I Married a Monkey
This line of thought first came my way while studying psychoanalysis in graduate school. Lng stry shrt... if you've ever looked at the Gagdad profile, under the heading "favorite books," there's an idiosyncretistic list of authors and books that have had an enduring influence, from psychology to philosophy, theology, mysticism, esoterism, aphoristics, ethnobotany, indecipherable Irish literature, and terrestrial and celestial humor.
That second name, "R.D. Fairbairn," is the bloke to whom we are alluding, and he will -- I think -- have relevance to our discussion of the Missing Object of Virtue.
In general you will have noticed that there are two ways to approach a phenomenon, via analysis or synthesis. In reality these two are and must be complementary, but analytic science generally forgets this, which is how it descends into the vulgar scientism of the tenured, AKA wanker bee scientolatry. These drones forget their models are just analogies, and thereby fall into Whitehead's fallacy of misplaced concreteness.
At the time Fairbairn arrived on the scene -- his first important papers were published in the early 1940s -- the scene was of course dominated by Freud, who had a bad case of physics envy.
That is, Freud regarded the mind as a kind of combination archaeological site with layers of psychic material from new to old; and a hydraulic system under instinctual pressure. The first is the conscious/preconscious/unconscious model; the second the id/ego/superego model. Both are analogies, more or less useful depending upon the situation. But they are not reality.
In order to avoid pedantic tedium, I am going to cut to the chase. Fairbairn comes along and essentially says that when you cut a man into id, ego, and superego, and then reify your abstractions, that's no longer a man you're dealing with. Rather, you're just seeing your projected model. You are free to do that, just don't forget you're doing it.
It seems that Fairbairn was initially unpopular with everyone. Psychoanalysis is a bit like a church, with orthodoxy, heterodoxy, catechesis, initiation, confirmation, heretics, excommunicants, etc.
But without even realizing it, Fairbairn created a version of psychoanalysis that is much more consistent with Christian metaphysics, because he starts with the whole person, not with an animalistic id; he also begins with relation instead of isolation; and finally, he maintains that instincts ride piggyback on the need for love and relation, not vice versa.
For example, a classical Freudian would say that an infant only "loves" its mother to the extent that love is another name for instinctual release, satisfaction, and equilibrium. It is not a human passion in and of itself, just derived from other factors.
In short, for Fairbairn man is a social animal right down to the ground: there is no asocial monad "beneath" or "behind" or "deep down." Rather, to the extent that man succeeds in isolating himself -- what Fairbairn called the schizoid position -- then he has fallen beneath his humanness, generally not because he truly dislikes or hates people but because he unconsciously believes his own love to be dangerous, toxic, or repulsive.
This whole way of looking at things has innumerable implications. Sutherland writes that "what stood out irrefutably in [Fairbairn's] schizoid patients was the failure to develop a capacity to make normal relationships with others and with themselves, and this failure distorted the effectiveness of the person in relating to the world in general."
Note the subtle point(s): since all is relation -- i.e., man is irreducibly relational -- there is no "oneness" beneath the twoness (we'll leave trinitarian thinking to the side for the moment). Therefore, even the self is a relation -- with oneself!
Likewise, there is no world, only a relationship with it. Thus, context is everything. Thinking is relational; emotion is relational; and spirituality is most certainly relational.
The other day I was remembering when "sex education" entered the public school. This is a perfect example of the distortion we're talking about, and one can draw a straight line between it and the institutionalized ghoulishness of Planned Parenthood and of the left more generally.
If man is first and foremost man and not animal, then sexuality must be specifically a human sexuality. But for the cultural left, "sex" cuts across the animal kingdom, such that the most important things about it are those we share with other animals.
But one can literally know everything about animal "sexuality" and know nothing about human sexuality. And I do mean literally. If you even think for a moment about it, you'll understand what I mean.
The result is that a secular indoctrination on the subject of human sexuality erodes the very foundation of our humanness. For evidence of this, just open your eyes and look around.
For among other things, this means that human sexuality has a purpose, a meaning, a telos, that is entirely wrapped up with what it means to be human. To the extent that it is depersonalized, it is broken. The whole human is in each part of the human; this whole is orthoparadoxically relational, not isolated (here is where you might begin to intuit how man is indeed in the image of the Trinity).
This line of thought was provoked by a couple of books I'm reading, The Wholeness of Nature and Thinking Beyond Darwin. You might say that seeing the wholeness of nature is a consequence of thinking beyond Darwin (and vice versa).
For our purposes, what this means is that a human is again a human, not animal plus x. Contrary to Darwinian fundamentalism, man is not the sum of his accidental and contingent adaptations; or, if he were, we could never know it, because our mental life would be just a contingent adaptation. There would be no reason to believe that man somehow transcends his own contingency, for if he does, that puts the kibosh on Darwin.
We need to avoid the other extreme as well, for it is not as if man is like an immature seed that grows to manhood; it is not as if we are born a Little Man that simply grows in a linear manner into the Big Man. Rather, remember the principle of relation: we are always related, and our relations will to a large extent determine the man we become. And we are always becoming, because relation is to process as stasis is to object.
Kranich makes an important point that is also raised in MOTT, only scientifically instead of... tarotistically. That is, in the absence of any knowledge of human beings, it would never occur to you that an ape is just a human waiting to happen -- a prehuman if you will.
On the opposable hand, assuming knowledge of human beings, then apes become understandable in light of this. Again, man is not ape plus x; rather, the ape is human minus y. And it is an awfully big y. Indeed, the variable y is infinite, such that the gap between ape and man is equally infinite. If you don't believe me, try talking to an ape about the square root of two, or how far pi extends, or why there is always a Why -- i.e., how we know we are incomplete in light of a Completeness to which (or to whom) we relate via faith and intuition.
In conclusion, the recovered psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple has a new book on How Psychology Evades Morality. One way it does this is by starting its analysis of man with something less than man. Only man can be moral, so if that bugs you, just divide him into various animal parts that operate in a deterministic manner. Problem solved.