Bigsley the Oaf

Exformation and Redefining Materialism

Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on November 26, 2009



Materialism is traditionally characterized as a pre-occupation with physical reality which casts moral judgments in terms of physical components and relationships. Materialist morality is concerned with idealized relationships between physical entities (people) and objects (property) which may or may not be physical (“life” is something that one has and that one can have a right to).

In the last sentence of the last paragraph we already begin to see an unravelling of the fundamental concepts of materialism or, rather, an unravelling of the commonly held theory which posits that materialism is concerned with the physical, the directly perceivable, etc.

“Materialism” as I conceive of it is much more general than the (Western?) pre-occupation with objects, entities, and ownership.

“Materialism” is a natural late-stage phenomenon arising in the evolution of a population with open communication in which classifiers on internal experience are externalized and become Common-Knowledge-Complete. This statement is pretty dense, and the rest of this essay will be concerned with working through it. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what it means – hopefully my meaning will be clear by the end.

Let’s start at the beginning – I am talking about phenomena which arise in evolving populations with open communication. If we take a random assortment of people and restrict their interaction with other groups they become a “population.” The key point is that communication among the members of our population is many orders of magnitude more frequent than communication between members of the population and “outsiders.” If we restrict their interaction with the outside world for long enough then we expect that phenomena will emerge. There is a question as to whether we can predict what sorts of phenomena we expect to see based on questions about the population’s environment, characteristics of its members, etc. For instance, we expect that a population which is constrained to live by the sea will have much different cultural rituals, religion, food preparation rituals, medicine, etc. than a population which lives in the plains. The reason that I want to speak about these phenomena should be pretty clear. A general theory of how a population will evolve over time should be pretty useful – all humans (with very few exceptions) are members of a population with open communication, which means that to deal with people as individuals or as a group we should like to think about them in terms of their population.

Common-knowledge-completeness is a late-stage phenomenon in the evolution of a population. It occurs when the members of a population know about a thing, know about each others’ knowledge of the thing, know about that knowledge, etc. Turtles all the way down. When this is true, the thing becomes part of the population’s exformation – a given – a fact that can be taken for granted. It becomes part of the context in which the lives of the population’s members are statements.

The bit about “classifiers on internal experience” is much more difficult to explain and has to do with my (perhaps wrong) theories of mind. Basically, any phenomena which is “separable” is eligible for recruitment into the common-knowledge structure of a population. For instance, a cell phone. A cell phone has sufficiently many “different” properties that it is separable from all other objects, even similar ones (like telephones and PDAs). The fact that I am talking about internal experience is what makes my definition of Materialism really general. Traditional conceptions of Materialism include only physical, external objects (which Platonism casts as existing as some type of “external” or “objective” experience). But these physical, external objects are merely a subset of internal experience.

There are many much less “real,” much less “physical,” objects that become just as much a part of a culture’s repertoire of “desirables” as the physical luxuries that theories of Materialism posit as being destructive and “shallow.”┬áSex, fun, novelty, social acceptance, longer lifespan, spiritual engagement, etc.

The point is that that which can be classified by the members of a society is that which is the Material of the society. It need not be physical, though physical things are the easiest to see and the easiest to form consensus about. It is much more difficult, for instance, to form a consensus about the nature of mind.


So why do we see Materialism as being dangerous? Hopefully the generalized definition of Materialism which I’ve provided can help answer this question.

Materialism supplants an individual’s personal conceptions of a thing with a collective, categorical conception. I believe that we can only be interested in a small, finite number of the properties of a thing (after all, there are so many things!) – Materialism is a system which tells us which properties to care about. Namely, those which are useful in communicating with others about the thing, involved in the use of the thing, etc. For example, suppose my grandfather gave me his time-piece and I carried it around with me. I would do so for non-material reasons (sentimental ones, etc.) and, because of this sentimental/individually-oriented rather than material/utilitarian/collectively-oriented conception of the object, I would be able to experience the object more completely, deeply, freely.

Materialism forces our eye, focuses our attention, tells us what to look at and how to look at it. The fact of a thing’s being physical is not significant – the fact of our society’s pre-occupation is.


thin moment thin

Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on November 23, 2009

Thin moment, thin
Of cat and milky glaze
From glare and grin

On a train, on a train
With the breeze spun
Through my veins

Lazy tiny thin,
moment thin


Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on November 21, 2009

I hope to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I hope to be able to articulate thought directly into some other form.

I hope to understand the nature of knowledge, resources, language. Through this understanding I hope to understand love, death, consequence.

I hope to break a law. I hope to experience beauty. I hope to dream simple dreams again.

I hope to see what is and forget what is not.

Overwhelming Cunt

Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on November 21, 2009

Blah bleh blah welcome to my new

Blah blah blah