Viable Worlds Theory – Why philosophy is more than mental masturbation

socrates greek philosopher cartoonThe successful survival of our species has always depended on pattern prediction. We model our brains and our behaviours on the patterns we experience and adopt as truth. We then fit new information into these existing structures that dictate our interpretations and attentions. The following three basic patterns found throughout nature easily illustrate this precept:

1) Sequences – From ’rounding the bases’ while dating to predicting the sequence of seasons/weather for agriculture
2) Branched Hierarchies - From attention priority scales (eg: run from wasp – run screaming from bee) to societal/job roles
3) Networks – From understanding our interaction within ecosystems to Richard Branson’s business success

Countless patterns, many coded within our own bodies, can be translated from micro through to macro: torus energy fields, gravity, the golden mean, crystallography… etc. How many humans have devoted their lives to finding the ‘one governing pattern behind everything’? Although this one-ring-to-rule-them-all search is undoubtedly a noble, and most exquisitely human, cause (and who am I to say it can’t be done!), I propose we lay out on the grass with Socrates and take a bit of a breather.

Socrates had the balls to confess his truth, that “all I know is that I know nothing.” In his classical world, full of proportions and ethical theorizing, this was a tantalizingly provocative admission. But in our globalized, overly connected, overly rationalized, universe, we can’t all just wander around in loosely draped robes getting into philosophical debates with handsome younger, and powerful older, men – although I’ve pretty much just described my idea of heaven. We have to be a tad more, dare I say, pragmatic about things. Yes, James and Kierkegaard were on the right track, but I propose we push their philosophies even further…

The Viable Worlds Theory

First of all, we need the scientific method to adapt to the 21st century. It was all fine and good for the Enlightenment, and even for Kant’s obsessive categorizing. But truisms are so, like, pre-Edwardian. Wake up people! Even fashion’s gone individual! We need to drop the attention directing ‘hypothesis’, and demand ‘conclusion statements’ that include multiple interpretations of the data set. Let’s pass our results around to different faculties, post them on social media for public interpretation, and get correlation perspectives from a wide variety of personal paradigms.

But how do we function, let alone thrive, in a world of such unfathomable complexity? How can we have faith in faith when we accept the validity of all? Do we have to put ourselves through the strictest asceticism, like Gautama Buddha and Martin Luther, before we reach enlightenment? Or get all uppity like, and I type this with utmost respect, Muhammad and Confucius? Just relax, I’ve got good news for you. You’re already living in your own viable world.

Whether you define your core as your pineal gland, your sub or straight-up conscious mind, or the surface of your skin, your individual viable world (your personal paradigm) extends outwards through (as many as you believe exist) dimensions from this point all the way to the edge of the universe – wherever you understand that edge to be. This is your reality, and all your patterns, values, and decisions will be guided by this framework. As unromantic as it may sound, every human is essentially living in their own world. I believe we have an intuitive sense of this principle – just look at the language we use: “living in his own little world”, “welcome to my world”, “it was like stepping into another world.” I’m not going to go all Chomsky on you and insist that language is in itself a philosophical proof, but the lingo is undoubtedly interesting.

Just as so many genes in your DNA can be switched on or off, so to can you negotiate with your viable world. The success of any system, from skin cell to Wall Street, is directly proportional to its ability to regenerate, adapt, and accommodate. These three factors are your go-to checklist for evaluating the personalization of your own viable world. Slow healing/regeneration = change your diet. New boss at work = adapt your priority scale. Just married a writer = accommodate or die. Let’s not forget that we are a social and inherently ambitious species. By comparing our world with the worlds (as expressed and experienced) around us, we can alter our own to best serve our purposes and fulfill the full potential of our preciously unique genetic code.

People who are depressed live in a bleak, unforgiving world because their internal landscape has become bleak and unforgiving. People suffering from cleanliness OCD are, quite literally, living in a world with more germs than the rest of us. All the sufferer’s interpretations, actions, and attentions are in response to this paradigm. Psychopaths think we’re weak, inferior, and sacrificial – of course they do! In their world, wouldn’t you?

What about faith? In my world, my faith is the only truth, stretching from my core out to the edges of my universe. Interacting with people in parallel worlds of faith is a spiritual joy. Other faiths? Other worlds. All viable. All valid. I dare you to have the kind of balls that Socrates dared to parade through the streets of Athens. I dare you to really think about what the viable worlds theory could mean for our global economy/society.

Instead of asking yourself, “What kind of person do I want to be.”

Dare to ask, “What kind of world do I want to live in?”

16 thoughts on “Viable Worlds Theory – Why philosophy is more than mental masturbation

  1. First of all, I have to ask you. Do you make these illustrations yourself?

    Secondly, I really like the way you write. It’s conversational without bordering on informal. In fact I prefer this style of writing, injecting a little humour and sarcasm into a paragraph here and there, to keep it…lively.

    As for the post itself. I agree. The notion of our (sub) conscious extending as far as we limit it to, is a very accurate. To link it to religion in my post, this limit is what gives us enlightened theologians/philosophers/spiritualists but also the minority of narrow minded individuals. I think you are spot on with “Dare to ask, “What kind of world do I want to live in?”” as those that do dare to ask, bring about the greatest change. Those that don’t either are not capable or are selfish. That being said, I’m pretty sure most people fall into the latter category and you can’t knock that. It just is.

    • You’re so right, Abdul – “It just is.” Accepting this fact lets us avoid getting bogged down in judgement and gives us the freedom to get on with our lives. And I’m so glad you mentioned the flip side of this theory! It’s very true, the same viable world extension gives “narrow minded individuals” the ability to lock into their limited beliefs to the detriment of those they interact with and even, sometimes, govern. The old adage of ‘can be used for good rather or evil’ comes to mind. From your own wonderfully articulate writing, I know you’re one of the one’s who “dares to ask.” Excellent!

      And yes, I’m responsible for all the illustrations and photography on this blog. Sometimes a gal has to take matters into her own hands… plus, I don’t have any idea where else I could source a pic of Socrates having a mellow meadow moment lol!

  2. You’re right; philosophy has to be practical. My teacher in such matters, Peter Munz, witnessed the Wittgenstein/Popper poker debate – to me, a symbol of the pointlessness of philosophy-as-intellectual exercise. Popper probably defined twentieth century philosophy of science, insofar as anybody did. Even so, he never quite managed to escape the issues involved with falsifiability and some of the logic traps associated with it. Munz thought the whole could be resolved with reason (by which he really meant ‘reasonableness’).

    To me that was much more practical, though it depends on having the right sort of framework of thinking to start with. And to me, your idea about multiple possible interpretations of the data set (to me, meaning interpretations that work together – that are nonexclusive and each valid) is spot on. I think we are trapped, far too often, by exclusive thinking – that ‘explanation A’ is right and thus eliminates ‘B’, ‘C’ and so forth. This is where academic arguments usually seem to come from, certainly. The real world is complex, made up of multiple intersecting forces, patterns and pressures. They all go together, and if we are to understand them we have to have a philosophy of plurality, as a first step.

    • Peter Munz was one lucky man! I’d pay good money to get a front row seat to the most exciting (yet undeniably “pointless”) 10 minutes of 20th century philosophy! With witness accounts being so variable, did Munz ever give you the low-down?

      I agree that Popper has never really been given proper respect, while straight-outa-the-trenches golden boy Wittgenstein still gets all the glory. Personally, I’ve always felt Wittgenstein’s early work is the philosophical equivalent of the proverbial ‘cart before the horse’. Even he spent most of his later career trying to refute himself! But once you sell people a simple solution to a complex world, they’ll fight you tooth and nail before they give it up!

      What you’ve said about frameworks is so very true. If you try to introduce a plurality into a closed framework, it becomes a direct ego threat and the cause of lasting, grating, cognitive dissidence. And can even lead to the wielding of household items as weapons lol.

      For the past few years, in my autodidact researches, I’ve practiced what I’m preaching about multiple conclusions to experimental data. It’s quite fascinating what you can come up with when you make a (ok, totally nerdy) game out of finding new correlations and connections. And speaking of pluralities… And I know you’ll relate to this challenge… In my freelance work, I once had to write an article about the owner of an escort agency. Because he had to have final approval, I was forced to write it in such a way that he would read it one way (through his ego and self-perception), and the audience would read (into) it in entirely another. When he laughed and told me he loved it, I felt an incredible, overwhelming wave of pure (there’s no other way to put this) power. Which in writing, as we all know, can be an ever elusive bit of business ~wink.

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