graeber unpredictability/surprise law

a social theory of action where surprises/unpredictability are the basis of humanity


from m of care – aug 18 – reading group for david graeber and david wengrow‘s dawn of everything:

25 min – steve: yeah.. that’s one of the things that is so fascinating about the epistemology they’ve put together.. it’s a social theory of action and they define action as human actions that aren’t able to be predicted.. david has written elsewhere about what makes life worth living .. most magical .. are the surprises.. and so it’s an epistemology built on surprise rather than some other kind of presupposition.. t.. so they’re actually trying to construct.. at least my read of it.. based around moments/time there are alts.. time where societies get stuck.. but have w/in them the means still to surprise.. because *as long as someone’s human.. they’re capable of being unpredictable..

*huge.. am thinking today.. we’re all whales.. need a legit re\set to get back to that capability.. of unpredictability et al

50 min – steve: i love the quote you found because it answers a question that i wonder how people wrestle with.. the book is very critical of soc sci and says most of soc sci has started from the wrong source of questions and that intellectual scholars, policy makers in particular, used science to promote reformist goals that are starting from these unimaginative or dull questions.. and so hearing the word ridiculous used along side soc sci.. is really a wonderful thing.. it admits what a lot of policy makers and economists don’t want to admit and that is that their predictions really at bottom aren’t any better than anyone else’s statistically speaking.. that’s not to say sci doesn’t have a value.. but that if we think of an epistemology built around a social theory of action where surprises/unpredictability are the basis of humanity.. then it means *we really need to be looking for constant surprise in addition to the predictability that science does offer.. because yes.. science does offer predictability.. predictability can also be demo’d by the way the kings power is predictable.. ie: if have enough people who believe you are the king.. then you are the king.. graeber said ‘why should we be surprised unpredictability is mysterious’

*whoa.. predictability of what will happen in sea world.. what will happen with dead things.. we have no idea about legit free living things/beings.. that’s all surprise..

so.. we need to let go of any form of m\a\p.. any form of democratic admin.. all the red flags.. and swim-in/embrace uncertainty

aka: a nother way

ie: imagine if we


from predict\able page:

probably first place i started feeling more boldly about predict\able ness being a huge red flag.. david graeber‘s theory of value ie:


.. most of us are accustomed to describe things as “realities” precisely because we can’t completely understand them, can’t completely control them, don’t know exactly how they are going to affect us, but nonetheless can’t just wish them away. it’s what we don’t know about them that brings home the fact that they are real.

grokking as ongoingly becoming rather than knowing in time/permanence/fragility et al.. which (to me) only happens when we let go of our focus obsession on intellect ness/understanding/meaning/defining/predicting.. any form of m\a\p

p. 52 – in alternative, heraclitean strain has always existed – one that sees objects as processes.. best-known .. via Hegel and Marx. but whatever form.. has been almost impossible to integrate with more conventional philosophy. it has tended to be seen as existing somewhat off to the side, as odd or somewhat mystical.

bhaskar – and others w/this critical realist approach: 1\ realism 2\potentiality 3\freedom: reality can be divided into emergent stratum 4\open systems: there are always different sorts of mechanisms, derived from different emergent strata of reality, at play in any one of them. as a result, *one can never predict precisely how any real-world even will turn out. this is why scientific experiments are necessary: experiment are ways of creating temporary “closed systems” in which the effects of all other mechanisms are, as far as possible, nullified, so that one can actually examine a single mechanism in action. 5\tendencies: so best to not refer to unbreakable scientific laws.. but rather tendencies..which interact in unpredictable ways. of course, the higher the emergent strata one is dealing with, *the less predictable things become, the involvement of human beings of course being the most unpredictable factor of all.

*huge..and *huge .. thinking we have predict\able ness as huge red flag we’re doing it/life wrong.. because essentially we’re killing the alive ness of it/life/us

p. 53 – ..not a matter of abandoning science but is, rather, the only hope of giving science a solid ontological basis. but it also means that in order to do so, those who wish to make claims to science will have to abandon some of their most ambitious – one is tempted to say, totalitarian, paranoid – dreams of absolute or total knowledge, and accept a certain degree of humility about what it is possible to know. reality is what one can never know completely. if an object is real, any description we make of it will necessarily be partial and incomplete. that is indeed how we can tell it is real. the only things we can hope to know perfectly are ones that exist entirely in our imaginations.

… bhaskar’s ultimate interest is social; he is trying to come up with the philosophical ground for a theory of human emancipation, a way of squaring scientific knowledge with the idea of human freedom. here, too, the ultimate message is one of humility: critical realists hold that it is possible to preserve the notion of a social reality and, therefore, of a science able to make true statements about it – but only if one abandons the sort of positivist number-crunching that passes for science among most current sociologists or economists, and gives up the idea that social science will ever be able to establish predictive laws.

dang.. graeber’s writings/findings are where all my deep thinking is found/ed.. where it’s resonated.. oh my

we say predict in order to be more ie: efficient.. or whatever.. but really all about control.. any form of m\a\p

graeber unpredictability/surprise law


fromm spontaneous law et al