Re: Books on rationality

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Tue Jun 04 2002 - 17:03:27 MDT

On Friday, May 31, 2002, at 10:55 PM, Ben Goertzel wrote:

>> The first step is to develop a reading list of books that have been
>> influential in developing rational thought. In order to expand the
>> list, I'm asking you to reply with any additions that you might have.
>> Here's what we have so far (putting my initial list and Eliezer's
>> additions together):
>> Beyond anthropomorphism by Eliezer Yudkowsky (section 2 of CFAI)
>> The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley
>> Man: The Moral Animal by Robert Wright
>> The Mind's Past by Michael S. Gazzaniga
>> Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman
>> Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
> If you're going to recommend Pirsig, I think his second book (what was
> the
> title? "Lila" ?) actually went into a lot more depth about the working
> of
> the mind, the patterns of culture and their influence on the mind, etc.
> Check it out.

Okay, I will. I haven't read anything written by Pirsig (BTW, that name
has neat typography; most words don't look like anything) and I only
just read /Mr. Feynman/, which is an interesting book.

> A really really deep book on the freeing of the mind from irrationality
> of
> all sorts is "Thought as a System" by David Bohm, which goes on and on
> about
> liberating ourselves from cultural and biological thought systems. It
> was
> deeply influenced by Bohm's (he's a quantum physicist) long relationship
> with Krishnamurti

Okay, I'll look into that. There is also a video series called /The
Transformation of Man/ with Krishnamurti and him. It's a bit older
(circa 1970) so there are bound to be ideas in it that we now know are
errors, but it seems to be worth a look.

> Krishnamurti, "The Nature of the Mind"
> M
> ind

Hmm, this and the video series I mentioned above seem related. Combined
they're 500 minutes of material. This should be an excellent resource.

> I think that to get many humans to think significantly more rationally
> is
> either
> a) impossible, or
> b) such a long-term project that it would take vastly longer than the
> 10-100
> years we have till the Singularity

True, and I don't see it as necessary to make everyone rational. I hope
that if we can reach some of the more influential people in society,
development of the Singularity might go more easily in those last few

As Michael Anissimov said to me over #sl4, he likes the idea because it
might improve Singularitarians, making a better team of supporters and
possible developers. Even if this is all that comes of the project,
it's still a worthwhile accomplishment, in my opinion.

> So, while I think that advocating rational thought is a good thing, I
> doubt
> efforts in this regard are going to help much with Singularity
> acceptance.
> No reason not to try though ;)

I know it probably won't have a significant effect on the Singularity,
but I have to find some way to make this on topic. ;-)

> One more thing; I think the term "rational thought" can rub some people
> the
> wrong way. It rubs *me* the wrong way a little, and would certainly
> have
> the same impact (but more strongly) on many artists & musicians &
> writers
> whom I know. Artistic sorts value their "irrational" intuitions and
> tastes

Hmm, this is an interesting concern. Unfortunately, I think that more
accurate terminology will hurt the meme's ability to spread because it
wouldn't have an easy to remember name. Thank you for pointing this
out, though, because this is a concern that I probably would have
neglected to address somewhere early in the text.

IIRC, I started using the `rational thought' terminology because when I
was setting up the mailing list for Rational Thinkers I had to have some
name for it an `rational' was the most appropriate words I could think
of. It was likely inspired by recent use of the word on SL4 or
somewhere else. If someone can think of a good replacement, please let
me know.

Gordon Worley                     `When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty            said, `it means just what I choose                it to mean--neither more nor less.'
PGP:  0xBBD3B003                                  --Lewis Carroll

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