by phil on Sunday Mar 5, 2006 2:20 PM
My philosophical/spiritual animation engine for the past year or so has been "reciprocal determinism:"
Although our behavior is largely shaped by our environment, our behavior can affect the environment, which in turn can affect our cognitions, which in turn affect our behavior.
Think of a feedback loop that occurs in childhood. If I study hard and get a B+, then it encourages more studying. The next time around, I get an A, which is even more encouraging. Until eventually you become an academic. In other words, ontogeny is our lifestory discouraging our weaknesses and amplifying our strengths.
In the previous post, I was getting at a similar concept, and I think it can be better articulated here. Everybody has their own philosophy or theory as to what are the proper resources or methods for handling snags in their lives.
If you have a snag in your life you may do any combination of the following:
- think about the problem
- talk about the problem
- seek ideas from other sources
- get emotional about your problem
- put in a lot of effort toward solving your problem
- ignore your problem
- cope with your problem
- pray for guidance
Problem solving happens everyday, and we choose our responses instinctively based on what strategies have worked well for us in the past.
For me, "knowledge is power" and "effort and motivation" go a long way. As a result, I solve my problems with analysis, and then subsequent efforts at self-improvement. I also throw in a lot of agony and emotion at problems as it motivates and focuses me.
But I think it's important to question whether our choices of resources is imprudent in many cases. For example, I've learnt that my social problems don't get fixed through analysis or effort. In fact they get worse as they create treadmills. The more you engage social problems, the more power you lend to other people. And this causes insecurities which are a source of social ills.
In other words, try to identify what are your hidden fundamental strategies. Then question the appropriateness of those strategies. Philosophers shouldn't philosophize everything, psychologists shouldn't analyze everything, programmers shouldn't rationalize everything, artists shouldn't feel their way through everything, etc..
Kaleem Aziz said on March 9, 2006 5:06 PM:
interesting post. also interesting is to think why knowledge works -- i contest that it works because it is more aligned to reality (i.e., what works in reality).
the day knowledge deviates from evidence based verifiable reality, then such reliance on knowledge will be equivalent to today's reliance on myth.
won't it? what do you think?
Philip Dhingra said on March 11, 2006 3:45 PM:
Hi Kaleem, thanks for chiming in. This is the first time I've seen a comment by you, so welcome.
In the abstract, knowledge is power because knowledge is information about reality, and reality is the realm in which we want to succeed. But, that is in abstract. Do we really have knowledge?
Kaleem Aziz said on March 13, 2006 5:14 PM:
philip, i enjoy your thoughts and have been following/reading them for more than a year now.
i think (note the limitation: my perspective only) knowledge is to be associated to the entity it was received from. inaccurate knowledge/facts about reality are a known fact -- i.e., what knowledge we get from one source may deviate from what's in the real "real". :-) however, a bigger problem seems to be interpretation of the same reality they see.
considering, knowledge is not a static thing that represents one thing for all, but a represents dynamiccally a different dimension from each person's angle ... we need to look again at what is knowledge?
Philip Dhingra said on March 13, 2006 9:20 PM:
I tried to explore this on A Great Discussion of Epistemology -- It's basically an excerpt from what Wikipedia considers as being worthy for inclusion in its encyclopedia.
You mentioned earlier about "today's reliance on myth." This reminds me of a common theme I've seen recently in liberal political commentary, especially in regards to the Bush Administration's willful obscuring of science for political purposes.
So negotiating between myth and reality...
What about global warming? I don't have access to the concrete evidence about it. I've never done field tests, nor do I know much specifically about how CO2 and the greenhouse effect works. I've read articles indicating there's consensus among scientists about global warming... but then I've read massive petitions of scientists describing that it's a myth. There's even a book out on the "Global Warming Myth".
And yet, when I go to the polls to vote, I will make a decision based on my "knowledge." Personally, I believe what I've read about global warming. I believe in the scientific consensus, and I disagree with detractors who think it's just liberal hyperbole. So really my "knowledge" in this case is like a belief. But this is not the same belief as having a religious faith. But rather, I trust the knowledge of scientists.
So if I vote in favor of environmentalist candidates, am I acting out of knowledge?
Kaleem Aziz said on March 16, 2006 11:45 AM:
very interesting comments. i agree, we often apply secondhand or thirdhand knowledge without being able to verify it ourselves individually.
as you say in different words, irrespective of which "human" source it came from, knowledge's validity/truthfulness is a measurement of how applicable it is to the reality. for experiments/observations like global warming (or economy) the laboratory itself is the size of the world ... both sides extrapolate their findings and connections.
only time will tell who's right, and we shouldn't be too hardfast about being convinced to anyone of those. i don't block out any two contradicting topics, but instead read up on both and note the contradictions. by that, i then try to find one single solution that can fit both observations (a process of connecting the dots).
however, in the meantime, our vote deals with certain amount of "uncertainity" -- an aspect of decision making that is not mathematically reducible. therefore, there's currently no "measure" to how our decisions map to our "expected outcomes". so we just make a decision, to learn later in hindsight whether it was a good decision or not.
just as a person learns from stumbling and getting hurt, humanity seems to learn from disasters and living again. global warming is an excellent candidate on which people will argue at length at what each things is correct, until finally nature shows its result in an undeniable manner. then there'll not be any convincing required ... that's how humanity's learning cycles seem to go. i think the problem is not knowledge (a set of facts that are found to be verifiable), but the problem is interpretation (what people percieve as their gain or loss in believing in it).
Kaleem Aziz said on March 16, 2006 12:13 PM:
figured i'd post your words that i basically repeated in my own words:
"Although our behavior is largely shaped by our environment, our behavior can affect the environment, which in turn can affect our cognitions, which in turn affect our behavior.
Everybody has their own philosophy or theory as to what are the proper resources or methods for handling snags in their lives.
Problem solving happens everyday, and we choose our responses instinctively based on what strategies have worked well for us in the past."
Philip Dhingra said on March 16, 2006 3:11 PM:
Yeah, people's interpretation of knowledge nowadays is pretty disconcerting. Even when presented with the essays and statistics about the environment or war, people disregard it.
Can we say we're in an "Age of Reason?" I'd be curious to know whether there was some way to measure whether we are more rational as a society than we were in the Age of Enlightenment.
Our world is perhaps only as big as that laboratory, but if people choose to disregard the results of that laboratory in favor of faith, then God help us when they go to the polls.