Thursday, January 19, 2012

"the metaphysics of the idea world"

I just whipped up this essay in response to some provocative questions some friends have posed to me. It concerns worlds of experience we each can open ourselves up to within this life, as if we could hallucinate whole new dimensions, but hopefully saner than that. The world of ideas and feelings are explored in a literalizing and metaphorizing dreamscape.


Take care, Caretakers!


daniel Christopher June

The metaphysics of the Idea World


            The crime of both philosophy and science is to separate an idea from its context and to define it in isolation. Since the scientific method by nature can only comment on what is falsifiable, and since philosophy can comment only on what is refutable, scientists and philosophers might abbreviate their world to claim that only the falsifiable, only the refutable is real, worthy of study and reflection, and the rest, if necessary, is secondary. Thus the stereotypes of the cold-hearted scientist and the cloud-walking philosopher. To be a whole man, to be rounded off and integrated, a scientist must be more than a scientist, and a philosopher more than a philosopher, indeed each man must be a fullness, not merely identifying himself to what he feels partial to. The place of Allism, therefore, is not in any branch of knowledge, nor outside any branch of knowledge, but exists in the integration of all that can be experienced, and all that can be abstracted from such experience. There is no other to the all, nor does Allism except any reality or experience from its concern.

            As the Map lays out, the gravity of a man's experiences lies in the needs that evoke and organize them. An experience is not value neutral, could not be, for an experience exists for a purpose, the end of the man is the in the fulfillment of his needs for stability and growth in relation to the world and its people. Those experiences of reality, those reactions of needs to the inner and outer world, fall into memories, and the sum of them we may call "knowledge." That a man experienced such and such, that a man now experiences such and such, is self-evident, there is no truth nor false in what an experience is, only in what it means. Thus the proper realm of truth and falsity is not in experience, but in the concepts derived from experience, the abstractions we call our assumptions. These assumptions, catalogs and categories of theories on how to practice the art of life, are in themselves without emotional tone and valence -- an experience of them is akin to the philosophers heaven: a sober peaceful enlightenment. Yet they have no final use in such a form: the ideas must be ordered according to value, valances of desire and programs of impulse, put into a system of belief, requiring mental representations for conscious perusal, ascriptions to a conventional language that can be shared between minds, such as English and German, and programmed into a lifestyle and code of behavior. In short, concepts must be made into ideas, and those ideas into habit.

            We can break apart this incarnation of an idea into habit along four modalities: habits of feeling, habits of thinking, habits of saying, and habits of doing. The idea itself, and the concept it is based upon, is some highly defined atom, perhaps abbreviated for the sake of transmission amidst one mind and itself, and one mind and others, in a symbol, an image, a sensual name. This name, which is evoked within that same experience of the idea -- and every concept's meaning is the sense or experience we have when we think it -- works as a metonymy to evoke the full experience, if so desired, by the evocation of the name, or, just as equally, to pass on the name and the idea without fully experiencing them, as we may communicate thousands of ideas without really thinking much on any of them.

            Being in the world of the senses means living in a mental landscape formed of a moodscape, a mindscape, a logosphere, and a plot -- the "worlds" of feeling, thinking, saying, and doing. Properly viewed, none of them can be fully abstracted from the other. All ideas have meanings. Lacking meanings, they would not be ideas at all, but strictly information. The ideas meaning, as a habit, sets in program a range of other ideas in the form of feelings, moods, thought processes, patterns of speech, and modes of action. At the center of this flurry of representations if the consciousness itself, like a ball of glass that may focus on a few ideas at a time, who of their own valence may move into the sphere of awareness, and affect the other ideas there abiding. The habitual  nature of feeling, thinking, saying, and doing, gives the behaviors a sense of a compulsion which we regard as natural. Our thinking, by a lifetime of practice, has become so streamlined and automatic that we no longer see any other way of thinking as possible, and when interpreting the words of a man who thinks widely different than ourselves, we may suspect he is committing one of the three deadly sins of the mind: stupidity, self-deceit, or insanity.

            Given that all of us can approach ideas only in a pragmatic sense of knowing how to use them but not knowing how to define them -- even the most cerebral of us cannot fully define an idea -- just as children can speak grammatically without knowing what an "adverb" is, the deep thinker who is able to break the maya spell of habit and look at the programming of mental experience itself may glean some powers thereby over himself and others. This mental world, this mindscape, is an infinite frontier, a limitless adventure: when a man comes into his own, he is able to think in a way nobody has or can: his mind is a never before seen gift to the world.

            But that doesn't concern most people. If there are two objects that most concern peoples minds, ideas and people, most of us prefer to focus on people. They are much more interesting then delineating what exactly and in excruciating detail what is and what is not "justice." But they are mistaken if they think people are easier to understand then justice. Such abstract ideas can at least be defined and argued for. But just as one can tell why he likes a book on philosophy or not, he would be hard pressed to tell exactly why he likes a given novel, let alone be able to explain what is the formula for a good novel. It is easier to relate to people, but harder to theorize about them.

            I think, therefore, that the most successful psychologist to date have not been those who articulated skeletal frameworks for human behavior, of which psychology enumerate in a digested simplified formula, but those passionate and strange beasts we call novelists, who have a special sensitivity to the world and her people, and can evoke and define a given experience in such a way as to show some psychological truth behind a plot or a character. Indeed, we all can do this on some level, as our mature moral guidance comes less and less from sermons, and more and more from novels, and, for better or worse, the cinema.

            But a man may reflect on his life and experience wherever he is at, and without recourse to any other thinker. Every original thinker started with himself. Around us is the world of the senses, a world ordered by our percepts to be made up of self-identical objects in spatial and temporal relationship. But that is not the full world. The world and its people implies a far richer experience. The child walking down the street creates an experience enough to startle any thinker, and if an exact transcription of it could be put into some other language then immediate being, what greater text could we study?

            Amidst our sensual situation are the worlds generated from the four modalities of habits. We talk endlessly in the logosphere, but we mean more than we can say. We mean it, and somehow the thin words we say conveys it. Look at the mere words and you would wonder how a man is understood at all. But both men in conversation sense by intuition each man's mindscape and heartscape. If a man were to walk amidst a crowd of people, he doesn't know it, but he feels nervous. Nothing need be said, but he is not among his own. There is a feeling of foreboding. To explain things in a metaphorical representation of the mindscape, in the universe of pure forms, which exists within and overtop the sensual world, it were as if the group were holding hands in love, and one of them were pushing him out. Indeed, our gestures imply in themselves the gross forms we rarely have to resort to. Rarely is a man lifted from an assembly, thrown out into the street, and locked. But the spiritual effect of it is communicated in the smallest gestures. A man may walk amidst a group of friends who have discovered a crime he had up till then hid from them. They need not say a word, nor he, but he senses their coldness, intuits what they've learned, and as if they had violently evicted him, the mere gesture of rejection in a cold eyes and a dismissing look has the same psychological effect.

            This mindscape, and word of ideas really exists, it is no fantasy. But how does it exist. Somehow, the sensual world and the actions we do in it is overlaid with language, which is underlaid with ideas and feelings. They are all present in the hard and literal matter of the world, and yet both transcend it and are immersed in it. The dissection of careful study, of dissection, may expose some informative angle on the matter, but no frog is fully known in the dissection lab. The full experience of a frog or anything comes from the accumulation of a wide range of experiences, from different angles, processed though different heads, expressed in the menstruum of language, insinuated through the moodscape and its flow through small gestures and otherwise invisible body language and subtle tones of voice. It is all ultimately one, but in its one form it cannot be known. Only when it is seen in its many form can the one form then be known, just as philosophy and science are inspired by poetry, and themselves come to fruition when they return to poetry, or some living form of language and metaphor. A truth isn't fully a truth until it has beautified itself.

            That this cultural world is world of a million conventions, many of which we don't' even have words for, little understandings we have of what is appropriate to say or do, or not to do, would be invisible to us all if it weren't for the mentally abberated, the insane, the retarded, the autistic, or the artistic. It would all be unconscious habit, which from a conservative standpoint, lets the world run smoothly and predictably, but from a liberal standpoint freezes progress and innovation. We need both conservatives and progressives, the way the left foot stays behind on the ground when the right foot steps forward.

            To slip into the heartscape or the mindscape, indeed to become conscious of the logosphere or the plot of life means not simply hallucinating that you can "see" relationships, but it means adapting a pair of glasses that see metaphors. We can say "My dad is kinda like a Chinese emperor." Suddenly, by saying something that is clearly false, a trope, we can break the literal world of inevitability. All tropes, which are nothing but sophisms and tricks of language, break us the way a Zen koan breaks us from seeing things as we always do to seeing them wrongly. It was a wise man who said, "if you dare to be wrong you may one day be right."

            Adapting a metaphorical outlook on the world, which William James identified as the mental capacity behind both poetry and hard science, we properly enter new dimensions of being, new worlds, invisible worlds. To live in a world of pure feeling, desire, emotion, and mood, or to slip in a dimension of pure thought, to see concepts, ideas, abstractions as literal geometrical shapes, as cogs and wheels, as whatever metaphor best exposes their essence, is not only to escape from the painful necessities of daily life -- work, heartache, death -- but to gain new tools and powers to bring back to your daily chores, duties, and responsibilities. The scientific quests and philosophical adventures we dare when we are alone or in the laboratory may be made to comment on our daily life. What is wisdom, after all, but the ability to make analogy between any new experience and some prior experience? Wisdom is to see the basic structure in a problem, challenge, or question, and refer it back to questions that have already been answered. Was not the hidden analogy in the parable Nathan gave to King David about the slaughtered lamb the best way to broach the king's moral blindness to his own crime? Aren't we all blind constantly on many matters, without knowing it?

            The conman, after all, the deceivers, the religious manipulators, the politicians, the swindlers of every level and degree, are willing and able to see a truth one of us has blinded himself to. By seeing what we hide form ourselves, and gaining access to it, he becomes invisible himself when he slips on the mask of the taboo topic. Self-deception, as I've often said, is the root of all error, the greatest bungling a man or woman can do, but perhaps necessary, for a time, when our constitution and cognitive powers cannot face a reality. How often we are blinded from one truth by staring fixedly at another. Aren't the greatest liars not those who lie, but who speak the wrong truth?

            These layers of experience we are embedded in, the thick world of heavens and hells, plots and dramas that are in the very air around us, render life infinitely interesting, a book never to be exhausted, each of us a self-reading book, an author of life, and presents to us a universe open and inviting for our growth and creative enlightenment through the game of life.



Life becomes first beautiful then eternal


No comments: