For example, it is possible to model simple phenomena such as the solar system, and predict where this or that planet will be 100 or 1,000 years hence. This becomes quite difficult in complex systems (such as the climate), but is impossible in principle in complex systems exhibiting subjectivity and personhood -- or in other words, human beings (in short, you can't model freedom, but liberals never stop trying).
For those of you who don't know the backstory, my grad school education in psychology might have been worthless -- if not pernicious -- had it not intersected with two saving graces, one of whom was a particular professor, the other an obscure (at least outside psychoanalytic circles) theorist named W.R. Bion. It was the latter who vaulted me out of my existing orbit and taught me how to think. Or rather, taught me what I was doing when thinking (or pretending to).
However, especially in hindsight, I can see that there wasn't necessarily anything special about Bion. He didn't discover anything new, so no need to run out and purchase his expensive and abstruse little books.
For example, I'm seeing that Kierkegaard raised the same issues, as did many thinkers before him, probably going back to Socrates. As far as we know, Socrates was the first man to consciously avoid pretending to know what couldn't be known, or to always bear in mind the vast realm of the Unknown Unknown, which swamps the other three.
Of course there are the known knowns of everyday science and known unknowns of twilit philosophy. In many ways psychoanalysis is the paradoxical realm the unknown known, e.g., unconscious drives and conflicts that we only pretend not to know.
In this context, you could say that a psychological symptom is the quintessential case of an unknown known, in the sense that your conscious mind doesn't understand what the symptom means, but your unconscious mind must, or it wouldn't be there. The symptom is a communication of knowledge, only the left brain doesn't know what the right brain is up to.
Think about the miracle of mathematics, which allows us to deal with a whole realm of Objects That Aren't Here. Where do my investments exist, for example? I have a piece of paper with a bunch of abstract numbers that somehow relate to these distant objects, but imagine trying to keep track of them without the numbers.
Well, there are certain dimensions of existence that cannot be so treated, for example, human relationships. As Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell remind us, "ain't nothin' like the real thing": I got your picture hangin' on the wall / But it can't see or come to me when I call your name / I realize it's just a picture in a frame. Etc.
No abstract symbol can replace or represent the missing person. Nor, for that matter, the missing God. As Bion puts it, certain formulations are "dependent on the presence of the experiences being formulated." We must deal "with the original object without the aid of an intervening model which [we] can manipulate." For example, "there is no brother with whom to work out problems of the relationship with a father."
Likewise, it's no use dealing with models of God, no matter how accurate. Rather, only the original will do.
Note how materialism, or any form of naturalism, simply denies the existence of persons. Materialism is the philosophy of the Missing Person. This person is somehow putting forth a philosophy that denies the existence of the person putting it forth. It is inherently regressive, because it transforms a known unknown -- the person -- into an unknown unknown. This renders the "examined life" impossible, because there is no one to examine.
Nevertheless, like a dead body floating to the surface, one cannot actually rid the cosmos of the personal without it returning unbidden. Indeed, the materialist has things precisely backward and upside down, for the personal is the ultimate category of existence; everything is reducible to it, rather than vice versa.
Yesterday a thoughtlet pops into my head: the love of truth ultimately converges upon the truth of love.
It also occurred to me that a person is never a thing or object, but a link. Or better, a person always refers to. A baby refers to mother, and vice versa. Assuming we grow all the way up, man ultimately refers to God, and vice versa. That "God refers to man" may sound strange, but it's another way of saying Incarnation.
Then it occurs to me that the cosmos is like a vast life-making machine, and that life is a mind-making machine. This makes man the God-making machine.
But this formulation has it all backward, for we must begin with the personhood of the Creator. The Creator wishes to create persons. Everything in existence is marked by traces of personhood; in other words, every existent has an intelligible interior accessible to the human subject. Knowledge is simply the interior of objects calling out to the interior of persons: they refer to us, as we refer to them, in an ever-deepening spiral.
But the ultimate truth is this mysterious human subject itself. Rather, make that the penultimate truth, because it is inexplicable if it doesn't refer to its own source, AKA God. So, to round out this roundabout post, let's get back to what Kierkegaard has to say about all this perfect nonsense:
"Kierkegaard's emphasis on the pointlessness of 'intellectually grasped' truth... explains why throughout history so few seekers have gained enlightenment from the 'great truths' provided by enlightened men..."
"[F]or when the insights of these enlightened masters are spoken by them, or repeated and recorded by others, they are invariably experienced by those listening only as objective, or intellectually acknowledged, truths that do not carry the energy of the subjective experience from which these insights arise."
"For language cannot directly communicate the subjective truth," but only "conceptual representations of their subjective insights." These representations are "signposts that merely point toward a reality that each individual must discover, or subjectively understand for themselves through their own direct experience" (Watts).
In other words, the Subject must be present to the subject. Accept no substitutes. You can't work out your God issues with your daddy, let alone with matter.