You can learn about wisdom by studying the wisdom of others but you can learn wisdom only by studying yourself.
Wisdom knows the limits of knowledge in knowing that it depends upon the nature of knower as much as the facts known.
Wisdom is a paradox to itself, knowing the one thing we may be sure about is that all we know remains dwarfed by the magnitude of the unknown, which, by definition, we do not know. Meanwhile all the confidence and certainty in the known merely serves to divert our attention from the great unknowns upon which the entirety of knowledge is built and continues to grow.
Wisdom gives to knowledge doubt, knowledge gives to wisdom the cause to doubt.

Mike Laidler

Objectionable objectives

Objectivity is a curious paradox.  It represents a puzzle in thought about the way we think, which some think represents no puzzle at all so long as we put our own thoughts to one side.   It is a point of view that cannot operate without a subjective backdrop and its passionate defence runs contrary to its revered neutrality.  It purports to elevate the importance of what is thought by deeming it secondary to the subject matter – the objective facts – as if to align the point of view with a real object, which has none, thereby rendering the subject more realistic.

But facts can be seen to give us the right answers only as long as we can think of no better questions to ask.  For it is not as if the facts speak for themselves, or the objects of attention select themselves for our attention, or that once the ‘real’ facts have been identified we can rest assured that our ‘objective conclusions’ will be valid.  So it may not be valid to conclude that people are animals because that’s the fact of it, or that being subject to Darwinian principles means that biological facts determine our nature, or that inheritance is quintessential – as were the conclusions of one Adolph Hitler.

Mike Laidler.

In commemoration of ‘VE day: 8th May 1945’.

Black sheep

We are good at countenancing the ridiculous.  Indeed it may be necessary to do so in order to test the boundaries of the feasible, plus our own sanity.  So consider this question:  If it were possible for birds to build things other than nests, would they become other than birds?  In other words, are the birds the cause of the nests or is there more to it – are both explicable by changes at a deeper genetic level, so that birds are birds because of their genes and nests are really extensions of these genes into the world – the nests being organic extensions of biological processes in the same sense as the birds themselves, as proved by the fact that the birds are just behaving instinctively and not really designing anything?   But is it still possible to say that the birds are behaving intentionally, and what does this mean for the explanation of intentional action in the human case?    


What about our abilities to design things?  Did the opposable thumb, upright gait, forward vision, large brain etc enable tool use because this was nature’s scheme, or did our schemes take over to shape evolution in that direction with non-natural intentions – because nature does not act intentionally.   Now consider this ridiculous scenario:  You wake up one day and find you have been transformed into a sheep, but you retain all your human faculties.  You can’t talk because you don’t retain a human larynx.  What do you do?  What would you want to do?  You could try to communicate by scratching symbols in the dust, but would they be seen for what they are?  Other attempts to act hyper-intelligently are likely to be seen as simply odd, especially amongst sheep, just as it is amongst humans.  Also, as a ruminant, you need to spend most of your time eating and the farmer might not like the idea of you starting to eat meat in order to buy more time for clever pursuits like playing with fire.  


It is generally concluded that your best survival strategy would be to behave as a sheep.   So shape is the designer and the environment is the architect of change, itself changed by the unintended morphologies of life.  Then does this extend to our intentions, which we must accept as not really existing as free choices?  Is the idea that we can make up our minds for ourselves to be seen as the ridiculous conclusion of those who can’t think for themselves, but think they can?  Alternatively is the wild freedom of intentionality a new environment in which nature and climate need to adapt? 


Mike Laidler.




Does the brain live in a world of ideas or does the world of ideas live in the brain? Does it make sense to say that ideas are really brain processes making sense of themselves?

Can we begin to explain the way things are by saying that ideas belong to the brain in the same way that we belong to nature – to an unthinking nature? In other words, are the physical processes doing everything – so thought is not as it appears, because thinking is really a physical process? Does the brain show us what to see – so we are not as we seem to ourselves – so we are able see the reality more ‘clearly and distinctly’ in terms of the physical process that ‘make us real’?

Is this how to come to terms with the nature of thought and ‘our’ thoughts about its reality? Do we equate thought with the nature of the brain because we can think of nothing better, thereby confirming the idea that the brain doesn’t allow us to do anything else? Is there but one reality, one nature? Are we merely entertaining fantasies and illusions by thinking otherwise? What does it mean to say that ‘we entertain thoughts’? Is it true that our ideas cannot exist in a ‘world of their own’, or stand as evidence for an ethereal mind, because they are really something else, belonging to the sole reality of brain function? And how do we come to see this as a deeper truth?

Does the wider truth belong to a deeper truth? Does the idea of the ‘I’ doing the seeing belong to the eye doing the seeing? Or is the brain really doing ‘our’ seeing as the ‘eye’ behind every perceptible idea? How are we to countenance a further reality, beyond the seeming, by presuming to see that things prove to be more or less real when we discover that they are or are not as they seem? Where is the reality of presumption in nature, or indeed in the brain? And who is asking – who is the entity wanting to know? Indeed, how did the idea of reality escape from its ‘rightful’ place in nature – in a reality apart from ideas?

Mike Laidler