Category Archives: Enworldment

Faiths and doctrines

I was talking to some religious friends this morning, and mentioned some things that seem worth recording:

Everyone has a faith of some kind. Faiths are that by which we believe.

But religious faiths are oriented toward what transcends objectivity, and, therefore, toward what transcends all belief.

Religious faith has beliefs toward a kind of being that defies objectivity, where irreligious “belief-systems” end where cognition ends.

Fundamentalists are people with irreligious faiths who try to believe in the truth of religious doctrines. They are “believers” because believing is something that takes constant effort. They try to force themselves to believe something their faith cannot actually believe, and it makes them irritable and aggressive toward anything that arouses their doubts and sets them back. Atheists are people with irreligious faiths, and are therefore unable to believe religious doctrines and have no problem admitting that fact.

This is why fundamentalists and atheists prefer to debate each other. They have commensurable ideas, and differ mainly on the question of whether these ideas are true or false. Religious faiths make no sense to fundamentalists or atheists, and people with religious faiths often avoid debating truth or falsehood of doctrines with people who conceive them in irreligious terms and miss the point. Such debates focus on irrelevancies.

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For a religious faith, doctrine is an expressions of something that defies language. The doctrine expresses and supports the faith — so doctrine is undeniably important — but faith is not reducible to the doctrinal content — not even close.

For “believers” faith is primarily a matter of accepting the truth status of the doctrinal content, despite the fact that it has little support. When people talk about faith that way it indicates that they haven’t yet experienced a change in faith.

Truth as antierror and antifalsity

“We cannot begin with complete doubt. We must begin with all the prejudices which we actually have when we enter upon the study of philosophy. These prejudices are not to be dispelled by a maxim, for they are things which it does not occur to us can be questioned. Hence this initial skepticism will be a mere self-deception, and not real doubt…” — C. S. Peirce

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For the Boomers and for Gen X, that massive heap of post-everything glopped together as postmodernism was an exotic novelty that either liberated or infuriated depending on your temperament.

For Millennials, postmodernism was simply what was taught as current thinking, combined with Kahnemaniacal cognitive scientism, to produce a confused paradox — or is it an oxymoron — that fears cognitive distortion of… what, exactly? I have yet to hear anyone address the doublethink at the root of the Millennial generational faith.

For Gen Z, postmodernism is another conventionality to ridicule. When a Gen Zer says “That’s just a construct” they say it from a minimum of two  ironies layers if not more. For them there is nothing beneath the irony, to contrast with it, and there never has been. Postmodernism is all they know. They are thoroughgoingly faith-fluid.

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What we miss in the constructivist vision of truth and the deconstructionist vision of skepticism is two crucial questions.

The first is a question of practicality: Does reality cooperate with what we assert as true? We can claim all kinds of things, but our claims can be demonstrated to be wrong. They can also be demonstrated to be at least to some degree — but never conclusively — right.

The second is a question of intellectual conscience: Do we actually conceive a construction as true, and does a deconstruction cause us to conceive something as doubtful? Nobody can demonstrate sincerity of belief, disbelief or doubt, nor can they prove that a provisionally held assertion can never someday become sincerely believed. This hope is actually held by some, and for others is a ruse and a crutch.

How can discern the difference between actual and feigned belief — or sincere hope for future belief and willful delusion? Even if discernment were possible, how could we ever prove it? We cannot, so charlatans abound.

Where the first and second converge — where a truth is demonstrably true and conceived as true — this is where truth exists. It may not be a truth that satisfies a metaphysician’s fantasies, but it is a truth defined against demonstrable error and faithless falsity.

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I think younger generations are barely in touch with demonstrated truth, and entirely alienated from intellectual conscience. Everything is a construct and no construct has anything to recommend it over any other, except…

Soulswarm

My soul is a swarm of intuitions.

This swarm knows how to fly in various formations to meet reality and respond to it. The intuitions know one another through these reality-responsive formations. Without reality’s mediation, without common objects, my intuitions would be unaware of the whole to which they belong.

No realities, no enworldment, no self. New realities, new enworldment, new selves.

My soul swarms with other souls. Some formations are made across souls, alighting upon and responding to reality. We understand together, share truth, share enworldment.

My soul has learned new formations, and new partial-formations, and these have changed how I enworld myself, and how it is to play my part within this world.

We are imprisoned within our selves only if we refuse to notice otherwise.

The reality of the world and each another is manifest if we accept it.

Self-respecting faith

I didn’t want to talk about souls in my book, but I am going to have to. The whole point of all of it is souls.

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When we think, we construct logical syntheses, and offer them to the conceptive mind.

The conceptive mind may accept an offering as a whole, as second-natural — and take it together as a given.

The conceptive mind may reject the offering as a mere construct, as artificial — and regard it as a put-together claim.

It is true that a synthesis might, with time and practice, become habitual and what started artificial might become second-natural.

But it is also true that some syntheses stay artificial forever.

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An overwhelming need to assert the truth of some synthetic claim — as often happens with religious dogmas or political ideologies — seduces a soul to dishonesty about how they experience truth, or to a permanent commitment to artificiality.

Let’s refer to such souls as synthetes — people who impose their synthetic truths on themselves, and almost always, eventually, on everyone around them.

The intense need of a synthete to believe certain sacred claims is produced by a faith, and a change of faith would relieve this need to believe. But a new enworldment entails the death of the existing enworldment — and nothing wants to die, least of all a faith. When a religious fundamentalist fears eternal death caused by sinful thoughts, or when a political ideologue claims that some language (really, some ideas) are a form of violence, this is the terror of a synthesis-armored faith facing its existential death. The conceptions it holds at bay — all the givens it must suppress, discredit, shout over, excommunicate, ostracize and deplatform — threaten to flood in and force reconception of everything and every thing.

If there is one thing a born-again fundamentalist rejects as a matter of faith, it is the fact of death and resurrection of soul. If there is one thing a political radical rejects on principle, it is revolution and liberation of mind.

Both types of synthetes want to dictate what is true, to limit questions to what its doctrine answers, and to produce a mirage of reality through artificial consensus by compelling all around them to support their unsupportable beliefs. They want the mechanical immortality of the belief system, the only form of duration their bad faiths can both conceive and accept.

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Faiths believe, and are not themselves made out of beliefs.

Bad faiths also believe, but they believe they are made out of beliefs of their choosing. They think they can tell themselves the story they want to believe, and that saying they believe it makes it believed — if not now, eventually. So the synthete fantasy goes.

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This does not mean our faith is fixed, or that we must take what is given as given.

We can change our faiths, and through our faiths, our enworldments.

But we cannot change through force of will. Precisely that element in our soul who calls itself I, the self who dictates belief, is the being who must change if we want new and better faith.

We must treat our whole souls — the entire intuitive swarm who is ourselves — especially wordless intuitions, who only feel, or respond, who are incessantly talked over and talked down — with perfect respect.

A new self-respecting soul self-organizes and emerges liberally and democratically from a liberated intuitive swarm who has learned mutual respect.

A self-respecting soul does not impose beliefs on itself, but offers possibilities as gifts which may be taken as given or politely refused. A self-respecting soul must not tell itself what to believe, but ask itself — its whole self — what is actually believed.

We must be brave and inventive in making gifts.

We must learn to do without beliefs until we are given one we can accept.

We are not who we think we are.

Changed by writing

I can feel how this process of writing a book is changing me. It is changing how I think, feel and speak, which is strange because what I believe I’m doing is conveying a philosophy I’ve been using, more or less unchanged since at least 2014 and maybe as early as 2011 (basically, once Latour and ANT helped me transcend my natural ideocentric brain-in-a-vatism).

Yet, here I am, experiencing a real change in my enworldment, interspersed with intense apprehension — so clearly my code-freeze has thawed and substantial philosophical work (not just conveyance) is happening.

In some ways this process has been a recovery of simplicity that I’ve gradually lost over years of elaboration on my core philosophy. Perhaps I’ve suffered scope-creep trying to incorporate concepts from ANT and ethnomethodology into my repertoire. Some of this knowledge remains undigested synthesis, and has not really been conceived and fully integrated. (Nietzsche mocked this condition as “indigestion”.)

My earliest experiences of metanoia were simple and overwhelmingly powerful. They shifted — everted, in fact – my fundamental understanding of the world to one that was more intensely felt, more immediately intuited and more practical in orientation. These qualities map to Liz Sanders’s desirability, usability and usefulness, respectively, and I will develop this extensively in my book.

By contrast, the thoughts I had as a young man tended toward abstraction and uselessness. The thoughts were mostly aesthetic. My thinking produced works of art to contemplate and savor, not beautiful tools to carry out into the world and use to do things. In other words, my early thoughts focused exclusively on desirability. I used the concepts I’d passively acquired from school and work for usefulness. And usability was all on me. Complicated ideas would become usable with practice.

I was using philosophy exactly the way many people use religion. Weekdays are for usefulness. Weekends have one day set aside for profane desirability and another for sacred desirability. And on all seven days of the week, life is complicated. Learn what you can figure out, and trust experts for the rest.

This all changed for me starting in 2001, when I emerged from the worst depression of my life, able once again to see in color, furious with the work ethic that preferred death to professional disgrace. I decided that despair was something I owed nobody, and that I would reorganize my life around different, more immediate principles. I checked myself into a 10-day Vipassana meditation course, the fifth day of which was September 11, 2001. So, I missed the collective national trauma, the looping image of plane hitting the World Trade Centers, the bewildered phone calls where we worked out what to make of this. I sat in silence, working out what to make of it by myself, turning and turning and turning it, allowing my opinion to change, untethered by any stand-taking. When I came out of the course, there were flags everywhere – more flags, bigger flags, aggressive flags –suffocating flags. I never got back in joint with my people. What I chose to read in the years following made it much worse. Christopher Alexander set my mind on fire and made me feel the importance of design all seven days of the week, and along with Grant Peterson shifted and liberated my aesthetic ideals. Jane Jacobs gave me a whole new understanding of how cities work, and inspired Susan and me to move up to Toronto. And up there, I became so disgusted with my Canadian colleagues – their slavish obedience, their desire to be given a purpose by other people, their willingness to be pushed around and told what to think and feel, their appalling passionless passivity that I was moved to read Nietzsche, just to understand the “slave mentality”. Except… I was the slave. I decided to end that. And that is the point when I became feral. It tooks years to find any reason to cooperate with anyone. But thanks to the deep humane genius of American Pragmatism, I did, so here I am.

Anyway, I should probably edit out that digression, but I suppose I won’t.

So, I want to get back to some of that immediate, intuitive and meaningful simplicity of my earlier philosophical work. The requirement to find a red-thread to narratively and logically connect all my areas of interest, capable of relating ideas belonging to different times and regions of my thinking, has forced me to edit — to choose what is essential and central, and to omit what distracts or complicates it.

And I’m trying to control my linguistic palette, to limit my vocabulary and to discipline it, so that once someone understands the wacko way I’m using a word, they can count on it to keep that meaning. Years ago, usability god, Jakob Nielsen taught me “learn once, use often.” Having learned it, I use this principle often, and plan to use it in this book. But doing this requires a much deeper integration of concept and word than my sloppy self usually bothers with. I’ve lost weeks on dead-end or swamp-end attempts to nail down my words. I think I have it now, but I’ve thought I had it several times, only to excise major sections and move them into my scrapheap doc.

But the process has been worthwhile, and I think it is forcing new, deep integrations between older thoughts I’m trying to incorporate. This is like all design. The design is far, far more than the sum of the features. The parts and the whole develop together, and both change. I’m noticing I’m far more ready with words, now – more able to really nail explanations of ideas that I used to have to talk around indirectly.

Sorry for the rambling. I’m venting all my slop on this blog now, and reserving my hardass discipline for my book.

Design and behavior

I’ve gotten my overview of design instrumentalism as nailed-down as I can get it for now.

I’ve moved on to the design part of the book. This is what I worked on this morning.

Every organization depends on human behaviors for its continued existence and flourishing. An organization needs its members to behave in certain ways that support and sustain the organization, and to not behave in other ways that harm it. It also depends on behaviors of people externally associated with the organization. If the organization exists to serve other people, it needs those people to notice, accept and use its service. If it relies on external partners to supply it with needed materials, products and services, it needs them delivered reliably. Big changes in internal or external behaviors can put an organization in crisis.

Businesses are a common example. A business needs its employees to work effectively, efficiently and harmoniously to produce or deliver whatever product or service it offers its customers. It needs its customers to notice and choose its product or service, to keep choosing it, and to recommend the product to others. A business also has partners upon whom it relies to supply the business with needed materials, products and supporting services. If the behaviors of employees, customers or partners become erratic or interfere with the goals of the business, it must respond to the change or risk damage, decline and dissolution. It will work to restore the old behaviors, or it will try to produce new behaviors wherever and however it is able, to cope with the change, perhaps through reorganization, changes in marketing approach or formation of new partnerships.

When power is unequally distributed, behaviors are often controlled through coercive means. When employers hold most of the power and are aware that employees have limited employment options, they tend to demand more from them and manage their activities more closely. Likewise when employees hold power and are aware that employers are competing for employees with their skills, they become less tolerant of authoritarian management styles, and expect more benefits and amenities from their employers. The same is true with partners. If a partner is the only provider of a needed product or service, they will behave differently than if they are competing with others for the partnership.

But when power is more equally distributed, coercion gives way to persuasion. People give up on controlling one another’s behaviors and instead try to influence their decisions. When competition to persuade and influence becomes sufficiently fierce, design becomes important. Design is a symptom of equality and freedom.

This does not mean that design is essentially a behavior-influencing discipline. It does, however, mean that design is a behavior-influencing profession. It is the need for influencing behaviors that motivates organizations to employ designers and pay them money to do their strange kind of work.

Design work is strange because conditions of freedom have made it strange. Very early on its rapid evolution, the plans for industrial production of artifacts to be offered on the market – design’s initial purpose – became plans for more competitive products – products that customers would prefer to competing products. But what made a product preferable? Functional quality, of course, is always important, but constant improvement and technical innovation (plus, extinction of companies unable to keep up), soon brings products to rough functional parity. When functional quality stops driving preference, what makes one product preferable to another? A list of some of these more refined preferences shows hints of the future development of design: better aesthetic qualities (depending on individual taste, of course); more specialized functionality, optimized for particular uses (valued by some individual users and not others); better value trade-offs (striking different balances of cost, function and aesthetics, each appealing to different value priorities). 

With each ratcheting-up of competition, the definition of preferable is increasingly  relative to individual values, and the subject gains importance relative to the object. Every question must be qualified with “for whom?” And the answers, to be understood sufficiently that they can be applied to practical problems, are no longer straightforwardly factual, but require perspectival shifts into that of the people in question. For those who remain trapped in an objectivist outlook (still the majority of people), the shift seems mostly “subjective” – learning what the emotions a person feels, when they encounter various objects or events – cast in psychological terms, against a background of universal objective truth. But if the current trajectory holds, soon it will be impossible to ignore the truth that these emotional responses are only the emotive tip of a deeply objective iceberg, and that until the objectivity and emotion of a person’s response are comprehended together, the subject is most likely misunderstood in terms of one’s own subjectivity.

This is an important event in my life. Usually I write blog article that make it into my book. Today I wrote something for my book that I’m sharing as a blog article.

 

Highlights from Susan’s and my weekly conversation

Every Saturday, Susan and I have a deep conversation. This week’s was short but momentus. I want to list some of the highlights.

  1. Susan asked about Vipassana (Buddhist insight meditation) and how it relates to her Jewish faith. As happens so often, she drew an explanation from me that simply did not exist until she made space for its existence through the intelligence of her questions. I advised her to think of the concentration she would develop and maintain for maybe no more than a few precious minutes out the  hundred-plus hours she’ll spend seated in meditation as Genesis 0:0 – the preconceptive divine spark that existed the moment before Genesis 1:1, before “God began creating heaven and earth,” when “the earth was void and desolate,” and “there was darkness on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God moved over the waters.” From there, she can witness regenesis.
  2. We discussed the two most common enceptions, which tend to project as metaphysical objectifications, materialism and idealism. She asked if either was more likely to be sociopathic. I don’t think they are more or less likely, but the form of sociopathy differs. Idealist sociopaths tend to become solipsistic and to believe the meaning they experience is the only one that exists or matters. Materialist sociopaths tend to become nihilistic and to believe there is no meaning, that nothing is true and anything is permitted.
  3. I finally caught the deep connection between everting objectivism and the idea of reenworldment. This is extremely unlikely to make any sense, but I’m recording it here just to mark the insight: Those intermediate conceptions where our differing understandings of the world are found are anchored at two points and suspended between them. One one end is the primary conceptions that give us our concrete experiences of reality (our primary givens), and on the other is the ultimate enception that gives us our sense of reality as a whole (our ultimate given). As long as these two points remain anchored, the intermediate conceptions that bridge primary conceptions with that enception are held firm, and are unlikely to change at any depth. Conceiving ambinity – not just having a synthetic grasp of it, but really spontaneously, immediately intuiting it – is our best opportunity for loosening and dissolving intermediate conceptions and their givens, so they can be reconceived.
  4. In ambinity, we are no longer required to subject primary conceptions to the standards of any one metaphysic. They are permitted to simply be primary. If we see something and experience it as good, that is what makes it good, and an account that justifies its goodness according to a theory of morals is not necessary.
  5. I repeated an old idea, that today seemed new: “Things are not your fault. But you are responsible. You have response-ability. That is what obligates you, not some debt on a moral balance sheet.”

Givenness

I’m experimenting with a different angle of approach in presenting concept, synthesis and enworldment. This might replace a much longer section in my book.

1.

What is a given?

A given is what is effortlessly taken. It is taken so effortlessly that, unless we are paying close attention, we fail to notice that taking happened. We notice only the given thing, “the given”.

This effortless taking is conception. Conception means “together-take”. Conception is spontaneous, immediate, effortless, wordless taking-together of something that wasn’t together until we took it that way.

So when we call something given, what we are referring to is not really “givenness” but  takenness.

2.

The things given in experience, the primary objects of our experience, are conceived in many ways – in perceptions, in intuitions, in intuitive interactions – our fundamental conceptions. The primary givens of our experience are rooted in our encounters with reality, but what is ours is what is conceivable, and only what is conceivable.

Whatever is inconceivable is, to us, less than nothing, entirely beyond experience.

Whatever is conceivable is, to us, not only something we experience, but something real.

What we experience is taken-together in some conceptual form, and remains underwritten in our minds by their conceptions. This conceptive underwriting makes the content of experience intelligible.

We ambiently know what is going on around us. We wordlessly walk into a room, pick up a cup, drink from it and put it down. It all makes immediate sense.

3.

But our primary givens are not our only givens.

Just as given as the things we experience, we conceive reality as a whole, too. When we say “everything”, we refer to this all-encompassing ultimate conception, which we could call enception. This is the sense of ground – of what kind of reality we inhabit.

We each have our own all-encompassing enception, but it is so pervasive, so without any outside or background against which it can be defined, it escapes notice. For most, it is simply what is, and it is assumed by each to be shared by all, despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

Most of us rarely think about metaphysics, but our experience is saturated with metaphysical assumptions that make our experiences take place within a world.

4.

Between the givenness of things and the givenness of everything is a complex matrix of intermediate givens that relate given conceptual parts with the given enceptive whole. These intermediate givens produce the self-evident truths we intuit around us and believe without any possibility of doubt, because it doesn’t even occur to us to question them.

Nobody doubts that mathematics is true. We  buy things with money. When we feel weight, we intuit gravity.

5.

Let us call this complex system of givenness, rooted in primary givenness, enveloped in enceptive givenness and laced between with intermediate givenness, an “enworldment”.

Enworldments are not thought about, at least not directly. What is thought is the given content of experience, conceived by the enworldment.

6.

When we think, we are no longer primarily taking-together.

We shift from an effortless taking-together, to an effortful putting-together, synthesis.

Synthesis means “together-put”. What gets put together are givens – primary and intermediate conceptions – but synthesis focuses on what it constructs with these givens.

Sometimes, with our thinking, we manage to put together a synthesis that forms a conceivable whole. In an instant, we have an insight and its meaning becomes clear and immediate. It is no longer something we need to think out. It is now intuited in reality itself. It has been taken up conceptually in integrated into the the enworldment as something that is obviously true.

But often the syntheses we construct cannot be conceived as a whole. We might through step-by-step inspection see that each part of the synthesis is correct and from this conclude that it is, on the whole, correct. But the synthesis is known distantly and derivatively, primarily though its parts, which are primary conceptions, and the logic that makes the parts adhere. It must, with effort, be remembered, re-thought through and manually applied, as a theory separate from the reality it explains. Without links to intermediate conceptions that connect it to the ultimate enception, the synthesis is only tenuously connected to the enworldment, not integrated.

Syntheses are accepted as true. Conceptions are believed.

7.

Enworldments can be changed, and when an enworldment changes, everything changes.

Stephen Savings Time

I’m falling back two hours and setting my biological clock to Stephen Savings Time so I can do writing as a near full-time job. This means my evenings will start winding down at 7:30pm so I can be up and ready to clock in at 4:30am.

Until I get this done, I will be saying “no” to a lot of invitations. Please do not take this, or the rest of my monomania, personally.

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Writing this book is inspiring me return to many older ideas, to recall them, recollect them, and to reintegrate them into a clearly conceived unity. The process is forcing me to prioritize what I include, and, for the sake of simplicity and clarity, make exclusions. This pruning and shaping is cleansing. I’ve accumulated a lot of ideas and associations, some fully comprehended and internalized, some only synthetically known about, but not intrinsic to how I think. Writing is forcing me to make distinctions between what is essential, and what is dispensable, and I am feeling it not only in my mind, but in my heart and my body.

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Much of what I am recollecting is from the early days of my life-changing encounter with Nietzsche, so he is freshly on my mind. His words are especially resonant now, especially these:

Is there a more holy condition than that of pregnancy? To do all we do in the unspoken belief that it has somehow to benefit that which is coming to be within us! — Has to enhance its mysterious worth, the thought of which fills us with delight! In this condition we avoid many things without having to force ourselves very hard! We suppress our anger, we offer the hand of conciliation: our child shall grow out of what is gentlest and best. We are horrified if we are sharp or abrupt: suppose it should pour a drop of evil into the dear unknown’s cup of life! Everything is veiled, ominous, we know nothing of what is taking place, we wait and try to be ready. At the same time, a pure and purifying feeling of profound irresponsibility reigns in us almost like that of the auditor before the curtain has gone up — it is growing, it is coming to light: we have no right to determine either its value or the hour of its coming. All the influence we can exert lies in keeping it safe. ‘What is growing here is something greater than we are’ is our most secret hope: we prepare everything for it so that it may come happily into the world: not only everything that may prove useful to it but also the joyfulness and laurel-wreaths of our soul. — It is in this state of consecration that one should live! It is a state one can live in! And if what is expected is an idea, a deed — towards every bringing forth we have essentially no other relationship than that of pregnancy and ought to blow to the winds a presumptuous talk of ‘willing’ and ‘creating’. This is ideal selfishness: continually to watch over and care for and and to keep our soul still, so that our fruitfulness shall come to a happy fulfillment! Thus, as intermediaries, we watch over and care for to the benefit of all; and the mood in which we live, this mood of pride and gentleness, is a balm which spreads far around us and on to restless souls too. — But the pregnant are strange! So, let us be strange too, and let us not hold it against others if they too have to be so! And even if the outcome is dangerous and evil: let us not be less reverential towards that which is coming to be than worldly justice is, which does not permit a judge or executioner to lay hands on one who is pregnant!

Conceiving inconceivability

Any form of participation in a whole experienced solely from within (in which the participant participates as a part) of which we have only partial knowledge is, in itself inconceivable. Withinness topologically thwarts comprehension.

We cannot conceive the whole, but we can conceive the fact that we are participants in it, and we can conceive many characteristics of our participation. For instance, we can conceive things we might do or think or feel in response to our immediate encounter with fellow participants or parts within the whole. We can conceive that the whole exists, that we are situated within it, that it environs us, and we can understand how we participate in that whole as a part of it, even if we do not comprehend the whole in the conceptual way we comprehend objects in our environment or other kinds of things we can wrap our minds around.

We might even try to map what we are able to conceive from within and try to make what we are within conceivable.

For instance, if we are trapped in a labyrinth, we might draw a maze map that represents, from the outside, the space we are inside, so we can better comprehend it as a whole instead of as a connected series of situations. We transpose the multiple interior positions to a single exterior form. We evert it, and what remains inside now views an exterior representation of its situation and mentally re-situates itself outside.

We might even get so absorbed in the maze  that we forgets that it we still located in some space within the labyrinth and not on some dot marked on the maze, in the same way as we forget that our brain is something known by the mind, not the other way around.

*

The first all-consuming perplexity I experienced reading Nietzsche resolved in an image of a mandala.

At the zenith of the mandala was a point I labeled “Solipse”. At the nadir was another point labeled “Eclipse”.

Next to Solipse I wrote “World-in-me” and drew a little circle with a dot at its center, with a caption “Ptolemy”.

Next to Eclipse I wrote “I-in-world” and drew another little circle with a dot on the periphery with a caption “Copernicus”.

In solipse, brains are found inside minds, along with every known thing. In eclipse, minds are produced from brains which exist at points in space.

This was the origin of my topological sense of understanding.

The perpendicular points between solipse and eclipse marked inflections between these two everted ways to situate self and world, moments where both situations become conceivable, perhaps together in ambinity, and for a time neither fully dominates, but co-exist in all-everting multistability.

From these two points we can see most clearly how the inside of an oyster shell is an everted pearl, Pandora’s box is everted Paradise, and Eden is the everted fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Here we can conceive both ultimate eversions simultaneously. We can use maps without forgetting where that map really is, but also move around in space and allow maps to deepen our understanding of our situation. Our minds are improved with knowledge of brains, but our knowledge of brains is improved knowing that all knowledge is mind-product.

Much later, moving along this wheel, at one of these ambinity points where inside and outside exist within one another, I intuited a beyondness of both, a ground of soliptic-ecliptic eversion that is both and neither. From that point on, I was religious.

*

At the beit din before I went into the mikvah a rabbi interrupted me in the middle of an answer to one of their questions, and asked “Do you even really believe in God?” I said, “Yes; but in a way that is extremely difficult to explain.” She said “Very Jewish. Fair enough.” Fifteen minutes later I emerged from the mikvah a Jew with a new Hebrew name, Nachshon, after the general of the tribe of Judah who, according to legend, waded into the chaotic turbulence of the Red Sea all the way up to his nostrils, just before Moses split the waters into two halves, permitting passage from one shore to the other. Adonai eloheinu; Adonai echad.

*

I need to think carefully how I might use the word “participate” in my topological conceptive vocabulary, which, as I mentioned yesterday, is built around con-capere words.

Participate shares the same root as concept, conception, conceive: capere “take”

part- “part” + –capere “take” – to part-take.

con- “together” + -capere “take” – to together-take.

 

 

From need to greed

I take it as a very good sign when my motivation for writing shifts from a need to articulate something to intense greed to own the book I’m writing. This happened with Geometric Meditations, and it is happening again with this new longer book. I just added a glossary of terms that has crystallized the entire book for me. It is clear,  coherent, comprehensive and diamond-hard.

By the way, I am entertaining a new possible title: Topology of Conception.

We need speculative metaphysics because we need nouns

Ok, I just had a small, decent-quality tantrum into the margin of Guenon’s The Great Triad, which helps define my own perspective on religion against that of the Sophia Perennis:

The manifestation of the Buddha is therefore the ‘redescent from Heaven to Earth’, as the Emerald Tablet describes it; and the being who in this way ‘incorporates’ the celestial influences in his own nature and brings them into this world can justifiably be termed the representative of Heaven as far as the human realm is concerned. Certainly this is a concept far removed from the rationalised form of Buddhism with which Westerners have become familiarised through the work of Orientalists. It might well be that it corresponds to a ‘Mahayanist’ point of view, but that for us is not a valid objection because it seems clear that the ‘Hinayanist’ point of view which is commonly presented as ‘original’ (no doubt because it fits in all too well with certain preconceived ideas), is in reality simply the result of a process of degeneration.

I say “define against it”, but it is possible — maybe even likely — I’m defining my perspective within it. Philosophy is, after all, the perpetual humiliation, and it has gradually undone my monstrous arrogance and replaced it with a moderate arrogance, which today took the form of this comment written in the margin of the above passage:

What if Mahayana is the degeneration of Hinayana’s/Theravada’s phenomenology? — A strict phenomenology can degenerate into speculative metaphysics.

That last bit is central to my conception of “Design Instrumentalism”: the idea that faiths (systems of implicit generative conceptions) can be designed and outfitted with symbolic forms, which allows one to:

  • maintain a stable, enduring self,
  • while also opening and orienting one to one’s own subjective selfhood, toward objective reality and toward intersubjectivity,
  • and to interpret, interact with, and think about the world,
  • resulting in the development of effective belief systems (truth).

I call the full practical manifestation of a faith, an enworldment.

When a convert undergoes a profound conversion experience, the convert invariably reports (assuming the convert is a true Scotsman) that the world was reborn with them, or that it appears transfigured, that they have entered the Kingdom, or something similar suggesting a holistic change in their experience of the world. Everything changes all at once.

Not only everything changes; more-than-everything changes. One of the artifacts of a deep shift in enworldment is a changed sense of beyondness, extending past the world of immediate experience, and this beyondness is naturally viewed as the source or support of its very existence. This is the speculative metaphysics of an enworldment.

Phenomenology cultivates a sharp awareness of that line between phenomena (what is show to our experience) and the mind-independently-real thing-in-itself which we instinctively project beyond our experiences (as speculative metaphysics).

Phenomenology brackets all metaphysical projections and focuses strictly on phenomena. It doesn’t disbelieve or believe in metaphysics; it methodically suspends metaphysical interpretations in order to study experience.

My understanding of Buddhism, at least of Theravada Buddhism, which I studied closely and practiced intensively for almost a decade, is that Buddhism is a phenomenological religion, which focuses relentlessly on what is immediate and practical, and gently brackets standard doctrinal elements we might assume to be essential features of any religion.

The Dhammapada’s opening lines support this view:

All the phenomena of existence have mind as their precursor, mind as their supreme leader, and of mind are they made. If with an impure mind one speaks or acts, suffering follows him in the same way as the wheel follows the foot of the drawer (of the chariot).

All the phenomena of existence have mind as their precursor, mind as their supreme leader, and of mind are they made. If with a pure mind one speaks or acts, happiness follows him like his shadow that never leaves him.

But here is where my design experience kicks in, and causes me to both admire Theravada, while also seeing great practical wisdom in Mahayana.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from a life in design, it is this: Humans have a tough time living without speculative metaphysical beliefs. This is true even for — especially for? — those of us who imagine ourselves immune, and project elaborate “scientific” material underpinnings, such as brains, behinds our experience of I, now and here — or sociologies populated with mixtures of individual, collective and even ideological actors, that produced the world as we experience it.

Our brains seem wired to need nice solid nouns, to serve as the doers of verbs or as the substantial bearers of adjectives.

And you know what? As a designer, I don’t think we should have to do without speculative metaphysical beliefs. I believe that denying people metaphysical beliefs is asking too much of them. We humans need our nouns!

In my professional work as a designer, I put enormous effort into crafting “mental models”, which are, in effect, speculative metaphysical projections that help people conceive their experiences of what I am designing. It makes it an experience of a coherent “something” instead of a series of arbitrary events. Behind a designed experience, there is both a concept — what the designed thing is — and a brand — who is responsible for it. These provide solid grounding the why of the experience — the purpose and value of it — and provide some direction for the how, in the form of affordances — things with which a user can interact.

These mental models, these brands, these affordances, however, are never what they seem to be. They are “true fictions” which, when taken as given, are, for all practical purposes, true. These are, to put it in perennialist terms, upaya, skillful means

But designers cannot afford to be literal with their mental models. We must straddle logics, and be able to think from the perspective of an interacting user, but also work with engineers to craft the actual technical metaphysics (vis-a-vis the user) that are the real underpinnings of a system, which digital, mechanical, procedural, etc.

Every faith must function similarly. The faith must produce a holistic sense of I and world, that generates the relevant affordances that suggest appropriate actions, and it must provide us with an overarching sense of value and purpose in our lives.

And if it is a good faith, it will also have some awareness or at least some attitude of humility and respect, that suspects that metaphysical-reality-in-itself is mysterious and inexhaustibly surprising, so it does not confuse its speculative metaphysics with that deeply mysterious source of being that manifests itself in myriad ways, each with its own speculative metaphysical image…

The Buddha, I believe knew this deep reality, and managed to establish a faith tradition that functioned as much like designers as users.

*

So, my moderately arrogant (but apprehensive) hypothesis is that Guenon and the rest of the Sophia Perennis school project a thoroughly beautiful and true speculative metaphysics beyond their profound, clear and precise phenomenological understandings, but take it as more Absolute than I am ready to accept. (* see note below)

However, the closer I study Guenon, the more of what I take to be speculative metaphysics is subsumed by phenomenological description. I can very well imagine a day where I will understand that extremely sensitive and disciplined phenomenological description carries us much closer to the threshold of the Principle than I’ve suspected.


  • Note: My metaphysics is a radically indeterminate, inexhaustibly surprising beyond — an infinitude that we come to know through our finite interactions with it.

I believe morality is bound up with knowing that this beyond exists and that it obligates us to respond to it and relate to it, but part of our effort must be to treat it as a reality existing in part within, but also beyond the mind, and therefore only imperfectly conceptualized by the mind, lest we reduce transcendent reality to immanent speculation and succumb to ideo-idolatry and misapotheosis.

We know that the beyond is, and we know some important things about our relationship with the beyond, but we are limited in knowing what the beyond is. Or so it seems from where I currently stand.

Naive realized

Second-naturalness is naive realization.

We go from one state of naive realism to another, hopefully to a naive realism energized with a profound sense of irony and creative possibility. But, ironically, one we cannot help but take for real.

This state transcends postmodern knowingness. It commits, because it has overcome the silly idea that in the absence of a reigning Truth only anarchy is possible, and rather, has come to accept a more democratic ideal: respect for what realities say to us when we interact with them.

Authority has been broken, shattered, pulverized, atomized, subatomized and distributed to every corner of the universe, and now everything is due its respect.

Or so it seems to me, and I find it hard to believe otherwise.

The Click

Myriad ways to experience the world are possible, and these ways of seeing the world correspond with particular orderings of intuitive activity.

*

Can you perceive this dancer to be spinning clockwise and then to be spinning counter-clockwise? Can you feel what kind of effort you are making? There may be inner-chatter associated with your effort, but if you pay close attention you’ll notice that the chatter is neither the effort itself, nor is it able to capture the effort in words. Something beyond language is happening.

*

When we look at an optical illusion and we perceive it first one way, then another — what is going on there? This is not primarily a linguistic phenomenon. There is an inner click, and our perception changes from one stable state to another.

When we read a text and we derive one meaning from it, but then later, another — is this really that different from the various gestalt modes of an optical illusion? And is the intellectual click that happens across the different readings really a linguistic phenomenon?

I would argue that both of these cases manifest a tacit shift in our intuitive order, which we experience most obviously as a change in experience of an intentional object (a visual field or a text) — but which also for the duration of the experience changes how it is to exist.

Like optical illusions, like texts with layered meanings, minds are multistable. And the various stabilities perceived or understood “out there” are actually the various stabilities “in here” doing the perceiving or conceiving in a particular mode of inner intuitive collaboration. This is what is at stake in all interpretation. We ourselves change in understanding. (A religious person might prefer saying it in different language: Our souls are transfigured by faith.)

Of course, we can also lose order. We can be of two minds on some matter, or we may be conflicted, confused or perplexed. These less-ordered or chaotic states also affect how it is to exist.

Confusion about what is going on in the world makes us feel confused in our own being. It is no accident that we say “I am confused” when we are unable to make sense of something.

*

To get our intuitive mess back in order when we say “I am confused” or to break an intuitive order that says “I am miserable” or “The world is a vale of misery” we cannot just operate directly on our intuitions. Intuitions just aren’t of a nature where we can manipulate them like objects. (((Intuitions are subjects, each a sand-sized jewel in Indra’s Net, each a divine spark that beyonds All in its own partial way.)))

I would also argue that operating directly on the conclusions our intuitive orders produces willful delusions. We cannot just decide that “I am clear” or “I am happy” or “The world is a vale of happiness” and spontaneously see things that way, any more than we can look at an optical illusion and just assert that we see it as the gestalt we haven’t gotten to click yet.

We must approach our intuitive orders indirectly, through various intentional objects, and do intuitive experiments, trying to entertain it in a multiplicity of ways, until a gestalt shift occurs that changes what we experience on the whole and in part. I call these gestalts synesis.

When the click happens and we truly understand a situation differently, experience it differently, reach different conclusions and find ourselves feeling and responding differently — this is metanoia.

Metanoia is often translated as repentance, which is not altogether wrong, but it misses the spirit of the change. It is not about penitential emotions that motivate us to do better. It is about re-understanding things in such a way that makes the non-desirability of our old way clear, and causes a new way of understanding, behaving and existing to emerge that is experienced as preferable to the earlier way.

*

When we try to change our lives, what we believe, how we behave, without making our intuitions click into a new order, we will speak and act in a way that is artificial. We must constantly micromanage ourselves, police ourselves, remain vigilant of ourselves. We must consciously “do the work” of enforcing the desired cognitions, conduct and speech, or our unconscious selves will horrify and shame us with its unwanted outputs.

If we change our lives through metanoia, the change is obviously different from what seemed natural to us before, but this new existence is second-natural. We spontaneously, intuitively (literally), effortlessly have a new and preferable outlook on things, and our souls somehow, mysteriously, feel better.

This year's winning illusion presents a simple shape rotating around a horizontal and vertical axis at the same time

Methodic wisdom

Susan and I have been debating what wisdom is. We each felt the other’s view was incomplete. I thought her conception was overlapping too much with prudence; she thought mine reduced wisdom with mere open-mindedness. (Actually, she was right.) As we turned the question and viewed it from multiple angles, it became clear, as is so often the case, that it was a matter of emphasis. She was emphasizing exercise of foresight and consideration — awareness of implications beyond the immediate desires and compulsions. I was emphasizing readiness for thought-defying shock — awareness that our awareness is always partial and situated within a much vaster and weirder context, only the minutest speck of which we are conceptually prepared to understand or even perceive. We’re slowly converging on an agreement. Here’s my latest attempt, written primarily for Susan’s review:

Wisdom is an attitude of mind that considers ramifying implications that transcend the immediate concern, in time, in space and in subjectivity — especially those nonobvious implications that unfold only in careful consideration and those that unfold in ways inconceivable until they unfold in reality and which will be understood as inevitable only in retrospect. Wisdom expects to be surprised, because wisdom knows the limitations of thought, and leaves room for irruptions of reality and the epiphanies they bring.


If we accept this definition of wisdom, that would make design practice a methodical form of wisdom — an alternative to speculative-thought-and-talk decision-making.

Design method directs us to go to the reality we plan to change, and encourages us to interact with it directly, in order to encounter some of the implications and ramifications of our proposed changes — many of which we otherwise would never consider.

Design is methodic wisdom.


Chief among design’s considerations are the subjective ones — the interpretive and experiential consequences of deep, hidden differences in subjectivity that must be learned before they can even be conceived. (* see note below.)

Subjective learning of new conceptions is a rigorous exercise of hermeneutic, intellectual and emotional empathy (which I prefer calling synesis). It can sometimes radically redefine the designer’s understanding of the design problem, by revealing it in a new subjective light with new practical consequences — metanoia.

This metanoia — this new, consequential reconception — simultaneously reframes the problem and opens space for novel solutions. Problems and solutions, questions and answers, possibilities and actualities burst forth together with new conceptions. And because the new conception has been learned from real people and refer to real contexts, the newly conceived solutions are far more relevant and on-the-mark. I like to call design metanoia “precision inspiration”.


(* Note: The whole field of thought around conception is grossly misunderstood. Until a conception is learned, all ideas that require it are either inconceivable — submerged in intellectual blindness, neither perceivable nor imaginable — or misunderstood by another conception that comprehends it in a wrong sense, and commits category mistakes. If the originating conception of a set of ideas is finally acquired, the new conception spontaneously reorders the understandings, both on the whole and in part, and there is an epiphany. If the reconception is a very deep one, upon which many other conceptions are rooted, and these have wide-ranging pragmatic consequences, it can seem that everything has changed all at once. The scales seem to have fallen from one’s eyes, one feels reborn as a new person, and it feels and if the entire world has transfigured itself. Until one has experienced something like this, all language associated with this kind of event sounds like magical hocus-pocus — but this is only a misconception of what remains inconceivable. The consequences of this hocus-pocus are just the copious category mistakes of the believing fundamentalist and the unbelieving antifundamentalist.)

Sketchy endeavor

I want to lay out a basic vocabulary for my project of approaching philosophy as a design discipline.

*

This is a very sketchy endeavor.

I’m presenting even the philosophy that justifies and encourages approaching philosophy this way as itself something I designed.

This philosophy makes no claims to truth, only to being one good way to understand experience — one that I recommend.

I recommend it on pragmatist grounds, as something good to believe.

It is no accident that it is good to believe because it teaches dissatisfaction with anything that isn’t good to believe, and it practices what it preaches. It iteratively investigates, questions, instaurates possibilities, tries them on, evaluates and compares — and continues iterating until whatever it comes up with is experienced as good.

Good is evaluated in a designerly way. What is evaluated is not (only) the object we experience. More important is the subject of the experience — what the subject experiences as a result of interacting with the object of the design. Liz Sanders provided the essential definition of good design — a good interaction is experienced as useful, usable and desirable. It is experienced as useful if it helps a user accomplish something the user is trying to do. It is experienced as usable if it allows the user to accomplish what they are trying to do with minimal effort, confusion and distraction. It is experienced as desirable if it contributes value of its own (joy, meaning or sense of relationship) to the experience.

Notice the essential relativity of these characteristics. No object in itself can be said to be useful, usable or desirable. Neither can an experience be useful, usable or desirable. No, only when some subject interacts with some object, can that object be experienced as useful, usable or desirable.

*

With philosophy, things get super-weird, and this weirdness has been perplexing me for a long time. Extracting myself from the perplexity has been slow and arduous.

The weirdness hits at three points — the subject of the philosophy, the object meant to be experienced as good, and the medium of philosophy itself that somehow effects this good experience.

You could, of course, conceive the subject of philosophy the person thinking about the words that articulate the philosophy, or the ideas, arguments or claims taken as the content of it, or maybe the method or approach taken in the doing of the philosophy. Any of these conceptions would be much easier, and if simply providing a crisp, clear answer to the question, or if simply enjoying the process of conceiving an answer, these conceptions might be advisable.

My purpose, however is different. My entire conception and experience of existence has been changed by reading, thinking and struggling with philosophy. This conception and experience did not only change while I was focusing on philosophy. The change endured and transfigured absolutely everything, all at once, and in ways I have found incredibly difficult to communicate.

Somehow, because of words I’ve read, my conceptions have changed in a way that has changed my subjectivity — and in a way that preceded bypassed and often defied language. These changes have usually been for the better, and when they haven’t, I’ve struggled with these worse subjective states, wrestled free, or critiqued them to smithereens, until they lost their hold on me and yielded to better subjective states. Across these changes, I’ve tried to retain knowledge of what happened, and what it implies about subjectivity, conceptions, truth and the nature of reality beyond our truth.

I want to account for this extremely strange possibility of subjective change and try to understand how much the changes be undergone in an intentional manner, so that people can make similar changes to themselves and improve their experience of reality.

I am only interested in philosophy primarily for its capacity to produce clearer, more cohesive and expansive conceptions of existence that allow us to understand, experience and respond to our situations effectively without the need to explicitly intercept and interpret them (in other words, think about them spontaneously and second-naturally) and finally to find existence valuable and inspiring.

Somehow, through some miraculous iterative bootstrapping, this iterative construing, evaluating, criticizing, scrapping, restarting process developed into the glorious circular but expanding logic of designing glorious circular, expanding, spiraling logics.

*

Subjectivity is the totality of intuitions interacting within a psyche (or putting it in religious language, spirits interacting within a soul).

Subjectivities are multistable. They can stably self-organize in myriad ways as subjects, capable of effective response to various situations. Some of these subjects are acquired in study of academic subjects taught in school. The personal subject is the personality who modalizes these various acquired subjects and others, and remains a self throughout these modes. When we know another person, that person is learned more as a subject than as some object with known properties.

The goal of philosophy is producing a stable, dynamic, integration of intuitions.

Out of time. More later.

Intuitive multistability

Just as there are multistabilities of conception when understanding texts (hermeneutics) and multistabilities of perception while experiencing phenomena (postphenomenology), there are multistabilities in the self-organization of intuitions.

In my art pamphlet Geometric Meditations, I called the mysterious swarm of self-organizing intuitions behind the I “potential” — possible states of soul in various kinds and degrees of order.

Every experience — which is a mix of conceptions, perceptions and responses to what we conceive and perceive — engages some set of our intuitions and induces them to organize and cooperate. Some of these organized cooperations involve most or many of our intuitions and cause them to function as a unity. This makes us feel whole. Some exclude intuitions or even force their suppression. This makes us feel conflicted, divided or empty.

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Some of us have a flexible, modal, dynamic stability of soul. Different intuitions emerge and participate in various domains of activity. Most intuitions have a meaningful role to play, and none are entirely excluded. No intuitions are considered intolerably dangerous, and when possibilities and questions are sensed by one intuition, other intuitions participate from various angles, as the notion rises to conscious consideration and is turned in the mind.

Others of us have less flexible stabilities. One set of intuitions tris to stay in total control all the time. This intuitive gang collaborates to keep the other intuitions under their control. This is especially true of the darkest, most dangerous intuitions, which must be suppressed at all costs, along with their unwanted, harmful thoughts. If anything in the environment stimulates these marginalized intuitions they rise up and threaten the dominant order. This is experienced as an existential threat, and triggers a forcible inner crackdown by the offended dominant intuitions. They fear an uprising of the intuitive underclass and the change of mind it will bring, which signals the end of its reign. The soul must continue to believe their true beliefs and condemning all the lies it disbelieves, or that soul as it knows itself will cease to exist. It will lose its identity as a believer in some ideology or religion, a member of some special group or nation. It lives in a constant inner (and sometimes outer) police state to maintain its very existence as itself. And because it suppresses much of itself, it feels itself perpetually empty, dissatisfied, unfulfilled, persecuted, oppressed.

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All this brings me back, once again, to where my transfiguration started, reading Christopher Alexander’s Timeless Way of Building.

His idea of wholeness is bound up with how we dwell in spaces and how our “inner forces” are harmonized or conflicted by what our environment offers us.

A man is alive when he is wholehearted, true to himself, true to his own inner forces, and able to act freely according to the nature of the situations he is in.

To be happy, and to be alive, in this sense, are almost the same. Of course, a man who is alive, is not always happy in the sense of feeling pleasant; experiences of joy are balanced by experiences of sorrow. But the experiences are all deeply felt; and above all, the man is whole and conscious of being real.

To be alive in this sense, is not a matter of suppressing some forces or tendencies, at the expense of others; it is a state of being in which all forces which arise in a man can find expression; he lives in balance among the forces which arise in him; he is unique as the pattern of forces which arise is unique; he is at peace, since there are no disturbances created by underground forces which have no outlet; he is at one with himself and his surroundings.

This state cannot be reached merely by inner work.

There is a myth, sometimes widespread, that a person need do only inner work, in order to be alive like this; that a man is entirely responsible for his own problems; and that to cure himself he need only change himself. This teaching has some value, since it is so easy for a man to imagine that his problems are caused by “others.” But it is a one-sided and mistaken view which also maintains the arrogance of the belief that the individual is self-sufficient and not dependent in any essential way on his surroundings.

The fact is, a person is so far formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings.

Some kinds of physical and social circumstances help a person come to life. Others make it very difficult.

Nietzsche had a similar conception, a more vitalistic one centering on nourishment and starvation:

However far a man may go in self-knowledge, nothing however can be more incomplete than his image of the totality of drives which constitute his being. He can scarcely name even the cruder ones: their number and strength, their ebb and flood, their play and counterplay among one another, and above all the laws of their nutriment remain wholly unknown to him. This nutriment is therefore a work of chance: our daily experiences throw some prey in the way of now this, now that drive, and the drive seizes it eagerly; but the coming and going of these events as a whole stands in no rational relationship to the nutritional requirements of the totality of the drives: so that the outcome will always be twofold — the starvation and stunting of some and the overfeeding of others. Every moment of our lives sees some of the polyp-arms of our being grow and others of them wither, all according to the nutriment which the moment does or does not bear with it. Our experiences are, as already said, all in this sense means of nourishment, but the nourishment is scattered indiscriminately without distinguishing between the hungry and those already possessing a superfluity. And as a consequence of this chance nourishment of the parts, the whole, fully grown polyp will be something just as accidental as its growth has been. To express it more clearly: suppose a drive finds itself at the point at which it desires gratification — or exercise of its strength, or discharge of its strength, or the saturation of an emptiness — these are all metaphors –: it then regards every event of the day with a view to seeing how it can employ it for the attainment of its goal; whether a man is moving, or resting or angry or reading or speaking or fighting or rejoicing, the drive will in its thirst as it were taste every condition into which the man may enter, and as a rule will discover nothing for itself there and will have to wait and go on thirsting: in a little while it will grow faint, and after a couple of days or months of non-gratification it will wither away like a plant without rain. Perhaps this cruelty perpetrated by chance would be more vividly evident if all the drives were as much in earnest as is hunger, which is not content with dream food; but most of the drives, especially the so-called moral ones, do precisely this — if my supposition is allowed that the meaning and value of our dreams is precisely to compensate to some extent for the chance absence of ‘nourishment’ during the day. Why was the dream of yesterday full of tenderness and tears, that of the day before yesterday humorous and exuberant, an earlier dream adventurous and involved in a continuous gloomy searching? Why do I in this dream enjoy indescribable beauties of music, why do I in another soar and fly with the joy of an eagle up to distant mountain peaks? These inventions, which give scope and discharge to our drives to tenderness or humorousness or adventurousness or to our desire for music and mountains — and everyone will have his own more striking examples to hand — are interpretations of nervous stimuli we receive while we are asleep, very free, very arbitrary interpretations of the motions of the blood and intestines, of the pressure of the arm and the bedclothes, of the sounds made by church bells, weathercocks, night-revellers and other things of the kind. That this text, which is in general much the same on one night as on another, is commented on in such varying ways, that the inventive reasoning faculty imagines today a cause for the nervous stimuli so very different from the cause it imagined yesterday, though the stimuli are the same: the explanation of this is that today’s prompter of the reasoning faculty was different from yesterday’s — a different drive wanted to gratify itself, to be active, to exercise itself, to refresh itself, to discharge itself — today this drive was at high flood, yesterday it was a different drive that was in that condition. — Waking life does not have this freedom of interpretation possessed by the life of dreams, it is less inventive and unbridled — but do I have to add that when we are awake our drives likewise do nothing but interpret nervous stimuli and, according to their requirements, posit their ’causes’? that there is no essential difference between waking and dreaming? that when we compare very different stages of culture we even find that freedom of waking interpretation in the one is in no way inferior to the freedom exercised in the other while dreaming? that our moral judgments and evaluations too are only images and fantasies based on a physiological process unknown to us, a kind of acquired language for designating certain nervous stimuli? that all our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary on an unknown, perhaps unknowable, but felt text? — Take some trifling experience. Suppose we were in the market place one day and we noticed someone laughing at us as we went by: this event will signify this or that to us according to whether this or that drive happens at that moment to be at its height in us — and it will be a quite different event according to the kind of person we are. One person will absorb it like a drop of rain, another will shake it from him like an insect, another will try to pick a quarrel, another will examine his clothing to see if there is anything about it that might give rise to laughter, another will be led to reflect on the nature of laughter as such, another will be glad to have involuntarily augmented the amount of cheerfulness and sunshine in the world — and in each case a drive has gratified itself, whether it be the drive to annoyance or to combativeness or to reflection or to benevolence. This drive seized the event as its prey: why precisely this one? Because, thirsty and hungry, it was lying in wait. — One day recently at eleven o’clock in the morning a man suddenly collapsed right in front of me as if struck by lightning, and all the women in the vicinity screamed aloud; I myself raised him to his feet and attended to him until he had recovered his speech — during this time not a muscle of my face moved and I felt nothing, neither fear nor sympathy, but I did what needed doing and went coolly on my way. Suppose someone had told me the day before that tomorrow at eleven o’clock in the morning a man would fall down beside me in this fashion — I would have suffered every kind of anticipatory torment, would have spent a sleepless night, and at the decisive moment instead of helping the man would perhaps have done what he did. For in the meantime all possible drives would have had time to imagine the experience and to comment on it. — What then are our experiences? Much more that which we put into them than that which they already contain! Or must we go so far as to say: in themselves they contain nothing? To experience is to invent? —

My own conception of these same prelinguistic forces or drives includes Alexander’s energetic and Nietzsche’s vitalistic characteristics but also emphasizes their organizational structure and how their concerted cooperation shapes, reinforces, weakens, threatens, destroys or restructures their organization and coordination.

I’ve entertained many words to denote these prelinguistic forces and drives, but I’m feeling broad inner-acceptance and thick resonance around the word intuition.

Faith as intuition system

Let’s define faith as an configuration of intuitive faculties (which I will simply call intuitions) within a psyche.

Different intuitions (again, the faculties, not their content) coordinate themselves societally, which produce a certain form of subjectivity, with its own ways of conceiving, perceiving, interpreting, inferring, responding, etc.

Subjectivity can be changed if these intuition systems are reordered.

Religious conversion occurs if an intuition system is radically reordered to a degree that the world itself seems transfigured.


There are at least three notable implications in this way of conceiving faith:

  1. Faith is not belief. Faith is that which does the believing, and it does far more than that. Faith enworlds.
  2. The unconscious is not submerged conscious content. It is the very working of faith to produce, and often re-produce, content. We don’t have suppressed thoughts. We have malfunctioning faiths that keep producing unwanted content.
  3. Because faiths are changeable, we are not stuck with them if they produce ugly, depressing beliefs, ineffective or destructive responses, or utter bewilderment toward our most pressing issues. If our life experience leaves us perplexed, faltering, indifferent or otherwise miserable, and all our attempts to redesign the world around fail for material or political reasons, we can also ask if maybe the problem isn’t with malfunctioning faiths. We can, if we wish, plough these bad faiths under, and try to instaurate better ones that provide us better options to enword ourselves better.

I’ve been arguing for some time that philosophy ought to be redescribed and reconceived as a design discipline, rather than as a search for truth, especially when truth is imagined to preexist out there, ready for excavation.

But, as with all words of a certain kind, philosophy is burdened with connotations that interfere with discussing it in new ways. Philosophy is about thought, ideas, arguments. Same with religion. Religion is about forcing ourselves to accept unprovable if not ludicrous superstitious speculations as true and momentously important. And forget design. Design is about making better things in the broadest sense, and when experiential language is introduced to suggest that the ultimate goal of design is not the objects it shapes, but the subjectivity resulting from interacting with it.

In each case, notice, the source of content is confused with its content.

Philosophy philosophizes philosophies. Design designs designs. Perception perceives perceptions. Intuition intuits intuitions. See the pattern? (I’m curious, though: why doesn’t faith have its verb form? Faith believes faiths?)

The problem here is not with the words.

The problem is at the faith-level.

An objectivist faith everts subjectivist faiths, turning container into contained, concavity into convexity, convexity into concavity, doer into done, intuition into intuition, design into designs, philosophy into philosophies.