Letters from an Atheist: Post-Perfectionism

No quote today. Just an announcement: I stopped reading. Obviously not quite, nobody can actually stop reading, nor do I have the intention to try to do something that is not quite possible. What I want to say is that I stopped reading for the purpose of being better at being well-read. Or shorter: I stopped reading for a purpose. Is this a big fucking deal? It isn’t, I suppose. What is?

I started out as a doubting atheist looking for a ‘clean’ solution. Looking for ‘the’ clean solution, in fact. A solution that would settle things once and for all. I have ended up a convinced atheist who knows that his first hunches were correct all along. More on that later, more on why those hunches were non-coincidental, below the fold. ‘Nothing is true, some things are false’ is the summary of my hunches. But how to sell that? How to make that catchy? How to win the charity of readers necessary for them to hear me out? I don’t know. What I do know is that something will need to come after modernism and post-modernism (and that it is unlikely to feature the term ‘modernism’). My proposal is the following: after post-modernism came perfectionism and the right term for the post-60’s up to now is that: perfectionism. We are a generation that wants things to be perfect or ‘as perfect as can be’. Error is to be minimized and, where possible, to be eliminated. An essential feature of progress is in fact seen to be the possibility of identifying areas where errors can be eliminated instead of just being minimized.

My proposal after having stopped reading is this: our next step is to move on to a view that can be best labeled as post-perfectionism.

The last thing I read was Gadamer’s ‘Wahrheit und Methode’. I came to it via Davidson. As far as I recall they were connected via Plato. I am not sure about the latter connection, but I am sure I am not at all connected to Plato. I think the key notion why I feel like I can stop reading now is the confirmation that “in the begining [there] was the word” and that all of us, in an extremely democratic way (without need for policy or procedure), are in that word.

I mean this in the least fluffy way possible. We all partake in building the community of language. In the long run it’s of little consequence whether we are creative geniuses, relatively silent standers-by or assertive shouters of ‘nothing but the truth’; we all live by the word and the word only lives by virtue of us. The least fluffy way possible is still fluffy, and that is exactly why we have to let go the desire for a continuous perfectibility that is nothing else but the original guilt we are born with misinterpreted into an absolute that is absolutely not sustained by common sense.

What we need to do is get as many people as possible to become truly decadent i.e. to relief as many people as possible from worrying about the necessities of life. Because once they are so relieved they can contribute to the community of language; they can make language richer and in so doing they will make us richer because we are language. We are just that: a construct of language. We are not bodies that think, we are a thought who comes up because bodies talk to each other. This is to be taken literally, more or less along the lines I, unwittingly, suggested in my thesis. First there is some common way of classifying (naming) stuff. Within the limits of statistical analysis we can understand the same but with irreducible error; not just an error that can be minimized freely but error that is a fundamental part of the system such as to make sure that our desire to eliminate the error in a specific field (to perfect our knowledge in that field) can only lead to making that knowledge less à propos for common sense. Second there is prediction, if this stuff than that stuff. Enough to build a Kantian building but not more than such a very modest building (or not more than the Quinean boat) because the type of material does not allow anything more ambitious; nor does the type of building process allow more than a constantly temporary type of lodging. And then there is third: the miracle of the word. The miracle that allows us to refer to things that we can’t point to whether they are scientific or moral or of any other complex nature.

The more people we get to live at the third stage the better it will be for everybody. We should not try to force this or that issue but we should be content to create as best we can the conditions in which more people can get to the creative part of the above process. That’s all. No need to stress. No need to point fingers. Let Darwinism do its good work, once the word is there we cannot but adapt ourselves better to the environment it enables. That environment is one of talk, and of talking. Not one of solutions and success but one of productive failure and intrigueing new problems.

“Worüber man spricht, schweigt man nicht.”, is a comforting thought but one that at least creates the responsibility to try to speak about something and with somebody.

[Whilst writing this, I was (again) listening to The Hilliard Ensemble, “Codex Speciálnik”.]

Bon, I guess this letter will not have achieved what I didn’t intend it to achieve. Sorry for those that need more.


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