RE: virus: Phaith page on

Dan Plante (
Thu, 10 Jun 1999 01:52:36 -0700

At 05:49 PM 09/06/99 -0700, Richard Brodie wrote:

>Eric Boyd wrote:
><<Because the act of arguing is not serving your purpose? Because "the
>Truth" is a strictly personal thing?>>
>Because the test of whether a meme is desirable is the results produced by
>adopting it, not its Truth (which is really consistency with your current

....assuming, of course, that Truth (consistency with your current worldview) isn't the most desired result.

Richard, has it occured to you that there may be some people out there that quite naturally operate at level-3, and yet come to different conclusions than you do about what's valuable or desireable? I don't mean specifics like cognac and cigars (or motorcycles and Marlon Brando), I mean on a fundamental level; what it is in a general way that makes you level-3. Maybe some level-3 thinker examines her life in the most profound and fundamental way, and, as you suggest, makes certain conclusions and resolutions about her behaviour and happiness.

But what if she doesn't stop there? What if she questions these conclusions? Maybe, instead of examining only her present and past life, she also looks into the future, musing on many possible "future histories", picturing herself on her death bed, asking herself if being happy most of the time was enough for her? What if the best of all these possible scenarios leaves her feeling empty and dissatisfied?

Maybe she then searches her memory for times when she felt the most fulfilled, the most satisfied with herself. What if she then concludes that there are things that are more important than happiness (to her, at least)? I don't mean something else that neccessarily excludes periodic bouts of happiness during life, just something that's always there when happiness isn't. What if she discovers that an abiding and enduring sense of satisfaction and contentment with herself through her accomplishments is what she really needs? What if she realizes that she only feels this way when she reflects on things she's done that have had a positive and measurable effect, however minute, on humanity's understanding of itself and the cosmos, and therefore, in some small way, on human history? What if she's basically a "scientist" at heart?

Maybe then she'd find herself a champion of rationality and "Truth", values derived as the natural consequence of her cerebral pursuits and goals. Maybe she'd find herself participating in discussion groups on the net; maybe some of the ones you have read. Maybe this rich forest of self-knowledge might not be readily apparent through all the trees of ASCII text. Maybe you might misdiagnose her as a knee-jerk level-2 rational objectivist. Not that she'd really care, I'd wager. Viewing everything she does, and everything that happens to her, as appearing on a canvas that spans her entire life, past and portend, would tend to shrink the apparent importance of such things.

I guess it all comes down to personal desires and self-knowledge; knowing yourself well enough to know what it is you really want out of life. Of course, you could always push on and try to analyse why you want what you want, and try to determine if you should actually want something else, but then you'd find that's a pointless, self-referential task - a fool's errand. On the other hand, you wouldn't understand this at a gut level until you did it.

Everyone is blessed (or cursed) with a different pairing of intellectual faculties and emotional dispositions, which play against - and are played against by - their own sets of personal life experiences in memory. This ensures that everyone will have different desires and needs, different influential experiences, and differing abilities to sort it all out (and differing tendencies to attempt this in the first place).

So what does all this have to say about "levels" and the examined life? I'm not exactly sure. Maybe there are more than 3 levels. Four perhaps. Maybe five. Maybe a hundred. Maybe what you envision isn't discrete at all, but continuous. Maybe it's not a static framework at all, but a process. A process that's slow in most, fast in some, and maybe even halted in others. Maybe it's just different degrees of "wisdom", for lack of a better word.

And what should we make of the possibility that a "level-3" person can appear indistinguishable from a level-2? Or the other way around? Should we take appearances at face value and dispense advice to people who don't need it, or flatter by imitation people who don't warrant it? Does it matter either way? Not if the root of the equation (personal desire) is such a various and seemingly arbitrary and impenetrable thing.

I suppose that, as a conceptual tool, the level thing works fairly well as a first approximation, but it seems to me that, if the goal of levels is to recognise an aspect of human nature, it might be easier (and possibly more accurate) to simply say that you can better understand other people by understanding yourself better.

Hmmmmm...... maybe "the Truth" really is a strictly personal thing.