Month: April 2017

Lange, The Cognitivity Paradox (1970)

I found this little (117 pages) monograph quite thought-provoking. Its topic is philosophy itself, explored primarily using tools from the analytic toolkit. This meme that compares the analytic and continental traditions comes to mind:

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Without doubt, the richest possible treatment of fundamental questions of the true and the good would necessarily bring to bear great works of literature, mythology, historical insight, etc. Nevertheless, Lange’s treatment of the subject is sharp and interesting, despite the restricted palette. It seems like you can read it and understand it without being particularly educated, which suits me fine right about now. (My coverage of icy’s reading list is quite fragmentary at the moment. I’m also making my way though Jordan B Peterson’s.) But keep a dictionary at hand.

It seems quite obscure to start with, and in fact criticises its own supposed lack of clarity and orderliness in its opening section. Is this tactically deployed false humility, meant to disarm the reader whose about to get their conceptual foundations rustled hard? The approach draws up carefully-defined distinctions, and explores their logical implications. The style is conceptually densely-packed, full of ironic hedging and qualifying, lecturely prose.

Key point given halfway though: first order philosophy is proposal. Subsequently, Lange explores the paradoxical nature of this characterisation and develops a way towards establishing philosophical statements as, despite being proposals one could seemingly freely accept or reject, cognitions with some sort of objective, matter-of-factness to them. So: a round-about way of grounding what practically amounts to a common-sense realist stance. The book’s closing statement: “So now everything is just the same except that it is all different.”

There’s a brief mention of the possibility of an evolutionary aspect to philosophy, which strikes me a profitable avenue for deeper investigation. The book’s implicit conception of philosophy as primary, rather than the philosopher, would be a critical weakness, but the conclusion seems to re-set these to their proper orientation. Primacy of the life-form over its life-processes.

This book has convinced me to read some more of Lange’s work. Most of it is fiction. That’s what he’s most known for: writing the Gor series under the name John Norman. These explore social and psychological themes from Nietzschean perspective, in a science fiction/adventure fantasy setting. They’re notoriously polarising, provoking both scathing criticism (sexism and slavery, oh no!) and enthusiastic fandom, including a subculture of Gorean roleplayers.

I haven’t read any of those yet. I watched the 1988 Gor film, which was alright, I suppose.

Goreanism has come up in recent controversy in the Drupal realm.

A prominent contributor to the open source Drupal content management system has been asked to distance himself from project because “his belief system is inconsistent with [the] project’s goals.”

The beliefs at issue involve participation in the BDSM and Gorean (NSFW) communities, the latter involving people interested in recreating the culture of male dominance and female sexual servitude depicted in John Norman’s poorly regarded Gor sci-fi novels.

I often work with that CMS in my day job. Funny world we live in.

Natalist answers

On Twitter I announced my intention to respond to Francois Tremblay’s 12 questions for natalists and breeders. He replied expressing interest in my answers. So, here we go.

I see engagements of this sort as a place my ideas can be put to the test. Let’s see whether, in drawing from my eclectic influences from the radical left and the far right, I’m really synthesising and applying a viable stance, or an incoherent mashed-together manifestation of hipsterism.

According to one stronger influence, OOTW § 363, getting into this argument disqualifies me from breeding. But I had no intention of doing so anyway. I’m pro-making babies, but not interested in making my own, for various reasons. (But if I happened to cause a pregnancy, I’d oppose aborting it.)

Section 629 is also instructive here.

What is the point of arguing against anti-natalists, when their own ideology is enough to doom them? Well, just because they don’t biologically reproduce (in theory), doesn’t mean they can’t propagate themselves as a group. They can reproduce memetically. Recruiting and converting ‘breeders’ is the obvious strategy. But they can affect change in more subtle ways.

Having children is largely an act of faith: faith in the future. Anti-natalist agitprop is effective if it can undermine this faith, by spreading fear, uncertainty, doubt. They don’t need full-blown converts. By spreading moral insecurity, their ideas can further encourage normal people to merely have fewer children.

And is that in and of itself a bad thing? No. But consider the question of who is more likely to be receptive of and influenced by such ideas, and the question of which types of people you want to breed more or less. Anti-natalist propaganda will have a negligible effect on the reproductive confidence of religious nutjobs. How about the first-world secular oversocialised middle-class types? Maybe you want less of them. (Less people like me. Fair enough…)

That’s enough preamble. On with the questions.

1. Do you think all, or even most, parents have the skills and attitude necessary to raise children in a non-damaging manner?

No. Parents are flawed human beings, so child-raising is never conducted perfectly.

2. Do you believe children are entitled to the highest standard of health?
* If so, do you believe all, or even most, parents can provide such a standard, given all the things parents have no control over?
* If not, what right do you believe is more important than the child’s highest standard of health? Can you justify this importance?

No. A sane system of parenting values will position the child’s health as an extremely important concern to which other considerations would be sacrificed. But as an absolute, all-overriding, non-negotiable principle? The demand of robotic adherence to such strict rules, regardless of context, leads to absurdities.

A kid is going to be allowed to have fun and play in ways that have some health risks. They’re going to eat cake, climb trees, skateboard, etc. And a parent is going to occasionally chill out and play some videogames, not spend 100% of their time and income on enhancing their childraising capacity.

Does ordinary, life-affirming family activity need special justification? I trow not!

3. What do you think about the idea of parenting permits? Why do you/do you not support this idea?

I don’t support it. Government, off our backs! No step on snek!

4. Why do you think this world is good enough to bring children in?
* What makes you think you have the right to take this decision for another human being?

I enjoy life, and I favourably estimate the total value of my present and future contribution to the grand project of higher cultural development (including, not least, this dope-ass blog post). I think I could prepare my hypothetical child to similarily live a worthwhile life.

I think the future will be even… well… to be honest, I’m not unreservedly optimistic about the future of society. Having been raised on a healthy diet of science fiction, I am inclined to see technological development as a boundless life-enhancing pathway. As it’s sold to us. Criticisms, internal and external, have made me more cynical, less confident. A topic to be examined in depth, elsewhere…

5. Do you think it is moral for me to force someone to play Russian Roulette without their consent?
* If you do not, then why do you think people should be allowed to create a new life, subjecting it to an almost infinite number of risks, including fatal risks?

No. The rewards of life makes the risks worthwhile. We believe that as part of our resolution to realise it.

6. If you want to have a child, do you believe your children will not suffer from any medical defects, accidents, abuse or mental issues?
* If you do not, what makes you so certain of the future? Can you prove it?
* If you do, why are you bringing into the world a being which has a chance of living a life of suffering or despair?

Who doesn’t recognise that those risks are real? That’s why we strive to mitigate them, we sacrifice a lot to improve life for our progeny.

7 doesn’t apply to childless me. But I’ve thought about it for some time.

8. Can you give one ethical reason (i.e. a reason which does not treat the child as a means to an end) for anyone to have children?

Why accept this justificatory burden in the first place? Reproduction is evolutionarily prior to the practice of giving ‘ethical reasons’ for doing stuff.

9. Do you believe that the perpetuation of mankind has some kind of purpose?
* If so, can you make an argument for it that isn’t circular?
Note that I have already discussed the circular nature of teleological arguments for perpetuation.

Yes. The purpose is the Overman. Or, more concretely, galactic conquest.

10. How do you justify supporting a process which, while painless for men, is painful, disfiguring and dangerous for women, often leading to psychological complications?
* If you believe the benefits of procreation are social in nature, how do you justify acquiring these benefits on the backs of women’s health and well-being? Isn’t it a little hypocrite to claim a benefit to society when women represent half of said society?

The reproductive process wasn’t designed by men, we inherited it. I intend in no way to minimise the misery of pregnancy and birth. As icy said, life/reproduction is about sacrifice. Now, we’re technologically adapting it to be less painful, with epidurals and caesareans, and eventually, artificial external wombs. Cultural practices that bestow a high degree of honour to motherhood can be considered as primitive means to this same end. C.f. this.

._.

And no, not all women need to breed. I favour only voluntary family formation and reproduction.

11. As far as I can tell, the main natalist arguments is that life has pleasures that are worth creating new human beings for, or that life as a whole is pleasant enough to bring new human beings into it. I don’t understand how the argument is supposed to work, though; there’s no logical connection between an observation about existing lives and a conclusion about potential lives. Can you explain why you think the argument makes logical sense?
* How does your argument jibe with the legal and ethical proposition that we don’t have any duty to provide pleasure, but that we do have a duty not to create suffering?

This isn’t the argument I advocate, at least not the crucial part of it. It’s not about pleasure, but that’s part of life. And it’s not about having the a new generation to repeat our same lives over again into perpetuity. It’s about lineage continuing, going further in development. i.e. evolution.

12. If you are a Christian, do you believe there’s a chance your child will go to Hell?
* If you do not, what makes you so certain of the future? Can you prove it?
* If you do, what would justify you bringing to life a being which may suffer eternally? No matter how much suffering we inflict on each other, human beings can only hurt each other in this life, not in eternity; bringing a child to life knowing the child may go to Hell makes you worse than any dictator or criminal that exists in this life.

I’m not a Christian, but I do believe in Hell. Not as a supernatural eternal prison, but Hell on Earth. So yes, this must be considered as a risk. If I had more faith, that would be the basis for my answer.

It’s hard for me to disentangle all the factors that go into my own preference not to reproduce. Anti-natalist-type propaganda may well have played a large role! So despite my thrashing about here and my purported natalist stance, I may well be counted as another victory for the anti-natalist side.

What I’ve tried to establish amounts to: anti-natalist arguments shouldn’t bother people with faith in the future. And we already knew that, didn’t we, see above re: religious nutjobs. But faith in the future isn’t tied to religion. It’s tied to action. Those who think the future for their descendants will be worthwhile won’t just pray for it, they’ll work (sacrifice) for it.

This post is for them. (And specifically: for a few of them to rework and strengthen the ideas, then recirculate them, and probably, arguably quite judiciously, disavow any connection to me.)

 

Unscientific energy

“the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.”

Physicists use ‘energy’ to refer to a specific, measurable quantity used to causally explain physical phenomena. It’s measured in joules or calories. But they do not have a monopoly on its usage.

The definition cited above refers to biological and psychological phenomena. These will require more complex and subtle explanations than simple material changes.

It’s no surprise that pre-scientific traditions of thought and their latter-day continuations use ‘energy’ in strange ways. They shouldn’t be trashed for not conforming to modern physics-derived definitions.

To a scientific-cultured person like myself, it does sound weird to hear people talking about sexual energy, masculine energy, feminine energy, and so on. But that’s not a good reason to disregard them altogether. Why shouldn’t I give them a chance to proffer their explanations, their advice, and make their case for their stance, without giving up my scepticism?

There’s bullshit everywhere. It’s mixed together with good stuff. It’s on us to develop and use discernment to get the value out of this massive information buffet

That’s the context for understanding my last post.

Nofap, energy and broscience

Semen retention energy theory is one broscientific justification for the nofap discipline. Here’s a video where a dude talks about it. It’s not a total explanation. It seems to be more of a motivational thing.

Here’s the video

This post isn’t meant to blast the idea as unscientific. It could well be a useful way of thinking. I want to look at it more closely.

The basic idea is that an amount of beneficial energy, or qi, accumulates in a guy by some means. And ejaculating releases that energy, resetting you back to zero. So: you’d be better off not orgasming, or at least you could gain from some amount of abstaining.

What does this energy do? For one thing, it makes you more attractive. Is this because having a high amount of energy is in and of itself attractive (and thus directly perceptible or intuitively grasped by women)? Or does this energy make itself manifest in attractive body language, attractive feats of greatness, etc.?

Could some people just have such a massively overflowing amount of energy that it doesn’t really matter if they jerk off once a day? Maybe the better energy-optimising strategy is to increase one’s energy generating or capturing capacity, rather than retaining meagre amounts of it through self-denial.

For me, once porn is removed from the equation, masturbation tends to lose its appeal. Haven’t used it for over a week. Haven’t ejaculated for a few days (last time was a wet dream). I don’t feel like I’m overflowing with raw masculine energy or anything. I didn’t expect to.

The hardcore semen-retentionists say even jizzing during sex should be avoided. If I have sex in the near future (prospects: improbable) then I have no intention of holding back in that way.

I can’t connect to OKCupid and continue the conversation I started last night. Ain’t that some shit?