Rationality Quotes June 2012

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Video by Fallon, a scientist who found out that he was a sociopath-- he says it doesn't bother him that everyone he knew said he was bad at connecting emotionally, but he does seem motivated to work on changing.


I really wish we had brain scans of this guy at 19 and at 25. I want to see which areas were developed!

You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel

Yes I can. Speak for yourself (Buck).

I read it more charitably, as being isomorphic to Schopenhauer's "A man can do as he wills, but not will as he wills." The idea is that you are feeling something and not something else, and regardless of what you are feeling you can and should do right.

The distinction may be between setting up the preconditions for a feeling (which has some chance of working) and trying to make a feeling happen directly (which I think doesn't work).

Making a feelings happen directly isn't easy. It's a skill. Given the demographic on this website there a good chance that a lot of the readers can't control their feelings. Most of the people here are skilled at rationality but not that skilled at emotional matters.

It's a bad idea to generalise your own inability to control your feelings to other people.

Can you describe the process of making feelings happen directly?

Directly is a tricky word. In some sense you aren't doing things directly when you follow a step by step process.

If you however want a step by step process I can give it to you (but please don't complain that it's not direct enough):

1) You decide which emotion you want to feel.

2) You search in your mind for an experience when you felt the emotion in the past.

3) You visualize the experience.

4) In case that you see yourself inside your mental image, see the image as if you are seeing it through your own eyes.

5) If the image is black and white, make it colored.

6) Make the image bigger.

7) Locate the emotion inside your body.

8) Increase the size of the emotion.

9) Get it moving.

10) Give it a color.

11) Increase movement and size as long as you want.

That's the way of doing it I learned at day two of an NLP seminar.

I'm not actually sure of what you mean by 'directly' here. Which of the following does 'setting up the preconditions' include:

a) changing breathing patterns etc b) focusing thought on particular events etc. c) rationalising consciously about your emotional state d) thinking something like 'calm down, DavidAgain calm down calm down'

I doubt many people can simply turn a powerful emotion on or off, although I wouldn't rule it out. I read (can't find link now...) about a game where the interface was based on stuff like level of 'arousal' (in the general sense of excitement), which you had to fine tune to get a ball to levitate to a certain level or whatever. I'd be surprised if someone played that a lot with high motivation and didn't start to be able to jump directly to the desired emotional state without intermediary positions. And being able to do so obviously has major advantages in some more common situations (e.g. being genuinely remorseful or angry when those responses will get the best response from someone else and they're good at reading faked emotion, or controlling panic when the panic-response will get you killed)

This game sounds awesome, I am going to try and search for it so I can test this.

A while (i.e. about a decade) ago, I read about a variant of Tetris with a heart rate monitor in which the faster your heart rate was the faster the pieces would fall.

Looks like there are a few pc input devices on the market that read brain activity in some way. The example game above sounds like this Star Wars toy.

Well, what works for someone may not work for someone else. (Heck, what works for me at certain times doesn't work for me at other times.)

Really? Are you sure you're not just making yourself believe you feel something you do not?


Yes. It's not an unusual ability to have. It can take a long time and concerted effort to develop desired control over one's own feelings but it is worth it.

to Are you sure you're not just making yourself believe you feel something you do not?


I'm sure. Certain feelings are easier to excite than others, but still. All it takes is imagination.

A fun exercise is try out paranoia. Go walk down a street and imagine everyone you meet is a spy/out to get you/something of that sort. It works.

(Disclaimer: I do not know if the above is safe to actually try for everyone out there.)

Anger is pretty easy, too. All I have to do is remember a time I was wronged and focus on the injustice of it. Not very fun, though.

I'm not sure it would work for me, knowing that (e.g.) setting my watch five minutes early doesn't work to make me hurry up more even though it does work for many people I know.

On the other hand, I can trigger the impostor syndrome or similar paranoid thoughts in myself by muling over certain memories and letting the availability heuristic make them have much more weight than they should.

What in the actual fuck? This is the exact opposite of what is rational: "Relinquish the emotion which rests upon a mistaken belief, and seek to feel fully that emotion which fits the facts. If the iron approaches your face, and you believe it is hot, and it is cool, the Way opposes your fear. If the iron approaches your face, and you believe it is cool, and it is hot, the Way opposes your calm. Evaluate your beliefs first and then arrive at your emotions. Let yourself say: “If the iron is hot, I desire to believe it is hot, and if it is cool, I desire to believe it is cool.” Beware lest you become attached to beliefs you may not want."

Emotions are generally considered instinctive, not deliberated. You could argue that anything instinctive should be thrown out until you have a chance to verify that it serves a purpose, but brains are not usually that cooperative. Knowing you have an emotion which you do not want (I get angry when people prove that I am wrong about something which I have invested a lot of time thinking about), and being able to destroy it are two different things. If you are able to act in accordance to your best plan instead of following instincts at all times, and run error correction routines to control the damage of an unwanted emotion on your beliefs you are doing something rational.

The latter half of the quote is fine, but the first half is completely wrong and is the opposite message of what rationality says.

You seem to be suffering from is-ought confusion. Yes, it would be nice to eliminate the irrational emotion, but this isn't always possible or requires too much effort to be worthwhile.