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The Mystery of Consciousness - Not so mysterious?
Posted: 01 January 2012 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 466 ]  
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Posted: 01 January 2012 08:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 467 ]  
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Hi Lexie,


“Mysterious truths”: I suspect one of the reasons we have venerated mysteries so much is that we have long been in the habit of yielding our moral agency & responsibility to religious or political institutions.  As long as we remain non-creative, conservative institutions can maintain their social power & control (and keep us heading in the wrong direction).


“The siren call”: This is the “truth” way of thinking – “the (mysterious) truth is out there”.  But the value way of thinking is the opposite – the value is in here, awaiting my expression of it & my self-actualisation through it (and all the practical things I do).

Lexie_99 - 01 January 2012 06:43 PM

Perhaps the question is whether or not we’ve reached a level where we can absorb this function of adaptation ourselves, via human intelligence and introspection.

Agreed; this is the key question our current state of consciousness confronts us with.  Consciousness following the old patterns that have got us to here is not going to get us to where we all want to go – a place of sustainable & self-actualising existence.  Consciousness-with-instincts has been our unwitting enemy; it now needs to become our aware friend.

I’m curious as to what this might look like in a real life scenario?

De Bono has his “six thinking hats” method which is very good but doesn’t seem to have strong neurological evidence to support it.  Further, according to Wiki, “The six thinking hats indicate problems and solutions about an idea or a product you might come up with”.  By way of contrast, the Emergent Method is based on four aspects of human nature that have been studied by psychologists for quite a long time – competitive instincts (or what I call “CQ”), cooperative instincts (or what Daniel Goleman called social intelligence or “SQ”), extrospective consciousness (or a version of traditional “IQ”) and introspective consciousness (or what Goleman called emotional intelligence or “EQ”).  Further, the Emergent Method is for us as emergent, self-organising systems and partially independent moral agents (it doesn’t work without this realisation).  It’s not about coming up with ideas about an external product but rather about expressing or making explicit internally owned moral values by delivering some kind of broad value to others. It’s about self-actualising.  However I’d imagine the two methods would work together very well because the one seems to taper off where the other kicks in.

In the past I have been plagued by the notion that values we “make up” as humans are somehow subjective and less good, even though I know that doesn’t really make sense…I suppose put that way there’s no intrinsic Something that makes top down processing inherently valuable vs. bottom up. They could both be viewed as subjective to a degree, it’s just that one comes from a voice above, one comes from amongst us.

I’d go a step further.  No matter what religion or creed you follow, the greatness of your God is marked by the attributes or values you assign to Him and through Him, assign to yourself.  Removing the Middleman, your greatness is measured by the values you live by – whether you believe in God or not!


A religion’s God is its Personification of its conceptualised and revered values (positive or negative).  For the reason already mentioned (a reticence to accept our limited moral agency) many of us must see our values personified in a god before we can internalise them ourselves.  Another reason perhaps, is the very colourful & rich language (or collection of concepts & rituals) we have developed in the social worship of our gods that is not available when we speak of values outside of religions, their oft-supposed owners.  This is why there is the lack of research into meta-cultural values you noted.  Religion is the aging survival machine of values uncovered in our species’ evolutionary past.  We desperately need new research!

Viewed from another level, I suppose that line of thinking really lends something very sacred to the idea of human existence. You used the term limited god - it really is quite a responsibility if you think of humanity (or similar high level consciousness) as being the level of emergence where love, empathy, responsibility, values, and so on are created within the universe. And I like the idea of them being “omnijective” if only because for me it’s like a tiny cheat that makes them feel a little more real and less subjective..

I’d put a different spin on this.  I reckon it’s not at our conscious level where moral values are created, just expressed & made explicit.  Value was created implicitly with the first disturbance of the uneasy “infinite nothing” unity.  More value is created with every emergent step from that point.  So general value is everywhere around us, but moral value was inherent in our nature as a particular species with a particular mode of survival well before we were aware of the fact.  Most animals (& maybe many humans) are still unaware of their own moral values.  This is the basis of the objective nature of moral values.  But that objectivity is latent until we, as subjective moral agents, make them explicit.  It is the operation of our agency that makes values explicit (and in law courts, renders us culpable of committed crimes).  I agree with your idea of the human sacredness that comes with our subjective and limited moral agency.  I would love to invent a new term like the Hindu greeting “Namaste”, that is “The divinity in me greets and honours the divinity that is also in you” (for atheists, the word “divinity” could perhaps be interpreted as “essential life principle and moral agency”).  This concept of individuated & lively divinity seems to beautifully point to the self-organising principle of the universe we are discussing here - the immutable values at home and emerging in and through each and every individual…

I agree that there is an odd value gap in society today - again, using values in a broader sense. Stereotypical secular values seem to be heavily work-centric, which is not always a bad thing, but in moderation, and combined with other values. There are communities where one can find other sorts of values expressed, of course - religious, artistic, volunteer, etc. - but it’s often like shopping at speciality stores, you get one set in one location.

This is spot on and applies firstly in the narrow sense of moral values.  Our ethical codes are limited because of our analytical, excessively rational and linear way of thinking.  Emergent ethics tends to combine the values of the virtue ethicists with the principles, beliefs, intentions and acts of the deontologists and the regard for social outcome of the consequentialists in a single, naturalistic model of “personal moral congruence” or “sustainable wellbeing”.  Deep happiness, contentment and satisfaction does not come with values alone or principles alone or intentions alone or acts alone or outcomes alone – it comes with a strong moral congruence between seemingly immutable values-in-action and outcomes achieved.  Feedback within the self-organising ethical system is essential.  Yes – the ethical system must be able to change, develop, grow and adapt to be healthy!  To support our self-actualisation it must also continually challenge the fixed perceptions of a particular point of view: It must move through phases like winter-spring-summer-autumn.  Emergent ethics does this by moving through the moral value sets associated with each of CQ – IQ – SQ – EQ –.  Most organisations pick a few moral values to guide them for fear of holding contradictory values and thus sending unclear messages to their staff.  But this is a fixed, analytical point of view that leads to imbalance, as you have noted, even in the broader sense of delivered value.  We should not be afraid of moving together from hat to hat, as de Bono suggests.  This is what innovative managers have started to do, thanks to de Bono.  It helps everyone appreciate the SWOT (in the consciousness-with-instincts) of themselves and their colleagues.  It helps us appreciate the team and also reorganise cross-functional teams to extract maximum delivered value… smile

[ Edited: 01 January 2012 11:33 PM by Michael Kean]
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Posted: 02 January 2012 09:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 468 ]  
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Posted: 03 January 2012 01:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 469 ]  
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Lexie_99 - 03 January 2012 02:48 AM

Can this, or any system, account for self-delusion and self-rationalizing? This is a topic of particular interest to me lately as I’ve learned about the role of the subconscious, how “conscious thought” is not what we tend to think it is, and so on. I’m glad the Free Will book is coming out soon, as I hope it will clear some of this up for me.

Yeah, I’m looking forward to Sam’s new book as well.  I guess one way we can begin to escape self-delusion & self-rationalising is if consciousness-with-instincts becomes more aware of itself (its SWOT).  The topic of free will and the relationship between consciousness & sub-consciousness I see as a slightly separate issue.  I don’t support the idea that because the subconscious kicks in before consciousness that this means consciousness can have no bearing on our lives.  This seems to miss the reality of the feedback system in operation between the two.  It also seems to fall for the old linear way of thinking restricted to our current knowledge rather than facing the complex, fuzzy, non-linear, recursive, asymmetrical & emergent reality we actually live within. But that said, we as a species probably have more and stronger instincts than most other species!

Does everything eventually have to be externalized and subjected to a scientific method of sorts in order to assure its truth? Is this, in part, what you’re referencing here through outcomes?

Good point.  Science has its uses, but it’s reality as our judge that will hopefully pull us into line if we are ‘aware enough’ - if we recognise the mind games (& biases) for what they are.  The issue is that wisdom doesn’t come easily.  We have to learn how to ‘dance’.  It’s a skill that comes with experience & sometimes harsh feedback.

(The ethical system) must move through phases like winter-spring-summer-autumn.  Emergent ethics does this by moving through the moral value sets associated with each of CQ – IQ – SQ – EQ –.

Again, I don’t know what it would all look like in action, but it’s certainly a beautiful idea!

It’s a lot like the six hats method, but maybe needs a few of those ‘dancing’ skills too.  E.g. you recognise you’re in a risky situation - you need CQ (i.e. self-reliant competitive instincts within a risky environment & the associated moral values such as self-esteem, inner drive and volitional courage).  Or maybe you recognise you’re in a social situation - you need SQ & social values such as mateship, team honour, dependability, patience, etc.  I could go on - but obviously some values suited to some situations can be inappropriate in others.  This is why we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones & be flexible sometimes.  We need to ‘dance’, not opportunistically, but wisely as the environment suggests.  This is not just a convenient situational ethics - it requires that we fully immerse ourselves into the value set of the given phase until we perceive the phase change.  It demand more of us, not less.  Not that we always have to act; sometimes we have to pause, smell the roses & let others act to enhance our self-actualisation.

I certainly agree on the language portion. I think that the language and imagery involved in religion speaks to a “non-logical” way of knowing (emotion based? value based?) in many people - it taps into some sort of Jungian archetypal element that just “feels right”, or feels like a truth - and in many ways, probably is, but in a more universal and less literal sense.

Agreed.  But let’s get rid of the mystery.  Religion doesn’t own any truths or virtues or values - it just claims them.  Big difference.

So you’re putting your money on the subconscious? smile I’m still giving mine the side eye a little bit, but I hope your optimism is correct… I hope that Darwinism doesn’t mean that part of us is doomed to a scrabble for resources and self interest.

Not sure what you mean here.  But I am a bit of an optimist.  I do believe we are becoming aware of and fed up with the mind games of consciousness gone astray.  And I think this will lead us to the new way of thinking I and many others are advocating.  I’m just doing it from a non-New Age / non-religious angle!

Do you think it’s actually possible to set one’s intentions? Or, alternately, that we can’t “really”, living in a causal universe and all, but that they’re probably intrinsically moral and full of values anyhow?

I do think that without a “higher consciousness” we will all perish as a result of the current mind games playing out in our petri dish.

I find the idea of building values for the sake of values very refreshing, and it seems like a very satisfying thing to do. For instance, my parents were very achievement oriented, just about every morning they would ask me what I planned on accomplishing that day. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but later I’d find myself caught up in a beautiful moment and think (on some level,) “Ah, it’s too bad this isn’t really worth anything - I mean, I’m not accomplishing anything here.” To me the idea that doing for the sake of doing isn’t always the best is very satisfying in thinking about how to structure the new year - it’s great to think about doing things that are fulfilling, moving, loving, beautiful, etc., just for their own sake.

A bit from my unpublished book: If we want to be (via entropy) without aiming to do we deny our fleeting life-here-and-now essence; if we aim to do (via negentropy) without stopping to be we deny our most basic, material existence (that, far from fleeting, has existed for all time past, even in the heart of stars): We gotta dance, not just be or do!  And in the human dance, we must actively seek and choose to quiet ourselves, experience, think, identify and know, because we are rational and volitional beings (this is our species’ distinguishing nature and our species’ basic means of survival).


To enjoy this short life (and get its rate of change or passing of psychological time roughly right) we must both selfishly take here-and-now and we must unselfishly surrender here-and-now.  This is an antinomy - a complete contradiction between two equally reasonable laws or principles; one is the fleeting and emergent principle of the self-organised living (which is negentropic taking) and the other is the constant and self-eliminating principle of the externally organised non-living (which is entropic giving).  A fulfilled and happy life is a wonderful “antinomic”  dance or musical improvisation between the doing (fleeting living) and the being (regardless of living; inanimate resting or passive surrendering), or the taking and the giving, or the pull and the push, or the negentropic and the entropic: To take a new breath, we also have to give our old breath.  Life’s apparent antinomy is only resolved in the virtual, transient and disappearing here-and-now midst of its monistic process or dance.  Nature’s incongruous and asymmetric but essentially egoless interplay of taking and giving here-and-now, is the essence of the philosophy of Emergence; it is also the essence of evolution’s unstoppable algorithms…

[ Edited: 03 January 2012 05:10 AM by Michael Kean]
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Posted: 03 January 2012 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 470 ]  
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Posted: 03 January 2012 03:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 471 ]  
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Hi Lexie,

ok - first of all I believe that the conscious and subconscious are ‘designed’ to work hand in hand.  E.g. I go to bed at night with a problem on my mind & wake up in the morning with a clear solution.  Or I set a goal for myself and find that subconsciously as well as consciously I am working towards that goal.  This is the ‘normal’ state of affairs for our healthy species.


But often, because of modern consciousness’s mind games, the ‘working together’ bit gets messed up.  We say one thing and do another - we lose our authenticity…  We allow significant others to drive us…  We live to please others and in the process lose ourselves…  We become indoctrinated by a man-made dogma, etc. etc.  We become divorced or estranged from the natural values of our species and particular self.  It’s like the difference between a person’s spoken language and body language,  The two should speak the same language, but often they don’t in our modern world, with its clever spoken language constructs & nuances.  The body language usually speaks the natural truth (unless consciously manipulated), betraying the mind games behind the spoken language.  This dissonance can be deliberate (e.g. in an attempt to deceive) or not so deliberate (e.g. we notice in the vapid eyes of our friend the sadness hidden within and our friend’s valiant attempt to remain positive in the face of emotional trauma).


So where do the unnatural mind games come from?  And can we do anything to combat them?  I think that Eckhart Tolle’s books “The Power of Now” & “A New Earth” were on the right track here (unlike “The Secret” I might add).  I just reject the author’s belief in transcendental consciousness or TC.  What I call “consciousness gone astray” and “mind games” in average modern mankind, Tolle calls “unconsciousness” and “ego” and “pain body” because he wants to protect the religious belief of TC.  That is, he sees consciousness as something perfect and mystical rather than subject to evolutionary or emergent trial-and-error just like instincts.  Other than that, I can fully understand Oprah’s hearty endorsement of the author’s ideas.  Another lesser issue I have with the book’s idea is that while immersing ourselves in the here-and-now can help us overcome the mind games and thus bring a lot of relief to sufferers, it seems to diminish our moral agency expressed through our way of dealing with the future.  So de Bono’s book supplies quite a contrast.  But I trust we can enjoy the best of both worlds - i.e. get past the mind games & we’re ready to plan our future & self-actualise: We’re ready to use consciousness in the way originally ‘intended’.  Note: I see instinctive biases as a slightly separate issue that can often be overcome with computing devices, etc.

Thanks for sharing that! It’s a bit of a different approach, isn’t it - first and foremost because it doesn’t sound easy (you’re not going to win over followers of “The Secret”, ha ha!) It’s interesting in that most systems don’t involve shifting back-and-forth (buy any book on diet, financial planning, organization, etc., and the message is “Do this for the rest of your life”) but of course this shifting is what we all end up doing anyways, in accordance with real life. No one stays on the perfect diet forever, there’s the time to eat that Christmas cheesecake.

Exactly!

In essence are you talking about the duel principles of life (builds organization, self-organizes,) vs. non-life (subject to entropy)? And somehow taking those core principles and structuring our own lives in a way that mirrors them?

Exactly!  This is the essence of nature’s self-emergence and of our self-actualisation (as moral agents within nature).  We need entropy or provocation to upset the local equilibrium if we are to find a better way.  We need Yin & Yang.  Our losses and failures are not our enemies: Without them we cannot learn.  The madness of consciousness gone astray is also our (global society’s) teacher.  How often do we hear about entrepreneurs that failed many times before they succeeded or rose up above particularly depressing circumstances?  But most of us just want the easy way:  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Or we look for other easy fixes such as a lottery ticket or another drink.  It’s self-defeating to stop dancing in a living, self-organising system.  While I said before that we have to do and to be, the end focus of living systems can’t remain to be - that is eventually death - it must be to do!  But sometimes we get caught up in analysis, mind games, etc. and lose balance.  I don’t mean balance as a smooth middle path all the time.  But I mean if we’re locked into one Yin perspective, the balance comes from the opposite Yang perspective - both of which might be extreme and almost antinomous.  Again from the book: The Zen Master, Sent–ts’an (? - 609 AD) said “If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.  The struggle between for and against is the mind’s worst disease”.  The flexibility of the Emergent Method’s approach (as opposed to the rigid good/evil dichotomy) is the key to arrival at such an egoless truth and personal moral congruence (or peace of mind, as opposed to Tolle’s pain-body effects); Practice of the Emergent Method leads to moral humility and moral value veneration rather than their opposites.


The philosophy of Emergence does not advocate a passive emptiness/nirvana or an active and experiential involvement / ’sudden enlightenment in the slipstream’ as ultimate truths.  Moral congruence (and happiness and wellbeing) is found as we allow or enable the dual aspects of life (passive and active; introspective and extrospective; personal and social) to virtuously coalesce in the present moment and place and to dance across unfolding spacetime…

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Posted: 04 January 2012 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 472 ]  
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Lexie_99 - 01 January 2012 06:43 PM

. . .

Michael, I think maybe we would agree that this can easily become a sort of fixation, though, a diversion from the reality of the life in front of us. At an extreme this might be represented by those who embrace drugs and mysticism for the sole purpose of having That Big Realization where the meaning of it all is clear. It’s a sort of siren’s call, I think, if you let it overtake you. Of course, in some incarnations this same instinct leads to a lot of scientific progress, which is a good thing - but not the only thing.

What about a person who doesn’t embrace drugs, mysticism, or other attempts to alter her mind, but does carefully consider which tools she has available to carry out a task as necessary as altering the mind, if for no other reason than to see things in a different light? Might they include certain drugs, perhaps mystical experience, meditation, group therapy . . . (I’m not sure what else.)? Certain of the effects of altering (and alternating between) brain-chemical processes can resemble an imagined process of another person entering your head. For instance, if I were to take a full dose of LSD (and I have no interest or intention of doing so, ever again), it would have certain predictable effects on how my brain functions. One result might be that it would seem as though I were inside someone else’s head, or that someone else were inside mine. Taking things further, it seems entirely reasonable to assume that something approaching objective observation might be available to me due to a drastic change in my brain chemistry that allows me to look at my own thoughts as though I were another person.

Of course, the trick is to understand deep down that you are a biological entity just as a squirrel or sparrow is a biological entity. I know you know it, but to understand it deep down might result in moments of clarity much more objective than otherwise possible.

Lexie_99 - 03 January 2012 03:58 PM

. . .
. . . The concern I was trying to state, though (maybe a rather sci-fi type concern, I don’t know) is the idea that the subconscious can want entirely different things than the conscious mind wants. If that’s the case, it creates a bit of a problem in setting one’s conscious goal, values, and intentions.

These kinds of things need not remain hidden, though. You can uncover all manner of mental things that are in need of revision, assuming you fully realize how illusory and delusional some of our cognitive habits are as we inherit them from our cultures. Our understanding of nature has grown vastly in an extremely short amount of time. As a result, many of our ancient, superstitiously ignorant mental habits remain within us in stark contrast to the actual state of affairs. Usual ways of operating mentally are, in a sense, antiquated. But we’re habituated toward them, so what can we do but continue as we have?


One thing we can do is simply to recognize and commit to this kind of analysis. Then maybe we’ll see some unraveling of our interiors that can be re-sewn into a new outfit. I’ve never tried to talk or write about any of this, and I hope you ask me for clarification if it’s needed because I feel out in left field whenever I try to explain something subtle or unusual.

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Posted: 04 January 2012 11:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 473 ]  
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Posted: 05 January 2012 04:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 474 ]  
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Lexie_99 - 05 January 2012 04:19 AM

Susan Blackmore talks a lot about being a collection of memes - I suppose I wonder if that means we’re always running on some sort of “old software” that we’ve picked up somewhere or other. nonverbal, as you said, from culture, childhood, may be genetics, wherever. And then, if we’re a collection of memes, we can’t clear them out entirely, can we, as we’d be left with nothing. In his Free Will book Gazzaniga brings up a similar concept, talking about how Amazon’s programming may be somewhat analogous to a human mind in that it isn’t a pre-set, linear set of directions, it’s comprised of formulas designed to achieve a certain outcome. My point, I guess, is that I don’t think I’m just being pessimistic in saying we can never entirely clear out all of these memes - in order to have any sort of goal-directed behavior, surely our minds have to be running on some sort of internal program.


I suppose consciousness can solve that problem, though, in that it’s - well, conscious. So we’re not robots running ancient software, if consciousness truly does allow for the ability to examine and scrutinize those memes.

Richard Dawkins, the originator of the concept of memes, wouldn’t agree that we are captive to our memes (or genes)!  See post of 03 Nov 201111:52 PM for the details (link below).  As he said “We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism—something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our own creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”  He saw “our capacity to simulate the future in imagination” as our mechanism of rebellion.  So this is the crux of the issue: If consciousness gets caught up in introspective mind games, anxieties & concepts detatched from reality then it can’t be clear or free to function properly - to rather accurately simulate the future in imagination.  So ridding ourselves of Tolle’s “pain body” is only part of the path to self-actualising.  The second part is to really understand how we are as a species - i.e our strengths & opportunities and not just our weaknesses and threats.  This is where I believe we need to understand the “good” (i.e. self-actualising) values of our birth & indoctrination; these we have no need to rebel against… smile

O3 Nov 2011 Post

[ Edited: 05 January 2012 04:52 AM by Michael Kean]
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Posted: 05 January 2012 08:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 475 ]  
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Lexie_99 - 05 January 2012 04:19 AM

. . .  I’d never really heard about drugs like LSD having therapeutic value or even being sort of mind-expanding until just recently. My only previous knowledge of them was that in college people would take massive amounts of such things at music festivals and wander around incoherently for hours before eventually waking up under a tree (always a tree!) with no memory of the day. It made me rather wary, but then I suppose that didn’t represent the most responsible use in the world.

Lexie, I think we can only guess about potential positive uses of psychedelics, since they’ve been criminalized and thereby their use entirely unregulated. Before the feds cracked down on them, some psychologists had high hopes for LSD as a way for people to gain self-insight. Research of course came to an end other than maybe within the realm of CIA manipulation research. Actual use of the drug was, by default, relegated to people who didn’t mind risking spending time in jail or prison. Bottom/out-of-sight folks, for the most part.

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Posted: 05 January 2012 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 476 ]  
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Posted: 05 January 2012 06:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 477 ]  
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Just read an interesting post on Kenneth Benjamin’s WisdomWebsite.com - the guy that started this topic.  Seems somewhat related to what we’re discussing here now so I posted a reply.  Please check it out (and why not sign up to his email alerts while you’re at it?)


Wisdomwebsite


PS: I’ll get back to you later Lexie…

[ Edited: 05 January 2012 06:30 PM by Michael Kean]
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Posted: 05 January 2012 09:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 478 ]  
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We just won the cricket.  Yippee! (I’m an Aussie in Sydney).

Lexie_99 - 05 January 2012 03:52 PM

First, since we are on a Sam Harris forum here, let me throw out the obvious question of religion. Couldn’t one argue that religion is exactly the mechanism that Dr. Dawkins is describing there? And, while I hate to fall back on an argument like this, isn’t there something to be said for sheer popularity? Meaning, religion is something that appears to spring to life and enjoy immense popularity in just about every culture during that culture’s evolution. Couldn’t the mere ubiquitous presence of religion indicate that this is the solution that nature has arrived at for this very problem? To that end, is the real solution to work towards “The Perfect Religion” for mankind, without stripping away God? Religions do change and morph with time and societal development, after all.

I don’t think popularity or anything else is an argument for religion as it typically is – superstitious, elitist, almost exclusively backward-looking, arrogant with respect to ‘ownership’ of human virtues, etc.  But if we could invent a new religion that would address all these issues head on, I might be for it!  A kind of ‘adult religion’ in which each member accepts his/her moral agency and takes personal responsibility for human flourishing.  In this case a belief in some kind of god heading it up wouldn’t really matter that much.  As I see it, atheism, agnosticism or belief is just a personally-chosen method of self-actualising.  The choice to self-actualise is a far more weighty decision.

SH likes to say that it takes religion to make good people do bad things. It seems to me, though, that societal development also requires good people to do almost suicidally good things as well. Why be the one to speak up against your tyrannical, corrupt government leaders when it will almost surely get you killed? Would people do it without an allegiance to a “higher” authority?

This is an incredibly interesting point.  It perhaps seems an irresistible argument for your new religion.  But do we really need another appeal to a ‘higher authority’ (god or despot) in order to advance above our current state of consciousness-with-instincts? If we think we do, then maybe de Bono’s observation is right “Everything is fine.  But we are still heading in the wrong direction”.  We need new thinking.  We need to face our frailty, our dependency on the environment and our responsibility for the problem & solution.  And we need to realise our evolutionary (& probabilistic) destiny as limited moral agents.  I believe that it will only be as we take on our own moral agency with the same fervor as we have seen in our god-obsessed past that we will advance.  And this idea is not necessarily against some religious teachings.  If Sam is right & we have no free will, just the illusion of it, then we need a very deep illusion!

Another point - how do we ever “know” that we are stripped of our selfish genetic impulses, rather than driving them deep underground? This is what I mean when I say that perhaps external measurement and validation is always needed to a degree.

Two points.  1. Nothing wrong with selfishness per se – all gods must be selfish! Our genes & memes aren’t sometimes rendered faulty because of their selfishness – but because of the short-sighted biases & silly mind games.  2. Of course external measurement & validation (what I have called extrospection) must be part of the cycle of self-actualising, but it must be in balance with all else that defines us as a species (values-based introspection, self-reliant but risk-aware competitiveness & normative sociability).  Our science-obsessed world refuses to accept that science has little to say & few solutions to offer with respect to these things, so it often resorts to belittling our subjectivity rather than circumspectly celebrating it.

Let me give an example of a common political issue - since it’s in the thread, let’s say legalization of certain drugs (responding to your thoughts here as well nonverbal!)  Say I read all of the available data, and I conclude that all drugs should be illegal, and others, such as alcohol, should be more heavily regulated. I believe I have made an objective decision based on the obvious harm that these substances can cause via abuse, driving accidents, poor decision making, and so on. But have I? Or do I have an underlying, unconscious motive that caused me to highlight that portion of the data in my mind? Maybe I knew someone whose life was ruined by drugs and I have an unacknowledged disdain for them, or perhaps I have a close relative in law enforcement and am unconsciously thinking of them.   


Now assume the opposite. Maybe I read all of the research and I assume that all drugs should be legalized. I believe I have made an objective decision based on the fact that criminalizing almost always leads to illegal trade that causes more problems than the drugs themselves. In addition, I note that this illegal trade appears to most heavily impact the poorest communities, and conclude that this is actually a form of discrimination against the disadvantaged. I focus more on the potential therapeutic benefits of certain substances. Again, have I been objective? Maybe deep down I’m simply curious about trying those things myself, and my mind has a hidden agenda in highlighting certain information and drawing certain conclusions.


Or say I take the balanced approach, and say drugs should be legalized with support for education, regulation, and procedures to promote responsible use. Well, perhaps the “real” answer is not this middle path, maybe objective research would in fact show that an all or nothing approach would be best. Perhaps in this case I have all of the above factors at the back of my mind, or I simply subconsciously pride myself on being the type of person who can see both sides of an issue.

Brilliant so far…

I just feel that truth is so subjective, like looking through the multi-lens eye of a fly. It can be viewed from many angles at many levels, perhaps the human mind is not even capable of seeing “the whole truth” at once. If this is the case, there must be some determining factor that specifies which slices we do see. Can we really know the nature of those factors?

This is obsession with pure truth-seeking again.  Where is the respect for the values expressed in each scenario?  Of course we can’t see all truths at once.  And neither can evolving, emerging nature: In fact it doesn’t need to!  This is why the dance of values is important.  Does it really matter what slices of truth we currently miss?  Did ‘caveman truth’ make him less able to express his values and self-actualise?  No, not if he had his moral freedom.

Or do we end up saying “Wow, look at that, it turns out I’m pretty comfy and cozy here with all my needs met. That’s just a coincidence, though, my opinions were based entirely on what was true and right, not on what would benefit me physically or psychologically.”

Sounds like you’re hinting at ‘unavoidable’ mind games here.  Nietzsche lamented the social mores (“truths”) that seem to lull us into a lazy moral comfort, and in some ways I can’t disagree with him if that comfort is derived from our shirking of responsibility as subjective moral agents by surrendering it to social institutions.  But if we are operating responsibly, then what is wrong if your values coincide with self-interest and don’t disrespect other moral agents?

(An aside, getting out of argument mode for a moment - my personal resolution to the above is that humankind functions as a large organism that can’t be viewed at the single person level any more than the heart could be viewed at the single cell level or the body could be viewed at the single organ level. We push and pull and debate and represent a diversity of sides, truths, needs and desires among ourselves, and hopefully a balance arises amongst the voices that speak for a wide variety of factors.)

Wow – this is one of the most interesting comments I’ve ever read!  Can I use it?  Matt Ridley, in his book “The Origins of Virtue” used the term “the inexorable coagulation of life” to describe the essential process going on in living nature.  I think this was a great insight at the time and is ultimately inescapable.  I’d just have one reservation with respect to your comment and the application of Matt Ridley’s term to humanity.  It’s the problem of consciousness – its mind games and reticence to accept its moral agency.  So if we fix the mind games and accept our subjective moral agency then there is nothing to stop the inexorable coagulation of life in ongoing human society.  And there is nothing to contradict your view of humankind as an indivisible and balanced organism.  But alas this is not the case: I think the contents of the Petri dish are in grave danger…

Last but not least, isn’t consciousness itself the ultimate cause of short-sighted selfishness, as much as it could be a potential escape from it? Not ego, but consciousness, I mean. If I cut my finger, my finger hurts - not yours, not my neighbor’s, not my second cousin’s. If I have a delicious piece of chocolate cake, I alone get the sensation of tasting. So while we may strive to be egoless, in the end the only one experiencing the consequences of consciousness is the thing we call “I”. How can we ever transcend that particular reality?

Indeed!  We need to transcend consciousness’s limitations by rebelling against the old “rock logic” (obsessive truth-seeking & justifying) and implementing de Bono’s new “water logic” (value-finding & delivering).  If we can’t find a way to do this, I’m afraid it’s all over.  But I’m hopeful we can!

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Lexie_99 - 06 January 2012 01:29 PM

On a side note, I think this is one thing I find difficult about non-believer forums and communities. Most people decidedly do not like religion and are happy to be rid of it. I think I’m an odd duck amongst non-believers in that I was somewhat fond of my religion and am still fond of religious ideals such as the figure of Jesus, whether he was a real person who was a sort of bodhisattva or a personal ideal.

Yeah, I’m another one that doesn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Religion has been important to our evolution and important in my past life too.  It has taught me a lot about what we are as humans.  I actually learned a lot from reading the Bible.  And I still appreciate the wonderful ideas in the O.T. from Job to Song of Solomon and in some of the N.T.  But for all that, I clearly see myself as an atheist much more than agnostic or believer.

I believe that it will only be as we take on our own moral agency with the same fervor as we have seen in our god-obsessed past that we will advance.

Yes, I suppose that’s true. I do think the idea of dogma, in general, might have played an important evolutionary role in this sense. Not just religious dogma, I think people can be moved to great self-sacrifice for other perceived “higher causes”, and throughout our development, this was often necessary in order to make drastic and needed changes to the established order. On reflection, though, I think the range of “higher causes” we are capable of embracing is probably diverse and extends well beyond religious or political dogma, even though these are certainly common forms.

Again an incredibly interesting thought Lexie.  When I said fervor, I was trying to purposely distinguish the idea from dogma - but perhaps you are right: We’re not ready to advance to an enlightened fervor without going through a less enlightened era of dogma within this new “church” of self-organising & subjective moral agency!  We somehow need to be emotionally attached to our new higher consciousness or it won’t take off.  But how can we have a dogmatic commitment to even life-promoting values without also incurring a loss of those same values?  I suspect this has been the plague of every politicised & promulgated “ism” in the past.  They start out with good intensions & ideas but then degenerate as followers get their minds off of the pure ideals and onto issues of personal power & mind games.  So in the end I don’t think we can have an efficient dogma - just a less efficient fervor…

Interesting, and I do agree to a point. I notice you’ve posted on TML though - how do you think this lines up with the idea of needing to bring value-based judgements into the realm of science? Do you think subjectivity needs to be embraced by science, or that to some degree this is a separate field of thought?

1. What is TML?  2. Science has a problem if it doesn’t see its place in human nature (the extrospective part) & that nature’s ongoing emergence.  This objective & extrospective ‘phase’ can take its turn in leading our self-actualisation but it can’t achieve it alone.  Science doesn’t supply subjective meaning or purpose to us ‘gods’.  It doesn’t define our somewhat subjective social mores, even though I agree with Sam that it can have impact.  Likewise it can supply our individuality with pointers about risk management but can’t drive our innovative survival mechanisms.  (If need is the mother of invention, then instinctive competition or CQ is its father).  So science must be seen as separate ‘mode’ of human behaviour at the social level, but must also be integrated into a healthy & holistic view of humankind as a species with specific SWOTs.

Are you familiar with Kotler’s marketing eras within a society?  I think we are past the Production / Sales / Marketing and pure Customer Relationship eras now.  We have perhaps been drifting within a Societal Marketing era for a while, where the hidden costs of financial / environmental / social (ab)use has come to be more clearly understood by savvy consumers.  I think or at least hope the next marketing era will be the Marketing Values era, where it will no longer be sufficient for a corporation to provide isolated value through scientific/technological advancement.  It will also have to make its moral values explicit and transparently show how its delivery of products and services fit those moral values.  It will have to show it is part of humanity’s solution and not part of the problem.  I think this is what ‘science’ will have to do as well if we are to remain good little consumers…

Ah, I see what you mean. I didn’t realize how far you were taking the concept of truth-seeking, I was seeing it in a more limited sense. That said, though, in a case where one must make an actual law (as above) then whose values are chosen and why?

This is an issue of governance, jurisprudence, etc.  It’s like asking me which form of government I would prefer.  From my quote at the end of every post you probably get the idea of what I prefer - one that protects and helps make explicit and promulgates the innate or meta-cultural moral values of our species.  But I think that no matter what form of government we currently have, it will do if we allow it to evolve towards the ideal.  E.g. Is government-supported education or privately-sponsored education better?  Doesn’t really matter if there is movement in the system that enables the best system to emerge with time from CQ-IQ-SQ-EQ-.  “Water-logic” doesn’t get tied down to past truths; it emerges, like nature.  Same applies to your problem of legalising illicit drugs.  Our main hurdle is the “rock logic” in our systems of government rather than the systems themselves.  Same with all our institutions, including religion (and philosophies - such as you saw in the is-ought debate.  The divide between is & ought narrows if you allow water logic into the topic).


Initially I would be pro-freedom of choice in all these issues and more - not because I’m a libertarian, but because governments need to serve the people & not the other way around.  Healthy society is a higher order of healthy individuals, not the other way around (similarly consciousness is a higher order or manifold of brain systems and not the other way around).  Governments & political parties & courts should make their wide support of moral values & human flourishing every bit as explicit as corporations such as Johnson & Johnson does in its credo.  How easy it would then be when the outcomes of actions taken were incongruent with stated values?  With an accepted water logic, we would all adjust our understandings of how the world works and move on rather than get stuck in defending past decisions and past truths. 


Like Western politicians did when they vehmently defended their decisions to attack Iraq based on a belief of held WMD’s - after it was proven that no WMD’s existed.  Why couldn’t they just admit that they misjudged reality, openly reflect on and learn from the experience and then move on?  Why? Because of an overwhelming commitment to rock logic in our political leaders.  They still see themselves as our elected despots or divine monarchs that can’t make mistakes of truth & judgment.  Is this our fault as citizens unwilling to accept our moral & civil agency when we authorise politicians to act on our behalf?  Errors of judgment that are not a result of psychological imbalance, weakness of character or ignorance of moral values but only a result of limited human agency (we are not omnipresent or omniscient or omnipotent after all) should be seen as opportunities to learn & grow together in our humanity (leader & citizen).  However this is probably being a little too kind to Bush, Blair & Howard.  Moral brainstorming, or swimming in all four rivers of values, would have perhaps prevented the groupthink of some “hawks” at the time and given a larger voice to some of the “doves”.  It might also have moved focus off of the strictly moral intention of the decision to the moral outcome and likelihood of moral congruence afterwards.  By doing so, it might have shifted focus to the “judgment of information” dimension or the “leadership ability” dimension a little more.  These dimensions, while not strictly moral dimensions (although personal values drive them just as much) nevertheless were intimately tied to the feelings of moral congruence (or otherwise) before and after the outcomes of the decision to invade by way of pre-emptive strike.  And maybe the strike would have gone ahead nonetheless - but the defenses of the decision afterwards would not have been so obtuse.

Another quandary I tend to have with the nebulous nature of truth are some of SHs thoughts in Lying. Perhaps I just over think such concepts, though! To my mind, living up to an ideal of pure honesty would require such a long string of qualifiers for any and every statement that it would be almost absurd. A bit of personal introspection seems to reveal that one can make statements that are all honest and true, in the moment, although seemingly rather contradictory! Again, due to this multi-layered, subjective nature of viewing truth in any given moment.

I haven’t read his essay yet, but probably agree with you.  But can you see that contradiction is not our great enemy?  What is more contradictory or antinomic (maybe a better invention than ‘antinomous’ don’t you think?)  than infinity or one, and zero - the stuff that started it all?  Deep truth & our perception of it is seldom uni-dimensional.  This is why the CQ-IQ-SQ-EQ- dance is important.  And why a mix of being/doing is important.  We need Yin & Yang in a self-organising & emergent system.  We have to allow our self-actualisation as individuals and societies (and a planet) to emerge from the tense antinomy of 1 & 0!  What’s the point of truth without meaning or mountains of data without organisation?  And as we have perhaps seen in both Russia & Afganistan, what’s the current gain of democracy (imposed from the top) to a nation that can’t yet appreciate its meaning - derived from the civil values of its citizens?

I’m curious, you use the term mind games a lot - I assume I know what you’re talking about, but could you specify this term a bit?

  This is a big topic - can we discuss after you’ve had a chance to flip thru Tolle’s book “A New Earth”, pp 129-160, 164 & 182?

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