At Wisdom's Limit

At Wisdom's Limit

In recent years, I have written several times that I am slowly moving away from the "philosophical" focus which I developed around the year 2007. Where philosophy was once my main focus in life, I have come to realize the limits of wisdom and the love of it. I have touched on these limits several times in previous posts, but because the limits of wisdom--especially human wisdom--have a few facets, I thought that it might be useful to summarize the main reasons why wisdom can only carry us so far in life. Essentially, I consider there to be 3 main reasons why the study of "Philosophy", and indeed intellectualism in general, has limited use for human beings:

1. Wisdom is situational, and thus limited in its scope.

I have used the allegory of the empty universe so many times that it must surely be getting tiresome for my regular readers (if indeed I have any such), but I really do think that this allegory is so useful and important for our understanding of the nature of wisdom that I feel the need to invoke it again. Imagine a completely empty universe, devoid of anything at all. Suppose that you lived in this universe as an intelligent, perceptive, sentient awareness: An awareness with no physical body, and thus no physical sensations of any kind, and yet with the facility to have thoughts and reason intelligently. Imagine that you were immortal, that you could live in this emptiness forever, with no threat of death or any kind of disability. You would have all of eternity to develop your thinking and your thoughts as much as you like. What thoughts would such an intelligent awareness develop in this empty universe with nothing to see, nothing to hear, indeed nothing to perceive or experience at all? I think it is pretty clear that the whole notion of "ideas" or "thoughts" in such an existence would be meaningless. Thoughts must be about something, and if there is nothing, then there is nothing to think about. Without a physical body to feel anything, this awareness could not even feel or otherwise perceive emotions. With no physical reality and no personal emotions, any ideas which such an awareness might develop would by hopelessly abstract, with no bearing or relation to anything whatsoever. Literally any idea which might form within such an awareness would necessarily be gibberish, because it would have no relation to any objective reality or truth.

This means that wisdom is situational: There is a certain notion of "universal wisdom" which applies in any situation, but such wisdom does not actually exist, because any meaningful ideas which can exist can only apply to some concrete, existing reality. So "wisdom" is not really something abstract or detached from reality; it is something which relates to our physical reality. In this sense, practical wisdom is not much different from the down-home, folksy kind of folk-wisdom which develops in small towns: Be nice to people, play fair, stay healthy, and don't take anything which isn't yours and which you haven't earned. You could expand upon this kind of wisdom to some degree, leading to lists of life advice like H. Jackson Brown Jr.'s popular 1991 booklet Life's Little Instruction Book (which had a sequel, Volume 2, in 1994), or the similar and contemporaneous books by Robert Fulghum (who describes himself as a philosopher), but such writing tends to go in circles and thus end up back where it started, focusing on what was once called "traditional values" relating to "wholesome" things like family and personal health. When most people describe "Philosophy" as an academic study, they typically mean something more abstract and intellectual, but it all really comes back to the same conclusion: We're just trying to understand why we're here. And it seems like the only reason we're here is to try to live well. There isn't a whole lot more to it than that. Any wisdom which we might acquire on life's journey only seems to exist to help us live better; it is necessarily practical in scope, because it needs to be something which we can apply toward the goal of living better, whatever "better" might mean.

Of course, it is possible to theorize and speculate about things that might be, but this is the realm of science fiction, or what has more recently come to be known as "speculative fiction", because it is based mostly on speculation: People imagine what life on other planets might be like, they imagine other universes or other realities than the one known to humans on Earth, and while it may be enjoyable to speculate and fantasize about other worlds and other lives, none of this has anything to do with reality; it exists entirely in people's imaginations, and thus is about as useful as any other fantasy writing. When I was a child, I also sometimes read fantasy novels about elves and dragons, but such reading was and remains of nearly zero practical use to me; it was something done as a naïve child to pass the time. I have forgotten most of the books that I read from that time, which leads me to the next reason why human study and intellectualism in general are destined to fail:

2. Human memory is limited.

One of the biggest limiting factors in any kind of human study is the fundamentally temporary nature of human memory. Anything which human beings learn, they tend to slowly forget with time if that knowledge is not constantly reinforced. Children may retain much of what they learn because they have had relatively few years in which to forget, but I am 40 years old now, and I have already forgotten most of what I read 20 years ago. I remember a few highlights, but the details are nearly lost to me. When human memory is so fleeting, it seems rather pointless to keep trying to fill it; it is like filling a bucket with holes in it. Whatever you put in will leak out with time anyway. This is one of the reasons why I don't read much anymore: I have already forgotten most of what I've read in the past, and I don't see much point in putting a lot more into a place where it's just going to disappear anyway.

A lot of what people perceive as "wisdom" is simply having read a lot. Well-read people are often able to quote from literature or poetry in some contextually-meaningful way, and the ability to spontaneously provide pithy and relevant quotes from old writings is nice as a way to impress people (what I call "party-trick wisdom", because it exists mostly for the purpose of impressing other people rather than expressing any revelatory truths), but it serves no greater purpose than making a person seem knowledgeable, and this is the definition of pseudo-intellectualism: Spouting a lot of fancy-sounding words for the sake of getting people to think that you're smart and educated. You can do that if you like, and it's fun for a while, but it isn't anything that will really bring much benefit to your life, and if human beings are to expand beyond our current knowledge which we've gathered of the world, we must expand significantly beyond what we can memorize using our own natural human memories.

This is one of the reasons why I support further research and development in the field of computer-based artificial intelligence. If humanity is to advance in knowledge beyond where it stands now, this can only be done with computers, which can gather information much more quickly than human beings, and also retain that information for much longer. As mentioned in the previous point, wisdom, in and of itself, is very limited in its scope and application, and what knowledge people can really benefit from must go beyond "wisdom" and enter into more practical realms of science, both the physical sciences and the "social sciences". Humanity today possesses knowledge much, much greater than what any human being could ever store in their head, and such information can only be meaningfully processed and understood by computers, information machines with vastly superhuman capacities for information storage and processing. This leads me to the final reason why wisdom is limited in how much understanding it can actually bring to human beings:

3. Wisdom is reductive, not constructive.

If you added up most of the really wise things which human beings have said throughout history, I think you would find that most statements of wisdom are negative rather than positive. What I mean by this is that most practical wisdom seems to exist as warnings against doing something foolish rather than encouragement to do something wise. For example, it is wise to understand how much of what human beings do is pointless, wasteful pleasure-seeking: The alcohol, cigarettes, and other substances which people love to consume, the music and dancing which people love to take part in, and the interminable, pointless conversations about nothing which are called "small-talk" all exist to allow people to revel in a stupid hedonism, and wisdom would tell us that there is no point to this and that human beings would do better to avoid it. If you continue that line of reasoning, it also becomes apparent that most of what human beings do in terms of entertainment, such as watching movies or television, and even most of the books they read, is also a waste of time, as it brings them no greater understanding and is done only because they are bored and can't think of anything better to do. If you continue this thinking still further, you don't have that far to go before it becomes apparent that even being alive is a waste of time, and that people can cease doing this as well, because let's be honest, what practical purpose do our lives serve? What do we think we're really living for? We know that we're all going to die in the end anyway, and that in a few billion years, the universe will run out of energy and all activity will cease forever, so if you take the long view (which philosophy has a natural tendency to do, since philosophy is the act of making universal generalizations), we can't escape the conclusion that everything is pointless and a senseless waste of time and other resources.

All of this is true, or at least, humans don't have any way of refuting it. And yet we are alive, and if we have our lives, there is the sense that we should try to do something with this life that has been given to us rather than just throwing it away. And so there needs to be work toward building something with our lives, building meaning which gives us a reason to get up in the morning and keep doing what we're doing with our lives. Wisdom does not and cannot give us this meaning, because wisdom is reductive, not constructive: Wisdom destroys meaning by observing how pointless, baseless, and unreliable everyone and everything is. In order to have any meaning in our lives at all, we must allow ourselves to be a little irrational, a little unbalanced, and a little emotional rather than remaining entirely rational and objective. And when we do that, when we knowingly allow ourselves to be biased, when we discard reason and objective logic, then we're stepping away from wisdom and venturing into the realm of hedonism, pursuing that which makes us feel good instead of that which is demonstrably true. And we do this because we must, because if we didn't, we would have no reason to be alive at all.

Philosophy is good for recognizing lies and misconceptions, which is sometimes important to do, because human beings tend to be full of unexamined assumptions, things which they think or believe which are demonstrably false. With objective thinking, you can tear your life all the way down to nothing and see how baseless and meaningless everything is. But after you've done this, after you've discarded all the unnecessary deadweight from your life, you need to add something to your life: You need to fill your life with what is really meaningful for you, because if you don't do this, then you will just be an empty shell, a person with no reason to live. Philosophy cannot give you that reason; only pursuing your passions can give you that reason. When you've eliminated all the lies from your life, when you've seen through everything which you once falsely believed to be true, then you are at wisdom's limit, and you must begin to build your life back up again, not with wisdom, but with love. When you understand what you live for, what really motivates you and gives you reason, then never forget it, because it will be what keeps you going. Wisdom sets you free, but passion makes you strong.



Why dude WHY

An interesting post - in the first section, the author is working toward a bad approximation of the first few chapters of Sun and Steel - this desire to cast off the chains of the Academic Overthinker and instead exist in the physical world, where real truth, beauty, and wisdom lies. However, he fails to fully grasp the implications and seems bound to the grubby earth by his Academic Chains - enter section 2, in which we observe that most academics are not very smart and utterly fail to understand both the world as it exists around them and even their own area of "expertise." (In fact, this is a bit of a catch-22: the dumber the person, the more likely they are to be drawn to academia and spend years in academia becoming an "expert," yet still unable to cast off the dead weight of their own intellectual fallibility, and therefore producing dull, pointless, and often outright wrong observations/conclusions which are then megaphoned out to the world in flowery prose under the guise of expertise. The catch-22: If they were smart, they would not spend years of their life trying to prove their intellectual capability bumbling about in academia, and would instead go do something interesting - therefore the most educated are usually complete idiots as they spent their whole lives in academia without realizing it was a pointless waste of time.)

The fundamental truth that he misses (which becomes apparent around the time he says "I don't read books" - a surprisingly telling line which could've quickly summarized the whole post) is around the value of Art, Poetry - the Spiritual Elements of the world. (Here I use spiritual as a stand-in for a deeper meaning/truth - this is a western US regional use of the word & not meant to imply any connection with religion - though for some people it can.) The man rejects the intellectual world to grasp for the physical one, but fails to see the latter's Inherent Beauty and Deeper Truth, so it eludes his reach and he is left depressed, dick in hand, moping about with some pessimistic observations about not reading books. This is the danger of the "intellectual thinker" - if he is an idiot, he will unfortunately Think until he reaches some Stupid Conclusion and then decide to share it with the world.

In the end, his discussion of wisdom comes down to semantics - he assumes a very specific definition of wisdom, then writes at great length and draws conclusions from it, but his assumption is mostly nonsense and his conclusions a waste of time. I suppose I can understand, then, why somebody with this pattern of thinking would come across in a depressed manner the way he did. To the author I would simply say: Go walk outside until you Know Beauty.

Today in Harvard Square it is cool, blustery - the sun peeks, off-orange over orange-tipped leaves. Soon there will be firepits and little children will roast marshmallows. Did you sit inside all day in your fluorescent-lit office with 1 window writing about why it's not worthwhile to read books? Are you a little grumpy? And don't even get me started on dancing with women.

Author? He's a youtube Let's Player.

That explains why he's miserable and gets no bitches

Better off alone

I used to wonder why some people said they were better off alone. How could you be better off alone? Don't you get lonely that way? Isn't it better to be able to share your ideas, your experiences, your time, your life with people who appreciate you and understand you, who will give you support and company, who will make your life more meaningful?

Well, yes. It is. But there are some people who are not capable of being appreciated or understood, because no one appreciates or understand them. These people do not make other people's lives more meaningful, and so they in turn cannot have their lives be made more meaningful by other people.

If you see someone whom you like, you probably want to talk to them. But what do you say to them? How often have you been in that position of being attracted to someone, so strongly attracted to someone that you really, really wanted to sit next to them and talk to them and be with them? But what exactly are you supposed to say to them? If there isn't anything you actually have or want to say, then why do you want to talk to them in the first place? What is the point of starting a conversation when one has nothing to say? Do you just want to physically hang around that person, to be in physical proximity to them without talking to them? And supposing that they agree to this arrangement, what happens then? Going out together? Living together? Marriage? What is the point of it all? What purpose is it supposed to satisfy if you can't even talk to that person? Do you suppose that if you have nothing to say to someone whom you've never spoken to before, that you would have something to say to them later? Believe me, with time, you run out of things to say; after being with a person for years and years, you find that you have nothing more to say to them. If you have nothing to say to that person now, you will have even less to say to them later. And if all you want is just to hang around that person, to be next to them without either of you saying anything, then, again, what is the point? And how likely is it that the other person similarly wants to just hang around you without saying or doing anything with you?

It's just like people's love affairs with the big city. If you live outside of the city, you probably want to go there, to do something there. What exactly do you want to do? Where do you want to go? Whom do you want to see? Do you have anything specific in mind? Most people who see the city just assume that in such a huge place, full of so many people, surely there must be something interesting and worthwhile to do. They don't really know what exactly; they don't know what they want to do, or where, or why, or how, or with whom, but they go to the city with the idea that surely they can find something to do there. And then they end up alone, in an empty room if they're lucky--in an empty alley if they're less lucky--with nothing to do except stare at a wall and wait for tomorrow. Yes, there's a lot to do in a big city. But most people don't want to do it. They just want to sit around and take drugs and watch television. That's something you can do anywhere, but people have this fascination with the city, this idea that if only they could get there, something would start happening, that their lives would bloom into the burst of excitement which people imagine they want their lives to be, even though they don't know exactly what kind of excitement. The city calls to them like a beacon: Твоя цель здесь, человек; иди ко мне! And people come, streaming toward that beacon like ants blindly following a scent, driven by something stronger than reason, knowing nothing other than that they desire, and they would do anything to alleviate that desire, that terrible, burning desire which consumes them.

The truth is that you're looking for something that doesn't exist. Because you're looking for something that will satisfy your desire. And yet there's nothing that will. That person whom you're so drawn to... there's nothing that you could do with them, nor they with you. That place you're so drawn to... there's nothing you could really do there, nothing that would satisfy the emptiness and the longing you feel in your gut and in your soul. You don't really know what you want; you have the feeling that you want something because you're unsatisfied, but you don't know what it is that you want, and the reason is simple: there is nothing in the world that would satisfy you.

Those people and places you're so attracted to... there's nothing there for you. You'll only end up feeling even more lonely, even more abandoned, even more misunderstood, even more forgotten, even more isolated, than if you were actually alone. In love with the idea of being in love, people are drawn like flies to some notion of fulfillment, and then, when the fulfillment doesn't come, it's like being punched in the gut. Every single time, it feels horrible. But people go through it again and again, because they keep thinking that they can find something which can satisfy a desire for which there exists simply nothing to satisfy. Endless wishing, endless dreaming, endless desire, and no hope of satisfaction or redemption: this is humanity. And everything people to do strive toward their dreams only makes them more empty and hopeless.

That's why people are better off alone.

After I saw what he looked like I lost interest to read his 3,000 words reflections on life

If you guys are ever thinking about this when reading one of my posts please keep in mind I am extremely popular with the ladies (and dudes) at the dancing place. Whether it's because I am attractive I am not sure - I always considered myself "normal" (whatever that is - presumably not particularly exciting to the ladies). But it seems to me like they are attracted to me

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i thought this was a fucking asoul post and was already formulating a response in my head for like 5 mins till I realized

And? Your response?

Can you make a detailed notes with a few points of each section of this I watched 30 mins but there is still another 2 hrs to go

you're exotic

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nmagane when brendan starts listing off the names of his ward skins for the 5th time in the same night to get jones to abandon