The Primacy of the Implicit
The following is a response to some questions surrounding my book Missing Axioms: Philosophy for Disorientation. Firstly, the reason for the ordering of implicit and explicit value(s), a common criticism being that these should be reversed in their definitions.1 Secondly, the connection between freedom and missing axioms, as this is mentioned in some particular sections but not so well propounded.2
The ordering of explicit and implicit value, which I now call: the primacy of the implicit, is deliberate due to the nature of communicative discursive symbols and the difference in how these eminate valuing in a philosophical sense as such. Here are the definitions I used:
“Explicit values are abstract. These are constructed of positive or negative assertoric statements. For example: “I’m very altruistic.”. This statement contains explicit connotations.
Implicit values, however, arise from the connotations present within action. For example, the person who just extolled their explicit altruism could implicitly have never committed a charitable act. Under these delineations it seems that the thought and statements required of explicit values is, in some sense, cheaper than the action cost required of implicit values. You do not truly value something by statement or thought, value is only bestowed through the coronation of action.”3
One reflection (included in the appendix of the book) is that my definition of explicit values should have been broadened to include discursive symbols:4 including socially coordinated religious and ideological symbology.
I understand the criticism, overt language and discursive symbology can of course imply other menings beyond it’s immediate content. For example, there is the aesthetic content of striking red, contrasting white and perpendicular strikes of a flag. But we are only cognizant of the values which emanate from this overt visual display when we realize we are looking at a German Swastika.
These visual short-hands, from which wider meanings can be implied and recognized in a heuristic fashion by the retina-centric processing of the human mind do imply much more than the visual information they transmit. But, my reason for the distinction in Missing Axioms is not to draw attention to the processes of the human mind but instead to designate different kinds of valuing in the philosophical viewpoint from which these emanate. This is an overt post-processed context, an omnipresent viewpoint which only the philosophical eye has the ability to observe. The valuing energy of explicit language and symbols are already ‘said and done’, nothing is truly implied by these outside the stumbling heuristics of the human mind. This is why they are used by the time-bound subject to designate tribe, nation, ideology and taste explicitly and immediately in a world that is still ‘in-play’ in regards to unstored action.
A Welsh tradition, still observed to this day, is the wearing of leeks on helmets in reference to the legend that St. David ordered his troops to do the same when fighting the invading Saxons. This is a example of an explicit symbol which indeed implies a great deal more than a simple vegetable, however this symbol is only useful to the embodied subject due to it’s past-tense implications. This is separate from the current-tense implications of the leeked’ warrior’s implicit action.
It is just this unstored ‘in-play’ potential, which from the philosophical valuing context, that has the sole ability to imply values. Action is expensive in comparison to stored explicit energy, the embodied time-locked subject is not cowering behind explicit valuing but is adventuring into uncharted territory where valuing is of the upmost operational importance. In a reversal of the immediacy of implicit valuing, effective strategies of implicit valuing can become stored in explicit words and symbols in reference to the great past-tense action taken by the brave subject(s). This is how Missing Axioms hoped to come full circle in a theory of valuing but fell short within the bounds of the initial book.
To reiterate my central point, the use of the designations: explicit and implicit are in regards to the philosophical viewpoint of valuing. This vantage point understands language and symbols explicitly as they are past-tense and sees present-tense action as an implication and philosophical emanation of immediate subject valuing, from which the human subject cannot escape.
Continuing to the second query as a result of Missing Axioms: the question of freedom. I cover the topic in the book, although in an indirect way, defining the amount of explicit and implicit flexibility an individual subject has as explicit and implicit space.5 My argument being that often, due to ideological or historical circumstance we are left with no explicit space, however we always have some degree of personal implicit space within which to creatively value. Although this can take an extremely covert form it still exists, regardless.
There is another threat to our notion of freedom, however, that of nihilism. Often we view the nihilist, without handrails within which ethically or otherwise to ‘limit’ their action as most free. It seems to us they can choose any value as none is inherently more worthwhile.
However, consider the following comparison: First we have the a ‘nihilist’, or rather, since that is a logical impossibility, what I would call an imposter nihilist.6 On the other hand we have a devout Christian who adheres to an interpretation of the religion that is heretical to their historic circumstance.
In the first case our imposter nihilist imagines himself as in a most free void of value. However, his decision to sleep all day and then when he finally rises to intoxicate himself shows a lack of bodily principle. An embodied principle. They have not chosen to value sloth and intoxication in themselves but is merely following appetite. This is all that is left when you strip the embodied subject of the ability to intentionally coronate value(s). Implicit space is sacrificed due to a belief in an impossible abstract nihilism and is inevitably gobbled up by the pseudo-values emanating from the appetites of embodied circumstance.
In the second example, our heretic, is (despite some effort to hide their true beleifs) eventually found by the authorities. Fear strikes them cold in the face, sweat falling from their brow as they are tied to the pyre. Every reasoned will of their body is screaming through each cell with Darwinian urgency to renounce their faith and escape a painful fate. This society which allowed for little explicit space allows for implicit agency. Fire wrestles their life from them in an expression of their deontological irreducible valuing. There is a deliberate implicit space they are unwilling to cede.
Of these two subjects, who is most ‘free’?
Barnes, Samuel. Missing Axioms: Philosophy for Disorientation, 2021. I – Explicit and Implicit Value. pg. 3.
See: Langer, S.K. Philosophy in a New Key, 1951. New York: New American Library. Available at: https://archive.org/details/pdfy-rhrw7VPajPHIhLwH
Barnes, Samuel. Missing Axioms: Philosophy for Disorientation, 2021. IX – Devotional Space. pg. 31.
Barnes, Samuel. Missing Axioms: Philosophy for Disorientation, 2021. II – Beyond Nihilism. pg. 4.