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  • Writer's pictureTonic Dominant

entry 1 - New Year’s Syllogisms

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

This writing contains swear words. It seems polite to give you a heads up.

TIP: if you click on a circled number to see some bonus thoughts, click your browser's back button to return to where you were in all these words.


watch the video version of this entry here.


16:00 January 1st, 2021 C.E.


I just took two sips of spicy broth from a bowl filled with Pho, leftover from Dec. 30th, because my roommate, cousin-in-law, and comrade Emily woke up with a fever and a cough 4 nights ago, and didn't want to cook with her hands for everyone else — a very reasonable course of action during a pandemic — so she ordered us Pho. It's delicious, and much appreciated on this first day of a new year, one of the many ways we measure time; measure the time before we die.


I'm thinking of what I would like to let die from my own mind; what shall I discard like a freshly utilized tissue into the city compost bin?


I have three resolutions written down in a new notebook created for me by my sister in law, but I'm not going to share them with you, they're private. They are so particular to me, my jobs, and my body, that they would likely be of little interest to you. But last year, I disagreed! I thought — for a brief time, anyway — that my resolutions would be of interest to other human minds. In a never-actually-published entry, I wrote this:


“In 2018, I made two resolutions: to only eat meat when it was offered to me, and to donate 25% of the totally money I spent on alcohol to non-profit organizations.”


I'm not going to pour over this forlorn and abandoned piece of writing, because it seems like a waste of time. And I want to stop wasting time! I also don't want to panic about wasting time, because that's just more wasted time, so one must stop wasting time in a carefree sort of way. What counts as well-used and what counts as wasted? Is it well used time to look up alt codes to type curved quotation marks, only to find that you don't like the way the result looks (they slant the same direction, there is no curve)? I memorized a new keyboard short cut — that seems useful! But what is the value of those slanted marks? Do my readers care? I suppose I must care, or else I wouldn't have spent that extra time searching and learning. That's less time spent writing. I'd like to make a grand pronouncement about what I've learned about writing, perfection, value, and so on, but I don't know shit. What do you think of reading that swear word?


I'd (perhaps obvious to you at this point) like this to read as a journal entry. A slice of thought, somewhat edited, but fairly haphazard; let's call it 65/35, haphazard/edited. And this actually aligns with my philosophical work on “The Implied For Me” principle of aesthetics.


Let's write some syllogisms:


Ok I just looked that up to make sure it was the right word, and it was. From “Oxford Languages,“ accessed through a google search:


“Syllogism - an instance of a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn (whether validly or not) from two given or assumed propositions (premises), each of which shares a term with the conclusion, and shares a common or middle term not present in the conclusion (e.g., all dogs are animals; all animals have four legs; therefore all dogs have four legs).“


(I'm getting used to the quotations, they don't bother me as much now. Familiarity becoming preference?)


So let's do our own:


All preferences are individual;

all individuals have equal value;

therefore

all preferences have equal value.


How's that for a first draft? I love being able to format this on the page. Philosophy is poetry (for me)! The important part of the above definition of syllogism is “whether validly or not.“ All syllogisms are written; everything written is valid; therefore all syllogisms are valid. LOL. No. Not TRUE. So don't worry (right now) about whether or not my syllogism is TRUE, let's just apply its principles as though it were valid, and see what kind of behaviors we get, and how people react. This is what philosophy is really about for me:


What do I believe about myself?

What do I believe about other creatures?

How can I behave in a way that supports those beliefs?


The tricky part is getting a hold of what you believe, and what it means to believe. You don't always believe what you Know. How are you feeling about my capitalizations so far? Does it reduce the SCHOLARLYNESS of this “article?“ You don't always believe what you Know. What the fuck do you know?


What do I believe about myself?


When I cut vegetables for my partner — especially onions, because they are harbingers of tears — I am reducing her suffering, since my tear ducts react less raucously than hers do.


Because I believe this reduces her suffering, and I like it when she experiences less suffering, I believe that my action has a real and valuable effect.


I believe that I have power to influence my environment. I can do things that reduce suffering, and see what is done in return for me.


What do I believe about other creatures?


The fact that she cries more when she cuts onions than I do when I cut onions doesn't make her weaker than me — what a strange way of measuring strength, paying attention to tears — it's just a difference between our bodies. The reasons for this difference are a myriad of possible random variations in our genetics, the process of our birth, the molecules we've come into contact with since then, and what actions we've taken to change ourselves.


And, of course — never forget this! — we shouldn't assume that just because we are able to change ourselves in a particular way, that means all other humans ought to be able to do the same thing — ya just need big enough boots with well maintained straps, access to inherited wealth, a fuckload of Grit, and a can-do attitude.


So, I believe that other creatures have power to influence themselves and their environments. They can do things to reduce suffering, and see what is done in return for them. But I don't expect them to be able to do the exact some things I do, nor do I expect myself to be able to do exactly what other creatures can do.


How can I behave in a way that supports those beliefs?


Here, remember that I am writing a journal entry. This is not an essay designed to convince you to behave in a particular way. I'm not going to provide you with a method for you, it's going to be for me. This writing is a selfish act. That's just a statement of function, not of morality.


I've got to center on what behaviors I currently engage in that are not reflective of my beliefs about myself and other creatures. I mentioned earlier that I don't want to waste time; this has long weighed on my mind, it has been the root of anxieties that crop up in unexpected and unwelcome places. Anxiety increases suffering. I think rather than wanting to stop wasting time, what I would really like to do is stop over-judging how I spend my time.


I wrote the next paragraph, judged it, and deleted it. Although it's a journal entry, I also need it to be brief, which is challenging for me. Ah ha! Perhaps this should inspire my first exercise; it is challenging for me to express my ideas succinctly.


I like the sound of my voice, I like the way it feels to explore out loud and read reactions from people around me — but not necessarily to allow them any room to speak. When I write, I self edit much more rigorously, I take much more time in between thoughts, I take breaks to play games and eat dinner and do push ups. In conversation, I can feel panicked, pressed for time, desperate to be perceived as intelligent, useful, even profound. I've noticed the muscular tension over this past year that tightens when I have something I want to say but am waiting for the chance to say it.


Behavioral Exercise


I have already employed one listening exercise this past year: I repeat silently in my head every word that people speaking to me say. I found that when I filled my head with my own voice speaking others' words, I was far less likely to mentally (or verbally) interrupt my conversation partner with my own visceral reaction or planned response. The challenge is how to drop into this exercise intentionally and repeatedly; thus far it happens maybe 25% of the time — whenever I remember.


Here's the philosophy leading to my strong desire to exercise and change my behavior, starting with my draft IFM syllogism:


All preferences are individual;

all individuals have equal value;

therefore

all preferences have equal value.


Then specifically fueling my exercise:


All preferences have equal value;

people have distinct preferences for their self-expression;

therefore

all types of self-expression have equal value (for me).


If I notice a strong preference for my own way of speaking and making arguments, that shouldn't lead me to believe that my ways of philosophizing are better than other ways. My way is better for me, and their way is better for them.


When I don't listen carefully to other people's expressions, I don't behave in a way that reflects my belief that their expressions are equally valuable to my own. Without interceding in my own behavior, it's not likely I will behave differently simply by expressing my belief. I need to practice behaving my belief!


That's what the new year's resolution process is all about (for me): reflecting, aspiring, scheming, and implementing. You are welcome for this window into my mental schematics.


21:06 January 1st, 2021 C.E.




Bonus Thoughts


➀ Although that brings up an interesting inquiry: Of the people reading these words, what percentage would be interested in the specifics of my resolutions? If 90% of the people reading already know me personally, it's possible the majority of readers ARE interested in more specific details! Shall I create for people I know, or others, or both?


➁ Does that sentence make you think I know what the hell I'm talking about? What you should know is I definitely don't count as a philosopher by many metrics, but I may count as a philosopher by other metrics. I have a degree in music, emphasis in vocal performance, not in philosophy. I have never published a work of philosophy, or even read a modern journal of philosophy. But, if philosophy is simply the work of humans to figure out what they should do and why, then I think I'm quite comfortable with the designation of philosopher. You probably don't want me to teach you about specific philosophers and their work or the history of philosophy throughout time, but you may wish to take my arguments and ideas seriously, simply on my merits as a human trying to figure out what to do and why.


➂ Suffering, here, should not be viewed as a particular degree of pain, but simply as a scale from 0 - 100. It's not suffering vs. pleasure, I think of it as two different meters, like the dry and wet signals on a reverb plug in. Reverb:dry/wet as Happiness:suffering/pleasure (yes, I purposefully aligned dry with suffering and wet with pleasure). Let's say that crying from onions is somewhere around 11 on the suffering scale, and me cutting the onions saves my partner 11 points. Maybe she's still suffering at that moment from a head ache, or tight calves, which fill up 32 points on the scale. I dropped her from 43 to 32, not a complete elimination of her suffering, but significant. And if she gains a warm fuzzy emotional feeling from me cutting the onions for her, that could be 18 points on the pleasure meter, so now we've got a nice balance.


➃ Does my mocking tone come through? Why do I mock this viewpoint, when so many other creatures around me disagree? This is, perhaps, the biggest counter philosophy to the IFM principle; it goes something like this:


Everyone has access to the same resources;

with resources, you can do anything you want;

therefore

everyone can do anything they want.


This seems just as persuasive to me as my earlier IFM syllogism, written in the same poetic visual expression. I would argue against the first third of this syllogism by pointing out that not everyone has access to the same resources. This reality is a perfect example of something we don't always believe we Know. Like, we Know, we already Know that not every human, let alone every creature on the planet, has access to the same resources. But we still behave as though we don't believe it. So my philosophical act here is to try and develop exercises that can help change my behavior so I can more accurately behave my beliefs.

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I love philosophy. It’s incredibly important to me to think carefully about what I believe, why I believe it, and how my beliefs should influence my actions. And it’s hard not to think that these are

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