I was thinking about why I’m blogging, about why anyone blogs. [and making it difficult for myself by pumping out The Chemical Brothers new album “Push the Button” at the same time.] Of course there are a number of obvious answers. Fred Wilson (A VC) pretty much sums up the basics. But what interests me is the blogspace itself and what it represents. C S Peirce in “The Fixation of Belief” argued that there are three (it’s always 3 with Peirce!) characteristics which should be present as a basis for belief.
1 It must control our thinking, our thinking must not control it
2 It must be publicly observable
3 It must lead to a common opinion
Something is real if its nature is independent of how I happen to think it to be. The truth, such as it is, is to be found through a COMMUNITY (Peirce himself capitalises the word) of observers. Ultimately, truth, he imagines, is to be found in an unbounded community in the whole of time. Peirce’s system is self-corrective, subsequent investigators correct the idiosyncrasies of those who have gone before, but knowledge is never absolute. We must accept fallibility, it’s the best we have.
“The real, then, is that which, sooner or later, information and reasoning would finally result in, and which is therefore independent of the vagaries of me and you. Thus, the very origin of the conception of reality shows that this conception essentially involves the notion of a COMMUNITY, without definite limits, and capable of a definite increase in knowledge. And so those two series of cognitions - the real and the unreal - consist of those which, at a time sufficiently future, the community will always continue to reaffirm; and of those which, under the same conditions, will ever be denied. ” - CS Peirce (Questions Concerning Certain Faculties)
I give you the Blogosphere - a community without definite limits and capable of a definite increase in knowledge.
I think this is important because it goes some way to explain why it upsets so many, and is going to upset so many more. A friend once told me that he couldn’t believe that the internet was allowed to happen, since it gave consumers all the power. What he hadn’t understood is that THEY, the corporations in this case, didn’t get it. (We’ll ignore the fact that most consumers don’t get it either) Most still don’t, though there are the beginnings of rumblings. Anyone who’s read Cluetrain, or my favourite blog gapingvoid will know what I’m on about.
What do you believe is true, even though you can’t prove it?
The 2005 Edge question provided some interesting material. One favourite came from Donald Hoffman, Cognitive Scientist University of California:
I believe that consciousness and its contents are all that exists. Space-time, matter and fields never were the fundamental denizens of the universe but have always been, from their beginning, among the humbler contents of consciousness, dependent on it for their very being.
The world of our daily experience - the world of tables, chairs, stars and people, with their attendant shapes, smells, feels and sounds - is a species-specific user interface to a realm far more complex, a realm whose essential character is conscious. It is unlikely that the contents of our interface in any way resemble that realm.
Indeed the usefulness of an interface requires, in general, that they do not. For the point of an interface, such as the Windows interface on a computer, is simplification and ease of use. We click icons because this is quicker and less prone to error than editing megabytes of software or toggling voltages in circuits.
Evolutionary pressures dictate that our species-specific interface, this world of our daily experience, should itself be a radical simplification, selected not for the exhaustive depiction of truth but for the mutable pragmatics of survival.
If this is right, if consciousness is fundamental, then we should not be surprised that, despite centuries of effort by the most brilliant of minds, there is as yet no physicalist theory of consciousness, no theory that explains how mindless matter or energy or fields could be, or cause, conscious experience.
The great polymath philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce would be nodding his head, perhaps a little warily, here. It chimes with his philosophy of objective realism. He could see no way for matter to give birth to mind and, therefore, took mind as basic, seeing matter as a form of mind. “Mind hidebound with habit”. And these “habits” are never precise, giving rise always to an element of chance. A doctrine he calls tychism. These habits tend to spread and to connect with one another to make larger networks of habits, which he calls synechism. Thus the universe moves from tychism (chance) to complete synechism (order) through the medium of habit-forming.
For those who don’t know Peirce, he was the founder of semiology, and a philosopher way ahead of his time. He has only relatively recently been rediscovered after his papers, 10,000 handwritten sheets, were found in the Harvard library. Everyone who met him considered him a genius. Of course, he died poor and in obscurity.
I just found a great picture of him I’ve not seen before. I love the framed dog.