When ugly ducklings grow into black swans…

This is an attempt to unpack a many-layered truth and to use it to provide some context on the nature of the disagreement between Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris. I expect some things may not make sense at first and it will appear as if I’m repeating myself in other places. Unfortunately what follows is a set of interrelated and interdependent ideas, and there isn’t exactly a clean place to start, so I fear it’s a bit messy and a re-read or two to connect the dots may be necessary.

Part one

First and foremost, the dispute between Sam and Jordan is one of language. Jordan uses a subjective standard of the truth while Sam prefers an objective one. The reason for this, and ultimately why I believe it will be extremely difficult for them to see eye to eye on the matter, is because this disagreement is largely due to personality differences.

If you’re familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator then Sam is an INFJ and Jordan is an INTP. I know many people think the test has no validity, but the system actually makes a lot of sense if you allow for the fact that a person’s personality can differ depending on which hemisphere of the brain they prefer to use to navigate through the world. Basically, the letters ENFP in the system correspond to a right-hemispheric dominance while ISTJ conversely corresponds to a left-hemispheric dominance. Thus everyone has all types, but everyone has clear preferences just like having two hands doesn’t mean it’s not uncomfortable to use the dumb one. The short of it is basically that Jordan as a perceiver uses his right hemisphere to sort information about the world and Sam as a judger uses his left hemisphere for that job.

The two hemispheres have mutually exclusive language requirements. The left hemisphere’s attention is directed towards objects and it thinks of objects in absolute yes or no terms and the right hemisphere’s attention is directed towards subjects and it thinks of subjects in relative terms. Thus, the left hemisphere is concerned with avoiding mistakes of an “is or isn’t” sort and cares little for mistaken relationships, while the right hemisphere is concerned with not making a mistake regarding the relationship between two things and is relatively unconcerned about whether or not those two things actually happen to in fact exist. And to be honest, given my understanding of quantum mechanics and complementarity, I believe this arrangement is the direct result of the natural consequence of needing two differing physical systems to simultaneously generate meaningful results regarding waves and particles, which in turn means that any single thing worth saying must ultimately be said at least twice because you have to use waves to discover truths about particles, and you have to use particles to discover the truth about waves.

It’s readily apparent to me that Jordan’s approach to the truth is aimed at minimising the chances of making a mistake regarding the relationship between two things and Sam’s approach to the truth is to try and eliminate any room for disagreement about what is true about objects. I think there is a measure of accuracy in the notion that Sam thinks truth statements can be relatively absolute, while Jordan thinks statements such statements are absolutely relative.

I’ll explain why the latter doesn’t collapse into moral relativism below, but first I want to take a detour into a historical example of this same sort of conflict happening between two people in the same way but in the field of mathematics.

Here’s some stuff on Brouwer and the Hilbert-Brouwer controversy from Wikipedia to put the conflict in context. The Hilbert-Brouwer controversy revolves around the fact that Brouwer rejected the logical law of the excluded middle. He founded the school of intuitionism, which holds that mathematics is a subjective exercise. Interestingly, Brouwer’s mathematics was significantly influenced by semiotics, which was the brainchild of C.S. Peirce, who also founded philosophical pragmatism. I’m sure Jordan would see the commonalities.

Brouwer in effect founded the mathematical philosophy of intuitionism as an opponent to the then-prevailing formalism of David Hilbert and his collaborators Paul Bernays, Wilhelm Ackermann, John von Neumann and others (cf. Kleene (1952), p. 46–59). As a variety of constructive mathematics, intuitionism is essentially a philosophy of the foundations of mathematics.[7] It is sometimes and rather simplistically characterized by saying that its adherents refuse to use the law of excluded middle in mathematical reasoning.
Brouwer was a member of the Significs group. It formed part of the early history of semiotics—the study of symbols—around Victoria, Lady Welby in particular. The original meaning of his intuitionism probably can not be completely disentangled from the intellectual milieu of that group.

In 1905, at the age of 24, Brouwer expressed his philosophy of life in a short tract Life, Art and Mysticism described by Davis as “drenched in romantic pessimism” (Davis (2002), p. 94). Arthur Schopenhauer had a formative influence on Brouwer, not least because he insisted that all concepts be fundamentally based on sense intuitions.[8][9][10] Brouwer then “embarked on a self-righteous campaign to reconstruct mathematical practice from the ground up so as to satisfy his philosophical convictions”; indeed his thesis advisor refused to accept his Chapter II “as it stands, … all interwoven with some kind of pessimism and mystical attitude to life which is not mathematics, nor has anything to do with the foundations of mathematics” (Davis, p. 94 quoting van Stigt, p. 41). Nevertheless, in 1908:
“… Brouwer, in a paper entitled ‘The untrustworthiness of the principles of logic’, challenged the belief that the rules of the classical logic, which have come down to us essentially from Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) have an absolute validity, independent of the subject matter to which they are applied” (Kleene (1952), p. 46).

“After completing his dissertation (1907 – see Van Dalen), Brouwer made a conscious decision to temporarily keep his contentious ideas under wraps and to concentrate on demonstrating his mathematical prowess” (Davis (2000), p. 95); by 1910 he had published a number of important papers, in particular the Fixed Point Theorem. Hilbert—the formalist with whom the intuitionist Brouwer would ultimately spend years in conflict—admired the young man and helped him receive a regular academic appointment (1912) at the University of Amsterdam (Davis, p. 96). It was then that “Brouwer felt free to return to his revolutionary project which he was now calling intuitionism ” (ibid).

He was combative for a young man. He was involved in a very public and eventually demeaning controversy in the later 1920s with Hilbert over editorial policy at Mathematische Annalen, at that time a leading learned journal. He became relatively isolated; the development of intuitionism at its source was taken up by his student Arend Heyting.

Dutch mathematician and historian of mathematics, Bartel Leendert van der Waerden attended lectures given by Brouwer in later years, and commented: “Even though his most important research contributions were in topology, Brouwer never gave courses in topology, but always on—and only on—the foundations of his intuitionism. It seemed that he was no longer convinced of his results in topology because they were not correct from the point of view of intuitionism, and he judged everything he had done before, his greatest output, false according to his philosophy.”[11]”
In the philosophy of mathematics, intuitionism, or neointuitionism (opposed to preintuitionism), is an approach where mathematics is considered to be purely the result of the constructive mental activity of humans rather than the discovery of fundamental principles claimed to exist in an objective reality. That is, logic and mathematics are not considered analytic activities wherein deep properties of objective reality are revealed and applied but are instead considered the application of internally consistent methods used to realize more complex mental constructs, regardless of their possible independent existence in an objective reality.”

Origins of disagreement
The nature of Hilbert’s proof of the Hilbert basis theorem (dating from 1888) turned out to be more controversial than Hilbert could have imagined at the time. Although Kronecker had conceded, Hilbert would later respond to others’ similar criticisms that “many different constructions are subsumed under one fundamental idea” — in other words (to quote Reid):

“Through a proof of existence, Hilbert had been able to obtain a construction”;”the proof” (i.e. the symbols on the page) was “the object”. (Reid 1996, p. 37.)

Not all were convinced. While Kronecker would die soon after, his constructivist banner would be carried forward by sharp criticism from Poincaré, and later in full cry by the young Brouwer and his developing intuitionist “school”—Weyl in particular, much to Hilbert’s torment in his later years (Reid 1996, pp. 148–149). Indeed, Hilbert lost his “gifted pupil” Weyl to intuitionism:

“Hilbert was disturbed by his former student’s fascination with the ideas of Brouwer, which aroused in Hilbert the memory of Kronecker.” (Reid 1996, p. 148.)
Brouwer the intuitionist in particular objected to the use of the Law of Excluded Middle over infinite sets (as Hilbert had indeed used it). Hilbert would respond:” ‘Taking the Principle of the Excluded Middle from the mathematician … is the same as … prohibiting the boxer the use of his fists.'[2]
“The possible loss did not seem to bother Weyl.” (Reid 1996, p. 150.)

Validity of the law of excluded middle
In the same paper – the text of an address delivered in 1927 (cf. van Heijenoort: Hilbert (1927)) – Hilbert clearly expresses himself. At first he attempts to defend his axiomatic system as having “important general philosophical significance” (van Heijenoort: Hilbert 1927 p. 475). For him, the statement of “definite rules” expresses “the technique of our thinking”. Nothing is hidden, no tacit assumptions are admitted: “after all, it is part of the task of science to liberate us from arbitrariness, sentiment and habit, and to protect us from the subjectivism that … finds its culmination in intuitionism”. (ibid.).
But then Hilbert gets to the nub of it – the proscription of the law of excluded middle (LoEM):
“Intuitionism’s sharpest and most passionate challenge is the one it flings at the validity of the principle of excluded middle … .” (ibid.)
To doubt the LoEM—when extended over the completed infinite—was to doubt Hilbert’s axiomatic system, in particular his “logical ε-axiom”.[3] To take away the LoEM was to destroy the “science of mathematics”.[4] Finally, Hilbert singles out one man—by inference, not by name—for the cause of his present tribulation:
“… I am astonished that a mathematician should doubt that the principle of excluded middle is strictly valid as a mode of inference. I am even more astonished that, as it seems, a whole community of mathematicians who do the same has so constituted itself. I am most astonished by the fact that even in mathematical circles the power of suggestion of a single man, however full of temperament and inventiveness, is capable of having the most improbable and eccentric effects.” (loc. cit. p. 476)
Brouwer answers pique with pique:
“… formalism has received nothing but benefactions from intuitionism and may expect further benefactions. The formalistic school should therefore accord some recognition to intuitionism, instead of polemicizing against it in sneering tones, while not even observing proper mention of authorship.” (van Heijenoort: Brouwer 1927b published in 1928, p. 492)

However “truth” is ultimately defined, for a few mathematicians Hilbert’s formalism seemed to eschew the notion. And at least with respect to his choice of axioms the case can be made that indeed he does eschew the notion. The fundamental issue is just how does one choose “the axioms”? Until Hilbert proposed his formalism, the axioms were chosen on an “intuitive” (experiential) basis. Aristotelian logic is a good example – based on one’s life-experiences it just seems “logical” that an object of discourse either has a stated property (e.g. “This truck is yellow”) or it does not have that property (“This truck is not yellow”) but not both simultaneously (the Aristotelian Law of Non-Contradiction). The primitive form of the induction axiom is another – if a predicate P(n) is true for n = 0 and if for all natural numbers n, if P(n) being true implies that P(n+1) is true, then P(n) is true for all natural numbers n.
Hilbert’s axiomatic system – his formalism – is different. At the outset it declares its axioms.[5] But he doesn’t require the selection of these axioms to be based upon either “common sense”, a priori knowledge (intuitively derived understanding or awareness, innate knowledge seen as “truth without requiring any proof from experience”[6] ), or observational experience (empirical data). Rather, the mathematician in the same manner as the theoretical physicist[7][8] is free to adopt any (arbitrary, abstract) collection of axioms that they so choose. Indeed, Weyl asserts that Hilbert had “formaliz[ed] it [classical mathematics], thus transforming it in principle from a system of intuitive results into a game with formulas that proceeds according to fixed rules” (loc. cit. p. 483). So, Weyl asks, what might guide the choice of these rules? “What impels us to take as a basis precisely the particular axiom system developed by Hilbert?” (ibid.). Weyl offers up “consistency is indeed a necessary but not sufficient condition” but he cannot answer more completely except to note that Hilbert’s “construction” is “arbitrary and bold” (ibid.). Finally he notes, in italics, that the philosophical result of Hilbert’s “construction” will be the following:
“If Hilbert’s view prevails over intuitionism, as appears to be the case, then I see in this a decisive defeat of the philosophical attitude of pure phenomenology, which thus proves to be insufficient for the understanding of creative science even in the area of cognition that is most primal and most readily open to evidence – mathematics.” (ibid.)
In other words: the role of innate feelings and tendencies (intuition) and observational experience (empiricism) in the choice of axioms will be removed except in the global sense – the “construction” had better work when put to the test: “only the theoretical system as a whole … can be confronted with experience” (ibid.).

The Law of Excluded Middle extended to the infinite

Cantor (1897) extended the intuitive notion of “the infinite” – one foot placed after the other in a never-ending march toward the horizon – to the notion of “a completed infinite” – the arrival “all the way, way out there” in one fell swoop, and he symbolized this notion with a single sign ℵ0 (aleph-null). Hilbert’s adoption of the notion wholesale was “thoughtless”, Brouwer believed. Brouwer in his (1927a) “Intuitionistic reflections on formalism” states:

“SECOND INSIGHT The rejection of the thoughtless use of the logical principle of the excluded middle, as well as the recognition, first, of the fact that the investigation of the question why the principle mentioned is justified and to what extent it is valid constitutes an essential object of research in the foundations of mathematics, and, second, of the fact that in intuitive (contentual) mathematics this principle is valid only for finite systems. THIRD INSIGHT. The identification of the principle of excluded middle with the principle of the solvability of every mathematical problem” (van Heijenoort, p. 491).

This THIRD INSIGHT is referring to Hilbert’s second problem and Hilbert’s ongoing attempt to axiomatize all of arithmetic, and with this system, to discover a “consistency proof” for all of mathematics – see more below. So into this fray (started by Poincaré) Brouwer plunged head-long, with Weyl as back-up.
Their first complaint (Brouwer’s SECOND INSIGHT, above) arose from Hilbert’s extension of Aristotle’s “Law of Excluded Middle” (and “double negation”) – hitherto restricted to finite domains of Aristotelian discourse – to infinite domains of discourse[9]”. In the late 1890s Hilbert successfully axiomatized geometry.[10] Then he went on to successfully (or so Hilbert thought) use the Cantorian-inspired notion of the completed infinity to produce elegant, radically abbreviated proofs in analysis (1896 and afterwards).[11] In his own words of defense Hilbert believed himself quite justified in what he had done (in the following he calls this type of proof an existence proof):

“…I stated a general theorem (1896) on algebraic forms that is a pure existence statement and by its very nature cannot be transformed into a statement involving constructibility. Purely by use of this existence theorem I avoided the lengthy and unclear argumentation of Weierstrass and the highly complicated calculations of Dedekind, and in addition, I believe, only my proof uncovers the inner reason for the validity of the assertions adumbrated by Gauss[12] and formulated by Weierstrass and Dedekind.” (loc. cit. p. 474)

“The value of pure existence proofs consists precisely in that the individual construction is eliminated by them and that many different constructions are subsumed under one fundamental idea, so that only what is essential to the proof stands out clearly; brevity and economy of thought are the raison d’être of existence proofs.” (loc. cit. p. 475)

What Hilbert had to give up was “constructibility” – his proofs would not produce “objects” (except for the proofs themselves – i.e. symbol strings), but rather they would produce contradictions of the premises and have to proceed by reductio ad absurdum extended over the infinite.”




So the way I basically see it is that Sam is arguing that either something is or it isn’t according to the principle of the excluded middle without substantiating why that should be the case, much like Hilbert did, and Jordan is taking issue with it, just like Brouwer did. Hilbert’s complaint about depriving the boxer of his fist is very reminiscent of the tone Sam used when he attempted to assert the necessity to accept such a truth.
Whether Jordan knows it or not, I believe he’s looking for a constructive definition of the truth in the same way that Brouwer’s subjective intuitionism created a constructive definition of a mathematical truth. This is not an objective truth claim, but a subjective truth claim which expects the subject to substantiate the truth they behold in a constructive fashion. I believe the full implication of this idea can be realised in the following fashion: “Let’s be constructive.” What does it mean to be constructive, exactly? Well, I don’t think anyone can say absolutely what is constructive and what isn’t, but if I ask you what you’re doing and you can’t tell me exactly what it is you think you’re doing, then you have not constructed an account of your behaviour that can be meaningfully interpreted by another person. If anyone asks, “What do you think you are doing?” and you cannot construct an explicit accounting of what you are trying to realise, then that alone is a clear indication that such behaviour is dangerous and ill-advised.

And just to really drive the point home, I don’t think this linguistic connection between being constructive and constructive provability as a mechanism for creating the truth is merely coincidental. The parts of our brains that deal with language evolved out of or next to the parts of our brain that deals with physical object manipulation via our hands. Before we could speak we used our general tool making capabilities to create symbolic representations to unite our collective hands behind a common constructive purpose. In other words, the hand was trying to break down its working process in such a way that other hands could co-ordinate with it. What this means is that speech is fundamentally about human doings, not human beings, and therefore it is fundamentally incongruent with the goals set by our evolved instincts to attempt to speak of any ultimate truth outside of such a purposive framework. I think it’s no accident that Jordan’s explication of God as the Logos or articulated truth and what he’s trying to do with it lines up so closely with manifesting a legitimate expression of constructive behaviour. Indeed, Sam’s criticism that Jordan’s system is so relentlessly dynamic and emergent is to completely miss the point. If you’re going to build a religious orthodoxy, you want it to be dynamic so that it can reform itself according to newly discovered truths instead of relying on a silly ancient literal “objective” interpretation that was never really the point in the first place… But more on that a bit later; suffice it to say for now that there can be many valid moralities, but each species of organism will have a certain kind of morality that is most ideally conducive towards its survival, and the fact that this ideal must be discovered subjectively does not ultimately invalidate its objective existence insofar as any objective truth could be said to exist, and therefore a subjective and relative realisation of what is moral is “true enough” from an ultimate survival perspective; and just because several moral systems could be said to be true enough, that does not by any means imply that all moral systems are equivalent in value. Some are clearly more valuable than others.

What I also find rather amusing is that Brouwer explicitly decried classical mathematics as a clinical and sterile subject and felt that mathematics should be thought of in living terms. I see the difference between Jordan and Sam in the same way; Sam seeks the sterile truth, Jordan seeks the living truth (and by extension the embodiment of the living truth). It seems to me to simply be another case of people favouring the style of language that their hemisphere best works with, and the right hemisphere, which is so dominant in global thinking, is primarily interested in living subjects, not sterile objects and the left vice versa. In fact, to quote Wikipedia again:

In his dissertation Brouwer 1907, Brouwer presents his conception of the relations between mathematics, language, and logic. Both the intuitionistic view of logic as essentially sterile, and the existence of results in intuitionistic logic that are incompatible with classical logic, depend essentially on that conception.

For Brouwer, pure mathematics consists primarily in the act of making certain mental constructions (Brouwer 1907, 99n.1)/(Brouwer 1975, 61, n.1).[4] The point of departure for these constructions is the intuition of the flow of time.[5] This intuition, when divested from all sensuous content, allows us to perceive the form “one thing and again a thing, and a continuum in between”. Brouwer calls this form, which unites the discrete and the continuous, “the empty two-ity”. It is the basic intuition of mathematics; the discrete cannot be reduced to the continuous, nor the continuous to the discrete (Brouwer 1907, 8)/(Brouwer 1975, 17).

As time flows on, an empty two-ity can be taken as one part of a new two-ity, and so on. The development of intuitionistic mathematics consists in the exploration which specific constructions the empty two-ity and its self-unfolding or iteration allows and which not:
The only possible foundation of mathematics must be sought in this construction under the obligation carefully to watch which constructions intuition allows and which not. (Brouwer 1907, 77)/(Brouwer 1975, 52)
or, in Heyting’s words,
[Brouwer’s] construction of intuitionist mathematics is nothing more nor less than an investigation of the utmost limits which the intellect can attain in its self-unfolding. (Heyting 1968A, 314)

Brouwer and other intuitionists have shown how on this basis arithmetic, real analysis, and topology can be constructed. Moreover, Brouwer considers any exact thought that is not itself mathematics an application of mathematics. For whenever we consciously think of two things together while keeping them separate, we do so, according to Brouwer, by projecting the empty two-ity on them (Brouwer 1907, 179n.1)/(Brouwer 1975, 97n.1).

Brouwer takes the intuition of time to belong to pre-linguistic consciousness. Mathematics, therefore, is essentially languageless. It is the activity of effecting non-linguistic constructions out of something that is not of a linguistic nature. Using language we can describe our mathematical activities, but these activities themselves do not depend on linguistic elements, and nothing that is true about mathematical constructional activities owes its truth to some linguistic fact. Linguistic objects such as axioms may serve to describe a mental construction, but they cannot bring it into being. For this reason, certain axioms from classical mathematics are rejected by intuitionists, such as the completeness axiom for real numbers, which says that if a non-empty set of real numbers has an upper bound, then it has a least upper bound: we know of no general method that would allow us to construct mentally the least upper bound whose existence the axiom claims.

I think it’s kinda cool how Brouwer’s conceptualisation of mathematics naturally captures the eternal complementary dichotomy between the rules of waves and particles. As far as I’m concerned, this passage alone is proof that he discovered the transcendent nature of complementarity two decades before Bohr. This is not simply a matter of philosophy however, as his contributions have practical applications. His method of arranging the truth allows us to ask computers to prove mathematical theorems that require proofs hopelessly too large for any human being ever to sort through in a lifetime. Through constructive mathematics we can be sure that if the computer says a thing is true according to the constructive paradigm, then even if we cannot directly verify the construction itself, we can still *trust* the conclusion that the computer came to with regards to the question. And in the same way, if physics can be described mathematically and we are subject to the laws of physics, then the structure of our brain -no matter what it is- must also have a functional description on a mathematical level, and our thoughts can also be described mathematically, and therefore if you’re any kind of realist you really have no way to climb out of the hole Brouwer dug. In my opinion he has demonstrated categorically that there are tangible benefits to be had by insisting that the construction of valid mathematical objects be constrained in such a way that one can guarantee that it is operating legitimately within its own limits. And at the risk of repeating myself, it is my opinion that Jordan is primarily concerned with establishing a way of using language to describe a set of behaviours which guarantees trust between humans in the same way, and to use this construction to facilitate a moral existence that is demonstrably satisfactory to any entity constrained by the same mathematical principles, and an arbitrary adoption of the principle of the excluded middle so as to say something is or is not with no room for another possibility in the language itself is to adopt a position that is antithetical to this reality ever ultimately manifesting itself. A language system that allows anyone to state what any given thing is or isn’t without having to also describe the relationships between those things is essentially the same as an attempt to describe a universe of particles without waves. Anyone who wants to talk about the existence of a mind-independent truth in this reality must first demonstrate the existence of such a thing. Positing a transcendent mind-independent truth exists and saying it must be adopted simply as a matter of conventional procedure in this manner is behaviourally identical to axiomatically accepting the existence of God as omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent as a starting point for explaining the Universe.

Part two

What follows is a more general commentary on some of the points raised in the discussion between Sam and Jordan. Think of it as a shortish treatise on the aesthetic of the living truth in the hopes of rendering a reasonably complete truth.
The reason Jordan’s position is immune to Post-Modernist Cultural Marxist ideological poison is simply because they attempt to construct truths through purely deconstructive processes. Post modernists cannot ever construct a truth that stands on its own; in terms of constructive mathematics, all they ever do is use the axiomatic adopting of the law of the excluded middle to reduce everything to a unipolar power paradigm through proofs of contradictions, but the contradictions don’t really disprove the initial proofs and their entire argument rests upon the idea that symbols are all that there is to language while on the other hand the constructivist position necessarily forces one to recognise that symbolic representation is an intrinsically subjective exercise. There’s no such thing as an extant message without necessarily implying the existence of a messenger; to attempt to extricate the message from the messenger is to fundamentally destroy the message itself.

I also think Jordan is on to something about his attempts to quantify survival and his hesitancy to hold himself absolutely to Darwinian theories. Actually, I suppose I would have to call myself a post-Darwinist. It’s not that I discount natural selection as a fact, it’s just that I don’t believe that this is the primary driver of evolution. The main driver of evolution is natural self-selection and the genomes around today are evolved enough to have developed distributional computational algorithms within them in order to seek out, as efficiently as is biologically possible, the ideal that represents the principle of least action. Darwinian evolution is dumb and blind, and by contrast I think that evolution is awake and smart. Indeed, if I am alone in a room, then I would have to say that I am the second smartest thing in that room, for within me lies something far smarter than I.
How this works in theory is actually pretty basic: Individuals that are thriving in their environment do not retain any markers of environmental stress in their epigenetic records. Individuals that suffer environmental stresses become distressed and this provokes a reaction in the genome which at the same time drastically increases the chances of detrimental mutations taking place. If each individual represents an experiment in the environment, then their stress levels represent a signal to indicate their relative fitness in the environment. If the healthy signals are preserved and the unhealthy signals degraded in a constructive manner (make random changes to the bad solution because there’s a chance something useful comes out of it and that’s better than doing nothing) then the entire system will drift towards the better phenotypes as an allostatic behaviour. The relative activation of each gene puts metabolic demands upon the organism that hosts it, and the fittest individual is naturally the one whose genes are just activated enough so as to solve the problems the organism faces without wasting unnecessary energy on homeostasis in the process so as to maximise energy input and minimise energy output. You could say this is the biological Wu-Wei.

From a materialist perspective, if everything can be described using mathematics, and the genome itself is a mathematical structure, then the genome as a mathematical structure has the necessary mathematical complexity to construct an organism that is capable of intelligently reacting to its environment in real-time. Such a level of complexity in the instructions of the genome necessarily imply that the genome itself is sufficiently complex to apply those same mathematical principles to its own data sets directly. Mix in a bit of bayesian learning theory and you’ve essentially got all the raw materials you need to create a genome that actively improves itself.

Now whether or not this is in fact true I cannot say for sure, although frankly I can no longer see how it could be possible that this process is not in fact in the genome. Nevertheless, even if it does happen to end up as being false, the idea itself is useful because it gives a unique perspective on moral imperatives. Using this perspective, the genome selects its best self and so therefore your life is an attempt of it to express its best self, and thus to ensure its perpetual existence as far as is physically possible, and therefore in a very real sense you were meant to live well. But it’s not just you that should live well, because conspecifics share the genome and each represent another valuable data point on a genetic continuum and increased data points increases the resolution of the algorithm. So thus it is likely that your evolved behaviour is ideally arranged so that you and your conspecifics can live together wasting as little energy as possible in violent interactions and maximising constructive interactions that ultimately serve to facilitate the existence of the genome. The ideal of this version of existence is to exist in a social paradigm which can maximise eustress (antifragile survival related growth) and minimise distress (which provokes cancerous growth) and actively seeks out both of these ideals as a conscious and active decision making process. The better you are at doing this and ensuring others around you are also able to do this, the more closely your own behaviour obeys the principle of least action, because the better you are at drawing out energy from your environment in an essentially sustainable manner. If there is a better realisable moral ideal out there, I have yet to find it.

And while I’m on this point, let me rant about the silliness of the notion that we’re a tribal species. We’re a tribal species like our bodies are cancerous. Which is to say that our natural state of being is eusocial and it’s only when something fatally disrupts the eusocial structure that the system devolves into a tribal structure.
To explain what I mean, imagine for a moment that you are the genome of a species and that you have a limited awareness in the form of a series of up or down knobs and the way in which you adjust the knobs up and down is basically geared around energy conservation. As a product of your efforts, a species with the proclivity to gather tools out of the environment becomes advanced enough that, at roughly the same time, they become advanced enough to make cutting tools, master fire and represent crude symbols in the environment. So because of the cutting tools, the species no longer needs to spend hours chewing meat to eat it. Because of fire, getting nutrition from things becomes exponentially easier. All of a sudden there’s a hell of a lot of additional energy available to the evolutionary system, and the necessary energy outputs have fallen dramatically, and how effective the individual is at interfacing their tooling with others is now the prime variable that determines relative distress level to the point where none of the other stressors are even on the map, and this increase in proficiency is directly correlated to increases in brainpower. If you’re a smart genome with a dramatic increase in available energy, which way are you going to try to grow? The more advanced the various parts of our brains became at interacting with the environment and using abstractions to represent those manipulations of the environment, the better the individuals were able to pool their efforts through the division of labour to maximise their productivity and thereby minimise the relative distress levels of the entire group. Tribal behaviour would frustrate this cooperation unnecessarily and so the natural evolutionary choice given the dramatic behavioural changes that happened as a result of all the parts of our brain’s growth being up-regulated like crazy would be to move to a eusocial paradigm where individuals expressed more and more radical individual differences to maximise the advantages of the division of labour.

So what follows is in some places speculation, but I think it is essentially accurate. Certain behavioural traits were developed, such as altruistic punishment (which is a result of upregulated disgust sensitivity), because it was evolutionarily more favourable for an individual to risk themselves as a moral behaviour for the sake of protecting the eusocial structure as a whole, which requires mutual co-operation to exist. What also happened, and I believe this is crucial, is that our ancestors stopped feeling inclined to identify themselves according to their tribal identity and instead adopted a symbolic identity. Having a common symbolic framework is the thing that makes complex task compartmentalisation possible in the first place. Eusocial or not, it would be very strange for an animal to have a particular ideal way of behaving and not also have an instinctive yearning to realise that ideal. Like it or not, the human instinct to arrange ourselves around a sacred symbol which determines the orthodoxy and which is itself regarded as sacred in the religious sense is a natural instinct. To profane the sacred is also disgusting, and to connect to the sacred is to share a spiritual connection with it. Trying to construct a social orthodoxy that does not explicitly expect feelings of spirituality to be realised within it is like trying to construct a notion of marriage that never expresses love. And if you attempt to construct an orthodoxy which as an apriori move disengages the spiritual connection to the greater whole, congratulations, because you just rendered the fatal blow to the eusocial structure which guarantees tribalistic social cancer is going to erupt.

Now, it’s one thing to assert that eusociality exists. It is quite another to demonstrate that it actually exists. And I guess since I’ve been talking about constructive definitions of proof, it’s incumbent upon me to put my money where my mouth is constructively.

Guardian – Conscientiousness – Wise old man/woman – Executive – Conservative
Rational – Openness – Apollo – Thoughtful – Liberal
Artisan – Extroversion – Trickster – Spontaneous – Libertarian
Idealist – Agreeableness – Wounded healer – Social – Progressive

Each line states the same truth in a different way. The first way is how David Keirsey conceptualised them, the second way is how they’re currently described according to the five factor model, the third one was how Carl Jung formulated them in archetypal form, the fourth one was how Katharine Briggs thought of them before she ran across Jung’s psychological types, and the last way names the tribal identities the temperaments have mostly arrayed themselves into these days. Each of these behaviours are trained on a different set of goals and throughout history people have habitually noticed them and given them different names. However, I think I can name the essential nature of the instincts in such a way that renders them immune to further simplification.

Guardian instincts make real the things that need to be true. Rational instincts spot what is false. Artisan instincts detect things in the environment that’s worth saying yes to. Idealist instincts detect things in the environment that one should say no to. If there is a way to construct an intelligent system that does not contain a constructive conceptualisation of ‘true’, ‘false’, ‘yes’ and ‘no’, I have yet to find it. Subjectively, these instincts are experienced as yearnings to realise duty, meaning, joy and harmony. Their Thanatosian counterparts are fight(totalitarians), freeze(nihilists), flight(anarchists) and fawn(virtue signallers) respectively, and how starkly apparent they appear in Western societies today if you care to look for them.

From a sterile perspective, one could reasonably say that these four things adopt a hierarchy. They say civilisation is about nine meals away from disaster because because that’s about how long a person has to be hungry before they just stop caring about the rules. So without a reasonable source of joy from the environment, we can say that no order is possible, and therefore the will to realise joy sits at the bottom. Order comes next, because without order no co-ordination could exist, and the yearning to realise one’s moral duty leaves that order open to being meaningfully co-ordinated by a coherent system, which the desire for meaning yearns to realise, and at the top finally sits the desire to harmonise all of these things so that harm may actively be avoided.
From a living perspective, joy represents the senses of society which stretch as far beyond the body as they possibly can, duty represents the body of society itself in concrete space, meaning represents the mind of society, and finally harmony represents the heart of the society.

See how much more conflict-ridden, vague and confusing the sterile description is? Despite both being equally true, one tries to establish its truth factually, and the other does not even bother with “facts” and instead uses a living subject as a metaphor. The point I’m taking pains to illustrate is that language really matters. If your language usage does not provide the cues to serve as anchor points to tell the right-hemisphere that there’s a problem that needs resolving, it’s going to sleep through class like it’s got nothing to worry about and your intuition will fail you where you need it most. Sterile language cannot address living problems. Doping up ‘ADHD’ children because their right hemisphere doesn’t want to sterilise itself into not thinking on its own terms is counter-productive. Failing to stimulate them adequately is neglect.

Take, for example, the sterile mathematics that underpins the mammon god that is ‘GDP growth’. Is it underpinned by constructive mathematical truths? Not to my knowledge. Does it pretend to be sensitive to the laws of thermodynamics in its accounting of reality? Not that I can tell. But what I can say is that it seems to cause everything to grow energy hungry, not energy fat. There’s a biological word for unrestricted growth that renders a host starved of energy, and it’s called cancer. What good reason is there for championing a non-constructive economic paradigm that renders the global metabolism perpetually energy starved? Any economic theorist whose theories cannot be made to make sense when applied to a living organism is an economic theorist not worth paying any mind. Enough of the fiat monetarist astrologers and their 2% inflation rate chart porn debt servitude. Currency represents a captured store of utilisable energy or it is worthless. Show me the thermodynamically sound homeostasis.

Now I alluded to the way the two hemispheres work together above, but I didn’t quite explain it and I need to get that out of the way before we can continue.
So people seem to think that the left hemisphere is the more reliable hemisphere because its reasoning processes are concrete and objective and repeatable that makes it more trustworthy. The intuitive right hemisphere’s reasoning is typically treated as unreliable and whimsical. That’s one way of looking at it, I suppose. The other way to look at it is to realise that the brain uses the part of the brain running on real time to produce positive proofs, and the part of the brain running on non-local quantum time to produce negative proofs, and that the reason that the right hemisphere can’t say exactly where the idea came from is because to try to observe a quantum wave-function’s work product is to destroy the work itself, and therefore the right hemisphere really has no choice but to have a little faith in itself though it could never possibly say why. In terms of raw computational power, the victor seems clear to me, and this explanation succinctly explains the valence of the two hemispheres in terms of negative and positive affect, and why the right hemisphere is generally the dominant one in complex bilaterians when it comes to watching out for predators and conspecifics generally and subjective speech specifically. Bottom line, when your gut speaks, listen. And it means something to be able to see the universe itself as a living entity and to allow that voice to speak to you; in truth there is no other way to connect to your greater self.

In any case, local and non-local nicely shows what the opposing sides of the MBTI system reflects biologically:
N/S : Local versus non-local truth. Basically, are you using an absolute or relative internal map to plot the positions of the obstacles and your path over them?
J/P : Local versus non-local perception. The left looks, but the right sees.
T/F : Local versus non-local verbalisation. The difference between thinking and feeling should be obvious.
E/I : Local versus non-local action. This scale doesn’t actually measure whether or not someone is social or not. What this really describes is your style of acting. Usually people just talk about what they’ve done, not their process of doing it, so this part of the psyche is usually only spoken about when something goes wrong. Extroverts become withdrawn, introverts become volatile. Extroverts are naturally comfortable reacting to whatever confronts them and as long as they don’t have clear evidence of failure then they conclude everything must be going great. Introverts want to know their exact destination before they even start moving. Extroverts typically are more drawn to stimulation though, as they have to find something to react to in order to be reactive.

So like I said, Jordan is INTP, Sam is INFJ. Both are local in their style of execution. Both prefer the non-local truth. Jordan prefers to work with non-local information, Sam prefers to work with local information. Jordan prefers to speak from a local position, Sam prefers to speak from a non-local position. Jordan’s highest value is eliminating falsehood, Sam’s is establishing harmony. Put these all together and you can clearly see the differences in the approaches between Jordan and Sam and what the two were aiming to accomplish. It should also be clear from this alone why Sam stands absolutely zero chance of convincing Jordan to change his position with that argument. There is just no way that Jordan, who generally questions non-local truths, will allow a local truth to be extended to a non-local truth without something tangible to connect them; shutting that kind of bad wording down is exactly what INTPs specialise in. Sam’s opening gambit of trying to establish common ground with local truths taken to non-locality arbitrarily is doomed to fail; he’s going to have to go on the attack or accept the valid alternative. Creativeness never yields to politeness unless it absolutely has to. Frankly, INFJs tend to be way more persuasive when arguing from inside a religious framework.

And religious frameworks need sacred symbols to underpin them. Jordan’s version of Christianity actually makes quite a bit of sense to me in this regard. If you imagine God as the genome, Jesus as the realised ideal self, and the Holy Ghost the community spirituality as such, then the idea of sacrificing yourself to save other people from their sins (i.e. failings i.e. help them to succeed alongside you) using the articulated truth to do so is an honest account of the way you really live life to the fullest. Jordan certainly lives that way.
If you’re looking for something a little more novel, then consider my personal magnum opus. I think of it as the starting point for universal language. Although perhaps calling it the mathematics of yin and yang would make it more intuitively understandable. I recommend reading  this first, though.
1 = “true”
0 = “false”
∞ = “the infinite”
ʘ = “all possible possibilities”

1 → ∞
0 → ʘ

X*∞ = ∞
X*0 = 0
X/1 = X
X/0 = Xʘ

∞ = ¬ʘ
ʘ = ¬∞

X/∞ = ¬¬0 ≈ 0
X/ʘ = ¬¬1 ≈ 1

Nothingness is still a thing in itself, and the cognitive placeholder for it also operates by certain rules. The left hemisphere gets its zeros from the right hemisphere but sees them as ‘not one’s, while the right hemisphere gets its ones from the left hemisphere but sees them as ‘not zero’s. The left hemisphere is the active, recursive, sterile, material male hemisphere. The right hemisphere is the reactive, transcendent, living, ethereal female hemisphere. Only when you combine the active and the reactive do you get the proactive. Only when the living truth and the sterile truth are in agreement with one another do you know that you have a valid constructive truth. But as with complexity, truth is an ever-emergent universal property and final certainty can never truly be attained. We just do the best we can with what we have right now.

As an aside, to those mathematically precocious, I have some questions, although the phrasing might be a bit idiosyncratic:

Imagine yourself standing at the start of a line and at the end of the line is the answer to Pi. To walk down the line you have to take numbers out of a bag and place them in front of you. In this metaphor, is it valid to say that “ʘ” represents the bag of bags?

If 1 is to 0 like matter is to space and energy is to time, then:

Could this be used to construct a realistically plausible space-time? If so, would it be fair to say that the ideal fabric of this space-time would be most effectively described as being neither discrete nor continuous but instead having a universally relatable fractal-like structure?

Assuming everything is valid so far, imagine that there is a way of looking at this universe where the universe looks like a flat two-dimensional grid of squares and that each thing inside the universe in a localised fashion inhabits exactly one of these squares. Imagine these squares started as a single square and that each time a square breaks it forms four smaller squares where the old square was. Would it not be valid to say that anything inhabiting a square that happened to break would need to now reside in one of the new squares in such a way that suddenly not occupying a space it was always occupying would have to be regarded as non-contradictory in such a universe so as to say that effectively everything in the universe thinks it was always standing on that particular square that just popped into existence? In a universe that unfolded in this way, would it not be valid to claim that any quantity of matter-energy that collapsed space-time into a singularity would effectively be gripping the sides of any square so as to stop any further fracturing, and that this apparent paradox would allow for the construction of black holes where the diameter of the event horizon is always exactly one universal length despite its apparently contradictory observed size? Would it not be natural to think of such a singularity as uniting with the vacuum-state itself as such? I have a strong suspicion that this provides a novel perspective on the renormalisation problem, but I don’t know if anyone has considered such a way of looking at it before. Essentially, Hoyle and Einstein would have to both be half-right, but it does neatly explain why the cosmological constant fell into Einstein’s lap and why he probably would have saved everyone a lot of grief if he just put it inside his definition of G. Anyway, this is my intuition regarding the dark energy/flatness problem.
I’m also reasonably confident that this formulation gives a constructive resounding ‘no’ to the P versus NP question, because not even the Universe itself can find solutions to NP problems in polynomial time. Some discussion on that front might be fruitful.
Anyway, the point I’m ultimately making is that even if I’m wrong about absolutely everything, nothing I have tried to say or do here can be said to be arbitrarily decided, and I can construct my decision-making process in all statements from the same first principle and give sound reasons for those choices. The most ubiquitous tool in nature is the feedback loop. Homeostasis is just a complex feedback loop. Thinking, whatever that is, is necessarily also a feedback loop. That’s what makes life such a contradiction; we are born to live, and yet we are born to die. We embrace the former but deny the latter. This gives us our life instincts and our death instincts; the life remains terminally unsatisfied, hungering after the next accomplishment while the death instinct remains satisfied insofar as it cannot detect death around it. We strive to be the tautology that perpetuates itself endlessly and in doing so become the tautology which isn’t tautological because it surpasses entropy. Whether or not ultimate survival of the genome is on the cards remains an emergent question that cannot be answered right now. But as our existence is circular, so is our reasoning circular. Anyone who wishes to state arbitrarily that they have achieved a measure of absoluteness so as to employ the law of excluded middle at will should therefore demonstrate their own immortality or have their statements disregarded as someone who could not possibly have a universal truth. The existence criterion must always be well established.

And actually, I’m going to call it here, because I just looked up Supersymmetry on Wikipedia and now I really really really can’t see how I could possibly be wrong. So here’s the real real short of it: Wakefulness is you running on local time. Sleep is you running on non-local time. Those who favour their left hemisphere tend not to dream and so they need to dream while they are awake to understand themselves. Those who favour their right hemisphere drift off even when they’re awake and so they need to be awake while they dream to understand themselves. To put the two together is to live the dream, and that is your instinct telling you that you’re in the right place (omnipotent) in right time (omniscient), facing the right way (omnibenevolent). Your ideal self is the part of you that tries to be every possible you that you could ever be so it can assume the ideal at will, and it is forever trying to reach this place. Just like physical beauty signals fitness, so does this instinctive cue signal an instinctive need, and this is your desire for eusociality and it is something you must realise, i.e. make real, in reality itself. And only if you can put that feeling inside a constructive truth and share that construct with society itself by making it *real* will you ever feel fulfilled. Religious belief in a supreme being is basically just how most of the population goes around staying in touch with themselves and their need to be one with the community. Leave well enough alone and learn that your differences actually indicate a need to work together for a common eusocial purpose rather than across purposes. If you don’t give yourself the moral bloody courage to give voice to the desire that goes along with the instinct you’ll never find what you’re looking for. A sterile truth is for dead a dead existence. A religious truth is for a living existence. Live by something that can itself live; be, but be well. It’s time for the sinister left hand and the dextrous right hand to narrate the same story in the book of life again. The noise of shouting stops and the melody of singing begins anew. Let that be Pax Gaia, for that is the philosophy, the living of the dream, of life. Let me be known by the symbol I stand for, and let that be how to be one with everything.

Further reading:




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