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Eiuol

Altering one's psycho-epistemology

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I'm trying to acquire a better understanding of what psycho-epistemology is. From what I understand, one's psycho-epistemology is one's subconscious cognitive habits. It is similar to the concept of sense of life, except this relates to methods of cognition. It is clear from experience that everyone has their own way of thinking, in the sense they many approach questions and answers in a certain way. The issue I'm having is thinking about cognitive habits. Is there anything more to it than the extent in which someone has automatized the use of reason? More specifically, are the "kinds" of psycho-epistemology parallel to one's explicit method of cognition, like emotionalism, for example? Also, if one has automatized a method of cognition, could it really ever be undone? Once you've automatized such an important process as cognition, it would seem to me that you are forever stuck with that method of cognition. How could one acquire knowledge of an alternative means of cognition - and eventually change their psycho-epistemology - if they subconsciously acquire knowledge in an improper way in the first place?

Edited by Eiuol

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Ive been thinking about this alot as well. I can be self destructive in many aspects of my life, and Ive been looking for the deep rooted epistemic problem. I think this quote is relevant....

Paraphrasing:

"The status of automatized knowledge, in his mind, is experienced by man as having the direct, effortless, self-evident quality (and certainty) of perceptual awareness. But it is conceptual knowledge and its validity relies on the precision of his concepts." (ITOE.)

I think our principles are the root of our decision making process. Principles seem to have the same cognitive function in the realm of ethics, that concepts serve in epistemology. They serve as unit-economizers of our heirarchy of values, and allow us to see the long range effects our choices have without overloading the crow, so to speak. Figuring out how to change this method of cognition is what Ive been looking for. First I need to examine the nature of principles, how do they differ from our virtues? are they based on values, of are values based on them? Im glad you asked this, pehaps Ill get some insight into my own cognitive habits.

j..

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If I understand right, and feel free to correct me if I understood wrong, this question deals with how a person deals with knowledge that they obtain, and even how they obtain it in the first place.

I think that, for the most part, one's mind is almost never static. It's completely possible to break old habits and get into new ones. For example, I used to not think too deeply about things and I used to often accept a lot of ideas at face value without contemplation. However, now that has changed - almost every idea or every piece of new, relevant, knowledge that I obtain is scrutinized subconsciously, and, if required, consciously (i.e. my response to things that deal pretty straightforwardly with my principals are often automatic, because I've integrated the knowledge of those principles and their applications, whereas things that require a number of connections often take a conscious process of thought to scrutinize.)

I don't think there's any special method to changing your mode of thinking other than simply choosing to think. For example, to exercise my mind and make sure I'm thinking about things fully and properly, I sometimes do a little exercise with new pieces of knowledge or new conclusions I've reached. I'll ask myself, "Why is ____ true?" And then when I find the answer, I ask myself why is -that- true, and so on and so forth, until I can reduce it to the very very basic level of axioms. It's a good way of teaching your mind to not take things at face value and to process new ideas.

Ayn Rand has noted in an essay that a lot of children in the modern world are crippled in their thinking from a young age because of the things they're taught both at home and in school, and I agree greatly, and have seen the effects of this first hand (especially since I go to a magnet program and can compare the magnet students with myself, and the magnet students with traditional students and see the different methods of thinking), but I still wholly believe that the damage is reversible, if by a conscious effort.

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I'll ask myself, "Why is ____ true?" And then when I find the answer, I ask myself why is -that- true, and so on and so forth, until I can reduce it to the very very basic level of axioms.

Harry binswanger calls this a "chain of whys", and says its one of the keys to objectivity. It is what Rand called "thinking in principles". Proper cognitive techniques, if use repeatedy can change the way you think IMO. (Ayn Rand started thinking this way at age 12, by the way.)

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I don't think there's any special method to changing your mode of thinking other than simply choosing to think. For example, to exercise my mind and make sure I'm thinking about things fully and properly, I sometimes do a little exercise with new pieces of knowledge or new conclusions I've reached.

I'm inclined to agree with this, but in what way could you really realize when your subconscious way of thinking, your psycho-epistemology, is proper or not? You could consciously decide to think according to principles of reason, and still operate like an emotionalist because you are on some level automatically integrating improperly. You may consciously do many things right when you are trying to consciously focus on a particular idea, but subconsciously misintegrate on parts of that idea you are not focusing on. If some of your psycho-epistemology is not entirely proper, implications of complex ideas could also create issues when you're trying to consider a wide context and you can only focus on so much at a time. I'm sure with enough practice you'd notice when false or misintegrated conclusions are made, but I'm not sure how exactly you could check if your psycho-epistemology is any good.

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...in what way could you really realize when your subconscious way of thinking, your psycho-epistemology, is proper or not?

The existential results of this way of thinking would be simply making bad decisions. Finding a way to fix the problem before-hand is the tricky part. Simply deciding to "think according to the principles of reason" is not an option if your integration is improper, I think.

If some of your psycho-epistemology is not entirely proper, implications of complex ideas could also create issues when you're trying to consider a wide context and you can only focus on so much at a time.

This is the cognitive tool that "thinking in principles" provides. Principles allow us to keep vast amounts of information readily available in a shorthand (crow friendly) sort of way, kinda the same function as concepts. How our principles are formed, and how to change the beliefs they integrate is the key part that Im looking for. Im still having a hard time pinning down exactly what principles are. Hell, when I first started studying the Objectivist ethics, I had a hard time figuring out what my values were. Ive come a long way, but theres still more work, and I think a concretized understanding of how to define (and change, if need be) my principles, and what their effect is on my psycho-epistemology is the next step.

j..

Edited by JayR

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I think that subconcious epistemology is experienced based.

I'm assuming that the mind has a specific structure by which it processes internal subjective knowledge, and that on top of this structure is built the ability to perceive and process objective knowledge. Or, objective knowledge is understood in the context of subjective knowledge. Actually, to be more explicit, I'm treating certain primal emotional states as 'internal' percepts. (I've had an extensive conversation about the use of the word percept here, so I ask that you grant me 'emotional percept' as it's own concept that is similar to but not the same as percept) By emotional percept I mean 'feelings ' or non-cognitive evidence that results from biology and not the explicit five senses. A good example is nausea, though in this instance I refer more to pleasure (dopamine) or adrenaline and so forth.

I think these emotional percepts are treated at the same psycho-epistemological level as percepts by the mind. Thus percepts, in the structure of the mind, are intimately related not just to their sources in reality, but also the effects of reality on human biology.

In other words, most people do not avoid rotten food because of a well conceptually integrated sense of preservation of life, but rather from a desire to not get sick - for which the body provides feelings of discomfort when it is in such a state. More explicitly, biology provides some built in patterns. Many unhealthy-to-eat things produce a sensation of disgust when they are smelled (but interestingly, this is far from universally effective, which is good evidence that evolution is th culprit).

So, a good pattern of conceptual integration might exist subconciously, but I think there needs to be 'experiential integration' for behavior to change. This is why people struggle with "I know the right thing to do but I never seem to do it ". They know conceptually - perhaps even on a sub-concious level, which would lead to self loathing depression in this situation - but they haven't integrated the concept with the emotional payoff.

I think that these emotional percepts can be integrated on a purely conceptual basis - imagination if you will, daydreaming -but that habitual behavior requires the doing of a thing and experiencing the desired and anticipated payoff. Thus, start small, with low risk endeavors. Then the mind learns that certain concepts really are in fact associated with happiness.

I think we conciously convince ourselves of things (both in cases of proper or improper integration) but struggle because our subconcious doesn't 'buy' it. Too much concious conceptualizing without doing/experiencing can teach the subconcious mind that beautiful thoughts are never really associated with happiness - that conceptual happiness is not 'really' associated with perceptual happiness (pleasure). This leads to bad depression that is tough to climb out of.

Just a theory.

Edited by ZSorenson

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I'm trying to acquire a better understanding of what psycho-epistemology is. From what I understand, one's psycho-epistemology is one's subconscious cognitive habits. It is similar to the concept of sense of life, except this relates to methods of cognition. It is clear from experience that everyone has their own way of thinking, in the sense they many approach questions and answers in a certain way. The issue I'm having is thinking about cognitive habits. Is there anything more to it than the extent in which someone has automatized the use of reason? More specifically, are the "kinds" of psycho-epistemology parallel to one's explicit method of cognition, like emotionalism, for example? Also, if one has automatized a method of cognition, could it really ever be undone? Once you've automatized such an important process as cognition, it would seem to me that you are forever stuck with that method of cognition. How could one acquire knowledge of an alternative means of cognition - and eventually change their psycho-epistemology - if they subconsciously acquire knowledge in an improper way in the first place?

I have always found art to be an excellent source of reprogramming one's subconscious reactions. Enjoy art that fits what you rationally know to be good, avoid or actively disdain that which you know to be evil, and always learn form those characters you find most virtuous. This is not enough by itself, it has to be backed up with more rational thought, both thinking about the art as well as thinking about concepts in general. The art (whether it be movie, play, comic book, video game, book, you name it) provides a wonderful concrete example of the abstract concepts you are trying to internalize.

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I have always found art to be an excellent source of reprogramming one's subconscious reactions. Enjoy art that fits what you rationally know to be good, avoid or actively disdain that which you know to be evil, and always learn form those characters you find most virtuous.

I actually think this is probably a legitimate way to alter subconscious thinking, even psycho-epistemology. To an extent, I think I caused this in myself. Since art in the proper sense of the term is a concretization of an abstraction of an artist's metaphysical value judgments - amongst other things - it is possible to consciously focus on more at once, avoiding problem I'd suspect of your automatized thought processes integrating too much without conscious control. The more wide abstractions and you can consciously focus on conceptually, the more success I think anyone would have in overcoming problems of the subconscious. It almost sounds a little bizarre to say art can change a person, as though it is some sort of homeopathic therapy, but since psycho-epistemology involves integration, changing an improper psycho-epistemology would require some way of minimizing its use while still being able to integrate new knowledge.

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I actually think this is probably a legitimate way to alter subconscious thinking, even psycho-epistemology. To an extent, I think I caused this in myself. Since art in the proper sense of the term is a concretization of an abstraction of an artist's metaphysical value judgments - amongst other things - it is possible to consciously focus on more at once, avoiding problem I'd suspect of your automatized thought processes integrating too much without conscious control. The more wide abstractions and you can consciously focus on conceptually, the more success I think anyone would have in overcoming problems of the subconscious. It almost sounds a little bizarre to say art can change a person, as though it is some sort of homeopathic therapy, but since psycho-epistemology involves integration, changing an improper psycho-epistemology would require some way of minimizing its use while still being able to integrate new knowledge.

I am surprised that no one is saying introspection. It's a tough skill, but if you practice it, it's incredibly powerful.

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The biggie in terms of psycho-epistemological corruption is the need to "service" your past evasions, self-delusions, quilt, shame, etc.

Every such false item must be protected from awareness, must be separated, disintegrated from any- and everything that is logically related to it, because the mind will tend to bring it up in connection with its logical connections.

Take a piece of fabric and cut a few circles out of it, then try to make a garment out of it so that none of those holes is in an important place... You may find yourself constantly tugging on your clothes, walking backwards so noone sees what your backside looks like, etc.

This cognitive avoidance is a greater and greater burden, turning you into a rigid-thinker, with certain "safe" issues and pat answers to them. It is obviously a huge impedence to the open-eyed, come-what-may, where's the beef attitude toward the whole world that is necessary to maximize one's reasoning.

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Every such false item must be protected from awareness, must be separated, disintegrated from any- and everything that is logically related to it, because the mind will tend to bring it up in connection with its logical connections.

I'm glad you posted this 2 months after I made this thread, as this is the sort of answer I was looking for. How, exactly, would those false items be disintegrated, though? The only thing I have come up with is writing down your thought process on a particular topic. Since psycho-epistemology is automatic, what should be involved is the closest thing to reveal any underlying subconscious thoughts, which is writing. This way, it is forcing yourself to analyze and take notice of what is happening. Certainly it will take a long time, but I suspect you could eventually reach the point where you will begin to recognize on an automatic level that you are having thoughts that should not be integrated.

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I'm glad you posted this 2 months after I made this thread, as this is the sort of answer I was looking for. How, exactly, would those false items be disintegrated, though? The only thing I have come up with is writing down your thought process on a particular topic. Since psycho-epistemology is automatic, what should be involved is the closest thing to reveal any underlying subconscious thoughts, which is writing. This way, it is forcing yourself to analyze and take notice of what is happening. Certainly it will take a long time, but I suspect you could eventually reach the point where you will begin to recognize on an automatic level that you are having thoughts that should not be integrated.

Anything automated is, of course, a difficulty to change. Assuming "you" have an evasion as part of your make-up, you have gone to a lot of trouble, mostly below your own introspective awareness, to strengthen the defenses around that evasion.

However, evasions do show up in one's feelings. They are an odd, nonsensical, exagerrated, etc. emotion or "sense of things," that occur whenever your defenses go into effect. They are an emotional or attitudinal bump in the road, and you can notice them if you spend some time trying.

Once you begin to detect these, you must practice "tough-love" on yourself, looking for the meaning of the emotion, then, the source of that irrational meaning. It takes great courage to ferret out a mistake in your thinking about yourself, life, the world, people, etc. Anything automatic will require, I firmly believe, bringing the roots into the light. Convincing oneself of what is true and appropriate, in contrast to the "evasion" will not do the trick. You have to understand it in all its specific meaning to you, put it into the situation in which it developed, and thus learn specifically, as concretely as possible, that it is all an error.

I realize I am talking about a somewhat different scenario than you described. I do so because I believe it is this sort of experience that affects one's psycho-epistemology. You know people who say, "Well, I'm certainly not going to argue the point," in a huffy voice, as if it were poor manners to discuss serious ideas. That attitude toward such discussions is defensive. That person (sounds like a woman to me) realizes, at some level, that she cannot defend her beliefs. She disdains arguments of any sort, they make her nervous and insecure, but not just because she's not good at arguing, but because such discussions would reveal her guilty secrets, her dogmatic beliefs, her pretenses, etc.

The only alternative type of psycho-epistemological variable I know of is when one accepts a premise that makes "you" a rationalist, intrinsicist, Platonist, nominalist, etc. These determine a style of thought that has, of course, serious limitations. It should be very useful to study each of these and related theories and become well-versed in recognizing errors of each sort. If you understand them, and recognize their manifestations, you should have no problem avoiding them in your own thinking.

I was a little reluctant to respond to this thread, as it was "cold." I'm glad it proved still of interest.

Mindy

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Ive been thinking about this alot as well. I can be self destructive in many aspects of my life, and Ive been looking for the deep rooted epistemic problem. I think this quote is relevant....

Paraphrasing:

"The status of automatized knowledge, in his mind, is experienced by man as having the direct, effortless, self-evident quality (and certainty) of perceptual awareness. But it is conceptual knowledge and its validity relies on the precision of his concepts." (ITOE.)

I think our principles are the root of our decision making process. Principles seem to have the same cognitive function in the realm of ethics, that concepts serve in epistemology. They serve as unit-economizers of our heirarchy of values, and allow us to see the long range effects our choices have without overloading the crow, so to speak. Figuring out how to change this method of cognition is what Ive been looking for. First I need to examine the nature of principles, how do they differ from our virtues? are they based on values, of are values based on them? Im glad you asked this, pehaps Ill get some insight into my own cognitive habits.

j..

I have a thought about what you bring up about principles. You credit principles with unit-economy ("crow") and with being able to anticipate the long-range effects, though the latter is conditioned by your concern for unit-economy again.

I would argue that their role in letting us know in advance what the character of possible effects would be is the primary use and value of principles. Aware of the fact that there are side-effects and future effects of our actions would leave us in a quandry if we had no guidelines to follow. How can we possibly know all of what will happen and/or be prevented from happening due to our choice?

Scientific principles generalize our experience with some particulars of a sort to new particulars of that sort. All of our productive efforts depend on this sort of knowledge. Moral principles especially are immensely valuable (of course.) Moral principles recognize human priorities, so they can assure us we won't "shoot yourself in the foot," while being otherwise efficacious in our efforts.

Mindy

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