Man Alive! A Survival Manual For the Human Mind.

ManAliveCoverSmall

I read this free 75-page ebook in the space of a few hours Sunday before last and knew immediately that I wanted to feature it here. It's one of the most interesting and unique liberty, individualist, egoist, anti-autharitorian (of all kinds) books I've ever read—and I've read a lot of them.

It's not only about thinking for yourself, but for yourself. ...As in, something the author, Greg Swann, terms Self Adoration, which is the name of his blog that serves as companion to the book.

I think you'll find the writing style clever and unique. Greg has a really delightful method of describing complex philosophical ideas and logical fallacies—and Latin too—in a single phrase, so as to never bog the reader down in minutiae, unbridled deconstruction, or just filling space either to impress you, or to come in where you need to be in the economies of scale for a traditional book.

I'm quickly coming to see and agree with Seth Godin that the future of publishing is in short ebooks, and that if you can't get what needs to be said in under 100 pages, then maybe you ought to write two books—or maybe none at all. Look at it this way: The Communist Manifesto was only about 80 pages, as I recall, and look what influence it had on the entire planet. So here's the introduction from the book and why you want to consider reading this and spreading it around.

Save the world from home – in your spare time!

That headline is my favorite advertising joke, a send-up of all those hokey old matchbook covers. I don’t know if anyone still advertises on matchbook covers. I don’t even know if anyone still makes matchbooks. Presumably, by now, smokers can light their cigarettes with the fire of indignation in other peoples’ eyes.

But I have always believed that ordinary people should be able to save the world from going to hell on a hand-truck. Our problem is not the tyrant-of-the-moment. The only real problem humanity has ever had is thoughtlessness – the mindless acquiescence to the absurd demands of demagogues.

That’s the subject of this little book: The high cost of thoughtlessness – and how to stop paying it. It weighs in at around 75 pages. I’m nobody’s matchbook copywriter, and I would have made it even shorter if I could have. But it covers everything I know about the nature of human life on Earth – what we’ve gotten wrong, until now, and how we can do better going forward.

Why did I bother? Because the world we grew up in is crashing down around our ears. Nothing has collapsed yet, and there is no blood in the streets – so far. But as the economists say, “If something can’t go on forever, it won’t.” My bet is that you have been watching the news and wondering what you will do, if things get ugly.

Doesn’t that seem like a fate worth avoiding? And yet: What can one person do? My answer: Read – and propagate – these ideas. The book itself is offered at no cost – and it always will be. Even so, the price I ask is very high: You have to pay attention.

If you find that you like this book, I encourage you to share it freely, far and wide, in any form, with anyone you choose. Print it, photo-copy it, email it – shout it from the rooftops if you like. You can read it at SelfAdoration.com (back-up), or you can download an easy-to-share PDF version (back-up). If you post to public forums or you have your own web site or weblog, download the propagation kit (back-up).

Why should you bother? Because if anything is going to save civilization from tyranny, it will be ordinary people like us. And there are at least 2.5 billion of us on the internet. Think what a big difference some new ideas could make in that many human lives.

How do you save the world from home in your spare time? One mind at a time...

~~~

So as you may suspect, professional philosophers, journalists, ivory tower professors and the elite in general are pretty much going to hate this book. Actually, they'll just ignore it. The only way they won't be able to ignore it is if everyday regular people don't let them, and for that it needs to spread. But of course, you're in this all alone (which happens to be the title of chapter 1) and for that fact alone, you get to judge, you get to decide.

I got on Skype the other day to chat with Greg about himself and the book, for those interested in digging deeper.

Greg also does a lot of videos on his own site, and he uses a guitar as a prop which I find quite endearing. I liked this one in particular.

Comments

  1. Something that has weighed heavily on my mind for a long time…. What do we do about the miserably overweight/obese in this country?

    I wanted to write a bunch more on this, but
    I’ve been drinking and not thinking clearly. This pisses me off– especially the kids getting fucked by their clueless parents.. It’s something that needs to be addressed.

    I’m all for free choice and telling the government to fuck off (this is changing more and more lately), but the fact remains that we’re sliding down the tubes across the board. I’m young. A lot younger than most who post here I bet, but I still grew up when my parents didn’t have to look after me when I was 8-9 and out riding my bike around town with my cousin & friends. Now I wouldn’t dream of letting my kids do that. I might be a bit off topic, but it’s still very pertinent. We have to think for ourselves, but we still need to take care of society. We can’t just say piss on very one. Natural selection doesn’t work that fast.

    • Todd, get over the drink, get over the fear, and tomororow, give your kids some freedom, because they will never forget it if you don’t, and more importantly, they should not.

      My parents did, in enormously huge ways such that I was off for 12-14 ours every summer day on cutoff jeans, nothing else, swimming in dangerous waters and getting my finger “stinky” as possible.

      These are precisely the young experiences that for a life–little puppies growing and sniffing assess learning what life is about.

      Your fear is only about you.

  2. marie says:

    Todd, Read first, comment second? There’s not a word in Richard’s or Greg’s writing about pissing on every one and as for taking care of ‘society’, it’s the interpretation of the word that counts > without the structures it’s just taking care of ‘people’ and therefore it’s about How you do it, one mind at a time.
    Each person starting with ‘taking care of’ their own mind.
    Splendor.

    • Marie:

      Shorter me: Todd, if you want to take care of society there’s not a single soul in the universe that’s going to stop you.

      Oh, sorry, stepped on my dick just there. I see that what you really mean is take care of you, assurances, guarantees, and so forth. He doesn’t want to take the basic risk of his own life, just like he’s been trained.

      As for me? I’ll take my chances.

  3. Hi, Todd,

    Can I paraphrase your larger concerns like this: How can we rid the world of vice?

    I want to answer that question with a question: What might happen if we could figure out a way to thrive by comprehensive virtue instead?

  4. Txomin says:

    The world is not crashing any more than it always has.

    • That’s right, Txomin. It could certainly be worse. A lot worse.

      http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE1.HTM

      So let’s just all relax. It’s been awhile,aferter all, since a few million have been chewed up for general entertainment,

      Relax,

      • marie says:

        So I’ve been meaning to ask you about this link you’ve given before, the guy’s a pretty strong advocate for Democracy as an antidote to democide and violence of all kinds?
        “…democracies have not only Not made war on each other, but they also have, by far, the least foreign violence, domestic collective violence, and democide (a much greater killer than war by several orders of magnitude). That is, democracy is a general cure for political or collective violence of any kind–it is a method of nonviolence. This is truly a democratic peace. I call this understanding of the democratic peace, which is supported by the theory, evidence, and analyses on this web site, the general version. ”
        And :
        “Within this general understanding of the democratic peace, democracy in its modern 20th Century version, means regular elections for the most powerful government positions, competitive political parties, near universal franchise, secret balloting, and civil liberties and political rights (human rights).”

        So is that the cure then, keep our democracies strong?

      • No. Actually, his scholarship undercuts that in that it’s only fewere deaths.

        I just use it to show how bad it can actually get.

        It particularly annoys me that people wring hands over all manner of minutiae that _could and might_ happene, like a dead or injured person.

        This always signals woeful ignorance applicable to about 99%, so yea, I have a habit of hauling out Rummel to cure fucking stupidity, fucking ignorance.

      • marie says:

        Or maybe…. would Diogenes, searching with his lantern today, claim : “I’m looking for a democracy”? Is there an argument that the devolution of democracy is final and inevitable, perhaps due to the inherent power structure of any strong (/rich) government-state?

      • Marie, democracy in the context of mass collectives is dead,

        Democracy originated as an idea in HG people’s of 30-60 people where every individual could account for the values and actions of every other and had a real possibility of influencing the entire group.

        That is the ONLY context in which democracy has ever been valid in all of human history.

        But that wasn’t really democracy. It was how things are.

        Democracy is absolutely and has never, ever been anything more essential than a couple of wolves and 1 sheep voting on what’s for dinner.

      • marie says:

        Which brings us back to just how bad it can actually get – as in, if democracy isn’t working (and Can’t work) on our modern scale, we’re on our way back to massively deadly regimes.
        Oh, and there I was wondering why you’d bother answering a patently ignorant fidiot, when I realized the conversation that launched…;-)

      • “I was wondering why you’d bother answering a patently ignorant fidiot”

        I’m drying off after the cold dip, ready to go eat a big ribeye. I do stupid shit when I get happy, just like my dogs.

      • marie says:

        You mean you are not all-wise and far-seeing, sensei? Well there goes that campaign ONLY to make a name for yourself….

      • Yea, Marie. Blew that God thing, again.

        This is like the 3rd fuckimg time too. I guess that means I’m out,

      • marie says:

        “Blew that God thing, again.”
        But of course. You’re not the Messiah, you’re a very naughty boy!
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zjz16xjeBAA&feature=related

        “You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals”

      • Spot on!

      • Txomin says:

        There is plenty of room between relaxation and hysteria. Give it go.

    • Is that the baseline?

  5. marie says:

    Richard, I hope you had some potatoes with that ribeye…because I want to ask you, isn’t there a better analogy than the wolves/sheep?
    I mean, family members who fought against totalitarian regimes that Really put the hurt on minorities (among others) all answer that analogy pretty much the same way : “Democracy is the Only, the Only (the emphasis can degrade into sputtering here…) system mankind has ever devised that is meant to ensure the sheep Doesn’t get eaten, at most it gets fleeced! “.
    It’s one thing to have a practical objection to democracy (it doesn’t/can’t work because of X insurmountable reasons) but it’s another to have an ideological reason against it? If that reason is that it imposes the will of the many on the few, well, it balances that with protections and rights for the few (and all) as well.
    As you know, I’m not married to these ideas, just slowly trying to work my way through some of the logic…
    BTW > Thanks for bringing-out Greg Swann on your blog, I hesitate to comment at most places but I have NO problem here (something about the bloody free environment, it must be!).

    • “at most it gets fleeced!”

      Yes, Marie, I’m familiar with the massive advances of democratic thought.

      • marie says:

        O.k., fair.
        Now check-out the daily dose of Monty Pythons above to go to sleep happy….umm, maybe Not dreaming of sheep;-)

  6. Reading this during the weekend along with two of the Stoics. I wonder if they will dance…

    • marie says:

      “I wonder if they will dance”. Well, perhaps if you add Thais and epicureans to the mix…

  7. More importantly, did you dance with sheep last night?

  8. Robert says:

    I read a few lines of the book, but I’m not impressed with one his arguments that is essentially a pro free will argument. I don’t see how you can square it with the facts. We are not the same as a stone – obviously – but this does not change the fact that the laws of nature apply to us just as much as to the stone.

    Our complexity gives the impression that our thoughts and actions are free from prior causes, but this is not a logical argument. It is a argument very similar to what religious people use when they want to argue that god exists. Basically saying “you can’t prove that god doesn’t exists” and “look the world is to complex to be explained, so god did it”. See the similarities? Let’s compare: “you can’t prove the behavior of people is not free from prior causes” and “look it is very complex, so is must be free will”. Both god and free will are hiding in the shadows, in the mystery.

    The believability of the “god did it” explanation has weakened as science keeps reducing the mystery. We have evolution theory now and the big bang theory etc. I think the same will happen to free will. To date not everything is known about how the brain operates and causes behavior, but as our knowledge grows it will become more and more obvious that there is no free will hiding in the mystery.

    Anyway it didn’t read the rest of the book knowing that he is likely to use this as the basis for the entire book.

    I think it is unfortunate that so many libertarians/anarchists (I am assuming the author is one of these or of similar persuasion) feel that you have to believe in free will or you can’t be an libertarian/anarchist.

    Even though I believe that I don’t have free will (even though I feel like I have, no doubt a cognitive illusion like so many) I still don’t want to be ruled and dominated by other humans.

    F.Y.I. I have been coming slowly around to richard’s view on society and politics.

    Also, the author and others should show some respect for academics in lab-coats. Besides siting in their ivory tower they also do the basic science that leads to cures for various illnesses.

    • Casey says:

      I was going to make a similar comment to this as well. This comment is made without reading the book, but is in response to the comment above that “The only real problem humanity has ever had is thoughtlessness – the mindless acquiescence to the absurd demands of demagogues”.

      I’m going to take this line and interpret it as saying that what makes us human is our ability to be thoughtful animals. This goes against scientific evidence and human history. It may be correct that there is “mindless acquiescence to the absurd demands of demagogues”, but to believe that humans can overcome it is enlightenment BS. If he is presenting thoughtfulness as a solution, I don’t buy it. And it’s not that I’m against thoughtfulness – I enjoy it a lot – but it won’t change my nature, and may have little to no impact on my actions (see research by Michael Gazzaniga).

    • Joao Eira says:

      You made the same fallacy the book warns you about, you said “I still don’t want to…” which implies you have any choice in the matter which, if you don’t believe in free will, you don’t.

      Does anybody know who the first person was that came and said that free will doesn’t exist? Whoever it was, I hate him with the full force of my mind.

      • David Eagleman on Reason TV concerning neuroscience, criminal law, and free will.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSQY7zHk5y8&feature=player_embedded#!

        Like facebook relationship statuses “it is complicated.”

        I have not read the book yet so I will pause before spouting my typical non-sense.

      • Thanks Jscott. I liked that video.

        I don’t really think we’re a ‘blank slate” and totally self made souls, to use Rand’s formulation. I think FW is one aspect or influence or cause of why we do what we do.

        For example, you may hold and pursue different values dependant upon your nutritional state, relationship state, disaster state (a loved one just died), employment state and a whole host of things.

        So I think we’re part determinist, part free will.

        Way back when, over the debate on homosexuality, whether it’s genetic or chosen, I said its a false alternative because it’s both. There are absolutely genetic homosexuals like there are genetic hermaphrodites. But there are also those who simply choose is as a lifestyle,

        Spend a few days in Hollywood.

      • > So I think we’re part determinist, part free will.

        The question is not, “How do I behave when I am being thoughtless — when I am operating on auto-pilot?” In that circumstance, all kinds of influences and pre-dispositions can be in play. The question is, “How do I behave when I know that I am making a life-altering choice?” The robotic-determinist argument is stupid on its face, which is why advocates of determinism have to equivocate so much. But we all know that our fully-conscious choices are free of insuperable influences. That is what free will means. If philosophers insist that human beings cannot be human so long as they are biological entities, they are hand-crafting their opponents the straw man fallacy we see deployed in these arguments. But if your claims cannot account for Socrates — if you cannot be Socrates when your sovereignty is under attack — then you are as much a predestinate slave as any beast of burden.

      • Yes.

        In fact, some time ago I realized free will arose when the very first person conceived of the concept.

        Believing that you have free will _is_ free will.

      • > Believing that you have free will _is_ free will.

        I love it!

      • Marnee says:

        Rand was referring to the conscious mind (and it’s integration with the subconscious), which allows for reason. She was referring to the part of the brain that allows for the mind — that which can focus and conceptualize.

        She was right.

      • Robert says:

        I’m sorry, but this is a load of crap. Ha! It’s funny though. Your argument is basically “free will is obvious”, but no it’s not obvious at all. Ever wish you could have done something but you didn’t actually you couldn’t?

        How about all those smoker who want to quit, but don’t? I sure wish I could stick to all my resolutions, but I guess my free will is just broke.

        “The robotic-determinist argument is stupid on its face, which is why advocates of determinism have to equivocate so much.”

        Might this argument have been used before? “The round earth argument is stupid on its face, which is why advocates of round earth have to equivocate so much.”

        I hope you can see that this is a weak argument.

        Anyway I seem to be lone wolf when it comes to this. Sam Harris was right this is bigger than religion. It’s almost okay to be an atheist now, but to be a non-freewillist (who may or may not believe in a deterministic universe) is to be open yourself up to all kind of crazy arguments.

      • Robert says:

        BTW this reply was to Greg Swann

      • > BTW this reply was to Greg Swann

        Why bother? Your claim of the validity of determinism is not subject to volition, per you, nor is my acceptance or rejection of your claim. All determinist arguments are teleologically useless, as is evidenced by the purposive (say what?) behavior of the proponents.

        Any argument you make in response to me will be a capitulation — an expression of the belief that willful acts can influence future results — so please do us both the favor refraining (how’s that?) from wasting any more time on this obvious teleological dead end.

      • Robert says:

        You should put that in your book: “critique of my views is not appreciated” and “I will never seriously consider any of your views”. Put it there in a nice disclaimer as the first thing people see. That way they know never to have anything to do with you if they don’t agree with you.

      • Robert:

        You didn’t critique the book, which is what this is about. You didn’t read it, as you said in your first comment.

        All you have done is assert it’s not worth paying attention to, because it’s premised upon the fact that people can _will_ themselves to be and do better. It’s you, in fact, by implication, who’s the one claiming that there’s no real point in considering anyone else’s views.

      • Robert says:

        @Richard

        What the hell I’ll bite.
        First I didn’t read most of the book, but I obviously read some of it. Not a lot I admit, but enough to understand the authors stand on free will. That is also all I have spoken about. If you feel that this is unfair and I should have read the entire thing before I dared to say something about it that is really your problem.
        ***

        You don’t need free will to learn. Complex systems can learn even without free will because learning is not predicated on free will.

        Even a plant that obviously has no free will can learn something. Plants take signals from their environmental and adapt their cellular function. This is obviously important even though it doesn’t involve free will. (learning is good, right?)

        That is why human interaction isn’t meaningless even without free will.

        Freedom of will implies that the organism (human or otherwise) is separate from the system it lives in. After all it needs this independence to do something that isn’t a reaction to the system. Just take a human cell. Let’s pretend it has free will. How would that work? All the cell knows is the environment it lives in. If it wants to do something that is not a reaction to a change in the system it needs to do something that is obviously in opposition to what the system demands. That way it could demonstrate it’s free will. Likewise if you fly off like superman using free will I would be convinced, but if you drink a glass of water I fail to see how that ordinary act needs free will to be accomplished.

        What is it about complexity that would give rise to free will? I don’t see how complexity can explain free will. Let’s say I have a row of domino’s. If I tip one the rest falls. What if I had a room the size of planet earth filled with a complex pattern of rows of domino’s. Would the complexity cause the domino complex freedom from the chain reaction of one domino pushing down the next? Would free will arise? How is a network of neurons different?

        I hope my arguments are not to philosophical and academic to be dismissed out of hand.

      • This would be an attempt to dominate me by shaming me, yet another existential admission that you yourself think your argument is absurd. As Richard points out, you are not arguing with Man Alive!, since you haven’t read it. In any case, one of the purposes of the book is to help people understand why teleological dead-ends are wastes of the finite time of an irreplaceable life. As evidence: In what way is all of this fuming and railing on your part adding to your self-adoration? In what way will you be a better person tomorrow for having tried and failed to scourge me today?

      • “You don’t need free will to learn. Complex systems can learn even without free will because learning is not predicated on free will.”

        I agree.

        “Freedom of will implies that the organism (human or otherwise) is separate from the system it lives in.”

        No, not in the version of free will I’m referring to. It’s an integration.

        You seem to be proposing a false alternative: If not every choice we make is a function of will, then none of them are. I’m saying it’s both, will beginning at the intersection of reason and consciousness.

        Free will is itself, free will, by which I mean that there is only the _potential_ to will one’s self to exercise discipline, thought and control to achieve the values one wants out of life. It’s not automatic. It arises from conscious determination.

        Perhaps that’s where we’re hung up most. When I talk about free will I’m really talking about _exercising_ free will. I am not at all talking about the religious, tabula rasa notion of free will where all actions and choices are willed, necessary to impose unearned guilt.

      • Robert says:

        @Richard

        I somewhat agree to that. I wouldn’t call it free will. I would sooner call it something like flexibility of choice and behavior.

        @Greg

        Let’s agree to disagree and be done with this.

      • “I somewhat agree to that.”

        Here’s another thing I just thought of to differentiate my idea of FW to that of religious interpretations. Take the religious notion of thought crimes (sins of the heart). Well, emotions and such thoughts _are_ automatic. There’s no guilt in experiencing any emotion or thought. FW is a conscious decision to act on them or not, and in what way.

        I’ve found that in 20 years since I dumped religion I have in many ways been able to modify my automatic emotional responses to various things by consciously changing the values I hold. It’s a process, however, and it’s blurry at times, but the change is quite apparent when viewed over time.

      • I found his analogy of a stowaway on a battleship pretty interesting. But even a stowaway can ultimately cause a course change.

        I wouldn’t go that far. Rather, I see free will as an argument over the size of the rudder, and to further complicate it, some individuals wield larger rudders than others.

    • Hi Robert.

      First, what Joao said. If free will doesn’t exist there is really no point in discussing anything at all. Ever. Every argument you have ever, ever made in your life presupposes free will. And trust me, I don’t think there’s any magic or woo to it or, to put it another way, I am a complete materialist in the philosophic sense (I don’t mean shopping—and I add that mostly for the sake of some others as I’m sure you know what materialism is).

      To see Greg’s arguments dealing with determinism (what you’re essentially arguing), go to the HTML version and use your find function in your browser.

      http://selfadoration.com/ManAlive.html

      You’ll find 7 instances of ‘determinism.’

      Ch2

      So start here: You are an organism. That might seem obvious to you, but a huge number of the critical arguments made against your mind turn on the idea that, since you have a rational, conceptual consciousness, any sort of behavior that reflects your origins as a biological entity is necessarily irrational. We can call this the Spock Fallacy. I think the portrayal of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock himself refutes this claim well enough, but it is one of a type of reductionist fallacies that are constantly being deployed against you: Not only are you damned as being less than the sum of your parts, typically some one part of your nature – blown out of all proportion and distorted out of all recognition – is declared to be a cipher for the whole.

      The Determinist Fallacy is a reductionist dodge you will run into all the time, if you are able to identify it under its many thousands of masks. In its most basic form, it seeks to conflate living organisms with inanimate matter: Since atoms and rocks and planets are all governed in their “behavior” by inviolable physical causality, where each event is the unavoidable consequence of prior physical causes, the behavior of organisms must also be causally deterministic. No one knows why organisms are so different from inanimate matter – recall, the rock does nothing on its own – but they are obviously radically different, and conflating the two categories is clearly an error – a very common error. At the atomic or sub-atomic level, the causal events will be similar, but clearly that kind of predictable causal determinism does not scale in the linear fashion the determinists want it to. If you doubt this, push a boulder around for a while. Then go push a mountain lion around in the same way. Your peer-reviewed academic paper on your results just might win a prize – and your picture in the newspaper will be a sight to behold!

      [...]

      Note in this context that all of philosophy assumes the idea of human free will. The stars cannot be persuaded by rhetoric to move in other orbits, and the sands on the beach cannot be wheedled, threatened or flattered into rearranging their distribution. If you are attempting to persuade me of the “truth” of inviolable physical causality as an explanation of human behavior, you are necessarily insisting, simultaneously, that I both can and cannot change my mind by an act of will. Both propositions cannot be true, and your own efforts at persuading me are proof that you yourself do not accept determinism – not the physical determinism addressed above, nor similar claims of a psychological, behavioral, genetic or neuro-chemical determinism – as the cause of human behavior.

      That same argument applies to every sort of “must” argument of human nature. Human beings are physical objects, like all organisms, and so they “must” obey laws of nature like the law of gravitation. But to say that any sort of purposive, consciously-chosen human behavior “must” conform to this or that arbitrary law – defended in physics or biology or psychology or philosophy or theology or pure fantasy – is simply false to fact. No one who has raised a child can doubt this proposition. Human will is free of external constraints of all sorts, and just about any teenager will be happy to prove this to you with any act of defiance you choose to induce by forbidding it.

      Ch9

      When you are not thinking carefully, you are not not-thinking. If you are not asleep and not unconscious, you are always thinking – always sustaining an uninterruptible mental “dialogue” with yourself in Fathertongue. But if you are not thinking carefully – thinking mindfully – then you are thinking carelessly – mindlessly. Most of the academic nonsense I have mocked in this book consists of a scrupulous cataloging of the processes and consequences of human mindlessness – which is misrepresented by the professoriat as being the normal state of human consciousness.

      The existence and substance of mindlessness are not what the researchers intend to document. Their work is simply a reflection of the fact that, for each one of us, the world we see outside the mind is the one we are looking for from inside the mind. If you want to be excluded entirely from any academic “study,” all you have to do is question the premises – the prejudices – undergirding the “research.” It suits the professorial temperament to insist that your purposive behavior must be the end-consequence of some type of mindlessness – genetics or physical-, psychological- or behavioral-determinism or brain chemistry or vestigial animality or social dynamics or anything except rationally-conceptual volitionality – free will. Accordingly, if you should dare to peek behind the curtain it will turn out that you are not an appropriate test-subject. If the territory does not correspond to the map, by all means dispose of the territory.

      Ch10

      And second, by presenting us with such an absurdly distorted rendition of the Dancing Bear Fallacy, the Pick-Up Artists demonstrate that all Dancing Bear theories are nothing more than elaborated arguments of behavioral determinism. The Alpha-in-his-own-mind “conquers” comely round-heeled gals by means of trickery and cunning – he insists. When he is on his “game,” they simply “can’t resist” him – just as female animals in the wild mate with the best rapist, the male they cannot successfully deflect, dismiss or defeat.

      But the logical fallacy in play is the same one we can identify in every determinist argument: If I as a human predator can “trick” my human prey into thoughtlessly yielding to me, it could only be because human nature is not bound by the iron laws of animal ethology. Every form of gulling putatively mindless human beings pre-supposes free will – rationally-conceptual volitionality. Without it, the predator would be as much an unthinking slave to behavioral determinism as – he insists – is his prey. The form of the claim is, “I can think of a plan of attack, but you cannot think of a plan of defense.” Those propositions cannot both be true, and, of course, we all know, without any room for doubt in our minds, that human will is free of all deterministic constraints.

      • Thanks for that, Richard. I saw Robert’s comment before I left the house this morning, but you have dealt with it better than I would have done, so I am double benefitted.

      • Robert says:

        Unfortunately I will have to ruin the party. I’m not convinced. The whole idea that to talk about the issue of free will is to admit to or use free will is a weak argument. It seems to be a favorite though, I have seen to it used again and again. One guy even insisted that words like preference and choice can only be used by someone who believes in free will. Like I am going let someone decide for me which words I am allowed to use. (not)

        I think the basic argument boils down to the mistaken idea that if the human will is caused and not self-made (free) than that must mean that no mind (or will) can ever be changed. However change happens all the time to things that clearly have no free will, so why would the human mind be any different? It wouldn’t!

        I tell you honestly that I don’t know the exact reason why I have chosen to discus this here. Certainly no menu of options appeared in my mind of which writing this reply was one option. So how was I to choose this action freely? I did choose to do this however and I experience this as a voluntary action, but to say that it must have been my free will in action is to go beyond the facts.

        No doubt my arguments will fall on deaf ears, because people believe in free will like religious people believe in god. Faith is enough.

        @ Joao Eira
        “Does anybody know who the first person was that came and said that free will doesn’t exist? Whoever it was, I hate him with the full force of my mind.”

        Why hate something or someone unless you feel threatened?

      • marie says:

        “I tell you honestly that I don’t know the exact reason why I have chosen to discuss this here.” Only conscious decision-making is free-will? What is your subconscious? Those decisions/motivations that have already moved to your subconscious and produce those actions that you are not Aware of deciding on At The Moment, those are not part of your free-will?
        btw, I’ve only recently been looking into this so don’t have an opinion yet, but this particular argument seemed weak.

      • Robert

        Free will is merely a fancy way of saying that we pick our own values. Note that in the other animal community, in the wild, they don’t. Their values are hard wired.

        So, did you choose your own values? Have you ever valued something you now dis value or dis value something you used to value? And if you somehow think there’s a cause beyond your own free will to do so, you have the same religious like infinite regression (who created the creator, ad infinitum) problem. Caused by environment, diet, well what caused those and what caused those, etc., all the way down to sub atomic particles.

        You say that as we know more and more, this’ll become less and less mysterious. Perhaps. True AI might toss a monkey wrench, though. What happens when the exact same hardware, exact same starting software results in machines choosing different values, assuming there’s no random number generator to initiate decision pathways?

      • Robert says:

        You are basically saying that something that you don’t know (or are aware of) has made the decision for you. I don’t see the freedom in that.

      • Robert says:

        Richard

        Yeah. Turtles all the way down.

        But the infinite regression doesn’t concern me, let the physicist deal with that one. You don’t solve it with free will however, that would be cheap, saying because we don’t know the solution to this one problem the reverse must be true even though there is zero evidence for that.

        “So, did you choose your own values?”
        Yes, but I don’t know how. I can guess though; parental influences, genes, strong like for unconventional views and so forth. I have chosen just not freedom of will.

        The AI experiment is interesting, of course you could never get to identical machines. There would be variances at the atomic level (or even deeper). Still I think those AI would react the same until their experience in life begins to differ. Like identical twins.

      • I agree with this.

        Humans are animals to their core – everything is based around your genetic make-up and environmental stimulus – your senses and reactions.

        Your “free will” is make belief – just like our thought of God. We are complex bacteria with an ego.

      • marie says:

        mark my friend, we agree on a heck of a lot, but not on this one I think.
        My reasoning (and it’s definitely just a work in progress) goes something like this, see what you think :
        apart from the autonomic physical responses, our reactions to our sensory perceptions may be conscious or subconscious, but in both cases they are governed by a series of choices we’ve made in the past that have developed our attitudes and it is only our lack of introspection (a la “the unexamined life is not worth living”) that can make any one particular ‘reaction’ seem out of our control. In other words, it’s still our free will that is responsible for choosing Not to introspect. “I” can follow even my surprising reactions back to their origins and change the mind-set that produced them, if I so choose. “I” have that ability, ergo, free-will.

      • We are on the same page still :)

        Like I said, your environment makes you you – and how you feel, act, react etc.

        But it’s within our human animal limits. You are free to be human, but only human

      • You can consciously change your environment too. See latest guest post.

      • marie says:

        Good point, thx.
        But I see mark’s too, as in, the very fact that I think I can change my reactions or even the actual ability to change my reactions, are due to my environment. Annnd there are turtles again, all the way down… :-(

      • It’s always turtles all the way down.

        I’m almost absolutely sure I have a blog post by that title way back. Search might reveal it.

      • This may have been the first time, 2007:

        http://freetheanimal.com/2007/05/its_turtles_all.html

      • marie says:

        “You’re very clever, young man, very clever. But it’s turtles all the way down!” :-)
        That was illuminating, thank you. I only knew Bertrand Russell ‘s First Mover example.

  9. It really is eye opening to me when I look around at all the Zombies who think everything is just fine and dandy. The world is about to change. Water/clean is running out, oil is running out, the financial system is about to go to the shitter, food production is peeking (come on paleo people – at least this should be obvious), the soil is drying up, People think God exists, and we are exponentially expanding like fucking bacteria.

    This might sound like a big tree hug, it isn’t – the earth will heal, by elimintating us. We have flourished in the last 100 years because we are burning the stored Sun’s energy over the last billion years and its running dry. Also your tires, plastic, computers, food, Fertilizers etc. are made with oil.

    More and more people are starting to get it and understand the concequences. I think there are ways to avoid certain things – we just don’t have the system (political/financial) and intelligence to make it happen. It’s time we get scared.

    • Trish says:

      George Carlin had a great line–“Stop worrying about saving the planet. The Earth can shake humanity off like a bad cold.”

      The deadliest American natural disaster was the hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900; it killed about 8000 people. Hurricanes can still be deadly as evidenced by Katrina, but what of other things? Like the New Madrid fault, cause of the strongest earthquake in America which, if it went off today, would take out podunk little towns like St. Louis and Memphis which, unlike California, doesn’t build to earthquake codes. Or how about the nice little fault that runs pretty much parallel to 125th Street in a little place you might not have heard of–New York? Remember how freaked out everyone was up there when they felt the Virginia-epicentered earthquake last August (the epicenter was roughly forty miles from where I live and it caused damage in my neighborhood)? A bad East Coast earthquake would take out millions and I can guarantee this country would never recover. I don’t worry about resources. I worry about a nice little 7.5 earthquake in Manhattan.

      • marie says:

        Trish, it’s fucking amazing how you can see all that, but yet end up with “I don’t worry about resources”.
        Because you don’t drink, or eat or breathe or…
        Mark makes the point that ‘worry about resources’ is NOT worry about the planet (it’ll take care of itself), it’s worry about Myself. Environmental conservation, sustainability (eg. sustainable agriculture), green technologies etc. are all about taking care of Humans. It’s a very basic self-interest motivation, yet gets painted as tree-huggin’ bleeding-hearted mush (granted PETA and some others are loud enough to reinforce this misconception, but hey, I don’t think that all gun-toting southerners are Aryan Nation, why let the nuts define anything unless one choses to?).
        And in worrying about myself, I Can choose to eat grass-fed (allows for sustainable farms, best for my health), I can choose to get my veg/fruit locally (cuts transportation/gas, best fro my health), I can walk/ride and build towns that allow me to do that (primal!), eat fresh-not packaged (less plastics, less BPA for me), I can choose my car, I can choose my house’s energy supply, I can make all kinds of easy, Healthy choices …. whereas I Can’t do dick about earthquakes.
        Funny isn’t it, how what is best for the planet turns out to be best for humans…couldn’t be that we’re animals or anything.

      • Trish says:

        That’s why I don’t worry–because as far as resources go I can make choices. For example, last year–almost exactly a year ago, really–my husband and I moved from the American Wet Dream Four Bedroom Colonial On A Big Landscaped Lot In The ‘Burbs into a condo in the city. Before the move my daily commute to my job was 26 miles roundtrip. Now it’s 30 miles a WEEK–I would happily take mass transit if I didn’t have to switch buses three times to go three miles or walk if I didn’t have to worry about becoming a red smear on the pavement (RVA drivers be crazy). I only have to fill up my (pretty decent on fuel economy) SUV about once a month. A couple of years ago I joined a local co-op from which I can get grass-fed meat and pastured eggs; I can walk to where I pick things up and if I’m driving it’s on my way home from work. Our condo is also within walking distance of a supermarket and a weekend farmer’s market–local produce for the win. But to quote my favorite pundit George Carlin once more, think of how stupid the average person is, then realize that half of them are stupider than that. The vast majority of Americans want things CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP. “Ohh, it’s so EXPENSIVE living in the city!” “Ohh, grass-fed meat is so EXPENSIVE!” “What? Affordable health care for everyone means my taxes go up? NOOOOO!” Once upon a time, for reasons entirely of my own doing, I was dirt poor, living in a welfare motel and working at Wal-Mart, a/k/a the Evil Empire. While those who lived around me lived on junk food, I assembled a tiny makeshift kitchen of a refrigerator, microwave, a big hot pot and a toaster oven and ate As Real As I Could Make It Food–lots of chicken legs and salads. On Sundays I would make something like stew or chili in my big hot pot and share it with a few guys at the hotel. Those meals made those guys protective of me–I was the only woman living in the place–and saved me from minor mishaps like robbery and sexual assault because if you want to see the human animal at its worst live among the poor and it was tribal living at its finest–“We must protect She Who Cooks!” I believe in living through example, not preaching. It’s already been my experience that if people observe you doing something like losing weight while not eating like the Mighty Dr. Oz or those of his ilk prescribe they’ll ask about it.

      • marie says:

        That’s quite the spirit, Trish …but then “I don’t worry about resources” makes even less sense than the first time around. Unless you mean that when your neighbor poops upstream in your water supply (or maybe dumps industrial dyes in it…just sayin’) you’ll shoot him and not worry about it? – my favorite choice, but that’s me :-)
        Not that your choice of expression matters at this point, Doing trumps Talking any day.
        Now about the people asking re.weight loss, that’s interesting > have you seen any successes, that is, has anyone followed the same ideas? Because my experience is that most are looking for a quick fix and/or take a cafeteria approach to it, “I’ll do this and this, but I can’t Live without that and that….”. The ones who on their own make it to a bookstore or online have the motivation, the others don’t seem to get far?

      • Trish says:

        Living in a city = they have shit that filters crap out of the drinking water.

        As far as those observing me re: weight loss–since I don’t eat all the time (I regularly do 12 hour fasts, lots of time 18 hours, the occasional 24 hours) they believe my loss is due to the fact that I don’t eat. I won’t deny that there’s truth in that, but to see the looks on their faces when I say “take out sugars, starches and grains and you can do this because you won’t be hungry” is almost humorous. They think it’s normal to want to eat every couple of hours and I want to scream “IT’S NOT IT’S NOT IT’S NOT!”

      • marie says:

        Lol. O.k., then poops (or dumps poisons) in the water feeding the ground that grows your blueberries… ie. the problem is bigger than that, and immediate, and the choices of an intelligently healthy few are only going to have so much effect, hence ‘worry’ about resources is not inappropriate. Of course, what one can do, if anything, about that worry… a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

        I really feel for your frustrated scream, been there often in the early days of two 22-hour fasts per week. What I do since then is arrange my socializing around the other days/times. I figured since I couldn’t socialize anyway for most meal times of most days, regardless of my eating pattern, this would be straightforward to do and it is. Family is another story, but they’re convinced, especially when I’ve been winning the annual “blood-work challenge” four years running and by far. Recently we expanded this competition to include some friends. Imagine the shock of the 2 vegetarians in the group -“but, but, saturated fat is bad for you!” Groan.

      • “That’s why I don’t worry–because as far as resources go I can make choices. ”

        Jesus – What fucking choices will you have when there are no resources?

  10. (Deep thoughts by Jack Handy)

    Have we over-evolved to the point of destroying ourselves?

    If we stayed as pre-Hominina type animals without evolving a subconscious “smart” type brain – there woulbn’t be any real problems – no?? All other living things understand balance…

    So are we smarter or getting dumber? – because we have fucked everything up.

  11. This book, to me, is kind of a given. For all of us who come to this blog and others like it, probably don’t disagree with what Gary is saying. I am still reading it and haven’t really found anything major I disagree with, but I am taking notes. He is articulate, thoughtful and his plan is a lofty one.

    However, it’s everyone else that I don’t think will get it. You said it was an “easy read”. It’s not. It takes a thinking mind to read his language. 7 billion busy earthlings won’t understand it. They wont get past the introduction. Especially those who graduated from the “holier than thou” public education system.

    IMO

    • Hi, Kate,

      > However, it’s everyone else that I don’t think will get it.

      But they will, when they see what you’re getting out of it. This is why we need to have what I call The Conversation, the serious exploration of self-adoration versus all of its contraries. Once that process starts, and once those who are further along in the process demonstrate the benefits that accrue from avidly pursuing our own values, other people will join in on The Conversation. I tried to make the book eminently readable, but if some folks need to turn to Wikipedia from time to time, they will be that much richer for having invested in their own intellectual capital.

      The more people talk about these ideas, the more they will talk about these ideas, so the best thing any of us can do — in our own behalf and as a gesture of good will for all of humankind — is to evangelize egoism.

      • Greg. I appreciate your ideas and plans to evangelize egoism. You probably don’t know, but I am a crazed Bible thumping believer…rare around here. Richard has dismissed me, but yet I return. I am of the belief that God made me who I am, what I am, and I am pretty happy with that. I like myself. It is as easy as that. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Easy peasy. You can’t love your neighbor if you dont love yourself. I evangelize that. I agree with you… We, each of us, has our own special gifts, attributes, etc. Where I see much value in your book is that so many are lost in what others tell us to do. I am not a “religious” person….and I was kidding about the Bible thumping, but so many are hung up in what religions say, politicians say, educational systems say. I agree with you. My point is that you, an articulate man, could have chosen editorial use of précis to maybe shorten your message for the common man. Love yourself. Do unto others, etc. To me, it is that easy. Yes, the world is a s*** hole…..but when hasn’t it been? I mean really. Socialism reigns? When hasn’t it? Even our founding fathers of this great country had socialistic ideals. If you want to reach the masses…. Make it easier to understand. But thank you for what you are doing.

      • Kate, you are always funny, but honest.

        Greg loves “God.” he really does.

        He doesn’t put it in quotes, but I always know what he means. Those of you who can’t let loose of the literalism of religion because of, whatever, Greg Swann is your Pied Piper.

        Not sure whether he still goes to church regularly, as an atheist, but he used to.

      • An atheist church? What?

      • No. But I best leave it to Greg to explain because I only get it on a level of my longstanding friendship with him.

        He doesn’t dismiss in the way I dismiss.

      • I’m a cradle Catholic. I’m an atheist in the sense that I don’t believe any of the doctrine, nor anything super-natural for that matter. But I like the people, and I like the ideas implied by the body of Christ on earth — meaning committed people actively practicing their virtues.

        You’ll see it in Chapter 12, but I am very serious about the idea of reverence. This is yet another characteristic that is unique to human beings, and it is the source of every sublime achievement. One of my goals is to wrest the idea of reverence away from the theologians and return it to the individual human mind — the only place true reverence can ever exist.

        I don’t want to take anything away from anyone. If there is some idea you hold that you believe induces you to behave well — wisely, honorably, adorably — the very last thing I would want to do is disrupt your practice of virtue. If I can, I want to help you get better at behaving virtuously, but, still and always, you’re in this all alone.

      • marie says:

        “”….to wrest the idea of reverence away from the theologians and return it to the individual human mind – the only place true reverence can ever exist.” Amen! and thank you.
        However….what do you think of the idea that religion (organized or not), in subsuming the best human characteristics to a formalism of service, obedience, higher (aka inaccessible) authority/power etc., is performing violence on the human mind and is therefore evil?
        This is in addition to the physical abuses and violence that the Organized dominant religions have traditionally perpetrated – the latter supports the notion that they may be Inherently prone to perpetrate such abuses and violence due to their fundamental nature (of subservience, obedience, concentration of power etc). Then there’s the idea that religion in effect keeps humanity immature, for the same reasons.
        If I hold any of the above to be true, then while I would not Actively take anything away from anyone, I cannot in good conscience tacitly support it either?

      • I don’t support organized religion in any way. I’m pretty much anti-organization-of-any-sort. The reason is that groups will always seek to bind individuals to them, with the choice being submission to the group or exclusion from it. Whenever I am confronted by that choice — fairly common in real life from the people you know — I immediately sever the relationship. Different people evaluate things differently — a big duh! — but my own sovereign indomitability matters to me more than any individual person or group of people.

        Meanwhile, my wife believes almost everything, but this causes zero conflicts in our lives. The reason is simple: We’re both hugely committed to the idea of sovereignty, so all we have to do to achieve a perfect peace is leave each other alone.

        http://splendorquest.com/?p=330

        “I believe almost nothing, certainly nothing of what people claim to take on faith, where she believes almost everything. There are dozens and dozens of doctrinal issues we disagree about, but none of them matters. First, because, like me, she is happy enough to manage her own mind and doesn’t feel the need to assert control over anyone else’s. And second because we are in complete agreement about everything that matters — honesty, integrity, character, and an elemental goodness, grace and beauty.”

        When I say that I don’t want to take anything away from you, I am not implying that an individual reader of Man Alive! might not choose to pull away from a church or a political movement, once that person sees how “thought leaders” feed like vampires on his or her own sovereignty. The pews may be packed, but not with free-thinkers.

        Just in passing, I want to tell you how delighted I am by your comments. I deliberately don’t argue particular dogmas in the book, and it’s not something I can gleefully undertake post hoc. But The Conversation will play out like this, if it does: People like the commenters here taking up specific ideas and hashing them out. I know with certainty that I am not the last word on anything. My goal, very simply, is to be the first word in a new school of philosophical discourse. With all the hubris in the universe, I am erasing the entire blackboard of moral philosophy all the way back to the death of Socrates. What happens next is as much yours to take up as it is mine. I am gratified to know you’re there.

      • marie says:

        Greg, thanks for engaging. I’m not just referring to organized religion, I tried to separate out the particular damage from that above. Meanwhile, your comment about people like the commenters here hashing out ideas resonated with me…. this is the only site in which I frequently indulge, exactly because the commenters and Richard are so very unusual, with a large variation to extremes, with a good number of iconoclasts, some of whom are wickedly funny, and with a large proportion of very, very smart people. And apparently so are the guest bloggers -thank you:-)

      • marie says:

        Oh, and if my sentence structures sometimes are off, please forgive, I have three ‘cradle’ languages, still in full use depending on the subject or my location, and that can be a recipe for transliteration disasters -especially if switching between subjects or just after a long day!

      • Humans evolved a brain that made up “God” It really doesn’t need to get more complicated than that.

        But us humans like to make everything fucking complicated.

      • Read this book when it came out (Th Little Book Of Atheist Spirituality). His one liner to his supernatural believing tribe was, “The difference between you and me is Three days.”
        http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=spiritual+atheist

        Nassim Taleb often rattles cages of those that storm against the robustness of Ritual though he also seems not to attach himself to a Personal God person.

        Point being, there are many that drop the supernatural while keeping ritual and community.

      • marie says:

        “there are many that drop the supernatural while keeping ritual and community”.
        Yes, I’m one of them. Atheist since childhood, humanist when I grew old enough to consider it, but I sing in my church choir during Passions week (love the particular music, Byzantine) and I exposed my kids to religion “so they could choose for themselves”, even sent the youngest to a Catholic elementary school. I can appreciate some of the philosophical aspects of christianity, I appreciate that it is intertwined with the development of many cultures and so forms an integral part of their history and therefore of their identity (and mine).
        But, I’ve been having a harder and harder time with all of that very reasonable view…..because of the damage I see, not ‘just’ by organized religion, though that’s the most obvious, but also the damage on the human mind by religion’s core subjugation mentality.

      • Certainly some sects of the world’s religions (or even philosophies) have a bigger downside. Within the christian scene it seems Episcapaleans and other High Church (thus low on the personal Jesus style evangelism with emphasis on hell) branches seem to have many free-thinkers and non-invasive God believers.

        Some people switch to a Supernatural-Lite version and are able to maintain a crucial component in Happy living: community. Others find different avenues for that prior their exit.

        I ditched the above without that and it was a bumpy ride for a while.

        When people ask me now what I am I reply with, “I am a Buddhist without the Buddha, Christian without the Christ, and Muslim without Allah.” I get a knowing wink from the likeminded, a shocked look from the fearful, and an “oh.” from those that watch 20 hours of T.V. a week. Perfect filter for me.

        I was a man of the cloth for a decade and studied theology in college. The switch was not well received. Looking back, and in keeping with Greg’s book, I handled my ‘coming out’ poorly.

        I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, so to speak.

        Seems like you are handling yours with more grace.

      • marie says:

        Thank you, though I don’t feel it.
        Short but sweet, Leonard Cohen on a state of grace : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RT2SSw9JRk
        I seem to go back to sleep a lot;-)

      • “I exposed my kids to religion “so they could choose for themselves”, even sent the youngest to a Catholic elementary school.”

        Interesting – I did the opposite – my 12 year old has never been in a church except for one wedding. When/if she becomes interested she can go give 10% and eat the body of christ in the form of a cracker.

        I’m sure she will have some confusing questions about life soon.

      • marie says:

        Interesting – if I was still in Montreal, that probably would have been the same for me and mine. The environment here though (upstate NY) is inundated with religion – so since it’s unavoidable, rather than seeing it in dribs and drabs I was hoping a decent exposure would help them to deal with those confusing questions early, apart from giving them choice. Children have a natural ‘bull-shit’ meter :-)

      • I’m kinda with mark on that. I recall a taped lecture series by Perikoff years ago and in the Q&A he was asked, “what if your kids express an interest in religion?” and he responded with a question: “what if they expressed an interest in arsenic?”

      • marie says:

        That’s perfect! -and that’s exactly why “I’ve been having a harder and harder time with all of that very reasonable view…..because of the damage I see.”

      • Just curious how it is “unavoidable” in upstate NY? You are both right and wrong that children have a natural bull-shit meter. I think you’re correct because they start with the innocent questions like why and how, but they can be quickly manipulated / brainwashed afterwards. The church knows this and literaly preys on them – scaring the shit out of them.

        This has me thinking, is their a genetic predisposition to be easily brainwashed??

      • marie says:

        Unavoidable > in my sattellite-town of 80k people, there are 19 (!) churches. So:
        -Fairs, raffles, charity drives.
        -Ghost town on Sunday mornings (mommy, why cant we have Julie over on Sunday to play?..or ,why can’t she sleep over Saturday night?), parties for communions (mommy, can we go?! can we go?!,…what’s ‘com-onion’ ? :-) ).
        -Religious stuff discussed on tv (eg. regarding schools), or at any gathering, and between kids at school (I got chosen to sing in the choir!, Nanna always makes me wear a hat on Sunday!….I got a pretty new dress for church! Daddy doesn’t make me kneel to pray at bedtime, we sit on the bed – about you?)
        Questions from any new acquaintance (were do you go to church/what community do you belong to? -it’s innocent, they’re looking to make a connection, as in, ‘oh yeah, my aunt belongs there!’).
        And on, and on…. it’s interwoven in every aspect of daily life, I’ve tried to give a glimpse above.
        Bull-shit meter > yes, you’re quite right of course. The Jesuits (I think) said that if you gave them a child for the first 7 years, they had him for life. I didn’t subject kids to Sunday school (dedicated brainwashing) but still, I thank my lucky stars (astrology throwback…) that it worked out well for them. ….genetic predisposition perhaps at work, but only for natural daughter :-)
        Genetics > if, as some have suggested, there is an evolutionary adaptation of the brain to experience ‘awe’ and the supernatural, there would likely be a distribution in this genetic adaptation, as there is for others. Ditto ‘brainwashing’. Ditto addictive predisposition….

      • Come on down to the south where, in one town I lived, there were 21 Churches for ONE denomination. The town was 25,000.

      • marie says:

        OMG! :-)
        Yah, and the other thing for which I thank my lucky stars is that at least up here it really seems to be more about community and not at all about fire&brimstone bible-thumping.

  12. marie says:

    Kate, isn’t that actually being “holier than thou” ?
    This is one of those imposed fallacies. People get Told that they are incapable of ‘heavy thinking’ often, in a huge variety of ways, to the point where even though many people individually might realize this isn’t true for them, they don’t realize that actually it isn’t true for most! Granted, roughly 3 billion busy earthlings are too busy with actual physical day-to-day survival, but the rest can’t be dismissed.

  13. Yes, it is….JK. No, just being realistic. My next door neighbors could care less….and really much rather watch Jersey Shore than find they can have “self adoration”, unless they are masturbating….Not saying they aren’t capable…..they just are too lazy. Greg is very articulate and you have to pay attention when you read. I hope they would read it, but….just sayin’

  14. marie says:

    Yeah, I know what you’re saying, I’ve got those neighbors too (frankly, what a waste of good oxygen!).
    But I’ve also got the others, it’s more than enough.
    Where I get concerned is that if the ones who Can read/think and most importantly, who can write!, subscribe en masse to the idea that few others can or want to try, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Minds are growing, after all, just 200years ago Sunday picnic was at the village square where the whole family got to cheer beheadings and participate in stoning adulterers, talkative wives (!) etc….in western Europe no less.

  15. Here’s a question for anyone who wants to answer it:

    Taking account of comments here decrying gluttony, laziness, ignorance, robotic determinism, predestinate failure, etc., would you argue that humanity is defective by design?

    I’m not presuming a designer, I am simply asking you if you think that, as an artifact of existence, the human animal is incapable of achieving its potential.

    • marie says:

      Not defective, just a teen-ager.
      I would no more presume that humanity is incapable of achieving it’s potential than I would presume that my loud, messy, supremely self-centered, whining (annnd… exuberant, capable of occasionally astounding generosity, very affectionate) teenager is incapable of growing up.
      I’m just worried that, with a supremely authoritarian parent (religion), the process may be very slow.

    • Human potential seems to be little more than a marker invented by those that sell to that market. At least on the macro scale. A moving marker at that.

      • Meaning, as I take different paths I evolve in realtime. Some of my upperlimits MIGHT be fixed while others are trending upward. Technology and the brain (as you say in your book) have opened the floodgates.

    • Yes, we started eating to much meat, grew and bigger brain that started hallucinating – down the hill ever since.

  16. Ursula says:

    Ok, I have never commented on this site before, though I love it and follow it regularly.
    But I have problems with this book. The author says that when we sanction our kids for bad behaviour with temporary exclusion from society, we make the kids give away their “self” and thus we create mindless slaves. OK this is my short interpretation of a couple of chapters… But! He doesn’t give any other method of how to teach the kids right from wrong – prepare them for life in the society they were born into. And how do the kids even achieve a “self” and their own values if we don’t teach them? And if the kids don’t have a “self”until age 5 and we, parents, create it, there is no other way than to make them comfort to our society’s rules/make them slaves by exclusion and denying their “self”. If we don’t do this, we get sociopaths…. who will kill you in your sleep with an axe, because you don’t want to buy them Nikes.
    And to top it all, in his conlusion he says:
    “If you’re still awake, and – man alive! – I can tell in a glance if you’re still awake, you will be as delightful to me as any five-year-old. But if your mind is dead, if you have locked it away in a mental dungeon to make sure you don’t inadvertently think or say something that contradicts some insipid dogma you swallowed whole, I don’t have much room for you in my thoughts or in my heart.”

    So he does EXACTLY what he says that people shoudn’t do – he basically says: deny your self and follow my advice, otherwise you have no room in my heart. That’s totally an emotional extortion. Double standards much?

    And his constant “love yourself” crap. If we love ourselves completely, how can we make ourselves better in his proposed scale of minuses and pluses? If you’re satisfied with the way you are, what’s the motivation for making oneself better?

    Anyway, the book is a total bullshit and instead of emotional bullshiting about “flowers and rainbows” he could write more of the rational arguments he SAYS he has, but doesn’t want to make the book too long with. Bullshit! :-)

    On another topic also slightly touched in the book…
    Wars and violence are in human nature. The only way to keep peace is if you have a big enough and a strong enugh authority/agressor (USA) to keep all the smaller cocksuckers in check. And since the USA is nearly bankrupt and hasn’t even been able to really win a war since WWII… well, you know the rest… I’m not an American so I don’t buy into all the patriotism… but I do belive that you have been “keeping the peace” and “fighting for our freedom”. Because eventhough I don’t believe in your wars (showing your power and robbing poorer nations of their resources), at least you were the biggest bully on the playground with EU being your entourage… Now look at us – beer bellies and all out of stolen milk money. Lucky you still have the nukes. :-)

    • Hi, Ursula,

      Thanks so much for reading some of the book. I’ll be delighted to talk about things I’ve actually said, rather than characterizations of of my words, when you’re read the whole thing — perhaps more than once. I’m not being arch, but I have avoided all of the comments that insist I must be wrong because the commenters has not read the book — the logical fallacy argumentum ad ignorantiam. I have no need to yell at you, nor any desire to be yelled at by you. My take would be that your need to yell at or about me is not in your interest — not healthy in the immediate moment, and unlikely to promote your own future self-adoration. Man Alive! is a technology, a praxis — ultimately as arguable as a branch of mathematics. My suggestion would be to keep reading the book until you get it, until you understand the argument regardless of what you think about it.

    • “And his constant “love yourself” crap. If we love ourselves completely, how can we make ourselves better in his proposed scale of minuses and pluses? If you’re satisfied with the way you are, what’s the motivation for making oneself better?”

      I don’t think that’s what Greg is saying. It’s not love yourself in the sort of modern “accept who you are” psychobabble, self help claptrap. Rather, it is a process of ever increasing thoughtfulness, self awareness, exercise of free will over base urge and instinct such that over time you increasing become the person you can adore and who deserves self adoration. And, you can also see it as a never ending process.

      Greg? Does that sum it up.

      • Ursula says:

        Yep, got it – love your mind = love yourself. I guess I just love my mind too much? :-)

      • Self-adoration is the introspective consequence of seeing your self doing better in the pursuit of your values. As you say, it is an on-going, iterative process, and the better you do at it, the better you will do at it. It really is just a matter of focusing your efforts on the values you seek for your self and for your loved ones — and not on those that other people would demand from you. We are what we do, so being better in the future is the result of doing better in the present. This is so breathtakingly simple that human beings have to ingest a whole library full of unreadable books to successfully overlook it. ;)

      • Marnee says:

        Yes. Introspection is the key, always. I have been saying for a while that a failure to integrate is a failure to introspect. In other words, one’s failure to “get it” is mostly a failure to check ones premises, an inability to even do so, and perhaps even a fear, which itself speaks to a fragile ego and weak character. It’s a viscous cycle.

        Cheers.

    • ….the very first thing I read way back when in 1991 that set me on the path to individualism introduced a similar concept to me he called DTC: discipline, thought, control. This is the essence of free will.

  17. Ursula says:

    Dear Greg,

    Thank you for your reply. I didn’t mean to yell, unfortunately the media we have this conversation through does not allow for a full comunication of emotions – I was going for the Pub style rant with no intention to hurt your feelings. More like a ligh-hearted critisizm with bad words in the mix for possible entertainment which makes a comment a lighter read rather than using big words – you should never take yourself too seriously I think. I am in no way angry or have hateful thoughts, I was just upset, because I was disappointed – the beginning of the book showed promise, that in my opninion didn’t fully deliver.

    I have read your book in full before I commented – I wouldn’t give an opinion if I didn’t as that would be stupid. But you know that different people with different experiences will interpret your thoughts differently. I (think I) understood what you’re trying to say. Maybe it’s because I was raised atheist, I never had the Guilt that most religious people feel about living their life to the fullest, nor have I any trouble doubting authority or opinion leaders. But what did make me upset was that as a mother of a 14 month old baby I am trying to find the best way to raise her and the part of the book where you talk about kids, doesn’t answer that question – it only produces a problem, by which I felt frustrated instead of liberated. I know you’re not trying to give answers, but an analysis. But I feel you only scratched the surface of everything you present in the book. It’s like this book is Volume 1/50. Or a self-help book. Again, I’m not trying to hurt you, I am just stating my opinion. :-)
    Anyway, I came to the same conclusion as I have before reading your book, that I have to raise my children in a way that will help them survive in this culture and try to do that as honestly as possible without “tricks” like: “Do you really want to hurt your grandfather by not going fishing with him?” This is I think indoctrination into feeling guilty for not doing something for somebody else that you don’t want to do. The right way as I see it is to say: “You have to go fishing with your grandfather, because I want you to show him respect.” I mean this way at least the kid would be forced into something he doesn’t like without losing his “self”, right? And if I used the first example I would be falsly creating a “willing” slave. .. Don’t know how I would manage the tantrum after, though. :-) Let’s hope I build enough authority by then. Unless you have a better method?

    And I woud like to hear your comment about your own game with your reader: if you don’t start thinking like I say, you’re out of my heart?

    All in all, I understand your need to reply to me, as you felt assulted (eventhough the basis of your argument is to use one’s own head and don’t follow blindly – and that’s what I did), but you haven’t addressed any of my points.

    Anyway, English is not my first language so I apologize for mistakes and for possible unclear statements. It’s harder to argue a point in a foreign language.

    • > with no intention to hurt your feelings.

      Not to worry. I’m not injured, I just don’t want to debate that way. I want to share a path to joy, and I don’t want to traffic in anything except joy. In behavior classifications, I’m an INTJ in Briggs-Meyers and an ultra-high-D in the DISC system. In dog ethology, that makes me a lone-wolf — solitary by nature and very good at confrontation. I don’t want to be confrontational, though, because it’s self-destructive and it frustrates the objectives I seek. I didn’t foresee this going in, but I myself am a better person because of Man Alive!, particularly the number-line metaphor in Chapter 7. I’ve played with ideas like that for decades, but isolating that one expression, 1 > 0 > –1, makes it easy to find my values at any inflection point.

      > It’s like this book is Volume 1/50.

      That is what it’s like. It’s a survival manual, written in the midst of and in anticipation of emergency conditions. There may not be 50 books from me, although I will write other books of philosophy; I’m working now on a book about immaculate love-making. But I am wiping the slate of 2,000 years of moral philosophy, and I expect for there to be many more books about pursuing virtue as opposed to avoiding vice.

      > I have to raise my children in a way that will help them survive in this culture and try to do that as honestly as possible without “tricks” like: “Do you really want to hurt your grandfather by not going fishing with him?”

      Even worse would be, “Do you want for your grandfather to think you don’t love him?” Or: “Digging in your heels this way is proof to everyone that you don’t love your grandfather.” I wasn’t offering advice on being a parent, I was simply pointing out how parents can characterize the child’s thinking in ways that cause that child to renounce his own sovereignty — at least to outward appearances. A child of five will be full of thrilling observations about everything. By eight, that same child can be guarded and resentful about everything. The difference is indoctrination, and indoctrination takes the form of threatened exclusion: If you won’t renounce your own thinking and supplant it with mine, I will make an unperson of you. Every from of the “You don’t want me to think you’re a bad person” dodge is a dominance game.

      > “You have to go fishing with your grandfather, because I want you to show him respect.”

      I don’t hate it. A presumptive close works, too: “Tomorrow you’ll have to get up early, so you can go fishing with your grandfather.” There’s an element of a hustle there, but younger children don’t expect to have much control over their lives. There is nothing wrong with parental authority, for that matter: “You don’t gotta wanna, you just gotta.” Certainly, you do a child no favors by letting him take control of the home. But: I don’t know your circumstances. My take is that when a child is able to question your authority, you can explain the idea of the responsibilities of a parent and sell it successfully. They know they don’t know how to survive. Testing the dominance relationships is a vestigial remnant from our mammalian forebears, but all of that stuff is easily addressed in fathertongue.

      > And I woud like to hear your comment about your own game with your reader: if you don’t start thinking like I say, you’re out of my heart?

      I was talking about people I meet in real life. I don’t know anything about the readers of the book, and I was not speaking of them. Almost everyone now alive is already excluded from any community I might belong to, simply because we don;t know each other. In fact, I have almost nothing to do with anyone except my wife, for the reasons I named above: Were I a dog, I would be a lone-wolf.

      Please let me know if I have left anything unaddressed.

      • > I was talking about people I meet in real life. I don’t know anything about the readers of the book, and I was not speaking of them.

        I want to take that back. I just read that section of the book. I am talking to the reader at that point, but I had no manipulative intent. I was simply congratulating the reader. My assumption is that anyone who is bound to a dogma will have dropped out by Chapter 7, with any outliers shot out of the canon by Chapter 11. I’m in full Splendor mode by then, and I am definitely selling you on the rewards of Splendor, but I deny nothing to no one by that point: Anyone who can’t take it is already gone.

      • Ursula says:

        OK, but you shouldn’t assume that if people don’t like what they read that they would stop reading. I mean I agree with you on most points in the book, because for me and my communitiy the love your mind without guilt etc. is a given. We are raised to think critically. The only thing we don’t know is how to do. :-) We (mostly) know what’s wrong with the world, but don’t know what to do about it. I think I expected to read some new view on the matter, but didn’t get it. But overall I don’t disagree with your points – I just wish you polished it a bit and to take care of loos ends and contradictions. :-)

        “I don’t hate it. A presumptive close works, too: “Tomorrow you’ll have to get up early, so you can go fishing with your grandfather.” ”
        Ah, my sentence was supposed to be after this first statement. Usually, first you tell a child that he has to do something. Then there’s the rebellion. So the next thing you say is: “Because I said so/want you to.”

        Anyway, you’re right about confrontation with a person who’s style of argument is not at your own level – agreed my first comment wasn’t the nicest. :-) But you know that another truth in life is that you can’t be happy if you don’t feel sad/bad. So you need negative feelings and primitive confrontations as well, so you can apreciate the nicer critics. Right? :-)

      • > OK, but you shouldn’t assume that if people don’t like what they read that they would stop reading.

        My assumption is that people who hate the arguments in Man Alive! will drive themselves crazy trying to shout it down in the solitude of their own minds. I am very much rewarding and embracing the reader in Chapter 12. But in Chapters 7, 10 and 11, I am taking away every mental redoubt of liars and thugs, and my expectation is that the cognitive dissonance that results from trying to dismiss those arguments will neutralize the enemies of the human mind. The book exists both to support, inspirit and energize the friends of the mind and to cripple its enemies.

    • Marnee says:

      Ursula, please consult the new works from Jenn Casey and Kelly Elmore on Positive Disciplin. It incorporates the same concept of selfishness that Greg addresses in Man Alive! and applies it to raising children.

      Cultivating the Virtues:
      http://cultivatingthevirtues.blogspot.com/

  18. 13,000 words from Sam Harris on Free Will. I might have to take that in tomorrow.

    http://www.samharris.org/free-will

    No fear. I suspect I’ll disagree with it in parts, agree in others. We’ll have to see what’s already determined.

    There’s also this. Interesting.

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/free-will-and-free-will

  19. Read it. I largely concur. Thank you for being passionate about cutting away self-hate and confusion.

    The discussion in this thread reminded me of a piece by Chris locke after he came out of a period of escape/addiction,

    “So the question becomes: is it possible to live in a world that is not pre-defined in the kind of philosophic depth you might expect to find articulated, say, on the back panel of a box of Wheaties? A world that is hugely uncertain and whose principles of operation, if any, are largely unknowable? Well, like the man said, when you got nothin, you got nothin to lose. Why not?”

    “You might end up a little on the feral side. You might have to gnaw a limb off to get free. But hey, you can get around just fine on three legs, trust me. And the best part is: it’s your world. No excuses, no bullshit. Somebody fucks with you, they only do it once. Somebody’s in pain, you understand they’re suffering, not having a bad hair day. Somebody’s born, somebody dies, you know who you are, you know what to do. Plus there’s luminous night again, the mountains, water, wind, those stars. That amazing light in people’s eyes.”Coming back in yours.

    “And you say what you see along the way. That’s the art of it. That’s the reversal.”

  20. I have to say, I loved the book. I first saw it mentioned on Sunni Maravillosa’s blog and picked up the pdf from her site’s link. Richard’s endorsement bumped it to the top of my reading list and I’m glad it did. While Greg’s work may stand on the shoulders of others, notably Ayn Rand, his take makes it more accessible to the average joe. I particularly like his way of focusing on the mindful self – this puts the self more in control of her/his own life. Too often, libertarian thinking concentrates on how the actions of society/government/others impinge upon our freedoms. Greg, on the other hand, seems to say that we should instead focus upon ourselves and strive for a life of splendor and not focus so much on those outside actions.

  21. As Harvey notes, the book is more about your own personal responsibility for the state of your freedom. Even then, I am much more interested in the dominance games going on in your personal relationships than I am in the encroachments by the state. But if you are looking for a workable strategy to increase human political liberty, Man Alive! will help you to evangelize egoism.

    @Robert, I encourage you to read the whole book with an open mind. I deal with your issues in a way that is satisfying to me, if not to you, and I illuminate why I think contra-ontological teleologies of all sorts are self-destructive. There’s more on that idea in my video/podcast for this week. My goal is to make life better for everyone now alive and still to be born — and not by denigrating the works of the mind but by celebrating them in a way that seems to me to be more appropriate.

    To everyone looking in on this thread: We have an opportunity to change the world dramatically for the better overnight. In entreat you to share this book with everyone you love, and to encourage those people to pass it on as well. The more people who understand that human life can be improved, the more human beings will make their lives — and yours — better.

    There is a finite limit to bad behavior: Death. But there is no limit of any sort on virtue. Why not grab all you can carry?

    • The personal dominance games. I thought about that all afternoon. I always wondered how I could live with and love a women so different than I, and her family so politically opposite from mine, for 15 years.

      And it has only grown better.

      I will have a LOT more to say.

      Breakthrough.

  22. marie says:

    Head Ache. Help?
    Scientific American new issue (May/June 2012) pg. 22, Christof Koch on Free Will (ostensibly).
    I may be fuzzy lately (sleepless) but I was disappointed – someone tell me if I read it wrong? > he seems to be speaking about Strength of will (whether, once I have decided/chosen what is ‘right’, I can carry through the action) and not about Free Will at all ?

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