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Ideas Matter

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Explaining Philosophy Is Hard

There's several important ideas about philosophy to explain first. But you can't talk about them all at once. That's difficult to deal with. The issues are:

1) Explain that philosophy is the most important thing in the world, and in your individual life.

2) Explain specific philosophy ideas, e.g. how to discuss rationally, how to judge ideas, and how to treat children decently.

3) Explain how to learn philosophy instead of just reading a little bit and thinking it sounds nice.

4) Explain what philosophy is (ideas about how to think well and effectively, which is necessary for solving problems). And explain that everyone uses philosophy (the type of philosophy mentioned in previous sentence, not all types), and it's better to know what you're doing.

If I talk about (1) first, people often won't listen and claim it's false without understanding what it means. And even if they'll listen, they don't yet know how to judge ideas rationally. They don't know what to make of it or how to have a rational discussion to a conclusion. So their judgement and discussion of (1) are bad. And even if they decide philosophy is important, they still don't really know what to learn or how to learn it.

If I talk about (2) first, people generally like that better and agree more. But they treat it as a fun diversion or hobby, not something of the utmost importance. They don't study it seriously and learn it in depth, they only pursue a superficial understanding (which they overestimate because they don't realize what high quality of ideas is achievable).

If I talk about (3) or (4) first, people don't care because they don't see philosophy as really important. They'd rather learn something about philosophy (2) than something about how to learn philosophy (3). A learning method (3) only gets anywhere if you also care (1) and have some things you want to learn with it (2).

The men who are not interested in philosophy need it most urgently: they are most helplessly in its power.

The men who are not interested in philosophy absorb its principles from the cultural atmosphere around them—from schools, colleges, books, magazines, newspapers, movies, television, etc. Who sets the tone of a culture? A small handful of men: the philosophers. Others follow their lead, either by conviction or by default.

-- Ayn Rand

Reaching Actual Conclusions

In each case, people usually don't learn philosophy and don't discuss the disagreement to a resolution. They silently ignore rational philosophy, or silently judge it's false. Or occasionally they argue back and forth a couple times, then quit without the discussion reaching a conclusion.

People don't know how to pursue issues to conclusions. And generally don't want to. They think it's too time consuming, and don't make the effort to learn how to do it faster (which they often think is hopeless because the methods taught at schools, and which are well known, don't work). The reason it takes too long (or usually never reaches a conclusion at all) is because they're doing it wrong and are ignorant of the correct methods.

People think that's just how life is. You disagree, everyone has their own opinions, and so what? Answer: whenever two people have contradictory ideas, at least one – and often both – are mistaken and could learn better ideas.

Chronic disagreements often cause misery in families and elsewhere. Disagreements become chronic because people don't discuss them to a conclusion, so issues don't get resolved. This misery is due to having no idea how to resolve disagreements rationally, rather than being a necessary fact of life.

There is a way to reach conclusions about ideas, and discuss disagreements, in a timely manner. I call it Paths Forward. It addresses all criticism in a time-efficient way so that if you're mistaken, and a better idea is known, you won't ignore it and stay mistaken unnecessarily.


Lots of people say they care about ideas and care about the truth. Maybe not the majority. But many people think they are rational people with good ideas who think about things. That's pretty common. They have some respect for thinking, truth, and reason. These people ought to learn about how to think (philosophy) and how to discuss (philosophy) and specifically how to reach conclusions in discussions. But they usually either want to do something else or think they already know how to think and discuss.

To some extent, people are lying about their interest in the truth (lying to themselves even more than to others). They bicker and treat intellectual debate as a game. They don't systematically pursue ideas in a way that gets anywhere – produces actual conclusions. And they don't address all criticism of their positions. They ignore many known reasons they're mistaken which someone is willing to tell them, which isn't how you find the truth.


Note: Reaching conclusions in one's own mind is fundamentally the same issue as reaching conclusions in discussion. It uses the same methods. Self-discussion – thinking over issues in your head alone – works the same as discussion with others. In both cases, there's multiple contradicting ideas and you need to sort out what's true or false.

The main difference with self-discussion is people are biased and pick a side without actually knowing the answer. They don't have someone else arguing against them to pick up the slack for pointing out flaws in the ideas they are biased for, and good aspects of ideas they are biased against. (And when they do have someone arguing with them, they usually find it frustrating and want the guy to concede without actually figuring the issues out.)

I Address All Criticism

I have a different approach. I've addressed every criticism of my positions. There are exactly zero outstanding criticisms of my views. And I've energetically searched for criticism, I'm well read, and I've written tens of thousands of discussion contributions – so this isn't from lack of exposure to rival ideas. I seek out critics and will talk to anyone in public. But, sadly, I find other people don't want to understand or address my criticisms of their ideas.

Many people think this sounds impossible. How could I address every criticism? But when you're able to actually reach conclusions, there's no reason you can't do that on every common issue related to your thinking. Reaching conclusions one by one adds up. If you reach two conclusions per week, you'll have over 1000 in 10 years. And once you know what you're doing, in a good week, if you focus on thinking, you could figure out 20+ things, not just 2.

And some ideas and arguments are able to address dozens of criticisms (or more) at once because they involve a general principle. Good arguments usually address many criticisms, not just one, which conveniently saves a ton of time.

Sometimes you need to revise conclusions you reached in the past. Most people have such shoddy thinking that more or less all of it needs revision. But if you do more error-correction in the first place then less is needed later on.

Parents and Teachers Destroy Children's Minds

I possess ideas that would change the world if people cared to think. But they don't want to learn ideas or address criticism of their status quo beliefs.

One example: Current parenting and educational practices destroy children's minds. They turn children into mental cripples, usually for life. They create helpless followers who look to others to know what to do.

This is an opportunity to stop destroying your children, and also explains much of why it's so hard to find anyone who will discuss rationally or learn philosophy. Almost everyone is broken by being psychologically tortured for the first 20 years of their life. Their spirit is broken, their rationality is broken, their curiosity is broken, their initiative and drive are broken, and their happiness is broken. And they learn to lie about what happened (e.g. they make a Facebook page with only happy photos and brag that their life is wonderful). Occasionally a little piece of a person survives and that's what's currently considered a great man.

When I use words like "torture" regarding things done to children or to the "mentally ill", people often assume I'm exaggerating or speaking about the past when kids were physically beaten much more. But I mean psychological "torture" literally and they won't discuss the matter to a conclusion. It's one of many issues where the opposition refuses to think.

Typical parenting and educational practices are psychologically worse than torture in some ways, better in other ways, and comparable overall.

Parenting more reliably hurts people in a longterm way than torture, but has less overt malice and cruelty. Parenting is more dangerous because it taps into anti-rational memes better, but it also has upsides whereas torture has no upside for the victim.

Parents follow static memes to get obedience and pass on various ideas whether the child likes it or not. When children react with things like heavy crying and "tantrums", parents don't even realize that means they're hurting their child badly (much like torturers ignore the screams of their victims). And when the child stops crying and "throwing fits" so much because he learns he'll only be punished more for it, parents take that as evidence their child loves them. Stop and think about that for a minute. Everyone knows parents make their children cry hundreds of times and throw dozens of "tantrums". Everyone knows children often go through a "rebellious phase" (fighting with their hated parents) when they're age two, and when they're a teenager, and often during any or all of the years in between as well. Everyone knows there routinely are massive conflicts between parents and their children.

If you're blind to children being psychologically tortured, it's because you went through it too and rationalized it. Your parents hurt you and hurt you and crushed you until you became obedient and started thinking what you were told to think. Including believing, as demanded, that they were kind and gentle and loved you.

Punishments hurt children. That is their only purpose. Parents punish children to beat obedience into them. Period. And why do schools have tests and grades? So they can find and punish the children who didn't do as they were told (learn to repeat some ideas they aren't interested in and aren't allowed to disagree with).

It's so sad to watch after you see what's going on. But people don't want to learn to change. People would rather deny the world's problems than seriously consider – and discuss to a conclusion – ideas like these (which strike them as extreme and out of bounds).

You Could Be A Great Thinker

If you wanted to, you could ask a thousand questions, read everything you could get your hands on, and energetically pursue a better life with rational ideas. And you could pretty quickly be one of the world's best philosophers, since there isn't much competition. The world needs more thinkers very badly. You could help. (All people without major brain damage are plenty capable because innate degrees of intelligence and innate talents are a nasty myth. That's one of the things you could learn about.)

Or you could think I'm wrong, and not say anything in order to prevent me from pointing out the holes in your reasoning. Or you could think I have good points and then do little or nothing, but console yourself by pretending you intended to and telling yourself you appreciate most of what I write. Or you could think you're doing something else that's even more important, and never discuss which is actually more important. That's up to you.

I'll Continue Regardless

What's up to me is to continue improving the cutting edge ideas in philosophy, even if I must do it alone. And to seek out anyone who cares to think and learn, even though I live in an irrational, anti-intellectual culture. Whatever you do, I'll continue. I, for one, know that good ideas are the most important thing on Earth.

If you're interested, act like it. Read, learn, think, discuss.

A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation—or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.

You might say, as many people do, that it is not easy always to act on abstract principles. No, it is not easy. But how much harder is it, to have to act on them without knowing what they are?

-- Ayn Rand


The Pursuit of Happiness.

No One Else Discusses Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand Quotes Discussion.

Critical Review of Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature.

Paths Forward links. These talk about how to rationally discuss to a conclusion instead of dropping out of discussions while not addressing some criticism.

Rationally Resolving Conflicts of Ideas. If you genuinely want to learn, it involves reading multiple links and books, and discussing them to clear up misunderstandings, find out details, get questions answered, etc...

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Elliot Temple on December 19, 2016

Comments (7)

Well done for continuing! :)

None of your followers replied to this post with "I'll continue too!" :(

Anonymous at 10:16 AM on December 20, 2016 | #7896
i said i'm trying to find awesome people. i am trying. what more do you want!?

curi at 1:48 PM on December 20, 2016 | #7903
> Occasionally a little piece of a person survives and that's what's currently considered a great man.

How did you survive parenting and become different?

Anonymous at 6:01 PM on December 20, 2016 | #7956
> How did you survive parenting and become different?

i don't know. i have very little memory of age 0-4. 5 years is a long time, especially when you're a kid. a lot happened in those 5 years.

i think people use being broken as an excuse a lot, and it's bullshit and they could start being way more honest and stuff if they actually wanted to. but they prefer their social life and various other bad stuff in their life and those commitments keep them broken.

curi at 6:39 PM on December 20, 2016 | #7960
> i said i'm trying to find awesome people. i am trying. what more do you want!?

i wasn't criticizing you, but your followers. sorry for the misunderstanding.

Anonymous at 7:41 AM on December 21, 2016 | #7976
>> How did you survive parenting and become different?
> i don't know. i have very little memory of age 0-4. 5 years is a long time, especially when you're a kid. a lot happened in those 5 years.

Would it be useful to ask your parents about those first 5 years?

Anonymous at 7:43 AM on December 21, 2016 | #7977
> Would it be useful to ask your parents about those first 5 years?

1) they don't know the answer.

2) questions along these lines are often have a misconception behind them about there being one or two crucial events that could work for other people. people want and seek a silver bullet, and they're wrong.

curi at 1:39 PM on December 21, 2016 | #7980

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)