Friday, April 16, 2021

On Medium: The Oversupply and Triviality of All Natural Beings

An article on the naturalization of Plato’s pessimism about nature: scientific dualism, the oversupply of digital content, and the trivialization of abundant being.

You can find an earlier take on this idea in "Horror for the Codes of Creation."


  1. In the case of Borge's library, I don't believe the plethora of nonsense books would devalue the meaningful ones. The medium is NOT the message, though I'll readily concede that the medium does influence how the message is received. And that distinction between medium & message -- or to put in more philosophical terms: substance versus form -- is really the Achilles' heel of materialism. The fact is that no matter how many books there might be in Babel, they'd all be equally devoid of information if there were no one around to read them. There is no intrinsic meaning in arbitrary ink marks made on paper, just an there is no intrinsic information content in the arrangement of atoms & molecules. All of that is mere bohu & tohu, mere static until it's perceived & evaluated by a mind. In other words: all the value & meaning in the universe is in us, it always has been. We project our own meanings & values onto the chaos just as Plato's demiurge attempts to reproduce the forms on raw matter.

    1. Well, we do seem to instinctively revere grandiose statements; we want to think there's something inherently special about the ultimate answers. The Ten Commandments must be carved in stone or the Bible had to have been written by authors who were inspired by God. Buddhism comes from the Buddha and Christianity from Jesus, who were enlightened or divine.

      To say that meanings and values are only human choices is to concede the platonic pessimism: the material world is meaningless and a dangerous distraction. Mind you, Plato posits a higher, abstract reality that's inherently good, but that reality is more mental than material, so it can accommodate the point that meaning is subjective.

      In any case, if none of the books in Babel is inherently meaningful, the problem seems to pop up again for the human brain. What's so important about the brain state that sustains the thoughts of the answers to life's ultimate questions? The problem for those in the Library is that even if no one finds the most tantalizing books, the knowledge or the suspicion that they're there, that the answers have been written down somewhere and yet the world goes on as usual, suggests the answers aren't of apocalyptic significance after all. They're just more ink marks or brain states or atomic configurations. It's the humiliating knowledge that may be debilitating.

      One way out would be pragmatic: there may be a certain use or effect of the answers that would be apocalyptic, such as the destruction of the planet, the creation of a deity, or a techno transformation of nature.