Thinking in Singular
I think a lot of confusion in thinking and discussing comes from failing to recognize one crucial requirement for having clarity: singular. What I mean by this is that it is absolutely clear what we are talking about, a single thing, clearly defined and described AS SUCH, without vagueness and room for guessing around. Otherwise we’re trying to “focus” on two or more things at once and that is no focus at all.
The effect of such lack of focus or clarity is that we basically don’t know what we’re talking about and end up making judgments that are terribly at odds with reality. Yet this ends up leading our action in false hope for desired positive results. Focusing on singular and thinking in singular rather than plural, is a key to precise thinking.
This came to me when I was trying to explain why I don’t believe in the existence of a “collective” in reality and thus why I don’t believe in “collective rights”. The argument is that the “collective” is in fact solely a mental abstraction describing multitude or plural. Two or more human beings can then be described as a collective. Two or more trees can be described as a collective (and synonymously a “forest”, another similar mental concept) and two or more cells can be described as a collective (or synonymously a multicellular organism).
As such this mental abstraction is similar to numbers. The only difference between saying “collective” and saying a number like “4″ is that in the former you don’t specify exactly how many, merely that there are more than one (plural) whereas in the latter you’re specifying how many. But a number 4 itself doesn’t exist in reality. Looking at 4 people you see “4″ in your head merely because you have the mental capacity to count. If you didn’t then you wouldn’t have the mental concept of “4″ to use in your description of what you see. Same goes with the concept of a “collective”. You see “more than one”.
But does a collective actually exist in reality? This isn’t the same question as the question “do individuals referred to by “4 people” exist or “do cells referred to as an “organism” exist”. It is a question like “do 4 people exist as an individual” or “does a forest exist as a tree” or “does an organism exist as a cell” or “does a molecul exist as an atom” and so on.
The formula is: Does a plural of X exist as a singular X where X is equal? The answer is always inevitably negative because it is:
- A contradiction in terms, an oxymoron.
- Many cannot be without the one. Plural cannot exist without a singular, but a singular can exist without a plural
A plural of trees cannot be a tree, it can be an individual forest. A plural of cells cannot be a cell, but it can be an individual organism. A plural of atoms cannot be an atom, but it can be an individual molecule. A plural of human beings cannot be a human being, but an individual society, for lack of a better term, or something else that we as human beings cannot from our vantage point exactly determine, or perhaps nothing at all; end of line as far as that type of form is concerned.
So when it comes to the concept of a collective it may be an useful abstraction sometimes, but it is clear that a collective of X cannot have the properties of X and itself is not X. It instead becomes something else that is again itself individual; unique. Or nothing else. This is why it makes absolutely no sense to think in terms of there being a human “collective” for the good of which individuals should sacrifice expecting that this good would somehow trickle down to more good for all.
Additionally, the object of focus can never be anything other than individual, singular. Even when trying to somehow point to a “collective” that exists in reality we end up describing “it” as “it”, a singular thing, thus further validating the individualism rather than “collectivism” of its nature or at least showing ourselves unable to, when we actually begin thinking with such precision, actually pin point the “collective” in reality when some voluntaryist challenges: “Show me the collective, where is it?”.
Granted, both “plural” and “singular” are mental abstractions, but it is pretty obvious that we cannot refer to anything in reality without going through the abstraction of a singular, even when we wish to refer to a “collective”. In other words, the only way to directly describe things in reality is through singular, not plural.
So it would appear that both our minds and the reality itself is naturally wired as individualistic rather than collectivist. There are merely multiple levels, one being fundamental to another which is fundamental to a yet another and so on possibly indefinitely, but an individual thing always comes first and it’s “collective”, as we would mentally describe it, only ends up creating another individual thing.
Collectivist is murky thinking. There is no precision in an argument which has collectives as its variables.