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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on March 30, 2003 03:17:02 UTC

This is in reply to a personal note. I thought it might just raise some interest.


With regard to your comments, I very seldom get upset with anyone. A little irritated sometimes maybe, but never anything worth worrying about. I could say that your comment, "you don't even have to bother reading the rest of this message, I won't think less of you for that", could be taken to imply you don't think much of me. I will presume you didn't mean it that way.

You say that "it's pretty clear to [you] that [my] assertion that [you] 'cannot face the inevitable results of [my] logic' can't possibly be true, for the simple fact that [you] do not understand [my] logic". I am afraid that the major reason you have trouble understanding me is that your ability to be rational freezes up every time you get close to understanding what I am saying. I don't think Harv is so much afraid as he is just incapable of thinking along the lines I think. I think you are able to do so but are afraid of what seem to you to be the inevitable consequences.

Aurino: The thing is, I think I do understand some of your ideas in isolation, but taken as a whole your position makes no sense at all to me. That is why I said I don't find your ideas wrong as much as I find them disturbing. What disturbs me is the fact that, metaphorically speaking, you go a long way to convince me that "A = 0", then you go another long way to convince me that "A = 1", and I can't find a single error in both your arguments.

I don't believe your "A=1" and "A=0" analogy is valid. I think what you are referring to is my distinct separation of "conscious" from "subconscious". This is a distinction no one else makes and it depends very much on understanding exactly what I mean by "conscious" and "subconscious" (I only chose those words as tokens for what I mean because their common meaning is closer to what I mean than any other common terms). As I have said to Harv many times, English (or any language for that matter) allows only vague references anyway so what the words actually mean to one person or another is not really too important; it is the relationships in the sum of the conversation which allows communication.

In my head, we must deal with two very different realms. A good name (one with common meaning very close to what I am trying to communicate) for these two realms is "Arts and Sciences". As far as I am concerned, if I can explain exactly how something is done (I am assuming that, as a programmer, you should understand what I mean by an "exact" explanation) then I am talking about a "science". In a pure science, explanation is all you need: that is, practice is unnecessary as a list of instructions is sufficient.

If it is necessary to "learn" how to do something, then it is an "art". Now, to stop you from balking, I will comment that most things are mixes; there is some science to everything and there is some art to everything, but they are nevertheless very different things and that difference is significant.

When one says they "understand" a science, they mean that they know the instructions for performing the machinations covered by that science. When they say they "understand" an art, they mean either that they have learned the skills to perform the machinations covered by that art (they know how to do it and can be called an artist) or that they have learned to understand what the "artist" intended. The certainly do not mean that they can write down a set of instructions.

One of the most important differences between the two realms is that science can be "consciously" examined. Or to put it another way, with art it doesn't make any difference what you do: there is utterly no need to defend it on grounds of "right" and "wrong". On the other hand, science must be defended: each step in that list of instructions can be "right" or "wrong". In our conscious mind, we can contend with the issue of a single step and seriously examine the correctness of that step.

When I refer to what I can do on a conscious level, I mean that which I can completely understand and examine. I can not do that with an art so I relegate "art" to a subconscious endeavor. Being trained as a scientist, I use the word "understand" to denote that I can write down instructions thus I will never say that I "understand" art. I like art, I don't understand it. I like to paint and I have done a number of paintings around the house. How do I paint? I just go to paint, if I don't like the results, I change it. When I don't feel like changing it any more, I frame it.

In other words, I leave the whole thing to my subconscious. How do I interact with the world? I just don't worry about it at all; I do whatever feels like the right thing no matter what the consequences may seem to be. Now that has led to some problems in my life but it has generated one great benefit: I sure do sleep well at night and I have no regrets about anything. I have finally reached retirement and my income is pretty well fixed so I have managed to survive a somewhat turbulent adventure. In many respects, I have accepted the Eastern philosophy: let yourself be one with the world.

But, counter to the Eastern philosophy (which, from my perspective, proposes we live our life on a subconscious level), I do think rational thought (constructing internally consistent logical systems) is somewhat valuable. Valuable as the Dewey decimal system is valuable: it allows us to be 100% sure that some things can be totally depended on (relationships which are true by definition).

If you look at history, you will see the pendulum swing between science and superstition. I think that pendulum swings because neither extreme has the answers though both always seem to think they do. I say we should understand (in the scientific sense) what is understandable and leave or life decisions (which I guarantee, no one understands in the scientific sense) to our subconscious.

I think Budda once said that one cannot trust their conscious desires because the conscious is not trustworthy (I heard that once somewhere). I say I know my subconscious lies to me (i.e., creates illusions: invalid relationships and ideas) but I do know it is trustworthy and I will trust my life to it. That leaves my conscious mind with a lot of time on its hands (so to speak).

Once you comprehend this separation I am talking about, and accept that logical explanations of reality are unimportant (other than to provide an easy mechanism to remember the consequences of your definitions) then you will be ready to understand what I am saying. Unless someone can show me a flaw in my logic, I think I have shown a distinct mechanism for handling anything which can be explained and I think that is a worthwhile contribution to human knowledge.

Have fun -- Dick

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