Re: virus: Zen

Dave Pape (
Sun, 1 Jun 1997 19:45:44 +0100 (BST)

At 21:46 30/05/97 -0500, Eric wrote:

>> I think that a lot of debate gets MORE useful when you let go of arguing one
>> pole of an argument (wish I could practise what I preach here...).
>> ESPECIALLY when one pole is "X is Good" and the other is "X is Bad".
>I think this a charateristic of agruments right to the core. In order
>to argue, you have to adopt a reasonably, justifiable position and that
>inevidably means one of the extremes. Is it possibly that this is a
>product of the duality of /reason/ itself? (ie (A or NOT-A) A
>propostion is either true or false)

Yeh, I think so. And... I suspect that it's to do with reasoning being a
competition between neurally coded ideas. IE, two ideas competing for
expression, putting each other down. In those conditions, I can imagine
things developing so that activating one ideaa really leathers expression of
the other. I've gone on record a few times saying that logic's a bit of a
heavy-handed system in terms of discussing "real-world" instances of issues,
and I've always wondered if we have this bipolar logical system because of
the cognitively competitive way our brains/minds work...?

>I'm [just] saying that it's impossible to actually
>/learn/ anything under Zen, because by definition learning is
>categorizing into boxes, seperating the truth from the false, etc. etc.


>All this is anti-thesis to Zen, which maintains that there /are/ no
>dualities. If one wishes to learn something, it is /necessary/ to
>maintain them.

I dunno... still don't think it has to be as cut 'n' dried as that. I'm bang
into the idea of cognitive dissonance thinking, which is where you have two
conflicting ideas kicking around together, and resolution comes from
discovering a third (meta?)idea which reconciles the two conflictors.
Psychology's full of debates like nature v nurture, modular v
holistic/distributed processing, constructivist v Gibsonian perception (The
World: "You're ten years out of date you tool!")... and usually there's some
sane voice saying "it's a bit of both" or, "it's kind of a halfway house" or
"actually, it's kind of neither and both at the same time, cos it actually
works like THIS [3rd mechanism] and my way exhibits the apparently
contradictory behaviours you're arguing over." And yet the bunfights
continue, as groups of neurons inhibit each other.

>> Robin wrote:
>> >You're right in that I don't think any action is intrinsically
>> >good or bad. But that doesn't mean the concepts aren't
>> >useful. It's like, there's really no such thing as a meme
>> >"out there", but the concept is amazingly useful.
>> But not always THE MOST useful...
>Now this I can agree with. We must use reason and categorization in
>order to make /use/ of this world. But it implies an inherent
>seperation of _subject_ and _object_ (ie this is me; that is the world)
>It is this duality, more than any other, that Zen attempts to dissolve.


Okay... I'd start by rephrasing

>We must use reason and categorization in order to make /use/ of this world.


We reason and categorisation have evolved as mental strategies because
they're presumably more useful to organisms than other ways of making
cognitive world models.


Now then... the separation of subject/object... me/world...

I think that I am a reorganisation of some of the world. I am a patterning
of part of the universe. That pattern is the result of an evolutionary
process, which has selected for patterns which preserve themselves, and
which /appear to/ replicate themselves (it's actually the Whole System being
autocatalytic, from what I can see).

I think it's this "selection for self-preservation" thing which may have
kicked off the illusion in organisms that they are different to, or separate
from, "the world".

Erm... shit, this is half-forgotten rehashed Dennett. How does it go again?

...the quote (Consciousness Explained, p174 in my edition) goes

"As soon as something gets into the business of self-preservation,
boundaries become important, for if you are setting out to preserve
yourself, you don't want to squander effort trying to preserve the whole
world: you draw the line."

He's saying that one piece of granite doesn't give a shit where it ends and
the next piece of granite begins. But that's important to an organism. In
that, organisms which operate as though they think they're bounded off from
the world, and which preserve what's inside the boundary rather than what's
outside, will have a selective advantage over less discriminating (less
selfish?) organisms.

Now I'm not gunning for a selfishness argument here, cos that's one of the
classic exploding Virus threads. I'm saying that believing an illusion that
you are different from (and wahey, surprise surprise) more important than
the next chunk of energy/matter/universe-organisation, confers an advantage
on you over someone who doesn't.

I've come to the conclusion that I AM actually just a fleeting pattern in
some part of the universe, but even while I think that, I act as if I'm

So... hmm, have I drifted off-point here?

>Now this I can agree with. We must use reason and categorization in
>order to make /use/ of this world. But it implies an inherent
>seperation of _subject_ and _object_ (ie this is me; that is the world)
>It is this duality, more than any other, that Zen attempts to dissolve.

Right: I don't agree that we MUST use r & c to make use of the world, but
most of us DO, most of the TIME, because we've evolved to have this illusion
that we're separate from the rest of the universe.

Hey: but if I care about the illusion less, won't I suffer a loss of
selective advantage? Well, maybe, but the reason I spend some of my time
thinking about the illusory nature of the... illusion... is that I'm trying
to stop myself panic so much about things like... the inevitability of the
illusory separation breaking down when I die, and stuff.

Make any sense?

Dave Pape
I am ready.

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