The words ‘down’ and ‘up’, according to Fuller, are awkward in that they refer to a planar concept of direction inconsistent with human experience. The words ‘in’ and ‘out’ should be used instead, he argued, because they better describe an object’s relation to a gravitational center, the Earth. “I suggest to audiences that they say, “I’m going ‘outstairs’ and ‘instairs.’” At first that sounds strange to them; They all laugh about it. But if they try saying in and out for a few days in fun, they find themselves beginning to realize that they are indeed going inward and outward in respect to the center of Earth, which is our Spaceship Earth. And for the first time they begin to feel real ‘reality.’”
‘World-around’ is a term coined by Fuller to replace ‘worldwide’. The general belief in a flat Earth died out in Classical antiquity, so using ‘wide’ is an anachronism when referring to the surface of the Earth — a spheroidal surface has area and encloses a volume, but has no width. Fuller held that unthinking use of obsolete scientific ideas detracts from and misleads intuition. Other neologisms collectively invented by the Fuller family, according to Allegra Fuller Snyder, are the terms sunsight and sunclipse, replacing sunrise and sunset to overturn the geocentric bias of most pre-Copernican celestial mechanics. (via Wikipedia)
Before Paul Churchland began calling for the obsoletion of folk psychological concepts like ‘mind’ and ‘belief’, Fuller was engaged in a campaign to rid the world of the dead ideas that so dominated the common conceptual repertoire. Science had long practiced the elimination of obsolete theories, but public use of such theories often carried on for decades, even centuries afterward. Sometimes, the public circulation of newly minted metaphors backed by scientific theories would only begin after that theory was dead to scientific consideration, as when a star’s light reaches the earth millenia after it has gone dark.
Popular consciousness is so littered with dead concepts that it is practically made of them alone. This has far from negligible effects, as is sufficiently demonstrated by the remarkable poverty of understanding on both sides of the political debates surrounding topics like evolutionary theory, climate change, abortion, and so on. The use of scientific concepts in popular discourse has definite and undeniable political and economic consequences.
Churchland believes that it suffices to eliminate dead ideas from scientific discourse, and that their public obsolescence will inevitably follow. Unfortunately, even a cursory survey of the evidence reveals that this is dramatically incorrect. Fuller admirably campaigned for significant renovations to even the most basic, unreflected metaphors structuring not only our langauge, but our very perception of the world and ourselves.
Yet a politicized eliminativism cannot simply seek to replace dead ideas with their contemporary stand-ins. It must cut to the heart of popular discourse itself, which is centered around the desire to know ‘once and for all’ how things are. This is the most fundamental attitude to be eliminated, the most malignant unscientific parasite we host. Science cannot proceed without leaving every last idea totally vulnerable, exposed to the possibility of obsolescence in the face of new evidence. A politics based around this sort of ideational fragility is what is most desperately needed today.