Wanting to Learn Philosophy

Atlas Shrugged (my bold):

“All of you welfare preachers—it’s not unearned money that you’re after. You want handouts, but of a different kind. I’m a gold-digger of the spirit, you said, because I look for value. Then you, the welfare preachers . . . it’s the spirit that you want to loot. I never thought and nobody ever told us how it could be thought of and what it would mean—the unearned in spirit. But that is what you want. You want unearned love. You want unearned admiration. You want unearned greatness. You want to be a man like Hank Rearden without the necessity of being what he is. Without the necessity of being anything. Without . . . the necessity . . . of being.”

I think I do.

This doesn’t make sense to me as well. Why am I not motivated about doing something that can make my life better? I don’t have an answer to this.

I don’t care much about conforming and fitting in. It might be the case that I don’t believe that doing better is realistic or I don’t understand that how better life could be if I got the process of continual improvement going. Maybe I just want to know some smart things that I can show off to other people in my surrounding so that I can feel superior.

Showing off to other people so that you can feel superior is a way to conform and fit in.

If what you are doing is impressive to other people, that means you are conforming and fitting in to what they think is impressive.

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Thanks for pointing this out. I was seeking debates against people in my surrounding about philosophy topics and winning them. The goal of seeking these debates was that when I win these debates against people in my surrounding I wanted people in my surrounding to think that I know superior ideas. I made the assumption that if I am seeking conflict then I can’t be interested in conforming.

Doesn’t static memes explain this? Static memes have control over me and make me do things that will promote their spreading. Isn’t this a correct explanation?

I don’t think that static memes actually control people and make them do things.

People do feel bad in response to their static memes. But that is not the same as being controlled by them.

How does this work? Let’s say that I come up with two ideas for what I can do (a) watch a youtube video or (b) continue FI discussion that might teach me something or provide me with valuable feedback. (a) makes me feel ok and sometimes happy and (b) doesn’t make me feel as good and feels like effort. (b) can sometimes give mind blowing experiences also. If you were to ask me which is the right thing to do I would say (b) but I only feel like doing (b) when motivation strikes. I prefer (a) because I like being passive and also I don’t want to go through bad + hard emotions. I do believe in making choice and free will and that contradicts with the idea that something (like static memes) can control me. Even though someone or something is not controlling me I keep making the wrong choice of being passive and it is difficult to overcome and solve this. I agree with the argument that if government started giving universal basic income then people will just sit on their couch all day and watch Netflix i.e. become even more passive. I think that a lot of people are not completely passive because they have some requirements imposed on them like earning money to live so one way to stop being passive is have external requirements imposed on you but I think that would be irrational and it won’t be a true solution to the problem of being passive. How to deal with this problem of so often making the wrong choice of being passive? Does one need to understand how static memes affect us and promote our passive behavior? Or should one learn how to manage motivation?

I agree that there’s a serious concern there. A lot of retired people don’t do much, too.

Those issues are not where I’d start.

People often look at this issue in terms of emotions which they lack much direct control over. Trying to directly control it is called using “willpower” and often doesn’t work very well.

I think it helps to look at non-emotional problems. A lot of negative emotions are responses or consequences of something else. You can solve the something else and then, often, the emotions change naturally.

There are many something elses, many of which are easier to work on than emotions. It can be hard to tell exactly how relevant they are, so a good strategy is to improve a bunch of them and don’t expect big results from any particular one. Also, improving them is often beneficial in other ways.

What sorts of something elses or underlying causes could be relevant? Here are a few but you could brainstorm many others.

  • finding reading hard (many people don’t recognize that they could be better readers who read with greater ease, but they could be. a rough indication is whether reading 5 novels in a month, for fun, would be a major outlier for you or not. another indicator is how much you gravitate towards audio books, podcasts and videos over text, or find them more fun or easy.)
  • not knowing grammar well. e.g. not knowing if you’re using commas correctly when you try to write
  • not having a bunch of good writing policies automated, such as good sentence and paragraph organization (how much content goes in a sentence or paragraph, where do you end it, how long should they be, how do you connect them together, etc).
  • not having a lot of writing experience
  • not having much debating experience, not being confident in debates, not knowing how to stand up for your ideas against arguments
  • not being great at logic (or being slow, inexperienced, having to stop and think things through a bunch)
  • social anxiety (which is partly emotional but there are lot of non-emotinoal underlying causes)
  • lack of background knowledge (so a lot of stuff to catch up on keeps coming up)

One of the themes is you need a ton of skills and intellectual tools to be mastered/automatized rather than just be things you can do. That lets you focus your attention on the philosophical content itself and have more fun instead of all those skills requiring work to use (or worse, requiring learning them better before you can even use them effectively).

Another issue is people aren’t good enough at keeping in mind their goals, or connecting goals with actions/life on an ongoing intuitive way instead of just as some words and abstractions (which they only care about when they have their thinking cap on, not when e.g. relaxing or drunk). This results in a lot of short-termism (due to inability to integrate longer term goals into life well) and conventionalism (because it’s much easier to remember and act on standard goals from your society rather than custom, personal goals, because there’s ongoing help/reinforcement/reminders/etc for conventional goals).