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Apr. 21st, 2002

what is the nature of the people you know?

could you say that you know all of them, or just a fragment? probably the truth is, that you know a few fragments of them. the more you know someone, the more bits and pieces you can connect together to form the memoric string of an individual (which, perhaps, looks like that linear genetic twist, but this is only the metaphor of my design today). but i figure, you only ever know fragments, and can never fully know someone so that they cannot surprise you, or do something you won't like (or will like), and the nature of friendship means that you deal with how people are in front of you.

people are, of late, fascinated with the idea of being real. of not telling a lie, of playing everything down to that hard, undeniable truth of reality. which, of course, is a lie: you cannot know everything. when you are not looking, does the world disappear in smoke, or tumble away, like leaves swirling in the wind? how can you know what is outside your perception with any absolute certainty?

the net is a place where truth has an extra layer of importance, at least for most people. this is probably because it is so easy to lie on the net, to create a fallacy. to be discovered in the middle of this, is, of course, to be thrown out, to be given the electronic black mark.

on a bbs i frequent with my usual drop in drop out participation, and which is run by my good friend Queen O, i've been having this conversation. here is the post that made me think, hmm, that's interesting and to post it here:

you only ever get to see a fragment of a person, when you meet them. very rarely do you know every angle of a person, and indeed, it's quite rare for another to want to know everything about a person. and for every fragment of a person you meet, there is another fragment that someone else has met and who doesn't like it.

they'll say things like, 'they're fucking fake.'

or, 'he said this to me,' when clearly what was said to you was something different. (while on the same subject.) and there is, mostly, truth in both: people aren't born straight and narrow, they're born of contradictions, mixes of things, fragments, and in the end, all you can ever say about another person, is how they are in front of you.

what if you met a drag queen? do you think he is just a fellow dressed in gaudy woman clothes, or is she an ugly broad shoulder lady dressed in gaudy clothes? strip away the clothes, you got one beneath the other, but your interactions are with the surface.

there is a great big push in todays world for truth, to be true, to play it down to the bone, when it comes to human interaction. i don't know why. knowledge, perhaps. security, though one would wonder why that, since you can never be sure what someone is doing when they are out of your sight. on the other hand, it could be a simple question of insecurity, and that people don't like lies.

understand, i'm not talking about the lies that take something from you, or hurt you. if you're setting out to harm someone with the lie, or the fiction, then no, that's not going to get my support. but if you're doing it for yourself, for the internal contradiction of motives that ultimately lack malevolent motivation, then i don't see the harm. if through the lie, you are still honest, you don't go out to hurt, then how does it hurt you? if the person is not real, but has always treated you well, has always given you respect, laughs, and a way to ease the eternal drag that is life, then i ask you, what's the problem?

because you never knew?

because there was someone else behind them? does this betrayal (and why is it a betrayal?) really ruin what you had?

reality is a vague, uncertain thing. personality is a concept that we, through language and society, have designed. if something brings you enjoyment, then in my mind, this is real. if something gives your mind food, then this is enough. what lies behind it is not my business, what motivations, fears, what dark secrets in the corner of my friends minds. and, if they are anything like mine, then those darkest dark of thoughts which none of us pronounce in the daylight and in the presence of others, are there. so, i say, enjoy what people give to you, be it reality or a fractured perception there of it.


i have decided, since the topic has caught my interest, that this is one of the things i will try to factor into my project. of course, the usual disclaimer about being thrown aside later on, or not appealing to me three months from now do apply, but i like the challenge: to be able to present characters that appear fragmented throughout the narrative, and whose actions and personality change. to show the fragments of these people, just as i show the fragments of a city.

who knows how it will go.

Comments

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(Anonymous)
Apr. 21st, 2002 04:02 am (UTC)
Interesting.
I'd be very interested to see what you do with it... I've been doubting reality a lot myself lately.

-- Queen O ;)
(Anonymous)
Apr. 22nd, 2002 12:13 am (UTC)
LIES IT'S ALL LIES!!! *spittle flies*
I wonder if the problem here derives from the language rather than the reality of what is going on.
The words lie and truth have a negative and positive connotation, respectively,for us that jumps out from the text posted above.
Perhaps the term lie, although according to it's definition it is the correct term, is inappropriate for the context. It is associated with deception that has as it's aim the harm of others.
Presumably this is not what you are talking about.

Surely no one outside the Christian Right would accuse a drag queen of attempting harm by lying about who she is. What such a person is doing is indulging in a fantasy, role playing, acting, playing dress ups. Just as people on the net are engaging in a fantasy life through their online personalities. The web provides a new medium for fantasy, it is the modern, digital cops & robbers, cowboys & indians. And indeed fps games are direct translations of exactly that.

The real tragedy, to my mind, is not society's obsession with omniscience. After all, the information economy has been existant since Machiavelli, since Sun Tzu. It is the flip side, society's inability to appreciate the value of fantasy. The examples given above are a representation of the poor role of fantasy in our society - childrens games where other, older cultures and in times past in European culture, we once had many acceptable social outlets for fantasy.

Perhaps on the net people are taking back what screenwriters have stolen from them - the right to tell their own stories.
benpeek
Apr. 22nd, 2002 09:23 pm (UTC)
Re: LIES IT'S ALL LIES!!! *spittle flies*
well yes, i do agree: language is probably where someof the problems lie.

i'm always amused by those people who say,in such and such culture, the term 'lie' or 'falseness' does not exist, and then they go on to assume that everyone must be absolutely honest with each other. i wonder if they think of james marrow's city of truth when they think of that world? but back to my point, saying there is no falseness, does not mean that people do not indulge in fantasy, only that if they do, it has lost the negative/positive connation that we're all apparently fixated with.

it's always struck me as strange that a world in which gods, and burning bushes, and men from the desert who changed cultures (not to mention a whole host of other things) does not welcome fantasy more. but perhaps the answer lies in what i just wrote.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 22nd, 2002 12:17 am (UTC)
Dragging out my old war horse the HoI
I'd also like to point out the role of the history of ideas (again again I know I know but you'd be amazed just how often it influences the way we think). Queen O complains that society has formulated the idea of personality and of the cult of omniscience. Well, the stance that Queen O takes is simply another one of society's creations - the post modern, philosophical stance of Subjectivism. The pursuit of truth is a Realist goal whilst modern thought has taken on more and more of a Subjective orientation. The danger in this, and this is why I always drone on about being familiar with the history of ideas, is that Queen O's opinion is based in Subjective epistemological assumptions. And Subjectivism is a logically incoherent system. By demanding that 'anything goes' Queen O's own contribution is immediately negated by an overwheleming myriad of other possible points of view - one for every person on the planet and one for every mood swing every person on the planet goes through.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 22nd, 2002 04:01 am (UTC)
Re: Dragging out my old war horse the HoI
Subjectivism is indeed incoherent, but frankly so is the human mind. Moods and emotions change moment to moment. Perceptions change constantly. In fact there is very little in how we perceive the world that doesn't change at some point. And everything we see, hear, touch, and taste is filtered through our individual realities of the moment.

Hell, even science can't be totally accurate. Just ask the quantum physics experts. The very act of observing changes things.

Of course, I'm also a manic depressive chaos magician, so I may be more consciously aware of the instability of "reality" than most people are... My interest in chaos comes from my observations of how tenuous reality is, however, and not the other way around.

-- Queen O
(Anonymous)
Apr. 23rd, 2002 10:30 pm (UTC)
*gasp* Say it isn't so!
NO NO NO
To say that the human mind is incoherent goes against everything I stand for. My God! Pull yourself together Queen 0! Now is not the time for hysterics!
Bi-polar Chaos Magician you may be but I stand at the opposite end of the field! I'm a Rosicrucian Psychologist with a deep and abiding interest in psychoanalysis. No depth of the mind is unplumbable! All things about the universe are knowable in one sense or another. Truth does not just exist but guides our destinies whether it be for the apparent better or worse.
Cromaat!
(Anonymous)
Apr. 24th, 2002 04:37 pm (UTC)
Re: *gasp* Say it isn't so!
Rosicrucian? *giggle* Thought your species died out a century or two ago... ;)
(Anonymous)
Apr. 28th, 2002 06:42 pm (UTC)
Aha! That's what we WANTED you to think!
(Anonymous)
Apr. 22nd, 2002 12:21 am (UTC)
An apologia of my own
I've tried to be a Subjectivist, really I have, but it just isn't sustainable. On a mundane level I am a Realist. However it is my opinion that a Subjective position does exist but it is only attainable though mystical or religious revelation. The ultimate truth in mahayana buddhism is that 'Samsara is Nirvana', an intrinsically paradoxical statement that claims that the world of suffering does exist in reality but that the world of paradise is exactly the same place. This admission, however, does not change the fact that philosophical Subjectivism is incoherent and it's applications in the mundane world are inconsistent with reality. Attempting to apply mystical revelation to mundane Subjectivism is like transporting water with a sieve.

A highly biased opinion in favour of realism can be found here :
http://radicalacademy.com/philosophicalrealism.htm
Dolhenty describes society's adoption of Subjectivism in apocalyptic terms. I am undecided as to whether the prevalence of this incoherent system of thought is evidence of society's decay (as Dolhenty suggests) or if it is a symptom of society's evolution as a whole (making Dolhenty the enemy, the clinger to stasis and denier of epistemological freedom)
I'm sure you can imagine my opinion on Politicism which he briefly describes.
-Jase
benpeek
Apr. 22nd, 2002 09:16 pm (UTC)
Re: An apologia of my own
well, wasn't that an even handed essay?

heh.

anyhow, it may surprise you or not, but i've nowhere near that realist camp. i'm in the subjectivism, well and truly. agreeing with kant: truth is relative.

i will allow a contradiction (for is that not the nature of life) that i do agree with the plato version. i do think that universe is distinct from us, but the way in whcih we understand it, of course, i based upon. and there is no absolute in how we approach anything: science changes it's theories daily, as does religion, morals differ on who you speak with, and so on and so forth, until it becomes the jumbled mess of left and right steps that have been messed up by the forward and back walking. but then, forward and backwards, are again, concepts which depend on which way your facing, doesn't it now? no absolute there. (of course that could be died back to language, and language is the least absolute thing in the world.)

i'm sure none of this surprises you, however.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 23rd, 2002 10:21 pm (UTC)
Re: An apologia of my own
The battle between Realism & Subjectivism is on a far more fundamental level than that which religion or science are capable of commenting on.
I think the flaw in your argument is summed up in the phrase "there is no absolute in how we approach anything". The problem is that by factoring in the 'we' you ascribe too much importance to the observer. Realism is about what exists in the world independent of observation. The absolute does exist, it's our ability to comprehend it that is flawed, our inability to directly observe it that leads us into conflict with each other and into Subjectivism.

And how can you support the phrase "truth is relative. COME ON!!! Surely the logical inconsistency of that statement is obvious!

The logical problem does bother me greatly, I mean if you KNEW something was incorrect could you really keep believing it? (neuroses aside) However the observer/observed distinction is false in my opinion. Queen O's relpy alludes to quantum physics, philosophy has been struggling with the true nature of secondary qualities for centuries. Perhaps the distinction is a result of our culture and the confusion the result of a scientific inability to define where the observer ends & the onserved begins.
I think it is the Heart Sutra (mahayana again) that describes all things as connected. But again a true comprehension of this is a mystical revelation not something that can be understood through logic. For instance, hold a pen in your hand and compose a complete description of it. COuld the description be complete without mentioning your hand? And if you start to describe the hand how to complete a description of that...ad infinitum.
benpeek
Apr. 26th, 2002 05:19 am (UTC)
Re: An apologia of my own
well, true. people do have to interact on what they see is truth, and must believe in something totally to interact with it.

but not everyone has to believe in the same thing. this applies to even things like chairs and beds, where language (or semoitics) play a big part of it. the word 'chair' does not necessarily mean chair in another culture. it could mean 'don't eat that!' or something similar.

you can see what i mean in what you call the logical inconsistency of the statement 'truth is relative'. you're right, of course, in the logical inconsistency of someone believing in subjectivness saying that, but at the some time, your response does prove my point, you know?
(Anonymous)
Apr. 28th, 2002 06:40 pm (UTC)
Begging the question
*sigh*
This is what one gets for trying to enlighten a subjectivist.

Firstly, it's not about belief, it's about knowledge. Yes anyone can believe what they like but belief does not equal knowledge. Indeed the whole concept of belief is predicated upon a distinct lack of knowledge.

Secondly, I haven't proven your point by having a different opinion than you. In practical terms it's because we're not talking about opinions we're talking about the facts of reality. And because the nature of the debate is such that any attempt to prove your point becomes an infinite regress of the same flaw in the basic subectivist argument. By saying 'at the some time, your response does prove my point' you simply end up restating the original point, ie that opposing statements can both be true. This offers no further evidence so the argument has not progressed at all. Hence the infinite regress begins.
benpeek
Apr. 28th, 2002 07:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Begging the question
well, i dunno. flaw for you maybe, but i don't think it is. of course, arguing it back and forth won't change either of our opinions.

i don't think there is such a thing as absolute certain knowledge. you can't peel back what is in someones skull and see what they see. is the colour grey the same colour for you? is this table what i see? is it what you see?

knowledge is a concept of language. like belief. i can't imagine how life would be without a language at *all* but i think it would be fascinating. maybe i will be a tree in the next life.
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