The First One
 An introduction to Meaningful Particulars + how things are done around here
It’s called “meaningful particulars” for two reasons.
Reason One: Our culture is a cult of abstractions.
Mathematics and theories and all those wonderful things we build out of words are understood as a more-real glimpse of reality than the world you experience in front of your face and beneath your feet.
Alfred North Whitehead warned of this tendency, which he named the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, to substitute the general and universal for the concrete and particular.
Not nearly enough people listened to him.
Reason Two: Meaning is as real as rocks and rain.
Things hold meaning because of what they are, not as the sole preserve of a human mind projecting it on to a meaningless swirl of events.
Meaning is found in the details, in the specific, in the concrete moments when the sun hits the horizon just right and casts a spell of nameless colors over the world.
You won’t find it in an endless orgy of memes, platitudes, the 112th iteration of recycled summaries of Atomic Habits this week, or any of the manifold status games played on social media.
Here’s your first opportunity to subscribe:
This newsletter is my contribution to the reaction against the machine of Big Social. I’m old enough to remember Usenet, forget about forums and blogging. I was always more at home in those text-friendly media.
Nobody needs another Substack, sure. Humans don’t need a lot of things that we crave, fight, and die for. Need doesn’t enter into the equation. We’re out here in the wilds of values and desire.
Let’s talk about why this thing exists.
I’ve always called myself a writer.
Problem is, I don’t write unless I have an excuse. When I do write, I don’t publish. (Unless I have an excuse.)
MP (as we’ll call it for short) is here because I want to write online, and I want to write without pressure to “niche down” and “give value bro” and “look at what’s working” and all the marketer’s mind-worms that gnawed their way into the social-media hive consciousness.
I left academia in 2019 with a PhD in ethics and moral philosophy and I’ve felt directionless ever since. Maybe I’ll talk about some of what I worked on. Maybe I’ll complain about society and those damn kids on the internet. Maybe I’ll just write short-form journals.
That stuff I talked about in the intro, about meaning and abstraction and such things, that’s going to play a part. It’s the background frame for everything I think about.
Philippa Foot, one of the most influential moral philosophers of the 20th century, once wrote that philosophy is best done slowly. Not only do I agree, but I believe that the point extends well beyond philosophy. A glacial pace and the patience it requires of us are essential ingredients for many parts of life now lived on 2x speed.
I might write about:
The psychology of writing and creativity
The fake internet that insists on intruding itself into our lives
The fraud and real threats posed by AI
This or that topic about philosophy, ancient and modern, as it strikes me
What’s going on in our debauched and degenerate public sphere
The list is neither exhaustive nor exclusive. I resist putting too much weight on whatever trending topics and current events are hot in the moment. I prefer slow, patient consideration of enduring ideas — the type of thoughts that won’t ever be thought on the “fast” parts of the Great Online.
It’s also an exercise to see how many tech-nerds, AI geeks, Singularity fan-boys, extremely online weirdos, and twitter gurus I can infuriate. We can keep score.
Comments are on and responses encouraged.
There are ground rules. Let me start with what I do not want and will not accept:
Obvious spam. This should be self-evident. If you’re promoting your crap, you’re gone.
Obvious trolling. I don’t demand civility or niceness. I do require you to think, to show charity, and have the emotional continence not to lash out like a baby having a tantrum. I can and will ban ugly personalities as well as bad behavior.
Schizophrenic conspiracy posting. I don’t care about this and I won’t have it here.
Ironic snark and one-upping. That is attention seeking BS that belongs on social media. Take it back there.
NPCs. Short for Non Player Character. NPCs are indistinguishable from automated bots programmed to repeat one message and no other. If you’re a human NPC, you have my sympathies (but you won’t be here).
“Uh, actually…” I don’t care about your thoughts, your opinions, or your ego. I don’t owe you anything. If you don’t like what I wrote, go complain about it somewhere else.
My research in grad school revolved around ancient and modern traditions of virtue ethics. Good character — what it is, who has it, and how they get it — is just as important to me in my real life.
Friendly, cooperative, intelligent commenters of good temper are always welcome, even if it’s only to disagree.
The keyword for this newsletter is humility.
The way it’s used today, the word may as well mean something like self-abasement, as if the humble person must grovel, flog, mortify, and beg forgiveness for the sin of existing.
I mean it more like this:
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
— Proverbs 11:2
Humility is the remedy for the sin of pride and the excesses of the ego. It is a self-conscious appreciation of the fact that you and I, reader, are but simple organisms that too often take ourselves too seriously.
The humble person is neither weak nor low, but rather possessed of clarity of sight, awareness of his existential limitations, and an uncanny wisdom of that sort that Socrates found in his own ignorance.
Expect no 8,000 word monstrosities or thrice-daily spam.
A happy tempo for me is two or three humble posts a week.
No paid options at the moment, though I leave open the option. I have other ways to persuade you to open your wallet.
If anything here strikes your fancy, read the prompt for your next step:
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Thanks for reading.