February 13, 2022•700 words
Hello again. It's been a while.
I know I haven't published here, but I have been following along with my original goals to clarify my thoughts. I've been keeping paper and offline journals (semi-regularly for at least the past two years), and have been doing a fair bit of reading and thinking (never as much as I should like).
Thinking back on my mindset in that first post, I had an expectation that I would figure things out—that I would hone in on true beliefs. I wanted to iron out the wrinkles of my Lockean views, ground myself some moral framework where I could point clearly at some action and state "this action has moral value X, because it interacts with the bounds of natural rights in Y way".
Not quite what happened.
I still lean that way, of course. But that "grounding" I hoped for? It never came, and I've come to expect that it never will. My views are more floating than ever and likely to stay that way. They should stay that way. This is desirable.
I should mention also that, at the time of that first post, I was freshly a-religious and looking for a substitute. Having always lived with "certainty" under a religious framework, I was experiencing the ambiguity of the world for the first time. It was frightening. Hence, my interest in and tacit expectation of quickly finding a new grounding framework.
So really, just to clarify the two factors really influencing my thinking:
- I wanted a new framework to ground my views
- I wanted to avoid adopting another mistaken framework
I think I mentioned Aurelius in that last post. I was beginning to look into Stoicism—a very helpful school to be acquainted with, and one which I can credit [in addition to its merits] with making for a smooth transition. At the same time, I did a "tour of philosophy" via podcasts, web resources, and entry-books, just gleaning a high-level overview of several [mostly western] schools and patterns of thought.
That overview alone, particularly of the existentialists and post-structuralists, was enough to uproot a lot of my confidence that grounding was possible. But I still wanted grounded beliefs. They're reassuring and nice and comforting.
Well, if I couldn't have grounded and correct, the best I can do is floating and "decent estimate". Hence, a great interest in Skepticism, Epistemology, and Rationalism.
(also a note to myself: this is sort of misleading. Studies into these "scientific" aspects of philosophy started well before Stoicism, but kind of loitered in the background until now)
My intellectual progress of late has been mostly driven by the modern Rationalist movement (which, I will admit, I embraced a bit too eagerly at first; there are some criticisms of the school/movement which I am mulling over). The attractive aspects of this movement are the admission of one's own incapacity for fair reasoning, the natural ambiguity/"floatingness" that follows from that, and the decision to give it your best shot anyway.
There are a few frames I picked up from the Rationalism which have greatly influenced my views, mostly those relating to Game Theory models which can be used to justify “cooperative morality”, and that of Bayesian Thinking which dictates how one ought to hold beliefs (probabilistically) and process information (via Bayesian updates to belief distributions).
If that doesn’t make sense, that’s fine. I’m just mentioning it for completeness.
The effective result of all this is that I have effectively conceded my original goal of trying to ground my beliefs in truth; instead, I am grounding my methods in what seem to be the most well-rounded approaches, and using those to make a best-effort from there.
It’s messy, I will hopefully write more about it.
Just a note on my publishing this: I don't expect that there's anyone reading this; I don't write it with that expectation. But I do find publication is a useful device. I would have never started a post retrospecting about this particular evolution in my thought if there wasn’t the earlier post to build off, along with some expectation of continuity that motivated me to address it. It was helpful this time.