[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 
paraphrase you.

sdw

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 
> state.***
>
> Food for thought,
>
>
> jb
>
>
> *  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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