Posts concerning philosophy

Fear and Trust

12:50 12 Aug 2006

It’s extremely important not to get sucked into a binary “protective government versus evil terrorists” mindset. That dichotomy is false. In truth, the average person in the West is at odds with both the government forces and the people who are trying to blow up planes. Both sides are extremely interested in a fearful populace—the attackers because that’s their point, to make people afraid to try to make them unwilling to continue supporting their governments’ efforts, and the governments because it’s much easier to rule and exploit people who are afraid. And people who are afraid will be much more willing to cede more power to their governments, as we’ve clearly seen since 2001.

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The Scalpel We Need

22:49 22 May 2006

Earlier this year I read this:

It’s not for nothing that Kafka spoke of literature as “a hatchet with which we chop at the frozen seas inside us.”
—”Some Remarks on Kafka’s Funniness from Which Probably Not Enough Has Been Removed”, p61, in Consider the Lobster, David Foster Wallace

(The essay is online.)

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Logical Fallacies and Cognitive Biases

18:27 05 Apr 2006. Updated: 11:59 09 Oct 2006

I randomly found these two categories on Wikipedia:


There’s a lot of really great reading in there, and in fact I feel like *everyone* should read all of them. Especially the logical fallacies. I mean, wow, how much better would the world be if people were less swayed by emotional manipulation? And if everyone were more aware of their own biases?

I also came across a good explanation of the Monty Hall problem while skimming the Gambler’s fallacy.

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Parsing Sartre

22:55 03 Apr 2006. Updated: 07:20 08 Jan 2007

This evening Seth and I spent a couple of hours getting through about a page of *Essays in Existentialism*. That’s slightly slower than our usual rate… and most of that time was spent on the first half-page. We ended up having to re-word it significantly in order to make sense of it. (More accurately, to make what we thought was sense out of it—naturally it’s unclear if we were correct about that.) Presented below are the original and our parsing—please note that I’m not making any claims about the comprehensibility or even sensicality of our version, either in relation to the original or independent of it…

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There is no talent

22:19 23 Mar 2006. Updated: 00:13 08 Jan 2007

I came up with this the other day. I don’t agree with it 100%, but I like the sound of it:

There is no talent. There is only struggle and focus.

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‘Will any man despise me?’

19:03 17 Mar 2006. Updated: 09:40 17 Jun 2006

I read this in _Status Anxiety_ a while back and thought it worth noting:

>Will any man despise me? Let him see to it. But I will see to it that I may not be found doing or saying anything that deserves to be despised.
—Marcus Aurelius, _Meditations_

Seems somewhat pedestrian right now, but the simplicity and starkness appealed at the time, and the sentiment itself clearly makes a lot of sense.

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Consciousness Versus Entropy

12:12 11 Mar 2006. Updated: 17:51 13 Nov 2010

I’m reading The Evolving Self, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, at the moment, and it’s definitely helping my mental state. Flow did that also—both are excellent for reminding me not merely that great achievements are possible but that the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment are based on organizing the self, and that such organization is clearly within the grasp of just about everyone. This particular passage stood out to me today:

The normal condition of the mind is chaos. Only when involved in a goal-directed activity does it acquire order and positive moods. It is not surprising that one of the worst forms of punishment is to place a person in solitary confinement, where only those survive who can discipline their attention without depending on external props. The rest of us need either an involving activity or a ready-made package of stimuli, such as as book or a TV program, to keep the mind from unraveling.

—190. Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi. The Evolving Self. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. ISBN: 9780060921927.


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Tadhg’s definition of anarchism

23:06 07 Feb 2006. Updated: 18:46 22 Jan 2010

The Tadhg O’Higgins definition of anarchism:

The elimination of power as a factor in human relationships.

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23:53 06 Feb 2006. Updated: 07:21 08 Jan 2007

This evening Seth and I finally restarted our reading project, and began *Essays in Existentialism*, a collection of Sartre essays. We did the first section, “The Humanism of Existentialism”. I’ve read it before, a long time ago, probably 1993. I recall that my initial reaction to it was one of recognition. This time, I had the same feeling, or a stronger version of the same feeling. Many of the fundamental tenets of existentialism as laid out by Sartre are and were bedrock beliefs of mine. “Man is nothing but what he makes of himself.”—check. “There is no reality except in action.”—check. Fundamental personal responsibility—check.

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