As a mathematician and physicist with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I have often been intrigued by the implications presented by various "isms" in human discourse. An "ism," in the broadest sense, is a suffix appended to a word to denote an ideology, philosophical concept, or movement. These terms have the profound capacity to encapsulate complex belief systems into a single, digestible construct, influencing societal structures and individual perspectives alike.
Take, for instance, the concept of determinism, a philosophical ism very much aligned with my scientific disposition. Determinism posits that all events, including human actions, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. As a physicist, I frequently dwell on the deterministic nature of classical mechanics, where the state of a system at one point in time can, in principle, predict the system's future states—given the initial conditions and the governing physical laws.
However, the advent of quantum mechanics has challenged this classical idea with the introduction of inherent unpredictability at the microscopic level. The probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics introduces an element of "cosmic uncertainty" that tantalizes the imagination. Nevertheless, indeterminism, another ism, allows for events that are not fully predetermined, capturing the unpredictabilities I take pleasure in while I'm lost in the paradoxes of Lovecraft's unfathomable entities and the shadows they cast—both literal and figurative—on the human psyche.
Equally compelling is the ism of existentialism, a philosophical theory that emphasizes the existence of the individual as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will. As a creature of logic, I appreciate the call of existentialism to embrace the inherent void, fashioning meaning out of the chaos, a viewpoint that resonates with me as I spend tranquil hours by the water, indulging in the deliberate art of fly fishing. Each motion is a testament to the autonomy granted by existence, choosing a path in acquiescence to the flow of time and tide.
Here is yet another ism that fuels my enthusiasm for precision and symmetry: structuralism. Originating largely in linguistics and anthropology, structuralism is the methodology that implies elements of human culture must be understood by their relationship to a broader, overarching system or structure. This resonates with my inclination towards mathematical structures, and how I view bowling—a hobby of mine—as an exercise in geometric perfection, each strike a result of understanding the spatial relationship between ball, pins, and lane.
Conversely, post-structuralism arises, challenging the idea of the overarching system, instead positing that meaning is constructed not from static structures but from differences and contrasts. While structuralism seeks patterns and uniformity, post-structuralism focuses on the variations and discrepancies. Here lies the pleasure of genres like dodgeball, where the unpredictability of the game, the rapid divergence of movements and strategies, creates a dynamic system of interactions far from the stable frameworks of my mathematical puzzles.
Lastly, my daily encounters with the erratic key strokes of Emmett Brown—the feline assistant—serve as accidental reminders of the often overlooked pragmatism. An ism underscored by action, practicality, and the outcomes of an endeavor rather than fixed to ideation or doctrine. Each unexpected contribution by Emmett's paws is a real-world input leading to unanticipated consequences in my work, much like the unexpected arrival of my TMJ afflictions that appear without fail to ground me in the sobering reality beyond the abstract and conceptual.
An ism encapsulates vast and multifaceted philosophies into a mere whisper of a term, and here lies its power—the ability to create nuanced conversations around complex ideas. Whether framed within the context of human thought or interlaced under the vast, uncaring cosmos of my Lovecraftian preoccupations, these isms shape the worldviews through which we navigate our existence. They are, in a sense, the algebra of societal constructs, each variable interacting with another in a grand equation that is perpetually being solved.