WHAT IS INCONSISTENTISM? (my lips may promise, but my heart is a whore)

First off, the subtitle of this post “my lips may promise, but my heart is a whore”, is a line from a nine inch nails song (from the incredibly kick-ass EP broken. If you haven’t listened to it, I stongly suggest that you do). I include that line because I want to establish early that that sentiment is exactly what Inconsistentism is not. Inconsistentism is not a theory that condones nor promotes the practice of freewheeling philosophy. It is not a do whatever feels right system of thought. My intention here is to lay out a system that, given the human inability to remain consistently consistent, allows one to accept our foibles and carry on in a manner that allow us to function in society without the worry of remaining consistent. Shall we begin? What got me started was watching The Big Lebowski. I was sitting at home, on the sofa next to my sleeping cockapoo, when I started thinking about how this was supposed to be a “philosophic” movie. I had personally found that many of my fellow students enjoyed the movie (although I suspect that few actually found any philosophic significance in it. The Big Lebowski is a stoner movie, pure and simple). But, seeing though I don’t smoke the weed, I was sitting at home acually trying to think of the movie philosophically. So, I thought, this movie is supposed to be nihilist. And naturally, I asked, is Lebowski nihilist? I thought no, he isn’t. That’s because Lebowski doesn’t live according to any rules. A nihilist may say that they reject conventions (such as common morality), but in denying that he believes in anything, he is exspousing a belief that he believes in nothing. Kind of how some people say that atheism is a religion in itself. The Dude doesn’t live according to any ethic or dogma — he simply “abides”. I then thought that there was something funny about the characters who were identified as “nihilists”. They were cartoonish, bafoonish. And that’s what struck me. The nihilists were ridiculous. I suddenly began to see what other people saw all those years that I (too) claimed nihliism as my ethic. Think about this: Does anyone remember the mid-90s besides me? Well, somewhere around 1994 or so, the world first experienced Marilyn Manson. Within a couple of years, there were Manson clones populating the local gallerias scowling and moping outside the Hot Topic and Spencer’s Gifts stores all across America. And what did people do when they saw these would-be teenage diablolists? They laughed. Not out of fear, mind you but because the whole get-up was ridiculous! These kids were convinced that they could live a lifestyle that was, in the real world, unpracticable. There was no way on earth that they would be able to maintain that level of malcontentedness for years on end. And many, realizing that they could not maintain that level of consistency, after a short while, gave it up. I know, I was one of them. But that’s the problem, not just with nihilism, but with philosophy in general. It tends to force us where we not only may not want to go, but where we cannot go. Theories often reflect what or how we want the world to be — and for some, they want elegant, logically correct theories. They don’t want messiness. They want consistency. Consistency is the gold standard for philosophic theories. In order for a philosophic theory to be taken seriously, it must be consistent, or at least enable us to act in a constsient manner. I may be wrong, I may say, but at least I’m consistent. Consistency is how I, the philosopher, measure my ideas against what may be mere opinions. But, as philosophers, we — no, you must battle the persistent charge of inconsistency. But the real deal is that some theories are easier said than done. Emphasizing consistency may force us into places where, as a matter of practice, we may not want to go. Life, unfortunately, is filled with situations that may pressure us into giving up our beloved consistency in favor o f an actual, practical soultion. But, the philosopher, in the face of life’s messiness, demands something that life is not — consistency. And because of messiness is true of life — the philosopher will always be off the mark. That is where Inconsistentism comes in. Inconsistentism simply states that we are aware that life sometimes forces us to act in an inconsistent manner. Instead of rejecting this reality or forcing consistency, inconsistentism embraces this fact and moves on. It allows, in the face of forced consistency, for options. The presiding principle of Inconsistentism is, what I call, “the Curve Ball Effect”, which stated is this: life throws us curveballs, and sometimes we must act accordingly. Occasionally, we must break with our formulas in order to act. But, let’s stop here. Like I said at the outset, the idea of Inconsistentism is not to go about making things up as we go along. There is nothing willy-nilly or freewheeling about Inconsistentism. It’s not “shopping” for any theory that works. The appearance of “shopping” belies what is, in truth, a workable and practicable theory. Let me give an example: In political science, we learn that the Constitution is the “supreme law of the land”. That is, any and every state or federal law has to jive with the Constitution if it is to be enacted. But, not all laws follow the Constitution in a literal fashion. There is, in politics, the notion that a law, although not constitutionally exact, operates in the “spirit” of the law, meaning that, although the law may appear to be something than constitutionally based, it is, on further inspection, exactly in accordance with the ends that the Constitution seeks to achieve. Case in point: Nowhere in the Constitution does any person possess an explicit right to privacy. But, the Supreme Court has decided, that although the Constitution is does not explicitly grant such a right, one exists ,and legislation recognizing and protecting the right to privacy are constitutional. This is so,because the laws operate according to the “spirit” expressed in the 9th and 10th Amendments. So, I offer a theory that operates according to the “spirit” of philosophic theory. My point is not to ignore theory completely, all of our actions, beliefs, etc. are guided by some principle, and we should act according to that principle most of the time. However, we shouldn’t be so tied to dogma that we are unable to render decisions that may turn out to be best for ourselves and others. My point is to have a theory that guides actions rather than dictates them. Consequently, Inconsistentism allows for the major philosophic no-no of holding two contradicting beliefs simultaneously. (And you’re not crazy, and you’re not bullshitting yourself). But since this is still at the time of this writing an underdeveloped theory, I will set aside defending how this is so, and merely insist that is it possible.

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