Re: [jcs-online] Respsonse to Joe Johnson on JCS-online

Date: Mon Jun 11 2001 - 19:31:15 BST

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    On 8 Jun 2001, at 13:12, Whit Blauvelt wrote:

    > Chris,
    > As you know I'm much impressed with your work. But I also find Peter
    > Mutnick's contributions substantial, and so am confused by the
    > vehemence of the current debate. In a way perhaps it's useful, in that
    > we often bring out our weakest arguments in such circumstance. Not to
    > take Mutnick's side, but might some revision and softening of your
    > stance perhaps make it stronger in the long run?
    > On Wed, Jun 06, 2001 at 03:19:45AM +1000, Chris Lofting wrote:
    > > There is nothing 'Orwellian' about my perspective, I deal with facts
    > > first, interpretations later (or more so my interest in the METHODS
    > > of interpretations); what is 'Orwellian' is the clinging to old
    > > interpretations, that are more and more 'out of date' when compared
    > > to the facts from neurosciences/cognitive sciences and what those
    > > facts say about how we interpret.
    > This sounds simple, but may be naive - the notion that we have 'facts'
    > available to us which are interpretation-free. That very notion is an
    > interpretation, highly debated. Everything we've learned from the
    > neuroscience you prize goes towards showing that the 'facts' that
    > reach our senses go through quite a bit of parsing, simplification,
    > recombination and distortion before they ever become cognizable.
    > Further, these processes are not just at the lower levels, but
    > continue into areas of mind which are experientially and culturally
    > mediated - for instance in the strong correlation between expectancy
    > and subsequent awareness at each level.
    > It is the delusion of each 'modern' age that finally the distortions
    > are done away with, the blinders are off, and reality and truth
    > freshly apprehended. The flip side of this is it takes less than a
    > generation for each wave of fresh revelation to take on the appearance
    > of faddism and even absurdity. Like, how did anyone ever believe in
    > behaviorism, in Freudianism, in Marxism, in deconstructionism, in
    > positivism? In their day each of these seemed true at the level of
    > literal, obvious fact to thousands of people as smart as anyone on
    > this list. Can we, should we, risk mistaking our latest, best framing
    > of the real as being any more strictly factual, any less embellished
    > by its frame? Not that we shouldn't show good faith in our projects;
    > it's more our belittling of projects that don't accord with ours that
    > can set us up for looking silly or worse in the longer run, whatever
    > we accomplish. All the isms listed above also made contributions I
    > respect - despite their uniformity in beating up and disrespecting
    > anyone who didn't share their somewhat flawed premises and flatter
    > their inflated self-estimation. Now the memory of their real
    > contributions has been clouded by that of their bad behavior.
    > > One of the problems with making maps of reality is the emergence of
    > > the map being confused with the territory such that any data that
    > > does not fit the map must be 'wrong'.
    > Doesn't this count against your complaints against Mutnick?
    > > The QM map of the early pioneers was made with no understanding at
    > > all as to how we make the maps, how properties in the METHOD can be
    > > interpreted as properties of that being analyzed; all that was
    > > reported was 'as is' data which was then interpreted within a
    > > context defined by the times and that includes a very weak
    > > understanding of 'in here'.
    > On the contrary, many of the QM pioneers were explicitly concerned
    > _not_ to let metaphors distort their view of the radically new terrain
    > - while others were concerned that abstaining from metaphors
    > surrendered too key a part of our intellectual armamentum. Whether any
    > of them were aware of the sort of Korsybskian General Semantics
    > concerns you raise may be an open question (didn't he publish in the
    > 30s?).
    > > The words, the interpretations, of QM from Bohm, Bohr, Dirac,
    > > Einstein etc etc cannot help us now; they have FAILED when it comes
    > > to dealing with the philosophical questions primarily since the
    > > mindset was 'attuned' to out-of-date models which included metaphors
    > > being taken literally. IOW you could burn every book ever written
    > > pre the 70s and within a short time regain all of the qualitative
    > > data 'lost' by the process. History (feedback) can help us but at
    > > times, especially in a context of strong change, we need to purge,
    > > to prune, by accepting the contextual change. Bohm, Bohr, Dirac,
    > > Einstein etc may have been our heroes but they are dead heroes whose
    > > works have been well read and cherished by many but are now 'out of
    > > context'; warm memories and that is all.
    > This prose doesn't serve you. For one thing, as Lakoff and his
    > colleagues have shown, no person does much in the way of cognition
    > without a rich engagement with metaphors. Further, as mentioned above,
    > there was explicit discussion among the QM pioneers on how far to go
    > to try to keep metaphors - whose danger of distortion they were aware
    > of - out of their theoretical formulations. Beyond that, we have
    > historical examples such as Jung's discovery, after he'd worked his
    > way out of the Freudian metaphors, that the alchemists - once their
    > own metaphors are understood and allowed for - were better, more
    > insightful psychologists than Freud or anyone in his generation. It
    > may take more work to read the best contributions of prior generations
    > and realized them for what they were - since it requires us to remove
    > ourselves further from the prejudices of our time. It may even be, on
    > a very long-term trend line, that 'progress' is not as flawed a
    > concept as much contemporary understanding makes it out to be. And it
    > may be that your own work will go forward best if you don't struggle
    > with "Bohm, Bohr, Dirac, Einstein etc" - there are plenty of major
    > thinkers I don't engage because the diversion would be too much for
    > little me. But personally, when reading the quotes Mutnick brings
    > forward, I suspect the physicists were not only ahead of their times,
    > but often ahead of ours (as I also suspect, on closer reading than
    > I've given the physicists, even Aristotle was, despite Korsybski's
    > disdain for him, and silly mistakes about gravity and the like).
    > Also, and I mean this as no disparagement, I read you as a mystic,
    > Chris - a very good one. The sort of structures you sketch are similar
    > in tone and elaboration to the Kabalah. If you intend to be read as a
    > purveyor of the most literal factuality, all I can suggest is that
    > your text may both deviate from and surpass authorial intent.
    > Whit
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