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  1. #46
    Illustrious Gambler saintjon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Bakker
    There's a hierarchy of 'bigger' and 'smaller' lies certainly. I think it's safe to assume that 'living a lie' falls on the bigger end of the spectrum! I also think, all things being equal, it's safe to assume that most of us think 'living the truth' preferable to 'living a lie.'
    How could anyone prefer to live a truth that basically says you're a robot? Are you even really living at all at that point? What if this whole thing becomes like the origin of the universe, where there's theories/ findings and theories/findings and however much closer we get we can never quite put our finger on it? As long as there's any gap at all I'm satisfied that it's enough for my identity to slip through. Besides there's truth and then there's truth. You can say all the ingredients of a Mars Bar but overall it's still a Mars Bar.

    I do see there being some wrinkles with the punitive system and all that if all this research produces undeniable final results and honestly I don't know how to approach that problem.

    Also, if my attitude of my bio-switches and whatnot are still me don't work then how is anyone supposed to realistically maintain responsibility about things? I thought the whole point of modern forward thinking was to make more of ourselves, if I have to decieve myself to keep from being less how can you tell me that's wrong?

  2. #47
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    That's where we disagree Scott. I don't think they confuse it at all. I think they know the difference and simply choose the untruth because they can and because it's easier or safer or more comfortable. I don't think people are uncomfortable with untruth and deception. It's part of being an animal in this world. All forms of social persuasion aside from a strict appeal to logic involve tactics and tactics involve posing, being something other than you might truly be if not for what you want to accomplish. I think that we are not at all apalled by untruth and we deal with it and accept it daily. The truth is not really shocking. It's the deception that surprises us.

  3. #48
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    Thanks; I'll chase it down. My sources are Atanasio's The Feeling of What Happens, Dennet's Consciousness Explained, and Edelman's Wider Than the Sky.
    I wish I could actually recommend the Wegner book, but since it put me in a depression for about four months, I'm almost inclined to think people shouldn't read it. I've never read the Edelman, but I recognize the title from the classic Emily Dickinson poem - very cool title. I'm always interested in Dennett, but I'm rarely impressed. Consciousness Explained is quite dated now, but he still stands by his multiple drafts theory of consciousness (he gives an updated version in Sweet Dreams, his most recent book). A better book of his to read on these topics is Freedom Evolves. I've always found Antonio Damasio peculiar: in The Feeling of What Happens, for instance, I simply can't make heads or tails of his 'the feeling of feeling' stuff. The man needs to sort his explanans from his explanandum if you ask me.

    Addendum: In the meantime, based on 20 years of dealing with all three, I'll take a wait and see attitude before changing my world view.
    I'd be a pretty hypocritical skeptic to suggest you do otherwise! But then, that's not what I'm suggesting at all. Again, I am most definitely NOT advocating nihilism. I personally remain committed to the reality of morality and choice and the meaningfulness of life. But more and more, it seems that I have to hold onto these commitments in spite of the sciences of the mind.

    At the same time, if you compare the track record of the thinking that informs your worldview with the track record of the cognitive sciences, I think you'll find there's precious little that recommends it. If we're going to use 'track records' to condition our commitments, then we should do so consistently, otherwise we run the risk of cherry picking: which is to say, bringing up track records only when it serves to confirm our prior attitudes.

    As to the neuroscientific trend, again, IMO, it is analogous to weather forecasting. Everyone can tell you what happens when one molecule traveling at a certain speed and temperature rams its neighbor. They can do this a while and then the total number of molecules involved exceeds their computing capability and forecasters are forced to resort to describing the outcome in terms of probabilities. As I understand it, no weather forecast is good for more than 4 hours. In my neck of the woods, a 20% probability of rain guarantees a thunderstorm and an 80% probability means all we'll get is sweaty.
    Again, this argument that the brain is too complex for us to say anything confuses me. This is simply not the case. We're learning more and more about brain mechanisms all the time. You seem to be making the mistake of taking the conditionality of scientific claims as grounds for dismissing them outright rather than as grounds for conditional belief.

    Knowing how chemicals appear to affect emotions ought to be described with the same probability factors. With the billions of brain cells available to respond to a stimulus, predicting with accuracy anything more than a general emotional response seems to me to not be feasible, despite the trends.
    Again, this is simply not true. Brain function is remarkably consistent given the complexities involved, which is why we humans share so much across vast cultural divides. There's all kinds of stuff they can predict with frightening accuracy, HE. Again, just because they don't have ALL the answers (scientists never do) doesn't mean they have NO answers.

  4. #49
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    That's where we disagree Scott. I don't think they confuse it at all. I think they know the difference and simply choose the untruth because they can and because it's easier or safer or more comfortable.
    So you're saying most people living lies actually know they're living a lie? Since 'being deceived' means 'taking falsehoods for truths' I'm almost inclined to say you're wrong on analytic grounds. In my experience, most people are convinced they're in the right, not vice versa.

  5. #50
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    I think we are talking about two different types of people in two entirely different types of circumstances, most likely reflective of the very different worlds that we both live in.

    If you are in a classroom or seminar and you are debating a much thought out issue, then I would agree with you. But I was speaking for the layman in his everyday life dealing with everyday issues.

    Even on the sports fields when parents and children are involved, the tempers can flare and major arguments can occur. In many cases, the parties know they are behaving in an irational manner based upon what they know is not the truth but wishful thinking (my son is a great ballplayer, when in fact he's not at all) and they will argue that untruth until it comes to blows. Then they will go home and after they calm down, they will feel foolish because they knew all along that he was just mediocre, but they preferred to foster the lie.

  6. #51
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    There may be people who know they're "living a lie" (I wonder wether I'm one of them? and if I am, should I stay out of these discussions so you have an easier time avoiding me? ), and there may be people who don't.

    The problem is, unlike with most normal lies, there's no defined truth we're concealing. It's more like choosing your masks, because you lack a face. It's pretending for the sake of continuity.

    Like Gary, I think most people know they're "living a lie". It's just that - in everyday life - this is not a very useful knowledge, so it tends to be "not present" (forgotten?, ignored?, denied?, suspended?).

    For a long time, now, I have the feeling that what I'm doing and saying and thinking, isn't "really" me, but there's no conception of the "real" me to compare it to. If I'd only do what I can 100 % identify with, I'd do nothing at all. I'd be paralysed. I need these masks I'm wearing to keep going. All I can do is hope that the choice of the masks I'm wearing points to some kind of continuity that I could think of as "me".

    When I say I'm wearing masks, that's not a perfect metaphor. When we wear masks, we can take them off to reveal our real face. But I have no real face, just a variety of masks; and taking off one is putting on another.

    From that position of basic uncertainty, an neuro-scientific account of my masks and mask-choosing-interface would be most welcome. It would provide an objective measure of me-ness. Some kind of knowledge accessible to me via others, that there is something that could be called "me".

    Neuro-science doesn't so much shatter my conception of who I am, it hints at some kind of continuity, that I can't always feel. But if I could compare to a graphic representation of neural patterns I've produced at various times; and if I could tell the difference between those that come from me, and those that come from someone else, then I've got a way of saying that I exist. Like looking at a photograph of my face (I don't look like that! ).

    If neuro-science could really reliably describe personality, I'd love that.

    Does that make any kind of sense?

  7. #52
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    Like Gary, I think most people know they're "living a lie". It's just that - in everyday life - this is not a very useful knowledge, so it tends to be "not present" (forgotten?, ignored?, denied?, suspended?).
    My first response is to say that this confuses fearing that one lives a lie with 'knowing.' Now obviously people know there are times when they are full of **** and times when they are not. But to say that most people know they're living a lie? Don't you think that's extreme? All we have are the self-reports of others to go on, and as far as I know, nothing like this has come up in studies of life satisfaction.

    The problem is, unlike with most normal lies, there's no defined truth we're concealing. It's more like choosing your masks, because you lack a face. It's pretending for the sake of continuity.
    Awesome image, but the analogy should be that we can't recognize the face. There are facts of the matter. Actually, that's the whole damn problem.

  8. #53
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Bakker
    My first response is to say that this confuses fearing that one lives a lie with 'knowing.' Now obviously people know there are times when they are full of **** and times when they are not. But to say that most people know they're living a lie? Don't you think that's extreme? All we have are the self-reports of others to go on, and as far as I know, nothing like this has come up in studies of life satisfaction.
    "Fearing" sounds better, I agree. And yes, I do think "knowing" is a bit extreme. But, then again I did put the phrase "living a lie" in inverted commas (just like now).

    I'm not happy with the phrase in the context, because of the connotations of concealing the truth. If we're "living a lie" here, then it's not like we're ursurping the throne by pretending to be the heir. It's not like we're pretending to be surgeons. It's more basic than that.

    Awesome image, but the analogy should be that we can't recognize the face. There are facts of the matter. Actually, that's the whole damn problem.
    I thought of that; I thought, perhaps all we lack is a mirror. But then, who says that we actually have a face, and not just an mask-holding appliance that is compatible to some masks but not others?

    I agree that there are facts of the matter (assuming you're referring to neuro-scientific findings, here). But whether they discribe a "face" or "mask-compatibility", I'm not sure. I'm on shaky ground here, as I don't know neuro-science very well.

    What I'm wondering is whether we pattern our recognition of personality traits after our recognition of physical traits, intuitively expecting the same continuity that physical features display. What I'm not sure about is this: how closely linked is our personality to the winding surface of our brains? How significant is the difference that physical structures are always there, but synapses and neuro-receptors only trigger personality when they're activated by neural input?

  9. #54
    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner
    Even on the sports fields when parents and children are involved, the tempers can flare and major arguments can occur. In many cases, the parties know they are behaving in an irational manner based upon what they know is not the truth but wishful thinking (my son is a great ballplayer, when in fact he's not at all) and they will argue that untruth until it comes to blows. Then they will go home and after they calm down, they will feel foolish because they knew all along that he was just mediocre, but they preferred to foster the lie.
    Isn't that the point? At the time, the parent of the son irrationly believes their child to be a great ballplayer, but only see's later that they were deceiving themselves. People very rarely, if ever, deceive themselves in the dispassionate way you seem to suggesting. They don't say to themselves: 'well, I know this is false, but I will act in such a way that suggests I think it is true.' Which is why people usually feel foolish afterwards, because at the time they genuinely believed what they said, but were too blind to realise their reasons were irrational.

  10. #55
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    At the moment they believed. We use all of these words so loosely. If it was a conscious decision to accept a set of premises, then I could agree that at the moment they believed. But But more likely than not, they didn't even think about the premises, and they propagated the lie becasue of other emotions altogether. They more often than not don't believe in the point of the argument at all. They don't even consider the reason for their behaviour. The passions conceal the point. So they consciously or unconsciously accept the lie as part and parcel of their daily routine.

    We are always attempting to learn the truth about ourselves, even when we doubt that such a thing exists. But we never cease to put on those masks for the sake of one person or another, or for our own benefit. We compare ourselves to standards, aesthetic standards, intellectual standards creative standards, success standards, and then we measure ourselves against them. Truth? It's a measure of approximation to a tenuos standard. Still we accept the lies daily about our intentions, our social graces, our love, our hate, our charity, our selfishness. We create who we want to be by virtue of these lies. We create ourselves out of these lies, and only we know what is true and what is false until we're caught.

  11. #56
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Have been reading Joseph M. Marshall III's The Lakota Way. Last night came across a startling paragraph: But when all is said and done there is only one truth that is unwavering. It has endured and will always endure because it will stand unabashedly and without apology. That truth is death, and it is the one that is avoided and most feared by American society. But it should be the standard against which all others are measured. And we will find that nothing can compare with its honesty and faithfulness.
    As I read that I was reminded of this thread and others in GQ's forum and I found myself wondering at the stark simplicity of this ideal. It doesn't seem to be a pean to death but a simple recognition of its existence and its role in our own lives. Had a great half hour pondering its implications on this thread's musings as I fell asleep.

  12. #57
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    As Heidegger might say, the prospect of not existing shakes us from the forgetfulness of daily existence. It's the possibility of our impossibility that makes those possibilities we undertake authentically meaningful.

    But I feel as though we're straying from the thread's 'point' here. So far the two main concerns raised have been HE's, that the cognitive sciences simply aren't developed or reliable enough to constitute the kind of threat I'm suggesting, and Gary's, that the prospect that experience might be fundamentally deceptive isn't so troubling because 'fundamental deception' is the norm for most people.

    I think I've been clear on why I find neither of these objections particularly telling. Though I agree with HE that cognitive science has come nowhere close to sketching a comprehensive picture of brain and consciousness, I just don't see how this disqualifies the multitude of things they have in fact discovered. With Gary's objection, I'm not even clear on what the terms of his contention are. Either way, I'm just not convinced that most people 'know' they 'live a lie' (as I said, given that self-reports are really all we have to go on I'm not even sure what this claim is based on), nor am I convinced that this, even considered as a possibility, bears meaningfully on the prospect that the very structure of experience might be deceptive.

  13. #58
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Bakker
    nor am I convinced that this, even considered as a possibility, bears meaningfully on the prospect that the very structure of experience might be deceptive.
    But it does bear meaningfully on the scariness of said prospect. In the beginning, you said this:

    The idea is to write a tale that's as philosophically troubling as it is psychologically terrifying.
    But what you've stated so far, to me, is neither philosophically troubling (but I'm not really a philosopher), nor psychologically terrifying. Instead I keep thinking, well, what did you expect? Of course, that may just be me.

    A novel contains characters. If you populate your novel entirely with characters who find this terrifying, I'll notice, simply because my perspective is different (but perhaps it isn't, and the novel will make me see that).

  14. #59
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    But what you've stated so far, to me, is neither philosophically troubling (but I'm not really a philosopher), nor psychologically terrifying. Instead I keep thinking, well, what did you expect? Of course, that may just be me.
    Good thing I'm not publishing this thread! What I'm interested in here is getting a sense of people's reactions to the problem as a means of further crafting the problem's presentation. Nothing more, nothing less.

  15. #60
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    I think you have your work cut out for you on this one. The premise sounds great, but unless we all suddenly start hearing the voices in our heads who are controlling us rather than ourselves, we may just all shrug and say, "okay, so what's different?" Of course I know it's not voices you are talking about, but you know what I mean.

    Evidence! We need evidence of our lack of efficacy that is so blatant and so frightening that we cannot ignore it any longer. But haven't we all thought about the extent to which we are manipulated by various different stimuli and environmental issues? We just don't panic because that sense of self and continuity in time that we all have remains constant. When that breaks down, when the thread of our past frays and splits apart, we don't care either because we loose the awareness of that power we always thought we had anyway.

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