Arrogance

Arrogance is one of humankind’s greatest features. Before I continue I must disentangle a number of associations the word brings up. Firstly, to be arrogant is not necessarily to be a braggart or a jackass, and neither is arrogance equivalent to a superiority complex. Arrogance is simply “excessive pride”. Now this is the point where you tell me “there you go- excessive, see?” I guarantee you that anyone who is not sporting an excessive amount of pride is currently suffering from major depressive disorder. Arrogance is not the equivalent of selfishness, narcissism, or blind hubris. If you can remove all the negative and claim only the golden caramelly center, arrogance is one of the greatest virtues you may possess.

You may have noticed that I cherry-pick useful thoughts, ideas, etc. etc. and as long as the result is rationally and empirically sound, and of course consistent, then the fact that its seeds came from a thousand trees is irrelevant. This is a similar process, but taking only the useful elements from an characteristic, emotion, or state is more difficult than disassembling a system of ideas. They tend to be wired up in all kinds of strange ways.

Maybe it will be easier if I attack the opposite argument first. The elevation of humble behavior to a status of virtue is fundamentally inconsistent. If by being humble you mean it is a virtue not to discuss your great deeds, can you provide a rationale? I perfectly agree that too much is a major pain in the neck, but the same law applies to almost anything. I’m sure you would find it annoying to talk to someone who talked constantly, every day, nonstop, about what a certain brand of coffee tastes like. Unless of course you are also obsessed with that coffee. But what if you are also obsessed with their great deeds? So really what you’re saying is that you shouldn’t talk excessively about any one subject, not solely against arrogantly decrying your own accomplishments. If you start talking to me about people who actually lie when they brag, well that’s a different matter entirely. They’re lying. Is there a significant difference in lying about personal accomplishments and lying about anything else? Maybe we should narrow that down a bit. Lie-bragging versus lying in some other manner for purely personal gain? There’s not really that much difference.

I am clearly not justifying being a jackass. All I’m saying is that this huge emphasis on selling yourself short is clearly counterproductive. It does serve a function- it makes the people who are simply not as capable feel better because they tell the truth, those superior to them reduce their status intentionally, and everyone seems pretty equal. Sound good? It shouldn’t. All this system accomplishes is a lowering of the stakes, a generalized drop in the effectiveness of everyone. Catering to the lowest common denominator is a recipe for colossal, omnipresent failure. In a normal bell curve those above average have less motivation to improve- in fact there is even a slight social pressure to do worse- and those below have a heightened motivation to improve, not even counting the social pressure upwards towards the typical. When you flatten the curve against the weak side nobody has any motivation to go anywhere. In fact, the pressure to neither get ahead of the crowd nor fall behind is immense. For example, let’s take test scores. Would students be under more pressure, all other factors being the same, if they were told that the scores among everyone they knew were distributed in a statistically random fashion, or if they were told everyone they knew received an 80%? In the first case, whatever score the student gets can be socially “justified,” however in the second case all scores except an 80 are “abnormal.”

So be arrogant. Just don’t be a jackass. As a matter of fact, that sounds too moderate. BE a jackass, just don’t act like one. This is the sentiment I’m getting at. The common perception of “nice” simply turns you into a sheep, unable to perform better than anyone else and unable to think for yourself. In order to escape, first you have to accept that you are in fact superior to others and when you have an idea it may well be better than someone else’s idea. Of course this judgment must be the product of objective, rational assessment. Claiming that “it’s better because I thought of it” or anything along those lines is blind hubris, irrational, and has nothing to do with the mentality I’m getting at. There exists a better way to do things, there exists a correct method or answer, there exists Truth. However, others may be mistaken in their reason and cannot be accepted without qualification. The argument from authority is NEVER VALID. Even a sign on the side of the road is not a valid designator that such and such is the case. It makes a useful heuristic and you may be inclined to interpret said signs as a valid symbol, but they do not indicate Truth! To suggest otherwise is to say that you believe X because an official-looking sign told you so. Your own reason is your first and last tool for inspecting the universe, the senses being merely a set of observation tools used to supply your reason with data. As a result, you must respect the truth of your own faculties to the limit of their accuracy and reliability and acknowledge the possibility that you may be right where others are wrong. Ah, the arrogance of claiming “you’re all wrong!” Every major advancement, especially science, depends upon this arrogance. Newton had the unparalleled audacity to claim to know “the key” to understanding the physical universe. Arrogance is necessary.

We have the arrogance to believe that our unimaginably small corner of the universe matters.  In reality, even if you were to take into account the entire planet, the entire solar system, everything. You still are talking about a statistically insignificant subsection that which substantially exists. We humans are the only ones that care about the fate of the Earth.  With the arrogance of ants claiming their anthill and surrounding territory is “the world” that matters, we stake out Earth.  Or maybe just our property. I don’t really care.  Either way, the difference of scale is insignificant. We, every one of us, has the arrogance needed to assert that we matter.  In universal terms, you can’t really go higher than that.

I touched on a point back there I need to clear up a bit. The senses versus reason- the fundamental philosophical debate. This deserves at least one post but I presented a confusing perspective in the above paragraph and don’t want to change it since it works pretty well for its environment, so I’ll clarify here. Your reason is the core of your mind, the ability to process data to produce results. Like the accumulators in a computer, only much more advanced, high-level processes. The senses and the cortices of the mind that process sense data into reason-usable forms are auxiliary elements meant to interface the world with that reasoning faculty. I can cite the easy example of if one of your senses was removed you would still function quite well. But what if you removed all of them? In fact, what if you were just a brain floating in a vat? You would be capable of reason and reason alone, which would seriously suck. But let’s say you are taken out of your vat and put into a shiny new cyborg body equipped with a dozen senses instead of the normal five? You get new ones like radar spatial awareness, maybe internet uplink senses, or whatever. The possibilities for virtual senses are literally limitless. Anyway, you can plug those into the basic human reason faculty and you’re ready to rock. Provided that we include within the sense’s package the conversion into information you can understand- like sense “feelings.” Our eyes perceive light in spectra, etc. etc. and the sense representation we get after processing is a 3D world. Reason is the most important power in human thinking, but we can trust the senses because they evolved with the same efficacy as reason. Both are fallible but we can trust them both to a large degree. Reason is easier to fix because it’s pretty much blank processor power which we can program however we want. The senses hardware, just like the brain itself, distinguishing it from the reasoning entity that inhabits it.

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