An Index of Works by O.G. Rose (First to Newest)
Fire is dangerous but keeps us warm. The key is that we shouldn’t play with fire. Likewise, we shouldn’t play with hope, for when we’re careless, we start calling “hope” what is actually an “expectation,” something that can incubate an entitlement spirit and leave us vulnerable to boredom and disappointment.
Government and democracy also need to maintain legitimacy, as Jürgen Habermas discusses in his important Legitimization Crisis. If people don’t believe in “the system,” they will likely feel existentially anxious and oppose it. If people believe the process by which elected officials take office is corrupt or that the government doesn’t reflect the will of the people, the people will not believe it is right to follow the government. In fact, in their minds, a conflict between righteousness and the State can arise, moralizing civil disobedience.
Let’s say you need glasses. Is it practical for you to wear them? Absolutely: glasses pretty much make all practice possible; it would be hard to walk to the fridge without them. Glasses won’t help you lift a box onto a shelf directly, but indirectly, they are absolutely essential…
But there’s a problem: it’s rational for businesses to make themselves invincible, and if it’s possible, that’s what the smart businesses will do. And to make a long story short, America made it possible by mixing the markets and government. How? Read “No Exit” — here you’ll just have to take my word for it.
(Blog) If you skip the old books and go straight to the breaking news, it will probably just break you.
The point is that knowing what to believe about anything is super hard, but it’s especially hard to know what to think about something that’s still in the process of happening now. The newer the story, the more intense the problem of certainty (the more Ludwig laughs)…
You Couldn’t Have Been Listening if You Don’t Think Like Me
(Blog) If someone doesn’t change their views into yours, they must be closed-minded.
…I think we need to take a moment to stress that someone can listen to you and still not think like you. The assumption seems to be going around that if someone actually listened to me, they’d change their views and think like me. The same mistake happens with empathy: if someone was actually empathetic, the disagreement would vanish, (because they’d think like me). Agreement seems to be the litmus test for determining if someone is listening or empathetic, because how else could we tell? (Other than say trust and “assuming the best” of others, which would leave us vulnerable to manipulation and worse.) But if that’s the case, then listening and empathy become practically indistinguishable from indoctrination.
If you can’t tell if it’s true, ask who it will help (but don’t assume that’s easy to determine)
Figuring out what and how to think is harder than most schools suggest. Mastering reading and memorization, to start, are not enough.
The following is a list of questions that are laid out in a suggested order people should follow to determine if they should believe something. Without a systematic guideline for thinking, insanity isn’t out of the question.
Please don’t assume this outline is perfect, and perhaps the order needs adjustment, but at the very least, I hope it helps…
Feeling Good About School
(Blog) School can train us to “always” wait for our feeling of being reasonable to be confirmed.
It is reasonable to believe a thing doesn’t exist if you can’t see it if it “is” a thing that if it existed you would be able to see it. On the other hand, it is unreasonable to believe a thing doesn’t exist if you can’t see it if it “is” a thing that can’t be seen. Perhaps it’s microscopic, a virtue like justice, or an alternative dimension of space and time? Hard to say…
Søren or Holden on a Roof
(Blog Parable) You are born in a theater and have never been outside.
You are born in a theater and have never been outside. The building is condemned, but not to you, because as far as you’re concerned, home is like all buildings are supposed to be: the walls are cracked; the roof leaks; mold expands in the corners. You have never seen the signs outside the entrance that warn about danger, and even if you had, the ink wore off years ago…
If You Think for Yourself Without Falsification, You’ll Go Crazy.
(Blog) And Other Reflections on Karl Popper’s Legendary Contribution
1. Verification is where we try to find reasons to believe what we believe, while falsification is where we try to find reasons not to believe what we believe. If we try to falsify x and can’t, then we have all the more reason to believe it; if we try to falsify x and succeed, then we shouldn’t believe x anyway. We’re better off.
2. It could be said that falsification sort of entails verification, but verification doesn’t necessarily entail falsification.
3. Confirmation bias is always what other people have…
Arguing Hume Through a Wedding Venue
A Thought Based on “Deconstructing Common Life”
David Hume made an extremely valuable distinction between “good philosophy” and “bad philosophy.” Hume understood that philosophy itself could be a problem, and that if reasoning did not ultimately defer to a “common life,” it would become a force of destruction…
In Infinite Information Over Enough Time…
(Blog) All Ideas Lacking Internal Contradiction Will Be Discovered and Possibly Wrong.
In infinite information over infinite time, any networks of ideas that don’t internally contradict will be discovered, and precisely because they maintain internal consistency, the networks will be plausible…
On Consciousness, Creativity, and Being
(Blog) To talk about consciousness is to take your life into your own hands.
1. To talk about consciousness is to take your life into your own hands.
2. Consciousness is where thinking and perception mix like milk and dye. (Consciousness and sub-consciousness also mix inseparably.)
In line with “On Thinking and Perceiving,” what I think about is “conscious” while what I perceive is “sub-conscious” (or “below consciousness”). When I think about a chair, I am conscious of it, but the chair beneath my thoughts that I perceive is sub-conscious. When I think about a chair in a room I perceive, the room is sub-conscious, while the chair is both conscious and sub-conscious. In this sense, my sub-conscious is the context of my conscious mind, as perception is the context of thought.
3. Consciousness is paradoxical and/or ironic.
(Blog) Directionalism and A Summary of Points Made Throughout O.G. Rose
Where there is freedom, there will be limits, so the existence of limits does not necessarily prove the nonexistence of freedom. In fact, limits are what make freedom possible and could be evidence of its presence. Thus, if determinism is to disprove free will, it must prove not so much limits, but external influences on a will that keep it from being free. Keep in mind that a will that influences itself is a free will.
Political Packages and Ultimatums
(Blog) Expand Beyond “Left and Right” to include “Up and Down”
If w candidate was Pro-Choice but supported every other issue you supported, while candidate z was Pro-Life but was against every other issue you supported, would you vote for w instead of z?
If x candidate was a racist but supported every other issue you supported, while candidate y wasn’t a racist but was against every other issue you supported, would you vote for x or y?
Is there an “ultimatum issue” in your worldview?
Is Capitalism Today Zero-Sum?
(Blog) Growth is When All Ships Rise Together, but What if Growth Stops?
Jobs and money are created, so it does not necessarily follow that someone takes a job or paycheck from someone else in working and gaining a raise. The rich are not necessarily rich at the expense of the poor, as the employed are not necessarily employed at the expense of the unemployed. But what if growth stagnates? What if wealth ceases to be created?
If You Want to Find Meaning in Life, Don’t Look for It.
(Blog) Instead, look at beauty and increase your capacity to experience it. Meaning is found indirectly.
There is a lot of talk today about finding meaning, and I won’t argue with any of it. If you haven’t read Victor Frankl or Daniel Pink, you should: a life with all the riches in the world but without meaning is a life suffered. However, I think there’s a problem: the advice we’re given is to do whatever it is we are intrinsically motivated to do, and though that’s all the advice a lot of people need, there are lots of people for whom this isn’t enough guidance at all. They don’t know what they want. They don’t know what they are intrinsically motivated to do. And so their suffering can almost get worse by learning about the importance of meaning. If they didn’t know they needed a meaningful life and didn’t do something meaningful, that would be bad, but now they know they should live a meaningful life and aren’t, and that’s worse.
On “How Do We Escape? by Justin Murphy and Johannes Niederhauser”
(Causal Thought) Technology, Enframing, Being, and Beauty
Justin Murphy and Johannes Niederhauser are starting a class on Heidegger and Deleuze, and I really enjoyed their conversation. I think today Heidegger would be especially horrified by how we can’t take a walk in the woods anymore without thinking about potential tweets or posts we could make about our walk. Our “towardness” to the world has changed: everything is a potential commodity for our online lives. This by extension controls our horizons and ways of life in ways that even captures and “fences in” our imaginations: we live in societies of control in many ways.
The Unexamined Life Isn’t Easy to Live
(Blog) There’s better life insurance out there.
Socrates once said that “the unexamined life isn’t worth living,” but I agree with Merold Westphal (who’s a genius, by the way) that Socrates is simply wrong. There are plenty of people who have never read Nietzsche or Plato who go on to live deep and fulfilling lives.
Still, I don’t think Socrates was totally off the mark (I’m biased and like philosophy, after all). Personally, I think it’s better to say, “the unexamined life is risker to live.”
Story Is The Structure of Life and Fiction
(Blog) Problematically, We Conflate “Fiction” with “False.”
Reality is more like a story than a collection of facts, and yet when someone claims something is like a story, we tend to associate it with being fictitious. Paradoxically, we associate “raw facts” with depicting reality accurately, when none of us live in a world of “just facts.” Subjectivity is very real in our experience, so unless I’m going to live in a world without the very subjectivity that makes my awareness of facts possible, then subjectivity must be included in my depiction of reality if that depiction is to be accurate. And yet the moment I do so, I can be accused of making my depiction inaccurate, and indeed, maybe I am: in subjectivity not being as “solid” as facts, it can be much harder to know if I’m giving subjectivity the right treatment and incorporating it properly. This can increase anxiety, which can increase a temptation to escape that anxiety by removing subjectivity again (as I will likely be encouraged to do).
Certainty Entails a Lot of Unintended Consequences
(Blog) On Fear, Fragility, Anti-Diversity, Bad Nihilism, Conspiracies, Perverted Rationality, and the Death of…
If the intellectual goal of our lives is certainty (and worse yet, if certainty is moralized), then with a single doubt, we lose the goal. However, if the goal is confidence, we can have doubts and even many doubts, and not lose what we’re after. Additionally, if the goal is certainty, diversity of opinion, people, etc. are all threats, because difference creates reason to doubt, and if we must have certainty, we cannot have even a single doubt. But if the goal is confidence, the encounters with difference are not threats; in fact, they can help us expand our views and test our confidence, perhaps strengthening our confidence in ways it should be strengthened and weakening it in ways it should be weakened.
Anxiety and Schrödinger’s Conceivability Structures
(Blog) On Personally Experiencing Our Lack of Omniscience, the Impossibility of Particularizing General Conceivability…
It is impossible to escape having a worldview or philosophy: the battle is keeping it from becoming an ideology that “does our thinking for us” and/or “that makes the world a worse place.” Worldviews are structured like stories, but problematically, so are conspiracies, philosophies, ideologies, and the like. We cannot from identifying structures alone defend our minds from falsities, but that means we have to do a lot of investigation that cannot promise us any fruitful results.
Memory Is the Mind’s Air
(Blog) Memories are the conditions that make thought and finding patterns possible.
Memory is so critical to thinking that it is often ignored. Similarly, oxygen is so important to biological survival that it is taken for granted. It is possible for there to be memory without thinking, but not thinking without memory. This is because with memory, I can still mentally experience images and thoughts, even if I cannot connect them with logic into thinking. Without memory, even if I have a self, it will be impossible for me to meaningfully discuss that self, for I lack the mental material by which to define and explain what that self has gone through, experienced, and how that self has been understood by others.
Phenomenology as a Method for Avoiding Formalism
(Blog) We need definitions and structures, but how can we create them without risking arbitrary restriction and…
Formalism is the act of creating structures in which entities like “beauty,” “goodness,” and “truth” can be defined and judged. It’s a kind of philosophical recipe where we say that if we have a little x, a spoonful of y, and a pinch of z, we’ll have ourselves a beautiful painting. Formalism is extremely tempting because it creates a clear standard by which to judge things, to create things, to strive for things to become like, and so on. Without formalism, we can feel like we’re lost in a sea of chaos, but the cost of not feeling lost is restriction.
Structural Isomorphism in Argument
(Blog) Failure to understand the “sharing of argumentative forms” leaves us defenseless against a way our minds seeks…
Photo by Caroline Veronez
Imagine a person wore an earring on their right ear and looked in a mirror; the earring would look to be on their left. Similarly, when it comes to their arguments, Liberals and Conservatives often use the same forms with different accidents: their arguments possess identical structures, though the details of their arguments vary. I believe failure to understand this “sharing of argumentative forms” leaves us defenseless against ways our minds seek to trick us yet again.
We use the term “subjective” to refer to a person’s personal take on this or that. We have subjective opinions, subjective views of the world — pretty much everything humans do can be called “subjective.” Tastes, sights, likes — all of it. But the word “subjective” is problematic, for though we tend to know what it means when asked directly, it bears some problematic connotations.
This is a preview list of short pieces I wrote focused on “thinking about thinking,” mental models, epistemology, and the like…
3 Points on the Invasion of the Capital and Our Brains
(Blog) We are habituated to not believe anything we see, to make our beliefs unfalsifiable, and to only change our…
You’ve probably heard the rumors by now that the protestors yesterday were actually members of Antifa pretending to be Trump supporters in order to stage an invasion of the Capitol that would destroy Congressional support for investigating claims of election fraud.
First, I want to note how quickly this narrative emerged. It didn’t take but an hour for the idea to spread across the internet like wildfire. Some people came up with it, and instantly the idea dawned upon millions…
Is Social Media a Crowded Movie Theater?
(Blog) If we accept limiting free speech in a crowded space, then we need to have a hard conversation about social…
We all know that we can’t shout “fire!” in a crowded movie theater, that our freedom of speech can’t put other people in danger. We also can’t harass, make death threats, and so on — none of that is controversial. Yes, there’s a hard to define “gray zone” when trying to decide what constitutes unallowable “hate speech,” and we all know about that debate (which I discuss in “The Spectre of McCarthyism”) — and though a critical discussion, that’s not what I’m interested in today.
Instead, I want to focus on an idea Mike M. brought to my attention: Is social media inherently “a crowded movie theater” (especially if we have a large following like the President)? Additionally, if we are the President, are we considered the equivalent of a fire marshal, and so for us to shout “fire” is especially consequential?
Is There Ever Real Progress in Philosophy?
(Blog) If the Great Conversation never ends, why bother?
Is there ever real progress in philosophy? What about literature, sociology, economics — don’t all the “soft sciences” have the same problem? I think a lot of it hinges on the question of if we think progress is possible without certainty. Personally, I mostly think certainty is impossible, but we can still garner confidence, and not all confidence is equal (some is better than others).
Are There No Answers In Philosophy?
(Blog) More thoughts on the possibility of abstract progress.
We already talked about the possibility of progress in philosophy, but a few more things can be said. Is it true that there are “no answers” in philosophy, only questions? Again, if our standard is certainty, that might follow, but even if “absolute answers” are impossible, it doesn’t follow that “answers in general” or “better answers” cannot be obtained. This might sound problematic, but it’s not that different from most questions we live with just fine. If I’m asked, “How was your day?” I can only answer about this day: it is not actually possible for me to discover a general answer to this question that I could apply to every day of my life (though, that’s not to say we don’t try with answers like “fine”).
Are People Being Radicalized?
(Blog) YouTube is accused of causing radicalization, but is “radicalization” even a useful category?
The Making of a YouTube Radical was put out by The New York Times in 2019, and it has sparked a vigorous debate ever sense, a debate that has come back into prominence with the recent invasion of the Capitol. The piece basically argues that YouTube contributes to young men especially being indoctrinated into right-wing radicals. Mark Ledwich recently debated the premise at this tremendous podcast.
Everyone Is Rational
(Blog) The problems we need to manage are much deeper.
Nobody does anything they think is irrational. If they touch fire, which is arguably stupid, they must be doing it because they want to impress someone, feel pain, or see what fire feels like. In light of this desire and want, touching the fire becomes rational to them, even if it’s not actually rational. But unfortunately, only God can ultimately know what is actually rational, and none of us are God. Maybe touching fire gets someone a promotion to being chief of a village somewhere? Can we really say that it’s never rational to touch fire? Seems extremely situation-dependent…
Why Calls for Unity Don’t Work
(Blog) Until we achieve “substantive democracy,” replace “tolerance” with “humility,” accept possible vulnerability to…
Who doesn’t want to be unified? Anyone out there like division? Not many? Then why does the country seem so divided? Why do so many people feel like “calls for unity” are just propaganda?
Imagine that Darth Vader said to the Rebels “It’s time for unity” — do you think “unity” would be taken as anything else than “join us or else?” It would also entail a moral threat, for failing to unify with the Empire would contribute to division. And people don’t tend to respond well to moral threats…
What is a “metatalk?”
A metatalk is when we talk about the mechanisms of talking, thinking, relationships, and the like. It’s not just any talking, but a particular kind of talking in which we try to figure how and why all parties interpret things the way they do, why they feel a certain way, and what they think we’re saying when they say this or that (countless more examples could be made).
“Talking” is about dinner, what we did today, how we’re feeling, etc.
“Metatalking” is about why we thought it was good to do what we did today, why we felt x way when y happened, etc.
Is It Good to Want to Be Missed?
(Blog) Live so that others always feel at home
Is it good to want people to miss us when we’re gone? Or is that selfish? In one way, it means we want to live a life that matters to people, but in another, it means we want people to suffer. What’s right?
If nobody cares when we die, this might suggest we didn’t live a good life. Worse yet, if people are secretly happy that we’re dead, we probably blew it. So, in the sense that we don’t want people to be apathetic or happy over our death, the phrase “I want to be missed” seems positive.
But, at the same time, that leaves people to be sad over our death, and sadness hurts. Therefore, if we want people to miss us when we’re gone, doesn’t that mean we want people to suffer? And isn’t it wrong to want people to suffer?
Beauty might help us find the balance.
On Justification and Consequences to Others
(Blog) A Reflection on Evidence Relative to Contained Versus Uncontained Risk
As considered in “The Conflict of Mind” by O.G. Rose, the amount of justification an argument needs to be accepted should be relative to the degree that the consequences of the argument are contained and individuated versus uncontained and nonindividuated. There are “nonindividuated consequences” — consequences that I suffer because of the choices of others — and “individuated consequences” — consequences that I suffer because of my own choices (we could also say “contained consequences” versus “uncontained consequences”).
Rationality Is Mostly About Making Good Bets
(Blog) On Logic, Probability, and Scope
If A is B, and B is C, is C equal to A? Yes, that would be a rational conclusion. Now try this one: if A is B 20% of the time, and B is C 15% of the time, what percentage of the time is C equal to A? That’s a lot trickier, isn’t it? (5% sounds right, no?) Well too bad we live mostly in a world of probabilities, though by how rationality and logic are often discussed, it’s suggested we live in a world composed mostly of basic syllogisms.
I Think, Therefore There Is Reason To Think
(Blog) Appreciating Descartes as Helping Us See Thinking Like Proofs
Descartes does not prove we exist, only that we are a closed system that must assume our existence in order to proceed. Descartes only suggests we cannot not exist, for to think we don’t exist, something must exist to think we’re not around.
Essence is what makes a thing that particular thing. In other words, essence is what makes “that chair.”
Substance is what makes a thing a general thing. In other words, substance is what makes “a chair.”
Form is what makes the idea of a thing, without which the thing would not be intelligible. In other words, form is what makes “that idea of a/that chair.
Art Is a Source for Mental Models
(Blog) On How Art Provides Categories and Lenses
“Mental models” are tools through which we can understand the world. Reminiscent of Cardinal Newman’s point that words do not wear their meaning (which means interpretation is unavoidable), data does not “wear on its face” the right way to interpret it, nor does data tell us automatically the right conclusions we should draw. We have to do that work ourselves, but if we use the wrong model or lens through which to understand data, the data won’t stop us from making that mistake. It will remain silent, and, right or wrong, let us do what we want with it.
Systems Think Before Systematically Thinking
(Blog) If we work hard with the wrong tool, we won’t get much done.
The way we think about something can be just as important as how hard we think about it. If I try to hammer in a nail with a wrench, it might work, but it might also mess up the job. Nails need hammers, and there are jobs that if I try to use a hammer when a screwdriver is needed, I might break whatever it is I’m working on.
Economic Hardship, Resulting Extremism, and Mob Rule
(Blog) Conservatism and Liberalism on the Relationship Between Standards of Living, Family Strength, and State…
Kennan Grant proposed the following consideration:
If sufficient economic hardship inevitably produces a minority of violent, extremist political powers — be they fascist or communist or what have you — and if that minority is all it takes to intimidate the majority into compliance because the majority is, at their best, protecting their dependents…
Then aren’t you left with only two solutions?
Solution 1: The society never falls into economic ruin.
Solution 2: Families decide, as entire families, to be courageous and defiant. No family member will comply with an extremist movement out of fear for their dependents.
And since solution 1 is (probably) impossible in the long run, that leaves solution 2.
What am I missing?
In my mind, Grant has laid out a useful framework for considering ideological differences (he himself, nor I, would not claim it is a hard “natural law” of political science but still helpful). It reminds me of James Madison in the Federalist Papers, considering ways to avoid both “majority mob rule” and “tyranny by a minority” (views on which shape views on State size). The framework might help us understand differences between Conservatives and Liberals, Capitalists and Socialists, and though this short work will not endeavor to prove “who’s right,” it might still prove helpful for providing bearings on political discourse today. Also, we might discover some ironies and paradoxes, which is my favorite pastime.
Native Tongues and Native Worldviews
(Blog) How we don’t fully know a language or fully believe what we have to translate — or at least don’t feel like it.
We don’t fully know a language until we don’t have to translate it. A native English speaker, I don’t have to “translate” English when I hear it: I just “know” what it means. Perhaps in a sense I am translating the words into concepts, but I’m certainly not translating English into Latin and then into concepts. Considering this, I think it’s fair to say that languages we really know are ones we don’t translate: if some kind of translation occurs, it’s so quick and automatic that it’s practically not translation at all.
Why Do Madness and Genius Like to Tango?
(Blog) Shouldn’t they share an inverse relationship?
It’s a cliché now, associating genius and madness: the market is saturated with movies and shows about it. The Queen’s Gambit, PI, Whiplash — I could go on. Why does this stereotype resonate? Well, because Nikola Tesla seems to have loved a pigeon and John Nash developed schizophrenia — the stereotype is backed by evidence. But isn’t that strange? If genius is the ability to reason, and madness the inability to reason, shouldn’t they share an inverse relationship versus correlate?
None of Us Are Very Smart
(Blog) We should focus on “being logical” more than “being intelligent.”
What does it mean to call someone “smart” if at best all we ever know is maybe 1% of all there is to know? Okay, let’s be generous: let’s say we can know 10%. What was failing in High School? 69%? Yea, I don’t think any of us are very smart.
Thinking there are “smart people” out there, we come to overestimate how much people know. We need to get it deep in our bones: we don’t really know anything. We know a sliver of a sliver of a sliver of a sliver…of what this universe holds. Our smartness is maybe the size of a gnat, so what does it mean to say someone is “smart?” Not much.
Beauty and Art Inspire Creativity
(Blog) If our desire to create increases as does our experience of beauty and meaning, increasing aesthetic capacities…
Have you ever met someone who thinks they aren’t creative? A lot of people, right? Very few people are willing to say “I’m creative,” and the people who are creative just seem lucky. And indeed, there probably is luck involved, but what if part of the problem is that we need to stop “trying to be creative” and instead “try to experience beauty?” What if like meaning, creativity is something we find indirectly more so than directly? What if it’s by directly seeking beauty and art that we can indirectly cultivate our creativity (and sense of meaning)?
Explanations Are Not Evidence
Thoughts based on “Self-Delusion, the Toward-ness of Evidence, and the Paradox of Judgment” by O.G. Rose.
An explanation is not evidence. If there is a cup on a table, I could probably come up with a thousand (possible) explanations for how it got there (maybe more). At the end of the day though, only one explanation would be true. If I convinced you that you were obligated to investigate every plausible explanation, then in the name of truth, I would have convinced you to waste a lot of time.
Neurodiversity Overcomes Rational Impasses and Stops Eugenics
Is neurodiversity the best way to escape Nash Equilibriums?
Lorenzo Barberis Canonico recently gave a presentation in which he argued that rational individuals in the Prisoner’s Dilemma will produce an irrational outcome, that the only way to break through this “trap of game theory” is for someone to act “non-rationally.” Lorenzo makes a point not to say “irrationally,” for if the final outcome of a “non-rational” act is “the best outcome” for everyone involved (such as the case in the Prisoner’s Dilemma), it wouldn’t make sense to call it “irrational.” And yet it doesn’t fit to say “rational” either, for those involved had to act against their (apparent) self-interest in order to achieve “the best outcome.”
Particularity, Situatedness, and Knowing Where We Are
Specificity helps us locate ourselves, so does that mean generality and duplication contribute to us feeling lost?
If I start talking about McDonald’s, you will probably have no idea where I’m talking about: Mcdonald’s is everywhere. But if I mention Café Du Monde, you’ll probably know I’m talking about New Orleans. Particularity entails situatedness, especially where there isn’t duplication. When talking about the Mona Lisa, we know we are talking about the Louvre — or maybe not. The original, yes, we associate with that famous museum, but now that the world is filled with copies and prints of the painting, perhaps I could be talking about “seeing the Mona Lisa” in my friend’s house. Due to duplication, it’s not so easy to know where we’re situated when talking about the famous painting.
The questions we ask say a lot about who we are — questions suggest identity. If I were a bug, I wouldn’t ask the same questions I do as a person. I might wonder, “Why is grass so tall?” “Do bugs have souls?” “Why do humans squash us?” but probably not much about the Green Bay Packers or Nolan’s most recent masterpiece. If I were a star, I might wonder why I didn’t have arms for hugs; if I were a bird, I might wish I could cook. Even when I genuinely want to know, I cannot help but want to know in a way that is suitable for me.
Generally, there are people who lean more on the side of “wanting” and others who lean more on the side of “willing” (though of course everyone is a mixture). Perhaps we could say that A-personality types are more “wanting people” while B-personality types are more “willing” (though I generally dislike these categorizations). Please note that neither is necessarily better than the other and that we are all a mixture of both: the point this short work will stress is how both personality types can be misunderstood and hurt as a result.
On “Why the Worst Get on Top” by Friedrich Hayek
Is the problem today Right vs Left or something bigger?
Friedrich Hayek argued that when it came to large central planners, most people assumed ‘that the rise of [dictators wasn’t] the necessary consequence of a totalitarian system,’ that benevolent dictators were possible and that just because large central planners in the past devolved into Nazism or Maoism, it wasn’t the case that they had to end up this way.¹ Is this true? If so, the problem isn’t so much about Right vs Left, but Up vs Down (as Kohr warned).
“Unleashing Criticism” Versus “Constructive Criticism”
Should criticism inspire?
Does criticism “construct” creators? Are creators and artists balls of unformed clay that, without critical direction, spend all their days as lumps of nothing? That might be what critics like to think, for that makes them extremely important, and furthermore the metaphor makes creators out to be children lost in the dark, stumbling around, trying to figure out what to do. The children are forever lost until someone comes along with “a lamp of criticism” to help the creators find their way, and forever forth, the creators are in the debts of “the lamp bringer.”
Reality Handicaps Preventive Measures
Ideas are hard to live by, while experiences are natural.
There are situations that, once we’re in, a tragic trade-off is inevitable. It’s best to avoid these situations in the first place, but until we’re in them, we only have the idea of how difficult the situations will be, not the experiences. “Ideas are not experiences” — as the paper by that name argues — and ideas are much weaker at compelling human action than experiences. Considering this, it’s improbable humans will take preventative measures, especially if those measures are costly and similar historic events (which could provide reference points) distant.
The Risks of Complicated Language
Using jargon, it’s easy to miss out on deeper insights.
I doubt anyone wakes up one day and decides they want to use complicated language. Sure, we can accuse academics of wanting to show off, and I’m sure sometimes they do, but that’s the simple answer — what’s the real reason for jargon? Well, when the topic we’re discussing is so complex and difficult, we end up using phrases like “ontological negativity,” “substitutionary atonement,” “anarcho-primitivism” — I could go on — just to save time. Explaining every term and justifying the concept every time would mean when we sat down to write a note, we’d end up with a book.
If We’re Post-Truth, That Can’t Be True
What we are is “post-probable” and “pro-possible.”
If we live in a post-truth world, that can’t be true, but what is possible is that everyone who disagrees with us lives in a post-truth world. Our world, though, must be the world, because otherwise we couldn’t judge “truth” from “post-truth.” See why the term “post-truth” is problematic? If we tell people they’re “post-truth,” they’ll likely hear “You better start thinking like me.”
Conclusive Arguments Are Rare
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.
Looking Over Beyond Order by Jordan Peterson
What map should we use and when?
“Maps aren’t territories,” so no book can be perfect, but currently we tend to think of “popular books” as containing the main ideas and “nonpopular books” as containing (unnecessary) technicalities (note also that the term “nonpopular” implies “bad,” perhaps contributing to subconscious bias). This is a mistake: there are “Level 1 maps,” “Level 2 maps,” etc., each of which adds valuable direction.
The Situational-Cosmological Argument and Financial Epistemology
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.
3.) Therefore, in each moment prioritization itself is inevitably one of the options; we can either prioritize and use our limited time well, or we can not prioritize and waste our limited time.
4.) However, we are unable to prioritize prioritization of our own personal will power, because that would require having all the reasons for our own priorities within ourself. It is self-evident that we do not have all the reasons for our own priorities within ourself, otherwise we would have omniscience.
5.) Conclusion: Since we do not have all the reasons for our own priorities within ourselves, we necessarily derive the reasons for our own priorities from a force greater than ourselves, in order to use our time well. That force which is greater than ourselves, which has all the reasons for our own priorities, all people call God.
If you deny (5.), then either you must either deny
(4.) in which case you have omniscience, or you must deny
(3.) in which case you do not use time well, or you must deny
(2.) in which case you admit that something else prioritizes for you, or you must deny
(1.) in which case you can prioritize more than one option at once, in which case you have omnipresence, or you must deny
the Axiom, in which case you admit eternal life.
Information Does Not Tell Us What It Means.
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. If they draw different conclusions, it must mean they’re not thinking, that they’re ideologically driven, or worse, that they’re intentionally misunderstanding the facts.
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.
The Dialectic Between “Meaningful Memories” and “Pure Experiences”
Living ironically while seeking a balance between the incomplete and the always “just missed.”
There is technically no such thing as “meaningful experiences,” only “meaningful memories (about experiences).” An experience is precisely relative to what thought is not involved: it is ultimately a matter of perception, which means it is a matter that doesn’t involve thinking or meaning. There cannot be meaning where there isn’t thought, so “pure experiences” are necessarily meaningless. And yet that meaninglessness can be a source of wonder and beauty.
Are we turning to the internet to figure out how to stop the internet from overwhelming us?
If we have all the information in the world, it will be useless to us if we do not have the ability to evaluate it. This is becoming undeniable with the internet: it’s an amazing research tool, but if we don’t come to the internet with some level of “prior knowledge,” as David Rieff pointed out, or if we don’t gain from the internet a framework through which to understand the internet, the information it presents us with will prove difficult to organize, overwhelming, and probably useless. We won’t have the ability to interpret it, to determine the true from the false, the probable from the improbable, and/or the conspiratorial from the real. We’ll feel like Dante in a dark wood but without Virgil.
Why Do We Think Bookcases Won’t Randomly Transform Into Butterflies?
Our confidence in the solidness of reality is more a product of perception than thought.
So why are we so sure the world out there is real or that it won’t change on us without warning? Well, I think it’s because from “lived experience,” we subconsciously and/or consciously erect our sense of solidness not upon “thought” but upon “perception.” And the problem with perception isn’t so much “subjectivity” as it is “limitedness.”
Absolute Moral Conditionality
Points based on “(Im)morality” by O.G. Rose.
Do moral absolutes exist?
Well, even if “morally absolute acts (in-of-themselves)” don’t exist, “morally absolute categories” still could.
Murder is always wrong, but admittedly, it is not always clear what is murder versus killing. Killing seems like it is not always wrong (say in self-defense, in stopping a rabid animal from attacking a child, etc.), so if x is “ending a life,” the question is if x always falls under the category of murder (y) or if it sometimes falls under the category of killing (z).
On the Problem of Saying “That’s Abstract”
How we associate thinking with being “out of touch” and so absolve ourselves the responsibility.
Letters don’t have meaning, and yet words are made of letters. Letters are sounds, and sounds are more “concrete” than words, and yet letters don’t mean anything. Letters seem to be both “concrete” and “abstract,” and yet we tend to think of these as opposites, that where there’s concreteness, there won’t be abstraction. What’s going on?
Living offline and online…
Owning two houses is great, right? You have more equity, more space — lots of advantages! Imagine the two houses are built right next to one another and that both of them are two stories high. Great! But wait, who’s going to clean them?
Maintaining an Unstable Situation
We will only thrive if we genuinely try to best one another while paradoxically accepting an unsatisfactory tie.
We will only thrive if we genuinely try to best one another while paradoxically accepting an unsatisfactory tie.
Boredom Threatens Rationality
Boredom is not only a problem for leisure but also a problem for thinking.
A society that is bored is a society that will struggle to think well. Boredom is not so much a state of having nothing to do — a person who lives in New York, for example, which is full of activities, can easily be bored — but rather boredom is a state where an individual doesn’t see significance in what he or she could do (it is a state in which a person “doesn’t see any point” in doing one thing versus another)…
The Problem With Identifying Nihilism That Isn’t There
If nihilism can’t be lived, then nihilists are living out “something else.”
We learn from Samuel Barnes, the mind behind Missing Axioms, that it is impossible for us not to possess and exhibit values: as he puts it:
‘The human truth is that you have values, values which eminate from you explicitly and implicitly. Human being can never be contentless. […] Values spew from us in every stride or stumble.’
Considering these eloquent and profound sentences, when we claim nihilism — that “nothing matters” — we claim something that cannot be lived…
If we ever want to destroy a relationship, the following formula is a great guide:
If you cared about x, you would have done y.
Assuming intention, action, values, cares, and the like from facial expressions, choices, actions, body language, and so on — no need to look any further! It’s a great way to make life miserable (and seems so justified too)…
What Does Strauss Have to Do With Arendt?
Aren’t “German Nihilism” and “The Banality of Evil” Opposites?
…we can start to see how Strauss and Arendt can come together, for while “German Nihilism” can be an extreme desire to regain values, heroism, ethics, and other “givens,” “the banality of evil” is what can emergently set in within those “givens” (once they are (re)established).
In Honor of Thoughtlessness
How people can be respected for thoughtlessness, contributing to thoughtlessness, and the need for Hume’s…
“Thoughtlessness” is not a simile for “stupid,” as we learn from Hannah Arendt: to be “thoughtless” about x is to “not think about it,” to instead assume it, christen it an axiom, and the like. On the other hand, to be “foolish” about x is to get x wrong, to be illogical about x, and so on. Society doesn’t honor foolishness, but “thoughtless people” can be called “people of principles,” “people of convictions,” and so on. In this way, honor and social capital can be found…
Is Metaphysics Unfalsifiable?
An interesting debate from the discussions of Javier Rivera, Thomas Jockin, and O.G. Rose.
If for one person on the planet a “lack” is objectively real, while for everyone else the “lack” is only subjective, is it the case that the “lack” is objectively real?
“2 + 2” and Simplistic Points on Determining Truth in Our Bias/Funding/Partisan/Etc.-Obsessed Age
2 + 2 and simplistic points on determining truth in our bias/funding/partisan/etc.-obsessed world.
A Few Thoughts on a “Philosophy of Lack” (Discussion 1)
Thinking After Parmenides
Caddell, Tim, Alex, and I recently started a conversation series on the role of “lack” in our lives. Cadell opened the conversation beautifully by suggesting that, after Parmenides, Western thought has been almost exclusively focused on “being,” which has left us ill-prepared to address the role of “lack” in our lives…
How Should We Live?
The account of a philosophical journey on how practical questions can help us solve abstract inquiries: it is not an…
The account of a philosophical journey on how practical questions can help us solve abstract inquiries: it is not an “either/or” decision.
Wisdom Can’t Be Handed Off
What if there are ideas we must (re)learn every generation, ideas we naturally experience though as “already learned?”
What if there are ideas we must (re)learn every generation, ideas we naturally experience though as “already learned?”
The Myth of “System Builders”
Who exactly are these philosophers always building grand systems?
Can we really call something a “philosophical system” if every part isn’t dependent on every other part?
The FedEx Logo Suggests We Have Free Will
The fact we can see the arrow in the logo or not suggests we have free will.
Guy Sengstock recently shared a beautiful elaboration on the wonder of teaching — that magic of “getting it” — and explored the meaning and nature of that experience. He mentioned “the special learning that reconstitutes the world” and how “the world is co-constituted by us” — the video is worth every minute. Particularly, I wanted to focus in on his discussion about the FedEx Arrow…
What Does Religion Have To Do With Game Theory?
Have “nonrational” religious virtues played a role in overcoming Nash Equilibria in society?
Have “nonrational” religious virtues played a role in overcoming social Nash Equilibriums?
Why Do We Need a Balance Between Ideas and Experiences?
This might seem self-evident, but a quick reflection can help cement the point.
Ideas cannot be about themselves. Try to think of something that has nothing to do with something you’ve experienced. A unicorn? That’s a combination of a horse with a horn, both of which you’ve (probably) experienced. A time traveling space station? That consists of shapes and colors and likely resembles a machine you’ve seen. Also, you’re familiar with time…
An Unrealistic Wall Street Means An Invisibly Inefficient Main Street
Thoughts building on Market Legitimization by O.G. Rose.
Another term for “Stock Market” is “Capital Markets,” which should remind us that a point of Wall Street is the allocation and reallocation of resources and capital for the real economy. If Wall Street loses its connection with Main Street — if stocks basically have nothing to do with the real economy — there will be costly inefficiencies.
The Limits of My Language Can Move
Words are superpowers, not just dangerous.
We are careful with words because we don’t want to hurt people, but what about being careful so that we don’t fail to make the most of our lives? The first extremely important concern is the focus of the councilor, but the second, which is equally as important, is the concern of the philosopher.
René Girard and the Problem of Justification
Mimetic desire as a response to “the conflict of mind.”
Since it is not possible for us to choose or desire anything “entirely on our own” (meaning “autonomously” and without any reference to “external sources”), then we must look “beyond” thinking to decide “what we should do” […] And what do we see in our immediate experience? Other people living other lives […] [I]f we see in our experience Sam doing x, then Sam provides “reason to think” x is worth doing…
Focused on What We Cannot Solve
A possible irony and problem of undistinguished focus.
Imagine you were forced to look at something you couldn’t do anything about. Torture, right? What if you were forced to look at a problem you couldn’t solve — wouldn’t that eat at you? Well, paradoxically, that’s exactly what we can do to ourselves when we focus on something. Why? Because the wrong kind of focus can turn off our creative brains, making us less dynamic in our thinking and more linear, which makes us more unable to discover solutions.
The Authority Circle
It’s rational not to trust authorities we require to be rationally informed.
It can be rational to distrust the institutions, experts, and authorities we require to be rational, but it is rarely clear when we should distrust them (and which), seeing as we probably need the institutions, experts, and authorities to help us figure this out — which puts us in a vicious circular problem…
Boomers vs. Millennials: “Completable Work” vs. “Continual Work”
Do you want work you can be finished with or work that always gives you something to do?
To speak generally, to financially survive, Millennials today mostly find themselves stuck with “Continual Work,” while Generation X had a lot more “Completable Work,” and this contributes to the cultures talking past one another constantly. Most vividly, “working hard” is a value that has been complexified, for whereas Millennials must decide when to “pause” Continual Work, previous generations just had to “finish” their Completable Work. Completable Work “decides for us” when we should stop working, whereas Continual Work forces us to decide when we will “pause” (for the sake of a “work/life balance,” perhaps). But if we choose to “pause” working, we can be accused of and feel like “we’re not working as hard as we could.” After all, we didn’t have to “pause”…
The Greatest Problem of Philosophy Is Philosophy
On Unstoppable, Unrestricted, and Self-Consuming “Autonomous Rationality”
David Hume believed that philosophy’s greatest problem was philosophy itself, for philosophy could unleash incredible violence upon the world. At the same time, Hume understood the answer wasn’t to avoid philosophy entirely, for “critical reasoning” was necessary for a people to defend themselves from tyrants, “bad philosophy,” and the like…
Was Heidegger Really an Existentialist?
Heidegger’s concern with “authenticity” might have been more about getting to “Being-to-Being” than about…
Heidegger didn’t like Sartre: the father of Being and Time basically saw Being and Nothingness as trash. When I first learned this, I was surprised: I thought Sartre sounded similar to Heidegger (on first glance). But then it became clear that Heidegger wanted to remove “the subject” from the focus of our consideration regarding “the question of being,” and here Sartre came along and put “the subject” right back into the middle of the conversation. That upset Heidegger, but why? With all the talk on authenticity and existential concerns found in Heidegger, why was this such a big deal?
Imagine a single person playing violin in a room by himself. Two blocks down the road, there is a woman playing violin alone, and three blocks down from her, a different woman is playing a flute. This continues for hundreds of miles with hundreds of musicians. None of the musicians can hear one another; none of the musicians wonder about themselves in the presence of one another. Musicians may feel loneliness, but there is little existential anxiety.
This is soloing. This is isolationism. This seems to align more with human nature…
We Must Begin Somewhere
A reason philosophy matters is because it trains us to choose our default positions versus just absorb them.
If we never think philosophically, our positions on these questions will likely be ones we “absorb” from our surroundings versus ones we pick for ourselves. That doesn’t necessarily mean we will be wrong, but it does mean we could end up like cattle stuck between fences. Sure, we have a field we can roam around in, but we’re ultimately not free. At best, we only have free range.
Meteors, Craters, and the Continental-Analytical Divide
On discussing topics “negatively” by “tracing around them,” and some differences between Analytical and Continental…
Continental Philosophy is mostly in the business of “knowing by absence and tracing,” whereas Analytical Philosophy is mostly in the business of “knowing by presence and directly.”
What Is a Paradox?
On the experiential difference between “apparent contradictions” and actual negations, and the consequences of seeking…
“Paradox” and “contradiction” are often used like similes, but paradoxes are different. Contradictions are combinations of inconsistencies that negate, which means they can only exist in thought and cannot be experienced.¹ A paradox, however, is a combination of inconsistencies that don’t negate, and this is because though paradoxes may logically negate, they don’t experientially negate. Where there isn’t a strong distinction between “thinking” and “perceiving” or “ideas” and “experiences,” it is only natural for the terms “paradox” and “contradiction” to practically become similes, which I think is what has generally happened in the West. This has cost us the category of “paradox,” and where we lose a category of language, we also lose a category of experience (our world shrinks)…
Human motivations are complex. Why people work the jobs they do can be a mixture of reasons like “I don’t mind it,” “It provides for the family,” “I learn some skills,” and so on. Naturally though, we tend to assume linear and simplistic explanations (or at least reflect such in speech), and basically claim that if a person is working x job, he or she “must like it.” And perhaps there is truth to this, but the problematic step is acting like this explanation “explains the whole of it” — a dangerous and natural step…
The Pillar of Knowledge, High in the Air, on Which We Are Free
Our freedom is limited and sustained by what we know, and what we know can be up to us.
Philosophers for centuries have struggled with the relationship between freedom and knowledge. If I know there is a million-dollar check in the mailbox, am I really free not to walk up to the mailbox and check? It would seem I am free to deny the option, but am I really?
Spacetime Makes Sounding Dialectical and Balanced Really Hard
Because we can’t talk about everything at the same time, we can’t avoid sounding like we think hierarchically.
Since we are in time and can’t discuss everything at once, we must discuss things within sequence, and thus we can never avoid creating the impression that we think x is better than y. For, again, we must discuss things one at a time, and we can always ask “Why is the person discussing one thing and not the other? The very act/choice of doing so suggests the person must think x is more important than y, for otherwise the person would be discussing y.” And so on.
Critical People Aren’t Critical Thinkers
Just because we’re critical of something doesn’t mean we’re critically thinking about it.
It’s unfortunate we decided to run with the phrase “critical thinking”: we would have saved ourselves a lot of trouble and confusion had we stuck with “deep thinking” or “dynamic thinking.” Instead, we strapped ourselves to a language that suggests we’re profound and insightful if we’re insulting; as a result, someone who criticizes something seems to be someone “who knows what they’re talking about.” This puts a lot of social capital in the hands of people who are hard to please, and I think Charlie Munger is right: “Show me the incentives and I will show you the outcome.” In a world where “critical thinking” is associated with “criticizing,” it’s smart to be difficult.
The Moral Ring of Aletheia
Is there a connection between ethics and learning?
…Instead, what I want to focus on is the idea that if moral living keeps our “souls unified,” and if it is the case that with a “unified soul” we are more able to discover truth and even beauty, then morality entails epistemological consequences. The more upright a person we are, the more equipped we will be to discover truth. If this is true, then living ethically and knowing truth correlate.
How Freud Unites Inception, Hannah Arendt, and QAnon
“Group psychology” is “dream psychology,” and, since dreams are like movies, that might be a problem
Recently, Eric Jobe initiated a discussion on “Freud’s Group Psychology,” which I enjoyed immensely. It was full of great points and contributions from all the participants, and you can find the full talk here.Particularly, the idea that “group psychology” and “individual psychology” are not “different in kind,” only “different in degree,” struck me as critical. Often, we think that “groups” think and act differently than individuals, but really “the psychology” of groups is simply a manifestation of what can be found within each of us. But most of the time that psychology is repressed and hidden: the group just gives us permission to “let it out.”
Mental Health and the Metaphors We Choose
We make our metaphors, and then our metaphors make us.
‘We shape our [metaphors], and then our [metaphors] shape us.’ Considering this, the metaphors we choose to understand life through will directly impact our mental health…
Was Heidegger a Child of the Scottish Enlightenment?
Do Hume and Heidegger honor “such-ness” as the ground for new thinking?
Hume decoupled “is-ness” from “ought-ness” in order to connect “such-ness” with “ought-ness” and stop tyranny, and I wonder if Heidegger did something similar…
When a Floor Is the World
Suggesting why the philosophical ability to “zoom out” and “take a bigger view” matters
Imagine that I’m standing on the floor of an apartment that is held up by the floor below it. Unfortunately, I’ve never “zoomed out” to learn that the floor I’m on is supported by something beneath it. And I live my whole life like this — unaware — as does the other person living on the same floor as me. We get along well enough, despite our differences…
How Squid Game Should Have Ended
This is about how a show ended: it contains spoilers.
Davood Gozli recently recorded a great review on Squid Game, which I couldn’t watch until I saw the series, so guess what happened? Yup, sleep-deprivation — Squid Game was brilliant up to the very end. Unfortunately, by that, I don’t mean “until the final credits” — I mean until the very end. And then the show stabbed itself in the throat like Cho. Talk about a tragedy…
My student told me that she regretted the language of “Forbidden Fruit,” for that suggested that “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” was itself forbidden and evil, when really it was biting the fruit which was the problem. Everything God created was good, so even The Tree of Knowledge had to be good and somehow added to the harmony of Eden — nothing existed that was ontologically evil: evil was a result of “towardness” (she hinted at 1 Timothy 4:4–5). Critically, it also wasn’t the fruit Adam wanted so much as it was to “be like God,” as the serpent tempted — the fruit itself was not what Adam desired, but instead Adam desired to compete with God, to “relate” to God in a certain and different way. My student emphasized that our focus should be on our “relations to things” to determine good and evil, not so much on things themselves…
In the Long Run, Everything Might Be Automated, Assuming We Don’t Destroy Ourselves First Because…
Economists are so concerned about “the signals” of interest rates, but paradoxically don’t mind talking about coming…
Keynes was very concerned about how our future ideas impacted what we did in the present, thus his profound concern about “the signals” which interest rates sent to the market. But I fear discussions “about future technologies” can have a similar impact: when all anyone talks about is automation and the inevitability of self-driving cars, why would anyone become a truck driver? You’d have no future — an idea that makes it thus.
Praise for Cadell Last’s Presentation: “Jordan Peterson Situates Love as a Key to Truth and Meaningful Revelation”
“What does Peterson say about our particular historic moment?” is a framing Dr. Last opens the presentation with, which made me think about a Hegelian framing from Absolute Knowing: “How is Peterson ‘for’ consciousness gaining higher self-consciousness?” “What is consciousness learning ‘about itself’ thanks to Peterson?” Instead of deciding right out the gate if we “like” Peterson or not, asking this Hegelian question presents Peterson as an opportunity for us to reflect on ourselves. Doctors will ask patients to “listen to their bodies” and ask, “What is your body telling you?” Similarly, focused on “mental health,” per se, we can ask, “What is our collective consciousness trying to tell us in focusing on Peterson?” (Please note that we are all part of “the collective consciousness,” so to ask about it is to also ask, “What is our consciousness trying to tell us?”) Possibly, our consciousness is warning us that we are out of balance, that we seek The Truth but not The Absolute (as will be explained), and that this has made us a problem.
Comments on “Being Human in the Digital Catastrophe”
Are we still human if we don’t remember being human?
Johannes A. Niederhauser and James Poulos recently discussed the difficulty of staying human. I loved Poulos’ point that Aristotle’s “formal cause” is best understood as something like an “environmental cause” — it is about how “our environment shapes us,” per se — which makes very clear that, right now, “the digital” is the main “formal cause” of the world.
Blurring Computation, Perception, Dialogos, and the Like As All “Computation”
How everything in the universe isn’t just “like a computer,” but “computation” is still the term we tend to use almost…
Does our brain work like a computer? That language is often used, but computers don’t exist in nature, so how could a human mind work like one? It doesn’t seem like it could, and yet it has become natural for us to think of our minds like computers, and frankly to refer to all “methods of thinking” as “computation.” Why is this a big deal? Well, because metaphors shape our thinking in profound ways (as explored in “Meaningful and Metaphoric Tendencies” by O.G. Rose), and also we might be “closing ourselves off” from identifying key differences and nuances between different ways of thinking and understanding the world. If there are big differences between say what John Vervaeke calls “Dialogos” and “computation,” then believing “it’s all computation,” we won’t think we’re missing out on anything by skipping Dialogos, when really we’ll be skipping out on a lot (worse yet, we won’t even know we’re missing anything, “truly ignorant”)…
Persuasion Keeps Correctness From Feeling Totalitarian, but What if Persuasion Is Impossible?
What is best will feel like oppression if we don’t believe it is best when it is forced on us, but what other option is…
Where persuasion is lacking, there will likely be a feeling of oppression, even if that feeling isn’t warranted. It is not enough to be correct and not be oppressive: we also have to feel to others like we aren’t oppressive, and that requires the art of persuasion. But what if persuasion is ultimately impossible (or at least impossible when it really counts) because of “the problem of internally consistent systems?” In other words, what if ideas, ideologies, worldviews, and the like are so structured that nothing can necessarily disprove them?
The Meaning Crisis as a Sign of Hope
The issue isn’t so much that we lack answers on how to solve it, but that we are holding ourselves to a higher…
“The Meaning Crisis,” as John Vervaeke calls it, is a pressing problem which is discussed extensively throughout O.G. Rose. “Explained and Addressed” focuses on it, and Belonging Again is a sociological exploration of the consequences civilization faces when it lacks “givens” according to which it can organize its actions (for good and for bad). Our situation is arguably dire, as I agree there is reason to think, but here I want to suggest a way that the crisis can be seen in a more positive light. Here, I want to argue that the Meaning Crisis partially exists because humanity no longer settles for old solutions, which is to say that we now hold ourselves to higher standards…
The Metaphysicist and the Metaphysician
A fascinating change in terms, suggested by Alexander Bard, which might hint at something we are subconsciously trying…
In a recent discussion on Returning to Metaphysics, Alexander Bard suggested that we should use the language of “metaphysicist” versus “metaphysician,” for Metaphysics isn’t concerned with medicine. I thought this was a fascinating point, and it occurred to me how funny it was that the name of the branch, “Metaphysics” alluded to “Physics,” while the term “Metaphysician” alluded to medicine. Why the variation regarding the same field? Was humanity subconsciously trying to tell itself something?
Negation Versus Effacement
Though similar, a distinction is needed between what leads to sublimation and what leads to neuroses and cessation.
A main point of “The Philosophy of Lack,” it is that by failing to accept and integrate with “lack,” we end up effacing ourselves in the name of achieving wholeness. If however we “integrate with lack,” we can undergo a negation which could lead to a beneficial sublimation. The effort to “fill lack” then leads to effacement, while the effort to “live with lack” leads to negation/sublimation…
How Is It That People Come To Understand That It Is Truly Important To Understand What Is Truly…
Likewise, how do people come to understand the importance of understanding?
On the wonderful Voicecraft network, Josh Field recently asked the question which composes the title of this work, and I have to say it’s one of the most important questions in the world. The subtitle is the question Tim Adalin asked as a corollary, and I think both questions are strongly tied to the mysterious question: “How does anyone leave Plato’s Cave on their own?” Yes, Plato in The Republic tells us that prisoners are “dragged out” of the Cave, but that still leaves open the question of how “the first prisoner” escaped, and that would require some explanation which rests on “intrinsic motivation.” Why did that “first prisoner” or “prisoner not dragged out” decide to leave? It’s mysterious, and I think the answer to this question is closely tied to Mr. Field’s question…
Does the way we treat objects train us in how we treat ourselves?
In this short work, I wanted to focus on a point that came up toward the very start of the conversation on how objects cannot stop us from objectifying them. It was said that if I treated my friend Sarah like she was just her arm, Sarah would get upset and let me know that I was mistreating her. And yet if I looked at a sunset and said, “It’s just clouds,” the sunset wouldn’t say anything back. It would keep being itself, as if I didn’t say anything at all, and yet in its stillness and silence I would have transformed it into “its parts.” And precisely because the sunset did not resist my statement, it might be suggested that I am right. In that silence, the people nearby who overhead me may think that I’m intelligent, and socially I may receive praise and agreement. My world may have lost something, and yet I will feel wise…
Utterance As Exception
A short addition from “The Most Rational of All Possible Worlds” by O.G. Rose
“Man Before History” by Benjamin Fondane starts with a reflection on Gide’s statement that ‘It’s no laughing matter to play in a world where everyone cheats — including me.’¹ This phrase reminded me of the “Liar’s Paradox,” which asks us to consider the following:
“True or False: This statement is false.”
Why? Well, if Gide is a liar, why should we trust his claim that “everyone cheats” — mustn’t we trust him to accept this premise? In bringing Gide’s statement to our attention, Fondane suggests a few points…
The Calculation Problem
An Elaboration on Points Raised in the Game B Discussion
In both “Notes on ‘Game B: A Dark Renaissance Response w/ Alexander Bard, Cadell Last, Owen Cox, and Raven Connolly’ ” and “The Four Arrows,” I discussed Hayek and the need for a “system for coordinating resources,” which I associated with “the pricing mechanism.” You can find those two works here…
The Tragic Tradeoff Between Ideological Negotiation and Systematic Programing
What people must believe in to work is not so much a system as it is an ideology, but a system that doesn’t need us to…
The benefit of “systems” is that they are not contingent on the human element to work, but the danger of systems is precisely that they are not contingent on the human element to work. It is similar to the current debate and concern with A.I., the Singularity, and so on: once we program a system to do x, it will do x, even if we beg it to stop…
The Rationality of Freedom Relative to Ethics, Hermeneutic Binding, and Correlation Between…
Combing “The Tragic Tradeoff Between Ideological Negotiation and Systemic Programming” and “On Kafka, Character, and…
Greater diversity tends to lead to great systemization via “hermeneutical differences” and ethics, which means diversity requires a system that can “work without us” (as described here), but that means the system might be difficult to stop, which is very problematic if Game B is right about Game A.
Introspection, Empathy, Judgement, and Justice
Acts of the mind that seem connected
Empathy has us “outward looking,” and it’s strange to think that “going inward” is critical for our ability to “see outward.” However, we always see through “our eyes,” which are part of us, and so it makes sense that we have “to go inside” and make sure we are “working right” to assure that we “take in the world” well. Similarly, if the headlight of a car breaks, we don’t fix it by investigating the tree on which the headlight shone and blinked. We fix our “take on the world” not in the world but in ourselves, but this is not easy, considering how prone to self-deception, egotism, and the like we are, with Confessions by St. Augustine serving as a tremendous example for why this challenge is so great. There is much wisdom to be found in those pages on how to approach the “art-form” well (“see for yourself”).
Geometry, Astronomy, and Platonic Forms As Ordering Principles
On understanding “forms” like “invisible guardrails” in which things “be-come” themselves.
Plato, through Socrates, suggests that learning about things which change is practically to learn nothing at all, because if I learn that “x is y” but x changes into z a moment later, then learning “x is y” was practically learning nothing. Change and temporality are major challenges to learning, and Plato suggests that we should focus on “forms” to solve and overcome this problem. But what does this mean?
A Late Letter to Tolstoy
On “The Hedgehog and the Fox” As Seeking a Philosophy Which Would Have Saved Leo From Himself
Berlin tells us that a hedgehog is guided by ‘a single, universal, organizing principle,’ and he associates Dante and Dostoevsky with hedgehogs. A fox ‘pursue[s] many ends,” and Berlin sees Shakespeare and Tolstoy as foxes. But Tolstoy is also tragic, and reading Berlin’s essay again after so many years, I can’t help but see Berlin’s entire philosophy of Pluralism (and his strong stance against “theories of everything,” what I call “monotheories”) as partially an effort to save future artists from falling into similar fates. Tolstoy should have ended up better, I feel Berlin suggesting, and I feel in Berlin a rising commitment to assure future Tolstoys don’t devour themselves.
Labels, Names, and Poems
On the needs and perils of words and improvisational community
The same object, person, event, or the like can move from label, name, and poem. Based on the information we know about it or I communicate, our orientation to the object can radically shift. And because the same object can be a label to some people, a name to others, and a poem to others still, knowing “the meaning” and “nature” of an object will require relationships. Without those relationships, we will struggle to know “what things are” to people, and thus likely mis-orientate and mis-organize ourselves to them in light of that object.
Note the following phrase: “Freedom of the individual.” Pretty self-evident, right? The individual is not locked in a room or forced to read books all day: the individual is released, left alone. Wait, look at the phrase again: “Freedom of the individual.” “Of” could mean created, which is to say, “The freedom which the individual creates.” If an individual creates freedom, the individual has a certain capacity which makes freedom possible. Thus, the phrase, “Freedom of the individual” doesn’t merely mean “released”: it simultaneously suggests a state where “the individual is left alone” and a state in which the individual “expresses something.”
The Exit of References
Is it a problem when our ideas can’t easily be linked to established thinkers or schools of thought? Or is it a problem…
We tend to fall into logical fallacies not so much because we “genuinely” believe these fallacies lead to truth — it’s far worse than that. Rather, we consciously know these fallacies are fallacies, but then practically act like they are not so that we can organize who we should listen to and who we shouldn’t (something we can do precisely because certainty is mostly impossible), all so that we can gain existential stability. We discuss “logical fallacies” as if we use them as shortcuts to “truth,” but I would submit that we mostly use them to create “senses of certainty” so that we can gain existential and psychological stability. We often associate “fallacies” with “intellectual efforts,” and though there is truth to this, we need to associate them more with “emotional efforts,” as matters which arise in response to “the problem of certainty.”
To Debate or To Discuss
Which gets us closer to truth? That is the question…
When we are trying to build a cathedral, do we want our coworkers to get along with us or prove disagreeable? Well, if the goal is to build a cathedral, we want our coworkers to “be on our side.” Yes, they may disagree with us on some ideas, but we don’t have to worry about them attacking us or insulting us while we try to work. However, if our goal is to “be right,” then we don’t really have “coworkers,” only opponents, people who could threaten our correctness…
Why Does Anselm’s Ontological Argument Haunt Us?
On How It Threatens Everything
If we are understanding the world, we are doing so through a mode of understanding. Anselm understood that the “nonrational” choice of our “mode” shaped what we understood through that mode, that “understanding” could never be “autonomous” and “free from being ‘moded’ ” (to blend “mode” and “mold”)…
Notes on O.G. Rose Conversation #60 with Dr. Cadell Last
Considering Us and What’s Ahead
If difference isn’t deep, then it feels safe to believe that as technology advances, it will unveil that we “really are all the same, deep down.” However, if “difference is deep,” then the Technological Singularity will actually unveil that the myth that “we’re really all the same” was in fact false, which will prove traumatic. As of 2022, considering how everyone is responding to “deep difference” and Pluralism, it would seem we are suffering a trauma to which we are not responding well…
Metaskills, Indirectness, and Power
Where metaskills are missing, indirectness is unaddressed, and power unchallenged. In other words, if we’re never…
“Metaskill” is an umbrella term referring to metatalks, metanalysis, the ability to resist metamentality, and the like, and this short work will argue that we need to become metaskillfull to resist and channel power, especially in our Metamodern Age. To focus on one example of a metaskill, for example: a “metatalk” is a conversation about conversation, which is an analysis of the structure in which a conversation develops, the ways interpretation operates, and so on…
Call of Design
The excellence of Ontological Design by Daniel Fraga and the Battle We Are All Already Fighting
In the Preface, Dr. Cadell Last and Alexander Bard describe Mr. Fraga as in the business of making us understand that we are ‘a constant project caught in a disorientating feedback loop with […] object[s].’ For too long, we’ve been caught ‘in an epistemological bubble […] thinking that what we design with our knowledge structures has no real impact on the fundamental ontology of being itself, or ‘the world,’ ’ which also suggests the naivety of believing there is a “real world” outside our subjectivity. No, that doesn’t mean the Idealism of George Berkeley is true, but it does mean that we cannot draw a hard line between ourselves and our worlds. Perhaps we focus on “tools” in the famous quote because thinking about the truth is too overwhelming: “We make our worlds, and then our worlds make us.” How can we possibly change the world? Fighting back, for one.
The Human, the Subject, and the Paradoxical “Human Subject”
Reflecting on “Dialectical Materialism,” a Discussion Between Russell Sbriglia and Telosbound
The work of Trey at Telosbound is an endless source of insight and inspiration, and as of April 2022 he spoke with Russell Sbriglia, bringing to my attention a distinction in Žižek’s thought that I never before caught. This inspired me to write this very short piece to insert toward the start of (Re)constructing “A Is A” (Part 1), though admittedly the rest of the book is already written, and it’s too late for me to go back through the text and change my terminology accordingly (as is the case with The Fate of Beauty, Digression(s), and so on). I will continue to use “human” and “subject” as basically interchangeable throughout my thinking, but here I at least wanted to note how “human” and “subject” perhaps shouldn’t’ be used as “similes.” In fact, defining them apart, we can understand the phrase “the human subject” as beautifully capturing the great paradoxical tension that we are and live with daily…
It would seem I would need rationality to determine which “set of rationality” to ascribe to, the act itself of which would generate another “set of rationality,” and so on. To avoid this regression, it would seem I would have to use something other than rationality, but what else could I use that itself I wouldn’t decide to use thanks to rationality (which leads to another ad infinitum problem)? Perhaps nonrationality…?
Nonrational Responsibility as Ontological Necessity
Where reality is fundamentally paradoxical and incomplete, we require “nonrational action” to avoid Nash Equilibria and…
What do “Nash Equilibria” have to do with responsibility? Well, funny enough, “taking responsibility” for something often means we are responsible for something which we don’t fully understand, can’t fully predict, and even don’t have “much of a choice” to address. Take for example being responsible for something at work: Do we know what’s going to happen today? Do we know what questions people are going to ask? Are we ready to have to explain to a customer why they won’t be getting their product on time because of a late truck? No, we don’t: what is called “Perfect Knowledge” doesn’t exist (which we can associate with omniscience). Very rarely, except perhaps in the simplest and most linear of circumstances, do we know “what’s going to happen” before it happens: life is fundamentally unpredictable.
Meaning and Distinction
On telosbound and “This Argument Refutes Materialism/Physicalism”
As described in “On Thinking and Perceiving” by O.G. Rose, thought requires distinction: if my mind couldn’t “break apart” the world around me, I couldn’t comprehend the world. Meaning requires division, and even if “the wholistic and undivided world” entails a kind of “Ultimate Meaning” (perhaps encountered through psychedelics or mystical experiences), this “Ultimate Meaning” cannot be thought (or at least not by thought as we normally use it). Thus, distinction and divisions are prerequisites for meaning, which is paradoxical, because we often associate meaning with “seeing the big picture” and “putting our world together.” “Meaning” is considered a kind of opposite of “fragmentation,” but strangely meaning actually requires division to be possible. Yes, through division, we can then work our way to “a sense of the whole,” but we cannot escape the division, as Dante cannot make his way to God except by walking through the inferno…
Transitional Metaphors Are Not Mixed Metaphors
Since metaphors shape thinking, if we conflate “mixed metaphors” with “transitional metaphors,” we will likely be…
…Thus, making sure “paradox” and “contradiction’ aren’t conflated is critical: similarly, I would argue that conflating the categories of “mixed metaphor” and “transitional metaphor” could devastate us.
Why? Because we must use multiple and evolving metaphors to describe certain facets and subjects of existence, and if we’re not allowed to use multiple metaphors (that “converse” with another, transition, etc.), we won’t understand these facets. Worse yet, as argued throughout O.G. Rose (notably “Meaningful and Metaphoric Tendencies”), if metaphors are fundamental to thinking, not just decorations of thinking, then the loss of the category of “transitional metaphors” will limit our minds and make us incapable of thinking about certain dimensions of existence. Because of a rule we learned in English class, we might handicap our minds and keep ourselves from understanding the universe (funny how things connect).
Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis
Misattributed to Hegel, “TAS” might still be a useful mental model since “ideas are not experiences.”
Every Hegel presentation is obligated now to make the point that Hegel never said “thesis, antithesis, and synthesis,” that this is a misreading. Really, Hegel talks about “abstraction, negation, and concretion,” and I think it’s important to get that right. At the same time, the very fact that the misreading of “TAS” (as I’ll say for short) has been so popular is evidence that there might be use to it, even if a misattribution. Indeed, I myself like the “mental model” and have used it to think through problems (I’m often looking for a synthesis between views). Also, I think TAS tends to be a good description of how the world works. In my opinion though, why TAS works is not so much because “ideas” form this way (as often argued), but because emotions lead us to follow TAS. Yes, after we emotionally shift, then our ideas shift, but the emotional change tends to comes first…
Replacing “The Trolley Problem” with “The Ballistic Missile Defense Problem”
Reflections on O.G. Rose Conversation Episode #68 with Dr. James Simpkin
I love discussions which move between a detailed and technical analysis of a particular subject to “big picture” philosophy, back to technical detail — on and on. Dialectical, this brings to mind the need for the “concretion” and how Hume emphasizes “common life,” and I personally have always felt literature and economics can help “ground” philosophy. Dr. James Simpkin, with his expertise on military strategy and military technology, is a tremendous example of someone who maintains dialectical thinking, a discipline I admire…
The Two Pandemoniums of C.P. Snow
The Economic, Epistemological, and Pathological Implications of “The Two Cultures”
Snow was a writer and a scientist, but between those two worlds, which he saw as ‘comparable in intelligence, identical in race, etc.,’ he noticed ‘an ocean.’ He feared that ‘intellectual life of the whole of Western society [was] increasingly being split into two polar groups,’ and ‘[b]etween the two [he saw] a gulf of mutual incomprehension — sometimes (particularly among the young) hostility and dislike, but most of all [a] lack of understanding.’ ‘The non-scientists have a rooted impression that the scientists are shallowly optimistic,’ Snow wrote, ‘unaware of man’s condition. On the other hand, the scientists believe that the literary intellectuals are totally lacking in foresight […]’ — and so Snow diagnosed culture…
The Best of All Possible Prisons
Are there technologies we should hope aren’t invented?
In Season 2 of the series Black Mirror, episode “White Christmas,” a technology is developed that enables people to copy a human consciousness onto a kind of “external hard drive,” and once copied, the “digital consciousness,” which exists independent of the person to whom the consciousness originally belonged, then functions as a servant, slave, toy, etc. for the person from whom the consciousness-copy originated. This “digital copy,” for example, might manage the person’s house through a remote-control system, turning on the lights when the master wants, starting the dishes after dinner, and so on…
If the Word Dies
On thinking about the death of communication thanks to “omnipresent communication” in terms of Nietzsche’s famous…
The consequences of “religion dying” are explored throughout Belonging Again: here, I want to say that something similar can happen with language (and perhaps already is). But communication is constant now thanks to social media, and people are typing and reading more than ever before — what do I mean? Well, in the same way that I argue “The Nova Effect” Charles Taylor discuses regarding the multiplication of religions might cause “metaphysical inflation,” there might also be an issue where the great spread of communication contributes to “words losing meaning”…
The Invisible Costs and Cycles of Diverting Focus
Inspired by Adarsh Ramakrishnan
We do not tend to create and innovate what we do not focus on, and the highest probability we create something is relative to our immediate environment, which is to say that if we live near a river, we are more likely to invent something that helps with rivers than we are to invent something that helps with desert heat (though of course this isn’t “necessarily” the case). “The quality of information” is simply higher: when I live near a river, I know how rain impacts it, how it changes during the seasons, when it can seem safe to be around but really isn’t — there are particular and practical details I can know from experience that are simply improbable for people who don’t live near the river to know.
Dialectical Thinking Is the Best Bet
Nothing Is Perfect, So Dialectics Are Likely the Best Epistemic “Return on Investment.”
“The dialectic” is famously associated with Hegel, but it is also a general mental model that can prove very useful for making sense of the world. It is the gradual incorporation of a thing with “otherness” to generate “a new thing,” which then exists with what came before it — the past is not “subsumed into” the new, as the word “synthesis” can apply. New things certainly arise “in the image and likeness” of what came before, but this “new thing” doesn’t necessarily replace what came before it, nor is it the case that “the new thing” is necessarily “something better” — Hegel is far more contingent than we often realize, his “progressivism” far less determined. This is all elaborated on in “ ‘Hegelian Dialectics’ Are Not ‘Discussion Dialectics’ ” by O.G. Rose, as found in The Absolute Choice…
There Can Be Faces, But Not Hearts
On how when we don’t know someone, we lack any standard by which to confidently identify “breaks” between the person’s…
Imagine you were reading through some papers I wrote, and you stumbled upon the following phrase:
“Humans are wholes.”
If you know me, you know I just finished a “Philosophy of Lack” series on how humans are “ontologically lacking.” “Wholes” are death drives, following the series, so if you read the above sentence in a paper of mine, you’d actually know it was the product of an error: I meant to say, “Humans aren’t wholes,” but left off the “n’t.” It was a mistake. However, if you didn’t know me, why would you ever think I made a mistake? The sentence, “Humans are wholes,” is readable and clear — you’d practically have to take me on face value. There’d be no reason to doubt what I wrote, and in fact to doubt it might seem crazy and open an entire horizon of possible paranoia and insanity. For all my sentences could possibly be wrong — how could you possibly begin to read what I wrote?
Negation, Repetition, and the Tensions Between Writing and Speaking
We must try to step in the same river twice to really get that we can’t.
I like to use terms like “(w)holeness,” “(in)completeness” — I often use parentheses. Why? Because I agree that we must move from “wholeness” to “(w)holeness,” and want to capture the notion of “return” that is so important in Hegel’s negation (and in the thinking of David Hume). In Hegel, “return” is always a “(re)turn,” which is to say that when we leave x and return to x, what x “was” is negated by our present experience and in accordance with the transformations we underwent during our journey. We are not who we were when we first encountered x, and that can result in us encountering x “in a different way,” which may result in x not being what we thought it would be. Hence, our “ideas about x” are negated but also sublated into our experience of the (new) x, precisely because we understand it in light of our previous ideas, expectations, and the like…
Critiquing Assumptions Between “Manifestation” and “Reality”
What Appears, What Doesn’t Appear, and What Cannot Appear: On Critical Differences with Ontological Significance
I wanted to focus on Filip’s point that Hegel “reverses” Kant’s noumenon to suggest that what is on “this side” of the noumenon is “truest reality” versus on the other, as usually supposed. Hegel makes the point that if x “appears” to us, then there is reason to think there is something “more true about x” than say about y, which doesn’t appear to us. Why should we assume that “hidden things” are more real than “unveiled things?” The very fact something is hidden is easily evidence that the thing doesn’t entail what it needs “in its essence” to manifest to us, which would suggest that it was “weaker” than something that did have what it needed “in its essence” to so manifest. In this way, we seem biased to assume “the hidden” is more important than “the visible,” but this doesn’t necessarily follow: “hiddenness” could suggest a weak essence…
1. In my opinion, if we keep “Euthyphro’s Dilemma” as originally worded, there doesn’t seem to be a good answer that solves it. This is because entities are discussed as things God relates to versus things God made, and this causes confusion, for the things seem to exist “like God” themselves, independent in their existence.
2. However, let’s phrase the dilemma differently: “Is it good because God made it, or did God make it because it was good?” I think this is a fair rewording, because ultimately everything that exists is made by God, and ultimately that dilemma is getting at the question, “Why did God make the universe like God did?”…
Ideology and “Men Against Fire”
Is vision all that separates us from the worst monsters in history?
We must view the world through a lens: everyone has a worldview that they convince themselves is a “view of the world (while others interpret, we just see). In the same way that MASS makes Stripe sees people as roaches, ideology can make us see people who think differently as fools, idiots, and enemies. We don’t see, hear, or feel clearly, and the same applies to how ideology impacts the way we understand the news, world events, and current affairs. As MASS malfunctions in the show, it’s almost like we need our brains to malfunction so that we start to see the world that’s really “there” — something we perhaps want until we receive it.
Relationships and Concealment
Relationships are hard, and yet many of us eagerly seek them. No one plans to get a divorce, yet many people do. Are we…
Relationships are hard, and yet many of us eagerly seek them. No one plans to get a divorce, yet many people do. Are we idiots? No, we’re just trapped in a reality which entails a nature that is paradoxical, ironic, and self-hiding. The last characteristic is the one I want to focus on, because I think a reason marriage is hard is because we go from a state of “radical concealment” (which is when we are alone in ourselves and with ourselves) that is inconsequential to a state where our “radical concealment” is very consequential.
The “Transcendental Memology” of Chad A. Haag
We can change our world(view) by changing how we power it.
Mr. Haag emphasizes ‘memes as general shapes that structure human thought below the surface rather than just images with superimposed text shared on smartphone screens,’ which brings him to making a distinction ‘between shallow memes and deep memes.’ Both of these come together to create “The Meme Process,” which is ‘an isomorphic fit between the shallow meme to which [a person] has been exposed and the deep meme which, at a level unconscious to the subject, provides the underlying conditions that structure the subject’s thoughts according to a general shape.’
How Mediums Educate and Intelligence Explores
If none of us can hope to even read a percent of all the books on earth, what does it mean to be educated?
“What does it mean to be educated?” — an inquiry which arose in our discussion. Does it mean we know a lot? Well, who amongst us “knows a lot” compared to all we could know? I’d be surprised if anyone has read a single percent of all the books on earth, suggesting that “knowing a lot” is a poor standard to judge our level of education. If an “educated person” is someone who knows a lot of facts (someone who is “good at trivia,” as discussed in “Triva(l)” by O.G. Rose), then it is doubtful anyone is educated, because I doubt anyone knows a percent of all the facts there are to know. Again, this begs the question: “What does it mean to be educated?”
The Unknowable and the Unknown
The Problematic Legacy of Modern Thought, and How Philosophies of Unknowability Forsake Philosophy’s Role in…
The last few centuries of philosophy have emphasized what’s unknowable. Famously with Kant, we established that we can’t know what is beyond the noumenon, which is perhaps an unsurprising legacy following Descartes and his “radical doubt.” The efforts of Fichte were deconstructed by Gödel’s “Incompleteness Theorem,” Richard Rorty and similar Neo-Pragmatists started laughing at the idea of truth, and Deconstructions and Post-Modernists also worked to “clear out” the “groundless” so that something new might emerge (for which we are still waiting) — all of this stresses “unknowability,” which in one sense is good, for it generates humility and resists “dreams of objectivity” which can fuel totalitarianism, but there are also numerous problems with what I will call “The Philosophy of Unknowability”…
How Do Humans Solve Problems and There Still Be Mysteries?
Considering tautologies and a question from O.G. Rose Conversation #77: “Filip Niklas on Artistic Tension…
A point that arose in our talk was the idea Dr. Niklas considered on how humans are able to solve problems and yet always remain a mystery to themselves. How is this possible? And does this very condition suggest a problem or a mystery? I found this to be a very provocative question, one that recalled Flannery O’Connor’s notion of mystery, which is something that as we learn more about, we find there is more to know. “Mystery” for O’Connor is not something “we cannot learn anything about,” but something in which we find there is always more to know. Why are humans, regardless how many problems they solve, always mysteries?
Humans Paint In “The State of Nature”
Thoughts from A Conversation with Pae Veo on Philosophy, Art, Cultivation, Skill, and More
We noted that, though there can overlap, “talking about something” is not the same as “talking it,” which is to say “talking about philosophy” is not the same as “talking philosophically”; “talking about art” is not the same as “talking artistically”; and so on. As C.S. Lewis noted in his “Meditation in a Toolshed,” looking at a ray of light is not the same as looking through it. Sight is not seeing…
Accidents Uncover Substance
On Paul Virilio and how unforeseen “accidents” help us identify what is philosophically “accidental,” suggesting…
Virilio saw “accidents” like a trainwreck or a “black swan” as pivotal in unveiling the “substance” of a given thing, which is to say “what is really behind it.” In classical philosophy, an “accident” was something that was “unessential” for making a thing what it was; for example, a given cat might be white, but “whiteness” is not essential for a cat to be a cat, thus “whiteness” is an “accident.” The “substance” of the cat, on the other hand, might be its genetic code, because without that a cat couldn’t be a cat. In this way, we can generally say that “whiteness” is “accidental” to cats while a certain genetic sequence is “substantial,” which basically means that “accidents” are nonessential while “substance” is essential…
Leadership Occurs Where Knowledge Is Incomplete
A leader takes responsibility for what they can’t logically be held fully responsible, suggesting “nonrationality”
Real leaders though make decisions when it’s not clear what needs to be done, where knowledge is lacking and a risk necessary (especially where the stakes are high). But paradoxically, where knowledge is incomplete, there’s a real sense in which a leader cannot be held fully responsible for what happens. After all, the leader, just like us, didn’t know what would occur, but unlike us, they were still willing to act. Perhaps foolishly. Perhaps bravely.
Addressing the Meaning Crisis by Forgetting Everything
Considering Vervaeke and The Pérelin Decline by Pae Veo
I love Pae Veo, who is both a gifted writer and thinker. Searching for Marilyn Monroe was tremendous, and now we find ourselves blessed with another text by the same great mind: The Pérelin Decline. ‘Change is the only constant,” Mr. Veo tells us, ‘yet somehow, there is nothing new under the sun. Impossibly, both these statements are true, and no one questions either.’ I found this to be an incredibly engaging way for Mr. Veo to end his Preface, mostly because it is undeniably true: I myself hold these conflicting notions, but how? Well, a point of the novel is for Pae to unveil how the two notions could both be true and yet not contradicting, and the answer seems to have a lot to do with the fact that recognizing “change has occurred” and that “nothing has changed” both require memory, and if memory is unstable, then the standard according to which we could tell if “everything changed” and/or “nothing changed” is unreliable. And thus everything could be both, and since “perfect memory” is impossible, everything practically is both. Also, if I put a bunch of rocks in my bedroom, leave them there for a decade, then one day lose all my memory, it will be like the rocks were put there just a few minutes ago. Nothing will have changed, and yet everything will be new…
The Incentives and Passions of Bad Memory
How not remembering what happened makes us always right and justified to be passionate about our positions, whereas…
We’ve spoken in the past about how “ideas not being experiences” contributes to history repeating, which suggests why “thesis, antithesis, and synthesis” is a good mental model (even if misattributed to Hegel), but here we will explore how forgetfulness is also part of the problem. Theoretically, if it was impossible for me to remember anything, I couldn’t learn, but that also means I would never be wrong. In this way, there might be incentive to possess bad memory…
Adding Daily Life to a Gallery, Institutional Adaption, and Endless Decisions
On the Risk of “Othering” in Saying, “That is Art”
Bethany Tabor is magnificent, and her Substack is a wonderful collection of reflections on numerous topics, all of which are worth reading: everything she writes brings with it an insight that stays with the reader longer after the piece is read. Recently, she spoke with Michelle on art, curation, museums, and much more. She started the conversation noting Hannah Arendt’s distinction between labor, work, and action, and pointed out how for Arendt “action” is what makes humans “human,” and action is ultimately always political. Because we can “act,” we can work collectively, and that means we can form societies. Ms. Tabor also noted how Arendt viewed “art” as a link that carried us from animals to “humans,” which is to say art is paramount for humans to engage in “action.” These were fascinating points, as were her notions on how the artist, in producing art, agrees to have their “subjectivity” transformed into an object for the public sphere to enjoy and judge; in this way, the artist is evidence that “subjectivity” and “objectivity” can be linked at the hip — they shouldn’t be so readily divided.
Health and Thinking for Ourselves
The better our mental, moral, and physical health, the more we can understand ourselves for ourselves, but that means…
The Republic is full of physical exercise and stresses on discipline, which seems out of place. Why do philosophers need to be physically fit? Raymond points out that The Republic is extremely pedagogical, which is to say it is extremely concerned with the question of “How should we teach?” In his lecture, Raymond posits the possibility that the prisoners in Plato’s Cave are not born there but placed there, as a test to determine “fitness,” which is an innovative take I had never considered. Furthermore, Raymond stresses that The Republic is not therapeutic or militaristic, but how then are we to make sense of the gymnasium and physical exercise? It sure seems like Plato is training a standing army…
Andrew Luber beautifully described thinkers like Kant as “making clearings for us,” which I think is a much better way to think of philosophical work. When Kant gives us “the categorical imperative,” he is not presenting a principle that we should think about all day; rather, Kant is providing us with “a social space” we can enter and occupy together. We can live in “the categorical imperative,” which means we can live and work assuming that the people around us, more often than not, will treat us like they want to be treated. Laws are not things we repeat mentally every five seconds like a robot, but instead parameters and outlines we live and work within to the best of our abilities. Ethics is clearing, and the same applies to aesthetics and ontology.
We Do Not Want To Choose As Much as We Want To Be Chosen
Considering Philip Rieff and Tragic Sociology
The book Belonging Again wouldn’t exist without Philip Rieff, and so any chance I can find to discuss the genius is more than welcome and appreciated. Owen at Raymond K. Hessel gave me that opportunity, and I appreciate the line Raymond highlighted from Rieff, which (to paraphrase) is that we do not merely seek to increase our range of choice, but to live in such a manner that we feel chosen. The difference between “choosing” and “chosen” entails an entire “symbolic universal,” a full range of cultural mediums and designs which make it possible for people to feel “free in” versus only “free from.”
Objects and “things in the world” naturally provide me a point at which I can feel like I have a “grip” on them, precisely thanks to their very facticity and material composition. But what about “me,” Daniel? “Daniel” has a body, and certainly that body can help me get a “grip” on that, but that is not the same as “getting a grip on Daniel.” When it comes to something metaphysical, I must decide on principles to pursue [to] develop “self-grip.”
Space for Cognition and the Phenomenology of Intricacies
How buildings reflect the history of thinking and “becoming human,” not just provide shelter
Space shapes language, which shapes thought, and if a “home” is mostly a rectangle with walls, then when we discuss “philosophy needing to help us find a way home,” we will design a very different philosophy then if we associate “home” with “an open field” (a point that suggests “Clearing” by O.G. Rose, a short work inspired by Andrew Luber). Even more so than language, which in itself seems unavoidable (though there have been examples of isolated children not encountering language), we cannot not be influenced by an experience of space, and that experience organizes our very understanding of the world. And yet we often go through our days not thinking about how our spaces design us (paying attention to our words is rare enough, let alone an even more abstract layer of geometrical space): where architecture and design are ignored, so are ignored mechanisms which shape the very foundations of our thinking…
The Life Choices of the Phenomenologically Ignorant
If we never leave our laptop, what constitutes “being rational” is very different compared to if we’ve journeyed…
Imagine we never left our laptop, that we stayed in our office, typing day in and day out, staring at our screen. Sure, we venture to the store for so some food and coffee every now and then, but mostly we spend our time on our laptop. Would we, always on the laptop, have the same notion of “rationality” as someone who worked a farm? No, I’m not asking about intelligence or IQ here, but really the question is regarding “boundness” and if that shapes how we carry ourselves in the world. Are the two people going to “carry themselves in the world” identically? Or would we expect there to be differences?
Picking Better Times to Think “Nothing Matters”
How we tend to be nihilistic exactly at the worst times
To really resist the pulls of work and Capitalism, nihilism might be the only force up for the job. Perhaps nihilism is “a gift of grace” from God? Indeed, there is something about belief in God that makes “nothing but God matter,” which suggests that “nothing matters” (in this life). This risks disembodied Gnosticism, yes, and in this way Gnosticism and nihilism might have a lot in common. Still, that danger acknowledged, what we are suggesting here is that it can be good to think “nothing matters” (rather from a place of Theology or Atheism), precisely because this can help us resist the influences of power, pressures of “status anxiety,” and more. If “nothing matters,” why not pursue what we’ve always dreamed of? It won’t be easy, no, but why not give it a go? After all, nothing matters…
“Getting to Philosophy”
How Wikipedia is an emergent case study in the inescapability of philosophy
A theme of O.G. Rose has been the inescapability of philosophy, and for me this is a live and emergent case study which suggests just that very point. Nobody planned or meant for the high majority of Wikipedia pages to eventually lead to “The Philosophy Page,” but the very fact that this is the case suggests that philosophy is in “the background” of human cognition itself (perhaps we could say philosophy is cognition, structurally). Philosophy is everywhere, suggesting that, as Barnes notes, anything can be a topic and question of philosophy, and that philosophy is indeed unique in its ability to meta-reflect on itself and consider “the philosophy of philosophy.” All of this is explored in great detail in The Iconoclast, a text I cannot suggest enough.
Philosophy As Writing Down Notes for a Presentation We Then Throw Away
A way to consider philosophy as embodied, inspired by Isaiah Berlin
Legend has it, Isaiah Berlin would write down copious notes before lectures and presentations, and then throw them all away. He never used them, which seems strange: why go to all that trouble? Well, it would seem that Berlin needed to write those notes down to “get into his head” a sense of the structure of his presentation, but then if he looked at his notes while presenting, his lecture would be blocky, his style unengaging, and his presence a damper. Thus, Berlin found it best to write copious notes to absorb and sense a structure, only to then leave the notes behind. This seems like a waste, but the practice was arguably precisely why Berlin was able to prove such a compelling speaker…
Seeking a Blueprint Instead of an Essence
The reductionist shift of a classic philosophical quest.
Here, I will make a distinction between “essence” and “blueprint,” and suggest that while an “essence” sustains different parts “as a whole” (please note that elsewhere I challenge the very division between “parts and wholes”), a “blueprint” outlines parts. “Essence” is gone if there are no parts and is threatened if particularities are reduced, while “blueprints” arise precisely because parts are “erased away” until only the most barebone semblance of them remains…
“True Infinity” Overcomes
Connecting Nietzsche and Hegel, and distinguishing “good infinity” from “bad infinity” in terms of “over-coming.”
During “The Net (16),” preparing for the second Philosophy Portal on Nietzsche, we discussed the topic of “true infinity” and “spurious infinity,” as brought up by the brilliant Dimitri. For Hegel, a “spurious infinity” (or “bad infinity”) is an endless series, such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… or A, B, C, D, E… — it is basically a list that always grows (x + 1). Hegel doesn’t have much time for this and believes this “bad infinity” has thrown off a lot of our thinking in problematic ways; rather, Hegel would prefer to emphasize “true infinity” or “good infinity,” which is a “self-relating infinity.” But what does that mean?
Do Not Ask “Has It Been Said?” but “Has It Been Heard?”
How to avoid the death of a creative life.
I doubt there is any question more destructive to creative and philosophical work than asking, “Has it already been said?” Indeed, I wonder this all the time as I work, but I have also found that there is no way to answer this question unless I read everything. The notion is unfalsifiable, and so considering it paralyzes me, and yet the notion also seems worth considering. I mean, who wants to write something someone has already said? Not me, but it also feels important to write…
Speaking Back, the Circling Cypher and Centering of Negative Space, and Proposing Hope
The power of repetition to change, the power of circling cyphers, and how hope, faith, and love relate, how the triad…
Perhaps there are many more examples beyond tickling, nakedness, and someone repeating something back to me that “points out” this strange possible reality where the involvement of “the other” profoundly transforms the experience, even though the act which occurs is entirely the same in both instances (I hear x; I move my fingers in my armpits; I stand around without clothes on). Please note that if we experience something once in our entire lives, then it is forever something that can happen, and the world is forever a place where such a thing can occur; likewise, the fact “I cannot tickle myself” means the world is a place where “the other” can do things to us that we cannot do to ourselves, even though the act is entirely the same…
Ambition, Endurance, and Passion
On the sublation of passionate living and philosophy
Phenomenology occurs in the realm of the concrete and actual, and it is there that we encounter limits and finitude, which Alex Ebert stresses is necessary for us to encounter excess/absence (which I associate with “lack”). It is only where there are limits that it is possible for me to encounter “/,” while in thought, which is unbound by necessity in abstraction, is a realm of “and.” The realm of “and” is where we can encounter a “bad infinity” or “spurious infinity,” as Hegel describes, which is basically an infinity of an infinite list (1, 2, 3, 4…). For me to experience a “good infinity” or “true infinity,” I need the “/,” for the “/” makes it possible for x to relate to y and y to relate to x infinitely, all while being transformed in that relation. “X/y” is possibly a “true infinity” based on how x and y act and relate, while “x and y” is in the mode of a “bad infinity.” Hegel is a thinker of the “/,” which is not something we naturally think or live — it requires practice and work…
Words can be more powerful than we can articulate, and yet words are also so common that they can feel as powerless as a background. Unfortunately, words naturally “appear” to us as used successfully: since we know what we mean when we speak, it is hard for us to notice when words aren’t used efficiently. This seems part of the “curse of knowledge,” as Steven Pinker calls it in The Sense of Style: words “appear” well-used, easily resulting in an overestimation of how well we use them. Yet we need “prior knowledge” to function, so risking “the curse of knowledge” is unavoidable. To use a lawnmower, I must know how to steer it; to lift an object, I must know how to move my arm; to build a fence, I must know how to use tools and measurements; and so on. Furthermore, if the lawnmower breaks, to use it again, I either must know how to fix it or where to take it so that it can be fixed. Without this knowledge, it will remain broken. If I lack ideas, I will be stuck, and so it goes with language…
The Imperative to Update Logic
In honor of The Science of Logic Class (Sign up by Jan 15th, 2023)
“Autonomous rationality” is never actually “autonomous,” because that is an impossible, and thus “autonomous rationality” ends up pathological and in denial of its own status. But unless we can take “nonrationality” into account as a serious category, we are basically left to choose between “autonomous rationality” and “irrationality,” and so we generally seeking an “autonomous state” that leaves us pathological and neurotic. I note in The Conflict of Mind that eventually rationality finds itself unable to avoid a situation where “epistemic responsibility” comes in conflict with “epistemic possibility,” and at this point rationality either starts effacing itself or transitions into honoring and acknowledging the necessity of “nonrationality.” However, this means avoiding effacement requires accepting that rationality isn’t universal but relative to a given “(nonrational) truth,” and that means “the dream of unifying the world with autonomous rationality” is over. And yet Globalization and Global Interconnectedness continue to intensify…
Visions and Plans
On the importance of emphasizing “vision” first and then “planning,” for vision is more practical.
There is nothing wrong with planning, assuming we aren’t dependent on it. Plans give us a sense of direction and organization, and without them it would be impossible to coordinate with other people on what we should do, when we should meet, and the like. But plans are also dangerous in that we can “outsource” our thinking to them and cease “actively thinking” once we have a plan, which means we might miss opportunities, better ways of doing things, creative possibility, and the like. This reminds me of the dilemma with “facts,” which are necessary for multiple people with different hermeneutics and subjectivities to “think together” (without facts, agreement would likely be impossible, for there would only be opinion), but at the same time it becomes easy to “let facts do our thinking for us,” precisely because they are so powerful, at which point we actually stop thinking. “Facts” are not self-evident in their meaning, but they seem so self-evident that it’s tempting simply to search for facts and emphasize them, but at this point we’ve denied the active role of the subject in interpreting and organizing facts, which can lead to trouble…
Spatial Incompleteness Enables the Fullness of Time
What never reaches a final point of completeness in space could be more temporarily “complete” because of it.
The thought of Gödel, Derrida, and the like is widespread in the world today, as are critiques of Plato, Platonism, Gnosticism, and other doctrines of “full presence” or “a final resting place.” The language of Lacan’s “lack” and “impossibility” are also very much in the air, and all of these notions are ones I’ve used and think can be applied to Hegel. In fact, I don’t think Hegel can be understood without these resources, so please do not mistake me as arguing in this work that these notions are wrong or should be done away with. Rather, I want to offer a slight inversion in thinking that might help us see how “incompleteness” and “becoming” can entail a kind of finality and completeness practically. To cut to the point, “becoming” is incomplete relative to space, for “a final point of full presence” is never reached, whereas relative to time only “becoming” is (more so) “fully present,” for it is only what never ends that is present in all of time. In other words, in emphasizing “becoming,” we seek (a sense of) “completeness” not in space but in time, and if indeed time is somehow “more fundamental” or “moral real” than space (or at least equally real), then “temporal completeness” is actually in a sense “more complete” than “spatial completeness”…
“Underfitting and Overfitting” Versus “Right and Wrong”
Using terms from computer science to help us think through historical development.
Aristotle was a genius, and yet I think Aristotelian logic today, mainly in the form of “A = A,” must be negated/sublated into the “A = B” logic of Hegel, so in what sense do I mean it when I say, “Aristotle was a genius?” Was he really? Yes, absolutely, because relative to the time he wrote he offered the world an incredibly useful model of that thought that “practically worked” for thousands of years. There really was no need for Hegel, and arguably had Hegel been introduced to the world before Aristotle, no one would have had an idea what Hegel was talking about and even “rightly” discounted his work as useless. Something similar can be said about Newtown before Modern Physics and many other examples: the point is that times change, and yet it also seems too much to say that “Newtown was wrong.” Yes, Newtown and Aristotle were “incomplete,” but I think “wrong” is a little much. However, that designation can feel like all we have to use given the restraints of our current language
The Practical Is More Real than The Technical
How what’s “technically true” might not be realer than what is “practically the case.”
What is “technically true” is what we have been trained to believe is “most true,” while what is “practically true” is what we are trained to believe is “less true.” This, I believe, is partially a result of the “technological thinking” which Heidegger warned we were being “captured” by (Deleuze), and that escaping this “mode of being” requires an inversion of this cultural paradigm which we have absorbed. The practical is more real than the technical, which is a flip I associate with Hegel, who stresses the concrete, and David Hume, who stresses “common life” as foundational…
Is This a Good Story?
On a question of observation that doesn’t replace metaphysics with empiricism but still tests it.
By what metric can we judge if a metaphysics or worldview is better than another? As noted by Dimitri in “The Net (24),” the moment we use the word “better,” we must be assuming a standard, and is this not a betrayal of a philosophy which doesn’t rely on presuppositions (as a true philosophy mustn’t, right?). Indeed, it might be, but at the same time we must use some standard by which we decide x is “more likely to be right” than y, yes? Yes, but we learn from Nietzsche how dangerous pragmaticism can prove…
Money and Forgetting How Hard It Is to Avoid Boredom
People generally sense how money can conceal from them their inability to hunt for food, build their own house, and the…
People generally sense how money can conceal from them their inability to hunt for food, build their own house, and the like….I want to suggest that there is another way that “money hides us from ourselves,” and that is in how money can conceal from us our inability to entertain ourselves, to prove inspired and inspiring, to avoid boredom, and the like…As money can provide ways for us to avoid facing our inability to survive in the wilderness, so money can help us avoid facing creative, spiritual, and intrinsic deficiencies.
Consumerism and the Ability to Sit Still In a Room
How the world might be profoundly changed if we can enjoy our living room.
The less we’re able to sit in a room and feel content, the more money we will likely spend. Money is hard to acquire. It requires a job. It requires skills. It requires suffering stress. Yes, even the hermit might have to pay for healthcare and food, so I’m not saying this is simple, but I am saying that the more we can be the kind of people who can sit in a room and feel content, the less money we will need, which suggests that the more free we will be, for we will not have to work as much.
Walter Benjamin and the Universal Loss of “Aura”
How his thinking about mass production might have implications everywhere.
Michelle noted how seeing pictures of the Mona Lisa everywhere can make us feel like we “ought” to go see it, and yet those very reproductions can lessen the “aura” of what we feel like we “ought” to see. There is an irony here, for what confirms something is worth seeing may reduce the power and beauty of the thing we feel we should go see. If this is the case, works of art may make us feel tricked, and this might supercharge the feeling that “beauty is a trick” and “there’s no such thing as beauty,” which I feel will be extremely consequences. Why exactly is the case is hopefully made well enough by The Fate of Beauty.
To Experience Why Philosophy Has A Role…
…just assume good intention, good motivation, accuracy in appearance — or don’t and never worry about thinking.
There are certain assumptions that we can hold (perhaps without realizing it) that changes the likelihood that we realize philosophy has a role to play, and if we don’t want to worry about philosophy (as our frenemy brains might not), then there might be an incentive to make those assumptions. But for me, assuming that people have good intentions (even when they act wrongly), and assuming that my experience of the world has something to do with it, are two examples of changes in thinking that totally transform how the world presents itself to me. I suddenly have a lot more thinking to do, thinking which might only be possible in philosophy.
The Return- and Release-As-Such
Is there something fundamentally transformative about a “return” that we simply cannot gain from staying? Can releasing…
In addition to “category-as-such” and “thought-as-such,” I would like to add “return-as-such” and “release-as-such.” By this, what I mean to say is that there is something that occurs in the act of leaving a notion and returning to it that changes us, which couldn’t occur if we stayed in the notion and never left it. This seems odd, for if “we start in x,” then we’re in x; likewise, if we “return in x,” we’re in x — what’s the difference? Well, it would seem something happens in “the return-itself” which is transformative and important, and it really doesn’t matter “what” we leave and return to: what matters is “the act of returning itself.” Empirically though, there’s no difference between “staying in x” and “returning to x,” and yet in Hegel there is a critical difference. The movement itself changes us, or at least it can: where there is “a return,” there can be “a (re)turn.”
On the Objectivity of Beauty
Inspired by a Conversation with Thomas Jockin
What’s critical to note is that the objectivity of beauty arises in “the full experience” of something: it is not just Beethoven’s 9th that “strikes us” and brings about a radical change in our life, but also in 1824 the fact itself that we rarely hear music, that we will likely only hear Beethoven once in our life, that life is not full of art — all of these factors are part of what make Beethoven’s 9th “strike us,” not merely the particular arrangement of the instruments, and so on.
The Real Choice and Absurd Courage of Standing, Defining, Naming, Violence, and Sight
Is meaning only possible when we face the fear of doing something we cannot explain?
“The Net (32)” started off exploring why risk is paramount for finding meaning, which then lead into a consideration on the difference between “language that communicate” and “language that expresses” (as brought up by Andrew Luber, inspired by Owen Barfield). This led into a consideration of how language that is too rigid favors totalitarianism and certainty, while language that is too poetic can express but not “bind,” leading to anarchy. We then noted how professional poetry, say in “The Snowman” by Wallace Stevens, somehow finds a radical balance between “communication” and “expression,” which is to say it is clear and straightforward while at the same time discussing all levels and dimensions of human life. Communicative language “gets to the point” at the risk of reductionism while expressive language tries to “get to the whole” at risk of whiffing and missing. Great poetry doesn’t make either of these mistakes, and our challenge today under Metamodernism (if you’ll grant me that language here to define our historic period) is learning how all of us may communicate on the social level like a masterful poet. This is no easy task…
Our Brains Think To Stop Thinking, and Our Brains Are All We Have To Stop It
We learn to stop thinking about what we learn, but that means thought is arranged to engage in “thoughtlessness” — as…
Our brains are in the business of saving energy, surviving, and helping us feel comfortable. We might be interested in “The Absolute,” but our brains are a different story. Sure, our brains will go along with us, smile and pat us on the back as we read Heidegger, but ultimately it wants to get back to sugar and food. It has a job to do, after all, like keeping us alert and alive, so it wants to rest. We’re prone to end up in dangerous situations, after all, and dying is inconvenient…
Ontological Exclusivity From the Effectiveness of an Epistemology
An easy and dangerous mistake.
If we are subconsciously trained to believe we cannot “act as if” something is true until we have certainty or until we’ve reduced it down to its smallest parts, then since certainty is mostly impossible and things aren’t reducible without changing what they are, we have basically arranged ourselves to be unable to begin thinking or to begin living. We must be stuck always looking for “a firm starting place” in a world where such an “Archimedean spot” doesn’t exist. Perhaps all of us could move the world if given a place to stand, but unfortunately there are no such places. We are in something more like water. We have a surfboard, but not dirt, and even if we did mud sinks…
Evaluating in Unclear Limits, Stakes, and the Meta-Structure of the Dialogue About AI
Reviewing “The Net (33)”
“The Net (33)” started with a consideration of AI and “The Framing Problems,” as recently discussed by Stephen E. Robbins (Video 78), a problem which Thomas Jockin suggested was also found in Aristotle. Basically, the problem is that it requires “common sense” to know (without thinking about it) what the next frame of time “could” contain. It is not naturally the case that “anything is possible” even if “many things are possible,” and being able to know the difference between “anything” and “many things” is a product of “common sense.” I simply just know that it is “possible but not probable” that a lion storm into my office a minute from now, and the question is if an AI could just have that “common sense” such as I do (regarding what the next “frame” of time realistically could contain). Robbins notes that this a profoundly difficult problem, and basically suggests that humans will have to program into AI the difference between “possible” and “probable,” but how could a human think up all the possible scenarios which have to be bracketed out? Likewise, how could the human think up every “probable scenario” which every new frame of spacetime contains? AI would seemingly have to program itself regarding this, but how? Perhaps it’s possible, but it’s hard to say, suggesting “the problem of evaluation” which this discussion orbited…
From the “Fiddler on the Roof” to “Up in the Air” Where We Watch the Terrible Strength of…
Considering together films with Belonging Again
How art changes and develops tends to be a reliable guide to determine the state, nature, and thinking of a society. There is no “central planner” in America coordinating through time what art can be made and what art cannot be made, and so the art that is created tends to be “emergent” and a useful guide to the developing values and conditions of a people. Though it cannot force consent, “Fiction Is the Mathematics of the Humanities” by O.G. Rose argued that literature functions as a “proof” of the ontological condition of humanity; likewise, art can function as a “proof” of the state of society and its thinking. How art has developed tends to indicate how we have developed, and in this way I think we can study art to see upload the sociological development described in Belonging Again. Perhaps we may even sense what we should do next? Then again, perhaps not…
In “The Net (34),” Alex Ebert made the point that we could offload ethical decisions to AI, which saves us the existential burden and tension of deciding “what we should do,” which will prove especially tempting in “tragic situations” where there are no good or easy decisions. If we have to choose between cutting food supplies or access to water to save lives, wouldn’t be wonderful if we could claim “an AI told us to do it?” Or “the AI said x was the rational course?” In this way, we could avoid blame or responsibility: we could claim “we did it because it was rational” or “we did it because the AI concluded we should.” In one way, this sounds appealing, because humans are emotional and self-deceptive, so perhaps we should want AI to make hard ethical decisions for us? On the other hand, Chetan made the point that Adolf Eichmann, according to Hannah Arendt in her famous Eichmann in Jerusalem, constantly claimed “he was just following orders,” that he was innocent. Perhaps Kantian, he did his duty.
An Art of Ordering More than a Search or Departure
Hegel is the business of a conditioning of “what is” more than a journey for something elsewhere — though of course the…
We do not so much search in Hegel, or if we do it is like the line of a circle looking for where it connects. The completion of the search makes it “as if” there was no search: there is a negation/sublation into something which was “always already.” Most of philosophy, religion, and life for thousands of years have arguably engaged in “searches for truth,” but Hegel suggests our search is a “realization” of what is “always already” (a (re)turn home, as discussed in Hume). To succeed in this is to engage in being a “true infinity” (which the circle represents), which suggests that most of history has been a story of “spurious infinities.” Because of religion though, which generally trained Westerns to be A/B even if they didn’t realize it (for finitude related to infinity, humanity with God, etc.), the need to consciously make ourselves “true infinities” wasn’t so necessary, but Hegel came to believe in his day the A/B-orientation would only arise with intention and philosophical justification. If Hegel failed in this, we would fall into A/A-logic, which must lead to an effacement — and arguably Modernity and Post-Modernity are stories of this mistake.
The irony of “time saving technology,” counterfeit of “intrinsic motivation,” and a “grind arms race” with AI.
Javier Rivera recently discussed “grind culture” and the trouble with a mode of life that lives as if “we just got to get through it.” Our discussion, “The Net (36),” focused on the topic in hopes of outlining what exactly is so problematic about the notion of “grinding,” and ultimately we related the concern back to how we need an “ontoepistemology,” which is to say a new conception of what it means to be human beyond humans just being “rational animals.” If being human is being rational, AI is about to be a lot more human than, which will prove psychologically devastating — unless we can work harder than AI. What other choice do we have but to try? Indeed, without “The Absolute Choice,” there seems to be none…
The Mob and the Mass
On differences between collectives forming to destroy “givens” and collectives forming because of “givens.”
Perhaps all collectives end similar in consequence, but they are not identical in origin. The French Revolution and Nazism both entailed groups and crowds, but while the French Revolution deconstructed societal norms, Nazism became a societal norm and was incubated by norms. Classically, there have been efforts to associate Western Liberalism with Stalin and Conservatism with Hitler, but I cannot say I find this distinction helpful: for me, it is much more productive to consider the difference between the Mob which destroys “givens,” and the Mass which results because of “givens” — this far better captures “the tragedy of us.”
On “Systems & Subjects: Thinking the Foundations of Science and Philosophy” by Cadell Last
Considering a New Strange Form of Us
It is difficult to think systems, a radical challenge to consider subjects, and Cadell Last has decided to think both. Systems shape subjects though, as subjects change systems, and that means the topic is active and changing. To make matters more complex, Cadell Last considers the possibility that the very act of considering “systems and subjects” actively participates in the formation of both, and so thinking about that meta-thought shapes the meta-thought, which shapes the meta-thought — like a fractal open to infinite recursion. How do we even begin thinking something so alive, dynamic, and fractural? This is the challenge Cadell Last has put himself up to facing in Systems & Subjects, where he attempts to elaborate on why subjective experience is so problematic, why we must think systems and subjects together versus apart, and even goes so far as asking us to imagine ‘the self-certain cogito [realizing] itself to be nothing but the pure thought of the unknown where there is only pure possibility.’ We cannot be so sure that ‘Absolute space and time [won’t] reveal itself to be nothing but the Absolute concept,’ capable of creating radically different constraints than what we are habituated to, which would mean that the Absolute concept could also beget a reality in which subjectivity is effaced — as seems to be what we are Moderns are bent on accomplishing. In this, we can see why there are real and high stakes in the work of Cadell Last…
The Art of Politics and Politics of Art
If art should avoid being political, art might be obligated to do the impossible.
Problems seem to arrive when art treats “a political message” as “something it arrives at or exists to say,” whereas instead politics, religion, and the like are better as “a theme” which the art is always expressing and participating in. This speaks to the work of Andrew Luber and Alex Shandelman, who are currently writing a book on story-writing which emphasizes that stories today often fail because they operate “to entertain” versus entertaining while also consciously and constructively “participating in theme.” Indeed, art should be very aware of theme and the impossibility of art not having political ramifications — the question is only how politics is to be artistic.
Advertising and Force, Choosing Before Experience, and Sharing Risk
Most of us are fooled, but we perhaps speak too monolithically if we claim we are always fooled.
If I was subconsciously tricked to buy a Pepsi, it’s possible for me to recognize this and not fall for the same trick again. Perhaps this could be a valuable learning experience where the costs are low so that I’m ready for intense situations where the costs are higher? It’s perhaps not all bad that I am “subconsciously tricked” in this example: the “small failure” then could teach me to be prepared so that I don’t find myself brainwashed by the State or a Corporation. Also, how could anyone say for sure if I was “subconsciously tricked” or only persuaded to give something a try? I think we can only meaningfully say that advertisers are actively trying to undermine the rationality of the market if we can find advertisers who genuinely believe that their product is bad and yet still try to figure out how to convince consumers to buy it. Otherwise, we cannot meaningfully define manipulation from persuasion (we have a “Schrodinger’s Cat” problem), and conflating these terms could put us at risk of removing mechanisms that train us on “a small scale” to watch out for control on “a large scale.”
Worry always threatens relationships, precisely because it is a “self-relating negativity” in the sense that nothing can satisfy it or “convince it” to stop worrying. Worry can always find reason to worry: it either chooses to stop itself or it will not stop. This is elaborated on in “On Worry” and “Concerning Epistemology,” both by O.G. Rose, but the point was raised that a form of worry can infiltrate “philosophical conversations,” because we can worry that if we disagree with someone and their interpretation of a thinker, that person will get upset and our relationship will be ruined. It was noted that this tendency often occurs in academic debates, but if these new “online intellectual spaces” are going to avoid “just being universities online,” they will need to follow different “social dynamics.” For me, one of those new dynamics should be the lack of such personal offense if someone disagrees, which perhaps was incentivized in universities because people were “specialists” in this thinker or that thinker, so if someone disagreed with them it would be a disagreement in something in which we’ve invested decades. Indeed, perhaps the unavoidability of disagreement was understandable, but it can also hinder and destroy intellectual development…
The Map Crisis
A problem of phrases — “The Mental Health Crisis,” “The Legitimization Crisis,” “The Meaning Crisis,” “The Courage…
Language is always difficult, and I’m aware that if I don’t use the phrase “The Meaning Crisis” I will fail to fit into the wider conversation currently underway. I will no doubt continue to use the phrase, and it does indeed point to a real problem. Th phrase I might like most of all is “The Map Crisis,” but this is not a phrase I could use and be readily understood. It is in regard to “the map is not the territory” problem, which is to say that no map, regardless its coherence or accuracy, is equivalent to the territory it represents. We are all stuck with models and simulations, and if we are forced to acknowledge this because societal “givens” have collapsed, we are existentially overwhelmed. We all must believe our “map” is not just a map, and if we are forced to realize it is, we suffer existentially to a profound degree. In this way, “The Map Crisis” entails in it “The Meaning Crisis” (which can be tied to an “Existential Crisis as well).
The Internet as a Constant Test of Ratios Between “Use” and “Accuracy”
Is the internet a 24/7 laboratory for ratios regarding “the map isn’t the territory” problem?
Dr. Box is famous for telling us that all models are wrong but some are useful, and in computer science we learn the tension between “overfitting” and “underfitting” in modeling. If I perfectly model a couch, then the model is accurate but useless, because then the model is identical with the couch, so what value does the model add? However, that means a model is useful because it is inaccurate, but the model also becomes useless if it is too inaccurate. What’s the best balance?
“Killing Ourselves with Texts” and Avoiding “Wisdom Cults”
Considering “The Stoa” and “Theory Underground” Together on April 18th, 2023
What do we do though if the economic system controls “the means of testing” to assure that no “experimental community” cannot be tested without automatically failing because it isn’t Capitalistic (Deleuzian “capture” by/in autocannibalism)? It is easily the case under Global Capitalism that new communities can’t test themselves, simply because the system will not give them “the space” to do so (via financing), and so the small communities are forced to be positioned to become cults, exactly as Global Capitalism wants. In my view, the larger system assures that new community structures can’t test themselves, which makes it probable that they autocannibalize themselves with gurus, conspiracies, and cults. It’s a strategic move, honestly, of Global Capitalism: it forces people to create small communities to escape the system, remove realistic means of testing for those communities, and thus makes it probable that the majority of the communities devour themselves. And so Global Capitalism perpetuates (assuring most small groups become cults is the work of Deleuze “capture”)…
Is what seems to be ethical only ethical when arrived at “during” versus “brought into?”
Whatever they are, principles feel like morals, for they must feel as if they are good; otherwise, I wouldn’t ascribe to them. The phenomenology of principles and morals blur, giving us reason to think that when we discuss one, we discuss the other, but if the term “principles” has distinct meaning and shouldn’t be deconstructed, then perhaps we are making a mistake…
Citation Wars, Good Cheating, and the Free Cultivation of Oral Education
How not being allowed to speak unless we cite dooms us to “citation wars” and the inability to make decisions for…
Is it possible to cheat in a Dialogos conversation or as part of a Philosophy Portal anthology? This doesn’t seem possible, which suggests that “cheating” and a “system” are profoundly connected. If anything, we “cheat” in education when we “cheat ourselves out of being human,” and this can be when we learn to memorize what we need to know to pass a test and then forget it all. This isn’t technically cheating, and yet it seems wrong, for we are “cheating ourselves” out of the humanity which learning and integrating with ideas can grant us. And yet it’s not wrong according to the system. In fact, it could be seen as smart, a point which brings us back to cheating: if we are clever enough to cheat and get an A on a test without getting caught, isn’t that “smart” and rational? After all, aren’t we going to forget everything we learned anyway? What’s the point? Notions of “right and wrong” hence come in conflict with rationality, for if the point of learning is to be a doctor, and failing a test will keep us from being a doctor, then failing the next test removes from us the whole reason for why we learn. It only seems rational then to make sure we maintain that purpose by any means necessary. After all, if we as a doctor save someone’s life, who cares if we cheated? Actually, it would be immoral not to cheat, seeing as someone will perish if we do not, because we will not be there to help them (and there is indeed a terrible shortage of doctors).
Happiness Like Tar and Honey
Considering Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Earning a Sticky Joy
What does it mean for “happiness to be like tar?” Zarathustra laughs and says ‘[he] was abusive when [he] spoke of tar,’ and instead says ‘[i]t is the honey in my veins that makes [his] blood thicker and [his] soul calmer.’ But the point is that Zarathustra’s happiness is sticky: it doesn’t “come off” easily. Once you dip your heart into the happiness Zarathustra speaks of, it doesn’t “fall off” or prove something that is fickle; rather, it sticks. Considering the context, Zarathustra suggests that it is through work and struggle that happiness can become “sticky,” and considering that Zarathustra then speaks of climbing mountains, perhaps we should think how we require a “sticky happiness” so that we don’t lose it on our journey?
To Live-Along or to Live-At
What Is Fitting in a Situational Universe Where Things are Waves More than Objects
To “wait” seems like “clearing” in Heidegger, which allows “Being to come forward,” while “desire” seems to be when we seek “being as if Being,” causing self-effacement. It also came up in “The Net (52)” that to desire something seems inherently reductionist, because if “I want x” I must “practically act” as if I know everything there is to know about x (for at the very least I must assume that x cannot possible turn out to be something I won’t desire). And yet I can never access “a whole thing,” and though I likely know this when asked directly, in the act of desiring the object, I “practically” act as if I do not know this and/or that I know x won’t disappoint me. X is something which I can “be at,” and in this I “reduce x out of” being something which could disappoint me. In this way, “being at,” which is “a mode of desire” versus “a mode of waiting” seems reductionist, while “being along” is for me to wait for things to “disclose themselves” (like Being must for Heidegger), and in this way I do not reduce things but let them “unfold themselves.” “Being-at” (desire) practically reduces, while “being along” (waiting) allows things to be (themselves).
Life Is Hidden for Us to Love
We cannot access “things-in-themselves” because there is only a world “giving itself” to us.
As Matthew Stanley noted in O.G. Rose Conversation #125, Karl Barth taught that we could gain “real knowledge” about God because God gave us Himself through Grace; if we had to “get to God-in-Himself” without Grace, we could only fail. Since God has acted, God can be known and it not be an act of idolatry. Similarly, Hegel argues we are part of “The Absolute” in being part of the world and “The Absolute Situation,” and so the Absolute has “put itself in us,” and so we can gain “real knowledge” about the world. We cannot reach “things-in-themselves” by our own power directly, as we cannot so reach God, but the Absolute is in us, and so we can gain “real knowledge” about things insomuch as we can gain actual knowledge about situations, mainly “the world itself.” We cannot access “things” (for there are no “things”), but we can access “relations,” and furthermore we can encounter and access “the world.” No, we cannot know “the whole world,” as we cannot “fully know God,” but the inability to know something fully is not an inability to know something at all.
At 0% tax rate, there is 0% tax revenue. At 100% tax rate, there is also 0% tax revenue, because no one would work if they could make absolutely no money by working. Hence, at a certain point, a higher tax rate ironically translates into lower tax revenue. We will refer to this point as Point X, and this relationship between tax rate and tax revenue is called “The Laffer Curve”…
Ask “Where Will I Take My Life?” Not “What Will I Do With My Life?”
The second question suggests we have wasted our time, while the first suggests we have built something we can share…
We have all lived lives that no one else has lived, and we are all unique gatherings of experiences that can be found so gathered anywhere else in the universe. We are a point which no other point will be like. No, it doesn’t follow that if we are special as such that we are thus valuable as such, but it should be noted that we all start with a kind of monopoly, a certain “one-of-one”-ness — the question is only, “What will I do with myself?” (a better dwelling-question). We all have lives and “selves,” and every moment we are acting and doing. When we ask, “What am I doing with my life” we are doing something with our life. Time is now. We all will do something with our lives, and yet the question (“What am I doing with my life?”) suggests it’s possible not to do something with a life. We are, and we are doing: the question is rather where are we taking it?
Eldership and Inhabitation
Reflections on a Voicecraft Conversation with Bruce Alderman
Bruce Alderman is a magnificent and insightful individual, and July of 2023 we had the pleasure at Voicecraft to share in a conversation with him about eldership. He made a critical and powerful point that eldership is not about “being the oldest” or “passing through the most time,” but rather a matter of being able to “inhabit time differently.” This can be linked with the idea of “inhabiting the fullness of time,” the Abrahamic Sabbath, the notion of leisure found in Joseph Pieper, and the like. The elder is not someone who simply knows how to “respond to time” or “get through life,” but the elder is someone who knows the right way to “inhabit” the world. Personally, I found this framing of eldership valuable, for it could be connected with my recent thinking about education starting with Music in Plato.
The Elegance of Free Speech
It is not the case that only falsifiable ideas can be true, but that means we are vulnerable to manipulation…
Free speech is a space in which people can manipulate, hurt, insult, trick, and worse: if Iago, found in Othello, wasn’t allowed to speak freely, the State might have protected Othello and saved Desdemona. Do we really want to be vulnerable to Iago, a master of speech and manipulation? Satan is described in the Bible as basically powerless except for his power to speak — and that is all the devil needs. Are we sure then that we want free speech? The risk seems great…
Should I Put It in the Garage and Risk Hoarding?
On philosophy and the question of “use.”
It can be hard to tell if philosophy is “useful,” because there seem to be ways in which ideas matter, but at the same time it can be hard to say how ideas are useful. Often, metaphorically, I think we associate the question of “Is philosophy useful?” with the question of if philosophy is like a wrench, but I think this might be a mistake. We know a wrench is useful when we need a wrench, and in the metaphor we can suggest we already have something to use the wrench for (a loose bolt, for example) — but such is not the case with philosophy. As already described in O.G. Rose, philosophy is more like a fire extinguisher. Is a fire extinguisher useful? Hopefully not, but if so, it might be the most useful thing in the world.