About

The blog name & purpose

Theories as engines is a simile I came across at Rival Voices(@RivalVoices) – “Theories As Cameras, Theories as Engines”. This post observes:

In the soft sciences (that is, sciences that study human-made systems, or systems made up by humans)… the observer and what the observer is doing (theorising) affect the phenomenon. Your observations (and their being published and spread out) change the system you set out to observe. Your theories in this domain are not a camera, but an engine.

I’ve observed this mechanism with some of my favourite “Continental” /”postmodern” /”post-structuralist” philosophers, such as Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. In particular, Butler’s theories of gender have had a huge effect on the trans* movement.

It excites me that describing human things can make humans change. I like change. It’s one of my comforts in a difficult world. Spreading ideas that (might) bring about change is the purpose of this blog. No, I do not seek to control the direction of change since I don’t think that’s possible, but I do have preferences with regard to what I want to write about.  I think change in general is good, in the sense that change at least means movement, evolution and growth.

I am intellectually influenced by: continental and other postmodern philosophy, “Theory” in all its forms, theories in social science, psychology, political science, theory of art and anthropology, the modern rationalist (LessWrong) movement especially its leading bloggers, David Chapman’s entire online oeuvre, especially Meaningness, and my own community and social experiences, including extensive thought and actions around building shared living spaces.

Ways to read

To read this blog, you can read chronologically forwards. I’m sure many people will just start when they find me and read new posts only.

But if you’re like me and want to read everything posted in the past you can read chronologically backwards. The problem is, you could lose your place chronologically.

In this case you could use an alternative method: selecting a category.

Every single post has at least one category, (I never post in “uncategorised”) which means the blog can be read in smaller chunks.  There are only about 10 categories, so it should be easier to remember what you have and haven’t read. In this way you can be sure you’ve read every post.

NB:  I use tags too, but they are all over the place. I do not recommend using tags to navigate.

About Me

I am a child of a particular flavour of fundamentalist Christian and I was raised to believe everything was awful. Discovering humans can be simply apathetic, scared or uninterested, as well as happy, content or ecstatic, rather than Just Evil, gave me joy. As did voting, swearing, masturbating, smoking etc. etc. However losing a strong sense of certainty about the world, politics, What To Think and life after death did not.

I am also a child of the self-hating stripe of working class. They actively think and vote against their own interests because other working class people are to be looked down upon as benefit cheats and scroungers while they themselves are virtuous middle class people who “just happen” to have fallen on protracted hard times through no fault of their own.

I am smart (almost definitely genetically – both my parents are smart, just emotionally flawed), got into a good school with an entrance exam aged 11 and have thereafter been educated with others in social classes above me. It was my way out of the council estate (social housing) and I’ve continued the social mobility recently by moving to London, a place where that is easier. I would guess I’ve travelled my way almost to upper middle class. I feel conflicted and guilty about that. My brushes with upper/elite class members and institutions lead me to attest to the idea that it is very hard to move more than one class over, and fundamental differences can be too strong in classes more than one jump away.

I have accrued some labels that I see as descriptors, not identities: bisexual, female, polyamorous, feminist, social justice advocate, photographer, cyclist, menstrual activist, rationalist, philosopher, web developer, introvert, INTJ.

I completed a Bachelors (college) degree in Fine Art and do not consider myself an artist (rather I acquired my love of philosophy). I wish to pursue a Masters in philosophy as a long networking exercise, but this blog may do just as well.

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