Friday, July 31, 2015

I Married a Monkey

One of our founding principles around here is that man is man, not an animal plus x. If anything, our closest cousins -- apes, gorillas, Clintons, etc. -- are man minus x, just as matter is biology minus y (or plus zzzzzzzzzz, forever).

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.

27 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok I ordered Dalrymple's book but, man I am so far behind on the reading list I doubt I can catch up in time for the final.

7/31/2015 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

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.

Yes, just so - think of how often they bring forth the argument that some animals engage in homosexual acts, therefore it's totally natural for humans to do the same. Notably, they have not yet claimed that since some animals also engage in rape, incest, pedophilia, and even cross-species sex acts, it's totally "natural" (and therefore "good") for humans to do the same. Yet.

7/31/2015 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"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."

Egads. What if someone conciously believes his own love is dangerous, toxic or repulsive? Because I have. Still do sometimes, come to think of it.

7/31/2015 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, it's an interesting little twist on the human condition. Many of us have had more than a touch of it.

7/31/2015 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Note to anonymous: many of those books will not be on the finals, only the ones on the Beatles, Elvis, Raymond Chandler, and Colonel Parker.

Just got the Beatles book in the mail today. It is among the nicest books I own -- it looks like a giant family Bible.

7/31/2015 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"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."

Yes, that depravity is on display and even honored in gay pride parades in places such as San Francisco and now in public schools in California and other democrat stangleholds.

It's literally sickening and repulsive. I feel bad for people like Zombie who documents this gut wrenching behavior. But worse than that are the soul dead tyrants who promote this demonic crap and try to force it down everyone elses throats, and worse, what they are doing to children.

7/31/2015 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I don't even live in LA, and Raymond Chandler is essential.

On the ape vs. man thing, I don't think I would ever kill a lion or other big cat -- unless it was him or me, then I'd a little rather it be him. But I do want to ask some of these people what they think the difference is between a human hunter and a lion. I know what it is. No lion ever stopping eating on a still-living gazelle and wondered if he ought to put lunch out of its misery before he finished. You're right, it's a really big Y.

7/31/2015 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Chandler is like Wodehouse. Because of the nature of the genre in which they wrote, they are not necessarily recognized as the masters of the language that they are.

Speaking of hardboiled LA noir, there is a great film noir on TCM tonight, the Asphalt Jungle, directed by John Huston. One of my favorites.

7/31/2015 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'll bet it was a big influence on the bros. Coen.

7/31/2015 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks for the heads up, Bob. Great film!

7/31/2015 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

RIP Roddy Piper. They Live is a classic.

7/31/2015 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

On the lion outrage, I guess I just assumed you could still do that sort of thing. I was a little shocked in the opposite direction. There's something oddly wrong with the way the guy is being vilified. Like he's being exploited.
Pedro says in his country dey do dis all d time.

7/31/2015 04:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

You dirty fink!

7/31/2015 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

The Asphalt Jungle: This film makes a good case for the virtues. Vice always gets us in trouble, one way or another.

8/01/2015 12:07:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I just got off the blower with Santiago and he I was unable to explain to him the difference between the great fish and the great lion. Apparently there was some great author just a few years ago, DiMaggio, I think, to whom they awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Everyone loved him. And so did Santiago. Anyway, he had to run to a bull fight.

8/01/2015 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

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.

It occurs to me just now that one very big distinction which pretty much must exist between human and animals is the placebo effect. I don't see how it's possible that an animal could be subject to it, for the very simple reason that they don't know why we do what we do, nor do they know how something might be helpful or harmful. Either it is obviously helpful or it isn't, and that's pretty much that.

8/01/2015 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Yes, an animal cannot be innocent because it cannot be guilty (which is to say, cannot sin.

Question for today: could Jesus have sinned? By that I mean, did he have the capability; human freedom?
I think He must have. Or, better, the capacity to not sin which implies the other.

I think this is the error the default lib makes. That there is a difference between capability and right. They conflate them (since capability is obviously self-evident).

Perhaps this is why The Kimmel weeps. Because he was promised a law that would eliminate capability.

8/01/2015 06:40:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I think He must have had the capability, otherwise that whole scene where He fasted in the desert and was tempted by the devil was just pretend.

8/01/2015 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Julie:

I remember reading a similar idea -- that an animal can never say to itself, "it looks like x, but in reality it is y." In other words, they cannot distinguish between appearance and reality. Which is why our dogs are fooled no matter how many times we tell them it's only the pool guy.

8/01/2015 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And Jesus, since he was All Man, had to be capable of sinning. Plus, if he weren't, then his sinlessness would have no merit.

8/01/2015 07:22:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

And our situation would be hopeless.

8/01/2015 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

To paraphrase Davila, the leftist's only hope is that God isn't just.

8/01/2015 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Jules said...

Re sex , i found it refreshing the way the sex indoctrinated youth of the UK etc still flocked to read the " twilight" vampire series, which teenagerery as it is, still talks about love, virginity and other heretical ideas.

Kahil Gibran:
"Some of your youth seek pleasure as if it were all and are judged and rebuked.
I would not judge nor rebuke them, i would have them seek.
For they shall pleasure but not her alone.
Seven are her sisters, and the least of them is more beautiful than pleasure. "


8/01/2015 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

http://thebark.com/content/dogs-and-placebo-effect

8/01/2015 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

That is an odd article. The writer seems to ascribe more human characteristics to the dogs than the people in it.
To be honest, I do this too, but I know I'm doing it.

And:

"Yet I know the moment it happens—Ariel’s eyes dilate like deployed air bags, and she turns and tenderly cleans my face until the hurt is withdrawn."

That doesn't sound like placebo to me.

8/01/2015 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I'll second that. Getting comfort and possibly some pain relief from contact with a loved companion is not at all the same as drinking some water you've been told has healing properties, then experiencing actual recovery even though it really was just ordinary water.

If you give a dog a pill and its health improves, there's a pretty good chance that the pill was actually effective. For all the dog knows, it was just a really unpleasant snack; there's no earthly reason for it to think the pill would ease its pain or help it fight an infection.

8/01/2015 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous The dog in that story said...

I can tell a dog didn't write that story. Dogs are, if anything, precise about pain. We don't worry about it ahead of time, don't make more of it than what it is, and glad when it's over. Nothing to it!

8/01/2015 01:13:00 PM  

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