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Comment author: hannahelisabeth 20 May 2015 10:15:04AM 0 points [-]

I'll be there.

Comment author: hannahelisabeth 18 November 2012 11:05:49AM 0 points [-]

"Why does reality exist?"

I think the problem with this question is the use of the word "why." It is generally either a quest for intentionality (eg. "Why did you do that?) or for earlier steps in a causal chain (eg. Why is the sky blue?). So the only type of answer that could properly answer this question is one that introduced a first cause (which is, of course, a concept rife with problems) or one that supposed intentionality in the universe (like, the universe decided to exist as it is or something equally nonsensical). This is probably (part of) why answering this question with the non-explaination "God did it" feels so satisfactory to some--it supposes intentionality and creates a first cause. It makes you feel sated without ever having explained anything, but the question was a wrong one in the first place, because any answer would necessarily lead to another question, since the crux of the question is that of a causal chain.

I think a better question would be "How does reality exist?" as that seems a lot more likely to be answerable.

Comment author: MugaSofer 17 November 2012 10:58:23PM 0 points [-]

I used to use a similar technique, but found the absence of pain was more reliable; you can start wondering if something is just a dream, but you can't start feeling pinches in a dream.

Comment author: hannahelisabeth 18 November 2012 10:33:23AM 0 points [-]

I can feel pain in dreams. I'm not sure if I can self-inflict pain in dreams (I've never tried), but I've definitely felt pain in dreams.

Comment author: gwillen 10 April 2012 07:14:42AM 1 point [-]

In related(?) news, often my brain wakes up before my body, and I can't move so much as my eyeballs! It's like the opposite of sleepwalking.

Just in case you aren't already aware (and haven't become aware since this was written) -- this is a common phenomenon (from which I suffer also), described here:


Comment author: hannahelisabeth 17 November 2012 10:52:31PM 0 points [-]

I'm not sure if I've experienced sleep paralysis before, but I've had experiences very similar to it. I will "wake up" from a dream without actually waking up. So I will know that I'm in bed, my mind will feel conscious, but my eyes will be closed and I'll be unable to move. Ususally I try to roll around to wake myself up, or to make noise so someone else will notice and wake me up. But it doesn't work, 'cause I can't move or make noise, even though it feels like I am doing those things (and yet I'm aware that I'm not, because I can feel the lack of physical sensation and auditory perceptions). But when I actually wake up and can move, it feels like waking up, rather than just not being paralyzed any more. And sometimes when I'm in that "think I'm awake and can't move" state, I imagine my environment being different than it actually is. Like, I might think I'm awake and in my own bed, and then when I wake up for real, I realize I'm at someone else's place. Which makes me think I wasn't actually awake when I felt like I was. But it feels awfully similar to sleep paralysis, so I'm not sure if it is sleep paralysis or just something very similar.

Comment author: ata 20 May 2010 10:02:22AM *  3 points [-]

That's awesome.

It is indeed. I can't take credit for it, though; don't remember where I learned it, but it was from some preexisting lucid dreaming literature. I think it's an underappreciated technique. They usually recommend things like seeing if light switches work normally, or looking at text and seeing if it changes as you're looking at it, but this is something that you can do immediately, with no external props, and it seems to be quite reliable.

I never devised anything as cool as that, but I did discover a pretty reliable heuristic: If I ever find myself with any genuine doubt about whether this is a dream, then it definitely is a dream.

Or in other words not feeling like you "just know" you're awake is very strong evidence that you're not.

That's similar to what I originally did, but it doesn't always work — false awakenings (when you dream that you're waking up in bed and everything's normal) are especially challenging to it. In those cases I usually feel pretty confident I'm awake. Still, that heuristic probably works well for most dreams that are actually dreamlike.

Comment author: hannahelisabeth 17 November 2012 10:39:43PM 0 points [-]

They usually recommend things like seeing if light switches work normally

Do other people have the same problem I do, then? When I'm dreaming, I often find that it's dark and that light switches don't work. I'm always thinking that the light bulbs are burnt out. It's so frustrating, 'cause I just want to turn on the light and it's like I never can in a dream.

Comment author: ata 20 May 2010 08:17:47AM 22 points [-]

As usual, this is better settled by experiment than by "I just know". My favourite method is holding my nose and seeing if I can still breathe through it. Every time I've tried this while dreaming, I've still been able to breathe, and, unsurprisingly, so far I've never been able to while awake. So if I try that, then whichever way it goes, it's pretty strong evidence. There — now it's science and there's no need to assume "I feel that I know I'm awake" implies "I'm awake".

Of course, if you're the sort of person who never thinks to question your wakefulness while dreaming, then the fact that you've thought of the question at all is good evidence that you're awake. But you need a better experiment than that if you also want to be able to get the right answer while you actually are dreaming.

[Apologies if replying to super-old comments is frowned upon. I'm reading the whole blog from the beginning and occasionally finding that I have things to say.]

Comment author: hannahelisabeth 17 November 2012 10:35:49PM 0 points [-]

When I dream about being underwater, I can breathe in the dream, but I also am under the impression that I'm holding my breath somehow, even though I'm breathing. Like, I'll "hold my breath" only, I've just made the mental note to do it and not actually done it. But it won't be clear to me in the dream whether or not I'm holding my breath, even though I'm aware that I'm still breathing. It's weird and contradictory, but dreams are capable of being like that. It's like how in a dream, you can see someone and know who they're supposed to be, even though they may look and act nothing like that person they supposedly are. Or how you can be in both the first and third person perspective at the same time.

Comment author: AlephNeil 20 May 2010 08:24:07AM *  9 points [-]

My favourite method is holding my nose and seeing if I can still breathe through it.

That's awesome.

I never devised anything as cool as that, but I did discover a pretty reliable heuristic: If I ever find myself with any genuine doubt about whether this is a dream, then it definitely is a dream.

Or in other words not feeling like you "just know" you're awake is very strong evidence that you're not.

Comment author: hannahelisabeth 17 November 2012 10:31:57PM 1 point [-]

That's exactly my method too.

Comment author: hannahelisabeth 17 November 2012 10:22:03PM 1 point [-]

Those who dream do not know they dream, but when you wake you know you are awake.

I actually use this fact to enable lucid dreaming. When I'm dreaming, I ask myself, "am I dreaming?" And then I answer yes, without any further consideration, as I've realized that the answer is always yes. Because when I'm awake, I don't ask that question, because there's never any doubt to begin with. So when I'm dreaming and I find myself unsure of whether or not I'm dreaming, I therefore know that I'm dreaming, simply because the doubt and confusion exists. It's a method that's a lot simpler (and more accurate) than trying to analyze the contents of the dream to see if it seems real.

In response to Universal Law
Comment author: michael_vassar 29 April 2007 08:01:35PM 5 points [-]

I think that the social sciences seem to still be following the Greek paradigm. Exceptions are excused and generally ignored rather than studied in more depth. New theories are rarely asked to explain the findings that supported old theories. Outliers are dropped, partially to make ignoring exceptions easier.

Comment author: hannahelisabeth 17 November 2012 10:02:48PM 0 points [-]

That may be true, but you've given no evidence to support your claim. Can you give some examples?

Comment author: gokhalea 16 November 2012 07:48:50PM 0 points [-]


So how would you describe those decisions that are made based on the emotion? Are the irrational? Are they unreasonable? How would the fact that you cannot get the relevant evidence play into the analysis of my judgement that is formed at least partially based on emotion? Is the rational point of view in such case just "i dont know"?

This is not meant to disagree with your point, but I want to push to see how far your analysis holds.

In response to comment by gokhalea on Feeling Rational
Comment author: hannahelisabeth 17 November 2012 09:25:25PM 1 point [-]

Well that really depends what the decision is and what the circumstantial factors are. As I said in my last comment, decisions are made by a combination of emotion and reason. Emotions tell you where you want to go, and reason tells you how to get there. Whether or not a decision is reasonable depends on (1) was it an effective (and efficient, though that's somewhat less important) way of achieving your goal? Did it actually produce the outcome desired by your emotions? And (2) was it consistint with reality and the facts? Was the decision based on accurate information?

Taking the example you gave, of a family member being hurt by someone else in an accident, your emotions in reaction to this event are likely to be very charged. You just lost someone that was important to you, and you're bound to feel hurt. It's also very common to feel angry and to want revenge on (or justice for) the person that was responsible. It's not clear to me why the human default is to assign guilt without evaluting the situation first to see whether or not the person actually is guilty, but that does seem to be the common response. In this case, it would be up to a jury to decide whether this constituted manslaughter. It's most probable that the jury, having no vested interests besides ensuring justice, would be able to come to the most rational conclusion.

That said, if you are being truly rational about it and if your emotions are telling you your goal is to find out who (if anyone) was responsible, then your conclusion should be no different than that of the jury's. Of course, most people do allow their emotions to bias them, and aren't rational (thus the need for the jury). But if you are being rational about it, and your goal truly is about discovering the guilt or innocence of the parties involved, then how you feel about the situation is what is motivating your search, and reason and evidence should be what determined your answer. If you really don't have enough evidence, and the evidence you do have doesn't point more in one direction than the other, then yes, the rational conclusion would be simply to admit that you don't know.

One should be careful to inspect what exactly that emotional motivation actually is, if it's to determine guilt or innocence, to learn the truth about the situation, and not to find someone to blame so that you can feel better about it. (Although, how it would make you feel better to condemn a potentially innocent person when it will do nothing to bring back your family member nor help anyone else is a mystery to me. Alas, human beings have a lot of nonsensical intuitions.)

That said, if you're honest about your intentions, and what you really want is to blame someone else, and not to find the truth, and the possibility of blaming someone innocent isn't inconsistent with other explicit or implicit pro-social goals of yours, then to point the finger without basing your conclusion on the examination of the evidence isn't strictly irrational, since it would be consistent with your goals, to which the facts aren't relevant. However, that sort of approach would be pretty anti-social, and I doubt anyone having that goal would be honest enough to admit it. If your stated goal is to find the truth, then the only honest thing to do is look at the evidence, follow it, and be prepared that it might go either way.

It does no good to write in the bottom line before you start if your goal is to find out the truth. You won't arrive at the truth that way, and if your emotions tell you the truth is what you want, then that behavior would be irrational. In the words of Eliezer Yudkowsky, "Your effectiveness as a rationalist is determined by whichever algorithm actually writes the bottom line of your thoughts." I strongly recommend you read Eliezer's posts The Bottom Line as well as Rationalization, as they address the issue you seem to be struggling with.

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