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Saturday, April 25, 2009

learning to "fail better"

Nice little post by elberry:
It is difficult to grasp your own stupidity: it’s as if our minds inherently believe they have no limits, that anything they can’t understand isn’t worth understanding. You try to get a sense of your own mind, of its capacity, its weakness, but it is elusive. It pretends to be coterminous with reality - where my mind ends, the world ends, there is nothing else. It is extremely tricky to provoke useful friction between the mind and the world, the telltale grinding or stuttering of the mind’s failure; but it is only at this point that you can do any real thinking. To do philosophy you have to repeatedly provoke your own failure, and then contemplate that moment where your mind collapsed; and then you may “fail better” next time. There is nothing wrong with this kind of failure; if a test pilot’s plane explodes or falls into a lethal spin, that itself yields useful data. But it does no good to pretend you are adequate.

feeling stupid - The Lumber Room
Elberry likes to talk about past lives. I prefer to think in terms of the past lives I've lived in this life. If your life is completely congruent it may mean you haven't really been living. Some existentialists focus too much on one point, one moment life turns on to shape the rest. But life turns on myriad moments and valuing one too highly comes at the expense of what life offers at each.

From there we just get to "fail better" in different contexts.

4 comments:

Mike said...

It'd be more accurate for me to say I think "some existentialists focus too much on one point or one type of point".

elberry said...

Glad you liked it. i think it is true that many people will go through several different personalities in one life - some mature personas are a reaction against a younger one. When you assemble more than one life you can see some very strange points of similarity between them, likenesses crisscrossing - so right now, aged 33, i'm often as silly & unreserved as when i was a kid in my last life. The self is more an assemblage of possibilities than a stark and static monolith, or so say i.

Charlie H said...

What a great quote! I concluded the epistemology class I was teaching this term with a mini lecture on how bad humans are at gaining knowledge -- bad senses, bad memory, bad logic, and all sorts of psychological prejudices. I wish I'd had elberry's words handy. I think our successes need to be explained, not our errors. We seem to do well when we post a clear, applicable theory in a public place and have a thousand minds whack away at it. What survives may not be true, but it's at least useful.

Mike said...

"The self is more an assemblage of possibilities than a stark and static monolith, or so say i."

"I think our successes need to be explained, not our errors. We seem to do well when we post a clear, applicable theory in a public place and have a thousand minds whack away at it. What survives may not be true, but it's at least useful."

I'm fond of Nz's view of the self and I'm a free/open-source software advocate so a ball of snakes and many minds both sound fine to me.