“We use these and other abstractions because they work, because we have found they describe nature. From a purely mathematical standpoint they are certainly not inevitable; if they were, we could derive them by logic alone. But we can never prove any math to be a true description of nature, for the only provable truths are about mathematical structures themselves, not about the relation of these structures to reality.”

–Sabine Hossenfelder

So-called Free Enterprise

“In their transformations, the governments of today’s industrialized countries took an active role, not only in protecting their industries through tariffs, but also in promoting new technologies. In the United States, the first telegraph line was financed by the federal government in 1842, and the burst of productivity in agriculture that provided the basis of industrialization rested on the government’s research, teaching, and extension services.”

-Joseph E. Stiglitz, from his introduction to The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time by Karl Polanyi

Identify yourself

“When I sketched out the rough idea of it to a friend, he listened carefully and then shook his head. ‘I don’t think you’ve got anything new to say about AIDS, Steve.’ He paused and added, ‘Especially as a straight man.’

No. And no. And especially: no.

I hate the assumption that you can’t write about something because you haven’t experienced it, and not just because it assumes a limit on the human imagination, which is basically limitless. It also suggests that some leaps of identification are impossible. I refuse to accept that, because it leads to the conclusion that real change is beyond us, and so is empathy. The idea is false on the evidence.”

-Stephen King

(That sums up so very well why I despise “only write or make movies about people exactly like you, or you’re irreddeemably evil” line of thought. Funny, it’s like he gets paid to write well or something.)

Inner light

Here is a variant of Wittgenstein’s diary thought experiment, using the inner light in place of private, inner sensation. Suppose I decide to try to discover whether and when I suffer from zombie episodes, episodes of phenomenal absence. So I keep a diary, and I write ‘L’ in the diary on those days when my inner light is switched on. Later, I tell myself, I will be able to look back through the diary and, seeing an ‘L’, be sure that I was phenomenally present on that day, that all was not dark inside. Well, how could I trust any previous occurrences of ‘L’ marked in my diary, even if (contra Wittgenstein) I were capable of unilaterally identifying when my private, inner light was on? After all, if I was phenomenally absent on that day—away with the zombies, so to speak—I would have written an ‘L’ in my diary even in my zombie state. So the ‘L’ can tell me nothing. It seems to have no use even in a private language.

Embodiment and the inner life: Cognition and Consciousness in the Space of Possible Minds by Murray Shanahan

Abstraction, science, and commoditization

“In other words, in the structure of the commodity-form it is possible to
find the transcendental subject: the commodity-form articulates in
advance the anatomy, the skeleton of the Kantian transcendental subject
– that is, the network of transcendental categories which constitute the a
priori frame of’objective’ scientific knowledge. Herein lies the paradox of
the commodity-form: it – this inner-worldly, ‘pathological’ (in the Kantian
meaning of the word) phenomenon – offers us a key to solving the fundamental
question of the theory of knowledge: objective knowledge with
universal validity – how is this possible?

After a series of detailed analyses, Sohn-Rethel came to the following
conclusion: the apparatus of categories presupposed, implied by the scientific
procedure (that, of course, of the Newtonian science of nature), the
network of notions by means of which it seizes nature, is already present
in the social effectivity, already at work in the act of commodity exchange.
Before thought could arrive at pure abstraction, the abstraction was already
at work in the social effectivity of the market. The exchange of commodities
implies a double abstraction: the abstraction from the changeable character
of the commodity during the act of exchange and the abstraction from
the concrete, empirical, sensual, particular character of the commodity (in
the act of exchange, the distinct, particular qualitative determination of
a commodity is not taken into account; a commodity is reduced to an
abstract entity which – irrespective of its particular nature, of its ‘use-value’
– possesses ‘the same value’ as another commodity for which it is
being exchanged).”

-Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology, Second Edition

Distributed non-algorithms

“The crucial point is not simply that concepts can only be grasped through their examples, but that the only proper philosophical concepts are those that take into account their own conditions of transmissibility, the always transferential relations in which thought finds itself.”

-Editors’ Introduction to Slavoj Žižek’s Interrogating the Real