Showing posts with the label Philosophy

Understanding Grief

I gave a speech last night at the Red Lotus Art Gallery in Muskegon, Michigan. It's an area that I've been working on for most of my life now, "Understanding Grief".

Here are three places that you can watch the speech:

Most of the world

Russia and a few other places


I'm working on becoming better at communicating the concepts that I've originated in this area. The process necessary to reach a new understanding in a subject for yourself is different than the process necessary to communicate those same ideas to someone else.

I talked about grief in my series of philosophy essays titled "The Most Important Question in Philosophy". It was well received. I wrote an article titled "Aphorisms on Grief, Suicide, and Meaning in Life". It was not well received, specifically be…

"Flavor and Value" Versus "Jeff's Hammer"

I can use philosophical tools that I've invented on my own philosophical concepts. Read and see.

I wrote an article titled "Flavor and Value" that talks about why we like things and how we justify it. The basic idea is that sometimes we don't have to justify liking something. Some values establish a base of value and there simply is no why, you just like it or you don't. That's the idea we will smash. Here is that article:

Jeff's Hammer is a conceptual tool I invented. The basic idea is that given any current level of understanding, there is always more available complexity. The metaphor of using a hammer to smash things into pieces, or smash things together, or to smash things across time and space, works well to remind us of this and keep us conceptually humble. Here is that article:

Now, let's apply Jef…

Jeff's Zipper

Does free will exist? Is everything determined? Do I have choices? The current models don't satisfy me.

There are a lot of debates and a lot of theories on this. But, we need a framework that we can use for life.

We are obviously limited, highly limited. We can't do anything we want at any time. We have reflexes, and we don't even have to think about our heart beating. Many things are not within any field that could be considered free will.

But, we do make choices. There are alternatives that we have. I could write or not write, publish or not publish. I could read a book or watch tv. Eat beef tartare or drink raw colostrum.

The further into the future that I think the bigger my choices become. Today I can write or not write an article. This year I can write or not write a book. Today I can work on a pricing strategy for a new business venture. This week I can build a website. This month I can launch the business. The further out in time the more impact my choices can have…

Flavor and Value

Do you like mint chocolate chip ice cream? Why? In this lies both the problem and the solution to many of life's concerns.

How do we know what is real? Reality is a perception. I know this computer is real because I'm touching it. If this computer were to suddenly disappear, then reappear, I might question if it's really real, or just an illusion.

This consistency in my subjectivity is one important piece. The other piece is the subjectivity of others. The fusion of our perspectives, this intersubjectivity, this shared reality. Sometimes even an imaginary perspective is used, a third person perspective, an omniscient perspective. These two things form our objective reality.

How do we know what's true? Truth can be a perception. Is the computer truly there? This is the type of truth that science studies. If perception is consistent across time and perspective we call it truth.

Truth also exists in valuation. Does Jeff truly like mint chocolate chip ice cream? Science tr…

Aphorisms on Grief, Suicide, and Meaning in Life

For years I have contemplated these mysteries. While watching Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson, divine inspiration struck and thus was born in a sudden frenzy these concise insights of wisdom.


When we have a feeling of loss, what have we lost? But a false future that never was, and never will be.

The loss of a false expectation does not negate the past, for the past is immortal.

If false positive expectation of the future has been lost, then surely real negative expectation has been prevented.


To live is to suffer, and to choose life is to choose suffering. To make such a choice we must have reasons to live that outweigh the suffering. Else, it is not a justifiable choice. The brave confront their mortality, they confront their existential choice, and they choose to take hold of the responsibility for value.

Meaning in Life

To know what meaning in life means, we must first know the meaning of meaning.

There is dual meaning in meaning. One, to signify. Two, significance.


Why the Fermi Paradox is BS (It's about aliens)

The Fermi Paradox asks why there is a contradiction between the high probability estimates for extraterrestrial life and the lack of evidence for such life.

Some qualifications. One, I like alien stories. I'll probably write an alien story at some point. Two, the physicists that came up with this were in a casual conversation where they were just discussing crazy stuff. We all do it. Then, it became this thing.

It's fun to think about too. There are a bunch of theories to explain this contradiction. Exploring the alien motif is as old as humans. It's the archetypal story of the stranger. It used to be that the stranger could come from across the ocean. We know what's over there now so the stranger has to come from farther away for the archetype to work in the story.

But, outside of this context it's complete BS. Here's one simple answer as to why. The probability equations are BS. Here's another one, we haven't explored very far. Here's another one,…

What Is a Story?

Most answers to this question don't seem very good. What Is a story? I will try to do better than I have seen.

There are a few different categories that answers fall into. There are the dictionary answers. Here's one: an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment. It seems okay.

There is the classic idea of character, setting, and plot. That seems a bit better. Writer Brandon Sanderson expands on it a bit in the course he teaches at Brigham Young University. He includes conflict and the framework that the story is told through, e.g. tense, point of view. So, maybe we could sum this up with something like "the conflictual intersection of characters, setting, and plot told from a point of view in space and time." I've never heard anyone else say it like that, but that seems pretty good. I came up with a way to say four of these with a word that starts with A: agent, arena, agenda, antagonism. So that's cool.

There are a ton of these f…

Psychological Landscape, Timescape, and Symbolscape

Life is complex. We need frameworks to help us organize that complexity. Here are three that I've been thinking about.

Psychological Landscape

First, how we represent the world. Jordan Peterson often characterizes the world as having two basic areas, a known area and an unknown area. This is true at several levels. There is the territory that we have explored and the territory that we haven't explored.

This can be physically true. I have explored the forests in West Michigan quite a lot. I haven't even been to the Florida Everglades. It is also true in a more general sense. I know a decent amount about literature, but little about chemistry.

Encounters and awareness of the unknown reveal our vulnerability and insufficiency, and thus cause anxiety. It's important for us to voluntarily confront these vulnerabilities, insufficiencies, and the unknown to the degree that we can.

I want to expand on this a bit. I think that two primary landscapes can be shown that are separat…

Counter-Productive Work, Torture, and Meaning

Self evidently counter-productive work has been used as a form of torture. Why?

In some of the Nazi concentration camps they would have prisoners carry heavy bags of gravel across the yard to the other side. When they were done they would have them carry the bags back to the original spot. What's so torturous about this?

Obviously there is the fact that they were sleep deprived, underclothed, underfed, physically beaten, and that carrying bags of gravel is hard physical work. But, it's more than that. The fact that you're working hard to accomplish nothing, working hard to do nothing, is a form of mental torture, and I would suggest spiritual torture.

This is the same type of punishment that Zeus gave to Sisyphus. To roll a boulder up a hill for all of eternity. But, when Sisyphus gets close to the top the boulder gets away from him and rolls back to the bottom. Then he must begin again. It's hard, and it's futile. It's torture.

Humans orient themselves in the …

The Compliance-Agreement Matrix

Last year I gave a presentation titled "Why Some Meetings Work, and Some Don't". I used a lot of great concepts from other people. I adapted a few. And I invented one because it needed to exist. It's simple, but useful.

Here's a quick rundown of the topics I covered, then I'll dive into the Compliance-Agreement Matrix.

The Semantic Triangle and Square - a concept about communication, understanding, and misunderstanding.
The Pyramid of Abstraction and Concretion - a concept about how vivid or how general to make descriptions.
Aristotle's Rhetorical Triangle - about how to persuade using ethos, logos, and pathos (ethical appeals, rational appeals, and emotional appeals).
Personality Traits - the Big Five personality traits: extraversion, openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and agreeableness.
Jim Lundy's Subordinates Lament, Supervisors Lament, Mushroom Farm Lament, and the four most important questions that a supervisor should answer for a subordi…

The Legal-Moral Matrix

This is a simple framework that allows us to think about what is ideal and what is not in our system of laws as a society, and our actions as individuals.

We all know that what is and what should be are not the same thing. It's easy to get lost when evaluating complex things or making complex decisions. These decisions can be especially hard when it's your moral system struggling with the legal system. Both individuals and societies have this same problem. These decisions and actions can fall into one of four categories. Thinking through this may help us to understand our situation and what we should do about it.

Legal and Moral

The first is the ideal. An ideal is not always achievable. That's not even the purpose of an ideal. The purpose of an ideal is to set the direction. We want to be moving towards the right thing and having an ideal helps us to do that. Ideally, everything we do is both legal and moral.

Legal and Not Moral

We can all think of things from history that w…

Jeff's Hammer - A Conceptual Tool

This is a tool of humility. Given any current level of understanding, there is always more available complexity. That's the basic idea of Jeff's Hammer, let's dive into it a bit more and look at why that is.

To understand or comprehend something essentially means to be able to grab and hold it with your mind. We have a limited capacity to do this. Humans have a very high capacity, but it's still quite limited. Luckily, some ancient geniuses figured out how to encode information into paintings, pictures, words, and symbols. This allows us to work with a lot more information, but this problem of limited information is not a solvable problem.

One of the reasons that it is unsolvable is because to conceptualize anything, or to represent anything in symbolic form, we lose some of the information. A chair contains all of the data of the chair. A picture, a painting, the word chair written or spoken, a description of the chair, a 3D diagram of the chair, all of these have les…

Why is Slytherin House Bad?

Is Slytherin house bad? Should they be bad? Why?


There are four houses in "Harry Potter": Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. Each is associated with certain psychological traits and attributes. Gryffindor is associated with bravery, Ravenclaw is associated with intelligence, Hufflepuff takes everyone but is most closely associated with friendliness and loyalty, and Slytherin is associated with ambition.

Slytherin is not presented as all bad in "Harry Potter", but they are presented as almost all bad. This is not particularly popular because many people are in Slytherin. But, there are good reasons for this. (Also, it's important to point out that no one is a pure fit for a house. Some of the characters in "Harry Potter" even seem to be a bit of a contradiction.)

My Profile

I did one test where it gave you the percentages of which house you would fit in. I was rated 43% Ravenclaw, 26% Gryffindor, 19% Slytherin, and 12% Hufflepuff.


An Interesting Note on Suicide from Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl focused on suicide quite a bit throughout his career. First, with the unemployed youth in Vienna after WW1. Then, with the persecuted and targeted leading up to WW2. After that, with prisoners in the concentration camps. This may be his most important paragraph on the subject.

I read this in the introduction of "The Feeling of Meaninglessness" by Viktor Frankl. It's a quote from an earlier work.

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Now insofar as it is necessary to evaluate precisely to what extent the seriousness of suicide risk a person represents, either when one is determining the advisability and reasonableness of discharging the patient from a closed facility, or else during a patient’s initial intake into inpatient institutional care, I myself have created a standard method that proves itself effective without fail. It enables us to provide a diagnosis of continued suicide risk, or rather to make a diagnosis of the dissimulation of suicidal tendencies as such. At first, we…

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