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Everything posted by Dufresne

  1. Test your Autism Spectrum Quotient

    Maybe our AQ qualifies us for membership in the Asperger Social Club, a social club for those with "social communication difficulties". I wonder what they do at those clubs...
  2. I recently watched a documentary about autism and found this online test. My AQ is 32, what's yours? Disclaimer: I don't know whether this test is scientifically sound. If you know a better test then please let me know.
  3. I don't know because I don't know this reaction...I mean situations in which all members of a class of entities have a specific property but not because of an aspect of their identities but because of the process in which they came into existence (e.g. through a process of production or evolution). The above-mentioned red piece of wine gum does not look like a strawberry because it is red or because it tastes sweet or because it weighs less than a kilogram. The property (i.e. the piece being red) is the result of the actions of another class of entities (i.e. the producer who made the wine gum). If I understand Betsy's view of the process of induction correctly then in such situations one can't induce the general statement "All red pieces look like strawberries" because the property's cause "lies outside" of the entity (i.e. exists apart from the entity; is not part of the entity's identity). If Betsy claims, however, that she can use her process of induction in such situations then my view of her process is flawed and then the next step for me would be to find out why.
  4. Strictly speaking, this is false. Eyes develop during pregnancy and this is caused by the embryo's DNA. But then one could ask why human beings have a DNA which causes two eyes to develop during pregnancy? This would have to be explained in evolutionary terms.
  5. My question is whether your view of induction covers scenarios like the ones I have talked about in which more than one class of entities (e.g. the producers of wine gum and pieces of wine gum) is involved. One could certainly ask (and answer) the question: “Why do they produce red pieces that look like strawberries?” But one would have to look at both pieces of wine gum and the producers (multiple classes of entities) to explain the correlation (if one doesn’t just generalize without attempting to identify causes).
  6. I do not see "why we engage in the process in the first place" (emphasis mine). Different people can perform the same action for different reasons. I think it makes sense to explicitly distinguish between a process of consciousness and the product of such a process. In this context I would distinguish between the process of generalization ("generalization" being another word for "induction") and the generalization (i.e. a general statement such as "All men are mortal" or "2+2=4"). Are you claiming that one should perform each generalization for the purpose of identifying causes? What about a general statement like "2+2=4"?
  7. And to take it one step further: How do you induce the law of causality? How do you prove that every entity acts in accordance with its identity?
  8. But doesn't finding a causal mechanism itself require an induction? For example: If we want to reach the generalization "all men are mortal" then how do we solve this problem by seeking to reach the generalization "all men consist of biological cells"? The latter generalization would have to be reached by induction, too. Don't get me wrong, discovering a causal mechanism is great and it's a lot better than attempting to induce by enumeration. But in my opinion this approach shifts the problem to another place without solving it.
  9. Xylitol

    Does anyone in this forum use xylitol as a replacement for sugar in his beverages and/or food? According to what I have read, xylitol not only lacks the negative effects of normal sugar on one's teeth but can also prevent damage to one's teeth. (Dental caries is caused by acids which are produced by certain kinds of small organisms (e.g. a kind of bacterium called "streptococcus mutans"). These organisms need certain forms of sugar but are unable to metabolize xylitol (and other forms of sweeteners).)
  10. Couple Wants Deaf Child

    Yeah, I know such children.
  11. SkySails

    I have been following the progress of SkySails over the last couple of months. SkySails is a company that is developing a "towing kite wind propulsion system". It can be used to reduce energy costs for ships like cargo vessels and superyachts. Their website can be found here.
  12. SkySails

    It may appear like a step backwards at first but why shouldn't we use two energy sources instead of one if that results in higher profits?
  13. Factors influencing happiness

    Suppose you had a record of all emotions and all feelings of an individual across a period of weeks, months or years. Suppose you knew, for each concrete emotion or feeling, the reaction’s intensity and whether the reaction was positive or negative. An intense emotion of joy would be recorded in the form of a big positive number such as 10. An intense negative emotion of anger would be recorded in the form of a big negative number such as -10. A mild form of pain would be recorded as a -2 and so on. Based on this huge record of numbers, would it be possible to tell whether the individual was happy at a given point in time? I am asking because I would like to know what happiness depends on. I am not interested in how to cause positive emotions and feelings or in how to avoid negative emotions and feelings. I am assuming that this is a separate question. Does happiness only depend on one’s emotions and feelings or is there another factor that I am not aware of? Does happiness depend on feelings at all? I have noticed, for example, that happiness is possible despite intense exhaustion. How can this be explained? Is happiness really possible DESPITE pain or does pain have no influence on happiness at all? Or is it just the case that really intense positive emotions cancel out exhaustion? Would it be possible for an individual to achieve happiness if one could turn off his capability to experience emotions but would induce a lot of pleasure and avoid pain altogether? I am basically asking all these specific questions because I would like to know in general what role emotions and feelings play and whether there is another factor that I have left out.
  14. Factors influencing happiness

    I recently read two newspaper articles and did something else (I don't remember what) between reading the two articles. I estimate that I started reading the second article a couple of minutes after finishing the first article. I merely skimmed through both articles. I believe it was shortly after finishing the second article or maybe even before when my mind created a connection between the two articles. At this point I did not know what exactly the similarity was. I just "saw" some similarity. I chose to identify the similarity (the common denominator) but I could have chosen not to identify it.I also made the following experiment: I went to my kitchen and tried to find out whether or not my mind could automatically integrate my visual perceptions of the things in my kitchen with my concepts of those things. You can try that out yourself. Just quickly look at a number of things and try to invent a story around those things. I'm not aware of giving my subconscious mind an order to recognize instances of concepts. I just look at a thing and the word associated with the concept automatically pops up. I did not notice any conscious processing going on.
  15. Google just as bad as Microsoft...

    A true cut-throat competition.
  16. Factors influencing happiness

    Although I still think that the integration would weaken over time, I now think this is a more long-term effect. The short-term effect of a lack of new achievements will simply be that the components of the integration (i.e. the mental contents) will be activated less frequently and therefore the joy previously experienced as a response to those activated components will be experienced less frequently. This alone would explain the experience of declining happiness.
  17. Factors influencing happiness

    (Bold in the last paragraph mine.) The three bold fundamental value-judgments that you mentioned sound a lot like self-esteem. Would you say that in your experience that happiness is the emotional form in which a person experiences high self-esteem (and depression analogously the emotional form in which a person experiences low self-esteem)? Or would you say that other evaluations are also relevant to happiness? I am asking because Scott mentioned (in another thread) a so-called "cognitive triad" consisting of views about oneself, the world and one's future. As I understood it, those views underly three fundamental value-judgments that determine whether or not a person will be depressed. Would you say that happiness is the fundamental emotion resulting from the opposite, positive conclusions in these three areas of value-judgment? So that a person will be most happy when he concludes: "I am good, the world is good and my future is bright!" And that he will be most depressed when he concludes: "I am bad, the world is bad and my future is hopeless!"
  18. Factors influencing happiness

    Taking into account what I have learned about happiness thus far I have created a new theory about the psychological dynamics of happiness that explains all of my personal observations. Here it is: The human mind can automatically integrate mental content. It automatically integrates sensations into perceptions. It can automatically integrate perceptions with existing concepts (i.e. recognizing instances of existing concepts). It can automatically integrate observations into generalizations (i.e. inductive reasoning). It can automatically integrate observations with existing generalizations (i.e. deductive reasoning). A person with a paranoid personality, for example, has a concept “man”. In his childhood he has had countless experiences of human beings hurting him. His subconscious mind automatically integrates the concrete observations of individual human beings into the generalization “Mankind consists of people with bad intentions.” The paranoid person may not even be aware of this subconscious, automatic form of (erroneous) inductive reasoning. But he will become aware of it in the form of his emotional and behavioral responses to the people he encounters in his daily life. When he meets a new person, his mind automatically identifies the person as an instance of the concept “man”, and automatically integrates his paranoid generalization about man (i.e. the basic paranoid premise underlying his personality) with his concrete observation. The result is the subconscious thought: “This person has bad intentions.” He will respond to this automatic thought with fear (maybe even anger) and react to that person with caution, defensiveness, guarding his privacy, etc. My theory is that the same fundamental mechanism of consciousness (i.e. the mind automatically integrating content) not only explains personalities like the paranoid personality but also what Betsy calls “metaphysical” and what Scott calls “fundamental” emotions such as happiness, depression and the shorter-term moods. When a person, for example, starts playing a complex game he has never played before and has a small success during the game then he will recognize it as a small success (e.g. “I am good at aspect A of the game.”). The next time he has a small success (e.g. “I am good at aspect B of the game.”) he will also respond with joy but additionally, his subconscious mind will slowly start to form a new, in the beginning very weak, integration (e.g. “I am good at this game!”). Each additional success strengthens this integration. But I believe that in addition to this strengthening, a new success also activates – to some extent – the other mental content that is part of the integration, triggering the emotional responses to that mental content. So in effect when a person has a strong sense of “I am good at this game!” a new success will not only result in joy but also activate, to some extent, the individual components of the integration and he will respond with an additional, different form of joy (i.e. a fundamental, less intense but more broad, emotion). Now what is possible in a game can also be possible in regard to one’s entire life. The “metaphysical” or “fundamental” value-judgments that Betsy wrote about (“I’m the kind of person who can achieve things.”, “I am a capable person.” and “I am a good person.”) are the results of strong integrations of countless experiences of success. Now each time a person with a strong sense of self-value experiences a success, his mind will automatically integrate his experience of the concrete success with his experiences of his past successes, activating – to some extent – the mental contents that gave rise to past joys and thus result in additional joy. And the person experiencing the small success will not only experience the joy in response to the new success but also a less intense but more broad form of joy. And that’s what we call “happiness”. This theory of fundamental emotions (e.g. happiness, depression and moods) explains why happiness takes some time to develop and takes some time to disappear. It also explains why I entered my last happy period and why I left it. As Betsy wrote “You can only coast so far on past accomplishments […]”. If less new evidence of personal value is accumulated, the integration underlying the fundamental self-evaluation probably weakens like a muscle that atrophies by lack of use. And this will be experienced in the form of declining happiness. Now please feel free to tear my theory (which is actually just a more verbatim version of what was already written) apart.
  19. Factors influencing happiness

    Multiple standards of value can coexist in a person's mind. A person can have a standard of value for romantic partners, a standard of value for works of art, a standard of value for jobs, etc. If an individual evaluates facts based on his standards, chooses his values accordingly and achieves those values then he experiences joy, right? A person can have an unrealistic standard of value for his own life but realistic standards of value for other facts such as romantic partners, works of art, jobs, etc. So if happiness was produced by a series of joys - rather than a person's evaluation of himself according to his standard of value for his own life - then happiness would be possible to a person with an unrealistic standard of value for his own life. If, however, happiness was an emotion caused by positive self-evaluations based on a separate standard of value then happiness would not be possible to that person because of his unrealistic standard of value and despite the countless joys he experiences.I am basically asking all these questions because I don't know what's wrong with me. In September 2007 I started work on an interesting, challenging and financially very rewarding project for a new customer. I remember the day when I got the contract. I remember leaving my customer's office filled with joy. I was excited but I was not happy that day. Happiness slowly built up during the weeks that followed. Work on the project was exhausting and I had to overcome a number of difficult challenges and was under constant pressure to get the project done on time. At the end of 2007 I completed the project successfully. But since then my happiness slowly vanished. I'm not depressed but I'm not as happy as I was then. I want that happiness back but I don't know how I got it in the first place. Was it because I experienced an unusually high amount of joy during the work on the project? That was my first thought. Therefore I started working harder on my other work after the project was done. But the happiness didn't come back. Why not? Did I not work hard enough? If I knew the mechanism by which happiness can be produced then I would know how to make better choices. Now a number of people in this thread suggested that happiness is in fact an emotional reaction to self-evaluation. But if that were the case then why did my happiness vanish? Am I a worse person now than I was during my work on the project and thus feel less happy? I'm not aware of any changes in my character. That's why I am skeptical about the claim that happiness is an emotion based on self-evaluation.
  20. Factors influencing happiness

    This is a surprise. How do you know that? Is there any literature that you could recommend?
  21. Factors influencing happiness

    Emotions are psychosomatic responses to value-judgements. Suppose happiness was an emotion. Then it would be based on a value-judgment. And this value-judgment could be based on an unrealistic standard of value. Suppose an individual’s standard of value for his own life was this: “A good life consists of earning at least $200,000 annually, having the mind of a brilliant scientist and being married to a Dagny Taggart.” Given such an unrealistic standard of value, this individual would not be happy even if he made enough money to enable a comfortable living, if he had a mind capable enough to learn and achieve his values and being together with a woman he loves. Despite the countless joys in his life, he would not achieve happiness. But suppose happiness was not an emotion. Suppose happiness was a state of consciousness produced by countless instances of joy. Then even with an unrealistic standard of value for his own life, an individual could achieve values and goals and thus experience joy and be happy. Does anyone know of a case in which a person has achieved happiness by correcting an unrealistic standard of value but not having changed in any other way? If happiness was an emotion then this should be possible, right?
  22. Factors influencing happiness

    At first I would like to get two potential misunderstandings out of the way: (1) When I use the word “happiness” in this thread, I do not mean an emotion. Emotions are psychosomatic responses to value-judgements. Emotions (such as fear) can appear suddenly (e.g. within a second) and usually disappear in a short amount of time (e.g. within a minute). I know introspectively that happiness builds up over a long period of time (in my experience within weeks) and also vanishes over a longer period of time. In that sense happiness is not an emotion. (2) When I use the words “positive” and “negative” in the context of emotions and feelings, I mean that a “positive” response is one that one wishes to experience (e.g. joy) and a “negative” response is one that one does not wish to experience (e.g. guilt). I don’t claim that the capability to experience any kind of response is bad. Now I would like to point out a general observation before I ask another question: Values can exist in a means-ends relationship. A tool, for example, can be a means to products constructed with that tool. The products can be means to obtaining food. And so on. One could respond to the acquisition of the tool with joy. But once one owns the tool one can use it to create the products. And one could respond to those facts with a number of instances of joy. So the value which is a means to other values can be a two-fold source of joy: (1) the joy of acquiring the value and (2) the joys of acquiring the other values. Now my question: Is the word “happiness” a collective noun refering to countless instances of joy that one experiences due to the fact that one has achieved a number of fundamental values (i.e. the means to countless other values, e.g. reason, self-esteem, purpose) or does the word “happiness” refer to a phenomenon that psychologically exists in addition to joy? If my question is not clear enough then here is a metaphor to maybe illuminate the difference that I mean: Suppose a theatre is filled with individuals. At the end of the performance there is an applause. The word “applause” is a collective noun refering to the sum of cheerful sounds of each individual. The applause does not exist in addition to the cheerful sounds. The applause IS those sounds. But if there was a device in the theatre measuring the overall sound level and that created a sound of its own once a certain level is reached then all those sounds created by the people in the theater exist in addition to the sound created by the device.
  23. Lapses in the process of self-improvement

    It seems to me that you have spent a lot of time thinking about how to introspect effectively. And although I didn't understand a lot of what you wrote, the results sound interesting. But rather than share my own methods of introspection I would suggest - if you haven't done that already - to not just look at the means of introspection but also at the ends. Do you have a standard of value for introspections? What is a good introspection? How can you use introspections to improve your life? Could you become more effective at introspection by shifting your focus to those introspections that matter most to your life and happiness?
  24. Weather

    From time to time I read the following type of argument from people arguing against global warming: Since short-range predictions of the weather are unreliable, long-range predictions are even less reliable (e.g. “How can we be certain of the weather 50 years from now, without having any idea of the weather 10 days from now?”) Is a prediction of the global mean temperature 50 years from now a weather forecast? What is “weather”? To me it makes sense to ask: “How is the weather in London?” But it doesn’t make sense to ask: “How is the weather on earth?” When I think about weather, I think about relatively local phenomena such as clouds, rain, snow, local temperature, local wind speed, etc. Another question: What, literally speaking, is the use of knowing the global mean temperature 50 years from now? Suppose we knew with certainty that this temperature would be 10 degrees higher than it is right now. Why should I care? I don’t mean this as a rhetorical question.