virus: Logic and Purpose

Reed Konsler (
Thu, 16 Oct 1997 15:06:34 -0400 (EDT)

>Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 17:40:19 -0600
>From: David McFadzean <>

>I was reading "Getting Past OK" again last night. Great book, I still
>highly recommend it to everyone who hasn't picked it up yet.
>Anyway, I was re-reading the part about the "Truth Trap" and it
>is pretty obvious I am still in it (assuming it is a trap, of course).
>Level-3 seems to be predicated on the assumption that it is better
>to be happy than right, right? I mean, if truth and happiness conflict,
>then the L-3 master says so much the worse for truth, while someone
>in the "Truth Trap" would say so much the worse for happiness.

My take is that it is more subte than that. The statement: "I'd rather
be right than happy" (or the converse) is meaningless. Why would
one rather be right than happy? Becuase being "right" makes one
happy...that is: for a person who is trained in "level 2" thinking
part of the program is satisfied or "happy" when there is consistency
and logical operation...when all the ducks are in line. It is more
accurate to say "I value consistency and logical coherence above
sexual gratification or money (etc.)."

What Richard is trying to say is that most people don't value such
esoteric symmetries so highly. This isn't a "should or shouldn't"'s just an observation which is in agreement with
my own experience.

What Richard is asking you to do is to recognize that the valuation
of "reason" above reproductive success or other kinds of gratification
is a recent development, evolutionarily. It is also one which requires
a great deal of programming (training, learning). The purpose which
sets goals that are satisfied by programs which value reason so highly
are not the purposes of INDIVIDUAL gratifaction or reproduction.

In other words, if your purpose is to spread your genes (or memes)
around, it is not a good (parational?) strategy to value reason more
highly that opportunities for insemination (of both types). Since our
genes and memes tend to program us to value these opportunities
highly (from their perspective, with good reason) systems which
inflate the value of reason are interesting, and in need of an explaination.

>From your perspective, David, genetic and memetic paradigms lead
you to the impression that logic and reason must underly the reality
and comprise it's deep structure. This rationalizes the high valuation
of logic and reason: Since the universe operates according to logical
rules one is most successful when one behaves in a logical fashion.

But it is easier to understand people and phenomena by asking
"what is it's purpose...what does it want?". This is referd to by
Dennett as "The Intentional Stance". The question which we ought
to ask ourselves is "What do I want? "What is my purpose or overall
intention" Human beings are blessed (or cursed) with a flexible
purpose...but each of us is purpose-seeking, or best understood from
that perspective.

We exist in a culture in which the question "What do I want?", in
the deep philosophical sense, is ignored. But since we are
purpose-seeking by design we will operate under the default factory
program...reproduction of genes and memes...if we don't have
any others. Without a core purpose we are agents acting more
or less at the whim of whatever information happens to accumlate
within our frontier.

In such a state it is reasonable to expect we will behave irrationally.
The reason is that our goals are being set by conflicting purposes
and these purposes wax and wane depending on our environment
and local instantaneous opportunity. So, over time we don't seem
to be pursing any consistent goal other than sex, food, etc.

In "Getting Past OK" Richard suggests that one discover their
personal purpose. Once discovered, this purpose acts as a center
or beacon around which goals can be formulated and pursued.
Such an individual is consistently seeking the same purpose but
will not necessarly be in any other way consistent or reasonable.

Many arguments about consistency and logic are, therefore, not
actually about "logic" but veiled arguments about purpose. The
reason is that, once you decide on a purpose it is often best
accomplished by attempting to reprogram people around you
with purposes that will maximize the chance of your purpose
being fulfilled.

For example: If my purpose is reproductive success (a factory
default) it is consistent with that purpose for me to program
my compeditors with other purposes (for instance, ones which
value celebacy). If my purpose is the transmission of a certian
meme it is consistent to program people to evangelize
that meme. At no time is it neccesarily consistent with my
purpose to act consistently or to place any value at all on truth
or reason...though it is very often consistent to program other
people to act consistently and the place value on truth and

Logic, then, is a tool for elucidating and comparing purposes but
not, itself, a purpose. Without a purpose logic is simply a tool to
be used, like any other, at the whim of whatever conflicting
imperatives (sexual, religious, ideological, and charismatic) you
happen to be around.

Making people too logical might actually be a terrible danger,
as is alluded to in Stephenson's _Snow Crash_. Causing everyone
to operate under a universal logical operating system creates
an environment in which a "logic viruses" become possible.

One example being Rand's Objectivism. Another being science.

A universal operating system makes transmission of information
faster...but to what purpose?

And so perhaps the question around which the self-organization
that Tad refers to might crystalize is:

What is the purpose of the Church of Virus?


Reed Konsler