I received a microgrant

October 16, 2022

I’m thrilled to announce that Ben Yeoh has awarded me a ThenDoBetter grant to support the project I’m working on. You can read Ben’s writing here.

I am developing a methodology for healthy philosophical inquiry, which aims to provide better strategies for thinking about problems at an individual and collective level. This approach will identify warning signs in thinking and discourse. I’ll propose strategies which have worked historically to prevent us from doing either too much abstraction without testing, or too much action without reflection.

Philosophy must be contextual and alive. It is just as dangerous to leave intellectuals in an insulated realm of abstractions as it is to encourage unwise action by those with no understanding of history and theoretical context.

I think of this approach as “neither pure theory nor pure action, but both at once” or Neither/Nor for short. We need both strategies to thrive.

The current consensus is that truth is something objective and static, and that the scientific method is the only way to unveil this truth. This narrow conception of truth, which restricts how science must be practiced and communicated (“scientism”) impedes us rather than empowering us and is preventing the experimentation we need for progress. Thus, rather than something static we uncover, we should be aiming for a practical methodology for inquiry.

I do not oppose science but I believe that a narrow vision of it will limit our ability to understand the problems we face. However, I also oppose relativism and resist the modern tendency to dichotomize which makes it easy to leap to the conclusion that if there is no objective truth, then the only alternative is the opposite extreme: “everything is equal.”

As the first part of this project, I am working on an article, which will become a chapter in a book that I’m writing, about how a better understanding of philosophy and history can help innovation. This is a project I’ve been working on for the past two years (self-funding), but I’m now out of savings, just as I near the first public milestone. As part of writing the article, I plan to record podcasts and video lectures.

My main goal for this stage and for all my work is to move beyond theoretical formulations. I seek to also test and enact the conceptual framework I am elaborating, through a series of dialogical experiments. In the near future, I will look at how conceptions of selfhood have changed over time, and what impact this has had on society. I will question when a commitment to abstract truth might contribute to technological and scientific progress, and when such a commitment might impede progress. I’m also planning a practical guide to the technique of Buddhist “dependent origination,” which promises to end suffering through an analytical method. These would appear in a series of lectures, podcasts, and gatherings.

As part of this effort, I’m drafting video lectures on YouTube. You can also see a 2 minute summary of one of the main ideas here.

The microgrant has allowed me more time to make progress on this writing and the conversations that will support it.

If any of this sounds exciting, I’m searching for collaborators, so please reach out.

If you want daily updates on this work, please check out my Patreon. I post everything there, nearly all of it for free. If you just want the big news, please check out my Substack.

Bryan Kam

I'm Bryan Kam. I'm thinking about complexity and selfhood. Please sign up to my newsletter, follow me on Mastodon, or see more here.