Informal reflections on my first year of thinking and writing.


Tempered by Failure

Today is my N+1th birthday. Around the beginning of 2021 — my birthday is close enough to the beginning of the year that we can just say “when I turned N” — I began seriously writing. This was preceded by the beginning of a new period in my thought where I, rather than spreading those thoughts which had been given to me, tried to see what I could discover by thinking for myself; this website catalogues what I’ve learned so far.

First, a historical note. I’m aware of two reasons for this massive change in my thinking:

  1. Before this period, I had some extremely strong opinions which were transmitted to me by other people and which guided a lot of my actions$^*$. That ingroup took most of these opinions as totems, to be worshipped and replicated but not really developed or critiqued, so they were blind to the implications of these opinions. Thus, while they could live more or less normally, my pursual of these nasty implications caused a steady buildup of tension. Eventually, the kettle blew, and I began to violently reject these opinions, growing not only bitter at the people who had, in my mind, “conned” me, but angry at myself for actually believing them.

    Once I realized that the normal operation of my mind had resulted in such a terrible failure, I became much more cautious about believing things in the future, and went over my mental inventory to see what else I previously might have been conned about. However, from the internal point of view, many core beliefs seem so obvious as to not need justification — you go straight from an observation to the belief itself, with a dollop of emotion thrown in — it is difficult but vital to see that it is precisely these beliefs that need the most justification. I started to figure that anything I couldn’t clearly justify from first principles ought to be discarded. Of course, this left me with almost no beliefs that I could say were truly mine, apart from beliefs about belief formation. I couldn’t figure out how to actually form my own beliefs either, so I was kind of lost. (It’s much better to be lost than confidently incorrect, but it’s much more uncomfortable as well).

    $^*$ I’m being intentionally vague here, and letting the fact that this could refer to so many different things speak for itself.

  2. Around this time, I began to read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. With his method, Kant did not seem to be building one of the disconnected constellations of insights that I had previously taken to be a “system”, but rather an engine for generating insights, something that could truly be called a system; I found it to be extraordinarily original, interesting, and, most of all, inspiring: it was exactly what I needed to fill the gap I found myself in. This is not to say that I agree with it — I disagree with most of it, actually — but that it is the most inspiring and original work I have ever read. (One day I’d like to do a close read and critique of the CPR, but that would take literal months of work. One day in the far future, when I have enough money to be free...)

    In any case, I acquired the motivation to begin thinking for myself — to create entirely new rhetorical and logical strategies, and to deploy them in service of my own system of thought. There’s a very long way to go — the system is its own process of improvement; the system is complete when it forms a closed loop, yet it does not; the system is complete when there is nothing more to say, yet there is plenty more to say — but the process has started, at least.

I began writing down my thoughts, generally building them up in a private IRC channel I share with a few friends (not that they ever respond; it’s more like rubber duck debugging) and then posting them to my private Notion. Eventually, I hosted this Notion on a vanity domain* I had registered earlier, and, cleaning a lot of these writings up, forming them into essays, made this website.

Table of Writings

I’ve never been sure what to call my various writings. The essay/note distinction I make here is essentially arbitrary, but for the most part the things I call essays tend to be longer, more self-contained, and more original, while the things I call notes tend to be shorter, less self-contained, and more like reactions.

Major Articles Written Between 1/17/2021 and 1/17/2022

The most important ones are highlighted in red.

Month Day Article Abbr. Thread Type
Feb 25 Analogical Traits and Campbell’s Law AT A Essay
28 Nothing Human Remains NHR Essay
Mar 3 Kind Murderers and Semantic Fracturing SF A Essay
21 Descriptive, Not Normative DNN A Note
21 Explanatory Power Distributions EPD A Note
Apr 17 Stages of Mind SM B Note
Jun 3 Playstyles and Freedom PF Essay
20 Cognitive Temperature CT B Note
20 Interesting Science IS C Essay
22 Supernatural Luck SL Essay
Jul 16 The Problem With Talking Points PTP Essay
17 Deliverance De Note
Aug 11 Two Poles of Counterfactual Thought 2PCT A Note
15 Metacognitive Science MCS C Essay
15 A Framework for Metascience FMS Essay
31 Kinds of Dichotomies KD C Note
Oct 01 The Critical Stance CS A Note
03 The Ideatic Realm IR C Essay
16 Frame Hermeneutics and Conceptual Perspectives FHCP C Essay
Dec 7 Mental Discipline MD List
12 Virtuality and Phenomenology VP B Essay
15 The Doctrine of Explainability DE Note
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