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Semiformalishmaybe

A Priori Man

(Warning: This is likely some combination or permutation of inspiring or interesting stuff and utter BS. I'm not sure myself .. but then I never am)

One of the requirements for intellectual maturity (and virtue) is to develop a deep understanding of human nature - this is a potentially unpleasant task (or perhaps a journey) - the most important aspect of this is to make impossible many types of ego. Trying to understand humans as logical entities and human thought as a logical process is natural, but the logical lense is something to surpass rather than a destination. A Priori Man (forgive the slight violence to the term) is quite different from Actual Man - until we accept, at the very least, that:

  • We have inaccurate perception (wonderful videos on youtube for this that demonstrate attentional blindness, for starters)
  • Our memories are closer to being stories constantly being reconstructed on ever-fading evidence than solid things
  • Word meanings and forms of concepts differ between people and there is no single agreed on path to considering any of them "true", even as "convention" or "tradition" might be reasonable in most cases
  • Logic and Maths are inventions initially created to be useful - they reflect no deep connection to the nature of things apart from that usefulness.
  • Observation (with possible manipulation) is a preferred path to anything we might call true (reasonably independent of one's preferred notion of truth)
  • The notion of a coherent and consistent set of things one wants is a gross oversimplification
  • Disidentification with parts of ourselves that our long-term self dislikes is illusory and dangerous
  • Language and social interaction are multilayered and paying attention to these sublayers often explains things that don't make sense on a surface layer. However, there is also often miscommunication and big parts of our instinct, on some levels, don't make sense for us anymore (some portion likely did not make sense in the EEA and amounted to noise)
  • We lie to ourselves as part of how we think, and we can't stop because doing so would render us nonfunctional, make life very difficult, or have other serious consequences, depending on which types of lies we're talking about
  • We should never be certain about anything, although "certain enough" fills a practically similar role and is acceptable
  • We have systematic faults in our ability to judge probability, weigh evidence, and other tasks that impact our ability to understand the world. Mechanical aids and processes (spreadshets, statistics, etc) can help correct some of these, once they're admitted.
  • Correlary to above but much more basic: There is no such thing as luck, and our hunches about it are rubbish. The universe does not care what we want, and no amount of hoping, praying, imagining or the like will do anything
  • For wide areas of important human endeavours, we can't rely on empiricism alone, and must use aesthetic or pragmatic steps to provide things we urgently need
And so on.With these, an appropriate level of self-doubt is present to limit some types of ego and allow for intellectual maturity. The A Priori Man (that "makes sense") we believed in in youth is replaced with the Complex, often maladapted, unreasonable, self-struggling Man.

In other words, glasses (apologies to those who don't wear them - this is a metaphor) are the most symbolic invention of humanity at its best. They help bring us the rest of the way to truly being qualified to have a civlisation - they symbolise our struggle to grow beyond the "good-enough-to-fill-a-niche-in-nature" we evolved to be in the EEA towards our potential for greatness.

P.S. I think if I were asked right now to sit down in front of a typewriter and produce a decent-sized book, either an expansion of this, or another thing that's been floating through my head that I'd probably call 「Advice to new Atheists」 would be what I could most quickly and confidently produce without needing a lot of "do I really mean this" and "is this formulation of the idea as mature as it should be" self-questioning. (the latter book would be a combination survey of atheist philosophies, an introduction to reasoning and debate, and some gentle steering of people towards particular ideas and conclusions that I think are important). The problem with books of this sort is that they're not very deep, but I think they'd be reasonably easy and fun to write.

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