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Identity And Truth

January 21, 2007

Woody Allen had a very funny joke in one of his movies, I cannot remember which one.  A young child comes up to him and asks, “Should I listen to my teachers?”  Woody looks at him for a second real seriously and says (paraphrased in Jason terms) “If you want the reality he’s living, then listen to what he has to say.”

He worded it much better, but I paraphrased it for the context of this article.  In many ways, I agree with Woody.   In more exact wording, if you want to experience the reality of the teacher in that area of life, then listen to what the teacher has to say in that area.   If he’s great in statistics, and you would like to be as well, then listen to him in that area.  If he’s poor monetarily, and starts giving advice on money — don’t listen to him.  Find a man who has lots of money and wealth, and listen to him.

I remember my high school teachers giving life philosophy lectures from time to time.  I’m glad I never listened to them.  I’d be poor and struggling for money just like they are.   I would listen to the English teacher teach English, because I wanted to learn to write.  I listened to math teacher with math, because I thought I may need it sometime later in life.  (I’m sure glad I listened!).   When it came to money, I found successful business men who knew how to make money.

When it comes to philosophies, I always look for someone who has want I want in some particular area of life.  I remember  when I first picked up a Bertrand Russell book, I read it, and thought…. “Wow, I want to be like this guy.”    What was it about him?  It didn’t matter how difficult the problem, he had very exact and vivid answers.  He’d go on and on and on about subjects most people don’t even think about.   Extreme insight into very complicated things.

When I’m 60 or 70 years old, you’re going to find an old man who can tell you the answers to nearly anything you would want to know.  Physics — why do things move how they do?  I’ll start going on about forces and mathematics that most people don’t even know.   Psychology — My son will ask me why some girl does not like him.  I’ll break down to him for weeks on female psychology and what you can and cannot know about women.  What is spontaneous and what you can expect as certain in their behavior.  Political issues, economics — I’m going to know so much about politics, countries, power struggles, cultures, etc, I can elaborate for hours on things going on.

That’s what I see in Bertrand Russell, and that’s what I like about him.  You could tell he had penetrating insight in to all kinds of things that he never even had time to write about.  He’s always making these minute statements about something fascinating, but does not want to digress too far off topic, so he leaves it alone.

When it comes to Psychology, I’ve been finding this kind of insight in Sigmund Freud.  I’ve tried to read psychology textbooks before — they talk about all this mechanics of the brain, chemical levels (serotonin, dopamine, etc), blah blah blah.  This stuff has a slight interest to me, but that’s not what I came to the subject for.    I read Freud’s Studies in Hysteria, and we start getting more at what I was wanting.  You start hearing about a girl, who tries to live indepently and says she does not need love, fall in love with her sister’s husband.  Fighting with the ethical conflict of not wanting to desire her sister’s husband she finds herself with all kinds of strange mental hangups as it’s all repressed.  Her sister gets sick and dies, on her  deathbed she finds herself thinking, “Now she’s going to die, and he can be mine!”  She then thinks, “Oh my God!  How could I think such things!”  She represses that thought and has even worse mental problems.   The repression keeps her from even knowing she loves her brother in law, but she still experiences this with strange disagreeable feelings everytime she thinks of her sister or brother in law.  (And she doesn’t even know why she gets these feelings!)  You learn about the strengh of repression and how repressive energy can find conversions leading to even physical health problems.

Now that’s psychology.  That’s what I was after.  Took me forever to find someone who knew this information.  Freud would sit there for hours with thousands of patients who would just unload exactly what they were thinking and all their problems — their inner conflicts, moral dilemmas — that’s what I’m talking about.  That’s what Greg and I would call ‘real’.  It has purpose.  It has what you want.  And that is why as of late, I have not been able to put my book on Freud down.  I’ve been wanting this sort of information for so long.

When it comes to marriage and overall peace in life, I look to my parents.  Whatever it is that runs through the mind of my Dad and Mom seems to be the right answer.  I don’t think of mindsets or religions as ‘true’ or ‘false’, I look to what kind of life the people who believe in them live.  Our home has no conflicts and no drama.  Nobody screams at anyone else.  Nobody even raises their voices at one another.  It’s always peaceful.  People who come over notice that peace, and I notice that a lot of people like to stay at our house as opposed to their own home.  Dad and Mom are always nice and cheerful and things are nearly always nice.  People ask why I have not moved out and got my own place.  It has nothing to do with money.  I ask, why would I want to?  Why incur needless bills and live in a more seclusive state?  I like it here.  Everyone else that comes here likes it too.  Come over and see for yourself.  This is a nice place.  Our home is like the ideal communistic community where everyone helps each other out.  Bills are split.  Duties are split.  Even non-duties are split.

Anyways, other than that — on to recent thoughts.

I keep wondering about the concept of infinite logical possibility, and how this relates to truth and identity.

I’ve just started reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘Being and Nothingness’ and start running into talks about ‘consciousness’ and the ‘Ego’.  I’ll quote some from the translators introduction:

“Another way of putting it is to say that the Ego is “on the side of the psychic.” (p. 106)  Sartre makes a sharp distinction between the individual consciousness in its purity and psychic qualities, but which he means what is ordinarly thought of as the personality.  What he calls the popular view holds that the Ego is responsible for psychic states (E.g., love, hate) and that these in turn determine our consciousness.  The reality, he claims, is exactly the reverse.  Consciousness determines the state, and the states constitute the Ego.  For example, my immediate reaction of repulsion or attraction to someone is a consciousness.  The unity which the reflective consciouness establishes between this reaction and earlier similar ones constitutes my state of love or hate.  My Ego stands as the ideal unity of all my states, qualities, and actions, but as such it is an object-pole, not a subject.  It is the ‘flux of Consciouness constituting itself as the unity of itself.” (p. 100  Thus the Ego is a “synthesis of interiority and transcendence.” (p. 111) The interiority of the pre-reflective consciouness consists in the fact that for it, to know itself and to be are the same; but this pure interiority can only be lived, not contemplated.  By definition pure interiority can not have an “outside.”  When consciouness tries to turn back upon itself and contemplate itself, it can reflect on this interiority but only by making it an object.  The Ego is the interiority of consciouness when reflected upon by itself.  Although it stands as an object-pole of unreflective attitude, it appears only in the world of reflection.” …

“Less techincally we may note that the Ego stands in the same relation to all psychic objects of consciouness as the unity called ‘the world’ stands in relation to the physical objects of consciouness.  If consciouness directs itself upon any one of its own acts or states, upon any psychic object, this points to the Ego in exactly the same way that any physical object points to “the world.”  Both ‘world’ and ‘Ego’ are transcendent objects — in reality, ideal unities.  They differ however in that the psychic is dependent on consciouness and in one sense has been constituted by it whereas objects in the world are not created by consciousness.  As for the ‘I’ and ‘Me,’ these are but tow aspects of the Ego, distinguished according to their function.  The ‘I’ is the ideal unity of actions, and the ‘Me’ that of states and qualities.”

I don’t know what to think of this sort of thing.  I’ve stood back observing for years, reading book after book on opinions on what ‘Mind’ and ‘Consciousness’ ‘is’.  Is.  To Be.  To Exist.  Truth.

In short, my view, quite tentatively, seems to be that this is just another mindset a person can hold, and leads them to another reality.  It’s not true.  It’s not false.  It simply is.  Mindsets are.  Mindsets exist.  They’re not true, they’re not false — they simply are.  The only truth of them is their consequences.  Maybe that’s what the truth of a mindset entails?

Mindsets are a possibilty that the will has chosen to go with.  Once again – What do you want?

When it comes to complex philospohies of ‘consciouness’, ‘mind’, etc, I’ve always found problems in the concepts of meaning and language.  Language can be a tricky devil.  What’s strange about it is that words are defined in terms of other words.   You look up the word ‘be’ and it says ‘to exist’.  You look up ‘exist’ and it says ‘to be’.   Then I’m told that words find their ‘meaning’ by linking to so called ‘mental objects’.  So called mental objects always confuse me and I never find out what they are.  (What they ‘are’?  Such nasty confusions!)  Find out?  What does it ‘mean’ to ‘find out’?

No philosopher ever gets over the hurdle of what ‘mental objects’ and ‘free will’ ‘are’.  They always have to start at some point and say, ‘this is what is.’  Then they argue about the starting point. Mathematics starts with a set of axioms and builds from there.  Physics you assume certain things true of reality and build from there.  Observation assumes that we see, hear, taste, feel, etc, the things around us.   These things are assumed as ‘given’.  The axioms in mathematics — ‘given’.  Laws of physics — ‘given’.  The fact that a tree stands before you — ‘given’.  If you question even that, which you seem to be able to (the extreme sceptic), what are we to think of this?  What mathematics and physics build are coherent theories based on decided axiomatic foundations.  When they go to observe, and the theory does not perform how they want, they change everything.

The sceptic says, “How can I know my conception of a tree is the same as your conception of a tree?  You ask me to say whether a tree stands before me.  I have no way of knowing what you consider a tree.”  At this, what are we to say?  And you know what, he’s seems quite ‘right’.   The president of the Audubun society probably has a far greater conception of what trees are, and what they entail, than a person who has not made the study of trees a primary objective in his life.   I have no DOUBT (a subject of another entry) that in the mind of the Audubun president, there is much more information, and much more criteria as to what constitutes a tree, than the mind of this other man.

How can we equate ‘same’ if we are not using a common definition?  This arises from pure logic.  I know this kind of problem oh so well, since I’ve been programming computer software for over 10 years.  In C++ and many other object oriented computer languages, you define what are called ‘types’.   You define types, such as ‘Dog’, ‘Cat’, ‘Appointment’, etc, and then you define what that actually ‘is’.  You give it properties.  Let’s compare the different conceptions of ‘tree’ from the sceptic, and the Audubun president.

The unintelligent sceptic definition of tree:  (Booleans are true/false variables)

Tree {
Has Roots: Boolean;
Has Limbs: Boolean;
Has Trunk: Boolean;
Has Leaves During Summer: Boolean;

The Audubon president definition of tree:

Tree {
… // Far more complex defintion of tree

The Audubon president, when examining what the sceptic is even looking at, says, “By your criteria, most plants can be defined as trees.  We need to refine your definition of tree.”  Most plants have roots, have limbs, have a stem/trunk and have leaves during the summer.  The sceptic then says, “See, what did I tell you?  I think this plant is a tree, and it’s not even a tree by your definition!  How am I supposed to ever know what it is you consider a tree?”  Then the Audubon president says, “Hear me out.  I will explain what I am looking for when I speak of trees.”  Then the sceptic says, “Definitions can be infinitely exact!  You can define a tree in terms of certain atomic structures and all kinds of intricate ways.  If we are miscommunicating at such a large scale level, how much more likely are we to miscommunicate when we get more and more exact?”

If we can argue such things in relation to things right in front of us, I find myself sceptical when it comes to definitions of ‘free will’, ‘mind’, and ‘consciouness’ — the very basis of the things before us.

Then I thought, “Hmmm.  This is all because I’m thinking in terms of exactness and ‘truth’.  This doesn’t mean such things may not be USEFUL and HELPFUL getting WHAT I WANT out of life.”

The sceptic’s problem of trees comes down to how accurate DO YOU WANT to be before you are both satisfied with what is going on.  What purpose do you have for being more exact?  What is your reasoning for wanting to be more exact?

People find themselves confused with problems when they are in school.  (Maybe not you, but I sure was) The teacher tells the young students that everything around them is made up of tiny tiny atoms.  The young children all sit back amazed thinking how these small little balls fly around and make everything look solid, yet they can’t even see this happening.  Is everything made up of atoms?  Is this true?  Is such the case?

Now you go to study quantum physics and you see the electron you were so fond of when you were little is really not even ‘existent’ in the same terms you thought before.  It’s only a potential.   On the small scale you find nothing but infinite logical possibility bending to the will of the observer.

You stand back…. Whatttt?   Funny, all those years you thought that was ‘true’ only to find you misunderstood things.  How long has this been going on in science?  The entire time it has existed.

Now all of you say, of course, that was because we were ‘wrong’.  They didn’t understand the reality.  When it comes to truth, it’s always worked that way.  Just because we didn’t understand it then, we understand more about it now.

Now I ask the question, “How do you know that things didn’t change, the very instant we ‘discovered’ this new finding?”  Maybe atoms were working the way you learned in grade school until sub-atomic physics ‘found’ these new findings.   On what grounds do you have to say that things have always been this way?

You find, there is no grounds, other than “reality” seems to stay consistent.  It’s not a ‘truth’, it’s a probability.  It’s highly likely (and when I say likely, I’m using defintions of a statistician), but not neccessarily the case.  Probability was invented to make the ‘rational’ decision by leaning to evidence.

I plan to write a journal entry soon on why you do not always want to make the rational decision.  I can’t recall exact statistics, but 80% of marriages fall apart within 10 years.  So, if you’re wanting to find a lifelong partner, you would never rationally marry, as odds are against you.  I suppose you could get more exact, psycho-analyze each other, do personalty profiling, etc.  This increases your probability, but assumes many things I don’t like.  More on that another day.

Rational decisions are opposite of faith.  Rational decisions look to what everyone else is doing.  There’s no probability if no one has done it before.  That requires faith.  You need faith when you want something that hasn’t been done before.

When it comes to truth, language, and anything communicated, you deal with an loop of subjectively interrelated symbols.   Interrelated sounds and interrelated symbols.   I see the symbols and I hear the sounds, but even this confuses me.  Confuses?  What does that mean?  Mean?  Mmmm, we’re back to this again.  Meaning is what you want.

It’s a loop of choices – choices of what you want.   If I don’t choose what I want things to mean, then nothing happens.  No identity is created.  No reality is created. Intelligent individuals build large towering mindsets, each of which take them somewhere and lead to a certain reality.  They become how they decided to think.  All of it was a choice.  The mindsets are useful and powerful, but I’m not sure if they’re ever ‘true’.

I believe will to be the ultimate reality, not truth.  If anything is true, it’s the consequences of a particular mindset.  Reality is an infinitely moldable realm of infinite possibilities, as is my consciouness/imagination.  Anything I can imagine, can also be reality.  Our current reality is a molding of everyone’s past decisions.   This reality began (I believe) with God and creation (his desire for things) but since has been molded by what we want.  I’m not saying he stays out of affairs completely, but he sure can be elusive.  God, if he does interact with human kind still, seems to stay away when he’s not wanted.  Can you blame him really?

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