Glossary of “Love at a Reasonable Price, Volume One: First Loves”

Glossary of “Love at a Reasonable Price, Volume One: First Loves”

Never quite straightened out.

Not in Alphabetical order; but short—you could skim through it.

Advertising As Terrible Treachery: Advertising is a trick! Advertisers are tricksters! They manipulate our deep and legitimate senses-of and pushes-towards a real and abiding happiness in order to trick us into buying things, voting for candidates, nodding to opinions. Advertisers (and people using the media to sell ideas, candidates, and other purchaseless products) use knowledge of our psychological vulnerabilities in order to trick us into turning our thought towards their points of view. Of course, many hawked products and argued positions have some merit, but so many advertising organizations, branding firms, pr management teams, pundit/political-agendizers and their support staff, and other professional idea/feeling-pushers are—I am convinced!—so focused on winning/moneycomfort, that they’ve lost sight of what was supposed to be their cause (because it is the cause fundamentally animating us all human beings): moving in light and love as individuals and in community with others towards more awareness and honesty, and the concomitant unfolding of the inner Light shining within each of us and famously celebrated in that old timey gospel hit “This Little Light of Mine”.

Irreducibles: Most statements assume other statements: we cannot assent to them without simultaneously assenting to their more foundational assumptions. Are there any statements that are so fundamental, that they do not assume any other statements? If so, they would be “irreducibles”.

Some year back, I had the thought that “I know there is a True Good” and “I know there isn’t a True Good” and “I don’t know whether or not there is a True Good” were all equidistant from the same irreducibles. To understand and evaluate any one of them, we’d need to have a sense of what we mean with the “True Good”, with “exists/doesn’t exist”, and with “what sort of things I can know”.

But then I began to think that “I know there isn’t a True Good” and “I know there is a True Good” actually rely upon “I know there is a True Good” if they are to have any meaning and/or interest to human beings. My reasoning is this: I have within me a sense towards “truer” and “better”—not so much those ideas/concepts as the senses-of-things they imperfectly but still meaningfully point towards—; and concomitantly a sense that I can and should use my thought to move towards the directions that those senses-of-things point me towards. Without assenting to that underlying assumption, nothing I think or do makes any sense: all my thoughts seek to satisfy that longing for “truer” and “better”: even when I was claiming that I didn’t know anything about “Truth” and “Goodness”—still I was trying to satisfy those senses-of-things: I was making the case to myself that it was “truer” and “better” (the senses-of-things) to say I didn’t know anything about “Truth” and/or “Goodness”. So, then, since a concept never points perfectly towards the sense-of-things its pointing-towards but “imperfection” is not the same as “inadequacy”, it seemed logical to prioritize statements that pointed towards an affirmation of my impulses towards “truer” and “better” and their preferability ahead of all other statements: before my thought can assume anything else, it needs to assume those directions. But I, for one, could never see how “truer” and “better” had a meaning except in relationship to endpoints, which seem best described by the absolute concepts of “True” and “Good” (“truer” relative to what? Ask yourself for real: Can you understand, believe in, or care about your sense of “truer” without understanding, believing in, and caring about the existence of “True”?). And so that’s how it happened: “There is a True Good and my thought can and should move towards It” seemed to me to point towards an inner sense of things that was more fundamental than any statement pointing towards a sense-of-things that doubted “There is a True Good … towards It” (because those senses-of-things—in order to be bothered with—all assumed that my thought actually mattered, and the direction of my thought mattered, and that my thought could move coherently towards those senses of “True” and “Good” that I experience as being the fundamental impetuses and parameters of my thought). And so—without getting so far as to actually declare an absolute Irreducible, I was able to (to my satisfaction anyway) declare “There is a True Good and my thought can and should move towards It” as more fundamental (closer to irreducible) than any statement/attitude that would doubt that statement.

Pure Love: Human loves are rarely if ever completely pristine spiritual goods. They generally seem to some degree tainted by mythology, greed, egotrip, and other emotionalisms and intellectualisms. But it is often postulated—to varying degrees of clarity and with varying degrees of conviction and sincerity—that within all human “loves” that are actually loving there abides a completely pristine spiritual good: Pure Love—prior not just to bodies, but to ideas (stories-about), and feelings (reactions-to) as well (prior to all that is mutable, mudane, finite, specific). This Pure Love—it is supposed—shines through our bodies, ideas, and feelings, and gently—if we’d but harken!—points them towards the True Good, the True Path, God’s Light, the Bodhisattva Way—whatever poetry you want to use to point towards the Reality that we sense imperfectly, but not therefore necessarily so inadequately that our ideas and feelings can hope for no meaningful relationship with It.

The Three Main Aspects of Thought: That I can sense, anyway. Conceptual thought; emotional thought; and sense-of-things thought. Conceptual thought estimates/fudges-up most easily into basic facts of the sort comprising math, science, and simple historical and geographical ideas (like “William the Conqueror conquered England in 1066 AD” or “Paris is the capital of and most populous city in France.” Emotional thought has to be estimated into conceptual thought before being turned into words: “I am angry” relies upon dictionary definitions, although it ultimately points towards feelings which are much deeper and wider (vaguer) than those concepts. The sense-of-things thought: what is that? It has both elements of ideas and feelings in it. For example, the sense-of-things that “should” points towards: there’s a concept there, but also a feeling: the sense-of-things unfurls out into both concepts and feelings.

[I don’t know that these aspects of thought are actually totally distinct from each other. They might be different spots within a continuous thing. Sometimes I think thought is a continuum that goes from specific ideas and feelings down through vague notions / senses-of-things into the pure awareness that seems to be inside of and steering thinking. My experience is that there is an aspect of thought that the concepts point towards and the feelings report to, an aspect of thought that senses it all and can—if I am sufficiently aware, internally-honest, and composed—steer concepts and feelings. In fact, now I begin to wonder if concepts and feelings are just little entities that the deeper sense observes and moves around. Sure: the other aspects are able to and often do ignore its council—but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t ultimately in charge and responsible; nor does it rule out the possibility of a stand-back, chill-out, actually-decide (maybe never completely, but perhaps enough for awareness to basically steer our thinking and action). What if awareness is one with the Truth and so is a free-cause?]

Ideas as directions-towards the objects they’d describe rather than 1-1 correspondences to those objects: A model of conceptualization where ideas point-at rather than fully hit their target. In my experience of my own thought, even very precisely defined concept like you find in math and science end up—insofar as they are understood and used within my mental space—pointing to a sense-of-things that is prior-to the definition. However, I think that this model is most useful when describing our relationship to fundamental assumptions like what we can know, what is going, or what we should do: in such cases words and the concepts they conjure cannot directly hit their objects, because that which these ideas are trying to describe is prior to ideas and feelings: the ideas are pointing towards senses-of-things that don’t fit satisfactorily into concepts because these senses-of-things lose all their meaning when turned into mere symbols in a casual-connection game. That is: “Truth” loses all of its meaning when prefaced with relative statements like “I’m not saying this has anything to do with how things really are—just that I want to accept these propositions for the sake of argument and see what conclusions could then be drawn”. You can, by using such bracketing, make a game out of math and science without losing a large portion of their meaning—at least their meaning qua intellectual exercise: the question of how math and science relate to “Reality” is of course another metaphysical question. But if I say, for example, “now, I’m not saying this is true or false, but just an idea to work with: human beings matter”, then you lose the bulk of the meaning that you were aiming at. The difference between poetic and literal thought is that poetic thought loses all essential meaning when separated from the sense-of-things it is pointing at and confined to a “let’s just suppose” framework, whereas literal thought thrives in, but cannot extend beyond, the hypothetical intellectual exercise.

Poetic vs Literal Thought: Things of degrees: our thought is never 100% literal or 100% poetic. The more a thought is subject to precise intellectual definitions and evaluations, the more literal it is. The less it can be captured in purely intellectual terms
without losing its essential meaning and purpose, the more poetic it is. Math and science (at least when reduced to pure symbol play) are very literal; theories about whether or not math and science actually describe anything real or whether or not there is anything real or whether or not such questions are meaningful: those are all very poetic thoughts.

Because literal thoughts point towards precise intellectual concepts and procedures, and because within intellectual thought there is no way to prove or disprove the validity of intellectual thought in general or any set of assumptions in particular, literal thought has nothing to say about what is really going on, or if anything is really going on; or what really should be done, or if anything really should be done. Poetic thought, on the other hand, is not working in perfectly clear or precise intellectual concepts: it is trying to use intellectual concepts to point past the intellect.

Not possible, you say? Then no human has any chance of being adequately coherent: we all rely on ideas to relate to not just feelings, but also to vague senses-of-things like our pushes towards “truer” and “better”: without accepting and pursuing that inner sense that our thoughts and actions can and should self-awaredly move towards “truer” and “better” (not those ideas, but the senses-of-things they point towards) thought-paths, we have no way of preferring one thought over another.

Some people have pretended to worry that they can’t know whether or not other people have adequately similar relationships to language—they worry that for all they know communication is impossible! When such faux worriers really get going, they will sometimes reach such heroic heights that they fret about the supposed possibility that their own ideas don’t relate with adequate meaning to their innerworld—they worry that for all they know, they can’t even communicate meaningfully with themselves! All this stuff is nonsense: first, you can’t coherently think it because if you and others aren’t basically the same and/or if your ideas can’t meaningfully relate to your feelings and senses-of-things, then you can’t meaningfully think of the worry; second, such worries only make sense when we let cartwheeling concepts distract us from what we deep-down know.

Spiritual vs Mundane Ideas: Spiritual ideas are anything about what actually is the case, anything that would lose its essential meaning if turned into a hypothetical symbol play. “A triangle is a plane shape enclosed by three sides with three vertices between” can still be used meaningfully even with the caveat “we make no claims about this idea’s relationship to what, if anything, is actually the case”. “God is an Absolutely Infinite Substance” can also be used purely as a hypothetical construct, but anything you would prove about that God would also be purely hypothetical. Even a poem about the wonder of the Absolutely Infinite Substance can be poetically meaningful (moving, interesting, meditative) without making any claims one way or other about the AIS’s existence. However, once you maintain, “This Absolutely Infinite Substance actually exists”, you leave the realm of the purely hypothetical: the statement loses its essential meaning when divided from the question of whether it is actually True. So that statement is an Absolute one: a spiritual one. Likewise, “No, for real: I actually should get out of bed in the morning”: that statement’s core meaning is based on the assumption that some things are actually True; with that assumption bracketed off, the statement becomes incoherent.

Poetic Thought’s Fundamental Place in Human Thought: We cannot avoid “should”. “I should get out of bed today.” Why? It is only a poetic truth that communicates that sense, which, since it is not relative but really means what it is saying, is spiritual. In general, what matters most to human beings is what is really going on, what really matters, how one should really live: and all those topics are spiritual/metaphysical/Absolute ones.

Spiritual Senses-of-Things: Like, for example, what we estimate, “it actually does matter how we treat other people: that’s not just something I feel, but something that is True, something I Know”. Are such spiritual senses-of-things actually True? Or are they just feelings about Absolutes? Again, we need them to be actually True and to understand that and how they are True and how they relate to our intellectual and emotional estimates of them. To the degree all that is accomplished, we possess a direction for thought and action we can actually understand, believe in, and care about. [A: I don’t understand this point: why couldn’t we understand, believe in, and care about feelings about Absolutes? B: Because feelings know themselves to be limited and ultimately foundationless. Because as Kant pointed out if you are trapped in just feelings and ideas without any spiritual insight to guide them, they spin for ever in “maybe this, or maybe that”. A: So you are saying that at some level ideas and feelings know they cannot hack it alone, but with a spiritual sense guiding them, they can reach a point where they recognize an authority beyond themselves is guiding them? They can see they do not, as they’ve always known, possess a firm foundation for knowledge, but they are centered around one and so can from their limited/subjective vantage point have some workable inkling of an objectively True path and their relationship to it? B: Yeah, I guess that’s what I’m saying.]

Analogy: Feelings are to Ideas what Feelings and Ideas are to the Truth
We should find a good essay on this and put it here.

Necessity of Reasonable Estimates of Spiritual Senses-of-Things: Human beings need ideas and feelings, as well as spiritual senses-of-things to help them navigate human life. The first two are obvious, the third is needed to give spiritual ideas (like “I actually should get out of bed”: ideas without which we have no traction on life) firm foundations (otherwise spiritual ideas like “no, I actually don’t need to bother ever getting out of bed in the morning” have no decisive refutation and one never really knows what what should be doing). So even though “Love is True” is not a perfect

Learning Via Empathy / Assumption Others Are Like Yourself / How We Know What “Ouch!” Means: I remember once hearing something about how we don’t know what “ouch!” or “my toe hurts!” means because we don’t know first hand what phenomena other people experience while using that language, so maybe the phenomena we attach the language to is not the same as the subjective experience they attach it to. I consider this notion, like the “philosophical zombie” idea, to be actually unthinkable. To the degree you actually consider the notion that others are not fundamentally the same as you are and can communicate meaningfully with you are, you doubt any conceivable understanding of your own life, and so you doubt all your thinking, and so you doubt the attempted doubt (ie: this is an undoubtable). First of all, we cannot stand such a reality and so we only pretend to be able to consider it. Second of all, we cannot make any sense of our own thoughts if we assume we are not talking about the same basic experience as the people we are talking to (if, for example, when I say, “I’m tired” I depict an experience that others actually think the phrase “my ankle is sore” describes, whereas with “I’m tired” they would describe what I would describe with “I’m so happy!”).

The first point is self-explanatory, the second might benefit from a quick explanation. Basically: if everything you’ve learned by interacting with other people is built upon fundamental miscommunication, how are you to understand everything you know? And what knowledge have you gained completely independent of interacting with others? To actually doubt that you are communicating meaningfully with others requires you to doubt your current understanding of everything you know. You cannot coherently doubt it (it is an undoubtable). Better not to try an doubt it; much better to try and find enough whole-conscious-moment insight into the assumption so that you have a workable sense that and how it is True (so you can think/act coherently).

How do human beings learn what “my toe hurts” mean? They learn via empathy. They observe other people’s involuntary motions and expressions, map those motions and expressions onto their minds and recreate a rough and watered-down sketch of the other person’s experience, and then they pair that experience with culturally-specific things like language. That’s how it is done. We all know that. Supposing that process illusionary exiles one into hopeless confusion and hopeless loneliness: you can’t really do it. So don’t waste your time pretending this is a possible concern! It is parlor trick philosophy.

Undoubtables: Some assumptions are undoubtable to human thought. To the degree a human doubts them, they doubt their own thought’s methodology as they cannot help but understand it, and thus they doubt all their conclusions, and thus they doubt the attempted initial doubt. Example: “I can and should find truly better ways of thinking and acting”.
Those logoses are truly self-defeating!
[This topic is covered in Why Something Deeperism LINK]

A Path Forward but not Backward: You’ve heard it said that: “A human thought is incoherent without accepting its inner senses of “truer” and “better”; but those inner senses require a “True Good” to be firmly founded; so the only possible progress lies in search for a better and better connection to the “True Good” for your thought-as-a-whole.”

But of course: An assumption’s procedural undoubtability doesn’t prove it True. Furthermore, forcing yourself to believe something without adequately demonstrating its accuracy to yourself also breaks a fundamental rule of human thought and so leads to the abyss of self-confusion. Anyway, we are speaking here of fundamental notions experienced at a level deeper than ideas and feelings, which conceptual language therefore can never literally/definitively describe; so forcing yourself to believe the above phrases will only result in tightly clutching an idea you don’t understand.

All it does is demonstrate that you need to find a way to demonstrate that and how that assumption is True. To the degree you succeed with that, your thought can understand, believe in, care about, and follow itself: you are present within your own thought, you travel with your own thought to your own conclusions.

Something Deeperism: A philosophical attitude fairly common through most times and places that holds that the Absolute Truth exists and we humans can have a meaningful relationship to It, but the Absolute Truth is so much deeper and wider than any possible human dogma that no one can claim that their religion or philosophy is the one “true” belief: no dogma is literally or definitively “true”. Something Deeperism holds that, for example, the world’s religions all—at least as lived in the mind/heart/souls of their wisest practitioners—have an adequate relationship to the Absolute Truth.

Seed of Wisdom / The Goal is the Foundation is the Path: Our inner sense of and preference for awareness and honesty in thought, for “truer”, “better”, “kinder”, “more loved and loving”, for “what is really best for me and others”. That direction is the reason we know there’s a point to doing anything; it is the path towards finding better ways of thinking and acting; and it is the goal (to unfurl and fully develop it) of life. We’re lucky to have it!
If there’s nothing to it, or to the degree we can’t gain insight into how it is True, we’ve no hope for finding thought-/action-directions that are meaningful to us. But much within and without suggests there is something to it; so we may as well barrel down that path: down the only possible path of intellectual, emotional, and/or spiritual progress: towards crying out for mercy.

Stamp of Truth: The problem with the intellect and the emotions is that they do not contain, either alone or together, insight into their own relationship with what—if anything—is actually going on. They are stories-about and reactions-to, but what is actually going on is prior to mere stories-about or reactions-to. The gap between description and described object is particularly problematic when the describer knows itself to be clearly limited and fallible and the object is supposed to be infinite/eternal and infallible: a miss may very well be a million billion miles. That’s why there’s no real hope for meaningful thoughts and actions unless human consciousness includes an aspect of thought that is both Knowledge and Reality. That’s what the Truth is supposed to be. It can be sure of it’s insights because there’s no gap between describer and description of the Absolute: the Truth is both.

Just because the Truth is right about Itself and even supposing the Truth shines through our every conscious moment doesn’t necessarily imply our ideas and feelings adequately understand the Truth and Its Insights. However, such a possibility does create a possible path for human progress: we could conceivably relax down and let the Truth tell the rest of our conscious experience about Itself. Our ideas and feelings can never be 100% clear, precise, or certain about what is prior to ideas and feelings, but they could still be adequately guided by the Truth within and so have insight both into the Truth and their own imperfect but not therefore inadequate understanding of It. Certain Knowledge could shine through and provide the rest of one’s thought with not Certain Knowledge, but with a sure grounding in a whole-being organization around and flow-off-of Certain Knowledge, and the flow-off-of would include adequate emotional and intellectual sketches of the Truth: adequate for our purposes of thinking, acting and living (though of course not for supposing we are wise enough to stop working alone and with others to grow in wisdom and the kindloving that is its way).

Reaching a Tipping Point: If within our conscious experience, we humans all have something that is one with the Absolute Truth (both Reality and Knowledge), then conceivably one’s thought-as-a-whole could, via prayer and meditation and community and other proven spiritual efforts, reach a tipping point where the ideas and feelings were synched up well enough with the Absolute Truth that it would be more true to say “I know that it matters what I say and do; and that kindness is eternally important” than to say “I don’t know whether or not it matters what I say and do or if kindness really matters”. This, I hypothesize, would count as the beginning of wisdom. Would it be the end of wisdom? I don’t know; but I do think that if you find your ideas and feelings making that insight seem less important than other insights, you are probably losing wisdom. Because grasping that and how “kindness is eternally important” is probably concomitant with grasping the essence of what is really going on, what really matters, and how one should really live. I picked that poetic formulation and that aspect of wisdom because it guardrails against the egotrip of supposing “Truth” is about the grandeur of your insights rather than about your oneness and equality with all people here thriving or crashing all together for ever and ever. I make these guesses based on my own sense of things and what I’ve gathered from different religious thinkers and other people I’ve talked with. I feel like they are pretty common, pretty unexceptional guesses.

The Myth of Intellectual, Emotional, and/or Material Salvations: Capitalism is not salvation! Ideas about salvation are not salvation! Feelings about salvation are not salvation!

The Vague Longing: We have within us each a vague longing for more, more, more, better, better, better, certainer, certainer, certainer. Our various desires attach themselves to this longing. But that’s a trick since they are specific longings with specific goals whereas the vague longing is just longing, longing, longing.
Wisdom also has a vagueness (it is definitely True, but it also definitely cannot be definitively captured in ideas and/or feelings), so I guess it would in some sense complement and satisfy the vague longing.
But I don’t know the vague longing’s origin. Maybe there’s a spiritual push at its
core, or maybe it is just animal hubbub. I don’t know, so don’t ask me.

Bartleby Willard and Andy Watson wrote this glossary years ago.
They never really finished it.
What should they do now?
How can they best reach that goal?

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