Ep. 4 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Socrates and the Quest for Wisdom

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my notes

  • 13m - Socrates takes the gods to be moral exemplars, and axiomatically accepts that they cannot lie. Because truth and sacredness are necessarily linked.
  • 19m - Socrates is interacting with the natural philosophers, and the sophists. While people like thales were building up rational descriptions of the ontology to reality, the sophists were providing their students with pathways to achieve their ends through power.
  • 20m - Thales’ 3 philosophies: all is the moist, the loadstone has psyche, and everything is filled with gods. He’s not creating a narrative to describe reality, he’s using analysis through observation. he’s inventing scientific thinking.
  • 30m - the ontological-perception of truth leaves one lacking in relevance.
  • 34m - Your beliefs aren’t the only things driving you (as shown through Bullshit and advertisments), we are driven more by what we find salient not just by what we believe to be true. (Haidt, 13 or B)
  • 37m - Bullshit is effective not by relying upon a person’s desire to only believe true things (by presenting it as such), but by making us disinterested in the truth behind a good story.
  • 41m - belief is not a voluntary action. However, attention can be. Attention and salience can become a positive-feedback loop.
  • 44m - the sophists/bullshit-artists make themselves more vulnerable to self-deception through their only focus on salience (and that feedback loop with attentiveness.)
  • 45m - Natural philosophers provided truth disconnected from relevance, with facts, and the sophists provided relevance disconnected with truth with persuasive narratives. Socrates wanted to get a feedback-loop between salience directing attention towards truth, and truth directing what to find salient. Creating the socratic-questioning. Trying to point out how we are self-decieving by doing things simply because there’s some word we do not know the meaning of with something like ‘happiness, justice, or wisdom’ that we use as our justification for our goals and actions.
  • 50m - Socrates came to an understanding of his dillemna, because he was the only person in athens who knew what he did not know, while everyone else thought they knew, when they did not. That’s not to say Socrates didn’t know anything, he did claim to know things. such as ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. Socrates knew what made life meaningful, by having our truth-machinery tied together. Socrates knows what to care about, because he’s keeping what he cares about tied to what is real.
  • 53m - seperating reason and love in our culture is a large mistake. We need to rationally know what we should most care about.
  • 55m - Socrates has found his life and his practice of philosophy so important, that he’s willing to die for it.

What an excellent beginning in looking at potential solutions to the meaning crisis.

my notes

  • 00:00 - recap
  • 3:30 - socrates and plato - civilisation’s two feet, the bible, and plato - socrates was enigmatic like Jesus
  • 5:00 - Delphi - caves - oracles - ambiguous answers - retrospective interpretation creates foresight that isn’t there
  • 8:30 - socrates deciples go to Delphi - is there anyone wiser that socrates? No, there is none wiser. This clear answer was unexpected. They relay it to Socrates. Socrates replies: Interesting.
  • 10:00 - most people say they have above average intelligence
  • 11:00 - we live in an age now of confirmation porn - we seek information and accelerate our propensity of falling into the confirmation bias
  • 12:30 - Socrates challenges this. By challenging the oracle, he challenges the gods - however, the gods can’t lie, as they are ideals of ways to behave
  • 14:00 - Socrates makes “know thyself” his maxim for life - this is Nietzsche’s second half of beyond good and evil - and the requirement for us to integrate our perceptions/projections/relationship with reality to remove dissonance, to stop thrashing in the ocean, and start swimming, only then, after that progression from child to adult, do you accomplish freedom of movement, and agency, where you control your slate, and how you integrate with the environment, with the desire for real
  • 14:30 - don’t stroke your autobiographical ego - know your owners manual, how you operate, your power, perils, your constraints that are operating within you - this operative is essential for the axial revolution - a critical awareness of one’s own cognition
  • 16:30 - a dilemma - how can he know he is the wisest human, if he knows he is not wise - how can they both the case at the same time
    • ben: perhaps this is the discovery people have different perceptions
  • 17:00 - the socratic method, is a way of asking questions, as a way to try and draw something out
    • ben: analogies of drawing something out, finding home, the abstract journey, enlightenment
  • 18:00 - how well you perform with the socratic method, is how well you ascribe meaning, and satiation to your life
    • ben: perhaps the better you are at at this, is the better you are at controlling the fires in your life, we mastered fire, we must master fire to survive and to thrive, otherwise our dissonance with reality will own us and kill us with no apathy or care
  • 18:00 - Pythagorus invents the word philosophy - philia - Sophia - the friendship love of wisdom - you create a community, distributed cognition, to interact and pursue wisdom — a philosopher is someone, who in concert with others, is a lover of wisdom
    • ben: wow
  • 19:00 - natural philosophers vs sophists - sophists, Sophia, sophisticated - Thales - three fragments (all is the moist) (the loadstone has psyche) (everything is filled with gods) - look at not what Thales is saying, but at what he is saying reveals about the way is he thinking, what does he mean by this? - there is no story, no divine agents, it is purely rational analysis based on observation, to try and get at the underlying stuff - he is inventing the kind of thinking, of thinking scientifically, that which we now take as natural
    • all is the moist - substance - what stands under us
    • the loadstone is psyche - psyche ~= breath - breath which makes something move - force - the underlying force behind things - psyche, breath, that which moves, became analogous with mind, because mind is that which moves and moves the most, it is where movement starts
      • ben: this then supposes that because earth, nature, moves, it breathes, therefore it also has mind, and that mind, would then be god
    • everything is filled with gods - ontology is the studying of the structure of being and of reality - ontological analysis is structured reasoning to get at the underlying stuff and forces of a subject - scientists are trying to get the underlying forcing - see into the depths of reality - ontological depth perception - to make the most sense of things
  • 29:00 - what does socrates reject about the natural philosophers? they don’t help him with his axial project - they give you truth without transformation, they give you facts and knowledge, but now you become wise, not how you overcome self deception, not how to become a good person
    • ben: tech industry, existential war we face together, sophistication skill is not wisdom
  • 30:00 - truth but no relevance - not existentially relevant - no matter, do not enable cultivation of wisdom, transcendence of the self
    • ben: the science of matter, doesn’t tell us why it matters
  • 31:00 - who are the sophists - the emergence of democracy - if you are a woman, you are treated horribly - Athens is only for Athenian males - it is a direct democracy - everyone votes on everything - your capacity for debate and argumentation, the better you are at persuading, the more powerful and influential you will be
  • 32:30 - the invent rhetoric - they find patterns to make standardised skills to increase the proficiency of language for persuasion - they would strengthen combatants (ben: this eliminates luck and allows fluency with reality to triumph, the introduction of meritocracy and its superior value)
  • 36:00 - your beliefs aren’t the only thing driving you
  • 36:30 - Henry Frankfurt - On Bullshit - advertising is bullshitting to communicate salience not truth - we are sporting salience and relevance from truth - you can’t lie to yourself (lying depends on believing), but you can bullshit yourself - because bullshitting directs your attention, to something, or away from something (obscures), it can also be captured - you can direct your attention to something to make it more salient, and when it is more salient, it captures your attention more, and it becomes more salient, it spins on itself, in a self organising nature - and you lose the capacity to notice other things - this is how you bullshit yourself - the capacity for salience has overtaken you care as to if it is true - that is how you deceive yourself
    • ben: tech industry, echo chambers, anxiety, depression, mindfulness
  • 44:00 - sophists did not care for what is true (salience/relevance without truth - power to transform people), this was at odds with the natural philosophers (truth without relevance)
    • ben: they haven’t yet found a way to integrate them, where they influence each other, where they leverage each other
  • 45:00 - what socrates wanted, was both, individuals which salience helped them to find truth, and which truth created more salience
  • 47:00 - eventually the socratic method subject collapses and falls into a state of aporia - this occurs, because we have motivations, that are always bullshitting us - it can one of two ways, they can get angry, or they can decide they can transform themselves, to keep relevance and truth tracking each other, enabling each other - when socrates realised he had this effect on people, he discovered how it was, that the gods were not lying and yet he was the wisest man - his answer was that he knew what he did not know - he knew in a way, that allowed him to directly, impartially, avoid the pain of bullshitting yourself
    • ben: jainism conception of truth and axioms
  • 51:00 - when confronted with the option to quit philosophy and live, socrates responds, knowing something, really knowing something, that the unexamined life is not worth living - a life where there is no effort to connect salience/relevance to truth, is not worth living, because it is awash in bullshit, beset in self deception and destructive behaviour - wisdom is to keep your truth machinery and your relevance machinery tightly coupled together so you don’t bullshit yourself
  • 51:30 - socrates claimed to know ta erotika - he knows how to love well - he knows what to care about - he know how to keep what he cares about with what is real — how much time did you spend fixing your hair? how much time did you spend on fixing yourself? — he knew what to find significant, what to find important — he compared himself with a midwife, he knew how to take that caring, and help give that sense, to draw out what is better from people
    • ben: how are they still persecuted today? because fountain doesn’t exist yet
  • 53:00 - Frankfurt - Reasons to Love - bringing the two together, they must be intertwined, we must rationally know what we should most care about
  • 54:00 - socrates is put on trial, and loses - practicing philosophy has cost me, the worst penalty I could endure would be to continue philosophy, and to facilitate that, the government should give me free food and housing for the rest of my life - people didn’t like that, and sentenced him to death — socrates was also shamanic — he had a well developed conscience
  • 57:00 - plato was there for the trial, but not the death - he would go onto merge socratic with Pythagorus to bring about the axial revolution more so