The Peter Principle is a principle where an employee of a company or a member of a hierarchy will rise or get promoted until he reaches his level of incompetence. If an employee is good at his job, he will get promoted. If he continues to perform well, this process gets repeated until he reaches a function where he can’t, well, function. His chain of promotion ends and we have a frustrated, incompetent employee, stuck where he is.
This principle, along with many like it such as the Dilbert Principle and, to this idea’s more relevant Parkinson’s Law, is easily generalized to a metaphor of life. It popped into my head as I was reconsidering my “supertheory of supereverything” (I’m not going through it again- find it in the archives) and my colleague’s reaction where he stated that he was happier considering “free will” a factor in the universal flow of events without physical or logical proof, than believe that they are predestined, which would be the dry, logical conclusion to the rationale that everything can be explained by math. I let it rest for a day and later asked him if he had come up with a reasonable explanation for it, but he shook his head and basically told me, “I don’t have to.”
Since the point of figuring things out is the gratification of doing so, I couldn’t blame him, but still chose to continue that train of thought to what I thought was the very end. I didn’t realize my arrogance at the time. I was willing to admit and even expected to be wrong (I know the limits of my knowledge and thus fuel for reasoning), but I still assumed to have a complete, encircling theory on the table.
I was watching spring-affected ducks chase each other the other day, while abstract-ifying the Peter Principle and applying it to my conclusions. In a situation where subjects can grow or raise nearly infinitely, there must be some reason why they no longer do. In a company it is the employee’s coincidental incompetence, in a mind it is the idea’s… what, really? What blocks an idea from developing further? What makes one satisfied with his thoughts and uncaring to develop them further?
As stated before, the point of figuring things out is the gratification to do so. At least with me, who has no practical use for the theories he comes up with (although they make surprisingly effective small talk- depending on your conversation partner). As an immediate effect, the feeling of gratification causes me to stop reconsidering and accept my reasoning as true. Because it fits.
So again: What makes one satisfied with his thoughts and uncaring to develop them further?
The answer is contentment. If I am happy with my theories and they seem harmonious, I will consider them complete.
Some people have the exact opposite tendency: to accept a theory as true if it somehow conflicts with perception. Religion falls under this category, along with conspiracy theories and such. I think it gives them the illusion that they see the truth beyond the obvious stating otherwise.
I prefer to start from perception and simple logic (since I am incapable of anything else) and work from there. In all honesty, I think I made it further than most people, but now that I look at it this way, my visions seem incomplete and infantile.
I once read an article in EOS magazine on a man by the name of William James who stated,
"If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, you mustn’t seek to show that no crows are; it is enough if you prove one single crow to be white."
Inductive reasoning: interesting stuff but not without its problems. It would imply that a good theory is one that should easily be proven false, but simply can’t. This is not without logical fallacy but for me, in this case, it works.
Occam’s Razor applies here: the simpler the theory, the more likely it is to be true. The simplest solution is usually the best one.
This plays in my favor: Once a conclusion is reached, it might not the the smartest thing to do to add all kinds of footnotes and side-theories, because that makes the whole easier to contradict. If one experiment of some kind would contradict a sub-theory, that might topple over the whole reasoning. While my theories are fun to come up with, they still must answer to reality.
I don’t cook these up to be right; I do so because I want to understand. So while it might be “safer” to leave it at that and look the other way like my colleague did, I don’t want to. I soundly believe that reality is harmonious and I will find “oasis points” in the discovery of it, where it all makes sense and seems complete. Like where I am stranded now.
I’d like to point out however, that my supertheory is not a stand-alone thought. Quite a few ethical theories that I built from the ground up come to the same conclusion: that life is meant to be enjoyed. Although I would be willing to admit heavy bias, which might have influenced me.
There is more to be discovered, I now realize. Of course, I knew that all along but I considered that part of my endless questioning pretty much answered.
The main problem is that I’ve run a little dry on “food for thought.” I started off with the cliché questions like “what is the purpose of life” and concepts such as deity and afterlife. Now that I’ve pretty much done all the thinking I can manage with my limited education, I need input to progress further. A single idea (like the Peter Principle) or influence (like my old therapist) could send me off again for days, weeks, maybe longer, and allow me to further complete my supertheory. Or start it over again, if I am proven wrong.
In my environment, I realize that’s a lot to ask for. I expect absolutely -no one- to even get anything between the third and eighth paragraph (not that I blame you, my ramblings often seem chaotic in retrospect), let alone guide me further. I miss it, though: that sense of discovery. How my mind was exploring the universe while I was sitting in a tiny room with nothing to distract me. It’s been so many years since I really felt that way; my ideas all seem so familiar now. I am very happy that I managed to organize them, but I haven’t felt that kind of wonder ever since.
Perhaps I should just look better, if I want to see.