Bigsley the Oaf

Transcending Teleology/Spastic Forms

Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on February 17, 2012

I feel like I’ve been down the past few months because a lot of my mental energy has been going into my own personal intellectual revolution. The culmination of this intellectual revolution was last weekend (well, Th-Sun, actually) which I spent getting high as a fucking kite with 5 of the most intelligent, genuine, and loving individuals I have ever met. Ha! I wrote that as a kind of joke, because really there was so much more to the weekend than getting high – there was dinner with some transcendentally strange/beautiful woman who I’ll have to write a lot more about, once the time is right, there were presentations on raising chickens in gardens which shattered all my already ridiculously deeply shattered childhood beliefs about capitalism and communication systems and social/cultural norms etc. etc., there were lights on the ceiling which blew our minds, there was meeting Ivy for the first time, who was approximately 1.5 blasts, My God and Secret Chiefs 3 oh my fucking god etc. I could go on, but it would be self-indulgent, and I really want to get to the point.

On the flight home I felt like I was overflowing with epiphanies. Like the cap was off and shit was flying out. I realized a few things. Some were personal things:

1. I need drugs/consciousness transformation

2. I need loving/caring people in my life

3. I need to meditate more (which I guess is just another form of #1)

4. I need to make my house feel good (which is, in some sense, another form of #1/#2)

But I also came to a big whopping intellectual revelation, which as I described above I had been pursuing for quite some time now.

I’ll begin by describing one particular mental engagement which is representative of my intellectual style from 2003-2011:

The classical question of free will goes something like this – “We feel like we’re free, but are we really? Do we have free will?” A massive simplification of the classical argument:

On the one hand, if the universe is deterministic, then we’re not free, since we’re bound by the same laws as anything else. We feel more free than a rock, for instance, but if the universe is just a set of objects constantly changing in a way determined by a fixed set of laws, then what we do is not “determined by ourselves.”

On the other hand, if the universe is non-deterministic (and here’s where the quantum physics quacks come in), then we’re “free,” since we’re not bound by any laws. Nothing is.

The first intuition is not satisfying because it is an intuition on the level of physical descriptions whereas our intuition that we are free is an intuition on the level of mental phenomena. The two domains do not interact nicely.

The second intuition is not satisfying because it doesn’t really help us. For one thing, if the universe is not deterministic then what is it? This is basically solipsism [1] – the statement that we can’t really know anything, ever, so why try? For another thing, it just doesn’t fit our fucking intuition! We don’t feel totally random, we feel controlled – self-controlled. E.g. we can set up rules for ourselves to follow and follow them with some degree of success.

So anyway, I think that I basically “solved” the problem (this was all years ago, mind you) by deconstructing the question and finding what I called a “transcendental definition” of “freedom.”

Namely, it doesn’t matter what the universe ultimately is – what matters is what we know. By asking the question “do we have free will?” we’re making it sound like there’s an object called free will which we either possess or not (in the real-world sense of possess in which I possess a cup). But that’s not what we’re intuitively asking. What we’re intuitively asking (or so I thought) is “Why is there this nagging voice inside of me that keeps going ‘I’M FREE I’M FREE I’M FREE!!!!'” Why do we feel free? What the fuck is freedom?

The crux again: it matters what we know. The answer really isn’t hard to come to if you actually stop and look at reality for a while. For instance, do you always feel free? What about when you’re addicted to something? What about when you reach a wall or some obstacle that you must pass? Is there any way that you always feel free? Is there any way that you never feel free? Think about it – try to feel freedom – and then the answer will become very obvious. You feel most free when you have the ability to step into your own personal unknown:

“Will I be able to do this?”
“What’s beyond that wall?”
“I’m going to do this, even though I have no idea what’s going to happen!”
“I’m going to get high as shit – I don’t even give a fuck!”

Anyway, I basically have employed this trick over and over again to yield all sorts of interesting philosophical conclusions. I can even break it down into steps:

1. Look at any “philosophical problem” which a bunch of philosophers disagree vehemently on
2. Figure out what all those disagreeing philosophers are really questioning (find the “transcendental question”)
3. Examine life and answer the “transcendental question” to find the “transcendental answer”

E.g. “What is God?” This question has a long-ass history and I’m certainly not going to claim that I have the answer. But I at least know that the question is really “What do people who talk about/see/interact with God really mean when they say ‘God?'” I’ve been fighting for that answer for years, and I have some ideas, but I don’t want to digress.


Anyway, back to the main point. I have recently come to two (related) conclusions about my own intellectual history:

1. This type of reasoning is called “teleological reasoning” and it exists in enough of a form that many philosophers/writers are able to explicitly employ it. Any appeal to the eternal/transcendental/whatever is essentially teleological even if it is not specifically so. Somehow I came to this conclusion via “The Pale King” though god knows how I connected those dots.

2. There is something beyond “teleological reasoning.” There is the shadow – there is the bit that I forgot. Whoops!

Go back to my three step plan. What am I doing? I’m dismissing the massive complex of opinions and beliefs and assertions that surround the transcendental question. This is the idea of a spastic form.

Take a question like “What is the proper role of Government?” or, better, “What is Government.” The teleological question is “What is Government really – what do people really mean by Government?” The spastic assertion is “Government is basically a million things existing in this massive complicated clusterfuck of insane complexity.” The teleological perspective tries to find the non-empty intersection of all intuitions of “Government” that all people share – the spastic perspective enjoys the union of all intuitions of “Government” that people have.

To be concrete, I’ve been applying this. Namely, I play a lot of speed chess, and I’ve been viewing the game as a fun dance with complexity rather than an attempt to come to the “best structural move.” Let me explain.

In my view, there are two schools of chess which I’ll refer to as the “teleological school” and the “fuck you school.” The “teleological school” (which, if you’re following along, you’ll know I used to be a big fan of) includes people like Karpov, the “student of chess” who collects stamps and owns over 9,000 chess books. The “fuck you school” includes motherfuckers like Tal who basically drank himself to death, could not drive, and wrestled with mental hippopotamuses. The “teleological school” is all about preparation (the beginning and end games, which can both be prepared/memorized/studied), strategic principles, and managing complexity. The “fuck you school” is all about spontaneity (the middle game), tactical ideas, and exploding complexity [2][3].

Anyway, this has been great. It’s felt like freedom come finally.

For one thing, it’s been socially freeing. If I’m in a social situation which is too complex I don’t feel the acute need to “figure it out” or “win” or “see the deep dynamics” – I can just think about it as its own self-consistent form with complicated and shifting dynamics which I can ride around in. The idea becomes technique rather than strategy. The idea becomes trust instead of hope.

For another thing, it’s been intellectually freeing. I can think about things like Love and God and Wonder and Drugs and Hate and whatever else as spastic forms, existing empty of center [4]. This opens up whole new worlds of exploration.

Anyway, I have so much to say about spastic forms, as ideals. I have so much to say of a concrete, practical matter. But I’m going to stop here because this essay has already served its purpose, and it’s getting pretty long.



[1] Which is a fine and consistent philosophical system and all, but come on.

[2] Check out these quotes:


“Postage stamps are an excellent stimulus for the development and training of memory, which is especially necessary to chess”
“Style? I have no style!”


“You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one.”

[3] People in the “fuck you school” are generally, let’s say, less functional than their homeboys in the teleological school.

[4] In fact, and I’m putting this in a footnote because it’s too notional for the main essay, you can even look directly at what many Buddhist texts explicitly say about the “emptiness” of conceptual phenomena, that emptiness is form, etc. That somehow these spastic forms exist because they are the gestalt formed by the many failed attempts of the many to approach the transcendental (which they can all see, but never touch). That every phenomenon exists this way, as the dynamics formed by the collective reaching of the all actuality for the transcendental which is, probably, God. This is just really obvious intuitively, if you think about it for a second.

Take the concept of “Freedom” for example. Look at all the people discussing freedom, living “free.” Look at americans with their concepts of “freedom” and then look at all other countries and their concepts of “freedom.” There is something transcendental towards which they all reach. But they all have an incomplete picture. That is why by looking at all people you can come to an idea of what “freedom is” – about what that thing they’re reaching for “is,” but also the undeniable conclusion that no one will ever achieve that freedom (is that true?).


3 Responses

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  1. Graham said, on February 17, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I have absolute value two brief comments, but I am still digesting your main point and will comment again later.

    2. Musically applying your school metaphor, I see Dengue Fever as teleological and SC3 as spastic/fuck you. A spastic form seems to mean a “formless” form. Or rather the form is self-generating and doesn’t reference exterior pre-existing forms. Or rather within the form are the instructions for creating the form — the form itself is a manual for the form. But it’s much more than this.

    1. (and there’s much more)

    -1. What fun!

    -2. I’ve used the phrase “fuck you school” before! It was originally created to explain why Beth wouldn’t watch Amelie. She wouldn’t watch it because I recommended it to her — the very fact that I wanted her to see it made her not want to see it. So, after observing this reaction within her and the rest of the 5 w/r/t various stimuli, and after seeing this refusal to accept standard musical trains of thought within DP’s writing, I called this the “fuck you” response. We are all adherents to one incarnation or another. It seems related to Tal’s hippo story but I can’t say exactly how. Or maybe the fact that it’s not related makes it related. Everyone is really enamored of you, by the way! Don’t stay away too long!

  2. maita said, on February 28, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Since we’re not facebook friends, here’s to some real connection.

    Sitting in South Africa and being depressed with a lack of stimulation/inspiration, I just read this post of yours and it blew my mind. Reminded me that dull stupor is not a natural state of mind, but a rut that we can clamber out of. I need more non-morons around me, in a day-to-day kind of way.

    Which relates to some of the personal things you wrote: visiting people (or places) I truly appreciate usually leads me to these kinds of conclusions. Like, when I went back to North America a few months back I (and again just now), it suddenly became so clear to me that I need inspiring people in my life. And that despite all my reluctance to admit how much influence my environment has on me, if I’m in a place that makes me unhappy (like a messy, dirty, dark house, or a run-down little beach town), I won’t be happy. Or creative.

    Something vaguely related to your main point. Spastic forms.
    They remind me of a word that I like to adapt from German: we say “circumscribe” to mean describing a concept in a language that has no word for it. I.e. somewhat analogous to “define”, but in the sense of circling around the concept with the words at the speaker’s disposal, while getting ever closer to the actual meaning.
    Ideally the circumscription, formed by many inadequate words, asymptotically succeeds at recreating the actual idea in the listener’s mind. The actual idea being a slightly more concrete example of a “gestalt formed by the many failed attempts of the many to approach the transcendental.”

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