Something of the Week

Sent to your inbox on Mondays to provoke variety of thought.

modernphilosophy.org

Something of the Week: Nihilism

Hi there,

Goal: Explore nothingness (thus everythingness)

In math, the concepts infinity and zero are some of the hardest to grasp, especially because they create all sorts of conundrums and exceptions, like asking what happens if you had x / 0 (undefined) or wondering what ∞ / ∞ is (undefined) —it should come at no surprise that these things are undefined via mathematics because mathematics is perhaps one of the first core "hard" sciences that evolved way back when the abacus was first invented and is therefore symptomatic of how humans think (more on this later). Math is considered technology and indeed even our hardware and software are comprised at the root level by 1's and 0's, without math, we would not have the modern inventions that have been built on top of it.

The thing to understand about math is that it reflects a way of seeing the world, math is an invention, therefore a theory, that helps us perceive and filter the world. We can't physically see gravity, but we can point to -9.8ft/s^2 as a simplistic model of gravity. Currency, money, is of course, only possible with finite numbers. Even social relationships can be modeled by math (game theory) so that it's evident there some real roots in how our brains work through the ideas of 1 + 1 or 2 / 2 or 3 - 3 and of course, 4 * 4. We can say that math developed perhaps as the first technological abstraction that allowed us to begin to exercise some control over the world by making things more certain —after all, 1 + 1 always equals 2.

For most of our use cases, math works great, and if we continually move up the hierarchy of technological innovation, we still find that it's always a "numbers game". Businesses try to push levers on economics, maybe making upfront investments in belief of future returns, the proletariat try to move up the corporate ladder and obtain higher salaries, friends spend time with each other, etc. Numbers everywhere.

Then there are those other two numbers (or concepts, since all numbers are just concepts) that we carefully push to the sides and ignore, ∞ and 0. I emphazise that numbers are just concepts because they don't actually exist. This is evidenced by the fact that the average high schooler learns what polymaths and math geniuses of the past used spend a lifetime on (because at that time it was still new). This means that the field of mathematics is continually expanding, and if a field can continually expand it means there is theory, and theory, is obviously not rooted in reality, but only tries to model certain realities.

Okay, so what's the point? The thing is: I've been exploring the concepts infinity and zero, and I find that they are a much more accurate estimation of what life is. We live in a relatively math and technologically driven world: we're given certainities, and math is the first technological certainty we've invented: make the connection —mathematical thinking is how the world operates, and yet, life is much closer to the concepts ∞ and zero: undefined.

Take for example the infinite possibilities a child that is first born can become. How can anyone quantify in mathematical terms what it means to be that child and that Mother and Father, not knowing the infinity of possibilities that still await that child? It's futile to attempt to bring that child down to one specific path, and yet, this is exactly what society tries to do —one major (or two if you wanna work for it), one job (or more, but in a specific field), a tried and true path: school, college, job, do whatever, die. Why try to bring a child who is undefined (∞) into a finite digit so early as if their life depended on it? It's the opposite: even as a person ages and their potentiality decreases in favor of actuality, that does not preclude that there is still potentiality, so that the idea that a life can be "finished" before it is actually finished and dead is to me a failure to understand that life does not consist in existing, it requires a level of undefined and that is life staring back at you.

Then we have the nothingness of flow; that state that people reach when they are doing without any sort of consciousness (thought), like an athlete in the zone who can react and move to stimulus without reflection, as if, automatically. A person who is someone while playing sports, who is finite, is not playing correctly, they are too in their heads, and the first piece of advice to athletes is always the same: play the game, don't overthink it, trust your gut, intuition, whatever. That requires egolessness, again, essentially, "losing sense of time"; that is, losing the concept of time, which is, yes, grounded in math. In other words, feeling that time is for once, equivalent to zero. Make the connection: keeping track of time requires understanding what finite numbers are, losing our sense of time means making numbers undefined, which is equivalent to ∞ or 0, of which 0 is a closer estimation since we don't feel things stretching into eternity when we play sports, we feel that time doesn't exist, and there is only the moment: we call the present now which is equivalent to 0 minutes because it is not later (1 minute) or earlier (-1 minute).

Math is opposed to life (or at least tangental) as far as ∞ and 0 and the exceptions they raise are not taken into account, we already know this intuitively: 9-5 jobs are soul-crushing, over-certianties breed ennui and restlessness, boredom is a result of always knowing the right answer too quickly. Therefore, we turn our attention to art which we feels encapsulates ∞ and 0 better than math can; we call this creativity, or what is emotional and subjective. Creativity and the art that comes from it is meant to give our lives a spark of uniqueness and differentness, to remove us from the humdrum reality of numbers into the land of the infinite and varied. Creation is taking a zero (nonsubstance concept) into reality (finite number). Art is supposed to liberate us from an ordered society, does it succeed in doing this?

The problem here is that art is not highly integrated into our lives; it at best fills an ancillary role and at worst is even detrimental to the very cause it seeks to fulfill. Leo Tolstoy says art is supposed to help improve solidarity between humans, that is, art is supposed to connect us and make us feel closer, not alone, and at first, it may seem that art does fulfill this function, until you realize that it fulfills this function in the same way an overdependence on cocaine might fulfill it. A person who relies on "art" (hint: entertainment) generally becomes more isolated from their peers because it takes that very person away from the waking reality they exist in into a different land. Watching a movie may bring an emotional payoff in the form of a subjective experience, but at the same time it's isolated from our real lives —when we leave the theater we also leave that experience behind with us, it has not changed us at all, even if we believe it has, especially if we believe it has. Then much social talk consists of talking about the shows we've watched, and talking with peers doesn't even consist of talking of them, but about other (fake tv show) people's lives because there seems to be so little to talk about of that individual.

So what we have is a sort of existence without meaning or purpose while we attempt to seek these things within art or creativity or individualism or values or anything that is traditionally "subjective", and it doesn't work because it can't replace the real life experiences that would root these subjective realities in objectivity, therefore it's just a sham: the real reality of the world is still governed by the turning of levers, technology, mathematical operations, and we crunch along to it while wanting to believe we're not. Art is fundamentally modeled off the desires of a general society: so what you get is art that doesn't model reality at all, but is really just a refined wish of what we'd like reality to feel and seem like. Even classical literature doesn't escape this trap, and it seems like classical literature is even more deceptively unreal because it seems more real without being so. People progressively become more and more delusional as reality becomes more and more scientific, escaping into more and more art (entertainment) that is masked as being important, meaningful, purposeful, directed towards ends, while accomplishing none of those things, but precisely the opposite.

People often say I'm living, but I'm simply undefined (0 and ∞), and that is the precise definition of nihilism —living as everything being undefined, without a purpose, without a meaning, free to do anything or nothing, everything inbetween, hoping for nothing, wanting nothing, having nothing, only knowing that everything is permissible and that nothing matters or is worth anything.

The thing is, society wants you to believe that being nihilistic is a bad thing, but nihilism would say that it's not good or bad, it's nihilistic. If we were to think of why society (status quo culture) would want people to shy away from nihilism, it's quite simple: a nihilistic person finds everything to be permissible, and a peaceful society would not exist if everyone in that society found everything to be permissible: that's called anarchy, so society labels the person who is undefined (∞ and 0) as insane —the societal way of dealing with individuality is to consider that person crazy. Conclusion? Society will always try to shame you for who you are because if you're ashamed of yourself, you'll accomplish less in the world because you're too busy fighting yourself and your own inclinations, and that's good for society because a person who fights themself won't fight other people (obviously bad for society). Popular culture doesn't want anyone to believe that nihilism may actually be good or the proper way of seeing things, like suicide, nihilism is so terribly shamed that no one has really thought to try the philosophy for themselves or to think about it, in fact, the "existential" philosophers: Nietzsche, Simone de Beauvoir, Jeal-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Søren Kierkegaard are all more closely defined by nihilism than by existentialism —that is, their philosophies are all unique to their individuality and therefore undefined. In fact, the word existentialism was coined by Gabriel Marcel, a French Catholic philosopher supposedly, but no one references him for "existentialism".

... The existentialist philosophers ironically had no problems with their existence, they had no "existential crises", they were certain of their existence... but the English language has a bunch of these hidden misnomers and catch phrases ("pursuit of happiness, but you can't pursue happiness, it's a byproduct, internal values, but all values are external qualifiers of what we think of other people (you can't own an internal value, they come from without), and all the times in conversation when people say "Don't take this the wrong way, but..." or "Not to be mean, but..." when they might as well just say, "You'll take this the wrong way, but I'll say it anyways" and "This is gonna be mean, so..."): the "existentialists" were certain of their existence through nihilism because to continue living even when there is no purpose and no meaning either means you're afraid to kill yourself or else you find no reason to kill yourself, and if it's the latter one, then you're free to live, and to live is the greatest (and only necessary) certainty we all have, the rest is undefined, up to you.

If nothing matters (0), then you're free to do anything (∞) and everything you think is preventing you from doing something is just a lie (not that there aren't consequences, but you get to weigh those), so live on.

modernphilosophy.org

Something of the Week: Contradictions

Hi there,

Goal: Have no goal.

There's some great irony in any religion, moral system, or philosophy that teaches us to let go of our desires and accept things for what they are, for this goal itself is, conversely, a desire or want, and therefore, ironically, the desire to accept things is hypocritical, since acceptance of all things is to have no desires, not even the desire to accept all things.

Of course, this is why in Buddism the last step to enlightenment after casting away all worldly desires is to also cast away the last desire of wanting to gain enlightenment by essentially giving up on the quest for enlightenment to arrive at enlightenment.

In this motif, we find a sort of cyclical behavior or "logical contradiction" since if you were to explain this to someone, you'd tell them to stop desiring all things, but if they were to follow that, they would be desiring to stop desiring all things. We quickly run into territory that gets very confusing and if misinterpreted, may seem like we're asking someone to do something impossible —a la having your cake and eating it too. Why does language run us into this problem? What is the resolution?

The thing to understand here is that what is stated also implies its antithesis. When I say a person is quiet, it's almost always the case that I also imply that they are loud internally, and generally, you will find this to be case. A person who is externally quiet, is generally quite proliferate in their thoughts, and they keep these thoughts closely guarded. Conversely a person who is talkative (external) generally has no internal thoughts in the moment they are talking. A humble person exteriorly usually has an intensely domineering spirit internally; a domineering spirit externally often harbors a diminuitive interior. etc. etc. across all personality traits we find the opposite mirror internally —the externally emotional often being extremely rational internally, or the rationalist externally haboring emotional storms inside that aren't revealed.

Why does this happen? Well —I think it's because for a society to exist, the first thing that must happen is for people to put aside their individuality for the same of the "common good"; you have to be less of an individual. A good friend supposedly challenges you —but that seems a little backwards since a good friend should be accepting of who you are and enjoy your company; these two things are antithethical to each other, so what we tend to get is a mixture of both, in other words, neither —we get these kind of half-friendships that aren't great and aren't bad, just kind of neutral.

Neutral. That's what society wants because that is the most harmonious; neither too hot, neither too cold, but "just right". But as of late it's been hard for me to accept that the "golden mean" that Aristotle purports is really actually "the right thing". Doesn't hot and cold have its benefits too when used appropriately? Of course, just replace hot and cold with extremist personality types; there are functions for being different and unique, but society hides this secret because it doesn't want to rely on the judgment of those individuals —it would rather have everyone be neutral because hot and cold have more pointed cons that are harder to manage than neutral.

As technology increases, you begin to see more of a certain homogeny from people because we'll all subverting our range of behaviors, emotions, and thoughts to the subset that the app allows. Swift, the coding language, has built in a bunch of saftey measures that other coding languages don't have to make it easier for the coders, but the result is you have bad coders that simply don't know what they are doing because they are reliant on the "Swift system" of coding and good coders are often prevented from doing what they want to do because "the system" places safe-guards they don't need. Tinder codifies human interactions into a yes-no system which can hardly be quantified in real life meetups which often show a great range of uncertainty and tend to be a gray "let's see what happens" sort of interaction. Gmail is beginning to offer smart phrases and common replies which obviously decreases the range of responses an email can have if a person begins to rely on that system out of convenience... which is usually how neutrally starts because it's usually more convenient to do nothing than to do something. That's where society is heading towards: nothingness.

So, when I say that the goal is to not have a goal, I mean to say that that's society's larger goal. The jobs we have are generally purposeless, that is to say, don't accomplish anything in the long-run, but are done for the sake of satisfying what people want: that is, entertainment. Now, entertainment has its uses, but it is also meaningless, and therein lies the actual dissatifaction with people in our times: things being meaningless and there being no purpose —so it is any surprise that people are obssessive about meaning and purpose in this era? "What is stated implies its antithesis" —people look for meaning and purpose and try to deceive themselves into believing they have it precisely because they do not.

So, how to resolve this? Well —it requires a fundamental shift in perception that I find difficult to explain with words: you just have to be willing to see things for yourself and not through words, and when you attempt to do this, you'll begin to see that everything you believed to be true because someone said it was like this is generally the opposite. It's because society has set our consciousness against ourselves —for the sake of creating a harmonious society at our own expense, since if we are continually struggling against ourselves, we won't have time to direct our energies towards other people and actionable results; we won't end up doing anything.

modernphilosophy.org

Something of the Week: Morality and Amorality

Hi there,

Goal: Write an effortless piece

Well, it's impossible to really write this sort of piece without making flagrant errors, but it's something that will just have to happen.

How can anyone do anything without effort? Doesn't the human condition necessitate effort? but we have this contrary pull to try to make things effortless.

We know the illusion of effortlessness well —good art, works, are lauded when they "make it look easy", well... but what does true effortlessness look like, and why is it that we are pulled to this sort of idea of effortlessness?

Of course, it is a gauge on competency. A society that lauds effortlessness is a society that worships. Why? because the disparity in skill or effort is what allows a person to idolize the other.

Take a chess master who effortlessly beats a pro —well, it's the idea that they are a chess master that differentiates the master from the pro or hobbist or beginner. Our measures on difficulty or level are all relative; they depend on who is the best.

By this definition, it's obvious that there is no such thing as effortlessness in obtaining that rank, the effortlessness comes from submitting other people a loss without much effort. Effort is not internally directed in our society, it is externally directed.

This, of course, puts me in a precarious position since I essentially attempt to do everything effortlessly —by this I mean that I never strain on anything particularly. I don't think. or if I do think, I think with very minimal effort —but it's very likely that I think very little, and really I only perceive my thoughts, which, of course, requires no straining.

So what is this thought piece? It's a stream of consciousness, which, by all measure, should be the most effortless thing since it's allowing the brain to do what it normally does —just translated into words onto a computer; it is the brain thinking fluidly in motion, which is how it ought to operate, without a filter, this to me is the most effortless thing in the world, and I feel I could go on for years if needed in just this fashion...

Unfortunately, society takes the exact opposite approach and tries to repress the otherwise smooth functioning of our thoughts; we're asked to contrive manners and social norms that are essentially limits on our freedom of speech. There is the antithetical idea that our First amendment is freedom of speech... but that's why society is tricky; by law / theory you are always allowed to say what you like, but of course, we'd be foolish to think that society doesn't have other ways to coddle and force your hand: how free are we to actually say what we want if we feel that around every corner we'll be met with spite and hatred if we say the wrong thing?

The effect is the same —we are not free to say as we'd like to say, just like in times past a woman was allowed, if they really wanted, to have consensual sex with as many people as they wanted, and the result would be akin to The Scarlet Letter. Take your pick —sure there's freedom in adultery, but not really; since freedom would like to take a rather non-judgmental attitude to most things as long as it doesn't harm others.

Also unfortunately, is that harm, our concept of it, is woefully disappointing: we...

End of Effort.


As promised, internal moral precepts:

modernphilosophy.org

Something of the Week: Seriousness

Hi there,

Goal: Write a seriously unserious piece on seriousness.

I probably don't take myself seriously enough or else I don't take life seriously enough —one of the two, or both. In recent months I've found myself in laughter over events that should honestly not be grounds for laughter... I'm not sure if this is adaptive or a rather inhumane trivialization of my pain; in some ways, I feel that I am in so much pain that my only response can be laughter; my mind has past the point of mental suffering, has overloaded, so it laughs.

It's the same experience of dying from starvation. Starvation is very painful, except at the very end, when the body knows it's going to die, and at this point starvation is actually considered a highly euphoric experience.

Ironically what this means is that there is essentially two routes to happiness —true happiness through positive affect (which seems impossible in this world) and happiness through overwhelming negative affect. Of course emotionally, it makes no difference, the sensation of "happiness"; a sort of mix of pleasure, contentment, and peace of mind (especially this) is perceived the same by the brain regardless of how it actualizes, but of course the route is different... of course if possible by route one, go for it, but otherwise the other route does not preclude happiness.

Philosophically speaking, life is affirmed either way —whether through joy or suffering, and in our existential world isn't living, having either meaning or purpose our highest craving? We want to become someone (purpose) or feel that life is worthwhile (meaning). I believe the two are at odds in many locations, but it might be too difficult to explain that here —short explanation: a focus on the destination (purpose) makes it hard to enjoy the surroundings (meaning), you'd get lost. Perhaps we eternally cycle between destinations and meanderings, but this also seems like a good way to accomplish nothing and experience little.

Yet ironically, I feel that I have only described myself. I have accomplished nothing and also experienced little, yet I am content or am delusional enough (or clear-sighted enough) to believe myself so. Again, regardless, the experience is the same to me —whether it is delusional or not, I feel "happy" (content?).

This frees me enough to be able to allot more time into thinking of solutions to the problems of this era. Massive problems. Dragons. The world has become all play again to me; I've arrived at childhood —danger is no longer dangerous, it is excitement, problems are no longer problems, they are challenges, success and gratification of my wants are the last thing I want because it means the game is over and there won't be anything left to do. In other words, I want nothing and find joy everywhere. Even as I write this I smile because it is absurd to understand my absurdity.

I think we ought to take ourselves less seriously until we've figured out what's going on in our brains and hearts and souls. Then we'll be able to understand what to make of ourselves, without which we can never truly do anything with purpose (since we cannot properly conceive of our purpose without knowing ourselves first) nor can anything take a definite meaning (since meaning implies that we take things seriously and give substance to actions and events, but we should not take things seriously until we've first understood what to make of ourselves). I suppose the flaw in these arguments is that I am serious about what I'm saying.

Our society values seriousness —all artifices cease to be important when seriousness is taken away; the carrot-stick approach that society takes to coddle people into work (think: fear of being homeless, without the means for living, of a comfortable life) can only work if we take these threats seriously. Comfort is lauded as a supreme value —what if comfort is not as desirable as we make it out to be? What if physical, mental, and emotional agitation is preferable to comfort? The artifices drop; life reveals itself once more —we become humans again, free to do as we please, not restrained by the innumerable number of false barriers that society erects to trap us in an imaginary fence of anxiety.

Now, believe me —I get anxious, but not as a result of external precepts, but only because of my internal ones, and its by my internal precepts that I am capable and willing to be alone; as I add more external precepts, I will be less capable of being alone, but I will also be more integrated in society, most people start here and work towards creating internal precepts. I stand on the logical antithesis; with only internal precepts and no external precepts. We'll help each other —it's best if we meet in the middle.

Internal rules that govern my behavior:—For Will to fill out for next week

External rules that govern people's behavior: (social norms, manners, proper conduct, etc.)—For You (or me)

P. S.

This week has been so hectic, so I apologize that this is late! (also added an unsubscribe button below, let me know if it doesn't work)

modernphilosophy.org

Something of the Week: 3 Primary Fears

Hi there,

I couldn't narrow my thoughts into a theme (pretty typical of me), so I decided the best theme would be say that I'm sending "something" every week —whatever it is... expect the usual: life, philosophy, relationships, observations, theories, thoughts.


Goal: Explain what it means to be a human.

Philosophically, a human life is spent...

  1. Coping with the anxiety of death
  2. Coping with the anxiety of our place in the universe
  3. Coping with the anxiety of the relationships we have / don't have.

Each of these 3 are the essential unknowns, there is uncertainty, and it is because of this uncertainty that these remain the perpetual unmitigated human fears. Since we don't know for certain the answers to the dilemmas that arise in each of them, our brains attempt to either:

  1. Deal with the uncertainty better
  2. Create more certainty through thoughts

Option 1 is either through birth or repeated exposure to uncertainty that begins to mitigate the response in the amygdala, usually not pursued by the majority of people.

Therefore, we're left with Option 2, where the danger is of course creating false certainties to arrive at a mitigation of our fear rather than pursuing better certainties that don't fully mitigate our fears.

By understanding that these are our core fears, we can begin to analyze our decisions as a process of escapism from one of these core areas. What are we doing that is easier because it avoids the question of truly confronting these primary fears?

Coping with death is a process of dealing with solitude and whether we can come to an acceptance of ourselves while we are alone. The reason being that we all confront our deaths essentially alone —therefore it is our capacity for being alone that reflects our capacity for dealing with death.

Coping with our place in the universe is primarily an existential fear. What do we do? What is our function, purpose? It's a statement of how we ought to fill our time and where that will take us. What is our role to play in the world stage? This fear is the essential uncertainty of a how an individual copes with the specific era they are born into, whether it be a time of war, peace, or otherwise, we're not given a choice for an era we'd be better suited to: we are given the one we are given with its allotted roles and limited options for creating new ones based on the trends of the time period.

Coping with our relationships is simply a reflection of our sexual merit as animals. Are we attractive and lovable or not? Even non-sexual relationships seem to be an essential way of coping with the sexual ones. We're concerned about our worth as mates.

Takeaway: Life essentially boils down to our ability to confront these three fears repeatedly until we've "resolved them". They are never ultimately resolved, but to the degree that we continually work on them and find resolutions to the specific demands is the degree that we are living as humans. It's our mutual fears on these levels that connect us to each other —we are moved by stories of men and women confronting their deaths, existence, and relationships.

Ask yourself: how do you confront uncertainty? —some methods are better than others, a look into the methodology can inform you on whether you're participating in escapism or otherwise.

P.S.

Happy November! Working on refining my thoughts more...

modernphilosophy.org

Quote of the Weeks:

This newsletter was formerly called "Quote of the Week", but has since been renamed "Something of the Week" to allow for more creative freedom on my part. For previous qotws, click here.

DECEMBER 3RD, 2018: Nihilism

NOVEMBER 27TH, 2018: Contradictions

NOVEMBER 20TH, 2018: Morality and Amorality

NOVEMBER 13TH, 2018: Seriousness

NOVEMBER 4TH, 2018: 3 Primary Fears

JULY 2ND - OCTOBER 29TH, 2018: Quotes of the Week