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Philosophistry is now a book!

Philosophistry book cover

New Ideas

Good hair is an evolutionary signal for good skulls

One arrives at a particular class through a combination of lucky birth, physique, upbringing, and most importantly, intelligence. Different head shapes imply the absence or presence of different lobes, and therefore indirectly, the absence or presence of certain forms of intelligence. Paul Fussell, in Class, was astute in observing different facial features correlating with different classes. Squat faces associate with the lower classes, and longer ones with the upper classes. Now, this just may be the result of tallness correlating with class, and in tandem longer faces. Or it could be that certain skulls have certain skills and therefore certain propensities to belong to certain classes. Perhaps this is why we spend so much on the design and maintenance of our hair.

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Since we now live in a world where lawyers have tattoos and the poor have giant flat-screen televisions, we need to update our understanding of class

Class signifiers are so fluid now thanks to luxe goods being cheap and culture open on the Internet that terms like "middle-class" are obsolete. Income distribution is more chaotic these days, with plumbers earning more than $100,000, that it's hard to tell who's up and who's down.

Paul Fussell's categories in Class were as follows:

  • Top out-of-sight
  • Upper
  • Upper middle
  • Middle
  • High proletarian
  • Mid-proletarian
  • Low proletarian
  • Destitute
  • Bottom out-of-sight

The following represents a proposal for modern class labels, one that cleaves more closely to how people deal with the question of making a living:

  • Transcendent
  • Capitalist
  • Expert
  • Working
  • Broke
  • Broken

Capitalists are people who live on the dividends from their investments. They, and the transcendent above them, truly comprise the "leisure class."

Experts are lawyers, doctors, and professors as well as top-notch architects, designers, and programmers. These people typically have much more money than they need, and they are usually in high demand for their expertise. Theoretically, they don't have to work but rather "live to work."

The working class includes anybody that still "works to live," even if they love their job. This label includes teachers, plumbers, accountants, and people with stable desk jobs. They have something on the order of $5,000 to $15,000 saved up plus some optional home equity.

The broke class has roughly $0 or negative in the bank. They typically include low-level service workers, such as order-takers at fast food restaurants or employees at retail outlets.

The broken class includes the homeless and those in prison.

The transcendent class includes those who hire capitalists, and as a result, live in a world completely removed from money. (Capitalists still worry about money occasionally since that's their source of freedom.)

According to Fussell, the common denominator to class is freedom. However, freedom is a nebulous concept today, thanks to the rise of the creative class, and given how the fact that money can buy so much more than before. But this new classification, by grounding itself back on matters of money, incidentally clarifies notions of freedom ("work to live" vs. "live to work") while still matching common parlance ("working class").

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The limits of our understanding of amorphous concepts, such as virtue, can be increased through the application of geometry

Basis vectors are an important concept in mathematics that apply to self-improvement. In mathematics, any point in space can be represented as a linear combination of basis vectors. So, the point (2,5) can be represented as 2 * (1,0) + 5 * (0,5). Likewise, we can distil many human labels to basis vectors. A great example is the Josephson Institute's Six Pillars of Character: Trust, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Community (renamed from Citizenship). Any interpersonal conflict can be represented as a linear combination of those pillars. Any slight might have a helping of mistrust plus some element of respect, and any wrongdoing might have a sense of recklessness combined with dispassion. The pillars are flexible and distinct enough from each other to cover the entire space.

An example of false pillars is Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. These habits, such as "Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood," don't represent the sum of what it takes to be effective. Some people are effective, for example, who aren't great active listeners. But, in going back to the character pillars, there aren't people with good character who are irresponsible or unfair, thus making them a basis for a good definition.