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Tangled Phenomenon - Transience Divine
June 20th, 2004
06:00 pm


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Tangled Phenomenon
On rare occasions there seems to be a supernatural synergy unveiled between the challenges of the past and the unknowns of the future, specially coincident in the present. Those moments in the past convinced me that I am (or was) moving in a right direction for me.

I haven't had one of those in a long time. Not that I'm having one now, but I think I may be close.

Two trains with apparently unrelated mental cargo quite recently collided around the meta-issue here, leaving me a big mess to sort out. And since this post is about notable collisions, I'm including the discussion here. Here are the two trains:

  1. There seems to be an not-unexpected but curiously tangled connection between philosophy and psychology, which has confused me for a long time. It seems to go beyond philosophers just fooling themselves about their subject matter, claiming to talk about what is, when they're actually talking about what appears to us to be. I don't think I have a basis for answering the question, "Is the universe substantially human-like?", but I would like to understand the tangledness of the web between philosophy and psychology, and which threads belong to each.

    After a recent conversation, I now think that the solution to that problem lies between Buber's I and Thou and Pirsig's Zen and the Art..., two works that play in these entanglements without really addressing them (each assumes/argues that the world is fundamentally human). It goes like this.

    Through Buber, psychology is concerned with the 'I' in each of the compounds I-it and I-Thou; philosophy deals with the it and the Thou.

    Through Pirsig, psychology is interested in the generative process from Quality to objectivity and subjectivity; philosophy takes the same road but goes the opposite direction.

    That is, psychology is analysis of something which is naturally integrated, philosophy is synthesis in things that are not. The two start at the same place and end at the same (different) place.

  2. This kind of moment also forms one of my understandings of the supernatural. A such moments, one gets a glimpse of the universe as having a fundamentally purposeful substrate. We don't notice it at other times, because like fish in the sea, we take it for granted.

    Another [cynical?] view of these moments would attribute them to the incredible power of the unconscious mind in directing life. But recently revealed to me in what I consider the most enlightened of hypnotist dogmas is that the domain of the unconscious is function, not meaning. Meaning, along with causality, is something overlaid by the conscious mind, and my sense of these moments as "purposeful" is that they are filled with meaning, not function.

    Which suggests that these moments are a result of the careful construction of the unconscious, followed by a god coming along and taking credit for them.

Curious. The god of these seems distinct from Waking Life-style Holy Moments. Must consider further and report.

I seem to be drawn at a frightful speed toward some vision of life-purpose, but I don't know what. The skills I need seem to include constructive communication (hypnosis, storytelling, teaching), social design (human systems dynamics, learning situations, engineering), and mental structure engineering (artificial intelligence, language design, philosophy). For a long time I've been watching this progress with curiosity, and I still don't know where it's going. (The obvious answer is religious-leader, but it seems like there should be a midway stepping-point.) The answer may be close.

Coincidence 1:

Claudia is endlessly involved in organizing activist events. She was asked by MIT's Program in Human Rights and Justice to create a web-based calendar to help them schedule, and agreed (despite not knowing any of the needed tools for doing such a thing). I had intended to let her figure her own way out.

A month later, this long forgotten, we were trying to find some project to collaborate on over the summer. After she refused to help me create a AI/virtual-sex program, I remembered my own plans for an events calendar. The idea was to make a online form of my Gumption Asylum: a online community of people in the greater-Cambridge area interested in personal improvement; a single source for events occurring at different colleges, independent groups (like the SCA), and art centers, with a setup to encourage group-attendance of events and discussion. I eventually realized that the two projects had the same first-90%.

Since starting this post, we've nearly finished the calendar. Feel free to try out and add bogus entries to the PHRJ Calendar, beta version.

Coincidence 2:

I worked for a long time on the syllabus for the Artificial Intelligence Workshop that I want to run at Olin (you can now read it). I wanted to pack each project full of AI methods, human modeling, philosophical insights, and create an overall elegance and direction in the class. It was too much to satisfy.

I was at the same time reading Trance-formations and trying to think of some world-betterment project for Claudia and I to work on. For world-betterment, I wanted to do something in education. Trance-formations spends a lot of paper discussing content in communication and effecting change: how it can be used, and how it can be left out entirely.

That was the key that I needed for a project I had been working on much earlier. Over the course of two intensive days I came up with a elegant, powerful structure for a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (too long for this margin), and built it into apparently unrelated pieces for my AI Workshop projects over the next week. If I can run my workshop, I will come out 80% of the way to my Primer.

Now if these two pieces decide to come together, I'll be set.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: In Our Cups - Caviar (Virgin Sturgeon)

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:June 21st, 2004 04:39 am (UTC)
But recently revealed to me in what I consider the most enlightened of hypnotist dogmas is that the domain of the unconscious is function, not meaning.

This seems interesting. What is meant by "function" here?

my sense of these moments as "purposeful" is that they are filled with meaning, not function.

Perhaps I am just confused by the sense of "function", but: is it not then a little odd to use the term "purposeful" for them? If there's a sense of the situation having purpose, then is a way of saying it has function, not meaning... yes?

I ask because I've long noticed people using "purpose" and "purposeful" (when discussing philosophy/theology) in odd ways, for instance using "purposeful" as a vague synonym for "significant" (and possibly "numinous" or "liminal", but it's hard to tell) but not actually meaning "on purpose" or "filled with purpose". Which is a bit frustrating, from a trying-to-communicate standpoint.

To rejoin the actual point of the post: There's also the posibility that they're just coincidences, and your mind is projecting what it wishes to see onto them. :)
[User Picture]
Date:June 23rd, 2004 12:21 am (UTC)
The two are closely related, but I am loath to give up a distinction. I say that purpose is to function as conduct is to behavior. The lofty kind of purpose that people talk about "in odd ways", as I understand it, is cream left on the top when function is whipped with a meaning-stick. Can you grok that definition, or should I try for something more precise and probably less accurate?

I don't think anything is coincidence any more. Either things happen because they satisfy systematic forces, and/or they happen because they participate in the actions of metaphysicals. (I suspect it's always 'and').
[User Picture]
Date:June 21st, 2004 08:38 pm (UTC)
virtual sex? this sounds absolutely terrifying (and has been ever since i saw an MIT play about it). what in god's name is it?
[User Picture]
Date:June 23rd, 2004 12:50 am (UTC)
Virtual sex is just erotic computer games that simulate sexual play. There's some interesting work being done from several directions here, but most of it is very low quality (no one has succeeded in making good 3D interaction, and the few AI-based programs are pretty poorly integrated with their virtual-sex purposes).
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