Housekeeping Tip

Broken links are a standard feature of long-standing web-pages, like mine. The internet evolves even if nothing changes with the organisation and addressing of your own site. And in fact I have a major house-keep in progress.

One feature of WordPress I covet is a search and replace algorithm that would permit human-mediated bulk-edit of changed links. Seems fixing links is still an entirely manual exercise.

This Google feature helps find broken links, but fixing is one long manual chore, I’ve done sporadically in the past, but impossible to complete.

Simply organising found broken links even by simple alpha-numeric order would allow batch selection for a “replace” string. Come on guys.

Maslow, Pirsig and Foucault Catch-up

Was prompted to revisit a couple of older posts on Abraham Maslow after someone asked me to explain a reference this morning.

The one I shared was this one: “Motivation 3.0 – Pink Does Maslow“.

Then I noticed one of my earliest Maslow posts was way back in 2002 “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” and that I had already added up-front links to two better later posts, the one above from 2013 and also “The Meme of Maslow’s Mojo” from 2011.

Strangely, the reason Maslow was in my mind was another query in recent days – was it Bruce or Eddo? – asking if I’d noticed parallel’s between Maslow and Robert Pirsig’s evolutionary levels. Of course I had, plenty of times, but only noticed this morning that I’d made that explicit in the 2002 post above.

“I’ve [already] made made countless references to Maslow ever since I noticed that Pirsig’s levels of “value” (absolute quality or goodness) appeared to mirror [Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.]” (2002)

If that’s not fascinating enough, imagine my surprise at this:

“Pirsig and Foucault seem to say [Maslow’s levels] represent something pretty fundamental about human social organisation and values.” (2002)

Pirsig, Maslow and Foucault already in 2002. I spent quite a bit of this last year joining up some Foucault dots in some other new correspondence on Pirsig. I’ll need to go back to see where I made the original Pirsig-Foucault levels connection. (And here it is, reading Foucault’s “Les Mots et Les Choses” in Aug / Sept 2002.) (Plus panrelationalism, threes / triads / triples / onion-skins, Wheeler on semantics underlying physics … it’s all in there on Foucault.)

I need to stop reading and start writing!


[Post Note: Ikigai – Similar set of concerns from the individual looking out rather than what interaction with the world gives to the individual – another representation of the content of Maslow:

Strictly only 3-way – anyone on a mission to love stuff the world doesn’t need is surely a twisted psychopath? (Except with a narrow utilitarian idea of “need”.) Or if you prefer, what the world needs …. is love.]

Changing Your Mind

A pet hate of mine is “rational” people who see the point of a rational argument as being to change someone’s mind, to convince someone of something.

A bonkers idea at any time, not to mention a complete waste of time if you think the person you are trying to convince isn’t being rational anyway. It’s a bonkers idea in general because only you can change your mind, and that’s true of anyone else. You can’t change my mind.

The point of dialogue is to learn. And to be “rational”, the dialogue can be any mix of the objectively logical and subjectively rhetorical as long as it is directed in good faith. The point is to understand better what you understand and believe. And that’s true of anyone else. When it’s not, you and/or they are not actually engaging in the dialogue, you’re not even at first-base yet. All bets are off.

Once that dialogue is engaged, minds evolve. That’s how minds change. They’re not changed by someone else.

There are only two situations where point-scoring critical debates that win and lose, making and refuting points, have any place.

Where both parties are already – in good faith – inside a control volume where it is the objective and mathematical logic that is being validated. Even in what look like academic scientific arguments, neither party will  remain confined to that control volume throughout. Everyone has an agenda and interests. Their skin may be in a different games.

Where the belief or opinion makes sense to be treated as a genuinely democratic choice. When the decision is properly going to be some kind of popular vote. Though again democracy is never perfect, and the debate will invariably be a mix of the objective and subjective.

Anywhere else it’s only dialogue that evolves minds. Even the Socratic questioning kind can only go so far in good faith if it expects to involve undermining the other party or reducing a case to absurdity. Any actual mind changing will depend on defensive responses at the time and reflective activity after the event. It is possible to protest too much. It might indicate loss of good faith and skin in different games.

It is the reflection – the internal experience – that might evolve your mind.


[Post Note: Ha, this very morning from Jon Haidt, tweeted by @PoeBrianL:

Illustrates the other point I often make, that the “reasoning” aspect of the mind-changing – or even simple decision-making – is almost invariably a post-rationalisation (“post-hoc reasoning” here), reducing the outcome to some logical objective relations and causes, which is rarely what has actually happened psychologically.

And as it says, whilst I say it is the private reflection that actually changes the mind, it is a rare event compared to all of the other explicit stages of dialogue.

And of course, having thoroughly read and enjoyed The Righteous Mind some years ago, I’ve clearly absorbed Haidt’s thinking into my own. Nothing is invented by one person in isolation. Knowledge and understanding co-evolve.]

[Post Note: Interesting seeming counter-example from James Willis on how we are all however susceptible to persuasion. In the context of this post, I point out that this is persuasion to act. Nothing in this story changed anything about what James “believed”.]

[Post Note:

Interesting and  believable from a many who knows statistical probabilities.]

Pigliucci vs Kastrup on Panpsychism

I have a lot of time for Massimo (Pigliucci) and have found Bernardo (Kastrup) at least interesting and provocative recently in his speculative output. A fascinating “flame-war” broken out on Twitter since Massimo published a “scathing” criticism of a recent Bernardo paper. A paper with an amazingly click-baity “question” for a headline it has to be said.

Sadly, the latter is playing his objection to the criticism to the gallery, including Deepak Chopra, so hard to sort out content from the flak. Anyway the topic is (or isn’t) pan-psychism, so with my interest in pan-proto-psychism – the same fundamental information underlying both mind-stuff and physical stuff – I thought I’d capture paper, critique & rebuttal for later archaeology.

Paper: The Universe is Consciousness.
(And the SciAm article with the click-baity question headline.)

Critique: Does the Universe Suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder?

Rebuttal: The Remarkable Criticism of Massimo Pigliucci.

Denying that his thesis is panpsychism gets off to a bad start in the executive summary of Bernardo’s original paper:

“there is only cosmic consciousness”

That looks the epitome of pan-psychism to me, even if not “bottom-up” whatever that means (presumably pan-proto-consciousness?)

And, I’m guessing from Massimo’s choice of headline we’re dealing with some analogy too far in multiple universe’s as multiple “conscious personalities”. Certainly “multiple personality disorder” doesn’t appear in Bernardo’s summary but is introduced by the SciAm headline writer.

Oh well, time to read.


[Post Note: The dialogue continues:]


[Post Note: And more “attack and defence”:
Susan Schneider disses panpsychism (after Chalmers) in SciAm.
And Bernardo needs to defend it. Beginning to see this whole thing as just another broad vs narrow definitional argument – the same perennial philosophy runs through all sides. People who overclaim universal consciousness are “woo” and those who are “meh, that’s just how it is” are ignored – meantime professional critics stoke differences over “mysteries” and “unproven” arguments as click-bait. Yawn.]

Sweet Reason

Rarely was a program so well named. Exemplary dialogue handled by Evan Davis on BBC R4 Sweet Reason on “Offense”.

The thesis being discussed was implicitly:
Weaponised Offense Taking
as part of
Identity by Victimhood.

Contentious topic on PC-Ness of free expression. With Jordan Peterson (white-male) and Dr Clare Chambers and Shaista Aziz (non-male / non-white) what a recipe.

And yes, couple of points where mutual buttons were pressed. The philosopher valiantly wanting to keep an objective handle on the “but who / in what position of power” aspect of the context for potentially offensive expression. The “White men …” response from Aziz … classic stuff …

Particularly liked the Rod Liddell example – the “I think we can call 40,000 Romanian immigrants a swarm” one-liner – demonstrating that the context (including the social role of the person) matters. In satirical journalism, the Court Jester role is recognised.

And yet … near perfect summary from Davis … JBP (the white man, naturally!) felt the need to insert his dangers of weaponisation point into the summary … but no actual dissent. And, as Davis noted at a couple of points, mostly violent agreement.

Exemplary on several levels.

Explicit – The topic and the content of the discourse leading to progressive agreement.

Context – JBP is probably red rag to many otherwise intelligent bulls in the current climate, so exemplary in not shrinking from any degree of difficulty.

Meta – The handling of proper dialogue. Balance of differing inputs, but with enforced listening, summarising between the parties, ad-hominems and adversarials suppressed.

Well done Evan Davis. Well done BBCR4 – with more of this there would be no need for any intellectual dark web.

‘Cept maybe marketing and book sales 😉


[Post Note: Also heard the @StephenSackur BBC World / News TV “HardTalk” interview with JBP (h/t @JacobKishere). Sackur clear pushes the critical side on each of 5 or 6 agenda – source as much from critics as his own reading – points, but gives JBP opportunity for clear responses. Good responses, good source of JBP thought in fact? Sackur doing journalist job with no lingering / hidden agenda apparent? Contrast with the (UK) original @CathyNewman i/v where despite the “you got me” ray of light, Cathy still harboured her leftist / feminist agenda, maintained it in the following weeks’ debate in fact.]


I said, when reading Aldous Huxley back in 2007, that I was having trouble seeing the wood for the trees – what specific points Huxley was making – even though it was already a given that some kind of perennial philosophy is what we are dealing with in real life.

Since before then my approach is always to seek parallels and connections – to synthesise my own view of knowledge (meta-knowledge) – rather than to seek difference with a view to tribal attack and defense. It does mean I leave a lot of detail behind, to treat general ideas as givens in the context of ongoing future-directed efforts. I’m an engineer, not the kind of researcher who needs to publish formal academic papers.

One such “given” aspect of perennial philosophy is the idea that Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality (MoQ) is the framework on which I’m able to hang pretty much any new ideas I come across. Things that don’t appear to fit are either a matter of re-expression, or they are flawed in themselves – a kind of meta-cognitive-dissonance on a grand scale. It works for me.

I mentioned this last when I published “After The Fireworks” a couple of weeks ago on the 50th anniversary of Pirsig setting out on his Zen and the Art motorcycle trip. That 50th anniversary prompted quite a few reflective pieces by others, and David Matos very kindly shared my link on his ZMM Quality facebook page. I got a lot of hits as a result, which prompted renewed correspondence in several media, and one set of comment threads from Bruce Adam on several of my blog posts as well as on the “After The Fireworks” post.

I’ve dubbed myself PoPoMo – that is I don’t particularly want to argue about Post-Modernism any more than I do (say) Logical Positivism. I’ve moved on from any specific philosophy to following the Eternal Golden Braid that runs through them all, a ubiquitous perennialism.

There is an evolutionary framework from the physical to the psychological. Pretty much everything, no, literally everything (*)- from the banes of modern life, populist-politics and fake-news, to the most fundamental new physics – hangs on that framework. The most current professional philosophical take on this biological (gene-meme) philosophy metaphor is probably the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) initiative.

[(*) BTW don’t confuse a truly universal metaphysical framework with the idea of a grand unified theory of physics. One exists, the other doesn’t. It’s possible to be universal in explanatory reach without being either fundamental or absolute.]

The remainder of this holding post is really just a collation of all the links and parallels that show how ubiquitous the perennial philosophy has been, provided in the comments from Bruce Adam.

Starting first with JBS Haldane because despite appreciating him and his work, I’ve never read him in the original or in biography. Particularly interesting now because in my role as a trustee, I’m involved in an on-line archiving project for the Rationalist (Press) Association / New Humanist going back over 100 years, and I’m pretty sure there is a lot of Haldane in there. [More later.]

This may help.
(Martin Goodman biog of JS Haldane – father of JBS)

And this . (Ronald Clark biog of JBS Haldane)

“[JBS]  was the cleverest man I ever knew. ” from Peter Medawar’s preface to Ronald Clark’s JBS biog.

Both fascinating biographies quite apart from any philosophical content.

[J S Haldane’s “Philosophy of a Biologist” is central to this.]

John Maynard Smith talking about Haldane:

And reading him at Eton:

(Many other good pieces in that Web of Stories btw.) And the Wikipedia page on JBS Haldane (not to be confused with his father JS Haldane) includes reference to Peter Medawar’s biography. (Already now on order.)

The opening remark in JBS Haldane’s “Possible Worlds”.

“It is not clear that professionalism is any more desirable in philosophy than in football or religion.”

Is indeed up there with Pirsig’s own disparaging “philosophology” take on professional philosophy. That recurring irony in my original “After The Fireworks” post.

The Huxley / Haldane relationship I’d never spotted before.

WK Clifford is largely new to me but also fascinating.

Here in his essays you’ll find his “Tribal Self” morality , his famous “Ethics of Belief” (which gives takes such a hard-pragmatic stance that William James was inspired to write his defence of Fideism “The Will to Believe”)

I recommend “On the Nature of Things in Themselves” Page 52.

The “tribal” nature of so much (low quality) discourse is indeed a core issue for us all. (The so-called “intellectual dark web” is one response to this.)

Parallels between Maslow and Pirsig in hierarchical evolutionary views of humanity I have previously noted. (Update here.)

And Doug Hofstadter on how so much mental evolution depends on slipping by analogy.

Schroedinger’s “What is Life” has already been influential to me.

And the Heisenberg / Northrop / Pirsig connections.

[Lots more to follow-up here and links to add.
For now let’s just end with this:]

Fundamental (sub-quantum) physics / metaphysics interface is a recurring interest here – especially those physicists that see the philosophical and epistemological difficulties they’re dealing with. (eg Rovelli and Verlinde much referenced here recently. I hold a particular information flow view of fundamental physics.)


“QBism would say, it’s not that the world is built up from stuff on “the outside” as the Greeks would have had it. Nor is it built up from stuff on “the inside” as the idealists, like George Berkeley and Eddington, would have it. Rather, the stuff of the world is in the character of what each of us encounters every living moment — stuff that is neither inside nor outside, but prior to the very notion of a cut between the two at all.”

This is a misreading of Eddington who actually champions WK Clifford’s “Mind-Stuff” in his Gifford Lecture.

Here’s an overview and defence.

Mind-stuff, in my book is the fundamental information I speak of. QBism is however new to me. I have some issues with interpretations of Bayesian ideas, same as any uses of statistical probabilities in complex situations where underlying models are presumed too simply. (eg Taleb’s work)

And a good deal more. Thanks Bruce!

A Devout Sceptic

Saw David Boulton speak on Thursday last, at a meeting of North-East Humanists in the Newcastle Irish Centre nestled incongruously between St James’s Park and Chinatown.

In the history of UK secularism and TV broadcasting, Boulton’s fame precedes him. Editor of many journals in this space over the decades and particularly known for his “World in Action” documentaries for Granada TV, his books including “The Trouble with God” and his involvement in the Don Cupitt inspired “Sea of Faith” network.

Fascinating to hear the story of his own evolution from an ultra- doctrinaire and insular Plymouth Brethren upbringing via socialism and CND to a firmly committed Non-theist Quaker Humanist. (A “Quaker” – being simply the ironically self-adopted pejorative epithet from 17th C critics of members of The Society of Friends. A branding that has stuck.)

When he started uncertainly with a self-effacing introduction to his “Confessions of a Devout Sceptic” title (a title which he has of course used before in talks over the years) and a list of 12 reasons why Beer is better than God, I thought for a brief moment he was going to give us a born-again anti-God polemic. I needn’t have worried. (He didn’t and the audience wasn’t entirely 21st C  New-Atheist types, notably 2 or 3 Christian Apologetics types including Jonathan McLatchie – PhD in Evolutionary Biology at NCL.)

He knew his history of UK secularism almost first hand – recounting Holyoake and others and touching on the whole christian-cultural, Quaker-industrial socialism crossover, Cadbury, Rowntree, Unilever and the New Lanark Mills, (though he didn’t mention the latter two by name). Fascinating story in its own right.

Particularly wonderful the whole creed-free “fellowship” angle to every human interaction whatever the context, religious or otherwise – a feature of the Society of Friends. I’ve already mentioned that as well as self-identifying as a Christian Humanist, he calls himself a Non-Theist on the God vs Atheism scale – exactly as I do. Whatever our creeds or lack of them, we’re all human, even theists and theologians, as I often point out.

The highlight was his honest response to a question – from the apologetics – that there was no rational explanation, nor even any post-rationalisation – of how he’d arrived at any intellectual description of his current Non-theist, Quaker, Humanist position at all. It was simply an evolutionary process of changing perspectives from real life experience. Long tradition being as important as the fellowship itself. Perfect.

[Post Note – interesting given my other ongoing dialogues with Libertarians, his Quaker position on near-absolute pacifism is probably the only point at which we’d maybe part company. Worth some dialogue.]

[Post Note – also, as in so many topics of discussion here on Psybertron, there is the “meta” angle. The only creed is no-creed. So hard for the one-dimensional strictly objective scientistic types to get a grip on such logical Catch-22’s.]

[Post Note – give his many secular editorial duties along the way, and the Jonathan Miller connection, presumably some Boulton tie up along the line with the Rationalist Press Association now Rationalist Association / New Humanist, of which I am a trustee and Miller was president.]