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I'm a 32-year-old web developer and amateur philosophy student who believes that philosophy has practical applications in life and in business. I live in Berlin, Germany.
In every affair consider what precedes and follows, and then undertake it. Otherwise you will begin with spirit; but not having thought of the consequences, when some of them appear you will shamefully desist. You will behave like children who sometimes play like wrestlers, sometimes gladiators, sometimes blow a trumpet, and sometimes act a tragedy when they have seen and admired these shows. Thus you too will be at one time a wrestler, at another a gladiator, now a philosopher, then an orator; but with your whole soul, nothing at all.

Gilles Deleuze, writing about Spinoza

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The struggle of living a life of integrity

What does it mean to live a life of integrity? 

Human beings are, as Aristotle observed, animals of habit. Our minds are habit machines. Our minds are also machines of action based on belief. If I believe that money is the highest good, in small and large ways throughout my life I will act stingy. Our actions are often the product of habits, and habits often reflect our beliefs. In German there is an expression, man fährt immer dahin wo man hin schaut. 

Values are then, in a sense, a kind of habit-pattern. Values are the master patterns that shape our habits and trickle down into our daily thoughts and routines. 

(There is an exception. Sometimes our mind is weak. After a long day of hard work, or in the face of a particularly storng temptation, our mind and strength of will can be weak.)

What does all of this have to do with integrity?

The word "integrity" means coherence, undividedness, and wholeness. It is a relative of the word "integer" - a whole number. A man of integrity lives coherently. He lives according to his values. 

I have a list of values, which I've written down. I walk through them in my memory on most days in the morning. 

My values are, arguably, idealistic and ambitious. I violate them frequently. When I violate them, I feel broken, divided and incoherent. It can be a daily struggle. 

How can I improve?

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Addressing My Internet Addiction - Part 2

As someone trying to live a life around the principles of Stoic philosophy, my internet addiction has been a source of frustration and aggravation. 

Yesterday, I wrote about a system to control my addiction. Unfortunately one tool I used - SelfControl App - isn't working properly. What follows is a somewhat technical discussion of a different, Google Chrome-centered system, to regulate my access to the internet. 

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Seneca on Stoic Use of Time

It is not that we have a short time of life to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. 

Why do we complain about nature? She has acted kindly: life is long if you know how to use it.

 

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My comprehensive solution to internet addiction

I am addicted to the internet. Given the opportunity, I will read news websites. I will watch movies. I will watch TV shows. The brilliant kaleidiscope of entertaining distractions provided to me freely, daily, is overwhelming. Most people are like me. Most people are losing the battle against entertaining distraction.

People justify reading news. News, after all, is important to keep updated about. But deep down we know that most news, at least, is trash. Nassim Taleb writes about the importance on Wall Street of discerning the signal from the noise. After thousands of years people still read Plato. Plato, therefore, is signal. Online news is noise. People on staff at the Huffington Post and the New York Times are paid to distract me. They are paid to pluck at the strings of my emotions, emotions like fear. They are good at their jobs. 

Stoic philosophers cultivate and strengthen their free mind. They also use exercises and tricks to help them. Daniel Kahneman has written extensively in the past 40 years about the weaknesses of our mind. Stoic philosophers cultivated strong minds, but they also listen to reason. Reason indicates that our minds are both strong and fragile. There are moments throughout the day when our minds are fragile and susceptible to distraction. 

David Allen, the self-organizational guru of Getting Things Done, writes that complex problems sometimes require complex solutions. His organization system is, as a result, complex. 

Internet addiction is a complex problem. The reason that it is complex is that we need the internet. We need it for work and we need it for life. A few people have taken long holidays from the internet. They have reported remarkable results. And yet going cold turkey for must of us - because of work, and because of life - is not an option.

In the last few months I have developed a complex solution to my internet addiction. Today is, in a sense, Day 1 of this system actually functioning. I will have more to report in the coming weeks. Doubtless, there will need to be tweaks. And yet I think that I have created and built a workable system. I use Mac OS X and iOS.

Tools:

  1. iPod Touch
  2. SelfControl App
  3. iCalendar
  4. AppleScripts
  5. Mac Automator Application
  6. WorkFlow Application
  7. Apple Server and Profile Manager
    • I needed these tools because, unfortunately, I read about a simple workaround to SelfControl. If you have this problem, then go to my solution here - https://github.com/slambert/selfcontrol/issues/28. NOTE: do NOT go to this page if you want to remain ignorant of this bug and save yourself a lot of hassle. I wish that I'd never learned about it. 

Steps:

  1. Sell your iPhone and buy an iPod Touch. 
    • You think that you need to be connected all the time and that sending those emails on the subway is more efficient. It isn't. It is killing your mind, your creativity, your free time. Once or twice a day, sit down at a computer, and process all your emails. You will be amazed at how quickly you blast through it all. It will take you 1 or 2 hours. An iPod Touch enables you to have all of the applications that you still want with iOS, while enabling you to walk away from the internet when there's no WIFI.
  2. On Your iPod Touch, disable Safari, disable app installation, and activate Parental Controls.
    • Why do we need Safari on our iPod Touch? We don't really. If we go out for the evening, we might use maps. Disabling Safari on our iPod Touch pushes us to use our laptop as our sole internet gateway. That's really the point of this system. The internet should be a resource that you go to access, when you need it. Visiting the internet should be like a trip to the library. If the library, or any other resource, came with you everywhere you go in life, it would distract you. 
    • In order to effectively rely on the Parental Controls, give the passcode to your housemate, or girlfriend, or someone you can trust with it.
  3. Install SelfControl App - http://selfcontrolapp.com/
    • SelfControl App is the application that - at certain times, with certain exceptions (depending the settings you choose), will block the internet. You will want to set it up to be triggered and opened at 6pm every evening, using the tools below.
  4. iCalendar, AppleScripts, Mac Automator
    • I use this combination of applications to automatically trigger SelfControl at 6pm every day for 16 hours. This means that my evening and much of the early morning is devoid of the internet, with the exception of a few websites that I need for coding. 
  5. Workflow - Pomodoro Technique
    • I believe that the Pomodoro Technique is extremely helpful for working in a healthy way. It enables us to work for longer periods of time with concentration and focus. Workflow is a simple Mac application that helps to set these 25 minute bursts. It's very helpful. 

You can read more about the details of the implementation of the AppleScript - including a copy of the Applescript that I used - on my Developer Blog - http://henrys-devblog.herokuapp.com/posts/53.

 

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