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Tag Archives: conscience

The idea of cognitive dissonance — that your brain will ignore what your senses are telling it in order to keep your beliefs intact — always seemed to me extremely interesting but deeply flawed.

For one, it sounds completely unbelievable that the brain would cheat itself. It’s like lying to oneself. Reality should be reality, and beliefs should be just words, just an embellishment over basic perception. On the other hand, Cognitive Dissonance is a scientific fact, a very well-documented and throughly tested phenomenon.

My (current) interpretation of Cog Dissonance is that our brain has never really been in charge, that all the important decision processes have been happening somewhere else, like in our viscera, the brain merely a “second opinion”, and the cognitive dissonance happens when something forces us to acknowledge this divide. Read More »

An out-of-context and old quote from P-4 Referent:

Depression creates a special brain state (a state of mind! ;-)

Our own conception of ourselves is so deeply ridden with misconception and ambiguity and pointlessness — many times we confuse useful, purposeful processes for disease. Supposedly, that’s the case with depression, still mainly categorized under «disease» but now seen to be conceivably useful under certain circumstances.

We have no clue whatsoever about ourselves — but we keep pretending to understand everything.

I’m reading Schoonmaker’s “Worst Poker Enemy” and while generally speaking i love the book, his idea of “rationality” kinda makes me uncomfortable. It might be that i just can’t bring myself to like the Freud-ism underlying the book, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. I think it is just that in order to talk about «rationality» against «irrationality» we have to assume a pretty lot — which is a problem of our whole culture and not of Shoonmaker’s.

Any culture that engages in a enhancement-of-abstraction pathway must necessarily fall trap — and, hopefully, overcome — to the concept of «reason» or something similar, because when you need to think about thinking itself it is easier to assume that thinking must conform to some given clear-cut rules, or that it must follow some preconceived principles, or even that it does use a specific procedure. Meta-explanation is bound to become more important when explanations themselves rise in usefulness, but at the same time simplistic explanations are useful because they are simple. It is likely then that we end up with ideas about «reason» that, in hindsight, are pretty half-backed.

That’s why i like P4’s quote: it pokes a small dose of fun at one of the assumptions that lie at the very heart of our meta-explanations — lie there without really being sound or testable. Namely, that there must be correspondences between brain and mind and whatnot.

Mind you, maybe there are connections. Maybe not. Either way, a «state» is more a thought than a truth, is more an analysis-method than something we neutrally picked out of reality itself. In order to understand a world that is, mostly, continuous, it is pedagogically sound to split it into still “states”. Not that, really, «reality» has a pause button. For all we know it is completely absurd to talk about an «instant» in the sense that you could isolate a given point in time from the rest of reality. It’s just… silly. We got along with the synecdoche, but then aeons latter Einstein had to write a long paper about how physics had to think again about things “happening at the same moment”.

Not to talk of «mind» itself, not only full of assumptions but also any definition more clear than mud.

And a lot of this mess comes form our incapacity to deal with the fact of conscience. We just don’t know what to do with that. So we keep making those long elaborate theories that try to ignore the issue. That’s why i think Freud, despite being basically all Junk (psychobabble), does point to some places we should think of.

Self-accounting is not a prerequisite of thinking. In other words, we might think without knowing how we do it. It actually seems to be the case that it would be easier to A) devise a mechanism that thinks; than B) devise a mechanism that thinks and understands thought.

So we shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously, we shouldn’t assume that our souls are the epitome of existence itself, we shouldn’t find it odd that human beings act in ways that violate such simplistic goals as “maximize profit in the long run” and we shouldn’t puzzle too much that our minds should do strange things and work in mysterious ways — like getting depressed some times.

James Gould talking about bees (through a guest post at Olivia Judson‘s (did i mention that she is so hot in the last 15 minutes?)):

When a human decides whether to recommend a restaurant, taking into account its menus, the tastes of the friend being advised, the cost of the food, the distance to the establishment, the ambience of the dining room, the ease of parking and all the other factors that enter into such a decision, we have little hesitation in attributing conscious decision-making to the calculation. When a small frenetic creature enclosed in an exoskeleton and sprouting supernumerary legs and a sting performs an analogous integration of factors, however, our biases spur us to look for another explanation, different in kind.

Is it just me, or you can turn the same argument on it’s tail? Like, “there’s nothing more sophisticated in so-called conscious thought than there is in bee’s foraging”. I mean, not that bees can’t be awesome and stuff, but the comparison is double-edged.

And i also think it is a good point: we are not so clever. Sometimes we are clever, but 90% of our cleverness is more like display-of-cleverness (mainly for mating purposes, at that). Or in the old adage (no time to look up who said this) that there’s more difference between an average 19th century guy and Nietzsche than between the same average guy and a bee — maybe, but i am guessing the original saying was about a caveman.

I fell into a LSD cauldron when i was a kid and the effects have become permanent.That’s why when i use drugs i just feel myself different, not crazier, not less worried, just different. And it gets boring pretty fast.

I used to say that, but, seriously, now i think we are all constantly delusional. I think most of the best features of mankind are delusions. Conscience, for example. I think conscience is a sort of chemical unbalance in the brain, which by the way we train our babies to provoke in themselves, which causes us to believe in something we call “awareness” or “soul” or “identity”.

I think the brain is basically a huge, complex, sophisticated, powerful drug-producing facility.

And one can teach oneself to produce best or worse drugs. Like happiness, for example. This one is a very good one.