OK now we're getting somewhere. I like what this guy is on about. A bit from Wik below - but there is lots more on the wik page. I like this stuff, and wouldn't mind having a discussion about this further from those interested or who can express their own understanding of this philosophical perspective - and it's implications for life generally and personally.

This from Wik:

Sextus Empiricus raised concerns which applied to all types of knowledge. He doubted the validity of induction[2] long before its best known critic David Hume, and raised the regress argument against all forms of reasoning:

Those who claim for themselves to judge the truth are bound to possess a criterion of truth. This criterion, then, either is without a judge's approval or has been approved. But if it is without approval, whence comes it that it is truthworthy? For no matter of dispute is to be trusted without judging. And, if it has been approved, that which approves it, in turn, either has been approved or has not been approved, and so on ad infinitum.[3]
Because of these and other barriers to acquiring true beliefs, Sextus Empiricus advises[4] that we should suspend judgment about virtually all beliefs, that is, we should neither affirm any belief as true nor deny any belief as false. This view is known as Pyrrhonian skepticism, as distinguished from Academic skepticism, as practiced by Carneades, which, according to Sextus, denies knowledge altogether. Sextus did not deny the possibility of knowledge. He criticizes the Academic skeptic's claim that nothing is knowable as being an affirmative belief. Instead, Sextus advocates simply giving up belief: that is, suspending judgment about whether or not anything is knowable.[5] Only by suspending judgment can we attain a state of ataraxia (roughly, 'peace of mind'). Sextus did not think such a general suspension of judgment to be impractical, since we may live without any beliefs, acting by habit.

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Comment by Alice on April 22, 2011 at 10:21pm



So you read the article – interesting hey!


It’s got me thinking about why we believe what we do and if in fact we can even change what we believe as it might well be genetic and we may be born either egalitarian, individualistic, communistic and / or hierarchical in our thinking, which leads to such bias exponentially – we bond with others similar and then like you say use our lawyer type tactics to rationalise our perspective and position…


I would hope that I don’t do this, and that I am more open than most – but I think that would be naive of me to think of myself as some how escaping the natural propensity found …


I wonder what I am – I think perhaps leaning towards egalitarian and communistic… 


But it’s such small increments as we all have all of them… but I would say that we are all very much concerned with our social group – just perhaps the difference is between social group known to us and those unknown to us… and fair with everyone as long as we’re in charge…. LOL

Comment by Alice on April 22, 2011 at 10:16pm



I think I might have the same drive to analyse and synthesise, but perhaps I’m less proud about displaying my process of doing this – and also taking help and direction to complete the process.  In other words I value sharing ideas and working together as a group on problem solving – as opposed to coming to my own conclusions and then fighting my corner.  I’m not sure, you could perhaps shed some more light on that theory.


What so bad about being cocksure about determinism.  I think I’d like to be.  If it’s proved to be wrong then fair cop – but at least I showed commitment! LOL


Choice as uncaused is silly – as is contra causal free will.  Isn’t that obvious to your sensibilities?  You can easily see the cause and effect of everything you do? Even in your reasoning?  No, perhaps not – perhaps my bias towards this has a deeper premise – genetic perhaps – if so though this is still reinforcing my view that it is determined to be that way!  A cyclic argument that support’s itself.


They don’t have any tv doc’s on at the moment about chimps…  have I got time to do internet research on the matter…. Probably not….  I’ve got 3 kids to look after…  goodness my parenting has gone down hill since joining nexus… although my personal sense of value has increased….  Is that actually real?  Probably not, since my main job right now is child rearing.


True – we all care and have compassion whether we have children or not – in fact we are rewarded too by our brain chemistry…   in fact the brain chemistry of having children is pretty amazing too – but I suppose I’ll have to concede that other life experiences can be just as intense, satisfying and elative.


Yes, I can see with that amount of cash that your impact is quite high.  Is it moral?  That was a philosophical question and not driven by strong emotion on my part – just thoughtful curiosity…


I suppose it’s as moral as any other job you might have earning a similar amount.


I was thinking about all those less well reasoned gamblers who are loosing all that cash to your hands.  But that’s the nature of our economy.  80% of money ends up in the hands of 20% - even with redistribution.  You obviously have a strategy that gives you that 20% edge to some degree – as you have shown that you can live a relaxed lifestyle and do a small amount of work to gain a good return.  Money begets money.


Saw an interesting interview with Andrew Denton with the guy who started up the micro loan system in Bangladesh – lending small amounts $10 to women to start small business.  To get them all out of poverty and being subject to loan sharks who used them as slave labour.  In fact I might go and watch another one, he’s got one on Richard Dawkins too who I’m curious to see…


And yes, lies, half truths and nonsense – my husband knows all about that – he is a gypsy at heart – and he’s read a whole lot of books with titles such as ‘all marketers are liars’ and ‘why is that idiot rich and I’m poor’…

Comment by Frankie Dapper on April 22, 2011 at 8:55pm


I am guessing this is meant for me. I buy it. I observe these things frequently. But is inapplicable to my views on science. I am actually quite a proponent of science. I have great expectations for biotechnology. I am not a naysayer of climate change etc. It is where science endeavors to understand ultimate causes and matters as abstruse as determinism that I am dubious. I am not even saying that we will never figure things out. But that is a distinct possibility. And I have arrived at my opinion after much thought. I have not acted like a lawyer who is defending an arbitrary position or deconstructing the opposition's claim.

Comment by Alice on April 22, 2011 at 7:28pm

This is a fascinating article, that links to Sam Harris findings and also relates strongly I think to our conversations here…
Comment by Frankie Dapper on April 22, 2011 at 9:30am


You have so many ideas swimming in your head. For a man I think it is critical to analyze and synthesize. Maybe a woman is more prone to "tolerance". But is is charming.

I have not formed an opinion on determinism. Not sure. I think it is way too complex at this point for any of us to be cocksure. I am quite sure, however, that when it is the working premise the idea of choice and free will is silly. All that stuff about a thing is not determined until it is determined and it would require omniscience to know where the path follows. Phooey.

Atheists ought to be more comfortable leading nonconventional lives.

I'd look at chimps since they are more closely related. As for ideas relating to altruism look at all social animals.

Lacking children does not mean I do not care about the fate of civilization or the ones I love who will outlive me.

In terms of productivity I wager in excess of 300,000 each year. Twenty five percent is take out. That means a minimum of 75,000 each year pays state and municipal taxes and salaries for people in the horse racing industry and at internet gambling companies. In addition I pay income taxes and self-employment taxes. So my impact on the economy is real. When I was lawyering I had an employee and did some pro bono work and generally charged lower fees. I think my impact is greater now.

If you think handicapping horse races is simple think again. But is is fascinating and exciting.

If you want to start out with the idea that humans are full of shit you wont go too wrong. Lies, half truths, and nonsense are everywhere.

Comment by Alice on April 22, 2011 at 12:52am



You know it’s funny that you don’t agree with determinism.


I just think about my life and what I do – meaning that I read a book and then start thinking about it a lot, even if it totally contradicts past ideas – I take it on and think about it – I find it hard to be consistent like that – I get caught up on a track – my husband rolls his eyes at me all the time – what track are you on now?  I’m not sure why he puts up with me – I don’t do much housework, or much of anything useful really – just follow leaves falling off the tree, chasing them around, not because I’m purposeful but because they’ve caught my attention – metaphorically that was about the tree – I just see this as a perfect example of how determinism works – we are ‘victims’ to our circumstances – I haven’t planned or chosen this – it’s just sort of happening.


Anyhow so now I’ve read these 3 books and they all conflict with each other, but I like them all equally and would like to integrate them into my life.  So what do I do?  at the moment I’m trying to get help to sort out what they all mean – what is magical thinking and what isn’t.  That’s were the gorilla’s come into it.  I like to look at them as models for our basic motivations. 


EG is it reasonable for us to be compassionate to everyone all the time?  Could a gorilla do it?  Is Marshall B Rosenberg realistic when he suggests this in his book Non-Violent Communication.  I think not.  I think this is unrealistic.  But is NVC is good skill to learn and have – I think so.  Could it be manipulative – indeed – should morally it be used in this way – I think not.


When Daniel Quinn gets his readers to think of hunter gatherers as egalitarian and altruistic societies based on their erratic retaliation of competitors is he being realistic?  Does he even know the reality?  Where they really living sustainably anyway?  Surely not, as we are them further down the track – perhaps Quinn is mistaken here.


Sam Harris in his book The Moral Landscape does support the theory that altruism is the flip side of competitive aggression – where we got into groups to protect our inner group.  cooperation, kindness and fairness in our inner groups, against killing, greed, stealing and brutality to competing groups.


So what does this mean for our lives – if anything at all?  Why do I find all these books equally inspiring, even though they are in contradiction at times, implying some mistake.  What is it about compassionate society and sustainable live that so attracts me?  Why do others seem to fear that humans won’t have the capacity to respond to the global crisis that currently faces us?  Is it another matter of perspective?  I live in Australia, we are doing something – others are not so lucky in their location – and yet, Australia doing anything is almost meaningless due to our low population – China is the key – India – America.


But I can see Glen, that you don’t have these matters so pressing.  You can live out your life relatively undisturbed – you don’t have great powers over society, you don’t have children – you’re not much of a problem, having a low income and not a particularly consumerist lifestyle.  What should it matter to you.


I feel more pressure – I have children – I need to teach them, guide them, be a role model for them – act in the community to make a better world for them and their children to live in.

Comment by Alice on April 22, 2011 at 12:21am

Moral superiority of equality – no that surely is an oxymoron if ever I’ve heard one – LOL

Fairness is something that we gain brain rewards from enacting.

Egalitarianism – another word for mental masturbation. Ha ha hah ahahah

Interesting – I was once hauled into doing the footy tips – I’ve not before had any interest in sport never mind Australia rules football. And so I agreed, and much to my colleagues distress I started to win. What caused them much more disgust was that my method was based purely on mathematical probability – I watched no matches, I knew details about the players, I simply asked who won last time and went for the one who had the most wins – if it was equal, I’d go for a home game. I have a mathematical steal trap mind – and could quite easily work out horse racing gambling tips if it took my fancy. I like maths because it’s none emotional – I can confidently use maths to make decisions without worry – because I know based on probability that I’ve made the best choice. The fact that I won the footy tipping competition is testament that love of the game and knowledge of form at least in this case did nothing for ability to predict who would win – maths won out.
Comment by Alice on April 22, 2011 at 12:05am

I was a bit of an artist when I was young – I still am inside – I just am expressing my creativity by giving birth to children and raising them at the moment…

I felt a lot of shame and guilt when I was younger, as I had no desire to work for others in a boring job for any amount of money. I wanted to be expressive and creative.

I saved up my money and when to Asia to live for a few months. I’ve had ongoing battles about not wanting to work – I want to follow my passion – not work for money.

Now I’m lucky that I can follow my passions ‘legitimately’ in the guise of being a stay at home mum.

I find it interesting – but I should find it surprising – as my joke was a joke because of the very fact that gambling and other recreation isn’t considered ‘legitimate’ in most of society I suppose. It doesn’t worry me what you do -

In fact I think that both of you are contributing much to society – neither have children to consume more and both are probably on low incomes and therefore not contributing much to our consumerism which is the driving force of our current carbon problem at the moment.

It’s all a matter of perspective. I have friends who earn lots of money, enough to buy organic cotton clothes at $200 a piece and buy hybrid fuel cars that ‘save’ our environment – bull crap! The embodied energy in cars is 90% of what the car uses in fuel during it’s life – an old car is a good car or none at all.

I’m not confused about who is contributing more in this society – it’s you guys – low income – no kids – low impact – low waste… as for me – I’m so bright and intelligent that I’ll pass on all that cleverness to my kids and they will be inordinately sensible and clever in their lives and contribute amazingly to society in a really good way! LOL
Comment by Frankie Dapper on April 21, 2011 at 10:58pm


I am not a science knocker. I just think John is going down a blind alley and working on ideas that are not likely attainable. In all of the areas you cite I agree. It is the determinism-related stuff that is unworkable.

I am not supporting US foreign policy where tyranny and genocide is concerned. US is happy to support dictatorships and turn a blind eye to genocide, especially when the victims are black. And even the Roosevelt administration turned away Jews who survived the holocaust.

Egalitarianism is a belief in the moral superiority of equality. I would say it is not realistic in any area where religion has a stronghold. How are you going to have equal right for the sexes, for instance, in any place that religion is strong. It is certainly something we shoot for in the US.

I defer to your chocolate knowledge.

In terms of my gambling I get by-pay the mortgage and bills. I am optimistic about improving my livelihood. How do I do it? Started handicapping horse races at the age of ten and I was border-line obsessed with it. It is essentially an exercise in logic. It is not something that lends itself to a quick and easy explanation.  I dont wager huge sums-maybe a thousand per day on an average day.

Comment by John Camilli on April 21, 2011 at 10:45pm

Glen, I understand your lifestyle, and appreciate your comfort with its difference from much of the rest of society. I have often found myself in a similar position, so I am familiar with the stigma imposed by the bulk of society who use average actions as a measures for judgement. Sometimes I wish we were the norm and it was the workaholics and baby-makers that felt astranged (no offense about the babies, Alice, lol), but of course humans would be a less hearty species if it were so. That is not to say either condition is better or worse, simply that there are differences. I think it is often the habit of individuals falling in some "norm," or average for a given time to consider their lifestyle (which perpetuates survival) to consist of "right" or "good" courses of action; "good choices," and to judge outlier individuals as "wrong" and "bad."


Alice, videogames and pot satisfy my system's wants, but no more than working or making babies do they accomplish any purpose. This reality would have to have been intentionally designed for purpose to exist. If a thing is not made for specific functions then any of the functions it has are natural and cannot be judged as right, wrong, good, bad, working or not working. They simply "are." Working and baby-making are compeled by some systems, and pot-smoking and videogames are compeled by others, usually not so much hand-in-hand, but there is no intended goal for any of these actions, except from the confused perspective of our egos. Working and making babies happen to perpetuate human "life," because that is the nature of this reality. Videogames and pot could probably be said to contribute to the opposite result, but that is happenstance as well. The rules by which nature operates are arbitrary so it may as well be that pot-smoking and videogames and gambling will produce survival in some other place, at some other time, and you baby-makers will be ostracized and told to keep it in your pants, haha!


Staying alive does not accomplish anything novel that is not accomplished in "the rest" of existence. It creates certain types of interractions but there are plenty of interractions in what we tend to call non-life, some more diverse than in ours, so there really is no distinction between life and death, except that one of the interractions life produces is awareness. The awareness is not otherwise special; life is not otherwise special, and whether or when or where it exists is out of its own control, so its not any use promoting or denouncing particular ways of conducting life - alluding to whether they are habits that perpetuate or end "life."

When you say that morals are necessary, what you mean is that morals are necessary for human survival, but why is human survival necessary? If a surviving human only creates more survival, is he or she really accomplishing anything more than a human who does not survive? We will likely all fail to survive someday, so what does timing matter? Everything we will ever do or not do is already determined because all of existence already exists, and operates by static rules. If new stuff can come into existence and change what we will or won't do, then reality wouldn't be causal and we would have huge logical problems to deal with (or possibly be unable to deal with since a random reality would preclude any structure to thought that we could call logic).



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