Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Amish Option

The Amish Option is meant here as, simply, to reduce one’s contact with standard pop. culture, and to instead focus on cultivating projects, experiences, personal relationships, and so on, of a higher quality.

A focus on different cultural sources -> different society.

This is not a binary option, nor is it exclusive of various other options that are responses to aspects of contemporary society.

(Nor does it mean relinquishing various technologies, such as electric-powered light or automobiles. Of course, being critical of the consequences of a given technology on one’s quality of life – on whether it’s moving you towards or away from the important stuff – is an important habit. Adopting a technology simply because others have is a bad idea.)

For examples of the Amish Option, to watch significantly less television, to read more high quality books, to get started on meaningful projects, and to network with like-minded people. All these are simple, compatible with the reality of most people’s immediate circumstances, and allow for gradations or variations of implementation.

Contra some who would consider this a retreat from society, I think it more accurately is anĀ advance. It is not so much to run away from pop. culture as to move to something better.

Consider, if you leave a city behind, and instead move to the countryside – because the traffic’s better, people are more friendly, you get to experience more of nature, and there’s less crime per capita – then this is more relevantly an advance, a movement to something better.

Similarly, if you hear of an island somewhere, with a significantly higher quality of life than the country you are living in now, and you endeavour to move there, this is better characterized as an exploration and adventure of moving to another, possibly better place.

Pithily, any movement is in a sense a retreat in one direction and advance in another. The Amish Option is an advance towards a possibly better way of living.

For example, I haven’t watched television for something like 12 years. Because it freed up time, it opened up aspects of culture I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise (books, architecture, projects, and so on). It was an advance towards a better culture. However, it was a deliberate removal of an aspect of pop. culture from my life – a ‘retreat’.

Similarly, when you ratchet down the pop. culture noise in your life, and start focusing on more important things, this is an advance – an ascent. It is an – I think – erroneous mentality which treats the removal of pop. culture from one’s life as a ‘retreat’ – i.e., the person has internalized that pop. culture is what is important in the world, except it isn’t – not from most individuals’ perspectives.

This isn’t to say that bridges between pop. secular culture and better cultures aren’t important – of course they are. However, my guess is that is a specific calling – for most people, simply dramatically improving their immediate environment by implementing aspects of the Amish Option is more important and relevant.

Thy problem-solving be done

Why ask God for solutions, according to Christianity?

Because God’s solutions are typically way better than only-human solutions. There is a harmony to them*, where things come together in a way that is typically beyond human engineering. (See satisfying endings to stories as an example, if unfamiliar with examples of this sort yourself.)

* (harmony is similar to the concept of wholeness, from which we get the term ‘holiness’ – holiness, not surprisingly, involves a kind of harmony)

So, it probably makes sense for a Christian to cultivate the habit of “God, help guide us to a solution on this.” I.e., the instinct should be to seek God’s guidance and coordination when encountering a problem. Whenever one finds oneself worrying about a problem, this is the habit to replace that thought pattern with. (This is an Iteration on “Thy will be done,” a part of the set of keys for Christian practice given by Jesus of Nazareth in the ‘Our Father’ in the Sermon on the Mount, supposedly.)

It is important to note that this isn’t about inaction (although non-action is an important component of any problem-solving tool-box – waiting for the correct circumstances, for example, before springing into action). Too often, it seems to me, Christians pray for God to ‘do something’, when an important point in Christianity is the Christians themselves doing things, guided by God.

Instead, the basic cycle is asking for guidance -> getting guidance -> acting on the guidance. This is part of the practice of ‘discernment’. If you don’t act (“Thy will be done“), then the cycle doesn’t complete.

How not to think of career

How not to think of career:

“I’m going to university to become a biologist.”

Rather,

“I am a biologist. I’m going to university to get further practical knowledge and certification.”

The point here is that one should start being a biologist a significant amount of time before deciding to go to a university (say) to further one’s biology-related career. That is, one should start doing things that biologists do before deciding to go to a university to further one’s career in this area.

Most high-school students ‘decide’ to start a profession without having done much of anything in relation to that profession! Most of the time, they don’t actually have good reasons for believing that is the right profession for them.

This attitude is part of the institutionalization (‘Mandarinization’, to use William James’ phrase) of Western society, education, and careers.

Christian identity

It seems to me a better dynamic within Christendom is engendered by the following emphasis.

1. Christian first.

To be Christian is to a) take Jesus of Nazareth as in some meaningful sense to be the Christ, and b) attempt in one’s thoughts and actions to follow the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.

In short, being a follower of Christ ought to be first, as far as one’s identity vis a vis Christianity goes. Everything else is secondary. Which isn’t to say secondary differences aren’t important – they are.

2. Denomination second.

So, one isn’t a Mormon, rather one is a Christian. One isn’t a Methodist, but rather a Christian.

Only secondarily is one a Mormon Christian, or a Methodist Christian, and so on.

The first step is to stop waiting for others

People often think that ‘something external has to happen’ before they can start doing x, y, or z.

Rather, something internal has to happen. The first step is to stop waiting for others. Instead, get started!

Want to start designing buildings? You don’t have to wait until you’re a certified architect – start designing Lego buildings, make a small structure, start experiments with an architectural computer program, and so on.

Once you get going, you’ll get a better idea of what is actually involved, what the specific challenges are, whether you really want to do whatever it is, and so on.

 

Why does panpsychism seem implausible?

Why does panpsychism – the view that all of the universe (pan-) is in some sense conscious (-psyche) – seem implausible to many Western intellectuals?

I think there are two main reasons.

The first is that they believe that the mind has to do with the brain in particular. Non-mind -> evolution -> brain -> mind. Therefore, consciousness (an aspect of mind) ought to have to do with the brain in particular (or things that are similar to brains – perhaps complex computers), and not with matter in general.

Yet, if panpsychism is construed as consciousness in (at least most of the time) a more structurally simple sense than consciousness associated with brains, then there’s good reason to think the intuition isn’t applicable. I.e, people are confusing intuitions about structural complexity with a metaphysical issue. The brain is complex, but consciousness could be much different from consciousness as we experience it. Therefore, structure like that of a brain may not be required.

The second main reason it seems implausible is a belief that ‘science says’ all matter is non-conscious (except for matter associated with brains or other similarly complex systems). Science in the forms of physics, however, is just a description of cause-and-effect systems. It doesn’t speak to what it is that’s doing the causing in a metaphysical sense.

Panpsychism, in at least some of its forms, postulates that all matter is conscious, but is completely compatible with the cause-and-effect system worked out by, say, contemporary physics (or a hypothetical completed future physics). Conceptually, panpsychism and physics are talking about distinct aspects and therefore (as far as we know) completely compatible. Moreso, one could say they are complementary, as panpsychism fills out what it is that is playing the role in the cause-and-effect systems described by (say) physics.

So, it seems that at least two of the main intuitions against panpsychism are mis-intuitions.

Science is not the domain of scientists

Science is figuring out what the truth is.

This is practiced by and accessible to everyone. It is not the domain of people who walk around in lab coats.

Indeed, many ‘scientists’ don’t have this as a primary goal in a given situation – rather, it’s getting grants, garnering esteem, getting invited to cocktail parties, and so on.

To this extent, ‘scientists’ are often doing less science than people who wouldn’t consider themselves to be scientists.

This is because, in everyday life, typically people do value truth primarily in what they’re doing. Most day-to-day actions aren’t about getting grants, say, to study such-and-such. Rather, you just want to figure out how to fix this or that, or find this or that, or create a kind of thing that works, and so on. Your primary impetus is, usually, the truth.

(Some ‘scientists’ may be more of scientists in their day-to-day affairs outside of bureaucratized, grant-seeking, status-seeking ‘science’ than inside of it, unfortunately.)

The good news: doing science is easy to start (start trying to figure out what the truth is), and – indeed – you’re already doing science on a day-to-day basis, in all sorts of things.

Precommitment and theosis

Mark Sisson discusses precommitment and The Odyssey here.

Precommitment – setting things up beforehand to increase chances of success – is an important tool in theosis – improving your habits of thought.

You can see this technique being used in the beginning of the Gospels – Jesus goes out into the wilderness. Why? To remove distractions. This is analogous to Sisson’s example of creating an environment where there is no WiFi available.

Enlightened self-interest and the law of mutuality

Enlightened self-interest ought to leave itself behind, in a sense, because it turns out that, in many cases, the best way to help oneself is to stop thinking about what’s best solely for oneself.

It seems to me that the purest egoism puts away egoistic thoughts, and commits to people and causes that are beyond oneself, where there is a real risk to oneself.

To put it another way, egoism points beyond itself. I.e., egoism, followed cogently, happens to lead to the law of mutuality.