[FoRK] Lion, rationality, reason, and seriousness
Stephen D. Williams
<sdw at lig.net> on
Wed May 9 15:19:55 PDT 2007
Beautifully thought and written. Some day I will ask to quote and
Jeff Bone wrote:
> On May 9, 2007, at 3:25 PM, Lion Kimbro wrote:
>> But I'm saying, "passion/care/concern/interest/love/desire/..."
>> is what's motivating that rationality.
>> The only reason rationality is of interest, is because it
>> serves a passion.
> Now we're getting somewhere. You're wrong, of course, but we're
> making some progress.
> First, you assert categorically that the "only" reason rationality is
> "of interest" is because it serves a passion. There's several
> possible parses of that last sentence, but they're all fatally
> flawed. (I'm generously assuming that you are not proclaiming
> yourself as the ultimate arbiter of "interesting.") When you say "of
> interest" you are equating that to "being passionate about
> something." I assert instead that rationality is in fact a survival /
> procreative advantage --- whether or not you or anybody else is
> interested in it, that matters not a whit, it has inherent objective
> value. There are many means of judging value other than how
> passionate our emotional response is to something; indeed nature
> (non-personified; a process, not a person) is inherently in the
> valuation business, and evolution is it's means. (What is the unit of
> measure of "passion"? On FoRK, at least, in times past you might have
> concluded that it was words typed on some topic --- and that might be
> a reasonable answer. ;-) In general, again: evolution doesn't
> usually preserve developments that don't confer fitness advantages.
> And onward... free-styling a bit, here, stay with me... note that in
> none of this am I implying intent, design, motivation, etc. No
> personifying here!
> The universe is a computation; it's a computation that computes
> itself, the ultimate quine*. Evolution is a bootstrapping mechanism,
> a natural means by which matter self-organizes, gains complexity,
> increases local informational density, and counters entropy if only on
> a local (spatial, temporal) level. Reason is yet another
> level-jumping, bootstrapping mechanism; a way for evolved matter to
> further self-organize, gain complexity, increase info-density, and
> counter entropy; it (or its derivative products such as science and
> technology) offers a means for species to optimally direct their own
> future evolution. Passion / care / love / desire / etc. are all
> legacy mechanisms characteristic to pre-rational life. That's not to
> say they are less valuable, or inessential, only that they are older
> --- and presumably the addition of reason to the mix confers on
> animals that possess it a survival advantage relative to those that
> live by their passions alone. The danger with passion is that it's
> often self-destructive, and / or more generally destructive. It often
> has effects that are entropic, lowering the fitness of the
> passion-directed individual and potentially also the fitness of those
> with whom that individual interacts.
> The ultimate question is this: what is the result of the universal
> computation? Depending on your assumptions about a few constants,
> about universal large-scale isotropy, and so forth, you might conclude
> any number of things. You might want to stick around as long as
> possible to watch the show, maybe even tinker with the knobs a bit...
> but then the question arises: how long can you ride that roller
> coaster? What are the physical limits of physical existence?
> Making a few Tipler-esque assumptions, you can avoid the "big crunch"
> fatalism that's the most usual conclusion. ("Heat death" fatalism,
> assuming a different set of parameters, is another debate entirely.)
> Then the question becomes: can evolution bootstrap life to a level
> which permits maximum self- (and other-) organization, enabling an
> engineered way out of eschatological catastrophe? Even if it's
> *possible* to get there, *will* thinking life get to a point where its
> choices, actions, etc. ultimately and *optimally* (that last word's
> the important one, pay attention) serve that purpose? And how? What
> choices, patterns of behavior, modes of being and interacting and
> living, etc., confer the greatest probability of achieving that non-end?
> At the end of the day, the utility payoff for that course of action is
> infinite for all survivors, given most value systems.** If you agree,
> then you must conclude that rationality is of interest not because it
> serves passion, but merely in and of itself. And if you agree with
> that, and with the general line of argument laid out above, then
> you'll conclude that all other things being equal rational behavior's
> better than irrational --- and though no human can presently be
> perfectly rational, it's certainly worth striving to achieve that
> Food for thought,
> * this Dennis Miller-ism works on multiple levels; think about it.
> Seemingly ironic, but not quite, actually just the opposite.
> ** let's see if we catch the expected variety of fish with THAT
> wiggly little grub....
> *** note that I'm not advocating this point of view --- merely
> presenting it. It's certainly not... unreasonable. ;-)
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