Focus on the phenomenon, not the phenomenology

Rodin's The Thinker
In the year 0, things fell to the ground. Fruit fell from trees. Rocks fell after being thrown. No one knew why, but they observed the phenomenon.

In the year 1687, Newton published his theories on gravity . The world finally knew why, but nothing changed insofar as observing the phenomenon. Fruit still fell from trees. Rocks still fell after being thrown.

In the year 1905, Einstein superseded Newton’s ideas of gravity with the theory of relativity. The world was now permanently confused. Gravity, space, time, relativity…lolwutBut nothing changed insofar as observing the phenomenon. Fruit still fell from trees. Rocks still fell after being thrown.

I’m classically phenomenology obsessed. Like, to death. I want to know why. This is my nature. Why do things fall? What’s going on here? I’m the thinker, often to a fault. Because knowing and exploiting the phenomenon trumps trying to decode the phenomenology.

You can throw rock and kill a rabbit without knowing a lick about the why of gravity. I’m more likely to be the stupid caveman letting the rabbits eat my carrots as I toss a rock up and down in my hand asking, “What’s going on here?”

Step back and find the phenomenon. The phenomenology is bound to change anyway. Einstein proved Newton’s theory somewhat incorrect. You can bet that Einstein’s theory is subject to an upgraded version sometime in the future.

It’s like delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS isn’t fully understood. A lot of people are scouring research labs trying to figure out the phenomenology. But anyone with a lick of experience can tell you that a novel stress (especially, but not limited to, eccentric stress) at a decent dose will cause DOMS. And they can also tell you day two will be worse than day one.

Does the reason why matter when you know the thing the why is trying to explain? Maybe. Probably. But I’m betting Lucy could kill a rabbit with a rock with more ease than Einstein. Save the reasoning for those getting paid to reason. Your job? Do the work. 


I’m enjoying: Hans Zimmer – No Time For Caution
H/T: Nassim Taleb via this podcast

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Radu Antoniu February 10, 2015, 6:24 pm

    Very well said Anthony.

    • Anthony February 25, 2015, 2:29 am


  • shaleen February 14, 2015, 7:47 pm

    Great post Anthony! I myself go after phenomenology too much at times. And I have realized the same thing – always going after the why of things can ruin our experience and even hamper progress at times. Cuts the flow of observation & in-parallel learning. But this also being in my nature, I can’t help but go after phenomenology ( and one can’t deny, it teaches one a lot about a lot of things). But it has its limits. Sometimes the why should just be left out the door.