22
Nov
10

Philosophy, Contradictions, Asperger’s

I read this article and  found that it expressed a truth so well that it matched my own thoughts perfectly. In fact, it not only agreed with my thoughts, but helped me express them to myself more clearly.

The point of the essay is to intersperse some very provocative speculations about the attitude of philosophers with some interesting additional data points thrown in.

To start with, the essay has several quotes about Asperger’s syndrome which were pretty interesting. The author quotes a few people saying that Asperger’s might be caused by being exposed to excess testosterone in the womb, and that, in any case, the condition can be understood as a kind of hyper-male way of viewing things in that it renders ordinary conversation into a flat exchange of facts.

The author continues to argue by example. Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, and probably many other philosophers, were all weird people. One could say socially defective, if one wanted to be blunt. Not only that though, but there is a further pattern which is that most philosophers are (were) male.

From this the author takes a long leap of logic (he seems to understand that it’s a stretch) to say that perhaps the predilection to philosophical thinking is a kind of advanced Asperger’s syndrome. After all, the pieces seem to fit, philosophers are male, anti-social, and extremely analytic. The author of this article goes further and analyzes some philosophies of language to make the point. Philosophers are high-functioning, in the sense that they are capable of reading, writing, and leading an independent life, and in fact, getting along with other people.

The point is that philosophers, as I have always suspected, are a step behind ordinary conversation, ordinary thought. People without a philosophical outlook on things (and you don’t have to read many of my other posts that I don’t think its necessarily a good thing to have a philosophical outlook) slide over cliches, through turns of phrases, and beyond mistakes or vagaries.

The excruciatingly analytical person on the other hand stops and hangs on sentences, and processes them in real time, wondering to him or herself “huh?”

I find this to be utterly convincing, not necessarily for the reasons given in this article (though I think they are suggestive), but more from my own experience. What I mean is that this characterization of the philosophical mindset seems to be very faithful to my life.

For example, I have a very social streak that comes from my mom and a very theatrical conversational style which comes from my dad. However, when you get right down to it, I’m very analytical in social situations. In fact, when I was younger, I had a hard time having conversations with people. However, I was lucky enough to go to a school that — and you could put it this way — gave me a lot of data for my mind to work with. You see, most people just talk with each other, easily and unproblematically, but when I talk to someone, I’m building a model in my mind in parallel to the conversation. On the one hand, I’m just talking and at the other, I’m wondering, wandering and thinking. This isn’t really that weird. Everyone does it from time to time. You’re thinking to yourself “what doe this person want from me” or “why is he talking about this” or “that is totally ridiculous” For me, though it’s kind of an al the time thing. I’m developing and revising a model about the person’s personality. I’m constructing what philosophers think their job is: to create theories.

So, going to a high school with only guys, and a small number of them at that, I was able to refine my models and theories of different people over  a very long period of time (in some cases more than 8 years). And so, my theories became very advanced, and I could exploit them in such a way as to be ALMOST normal. I was a fairly awkward kid in high school, but I don’t want to exaggerate. Everyone is awkward then, and for the most part I DID feel like I fit in.

The real world is a little different.  There isn’t as much time to develop good theories so I have to play off my general knowledge and general patterns of sociality that  I’ve learned. It works out ok, but what I want to emphasize is that it’s sub par, like a really good hearing aid instead of just having functioning ears. This comes into play with a vengeance when I talk with girls. Since a vast majority of my social data came from male counterparts throughout my childhood, I was woefully underprepared to talk with girls. But not only that, when I talk to girls, it’s very often a very puzzling experience for me (a  parallel this author exploits, FYI). I find myself not knowing what to say, not knowing when to laugh, and CERTAINLY making very bad decisions about what comments would be appropriate, funny, sexy, whatever. By contrast, my humor with guys though has always been very versatile and effective.

So according to this author, the philosopher sees LIFE, and daily routine as puzzles. Rather than just living those routines and acting out social conventions, the philosopher is always asking why, and developing a model to go along with these daily tasks. The reason this usually becomes a problem is that human life is deeply contradictory. I don’t mean in this in the trite “o people are all very different” kind of way. I mean it very literally. Take english. English is, as many philosophers have noted, filled with semantic paradoxes. Try this one:

This very sentence is false.

If the sentence is true, then it is false. If it is false, then it is true. This is logical problem with teeth. So, in a very literal sense, english is incoherent. Of course, there are parts of it that are coherent, and that’s how we communicate, but if you look at all english sentences analyzed as a whole, the result is a logical system that prove any sentence AT ALL to be true (since anything can be derived from a contradiction).

So, if ordinary life is contradictory, then the philosopher has  a big problem facing him (or her), which is how to make sense of humanity, broadly understood. This is precisely what interests me about philosophy and keeps me thinking all the time, but on a smaller scale, I run into this problem when I’m talking with ALL SORTS of people, and especially groups of people I have no data for, no THEORY for.

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1 Response to “Philosophy, Contradictions, Asperger’s”


  1. 1 Hellomynameisgod
    December 4, 2010 at 5:30 am

    Unbelivable! Just like you said about that article you read that fitted perfectly with your thoughts, well it just did the same thing for me except with your own essay!

    I must say I do the exact same thing as you when i have to talk to other people and i must say it is quite strange to find out someone experienced incredibly close circumstances, especially when people tell you that you are one of the weirdest (but sometimes funniest) person they met.

    I always had picky and akward subjects in which i was interested in and they were the only ones i would want to talk about. Since they unsurprisingly weren’t as interesting to other people’s mind as mine, i figured out i had to learn conventional talk and learn things about all kind of subjects if i wanted to interact with other people.

    So i filled up my brain with everyday social sentences by imitating every conversation i could hear and i got pretty good at it. I could recreate alot of voice tones and people find it funny. But when i am facing a conversation i’m not sure where it is headed, i am lost and all i can say are facts.. and logical thinking is more often used with men (i’m afraid of making a generalization here, but women are often annoyed when all i say are practical facts..), so i face the same problem with women…

    Enough with the bio i guess.

    As of philosophy,

    I enjoy thinking of myself as a philosopher, and i also like to use “I” pretty often, or god! now before you think who the **** is this narcissic *****, let me explain the way i see life in a theoric point of view (i’m sorry for my poor english as a french native)

    First of all, i think we exist only by the fact that we perceive different matters ( lights on objects with our eyes, sounds with our ears, smell with our nose, touch with our fingers, emotions with ??? damn i think this is what i’m missing!, etc.)

    We, as a point of view, or a camera following a timeline(mmm not so sure of this one since by the time you read this it won’t be the same point of view and it isn’t the same since i started writing any words and it can still be divided in tinier parts of time, past present and future all mixed up in my recording machine!) of switch between different sounds,colors textures, emotions that makes us acts(point a to point b) towards happiness (sometimes not, depending on how we like the movie).

    And because of this, i find some things good, bad, right, not right, based on where i get my happinness.

    But if i knew everything, it would be boring, and existence wouldnt make sense. So i chose to limit the amount of knowledge my brain can process. this way i will have to spend time (damn its the only thing visa can’t buy me)learning how to be happy (seems akward to always say happiness but i think its the only reason we want to live for), truly happy. And it may take more than one life. But i can’t take with me the knowledge i learned in the past life since it would prove me that my theory is right and existence wouldnt make any sense… mmm but still id have to find happiness beyond science ( that stupid Babel Tower)… guess i’m the one who ate that knowledge apple… so if i do things right i should be a woman in my next life? ah thats why theres always a brilliant woman behind (or in front..ah who cares there is practically no distance between the atoms that seperates them) every wise man!!!

    God is the power of choice, between happiness and sadness, and this is the only thing i do, choices. If my soul is the energy of making these choices, by putting together atoms and circumstances to make sure i get a functional brain in a body that posesses fingers to type on a computer during an infinite timeline that isnt one (there is your contradiction, time!), then I am f*****ing God.

    Life would then be a video game, processed by a computer (which makes an infinite number of point a to point b) to acheive a goal (happiness).

    My parents always told me to stop playing video games. come on, they are responsible of putting me in the most realistic one ever.

    Which leaves us to the question, are you acting responsible with the environment (like global heating) by not having kids? if i ever manage to get involved in a relationship with a girl, do you think she will find it plausible (not sure in english but means good enough)??

    Remember, be happy, it is god will, or my will, or yours… same thing we’re all part of existence!


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