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  February
3, 2014
me: On myself
Sections
Introduction
1. Questions and answers (myself at 27)
2. Notes to the questions and answers
About ME/CFS

Introduction

This file is not about the crisis, but is about myself - or rather how I was in August of 1977. To make it specific: These are questions from Laura Huxley, from a book I had then just bought, with my own typed answers.

The main reasons to reproduce them are that there are today hardly any crisis items, and that I recently re-read these questions and answers, for about the second time since I wrote them, and I liked my answers, that were given quite spontaneously, and that mostly still hold. (Also, I should say that I did not (and do not) have any particular liking for the questions: I did it then because I encountered them, and had nothing better to do. It also is the only time I did so.)

At the time I was 27, very healthy, and I had just returned from Norway, in order to study philosophy in the University of Amsterdam. This was already a year late, because I had been wrongly adviced for 1976, which cost me the money I needed from a study loan, for which reason I had decided to stay in Norway another year, which I also had done.

In any case, the following questions and answers are a somewhat reasonable introduction to who I was at that time, and they show me well, healthy, happy, clearminded, and capable, or so I think.

In case you are not interested: You might take a peep at [21], which is a short answer to the one question I changed my mind about: I do believe in selves now, which I did not do at age 27 (but they are not, as such, perceived: there is too much to show, for one thing, and anyway one's self is
the partially organised and self-organising whole of one's rather constant beliefs and desires: one may have concrete beliefs and desires in one's consciousness, but not the whole set one has built up and maintained over the years of one's life).

1. Questions and answers

In fact, this is a copy from some three pages my journal of 1977
. These pages  were typed on Saturday August 27, 1977. The book the questions are from is "You are not the Target", by Laura Huxley, which I had bought mainly because she was the widow of Aldous Huxley, of whom I had read quite a lot, namely at least ten of his books.

Everything between the two bars that follow is from then, and the questions I answer are those Laura Huxley posed on p. 94-102. These are underlined. The footnotes were added yesterday and today, February 3, 2014.

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When do I do the greatest good to myself: This is ambiguous, so there are two answers: (1) if I do what I think I should do (that is, act according to my own values) and (2) if I do what I like. These need not coincide: it may be desirable to go to the dentist etc. (There is a note 'On Emotions' in which I clarify the above.) [1]

When do I do the greatest good to others: If I do what they like. Obviously, I may not like that and then I won't do it except if I think I should do it and this motivates me enough to do it. Also, what they like may be plain and simply that I do what what they like (this is often the case). [2]

When do I do both, giving and receiving at the same time: The receiving is not contained in the previous questions. But I do both if the above answers are all true or at least as follows: I do what I like/think I should do to others and they like/agree to it. It is essential here, if one is to avoid phonyness, that the values (what X thinks X should do) are individual i.e. a product of an individual's (relatively) free choice and deliberations. [3]

What person, real of fictional, impressed me most between the ages of:
This is difficult to answer since I'm not easily impressed and "impress" is a very vague concept (it can mean: appealed, repelled, was important, either intellectually or emotionally, etc.)
five and then years: Difficult to say. When 7 a girl my own age, Manja T., as being extremely attractive ("beautiful" is perhaps the wrong word. That I was amazed about being attracted was quite relevant since it baffled me that I could not give a reason for it). When 8, my schoolteacher, Juffr. V., as being very unjust and rather ridiculous (empty, a bag of wind). In general, as an influence I guess: my mother. [4]
ten and twenty: Emotionally: Edith B. I still don't know why - whatever explanation I know - the sort of explanation Morris gives in The Human Zoo probably the best - doesn't satisfy me. Morris' explanation is that in puberty and early adolescence human beings are very liable to be imprinted very fast and quite strongly by a potential partner. In a metaphorical way this is certainly true, but it doesn't explain why it happened to me when I saw her back nor why it lasted so long - there still is an undercurrent. So I guess Morris' explanation covers a good part, but not all.
Intellectually: Marx, or marxism. [5]
twenty and thirty: Here it is less definite. And I'm not yet 30 and it is difficult to say what. In very general terms: Calmness, satisfaction and happiness (sometimes, of course). And: Better understanding, broadness of view.
But it is difficult to be specific, if not impossible. For it is true that I am (counter-)part of the one I am living with: I am a relation. [6]

Am I today trying to be that person: I don't think I'm today trying to be any person. I've had long periods of trying to be intellectually superior in the sense of trying to impress other people with it. That is passed, I believe (and hope). I don't care now. [7]

When do I feel that what I am doing is effortless: When I do what I like. (This holds also when it involves a lot of effort, in physical/mental/emotional terms. For if you do what you like efforts are pleasurable.) [8]

When is it full of effort: When I have to do what I don't like especially if I can't see any reason to do it. (And then it may be full of effort even if no real effort is involved. Like boring work. Note that by "reason" I mean: A reason which makes sense, is agreeable, to me.)

When does the result warrant the effort: When I like it.

When is it thay the performance of my duties gives me a feeling of contentment, serenity, and well-being: When I think it is reasonable (in the above sense) and the work goes more or less smooth. [9]

In what ways do my personal education and the culture in which I live restrict me:
In very many ways, but most of these beyond my experience. These ways are all of the type: Everything could (have) be(en) much better than it is. This is relevant in some ways, as an ideal or measure, and irrelevant in most immediately relevant ways.
What concretely restricts me is the type of people and standards of behaviour this culture produces: People are, by and large, false, phony and screwed-up, and the moral standards (what one should and should not do, think and feel) are ridiculous and/or insane. [10] And if somebody is worthwile it is difficult or impossible to get through these moral standards. While secondly, I have to act on them to a certain extent if I want to avoid (serious) sanctions, as indeed I do. [11]

In what ways do they enlarge me: Again, in very many ways. I have a sharp mind and am, in an odd way, quite learned. [12] This is very worthwile and pleasurable/interesting. I like understanding things and have the required possibilities to do so to a larger extent than most others. Being how - I dislike and disagree with saying "what" - I am now, I am capable of using the many good possibilities and, to a considerable extent, avoiding the bad ones. I believe that this is, to a considerable extent, due to the fact that my personal education is, indeed, my own doing, sofar. [13]

When did I do or say something that was not at all like myself: Often between 15 and 20. Especially then I tried, for various reasons, to be other than how I was. This has been growing less and less since I'm 20.

Since I was not being myself, who was I being: Either someone more to the others' liking (as I interpreted it); or someone who was more as I liked to be than I really was or (most frequently, and what the previous two amount to) I played up or down an aspect of how I was. [14]

Why was I trying to be like that other person:
Either because I thought I could achieve something by it ("making it" with someone, for some reason) or because I feared being more how I was (sometimes with, sometimes without reason).

What do I say I believe - and what do I really believe: I say what I do believe, but it depends from whom I'm talking to how much I say. [15] Also, I am well aware that everything I believe may be false, and that anyway even if it is not, it is only approximately, abstractly, true. [16]

When is it that the physical, mental, and emotional elements of my being are functioning as one whole: When I do what I like (and am healthy etc.)

When do I like myself and others best: See answer to 3rd question. Also good: if everybody is doing as he likes best, without hurting me or anyone, who doesn't want to be hurt. [17] (That is: I don't think it is important that others do as I like, as long as they don't involve me in a way I don't like. [18])

Am I able to accept and enjoy an individual completely different from myself - and remain myself completely:
That depends on the individual and the meaning of "completely". If somebody is really fucked up, aggressively drunk or the like, my acceptation and enjoyment will be far from complete and I will probably act and feel different than in other cases. It all depends - I believe I may, more than most people [19], but it depends on how I feel at the moment and on the individual.

When do I act outwardly as I feel inwardly: This may mean several things.
Firstly, I am not very conscious, mostly, of my outward behaviour. [20]
Secondly, I am usually in some way acting as I feel, though this might be a compromise between several feelings and standards.
Thirdly, I can have incompatible feelings about the same thing. This doesn't bother me usually, but to act is a much slower and less subtle process than to feel.
Fourthly, there is of course an answer: If I do what I like.

When do I express my real self best: I don't believe in real selves, in "what I really am". [21] I believe to a certain extent, and related to time, in how I am, i.e. in principles which bring about what I feel, perceive, think, do. This functions best when I do what I like or, to state a condition, when I am where I like to be. [22]
inadequately: when I don't like where I am or don't care for it.
not at all: when, for some reason, I have to do what I don't like and for no good reason. [23]

When do I feel I am acting a part written by someone else: If somebody is phony, playing games. Then I usually leave, if I indeed am involved.

Is my way of looking at the world the only possible way of looking at the world:
Of course not.

Is my reaction to my present situation the only possible reaction I can have to that situation: This is a metaphysical problem. Logically, of course not. But if the world is deterministic (which I don't believe but can't prove) it is. So, I prefer to think not. [24]

When is my reaction to a person or situation spontaneous, complete, organismic:
It is spontaneous when I'm angry. Whether it is complete or organismic is a matter of definition. [25] Otherwise: When I do what I like. Specifically: When making love (and it goes well). Sometimes, when talking. Another thing is that I don't really care: It all is a matter of degree and there is a point or area, rather, which marks the boundary between authenticity/phonyness; honesty/falseness; completeness/pretentiousness; spontanity/games. [26] In many situations where you have to be people are phony, false, pretentious and gameplaying and this will have an effect on your own feelings and behaviour.  [26a] I tend to withdraw, in some way. What I care for is to be able to do as I like, and to withdraw if that is not possible. [27] (The withdrawal is less now: I simply don't care. If somebody wants me to act like this I act like this, if it is convenient for me to do so, and that's all there is to it.)

When am I most selfish and most generous at the same time: When coming.
(But it doesn't make sense to ask for "most" this or that, in the present context.)

Whose life am I living: My own, as much as I can, dare and is possible. [28]

What is my ultimate goal in life:  To be honest, deliberate and aware. (This is explained elsewhere.) [29] These are principles. I don't believe in specific goals: They depend on principles and context. If I want to be specific: To do as I like and value. That is at the moment: to study.

Is what I want now, or what I am doing now, compatible with that goal: Yes.

Does this life I am living now make sense: Yes. (It could make more, always, but it is all up to me. And I am quite pleased.) [30]

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That was it, from 1977, without any deletions, except for the family names. Also, I should say that at the time I was quite recognizably myself as I am now, except that I was younger, more naive and, although quite learned, not as learned as I am now. But I still agree with most of my answers.

2. Notes to the Questions and answers

Now for the notes, which are from today, which is nearly 37 years later. Also, the links in the notes are to my Philosophical Dictionary:

[1] I do not know which note is meant, nor whether I still have it.

[2] Note I give pretty fundamental answers, and I also still think these are nearly all correct: Life is about doing what you like and not doing what you do not like.

[3] The formula "I do what I like/think I should do to others and they like/agree to it" is a reasonable definition of (inter)subjective happiness, that also is like John Stuart Mill, but without my knowing this in 1977. Also, I think that relatively few people have explicit, considered, personal values: I have met a few, but not many. (This is a serious problem: Most people live lives playing roles, pretending things, and mostly do not know this, basically for lack of intelligence and for lack of a good and honest education by intelligent parents.)

[4] Yes - I definitely think my mother, who was a very rational and reasonable person, was the strongest influence on me.

[5] Indeed Edith B. and Marx were the strongest influences on me between ten and twenty, but it is also true there were many more: I was interested in very many things, much more so than anyone else I knew. This was also why I read so much (and always had a book with me).

[6] Actually, I don't really answer the question, because that asks for persons. I suppose a reasonable answer was, then: Stephanie and Agnethe, for I had lived around 5 years with them by 1977. Also, the following seems to me rather important: "I am (counter-)part of the one I am living with: I am a relation." This is rather a lot more true than most people seem to realize, even though people also clearly are individuals.

[7] That seems still true.

[8] That "if you do what you like efforts are pleasurable" I certainly had learned in Norway: work in the stable was heavy, but it was also pleasurable. (And this was quite unlike all the office work I had been doing for money: not heavy, but often quite unpleasurable, mostly because everyone one worked with, especially in office-jobs, was unintelligent and dishonest.)

[9] Again a decent definition of happiness: When you do what you like and the work goes well.

[10] Of course, anyone may reject that "People are, by and large, false, phony and screwed-up, and the moral standards (what one should and should not do, think and feel) are ridiculous and/or insane." But this is the authentic judgment of anyone who is considerably more intelligent than average and who is honest, and who does not have to save some religion, or a political or nationalistic creed. Also, there is little choice if people remain mostly as they now are, for they simply cannot do much better than they do.

[11] That is, I was quite capable of compromising, simply to have an easier life, while knowing that the great majority had other values and another outlook than I had (which was, and indeed still is, rather strongly influenced by my parents, who did give me an abnormal, good and honest education).

[12] In fact, I was too humble: I was at 27, without having visited any university, already very learned, which I had done by 10 years of very much reading. This is also the reason I hardly learned anything at the university. once I arrived there (and much that I got was politically rather than philosophically inspired: the University of Amsterdam was fundamentally a (quasi-)"marxist" organization between 1971 and 1995, that was given to the students by law).

[13] Yes, and my education remained my own doing, though I read a lot more the coming ten years. Also, this does not mean it was odd: it was quite academic in philosophy, logic, psychology, sociology, economics, and other fields, for I read the university books and the classics of the field. This was personal simply because no one else did it (that I knew or that I know).

[14] Maybe I ought to clarify: I never tried to act like someone else, but in my teens I did play up or down characteristics I had. I stopped with that, quite radically also, when I was 20.

[15] Yes indeed: "I say what I do believe, but it depends from whom I'm talking to how much I say" - and I have not often met good listeners, with fine minds. It has happened, though, and then I am a very fine talker, but usually not without them: not interested in peforming.

[16] Yes: "I am well aware that everything I believe may be false, and that anyway even if it is not, it is only approximately, abstractly, true" are two insights that are not widely shared. Then again, one also knows more or less, has given oneself trouble or not, searched for relevant evidence or not, and so on: it is not relative, not at all. (As with Asimov's: " There is a cult of ignorance in the United States...nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'")

Also, the general point that one may be false, may be mistaken, is a logical consequence of one saying anything at all that says something new: it is, then,  neither logically true nor logically false, so both it and its denial may be true, but then only (at best) with a probability properly between 0 and 1. 


[17] This : "if everybody is doing as he likes best, without hurting me or anyone" is a good indication of a highly desirable state - but there is always Hazlitt's "If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are prone to mischief, "to every good work reprobate."" That is, in Aldous Huxley's words: "At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religous or political ideas."

[18] And this is a good definition or implication of liberalism: "I don't think it is important that others do as I like, as long as they don't involve me in a way I don't like." (Note that I am giving personal answers here, not social ones. This indeed holds for all the answers I give.)

[19] As to: "I believe I may, more than most people": I had lived in two foreign countries with two women, had worked in many jobs of many kinds, had led a Sleep-in, had lived mostly in Amsterdam, was quite learned, and also quite social. Also, I could talk really well, on many subjects, and on many levels.

[20] About: "I am not very conscious, mostly, of my outward behaviour": Yes, I think that may be rather extreme, with me. And this holds especially when I am doing something that engages me. (Then again, it also is considerably less than with some: I am usually reasonably well dressed, for example, and I do not have any tics or quirks.)

[21] And about: "I don't believe in real selves, in "what I really am"": This is something I changed my mind about: I do believe in real selves, and that there is something one really is, though it is dynamic, created by one's brain, maintained by one's memory, and not, as such, perceivable: there is too much to perceive, and all one does perceive are specific and currently activated beliefs or desires.

Here is a part from the last link (the self):

Apart from whether or not a person really has or is a self, every sane adult person in a human society is treated as if one is a person: as if he or she has a self, that consists at least in part in having a history, beliefs, desires, experiences, roles, responsibilities, duties, freedoms, rights, personal ends and interests, and the ability to reason about himself or herself at least as if all this is so, and as if there resides inside or connected to one's body a unique entity that has all these properties; that has a free will, and has minimally adequate ideas about society and reality; that has both personal ends and impersonal ends and values, quite a few of which may be impossible, impracticable or improbable to be realized, and that may go far beyond what one knows or assumes to be facts; and that one can be held responsible for his or her actions, ideas, values, and ends, and be judged by others, and be punished or rewarded for what one is or tries to be.

And indeed, on a realistic hypothesis, this self is a coordinated set of capacities that one's brain produces to account for its experiencing, and accordingly the self is a theory that one's brain produces about what one is, may be, and would like to be, which includes a theory about the world one is in that one experiences through one's sensations.

Furthermore, it is important to see that, whether or not there is a real self, that being supposed to be a person and playing roles in a society involves being supposed to have ideas about what one is, and desires and ends about what one wants to be, and that these ideas may well be partially false, and these desires and ends may well be difficult or impossible to realize, and that in any case one's ends and ideals about oneself and the world normally go far beyond what one knows or indeed may know that one is, and also far beyond the present time, or indeed the time one may be expected to live.

The - presumed - facts just listed about a person playing roles in a society and imagining itself to be someone with a past, a present, a future, and ends and values about the world it finds itself in, show that what a person really is at any one moment is, at least to a considerable extent, a theoretical and partially hypothetical construction, that is built from beliefs that may well be false and desires that well may be impracticable and based on false ideas, and that involves many references and ideas about both the past and the future.

I think this is better put than I've read from others.

[22] Note that "
when I do what I like or, to state a condition, when I am where I like to be" is a statement answering "When do I express my real self best:" and also provides a good condition, which is that I do what I like best at a place I like to be.

[23] And this as well is a good explanation for failing to express oneself: "if I have to do what I don't like and for no good reason". Note this is covers most jobs of most men (and women): they do what they do not like at a place they do not like, but they do it for money. That is, they can be bought. (I have mostly escaped this, and much more so than almost all my contemporaries.)

[24] It really is a metaphysical problem, but I should also say that I cannot take determinists very serious: They have very little evidence, and much of physics is unknown.

[25] Actually "It is spontaneous when I'm angry. Whether it is complete or organismic is a matter of definition" mostly is a spoof: I did not think the question was well phrased (and thought the same about quite a few others, though I answered all as best as I could).

[26] This: "I don't really care: It all is a matter of degree and there is a point or area, rather, which marks the boundary between authenticity/phonyness; honesty/falseness; completeness/pretentiousness; spontanity/games" is a serious answer, and also shows I had grown since 21. One reason the answer is serious is that these are important problems, and they also tend not to be seriously answered in one's early twenties, when they tend to be raised the most: people "grow out" of them by conforming and collaborating, rather than by trying to maintain themselves.

[26a]
"In many situations where you have to be people are phony, false, pretentious and gameplaying and this will have an effect on your own feelings and behaviour": This again is an answer by an intelligent, independent and honest and individualistic person. (If you reject it, you must be very normal in almost all ways.)

[27] This still holds: "What I care for is to be able to do as I like, and to withdraw if that is not possible." Also, I do not mind at all being alone: it usually is the better option. (See Schopenhauer, although he was too pessimistic.)

[28] This also is a good answer: "Whose life am I living: My own, as much as I can, dare and is possible." It still obtains, and it seems to me quite rare - that is: except if one extenuates the meaning of one's terms to nearly zero, where people can and dare almost nothing, but still maintain that "they are being themselves".

[29] The goal "To be honest, deliberate and aware" is quite personal and original, and while it is mostly derived from my verbal journeys into mysticism, it also is original, in part also because I could not believe most of most mysticism that I have read. I have lived according to it.

[30] That "I am quite pleased" 37 years later is no longer true, but this is mostly because (i) I have been ill 36 of these 37 years, mostly with pain the last 25 years (ii) I never got any help, apart from a few GPs (which is common with my disease: it saves so much money not to help ill people!) (iii) and besides: my life and chances were systematically and intentionally destroyed by bureaucrats from the City of Amsterdam, who protected the drugs trafficking and the mafia very much rather than me or my rights, and by the bureaucrats if the University of Amsterdam, who removed me from the faculty of philosophy, briefly before my M.A., for asking these perfectly justified questions in public, and finally (iv) my health was really destroyed by nearly 4 years of insufficient sleep from 1988-1992 above drugsdealers who were left completely free to do as they pleased, and who choose to threaten me with murder thus: "We will murder you if you do anything we don't like". Since then, that is, since 1992, my health has been much worse than it was before; I have almost only left my house briefly for the necessary shoppings; and I have lived on minimal dole.

I am still there, but this is in spite of considerable opposition, and in spite of the systematic destruction of my human rights in Amsterdam, by the mayors and aldermen, and by the police, and the district attorney, who all thought it self-evident that I should tolerate the illegal drugsdealing by drugsdealers protected and permitted and put in my house by the mayor of Amsterdam; and also by the leaders of the faculty of philosophy and the board of directors of the UvA, who thought it self-evident that anybody who criticizes them ought to be kicked out of the university.
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P.S. Feb 6, 2014: Corrected a few typos and inserted a few links.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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