A frustrated philosopher, I’ve done the classroom time, but couldn’t pull together a thesis. My starting point is the notion that the only undistorted view of reality we have is our experience in the waking unconscious, but there’s no understanding that can occur there. We have to dissect reality and thereby distort it to be able to understand it. We have to objectify, quantify, and stereotype reality in order to gain a cognitive foothold in it. We learn to do this when we learn language, and we refine the skills of representing reality as we grow to adulthood, which takes a couple of decades (at least).

Another of my starting points is the notion that everything is connected to everything else. Matter is connected to all other matter via gravity. Abstractions are connected to what they’re abstracted from by a causal dependency. At bottom, I’m a sort of empiricist, since I believe that our most primitive and fundamental source of information about the world comes through our senses, and our sensory functions are physical phenomena. This isn’t a general metaphysical claim about any priority or hierarchy of existence, merely a statement about the basis of human knowledge about the world. My beliefs about the integratedness and connectedness of the world puts me at odds with the founders of empiricism, who took for granted that things are fundamentally and simply distinct from one another and hence, countable and quantifiable. In this context, the word “simply” is functionally equivalent to “absolutely,” “unequivocally,” “unqualifiedly,” and “unambiguously,” and in mathematics, numbers are not entangled with one another. When I subtract 5 from 12 to get 7, the 5 are gone with no loss to the other 7, no disrupted entanglements. Mathematically speaking, “12” refers to 12 units, plain and simple. In the real world, though, any 12 material things exert at least a gravitational pull on one another, and are not absolutely distinct from one another. When we name things with singular or plural nouns, we impose a mathematical framework on them that isn’t an absolutely true representation of their worldly circumstance.

Imposing a simple distinctness onto entangled things objectifies them. It not only treats them as distinct from the person who’s naming them (the experiencing subject), but also treats them as distinct from one another. Quantification is a feature of objectification. Stereotyping occurs when we use common nouns to name things, verbs to name actions, adjectives and adverbs to name attributes (of things and actions respectively), and so on. The process of naming depends on a kind of implicit phylogeny that treats all cups as alike in some respects, and all rocks as alike in some other respects. Modern science is a refinement of all of these techniques.

Knowledge is power, and the exercise of power is an exercise of power over something or someone else. Knowledge and the empowerment it confers is inherently manipulative of reality. “Empowerment” and “manipulativeness” are nearly synonymous, except for their connotations. Whatever confers power to us enables us to affect and manipulate something or someone.

Many of the best parts of life, though, involve vulnerability to being affected by the world or someone else. The appreciation of beauty and love are examples.

Empiricism as commonly practiced is a means of accumulating power over the world, and in the social sciences, over people. I don’t advocate the abandonment of science or practical knowledge, only that we should have some respect for their limitations.


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