Different ways of thinking


JennaW

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I'm halfway into The Russian Radical. Here's a question: Has anyone who's read this noticed that maybe a root of the debates may stem from different ways of thinking?

I'm a whole-brain thinker in general-- I use both "sides" of my brain in different ways, but neither "side" takes precedence over another and they work in concert. However I've met people who were more analytical, or more creative; so I wonder if this may be a point of contention?

It would be interesting to do a study on this...

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Jenna, you really rattled my cage with that question!

Way, way back in 1996, about a year after Chris's Russian Radical book came out, I posted these comments on MDOP:

The final point I would like to address may shed some light on the puzzling and strangely intense disagreement over the whole issue of dialectics and Objectivism. What we are seeing may be due largely to a clash of "thinking styles." In a discussion in the fall of 1995 on the Moderated Discussion of Objectivist Philosophy list (Internet), Kirez Korgen made some very suggestive comments along these lines, in terms of "integration" vs. "reduction." While many thinkers appear to strongly prefer one or the other of these aspects of cognitive functioning, Rand, it was stressed, seems to have been very adept at both of them.

In my own studies of Carl Jung's theory of personality ("Personality Type" in The Portable Jung), I have discovered some ideas that offer a helpful perspective on the Objectivist movement. In particular, I have noticed the strong similarity between what Jung calls "extraverted thinking" and the Objectivist view of the linear, "vertical", chain-or bridge-like kind of thinking. This type of thinking insists on reducing concepts to their base in external reality and on defining truth in terms of correspondence of one's ideas to reality. In parallel, there is a strong similarity between what Jung calls "introverted thinking" and the Objectivist view of the non-linear, "horizontal," web- or mosaic-like kind of thinking that insists on integrating one's concepts in a non-contradictory way and on defining truth in terms of the internal coherence of one's ideas.

Now, as Jung and many followers have taught, these thinking preferences need not be mutually exclusive, regardless of the fact that many people strongly lean toward one or the other. In fact, as Objectivism has recognized, both are indispensable in the attainment of knowledge and truth. It's my observation that those more supportive of Sciabarra's application of dialectic to the understanding of Rand's philosophical method appear to prefer introverted thinking, while those who oppose this approach in favor of a more standard, sequential approach to Objectivism seem to prefer extraverted thinking.

Yet, neither approach is truly all-or-nothing. Peikoff, for all his sequentialism in developing Objectivism in his book, frequently moves in spirals back through the same ideas, making new, broader connections between the different areas. And Sciabarra, for all his holism in presenting the dialectical aspects of Rand's thought, wisely presents a sequential overview of her philosophy in Part II of his book. So it is obvious -- to me, at least -- that both approaches are not only helpful, but crucial in coherently grasping reality.

In the Broadway play "Oklahoma," there was a song entitled (something like) "The Ranchers and the Farmers Should Be Friends." They had much more to gain from cooperating and getting along than in feuding with each other over their petty differences. I am suggesting that this is exactly analogous to the situation that the Objectivist movement is in, as made apparent by the otherwise mystifying level of antagonism and talking-past one another that has occurred in various recent discussions of Sciabarra's book.

I hasten to add that, actually, we have a multiplicity of issues dividing us, but they are all united by an underlying difference of perspective. And this difference is manifested in both our thinking and our feeling styles. It is clear to me that there is a rough division between those preferring coherence/tolerance and those preferring correspondence/crusading, and that this cognitive/normative dissonance is what is splitting our movement in general and in this discussion of Sciabarra's book.

The two perspectives are not ultimately incompatible. Just try to have coherence (non-contradiction) without correspondence (foundation in reality), or vice versa! Or, for that matter, serious attention for one's judgments, without a sincere, reasonable attempt to properly communicate them. And serious interest in what one communicates in a tactful way, without something firm and unequivocal to communicate. But there is a tension between these attitudes/skills that takes some maturity and reflection to work out. I have fallen short on a number of occasions and so, it appears, have most of the people taking part in Internet discussions of Sciabarra work.

Sciabarra, to his ever-increasing credit, is a welcome exception to this generalization. I join the ranks of those who salute his generous-hearted, civil, respectful way of defending his ideas, while he acknowledges the worthwhile points of those who disagree with him.

Jenna, I don't know either you or Rand well enough to say for sure whether either of you seems to have been equally adept at the two modes of thinking. But it certainly seems likely that there are some ambi...what? ambi-hemispheric people. :-)

Paul has also gotten into this issue over in the Epistemology folder, where he has compared Plato and Aristotle. I have some remarks in progress on this topic, but I've been too busy lately to finish them. In the meantime, please share your comments, questions, etc. in this thread. I'm intrigued to see what you might come up with.

REB

P.S. -- If you are interested to read the full essay from which the above quoted remarks were lifted, it is posted here:

http://members.aol.com/REBissell/indexmm12.html

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Roger & Jenna,

I was also tempted to respond but my attention is already feeling a little stretched. I've not been getting enough sleep recently. Something to do with enjoying reading and writing on some damned web site only after the kids go to bed. I'll try yo catch up on Roger's post tomorrow. I do find the subject interesting.

Roger, I wanted to mention I have decided to start writing some essays. Something with a little more focus on identifying concepts and more critical analysis rather than the flow of intuitive thought that I generally have practised here. My first topic will be on the mind/body problem and dual aspect theory. Obviously, it is inspired by, and will focus on, your previous discussion of Branden's views. It might take awhile.

Paul

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Roger,

I really like that excerpt (2 posts above) from your reflections about different types of thinking in re the differences in reception of Chris' work.

As I wrote yesterday on another thread in the Articles forum , although I generally come across in listlife as being of an analytical type -- and although I admit to not being a slouch at that type of thought -- I'm probably even more strongly a visualizing/visionary thinker (through much of my life, I've had actual vision- and vision-sequence experiences).

Among my frustrations with the Objectivist world I encountered in New York, and with what I read in the Objectivist literature, was always my sense of a whole part of my psyche, and a tremendously important part to my understanding of life, which was missing, which just wasn't talked about, which was as if it wasn't there (except in slighting references to "mystics") -- and yet which I felt Rand herself had some significant talents in using.

I tried during the '78-'80 to arouse some discussions between me and Allan Blumenthal about these issues, with little success. Then in '81 I began to study the work of Carl Jung. Oh, what a year that was (followed by exciting years after). From the start of reading Jung, I felt that FINALLY, there it was, what I'd been looking for, what I yearningly thought of as "real psychology" and envisioned as "a noble well-grown tree" (Jung uses that description someplace) with a vast root system, as vast as the towering branches above. ("On the Nature of the Psyche," in The Basic Writings of C. G. Jung edited by Violet de Laszlo was the first essay I read, and I felt that my life had changed within three paragraphs.)

All this might not seem connected in an obvious way to Chris S. and his work. But I think it's relevant to why, from my first encountering Chris' ideas in May 1993, I straight off felt that I understood "the wavelength," that I "got" what he was going for and believed he was onto something important. (The way I first heard of Chris was through a letter, dated May 18, 1993, and prospectus he sent to persons who were planning to attend an IOS colloquium coming up at which he'd present material. Larry was one of the persons who planned to, and did, attend.)

The timing of your post is propitious, since this weekend there will be a big Jungian event here. A man named Gary Sparks, a Jungian analyst and one of the leading current Jung scholars, will be in town from Indiana. Friday evening he's giving a talk on the stages of Jung's development of his idea of "the Self." Saturday will be a workshop on Marie-Louise von Franz's Aurora Consurgens, originally published as a companion work to Jung's Mysterium Coniunctiones. I chuckle at imagining what would happen were various Objectivist persons I know or know of to appear at that workshop. The lecture they might at least be able to follow, in outline -- since the outline will have a linear quality to it. At the workshop, they'd likely feel they were listening to a group of lunatics. But those of us attending -- I well know from previous Gary Sparks workshops on von Franz's work -- will be feeling that we're in feast land. And we'll have material to "think," in non-linear way, about for years to come.

Ellen

Edit: I earlier mistakenly cited The Portable Jung edited by Joseph Campbell as the volume in which I first read "On the Nature of the Psyche," the first essay of Jung's I read. I had two collections of his work back then (now I have multiple complete volume): the Viking selections edited by Campbell and the Modern Library selections edited by Laszlo. There's some, but not much overlap between the works Campbell and Laszlo respectively included.

___

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I think coherence/tolerance and correspondence/crusading, set up in the way that it is indirectly expressed by some people, is a dualism. I know it is possible to have all of this as existing within one individual, given context of the individual and the situation. I can tolerate things up to a point-- a pinprick is simply not the same as a broken leg. Crusading does not mean giving up tolerance. Correspondence doesn't mean coherence is thrown out the window.

I've encountered much writing, no lectures (I prefer to read), and forum/email communication; and I do notice trends--- not good or bad, just different--- in thinking styles.

Chris's work resonates with me because I recognize his approach, and his choice of words, as thoughts that I've carried around in my head for a long while but have not organized them enough to write down.

[Galt's speech resonates with me because on the whole, it speaks of many complex issues within not-too-many pages, and my mind naturally is drawn to that approach, and it is easier for me to understand. Thinking on the totality of Atlas Shrugged was a pleasure, as it involved many complex issues that I could engage with at different levels, whether Rand intended this or not.]

However, different perspectives, or ways of thinking, themselves are not inhibitors to discourse. Many of my friends think very differently and it is something I enjoy very much--- it is an actual disappointment to me when people cannot think on their own. Different people's ways of thinking are a hallmark of individuality.

The only trouble I have with any of this is for those who think that only one way of thinking--- their way of thinking--- is "correct". My mom tried this on me, and one of the hardest lessons I had to learn is that adults can be wrong. The church-cult did this and they spread misery, rage, anger, psychological/emotional abuse, and depression. While I really have no care personally whether someone thinks I think "wrongly" because I engage in systems thinking, my selfish interest lies in making sure that similar thinkers to me have a voice so that I can gain knowledge from their writings (as well as other writings). I prefer options, because I revel in making choices.

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I finished The Russian Radical last night. Chris goes out with a bang... but not really! He keeps going! From his approach, I really understood the complexities of Rand's thinking. Now I'm reading Total Freedom.

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  • 1 month later...

In case anyone's curious, here's how I think

I've been annoyed in that it was really hard for me to find thinkers who can conceive of particulars, interactions, and networks all at once; those people who can form a conceptual 3-D image in their minds to map knowledge and evidence and reality, who can come up with different mental models on the same topic, who can analogize between models while grounding themselves in reality, who can see that nature exists as discretes from one context and as continua in another. It's when both logic and creativity are combined; where it's possible to start from wholes to parts and parts to wholes, where there are not just one or two paths but 10, 15, or 20+.

Because of this, I can understand why people would consider her contradictory because they are not considering her entire system as a whole. Because two things are opposites does not mean contradiction, or black-and-white would be in grave danger.

On the other hand, those that take her every word literally, and only in one way, do not forge different structures from the same fundamentals-- all their buildings are the same, inside and out. It becomes cookie-cutter like, a landscape of one voice, one mind. One change for them would take it all apart. Maybe they can only see one structure... and then that's it. How sad, for reality-- nature-- is not rigid. Reality is immense, complex, dynamic, changing, growing, mysterious, layered, beautiful, and despite all this-- knowable in parts and pieces (it is up to us to integrate our knowledge, not destroy each other)-- and not simply black and white, forever and ever. There is gray and colors as well.

With the same foundations, it is possible to build different buildings. I've realized that I don't have to take the same path as Rand from A-->B because B is not the *only* option. Thus it becomes deterministic, and simplifies what she at her best tried not to do. I make options on my own, much like she did, much like the immense individuality that comes when one considers #s of amino acids (starting points) to make how many million options? One thing I've realized that it's not that I should just follow what she said, but do what she did. And that is to make my own philosophy for myself, based on all the things I've lived through, observed, learned, etc. It is exactly what she did.

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Jenna,

Your words are simply beautiful. You describe something that can only be understood by someone if they have witnessed similar images and processes within themselves. Images of the reciprocal relation between wholes and parts, of the interconnectedness of networks, of webs of relationships experienced from the perspective of a node in a web or remotely from outside the web, of the isolation of islands of consciousness that are also interconnected, are all part of the images of causation and human spirituality I have been playing with too. I truly enjoyed and recognized the images you presented. It is hard to communicate about something that only exists in a graspable form inside ones own mind. It requires that those one is communicating with have actively created/discovered the same images for themselves. I want you to know I see similar images and I treasure them.

One image I have played with a lot, that you didn’t mention, is the image of the vortex. When I picture the reciprocal relationship between wholes and parts, I think of the relation between the particles in a vortex and the form of the whole structure. The action of the parts give the whole vortex its form and motion. The form and motion of the vortex as a whole shapes the actions of the individual particles of which it is composed. Furthermore, I picture networks as webs of relationships who’s lines cross at and act through nodes that are themselves vortices. The network can be pictured as an interconnected field of vortices– the actions of one vortex affecting the actions of the others in the field and the actions of the field affecting the actions of a given vortex. This can be seen as a vortex of vortices. The layering of networks can be visualized as layers of vortex fields. Ultimately, one single vortex can affect, or be effected by, multiple layers of vortices. Or the vortex can just move around and bump into other vortices in a fairly mechanical way. This is why we study quantum fields and the mechanical universe: both are an expression of a deeper reality. This why we study consciousness and biological psychology: both are an expression of a deeper reality. This is why we study individual behaviour and social dynamics: both are an expression of a deeper reality.

I have not really gotten into my views on causation in any deep way here yet but this points the direction of one of the models I have used to understand causation. I have found the metaphor of the vortex to be a truly enlightening metaphor for interpreting evidence and understanding causation.

Thanks Jenna for stirring my thoughts. I hope I didn’t take things too far astray.

Paul

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Actually Paul, I do think of what you call "vortex". I'm reluctant to describe them because just describing what I already have seems a big chore for most people I communicate with-- in person or online. I'm not sure what people can grasp, so I take it step by step. I call your "vortices" "emergents"--- the different properties that arise out of a specific collection of particulars with specific interactions, seen as a whole. The texture of a cake. The shape of a wave. The processes of the brain. I can think of different emergents that arise when even one particular or interaction is changed-- but, on the other hand, it is possible that nothing would change.

One example might be an avalanche, for the former. The latter example would be the human brain at the neuron level.

I think I started to think this way from when I was a teenager (I remember seeing an interconnected network in my head at that 16-- I was so confused as to why I was connecting things and didn't know how to use it, control it, or map reality to it). However, I was too young to know what applications it had, especially since most of the world likes to see things as singular, linear paths. I've had to grow into it; I had snatches of it doing video production, design, and artwork, but this didn't gel so consciously until I took physiology and cell biology.

I'm glad someone knows what I'm seeing/thinking/feeling/grasping/visualizing/conceptualizing as much as I do.

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Jenna,

It seems you have the ability to proactively control the causal dynamics of the contents of your imagination by adjusting the imagined elements and their principles of action. I don’t know how common it is to use the imagination this way but it is certainly something I do. I talked early on when I joined OL about something I called causal intuition. This is part of what I meant: the ability to create entities in the imagination, set them in motion according to particular causal rules, and observe as the dynamics unfold. This would more properly be called causal reasoning or causal imagination. Causal intuition takes this to another step. Models of reality that are created from causal reasoning then become the lens through which we interpret the world. This would be contrasted to symbolic intuition that processes and categorizes experience through symbolism and metaphor. Something I am much weaker in.

Ellen has always demonstrated that she understands this causal processing in the imagination but I have never been able to get much more than a spark of a comment out of her about it. She’s such a tease.

Until you wrote what you did above, I didn't know if anyone else had noticed the same processes in themselves. Although I do remember you posting a link to an image that presented a terrific illustrations of the dynamics of causation and networks I see in my mind’s eye. (I thought I saved the link somewhere but I can’t find it.)

For me, this capacity had long been working subconsciously but I didn’t start paying attention to it and taking control of it until my late teens and early twenties. I was twenty-four when everything really came together. That was when my twisted notion of causation first took shape and I was able to play freely with images, leaping from one network of ideas to another with only causal parallels to connect them.

I know what you mean about being reluctant to express too much of this stuff at once. It’s the sort of thing that is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t experience it, or who has not isolated it in their awareness. Except for on this forum, there have been very few times I have discussed these processes with others. I tend to not want to talk about things that make people’s eyes glaze over. It is definitely cool to know someone else gets it.

*I'm glad someone knows what I'm seeing/thinking/feeling/grasping/visualizing/conceptualizing as much as I do.*

I’m in touch with that emotion!

Paul

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The link is here: Visual Complexity.

I've realized that there *are* people who think this way, and some of them apply such causal intuitions/reasoning in their heads to different areas such as economics, philosophy, science, marketing, aesthetics, etc. Most, however, are not anywhere near me, and I have 2 or 3 personal friends who can "get it". Most other people, I have to talk them through.

However, unless people realize this about themselves and pipe up, Oists, or Oist-friendlies, generally do not think this way as far as I've known or read. I'd love to be proven wrong on this, though; Sciabarra has demonstrated that he can describe systems thinking. I figure that if one can describe it well such that someone else "gets it" because they do it, one can understand it. What's cool about being able to do this is that it's not a problem of being logical at all-- to me to think in linear fashion is hard only because it's boring and lacks depth, but I can do it-- it's the layering of logical lines into a network such that others have a hard time following.

Not even all neuroscientists can think this way-- but I think eventually most have to; all fields of science within the past 50 years have gotten more "complex"; the brain is one of the most complex things in the known world.

I've also noted that I am more linearly logical over at RoR and more freely imaginative or complex or artistic over here. It is so hard, sometimes, to be one or the other, when I'm both. This is what I'm talking about though, when I think I can use my "whole" brain instead of being "left-brained" or "right-brained" (all 3 terms used pop-science-y).

Paul, it sounds like you think in complex systems.

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Jenna,

Thanks so much for the images of “visual complexity.” I could stare at those for hours. I agree with your assessment, I tend to think in complex systems but ,like you, I have the ability to shift orientations and think linearly. I must say though, I can always appreciate a truly gifted linear thinker. I stand in awe of the insights and clarity that can be produced by strong linear thinking.

*...to me to think in linear fashion is hard only because it's boring and lacks depth, but I can do it-- it's the layering of logical lines into a network such that others have a hard time following.*

I experience it the same way. I find thinking linearly to be more like work, where leaping from layer to layer is just plain fun. Objectivism is founded on linear thinking and linear causation. I think this was part of my attraction to Rand and Branden. For me, it is not about the similarities of their ways of processing to mine; it is about the complimentary differences. The strengths of their linear thinking counterbalances my strengths in non-linear thinking. I find their writing very grounding, precise, and particular relative to my multilayered and networked holism. In true non-linear fashion, it is the integration of perspectives that has led me to my greatest insights. With Rand and Branden’s guidance I was able to develop my more linear understanding and abilities and was able to isolate, identify, and create the elements of the complex systems I could see.

I find my creative thinking is non-linear. It produces very complex images. My linear thinking comes into play when I need to translate all the images into words. I think it is generally true that my linear thinking and my thinking in words is very closely associated. I agree with you also that there is a sense of being free on OL to explore perspectives that arise that are not O-ist mainstream. Non-linear descriptions of the world would definitely fit this category. (Notice how mainstream O-ists tend to respond to Postmodern philosophy.) OL tends to produce an atmosphere of security that comes with the expectation of interacting from a principle of mutual respect. I have not participated on ROR but , from what I have seen, it carries an atmosphere of O-ist mainstream rigidity that would tend to discourage non-linear and encourage linear thought.

I briefly scanned over the link on “complex systems.” It seems to be quite interesting but the terminology is new to me. I’m going to take more time to look it over and think about it. What you have shown me definitely has meaning to me. I have always tended to be a build it and figure it out for myself kind of guy. I am slowly learning I can learn from others. Thanks again Jenna.

Paul

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Objectivism is founded on linear thinking and linear causation. I think this was part of my attraction to Rand and Branden.

This was what attracted me too, at first. It was clear, and made general sense. I could do without the polemics and the sometimes unctious tone, but the beautiful parts are beautiful. And I also began to see it as a system. However, rigidity and stasis in real life stagnates and dies. So I began to try to see it as a dynamic system, as a tool or a ruler, as something alive-- like the living world I'm studying-- but I couldn't get much positive feedback for this (and saw lots of negative-- and, boy, does negativity make me want to just drop it like a bag of snakes). The complementary differences (linear and non, static and dynamic, particulars and wholes) have been facile in my mental life, but socially awkward. Like someone else said here, (I suppose) I'm expecting way too much out of it.

I realized that where I rapidly departed from the "mainstream" is the dynamism and the nonlinear part, that emerges from complexity, that emerges from networks, that emerges from linearity, that emerges from particulars. I think people can "get" systems... but what about constantly evolving, changing systems? And the last thing I would do is to conform myself to just a single line of linear thought, or a static system, when I know I can go beyond it into the "complex adaptive systems".

First, I am no crowd follower. Second, I like what I can do with my mind. Third, I'm way over the prospect of being guilty for being me.

I also decided that I didn't just want to stop at intelligence as the ultimate-- I longed for wisdom, insight, and balance-- beyond intelligence. I know I'm intelligent-- but what next?

Whether or not other places encourages or discourages how a person thinks is not even a meaningful thought to me because I find the entire notion of conforming one's thought processes to some group highly demeaning. I am not a Dell computer with a binary programming language installed. I enjoy thinking this complex way and I have absolutely no guilt for it at all... if "free mind" means anything...! However, I do think a lot (but not all) of people do respect this. No matter, I go my merry way.

I *do* understand deeply by what you mean when you write "integration of different perspectives". I do it all the time-- I once asked someone if it was possible to be a "partialist" because for every thinker I've come across, I've agreed/disagreed anywhere from 0% to 12% to 55% to 90% (for example). I haven't agreed with a thinker 100%; & I probably won't, unless that thinker is me. Which is why, as a person who is creative anyway, I'm making my own philosophy. Why not? There has been no realistic, naturalistic, neuroscientifically sound, complex, dynamic, nonlinear systems philosophy of life. So why don't I just go ahead with it? ;)

A writer who thinks this way is Stephen Jay Gould-- he writes about biology, history, evolution, scientists, theories, and sometimes baseball. I don't like baseball (but I do like statistics), and I don't agree with him on everything, but he's primarily a joy to read for people who can understand systematic thinking.

Eventually, and I write this with foresight, I'm going the way of other complex thinkers and pushing myself even more to conceptualize multitudinous variables in layers of systems. More and more of my time will be taken up by understanding the complexity of the human brain, and eventually I won't even have an interest to slow down to just a linear approach. For the complexity stuff, I need my style of thinking at its utmost best-- where my goal is anyway!

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  • 3 weeks later...

NOTE: THIS POST IS A RECONSTRUCTED THREAD. IF YOU HAVE TEXT OF POSTS OR ARTICLES LOST IN THE JULY 17-27 DISASTER, PLEASE SEND THEM TO EITHER MICHAEL OR ME. - kat

Post subject: Jenna, Causality, and Departures from O-ism

Jenna, you wrote:

*I realized that where I rapidly departed from the "mainstream" is the dynamism and the nonlinear part, that emerges from complexity, that emerges from networks, that emerges from linearity, that emerges from particulars. I think people can "get" systems... but what about constantly evolving, changing systems?

I think this is my point of departure also. My fundamental point of contact with Objectivism is the model of causality presented by AR and NB: What a thing is determines what it does. All of AR and NB's work is built on the framework of this view of causation. It is the formula that guided the construction of their world views, their understanding of human nature, and their moral philosophy. Personally, I believed this view of causation needed to be developed further to increase its precision and to increase the breadth of phenomena it could accommodate.

As profound as I considered the O-ist view of causation to be, it left me asking such questions as:

a) Metaphysically, what determines what a thing is?

b) Metaphysically, how does identity determine behaviour?

c) Is identity just a filter for processing energy from without or is energy somehow an inherent property of entities, shaping identity and determining behaviour, without reference to some external ethereal stuff that initiates the action of entities?

d) How can the reciprocating non-linear causation of dynamic fields/networks/systems be integrated with the very linear entity-to-action causation of AR and NB?

The answers I have found to these questions have shaped my world view, my understanding of human nature, and my moral philosophy. While in alignment with AR and NB's view of causation, in finding answers to these questions I think I have increased the precision of the basic view of causality and increased the breadth of metaphysical representativeness. It has often been said (at least by Michael ) that the problems with Objectivism are not with what it has identified but with what it has not identified. I would agree with this sentiment right down to the level of Objectivism's foundation; its concept of causation. The need to integrate non-linear, reciprocating, dynamic causal networks into the entity-to-action view of causation is a key point of my departure from the "mainstream."

*First, I am no crowd follower. Second, I like what I can do with my mind. Third, I'm way over the prospect of being guilty for being me.*

First, I know. I've been paying attention. Second, so do I. (both interpretations of this statement) Third, why feel guilty for creating something unique and valuable? I love your spirit.

*I also decided that I didn't just want to stop at intelligence as the ultimate-- I longed for wisdom, insight, and balance-- beyond intelligence. I know I'm intelligent-- but what next?*

YES! It's not whether or not someone is intelligent but what they do with the intelligence they have that is important. I have known lots of intelligent people who have created nothing unique or valuable. The most valuable thing a person can create is their own identity. We are not just dust in the wind, created by the chance combination of our genes and our environment. We actively, in fact pro-actively, participate in the creation of our own identity. If what we create is vibrant, passionate, unique, integrated, insightful, wise, authentic, evolved, balanced, disciplined, responsible, and productive, then we have created something of value to exchange with others of value in this world.

What you say about intelligence, I have also said about self-esteem: what is beyond self-esteem. As NB suggests, attaining and maintaining self-esteem is just the beginning of the journey. Healthy self-esteem opens the world of possibilities up to us. It breaks us free of the bonds of a negative self-image. Our journey into the world really starts when our self-esteem has the energy to propel us into it.

*Whether or not other places encourages or discourages how a person thinks is not even a meaningful thought to me because I find the entire notion of conforming one's thought processes to some group highly demeaning.*

I was talking to a friend recently about sales techniques. One approach to sales is to attempt to "push" people into a sale by initiating a psychological impulse to overcome the inertia and obstacles that resist the sale. These are what would generally be identified as the hard-sell or pressure approach to sales. Another approach is to attempt to create an invisible "pull" toward the sale by removing obstacles and sloping the ground to let gravity do its work and overcome people's inertia. This would be the soft-sell or no pressure approach to sales. The hard-sell approach works by pressuring people to overcome their authentic, independent judgement and buy here and now. The soft-sell approach works by creating a context where people's authentic, independent judgement leads them to an impulse to buy here and now.

A place can encourage or discourage a particular state of mind without force, by creating a context where certain mind-states experience more or less obstacles to being understood or responded to. It is like the soft-sell approach I described above. The ground is sloped and the obstacles are removed for certain ways of processing and certain ways of asserting oneself. Otherwise a person is perfectly free to act on her own judgement and from her own impulses.

*I *do* understand deeply by what you mean when you write "integration of different perspectives". I do it all the time-- I once asked someone if it was possible to be a "partialist" because for every thinker I've come across, I've agreed/disagreed anywhere from 0% to 12% to 55% to 90% (for example). I haven't agreed with a thinker 100%; & I probably won't, unless that thinker is me. Which is why, as a person who is creative anyway, I'm making my own philosophy. Why not? There has been no realistic, naturalistic, neuroscientifically sound, complex, dynamic, nonlinear systems philosophy of life. So why don't I just go ahead with it?*

YES! That's what makes you unique, valuable, and interesting to read. I know I will not agree with you 100% but that doesn't matter. I get a chance to see the world through the twists of your particular psyche. I get the chance to see reality from a whole other angle. I learn something. You bring observational and processing tools I do not have and experience the world from a place I do not. Experiencing "the world according to Jenna" expands my vision of existence and brings my relative perspective a little closer to understanding an absolute reality. You are, among other things, a unique and valuable vortex in my layers of networks that informs my perspective. Thanks.

Paul

Post subject: The Variable Mind

This has been a very interesting thread.

I have a tendency to see both particulars up close and how the many variations on particulars fit into larger units. Individuals and society or simply the particular tree and the forest as a whole. When I started my training as a physicist, I had a hard time simplifying systems to the point where I could do the required calculations. I learned, but I pulled many an all-nighter in the process.

In my work, I am constantly investigating new materials. My insights on identifying the critical phenomena that needs to be controlled to get the desired result often requires picking up analogies from my studies of many other materials systems over a very long time and somehow identifying what properties of those systems are relevant to the present system. Sometimes, they are remarkably different systems in many ways. This process very often amazes me.

Long ago, I observed that in any small group of scientists, there were almost always many different thinking processes and perspectives, in addition to different experience sets. Oftentimes, these differences led to initial conflict. I took it as one of my jobs in every group to show the other group members how their different talents for thinking were beneficial in our united efforts to solve problems. I would make a point of discussing with others how one person's approach led to their identification of a part of the solution which had given the rest of us difficulty. When the whole group got the message that their different approaches were beneficial, they commonly became more understanding of the other members approach and more willing to feed them information and give it to them in the form in which they needed it. The group dynamics in thinking through a problem were often fascinating and problems were solved much more quickly.

Much of my thinking about toleration as an epistemological tool was done in the context of these scientific groups, though I had even before given it a lot of thought on the person to person level and as a condition of civilized life.

_________________

http://www.andersonmaterials.com/ & http://reasonedthoughts.blogspot.com/

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As profound as I considered the O-ist view of causation to be, it left me asking such questions as:

a) Metaphysically, what determines what a thing is?

b )Metaphysically, how does identity determine behaviour?

c) Is identity just a filter for processing energy from without or is energy somehow an inherent property of entities, shaping identity and determining behaviour, without reference to some external ethereal stuff that initiates the action of entities?

d) How can the reciprocating non-linear causation of dynamic fields/networks/systems be integrated with the very linear entity-to-action causation of AR and NB?

Well, instead of starting off with just "a thing", "identity" and "behavior", let's ask:

What is "identity"? What is separate from the identity? How is identity formed? Who forms it? What forms it?

What happens when you say that it is our identity as human beings to form our own identities-- then what happens out of this? If this is true, then when does this start-- at 5 years old, 10, or 18? Or is it really a continuum?

And if we form our own identity, then we must have behavior before the full identity-- then one could say behavior forms identity. But it's our identity to form the behavior that forms our identity. On and on...

But what if identity and behavior are not linearly related, but feedbacked? What if other factors, such as other's behaviors and identities, feed into this interaction? What if one's identity changes over time? I am not exactly the same person I was when I was 18. I also acted differently. What if behavior is a dynamic process?

The point is that "a thing's identity determines its behavior" being conceived of this way seems to set "the thing" in a vacuum, in a linear fashion. What seems to be missing is that a thing may have such complex attributes that its identity and behavior are complex and dynamic as well, and if this complex thing exists with other complex things, the interactions that emerge can have several different forms: probable behaviors, contingent behaviors, necessary behaviors, a balance of externally induced and internally induced behaviors, etc. AND this will reflect back and change the identities of the things involved.

So starting off with "entity-to-action" is only part of the picture; it is one-dimensional, flat. Instead of a linear approach, I go by a networked, cyclical, feedbacked approach. I don't have to integrate networks/dynamics/fluidity/complexity into a linear approach as this is going backwards-- to me, the linear approach must integrate with the dynamic, complex, fluid reality that I see, use, and study, every day. In essence, I look for tools of thought to help me understand reality. Since reality is complex and exhibits nonlinearity, I must use a guideline that matches. A linear approach usually only helps me if I want to act like I'm programming in assembly code; such a way of doing things frustrate me as it is very brute force and slow.

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The point is that "a thing's identity determines its behavior" being conceived of this way seems to set "the thing" in a vacuum, in a linear fashion. What seems to be missing is that a thing may have such complex attributes that its identity and behavior are complex and dynamic as well, and if this complex thing exists with other complex things, the interactions that emerge can have several different forms: probable behaviors, contingent behaviors, necessary behaviors, a balance of externally induced and internally induced behaviors, etc. AND this will reflect back and change the identities of the things involved.

So starting off with "entity-to-action" is only part of the picture; it is one-dimensional, flat. Instead of a linear approach, I go by a networked, cyclical, feedbacked approach. I don't have to integrate networks/dynamics/fluidity/complexity into a linear approach as this is going backwards-- to me, the linear approach must integrate with the dynamic, complex, fluid reality that I see, use, and study, every day. In essence, I look for tools of thought to help me understand reality. Since reality is complex and exhibits nonlinearity, I must use a guideline that matches. A linear approach usually only helps me if I want to act like I'm programming in assembly code; such a way of doing things frustrate me as it is very brute force and slow.

Jenna, you are absolutely right. The entity-to-action view of causation is missing elements that allow it to integrate important phenomena. One of those missing elements is a non-linear component. I am thinking about a response to Dragonfly's post under the Metaphysics heading. I am also thinking about a response to Roger's post in the "Nathaniel Branden on Mind-Body and the Dual-Aspect Theory" thread. Both require entering a deeper discussion of the nature of identity and causation. Although the entity to action view of causation does not specifically eliminate the possibility of non-linear causation, any more precise statement about the nature of identity and causation must explicitly include the principle of non-linear causes.

I think the influence of linear and non-linear "information" on entities is important to understand. What a thing is (and, in turn, what it does) is informed by the local/linear and the non-local/non-linear actions and interactions of the entities in its environment. That is, causal information can be transmitted singularly from the parts of a system or complexly from the whole system.

Of course, on the view of proactive causation, causal information does not provide energy to initiate motion because energy is not transfered in a proactive causal system. It only provides the context and degrees of freedom in which the energy within the proactive entity can be directed. For ourselves, the degrees of freedom we have identified are the options for action open to us. The option for action we choose to initiate is the direction the will sets our energy in motion. We weigh the information and then we make a choice by initiating the energy for action in the direction of our selection. This is an act of will. The information does not provide the energy to initiate our action. We do.

Paul

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