Philosophy First

Autonomy Respecting Relationships had an idea like: interact in piecemeal ways. find one guy for chess, one for sex, one for cuddling, one for backgammon, 5 for watching various TV shows with, 2 for picnics, 1 to run with, 1 to bike with, 1 to do physics with, 1 to do art with, etc. have all these different ppl where u have a little bit of overlapping interest for mutual benefit.

this doesn't make much sense b/c of the transaction costs of knowing so many ppl. u have to get to know all these different ppl a bit, know how to get along with them in basic ways, find out what their interests and skills are, learn to schedule things with them, etc. and u have to keep driving around to meet different ppl, instead of doing 5 different things in a row with one person at one location.

another problem is: u run into a disagreement with the chess buddy. u try to discuss and resolve it. some philosophy issues come up – u find out u have some philosophy disagreements underlying the chess disagreement. u have some clashing principles, epistemologies, worldviews ... something major. disagreements are super super common. so u try to talk with them about philosophy, teach them philosophy, learn their philosophy, truth seek, come to agree. now ur doing chess + philosophy with them, 2 things.

this happens with everyone unless ur interactions are really superficial and limited. so u actually get a sex+philosophy person, physics+philosophy person, art+philosophy person, TV+philosophy person, running+philosophy person, etc

but now this is super inefficient. ur trying to collaborate about philosophy with tons of ppl, just to get to run with them or watch TV with them or something. so it's this big project – work on philosophy together – to try to get a little thing like going for a few picnics a year together.

if you want to work on philosophy with a bunch of people because you love philosophy and are interested in a wide variety of perspectives, ok, sure, no problem. but don't do this merely as a means to the end of having a bunch of different minor unimportant friends, who you do an activity or two with, who come in and out of your life easily.

what makes way more sense is a pretty opposite approach:

look for the best philosophy people. start there. start with philosophy. then look at other compatible interests after that, or even create compatible interests (by creating new interests or adjusting existing interests). and try to maximize how much u can do with each good philosophy person. cuz in today's irrational culture, quality philosophy is so rare and precious. u should focus on good philosophy first and prioritize that. and it gives u a reason to want to interact with the same person about lots of stuff, rather than being really piecemeal about every individual topic: because the philosophy in common will be useful for many different activities.

Autonomy Respecting Relationships' idea is kinda like: first have interests, like swimming or poker. then find a swimmer to swim with and some poker buddies.

But then the people you find are going to be pretty average people. not great people.

My idea is more like: first find great people, focus on that. then find some interests you can do with them.

it's way more important to be interacting with great people than with someone with a particular shared interest.

great people can pick up new interests way easier than mediocre people can become great.

note people who are good in one field, but not so good overall, are tricky to interact with. you have to deal with a lot of their initial ideas. if they aren't flexible problem solvers, then you're interacting and hoping for no problems that would need solving, rather than iterating way past their initial ideas.

if someone isn't a great thinker you can have a critical discussion with, and do rational error correction with, then interacting with them directly doesn't have a lot of benefit. it's easier and more convenient to just read their books or blog, or something like that, which would have polished, edited versions of their initial ideas. interaction makes more sense with people great enough to actually be good at correcting errors through interactive discussion.

why philosophy? why is that the focus? because it's the field that deals with how to learn, how to solve problems, how to resolve disagreements, how to share ideas, and how to get good ideas instead of bad ideas.

and philosophy is particularly fundamental and relevant to everything. it always comes up. for example, there is political philosophy, moral philosophy, philosophy of science, "natural philosophy" (science), theology (philosophy of religion), philosophy of aesthetics, educational philosophy.

and philosophy addresses questions like: what rights does a man have? how should people treat each other? when should they leave each other alone? what should they do about conflicts, fights, disagreements? when is it ok to use violence? when is it ok to use psychological pressure? what sorts of lying or manipulation is ok? do apologies make up for mistakes? what else can be done about mistakes?

you may not be aware of any written philosophy which has the answer to these things. never mind that for now. if one is addressing topics like this, that is "philosophy". that's the word for it. there isn't another one. so ignore philosophy's (well deserved) bad reputation and let me use English correctly. thanks!

seriously, there isn't another word. Apple's thesaurus gives only 3 synonyms: "thinking", "thought", and "reasoning". that's how broad philosophy is.

if you prefer to read the word "reasoning" everywhere i wrote philosophy, go ahead. that's fine. but keep in mind then that reasoning is something people should study and get good at. reasoning is something people disagree about, do in different ways, do in wrong ways, make mistakes about. people have different approaches to reasoning and they aren't all compatible; many attempts at reasoning which people make are counterproductive. reasoning well is hard.

most activities involving multiple people are better with talking. even if you can't talk during it, you can talk while traveling to it, while preparing for it, while walking to the parking lot afterwards, etc. and you can get a meal with someone from the activity, afterwards, and talk there. and you can talk about the activity in order to learn more about it.

and problems are inevitable. this includes problems that come up when doing activities with people. then problem solving is needed, and that's going to involve talking.

talking with people doesn't work well if they have really bad ideas, like they are cruel to children or are socialists, environmentalists, collectivists, or SJWs. lots of people are really intolerant of disagreement and bring up controversial topics like global warming, and then get mad if you don't agree with them. and all these topics are boring and unpleasant – or worse – if they aren't discussed rationally in a truth-seeking way. (and most people trying to be rational and truth-seeking mess it up, because it's a learnable skill with a lot of depth and detail; it's not something people automatically know)

and disagreement about attitudes to discussion can make talking suck. should you try to learn? should issues be resolved and the truth found? are your ideas serious or just amateur? is criticism good? disagreement about this stuff can really get people out of sync in discussions. if one person is trying to have jokey fun, and one is trying to be serious, that's not going to go smoothly.

disagreement about social conventions causes problems too. some areas where people may clash are: politeness, stereotyped interactions, friendly mannerisms, socially appropriate responses to statements, and socially normal discussion flow of who says what when. that discussion flow issue includes when you have to listen, when you have to say stuff about their topic regardless of your interest, when you have to say stuff you consider superficial and boring and generic, when you are allowed to change topics, and how much you're allowed to bring back up topics which the other person drops.

if u don't get someone to be all philosophically awesome, u end up suppressing lots of thoughts and values around them. it's too hard to talk with them about it and leads to conflict. when problem solving and disagreement resolving discussions aren't going amazing, people start doing lowest common denominator interactions. to avoid a clash that will be handled badly, they stick to the most culturally normal stuff, instead of their own unique, personal, individual stuff. so people stop having their values integrated into their whole life.

another Autonomy Respecting Relationships idea was distancing. if there's a problem, back off to avoid fighting. interact less.

i do agree distance is better than fights. but those aren't the only two options. you could solve the problem. (at least you could if you're both good philosophers – that is, people good at reasoning. since reasoning is how problems get solved.)

solving the problem is better than distancing when you know someone awesome. then you can have lots more awesome interactions instead of trying to find a new person. really awesome people are scarce, not easily replaceable.

distancing frequently means having to find lots more people. that means transaction costs and trying to figure out philosophical compatibility with them.

the philosophy first approach recognizes that philosophy (aka reasoning) skill and compatibility are rare (and hard to create) and places appropriate value on that. if you aren't a total conformist and you can find a few people you really like and get along with, you're doing pretty well in the world today. then it makes sense to solve problems that come up so you can keep interacting. problems don't mean you're bad people or have a bad relationship. problems are part of life. and problem solving should be part of life too. don't give up easily. don't go "omg this seems hard" and go look for some other person who hopefully is magically easier to deal with. don't think if you find someone new there will never be any hard problems.

if you get to know a few especially great people more thoroughly, then you can also get a perspective on their whole life. instead of just seeing little bits and pieces of a bunch of people, you can actually learn what someone else's life is like. that's interesting. maybe you can learn something about how to fit together a bunch of different stuff into an overall life. how can all your different stuff integrate together into a coherent whole?

and the more you do with one person with intellectual compatibility, then the more you can deal with connections between different topics. your interests shouldn't all be these separate, individual things. it's really common, when doing anything very interesting, that an idea in one field ends up being relevant to some other field.

in conclusion, look first for general purpose skills like being good at thinking and solving problems. it's much much easier for two people who are philosophically compatible to create a shared interest – tennis, South Park, pencil sketching, physics, William Godwin – rather than for two people who both like frisbee or cat pictures to become philosophically compatible. when looking for people to interact with, start with the most important stuff – philosophy first!

By Elliot Temple, Dec 2015 |

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