Re: Plea (was ExI: Cognitive Extropians)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Thu, 23 Jan 1997 18:47:22 -0800 (PST)

> >Right now, I have given
> >those keys to a guy called "reason", because he has served me
> >well. The vast torrent of concepts and percepts may compete
> >among themselves by any means available, but whatever winners
> >come to the gate of knowledge, only one test lets them in.
> Now you're recycling the tired old dualistic homunculus theory of
> consciousness, except as a theory of epistemology rather than of
> consciousness. If I hadn't already dragged out the word "idol" I
> would do so at this point. This is not "reason", this is superstition!
> Reason is a vast and glorious school, a tradition, a broad social
> phenomenon, not some robot in your head.

Come now, you know that I'm anthropomorphizing solely for rhetorical
effect, not to exhalt dualism. To use the Buddhist's terminology,
I am pointing at the moon, and you keep looking at my finger. If
I can think of a better way to show it I will, but until then, I
can only look at your words and say "that isn't it."

> What I have to show is all inside your head. I can't make you look
> at it. If you want to go through life as a cognitive cripple with
> half your brain chopped out because you will only listen to the
> part of your brain that you have packaged up and labeled "reason",
> that's not my loss. You have a whole brain, and you know very well
> that there are large chunks of it which do not correspond to what
> you call "reason" but which have had survival value for your
> ancestors (or they wouldn't be there). I would not be so cavalier
> about ignoring them as you seem to be.

I never questioned the survival value of all those things other
than what I call reason (which we'll just have to agree is /something/
for now until I can come up with a better way to show it). That
evidence is clear: I have them, and I am here. I can't ignore a
plain fact like that, and I don't. But I choose to invest more of
my resources of time in the future, not the past, and I choose to
believe that what I experience as free will is just that, so I want
to free myself from the tyrrany of my genes. I evolved for their
benefit, but I now choose to evolve for /mine/, and I don't buy that
the old rules of the former will lead me to the latter. But no, I
don't deny that I must use the machine they produced as it is for
now until I can create a better one.

> And as for your claim that science does not produce knowledge, that
> is a rhetorical flourish that showed up for the wrong argument.
> I am not representing the logical positivist position here. If we
> aren't discussing scientific knowledge, what precisely are we
> discussing? Theological knowledge? Your knowledge of your underwear
> size? Bill Clinton's knowledge of economics?

Yes, most of our disagreement here probably is just semantic. Let me
try some definitions: What I call "knowledge" is the subset of the
state-information of my cognitive apparatus that serve to record,
describe, and classify reality. There also exist things like models,
methods, principles, speculations, and other things that might fall
under the common usage of the word, but I don't have a good word for
that--maybe "knowledge context" or something? Or what if we call
those things knowledge and then call the former "facts"?

> Okay, so now you've backed down to the classic relativist position:
> "it works for me". In that case, why are you going around verbally
> attacking people for using more than *just* their reason? It works
> for them, right? This much should be obvious.

I won't back down quite that far: it's not just what works for /me/,
it is my experience of what has worked for humankind throughout
history, and what I believe will work to get us to the kind of
future I want to live in. If I have "attacked" anyone (which is a
characterization I disagree with, but I'll let it stand for now), it
is for using methods that I indentify from history as those that have
failed to serve the purposes they apparently seek. If they can
convince me otherwise, I'm here listening (despite that you may think
I am not).

> >If an honest expression causes someone to "close off" his mind, then
> >that fact in itself is dangerous and needs to be dealt with.
> This is sheer sanctimony, Lee.

Yes. So, what's your point? That is is wrong to express ethical
judgment? Isn't that itself an expression of ethical judgment?

> Perhaps you might better tending to
> "dealing with" your own mind, rather than "dealing with" the minds of
> others. Dangerous? What is dangerous about someone choosing not to
> listen to a boorish, rude, sanctimonious, disrespectful lout? I'm
> sorry, but I can't see any danger in this. Actually, I think this is
> quite healthy, especially if the lout in question is working for the
> government.

If the boorish lout has some ideas worth examining, even if only to
refute them, isn't choosing not listen dangerous? Should I burn all
the copies of Mein Kampf? Supress the Communist Manifesto?

> My chiefest charge was that your insulting mode of giving orders to
> other people about how to organize the contents of their own minds is not
> going to change any minds...

I don't remember ever telling anyone what to do; I merely expressed
my own evaluation of the ideas they presented. If that evaluation is
"mystical nonsense", then sobeit. That's what I'll say. Seems to me
that you're the one telling people what to do: keep your judgments to
yourself, be more considerate of other ideas, be polite at the expense
of being honest. Sorry, but I don't buy it.

> I'm personally annoyed with this (and you're getting the brunt of it,
> because you've
> obviously been spoiling for a fight with someone) because whenever I let
> people know that I'm a libertarian, I usually have to deal with the
> reaction "Oh, you mean you're one of those sanctimonious know-it-all
> aggressively rude Randroids?" And it is people who have been using the
> style of argumentation that you recommend which create this reaction for
> me. And people using the style of argumentation that you recommend have
> done far more harm than good for the political causes that you and I
> both support. Hence my anger.

That may be a fair observation. I don't really encounter that
reaction much except on the net, because the only people with whom I
discuss libertarian ideas are those that know me well, and know that
I am personally kind, generous, tolerant . . . and opinionated. I'm
not really bothered at all by even the most "sanctimonious" Randroids
(to use your term) so long as they are just expressing ideas. I know
some are, but the raw numbers show that the ideas are spreading well
anyway. I don't want to live in the kind of world where I can't be
straightforward and honest, and I'm not convinced yet that lying (or
"softening" my prose, or whatever euphemism you like) will help me
get to the kind of world I want. Maybe I will be, but I just don't
see it yet.