Missing Things

29 April 2010


I am not a Christian.

There are lots of people who think that this term is used far too often, by people who call themselves this simply by habit, or preference, without actually understanding what it means and living it. These people tend to prefer to call themselves "believers" or "followers of Christ" or something equally ethereal and pleasant-sounding, to distinguish themselves from the petty heathen who have mistakenly confused their own beliefs for the perfect and life-changing doctrines espoused by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately for the proliferation of these terms, the people who use them almost never agree on the manner in which one's life should be changed, and consequently are as disunited amongst themselves as the remainder of the church that they criticize.

I am not a believer or follower of Christ.

In the common parlance, people tend to refer to the kind of people who believe that their beliefs are right and everyone else's are wrong as "fundamentalists" (typically described as "taking the Bible literally"), because that is so mean to all the people who are wrong to actually tell them so, and it is wrong of you to do that! (And fundamentalists advocate, like, killing people who disagree with them, but we only mock them, so we must be better people than they are!)

I am not a fundamentalist.

In lieu of continuing this ridiculous pattern further than necessary, I will also proclaim the following: I am not an American. I am not a Caucasian. I am not a brunette. I am not a gentile. I am not a logician. I am not a scientist. I am not an artist. I am not a philosopher. I am not a body. I am not a soul. I am not a mind. I am not a human. I am not a person.

At least, not in the way you are probably thinking of any of those things.

The thing is, those things are all categories. Categorizing is a human and, you may be surprised to hear me say, good thing to do. We have to stick labels on things in order to make sense of the universe, and just because we label it doesn't mean that the label is arbitrary or wrong, like so many nominalists would have you believe.
But, when we do this, we tend to assume that labeling something is like placing it into a file instead of a pasting a sticker on it. Truth is, if everything exists outside your own head, it has to be the latter.

If we describe something as a door, what we're really saying is that this thing can be opened and closed, and when it's open you can walk through it.

If we say something is an electron, we mean it's tiny thing possessing a certain amount of charge, and a certain amount of mass energy, and behaves like this in these situations.

If we say something is a fact, we mean that it's a statement about the universe (and usually, that it happens to be empirically true).

If we say it's a number, we mean it's a abstract object that can be counted or measured.

In fact, the only real noun in English, or any other language, is "thing". Every other noun just means "thing with descriptions X, Y, Z, etc", "thing with adjectives". Some of these properties are extremely complex, like for words like "human", but it can still come down to something like "thing that is alive, and as an adult is able to walk on two legs (things used for walking), manipulate things with two hands (things used for manipulating, that have smaller things on them that can grip other things), and talk, see, taste, smell, and hear with a head (thing attached to another thing that is able to react automatically and contemplatively in a lot of different ways to things around it) and performs abstract and conceptual thought and communication, OR is descended from another human".

All I'm saying is that you have an independent existence from any of these stickers, and if you and the sticker don't match, the sticker is wrong. Object-oriented linguistics, if you will. I think this is important, because being capable of abstract and conceptual thought means that we end up fixing or adjusting what each sticker means constantly, and a lot of the time something that the sticker used to accurately describe no longer does. Especially when we start referring to the collection of all objects with a particular sticker on it as part of some uniform whole, as if the sticker was there first. No, I'm not being a pedant about this whole thing.

But perhaps I'm being a little pedantic.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm...

    How to take a trip on a Moebius strip and still not come back to the beginning...


Go ahead, say something! I'm the shy one here.