Actions and beliefs

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.30.1232 UT)]

I am increasingly persuaded that our actions shape our beliefs to a greater extent than our beliefs shape our actions. Our actions, after all, reflect our efforts to control our perceptions. What we say about those actions are often efforts to influence the perceptions of others as well as ourselves. If you are a Republican, for example, you are likely to say that you believe in individual liberty and smaller government. Your votes, however, may tell a rather different story.

Bruce

[Martin Taylor 2010.01.30.12.10]

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.30.1232 UT)]

I am increasingly persuaded that our actions shape our beliefs to a greater extent than our beliefs shape our actions. Our actions, after all, reflect our efforts to control our perceptions. What we say about those actions are often efforts to influence the perceptions of others as well as ourselves. If you are a Republican, for example, you are likely to say that you believe in individual liberty and smaller government. Your votes, however, may tell a rather different story.

The following is rather off-the-top-of-my-head, though it is based on a notion I have had for a very long time. It should be taken as a starting point for discussion rather than as a cut-and-dried theoretical position.

Since first learning about PCT and high-level controlled perceptions -- or at least since I first heard of Dick Robertson's work --, I have been using a working hypothesis that as humans (and perhaps in some other species) we mostly have two multidimensional clusters of high-level controlled perceptions. By "multidimensional" I mean that there are many controlled perceptions to which the same general label might justifiably be applied. One of these clusters I label "Self image", which is my set of perceptions of myself. This probably includes perceptions of ethics and morality, of skill sets, and perhaps other related concepts. The other cluster contains the same subclasses, but in this cluster the controlled perceptions are my perceptions of how others see me. I think this is probably what you mean by "the perceptions of others". There's no obvious name for this cluster, but perhaps "Self mirror" might serve. There are probably many such Self-mirror clusters, depending on who is doing the mirroring. To some people we might like to be seen as wise, to others as athletic, and to yet others as compassionate. Our Self-image may include all of these, but we may control only those particular aspects of the Self-mirror when acting so as to be be perceived by particular other individuals or groups.

(I also could interpret your "influence the perceptions of others" as "disturb the perceptions of others so that they will act on the world to influence our own perceptions of the world toward their reference values -- colloquially, 'get them to do what I want'." I won't follow this interpretation, because is seems to have both obvious and wide-ranging implications).

When you say you believe X or will do X, the saying is intended primarily to influence the "Self mirror" cluster of perceptions, and will influence "Self-image" perceptions only in cases in which you don't actually believe or intend to do what you say, and in which you have a controlled perception of your hypocrisy with a reference level of "not hypocritical".

The essence of politics is the control of the "Self mirror" cluster of perceptions. You want enough people to believe X about you that they will vote for you. If you are controlling for perceiving yourself as not hypocritical, this may conflict with whether you believe X about yourself, a perception in the "Self-image" cluster.

I expect almost everyone has some error in their own Self-image perceptions, in that they perceive themselves not to be entirely the person they aspire to be. And I imagine that all but the most brutally honest among us attempt to control their Self-mirror perceptions to reference values that match their reference values for self-image more closely than their perceived values for self-image.

Although I said above that the Self-image and Self-mirror clusters of perceptions were independent high-level controlled perceptions, there are obvious relationships among them, not least the rather strange (in HPCT terms) linkages suggested in the previous sentences. Do the Self-image and Self-mirror perceptions of the same variable (i.e. the value of that variable perceived of myself by me and perceived my me of other's perceptions of me) have the same reference signal connection? Is the reference value for a Self-mirror perception derived in whole or part from the current perceived value of the corresponding Self-image perception? It would be, if the person was controlling for a Self-image perception of being brutally honest about allowing someone else to know what s/he was really like. If the control of Self-image "hypocrisy" involves input perceptions from both Self-image "X" and Self-mirror "X", then is the hypocrisy perception a Self-image perception of the same type as the other moral and ethical perceptions? In in considering these possibilities, we are generating a perceptual control structure that seems not to be a pure hierarchy. Maybe there is a purely hierarchic way of describing what seems to be happening when we try to be X (when we perceive we are not) and at the same time to try to have others see us as actually being X. At the moment I don't see it.

Anyway, to get back to your message, to "say that you believe in individual liberty and smaller government" would be attempting to influence a Self-mirror set of perceptions, whereas when it comes to the overt act of voting, both Self-mirror and Self-image perceptions are being influenced, possibly in conflict, since voting one way might reduce error in a Self-image perception while increasing error in the corresponding Self-mirror perception, while voting the other way would do the reverse, and abstaining might increase error in both.

Going further back in your message, many, if not most of our actions should be expected to affect our self-image perceptions. If we believe PCT, we act only to control some perception, and many of those controlled perceptions are controlled in support of Self-image. Our actions are the only evidence to ourselves of who we are as opposed to who we would like to be. But what are the "beliefs" of which you speak? Are they beliefs as to what we would like to be? Are they the reference values for the Self-image perceptions? That seems quite plausible to me, though I can't be sure that is what you mean. If they are, and one's actions consistently influence some self-image perception away from its reference value, PCT (including and beyond HPCT) would seem to suggest that some reorganization would be likely. A successful reorganization is one that reduces error. In this case, it might change the reference value for the perception that is consistently influenced "wrongly" by one's actions, so that the actions now are not "wrong". One's belief has changed, just as you hypothesize.

But if this analysis is right, although actions would shape beliefs, the balance still remains that in the Self-image perceptual control loop beliefs (i.e. reference values) would shape actions more than the reverse. But reorganization would alter a belief only when (perhaps because of conflicts with other controlled perceptions) we consistently act in such a way that error persists or increases in the perception for which the belief sets the reference value. So I would argue that although actions may shape beliefs, nevertheless beliefs shape actions to a greater extent.

However, I will say that J.G.Taylor would agree with you. He would go further, and say that it is only through our actions that we create beliefs, along with all other perceptions. Maybe that's what happens during the initial creation of beliefs, which would imply that my analysis applies (if at all) to changing mature beliefs rather than to their initial creation.

Martin

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1319 UT)]

[Martin Taylor 2010.01.30.12.10]

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.30.1232 UT)]

I am increasingly persuaded that our actions shape our beliefs to a greater extent than our beliefs shape our actions. Our actions, after all, reflect our efforts to control our perceptions. What we say about those actions are often efforts to influence the perceptions of others as well as ourselves. If you are a Republican, for example, you are likely to say that you believe in individual liberty and smaller government. Your votes, however, may tell a rather different story.

The following is rather off-the-top-of-my-head, though it is based on a notion I have had for a very long time. It should be taken as a starting point for discussion rather than as a cut-and-dried theoretical position.

Since first learning about PCT and high-level controlled perceptions -- or at least since I first heard of Dick Robertson's work --, I have been using a working hypothesis that as humans (and perhaps in some other species) we mostly have two multidimensional clusters of high-level controlled perceptions. By "multidimensional" I mean that there are many controlled perceptions to which the same general label might justifiably be applied. One of these clusters I label "Self image", which is my set of perceptions of myself. This probably includes perceptions of ethics and morality, of skill sets, and perhaps other related concepts. The other cluster contains the same subclasses, but in this cluster the controlled perceptions are my perceptions of how others see me. I think this is probably what you mean by "the perceptions of others". There's no obvious name for this cluster, but perhaps "Self mirror" might serve. There are probably many such Self-mirror clusters, depending on who is doing the mirroring. To some people we might like to be seen as wise, to others as athletic, and to yet others as compassionate. Our Self-image may include all of these, but we may control only those particular aspects of the Self-mirror when acting so as to be be perceived by particular other individuals or groups.

BG: I have not given a great deal of thought to self-image or what you have labeled self-mirror. My inclination is to treat the self as a story. We start to construct this story when we are very young and modify it as we grow older. We tell the story to explain our actions to ourselves and others. ("Why did you hit your little sister!" "She hit me first.") We learn from an early age that if the story is not consistent with our actions, we are likely to get into trouble. (John Edwards learned this only recently.) Since one of our actions is to tell the story, we soon discover that the story should be self-consistent. When the story reveals inconsistencies, we create an explanation to remove the inconsistency ("I don't know what I was thinking. I just wasn't myself.")

(I also could interpret your "influence the perceptions of others" as "disturb the perceptions of others so that they will act on the world to influence our own perceptions of the world toward their reference values -- colloquially, 'get them to do what I want'." I won't follow this interpretation, because is seems to have both obvious and wide-ranging implications).

BG: Not necessarily. I may say something to facilitate you getting what you want. For example, I could recommend a book. Whether or not you read it will depend on your goals.

When you say you believe X or will do X, the saying is intended primarily to influence the "Self mirror" cluster of perceptions, and will influence "Self-image" perceptions only in cases in which you don't actually believe or intend to do what you say, and in which you have a controlled perception of your hypocrisy with a reference level of "not hypocritical".

The essence of politics is the control of the "Self mirror" cluster of perceptions. You want enough people to believe X about you that they will vote for you. If you are controlling for perceiving yourself as not hypocritical, this may conflict with whether you believe X about yourself, a perception in the "Self-image" cluster.

BG: One way to avoid internal conflict is to believe what you say ("I'll believe that when I say it.") That is, don't tell a story to yourself that differs from the story you tell to others. I suspect many politicians take this course. When Obama talked with Republicans the other day, I have no reason to think that anyone said something that they did not believe.

I expect almost everyone has some error in their own Self-image perceptions, in that they perceive themselves not to be entirely the person they aspire to be. And I imagine that all but the most brutally honest among us attempt to control their Self-mirror perceptions to reference values that match their reference values for self-image more closely than their perceived values for self-image.

BG: I must be unusual (or simply dense) since I rarely find occasion to present a persona to others. I am aware that I inhibit my actions on occasion, but I don't think that qualifies as a Self-mirror. There were occasions in the past when I lied, but I did not like the conflict that it produced and so gave that up years ago.

Although I said above that the Self-image and Self-mirror clusters of perceptions were independent high-level controlled perceptions, there are obvious relationships among them, not least the rather strange (in HPCT terms) linkages suggested in the previous sentences. Do the Self-image and Self-mirror perceptions of the same variable (i.e. the value of that variable perceived of myself by me and perceived my me of other's perceptions of me) have the same reference signal connection? Is the reference value for a Self-mirror perception derived in whole or part from the current perceived value of the corresponding Self-image perception? It would be, if the person was controlling for a Self-image perception of being brutally honest about allowing someone else to know what s/he was really like. If the control of Self-image "hypocrisy" involves input perceptions from both Self-image "X" and Self-mirror "X", then is the hypocrisy perception a Self-image perception of the same type as the other moral and ethical perceptions? In in considering these possibilities, we are generating a perceptual control structure that seems not to be a pure hierarchy. Maybe there is a purely hierarchic way of describing what seems to be happening when we try to be X (when we perceive we are not) and at the same time to try to have others see us as actually being X. At the moment I don't see it.

BG: I confess that I have never been enamored of the single-hierarchy model. I don't worry about it, because there seems to be no way to test for it. When I swerve to avoid a dog in the road I doubt that some very high level is changing my goals. More likely my amygdala is involved. I multiplex as you would say. Actions associated with getting to my appointment are temporarily suspended as I confront an immediate need to alter course. Reflection plays no part in the process.

Anyway, to get back to your message, to "say that you believe in individual liberty and smaller government" would be attempting to influence a Self-mirror set of perceptions, whereas when it comes to the overt act of voting, both Self-mirror and Self-image perceptions are being influenced, possibly in conflict, since voting one way might reduce error in a Self-image perception while increasing error in the corresponding Self-mirror perception, while voting the other way would do the reverse, and abstaining might increase error in both.

BG: We are inclined to cut ourselves more slack than we cut others. I am sure that politicians become good at making up stories that explain away inconsistencies. We seem to be wired to control the perception that we are acting in a way that is similar to the way others like us are acting. As a result, we tend to tell similar stories. In politics that is called "staying on message."

Going further back in your message, many, if not most of our actions should be expected to affect our self-image perceptions. If we believe PCT, we act only to control some perception, and many of those controlled perceptions are controlled in support of Self-image. Our actions are the only evidence to ourselves of who we are as opposed to who we would like to be. But what are the "beliefs" of which you speak? Are they beliefs as to what we would like to be? Are they the reference values for the Self-image perceptions? That seems quite plausible to me, though I can't be sure that is what you mean. If they are, and one's actions consistently influence some self-image perception away from its reference value, PCT (including and beyond HPCT) would seem to suggest that some reorganization would be likely. A successful reorganization is one that reduces error. In this case, it might change the reference value for the perception that is consistently influenced "wrongly" by one's actions, so that the actions now are not "wrong". One's belief has changed, just as you hypothesize.

BG: Again, for me beliefs are stories. We normally can tell a variety of stories depending on the circumstances, just as we can initiate a variety of other actions depending on the circumstance. Some stories reflect the way we would like to be, but unless we act in ways to bring about that desired state the stories are "just" stories.

But if this analysis is right, although actions would shape beliefs, the balance still remains that in the Self-image perceptual control loop beliefs (i.e. reference values) would shape actions more than the reverse. But reorganization would alter a belief only when (perhaps because of conflicts with other controlled perceptions) we consistently act in such a way that error persists or increases in the perception for which the belief sets the reference value. So I would argue that although actions may shape beliefs, nevertheless beliefs shape actions to a greater extent.

BG: I am saying that a belief is an action (telling a story) taken to achieve a goal. The goal (or reference level) shapes the actions. We may not be aware of why we tell a particular story, but the reason is always a goal, whether we are aware of it or not.

However, I will say that J.G.Taylor would agree with you. He would go further, and say that it is only through our actions that we create beliefs, along with all other perceptions. Maybe that's what happens during the initial creation of beliefs, which would imply that my analysis applies (if at all) to changing mature beliefs rather than to their initial creation.

BG: I think I agree with Taylor. Religious practice is based on repeating actions to strengthen beliefs. It takes less energy to believe the Nicene Creed than it does to say it aloud and to tell yourself another story. The alternative is to stop repeating the Creed and start saying something different, when that happens your belief changes. I seem to have a less hierarchical unified view than you are proposing. I am unsure how we might decide between the two models.

Bruce

[From Bjorn Simonsen (2010.01.31.1740 EU ST)]

From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.30.1232 UT)
a)

I am increasingly persuaded that our actions shape our beliefs
to a greater extent than our beliefs shape our actions.

From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1319 UT)]

b)

BG: I am saying that a belief is an action (telling a story) taken to
achieve a goal. The goal (or reference level) shapes the actions.

a) and b)

Do you say that you are increasingly persuaded that our actions shape other actions (my paraphrase after reading b)) to a greater extent than our actions (my paraphrase after rea ding b)) shape our actions?

I guess it is my fault and that I misunderstand you.

bjorn

···

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1742 UT)]

[From Bjorn Simonsen (2010.01.31.1740 EU ST)]

From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.30.1232 UT)
a)

I am increasingly persuaded that our actions shape our beliefs
to a greater extent than our beliefs shape our actions.

From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1319 UT)]

b)

BG: I am saying that a belief is an action (telling a story) taken to
achieve a goal. The goal (or reference level) shapes the actions.

a) and b)

Do you say that you are increasingly persuaded that our actions shape other actions (my paraphrase after reading b)) to a greater extent than our actions (my paraphrase after rea ding b)) shape our actions?

I guess it is my fault and that I misunderstand you.

bjorn

Let me rephrase:

I am increasing persuaded that stories are often less important than other actions. We often tell stories to counter disturbances to perceptions we are controlling. For example, a great deal of effort has gone into explaining how evil such as the earthquake in Haiti can exist in a world created and sustained by a loving God. These stories are told to counter disturbances to the story of a loving all-powerful God. There is no point in arguing with those who tell these stories because the fundamental goal is not to explain evil but to preserve the story that an all powerful God loves them. Any appeal to evidence is fruitless. The evidence is ignored or discounted. The ultimate defense is, “He works in mysterious ways.” Who can gainsay that? There is a wonderful New Yorker cartoon in which a parishioner leaving church says to the minister, “I know He works in mysterious ways, but if I worked in equally mysterious ways, I would be fired.” Clearly many people are unwilling to fire God no matter how badly he behaves.

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (2010.01.31.1035 MST)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1319 UT)--

BG: I am saying that a belief is an action (telling a story) taken to achieve a goal. The goal (or reference level) shapes the actions. We may not be aware of why we tell a particular story, but the reason is always a goal, whether we are aware of it or not.

It's hard for me to understand how the act of uttering a string of words can be a belief or achieve a goal other than uttering that string of words, unless some perceptions are involved at one or more levels. You don't mention perceptions, or explain how uttering words can directly achieve a goal. Your model seems incomplete.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1802 UT)]

[From Bill Powers (2010.01.31.1035 MST)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1319 UT)–

BG: I am saying that a belief is an action (telling a story) taken to achieve a goal. The goal (or reference level) shapes the actions. We may not be aware of why we tell a particular story, but the reason is always a goal, whether we are aware of it or not.

It’s hard for me to understand how the act of uttering a string of words can be a belief or achieve a goal other than uttering that string of words, unless some perceptions are involved at one or more levels. You don’t mention perceptions, or explain how uttering words can directly achieve a goal. Your model seems incomplete.

Now I am mystified. Are you saying that my uttering the string of words, “Please pass the salt,” has no goal other than uttering a string of words? Or that my telling you, “Jesus died for your sins,” has no goal other than uttering a string of words?

Please help me out here.

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (2010.01.31.1125 MST)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1802 UT) --

Now I am mystified. Are you saying that my uttering the string of words, "Please pass the salt," has no goal other than uttering a string of words? Or that my telling you, "Jesus died for your sins," has no goal other than uttering a string of words?

Please help me out here.

I'm saying that I think you're leaving out any explanation of how the words can BE a belief, or how they can achieve a goal. You're apparently using "synecdoche" -- using a part of something to refer to the whole thing, like saying "I see ten sail on the horizon", meaning ten ships, not just sails. The words you utter are sound configurations and vocal articulations. How do you get from that level of description to a belief, or to achievement of a goal?

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1920 UT)]

[From Bill Powers (2010.01.31.1125 MST)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1802 UT) –

Now I am mystified. Are you saying that my uttering the string of words, “Please pass the salt,” has no goal other than uttering a string of words? Or that my telling you, “Jesus died for your sins,” has no goal other than uttering a string of words?

Please help me out here.

I’m saying that I think you’re leaving out any explanation of how the words can BE a belief, or how they can achieve a goal. You’re apparently using “synecdoche” – using a part of something to refer to the whole thing, like saying “I see ten sail on the horizon”, meaning ten ships, not just sails. The words you utter are sound configurations and vocal articulations. How do you get from that level of description to a belief, or to achievement of a goal?

Sorry, Bill. But I have no idea what you are driving at. Since I have nothing to say, I will keep quiet.

Bruce

From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1742 UT)]

Let me rephrase:

I will comment what you rephrased to morrow. Both what you phrased and rephrased I find interesting.

Because you did not answer my question, I will rephrase it and hope for an answer.

You say that you are increasingly persuaded that our actions shape our beliefs. In your “From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1319 UT)” you say that a belief is an action (telling a story). If you mean that, you also say: " You are increasingly persuaded that our actions shape our actions". This is meaningless to me and still I think it is my fault and that you don’t mean that actions shape our actions.

bjoen

I am sorry I sent my last mail to early.

[From Bjorn Simonsen (2010.01.31.2235 EU ST)]

From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1742 UT)]

Let me rephrase:

I will comment what you rephrased to morrow. Both what you phrased and rephrased I find interesting.

Because you did not answer my question, I will rephrase it and hope for an answer.

You say that you are increasingly persuaded that our actions shape our beliefs. In your “From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1319 UT)” you say that a belief is an action (telling a story). If you mean that, you also say: " You are increasingly persuaded that our actions shape our actions". This is meaningless to me and still I think it is my fault and that you don’t mean that actions shape our actions. Do you mean what is written in the third sentence avove?

bjorn

[From Bill Powers (2010.01.31.1430 MST)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1920 UT) –

BP: I’m saying that I think
you’re leaving out any explanation of how the words can BE a belief, or
how they can achieve a goal. You’re apparently using
“synecdoche” – using a part of something to refer to the whole
thing, like saying “I see ten sail on the horizon”, meaning ten
ships, not just sails. The words you utter are sound configurations and
vocal articulations. How do you get from that level of description to a
belief, or to achievement of a goal?

BG: Sorry, Bill. But I have no
idea what you are driving at. Since I have nothing to say, I will keep
quiet.

Let’s just take one subject: your claim that spoken or written words are
beliefs.

Suppose the words are “Schwelligen nachvroder plebit.” What
belief is that? Could it be that the words have to be perceived? That the
perception of the sound of the words has to be interpreted as a meaning
which is something other than the spoken sound or written mark itself?
That the meaning has to be some perception at a level higher than sound
configurations? Aren’t you leaving out some steps between the uttered
words and what we think or understand upon hearing and interpreting
them?

If that doesn’t give you some idea of what I’m talking about, I don’t
know what to try next.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.01.0050 UT)]

[From Bill Powers (2010.01.31.1430 MST)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.01.31.1920 UT) –

BP: I’m saying that I think
you’re leaving out any explanation of how the words can BE a belief, or
how they can achieve a goal. You’re apparently using
“synecdoche” – using a part of something to refer to the whole
thing, like saying “I see ten sail on the horizon”, meaning ten
ships, not just sails. The words you utter are sound configurations and
vocal articulations. How do you get from that level of description to a
belief, or to achievement of a goal?

BG: Sorry, Bill. But I have no
idea what you are driving at. Since I have nothing to say, I will keep
quiet.

Let’s just take one subject: your claim that spoken or written words are
beliefs.

Suppose the words are “Schwelligen nachvroder plebit.” What
belief is that? Could it be that the words have to be perceived? That the
perception of the sound of the words has to be interpreted as a meaning
which is something other than the spoken sound or written mark itself?
That the meaning has to be some perception at a level higher than sound
configurations? Aren’t you leaving out some steps between the uttered
words and what we think or understand upon hearing and interpreting
them?

Yes, I can see that my claim was flawed. Sorry to have wasted people’s time.

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (2010.02.01.0735)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.01.0050 UT) --

Yes, I can see that my claim was flawed. Sorry to have wasted people's time.

I think you're giving up too easily, which suggests that perhaps the idea you have is unchanged but you've simply given up arguing for it. On my end, I have realized that I've forgotten to ask the "dumb question," something I'm always after MOL practitioners to do.

The dumb question is "What's wrong with telling stories?" In common usage, "telling a story" is a euphemism that means making up a plausible description or report about something with no proof, no basis in observation. When it's done deliberately for the purpose of misleading or concealing, it's called lying. My phrase for this phenomenon is the term "verbal reasoning," where the seeming logic is based mostly on unspoken connotations and unstated definitions of words, and imagined facts that have never actually been observed. That's what Mary called "grooving on the sounds of the words." So what's wrong with verbal reasoning and telling stories -- or for that matter, lying?

In your posts you've implied (or I have mistakenly inferred) that you think there's something less than admirable about telling stories. If my inference is correct, you must have some alternative, something more admirable, to compare with telling stories. Perhaps you don't think any alternative is possible (that, too, seems to be suggested by your writings, though I could be imagining it), but an alternative can at least be imagined. Is science, or even life, just "a tale told by idiots, signifying nothing"? Or is there some way to make it more than that?

Best,

Bill P.

P.S. I find myself increasingly rebelling against the American usage of putting punctuation inside the quotation marks. Doing so makes it impossible to quote questions or other punctuation. Above, did I write "is there some way to make it more than that," or "is there some way to make it more than that?"?

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.02.01.1516 UT)]

[From Bill Powers (2010.01.31.1430 MST)]

Let's just take one subject: your claim that spoken or written words are beliefs.

Suppose the words are "Schwelligen nachvroder plebit." What belief is that? Could it be that the words have to be perceived? That the perception of the sound of the words has to be interpreted as a meaning which is something other than the spoken sound or written mark itself? That the meaning has to be some perception at a level higher than sound configurations? Aren't you leaving out some steps between the uttered words and what we think or understand upon hearing and interpreting them?

O.K. Let me try another tack. We control the perception that we know the reasons behind our actions. These reasons take the form of stories. "I'm going down to the post office to send out this package." Studies using post-hyptonic suggestions and split-brain studies demonstrate that when we are unaware of the reasons for our actions (we are controlling the perception that we are following the experimenter's instructions, or in the split-brain studies the non-verbal hemisphere is following a different instruction than the verbal hemisphere) we do not say, "Beats me! I have no idea why I did that." Instead, we create a plausible reason for the actions, "I was thirsty and wanted a coke." Furthermore, we give no evidence that we are aware that this plausible reason is really a rationalization, that is not the perception we were controlling. None of this, I trust, is inconsistent with the principle of HPCT. If it is, the theory will need some tweaking.

Now I will apply these conclusions to contemporary political behavior. No doubt many Republicans are aware that they are simply being obstructionist. However, few are comfortable explaining their "no" votes by saying, "I am simply being obstructionist." Instead they say, "I am opposed to a government takeover of healthcare." Or, "We Republicans were frozen out of the process of formulating this legislation. All our good ideas were ignored." Now it is easier to believe that what you are saying is true, especially if you are controlling the perception, "I am not a liar." So I suggest many Republicans believe what they say. Furthermore they believe that the reason they voted the way they did was because they believe what they say.

This may not be correct, but I hope it is sufficiently clear.

Bruce

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.02.01.1529 UT)]

[From Bill Powers (2010.02.01.0735)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.01.0050 UT) --

Yes, I can see that my claim was flawed. Sorry to have wasted people's time.

I think you're giving up too easily, which suggests that perhaps the idea you have is unchanged but you've simply given up arguing for it. On my end, I have realized that I've forgotten to ask the "dumb question," something I'm always after MOL practitioners to do.

The dumb question is "What's wrong with telling stories?" In common usage, "telling a story" is a euphemism that means making up a plausible description or report about something with no proof, no basis in observation. When it's done deliberately for the purpose of misleading or concealing, it's called lying. My phrase for this phenomenon is the term "verbal reasoning," where the seeming logic is based mostly on unspoken connotations and unstated definitions of words, and imagined facts that have never actually been observed. That's what Mary called "grooving on the sounds of the words." So what's wrong with verbal reasoning and telling stories -- or for that matter, lying?

BG: Nothing is wrong with verbal reasoning or lying. I try to follow Feynman's observation that the first rule of science is not to fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. If, as the experimental evidence suggests, we can act without knowing the reasons and believe that rationalizations are the reasons, we are fooling ourselves.

In your posts you've implied (or I have mistakenly inferred) that you think there's something less than admirable about telling stories. If my inference is correct, you must have some alternative, something more admirable, to compare with telling stories. Perhaps you don't think any alternative is possible (that, too, seems to be suggested by your writings, though I could be imagining it), but an alternative can at least be imagined. Is science, or even life, just "a tale told by idiots, signifying nothing"? Or is there some way to make it more than that?

BG: Again, there is nothing wrong with stories, but I find behavior to be a more reliable marker of the perceptions we are controlling (or our goals). If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it probably is a duck, even if it believes it is a peacock.

Bruce

[From Fred Nickols (2010.02.01.0848 MST)]

···

-------------- Original message ----------------------
From: Bruce Gregory <bruce_gregory@SBCGLOBAL.NET>

Yes, I can see that my claim was flawed. Sorry to have wasted people's time.

No need to apologize. I've been following the exchange and I for one don't view getting things cleared up as a waste of time - certainly no a waste of my time.

Regards,

Fred Nickols
nickols@att.net

[From Bill Powers (2010.02.01.0925 MST)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.02.01.1516 UT) --

O.K. Let me try another tack. We control the perception that we know the reasons behind our actions. These reasons take the form of stories. "I'm going down to the post office to send out this package." Studies using post-hyptonic suggestions and split-brain studies demonstrate that when we are unaware of the reasons for our actions (we are controlling the perception that we are following the experimenter's instructions, or in the split-brain studies the non-verbal hemisphere is following a different instruction than the verbal hemisphere) we do not say, "Beats me! I have no idea why I did that." Instead, we create a plausible reason for the actions, "I was thirsty and wanted a coke." Furthermore, we give no evidence that we are aware that this plausible reason is really a rationalization, that is not the perception we were controlling. None of this, I trust, is inconsistent with the principle of HPCT. If it is, the theory will need some tweaking.

I'm sure that this happens. We like to defend the idea that our behavior is rational and purposive, especially when asked by someone else to explain it. In fact, I think that this sort of rationalization is quite frequent. We seek to be rational and to know ourselves at least as long as we approve of what we see.

However, I think it's a mistake to generalize from observations made under extraordinary circumstances to ordinary behavior. When something very frightening occurs, like finding oneself engaged in an action for no reason at all that one can find, one way to combat the fear is to imagine things that will make sense of the behavior. But in less dramatic cases, I think we just laugh at the oddity of it, as in my example of standing in front of a refrigerator or a closet and wondering why we're doing that. Of course normally we do remember what brought us there, and of course we wouldn't be there in the first place if that higher-order control system wasn't present and acting. The "we" you refer to is not the brain as a whole, but only the part of it accessible at the moment to awareness. To say that "we" are unaware of the higher-order goal is not to say that there is no higher-order goal, or that the higher-order goal is of a kind any different from the goals we are conscious of.

I'm curious -- you say "Furthermore, we give no evidence that we are aware that this plausible reason is really a rationalization, that is not the perception we were controlling." Apparently, you are aware that we do these things, and presumably you do them, too. Does it make any difference to you to be aware of that? That is, when you start telling stories (for example, your story about telling stories), are you aware that you're doing so, and do you conclude that you're just rationalizing something? Is the idea that all we do is tell ourselves stories a rationalization of something else? If so, what is it? If not, how do you defend this story?

In chess, that is known as a "fork."

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory (2010.02.01.1715 UT)

[From Bill Powers (2010.02.01.0925 MST)]

Bruce Gregory (2010.02.01.1516 UT) –

However, I think it’s a mistake to generalize from observations made under extraordinary circumstances to ordinary behavior. When something very frightening occurs, like finding oneself engaged in an action for no reason at all that one can find, one way to combat the fear is to imagine things that will make sense of the behavior. But in less dramatic cases, I think we just laugh at the oddity of it, as in my example of standing in front of a refrigerator or a closet and wondering why we’re doing that. Of course normally we do remember what brought us there, and of course we wouldn’t be there in the first place if that higher-order control system wasn’t present and acting. The “we” you refer to is not the brain as a whole, but only the part of it accessible at the moment to awareness. To say that “we” are unaware of the higher-order goal is not to say that there is no higher-order goal, or that the higher-order goal is of a kind any different from the goals we are conscious of.

BG: I agree.

I’m curious – you say “Furthermore, we give no evidence that we are aware that this plausible reason is really a rationalization, that is not the perception we were controlling.” Apparently, you are aware that we do these things, and presumably you do them, too. Does it make any difference to you to be aware of that? That is, when you start telling stories (for example, your story about telling stories), are you aware that you’re doing so, and do you conclude that you’re just rationalizing something? Is the idea that all we do is tell ourselves stories a rationalization of something else? If so, what is it? If not, how do you defend this story?

BG: That’s a fair question. I try to make sure that the stories I tell are consistent with all the facts that I am aware of. If someone brings a new fact to my attention I look to see if it is consistent with the stories I tell. I know it is easy to discount conflicting evidence, so I try hard not to do this. For example, despite my unfavorable view of George W. Bush in general, I acknowledge that he is responsible for the largest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare (the Medicare drug coverage). There are problems with the coverage, but it was a major step forward. (The fact that I was not paid for is another issue.)

In chess, that is known as a “fork.”

I’m not sure what my response qualifies as.

Bruce