Is applied thinking inescapably an act of categorizing?
If we know x is good, this knowledge will only be useful if we are able to accurately discern when something is x. If we are incapable of making this judgment, then knowing “x is good” will not be useful, and in fact could be harmful if we wrongly define something as x that is bad but we try to use that bad thing anyway because we believe it is good. If we cannot categorize well, knowledge often proves useless.
If I know from St. Augustine that “it is wrong to constantly…
Our ideology can make the meaning of information feel self-evident, but this is a mistake.
Information does not tell us what it means. Words do not give us their definitions. Facts do not force us to view them as evidence for a certain case. We decide the meaning of information, words, and facts, and yet information seems like the meaning is self-evident, that anyone would draw the same conclusions as us if they were trying to really think. …
A Common and Consequential Mistake
Imagine an empty cup: is there “nothing” inside? In a sense, but there’s also no such thing as nothing: it’s more like there is air, maybe some dust molecules — stuff like that. This can seem like a silly and nitpicky point, but though with this example it doesn’t seem to matter to say, “There is nothing in the cup,” versus “There is space in the cup,” there can be consequential implications.
To say there is “space in the cup” is to say there is “a lack in the cup,” and in this…
On the Mechanisms of Fiction and Society
Describing James Wood’s skepticism about “hysterical realism,” Lee Konstantinou writes that ‘ “hysterical realism” fails for Wood because its too rapid accretion of interesting detail breaks the trance of believability.’¹ “The trance of believability” is a beautiful and eloquent phrase that I think is helpful for understanding numerous issues today that are critical for us to grasp. Though primarily a literary consideration, I believe our approach to books can relate to our approach to society at large, and this way, literary considerations can also be sociological.
What do we do if it’s impossible for us to know for sure that we’re using our time well?
The polymath Gottfried Leibniz made a cosmological argument for God’s existence, which is an extension of St. Thomas Aquinas’s cosmological (or contingency) argument. There is another way of stating this same argument, as a situational-cosmological argument:
Axiom: We have limited time.
1.) Therefore, in each moment we have at least two mutually exclusive options.
2.) Therefore, in each moment we prioritize one option over the other/s.
A Paper that Doesn’t Say Anything
1. Reading is an act of trust.
a. We can’t check all the author’s sources.¹
b. We can’t check to make sure the author didn’t steal ideas.²
c. We can’t ask the author whether a fictional character is being sarcastic or ironic.³
1.1 If we pick up a book on Vietnam by a reporter “who was there,” we must trust that the reporter actually tells us about things he or she really saw.
a. The reporter might be lying.
b. The reporter might have a bad memory.
1.2 If an authority says, “This reporter…
Human Nature and the Need for Small Theory
“Monotheorism” is the belief that there exists a single theory that can explain every given phenomenon and/or given event, and it is human nature to be monotheoristic. If we are Capitalists, it is natural for us to think all problems result from a lack of free markets; if our passion is ending xenophobia, it is natural for us to think of everything primarily in terms of ethnicity; if we are Theists, it is natural to think everything can be explained by a sacred tradition; and so on. It is very difficult for…
Looking Over the “Present” Terrain
The title of this paper alludes to The Legitimation Crisis by Jürgen Habermas, a prophetic book nearly forty-years ahead of its time. It warned that we were losing confidence in political institutions, rendering those institutions ineffective and profoundly damaging democratic processes. Today, the term “legitimation crisis” is often used in reference to socioeconomic and cultural institutions, bureaucracies, and governmental processes in general, and in this paper, I will suggest the term “legitimation crisis” could be used to refer to nearly everything in modern life. Please don’t mistake me as saying that “legitimation crises” can’t be…
What map should we use and when?
Davood Gozli is a constant source of strong material, insight, and analysis. He recently recorded a series reflecting on Beyond Order by Jordan Peterson, and we should all appreciate the time Davood took to put the series together.
I enjoyed Peterson’s Maps of Meaning years ago, and I believe that is where Peterson shines brightest. I personally find Peterson’s popular books incomplete, but I also know people who would say Peterson has immensely helped straighten out their lives. Could they have found this positive influence from other and better sources? …
Persuasive arguments are usually the best we can do, not arguments that “force consent.”
How many arguments force us to change our views? In other words, how many arguments are out there that aren’t merely “persuasive” but “undeniable?” Spoiler alert: a lot less than we think.
We tend to experience arguments that favor our ideology and things we agree with as “conclusive arguments,” but they’re probably just “persuasive arguments.” However, since we’ve been persuaded by them, we tend to experience them as “conclusive” — experience plays a trick on us.
We practically can’t experience arguments that favor our views as…