god Syndrome

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This is the archive of the topic on lojban-list@lojban.org 'God Syndrome (OR: The why of 'why')'.

It will have the names of the authors where I am able to, and the e-mail address otherwise. All posts are in chronological order unless other wise noted (that means either put it at the end if responding on this, or put a note that you are doing otherwise, please). Also, I left out the part of the thread that is in Lojban, mainly because I currently have no idea what the posts are, but also becuase I have no idea where they woul go (which is actually part of the first reason, now that I think about it, but nevermind.) -Eye/Onus on

Please keep in mind that this is an off topic post, that has very little to do with Lojban in any way- although it does explain one of the reasons I decided to take up Lojban: My own language (and from what I can tell from talking to

others, pretty much every other language in existence) does not have the words to describe the concept I am espousing below.

I will also be putting this (and any replies) up on the Wiki tommorow, if none of you object, to avoid plaguing this group with OT posts.

Basically, the concept is: Where x is a person, y is an action, and z is the reason for the action, why does x do y for reason z?

This must be built upon a bit for most, if not all of you, to (hopefully) give a better grasp of what I am trying to get across. As I said, English does not have words for the concept:

x (person)

x (person) does y (action)

(x does y) for reason z

why does [x do y) for reason z)?

For the last part, imagine 'why does' to be an operator like 'xu' is.

Now, why means, appox., 'What is the reason ...?"

Alternatively, you could do the sentence:

how does [x do y) for reason z)?

The words why and how are both equivalent in the meaning here, even though how means, appox., "In what way is ... possible?"

There should be a few of you who know exactly what it is I mean already, and the rest of you will think you do. The problem is, I have found it impossible to explain this concept to anyone who doesn't understand it already, and those

who do understand the concept don't need it to be explained to them- and are just as incapable of explaining it themselves.

Why did I call this 'God Syndrome'? Because I think that every religion, including atheism, has tried, and failed, to explain what the 'why' is, and instead attribute the 'why' to God. (I am not saying God does not exist- I

personally believe there is absolute proof that at least one Diety exists. I am saying that the 'why' is equated with God in religion, where the two are not, in actuality, the same thing.)

Why is the optional title The why of 'why'? Because there is a difference between the reason, which is why, and the reason for "x does y for reason z", which I hereby dub the why of 'why', or just the 'why'.

To help to confirm to those who understand that I am talking about what they think I am, and to hopefully help the rest of you figure it out, I have included an excerpt of a conversation I had earlier today which took place

between myself, another who understood (Marvin_Black), a third who thought she knew (Novarix), and two who didn't have a clue and mayhap never will (d1ng0 and Phonix357):

(Note: this is a bit lengthy, (understatement alert), apologies in advance.)

> This is a private message conversation. the part sent to me will have the sender's name, the part from me will the recipient's name in *bold*.

<d1ng0> Humans aren't that hard to understand

<eye_onus> For you, maybe. But for me- I find it bordering on impossible.

<Marvin_Black> It's hard to explain... I get the reasons behind their doings, but I can't understand them

<eye_onus> Same here.

<eye_onus> It's not that I can't figure out why humans do what they do. It's

that I can't understand the why itself.

<Marvin_Black> Someone tells me what someone else has done to him and I can

tell him why he did so, but I can not understand it

<d1ng0> They are usually emotions (did I mention I study Psychology)

<eye_onus> Even then I still can't understand.

<eye_onus> x does y for reason z is easy enough. why x does y for reason z is what I can't figure out.

<d1ng0> There's a big group in the Psychological community who blame everything on nature. There's another big group who blame everything on nurture and then there's a small group that thinks it's a function of both.

<eye_onus> Why does a person send another to the hospital because the other person called him a derogatory name? Yes, it's derogatory, yes, it's inflammatory. But how is it justifiable to send the man to the hospital? This being an extreme case, mind you.

<eye_onus> I know all about the 'Nature vs. Nurture' debate. It didn't help me

to understand anything.

<Marvin_Black> Or other people can't see things or understand things that are

obvious (at least for me and some other people)

<eye_onus> Especially since they are all wrong.

<eye_onus> Evolution- wrong. Creation- wrong. Every single version of 'How we came to be'- wrong. The thing is, every single one is right, too, but they only have peices of truth, filtered through a mind that doesn't understand the whole thing and has to invent things to explain or replace the parts they can't grasp.

  • Edit: Please note that the above is an opinion of mine, and while shared but most of those who understand, is still just an opinion. (Of course, it's only an opinion unless I can prove it, but, well, I can't.)

<d1ng0> In psychology there's besides the nature&nurture debate also the difference between sociology and social psychology. The behavior of groups and the behavior of individuals in the group.

<eye_onus> Neither sociology nor social psychology will help me, I'm afraid. No aspect of psychology even deals with the thing I'm trying to understand.

<d1ng0> A fellow named Ash did some pretty nice sociology tests

<d1ng0> One of his most famous is the one with the one line that is longer...

<d1ng0> 3 lines, one of which is longer.

<d1ng0> Ask an individual in a group which one is longer after the rest of the group has already given the wrong anwser.

<d1ng0> The individual also gives teh wrong anwser.

<eye_onus> Of course he does.

<eye_onus> And we all three know why he does.

<d1ng0> Then why is it, when this research is coupled with an IQ test, that the most intelligent people are more often given the wrong anwser than the less intelligent ones.

<d1ng0> and psychology is all about the Why of human behavior.

<Marvin_Black> But it's another why than we are looking for

<Marvin_Black> I can't get the why behind this why.

<d1ng0> You are looking for the why x does y for reason z ?

<d1ng0> thats psychology.

<d1ng0> Why does a cow run back into the stable that burns.

<d1ng0> Why is human agression related to the agression of the group.

<eye_onus> Because on the average, people with a higher IQ stotre information differently than those with lower IQ, allowing them to retain more knowledge. A person will start out knowing that one line is longer, no matter his IQ. But

the test has every single person in the three lines answer a different answer, causing those with higher IQ's to be forced into a kind of subconscious rote rehearsal.

<eye_onus> Those with lower IQ's are also affected, but not nearly as well- they aren't as capable of retaining rote knowledge.

  • Edit: This is not to say that those with lower IQ are stupid. IMO, stupidity and IQ are unrelated concepts.

<Marvin_Black> Psychology gives me the answers I already know, not the possibility to get even behind them, for I understand perfectly the reasons for the doings, but I can't understand the reasons themselves. As I said: I can

understand the reason why someone hurts someone elses soul, but I don't get it into my head... I'm lacking words. In German I would use two different words.

<d1ng0> use German, I can speak that :)

<eye_onus> In 'why does x do y for reason z', we know x and y from simple observation. Psychology goes into finding out z- what the reason is. But no feild of science, mysticism, or any kind of knowledge field I know of, looks

for the 'why' part.

<Marvin_Black> You get the reasons, but not the why... So to say

<eye_onus> Right. Obviously, you know what I'm talking about, as you have the same problem.

<d1ng0> Okay, I think I'm missing something here. You are wondering why humans use reason z to do anything ?

<eye_onus> I think part of the difficulty is that I am 1) aware that there /is/ a why in the first place, and that it is different from 'z', and 2) I know the why's for my own behaviour, and also know these why's do not hold true for the behaviour of others.

<eye_onus> This 'why' thing is very hard to explain to someone who doesn't already know what the 'why' is....

<Marvin_Black> The backrounds for reaons Z. We know the reasons z and the way they got together, but we can't understand the backrounds... Something like that

<eye_onus> We know that Mark hit the lockers with his fist because he is angry.

<eye_onus> mark is x

<eye_onus> hit the lockers is y

<eye_onus> he's angry is z.

<eye_onus> why does x do y for reason z?

<d1ng0> Okay, so we are talking about the same thing.

  • Edit: Actually, no, we aren't, but the difference between what I'm talking about and what he's talking about is what is so hard to explain....

<eye_onus> Why mark is angry doesn't even matter in this, btw.

<Marvin_Black> For example: a bullies b around. So I get he had hard youth, wants to feel better and feed his ego with pretending to be strong, to compensate some event or flaw in his live. (imaginary scenario). But still I

can't understand why he chose to bullie... How he can do something like that to another person, hurting b and his soul, leaving scars and knowing it

<eye_onus> What matters is why his being angry leads him to hit the lockers.

<d1ng0> psychology

<eye_onus> No.

<d1ng0> yes

<Marvin_Black> Psychology explains the first part of my post, not the second.. Not the final question

<eye_onus> No, psychology doesn't explain how the state of him being angry leads him to decide to hit the locker.

<Marvin_Black> The first part, the explanation is Psychology

<eye_onus> Neither does instinct, for that matter.

<eye_onus> If I were to become angry, in no case would it lead me to hit a locker, ever.

<Marvin_Black> Eye: Does my post put it right somehow? Is that what you are asking yourself?

<eye_onus> Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm getting at.

<d1ng0> it doesn't explain anything. There's nothing psychological in "the X does Y because of Z part", what interests a psychologist is Why. To define the environment variables so to speak. Understanding X.

<Marvin_Black> So why can't you give any answer to those questions?

<eye_onus> Hitting the locker does not solve the problem of that which caused me to be angry. The reason still would exist, and now I would also have a pained hand and a damaged locker. I would merely be making my situation worse.

  • Edit: This really doesn't help much at all, as it merely shows that my knowledge of the 'why' leads me into a completely different cause-effect pattern than Mark did. I think that this part actually hindered.

<d1ng0> oh.. you want to know why Mark hit the wall instead of Asmo ?

  • Edit: Asmo (Asm0dai) is another person we have on this channel, though not currently.

<eye_onus> The reasoning is counter-intuitive to, well, reasoning itself.

<eye_onus> No.

<eye_onus> I want to know why being angry leads to hitting anything at all, instead of to a solution to the cause of the anger.

<Novarix> the subject felt liek damaging somthing and the locker was the closest thing.. anger clouded his thinking?

{Edit: This describes the z, not the 'why'- hopefully even those of you who don't understand me can see that this is true.}

<d1ng0> His reasons for hitting the wall wasn't because he was angry.

<eye_onus> I know.

<Novarix> you have never felt the urge to damage somthing/someone?

<eye_onus> No, I have not.

<Marvin_Black> Nope

<eye_onus> not out of anger, anyway.

<d1ng0> Most people who hit objects when they are angry do so because they are affraid of their own anger, but they still need to give in to the reflex. Or to punish themselves.

<eye_onus> And there's the why I'm looking for.

<eye_onus> Why is that statement you just made true?

<d1ng0> Personal observation.

  • Edit: 'Personal observation' doesn't state why the statement is true, merely that it has been observed to be true.

<d1ng0> I hit stuff when I get angry.

<eye_onus> Yes, but why?

Novarix doesnt but feels like it

<Novarix> release

<eye_onus> I don't think I will ever get to the bottom of this.

<d1ng0> I do so because I am A) Affraid I might hurt anyone. B) It actually feels better to vent your anger C) The pain you get from hitting something is a kind of self inficted punishment for getting angry in the first place.

<eye_onus> I can't enable you to understand what I'm talking about, and I know it isn't merely the limitations of the language.

<Novarix> frustrating isnt it?

<eye_onus> Very.

<d1ng0> That is the WHY I hit stuff when I get angry.

  • Edit: True, but the 'WHY I hit stuff....' is part of the reason, 'z', not the 'why' part.

<eye_onus> The thing is, d1ng0, you aren't telling me anything I don't already know.

<Novarix> anyway, im pretty sure i know what you mean

<Phonix357> ....

<d1ng0> then what is the problem ?

<d1ng0> Why did I get angry

<Novarix> why does it feel better to vent your anger etc..?

<eye_onus> I know and understand everything you've said. The problem is, you're not understanding what I'm trying to explain. I believe it's because our thoughts processes are fundamentally different, in a way that no field of science or religion has ever even known of, let alone explored.

  • Edit: I am meaning exactly what I typed here, with no ulterior meanings or nuances intended. I believe that d1ng0 thought I was insulting him in this post, which is why I point out that I was not

<Marvin_Black> Did I miss something?

>Phonix357 Ohh..Anger managent

>Phonix357 I dont mean to pry

>Phonix357 But i do suffer from taht ***

<Marvin_Black> It's like people look at things from inside a system, and I want

to look at it from the *outside*

d1ng0 ponders

<Marvin_Black> I'm not interested in yes, nows, black and whites, but greys.

<Novarix> why IS it always easier to see a solution from the outside anyway?

<Marvin_Black> Sure, but are people willing to look from the outside?

<Marvin_Black> You know the coin idiom?

<Phonix357> Two sides to each coin?

<Marvin_Black> Yup

>*Phonix357* Actually, this has nothing to do with anger management. It has more to do with why anger management exists.

<Marvin_Black> It says each coin has two sides. But I say, each coin has two sides and almost always a hell of a lot of stuff between them that's worth looking at too

>Phonix357 To keep angry people from killing the people who piss them off

<d1ng0> Why do I feel stupid because I don't understand the whole conversation anymore.

<d1ng0> thats about the question you wanted to ask ?

>*Phonix357* That's not what I mean. The basis of this conversation is 'why does x (a person) do y (an action) for reason z?'

<Novarix> who?

<d1ng0> Eye.

<eye_onus> Huh?

<eye_onus> Sorry, in pm, wasn't paying attention.

>Phonix357 Umm..Way he was rasied , religion , peronal logic , outter variables

<d1ng0> Eye: Why do I feel stupid because I lost all understanding about this conversation ? Is that the kind of question you want anwsered ?

<eye_onus> I don't think I even understand the question.

  • Note: No, that's not at all close to the kind of question I wanted answered.

>*Phonix357* It's as difficult for you to explain the why part as it is for me to explain what the why is in the first part. Your answer doesn't actually explain the why, it explains the 'z'.

>Phonix357 True...

>Marvin_Black It seems you get the points I'm trying to make?

>*Marvin_Black* Yes, I understand you, and Novarix thinks she does. It's just that d1ng0 and Phonix don't.

>Marvin_Black To me it seems, they think within their systems and don't want to move from their opinions. If I discuss I want to check if what I am thinking is right and want to expand my point of view. They do not want to do this it seems to me

>*Marvin_Black* It's not that they don't want too, it's that they are unable to, anymore than we are able to explain what the 'why' is.

>Marvin_Black Would this describe it? I can get in their way of thinking, but not their way of feeling and reasoning?

>*Marvin_Black* Approximately, but still not well enough they would understand. I've gotten to that point many a time before.

>*Marvin_Black* Plus, d1ng0 at least has given up trying to understand- a sure sign that it would be a worthless endeavor to try in future- both near and far.

>Marvin_Black Two probs: 1) We lack of words in some cases (They simply do not exist) and 2) it's so obvious to us only people who "think this way" will understand clearly.

Marvin sums up the problem very well at the end here, and is entirely correct, in both his and my experiences. It is very obvious to those who 'think this way', but nearly impossible to understand for people who do not. Also, the

words do not exist, at least not in any language we know, to explain to those who do not understand. Perhaps it would be possible to get the concept across in Lojban, I don't know, but it is a reason I took up the language.

The reason for this post is twofold: Lojban is about breaking down the boundaries of your thinking. This is a definite boundary to almost all people's thoughts, so perhaps trying to figure out what I mean by the 'why', as I've

come to call it, will help you to break down boundary (this is a case where Lojban has an advantage, since in this instance I do not want to define the plurality of boundary...) Of course, for those of you who already know what I'm

talking about, this won't apply.

The other part is because I /very much/ wish to understand the 'why': While I know of its existence, many are unable to understand me when I try to describe it, and I am unable to understand it myself (not what the 'why' is, but the

understanding of the 'why'). It is my belief that the 'why' is akin to quantum particles /at present/: you know of it, or understand it, but not both, i.e. those that understand the 'why' do not know of the existence of the 'why', and vice versa. As such, I am hoping that there are Lojbanists who understand what the 'why' is, and I know there are those who have no comprehension of it, and was hoping that it would be possible for the 'why' to be able to be succesfully explained to those who obviously (see the excerpt) can't get a grasp from curent languages, which would in turn hopefully allow those of us who know of it but don't understand it to be given understanding by those who don't know of it but (hopefully) understand it.


At first I thought you were basically asking "What is the cause of z".

Your wording is ambiguous; it would be better to say "what causes z to cause the event?".

First thing; get people out of this. People have nothing to do with anything; just confuses things. You only need two things then: event x and cause z. And the question "What causes z to cause x".

  • The question 'What causes z to cause x' is not the same question as 'why does x do y for reason z', because we are not asking what the cause is for z to come about. Also, it impossible to get people out of this, because it is the people that are causing the problem of understanding. {In reply, by Jon.}

I understand why you think the question still exists if you have a framework for explaining the cause of the cause. E.g. if say mechanics is the cause of the cause, you still can ask why does that cause the cause to cause what it caused (err). But obviously the science of mechanics didn't cause anything---it's merely an attempt to determine what is determinable about it.

So my answer is na'i: (i) You can keep going out levels: if you could somehow discover what the cause is here, you have to ask, "why is that the cause" (or better worded "what caused that to be the cause"). It has to either stop somewhere, or be infinite---either way it's broken, because if it is infinite, then the answer to your original question is useless, because you have the same question all over again, and if it isn't infinite, it stops at some value for z with your question still askable, but unanswerable, and (ii) you can't discover it anyway, so this is a useless (xod would say "meaningless", I'm sure :) ) thing to discuss.

  • I agree with you on this except for one thing: the 'why' and the 'z' are two different things, and the answer to the 'why' cannot be put into the 'z' anymore than the 'x' can be put into the 'y': a person is not an action. {In reply, by Jon.}

I would also say that I don't see how concept of cause is in any way harmed by this, so I don't understand why you think there shouldn't be words for it or whatever it is....

-Jordan DeLong

"why does x do y for reason z?"

In lojban that could be, for example:

ma krinu le nu zy mukti ybu boi xy

What is the reason that situation Z motivates person X to take action Y

But I'm not sure why you say this is unsayable in English, so I might be one of those who don't understand the question.

-mu'o mi'e xorxes

I think the question being asked is, how in Lojban do you express "why does 'X does Y for reason Z'"; in other words, we're not here to answer the question, but rather, to ask it in a way that others can understand what

we're asking. No, I'm not going to try for a Lojban answer. The definitions of causal sentence connectives are very slippery and need to be nailed down carefully. For -gua!spi I've posted a discussion: [[1]] Search for the 2nd occurrence of "reason". To summarize, Z (the reason) is a consequence of action Y, and the hoped-for achievement of Z is what

motivates X to do Y. So, what are the contingencies in X's programming that make Z sufficiently attractive to get X off his/her butt? (Nature? Nurture? Original sin? Now we're getting OT^2 :-)

  • Actually, Nature, Nurture, Original Sin, and the rest are all descriptions of the 'z' part of the question. {In reply, by Jon.}

James F. Carter

This is not off-topic if discussed in Lojban. (ganai la lojban. jai bau casnu gi dei mapti) I'll translate those parts I feel like translating.

I think you mean the 'second derivative of action', or, the motivation's motivation; the meta motivation. Why does Mark feel the urge to punch a locker door when he's angry? Joe smokes because he enjoys it, but why does

he enjoy it? Does my trivial transaltion mean that I too don't get it? I see no need to resort to vagueness that borders on Zen, or the device of extra quote marks around "why" (except, possibly, a tick after why

("why'") denoting the derivative...) I think that Jorge's lojban translation was sufficient and succinct.

(.i pe'i do sisku tu'a lo rinka be lo mukti .i paunai ma rinka le du'u le lizyfengu cu mukti le mubdarxi la mark. i ru'a le du'u jy. ta'e sigva'u mu'i le lizypluka kei zo'u ma mukti .i xu le du'u le li'i mi fanva kei cu frili mi kei nibli le du'u mi mo'asi'e jimpe)

I have more to say but I'll wait until you respond.


"Why does Mark feel the urge to punch a locker door when he's angry?"

Is that recursive 'z' thing. Closer to the 'why does x do y for reason z' is "What causes Mark to feel an urge to punch a locker door because he's angry?" although that's not exactly what I mean and can be interpreted rather too

easily as an iteration of z.

This, however is exactly the reason that the concept is so hard to explain: the 'why' is too easily confused with the 'z' part of the sentence, in any explanation I try to give. The problem is is that the 'why' portion can never

be a 'z': i.e. a reason for the act.


If you don't interpret "why" as "what causes", then what are you interpreting it as? Any the four (mukti, nibli, rinka, krinu}? {In reply, by xod}

> The question 'What causes z to cause x' is not the same question as 'why does x do y for reason z', because we are not asking what the cause is for z to come about. Also, it impossible to get people out of this, because it is the people that are causing the problem of understanding.

Ok, so I guess my wording has the same abiguitity that yours does. I understand what you meant though.

What you are asking is not what causes z, but why it is that z is *able* to cause x.

> I agree with you on this except for one thing: the 'why' and the 'z' are two different things, and the answer to the 'why' cannot be put into the 'z' anymore than the 'x' can be put into the 'y': a person is not an action.

But I cut the person out of the picture. People aren't actions, but a person commiting an action is an event. The event is more generic, and lets you get to your issue without getting sidetracked into unrelated discussions about psychology---people only confuse things.

The 'why' most certainly can be put into the z again. If there is a reason that z causes x, then there (obviously) either may or may not be a reason that that reason causes z to cause x, and the process continues iteratively. Either you eventually reach a reason for the a cause being able to cause for which the question cannot be answered, or you don't. Either way you have the problems I outlined above which make the entire question a worthless problem to persue.

-Jordan DeLong

So, 1)what will count as an answer to the question "why does x do y for reason z?" acceptable to those who understand? Apparently a connection between doing y and z is not enough, though it seems to be a part of the way.

2) What exactly is z: the examples have been mainly emotions (anger). what about purposive examples (to achieve w), or some more or less strictly cusal ones (x fell three stories because he slipped off them roof)

This all smells of confusion based on grammatical similarity in English masking vast logical difference.

On second thought, is the issue here about applying criteria for good/acceptable/intelligible reasons (explanations) in particular cases, i.e., in what way is z an explanation for x doing y? This will typically involve an expansion of the connection (sometimes in both directions) until intuitively satisfactory steps are traced. For example, x hit the locker because he was angry, needs to be expanded to tell what he was angry at/about -- somebody or the locker itself. The chain then runs: anger causes (is?) a range of tensions in the body, these tensions need to be dissipated or serious damage will ensue, sudden violent action (like striking something) will dissipate them, striking the subject of the anger is particularly effective -- but striking an inanimate object is generally safer than striking a person. This mixture of general and particular is typical of any explanation. And, like most explanations about human behavior, will contain parts that are not universally accepted -- here, that sudden violent action is a good way to relieve stress -- which then requires another expansion, and so on until the interlocutors are satisfied (there is no theoretical limit).