Everything is Bullshit

Edit: Note to self — Clean up a bit. For instance, I don’t think the Storytelling Device, is itself bullshit, nor solely edificed on a delusional self….just that this is the most common expression of it. 98% of the population as it were.

Everyone knows the world is full of bullshit.

However, no one seems to realize that the world is made of bullshit. Including you.

Bullshit has reached an endemic proportion, not because people are any more or less full of shit than before (although, one could argue that there might have been arguably less shit during say The Enlightenment, or during the age of the ancient greek philosophers. But just because they scraped it from off their eyes doesn’t mean they weren’t still buried up to their necks), but because of our greater numbers, and our technical ability to magnify bullshit on scales never seen before.

Now, to be clear: Bullshit is not the same thing as lying. Liars care about the truth. Bullshitting is about being justified. Feeling Valid. Right in mind if not in factuality.

Already Always Bullshitting

We are always, repeat: always bullshitting ourselves. How? you ask? Well let me ask you something:

  • How much do you know about human psychology?
  • How much do you know about history?
  • The history of your beliefs?
  • How much do you know about yourself?

We are always bullshitting ourselves because we know very little about ourselves, others, and the world.

All human beings are story-tellers. If there’s one thing that makes humans human, it is story-telling. Problem is that most of our stories are bullshit.

Bullshit Acquisition Device

Right before Chomsky’s Language Acquisition Device, we may imagine a Bullshit Acquisition Device. The creative capacity of our minds is that we can construct reasons why things happen. Evolution though, is a dirty, lazy, beast that works on the principal of Worse is Better.

You need to know why something happens but don’t have a good reason? Well, you still need to know right? You make up bullshit.

The easiest way to begin understanding the world is to make up stories. Some stick, some don’t, most stories end up serving a purpose other than that for which they were made. But most of us are also pretty poor story-tellers, or else everyone would be a fucking orator and author.

And lets not get started about the quality of some of our orators and authors.

The problem is, that these stories begin to make up our entire construction of the world, if they’re strong enough, no amount of evidence is going to clean up our bullshit. The fact of the matter is, more than likely you will never come into contact with serious challenges to your own bullshit.

Stories are very adaptable, and once you’ve set the stage and how it’s to be interpreted your flexible, ingenious, bullshit mind will wrap up or simply make completely invisible any challenges to it.

Through bullshit covered glasses you see the world. It cannot be stressed enough how validating bullshit can be, the default justification method of the mind is through the primitive Bullshit Acquisition Device.

Don’t believe me? Take a quick look at this list. We tend to judge others more harshly than ourselves, over-attribute our victories and under-attribute our defeats to ourselves. We judge outgroups more harshly than ingroups, we think people are smarter just because they’re prettier, we value evidence more strongly the more it confirms our own existing beliefs, and when our beliefs are seriously shaken we’re only likely to seek out evidence which confirms our own beliefs.

If that’s not evidence of a Bullshit Acquisition Device, I don’t know what is.

So lets get to some big, fundamental, pervasive and dangerous bullshit:

The 7 Deadly Bullshits.


Bullshit Item #1: Free Will.

Free Will doesn’t just not exist, it’s a completely bullshit excuse for escaping reality. Free-will is so obviously bullshit that our minds usually go one of two routes:

  • Completely and wholeheartedly swallowing it.
  • Deciding that free-will not existing, means that it’s diametric opposite: Pre-determinism, is somehow not bullshit.

We will go to amazing lengths to preserve this delusional bullshit, frequently falling into the Just-World Fallacy, blaming ourselves and others for anything and everything under the sun, or attributing all this bullshit to unchangeable destiny.

How marvelously narcissistic our minds are. Even when confronted with blatant evidence contrary to free-will or enetched-destiny we find amazing ways to weasel our own selves out of it.

Where’s the free-will in this?:

Image

Contrarily:

If a blind man teaching himself to see isn’t evidence of your potentially infinite ability to overcome fate, I don’t know how to clean that bullshit out of your eyes.

What you have is arbitrary, conditional, flexible, and malliable will. And this is both better and worse than either free or pre-determined will. Your will is a story painted on the backdrop of your environment, context, culture, gender, hair-color, having-a-left-hand-ed-ness, and so on.

Most particularly: Your will is a story.

Which brings me to…

Bullshit Item #2: The Self

You are not yourself, your self does not exist. It is a convenient illusion of identity stitched across memory and behavior to provide a sense of continuity. This is the hardest bullshit to get rid of.

You’re a story, and you’re the protagonist in your story. In fact, I’d call the illusion of self to be the Protagonist Acquisition Device. This is the center, this protagonist engine, of your emotional reasoning. It is the glue which stitches together the morass of emotional whole.

The delusion of free will is maintained as a primitive psychological defense against loss of agency, while the self is maintained as a primitive psychological defense against loss of identity.

The need of an anchor-point of identity is a necessary pre-condition for agency in a universe which is constantly changing the context of your identity. It is a useful fiction. From an evolutionary standpoint: The self is the simplest and easiest route of identity anchoring.

So strong is our need to preserve this idea of agency, once we’ve swallowed this bullshit, is that we will either fail to see or face extreme cognitive dissonance at anything that undermines the idea that our selves are not our own.

This leads into…

Bullshit Item #3: Morality, specifically Good and Evil. With capitals.

I can make you into an evil person with an icepick. You don’t believe me of course, even if you accept the factual validity of my evidence:

The evidence is in fact all around you, of moral, social, physical, sexual, or ethical pathologies or developmental disorder about all sorts of people. Those born with severe autism, Down’s Syndrome, Assholes, sociopaths, OCD, whatever. Yet we of course do our best as a group to move these people out of our sight. We blame homeless schizophrenics for their own condition. Or else we ignore them so that we can continue to pretend we’re not like them.

Just because you have the illusion of a socially accepted identity, doesn’t mean you couldn’t lose it at any moment.

So what then is morality? A social construction of course. Is something that trangresses our “universally” accepted morals (rape, murder) all structural defects in the brain? No. The most remarkable thing about our brains is neuro-plasticity.

We have the ability to edit these stories we tell ourselves to reinterpret and add to them at any time. Some people tell themselves very bad stories about themselves and the world, and do terrible things because of it.

But functionally: What matters the difference between bad storytelling and a structural defect in the brain which causes social harm? The harm is the same, and since our ability to construct stories is built on so many other environmental factors, it seems tremendously cruel to acribe to others an unlimited free-will you intuitively know you do not have.

People do not choose to be evil, they become evil. Some of it may be caused by the inability to write good stories, structurally, thus Sociopathy may be as structural as Korsakoff’s syndrome. But even if it’s caused entirely by neuro-plastic story-telling, the result is the same. The destruction, the pain and alienation, anxiety, you name it.

It’s a horrible thing to be a horrible person. You have an extreme deficit of positive interactions with the world.

Most naturally this state of affairs disproves…

Bullshit Item Number #4: The Soul and the Afterlife.

These festering piles of bullshit are as old as man. The very first emotions felt by any creature on this planet were hunger and fear of death. We’re equipped with this Story Telling Device edificed on the delusion of Self, total (or no) agency, morality and behavior which sets us a world apart from other animals.

And yet death surrounds us everywhere in life. We have this self-awareness and social attachment to human beings that screams in the face that these identities must some day come to an end. A whole and complex universe ceases to exist when someone we know dies.

So terrifying is this prospect of the entire universe snuffing out to nothing for you that you desperately cling to the idea that there is something special that sets you apart from the spider and fly, which perish with such fleeting insignificance to you.

There must be a higher significance, you must not be like them, you don’t simply experience the universe: You psychologically create it’s context.

The overwhelming obviousness of this fact is so terrifying that these bullshit beliefs are immensely palpitable.

Which leads to…

Bullshit Item #5: Your Beliefs.

So much bullshit pervades your universe that it is in-escapable that the majority of your beliefs are completely rubbish. Even quite reasonable beliefs must contend with a world edificed on so much bullshit that they seem folly when difficult.

We believe obviously stupid things, which we recognize as obviously stupid in others outside our social and psychological context.

Not just in the big things, but in the little things: Someone’s an Asshole to me Because He is an Asshole (And I’m not). We mistake other people’s stories for their being and rationalize away such non-sense in our selves.

Every author has certain ideas about the world, which inescapably means there’s some bullshit in his works. George R. R. Martin is a world class storyteller, but he makes women think with their breasts.

Our side is right, your side is wrong. Facts don’t matter. Pure Bullshit. But it justifies our precious little feelings.

Bullshit Item #6: The World and your Experience.

In light of how much of the world is built from the obviously bullshit above, your experience of the world is infested with other people’s bullshit, which reinforces your own bullshit.

This has very large measurable costs: Poverty, War, Hunger, Disease.

Much of the world’s problems are simply engineering issues at this point. We have the complete ability to reform society and the world to have a lot less bullshit in it. Yet we are both paralyzed in the face of other’s bullshit (I can’t change the world…) and so completely mired in our own bullshit justifications (War will always be with us…The poor are just lazy…There will always be the destitute…) that we refuse to clean it up. The fact of the matter is it has never been cheaper to solve the world’s problems, has never been easier, and never will be easier.

The weight of our bullshit, multiplied exponentially by our numbers, is doing nothing more than consigning us to the same fate as the least intelligent Apex Predator.

Bullshit Item #7: Your limitations.

Or relative lack there-of. There are always contextual limitations. The aformentioned African child, and examples of brain damage are obvious proof of that. But the marvellous thing about the Story Telling Device, that gives you self aware-ness and the ability to interpret the universe, is that it allows you to edit your world.

Bullshit multiplies, it’s endemic and spreads through the world causing a multiplicity of unhappy results. But so does Anti-Bullshit.

Dispelling and disbelieving in bullshit frees your will to improve it. Rational self-awareness, rational empathy, equip you to solve the world’s problems. To ease other people’s suffering, to free the will of others.

You not only have a moral obligation (not in the sense of Good, with a capital G but rather as a shared moral contract), but it will vastly improve your personal universe.

An individual effort to not engage in bullshit still affects thousands, a mass of people unwilling to accept the most obviously bullshit state of affairs can change the fate of the planet and stave off our extinction.

Haters, Assholes, Sociopaths, all mired so deep in their own bullshit stories and bad habits that they cause destruction where ever they go. They are sick and deserve to be cured, but they also do not deserve to be in the driving seat.

Too many lives are at stake, your life in particular, to allow the plague of bullshit to continue.

Bruce Lee said it best about limitations:

Bruce had me up to three miles a day, really at a good pace. We’d run the three miles in twenty-one or twenty-tow minutes. Just under eight minutes a mile [Note: when running on his own in 1968, Lee would get his time down to six-and-a-half minutes per mile].

So this morning he said to me “We’re going to go five.”

I said, “Bruce, I can’t go five. I’m a helluva lot older than you are, and I can’t do five.”

He said, “When we get to three, we’ll shift gears and it’s only two more and you’ll do it.”

I said “Okay, hell, I’ll go for it.”

So we get to three, we go into the fourth mile and I’m okay for three or four minutes, and then I really begin to give out.
I’m tired, my heart’s pounding,I can’t go any more and so I say to him, “Bruce if I run any more,” — and we’re still running — “if I run any more I’m liable to have a heart attack and die.”

He said, “Then die.” It made me so mad that I went the full five miles.

Afterward I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it.

I said, you know, “Why did you say that?”

He said, “Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

Limitations are bullshit, and the seed of death.

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5 thoughts on “Everything is Bullshit

  1. Incredible, detailed discussion. Very well presented! You might want to edit #3 (there are two of them…) ^_^ Can’t wait to see more!

    • Thank you very much 🙂 There’s another work in progress that’ll be out in a few weeks. ^_^ (And yeah I made a bunch of edits)

  2. This whole post seems like a case of self-referential incoherence. You posit that each of us knows only a miniscule fraction of the facts on any given subject, and that we essentially fill in the blanks and make things intelligible with narratives- bullshit, you call it.

    But isn’t your positing of the Bullshit Acquisition Device just such a narrative? Isn’t it a clear-cut case of bullshit, by your own description? The tale of the Bullshit Acquisition Device is a story that tries to explain a feature of human cognition on the basis of a narrow range of phenomena. Furthermore, this feature of cognition- some call it credulity- is interpreted in an evaluative way (the term bullshit is nothing if not evaluative). This evaluation is itself part of the narrative and is not supported by any argument.

    Yes, people are predisposed to evaluate new facts in the light of old beliefs; we are also inclined to lend greater weight to phenomena that align more comfortably with our current beliefs. These facts fit very snuggly within the story of the Bullshit Acquisition Device. But they also fit with other stories. For example, one could argue that this tendency actually contributes to rationality by protecting the coherence of our noetic structures (the sum of our beliefs and their relations of justification), though this sometimes takes place with the price of less correspondence with extra-mental reality. Coherence is a necessary feature of rationality. One could also argue that credulity is rational in a pragmatic sense- it helps us to order our lives more contiguously.

    I would argue that narratives- even evaluative ones that are arrived at in one’s little corner of reality, from a small sliver of the real world- are not inherently bullshit, but can actually be integral to a rational life, and are necessary for it. You mention ancient Greece as a place that may have been relatively bullshit free. I agree. One of the great contributions of Greek thought to philosophy is the realization that, in the words of Alasdair MacIntyre, intelligible action is a more basic category than action; actions are rendered intelligible because they occur in a narrative.

    • Note, I’ll be making more posts to elaborate on it. But I’m specifically arguing against a certain type of narrative structure. Bullshit is self-justification without any regard to facts, in fact it actively resists seeking out contrary facts. It’s anti-curious as well.

      But presupposing my narrative is bullshit, I’d reply that sincerity itself is bullshit. :). The point of this bullshit post is to be a finger pointing at the moon. Or, “direct pointing”, in the Zen ontological method.

      It’s also not that bullshit is irrational, it’s that it is a-rational. Bullshit doesn’t give two cents about rationality. Otherwise it wouldn’t be bullshit. Also not all bullshit is equally problematic, belief in Free Will is obviously more psychologically healthy than belief in not having any control over one’s fate. The idea of Self is certainly preferable to having no concept of internal coherance. It’s simply bullshit that sets you back, the Narrative Self and Will are far more useful concepts. (As opposed to the metaphysical or idealist self).

      Re: Ancient Greece. I’m going to re-word that, because I don’t actually agree that most of them had any less bullshit than anyone else (*cough*slave-owners*cough*), but merely that they cleared some of it out of their eyes in certain areas. Still up to their necks though.

      Edit: I believe my previous post about the Fuck-Up Prevention Grid, gives some idea of where I’m coming from in this little book-to-be. Basically if you want an idea of my influences (Other than “On Bullshit”, which should be obvious): Cognitive Behavioral and Narrative Psychology, Taoist Ontology, Existentialism (Taoist & Nietzsche flavored), Werner Eckhard, Foucault, and so on.

      This is to be a book which uses a “Drill Instructor” narrative device. ^_^

  3. Pingback: We Aren’t Born Free…Women, ‘Tis All An Illusion (or Bullshit)…. | kadja1dotcom

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