Tag Archives: Emotion

Contrary actions to the Twelve Virtues – Relinquishment

Again, Yudkowsky writes:

The second virtue is relinquishment. P. C. Hodgell said: “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.” Do not flinch from experiences that might destroy your beliefs. The thought you cannot think controls you more than thoughts you speak aloud. Submit yourself to ordeals and test yourself in fire. Relinquish the emotion which rests upon a mistaken belief, and seek to feel fully that emotion which fits the facts. If the iron approaches your face, and you believe it is hot, and it is cool, the Way opposes your fear. If the iron approaches your face, and you believe it is cool, and it is hot, the Way opposes your calm. Evaluate your beliefs first and then arrive at your emotions. Let yourself say: “If the iron is hot, I desire to believe it is hot, and if it is cool, I desire to believe it is cool.” Beware lest you become attached to beliefs you may not want.

I like that P.C. Hodgell quote:  “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.”  Your beliefs should hang upon the truth, truth doesn’t care about your beliefs.  Of course, this isn’t the way the human brain works.  When we’re comfortable with an idea, or if something we believe engenders positive emotions, we’re more likely to avoid facts that contradict our beliefs.

If you want to have an accurate view of the world around you, you’ve got to cultivate a willingness to give up things you believe, no matter how painful.

I know many who will find this idea foreign.  Others will play lip service to the idea.  Few will understand just how deep a change we have to make to implement the idea of being willing to relinquish our beliefs.  It’s not comfortable.  It hurts.  Relinquishing cherished beliefs is anathema to the soul if you haven’t made it into something you enjoy.  The default human position is to cherish beliefs, not to cherish truth.  It require effort to reverse that.

One of the worst methods of practicing non-relinquishment is cherry-picking of facts to support a belief.  It’s easy to “prove” anything you desire if you only accept facts in support of your belief.  An important thing to remember in this circumstance is that most of the time, when cherry-picking of the facts is going on, the picker doesn’t think they’re doing it.  It’s so easy for your brain to utterly dismiss things that don’t fit in to your worldview, that it doesn’t even seem like you’re making a mistake.

Unfortunately, you are.

We don’t understand ourselves, or, how psychologists see themselves

As Tyler Cowen points out this is quite an interesting time waster:

The email edition of the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest has reached the milestone of its 150th issue. That’s over 900 quality, peer-reviewed psychology journal articles digested since 2003. To mark the occasion, the Digest editor has invited some of the world’s leading psychologists to look inwards and share, in 150 words, one nagging thing they still don’t understand about themselves. Their responses are by turns candid, witty and thought-provoking. Here’s what they had to say…

Here’s one of the answers submitted by Chris McManus, Professor of Psychology and Medical Education at UCL:

Chris McManus: Beauty

What is this thing I call beauty? Not “art” as a social phenomenon based on status or display, or beautiful faces seen merely as biological fitness markers. Rather, the sheer, drawing-in-of-breath beauty of a Handel aria, a Rothko painting, TS Eliot’s poems, or those everyday moments of sun shining through wet, autumn leaves, or even a Powerpoint layout seeming just right. Content itself doesn’t matter – Cezanne’s paintings of apples are not beautiful because one likes apples, and there are beautiful photographs of horrible things. Somewhere there must be something formal, structural, compositional, involving the arrangement of light and shade, of sounds, of words best ordered to say old ideas in new ways. When I see beauty I know it, and others must also see it, or they wouldn’t make the paintings I like or have them hung in galleries. But why then doesn’t everyone see it in the same way?

Get more answers here.

Advice on punishing your kids.

As we have a little girl on the way, I find myself doing a lot of research into parenting methods.  While I’m sure we’re all aware of many of the failures of the “parenting advice industry”, this doesn’t mean that we should just discount all available advice.

What I like about this Slate piece is how it addresses the needs that a parent feels when their child makes them angry.

It’s difficult to work out a satisfying response to flagrant disrespect because you’re typically in the grip of at least four distinct, only partially overlapping, and often conflicting motives: an emotional urge to do something with the anger surging up inside you, a moralistic impulse to dispense justice in proportion to the offense, a social obligation to show yourself and your child and any others who might be watching that you don’t tolerate such behavior, and a practical intent to get rid of the problem so you don’t have to put up with such hassles in the future.

Something I’ve learned in my quest to learn the state-of-the-art in parenting skills is that children are different from each other.  For example:

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Image via Wikipedia

The Evil Eye: Stare down your child with a dire expression and say nothing.

Immediate: The stare-down is likely to escalate and continue the child’s behavior, and the struggle goes on.

Personally, I can recall immediately falling in line when given the evil eye.  However, a key realization to anyone wanting to learn about … well, anything, really … is not to discount a source because one nugget of information doesn’t jive with your experience.  In this example, perhaps I was an abnormality.  Maybe the vast majority of children don’t respond to the evil eye.  Of course, that is the reason I prefer more scholarly pieces then this one from Slate.  A scholarly journal is likely to contain cites to studies that say, for example, that 77% of children don’t respond to stern looks from their caregivers.

Anyway, enough rambling.  Go read the article, parents.

Spock is a lie

Image via Wikipedia

Spock has done a horrible disservice to the rationalist.  Let me explain…

I’ve had discussions with people who, after being shown their side of the argument didn’t hold, would respond with:  “You’re just being too rational.”  As if there can be such a thing.  I suspect what they really mean is that they feel like I’m not addressing their emotional need.

Spock has convinced the world (or at least some of it’s inhabitants) that rationality is the flipside of emotion.  This is far from the case.  Being rational doesn’t mean being emotionless or disregarding other people’s emotion.

When deciding what to believe, or what course of action you should take, the rational thing to do is consider how other people would react, how you would react, how you would feel.  Emotional responses are just another part of the environment in which we live, to not account for them in our reasoning is folly.