Category Archives: Ideas

Worldview referendum

Our national elections are no longer about which person is most qualifed to lead or which candidate’s policies will work best in our pluralistic but unified nation. 

Increasingly, our elections are referendums to determine whose worldview defines our national identity, and consequently which of us are real Americans and which of us are imposters who wish to degrade or pervert it. 

Darkness, blindness, distraction, obscurity, remoteness

Perception can miss a reality because of darkness, blindness, distraction, hiddenness, or remoteness. 

  • Darkness is obsurement due to absence of medium. Absence of light makes dark. A vacuum makes silent. 
  • Blindness is a failure of reception. Failure of sight is blindness. Failure of hearing is deafness. 
  • Distraction is a failure of attention. The eye is stimulated but vision doesn’t see. The ear is stimulated, but hearing doesn’t hear. 
  • Hiddenness is a concealment of a reality by other realities. An object is hidden behind another object. A sound is masked by noise. 
  • Remoteness is a vanishing in distance. A faraway object is too tiny to see. A faraway sound is too faint to hear.

Understanding can also miss a reality because of darkness, blindness, distraction, obscurity, or remoteness. 

  • Darkness is an absence of medium — ignorance — lacking language or concepts needed to comprehend. 
  • Blindness is a failure of reception — stupidity — mental weakness. 
  • Distraction is a failure of attention — inattention — non-detection of patterns and connections. 
  • Hiddenness is a concealment of realities by other realities — confusion –interference between unconnected concepts and confusion of categories.
  • Remoteness is a concealment by distance — incuriosity — failure to see relevance. 

Trapped in transitivity

The root cause of today’s conflicts is what has been the root cause of conflict since the dawn of human existence: we do not know how to relate ourselves intellectually, practically or morally to that whom we are not. We do not understand metaphysical relation. 

Because we do not understand metaphysical relation we do not know how to think metaphysics, and we make the dire category mistake of thinking about metaphysics. Because… how else do you think anything besides thinking about it? And with mistaking failure to answer for receiving an answer we are trapped in transitivity, like a chicken trapped behind a chalkline. We do not know how to know otherwise, so we know the only way we know how, and that way is utterly inadequate. We cannot step over this chalkline, so we stand with our backs to it and look in the other direction. 

That is, we turn our backs on God. 

That is, we succumb to fundamentalism, that miscarriage of religion that cannot imagine it is not the epitome of religion. 

I am paraphrasing Levinas again. 

A nerd muses on love

Truth is a quality of assertions, not of that about which assertions are made. But the fact that an assertion can have degrees of truth with respect to reality is important. I believe this is what is meant when people insist that “there is a truth”: there is a reality about which true or untrue things can be said. 

However, I am a pluralist, and this complicates things. Worse, it is a metaphysical pluralism. This means that I believe in a reality about which true or false things can be said, but that this reality is not reducible to any truth or any number of truths. No matter how many true things are known about even the simplest realities, the truth of that reality is not exhausted. More true things remain to be said. 

Further, as truth is something that belongs to assertions we make, we can only assert the truths we know how to assert. What we know how to assert is limited by the conceptualizations we have at our disposal. Concepts are thought-making thoughts, used both for making realities intelligible and for making assertions made about realities intelligible. Understanding realities and understanding what others say about realities* is limited by the concepts we know how to use.

An average quantum physicist could tell Aristotle myriad new truths about a rock, but before Aristotle could understand these truths he would need several decades of conceptual infrastructure removed and several centuries of conceptual infrastructure bestowed. With this conceptual infrastructure he would grasp the truths of the rock and of the physicist*. 

The most unnerving thing about concepts is that until we know how to use it to understand realities, it is inconceivable. An inconceivable concept does not exist to us, until suddenly it does exist. And each time we acquire use of a new concept (perhaps in an effort to grasp some particular fact), the new concept provides us new understandings about myriad other realities, and maybe about reality itself, as a whole.

The best indication we have that something inconceivable exist to be understood is that someone tells us that it exists. But this is a strange faith, and a faith that rests on a foundation of another strange faith — that new truths can irrupt into our souls and change everything, all at once, in inconceivable ways. The entirety of existence can, at any moment, undergo a transfiguration that, prior to the new conception, is literally, technically inconceivable, instantly populating the world with new truths, new kinds of beings.

Mine is a metaphysic of profound and inexhaustible surprise.


* To understand a person, to know the truth of who someone is, we must understand the truths of the person. Both are inexhaustible. We can never finally know another person. The best we can do is to want to know and to want to keep knowing forever. 

This desire transfigures what could be taken as epistemological futility into an inexhaustible supply of new, surprising and sometimes disturbing things to learn.

File under “New Ways to Think about Love”.

Or file under “TL;DR”.


Understanding understanding understanding…

Understanding a person means understanding how that person understands — especially understanding how that person understands other people, and how they understand.

These meta-refractions and meta-reflections of understanding understandings of understandings can extend only so far, and this extent might be a good candidate for that vague quality we call “depth”.

Pluritarian Pluriversalism

To someone born into an autistic universe controlled by a single set of strictly logical natural laws, the experience of empathy and the subsequent revelation of an empathic pluriverse redefines the meaning of miracle, and of transcendence, and of religion.

Before, miracles were exceptions to the laws of nature. After, miracles are the irruption of something in the midst of nothingness: other minds, each with a world of its own — each with the power to change the meaning of one’s own world.

Before, transcendence was defined in terms of an infinite reality standing beyond the finite objective world.  After, transcendence was defined in terms of an infinite reality standing beyond myriad finite objective worlds, each rooted in the elastic mind of a subject.

Before, religion was the attempt for an individual to commune with a transcendent reality with miraculous powers. After, religion was still the attempt for an individual to commune with a transcendent reality with miraculous powers, but the change in conceptions of transcendence and miracle means that it is the individual and the individual’s world that is transcended, and this means the route to transcendence is not around the world and one’s neighbors, but through them and their worlds. The activity of loving, respecting and learning from one’s neighbors is intrinsic to loving, respecting and learning from the infinite God who cannot be confined to any one world, however vast.

Myriad worship practices are needed to worship myriad aspects of an inexhaustible and inexhaustibly meaningful God. By this understanding, empathy is worship.

Who really knows? (On epistemological privilege)

Epistemological privilege comes solely from working diligently and systematically to understand — accepting the help of qualified teachers, observing, asking questions, testing, revising and re-revising. This kind of effort is motivated by the realization that one’s current understanding is not yet good enough. People who think they already know everything worth knowing lack this motivation and do not put work into improving their understandings.

…Or at least, this is the general rule. As with all rules, however, there are exceptions. Here is a partial list of exceptions:

  • Some people have the privilege of being born into a marginal category and get to see the world through the clear lens of otherness. These lucky unlucky people, deprived of hegemonic coddling,  get to experience a rawer world. Knowledge is the consolation prize for an uncomfortable existence.
  • Others are born into a situation where the truth is known and taught. If you are one of the few who have been taught the true truth from an early age you are a truly fortunate person.
  • Others are just somehow born wise. Are they “old souls” who won their understanding in past lives? Maybe the universe chooses some people to be teachers? Or maybe nature just produces genius for no reason at all? Rational explanation may be impossible.mNobody taught them what they already know, yet they do know.
  • Others have had the truth revealed to them, usually through a shocking and traumatic event, sometimes chosen, sometimes inflicted. And part of this revelation is the insight that the event itself was destined.
  • Others are humble and have realized that  what a person really needs to know is really not that hard to understand, and that things that are too hard to understand are things that aren’t worth knowing. This kind of simple humility is shockingly rare.
  • Sometimes it is a combination of two or several of the above factors.

In is important to stress that these exceptions are so rare that it is safer to assume they do not exist at all.

I personally know only two people who definitely know the truth. I suspect five or six others might know, but I have not yet been able to confirm it. And, of course, I know many people who think they know but are definitely mistaken.

Knowledge funnel

  1. Hunch – a wordlessly sensed possibility
  2. Intuition – a hunch made articulate (gate: articulation)
  3. Hypothesis – an intuition supported by informal evidence (gate: evidence)
  4. Experiment – a hypothesis put in testable form (gate: operationalized as test)
  5. Theory – an experimentally-confirmed hypothesis (gate: affirmed by test)
  6. Fact – a theory that has been tested sufficiently that a community regards it as true (gate: community acceptance)



Menckenatingv. To believe that which one cannot understand cannot be understood because it is nonsense, and then to demonstrate how “the emperor wears no clothes” by exhibiting samples of apparently obscurantist language in order to justify refusal to seriously engage what is, in fact, ideas that are plainly fully-clothed to those who have successfully overcome the limitations of objectivist thought.


When philosophers talk about experiencing a “turn” in their thought (for instance, Heidegger and Wittgenstein), the turn is often taken to be as a philosophical crisis brought on by philosophical thought and resulting in a different approach to thinking.

Increasingly, though, to my eyes, these look less like philosophical crises and more like normal transitions from immaturity to maturity: A boy’s rationalist philosophy (a natural consequence of limited social entanglements freeing the mind to theorize about its own apparently autonomous workings and capacity to intellectually master the world) is supplanted by a man’s pragmatist philosophy (an attempt to make sense of a transcendent world within which he is entangled, has been entangled from birth, and from which one cannot extract oneself especially in that boyish state of  delusional autonomy).

The unexpected

The cash value of “expecting the unexpected”: Brace yourself for the distinctive angst that attends the arrival of the unexpected, and resolve to welcome the unexpected as an invited guest when she arrives.


In my view, it is very near the heart of morality to suffer for the sake of welcoming the unexpectedness of another being.

To refuse this unexpectedness is to refuse transcendence itself.


The cash value of “transcendence”: The permanent remainder to everything we know, which by definition is unexpectable. To accept only what we expect is to lock the world out from the cell of one’s mind, and to regard it a prisoner.


You cannot stop at loving the person you’ve come to know. That’s only loving an image of your own making.