Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Neil de Grasse Tyson and the Dangers of Philosophy

The NdGT controversy I think comes down to the question of thinking versus acting. Of determining some form of balance

Neil de Grasse Tyson recently made some comments that have been interpreted as saying 'philosophy is useless' -- as a man of want to be action, usually navel gazing, I didn't look too deeply at them, but rushed instead to form an opinion.

I did in fact read part of a transcript from the nerdist here (I think) and thought NdGT's comments were not out of line.

They come down to the existential dilemma we face every day. Acting without thinking versus thinking without acting -- and how we must each find a liveable balance between the two.

For years I made the joke about how hard it is to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning because we're all going to die.

Which is an extreme form of 'where do I turn my spade?' - which was the phrase used in some philosophy course I took. When do I stop questioning and just do something?

Where we fall on the gradient between active and introspective is likely the usual combination of genetic and cultural influences. Look at some identical twins separated at birth raised in different cultures and see how they score.

I believe NdgT's point was that you don't want to spend your entire life 'just thinking'. Or just introspecting. He seems to have been saying that scientists look at the world 'out there' and see endless questions that they may be able to find answers to.

I know that I'm prone to doing ALOT of introspection, but over the years I've had help identifying some of the times when you need to get your head out of your ass and look around. Negative introspection, when you keep telling yourself bad things about yourself. Throw up a flag, and consciously change what you're thinking/doing. Endlessly pondering a decision - at some point you have to weigh the cost of delaying a decision against the cost of making a wrong decision. And sometimes the decision is between two good things so there's little downside to EITHER! So you have to ask yourself - in these cases the SOONER I choose, the better. Procrastination - all the instances of challenges, like doing the dishes, where the amount of work won't change, but the amount of enjoyment of that work depends on when you do it. Doesn't mean you can do EVERYTHING right away, but it's a mental tool to remind yourself - hey, if I do that NOW, then I won't have to do it later.

Anyway - now I have to stop ruminating and work. But I think MAYBE NdGT's comments have been blown out of proportion, by peoples overthinking.

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