Rethinking (is) Philosophy

Context: Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

The article referenced above is an interesting, if spectacularly shallow, reflection on conceptual about-faces in philosophy. The deeper lesson and message here is not so much that these particular – if diverse – philosophical, political or theological world-views (and their proponents) found themselves in need of somewhat radical revision, but that the endemic logical and conceptual extensibility of systems of thought, language and communication not only allow for the possibility of such dramatic revalidation, but that these dramatic metamorphoses are the nature and raison d’etre of logical, mathematical and conceptual information system self-propagation.

Philosophical information systems as historical artefacts – call them “computational” if it helps, but don’t get hung up on the metaphor – are not purely the endpoints and products of the form and flow of intellectual history any more than a living sentience (and it’s attendant experience) or the rules of scrabble are the necessary end-point(s) of the laws of physics. We mistake a certain projective teleology as being essential or inevitable and fail to recognise that this is far more a consequence of reflexive psychological or (associated) cultural aspirations than it is innate or essential to the world.

We require rules-based systems for communication and the plausible continued success of this technological project humanity is engaged in, but those same rules and grammars of thought can as often be the dragging anchors on creativity and development.

The rules-based order we seek, and project across many contexts, is important but when the hyper-inflating combinatorial complexity of (all of) the elements and configurations of that system prove themselves to be insufficient to negotiate the emergent realities and complexities we face, we need to level-up, reassess our assumptions and introduce new rules, new grammars, new systems of thought – and endlessly so.

Anyone fancy a game of scrabble using the 50-odd thousand characters of Mandarin? Of course not, but in a context where our world has become (similarly) far too complex to be successfully processed by the limited functional aptitude of our ascendant conceptual, ideological and organisational systems or technologies, we find ourselves in a similarly untenable situation.

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