Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

But I think that it might even be more important -- or at least a topic that I want to explore as much or more -- to consider how to recognize evasion in our own thoughts, and how to limit it, if possible, and address it when it happens.

DA

I think it is becoming abundantly clear that indeed this is crucial.  Evasion potentially effects all our thoughts, ideas, choices, and actions... letting us attempt to take short cuts with reality Ie to think, hold ideas, make choices and take actions which are inimical to ourselves.

How can one evade evasion all the time?  For example Im sure I'm evading when I choose to ignore my self imposed diet... impulsively ... to satisfy an urge to snack... I know this is wrong but in the moment somehow evasion succeeds and I only shake my head the next day... once the hunger is satisfied.  

Same for procrastination and generally wishing mortality were only a nightmare.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a paradox about (internal) evasion that makes the process of dealing with it very hard. It is at the core of the philosophical question "How can a person lie to themselves?". How does a consciousness prevent consciousness of what it is conscious of?
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Easy Truth said:

There is a paradox about (internal) evasion that makes the process of dealing with it very hard. It is at the core of the philosophical question "How can a person lie to themselves?". How does a consciousness prevent consciousness of what it is conscious of?

Exactly.

So I would say that first it's important to note that we're dealing with a subconscious process; if you were conscious of something, such that you could "decide to evade it," then... you would have failed to evade it. When you evade a thing, it never reaches your conscious mind; in fact, that's the very thing evasion does -- it prevents things from coming to your conscious awareness.

That's why my core answer is: we must learn to recognize evasion through its secondary effects. We cannot witness it directly -- in others or in ourselves -- but we can learn the characteristics in emotion and behavior that accompany evasion, and then work to address those, thereby addressing our subconscious mechanism obliquely (and also through the cultivation of a critical, probing mindset; and there are probably other strategies as well). I don't think this is necessarily an easy thing to do, but I have come to believe that it is at least possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

So I would say that first it's important to note that we're dealing with a subconscious process; if you were conscious of something, such that you could "decide to evade it," then... you would have failed to evade it. When you evade a thing, it never reaches your conscious mind; in fact, that's the very thing evasion does -- it prevents things from coming to your conscious awareness.

I agree with you on that but there is an inconsistency using that type of definition. From what I have seen, Objectivism considers evasion to be immoral. If something is prevented from reaching conscious awareness, then actions based it are in fact amoral, not immoral. If this type of evasion, is amoral, it could mean that this type of evasion, in fact, is NOT what she is talking about.

It hinges on questions like "Do you know when you are procrastinating?" or "Were you conscious of the importance of not eating the chips?". Is a subconscious based act a sub-volitional act?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Why "can't" you remain undecided? Who says that you cannot? You may remain undecided... or you may come to any given conclusion, on any given matter. But over the course of making a lifetime's worth of decisions (and this includes all decisions to "remain undecided"), forming a lifetime's worth of beliefs, I expect that you will sometimes err. And when you err, you will (ideally) want to correct yourself.

You do not necessarily require the assistance of others to achieve this self-correction, but sometimes others can offer you assistance (as this forum, again ideally, would stand testament). I believe that after the process of self-correction, it is appropriate to describe yourself (with respect to your earlier state, your earlier beliefs and/or choices) as having been "wrong." If you object to the specific choice of terms for some reason... well, I find that interesting (and perhaps to speak to the necessity of my message overall) -- but I think this process is aptly described as "being proven wrong" or "being shown wrong," as in, "I used to believe that there was some good in socialism... but Ayn Rand showed me that I was wrong. She proved it." And I further argue that 1) this is a good thing, being proven wrong in this way; and 2) that people should accordingly come to value the experience of it, rather than dread it -- as I believe most do -- such that it helps to inspire the subconscious phenomenon of evasion, which I believe it does.

My early meanderings into these works were considerably different. There were many things she articulated that were what I had been struggling for years to put into words but lacked understanding to do so. It has been a path of moving from being a believer to becoming a knower.

While wrestling with "proven wrong" in the solitude of my mind looking at the inked letters forming in my trusty journal, what I've been zeroed in on, was more the stages of moving from possible to probable to certain. Proof relies on evidence, and evidence is only of what, in fact, is. In reading proven wrong, it is along the path of moving from possibility to certainty that I think of, where wrong is what isn't.

When putting spreadsheets together with lots of transcribed numbers, adding formulas, linking and cross linking results, error's can and do occur. Whether I, or a cohort find where one of these errors exist and correct them, I don't really consider a case of "proven wrong". The fact that I know 2+2=4 allows me to discover where I expected 4 as a result, see 5, and go back through the steps to discover how/why the answer 5 is showing where I expected a 4. To me, a mistaken belief that could be "proven wrong" would be thinking that 2+2=5 or that 2+3 should be 4, not a mistyped formula, or an erroneous number typed into an input field.

As the various tendrils of your inquiry indicate, this is not the only delimited area that evasion can be applied to. And with regard to "proven wrong", I think we can concur that evidence, rightly presented, leads to what is "right". Meanwhile, I'll try to maintain my categories of that to which I am certain of, that which I consider to be probable, and that which I think or believe might be possible.

 

On the parallel issue of Christianity, I was reared in a home that attended church 3 times a week since before I can remember. I distinctly remember the event which left an impression on me when I was a lad somewhere between the age of 4 or 6. I don't recall if it was a Sunday or a Wednesday, but one of the evening rituals when being tucked into bed was to "say our prayers". That evening, I recited something that had stuck with me from the church services earlier in the day, asking for Jesus to come into my heart. It would not have been so memorable had my mother not gotten up quickly and observably crying as she rushed out of the room. Something was amiss. I knew what made me cry. I was either hurt, or deeply disappointed. Tears of joy were outside of my scope of comprehension at the time. Instead of "Gee. I accepted Jesus as my savior!", I was left with "What have I done? There is something here that just occurred that I don't understand that I need to find an answer for." 

It took years of learning what were the expected responses to the requisite questions while keeping that and other unanswered inquiries that cropped up along the way in the back of my mind. Even by the time I encountered Rand saying she was an atheist, and there was no god, it was not sufficient grounds for the conviction of knowledge in my book.

 

Have there been issues on which I have been "proven wrong" along the way? I'll venture a yes, with the caveat that they are akin to the pain received along the way of acquiring my black-belt in martial arts. It was the black-belt that mattered. The pain was a form of corrective feedback along the way, usually insignificant with regard to the goal, and often laughed about afterward over a beer among those of us who inflicted it on each other.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

I agree with you on that but there is an inconsistency using that type of definition. From what I have seen, Objectivism considers evasion to be immoral. If something is prevented from reaching conscious awareness, then actions based it are in fact amoral, not immoral. If this type of evasion, is amoral, it could mean that this type of evasion, in fact, is NOT what she is talking about.

It's an interesting question, our moral assessment of evasion.

As a bit of preliminary, I must say that when I consider human actions (as well as choices), I don't take seriously the idea of "amorality." This puts me at odds with several notions Objectivists sometimes hold, but given how I view "life as the standard of value" as being more than "survival," I believe that actions (as choices) either work for or against our lives, and are thus moral or immoral, not amoral.

If we are approaching this primarily as a question of judgement -- that is, "how do we judge a man who evades?" -- and are concerned that it would be improper to judge a man on the basis of actions over which he is not fully, consciously aware of his process (whether accounting to evasion or drift), I would say that it's worthwhile to ask whether a man is generally responsible for the state of his own subconscious. We may not be able to direct the subconscious, as such (the realm of our direct awareness and control is, by definition, our conscious mind), but that does not mean that our subconscious develops arbitrarily or randomly, or that we bear no moral responsibility for the consequences of its influence on our behavior. If a teenager characteristically "drifts," and through a chronic lack of focus, a lack of attention, winds up making poor choices -- let's say texting while driving, and hurting himself or others -- I would account that to his morality (or in this case, lack thereof). I would say that his subconscious has developed to the point it has through a habitual misuse of his conscious mind. Though perhaps that is somewhat speculative on my part.

Still, such judgement is not my primary interest with respect to morality. For myself, and my life, when I consider evasion, my response is: that sounds no good; it would work against what I value; I don't want to do it, and if it happens (through subconscious processes or however else) that I evade, I want to be able to recognize the fact and correct for it. I want to stamp it out of my own soul. I don't know how that's to be assessed with respect to "moral" versus "immoral," understood as closer to "metaphysical" or "man-made," but I can say that it is no good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"The man who drifts in an out-of-focus state avoids mental purpose and effort. He does not work to see, to connect, to understand, a policy that pertains to all of his mental contents at the time. Evasion, by contrast, is an active process aimed at a specific content. The evader does expend effort; he purposefully directs his attention away from a given fact. He works not to see it; if he cannot banish it fully, he works not to let it become completely real to him. The drifter does not integrate his mental contents; the evader disintegrates them, by struggling to disconnect a given item from everything that would give it clarity or significance in his own mind. In the one case, the individual is immersed in fog by default; he chooses not to raise his level of awareness. In the other case, he expends energy to create a fog; he lowers his level of awareness. Despite their differences, these two states of consciousness are closely related. If a drifter in a given situation apprehends (dimly or clearly) the need to initiate a thought process, yet refuses to do so, the refusal involves an evasion (he is evading the fact that thought is necessary)."

Peikoff, Leonard. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (Ayn Rand Library) (p. 61). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

It's an interesting question, our moral assessment of evasion.

"Morally, it is the essence of evil. According to Objectivism, evasion is the vice that underlies all other vices. In the present era, it is leading to the collapse of the world."

Peikoff, Leonard. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (Ayn Rand Library) (p. 62). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Easy Truth said:

"The man who drifts in an out-of-focus state avoids mental purpose and effort. He does not work to see, to connect, to understand, a policy that pertains to all of his mental contents at the time. Evasion, by contrast, is an active process aimed at a specific content. The evader does expend effort; he purposefully directs his attention away from a given fact. He works not to see it; if he cannot banish it fully, he works not to let it become completely real to him. The drifter does not integrate his mental contents; the evader disintegrates them, by struggling to disconnect a given item from everything that would give it clarity or significance in his own mind. In the one case, the individual is immersed in fog by default; he chooses not to raise his level of awareness. In the other case, he expends energy to create a fog; he lowers his level of awareness. Despite their differences, these two states of consciousness are closely related. If a drifter in a given situation apprehends (dimly or clearly) the need to initiate a thought process, yet refuses to do so, the refusal involves an evasion (he is evading the fact that thought is necessary)."

Peikoff, Leonard. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (Ayn Rand Library) (p. 61). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

"Active" and the "expense of energy" do not mean that it is a conscious activity; subconscious activity is equally active and equally an expenditure of energy. Elsewhere, Peikoff discusses how the "choice" to focus precedes reasoning, etc., (because reasoning itself requires a certain level of focus) and it is on that level that other phenomena like drifting and evasion are supposed to occur (directly in contrast to focus). You do not say, "Now I shall evade," anymore than you say, "Now I shall focus." It doesn't work that way.

The idea of "refusing to initiate a thought process" is a rough, metaphorical description of a subtle, internal process; if one "refuses to initiate a thought process" in literal fashion, then the purpose is self-defeated: the thought process has already begun.

5 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

"Morally, it is the essence of evil. According to Objectivism, evasion is the vice that underlies all other vices. In the present era, it is leading to the collapse of the world."

Peikoff, Leonard. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (Ayn Rand Library) (p. 62). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

I'm going to try to respond to this in a somewhat cool fashion, despite my initial hot instincts. Let me just say that responding to sincere argument -- the time I'd taken to write what I did, the thought I put into it, etc. -- with replies like these, does not repay me for my efforts. It does not incline me to discuss things any further with you.

There's more that's wrong with this, but what I've expressed is enough.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

I'm going to try to respond to this in a somewhat cool fashion, despite my initial hot instincts. Let me just say that responding to sincere argument -- the time I'd taken to write what I did, the thought I put into it, etc. -- with replies like these, does not repay me for my efforts. It does not incline me to discuss things any further with you.

There's more that's wrong with this, but what I've expressed is enough.

1

I apologize, it was not meant as a reply but as research material that is relevant. I am not saying these things to oppose what you say and I appreciate all the work you put into your concepts and arguments.

I am not trying to disagree with you nor am I trying to upset you. I have not been able to fully integrate these items into my own mind either. The problem is that they can't be ignored and they are a problem. They seem to be at the core of Objectivism. (aren't they?)

Internal evasion also happens with repression. But the biggest problem is when one is talking to someone and they won't admit that 2 plus 2 is 4. That is the most damaging of evasions. Branden wrote a great deal about the process and symptoms.

Anyway, I am bowing out of this discussion and I genuinely wish you good luck with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/21/2017 at 3:02 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

In my first experiences with evasion, my parents called it "faith".

[...]

Imagining that what's basically the mind of the universe itself is inside your head with you, waiting to dish out infinite pleasure or infinite pain depending on the particular trains of thought you choose to follow... It's a lot of pressure. In retrospect, I imagine it must be close to what it feels like to have a gun to the back of your head.

Actually, I think this makes for a good contrast between what I believe evasion to be -- and what others seemingly believe it to be. "Faith" is a doctrine. It is held consciously. I consider it utterly and devastatingly wicked, but it is not, in itself, "evasion." One may have rejected faith entirely, yet still evade.

That said, it is possible that -- similar to what I've recommended in terms of the appreciation of being wrong -- a conscious belief in faith helps to create a fertile mindset for evasion. If consciously held beliefs help to "program" one's subconscious functioning, then I would suspect that faith works in exactly this way.

22 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

At this point, one might ask, is there a distinction to be made between the act/process of evasion, and the motivation or reason behind its appearance when it occurs?

I think that, as the act of evasion is subconscious, the motivations and reasons are apt to be equally subconscious (though as above with faith, there might be motivations or reasons or explicitly held beliefs which dovetail nicely with evasion).

It's sort of like asking, "what's the motivation or reason for focusing?" But before one gets to the level of having conscious "motivation" or "reason," one must already have engaged the process of focusing; evasion is interference with that very process. It can stop one from reaching the point of "being motivated" or "having reason," consciously, by preventing one from coming sufficiently into focus.

One may wish to be focused (as I expect everyone in this forum does), but it still isn't a matter of conscious choice. I cannot command myself to be focused. Does that mean that our conscious minds have nothing to do with whether one is characteristically focused or not? That doesn't seem right to me at all; I expect that there is a strong relationship between our use of our conscious mind and the subconscious that develops over time, with respect to focus versus evasion (or drift).

22 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I think you have identified a single such motivation which is observable in a wide class of people, namely, "being right".  There are people who simply are "right fighters", they fight, not for the specific substance of their views, or even their own rational assessment of it (this is what they actually are avoiding) but of some superficial unthinking label of the "rightness" of it.  It may be invalid and empty but that is what the evasion permits to the person.

Oh yeah. "Being right" or "winning." It's sort of like the people who cheat to get a grade they've never earned, or (from my childhood in the 80s; I think things are different now) the people who use cheat codes to "beat" a video game.

Consciously, at the very least, I would far rather be (ahem) proven wrong -- and learn -- than "win" a conversation/argument/debate and maintain some false belief.

22 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

So, some people, those in this wide class, REALLY CARE about being superficially right.  In the face of facts or logic which tend to threaten WHAT they really care about, the psychological defense mechanism evasion comes to the rescue.

But people really care about many different things, and incidentally, people have markedly different levels of "ego".

I'm trying to speak to things that may exist beyond (or before) our conscious awareness of them. There is an inherent difficulty in this. But what I'm talking about with respect to "ego" can exist even in people who are utterly selfless (per their explicitly held beliefs). The need to be right can exist even in people, like myself, who utterly eschew the need to be right on a conscious level. (Despite my hatred of it, and rejection of it, I am susceptible to evasion, too.)

This isn't so much a superficial concern for being right in a given argument, or so forth, that I'm trying to describe, but a deep, raw, core psychological need -- the thing upon which turns one's ability to survive in the world. It's not something a person would put into words in the course of using it -- the subconscious operates on the level before words (it is the level of giving names to things, or failing to do so) -- but if I were to try to put it into words, it would be something like, "If I am not able to assess what's true or what's false, then how can I trust anything? how can I believe myself? how am I worthy to survive?"

It's sort of like the experience of learning that the person you've known and loved for years really is a secret serial killer; it is potentially a heavy blow to not only your trust for this one person, but your ability to trust, as such. Only "being wrong," on the deepest levels, is potentially a blow against your self-trust. And I believe that evasion, primarily, is a defense against that trust being threatened.

It is something like, "If it turns out that I'm wrong about X... then what does that say about me? I cannot allow that." But without any words, or conscious thought. The conscious experience of it and the way that it manifests in behavior -- that's the very thing I wish to study, so that I can do everything within my power to overcome evasion and its effects.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
41 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

Actually, I think this makes for a good contrast between what I believe evasion to be -- and what others seemingly believe it to be. "Faith" is a doctrine. It is held consciously. I consider it utterly and devastatingly wicked, but it is not, in itself, "evasion." One may have rejected faith entirely, yet still evade.

That said, it is possible that -- similar to what I've recommended in terms of the appreciation of being wrong -- a conscious belief in faith helps to create a fertile mindset for evasion. If consciously held beliefs help to "program" one's subconscious functioning, then I would suspect that faith works in exactly this way.

I think that, as the act of evasion is subconscious, the motivations and reasons are apt to be equally subconscious (though as above with faith, there might be motivations or reasons or explicitly held beliefs which dovetail nicely with evasion).

It's sort of like asking, "what's the motivation or reason for focusing?" But before one gets to the level of having conscious "motivation" or "reason," one must already have engaged the process of focusing; evasion is interference with that very process. It can stop one from reaching the point of "being motivated" or "having reason," consciously, by preventing one from coming sufficiently into focus.

One may wish to be focused (as I expect everyone in this forum does), but it still isn't a matter of conscious choice. I cannot command myself to be focused. Does that mean that our conscious minds have nothing to do with whether one is characteristically focused or not? That doesn't seem right to me at all; I expect that there is a strong relationship between our use of our conscious mind and the subconscious that develops over time, with respect to focus versus evasion (or drift).

Oh yeah. "Being right" or "winning." It's sort of like the people who cheat to get a grade they've never earned, or (from my childhood in the 80s; I think things are different now) the people who use cheat codes to "beat" a video game.

Consciously, at the very least, I would far rather be (ahem) proven wrong -- and learn -- than "win" a conversation/argument/debate and maintain some false belief.

I'm trying to speak to things that may exist beyond (or before) our conscious awareness of them. There is an inherent difficulty in this. But what I'm talking about with respect to "ego" can exist even in people who are utterly selfless (per their explicitly held beliefs). The need to be right can exist even in people, like myself, who utterly eschew the need to be right on a conscious level. (Despite my hatred of it, and rejection of it, I am susceptible to evasion, too.)

This isn't so much a superficial concern for being right in a given argument, or so forth, that I'm trying to describe, but a deep, raw, core psychological need -- the thing upon which turns one's ability to survive in the world. It's not something a person would put into words in the course of using it -- the subconscious operates on the level before words (it is the level of giving names to things, or failing to do so) -- but if I were to try to put it into words, it would be something like, "If I am not able to assess what's true or what's false, then how can I trust anything? how can I believe myself? how am I worthy to survive?"

It's sort of like the experience of learning that the person you've known and loved for years really is a secret serial killer; it is potentially a heavy blow to not only your trust for this one person, but your ability to trust, as such. Only "being wrong," on the deepest levels, is potentially a blow against your self-trust. And I believe that evasion, primarily, is a defense against that trust being threatened.

It is something like, "If it turns out that I'm wrong about X... then what does that say about me? I cannot allow that." But without any words, or conscious thought. The conscious experience of it and the way that it manifests in behavior -- that's the very thing I wish to study, so that I can do everything within my power to overcome evasion and its effects.

I believe that the particular psychological defence mechanism you have identified exists.  I also am quite sure of its effects as well.  I am equally certain of the existence of the psychological defence mechanisms I have identified and their attendant effects.  What is to be sure, is that all of them enable a person psychologically to hold a disconnect with reality in the form of some contradiction, that disconnect "allows" them to "get away with it" psychologically... ie evade the issue.  What of all of this we call True evasion, and whatever species or type (eg conscious or subconscious) we are particularly interested in, it's clear as the authorities of Objectivism say (and independently I agree) that these are at the root of almost all vices plaguing a struggling mentality in the world today.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/23/2017 at 11:42 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

Following up my quote, other types of evasion I would propose, include those aspects of the following, which constitute the suspension of belief in reality, or the recognition of some fact:

procrastination: inherently includes the evasion that the putting off of something important (e.g. putting off studying for an Exam, reducing the total time used studying) will threaten its achievement... this allows the excuse of valuing its replacement (the fun one experiences having a party instead of studying) as justifiable, since there really is no downside.

avoidant behavior: very similar to procrastination but includes things that are avoided (not just put off).  e.g. the cases you can see in any medical textbook, where some person with a clearly serious illness simply avoids the doctor, in hopes the illness will simply go away, and in part because going to the doctor would represent an acceptance of something undesirable, a serious condition, as though not facing the issue would wipe out its existence.

self-delusions: after the fact or during the fact of morally culpable behavior, engaging in the delusion that things are not what they are so as to escape the consequences of accepting them, a doctor who acted negligently uses evasion to deny his responsibility, claims to himself that some outcome was unavoidable or that something he actually should have known was really not something he could have known, or maybe a rapist claiming to himself during or after an act of rape that there is consent... that the facts indicate consent when in fact neither the indications nor the consent is present.

Yes, I think this is a good list.

Speaking to procrastination (which is something I have... a bit of familiarity with, especially in my youth), I think it's down to a lack of focus on the consequences of putting off the "something important." Although then we must consider the question of whether the "lack of focus" accounts to evasion, drift, or an honest "failure" of thought. I don't believe that there is necessarily a 1-to-1 relationship between procrastination (especially when judged from the outside) and evasion.

It's interesting. I think that it's typical among Objectivist discourse to regard focus as an on/off sort of deal: one is either focused (or "in focus") or not. But I wonder whether that's a full description of our capacity to focus -- or whether there's more to it. It's important not alone that we focus, but that we "know" where to direct our focus. (As we speak about these phenomena, it's important to bear in mind their subconscious character; "knowing" in this sense is again a metaphorical description.)

With procrastination specifically, there is also the consideration that we must have sufficient experience to be able to understand why the thing we're putting off is "important," and what that means in terms that we can understand. In raising my own child, I've grown increasingly sensitive to these sorts of issues. Take for instance dental care (though this takes us briefly away from procrastination). My child has no experience with cavities or the consequences that can result from improper dental care -- and so, getting her to brush her teeth is sometimes a struggle. The only direct material she has to work with is the experience of tooth-brushing itself (which is not, for her, particularly pleasant) and the obvious opportunity costs (that it's less time for playing or whatever), and against that, whatever long-term consequences have very little "reality" for her. Mostly the reason why she brushes her teeth, when she does without particular struggle, is based on either pleasing or failing to please her parents, which... is not the ideal kind of motivation I'd like to instill in her. As self-generated as thought may be, it is also a project to teach her how to reason about these sorts of things.

With procrastination, again in my own life, I think it took me quite some time to be able to project the sorts of long range consequences that inspired me to do what was often "important" over what was more immediately understandable to me, in the context of my experience. Perhaps if I had directed my conscious attention to long term consequences more often... spending time thinking about or projecting those consequences, and their results (in terms of emotions, experiences, pleasures and pains), then perhaps that would have seeded my subconscious to focus on those sorts of consequences more often. Maybe these kinds of mental habits can be learned or changed (as, over time, I believe I have changed my own).

Edited by DonAthos

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/22/2017 at 7:00 PM, Easy Truth said:

Just imagine, if one day, you found out that socialism in fact worked. It would feel like you are being tricked, "it can't be true" etc. Suspicion can be overwhelming. 

Really? I'd find it extremely comforting, considering the present course of the world.

I don't think rational people, who know what their beliefs are based on and why, experience such things as the terrible ripping of their psychological fabric; it mainly seems to apply to those who've based their beliefs on nothing in particular (and Peikoff).

On 10/22/2017 at 7:00 PM, Easy Truth said:

Which means that it is to an Objectivist's self-interest to be gentle/understanding in these types of discussions otherwise the opponent is cornered/encouraged to evade.

IDK about that. I'm still working on it, but I suspect there may be much more to that story.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/23/2017 at 7:35 PM, dream_weaver said:

My early meanderings into these works were considerably different. There were many things she articulated that were what I had been struggling for years to put into words but lacked understanding to do so. It has been a path of moving from being a believer to becoming a knower.

I don't meant to dispute anyone's personal narrative, but I find it an interesting phenomenon how we sometimes regard our own past... and especially those elements that relate to our current identity. I've grown to suspect that when I refashion myself into something new, it leads me to regard my own past differently -- and possibly to remember things differently, as well. Certain events loom larger in the mind as precursors to the new identity; other things (especially those which stand in direct contrast to how I currently regard myself) may become so diminished as to disappear altogether.

In the lecture of Peikoff's I'd linked to earlier, again discussing his own difficulties with the subject, he wrote something that I believe speaks to this phenomenon:

Quote

Now, I had trouble with that for years...there's a lot of things in philosophy that I did have trouble with, and there was a certain point in which I just had to say, "Well, the hell with it." I know it now, intellectually, in spades. And this nagging desire to say, "Where from?" or "Why?" or whatever is just a carryover from the old context. And you can get to suppress it. And finally you get exasperated with people who keep asking it, although I'm honest enough to remember when I did.

When he describes himself as being "honest enough" to remember when he had these difficulties, I think he's describing what I'm talking about. I don't think it's necessarily an easy thing to do.

On 10/23/2017 at 7:35 PM, dream_weaver said:

While wrestling with "proven wrong" in the solitude of my mind looking at the inked letters forming in my trusty journal, what I've been zeroed in on, was more the stages of moving from possible to probable to certain. Proof relies on evidence, and evidence is only of what, in fact, is. In reading proven wrong, it is along the path of moving from possibility to certainty that I think of, where wrong is what isn't.

When putting spreadsheets together with lots of transcribed numbers, adding formulas, linking and cross linking results, error's can and do occur. Whether I, or a cohort find where one of these errors exist and correct them, I don't really consider a case of "proven wrong". The fact that I know 2+2=4 allows me to discover where I expected 4 as a result, see 5, and go back through the steps to discover how/why the answer 5 is showing where I expected a 4. To me, a mistaken belief that could be "proven wrong" would be thinking that 2+2=5 or that 2+3 should be 4, not a mistyped formula, or an erroneous number typed into an input field.

As the various tendrils of your inquiry indicate, this is not the only delimited area that evasion can be applied to. And with regard to "proven wrong", I think we can concur that evidence, rightly presented, leads to what is "right". Meanwhile, I'll try to maintain my categories of that to which I am certain of, that which I consider to be probable, and that which I think or believe might be possible.

If it is the intimation --- and I readily admit that I may not understand the point you're making -- but if it is the intimation that one may simply always be right, and never wrong (apart from some superficial error on the level of a "mistyped formula" or etc.) -- and thus we need not trouble ourselves with an approach that treats being wrong as a ubiquitous human experience, and attempts to deal with it -- then I think that this is both incorrect and very dangerous.

Thinking properly is neither automatic nor guaranteed to succeed. There will be errors along the way. (This is to say nothing of the possibility of "drift" or "evasion"; I mean just a good, honest person trying his best to think things through. He will still make mistakes.) And so, guidance for how one should approach the topic of being wrong is absolutely necessary, if we mean to have a philosophy for living on earth.

I have seen suggestions on various threads that (true) Objectivists never suffer, are never sad, etc., and here (again: if I read you correctly, which I may not, because... sometimes I am wrong) that they are never wrong. But this is not only wrong in itself, but I believe it is the exact sort of thing which can lead to evasion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don,

Perhaps this will be clarifying. I've tended to be more of an agnostic in the privacy of my mind along life's way. I can see the allure of agnosticism, and it took time to get Rand's criticism of the agnostic. Peikoff discusses it rather succinctly in chapter 5 of OPAR. Rather than quote it, the passages head up the term Agnosticism in the lexicon.

The struggle for me was coming to grips with what constitutes itself as evidence. (I just noticed there's no lexicon entry for "evidence".) It played a role in my general dislike of "what if's" outside of tightly regimented scenarios. This has been evolving into seeking more clarity in my own mind before pontificating something outright.

As I become more knowledgeable, the "agnosticism", if you will, is a check on another couple of elements. It takes time and interest to examine and connect the available evidence to my satisfaction. As Mark Scott once noted, it is the finiteness of life that puts the kibosh on omniscience, or as the Bill Murray line in the movie Groundhog's Day put's it, "Maybe God isn't omnipotent. Maybe he's just been around so long, he knows everything.”

I'm not at odds with the fact that errors are possible. I'm applying the law of excluded middle to the proposition that "man has to be 'proven wrong'" best I know how. Ultimately, man has to discover error before he can be cognizant that it even exists.

PS: In evaluation of that last sentence, I had to have erred at least once, unless one can discover error simply via the evidence of error in others. B)

Edited by dream_weaver

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Perhaps this will be clarifying. I've tended to be more of an agnostic in the privacy of my mind along life's way. I can see the allure of agnosticism, and it took time to get Rand's criticism of the agnostic. Peikoff discusses it rather succinctly in chapter 5 of OPAR. Rather than quote it, the passages head up the term Agnosticism in the lexicon.

The struggle for me was coming to grips with what constitutes itself as evidence. (I just noticed there's no lexicon entry for "evidence".) It played a role in my general dislike of "what if's" outside of tightly regimented scenarios. This has been evolving into seeking more clarity in my own mind before pontificating something outright.

I hear you, and I think you do right in being careful before "pontificating" or assessing yourself as "certain" on a thing. (And as it happens, "evidence" is another one of those topics that I think could stand a thorough examination.) I think this is a far better process than otherwise, and I trust that you are more careful than most. (For what it's worth, I try to think carefully as well.)

But the question for me becomes, what about those times when even this process goes awry? It's like (and please forgive me my "what if" scenarios; I have a writer's heart)...

It's like I'm discussing emergency plans, should the dam burst and flood the town. And what I hear you saying is, "Well, that's no problem. Just make sure you build the dam to code." And I agree with you: let's build the dam to code. Let's build the best damn dam that we can. But I also would like some idea of what to do, if/when the dam breaks, because I've seen that this happens from time to time elsewhere and historically. It might not happen to our dam, but...

22 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

I'm not at odds with the fact that errors are possible.

I'm glad, because I would submit to you that the evidence on this score is conclusive. :)

22 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

I'm applying the law of excluded middle to the proposition that "man has to be 'proven wrong'" best I know how. Ultimately, man has to discover error before he can be cognizant that it even exists.

PS: In evaluation of that last sentence, I had to have erred at least once, unless one can discover error simply via the evidence of error in others. B)

At least once. ;)

I'm not arguing for some sort of primacy of error, or something like that; that error must be discovered prior to truth, or what have you, or that error is somehow "more important" than truth, or etc. But what I'm saying is that people do err. And not just a little. Moreover, I believe that everyone errs from time to time. I think that this is not alone due to evasion, or moral failure, but accounting to the fact that proper reasoning is a learned skill, thought is a self-generated activity, and many of the issues we confront are quite complicated. It is reasonable to expect errors in such a process; and thus I hold it reasonable to try to craft methods for detecting and dealing with such errors.

What is so pernicious and remarkable about evasion is how our own minds can work against our conscious ability to detect our own errors. It takes a special approach to be able to root out such errors, in my opinion, and that's what I'm trying to get to, in this thread.

____________________

Apropos of not very much, but would you indulge me in a little more "what if"?

Suppose we discovered, at the bottom of the Ayn Rand Archives, hidden away by Britting, a letter written by Rand at the end of her life which read, "Among my many philosophical writings, I have purposely made three crucial reasoning errors. Those who merely memorize and repeat my philosophy, like a dogma, will be unable to detect these errors, and I will know false friends accordingly. True Objectivists will discover these errors and disavow them, even if it leads them to disavowing me and my philosophy."

My question to you is: not what we suppose the errors might be, but what would it take, in terms of mentality, to be able to assess Rand's writing such that a person could detect these errors (without any knowledge of her letter)? This mentality (fleshed out in part, but not entirely, by this sort of exercise) is what I mean to discover and refine for use in my own life.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think of the hurricanes that have swept through this year. Even with advance notice, people have left themselves in harms way. Before emergency plans can be made, the nature of the emergency has to be delineated. Are you planning for a fissure that emanates into a rupture, or just an outright rupture. What is the distance from the damn factors into how much advance notice is available in both the aforementioned alternatives. The more alternatives, the more permutations. I've come to appreciate this fact from having contemplated Colletz Conjecture to the degree that I did.

A few thoughts on memorization. Growing up, memorizing Bible versus was a fact of life. I can still cite a few, and the ones I can't recite, I can probably give you the gist of. At one time, I had Rand's proof of morality from Galt's speech memorized. I recall being told that wasn't the way, and in principle (had I been taught better reasoning skills growing up) it is not. I've not put a clock on it, but I've been here for going on 8 years. Part of that time was spent on the searchable CD searching for words, phrases, "this" near "that" to find related writings from what was made available on the CD. There is more material that I can retain, I can't remember which book every passage is in. What I have found is that having familiarized myself to the extent I have, on this forum, that more laymen than Ayn Rand "experts" are, it is a matter of accessing the questions and objections that are being brought up, and sifting through the chaff to find the wheat. Memorizing and repeating her philosophy like dogma is not the key to detecting errors. Sensitizing one's own mind to detecting the nature of contradiction does. It is a refinement of "agnosticism" to disregard the arbitrary, and then to continually hone the ability to recognize when the burden of evidence has been met.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not ready to properly respond to this yet. In the whirlwind of activity that my last few years have been I've neglected the framework necessary for contributing anything useful (i.e. my grasp of Objectivist Epistemology) and it's been eroded slightly. If I have any input to give then I'll give it after I've patched myself up.

In the meantime, though, I do know that this is relevant.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/21/2017 at 11:08 AM, DonAthos said:

And then, in myself, I wonder: how should I know it, if I evade? Because I take it for granted (though perhaps I shouldn't) that a person does not have conscious awareness of his own evasion; if he had conscious awareness, it wouldn't be evasion. That's what makes it so damned troublesome!

Rand described evasion as "the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one's consciousness, the refusal to think--not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know." This is why it's proper to condemn people for evasion, because it is a willful act.

For example, this thread was too long. I consciously chose to read only the first few posts and ignore the rest. So if my above point has already been made by someone else and you've addressed it, then I should expect to be told so. But once told, if I then blank it out and refuse to look at your prior reply, then I should expect to be accused of evasion were I to go on with the debate as if you never made a reply.

Edited by MisterSwig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×