Red Pill Logic: Frames of reference

frame_of_referenceI recently watched a response video to the widespread “2016 was the worst year ever” tantrum largely by people who’s view of history is shorter the time the iPhone has been in existence, where the content creator ended his video with the statement “No, 2016 is not the worst ever, your frame of reference is“. I had another post planned, but that statement is perhaps more profound than the creator intended when he recorded it.

Frame of reference can be argued as a synonym for “field of knowledge“, which is an expression that is used within academia and is of high importance when designing research projects. In order to avoid duplicating the research that has already been done within a field of knowledge (unless one is doing a verification of previous research), a literature search is conducted to build the foundation for the research. It also serves to anchor the research that is to be done within the field, and to support choices the researcher makes.

When the researcher then designs the methodology, the experiments, and the other parts of the full research project, the literature review acts both to inform and to control the research. In the same manner, a person who has a  narrow frame of reference, will hold attitutes and make decisions different from someone with a wide frame of reference, a person with a deep frame will view the world different from a person with a shallow frame and so on.

In many ways this is the underlying principle of just about everything humans engage in, and a source of many conflicts. A researcher named Thomas Kuhn argued that as each person who evaluates evidence, brings their subjective field of knowledge and experience with them into the evaluation, science is somewhat of a relative discipline [6].

Some of this can be traced back to various forms of bias and incentives. A researcher who has invested his career into a theory will be reluctant to accept that it has been proven wrong and have clear incentives to interpret results in a manner that is positive to the theory. Likewise someone who is invested in an ideology will be reluctant to accept any evidence against the benefits he or she perceives that ideology as having.

This is where one gets the “Not real communism” from those who advocate communism when they are presented with the tragic history of the countries that have attempted to govern according to that ideology. Continue reading

Perspectives, Horizons and Life Vision

strategic-pyramidUsually when someone seeks to change something with their life, regardless of whether it is a minor or major issue, the same methods tend to be applied. Extreme methodology applied for a burst-style period of time. For instance, people who seek to drop excess weight gained over a period of years, seek to drop this weight in a span of weeks or months. People who have been neglecting one part of their life for years, seek to rectify it in a flurry of excessive effort, without a focus on efficacy.

Likewise, people love to hunt for simple, smart solutions, to complex and convoluted challenges, without regard for the destination they seek. For instance, changing your life from one where you consume too much, and too poor quality food, tends to be one where people make radical changes rapidly, disregarding the longer term perspective.

The combination of these two tendencies, trends towards short sighted strategies, and simplistic solutions. When one approaches a problem that must be tackled long term, with complex and multi-variable solutions, from the short-term perspective and a simple solution, the inevitable failure leads to a person being worse off than they were initially. Continue reading

The Climate Change Red Pill

snow_thing_of_the-pastI did something I promised myself I would stop doing on Twitter the other day, I made a snarky remark about climate change. I wasn’t going to write about the ensuing debate, or the topic itself, as it does not fit the nature of this blog, however, then it struck me; climate change and the red pill have many things in common. They are both issues that have strong components within both facts and policy, both are emotionally loaded and they tend to involve policy solutions that have unforeseen and negative consequences.

The reason why I tend to avoid issues like climate change is for the simple reason that they are highly emotional issues. In addition, many of the climate change adherents are pushing policy, and predictably engage in typical name-calling rather than discussions regarding underlying principles.

This is very similar to discussing social issues, where statements of a red pill nature frequently can have you branded a misogynist faster than a 35 year old single girl empties a box of wine. Continue reading

On Liberty

john-stuart-millPerhaps it is a little conceited of me to steal the title of Mill’s classic work for this post, however it seemed the only title apt for this train of though. Recently, I’ve been reading and viewing many historical documentaries, and it made me think of what actually constitutes liberty. We live in a modern world, with the internet, and the human freedom index, which shows the Western Democracies as the most free in the world relating to its metrics. Yet, they also have the highest volumes of laws and regulations of any nations in history. In fact, one of the major contentions in BREXIT was not only the volume of laws and regulations, but also who was permitted to influence their passing. Laws are rules that are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, with the social institutions having the power to coerce people into following them. After all, law without enforcement is moral philosophy.

However, this seems to be a contradiction to me, that the most free societies are also those with the strongest rule of law. The United States has 5000 Federal criminal laws with 10.000 – 300.000 regulations that can be enforced [1]. The European Commission passed a total of 49,699 laws between 1993 and 2014 [3]. The UK Parliament  So, what strikes me as strange, is the thesis that these countries are the most free while their citizens are regulated and controlled by law to such an extent. Continue reading

Of means and ends

Immanuel_Kant_(painted_portrait)I often use the terms “means” and “ends” in my writing, this is a concept that I borrowed from a formulation of the categorical imperative by Immanuel Kant, which is as follows:

Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.” Immanuel Kant (Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals)

In Kant’s formulation, he is stating that in order to treat people in a humane and ethical manner, you must view the interaction with their person as a goal in itself, not merely as a method to achieve a goal. I touched on this in my post on means, motive and opportunity, which is a breakdown of the three different concepts and these are complimentary and overlapping principles. Means is the equivalent in both cases, and the result of the combination of means, motive and opportunity results in the end. You can never have an end without a method to achieve that end, a motivation for achieving that end and the opportunity to pursue that end. However, a major stumbling block many people face is that they become preoccupied with creating means, without taking the opportunity when it presents itself.

“I will go for that promotion once I have another year of experience and finish my night classes”

“I will go after this women I’m lusting after once I read another 4 books on game”

“I will renew my wardrobe once I lose another 15 lbs”

In all the above scenarios the person is putting off action, and taking risks under the guise of “not being ready” in essence they are creating creating a situation whereby failing to achieve one goal, will result in failing another goal as well. Put in another way, they are telling themselves “I will neglect to take opportunities presented to me until I have achieved another end“. I’m a major proponent of sequential-tasking and parallel tasking, however, if you line up your life as a series of milestones, with hard dependencies, you will not be capable of achieving maximum results in a time-frame. Continue reading

On the concept of balance

balanceI was reading an article earlier where the core theme was balance between duties and choices. For instance, a labor union can strike, however then they are not being paid, an a factory owner can refuse to give into the demands of the union but then he is not making any money. In this case, you have a carrot for both parties in that if they come to an agreement they can both get paid, and a stick in the form of that they are both losing money by not coming to an agreement. These types of checks and balances are what keeps every structure in working condition because they promote stability and moderation over instability and excess. Democratic countries are often built with “majority” clauses, and/or multiple branches of government, which does slow things down, but also ensures that there is wide support and that it does not devolve into majority tyranny. Take the draft in the United States of America, every man has to register for selective service within 6 months of turning 18, in exchange they get the right to vote. This means that every man who votes for hawkish and interventionist foreign policy knows that this means that he risks being sent off to war if there is a draft. This has the effect of somewhat limiting the willingness to go to war, and encourages voting for a policy that relies on both diplomacy and force, not pure force. In the same way, if I forgot to lock my door, the insurance company can refuse to pay if I get robbed, because through my actions I placed an unnecessary and excessive risk on them. Continue reading

Seneca and Machiavelli Brothers in arms

MachiavelliStoicism and Machiavellianism are both philosophies that are very much about power in their essence. When Nicollo Machiavelli wrote “The Prince” he wrote it as a gift to his lord, a gift of knowledge gleamed from observing history, and distilling patterns into essence. I do not really know what was Seneca’s motivation behind writing “Letters“, whether he did it for himself or for others. Perhaps it was as “Ethics” by Spinoza, a thinly clad rejection of religious oppression, perhaps like Paine’s “Common Sense” it was a call to action to the peasantry to rise up against their oppressors, or perhaps it was like quite a few of my writings Continue reading

On the enlightenment, social justice and the state

paineI suppose we’ll never know for sure who had the radical idea that “people should be free to express their views without fearing reprisal”. I know that it was a somewhat popular idea when Socrates took his final shot of hemlock, and that a lot of was absorbed into the Roman Empire, and the Hellenic empire after that. After all, at that time they were the greatest cultures and empires the world had ever seen, both in terms of social progress. The Ancient Greeks wrote works that are still central to many modern fields of inquiry, such as Plato’s treatise of government, “The Republic“, Aristotle’s work on logic, and ethics, the Pythagorean theorem, and Archimedes’ law.

These were civilizations that showed technological prowess that disappeared after the fall of the Roman empire when Europe descended into what has become known as the dark ages. This is until human beings, strangled by Christianity, and a church that dominated every aspect of life, from your bedroom to the chambers of government. Where God-Kings and God-Emperors feared the excommunication from the Pope of Rome, as their power was considered willed to them by the divine. Started rediscovering the works of Ancient Greece, of Rome, and we got the period known as the Renaissance, a French word that means “Rebirth” or “Revival”. Where philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Protagoras, Marcus Aurelius and artists such as Virgil and Cicero, inspired a new generation of artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, scientists such as Galileo. Those works lead to that the Phoenix of ideas and exploration rose from the ashes of the great empires and minds of history and once again brought light to a world that had laid in darkness. It made us strive for enlightenment once more. Continue reading

Sophism : How to actually make logic abuse

sophistThose of you who have read my posts on logic, and particularly my posts on logical fallacies, should be familiar with how you can call someone out when they make fallacious or spurious arguments against you. This was my own motivation in immersing myself in the field of logic for years, the ability to become a human logic machine. This is its own reward, the ability to use reason as a rapier can be exhilarating and bring great intellectual satisfaction, however logos alone is not an effective tool for the rhetorician.

In ancient Greece there was a group of teachers that were called the sophists, they were teachers of many things but are perhaps most renowned for teaching the tools of convincing rhetoric. Depending on who you read on the topic of sophism, Plato for instance derided them for using their knowledge to their own ends rather than seeking justice and truth, you may have a different picture. The modern meaning of the term, has come to mean one who uses the tools of logic and rhetoric to deceive someone in a debate. The term “sophistry” has come to be defined as using sophisms for subtle and deceptive argumentation or reasoning.

Continue reading

On the subject of morality

moralityThis is one of those topics I normally keep my hands (and mind) off because it tends to be a heavily value laden area of philosophy. While there are pragmatic arguments to be made for most things, they largely tend to be post-hoc rationalizations rather then true reason. The cornerstone of ethics and morality is trying to answer the question “what is good” and “what is bad”. From a realistic perspective, it is highly likely that as humans are social animals, morality and in-group behavioral characteristics that strengthen the group. Will have lead to those that have them out-breeding those who did not, and thus resulting in an in-born sense of morality, tempered by socialization.

Thus, if morality is merely the expression of instinct in regards to maintaining group cohesion, it follows that it can be ignored. However high number of group members doing so would result in lowered in-group cohesion, it follows that we would have to develop systems to enforce the mean of the behavior. These are our social methods for enforcing behavior criteria in a group, that are expressed in a multitude of social situations. From shunning, shaming, obligations, and fear of sanctions, these are all methods to enforce behavior and thought, just as some behaviors are used to both reward and incentivize pro-social behavior.

Some people are born with a strong internal locus of control, and are less influenced by the social methods of control. These are often themed contrarians, or iconoclasts. Some people are born with crossed wires in terms of genetics meaning they do not innately possess the pro-social behavior genes. Some, are even born without gene control and are immune to social control, these are sociopaths.

As humans love finding patterns and seem to love codifying those patterns even more, we developed systems in the field called “ethics” out of which there are two main forms.

Deontological ethics

This is a fancy word for “rule based ethics” the primary example of this area is the categorical imperative by Immanuel Kant, which states (paraphrase) “Act always as if your action will become natural law.” Which is to say that you should always handle yourself as if everyone else who gets in the same situation will act exactly as you did. This is a useful perspective, but it also underlines the limitations of this field of ethics.

The primary sources for deontological ethics are often religious texts such as the Bible (The 10 commandments, Golden Rule). One could argue that the legal system as well is a form of rule based ethics in inception, but not necessarily in practice.

The principle of deontological ethics is that whether or not an act is good, depends on whether it is according to the rule. The consequences of the act do not matter. For instance, if you have a rule that states “You shall always save someone’s life if you can” then saving Hitler’s life would have been a good act. Intent matters, consequences do not.

Consequentialist ethics

This style of ethics is a different beast overall, here only consequences matter, not intent. So, if you save someone’s life, and they grow up to be Hitler, then that act was a bad act. This ethical/moral position can be summarized in reductio ad absurdum as “The end justifies the means”. Based on my exploration of the subject-matter, I haven’t really found many philosophers espousing the virtues of this style of ethics. This may be due to its association with more “barbarian” and “Machiavellian” tribes in the past, that were perceived by the more civilized states at the time as not having rule of law.

Perhaps it has to do with the simple fact that most of us would undoubtedly be deeply immoral if the full consequences of some of our past engagements were explored. Even simpler, as consequences often cannot be predicted prior to an action, it has no prescriptive value. Or, the easiest of them all, it offers no control over a population and no way to punish that population for stepping out of line.

The discussion

Which style of ethics should a modern man adopt? Deontological ethics will offer an easy to follow set of rules, but it would depend on how generalized the system is, and how expansive it is. A simple rule like the categorical imperative (in the formulation above) is highly general requiring a large amount of rational thought and consideration. However it will be adequate and adaptable to most situations. On the other hand,  if the man selects a system such as Islam, or hardline Christianity, both of those characteristics will go down.

By selecting a consequentialist approach to ethics, he has the greatest flexibility, but no way to determine if his life is moral before viewing it in retrospect. One could even inquire whether a flexible moral system is even a moral system at all if the same act can be both immoral and moral depending on context. This is one of the more difficult aspects of Kant’s imperative in practice.

If a man who has had a string of bad luck, he is desolate, destitute, and depressed, isolated, irritated and inconsolable. If this man kills himself, then according to the categorical imperative, we need to imagine what the consequences would be if every man in his situation did so. I’m certain that many men have felt this way at some point and have gone on to live great lives once recovered. Therefore, it follows that this is an immoral act, due to the wasted potential. On the other hand, I’m sure many men have never recovered, and spend the rest of their lives living lives of quiet desperation. Therefore it follows that his act would be a moral one.

The dangers of morality and ethics

Morality and ethics are dangerous, they are by nature subjective and thus by adopting too stringent of a requirement for yourself, will put you at a disadvantage, on the other hand, not being stringent enough would most likely put you into the company of persons you perhaps do not want to be associated with. Illimitableman touched on this in an article on Machiavellianism and morality [1] where he writes:

Only intelligent men can really discuss the nuance of ethics and thus, whatever their disposition, cognisantly find a balance between altruism and sadism, principle and incentive. Of course if one is innately sadistic, only the discipline of volition can suppress such a thing.

This is the key to finding a moral system for yourself that strikes the desired balance of realism and pragmatism vs altruism and nativity.  I use the term nativity here to mean “belief that human beings are inherently good“. A general belief that humans are inherently good will expose you to very high risks in situations where humans are not good, and makes you vulnerable to predators. A generally altruistic perspective, leads you open to be taken advantage of, from misguided faith in reciprocity. A high degree of realism, will make you prone to view the world through the law of the jungle, and when combined with a high degree of pragmatism, to the end justifies the means and “whatever works”.

The irony of this discussion is that we are left with the two things I started this discussion with, the combination of your genetics and your experiences that have shaped your life. Morality not being a fixed concept, it is merely a habit. If you are used to putting the needs of everyone else before your own, if you feel guilty when you say no or have been screwed over time and time again, you just need to train new habits. It will not feel good when you change a habit, it rarely does at first, but over time your life will improve.

 

 

 

[1] Morality & Machiavellianism