All posts by anomalogue

Reenworld thyself

Let’s stop distorting the meaning of subjectivity by situating it within an essentially objective world.

But that objective world within which we understand ourselves to be situated is produced by our subjectivity, through its own participation in reality.

It is reality within which we are situated. Objectivity (and the objective truth we know about it) is merely what we instaurate — discover-create — through this participation in reality.

To confuse reality with objective truth — and nearly everyone does this to some degree — is to succumb to misapotheosis: the confusion ourselves and our objective comprehension of truth, with God and God’s own comprehension of reality within Godself. We are a mere image of God, a finite incarnation of infinite more-than-being.


The objective truth we can talk about is a tiny subset of the objective truth we experience; the objective truth is a tiny subset of the subjectivity we experience; the subjectivity we experience is a tiny subset of the subjectivity a person can potentially experience; and the totality of subjectivities a person can potentially experience is a tiny subset of reality. And reality is a subset of God’s infinite more-than-being.


The reworking of ontological topologies within a panentheistic enception changes a soul and its enworldment in inconceivable ways. This reworking is religious insight.


Yet again, Arthur C. Clarke’s famous maxim comes to mind: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Religion is the most advanced technology, beyond all technological advancement.

It’s not that religion rejects or denies magic. It’s that religious insight renders magic boring and it’s that  “spiritual” magic-mongering (more often than not) stunts religious insight.

Bad faith pandemic

The original reason I picked up David Cooper’s Existentialism: A Reconstruction, was my recognized that the aggressive spread and intensification of Progressivist identitarianism is a bad faith pandemic.

The passage below, from distills the problem precisely:

The thesis of Being and Nothingness is that conflict is the way of Being-for-others of people who are in bad faith. The implication is that people who ‘convert’ from bad faith will, and must, relate to one another in a different way, that of ‘intersubjective solidarity’. This implied thesis is, I suggest, equivalent to that of reciprocal freedom. That is, the claim that my freedom depends on my ‘collaborating’ in the freedom of others is a restatement of the claim that I exist in good faith only through adopting the perspective of ‘intersubjective solidarity’, and abandoning the ‘oppressive’ attitudes which obtain in the regime of conflict.

The reasoning is as follows. Bad faith, we know, is first and foremost the view of oneself as object-like, as something In-itself or present-to-hand. This view is a false one: in particular it is a failure to recognize one’s capacities of existential freedom. Now we also know that the primary mode of bad faith is ‘the predominance of the Other’: the tendency to view oneself through the eyes of others, as just one more series of events in the universe. However, and crucially, it is only because I regard others in this objectifying manner that, looking at myself through their eyes, I regard myself in this manner too. If others are objects for me, I am an object for them — and hence, via the prism they provide for self-understanding, an object for myself as well. Having broken with ‘intersubjective solidarity’, I receive back from others the objectifying conception I form of them, an ‘image of myself as the Other’. Through treating others as alien, I become alienated from myself, and my freedom becomes an ‘oppressed freedom’ through my effective denial of others’ freedom. This is what Sartre meant by saying that ‘in oppression, the oppressor oppresses himself.’


A person indoctrinated in Progressivism will seek self through identity.

As the Progressivist poses it, implicit in the question “Who am I?” or “Who are you?” is an answer of the form “What am I?” or “What are you?”

The progressivist preface “Speaking as [an identity]” implies a “speaking to [an identity]”. Even when this preface is not explicitly voiced, it is implied, and it is felt.

And this identitarianism is not only for public political action. Insistence that the personal is political” ensures that the Progressivist is permanently insulated from others, interpersonal relationship and, most of all, any sense of self.

But according to Progressivism the emptiness, hopelessness, numbness, nihilism, anxiety and anomie experienced by so many Progressivists (and their children) is inflicted by those non-believing nonconformists who refuse to adopt the identity theories Progressivism to accept the identities they confuse for themselves and to behave in the ways Progressivists demand.

Of course, it is obvious all the suffering is caused by the bad faith of Progressivism itself — just as the torments of Christian fundamentalists are caused not by the devil nor by the wicked, but by their own hellish dogma — but there is no arguing with fundamentalists.

Freedom system

From Cooper’s Existentialism: A Reconstruction:

‘In the end,’ writes Marcel, ‘there must be an absolute commitment’, and what
‘matters most’ is the ‘fidelity’ demanded by this commitment. This squares with his earlier rejection of commitment to principles as ‘idolatrous’, since the commitment now in view is to persons — to other people and to God. (Like Buber, Marcel thinks that fidelity to people is intelligible only through a similar relation to God. …)

Corresponding to this commitment to others is a further form of availability. Earlier, unavailability was understood intellectually, as a ‘hardening’ of a person’s descriptive and evaluative categories. What matters more to Marcel
is unavailability to other people. This is ‘rooted in alienation’ from them, an inability to allow them a ‘presence’ or ‘influx’ in one’s life. They are mere ‘cases’ or ‘objects’. ‘When I am with an unavailable person, I am conscious of being with someone for whom I do not exist.’ The last volumes of Proust’s novel depict, in Marcel’s opinion, a coterie of people chronically unavailable to each other, obsessively enclosed in their private worlds as Proust himself was in his cork-lined room.

The remedy for such unavailability is commitment: for it is only through this that others come to ‘have a hold’ on me. And it is through this ‘hold’, and the reciprocal one which I have on them, that our lives interpenetrate and we become truly ‘present’ to one another. But what are the constituents of this reciprocal commitment? In part, the mutual exercise of the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity. In charity or ‘generosity’, for instance, I must be pennanently ‘on call’ for the other person, in case he is in need. More interesting is the point made, in very Buberian terms, in this passage: ‘if I treat the Thou as a He [or any identity], I reduce the other to … nature: an animated object … If I treat the other as Thou, I treat him and apprehend him qua freedom … what is more, I help him … to be freed, I collaborate with his freedom.

Availability, then, is a reciprocal relation through which each party is committed not only to treating the other as a free person, but to enabling and ‘collaborating with’ his freedom. This has an important implication. A person can only realize himself’ qua freedom’ as a participant in such reciprocal relations. For, outside of them, he is without ‘collaborators’ to ‘help him … to be freed’. This is what Marcel emphasizes when he writes that in contrast to the ‘captive soul’, the one which is available to others ‘knows that … its freedom … does not belong to itself.

With remarks like these, it is clear that Marcel is in the territory not only of Buber, but of Sartre who, we know, also states that a person’s freedom
‘depends entirely upon the freedom of others’.

Existentialism was conceived in the years preceding the Second World War, when the public became a They, a mass of “people chronically unavailable to each other”.

When folks get woke or red-pilled, they lose availability.

That is how I experience politics.

That is why I hate ideologies: They kill the souls of past, present and future friends and turn them into body-snatched aliens.

Hostility system

I think the big difference between me and many people I know is that I see war as caused by general cultural conditions, rather than by any particular faction.

The cultural conditions leading to war produce mutually-antagonistic factions, which naturally regard one another with suspicion.

Each faction’s partly-understood, mostly-imagined reaction to the other provokes a counter-reaction. That counter-reaction, partly-understood and mostly-imagined by the other, provokes another counter-reaction. Back-and-forth it goes, like a two-stroke engine, fueled by contempt, lubricated with slippery-slope grease. Provocation drives provocation. Antipathy feeds antipathy. Paranoia justifies paranoia.

Each side is goaded into acting the villainous part the other casts. Eventually act becomes actual. Each faction’s darkest imaginings become prescient: they knew it all along.


Only by viewing the situation from the outside — from outside the perspectives of culture’s hostility system itself — can the absurdity of the system be seen. From either of the hostility system’s perspectives, though, the struggle is clearly one of good and evil.

If we implicitly identify with one of the factions within the system — one of the only possible “sides” one can reasonably take, given the threat the other poses — we are possessed — not only by that faction — not only by the hostility — but most of all by the self-destructive absurdity.


Susan believes in reincarnation. She thinks in a past life I was traumatized by war.

I also believe in past lives, except those past lives are those of authors I have read, who experienced the before, during and after of war. They accepted my hospitality and joined my soul, and now they live in me. It is from their vantage that I can see this hostility system from the outside, at least partially, at least some of the time.


Yes, this is simplistic.

Yes, it is far more complicated than this.

But reality is always more complicated than truth.

Well-designed truths make smart trade-offs that cut through complication to give us clean access to what matters most.

One-siderists accuse me of being a both-siderist. But that is the furthest thing from the truth. I’m rejecting the whole hostility system and all its idiotic parts and fluids. I reject its “sides”, its constricted perspectives, its brainless passions, its ideological self-deceptions, its dark prophesies. I refuse to become a standardized interchangeable part of the system — an identity, or a bolted together identity intersectional subsystem.

I’m a neither-siderest, as all decent, self-possessed souls should be right now.

I would be ashamed to cooperate with this nonsense, and I am ashamed of the identical nobodies who have given over to it and have adopted system-compliant linguistic habits, behaviors and attitudes.

Eventually, these nobodies — (Are you one of those?) — will try to pretend they were not really part of this. But nobody ever really is. That is what cooperating is, essentially: wholehearted unrealness.

Faith and belief

I remember years ago feeling perplexed by the question of whether belief and faith were synonymous, or somehow distinct.

My philosophical-designerly praxis has, over time, induced in me a faith in which, by which, through which I spontaneously experience a sharp, clear distinction between faith and belief. That experience causes me to believe that faith and belief are related, but distinct.


Number me among the faithful. But if you’re numbering believers, count me out.


  1. The fabric of faith is delicate, unless it is reinforced with texts.
  2. The wrong question can tear faith.
  3. Few of us want to know what we cannot know, and most of us want to not know. So, if you already have your answer, don’t ask.
  4. Etiquette is wise: some incuriosity is prudent, and some concealment is virtuous.
  5. Nobody wants you to bring your whole self to work, and those who invite it want only the part of you that is redundant and countable.
  6. Even when faith is woven between the lines of belief, the thread of faith disintegrates long before beliefs give out.
  7. Nothing is more enviable — nor envied — than authentic faith; hence, false faiths.


Truth is what we experience through faith. Belief is what we assert about the truth we experience.


I woke up last night with an insight: fun is the objectification of the good life.

But the good life is essentially subjective.

By “essentially subjective” I mean that it is an participatory existential state, not a comprehensible event on a timeline with a start and finish.

This bit from the back cover of Blondie’s debut album impressed me as a child: “Blondie hates fun, but they have so much of it that they decided it’s time to unload the real meaning of fun on this LP.” Condemning entire categories of experience is hilarious. When I declare time as my least favorite dimension, I’m stealing this humor from Blondie.

Blondie | by kevin dooley

Sense of nothingness

We have a deficient sense of nothingness.


When we lose vision, we do not see blackness. Instead, we see boiling chrome.

When we lose a leg, instead of numbness, we are tormented by an aching phantom limb.

When we lose our hearing, rather than submersion in silence, we hear intolerable hypersonic ringing.

When we lose our sense of smell, the world does not become odorless. It reeks of burning rubber, sulphur and brimstone.

When we lose our sense of taste, our mouths and tongue are filled with bitterness.


When we lose sense of purpose, we do not become serene or care-free.

We feel ennui.

When we lose capacity to love, we do not become detached or objective.

On the contrary, this lovelessness is depression.

When we lack understanding, we don’t experience ignorance.

Instead, we experience a combination of apprehension and intuitive omniscience. We don’t want to know the particulars — we already comprehend them in principle.

(Only if we press against this ignorant omniscience, or if it presses on us, will it break. And when it breaks we are rewarded with disorientation, perplexity, hellish angst… and the possibility of new conception.)


When we lose our sense of self, we don’t become selfless. Instead, we become nebulas of nihilism and ressentiment. The phantom self seethes with hostility and plots vengeful dismantlement of its miscreator.

When we lose our sense of world, we don’t become otherworldly nor innocent. Instead, we become paranoid residents of a phantom world — a realm of concealed demonic machinations, a tangle of puppets and puppet strings, traceable to a baleful beyond.


Wherever we lack a sense of God, we mistake ourselves for gods. We succumb to misapotheosis. We believe ourselves final judges of what is good and evil, of what is what is “ok” and “not ok”.


Wherever we know God we are of God, toward God, participating in God.

We dance the God with God.

Some of us count and perform steps, hoping they will smooth out and become a fluid motion.

Others of us intuit the dance and spontaneously move with the dance, hoping the movements will gain articulate precision.

This dance is done together, or not at all, with synesse.

Alternative Exodus

In my alternative Exodus, God gives Moses a bill of Ten Rights.

The Israelites still wander about in the wilderness for forty years, craving the relative luxury of Egyptian servitude, but they refuse to invade Canaan because they do not want to displace its indigenous people. Instead they politely settle unoccupied regions in the wilderness. Their new non-European wilderness neighbors welcome them with casseroles and pound cakes. All live together peacefully.

The Prophets are the conscience of the people, the champions of the Ten Rights. They champion the Ten Rights, not only in letter, but, more importantly, in spirit.

Guided by the spirit of the Ten Rights, the Prophets discover and condemn successively subtle infringements. When violent infringements of the Ten Rights are finally conquered, the prophets discover and condemn material infringements. When material infringements are stopped, then speech infringements are condemned. Then infringements of conscious thought are stopped.

Finally, the prophets put a stop even to infringements of unconscious thought.

In this way, God is understood to have given to the Israelites the Infinite Commandment. And now all may think, feel and behave identically, in accordance with God’s infinite tolerance.

Ronald Dworkin’s “Liberalism”

Ronald Dworkin’s essay “Liberalism” from the essay collection Public and Private Morality has, so far, been a revelation on the order of Mouffe’s Democratic Paradox.

This passage captures a proposed key difference between liberalism and conservatism, both of which, Dworkin acknowledges, desire a conception of liberty, but different conceptions. I think he nails the essential difference:

What does it mean for the government to treat its citizens as equals? That is, I think, the same question as the question of what it means for the government to treat all its citizens as free, or as independent, or with equal dignity. In any case, it is a question that has been central to political theory at least since Kant.

It may be answered in two fundamentally different ways. The first supposes that government must be neutral on what might be called the question of the good life. The second supposes that government cannot be neutral on that question, because it cannot treat its citizens as equal human beings without a theory of what human beings ought to be. I must explain that distinction further. Each person follows a more-or-less articulate conception of what gives value to life. The scholar who values a life of contemplation has such a conception; so does the television-watching, beer- drinking citizen who is fond of saying ‘This is the life’, though of course he has thought less about the issue and is less able to describe or defend his conception.

The first theory of equality supposes that political decisions must be, so far as is possible, independent of any particular conception of the good life, or of what gives value to life. Since the citizens of a society differ in their conceptions, the government does not treat them as equals if it prefers one conception to another, either because the officials believe that one is intrinsically superior, or because one is held by the more numerous or more powerful group. The second theory argues, on the contrary, that the content of equal treatment cannot be independent of some theory about the good for man or the good of life, because treating a person as an equal means treating him the way the good or truly wise person would wish to be treated. Good government consists in fostering or at least recognizing good lives; treatment as an equal consists in treating each person as if he were desirous of leading the life that is in fact good, at least so far as this is possible.

This distinction is very abstract, but it is also very important. I shall now argue that liberalism takes, as its constitutive political morality, the first conception of equality.

“The first theory of equality supposes that political decisions must be, so far as is possible, independent of any particular conception of the good life, or of what gives value to life.”


These conceptions, in my view, reach back behind opinions of what is good, to the very conceptions that shape our enworldment — which include those fundamental conceptions that direct our attention, shape our interpretations, invest what we conceive and perceive with relevance, guide our choices, animate our actions and so on.

Liberalism specifically defends and promotes existential freedom.


Progressivism is not liberal, because it sees its ideal of social justice as justifying — requiring, in fact — imposition of a certain ideological beliefs that support a society where marginal groups (or at least progressivism’s canonical marginal groups ) can safely assume all people will view them as normal and equal — if not more equal than others.

This, very obviously, is unjust. Or at least, it is obviously unjust to those who are not confined to progressivism’s own limited understanding of the world and, worse progressivism’s own limited understanding of its own intellectual limitations.


Back at the height of the George W. Bush regime, I got in an argument with a conservative over gay marriage. He kept insisting that he had to “vote his conscience.” That conscience was a conservative one, but to me he seemed to be a bad American. I still think that. He wanted to limit all Americans to his view of a good life. Well, fuck you, Ron. You’re not qualified to limit how other people live and who they become. You’re not smart enough, deep enough or moral enough to make that judgment. Nobody is. Your own holy book says it.

Similarly, these days, progressivists all seem to feel entitled to make that same kind of judgment, prioritizing their preferred vision of justice over that of others who are subjected to their vision. They can see nothing wrong with workers being required to attend and consent to DiAngelo “antiracist” harangues, and to be made to performatively affirm all kinds of sociological theories they find repugnant or even anathema to their ideal of the good life. They don’t see why people hate it so much, so they’re just going to continue subjecting people to it, whether those people like it or not. Bad Americans!

When the tide turns and someone else’s ideal of the good life is imposed on progressivists, they now have no principled objection to make.

See you in church, asshole.

Liberal space, liberal annihilation

Liberalism opens cultural space for pluralism to fill.

Liberalism must never be allowed to become annihilation of all that might fill that open space.

If this latter happens — if all particular beliefs are corroded and eaten away by fanatical skepticism or battered with dogmatic anti-dogmatism — not only does liberalism become nihilistic — it becomes a nihilistic monism, antipluralism, illiberalism — a negation of itself into a something worse than anything it negates.

(So says an exnihilist, who wishes to tap the nothingness, and allow epiphanic somethingness to pour in.)

Real and ideal

Bruno Latour: “What is real resists.

Reality most conspicuously resists our ideals.

What do we do when reality and ideal diverge?

We can be incurious, and ignore the gap.

We can be ideological, and condemn those who make it hard to ignore the gap.

We can impersonate gods, and condemn the gap itself.

We can be industrious, and reshape the world to conform to our ideals.

We can be reflective, and reshape our ideals to conform to the world.

We can be designerly, and reshape the world and our ideals together.

Design is not a praxis.

Design is praxis.


We are responsible for our operative faith — for the underpinning conceptions that shape our interpretations, animate our thoughts and direct our intentions — and to the degree we become capable of philosophical reflection we become more responsible.


We are nihilists because we are afraid of the consequences of a meaningful world.

Can I prove this? No.

Can I doubt it? No.

Can you doubt it? That’s between you, yourself and your witness.

T. M. Krishna!

Sunday, Susan and I got to attend a lec-dem by the great Carnatic vocalist T. M. Krishna. We were especially excited that he was accompanied by violinist, Akkarai Subhalakshmi.

I was most excited about the musical performance part of the event, but it turns out the lecture part might have more lasting impact.

His lecture was about the history of raga forms, and his own views on the degradation of raga forms from an organic aesthetically-guided musicality to a synthetic computational model. The great loss, according to T. M. Krisha, is the ability to spontaneously feel the belonging of any part of the raga to whole. The synthetic ragas must mechanically repeat phrasings to maintain its re-cognitive character.

What shocked and excited me about what he was saying is that this precisely is a distinction I have been trying to make in my own philosophical work, distinguishing between synthetic ideas — which must be explicitly recalled and applied in constructing thoughts — versus conceptive ideas which work spontaneously and produce givens: givens of perception, of interpretation and of thought. The acquisition of a new conceptive capacity gives us new givens from nowhere, expanding our ontological range, thus enlarging our enworldment and enabling us to accommodate more truth.

I feel certain that my profound philosophical — or better, praxic — kinship with T. M. Krishna’s accounts for my instant love of his music. I conceive his music as an auditory embodiment of the very ideas that animate my thinking.

India is a living superset of every possible philosophical idea humanity will ever conceive, so I am overjoyed, but not at all surprised, to have reconceived an Indian enworldment..

I dug through T. M. Krishna’s book, A Southern Music and found some of the content from his lecture:

In the early eighteenth century, Venkatamakhin’s descendent Muddu Venkatamakhin decided to artificially create ragas for the remaining fifty-three of the seventy-two possible melas computed by his ancestor Venkatamakhin. He used the same method that had been used to create the raga deshisimharavam. This meant that all seventy-two melas were functional. The raganga raga needed to have only the seven svaras. It was around this time that arohana and avarohana came to be used to define the melodic structure of a raga. This created artificial janya ragas that were formulated from the non-functional melas. As these ragas had no aesthetic component to their identity, the simplest way to describe them was to mention the svaras that appeared in their arohana and avarohana. These svaras were after all based on the computed svarasthanas. This was another important marker in raga history. Even under the constructed melas, Muddu Venkatamakhin placed older, naturally evolved ragas. He not only gave names to all the fifty-three raganga ragas that he constructed, but also altered the names of older raganga ragas. This was done to accommodate the ingenious syllabo-numeric memory system that was evolved to identify the number of the mela from the name of the raganga raga, a system called the katapayadi samkhya.

As I move to the next major development, I must point out that the exercise of computation resulted in ragas being reinterpreted in terms of only the svaras they contained, rather than the aesthetic form of their melodic movements. This is also revealed in the use of arohana and avarohana as the defining characteristic of ragas. We must realize that once these systems came into practice, they were also being placed upon ragas that had evolved organically and were not determined by the arohana or avarohana. All ragas were being looked at through the prism of the arohana and avarohana, thus deconstructing their natural melodic features. …

Ragas that evolved from melodic phraseology developed through time and remained cohesively held together by the aesthetic cognition of unity. These ragas may have seven svaras or even less. They cannot be purely defined by the sequence of the svaras in the arohana or avarohana. Examples of this are surati, ritigaula, anandabhairavi, gaula and saveri. …

In the eighteenth century, we come across another treatise called Sangraha Chudamani (1750–1800). We know very little about the treatise or its author Govinda (not to be confused with Govinda Dikshita). This treatise completely sterilized the concept of raga and mela. Govinda combined the ideas of sampurna along with arohana and avarohana. In doing so, he decided that the ragas that held the name of the mela must have all the seven svaras in sequential order both in the arohana and avarohana. He also created a new term for the melakarta: meladhikara (the raga that has authority over the mela). Most ragas that evolved naturally did not have svaras in linear sequence and could not be meladhikaras. Only six older ragas were given the meladhikara status. Older natural ragas were listed within artificial melas whose meladhikara was a synthetic raga. The status of the raga that held the title for the mela had thus changed from being the most popular raga to the one that had authority over the mela…

With these conceptual changes to raga and the adaptation of many forms of contrived svara sequences as ragas, we are faced with an aesthetic challenge. Do all these different types of ragas have the abstract nature that is a creation of the raga’s musical heritage, phraseology and its psychological recognition? An aware listener can sense this by listening to just one phrase. In an artificial raga, the musician and the listener have to constantly connect with all the svaras present and their sequence. They cannot transcend this level of engagement and move to the real level of aesthetics of phrase forms. Why is such transcendence important?

Let me suggest an answer to that question. A raga belongs not to the literal but to the inferred. The inferred comes alive when the perceiver can be invited into the sound of the raga, which is born from every svara, every phrase, every phrase connection and the raga as a whole. This experience is only possible when the listener does not need to be reminded of the technical nature of the svara or its sequence. Synthetic ragas lack the abstractive nature both in form and in the way they can be received.

Selves and projects

If Cooper’s ideal Existentialist is right, that a life project invests an I with cohesive selfhood, it can be extrapolated that a shared life project invests a We with cohesive selfhood.

Pushing it further, a project that transcends the comprehension of I but offers it a participatory role, might intuitively convey belonging in a society, but do so without an explicitly defined project.

Every self is a society. It is selves and societies all the way down, sahib — and it is selves and societies all the way up. But are they cohesive, purposeful ones? Should they be?


If, when asking “Why?” you require a response that begins with “Because”, you are committing a category mistake. Until you learn to ask differently, no response will satisfy you.

Justifications only link What and How to Why, it doesn’t yield Why. Why precedes justification — if it exists at all.

If you are asking “Why?”, this indicates that Why is absent.

Polycentric design praxis

Here is where I am right now: I want to integrate polycentric design practice (design for multiple interacting participants in a defined social system) with my philosophical project, which reconceives philosophy as a genre of design — a genre of polycentric design. This integration of practice and theory yields a polycentric design praxis.

This polycentric design praxis is, itself, a polycentric design “artifact”, a way of being-in-the-world: an enworldment.


These two projects are already joined at the root.

A radical design solution, to the degree it is radical entails philosophical work. Such solutions reach beyond mere ingenuity, by reframing the problem it is meant to solve.

Moderately radical solutions may use metaphor to semantically remap the problem landscape and to find a new standpoint from which one can view the problem in a new perspective, and approach it from new angles. Essentially, metaphor puts existing conceptions to work in new contexts, not only for the designer, but also for the participant in the design. But repurposing of conceptions through metaphor is only one move available to designers and thinkers. Some claim it is the only one, but this claim says more about the limits of the claimant than the limits of possibility. Truly radical thinking involves finding new conceptive movements through direct and tacit interactions with reality — nonverbal intuitions. The wordbound are stopped short where language ends, equally unable to originate or understand what cannot be assembled from dictionary definitions. Much of value can be made inside these limits, but the most important advances in human being happen when linguistic limits are transcended, through religious or artistic activity. The words come later, and new metaphoric material for word-tinkerers. All that being said, though — metaphor does make a design more usable, and the most successful radical designs use metaphor or simple conceptual models to do the reconceptive work of innovation.

Any innovation rooted in reconceptions beyond the verbal will be perceived, not as design, but as art. Likewise, any intellectual innovation rooted in reconceptions beyond the verbal will be perceived, not as philosophy, but as religion. Untamed art (that is, art that cannot be explained) and genuine religion (that is, religion that does not explain) inflicts perplexity on wordworlders.

My philosophical faith was forged in design practice. My worst perplexities come from my worklife. I see them arising from the unique requirements to conceptually align with diverse people. I’ve come to understand (that is, to reconceive) the strange kinds of pain human-centered designers suffer as collective perplexities, very similar to those felt by scientists during scientific crises and to those experienced by philosophers who discover their radical differences. And, I should add, to a culture who has fractured and factionalized and cannot reconcile its difference, because both sides are indubitably right, morally and epistemically) and face existential threats from the other.

Cultivating a practice of moral-epistemic irony toward myself either gives me a uniquely helpful approach to diagnosing and treating such group perplexities, or it gives me a smug and alienated claim to superiority.

What a mess of a post. I’ll stop now.

Political comb-over

To demand radical change that will never actually happen in order to refuse responsibility to participate in reforms that could actually happen — but which require real risk, real effort and real sacrifice and imply real culpability for participation in systems of oppression.

It’s much, much, much easier to accept generalized culpability for minor, possibly-nonexistent offenses and to surrender make-believe privileges, than to actually give up one’s own moral narcissism (the conceit that one is “on the right side of history”) and one’s own cushy and lucrative spots in real hierarchies (“earned” through buying a degree from an elite university) that makes “hard calls” that force lowly people to shoulder all the tradeoff burden of one’s own institution.

I call this revolutionary stance used to preserve the comfy status quo “the political comb-over”.

Just go back to being an open bloodsucker. Read Ayn Rand and rejoice in who you really are. Own it. You’re not an abolitionist, or a civil rights champion, or even an ordinary, decent leftist. You’re a self-interested careerist who uses politics to get what you want in the market. There are worse things to be — for instance a self-deluded moral narcissist!

Just let your bald scalp shine forth.

Contrarian thoughts on the public

Based on my understanding of David Cooper’s characterization of Existentialism, I believe two of my strong convictions may be somewhat heterodox within Existentialism.

First, Existentialism should never seek to be a norm. I do not believe many members of the public ought to pursue the Existentialist ideal. Rather, I think most should play their public roles according to the ethnomethodical rules of their various social settings, as long as doing so allows them to live reasonably rational, effective, meaningful lives. If things are going well for a society, nobody should be condemned for identifying themselves with their social role. If the everyday enworldment of the public isn’t broken, everyone should be encouraged (though not required) to adopt it and live by it.

Second, existential responsibility is not only, or even primarily to oneself. Existentialists should not treat the public as a threat to evade. The public should be seen as its responsibility. If the popular, everyday enworldment of the public is broken — that is, if the life it affords is unreasonable irrational, ineffective or nihilistic — it is Existentialism’s responsibility — its very raison d’etre — to repair or redesign it.


I continue to view philosophy as a sort of secular esoterism, responsible for maintaining, reforming or remaking the various exoteric enworldments available to the public. Most of these enworldments are small and local (to a social circle, an organization or even a gathering or project), but sometimes responsibilities expand to larger scales.