors I like to use to describe {something} in an admirable way,

I would like to make a case for people to be more hesitant when using all the abstract words we have at our disposal, especially when they think they stating a truth. This applies to almost all the talking heads in our society.

This is true when they are thinking, and understanding as well as talking.

This is not hard as we are all more than ready to dismiss other voice. But after we hesitate, then what? If we must speak | think then what?

I would like to suggest a number of thinking heuristics that might make our thinking about the biggest things in the world better.

Any philosophical article must explain why there are so many diverse philosophies thinking. We must at the very least take on at least religion and politics.

So is there any truth here? - First get clear on the word "truth" and then, having done that, the best answer is "of course."

April 26, 2015

None of the ideas presented here are new. If there will be anything new in this work, it will lie in the coherency of these ideas, the systematic use and elaboration of these ideas about our particular world, and the demonstration of using these ideas in practice in thinking about our world.

The Grand Synchronicity

There is a strong and conceptually important interconnection connection between:
  • the human brain
  • human language (use)
  • the human animal
  • human societies | cultures

The Manimal

Humans are also part of a blooming species. I will call this species, the manimal. This is a new word, whose purpose is to shake our understanding of ourselves (as it is) and place more focus on the animal | unconscious | biological | instinctual parts of ourselves.

Our minds are constantly Multi-Processing

We talk and we understand with a variety of processes that are at work in our minds all the time. We do not have words for these processes. We will need to find ways of talking | thinking about these processes.

We live | behave and understand | speak in contexts.

We grow up and thrive or fail in a world not of our own making. This is as much a social world as anything else. Our contexts are both natural and social, and we do not usually discriminate between the two.

Our language is deeply flawed

Especially when it comes to thinking and talking about the biggest aspects of our world. It impacts everything said so far.

  • We are constantly deluded by our words (This is particularly true of our abstract or philosophical thoughts.)
  • We speak and think in metaphors
  • Not all our questions are meaningful. (And an answer to a non-meaningful question is not an answer at all, but a mistake.)
  • We are deeply ignorant about our language and our words.

Our words are fluid and fuzzy

As we speak and understand language, we are constantly making sense of their meanings. This is a kind of active "family-resemblance." We find the criteria for a word that makes sense in the present context. It happens pre-consciously. We are barely aware of the process, and it has great potential to mislead and delude us.

We need new ways|habits of talking|thinking

If our language is essentially limited in various ways we need to use it more carefully. We are attempting to build grand understandings with wet, slippery, self-altering noodles.

Although many details are currently unknown to me, this will involve:

  • new terms
  • new heuristics for thinking
  • new ways of thinking about words
  • the gradual disuse of certain words (For like hatchets, we know where we buried them, and can resume using them at a moments notice.)
  • ways of dealing with the mis-uses of words, after the traditional speech context has gotten off the ground.
  • new foundational metaphors for looking at the world, which would be, new worlds

Don't I already know this?

April 26, 2015

"From what I have read so far, I think I already know all this"

Perhaps you do.

Why not take this simple quiz:

  1. Do you hesitate to speak about the larger aspects of our world? (things like God, nation, mind, consciouness, knowledge, philosophy, reality, information, language and world?)
  2. Do you genuinely feel the limitations and inadequacies of our languages?
  3. Are you aware of many of the many more limitations of the human mind?
  4. Are you looking for new ways of talking | thinking about these things?
  5. Do you have at least the outline of such a system?

If you answered "yes" to all these questions, please get in touch with me. I would like to compare notes.

If you did not answer "yes" to all these questions, there might be something useful in this book for you

"Will reading this book change my way of thinking?"

That is the challenge, isn't it?

It is more important for you to change your ways of thinking than to memorize the main points of my book. And I have neither the intellect or time to write this book the way it should we written.

What is the matter with our philosophical traditions?

February 8, 2015

Western Culture has a strong and ongoing tradition of philosophy. It is a tradition in almost all civilizations.

We have countless books discussing issues like truth, knowledge, metaphysics and morality. They are working on it. Why should we not simply wait, study more of the tradition, and trust the tradition will eventually come to the correct conclusions?

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Traditional philosophy has come to no firm conclusions.
  • It cannot explain why. And it is not only that philosophers are not on the same page, they do not know why they are not on the same page.
  • "Reason," the venerated method of philosophy is both useless and inconclusive. Philosophers do not change their minds when their argument is refuted, or when an argument arrives at an opposing conclusion. They usually change their arguments.
  • The various ways of thinking are not "stackable." I admire both the Heidegger of Being and Time and Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. But how to they fit together?
  • Traditional philosophy gets lost in itself. They usually make the discussion more, rather than less, complicated.
  • Philosophers have failed to question the limitations, and, equally, the delusions, of words.
Sometimes it appears their whole profession is to disagree with one another.

I will use philosophy in a larger sense

February 8, 2015

When I speak of philosophy, I do not intend to speak only of the works of Academic Philosophy, or the words of the Traditional Philosophers. I mean to speak of the words and thoughts of almost anyone who who speaks of the big things in life, using abstract words.

By asking these questions we are in the field of philosophy. But these questions are hardly limited to philosophy; indeed the interest in philosophy is partly because of the interests in such questions.

If there is any unity in all these disparate philosophical conversations, it lies in their use of what I will somewhat loosely call philosophical words.

I believe we are terrible at using philosophical words. We jump in feet first as though words are as common and functional as chairs and shoes.

We fail to see the distortions such words create, without our awareness, in our thinking and talking about the most comprehensive issues in life.

Here is a short incomplete list of some of these philosophical words: philosophy, (all simplifications), adult, America (and by extension all national and regional generalizations), Americans (and all prejudices), art, authority, book, Christian, common sense, communication, consciousness, culture, emotions, entertainment, faith (and "faith vs. reason"), feelings, god, government, happiness, heaven, hero, human, human nature, imagination, information | data, intelligence, intuition, knowledge, language, liberal | conservative, life, love, luck, man | woman, man (as in mankind), meaning, media, mind, money, movie, multiculturalism, narratives, objects | things, people, person, plot, poem, race, reading, reality, reason, religion, science, self (I | me), society, soul, (the) subconscious, technology, the Enlightenment, the meaning of life, thinking, time, truth, universe, values, we, Western Culture, women | men, work, world,

We should not assume these words are all problematic in one or two specific ways.

One should exercise some caution in using these words. These words are suspect because they lead us into danger in these ways.

  • we think they stand for something (firm, solid, stable), when they don't
  • we tend to answer questions about "them" ("What is art?")
  • we think these words are basic building blocks of the universe, whereas they are more like construction materials made of wet noodles.
  • these words tend to oversimplify. Instead of the world we are suddenly talking about a model of the world, with parts from different, non-interchangeable, construction kits.
  • we have few words and little awareness for how we use these, or any, words

It is not so much that they fool other people, although they do, it is that they fool ourselves. (And when we fool others, it is easier to fool ourselves.)

Is there a way out of the philosophical impasse?

February 4, 2015

If we grant that traditional philosophy has been at an impasse, is there a way out?

It is not that all philosophy is meaningless. Philosophy is deeply engaging a number of ways, but it is the diversity of poetry or art. It is not an engagement that reaches a uniform conclusion, thereby attaining something we can call the "truth."

IS there a way to show the philosophers the way out of the fly-bottle?

Taken more broadly, is there a proper way to think about the world? Is there a way that allows all people of honest intellectual intentions to speak and think honestly about the world(s) in which we live?

In a practical sense, of course the answer is no. People are committed to their world view and to their religions, and people love to argue as they love to play games. They always will.

So what is truth? My answer to that question, in this set of contexts, is that many of our our questions, and consequently many of our answers and our understandings, are illusions.

If that is something that can be shown to be true, than the number of questions and answers decreases dramatically.

The questions are wrong for a number of reasons, but the primary reason for our disagreement on what I loosely and broadly call philosophical questions, is that we are using words in a language that constantly fools us without much conscious awareness.

What is to be done?

February 16, 2015

Thinkers and philosophers do have an influence on things — but not all that much. (Who has time for philosophy?)

If current thinking is relatively useless, future thinkers must learn and teach better ways to think and better ways to talk.

  • The first step is to hesitate. Do not take that first step.
    • Examine the question. What you are saying? What do you want to accomplish?
    • What is left outside your conceptualization of this aspect of the world?
  • We will need a new vocabulary. We will need simple new terms to guide our thinking, and remind us of the things we will need to keep in mind.
    • I will use multi-criterial, the Great synchronicity, the multi-processing mind, the manimal, among others.
    • We are thinking about the highly complex in terms of oversimplifications.
  • We will need new ways of thinking. and to abandon of some of the old ways.
    • not every question has an answer
    • What is left outside your conceptualization of this aspect of the world?
    • not Aristotle, or any other

How can this be done?

Trough exemplary discussions of a number of the conceptions we use to think and talk about "the world," and new understandings of language itself.

going beyond Wittgenstein

February 19, 2015

As you many of you realize by now, I am futhering the tradition of the so-called Later Philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

As Wittgenstein himself was the first to admit, his exposition was neither perfect nor complete. (I am sure mine will be similar, only worse.)

I do not hining it is philosophically worthwhile to investigate this too much, but let me not several major ways in which my ideas (or furtherings) differ from the usual understanding of the later writings of Wittgenstein:

  • Family resemblance: The metaphor of family resemblance is important in that it demonstrates how a word may be defined by an overlapping number of disparate features, none of which need to be present in order for la person to be recognized as a family member. But families are fairly static entities, In my exposition, family-resemblance is an active process. Words are fluid, and extended into new contexts and situations without much awareness that the process is happening.
  • Language games: Wittgenstein wanted us to think of words as games, and that the meaning of a word is its use. The problem is that we have no words or awareness for describing such a use. Not that this will stop me or anyone else from trying, but there are several ways of thinking about this:
    • There are many things going on in our minds at once. We understand and we speak with a number of processes working at the same time. We are aware of just a few, and we have no words for this aspect of brain functioning. There are no words for goes on in the mind before we think our conscious thoughts and speak our words.
    • Also, it is not to be assumed that the so-called society of mind is a unified one,
    • And there is no guarantee the process is the same for every person. Each language, education and life have their own resonances.
    So while Wittgenstein implies we can describe the use, it may well be impossible to describe the "use." The human mind may simply be to limited to understand the complexity of its own behavior and language us. This is obviously true for all other animals. Why should we automatically think it is different with the human animal?
  • Contexts: I also want to stress that our understanding is highly contextual. Certain words are simply useful, other, including most philosophical words are more poetic. When Wittgenstein speak of philosophical words as words going on a holiday, I take it that one of the things he means is that there are no consequences. If we use the word language-game, phenomenology or contexts improperly, we have not made an obvious mistake. we have just spoken badly, weakly or vaguely. We adumbrate rather than describe. (And that of course is just what I am doing here.)
  • the Manimal: In my exposition I also want to introduce an alternative way of talking about human beings, that stresses their connections with the animal and the bodily world. Wittgenstein does not spend much time on this.

What is the problem with doing this?

February 5, 2015

Why has this not been done a long time ago?

Surely it is preposterous that some unknown "thinker" on an obscure web-site will come upon some basic "truths" that has escaped the countless great minds of our long and rich tradition.

Let us set that question aside for the time being. Is it impossible to think that at some time someone were to come up with a better way of thinking about big things?

The question can be taken as: can we be sure that our rich and embedded tradition is indeed the best way of thinking about cx Everything is in place socially, but the five-hundred pound gorilla is that the tradition has provided no answers. Arguably we are not much better off than the time of Plato and Aristotle, twenty-five hundred years ago.

Why is that? Why are there no answers that lack even the solidity of science?

There are three options here:

  1. Someone (name your favorites) has already thought of it. But, whatever else you may say in his or her favor, they have not achieved anything like general assent, let alone percolated into the mind and words of your average intelligent person.
  2. You cannot do any better than what we have. And it will improve over time. (This may need an explanation of why that is so. Why can no one provide an explanation of why general assent when it comes to the so-called big thoughts of religion, ethics, society, reality and so on.)
  3. No one has thought of it. . . yet. This demands a demonstration that it is possible, or at the very least, a start in that direction, coup;ed with an awareness of what will still need to be done.

Epistemological commitments

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

In our pictures of the "world" we each have a number of what I want to speak of as "epistemological commitments." These are the fundamental statements about the word that we simply take for granted, and which form the ground for all our further knoweldges.

Wittgenstein talked about such commitments in On Certainty

speaking of language

February 10, 2015

Philosophy is an artifact of language and that language is a major problem.

We do not, and perhaps cannot, understand language and so we are constantly misled by our own words.

In what ways do we not understand language. We understand language; we practically live in language. We understand the world in language. So if we do not understand language, in some sense we do not understand the world.

Let us say that as a working picture, that language involves an unspecified number of activities in an unspecified number of contexts. If these behaviors and contexts cannot be specified—and we do not even have words for them—then we cannot understand language in the sense of stating what it is and how it works.

But yet we speak casually and frequently of language. Though it is not one of the earliest words we teach our children. This means we speak in ignorance and are very far from realizing that fact.

As a matter of fact, we begin to teach language to our children at an early age. we say they learn language in their early years. How sophisticated can somethingbe if even a small child can understand it?

This raises the possibility there are other things we confidently expound upon that we think we are quite in command of, and yet we are ignorant. Many of these words are the "philosophical" ones. Our confidence and self-certainty are unreliable guides to an understanding. Our understanding is illusory.

How can I argue that we do not understand language. (And I want to argue that "understand" is a word with its own problems.) What is it about language you do not understand.

If I argue that you do not understand how the American political system works, I could listen to what you say and come back with facts and relevant considerations that you do not understand or clearly misunderstand. If I argue that you do not understand algebra, I could give you a typical algebra problem, and if you fail to even begin to solve it, I would prove that you do not understand algebra. Though you could understand parts of algebra and not others. In either case there are clear authorities. If I argue that you do not understand French, I could speak or write in French and it would usually be evident that you did not understand French. Normally I could give you a better understanding of language.

If "language" cannot be fully understood there is no canonical authority for genuinely understanding language.

You do not understand:

  • the behavioral complexity of language
  • how to describe the behavioral complexity of language
  • the fluidity of language
  • when you are misled by your own words

With the important philosophical caveat that "language" is itself a word extended into a variety of contexts, and thus easy to mis-understand, think of it like this: language is

  • a way of making sound about objects and human behavior in situations,
  • and a way of extending those words into new contexts
  • the extensionality of language is usually unnoticed.
  • which is part and parcel of dealing with new contexts linguistically. Both language and contexts can be extended in novel ways.

a few words about words

February 19, 2015

Traditionally words are the first candidate for presenting an analysis of language. They are seen as the building blocks of speech and language.

We teach children to speak by teaching them words. (How we teach children to use words is not clear to us. We can't teach a dog, or even a parrot, to speak.)

The metaphor of words as building blocks (like all metaphors) has a certain plausibility to it, but it also hides a lot.

If you don't understand language, you might be tempted to take a simple sentence and analyze it in minute detail. But the macro/micro relation does not work in language. This would be like trying to understand baseball by analyzing the ball, or a single pitch.

There are many different kinds of words, and in real life they do not easily divide into the traditional grammatical categories. Verbs become nouns and nouns become words. For the time being I will be talking about the words we use to describe the world. They too form a continuum, from the contract words we use to describe the simple objects in our original physical world, to the more abstract words we use to describe the larger aspects of the world. (like "words", "objects," "things" and "world."

The word "word" flows effortlessly and unnoticed between the meaning of the word and what the word is talking about. We talk about a "dog" both about an actual dog, and a picture of a "dog." (Our context guides us) as well as dogs in general. (We don't feed a picture of a dog, not even pictures of dog food.) That means that when we conceptualize something, like the economy, the world, intentionality, language games, our minds thinks there is some "thing" This is an unwarranted assumption.

Let's get back to

about the essential fuzziness of words

May 21, 2015

Now I must assemble some fuzzy words to speak about what I will call the "fuzziness." (The term "fuzzy" is inadequate and simplistic but hopefully memorable.)

I could also call these words fluid. Which will lead off down a different trail.

Unfortunately (?) and paradoxically I can only speak about fuzzy words in "fuzzy" words that are by definition inadequate.

Although everyone soon realizes that vagueness are a common part of daily thought, this is usually taken as a defect that can always be fixed, and not as a essential part of language.

I do not claim to have this puzzled out. It would be a little like thinking we see Kant's ding-an-sich. But there are two main points I will begin to develop here:

  • Our words are essentially "fuzzy," in the sense adumbrated below. This is especially true of our big words: the ones we use to talk about the world. "World" is a perfect example.
  • We are nearly unaware of this, and this is a problem.

The word "fuzzy" captures the notion that words have no clear boundaries, and that words are fuzzy the way a picture is fuzzy, where little is gained, and much is lost, by zooming in. But "fuzziness" captures only a small part of the mysteries that are words.

Other possible metaphorical candidates for the "fuzziness" of words, will include:

  • slippery: Words are "slippery" in that they do not stand still. Our mind (another fuzzy word) is constantly evaluating new meanings, connotations and resonances.
  • shape-shifting: Words are "shape-shifting" in that they change "meaning" as they are used in conversation, especially used poetically, metaphorically, creatively or philosophically. We cannot help but understand words, or speak with understanding.
  • out of focus words: Words are like a photograph that is is ultimately out of focus. As you zoom in to get more details, the photograph become as blur. Here is a picture of a field, but you cannot see the flowers. We could also speak of low-resolution words.
  • multi-criterial: Here is a word more from traditional philosophy (or at least from the later Wittgenstein) If words are united more by family-resemblance that by essence, words display a number of criteria for being used meaningfully (although we can never fully spell out these criteria). What the later Wittgenstein did not stress is that family-resemblance is an active process, that takes place in the background of our understanding. The family grows and contracts constantly, at a minutes notice.
  • extensible: Based on this active shape-shifting of words, words can be said to be extensible as an essential part of their nature.

Each of these captures some feature of words, especially fuzzy | philosophical | general | abstract words.

Think about the differences between talking about forests vs. talking about trees. Picture dissolves into pixels, forests into trees, and a mountain into places.

What is the import of this? People, and sadly this includes almost all intelligent commentator on all issues in all subjects, are unaware of this as they speak. And this goes hundred-fold for people who read and understand these words. We are all aware of the limitations of words? The contexts take account of this.

Maybe. There is a tendency to slide from talking about millions of trees, with their individual diversity, to a simpler talk of forests. And the generalizations explain things: biomass, limitations, tree-lines, etc.

There is a tendency to turn our oversimplifications into model, or concepts, as though concepts are some kind of things. (Besides words, of which we have a weak awareness.)

We begin to talk of words as thought they exist independently of the countless things we understandably use to talk with them about. The higher we go up the scale of generalizations the more problematic this becomes.

Oh the many things we don't understand!

February 21, 2015

Our understandings, our knowledges, both mostly honorific words, are little perches where we rest as we flap and flounder around what we like to think of as the universe.

And of course "understanding" and "knowledge" are highly fluid words.

And if we don't know, well we know that someone does, maybe Einstein, Kant or Jesus... or God.

Let's look at some of the infinite things you don't know. And of course you can't know all the things you don't know.

Look around you. What do you know about these people? Some things: they will dies, they breathe air, they probably won't attack you personally. And maybe that's enough. But you don't know them at all, and much of what you think you know you assume. You don't know who is intelligent, compassionate, musical, talented, or deeply broken.

And all the places you never and you never will go.
" OK, but I could. "
But you don't have time and you can;t remember it.
" I'll take pictures and write it down. "

  • The influence of our culture
  • The influence of other people
  • Our neighbors
  • Who we would be like if we had been raised by different parents
  • What we don't know.
  • Ignorant in factual understanding: there are many facts we do not know, and will never know.
  • Ignorant in scientific theoretical understanding: Most of the concepts embedded in science, common sense and conventional wisdom are all wrong. It will be different four hundred years from now. Although we will be as confident then as we are confident now, and as we were confident five hundred years ago.
  • The past... and the future. Oh! and the present.
  • Ignorant in our ignorance: We are unaware (and possibly incapable) of appreciating the areas in which we remain clueless in spite of our personal daily immersion, and our books and even academic departments, specializing on these very matters.
  • Ignorant in our limitations: We are ignorant of how our language (which we like to call our "understanding," hides the manifold natures of the universe from it.

Just think on our shared ignorance of these questions like:

  • why we like music
  • why we like kittens
  • why we like movies, television – books!
  • why we like news
  • most of what happened in the past
  • little of what will happen in the future
  • what it would be like to live in a different culture
  • language: the fluid language games of our word uses
  • how the business/banking world actually works (we substitute our simple pictures)
  • how many people are in the world
  • the force that keeps our personal worlds small
  • why we have morality and how we use it in our lives
  • we are ignorant about our ignorance
  • our non-specialness as human

  1. Scientific things we don't know but that we could know:
    • We don't know whether light is a particle or a wave, or something else entirely
    • We don't know whether we're alone in the universe
    • This is similar to the fact that until recently not know how the far-side of the moon looked.
  2. Conceptual problems:
    • We don't know what counts as objectivity
    • We don't know whether we have souls
    • We don't know what separates matter that is sentient from matter that isn't
  3. Impossible questions:
    • We don't know whether there's a god
    • We don't know where we came from
    • We don't know where the universe comes from
  4. Moral questions (may not have an answer:
    • We don't know whether killing is necessary for life, as some people tell us
    • We don't know whether good wins over evil
  5. New technologies and discoveries:
    • And maybe most significant of all, we don't know how big the unknown world is. That is, while we may feel like the known world is expanding, we do not know whether we can meaningfully say that the unknown world is at all shrinking.
  6. Life decisions and routines:
    • why we are/are not married
    • why we get married, or not
    • why we choose to live here
    • why we stay in our job
    • why we do most of the things we do
    • why we had kids
  7. Life daily routines
    • why we shop
    • why we have just a few friends
  8. Interests
    • why we love our kids
    • why we love our car
    • why we love art
    • why we like the music we like
    • why we like music at all
    • why we love to read
    • why we look at women/men
    • why we like pets
    • why we have a hobby, or not
    • why we like whatever stupid things we love
    • why we like a certain movie
    • why we watch the news, or not watch the news (as the case might be)
    • why we like to read diaries
  9. Self knowledge
    • what we would be in different circumstances
    • how we will react under pressure
    • how we am feeling
    • and why we feel this way
    • how we were/are affected by my parents
    • why we decorate our homes
    • why we sometimes change and sometimes don't: why I fought saying "I think" when I was in counseling, and why I am no longer fighting that piece of advice.
    • why we change our minds
    • what constitutes great criticism
    • how to be happy
    • how to keep a relationship going
  10. Collective behavior
    • how to stop war
    • how to stop overpopulating the planet
    • why we praise babies and families even while we are overpopulating and placing great stress on our planet and putting us all at
    • humans have but a dim awareness of the future, and are almost always surprised by the unintended consequences of their actions. (Scientists are unable to predict global, warming, or even weather.)
    • our media seem blithely unaware of their influence and their role in the system
    • humans seem unaware of how little they know and how much of their actions are determined by unconscious factors. We think we know everything but are inarticulate and when we try to elaborate. We hand off to experts who in turn know nothing.
  11. Collective knowledge behavior
    • we have no unified theory of everything. (In recent times academics that some kind of theory is particle physics will be a unified theory of everything. (1) Such a theory does not exist, even for the rarefied candidates of sub-atomic matter and 2) if it did, it would not explain everything.) Until recently materialisms, not worked out. We act as though we have it all figured out.
    • Agreement on religion, the existence and nature of god(s). Mirrored in the fact that philosophy professors cannot agree among themselves
    • an inability to agree on who we are, as evidenced by a lack of agreement on a common psychology
    • the fragmentation of academic disciplines. Academics, even taken broadly, have no unified narrative, and are not working on one. Our smartest people don't even try
    • the irrelevance of most "research" in humanities and social sciences. the lack of influence of academics on world affairs.

But you don't know that you can't know. The universe is not understandable in words. Or understanding is but words,

July 15, 2013

There are many dimensions to human ignorance. We are most likely not awafre of many of them.

We are:

  • Ignorant in factual understanding: there are many facts we do not know, and will never know.
  • Ignorant in scientific theoretical understanding: Most of the concepts embedded in science, common sense and conventional wisdom are all wrong. It will be different four hundred years from now. Although we will be as confident then as we are confident now, and as we were confident five hundred years ago.
  • Ignorant in our ignorance: We are unaware (and possibly incapable) of appreciating the areas in which we remain clueless in spite of our personal daily immersion, and our books and even academic departments, specializing on these very matters.
  • Ignorant in our limitations: We are ignorant of how our language (which we like to call our "understanding," hides the manifold natures of the universe from it.

Just think on our shared ignorance of these questions like:

  • why we like music
  • why we like movies, television – books!
  • why we like news
  • most of what happened in the past
  • little of what will happen in the future
  • what it would be like to live in a different culture
  • language: the fluid language games of our word uses
  • how the business/banking world actually works (we substitute our simple pictures)
  • how many people are in the world
  • the force that keeps our personal worlds small
  • why we have morality and how we use it in our lives
  • we are ignorant about our ignorance
  • our non-specialness as human

If history were able to teach us anything, it would teach us that in every era people have believed they had knowledge, and in very era they have been seriously wrong. Therefore we are seriously wrong today. Oh we know many things, but we are still ignorant. Ignorance is the human condition.

For our lack of understanding we substitute oversimplifications or complexity.

Part of the job of an academic professor is to pretend he understands the nature of reality in his/her area of specialization.

We want to be the intelligent monkey.
(Our educational behaviors reinforce this.)
We are drawn to those who know.

Explain the world to me.

May 23, 2015

It sounds so simple. Though the answer is very complex.

But you first mistake to think that this a real question.

How can this NOT be a question? When is a question NOT a question?

Thank God we don't have to agree on a common philosophy | religion | world-view in order to live together in peace, and to live a happy, satisfying and productive life.

But the question remains: can we give a best answer to this question. Not a rule-determined best as in who won a 100 meter dash, or even what is the best movie of the year.

The question remains: is this something that can be voted on? ( --> what kinds of things should not be voted on?)

Can there be an expert or an authority on reality.

We can explain many things, but note necessarily everything.

You believe an explanation of the world because you cannot keep in mind all the great varieties of things that are part of the world.

Oh but you want an explanation.

on our multi-processing minds

March 8, 2015

Our brain has in indeterminate number of processes that go one all the time that affect everything we say, do, or understand. Most of our actions | reactions affect multiple-processes at once. Many are capabilities, many other are guardians, or processes of precedence.

We are speaking here in words of processes that have no names and which have combined and evolved to serve the needs of the human animal (the manimal). They did not evolve rationally.

We actually have no words for how our minds work. They are unnecessary, ( until philosophers came along extending our linguistic usages in their demands for a fact-based "understanding" of "the universe." )

This theory is hardly new. My understanding is based on Marvin Minsky's aptly, if ultimately misleadingly, named book, The Society of Mind (1986). According to this view, the human mind (and other naturally evolved cognitive systems) are a built up from a "society" of individually simple processes known as agents, or resources.) These processes are the fundamental processes from which "minds" are built. But "mind" is another abstract word which we will avoid for now.

Processes are involved in every aspect of the human mind. They can be simple as a child stacking blocks, to an adult building a house or to an engineer designing a skyscraper. None of these take place in vacuum.

Here are some key points about multi-processing:

  • There is no central awareness and control. There is no central viewpoint in the mind that monitors and processes input from all these processes. There is no process (consciousness) that knows what all these processes are, or are doing. What we can call consciousness is the result of a huge number of agents.
  • There are vast numbers of processes going on in our minds/brain. They control everything we do, whether we are aware of them or not.
  • Many processes are always at work at the same time. Not only are many things going on at the same time, many more than we are ever consciously aware. There are processes monitoring these processes ready to step in when things go wrong. Which implies there are other processes to measure when things go wrong.
  • We cannot enumerate these processes. There is no way to enumerate the processes and there are no words for them. Perhaps it is not possible to enumerate them, as a process may be used or practically used in other processes as well, just like a part of a computer and some basic routines, may be called upon in many diverse programs.
  • We are unaware of them at many levels.: We do not know what these are. Many of them check up on others when processes go off line. A huge number are social, involved in our relationships to other people.
    We do not know how to conceptualize them. Scientists do not have a workable theory of how the mind works. A good guess is that in part the mind is a computer.
  • The processes can be repurposed and used in an unknown, and probably unknowable, number of ways. Just as we can use words to create an unknown, and probably unknowable, number of sentences and works of art.
  • We are currently unable to describe exactly what the processes are. We do not know much about how this works. There are logical aspects, chemical aspects, hormonal and developmental aspects, all working together somewhat simultaneously. But partly this follows form the very nature of multi-processing: So many things are going on at once, and being processed simultaneously. How can anything like this be described in real time?
  • The processes have developed both biologically and socially over time, and this development is heavily involved in those processes. It is not like we accidentally acquired raw processing power. What we acquired (through natural selection) was the kind of processing power that first of all was useful for the existence of the proto-human social group.
  • These agents work at both a micro and a macro level. At the macro level such a set of processes are behind the workings of language use. Many processes, mostly unconscious, work together to create human speech acts in their vast complexities. If language takes place against the background of both human interactions and human understandings.
    These agents work at both a micro and a macro level. At the macro level such a set of processes are behind the workings of language use. Many processes, mostly unconscious, work together to create human speech acts in their vast complexities. If language takes place against the background of both human interactions and human understandings.
  • The processes must also be involved and fully engaged in our language use. Since language seems to accompany almost everything we do.
    Think of the human mind as a unspecifiable number of processes that are processing data (or ready to process data) at any given time. These include processes of power, danger, sexuality, tribality, herd-instincts etc. I will discuss this more later when I introduce the concept of the MANIMAL.
    They are not just reactive agents.
    It turns out, the unexamined life is living.
  • There is no master plan here. The system grew, with redundancies and false starts. Occasionally the system is at odds with itself.
    Is this intelligent design. Hardly though aspects of it defines what intelligence is.

"Is this description of the human mind even true?"
It is true that we do not seem close to creating an artificial mind based on this (or any other current) rough model.

We also know that the human brain is also regulated by chemicals and probably blood flow of ways that have yet to be fully determined.

But the "society of mind" outlook seems true according to what we can call descriptive psychology, and it stands in useful contrast to the traditional philosophical views, many of which treat the mind as though there is some kind of person inside the mind who "runs" the body like a complicated machine.

easy questions we cannot answer

May 25, 2015

Here are some very easy questions we cannot answer:

  • Why do we like kittens?
  • Why do we like music?
  • Why do we like to text?
  • How has the Internet changed us?
  • How does a book work?
  • Why do we like celebrities so much?
  • Why do we like to shop?
  • Why do we like sports?
  • Why can't we agree on the nature of religion, or politics?
  • What is language?
  • Why doesn't everyone think like me?
  • Why do we like Facebook?
  • Why do we really like a certain song (and not so much the other songs on the same CD)?
  • Why do we really like a certain actor, or singer?
  • What are you thinking about?
  • Why do we like to look at koi in an aquarium?

These do not look like difficult questions. We are not asking for the a solution to a differential equation, or about arcane and complicated facts. Everything we need to answer these questions should be right in front of our faces. So why is it difficult to answer these kinds of questions?

And this is another very simple question we cannot answer!

The answer is that these questions don't have an answer. And the reason for this is that these are the very things that simultaneously impact many aspects of our multi-processing mind. We may not even have the concepts to speak about these things, partly because we are mostly unaware of these aspects.

Several years ago I attempted to answer the question: Why do we like to look at koi in an aquarium? I came up with many aspects, many of them interesting, but

  1. I can not be certain I found all the aspects of our relationships to watching koi.
  2. Spelling these out have little or no impact on the pleasures of watching koi. I will watch and enjoy koi | kittens | movies even if I cannot spell out any reasons.
  3. I may deeply enjoy looking at koi but other things may easily engage my interests.

And if we cannot explain the very simple human behaviors to which we have full access to, right in front of us, surely we must be careful ascribing understanding to those human behaviors in history and in other culture that are not right before our eyes.

But I do suspect that we need to find a way to be aware of the complexity of our simple pleasures and entertainments.

Why do we like to watch koi in an aquarium?

March 30, 2013

At the hotel downtown there is a large public transparent fish tank. It is a source of endless fascination, for the old and the young. What is fascinating about watching koi? Lots of reasons present themselves:

  • It is a rare sight.
  • Koi are rare.
  • Koi are beautiful. [In what ways are this a meaningful statement, meaning something more than fascinating?]
  • Fish float through water. / We cannot float through air.
  • We cannot breath underwater.
  • They seem indifferent to humans.
  • A kids get excited and smile. I smile back.
  • It is restful.
  • We are safe. [For unknown reasons] it is a stress-reliever.
  • The colors are patterned, regular and dappled.
  • We can eat them. / We hunt them.
  • They are placid, barely noticing each other, placidly seeking food. / We are not placid.
  • They are graceful as the glide through the water. We like glides. (→ Why?)
  • We think we can understand what they are doing.
  • Maybe you want to be a marine-biologist.
  • This tank has bubbles. Bubbles are soothing. [There is another list, a harder one.]
  • The reflections on the sides of the tank.
  • Watching fish does not trigger any kind of 'inappropriate' warning.
  • They do not mind being watched by humans.
  • It beats watching nothing.
  • The beautiful colors
  • The un-natural colors
  • The water (Water is magic stuff.)
  • The kind of fish they are. A tank of sharks or spiders would be a different experience.
  • A little bit of nature. (→ Why do we like nature?)
  • It's an animal. Animals is a basic category of manimality.

I could probably find twenty more reasons. Would this then answer the question: What is fascinating about watching koi?

Any or all of these reasons could be true at the same time. We do not have to choose only ONE reason to be the true reason.

But this is hardly the only 'easy'/'simple' question we cannot answer. Why do we like music? Why do we like bubbles? Why do we like movies? Why do we like books? Why do we like football? Why do we like our favorite team?

We don't have to answer this question. The answers to these questions are irrelevant; they are more in the nature of an aesthetic exercise. We don't like these things because of 'reasons.' We can, sometimes, give reasons for the things we like.

At some point we just like this, and in this we are joined by a huge amount of fellow humans.

But most likely not everyone. [Why is this?]


  • Are there things we can answer why we like?
  • Are there things we like because of 'reasons'?
  • Why do we like anything?
  • How do we use the word 'like'?
  • Why do we like watching football?
  • Why do we like watching koi?

We'll stay (mostly) with the latter.

There are many things we call 'like'. It can indicate comparative preference, or simply an immediate attraction. We also say that someone likes something when they do it frequently without being coerced, as John likes to play video games.

But there are many things we could like. Just like watching a football game. Some of these are unconscious and not augmented by being put into words. We could call these cerebral tingles.

Some of our cerebral processes must communicate some kind of happiness, even though many remain below conscious awareness.

Our media and advertising have made a science of using these appeals.

One lesson here is that we are very affected by things we hardly understand. Surely, reason would tell us, it would be better for us to be interested in a good non-fiction book, than to watch a group of tame fish swim mindlessly in a tank.

The Manimal

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

In the following chapters I want to present a picture of humans as "manimals."

The word "manimal"is an invented term, one of whose major functions is to not be the traditional words used for talking about manimals, like human, man, soul or homo sapiens, as they are encrusted with misleading understandings and connotations.

In this section we will not talk about how we can be manimals, and so oblivious to the obvious, but more on what it is to be a manimal.

You might think, correctlty, that there is little new here.

[These links are somewhere else.

Manimals are animals

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

Humans (whom we also call "we") are animals.

"Of course. Humans are rational animals. Aristotle knew that."

Yes — but no.

Most thinkers are quick to drop the "animal" essence of our nature
to concentrate on the "reason" part: a well-loved, often sublime, if limited of our nature.

But our animality, our existence as a group animal, permeates the worlds in which we live, while we, 'rational' as we may be, remain relatively unaware of it. Our animality is a constant presence.

Humans are animals of understanding.

There is an intellectual, and not just a biological, aspect to being an animal.

Humans are manimals:

  • an animal that lives in social groups
  • an animal that responds instinctively to the world and equally instinctively to a large variety of group dynamics.
  • an animal that has all sorts of ideas about itself and its role in the world. Most of these ideas are wrong, or at least extremely limited, inconsistent and scatterdash.
  • an animal that is nowhere near as intelligent as it thinks it is. It is clever at solving puzzles (like sudokus) yet weak at seeing its own nature.
  • an animal facing a number of serious problems it is not clear it is capable of handling
  • an animal that likes to think of itself as rational, yet in most aspects of its life, and many deepy important aspects of its life (governanace, religion, morality, the future) is not. (Our "reason" doesn't explain much of our behavior anyway.)

We shy away from our animality, as we shy away from our "bodily functions."

To call someone "an animal" is an insult.

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

Everything we know about biology, zoology and palaeontology tells us we are a kind of primate. We use a distorted vocabulary here. "Prime-ate" itself is an ideologically charged term, (like the term "primitive societies.")
Humans are just "common-ates",
no more important than anyone other being
except of course to ourselves.
(And who else matters?)

When push comes to shove.
When we decide between water for farmers or water for rivers to keep an endangered species alive,
we choose water for people.
Just like any other animal.

We are animals in the pejorative sense. And as a healthy antidote to our traditional image of ourselves as an exceptional being, a special friend of god,
and instead of looking for human traits in primates,
we need to notice the ape traits in ourselves.

So then, what are 'primates'? From the biological view, the defining features of primates apply more to the individual primate than to the social systems they invariably inhabit. You can see an overview of primate social systems in Wikipedia.

What you cannot see is how we display similar traits in our daily contemporary lives, and the importance of these behaviors in our own social existence.

Why do we not know we are animals?

2009, 2012, 2015

We know we are animals in a bodily sense.
And now we know we are animals as a product of evolution.

We do not know, because we do not see,
that our self-esteem, our decisions, our mind, our judgments, our feelings, our use of reason and even our individuality, are permeated by our animality.

Perhaps it is frightening for us to think of ourselves as animals.
Our understanding of animals is mechanistic, simplistic and irrational.
We define ourselves against this concept.

And we have achieved our current position on the planet by using and abusing other animals.

Admittedly we are a unique animal in some ways:

  • we use a complex language
  • we carry around with us an image (an understanding) of ourselves and the world
  • we are the dominant animal, albeit a timid one, on the planet.
But that does not make us not an animal.

Our understanding of ourselves is deeply comforting. It absolves us from thinking about what we are doing.

We are a social animal, yet in our present manifestation, we are a a deeply fragmented one.

We are unclear about what society in which we exist.

It is no longer the simple family, though "family" is still an honored concept (even as it is permeated by dysfunctionality and fragmentation). We re-establish something we call "family" (and "friends") even as we substitute the virtual for the actual.

Who do we think we are?

April 25, 2015

Humans have a diversity of ways of looking at themselves.

Most involve seeing themselves as atomic isolated creatures:
a soul or a person, an individual or a self,
defined by its understanding, reason and will.

Even our biological definition echoes this:
homo sapiens: the wise/intelligent man

Humans prefer views of themselves in which human beings are important.
Though we are aware that this may not be true, whenever we are threatened or think about ourselves in a "deep and serious" way, we take ourselves and the existence of each and every one of us as having a supreme and self-evident importance.

We often think of ourselves as children of a super-powerful "god."

We think of ourselves as important.
And we are important
(to ourselves
(to a fault.))

None of our traditronal understanding,
and the traditional religions,
are aware that human beings evolved as an animal,
let alone as a group animal.

We do not notice that.

Why do we need to think we are anything?

May 17, 2015 (from 2009, 2012)

We carry around something like an image of ourselves,
a picture or a narrative of ourselves, an ideal,
an object of constant comparison.

(How we do that is mostly unclear to us.
Nor do we have words to cover this aspect of our existence.
(But more about that later.))

We realize we could perhaps live without such an image
without an ego if you will
but it would be difficult.
And this is just one more image of ourselves.

We use this image as one way to manipulate and manage ourselves.

It is an interesting fact that historically speaking, this image is nearly always wrong. We still are not all that comfortable thinking of ourselves as an animal. It is formed through cultural tradition and wishful thinking. Often the image involves being a special and noble creation of the god(s).

It is equally interesting that the fact that the image is wrong
does not diminish its efficacy.

Manimals do not know they are not animals

May 18, 2015 (2009, 2012)

We know we are animals in a bodily sense.
And now we know we are animals as a product of evolution.

We do not know, because we do not see, that our self-esteem, our decisions, our mind, our judgments, our feelings, our concepts, and hence our perceptions, our use of reason and even our individuality, are permeated by our animality.

It is frightening/confusing for us to think of ourselves as animals. Our understanding of animals is mechanistic, simplistic and irrational.
We define ourselves against this concept.

And we have achieved our current position on the planet by using and abusing other animals.

Admittedly we are a unique animal in some ways:

  • we use a complex language
  • we carry around with us an image (an understanding) of ourselves and the world
  • we are the dominant animal, albeit a timid one, on the planet.
But none of that does not make us not an animal.

Our lack of understanding of ourselves is deeply comforting. It makes our life as a social animal easier.
It absolves us from thinking about what we are doing.
It lets us think we are sort of god-like. And that we are a special and beloved creation of that god.

We are unaware of the social web ('society') in which we exist.

We are beings-in-worlds, and even more, beings-in-a-social-world.

Manimals have herd instincts

May 18, 2015 (2009 and 2012)

We grudgingly admit we have herd instincts,
and then we think of a herd of cows (or a school of fish).

Were it only that simple.

(We cannot usually lose ourselves in a crowd.
We are usually aware of the individuality of the persons next to us. We are still engaged in the individuality of that possible relationship.

For humans, people are not generic people, but men and women, young and old, ugly or pretty, weak or strong,and much more.)

Consequently we very seldom form an actual herd. (Though we are fine with forming a team, a race, etc.)
We do not follow the crowd in our bodies,
but in our thoughts.

The connection to a herd is not primarily physical | visual, but in language and media.

It's a participation in a subconscious coalitional behavior [q.v.].

Again, our minds fight this. Perhaps it is partly cultural but we think of ourselves as individuals and not "other-directed."

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

Our perception is skewed (and manipulated) by the fact that our minds gives privileged access to certain kinds of events.

If we hear that a gifted writer with a lifetime of study abused his wife, we will remember that at the expense of everything else he has accomplished. Martin Heidegger's involvement with the Nazis at the University of Freiburg in 1933-34 is a case in point.

If I were to tell you all about the intricate and novel philosophy of Hume, but then casually mention that he was so fat that hostesses would put away their best fragile chairs when he came to visit, you would remember that — whether it was true or not.

Among items we remember are

  • a person's face
  • their sex
  • their age and attractiveness
  • their ancestry
  • their job
  • their life stories
  • any scandals
  • their marriage and their children

These are status. safety and (social) animal kinds of things.

These things stick easily while other facts about a person easily drift away. ("Didn't he write a poem of something?")

Manimals are self-aware

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

In spite of what myths have said,
we did not crawl here from the center of the earth,
and we were not created out of mud by a god.
We evolved evolved over time from other animals.

Admittedly this is hard to believe.
It is like thinking the earth circles around the sun.
That somehow we grew/developed/evolved from other non-human animals.
Yet our science points to that conclusion.

We share not only organs and genetic structure,
but behaviors and behavioral propensities with the animals around us,
who have also evolved.

We are animals with a past in that

we are aware of our past
we have an evolution
we have a history and we live in a culture
Our behaviors are rooted in our animality and our culture and history.
Our institutions are based on tendencies in our animality and are shaped by culture and history.
Our values have a history. They are rooted in our animality and our culture, language and history.
Our beliefs have a culture and history. Our need and capacity for beliefs are rooted in our animality
Our concepts are rooted in our animality and developed in our culture, language and history.
We are very much like bands of apes.
And seen from above, very much like ants:
when someone destroys our anthill
in spite of the devastation
we soon busy ourselves with rebuilding it
/ often in the same place.

Manimals live in the small

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

We small our world.
We live in the small.

We cannot but live our life in a small subset of people and friends.
We have many techniques for doing this. We:

  • We have a limited number of friends.
  • We go through a town full of people and do not talk to anyone. And this is perfectly normal.
  • We commit to one person
  • We understand the world in regions, neighborhoods, and locations.
  • We navigate through town in a set number of stores and paths.
  • We only visit a certain number of web-sites (out of the millions that are out there)
  • We use texting to keep our world small — and preoccupied.

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

We don't know what a billion is.
We have no perceivable concept of how many of us there now are.

We are used to thinking in small bands and perhaps
in larger groupings that speak the same language and act the same way.

Yet our sense of our self is big.
I certainly don't feel like one of six billion,
or even one in ten.

We are born to be rock stars on the stage of life.
We perform and do not hear the masses.

Do The Numbers:
Think of the graduating class of your high school.
Think what it would be like if there were a thousand of them.
You know that some were smarter than you, some where better looking, more athletic, more artistic and nicer.
Think now of that person who is one in a thousand.
(He or she is probably not you.)
And remember that you never win a lottery where the odds are one in a hundred, let alone one in a thousand.
Now, with a population of over six billion, there could be over six million people that are one in a thousand.
That is the population of Norway, or the state of Washington.
All so much better than you.

This raises a number of questions:

Where are these people?
If there are so many talented people, why is not the world in better shape?
Is an exceptional person not all that exceptional or powerful? (Think: exceptional chipmunk.)
Short of dominating each other, enforcing a religion and perhaps a common language, we have no way of acting as a group.
Although we have built extended mechanisms like the nation-state to extend that to cover the present reality.

We understand that we cannot expand forever.
We understand that there may already be too many of us.
But we cannot stop populating.

What makes perfect animalistic sense in the local picture makes no sense at all in the global picture as we also understand the world is round and finite.

We have histories

May 17, 2015

[We have histories]

If we lose our memory of ourselves in amnesia we do not "know who we are."

May 21, 2015 (2009, 2012)

As group-oriented animals, with an alterego, human beings have a keen sense of pecking-order, or status.

We seldom speak of this.
Our recent psychology almost ignores this.
Our religions counsel against it.

Since most of us are not at the top of a pecking-order
we may find it psychologically easier
NOT to be too conscious of this.

Besides, we are members of many groups.
Our order may change depending on the group.

Many of us seek out groups where we a higher in the pecking order, and choose not remain in groups where we are low in the pecking order, if possible.

Pecking-order is part of our ingrained awareness of and response to the other humans around us, which I call groupings.

Our pecking-order is in play when we find ourselves using words like:

  • power
  • strength
  • respect
  • authority
  • status
  • the power of a deep resonating voice
  • ruler, king, lord, president

Manimals love coalitional behvaior

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

Humans are keenly aware of coalitional behavior. In many ways the, the manimal, are a coalitional animal.

This is reflected in our interests in sports, dance, choral singing, warfare and synchronized swimming.

It is also tied in with our status, and our other-awareness. We have a pecking-order in our coalitions. We have a pecking-order based on our coalitions. ("She's a team player.")

This awareness, or mind-set, plays a large and mostly hidden part in human behavior. Like herd-behavior, our coalitional behavior are only partly physical, but equally and more so mental.

News is another kind of coalitional behavior, and we love it!

Our coalitional (group awareness) includes: a sense of justice, a sense of fairness.

Singing demonstrates coalitional skill. The parts of music are after all the parts of different people. The power of music is the power of The Many.

We see and think in terms of groups, as we see in terms of good and evil, and sport groupings of coalitional behaviors. We see England, we see France.

The same faculty that makes me aware of other people, also makes me protective of the people near me. This is one cause of inter-coalitional competition and war. We are hardwired to do this. When we fell frightened and threatened. it sets off tragic chains of events.

Manimals are tribal

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

Like other primates, we live in bands.

And we have all sorts of hooks (behavioral propensities) built into us related to band behavior.

Awareness of our group behaviors is hidden from us because of our beliefs.
We believe we are atomic individuals who make up our own minds independently of others.
Or we believe we have a relationship not to our local group, but to a greater cause or religion.

I suggest that what we have is an ego (a self) determined by other members of a group.
(Our world will be easier to comprehend if we introduce this notion.)

We can call this the alterego, not to be confused with older uses of the term. When I speak of the alterego, I am referring to the part of ourselves that is determined and influenced by others, usually without our conscious awareness.

The our group behavior comes into play anytime we deal with groups such as families, friends, bands, nations, crowds, communities, teams, armies, organizations, on-line communities, etc.

Manimals are selfish

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

What do we mean when we say that we are selfish?

Manimals are timid

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

Do you need proof?
Go out in the woods at night, alone.
Sit down.
Soon you will be filled with fears, most of which are baseless.

We did not evolve as a courageous animals,
like the lion, the elephant or even the porcupine.
We evolved as frightened tree-dwellers,
with not a lot of natural defenses like claws, powerful muscles or a thick hide.

Our technology is our defense,br> and now we have atomic-weapons.

But we are still frightened, cautious animals
who scare very easily.

Manimals flow easily between the real and the virtual

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

We flow easily between the actual and the virtual.

We barely distinguish between a dog and a picture of a dog, although we do in our actions.

This might be tied in with the nature of language,
in turn tied in with the nature of thought
which is in turn tied in with our sense of reality.

Manimals think it term of animals

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

Another kind of thinking that occupies a position of privileged-access in our brains is our tendencies to think in animals.

One of our fundamental perception of the world is in terms of animals. As mobile agents with a minds (and not always a caring mind), intentions and wills of their own.

One kind of explanation for this is that of course, as we evolved among animals, as hunter and as hunted, of course we need to be aware of animals. But this explanation does not touch the depth of our preoccupation with animals.

We're constantly giving thoughts and intentions to animals and to babies.

Lemmings; we're the lemmings. We're the chickens. We're the pigs. We talk in animal.

Put a pair of eyes on an inanimate object, and — boom! — we're engaged.

We accept the intentionality of an animal as an adequate explanation.

What would it be to NOT think in terms of animals?

Manimals. So what?

May 17, 2015 (2009, 2012)

"OK. You have established your cute little patter. What has to change for this pattern to effect the world?"

So we are animals. These are just the background against which all human life takes place. It is hardly worth much consideration. The truths of science, whether done by manimals or intelligent aliens, remains the same. The social and emotional background of manimals is just a distraction.

There is some truth in this. The manifold ever-present processes of the manimal may not be be important for science, but they are for scientific success, and by extension for the process of science.

If we want to survive as a rational manimal, we need to survive our selves.

All these processes give us something I am tempted to call unconscious pleasure. It is they, and not truths, that are the driving forces behind our acts.

Some thoughts on how to think better

April 27, 2015

Perhaps the best we can do (in understanding the world) is to have a list of the better ways to think. They may prove to be as useless as golf times, or tips on how to ride a bicycle. Here are a few initial thoughts.

Keep All Balls in the Air

Don't forget the panoply of considerations that almost always come into play when you think of anything complex/interesting about the world.

Avoid looking for a singular explanation, especially of people.

Why do you like a certain movie/television show?
People listen for many reasons.
People present this for many reasons.
This also means that this is not a question you can ask of anyone, and expect a simple and useful/true answer.

This equally true for one person

Each person has a number of simultaneous processes, for lack of a better word, that are simultaneously at work all the time. We like things, and we say things, as some sort of compromise between all these various processes.

Do not be fooled by abstract nouns

Or by the ability to take an adjective like "just" and turn it into a noun like "justice."

Do not be fooled by tradition

Just because Aristotle or Kant or religion or politics says it, does not mean it is even a particularly sensible way of thinking.

Do not be fooled by your fundamental thinking metaphor

You almost all have one.

Do not be too put off by the fact you cannot convince most people of your truth

Most people are not interested in this kind of stuff.
And they know they can get by quite adequately thank you without it.

We lack words, concepts and even the ability to understand a number of important things about the word in which we live

(What does this mean)

Be cynical, but never assume the cynical explanation is the correct explanation.

And never assume there has to be just one explanation.

You get your sense of people and of normalcy from a relatively small subset of people who are right around you.

(They do not (because they cannot fully) represent your culture.

Do not assume that a bifurcation into parts are the ways to categorize knowledge, or that every items would fit usefully into one or the other of the two kinds.


Beware the seductions of categorizations.

The word hijacks the world.

Speak and think in clear sentences.

And ask yourself: is that sentence true.

It's good to start with thinking "It's complicated."

Because it certainly is.


We think without thinking.

Our thoughts are as compulsive and fragmentary as our dreams.

We think about complexities in simplicities. What choice do we have?

Thinking is accommodating.

A big part of thinking is dealing with the clever illusions and elaborate delusions of very intelligent and thoughtful people.

Everything is confusing, if you think about it hard enough.

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