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halcyon comments on Living By Your Own Strength - Less Wrong

23 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 December 2008 12:37AM

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Comment author: halcyon 19 June 2012 11:52:47AM *  0 points [-]

"Would Isaac Newton have remained a mystic, even in that earlier era, if he'd lived the lives of Galileo and Archimedes instead of just reading about them?"

Possibly, depending on your definition of "mystic". This is not a simple yes-and-no question because that which commands universal validity in the real world is nonetheless not fundamental to the human psyche. You value the power of intelligence and incessantly work to refine your art of rationality, and yet you complain of low mental energy. I don't think that's necessarily because you are a low-mental-energy person. It could just be that you're an imperfectly "rational" being and are, like the rest of us, ultimately motivated by a complex interplay of sense and emotion that can only be called poetry. (I'm not saying matters shouldn't be corrected by transhumanist methods, just observing that that's how they stand at the moment.) If you were to adopt classical rites known to confer such inspiration, you could be bounding from insight to insight riding a crest of divine frenzy. Such traditions give you access to poetic frameworks refined by generations of thinkers and consequently able to bestow tremendous power. Instead, you choose to immerse yourself in work and socialization. Those are themselves American Protestant rites, and they DO work, but they seem to suit you poorly. Why keep at it regardless, except to fool the eyes of society?

I would ask, would Newton have had the motivation to discover gravity if he hadn't been inspired by astrological mysteries? If so, what would be his incentive? What if modern humanism seemed as insipid to him as it does to me? Elsewhere, I believe you spoke of sacredness not being private, but the fact is, sacredness IS private in the sense that different people find different things sacred and even if you could list all the rational pillars supporting your perspective on the sacredness of a thing that are available to your conscious mind, predictably communicating to others a direct taste of your sensation of holiness would still be an immensely difficult endeavor. I say this because, knowing most of the reasons shuttle launches appear sacred to you, I can readily imagine how someone could find it sacred, and yet I do not share this feeling myself. Exhilarating, tense, joyful, among other things, but sacred? Not really, and I don't think belief and disbelief enter the picture when we're exploring the domain of sensation. Hence, private and incommunicable.

I confess, I worry you might have fallen prey to Post-Christian rationalizationism. See, Christians loved to leach the joy and meaning out of life wherever they didn't understand it, leaving a dry and lifeless husk which they proceeded to arbitrarily label "rational". Not just informally, but as a matter of church doctrine. They then mocked and acted dismissive and when necessary, passive-aggressive to anyone who disagreed with their point of view, which was effective at keeping people in line after centuries of violent evaporative cooling. Is it perhaps possible that everyone acted as though certain modes of behavior are Obviously Rational, and you believed them without systematically questioning their presuppositions? I first suspected the importance of ritual (in a broad sense of the word) in daily life when studying the tenth and final chapter of this book on Neo-Confucian metaphysics: http://faculty.washington.edu/mkalton/ I'm not sure you'd have the desire to read it with as much patience and forbearance as I've had to invest in it.

Who am I to accuse you of unthinking assimilationism anyway? I myself don't practice any traditional rites, though that's because the Neoplatonic rites, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-PkooJfLRA) which intrigue me the most, are, as far as I'm aware, lost. Thanks again, Christianity! Only the cheap, populist crap, the Christian, Gnostic and Hermetic rites, survive from classical antiquity, out of which the Christian ones are conveniently superior in terms of quality, having received the most attention and polish. Unfortunately, Christianity, at its core, is a constructivist doctrine with a deep distrust of individual self-cultivation (which existed in the West as in the East in Hellenic times) that does not conform to their self-righteous path of ostentatious self-abasement. On the bright side, several important expository texts have come down to us: http://www.scribd.com/doc/31503637/Proclus-on-the-Theology-of-Plato-all-six-books-plus-a-seventh-by-Thomas-Taylor

Comment author: RichardKennaway 19 June 2012 12:35:07PM 0 points [-]

That Proclus text on archive.org, which has the advantage of not being scribd.

Comment author: halcyon 19 June 2012 12:47:49PM 0 points [-]

Thanks. :)