Wiki Contributions


Interesting but I don't see at all how this is solving the grounding problem.

The use of variables themselves as a basic unit is a give away that the bridging of the gap is assumed. For example, a human starts understanding the concept of a cup by using it way before it has a word for it. The border between the embodied knowledge and the abstract syntactic one is when a word is attached to the 'meaning' of the cup that is already there. As Henri Bergson puts it, you can try to find the meaning of the poem in the words and the letters, but you will fail. You are examining the symbol and not the meaning. The symbol/variable can also be observed to be arbitrary. I can say 'Give me this cup' or 'Give me this broindogoing' as long as we have agreed what 'broindogoing' means. If we haven't and there is no already defined variable in use in your mind I would have to find a way to direct you to an experience of what a cup is.

You might say. There are variables in the human mind that are under words. I would say there are 'representations' but they don't seem to be of an abstract syntactic kind. There seems to be something like a low resolution analogy or metaphor in the technical sense of the words. If you think I am just speculating I would claim that there is plenty of evidence surfacing that the 'intellect' which is the system that you are attempting to generalise as the whole of the human mind is grafted on top, and is dependant on, an underlying system of a different, not yet understood, architecture. I recommend, as an introduction to the alternative view to your own, the book 'The Master and His Emissary' by Iain McGilChrist for the biological, medical and to a certain extend philosophical evidence.


I have to admit that your comment makes a lot of sense from within the rationalist perspective. I just think that the rationalist perspective is quite myopic when it comes to the value of stories. You say:

While this may be a perfectly useful definition in some contexts, it is useless for the kind of debiasing move which moridinamael was talking about. In the context of that conversation, it seems better to interpret "narrative" as a description which is specifically warped by optimizing it to fit the biases of the brain particularly well, as a kind of superstimulus.

You seem to see narrative structures as being useful only as a stimulus [1]. Epistemologically you are using the word 'warped' and 'bias' that, in my view, betrays your own belief system. A hypothesis that you might want to entertain is that stories contain truths (wisdom) that can not always be rationally articulated, at least for now. That does not mean that all stories contain wisdom, just like statements that presume to be rational do not necessarily achieve their goal. By studying stories you will develop the capacity to understand/obtain wisdom. In other words the stories themselves contain the elements needed to understand them and distinguish wisdom from superstition.

Here is a story through which you can reflect on some aspects of your situation:

There is more Light here

Someone saw Nasrudin searching for something on the ground.

'What have you lost, Mulla?' he asked. 'My key,' said the Mulla. So they both went down on their knees and looked for it.

After a time the other man asked: 'Where exactly did you drop it?'

'In my own house.'

'Then why are you looking here?'

'There is more light here than inside my own house.'

[ from Idries Shah - The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin ]

I do recommend Idries Shah's books of stories. The Nasrudin books are a good start for most people.


[1] I have to acknowledge here that Valentine seems to treat stories in a similar manner so your comment is definitely justified. I am here expanding on why I believe this to be a restrictive way of thinking.

The claim is deeper than that. Your mind is structured in a way that mirrors narrative structure. You are always in a state (A) and in order to do anything you need to decide on a goal state(B). That is a simplified narrative structure and is not just a way to explain the actions of someone else. It is the way you decide how to act. Check Jordan Peterson's Maps of Meaning lectures where he goes in depth on the full pattern and then shows how it is found in stories, myth, religion etc. and also, quite astonishingly, in the biological structure of the brain.

I can offer a couple of points on why I consider it a subject of great significance.

[1] On a personal level, which you are of course free to disregard as anecdotal, I had such an experience myself. Twice to be precise. So I know that the source is indeed experiential ("mystical experiences exist") though I would not yet claim that they necessarily point to an underlying reality. What I would claim is that they certainly need to be explored and not disregarded as a 'misinterpretation of sensory input'. My personal observation is that (when naturally occurring not chemically induced!) they accompany a psychological breakthrough through an increase in experiential (in contrast to rational) knowledge.

[2] Ancient foundational texts of major civilizations have a mystical basis. Good examples are the Upanishads and the Teo Te Ching but the same experiences can be found in Hebrew, Christian and Sufi mystics, the Buddha, etc. A look at the evidence will immediately reveal that the experience is common among all these traditions and also seems to have been reached independently. We can then observe that this experience is present in the most ancient layers of our mythological structures. The attempt of abstracting the experience into an image can be seen, for example, in symbols such as the Uroboros which point to the underlying archetype. The Uroboros, Brahman and the Tao are all different formulations of the same underlying concept. If we then take seriously Peterson's hypothesis about the basis of morality in stories things get really interesting; but I am not going to expand on that point here.

These are by no means the only reasons. Indeed the above points seem quite minor when viewed through a deeper familiarity with mystical traditions. But we have to start somewhere I guess.

I do think it is very useful being able to identify these strategies as they occur in our mind. On the related subject of dealing with thoughts themselves (which are in many cases the cause of the emotion) in a healthy manner I have found the book White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts by Daniel Wegner to be extremely useful.

I would like to focus on a minor point in your comment. You say:

So does Peterson sincerely pursue what he sees as the truth? I don't pretend to know, but one must still consider that other mystics, religious seekers, and pseudoscientists presumably genuinely pursue the truth too, and end up misled. Merely pursuing the truth does not a rationalist make.

The structuring of your sentence implies a world view in which mystics and religious seekers are the same as pseudoscientists and are obviously 'misled'. Before that you are putting the word 'mystic' next to 'crackpot' as if they are the same thing. This is particularly interesting to me because an in depth rational examination of mystical material, in conjunction with some personal empirical evidence, indicate that mystical experiences exist and have a powerful transformative effect on the human psyche. So when I hear Peterson taking mysticism seriously I know that I am dealing with a balanced thinker that hasn't rejected this area before taking the necessary time to understand it. There are scientists and pseudo-scientists, religious seekers and pseudo religious seekers and, maybe, even mystics and pseudo-mystics. I know this is hard to even consider but how can you rationally assess something without taking the hypothesis seriously?

It seems to me that what we are 'actually in' is indeed better described as a narrative. Sure you have chosen what you describe as unsuccessful narratives in your life but in order to exist you have to choose a narrative. You say "As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to become alarmed and cautious when I detect myself reasoning by proximity to Protagonist Feelings". Why have you become alarmed and cautious? Cautious towards what? What danger are you trying to avoid? It seems to me that you have changed your narrative structure to take into account whatever you have chosen to define as that which you do not want to identify with. But you are still in what can be seen as a narrative structure.

Thank you for yet another interesting post!

There is something I find problematic about the Derive method. It seems to require lying convincingly to yourself which I think is a bad idea.

Find a striking piece of advice that you have an aversion to, because you are attached by vanity to your current identity.

Wouldn't this be labeled in my head as bad advice? If there is a part of myself that identifies it as good advice, and I realise that it is based on vanity, isn't that enough to accept the advice?

Modify it in a wacky and idiosyncratic way. This can be a useful upgrade, but it doesn't have to be. Rebrand it to be catchy or personal.

Ok, if I modify it enough maybe I can actually take pride in my reformulation (though I could argue that even this is partly deceitful). But if it 'doesn't have to be a useful upgrade' then I have to rebrand it by lying to myself. As stated above I believe lying to yourself is a very bad idea. I would agree with Jordan Peterson that this would result in pathologising the thinking process.

I understand that this is an attempt to hack the vanity mechanism for motivational purposes. I just think that the more traditional ways of overcoming pride such as 1) observing behavior with honesty, identifying instances of self-inflationary behavior or thought, and 2) practice humility, are better strategies as they are addressing the cause and not the symptom[1].



[1] Notice how honesty/sincerity and humility have to be developed together as the one does not work without the other. Apparent humility can actually be disguised vanity etc.

Load More