Last week's piece in TSR was about intersubjectivity and Mustafa Kemal's building of modern Turkey. It was popular; I got more reader replies than I've gotten in a couple months.
A terrific long-time TSR reader wrote in and asked,
Curious to hear when you began understanding intersubjectivity, which objective stuff you took care of first, and which intersubjective paradigms you stripped away.
When I first thought about intersubjectivity (although I didn't have a word for it), I tried to manipulate my reality through perspective a lot, and for the past two years learned to mellow myself out and take care of objective things, and be pragmatic. So curious to hear what those things were for you."
My answer --
Laozi (Taoteching) and Wittgenstein (Tractatus, but read summaries instead of the book directly) was what led me there.
Wittgenstein said -- basically, simplifying and getting it a little wrong -- that anything that can't be expressed in terms of picture-based words should be deleted and unspoken, because it's not truthful.
It thus strips away concepts even like "hope" and "fear" and gets closer to descriptions of behavior (which can be seen/observed). Instead of describing someone as "fearful", you just describe their behavior and actions, which are either true or untrue. Contrast also "he's a reliable person" vs "the actions he says he's going to do, he then performs" -- behavior, not state. I'm not always perfect on it, but it makes you smarter.
I'm really big on that last concept: behavior, not state.
Describing yourself in terms of state might lead to saying something like: "I'm a messy person"
Whereas, the behaviors might be: "I haven't cleaned my room in three weeks, lately in the morning I don't check my calendar right away and sometimes fail to go to an early appointment, and sometimes I turn in assignments for class past the deadline the professor set."
Describing yourself in terms of a state -- "I'm loyal" or "I'm reliable" can be useful shorthand, but it risks building yourself a prison.
Hmm. That sounds more melodramatic than it should, and I'm not hyper-vigilant about this myself, but one of the standard tools in my toolbox is just deleting everything state-based and analyzing in terms of straight behaviors top to bottom. It strips emotion and nonsense out of the way. If you want better results, you change the underlying behaviors and mechanics.
It's a little hard to do at first, especially if you're sensitive[*] naturally, but it's totally liberating [*] once you get it.
[*] I fail to avoid using anti-Wittgensteinian words even when I'm trying to. "Sensitive" is a state obviously, and what is this theoretical "liberation"? Alas, language is a mix of laziness and brutality.
PS: Sorry if you got ten million emails from the blog a few days ago; the software went a little haywire. Thanks for your readership.
TSR is approaching the one-year mark.
As most of you probably already know, I write one long-form actionable historical essay every Thursday the The Strategic Review. I'm closing in on the one-year date of restarting TSR (last December), and there's been a really marvelous reception to TSR.
In fact, I've done almost no promotion, and TSR has net-gained in subscribers (more new people joining than unsubscribing) in 46 out of the 49 weeks TSR has been out there. That's nearly 100% word of mouth. I'm very, very grateful that everyone recommends TSR.
Some reader feedback to Dubious Battle #1: Faith vs Works
It's really a privilege to get unsolicited reader feedback like this --
I started a new series on TSR recently, Celerity -- about how to build the character traits of speed into your life. In response to Celerity #1: Frenzied Genius, I got a very nice email from a friend of mine who is both a CEO and an amazing writer himself, asking --
"Really enjoyed reading this. The pace of my life recently has made me lose any inspiration to write - not necessarily a bad thing, and the 10 days you describe are something I hope to have one day. How do you manage to write so much and keep it to such a high quality? Does the stimulus come naturally?"
I wound up writing what turned out to be a long reply, maybe there's some useful points in there for you --
Thank you, and that's a very high compliment from you -- you're one of the most lucid thinkers I know. No flattery there -- you're one of the few people I read and then am reliably genuinely surprised and informed.
How I do it, the obvious stuff: