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Sunday Sortings, or: Turtles all the Way Down

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sometimes I like to details what I've done. It's empirical, a bottom-up affair. It could be replaced by a numbered or bullet-point list (the chronology being implied by implicit order of the points) ... or even a definition list, a definition term being in this case a time or range or `then' or 'later,' even.

Other times, perhaps far too frequently, I work top-down in a couple of different ways. There's always the ``I have a topic already'' top-down approach into which I fit digressions and arguments and evidence. Points to be made, and the like. Nobody mistakes these for accurate portrayals of reality; they are rhetorical. But other times I prefer a one-two-three (three being my favorite number for these sorts of things), three separate `topics' as `organizing principles,' occasionally or even often merely metaphorical.

While a bottom-up list is often listless, the top-down approach can be needlessly exclusive, for what does not fit the topic (or topics) must be excluded; a playful counterpart is to include intentionally the incongruous and inspire myself as well as other readers to contemplate the connections.

There are the obvious one, the puns, for example, such as talking about slugs for headlines or titles (or bullets) under a topic entitled `At a snail's pace' (or the latter formatted as a slug, but I digress). In the past I've been too witty for my own good; on occasion I've come back months later to a post only to read a quote or similar provided without source or context, only to wonder what I was thinking, wonder what it was all about.

A reader might interject here and complain along the lines, ``pick the format that best fits the content!'' That is, treating the topic as similar to `pick the right tool to the task.' But there are unspoken assumptions here, for when a nail is given, a hammer is used, and when you have a screw you use a screwdriver or drill (with the proper attachment). When you need to puree something, there are numerous appliances at your disposal. But while there are conventions to diaries there is no a priori appropriate format, and there is no reason to assume that a blog post is merely a 21st-century diary, etc.

But this is needless rationalization and sophistry to most. What it made me think of, though, is a common problem in philosophy and elsewhere: the empirical-rational divide, that between the analytic and synthetic, between the necessary and the contingent. That is to say: Kant's project in the 1st Critique and beyond.

It does not follow that if 'A' and 'B' are (a) wrong, (b) partially right and partially wrong, and/or (c) seemingly equally right yet in contradiction, that "the truth" lies "somewhere in the middle" or similar. First it implies that there is a scale containing both A and B, that they correspond somehow to and within the same system, which is clearly the case if B = -A or !A (depending on your system of symbols and intention). While it is a fallacy to exclude the mean, it is likewise a corollary to a fallacy (question begging in this case) to assume that such a mean exists. Kant's answer, and the pragmatic if not always theoretically sound answer to plenty of other discourses, is in a way a matter of arguing from consequences: a purely rule-based, top-down approach does not necessarily match reality, and a naively `reality-based' (empirical) approach makes unwarranted assumptions and cannot on its own provide generalizations that we can be certain of ... so if we want rules that correspond to reality, we need another way, one that is `somewhere in between.'

It's Kant's answer to knowledge/epistemology ... how can we know anything with certainty (and it is a `what if' sort of situation, not *that* we know with certainty, but that *if we do,* then certain (pre-)conditions must be met), part of his answer to aesthetics, and so on. And that answer is, broadly speaking, `the schema,' something like a template or outline, something that is not a logical concept, but has its generality, and not a mere (sense) experience, but has its intuitive wholeness and immediacy.

It's something I keep in mind not because it is the answer to every problem -- after all, without metaphors and some extensions it is not `obvious' that this ... schema ... is the solution to blog posts --, but because Kant's framework is less a solution than a meta-solution, and itself a schema. That is, a problem-solving heuristic.

Everything in moderation ... even moderation. Potential paradoxes are the price we pay for putting too much faith in rules. If there were a rule I'd use -- remembering that every rule is meant to be broken (including the rule to break rules?) --, it might be (regarding blogs) that every empirical, bottom-up, descriptive account needs a generalization (not the same as a 'lesson' or 'moral'), and that every logical, top-down, orderly narrative or report needs to be made intuitive and holistic.

Of course: not every.

Ant not necessarily this one.

P.S. - This post is not a letter, even if I post like like one. But without signature or salutation, or even a stamp (postage or of approval), but here is my postscript (not the postfix notation kind). This Sunday, though not necessarily every such Sunday, is a nice day not only to break free of the rules of the week and just do and experience, but a nice day and way to reflect -- not only recycle and regurgitate --, that is: sort and select, not so much put into preexisting boxes or think outside the box, but make new boxes, even boxes within boxes.

P.P.S. -
- six servings of red beans left ... but all in one container. Should I make soup of them or portion them into individual custard cups and re-place in the fridge?
- two cupcakes left
- roasted cauliflower -- 400F, lightly salted and oiled, for about an hour -- = simple & delicious
- I'm almost done rewatching season 1 of BSG (for the third or fourth time, I suppose); it's a kind of pop-cultural comfort food
- I'm sitting beside dissertation books today, notice the three volumes of Cassirer's "Philosophy of Symbolic Forms," and want to read them. For business and pleasure.
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