Video: https://dai.ly/k72TbxHmTx4n4jA7mwm


0:00:00 Introduction
0:02:19 The Evils Unnoticed
0:04:21 Overcoming Human Nature
0:05:32 Practical Business Wisdom
0:06:05 Attracting with Value
0:08:57 Deception and Value
0:11:11 Bizarre Fetish of Reason
0:13:09 Nightmare of Unachievable Goals
0:15:02 Fix Thyself
0:20:18 Chasing the Fox
0:24:25 Purpose of a Moral Life
0:27:06 Interaction with the World
0:29:11 Vanity of Philosophers
0:32:02 Fear and Learned Behavior
0:34:54 Value Proposition Clarity
0:37:48 Vanity Over Empathy
0:40:05 Teaching the Language
0:42:54 Rewarding Rationality
0:44:40 Releasing from Pain
0:45:21 The Value in Self-Knowledge

Long Summary

In this insightful talk, I delve deep into the concept of self-knowledge and its implications. Exploring the ancient Greek philosopher Thales and his famous words "know thyself," I reflect on the challenges and complexities of understanding oneself. Self-knowledge is highlighted as both crucial and potentially solipsistic. While acknowledging the importance of self-awareness, I caution against excessive navel-gazing that may hinder one's ability to engage effectively with the world.

The conversation extends to the societal context in which philosophers like Thales operated, characterized by rampant violence, slavery, and mistreatment of children. I emphasize the link between childhood experiences and adult behavior, noting how individuals may develop irrational tendencies due to past trauma or punishment for rational thinking. The role of childhood upbringing in shaping rationality and morality is underscored, advocating for a shift towards positive experiences with moral reasoning.

Furthermore, I discuss the limitations of self-knowledge as a central commandment, proposing a focus on taking action and contributing positively to the world. Analogies involving metaphorical shoes, tennis playing, and car ownership are used to illustrate the balance between self-reflection and practical engagement with external realities. I stress the importance of spreading virtue and understanding the barriers to accepting reason, particularly the impact of childhood abuse on inhibiting rationality.

Ultimately, the talk delves into the challenges of fostering rationality in a society resistant to moral reasoning, suggesting that promoting positive experiences with moral thinking can lead to fruitful outcomes. Emphasizing the need to address societal traumas related to rationality and morality, I advocate for creating spaces where individuals can engage with these concepts freely and enjoyably. The talk concludes with a call to action towards releasing people from the fear of moral reasoning and nurturing a generation comfortable with rational and moral thought.


self-knowledge, Thales, aphorism, societal influences, childhood experiences, rationality, morality, self-reflection, virtue, moral reasoning



[0:00] Good morning, everybody. Hope you're doing well. Stefan Molyneux.
It is time to wrestle with the dead. This is a big one. Big, monstrous, deep and meaty.
We are going to resurrect and examine the ancient Greek philosopher Thales.
Thales. Thales. Thales.
T-H-A-L-E-S. I've heard it pronounced a bunch of different ways.
He was an astronomer, of course, a mathematician, as most of those guys were, and a philosopher, a pre-Socratic.
And he is known for two words, Imagine, decades of work, Lord knows how much output, and you are known for two, count them two, words, for the most part.
And these are two words that I have been wrestling with for many decades.
I see the value, I see the danger, and it's quite a dance.
And the two words that Thales is known for is know thyself.
Know thyself. This is, of course, sometimes attributed to Socrates, sometimes attributed to Aristotle, but Thales seems to have been the guy to first, I don't know, not the first guy to think it, not the first guy to say it almost surely, but he's known for it. Know thyself.

[1:13] Now, this is a challenging one. Self-knowledge is obviously important, but self-knowledge is also a solipsistic navel-gazing hole that you can fall down into saying that I'm in hot pursuit of my own unconscious motives which prevents you from getting much done in the world itself.
It also makes you somewhat oversensitive to internal stimuli to the point where you are going to have some real trouble feeling confident and secure in challenging situations. Thank you.
I mean, I've known people who've been in therapy longer than they've not been in therapy as adults.
And it does not sometimes seem to make them more robust.
It sometimes seems to make them more tremulous. It's more of a challenge for them.
Know thyself. Know thyself. Now, one of the problems, of course, I have with ancient Greek philosophers is they were surrounded by brutal levels of tyrannical violence.

The Evils Unnoticed

[2:20] Brutal levels, I mean, obviously, whole society was founded on slavery.

[2:26] I mean, women had virtually no rights in many circumstances, and children were horribly mistreated.
To me, if you're not focusing on the mistreatment of children, you're not really a philosopher.
And by focused, I don't mean, obviously, the only thing, but it's an important thing. It's really the key thing.
Because philosophers say, well, we want people to be rational and reasonable, and people aren't rational and reasonable, so the question the philosopher has to answer is why, right?
I mean, this is maybe sort of my training and experience in sales.
This is basic sales, right? What are the objections?
How do you overcome the objections? What are the objections to reason and evidence?
How do you overcome those objections?
Well, if people are simply born feral and anti-rational and horrible and crazy and confused and aggressive, right, then you're fighting human nature and you become like the era of the communists, like the new Soviet man that you can just reprogram man to not have any care for his own self-interest and work diligently for the success of others no matter what cost to himself.
Well, that's not how we evolved. So you're fighting human nature.
You're fighting human nature. And if a philosopher is fighting human nature, he's facing a losing battle.

[3:44] So philosophers say we want people to be rational, so either we're born and our nature is anti-rational, in which case it's just a waste of time.
I mean, if our nature is to be chaotic and predatory and false and lying and so on, if that's just our nature, then asking people to be rational, in a sense, is like saying, well, my philosophy is that people will be good when they age backwards. backwards.
People will be virtuous when they're no longer mammals.
People will be virtuous when they never get long in the tooth or their eyesight never fades as they age.

Overcoming Human Nature

[4:22] I mean, let's just be going against the nature of reality, right?
And that's not philosophy.
That's sort of like a weird cult mentality. I don't know what that is in terms of philosophy.

[4:33] And very few philosophers come out of the business world.
And I think that's one of of the strengths that i have is just having been in the business world i've done a lot of very practical things i mean i've worked with my hands i've been low level in the business world i've been i mean at just about the second highest level in the business world like the very highest levels are you know the super rich but i mean i was sitting there across from the table with some you know very large companies companies that you all know negotiating for software deals and and working with them, and so on.
So I worked at this very high level of business.
And business just has practical requirements.
You have to have a product that adds value to people. You have to prove their value.
You have to overcome their hesitations, and indifference, and desire to not buy your software.
You have to prove value, maintain value, maintain quality.
This is all very practical, sensible stuff. stuff.

Practical Business Wisdom

[5:32] So to me, philosophers saying, well, people are just born irrational.
It would be like me going to investors and asking them to give me a million dollars to build a company.

[5:44] That goes against all of human nature.
I would say, I want to produce a widget. I want to produce millions of widgets.
And I will also tell these investors that human beings are born hating widgets.
It is human nature to hate widgets. Give me a million dollars so I can make widgets.

Attracting with Value

[6:05] Well, what would the investor do? do i mean when my daughter was into some of these dragonvale tap and gather games the rewards were always you know pretty dragons and gems you know you'd get a pretty drag she got a double rainbow dragons very excited so pretty dragons and gemstones you get gemstones as a rewards right gold and you can build golden rows of gold and gems and dragons like it's all things that we like Like, we're drawn to these things.
One of the reasons they have value, I mean.
So, if you were to say, I want to create a mobile game where you breed cockroaches and get rewarded with fecal pellets.
You breed cockroaches and you get rewarded with fecal pellets.
Or, you know, something that would just be kind of nauseous or repellent.
Or a cooking game where you take the cutest animals known to man, you know, hack them apart and throw them in a pan, like some anime characters or whatever it is, right?

[7:14] Well, the investors would say, well, that's no.
People are kind of repulsed by cockroaches, fecal pellets, and hacking up cute animals.
Like, that's repellent to people, so I'm not going to invest in that.
Like, that would be some weird psycho joke game.
That would be like, can you believe it, right?
Can you believe somebody actually made this game?

[7:36] So, I don't do that. Nobody would know. I mean, you don't see those kinds of games, right?

[7:43] Because you would be spending a lot of money, time, effort, and energy creating something that was repulsive to human nature.
Especially if it came with smell, right? So, just a sort of practical aspect.
You have something of value.
You need to understand the barriers to communicating that value.
People's skepticism, right? And we're right to have skepticism towards those who claim to be able to promote these kinds of virtues and values.
Of course we do. Because so many people will try and get value out of us by pretending value and then not providing it.
Like a friend of mine once got sucked into one of these free vacation things.
They give you a brunch and then they try and sell you on all these free vacations and how much money you're going to save.

[8:29] And he just never really ended up saving any money and it was kind of annoying and frustrating and hard to use and there were all these surcharges and stuff like that.
I'm not saying this about every company that does that, but you know, there are times when this kind of stuff happens.
I remember being at a home show as a kid with my mother and some guy slipped me what looked like $50, but it was actually just a corner of a $50 bill and a folded up piece of paper.

Deception and Value

[8:57] So he slips you $50 and that gets your attention and then he talks to you so he's pretending to give you value you stop, you say thank you he says just kidding, this is how much money you could save if you buy my product or whatever, right?
I remember, and I don't know how this ended up occurring but I remember being 11 or 12.

[9:15] And you know, we lived in a little apartment just my mother and I and a vacuum cleaner salesman came over and gave us a long presentation on how great this vacuum was was.
I remember him shaking it by the hose, how strong it was, how, you know, he cleaned some portion of the carpet and how clean it all became.
And I mean, of course, we had no money to buy a vacuum cleaner.
So it was all kind of nonsense. Oh, he's a pretty good salesman though.
Anyway, so as the salesman, he aligned with me as the kid, right?
And my mom went into the kitchen to do something.
And I remember him just, you know, poking me in the side with his elbow, about it. Go talk to her. Make this happen.
Go talk to her. It's pretty sad, obviously, enlisting a kid to sell your vacuum cleaner to people in a small apartment.
Why would we need this big vacuum cleaner, right? Not even our carpets.
It was all rental, right?

[10:12] So, if human beings are born innately hostile to reason, then philosophy can never work.
Now, you can say, well, yes, but there are some people who like reason.
It's like, yes, that's true.
That's true. And there are some people who fall in love with their toaster.
That doesn't mean that this is a generic strategy for sexual success.
There are freaks and weirdos in the world, because, you know, the dice roll of genetics and environment can produce some pretty freaky stuff.
But, you know, if you want to sell beer, you show pictures of scantily clad women a lot of times, right?
I mean, that's where most people are.
Most men, right? Right? You don't show, you don't, you know, you don't buy a Superbowl ad as a beer company and show a toaster in a negligee or whatever.
I don't know what people who are attracted to toasters. What, what are they? I mean, what's their thing?

Bizarre Fetish of Reason

[11:11] I'll, I'll be happy to sail through this life, never knowing the answer to that question, but you can see the comedy of it, right?
So if you were to say to a beer company or an advertising company, say, listen, we've got this great ad.

[11:25] We're going to associate your beer with how sexy toasters are.
And you just get this thousand-yard stare, right? What do you mean?
What are you talking about? You're going to try and associate our beer with how sexy toasters are? What are you talking about? It doesn't make any sense, right?
And then you'd say, of course, as the advertising company, you'd say, well, well, but you know, there are some people who are really, really attracted to toasters.
And you'd say, well, okay, but, you know, obviously, that's, to put it mildly, that's a pretty tiny niche market, right?
That is far from a common occurrence.
So although you may, you know, one in 100,000 people might associate your beer with sexy toasters, you know, sometimes my analogy brain is quite exciting, don't you agree?

[12:16] Then that's still not going to help us sell beer, right? I mean, it's like, no, no, no, but it's a really loyal, the toaster-loving community is like really loyal and, you know, they have some money and they're like, but no, we're just going to alienate people because they won't understand what we're doing, and they'll feel sort of left out and excluded and all that, right?
So if reason is a bizarre fetish, if reason is a bizarre fetish, then...

[12:44] We're, you know, philosophers kind of lying, saying, well, we want the world to be rational.
It's sort of like the toaster community, the sexy toaster community, r slash sexy toasters, the sexy toaster community saying we want everyone to fall in love with toasters and to be sexually attracted to toasters.
Well, it's not going to happen, right? It's not going to happen.
And then you waste your life, right? You waste your life in pursuit of a goal that can't be achieved.

Nightmare of Unachievable Goals

[13:10] And that's really, honestly, that's a huge nightmare of mine.
Just by the by, That was sort of what Just Poor was all about, was the fear of spending your life in pursuit of a goal that can never be achieved.
Or if it can be achieved, it could only be achieved through violence, right?
I mean, if r slash sexy toasters got control of the state, they could, I guess, force people to date toasters.
And, you know, but it could only be achieved through violence or deception or something like that. It's a nightmare to me.
Either it can't be achieved or it can only be achieved through coercion.
That would be a total nightmare. So, you know, one of the things that bothers me about the ancient philosophers is they were surrounded by evil that they did not identify.
They were surrounded by evil that they did not identify or really even notice.

[13:58] Or they noticed it in very patchwork ways. So Aristotle, more pro-slavery, and Plato, less pro-slavery.
Aristotle had more negative views of women than Plato.
But Plato was absolutely hideous towards children in the family.
Plato wanted children to be raised in common and forced to marry each other so you could get brothers and sisters marrying.
It was just absolutely rapacious and appalling.
Ripping children out of the arms of their appearance. Yeah, it's absolutely monstrous.
I mean, I've done The Truth About Aristotle, The Truth About Plato.
You can look those up at fdrpodcasts.com.
They couldn't get any consistent principles going.

[14:42] And they spent, you know, a whole lot of time lounging around on sofas, drinking wine, and talking about the abstract nature of ideal love.
But they did not look around them and see where actual violence was being perpetrated it against the unwilling, in particular in childhood.
The first commandment, know thyself.

Fix Thyself

[15:03] Why would you need to know yourself? Why would you need to know yourself?
So, the reason that you would need to know yourself is mostly because you're broken.
Like everyone's had, at one time or another, some piece of equipment or machinery or computer or something that just Disc counter half works and requires a lot of knowledge.
I mean, I remember back in the day, I used disk compression technology that was built into MS-DOS 6, I think it was.
It was disk compression technology. So what it did was it created an abstraction layer on your hard drive because hard drives were very expensive back then.
I remember paying $850 for a 286 with one meg of RAM and I think a 20 meg hard drive.

[15:51] Pretty small. And so one of the things that happened was you could install an operating system which would compress your data, put it on the hard drive, and then uncompress it when you wanted to access it.
And for reasons I can't recall now, I had a computer where I could only see a giant blob of compressed data and couldn't access any of it.
And this is very early on, and trying to sort of figure out how to solve it, this was like pre-internet, right?
So this is like like trying to figure out how to solve it, or very early internet, or I didn't have internet, or whatever it was, because I remember the first computer that I got with a modem was a 386SX25, it was a notebook, and I could only really, the internet was like infinite DOS back then, you had to type everything, although there were graphical user interfaces, they were more specialized.

[16:39] Actually, I remember there was more specialized BBSs or bulletin board systems that had graphical interfaces, but they were sort of very localized, and I remember I submitted a great essay on how Star Trek was the equivalent of fascism and couldn't find it afterwards and asked the guy to send it to me.
But anyway, just vanished into the void somewhere out there on burnt digital death stars.

[17:01] So I had to wrestle to get my data back and I had to learn a lot about, you had to learn a lot about things, right?
If you've got some printer that barely works or, you know, the lie of wireless, right?
Wireless generally just means printless.
And then you have to learn about all these things, right? You have to learn about things that don't work.
Things that do work, you don't really have to learn about, right?
Which is why tinkerers go for Windows, which is flaky, and people who just want to get stuff done go for Mac, which is not flaky.
I mean, but expensive and less customizable.
And, of course, the Uber tinkerers go for Linux with its command line interfaces paces and, hey, look, I managed to get these NVIDIA drivers working on Ubuntu 7 or whatever it is, right?
So you learn about things generally because they don't work.
So know thyself is generally desirable to people whose personality isn't working, whose approach to life isn't working.
Know thyself really means fix thyself.
Okay, but fix yourself relative to what? By what what methodology, according to what standards or goals.

[18:12] And the problem of something being self-referential is huge, right?
So you know this old problem in physics that you can know either the direction or the place of the electron, but you can't know both because the moment you try and measure something, it changes.
I'm not a physicist, but it's something like that, right? That you can't interact with what you're trying to study if you wish to know it objectively.

[18:37] I mean, if I'm an anthropologist and I want to go and understand some Amazonian tribe, Then going in and chatting with them and giving them iPads is not me learning about some Amazonian tribe because I'm now changing the tribe, right? I'm not studying them in their natural environment.
So you have to kind of be hidden from things if you want to study them.
Now, you can't ever know yourself. You can't know yourself in the same way that you can know the two and two make four or the gases expand when heated or whatever, right?
Or the cycle of evaporation and condensation.
Because the moment you gain some insight about yourself you've changed yourself, that's number one number two is that we change over the course of a lifetime inevitably right, you went over you're young and ambitious and so on then you want to go make something of yourself and you want to get a great romantic partner for life and whatever it is right but once you've made something of yourself and you already have that great romantic partner or you change your focus.
Youth is for the self, middle age is for the community, and old age is for the world.
That's generally the pattern that happens. So focus changes and so on.
I don't go out into the world wondering if I look attractive in the way that I did when I was 20.
That's just not something I focus on. It'd be kind of weird if I did, right?
If I showed up doing my live streams in a tuxedo with full makeup, that would be kind of odd, right? For me, right?

[20:05] So, how can you know yourself? To know, to learn about yourself is to change yourself, and our self is constantly changing because we achieve goals, discard them.

Chasing the Fox

[20:18] Change. So it's like a fox is chasing a rabbit, and you say, well, the purpose of life is to know which way the fox is going to run.
And you do this by chasing the fox.
Okay, so now the fox is chasing the rabbit and being chased by you, so you can't predict the fox's direction, because the rabbit's going to change direction, and you can't predict that, which means that the fox is going to change direction.
But the fox's direction change is also influenced by the fact that you're a lumbering ass is right up his tail too right so you can't figure out where the fox is going to go because the goal is changing and your effect on the fox is influencing the fox right so you can't you can't figure these things out can't know yourself and what is the purpose of knowing yourself i mean i would assume that the purpose of knowing yourself is to get to the the truth and to have a positive effect in the world, hopefully moral, right?
To get to the truth and have a positive moral effect in the world is really the goal of philosophy.
Okay, so if know thyself is an impossible task, then the first truth you would need to understand is you can't know yourself in any absolute sense.
Now, if you can get to the truth and achieve a positive moral all good in the world.
If you can do that without focusing on self-knowledge, then you should do that, right?

[21:48] To say this again right so if you can get to the truth and have a positive moral effect in the world without trying to know yourself then trying to know yourself is reducing the amount of good you can do in the world right so if you're in a running like you're in some long distance running race and one of your shoes comes off like i remember in high school i was on the cross-country running team and I remember one day we were running through the woods in a big race and it was like crazy wet and raining and there was an area where there were a bunch of runners all fishing in the mud right because what had happened was they were trying to run through the mud and the mud had sucked their shoes off their feet which gave us a good chance to leap over it and did pretty well in that race but if your shoe comes off in a running race then you can't win win the race without your shoe.
You need the shoe. Running through the woods, sharp sticks and stuff, you need the shoe.
So then you stop, and you get the shoe.
Well, that's the know yourself. Yeah, if some big disaster happens in your life that you're doing, then you need to figure out what caused that disaster.

[22:57] So, if you're running in the race and your shoe comes off, you've got to stop and get your shoe.
But if you stop and get your shoe, if you stop and check your shoelaces when your shoes are fine, you lose the race.
So, know thyself is like like there's a problem with your shoes, okay?
If there's a problem with your shoes, they've come off, or the lace is undone, or whatever, or you've got a big stone in your shoe, and every time you run, it jabs you in the foot, then yeah, you've got to stop and fix that, right?

[23:22] But if you don't have a problem with your shoes, and you stop to fix your shoes, then you're just going to lose the race, right?
The race here being knowing the truth and producing a positive moral effect in the world.
Know thyself is like fix your shoes.
You do it only when when there's a problem with your shoes. And, you know, again, I've been to therapy and understanding the self is important, but that it be a central commandment.
It's like saying that the central commandment of a running race is to check your shoes. No, central commandment of a running race is to win the race.
Now, if a problem with your shoes means you can't win the race or even complete it, fix your shoes.
But the purpose of life is to learn the truth and have a positive moral effect in the world.
I mean, the purpose of a moral life, The purpose of a hedonist life is to tickle dopamines until they fall into a decade-long depression and dysthymia and spiritual anemia from burning out their receptors.
But the purpose of a moral life is to learn the truth and have a positive moral effect in the world.

Purpose of a Moral Life

[24:25] And the world can be your own family, your own community. It doesn't have to be the world world, but you know what I mean. In your environment. Know thyself.

[24:33] Again, it's not an argument, this is not a syllogistical approach, right? This is just me, the things I've wrestled with.
Because I have pursued, I pursued self-knowledge with great avidity, right?
I mean, I did years of therapy, three hours a week, eight hours of journaling, reading, like I pursued self-knowledge, but that's because my shoe came off.
I was surrounded by relative corruption.
I couldn't sleep. I didn't know what the next step in my life was. So my shoe came off.
So yeah, then my shoe comes off. I'll I'll dig around in the mugs with a stick to get my shoe back. That makes sense.
But know thyself as a commandment.
See, the other thing, too, is how well can you gauge your tennis game?
Sorry to pull all these analogies through my life, but when I was a teenager, I used to go shoot hoops at the basketball court, and I also, if I didn't have anyone to play tennis with, I would play tennis up against the wall, right?
Now playing tennis up against the wall It's not terrible But it's more recreation than practice, Because you're not placing the ball on the opposite court You're not dealing with how hard your shot is With the topspin relative to it Curling over the net and going down at a high speed You're not practicing your serve into the diagonal square Like you're just not, you know, you're hitting the ball And that's not the end of the world But it's not really practice for tennis.

[25:52] So if the purpose of a moral life is to promote virtue in the world, then if all you're doing is learning about yourself basically you're trying to say i'm a good tennis player because i can hit the ball against the wall you're just playing by yourself dancing by yourself as the old song goes so when you're out there in the world doing things, you act upon the world and the world acts upon you and you act upon the world the world in turn reacts upon you and of course when you're playing solo tennis against the wall you're not dealing dealing with the counter strategies of the other person.
I mean, it's like playing chess and then turning the board and playing against yourself.
You're not dealing with the counter strategies of the other person.
You hit the ball there, they might lob it, they might do a drop shot, they might do a diagonal corner shot, they might do a backspin, like there's lots of different things the other person can do, which is why being a good tennis player means that you, know how to analyze and counteract the strategies of the person you're playing with, but you don't get any of that when you're just hitting the ball against the ball.
When you're out there acting in in the world, you will gain knowledge about yourself from how the world reacts to you.
You will gain self-knowledge based upon how the world reacts to you.

Interaction with the World

[27:06] So know thyself is fairly meaningless if you're not out there interacting with the world.
It's like saying become good at tennis by hitting a ball against the wall.
You're on your own, so you're not getting particularly good at tennis.
In fact, you could be getting worse at tennis.

[27:25] Hit the ball against the wall, you generally don't use spins, and spins are essential to tennis, right? So you could be getting worse at tennis.
You certainly would be getting worse at tennis if you hit the ball against the wall than if you were playing with somebody else.
I used to play soccer every, usually once or twice a week, I'd play soccer, with friends, and we all got to know each other's style of play so well that when we played some other team, we got, even though we'd been playing for years, we got our asses handed to us, because they'd actually been practicing, they'd actually been analyzing the game.
And it was just a pick-up game for us. It wasn't anything at all serious or focused with any particular goal.
It was just something to do on a Sunday afternoon that was fun and gave us some exercise.
But we weren't trying to improve. We weren't running through tires to get our legs stronger or anything like that.
People who go to karaoke are usually there to have fun. and they're not necessarily taking singing lessons and wanting to be Michael Bublé or Josh Groban or anything like that.

[28:28] Know thyself. Drive your car. Your car is not there to be tinkered with, right?
It'd be like saying that the purpose of car ownership is to learn everything about how your car works. No.
The purpose of car ownership is to move you from one destination to another.
Now, of course, if your car... I'm sorry to over-extend the analogies, but if your car breaks, then yeah, you've got to open up the hood and fix it.
Or take it someplace, get it fixed. It's the equivalent of therapy.

[28:56] Of the car is to drive it and the purpose of life is to act.
I mean, what I'm doing now, pacing and talking, is a form of action and publishing it so that you can hear it is also a form of action.
That's what we want.

Vanity of Philosophers

[29:11] That's the purpose of life, which is to act. Because if you're not acting, the bad people will certainly act and then your life gets worse.
Because morality is either growing or shrinking in the world.

[29:24] Now, if knowing yourself has great value, then why did the Greeks never figure out a coherent moral philosophy?
Why did the Greeks never understand and know the evils of oppressing women, the evils of slavery, the evils of child abuse?
And in particular, nobody really talked about the evils of child abuse.
Well, if know thyself worked, then you would look back upon yourself and you'd say, well, child abuse was scary and traumatic and upsetting for me, and therefore I should really work to minimize child abuse on others.
Or you would say well the world is quite hostile to reason people in the world are quite hostile to reason why are they hostile to reason well you go and ask people and people would if you ask them they'll very quickly will tell you that they were harmed as children i mean you would go and ask right this sort of sitting in a in a platonic void of conversation and perfection rather than and going out and asking people.
You know, I, as a public philosopher for close to 20 years, I've been asking people, what's important to you?
You know, the call-in shows aren't for people's personal histories, they're for whatever.
But what people want to talk about is their personal histories.

[30:44] That they have in their actual life. I mean, I hate to say that's called marketing because it kind of cheapens it a bit, but that's marketing.
You have to go and conduct a market survey to figure out what people want to talk about, what is motivating to them.
And that's, right, when I do the call-in shows, I don't say, how can I instruct you? What can I tell you? I say, how can I help you?
How can philosophy help you today?
And it does achieve real good in the world. It's broken the cycle of violence for literally countless families across the world.
And the effect will only continue and, over time, increase.

[31:22] So, know thyself as a commandment is an invitation to think only of yourself, rather than do good in the world.
I mean, if you're in a race car competition, a race car competition with someone who's got a really great car and is a really great driver, some Andretti kind of guy, right?
Or Jason Priestley, or Paul Newman, or I don't know, people who race cars, right?
I knew a guy, he was one of the dullest guys I knew, and one of the most cliched guys I knew, but he did pretty intense motocross racing on the weekends, which is kind of wild.

Fear and Learned Behavior

[32:03] So if you're in a race and there's another great driver, now if you can convince that great driver that the purpose of his life is to tinker with his car then he will do that not race with you and you will win i mean it to me it's hard not to think of the ancient greek philosophers as serving immorality by ignoring child abuse which was rampant and rank across their entire environment and which they themselves experience the child is the father of the man that's wordsworth i mean obviously much later much later but the idea that that childhood has an effect on adulthood is well known and well explained and well understood.

[32:42] Dealing with childhood is one of the safer ways of promoting virtue in the world.
Dealing with political power is rife with blowback and contention and punishment, often, or certainly in the past.
But dealing with childhood is different.
And it really was the voices in the future that got me off politics and under-peaceful parenting.
So, know thyself. No. No.
No, it's an invitation to navel-gazing irrelevancy. It's an impossible task to achieve, and it ignores the basic reality that people oppose rationality, or people are irrational or anti-rational.

[33:27] Because they were punished for being rational as children.
It's not human nature to be irrational.
You know, the Pavlovian experiment where you feed a dog and ring a bell, and then the dog starts salivating when you ring the bell, say, wow, I guess it's in the dog's nature to salivate when he hears a bell ringing. No.
No. We are punished for being rational.
And so we become irrational in order to survive. We are punished for telling the truth.
So we lie to survive. That's an evolutionary imperative. imperative, you know, or to put it another way, as I generally do, those who told the truth without fear of punishment did not survive.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Like all the people they get picked up by the police and they think they can outsmart the police.
It's like, you know, they've got 20 years experience of this. They know the law.
They've been trained in interrogation and you think that you can just outsmart them. Like, I'm like, yeah, I'm no.
Nah, lawyer up at all times, in my humble opinion.
What is the barrier to rationality?

[34:40] Philosophers want to sell rationality. People are indifferent to or hostile to reason. The question is why?
Why? I mean, if you're in sales and people are hostile to or indifferent to your product, it's because they don't understand the value proposition.

Value Proposition Clarity

[34:54] Right? It's Bitcoin, right? They don't understand the value proposition.
That's fine. That's natural. It's inevitable.
There are a lot of scammers in the financial world, and if you don't understand Bitcoin, I can see how it would look like a scam.
So you have trouble selling Bitcoin because people don't understand the background and purpose of it.

[35:15] Explain the value and the purpose of it in the same way that people didn't want to buy the software that had written. Why would they?
They didn't even know about it. Or if they did know about it, I was just another hand reaching for their wallet in the business to business world.
So I had to sit down, do the presentation, show them the software and explain the value proposition and tell them how long it would take to back the investment in the software.
Explain the value proposition i had a relative who had a dog and when i this is when i lived in whitby when i first came to canada and he would ask me to rake the lawn of leaves in the fall, and so i went to the shed and i got the rake and i came out and his dog whined and howled and ran ran away from the rake.
And I said, what the heck? My relative said, this is a rescue dog and he was beaten by his first owner with a rake.

[36:09] Ah, okay. No, no, no, you see, it's in the dog's nature to be terrified of rakes, like 18th century Victorian novel heroines.
I said, no, that makes sense, right? Well, he was beaten with a rake, so now he's scared of rakes. and will be and there's not really much point overcoming it.
I guess through progressive exposure, I don't know, but what's the point, right? Just keep the rates away.
So philosophers bring reason to the world and then the world gets angry and attacks them, and philosophers often retreat into well-know thyself and having windy abstract arguments for funsies, reclining on cushions, being fed by slaves.
Let us talk about the nature of truth and virtue and love while being fed by slaves that are probably being raped.

[36:59] Yes, very important to talk about the two souls that are separated at birth that unite when you're being fed by mostly stolen food, by a slave being regularly assaulted.
If only we could find some evil to deal with. If only we could find some way to spread actual virtue.
But, I mean, I think in general they fell prey to vanity. vanity.
I mean, this is just an instinct from reading these guys, ancient Greeks and ancient Romans as well. It's just a lot of vanity there.
You know, we're aristocrats, we're wealthy, we're good, we're not slaves, we won.
You know, just a lot of pride and vanity there, which kills the empathy for those around you.
And you can't even notice that you're being fed food by a slave while you are in hot pursuit of virtue and how to make the world a better place.

Vanity Over Empathy

[37:49] So yeah, know thyself is a huge problem.
Again, I just want to be clear, I have no issues, of course, with self-knowledge. That's very important.

[37:59] For philosophers, we have to say, what is the barrier to the acceptance of reason?
We can't say it's human nature to be hostile to reason, because then philosophy can have no purpose. Because it can never win.

[38:14] Because there's no reasoning out human nature.
It would be the equivalent of saying, my philosophy is to convince people to never be hungry.
To convince people to never have, well, I guess that's kind of the Buddhist thing, right?
To never have a desire, but to never experience the physiological symptoms of hunger. Well, that's not going to happen, right? People don't eat, they get hungry.
That's nature. It's human nature. Human physiology.
So what's the barrier to reason? Well, as I have talked about for close to two decades, the barrier to reason is child abuse.
And so you can't fix an anti-rational population without making childhood rational.
Of course, right? Of course. Reason is a language that is hard to learn if you've been abused.
As, you know, in terms of, like, clarity of thinking, there's, I mean, almost no children are taught genuine clarity of thinking.
And even those children who are taught that have to navigate in a world where clarity of thinking is opposed, and sometimes quite viciously too.
Reason is a language that's beaten out of us. and therefore reasoning is the site of a crime.
When you tell people to reason, you're trying to, in their mind, in their unconscious, you're trying to lead them to a dark alley with a body under a shroud that it's actually them.

[39:40] Which is the wounding of their true self by the hostility society has to reason, because reason is the opposite of power.
So it's not human nature to hate reason, but it is human nature to want to survive, and if the price of survival is an opposition to reason, then human beings will oppose reason in order to survive.
If you have a difficult language, this is back to the socialist experiments with Esperanto.

Teaching the Language

[40:05] The socialists invented a language called Esperanto because they thought, well, it was a big problem that the workers of the world couldn't speak to each other in a common language, so they tried to create a language and teach the proletariat the language so they could all communicate with each other as part of the the worldwide socialist revolution and of course getting people to learn a language which few others speak as adults is not going to work right it's not going to work i mean a few people will but not not many not enough to make a difference really so what do you need to do if you want people to speak esperanto well the best way to do it is to get the parents to teach it to their children.

[40:43] Human beings, to take the analogy to the most accurate place, if human beings are born innately speaking Esperanto, then all you have to do is have the parents not beat the children for speaking Esperanto, and they will grow up speaking Esperanto.
Because, I mean, in the analogy in the earlier part of, the weakness in the earlier part of the analogy was, if you want the parents to teach Esperanto to children, then you've got to teach Esperanto to the parents first, they've got to know it well enough to teach it, right?
But if we're born speaking Esperanto and have to be beaten out of it, then all you have to do to spread Esperanto is have the parents stop beating the children for speaking Esperanto. Then you'll end up with everyone speaking Esperanto.
That's reason, right? We're born rational. We're born empirical.
The concept formation aspect of our brain that is the true glory of early childhood wants to unite and clarify and codify all seemingly unrelated experiences.
Like when When children learn about trees, they know what a tree is and they can point to trees they've never seen or trees of different shape and say that's a tree.
It's a Christmas tree. Oh, it's a leaf falling tree, deciduous tree.
So they want to do it. So we're born rational. We're born rational.
And then we are punished for bringing reason from the material sphere to the moral sphere.

[42:02] So we are rewarded for bringing reason to the physical sphere.
We are rewarded for bringing reason to the non-moral conceptual sphere in the mathematics, spelling language and so on even arguments of a non-moral kind so we are rewarded for being rational in the material sphere having good cause and effect playing sports going to bringing your father the tool that he needs when he's working on the car right so having success and rationality in the material sphere is praised and rewarded and having rationality in the non-moral conceptual spheres are rewarded.

[42:43] But having rationality in the moral sphere is viciously punished which is the sphere where philosophy has its greatest goal.

Rewarding Rationality

[42:54] If I were to say regarding the dog my relative had in Whitby it is a dog's nature to be terrified of a rake but dogs need to love rakes. It would be impossible.
I mean, maybe with countless hours you could train a particular dog to be less frightened of rakes or whatever, but what would be the point?
It'd be like training rabbits in the wild to be less frightened of foxes.
I mean, maybe you could, but.

[43:27] In any significant way. But all we need to do is have parents stop punishing children for moral reasoning.
And giving permission to people to have positive experiences with moral reasoning is really a cornerstone of what it is that I'm doing here and have been for my adult life.
Stop punishing people for reasoning morally. Stop punishing children for reasoning morally.
Why is it okay when you do this And yeah, my daughter has for a year or two been going through this great phase of, you know, scanning for any potential parental hypocrisy.
It's great. I mean, it's a cleansing rain of objective evaluation.
I welcome it. I genuinely welcome it. And it's often quite funny.
Because I have my quirks, like everyone, I guess.
So, know thyself. Know. Know. Have a commitment to learn the truth.

[44:28] And spread virtue. And then you come across the resistances to virtue, identify their source, and work to release people from the pain and terror of having been attacked for thinking morally.

Releasing from Pain

[44:41] And have the next generation raised, not only with no fear of thinking rationally and morally, which is where reason has its greatest effect, have the next generation raised, not only with no fear of thinking morally, morally, rationally, but with great pleasure in the process.
But then, of course, you need to tell them the attendant problem of being in society that is traumatized by being attacked for rationality.
Being rational in a society traumatized for rationality is volatile, and it's a challenging place to be. I mean, we all understand that.
So, yeah, this is my giant wrestling with know thyself.

The Value in Self-Knowledge

[45:21] So, it's important. It can never be achieved.

[45:25] But it's only of particular value when things aren't working the purpose of life is not to know yourself but to get things done and if not knowing yourself or having being blind to something in yourself is a significant impedance to getting things done then absolutely you know if your car won't start get it fixed, but don't go poking for your shoes in the mud when you could be winning the race, freedomain.com slash donate thank you so much for your time and attention I hope this is helpful and useful to you I do love these morning walking talks so let me know if they're helpful to you freedomain.com join two great communities, subscribestar.com slash freedomain and freedomain.locals.com take care everyone bye.

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May 2024

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