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Fyodor Dostoevsky on the irrationality of people and the futility of utopianism


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#1 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 06 June 2020 - 10:54 AM

I always seem to gravitate back to this line of thought for some reason. It tries to make sense of irrationality is a bit of an oxymoron eh

 

It's hard for my pea brain to wrap around it I have to read certain parts a couple of times to let it sink in

 

Seems to be a good interpretation of this human experience though

 

Guess what I am a little bit of a cynic.

 

I found it easier to read through the link but if your suspicious of links I pasted it as well

 

https://mystudentvoi...sm-e7c651a64e5f

 

 

Dostoevsky’s book Notes from Underground is an insightful book on the true nature of humans. We like to think of ourselves as rational beings and capable of conducting ourselves in logical ways, but Dostoevsky has a different perspective.

He seems to have a very cynical perspective when it comes to the nature of humans. He absolutely hates the notion that if we strived to be more rational and understand the potentiality of the human race, we would stop acting in ways that harmed ourselves and society and would be able to usher in the utopia that we all long for.

“But these are all golden dreams. Oh, tell me, who first announced, who was the first to proclaim that man does dirty only because he doesn’t know his real interests; and that were he to be enlightened, were his eyes to be opened to his real, normal interests, man would immediately stop doing dirty, would immediately become good and noble, because, being enlightened and understanding his real profit, he would see his real profit precisely in the good, and it’s common knowledge that no man can act knowingly against his own profit.

Do people only do “bad” things because they are ignorant of their profit, or in the economist’s perspective, their “utility”? Is it true that, once we are enlightened of the potential for utopia, we wouldn’t do things that would consciously go against our own well-being?

Dostoevsky believes this perspective to be naive, and mocks the people who believes this to be true “the pure, innocent child!” He counters this argument by saying that there were millions of instances where people have knowingly went against choices that would bring them the greatest “utility” and well-being.

“What is to be done with the millions of facts testifying to how people knowingly, that is, fully understanding their real profit, would put it in second place and throw themselves onto another path, a risk, a perchance, not compelled by anyone or anything, but precisely as if they simply did not want the designated path, and stubbornly, willfully pushed off onto another one, difficult, absurd, searching for it all but in the dark.”

 

There is something about being given the freedom to choose for themselves, no matter how self-defeating or self-harming, that entices us and makes us stupid (in a rational perspective.) We will readily give up everything for the sake of this freedom to choose, just to prove that we are capable of this ability.

He then entertains a hypothetical situation where reason and science will have advanced to the point where every action, thought, and desire made by a person will be identifiable as a law of nature, and will be able to have an answer for every single thing that happens in the universe.

The real reason that this utopia isn’t implemented yet is because people are “not yet accustomed to acting as reason and science dictate,” and after some re-education and alignment with the goal, it will be inevitable and we will all be happy when we get there.

“Though man has learned to see more clearly on occasion than in barbarous times, he is still far from having grown accustomed to acting as reason and science dictate.

But even so you are perfectly confident that he will not fail to grow accustomed once one or two old bad habits have passed and once common sense and science have thoroughly re-educated and given a normal direction to human nature.

You are confident that man will then voluntarily cease making mistakes and, willy-nilly, so to speak, refuse to set his will at variance with his normal interests.

Moreover: then you say, science itself will teach man that in fact he has neither will nor caprice, and never did have any, and that he himself is nothing but a sort of piano key or a sprig in an organ; and that, furthermore, there also exists in the world the laws of nature; so that whatever he does is not at all according to his own wanting, but of itself, according to the laws of nature.

Consequently, these laws of nature need only be discovered, and then man will no longer be answerable for his actions, and his life will become extremely easy.”

Now a lot of people believe that they have free will, because, they feel like they’re choosing to move their hands and feet and have the phenomena that, when they will it to happen, it happens.

But what if science is able to prove that you really never had free will but only had the illusion that you were controlling your thoughts and your hands and feet? What if they could predict every thought and action that you would do?

Would any endeavors in your life mean anything if you were already destined to achieve them? Would there be any utility in thinking for yourself anymore, if you already have the definitive answers?

 

Would people finally be happy? If there was an answer to everything in life and everything about yourself, would it truly be heaven on earth? Can we finally live in peace, eat cakes and lounge around, and live happily ever after?

Many people would accept this utopia and say, “Why the heck not?” We won’t need to needlessly suffer anymore, and everyone will be happy! This is what we were created for!”

Dostoevsky allows you to think that this is seemingly a good idea, until he points to another attractive trait that people tend to have: ungratefulness.

“Man really is stupid, phenomenally stupid. That is, he’s by no means stupid, but rather he’s so ungrateful that it would be hard to find the likes of him. I, for example, would not be the least bit surprised if suddenly, out of the blue, amid the universal future reasonableness, some gentleman of ignoble, or, better, of retrograde and jeering physiognomy, should emerge, set his arms akimbo, and say to us all: “Well, gentlemen, why don’t we reduce all this reasonableness to dust with one good kick, for the sole purpose of sending all these logarithms to the devil and living once more according to our own stupid will!

That would still be nothing, but what is offensive is that he’d be sure to find followers: that’s how man is arranged. And all this for the emptiest of reasons, which would seem not even worth mentioning: namely, that man, whoever he might be, has always and everywhere liked to act as he wants, and not at all as reason and profit dictate; and one can want even against one’s own profit, and one sometimes even positively must (this is my idea now).

… And where did all those sages get the idea that man needs some normal, some virtuous wanting? What made them necessarily imagine that what man needs is necessarily a reasonably profitable wanting?

Man needs only independent wanting, whatever this independence may cost and whatever it may lead.”

He predicts that even when we are sitting in utopia, we will be eternally ungrateful for the things we have.

It’ll be so boring and predictable that, against all common sense and rationality, people will start breaking things just to see something else happen.

 

“Shower him with all earthly blessings, drown him in happiness completely, over his head, so that only bubbles pop up on the surface of happiness, as on water; give him such economic satisfaction that he no longer has anything left to do at all except sleep, eat gingerbread, and worry about the noncessation of world history — and it is here, just here, that he, this man, out of sheer ingratitude, out of sheer lampoonery, will do something nasty.

He will even risk his gingerbread, and wish on purpose for the most pernicious nonsense, the most non-economical meaninglessness, solely in order to mix into all this positive good sense his own pernicious fantastical element.”

We will sacrifice utopia itself just to prove our point and confirm our beliefs: we are not piano keys but are individuals capable of individual wanting.

What makes you think you’d be happy if you had everything you ever wanted? Maybe you’re able to be satisfied because you know what it feels like to be dissatisfied. What constitutes paradise for us humans? What do we really want?

A rather funny reality this is, where even if we get to the “perfect ending” or heaven on earth, we have the inclination and maybe even the innate desire to destroy it.

“What can be expected of man since he is a being endowed with strange qualities?”

Notes from Underground is a brilliant book criticizing the limits of rationality and the mistakes of bringing in utopia. We actually don’t even want to live in a world where we are simply known as piano keys. We want to be free thinking creatures who are capable of making decisions, good or bad, or at least think that we have the capability.

However much we suffer, however much pain we face in the world, we are still able to feel free and feel like we are making decisions for ourselves, which makes all the difference.

 

Even if it is an illusion and we are still governed by the laws of nature, we still want to live in ignorance and feel that we are the ones in control of our thoughts and desires.

Maybe that’s the most important part about being a human.

I hope that this does not depress you, but enlightens you of our own nature. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t continue to strive for a better future for humanity as a whole.

Maybe Dostoevsky was short sighted, and maybe he was wrong about us. Maybe we can grow “accustomed to reason and science” and usher in the greatest era of humanity that no one could have imagined.

Although it may take a Herculean effort to prove him wrong, it can’t hurt to try our best.


Edited by flashingrooster, 06 June 2020 - 10:56 AM.

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#2 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 06 June 2020 - 11:07 AM

I found a link to the actual novel...  Add that to my list of things I want to do but probably never will

 

https://www.planeteb...underground.pdf


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#3 Wimzers

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Posted 06 June 2020 - 05:33 PM

I worked with a fella that believed we have no free will. Now I'm not saying this to judge him. He was 500 pounds+. He was able to walk short distances using oxygen and a heavy duty walker. The thing that bothered me about it was he had CNAs clean him instead of using a tool designed for people in his shape. I went over the tool with him a couple times, the OT went over it numerous times, because these female CNAs didn't think it was appropriate when he could do it himself. So he was telling me he didn't have free will, yet wouldn't use that damn brush to wipe and clean his ass. All he had to do was pick it up. You see what I'm saying? To me he was having someone else do something he could do yet claimed he didn't have free will. Maybe I'm confused, but that has always bothered me. I just wanted to...   :bat:


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#4 Seee

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Posted 06 June 2020 - 07:06 PM

I certainly agree, after studying neuroscience intensively for the last 4 years or so, that there is no such thing
as free will.

i would suggest letting Robert Sapolsky explain it to you, as he is one of the main articulators of this point.

most people see "no free will" as an attack on their personal freedoms.
these people have developed their identities around the notion...

im all about people pretending to be and do whatever they want to do
as long as it doesnt hurt society
and the notion of free will hurts society

please, dont take my word for, all a world-recognized neurologist explain it.
https://www.vice.com...ve-no-free-will


Edited by Seee, 06 June 2020 - 07:07 PM.


#5 Seee

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Posted 06 June 2020 - 07:11 PM

i stopped worrying about "happiness" 20 years ago. being hormonally balanced and nutritionally stable is much more important for your overall cognitive functions that any magical thinking.

its much easier to deal with your addictions and depression when you re pumping tons of fiber into your body, which is helping you regulate and remove hormones that build up and recycle otherwise, causing stress.

Intuitive thinking is something that you have to commit to, and will generally always lead you astray (im sure its not true in every case, but ive found the majority of the time its true, which is why people are so indoctrinated... its much easy to try to rearrange your furniture that to throw it all away and build new pieces



#6 Wimzers

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Posted 06 June 2020 - 09:38 PM

i stopped worrying about "happiness" 20 years ago. being hormonally balanced and nutritionally stable is much more important for your overall cognitive functions that any magical thinking.

its much easier to deal with your addictions and depression when you re pumping tons of fiber into your body, which is helping you regulate and remove hormones that build up and recycle otherwise, causing stress.

Intuitive thinking is something that you have to commit to, and will generally always lead you astray (im sure its not true in every case, but ive found the majority of the time its true, which is why people are so indoctrinated... its much easy to try to rearrange your furniture that to throw it all away and build new pieces

 

How can someone commit to something without free will?


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#7 Moonless

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Posted 06 June 2020 - 11:56 PM

I'll take you up on this discussion! Do you think that this novel is a must read? I have heard good things about Dostoevsky so I might want to give it a look. The writers portrayal of his idea of cynicism and lack of free will was interesting. It reminds me of this idea that the sacred is held within despite our tendency to look outward for it. One thing I found interesting was the that Dostoevsky loved science and felt that we should make our choices by it, yet he at the same time declared that there is no free will. I wonder how he grapples with the idea of Philosophers and Mathematicians creating their ideas and systems without true objectivity. I wonder what science is for him and I wonder how he thinks Science should be.


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#8 Alder Logs

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Posted 07 June 2020 - 09:32 AM

Mooji frequently points to there not being free will, or we would have everything just the way we'd want it.  We get tested every day, and even forced to do what we wouldn't want.  Did we come here for the tests, leaving freedom back on the other side of the veil?  Did it even exist back there?   When we endeavor to desire, we find whether or not we have free will. 


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#9 Seee

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 02:51 AM

-Reactance refers to the desire to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do, in order to prove your freedom of choice.

i find the whole thing to be manipulative. you offer up something intangible, convince people that they have it, and that it shouldnt be take away

"A large portion of Western philosophical work on free will has been written within an overarching theological framework, according to which God is the ultimate source, sustainer, and end of all else. Some of these thinkers draw the conclusion that God must be a sufficient, wholly determining cause for everything that happens; all of them suppose that every creaturely act necessarily depends on the explanatorily prior, cooperative activity of God"

ive reviewed most of the meta ethics involved in this..
ill not knock the journey, but i do find most of it to be... impractical.
for instance- stick with the ethics taught to massage therapists.. a good massage therapist is super keen on ethics that are truely necessary in the real world
(respecting personal autonomy, etc)

i explain it thusly- in martial arts, there are moves that arent focused on by coaches and instructors
because they have proven themselves not to be high percentage moves (they dont work in a real fight, on a skilled opponent)
so it might not be in your best interest to train those moves, unless you are just trying to have fun..

so im not telling anyone to stop exploring,
but so much of what people go on about is vapid, and a waste of time (good for if you are waiting for a jar or bed to colonize)

also, to each their own, but i trust nothing with a basis of theology...
especially with so much real world data about neurology and biology..

Free will doesnt make sense outside of the context of the Almighty without alot of special pleading
its an excellent literary device, and its awesome creative writing
Put i think its been plugged into us by christians from 900 years ago, and im not down with puritan control

Christianisty is a banal evil, to me personally.

Perhaps you can right a Free Will 2.0 thats more applicable, and includes all we know about neurology
and alot less of this-

"In the early 1600s, the book became the subject of a religious tug of war between Catholic and Puritan ideals. Puritans complained that the Church of England needed to be purged of more influences from Roman Catholicism – and liked neither the idea of play on Sundays nor how much people liked doing it."
https://theconversat...-history-123900

Did you happen to watch any of robert sapolsky's talks on it?

i can explain it, but i cant articulate with the same brilliance he does... (ill go ahead and rewatch these videos again too)

[Direct Link]


 


Edited by Seee, 08 June 2020 - 03:32 AM.


#10 Seee

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 02:55 AM

its based off the fact that humans are somehow different that other animals... but we arent fundamentally different, we just use our brains in different way

its like a case of species insecurity, so you have to create a pathos that rises you up.. but that separates us from ecology, like we are its master, instead of accepting our place in the balance of things...

 


Edited by Seee, 08 June 2020 - 03:36 AM.


#11 Seee

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 03:06 AM

Sapolsky: they may say "thats so dehumanizing to view us as biological machines.-
but thats a hell of alot better than sermonizing us into having bad souls"



#12 swayambhu

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 04:13 AM

Interesting thread. At the philosophical core of the so-called "Dharmic religions" you have the proposition that our ability to perceive reality "as it is" is obscured by the accreted layers of "karma" that we carry with us from before conception, and is exacerbated by further accretions during our development as both a biological and cultural being. This seems to be borne out by my miniscule understanding of epigenetics, and such fascinating wierdness as the fact that the female human's eggs are all formed while she is herself in utero, Thus, in my case, the egg that became half of the zygote that became me was growing in my grandmothers uterus as Nazi bombs rained down on the grim northern English industrial town where she lived. Strange to think of.

 

Humanity being just another eructation of the proliferation of forms that seems to be the essential tendency of "Reality" right now, I don't see how our career path is going to be much different from, say, rabbits- fuck a lot, overpopulate, then starvation/disease. Or like a star, get really big, then bigger, then oh shit total collapse followed by black hole weirdness.

 

So, free will? Maybe, but not a lot.


Edited by swayambhu, 08 June 2020 - 04:15 AM.

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#13 Seee

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 05:18 AM

Interesting thread. At the philosophical core of the so-called "Dharmic religions" you have the proposition that our ability to perceive reality "as it is" is obscured by the accreted layers of "karma" that we carry with us from before conception, and is exacerbated by further accretions during our development as both a biological and cultural being. This seems to be borne out by my miniscule understanding of epigenetics, and such fascinating wierdness as the fact that the female human's eggs are all formed while she is herself in utero, Thus, in my case, the egg that became half of the zygote that became me was growing in my grandmothers uterus as Nazi bombs rained down on the grim northern English industrial town where she lived. Strange to think of.

 

Humanity being just another eructation of the proliferation of forms that seems to be the essential tendency of "Reality" right now, I don't see how our career path is going to be much different from, say, rabbits- fuck a lot, overpopulate, then starvation/disease. Or like a star, get really big, then bigger, then oh shit total collapse followed by black hole weirdness.

 

So, free will? Maybe, but not a lot.

we produce enough food to feed 7 billion people and 70 billion land animals plus farmed fish.

it has more to do with over consumption that overpopulation.
its been estimated that only 7 million or so "hunter gathers" could live on the planet sustainably.

while i dont disagree that we are breeding rapidly, it wouldnt be a problem if the babies being produced weren't a threat to the planet (mothers are the largest source of co2 emissions since having a baby increases her emissions by some 50 times- think of all the co2 you will create in your life)
it would take a long time to reach the 40 billion threshhold that is so often talked about in population growth talks.. our population growth is growing from like 1% to 2... bit i mean thats like 15 billion by 2100.. its not hard to envision a society that could support that many people, especially with the magic of precision fermentation- the technology of using yeasts or other microbes to produce food proteins at a fraction of the cost. food could be produced with barely any of the resources and 100X cheaper by 2035 (estimates)
if food isnt a problem, we can squeeze in together pretty good
twice the parties and twice the amount of people to date and dance with... its kind of a bigoted thing to say (not that you meant it that way) when people talk about everyone else taking their stuff.. especially first world people.. religions heavy hand on our society..
we are a secular society that still believes in ghosts.. there are ideologies out there that benefit from keeping people proud of their hardwork, so that they will keep the machine turning..

and the smog and water are going to kill brown people first, not those most responsible, as they demand other people stop breeding, while giving up nothing of their own. in this regard, the notion free will is a dangerous thing. a group hallucination of mandated entitlement, justified by a diety.

change is coming, the economy has already mandated it.
i think weve been promised entitlements that were only meant to fund a capitalist system that was never sustainable, and is destroying us.
the notion of free will haunts us, as we struggle with our addictive and destructive habits :(
toilet paper, anyone?


Edited by Seee, 08 June 2020 - 05:29 AM.


#14 Seee

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 05:34 AM

the system will break, but not before alot more brown people across the world die

community trumps "free will" when the grease hits the pan (i try desperately to tell myself)
i just suppose its who you consider your community to be
https://bigthink.com...=1#rebelltitem1
 

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Edited by Seee, 08 June 2020 - 05:36 AM.


#15 Wimzers

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 05:39 AM

the notion of free will haunts us, as we struggle with our addictive and destructive habits :(

toilet paper, anyone?

 

 

 

Do you have any addictive and destructive habits?



#16 Seee

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 08:08 AM

 

the notion of free will haunts us, as we struggle with our addictive and destructive habits :(

toilet paper, anyone?

 

 

 

Do you have any addictive and destructive habits?

 

yes, i still create some waste, tho i already have plans to spend my time cleaning up the mess ive spent the last 35 years mindlessly creating

one of the systemic problems that we need to throw money at is the production of waste management systems that are not only carbon negative, but create energy..
plasma gasification waste management systems facilitate that. the material you want to recycle is combusted under extreme heat, so hot that it doesnt eve produce co2, just syn gas (which is used to clean the air around pig farms, its benign). the gas produced can also be run through a gas turbine to create energy!

also the slag that is create can be used for building materials... plasma gasification is a safe way to get rid of nuclear waste and diseased animals :(

i produce very little waste, i dont really buy products...

the energy i consume runs off electrical plants that utilize the bones etc of animals as fuel to keep them running, which is disheartening... i was paying for a green service that made sure my energy was coming from a reliable source, but that quickly because financially stressful..

i reiterate they are systemic problems, and are in transition.. it may be possible for me to move to a more forward thinking place in the future... but i mean things are pretty crazy for all of us right? i pretty much gave up on everything 5 months ago plan wise
https://www.altenerg...lifornia/33151/

i dont use toilet paper or normal consumer stuff
theres no reason i cant spend my weekend mornings collecting trash and ACTUALLY recycling it

i could TECHNICALLY build one, if i had access to 10,000$
once the gasifier is active, it powers itself as long as its burning waste.
it doesnt take much to cut it on (depending on the system)

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Edited by Seee, 08 June 2020 - 08:28 AM.


#17 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 09:52 AM

I think it might be time to block you dude, if you are just going to turn every thread into a soap box for you to decry animal domestication. I do not come to this site to listen to people preach



#18 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 09:56 AM

Ahhhh that felt good



#19 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 10:08 AM

I always find it interesting to hear what other people interpret out of this type of confusing subject matter. Moonless I did read the first couple pages of that book and it certainly peaked my interest. I think the writing style is a unique way of delving into the subject matter.

 

It seems to help me when I think why does man act this way? why does he do things that go against his well being?

 

To act irrationally to prove free will, to prove that he is not a piano key! 

 

It is interesting to think that he wrote all of this before the field of psychology really exploded. Now what we know about the unconscious mind and it's roles I wonder how it would have altered or reinforced his view points


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#20 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 10:14 AM

This fire starter appears to be acting a bit irrationally.

 

Is this a case of trying to prove his free will? or just a racist who didn't really think this through

 

[Direct Link]


Edited by flashingrooster, 08 June 2020 - 10:15 AM.





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