The Weird World of Metametathinking

Tuesday, May 22nd 2012

Metathinking is thinking in levels of abstraction up from real-world sense phenomena.

So, for instance, seeing a tree is direct thinking. You link the idea directly to the sense phenomena.

Your mental reaction to it - "it's a tree", memories about similar trees, etc, are up one level of abstraction.

Then there is the next level - perhaps the type of tree, its genus, or some other abstract reaction.

It could be verbal, a categorisation, or it could be poetic, musical, or whatever.

In any case, you are moving up levels of abstraction.

And so it goes into, say, observations about mathematical patterns in the bark, or pondering how much carbon it absorbs, and so on.

This is great and useful. But!

Crashed Metathinking - Metaoverload!

But the strange thing about meta thinking is that it it reaches a point where it crashes. Just like a computer does when it gets stuck in an unintended infinite loop (a stack overflow).

Continued pondering just leads to loops, paradox, deja vu, absurdity.

But what if you end up observing the chain of associations and memories directly, as sort of pseudo sense phenomena?

Metathinking - taken to its ultimate extreme - is not actually thinking per se. It is metametathinking! In the sense that it is not moving up levels of abstraction anymore. It is treating thought itself as the object of contemplation ...

Metametathinking means looking at thoughts the way you look at a tree. Thought is just there. (Of course, the thoughts are not strictly a sense phenomena, but they are something close.)

Of course, saying metametathinking means something is to rather miss the point.

To understand it in theory isn't useful at all. So many intellectuals play with the idea but lack the physical skill to see it in practice.

Instead, metametathinking is a profoundly physical thing and a profoundly metaphysical thing. Exercise, diet, practice, and so on are required to make it work properly. But so is extended contemplation of paradox, absurdity and whatnot. In some ways it is an anti-intellectual activity. But then again, that particular notion is an intellectual construction. So maybe not :-)