Monday, January 30, 2017

Living in the Real Worlds

There are always the Two Worlds alluded to in the previous post. A sane -- or let's just say rightly ordered -- person knows them as science and religion, or spirit and matter, or subject and object, etc. What he will not do is conflate the two, or refer to one by the name of the other.

For example, a properly religious person doesn't confuse, say, the book of Genesis with science, just as a properly scientific person doesn't confuse the Big Bang with divine creation (which is vertical and necessary, not horizontal and contingent).

The two worlds could be a consequence of our "two brains," i.e., left and right cerebral hemispheres. However, I think it is more likely that the two brains are a consequence of the two worlds.

There are many ways to approach this question of the Two Worlds. When I was a boy, I attended Sunday School, which promulgated a world utterly different from the one I learned about -- or, more problematically, experienced -- the other six days. There was no way to reconcile the two, so I just jettisoned the Sunday world by the time I was ten or eleven.

For a while I got by on the one world hypothesis. But not for long. Early on in my adolescence I was rudely reintroduced to the multiword hypothesis. Or rather, it reintroduced itself, splitting me in two. No, I wasn't schizophrenic, but there was no question of being inhabited by an Other that I could never quite reconcile with my "self."

Probably this is what prompted me to enter grad school in psychology, but that wasn't until I was about 25. Prior to that I had begun to informally study psychology, and in hindsight I can see that it was in order to try to make sense of the two worlds.

I was immediately drawn to psychoanalysis, since it begins with the principle that we always live within this tension of two worlds, the conscious (CS) and unconscious (UCS) minds. The second world that wordlessly shadows your existence is the "unconscious." The purpose of psychoanalytic therapy is to assimilate more of the UCS into the CS, so that one might live a more harmonious life -- without the two constantly bickering over their different agendas.

Very shortly after Freud invented psychoanalysis, the field splintered into dozens of variants, because everyone had a different idea about the nature of the second world. Jung, for example, thought it opened out into religious concerns; some thought it was about power, or identity, or sexual release, or "being."

Bion was the most flexible, in that he thought it was just a confrontation with O. You could say that O is simply the other world in all its possibilities. We could -- we do -- spend our lives metabolizing O, but there is no end to it, for it is literally inexhaustible.

It seems to me that this creates a fertile field for irony, the reason being that no matter how complete our world, it will always be haunted by O, making it impossible to speak of this world in a completely earnest and "singleminded" manner. Rather, any world we posit is really a quote-unquote "world." Something in us always knows it can't be the real world, and that there is always more to it.

Now interestingly, it also seems to me that we might very well rename Gödel incompleteness theorem the "irony theorem." Thanks to Gödel, we know going in that any attempt to reduce things to one world just won't cut it. We can try, but the resultant world will either be incomplete or inconsistent. We can only pretend otherwise.

The bottom line is that any world we can come up with must be looked at ironically. It must be presented with a wink, in full knowledge that it is a just-so story. There is and never will be a Theory of Everything. Only theories of "everything."

What if we could actually enclose ourselves in our own little theories? What a nightmare that would be! In fact, as we've discussed in the past, this is one of the things that made me leave psychology behind (or below, rather), because it was frankly depressing to be confined to one of its models, no matter how expansive.

Now I would say that the other world is God; or better, it is a vertical spectrum that is always at a right angle to our horizontal existence. We live at the intersection, the crossroads of the two. Once we understand this, then we can make finer gradations and distinctions within these worlds.

For example, in the horizontal world we can study history, or biology, or anthropology, you name it. And in the vertical world we can explore ethics, aesthetics, epistemology, theology, mysticism, etc. But don't think you can explore just one world and ignore the other. Imagine, for example, studying "art," but on a purely horizontal basis. Doing so is reduced to decorating your prison walls -- with a lot of kitsch or worse, e.g., infrahuman doodling.

Or, imagine studying politics with no reference to the vertical. There are purblind worldlings who insist that politics is about "power" and nothing more. Is this statement true? If so, then it obviously transcends power, because power is neither true nor false; it just is.

Thankfully, America's founders began with truth, in particular, self-evident truths about our natural rights, which it was the purpose of power to protect. In short, we grant the state powers that are both specific and limited, for the ultimate purpose of protecting our intrinsic rights. The point is, the founders explicitly went about trying to harmonize the two worlds. We grant limited horizontal power in order to protect and promote the vertical.

Which is why the left has been bitching about it ever since. The secular left begins with the principle that there is only one world -- which means that the second world will simply reappear in a disguised form.

But this also explains their conspicuous lack of irony: they posit their simplistic one world, oblivious to Gödel's Irony Theorem that renders their little world so laughable. Which is why their naive appeals to "science" never fail to elicit a chuckle.

As Theodore Dalrymple observes, "A sense of irony is the first victim of utopian dreams." This occurred to me when I saw this tendentious checklist of TRUMPIAN FASCISM! I forget where I found it, but the author claimed that Trump had already fulfilled numbers 1, 4, 7, and 10, so we're about a week away from death camps.

1. Taking sides with a foreign power against domestic opposition. 2. Detention of journalists.

3. Loss of press access to the White House.

4. Made-up charges against those who disagree with the government.

5. Use of governmental power to target individual citizens for retribution.

6. Use of a terrorist incident or an international incident to take away civil liberties.

7. Persecution of an ethnic or religious minority, either by the Administration or its supporters.

8. Removal of civil service employees for insufficient loyalty or membership in a suspect group (e.g. LGBT, Muslim, and other groups).

9. Use of the Presidency to incite popular violence against individuals or organizations.

10. Defying the orders of courts, including the Supreme Court.

But we could use the same list to prove Obama was a fascist, for example, taking sides with Iran, declaring war on Fox news and other non-leftist outfits, repeatedly being overruled by the Supreme Court, persecuting Catholics, inciting violence against police, etc.

The (abrupt) end, because we're out of time.

6 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

But this also explains their conspicuous lack of irony: they posit their simplistic one world, oblivious to Gödel's Irony Theorem that renders their little world so laughable.

It's funny how swiftly they embrace irony in certain flat, ultimately humorless ways. For instance, starting the "after school Satan" club because they're actually (so they claim) atheists. Or donning the apparel of people who work for a living - say, farmers or lumberjacks - while doing little to nothing that qualifies as actual labor.

And of course, there's the irony of this past weekend, wherein Trump used Obama's template to do something that has been done before, and they howled with great angst and gnashing of other people's teeth about the injustice they once sagely approved when their man was in the office.

1/30/2017 01:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post; top form. Regarding the vertical and horizontal: Logically, more attention should be paid to the horizontal than the vertical. The reason being, we're here and not there.

The home of the human soul is the vertical. That's where we await a chance to go down to the horizontal. We are all well acquainted with the vertical.

After a chosen body is ready en utero, we drop in and get comfortable.

Life unfolds with all of its pratfalls and tensions, triumphs and defeats, joy and grief.

When done we exit back to the vertical. Some say we get another go, some say not.

What I'm trying to say is that living primary a religious vertical life is like pining to be at home while your sitting at your desk at work. Is that a good use of a life?

Questionable. How it shakes out politically is that leftist horizontal emphasis is by no means unreasonable at all, and lets say a Quaker is not necessarily making the most of her time. And time matters.

Let me throw a date out there: December 14, 2019. Whatever you mean to do, get 'er done before then.




The vertical is our home, where we are on deck waiting for a go in the batter's box. Therefore the vertical is the familiar, the usual, the ordinary state of a human being. Lord alone knows how long we chill out up there; I suspect its a long time.

1/30/2017 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"...Or, imagine studying politics with no reference to the vertical. There are purblind worldlings who insist that politics is about "power" and nothing more. Is this statement true? If so, then it obviously transcends power, because power is neither true nor false; it just is.

Thankfully, America's founders began with truth, in particular, self-evident truths about our natural rights, which it was the purpose of power to protect....."

The Left, attempting to protect their single world, are endangering it even as they're attempting to defend it. Not only does the fascist warning list you mentioned clearly apply to themselves, but one they posted, a Yale Prof's list, contains deadly poison to their singular view, in its 8 & 20 - Truth and Patriotism. As does their new found regard for ethical behavior and the Constitution.

It'd be interesting to see the reactions of those who go beyond mouthing the words, and actually consider the words they are now praising.

Anyone ever see the movie "Scanners"?

1/31/2017 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Van - how dreadfully ironic. "Notice the swastikas" - ha! Like the green recycling symbol plastered on everything to prove that the bearer or its representatives is an adherent to party ideology? It has occurred to me on many occasions that such symbols are as much religious and totemic as anything: not a brand or a particular product, but a mindset.

Related, I saw something recently: “You better recycle that, or I’ll cut you!”. Apparently uttered by a California teenager, but there seem to be plenty of people who would agree with that sentiment these days.

1/31/2017 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Christina M said...

Love this; Love you; Love the Sinatra collection you mentioned a while back.

1/31/2017 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger garyeureka said...

Can't help getting back to G.K. Chesterton one more time. His poem "The Monster" ends with these two lines:

I lay there as one dead. But since I woke
The single world is double till I die.

Seems to apply to the recent postings, although if someone could please explain the rest of the poem to me, I'd be much obliged!

1/31/2017 09:36:00 PM  

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