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On Understanding Nothing

I just had a gobsmacking experience. A glimpse into another way of thinking that I didn’t even know existed.

There was an interminable thread [1] discussing among other things the validity of self-ID with regard to gender. (I came upon it via brilliant Rebecca Reilly-Cooper [2].)

This exchange cropped up:

Unavailable to the Mortal Man @EdwinDroom Dec 29, 2021
Nope, you’re misunderstanding the difference between the categories existing, and them being recognised and given a name. Hydrogen and Helium really exist as separate elements, and did within a very short time of the Big Bang. They didn’t have those names, sure.

Mary @xmarylawrence Dec 29, 2021
Nope, those categories don’t exist separate from humans categorizing them.

Unavailable to the Mortal Man @EdwinDroom Dec 29, 2021
Nope. Hydrogen really exists. So does helium. They existed with all their properties long before life, let alone humans, evolved. This isn’t a debate, Mary. You’re simply wrong.

Gem @_____Gem Dec 29, 2021
It is AMAZING what people are prepared to argue in the service of gender ideology.

Mary @xmarylawrence Dec 29, 2021
Yeah how dare people recognize what a social construct is

The Iron Labia @TheIronLabia Dec 29, 2021
Hydrogen isn’t a social construct.

Mary @xmarylawrence Dec 29, 2021
Oh I’m sorry, when we discovered hydrogen was it wearing a name tag? Did it introduced itself [by] name? [emphasis added]

Unavailable to the Mortal Man @EdwinDroom Dec 29, 2021
Something existing and having clear, distinctive properties and something having a name are not the same thing, Mary. How are you still struggling with this?

Mary @xmarylawrence Dec 29, 2021
But you’re avoiding the whole entire point. How was helium classifying itself prior to humans doing it? Did it have a name prior to our existence? Did it have noble-gas parties were they all got together and shot the shit?

Unavailable to the Mortal Man @EdwinDroom Dec 29, 2021
That’s not the whole entire point, Mary. Either you know this, and it’s pointless continuing, or you’re so far from knowing it … it’s pointless continuing.

This exchange is like finding out that babies don’t have object permanence. When Mother hides behind a cupboard, she’s gone.

Mary apparently can’t imagine a situation where anything has objective existence outside of its name. To her, the naming of a thing really is “the entire point.” (She’s right, of course, that names don’t exist outside of human constructs. But, really?, she thinks the name is the same as the thing in itself [3]? Mother disappears when she has no name?)

How could she possibly have avoided noticing that facts are those things that continue existing whether you believe them or not? I mean, in my world, even when I believe everything in the laundry bins is clean, it stays whiffy. But in her world, presto!, she never has to do laundry?


It’s a way of thinking with no relation to reality. But, as I think about it, there’s nothing unusual about that. Humanity has spent most of its millenia believing bizarre legends. So just because in the last few hundred years we’ve found a much more effective method based on paying attention to facts, that doesn’t mean the fantasists will necessarily come to their senses.


4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "On Understanding Nothing"

#1 Comment By quixote On 04 Jan, 2022 @ 13:56

(Just a footnote, in case there are other amateur philosophers out there besides me: Kant wrote that the thing-in-itself is unknowable, not that it doesn’t exist if it has no name. The branch of philosophy that tries to argue nothing exists aside from the perceiving self is sometimes called metaphysical solipsism, and other such polysyllabic and quietly insulting names.)

#2 Comment By NW+Luna On 11 Jan, 2022 @ 09:35

How could she possibly have avoided noticing that facts are those things that continue existing whether you believe them or not?

Those damned annoying facts! Existing just to tick off Mary, no doubt.

#3 Comment By quixote On 12 Jan, 2022 @ 12:33

Well, if Mary was capable of recognizing the existence of facts, I’m sure she’d take it personally, as you say 😆 (and also smdh!)

#4 Comment By quixote On 15 Jan, 2022 @ 23:13

Sorry to hear that you’re surrounded by Trumpists. I don’t know if you ever listened to Car Talk in the high and far off times? (1990s) They had many good sayings, one of which was Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum. aka Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down.

Seriously, I know talk is cheap. And that that’s much easier said than done. Do what you can to hang in there. I’d miss you if you stopped visiting!

As for Mary, no, I doubt she’s ever seen a pipe 😆 . And super-abstruse mental contortions often aren’t far from very bald and simple power grabs. The two actually go together — just about depend on each other — don’t you think?