(Originally published at Ribbonfarm.)
Here’s a recipe for discovering new ideas:
- Examine the frames that give structure (but also bias) to your thinking.
- Predict, on the basis of #1, where you’re likely to have blind spots.
- Start groping around in those areas.
If you can do this with the very deepest frames — those that constrain not just your own thinking, but your entire civilization’s — you can potentially unearth a treasure trove of insight. You may not find anything 100% original (ideas that literally no one else has ever seen), but whatever you find is almost guaranteed to be underappreciated.
In his lecture series The Tao of Philosophy, Alan Watts sets out to do just this for Western civilization. He wants to examine the very substrate of our thinking, in order to understand and correct for our biases.
So what is the substrate of Western thought?
Well if you’re a fish, water can be hard to see. Same thing here. In order to see our own thinking, we’ll have to triangulate it from the outside.