Sunday, July 29, 2012

Geography of the Mind

Sometimes when you reflect on the process of thinking itself, you can start to feel like an explorer. I don't want to start using overly flowery language and talking about “traversing the fields of concepts, the forests of illusions, and the seas of new ideas” or something stupid like that. I just mean that you tend to find certain ideas where you feel comfortable, almost like thinking about them is like resting in a friendly house; then there are other ideas that make you uneasy, like you're walking around an unfriendly alley; and of course there are ideas that you see obscurely because they're new and you haven't thought them through much yet.

I don't go exploring in real life, but it reminds me of what it feels like to explore in an RPG, so my pasty, sunless self will stick to the comparison. Thinking can be a kind of exploration. It isn't arbitrary: logic and data determine the nature of the ideas that can be explored and a fundamental shifting up of vantage points is just like shifting up landmasses, whereas a more contingent shifting up is just further exploration of the environment.

And just like with geography, different ideas will produce different moods. And those moods can even change over time. And something lovable can be spoiled when you find that it contains something ugly. And something ugly can be redeemed when you find that it contains something lovable. And sometimes, you just want to go on vacation.

And much like exploring: it's easy to wander around admiring the territory, but it's difficult and more useful to make a map of it.

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