Today I was mopping the floor in the living room while listening to Yuan Tengfei's Q&A. There were two points that particularly struck me. The first one is about the view on theories. He doesn't like theories, but I particularly enjoy them. So it is necessary to elaborate on this long-standing issue.
The Plight of Speculative Theories#
Mockery of Speculative Theories#
I have loved speculation since I was young. I especially enjoy things that are theoretical and systematic, but my logic is a mess. People call me someone who loves to talk about grand theories. My childhood playmates would say, "What's the use of talking about these things? Almost everyone I've met gives me this feeling." I know. "Grand theories are completely different from history. History can be studied, while grand theories are my personal understanding, in other words, nonsense. So, classmates who love to talk about history have a certain audience, and I am one of them. As for those who love to talk about grand theories, there is often an atmosphere of joy in the air. Of course, no one likes it when I talk about grand theories, so I talk about them in my mind, which is what I did before in Reflect and be happy."
Speculative Theories are Lowly#
Therefore, the more one loves to talk about grand theories and engage in speculation, the lower one is regarded. It is difficult to prove, difficult to investigate, and difficult to exchange. From the perspective of a market economy, Mr. Yuan always says that he is just making a living, which is really too modest. History is a natural science in the field of humanities. Compared to speculative theories, for the vast majority of people, including myself, there is an urgent desire for real history. So I really enjoy listening to people talk about history.
Speculative Theories and Stories#
There is no distinction between truth and falsehood in stories, and people don't care about the historical accuracy when reading "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". Stories contain many hidden truths.
All stories share a set of narrative systems. That is, what happened when and where. When people read a story, they don't need to understand many additional concepts, as the story itself internalizes them. Any story, regardless of how fantastical its background is, is generally close to real life. This makes it easy for readers to understand and also serves as a check on the author. The logic of the story itself restricts the author's writing, and the author gradually respects the characters in his writing. Of course, it not only conforms to reality but is also vivid.
The same cannot be said for theories. They fail to convey the conflicts within a story and lose their frame of reference while being concise. The writer may have some internal constraints, but for the reader, there are various constructed concepts and no standard to judge right from wrong within the work. Therefore, they can only rely on their own experiences, making it easy to dismiss.
Expressing something through a story and expressing it through speculation are two different things. A story, especially a long one, allows people to slowly unfold and self-validate through the plot. However, when it comes to speculative theories, they tend to be hasty and arbitrary, impatient and dismissive.
The Two Stages of Speculative Theories#
The Motivation for Speculative Theories#
But I still love to discuss theories. It's an irresistible impulse. Let's go back to the initial speculation. After becoming a theorist like Kong Yiji, you gradually distance yourself from the crowd. At this point, loneliness envelops your heart, and you start to appreciate your own collection of broken and worthless things alone. Speculation was originally intended to better integrate into the group and play with peers with dignity, but it gradually became the cause of self-exile. I wanted to show off and share my life insights, but I ended up being seen as a fool by others. In the constant mockery and the escape of loneliness, speculation has already entered the next stage.
Pure Speculation with Self as the Meaning#
Speculation officially detaches itself from the group and embarks on a path of self-appreciation. Individuals must also explain their own speculations, reconnecting them with themselves. This path itself is a tragic one because you are moving further away from the group. It's like the natural selection ship in "The Three-Body Problem" that escapes to a place where there are no humans. The fuel is insufficient, and once it reaches one-tenth the speed of light, it can only move forward, chasing hope in the void. Even if you reach Tianyuan IV, there will be no one to share your joy. It is more likely that you will only encounter a meteorite in the void of thousands of years.
Stories are more for others to read, while speculation is more conducive to self-reflection. For someone like me, self-study, self-brainwashing, and self-speculation are sufficient, and there is nothing worth showing to others. People are like this, standing on separate islands, looking across the sea, longing but unable to reach.
The Helplessness of Speculative Theories#
The initial physiological traits in life have a huge impact on a person. I like to speculate but lack logical reasoning skills. With no anchor in life, I can only go to places where few people have been. If I had a suitable weapon, I would never detach myself from the group.
The Value of Speculative Theories#
Speculative Theories and Literary Novels#
Of course, I initially enjoyed reading Zhou Guoping's "Nietzsche: At the Turning Point of the Century". I have forgotten what it was about, but I remember that every point made me want to say a lot. I initially found something interesting and concise about theoretical things. However, I couldn't continue reading many literary novels, such as "The Seventh Day" and "Les Misérables". On the one hand, it is due to my limited appreciation ability, and on the other hand, I personally think, why not just directly state the truths in the book?
Of course, I still enjoy reading erotic novels and online novels. I was really excited about Junichi Watanabe's "Paradise Lost" and the short stories by Osamu Dazai. These are the ones that I remember being quite thrilling.
Some may think it's a matter of taste. I think books on theories and these online novels and erotic novels give me a similar feeling, arousing my inner impulses. Even when reading Buddhist scriptures, it also stimulates my curiosity. However, I am also curious about what makes ordinary literary novels so good. Why can't I appreciate them? Of course, it's also a matter of different levels of preference, filtering out a large number of them. For example, I wouldn't read books like "Brokeback Mountain," "Eat Drink Man Woman," or "The Godfather" if they were in written form. But as movies, they are enjoyable.
The Reason Theories Bring Happiness#
Therefore, whether it's a story or a theory, there is no need to make a clear distinction. In my opinion, they do have similarities. However, the happiness that theories bring is not well understood by many people. When I read the booklet about Nietzsche, I felt a resonance. This in itself is a kind of happiness. It soothes my lonely heart. This kind of connection between ancient scholars and translators is intuitive and heartwarming, just like a movie. Secondly, theories directly reveal the answers to many things. It's like what was mentioned in "Deep Thinking," where Rousseau advocated a learning method of self-discovery, allowing students to figure things out for themselves and draw conclusions. In reality, this method is inefficient and has little effect. I think theories are also a direct way. They can quickly satisfy our curiosity and establish an initial model. Then we can refine it through speculation.
In short, whether it's a theory or a story, the effect is similar. The only difference is that theories have more explicit content and are more direct. On the other hand, some theories are difficult to understand and seem like nonsense. This makes people feel like it's all nonsense. But if you are interested in a certain aspect, it can be enjoyable to see how others think about it.