Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Will You Please Hold For Mother Nature?

Proofs for the existence of God abound for those who do not need them. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

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?

21 Comments:

Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This oldie, which is coincidentally getting a lot of hits today, speaks to some of the issues addressed in today's post, e.g., pathological projection.

3/27/2013 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger Open Trench said...

In 2007 a gathering of Raccoons was held by the Merced River in Yosemite. Anyone go to that except me? Bob wasn't there.

Anyhoo, we should do it again.

3/27/2013 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

We can only hope that our spirits soared to the occasion; gas prices being what they are.

3/27/2013 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the Yosemite picture, it's a great example, too, of how beauty is experiential. That is, nobody sees something like that and simply says "that's beautiful" without feeling a particular inner stirring. Unless we are a robot, we want to breathe it in, as it were. To make it a part of ourselves.

Or I guess what I mean is, the experience of beauty itself is intersubjective; it causes one to long for connection.

3/27/2013 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

The old post is a good one, too. Looking at the comments reminds me, has anyone heard from Will lately?

3/27/2013 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

And apropos of nothing, I find it amusing that the new Gagdavatar almost looks as though you're standing next to a celestial firepole, as it were...

3/27/2013 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

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?

It's interesting to think about transference and counter-transference when reading the Gospels, especially John where you have those extended confrontations. The words of Christ can sound pretty stern, but you know the only thing He's dealing with on His side is love.

But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. (John 8:45, ESV)

3/27/2013 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

as though you're standing next to a celestial firepole, as it were

Bob and the Dreamstalk

3/27/2013 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Actually, seems to me as if I'm scribbling something between the cross and a garbage can. In the photo too.

3/27/2013 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ha - yes, now that you mention it. I think the firepole came to mind initially because the words are right under the picture, at least on my screen.

3/27/2013 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The thought just popped into my head, "I wonder if World Wisdom has published any new books lately." Here is one called Death as Gateway to Eternity, with a quite a few sample pages. Seems to take very seriously the idea that the Cosmos speaks to us of Deep Things.

3/27/2013 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

More choices please!!

Beautiful---Ugly---Meh---
Too beautiful---Disneyesque---More beautiful with a scrumptious nude---"If you've seen one tree you've seen 'em all" [Bukowski]---
Beautiful...but Deadly after dark!---Makes me wanna get high---Purty alright, but don't know that I want it on my wall.---

3/27/2013 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's true, there is nothing comparable to the female form. But I only intended the picture as a reference, not as an aesthetic object in itself. A photograph is not a substitute for the real thing, in either case.

3/27/2013 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

But Mr Alexander, is there beauty for the blind in Yosemite?
Standing beside a blind man and describing the 'objective' beauty of such a scene might plunge him into deep unbeautiful depression; or conversely the aspects of such a scene that he might appreciate/share like the palpable peace & freshness of air could increase our depth of delight beyond the visual...

So try Bach for the blind...
[You Kant be serious?]

'Beauty' has got to be a concatenation involving functioning sensorium, mind & heart uncluttered by care, receptive to forms of nature or artistic portrayal of same...
_______________________
[bottom line]: No mind aware
= No beauty there!

3/28/2013 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Blind people obviously have access to other forms of beauty, often in a heightened way. One thing I've been thinking about is how the visible beauty of architecture relates to the audible beauty of music. Is there some kind of master key that describes the deep structure of both? Alexander shows that similar rules apply to both color and form, but he doesn't get into music or literature. But now that I think about it, I don't think it can be done, because music is a more direct and unmediated expression of the soul, whereas a building is an external artifact....

3/28/2013 06:58:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, just so. Maybe it's just me, but I often find it necessary to close my eyes in order to better be present in certain settings. Sight is wonderful, but beauty could never be limited to the experience of any one particular bodily sense.

3/28/2013 07:02:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

@ge

RE: Blindness

For if there is an abundance, there most also be a lack. If freedom, there will be tragedy.

Though, ever see, 'Scent of a woman'?

Yosemite only is dulled for us if we see it as disney-esque, the term itself belies the satiation of a spirit in an abundance of images.

3/28/2013 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/28/2013 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "One thing I've been thinking about is how the visible beauty of architecture relates to the audible beauty of music. Is there some kind of master key that describes the deep structure of both?"

Maybe Math, but not in any way that a mathematician would think of it.

It probably functions more like a map (it certainly does across music, art, & physical beauty (proportions, symetry, etc) - shows you where all the Stars live, but no one but a wackademic would spend their time touring the map.

3/28/2013 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Open Trench said...

A tastefully draped female standing by the Merced River in Yosemite, that would be a real piece of eye candy.

And next to her, a sublime church. They actually have a very special Chapel in Yosemite Valley.

It is a confluence of the beautiful. And yet, the feeling of danger is also ever present there.

3/28/2013 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Open Trench said...

A tastefully draped female standing by the Merced River in Yosemite, that would be a real piece of eye candy.

And next to her, a sublime church. They actually have a very special Chapel in Yosemite Valley.

It is a confluence of the beautiful. And yet, the feeling of danger is also ever present there.

3/28/2013 12:07:00 PM  

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