You Must be a Coward to be Afraid of Losing Your Mind

I recently read two authors both make a similar kind of argument, which I disagree with.

Jacob Falkovich responds to a comment on his blog, about the insights gained from taking drugs:

Do you believe your own epistemology to be so fragile, your disbelief in woo so contingent, that they will crumble in the face of a few hours of altered consciousness?

A recent essay of Paul Graham, about having children:

On the other hand, what kind of wimpy ambition do you have if it won’t survive having kids? Do you have so little to spare?

Both excerpts are accusing the reader of a lack of confidence in her principles if she is afraid some transformative experience will change them: If are afraid drugs will make you believe in woo, you must not have much confidence in your current disbelief in woo. If you are afraid parenting will make you lose your ambition, you must not be very ambitious.

I don’t like the way these two excerpts shame being afraid of an external factor changing the way we think. My minds are fragile and I shouldn’t be afraid to admit it. A bullet can shut it down completely, and so many things can affect it in subtler ways I don’t understand.

For comparison, I don’t think either author would argue this way about more frequent and short-term events that change our motivation and reasoning. If someone worries that he’s unmotivated when he works at home, you don’t tell him that it’s not a problem if he cares enough about working, you tell him he shows he cares about working by setting up the environment where he can be motivated.

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