Category Archives: Psychology

On Suicide

My son, Chris, committed suicide on April 24th, 2017, a few minutes after midnight with a .44 Magnum bullet to the head. No one has ever loved a child more than his mom and I loved Chris. I was lucky enough to retire when my kids were very young. I spent the best years of my life in an amazing mountain house being Mr. Mom to my angels in the Colorado mountains. Both of my kids had the most loving, supportive, parents a child could have. We were devoted to those babies, all in, with unconditional love. We still are.

When Chris put a bullet in his head, he didn’t know what hit him. Chris did not kill himself. He killed us. Only the living can die. The dead cannot die. Not only did he kill us, but he killed the world. He was such a tender soul and at the age of twenty he made a terrible, impulsive mistake not to grow up in this world. He had been plagued with anxiety since birth. He had all the loving support and professional support a troubled soul could have from kindergarten to the very last days of his life.

The reason I am writing this post is because I want those obsessed with suicidal ideation and everyone else to know that suicide is not heroic. Death is nothing to the person that is dead. Death is only death to the living. His mom and I and everyone who loved Chris live his death every day of our lives. We live in the shadow of his death. We die a little every day with him. Chris did not even know he was dead. What does this mean?

I want all to understand that hatred, envy, bitterness, resentment is surface for the living. Underneath all that is a belonging that far exceeds this erroneous, in philosophy we call metaphysical, notion that we are all absolute individuals. The opposite is true. No one that has ever lived, used language, thought – thinking IS history, culture, identity if you will, is merely ‘me’, alone. That notion only covers over our unique vulnerability, inability to be an isolated ‘me’. We run from our essential connection to each other when we imagine ourselves to be alone. We cover our inferiority with the garbs of shame when we ride momentary impulses of heroic, unmoored pride or hatred, enmity, anger, and resentment. All those things leave us emptier and emptier, as life moves on. If we give ourselves over to that, we become empty shells, husks of what could have been.

This is not just philosophical. This is emotional. This is life. Life is fundamental connection to the other for better or for worse. Our only choice is to be centered, grounded in love. And love is not simply a goosy feeling. Love is pain and how we live pain every day. Love is not letting momentary distractions take us off course. For you, young people, there will come a day when love will find you more and more immersed in pain. The pain of losing those you love will more and more, as you get older, dominate your inner ‘soulscape’. You can choose not to love or distract yourself from the pain of love but only at the cost of living an empty, futile life. There is no ‘heroic’ in love. There is only a peace beyond understanding, a satisfaction which endures, in the midst and mist of pain. To acknowledge our vulnerability to each other is to live. To run from it is to die. This is the only real choice we have. Choose wisely!

In the words of Alfred Tennyson,

I envy not in any moods

The captive void of noble rage,

The linnet born within the cage,

That never knew the summer woods:


I envy not the beast that takes

His licence in the field of time,

Unfetter’d by the sense of crime,

To whom a conscience never wakes;


Nor, what may count itself as blest,

The heart that never plighted troth

But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;

Nor any want-begotten rest.


I hold it true, whate’er befall;

I feel it, when I sorrow most:

‘Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.


From: In memoriam by Alfred lord Tennyson


Who Said ‘Better to Have Loved and Lost than Never to Have Loved at All’?

Maslow, Law & Grace, Reactionary & Revolutionary

Figure 1 – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow captured a moment in human evolution which, in the Enlightenment tradition, summed up the need for meaning from an individual perspective. What is perhaps understated to some degree by his model is that the Latin idea of nātūra (nature) and the more radical Greek notion of φύσις, εως, ἡ (phusis, physics) was our tutor and guardian. The dance of environment and individual conspired together to bring us to the next stage of human evolution. Basic needs demanded and required, upon the pain of death, obedience. The height of individualism was addressing the need for human meaning and personal fulfillment. Just as human individuality, from the physics of space-time, essentially entails ‘from a past’, ‘in a present’, and ‘to a future’ so meaning is derived from origin, to presence, and toward telos, a goal or culmination. In Aristotelian terms,

In Metaphysics Α.1, Aristotle says that “everyone takes what is called ‘wisdom’ (sophia) to be concerned with the primary causes (aitia) and the starting-points (or principles, archai).” (Cohen, 2020)

Furthermore, Aristotle writes of dunamis (potentiality) and entelecheia (actuality) or energeia (activity),

Since Aristotle gives form priority over matter, we would expect him similarly to give actuality priority over potentiality. And that is exactly what we find (Θ.8, 1049b4–5). Aristotle distinguishes between priority in logos (account or definition), in time, and in substance. (1) Actuality is prior in logos since we must cite the actuality when we give an account of its corresponding potentiality. Thus, ‘visible’ means ‘capable of being seen’; ‘buildable’ means ‘capable of being built'(1049b14–16). (2) As regards temporal priority, by contrast, potentiality may well seem to be prior to actuality, since the wood precedes the table that is built from it, and the acorn precedes the oak that it grows into. Nevertheless, Aristotle finds that even temporally there is a sense in which actuality is prior to potentiality: “the active that is the same in form, though not in number [with a potentially existing thing], is prior [to it]” (1049b18–19). A particular acorn is, of course, temporally prior to the particular oak tree that it grows into, but it is preceded in time by the actual oak tree that produced it, with which it is identical in species. The seed (potential substance) must have been preceded by an adult (actual substance). So in this sense actuality is prior even in time. which it is identical in species. The seed (potential substance) must have been preceded by an adult (actual substance). So in this sense actuality is prior even in time[1]. (Cohen, 2020)

From Aristotle’s perspective human individuality is not self-identical but essentially interwoven in phusis. Actuality and potentiality are both fundamentally constituent of reality[2]. From the Latin world and Roman Christianity, the individual emerges predominately in the landscape of phusis. This brings us to law and grace.

The law, as what Christianity deems the ‘Old Testament’, was a tutor and guardian until grace, what Christianity deems the ‘New Testament’, would transform the individual in the same way Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs transformed needs. Needs in the fight for survival was unforgiving and ruthless to offenders. Transformations to psychological needs and to higher needs of self-fulfillment also resulted in a kind of reprieve from more basic needs. While Judaic laws required, upon pain of death in certain instances, obedience; grace writes the law in the heart. So, for grace the law is no longer fundamentally wed to phusis but becomes a kind of phusis unto itself in its transformation. This is how individuality emerges from phusis.

Underlying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the background of phusis. The individual finds meaning by moving from the law to grace, from mere survival to self-fulfillment, self-determination but cannot end in the laws of individuality but move on to the contextual, potentiality, which is determinate of the metaphysic of individuality. This movement is dependent upon fulfilling the earlier requirements of biological dependence on phusis. However, the individual has the potential to transform itself to a higher level of meaning and purpose than mere servitude to phusis and the truncation of contextuality into actuality.

Capitalism is the economic expression of individualism. Capitalism holds the stick of phusis but also raises the carrot of higher individual potentiality. However, it proposes not a grace of human individuality in which the individual attains a transformation of meaning but a domination of phusis. By conquering the slavery of mere survival, ideally, we can put phusis into the position of bondage and subjugation to affluent needlessness. In this then, we find the Error of the illusion of power and the reality of phusis. In Karl Marx’ terms the problem of capitalism is the creation of artificial needs, otherwise called marketing. We must have the next smart phone. In this sense, meaning is accomplished by the myth of Sisyphus. In cheating phusis Sisyphus was forever condemned to push a rock up a hill only to have it roll down once again. The promise of capitalism could never deliver us from phusis but could only forever require our aspirations which, for most, was doomed to fail. Even the most successful capitalist must give way to phusis in death. Furthermore, conquering phusis turns out to merely produce climate change and not the end of phusis but the end of humanity – eternal death of human.

This is how individualism has played itself out through history. However, another marginalized narrative has also held the potentiality of grace through cooperation with phusis. Cooperation does not spring forth from absolute individualism but from collectivity and responsibility. Human meaning is not obtained through the desperations of individualism but through the graces of maturity. Maturity recognizes our dependence upon phusis and each other. We no longer actualize the dynamics of power and subjugation built into the metaphysics of individualism but allow, make way, for the gift of the other; the other as phusis and as the he or she we face. When we give way to the other, we take responsibility for our obligation, our indebtedness to what we are not. We integrate and harmonize, make peace, with reality instead of a pitched battle with it. We no longer blame the other for our lack of power but take hold of our responsibility to the cry of the other. This does not take us back to manufactured needs of self-justification in the form of individual merit.

The bourgeoisie labor in self-adoring-adorning will imputing their metaphysic of failed individualism upon the proletariat. They absolve themselves of responsibility to the higher call of action in care. Democracy is based in a call higher than the metaphysics of individualism can understand. It places political responsibility on the individual to respond to the call of collectivity and the other. By the ‘other’ I mean phusis and the he or she. As long as we lapse into individualism, we absolve ourselves of the phenomenological reality of language.

Language is not private and individual. Language is not something we manufacture for the purpose of creating artificial needs which enrich its producers. Language is an archeology, an origin which we did not create, which preceded us from those we never knew. It is not merely a tool but a history-scape which informs us before we become cognitively aware of it. Self-realization cannot happen without others who have long since receded into language’s background. Even as eyes and ears are filters which let us make sense of the world, language functions as filters we call ‘reality’ in which ‘I’ as an individual never created or became the origin of. In this way, we are ‘individuals’. We name ourselves and bestow on ourselves the title of identity as if we were some kind of self-unification. Insanity is what we call those who have a private language and found identity upon it.

Democracy requires a perspective and a horizon in which each individual has place. ‘Place’ here is not a badge of individual merit. It is bestowed from how we actually are. We are bound and indebted to the other, to phusis, to any such thing which we call reality. While this can be denied in favor of autocracy, whether individual or political, it is ultimately self-defeating as it vaults the individual to heights which can only be maintained by the very opposite phenomenon it employs to create its artificial, virtual reality. It uses language to deny how language is, how it emerges from an exteriority which cannot be solipsistic. The eternal recurrence of the same in linguistic filters are fabricated to protect and destroy the myth of power. The endless repetition of simulacra and re-simulation are doomed from within because they cannot hear the still small voice of phusis. They can only result in the rise and demise of civilization and our environment. This is where reactionary and revolution find relevance.

Reactionary is a throw back to a fabricated past the never was. It is the wild west of individualism. There never was a John Wayne of individualism. It was created, manufactured, re-produced to protect the few violently. However, there is no evil genius here. Rather, it is a result of a linguistic history which advocates against itself. The heroic defies reality in favor of its own phantasma of who it is. It creates a past in which it is its own origin. It is self-caused. It is the creator of heroic and horror-ic values. It is the law in the garb of self-identity.

The Judaic law was given by God not man, but the new version of the law is the created simulacra of man, of a history which wishes to be but cannot be. Reactionaryism can only produce the reality of Sisyphus, an eternal recurrence of the same, reproduction of something that never was. It is wish-fulfillment which attempts to renew itself in itself and by itself. Revolution welcomes the new but all to often fails in the linguistic sanctums of power.

Revolution, as the new which never was, looks toward a future which has never been but is all too often doomed by its self-sufficiency in the phantasms of language which pull it back into the gravitational orbit of self-identity. Just as the revolutionary idea of democracy has lapsed in the United States back into the reactionary simulations of authoritarianism, revolution cannot succeed if it utilizes tools from our linguistic past which were devised to protect the illusion of power. What we need is to re-think language in terms of phusis. Our situatedness in history and phusis is not as masters of power but fundamentally dependent upon that which is not-me. Revolution can only find a higher transformation when it lets the ghost of power and absolute individualism fall into the dust bin of failed, phantasmas of a past that can never be. We must find an ethics which is participatory and essential to the responsibility towards the other. As human we are all part of a pluralistic, heterogenous reality-scape which offers many abodes that can never be commensurate.

Those that revel in power and self-identity have fashioned for themselves a simulacra, a golden calf, which can only be repeated in reactionary violence. The cry of the other, the suffering of the other. The relegation of oppression and self-absorbed denial of who we are and not who we imagine the ‘they’ are is the revolution which will usher in a transformation with ourselves and our environment. Transformation from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Individual Needs must give up the ghost of labor which can only toil in eternal repetition of the same. This is not a new hierarchy. This is an acceptance of responsibility and obligation to the other, to phusis. We cannot arise at the expense of the other and our environment. We must have the grace of making place for the other. We must allow the content of phusis and the real needs of the other to call us to responsibility. The individual does not disappear in collectivity as drop of water in the ocean. This is another illusion built on the mirage of individualism. Responsibility places us as situatedness to that that which we cannot efface and calls us to actualize our responsibility to that call. In this untapped potential for what it means to be human we find cooperation and concern for what we cannot erect a phantasma of. It is founded in a language and history which we cannot have power over but can recognize our absolute limitation in the face of radical alterity which requires our responsibility not our violence in its defacement.


Cohen, S. M. (2020). “Aristotle’s Metaphysics”. (E. N. (ed.), Ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 Edition). Retrieved from

[1] Interesting to note that Aristotle’s notion of actuality and potentiality seems to me to have some reverberations in modern chaos theory. Chaos theory does not deny order or actuality. Instead, it tells us that order is a co-determination of chaos. Order and chaos are not diametrically opposed as subject and object. They have an essential relationship. The universe is structured as self-organizing as fractals. Fractals have the unique capacity to be both ordered and chaotic infinitely. There appears to no limit to the patterns they can make in the same way as each snowflake is absolutely unique. This is what is called self-organizing. In the chaos theory the universe is self-organizing. There is no limit to the nature of how it organizes. A butterfly’s wings can spark a tsunami on the other side of the world. This makes the outcome essentially unpredictable. Likewise, actuality or energy emerges from potentiality as limitless patterns emerge from fractals. Actuality emerges as particular forms just as language emerges as particular histories, invocations of reality and absolutes. The are uniquely particular and ordered but their origins are not in the absolute of their actuality, of their content, or the mystery we call reality, but in the absolutely unpredictable outcomes of potentiality. Additionally, they are intimately the subject of absolute unpredictable, chaotic changes. Therefore, cause and effect are not a reality but an observation of a commonality, a particular fractal pattern, which emerges in language and history.

[2] I use the word ‘reality’ here on the context of its philosophical history which I cited in my previous post, Maslow, Law & Grace, Reactionary & Revolutionary. Reality is not the simplicity of an object related to a subject as philosophy starting in the 19th century has argued culminating around the same time that Einstein’s theory of relativity was taking off at the beginning of the 20th century. Reality is a chaotic and ordered process of language and its other. It is not self-evident except in supposed, assumed and metaphysical histories. It is interactive and chaotically potential in its actual forms. One simple example is the relativity of space-time. As an individual human we have mass. Since we have mass, we create small but not insignificant distortions of space-time around us. Additionally, time runs faster on the top of a mountain than in a valley (gravitational time dilation). Each individual is wrapped from birth to death in their space-time continuum. Additionally, this space-time continuum has stretch and minute variations which directly correspond to relative masses and speed called frames of reference. It is wrong to think of time and space as static, universal and absolute. Similarly, it is wrong to think of individuality as absolute as it is determined by the other of history, language, phusis, and the he and she. All of this is dynamic and chaotic, its capacity for predictability. Closing down individuality into an absolute is death. As Heidegger tells us, “Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein (human being or more precisely the ‘there’ of being).” The impossibility of individuality emerges in language and history as an absolute impossibility or as Heidegger calls it the “they-self”. The they as a self is immediately contradictory and unsustainable as it is a self-contradiction. Similarly, absolute individuality cloaks it contextual histories which are relegated to its margins. This does not negate the form of the individual but places it in relative context with it’s ‘not’ as a pattern in fractals does not deny it’s infinite, unpredictable, and chaotic patterns but emerges from them. However, the not is not a negation but an affirmation of an absolutely ‘other’, even as death is a possibility in its absolute impossibility. The fear of death is actually the fear of life since no one will ever experience death as Epicurus tells us,

“Why should I fear death?

If I am, then death is not.

If Death is, then I am not.

Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?

Long time men lay oppressed with slavish fear.

Religious tyranny did domineer.

At length the mighty one of Greece

Began to assent the liberty of man.”

What is Reality?

I have had several conversations recently which I think bring up this interesting question. My background in a lifetime of interest in philosophy and physics has sometimes caused me to over-assume that others are aware to some degree of how 19th century metaphysics of mechanics is still very dominate in most folks thinking. The metaphysics of mechanics assume an absolute time and space dominated by Cartesian metaphysics in which Renes’ Descartes writing in the 17th century declares, “I think, therefore I am”. At the very beginning of the Scientific Revolution, time and space was thought through the metaphor of a machine. This was no ‘spooky action at a distance’ but with Newton there soon would be ‘action at a distance’ with gravity and later with electromagnetism. The notion of aether had been around for a very long time before Newton but Newton would attribute gravity to a Christian God. Therefore, it was reasonable that shortly before the birth of Newton, Descartes in keeping with Latin Christianity would think of reality as subject and object. The subject was the domain of aether, God, mind, spirit, etc. and the object was matter, substance, body, just dead stuff. This metaphysic of absolute dualism would make the Mechanical Revolution of the 18th and 19th century possible. I use metaphysic from the Latin as the Christianized transformation from Aristotle’s works on ‘first philosophy’ or being as such. This metaphysic became ‘reality’. It became a largely unquestioned assumption which underscores more the impact and vast significance of history as human than any such thing as the ‘real’.

In the 19th century Hegel’s dialectic shattered with great genius and logic this dominate metaphysic. His impact was so devastating that reactions to Hegel spun off Karl Marx and communism (long before the Russian Revolution). Marx vigorously opposed the bourgeois Hegel in favor of material dialecticism. Hegel also spun off the British Empiricists and Adam Smith which became the foundation of capitalism. What was so devastating about Hegel’s observations? Hegel pointed out clearly that the dominate metaphysic of his day was an abstraction. It was not a matter denying the ‘reality’ of Cartesian dualism but of showing how it was an abstraction. Kant tells us,

For human reason, impelled by its own need rather than moved by the mere vanity of gaining a lot of knowledge, proceeds irresistibly to such questions as cannot be answered by any experiential use of reason and any principles taken from such use. And thus all human beings, once their reason has expanded to [the point where it can] speculate, actually have always had in them, and always will have in them, some metaphysics.

—Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

Isaac Topete writes,

Kant posits a two-fold constitution of knowledge by the two faculties of understanding and sensibility, and thereby, rejects the hypothesis of an intuitive understanding. With these two stances in mind, Hegel—within the Science of Logic—is critical of Kant insofar as he sees these above positions by Kant as detrimental to the project of idealism. Detrimental in the sense that Hegel thinks that Kant’s position is self-contradictory to the extent that concepts exist only in relation to appearance (i.e. illusory being) and, hence, concepts do not have any actual ‘truth’ to them insofar as they only apply haphazardly. So, from the perspective of Hegel, for Kant, concepts are derivative and hold no actual traction beyond that which appears. This, therefore, leads to Hegel’s attempt to critique and overcome these Kantian assumptions within the Science of Logic. (Topete)

Kant distinguished concepts from the ‘thing in itself’ or noumenon as opposed to phenomenon or manifestations – concepts. So, Kant was still to some extent working from Cartesian metaphysics. However, even Kant was already thinking clearly about the absolute abstractions of concepts and their inability to sustain any such thing as ‘reality’ without essentially being a metaphysic. Hegel shows through rigorous and extensive writings that Kant’s dualism resulting in the ‘thing in itself’ could not stand as Kant intended but even Kant’s unstated dualism was itself merely Concept. Hegel thinks Kant is still a victim of abstraction in that he could not break with some notion of reality which maintained the opposition of noumenon and phenomenon. This was the beginning of the end for Cartesian dualism over one hundred and fifty years ago.

Philosophy after Hegel broke into two main divisions: Continental and Analytic Philosophy. Continental meaning mainland Europe and Analytic meaning chiefly United States. However Analytic Philosophy grew out of the British Empiricist’s reaction to Hegel and the German Idealists. Both strains of philosophy have also traversed to widely varying degrees away from the mechanics of Cartesian reality.

Continental philosophy eloquently shows the break from the classical world to the modern world beginning with Existentialism and into phenomenology. Existentialism was focused on the matter of existing in a daily world and how to live without the metaphysics which made the classical world possible. Phenomenology was contemporaneous in the early 20th century with Einstein and Relativity. While not directly affecting each other they had some interesting parallels. Phenomenology started in earnest when Edmund Husserl began by focusing not on abstractions of metaphysics but how phenomenon shows itself from intentionality. As human we always encounter the world with intention which is not passive but active in determining what shows itself. His student Martin Heidegger also working from Husserl discusses two examples of how this works. Heidegger asks how do we experience spatiality? Do we encounter it as linear extension, as feet or inches from objects?

Actually, linear extension is an abstraction. It is a grid we impose on the world. Even Einstein tells us space is not linear but relative to time and frames of perspective. ‘Long’ and ‘short’ change relative to the speed of light. For Heidegger, we have lived-space. We bring close and distance ourselves from regions of contoured spatiality. While the glasses on our face may be much closer to us in linear extension our lived space is what our intentions are occupying in interests beyond and through our glasses. When we are in a class room there is a space between the teacher and the students which we experience as different regions where possibilities are delineated in advance. Lived space is not devoid of everything except dead extension. It is alive and has various qualities which inform us about ourselves, others and the world and how we act in various regionalities. Additionally, lived-time is not linear now moments. Lived time has a stretch of duration from a past through a present to a future. When we are happy ‘time flies’ and when we are bored or depressed time slows to a halt. Lived-time is a stretch of qualities and not just dead time. In terms of Einstein, time is relative to us, our frame of reference. Continental philosophy goes on to show how time and space are concretized by qualities of our experience of them.

Continental philosophy moved on in the mid to latter 20th century to structuralism and poststructuralism, modernism and post-modernism. These movement encompassed vast areas beyond philosophy including architecture, art, feminism, etc. These movements laid a foundation for a critique of abstractions from the classical and modern world and showed how their influences became occasions for violence and domination both to ourselves and our environment. Derrida showed through deconstruction how dominate, historic narratives must necessarily include their own antithesis and undoing. Fanaticism and terrorism result from their inevitable collapse. Furthermore, any form of structuralism is doomed to carry the seeds of its own demise. Derrida even goes so far as to say that “deconstruction deconstructs itself”. A case and point here is the interesting turns we find in Analytic Philosophy.

Analytic philosophy got its impetus from getting back to the senses in British Empiricism and not German Idealism. However, it quickly became entangled in linguistics, semantic and syntax. Once it emerged from the logic of language it took on the philosophy of language in a much more evasive role.

Those who use the term “philosophy of language” typically use it to refer to work within the field of Anglo-American analytical philosophy and its roots in German and Austrian philosophy of the early twentieth century. Many philosophers outside this tradition have views on the nature and use of language, and the border between “analytical” and “continental” philosophy is becoming more porous with time, but most who speak of this field are appealing to a specific set of traditions, canonical authors and methods. (PhiIn)

I am not as familiar with the Analytic tradition but I understand that sense perception has become inseparable from language games, context, intentions, intersubjectivity and histories. Rudolf Carnap even went so far as to substitute intention for sense. Contextuality is not something added on to reality but constituent of reality. The ‘Pittsburg Hegelians’ have even taken Analytic Philosophy back to Hegel in some important respects. Writing of Wilfred Sellars (an important advocate of the Pittsburg Hegelians) Willem A. deVries writes,

For both Hegel and Sellars, the sociality of thought entails also its historicity. We always operate with a less than ultimately satisfactory conceptual framework that is fated to be replaced by something more satisfactory, whether on the basis of conceptual or empirical considerations… Sellars denies both that there are ‘atoms’ of knowledge or meaning independent of their relation to other ‘pieces’ of knowledge or meaning, and that they are structured in a neat hierarchy rather than an interlocking (social) network. The determinate content of a thought or utterance is fixed by its position in the space of implications and employments available to the community in its language or conceptual framework. This kind of holism is congenial to Hegelian modes of thinking… Hegel is an epistemological realist: he rejects the idea that we do not (or are not even able to) know things as they are in themselves. Yet neither Hegel nor Sellars wants to reject altogether the distinction between phenomenal reality and things as they are in themselves. Sellars calls the distinction between the phenomenal and the real the distinction between the manifest and the scientific images of man in the world.

Hegel provides for numerous phenomenal realities related in ways that require a phenomenology to understand. It is not the distinction between phenomenon and reality itself that Hegel and Sellars attack, but the notion that it is absolute, establishing an unbridgeable divide.

McDowell, however, is concerned to defend our ‘openness to the layout of reality’ and seems not to take seriously the idea that we might have systematically false beliefs about the nature of things… The strategy, boiled down, is this: Kant’s critical philosophy is formulated in terms of basic dualisms, apriori/aposteriori, analytic/synthetic, receptivity/spontaneity, even empirical science/philosophy. Hegel insists that trapped in these dualisms Kant cannot satisfactorily explain human cognition or action. The gaps imposed by the assumed dualisms never get properly bridged. (deVries)

DeVries goes on to state that Sellars rejects the standard static interpretation given by Hegel in Hegel’s absolutisms. The important point here is that even the arch-typical school of sense empiricism has re-discovered, perhaps in some novel ways, the radical and complete loss of metaphysical ground which dominated the West from the Roman Empire to the 19th century.

Physics tells us of the absolute (if you will) relativity of ‘objects’ in which size and even temporal existence is contingent. In quantum mechanics it appears that even the notion of a particle is simply relative concentrations of energetic field densities more like micro and macro waves and currents in the ocean. Subatomic ‘particles’ with no mass (infinitesimal forces popping in and out of existence) energize these densities to create mass, gravity and their relative temporalities. This tells us that a ‘particle’ as a solid piece of matter is an abstraction which we have told ourselves through history based more on a quasi-scientific/theological notion of Newton’s absolute time and space. Newton told us gravity as action at a distance was God.

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle even tells us that there are aspects of phenomena which are impossible to reconcile (position and momentum of the wave-particle). This hits at the very heart of logic as built upon the principle of non-contradiction.

Schrödinger’s cat in the box thought experiment tells us the cat in the box can both be alive and dead at the same time. This is really an observation about the mathematics of superposition which is the basis of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics tells us about infinite possibilities which are actualized, made real, by observation. The immediate reaction of many including myself years ago was, ‘Are we saying that everything is subjective?’ This jump to subjectivity was the only possibility given to us by our metaphysics when confronted with this observation.

Einstein referred to entanglement as ‘spooky action at a distance’. Most quantum fields have a property called spin. These fields become constituents of many particles such as an electron. One characteristic of spin is called up and down. This is really how a magnetic field effects the orientation of the field. When particles such as an electron become entangled with each other they form a pair that can be separated by billions of light years and a magnetic field on one electron will instantly change the orientation of the other electron no matter what the distance between the two electrons. This seems to violate Einstein’s basic postulate which tells us nothing in the universe can move faster than the speed of light. This appears to violate a fundamental law of physics concerning locality. Einstein thought perhaps there were hidden variables which could explain this problem. One possibility could be that the universe is composed of more dimensions than four, three dimensions of space and one of time. Locality is intuitively thought as the ‘me’, the ‘I’ of ‘I think, therefore I am’. History has taught us that we are all absolute individuals. We have a certain sacred and protected domain which endows us with sacred, unalienable and unquestionable ‘rights’. We typically downplay the absolute of individuality with the equal and opposite other half of rights which is responsibility.

The notion of a multi-dimensional universe has contributed to many-worlds theory (which goes all the way back to the Greeks). String theory and parallel universes coupled with Schrödinger’s observation tell us that possibilities may be more than reality fictions but fundamentally comprise the ‘stuff’ of reality. What we thought as dead stuff, substance, may have much more to it that could make the boundaries of what is thought as living and dead a more complex problem.

Dark energy is thought to comprise 73% of all mass and energy in the universe. Additionally, dark matter is thought to comprise another 23% of the universe. The leaves 4% to comprise everything we see such as planets, stars and people. And, we really have no clue what it is. We know it must exist because we see its effects like wind in the trees. Dark matter and dark energy may solve a problem which resulted in perhaps Einstein’s greatest blunder, the cosmological constant. In short, Einstein inserted this ‘x’ factor into his equations to make relativity of time and space work with gravity. This made the universe static and kept the universe from flying apart. However, many subsequent discoveries have leads us to the dark halls of dark energy and matter as the reason why the universe does not fly apart. Without the gravitational effects of dark matter and energy we would have to accept the almost theological explanation of Einstein’s ‘x’ factor. The mystery of what dark matter and energy tell us is to buckle up, we really know very little about reality.

What is the real? It is neither subjective nor objective but those tired old metaphysics should tell us more about who we are that what reality is. We have inherited ‘filters’ which help us make sense of the world in language and history. Language and history are as much a part of our anatomy as our heart is. The ‘real’ is not some absolute, everlasting reality apart from us to which we are enslaved but essential to us in an ‘essentially’ indeterminate way. Philosophy and physics have come together to show us that our ability to abstract not only is the ‘real’ but somehow indeterminately determinate of what gets taken up as ‘real’.

To speak of the ‘real’ in this way is not to deny the ‘real’ but to put the ‘real’ in a more nuanced and less abstract way than historic embodiments which grossly oversimplify and distort ‘isness’. These distortions lead to the worst of human behavior as they champion the heroic ‘defender of the faith’ at any horrific cost. The threats to reality are manufactured inherent in ‘reality’ not imputed from the unrepentant. We do not really know to what extent our forceful expectations of ‘reality’ force the reality we ultimately find. It may be that the worlds we create become our tomb and not the occasion for an ‘other’, infinitely removed from our metaphysical prisons.

Creation did not happen from our reality but from a reality we never knew. Language was not our invention after birth but in some indeterminate and historic fashion constitutes who we are, what ‘reality’ is or isn’t. It constitutes a past that never was our personal past but somehow participates intimately in our moments and after-moments of creation, of birth. To think of ourselves as an absolute individual is perhaps the momentous sin of ‘reality’ which ignores the grace which makes us possible. We owe a debt to creation, the moment of birth, that gives gifts and makes possible language and meaning. It is up to us as to how we embody these gifts with wistful arrogance or humble gratitude. The other, the he or the she, is not diminished or captured by our petty judgements of them. They are as much the miracle of who we are as language, as ‘reality, as the indeterminate infinity which we choose together and apart. The possibility of ethics is a choice, perhaps the only choice we can make. Over one hundred and fifty years we have traversed from ‘I think, therefore I am’ to ‘We think, therefore we are’. We can welcome this transformation or die fighting it but who is to say if we meet our apocryphal demise, another unaccounted, unrecognized moment of creation will not create infinites of ‘realities’ which once again ask for gratitude, grace and ethical desire for what we know not.

Works Cited

(n.d.). Philosophy of Language. Retrieved from

deVries, W. A. (n.d.). Hegel’s Revival in Analytic Philosophy. Retrieved from

Topete, I. (n.d.). Idealism from Kant to Hegel. Retrieved from

Thoughts on the Afterlife and Other Tales

Part of the beauty of life is not knowing. ‘Knowing’ has a tendency for reduction. It can dampen basic questions of existence. It can provide an answer, at least a contingent answer. It has the allure of solace, comfort, and security. While it does dampen the angst of existence, it also dampens the intensity of passions; of beauty, wonder and awe. It also squelches creativity. Creativity is the catalyst which made science and our present lived-world possible. In religion, the lack of distance from God undermines the passion of the Holy. It gives ready-made answers in lieu of faith. God talks to devotees in regular and daily conversation which they all too happy to tell us about. Whatever happened to the passion of faith was a problem Kierkegaard brought to our attention. Kierkegaard tells us that we do not need faith to believe that 1 + 1 = 2. We have no real stake in the daily and absolute knowledge of a God we know and understand with absolute certainty. That is not faith but the mechanical garbs of science without the objectivity of facts and instead, the subjective experience of knowledge which has become an unfalsifiable fact, which is intolerant of doubt. What we have in this case is the inception of extremism that can solipsistically know no other. What this really brings to the surface is a uniquely historic, 19th century, worldview in which absolute time and space came into fruition with the Industrial Revolution. This is why religious modernity and capitalism have become cozy bedfellows and why anything such as a ‘Trump’ was made possible in the vestibules of faith. All the resentment in religious, reaction to enlightenment is,

“Wokeism makes you lose, ruins your mind, and ruins you as a person”

which Trump tells us is why the US soccer team lost. Enlightenment as the result of unbridled positivism in an empirical reality of objective science has in religious modernity become a battle cry for God-Enlightenment. Science is no longer needed; education has become a vehicle for radical “Wokeism” in which one knows all especially about “two Corinthians”.

The path of religion in post modernity is riddled with extremism, danger and desperation. Kierkegaardian passion of faith has been replaced with social media’s fanaticism to indoctrinate and dominate more and more adherents to ‘Sleepism’. Anti-enlightenment is the new battle cry of those who will not settle for anything less than total and absolute submission to the social, economic, political, moral theory of everything which grows as a cancer in the rapidly evolving dogma of religious groupthink. Religion has been replaced with Mephistopheles’ ‘hell of a deal’ when you accept Jesus Christ as you Lord and Savior. You are welcomed into the on-line group where you all become one in everything you always wanted to know about; everything with rapidly evolving answers of salvation, politics, morality, economics, “Wokeism” in general. In all this we see a radical conformism which consumes without cessation. Has this become the actualization of Nietzsche’s “last man”? What we see in ‘sleepism’ is lucid dreaming which can only end in nightmare. The looming problem of ‘sleepism’ that it robs us of what made religions a reality in the first place. Religion was not born of ready-made answers although, like manna from heaven which was miraculous edible substance, decays in institutionalism and even faster now with virtual reality. Could it be that ‘mana’ has been replaced with manna:

Mana is the spiritual life force energy or healing power that permeates the universe, in the culture of the Melanesians and Polynesians. Anyone or anything can have mana. It is a cultivation or possession of energy and power, rather than being a source of power. It is an intentional force. (Wikipedia)

In the interest of provoking some whimsical and perhaps more fresh questioning on the topic of an afterlife, I would like to attempt a thought experiment.

We know that the universe has memory to an exquisite degree. Scientists call this information theory. Entropy is key to information theory as it is a predictor of more and less information. Physicists have traditionally shown that information is encoded in the most intricate and exquisite workings of the universe. Stephen Hawking went against this knowledge base in showing that information might be lost in the long death of a black hole which is called “Hawking radiation”. A long and intense battle with physicists Leonard Susskind and Gerald t’ Hooft ensued in 2008 and ended in the “Susskind quashes Hawking in quarrel over quantum quandary” with the holographic principle. The holographic principle shows that radiation receives quantum corrections which encodes information about the black hole’s interior and thus retains information. Later theories offer further alternatives to the loss of information in non-unitary time evolution. The point here is that the universe has an exquisite memory. Even if other universes exist with vastly different ‘laws of physics’ (coined and piggybacked in Latin Christianity as ‘natural laws’), information theory is still an absolute necessity as only the Hesiodic theory of chaos would be the absolute loss of information…more about this later. Information is also clearly exhibited in chromosomes and the evolution of species. Instinct is also another evident form of information theory.

If the universe has memory in the form of information, it is not hard to understand that information theory is the retention of memory. While I personally am 50/50 on the certain knowledge that an afterlife is possible, I do find that apart from religious concerns, it is not hard to make the uncertain leap from information theory to a thought that information could be retained in the form of memory in other realities. I think this not so much from a personal desire for any kind of ‘proof of an afterlife’ but more from a non-mechanical, 19th century, basis which finds truly astounding and quite unmoored observations in the recent century of Continental and Analytic philosophy trends. Even in the 19th century, in Hegel there is a foreshadowing of information theory in his notion of Concept. Metaphysics, a Latin term not ancient Greek, is a tradition which counters what philosophy and science is telling us about what we [metaphysically] ‘think’ as reality. The question of objectivity and subjectivity are both brought into fundamental question. This Cartesian dilemma which encapsulates much of modernity in historic certainty has truly been overcome in recent trends in philosophy and physics. We see this most clearly in Phenomenology, Structures and History of Language and physics starting in the early 20th century in Einstein’s Relativity Principle. What all this is telling us is that what we think we know is more about who we are and less about reality.

I would not be surprised in the least if there was an ‘afterlife’ which retained the intimate information of what we think as ‘my life’ or ‘our history’. Knowledge does not have to be Blanchot’s unescapable impossibility of death or Sartre’s horror of No-Exit. Neither does it have to be absolute extinction into the impossibility of nothingness. Knowledge itself may be a clue, a bread crumb, to a retention intrinsic to the universe. In Hegelian terms perhaps the universe itself is a retreat from what he deems ‘Absolute Concept’. The larger point for the purposes of this post is to attempt to unmoor ourselves from the supposed history we think as reality and point to a confluence of fundamental inquiries which do not ‘add’ to our current understanding of reality but actually and radically transform our ‘sleepism’ into a ‘wokeism’ which cannot be escaped except into deeper sleep. In sleep we find the brain escapes into non-sense. Perhaps the brain’s cure of too much apparent sense is to counter with a truth of its own; to what may point to an other, a radical other from all our Platonic Forms which history has made static and a kind of living death. Levinas called this static-sation, totalization. Totalization has been saturated through and through with the notion of being, what philosophers call ontology (the study of being). Totalization reduces absolutely. It denies the face in Levinas’ terms. The face absolutely counters the concretization in which sleep-fully determines who and what the other is. Truly totalization is Blanchot’s death of language, Satres No-Exit, and Levinas’ “there-is” in which the ‘I’ entombs itself as if to find relief from the radical alterity of the other. We have devised intricate, historic, linguistic escapisms to give us certainty or apparent certainty in the face of radical otherness. Our dreams tells us that our waking life is fundamentally contradictory and inadequate. Hesiod tells us that chaos or more precisely the ‘yawning gap’ is the face of the-an-other which we tirelessly want to retreat from. We have fashioned for ourselves an oasis in the chaos which we think is dry land but firmly rooted in sub-atomic particles popping in and out of existence in which the vastness a subatomic space implies infinitely more space than matter (if there really is such a thing) – gap, is the root of our realities and incessant daydreams. Perhaps waking up is discovering what we do not know, what inspires creativity and wonder, is vastly more meaningful than what we think we know. All the while an other, the other, which requires ethics, decision, to counter the incredible smallness of our certainties; to actively hold open the beauty of infinities which we behold every day in waking sleep.

On Death

Death is not something that happens at the end of life. As Blanchot mentions in the quote at the end of my recent post,

As long as I live, I am a mortal man, but when I die, by ceasing to be man I also cease to be mortal, I am no longer capable of dying, and my impending death horrifies me because I see it as it is: no longer death, but the impossibility of dying…. I have no relationship with it, it is that toward which I cannot go, for in it I do not die, I have fallen from the power to die. In it they die; they do not cease, and they do not finish dying ― Maurice Blanchot, Literature and the Right to Death.

The only way I experience death is through life. Death is strictly a phenomenon of life. The fear of death is a fear of life as life and death are inseparable. The death of my son in 2017 is not ‘his’ death. He is not experiencing death as he is not mortal any longer; not living. Chris is not human now. He was a beautiful, young, and amazing human but now his humanity is in my heart, my memory, my pain. This is where he dwells now in me and those who knew and loved him. The pain of death is the pain of living. It is not optional but essential. The question remains, how shall we live in the essence of death?

Death is a zenith. It is where life disappears into the infinity of horizon. It is not the horror of hell or bliss of heaven. It is the gate of the infinite. Mortality cannot pass through its gate. The absolute fluidity of this universe breaks upon the shores of death in which there is no return. Does death start where it began as if some universal law of physics requires it to do so?

What we know of physics is that there is a vast multitude of possible and actual physics. The laws of physics in our current universe are themselves a zenith of time and place. The ‘laws’ are an invention of circumstance. According to physicists, they were radically different at the beginning. If not for slightly more matter than antimatter after the ‘big bang’ or the ‘big bounce’ we would not be here at all. As to the question of what’s ‘outside’ the universe we are told two things: 1) Outside is a conventional notion we have derived from this time, this space, this circumstance and says nothing about this mythical notion of an outside to the universe, 2) If there are other universes, they have radically different physics. They would have absolutely no necessity placed on them to mimic our space/time physics in this singular moment of our circumstance.

So, this tells us that even this moment we call ‘life’ is itself a zenith caught on the brink of infinity. We stare infinity in the face every moment of our existence and found or are found by language as history to pacify our delusions of security as we draw in the breath of ‘I’. We forget the boundless ocean of eternity we stand on the shores of. We rationalize and sanctify and flee in the face of this awe and beauty and wonder which is the essence which can no longer be thought as ‘essence’. There is no ground beneath our feet only instantaneous, massless ‘particles’ better thought as infinitesimal force fields which pop in and out of existence and declare, “I am”. What we need in the face of eternity is perspective not absolute determinations.

We breath ‘we’ in this eternity of temporality. Sure, we have individual bodies which are really a communion of organism, cells, molecules, atoms, infinitesimals popping in and out of existence but somehow organizing themselves as an illusion of a whole, a body, my body. We communicate with language which we did not invent but in some undeciphered way acquired from a history we never knew or experienced. ‘Understanding’ is not a something but an acquisition of a ‘not me’, a gift given without merit or even existence as ‘mine’. We think ‘me’ from ‘we’. The ‘me’ that protests, that complains, that judges is a construction of the ‘we’ of language which speaks and has spoken and will speak with and without me, my existence. In all our languages we face plurality of other languages. Not just human but also animal languages, plant languages (actual science behind this). Existence is language. It is communication. It is the physics of interaction. It is the boundary conditions. It is the face. The face is not just a ‘presentation’, a presence. It is an absence of infinity which cannot present itself except as the boundary conditions of this moment, this interaction, this ‘idea’ of reality.

‘Idea’ informs us of notions which give reason, promise meaning, promotes sense and sensible. We even have the notion of ‘absolute’ which finds no home in infinity except as ‘idea’. What is more, ‘idea’ is what Hegel believes is all that faces us. There is no exterior ‘thing’ out there. The ‘thing’ is the idea. There is never a ‘thing’ without an idea. So, in Hegel’s estimation idea ‘is’ infinity and finite, it is ‘isness’. The face of which I spoke is the idea of face, nothing more, nothing less. For Hegel, the ‘notion’ exceeds other notions as being and nothingness and finds place as ‘Concept’. Concept is the embodiment of place, of divine, of me and us, of face. The other and the same cannot remain as they are but must be taken up by the necessity of self-consciousness. There is no self as a notion without an other as a counter notion. The same and the other are the necessity of a self, a me. Even the notion of space and time is a requirement of particularity. We must be a ‘we’ by necessity of Concept not by some exteriority which makes it so. For Hegel this does not do violence to the other as another person for example but requires us to look further into exactly what we are talking about and referring to; to fundamentally question the very fabric of isness and how Concept becomes the necessity of isness.

This leads us to choice. There is no way in my estimation to prove Hegel wrong. He may well be correct that Concept is essentially ‘is’. For Hegel this does not end in some kind of essential narcissism but in a foundation from any such thing as narcissism. Hegel is not bestowing sainthood on individualism and such notions as chest-beating ‘capitalism’. He is certainly providing a foundation for their existence, for existence itself, but not some modern right-wing notion of ultra-conservatism. In any case, there is a question Hegel poses which must be faced, a choice must be made.

I started this post with the notion of infinity. In due course, we have found that infinity and finitude may have and certainly, in some yet undetermined sense, has a basis in Concept but is that the end of the story (or perhaps another beginning)? Even if Hegel is correct, is there an ethical necessity placed on us to face the other, to face my son without Hegel’s face? Are we to abandon ourselves to the necessity of Concept and if so, how does that effect my orientation to the other, to the infinity of the face, to the requirement of my son’s life and living death which I must endure? Even more, what of the suffering of the other? How shall I face this lifetime of suffering which I must endure, my suffering and the suffering of the other? Should I find some kind of solace in the absolute fact of ‘Concept’? Should I think infinity as a necessary condition of finitude? Have I violated something other than my own biases and misunderstandings of Concept? Isn’t ethics just another requirement of Concept, of self-consciousness?

This is where choice determines eternity. I have no basis external to the requirements of self-consciousness for choosing an exteriority which cannot be thought only or more precisely determined by thought. I can choose to found self on Concept and call that ‘isness’. I probably have more reason to do so than not in Hegelian terms. I see many folks who use Hegel (and less intellectual achievements) as a kind of license to justify whatever they want to do to whomever they want to do it to. Perhaps, Hegel’s philosophy is not ready for mere mortals or vice versa. However, I do have to live in the face of the absolute, unsubstantiated abyss of existence. I have to wake up every day with my death, the death of my son, the death of innocence from bigotry, greed, injustice and I have to face it on an ongoing basis without any justification for why it must be so from Concept. In all this I must act and I must make choices not because I am that Concept but because I suffer and I am with those that suffer. My choice is to be self-determined or, without necessity, to heed the cry of the other.

To conclude, I would like to add a bit of speculation, highly speculative. We see in nature and physics (whether it is pure Concept or not) a return to regularity, order, instinct; to repetition in some degree. We did not proceed from Concept to birth but from nothingness (certainly with regard to consciousness) to birth. Somehow, I and we popped into existence. Is there a regularity in ‘popping into existence’? Perhaps, we don’t know. However, one thing we do know is that we did become but from what? We can call this Concept and satisfy the need for origin. However, I prefer to leave that to what Hesiod referred to as chaos (really the yawning gap). There is a gap of not knowing which we can choose to reserve. There is also the observation that phusis or physics, biology, ‘isness’ might like to repeat itself. We are gift standing from infinite abyss facing eternity with language and consciousness that is not our own. Who is to say that that gift cannot find repetition, increasing wisdom and another moment when what I did, how I acted in the face of the other; who is to say it is not the foundation for something I know not what…choose wisely.

Comments on the Brain Essay

With regard to Jeff’s comments:


Thanks for your feedback. I am glad you liked it. Sorry I took a while to respond but my software work has been getting more time consuming lately. Here are my observations about your remarks.

First, without access to the details of these studies, we really don’t know what to do with this information. For example, it could be the case that 80% of those with an enlarged amygdala are conservatives, but only 0.01% of conservatives have an enlarged amygdala. If something like this is the case, then these studies really say nothing useful at all about conservatives.

Here are the studies the original article cited (there are more studies referenced in these studies as well):

The details about the study’s methodology are discussed in the beginnings of each article. The methodology looks sound to me as it is typical for these kinds of studies. Both of the institutions are top notch for neuroscience research.

Second, Mark goes on to depict conservatism, at least in part, as being about a fear of loss of control. But at least one counterexample exists, and a very large one: conservatives (or at least fiscal ones) advocate free markets, wherein control is utterly relinquished to the whims of trillions of individual and localized decisions; but liberals and progressives tend to dislike (fear?) the messiness and chaos of free markets, preferring something more planned, controlled, and centralized.

I suppose my take on this would be:

  1. Fear and problem solving are two very different discernable behaviors. If the response to a perceived problem is highly negative and emotionally charged then it looks like fear to me. If the response to a perceived problem tries to deal with the details of the problem and offer concrete, non-emotional solutions then I would think that would indicate a different part of the brain is operational. I am not sure dislike and fear are synonyms. I can dislike an ex-girlfriend but I do not fear her. I can disagree with Republicans on many things including the ‘free market’ but the ‘free market’ does not scare or threaten me.
  2. I think paranoia is a clearer, more intense example of fear than other types of generalized fear so I will try to use that as an example. I suppose anything can become the object of paranoia. I live in Boulder and seek out liberals as I did also in academia. I have never found liberals in those situations that I would describe as ‘fearing’ the ‘free market’. I have seen intense dislike of it though. For me, the fear thing is quite evident with paranoia – like ‘they are after me’ and ‘I need to get a gun to protect myself’ and ‘prying cold, dead fingers off my gun’ and ‘the blood of patriots’ and ‘the government is controlling us’ etc.. I have hardly ever heard liberals talk in these paranoid terms about the ‘free market’. I have, with effort, found some extremely leftist sites on the web that probably would fall into that category. However, I think that magnitudes and proportions matter in all these types of discussions. I do not know the statistical general population numbers for this kind of paranoia so I can only use my anecdotal knowledge and offer the impression that I think more conservatives fall into the paranoia category than liberals.
  3. If someone is trying to protect and defend something that he or she thinks they have and that someone is trying to take away, -that is a personal threat. Conservatives seem to think that they have something or once had it and that the liberals and government is trying to take it away from them (conservatives want to conserve, keep, hold on to). It seems to me that that reaction is typically one of fear. Just listen to Glenn Beck or Rush and think of the fear latent terms they are using. They actually have older people afraid to go out of their house for the big, bad, boogie, socialist, commy, radical Islamist, Obama control of the government which he is destroying (my dad included). While Beck and Rush are making money on this, older people are really getting scared by it all. I do not think liberals are ‘afraid’ of the ‘free market’. I think they want reasonable controls and regulation to make sure the market is more fair and not so tilted to the folks that are already huge beneficiaries of a tilted market. One thing certainly is different from the conservatives I described – liberals are not trying to protect something they think they had from the ‘free market’ that someone is trying to take away from them. Control may be fear based or reason based. I try to give some control for my kids but I do not fear my kids, I love them like crazy! I think you have to look at how the control is described (its terms, adjectives, adverbs, facial expressions, etc.) to figure out the emotive import.
  4. I think that one thing about this study is that it is time and culturally sensitive. For example, if we had a communist country and a ‘conservative’ party was perceived as trying to take housing, food, health care, etc. away from those that already comfortably had it, then I think a fear type, paranoid response could be feasible. As much as conservatives want to make the ‘nanny state’ argument in this country the census data* shows that 1 out of every 2 people are living at or near the poverty line (the poverty level for 2011 was set at $22,350 (total yearly income) for a family of four). ‘Nannies’ are generally for rich people – these income levels are not the lap of luxury. There is no way a family of four can be deemed ‘comfortable’ or getting ‘nannied’ by the government with this amount of income. I have never heard these folks defending their poverty situation in rhetorical terms like the conservatives use. In the latter case the issue is taking away something that is not working and in the former case the issue seems to be taking away something they think is worth protecting (dying for as the ‘blood of patriots’ demonstrates). I am not sure these studies should be taken as always applying to each and every case of what we think of as ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ for all time. I guess I look at it more like a snapshot of our particular present circumstances.

Third, and with tongue partly in cheek, could it be the case that those with a larger “part of the brain that processes conflicting information” (from Wikipedia’s definition of the anterior cingulate cortex) tend to be liberal because they are better equipped to deal with the resulting cognitive dissonance?

First, I like cognitive dissonance because it motivates me to think and do research. Perhaps one way to deal with cognitive dissonance is to pretend like it does not exist but there are more productive ways to deal with it (and actually like it with practice). With regard to your article, I think there is a bit of heavy handed stereotyping going on in it. I have never met a liberal or conservative that has claimed they are always right about everything. I would think of that as some sort of pathological problem. I think there are folks on both sides that get defensive, feel like they are pinned into a corner and lapse into a simplistic ‘well I am right and you are wrong’, lack of a defense, type argument. I also find the main premise of your article is that it obvious that Obama was wrong on everything (or most things) and the liberals ‘really’ know it and are just trying to cover it up – this is called a loaded question (or argument) because it makes unexamined conclusions at the outset. To make the claim that liberals really know Obama is awful is speculation on your part that needs further examination (not assuming it at the beginning and trying to dissect their intentions after the fact). This type of argumentative move reminds me of the anti-choice’ folks that automatically assume that pro-choice folks are ‘killing babies’, Nazis that believe in genocide, etc.. There is no middle ground for those types. They assume that you must believe that a fetus is a ‘baby’ and that any pro-choice discussion is really a defense of baby killing. This is a problem of extremism and radicalizing everyone else that does not believe in your truth. I call this type of argument the ‘pushing the middle ground to an extreme in order to refute it’ or straw man argument.

I really do think Obama has done a good job for the most part in light of what was happening when he came into office. I have written extensively on my blog using many statistics to show the progress that has been made in spite of all (including Republican naysayers) during the Obama administration including data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Treasury Department, GAO, CBO and many universities, notable market, economic, polling research organizations so I would think you would have to take that on first. I also think many people tend to forget the extremely deep hole the Bush administration left us in. One case where I personally recognize the ‘we were wrong so therefore we must pretend like we were right’ syndrome is for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The folks that put us over there seem to me to be unable to belly up to the bar and admit it was a mistake to go over there in the first place (except Ron Paul who is totally right on this subject!). I understand why folks feel a need to do this – all those amazing kids that were killed or maimed for life AND the huge deficit hole those wars dug for us. I saw this in the Vietnam War personally with my two older brothers whose young lives were lost in the jungle never to return and I THOUGHT we learned our lesson but I guess we must forget quickly. I also recognize that some may legitimately have thought these wars were necessary and it was a good thing we started them in which case, an examination of the facts, the supposed reasons, the benefit, the real as well as imagined results had we not started those wars, etc. would have to be investigated to arrive at any hope of a conclusion. Even still, this type of effort would not result in a ‘I was right and you were wrong’ silliness but probably more of a weighted, approximation that these facts, assumptions, conclusion seem to be more correct than their antithesis. Actually, I find that this form of cognitive dissonance that cannot settle on black and white conclusions is better to have going forward than the fantasmic black and white resolve that makes folks feel better but really only leaves them believing an easy delusion.

And finally, the point of these studies, or at least the way they’ve been reported in some cases, seems to include the implicit suggestion that liberals and progressives are smarter, more logical, less emotional thinkers than are conservatives. But interestingly, the most intelligent among us tend to lean pretty strongly libertarian. See, e.g., the results of a survey of Triple Nine Society members (who are in the 99.9th percentile for intelligence).

I did not see the results in the Triple Nine Society that are ear marks of a scientific and therefore well reasoned conclusion (statistical variance, random, double blind, etc.). Additionally, what is deemed ‘intelligence’ would have to clearly and narrowly be stated and defended in advance of even trying to make a conclusion. There were a few libertarian, conservative and liberal politicians mentioned but this is hardly a study. As a side, I will tell you a little story. When I lived in Dallas I made some Mensa friends and started going to their meetings. I was thinking about taking the test when some of them started telling me that they would give me answers and even the test I would take. Of course, this is anecdotal and perhaps not typical of Mensa but it discouraged me from going further – for me, it really just seemed like a club after that…

Oh, also, I did not think of these studies as giving any indication of intelligence. I think that was a leap on your part. I think the whole topic of intelligence is a can of worms (emotional, IQ, analytic, logical, poetic/artistic, folksy wisdom, etc.). I personally do not feel like these studies had anything to say about the intelligence of liberals or conservatives merely how they typically, in our particular present situation, handle making sense of their environment. There certainly is no claim to greater or lesser intelligence in the studies themselves…

*I highly recommend this report by the Census Bureau. It give much more detail than the usual statistics that are cited.

Something I blogged on the Huffington Post…

“Class warfare has been going on for decades. Republicans are really good at propaganda. However, they have finally deconstructed themselves. They could only talk generally for so long about cutting the size of the Federal government before their rhetoric caught up to them. Now that their own people are demanding that they walk the talk, the folks that are in the “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” syndrome will find that their leaders have been picking their pocket to sell them their own watch. The Republicans must put up or shut up and this will be their demise. Yes, they would love the Democrats to do the fate fatale for them so they could sophistically blame that on the Democrats as well (as they try to blame their failed economics on the Democrats) but Obama has caught the fox in his own trap – His populism actually works and helps the middle class (Proof: while their populism, as is typical, does exactly what they condemn the Democrats for – split the American public (religious, crush the middle class, attack immigrants, destroy the government they say the love, change the constitution they say they want to uphold the ‘original’ intent of, etc.) . The ‘populism’ of Obama as understood by the right is finally the courage that brings into the daylight the right’s own secret class warfare against the non-elite. As is typical, the right does the damage and blames it on the Democrats (i.e., lose of AAA rating). As a an ardent socialist in the industrial revolution (corporatism on steroids), Orwell is falsely revered by the right for “Animal Farm” but Orwell would have been much more sympathetic to this,, than the unmitigated proponents of capitalism.”

After a little more thought…

There has been a ‘secret war’ going on for decades on the middle class that every economic study has shown for many years. The latest census data tells us 1 out of every 2 Americans is in poverty. Yet, we get the right’s self-righteous shrill proclamations about the newly formed class warfare project from President Obama. Republicans really merit study for the copulas conjunction of the subject, President Obama and the predicate, class warfare. Republicans have well understood “The Little Prince” and the war of all against all. The best war is the invisible war; the war that takes the moral high ground while simultaneously erasing the enemy all the while producing its dominance. In this case, policies that prefer the rich and impoverish everyone else, are ‘capitalism’, the aspiration that any old fool could be rich too and corporatism would be their self-crafted philosophy, the philosophy that reifies the exception and punishes the accidental. If the old fool was rich he would be a king and the bourgeois jester of the noble would speak with Republican lips. The drama of the fool is more powerful than his poverty. Now, these new leftists come along and tell the fool that he is dreaming; that the jester lies as sirens sing. How dare the leftist disturb the fools slumber, let him dream. The leftist is the true enemy. These nag flies get in the way of baseless dreams, the opium of truth. I must say that it is ingenious along the lines of Nietzsche’s idea of Christianity. The truly powerful is never seen. It never becomes obvious. It hides in un-thought hermeneutics. It is the only proper language. It is the language that establishes and maintains truth and excludes madness (“Madness and Civilization”). Without the proper, the fool will fail but the fool fails anyway. Here resides the aporia, the riddle. When the riddle, the conundrum, the paradox is solved it loses its passion. In this therefore, existence loses. The end of the proper announces the beginning of anarchy, the victory of chaos – but how could anarchy have a beginning – can a circle be a square? When riddles multiply, mystification abounds and canon subverts its undoing. The past is lifted into the future as revised, continually re-established in service to unseen manipulation. The horror is the actual life I live and the sacred is the one I aspire to. The taboo is my inability to buy bread and the totem is the feasts I will have when I am rich. To understand what it means to be human must think the desire for fantasy. The elite Republicans know this well and count their riches on it. Truth in a void that can only endlessly turn on itself, eat itself, to obtain its ends must hide the producer at all costs. Obama is the evil Marxist spokesman of class warfare not because he did it (class warfare) but because he said it. He spoke the profane, the improper and therefore must die in his sin…and we wonder why there was a need for postmodernism?

Ken Buck and “Pro-abortion”

Ken Buck made a comment last night that he makes a distinction between pro-choice and pro-abortion folks. Just as “pro-life” is an intentionally manipulative misnomer so is this distinction. I have made the case on my blog ( that “pro-life” folks are not “pro-life” as they would have you believe. They are really anti-abortion folks that maintain a radical, fundamentally religious position if they oppose abortion under any circumstances. Additionally, if they really believed that all life was sacred they would oppose the death penalty, oppose war and favor a radical solution to health care. In any case, my intent with this post is to suggest that the argument that Ken Buck and the other anti-abortionists make that assumes there are rabid “pro-abortion” folks out there are really a deflection of their own radical views.

It is nonsensical to suggest that pro-choice folks really want people to get abortions. It is ludicrous to think that most sensible folks would want to push abortions on people. Why would anyone in their right mind insist that someone get an abortion? The only way I could see that someone could arrive at this position would be if they wanted to target an ethnic group on the grounds of some extreme genocidal position. Does Ken Buck think that these “pro-abortion” folks really want to target an ethnic group? The anti-choice folks have made these claims in the past about historical, pro-choice people but these days that claim only makes them look like lunatics to those of us outside their club. What other reason would someone be radically “pro-abortion”?

What he calls “pro-abortion” is really only people that think abortion should be an individual choice and not a big-government call about what should be a personal issue (to put it in Ken Buck’s terms). What really bothers me about this tactic is that it re-directs the real extremism to a fabricated extremism. Psychologists call this “projection” but in sociological terms it is really an attempt at mass manipulation. The real radicals are the ones that believe abortion should be outlawed under any circumstances (rape, incest, to protect the life of the mother, etc.). However, if they can re-define their extremism as the more “sensible” position then their position feigns the appearance of less radical and thus, more moderate. Thus, the “right” is never “right enough” and the left is always increasingly just left of the radical right. If the position that the government should not intrude on people’s personal choice for an abortion is shown to be “pro-abortion” and radical then the anti-abortion folks make their extremism more palatable. If people see through this, their feeble attempts at manipulation are ineffective and the real zealots become apparent.

What I take away from Ken’s comment is that he is content to surround himself with extreme right positions and he is willing to make everyone else look like the extremist he really is. If one adopts an ideology that can never directly be stated but only pointed at in “code words” it is because the ideology cannot stand on its own, in the light of reason and reasonable folks. I get the feeling that a lot of the right wing rhetoric is dishonest, pointing to ideas that they cannot express directly except in their inner circle. Thus, comments border on elitism, support for the rich and big business, racism, sexism, and homophobia but never quit get there in public discourse because that light would be too revealing. I know there are conservatives that have direct, honest and well thought out positions but this trend on the right is a little disturbing. I do all I can to make my ideas direct and without any need to ‘paint lipstick on a pig’. The question voters need to ask themselves is, “Is this the kind of person we want for our Senator”?

An Analysis of Necromancy

In the post on Necromancy, Necromancy – When We Dance with death, I tried to illustrate some arm chair thinking I have been doing on psychology. Since I am not a paid sophist with a vested interest in defending a particular point of view I can play a little.

I think that the external and the internal may be somewhat artificial designations. Sure valid distinctions may be drawn but the question may always be posed regarding the hermeneutics and canonization of certain historical ways of thinking on such matters.

In the interest of play:

It seems to me that in light of galactic black holes and sub-atomic, black holes that pop in and out of existence there may also be, at least metaphorically, psychological black holes. Black holes in physics are severe space time distortions that defy our current understanding of the universe. Physicists use the term “singularity” to describe the phenomenon. They also use this term to describe the state of the Big Bang before the bang. In physics a singularity is a mathematical failure and generally speaking, highly undesirable for new theories. Black holes defy our imagination and put us into question.

I think certain extreme traumas may also create physiological black holes. The death of a mother, a bad LSD trip, a lost love, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, etc. can be the mechanism for their genesis. The immediate results are not the consumption of stars and planets but the consumption of what I have called “Soul”. The consumption dominates and errodes our childlike capacity with the five stages of dying:

1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

These symptoms have a cyclical effect. They tend to be obsessive and highly infused with emotion. Just as all matter is drawn into orbit around the vortex of a black hole – symbols, projections, and erratic emotions are cyclically drawn into the psychological black hole. The brain was designed by evolution to solve problems but these types of traumas are unsolvable. The brain recoils on itself and a whole litany of deep rooted emotions seem to be enmeshed in the trauma.

At the event horizon of a black hole everything including light is inescapably drawn into a black hole. I take this as Freud’s Mystic Writing Pad – the unconscious. Light cannot illuminate the unconscious by definition. For psychology, we only see its effects in behavior like the trenches made on the writing pad after lifting the plastic (consciousness) has concealed the initial trauma. When the trauma becomes unconscious it can take on a kind of life on its own. It can come out in dreams and un-expectant emotions years later. Yet it is undecided whether or not therapy can ever resolve the dilemma. It can allow one to live more peacefully beside the condition but the perforation and psychological scar may be permanent.

I think that from a more philosophical point of view it may be that these psychological black holes are perforations of infinity. They defy our best theories and best attempts to shed light on them. They gain a kind of independence from the spotlight of consciousness. Perhaps this makes possible the human capacity for reflection, awareness of death and finitude. I have just started reading David Loy’s book on “NonDuality” but, for now, perhaps the possibility for duality is rooted in the fact the humans can be unconscious of themselves and yet peripherally aware of the absolute split in their being. The Other, the radical disjuncture, the diachrony that Emmanuel Levinas writes of may also have an essential component within our own psyche.

I would also add that I do not think the traumas I am thinking about are common and numerous as some neurotics would have it. I think that the frailty of the human psyche may only be able to deal with a few of these such traumas before the possibility of soul, of residing in “hobbit-land” are diminished and human behavior gets more and more like the randomness of an act of nature, a tornado. Perhaps criminal behavior and Republican, fundamentalist Christians can be explained with such an analysis (;-).

In any case I think it is possible that our “experience” of God or the radical alterity of the Other may acquire an ally in our own fragmented and de-severed mode of being in the world. I would be hesitant to reduce God or the Other to the human psyche because that philosophically bites off too much but I do think that the windows through which we gaze into the infinite may be none other than the black hole of the psyche.