Saturday, November 26, 2011

Applied Anti-Politics with Dalrymple

What would I like to write about if my government wasn't the greatest obstacle at every turn?

Emphasis mine.

"It is vain to suppose, of course, that any human achievement, even the highest, could possibly be of a duration that would entitle it to the word “eternal.” No literary fame, for example, has so far lasted longer than 3,000 years—not even the blinking of the universe’s eyelid. But we humans must live on a human scale and measure things accordingly."

Isn't it nice of the universe to let us to live on human timescales? It can do its thing and we can do ours, and it doesn't try to prevent anything not universally 'significant' from happening.

Moreover, consider the kind of mathematical power laws that the social power of having a three kiloyear legacy creates. If you can do that, who else can? There's only so much time in a human life, and every moment you take up is one where someone else must be silent. The human scales of our accomplishments are imposed by the human scales of our resources. They're automatically balanced against each other.

It's not that we 'must' live on a human scale, it's that we can. We're allowed. The true alternative is not to be some eternal animus, the alternative is not to exist at all.

On the other hand, I think it worth contemplating chaos theory in this realm. Your efforts may have no obvious effects, but are you perhaps that one butterfly? While it makes a mockery of intention, even still...
"Significance and importance, however, are not natural qualities found inhering in objects or events. Only the appraising mind can impart such meaning."
Well...probably. It's something I'm working on. Look at the question from the other direction; how could natural qualities impose correct and incorrect appraisals? Is there really no way?

If there is indeed no such way, then consequently it means the limitation of human resources are significant to human accomplishment and the vastness of the universe is utterly insignificant. Rather, that vastness is opportunity. A place to go to, rather than an immensity to fight.

Looking from the other direction, rare things are valuable. The immensity of the universe just makes human consciousness that much rarer by comparison...if the comparison is at all legitimate.
"As far as we know, we are the only creatures to demand of their existence a transcendent meaning. This can be supplied by various means, most commonly religious belief."
This is something else I enjoy turning on its head. You want transcendent meaning. This object is in fact a feeling. This feeling can be caused by various means - so go get one. Worry about whether life in fact has a meaning after trying this.
"More than most, however, he has reason to know that politics can also give, or at any rate appear to give, transcendent meaning to life."
If you try politics and it works, why question it? I happen to think it doesn't work, but it is entirely possible that this whole 'meaning' question is little but an inarticulate way of expressing the urge to join a group, similar to the 'part of something bigger' rhetoric.
"The satisfaction of work is not, or at least should not be, proportional to the amount of notice it receives in the world."
It isn't. Fame can be validating but everyone knows about fads, and so that insecurity remains. Similarly, should you gain fame manipulatively or by a lie, then they aren't appreciating your work, they are appreciating an illusion, and that's not something you can hide from yourself.

Satisfaction comes when you can wholeheartedly get behind your own work, regardless of anyone else. With the one caveat of works directly upon the opinions of others.

Several things I want to quietly laud;
"Horowitz is unable to accept belief in a personal God, but wishes he could and, unlike many in his position, does not scorn those who do. He is decidedly not the village atheist."

"Horowitz tackles these problems in an indirect and gentle fashion. When he talks of the meaning that his work gives to his life, he is not saying to all his readers “Go and do likewise,”"

"Though he embraced a doctrine that had done untold evil in the world, he himself was a gentle soul. His son writes in sorrow, not anger."

"he can now write about it calmly and without rancor."
One day I hope to be able to explain why I applaud.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Applied Secular Anti-Consciousness

An example of what secular actually means, and how secular philosophy twists itself by rejecting consciousness in an effort to reject spirituality.

"can you have preferences fulfilled in parts of space where you don’t exist? Can I prefer for my fridge to contain milk even before I open the door?"
No, but yes.
As long as the milk cream is there when I open the door, I don't really care if it was there before or not. (Also note difficulty in separating space and time.) However, under ordinary circumstances, the only way for the cream to be there when I open the door is for it to be there before I opened the door. What causes it to be there is me having placed it there.
Moreover, any causal network that fulfills my desire to drink cream will be causally equivalent. If a leprechaun takes my cream but puts new cream back before I notice, it might as well have never taken it at all.

"If so, what’s the relevant difference between time and space?"
After I'm dead, if the leprechaun doesn't put it back, nobody cares. I've been annihilated, or reincarnated, or I'm in bliss/agony, and I don't interact further with the cream, regardless of its position.'

"You can bite the bullet and refuse to acknowledge preferences over anything other than a person’s own mental states."
A particularly obvious example of anti-consciousness contortions.

"You are still then committed to indifference about for instance what kinds of assault go on behind the closed doors of people you love, as long as you are never informed about them."
I want the people I love to be happy and healthy. They cannot be simultaneously healthy and assaulted.

The only way this ill health can escape causal impact on me is if I never see them again. Even then, I still want them to be happy and healthy, even if I have no idea if it's true and no ability to affect the situation.

Certainly I cannot feel satisfied with their health without proof of good health, and thus causal interaction. That is, even if my preference is fulfilled, I won't feel fulfilled and so it won't matter.

So, like, no and stuff.

"what you can or can’t value depends on what counts as ‘you’. And what counts as ‘you’ is pretty vaguely defined usually."
It is trivial to define precisely. If you cut it, do I feel bleeding? If so, it's me.
The same thing which causes future cream to exist causes future me to exist. Namely, its present existence.
Similarly, changes to present me cause differences in future me. If you make me bleed now, future me will feel a scab.
Consciousness is simple. The hard part is taking it seriously, acknowledging it for what it is.

"If you think of me as a series of person-moments, suddenly I can’t legitimately care about the milk in the fridge even if a later-Katja will learn about it later."
I can't 'legitimately' care? That's not how it works. Either I care or I don't. Either I feel bleeding, or I don't. Either I taste cream, or I don't.

"If you identify me with all past and future people who feel a lot like me, then I’m allowed preferences about what happens after the death of this body."
If you cut the body, do I feel bleeding? Or some post-biological analogue?

"Other people think there is more to ‘you’ than a set of physical processes, in which case there may be one clear line around what counts as ‘you’. On the other hand, you probably don’t have any good way to locate this non-physical line."

So, like, no and stuff.

"Strategic considerations

For the purpose of trading, the more of another person’s preferences you are willing to deal with, the better for you. But this is a different question to which of their values you want to care about outside of trading."

This section got me all hopeful, but was disappointing. Also, some serious abstraction intoxication going on here.

The reason you care about wills is so that people continue to write them, and don't try to dispose of their assets while they're still alive. It's just more efficient.

The reason you care about disposal of the body is because still-living people care whether you respect the wishes of the dead or not, because they'd like to think they will be respected after they themselves are gone.
This is perhaps a silly thing to care about, but they do care and if you don't respect that, you'll harm your relationship with them. It's a net win to just respect wills.
Presumably, treatment of bodies also predicts logically-irrelevant treatment of living people. Those who desecrate bodies generally aren't good neighbours.

Similarly, most will ask you to promise to deal with their bodies in a certain way. It doesn't matter why - the living can reasonably conclude how honourable your word is by observing how you deal with the body.

Finally, folk philosophy is dualist and assumes the existence of an eternal soul. It doesn't matter how many good reasons you have to doubt this, your trading partners believe it and you'll only harm yourself attempting to convince them otherwise, or to act contrary to the reasonable conclusions drawn from spiritual voyeurship.

The above are the actual strategic considerations.

In sum, even utterly 'rational,' atheistic logic gives us very good reason to respect the wishes of the dead...if executed for logic's sake, instead of for the sake of a culture war.

Here's another angle.
I personally dislike the idea of being desecrated after I'm dead. I have every reason to think that, at the time, I won't much care...but it doesn't matter, because I care now. It doesn't matter why I do, because I do. It is worthwhile for me to relieve present discomfort by changing my reasonable prediction of how you'll deal with my body, assuming low enough opportunity costs.

For reference, being unceremoniously tossed into a ditch in the wilderness is good enough for me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hypothetical Precise Definition of City-Castes?

What would be the essence of these castes when they haven't suffered corruption?

I propose:

The Spartan caste hierarchy is topped by the healthiest individual.

The Genovesi hierarchy is topped by the friendliest individual.

The Athenian hierarchy is topped by the wisest individual.

I have the most trouble formalizing the Genovesi - if the theory is somehow wrong, it's because I've misunderstood that part. Right now, I'm thinking of them as keeping score with money, rather than being about riches per se. The best Genovesi makes the most deals and wins concessions in negotiation. They're socially skilled, which cashes out to being able to befriend widely and easily. I invite you to try to change my mind on that, however.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Applied Human City-Castes

"In contrast, a world that disapproves of only some superiority displays while relishing others looks more like a world where folks with some types of excellence have won a battle to be seen as higher status than folks with other types of excellence."

Specifically, Athenians.

Most of the acceptable status displays, and the only one the original poster emphasized with 'finely graded status structure,' are scholarly.

In contrast, monetary status is suspicious. Networking is a dirty word. And actually settling conflicts with (ritualized) violence? Come now.

It's actually normal for men to occasionally settle disputes physically. (Is this well known, or is it just me?) Hence ye olde duelling laws.

But settling a point of debate cannot be done physically. If I'm right and you beat me up, I'm still right. Your bridge will fall down and mine won't. Therefore, nobody is allowed to duel anymore. Makes perfect sense.

Of course there are niches where sports, martial arts, marketing and so on are considered valid status ladders. But, they are exactly niches. Everyone knows they're supposed to espouse support for academics unconditionally.

"Jock inequality is unacceptable if your kid is an average performer on his or her youth soccer team. If your kid is a star, then his or her accomplishments validate your entire existence."

"Sports inequality is acceptable. It is normal to wear a Yankees jersey, an L.S.U. T-shirt or the emblem of any big budget team. The fact that your favorite sports franchise regularly grounds opponents into dust is a signal of your overall prowess."

And yet the jock isn't the hero in any movie. Even in sports movies the hero is a weedy underdog who tends to win by cleverness or giving the little guy a chance.

Similarly, the excessive suspicion of the military is entirely predictable. The elites must inculcate loathing and contempt for Juntas because even a low-grade military elite can defeat them. It doesn't matter how wrong you are when you can beat up the other guy. My bridge might stay up but it doesn't matter if I can't get it built.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Have All Governments Been Democratic?

(Thought via.)

The perceptions of governments divorces from reality because the reality of those governments cannot survive being perceived. Why bother lying when you could just tell the truth?

This drift into informality has been, as far as I know, a governmental universal. It's natural entropy.

Does this mean that we can be sure that all governments have been at least a little democratic? That the assent/resignation of the populace has always been necessary for the government to survive?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Because Falconry Is Cool


The ancient and noble art of falconry lives on. In living, it meets modern flight technology. Though I suspect it also meets modern sissy philosophy and they don't use the hawks to hunt. The hell is the point of a predator you don't use to kill things? How awesome would it be to hunt from a chair a thousand feet in the air?

It looks like La Wik's entry on falconry might be as satisfying as its entry on tea.

Check out the nifty etymology box at the bottom of falconry.

The tea one is especially good if you want to repeat Seth's Willat effect experiments.