Philosophy is supposed to be profound. By which I mean it should be:

* True. The only way a falsehood can be profound is if it's profoundly wrong, which is profundity in a very different sense.

* Not vague. It may be true that 'sometimes society seems to change radically but really it's only changed superficially' or 'you don't always need to know the cause of a problem to find a solution', but unless there's some way to determine which social changes really are radical and which problems can't be solved by understanding their cause, these are shallow insights.

* Widely applicable. An insight into how British cookery books of the 1880s contained quicker recipes than those of the 1850s is all well and good. But it's not profound unless you link it to changing attitudes to time produced by advances in Victorian capitalism enabled by greater industrialisation made possible by the transformation of natural philosophy as the hobby of gentleman scholars into science as a profession. Or some such.

* Counter-intuitive. Specifically, incompatible with the common prejudices and ideology of the time and place.

It doesn't have to be novel, though you frequently meet the attitude that a thinker has been refuted not by other thinkers but somehow by the passage of time. Or just by having been around long enough to drift in and out of fashion a few times.

This is the obverse of the equally stupid idea that ancient Indian wisdom is wiser because (a) it's old and (b) you're (assumed to be) not Indian. Which I suppose makes enthusiasm for the exotic a subtle form of racism.

An idea doesn't have to be complicated to be profound, though there's no shortage of thinkers, amateur and professional, who seem to think the more neologisms they coin and the more obscure names they drop, the deeper their thinking gets.

This is a short excerpt from a long essay which someone posted recently, in response to my request that that give a simple, concrete example of their system:

They key rule of the F.E.D. first arithmetic of dialectics, which they call the "Qualitative" or "Q" arithmetic, to keep in mind here is this, the "ontological multiplication" or "qualities multiplication" rule --

<<Aufheben>> of meta^n-units = meta^n-units "times" meta^n-units = meta^n-units + meta^(n+1)-units.

These "qualities multiplications" are carried out below in the context of the "dyadic Seldon Function", which is just a framework for re-squaring the already squared previous stage to generate its successor stage --


-- such that )-|-(n denotes a non-amalgamating sum of 2^n qualitatively-different category-symbols.

After three attempts I managed to read it. And it turns out what he's saying is:

The written letters in written words have different meanings to those in isolation. And individual words in sentences are likewise different than when in isolation. And so on for paragraphs, essays, books etc.

Oh, and the entire universe is like this too, in one way or another.

Now, I'm fairly sure this isn't profound. It's probably true in a uselessly vague way - you could draw a loose but valid analogy between molecules, atoms and subatomic particles on the one hand, and phrases, words and letters on the other.

But I don't think you'd learn anything about letters or leptons if you did. You'd have learned something new about the theory, but not the world it's supposed to be a theory of - and that, I suggest, is one of the hallmarks of pseudoscience.

Now, if it weren't such a vague idea it might be widely applicable - as opposed to just imposable on a wide variety of phenomena by reinterpreting the terms for every case.

I'm not sure whether it's counter-intuitive or not. It's certainly not counter to my intuition - it's just an obscure restatement of the obvious, a description which applies to a lot of bad philosophy.

There's no necessary reason why a profound idea can't fit right in with the folk philosophy of the time, but seeing as common beliefs are a mixture of hasty generalisations and ossified sophisms from forgotten power struggles, it's highly unlikely.

I miss being a teenager, because back then every new idea felt profound - especially if it came from my own head. But by a small margin I prefer the middle aged ability to spot the real deal.

At least...I think I can.

1 comment:

  1. ‘‘‘The Psychohistorical-Dialectical Equations’’’ & ‘Psychohistorical Materialism’:
    ‘ALGORITHMIC-Heuristic’ Guidance for Application of Marxian Dialectical Method --
    STATE-Capitalism [PSEUDO-Socialism] vs. ‘Political-ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY’,

    I have become aware of a new development in Marxian Theory, using a new tool of “universal labor” [Marx] -- a heuristic, ‘intuitional’, ‘contra-Boolean’ algebraic dialectical logic -- one that has enabled those who use it to develop a model of ‘‘‘The Dialectic of Nature’’’: of a mounting ‘meta-genealogy’, driven by a self-recurring “aufheben” process named ‘meta-monad-ization’, rising from pre-nuclear “particles” all the way up to human societies, with a prediction as to what is coming next; a model of the historical dialectic of natural history as totality.

    “Inside” that totality-model, they have also derived a model of the history of what Marx calls “the social forces of production”, and “the social relations of production”, within “human pre-history” [Marx], culminating in the capital-relation/wage-labor-relation, at the core of capitalist society, and in the self-cleavage of that society into the wages-/ salaries-class vs. capitals-class class-struggle, that this “social relation of production” imposes, until the capital-relation-incented growth of the “social forces of production” internally destabilizes that capitals-system, due to ‘technodepreciation’-losses-driven falling profitability, the ruling-class reaction to which produces the present ‘descendance-phase’ of capitalist civilization, beginning around 1913. ...

    For more about these historic breakthroughs, see --,The_Dialectic_of_Social_Equity,07SEP2014.jpg