Sunday, March 22, 2009

Force + persuasion

"Dealing with men by force is as impractical as dealing with nature by persuasion -- which is the policy of savages, who rule men by force and plead with nature with prayers, incantations, and bribes." Ayn Rand, "The Metaphysical Versus the Manmade."

Friday, March 20, 2009


Recently been listening to a book entitled "The Female Brain." Some valuable information, but also the same old reductionism that always bothers me -- foremost, the idea that we are motivated to do things by the chemical response we get from them. Falling in love, for instance, is described as a desire for the euphoric chemicals that surge into our system when we see the person.

On closer inspection, though, this view looks a little silly to me.

The main question is, "why do we like those chemicals?" At first glance, the answer might seem self-evident. But I don't think it is. The chemicals themselves are value-neutral. Our bodies might as well not like them as like them. Why shouldn't we prefer chemicals that make us sad to chemicals that make us happy, unless something else, something deeper than the chemicals, causes us to seek the feelings they give us?

What in us makes us decide to seek "happiness" instead of sadness? Why do we prefer euphoria to depression?

I don't think we necessarily have a clear answer. But chalking all our impulses up to different euphoric chemicals just begs the real question -- because "i seek hot girls" and "i seek the chemicals that my body gives me when I see a hot girl" leave the same open question -- why do we want anything at all? And why is it more reasonable to believe the mysterious unknown cause makes us want seratonin which makes us want hot girls than to believe that the mysterious unknown cause just makes us want hot girls?

I don't think it is -- but I think that reductionism of this type is nothing more than question begging.

And until scientists are able to figure out what in us makes us want things and causally prove it by giving someone the chemical that makes them want a cheese sandwich, I'm still willing to describe it as I subjectively experience it -- as free choice.


"The love of knowledge is a sort of madness." -- lewis, out of the silent planet.