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Semiformalishmaybe

The Small Hours of Noon

Impressions:

  • The first few words of the day in late afternoon: clumsy - the more days without a conversation the more tempting it is to think blobs of thought at people interspersed with the flow of words and expect them to pick it up. I know what it's like to argue with myself sending those chunks into the dialogue. Well-remembered sensations of things not real: this, flight in dreams
  • Poor sound system but good taste in music in coffeeshop inspires plugging in of earphones and playing the exact same song (a Death Cab for Cutie song). Curiosity: for a song we can remember perfectly, why do we still want to hear it played externally when it comes to mind? This stands in sharp contrast to an aspect of my boredom with life - knowing every choice I can make's results, smelling and seeing those memories of the Beehive or any of the other places I go to to pass the time, makes it much less interesting to do it to the extent that a lot the time I just go home and lie in bed when I don't need to be at work. Music is different somehow. Maybe it's that remembering music that way takes attention, or maybe it's an inner mechanism trying to make sure I actually do remember the music well.
  • I found a pretty leaf. On some level I am amused that I still pick up interesting rocks, leaves, etc - one of those things we get as a child and (perhaps) never discard.
  • I am amazed at how big the conspiracy theories of various flavours are on the web. Sometimes I am tempted to dig in and argue when I see them, which in theory would be fun, but the web is now full of people reinventing Usenet badly in an irritatingly decentralised way (Usenet was at least topic-centralised). Arguing in the comments section of a news story or on youtube is like a conversation on a noisy subway - very short lived, small in scale, and difficult in the meantime. The best traction in an argument is on an argument map. Next best would be a topic-oriented forum where people routinely pick each other's statements apart for analysis, restating them, exposing every part to scrutiny and discarding posturing.
    • CATO is surprisingly active on some of the higher-profile boards on the internet. Their arguments are amazingly bad - they generally take the form of "we have the objectively best perspective and if you can't see it you're blind". Fortunately, most people have the sense to ignore them - I suspect deconstructing that stuff has already been tried.
    • Also irritated by some (possible) lawyers who try to claim some terms as being "exclusively a legal term". I'm uncertain what a situation would be where a group or profession should merit exclusive definition of a term, but for notions like theft and murder, they don't get to do that. In general, I think people need to hold their terms loosely enough to be willing to accept when others say either "for the sake of argument let's consider a version of N defined like this" or "I tend to work with a Rawlsian/Christian/Marxist/whatever notion of N". A lack of sufficient exposure to people doing that helps people be really narrow-minded.
    • On that theme, I've been thinking a lot about the varying goals, means, and characteristics of philosophic, scientific, and political framing.
  • Srees has samosa again. They win a surprise vault to first place among all the samosa I have had in my life. The shells are crusty without being dry, they are moist without being particularly greasy, the ingredients blend together to make a perfect unitary taste with different textures, and they're reasonably spicy.
  • I still feel trapped and miserable - I've had so many opportunites to get out of Pgh that I've skipped out on for what were probably good reasons, and I can't imagine moving now, but I think I probably should've gone one of those times. If for nothing else, it might've killed little bits of hope for things that are never going to or never did happen - friendships or relationships with certain folk, and maybe that would've helped me make new things.
  • For all my unhappiness, stepping back a bit I have to say that the world makes a lot of sense - it's interesting how modern science and a bit of observation make everything pretty much come together. It doesn't exactly help on the day-to-day, but the big picture isn't that scary. Letting go of platonism and sauberkeit in epistemology was probably the most important step for that - the platonist can be a scientist but not a very good one by modern standards because instead of listening to nature, they want to write onto it, and then ascribes their writing to the nature of things (a priori "truth"). I should not trust this entirely, because most perspectives come with metaperspectives that judge them to make sense.
  • I'm a bit bothered at how much aspies irritate me (just as I am irritated at how much people who are mentally 「off」 do so). It's natural, I think, and ev psych strongly suggests that such mechanisms are in place if they're feasable genetically. That doesn't mean that we should feel good about them. Just like in-group out-group behaviour, it's something we probably should occasionally step back and examine.
  • I wonder, when people who have been moved strongly by ideas, how often that comes from a single book or series of lectures versus ideas that grow on them. Of the perspectives and value-conclusions I've grown to hold strongly, I can identify some that came at once and some that came over time. On first chew, I think those that grew slowly had to displace another thought-element that competed with it (e.g. my move from libertarian moral philosophy to a largely self-carved socialist moral philosophy), while those that had no competition could be adopted suddenly (Freud's notion of the nature of man, religion, and repression). I'm not sure if that's complete though - there are some which are probably distinct in acquisition, e.g. those that are one's first serious opinion on a matter that one had played with before - for me, I became an atheist without even knowing the word atheist before I was 10, after reading a book on creation myths of various cultures and comparing them with christian creation myths. Perhaps an adult form of this might be someone entering law school and replacing their previous vague but long-term ideas about law with an actual legal philosophy (similarly with maths). I also wonder if, when, and how it's appropriate to guide people in these formative times. I've grown nervous and worried about the propriety of this - I like the idea of helping people see that their older perspectives are broken and giving them lots of varied secular philosophy, playing devil's advocate as they try to grab onto each of them so they can really come to understand each. As committed as I am to a socialist-materialist-liberal-strong_multiculturalist perspective, I would not want to establish a power relationship with someone and have them acquire the fragile belief/understanding of a follower - power relationships stop people in them from relating to each other as adults, and easily make them paranoid about the other losing that identity-aspect if the power relationship becomes essential to other relationships. On the other hand, when that identity is really important to one or both people, some nervousness on that is appropriate, but on the other other hand, one can't easily bind one's future self to a belief. Ages ago in my relationships, in some of them the "would you still love me if I were to ever fall back to $religionname?" came up, or likewise there was some nervousness over my mentioning that there are little parts of me that believe all sorts of ideas even as the expressed part of me does not. What if I woke up someday and those parts of me arguing something different had a new coalition in the parliament in my head? Would the relationship be over? I've never had a good answer for these kinds of questions. Being single for many years makes it functionally academic, although perhaps it's an active concern for others. I still suspect that I would not want a belief-power dynamic in a relationship in the sense of dating someone I had "converted" (nor do I want to take responsibility for providing and policing the worldview of people whose older worldview I've broken). When I think about George Smock having converted his wife to Christianity before marrying her, I wonder if that kind of thing can be healthy. I suppose that's a different kind of marriage (by nature of being a fundamentalist christian one) than the one I see as ideal.
  • Crazy Goat is now blasting Ratatat, and their speakers are finally behaving well.
In case you have not yet heard of him (I have mentioned him many times before), Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford, is a cultural luminary with a lot of good things to say. I don't agree with him entirely, but when it comes to expressing important issues relevant to society, I feel he's as important as Richard Stallman. Some interesting bits of his site:
  • Speeches/videos
  • Books (mostly available gratis under a liberal license)
  • Internet Law for non-lawyers (it actually has an abominable word in its title that I have replaced here)
  • Creative Commons - a site about open content licenses. I would prefer people use BSD or one of the GPL licenses, but this is at least educational
  • Change Congress - Another project of his, to get leverage to fight corruption in Washington
People should know who Lessig is. His speeches are incredibly interesting, so giving him a bit of time should not be painful.

Leaf:

Comments

Music is strange that way. When I've got something in my head that I know well, I do feel the need to listen to it. The processes are different, I'm sure... thinking of a piece of music and processing what one hears. The experience is totally different.

If I'm not in a position to listen to it and it happens to be classical, I'll still want to either play it myself or read through the score. I guess it just needs to be externalized one way or the other.
I was also reflecting recently on the converting-a-significant-other thing.

When we were younger, both my husband and I were very serious about Christianity. (We met through church, had a super-churchy wedding, sang in church choir together, etc.) When I realized I had become an atheist, I was a little nervous to tell him, not because I thought he'd be judgmental but because I disliked the idea of giving up something that we had shared in common. To my surprise, he also stopped going to church. When I asked him about it, he said he'd been rather skeptical for a while, but stayed involved for two reasons; first, because he saw social value in religion, and second, because to some extent he trusted my judgment on the matter, because (having spent some time in seminary etc.) I'd certainly researched religion-y things much more than he had, so if I found reason to believe that was enough to keep him involved in Christianity. But once I stopped believing, he was happy to start calling himself an agnostic. It was rather surprising to me how naturally that just sort of happened. I certainly didn't try to sway him at all; I think we'd just been moving in a similar direction without having really overtly discussed it much.

Two of our close friends from college, who were uberChristian at the time, had a similar experience. They both left Christianity at about the same time, not because one convinced the other, but because the experiences they were sharing and the conversations they were having led them both in that direction.

So I think there's room for the idea that, in a relationship, both people are discussing ideas and growing, and perhaps that makes them more likely to end up with similar or at least compatible views the long they're together, even without any attempts at convincing the other.