Saturday, July 2, 2022

Signal Boosting Non-Error: Aphorisms

Bardon Kaldian says: "Aphorisms are overrated.

True, there is some sort of wisdom in quotes from Oscar Wilde or Confucius & a few others (Nietzsche, Montaigne, and especially La Rochefoucauld).

But, generally- wit is shallow. And not just wit. For instance, Shakespeare’s “Ripeness is all” is one of those expressions that should convey some deep stuff & while it has poetic & “existential” value, it’s not such a big deal as most people consider it to be"

An aphorism can be profound if it's true and happens to be profound. do you know it's true? Someone has to prove it. If there's an associated proof it's not an aphorism anymore, it's a scientific paper. 

Further, an aphorism, 99% of the time, only works if you already know the answer. If the aphorism is in some way news to you, then likely you need an explanation. At least a few paragraphs. Kolmogorov complexity etc etc. 

Maybe with a very high quality curator (a Pope if you will) you could know in advance the aphorisms have been selected for relevance, and you could figure them out on your own without wasting so much of your time it's more profitable to ignore them.

However, most don't do that whole [thinking on your own] thing. Division of labour is good actually. They need the aphorisms explained. What they need aren't aphorisms.

I guess aphorisms can function as mnemonics. However, to rectify the names, this means aphorisms can't be considered wise unless both the speaker and hearer are already wise. The wise person makes the aphorism high-status, the aphorism doesn't make the person high-status. 

Basically when Wilde says something snappy and not wrong, he got lucky. If you say enough things, some of them will be good more or less by accident, unless you go well out of your way to avoid it. (Progressives.) 

Nietzsche was genuinely wise but it's not worth reading him because he doesn't explain himself. Either you already know and it's not worth reading him, or you don't get it and it's worth even less than that. It's more about shared commiseration with him. "Yeah, big N, I feel the same way. So relatable."

Confucius didn't say most of the things attributed to Confucius, and that's a good thing. Single-author texts are dubious at the best of times. Confucius is short not because Confucius was averse to explaining himself, but because it's the written appendix of a largely oral culture. It's basically there to remind the teacher what to teach; most of the information is stored off-site, as it were, and as a result much of it is now lost.

Which is why: write it the fuck down, shithead. Explain yourself.

The others I'm not familiar with in the least, and if I found out, I would probably regret it.


P.S. Admittedly my own adventures in writing shit the fuck down displays why Nietzsche et al are averse to it. Nobody reads it (but they respond anyway). If they do read it, they don't understand it (especially those with responses). Why would I put more effort into writing it down than anyone is going to put into reading it? (Accounting for suitable proportionality?)

Luckily I'm immensely wealthy and can afford useless production. (As opposed to especially useless Veblenian consumption.)  

P.P.S. Confucius' major error is lack of Stoicism. Dude had 0 self-awareness. Humans are inherently hypocritical (which is why I call the species Caino hypocriens), which means Confucianism ultimately does nothing but regiment the vices Confucius was reacting against.

1 comment:

JBPGuy said...

>no one understands
You already know the answer to this.

If you write it down, it's a challenge.
If people don't understand, they're challenging your writing skills, which are, the clarity of your language.

Example. Nietzsches aphorisms are easy to understand sometimes, depending on how simple the concepts are.

"He who cannot obey himself will be commanded"

You know what all the terms mean because they are not vague. There's nothing to explain, no other interpretation possible.

"The belly is the reason why man does not mistake himself for a god."

This one is slightly more vague. The belly? Can we interpret this to mean something to do with form? With appearance?

But no, even with the most dumb headed way of thinking, we know what he means. "Man is not god because man will die, and he knows it whenever he has hunger."

Now this one is harder (and a classic )

"When you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you."

You have to understand what Nietzsche means by "an abyss"- a metaphorical abyss, obviously.
A physical chasm? No.
But you can apply that metaphorical abyss to many things, and the aphorism is true. A toxic relationship; a goal you cannot reach.

Hopefully my point is demonstrated. Language has shorthand, which can mean different things despite using the same words.

Since everyone spends maximum time exposed to their own shorthand, great skill required to fit the shorthand of everyone else into your own head.

Bringing it back to're cultivating. Your writing consistently either sheds or explicates your own internal jargon. This is good.

>Why would I put more effort into writing it down than anyone is going to put into reading it?
"Discomfort is a cost. Pay it when you buy something worthwhile with it."