Will You Please Hold For Mother Nature?
Yesterday we discussed the Astonishing Hypothesis, which, it turns out, isn't so astonishing after all. Rather, it is the first principle and final consequence of scientism -- just a typical tall tale of tenured tautology.
I hate to belabor the point -- or anything else, for that matter -- but if the hypothesis is "true" then it can't be, because there is no way for us to escape the closed loop of our genetic programming. "Knowing" itself would take on an entirely different cast, because so-called knowledge would reduce to mental masturbation, i.e., the meaningless friction of neurons rubbing together.
It reminds me of a comedy bit I once heard on the radio. A man called a company about some sort of issue, and the operator put him on hold. We then hear some grunting and straining on the caller's part, and he's once again speaking to the operator. She says, "How did you get here? I just put you on hold."
"I fought my way out of hold. Now please connect me to the manager."
It goes back and forth like this, with the operator putting him back on hold and the caller struggling his way out again.
So, according to the astonishing hypothesis, Darwin has put all of us on hold. Forever. We cannot speak to the manager of this place, nor can we even get a human being on the line.
What I don't understand is how Darwin got through. How was he able to fight his way out of hold, and speak directly to Mother Nature? Is it because he's some sort of god or something? Is he magically exempt from the implications of his own theory? I guess so.
That would actually qualify as astonishing, if a single human being somehow embodied the word of God and shared it with the rest of us. But who would believe that?
You may recall my post of two days ago, Putting the Cosmos on the Couch. If not, consider yourself reminded.
In it I mentioned the evolution of psychoanalysis, from a one-person psychology to a two-person psychology. I'll try to avoid the pedantry, but by the 1940s, leading theorists began to reconceptualize the mind, and regard it as thoroughly intersubjective. In turn, this had revolutionary implications for the treatment of mental illness.
It all revolves around the concept of "counter-transference." Most of you are probably familiar with the term "transference." In the old, pre-intersubjective days, the analyst was supposed to be a "blank slate" for the patient to project his unconscious fantasies on. That's transference.
The key point is that any emotional reaction or involvement on the part of the analyst was considered a bad thing, analogous to contamination in a lab experiment. Indeed, just think of so-called "climate science." The problem with it is that its practitioners so contaminate their models and findings with subjective preferences and biases, that the science is less than worthless, i.e., harmful.
But again, the mind is not an object, so it cannot be treated as such. Not only is it a system, but an open system with interior relations to other human beings. This is what makes possible such things as love, or communication, or reading of facial expressions.
Bottom line: with the change in perspective toward intersubjectivity, counter-transference was no longer considered a "contamination," but a form of unconscious intersubjective communication. As soon as you think about it, you realize that it's a kind of truism. In any human-to-human contact, we are witness to all sorts of moment-to-moment reactions, a kind of interpersonal stream of consciousness, as it were.
Thus, nowadays a properly trained psychoanalysis doesn't dismiss his counter-transference, but uses it as primary data about the patient. Two things to bear in mind: first, the counter-transference occurs at multiple levels, from the very primitive on up.
To put it another way, a very primitive patient (i.e., one with a lot of primitive developmental issues) will evoke primitive reactions on the part of the analyst. These reactions may appear in the form of images, spontaneously recalled dream fragments, past experiences, anything.
The second point is that one doesn't just take the counter-transferential reactions at face value. Rather, one examines them in a detached way, to see how they relate to everything else about the analytic situation. For example, sometimes they are telling you about the patient, but other times they might only be telling you about yourself, and you have to try to discern the difference.
I hope this isn't getting too pedantic, but think of an everyday situation between a couple. Or just me, even. I come home from work. I felt pretty good all day, but as soon as I walk in the door, I sense a Vague Foreboding. Not necessarily a Nameless Dread, but some sort of distinct change in the emotional weather pattern.
What's going on here? Is it her? Or is it me? It seems like her, but let's not jump to conclusions. Then I'll really make a mess of things. Maybe it's something I said last night, or maybe she's just having a bad day that has nothing to do with me. Maybe I need her to be a certain way, and she's not being that way, so unconsciously I'm getting angry.
Etc. You know how it goes.
All of the above blather about counter-transference is just prelude to something I wanted to address in The Nature of Order. The way my mind works -- or doesn't work, depending on your counter-transference -- is that I'm always seeing connections in things. And what I'm seeing here is that Alexander has essentially developed a sophisticated theory of counter-transference, not just vis-a-vis our unconscious reactions to architecture, but toward the whole cosmos.
Jumping ahead a bit, you might say that, just as psychoanalysis evolved from a one-person to a two-person psychology, Alexander does the same thing with existence itself. Therefore, if Alexander is correct -- which he is -- our constant stream of interior reactions to the world is a source of objective data about the world. Yes, it is also "subjective," in that we are obviously subjects. Nevertheless, the information is objective and verifiable.
Let's go back to the question of whether or not we are forever on hold. If we are, then we have no access to valid information about the nature of reality. But if somehow -- mirabile dictu -- we are in touch with Mother, then we aren't just restricted to scientific truths, but to all sorts of interesting information.
For example, Alexander would maintain that when we look at, say, Yosemite Valley, and we exclaim to ourselves, My, what breathtaking beauty!, the beauty is a fact, not an opinion. I mean, who says it's ugly? Indeed, there is more inter-rater reliability for such an opinion than there is for most scientific questions.
Out of time. To be continued. But I'll leave you with the coonsolation prize of a couple of aphorisms of DC:
"Intuition" is the perception of the invisible, just as "perception" is the intuition of the visible. And
The subjective is what is perceived by one subject. The objective is is what is perceived by all subjects.
All normal subjects, anyway. Obama, for example, is objectively creepy. Those who disagree need therapy.
Beautiful or ugly or just meh?