Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Sat Aug 24 2002 - 06:33:55 MDT

FYI, I'm going to be out most of the day, so I only have a little time
for e-mail this morning. I'll finish making replies tonight.

On Saturday, August 24, 2002, at 01:02 AM, Samantha Atkins wrote:

> Personally, I have problems with the implied premise that rationality
> is the end and be all of human consciousness. I

Me, too.

Rationality is just one step up from being a human thinker. I think
that there are at least two more qualitative changes in thought:
enlightenment and, for lack of a better term, Buddha thought.

> believe it is very important and foundational but I do not believe it
> is penultimate. I usually find the way people speak of it and defend it
> and especially defend against any notion that it might not be the
> hightest end-good of sentience, decidely circular. It looks a bit like
> another memeset defended vigourously against all others. It cannot
> integrate with other memes easily unless it can dominate or consume
> them into itself.

I'm not sure when such arguments were made, so I can't respond. Please
point them out.

> But there is a difference in fully employing rationality as a tool and
> believing it is the greatest and hightest good besides which all other
> aspects of consciousness and ways of being and knowing are pitifully
> second-rate if they are not

This is where I think the confusion is.

Rationality is not a tool. Logical thinking is a tool. Bayesian
reasoning is a tool. Rationality is a qualitative change in the way you
think. It causes a disruption of your sense of self (you feel as if you
are a completely different person than you used to be). Becoming
rational produces a sense of waking up to realize that you had been a
moron your entire life and no one noticed.

Ben, you might associate it with taking the first step in Buddhist
cultivation when you go from being a regular person to being a
cultivator, but then I don't think most people are aware of this
difference because they get there gradually.

> contemptible. Note the stridency that often ensues. It is very
> reminiscent of the stridency of most any true believer that they and
> they alone have "the Way". I think some of the Spiral Dynamics folks
> may be on to something. The rational "Orange" level is essential to
> human consciousness development and our current (at least western
> society is dominated by it). However, it is still within the pattern
> of denigrating almost all else but itself and thinking that it is the
> "final" stage. I think rationality plus a lot of self honesty and
> examination flowers into more than rationality alone.

You cannot be very rational without being honest at least with
yourself. At best you'll have the capacity for rationality but will be
unable to see your own errs to be able to correct them.

> I don't distrust rationality. I distrust the near-worship of
> rationality as if it were more than it is.

I think you view rationality very differently from the way I or Eliezer
do. As I stated, rationality is not just a tool for thinking, but a way
of thinking. This may be the hardest thing to accept without becoming
rational yourself, since there is nothing in human thought to suggest
that there is a higher level system. For the computer scientists, this
is similar to the problem of having someone who only knows about Regular
Languages and trying to convince them that Context Free languages
exist. If they have only seen Regular Languages their entire life,
you're going to have to show them a Context Free Language before they'll
believe you. The same thing happened to the protagonist in /Flatland/.

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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