Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

Directed knowledge

I have been considering a concept of late, which i call directed statements. These are descriptions of future states of the world; they are directed in that they represent a vector of sorts, one that begins here & now and ends in a future state of the world. There are many kinds of such directed statements: desires, hopes, faiths, goals, oughts & shoulds.

One very important subset of directed statements are those that are true, which i define as possible, attainable future states of the world. These statements i call directed knowledge. They have, i believe, a very special and important property: insofar as they are true, when we accept them as such they rearrange our basic picture of the world, correcting it, and thereby showing us how to attain that future state starting from where we are here & now.

As such, directed knowledge is a leverage point in the future from which we can lift ourselves into new & better people. This knowledge of what could be is a mechanism of the world, a force within human beings which we can use to become the people we would not otherwise have been able to become. It is also my attempt to translate the salvific power of the Christian’s faith that e is already saved.

How can one know that a directed statement is true, hence directed knowledge? Some such statements can be verified by the natural sciences. For example, we can be quite certain that the sun will come out tomorrow, barring very large asteroids or some horrible oversight in the theory of gravitation. However, most of the statements about the future provided by science are regrettably not of immediate import to our lives. Moreover, the important ones have mostly been already incorporated into our basic pictures of the world (the ever re-rising sun certainly has). Only those directed statements are useful to us that are novel and which we have to be accepted, thereby changing our world pictures. So we must look for a different way of finding true directed statements.

Another category of such true statements are those that have been verified not through science but through other people’s lives. If a statement has worked for enough people in the past, we can be (almost) sure it will work for us now. That you can overcome your harmful instincts and emotions and learn to control them is such a tried and true statement, verified over and over again by the sages of the world and many another successful and happy soul. This is truly directed knowledge, and if accepted by anyone, will transform how e* sees the world and lives within it. Hence, directed knowledge is certainly amenable to experimental verification, though usually of a more practical than scientific nature.

(Good directed knowledge is clearly another important and further subset of directed statements, one which can be defined as possible & desirable future states of the world. Of course, there are many, usually conflicting, ways to define what is desirable, and perhaps none that will ever be entirely satisfactory. For my part, i have settled on that which you truly want in the long run and all things considered. This definition only applies to individuals in the context of an ethics, and probably cannot be fruitfully extended to groups, let alone the planet, that is, to politics. Good directed knowledge might not therefore be a very useful concept on its own as it is nothing more than the conjunction of two otherwise very useful ideas: directed knowledge and the good.)

* For more information on the non-gendered third person singular pronoun “e” see here.


January 31, 2011

an old parable

Here is a parable Jesus once told which i have yet to understand:
The vice-president of a large company was out on a business trip when he learned that his secretary was stealing from him. He informed her that she would be fired upon his return. So in the mean time the secretary went and copied a number of confidential documents she planned to give to whichever of the competitors agreed to hire her. When he returned and heard of what she had done, the vice-president congratulated his secretary and said: Well done! You are a shrewd woman; you will go far in life.

January 28, 2011

An (un-)godly exercise

Here is an exercise i like to practice, a metaphysical exercise: sometimes understand the world as having no gods, as a self-contained existence, perhaps pointless; but at other times try to understand how there could be a god, how god might stand outside our world and transform it. Stretch your mind until it can encompass both truths, until it finally understands how both are also wrong. Then perhaps you might be free enough to imagine deeper truths.


January 27, 2011

The pronoun e

As the English language regrettably lacks a third person singular pronoun to designate persons of all sexes, and refusing to settle for “he or shes”, “theys” and other heavy duty work arounds, i decided to create my own such term. Seeing that all other vowels were otherwise occupied (a, I, oh, you, and why), i decided to dignify the letter e with its own purpose, especially since it is also the shared last letter of the two gendered pronouns, he and she.

I decline the pronoun following the simple rules that also apply to “it”, hence: e (subject), e (object), es (possessive) and eself (reflexive).

While i am on the subject of grammatical innovations, i will point out that i have also ceased to capitalize the letter i when used as the first person singular, since the reasons for this bombastic spelling, the alleged need to save manuscripts’ cursive i’s from disappearing into a mass of indistict humps and waves, has itself long since disappeared.

January 27, 2011


After publishing many books and touring the world (on and off-line) to preach against God, the scientist Dawkins finally retired and took up painting to pass the time. One day, having set off with his easel to paint by the river Thames, he was putting the last few touches to his work of art when the theologian McGrath came strolling by. Dawkins greeted him kindly and said,
“How do you like the duck i have just painted?”
“Oh, replied McGrath, i thought it was a rabbit!”

January 27, 2011

Obama, my sister’s cat, the philosopher

Obama, my sister’s cat, will sit for hours upon the window ledge nearest the bird feeder, patiently learning how each bird behaves, so as through observation to become a better cat.

I, the philosopher, must learn to do the same.

January 27, 2011

To be good is to do and want what is truly in your interest, in the long run and all things considered.

To be good is to do and want what is truly in your interest, in the long run and all things considered. How could it not be so?

It should be pointed out, however, that we rarely consider what is truly in our interest, but rather settle too quickly for what we desire in the immediate, what someone else wants for us, or what our feelings of revenge, pride or even love are pushing us towards. We also usually fail to think in the long run (which always begins now): we settle upon that which will make us happy today but miserable tomorrow. Nor do we very often consider all things, but like a poor chess player, we give up thinking through our move half-way when our minds pretend to tire, hoping our lazyness will be rewarded with luck.

Many of those things to consider involve other people, animals and situations, and it is certainly in our interest to ensure those are happy whose misery will make us sad. Here too we must consider how our deed might cascade through many iterations before it comes home to roost.

If, however, we do carefully examine our own interest, and act accordingly, we will really be good, for we will be doing our best to the greatest extent and produce the happiest outcomes possible.