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1995 Tutorial

Intermezzo: A recapitulation with topical commentary


If person-world theory is popularized too much–as I have sometimes allowed to happen–it becomes a dogmatic (and outlandish?) cosmology, propounded in reaction to the impersonality of physico-mathematical science. Such a result would be a charade.

On the other hand, when person-world theory is presented rigorously, it may seem to the popular mind to be bleak, and even grim. I don’t apologize for that. The details of a rigorous presentation are found in my essays of the Eighties; and are recalled in Part I of this tutorial. The methodology is highly counter-intuitive, because it is a devolutional methodology rather than a dogmatic one. In this recap, I only hint at the details.

i) I didn’t start in 1960 with "materialism" or "mechanization" as the plagues of modern life–and then invent a dogmatic cosmology to oppose these plagues.

ii) I didn’t start in 1960 by dogmatically propounding a cosmology called person-world theory. I came to person-world theory in 1980: as a supplement to "cognitive nihilism"/meta-technology. To address lived experience when "individual experience" is integrated around personal identity and purpose.

What (i) mentions would be a maneuver of facile reassurance. Person-world theory is way on the other side of facile reassurance. Its undercutting of "materialism" or "mechanization" is the side-effect of a devolutional methodology.


Essaying a recap with a degree of popularization.

I will propose an unheard-of "evaluation of reality" (to use language subsequently to be discarded).

As the predominant "evaluations of reality" have sorted themselves out, we may specify two groups which have come to matter most.

A) Common sense’s naive realism, variously refined. Subjective selves, human minds, in an objective external universe.

B) Philosophical idealism: "it’s all in your head–the universe is my mind–so now we can turn the lights off and go home." Such "philosophy" is a benediction which merely counsels resignation. (European philosophical idealism does not invent or change anything.) In no way does it actually get beyond (A); it defaults to the reigning common sense.

To me, (A) and (B) are obviously bankrupt and destructive. To escape them, for me, is a minimal act of self-preservation.

Referring to the texts naming Aristotle as author, do you think that Aristotelian theory is straightforwardly common-sensical? If you do, it is not your lack of education that is the problem. I could communicate with somebody who truly had never been indoctrinated. Your problem is that you have just enough education to give infinite benefit of the doubt to a canon which you have not read, much less reflected on.

I meet people who are willing to give the canon too much credit. To assume that superstring physics is common sense, and not only that, but that it meshes with psychology to produce an acceptable and adequate account of "human subjectivity"; and not only that, but that if the account of "human subjectivity" is not complete, then it can be perfected by uniting it with Parisian irrationalism and with bygone occultism. It is an idiotically ramshackle bluff–that is being accepted as straightforward realism.

The official reality-pictures are tortured adaptations of (A). They are highly artificial, and amount to logical shell games. Physico-mathematical science is put together as a highly artificial and derivative construct.

Moreover, although physico-mathematical science is justified today by technological efficacy, the "germ" of science is a type of abstract cosmic speculation which did not translate to "scientific" or "rational" technology in the straightforward way we now expect.

In conjunction with figures such as Newton and Liebniz, Europe propounds a baffling sort of spirituality. God is essential as the apex of the physical universe; at the same time, the crucial step of objectification has already been taken in conceiving the cosmos. (One finds it already in Aristotle’s Physics and Metaphysics.) In post-Leibnizian physics, the apex is not God but the ghost of God. Only in advanced branches of personhood theory do I attempt to sort out the perversion which is modern European spirituality; there is a mention in the Appendix, where I discuss meanings of the word ‘spiritual’.

I expect my audience to have been exposed to a lot of physico-mathematical science and "scientific psychology," to the cliches of psychoanalysis, to the classical "problems of philosophy." I expect my audience to understand that familiarity with s opened a zone of experience which philosophical anthropology had not attempted to address. I expect an audience which is not merely servile, and understands how flimsy the "knowledges" here are, and understands that when you add them all together, you get not a complete answer, but complete incoherence.

I presuppose a reader who realizes the degree to which "the world" is imagined, or supplied as "a model." Perhaps this realization requires an unlearning of the obvious as arduous as training for a profession. (A subtle, but legitimate, illustration. The dyad c/g played on the piano. Is it a fifth? Here is a fact of perception which is culturally mutable relative to the popularization of the tempered scale.)

My research is meant to be radical enough to get underneath the succession of mirages called "the factual world"–to address the mirage at the point of the believer’s responsibility in hewing to it.


Let’s spend a moment on a standard philosophical problem. What philosophy calls the "egocentric predicament."

1) One’s so-called comprehension of reality is an individuated "achievement" or process–even if one attributes it to external influences on oneself hypothetically.

2) One’s consciousness is individuated; one is not a telepath. No matter how necessary the ascription of consciousness to other people may seem, it is, by scientific standards, an "excessive speculation." Person-world theory squarely acknowleges this as a conundrum or snag.

Let me add to this another aspect of my sense of crisis. People have tried to rebut me by saying that there is already so much fulfilling communication that intellectual reservations about other minds or mind-to-mind communion is laughable and self-defeating. But in my perspective, what is commonly called communication among people is no better than commands to a dog. I don’t take it as evident that there is a vibrant community of understanding which makes intellectual reservations superfluous.

I assume an audience steeped in these issues. It is then evident that a drastic move is required: otherwise we will not take all this into account, and get above all this.


Topical commentary

The most sophisticated scientists (Marvin Minksy) proclaim an indifferent, purposeless objective world "out there," in which we are just specks–which we can affect only by manipulating matter. Scientific objectification marches toward an account whose treatment of the self is dogmatically dismissive.

The present civilization exhibits a bifurcation into "two cultures," the scientific and the humanistic. Compensation for "scientific dehumanization" is supposed to be provided by "humanistic studies."

Let me detour for a bit to characterize the "humanistic" side of the bifurcated culture. As the territory conquered by scientific cognition grows, the humanities pay a higher and higher price to defend subjectivity, emotion, instinct, etc. The latter are found to be capricious, irrational, infantile, mad. That is inevitable, if a polar opposite to scientific objectivity is demanded. Further impetus was given to this conception by psychoanalysis and its doctrine of the beast in the basement (that human instinctual appetites are the source of all creativity).

By the late twentieth century, the humanistic studies undergo a sea-change. The problem of the two cultures remains as real as ever; but something happens to the side of the dichotomy which is supposed to uphold humanness. "The humanities" begin to devour their own. Structuralism and poststructuralism attack the humanness of humanness, construing the person as a mechanism (structuralism) buffetted by chance or chaos (poststructuralism). The self does not exist: this precept appears as dogma in hundreds of university textbooks. The self, it is said, is a pastiche of replications of an anonymous social mind enmeshed in an incoherent symbolism. The underlying essence is not human, it is bestial. But I refrain from writing the social satire which these developments invite.

Epistemologically, poststructuralism is a howling hysteron proteron, but since Parisian philosophers do not know epistemology, they don’t notice that. From the beginning, the import of poststructuralism has been multiply incongruous. It is screamingly irrational and anti-scientific, but its reduction of mentation (?) to anonymous chaos is immediately analogized to the "baffling" tone of the new physics. Derrida’s earlier works already equated deconstruction to the latest hard science. The claim is expanded in secondary works such as Christopher Johnson’s System and Writing in Derrida (1993). After all, deconstructionist architecture, while ungainly and uncomfortable, is hardly untechnological or unmercenary. Meanwhile, ludicrously, poststructuralism has endorsed a "social" mocking of physics which is an outright hoax.

The purpose of these remarks is to derive a history-of-ideas lesson about the self-assigned mission of "the humanities." "The humanities" have abandoned their role as the bulwark against scientific objectification. Lately, the neo-Romantic predilection for the capricious, the infantile, etc. has been joined to a crude social-objectivism: to mock the human qualities which Romanticism presumably seeks to protect. Late-European man finds the guarantee of his humanness in brutishness, in gibberish, in gratuitous insolence, in the disappearance of the individual in the anonymity of the herd. The latest fashion amounts to a malevolent behaviorism.

(Of course, this commentary is not a rigorous intellectual rebuttal. But before one offers a rigorous intellectual rebuttal, one must have an authentic intellectual experience to contend with, and poststructuralism never sought to provide anything of the sort.)

Militant secularism was a proclaimed stance in the academic world and Leftist politics in the earlier twentieth century. The promise to deliver us from parochialism and superstition was a feature of early analytic philosophy. After the deaths of such founders as Russell and Carnap, this feature was conspicuously abandoned. Taking the contemporary reality-picture wholesale (noting especially that corner of it which ridicules the self), it proves to be unlivable. Consequently, whoever proclaims militant secularism publicly no longer adheres to it privately (if they ever did). Public intellectuals are seen to embrace bygone credulities and dogmas candestinely, as a compensation. Analytic philosophy is now confined to technique; and technique is not supposed to preclude superstition. The latest highbrow discourse grants religion its ancient authority in the most matter-of-fact way.


Again matters of principle

Scientists cannot live with reductionist answers to the "human" questions any more than anybody else can. They get their answers furtively, from bygone occultisms. There is a hidden compartment of anachronistic superstition in their lives. If you pounce on their commitments, and speak of them with the contempt with which they speak of "humanness" in public, they become apoplectically enraged.

Science is simply evasion and insincerity wearing abstraction as its public face, and having as its payoff the manipulation of matter in mundane life.

The endeavor which I have launched does not countenance such derelictions. Let me make the point formal.

1. Scientific orthodoxy is normally shielded from unspecialized objections by professional discipline.

Examples of unspecialized objections:

–How do you add electrons to protons and get, not another object, but a subject (the so-called experience of consciousness)?

–Where are human minds located in space?

–Where is linguistic meaning located in physical nature?

Additionally: Where do you put conscious choice-making in the physical universe?

–Doing science involves "the conscious experience" of striving for a goal. Where does that posture belong in the physical universe and how is it justified as a "choice"?

–How do you attend respectfully to experience on its own terms?

–How do you justify moral prerequisites for scientific investigation such as abstention from "fraud"?

2. The scientist clandestinely practices a credulity which could not be defended in public. The evasion and insincerity involved here typify the scientific personality.

Again, my endeavor rules out both of these derelictions.

If you think the idea being proposed is too strange, if you are shocked, that is doltish. I guaranteed that it is strange. Only a naive person supposes that any serious "reality-evaluation" ever consisted of down-to-earth common sense. A serious challenge to the prevailing picture will need to overstep the bounds of "sanity." If it didn’t, it wouldn’t dislocate sufficiently to matter.

The person-world premise has the totality constituted by self bonded to "objectivities." Alternatively, a personal microcosm as the totality. I am told that this formulation risks being misleading.

Let me recap where we were half-way through Part I. The picture, conception, is a roundabout one. Person-world analysis gives priority to the personal microcosm, provisionally described as self bonded to "objectivities"–relative to a depiction or account of it which you the reader are responsible for interpreting into yourself. Questions about what made the world and what the world is made of are placed in suspension because I don’t accept their terms. The person-world premise is "a single book which each person checks out of the library individually."

As an investigation, person-world theory has so far consisted in a natural-language discourse. It awaits "a reader’s" introspective confirmation (or repudiation as the case may be).

Academic psychology views an individual mind as a minute variable in an objective external universe. Inner or subjective reality, the external objective reality, and the phenomenon of language are walled off in separate compartments.

Person-world theory is not a psychology. Nor does it "confine the individual to the inside of his or her head." It is a perspective-of-totality and a non-intellectual epistemology. From the outset, it squarely acknowledges the issue of "reality as external sources of frustration." (Self’s coping with objectivities.) It squarely confronts the egocentric predicament. It squarely confronts impersonal knowledges such as physics.

The individual "mind" and "external objective reality" are correlative in this analysis: because the vantage-point is the juncture of active integration of the reality-model in the individuated microcosm. In other words, the juncture at which "the framework of reality" is addressed is: the individual’s active "cognitive" integrations, moment-to-moment. "You the reader" deploy a (learned, culturally correlated) reality-model moment-to-moment in coping. (Critical scrutiny has already found the consensus reality-model to be an imaginative fiction, and beyond that, willfully self-deceiving and dishonest.) The juncture in the totality which needs to concern us is self bonded to "objectivities" or "external resistances."

The reader is assumed to realize the degree to which "the world" is imagined, or supplied as "a model." Here I must stipulate all that. Person-world theory is always shaped by encountering common-sense issues in a journalistic way and then undercutting them on behalf of an extra-cultural extremism. It is cheating to address an audience which has not been certified as having unlearned the obvious; but I can’t cover everything in every manuscript.

Biographic identity itself is a model, pieced together from graded episodic memories separated by jump-cuts, and from pieces of paper like birth certificates and school transcripts. That was spelled out in the early person-world manuscripts. When I get this far, my hearers always say, "But that’s not common sense!" (Well, I mentioned [the dyad c/g played on a piano] as a hint to the refractory student that there is a culturally correlated spread in facts of perception.) Person-world theory does not have social competence as its destination; it accounts for social competence as a mirage.

Person-world theory is a natural-language discourse devolving relative to "you the reader." [?In principle, the discourse is all of a piece–rivers to the same ocean–whether my writings at different times, or submissions by other authors.] Each person "checks it out of the library" individually. You the reader are "the universe" correlative to a discourse which you interpret into yourself. Natural language gains a new indispensability here.

At the same time, we find new treacheries in the natural language: as will be spelled out in detail near the end of Part II.

I would wish person-world theory to be freed of its dependence on the natural language. Elaborating new media for the transmission of cultural values. Nevertheless, I and my colleagues learned by the end of the Seventies that one has to reach a different place by verbal thinking before wordless media can even gain attention, and before the intended effect will register.