Happiness and sadness are fleeting for most people. If you chase happiness to the exclusion of boredom and fulfilling a greater purpose there will be a reciprocal crash where there can be no happiness. This is why Epictetus cautioned us to always view happiness with just as much skepticism as sadness. Not to become boorish, but to maintain a state of being that you can rely on every day.
To that point, intellectuals have always had this struggle. When you value mastery over purpose and you don't find a point of tranquility in your life there will always be a struggle. Intellectuals and smart people often spend a lot of time worrying on externalities they can't control. It is the curse of high awareness / intellectual capability. There is only so much you can possibly change and influence. This is why being a billionaire doesn't drastically alter your happiness. Even with billions of dollars you are still stuck in a mortal shell with the same brains and bodies as the rest of us.
Also, MENSA is a self selected group and I have never held a high opinion of it.
No, we never had that many people reading philosophy, trying to practice some kind of vision or another, asking questions and the like.
I think the current tendancy is a symptom of people being freer to ask themself questions and do something else than survive. So we hear about it more.
Anybody looking at the astonishing phenomenom called life will be stunned and desoriented. It's part of the deal. And with internet, we can now not only express that in mass, but we can share with each others the result of our soul searching.
I believe the current "crisis" is actually good news. People feel lost, not because they were not before, but because for once, they have the opportunity to look around.
That doesn't make it less painful though, and of course, anybody in that state pays for it. Growing as a specie has a price.
To me life philosophy is just another way of saying religion. And people in the west I think are slowly but surely losing their religion. Religions used to give people purpose, now the silent agnostics and atheists need to figure out how to have purpose in their lives.
I definitely agree with everything else you're saying though.
Have to disagree. Religion, for most, is imposed. Some come to it by choice, but for most it a given that provides context, community, and a set of rules to operate with.
Religion is also dogmatic and static and to make it relevant to modern society often requires lots of obviously inconsistent double think.
We're replacing religion with science and the rule of law. These might be poor substitutes for some of the context that religion provides but at least they are mutable and not quite so incoherent. And these slowly adjust.
Similarly, a life philosophy is mutable. I find it difficult to believe that you go through life with a static life philosophy. Things change, you experience stuff, and that forces you to change.
I think this is a narrowminded view of religions in general, based solely on how various regressive factions have co-opted certain Abrahamic religions to justify their regressive politics. Other religions exist, and the even the ones in question can be "relevant to modern society" by allowing them the be less "dogmatic and static". Conservatives are drawn to religion because it's traditional, not because accepting religion forces to to be conservative. Plenty of scientific and liberal minded people are able to see the value in a belief in some greater order to the universe that comes with a strong community of individuals with shared beliefs.
I recognize that religion has hurt a lot of people, but that doesn't make it useless or inherently evil.
>We're replacing religion with science and the rule of law.
The good parts of religion, the ones which guide your life philosophy and contribute to your "Sense of Direction and Fulfillment", are totally separate from those two and can easily coexist.
Activist atheists tend to paint religious folk as just mindless sheep blindly bumping through ceremonies because their parents did. It's similar to how anti-drug education tries to paint, say, cannabis as just this ritual people do out of peer pressure and no other reason. Then, when you actually experience cannabis for yourself, you suddenly realize, oh. People do this for a reason!
It's fashionable to talk about how it's so good to be non-judgmental. Come join our rave, bro, everyone here's so open-minded and chill! But what I found is that those groups are just as judgmental as religious folks, only the rules are unwritten. Which makes it that much worse. I love how in proper Christianity, the baseline assumption is that everyone is utterly, hopelessly depraved (yes, even the pastor). Only when you start from a common assumption like that (I find) can you actually start to realize a truly welcoming and non-judgmental society.
One common thing religious people tend to share is that they all think their own interpretation of their religion is the right one. Is there any reason to believe your use of "proper christianity" here is any different from that?
Besides that, though, I found your comment about how christianity makes the assumption that everyone is utterly, hopelessly depraved very good. I agree with you, but I haven't considered it in that way before.
I'm an ex-christian, because I've found I can't bring myself to believe in the supernatural, but I still see valuable things in the religion.
I don't think that you need to start off with the assumption that everyone is hopelessly depraved in order to have a non-judgemental society. I'm not even sure that's really desirable, or how that would work. But I definitely agree that we tend to be too judgemental and ego-driven.
That said, I think certain denominations do a better job of spreading Christianity. Some liberal denominations seem to think they can win hearts and minds by being bland enough. Who would go to a YMCA with a preacher, when they could just go to a regular YMCA instead? See Proverbs 14:12; James 4:4.
Since behaviors, jugments and communities are subject to dispute, it's only natural people will attack their source and motivation.
If you kill somebody, you are hated. If you kill somebody in the name of something, that something is what's been hated.
You're describing culture, not religion. The two are often intertwined but are not the same.
"What you are describing is gravity, it's not the same thing"
Does that imply some kind of practice ? Does that imply veneration ? Does that imply you hold something sacred ? Does that imply you have dogmatic principles ? Does that imply you have a mythology ? Does it mean you need a crowd ? Do you have an external reference driving your conduct, your view of the world, your morality ? And most importantly, should they all resolve around the same source ?
Having a life phylosophy doesn't seem to be attached to most of those, and doesn't limit itself to one source. And a lot of those don't seem to necessarly imply a life philosophy.
Besides, there is a huge difference between religion as it's designed, and religion as it's lived. Not to mention people of the same religion disagree on the living AND on the design part.
But I do agree with you on one point: religion used to answer to those pesky deep life questions for everybody. Now that our source of points of view is much broader, we do miss the easy sense of purpose that was provided by many religions.
People use religion for the purpose of getting easy answers, but does it mean that the purpose of religion is to give easy answers to people ?
Religion can be seen as a cultural phenomenom, or a tool, and it doesn't look like the same thing at all depending which you choose.
I'm pretty sure that any tool you give to humans, they will turn it into a cultural phenomenom.
The population has been systematically distracted. Chomsky talks about how well read British working class laborers were in the 19th century: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CFwSQiTu3I
The work cited based on a huge study: https://www.amazon.com/Intellectual-Life-British-Working-Cla...
Those are not opposite.
We never had that many people.
I recall a comedic/editorial column in the old Omni magazine about MENSA. (I think it was the early 80's) The author knew he couldn't qualify for MENSA membership, so he got together with a friend, then he phoned the organization's office and asked if he and his friend, with their IQ scores added together, could qualify for a joint membership. The secretary put down her phone and went to ask.
At this, the writer hung up. He then spent the rest of the article describing how he was going to establish the DENSA organization, which only would exist to oppose the MENSA organization, which he maintained had no point for existing.
(Insert Dr. Evil meme here.)
That's not to say Epictetus does not have lots of worthwhile things to say, but that there are other facets to living a good life in addition to what was stoics prescribed.
So, even when the prime example of stoic philosophy, Marcus Aurelius, is given the sole reigns of power to the prime example of an empire at it's height, Rome in the Nerva–Antonines, it falls apart at the hands of familial duty/love.
One thing to remember about Romans is that there is not 'thesis' to them. They did whatever they needed to do at the time. For example: look at the Roman Honor of the Republic days. It was fierce, passionate, and swift. Any slight was dealt with in total violence and societal honor was worth much more than your life. Compare that to the stoics, where nothing could 'slight' a person, only their internal life was important, and society was to be nearly forgotten. The Romans were, if anything, adaptable to the extreme, which is why they lasted nearly 2000 years.
An example is that people lost children much more often.
I do too, but "compassion > stoicism" is not something science can prove. That's why I find articles like this one a little silly.
I wish that were actually true. It is however, objectively, quite false. You cannot simply will yourself out of a lack of motivation, or depression. Sure, you can to SOME degree, but your feeling of motivation is not trivial. It dramatically impacts how you function, down to the level in which your brain is engaged.
Final thought, depression is about recognizing the thought patterns of depression. Having awareness of thought patterns is a key part of how psychology treats modern depression.
Several religions include "mastery of one self" at the top of their list for hapiness. Whether it is possible and how is another question. Meditation, for example, is advertised as having exactly that purpose.
I'd say the discovery of evolution along with the big bang and much of the rest of science are some fundamental insights. They have the effect of making some of the prior religious stories seem less plausible than previously. I think we're still working on making sense of that.
Human nature has not changed much in the meanwhile, if at all.
Greeks could take solace in the unexplainable by chalking it up to a creator's will. We don't have that luxury anymore. Science has been so powerful in explaining reality that the natural instinct is no longer to invoke theistic reasonings. We take the wait and see approach.
Well wait and see is antithetical to narrative building. Yet at this point there are no other tenable stances to take. Agnosticism is the only justifiable stance to take, but it is a very unfulfilling one for many people.
There are smaller narratives around today such as humanism (and capitalism?), but they are not all encompassing. Would love to hear others' thoughts about the (in my opinion) unqiue philosophical setting three centuries of deferring to science has left us.
Personally, I envy those who still believe in that vision.
And almost exclusively sought by those lacking in other forms of achievement or sense of identity. Doesn't really seem like a sample that would be generalizable in the way the article presents it.
> Their most striking finding was substantially diminished levels of meaningfulness and subjective well-being among the giftedness as potential group compared to both the giftedness as achievement group and the control group
EDIT to add: Note that the author addresses the sampling bias in a footnote:
> Of course, a major limitation of this study is the preselection of the gifted populations. It's likely that members of MENSA have their own unique struggles that motivate them to seek out membership and connect with like-minded individuals. While this is a real limitation of the study, at least it's a real attempt to look at the understudied population of intellectually gifted adults, a population that is hard to study because they are statistically rare in the general population. After all, for a non-preselected sample, you would have to administer IQ tests to 5,000 people to attain a modest sample of 100 people in the top 98th percentile!
Careful, that generalization can be used almost anywhere (like on HN). Warily scream into the abyss.
In order to become an expert in the population it requires a mastery that is hard. It requires a few orders of magnitude more effort with less and less reward as you become more and more competent.
Collectors of basic intro knowledge could be looking for something they enjoy but there are a large portion of people who do it because it feels good to learn. This is a trap for smarter people and I'm sure everyone knows the career academic with a multitude of academic degrees or a friend with a new hobby every month.
I think everyone should try to be a in the top 1-10% of some pursuit at some point in their lives to see the amount of effort and planning it takes to be at the top of something. You don't have to stay at the top. It makes you appreciate the people at the top of things more because you more easily recognize the effort it takes to be great. Too much of society is focused on the natural ability or luck involved to be at the top. It could be argued that a PHD is this, but I believe that its sort of forced because there are economic and structural motivations that are available that aren't the same as only having a personal motiviation.
As I approached college I realized that I had done something that, if I had dedicated myself to almost anything else, would have resulted in me being a masterful expert at it. By the time I was 17 (I played WoW from 13-17, 2004-2008) I had put over 8,000 hours into that game. I spent a quarter of my life playing it for that four year period.
It was, of course, an insanely massive waste of time in hindsight. I went from scripting and building custom maps in Neverwinter Nights to playing in Blizzards theme park for a few years where the most coding I managed was hex editing the game models and changing a few labels in addon scripts. I was a directionless dysphoric teenager who had an interest in computers but no real ambition or friends at the time so distraction was tantalizing. It absolutely cost me opportunities to go to more prestigious universities I could have likely qualified for it if I had applied myself to the discipline of getting into elite schools instead of topping ladder ranks.
I like to think I came out of that black hole of my life at least knowing the value of dedication. Its only really more recent that I finally came to terms with the total realities of distraction, including writing this post on HN right now. At least this is at the tail end of my 30 minute break from coding this afternoon, so now I'll be getting back to work.
I think that it's not just that it's hard, it's that it's psychologically painful.
If you're good at anything, you get filtered into a group of people who are also good. And not everyone will continue to be top of the class. If you tied your identity to being good at this thing, suddenly you are going to have a reckoning.
Anecdotally it's often the people who can deal with this that get further, not just the ones who were already further ahead.
You'll hear this story often if you come across interviews with sports people. At some point, they got put in a group at a level that was competitive, and they had to deal with not being the shining star.
It was at this point that I realized what Plato's Allegory of the Cave was really about; the apparent complexity of the world and the actual complexity of the world diverge strongly.
That is, when you value things that are based on things outside your control e.g. social validation, financial success, you will struggle to be happy.
When you value things that are intrinsic e.g. integrity, contribution, creativity, you will have a much better shot at staying happy.
The problem with 'intellectuals' is that they are more often pulled into the rat race where you are chasing extrinsic things. Also, they often value 'intelligence' itself, which makes you feel bad when you realize that the world is filled with smarter people. Also, intelligence deteriorates as you age.
These are outside our control? I found both were achieved by choosing to be an engineer and going above and beyond.
Mad props to you if you are 100% satisfied with you social status & financial success, though. I wish that I were. :)
The happiest employees I see (at least outwardly) are those that fully buy in to the Koolaid and do not consider the nuance of what a company or technology enables.
It's when I let go of the search for meaning that I find something like contentedness. I often find myself falling back into the hunt, but sometimes thinking about the vastness of space and time, the interwoven causality of the external and 'my' internal mind, there is some release.
Hope that helps partner. Maybe I'll see you on down the trail temp1928384.
the magic of the blue pill.
yep, this. those who focus on what is directly in front of them at all times are often the most content. these are the people who are convenient cogs for any machine.
It talks about expectations placed on gifted children and what that 'might' do, but failure for anyone else can be terrible too.
I'm just not sure when you get to the outcomes being gifted or intellectual or whatever term they want to use, is all that different from anyone else.
I've always been a believer in the idea that belief in a higher power was the genetic mutation that allowed humans to gain significant higher intelligence than other animals, as well as language, while still functioning productively and altruistically. People with significantly higher levels of intelligence are much less likely to believe in a higher power.
I also speculate that this is why there tends to also be a hard upper bounds of intelligence and why we have such a significant amount of people in the middle of the bell curve with very similar levels of intelligence.
This is true by definition for any randomly-generated trait which can be measured on a single dimension.
We evolved until we outcompeted our relatives (its why we are the only homo left) and until we were the apex species of our biosphere. After that the pressures were much more diffuse over the nebulous optimization space of "what makes humans have more babies".
It should be completely unsurprising that our brains are functionally only as smart as they need to be to be able to handle complex language, social interaction, planning, and spatial / self awareness. With some slight bias upwards over the millennia - probably moreso from more caloric availability, in the same way we have gotten markedly taller in 300 years mostly from just being food rich and nutrition aware, than from genetic drift from natural selection.
To evolve substantially larger brains past what we already had would have been evolutionarily contrary to fitness. Bigger brains require more calories, moreso endanger the mothers in child birth (and our births are already extremely dangerous due to just that), required more developmental time to mature (15-25 years is insane in terms of developmental maturity in nature) and would have had minimal or no competitive advantage (complex reasoning skills aren't really valuable when all you are born into or will ever have is a tiny tribe and the tactic of exhausting gazelle all day for dinner).
Going back to the second question of mine, is it feasible to see a divergence on the genetic basis over time amongst humans, in that the top academics tend to marry amongst themselves, and we have the strongest meritocratic system available that has been ever known to man? Looking at the Nobel Sperm Bank, there is some evidence of such a divergence already in place.
Answer: it isn't . It's been steadily increasing (and pretty rapidly, at a couple points per generation).
You've got a large number of people looking at their lives and seeing that this whole system that has been constructed around them seems to do more to stifle any attempt at meaningful change or self-determination.
Seeking a change of career outside of minimum wage gets locked away behind expensive licensure. Attempts to improve one's space gets locked away behind permits, and tax reassessment, and other bureaucratic hurdles.
Looking back at history one can't help but feel a bit of envy that somehow our ancestors were more free. Or perhaps just less prone to despair due to a naturally more tightly bound worldview.
I'm not making any comments on the objective truth or falsehood of historical circumstances, just pointing put that many feel helpless in the face of the sheer size and breadth of the waves and problems that can seemingly pop up out of nowhere at a moment's notice.
This extends to the meaninglessness of work. You can try to advance a cause, say environmental activism, but actually end up being able to objectively measure that you're doing more harm than good in the process of being able to just get people to admit there is a problem.
The scale of modern problems are just so large it seems like the only winning move is not to play at all, over and over again.
This is a bit of a drive-by comment and I apologize for that, but I've spent a lot of time thinking about "only-winning-move-is-not-to-play" games, and wanted to share what I've learned.
OWMINTP games seem imposing and impossible when we talk about them, but often their solution comes from outside the game. And the great thing is that often these games don't constitute the whole of our lives, which means we can focus on other games. Eventually OWMINTP games can get solved from the outside, which is great, because we live outside.
Anyway: unasked for, and kind of off-topic, but I wanted to share.
The difficulty is what counts as "outside" of the civilized world as we've built it, and if we found it, would we find ourselves in a crisis of the sort faced by Mr. Savage in Huxley's Brave New World? A natural man woefully equipped to survive in the unnatural world we've built around ourselves, but at the same time unable to return to living in a more natural state by virtue of what he'd become in trying to adapt?
Natural man facing unnatural problems he is powerless to solve due to his maladaptation to the world he has wrought, yet unable to escape or return to whence he came.
It's like some nightmarish Hotel California conundrum.
Intellectuals often have a "crisis of meaning" because they are dancing in that space of what things are and how they relate to each other. When you maintain a practice of doing that, you often can't help but apply that same process with yourself as the object. You can shred your identity quite quickly if you have some mental ability, and if you mess with your identity, you mess with what your life means ... i.e. how you wish to be used.
The fact that it has been used in that specific usage time and again does not really vindicate it in any way.
But ok, so the sampling is of Mensa members in general. That's fine, like the article states the targeted population is difficult to sample as it is.
The problem with this that its value in analyzing a single individual is not so obvious - on an individual level there is so much ‘noise’ that when assessing the capabilities of an individual an I.Q. test should be considered a small advisory component of a larger suite of research. The specific problem is that I.Q. is often used like a horoscope or hand reading to predict an individuals capability to perform in some arbitrary context. So where is it applicable, then? For example, if individual has problems at school and they score low on I.Q. they might be good candidates for some supportive measures. And if they score really high it can lead a psychologist to consider other remedies. This is proper use of the tool - it provides additional data points to a professional.
But you shouldn’t use I.Q. alone to filter people in the general context. I know some school systems at least used do this and it’s fucking retarded application of this measure. The fact that the people who thought it was a great idea to use I.Q. as a general filter probably scored high on the scale themselves should tell how much one should trust I.Q scores.
To misquote a certain judge - Genius is like hard porn. I don’t know how to define it precisely or mathematically but I know it when I see it.
This pretty much sums up my life. Times where I have had motivation, I have succeeded greatly. Times where I have not, I stagnate and don't move forward.
Unfortunately, motivation is fleeting. It's as though my brain is hyper sensitive to novelty. If I can find something I find interesting, I am granted immense motivation and focus. But that quickly dwindles.
Not to toot my own horn, but I struggled with this myself and ended up 'inventing' my own psuedo life-philosophy 'Experientialism'. You might find this an interesting way of going about the problem.
That said, Experientialism would have been great to adopt when I was 20. Maybe I would be filming a travel channel on YouTube or something. Nowadays, I need to adopt a life philosophy that helps me to regular, focussed, great work. Not sure yet what that is...
-A few went on to have stellar careers in academia, science, medicine, law, IT, engineering, or other fields.
-Some had more modest aims and settled for more ordinary work--big fish in small ponds.
-Some got stuck closer to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder--some are creative types and/or have a history of addiction and self-destructive habits.
I don't think there is any question that highly intelligent people learn new things quickly and grasp complex, nuanced, abstract concepts better and more readily than most other people, but the connection between intelligence and achievement, much less happiness and mental well being, is far from clear. An awful lot of very bright people simply fall through the cracks, and we will probably never know how many.
I would guess that most profoundly gifted people are pretty lonely. There just aren't enough of them around, and at times it must be like seeing colors nobody else can see.
Even happiness and satisfaction isn't permanent. Their volatility and inconstancy are the perpetual attraction of "doing things". That's one reason that even some ultra-high-quality people feel boredom: if you don't have anything to do in the next day, you won't be proud of yourself. Be it simple goals ("I have everything, so I want a bigger yacht, buy exclusive clothes from that small door in that small street, have a dinner at the top of the Eiffel tower"), that money can buy, or something that your next-island-millionaire-neighbor has done and you haven't.
If you assume "achievement" is based on "giftedness" plus luck, this seems to imply that perceptions of meaningfulness and well being are based essentially on luck. I suspect that there is something wrong with our success-fascinated culture.
Or, possibly not. Promoting success by emphasizing it might be worth the cost to those who just didn't happen to succeed.
I have always been curious why a group like Mensa International is relevant in today's society. Does an IQ test like the one Mensa requires has any relevance or correlation with performance in real life career or society?
Those are two very distinct questions, though.
I'd say that
1. Mensa is not very relevant (except maybe as a self-help group and dating club, which is by no means a bad thing.)
2. "relevance or correlation with performance" - that's a highly contested question. My take is that IQ and Big 5 factor "conscientiousness" (which includes grit, capacity to delay gratification, etc.) are among the best predictors for performance in real life that we have, which is not to say that they're particularly good predictors. They can only explain a fairly small part of the variability in outcomes.
"In his recent book Hive Mind economist Garett Jones argues that the direct effect of IQ on personal income is modest, and that most of the benefits of higher IQ flow from various spillover effects that make societies more productive, boosting everyone’s income. This, he says, explains the “IQ paradox” whereby IQ differences appear to explain a lot more of the economic differences between nations than within them." (...) “Fans of g would do well to look at the labor lit: 1 IQ point predicts just 0.5% to 1.2% higher wages.” He has also said that, in terms of standardized effect sizes, IQ accounts for only about 10% of variance in personal income (a correlation of ~0.32).
At some very crude levels (at the extremes) it fares better (e.g. someone below 90 would not do very well) but in general is nowhere near representative.
As a counterpoint, there are a few meta-surveys which suggest that individuals with higher IQs generally have better long term outcomes. I emphasize individual here because your source appears to be analyzing it at the level of economic productivity and industrial output at the national level (but correct me if I'm wrong).
Here are a few sources I've read, which have been aggregated (with light commentary) by gwern:
1. This is weaselly, but "better" is difficult to define in a message board comment.
Well, someone put it this way: https://medium.com/incerto/iq-is-largely-a-pseudoscientific-...
There are cogent arguments that critique the use of IQ as an intelligence measure. This is not one of them.
More than this comment that doesn't offer any?
Taleb makes some quite specific arguments, and the graphs are quite illuminating as well.
Check the "IQ and wealth" graph for example -- it looks like a total scattershot outside of the bottom left corner that everyone could predict (intellectually challenged people -> low income). That alone would be enough to justify the entire post.
>He's also extremely condescending (bordering on dismissive) to a variety of disciplines.
That's good in my book. We need more colorful characters and less hive mind and institutionalism. Then again I prefer Feyerabend to Kuhn, and Tom Waits to Michael Bolton.
I would see non-overlapping magisteria to be more controversial, however.
If you're working for someone else, yes. But those making the most money are not working for others.
- You will never be the smartest person in the room in every subject. There is simply too much to know, you'll never know it all, and others are better at learning different things.
- Being smart is no guarantee of success. To be successful, it's more important to learn how to interact, influence, delegate, etc.
- Any kind of identity based on comparison with other people is doomed. You will age, your ego will take a hit when someone else seems better, etc.
Everyone needs a stable identity. A more sure identity for intellectuals is to define yourself as someone who cares. As an intellectual, you probably enjoy solving problems and you are probably capable of great empathy. Build up those qualities in yourself without comparing yourself to others. That's a way to happiness.
If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room. If you seek to always be the smartest person in the room, you have a personality problem which is holding you back.
Or you're simply alone. There may not be an "i" in "team", but there's two of them in "thinking".
> The salvation of the world depends only on the individual whose world it is. At least, every individual must act as if the whole future of the world, of humanity itself, depends on him. Anything less is a shirking of responsibility and is itself a dehumanizing force, for anything less encourages the individual to look upon himself as a mere actor in a drama written by anonymous agents, as less than a whole person, and that is the beginning of passivity and aimlessness.
-- Joseph Weizenbaum
I also like the OP's division between giftedness as potential vs as achievement. I've know far more gifted folks who belonged to the first group more than the second. That dichotomy nicely captures the importance of drive to the full expression of any natural gift. Far fewer gifteds are comparably hard chargers, in my experience.
It's likely that before today's "age of quantitation", fewer gifteds were as aware of the gap between their talent and its lack of expression. Or maybe their attention was focused elsewhere -- on family, duty, or other life endeavors that were unaffected by the gift.
-- Noam Chomsky
> If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man’s shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. See what gross inconsistency is tolerated. [..] After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.
-- Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience"
> Totalitarianism, however, does not so much promise an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable. It can never permit either the truthful recording of facts or the emotional sincerity that literary creation demands. But to be corrupted by totalitarianism one does not have to live in a totalitarian country. The mere prevalence of certain ideas can spread a kind of poison that makes one subject after another impossible for literary purposes. Wherever there is an enforced orthodoxy - or even two orthodoxies, as often happens - good writing stops.
> No tirades against "individualism" and the "ivory tower", no pious platitudes to the effect that "true individuality is only attained through identification with the community", can get over the fact that a bought mind is a spoiled mind. Unless spontaneity enters at some point or another, literary creation is impossible, and language itself becomes something totally different from what it is now, we may learn to separate literary creation from intellectual honesty. At present we know only that the imagination, like certain wild animals, will not breed in captivity.
-- George Orwell, "The Prevention of Literature"
It is something that haunts my mind. How can you sit, working in a location that you know is not furthering anything, has no fruitful outcome, and is not going to change or push the needle in any way. The ship is sinking and you refuse to budge, but it's not your ship. You have no ties to this ship. The are others reaching out a hand saying, hey, look, our ship is actually stable; making change. Yet, the person still decides to stay aboard against all intellectual odds. Is it fear? Is it stubbornness or pride?
I'll never know.
Note: This only is about those who can change careers or jobs easily, in high-tech locations, where it occurs frequently. Against that, they stay, on a sinking ship. This post only refers to them, as I can easily understand others in a similar situation but with no way out or the ability to create a way out due to circumstance.
If you remove pride, you remove meaning, unfortunately. Virtue of the Mean, baby. Yin, Yang. Larry David, Lena Dunham.
There can be no light without the dark of the void.
I am optimistic that the subculture of memes attempting to produce inspirational and philosophical thought, although now perhaps mostly mired in cliche, is the grandest crowd-sourced thought experiment in history. It will evolve as the lowest common denominator is raised in complexity and I think will eventually surpass in intellectual insight all previous systems of thought by virtue alone of the number of people contributing and contemplating its output.
I don't think I'm alone either - Jordan Peterson's rise to popularity is testament to people craving the kind of moral wisdom that is contained in the bible. I've also come to like the idea of original sin; we all make mistakes and as long as you recognize them as mistakes, you can still be a good person by trying to do right.
Even though I'm aware of these positive effects, I still can't bring myself to believe in any God. I was raised atheist and I've always felt like a believe in the supernatural doesn't mix with an intellectual, scientific view on the world. This is of course completely due to my upbringing; there are plenty of great scientists who believe. I think this is an interesting inner conflict which I'm sure I share with many others.
I would also add that predestination is a particularly Calvinist protestant belief. Many religions that rely on good works, such as Jesuit Catholicism and Quakerism can provide meaning and sense of purpose without the offensive belief that one has no self determination or choice about being a good person in life.
I believe that the moral system, close community, and redemptive nature of Christianity preach a way of life that leads to happiness and is consistent with so many themes in philosophy, psychology (like you mentioned) and classical literature. Ultimately you choose whether or not you want to believe in God, but it was these emergent themes that turned me into a church goer.
To claim that there is no God is a very bold, untestable claim. I think it is made because of the dire implications of being wrong (hell). The way that I interpret heaven and hell is basically the end result of working towards the best or worst versions of yourself. If you agree that you are constantly met with decisions to make and typically know which choice will be better for you (eating a pizza versus working out) - then you know the basic jist of avoiding "sin". If you constantly give into your hedonistic side, doing what is easy or feels good in the moment, you'll end up with a hefty amount of self loathing. Christianity is all about saying its ok to want those things, but try to resist and it will make you feel better. Admit when you're acting in that "sinful" manner and try to to better next time.
my two cents
edit: dang.. see axlprose for references - he did gud lol
Yep, this was pretty much me up until a year ago when I started actually studying theology and the philosophy around it more rigorously. What I realized was that this notion of science being in opposition to religion I had, was effectively at least as much of a faith based position promoted to me by modern society, as theism was to religious people. Because when taking a hard honest look at myself, I saw that I had never actually bothered to really study any religious literature to justify coming to such a bold conclusion, in large part because I had prematurely dismissed such an endeavor as being an uninteresting waste of time. But in reality, I should've known my position was questionable ages ago from my long time fascination with the history of science and mathematics. I had conveniently rationalized or outright ignored the fact that the giants upon whose shoulders modern science rests, have all been rather disproportionately theists, because "things are different now"/"we've progressed beyond that". Yet the more I thought about those excuses, the more I realized they were completely unjustified hand waving, because I couldn't find any compelling arguments for why that should be the case, nor why such smart people of the past couldn't have come up with the relatively straightforward arguments for atheism the likes of Dawkins, Sam Harris, et al. came up with (as I had read most of the "4 horsemen of atheism" books already). None of the best arguments for atheism actually hinged on time or technological/scientific progress, so why did many smart people like Leibniz, Newton, and Darwin not only fail to discover such simple lines of thought, but instead often times went in the exact opposite direction and made arguments for theism? Note that I'm not making an argument appealing to past greats being theists, but rather describing my own thought process that led me to question "wtf is going on here?". John Lennox has a lot of interesting books and talks relevant to this particular line of inquiry.
But anyways, long story short(er), the watershed moment didn't actually come for me until I stumbled upon a small pastor's YouTube channel , and gradually started working my way through several books, including:
- Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl
- Miracles - C. S. Lewis
- The Abolition of Man - C. S. Lewis 
- Heretics - G. K. Chesterton
- Orthodoxy - G. K. Chesterton
- Nihilism - Seraphim Rose
- The Experience of God - David Bentley Hart
- The Critique of Pure Reason - Immanuel Kant
I'm still technically somewhat agnostic and unaffiliated with any particular religious denomination, but I couldn't reasonably go back to my previous atheism after that rabbit hole. I think it's ultimately this illusury distinction between "the natural" vs "the supernatural" that our materialist society has, which makes it so easy to fall into atheism/nihilism. It lulls us into a false sense of confidence about what we "know" as being "natural", as if it were a well-defined "solved problem", all while the purpose of science itself explicitly acknowledges it's not. What makes the illusive grand unifying theory of physics less "supernatural" than a deity, the hard problem of consciousness, or the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics, for example? The mere assumption that it's more within reach of our understanding? Seems a bit unsatisfying for a premise to form such a large dichotomy around. In that sense, you could argue theism is partially an analogy of Gödel's incompleteness theorems applied to world views. We might be able to kinda/sorta work around such limitations, but it seems silly to just completely ignore they exist, much less turn around and use them as some form of justification against theism a'la "god-of-the-gaps" argument.
 for example: https://youtu.be/v0AKUTHcI04
 here's a good series distilling it, since the book itself is a bit dense: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlZfP0L6b41iCKzdQt-Gk...
 Gödel of course, was also a theist himself, and thought a lot about the implications of his discoveries. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/goedel-incompleteness/
 here's a good rebuttal to such arguments which may resonate with HN people: https://youtu.be/CltwD0Ek9Kk
For me personally, the hard thing is reading the thoughts of Plato, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, etc. and then trying to understand how we had such amazing thinkers 2000 years ago and that we don't seem to have moved any further at all in the year 2018. Yes, of course science and technology have progressed, but our human behaviors have not improved. In fact, we seem to have regressed and now have Donald Trump as President and Theresa May in the UK, trying to pull the country out of Europe due to rampant xenophobia.
Anti-intellectualism, anti-science, anti-vaxx, climate change denial, rampant capitalism at the expense of our souls. It seems like the default goal of the Westerner is to get rich enough so that they can narcotize themselves against all the pain and fear of the future which is underlying our society.
Southern California, where I live, is a place where your instagram "image" seems more important than whether you're actually a good person. People spend more of their time glued to their screens scrolling on Insta or Facebook seeing other people's portrayed lives and obsessing over their likes and follows. Working long days so you can afford the next step up on the car ladder or housing ladder, so you can get some temporary satisfaction before that fades and you start the ladder again.
I think if Socrates or Plato or Aristotle were to time travel to this future, Socrates would be sharing his hemlock with them before they committed group suicide.
Seems like pretty good evidence that people are deeply flawed, sinful creatures.
Nobody is inherently evil, not even a socio or psychopath. People are made evil, ignorant, anti-intellectual in the ways they come to interpret and interact with the world.
Its more evidence that the collective societies we have built aren't anything worth revering yet, at least not the ones "on top" of global culture today.
There are plenty of more recent examples of such brilliant minds but you'll be hard pressed to find them if you're attention is fixated on shallow toxic dinsinformation platforms like cable news (CNN, Fox) and social media (FB, Twitter) which promote hatred and division over love and community
People are raw material. They come to you a mixed bag: they have strengths, and weaknesses, and fears as well as ambitions. Most of them do not know how to channel their ambitions, so if not given reason to think otherwise, will become egocentric and either seize power, or disclaim it entirely and retreat into personal worlds of amusements and fetishes. On the other hand, if their ambitions are given a clear path and a reason to exist, they can exponentially increase their productivity and acumen simply by the fact of being inspired toward their task. Among other things, this explains how throughout history small groups of men and women have changed the world radically, and how sometimes a smaller army or business can crucify its competitors: its people are more focused and believe in their task more than the opposition.
Although amplified by the modern world, throughout history most people have spent their day to day existence in a state of slight depression. The simplest reason for this is that very few of us get to live a life where we are a constant focus of attention, and so we labor mostly unknown except to a few close friends and our families, whose praise means a lot to us, yet, we would prefer to be more widely influential. Further, because life is a long and winding road in which it is necessary to make errors in order to learn the foundations of successes, all of us will have some failings and embarassments lurking in the past. We prefer not to mention them in public, but whenever we consider our next move, doubt arises in the form of these past memories, much like beating a dog with a stick when it soils the carpet will convince it in the future to remember pain and associate it with that act. Our own histories literally condition us to depression.
What amplifies this depression in the modern time is the sheer size of our society, and its general course downward, which even the dumbest among us seem to have noticed. We notice such things on a subliminal level more than an articulated one, since to understand the situation in structure and words requires knowing more of it than most lives will see let alone analyze. Since our society is huge, and seems so far beyond our control or even understanding that it is inexorably going to do what it does, most are slightly depressed by their lack of influence on changing a worsening situation. Among the intelligent, it is recognized that masses of morons will undo whatever they achieve, or worse, turn it into a dumbed-down version of itself, missing meaning but preserving appearance. This keeps even the best among us depressed.
The catalyst of change for this situation can be a seemingly miniscule change in belief. People now believe they cannot change themselves or the world, and that things will continue as they have been; if given the knowledge that not only are things invisibly changing, but that the future favors this change, and that they can be the implements of such alteration, people will become inspired and find belief in the future. The same energy that fuels their depression can propel their hard work and brilliant invention in remaking the world. Another way to view this is that depression is the result of one's energy having no outlet, thus it works against the individual by creating internal chaos. Give people an outlet that they believe will have positive results, and they will move the world. It is for this reason that stubborn assholes such as this writer believe that as has happened in the past, a small group of determined people will change our world yet again. People of the world, your time is coming.
And time is on our side. Every day we grow stronger and more disciplined, the errors of society bear it and its lackeys further into oblivion, crushing them under the weight of a design which is doomed by its own contradictions to failure. Each day that we do not give in and do not parrot their rhetoric, ours is seen more clearly by others, and more respected. And with each passing day, more of the failures of our current civilization come to light, and more people look for alternate answers, perhaps not to act on directly but to support covertly or simply as vessels for their hope of a better future. When people become inspired, they gain a nearly godlike status in their ability to think clearly, act decisively, and make each choice correctly the first time. In this state, the errors and stumbling confusion that hampers us in daily life is minimized, and replaced with a state of pure function that comes of a lack of spiritual doubt about one's course. People of earth, your fortunes are changing.
If you've got a modicum of intelligence, you are probably depressed, and you were probably born depressed: society is against you, as it wants to dumb down every aspect of its function to the point where you will be a misfit and your best efforts will not be appreciated even when successful. You are surrounded by idiots, and thanks to democracy and consumerism and popularity, they do have greater power than you - for now. You have no faith in the rotted process of our society, or its calcified judgment, or even life itself, perhaps, for it has delivered you to this state. Yet this is changing, and the same force of life - call it nature, God, or chance; your pick - has brought this cycle toward the beginnings of a close. You must have faith in the process of living and the change it can bring, because at that point, you can see yourself as an agent of this change. As a wise man once said, "I don't know if what I'm doing will make things better, but I feel better working toward something in which I believe." That outlook requires leaving behind the comfort of feeling you cannot change anything, so contenting yourself with distractions like television, drugs, novelty music and social pressures.
We live in a world of a lack of absolutes. We cannot "prove" what we're doing is right any more than those who oppose us can, but we can make a firm stand with statements of personal experience and wisdom such as "I prefer" and "I believe."