A necessary lie

Nihilist                     -                    Totalitarian
Enlightenment         -                    Romanticism
Pragmatist                -                    Realist
Relative                    -                   Absolute 
Complex                  -                    Simple
Poly                          -                    Mono
Centrifugal               -                    Centripetal
Destruction               -                    Conservation
Flawed                      -                    Perfect
Relative                     -                    Absolute
Figurative                  -                    Literal
Liquid                        -                    Solid
Earth                          -                    Heaven

All things are so very uncertain. And that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured.

Moominland Midwinter

We must build structures and believe in them - believe that they are solid, real, and 'true' - yet at the same time we must also be aware that they are transitory, illusory, and - in the the last - only 'true-enough'.

This dilemma has been referred to as 'the Divine Paradox': we must act as if things are absolute, whilst knowing that they are, in fact, only relative. We must play a game, and believe in it enough to play it well; whilst never forgetting that it is, when all is said and done, only a game.

If we believe too much in the solidity of things then we become dogmatic, fundamentalist, totalitarian; we stiffen up, all of our pores close, and we become unable to tolerate - let alone assimilate - new information. We believe in one meaning, one God, and to hell with all the others. We become as certain as statues, rooted and immobile.

Totalitarianism can be characterised by a pathological need to conserve, or hold-together.

If we believe too little then we become skeptical, pessimistic, nihilstic - we become formless, because all form is a lie. Nothing can stick to us, or even touch us. We believe in no meanings, no God (or gods), and to hell with everyone.We become as uncertain as the breeze, unable to connect to anyone, or anything.

Nihilism can be characterised by a pathological need to destroy, or break-apart.

Beneath our structures lies an endless sea of complexity. It is the place from which all structures emerge, and into which all structures return. To glimpse this complexity can cause us intolerable anxiety, and so we may choose to shelter within the safety of our sanctuary and avoid looking outside.

But sometimes a wave comes crashing over our walls, and bursts through our doors, and we're faced with a decision: sink or swim?

Realism is a way station on the route to totalitarianism. The realist insists that there are 'truths' out there; that they stand like monoliths, strong, tall and indifferent to what we may think of them. The realist understands the danger of the sea, but believes that there is such a thing as solid ground, and that if we are diligent enough we can map out these dry places, and live upon them; and moreso, that if only we can build our structures well enough - seal up all openings and make them watertight - that we need never fear the crashing waves or the monsters of the deep. The realist likes dry places, and strong walls.

Pragmatism is a way station on the line to nihilism. Whilst the pragmatist may value his structures, he always has an ear tuned to the sea that roils and roars beyond his boundaries. He does not literalize his structures, believing that even the most impressive monument is, in the last, no more than a castle made of sand. He does not, therefore, believe in objective truths, preferring instead to think of truth as a subjective agreement; as the point of overlap between multiple views. The pragmatist likes damp places, and permeable boundaries.

The realist chooses to believe that there is a wizard, and that he is all-powerful and in control, whereas the pragmatist pulls aside the curtain and reveals the necessary lie - that the wizard is only human, that he has little power; and that what power there is, lies within all of us; and that what sanctuary there is, exists because we create it.

And so here is the tightrope on which we find ourselves: we cannot live in the sea, and so must build our structures, and to build them well we must, to a degree, believe in what we are doing - after all, those that play the game best are those to whom it isn't 'just a game.' Yet we must also never lose sight of the fact that we are, in the last, only playing; we must never take ourselves, or our creations, too seriously.

But is it possible to believe in the wizard once his secret has been revealed? Perhaps the secret, like all esoteric knowledge, is only intended for certain ears.

The neo-Freudian cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker […] believed that the emergence of self-consciousness rendered the individual’s existential position in the world permanently intolerable.

The individual aware of his or her mortal limitation has to hide from reality:

“I believe that those who speculate that a full apprehension of man’s condition would drive him insane are right, quite literally right.... Who wants to face up fully to the creatures that we are, clawing and gasping for breath in a universe beyond our ken? ... Everything that man does in his symbolic world is an attempt to deny and overcome his grotesque fate.”

Becker therefore presumed that human character was of necessity a “vital lie ... a necessary and basic dishonesty about oneself and one’s whole situation” […]

[…] Becker realized that there was something pathological about such “necessary” and “inevitable” dishonesty; knew that the trivialization of reality came at the cost of dignity and self-respect. He believed that too much exposure to reality produced an intolerable chaos, that too little produced a narrow and unbearable restriction, and that the middle ground constituted a form of far-from-admirable but perhaps necessary “philistinism” [...]

Becker was therefore finally sceptical of the benefits of psychotherapy, in general (“psychology as self-knowledge is self-deception, because it does not give what men want, which is immortality. Nothing could be plainer”) [...]

This sophisticated neo-psychoanalyst saw the world, finally, as a place of existential catastrophe, from which human beings are protected by a shield of religious and ideological delusion – the delusion being first that life has some transcendent and ultimate value and second that human beings, qualitatively different from mere animals, somehow partake in that value.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
‘Complexity Management Theory: Motivation for Ideological Rigidity and Social Conflict’, in Cortex, December 2002, p. 429-30

Our lack of "essence" or preordained structure, our "nothingness," leads us to crave solidity. We are, you could say, whirlwinds who wish they were rocks.

We cling to things in the hopes that they will provide us with a certain "weight." We try to turn our loved ones into things by demanding that they not change, or we try to change them into perfect partners, not realizing that a statue, though it may live forever, has no love to give us.

[C. George Boeree]
'Towards a Buddhist Psychotherapy'

While to THE INFINITE ALL, the Universe, its Laws, its Powers, its Life, its Phenomena, are as things witnessed in the state of Meditation or Dream; yet to all that is Finite, the Universe must be treated as Real, and life, and action, and thought, must be based thereupon, accordingly, although with an ever understanding of the Higher Truth.

Under any hypothesis the Universe in its outer aspect is changing, ever-flowing, and transitory — and therefore devoid of substantiality and reality.

But (note the other pole of the truth) under any of the same hypotheses, we are compelled to act and live as if the fleeting things were real and substantial.

Were THE ALL to imagine that the Universe were indeed Reality, then woe to the Universe, for there would be then no escape from lower to higher, divineward–then would the Universe become a fixity and progress would become impossible.

And if Man, owing to half-wisdom, acts and lives and thinks of the Universe as merely a dream (akin to his own finite dreams) then indeed does it so become for him, and like a sleep-walker he stumbles ever around and around in a circle, making no progress, and being forced into an awakening at last by his falling bruised and bleeding over the Natural Laws which he ignored.

Keep your mind ever on the Star, but let your eyes watch over your footsteps, lest you fall into the mire by reason of your upward gaze.

Remember the Divine Paradox, that while the Universe IS NOT, still IT IS. Remember ever the Two Poles of Truth– the Absolute and the Relative. Beware of Half-Truths

The Kybalion, Chapter VI: "The Divine Paradox"

Humans are often caught off guard by or slow to recognize the rare and novel, partly because built into the very nature of our experience is the propensity to extend existing knowledge and experience to future events and experiences.

To exacerbate this natural propensity much of our cultural education both formal and otherwise is built upon historical knowledge forced on us by others. Of course both the natural physiological propensity and the cultural phenomenon are somewhat a necessary precondition to learning, since complete openness to every event would be inefficient. Bertrand Russell observed, "An open mind is an empty mind."

So we cannot be completely open, but we must guard against being completely closed as well.

It would be most efficacious if we could find a balance between the known and unknown and the limits of our knowledge and experience. The effect of unexpected events is likely integral to finding this balance. Thus, the rare and unexpected is far more significant to our formation of knowledge than people often imagine.

Taleb argues that the proposition "we know", in many cases, is an illusion, albeit a necessary one; the human mind tends to think it knows, but it does not always have a solid basis for this delusion of "I know". 

This notion that we do not know is very old, dated at least as far back as Socrates. The Socratic method of questioning and avowal of ignorance is the type of corrective action to the delusion that we know something completely and truly.

Similarly, to those who might argue that the advancement of science has rendered the world well-known, Taleb argues that while science added knowledge, we always run the risk of experiencing the improbable, rare, and novel. We can be shocked by this knowledge and experience or we can be open to it. As with the dictum of Socrates, "the only thing I know is that I do not know", which is as true as ever, Taleb concludes. Taleb further expands this idea of finite knowable worlds (e.g., a game) vs. infinite and thus unknowable worlds (our natural world) in what he calls the Ludic fallacy.

'The Black Swan (Taleb book)'

The main damaging movement away from the soul's double nature Adler calls "the masculine protest," the need to win, to come out on top. He also called this the "striving for perfection" or "superiority."

The psyche constructs; it invents images and the mind follows them as its guides; "guiding fictions," Adler calls them.

So, perfection is a necessary fiction, pragmatically necessary just as truth is "merely the most expedient error." 

When we realize the goal of perfection toward which we strive as an impossibility in every objective and literal sense, then we are also able to recognize how necessary is this fictional perfection.

Goals are thrown up by the psyche as bait to catch the living fish, fictions to instigate and guide action. As Jung said, "A spiritual goal that points beyond ... is an absolute necessity for the health of the soul."

One feels purposefulness, that there is a way and one is moving on a way, a process of towardness, called by Adler striving for perfection, by Jung individuation.

We can keep this way moving only by keeping purposefulness from becoming literalized into definite goals.

Goals, especially the highest and finest, work like overvalued ideas, the roots of delusions that nourish great canopies of sheltering paranoia, those spreading ideals of size and import which characterize the positive goals of so many schools of therapy today.

We see enough of the disastrous effect of goals in daily life, where the belief in an overriding idea about one's purpose in life, what one has to do, the raison d'etre for one's existence turns out to be the very goal which blocks the way.

'To be healed' is the goal which takes one into therapy, and we are healed of that goal when we recognize it as a fiction.

So the best psychotherapy can do is attune the fictional sense. Then the goals toward which therapy strives - maturity, completion, wholeness, actualization - can be seen through as guiding fictions. Then they do not close the way.

Therapy becomes less a support of the "great upward drive" than it is a job of deliteralizing the fictions in which purpose is fixed and where one is actually defending oneself against the soul's innate 'towardness' by means of one's goals.

This suggests that the only possible perfection that the soul can want is perfection of its fictional understanding, the realization of itself in images, itself a fiction among fictions.

This method of as-if keeps the way open, and it seems to be where the Adlerian approach comes closest to the religious idea that the final goal is the way itself, in this case, the way of fiction.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.103-6

The normal person, says Adler, takes guiding principles and goals, metaphorically, with the sense of 'as if.'"To him they are a figure of speech," heuristic, practical constructs.

"The neurotic, however, catches at the straw of fiction, hypostasizes it, ascribes to it a real value." Finally, "in the psychoses, it is elevated to a dogma."  

What makes madness is literalism.

To be sane we must recognize our beliefs as fictions, and see through our hypotheses as fantasies.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.111

Healing, and cure, positive and negative, ego and the unconscious, matriarchy and stages of development, are not literal 'reals,' but heuristic fictions or fantasies which must be recognized as such if psychotherapy is to keep connected with what Giegerich calls "the neurosis of our own discipline."

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.113

Any idiot can look at the world and see that it is fragmented, that a lot things don’t seem to fit together or make sense, and that in a diverse world with diverse cultures there are diverse beliefs and multiple framing-stories that people have used to make sense of it all.

Religion in general is a way of framing the diversity and fragmentation of the world into a larger meta-narrative that helps us human beings to cope and make sense of it all. Religion exists in order to make order out of chaos and help us find connective meaning to our lives - connective meaning that we are connecting to something larger, more meaningful, more real.

The crisis of belief comes when you think you are only part of a smaller framing-story that doesn’t make sense of reality and then life becomes meaningless because the story can’t hold the whole. That’s when existentialism comes in (if I feel, that at least gives me meaning) or the will-to-power (if I take control, at least I can give some meaning to my life.)

So that’s why I love deconstructionism. Deconstructionism allows us to see what the framing stories are in our life, how they have helped us make sense of our lives, and where they came from. It shows us the provincial nature of our world-view (geographically, experientially, culturally, philosophically) and shows us that other people have other stories that make sense of similar realities differently. It’s like comparative religious studies on a personal, cultural level.

[...] decontructionism allows us to see our beliefs for what they are, for their reach, and for whether or not they make sense of the real realities we face. They allow us to compare our framing-stories to see which ones make more sense.

 From blog 'Embarking'

[...] Derrida operates with two different metaphors of the postal system, corresponding to two different 'epochs' in the relation of language and truth.

On the one hand is the legalized channel of regular exchange where messages are sent 'under proper signature to the proper recipient'. This network is policed and maintained by the same laws that guarantee the truth of self-present meaning, the rules of correct interpretation and the 'restricted economy' of language in general.

But there is another, more liberating aspect of 'the post' where the system - as Derrida puts it - appears to 'take a leap' and suggest what possibilities might be opened up if those rules were perceived as mere normative conventions.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 192-3

Hillman's point that we need to keep the hermeneutical options open is well taken - however, humans are "in fact" limited by and to space, time, matter, culture and their "heroic egos," requiring at least provisionally solid solutions and practical guidance for a given situation.

Jung made it clear that he counseled two kinds of people: those who needed solid factual steps to resolve a pressing problem, and those who were in touch with the Collective Unconscious and capable of dialoguing with the imaginal realm.

Not everyone is adept at "psychologizing". It would seem that a truly polytheistic methodology could make room for the literalists among us.

The fact is that many if not most polytheists view their deities as literally existing in some way. Hillman places much of the blame for literalism on monotheism. He critiques Kant's "categorical monotheistic mind", but we need to recognize that such a mind is as much a part of the human psyche as are the erratic polytheistic Gods of "Orphic and Neoplatonic mythology."

[Michael Bogar]
'James Hillman: Postmodern Romantic Reductionist, and Trickster'

Like Rorty, McDowell emphasizes that we cannot get outside our particular perspectives or worldviews. But unlike Rorty, he does not conclude that this means we must give up our notions of truth and objectivity altogether.

To preserve a distinction between a truth that consists of consensus and a truth that consists in getting things objectively right, McDowell argues, "is not to try to think from outside our practices; it is simply to take it seriously that we can really mean what we say from within those practices."

Indeed, he asks, what would it mean to have a worldview if, à la Rorty, we avoid the idea that our statements are true in light of the way the world is in our view of it?

But though Rée, as a Gadamer scholar, thinks Rorty's philosophical stance may be unimpeachable, he is not sure that humankind can master its own future the way Rorty seems to believe.

"One possible picture of metaphysics," he explains, "is that it's rooted not in the studies we make as students but in the ways we try to make sense of ourselves starting from earliest infancy. Our notions may not withstand a Rortyan scrutiny—they may not be not justified in any way.

But nevertheless they're not arbitrary. We've grown to be the people we are because of them. It's more than a matter of will that we came by them, and it's more than a matter of will to change them."

[James Ryerson]
'The Quest for Uncertainty: Richard Rorty's pragmatic pilgrimage'

Despite his respect for the honourable business of the search for clarity, Wittgenstein was wary of the false clarity that scientific thinking, and sometimes the mere business of formulation in language, brings.

I referred earlier to the way in which language's particular contribution to thought is to give it clarity and solidity: as his disciple Friedrich Waismann saw, speaking of the mind's own processes, a psychological motive ‘thickens, hardens, and takes shape, as it were, only after we express it in words’.

We need to struggle towards objectivity, and yet the reality we aim to reveal is itself not precise, so that the artificial precision of our language betrays us.

[...] things as they exist in practice in the real world, rather than as they exist in theory in our representations, are likely to be intrinsically resistant to precision and clarification. That is not our failure, but an indication of the nature of what we are dealing with.

That does not mean we should give up the attempt. It is the striving that enables us to achieve a better understanding, but only as long as it is imbued with a tactful recognition of the limits to human understanding. The rest is hubris.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 157, 461

The Enlightenment supposed that there was a closed, perfect pattern of life [...]

There was some particular form of life and of art, and of feeling and of thought, which was correct, which was right, which was true and objective and could be taught to people if only we knew enough.

There was some kind of solution to our problems, and only if we could construct a structure which accorded with the solution and then proceed to fit ourselves, to put it crudely, into the structure, we should obtain answers both to problems of thought and to problems of action.

But if this is not so, if ex hypothesi the universe is in movement and not at rest, if it is a form of activity and not a lump of stuff, if it is infinite and not finite, if it is constantly varying and never still, never the same [...] how can we possibly even try to describe it?

When we try to describe the light we can describe it accurately only by putting it out. Therefore do not let us attempt to describe it. But you cannot not attempt to describe it, because that means to stop expressing, and to stop expressing is to stop living.

[...] to live is to do something, to do is to express your nature. To express your nature is to express your relation to the universe. Your relation to the universe is inexpressible, but you must nevertheless express it. 

This is the agony, this is the problem.

[Isaiah Berlin]
The Roots of Romanticism, p. 105

If you look at your face in the mirror, all you see is skin, hair and eyes. But you know first hand what you can’t see - your love of music, your hopes, your fears, your aspirations. All of your conscious experiences, that huge rich world that’s the real you - you can’t see that. It’s hidden behind this simple interface symbol that we call a face.

When I look at my cat […] I believe that there is a consciousness I’m interacting with [but] all I see is this furry cute face. When we get down to a rat it’s even worse, and an ant - now my interface is giving me very little insight, but for all I know the consciousness I’m interacting with is very rich.

[At some point] my interface has to give up. I have a finite number of resources in my interface, [and there] is an infinite realm of consciousness out there, so I have to simplify. And then I simplify things to the point where I see nothing conscious there at all, and then I say ‘that’s the fundamental reality.’

We mistake the limits of our interface for a fundamental nature of reality.

We have to take our perceptions seriously. I don’t want to step in front of a bus [so] I take [the bus] very seriously - but I don’t take it literally. 

From an evolutionary point of view this makes sense. Evolution shaped us with symbols designed to keep you alive, you have to take them seriously [...] but that doesn’t entitle us to take them literally.

[Donald Hoffman]
'Reality is Not As It Seems'

[...] Kant allows that the ideas of speculative metaphysics have a proper function, and what he attacks is really only the attempt to make them perform another function, which they cannot perform.

Their proper function, according to him, is to serve as notional points of reference, which lie outside the system of factual knowledge, and so can be used to orient it. They are not parts of the system, but ideals to which it approximates. 

For example, a single theory, in which everything would find a place and be explained, is neither necessary nor possible, but the idea of such a theory serves as a guide for the theories which we do construct. It goes too far, but it goes too far in the right direction.

The mistake, Kant thought, is to suppose that such metaphysical ideas have an objective basis outside the system of factual knowledge, instead of recognising them for what they are, purely notional prolongations of lines which guide the development of human thought.

It is as if a diagram were misread, because a point, which functioned only in its geometrical construction, was taken to represent something.

[David Pears]
Wittgenstein, p. 28-9

[…] it is high time to replace the Kantian question ‘how are synthetic judgements a priori possible?’ with another question: ‘why is belief in such judgements necessary?’ - that is to say, it is time to grasp that, for the purpose of preserving beings such as ourselves, such judgements must be believed to be true; although they might of course be false judgements! 

Or, more clearly, crudely and basically: synthetic judgements a priori should not ‘be possible’ at all: we have no right to them, in our mouths they are nothing but false judgements. But belief in their truth is, of course, necessary as foreground belief and ocular evidence belonging to the prospective optics of life.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 11

It is no more than a moral prejudice that truth is worth more than appearance; it is even the worst-proved assumption that exists. 

Let us concede at least this much: there would be no life at all if not on the basis of perspective evaluations and appearances; and if, with the virtuous enthusiasm and awkwardness exhibited by some philosophers, one wanted to abolish the apparent world altogether, well, assuming you could do that - at any rate nothing would remain of your ‘truth' either! 

Indeed, what compels us to assume there exists any essential antithesis between 'true' and 'false'? Is it not enough to suppose grades of apparentness and as it were lighter and darker shades and tones of appearance - different valeurs, to speak in the language of painters? Why could the world which is of any concern to us - not be a fiction? 

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 34

“One’s maturity - consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child, at play.” Wisdom and age do not replace youth and naiveté once and for all. What to the old now seems only a toy was not merely representation but reality to the child. But the present toys of the old must also, from within their own point of view, appear to be reality themselves.

[…] the metaphor suggests that in our efforts to come to terms with the world not only do we simplify it but, in addition, we cannot think that we do.

In order to be motivated to produce a new view, interpretation, painting, theory, novel, or morality, one must not think that it is simply one among many equally good alternatives; one must believe that it is a very good, perhaps the best, view, interpretation, painting, theory, novel, or morality. Nietzsche writes that truth is created and not discovered; but he still believes that we must think of it as something we discover in order to go on to create it.

[Alexander Nehamas]
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 58-9

“I am afraid that we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.” But what [Nietzsche] considers necessary for belief in God, who here represents the ultimate substance, is not only grammar but also faith in it.

The will to power constitutes a challenge to the concepts of substance and attribute. Since these concepts, according to Nietzsche, depend on out taking our grammar too seriously, the will to power also constitutes a challenge to our common means of expression […]

He claims not that our language is wrong but that we are wrong in taking it too seriously.

He argues that even if the grammatical categories of subject and predicate are categories that are essential to us, this does not imply that the ontological categories of substance and attribute, or any others, are correct […] Nietzsche tries to reinterpret them in order to bring this point out, and he tries to accomplish this goal by offering a reinterpretation of these categories themselves, by trying to show that neither substances nor attributes, neither agents nor effects, are as we commonly take them to be.

[Alexander Nehamas]
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 96

We grossly overestimate the effect of misfortune on our lives.

You think that the loss of your fortune or current position will be devastating, but you are probably wrong. More likely, you will adapt to anything, as you probably did after past misfortunes. You may feel a sting, but it will not be as bad as you expect. This kind of misprediction may have a purpose: to motivate us to perform important acts (like buying new cars or getting rich) and to prevent us from taking certain unnecessary risks.

And it is part of a more general problem: we humans are supposed to fool ourselves a little bit here and there. 

According to Trivers’s theory of self-deception, this is supposed to orient us favourably toward the future.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan, p. 195

We see that science also rests on a faith; there simply is no science "without presuppositions." The question whether truth is needed must not only have been affirmed in advance, but affirmed to such a degree that the principle, the faith, the conviction finds expression: “Nothing is needed more than truth, and in relation to it everything else has only second-rate value."

This unconditional will to truth-what is it? Is it the will not to allow oneself to be deceived? Or is it the will not to deceive? For the will to truth could be interpreted in the second way, too if only the special case "I do not want to deceive myself” is subsumed under the generalization "I do not want to deceive." But why not deceive? But why not allow oneself to be deceived?

Note that the reasons for the former principle belong to an altogether different realm from those for the second. One does not want to allow oneself to be deceived because one assumes that it is harmful, dangerous, calamitous to be deceived. In this sense, science would be a long-range prudence, a caution, a utility; but one could object in all fairness: How is that? Is wanting not to allow oneself to be deceived really less harmful, less dangerous, less calamitous? 

What do you know in advance of the character of existence to be able to decide whether the greater advantage is on the side of the unconditionally mistrustful or of the unconditionally trusting? 

But if both should be required, much trust as well as much mistrust, from where would science then be permitted to take its unconditional faith or conviction on which it rests, that truth is more important than any other thing, including every other conviction? Precisely this conviction could never have come into being if both truth and untruth constantly proved to be useful, which is the case. 

Thus—the faith in science, which after all exists undeniably, cannot owe its origin to such a calculus of utility; it must have originated in spite of the fact that the disutility and dangerousness of "the will to truth," of "truth at any price" is proved to it constantly […] Consequently, "will to truth" does not mean "I will not allow myself to be deceived" but - there is no alternative - “I will not deceive, not even myself"; and with that we stand on moral ground

For you only have to ask yourself carefully, "Why do you not want to deceive?" especially if it should seem - and it does seem! as if life aimed at semblance, meaning error, deception, simulation, delusion, self-delusion, and when the great sweep of life has actually always shown itself to be on the side of the most unscrupulous polytropoi.

Thus the question "Why science?" leads back to the moral problem: Why have morality at all when life, nature, and history are "not moral"? No doubt, those who are truthful in that audacious and ultimate sense that is presupposed by the faith in science thus affirm another world than the world of life, nature, and history: and insofar as they affirm this “other world” - look, must they not by the same token negate its counterpart, this world, our world? 

- But you will have gathered what I am driving at, namely, that it is still a metaphysical faith upon which our faith in science rests - that even we seekers after knowledge today, we godless anti-metaphysicians still take our fire, too, from the flame lit by a faith that is thousands of years old, that Christian faith which was also the faith of Plato, that God is the truth, that truth is divine. 

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, 344

Over immense periods of time the intellect produced nothing but errors. A few of these proved to be useful and helped to preserve the species: those who hit upon or inherited these had better luck in their struggle for themselves and their progeny. 

Such erroneous articles of faith, which were continually inherited, until they became almost part of the basic endowment of the species, include the following: that there are enduring things; that there are equal things; that there are things, substances, bodies; that a thing is what it appears to be; that our will is free; that what is good for me is also good in itself. 

It was only very late that such propositions were denied and doubted; it was only very late that truth emerged - as the weakest form of knowledge. It seemed that one was unable to live with it: our organism was prepared for the opposite; all its higher functions, sense perception and every kind of sensation worked with those basic errors which had been incorporated since time immemorial. Indeed, even in the realm of knowledge these propositions became the norms according to which "true" and "untrue" were determined down to the most remote regions of logic.

Thus the strength of knowledge does not depend on its degree of truth but on its age, on the degree to which it has been incorporated, on its character as a condition of life. 

[…] knowledge became a piece of life itself, and hence a continually growing power - until eventually knowledge collided with those primeval basic errors: two lives, two powers, both in the same human being. A thinker is now that being in whom the impulse for truth and those life-preserving errors clash for their first fight, after the impulse for truth has proved to be also a life-preserving power. 

To what extent can truth endure incorporation? That is the question; that is the experiment.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, 110

Ah, you don't know yet how folly serves us? It keeps us from knowing ourselves; for the sight of oneself is very sad; and since it is never good to know oneself, it would not do for folly to leave men even for a single moment.

[Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle]
Dialogues of the Dead, Part III, Dialogue 4

Simple / Complex

Simple                    -                   Complex
Logos                     -                   Chaos
Solid                       -                    Liquid
Permanence            -                    Change
Known                    -                    Unknown
Perfect                    -                   Imperfect
Heavens                  -                     Earth
Pattern                    -                     Matter
Father                     -                     Mother
God                         -                     Man
Birth                        -                     Death

We can only make sense of a fraction of the information that constantly presents itself to us. The stability of the sense that we make is therefore fragile. Our models of experience are limited, incomplete, and chronically prone to failure.

Our essential existential problem [can be] conceptualized as vulnerability to complexity [...]

 […] we are engineers, more than scientists. When we explore, we try to find out what operations work, more than what things are. In fact, we can not find out what things “are,” because they are too complex. We constantly strive, instead, to determine how the difficult and finally incomprehensible circumstances currently obtaining might be bent more effectively towards fulfillment of our biologically-grounded ends.

[…] we will make mistakes (because we do not understand everything, and because things we do “understand” change) and […] whenever we make a mistake, we encounter what we have not properly categorized and are presently ignoring (since, had we categorized it, and properly paid attention to it, we would not have made a mistake).

[…] This “revenge of the unjustly ignored” immediately and thoroughly complicates our simple functional worlds.

George Kelly (1955) first hinted at the uncomfortable relationship we all hold with complexity […] insisting that human beings had an arbitrary, essential, unequivocal desire to be right – right once and for all, without question.

[…] belief regulates and constrains complexity

[…] Individuals are therefore motivated to maintain the structure of their belief systems, because those belief systems are painfully constructed abstracted patterns of action, designed to meet desired motivational ends, in a world complex and anxiety-provoking beyond understanding.

[…] we need to invert our understanding of anxiety, and come to understand it as our default position in the world; come to understand it as something painstakingly brought under partial control, in consequence of effortful learning, and not something added through learning to a normative background of calm competence and security.

[…] the tendency to remain ideologically committed to a given position (associated with failure to explore and update in the face of anomaly) is also motivated by the desire to maintain the current superstructure of belief and tradition, in the face of evidence that a currently-unspecifiably-large portion of it has been rendered dangerously and troublesomely invalid [...]

Events that indicate error in the pursuit of goals are negatively valenced, but informative. Ideologically rigid individuals sacrifice new and potentially useful information […] to avoid short-term negative emotion.

Ideological rigidity is therefore the tendency to avoid emotionally and cognitively-demanding exploration and information-gathering, subsequent to the receipt of an error message, in the interests of maintaining short-term emotional security. 

This makes totalitarianism of belief something that may be indulged in by default, so to speak – a sin of omission – and something that is potently reinforced, negatively, in the short term. This combination of ease and emotional relief might help explain the widespread prevalence of rigid, maladaptive belief.

Dogmatic certainty is a condition that may be thoughtlessly and carelessly indulged in – a condition that lurks constantly as a temptation, as a second-rate alternative to the travail of authentic adaptation.

It is necessary for us to generate simplified, functional models, in order to function in situations constantly beyond our understanding. However, this process of simplified functional modeling can be pathologized by individuals who are unwilling to allow any unconstrained complexity whatsoever to exist – pathologized, that is, by the existential cowards who make ideological purity the hallmark of existence.

What Becker and the neo-Freudians describe as death terror can be more accurately conceptualized as a priori fear of unconstrained complexity.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
‘Complexity Management Theory: Motivation for Ideological Rigidity and Social Conflict’, in Cortex, December 2002, p. 431-2, 440, 444,  450-1, 454-5

The ego refers to the means of organizing the conscious mind. The ego selects those perceptions, thoughts, memories, and feelings that will become conscious.

The organizational structure of the ego provides a sense of identity and day-to-day continuity so that individuals are not a mass of random conscious and unconscious perceptions, thoughts, and feelings.

By screening out great amounts of unconscious material (memories, thoughts, and feelings), the ego attempts to achieve a sense of coherence and consistency, while at the same time being an expression of individuality.

[Richard S. Scharf]
Theories of Psychotherapy and Counseling: Concepts and Cases (2nd Edition), p.91

Since the Psychopathology of Everyday Life things have changed. This book isolated and made analyzable things which had heretofore floated along unnoticed in the broad stream of perception.

For the entire spectrum of optical, and now also acoustical, perception the film has brought about a similar deepening of apperception.

By close-ups of the things around us, by focusing on hidden details of familiar objects, by exploring common place milieus under the ingenious guidance of the camera, the film, on the one hand, extends our comprehension of the necessities which rule our lives; on the other hand, it manages to assure us of an immense and unexpected field of action.

Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly. Then came the film and burst this prison-world asunder by the dynamite of the tenth of a second, so that now, in the midst of its far-flung ruins and debris, we calmly and adventurously go traveling. With the close-up, space expands; with slow motion, movement is extended.

The enlargement of a snapshot does not simply render more precise what in any case was visible, though unclear: it reveals entirely new structural formations of the subject. So, too, slow motion not only presents familiar qualities of movement but reveals in them entirely unknown ones “which, far from looking like retarded rapid movements, give the effect of singularly gliding, floating, supernatural motions.”

Evidently a different nature opens itself to the camera than opens to the naked eye – if only because an unconsciously penetrated space is substituted for a space consciously explored by man [...] The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.

[Walter Benjamin]
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, section XIII

You should move to a small town, somewhere the rule of law still exists. You will not survive here. You are not a wolf, and this is a land of wolves now.

Dialogue from the film 'Sicario'

One reason why economists are increasingly apt to forget about the constant small changes which make up the whole economic picture is probably their growing preoccupation with statistical aggregates, which show a very much greater stability than the movements of the detail.

This is, perhaps, also the point where I should briefly mention the fact that the sort of knowledge with which I have been concerned is knowledge of the kind which by its nature cannot enter into statistics and therefore cannot be conveyed to any central authority in statistical form.

The statistics which such a central authority would have to use would have to be arrived at precisely by abstracting from minor differences between the things, by lumping together, as resources of one kind, items which differ as regards location, quality, and other particulars, in a way which may be very significant for the specific decision.

It follows from this that central planning based on statistical information by its nature cannot take direct account of these circumstances of time and place and that the central planner will have to find some way or other in which the decisions depending on them can be left to the "man on the spot."

[Friedrich Hayek]
'The Use of Knowledge in Society'

“First principle thinkers” or “contrarians”: They hold nuanced positions that oppose the policy on the x-axis, but support the moral virtue on the y-axis.

“These are people who are thinking for themselves, and are not buying baked-cakes. They’re buying the ingredients and they’re saying, well, I want more of this ingredient, I don’t like that ingredient. So they’re attempting to avoid having any pre-baked idea put in front of them.”

1. Peterson, who is in the “First principle thinkers” quadrant, gives a nuanced argument that is opposed to mandated equality of outcome (e.g. mandated income-equality between men and women), but that supports equality of opportunity (e.g. opposed to discrimination based on gender).

2. Newman is in the “Dupes” quadrant. She infers that Peterson’s opposition suggests he condones, or is at least unconcerned, with discrimination based on gender. For example, she said, “You’re saying, basically, it doesn’t matter if women aren’t getting to the top.”

3. As a result, Peterson is portrayed as a misogynist, or insensitive to gender discrimination, effectively moving him from the “First principle thinkers” quadrant to the “Troglodyte” quadrant. However, this is counter to his actual position, which is support for equality of opportunity (and not discriminating based on age, race, gender or sexual orientation), which he said was “eminently desirable.”

[Shane Mottishaw]
'Eric Weinstein’s Four Quadrant Model'

Complex vs. Complicated. 

An aircraft is a complicated system; all of its thousands of components are knowable, definable and capable of being catalogued as are all of the relationships between and among those components, while human systems are complex.

A complex system comprises many interacting agents, an agent being anything that has identity. We all exist in many identities in our personal and work lives. As we move among identities, we observe different rules, rituals and procedures unconsciously.

In a complex system, the components and their interactions are changing and can never be quite pinned down. The system is irreducible. Cause and effect cannot be separated because they are intimately intertwined.

When a rumor of reorganization surfaces: the complex human system starts to mutate and change in unknowable ways; new patterns form in anticipation of the event. If you walk up to an aircraft with a box of tools in your hand, nothing changes.

Another feature of a complex system is retrospective coherence in which the current state of affairs always makes logical sense, but only when we look backwards. The current pattern is logical, but is only one of many patterns that could have formed, any one of which would be equally logical.

Scientific management served well in the revolutions of total quality management and business process re-engineering and continues to be applicable in the domain of the complicated; however, just as Newtonian physics was bounded by the understandings of quantum mechanics, so scientific management has been bounded by the need to manage knowledge and learning.

Complex vs. Chaotic. 

A complex system comprises many interacting identities in which, while I cannot distinguish cause and effect relationships, I can identify and influence patterns of interactivity. In a complex domain we manage to recognize, disrupt, reinforce and seed the emergence of patterns; we allow the interaction of identities to create coherence and meaning.

With a chaotic system all connections have broken down and we are in a state of turbulence.  In a chaotic domain no [...] patterns are possible unless we intervene to impose them; they will not emerge through the interaction of agents.

[Dave Snowden]
'Complex Acts of Knowing: Paradox and Descriptive Self-Awareness'

We, members of the human variety of primates, have a hunger for rules because we need to reduce the dimension of matters so they can get into our heads […] 

The more random the information is, the greater the dimensionality, and thus the more difficult to summarise. The more you summarise, the more order you put in, the less randomness.

Hence the same condition that makes us simplify pushes us to think that the world is less random than it actually is.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan, p. 69

It happens all the time: a cause is proposed to make you swallow the news and make matters more concrete. 

After a candidate’s defeat in an election, you will be supplied with the “cause” of the voter’s disgruntlement. Any conceivable cause can do. The media, however, go to great lengths to make the process “thorough” with their armies of fact-checkers.

It is as if they wanted to be wrong with infinite precision (instead of accepting being approximately right, like a fable writer).

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan, p. 74

“Rorschach, I don’t know very well. I believe he’s a man of great integrity, but he seems to see the world in very black and white, Manichean terms. I personally believe that to be an intellectual limitation.”

['Adrian Veidt']
Watchmen, Chap. XI

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Do Not Disturb 
Short Cuts