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#9 On resistance

Good Christ McGann. Moon “shots”, shoving turds through keyholes, condescension towards your erstwhile colleagues — maybe we needed the tone lowered. Tits.

You also said:

We just need some notion of absolute order among options to say some are better than others. We don’t need a complete order, I think it’s fair to say can’t have an exact way of weighing things up because the world isn’t exact.

There are plenty of philosophers from the 20th century who would say that we need to dismantle all hierarchical thinking because hierarchies are inherently restrictive and lead to exclusion. Obviously this would be a disaster for mathematics at the very least. Can one have a complete mathematics based on non-ordinal numbers? Surely the concept of natural, rational, or real numbers would break down… as I say this I’m sure someone has done it and worked it out in some detail — the house of pure mathematics always wins. But outside of maths, structures are often more arbitrary and so maybe the hierarchies they produce are a bit arbitrary.

So again, how does one determine obviousness? There is one option I’m pursuing in my misguided attempt at an aesthetic  view of figuring out what’s true/important. I’ve been thinking about resistance to increased scrutiny, or resistance to increased detail (maybe this resonates with some of your scale ideas). An insultingly banal example: you look into the idea of astrology and to a first order approximation it looks interesting: there are some stories there, some apparent structure and detail. But further scrutiny doesn’t really yield anything new. You zoom in and break it down to its atomic parts and it dissipates. Compare to modern cosmology. Again, seems pretty detailed and interesting at first blush, but you can then drill down into deeper and deeper layers, finding out new structure, new relationships, new facts that weren’t obvious from the start, etc. So it’s not obvious at first glance that one is more accurate/interesting than the other, but after a few trials it becomes very obvious.

I think this kind of goes without saying in the humanities where we keep reading books and looking at artworks that resist easy or early classification and understanding.

So the proportionality that I’m talking about is maybe only apparent after a second, third, fourth look at something. Creationism looks about as good as the theory of evolution, but lacks the resolution at smaller (or larger?) scales. A dream, or an hallucination of alien abduction, can have the verisimilitude of waking life. But dreamers rarely subject their dream environments to tests of detail, richness, consistency, etc. Waking life resists such interrogations, or at least many more of them, to make it obviously more real than a fantasy. Dreams nonetheless seem about as real as waking life because our brains only do enough testing to get by. So in a sense we sleepwalk through even the waking life.

Anyway, this is all very messy still and I’ve strayed away from order. Could you elaborate a bit on your thoughts on order and scale?

Tonally lowered,

Jamie.