Philosophy should disappear

I had a thought last week I want to record for later use.

Short version.

  1. Great design disappears, and becomes an invisible extension of a user’s will.
  2. According to my belief that philosophy should be regarded as a kind of design, a philosophy should disappear once it is understood.
  3. This accords with enneagram theory, that type Five (thinking) integrates toward Eight (instinct). To successfully design a philosophy that disappears into the background of instinctive second-nature is to “go to eight”.

Some notes.

  1. Many people have observed the fact that great design disappears.
    1. Certainly, beautifully designed things are pleasing to those who place them in the foreground and admire their design — but in use these designed things must disappear into the background of a user’s attention and become an extension of the user’s will. (Of the many balances and tradeoffs designers make, this is one of the hardest.)
    2. A merely competent design is one that can be figured out. The user must stop and think (and in so doing foreground the design) but once the problem is resolved, the design can be backgrounded again.
    3. One of the most important marks of design excellence is making verbalization unnecessary. The only words that should be running through a user’s mind are ones connected with the user’s task. Any words pertaining to recalling or figuring out how to use the designed thing is an obtrusive interruption to the dialogue.
  2. Philosophies tend to be regarded as idea systems that help us resolve problems.
    1. This might be the result of the view that philosophy is about the objects of philosophical work, and the neglect of the subjects doing the thinking.
    2. Most philosophical work is created for the consumption of other philosophers. This situation is analogous to how computers were once primarily built for other computer professionals. As long as this was the case, they remained largely opaque to lay users.
    3. Most philosophy is engineered to solve problems not designed to help people understand (and prevent problems from arising).
  3. I think the big difference between an Eight-integrated Five and an Eight is that the former designed his own second-nature, where the Eight works with innate and passively-acquired instincts.


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