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The Seven Blunders of The World

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ktz
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Re: The Seven Blunders of The World

Post by ktz » December 17th, 2018, 2:20 am

Greta wrote:
December 17th, 2018, 1:46 am
You can argue to toss on a few of them but "Worship without sacrifice" unambiguously assumes and expects religious belief.
Does it though? How about David Foster Wallace's 2005 take on worship in the modern world:
This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
Can I submit this line of thought as a modern justification against worship without sacrifice?
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Re: The Seven Blunders of The World

Post by Burning ghost » December 17th, 2018, 2:35 am

Ktz -

If people want to see “propaganda” or “religion” where they want to see it then there isn’t a great deal you can do about it - especially if they come at you with the kind of vehemence Seagull seems to be expressing (what thread did this come from? I’m kind of intrigued why they wish not to give any ground to you here whatsoever. What do you say?)
AKA badgerjelly

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chewybrian
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Re: The Seven Blunders of The World

Post by chewybrian » December 17th, 2018, 8:49 am

ktz wrote:
December 16th, 2018, 2:43 pm
The Seven Blunders of the World is just a prosaic description of some categorical imperatives that would help everyone if we were all willing to abide by them. In our deregulated society, you are free to do whatever you want to enrich yourself, even go afoul of the law if you don't get caught. There are many other intelligent people who share your worldview. Maybe I really am naive to think that humans at scale are even capable of anything better than being selfish twats.
This is the hope of the founding fathers--that people can rise to the occasion and enjoy freedom without being too selfish to work for the common good. Can we enjoy freedom of speech yet still respect the truth and each other? Can we enjoy freedom of religion yet still have sound moral principles to guide us, whatever choice we make? Can we enjoy free commerce, yet not seek unfair advantage? It remains to be seen if their bet on our humanity will pay off in the end, though it has had a decent run. I don't see it as naive to want to give people a chance to be their best. After all, what is the alternative, and how is it better?

You would see these views as naive if you believed that nobody could be expected to act in any unselfish way at any time. Sadly, this probably comes from projecting one's own opinions onto others. If someone knows deep down that they are selfish, they will tend to assume others are the same, no matter what others' outward actions might suggest taken at face value. This is the 'kicker' I was describing about seeking virtue. If you live virtuously, you will tend to see virtue in others. Your experience in the world will inevitably be better as a result. The facts are slippery enough to be interpreted in many ways. Imagine walking around with the assumption that "everyone is out for themselves all the time". Think how easily you could make the facts of almost any situation fit your world view, and how miserable your experience of life might be as a result.

It is amazing how many threads are running together for me here--RJG's ideas about materialism and determinism and your observation about how many different perspectives were taking part in that discussion, from "Jesus take the wheel" to "I am the wheel", to "there is no wheel", this one where A Seagull could challenge such obvious categorical imperatives based on his own dogma, and your questions about stoicism and contrasts between Epictetus and Epicurus. Putting it all together, I am ready to ramble a bit. Maybe you or someone else will find a useful nugget, or challenge me and open my eyes to something new. If not, I'll just enjoy polishing my own views for my own sake.

All this brings me back to my contention that Epictetus got things right in two important ways--dogma and perception.
A_Seagull wrote:
December 16th, 2018, 1:22 am
Knowledge without character.. perhaps a bit of knowledge might improve someone's character.
No. Knowledge without character is an unguided missile. Your character will guide your impression of and use of (or dismissal of :roll: ) any knowledge sent your way. It doesn't go in the other direction, unless we speak of knowledge of moral principles. To be rational at a deep level, you must accept your capacity for irrationality, and forestall it by beginning all reasoning on the solid ground of sound guiding principles.

We all have dogmata which guide us through life and shape our view of the world and define our experiences, whether we admit it to ourselves or not. It could be 'selfishness benefits everyone' (a rising tide lifts all boats, trickle down economics...), or 'science and logic have all the answers', or more traditional principles from religion or just common sense. But we all consider ourselves rational. As such, we often run our principles out to an irrational limit where they no longer fit reality. Yet, these wild conclusions we draw follow logically from the guiding principles with which we set forth. Consider RJG's materialism gone wild, or A seagull's contentions here, such as:
A_Seagull wrote:
December 16th, 2018, 1:22 am
Pleasure without conscience would seem to be pure bliss. A commendable goal.
Standing alone, such ideas can seem silly or downright scary. But, following the chain from the initial dogma on down, one can scarcely help but see the 'rationality' of the wild conclusion. Once dogma is accepted, logic can take you on a wild journey, even as there is no flaw or break in the logic itself. This is why it is essential that we consider what dogmata best fit reality, and whose acceptance would make us into the best possible people, and work hard to drive them into our subconscious such that they guide us at all times. Wisdom, justice, temperance and courage, all properly understood, will guide you to act in the best interests of yourself and society, without conflict. Having a dogma is considered in a negative light by most people, yet if you think you are too smart, too rational to need guiding principles, you will still have them, but they will be under the surface, taken by default by your desires, rather than overtly chosen by you. And they will inevitably not be the principles you would have chosen had you actively considered, with an open mind, what would best guide you toward worthy destinations.

Your perception of the world, then, will inevitably be driven by your dogma. You will see new events through the lens of your guiding principle(s), and you will almost always find adequate evidence to support the opinion which fits your system of belief. Think how much pain in the world is driven by this simple breakdown or conflict of perspective. Everyone considers themselves rational, and can't understand why others don't see things their way. These other folks must then be irrational, eh? But neither 'side' is so irrational in the sense that their logic is faulty, but rather they have each built their castle of logic on a different swamp of dogma.

You'll easily release the anger at such disagreements when you understand that the other person has little choice but to arrive at their own separate conclusion when starting out with different guiding principles. When they fail to choose carefully their own guiding principles, they will fall into dogma by accident, by choosing, subconsciously, the dogma that matches their desires. If you choose no principles to guide you, and you have a desire for money, fame, drugs, whatever, then you will somehow find a philosophy which fits your desires, and justifies your actions, even if you don't consciously think about the choice.

Here is a long quote from Epictetus to address the point. Note also at the end that he is quite opposed to Epicurus, as I was suggesting he would be. Taking pleasure as an end can lead you the wrong way, even if you try to map it onto virtue as Epicurus does. Pleasure is an external, and as such never fully in your control. Therefore, it should be nothing to you. Go ahead and take it, while always indifferent, ready to be unaffected when it is pulled out from under you. Like money or other externals, don't let it become your guiding principle by choice or by default. This is the other dogma of Epictetus besides the four cardinal virtues--that your focus belongs on your attitude, opinions and actions, which you control, and never on anything external, lest you become that madman by following the logic from the wrong dogma on to the wrong end.
The beginning of philosophy to him at least who enters on it in the right way and by the door, is a consciousness of his own weakness and inability about necessary things. For we come into the world with no natural notion of a right-angled triangle, or of a diesis, or of a half tone; but we learn each of these things by a certain transmission according to art; and for this reason those who do not know them, do not think that they know them. But as to good and evil, and beautiful and ugly, and becoming and unbecoming, and happiness and misfortune, and proper and improper, and what we ought to do and what we ought not to do, whoever came into the world without having an innate idea of them? Wherefore we all use these names, and we endeavor to fit the preconceptions to the several cases thus: "He has done well, he has not done well; he has done as he ought, not as he ought; he has been unfortunate, he has been fortunate; he is unjust, he is just": who does not use these names? who among us defers the use of them till he has learned them, as he defers the use of the words about lines or sounds? And the cause of this is that we come into the world already taught as it were by nature some things on this matter, and proceeding from these we have added to them self-conceit. "For why," a man says, "do I not know the beautiful and the ugly? Have I not the notion of it?" You have. "Do I not adapt it to particulars?" You do. "Do I not then adapt it properly?" In that lies the whole question; and conceit is added here. For, beginning from these things which are admitted, men proceed to that which is matter of dispute by means of unsuitable adaptation; for if they possessed this power of adaptation in addition to those things, what would hinder them from being perfect? But now since you think that you properly adapt the preconceptions to the particulars, tell me whence you derive this. Because I think so. But it does not seem so to another, and he thinks that he also makes a proper adaptation; or does he not think so? He does think so. Is it possible then that both of you can properly apply the preconceptions to things about which you have contrary opinions? It is not possible. Can you then show us anything better toward adapting the preconceptions beyond your thinking that you do? Does the madman do any other things than the things as in which seem to him right? Is then this criterion for him also? It is not sufficient. Come then to something which is superior to seeming. What is this?

Observe, this is the beginning of philosophy, a perception of the disagreement of men with one another, and an inquiry into the cause of the disagreement, and a condemnation and distrust of that which only "seems," and a certain investigation of that which "seems" whether it "seems" rightly, and a discovery of some rule, as we have discovered a balance in the determination of weights, and a carpenter's rule in the case of straight and crooked things. This is the beginning of philosophy. "Must we say that all things are right which seem so to all?" And how is it possible that contradictions can be right? "Not all then, but all which seem to us to be right." How more to you than those which seem right to the Syrians? why more than what seem right to the Egyptians? why more than what seems right to me or to any other man? "Not at all more." What then "seems" to every man is not sufficient for determining what "is"; for neither in the case of weights or measures are we satisfied with the bare appearance, but in each case we have discovered a certain rule. In this matter then is there no rule certain to what "seems?" And how is it possible that the most necessary things among men should have no sign, and be incapable of being discovered? There is then some rule. And why then do we not seek the rule and discover it, and afterward use it without varying from it, not even stretching out the finger without it? For this, I think, is that which when it is discovered cures of their madness those who use mere "seeming" as a measure, and misuse it; so that for the future proceeding from certain things known and made clear we may use in the case of particular things the preconceptions which are distinctly fixed.

What is the matter presented to us about which we are inquiring? "Pleasure." Subject it to the rule, throw it into the balance. Ought the good to be such a thing that it is fit that we have confidence in it? "Yes." And in which we ought to confide? "It ought to be." Is it fit to trust to anything which is insecure? "No." Is then pleasure anything secure? "No." Take it then and throw it out of the scale, and drive it far away from the place of good things. But if you are not sharp-sighted, and one balance is not enough for you, bring another. Is it fit to be elated over what is good? "Yes." Is it proper then to be elated over present pleasure? See that you do not say that it is proper; but if you do, I shall then not think you are worthy even of the balance. Thus things are tested and weighed when the rules are ready. And to philosophize is this, to examine and confirm the rules; and then to use them when they are known is the act of a wise and good man.

--Epictetus, The Discourses

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ktz
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Re: The Seven Blunders of The World

Post by ktz » December 18th, 2018, 9:30 pm

BG, if you click on the up arrow symbol in the top line of the thread OP it will send you to the original source of this strange conflict. I might come back around when I have time to speculate more although ultimately I think you have the right idea about not getting baited by trolls.

Chewy, I want to give your contribution the attention it deserves but I have a deadline for a work project coming up so I cannot respond in the depth I would like to right now. I think there are profound considerations for me here both on the nature of our core values as well as how I could better conduct myself in these types of debates, I appreciate you taking the time to rant it out.
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ktz
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Re: The Seven Blunders of The World

Post by ktz » December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm

chewybrian wrote:
December 17th, 2018, 8:49 am
This is the hope of the founding fathers--that people can rise to the occasion and enjoy freedom without being too selfish to work for the common good. Can we enjoy freedom of speech yet still respect the truth and each other? Can we enjoy freedom of religion yet still have sound moral principles to guide us, whatever choice we make? Can we enjoy free commerce, yet not seek unfair advantage? It remains to be seen if their bet on our humanity will pay off in the end, though it has had a decent run. I don't see it as naive to want to give people a chance to be their best. After all, what is the alternative, and how is it better?
This may have been the founding father's hope, but in those days there were unspoken codes of honor among gentlemen. If you broke those codes and behaved dishonorably, you ran the risk of being challenged to a duel and shot dead. Long gone are those days, and honor is a social code has been displaced by Gordon Gecko's Greed is Good and the modern capitalist mantra -- "it's not personal, it's just business."

What is the alternative? The Sanders-led democratic socialists have their ideas on the subject, elements of which I find compelling but fear would be woefully inefficient without cultural buy-in to JFK's "Ask not what your country can do for you..." On the other side of the aisle, Richard Thaler has his ideas he lays out in his Nudge book, which suggests that we try to subtly influence people to make better decisions as much as possible -- I also find this idea somewhat compelling but fear that this comes with the downside of reinforcing the infrastructure that seeks to compel our slavery to convenience and other Pyrrhic desires. As for me, well, I mentioned honor but I'm not about to suggest we reintroduce dueling, bushido and seppuku into modern practice. Barring the widespread adoption unlikely revolutionary ideas in political economy, I have been considering a simple cultural shift in perspective that may help. I recognize a trend beginning with the Civil Rights boycotts that redefines the concept of payment -- not just an exchange of currency for goods and services, but a tool for empowerment and social validation. I would hope that we could continue to shift the core mindset around money away from "What can I get for my dollar?" to "Who does my dollar empower with each purchase?" And for companies that break an established code of honor, that enrich themselves at the cost to the commons, I would hope with our newfound tools of lightspeed communication, we could challenge them to a collective duel, which would be a challenge to improve their practices -- and shoot them dead with boycotts and nasty publicity if they fail. Social ostracization is perhaps one of the most powerful tools we collectively possess -- but for this to succeed, we have to find a way to develop a herd immunity to misinformation-based advertising and propaganda tools, which is not an easy task.
chewy wrote: You would see these views as naive if you believed that nobody could be expected to act in any unselfish way at any time. Sadly, this probably comes from projecting one's own opinions onto others. If someone knows deep down that they are selfish, they will tend to assume others are the same, no matter what others' outward actions might suggest taken at face value. This is the 'kicker' I was describing about seeking virtue. If you live virtuously, you will tend to see virtue in others. Your experience in the world will inevitably be better as a result. The facts are slippery enough to be interpreted in many ways. Imagine walking around with the assumption that "everyone is out for themselves all the time". Think how easily you could make the facts of almost any situation fit your world view, and how miserable your experience of life might be as a result.
I think the projection observation is an astute one. The hope you describe, for those that live virtuously will reap an inevitably better experience in the world, is a hope I share, a hope for a world where liars and cheaters will get their due with punishment that is inevitably self-inflicted, and the noble and just will lead inevitably better lives. But in practice I wonder if this is truly the case. Modern political economy has some significant loopholes, and subsequently we have empowered a lot of liars and cheaters, who now possess enough political power to make life very difficult indeed for the good and the just. More and more it seems that the rules of the game -- whether set by licensing boards, campaign finance, or ISDA requirements -- are set up in a way that forces concessions in integrity to even begin playing at a high level -- it is required to become a member of the cartel, or you can't even get a foothold to exert yourself.
chewy wrote: It is amazing how many threads are running together for me here--RJG's ideas about materialism and determinism and your observation about how many different perspectives were taking part in that discussion, from "Jesus take the wheel" to "I am the wheel", to "there is no wheel", this one where A Seagull could challenge such obvious categorical imperatives based on his own dogma, and your questions about stoicism and contrasts between Epictetus and Epicurus. Putting it all together, I am ready to ramble a bit. Maybe you or someone else will find a useful nugget, or challenge me and open my eyes to something new. If not, I'll just enjoy polishing my own views for my own sake.
Image
chewy wrote: All this brings me back to my contention that Epictetus got things right in two important ways--dogma and perception.

...

But we all consider ourselves rational. As such, we often run our principles out to an irrational limit where they no longer fit reality. Yet, these wild conclusions we draw follow logically from the guiding principles with which we set forth. Consider RJG's materialism gone wild, or A seagull's contentions here, such as:
A_Seagull wrote:
December 16th, 2018, 1:22 am
Pleasure without conscience would seem to be pure bliss. A commendable goal.
Standing alone, such ideas can seem silly or downright scary. But, following the chain from the initial dogma on down, one can scarcely help but see the 'rationality' of the wild conclusion. Once dogma is accepted, logic can take you on a wild journey, even as there is no flaw or break in the logic itself. This is why it is essential that we consider what dogmata best fit reality, and whose acceptance would make us into the best possible people, and work hard to drive them into our subconscious such that they guide us at all times. Wisdom, justice, temperance and courage, all properly understood, will guide you to act in the best interests of yourself and society, without conflict. Having a dogma is considered in a negative light by most people, yet if you think you are too smart, too rational to need guiding principles, you will still have them, but they will be under the surface, taken by default by your desires, rather than overtly chosen by you. And they will inevitably not be the principles you would have chosen had you actively considered, with an open mind, what would best guide you toward worthy destinations.
One related concept in philosophy is the fact/value dichotomy. From the opening paragraphs of the link:
The direction in intellectual history since the Enlightenment has been to grant to science the authority to
pronounce what is real, true, objective, and rational, while relegating ethics and religion to the realm of
subjective opinion and nonrational experience.
Once this definition of knowledge is conceded, then any position that appears to be backed by science
will ultimately triumph in the public square over any position that appears based on ethics or religion.
--Nancy Pearcey

Traditional beliefs and institutions do not have to be annihilated; it is sufficient to drain them of their
ancient meanings and fill them with others—particularly if they are reduced to the realm of the subjective
and therefore private, of “values” that cannot be “imposed” on others.
--James Hitchcock

Concept Control
One of the most significant struggles in the marketplace of ideas takes place
over the control of the terms of discourse. Those who can frame a controversial
issue in terms they prefer have a great advantage in shaping public opinion.
“Are you pro-choice or anti-choice?” is a typical example of this kind of framing.
Concept control might be thought of as rigging the debate: You must talk about
this controversial issue using my categories, terms, and definitions. As a result,
those who have the power to declare the terms of discourse have the power to
determine the outcome of the debate, and further, they have the power to
determine what is accepted as true or false.
The general adoption of the fact/value dichotomy, which comes from Hume's observation that we cannot logically determine "ought from is", has stripped discussion of ethical values of a lot of their power. Hence I can endure criticisms of "propaganda" merely just for advocating for the prominence of ethical considerations, or RJG's frequently-employed detraction on the basis of "cultural indoctrination" when he encounters a set of values and premises that differ from his own. They have adopted their own positions as fact, and conflicting positions as simply the product of a misguided set subjective values.
chewy wrote: Your perception of the world, then, will inevitably be driven by your dogma. You will see new events through the lens of your guiding principle(s), and you will almost always find adequate evidence to support the opinion which fits your system of belief. Think how much pain in the world is driven by this simple breakdown or conflict of perspective. Everyone considers themselves rational, and can't understand why others don't see things their way. These other folks must then be irrational, eh? But neither 'side' is so irrational in the sense that their logic is faulty, but rather they have each built their castle of logic on a different swamp of dogma.

You'll easily release the anger at such disagreements when you understand that the other person has little choice but to arrive at their own separate conclusion when starting out with different guiding principles. When they fail to choose carefully their own guiding principles, they will fall into dogma by accident, by choosing, subconsciously, the dogma that matches their desires. If you choose no principles to guide you, and you have a desire for money, fame, drugs, whatever, then you will somehow find a philosophy which fits your desires, and justifies your actions, even if you don't consciously think about the choice.
I probably owe it to myself to consider this more deeply. I guess I am operating with the false hope that someone who makes an absurd claim will be able to realize it when presented with an effective authoritative argument to the contrary. But it's clear that many debates, like you say, can in fact be the validation or questioning of core guiding principles, and perhaps too close to home for the participants to discuss with real effectiveness. Also I probably ought not let myself get affected as deeply as I do by the mistaken positions of others.
chewy wrote: Here is a long quote from Epictetus to address the point. Note also at the end that he is quite opposed to Epicurus, as I was suggesting he would be. Taking pleasure as an end can lead you the wrong way, even if you try to map it onto virtue as Epicurus does. Pleasure is an external, and as such never fully in your control. Therefore, it should be nothing to you. Go ahead and take it, while always indifferent, ready to be unaffected when it is pulled out from under you. Like money or other externals, don't let it become your guiding principle by choice or by default. This is the other dogma of Epictetus besides the four cardinal virtues--that your focus belongs on your attitude, opinions and actions, which you control, and never on anything external, lest you become that madman by following the logic from the wrong dogma on to the wrong end.
I think there is a deep link here between stoicism and existentialism. Consider Frankl's quote, given in the context of his experience of surviving the holocaust: Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

I also admire stoicism for how easily it lends itself to conversion to actionable heuristics, which I think is an important component for a set of guiding principles.
The beginning of philosophy to him at least who enters on it in the right way and by the door, is a consciousness of his own weakness and inability about necessary things. For we come into the world with no natural notion of a right-angled triangle, or of a diesis, or of a half tone; but we learn each of these things by a certain transmission according to art; and for this reason those who do not know them, do not think that they know them. But as to good and evil, and beautiful and ugly, and becoming and unbecoming, and happiness and misfortune, and proper and improper, and what we ought to do and what we ought not to do, whoever came into the world without having an innate idea of them? Wherefore we all use these names, and we endeavor to fit the preconceptions to the several cases thus: "He has done well, he has not done well; he has done as he ought, not as he ought; he has been unfortunate, he has been fortunate; he is unjust, he is just": who does not use these names? who among us defers the use of them till he has learned them, as he defers the use of the words about lines or sounds? And the cause of this is that we come into the world already taught as it were by nature some things on this matter, and proceeding from these we have added to them self-conceit. "For why," a man says, "do I not know the beautiful and the ugly? Have I not the notion of it?" You have. "Do I not adapt it to particulars?" You do. "Do I not then adapt it properly?" In that lies the whole question; and conceit is added here. For, beginning from these things which are admitted, men proceed to that which is matter of dispute by means of unsuitable adaptation; for if they possessed this power of adaptation in addition to those things, what would hinder them from being perfect? But now since you think that you properly adapt the preconceptions to the particulars, tell me whence you derive this. Because I think so. But it does not seem so to another, and he thinks that he also makes a proper adaptation; or does he not think so? He does think so. Is it possible then that both of you can properly apply the preconceptions to things about which you have contrary opinions? It is not possible. Can you then show us anything better toward adapting the preconceptions beyond your thinking that you do? Does the madman do any other things than the things as in which seem to him right? Is then this criterion for him also? It is not sufficient. Come then to something which is superior to seeming. What is this?

Observe, this is the beginning of philosophy, a perception of the disagreement of men with one another, and an inquiry into the cause of the disagreement, and a condemnation and distrust of that which only "seems," and a certain investigation of that which "seems" whether it "seems" rightly, and a discovery of some rule, as we have discovered a balance in the determination of weights, and a carpenter's rule in the case of straight and crooked things. This is the beginning of philosophy. "Must we say that all things are right which seem so to all?" And how is it possible that contradictions can be right? "Not all then, but all which seem to us to be right." How more to you than those which seem right to the Syrians? why more than what seem right to the Egyptians? why more than what seems right to me or to any other man? "Not at all more." What then "seems" to every man is not sufficient for determining what "is"; for neither in the case of weights or measures are we satisfied with the bare appearance, but in each case we have discovered a certain rule. In this matter then is there no rule certain to what "seems?" And how is it possible that the most necessary things among men should have no sign, and be incapable of being discovered? There is then some rule. And why then do we not seek the rule and discover it, and afterward use it without varying from it, not even stretching out the finger without it? For this, I think, is that which when it is discovered cures of their madness those who use mere "seeming" as a measure, and misuse it; so that for the future proceeding from certain things known and made clear we may use in the case of particular things the preconceptions which are distinctly fixed.

What is the matter presented to us about which we are inquiring? "Pleasure." Subject it to the rule, throw it into the balance. Ought the good to be such a thing that it is fit that we have confidence in it? "Yes." And in which we ought to confide? "It ought to be." Is it fit to trust to anything which is insecure? "No." Is then pleasure anything secure? "No." Take it then and throw it out of the scale, and drive it far away from the place of good things. But if you are not sharp-sighted, and one balance is not enough for you, bring another. Is it fit to be elated over what is good? "Yes." Is it proper then to be elated over present pleasure? See that you do not say that it is proper; but if you do, I shall then not think you are worthy even of the balance. Thus things are tested and weighed when the rules are ready. And to philosophize is this, to examine and confirm the rules; and then to use them when they are known is the act of a wise and good man.

--Epictetus, The Discourses
I think it's impressive how quickly you honed in on the exact relevant quotes that point out what is happening in this thread.

Paul Graham has a piece where he talks about "moral fashion", and how easily we can be hindered from discussing any ideas that conflict with the prevailing norms of the present. I used to wonder with some frequency if, had my previous incarnation been alive during the rise of the Third Reich, for example, if I would have been able to recognize if I was vulnerable to some terrible moral fashion like hating Jews or something of that nature. I think that this concept addressed here by Epictetus, in recognizing the fallibility of "seems", can provide some degree of shielding. But I think there's a few things that scare me here. One is the fact that if too many believe in something that appears to help, we have no longer have a safety net from these ideas if it turns out there's some long-tail harm in store for us. The other is that those in power can increasingly have the availability of certain moral hazards, so that they are not the ones to pay the cost of their madness. I mean, I can admire the stoics, but I'm not sure I want the world to be a few Machiavellis and the rest of us living like Diogenes. How does a stoic defend himself from the madness of the masses?
You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg.

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chewybrian
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Re: The Seven Blunders of The World

Post by chewybrian » December 26th, 2018, 6:37 am

Interesting stuff, and it seems you have a few ideas for new threads buried in there.
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
I also find this idea somewhat compelling but fear that this comes with the downside of reinforcing the infrastructure that seeks to compel our slavery to convenience and other Pyrrhic desires.
I'm not sure this is where you were going, but I would be interested in others' opinions on our car culture. I think we are hurting ourselves in the end by subsidizing travel by car, rather than paying by the mile. Gas might need to be $10 a gallon or more to pay as we go, but remember that we have to pay the price either way. With our current methods of payment, everyone faces a false decision when they choose to drive or not, so they make poor decisions in terms of economics. We locate our homes many miles from work and shopping, build big box stores and expect everyone to drive across town for every little thing. We don't have useful public transportation or pedestrian or cycling access to most places. And, our health is suffering because driving has become the only practical option in many cases. If we had paid the real cost as we drove, people would have made many different decisions, and our country would probably look a lot different right now.

Wouldn't we benefit if our decisions were aligned with economic reality, instead of fooling ourselves into thinking we are getting a free ride?
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
I would hope that we could continue to shift the core mindset around money away from "What can I get for my dollar?" to "Who does my dollar empower with each purchase?
Continue? It's way too easy for folks to sort the entire world by price and take the cheapest. It takes a lot more work to find out why it is the cheapest, and to consider the impacts of your decisions on others. Cognitive dissonance seems to be lacking, and I don't know how we restore it.
The direction in intellectual history since the Enlightenment has been to grant to science the authority to
pronounce what is real, true, objective, and rational, while relegating ethics and religion to the realm of
subjective opinion and nonrational experience.
Once this definition of knowledge is conceded, then any position that appears to be backed by science
will ultimately triumph in the public square over any position that appears based on ethics or religion.
--Nancy Pearcey
I think we threw the baby out with the bathwater. We find less need for religion, yet there is no less need for ethics or morality. Since most of my reading has been from the ancients or the enlightenment, I was shocked to arrive here and find most people wanting to discuss epistemology and have little regard for worries about virtue. They are facing off with the final boss without passing through level one (which is not to say that getting your morals in place is easy).
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
They have adopted their own positions as fact, and conflicting positions as simply the product of a misguided set subjective values.
This is the way of politics, but not the way of philosophy. It is very frustrating to see this tactic here, and a bit ironic when people do this because they think their position has the stamp of approval of science or logic. It's easy to stack the logic onto an assumption and forget that the trail of logic began with an assumption that was unproven.
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
I think there is a deep link here between stoicism and existentialism. Consider Frankl's quote, given in the context of his experience of surviving the holocaust: Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
They both offer categorical imperatives that do not need to come down from the mountain on a stone tablet. They both hold you accountable for your decisions, but I think stoicism does a better job of helping you see that doing the right thing benefits you as well as others.
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
I also admire stoicism for how easily it lends itself to conversion to actionable heuristics, which I think is an important component for a set of guiding principles.
It is a philosophy of action: study-learn-practice.
...when he rises in the morning, if he observes and keeps these rules, bathes as a man of fidelity, eats as a modest man; in like manner, if in every matter that occurs he works out his chief principles as the runner does with reference to running, and the trainer of the voice with reference to the voice- this is the man who truly makes progress, and this is the man who has not traveled in vain. But if he has strained his efforts to the practice of reading books, and labours only at this, and has traveled for this, I tell him to return home immediately, and not to neglect his affairs there; for this for which he has traveled is nothing.
If you read it, understand it, and assent to the assertions made, then you are compelled to act by your own reason, and reinforced and encouraged on by the tranquility which ensues.
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
I think it's impressive how quickly you honed in on the exact relevant quotes that point out what is happening in this thread.
Like Seinfeld or the Simpsons, there is a quote to apply to almost any situation, and also like Seinfeld or the Simpsons, I have so much exposure to the material that I can often recall one from memory. It is a natural result of that 'study-learn-practice' loop.
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
I used to wonder with some frequency if, had my previous incarnation been alive during the rise of the Third Reich, for example, if I would have been able to recognize if I was vulnerable to some terrible moral fashion like hating Jews or something of that nature.
It's sad to think how vulnerable we all are to the herd mentality. Take the high percentage of people who went along with the Nazis and compare that to the high percentage of people, I presume, who don't think they would go along with a movement like that if it came along today. We all tend to think we are good and rational, and fail to acknowledge how bad we are at making decisions.
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
How does a stoic defend himself from the madness of the masses?
He doesn't.
If you ever happen to turn your attention to externals, so as to wish to please anyone, be assured that you have ruined your scheme of life. Be contented, then, in everything with being a philosopher; and, if you wish to be thought so likewise by anyone, appear so to yourself, and it will suffice you...

When any person harms you, or speaks badly of you, remember that he acts or speaks from a supposition of its being his duty. Now, it is not possible that he should follow what appears right to you, but what appears so to himself. Therefore, if he judges from a wrong appearance, he is the person hurt, since he too is the person deceived. For if anyone should suppose a true proposition to be false, the proposition is not hurt, but he who is deceived about it. Setting out, then, from these principles, you will meekly bear a person who reviles you, for you will say upon every occasion, "It seemed so to him."...

The condition and characteristic of a vulgar person, is, that he never expects either benefit or hurt from himself, but from externals. The condition and characteristic of a philosopher is, that he expects all hurt and benefit from himself. The marks of a proficient are, that he censures no one, praises no one, blames no one, accuses no one, says nothing concerning himself as being anybody, or knowing anything: when he is, in any instance, hindered or restrained, he accuses himself; and, if he is praised, he secretly laughs at the person who praises him; and, if he is censured, he makes no defense...

If anyone tells you that such a person speaks ill of you, don't make excuses about what is said of you, but answer: " He does not know my other faults, else he would not have mentioned only these."
The opinions and actions of others are external and therefore outside your control. As such, you must be indifferent to them, so they do not affect your happiness. Your impact on society should come mostly by example, but not by preaching. If you have provided your neighbors or your country with a good and productive citizen, you have done your part, and the rest is up to someone else. After all, a lot of stoicism is about not trying to work above our pay grade, where you might fail in the job you are attempting, and also fail to provide society with the benefit of the 'lower' job you could have done well. Work within yourself, and you will be both happier and more productive.
Besides, which would you rather have, a sum of money, or a friend of fidelity and honor? Rather assist me, then, to gain this character than require me to do those things by which I may lose it. Well, but my country, say you, as far as depends on me, will be unassisted. Here again, what assistance is this you mean? "It will not have porticoes nor baths of your providing." And what signifies that? Why, neither does a smith provide it with shoes, or a shoemaker with arms. It is enough if everyone fully performs his own proper business. And were you to supply it with another citizen of honor and fidelity, would not he be of use to it? Yes. Therefore neither are you yourself useless to it. "What place, then, say you, will I hold in the state?" Whatever you can hold with the preservation of your fidelity and honor. But if, by desiring to be useful to that, you lose these, of what use can you be to your country when you are become faithless and void of shame.
(Unattributed quotes are from the Enchiridion of Epictetus)

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ktz
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Re: The Seven Blunders of The World

Post by ktz » January 4th, 2019, 3:24 am

chewybrian wrote:
December 26th, 2018, 6:37 am
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
I also find this idea somewhat compelling but fear that this comes with the downside of reinforcing the infrastructure that seeks to compel our slavery to convenience and other Pyrrhic desires.
I'm not sure this is where you were going, but I would be interested in others' opinions on our car culture. I think we are hurting ourselves in the end by subsidizing travel by car, rather than paying by the mile. Gas might need to be $10 a gallon or more to pay as we go, but remember that we have to pay the price either way. With our current methods of payment, everyone faces a false decision when they choose to drive or not, so they make poor decisions in terms of economics. We locate our homes many miles from work and shopping, build big box stores and expect everyone to drive across town for every little thing. We don't have useful public transportation or pedestrian or cycling access to most places. And, our health is suffering because driving has become the only practical option in many cases. If we had paid the real cost as we drove, people would have made many different decisions, and our country would probably look a lot different right now.
Yes, these phenomena that you are making reference to, urban sprawl and the well-executed regulatory capture by the oil industry, are great examples of self-imposed slavery I'm talking about here. Donald Knuth has a quip about it in the context of programming -- "Premature optimization is the root of all evil", and I think American car culture, post-GM streetcar conspiracy, definitely fits the bill there.

If you are interested in this topic of urban sprawl in particular, I might point you in the direction of Jane Jacobs's seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which, although I had no particular interest in urban planning beforehand, I found to be full of interesting cross-disciplinary insights, including how cars, and the parking and highway infrastructure they require, can ultimately be toxic to the cultural experience of a city.

I frequently lean on this concept of the tyranny of convenience to explain a lot of diverse undesirable phenomena and misallocations of resources in my current worldview. The original topics I hand in mind when I mentioned the idea were anti-neoliberal rants about the IMF's usury, as well as the reliance on cheap overseas labor that continues to cripple western manufacturing infrastructure, and then also things related to the advertising industrial complex, like that of Google and Facebook, where it turns out that if we allow ourselves to be captured by the convenience of these "free" services, we ultimately pay the price ten-fold in our empowerment of sketchy data brokers and tracking companies that exploit us and profit off our loss of privacy, with weird and unpredictable consequences like the proliferation of Russian propaganda bots running rampant.
chewybrian wrote: Wouldn't we benefit if our decisions were aligned with economic reality, instead of fooling ourselves into thinking we are getting a free ride?
It's nice to be able to talk about collective alignment with economic reality with the benefit of hindsight, but in practice, one significant systemic problem is that every individual actor is making an essentially rational decision at the game theoretic level. It makes game theoretic sense for the individual to drive to the big box store sale across town -- gas is cheap, but even if it wasn't they have inelastic demands that have to get met one way or the other. And on the political level, well just look at what happened to poor Jimmy Carter when he tried to do the right thing and begin the transition to clean energy via the OPEC embargo -- the resulting hiked gas prices and stagflation torpedoed his approval rating and reduced his legacy to a one term presidency and some pardons for the Reaganite felons involved in the whole Iran-Contra debacle. In light of that, each politician that we can demonize for corruption is nevertheless acting rationally, taking their kickbacks from the oil companies as they can get them and not risking the wrath of the shortsighted public, who only cares about how much it's going to cost them to drive to that big box store across town, day after day.

So, alignment with economic reality has a certain baseline education as a prerequisite, which is a challenge enough, but even beyond that it requires individual and government actors to make short-term sacrifices or take political risks, and those actions, simply put, are really hard to do. They require a collective JFK-style buy-in that just isn't supported by the individualist culture we have established at this point in time -- just look at the avian individual who provoked me into making this thread if you want an example of that. Freeriding is easy and profitable in the short term -- if you're someone living without the qualms imposed by pesky morals and ethics, why do anything else if you don't have to?

The late Karl Polanyi, sort of a Van Gogh among post-Marxist thinkers in that his work was not appreciated during his lifetime, I think makes a good point about this topic in his book The Great Transformation when he gets into some of the limitations of self-regulating markets. One problem he describes is that when the market needs to correct itself in a way that requires a negative outcome, like increased unemployment or inflation -- the cost is borne disproportionately by the poor, which creates a moral hazard for the policy makers that are often bourgeois enough to reap all the benefits but remain untouched by the consequences of their actions when the time comes to pay the piper. In the car culture example, I imagine the oil barons know they will be long dead by the time the climate consequences come around, and why should they care what alleged challenges their grandchildren will have to face when there is so much damn money to be made? And those most affected by the misalignment with economic reality in many cases have the least power to challenge the injustice of the costs they bear.

I'm probably getting a bit too political here, but I think my position is basically summarized in the book The Big Short, when Wall Street analyst Steve Eisman talks about an epiphany he had -- 'When you’re a conservative Republican, you never think people are making money by ripping other people off,” he said. His mind was now fully open to the possibility. “I now realized there was an entire industry, called consumer finance, that basically existed to rip people off.'
chewybrian wrote:
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
I would hope that we could continue to shift the core mindset around money away from "What can I get for my dollar?" to "Who does my dollar empower with each purchase?
Continue? It's way too easy for folks to sort the entire world by price and take the cheapest. It takes a lot more work to find out why it is the cheapest, and to consider the impacts of your decisions on others. Cognitive dissonance seems to be lacking, and I don't know how we restore it.
This is true -- certainly we are a long way from serious, well-organized usage of the technique right now, but I use the word continue because I at least see a semblance of awareness of the power of boycotts and other techniques to exert moral pressure within a capitalist framework in the post-civil rights world. The loss of the Alien Tort statute that human rights advocates were using to pressure corporations for complicity in human rights abuses is a pretty unfortunate development in my opinion -- the Radiolab sister podcast, More Perfect, did a nice piece on this called Enemy of Mankind. Randomly you see collective twitter outrage being able to exert pressure on corporations, although this technique seems to be in a pretty adolescent state of development, as it seems to be equally likely to get James Gunn getting fired off his movie or Kevin Hart fired from the Oscars as it is to cut into the profits of Chick Fil-A's anti-LGBTQ management. But you're right, muckraking journalism is a dying breed so it becomes harder and harder to find out the dirty laundry of Nike's sweatshops, Coca Cola's Colombian murders, or Singapore's palm oil deforestation.

Overall, I agree with you in that this approach definitely faces significant challenges, and in fact I saw an interesting position on capitalism a few years back by NYU professor Vivek Chibber where he talks about how capitalism manages to survive despite how it "digs its own grave" by creating a proletariat vulnerable to exploitation and prone to social unrest: because the challenge of organizing effective collective action is so great that it frequently becomes easier to resign oneself to the coercive mechanisms of capitalism than to try and effectively fight the rent-seeking bourgeois for labor rights. Still, I remain optimistic -- light-speed communication technologies are still in their adolescence, and even if the demonstrations in Belarus, Ukraine, Greece, as well as the Arab Spring beginning with the Tahrir Square protests were ultimately debatable in what they accomplished the end result, they definitely show some initial promise for the power of collective action in a modern context.
chewybrian wrote:
The direction in intellectual history since the Enlightenment has been to grant to science the authority to
pronounce what is real, true, objective, and rational, while relegating ethics and religion to the realm of
subjective opinion and nonrational experience.
Once this definition of knowledge is conceded, then any position that appears to be backed by science
will ultimately triumph in the public square over any position that appears based on ethics or religion.
--Nancy Pearcey
I think we threw the baby out with the bathwater. We find less need for religion, yet there is no less need for ethics or morality. Since most of my reading has been from the ancients or the enlightenment, I was shocked to arrive here and find most people wanting to discuss epistemology and have little regard for worries about virtue. They are facing off with the final boss without passing through level one (which is not to say that getting your morals in place is easy).
Right, and I'd go even further and make the case that with so many billions more people on the planet, the stakes have only gotten higher, and as technology develops each individual becomes more and more empowered to make a difference for good or for ill. Sometimes I get this pang of regret that Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans ultimately lost the battle for states rights and the power of small communities -- the insane risks and unstoppable inertia posed by the centralization of power is one of the things I'm most afraid of in the modern world. I mean, seriously, what sense does it make that rogue traders betting pension funds on Americans paying back their sub-prime mortgages could end up causing an economic calamity of global proportions back in 2008?
chewybrian wrote:
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
They have adopted their own positions as fact, and conflicting positions as simply the product of a misguided set subjective values.
This is the way of politics, but not the way of philosophy. It is very frustrating to see this tactic here, and a bit ironic when people do this because they think their position has the stamp of approval of science or logic. It's easy to stack the logic onto an assumption and forget that the trail of logic began with an assumption that was unproven.
Right... the impossibility of getting the individual to see the shadows of their cave is really a bit frustrating... my encounters with specific individuals on this forum readily come to mind here. We can call it out as we see it, but it certainly evokes the sense of pushing a large boulder up a hill.
chewybrian wrote:
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
I also admire stoicism for how easily it lends itself to conversion to actionable heuristics, which I think is an important component for a set of guiding principles.
It is a philosophy of action: study-learn-practice.
Just curious -- is this a canonical approach from one of the stoics themselves, or is this something you have developed in your own praxis?
chewybrian wrote:
ktz wrote:
December 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
How does a stoic defend himself from the madness of the masses?
He doesn't.
If you ever happen to turn your attention to externals, so as to wish to please anyone, be assured that you have ruined your scheme of life. Be contented, then, in everything with being a philosopher; and, if you wish to be thought so likewise by anyone, appear so to yourself, and it will suffice you...

When any person harms you, or speaks badly of you, remember that he acts or speaks from a supposition of its being his duty. Now, it is not possible that he should follow what appears right to you, but what appears so to himself. Therefore, if he judges from a wrong appearance, he is the person hurt, since he too is the person deceived. For if anyone should suppose a true proposition to be false, the proposition is not hurt, but he who is deceived about it. Setting out, then, from these principles, you will meekly bear a person who reviles you, for you will say upon every occasion, "It seemed so to him."...

The condition and characteristic of a vulgar person, is, that he never expects either benefit or hurt from himself, but from externals. The condition and characteristic of a philosopher is, that he expects all hurt and benefit from himself. The marks of a proficient are, that he censures no one, praises no one, blames no one, accuses no one, says nothing concerning himself as being anybody, or knowing anything: when he is, in any instance, hindered or restrained, he accuses himself; and, if he is praised, he secretly laughs at the person who praises him; and, if he is censured, he makes no defense...

If anyone tells you that such a person speaks ill of you, don't make excuses about what is said of you, but answer: " He does not know my other faults, else he would not have mentioned only these."
The opinions and actions of others are external and therefore outside your control. As such, you must be indifferent to them, so they do not affect your happiness. Your impact on society should come mostly by example, but not by preaching. If you have provided your neighbors or your country with a good and productive citizen, you have done your part, and the rest is up to someone else. After all, a lot of stoicism is about not trying to work above our pay grade, where you might fail in the job you are attempting, and also fail to provide society with the benefit of the 'lower' job you could have done well. Work within yourself, and you will be both happier and more productive.
Besides, which would you rather have, a sum of money, or a friend of fidelity and honor? Rather assist me, then, to gain this character than require me to do those things by which I may lose it. Well, but my country, say you, as far as depends on me, will be unassisted. Here again, what assistance is this you mean? "It will not have porticoes nor baths of your providing." And what signifies that? Why, neither does a smith provide it with shoes, or a shoemaker with arms. It is enough if everyone fully performs his own proper business. And were you to supply it with another citizen of honor and fidelity, would not he be of use to it? Yes. Therefore neither are you yourself useless to it. "What place, then, say you, will I hold in the state?" Whatever you can hold with the preservation of your fidelity and honor. But if, by desiring to be useful to that, you lose these, of what use can you be to your country when you are become faithless and void of shame.
(Unattributed quotes are from the Enchiridion of Epictetus)
This is sensible, and matches my intuition -- you have my gratitude once again for the insight. This forum has felt like a bit of a timesink to me overall, but I think the benefit of the stoic tradition that you have offered through your guidance in the other thread as well as this one, if I can eventually put it into effective practice, will have made the time spent here worth the trouble. I certainly hope I can develop into one of these friends of fidelity and honor that y'all are talking about here, faithless and void of shame.
You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg.

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Re: The Seven Blunders of The World

Post by chewybrian » January 7th, 2019, 8:11 am

ktz wrote:
January 4th, 2019, 3:24 am
I frequently lean on this concept of the tyranny of convenience to explain a lot of diverse undesirable phenomena and misallocations of resources in my current worldview.
The stoics also think that too much luxury and convenience is harmful. If you try to avoid all the harsh truths of life, then they will only hit you harder when they inevitably come your way. Probably the most stoic thing I've done is to live without a car for about a decade now. The benefits are surprising. By cycling I lost 100 pounds, got healthier and made great strides against my anxiety and depression. The money I saved paid for my condo and funds my 401K. Being without a car is considered a life and death crisis for most folks, but it has been the most liberating and life enriching experience, beyond anything I could have imagined.

Stoics often challenge themselves in small ways, like fasting, taking cold showers and such, to brace themselves against harsh realities which may come their way. They are not really luddites, but temperance is a virtue, and it does pay dividends. At minimum, technology and conveniences should be seen as indifferent. If you are distressed at losing them, something is wrong, and you need to practice losing such things.
...the reliance on cheap overseas labor that continues to cripple western manufacturing infrastructure...
It seems like China is taking advantage of our greed and short term thinking to take us down. They are sucking in all the manufacturing by allowing them to operate without any pesky labor laws, human rights, copyright or patent laws, environmental concerns... The multinational corporations have little choice but to take advantage of the offer. Eventually, they will call our debt due, and when we can not pay, they will nationalize all the manufacturing, and enjoy the same economic and military edge we had after WWII. Check mate?
It's nice to be able to talk about collective alignment with economic reality with the benefit of hindsight, but in practice, one significant systemic problem is that every individual actor is making an essentially rational decision at the game theoretic level. It makes game theoretic sense for the individual to drive to the big box store sale across town -- gas is cheap, but even if it wasn't they have inelastic demands that have to get met one way or the other. And on the political level, well just look at what happened to poor Jimmy Carter when he tried to do the right thing and begin the transition to clean energy via the OPEC embargo -- the resulting hiked gas prices and stagflation torpedoed his approval rating and reduced his legacy to a one term presidency and some pardons for the Reaganite felons involved in the whole Iran-Contra debacle. In light of that, each politician that we can demonize for corruption is nevertheless acting rationally, taking their kickbacks from the oil companies as they can get them and not risking the wrath of the shortsighted public, who only cares about how much it's going to cost them to drive to that big box store across town, day after day.
But those individuals are only being rational within the false framework of the economics put in place by the incentives, subsidies and penalties. Those sometimes well intended subsidies can have disastrous results, as in the housing crisis. If there were no mortgage guarantees, there would have been no bubble to burst. Also, if there was no mortgage interest deduction, we would tend to build smaller houses, which would be more efficient, costing less to maintain and taking less land and resources, and freeing up money to invest in more profitable places. There seems to be no way to go back once these incentives are put in place, though, as they become 'rights' in the minds of the public. They can see the cheap gas and the low priced crap at Walmart, but they can not see the cost of sprawl or the connection to the lost manufacturing jobs.
chewybrian wrote:

It is a philosophy of action: study-learn-practice.
Just curious -- is this a canonical approach from one of the stoics themselves, or is this something you have developed in your own praxis?
This is consistent with stoic philosophy:
It is no common thing to do this only, to fulfill the promise of a man's nature. For what is a man? The answer is: "A rational and mortal being."...When is a disjunctive maintained? When it fulfills what it promises....Thus modest actions preserve the modest man, and immodest actions destroy him: and actions of fidelity preserve the faithful man, and the contrary actions destroy him. ...For this reason philosophers admonish us not to be satisfied with learning only, but also to add study, and then practice. For we have long been accustomed to do contrary things, and we put in practice opinions which are contrary to true opinions. If then we shall not also put in practice right opinions, we shall be nothing more than the expositors of the opinions of others.--Epictetus, "Discourses"
It is also spelled out in the Daily Stoic:

--------------study/learn---practice---train

will-----------logic---------judgment--wisdom

action-------ethics---------duty-------justice/courage

desires------physics--------habit-----self-control

The idea is to work your way up from the bottom left to the top right:

desires--

physics=understand what is and is not in your control,

habit=align your desires and aversions with this understanding,

self-control=learn to control your desires and aversions (temperance)

action--

ethics=learn what is consistent with the common good,

duty=fulfill the duties implied by your relationships with others, as a son or father, neighbor, etc.,

justice/courage=act justly and don't fail to act when action is warranted

will--

logic=learn why just acts are just (epistomology),

judgment=apply judgment to difficult issues (avoid tackling these before you are ready),

wisdom=become wise, approach the status of 'sage' (this is the target, but you can only approach it)
This is sensible, and matches my intuition -- you have my gratitude once again for the insight. This forum has felt like a bit of a timesink to me overall, but I think the benefit of the stoic tradition that you have offered through your guidance in the other thread as well as this one, if I can eventually put it into effective practice, will have made the time spent here worth the trouble. I certainly hope I can develop into one of these friends of fidelity and honor that y'all are talking about here, faithless and void of shame.
I feel the same. I have been disappointed with the tone and the content of the forum overall. My criticism would be that most of us are trying to work way above our pay grade. We want to discuss and 'solve' the unsolvable issues. In doing so, we implicitly assume we have the 'simple' issues of ethics under our belt, and of course we do not. Few of us are ready for the giant dose of humility that real philosophy requires, and would rather show what we think we know than learn what we don't.

I am glad if you gathered anything useful about stoicism from my ramblings, and I enjoy discussing it in any case. If anyone finds comfort in it, then I feel like my time here was well spent for that alone. Stoic philosophy is the most valuable information I've ever stumbled upon. But, few people are receptive enough to give it a fair chance such that they can gather it in. If you do, I think you will find it worth the effort. If you have issues like depression, anxiety or anger, then I would say run to it and get busy right away, as the benefits will be even greater and more certain.

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