Minimum Viable Philosophy > Theory of Everything
I meme-dunked on philosophy in my previous entry, tracing the motivational trajectory of the modern “philosopher,” with their barbaric ways of thinking and cancerous questioning of everything. Despite my meme-dunking, I love philosophy, even the charlatan kind. It has become an acquired taste.
That said, I am interested in doing philosophy in new ways without calling myself a philosopher. Everyone already does philosophy, and if my trend-sensing is accurate, philosophy will be emancipated from academia, and many will be doing it as an existential necessity.
“Never call yourself a philosopher, nor talk a great deal among the unlearned about theorems, but act conformably to them.”
I assert this premise of existential necessity because we find ourselves in an era characterized by terms like "future shock,"1 "liquid modernity,"2 "the great weirding,"3 "the metacrisis,"4 and various other fancy-sounding jargon that articulates our bewildering state, one precipitating both personal and communal destabilization.
Our unquestioned presuppositions about what is and should be are being stalked by reality, much like a ravenous predator tracking down its prey. No proposition will escape examined scrutiny, leading to whatdescribes as the "great humbling." Be humbled or be humiliated, especially when it comes to having a philosophy.
Aside from capitalizing on the culture war, the mass appeal of figures like Jordan Peterson over someone like Tony Robbins these days lies in the fact that people now seek more than just success principles. They are searching for meaning. People are not just seeking knowledge on navigating their lives but are increasingly searching for a reason to navigate it in the first place. This hunger for meaning is why people seek philosophy for the how and why of living.
However, one unfortunate (and necessary) phenomenon in this gravitational pull toward philosophy is the attraction to "philosophers" with a theory of everything (TOE). The TOE term is often used in physics to describe a hypothetical framework that explains all known physical phenomena in the universe. There are also philosophical TOEs, providing all-encompassing theories of what is and ought to be. A TOE captures all the traditional branches of philosophy: ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics, and logic.
The challenge with being attracted to TOE-philosophers is that one outsources doing philosophy to them, with a new fallacy at play, which I'll henceforth call the "galaxy-brain fallacy": those with high verbal and general intelligence to speak confidently about their philosophical TOE must be more right than me about what is and what ought to be. Wrong. I argue that the bigger the TOE, the bigger the chance of being fooled.
Now is not the time for more TOEs. What is needed more is minimum viable philosophies (MVPs). The term derives from the business strategy of a "minimum viable product," which I described in a previous entry:
The term is borrowed from the business technique of having a "minimum viable product," creating the most basic product version, including only the essential features to satisfy early customers. Once the product meets the market, gather feedback and iterate. With a minimum viable philosophy, once one's current philosophy meets reality, gather feedback and iterate.
The leading contenders for MVPs are Taoism and Stoicism, with the latter being my source of inspiration. An MVP does not need to have theoretical positions on metaphysical matters. Instead, it engages in ethics-maxxing, focusing on the good, trusting an innate compass, wayfinding the way toward the true and, most inspirationally, the beautiful.
In these interesting times, when we are drunk on doubt with dizzying complexity, each one of us has a philosophical choice: doing philosophy through an MVP or outsourcing philosophy to someone else’s TOE. My trend-sense is this: with throwawayable “theory sketches”5 in mind, the non-philosophers who choose MVPs will outpace the “philosophers” with their big TOEs getting in the way.
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"Future shock" refers to the distress or disorientation experienced by individuals due to rapid technological and social changes.
"Liquid modernity" refers to a post-World War II era characterized by “endemic uncertainty,” marked by transient, ever-changing societal structures, where traditional norms are replaced by constant modernization and a focus on short-term projects and casual relationships, leading to a lack of stable meaning-making.
“The Great Weirding” is a period marked by a series of recent unusual and unpredictable global events (aka Trump getting elected) that challenge our traditional understanding of the world while imbuing a sense of weirdness.
“The metacrisis” refers to the complex, interconnected web of global challenges, that collectively threaten the future well-being and existence of humanity. For the best introduction on the metacrisis, watch this presentation posted on The Stoa:
A “theory sketch” are provisional theories that one holds lightly. See my “I Am Not Writing to the World: A Guide to Creating Theory Sketches” entry.