Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Back into Incomplete Nature

I am reading again Terrence Deacon's Incomplete Nature. This time I am starting with the epilogue and am reading a chapter at a time in reverse order. I'm now at Chapter 15.

It's a hard book to read. It's a fun book to read. The process is like trying to solve a puzzle - where the obstacle you are trying to overcome is the slowness of your own brain.

It's also a scary process.

I think the reason I am reading this book is because I feel that it may be a shortcut. Instead of spending thousands of hours trying to formulate an education based on Kant, Kierkegaard, Kuhn et al, one could jump onto a more modern, scientifically verifiable foundation and use this new, unified structure as the basis for building a personal cosmology faster miles an hour.

Well, we all know about the "10,000 Hour Rule" - that it takes 10,000 hours of work or effort to master a particular skill or discipline. So, shortcut or no shortcut, if I get into this science/philosophy thing then it will take years to get out to the other side.

And even if I did - then what? Scary thing #2 then pops up.

You run into the conundrum posed by that very smart lad, Paul Graham, in his essay "How to Do Philosophy"

Here are some quotes from Paul's essay:

The proof of how useless some of their answers turned out to be is how little effect they have. No one after reading Aristotle's Metaphysics does anything differently as a result.
If I say this, some will say it's a ridiculously overbroad and uncharitable generalization, and others will say it's old news, but here goes: judging from their works, most philosophers up to the present have been wasting their time.
Fortunately Paul leaves a bit of wiggle room. There may be, after all, some utility to philosophy:
These seem to me what philosophy should look like: quite general observations that would cause someone who understood them to do something differently.
And this is what I hope for. It would be a fun and fine thing to be able to apply what I learn from Deacon and others to the other topics I am interested in - including follow-ups to Christopher' Alexanders A Pattern Language and my own investigations into the visual display of huge amounts of data.

I have started the process by beginning to write a summary or synopsis of each chapter - which I plan to publish here and elsewhere as soon as some of it begins to look as if it might look like something. And given my extremely low standards of quality, I will probably publish way too early. If it's worth doing then it's worth doing badly. Right?

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