Friday, April 14, 2017

Alternate Facts, Alternate Brains

This post is all over the place, and once again I don't have time to tie it all together. Besides, that's what commenters are for. You tell me where the rug is hidden.

Yesterday we spoke of those "enigmas which faith imposes upon the believer," but "which he accepts because he accepts God." And accepts God "not out of naivety, but thanks to a certain instinct for the essential and for the supernatural."

In short, there is a kind of direct perception or intuition of God that allows one to take the rest on board, even if some of the rest is enigmatic or impenetrable to mere reason.

For the great majority of history the great majority of men functioned with this "instinct" intact. Did the rise of rationalism (or materialism or scientism or secular leftism) result in an attenuation of the instinct, or did the weakening of the instinct result in a heightened rationalism?

Either way, there is something one-sided -- something intrinsically out of balance -- in a man who seeks truth (as all men must), but only via the left brain. Alternate facts? Of course there are alternate facts. Unless maybe you're had a stroke or head injury or attended graduate school.

And I use "left brain" as a metonym for all the modes of truth and truth-seeking that bypass or transcend mere logic of the everyday kind. Indeed, what about the nighttime logic of which, say, Finnegans Wake is an expression? Clearly, that book was not written by or for the left brain.

Which is its whole reason for being. It was "conceived as obscurity, it was executed as obscurity, it is about obscurity." But not pointless obscurity! Rather, "it's natural that things should not be so clear at night, isn't it now?" (Joyce, in Bishop). In short, it's a book about the logic of the night, written with the logic of the night (i.e., the dream logic of the right brain).

Come to think of it, why was it written at all? No doubt because people hate being caged within rationalism. If they can't escape via religion, then they'll find another way out, whether through drugs, political radicalism, literature, whatever.

There was a time in my life when I would have agreed that in the bad old days people had to settle for God, but that nowadays, thankfully, we have almighty rock music. From the age of nine or so, music was my means of escape (or inscape). In many ways it still is, only not in a way that runs counter to religion, but is confluent with it.

It's been a while since we gave a shout to The Symmetry of God, which may not resolve all of the enigmas faith imposes upon the believer (or right brain on left), but certainly provides a fruitful way to look at them.

Long story short, even back in graduate school I was an extreme seeker, such that I was drawn to more daring and far-reaching psychoanalytic theorists such as W.R. Bion, and in this case, Ignacio Matte Blanco. I devoured his magnum opus, The Unconscious as Infinite Sets, and if I'd thought of it first, perhaps I might have applied his ideas to religion, which is what Bomford has done.

The amazon review of Matte Blanco a little overwrought, but gives a sense of where he was coming from, and why young Bob was excited at the prospect of diving into the strange world of bi-logic with both hemispheres:

The Unconscious as Infinite Sets: An essay in Bi-logic by Ignacio Matte Blanco is an endless roller coaster ride into the deepest sources of thought and feeling. Matte Blanco writes from the inside out, from the thermonuclear source of the Sun to the warmth of its rays to the Earth. Words like quarks ricochet off the pages.

Matte Blanco splits the Mind into two realms, two bi-halves, two different logical structures, or his "bi-logic."

The depths and hell of the unbelievable, is the Unconscious, where instinct spews lava into primordial affect. Unconscious logic underlies the language of poetry, dreams, jokes, propaganda, racism, advertisement, religion, and figures of speech. This Alice in Wonderland logic is generated by the Unconscious mind by the mechanisms of condensation, displacement, symbolization, concretization and hallucinations. This logic was conceptualized by Freud as the primary process and by Matte Blanco as symmetrical logic.

The other half, the Conscious, is where instinctual energy is transduced into factually based logic that attempts to keep us from being eaten alive by our fellow carnivores. This Aristotelian logic is generated by our conscious mind; Freud conceptualized this as the secondary process and Matte Blanco as asymmetrical logic....

It goes on in that florid vein, but the point is that the wide-awake asymmetrical logic of Aristotle does not necessarily yield truth, just as the symmetrical logic of the night brain doesn't necessarily result in error and falsehood.

For example, the left brain is of little use in helping us understand the truth of poetry, music, painting, and religion. Or, to be precise, we really need to exercise bi-logic, and not just rely on one or the other. In so doing, a hidden dimension emerges, similar to how our two eyes result in spatial depth, or our two ears in stereo.

So much of religion can only be apprehended via the right brain! But when I say "right brain," what I really mean is that what we call the right brain is already an expression of the deeper reality it discloses.

In other words, we don't perceive reality the way we do just because we perceive it through right or left brains; rather, human beings have these two modes because they are required in order to disclose the fulness of reality.

Think of, say, Mr. Spock, and the dimensions of humanness from which he is excluded due to his half-Vulcanized, hypertrophic left brain.

I'm about to make a wrenching segue, but it reminds me of a critical point Steven Hayward makes in Patriotism is Not Enough: basically, that what we call "statesmanship" can never be reduced to a formula. There are many thinkers and politicians of both left and right who imagine that leadership essentially consists in having the correct theory and pushing the right buttons. Thus, a leftist such as Obama relies on Keynesian theory to push the EXPAND GOVERNMENT button, while conservatives promise to hit the REDUCE TAXES button.

You might say that ideology of any kind is always a simplification of the world into easily manageable left-brained categories. But the heart of statesmanship is the exercise of a prudence that can never be reduced to ideology, and certainly isn't any kind of linear formula.

Churchill, for example -- surely one of the greatest statesmen who ever lived -- was not what you would call a logical man; nor was he illogical. Rather, passionate, visionary, inspiring, resolute, courageous, etc. Indeed, sometimes he was superficially illogical in pursuit of translogical aims. At any rate, there was no ready formula that could tell him, say, whether or not to bomb the French fleet, just as there is no formula that can tell Trump whether or not to drop the mother of all bombs on ISIS.

The point Hayward emphasizes is that just because statesmanship cannot be reduced to a formula doesn't mean it isn't a Thing. It's a Thing alright, just not reducible to left-brain, asymmetrical logic. Like religion, which is also a Thing, but a Thing that simply cannot be cracked by the left brain. As they say, it has not pleased God to save men through logic. But that's just the personification of an ontological fact: that it is the height of illogic to imagine that reality can be contained by mere logic, any more than the day can contain the night.


mushroom said...

No doubt because people hate being caged within rationalism. If they can't escape via religion, then they'll find another way out, whether through drugs, political radicalism, literature, whatever.

Rationality and reason are good tools, but like any tool, they can be misused.

julie said...

As they say, it has not pleased God to save men through logic.

Thank God - were it so, salvation would be reserved only for the most intelligent.

Hm. I feel a song coming on...

mushroom said...

Oddly enough, a while back, I got on a right-brain kick. I got a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I've also been reading a book I've had for a while about the right brain and the limbic system. Drawing is fun.

Anonymous said...

Like it says in the Bible: "What is truth?" (John 18:38). A much later statesman said it all had to do with what "is is." The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Rick said...

"At any rate, there was no ready formula that could tell him, say, whether or not to bomb the French fleet, just as there is no formula that can tell Trump whether or not to drop the mother of all bombs on ISIS."

This is why I do not fear Skynet.
And why the Big Brains do.

Jozephus said...

"Logic, then, is not necessarily an instrument for finding truth; on the contrary, truth is necessarily an instrument for using logic—for using it, that is, for the discovery of further truth and for the profit of humanity. Briefly, you can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it."
G. K. Chesterton (Daily News, Feb 25, 1905)

Anonymous said...

This weeks series of posts have been very interesting. I never suspected the existence of thinkers such as Bion and Blanco. Bi-logic sounds plausible. And statesmanship is a good place to use it.

I had no issues with our recent missile attack in Syria, or the use of the MOAB in Afghanistan.

There was one bombing thing we did in Syria awhile back, as I recall, where there were about 100 civilian collateral deaths, and that made me a bit concerned.

Even further back was our strafing of hospital by a gunship, which took out some 21 aid workers and patients. This was disappointing, to say the least.

Each bomb, shell, or rocket that falls could be said to be from our military, but in truth it from us...the taxpayers. The weapons may as well have our signatures on it. It could be said we are all statesmen, inasmuch as we condone our leader's actions. So when body parts scatter from the blast, you the taxpayer some of the offal splattered on your pants, so to speak.

If the body be that of an enemy, so much the good; you share the glory. If not an enemy, step back and consider how you would console the surviving family members; if it gets to an onerous level, then reconsideration of the quality of the statesmanship is in order.

Now back to my trench. Thank you, blog author, for your service this week.

doug saxum said...

An atheist believes in the soul?

Sat Apr 15, 12:23:00 PM EDT
Deuce-There were 900 souls on the St. Louis.

Me-And where would you relegate their souls with atheism?

Deuce ☂Sat Apr 15, 04:23:00 PM EDT

Easy Peasy - Atheism allows one to make moral and ethical decisions based on goodness for the sake of goodness - kindness and humanity for humanity - justice for peace and protection. Atheism recognizes the incredible responsibility and the extraordinary fortune of being alive. Atheism demands responsibility for one's every decision. Atheism refuses to accept that there are slaves and masters offered a choice of punishment and reward for human behavior, demanding that one has responsibility to the living, the here and now, with respect to the past and faith in the role of humanity in the future.

The reward is being to have eyes and mind open to let some infinitely small piece of the universe, for a pathetic sliver of time, have the knowledge that there is a universe.

Atheists value life, reject the nonsense that death is a ticket to a better place and would recognize the true value of six hundred living souls and would exert their responsibility to shelter and protect them.

Gagdad Bob said...

Funny how people who shun religion so often descend into a cringing sentimentalism.

julie said...

Seriously. By what authority does the good atheist make such lofty and magnanimous claims? It must warm the very cockles of his heart to know that he alone bears the burden for meting out justice, goodness, and righteousness, and purely on his own merit!

Kurt said...

Happy Easter to all Racoons near and far!

Leslie Godwin said...

Happy Easter!!

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

God Bless,
Mrs. G and family

debass said...

That's why atheists make the best despots, they believe they are the highest authonity. God Bless all Racoons this Easter.

Anonymous said...

I've always been curious as to why persons feel they need a God, when the State is right here and ready to serve as one's God.

The highest human virtue being obedience to authority, why not forget about a nebulous God you cannot visualize or understand, and just pledge obedience to your superiors in government? Problem solved. For instance, you know where the Governor lives, what she looks like, and what she wants. Therefore you can set about being of service. Harmony reigns.

Thousands of years of civilization have created the apparatus of State, which now serves as man's proper religion. While serving the State, you are no longer small and helpless. You belong to something larger than yourself.

Those inferior to you in the social order will be your obedient servants, and so a stable hierarchy is maintained which fosters stability and peace, and everyone is content with their place in the universe.