Making the Map

Been a while, but I am back to start a whole new journey. This time it’s less about discovering something new than understanding better what I already know. (Although some might say the latter is often the path to wisdom.)

Recently I made this post on Facebook:

“I need your help, friends of mine. I am thinking of writing up my “Map of Convictions” or MoC, if you will – a chart of the foundations of my personal paradigm. (Perhaps it would be cool if by the time one graduated high school one had thought and indeed enumerated them.)

For me stuff like, pragmatism, reason, where I think values come from, my stance of free will and where moral duty originates from, and so on.

One would imagine that by reading someone’s MoC one would find where they stood on all the big questions in life.

So what sort of things should I remember to include in my MoC? What “deep” questions should I have my answers for? Like, where does Benn stand on the whole X thing?

Please give me LOTS of ideas, I want this to a pretty complete inventory of my fundamental principles.


So that’s my current journey, and what I will be writing about: what do I think, and why exactly do I think it? It will hopefully become a mapping of my paradigm, including my convictions, primaries, deductions, working understandings, and so on. My goal is that in reading this, others can clearly see and understand exactly why I embrace the thoughts that I do.

Along the way, if you have questions or thoughts on what I write, or want me to address something that I haven’t yet, you can either write me at or simply leave a comment under either the blog posts or the Facebook ones. Your input, and especially questions, fuel my journey!

So, let’s begin building this great (or not-so-great, grin) Map. Here we go!

Knowledge is like a house, you can’t have a roof without walls to hold it up, and you can’t have walls without a foundation. Our knowledge of one thing almost always comes as a result of knowing other stuff, forming a great chain. We couldn’t know about quantum physics until we knew of the atom, and we didn’t find the atom until we discovered radiation, and so on, all the way back to the discovery of fire and beyond.

So this paradigm-mapping journey must begin with the question: Where do these chains of knowledge start? What truths do we have that are not derived from other truths? What are our first, our primary truths?

And that turns out to be an easy question to answer – perhaps the only easy question we will find on this odyssey. The answer is perception.

I’m not getting ahead of myself and saying that our interpretations of our perceptions are the origin, quite the opposite. Our raw perceptions are the only foundational truths we have – all else is deduced from them.

And “perceptions” cover a lot more than you might think: sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch, sure, but also heat, pain, balance, and emotion.

Oh, you thought emotion was a different thing? Consider our emotions: happiness, fear, anger, sadness, just to name a few. How do you know if you’re angry?

You feel it. Right? Well, anything you can feel must be a perception, even if it is an “internal” one.

So there we are. The foundational truths of any person must be their raw perceptions – that’s the starting point. What those perceptions mean to us is where things get very tricky, but we start with raw perception  – the five senses, plus other senses we have that for some reason don’t get included in the so-called five, and emotion.  Everything we ever experience or ever could is where we begin.

Because the only underived truth is perception.

Or is it?

We now accept that raw and uninterpreted perception is an underived truth, one which does not need to be justified or proven. If I see the color green, whether something in my field of view is actually green or even if I’m just hallucinating, I can still accurately state I am perceiving green – even if I don’t know why it is happening, even if no one else is.

We have a pile of raw perceptions, what do we do with it?

We try to “make sense” of this mass of information – by looking for patterns.

Now we have to take a small step back, in order to take a GIANT leap forward: we need to talk a little about patterns.

Check out the following sentences:

  • Eree’t sitttina dpomsssfr aie nnee retmr, aemaothdr etmnh ose et.
  • Ir oimtn attsfroee nrs setnmmern ehreapid, hese eat omte’a tdste.
  • Hrn mdsa eeas’e tentteimi setatntee itr, doftr opehrmso snmra ee.
  • Hent ttnerfemm si dsdohmnia noees srti’a, etesr apmeereo ttr tea.
  • Reo enne eoea’i eed et mrmes, hadhtttie trstpmes srtimntna rfoas.

Total gibberish, right? This is an analogy for what uninterpreted sense data is like – sure, it’s data, but it doesn’t mean anything to us.

Imagine for a moment that you don’t know how to read or write at all, that you didn’t know the alphabet, nothing. Then the following sentence would be as much gibberish as the five above:

  • Sometimes there are patterns to find, and sometimes there aren’t.

Here’s the thing: all six sentences (the first five and the one directly above) use exactly the same specific letters and have the same exact number of words, each word with the same number of letters. The only difference is the way the letters and the words are ordered.

That sixth sentence is as unintelligible to an illiterate person as the first five were to you – an illiterate person cannot see a difference among any of the six sentences, and they certainly would be at a total loss to say them aloud, let alone glean any iota of understanding.

But once we’ve have learned the code, the way to find the pattern, we can easily not only read the sixth one out loud, but understand perfectly what message it is trying to convey!

Learning patterns is the key to understanding that what might seem like random noisy data may actually hide meaning and truth – we just first have to learn how to decrypt it.

So how do we do that? How do we find meaningful patterns in our raw perceptions?

That, my friends, is the meat of the matter, which is next.