#58 On the conditions of knowledge

Dear Jamie, Years ago I heard a story (possibly apocryphal) that after the space race the Russian and American space agencies made things unnecessarily complicated and expensive for themselves when they first had to dock their ships with each other. Docking ships was a solved problem, one had a shaft and the other had a…
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#57 On the key (and lock) to knowledge

Dear Mat, This is a long letter but I feel we’ve alighted on a fundamental, multifaceted philosophical difference and it’s what I’ve been researching full time for several years so I’ve got too much to say. OK. The brain is an organ situated in a body (including a gut) and a world (including a culture). The…
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#56 On systems and their yardsticks

Dear Jamie, I love snide but every part of your second paragraph tells me you didn’t understand my last letter at all. But the gut/unconscious is a good topic. The politics thread is getting stale. We’re about to go on an Amazing Race of sorts, a race into the meta. I said that there are…
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#55 On the unconscious

Dear Mat, Apologies for the lateness but I was on my own European jaunt and was equally if not more appalled by the moribund ivory tower I encountered at an academic conference. One somewhat snide response to your call for giving people real problems, would of course be that it’s something someone without serious real problems would say:…
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#54 On surviving for a living

Dear Jamie, In 2009 I went on a trip to Europe. The year before I had read the life-turn-upside-downing 4 Hour Workweek and made a bunch of friends from all around the world. The ironclad arguments in the book had a year to stew in my mind. My friends, having graduated and left Australia, were…
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#53 On equipment for living

Dear Mat, One of my favourite formulations of literature — as opposed to myth — is Kenneth Burke’s claim that it is equipment for living. Literature provides us with new perspectives and unusual ideas, it gives us discussions of moral quandaries, it brings new people into our lives, it defamiliarises the familiar and pushes the limits of language…
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#52 On reasons for selection

Dear Jamie Damn it man all I wanted was an exact explanation of the hierarchy of value boiled down into a sentence or two. What good are you? I’d like to sully your thinking by forcing it into categories. Here’s what I have. It seems like there are four reasons to explain why a work…
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#51 On quality

Dear Mat, Could there be a cult based on Hamlet? Sure, cults (short lived belief systems) spring up all over the place all the time. But I’m pretty sure it would never become a religion (long-lived belief system) because there is way too much uncertainty, ambiguity and ambivalence in Hamlet. “To be or not to be?” — that is not the…
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