While passing through odd states around sleep (not actually trying to sleep, but seeing if I can derail the natural process in different ways) I occasionally arrive at clear—seemingly perfect understandings of various pop political views. Perfect in so much as the many expressions of those views feel encapsulated. As if contained, and their relations to each individual proponent made obvious; an obvious result of their value system and “trace.” Suddenly it’s all in place and those positions make “sense,” but it can be difficult to carry back with you—to maintain coherence into a waking state. Reconstruction is possible, but this is a different discussion. Sam Harris seems to have brought many rote rational imitators around to a secular interpretation of meditation. I’m not sure if I know what secular means. I see why serious people like Harris take on that limitation. It’s a way to ward off the story elements of religious narrative. Yet it is too limiting. I find a better constraint than the myriad forms imposed by the rational—is to simply avoid all that makes you comfortable. Anything that tempts meaning, teleology, or really—no—the human, should be side lined. The world is alien and it has a view. It’s worse than the cosmicism of Lovecraft, there is no existential cry to hide in. You see the “rational” is human too.
This is not like the physicalist’s view, which is normative in its approach to world being cold, inert(though quite active), mechanical given a century ago, but most critically—comprehensible. Which always seemed more like a personality type, an aesthetic. When we practice our physics, we do not practice physics, but a description of physics. Our science is what’s comprehensible, not the world. Certainly there is some correspondence between the story and the observed, but this only holds up so long as you do not break up the observed. You don’t have any of these issues if you leave the observed alone. So no normative claims of what the world ought be, need be made. The world does not need to be—or be—anything—to be of any nature that makes sense to man, his language, narrative, or personal aesthetic. The rational aesthetic view when made method might be deeply effective, but there is no normative power, because there is no normative power. The world is not only unknown, but unknowable; not only unimaginable, but outside of the imagined. The oceanic consciousness of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris typifies alien distance, but the world is alien to it too. For both us and Solaris, the world is alien, but without distance.
There are many present technological advancements that I am critical of from a philosophical point of view. Machine learning is one, certainly it will be very useful, produce trillions of dollars in value, but it will dead end in about 50 years, and that economic incentive might mislead us from taking deeper alternatives seriously for that amount of time. Harris’ mediation may be the type of enlightenment we need to alter the base model of man to become a space faring species without biological intervention, but it will dead end in about 50,000 years, and that grand incentive might mislead us from taking deeper alternative seriously for that amount of time.
Artwork: Newton; William Blake