AoK: The beginning

Why create a framework

In a weird way, words are highly impermanent. You can try to nail down your thoughts with as much precision as you can, but i's a moving target at best. While I've written rather extensively within the confines of work, I've never quite felt comfortable just putting fingertips to keyboard and just letting rip. Despite reading blogs since they started getting popular in the last decade and half, I've never felt comfortable doing it. I guess you could argue for it being an implicit representation of one's thought process, but still, individual pieces of insight without a coherent connection seemed tough.

So that's what I wanted to explore.

I wanted a framework, one that I can link my ideas and thoughts on to. If the purpose of writing is to create a permanent footprint of one's own mindscape, then also creating a map alongside is only fair. And though it's written sequentially, editing the whole thing while creating it and discussing it is one of the major joys.

While a real and complete solution would entail solving all philosophical and metaphysical problems, the fact that all of us hold, retain and explore multiple notions makes it clear that ignorance is not a valid criterion to stop one from doing anything. And while "going deep" helps explore every nook and cranny of an idea, it doesn't help put that thought in context, which is more than half the battle.

That's why for the past little while, I've been trying to figure out what sort of a system I actually possess and use that lets me come up with my ideas and beliefs. They do seem to be relatively fluid, and lets me change my mind, but yet don't seem entirely situational or random either. At least it doesn't seem to behave in that fashion. It stands to reason that the beliefs I hold must arise from some combination of prior beliefs and facts, but the exact path each one takes is torturous and difficult to unravel. Like a tangled ball of yarn.

Hence this attempt to lay down, from all I have read and all I have learnt, a method to try and understand how I think, and why I think what I think.

Naturally there are areas of oversimplification, concepts appropriated from physics, biology, chemistry, economics and psychology, with seemingly relevant explanatory powers, but whose foundations themselves might be shaky or misapplied. But it turns out that's also true of most of what powers the human mind, so I've tried to forget about rigour for rigour's sake, and instead focus on seeing if I can assemble the right conceptual architecture.

The grand ambition isn't to rewrite all of philosophy or something equally hubristic. It's to have a coherent explanation of my thought process, and in the process of laying that out to get clarity on what drives me. After all, I can attempt to carve out one problem at a time and try to go deep, but every time I have done that it has resulted in getting stuck somewhere in the subbasement full of facts, theories and expectations that actually drove the conclusions.

And so, on to the meat...

The aim of philosophy is to acquire knowledge consistently, and have a framework of thought that allows you to think about the world and our relationship to it. Whenever we realise any specific thing about the world or the relationships of its components to each other there's a trend to try and fit it into an existing framework of knowledge and context. This implies that philosophy both incorporates all existing knowledge disciplines in its branching form, and illuminates new avenues of discovery and search. And that just seems like way too much burden for a branch of cerebral gymnastics. In any case, in that sense there are at least three philosophies:

  1. The search for meaning in our human existence

  2. Asking moral and ethical normative questions around how we should conduct ourselves, and what we should aspire to be

  3. Epistemological questions around the practice of science itself and what questions it can answer. There's a tension between the knowable, which can be formulated, hypothesised and tested, and the unknowable, which can only be hypothesised about. And it's about things which are knowable but not yet known that philosophical investigations can uncover. otherwise you end up being half knowledgeable and incompetent experiment designers for those who study a subject in further depth.

And the goal:

  • An attempt at understanding my thought process, and to see the edifice within which my ideas are situated, as a way to understand the historic and evolutionary reasons behind my principles, or in fact to examine the act of creation of those very principles

  • To be precise where you can, to create a framework for understanding thereafter... essentially to create the equivalent of the interstate highway system for thinking, so it both helps me get where I need to go in easy steps, and also illuminates large swamps that haven't been explored yet

  • To help create a way to think of the most important decisions in life. What should I do? What should be done broadly? What's the purpose behind our actions? What is truth, and what is it's function? And so on.

The key question is about the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, which have to do with representation of knowledge. And the trend is towards standardisation and systematisation, which is suspected to result in exceptional results thereafter, but it's like cleaning the house once and expecting it to be perfect thereafter, as opposed to remaining in increasing arrays of dirtiness for the next week until it needs another cleaning.

A priori, to anchor some predictions, some of the conclusions that emerge might be (highly speculative as they might be) :

  • It's important to diversify interest to maximize the surface area of interactions with external world, and also to kickstart one's own creative journey to fulfil the potential

  • Another is to understand that communication is suboptimal until we have similar baselines across knowledge, and the network tree to hang that knowledge. Another is that to be happy is to be fulfilled which has to employ a larger chunk of knowledge about "purpose", which is a guiding principle that drives both the internal reward mechanism and also relates to survival and progress as part of the global web

  • We're one part of an ecosystem, and the inputs and outputs within the ecosystem are intrinsically related to our inherent part in it, which was guided through our evolution

  • This also means that survival and drive to be happy are core parameters guiding our actions

  • It also means that probability is a fiction, albeit a useful one

  • It also suggests that since getting completed answers is impossible in a complex world, all we have are flawed narratives

  • Therefore it also suggests that everyone lives inside a cognitive bubble, created through their perceptions, social order, and self filtered ideas that create a feeling of safety and security.

  • It also means component fidelity (individual sections of facts being true) are themselves not enough to ensure compositional fidelity (overall shape of the web being true).

  • You can't get upset at another's world-view, or the shape of their bubble, because they've also been evolutionarily selected for the same traits, and whatever remains is not counterproductive to their existence - it's like getting upset at a moose's giant goofy antlers.

  • Debates need to pay homage to their foundations a lot more, and the tree construction of their arguments, as without that we're waving theories around which are all partially true while not having sufficient explanatory power, which leads even credible parties to talk past each other.

Let's see what we get!