Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Sat Aug 24 2002 - 19:00:15 MDT

On Saturday, August 24, 2002, at 04:50 PM, Samantha Atkins wrote:

> Gordon Worley wrote:
>> 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.
> Ah, good! This is more congruent with my own understanding also. When
> you have the time, I would very much enjoy knowing more about what you
> see as the nature of this stage of consciosness you call rationality
> and the manner of its attainment.

This is what the core part of the book I'm writing is about (the first
three parts of the book are about the brain, the mind, and human
thought, all of which are discussed elsewhere and I just have to
summarize). If you (or anyone) is ever physically near me, you are free
to read my notes for the book; just ask.

>>> 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.
> So it is a state of consciousness. Many shifts of consciousness one
> habitually lives in give very much this sense of being a different
> person, albeit sometimes with a little more compassion toward one's
> former state and those still predominantly in it.

I would not call it a shift of consciousness. Yes, there is that, but
rationality is much more. It is an entire change in your way of
thinking. Everything about the way you think changes. You seem to
understand this, but I want to make sure our readers have this clear in
their minds.

>>> 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/.
> I will look forward to when you have more time to go into this. In
> fact, there is much in human thought recognizing higher level systems
> of consciousness than the one one happens to be in. All of those
> systems of meditation and contemplation would not exist otherwise.
> Granted a lot of junk coats many of them. But "human thought" is not
> ignorant of this basic idea. Perhaps you meant that most human beings
> spend much of their lives not being cognizant of such possibilities
> except as some airy abstraction.

It seems to me that someone has to tell you that there is something else
out there. Only rarely in history is there a lone genius who figures
this stuff out on this own and tries to tell other people (Guatama
Siddhartha, Jesus); most people (me and Eliezer included) figured out
that there was something more than human thought from other people
giving us ideas that there was. Even when you tell most people, they
don't believe you. You have to show them rationality, give them a taste
of it. Once they see it, they'll accept it and work towards it (unless
they are silly and just reject it anyway).

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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