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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in hairyfigment's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
2:20 am
You had me at "illegal magical practices."
Friday, April 9th, 2010
10:18 pm
late question
Does anyone reading this plan to go to croquet?
Friday, October 3rd, 2008
1:34 pm
That seems like one of the more coherent bits
From my dream: "Oh great, now the Chinese government will accuse me of hating Santa Claus (or wanting to kill God)."
Wednesday, September 26th, 2007
4:11 pm
September 26, 1983
Happy Petrov Day! I invented this holiday to remember someone who may have saved civilization and got screwed for it.
Friday, February 9th, 2007
8:22 am
Why Nietszche acts like a dick
Actually, I just plan to address one dickish behavior: Nietzsche's use of what seem like ad hominem attacks. He analyzes philosophers as if he thinks their motives disprove their conclusions. This would generally qualify as a logical fallacy. Even if the majority of people who believe in Hell did so out of envy, that wouldn't prove from an abstract logical perspective that Hell does not exist. Nietzsche surely knows this. And he certainly knows that others could attack his philosophy by analyzing his own motives.

My interpretation goes back to the Eternal Return. I see this in part as a test for the Superman. The author speaks of wanting all of the past and present to repeat indefinitely so that one's actions could repeat indefinitely. I think "Superman" means roughly someone who would feel this way all the time. I also think Celia "Crazy Woman" Green has a big part of the picture: "it is plain that the idea is connected with the existential perception that the events of your life really exist." We might add that according to the evidence, every action or event really involves a host of others back into the distant past. So thinking about the Eternal Return easily shades into thinking about reality.

Nietzsche doesn't attack people's motives because feeling some emotion automatically makes you wrong. He attacks motives that the writers in question do not want to recognize in themselves, because refusing to look at the source of one's actions prevents one from contemplating reality. You can't wholeheartedly affirm your actions, history and will if you deny your history and will. It hinders the creation of the Übermensch, who would provide a conscious purpose for reality. A religion of envy in particular would rule this out because in Nietzsche's view the worshipers could never accept the true origins of their slave morality. ("Slave morality" sounds like an insult precisely because nobody's 'moral' feelings meet the definition fully. Everyone feels the influence of some noble morality that calls it shameful to live in slavery or to think like a slave.) Nietzsche likes "nobility" not only because it creates good opportunities for dickishness, but also because he seems to consider it necessary for facing reality with joy.
7:36 am
"There can be only one" seems like a terrible way of looking at the world. But we have the habit of trying to look at causes in isolation, as if anything could happen in isolation. Even if we can't find more than one proximate cause for an event, we can find a cause for that cause and continue this back until our knowledge gives out. More often it looks like changing any one of a number of "causes" would have changed the outcome. Al Gore lost the White House because the media lied about him! No, because of the way he ran his campaign! No, because of Nader! No, because of the Supreme Court! No, because Florida Republicans broke the law! No, because of Gore's positions on gun control! No, because of Clinton's affair(s)! No, because Gore distanced himself from Clinton! No, because of the Southern Strategy! No, because the War on Some Drugs stripped citizens of the right to vote! No, because of the Electoral College! No, because at some point church leaders decided the Communist threat warranted a change in teachings! No, because the DLC abandoned most of America! No, because of Elián! Feel free to add your own, I'm starting to feel tired.
Saturday, December 30th, 2006
6:26 pm
payday loan
Just popping in to link to a post about the payday loan. See here for the reason why. (Feel free to tell me I don't know what I'm doing technically. Unless you just want to point out that few people read my journal.)

Current Mood: amused
Wednesday, September 20th, 2006
4:25 am
weird economics
This post consists of a rough draft of my favorite plan to end poverty and wage slavery in America. My dream Congress would threaten to put this plan into operation unless experts produced a better plan.

Click to read quackeryCollapse )
Saturday, September 16th, 2006
11:48 pm
"asteroid" means "dwarf planet"
Hail Eris and her satellite, Gulik!
Thursday, August 3rd, 2006
3:00 am
Reformation and Age of Reason
This essay about doctrine (via Amp) suggests a way to solidy a post or two that I've kicked around for a while.* (From my point of view the author talks about empathy and then starts his next paragraph with an insult, but never mind that now.) It starts by mentioning two groups who ask two different questions of religion: the children of the Enlightenment ("How can I know what is true?") and the children of the Reformation ("Where will I spend eternity?").

When I first read that in the context of the post, my Enlightenment-bred self wanted to make an immediate comment to the effect that the Reformation question contradicts itself. The following seems slightly unfair, since if I have to die I, too, would like to leave behind a Superman in place of a corpse. But please bear with me. In order to live for a thousand years, ten thousand, one hundred thousand and so on to eternity, a human soul would have to change so dramatically that it would likely seem like a different person (and in fact a different species.) I define "live" to include keeping one's memories, rather than forgetting every century for eternity and likely repeating one's mistakes forever. If you don't forget in this way, it seems like one of the following must happen. Either the eons slowly change you until at last you would no longer recognize yourself -- so thoroughly that you would no longer call yourself human -- or you'd somehow lose the ability to change. Which to my mind also seems central to our humanity.

So I see no plausible answer to the question of the Reformation except, "Un-ask the question." Or, to paraphrase what Jesus says in Matthew to the guy who keeps asking, 'If you want to live forever, give up everything about your life you consider essential.' Compare this Christian view with Aleister Crowley writing about "the Black Brothers".

But if we keep digging, we find a similar answer to the question of the Enlightenment. Let's look at that question in its most general sense. As qwantz says, all judgements technically require certain assumptions. But I wouldn't call those assumptions "self-evident" so much as "provably false". Logic's seeming certainty stems from the belief that we can't even imagine experience contradicting it. Kant, as I pretend to understand him, assumed that we have absolutely certain knowledge and decided that in that case we must lack the ability to experience a contradiction, even in dreams. But we have testimony claiming that some people have already perceived what seem like flat contradictions of all or most of Kant's certainties. (For one example, click on the following link and read the part where it says, "And now a thing happens, which is unfortunately sheer nonsense".) Feeling absolute certainty in any claim whatsoever now requires the assumption that these people lied or expressed themselves poorly, or that their experience somehow does not fit the facts. This in turn seems to imply the argument that our everyday experience follows logic, so why should we care about some oddball vision? In other words, the defense of absolute certainty requires some form of scientific induction, which can never give us absolute certainty (if we think about it). We prefer not to think about this because it doesn't seem to lead us anywhere useful, unless we consider the Abyss useful.

*My comment on Nate's blog referred to another post I may write soon, but this seems vaguely related.

Current Mood: bouncy
Sunday, June 11th, 2006
7:53 pm
Law of Fives?
Okay, does all good Fantasy combine Christianity and Thelema? First I see this in Diane Duane. Now I re-read Seventh Son and find Taleswapper almost quoting The Vision and the Voice. And calling it a prophecy!

Current Mood: confused
Monday, May 8th, 2006
5:42 pm
Prime Mover inside
I obscured one point in my last post that I want to clarify, since it has implications for meditation.*

I talked as if Aristotle called the Prime Mover an external definition of morality. Actually, he would more likely call it the primal example of virtue. But he did say that the Mover spent eternity contemplating itself, so even without postulating a Nous as Plotinus does, you might get away with calling it a point-of-view on virtue. In fact, I don't think Aristotle distinguishes between the Prime Mover itself and a complete, accurate thought of the Prime Mover. I think that to him, contemplating it in fullness would mean having the Prime Mover itself in your soul. (Though this metaphor seems misleading. We might better say that your soul reaches out to include The Unmoved.) The map is the territory. This explains how he could locate thought-thinking-itself at the edge of the Ptolemaic world. The soul of the outermost sphere had the most complete picture of the Prime Mover, which means that it contains the Prime Mover.** Now, in Lovecraft's story, the human main character feels prejudice towards the primary body of the Soul and the Unmoved Mover, and thinks of them all in question-begging terms.

*Aleister Crowley associated his mystic goal with the Buddhist meditation on Consciousness, as well as those on Space, Nothing and the logically equivalent Neither P nor not-P. Aristotle, meanwhile, probably accepted initiation in the Eleusinian Mysteries. We can guess what that means, but we don't really know.

**Aristotle actually wrote about many Unmoved Movers and visible heavenly Souls. I'd call this a clash of principles. It seems unreasonable to Aristotle to say that one Unmoved Mover produces contrary motions. It seems unreasonable to Plotinus to say that pure thought-thinking-itself could include so much variation. Aristotle's objection no longer applies in our cosmology, at least not for the reasons he gave.
Friday, May 5th, 2006
6:06 pm

Happy Sabbat of Azathoth! Come on, different planets would experience May 1 at different 'times' anyway.

I want to talk more about "objective morality". Because while I mentioned it briefly in a previous argument, the word "objective" could have two different meanings here.

First, it could mean that we can prove a moral position objectively (inter-subjectively, if you want to get technical). Clearly, none of us have an objective morality in this sense. You can prove that a given action will have a given result, but this doesn't get us anywhere unless we already accept some definition of morality.* When people talk about reason proving moral claims, either they haven't thought it through, or they want to appeal rhetorically to some part of the listener that agrees with their definition (as I do when arguing for my preferred rules of behavior).

I have a bit more trouble rigorously expressing the second possible sense of the word "objective". I'll give it a shot. Sometimes, people who use the term appear to mean that morality exists in the noumena. (And not just in other humans considered as noumena, but somewhere else entirely.) For the reasons previously stated, this view logically implies that something like a definition of morality exists 'outside' of all humans. When I try to make sense of this curious claim, I arrive at the image of a non-human intelligence that happens to agree with the speaker. This roughly agrees with the views of Aristotle and especially Plotinus.

I freely admit that my morality (if you want to call it that) does not claim any objective origin in this second sense. I maintain that nobody else gets morality from outside themselves either, except in the sense that my will comes from "outside myself". (Namely, in the sense of efficient cause rather than formal cause. Y'all make decisions using your inner morality, and would continue to do so if I somehow proved that your 'outer source of morality' wanted you to rape and kill.**) And I argue that "objective" formal origin would not add any morally significant benefit in any case, whether we use my definition of morality or Nate's. Consider Azathoth. The Great God of the Old Ones who sits at the Center of Infinity closely resembles Aristotle's Prime Mover and Form of Good -- more than the Torah's YHVH does, frankly. ("For assuredly, does not the Unmoved Mover continue its own activity eternally with no thought for others? Therefore GLOMPSLUUURP" Old One eats your brain) But if we could prove that Azathoth produces and rules all reality, I still wouldn't feel morally compelled to imitate his priest Cthulhu, or others like Nyarlathotep who claim to speak for him. (Well, no more than I already do.) Likewise, if we could prove that the One or the Nous agrees with me, I wouldn't consider this logical proof of my morality. It would give me a nice feeling, but someone else with a different morality could continue as before with no self-contradiction. (Unless they invoked the authority of the One for some odd reason. And since LINAD, finding a contradiction in one opposing view would not prove my own definition.) In this situation, I'd consider the divine intelligence moral because it agrees with me, not the other way around. I argue that pretty much everyone shares this reaction (see first asterisk), unless they'd accept Azathoth as their personal savior. Theologians know this, more or less, and some have tried to address it by identifying their God with the Form of Good. I don't think this assertion changes the argument. Trying to assign a meaning to the words brings us quickly back to Azathoth, who creates our definition of morality along with everything else and inspires the alien morality of the Old Ones. (See also the non-dimensional King in Flatland by A Square.) I'd also like to point out that you couldn't get much farther removed from the first meaning of the word "objective".

*Technically, we don't need a verbal definition if we experience some reaction that assigns meaning to an event. (For example, a reaction that includes anger and makes us want to use the word 'evil'.) Instead of "a definition", I could have said "a complex of semapoetic reactions", but then nobody would have any clue what I meant.

**I don't mean to ignore the Pauline argument about God helping you to behave morally. That argument assumes you already have some fixed morality before experiencing direct non-human help. Otherwise it just begs the question.
Thursday, January 26th, 2006
3:15 am
Reality Wars
Janus Auditorium, Hodge University

Hello and welcome to History of the Reality Wars 101. You can call me Thaddeus or Mr. Zeal. I see that as usual, we have a wide variety of life-forms in this class. Some of you will find much of the material familiar, especially in this first lesson. I apologize for this and ask you to bear with me. Please hold your questions until the end of the lecture. Now, since some of you lack hands or reject the dichotomy of up and down, we've provided you with Frobozz Magic Question Buttons. If your button doesn't work, do not go to the FrobozzCo InterTemporal Complaints Department. Especially not in person -- don't ever visit FrobozzCo HQ without a specific invitation, no matter what it says on the package. Instead, consult the psionic manual and if that doesn't help, look for one of the techno-geeks on the list outside.

All clear? Good. Then let's begin. I'd like to start at the beginning, but unfortunately I can't. Anyone who looks for a beginning in the Reality Wars will find at least five, and not always the same five. Most of those beginnings never happened anyway, just like all of the major battles. So instead, we'll start with some terminology. [indicates the blackboard, which shows the word “grammar” inside the image of a many-tentacled creature clutching various terms.] I just used the general erasure tense. I think I'd better explain why people invented it, and why this Cthuloid needs so many tentacles. The general erasure tense indicates something that would have occurred, something we could observe in history, if not for one of the following forms of editing:

First level editing means using the rules of a specific reality or ficton to cause drastic change. This includes time travel and Amber-style reality molding.

Second level editing means using the Heinlein-Burroughs-Long rules of World As Myth to change the rules of first level editing. We also sometimes speak of ‘second level events’ that show no sign of an author beyond the ficton or storyline itself. For example, the Heinlein-Duane Law of Conflict says that when two timelines or storylines come into conflict, due to first level editing for example, each will try to absorb the other. Sometimes one will succeed without difficulty. In other cases, the warring realities will generate new timelines as they attempt to absorb each others' energy and so forth. In some cases one of these new fictons will absorb the first two. In every case, the inhabitants of each ficton will think of themselves as real. As you know, our town of Podge – I'm sorry, we're calling it Hodge today – our town is the only ficton that has never thought of itself as the One Real Reality.

Third level editing does not occur in the currently accessible version of multiversal history. I just used the third level erasure tense, by the way. If editing of this form did occur, it would take place entirely in the theorized Deep Reality Wars, where life as we know it could not survive. Battles here would consist entirely of conflicts between special living fictons or archetypal figures who could function in such an environment. Remember this for later classes, when we discuss the Powers Born of Life and the question of who creates who.

[long explanation of grammar cut for space]
1:33 am
Looks like someone actually wants to hear about Kabbalah. The following comes mainly from pagan sources, so orthodox kabbalists may disagree vehemently. (Personally, I see religious theft as an ancient and honorable tradition, practiced by the Hebrews themselves.)

I'll describe the general purpose first: numerology allows us to connect any two objects. This theoretically gives us a great advantage in prayer and meditation, since we can connect anything we see to the object of thought. For other uses, see here, sections I and II. (See also Conspiracy Theorists, accidental demon summoning by.)

Now, by these methods we can classify anything imaginable using the Tree of Life diagram (earlier version here.) I'll address the unimaginable in a second. The diagram shows the ten Sephiroth -- literally numbers or countings, but the word has come to mean emanations of God -- and their relationships with each other. Sephirah ten corresponds to the world we live in (well, most of the time). To continue my last post, we can describe the Sephiroth as Earthwards or Onewards relative to each other. We'd probably want to distinguish between 'Earthwards in the diagram', like Nine relative to Six, and 'Earthwards in numerical order', like Eight relative to Seven. Note that occultists call the numerical order of Sephiroth "the lightning bolt", for obvious reasons. Note also, that no path connects Sephiroth Three and Four. This gap represents the "Abyss" between our world and "God". The first three Sephiroth, starting from One, correspond roughly to the Hypostases of Plotinus. Understanding goes with the Soul (the Neschamah, really, but never mind that now) while Wisdom goes with the creative Intelligence or Logos. Beauty receives a ray from each of these three Onewardmost spheres.

Now, I promised to mention the unimaginable. In orthodox Kabbalah, as I understand it, all these emanations come out of the Limitless Light (Ain Soph or Ain Soph Aur) by way of the One. Orthodoxy also teaches that we can best represent Ain Soph by using the negative, Ain (Nothing). Names of God (and images, if any) would better correspond to the emanations. This helps to explain why Aleister Crowley assigned Ain Soph to the number Zero. At some point, unless I get permanently side-tracked, I'll explain a little more of his viewpoint. I also want to describe the "planetary" correspondences of the Tree, with something resembling an explanation, and I have some remarks on Mercury in particular. That last bit will probably find its way here even if y'all show no interest -- I may spare you some of the rest depending on the response.
Wednesday, January 25th, 2006
3:35 pm
gravity and language
Humanity has broken the sphere of the moon.

The words "up" and "down" reflect an old view of the world where the heavenly bodies orbit the Earth -- more or less -- and the crystal sphere bearing the Moon divides our world from the changeless heavens. Certainly we could redefine "down" to mean "towards the center of the Earth", but then we have problems when traveling near other heavenly bodies, and other problems that I'll address later. It seems to me that we could reasonably replace the words "up" and "down" with "outwards (from the Core)" and "inwards". This makes for an easier change when discussing other centers of gravity. Besides, it seems self-evident that traveling "inwards" will take you outwards if you keep going past the Core of the Earth, whereas language gives us no reason to think that going "down" will ever take you "up". (In this connection, consider the possibility of launching a spacecraft horizontally from a mountain.)

This can help us in other fields as well. In NetHack and other RPGs, we can describe dungeon levels as later vs. earlier and experience levels as greater vs. lesser, instead of using gravity-related words. Thus, we could say, "go forward a level," or "increase a level."

If we could agree on one or two further conventions, we could even classify "mystical" experiences in value-free terms. For example, if we accept the kabbalistic classification system, we could speak of them as Earthwards vs. One-wards (or Zerowards if we accept Aleister Crowley's version.) "Greater" vs. "lesser" would work in arithmetic, but here they have too many other connotations. People speak of the One as "greater" and "higher" than other numbers. I'll explain the kabbalistic part later for people scratching their heads at this point.
Monday, January 16th, 2006
11:10 pm
Life Is Not A Debate.

If you screw up, proving that your opponent has also made a mistake doesn't get you points on some heavenly scoreboard. You still screwed up. And if the issue matters, you still have the duty to fix your mistake.
Monday, December 26th, 2005
8:12 pm
Late Christmas post
English law seems to require that all writers 'prove' Jesus would agree with them.* But in fact, as one such writer admitted, we do not know what Jesus taught. We do not even know for sure that a man by that name taught at the time in question. It seems possible, looking at the earliest Christian documents we have, that Paul meant something else entirely. But this theory may require other unproven assumptions (like the existence in Paul's time of a belief that the Teacher of the Essenes died on the cross.) In which case, Newton's Rule I may not come into play. Here, again, nothing seems certain about the alleged life and teachings of Jesus. The various theories agree on not one point, except perhaps the existence of "Paul". (If that is his real name.) We literally have more historical information about the Bavarian Illuminati. Yet so many people, whether they call themselves religious or atheist (or other, in some cases), seem certain of their pet hypotheses. I suspect it would help if each of us would use the word 'maybe' a little more often.

*This law applies even when the writer explicitly denies the existence of Jesus, as Aleister Crowley does.
7:54 pm
Morality, conclusion
A lot of people seem upset about the claim that morality "is subjective". Well, if you think you have an objectively true morality, let's see an objective proof. Make sure you don't use any assumptions! You know that someone can always object to whatever you assume.

It turns out you can't prove any conclusion by logical argument, if your opponent simply refuses to accept it. At most, you can reveal a logical contradiction in their views. And at this point, someone who stubbornly refuses to accept your viewpoint -- unless they've agreed to follow some rule that forbids it -- can change their assumptions to fit their desired conclusion. This actually happened in mathematical set theory, so it has a respectable history. In the case of morality, let's say we show that everyone has a natural instinct to follow our preferred morality. If Odysseus wants to go on killing people, he can argue that true virtue requires fighting our instincts. Actually he'd just hit me, but you see my point.

Some will see this as a flaw in reason. People like Leon 'bring down the Towers of secularism' Kass seem to think that reason can never produce morality -- at least not morality that religious people can accept -- and that we need theocracy to fix the problem. (Or he may want anarchy, I can't tell which.) Well, I've already addressed the claim that God provides believers with 'objective' or absolute morality. And I think this focus on abstract objections misses the point entirely. Rational morality doesn't mean deriving morals from set theory, or even string theory. It means giving an argument that most humans will accept, for rational reasons.

REBT seems to argue against the claim that we need religion to teach people morality. For those of you who skipped my rough drafts, I found out about this therapy while researching general-semantics. It outperforms other non-chemical therapies in controlled studies. And it works by helping people to pursue "rational goals". I admit that if someone disputes the rationality of these goals, we have no way to prove it. But does this actually matter in practice? It seems like pretty much everyone does agree with the goals. Indeed, some critics call REBT hedonistic and egoistic because its goals contribute to long-term personal happiness. (To which Dr. Ellis might reply that if you look at actual studies instead of arguing about noises, you'll see that his therapy also reduces antisocial behavior.) Humans don't like to hurt people who we see as similar to ourselves, and reason tells us to regard everyone as similar to ourselves. So, to get back to moral education and the religious argument, it seems to me that reason can take care of teaching morality without using the name of any deity. We could convince children of my preferred morality using reason and experience. (This may not always convince adults who believe in a different morality, but I think it has a better chance than converting them to a hostile religion!) Using their instincts to silence abstract objections doesn't seem dishonest, because if we teach them REBT and some form of general-semantics, the slightest thought on the matter will lead anyone who cares back to those objections. And I think my preferred "rational goal" morality can easily survive such investigation. Some will say that, if we go back far enough in history, Christianity helped give one instinct the largest role in morality. (Odysseus would have stressed the virtue of other desires.) This seems plausible enough, but what of it? Thinking about the influence of my environment does not lead me to go and kill people, because it does not change my desires (learned or otherwise). It does not change my True Will in this regard. And however my morality started, I don't think we need religion to teach it.
Wednesday, December 7th, 2005
1:56 am
Morality, rough draft, Part Three
After reading my last two posts, some people may ask how I can morally condemn rape and murder. I may not commit these crimes myself, the thinking goes, but other people who adopt my principles might. What would stop them?

Well, humans don't like to hurt people who we see as similar to ourselves. And when we learn random information about someone, we tend to see them as a person like us. Humans do not normally extend this honor to strangers beyond a small circle or Monkeysphere. But we still don't like to hurt people when we see them as people. And science tells us pretty early on that yes, those people we don’t know can feel emotion just as strongly as the ones in our Monkeysphere. (Technically we can't prove that anyone has feelings, but we've just established that all non-sociopaths accept some others as feeling humans.) So reason combined with instinct makes me feel bad about hurting people. These two much-maligned factors together give us morality. It doesn't work if someone lacks the instincts in question, but we have guns, police and martial arts for just such an occasion. (And I doubt many sociopaths would listen to us no matter what argument we make for morality.)

But plenty of societies have failed to apply this principle in the correct way (meaning, the way we'd like). Don't we need more to ensure that we pass this morality on to future generations? Well, we have other instincts to use. Children don't like to disappoint their parents. Humans in general don't like it when society shuts them out. It seems to me that combined with the Monkey principle, these facts remove the need for any mention of deity in moral education. I don't think we even need to go beyond the empirical facts. At worst, we can tell children a partial truth like, 'I view it as wrong to hurt people'. I would actually stick to the truth even more closely than this. Either I would tell children (truthfully) that I don't want them to hurt people, or I'd mention that my personal rules have exceptions and offer (truthfully) to discuss them at a suitable time.

You may well see this as impractical. I did feel uneasy about my armchair advice on child-rearing when I typed it. But here we come to an interesting fact. I discovered this while researching my philosophy, but I'd forgotten it until I had to defend my program. According to REBT, a non-chemical therapy that works better than others in outcome studies, viewing morality as a law of the universe does not lead to sane behavior. Rather the opposite. REBT therefore encourages us to view actions and morals through the prism of "rational goals", which can overlap with "True Will" as I define it. More on this in my next post, where I try to bring it all together.
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