[Paleopsych] Dan Brown, Hegel and Hinduism

Joel Isaacson isaacsonj at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 18 16:20:07 UTC 2004

Yeah... I'd like to take a look at that 4 MB ppt tutorial.
Please forward.

Thanks!    -- Joel

>From: "Werbos, Dr. Paul J." <paul.werbos at verizon.net>
>Reply-To: The new improved paleopsych list <paleopsych at paleopsych.org>
>To: HowlBloom at aol.com, paleopsych at paleopsych.org
>Subject: [Paleopsych] Dan Brown, Hegel and Hinduism
>Date: Sun, 18 Jul 2004 09:49:22 -0400
>Good morning!
>Sometimes on a Sunday morning, it is so pleasant to look out to the complex 
>multithreaded fabric around
>us, and try to make out (or imagine?) patterns not seen before...
>If only we had more of such mornings....
>Regarding Dan Brown, someone on this list recently said he would rather 
>read titillating stories about
>the sex lives of the British royals than read HIS books. (The voice of a 
>former teenager in my mind
>immediately thought: "Once again we are too much a nation of couch 
>potatoes...", but I will not follow
>that first thread here.)
>Whatever his problems, Dan Brown does deserve a bit more than that.
>Certainly, Brown makes assertions in his books which raised immediate 
>hackles in my mind -- though I still
>enjoyed reading them anyway. He talks a lot about groups, people and 
>history that I know
>better, first-hand, and he constantly overreached and enshrined 
>speculations that could become dangerous
>if taken too seriously. But after a certain point, I began to think... I 
>have to agree with some of his taste in subjects,
>because I have found almost all of the groups he discusses worth of intense 
>attention. With one perhaps
>central exception: the Priory of Sion. The last trace I saw of them 
>crossing paths with the real world..
>was probably about 80 years ago... He also made a few technical points 
>about codes which I had not heard of - but
>which I have not checked (at least, not checked out completely). (Oops: I 
>have also had no contact whatsoever
>with any French royal lines, unless you count De Broglie or De Beauregard, 
>from a distance.)
>And yet, in retrospect... Brown does have an important role to play.
>Crudely -- if the world is obsessed with a "thesis," there really are times 
>when an antithesis must
>be well-articulated and pushed before it is possible to move on to a 
>synthesis. This has been
>something of a hard lesson for me to learn over the past few years. As an 
>individual, I often want to move
>straight to the synthesis to a point closer to the truth. In my own 
>thinking, I can get away with
>doing that, and can move ahead many steps... but there comes a time when 
>one must either
>communicate or face up to the fact that one has contributed very little 
>real to the world as whole.
>And in that process... as people move one step at a time... one needs to 
>the Great Antithesis.
>Of course, this is straight Hegel. Hegel is not satisfying at all as a 
>theory of how human brains really
>learn and progress. Freud makes a lot more sense, in my view, as a guide to 
>the wiring of a system
>that really works. Hegel is as unsatisfying to the intellect as the 
>"yin-yang" ideas from Daoism.
>(And Hegel, like Daoist folk healers, also has his barnacles and cheap 
>shots that I don't mean to comment on here.)
>And yet... we do need phenomenological guides to everyday life, and Hegel's 
>triangle of thesis-antithesis-synthesis
>does seem to recur in many, many parts of life experience. It can be seen 
>as a kind of crude but
>very useful approximation to a kind of emergent dynamic property of 
>intelligent systems and social systems.
>The Financial Times yesterday morning had a big article (page W4) on the 
>new... worldview... emerging
>in Russia. They say that the rediscovery of Hegel is a large part of it. 
>That also is interesting.
>And when I think of it... in complex ways... I realize how the Orthodox 
>Hindu trinity of Brahman-Siva-Krishna
>mirrors very nicely the trinity of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. In some 
>ways, one might even argue
>that Hegel gives a kind of purified version of that trinity, stripped of 
>confusing and deceptive barnacles..
>(but also stripped of poetry and side stories, yes).
>Why would one care? Why would a more cosmic intellect waste time with such 
>The whole Hegelian process can help us become conscious of a pervasive 
>challenge we all face as
>intelligent systems ourselves" a tendency to be caught in local minima. And 
>it highlights how diversities
>in HUMAN personalities can be helpful in society as a whole making 
>Many of us, in the rationalist part of the world, have tended to gravitate 
>towards incremental progress
>and incremental learning. For example, the neural network learning 
>algorithm I developed
>more than thirty years ago, now called "backpropagation," is an incremental 
>learning system,
>and it accounts for perhaps 80 percent of the useful real-world 
>applications of artificial neural networks.
>(I have free time right now because I am basically waiting to fly to a 
>couple of conferences, including IJCNN04 --
>a term you can google -- to give a tutorial on this. Would be happy to 
>email the powerpoint with text notes
>to anyone who doesn't mind getting 4 megs.) But it has been widely 
>criticized because of how it can sometimes
>get stuck in "local minima."
>The local minimum problem actually is radically different from what quickie 
>users of backpropagation in the MatLab
>program imagine. (Again, the tutorial explains more.) Some key aspects:  
>simple pattern classification systems
>usually do not get stuck in local minima; incremental learning always 
>IMPROVES what you have, and that's
>useful, even if it is not the global optimum; as learning challenges grow 
>more and more complex,
>local minima become more and more unavoidable -- so that we can never 
>"solve" them with a magic bullet but
>we do need to have a whole multi-layer arsenal of methods to try to improve 
>creativity, to find ways to get out of local minima.
>So this Hegelian stuff is basically about fighting our way out of local 
>Years ago, I discussed this with Michael Conrad, one of the people I used 
>to fund, and we put together one interesting story --
>where the "thesis" is the local minimum we are now stuck in, an 
>"antithesis" may be another valley
>we can reach only by jumping "irrationally" in opposition to the local 
>gradient we experience -- and
>synthesis or transcendence is when the learning system ADDS A NEW VARIABLE 
>to its representation of the problem such that
>there is again an incremental path to the ultimate point.
>The strategy of seeking transcendence is my favorite strategy in trying to 
>improve social systems. But the
>energy to MOTIVATE synthesis is often lacking... and it can be hard at 
>times to sell the objective truth...
>and often one must wait until an extreme idiot is willing to formulate the 
>antithesis in
>he starkest  most extreme form before the world is ready for the synthesis.
>That is hard for an incremental, rational Quaker to learn... but there it 
>(Comment: Quaker lobby groups these days tend to have a different 
>personality from Quakers in
>general on this particular point.... perhaps for reasons related to what I 
>am saying here.)
>And so.. Dan Smith. The Goddess stuff tends to be an extreme antithesis, 
>and some of what he
>say about specific people would drive them into orbit -- not just the woman 
>he wrongs from the space movement
>but also many men whom he praises in ways they would not like...
>And yet, it is certainly true that the world as a whole is entrenched in a 
>thesis in its treatment of women
>which is extreme in the opposite direction, and dangerously destabilizing. 
>I am not thinking
>of the US especially... where we have many, many technical problems but not 
>such a crisis...
>but rather of parts of the world where the instability of the old thesis 
>really is an urgent crisis.
>All for now.
>Best of luck,
>     Paul
>paleopsych mailing list
>paleopsych at paleopsych.org

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