The Errors of Essentialism
The concept of "essentialism" that will be defined and criticized here,
may not exactly fit with some other people's definition of
"essentialism". Nevertheless, as you will see, and no matter how you
wish to call it, what will be described and refuted below is indeed a
real and heavy widespread mistake that makes a lot of troubles and
misunderstandings in this world, so that it needs to be addressed.
Essentialism is the general attitude of assuming that, in order to
understand any object, problem or debate, the right way would be to
focus on the question of what is its deep nature, what is the
nature of the elements it is made of. It is a form of reductionism - as it
claims to reduce everything to the question of its mere essence,
the nature of its components.
By contrast, the non-essentialist
position that I will hold is that: in this earthly life, it
turns out that, most of the time, to understand the world in
Instead, what matters is the complexity, the structures, the
context of things, the details of the global architecture by which
things connect together. The research of such aspects is precisely the
done by science. It would just deserve to be extended beyond the
thematic limits traditionally assigned to it.
Examples of essentialist errors
The essentialist conception of essentialism
The first error of essentialism resides in the opinion it has of itself.
Indeed, it first poses as a pleonasm: "the essence of any object
resides in its essence", so that it mascarades as a sort of tautology,
something unquestionable, therefore presenting as ridiculous any
attempt to contradict it.
As essentialism consists in focusing on essences, when it considers
"what is essentialism, and how it opposes to non-essentialism", it
assumes that it can reduce the debate to "what is the essence of
essentialism" and "what is the essence of non-essentialism". It goes
on: essentialism deals with essences, so that the essence of
essentialism would consist in what it says about essences. OK, what
more ? it claims that "essences do exist",
while non-essentialism would probably be the claim that essences
are denied, would not exist. This way, essentialism claims to be a sort
of alternative to nihilism.
By contrast, the non-essentialist view of the debate of essentialism vs
non-essentialism, is that the core of this debate does not reside in
what is the essential claim of essentialism or of non-essentialism,
namely, whatever they may say or not say about essences, but in their
complex ramifications and in the way they are applied in different
contexts: what understanding and what errors they may induce when faced
to such or such situation.
If the debate was about accepting or rejecting essences, and about
whether a discussion of essences can make sense or not, then of
course, non-essentialism would be awkward: a claim that "things
have no essence" is an essential claim, a claim about the
essence of things. Indeed, it would be the claim that the essence
of things is that they have no essence.
On the contrary, true non-essentialism does not enter this essentialist
debate, but rejects it as rather pointless. It claims that the essence
of the debate does not consist in a debate about essences, but in a
debate on what matters: namely, it claims that essences don't matter.
This way, by switching from a debate on essences to a debate on "what
matters", it replaces an essentialist debate into a non-essentialist
debate. Because the question "to matter or to not matter" is not a
question of essence, but is a question of structure, of context, of
complexity, of the details of the global architecture by which
things connect together.
Let's go further: if the essence of the debate of essentialism vs
non-essentialism does not reside in its own essence, then we won't be
able to really understand what this debate really is about, as
long as we keep focusing on its essence.
Instead, we have to put it in context, to see the details of how it
works on a wider panorama of concrete examples it may apply to.
The religion vs science debate
An essentialist error about the religion vs science debate, is the
assumption that it would be reducible to the disagreement on their
essential claims, i.e. their claims about essences. Namely, as
religions claim the existence of God, the immateriality and
immortality of the soul, and the ultimately spiritual nature of
everything; while science would be denying these, claiming that
everything is material, and that the mind itself would be a physical
process that can be put in equation. Or, that science would be assuming
that everything must be rationally definable and analyzable.
But, even though some scientists did get trapped in this essentialist
approach of the debate, by trying to argue that God does not exist and
that everything including the mind is mere material phenomena, such
claims are no way a necessary basis or assumption for the development
of science and the statement of its conclusions, nor any key point of how
religions should be criticized. Or, if some individual
scientists may have ever claimed the materiality of everything as a
scientific result, or considered the belief in the immateriality of the
soul and existence of afterlife and miracles as a key feature of religion
and source of its errors, sorry for them, but this is not.
Another possible error is to assume that Marxism
is not a religion just because it claims to be scientific and its metaphysics is purely materialistic.
Another possible essentialist claim about the religion vs science
opposition, is that the reason why they could not communicate would be
that they are dealing with essentially different questions. In other
words, that their objects of study would be of a fundamentally
different nature. Namely, science would be dealing with material
things, while religion would be dealing with spiritual ones; and that
there would be some domains of questioning, some objects, whose essence
would allow for a rational approach to be relevant, while other domains
would be so essentially different that rational methods and
intelligence would not be adequate to its understanding anymore.
Sorry but, while there may be here a part of truth, I still don't
agree, at least not to the extent usually assumed. Indeed, first, the
mere fact that rational people usually get involved with traditional
"scientific subjects" while irrational people traditionnally
dominate religious questions, is no indication that their
irrational approach would be adequate than any rational approach for
religious subjects by any means. And this very Antispirituality site is
indeed an illustration of what a rational approach can bring to the
study of several questions that were a traditionally reserved field of
religious and other spiritual teachings, and how more precisely it can
prove the falsity of their "knowledge".
Other aspects of this question will be discussed below.
So, if not a matter of claims about essence, nor about the essence of
the objects involved, what would the real difference between
science and religion consist in ? It is a matter of rationality. That
is, a matter of way of thinking, and of intelligence. But, what is
Rationality and its link to the supernatural
Let's give more illustrations of the same things. We just said that the
separation between science and religions is not a matter of the essence
of the objects to study, nor about what is claimed about the essence of
such or such things, but about rationality, which is just another name
for the scientific method. Some scientists claims that some beliefs,
especially those of the existence of the supernatural, would be
irrational by essence, because of their implications about essences.
Such a criteria would be nonsense. The one criteria of rationality
should be how it connects to empirical evidence.
This is far from obvious. Some experiences are personal and very hard
to sum up. It can be very hard to explain to someone what one could
experience, in order to share the evidence that one's convictions can
be rationally based on.
But, who said that rationality should be something obvious and easy to
Indeed, science includes some very, very hard studies, to draw very
indirect conclusion after a huge lot of work. The fact that the reasons
to draw a conclusion cannot easily be shared to the non-initiated, is
no good reason to call it irrational.
But, scientificity, rationality and proof have no fixed essence either.
Some knowledge is given by obvious means, while some other require a
hard work of rationality.
Rationality is not always a matter of how intelligent or rational one
is. If I make a trivial measurement of a system (ex: what is the color
of this pen), then I rationally deduce that the measured result does
measure its current state. This is as well rationally founded as a
mathematical theorem that takes thousands of pages to be proven. If we
wanted to characterize the essence of rationality, it would be its
ability to ensure finding the right answers to some very hard
questions, as reliably as could be a trivial measurement, while they
cannot be obtained by trivial means. But this even is not really an
essence either. Indeed, basically, rationality is no sort of guarantee to find a
reliable answer to any question (no such an assumption is never made).
It is just a practice of proceeding a search it case it would turn out
to succeed. If a problem turns out to be rationally solved, this means
it turned out to be rationally solvable. If it does not succeed, then
it won't draw any conclusion of any sort.
Maybe a given problem would escape any possibility to be solved by
reason ? So what ? In such a case, rational searches could be made,
again and again, not drawing any conclusion. It would remain safe in
any case, that is, not providing any erroneous conclusions, as long as
it is properly operated. If someone draws an erroneous conclusion, it
necessarilty comes from a failure to apply reason properly. Someone
else should be able to rationally point the error made, in order to
come back to a state of non-conclusion. At least, if a problem is not
solved, the rational search could provide some information, so that
some false conceptions will be rationally refuted. In any case,
this is safe. And how could you tell in advance for sure that a problem
cannot be approached by reason, unless you have some rational evidence
of this ?
Rationality is not a matter of subject and of its essence, but it is
not either a matter of essence of a person's mind. The same person
can be rational about a subject, and irrational about another. This can
be because one subject is simpler than the other, and does not require
the same intellectual skills to ensure the conclusion against risks of
mistakes, so that some people may be clever enough to be rational on a
subject but not on another subject.
Or it can also be a matter of circumstance: some people can be in the
circumstance of getting an information that is a sufficient
rational basis to draw a conclusion, while others could not, not
because of a difference of intelligence or of method, but because they
are in a different circumstance. For example, one can easily accept
well-established scientific results of the past for granted, because we
simply know that they were discovered by serious people with very
reliable methods, so that it is very simply rational to assume them as
true. No, this is not a matter of faith, but a matter of reason, to
simply trust scientific results obtained by others, in the case when it
is clear and beyond reasonable doubt to infer that they are indeed the
result of a reliable scientific study. While of course, it required a
very hard rational work for the discoverers to reach these results in
the first place. Or, it can be very easy to make one more check of a
result based on the last technologies, while the discoverers did not
have this technology and thus had a much harder time reaching the
result in their time.
In other words, there is no such a thing as an essence of a difference
between what is scientific and what is trivial: this difference is
vague and a mere matter of accident.
On reason and its compatibility or incompatibility with faith and
We said the opposition between religion and science, is a matter of
irrationality vs rationality, but the question of rationality itself is
not defined by any essence. It is rather a matter of how thoughts
are globally organised, what is their structures. So, there is no
surprise if faith and reason can sometimes live together in the same
people. This difference of structure can induce a negative correlation
between both, but does not completely exclude the possibility for them
to live together. Whether reason will turn out to reject faith or
not, is rather a matter of chance and circumstances.
Indeed, faith comes to offer some people answers to questions that
their own reason did not happen to decide yet. As long as one person's
reason could not determine a question, there is no surprise if any
other circumstances may cause him to believe something more or less
strongly, in a way that is "not rational". This is no fault of
rationality, because of the famous (?) paradox of prior unknown
probability law: if you have no information to tell you whether a claim
is true or false, this is no good reason to bet a probability of 1/2
each. Raw ignorance of a question is not by itself any source of
equiprobability. And, it is in practice impossible to avoid
assuming some probabilities over unknown data that your life depends on
in order to be able to go further. So, by the force of having to choose
a probability law, as there is no reason to fix this probability as 1/2
each rather than any other figures between 0 and 1, as none of
these figures (even 0 and 1) can be a priori accused of irrationality
by essence, and extreme probabilities are more comfortable than
equiprobabilities, this fatally leads to "irrational conclusions" no
matter how "rational in himself" the person is.
What is irrational, however, is to not make any effort for looking
for a posteriori evidence for what has been obtained in this way,
especially if not all people agree and one's own position is not widely
known as proven. But here a practical problem may be to understand what
precise alternative there can be to one's position.
Because a proof of something is a proof that some alternative
conceptions cannot hold. But you first need to check what these
potential alternative conceptions may precisely consist in, and
not miss those which would turn out to be crucual, otherwise you cannot
know what it is you need to exclude. All depends not only on how clever
one is, not only on how hard one tries to double-check one's beliefs,
but also on the circumstances that may provide the chance to find
evidence for something priorly unknown, or to discover and understand
an unexpected alternative to one's worldview or not. The same person
being both rational and irrational, is no contradiction, and does not
raise any conflict in essence. So, the existence of Christian or
other religious scientists, is no evidence for any compatibility
between faith and reason, and does not preclude the possibillity that
scientific, infallible evidence against some regious claims (even
claims that those religious scientists believe in), may have already
been found by others. Because even among scientists, an evidence once
obtained by someone can have big troubles until reaching wide
acceptance across the community in normal conditions. So, what about
the acceptability of evidences that would destroy one's devout faith ?
And it really looks like that spiritual people usually have no idea
what the rationalist positions they claim to reject, really
consist of. And this site may be presenting other possibilities of
rationalist positions than they are assuming, so that their work of
rejecting the forms of rationalism they usually imagine, is far from
Do you have faith ? - Faith in what ? - Do you believe in God ? -
Which one ?
Many religious people use the simple word "faith" to mention their
belief, and refer to it in a binary way (to have faith or to not have
faith), as if it was something very simple and monolithic, that is, an
essence, that can be there or not be there. However, by doing so, they
are forgetting the fact that this assumed essence could hardly mean
anything without a huge lot of contingent additions and artificial
constructions. Namely, the corpus of the religious doctrine they
received, their so-called Sacred Texts, and other religious habbits and
I'm not trying to deny that faith in God has an essence and refers to
something essential. But, if faith was indeed all about essence like
this, then why do so many people need to complicate it with lots of
Not all people are like this, admittedly. Some people do keep their
faith in a form close to this essence, something simple and
personal, something in their heart, not referring to any "sacred
texts" or other cultural habbits and institutions; and I do respect
this. However, this does not lead very far, in the sense that there are
anyway a huge lot of other questions in life that people will need to
address, and the question is how will they do it. A pure and simple
sort of faith, by itself, will never suffice to answer any significant
part of them. How to find more answers ? By faith too, or by something
else ? But if faith is a pure essence, then how can it provide answers
to many specific, practical questions ?
Many religious people, while pretending that their faith is a pure,
simple and essential enough thing to be properly named by a pure
and simple word "faith", are forgetting the fact that they are in
reality giving this word a completely different kind of interpretation.
Namely, an interpretation full of a lot of contingent additions. Some
put there the Christian Bible, others put there the Koran, others put
there any other religious texts. Maybe because without these contingent
additions, pure faith alone in its essence would be too poor for them
to be worth mentioning, or to satisfy them. So, they go on pretending
that the "one true faith" must be the one including this or that
belief, while people of other religions, believing something different,
would not have the true faith. Each can find a "good reason" to see his
own "one true faith", based on the fact that, among the hundreds of
specific constructed (contingent) additions to his faith, one can point
a particular addition that is not found in any other religions. Well,
this won't be very true for long, as it remains possible for anyone to
create another religion including this specific point but differing on
others. Then, someone will find another difference to be "essential"
too, and split the religion into different denominations...
And remember the verse in Romans 10: "Thus faith comes from what is
heard (or :from hearing the message), and what is heard comes through
the word of Christ". So, if faith is a mere construction out of a
message heard, then how can it be any pure and essential thing
On the hierarchy between mind and matter
In essence, the mind is above matter; Mind is concious, while matter in
unconcious. Mind can understand and control matter and logical systems,
while matter cannot understand and control the
mind, nor even grasp what a mind is, what is existence, what Cogito ergo sum is all about; logical
even prove their own non-contradiction (according the Incompleteness
theorem of logics). This essential difference between mind and matter
was so magnificently expressed by Blaise Pascal in these words:
"The grandeur of man is great in that he knows himself to be miserable.
But it practice things most often happen the other way round. The laws
of physics are much more marvellous than most human-written books,
especially religious books. The blind forces of nature have been
carrying a great plan of life development (the evolution and
development of life on Earth since billions of years), that played with
individual lives like toys and tools for this plan, with billions and
billions of lives spent and often wasted on the way of this plan; and
the main heritage we have from all these past lives, is the genetic
heritage. An heritage produced and accumulated by the creativity of the
blind, unconcious and impersonal forces of nature that worked without
any purpose in mind; much more important than all what could be
produced by any concious will, understanding and creativity. A very
intelligent, marvellously sophisticated genetic heritage that keeps
producing and protecting life in quasi-miraculous ways purely based on
blind, material processes.
Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.
There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him:
a vapour, a drop of water is enough to kill him. but even if the universe
were to crush him, man would still be nobler than his slayer, because
he knows that he is dying and the advantage the universe has over
him. The universe knows none of this"
Things are starting to change now. There is a new awakening of the mind
that starts to understand these blind forces of nature that had
controlled life (and the mind itself) until now, and is starting to
reverse this hierarchy: the process of scientific and technological
development. It is by focusing on the understanding and reworking of
material systems that it becomes possible for the mind to domesticate
these forces and to reorient them towards desired directions, that
might hopefully lead the world to a better destiny (if only we work to
keep developing and completing on time its current gaps that produce
disasters on the way).
On the other hand, for millienia, religions have claimed to be the way
of the raise of the spirit above matter. But this claim was an
illusion. On the contrary, religions have been retrospectively a
spectacular case of how material and logical systems could enslave and
play with minds, even more deeply and pitifully than could happen in
previous natural selective processes. Indeed, it is the process
described by memetics, by which the pieces of information and creeds
most successful in deluding people and controlling their thoughts and
behaviors, can thrive the best and form the most popular religions.
Similarly, Marxists usually thought that, first, many evils of the
world were the concious conspiracy of a cast of Masters, that we just
need to eliminate to resolve problems (failing to understand that many
problems have a material cause rather than a spiritual one). Then, that
the effects of the concious understandings, enthousiastic convictions
and democratic actions of the large popular masses, as well as the
intelligence of economic planners once the "revolution of the people"
would have occured, would be wiser than the
blind forces of the
Invisible Hand of market. History proved they were not. The Revolution
of the People and their supposedly "intelligent" economic planning (a conscious
planning, instead of the blind forces of market) turned out to be a tsunami of
stupidity and destruction, blindly and unconsciously smashing the
fragile wisdom of the impersonal market mechanisms by which life had
more or less worked before, thus leading to a worse situation. So, the impersonal
world economic system is the true intelligent but fragile weed which the
blind force of human consciousness could crush without noticing.
Fundamental vs. applied research
Such expressions grammatically carry an essentialist mistake in themselves:
the mistake of believing that a research is made more or less fundamental
by the position (level) of its topical object in the foundational hierarchy of
However it is already trivial to observe that nowadays research activities in
"fundamental physics", namely by the LHC, are a mere application of applied physics
(technologies of superconductivity, super-computing etc), while any possible finding which may
come from this research of "foundations"
will remain hopelessly inapplicable ever to anything other than more and more pure
curiosity topics in the minds of a handful of specialists without any possible benefit ever for the rest of society (unlike the fundamental physics of the first half
of the 20th century). As a knowledge, I don't even see much sense to qualify it as "fundamental", since these specialists must have already followed some years long learning of prerequisites to be able to understand what these new "fundamental" discoveries
are all about. These specialists are thus a mere niche of end consumers, who are quite privileged as they are paying nothing for this production, purely done for their personal consumption, all at the charge of taxpayers. Of course lots of folks pretend otherwise by recalling the past importance of
some instances of "fundamental research" with their unexpected applications. Well they are just telling
ridiculous lies (false advertising) to defend their favorite field of curiosity at the expense of taxpayers,
no more and no less than all the rest of false advertising done elsewhere in our world, what can I say ?
A particular field of "fundamental research", the research on one of the most "fundamental"
topics and a very popular and widely active one (though not explicitly appearing in official
categories of scientific research) is the
research in metaphysics: so many people spend time on, either following, rejecting or anyhow
exploring religions, investigating the question "which religion is the true one, if any ?", "what is the goal of life",
"Is there a God", "is there a life after death" and so on. That are arguably among the most
fundamental questions indeed,
in the sense of being questions on the foundations of reality, or foundations of life, or of being
oneself alive here, or the foundations of the core convictions and choices one can have in life.
However, and despite widespread assumptions, I will argue here that, unlike the status of its objects,
the activity of investigating these questions is far from the most fundamental of all activities,
and even far from the most fundamental of all research activities.
Here is this analysis, or at least an aspect or introduction to it: it is an economic analysis.
It starts by classifying that activity of metaphysical research in its proper economic category.
That is, the research about what is the true answer (information) on a common (universal,
impersonal) question. Well of course there are also some closely related questions which
are relative (personal), that is, which way to live can personally fit best to someone in
particular, which may objectively differ from the true answer to the question of which way to
live may better fit to somebody else. But let us put those aside for the sake of the present discussion, and focus
on the case of these questions which, logically, as questions about universal objects rather than about individual
cases, must have the same really true answer for all researchers.
Because this activity itself can be the object of some other kind of investigation, some other kind
of analysis, which is thus somehow more fundamental.
So it is the activity of, from possible lists of candidate answers (hopefully containing the right one),
finding out a proof for which answer is actually correct. Not only many researchers
are searching for answers to the same questions, but many have more or less similar tools
and basic data that the possible proofs they might find may be based on, though it
depends: there can be differences of skills of investigation or discernment,
differences of personal experience, differences in the selection of
readings, thoughts and other stuff learned by each in their life. Anyway...
Different situations may thus happen, such as the following list with no care for exhaustivity, and with possible
intermediates between them:
Anyway we must remark that, insofar as personal investigation on such a topic is
undertaken (and we do find bunches of people undertaking it),
the whole motivation of this activity relies on the presence of significant chances of
success, that is, actually finding a reliable proof that determines the right conclusion.
Because if the chances of succeeding the investigation were not significant
then the whole point of undertaking this investigation would be void, wouldn't it ?
Is this clear ? Yes ? Are you sure ?
- One may not find any proof, thus not draw any conclusion, and not care
- One may not find any proof, thus not draw conclusion, and be bothered about it
Not find proof, but still choose to adopt a conclusion as a matter of taste
or relative plausibility for available information, and be okay with it or not really care
- Not find proof, but still choose to adopt a conclusion as a matter of
taste or relative plausibility for available information,
and be bothered about this risk of being mistaken
- Not find proof but choose a conclusion and be fanatical about it, following some
other paradigm of "truth" than logical or empirical ones
- Mistakenly believe having found proof for a conclusion, which fortunately happens to be the right one
Mistakenly believe having found proof for a conclusion which is actually a wrong one
- Find genuine proof for a conclusion and not care
- Find genuine proof and be happy with it
- Find genuine proof and be bothered about the resulting conclusion (especially it can be socially troubling if that necessary conclusion will look insulting to others who are not aware of the proof
and will thus misinterpret the manifestations of this success as the expression of a vice in
the unfortunately successful researcher)
Well, once again, is this clear ? Because despite the actual simplicity and
necessity of that remark, I'm afraid many people may have overlooked it...
...or at least, may have not thought it as far as pushing the thought up to the
resulting next pending question:
How likely are the chances for these researchers to succeed their
investigation, that is to find a solid proof for some conclusion (and how is
this likeliness distributed among them) ?
Well we have no obviously known answer to this question under hand of course, yet we
can interestingly review the range of theoretical possibilities about it. And quickly
exclude one of these based on a simple observation : if the chances of success were
abundant for a large majority of people, this would result in most people agreeing on
the same answers, which is not what we observe. Thus, there exist at least large
numbers of people who fail at that task, which thus turned out to be a too hard task
for them. This roughly leaves us with two main remaining theoretical possibilities
But in either case we are in trouble. In the first case, all that work is done in vain (for no result or
very likely so). In the second case, people are repeating a work which was already completed
before, while in principle it has no reason to be repeated, since as soon as it was
completed, and if only that fact of completion was known (and at least, logically by
definition, it had to be known by the one who made it), the conclusion is easy to share
(publish) for free or almost, and this information is all what the rest of researchers
are really looking for. Therefore anyway, the world generally suffers some terrible waste of
work in this field.
- Chances of success are insignificant - nobody ever succeeded (or almost).
- Chances are significant : some people did succeed, but the rest of the world
did not notice as many others keep searching and often failing at this search anyway.
Still in either case, may it be
some further economic analysis, tools and new
technologies can be appropriate in search for possible solutions to this economic
problem of inefficient or wasted work.
- that these metaphysical investigations actually
require (for possible success) a quite bigger work than what, in current usual
circumstances, one single person can afford in one's life;
- or that the different
people are wastefully repeating much of each others already done work whose
desirable sharing process failed,
Some people may argue (assume)
against this analysis, like they are raising the condition of orphanage with some kind of
law of the jungle as the right standard of working conditions in this field, by saying that
everyone would anyway "need" to consume one's life making one's own research, with
no point expecting the research of others to be useful, in the name that the same lengthy
stuff needs to be experienced the lengthy way over again by each other person just
as a new stuff in order to work for each other person as a genuine stuff (something
people can really know and understand), and learning again the same stuff is not
really a repetition provided that it is learned by a new person each time.
But... I beg to differ, based on my experience. Concretely, what kind of waste may it be ?
First, the occurring painful repetitions of the same works are not only of the kind
of "not feeling like a repetition" because of each person only doing one occurrence
of the repeated work. Instead of this, I suffered having to repeatedly undergo myself
many repetitions of a same tedious
work : I repeatedly struggled in desperate and painful tries to explain the same difficult things
over and over again... to each other person I had the misfortune of happening to debate
with, since no matter how well I could once work to explain something to someone, it
remains totally useless for the next time I will find another person to debate with, who
will innocently remain totally ignorant of how well I could already explain that thing to
the previous person, and will thus naturally bother me with the duty of fully re-explaining
everything, an obligation of repetition that is hard to escape since otherwise
my conclusions would clearly seem "unjustified" in his eyes. In such conditions
it can become very hard for me to remain polite and not look arrogant, and if I
don't remain polite then I am the bad guy,
therefore I must be wrong in the other's eye.
Second, here is what I found as a quite frequent "state of the debate"
on many issues. There are roughly two opposed communities of thought, X and Y,
on a given issue. In community X, which has much more frequent internal communication
than it has with community Y, tons of people keep repeating to each other "We have
argument A on our side ! Great argument, isn't it ? If only members of Y took account
of this argument, they should probably change their mind !" ; and they all find it great, and
only want to hear praise for the validity of A. On the other hand, members of Y, whenever
they see argument A, actually find it ridiculous, as they see some clear objection against it.
And while that objection is well-known in Y, members of X either never heard of it, or
overlooked it, not understanding or not ready to consider how serious it actually is.
Or if the objection is actually not serious while argument A really holds, there is
anyway a serious problem explaining why
that objection does not hold, an explanation which was not properly undertaken.
Generally, people on different sides may build their different view of the debate on wide
misunderstandings (in many details) of which are the arguments, authorities or
references of the other side, which of the many details of arguments are serious (such as
coherent with current science).
The trouble here is not just a matter of human weakness of being biased on one's side.
It is also a defect in communication technologies. The debate is spread over countless
debating spaces, teachings or publications which are basically separate from each other, only possibly
connected by the action of participants who may have joined or visited different
spaces in parallel, and thus take an argument which looked good from one space to
share it in another space. Reports of arguments are not automatically coming with the list
of all possible properly explained objections and the details of how important each
objection may sound in the eyes of opponents. Even with the availability of Internet
as it now goes, for each argument that one reads somewhere in a publication or
discussion, the list and
the data of respective importance of its objections can still be hard to find even for people
who want to search for this information. Indeed, not only a web search is likely to dilute
any instances of links to the intended kind of web pages among tons of totally unrelated,
useless search results; but in many cases it can be hopeless to even try figuring out
some keywords or key expression likely to provide any relevant result at all.
In such conditions, I came to conclude that these whole works of either searching
for truth or arguing for any position by participation in diverse debates on metaphysical
or other issues, which I and many other people are facing in diverse roles, are
currently very far from behaving like any kind of truly noble work for noble minds,
which many naive idealists of philosophy or the like often assume.
There is so much unnecessary waste of efforts while undertaking such activities
in the current informational jungle, for the reduction of which I believe that
some kind of machine assistance is direly needed. Of course the search for truth cannot be
100% automated, as humans remain the necessary source of data, but...
What, how could some people seriously hold that "that is life" and that must be
accepted as natural how hard this work of search for metaphysical truth currently is,
and that we should leave it this way, letting millions of people in mistake or failing
long life search because "that is their way", that "they should make their own
experience" or the like ???
Just imagine, as a traveler you plan to visit a big city for a week, and (without
internet access with its online maps) after arrival you discover that you cannot find
any good city map available. Some amateurs could have drawn some little maps showing
a few streets and possible destinations, but they are very unclear and incomplete. Trying
to explore the city you often get lost. While you had planned to visit some destinations you
had heard of before arrival, you no more hear about these once there and you come
to give up, assuming they are not there or you will never find them anyway. As you come
hungry, you fail to find food as many shops remain closed just because their owner
also got lost in the city and could not find the way to their own shop either. Eventually
if you are lucky and hard working in your search for a good city guide, you might end
up finding one during the last day of your visit, and you may not even believe it
accurate after having been fooled by wrong maps too many times. Even if you finally believe
it, it will only leave you the opportunity to ponder for a while how much of the really
valuable attractions of the city you missed during your visit by having gone wrong
ways or having arrived to places at the wrong
times. Not so fun or is it ? Some may argue that this whole fuss of getting lost and spend
one's time searching for a good map probably in vain, letting it a matter of luck to later
find one or not, should be held as the real fun, the very great thing of the city.
Still, in case your initial purpose for visiting the city was to participate in a chess
contest happening at a specific place there and you failed to join on time because
the city council decided that it should be more fun for you to play the game of
getting lost in the city and searching for your way instead, you might get angry
and consider it an abuse from their part to not let you the freedom to choose which
game you really came to play there.
For all these reasons thus, I believe that there is another field of investigation that
needs to be undertaken, that is much more fundamental than any research on metaphysical
issues in the current environment: the search for the design of a new good online social
networking architecture which, by interaction with its many users, would naturally lead
to systematically classify all the relevant information: list of topics of debates; on each topic,
its list of the diverse positions (opinions). For each opinion, its list of diverse arguments.
For each argument, its list of counter-arguments. For each of any of these, the diverse
works of exposition, and the number of supporters of any of these... and any stuff that
may similarly be useful.
Theoretically, such progress is possible. Such a new system would not only help
for debates on metaphysics, but on many structurally similar topic as well, such as political
debates, scientific debates, how to fight against fake news... It just needs to be
undertaken. Together with other kinds of uses of such a new
online social networking architecture, that is what I see as one of the most fundamental
research activities ever, much more fundamental than the research work on
any metaphysical topic. That is a kind of research activity which would receive its
quality as a fundamental activity by the specific choice
of the very applied (non-fundamental) object of that research, and that character as a fundamental
activity which it so receives, is not a matter of its intrinsic process (of the methods how
it is undertaken, which are just similar to those of the research on any other topic), but a
matter of how fundamental will be the concrete consequences of that work after it is completed.
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