How can you improve your conception of rationality? Not by saying to yourself, “It is my duty to be rational.” By this you only enshrine your mistaken conception. Perhaps your conception of rationality is that it is rational to believe the words of the Great Teacher, and the Great Teacher says, “The sky is green,” and you look up at the sky and see blue. If you think: “It may look like the sky is blue, but rationality is to believe the words of the Great Teacher,” you lose a chance to discover your mistake. Do not ask whether it is “the Way” to do this or that. Ask whether the sky is blue or green. If you speak overmuch of the Way you will not attain it.
If you don’t think intentionally… If your ideas and beliefs don’t produce a working model of reality… well…
When an honest person discovers they are wrong, they stop being wrong or they stop being honest. It’s your choice.
Sometimes when my wife and I have conversations in public, it looks like the scene from the movie Dogma where Loki and Bartleby walk through the airport talking about their previous exploits as angels. We often look around at all the sleeping people in the world, noting that they barely register as conscious beings. They go through their lives working meaningless jobs, enduring unfulfilling relationships, and drugging themselves to avoid facing their unfaceable fears. Their conversations are nothing but trivialities in the grand scheme of things.
~ Steve Pavlina
There is a fine line between condescendent and enlightened. The first requisite for enlightenment is awareness of the line, and another is having the courage to get precariously close to it.
The point of this preparation is not to write off everyone in advance. It’s that, maybe, because you’ve prepared for it, you’ll be able to act with patience, forgiveness, and understanding.
~ Ryan Holiday
Recently, someone told me — literally wrote the words, “Why don’t you get down off your high horse and get a sense of humor?”
A bit of context: They had posted a large comment, and an image which I judged to be inappropriate and which I judged added nothing to the conversation at hand. I deleted the image. Below their comment, I added, “Commentary such as this are most welcome; inappropriate, rape-y GIFs are not.” They followed with the high-horse snark, and then a longish stream of discussion by them and others broke out wherein I added nothing further to the episode. Let’s set aside the question of wether my decision to delete the image was warranted or approved by the community after-the-fact.
I found myself thinking about the difference in our behavior…
…and the next morning, I read this quote. (Wow! What an instance of confirmation bias!)
…and that led me to this conclusion:
I have intentionally climbed up onto this high horse. I am intentionally doing my best to demonstrate through my behavior that I hold myself to a high standard.
But I worry that most smart people have not learned that a list of dozens of studies, several meta-analyses, hundreds of experts, and expert surveys showing almost all academics support your thesis – can still be bullshit. Which is too bad, because that’s exactly what people who want to bamboozle an educated audience are going to use.
~ Scott Alexander
The way our civil discourse currently works, one has to be loud (or strident, or be an animated-GIF) to be heard. If one thinks, “This topic is complicated. I should learn more about it before engaging…”, then by definition you are not [yet] participating in the civil discourse.
Meanwhile, the discourse continues led by those who are willing to engage, and who may [or may not] be better informed than you.
So here’s a challenge — something to consider trying, not a challenge in the sense of me saying, “I challenge you, sir, to a duel!”…
Actually start those conversations where you don’t feel well-equiped. So for example, I should more often say, “I disagree with you because I’m not convinced that yours is the correct position . . . but I’m not entirely certain of my position either . . . can we help each other by unpacking our thinking a bit more?”
There’s a real skill to being fine with not winning the discussion. I engage, I discuss, and the other person holds their position not moving one iota. We each walk away disagreeing but at least we better understand that other individual human being. That would be civil discourse.
Your clear conscience gives reason to be confident; still, since many external factors have a bearing on the outcome, hope for the best but prepare yourself for the worst. Remember above all to get rid of the commotion. Observe what each thing has inside, and you will learn: there is nothing to fear in your affairs but fear itself.
What — exactly, specifically — is under your control?
The fact that you can’t remember an agreement you made with yourself doesn’t mean that you’re not holding yourself liable for it. Ask any psychologist how much of a sense of past and future that part of your psyche has, the part that was storing the list you dumped: zero. It’s all present tense in there. That means that as soon as you tell yourself that you should do something, if you file it only in your short-term memory, that part of you thinks you should be doing it all the time. And that means that as soon as you’ve given yourself two things to do, and filed them only in your head, you’ve created instant and automatic stress and failure, because you can’t do them both at once, and that (apparently significant) part of you psyche will continue to hold you accountable.
~ David Allen
…yes another quote from the GTD book.
In the first half of my life — say to age 40 — I made a HUGE MISTAKE: I presumed that I had a reasonable understanding of how my brain worked. I don’t mean at a physiology level; I still don’t really understand that. I mean at a day-to-day-doing-stuff, when-I-do-this-then-this-happens, this-is-how-one-lives sort of level. Like how I thought I knew how to use my brain to decide what to eat, what to work on, what to read, what to do with my time . . .
Now why on earth did i think I had any idea?
Seriously: You think of “me” as this “self-thing” located behind your eyes, but that “you” is just “running” in/on your brain. So have you ever tried different ways of running your life? How do you know reading some such book will or won’t change your life? Maybe you should experiment with everything. Try something radical: Pay attention to the results. You’re ALREADY following lots of advice — my advice, your mother’s advice, the TV ads’ advice, your doctor’s advice — but have you ever bothered to figure out what the results are? Then make a deliberate change intended to move you toward a specific goal. Observe results. Then make another change. Then another. And another.
I mean, it’s not like your entire life depends on the choices you … oh wait. *lightbulb*
This includes people who get angry, which is why Seneca calls anger a “temporary madness.” This class of individuals can certainly be held morally responsible for their actions, since they are perfectly capable of reason, they just don’t use it well.
Once more, louder for those in the back: Stoicism is not about suppressing emotions. It is about [among other things] having appropriate emotional responses.
Clearly there’s a tradeoff to be made here. In order to learn about the world, you need to let ideas in. But the more ideas you let in, the more bad ideas you let in. You can (and should) set up border controls, but you can’t achieve perfect truth-filtering any more than you can turn your house into a cleanroom or ride the subway in a hazmat suit.
In order to get any thinking done, you have to accept some probability of being wrong. The question is, how much?
~ Kevin Simler
If you’ve been following me a while, you’ve been exposed to Melting Asphalt and know what to expect if you follow that link.
…but especially if you don’t know what to expect, you should click that link and go have your horizons broadened, and your borders strengthened.
Too often nowadays Stoicism is brandished as a magic wand, as if one decides to “be” a Stoic and this, ipso facto, guarantees immunity from unhealthy emotions. It doesn’t, and Chrysippus, Seneca, and Epictetus would be astounded that anyone would think so. Stoic training is like training for the Olympics (a metaphor often used by Epictetus): you don’t just decide to be an athlete, start running, and win the race. You have to train, patiently, for years, improving gradually, and suffering setbacks. We are talking real life here, not wishful thinking.
~ Massimo Pigliucci
More and more, as the years go by, I have been peering more closely into the dark corners of the basements of my philosophies, and ideologies.
Humans are the most communicative species on the planet, but we’ve come increasingly to rely on the very cheapest signals: words. The problem with words is that they aren’t a scarce resource. Which is a more honest signal of your value to a company: when your boss says, “Great job!” or when she gives you a raise?
~ Kevin Simler
I’m not sure I have a take-away from this. I don’t mean, “I’m not sure I have a take-away to share“, I mean I’m not sure I have a take-away, for me personally.
I’m sure only that this made me think.