Category Archives: Ethics

To Imply vs To Infer

Say you ask a friend, “Are you going to the party on Saturday?” and she replies, “I work the evening shift.” Your friend is implying that she can’t be in two places at once, so you then infer that she won’t be coming to the party.”

Google Design Documents on Conversational UIs

What a great example of an important distinction! To imply is to give meaning between the lines. To infer is to take meaning from between the lines.

How often do we confuse these two?

How often are our words muddled with disinformation? How often do we fail the truth?

I listened to Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson argue over The Truth. Two of the most admired intellectuals of our time cannot even arrive at basic agreement over what Truth is.

Maybe, like Pirsig suggests in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Truth is unspeakable. Our words will always form a fractional representation. The model is always flawed.

Another way to say it, is that we can only imply the truth in our speech. Further, we can only infer the truth from others.

Peterson thinks of Truth pragmatically. It’s only True so far in it provides for the advancement of Life. He calls it “Darwinian”. I like his version of Truth, but the model seems to be lacking for me.

Harris is more materialist. It seems to me that his Truth is deterministic and objective.

They might agree that Truth encompasses the human experience and is greater than human experience.

Of course, I can’t say for certain, because I may not be perfectly inferring The Truth from their words and I might also not be perfectly implying The Truth to you!

We are caught in a web of existential information, trying to create harmony between our models of the Universe and The Truth.

Nobody can directly inject wisdom into your mind. You must mine the texture of your experience. Between the folds you will find veins of gold.

I imagine the Grace of God is to have a conception of reality that is perfectly tuned to Truth. That momentary lapse in imperfection that seems to last forever. What a gift.

Thanks for reading. Hope you may have inferred some wisdom from this.

Feel free to leave a comment below or tweet at me (@justuseapen).

Commitment and Compulsion

I have a theory.

Most of the things we do are the result of our commitments, or our compulsions.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I wake up at 4am because I’m committed to making the most of my mornings.

I sleep in until 8am because I am compelled by insomnia and laziness.

If I eat a healthy breakfast of greek yogurt and berries, it is because I am committed to a healthy diet. If I eat a bowl of cereal, it’s because I’m compelled to by disadvantageous economics or a sugar addiction.

I go to work because I am committed to paying my bills. I slack off because I am compelled by Facebook and email and every other distraction.

I work out because I’m committed to peak physical performance. I skip leg day because I’m compelled by my ego.

There is almost no grey area.

Commitments are interesting because they are purely personal. You might be committed to a group or a religion. But that group or religion cannot force your commitment. That would then be a compulsion. Like taxes.

Inversely, compulsions are usually externally driven.

I am compelled by carbohydrates. All of them. It’s rough. The wheat plant has evolved to get me hooked. How am I to compete with millions of years of evolution? I can’t. In fact I need a miracle of God’s grace to get over my addiction to carbohydrates.

Commitment is that miracle. We must commit ourselves to good if we are to see good committed unto us. That’s why people commit to giving things up for lent. To see what fruit commitment will bear.

No time.

Between work, the gym, and dance, I had no time to write today.

Or better said, I did not prioritize writing today. I prioritized work, the gym, and dance.

What are you prioritizing? It’s a simple question, because the answer is — inevitably —  what you actually did.

We always have time. The real problem is that we rarely have our priorities in order.

Prioritization is an eternal and universal problem. Time is a gift and only becomes a problem when you’ve used it unwisely.

Sow No Discord

Proverbs 6:16-19 states

16 These six things doth the Lord hate, yea, seven are an abomination unto Him:

17 a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

19 a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Personally, I have struggled with all of these — Pride, deception, violence, depravity, destruction, duplicity and antagonism.

Some are probably more pronounced than others.

If the serpent represents danger in the chaotic unknown, then the serpent is present when discord is sown amongst the brethren. When you “play devil’s advocate” in an adversarial way, you are inviting Satan into the conversation.

You could take it literally or figuratively, the end result would be no different I think.

Words are powerful.

I have a habit of passionately arguing points. The problem with this habit is the “passionate” part. Passion is struggle. Passion is pain. Human interaction doesn’t need to be painful. It ought be comforting, full of grace.

Debate can be had. And it is critical that it be had in the interest of deeper understanding. If debate is had in the interest of mutual understanding, no discord is sown and satan is nowhere in the matter. There is no threat of violence or chaos in the search for truth. That’s because the search for truth is essentially the act of extracting order from chaos and bringing balance into the world.

I’m writing this as a reminder to myself. Speak first to understand. Listen to understand. Seek truth, not prestige or status. Seek understanding and reconciliation. This is the way of Christ, the Buddha, and universal wisdom.

Amen.