The underestimated Principle: A new way of thinking
When people try to understand or plan something,
it’s usually done by understanding what a thing is (let’s call this property A), rather than understanding what that thing is not (let’s call this property B).
Now this sounds like silly, because “what a thing is not” is literally everything else, that is not the thing itself (that’s not A).
So how is this useful to think about ?
But what I have come to realize is that
in the non-physical concepts, or abstract notions, or philosophies,
the line between the thing is, and what the thing is not, becomes sometimes extremely difficult to draw (example coming up), at least consciously.
And the thing about understanding what a thing is not, is to really understand the limits of a concept or idea. Because when you understand the limits of something, you can grasp the reach of its consequences, whether practically in your life, or philosophically with a specific idea.
A good example of this is when some people are asked about their purpose or the meaning of life.
People will sometimes declare notions that they don’t understand what they are not, and examples include: experiencing is the meaning of life, or being happy is the meaning of life.
So if we look at this with the lens of our principle, we see that what an “experience” is not, is something that’s not clear, because everything that humans conceive of is an experience in and of itself, if that makes sense.
And that will, by extension, enlighten us with the idea that the limits towards that meaning are ‘vague’, for a lack of a better word.
And as we said previously, as soon as we don’t understand the limits of an idea/plan/meaning, that informs us that the consequences of this purpose (experience or being happy) will probably not make a difference, on its own, as a meaning, because there is literally nothing that is not an “experience”, for instance.
so it becomes less meaningful when we look at from this angle.
This principle, I think, is not applicable in every context of human thought or way of thinking, but this principle becomes much more important in very practical, actionable contexts, like the examples we previously mentioned (ex. the meaning of life, future-plans, etc.)
Because it’s very easy to deceive ourselves with devoid concepts that we think are really “meaningful” on their own, when with close thought, and approaching from different angles, they turn out to be less meaningful than we have thought.
This sometimes happens when people plan, as well.
Sometimes people will state a very general plan, that is really not that meaningful with closer investigation, like: I want to learn “something” next year, or I want to make money this month. But when we heed those notes/plans, on their own, they are really not that consequential or purposeful because it’s not clear what they are not, as there are uncountable ways to “make money” or “learn something”.
Obviously, a general plan supplied with other specific ones that limit the goal to something doable (ex. I want to make money by doing specifically x and y), is usually the practical and accurate way to do it, which is what most people do, but what our fallacy applies to, is when people declare a general plan, on its own.
This example is not the most realistic one because most people do have specific plans, to a degree, but I hope this “extreme” example makes the point more direct.
The meta-level lesson in here is that one has to understand that sometimes, stressing and pondering on the way of thinking about something, can be as equally important as seeking brand new information on a topic.
Slightly different Repetition (which is sometimes underestimated), from different angles, can be good mental gymnastics for trying to rationalize ideas, and can give completely new insights on a plan/idea.