Author Information: Lyudmila Markova, Russian Academy of Sciences, email@example.com.
Markova, Lyudmila. “The Place of the Notion of the Weird in Today’s Thinking.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 8, no. 5 (2019): 48-51.
This article replies to Adam Riggio’s review of Believing Weird Things, a recent book by Bernard Wills.
Adam Riggio approached the analysis of the problems of thinking of our days in a very original way, by studying the place and role of the notion of weird in a number of works that caused both bewilderment and curiosity. I have paid attention first of all to the ideas of Adam Riggio, which are the basis of his investigation of some of these works.
His opinion is that this notion (at least in some books about it) “…is weird to an academic audience”. Today many things, events seem strange, and not only in science-fictions and horror literature, but in our real life, in science, in social relations, in everyday life, in politics and so on.
“When a sudden disturbance appears in the smooth flowing of a natural process, that disturbance is simply disruptive and destructive.”
“The weird unsettles expectation, which creates an immediate fear and a profound fear. Speaking immediately, a weird encounter is a sign that presumptions of the reliability of the world to sustain your own life are in doubt”.
“The more profound fear of the weird inspires is that, more than just your life being at risk, the fundamental nature of reality is at risk”.
“To be weird is to have a character or nature that is such an anomaly for your expectations of how and what the world is as to be unnerving. A natural process cannot be unnerved.”
“Weirdness, therefore, is in the eye of the beholder. At least that’s what I would say if I were disposed to cheap clichés. Different people with different histories, cultures, moral and aesthetic values will consider different things weird.”
I regret to be unfamiliar with the books and reviews, with the authors of which Riggio argues. But I think that it is quite possible to isolate Riggio’s position and it was what I tried to do.
Projecting a Goal
To my mind it is useful to remind that when a person starts some activity he has in mind the idea, the project of what he should receive. A bee builds complex cells, but it never wonders, how it will do it. Academic (classical) thinking (17th – 20th centuries) explains our actions, their logical sense to us, their correspondence to the processes in the real world.
In this case, everything that is not embedded in the uniform development of events and thoughts remains beyond the real life of a person. Individual, personal in perception of reality, focused in the sensations of fear, joy, anxiety for human well-being and even life, which was completely excluded from the structure of classical logic, becomes, although very inconvenient, but a necessary element of the emerging logic of thinking, no-classical logic.
The main thing is not the construction of progressive development of thinking, where a new thought is rigidly logically connected with the previous one, but an understanding of how this new thought arises from the context, not in isolation, but in connection with other events around it, which do not unit strange event first of all with the previous and with the future ones.
Such linear connection is typical for classical (academic) logic, logic of the past, present, future, logic of the time. Now the most important are connections among the events that exist not far from one another, they exist on the surface, not in the time. In the first case we deal with logical laws, and we follow them, if we want to be understood. Characteristics of a human such as good, sincere, kind, clever, fool, cruel and so on are absent in the classical type of thinking, norms of moral are not significant for it.
No – classical thinking is of a different kind, it is considered from the point of view of its beginning, which is not in the previous knowledge, but in the context, in the conditions of its birth. In the context the boundary between the logical and the empirical differs with difficulty, that is why it is not easy to combine classical thinking with no-classical one, they differ in the most important thing, in answering the question: where is the place of the author of the process and of the result of thinking.
In the classics everything, connected with human, is taken out of the limits of thinking and is focused on nature. In the 20th century the turn is realized in thinking. The obtained result contains in itself some elements of context, not all of which belong to science. The context contains both the logical difficulty that the scientist encountered in his work, and the real situation that requires understanding through its inclusion in the structure of science.
Success will be the simultaneous solution of both a scientific problem and a way out of the difficulty of a social, personal nature. The confusion, which occurs when trying to insert elements of knowledge with traces of sociality into classical thinking causes in minds panic, bewilderment. The result is a weird.
Logically Inexplicable, Philosophically Weird, Politically Incompatible
So, logically inexplicable weirdness migrates from fairy tales to a philosophical text that requires an exactly logical explanation. The notion of weirdness acquires a philosophical sense. And further. Since any type of activity is preceded by a certain kind of design, this activity also depends on the situation with the weird property. Maybe this is the reason that many political events cause a very unequal attitude towards themselves.
There are two approaches in politics today that can’t find common ground. In the first case, for instance, the support is the laws adopted by the United Nations organization. These laws have a universal character. In the second case, attention is focused primarily on the individual characteristics of those involved in the conflict, on their understanding of what is right and what is unjust, what is good and what is evil, what is permissible in relation to ordinary (not military) people and what is unaccountable, is it necessary even to think about all these things.
Recall Yugoslavia, Crimea, Ukraine’s Donetsk. Each side of the discussion in any of these cases addresses for support either to laws of global character, or to features of historical, cultural, religious character of this or that area. If one of these two methods of justification is recognized as the only possible way to obtain a true result, then such a result will certainly not be possible to receive.
We will get only confusion of two incompatible of one with the other approaches to solving the problem that has arisen in science. In the last century, the solution was in the concept of a scientific revolution, which meant the victory of the new theory over the old one.
The Moral As Navigator of the World
Today, the answer becomes preferable from the point of view of moral characteristics. As a result, the interaction between two events (two theories in science) cannot be neither a victory of a new theory, which is logically derived from the previous one (continuity is restored, classic is preserved, but there is no place for the author), nor as a complete destruction of one of the two theories that leads to the impossibility of maintaining the continuity of development and to problematization of the concepts of truth and objectivity (revolution).
However, it is important to bear in mind that following the norms of morality does not mean at all to understand them in the same way by different subjects and in different circumstances. The unwillingness to strictly obey global laws, the opposition of these laws to such concepts as justice, does not always lead to a peaceful and satisfactory resolution of the conflict from the point of view of the majority. As a rule, situation becomes even more confusing.
During the discussions of the supporters of the classics and their opponents both are forced sometimes to agree with some of the statements of the rival. For instance, it is usually difficult to find the place and to determine the meaning of such concepts as truth and objectivity. In this case (and a few others) we deal with the dispute of logical beginnings. For the representative of classics the other side is empirical reality.
For the non-classics the other side is another logic with which it is necessary to enter into dialog. One of the main features of non-classical logic can be formulated as follows. It does not destroy the predecessor, it needs it as an interlocutor. There is only one logical subject in the classics, it has no one to talk to.
Philosophical problems are immersed in empirical reality and are overcome together with the difficulties that arise here. When other concepts become basic in the philosophical analysis of thinking the meaning of all related words changes. Fundamentally new integrity is being formed as an opposition to an existing one. This period of coexistence of two types of thinking is characterized by a lack of clarity of thought, when neither side is recognized as false, even by opponents. Since any action is preceded by its mental plan (even to make a chair you need to know in advance what properties it will need), the activity will be inevitably also erratic.
Of course, I understand that it is not enough to express these theses without any serious justification. It is impossible to do this in a short article. But I can name the authors of the works that contributed to the formation of my own position: Vladimir Bibler, Memar Mamardashvily, Gilles Deleuze, Bruno Latour, Steve Fuller, Ilya Kasavin.
Contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Markova L. Other Science, in Result – a New Science Policy. Voprosy Filosofii, 2017. Vol. 12. P. 91 – 102. (in Russian).
L.A. Markova. Science Studies in Russia and in the West // Social Epistemology, 2017. Vol. 31, No 1, 3850, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02691728.2016.1227392
L.A. Markova. The Turn in Social Investigations of Scientific Knowledge // Russian Studies in Philosophy, vol. 55, N 1, 2017, pp.1-11.
L.A. Markova. Materialization of Thought in the Language and Drawing, Voprosy Filosofii, Vol. 4 (2019), pp. 34 -44 (in Russian).