The Spoon Theory revisited

A few years ago I read an essay which is quite influential, about a person’s explanation for dealing with chronic fatigue. It is endearingly referred to as ‘The Spoon Theory’, I recommend reading it. Go on, I’ll wait.

I’ve thought about this idea of the Spoon theory, having a limited but quantifiable amount of energy, or attention or time to dedicate to all the things you want to do. Some days you can do more, others you might do less, on more other days still you might do less. Much of my life seems to be fragmented across so many different circles and interests. There’s my training partner friend who I have lately been doing a lot of weight training with; there’s my badminton buddies (which includes my brother) who lately fill my phone with irrelevant Whatsapp messages (which I check about every 6 hours and find 200 messages); there’s the garden group that I’m involved with and that’s just off the top of my head of the kinds of things taking my time at the moment.

Whatever people consider as their spoons, there’s only so much one can handle in a day. I’ve been thinking about this in a large variety of contexts.


I read quite a bit, however I’m about 3 weeks behind on my comics and the pile builds up. I like to read in my spare time, and at the moment academic reading and blog writing is not a paying job (my CV is available on request by the way!). I have a lot of books that I have planned to read and often the pile grows even more whenever Librivox releases a new volume of Hume’s History of England, or when the next bit of Aquinas’ Summa Theologica comes out. I estimate that I’ll probably read all the things I have currently listed by the time I’m in my late 40s. Which is a little bit depressing. Then there are days when I’m just too tired to read. Learning is about finding out about old knowledge, and keeping your ear to the ground about new patterns and things going on. I’m struggling to do both, and the Theory of Spoons is very relevant to me. I do miss the old days when I would sit and read Kant for 10 hours straight and write 20,000 words in notes. It’s nice to idealise the past. Especially when it involved longer hair.

Fun activities

One of the things I learned from Spoon theory is that sometimes you need to keep your spoons for other things. This involves saying no to some opportunities. Sometimes I get book reviews or I’m asked to look at manuscripts or essays (also, my fees are available on request!) but I must turn them down as I have other things that have earmarked my time. Sometimes I hear about gigs that I would really love to go to, or a new activity that I’d like to do. In the background of the metaphorical spoons in my not so metaphorical hand, I must think about balancing my resolution to try new things and expand myself, against what i can find I am able to do in terms of my time, and my energy. The spoons have been helpful to me, although in this context it is within a wider context.

Adopting new behaviours

In the past I’ve talked a little about my scheduling system, and how I’ve set it in a way where I review behaviours and whether they are useful to keep patterns or to amend or delete how I do things. One thing that often surprises me is how many people think that I am ahead of the curve in terms of technology, apps or certain trends. In honesty I really am not, and I consider myself a bit of a luddite.

I’ve had numerous conversations with people about the kinds of apps we use as part of our everyday life, and whether they are for things like leisure or more helpful tools that keep records, remind one of impending meetings or how much they want to run today. One of the most general responses I’ve heard is that they only have a certain amount of attention and things like mobile phone apps, or another social networking website oriented around their interest in say, making ships in bottles is just not for them right now because all of their time is already full up with commitments from elsewhere.

We are in an age where so many things can demand our time, whether its serious, career relevant, personally fulfilling or frivolous. I’m reminded of Adorno’s essay on hobbies and how the notion of the hobby is disparaging and effectively supports the status quo. There’s so many fun and important things to do but such little time and ability. I realise the tension between adopting new behaviours or trying out new things when there are so many other objects in our inventory of life to deal with. It also makes it all the more special when we break routine. I am beginning to realise the role of the spoons when developing new habits or trying something new, as well as how our ‘spoons’ can be a barrier.


On reflection I find the spoon metaphor very useful. It does a lot of work and the more I’ve thought about it in my life the more it has been useful in framing my time management and activities, as well as my limitations. To put it in terms of David Lewis’ Modal Realism thesis: it does a lot of work to justify its worth as a theory.



Two pessimistic thoughts

I have been delving a little into some 19thC literature of late in leisurely pursuits, and I thought I would come to bring up these two insights:

1. Freud, in an essay on death; wrote that the very thought of our own death in some respect is inconceivable. For every thought that we have presumes at least a third personal perspective, as ourselves being the author of those thoughts. Yet, with the event of death, it is the thought that the self is absent in a way that the living self cannot conceive of without presuming the third-personal perspective of the living thinker.

This strikes me as being both a Wittgensteinian thought, and a Kantian one. It reminds me of a passage towards the end of the Tractatus (I think) where almost the very same notion is addressed, namely, the inconceivability of death. Wittenstein, by constrast, appeals to the inconceivability of death by means of a zeno paradox, as well as the notion that a finite thing cannot conceive of its end. Both of these thoughts would either be prima facie false, or reveal some paradoxical (dialetheia) truth.

The Kantian thought is that Freud’s assertion seems to resemble the appeal of Kant’s transcendental unity of apperception, namely, the notion that there is no thought without the presumption of an “I think”, or agent who has the capacity of such a thought.

2. From Schopenhauer’s ‘On Suffering’; suffering is the privation of pleasure. I am surprised to take a liking to the philosophy of Schopenhauer. There are distinct ethical dimensions to his psychological insights. Schopenhauer’s writings are ethics in the most sincere sense of the word, that is, a guide on how to live well.

schopenhauer turns the Augustinian thought that evil is nonexistent on its head. Pleasure is ultimately a frivolous thing because it is transient, and the only immortal thing about pleasant experiences or fond moments, are the recollection; or shared recollection of them. It is also the sign of a wretched old life if one is always reminiscing a past that has long gone.

Schopenhauer’s philosophical pessimism is surprising. Not least for the appeal to eastern philosophy, but the extent in which I find it a life-affirming way of approaching life. If a fond experience, like a first kiss or the birth of a child will inevitably end, it also has the immortal quality of being in one’s memory and summoned any time that the memory is recalled. Pessimism as a way of life seems to be the precept, or starting point. Once you accept it, you get on with one’s life, and contemplation becomes less effort in terms of whether the notion of pleasure or the good life are arguable issues. In cruder terms; Accept life is shit, and get on with it. It might be more fun once we accept that.


Some ‘did-you-know’s

1. Apparently Jung gave seminars on Kundalini yoga (presumably signifying some knowledge of Indian philosophy)
2. Some people (not myself) consider Idealism to have links with Vedic and Buddhist philosophy
3. Some x-phi philosophers (or x-phiers) have noted a significant difference in epistemic intuitions between undergraduates from China and UGs from the USA


Confused Questions

1. Does it make sense to construe norms into the discourse of epistemology?
2. What are the status of the theoretical norms?
3. What theoretical norms are there?

We could have:

i. Ontological unity (naturalism – strong)
ii. Methodological unity (naturalism – weak)
iii. Conceptual unity (Transcendental)
iv. Systematicity (Transcendental)
v. A set of peacemeal norms, induction, parsimony etc.

4. Question-begging, how is induction set into a norm? This relates to the following question

5. If we assume inductive behaviour is inevitable (which, it kind of is), then there is a fact of the matter about the fact that we do use it; further, there is an inevitability about our use of it. Given its inevitability, is there an ought implies can consideration to be made? I see contrary tendencies as to the question of the rationality of questioning the epistemic practice that we deem inevitable (Cf. Stern 2000)

6. We may have epistemic norms of differing graces: strong norms like induction, or systematicity is stronger still, but we may have rules of thumb like parsimony; it may seem that the image is far from systematic, but Quinean-web-like

Destre (and Michael)

What is the transcendent?

The transcendent is that which we cannot otherwise but believe, yet cannot prove; the a priori principles which, so fundamental, we may not prove, yet we must presuppose to legitimate all else of reality.

What makes something transcendental, if there is anything to be transcendental at all?

A Transcendental Deduction must be found; whereby we prove that an enthymeme is in place in our everyday epistemic practices and metaphysical construals, however; we must not, as a contingent matter, not have proved this relata in any other way.

What kind of things are transcendent? Belief in the external world, possibly induction and the place of other epistemic norms, or other metaphysical beliefs like the endurance of particulars, which, even in the face of rational doubt, we must otherwise assume.

Destre, Michael



Anyone who is under 35, or, who hardly engages in the drudgeries of celebrity culture and the ultramodern world of bloggospheres, heat magazine (my perennial enemy), and other such nonsenseries, may not have come across the phrase, or expression “noughties”.

Noughties is a parody of a term, it is a bricolage (breaking up of words and fusion of a new concept), and as such, it fulfills two aspects of the postmodern social condition. Noughties is a pun on ‘Nineties’, but ‘nought’ referring to 00s. To refer to something as xx-ties is a late 20thC convention; noughties represents the continuation of this concept, but demonstrating the ineptitude of actually having a xx-ties about a ‘nought’ . As such, it is an empty, redundant term, much like the emptiness and redundance of normal social interactions in this bleak, plastic, social world; and it is a sad remnant of a generation of people who had lived and enjoyed the late 20thC.

What defines the noughties?

What defines the age of today? In a lot of ways, it seems to be a continuation of the nineties; in a way, it seems to be a self-aware parody of the past; celebrating era like the 1970’s, 1980’s, as if they were characterised only by its music, and its attire. Overshadowing the historical events like the cold war, vietnam, or Thatcherism.

I was with Michael at a talk a week or so ago, by a philosopher named Morgan; talking on the issue of Seduction. There was a passing comment where Morgan said “I’m a noughties man, I meet girls on the internet…”. I thought then, what is it that consists when we say someone is encapusulated by a period of time; there used to be a phrase “it’s the nineties”, which denoted that it was a positive time for change, in terms of ecology and our attitudes towards society and nature. Now, the noughties seems to be a time of self-indulgence and cynicism. The noughties seems to be an age where men are obsessed by appearance (metrosexual), ambivalent about social issues, but only providing lip service to causes (slacktivism – an actual word, I looked it up).

What defines us today? I suppose it is that we care so little about things; where doctors and teachers care not for their duties, but league tables; where academic funding bodies care about reputation and bureaucracy; where help is as long as the money notes from whence it came.

Someone once said “It is not an enlightened age, but it is the age of enlightenment“; what a sad day when not even that is true…

Sapere Aude…


The ship of Stratovarius (on ideology and semantics)


Anyone who is familiar with the metal scene of Finland knows about the recent spat between Timo Tolkki and the rest of the members of Stratovarius. In a previous post, I reported the news that Stratovarius broke up; but then came a whole barrage of replies from two parties; Timo Tolkki, and the rest of Stratovarius. These recent events are much like the whole open letter affair with Nightwish and their former singer. Has Finnish heavy metal become so big, that it has taken on the mechanics and suave of modern bands, of having official fan clubs, official merchandise, PAs, photoshoots and open letters? It seems long from the harked days of underground bands playing in California who were known by their audiences bootlegging their gigs, but that’s a whole other point at hand…

The heart of Stratovarius

I can engage in a suitably philosophical discussion about the semantics and modality of ‘Stratovarius’; but I want to address a more human point.

Stratovarius is a band that, for me, and a lot of people I know, represents a mindset. It is, I thought quite clearly, until recently, a band that was in tune with a lot of the heavy metal scene in Europe; trying to come to terms with the bleakness, superficiality, conformism and fostered attitude of normative-heterogeneity, by replying either by an expression of despair [such as EToS]; fantasy; or perseverence. Stratovarius represented the most noble of these responses: perseverence, the strength to keep fighting on in a world of superficiality. How ironic, and how disturbing I find it that Stratovarius engages in this kind of dispute. Not to take any sides on the issue, but when a band that for me, represents perseverence and a way of coping with the modern world, has infighting, one kind of loses hope in the message they once represented.

Now, for a rather odd analysis of ‘Stratovarius’….

The semantics of ‘Stratovarius’

Timo Tolkki, de re, was not the original founder of the band, contrast this to Tuomas’ role in Nightwish. It is Tuomas’ baptism of the band, that makes him the essential feature of the band; the necessary condition for ‘Nightwish’ to refer is that Tuomas is in it. Can we say the same for Timo and Strato? The short answer is yes (because he is the lyrical and musical direction of the whole band since 1984); but the long answer is no he fails to fulfill the de re necessity Kripke designator.

There have been many bands (my first thought on this is the Norweigian band Mayhem) which have none of the de re original members present in their current lineup, yet the name of the band still refers. This is obviously like the philosophical problem of identity, the Ship of Theseus; if you replace every plank, is it still the same ship?

In the case of Mayhem; some of the original members have left, and then returned; much like Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath (replaced by Dio, Tony Martin, etc.); however, unlike Mayhem, Black Sabbath maintained the essential feature, the conponent of Tommy Iommi; who has, rather significantly, maintained throughout the whole career of Sabbath; being the creative force behind it, despite how most people associate it with Ozzy (or, as some of the fan discourses argue, Dio, but that very fact points out the finitude of the lead singer as being core to the band).

Is it possible, further, is it legitimate, semantically, for a band to have changed its whole membership and yet still refer by its original name? What of any organisation for that instance. Is the philosophy department of Cambridge still legitimate to claim heritage of Russell, Wittgenstein and Moore, even though they have long gone?


Beauty as a feeling (On Allison’s ‘chain of associations’)

In the year 1789 (I think), Archibald Allison published a work on aesthetics, on the same year as Immanuel Kant; it was a directly opposed theory with deeply empiricist flavourings. Kant’s aesthetic account, by contrast, is more nuanced of a rationalist account, but Allison assert what Kant denies, but in doing so, I think Allison hit the nail right on the head on some issues.

One particular conception that I considered prima facie true, and my mind really hasn’t changed on this, is the significant empirical component in our aesthetic behaviour. When I see an object, I associate it with past memories in which I have seen it, and with past times in which I saw it; and those past times evoke memories of the feeling I had when I saw it.

For me, a summer’s day reminds me of those days in the collegium with S*; it reminds me of a few other summers which were particularly bad, but it also, through the culmination of these memories, synthesises to a new experience: it is no longer the past, it is now; this year can be different. A chain of reasoning comes through the cognizance of our recollection, a determinate set of facts, and an indeterminate process of feeling.

Granted, there is a very complex and relative chain of thought to our associations, and it would be interesting to formalise the process we have in such cases; we could have a formal logic of aesthetics, or a formal logic of memory, or even a formal logic of emotional reasoning/emotional conditionalisation.

But what I think is the lasting platitude here, is the undeniable empirical aspect of aesthetics (aesthetics, after all, is experience)…

Michael, Sinistre

What is the real conflict, here?

Last night, Antisophie gave me a phonecall and told me that a Vatican astronomy expert said that the Church should not rule out the possibility that there could be life on Mars. I’ve often thought about how a Christian would consider the issue of extra-terrestrial life. My prima facie thoughts would be that a Christian has motivations not to accept such a possibility; but what kind of Christian would that be?

Such a Christian would maintain that Jesus is the source of all salvation; that humanity is the pinnacle of creation, and that as createes in Eden; we have taken on damnation by original sin. It would be those things, core to Christian belief, to which we would deny alien life; why?

Because Jesus is the source of all salvation; if (counterfactual) we entertained there was alien life who was conscious and aware and sentient like us; it too would require salvation. Or, would they? Would these aliens require Jesus’ salvation? Or would they go to hell because they never knew Jesus? Or, if we are really pushing it; did God have another son whom which he sacrificed for another terrestrial race? The latter is a very hard and challenging thought that, I suppose, a believer wouldn’t want to accept. I’m not asserting these questions are problems, but they are things a believer would want to answer; for the conceivability and overall cogency of their view.

If there was life outside of Earth; are we then the pinnacle of creation? If there is life outside of earth; are they tainted by original sin?

On the one hand; I don’t really think there should be much of a conflict; but then, Master Destre said to me; “Think harder, Magister”, his eyes, penetrated through me as his pupils sharpened and focused at me with his dry, icy gaze.

Think about the beliefs that we hold; and think about the comfort that we have when we believe them to be true. Of course, there are many beliefs to which we are uncomfortable about, that we hold true. The fact that we have things that we do not like to admit, but are nonetheless true, and we believe so, shows that we do not simply believe in things we want to.

Perhaps it is a sign of rationality or reflexivity if one demonstrates that their beliefs are subject to some experiential or rational tribunal; where the tribunal of truth and validity lies either outside of us (experience), or imbued within the laws outside of us (reasoning). Is it easy to believe that God loves us? No, it is not; to believe that God loves us, is hardly evidenced in the world. Where is God in the natural disasters of the world, our own personal tragedies, and the fundamental injustices that we inflicts upon our siblings. It is not easy to beleive that there will be a happy ending, especially for those who are heavily involved in the relief of the plight of others. What there is, is a hope, a hope that salvation will come; and this is seriously challenged by the presence of bad fortune and evil in the world. It is far from easy for the intelligent person to believe in God; or for the genuinely compassionate to have hope, in the face of utter despair. Yet, some still do…

What about the flexibility of scientific practice? Imagine to find your life’s work, celebrated by generations after you, being destroyed, or modified beyond your recognition, in the name of truth-preservation. What certainty or fortitude is there in physics? The scientific outlook is one based on shaky metaphysical grounds, shaky empirical methodology, and uncertain substantive conclusions. Rightly so, many would affirm. But, here we have a worldview very uncertain, always subject to change, in constant flux. It is this kind of worldview that tensely is distinct in form from that of the religious belief worldview. The world of the religious beliver is one that has a hope for certainty and truth, and underlying resolution; in the light of flux; and science, is the acknowledgment of flux, and perhaps, the search for similar certainty? We then might say, young charge, that this is not a difference in ideology. Cultural mindset perhaps? To challenge the sensibilities of how one live’s their lives and sees the world? We must always doubt; perhaps this is the test for believers; to find tthe most proper channel for their belief in the light of a powerful rational method. Do we oppose it, or try to find resolution? Or, better still, adopt the rational method as standard, and consider our epistemic norms; such as the good deontic conception of principles like “follow the conclusions to wherever they take you”.

Epistemic norms? Something I find quite interesting, myself…