As Featured in The Map Is Indestructible

Incentives to Problem-Solve

O.G. Rose
41 min readMay 28, 2024

Existential Biases, “Vividness,” and Tangible Prejudice

Photo by Armand Khoury

Data doesn’t seem like it can be truly preventative, only reactionary or preparatory, for we cannot collect data about what hasn’t happened to stop from happening the thing that the data is about and quantifying. Furthermore, preventive measures are at an existential and empirical disadvantage to reactionary measures, for not only do preventive measures fail to create evidence that “they worked” as do reactionary measures, but preventative measures also fail to create existential certainty that “there is/was no problem.” If I keep something bad from ever happening (and hence from ever being “something bad”), I don’t ever experience that “something bad” ceasing to be (“something bad”), and so I never experience certainty that the “something bad” even existed and/or ceased existing. When there is prevention, there can be more existential uncertainty compared to when problems aren’t kept from coming into existence, only solved after they manifest. The problem-solver can thus have more existential certainty and “sense of accomplishment” than the problem-preventer, who must wrestle with more existential uncertainty and less of “a sense of accomplishment” and/or “sense of doing anything” (say in the case of the philosopher). Furthermore, in the eyes of the society, the problem-solver can receive more praise and respect because there is more “evidence” that the problem-solver has indeed “solved a problem,” while the problem-preventer doesn’t allow evidence to come into existence that “a problem was solved,” and so never presents the public “empirical evidence” that the problem-solver is valuable. Thus, problem-solving is easily praised over problem-preventing: the incentives favor the reactionaries. And so the world turns.

Do note that I don’t mean to suggest that every problem can be prevented from becoming a problem: for some problems, there can only be problem-solvers. However, for the problems that can be prevented, we arguably need problem-preventers more than we need problem-solvers, as when a problem does arise we need then problem-solvers more than problem-preventers (there actually could be a temptation to stress “problem-prevention” to avoid facing the problem immediately at hand). This isn’t to say we don’t need problem-solvers at all (for there will be mistakes), nor do I mean to say that we don’t always need a mixture of problem-solvers and problem-preventers; rather, my point is to break down the hierarchy and to draw attention to the empirical and existential disadvantages of problem-prevention so that we might not work against problem-prevention without realizing it and/or “for all the right reasons.” Often in life, we need problem-solvers, and it is often very hard to be a problem-solver in a world where many people would rather avoid that responsibility. So again, I stress, we are not claiming problem-solving is bad; rather, we are arguing that problem-prevention is at an existential and experiential disadvantage to problem-solving. We need both, but “at scale” it is more likely we err on the side of problem-solving at the expense of problem-prevention, as it is more likely politicians, systems, and the like so err. The hope of this paper is to help us avoid that mistake so that we might both problem-prevent and problem-solve well.

Paradoxically, the physical trainer who keeps us from needing a doctor can give us less of a sense of keeping us healthy than does the doctor who heals us from a sickness. Yes, we can know the help of both is real, but the “vividness” of the doctor’s help is easily “realer” to us compared to the realness of the trainer’s help, when it’s the trainer’s help that is arguably more valuable. And it is the doctor who can receive more social respect and a higher salary than the physical trainer, as I fear it is the problem-solving politician who receives more votes and respect than the politician who is a problem-preventer (incentivizing politicians to not stop problems from becoming “problems”). When it comes to problems that once manifest are unsolvable and even apocalyptic, this is a major concern (bringing to mind “The Meta-Crisis”).

The person who directly stops cruelty can receive more praise than the one who stops cruelty from coming into existence (for no one would know what or who to praise); the one who helps the poor can receive more honor than the one who keeps people from becoming poor; and so on. Additionally, there is more “evidence” that the problem-solver has done more than the problem-preventer: while the problem-solver has concrete, observable reality and data on his or her side, the problem-preventer has little more than “possibility” to come to his or her defense (or abstract knowledge, which doesn’t tend to move the majority). This is because we can never say for sure that a problem that doesn’t come into existence would have come into existence without the problem-preventer, while we can say for sure that the problem-solver made a difference (for there was a problem, and then there wasn’t). All this easily incentives people to be problem-solvers over problem-preventers (and even to create problems out of nothing), and when the problems that come into existence are severe and even unsolvable, this problematically incentives people not to be those who keep severe and fatal disasters from becoming severe and fatal disasters.

Policies, actions, ways of thinking, initiatives, etc. that are preventive have an existential disadvantage against those which are more reactionary, and preventions are especially disadvantaged in an “autonomously empirical society,” which is a society where basically only “the observable counts” (which could threaten human dignity, as will be expounded on). Furthermore, systems which overall work well (and prevent “the not-working,” per se) are systems in which mistakes and problems are much more “vivid” when they arise, and so are precisely systems which can “vividly seem” to not work. When things are good, bad things stand out; when things are bad, bad things don’t stand out. Consequently, it is “badness” within goodness that can easily feel “the most bad,” and so it is “the good” that can afford the experience of “vivid badness.” In this way, the “vividness” of a bad thing can motivate us to change an entire system and way of doing things that “work,” a system that without, the bad thing wouldn’t seem so “vivid” (and hence not compel us to so passionately change the whole system). Bad systems are precisely the ones in which the bad can feel less “vividly” and thus less necessarily in need of fixing, while the good systems are the ones we can feel the most “vividly” need to change. Evidence, in this case, might only support the wrong conclusion. This in mind, if we want evidence to “speak for itself,” we better be able to tell when its speaking as a “hostage to vividness” and when it is speaking on terms with which we can agree.


Audio Summary

I cannot collect data about the sickness I don’t get: I can “suppose” that my exercising and “healthy living” kept me well, but I can’t really know for sure. Maybe I just got lucky? Maybe my health is genetic? Perhaps my “healthy living” did keep me well, but I can never know that with the confidence as can someone who gets sick, begins exercising and eating differently, and consequently sees an improvement in their health. This second person can be much more confident that exercise and eating made a difference. Yes, granted, it is possible that it was some other variable that caused the change, but it is doubtful the person will feel any uncertainty (even if there should be uncertainty) about the difference made by the change in lifestyle. Still, the person will easily feel sure that healthy lifestyle choices made a difference, and so feel sure that he or she didn’t waste time, made the right choices, and did something productive in choosing to live and eat differently. Ironically, this is an “existential stability” that the person who never gets unhealthy in the first place cannot so readily experience, and this lack of “existential stability” may lead the person to gradually giving up exercising, ushering in the unhealthiness that the individual never felt sure he or she was preventing.

Something similar can be said about the person who, in preparing for and reading about personal misunderstandings, avoids ever falling into and experiencing personal and relationship problems. Because the person avoided trouble, the couple the person is part of never has to overcomes problems, and this can make it seem as if the couple is always shallow and never “real” (especially in a society which treats conflict as a sign of authenticity and more of an indication of “what’s really going on” than the times of joy). To outsiders, a lack of problems can be interpreted as evidence that the couple hasn’t gotten into any serious or meaningful situations yet, and maybe even functions as evidence that the couple shouldn’t get married (they’re not ready). By this criteria, a couple must experience problems before they will be granted the “blessings” of outsiders, and yet couldn’t the fact the couple gets into problems be evidence that they shouldn’t be together? Hence, what could be evidence that two people should be married could be evidence of the exact opposite, and the very criteria which outsiders impose on the couple to “prove” they are ready for marriage might require the presence of problems which can function as evidence that the couple shouldn’t be married. In this way, the empirical criterion is paradoxical and even terrible.

Something similar can be said about the economist who, in enacting policies that keep the economy from collapsing, creates a situation in which the economist can never prove that he or she is equipped to solve and overcome economic crises. How can we be sure then that the economist is actually a good economist? Where’s the proof? Perhaps it is true that it is thanks to the economist that no crisis has happened, but that cannot be said for sure: it could be due to the policies of a previous administration, the industriousness of the citizenship, etc. The role of the economist is unclear, while the economist who stabilizes a collapsing economy might be easier to see as a hero (even if that economist is partially to blame for the economy collapsing in the first place). When trying to decide who should be the next Chairperson of the Federal Reserve, the economist who stabilized a bad economy might have more “evidence” and/or “credentials” proving qualification than the economist who kept a crisis from happening at all. Of course, the economist who oversees a collapsing economy that never shows any sign of recovering is going to be less favored than the one overseeing an economy that remains stable, but it is possible that the economist who stabilizes a failing economy will be favored most of all, for that is the economist who has evidence on his or her side. This in mind, we can say that following the evidence to wherever it may lead doesn’t always lead us to the place we should go…


There will eventually be problems in this imperfect world — the runner will catch a cold, the well-informed individual on relationships will have an argument with his wife, the economist will oversee a sharp drop in the stock market — “preventive measures” cannot be “perfectly preventative,” not because they don’t work, but because the world is an imperfect place full of surprises. Things will happen, but since preventive measures easily lack evidence in their favor that “they work” (in keeping bad things from happening to be seen as “not happening”), they might be easier to criticize and even mock when “unavoidable imperfections” arise (even when those imperfections are not as catastrophic as they would be without the preventative work). Reactionary measures, in having more evidence in their favor that they “did something,” set the board so that when we face inevitable imperfections, it is easier to think of those mishaps as “not the norm” and “mistakes,” than it will be to think mishaps as “not the norm” in the context of preventive measures. Preventive measures, precisely because they work, do not readily create the same sense of existential certainty (based on empirical observation) as can reactionary measures, and so there is a higher likelihood that when an inevitable imperfection comes about, that mishap will be interpreted not as a “mistake” but evidence that the preventative measures don’t work.

When the person who exercises catches a cold, this might be seen as evidence that “exercising doesn’t keep you from getting sick,” while when the person who doesn’t exercise gets a cold, this will likely just be taken as a fact of life (even though it could be the result of not exercising). Alternatively, when the frequently-sick person who once didn’t exercise but started exercising (and sees improvements) gets a cold, it can be said, “Well, it’s definitely an improvement.” Yes, of course, the cold is also evidence that exercising can’t always keep you from getting sick, but it is less likely the frequently-sick person will think of exercising in these terms, seeing that the person has experienced tangible improvements in his or her physical condition. Because of the contrast created between how things were “when there was a problem” from “when there was a change in lifestyle,” the once-frequently-sick person has a clearer sense that “things are different,” and so though it is possible the person could use the cold as an excuse “to quit exercising” (because the person still caught a cold), it is less likely, because the person has tangible experience and evidence on his or her side confirming the benefits of exercising. (All of this suggests why we might not change much until disaster…)

In contrast, the person who always exercises and engages in preventative measures doesn’t have this advantage (which favors us having a problem at some point): when he or she gets a cold, having not readily experienced a contrast between “how things were before exercise” and “how things are now,” the person can have greater reason to think “exercising doesn’t work,” and so perhaps a higher likelihood of quitting. Oddly, it is precisely because exercising works that “getting a cold” can be more readily considered as evidence that it doesn’t work, for it is precisely exercising that works and so provides “vividness” to the inevitable imperfections of life when those imperfections appear amid and contrasted against “what works.” It is precisely then because “something works” that there might be more evidence against it, while something that doesn’t work paradoxically doesn’t “stand out” for evidence to be interpreted against it. It is what works that we tend to be critical of, not what doesn’t do anything at all (perhaps priming us to be inactive, uncreative, and passive).

Now, of course, this is an extreme example, for there is a consensus that exercise is good for you, and the majority support one another in exercising, regardless the results. Hence, there is a low probability that the “preventive individual” who catches a cold will think of this as “evidence exercising doesn’t work.” Still, my point is to highlight a logic which is more likely to hold when it comes to more complex and uncertain matters which lack the same general consensus, such as preventative measures in economics, philosophy, and other fields. It is in these more nuanced fields where the failure to grasp the logic presented here could have costly consequences, and where a bias say toward empirical methods and thinking could prove dangerous. And I fear that because “the logic of negatives” is so hard to grasp, the majority might not, making it only a matter of time before a given society (especially a democratic society) ceases to prevent problems from becoming problems and rather mostly “solves problems,” meaning problems need to manifest to be solved. This could be especially dire when it comes to that which, once it becomes a problem, is unsolvable, meaning a reliance on “vividness” to be caused and stimulated into action could be dangerous.

As a point of clarity, I’d like to note that problem-prevention isn’t inherently good: it can lead to and incubate problems just like problem-solving. If I do that which I believe will prevent a problem when, in truth, there is no problem, then I can very easily create a problem which, if I then “solve,” I may (falsely) support, justify, and confirm my ability to discern the existence of a problem (sowing the seeds for future struggle). Problem-prevention without truth is as problematic as over-reliance on problem-solving. For example: if I believe my daughter is going to marry the wrong person, I may try to prevent the problem of “a bad marriage” by trying to keep my daughter from getting married, when in fact the man she is interested in is a great person who she will be happy with: I’ve just discerned his character poorly. Considering this, it is clear that the “rivers” of problem-solving and problem-prevention run close and even merge, becoming indistinguishable (I try to solve the problem of my daughter marrying the wrong person as I simultaneously try to prevent the problem of her being in a bad marriage). Hence, discerning “problem-prevention” and “problem-solving” apart, as well as discerning which is appropriate for a given situation, can be a hard skill to cultivate.

Also important to note, it should be emphasized that there are times when problem-solving is in fact better than problem-prevention: it depends on the circumstance. Once I have the flu, it is better to go to the doctor than it is to exercise (a problem-preventive activity that might make the flu worse), though when I don’t have the flu, it could be absurd to visit the doctor instead of exercising (and in fact, going to the hospital might result in me getting sick, which could function as evidence that I made the right choice, ironically). To repeat, I do not mean to imply in this paper that problem-solving is never good: my point is only to highlight the dangers of placing exclusive value on problem-solving over problem-prevention. Lastly, note that “problem-prevention” and “problem-solving” are phrases that could easily be confused with one another, and used, based on one’s point of view, to mean one another: we must be discerning to tell which is which — but, regardless the language, knowing there is a distinction matters.


A mistake can be considered a “mistake” in the context of “what works”: in a world where nothing works, nothing might seem like a mistake (and in a sense “isn’t”), for there is nothing “functioning” against which to contrast it (“not working” becomes indistinguishable from “what happens”). Hence, it can be precisely “preventive measures” which “make the world work” which can create “the background of working” that makes possible the consideration of a mistake as a “mistake.” In other words, it is precisely because “what works” keeps bad things from happening, that when a bad thing does happen, it will “vividly” be a mistake (in this way, “what works” hurts itself). Again, mistakes can “stand out” in the context of “what works” (“what works” gives mistakes “vividness”), but unfortunately that means “what works” can be less “visible to us” and/or that mistakes can prove easier to “see,” which is to say that they are upon which focus tends to fall. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — by focusing on a problem, we can fix it — but the problem is that the “vividness” of mistakes can make us think “things (overall) don’t work,” when in fact they do, and it is precisely the fact that mistakes are so “vivid” to us that we have reason to believe things do (overall) in fact work. And yet the “vividness” of mistakes can “hide” what works and contribute to situations being interpreted in the opposite way, which is to say that the more “vivid” mistakes are, the more likely we might be to think “things don’t work” overall. For example, right or wrong, economic troubles in America might be interpreted more so as evidence that Capitalism doesn’t work than economic troubles in China, precisely because America is wealthier overall.

Without a background of “things working,” mistakes could be harder to interpret as evidence of “mistakes,” which paradoxically means that a “vivid” experience of a mistake could be evidence of something that is more functional than not. This being the case, it could be precisely in a society where “things work” that people are more likely to give attention to studies and evidence that show things “don’t work.” And if that same society thinks empirical studies and evidence are the only ways to determine truth, observing “the vivid,” the society that works might conclude that it doesn’t work (just “see” what’s happening), and so ironically change everything that works in order to make it work better. If things didn’t work, mistakes might not have such “vividness,” and so might not drive us to act and “change the status quo” as passionately as mistakes could in the context of “what works.” It is precisely in a country where violence is uncommon (for example) that violence might draw out of us such passion and emotion. And all this suggests a terrible paradox of our human, ontological, and existential condition:

The lack of x is evidence that x/y is severe and/or evidence that x/y is nonexistent.

Lack is more existentially uncertain than presence, and so we can prefer the presence of problems to the lack of them. The-existence-of-problems-and-our-dealing-with-them can be more existentially settling than the-nonexistence-of-problems (especially in a heavily empirical society). And so driven by our existential feelings and uncertainty, we can be problem-creators and problem-preservers rather than problem-preventers (for we cannot have evidence that we stopped the violence that didn’t happen, but we can have evidence that we stopped violence that once happened). That’s not to say empiricism is a bad thing, but to say that what we don’t observe can feel less real than what we do.¹


The better a system works, the more “vivid” the mistakes can be that emerge in it (perhaps due to the axiomatic truth that the world isn’t perfect), and so the higher the likelihood that people demand change, perhaps breaking everything. Alternatively, the better a system works, the better it might prove at hiding and concealing its “deepest problems” while making visible and thus “vivid” the problems that it doesn’t mind the people rising up against (a distraction). In this way, a system could use “vividness” in its favor, like a smoke-bomb, suggesting further reason why we require “long-term meditation.” Likewise, the system could make “vivid” (distracting) problems ones that the people could rise against, correct, and feel satisfied with themselves over addressing (before getting to “the heart of the matter”), make “vivid” problems that people can’t fix so that they look like fools, or make problems “vivid” that the systems knows trying to correct will cause “unintended consequences,” thus making the people look especially foolish. There are numerous ways “vividness” can be used to manipulate a people, but at the same time that might be giving too much agency and intention to a system that is more “emergent” and random than what I have described. Hard to say: the point is only that “vividness” has no “given” meaning.

If a system that works is consequently changed into a system that doesn’t work, the mistakes could become less “vivid,” perhaps making it seem like the mistakes are being prevented or corrected (evidence can mislead). In truth, it’s because the system in which they are contrasted as “mistakes” is working ever-less, causing a “fading of vividness” that is perhaps problematically (and “encouragingly”) interpreted as evidence that the effort is working. Really, the working system against which the mistake is “a mistake” is falling apart: the “background” which creates the “vividness” is falling apart (evidence can mislead). If someone were to argue this, how would that individual provide evidence? A “background” is not easy to show, and all the “evidence” seems to show that things are improving (for “the vividness” is fading). Can we prove otherwise?²

Because problems in North Korea can lose “vividness” to us, we can cease to be concerned about them, but since there may be other problems that are “vivid” and that we could be passionate about ending, we will have “evidence” to ourselves that we aren’t apathetic (as the system might provide to keep us busy).³ Indeed, it is difficult to get people with different worldviews to see similarly (and so prove capable of coordination), because what is “vivid” to one person isn’t necessarily “vivid” to another (impacting motivation), and without “vividness,” so can go the feeling that a case really needs to be taken up and the world “seen” through it. It’s a “closed loop”: by stepping out of it, we cease to see a reason to enter it, for it is a reason we cannot see unless we enter “the loop” (or “map”). But that sounds like brainwashing, doesn’t it? Yes: the line between “brain-enhancing” and “brain-washing” can be thin.

Problematically, “problem-prevention” is by definition more on the side of “abstract thought” and “high order causality,” for we must be able to think something that is yet to happen or be experienced to determine that x is indeed going to cause a problem in the future. Empirical and observational thought is by definition more on the side of “problem-solving,” for we see that there is a problem and then look for a solution. If there is something about the human brain that struggles to “abstractly reason” in favor of observation, this also handicaps problem-prevention in favor of problem-solving, and worse yet if what we tend to “look at” is indirectly and organically organized by “vividness,” this further means that we are likely to be “emergently organized by vividness” (like a character in Kafka) without our realizing it. But is there something about “abstract thought” that people are more likely to respond to as “brainwashing,” which is to ask if there is something about the kind of thinking needed for problem-prevention that people are likely to be skeptical of and even resist? I think so — it is easier to think of something abstract as manipulation than it is to think the same of something empirical (though not necessarily) — which means we might socially be incentive to emphasize empirical-base thinking, which might prime us to problem-solve at the expense of problem-prevention.

Since there will always be problems in our imperfect world, there will always be a need for analytical and empirical thought: in no way do I mean to discredit the importance of empirical thinking. Rather, my concern is with the blurring and muddling of different epistemologies, and with hierarchy creation, in which one way of thinking is considered (unconditionally) superior to another (especially when one epistemology begins to be considered exclusively valid). On that note, if hierarchies begin to be created between epistemologies, it is likely analytical and empirical thinking will come to be at the top of that hierarchy, precisely because it can more readily and less abstractly provide evidence to justify its own claims and structuring of reality. Abstract thought cannot so much provide proof that it made a difference, only really an “absence” of contrary proof (we cannot prove we stopped a problem that never manifest, only show nothing happened, which might have happened anyway). I don’t experience the sickness I don’t get, while I do experience the sickness I am cured from. I experience indirectly “the lack of sickness I don’t get” (as “being well”), but I don’t get proof that I’m not sick because of preventive methods (it could just as well be thanks to luck or genes). However, I do get proof (more so at least) that the medicine I was given when I was sick worked (perhaps favoring the “technological essence,” considering Heidegger, which leads to the “disablement” of Illich, Capita, AI of Land…all topics of II.1). Hence, evidence and certainty fall on the side of the medicine-taker, not the sickness-preventer, perhaps creating the impression that “abstract thinking” isn’t needed. After all, didn’t it cause all those Wars of Religion? And so the Enlightenment “rationally” developed…

The only hope for the sickness-preventer seems to be that he or she, by logic and abstract thinking, gives his or her self the assurance that the preventive methods worked. That assurance and confidence must come internally, for there is no (“vivid” or clear) external validation or concrete proof. But what if the individual is self-deluded? What if the sickness-preventer is just trying to legitimize all the hours of exercising so that the individual doesn’t feel as if all that time was wasted? What if the individual is lying to his or her self in order to feel existentially stable? The sickness-preventer must find the assurance and confidence within that all this isn’t the case, but isn’t that what someone who really is self-deluded does? Self-delusion wouldn’t function as self-delusion if it didn’t entail a self-delusion that one isn’t self-deluded. Precisely, which suggests that because the sickness-preventer carries out preventive methods, these are the tensions the sickness-preventer must wrestle with: though he or she never gets sick, the cost for never getting sick can be existential uncertainty and a lack of evidence from which to derive confidence that the methods worked (again, suggesting probability is on the side of “the technical essence”…“development/disablement”…Capital…). To avoid this anxiety, the sickness-preventer might be tempted to become a sickness-solver; after all, it looks like that is better, and the rest of the society seems to recognize and approve of that as well…

The sickness-preventer must face tensions that he or she derives confidence again from the abstract and metaphysical; the sickness-solver and medicine-taker isn’t nearly so challenged. Yes, perhaps the medicine-taker could theoretically suppose that it wasn’t really the medicine that healed the sickness, but the evidence would suggest otherwise. The person did in fact get better via direct causation (or at least a hard-to-deny-appearance of that) upon taking the medicine: the connection is clear (it is a matter of “low order causality,” while prevention is more a matter of ‘high order causality,” to allude to “Experiencing Thinking” by O.G. Rose). Whether or not the medicine actually worked isn’t my concern: my point is that the medicine-taker experiences the medicine as if it does heal the sickness, regardless if it actually does (a kind of Placebo Effect). Experience, then, can give the medicine-taker confidence that taking the medicine was a “good use of time” and “wise choice,” while experience doesn’t so bless the sickness-preventer. Yes, the sickness-preventer may experience exercise and running, but the sickness-preventer never experiences the running as if it (directly) prevents the sickness (the causality is more discreet), regardless if it actually does. The sickness-preventer can suppose the running prevents sickness, but direct experience and causation will not so readily back the sickness-preventer. Rather, the sickness-preventer must derive his or her confidence from ascribing to his or her metaphysical and abstract logic: the confidence must be more intrinsic versus external.⁴ (Anxiety thus favors “technological essence”…“development/disablement”…)

What has been said about medicine and running, sickness-prevention and medicine-taking, applies just as well when it comes to Economics, Environmentalism, Sociology, etc., and what this suggests to me is that if we don’t learn to derive confidence from “abstract dimensions,” all of these areas will indirectly incentive problem-solving (and even problem-creation) over problem-prevention, suggesting our Pluralistic Age might be filled with conflict, drama, and worse. Again, problem-solving provides more existential stability than problem-prevention, and so there is incentive and “evidence” in favor of problem-solving over problem-prevention. When it comes to issues like National Debt, Environmentalism, and so on, preventing these major issues from becoming unsolvable and even fatal requires us to resist folding before the existential uncertainty inherent with all problem-prevention (as especially difficult where “the observable” is over-emphasized). Can we? But where’s the evidence we should? Indeed.


Since humans are sensual creatures that exist in a sensual world, it is very difficult for humans to derive the same confidence from “abstract evidence” and/or “logical argument” as they can from the empirical and experienceable, and to avoid anxiety can be a reason we come to rely on empiricism (“practically exclusively”), which sets us up to both problem-solve at the expense of problem-prevent, and to disregard abstractions even if they are unavoidable or needed (like “lack” is, as argued in Belonging Again (Part II)). Our “observable prejudice” (we might say) has consequences and emerges naturally because we are primarily sensual beings (in our experience, which is socially enforced for socially sharable and experienceable), and also because confidence in abstraction necessarily entails a kind of existential uncertainty. As problem-prevention is inseparable from existential uncertainty, so is “abstract confidence,” if you will, precisely because we never experience any definite manifestation of what we have our confidence in. If we have confidence that our running is keeping us from getting sick, we never experience the sickness we don’t get to “ground” our confidence in actuality (the confidence is experientially indivisible from possible-delusion, and easily criticized and labeled as such in favor of empiricism and problem-solving). “Abstract confidence,” hence, is a kind of “uncertain certainty,” and it is this paradox that contributes to the naturalness of our “observable prejudice.” To have “abstract confidence,” we must train ourselves to be who we aren’t naturally orientated to be (because of our senses, because of the “vividness” of physicality over abstraction (especially “between” people), etc. — we must train ourselves to be more abstract than physicality trains us to be (though we are “(meta)physical beings”).

Being conscious seems to entail a natural “tangible prejudice” (while oddly at the same time avoiding the concrete and “real”), and yet consciousness, itself being “(meta)physical” and abstract, is one of the entities threatened by that very prejudice. With “tangible prejudice” being natural, it also seems natural that humans be orientated “toward” relying on empirical methods more exclusively (though that isn’t to say humans can’t also have natural religious orientations, etc.), so natural that we then threaten human dignity, rely on data, become overly-influenced by “vividness,” and prefer and incentivize problem-solving over problem-prevention. As hopefully is clear, learning to overcome our “tangible prejudice” is of the utmost important, for a people in conflict with its “(meta)physical dimensions,” that fails to garner confidence from the abstract as it does from the physical, that fails to be problem-preventers over just problem-solvers, that fails to learn to resist the power of “vividness,” that ultimately comes to rely exclusively on observation and “tangible” methods, and that consequently threatens human dignity, is a citizenship that will suffer and perhaps be unable to tell that it does.

That said, there are ways “tangible, sensual, and/or observable prejudice” can actually “check and balance itself”; for example, a bias for empiricism, because it might “ever-reform” in always seeking more data for each possible reform-measure, can help us avoid impulsively overreacting to “a vividness of a mistake,” which could be “vivid” precisely because it is located within a functioning system. In this way, a “tangible prejudice” is not all bad, but it also entails points of weakness that leave us vulnerable to mistakes. Empiricism and “vividness” can help restrain one another, yes, but it would be better if that restraint emerged primarily from “abstract thinking,” but that is more existential and anxiety-producing, hence why we tend to leave open “a weak spot” that leads us into favoring problem-solving over problem-preventing. Furthermore, overly-dedicated to empiricism, we might make the mistake of combining our “tangible prejudice” with “vividness,” and thus say that what “vividly”-organizes us is empirical, tangible, and hence unquestionable, which is to say we believe it is “empirically true” that we need to commit “Chesterton’s Fence Fallacy.” This in mind, a “tangible prejudice” is not the more reliable way to keep “vividness” balanced and checked.

Often, a failure to cultivate “abstract confidence” and abstract thinking could make a people more “toward” being a people of “problem-solving” over “problem-preventing.” Is this to say such a society can’t “problem-prevent” at all? No, it’s to say that it’s less likely and prevalent, but here we can note something very important: if and when such a society does engage in something more preventive, it will likely have to do so on grounds of “it’s the rational thing to do” or “it’s for the greater good,” which is to say it will have to rely on more abstract principles that appeal to a “universal law,” “shared humanity,” or something similar. The noncontingent abstraction will have to appeal to a common experience or a common notion, for this seems to be the closest an abstraction can do to create an effect of “observation” and “tangibility.” This of course does not follow, but again appealing to “what’s rational” and/or “common humanity” seems like an appeal to something basic and concrete, for we all have rationality and humanity, yes? It’s an effective and “reasonable” strategy, but, in being unbound (as discussed by Hume), it instantly risks “totality” and “totalitarianism,” as it also risks an “us-vs-them dynamic” which could legitimize bad behavior. In this way, a bias for the observable and “problem-prevention” could contribute to problems of totalization and war.

If someone says, “We should do x because of y,” and not everyone agrees that y leads to x, those people could quickly be labeled inhumane, irrational, uneducated, and so on — the list of ways to “other” is long. Since this society is untrained and unpersuaded by abstraction, when it does though appeal to abstractions and finds not everyone on board with them, the only tool the society will likely have left is smearing, insult, power, debate tricks, and the like, which is to risk social cohesion and possible cause backlash. And perhaps those arguing “for x through doing y” are correct and right in their argument, but even if they are, because they are unable to persuade, well-entertain abstraction, or incubate “abstract confidence,” the likelihood of them “completing the process” and actually helping spread “what’s best” is very low. People will likely rebel and resent the change, which then might suggest a need for power, force, or “othering.” As a war doesn’t win if it cannot keep the peace afterwards, so a good argument is only as good as its capacity to persuade people to align with it. Where “abstract confidence” is lacking, “to persuade” will likely mean “to force.”

It’s another topic mentioned throughout O.G. Rose, but because we naturally entail a “tangible prejudice,” it seems obvious that we also have a bias to be “concrete” and “real” — right? Ah, but that’s the odd part: we are biased for the tangible, which can function to make us believe we don’t avoid “The Real” (Lacan) and “concrete’ (Hegel), when really we do avoid them, and so in this way our “tangible prejudice” can contribute to self-deception and helping us avoid “The Real” and the like. In emphasizing the empirical, it can seem like we are not avoiding reality, and in a way we are not, but this focus on reality can be a way that helps us avoid “The Real,” precisely because we “bracket out” our subjectivity from our consideration. In this way, our “tangible prejudice” would seem helpful for taking seriously Hegel and Lacan, but really it makes them “invisible” (with other means of focusing on problem-prevention). It’s a brilliant sleight of hand, but a sleight of hand all the same.


To review and begin our conclusion, to “exclusively problem-solve” could lead to an over-reliance on data, which could result in humans being treated like lab mice, threatening human dignity. Without “metaphysical/abstract confidence,” considering that the nature of reality is such that we “don’t see the sickness we don’t get (thanks to preventive methods),” per se, “evidence” will gradually build that reliance on data and empiricisms (exclusively) is “objectively superior” to abstract thinking, since abstract thinking cannot readily provide (empirical) “evidence” of its effectiveness (for when it saves us from a crisis, we never see it saving us from that crisis, and can always “reasonably posit” that something else is why the crisis never happened — not that we’ll even “suppose” that). On the other hand, when bad things happen, we can say with much more confidence that data helped us identify a problem and how to solve it, and if that problem is solved, there will also “evidence” that data helped (abstractions at best stayed out of the way). To stress, all this isn’t to say data is bad or that it shouldn’t be gathered; after all, things will happen (we are in time), and data should be collected on what happens. The point is only that it is dangerous to disqualify ways of thinking that aren’t primarily empirical or data-based, in the same way that it is terrible to under-appreciate the physical trainer who keeps us from getting sick, while over-esteeming the doctor who treats us once we are sick. The doctor is important yes, as is the scientist, but it’s better if we never need the doctor, as it’s best if we never need research to determine how to stop bad things that have and are happening. Again, since we are in an imperfect world, bad things will happen, and so there will always be a place to collect data about those unfortunate happenings, but it is best if we can adopt ways of thinking and “abstract confidence” that will help there be less bad things at all.

Humans are creatures of emotion, and this too, along with empiricism, can contribute to us being problem-solvers over problem-preventers. We feel less confident about the problems we prevent versus the problems we solve, for we feel less sure that we did anything at all. There is a difference between the confidence of believing “the tree has fallen” upon seeing a fallen tree, and the “abstract confidence” of believing “the free market works,” seeing as we never observe “the market” itself. To prevent something can fail to make us as confident that we did something as can to solve something, and so problem-solving can have an incentive in its favor that problem-prevention lacks. Incentivized by this feeling of “succeeding at something,” we can be incentivized to problem-solve over problem-prevent (and how the society might praise and honor problem-solvers over problem-preventers only intensifies that incentive — the majority tend to be more “sense-minded” than “abstract-minded,” per se). As we don’t feel the same confidence of “having done something (meaningful)” in problem-preventing as we do in problem-solving, and as we don’t get the same assurance that we’re not self-deluding and rationalizing ourself into thinking, “I’ve done something (meaningful),” so too we don’t feel the same sense of accomplishment, success, and recognition (all of which, for the problem-solver, is backed by evidence, data, and/or “proof”). The deck is “naturally” stacked against us.

Abstraction is practical in that problem-prevention is “practically more beneficial” than problem-solving, and attunement and training in abstraction is a condition needed for us to problem-prevent. Hence, we need to deconstruct the tendency of associating “abstraction” with “being impractical,” because otherwise how we define “practical” further contributes to the tendency to problem-solve at the expense of problem-prevention. A society adept in problem-prevention is a society that is more comfortable with metaphysics, abstract thinking, and the reality that problem-prevention cannot necessarily pass empirical critiques — all of which means “problem-prevention” is highly unnatural. The odds are against us, but perhaps if we were more comfortable with abstraction we’d simply entertain “disembodied” and “autonomous” forms of rationality which contributed to self-effacement? Perhaps if we must err, it’s better to err on the side of problem-solving versus absorb the risks that come with abstraction and problem-preventing? Perhaps, but I’m not sure if proving unskilled in abstraction now doesn’t just mean that “bad abstraction” and “bad philosophy” (Hume) prevails. As discussed in Belonging Again, perhaps a “natural world” was once in history a world not run by abstraction, before the spread of “philosophical consciousness” and “collapse of givens,” but now we are all existential and philosophical, paradoxically precisely as we “disavowal” everything but the sensible, practical, tangible, and observable (empiricism can smuggle in its metaphysics), hence a reason why we find ourselves so self-effaced and self-devouring. We are all “abstracted” now; the question is only if we engage in abstractions well or poorly. As we ironically stress the natural world, what’s unnatural might save our nature.





¹Also, for those who critique the current political and economic order, please note that what Karatani calls “The Capital-Nation-State” might benefit from protests which respond too much to “vividness,” precisely because they are likely to fail (thus making “The Capital-Nation-State” look justified), and because there will be evidence that the protests are “taking things out of proportion,” are “ungrateful,” etc.

²To touch on the thought presented in “Self-Delusion, the Toward-ness of Evidence, and the Paradox of Judgment” by O.G. Rose, as the “vividness” of a mistake fades because the overall system that works is changed into a system that doesn’t work, people may stop looking at the world through “the lens of that case,” and so stop seeing evidence that the problem is still a problem. In other words, as the “vividness” fades, so may fade the motivation to “take up” the case through which the mistakes are seen as “mistakes” and hence “evidence” of a problem. “Evidence” is phenomena that are pulled “toward” us due to “cases” we are looking through (like lenses) to justify or disprove. For example: if I believe my wife is angry at me, when I come home and she doesn’t talk to me, I can pull this fact “toward” me as “evidence” that it is “the case” that “my wife is angry at me.” Yet it could just be the case that my wife is thinking about something that she just found out about (her mother is sick, her best friend in college is getting a divorce, etc.), but lacking knowledge about this event, I have no way to adopt this “case” through which to see and understand what I am experiencing.

There are generally two ways the man coming home can stop seeing through “the case” that his wife is upset, and so stop having phenomena “toward” him as evidence for/against the case. First, the man coming home can stop worrying about his wife and trust that if she’s upset with him, she’ll let him know. Second, the man can get so used to his wife being upset that he no longer thinks about it: it becomes the norm, and so “the case” ceases to be something he “sees through” and/or thinks about. And so, either way, it seems as if his wife ceases to be upset, not because she necessarily isn’t upset, but because the man gets so used to it that it ceases to be something he thinks about and/or “sees.” And if it is the case that the reason the man stops thinking about whether or not his wife is upset is because she is so constantly upset that it ceases to be “vivid” to him, then the man may cease trying to make his wife happy, thinking there is nothing that needs to be changed. And this is precisely when the marriage can fail (even if they stay together): the marriage arguably had more of a chance when the man saw “mistakes” (though that isn’t to say the man should see problems that aren’t there). (Being human is a hard way to be.)

³What is “evidence” to us tends to fade as does the feeling that something is wrong (which is relative to “vividness”). Does this mean “evidence” is contingent upon feelings? Yes and no: what is “evidence-to-us” tends to be relative to feelings, though what is true, and so what is “evidence-to-truth,” per se, isn’t relative “to us.” How, then, can we tell the difference between evidence that is only “evidence-to-us” from “evidence-of-‘what is true?’ ” That is a difficult question…

⁴Please note that I don’t mean to say that abstract dimensions are entirely separated from physical reality: the sickness-preventer believes “running keeps me healthy” because the person has read studies about running, seen how running has kept other people healthy, and so on. However, the sickness-preventer can never say for sure that running individually and/or particularly helps them. Though empiricism may prove running helps generally, empiricism cannot prove running will help a given individual with a given particular health issue. That’s much more uncertain and takes a metaphysical “leap of faith,” one the medicine-taker doesn’t face so much — not to say there aren’t other anxieties which can arise.





1. When things are good, bad things might stand out; when things are bad, bad things might not stand out. And so it is precisely amongst goodness that “badness” might feel “the most bad,” suggesting why wealth and mental illness could correlate — why a “Rat Utopia” could follow from success.

2. A broken school system full of heroes could be a system that seems to “change more lives for the better” than a school system that isn’t broken and maintains a high quality of academic achievement. A system where kids make Bs from Cs could be a system that feels as if it “makes more of a difference” than one in which kids come in making As and leave making As. If we are not aware of this regarding impressions, the incentives we create could be problematic.

3. Metaphysical phenomenon can have physical causes, as physical phenomenon can have metaphysical causes. Phenomenon can be physical, metaphysical, and (meta)physical. Without the physical, there could be no recognition of the metaphysical, as without the metaphysical, the physical would be without recognition. And in the (meta)physical, the two are confused together.

4. Rationality driven by problem-solving over problem-prevention is a rationality that may drive us into problems we must always solve.

5. Evidence of our “observation prejudice” and how difficult it is to be “abstractly confident” could be glimpsed in how a scientist can say, “We don’t need philosophy,” and we respect his opinion, while we laugh if a philosopher suggests we don’t need science. Is it even imaginable that science is ignored? Probably not, though schools without philosophy seem widespread. But philosophy is at least partly to blame for its dismissal, because philosophy that problem-solves over problem-prevents will fail to make as strong of a case for its necessity alongside science as does philosophy that problem-prevents over problem-solves.

6. Our prejudice against the metaphysical in favor of the physical is odd given that we are mostly surrounded by “(in)animate objects” like computers, which only exist because “conscious” humans invented them.

7. A person can use the word “reform” to mean “remove” as a person can use the word “remove” to mean “reform” —

to determine what it is actually meant, abstract discernment is needed, which suggests a critical consequence of us being habituated against “abstract discernment” is the inability to discern the fluidity of words. If it is naturally for words to be used “more fluidly,” this would suggests a loss of “abstraction” could hurt relationships.

8. To use the language of “A is A” by O.G. Rose, what we experience as (an) “A is A” (physicality) can train us to not think of ourselves as (an) “ ‘A/(A-isn’t-A)’ is ‘A/(A-isn’t-A)’ (without B)” (“(meta)physical”). Furthermore, we are prone to forget we communicate and think via abstraction, and hence to forget the role of abstraction when considering problems and reality (as warned by Alfred Korzybski).

9. Regardless their validity, “emotional cases” will probably have an advantage over “non-emotional cases” when it comes to which cases people choose to “take up” (through their “you”), seeing as rationality follows after a case is “taken up.” This isn’t to say what is emotional is necessarily false, but that what is emotional will have a “vividness” other equally valid cases lack.

10. An exclusively empirical society that says, “We don’t have enough data,” is also a society that, once it decides to do something (such as to establish public education, illegalization of drugs, etc.) — as picked through some “you” — will easily try “every possible version of it” before trying something “entirely new,” with each possible variation getting perhaps ten years of testing time before anyone can speak “objectively” about it. And so reform will probably happen and keep happening indefinitely — “the first choice” is notably important in a world where we don’t or can’t look beyond the path we’re already on.

11. It is possible that the State is fundamentally “a problem-solving institution” versus “a problem-preventing institution,” precisely because people don’t tend to vote for people on issues that are yet to become, in fact, “issues.” Furthermore, the problems that politicians prevent are the problems that no one experiences to know they should vote for the politicians who prevented those problems. Perhaps citizens can “suppose” politicians did something good (though this confidence is experientially indivisible from delusion), but citizens don’t have to “suppose” the one who solves a problem did something beneficial for the country: it’s a matter of fact. Lastly, the State intervenes where force is needed — where the freedom of free exchange is inadequate — and it doesn’t seem as if “force is preventive” in nature as much as it is “solution-orientated.” I don’t mean to say the State can’t be a problem-preventer, only that it seems to me to be more orientated “toward” problem-solving.

12. A person who is perceived as not having preferences is often called “laid back,” as if ‘being without preferences’ comes naturally to the person, while the stubborn person who expresses preferences and then overcomes those preferences can be thought of as “dying to self.” The one thought of as “laid back,” however, perhaps had to fight hard to not let his or her preferences get the best of him or her, but because the person does so well at being selfless, no one appreciates what the person has done: others don’t see anything happening. Hence, the problem-solver can be rewarded, while the problem-preventer goes overlooked.

A bias toward problem-solving over problem-preventing can affect personal relationships as well. For example, someone is incentivized to be accommodating toward someone who gets upset when things aren’t the way the person likes (the incentive being “keeping the person happy”), while one is less incentivized to accommodate the person who doesn’t voice his or her preferences, but rather internally deals with them (introverts, for example, who might “silently cope,” may notice this bias toward extrovert “verbal coping”). This could create a bad incentive structure, where people are rewarded for not learning to deal with and overcome their preferences, while those who do are treated with less consideration. For the one who “internally copes,” no one sees the person struggling to overcome his or her wants and/or desires, and no one may realize the person fought this battle. However, people do see the person who voices or expresses his or her preferences overcoming them (assuming they are overcome), and so that person can come to be treated more nobly than the one who “internally copes” (at the very least, they can be acknowledged for trying). Gradually, this might lead to people not working to keep problems from becoming “problems,” but rather just solving problems once they arise. And this could be alright at least until one of those problems become unsolvable…

Similarly, we might be incentivized to be “Emotional Judgers” (as warned about in “Emotional Judgment” by O.G. Rose), to worry and fear (admonished in “Concerning Epistemology” by O.G. Rose), to always speak (discussed in “On Words and Determinism” and “Inception, Discrimination, and Freedom,” both by O.G. Rose), and other, detrimental tendencies.

13. To allude to the thought of “Scripted” by O.G. Rose, society might support preventive measures for which there is a “social script,” but gravitate toward problem-solving where there is no such script. The society favors exercise, because we as a collective consciously agree exercise is important; however, when it comes to other preventive measures, we aren’t so favorable. This isn’t to say “scripts” are bad, but it is to say that tools can be problematic because they work.

14. It is harder to identify problem-preventers to appreciate over problem-solvers.

15. Does “vividness” of problem x increase to a person as does that person’s feeling that he or she can solve problem x? Perhaps, but why does a person feel he or she can solve problem x instead of problem y? The very fact a person feels this way can in fact be a consequence of “vividness,” ever-intensifying the “vividness.”

16. If one person becomes passionate about a topic during a conversation with another person, for example, the other person who doesn’t feel this passion might be off-put and confused by this emotional display, and, not experiencing the same “vividness” of the topic, conclude the person is becoming emotional because he or she lacks evidence for his or her case — evidence, by the way, that the person can’t “see,” having not taken up the case to “see” the world and evidence through, and so the person has reason to believe “objectively” that the person is becoming emotional because he or she lacks evidence. Someone who doesn’t feel the same “vividness” as another must be careful not to judge someone who is emotional as irrational, and at the same time, those who are passionate must be careful not to be upset at someone for not seeing what is “vivid” to them, a frustration that can be difficult to resist falling into, precisely because “the truth is so obvious” — seemingly.

17. Because of how we are rationally and empirically “walled off” in the “closed loops” (ideologies) we enter, we require people to “teach themselves” more than we “teach them,” for the change to a perhaps “more true” and new case (ideology and/or “being true”) has a much higher likelihood of working through an internal change and conviction than “in the space between” people trying to change one another (and considering this, if a culture struggles to think well, it is unlikely it will ever come to do so). Arguably, all changes to a new case are ultimately an internal matter, even if stimulated by externalities.

18. The one who “problem prevents” is an individual who might not really allow evidence to come into existence verifying the problem exists. Unfortunately, this means it is possible for someone to claim he or she is “a problem preventer” when the person actually isn’t, using the “negative space” to justify his or her self and the actions that individual wants to implement.

19. Just “the (phenomenological) way reality is” makes us orientated to problem-solve over problem-prevent — no one really is to blame.

20. “Reality prejudice” also contributes to procrastination: the further something is away, the harder it is to make it motivate us (we simply don’t “see” it).

21. “Vividness” is “toward” which “The Heart/Mind Dialectic” is naturally directed.

22. If a person really wants to believe “x is bad,” seeing as there is a gap between “compelling” and “certain,” that person can always find “space” and “doubt” by which the person can preserve his or her ideology, and do so in such a manner by which the person can genuinely make his or her self believe that he or she isn’t persevering his or her ideology (especially if the society allows the person to get away with that kind of reasoning, if not support it).

23. As “hard” empirical standards can threaten human dignity, it is also the case that completely discarding epistemological methods can also threaten human dignity, for without them, humans are susceptible to superstitions and untested ideas, and humanity will struggle to accumulate human knowledge and progress.

24. If there are say four problems in a country and the media focuses on one of them (which the media picks based on “vividness”), it is likely that I too will focus on that problem versus the other three. As a result, I will likely take up a “lens” through which to see the world and through which phenomena are made “toward” me as “evidence.” In light of the “vividness” of the evidence for the case I take up, evidence for the other three problems will likely be “over-shined,” per se, which is to say they will be much harder to see. That isn’t to say I won’t see them, but it is to say that if I do, their duller “vividness” probably won’t “draw me in” to “take up their case” as does the “vividness” of the case I’ve already taken up. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is important to point out that it is possible a person misses out on seeing a problem that should be addressed, due to already taking up a case, all while thinking he or she isn’t inactive and indifferent, precisely because the individual “sees” the problem he or she does see. Considering this, it should be noted that the media can control and/or influence the attention of the people and what they choose to problem-solve via “vividness,” not necessarily consciously, but by simply being what the media is (that which is attracted to reporting on “the vivid”) (no conspiracy required).

As to avoid self-delusion it should be noted how media can influence our focus onto what the media chooses (as “vivid”), so it should be noted how we can limit our thinking by taking up “macro-cases” versus “micro-cases.” What I mean by this is that humans seem to have a tendency to take up an entire “Conservative case,” versus “a Conservative case on sexuality,” “a Conservative case on gun rights,” “a Conservative case on environmentalism” — one by one. We tend to “take up” a whole versus parts: we tend to “take up” one giant lens versus multiple lenses. This is why Liberals and Conservatives tend to not just disagree on one issue here and another there, but to disagree on all the issues, as if all the issues were the same issue (a phenomenon noted by Thomas Sowell in A Conflict of Visions). It seems that humans aren’t wired to take up several particular “cases” and/or “lenses” that they switch between; rather, humans seem primed to accept a single “macro-case” and/or “macro-lens” as if all smaller cases/lenses are one. This, I believe, makes us prone to error and “thoughtless” thinking (“thoughtless” in the sense of how Hannah Ardent uses the word), and also makes it difficult for Liberals and Conservatives, for example, to agree on anything, they dismissing one another entirely all at once, rather than one issue at a time.




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O.G. Rose

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