Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks, where it matters

I'm thankful for the universe for all the ridiculous amounts of math and computation it does.  I'm not sure if all that work was strictly necessary, or if it's just going the extra mile for us, but either way, thank you universe.  It is my hope, that as you calculate the evolution of innumerable particles, wondering if anyone will ever appreciate such small details, if it's worth going on so diligently, that you think of us.  We really appreciate it, it's just that we can't keep track of it all.

I would also like to thank my family for giving me all the support I could hope for.  I want to thank my friends for all the good times and ideas.  I want to thank them for putting up with my egocentrism. I want to thank them, but I also realize that this is nonsensical.  We live in a deterministic world.  People are just products of the initial conditions.  They just keep doing what they're doing and feeling how they're feeling, regardless of what they read or hear.  So what is the point?

Wait, I got that backwards!

Happy Thanksgiving!

11 comments:

drransom said...

I take it you've not a compatabilist?

I feel obliged to say some elaborate humanities thing about freedom and dignity and so on, but it would be way too much work for the moment, so it will have to wait until later.

miller said...

Compatibilism... As in the belief that free will and determinism are compatible? I am a compatibilist. I was joking, couldn't you tell?

drransom said...

It was hard to tell. Or I'm just really dense! Adjusting my priors about that one . . .

Al said...

Interesting commentary - considering the universe as responsible for maintaining the status quo. You speak to the universe as if you are speaking to a person - do you feel you have a relationship with the universe? Don't take that as a negative criticism, just a question to understand your wording. I am the type of person who tries to understand how and why people think and speak the way they do. Your commentary made me stop to comment because if the universe is, in fact, the responsible party for all of this - would there be anything or anyOne behind all of it? Practically speaking, how do you relate between yourself and the universe. I recently saw a documentary by a reporter named Lee Strobel called "The Case for Creation." It was very interesting.

miller said...

Al,

The post is tongue in cheek. I'm inverting my attitude towards the universe and towards the people in my life. I treated the universe as a person, and then treated people as unresponsive to emotion. Really, it's the other way around.

I'm surprised that I have to explain this, but seeing as how two people got it wrong, there must be something in the way I said it. It's easy to keep a straight face in text.

Al said...

ha, thanks for clearing that up and for reading my comment. i know you are a skeptic, but if you ever do want to have a "straight face" conversation :), i'd be glad to. have a good week.

drransom said...

I think the confusion results in part from the fact that you can relate to the universe on a personal level in a way that doesn't necessarily cohere with your intellectual beliefs about anything. When I am in one of my better moods I feel like I was intentionally created with a specific purpose in mind. This doesn't match anything I actually believe about anything, but it's the best way I have to express the feeling of purposefulness on a personal/emotional level.

Al said...

It's interesting that you disconnect your intellect from your emotions. They are both real and in one form or another right and true. For me, I can only accept that something is right and true if my intellect and my emotional testify to the same thing. I agree that many people are given to making decisions solely based on emotion, but I also believe it is equally tragic to deny them and go the other extreme to making decisions solely based on logic. If we did that, something as important as taking a job based on logic means you might later regret it if it makes you unhappy and a bore or irritation to your other co-workers because of a consistent 'bad mood.' On the other side of the coin, if you take a job based on emotion because it will make you happy even though logically it will make you less money, it might actually be a better fit because one has balanced out the other.

Thank you for your honest responses. I appreciate honesty and forward thinking.

miller said...

Al,

I think you are making too many assumptions about what I believe (or what Drransom believes, if you were addressing him). How did you get all of that out of what I/he wrote?

For one thing, there's a big difference between determining whether something is inspiring, whether something is true, and making a decision about something like a job.

For another, why does intellect = logic = money, and emotion = job satisfaction? I don't agree with any of these equalities. In particular, I disagree with "logic = money". Money is a quantitative measure of how much power you have to get things you like, that is, things that you want emotionally. This is not a grand battle of logic vs emotion, but a battle of emotion vs another emotion.

Al said...

I did make a mistake when I read drransom's post thinking it was miller. Sorry. Of course it is always possible to make assumptions which we do when we are given (or understand) a certain amount of limited information. This is why I like to continue conversations to truly understand where someone is coming from. I apologize if I stepped too far and I realized afterward I made one big mistake to exclude the all too important phrase "for example." The idea I gave about the job situation was a generic example and I sincerely agree that neither money = logic nor does emotion = job satisfaction. I was more referring to the commonplace of people to look for work based on their needs (i.e. family, bills, style of life, activities). It is common for a person to accept a job based on their financial need and, to them, a good job "logically" would be something that provides or exceeds their needs. Having said that, if they only look at the "books" and not their own feelings towards the job itself, they might make a mistaken decision. If, however, they weigh the options, and the job is professionally sound (in other words, good for their future) and fitting for their current financial situation, they might accept a lower-paying job (a job not necessarily as "intellectually stimulating") if they recognize other factors that will make their stay there more pleasant. And yet, there is still another point to this "example," which would be a person who possibly has good friends at said job and therefor takes the "logic" for granted assuming that if their friends are happy, they too must be. In that case, the emotion won over without an equally balanced place for logic. I hope that clarifies my previous feeble attempts at expressing my opinion.

miller said...

Al,
I'm really sorry, your comment got caught in the spam filter and I didn't spot it for a few weeks. If you're still there, I have to say that you've built a better example.

Here, the claim being analyzed might be "I will like this job (and its salary) if I take it." It is a factual claim, it could be right or wrong, but it's also a claim about the internal state of one's mind. Therefore, I think it's okay to consider one's emotional instinct as evidence, as well as what the "books" say.

But what if the claim is "This job will earn me lots of money"? How do you know unless you see a job offer or if you look up typical salaries for the job? You can't know how much money you'll make just by "feeling" like you'll make lots of money.

In summary, I think that emotions can be evidence, but we have to be aware of its limits. It can tell us about internal states, but very little about external truths.

Note that in a real world decision, I probably wouldn't think it out so analytically. I'm just doing so here for demonstration purposes.