Episode 55

#55 - Is all thought problem-solving?


October 9th, 2023

54 mins 9 secs

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About this Episode

Our argument at the end of last episode spilled over into discord, DMs, and world news, so we felt compelled to dedicate a full episode to addressing the question "Is all thought problem solving?" Some arguments make history, like whether atomic bombs were required in WWII, whether all philosophy is simply a language game, and whether the chicken did indeed come before the egg. Will this be one of them?

We cover:

  • How Vaden listens to podcasts and why he thinks Andrew Huberman sucks (but studies show that Andrew Huberman is great!)
  • Popper's evolutionary take on problem-solving
  • Problems defined as "disappointed expectations"
  • Whether all volitional thought is problem-solving
  • Are irrefutable theories ever valuable, or should they all be discarded a-priori?



Men, animals, plants, even unicellular organisms are constantly active. They are trying to improve their situation, or at least to avoid its deterioration. Even when asleep, the organism is actively maintaining the state of sleep: the depth (or else the shallowness) of sleep is a condition actively created by the organism, which sustains sleep (or else keeps the organism on the alert). Every organism is constantly preoccupied with the task of solving prob- lems. These problems arise from its own assessments of its condition and of its environment; conditions which the organism seeks to improve.

  • In Search Of A Better World, p.vii

At bottom, this procedure seems to be the only logical one. It is also the procedure that a lower organism, even a single-cell amoeba, uses when trying to solve a problem. In this case we speak of testing movements through which the organism tries to rid itself of a troublesome problem. Higher organisms are able to learn through trial and error how a certain problem should be solved. We may say that they too make testing movements - mental testings - and that to learn is essentially to tryout one testing movement after another until one is found that solves the problem. We might compare the animal's successful solution to an expectation and hence to a hypothesis or a theory. For the animal's behaviour shows us that it expects (perhaps unconsciously or dispositionally) that in a similar case the same testing movements will again solve the problem in question.

The behaviour of animals, and of plants too, shows that organisms are geared to laws or regularities. They expect laws or regularities in their surroundings, and I conjecture that most of these expectations are genetically determined - which is to say that they are innate.

  • All Life is Problem Solving, p.3


Do studies show that Ben or Vaden is correct? Tell us at incrementspodcast@gmail.com

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