A model of approaches to truth-seeking
Two kinds of approaches to truth-seeking that people tend to have. Most average people in western society seem to be in the middle between the two. Rationalists aim to be on the side of reason. I am trying hard to be, too.
The intuition-based system can lead to more possible worldviews as it doesn't have the aim to produce worldviews that are isomorphic with one objective reality. In the following, I am listing exemplary, stereotypical views of the intuition-based approach to illustrate my points.
Both systems are a meta-system of the other one in the sense that they can ‘explain away’ the truth and importance of the conclusions of the other one.
Both are internally consistent.
|Definition of truth||Truth is when the map reflects the territory. (i.e. correspondence of your system of claims with reality)||Truth is that which feels true.|
Importance is that which feels important.
Good is that which feels good. (etc.)
|Axioms and tools of truth-seeking||Reason, Logic, Empirical Observation, Language||Emotions|
|Explanation for the other system’s inferiority||Feeling is flawed for truth-seeking as our feelings are shaped by Darwinian, evolutionary pressure to maximize fitness, not to maximize map-territory correspondence.||Thinking is flawed for truth-seeking as it feels false to use the methods of empirical observation, and logical deduction/induction if they are not accompanied by feelings of truth/falseness. These days, science is completely detached from feeling and thus does not produce any truths.|
|Free will?||Malformed question||There is free will.|
|Concepts of meaning, beauty, good||Meaning, beauty, and good are subjective, human concepts that you’ll fail to explicitly locate on the territory and that you’ll thus fail to map.||There is meaning, beauty, and good in the world.|
|Explanation for the other system sometimes being successful||Sometimes but rarely, what people feel like is true actually turns out to be true because of good instincts, chance, etc. but if so, often for the wrong reasons (at least explicitly)||Because many people have been raised to value the methods of science, empiricism, and logic, science sometimes produces truth as its findings will feel true to people. If so, they will feel it to be true but for the wrong reasons (at least explicitly).|
|Utility of the systems||The conclusions of science produce real-world outcomes (technology, etc) proving the utility of science.||The conclusions of feeling-based systems about the structure of reality, the meaning of things, and any other thing feel important, true, and good and are thus highly useful.|
|Utility of the systems - technology and utility of technology||Feeling-based systems fail to show correspondence to empirical observations of the map. They especially fail to produce novel insights into the territory that are translatable into technologies/courses of action that are useful for further advancing progress (i.e. science itself) or arguably any other means.||The conclusions of science often feel false (e.g. quantum physics) and its technologies often feel mundane and unimportant (when contrasted with the eternal transcendent experiences we can find in spirituality or drugs) The technology it produces feels useless and at most is useful for nothing but doing more (useless) science itself (’progress’).|
|Utility of the systems - feeling of truth, good, beauty||Even if your goal is to maximize the feeling of truth, goodness, and beauty, the science-based method will be better at allowing you to do this. (e.g. evolutionary psychology, wire-heading technology)||This feels false, the choice to sit in an experience machine would never be good as it feels like the experience would only be ‘fake’.|
|Utility of the systems - reproductive fitness||Eventually, natural selection will prove who has the more useful system when it comes to surviving.||This feels false, also, Darwinian fitness feels unimportant. (And even if true, the ‘souls’ of our experience will live on forever.)|
|Resilience of thinking-based systems to transformative experiences||People turning hippies after too much LSD, traumatic experiences, or brain injury is only proof of the inherent irrationality of the human animal and the fragility of the hard-earned rationality that we have been privileged to even be able to attain (by nature and nurture).|
We can only try our hardest to avoid the kind of damage that traumatic experiences like that can entail to our neural machinery (by abstaining from drugs, wearing helmets, and looking out for our mental health) and hope to never lose this gift.
|If you go beyond the lack of depth of science and reason and if you are only sufficiently exposed to the truth, you will understand. Look at all the people who got their life changed and found truth, meaning, and beauty after truly deep experiences such as ancient drugs, traumatic experiences, or near-death experiences.|
Questions and Hypotheses
Question I: Am I right that both systems are internally consistent?
Question II: What would you say or do to someone in any of the two, to convince them to switch sides?
Hypothesis: If you are sufficiently deep in one of these two local optima, you’ll likely never switch sides without extraordinary, transformative experiences.
My guess is that having sufficiently transformative experiences, e.g. sufficient exposure to psychedelics, will make most ‘rational’ humans switch sides. It is probably harder to leave the valley of the feeling-based optimum than the ‘rational’ one. I am not sure if there is anything you can say or do trying to rescue someone beyond the ‘event horizon’ of the feeling-based local optimum.
Hypothesis II: The ‘rational system’ is actually a sub-system of the feeling system because you’ll only find it compelling if its core assumptions feel true - e.g. taking empirical evidence and reason as the axioms of truth-seeking feels true because we have been (implicitly) taught to do so by growing up in a specific bubble of society (through upbringing, formal education, exposure to academia/rationality).
Hypothesis III: Eventually, natural selection would mean that feeling-based systems (or the species/civilizations that least evolve away from feeling towards thinking) die out as their form of truth-seeking has less relevance for fitness due to being more detached from actual reality. However, there is no substance or importance in this argument when viewed from someone in the feeling-based optimum.
Question III: Besides natural selection, is there any other universal argument to be made for the 'superiority' of one of the two valleys?