Consciousness is that which chooses

Anything that can choose is conscious to that extent, to the extent that it can choose.

In this respect, “that which chooses” has cognition of its options and also tends to make anti-entropic choices, choices that go against the entropy of itself. (If it did not do this or stopped doing this, it would not survive long. Its anti-entropic choices take energy from the environment, of course.)

Choosing and going against entropy does not mean always doing this correctly or in the best way.

It can be argued that matter also chooses or participates in some overarching principle of choice or selection. Matter’s very common cause-and-effect relations with itself must be based on something besides matter itself.

Consciousness, thus, can be defined as that which:

  • chooses
  • has cognition of options
  • is primarily anti-entropic for itself

We can also say that this same consciousness as just defined:

  • chooses though not always well
  • has cognition though often mistaken
  • is anti-entropic in ways that can be counter-productive

Matter itself conforms to principles—the laws of physics—though these do not appear to apply or apply well to chaos, radiation, quantum fluctuations, black holes. Nor to themselves in the sense that they do not reveal where they come from.

This suggests that matter itself persists under unknowable conditions much as we do.

What we do not know does not just include metaphysics but also anything we can imagine. At some point, we just won’t know anymore.

Socially, we rarely know the motives of others. Psychologically, we often cannot be rational about our own motives. And even if we are being rational we often base our decisions on bad data or incomplete or unknowable data. We often do not understand or even know what our own motives are.

When there are many factors, we become confused. Our minds feel chaotic. We become anxious, indecisive, emotional. This is a form of consciousness trying to make choices, struggling to choose, to select.

The importance of seeing the small in the large and the large in the small: repost

When the subject is human behavior and we see the small in the large and the large in the small, we will be much better able to appreciate the spectrum of thought, feeling, and behavior that underlies whatever is in question.

For example, the self-centeredness of individuals scales from the individual (small) to society (large) and everything in between. Two friends can be self-centered together as can larger groups and entire societies comprising millions of people.

Similarly, when we see self in other and other in self, we are more likely to grasp the spectrums of thought, feeling, and behavior that underlie the actions of all individuals.

For example, alcoholics often make false accusations against others as their conditions worsen. They take the seed of unreasonable defensiveness that resides in all of us and expand it into malicious attacks against “adversaries” that do not even exist.

In FIML practice, partners will discover many kinds of small mistakes in themselves. Usually, it is easy to see how these small mistakes, if left uncorrected, can lead to much more serious misunderstandings and bad (because it is based on a mistake) behavior.

For example, the alcoholic who falsely attacks a friend is almost certainly magnifying some little misunderstanding into something huge, something  worrisome or insulting that demands revenge.

Nations can behave like children and all good people have at least the seeds of a malicious drunk in them.

FIML discussions can be greatly enhanced by seeing almost everything as part of spectrums that underlie all people and societies.

Microaggression as a crude measure of interpersonal ambiguity

I do not doubt that microaggression exists in human communication.

The problem is ambiguity exists in all the same places, so you can never be sure what is aggressive, wary, weirdly friendly, just weird, or nothing at all.

A recent paper on microaggression has this to say:

The microaggression concept has recently galvanized public discussion and spread to numerous college campuses and businesses. I argue that the microaggression research program (MRP) rests on five core premises, namely, that microaggressions (1) are operationalized with sufficient clarity and consensus to afford rigorous scientific investigation; (2) are interpreted negatively by most or all minority group members; (3) reflect implicitly prejudicial and implicitly aggressive motives; (4) can be validly assessed using only respondents’ subjective reports; and (5) exert an adverse impact on recipients’ mental health. A review of the literature reveals negligible support for all five suppositions. (Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence)

I think we can assume that intercultural interactions will often involve many prejudices and assumptions founded on cultural norms and that microaggression will sometimes be one of these. But that is very hard to study, quantify, and identify.

In public situations—jobs, organizations, many private settings—just follow public norms and forget about microaggression. Your looking for it will itself constitute a kind of microaggression.

In private, you can and should do something about all kinds of interpersonal micro ambiguities.

The way to do this is FIML practice.

I found the study cited above in this essay, Micro-aggression and Hyper-sensitivity, which discusses the study.

Here are a couple of relevant posts on ABN on this topic: Triggers and microaggression and Microaggression and FIML.

Buddhism and Stoicism

Buddhism and stoicism are highly compatible with each other.

Stoicism is fairly simple. Here is a (too) short summary:

Our normal impulse is to see misfortune, loss, death, and the choices of others as primary concerns, since they can significantly affect our lives. But this is where the Stoics deviate from our natural inclinations. They offer a bold new take: a thing doesn’t automatically become your concern just because it might affect you. (The Only Thing You Need to Get Good At)

Be sure to read the article linked above. It provides more information and links.

Silk Road evolved as ‘grass-routes’ movement

“Archaeology documents the development of mountain-herding economies in highland Asia as early as 3000 B.C., and we argue that centuries of ecologically strategic mobility on the part of these herders etched the foundational routes and geography of ancient trans-Asian trade networks,” Frachetti said. (Source)
Buddhist monks and traders carried a major part of China’s Buddhist tradition into China via the Silk Road. ABN

Christian universal love is a dubious concept

As practiced today by many, I don’t think it works.

An example I know in detail is the story of a woman whose second husband was a closet alcoholic. After she discovered his problem and divorced him for other reasons, which were profoundly complicated by the booze, she continued to believe that he just needed more Christian love. Long story short, eventually she came to understand that you cannot love someone away from alcoholism. That tactic only enables them in too many cases.

A second example appears in the video below, Wilders’ opponent uses many abstractions, including Christian love, to defend his position. His defense reminds me of the woman in the story above. It is an a priori defense, an application of a rule that obviously cannot be right every time.

Why is wisdom thought to run counter to universal love in Christianity? Why can’t loving your neighbor be tempered with a wise understanding of your neighbor?

Here is the vid, which is interesting in and of itself.

By the way, I favor love and kindness as much as reasonably possible. I also favor erring on the side of mercy and kindness as much as reasonably possible. But there is a line there that I believe it is stupid to cross.

Most of the arguments about immigration in the US and Europe today are arguments about degree. Often those arguments get mixed in with “universals” like constitutional law, Christian love, fairness, rights, and so on.

Reasonable minds may differ, but all factors need to be considered, including the factors of the traditional culture of the region and the needs and desires of the citizens who are of that traditional culture.

In my view, some new people is good. Too many new people is not good.

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Edit 3/18/17: I am a distant foreign observer, but my guess is Wilders lost at least partly because he says things about Islam that there is no need to say. A simple cultural-demographic argument is all that is needed.