Fact, truth, and superstition in westernized thinking

This blog entry will not be about veganism per se, nor will it be about health and nutrition per se, although, and in the spirit of what is about to be written, it will somehow relate to (and, incidentally, arose from) a conversation about both.

Much of what I do, and much of how I think, reflects an underlying framework of understanding processes and events as units–distinct, identifiable, susceptible to definition, albeit not always tangible. I feel the urge to substantiate even abstractions via some logical sequence or another. In a sense, this assumed requirement for proof, or a rationale, is embedded in my use of language, syntax, approach to questioning: it relies highly on falsification as a means to determine the (in)validity of a claim.

This insistence on evidence, reason, definition, offers the comfort of a type of consistency very common in western thinking. It contains an implied resistance to and discomfort with obscurity, intuition, introspection, subjectivity: it calls for intersubjective reliability. To some degree, it dictates and is fueled by a brand of intellectual vanity that has its roots in the scientific requirement for proof and falsification, and has generated the sort of primacy attributed to agency, the “cause” of events (also a cause for what Hayek calls “animism” in a lot of early and recent economic thought).

And fair enough; this approach does have its advantages. But is it the whole story? Perhaps it’s easy to respond affirmatively in a society welcoming and familiar with this very bias. And yet: some of western philosophy, certainly a lot of mathematics and some of linguistics, acknowledges systems of equivalence through a number of plausible transformations, and allows for equivalence in meaning via different pathways, or even modalities.

So does a language less proficient in defining singular events, in isolating via local causal constraints the outcomes of actions, have a place in our understanding of ourselves? Does a holistic approach–less scientific, and, I must admit, to my taste- uncomfortably superstitious (or rather: obscure) have something to offer to our fragmented imagination? Perhaps it does, if interpretable as a macro reflection of a unification of discrete, identifiable events. Could it be a global view of locally understood processes?

With such an understanding of this different mode of thinking, I must allow the letting go of some of the urge to define and probe, or look for the equivalent of intuitive associations in language; embed intuition in syntax via linguistic transformations. Allow for subjectivity to have its place as a source of knowledge.

Thank you to Josie and Henry for planting the seeds of this discussion over some vegan burgers :).


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