David Gross


Notes on Virtues


FWIW: I dropped out of high school a year early via the GED route. I am very glad I did, and recommend it. At the time this was not really an option that was discussed above-ground by e.g. guidance counselors: instead the assumption was that you'd either graduate from high school or "be a drop-out" with all sorts of bad connotations.

I enrolled in a community college and began taking my lower-division undergrad courses there (and some electives that I was curious about). This was far less expensive than taking the equivalent courses at a university, and by and large the lower-division courses I took at community college were of higher quality than those I later took at university (smaller class sizes, professors seemed to care more).

OTOH, my friends who stayed behind for their high school senior year described it as being a much better year than others: more collegiality, a better social scene in general. So if your high school social life means a lot to you, you ought to add that into the calculations.

Going off on a wild tangent here, but all this strikes me as eerily similar to what I recently read in Rob Burbea's "Seeing That Frees": a book about meditative approaches to Buddhist "emptiness" insight.

Burbea repeatedly insists on the "fabricated" nature of reality: that it doesn't appear to us in any raw form with an inherent nature of its own, but that any time it appears to us it does so by means of our own construction of it (and in a way that's always tangled up in our agendas: i.e. we don't see anything "as it is" but only "as it means to me").

This isn't anything I can vouch for, but it's something I've been trying to get my head around. Burbea's book is largely a catalog of exercises a meditator can undertake to try to get first-hand knowledge of this fabricated/constructed/inherently-empty nature of reality so he or she doesn't have to take Burbea's word for it.

Tangentially, FWIW: Among the ought/is counterarguments that I've heard (I first encountered it in Alasdair MacIntyre's stuff) is that some "is"s have "ought"s wrapped up in them from the get-go. The way we divide reality up into its various "is" packages may or may not include function, purpose, etc. in any particular package, but that's in part a linguistic, cultural, fashionable, etc. decision.  

For example: that is a clock, it ought to tell the correct time, because that is what clocks are all about. That it is a clock implies what it ought to do.

MacIntyre's position, more-or-less, is that the modern philosophical position that you can't get oughts from izzes in the human moral realm is the result of a catastrophe in which we lost sight of what people are for, in the same way that if we forgot what clocks did and just saw them as bizarre artifacts, we'd think they were just as suitable as objet's d'art, paperweights, or items for bludgeoning fish with, as anything else, and it wouldn't matter which ways the hands were pointing.

Now you might say that adding an ought to an is by definition like this (as with the clock) is a sort of artificial, additional, undeclared axiom. But you might consider what removing all the oughts from things like clocks would do to your language and conceptual arsenal. Removing the "ought" from people was a decision, not a conclusion. Philosophers performed a painstaking oughtectomy on the concept of a person and then acted surprised when the ought refused to just regrow itself like a planarian head.

Yeah, disturbing imagery like that can wake you right back up in a hurry. But at that stage of falling-asleep, that imagery is going to arrive whether you're using this method or not. This method just helps you get as far as that stage more quickly.

At this point I'm being extra-speculative, but it may be that above-normal levels of anxiety in ordinary waking life bleed over into the hypnagogic imagery and make it more likely that you'll be presented with disturbing images. It could be that more attention to pre-bedtime calming (pleasant nature videos, meditation, chamomile tea, turning off the phone, or whatever works for you to put aside the stresses of the day) could help.

And then there's my pet theory that the mind sometimes gives us nightmares to jolt us out of sleep when our sleep has become dangerous (e.g. tongue threatening to block the airway) so that we'll change sleeping position. If you find yourself frequently jolted into wakefulness in this way as you're falling asleep, maybe talk with a specialist about the possibility that you have obstructive sleep apnea or something like that.

Why do you think there will be heavy selection against things like made-up stories presented as fact, or fabricated/misrepresented medical baloney, when there doesn't seem to be much such selection now?

I'm one of those LW readers who is less interested in AI-related stuff (in spite of having a CS degree with an AI concentration; that's just not what I come here for). I would really like to be able to filter "AI Alignment Forum" cross-posts, but the current filter setup does not allow for that so far as I can see.

Two possible answers to this:

  1. Maybe people are different in this way and my experience falling asleep doesn't match yours and so my advice won't be of much use to you.
  2. The visualizations are somewhat subtle. They are, like dreams, hallucinations rather than visions of real-things-out-there. But they are also much less vivid than dreams. You may not notice some of them just because they're pretty subdued and uninteresting and so unless you're looking for them they won't jump out at you. Also: you may be used to categorizing some of these images not as hallucinations happening in your visual field but as "imagination" happening elsewhere. If you're accustomed to being able to visualize things when you imagine them in waking life, you may think about these hypnagogic hallucinations that they're not "visualizations" but "imaginations" and you may dismiss them for that reason.
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