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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Action Theory

Category: Humor Winners, Issue 8

This is a lot of invented reason to provide money to people who are only good at thinking.  They call themselves philosophers and we agree to use their term because they’re good at thinking.  The great thing about people who are good at thinking is that they can argue any point they want.  When you finally reach a useful conclusion with them, however, they usually switch sides.  This is because ACTING on the conclusion is not their area of expertise.  Indeed, action is merely another theoretical in their view.  Hence the name.

Philosophy often boils down to digitizing the analog world of word meanings.  For example, philosophers will argue about whether desire + belief (about how to achieve the desire) = intention.  The assumption is that there is a good answer: either that IS what intention is, or it is not.  They don’t bother admitting that “intention” (not to mention “belief” and “desire”) is just a word that most people find useful and nailing it down further than that is really just mental masturbation.

What does it mean to digitize the analog world?  Words have ranges of meanings, and each of us has a slightly different range of meanings for each word we use.  Philosophy attempts to provide a reason for us all to use the same range, but ultimately admits that any agreed upon range is arbitrary.  Thus, a philosopher enjoys pointing out that there is some number of grains of sand that you have to have in order to call them a pile, but that number has no agreed upon value.  For me, the lesson is personal: pick your own damn number and stop relying on everyone else!  At around 15 - 30 grains, you’ll get a few people who start arguing that you have to bunch them together, so you might want to also pick a lower limit for the density of grains per square micron or something.

One of the hardest things for philosophers who are paid for being philosophers to admit is that the reason the field exists in the first place is because we don’t KNOW what we’re talking about.  None of us knows.  Philosophy, in its own twisted cerebral way, works to make us all understand that.  The funny part of it is that in order to create the epiphany required to really understand that point, the opposite has to be claimed, over and over and over again.  Trust me, I know; I’m a philosopher.

Somehow, I don’t think that any Ivy League school will find this essay nearly compelling enough to let me into their program.  At least I hope they don’t because I have more important things to do.

Posted by Dave Scotese on 12/06 at 03:20 AM | Permalink
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