Habit-Forming Realities and Mind-Altering Ideologies
I wonder if it's like that for Obama, as he slowly discovers what everyone else knows -- that ISIS isn't a JV terror organization, or that Iraq isn't so stable and self-reliant, or that al Qaeda isn't on the run, or that Benghazi wasn't caused by a YouTube video, or that dealing with a tyrant isn't as easy as resetting your TV, or that there's more than a smidgeon of corruption in the IRS?
Note that, as with Obama's problems, scientific discoveries are by definition "always there"; they aren't acts of creation but of apprehension. It's not as if E didn't equal MC squared before Einstein noticed that it did. And yet, failure to notice the connection isn't a priori evidence of carelessness or sloppy thinking.
Rather, it required an act of genuine creativity, or in other words, playing around with different frames of reference in order to escape habitual thinking.
In the scientific moment of discovery, "two previously separate matrices" are "fused into one," in Einstein's case, the matrices of mass and energy. Who in their right mind could imagine that mass and energy are forms of the same "thing" -- whatever that thing is?
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but it turns out that that pervasive Thinging is much closer to Aristotle's "prime matter" than believed by his modern intellectual superiors who rejected the medieval synthesis without ever truly understanding it, just as a liberal rejects a conservatism that exists only in his own head -- not for the purpose of gaining insight into the world, but for the purpose of elevating himself in his own eyes.
It is simply impossible to understand liberalism without first understanding the sociobiological matrix of chimps and their hierarchy.
Note also that that which is seen is difficult to unsee -- i.e., once fused, it is difficult to de-fuse ideas. For example, only a handful of human beings have ever actually seen that, yes, the world is round. The rest of us take it on various degrees of faith, and yet, we all have the picture in our head, the evidence of our senses to the contrary notwithstanding.
That image is relatively harmless, but what about images of more complex realities, such as cosmogony, biogenesis, evolution, etc.? Supposing you have an image of the "big bang"; if so, you can be certain that it is wildly wrong. Likewise some sort of picture of horizontal evolution, as in those posters with a series of images leading to man.
Such pictures are more or less pure fantasy, but man is in need of an image of reality, no matter how distorted. My nine year-old already knows that the image of Adam and Eve is more strictly accurate than the high school poster, if the latter is taken literally. One image is packed with truth about humans, the other merely with human truth.
Koestler writes of the "visual pun," whereby a single form unites two different functions. For example, Einstein's most famous insight occurred when he imagined himself riding a light beam. But this is really just an extension of man's very first visual pun, which was whatnow?
No one knows, but I imagine we can reimagineer the conditions by observing how a Stone Age infant gradually discovers -- and synthesizes -- human reality. Of course, we can't "observe" what is going on in their minds, but we can appreciate how they are constantly making connections, i.e., new fusions of previously separated experiences.
Science itself is nothing but the formalization of what humans do, which is the serial reduction of multiplicity to unity. And it can only take place because Unity is prior to multiplicity, therefore God. God is always Godding. We just surf the waves toward the divine shore.
That sounds like a joke, but if reality is a process of becoming, then each moment represents the minting of a new synthesis, which is Whitehead's central point.
The problem is, a reality is not only habit forming, but can become addictive. Obama seems to have a particularly addictive personality, because he simply cannot free himself of the mind-altering ideologies he imbibed in his youth. Just about everyone experiments with that shit in college, but most of us move on to the responsible use of ideas, while others fall into the downward spiral of tenure or politics.
But in any event, "discovery often means," writes Koestler, "the uncovering of something which has always been there but was hidden from the eye by the blinkers of habit." Americans are eager to find out tomorrow what Obama has discovered under his nose. Or if he's really kicked the habit of ideology, which seems doubtful, short of an extended in-patient deprogramming followed by lifetime involvement in AA (Apparatchiks Anonymous).
When life presents us with a problem it will be attacked in accordance with the code of rules which enabled us to deal with similar problems in the past.... [R]esponses will become stereotyped, flexible skills will degenerate into rigid patterns, and the person will more and more resemble an automaton, governed by fixed habits, whose actions and ideas move in narrow grooves. -- --Arthur Koestler