Thursday, September 20, 2007

Only Maybe

In continuation from previous post, I suspect that my shrug annoys people a lot, and they mistake my study group for a bunch of people who can't make up their minds!

The Maybe Logic Academy has nothing to do with indecisiveness ("Do you want to go to the party?" "Maybe, I'll see if I feel like it nearer the time" "Grrr, just say Yes or No!") and more to do with realizing that the world does not easily resolve into Good/Bad, Right/Wrong, Left/Right, etc, etc. The concerted attack on false certainty that we mount has more to do with preferring if people showed a little humility in their judgement, and accepted the possibility that other views might prove equally valid or more likely, etc.

"Maybe the evangelical religions start most of the wars"..."maybe human activity causes global warming" (it seems fairly likely that it contributes to it) "maybe smoking causes cancer"...

Stated that way, investigation and the assignment of probabilities becomes possible. "Maybe aliens visit our planet" "maybe the rich and powerful are actually giant lizards" (low probabilities, but not impossibilities, in my view). "Maybe there 'is' a God". Of course, then we have to query the word 'is'. Korzybski, and General Semantics, tackled this very subject.

You could also say 'in my opinion', or 'from my point of view' to acknowledge that looking out from your particular nervous system, with your own set of past experiences, and through the grid of your language and culture...such and such a thing may appear 'true' (well, very probable), to you.

A Chinese farmer had just one horse, and one day it ran away. The villagers all said how unlucky he was.

"Maybe," he said.

A few days later, his horse returned, leading a herd of wild horses into his corral.

The villagers all exclaimed how lucky he was.

"Maybe," he said.

Having so many horses around encouraged his rather reckless son to learn to ride, and he fell off and broke his leg.

The villagers told the man how unlucky he was.

"Maybe," he said.

Shortly after that a war broke out in a distant province, and all the able-bodied young men got sent off to fight. Thanks to the broken leg, the farmer's son was excluded from call-up.

Robert Anton Wilson expressed all this a lot more clearly than I can - both in his writing and in interviews. Here's a sample:

Maybe Logic is a label that got stuck on my ideas by filmmaker Lance Bauscher. I decided it fits. I certainly recognize the central importance in my thinking -- or in my stumbling and fumbling efforts to think -- of non-Aristotelian systems. That includes von Neumann's three-valued logic [true, false, maybe], Rappoport's four-valued logic [true, false, indeterminate, meaningless], Korzybski's multi-valued logic [degrees of probability.] and also Mahayana Buddhist paradoxical logic [it "is" A. it "is" not A, it "is" both A and not A, it "is" neither A nor not A].

But, as an extraordinarily stupid fellow, I can't use such systems until I reduce them to terms a simple mind like mine can handle, so I just preach that we'd all think and act more sanely if we had to use "maybe" a lot more often. Can you imagine a world with Jerry Falwell hollering "Maybe Jesus 'was' the son of God and maybe he hates Gay people as much as I do" -- or every tower in Islam resounding with "There 'is' no God except maybe Allah and maybe Mohammed is his prophet"?

The Snafu law holds that, the greater your power to punish, the less factual feedback you will receive. If you can fire people for telling you what you don't want to hear, you will only hear what you want. This law seems to apply to all authoritarian contraptions, especially governments and corporations. Concretely, I suspect Bozo knows factually less about the world than any dogcatcher in Biloxi.

The Cosmic Schmuck law holds that [1] the more often you suspect you may be thinking or acting like a Cosmic Schmuck, the less of a Cosmic Schmuck you will become, year by year, and [2] if you never suspect you might think or act like a Cosmic Schmuck, you will remain a Cosmic Schmuck for life.


Anonymous said...

"attack on false certainty "

Love it!!! Coin that, buddy.

Thanks for this post - now i have rationale to provide people about my seeming laziness and inability to make up my mind!

jamais vu said...

The thing i like most about my shrug is people can take it as either "i don't know" OR "i don't give a sh!t" so it puts the burden on them to make the judgement. :o)

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