Short Pieces on Thinking About Thinking

Previews of Pieces by O.G. Rose

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This is a preview list of short pieces I wrote focused on “thinking about thinking,” mental models, epistemology, and stuff like that. I hope you see something in here that you find interesting!


Audio Summary

If We Think for Ourselves Without Falsification, We’ll Probably Go Crazy.

The road to madness is paved with verification.

No one naturally falsifies. Everything in us wants to verify. Remember: our brain is not mainly in the business of trying to know the deepest ontological truths of reality; primarily, it exists to help us survive. Verifying an ideology will help us survive, because it will help us find a tribe, and it is easier to survive if we have numbers on our side. Also, if we think there is a lion in the bushes and we try to falsify our fear, we might end up eaten. The brain would rather assume a lion is there and run versus be skeptical…


On the Term “Subjective”

The term “subjective” suggests that the world is my subject and that I am in control of it, that I thus don’t need to worry about “what’s out there”…


Anxiety and Schrödinger’s Conceivability Structures

It is impossible to escape having a worldview or philosophy: the battle is keeping it from becoming an ideology that “does our thinking for us” and/or “that makes the world a worse place.” Worldviews are structured like stories, but problematically, so are conspiracies, philosophies, ideologies, and the like. We cannot from identifying structures alone defend our minds from falsities, but that means we have to do a lot of investigation that cannot promise us any fruitful results…


Structural Isomorphism in Argument

Failure to understand the “sharing of argumentative forms” leaves us defenseless against a way our minds seeks to trick us…


Phenomenology as a Method for Avoiding Formalism

We need definitions and structures, but how can we create them without risking arbitrary restriction and oppression? Generally, we need to create “collections of philosophical observations based on confidence” versus “philosophical systems based on certainty”…


Memory Is the Mind’s Air

Memory is so critical to thinking that it is often ignored. Similarly, oxygen is so important to biological survival that it is taken for granted. It is possible for there to be memory without thinking, but not thinking without memory. This is because with memory, I can still mentally experience images and thoughts, even if I cannot connect them with logic into thinking. Without memory, even if I have a self, it will be impossible for me to meaningfully discuss that self, for I lack the mental material by which to define and explain what that self has gone through, experienced, and how that self has been understood by others…


Certainty Entails a Lot of Unintended Consequences

If the intellectual goal of our lives is certainty (and worse yet, if certainty is moralized), then with a single doubt, we lose the goal. However, if the goal is confidence, we can have doubts and even many doubts, and not lose what we’re after. Additionally, if the goal is certainty, diversity of opinion, people, etc. are all threats, because difference creates reason to doubt, and if we must have certainty, we cannot have even a single doubt. But if the goal is confidence, the encounters with difference are not threats; in fact, they can help us expand our views and test our confidence, perhaps strengthening our confidence in ways it should be strengthened and weakening it in ways it should be weakened…


Story Is The Structure of Life and Fiction

Reality is more like a story than a collection of facts, and yet when someone claims something is like a story, we tend to associate it with being fictious. Paradoxically, we associate “raw facts” with depicting reality accurately, when none of us live in a world of “just facts.” Subjectivity is very real in our experience, so unless I’m going to live in a world without the very subjectivity that makes my awareness of facts possible, then subjectivity must be included in my depiction of reality if that depiction is to be accurate. And yet the moment I do so, I can be accused of making my depiction inaccurate, and indeed, maybe I am: in subjectivity not being as “solid” as facts, it can be much harder to know if I’m giving subjectivity the right treatment and incorporating it properly. This can increase anxiety, which can increase a temptation to escape that anxiety by removing subjectivity again (as I will likely be encouraged to do)…


The Unexamined Life Isn’t Easy to Live

Socrates once said that “the unexamined life isn’t worth living,” but I agree with Merold Westphal (who’s a genius, by the way) that Socrates is simply wrong. There are plenty of people who have never read Nietzsche or Plato who go on to live deep and fulfilling lives. Still, I don’t think Socrates was totally off the mark (I’m biased and like philosophy, after all). Personally, I think it’s better to say, “the unexamined life is risker to live”…


If “What Is the Meaning of My Life?” Doesn’t Work, Try “What Do I Find Beautiful?”

There is a lot of talk today about finding meaning, and I won’t argue with any of it. If you haven’t read Victor Frankl or Daniel Pink, you should: a life with all the riches in the world but without meaning is a life suffered. However, I think there’s a problem: the advice we’re given is to do whatever it is we are intrinsically motivated to do, and though that’s all the advice a lot of people need, there are lots of people for whom this isn’t enough guidance at all. They don’t know what they want. They don’t know what they are intrinsically motivated to do. And so their suffering can almost get worse by learning about the importance of meaning. If they didn’t know they needed a meaningful life and didn’t do something meaningful, that would be bad, but now they know they should live a meaningful life and aren’t, and that’s worse…


Arguing Hume Through a Wedding Venue

David Hume made an extremely valuable distinction between “good philosophy” and “bad philosophy.” Hume understood that philosophy itself could be a problem, and that if reasoning did not ultimately defer to a “common life,” it would become a force of destruction…


Ideas are Practically Eyes

What makes ideas seem like they aren’t important is one because you see through them versus use them — you “use them to use,” per se — and also because you can’t say for sure what ideas will be used for when you learn them. When I wrote “On Worry,” I was just trying to figure out what made “worry” distinct from “care” — my goal was to describe and solve a problem, not to build a tool — but I’ve found over the years that the paper has been extremely useful for navigating relationships. No, not directly, but certainly indirectly. The same goes with “The Metamental and the Dismodern Self” — I wrote it trying to describe something I saw going on the world, not even asking myself if the ideas were practical, and yet I’ve found myself remembering to avoid “metamental thinking” since I wrote that paper which has been great for my mental health. Even my strangest paper, “A is A,” has influenced my orientation to the world and helped me understand Economics, Sociology, and other fields through different eyes. In a weird way, “A is A” is both my most useless paper and most useful…


You Couldn’t Have Been Listening if You Don’t Think Like Me

…I think we need to take a moment to stress that someone can listen to you and still not think like you. The assumption seems to be going around that if someone actually listened to me, they’d change their views and think like me. The same mistake happens with empathy: if someone was actually empathetic, the disagreement would vanish, (because they’d think like me). Agreement seems to be the litmus test for determining if someone is listening or empathetic, because how else could we tell? (Other than say trust and “assuming the best” of others, which would leave us vulnerable to manipulation and worse.) But if that’s the case, then listening and empathy become practically indistinguishable from indoctrination…

Written by

UNO Prize Finalist. The Write Launch. Iowa Review. Allegory Ridge. Streetlight. Ponder. Pidgeonholes. W&M Review. Poydras. Toho.

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