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Tag Archives: circumstance

The relevance of thought must be obtained (and sometimes wrested) from the circumstance we exist in.

We could then best describe thought as distillation than as searching. To talk about the inner working of thought, we must deal in heuristics (as opposed to, say, universality or validation or platonic enlightenment). Heuristics are the mechanics of circumstances. Heuristics are circumstance-navigation. What does that say to us about knowledge? Read More »

Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed” goes around praising Einstein for not dabbling in relativism:

Ainsetain had known that; with endearing caution he had admitted that he believed his physics did, indeed, describe reality.

Which supposedly means words are all about truth and not about word games. All faith goes to truth. This even comes {facepalm} from a general-semanticist, someone who few pages latter will allude to the uselessness of quantifying direct experience.

Do Einstein’s Relativity describe reality? It does. So does Newton. And so does a Monet painting. Or a love letter. And Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring. Or brown-journalism. And lies. What’s special, at all, about this? Read More »

The understanding of human beings is vastly taken to be powerful, a source of power, the thing that makes us as a species “Kings over the Earth”. We are not kings. And to understand does not mean you can do anything. It just means that, if you could, you would be more likely to know you could.

Understanding is just a kind of familiarity. It just means you are used to something. You’ve done it times enough that you can reasonably expect to be able to cope with most of the outcomes.

There are some times, though, where different people, with different life histories, can compare their familiarity in matters where their experiences had little in common to one another. How exactly does this work? Read More »

I was about to read Tom Slee‘s book review about Akerlof and Kranton’s Identity Economics and in the very introduction there was this summary of the individualism X collectivism issue (so i felt compelled to type down some of my own thoughts about this before i allowed the review’s ideas to contaminate my thinking. Maybe after i read it, i’ll make a second post):

For the fifty years since Gary Becker first applied economic techniques to social issues such as dysfunctional families and crime, the social sciences have been inhabited by two solitudes, seemingly incapable of communication. Sociologists and cultural theorists talk of ideology, identity, hegemony and discourse; economists deal in rational choice, individual tastes, incentives and the mathematics of game theory. Sociologists suggest that society shapes the individual; economists that individual traits shape society. Many economists come from a right-wing and market-friendly outlook; mainstream sociology has a more left-wing perspective.

My first reaction is: BOTH! Individuals shape collectives at the same time that they are being shaped by other collectives. Nowadays we are almost always involved in games consisting of so much more than one individual and one collective: Not feedback loops, but feedback mazes. And still, there is asymmetry between individual and society and we can ask: How does this difference work? My answer is context-setting. Read More »

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