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from Marvin Minsky
  • This clip really echoed with Nietzsche's Notes on Daybreak:
    • In general I think if you put emphasis on believing a set of rules that comes from someone you view as an authority figure then there are terrible dangers...most of the cultures exist because they've taught their people to reject new ideas. It's not human nature, it's culture nature. I regard cultures as huge parasites.
      • Gotta say that while I admire the wit of this I disagree...it's got this underlying individual vs culture stance which is kind of adolescent and philistine (and he probably doesn't really believe it, it probably is just a random sniping in the ongoing low-level conflict between science and the academic humanities that Marvin was always willing to stoke.)
    • Also at 6:10, a bit more on culturally-induced cognitive blindness
    • At 7:40, in the midst of a discussion on how emotions like anger are not separate from rationality but are more like modes of thought:
    • There really isn't anything called rational, everything depends on what goals you have and how you got them...

Notes on Daybreak

30 Oct 2021 02:15 - 12 Sep 2022 07:45
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    • This lesser-known work of Nietzsche seems to be right on point for me, since it delves into the deep structures of agency and morality. Thanks to Jordan Peacock (of Be Slightly Evil) for the pointer.
    • Status: reading and note-taking in progress
    • Introduction

      • The central theme of Daybreak is its attack on morality...First Nietzsche takes traditional morality to involve false presuppositions: for example a false picture of human agency...he attacks this picture of agency from the perspective of a naturalistic view of persons as determined in their actions...
      • Thus I deny morality as I deny alchemy, that is, I deny their presuppositions **[die Voraussetzungen, **which might also be translated "premises"]: not that countless people feel themselves to be immoral, but there is any true reason so to feel. It goes without saying that I do not deny - unless I am a fool - that many actions called...moral ought to be done and encouraged - but I think the one should be encouraged and the other avoided for other reasons than hitherto. We have to learn to think differently - in order at last, perhaps very late on, to attain even more: to feel differently, (D, 103)
      • The primeval delusion still lives on that one knows, and knows quite precisely in every case, how human action is brought about... "I know what I want, what I have done, I am free and responsible for it, I hold others responsible, I can call by its name every moral possibility and every inner motion which precedes action..." - that is how everyone formerly thought, that is how almost everyone still thinks... Actions are never what they appear to us to be! We have expended so much labour on learning that external things are not as they appear to us to be - very well! the case is the same with the inner world! Moral actions are in reality "something other than that" — more we cannot say: and all actions are essentially unknown.
      • __[T]hat one desires __to combat the vehemence of a drive at all, however, does not stand within our own power; nor does the choice of any particular method; nor does the success or failure of this method. What is clearly the case is that in this entire procedure our intellect is only the blind instrument of another drive which is a rivalo f the drive whose vehemence is tormenting us: whether it be the drive to restfulness, or the fear of disgrace and other evil consequences, or love. While "we" believe we are complaining about the vehemence of a drive, at bottom it is one drive which is complaining about another, that is to say: for us to become aware that we are suffering from the vehemence of a drive presupposes the existence of another equally vehement or even more vehement drive, and that a struggle is in prospect in which our intellect is going to have to take sides. (109)
      • Kant – morality can only be driven by a sense of duty (not for selfish or utilitarian reasons).
      • In Human, All Too Human, the work preceding Daybreak, Nietzsche began a long effort to free morality from the metaphysical world to which Kant and Schopenhauer had connected it. He set out to show that one need not posit the existence of such a world to explain the so-called "higher" activities - art, religion, and morality- which are often taken as signs of human participation in a higher or metaphysical realm. He wanted to explain these "higher" things in terms of the "lower," the merely human...
        • Huh that is interesting I usually don't think of N in those terms but it makes sense.
      • One error after another is coolly placed on ice; the ideal is not refuted - it freezes to death. - Here, for example, "the genius" freezes to death; at the next corner, "the saint"; under a huge icicle, "the hero"; in the end, "faith," so-called "conviction"; "pity" also cools down considerably
        • Interesting that "genius" is one of these superhuman errors.
        • Wait, I thought N was all about the ubermensch, so what's with this power-of-normal-humans stuff? Maybe (I'm racing ahead here) the idea is that "genius" just a fake word that people use to hide from their own mediocrity...
      • No one has ever done anything that was solely for the sake of another and without a personal motive. How indeed could he do anything that was not related to himself, thus without an inner necessity (which simply must have its basis in a personal need)? How could the ego act without ego?
        • I think I know exactly what he is getting at here. It's so very MIT/rationalist compatible, which is weird to me for some reason. It's that on a purely mechanical level, action requires a self-interest of some sort, or it wouldn't happen. Applies even to heroes and geniuses, who we are in the habit of thinking some of the divine expresses itself. And to love. It's reductionist (but I'm going to assume, not lowering)
      • Oh wait most of the above was from earlier works, Ecce Homo and Human, All Too Human. Daybreak takes a different direction I guess?
      • But recall that he had also denied that anyone is ever morally motivated, and that Daybreaks new "denial of morality" is predicated upon his changing his mind on this issue. He now admits that human beings are sometimes morally motivated, but insists that when they are, errors move them to their actions
    • Preface

      • Opening section is marvelous. Hey, I'm tunneling away in obscurity too!
      • in the presence of morality, as in the face of any authority, one is not allowed to think, far less to express an opinion: here one has to - obey! As long as the world has existed no authority has yet been willing to let itself become the object of criticism;..
      • I find this personally challenging, probably because I haven't reconciled my own moralism with my own anti-authoritarianism.
      • Nowadays it is not only my habit, it is also to my taste - a malicious taste, perhaps? - no longer to write anything which does not reduce to despair every sort of man who is 'in a hurry'.
        • he got me...
    • Book I

      • What is tradition? A higher authority which one obeys, not because it commands what is useful to us, but because it commands
        • The virtual equation of morality and authority is interesting.
      • [morality's] security reposes far more in a certain art of enchantment it has at its disposal- it knows how to 'inspire'. With this art it succeeds, often with no more than a single glance, in paralysing the critical will and even in enticing it over to its own side; there are even cases in which morality has been able to turn the critical will against itself, so that, like the scorpion, it drives its sting into its own body. For morality has from of old been master of every diabolical nuance of the art of persuasion: there is no orator, even today, who does not have recourse to its assistance (listen, for example, even to our anarchists: how morally they speak when they want to persuade! In the end they even go so far as to call themselves 'the good and the just'.)
      • This is, for example, already the case with the chief proposition: morality is nothing other (therefore no morel) than obedience to customs, of whatever kind they may be; customs, however, are the traditional way of behaving and evaluating. In things in which no tradition commands there is no morality; and the less life is determined by tradition, the smaller the circle of morality. The free human being is immoral because in all things he is determined to depend upon himself and not upon a tradition: in all the original conditions of mankind, 'evil' signifies the same as 'individual', 'free', 'capricious', 'unusual', 'unforeseen', 'incalculable'.
        • Reading this alongside R. Crumb's illustrated Genesis and yeah I can feel it.
      • Those moralists, on the other hand, who, following in the footsteps of Socrates, offer the individual a morality of self-control and temperance as a means to his own advantage, as his personal key to happiness, are the exceptions - and if it seems otherwise to us that is because we have been brought up in their after-effect: they all take a new path under the highest disapprobation of all advocates of morality of custom - they cut themselves off from the community, as immoral men, and are in the profoundest sense evil...(we ourselves dwell in the little world of the exceptions and, so to speak, in the evil zone)
        • Socrates and stoics and utilitarians are evil? I guess any morality that involves thinking about consequences (rather than conforming to custom) is evil in this scheme...
      • Men of application and goodwill assist in this one work: to take the concept of punishment which has overrun the whole world and root it out! There exists no more noxious weed!
      • 'Ah, give me madness, you heavenly powers! Madness, that I may at last believe in myself! Give deliriums and convulsions, sudden lights and darkness, terrify me with frost and fire such as no mortal has ever felt,with deafening din and prowling figures, make me howl and whine nd crawl like a beast: so that I may only come to believe in myself! I am consumed by doubt, I have killed the law, the law anguishes me as a corpse does a living man: if I am not more than the law I am the vilest of all men. '
      • the perpetual compulsion to practise customs: so as to strengthen the mighty proposition with which civilisation begins: any custom is better than no custom (p15)
      • Cruelty is one of the oldest festive joys of mankind.
        • Not sure how I feel about this, but you look at those pictures of smiling white families alongside the lynching...
      • it may well be that the gods frown upon us when we are fortunate and smile upon us when we suffer - though certainly they do not feel pity! For pity is reckoned contemptible and unworthy of a strong, dreadful soul; - they smile because they are amused and put into a good humour by our suffering: for to practise cruelty is to enjoy the highest gratification of the feeling of power.
      • 23 What we are most subtle in. - Because for many thousands of years it was thought things (nature, tools, property of all kinds) were also alive and animate, with the power to cause harm and to evade human purposes, the feeling of impotence has been much greater and much more common among men than it would otherwise have been: for one needed to secure oneself against things, just as against men and animals, by force, constraint, flattering, treaties, sacrifices... because the feeling of impotence and fear was in a state of almost continuous stimulation so strongly and for so long, the feeling of power has evolved to such a degree of subtlety that in this respect man is now a match for the most delicate gold-balance. It has become his strongest propensity; the means discovered for creating this feeling almost constitute the history of culture.
      • For this reason the animals learn to master themselves and alter their form, so that many, for example, adapt their colouring to the colouring of their surrounding ... Thus the individual hides himself in the general concept 'man', or in society, or adapts himself to princes, classes, parties, opinions of his time and place: and all the subtle ways we have of appearing fortunate, grateful, powerful, enamoured have their easily discoverable parallels in the animal world. Even the sense for truth, which is really the sense for security, man has in common with the animals: one does not want to let oneself be deceived, does not want to mislead oneself, one hearkens mistrustfully to the promptings of one's own passions, one constrains oneself and lies in wait for oneself; the animal understands all this just as man does, with it too self-control springs from the sense for what is real (from prudence)...it is not improper to describe the entire phenomenon of morality as animal.
        • Interesting...and counterintuitive...he's trying to naturalize morality and conformity as sort of fear-based?
      • Thus, under the spell ofthe morality of custom, man despises first the causes, secondly the consequences, thirdly reality, and weaves all his higher feelings (of reverence, of sublimity, of pride, of gratitude, of love) into an imaginary world: the so-called higher world.
      • It is a sad fact, but for the moment the man of science has to be suspicious of all higher feelings, so greatly are they nourished by delusion and nonsense.
      • 'Trust your feelings!' - But feelings are nothing final or original; behind feelings there stand judgments and evaluations which we inherit in the form of feelings (inclinations, aversions). The inspiration born of a feeling is the grandchild of a judgment- and often of a false judgment! - and in any event not a child of your own! To trust one's feelings - means to give more obedience to one's grandfather and grandmother and their grandparents than to the gods which are in us: our reason and our experience.
        • A clear a statement as any as to what he is doing – critiquing and rebelling against tradition.
      • Thus the older Greeks felt differently about envy from the way we do; Hesiod counted it among the effects of the good, beneficent Eris, and there was nothing offensive in attributing to the gods something of envy: which is comprehensible under a condition of things the soul of which was contest; contest, however, was evaluated and determined as good.
      • The Jews felt differently about anger from the way we do, and called it holy: thus they saw the gloomy majesty of the man with whom it showed itself associated at an elevation which a European is incapable of imagining; they modelled their angry holyJehovah on their angry holy prophets.
      • 47 Words lie in our way – Wherever primitive mankind set up a word, they believed they had made a discovery. How different the truth is! - they had touched on a problem, and by supposing they had solved it they had created a hindrance to its solution. - Now with every piece of knowledge one has to stumble over dead, petrified words, and one will sooner break a leg than a word.
      • 62, On the origin of religion
        • How can a person regard his own opinion about things as a revelation?
        • An interesting just-so story about the origins of religion in personal revelation – but he's trying to be meta to such revelations, trying to describe their dynamics, their politics:
        • And other secret levers
          • I love this image. And it makes me think of Nietzsche as a quasi-computationalist, trying to reverse-engineer the conceptual machinery of thought.
          are at work within him, too: for example, one strengthens an opinion in one's own estimation when one feels it to be a revelation, one therewith abolishes its hypothetical nature, one removes it from all criticism, indeed from all doubt, one makes it holy. One thus debases oneself to the status of an organon
          • The Organon (Greek: Ὄργανον, meaning "instrument, tool, organ") is the standard collection of Aristotle's six works on logic.
          , to be sure, but our idea, as an idea of god's, will in the end be victorious - the feeling that with this idea one will finally prove the victor gains ascendancy over the feeling of debasement.
          • There's something Bruno Latourian here – although the notion of ideas contending, of strength and struggle in ideaspace – that goes back earlier, and there must be a good word for it but I don't know what it is. (I know Latour wrote an essay tracing to back to Callicles)
      • Lots of stuff specifically on history of Christianity, Paul and Luther, which didn't resonate for me.
      • 90 Egoism against egoism. – How many there are who still conclude: 'life could not be endured if there were no God!' (or, as it is put among the idealists: 'life could not be endured if its foundation lacked an ethical significance!') - therefore there must be a God (or existence must have an ethical significance)! The truth, however, is merely that he who is accustomed to these notions does not desire a life without them: that these notions may therefore be necessary to him and for his preservation - but what presumption it is to decree that whatever is necessary for my preservation must actually exist! As if my preservation were something necessary!
        • I've seen this kind of argument in the wild and reacted similarly
      • 93 What is truth? - Who would not acquiesce in the conclusion the faithful like to draw: Science cannot be true, for it denies God. Consequently it does not come from God; consequently it is not true - for God is the truth.' It is not the conclusion but the premise which contains the error: how if God were not the truth and it were precisely this which is proved? if he were the vanity, the lust for power, the impatience, the terror, the enraptured and fearful delusion of men?
    • Book 2

      • 97 To become moral is not in itself moral. - Subjection to morality can be slavish or vain or self-interested or resigned or gloomily enthusiastic or an act of despair, like subjection to a prince: in itself it is nothing moral.
        • I want to disagree with this; it implies a sort of higher-level objective morality. He's right that a lot of crappyness is sone in the name of morality, but (IMO) morality itself – the need to make decisions and judgements – is inescapable.
      • 104-105 Dealing with the relation of self-generated judgements and those introjected from others. He seems to take a naive-individualist stance here
        • all these people, unknown to themselves, believe in the bloodless abstraction 'man', that is to say, in a fiction... all because no individual among this majority is capable of setting up a real ego, accessible to him and fathomed by him, in opposition to the general pale fiction and thereby annihilating it.
      • Realizing why I am having a tough time with this text. To Nietzsche, morality was something enforced by the institutions of society, a kind of dumb and stultifying infrastructure of a boring order. To me, in my time, the organs of society are obviously grossly immoral and barely pretending about it, and its the emerging morality of the resistance that is an active and reforming force...not sure I even really believe that but its part of my stance.
      • 108 - some interesting goal-talk
        • It is not true that the unconscious goal in the evolution of every conscious being (animal, man, mankind, etc) is its 'highest happiness': ...Evolution does not have happiness in view, but evolution and nothing else. - Only if mankind possessed a universally recognised goal would it be possible to propose 'thus and thus is the right course of action': for the present there exists no such goal.
      • 109 – some self-help about how to control or conquer one's drives
        • While 'we' believe we are complaining about the vehemence of a drive, at bottom it is one drive __which is complaining about another; that is to say: for us to become aware that we are suffering from the vehemence of a drive presupposes the existence of another equally vehement or even more vehement drive, and that a. struggle __is in prospect in which our intellect is going to have to take sides.
          • OK, very Marvin Minsky/Society of Mind here. I like the scare-quotes...and the struggle...not sure what he means by "our intellect is going to have to take sides", is not our intellect composed of all of these struggling and vehement drives?