🤔Introduction to Philosophy 🤔


Heya 👋

This is my intro to philosophy. It isn’t meant to teach you all about philosophy, but it is meant to give you a taste of what philosophy is and why it matters (or doesn’t! Maybe it doesn’t matter at all for you and that’s fine too!) 

If you made it this far, good job. Internet distractions galore. Let us start by making a distinction: You can think of Philosophy both as a field of inquiry, and ask historical questions of who has called what philosophy or who has called him or herself a philosopher. And you can also think of  philosophy as the act of philosophising and then ask what is it and what good is it for? That’s what I aim to answer below.

But, before that, a short note on this whole essay: I’m very concerned with how easy I am to comprehend. This is not an easy topic and I’m trying to be as clear and simple and pithy as possible but I just don’t know what you already do and don’t have inside your head and how it does or does not overlap with what I have on mine. If what I say isn’t clear or doesn’t make sense I’m sorry and I hope you’ll try again, maybe read some of the primary sources this work draws on, come back, and try again. [1]


What is and how is philosophy useful

Ok, so let’s start with a thought experiment [2], a hypothetical. Let’s discuss two hypothetical, very unlucky people: 

Jane: Jane just can’t catch a break. She always aims to do the right thing but somehow things always go wrong for her. She’s late, she ends up breaking promises, she can’t be relied upon. She has excellent intentions and no luck.

Jack is equally unlucky, but other than that, the opposite: He is kind of a misanthropic ass that wishes nothing but ill-will to all others, but ends up always being on time, breaking, no promises, and unwillingly being useful and helpful and even kind(!) to everyone. 

So the question is: is Jane a good person? Is Jack a good person? [If this example is too contrived check this one instead: 3]

You can imagine a dinner party with people intensely arguing about this [4]: 

  • Jack just sucks, even though he ends up doing great things for others
  • Yea sure, but Jane… the consequences of her actions are just no good!

You can imagine this discussion going round and round in circles. 

And yet there seems to be a confusion about words here: the same word ‘good’ the the same string of four characters ‘g-o-o-d’ (I like to see it inverted to make this point: pooƃ) is actually pointing to two different meanings: good-in-intention vs. good-in-consequences. 

Once you get to this insight, and it might take a while, it’s actually really easy to set the debate.

  • Jane is good-in-intention and not good-in-consequences
  • Jack is good-in-action and not good-in-intention [5]

(it might feel like there is a real question here of ‘but which one is really good. This is a more advanced topic [6])

Philosophy is for making this kind of distinctions [7]. The kind of distinctions that settle arguments and get people to agree. 

Once you set this distinction you see that there actually wasn’t a disagreement to begin with, just a confusion over words. The same word ‘good’ was pointing both to good-in-intention to the person arguing for Jane being good and to good-in-consequences to in the person arguing for Jack being good. Once you’ve made this distinction things become clear and the argument is settled. 

Now, fascinatingly, some philosophers have thought that the whole 2500-years old field of philosophy has been nothing but these confusions: people using words out of context, or using the same word to refer to different things, compounded over years and years [8]. Famous Austrian philosopher Wittgenstein held that position, famously saying that he intended to “to show the fly the way out of the fly bottle”. He thought philosophers before him had confused themselves by using words out of context. 



Of course, not everyone agrees with this fateful judgement, least of all people paid to teach and do philosophy. 

As to my opinion, I’d like to give it via a demonstration[9]: 

Socrates is showing a boy geometry. He draws this figure in the sand:

Here, a two-unit square with four little squares inside: Captura de ecrã 2019-12-10, às 15.30.30.png

Then he asks the boy to notice: Each side is two. They get two squares from the top line, but since there are also two units down the side, you have another two. So there are four little squares inside, right?

Now Socrates asks the boy to draw a square twice as large as this one, so it contains eight squares. The boy thinks he knows the answer, and says to draw the line twice as long, which is four. When they do it, however, they find:

Here, a four-unit square with sixteen small squares inside: Captura de ecrã 2019-12-10, às 15.30.35.png

Counting up they see they got four from the top line, and four layers down the side, so they get sixteen little squares.

Now the boy understands that four is too big, and answers “three,” and now:

Here, a three-unit square with nine little ones inside:Captura de ecrã 2019-12-10, às 15.30.40.png

Counting, up that gives nine. Now the boy grasps the situation. To get twice the area of the two-unit square, three is already too big. This time when Socrates repeats the question, the boy says, “I don’t know.”

Socrates now asks Meno who has been observing: “Isn’t the boy in a much better position now, in relation to what he does not know?”

The point here is not only that he doesn’t know the answer, but that he does know that the answer is more than two, but three is already too large, so the answer has to be between two and three. In saying “I don’t know” the boy does not draw a blank. Rather, he has a felt sense of the answer.

Rather than saying “I don’t know,” the boy might have said:

“I don’t know ….., uh, uh …..

Or, speaking from this “…..” the boy might have said:

“I do know the answer is between two and three, but Socrates, there is no way to say it because there is no number between two and three!!”

The boy does know, but what he knows is more than he can say. And this is not because it simply can never be said. Rather, he cannot say it in the usual words and numbers. To go on from his “…..” one must change the usual way of saying such things. One must devise new terms like “the square root of eight” or one must break up the little boxes.

Socrates then shows that if we break some of the little boxes, we can make a new square with a diagonal across each quarter of the big square that has sixteen boxes:

Captura de ecrã 2019-12-10, às 15.30.51.png

Earlier Meno had asked Socrates about the following puzzle: If we don’t know something how can we even ask about it? We wouldn’t know what we are asking about. But if we already know it, why ask about it? So it seems we cannot inquire into anything, since we must either know it or not know it. Socrates had answered the puzzle by saying that the soul has lived before and knows all things. We need only “recollect” them.

When the boy says “I don’t know”, Socrates shows what sort of a thing it is, which we do know in a way, but not in another way. It is what the boy has there, when he does know, but cannot yet formulate it — a kind of knowing and not knowing that is more than what we simply know.

Since Socrates only asked the boy leading questions, the boy really did understand from himself that two is too small and three is too large, so there is no sense proposing more numbers. Of course we call this “good teaching,” rather than rote learning. But Socrates now turns to Meno and asks: Did anyone ever teach this boy geometry? He has lived in your house since birth, so you would surely know. Meno says no, nobody taught the boy geometry. Socrates asks: So, do you agree that his soul must have learned everything in a previous life, so that he is only “recollecting” it now? Meno says “Somehow I believe you are right.” But now Socrates says “I wouldn’t swear by it myself, but I am sure that we can and should inquire into what we don’t yet know.” (86b)

We can say that the myth of recollection is a way to point to our inwardly arising capacity to understand more and more. The puzzle of either knowing or just not knowing is solved because we can think on the edge of what we know, and enter there.

When the boy says “I don’t know”, he knows in one way, but not in another: he knows but cannot yet formulate it – a kind of knowing and not knowing that is more than what we just know.

I like this example because it points to the fact that there does seem to be an edge to our knowledge where we both know and know more than we can say with our current words and that new and fresh distinctions help us say it and that  a valid use of philosophy is drawing us to that edge and carving new terms for us.

Pithily: Philosophy is for confusions. Either to show that there isn’t a there there – just a linguistic confusion – or to show that indeed our current concepts have taken us as far as they could and that to make sense of our new knowledge we need new concepts.


A final, paternalistic, Addendum

If you are reading this because you think or feel that you have a philosophical problem you probably don’t. If you are neurotic as in prone to prolonged or frequent bad emotions or feelings or moods and/or are having some sort of existential crisis then your problem is first and foremost psychological. I beg that you look for help online, find someone you can vent to, find a licensed professional if that’s more comfortable.


Further reading

[1] On Inferential Distance

[2] Thought Experiment

[3] But Does it Make a Sound?

[4] Dialectic 

[5] if this seems contrived see that this distinction has been discussed for centuries: consequentialism vs virtue ethics

[6] But Is it Really a Blegg?

[7] The Method of Philosophy: Making Distinctions

[8] It is for some reason common that philosophers are radicals that claim that everything before them was misguided in a particular way 

[9] Adapted from Introduction to Philosophy by Eugene Gendlin 



Unlocking effortless planning

Pithy: I had an update such that now I can pay attention to my very smallest most micro plans, causing them to update. This causes recursive update up the chain because large plans are just built from many micro-plans.

There’s two attractors in ‘interacting with your own plans’ space:

Either (1) you can look at your plans which affords improving them which nets you a ‘future present’ with more resources which in turn allow you to the resources to look at your future present’s plan, in a self-reinforcing loop; or (2) you can’t look at them, and do not look at them, and they don’t improve. This nets you a worse ‘future present’ via resource waste leading to low-resources causing low ability to look at plans in a self-reinforcing loop.

After spending a long time in the first attractor it will SUCK to move to the second one: your plans will be laughably, painfully, and shamefully bad and will crumble as soon as you lay attention on them. This will both feel very bad in the moment and very good within a second: plans crumbling will feel bad, moving to a better plan will feel good. As a nice bonus your mind will tighten as parts integrate theirs plans into one true master plan.

This is exactly what I’m going through right now: being, for the first time since forever, able to reveal my plans to myself with the attendant bad feelings BUT ALSO the knowledge of the fact that it will lead me to better plans. Like, it’s a process that makes everything better, for me and everyone else, endlessly, forever.

So, now I’ve been having the experience of seeing my bad plan, like the plan of waiting to go to the toilet only when I already feel bad, or the plan of suffering through family vacations, or the plan of never being content with my social situation, or the (old?) plan of waiting.

It really feels like plans are coming into the purview of my power (the first effortlessly updated upon attention).

A very EXCITING part about this is that large life-plans are recursively made of many small plans: if I can start paying attention to those then iteratively the improvements will go up the chain. It’s like… starting to exercise power in your environment, bit by bit, starting really small. Moving this cup over because you’d prefer it there. Taking a drink of water because you’re thirsty. Making your bed. Changing the living room arrangement. Paying constant attention to how things could be better (for you, for everyone) and *acting on that*. I think these two are one and the same: my micro-plans for my environment are better and I act on them, and all others follow these, fractally, recursively.

Which begs the question of what *makes* for a plan improvement? I think it’s turning magic into a causal mechanism. Turning a magical plan into a mechanistic one.

Happily, joyously, turning magic into causal mechanisms uses the same ‘making distinctions’ skill I already have: it is, at least partially, about entering an undistinct area and making distinctions in it turning the magical into the causal. This is strictly within the bounds of my current ability. Which means — I think! I hope — that now (1) the area of plans is open (I can pay attention to them) and (2) I have the necessary powers to set off a core procedure there.

Experiences of Depression

(Adapted from a tweetstorm)

1/ One of my favorite authors has been making the rounds, being quoted by both @s_r_constantin and @vgr on the same week, so I’m gonna do a dive on his best book. The author? Matthew Rattclife – philosopher of psychology and phenomenologist. His best book? Experiences of depression.

2/ The book is an edited collection of papers of his. This means there’s sometimes too much fodder and repetition. He’s also an analytic philosopher, so he says *both* what he means and what 400 adjacent things he doesn’t mean. Kinda annoying.

3/ Other than that, the book is truly excellent: it analyses the various ways in which human experience changes in depression and is peppered throughout with quotes from depressed people on what their experience is or was like. I’ll use a similar format here.

4/ Why do I care to share this? To paraphrase Matthew quoting Nietzsche: a tweetstorm is an implicit ‘confession on the part of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir’.

5/ It’s excruciating to feel beyond the range of normal experience: to feel bad in a way that cannot be communicated and hence cannot be supported. It breaks my heart to know other people are going through that right now. In sharing this I want …

6/ …people to grok the phenomenological categories of variation, to feel empathized with, in having others describe what they thought was their forever utterly private experience, and for others to learn how to empathize with them.

7/ Ok, enough of a preambe, let’s dive in:

8/ The book is a philosophical exploration of what it is *like* to be depressed. “Like being engulfed by a toxic and unnameable tide that obliterated any enjoyable response to the living world”

9/ The hope in writing it is that in reflecting on the difference between depression and ‘healthy’ forms of experience, we can refine our understanding of both.

10/ And that, in that refined understanding, we can find ways to empathize with people suffering from it – who consistently complaint it falls outside the normal range of human experiences and is therefore difficult of even impossible to describe.

11/ “I could not reach other human beings. There was an unfathomable distance between me and any other human being and I was it was desperately important to be able to bridge that gap.”

11/ Why is depression so hard to describe? Because it involves a change in an aspect of experience that is seldom an object of explicit reflection of discussion and consequently hard to articulate. That aspect?

12/ The *pre-reflective* sense of belonging to a *shared* world.

13/ “I awoke into a different world. It was as though all had changed whilst I slept: that I awoke not into normal consciousness but into a nightmare”

14/ This change is caused by a change in one’s ‘existential feelings’.

15/ “You know you have lost life itself. You’ve lost a habitable earth. You’ve lost the invitation to live that the universe extends to us at every moment.”

16/ Existential feelings reflect a variable sense of the possibilities that the world offers. Depression involves a change in *both* the kinds of possibility that are experienced *and* the structure of one’s overall relation to the world. This is the main thesis which is explored.

17/ This change comes in many forms: altered bodily experience, loss of ability to hope, guilt, diminished agency and sense of self, altered experience of time, and isolation. They are all part of the same thing, of this ‘existential change’ – of a transformation in one’s ‘world’.

17/ “I was terribly alone, lost, in a harsh and far-away place, a horrible terrain reserved for me alone. There was nowhere to go, nothing to see, no panorama.”

18/ The book starts with a framework for understanding that change to the overall structure of experience. ‘World’ as referred to by Husserl – not an object of experience or thought, but something we already ‘find ourselves in’, something all experiences take for granted.

19/ This is what depression disturbs. Because it’s so fundamental to experience it is seldom reflected upon and poorly understood.

20/ After an intro to the method – Chapter 1 – and framework – Chapter 2 – the book goes into the various ways that this change is experienced.

21/ Depression and the body – Chapter 3

22/ Loss of ability to Hope – Chapter 4

23/ Existential Guilt – Chapter 5

24/ Loss of agency – Chapter 6

25/ Changes to the structure of temporal experience – Chapter 7

26/ The contraction of relations to others – Chapter 8

27/ It ends with thoughts on how to empathize with it – Chapter 9 – and with consideration on the categories of ‘depression’ and ‘major depression’ – Chapter 10.

28/ Ok that’s enough typing for now. If y’all are into this I’ll start with chapter by chapter summaries.

How to do a Yearly Review

Apparently I got lots of thoughts on how to properly do a Yearly Review, which means you get to get those thoughts. You’re welcome. Here’s the TL;DR:

  1. Diary/calendar your days for a year
  2. Figure out why doing this matters
  3. Use the process below to exhaustively craft the questions you want to answer
  4. Set aside time to answer them
  5. Load the past year onto the mind
  6. Answer the questions
  7. ????????
  8. Profit!

First things first:  you’d have to be a god to load a full year into your mind. You need to have kept a diary or calendar for the past year. If you haven’t done this for the past year there’s not that much I can help with — try again next year.

Ok, the basics: why do a yearly review at all? Well, there’s a few reasons. One is that taking stock ensures that your life is not a continuing in media res adventure. You get a higher level of abstraction and thus a higher level of self understanding. You’ll see patterns you wouldn’t see without this work, you’ll set your understanding of what happened and where you are and how you got here in order, and you’ll be atop your own life, and better positioned to take the next year by the balls.

So how to do it? It’s always about answering questions, and for good reason: the benefit of the yearly review is that you’re now in a position to answer questions you could not answer before and which answering is productive. That is what you’re taking advantage of during a yearly review.

Whence the questions? Good news: you can generate them for yourself, and you’re in better position that anyone to do so. Just jot some things down you’d like to have the answer to and which you think you can have the answer to. Then write down with the intention to write down the truth the following: ‘The questions below are exhaustively the questions I couldn’t before but can now answer and which having answers to would be the most useful.” (Or your own equivalent of that.)

As you write it down notice how it feels. If it feels right and truthful, you’re done with question-writing. Else, see what is missing and write that question down.

Iterate the process until you have all the questions down. Feel free to roam the web for inspiration after you wrote your own. (I’ll add my list below, which will certainly be stolen and monetised by content farm websites.)

Once they’re written, half the work is done. Next part is answering. First, review your past year via the diary and calendar to load it onto the mind. Then answer the questions with the intention to tell the truth. I type the questions out, block time at the library in a sunny day, print them out and answer them using pen and paper and free-writing and copious amounts of focusing but this is up to you really.

Also the ‘?????’ up was unfair. What is happening is that with your mind will re-factor to account for this knowledge leading to more nuanced, thoughtful, comprehensive action.
It will be much easier to set actual goals/resolution following this, for example.

Hope that’s helpful.

Have a good year!

P.S. As promised my personal list of questions:

Where was I over the past past year?

In what did I spend my time?

With whom did I spend my time?

Three words to describe the past year: what would they be?

What is the favorite I place visited?

If the past year were a book, what genre would it be?

What change(s) had the most positive impact in my life?

What change(s) had the most negative impact in my life?

What one-shot things were best?

What one-shot things were worst?

What on-going things were best?

What on-going things were worst?

Who gave me energy?

Who took away my energy?

What gave me energy?

What took away my energy?

What made me feel good?

What made me feel bad?

Who made me feel good?

Who made me feel bad?

Who most impacted life, and how?

What did I learn that most impacted life?

What did I most enjoy learning?

What was the absolute best?

What was the absolute worst?

What did I like most?

What did I dislike most?

What were the best moments this year?

What were the worst moments this year?

What were the best things this year?

What were the worst things this year?

What had the most impact?

What goals was I ostensibly gunning for?

What goals was I de facto going for?

What did I achieve?

Where did I fail?

Who mattered?

In which sense did they matter?

What would I want to keep for next year?

What would I want more of for next year?

What would I want less for next year?

What would I want to do away with for next year?

What are my avenues of progress?

What do I want to achieve?

What was most surprising?

What am I most grateful for?

What were the most fun times I had?

What advice would I give myself for the coming year?

What was the biggest break-through?

What was the biggest change?

What did you think most about?

What did I most enjoy thinking about?

What did I most enjoy doing?

What did I most enjoy working on?

What advice would you give your early 2017 self if you could?

What would I have done differently?

What was my most frequent mental state?

How did my mental state vary over time?

Which major goals did I lay the foundations for?

What experience would I love to do all over again?

How did my overall look on life evolve?

How did my overall understanding of life/Being evolve?

What was the biggest problem solved?

What was the funniest moment?

What was the best purchase?

If I could one thing differently, what would it be — and why?

What do you deserve a pat in the back for?

What things made me lose track of time?

What else?!?



Captura de ecrã 2018-12-26, às 14.16.56.png
Captura de ecrã 2018-12-26, às 14.17.00.png
Captura de ecrã 2018-12-26, às 14.17.04.png


Remember Wolf of Wall Street? That was a brilliant movie. Its brilliancy only grows when beyond experiencing it you think of it. The movie is just a stylised snapshot of Jordan Belfort’s life (a real person). The real story is how all that was in the movie is true and he went to jail and he wrote a book about it and the book got made into a movie and he got to hang with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie and Martin Scorcese and the movie was paid by 1MBD a Malaysian company to launder money through in the biggest money laundering scandal of history. That’s the real story. And if you focus on the movie, you lose all of that. Fiction is amazing, it does away with the boring details and gives you stylised highlights, like a trailer, but for life. But life is where it’s at.

But to come to this is to learn how to see beyond a magician’s trick: you need to see where your attention is being drawn to and to counter-act the reflex of looking there. You need to look, to think beyond the frame you were given.

With that in mind let’s talk about the ‘Let Me Be Frank’ video above.

As soon as I saw it I knew it deserved extensive textual analysis. Of course that won’t happen because academics (IYI) react to what is interesting and what might actually have some effect on the world they way vampires react to sunlight. Which of course means the weight must be bore by internet trolls like myself. Very well. I too would prefer to do the 7-thousand take on the Theory of Forms, but so be it.


This is a complex piece. The correct answer here is to tread slowly only acquiring what we can be sure of.

To start off: what do we know?

We know the piece was done on purpose. Things like this don’t just pop into existence. Someone took the time to film it, upload, and more importantly script it. It must be done to fulfil one, or various ends.

What else do we know? This is real, this is actually happening. When disoriented by such a piece it’s easy to believe one is imagining things or going crazy, but not, this is real, this is happening.

We also know that ‘let me be frank’ is a double entendre: let me be Frank (the character) or let me frank (forthcoming).

Ok, that’s what we can get before diving into the transcript. So let’s go after that next. I go it from YouTube, only slighted edited it below.

I know what you want

oh sure they may have tried to separate us but

what we have is too strong is too powerful I mean

after all we shared everything you and I.

I told you my deepest darkest secrets

I showed you exactly what people are capable of,

I shocked you with my

honesty but mostly I challenged you and

made you think and you trusted me even

though you knew you shouldn’t so we’re

not done no matter what anyone says and

besides I know what you want

you want me back

of course some believed

everything and have just been waiting

with bated breath to hear me confess it

all they’re just dying to have me

declare that everything said is true and

that I got what I deserved

wouldn’t that be easy if it was all so

simple only you and I both know it’s

never that simple not in politics and

not in life but you wouldn’t believe the

worst without evidence would you you

wouldn’t rush to judgments without facts

would you? did you? no, not you

you’re smarter than that

anyway all this presumption made for

such an unsatisfying ending and to think

it could have been such a memorable

send-off I mean if you and I’ve learned

nothing else these past years it’s that

in life and art nothing should be off the table

we weren’t afraid not of what

we said not of what we did and we’re

still not afraid because I can promise

you this if I didn’t pay the price for

the things we both know I did do I’m

certainly not gonna pay the price for

the things I didn’t do well oh, of course

they’re gonna say I’m being

disrespectful not playing by the rules

like I ever played by anyone’s rules but

I never did and you loved it anyhow

despite all the poppycock the animosity

the headlines the impeachment without a

trial despite everything despite even my

own death

I feel surprisingly good and my

confidence grows each day that soon

enough you will know the full truth wait

a minute now that I think of it you

never actually saw me die

did you? *puts on ring*

conclusions can be so deceiving

miss me?


Let’s analyse each part in turn:

‘I know what you want
oh sure they may have tried to separate us but
what we have is too strong is too powerful I mean

It is deliberately ambigious who is speaking here. It could be either Kevin Spacey or Frank. Notably, Frank got killed off because of Kevin’s actions.

‘with bated breath to hear me confess it
all they’re just dying to have me
declare that everything said is true and
that I got what I deserved’

Frank is dead in cannon, so this can only be Kevin speaking.

‘it’s never that simple not in politics and not in life’

This is bringing you in, exactly what Frank does: making you a willing accomplice of his unending will-to-power.

‘you wouldn’t rush to judgments without facts
would you? did you? no, not you
you’re smarter than that’

It is obvious what is happening here but it WORKS precisely because it’s obvious. You missed Frank and here he is again, offering what he always does, what you like of him to you.

‘in life and art nothing should be off the table ‘

Here he is planting a seed in your head.

‘if I didn’t pay the price for
the things we both know I did do I’m
certainly not gonna pay the price for
the things I didn’t do well oh, of course’

I.e.: I didn’t do it

‘they’re gonna say I’m being
disrespectful not playing by the rules
like I ever played by anyone’s rules’

This is definitely Kevin speaking. Frank isn’t breaking any rules here. Kevin certainly is.

‘I never did and you loved it’

Kevin is here at the most explicit leveraging of Frank. Letting you admit to yourself why you liked Frank and that that is precisely the same reason why you might take Kevin back.

‘the headlines the impeachment without a trial ‘

This clearly refers to Netflix: Frank was never impeached.

‘wait a minute now that I think of it you
never actually saw me die
did you? *puts on ring*’

This is the pretend sell: having Frank back on the show. You might say no to this. But at this point the real sell, the real goal of this persuasion piece has been met: the seed has been planted in your head of accepting Kevin Spacey in your heart again.

‘Whether or not these are “real” is a question that I am happy to avoid, though these experiences can be so extremely vivid that they can seem more “real” than the “real world.” Much more interesting than the question of what is real is the question of what is causal, i.e. what leads to what. For example, we might decide that our dreams are not “real”, but we must admit that there are real world consequences of having dreams.’

‘Hyperreality is seen as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins.’

To understand this piece we need to distinguish between four people/characters/personas:
(1) Kevin Spacey (the actual man himself)
(2) Kevin Spacey (the public figure, which is played by the actual man himself)
(3) Frank (the HOC character itself)
(4) Frank (the HOC character, as played by Kevin Spacey (the actual man himself))

To make this simpler just think of talk shows: the Kevin Spacey you see there is not the real Kevin Spacey, just another character that Kevin Spacey (the actual man himself) plays.

This video is an amazing piece of persuasion works because it works because it disorients you. It disorients you because it does something that has never been done before. And in your disorientation you cling to any re-orientation you can get, which is precisely the same that he seeded: BRING FRANK/KEVIN BACK.

Why does it disorient you? Because you’re familiar with television but this is entirely new. This isn’t a fourth wall break. You’re used to those. This is an inverted fourth wall break: it isn’t Frank (the HOC character itself) talking to you, from within the show, as you’re used to, in HOC and in other shows, where he is fictional, and safe. It’s Frank acting as Kevin Spacey the public figure, the public figure that exists in real life.

Why did this work? Well, everything gets subverted. Just try to imagine how disorienting it was the first time someone saw a fourth wall break. You don’t need to imagine, it was as disorienting as this was. You are among the only that can say they experienced the very first (certainly not the last) inverted fourth wall break: it wasn’t a TV character talking to you within the TV show, it was a TV character talking to you in something you erroneously thought of as real life – which is why it works, because of your mistake. Talking to you as a public figure you’re familiar with. Why does it work? Because you took the public figure to be real, but it’s fake – as all public figures are – and thus the (fake) character can play it.

The TV show leaked into real life. Is this entirely Kevin Spacey’s machination? Unlikely. The character of Frank lives not only on the TV show, but on the writers mind, and now ours. And now he is leaking into the real and definitely affect real life.

Which brings us to the third possible reading of the title:

Let me be — Frank.


I wanna tell you something. It’s probably the second-most important thing I’ll ever tell you.

I don’t really know how to have you get it, but I think it’s very important that you get it.

Many have tried before me, and failed. Heck, I’ve tried before and failed.

I hope I won’t fail this time.

I’m desperate to get this to you and I don’t know how. So I’m going to try to hit it from a million different angles in hope one lands. In reality eight, but you get what I meant.

If you get what I want to tell you, you got it. I’d be so happy. Get the message, drop the phone. Let’s do this:


A few days back I witnessed something that shook me.

Someone, I can’t remember who it was, was on the telly and they said ‘I don’t like using other people’s words but…’ and then they proceeded to use some idiomatic expression.

I found that preface so raw, rare, and refreshing.

What would happen if people did not use words that weren’t theirs?

This sounds like a fun thought experiment but it’s very serious.

We know that a few words are used with disproportionate frequency. I think the same is true of a few expressions.

We know that words can mean something other than what they say: the ‘How are you? Good, and you? Good. Well, see you later! See you!’ exchange is doing something other than what the words say. In the same way, when people use expressions they’re doing something else than what the words say. In fact I think they are painting over and glossing over what is truly happening for them. They are pointing in the general direction, but enough years of general pointing will have you forgetting where precisely you were pointing to in the first place.


The worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a material object, you do it wordlessly, perceiving your mental model with a sense that has no name. If you want to refer to it, only then do you render it in words.

Instead of looking at the world, you are relying on symbols that were given to you, and they make you feel smart. When you struggle to explain your beliefs about the world (even just in your head), the problem isn’t that you can’t express yourself, it’s that you did not see


New gear: Poetry.

Poetry, the idea of poetry, has always evoked in me both fascination and repugnation. I want to be distant from it and explore it from a safe distance.

Twenty years later from the time I first felt that way, something clicked and I realized it attracts and repulses me in the same way that anything that is relevant to my psychological setup does me: attraction because of the promise of transumation, but which also entails my destruction (and hence the fear, the distancing, the repulse)

Here is a fascinating bit about poetry that hits exactly the right place:

A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking. Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself. To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time — and whenever we do it, we’re not poets. If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed. And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world — unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die. Does that sound dismal? It isn’t. It’s the most wonderful life on earth. Or so I feel.

Two themes stand out in this passage that I’ve seen other poets express as well: the importance of feeling over thinking, and the importance of finding one’s own words.


Gendlin, of course, Gendlin has these two themes as well: directly connecting you to your bodily knowledge (felt sense) of what is the true for you now, over intellectual speculation over what is or could be, and taking the time to find the very precise words that express that. And in that expression transformation.

The thing is that for you to speak new words you have to see new things and for you to see you need to move beyond or temporarily drop your ontology, your preconceived, socially-outside imported, conceptualisation of the space. (Gendlin calls this the unit model.)

You need to, and there is nothing harder than this, forget about what you know and just stare.


Val talked about this too: Kensho and the parable of the phone.


In the Predictive pProcessing model this is relaxing your top-down priors and moving a step ‘lower’ in the hierarchy. Another way of saying this is you’re relaxing the structure you’re imposing on the incoming perceptions. Or changing the quantity of perceptions to imaginations you’re attending to at or over time.


Plato also spoke about this, in his Allegory of the Cave.


DOING things will force you to confront this. Words are useful in that they allow fake magical connections between things. This is what allows the scientific method: you fiat via words that things are connected and then investigate to see whether or not is the case. The investigation is possible, the world bites back, because it does not admit fake magical connections.

It’s easy to think you have non-magical connections. This experiment is illustrative: Artist Asks People to Draw a Bicycle from Memory and Renders the Results


P.S.: Ofc it wouldn’t be a post of mine without telling you how to defend yourself. Because of anti-inductive adversariality I can never give you a straightforwardly articulated Defence Against The Dark Arts course I wish I could – maybe posthumously like von Clausewitz– and distrust all those that say they can but I can give you things with subtle readings so you can connect the dots yourself without losing my advantage. Yes, this way of being confused, of not seeing, 100% gets used against you. If you think via the concepts you have via the words you’re getting from the outside you’re easy to own. If you look with your own eyes, much harder. An example? The recent twitter thread on manipulating procedural outcomes It doesn’t even make sense until you start looking at things instead of looking at what they are called and the symbols for them.

How to Explain Anything to Anyone (Commentary)

This a good post with a simple, compact, solid recipe for how to explain ‘anything to anyone’.

In a past life I used to pitch [company] to [investors] and pitching is half explaining, half seduction; so I have a few ideas in the space.

I can’t comment directly on the post and this is my blog, so here is my comment/revision/proposed changes/the way I think of it:

1. Decide what you want the audience to believe
2. Find out what the audience believes
3. Express the first in terms of the second

I like the description above because it decomposes explanation in terms of change of beliefs.

 Decide what you want the audience to believe

If the conversation goes the way you want, what are the beliefs that the audience does not currently hold but that they will come to hold?

 Find out what the audience believes

As in the original post, ‘Ask them’. It’s a sorting problem. You need to have a model of broadly what categories of distance from the target beliefs there are, and to be able to ask questions that disambiguate between those pretty hard.

This is like searching for a word in the dictionary. Open the dictionary at half way, then if it is further open at half-way between now and the end, and keep doing that.

I’ve always asked about people’s background — work or study —, and what they’ve heard about the space. This is usually enough to sort them. If you need more, you can ask about familiarity with specific concepts.

The background quesiton is very non-threathening, and people can feel dumb by having you ask whether they know something and having to say they don’t. If they seem to be saying ‘yes’ but falsely offer them a ‘broad overview’ of the field, either historical or conceptual. If they jump on it, that’s what you need to go for.

 Express the first in terms of the second

A broad explanation isn’t the only thing that works, however.

Once you have a model of what they believe and in what shape they believe it you can refactor the beliefs you want them to have into that shape and express them such.

You can go breadth-first here, explaining the whole area of relevant beliefs in successive detail, at each step taking a step further from what you gave them. Or, you can go depth-first, by iterating on a concept or belief until they nailed that, and then doing it for the next one.

This comes to the preference of the listener, and what level of clarity/detail they’re aiming for or comfortable with.

Notably the second will make it very obvious if the concepts are unclear to yourself, which is often the case, so people shy away from it.

Words, words, words everywhere, and not a thought to be thought

“The individual words in language name objects—sentences are combinations of such names. In this picture of language we find the roots of the following idea: Every word has a meaning. This meaning is correlated with the word. It is the object for which the word stands.” — St. Augustine

I won’t lose much time with the picture theory of language above. It’s wrong. Language, be it words, sentences, or paragraphs are just expression of felt senses. They’re just pointers. Reality is this unitary ‘sum of all things’ it and language just serves as pointers pointing to a particular aspect of reality. Of course this aspect doesn’t exist by itself but exists only because an epistemic agent picks it out from the rest, distinguishes it from the rest, as meaningful for him, and then as meaningful for others, via language.

Ok, cool, so that’s done. The theory above isn’t precisely wrong, it’s just incomplete. It is a good description of technical languages. In technical languages a lot of work is done to make sure that each word or symbol has a matching concept, and no more than one matching concept. Lexical clarity. A lot of work is done to make sure the right, or most useful for the current tasks, concepts are picked out. Conceptual clarity. But the point is that this takes work, to do and to maintain. It is not the default state.

Next, use-mention distinction. Quoting wikipedia:

“The use–mention distinction is a foundational concept of analytic philosophy, according to which it is necessary to make a distinction between using a word (or phrase) and mentioning it, and many philosophical works have been “vitiated by a failure to distinguish use and mention”.

The distinction between use and mention can be illustrated for the word cheese:

Use: Cheese is derived from milk.
Mention: ‘Cheese’ is derived from the Old English word ċēse.

People fuck this up all over. It is hard to read the symbol as merely a meaningless pointer and so people don’t. Call the cake you’re selling ’The Best Cake In The World’ and people will let the meaning slip inside their minds. ‘But is it the best cake in the world?’ The question is there so they won and you lost. It’s the same as if the cake was called ‘sponge cake’ or ‘chocolate cake’ or ‘Anne’ or ‘Joe’. The name of the cake does not necessarily give you any info about the taste, the components, or anything really, about the cake. You can call your pet rose ‘Cake’, and nothing of substance would change. A flower by any other name, except beat this into your head because you’re getting screwed.”

Now, arbitrage. Wikipedia:

“In economics and finance, arbitrage is the practice of taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets: striking a combination of matching deals that capitalize upon the imbalance, the profit being the difference between the market prices. When used by academics, an arbitrage is a (imagined, hypothetical, thought experiment) transaction that involves no negative cash flow at any probabilistic or temporal state and a positive cash flow in at least one state; in simple terms, it is the possibility of a risk-free profit after transaction costs. For example, an arbitrage opportunity is present when there is the opportunity to instantaneously buy something for a low price and sell it for a higher price.”

Basically if a guy is buying something for 10 quid and another for 5 quid you can get yourself in the middle and make 5 quid. If someone incorrectly thinks that the name of a thing changes the thing you can get yourself in the middle and exploit that.


“A word’s denotation is our conscious definition of it. You can think of this as the set of things in the world with membership in the category defined by that word; or as a set of rules defining such a set. (Logicians call the former the category’s extension into the world.)

A word’s connotation can mean the emotional coloring of the word. AI geeks may think of it as a set of pairs, of other concepts that get activated or inhibited by that word, and the changes to the odds of recalling each of those concepts.”

Ok finally, sorry about all the necessary concepts.

Now that we have those we can see what is happening: arbitrageurs that don’t have your best interest at heart use the use-mention distinction to slide in meaning via connotation.

“Trump is a literal fascist” cannot be read denotatively with a straight face, it is meant to be read as “Trump is a Literal Fascist” or as “Trump is a ‘Literal Fascist’”, where “’Literal Fascist’” here is a name. Like “The Best Cake” or “Joe” or “Anne”.

Autistic nerds will discuss whether he is a literal fascist by looking up the definition of fascism, the history of fascist regimes, and entirely miss the point. The point is that the idea is sitting on your mind and it gives people excuse to coordinate. It’s a coordination-beacon. “Let us tell this literally but passable lie and in doing so together give each other an honest signal that we’re willing to coordinate against this person”.

Of course this gets used all over leading to semantic hyperinflation. A word gets used as a coordination-beacon in more and more cases to send subterranean messages and its meaning inflates to the point of meaninglessness (‘rational’, ‘nazi’).

Nerds get adequately confused.

How long has this been happening for and how long have nerds been confused by this? Well…

“A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.” — Confucius, 551 B.C. – 479 B.C





P.S. Not even 2 h after I posted this: here. A UN resolution called “combatting the glorification of Nazism”. US voted against. Does that mean the US is PRO- the glorification of Nazism!?!??!?!??!?! IT’S JUST A NAME, IGNORE THE NAME, SEE THE CONTENT, THIS IS HOW THEY’RE OWNING YOU. No one gets owned this way you say? Then why not call it resolution 4830? Exactly.

*Of course this just goes on and on. ‘Racist’ (a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that one’s own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others) is really a ‘you’re bad and we’re now coordinating against you’ call to coordination. Of course once people get wise to the trick the thing moves. Now racism is ‘experiencing systematic oppresion’. Like a political-language-for-coordination arms race. And of course, this.

War, and why it matters to you

The ideal war is the one your enemy doesn’t know was waged. This statement is clearly true and should give you pause as it is as true to those that hold you for an enemy.

Enemies are hard to think about. War is hard to think about. Imagine for a second your mother stabbing your father — you immediately pull back, viscerally, unsconsiously.

And yet, if you don’t refuse to think about it, if you let the instinctual flinch win over you, you are utterly defenseless. You’ve lost.

This is not a neo-[whatever] post and I’m not saying you are facing actual war or actual enemies. What I am saying is that you get into adversarial or mixed-sum situations, all the time.

And you do so because everyone does. It is not the case that everyone’s best interest always coincides with your best interest. This is the world you live in, buckle up.

With that out of the way, here’s the nugget: assymetric warfare. Not the typical dictionary definition but the idea of attacking along undefendend, unexpected, or surprising vectors. When people think of war they still think of two countries making a declaration that they are going to war and then spitting armies at each other.

No. Proper war is unnanounced. You don’t even know it is happing for sure. You just have a nagging suspicion, or something-is-wrong-but-I-don’t-know-what and ‘Am I going crazy?’. This is the kind of war you fight.

It should be obvious you need to understand what are the current undefended, unknown about vectors. The attacks that matter won’t come via direct words. Words are meaningless because people know they are scrutinized. So they got goodhearted. I promise you your enemy will say he isn’t so loudly and proudly.

The ones waging war against you that matter are not the ones you know are doing so. The ones that are waging war over a vector that makes it unclear it is even happening. There is a set of people that are, that you don’t know about, that you are undefended against. And of course, I can’t talk about the cutting-edge attack vectors, lest I become unable to defend myself.

I don’t want to leave you without nothing, so here is someone that was wise enough to have knowledge and unwise enough to share it, to your benefit: Bryan Caplan’s The Missing Moods is the ideal example of the correct kind of thinking. He found and shared a vector that isn’t good-hearted yet. But it will be, as soon as it becomes common knowledge that it isn’t. This is the nature of the game, it is anti-inductive. As soon as something gets to common knowledge, the signal is broken. You need to keep moving forward.

Good luck.

Read this if you can’t tell what you feel

I track my psychological development pretty closely. I’m not sure when it started but it has been an ongoing process ever since. I decided I wanted to move along on that vector and started tracking it hard.

The way it works is pretty predictable by now: I notice something – either I’m very puzzled about something, something doesn’t add up; or I sense more is possible. It feels like there is something I’m missing, that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s like the sensation of the fish that is for the first time unclearly, slowly, realizing he has always been living surrounded by water, but he can’t tell yet that that is what is going on. He simply senses something is fishy.

It’s like you wake up and light is coming and it’s blinding and you’re starting to see the shapes of things around you, but they haven’t yet congealed in anything you can clearly identify.

It’s like, you just know, somehow, in the core of your being, that there is a color everyone else sees that you can’t see, you aren’t properly compressing information, you don’t know how you know, but you know it, you just know something is missing. You’re not getting everything, there is something amiss. You feel a hole, the absence of something; you can’t say what is missing, yet, but you know something is missing. Like perceiving a negative space.

And, whatever it is, you “can’t just reach out and take it. You live in three dimensions and it’s calling to you from a 4th or 5th or Nth dimension.”

And the way it usually works is that it is either within range or not. And if I am I will keep vortexing into it, circling it, getting closer and closer, trying to get a better view, until I finally, finally, get it, or it learn it, or it becomes obvious. And if I’m not I will naturally check back in, weeks, months, years(!) out, as the world naturally, automatically, reminds me of it.

K, so that is how my psychological process works.

Let’s talk about emotions now.

I first noticed something was fishy when someone posted on the LW forum about someone that had great insight into their emotions. I didn’t know why at the time but I was very intrigued – I’ve since found that my subconscious (or whatever you wanna call it) throws me bones like this and I better take them. (I have a complicated theory that you are prohibited from directly knowing some facts about yourself which causes blind spots but relevant sub-minds are still acting in your best interest and thus try to give you the necessary information but because they can’t directly does so it comes out in these weird ways – visions, dreams, fantasies, hypnagogia, weird curiosities, intriguing words or media, etc. But that is for another time.)

So I investigated a bit at the time and came to believe I definitely had discernible emotional reactions but not discernible emotional phenomenology: call me stupid and I’ll get big and red, but I won’t notice anything changing on the inside.

And I think this initial diagnosis was correct. I could not distinguish what was happening. I even thought nothing was happening. Maybe, on a good day, I could muster enough self-awareness to be able to articulate ‘I feel bad’ or ‘I feel good’ but to a large extent I was a victim of my emotions and could not say anything more clear than generally hand-waving at valence and intensity.

So I did a bunch of work then and there, wrote a bunch, read a bunch of books – this was 5 years ago – but without too much luck. Luckily this led me to find Focusing. Now focusing was a really important find because I could now articulate very complex, large felt senses that had been sitting with me for years. It also gave me a very visceral sense of how one can absolutely be missing a very important dimension in their experience. Imagine you can’t judge whether or not people are attractive. Now try to understand the world and reach your goals. Yeah.

Anyways, so recently I came to think about emotions again. Not sure why. I found out the thing I had had a name: Alexithymia.

This might seem like nothing but it is a huge win. It means you can go into a vortex of scientific studies and try to use their theory or experiments to experiment with yourself.

Unfortunately I didn’t find anything too relevant in the literature. But I did figure something out: I could triangulate how specific emotions felt. I read the emotional thesaurus for physical descriptions of emotions and would try to infer from my body posture. I noticed I could look at my face in a mirror and see which emoji my face looked like most and then see the name of that emoji. I could look at an emotion wheel and see how I felt and say what emotions it definitely wasn’t.

I kept doing this for days and days on end, months.

At the same time, unrelatedly, I was keeping a diary. My entries were telegraphic, describing which things I did in what order. At some point I gained the ability to add smiley faces next to the entries. Then I shifted my intention into diaring extensively about how things felt.

I kept tracking how many unique emotion words I used and how many of those I hadn’t ever used before. This way I could see progress. My concepts were also getting clear: before my only association with terror/horror was that it was a kind of movie; now I could precisely tell how terror felt very distinct from horror.

I still suck. I frequently stay at level 1 of the hierarchy of requests and collapse from emotional exhaustion without knowing why. But now I know I don’t know. Before, I’d just feel worse and worse and then I’d go to sleep. Now I know I’m collapsing from emotional exhaustion which means that there was something I felt or needed I didn’t figure out which means there is a target for my investigation. I went from not knowing I don’t know to knowing I don’t know.

Why am I writing this? Well, part selfish, part selfless. Selfish: I’ve been through such protocols many times now and always adapt to the new set-point. I’m creating this artifact as a way to remember this particular win.

Self-less: In addition sometimes you find a piece that speeds up your research by years, saving you years of trouble. I just found a piece that tells me a huge part of what I found out: how unpacking emotions causes you to perceive distinctions in negative emotions which allow you to self-regulate and devise better strategic paths.

And maybe, just maybe, I can save someone like me a bunch of years.