Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Found My Philosophy! Literalism.

Let's try this out. Literalism's not commonly described as a philosophy, but I think it could be and in fact, I think it's mine. Check me on this. The Oxford Dictionary of American English defines literalism as:

n. the interpretation of words in their most usual or basic sense, without allowing for metaphor or exaggeration. 2. literal or nonidealistic interpretation in literature or art.

Sorry, I couldn't find my American Heritage. Had to settle for the ol' built-in Oxford American - but the above seems a solid, perfectly serviceable definition to me.

What, then, is a philosophy? In its most usual or basic sense, I believe a philosophy is a system that lays out how one should best approach reality, or how one should best live life.

Literalism as a philosophy, then, is simply to adopt a literalist attitude towards not so much a word, nor art, nor literature, but towards life itself. As a strategy, the Literalist chooses to not "read in" to people's actions and words, but rather to first and foremost accept them at face value. To proceed as if people mean to communicate clearly - to proceed as if people are sincere, and mean you to know they are sincere. Certainly, it is a fundamental requirement of Literalism to question, where there is doubt as to the literal meaning! But it is no part of Literalism to ask a straight question, get a straight answer and then deny it is possible the answer is true.

To adopt Literalism as your preferred system for engaging in reality, for living life, you assume clarity is the goal, and not duplicity. You make a decision to interpret the words and actions of others using the most usual, most straightforward, most basic sense. I mean basic here like Lloyd fucking Dobler basic. Literalism is not naivete. It is a willful decision to risk one's trust, for so long as enough doubt remains to make trust possible. To make the choice not to assume and project all manner of ulterior, nefarious motives on the words and actions of others - even after being hurt.

How is this your best approach, exactly? Because these projections and assumptions of maliciousness are things you can hardly be certain of anyway. They rarely end up settling on the real culprit prior to the damage done. They usually, finally take the form of bitter cynicism, skepticism and doubts about humanity in general. Such vague and vaguely directed doubt and mistrust can not help or protect you. It will almost certainly deprive you of the beautiful renewal of human connection, far more than it ever saves you from hurt. The Literalist is well aware that some people are dirtbags, but as a Literalist, I choose to accept the person in front of me as, in principle at least, not a dirtbag. And I act on that principle: best efforts, good faith, unless and until it's clear that the principle has in fact been violated. Not by suspicion, not by doubt, not by distrust, but by actual dirtbaggery.

How is this my best approach, again? Because if instead I assume in principle that you could be or most likely are a dirtbag, and I found my approach to you on that, the amount of real protection this affords me is negligible. But what I miss out on is the size of the entire universe behind your eyes, which only you've seen and which only you can describe, and which I will never now get to know.

Anybody who thinks that last part was metaphor or exaggeration...step off. Who'd you think you're talking to, here.


dogimo said...

It should go without saying that a Literalist isn't incapable of apprehending metaphor and exaggeration, hyperbole, or all other such figurative figures and modes.

In fact, I find that one does that with consummate ease. Ahem. I can even take a joke, if you can believe that one! Hex yeah.

The Literalist can take a joke, and the Literalist can see things on as many invented levels as anyone pleases. The Literalist simply chooses, as a strategy, to forgo those heavily, often invasively interpretive approaches when dealing with a person. The Literalist prefers instead to go the basic route, first time every time, rather than seeking always to pry or project or force interpretations upon others acts and words, as almost all of we poor wretches do, for some reason - rarely to our benefit, almost always to our woe.

First and foremost, for as long as it's plausible to do so, and except and unless you've pretty explicitly given me to know otherwise - I'm going to assume you mean what you say.

dogimo said...

I think I need to redo this entirely. Or maybe just build from there. I suspect Literalism is not my philosophy, but rather a core tenet / plank of my philosophy.

I believe my actual philosophy may be Sincericism. I am a Sincericist.

If I'm conceiving it aright, it appears to be a straight upwards build: start from the classical Literalism as your firm ground and foundation. Your actual structure, your actual system though, is provided by the framework of the (three or) Four Invincible Principles of Absurd-Degree Sincerity, which radiate upwards from that foundation and intersect a long way above it.