关于文献阅读与思想获取的方法论

一个奇怪的现象是,在文史哲等社科领域,人们似乎很注重阅读包括论文和书籍在内的原始文献,似乎要了解康德的思想就必须阅读《纯粹理性批判》,想了解古希腊哲学就必须阅读《理想国》。然而在理工科领域,却鲜有这样的例子。我从来没听过要学好初等数学就必须选择欧几里得的《几何原本》,要学好微积分就必须翻阅牛顿的《自然哲学的数学原理》,也没听说过要学好广义相对论就必须研究爱因斯坦1915年的论文。既然如此,在一切领域里,当可能的时候,为什么我们不能直接了解思想本身,而非要囿于用于传递思想的著作里呢?

有以下多种原因导致人们固执于阅读原始文献:

1)目标的异化。阅读文献是为了获得其中的思想,也就是说:a)是思想而不是文献是目标;b)任何能同等获得思想的方式都是可行的;c)在获得同等思想的情况下,人们应当选择最经济的方式。然而,不善思考的人容易因为同行氛围、传统等原因潜移默化地将文献而非思想当作他们的目标。在“思想-文献”这个目标异化的过程中,原本的手段变成了目标,这导致了人们要最优化的不再是如何获取思想而是如何阅读文献。

2)传统与氛围。一部分固执而懒于思考的人会因为“传统上人们都是通过阅读原始文献获得思想”而认为自己也应该采取同样的方式,因为这样的方式是a)稳健的,因为它们经过了历史的检验;b)是安全的,因为周围所有的人都采取类似的方式,从众心理给他们带来安全感;c)心理成本低廉的,因为从众者不必承担因为违背传统方式所带来的额外舆论成本。由于以上的问题仅仅是心理意义上的,它给人们带来的只是“好的感觉”而非“好”本身,因此理性地说只要人们能克服上述心理意义上的好,就能通过改良自己获取思想的方式而获得真正的好。

3)额外的信息。有一些人可能会认为原始文献里包含了额外的、在其他地方难以获取的信息。这种论点的确在某些时候站得住脚,然而这类人没有考虑到的是,在有限的生命里我们是否值得为那有限的边际收益付出性价比极低的高昂时间成本。事实上,在绝大多数情况下,我们有理由相信,上述人说声称的原因是不适用的,因为:a)一种学说其核心思想与主要论证是最重要的,而且这种重要程度相比其他琐屑的内容的重要程度往往是压倒性的;b)合格的关于该种学说的转述、概括或介绍,都必然完整地包含该种学说的核心思想与主要论证,也即包含了其最重要的部分;c)这类合格的转述、概括和介绍,在许多情况下都是不稀缺的,也即人们不必担心找不到这样的资源。基于上述论证,绝大部份情况下,人们实际并不必为了额外的信息而选择原始文献。

因此,只要条件允许,我们应该直接选择获取思想效率最高的方式;这种方式通常包括阅读该思想的转述、概括或介绍,而通常不包括阅读原始文献。

为什么我认为内省是最难能可贵的品质

标题没说完,其实完整的话应该是“为什么我认为内省是‘理性’、‘内省’和‘情绪控制’三者中最难能可贵的品质”。理由如下:

1)理性和情绪控制的大众接受度高,而内省的价值却长期被大众忽视,这造成内省程度高的人比其他两者更稀缺。学生在学理工科等偏逻辑的学科中潜移默化地就能学会理性思考这种思维范式,这使得绝大部分接受过良好教育的人大都拥有不错的理性(>6/10)。而近代以来,理性也是公认的好品质,大部分受过教育的人都会认可理性的价值,他们也都愿意变得理性,只是不是每一个人的都做得到而已。另一方面,现代的流水化细分工式生产,使得理性不再只是关乎到个人利益的优点,而成了决定生产力的要素。雇主都希望自己的员工是理性的,因为理性的员工决策正确率更高,办事更不容易出篓子,这能使雇主赚到更多的钱。

相比理性是衡量人在通常情况下遵循逻辑行事的程度,情绪控制则更多的是衡量人在面对压力和冲突时还能保持多少理性的标杆。情绪控制同理性一样,获得了绝大多数受过良好教育的人的认可,大多数受教育者都会希望自己的情绪控制能力足够强;而成功学等大众传媒不遗余力地宣扬情绪控制力,诸如“情商”这类概念的发明,也使得越来越多人能认识到情绪控制力的重要。

与理性和情绪控制充足的曝光率相比,内省这种品质却常常被人忽视。学校里从来不会有教人如何内省的课程,社会上似乎没人宣扬内省的好处,而工作上似乎有无内省也没有太大差别。不仅如此,因为内省是一个充分向内、排他性的行为,内省的过程本身很难被人观察得到。人们可能会夸奖身边的某某某很理性,情绪控制力很好,但是却鲜有人夸奖某人很内省。更坏的是,因为人们只能观察得到内省的结果,而这种结果可能就是“更理性”和“情绪控制力更好”,于是内省则更加被人忽视,而理性与情绪控制则更加被人赞扬,这真是恶紫夺朱啊。

2)内省的过程必然包含着内心的挣扎,而这种挣扎体现出人对自己的追求,这种追求使内省得以区别于理性和情绪控制这种更加低阶的品质。如果说情绪控制只是在与人的动物本能作斗争,而理性只是把人的智慧以逻辑的形式范式化,那么内省则超脱了“克服人的动物性”和“发扬人的智慧”这种更加基础的欲求,向着自我实现的目标进发。一个一帆风顺,万事如意的人是很难内省的:既然生活的一切都是那么的顺利那么的完美,那还要内省个什么呢?只有当人遇到困境与挫折的时候,人才会深刻体验到自己的存在。然而仅仅是困境和挫折是不够的,因为这还不足以激发人的内省。内省的奥妙在于,其全部动力来自于现实和理想的落差,内省程度愈深落差就愈高,而落差愈高也就愈体现人对自我实现的追求——灵魂的深度也便在此体现出来了。不仅如此,内省还意味着自我怀疑,而这种自我怀疑对于自尊心脆弱者和盲目自大者都是致命的。也就是说,一个充分内省的人,自尊心脆弱或盲目自大的概率大大降低,相比之下,他更有可能是一个不卑不亢不妄自菲薄的知己者。

3)正是因为上述所说的一二点,与理性和情绪控制相比,内省这种品质更加“天然”和纯粹,因为它不单单只是人性格上的优点,也照射出灵魂的深度。每一个人,哪怕他是十恶不赦之徒,都可以变得更理性、情绪控制力更强,只要他们愿意为之努力,而内省则绝非肤浅世俗之徒能企及的。

大学教育批判

一直无法理解记笔记这个习惯。教授上课讲的内容,如果书上都有,为什么还要记笔记呢?教授在黑板上写的东西,许多都逻辑不连贯,字体扭曲,充满了临时性记号,草稿和“正文”混在一起,而且个别老师的板书typo满天飞,简直狗屁不通,一文不值。可偏偏这种东西,有的人视为珍宝,每节课必正襟危坐,整整齐齐把教授写的每一句废话抄写在自己的笔记本上。还有些教授,一方面宣称不用任何教材,另一方面却对自己板书的水平没有自知之明,又不提供任何notes,简直就是灾难,遇到这种教授上课就是一种对学习的阻碍。

一直无法理解研究生还要上课的这个东西。照理来说,作为一个科研工作者,从博士高年级往后99%的知识都应该通过自己自学(外加偶尔的讨论)得来。也就是说,对于科研人员,自学能力是一种必须技能。可是为什么到了博士一二年级的时候,学生还要去上课呢?他们不能自学吗?好教材大把大把,自己自学完全可以学得很好,一门课也完全可以一学期只meet 2次,一次是midterm,一次是final,其他所有功夫都省了。这样一来,学生的时间分配更加灵活,省去了天天通勤上课的麻烦,不必再遭垃圾板书的罪,而且还剩下了大笔的学费。而教授呢,也不必每学期浪费大把时间备课上课,于是就有更多的时间可以做科研,所有人都皆大欢喜。我真是不明白,为什么世人这么糊涂。

一直无法理解deadline这个东西。你说某某作业周一下午5点的deadline,我偏偏到周一晚上才写完,我学到的东西就因此变少了吗?我认认真真把作业写完,学到了跟其他所有人学到的同样多的东西,可是仅仅因为我晚完成几个小时,反应在成绩上就少了几分,好像显得我学得很不好似的。如果有一个学生偏偏每次都这么做,导致本来能拿A的他最后拿了个C,以后有人见到他的成绩单,以为他这门课表现很差劲,实际上他学得和别人一样多,只不过他的每次作业都顺延了几个小时,然而聪明的你告诉我,这又有什么关系呢?来学校不是为了学知识的吗?晚那么几个小时真的那么要紧吗?

学校里绝大多数事物都有一个deadline。作业有deadline,project有deadline,考试有deadline(通常是几个小时),选课有deadline,退课也有deadline。可是,真正当你作为一个研究者的时候,所有你要研究的问题都是没有deadline的。不论是数学上的猜想还是新物理的发现,你要研究十年就可以研究十年,你想研究二十年就可以研究二十年,从来没有听人说过某一个问题的研究竟然还有deadline,逾期不候的说法。这一点在工程类的学科上可能还有商讨的余地,但是在几乎所有理科里都是事实。而真正的研究者也往往是在同一个领域耕耘多年。事实上,人类所有重要问题的解决、重要真理的发现,都从未经受过必须在某年某月某日之前实现的要求。Deadline多么荒诞!

哲学研究上的哲学

阅读哲学的意义在于启发而不在于内容;如果读完一本哲学著作而没有任何启发,那么这个人只不过在读哲学史。有的人认为,读哲学就要弄明白作者的本意是什么,如果弄错了作者的本意,那就白读了,这样的人恰恰是在考究历史。事实上,只要在阅读的过程中获得了启发,即使弄错了作者原本的意思,那也算达成了哲学的目标。因此,如果有人不小心把康德的观点安在了尼采上,或者以为叔本华说过了一句其实他从未说过的话,那么我们只能说他的哲学史没学好,而不能说他的哲学不好。而那些总是一字一句地考究某位哲学家的某部著作里具体的某句话到底是什么含义,或者热衷于对比不同哲学家之间对同一个不那么重要的词语有何细微不同的解读的人,都是落入了哲学研究的下下乘,属于买椟还珠之举。

事实上,同样的观点很多时候也适用于其他领域,比如音乐、文学和宗教。世界上总有很多原教旨主义者,他们喜爱钻进作者写的某一个特定的句子里,争论这个句子到底是指什么意思,或者作者在此处到底想表达什么。于是,世界上多了很多哲学史学家,文学史学家,和宗教史学家(比如儒家史学家),而真正能够慧眼识珠的人却屈指可数。归根结底,是因为他们没有分清目标和手段的区别,这一点,将在我的博文《目标和手段》中详细叙述。

正因为哲学的意义在于启发而不在于内容,所以,如果有谁认为自己读过很多哲学著作,或者上过很多哲学课程,就认为自己懂很多哲学,那就大错特错了。这些人,最多只能说他们了解一些哲学史。同样地,如果因为对方没有读过某一本哲学著作,或者对某一个哲学家不了解,就加以嘲笑,也属于哲学史学家的做法。事实上,可以存在这样一种哲学家:他们没有读过任何哲学著作,却极其智慧地对每一件事物都有自己的看法,他不仅有自己的看法,还能给出依据,不仅有依据,而且这些依据还能连点成线层层递进,形成一个体系,而这个体系不仅逻辑严密而且能经得起细细推敲。如果这样的哲学家一不小心获得了同行的认可和关注,那么很可能一个伟大的哲学家就要诞生了。当然,这名哲学家可能对哲学史一窍不通,但是这并不妨碍他成为一名伟大的哲学家。

我并非提倡人人都要闭门造车,不读任何哲学著作而在家空想。站在巨人的肩膀上的确可以为哲学研究节省很多力气,但是,勤恳于这么做的人请务必记得:阅读哲学著作其实既非研究哲学的充分条件,也非必要条件。

On stereotype

0. The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

1. Rationality therefore shows its power only when things are properly named (languagized).

2. Things can be properly named only when they are properly classified.

3. A not-well classified opinion on a group is called prejudice.

3. Prejudices grow to stereotypes when they gain popularity.

5. Statistically speaking, people are bad at classification.

6. Hence, the said people who like classifying others become discriminaters and who dislike classifying others give up their power of rationality.

Deductive Formalism of Jungian Cognitive Functions

(Draft)

Abstract

Jungian cognitive functions were first came up with by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung in his book Psychological Types in 1921, based on which Isabel Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs created Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which enjoys great popularity in commercial use and causal self-testings by people. While MBTI has been refuted and discarded by academia due to its problematic statistical validity and test validity, the core theory behind it, Jungian cognitive functions, still has profound meaning and serves as an insightful tool in analyzing personalities and understanding people’s motivation and reasons behind their decisions and behaviors.[1] In this article, I attempt to deduct 16 psychological types as described by Jungian cognitive functions using a series of assumptions, which explains why there are sixteen, rather than other numbers of, psychological types, and why these sixteen types are the way they are (as described by certain permutations of Jungian cognitive functions) rather than other seemingly possible permutations. This article is not an discussion of the definition of Jungian cognitive functions, nor does it attempt to prove its validity. Readers are assumed to have prior knowledge in Jungian cognitive functions.

Key words: Jungian cognitive functions, MBTI, psychological types, personality

Continue reading

Phil 375 Assignment 2

Note: This was a work in rush, thereby not of good quality.

Ultimate philosophy — cope with suffering. – Do not worry, there will be a day when all people are dead and everything will be equally unimportant.

On knowledge. – All knowledge seekers are essentially information collectors, and vice versa.[1]

The power of music. – The power of music to emotional arousal is unparalleled: It is not merely that music has the most intensive effect on emotional arousal, but also that only music can easily change one’s mood into the desired one as one wishes.

Philosopher’s pity. – The pity of a philosopher is that he cannot debate with philosophers before his birth or listen to the critiques from philosophers after his death.

Loneliness. – If no live person can understand you, then turn to the dead!

Immortality. – If time is infinite and a man can be immortal, then for any of his past decisions and actions if he does not completely forget them, he is bound to regret them.[2] If he is a homo economicus, he should not believe in anything other than absolute truths unless he can guarantee that he will forget what he believes before regret. He will have a day when he starts to love what he used to resent most and resent what he used to love most. His memory will be infinitely thin such that it is almost unmeasurable, just as rational numbers sporadically spread on the number line. He will gradually forget who he is, unless he records everything that happens on him, until his forgetfulness surpasses his recording speed. He lives forever and dies ceaselessly. Essentially, he no longer owns his memory, and he is no longer a human being. If all this is the case, the heaven that the devout believers long for will become an existence that is infinitely more terrifying than the hell, and I would rather the universe be short-lived so that all nightmares will end in the inevitable destruction.[3]

An Immortal man. – An immortal man is destined to commit suicide.

Do not be worldly. -Being worldly, including, but not limited to,  focusing on or paying attention to politics, society, news, money, fame, and career, makes one stupid, unsettled, shortsighted and mediocre. Beware that it does not mean one will become noble if one does not do so, but what one should do instead is focusing on his internal spiritual world.[4]

Suspicious Amor fati. Amor fati is such a good and enchanting faith; it is just such a pity that I cannot see the logical reasoning behind it — why should I believe, why should I believe, why should I believe, and what if I just do not believe?

Complaint from a writer. – Writing philosophical works in one’s second language destroys one’s ability to elaborate his thoughts and convey the exact meaning, which is especially a disaster for someone who is very picky about word choices and must always differ the nuances between words before writing.

On thinking. – Recalling oneself’s thinking process is an annoying thing, for not only is it not as entertained and thrilled as thinking per se, but also that one has to worry about whether any inspiration is missed.

On beauty. – Everyone likes beauty. It is a pity, however, that instead of beauty, what most people pursue are beautiful things. I used to think that I was more foresightful than most people in that I did not pursue beautiful things but beauty itself. Nevertheless, I gradually found that the action of pursuing beauty per se is suspicious, and even beauty itself is also suspicious[5]. Hence after consideration I decided to no longer pursue beauty.

On misfortune. – Life is filled with misfortune, while there are always some misfortunate people who like being mean to those who are more misfortunate.

Knowledge and gold. – From knowledge seekers’ perspective, knowledge is like gold. Just as some people can find happiness without using gold, but only by occupying gold, some others can feel content without using knowledge, but only by having knowledge.

The farsighted and the shortsighted I. – The farsighted tend to be pessimistic, while the shortsighted tend to be misfortunate, for the former are able to see all the possible hardship in the future and realize their incompetence, while the later tend to make shortsighted decisions which bring them misfortune.

The farsighted and the shortsighted II. – The farsighted tend to be fortunate, while the shortsighted tend to be happy — they are all adorable.

Final thoughts. -Very soon, the day will come, when all of us will be dead, with our skeletons buried under earth and scary skulls never unmoved as if being lost forever in thoughts. The grades of this course will no longer matter, and what I have written here will be lost to the world. Nobody will know we ever existed; not even in the most humble way can someone tell our stories, the great debates that took placed in class, the small talks I had with classmates…… Very soon, the day will come, when human beings will extinguish, and there, in the whole universe, will not even have a tiny trace that can show there was an intelligence called human that has flourished somewhere in the cosmos, along with their grand stories……


[1] I am too lazy to lay out a detailed and well-defended argument, but let me give a concise one. For knowledge seekers (or we can define knowledge seekers as the followings, if you disagree), their sole ultimate mission is having all knowledge about this world, including both priori and posterior knowledge, which is essentially a sort of information (or at least, belongs to information). When time is limited, instead of trying to get all knowledge about the world, he should try to gain knowledge as much and as quick as possible before his death (deducted from the definition of knowledge seekers). Since some knowledge are more informative (i.e., the knowledge from which you can deduct new knowledge) than the others, for a rational knowledge seeker, he should try to gain those knowledge (instead of the others) if possible, since gaining as much knowledge as possible before his death is his mission. When the most valuable knowledge is gain, he should turn to the second most valuable knowledge, which by the definition, is less informative, i.e., contains less information. When the second most valuable knowledge is gained, he should turn to the third…… The process keeps going, which from the information collection’s perspective, is a process of collecting the biggest part of information out of all information at the first stage, followed by the second biggest one at the second stage…… Here, an isomorphic relation is built between knowledge and information, as they both goes from the “most” stage monotonically to the “least” stage. Finally, to obtain all knowledge about this world, the knowledge seeker must collect all information about this world, regardless of how trivial it might sound, for as long as there is some information can be collected but remains unknown, the knowledge seeker has not yet finished his mission, since he has not known about that part (i.e., the missing information) about the world.

The same argument can also be applied to the reversed direction: All information collectors are essentially knowledge seekers. (Hints: To collect as much information as possible before an information collector’s death, he must become a knowledge seeker and start with the most valuable knowledge if possible, since the most valuable knowledge contains most information.

[2] If he “revises”, “corrects” or “improves” his past decisions or actions, it means he regrets what he has done in the past — no matter how light his regret is.

[3] Memory belongs to information. Within a limited space, the information can be stored is limited, otherwise the materials storing the information will collapse to a blackhole and thereby lose all information. For a being to be smart enough at least at human’s level, the materials constructing it must have some not small mass density, which limits the space the being can occupy, otherwise the being will also collapse to a blackhole. Hence, both the space that a being occupies and the information that can be store in that space is limited, which results in the memory a being can have is limited.

[4] Yes, even people like Confucius, Alexander, Shakespeare, Ben Franklin, Gandhi,…, are stupid, unsettled, shortsighted and mediocre to some extent by my standard as discussed in the aphorism — it is not necessarily a shame. Or for a better word if you want, they are not wise, settled, foresightful, and good enough.

[5] We need to assume beauty is a subjective feeling/assessment rather than an objective existence, which is too big a topic to discuss or prove here (though I can prove it) — let’s just assume it as true for now. Since beauty is a subjective feelings/assessment, it totally depends on the aesthete’s aesthetic system. This means beauty is changeable over space and time — the beauty you “obtain” now is not necessarily still beauty in the future, and if time is long enough, it must be not, since given infinite amount of time anything possible to happen will happen by math. If the beauty your pursue is no longer beauty in the future, your effort is wasted during the process — or in a more precise word, your effort has a low return. Hence I no longer pursue beauty, a short-lived illusionary thing.