The Epistemics

Three types of skills for the life of the mind.

This isn’t my idea. It’s just a compelling one that I understood immediately when I heard it. Now it’s a good one for analytical people, but I am legacy analytical. I’m looking to get to an absence of self, which means over time I’ll be getting rid of a class of desires and attachments. Hopefully I can perfect that before it’s my time to leave the realm of the living and all its suffering & chaos.

One more qualification. It was several years into my professional career as a data engineer that I encountered the genius of two men, Marshall Blonsky and Umberto Eco who introduced me to semiotics. Semiotics is the study of the effectiveness of symbols to convincingly represent something other than what they are. For example the red logo of a polo player on a knit wool sweater is a very effective symbol of affluence and luxury. This was important for me to know on my mission to represent everything in the world of thought with symbols in the digital domain. What was a massive insight was that the symbols could be deceptive and manipulative. I thus saw the man behind the curtain and determined that I was living in a semiotic swamp. It wasn’t that nothing was true, in fact people believed quite fervently but all symbols were not actually connected. It’s like discovering that Ralph Lauren actually knows nothing about the rules of polo and has never been to a match.

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So there are three separate and distinct skillsets that address particular parts of our learning and communicating. A coherent society requires these in abundance or else we have chaotic dissonance. Like now.

Third Order Epistemics
This relates to the skills it takes to analyze, validate and verify the veracity of ideas in your head with the facts, features and phenomena of the real world. We are not living in a simulation and a broad variety of things are not subjective. So your ideas need to exist in such a way that other people can use them in the world without your assistance or permission.

In the Western material world, we often concede this skill to the reality of wealth amassed by businesses who produce products and services that get us all through. Mouthwash kills the germs that cause bad breath. Elevators get you to the top floor or to the basement. That is actually your grandmother’s voice coming over that device. So the consumer market is unstoppable. It conforms to the ways of the world, some would say to the physics of the universe. So we sustain support and faith in that which we have commodified to an understanding of ‘science & technology’.

Third order epistemics therefore are those skills that keep us rationally aligned with those things take place behind our backs.

Second Order Epistemics
This relates to the skills it takes to communicate ideas between those people immediately present.

These are most at risk these days because of the immediacy and relative intimacy created by social media. Few of us are so disciplined in our communications such that we can be formal or even colloquial in our sharing of information between ourselves and the random folks who might be listening. Is it my idiom or slang that gets in the way? Is it the personalized context of my experience that makes my ideas seem bad because I share too much information? Is it the way that I engage a subject that puts others off, undermining my credibility?

Maybe we need to go the charm school, or rhetoric school, or debate class. I’ll discuss this in the future when I take into consideration the difference between sophisticates and yokels.

First Order Epistemics
Alright mates, this is what I’m on about. Somewhere in our dramatic lives we learn, to paraphrase Ludlum’s Jason Bourne, that rest is a weapon. At the end of a roofer’s day, indeed at the end of the day of an autistic prisoner on death row in the California desert, there is rest. There is sleep. There is some period within which there is peace and calm and the worries of the world go bye bye.

Let us call this period of peace and calm, peace of mind (PM). Let us call its opposite stress & anxiety (SA). Let us call the process of reducing stress & anxiety and increasing peace of mind, meditation or prayer (MP).

Given that everyone will have their own individual personalities and psyches the PM of one person might be the SA of another. Some people’s MP may be ineffective so they must deal with more SA all of the time. Maybe they get accustomed to that or even anti-fragile to it, maybe it drives them insane. But for everyone suffering some amount of SA, some corresponding amount of MP is required for them to achieve PM. For some it may take years. For some, the necessity never arises. The point is that PM, for the non-insane is possible, and if not within their own capacity can be assisted by professionals or drugs.

Now. Ask what is the proper motivation of a human being? Should they invest any time outside of their own personal application of MP to help others? If the answer is no, then we call them selfish. Or perhaps as some generally say about the homeless (as contrasted with the truly indigent) they lack the actual capacity to do more than handle their own business. Then we call them disabled. If we’re mean about it, we call them worse. The point is these people are unable or unwilling to contribute to society. So we discount them. They’re not part of the equation. They don’t fit in the meritocracy. We judge them by different standards.

That’s fair.

All we can do, short of hiring professional analysts to rigorously evaluate every human being through some Bureau of Capacity, is to let people’s actions speak for themselves. Somebody, everybody will eventually and always judge.

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I am involved in a deep consideration of the self. Of the mind, body and spirit. What I hope to learn from these first order epistemics is essentially a self-help framework. I expect it to cross Western and Eastern philosophies and touch on universal mysteries. In the end, this is both useful to me and useful as a hedge against an encroaching dark age. As we lose faith and competency in our institutions, we will need to be more self-reliant. As our institutions become corrupted we must guard foremost against authoritarian power that undermines self-determination.

In this, I think I will take the example of Nelson Mandela as my first hero. His survival in the Robben Island prison is a model of self-maintenance that should inspire us all. Our world is not a prison. The challenge is to comport oneself in such a consistent way that the survival of our minds, bodies and spirits need not vary even if it were.