The title of this post, taken from lyrics of a song by Nahko Bear and Medicine for the People, is intended to signal a philosophical shift in the direction of this blog. To sum it up, this shift was brought about by realizations about myself and the way my brain operates- which could potentially be Asperger’s-related, merely personal quirks, or a combination of both- which, after a long period of confusion and mental breakdown, finally led me to the following conclusion:
I know nothing.
Of course, there is no known correlation between autism and knowing nothing- in fact the statement “I know nothing” is almost the basis of all of philosophy! The reason I bring up the spectrum is due to personal realizations I have had about the peculiarities of how my brain processes information, which appears to be similar to descriptions of the minds of other autistics. Now, if you happen to be a DSM worshipper, I recommend that you stop reading here. You likely have the attitude that an autist cannot possibly have the mental capacity for this level of introspection and philosophical analysis, and will view my writing as simply the product of disorder. In fact, if you are a DSM worshipper, I recommend that you don’t read my blog at all, unless you are seriously willing to challenge your beliefs. That being said, I also don’t want to make any negative assumptions about my readers, and apologize if the slur of “DSM worshipper” offended you.
Now, the way my mind processes information (or at least how I suspect it processes information- keep in mind that I know nothing) is to interpret everything seen, read or heard as if it was fact. I am, on an intellectual level, aware of the difference between fact and opinion, between truth and rhetoric, between scientific theory and literary narrative, but in real-life settings, my brain processes all these things in exactly the same manner. Modern-day psychology would probably describe this phenomenon as the autistic’s tendency towards ultra-literal interpretation of information, which I would say is relatively accurate but not fully complete.
I would theorize that interpreting everything as literal fact is perhaps not the natural state of an autistic mind, but a default state that it shifts into when unsure what to do with new sensory input. Particularly, from personal experience, I would say that this shift happens during times of stress, fear, anxiety and sensory overload. For some of us on the spectrum, we may even be permanently in this shifted state due to living in a state of constant fear. I will continue on this theme in more depth in a later post.
It is due to the realization of this tendency of my mind, that I have recently been trying to train it to do the exact opposite of what it does naturally- to interpret everything as if it were opinion, rather than interpret everything as fact. However, I am hesitant about my use of the word “naturally,” because like I said in the previous paragraph, I am sceptical about whether my state of literal, factual processing is actually “natural,” or if it a shifted state. Perhaps the state of interpreting all as opinion is actually the more natural one. There is no way of knowing at this point.
Either way, it seems that my brain has to either function one way or the other, and there is no middle ground. There is no automatic filtering system to distinguish fact from opinion, a trait that neurotypicals appear to naturally possess. Which brings us to the broader philosophical question of: Is there really such a thing as fact? Is the neurotypical ability to distinguish opinion from fact really the “proper” way for the mind to function, or is it, in a sense, a less philosophically accurate state of being?
It is also this tendency of my mind that made social justice courses very difficult for me. Social justice is neither purely a science nor purely an art. It largely consists of socio-scientific theory mixed with personal narratives. I probably had a lot of trouble distinguishing between the two and ended up interpreting everything said as literal scientific fact. Thus, when presented with information counter to my social justice indoctrination, particularly coming from neoliberal capitalist narratives, it caused me serious cognitive dissonance and caused my brain to malfunction, as you imagine!
It is because of this that I have decided to adopt a policy of greater neutrality in this blog and attempt to write from an “I know nothing” perspective. However, I will still express my opinions. I will still use language that will appear to be ideological. I will still probably have a radical Marxist voice in much of my writing. But I will try to be more aware of that what I am writing is not fact, but opinion. It is rhetoric, and is largely emotion-based. Some of it may involve attempting to formulate scientific theories, but I by no means claim anything I say as fact, or ultimate truth.
I have also realized it is a tendency of my writing to mix up facts with rhetoric, and I often switch between the two without having any idea of which one I am doing at any given time. This is just my writing style, and I apologize if I confuse anyone. Main point is- don’t interpret anything I say as ultimate truth, and I will try not to do the same with my own writing.
I am no master, I know nothing.