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What’s neutral?

Is there truly such a thing as neutrality? An even, objective middle-ground where nothing really carries weight and we can judge cleanly? Or, in reality, does everything, in some way, carry with it a sense of evaluation, intention and causality?

We might claim things to be neutral – knowledge, facts, technology, even opinions – but it’s all a little questionable perhaps. If we were to view those things as tools, then as soon as we pick them up and seek to use them for our own purposes do they conceivably lose any neutrality they once had?

As with anything, the nature of reality can quickly become pretty complex. All our words, conventions, ideas, scientific and technological solutions essentially carry with them a way of looking at the world and a sense of what’s justifiable in navigating that relationship from the human perspective. Within that, all we have stands on the shoulders of what’s gone before, growing out of paths we’ve taken (see Notes One).

Yet, these days, so much is simply placed in our hands: knowledge, power, and a reach far more easily attained than previously (Notes Two). It’s fairly straightforward now to engage with those complex realities, using modern tools to our own ends with consequences we may or may not intend throughout our wider social, societal, economic environments.

In that light, while the tools might theoretically be neutral our application of them can carry immense, possibly irreversible, generally invisible weight. As in Entertaining ideas & the matter of truth, there’s arguably this sense that our ability to think rightly about reality and what matters most within it is quite an important and underrated factor in life.

I mean, as soon as we take hold of anything we’re generally assigning it meaning and applying it with the intention of achieving certain aims. Those aims and meanings may be true, partially true, or completely mistaken. Time may well judge the results harshly, regardless of what we thought we were doing or hoped to achieve.

From another perspective, there’s also the way we might speak of something in neutral terms when it may need the colouring of judgement, evaluation, praise or condemnation. To convey something neutrally, rationally, objectively when in reality it merits a strong positive or negative slant is surely an incomplete representation of reality? Some things are simply “wrong”, and to not present them as such seems highly dangerous.

It’s interesting as, in both senses, once we ‘pick something up’ it seems we might need to assign it the weight it deserves in order to apply it rightly from the human perspective. It’s this sense of how everything – facts, opinions, words, actions – sits within a bigger picture of complex ideas, people and agendas we somehow need to navigate (Notes Three).

And, within that picture, neutrality may well be this ideal state of balance that doesn’t actually exist. Could it be that everything needs this overlay of understanding, interpretation or context in order for us to respond wisely to all we’re encountering?

Notes and References:

Note 1: “Response Ability” by Frank Fisher
Note 1: What if it all means something?
Note 2: The potential of technology
Note 2: Value in visible impacts
Note 3: Responsibility in shaping this reality
Note 3: Strange arrogance of thought
Note 3: What we bring to life

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