Posts tagged philosophy

Posted 6 months ago

What Brains Do P3

The machinery behind box-making (categorization) is pretty automatic. It’s just what brains DO whether we want them to or not. Simply being aware of stereotypes means your brain is ready to put things and people into those stereotyped boxes. You can choose to ignore it, but it’s unlikely that you can choose to not do it in the first place (research actually shows that focusing too much on suppressing a thought or reaction can eventually backfire and cause it to happen more).

Boxing things is just what brains do. The kind of boxes we have and how much we believe they are real can dictate to us how we understand, interact and feel in the world and about ourselves. 

You have your own box for yourself. Even if the box is “freedom loving, unboxing type of person,” it’s still a box. There are particular things you believe you can and cannot do, say, believe or think. This can be fine if your box is comfortable and nice. But it can be damaging if your box is oppressive. 

Be aware. Know that your boxes have imaginary walls. You will live with boxes forever, but you can make new ones, open or close up old ones. Your brain is fully capable: making boxes is what brains do.

Just be aware that reality out there in the objective world is different from how you understand it. Because you have a human brain creating a human mind that has human boxes. None of those boxes are necessarily true or false, but they all fit the actual information, the real world, differently.

Posted 6 months ago

What Brains Do P2

One of the things the brain does is categorize. Small feathered things with wings are birds. Greenish rectangles with faces on them might be money. 

The brain DOES this. It makes boxes and tries to put things into them. Sometimes the brain realizes its boxes are too small: penguins have no feathers and cannot fly, but is a bird. Sometimes it’s boxes are too big: This four-legged animal with fur is cat instead of dog. 

These categories are not real, they are simply done by the brain. Unlike a hydrogen atom, “Chair” isn’t a thing that exists objectively. It’s a concept made by our brains. And while we can point to things in the world that fit the concept, there are deviations: a bean bag is a chair. Any rock could be a chair. 

Sometimes we forget that categories aren’t natural, they’re just what brains do. We forget the limitations of our own minds. Races are a type of category. Sex and gender are categories. Social status is often categorical.

While we can point to the real objects we are placing into these boxes (there are people with darker skin), the category itself isn’t real. It’s just a box, because making boxes is just what the brain does. Sometimes the data fits our boxes. And sometimes, it doesn’t. 

Posted 6 months ago

What Brains Do p1

I’m sympathetic to the awe and wonder people feel when talking about the mind and the brain. To many, the brain is a box where magic happens, and the result of the magic is the mind.

While there is no magic happening there, the brain is still worthy of awe and wonder. Our brains are things in the physical world that create our minds. And specifically, HUMAN brains create HUMAN minds

Human minds are the ones we best understand, even as incomplete as the understanding may be. Human minds frequently feel love, empathy, anger, hate, hunger, pain, joy. Human minds seek types of patterns, invent stories to string together events, create identities and communities. 

And that’s the insight: the human brain DOES certain things. Just like the stomach does digestion, the brain does things like thinking and feeling and controlling chemicals and movement. 

Posted 1 year ago

My reason is irrational

I’m always going to inhabit this strange island of not quite believing in anything entirely. The very tools I use to think with have instructed me that they will always be insufficient. Particularly because of one thing: how can I compare two tools without using one of them to do the comparison? 

Can’t be done. Yet, I prefer reason. And that is somewhat irrational. 

Posted 1 year ago

science can't disprove god

All the author has demonstrated is the philosophical necessity of a first cause. why this cause is God, he never says. the fact that nothing about this cause is knowable, he never addresses. 

The title should have been “science cannot disprove a first cause,” and that is all. 

Posted 2 years ago

Perception of Time and Immortality

Remember when you were a little kid and summer felt like it lasted forever? And the school year seemed even longer than forever? And now that you’re older, things seem to move a little faster. Summer is pretty short. The school year might feel long, but that’s just because you hate it more. 

There’s actually a very simple reason for this: when you were 5, the summer (let’s say 3/12 months) represented 5% of your entire lifespan. When you were 10, it was only 2.5% of your lifespan. Compared to 15: 1.67%. By the time you’re 50: .5%.

Your subjective experience of time is related to the amount of time you can remember; it depends on the proportion.

That’s why asking a 4 year-old to wait until Christmas Eve to open their presents is a pretty big deal to them, but not to us: it feels like forever. It’s also easily demonstrated for us: telling the difference between 1 and 2 seconds is really easy, but telling the difference between 60 seconds and 61 seconds is hard. The difference is the same: exactly 1 second. But the proportion is different: 2 is 100% more time. 61 is only 1.67% more time.

This is one reason why immortality is nothing like you might expect. 

By the time you’re 500 years old, what would time be like to you? What about 1000? The days might feel like minutes. Whole generations may come and vanish while you feel as if it was just yesterday. By the time you reach 5000, 10000, 1 million years old, would you even care about what happens to a person who only lives to 100? 

Of course, it’s more complicated than this simple conjecture.

The human brain didn’t evolve to live to a million. Maybe it can’t even store the memory of that amount of time properly. Perhaps, there’s a point where your subjective experience of time stops speeding up because of our cognitive limitations.

Posted 2 years ago

With or Without Meaning?


I see a lot of theological posts concluding that a life without God is a life without meaning… some even imply that if you declare that life has meaning then you must be saying somehow that God therefore exists.

A story, a lesson, a philosophical outlook can all inspire meaning.

The things that make us human can elevate some, while at the same time bring others to despair. What do you attribute to providing meaning to your life?

They’re technically right. Actually, I would even go so far as to say that even with God, life is meaningless. The problem is in the question itself, not the answers. When anyone asks, “what’s the meaning of life?” what does that even mean? 

More or less, meaning signifies “purpose” or “reason.” Meaning, purpose and reason all possess the same feature though: they’re contextual or relational. 

A fork has meaning, purpose or reason only in a specific context in relation to specific things: food and people —> fork for eating. Anger and people —> fork for stabbing. 

We can also see that meaning, purpose or reason is something ASSIGNED by the observer, not inherent to the object. A fork floating in a void has no meaning because it has no context and no one to ASSIGN meaning to it. 

So religious people take it as given that God is the ultimate observer. But why should that be the case? We could take it a step further and ask what is the meaning of God. Being God, it would presumably have no meaning outside of itself, and therefore be meaningless. A meaningless observer ultimately gives arbitrary meanings to what it observes.

You could also ask the question another way: what is the meaning of existence itself? There is no observer in a state of non-existence to care about anything, so technically, there is no purpose, reason or meaning to existence itself. 

So as with many things, I would say the real problem is that people do not understand the question itself. The meaning I assign to my life is just as valid or important as the meaning a God might assign to it because they are both arbitrary. 

To be technical (again, in another way), a meaning assigned by God is no different than a meaning assigned by myself, too. For it to have meaning to me, I must be the observer in both cases. So they are equivalent in that I am the one deciding to “accept” or create meaning.

Posted 2 years ago

Myths of Self and Control

In our society, I feel we are overburdened by myths we learn about the self. We are immersed in a culture of “the Ego,” where there is a unitary conscious actor in total control. 

But the truth of our whole self sits in the union of our conscious and unconscious mind. In a sense, the conscious mind only sips at the distilled sensations of unconscious processes that filter and weave sensory and semantic data into a coherent world. 

The tension between reality and the Ego Myth is real and harmful. It is because of this myth that we pathologize our imperfections as Humans and disparage people who differ from ourselves.

"I told myself not to do that again, how could I just do it again?"

"Depressed people should just stop being so sad."

"I can do this, so why can’t you?"

Self-blame, blaming others. In some fashion caused by our belief in the Ego Myth. Certainly, the conscious mind has some power, and we still have our responsibilities. But we have to appreciate the limited nature of that power, have the sense to forgive ourselves for our failures, and have the decency to grant others our forgiveness as well. 

Posted 2 years ago


Whether or not there is a next life, there is absolutely this life. Figure out what you want from it, and live based on those convictions. Let it permeate every facet of your self; let it radiate from your decisions and your very character so that you may die knowing why you lived and not live just to die. 

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Posted 2 years ago
Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance