All Along the Watchtower

There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But, uh, but you and I, we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us stop talkin’ falsely now
The hour’s getting late

Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower

In Watchmen, one of the superhero characters is a cynical mercenary named Comedian. He believes he sees past the facade, he knows what makes the world turn and it’s the base aspects of human nature–despite fancy words and performative altruism, people do what they do because of greed, lust, resentment, and so on–and he laughs at it, laughs with it.

This worldview is shattered when he learns of the machinations of the supervillain. The scope of the calculated horror and the scale of power enacting it makes him break down and weep.

It’s very popular now to entertain simulation theories about the world. The current global standard fundamental assumptions about the world are that everything is the result of mathematical forces operating on nearly featureless particles to make them bounce around or pop in and out of existence in ways that are either deterministic or random, and that it’s all ultimately transient and meaningless. The experience of thoughts and sensations is sometimes described as an illusion.

This puts an abstract model of the world, something that was only ever claimed to be a model, knowledge about the world derived through means that as an inherent part of the way it works looks only at a subset of the world (things that can be isolated, phenomena that can be reliably repeated, knowledge that can be described mathematically), ahead of thinking and sensation, ahead of what is most immediate and is what assesses all potential knowledge–including models.

What happens then is that all experiences are interpreted within the frame of that model, and since fundamental assumptions are the basis for what is believed to be possible, real, or existing, if something outside of this happens and is experienced, it is disbelieved by assumption, and is explained away as faulty memory, a hallucination, a mirage, or not real in some other way. So it’s possible to claim to be open to some possibilities if the evidence is there, but then to necessarily assess all evidence with a worldview that assumes they’re impossible, and so will in practice always be explained away and rejected.

Any line of thinking that concludes that thinking isn’t real or is an illusion should be viewed like a reductio ad absurdum, meaning that a false assumption was made.

The implications of replacing one set of fundamental assumptions with another extend far and deep. Some old beliefs that were derived from old assumptions and need re-evaluation may persist due to habit. There comes a time when taking this reassessment seriously becomes overdue.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.