I Miss Science

30 Sep

I prefer hard studies to philosophy in the long run; philosophy is often a response to frustration in life(I grew up loving science and lost the flair in college due to ill-health).  Frustration is present in many famous philosophers: Nietzsche, Stirner, Camus, William James, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, etc.  Brilliant philosophical books such as the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison also have this quality.  That book has been near the top of my favorites since I read it in college.  It struck me deep.

Some philosophers might not be particularly frustrated in life, but perhaps they have some traits of autism which may encourage them to become philosophical in order to understand the behaviors they observe in those around them.  Not all of them do, but it’s around.

When I think about the least degenerate and least decadent philosophers, I think of names like Hume, Leibniz, JS Mill, William James, Aristotle, Hayek, and so on.  Good scientists and mathematicians, too.  Einstein was certainly a philosopher, but he’s more famously remembered as a physicist.

There is ultimately no escape from common sense.  In a way, this was probably the life message of Wittgenstein.  The words of philosophy cannot substitute for the rhythms of the world.

Common sense of some sort must precede all elaborate action and plans.  If one merely “does philosophy”, then there’s a danger of mistaking thinking about life for living life.  Sometimes a person is so different and/or frustrated that they are forced to become philosophical.  However, they’ll probably have to look outside of philosophy to reform themselves.  Art, new experiences, meditation, good old habit formation, and so on.

The best philosophy demystifies common sense.  It sharpens it.  It might even be able to remix it.  It is sometimes able to bring one to direct confrontation with one’s limits and choices.  Perhaps it can even trace the paths of subjective emergence.  But it doesn’t take steps for anyone.  It doesn’t tell you who you are, and I’m skeptical about whether it can even tell anyone who they ought to be.


Science and technology provide compelling feedback from the physical world.    They offer the means of staging that world to be a friendlier place with more interesting possibilities.

It’s not clear to me exactly how it all fits in with epochs of subjectivity.  This topic teases the space between science, philosophy, and art.  It’s a topic far more advanced than I am smart.  It seems to relate to the nature of intelligence and coordination problems generally.  Complex “diafoci” are established within creatures.  This involves intricate coordination problems in which the whole network has to maintain itself rather like an economy; health becomes a key concept.  The subjectivity involves inherited instincts and overall regimes of conditioning and initiative.  The subjectivity, its history, its environment, and the relations between all of these are essential components of the thing.

There’s also the tricky issue of how one justifies one’s present self-grounded subjectivity without creating all sorts of inconsistencies.  I believe Celia Green stumbled onto issues related to this problem and made what she could of it at the time she wrote The Human Evasion, but there is not necessarily a good answer for it.  It might be a complicated situation involved a strong core and a fuzzy outer region of justification, but it’s well beyond my ability to know.

I figure that these sorts of considerations may turn out to be important for AI and politics.  For now, my considerations are too primitive and preliminary to amount to anything tangible, but maybe a broader perspective can be a jump-start for more practical ideas down the road.  AI will be hard.


Technology on its own is very exciting in its potential, but I feel that David Bohm was correct to point out the human propensity for changing something at point A and unintentionally — possibly unknowingly — throwing something askew at point Z (Bohm discusses this sort of thing in his book, Thought as a System).  That sounds like a coordination problem.  I even have a rough word for this kind of outlook.  I call it diarealism to distinguish it from naive 3-D snapshot outlooks.

This coordination problem could become especially tricky when it comes to alterations of the subjectivity itself.

The brain seems to have uniquely powerful coordination capabilities.


In the meantime, the people who produce practical stuff are doing the good work.  I want to be one of them.  Philosophy needs to be continually fertilized by empiricism and hard studies to avoid becoming degenerate, anyway.




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