A first pass at David Chapman's metarationality

[The philosophical meat of this article is under the section “Current threads and questions”. Feel free to skip to that.] This tweet has had a big impact on my life: 🧵 Trying to Figure Out Where @DavidDeutschOxf's Critical Rationalism and @Meaningness's Meta-rationality Disagree (for the very small niche of people that find this interesting) — Jake Orthwein (@JakeOrthwein) April 24, 2021 When I stumbled upon it, I had spent about a year being deeply entrenched in the philosophical worldviews of critical rationalism, espoused by the physicist David Deutsch (which he had inherited from the philosopher Karl Popper)....

November 13, 2021

Are there contradictions in reality?

When I was reading The Beginning of Infinity, one of the passages that stood out to me was about contradictions (emphasis mine): Since theories can contradict each other, but there are no contradictions in reality, every problem signals that our knowledge must be flawed or inadequate. Our misconception could be about the reality we are observing or about how our perceptions are related to it, or both. (18) There are no contradictions in reality....

September 23, 2021

Addenda to consciousness post

I recently published a substack post on consciousness and am using this to write a few extra notes that I excluded from the article for brevity. My goal with the article was to take the reader on a kind of explanatory journey, which meant that I had to take certain intellectual shortcuts and brush over some nuances. Examples: I start the piece with a materialist paradigm in which it’s “obvious” that chairs and atoms are not conscious....

August 11, 2021

A commitment to writing poorly

I want to become more comfortable with publishing bad writing. What is bad writing? I’m not just talking about writing that falls short of the most stringent perfectionist standards. I’ve already been publishing pieces on this blog that fall way short of that. By “bad writing” I really mean writing that’s bad. Writing with typos, sloppy word choice, meandering tangents, weak concluding sentences. The kind of writing that, upon re-reading it a month later, you cringe a little (or a lot) on the inside....

July 27, 2021

On finding It

For most of my life I was chasing after “it”. I always thought that I’d find “it” in what I was pursuing at the time—whether it was getting into a particular college, getting a particular job or having a particular crush like me back. What is “it”? It’s hard to put into words, but “it” refers to a feeling of significance, a feeling of having finally arrived, a feeling of deeper and more complete meaning than we tend to find in the drudgery of the everyday....

July 20, 2021

Logical impossibility

How is it that we can imagine things that are logically impossible? I’ve always been a little perturbed by this. It was strange to me that we can imagine or even believe things that are logically impossible. It makes sense to me that we can imagine things that are physically impossible. Our imagination is not constrained by the laws of physics. We can imagine physical objects which don’t exist or cannot exist....

June 22, 2021

Reject claims of ultimate ruination

When describing the trajectories of other people’s lives, we sometimes make statements that I’ll call claims of ultimate ruination. They take the form of “X ruined his life”, where X is a very specific event or experience. Whatever X was, it changed the person’s life permanently and irredeemably. Examples of X: a breakup, a professional failure, an unsettling spiritual experience, an injury. These claims are appealing in their drama and simplicity, and terrifying in their implications....

June 9, 2021

Self-concept in dreams

I sometimes have dreams where I’m checking Twitter. This is bad news for me and my social media usage, but it offers a fascinating glimpse into how flexible our brains are. My dreams look like this: I’m interacting with the Twitter web app, clicking around between notifications and mentions, struggling to follow the information coming my way. But notably, my body isn’t there. There isn’t even a monitor and keyboard through which I’m interacting with Twitter....

June 1, 2021

On believing you will fail

Here’s something I wish I realized earlier: believing you will fail does not mean you will fail. You can succeed in spite of a lack of confidence in yourself. As a teenager and young adult I struggled to develop confidence in several areas of my life, from academics to social status to romantic relationships. I was dogged by insecurities about not being smart enough, not being interesting enough, not being attractive enough....

May 28, 2021

On collections of links

I’d like to capture some feelings I have about a pattern I’ve noticed on the internet: the tendency towards curation. There are wonderful people—newsletter writers and tweeters—who serve the role of curator: who put together long collections of links and quotes from various articles and rabbit holes on the internet, with the idea that they’re saving you time by finding the very best bits of the web. Unlike most of history, we live in an age when human-generated content (everything from books to essays to videos to tweets) is wildly overabundant....

May 27, 2021