The Decussation of Epistemology (and other 10 dollar words assholes use at parties)

Some things are hard to know. But even harder is knowing how we know them.

Yes, many a stoned riffs were had on this topic… and now… a drunken one.

Knowing things probably started around 600 million years ago when, through a process of random selection based on environmental conditions, a thing was known. It probably was something pretty basic, like “ouch.” In fact, evolution is so slow, there were probably shitloads of organisms just thinking “ouch” for like a million years. Then it was probably something like “yummy” and another million years of just “ouch” and “yummy.” You get the picture. And so on until now with frat boys and jet engines and the likes.

But when did we know enough things to question what we know, or think “Boy, I am really knowing this thing now.” That’s a more difficult question, but it probably dates back to Rene Descartes in the 1600’s. His name was pronounced “Rinay Daycart”, but he probably went by a cool nick name like “Method Man Ray-Nay” or “Cartmaster Supreme” or something similar. Many people before him were wondering about thinking shit, but their moves were weak, and lacked any structure or method. He started structuring methodological ways of inquiring that lead to less time-wasting and a more productive work place. Thanks for that Ray-Nay!

Then this dude named Karl Popper came along and blew everyones mind by saying that we actually don’t know shit. He said it was impossible to know anything, and all we can rely on is degrees of certainty based on proving things false. The so called hard sciences came out of this tradition and they often get a big dick about how real their process is, while forgetting that the greatest achievements of the last century were not the products of knocking down null hypothesis, but extrapolating mathematical concepts through theoretical process which could not be disproved, (relativity, quantum mechanics etc…)

So they defined processes and tried to identify limits and structure for the knowing of things, but the anatomy of the process lay mostly undiscovered until the advent of neuroscience.

Now we know about nerves and brains.

The central nervous system is a complicated and beautiful beast. On one end you have the brain… coordinating, scheming, …dreaming, and on the other end you have your skin, eyes, ears, and important organs, receiving commands,  touching and tasting things, staring…

While it can get complicated, the basics are pretty simple. You got several centers of the brain that shoot off bundles of nerves. The ones that give us the sensation explosion of a netflix marathon set to Baltika Grade 9 russian malt liquor, and the parasympathetic bathroom time that follows are called cranial nerves. These mostly supply your noggin senses, but some of them help maintenence. Vagal tone is refering to the 10th cranial nerve which is always providing muscles with stimulation and also helps your other automated things you don’t think about like shovin blood around your body and breathing. Each of these bundles has strands of neurons going to the brain (afferent) and those going away (efferent).

The rest of the nerves come out of the spinal column and supply your muscles with motor direction. These are also split up as they travel down the spinal column into incoming and outgoing streams, which criss-cross just to fuck with those studying it. There can be no other reason. This criss-crossing is called decussating and it’s why a tumor or damage to the left side of your brain can cause paralysis or neuropathy in the opposite side of your body. If I see someone with a droopy left side of their face, I can suspect that cranial nerve VII is probably affected at the level of the pons on the right side of the brainstem.

While the brain serves out all these signals to make the body work, it also gets to knowing some shit. And this shit is centralized in the different lobes of our brain mediated by nerve cells. These cells all keep their bodies toward the outside of the brain in stuff called “grey matter” and they send their axons into the center of the brain to decussate and form complex networks in the “white matter” of the brain. Nerves fire on other nerves causing them to depolarize or re-polarize with different chemical mediators creating a complicated network of signals that form thoughts. Different thoughts and emotions can be localized to certain lobes of the brain.

So we’ve come a long way in the development of knowing things, from ouchie and yummie to the ideas like “lets build a laser tag arena,” and “lets go do sports in a laser tag arena.” And with this new knowledge, who knows what we are capable of? And how do they know it? I guess we’ll never know.

This post written under the influence of Jameson Gold Reserve