Saturday, February 21, 2015
Friday, January 16, 2015
- Christopher Alexander, Notes on the Synthesis of Form (PDF)
- Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, & Murray Silverstein, A Pattern Language (PDF)
- Martin Daly & Margo Wilson, Homicide
- Philippe Rochat, Others in Mind: The Social Origins of Self-Consciousness
- Roy Baumeister, Meanings of Life
- Keith Johnstone, Impro: Improvisation and the Theater
- Aidan Kavanagh, On Liturgical Theology
- Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
- Donald E. Brown, Human Universals
- Alex Messoudi, Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture & Synthesize the Social Sciences
- Matthew Hurley, Daniel Dennett, & Reginald Adams Jr., Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind
- Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (PDF)
- Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
- W.Y. Evans-Wentz, The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries (text)
- Amy Chua, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Terror
- Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip
- Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (PDF)
- David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been
- Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race
- Adam Seligman & Robert Weller, Rethinking Pluralism: Ritual, Experience, and Ambiguity
- Roger Schank, Tell Me a Story: A New Look at Real and Artificial Memory
- Linda Dégh, American Folklore and the Mass Media
- Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (PDF
- Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (PDF)
- Carl Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle
Saturday, January 10, 2015
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Also, if you like, check out my recent work on my other, wordpress View From Hell blog on cultural evolution. (I have been progressively avoiding blogspot as it has become progressively unfriendly as a tool, and will likely migrate over to a wordpress blog in the future.)
Thanks to everyone for your support and patience!
Monday, November 3, 2014
Suppose an eight-year-old writes a story about being chased down a mouse-hole by a monstrous spider. It'll be perceived as 'childish' and no one will worry. If he writes the same story when he's fourteen it may be taken as a sign of mental abnormality. Creating a story, or painting a picture, or making up a poem lay an adolescent wide open to criticism. He therefore has to fake everything so that he appears 'sensitive' or 'witty' or 'tough' or 'intelligent' according to the image he's trying to establish in the eyes of other people. If he believed he was a transmitter, rather than a creator, then we'd be able to see what his talents really were.Keith Johnstone, Impro, pp. 78-79. One of the most important books that exists.
We have an idea that art is self-expression — which historically is weird. An artist used to be seen as a medium through which something else operated. He was a servant of the God. Maybe a mask-maker would have fasted and prayed for a week before he had a vision of the Mask he was to carve, because no one wanted to se his Mask, they wanted to see the God's. When Eskimos believed that each piece of bone only had one shape inside it, then the artist didn't have to 'think up' an idea. He had to wait until he knew what was in there — and this is crucial. When he'd finished carving his friends couldn't say 'I'm a bit worried about that Nanook at the third igloo', but only, 'He made a mess getting that out!' or 'There are some very odd bits of bone about these days.' These days of course the Eskimos get booklets giving illustrations of what will sell, but before we infected them, they were in contact with a source of inspiration that we are not. It's no wonder that our artists are aberrant characters. It's not surprising that great African sculptors end up carving coffee tables, or that the talent of our children dies the moment we expect them to become adult. Once we believe that art is self-expression, then the individual can be criticised not only for his skill or lack of skill, but simply for being what he is.
Schiller wrote of a 'watcher at the gates of the mind', who examines ideas too closely. He said that in the case of the creative mind 'the intellect has withdrawn its watcher from the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it review and inspect the multitude.' He said that uncreative people 'are ashamed of the momentary passing madness which is found in all real creators . . . regarded in isolation, an idea may be quite insignificant, and venturesome in the extreme, but it may acquire importance from an idea that follows it; perhaps in collation with other ideas which seem equally absurd, it may be capable of furnishing a very serviceable link.'
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Two Patterns, on the structure of public, intimate, and sacred space, and how this structure mirrors that of our conscious selves;
The Last of the Monsters with the Iron Teeth, on the destruction of children's culture; and
Socially Enforced Thought Boundaries, on the nature of community and mental boundaries.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
The first blow changes everything, he says - while the physical pain is surprisingly bearable, the dark realization that the torturer is allowed to do this changes one forever. Help is not coming; there is no help.
"Help" or "support" in this sense is not a function of present material circumstances, but of the community from whom the tortured person is presently cut off. It is a function of their standards, what they will and won't stand for. The idea of "help" in the tortured person's mind is also a function of the community's agency, its ability to miss him and to organize its forces to aid him. It is the community that supports the notion of "help" in his mind, through its sacredness and its actions, and the notion of "help" in his mind fundamentally changes the subjective experience of victimization.
This "help" is justice. It has a component of sacred law - the community's standard for the permissible ways to treat a human being. It has an element of the material, in the sense that the community must gather material force in order to do its duty for its member. It is an idea in each community member's mind, and it being held in common with other community members facilitates the coordination necessary to render material aid. Its sacredness allows it to transcend time, punishing the torturer long after the act of torture occurred, in order to enforce its standards.
The opposite of justice, in this sense of society's "help" existing materially as well as psychologically in victim's minds, transforming their experiences, is Rotherham, UK, police arresting an eleven-year-old girl for being drunk and allowing her rapists to go free.
No person by himself, estranged from a community, can experience justice. Justice is a function of the community, and the community does its duty both psychologically (by having sacred standards) and materially (by coordinating to enforce its sacred standards).
Sunday, September 21, 2014
The final moments of the show are a careful implementation of this advice. The very last two sentences of the finale, if interpreted according to the ordinary cultural connotations for "light" and "darkness," provide a note of hope at the end of a grisly but heroic adventure. The darkness seems to occupy a lot of territory, yes, but once the whole universe was all darkness and no light - and now the light seems to be winning!
However, relating his near-death experience just seconds earlier, Rust Cohle offers a different - and entirely reversed - set of meanings for "light" and "darkness." Darkness - a deeper, darker, warmer darkness than mere unconsciousness - seemed to enfold him peacefully, and he felt surrounded by the love of his deceased small daughter. He "let go," hoping to stay in this darkness, but then he woke up. Back to the light.
This speech and its proximity to the final sentences indicate a smart equivocation - with one voice, "light" and "darkness" have their everyday connotations; with another, they are flipped. The latter voice, consonant with Rust Cohle's earlier presentation of his philosophy, also seems consonant with having just visited the worst basement in literature since Cormac McCarthy's The Road, from which basement, like McCarthy's, no one was rescued.
(Originally published by me at http://pastebin.com/PAUBHAct)
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
One of the cognitive distortions identified by cognitive-behavioral therapists is catastrophizing - the tendency to worry about something uncertain, and then immediately update toward believing that the worst possible outcome is true. Rumination - an involuntary replaying of social memories viewed through a harshly self-critical filter - reliably produces worries for the mind to turn into catastrophes.
At first glance, catastrophizing seems silly and self-defeating. The catastrophes predicted rarely come to pass. So why do brains continue to do this even after years of evidence of their own poor predictive powers? Why would a person tend to instantly and without evidence believe the worst, over and over again?
It is my hypothesis that catastrophizing is a completely rational behavior when viewed from the perspective of a self involuntarily trapped in a mind, attempting to minimize pain inflicted on it by the mind. It is a literal "mind hack" - gaming the emotional and cognitive system, rather than meeting opponents in the external world.
First, the self obtains information about the pain-delivering algorithm of the mind. A major feature of this algorithm, descriptively speaking, is that the worst pain is generally delivered in response to a loss - a loss in resources, perhaps, but more importantly a loss of social status or social belonging. A change in social status or other resources appears to matter much more to the pain-delivery algorithm than absolute levels of either. The mind rewards the self when the level of external resources or social status increases, punishes the self when it falls, and does not do much when it is stable. Another major feature is that a loss has much more impact than an equivalent gain, in absolute terms. The self's best strategy is to minimize the likelihood of loss in the future, and it is motivated to do so by rumination and fear.
However, the self has another option to avoid being punished by the mind for losses over which it has limited or no control: the self can manipulate its own beliefs to avoid perceiving a loss as a loss. It accomplishes this by catastrophizing.
When the self catastrophizes, it updates toward believing that a loss has already happened. Since this epistemic manipulation is, first, imaginary, and second, under one's own control, the ordinary pain response to loss is not engaged. Meanwhile, one's internally-tracked "position" is made less precarious and vulnerable to uncontrollable factors; instead of risking a fall from a tightrope, one climbs down to the bottom by catastrophizing.
Should the catastrophe materialize, the self will not be punished by the mind (as much), since it did not subjectively experience a loss - it experienced the world being the same as it predicted. More commonly, should the catastrophe fail to materialize, the self will experience a reward, since from the self's perspective, its position just went from rock bottom to much improved.
In summary, catastrophizing is a strategy the self employs in order to "game" the reward and punishment system of the mind - in a manner that is likely totally at odds with the genetic interests of the organism hosting the self. Rumination, fear, and the infliction by the mind of intolerable levels of pain or shame are likely predictors of the catastrophizing "mind hack."
Monday, August 11, 2014
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I post as Birgus latro (the coconut crab) - here are my two posts so far:
What is intelligence? - a brief model of the things we mean by intelligence, whether machine or human, and their relationship to consciousness.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
If children produced nothing, Maya parents would have to work 2.5 times as hard as they do to maintain their children’s consumption between the 20th and 33rd years of the family life cycle. Were it not for the economic contributions of children, parents in their fourth and fifth decades would have to increase their work effort by 150%, each parent working more than 16.5 hours a day (real-time hours).
- hard working and helpful, especially at the work of raising a large family;
- self-sufficient at an early age;
- submissive to adults;
- the only path to adult status