Discourse on Methods



So, I’ve started reading Discourse on the Method for Conducting One’s Reason Well and for Searching for Truth in the Sciences (Descartes, also holy shit that title).  I’ve only read part 1 and 2, but I’m really struck by how a lot of his ideas sound at least kind of close to stuff I see in the rationalist sphere thus far.

His first part seems to touch on the concept of taking ideas seriously (I also note some interesting stuff that seems basically progressive, the idea that all people are generally reasonable and come to conclusions with reason based on experience.  Basically, rather than dismissing people as savages or uncivilized, actually accept that hey, people do actually use their brains and maybe you just haven’t experienced the same things that lead to your conclusions.  I guess maybe this is a sort of preprogressive stance?  Or at least, it should be, I know that unfortunately it’s become a lot more popular to shut out anything that isn’t The Narrative but still).  Like, largely he seems to have spent the first part of his life just voraciously going after all the ideas, traveling all over the world that he could reach, and just living, experiencing, and trying not to dismiss?  It’s possible I’m reading way too much into it because of the pattern that I often see in the circles I follow, just, like, I dunno, I got that vibe from his writing.

The other trend I notice in the first part is that he’s very…dismissive and critical of academia, which seems to be something we’re rediscovering in modern society (the idea that it’s great to be lettered and learn things but, like, it’s no substitute for travel or life experience).  It’s pretty fascinating to see that these were things people criticized back in the 1600s too.

Part 2 is where we kind of start to get to the stuff that Descartes is most famous for, the radical doubt, and his reasoning for it.  It’s interesting that he kind of discourages people from tearing down what they know, it’s a different tack from the (admittedly very few) other philosophical writings I’ve read, though on the flip side, he does seem pretty proud of himself so maybe it’s just some weird manipulation stuff.  But, like, overall his axioms for his methods (”1. Never accept anything as true that I did not plainly know to be such […] 2. Divide each of the difficulties I would examine into as many parts as possible and as was required in order to better resolved them; 3. To conduct my thoughts in an orderly fashion […] 4. Everywhere to make enumerations so complete and reviews so general that I was assured of having omitted nothing.”) sound a lot like ways to overcome bias and other such concepts in rationalist spheres.  (Also this sounds like a proto scientific method, which might also be a thing?)

Anyway I noticed a lot more stuff but I kind of stupidly forgot to write things down as I was reading, so this is what you get for now.  I am definitely enjoying Descartes so far though!

Oh yeah, addendum to this.  What I think I really like is how unexpectedly cheerful and earnest Descartes is so far, at least in Discourse on Method.  Like, whenever I think of my broad understanding of Cartesian philosophy, it’s really dour and kind of depressing, but, like Descartes is just nerding the fuck out over this and having a good time and it makes me happy.

To conclude this thread, I did finish Discourse and Meditations.  Overall, I was down right until I reached Meditations 3, when the ontological argument became Descartes’ way out.  I will post my (poorly written) research paper on the subject at some point.



(I don’t know yet if this takes place on the Oracle’s universe or not. I think probably. I also don’t know what They are here, can some fae trade one weakness for another? Are there tales of urban fae? Anyway…)

Sometimes, late at night, public transit systems have minor glitches…Sometimes it’s a train when services have long closed, or maybe a slightly off color on a given line (maybe a faded red, almost a pink on a red line), sometimes it’s a train with no lights. It almost never has passengers; it’s worse if it does…worse still if they get off the train. If that happens, it’s best to not acknowledge anything or anyone, and it might already be too late.

As you might have guessed, the train will not take you to any destination the line routes to. If you’re lucky, you might just stop at another part of the subway system, much much sooner than should have been possible given distances. You can get off these trains, but be wary and mindful of detail. All it takes is a misplaced letter, a differently named street, a subtle cue that you’re where you don’t belong to tell you to avoid that stop.

Sometimes, you might end up at the next stop, but things will seem fresher, newer, almost renovated. You know this stop hasn’t had renovations for 30 years; it’s also daylight and people are milling about. Their clothes strike you as a bit off though…you know if you step off here, you might have a long journey back…but at least you know it’ll only take time.

Rarely, though, the train is coming for no one but you, taking you to a place that doesn’t exist. The old courts used enticing paths in the woods, seemingly natural circles of stones with just a bit too much order, a clearing in the dead of night. Now everything is iron and disbelief, so others have taken the traditional roles and adapted, even shaped our modern era. And sometimes they need favors. Unfortunately, if this is your train, it is frowned upon to decline, so you must board.

You know how sometimes a train will stop for no reason in a tunnel, despite no delays and clear traffic ahead? It’s stopping at Not-A-Station, and it’s the only way back if the court chooses you. Maybe it’s early enough, or close enough to the end of the line that the doors can open just for you…the passengers must never be aware, so if someone is in your car, it’s unfortunate; if you’re lucky they may be asleep, if you’re not, they’re awake, and you wait for the next train. The court doesn’t mind, of course…they love giving travelers their hospitality.

Going to Not-A-Station is a generous boon, and not ceded easily. If luck isn’t with you, well, naturally it’s just that you belong more with the court than society. You’ll get used to it. Someone has to drive the trains, and the conductor never gets off.

On untested social realizations


(Epistemic status: rambling after a therapy high; also posting from mobile so forgive lack of style)

I think one of the fundamental concepts of social interaction that gets beat into us poor internet socialized saps is “lurk moar.” I suppose the kids these days would say “talk less, smile more”. I hope they say that anyway. This is a really great strategy, too! Rather than being a noob crashing into an existing culture and forming a negative impression, you get an idea of how the culture fits you and how you fit the culture. This is critical because of how little cultural common ground you can assume online. You have people from different generations, countries, classes, religions, all that good stuff, and everyone has to agree to neutral territory to make their communities work…and the amazing part is they MANAGE it, all because they really love some crazy bullet hell game from Japan, or are super into a crazy person’s philosophy/self help blog. Lurking moar is vital to this harmony, and it’s an incredible social strategy…


In real life…I’m increasingly convinced it’s a weak strategy for several reasons. The first is bandwidth. Online is extremely low bandwidth. You can /consciously/ suss out the majority of social rules and follow them if you’re good enough. That doesn’t fly irl. There is way too much bandwidth to properly process a constantly updating social situation like a meetup or a party. Your information is forced to build in so many assumptions you might as well just make a model up and pray. Further, by waiting and seeing, you lose evidence you would naturally get in online contexts. You don’t get the panoramic view a forum or chat room offers at a party. Following even one conversation while not being part of it is hard, and also kinda awkward.

Second is time. Time is so, so discounted online. You can lurk a chat room or forum and do a million other things with minimal cost and still learn the ropes. In a real life gathering, you can…stand around awkwardly staring at people. I mean, you could also play with your phone, but then you aren’t gaining the knowledge lurking was supposed to give you. I further posit that time is of highest value at the start of a party, before attendees have found “their people”…and the start is when you would be inclined to lurk most.

Thirdly, lurking irl just /looks/ weird and makes people avoid you. You basically get into a no information cycle because all the analyses you’re broadcasting look weird.

So, overall, this is probably obvious to like 90% of you but these realizations were pretty amazing for me and I intend to test them at the next social event I’m at. Rather than waiting and seeing, I’m going to try to poach other solo party goers and see what happens. My theory is, they’ll be happy someone took the burden of finding conversations off of them, and a group will form that in turn attracts more people, and gives me options when the initial conversation dies to keep chaining new interaction. Remind me to follow up with a report sometime.

Self and Malleability


Adapted from a 20 minute essay written in a Starbucks at 0720, inspired by a conversation at a party:

(Epistemic status:  Basically ranting and raving about concepts I don’t understand.  Feel free to tear this apart, I’m not too attached to it)

So, basically, there’s a point where you realize the “Self” as a Thing isn’t necessarily a true concept.  It’s a /useful/ concept, but it doesn’t strictly exist.  Arguably, every change in our structure is a “death” and our next moment is a rebirth, of sorts.  I’m not going to go deeply into the arguments against the Self, if you’re reading this you probably know them better than I do.  Instead, I’d like to look at the practical side of things, at least in the sense that I personally can get some value out of this, potentially.  If I reject the concept of the continuous self, what does that even mean? On a practical level, if I ever commit a crime, I am still held liable.  Despite the shakiness of the idea of continuity in my “selves”,  the actions “I” take in the past still impact “my” current decisions and “my” resource base.  Even if there is no Self, no persistent identity, the world operates on the assumption it is, giving it a /more/ than real quality in a way (comparable to the US Dollar in a way, backed more by idea than by reality).

Still, despite all this, I think there are actionable ways to act on the No Self concept.  I am sure Bhuddists and others have much better ideas in this field, but I’m not familiar with them (yet) and don’t yet want to contaminate my thought space before thinking about the problem myself.  As some may know, I believe a lot in being able to change, to put the right pieces of your experiences and being together to make a different whole (…despite being a reductionist shut up I don’t have to be consistent).  In my case, I want to please others I respect.  I also want to absolutely control most situations in my life.  I have a lot of conflicting drives, but I can switch them to a degree, and I find the switching comes easier when I abandon my self concept to a degree.  I often find myself saying “Oh, well, I guess I can’t do this thing because it’s how I am”, and sometimes (more frequently lately), I shock myself by doing much better at the thing than I self assessed.  I’ve been drifting more towards dropping the self assessment, at least phrased in such a way as “I am X” (smart, funny, angry, awkward, etc.), or “I can’t do X” (socialize well, attract people, dominate, whatever). 

This isn’t really application of the No Self concept…but I think that if I were to apply more of that, a more visceral realization that “I” am nothing but a short snapshot of a supposedly self consistent entity, I might be able to affect more drastic changes and “imprint” on myself stronger deviations as needed for various situations.  I mean, this basically comes down to a form of self-hacking.  It probably works better with more skills and more “roles” in my life to choose from so I have a greater variety of “accessories” to work with.  I mean, in a way, I’m basically just striving to be similar to the dolls in Dollhouse.  And I think that it is more plausible than most would be comfortable thinking.

Social Risk and Initiating Conversation


(Epistemic status:  This largely applies to me solely, but I am totally assuming other people feel this way.  Still, I only actually experience my own qualia and can’t accurately assume other people have the same qualia.  That said, if you feel similar things, tell me so I can have more data points to work with in my amateur sociology!)

This is really long so I’m putting it under a read more and posting a tl;dr.

tl;dr this is a rambling mess that basically posits people
don’t initiate conversations, particularly with high status people,
because fucking it up sucks and feels very dangerous even if it may not
Actually be dangerous; except sometimes it is dangerous so you can’t
just completely ignore the inhibition. Conclusion:  People are hard, but initiative is more rewarding than it seems so take  it more.  But not in the categorical imperative sense because then the trade offs change.  h/t @sinesalvatorem because a conversation with her is what inspired this.

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