„Cosmosapiens“ by John Hands is one of the most astonishing popular science books I have ever come across. It is about the comprehensive evolution of man dating back to the Big Bang or, as once you have inhaled the whole thing you may be more tempted to say: the mysterious origins of the universe, and trying to expand it into the future of man and of civilisation. There are illnesses running in my family and within myself and a while ago I came to ask my doctor on occasion why medicine still hasn´t managed to get a firm grasp on them and cannot explain them despite decades of effort while in other respects it is obviously working so well. At that time I´ve been specifically impressed by stories in astronomy magazine „Sterne und Weltraum“ about techniques how dust particles are chemically analysed in open space or planets in distant solar systems are detected. Awesome! What progress has been achieved! So why not in medicine? Because nature is, and remains, a wonderful mystery, the friendly Dr Fleischer said. Because, as concerns medicine, we are still living in the stone age, Dr Huber said. Indeed, many of the complex interactions within the body are difficult to grasp. Reading „Cosmosapiens“ however gives you an indication that the triumphant hard sciences aren´t so triumphant either. I have somehow been aware about the limitations and mysteries of and within cosmological and biological theories before, but John Hands comes up with so many question marks that he is able to convincingly shed new light on how doubtful theories and paradigms that seem to stand erect and tall actually are, or may be. Absolutely astonishing his overview not only over entire disciplines but also over stuff theoretical or empirical largely neglected by mainstream academia! I do not want to elaborate much about that since you should read „Cosmosapiens“ yourself, asshole. I like to read „Sterne und Weltraum“ occasionally because I enjoy the apparent ambiente within the community of astronomers and stargazers. Calm, relaxed, tranquil, rational and friendly those people seem to be free of evil or mundane intentions, simply want to do their astronomy and foster progress, in complete innocence (that maybe even borderlines with cute naivete). The peaceful atmosphere of a late Sunday evening where all scores are settled and the good night embraces the heart and the mind. Alas, academia and scientific communities frequently aren´t that way, respectively only at a thin surface. „Postmodernists“ like Foucault or Latour may radiate an exaggerated understanding that also scientific communities are „all“ about power relationships, but given the evidence John Hands provides about how brutal reasonable elements that do not fit into dominant paradigms are frequently oppressed, it makes you think about that again. Granted, scientists are often working at the margins and in a no man´s land, and especially in the United States cosmologists and biologists may be eager to defend the legitimacy of their positions against the religious zealots by trying to present them as more monolithic than they actually are, but what they frequently seem to do deems exaggerated. Consider further that scientific communities and academia are, like the human enterprise at large, including communism, to some considerable degree, a vanity fair that serves as an exhibition hall for egos and egos are inherently fragile and may easily become aggressive when undermined – therefore the Buddha teaches us to leave the ego behind. John Hands´ frequent illustrations about the downsides of scientific communities may appear repetitive, but the frustrations of a highly intelligent person like him whose mind spans entire disciplines is likely to experience in present-day academia seem understandable. „Silence means death/ Stand on your feet/ Inner fear/ Your worst enemy“ sing Sepultura as an adress not to have yourself undermined or grinded within that. As I said, I do not want to get too much into detail as you should read the book yourself. However, my favorite inconsistency mentioned in „Cosmosapiens“ I have not been aware before is that there is actually evidence that quasars aren´t what we like to think, i.e. memories of a very distant cosmic past but proto-galaxies that are considerable less distant in space and time. When I was young I was trying to get every book on astronomy and cosmology possible. I remember, I also bought a book, „Die neue Astronomie“; I was disappointed then as it turned out to be largely not about sexy theories but about experimental radioastronomy. Awesome! Intriguing! Fascinating! I now hope I can still find it somewhere.
Quentin Meillassoux is an interesting and original contemporary philosopher from France; since new philosophy is probably the slowest thing to diffuse and penetrate the minds of the more educated population, not very much is known about him at present in the German-speaking world (although, taking the usual standards into consideration, he may actually already be quite popular). I got me an anthology of him, Trassierungen, and read an article by him in Realismus Jetzt – Spekulative Philosophie und Metaphysik für das 21. Jahrhundert (with many of the other contributions in this volume referring to Meillassoux), both published by Merve. Meillassoux argues that since all attempts to ground our fragile existence in a (metaphysical) necessity (e.g. God) have failed time and again, our existence is necessarily a contingency, with the only thing being absolute being a Hyper-Chaos as a grundloser Grund from which that what is factual derives. From the Hyper-Chaos all things and the (natural) laws that govern things emerge without specific reason, and could also be changed without specific reason. This sheds a new light on an number of philosophical problems, i.e. Hume´s problem of induction/causality, the question whether the „Copernican revolution“ in philosophy by Kant wasn´t actually a mistake, the problem of the event as well as problems of religion, the existence of God, the afterlife, and ethics. The existence of God, for instance, is rather ruled out by Meillassoux, since, upon reflection, God is obviously a perverse God (i.e. via the problem of theodicy) – which, however, does not rule out that God, heaven, the afterlife may come into being in the future, due to Hyper-Chaos (and there is still, if you want, a reason to be a believer (respectively, it is not much different from what many religions propose, e.g. via the Last Judgement, resurrection of the dead, the hidden Iman, etc.)). Likewise, as he does not rule out that natural laws may change, there is an indication that natural laws have changed or evolved in the past. One of the biggest mystery in physics is indeed the finetunedness of the universe, the fact that natural laws, constants, forces, dimensions are so incredibly finetuned that such a finetunedness, enabling life, a stable cosmos and stable matter is actually very, very unlikely – giving an indication that our universe may have well been made by some sort of „intelligent design“.
(Reading Meillassoux is somehow pacifying and comes in as some fresh air, I like to follow along the trajectory of his thinking, and he also says other things I like, for instance about the necessity to do away with ideology in order to progressively achieve clarity in order to gain wider competence (which I, on a more extreme level call the White Lodge). He also talks about the coming into being of the divine human being due to the partly divine nature of man (which I, on a more extreme level, call the overman). And he speaks about the virtual in existence which opens the possibility of introducing something really new and qualitatively different (which relates to genius, respectively the Chaosmos).
Lee Smolin is an eminent physicist, with his most well-known contribution to physics is being a pioneer in the development of „loop quantum gravity“, an approach to quantum gravity rivalling string theory (according to which the universe can be described as a network of abstract quantum states, indicating that spacetime itself is not a continuum but discreet and made of „atoms“ of Planck length and Planck time). There´s also a popular science book by him, Time Reborn. From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe which is also about the problem of the finetunedness of the cosmos and in which he argues that time is an actual entity: From Galilei to Newton to Einstein an understanding of physics has solidified that physical processes can be described by mathematical equations in which time does not play a specific role, indicating that time is not „truly“ out there in this world – of course, we experience time via the presence of clocks i.e. the earth revolving around itself, the moon revolving around the earth, the earth revolving around the sun or our bodies that are born and die away serving as clocks – which nevertheless does not mean that time is also „there“ when clocks are completely absent (I also recently read a book about Einstein and Gödel by philosopher Palle Yourgrau which mentions that Gödel found a proof that time travel (into the past) is possible – by looking at a somehow eccentric universe (which can, nevertheless be translated into our universe) time travel into the past is possible by moving across space with high velocity: (since that might violate causality, as we could manipulate the past then) indicating that time itself does not exist. Yourgrau mourns that Gödel´s proof has hitherto been largely ignored by both physicists and philosophers (and, indeed, it is not mentioned in Lee Smolin´s book)). Smolin argues that time is a true category (challenging our common understanding the other way round for instance as he suggests that space is not a true entity, but something emergent from a network of relations), and that natural laws may have evolved in time, hence have become ever more finetuned: unfortunately he does not give much indication how such a „meta law“ that governs the evolution of natural laws can come into being, but he says that in the 21st century cosmology will revolve to a good deal about that question. Concerning the mysteries cosmology proposes I at any rate happen to see an article about a new approach every once in a week on Facebook, and in that fashion I just happen to ran into this and that (where another pioneer of loop quantum gravity, Carlo Rovelli, proposes the opposite to Smolin, i.e. that time does not „objectively“ exist). (Concerning loop quantum gravity I read an article in Sterne und Weltraum some years ago about how experiments – measurements of signals of very distant gamma ray bursts which would be refracted if spacetime consisted of „atoms“ – nevertheless failed to indicate that spacetime is granular – despite also failing to explicitely rule out that possibility.)
Rick Rosner is an American known for having achieved some of the most astounding results in the history of high range IQ tests. With an IQ that is probably 192 he is often considered to be the „second smartest man in the world“ (after Evangelos Katsioulis who probably has an IQ of 198). In the recent issues of Noesis – The Journal of the Mega Society (an IQ society for which you need an IQ above 175 to get into, where only one person out of a million can be expected to be this intelligent) there is an ongoing extensive interview with him (which unfortunately has not been printed in its entirety yet). In his eccentricity Rick Rosner occasionally has been calling himself „physics genius – or deluded about everything“, and as such he presents his theories on cosmology in the interview. According to his „informational cosmology“ the universe is information sharing and processing – to an extent that it is probably a conscious entity (though with a consciousness that is likely vastly different from our own). He says that the Big Bang did not actually happen but that the universe recycles itself in „ultra deep time“ around an „active center“ of active galaxies as opposed to the „outskirts“ of the universe where died out galaxies and matter reside, and where the current 14 or so billion years since the „Big Bang“ are more or less only a step in information processing of a universe gradually optimising itself. Protons that enter the active center and „light up“ new galaxies may have been formed from neutrons in collapsed matter or come from an „unstructured primordial matter“ from T=0 (i.e. the center of the „active center“ of the universe, mistaken as the Big Bang), therein forming „new information“, while collapsed galaxies gradually become re-ignited via particle exchange. The universe, Rosner says, has three dimensions because information is generally limited to holding open three dimensions; space seems organised so as to minimize the total distance traversed by particle interactions; time seems oranised to maximize the number of interactions per unit of time. Cosmic Background Radiation is „noise/uncertainty“, and that its temperature is 3 degree Kelvin means that for the universe it is much easier to organise itself than if it would be a higher temperatures. Dark matter is, in essence, collapsed matter, and collapsed matter is what stores information, is the „memory“ of the universe. Irrespective of that, up to now, Rosner did not say much about how the finetunedness of the universe came into being (which is obviously there irrespective of the universe existing in „ultra deep time“), however he says that there are (kind of) economical reasons for it, respectively reasons of consistency. I am, at any rate curious about the remaining parts of the interview to be published in the future.
William James Sidis (1898 – 1944) likely was even more intelligent than Rick Rosner. He was a star as the greatest child prodigy America has ever known but descended into oblivion later in life, which unfortunately also accounts for probably a lot of his work, and making it difficult to distinguish between myth and reality concernig many aspects of his biography. There are, nevertheless, indications that his cognitive abilities were so high above even the most intelligent people on earth that his IQ was suspected to have been between 250 and 300, and already at age 11 (when he gave lectures about mathematics to them) he had been hardly comprehensible even for the finest minds of his time (which likely explains his descent into privacy and opting out of academia, since there was practically no one able to „translate“ his thoughts to a more general audience and serve as a bridge). At the beginning of his twenties he published a book about cosmology, The Animate and the Inanimate, which failed to gain recognition. In this book, he argues that the universe is infinite and eternal and consistent of „positive“ and „negative sections“ which gradually turn into their opposite in ever repeating cycles. Unfortunately, most of Sidis´ writings can hardly be retrieved anymore. Some day, when I will be grown up, I want to write a note about Sidis, titled „The Transbodhidharma“.
In general, there is something brooding in me about those issues, which is, however, so embryonic that I cannot explicitely tell. Maybe I also refrain from sharing some thoughts in order not to possibly embarrass me, though I do not think this is the case since I am Yorick, the Fool and I can say whatever I like. I wanted to find an article about how supposedly improbable patters often arise since they aren´t improbable at all (due to some kind of path-dependency or so), but I cannot find it right now (fuck!).
In some of the more recent notes (about e.g. Malevich, Mondrian, Minimalism, in some respects also them about Tapies and Sheeler) you have meditation about art in which there isn´t much in it, or so it seems. Sedlmayr (a conservative/Nazi) is quite aware of progress in art, which to him is exemplification of metaphysical regress throughout modernity nevertheless, he does not deny the innovativeness of Malevich´s Black Square, but he says that it is „untersprachlich“ (sublinguistical), and not „übersprachlich“ (i.e. portraying the Gottmensch, which would be, according to Sedlmayr, the purpose of art). But I like it because of the eloquent silence that it carries. It is meditative, quietist, Zen-like, it confronts you with the mysterious materiality/spirituality of the world, with otherness about which you have to figure out about how it can be adeqately captured, with something that seems both beneath you as well as beyond you, younger than you as well as much more ancient, harmless and inanimate as well as seemingly carrying deadly potential, etc. It refers to the Nullpunkt of creativity as well as to the infinity of universe and things, the pseudo-tabula rasa of mind, the ontological potential of the Matrix. It does not come as a surprise that in your metaphysical quest you come across (and have to go through) the Black Square tunnel, in a quest for purity, originality, being able to construct new forms and the like. In the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking, which is about that quest, I wrote a lot of somehow abstract (and seemingly silly and/or funny) texts (which they are, but they are also dead serious and indisputable). As you may remember, I was also fascinated by the task of how to describe how animals think (intelligent crows for instance), or how children learn language – and how is language formed at all? According to a universal grammar (as proposed by Chomsky), or as a quasi-emergent phenomenon that is based on some more primitive primordial tools and man´s situatedness in a social context (i.e. the more Wittgensteinian proposal)? How does protolinguistical experience look like? Is it right to describe the mind of a crow or newborn as a corner of a white space, then there comes some dull and vague sound, maybe also an orange flash? Very interesting to temporarily inhabit the sublinguistic lodges! I guess a creative person will be fascinated by it. It is about the (lower) edges of thought, beyond/below that of what is graspable for us. It signifies a horizon, respectively something beyond the horizon, hence it has to be explored.
Getrude Stein (a genius) was a pioneer in a modernist experiment to subvert language. She took „stream of consciousness“-writing to an extreme insofar as she tried to evade (not only stringency and conclusivenss of plot but) meaning as much as possible, by just writing down what immediately came to her mind. The result were voluminous books full of sentences largely free of meaning – but, as Jonah Lehrer (in his super book Proust was a Neuroscientist) explains: she found out that she could not evade basic grammar! Also other experiments/observations – like, for instance, deaf people developing a sign language, or immigrants developing a pidgin/creolian language: whereas these languages will be primitive in the first generation, the subsequent generation will make it more sophisticated and introduce grammar – seem to indicate that there is actually a universal grammar as something innate to humans in the Chomskian sense. Chomsky´s concept of universal grammar however has always met criticism as well, and for instance more recent research seems to imply that language, and the way infants learn a laguage, is a kind of emergent phenomenon that comes into being via the use of several „tools“, like ability to make analogies, to categorise things, recognise things via schemes (a dog is not likely to have a concept of a steak, but it is likely that a dog will recognise his environment via proto-conceptual schemes) or the reading of communicative intentions. I also consider that likely to be that way, and whether there is a universal/deep grammar or need for universal/deep grammar appears doubtful to me, since the grammar of sentences just reflect the way things are, respectively how man can act in the world – it reflects the structure of our actions and intentions (which would be a somehow empiricist notion, respectively a contact theory of grammar and linguistics) (however, since I am not an expert on liguistics, but it must´ve been that someone has thought about that before). And the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking is full of texts that celebrate the chaosmotic architectural/iconoclastic processuality of creative enterprise. (And if there is a deep grammar, why do languages frequnetly happen to be so different and distinguished from each other?)
Concerning the Untersprachlichkeit and the „fascination“ of being inside the mind of animals et al., more recent research (respectively an activation of more ancient knowledge/understandings) seems to indicate that plants are „intelligent“, respectively that they aren´t as „vegetative“ as it may seem. Plants adapt to their environment, they „communicate“ with their environment and with other plants, different species of plants have different „character“ (i.e. plants „fairly“ rewarding insects that carry their seeds, while others, like orchids, tricking them in a nasty way), they have more senses than humans do, and the like. Is it adequate to think that they are conscious and intelligent? Animals are, in a reduced sense, intelligent and conscious, it amazes me to see them play (for what purpose?), to see how eels can „befriend“ humans, or how one of Liliana´s gatas, Lorenzo, has a quite distinguished (and somehow sociopathic, or – to do more justice to him – adventuruous and challgening) personality. Maybe – given the extreme inprobability that our universe can be as fine-tuned as ours – even the universe, and everything in it, is a conscious – there are arguments for and against pan/cosmopsychism.
Then there are people who think that animals are better or more innocent than humans, dolphins more intelligent, etc. However, pigs ( = very intelligent animals) have the cognitive abilities of an average three year old human. Think you are inside the mind of a trout! A trout has an IQ of 4! What would it be like being a creature with an IQ of 4? Think of being a cockroach! AI has invented a creature however that superbly is able to act like a cockroach – the algorithm is: 1) Take flight from bright light 2) If there is not light, take flight from sound 3) If there is neither light nor sound, wait a while, then move. With that program, the behaviour of a cockroach can (basically) be captured. However, hopes that animals can teach us something are likely to be disappointed. Michael Tomasello writes in his book A Natural History of Human Morality how apes are morally quite inferior to men, and basically egocentric, whereas in humans you have a genuine sense for cooperation. Also Laland – in an article about what distinguishes humans from animals – notes that if Apes could talk, they would make poor conversationalists: while they are able to understand (a limited range of) sings, they cannot produce grammar, and their conversation would be utterly egocentric – the longest „translated“ statement by a chimpanzee goes: “Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you” (which, however, carries some resemblances to conversations on social media or Youtube comments). When I gave my text about the trout and its 4 IQ to my friend Dagmar, she responded that it made her think about humans (having an IQ of 4, going with the crowd, being only interested in eating, fucking, sleeping, having no higher moral sense, being envious and egoistic, etc., with women often being the worst to each other)*. In a way, if you think about the subliguistic and its magic and mysteriousness, you frequently have it quite next to you; go, for instance, to the opera and try to empathise with how many of the folks in the opera house have their higher sentiments triggered, their catharsis and the like – when being exposed to the Gralserzählung or the Karfreitagszauber they may actually think about their business or so. Going to the netherworld, where no meaningful thoughts are formed isn´t actually that difficult, it happens all the time around you <3
In Sedlmayr´s opinion, the purpose of art is portraying man made in the image of God. He is aware that this is not a modern option, nevertheless his history of art is a history of a long decay (a quite intelligent and empathetic one however). His hope is that, after a long agony, art of the future will be about the portrayal of the Gottmensch, the divine human being, the finally fully accomplished man, furthermore his hopes adress those who have suffered most from the (modern) human condition (on a metaphysical level) i.e. individuals like Goya, Kleist, van Gogh, Hölderlin, Stifter, Nietzsche et al. to be able to erect or embody the image of the Gottmensch. The Gottmensch is baptised by fire. Kierkegaard, whom I happen the read at the moment (since I want to write about him), on the other hand shortly adresses at the end of his magisterial thesis about the concept of irony with permanent reference to Socrates, that the defining quality of the Gottmensch will be (metaphysical) humor (as something much more skeptical than irony but also containing a much higher positivity than irony) (unfortunately Kierkegaard´s ruminations enter quite abruptly at this point (with the excuse that humor is not a topic in a reflection about irony), yet, upon reflection, although Kierkegaard was among the species of overmen, he actually was overly ironic himself – but not actually funny or humorous, i.e. irony was the realm where Kierkegaard was king, but humor was a demarcation where Kierkegaard ended). I say, the Gottmensch will be so comprehensive as that he reaches into the lowlands and netherworlds as well as into the spheres, as mind and soul of God contains everything. Therefore the übersprachliche Gottmensch will also try to adress that which is untersprachlich, try to put himself inside the mind of a crow or a trout; the untersprachliche Black Square will be the eternal tunnel to wander through the white light from infinity, the silence you can hear from there is message from base. Listen to the voice of nature (which doesn´t really talk of course).
*„Die Forelle finde ich klasse wobei ich für mich den Gedanken weiter spinne… ist nicht die Allgemeinheit wie eine Forelle (4 IQ essen trinken in die selbe Richtung schwimmend wie die anderen Forellen ) … Moralisches streben in der heutigen zeit ist ein sehr löbliches Ziel und du bust wahrscheinlich einer der wenigen menschen auf.diesem durchgeknallten planeten der es wohl schaffen könnte. Der rest der menschheit ist neidisch verschlagen link nur auf seinen vorteil bedacht prakmarisch materiell und wirtschaftlich ausgerichtet … Und zum.teil oft so dumm in seinen ansichten und oberflächlich ich bin.oft so froh wenn ich mich nicht damit auseinandersetzen muss … Und frauen sind mit abstand oft am ärgsten zueinander und das meist wegen einem.mann wie grotesk ist den das könnte bücher füllen mit geschichten darüber glg sent from mobile“
America has a problem with gun fetishism, due to a cowboy-macho mentality, and since people mimic other people there is an ongoing tradition of the USA being plagued by mass shootings. I.e. there are people with some sinister character that more easily hear their „call“ (to become mass shooters) in an environment where there are also other people who do – in contrast to the notion that such people are „ticking time bombs“ that are set to „inevitably“ explode I guess most people with sinister character won´t (at a large scale): it depends on their environment on how much they get triggered to really act out like that. Mass shooters seem to be a mysterious case since they usually accept their own death or being thrown into jail for lifetime (and I guess a substantial amount of people who may want to become mass shooters are held back just because of this perspective). What is the damage that is inside them? I remember there was a dicussion about the condition of Norway´s mass murderer/terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, of whether he is actually insane or can be held accountable for his acts (i.e. suffers from paranoid schizophrenia or has a massive personality disorder which however does not render him truly insane). There were psychiatrists who considered him insane and others who did not (public pressure however has been on being able to hold Breivik accountable for his deeds, which he also strived for himself). I remember how an Austrian psychiatrist said in an interview that the „insane“ grin of Breivik would remind him of a patient he had in an insane asylum that had cut off his penis but simply smiled at him, like a naughty child, showing his parents the mess it had done. I was wondering what kind of insanity that could be? Are there more, and more individual forms of insanity than just schizophrenia and bipolar disorder? I also remember a Norwegian psychiatrist who had to deal with Breivik in his youth said he was thinking Breivik had Asperger Syndrome (which may lead to difficulties in capacity to empathise, though more in the intellectual sense than in the moral or emotional sense). More recent American mass shooter Adam Lanza was also believed to have been aspergeroid. Could it be that an Aspie with an evil character and who had to suffer severe frustrations due to being a social misfit can turn into a monster? In some cases, maybe. However, I also read a „confession“ of another young mass shooter once (respectively I have screened it since it consisted of ca. 150 pages): It was a quite bright teenager, maybe with IQ 150, who had written a lenghty, well elaborated statement, the message however was that he was jealous of other (supposedly) happy (and romantically engaged) teenagers and hated them – as he did not consider himself able to ever lead such a happy life. So some kind of teenage angst – it remained unclear why, at such a young age, he considered himself unlikely to ever be able to live a life like those he envied – however, given the darkness or emptiness of his soul his guess that he wasn´t loveable (which he did not express directly, although I have read only parts of the suicide note) was likely correct. What is astounding is the level of hatred against a world about which he felt that it had wronged him and that he would have deserved better. I also remember a case of a juvenile interviewed in prison who had murdered someone, because he had felt that all the others at school were „someone“ whereas he himself had been „nothing“ – and so, in order to be „someone“ he killed a popular girl from high school and went into prison. Strange individuals (also like Mark David Chapman who shot John Lennon in order to become a celebrity himself): Are they extremely narcisstically wounded (due to a personality disorder that makes them so vulnerable) or do they have an even more severe identity diffusion that makes them feel so empty inside so as that they commit the most extreme acts, with which they also hurt themselves, just to „be someone“ (in the case of MD Chapman a more severely disturbed case than just a narcissist, reaching into mental illness, seems evident)? There has been an article „Inside the Mind of the Mass Shooter“ in the aftermath of a more recent mass shooting in the USA, leaving dozens of people dead and hundreds of people injured at a country music festival in Nevada, carried out by 64-year old Stephen Paddok. The article says mass shooters frequently show signs of paranoid schizophrenia and an illusion of narcissistic grandeur – that has been frustrated, and because of this, they act out, also taking into account their own death which does not matter to them anymore, or is desired by them. Apart from their narcissistic fantasies, which do not unfold in reality, they are obviously so empty inside that all that is left in them is to „settle the scores“ with a world seen as hostile or unworthy, and then obliterate themselves. – As far as I can see, a condition common in mass shooters seems to be a paranoid personality disorder. People with a paranoid personality disorder are extremely touchy against personal setbacks (for which they usually blame others), suspicious and anxious against possible setbacks, they hold long or everlasting grudges, they are argumentative, have a sense of entitlement and often are self-referential or have a superiority complex and fantasise about being omnipotent (in contrast to the narcissist they, therein, do not strive for admiration, neither (in contrast to the histrionic) for attention, but obviously just for power respectively for being regarded as superior for its own sake). There does not seem to be so much inside them concerning warmheartedness, their emotional apparatus rather mainly consists of feelings of anger and resentment. When, in their fantasies of superiority they see themselves questioned by others (regardless of whether that is the intention of the other person or not), they become extremly angry and, in a way of projecting their own hostility into others, paranoid (and maybe also their fantasies of large conspiracies against them is a projection of their own grandiose and grand-scale fantasies). Paranoids aren´t easy people and they are likely to become ever more lonely in the course of their life. A paranoid personality disorder can also develop into a paranoid schizophrenia. I think that paranoids aren´t just paranoid i.e. suspicious and deluded (maybe due to an attachment disorder in early childhood) but that they (at least in many cases) have severe problems of regulation of self-esteem and that their paranoia is to a considerable degree a projection of their own proneness to feel hostility towards others. They may lack inner resources and inner riches. They may even know that their paranoid fantasies are bs and irrational, but they hold on to them since they comfort them emotionally. So I guess paranoid personality disorder probably is the most frequent condition inside the mind of mass shooters. (However, among the possibly many causes a murderous instinct may also be caused by a brain tumor: Such was obviously the case of famous mass shooter Charles Whitman who went up a tower and shot several people and made it very difficult to catch him in the 1960s – he had been a normal guy who had become increasingly plagued by the desire to murder and, therein, felt that something „wasn´t right with his brain“ – after his death a tumor was found in his brain. Likewise, also another special breed – serial killers – aren´t necessarily lunatics or sociopaths. They might be neurotypical – apart from the fact that they have murderous impulses inside them. Also sadists aren´t necessarily sociopaths: that they get triggered by sadistic fantasies may be an isolated feature in the arena of their entire personality.)
A while ago also the crackpot/crank personality attracted my attention. A crank is someone who inflexibly holds on to beliefs that are widely considered as wrong (or not-even-wrong) or irrational, obviously as, although cranks may appear to be humble, they also have a massive desire to see themselves as superior towards others. According to Wikepedia characteristics of cranks include: 1) Cranks overestimate their own knowledge and ability, and underestimate that of acknowledged experts 2) Cranks insist that their alleged discoveries are urgently important 3) Cranks rarely, if ever, acknowledge any error, no matter how trivial 4) Cranks love to talk about their own beliefs, often in inappropriate social situations, but they tend to be bad listeners, being uninterested in anyone else’s experience or opinions 5) Cranks seriously misunderstand the mainstream opinion to which they believe that they are objecting 6) Cranks stress that they have been working out their ideas for many decades, and claim that this fact alone entails that their belief cannot be dismissed as resting upon some simple error 7) compare themselves with luminaries in their chosen field (often Einstein, Newton, Edison, etc.) implying that the mere unpopularity of some belief is in itself evidence of plausibility 8) Cranks claim that their ideas are being suppressed, typically by secret intelligence organizations, mainstream science, powerful business interests, or other groups which, they allege, are terrified by the possibility of their revolutionary insights becoming widely known 9) Cranks appear to regard themselves as persons of unique historical importance. – So, although „perhaps surprisingly, many cranks may appear quite normal when they are not passionately expounding their cranky belief, and they may even be successful in careers unrelated to their cranky beliefs“, also the crank condition seems to be an expression of a personality disorder. But what common personality disorder would apply? Obviously you have narcissistic, histrionic and schizotypal features here, yet neither NPD, HPD or StPD seem to truly apply. Upon relfection, it may also be paranoid personality disorder, if we consider the problem of self-esteem regulation, desire for quasi-omnipotence and holding on to colossal belief systems which turn into the delusion of colossal conspiracies being plotted against oneself when ego becomes frustrated. In the German version of the crackpot article on Wikipedia there is a link to the querulant, a somehow similar condition to that of the crank, and as it turns out, querulant behaviour is regarded to stem out of a paranoid condition. Personality disorders are often hidden and people with personality disorders may „function“ relatively well in everyday life – only when you meet them more intimately you see there is something wrong with them. On the other hand, when you meet someone who acts inappropriately and inflexible there is a high probability that such a person has a personality disorder. There is a continuum between (harmless) eccentricities and massive personality disorders. It is good to have knowledge about psychopathology since you are about to meet many people equipped with such a disorder and they may bring severe upheaval in your life. Walter Riso, a therapist who has written a valuable book about dangerous romantic liaisons with problematic people estimates that 20 – 30 percent of people are equipped with PDs („and if we take into account lighter cases, that number would increase significantly once more“). Meditate about that.
Individuals who (obviously) combine a high IQ with a paranoid personality disorder may have been Bobby Fisher, Ted „Unabomber“ Kaczynski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Christopher Langan. Bobby Fisher was an entertaining and flamboyant chess genius before he turned into a person that made antiamerican and antisemitic comments at every occasion, as if he had been compulsed to do so. At September 11 2001 he welcomed the terrorist attacks (in a Japanese radio show) as „wonderful news“ and in his last radio interview in Iceland (where he lived in „exile“) he could not refrain expressing his sympathies for the North Korean Dear Leader. Yet already in former times it had been noted that Fisher was deeply troubled, arrogant and with a short temper, which however he had managed to somehow balance with being funny and exiting and a genius. Psychologists noted that for Fisher playing and winning at chess was about fantasies of power, and in a TV interview he once gave answer to the question what he would experience as „the greatest pleasure“ in chess: The moment when he „breaks the opponents ego“. – Ted Kaczynski was a normal child at first. At age 2 however he suffered from a shock of the immune system and had to be isolated in hospital. After that experience he had become a very reclusive child and person. I guess, apart from genetic disposition, personality disorders stem out from severe frustrations in early infancy where the infant does not have a fully developed concept of self and the own body and cannot recall memories (therefore, unlike neuroses, personality disorders do not appear as something „attached“ to a personality, but an element deeply ingrained in that personality itself). Apart from being a maths genius hardly understood by anyone Kaczynski became a reclusive and bizarre individual who gave up mathematics to become the Unabomber. Despite employing a primitivistic (and a bit Rousseauian) ideology he admitted to himself that the true motive for his criminal crusade had been his „hatred“ for people. When I once took a short look at his manifest, I noticed that it was full of paranoid hatred against the political left (I would have liked to analyse that further since it appeared to me as an expression of an inferiority complex, respectively a hatred against everything that is „soft“ and tolerant because of self-hatred for one´s own perceived inner weakness, but I am not interested to do that at the moment). – I have not read or studied Jean-Jacques Rousseau a lot, but it is commonplace that he sent his offspring to orphanages and that after a while he antagonised against everyone, became suspicious about Voltaire et al. betraying him or plotting against him. When he finally arrived in England, David Hume welcomed him, therein dismissing warnings that Rousseau is known as a problematic person, only to find those warnings justified after a while. Maybe his entire apparently humanistic but also anti-civilisational philosophy is an expression of his paranoid condition, an attack against a society about which he thought that it did him wrong (note that intellectually a paranoid person may well be a humanist). – Christopher Langan is noted as a person with one of the highest IQs currently on stage. He developed a metaphysics, the Cognitive-Theoretical Model of the Universe (CTMU) as a „Theory of Everything“ (ToE) i.e. as a „theory of theories“ that finally explains (or provides a framework for understanding) the entire reality. I have read some of his texts and also the counterarguments by others (which Langan however says they do not exist or are invalid) but still do not know what to think about it. As far as I can see it contains at least some plausible claims or suggestions as well as apparent exaggerations, as Langan claims he can prove the existence of God, of the afterlife, of the ethical character of reality and the like (note that in Langan´s theory those categories are somehow distingiushed from what is commonly understood by them). I cannot discuss the CTMU at the moment, but, as Christopher Langan appeared on Facebook (in a group for discussion of the CTMU) a while ago, I can discuss his behaviour: He joined the group as people in it have expressed curiosity why Langan had spoken out for Donald Trump. He went there to explain his motives and since then, apart from engaging in discussion and explaining about the CTMU, he compulsively rants against academia (which he flat out denounces as all corrupt and interested in anything but scientific truth), immigrants, left-wingers, „cultural marxists“, tech-billionaires, („stooge-like“ and sociopathic) politicians, atheists, (philosophical) materialists, liberals and people who don´t stick to guns – regardless of whether it is any issue in the respective thread or not. He bitterly blames „academia“ for not being „famous like Einstein“ and disrespecting the CTMU (what he fails to mention however is that the CTMU has also met opposition in the high IQ communities) and, as it becomes apparent after a while, he rants against the elites as well as the more stupid parts of the populace of a world that fails to acknowledge that the CTMU is the greatest intellectual achievement of all time and the overall solution to everything and that Christopher Langan is the greatest genius of all time and the greatest saviour since Jesus Christ (as, concerning the more stupid parts of the populace, he likes to engage in dreaming about eugenics). There is some rationality and things being worthy of consideration in what he says, but it becomes apparent that Langan says them for psychological reasons and that he is not at all a balanced individual. In arguments he goes ad hominem pretty quickly and he employs an uncannily contemptuous and scornful language in which he dehumanises others: he does not radiate much goodness and warmheartedness. He is excessively self-referential and, in contrast to humbleness and proneness to question and re-evalute one´s own ideas and beliefs as common characteristics of the genius he never ever comes up with any sort of „self-irony“. He is excessively sensitive to being „trolled“ (which, of course, he occassionally gets, however he seems to understand every disagreement as „trolling“, specifically if the other person has a point: in such a case, when he runs out of arguments, he simply derisively claims that he is much smarter and the other person an idiot). Like the paranoid person I have personally known, he permanently complains how hard his life is and how „infinitely entitled“ immigrants are (because of plutocratic-cultural marxist anti-christian conspiracy engineered by tech-billionaires and the government (if it is run by democrats or an „Obamamessiah“ and where only Trump can be a saviour)). Concerning his fantasies about conspiracies and plots he even goes that far to come up with conspiracy theories that the attacks of 9/11 were an inside job carried out by the government (and fantasises about the purpose having been to distract public attention from the game-changing and mass illuminating CTMU) – whereas no serious intellectual, regardless of nationality or ideological affiliation comes up with such a thing since to anyone who is capable of critical thinking it is evident that those conspiracy theories are much less plausible than the „official version“. In general, also as an intellectual he is pretty picky in taking into account stuff that confirms his vision and neglects stuff that does not. For someone who claims to be „closer to absolute truth than anyone else“ in history, Langan is quite casual in making claims he, at least somehow, knows himself that they aren´t exactly appropriate or pay tribute to „absolute truth“, but preeminently serve the purpose of comforting him emotionally. For someone who humble-brags „Do I think this (my achievements/IQ) makes me better than anyone? No, I still work in a bar“ he is quite immodest (note: the quotes are from a video portrait about Langan easily to be found on Youtube). And, at any rate, someone who claims to be the „smartest man in America“ and then speaks out for Trump! Ok, granted that Langan is a conservative, but also most of the more illuminated conservatives turned away from Trump. However, Langan finally makes it clear that he endorsed Trump because Trump runs against left-wingers and „cultural marxists“ which he deems accountable for lack of success of the CTMU – I mean, so much for Langan as an honest intellectual who claims being solely interested in the progress and enlightenment of humanity, but endorses an aggressively anti-intellectual/scientific individual who is a slap in the fucking face for any rational person and is irresponsible enough to elect someone like Trump into the most decisive office in the world! Ok, granted again, Trump is a personality disorder guy and a narcissist like Langan, but an intellectual should first and foremost ask whether someone is intellectually honest and accountable. – To sum up, while operating at a high intellectual level and at least containing elements that should not be dismissed the CTMU makes the impression of being something Christopher Langan wants to come up with to prove that he is the greatest genius in history (i.e. a toy, not a theory). Certain paranoid elements like its grand dimensionality, dismissal of „moral relativism“ in favor of an absolute truth/logos that Langan equates to a pantheistic/psychic deity (that equates to the universe itself) (and where Langan is his prophet) seem to be there, or could be interpreted along these lines. – I actually feel a bit uneasy mentioning all of that since Chris Langan hasn´t done anything bad on me personally, but I am, among other things, here to document my age, and that is how he exposes (and deconstructs) himself online (and, as I can see, he doesn´t do it only on Facebook, but also in various other threads on the internet – as for instance HERE). I have been aware of Chris Langan for some years now and have been reading and observing this and that in bits and pieces from time to time and did not know what to think about him, but given such exposure – which, by the way, does not invalidate (parts of) his theory, but sheds a strange light on it – I am skeptical. On Facebook I can even a bit understand his „eccentricity“, as in the respective group there is a considerable number of people who applaud to Langan and kiss his ass to anything this idiot says, no matter how outrageous it ges (for one or many reasons). Even if they are sympathetic to his views or his theory, I do not quite get why many of those folks do not see, at least after a while, that Langan simply is not a balanced individual and that his behaviour is flat out abnormal. Of course, his frustrations can be understood – thinking that he has come up with one of the most significant intellectual/spiritual achievements of all time, with important implications for self-understanding of man and is not credited for it – yet contrary to good intentions, a basic abrasiveness of his personality is obvious (what is most frustrating that some individuals fall out with Langan after a personal unpleasant encounter, but not so often because of his genral behaviour). They think they are geniuses themselves and oh, so special and so damn clever when they endorse Langan and the CTMU, or so. Concerning true geniuses, it gives me an indication why folks like Einstein preferred to solely talk at length with Gödel, Nietzsche went to Sils Maria, Wittgenstein went to Norway to think or to Lower Austrian children to communicate or Emily Dickinson refused to leave her house after a while (as now does Perelman). I mean, those highly gifted physicists around Einstein, what did they do? Crying „Hurra!!“ when the First World War broke out, and then again crying uncritically „Hurra!“ when a tricky thing like quantum mechanics manifested! There seems to be a bit of a lack of inner clarity in those people! Even people who are not commonly retarded may follow dangerous leaders. The fog of the world. That is the quintessence of „Moby Dick“ (with Ahab coincidentally being a perfect example for a paranoid personality disorder).
UPDATE April 1 2018 (sic!): In the CTMU group on Facebook they are meanwhile, spearheaded by Christopher Langan, up to attributing personality/mental disorders to „demons“, with Chris Langan claiming that the CTMU, as a theory of everything, would also allow for a „very advanced theory of demonology“ – without, unfortunately, seeing much use in writing an extensive paper on that subject, since the always ignorant and stupid academia would not be interested in it. („While the CTMU happens to support the development of a very advanced „theory of demonology“, this is not something in which most academic journals would presently be interested. (A shame, given the liabilities of abjectly clamming up and letting a howling pack of oligarchical demons do a collective hotdog dance on the face of humanity.)“)
UPDATE, from a conversation in the CTMU group August 4 2018:
Christopher Langan: All I’m sure of is this: the time has come to get insistent – very, very insistent – about putting a stop to it. (There are definitely egregores hostile to our survival – that’s the only way to formulate it with logical certainty. The questions are about its exact biological composition – you know, international bankers, demons from hell, space aliens, interdimensional fungi, or what have you).
James B.: One can take that line of thought somewhat further — but not far enough by any stretch of the imagination — by examining the history of the Frankfurt School Jews. I’ll lay it out in brief: Having abandoned class Maxism after WW I, they became resentful of working class Germans. When working class Germans saw a „savior“ of sorts in Hitler, the Frankfurt School migrated to Columbia University prior to WW II. With the onset of WW II, and the US-Soviet alliance, they were admitted to the inner sanctum of the Office of Strategic Services, as propaganda consultants. Under their guidance the OSS developed what became known as „denazification“ propaganda. This propaganda was supposed to target the German population but, through the OSS’s connection to the film industry, it also began targeting the US population. During this time of alliance with the Soviet economic Marxists, the cultural Marxists in the US learned to ensconce themselves in the heart of the intelligence community of the US. At the end of WW II, the denazification propaganda network was ramped up, not only in Germany, but in the US with the establishment of the CIA which suffered the congenital cultural Marxist defect imposed by the Frankfurt School from its role in the OSS. When Sen. Joe McCarthy tried to clean house, he had no idea of the kind of „denazification“ mass media propaganda infrastructure he was up against — and it, in effect, killed him. (Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s assistant displacing RFK so as to „protect McCarthy against charges of antisemitism“, was a Jewish Columbia graduate, homosexual — blackmail material there — and possible pedophile… and also became Trump’s lawyer shortly before dying of AIDS!)
I reiterate, in 2005, when I had to complete my one-year postgraduate study course „Master of Advanced European Studies/Major in Conflict and Development“ at the University of Basel, we had to write a a thesis of maximal 50 pages i.e. a work somehow resemblant to a larger seminar work. I, however, wrote a pretentious thesis in which I tried to formulate a framework in which contemporary international relations could be understood, discussed major international developments from economics to politics to legal matters and also discussed the problems, the state of the art and the prospects for all the world regions. After that I fell into depression, but a while ago reconsidered it and found out is hasn´t been that stupid, and I already posted about it.
Now I have got me a book: Die Welt im Jahr 2035, gesehen von der CIA, a report where the CIA tries to capture future developments, particularly those that can be expected to unsettle in the next 20 years with particular focus upon those expected to unfold in the next 5 years. Upon reflection, I do not want to talk a lot about that now since everyone can read the book herself. I think however that in those centuries we are living in a new Axial Age which (will) bring(s) about significant shifts and transformations concerning the self-reflection of man, a major transformation of categories concerning science, philosophy, spirituality, politics, economics, religion, social stuff, technology, morals – my project is to think about that and sort all of this out as good as I can. I want to reflect the intellectual foundations of the new Axial Age, or construct them. I guess I will have some success concerning that endeavour. That will feel good.
A while ago in the intellectual communities on Facebook there was a discussion in which someone came up with the idea that God necessarily needs to exist because only God could read (infinite) irrational numbers like pi. Another one countered that Gödel´s incompleteness theorem would allow that (i.e. that stuff exists that cannot be proven or verified). Somehow both assertions seem inadequate, but make you think about the nature of numbers (and mathematics) which is actually a mysterious and haunting subject. However, upon reflection, numbers simply express how quantifiable properties relate to each other. Out of an r you can construct a circle with pi, an ever more perfect circle with the more digits of pi you know, the perfect circle, constructed with infinite precision, cannot be constructed in a finite universe. Likewise, if you have a basket with two apples and want to have one with three, you can do that, with infinite precision, by adding one apple to the basket. Numbers, in themselves, are neither platonic nor are they real, they are virtualities / virtual entities.
I have thought about the continuum hypothesis, the orders of the infinite, the incompleteness theorem, whether the universe is a mathematical system or a logical syllogism a while ago. Some say that by applying logics they can see it all, and maybe that is true, nevertheless with logics you can construct pretty much anything of your liking (apart from that a logically correct conclusion need not be based on a correct assumption). Lots of stuff, for instance proofs of God, have been constructed with logic – but all of them can also be refuted by using logics (see, comprehensively, John Mackie´s The Miracle of Theism if you´re interested). Usually the philosophers and theologians coming up with their proofs of God were thinking that they did not prove the existence of God by using logic but, literally, that they were proving the necessary existence of God out of logic, although to every neutral observer it was apparent that there was something wrong, wobbly, uncanny in their proofs, although it is not necessarily easy to exactly tell what the problem is. Often it may require an entirely new heuristics, and for instance it took centuries to exactly tell what is wrong with Zeno´s paradoxa. Metaphysical questions may be undecidable, not least because they´re paradoxical in nature.
And then, the incompleteness theorem… Despite its apparent gravity and the mysteriousness it seems to imply the incompleteness theorem hardly affects professional mathematician´s business. I have never read Gödel´s original paper and maybe would not understand it since maths, among other things, is not my speciality, however as far as I can see it is about the „paradox“ of the barber who shaves anyone but himself or the Cretans lying. Despite there is no logical solution to that paradoxes they will somehow be solved in practice without too many trouble (or if we applied „fuzzy logics“ we could formalize stuff or so, idk…). Maybe a kind of solution to it, respectively shedding some light on the mystery the incompleteness theorem seems to imply, comes in a way Cantor „solved“ the mystery of infinite sets – when he made the „paradoxes“ they carry their defining element. There is also this stuff: hyperinfinite sets. They can be constructed, but their existence cannot be proven, and under Occam´s Razor they may seem a nuisance (because they seem to add more orders of the infinite that seems to be needed). Given the incompleteness theorem, the mysterious hyperinfinite sets may either exist or not. However, certain mathematical objects, like knots, can be better conceptualised under the assumption that hyperinfinite sets do exist, be their existence only theoretical (under the assumption of hyperinfinite sets something is possible to construct about the understanding of knots, as an „indirect“ proof that would lead to the possibility of a more direct proof that could eventually do without the assumption of hyperinfinite sets). Apparently, the virtual again. When you think about numbers (and mathematical objects), especially about odd numbers, complex numbers – or negative numbers, or zero, or infinite sets that have puzzled humans for so long, you may become aware that they´re virtual entities.
WIthout the concept of the virtual we´re actually pretty fucked up if we tried to understand the nature of numbers, I guess. It can be argued that numbers are, e.g., platonic, and there are some indications to it, likewise there are other indications that taking them as platonic entitities does not actually apply. With Virtual Reality the notion of the virtual has become somehow more mainstream. Before that it has been prominent within the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. In thinking and conceptualising about the virtual Deleuze draw on fellow philosopher Henri Bergson – and on Marcel Proust, i.e. neither a philosopher nor a scientist nor a mathematician but a literary genius who, concerning the virtual, was ruminating about how to grasp the qualities of memory. I cannot remember who it was but it was some eminent mathematician who noted that even the most abstract and aloof maths sooner or later is bound to somehow become applicable when trying to get a grasp on something in reality. It is all a gigantic network, hahahahaha.
In his book Infinity and the Mind Rudy Rucker described how it was when he had a personal encounter with Gödel. Despite popular beliefs that he was bizarre the elderly Gödel had, as it seemed to Rucker, the statue of a very wise man who seemed to have thought about everything in life, thoroughly and concise; something that people would also remark about the elderly Wittgenstein. Rucker noted that Gödel had the habit that when completing a sentence or statement he would often exalt his voice and break into a ringing laughter, in an obvious gesture of adding some irony and leaving room for calling into question the things he just stated with such rigid logic and that seemed to be so perfectly concise – bravo, that´s the spirit! Wittgenstein was also so eminent at logics that he used logic for accelerating perplexedness. When the elderly Wittgenstein displayed the profoundly wise man to others the effect was ambiguous, as Wittgenstein on the one hand seemed to have thought about everything, including the more mundane things in life, but would enter a discussion about everything with great intensity, devotion and sternness (including conversations about the more mundane things in life), so that people usually on the one hand felt enriched and that they had received valuable advice but that they sort of had been overrun by a tank on the other hand (conversations with Emily Dickinson seemed to have been of a similar quality). – A while ago I have noticed that Kripke is considered as one of the definitely most important philosophers of the last 200 years. Kripke explained Wittgenstein to a more general population after Wittgenstein´s death. Kripke is an analytical philosopher and so far I have not read much about him. I read however that most of his (more recent) works are lectures and he himself does not seem to care so much about them being published, because his mind is obviously working too fast for caring about such mundane things – bravo, that´s the spirit! Kripke however is silent about many other things a philosopher would be expected to be vocal about. I have read that, in personal encounters, Kripke appears like a very intelligent person, yet something somehow is missing, a certain human element. – I said this about Kripke because as an association it came to my mind, it also somehow fits into this note and it is, apart from that, informative, and I like to inform people about all kind of stuff because I like to get informed about all kind of stuff myself.
This note about numbers may be dilettante, I am not a professional mathematician, I have not thought a lot about it, and I am occupied with doing other things at the moment. But I don´t see an error with conceptualising numbers as virtual entities. So far for now.
When I was walking through the Praterallee before some thoughts came to my mind about the incompleteness theorem, set theory, theory of everything, info-cognition, reality as a language, Zeno’s paradoxa, Cantor’s mathematical innovations, internal vs external consistecny of and within systems, the nature of consciousness, the nature of language, metalanguage, Chomsky vs Wittgenstein, whether there is a heart of it all or finally an evolutionary (or degenerative) interplay of heterogenous sets at the deep structure, also concerning human intelligence taken as ability to carry out manipulations within symbolic systems and then whether there is an underlying structure to „symbol systems“ or they are also, at the core, heterogenous, etc. and how all of this is connected. I eagerly wanted to read David Foster Wallace` book about Cantor on this behalf after I would be at home again, but now I am doing nothing, not even thinking in any relevant fashion. Maybe later. Maybe I listen to Nervosa next, because they’re furious and cute. It is hot in Vienna today. Anyway, my network is apparently getting ever more dense and robust. That will feel good.
Because I – cautiously – thought it could meet some resonance there I posted my note about Count Scelsi in the Pretentious Classical Music Elitists group yesterday. It contains things that are the most substantial and are the most sympathetic that can be said about Scelsi, as always when I say something it is among the most substantial and the most sympathetic that can be said about the respective subject. It got zero Likes from the Pretentious Elitists, and at least the statement about how to properly understand economics I posted on my timeline yesterday received one Like after many hours. Rumi says, in God´s world nothing is more difficult to bear than the absurd. Fortunately I don´t predominantly see the absurd, I only see hyperinfinite sets, like Attar, which practically seems to imply that while I can relate to a lot of different, and heterogenous groups, the divergences prevail everywhere. At least people who know me generally like me. Why not, I also generally like people, try to constructive in general. Ubi bene, ibi patria.
I think I will get me this book. Years ago I penetrated into economics, quite broadly, and deeply, but since 1) a career as a professional economist, or any professional, did not work out 2) I did not have the impression that I could reach the innermost invisible core of the entire discipline right then 3) other things came to my mind, it went off my radar, so maybe I should brush up and move on now. Maybe now some things come to my mind about economics and how it is situated, and mirrored, within the Welträtsel. That will feel good.
They say economics is a dismal science but this is due to its nature which is about predicting presumably rational behaviour, or events happening along a rational trajectory, within a complex environment. Predicting unfolding of rationality is (more or less) a complicated problem i.e. it is difficult to solve but it can be solved and a more or less definitive, finite solution can be given. A complex problem, by contrast, can never definitely be solved and is infinite, it can only be handled by trying to take everything possible into account and to be ever open to accept the seemingly impossible and to see everything as moving objects and to be quick to readjust. To tackle the complicated is a matter of a formalised language, but the complex probably can never be translated into a formalised system, and the ability to handle it will more or less remain an artistry than calculus (see e.g. Dietrich Dörner´s „The Logic of Failure: Recognizing And Avoiding Error In Complex Situations“). That interplay of complicated problems situated in a complex context makes economics an actually very difficult science which actually needs to be learned. It cannot be easily understood per se although, when you are somehow intelligent, it seems to be this way, creating and maintaining an illusion (which is resemblant to that what in psychology is called the Dunning-Kruger effect). Much within it cannot be drawn from logical conclusion or fluid intelligence and much of it is counterintuitive, lessons have to be drawn from practical experience and from history, i.e. as an economist you also need to have crystallized intelligence, through accumulation.
Economists are, practically, fond of calculus, and the critics of the (mainstream) economist branch mock that they are trying to do a kind of physics and put upon a physicist´s approach upon that which is actually the social realm, which can, therefore, „never work out“. That is, then, the ignorance of the crititics of economics which also never works out and usually comes in with the same, or even more pronounced, arrogance they – rightfully – attribute to the branch of mainstream economists. In an act which is actually an act of despair mainstream economists try to come to terms with an imperfect world by modelling a perfect world in which, then, law of „physics“ would apply. Herein they can offer perfect solutions. But in reality you always have imperfect situations and settings so that you practically would have to model second-best options. And it is very difficult, if not – ever – impossible to model second-best options. Much of the dismal character of economics can be attributed to that. In another light, as is noted in the article, economists often seem to be more concerned about the internal consistency of their approaches than of the external consistency and such „mentalities“ create path-dependencies along which problems generally are seen and tried to be tackled.
A practical dismal aspect, given the capability of the human intellect, is that in order to understand economics you have to get familiar with all schools of economic thought since they all contain truths, as well as errors. And when transforming those doctrines into economic policy it is, in addition to that, situational of what may practically be a truth or an error, respectively a right or a wrong approach, which is why policy makers should rather look for an appropriate approach which should be open to some incrementalism. That is to a good deal even beyond the capability of the more extraordinary minds. Keynes said that an ideal economist is so rare because she would have to combine such multiple and diverse intelligence traits that they seldom meet inside one person.
Keynes himself proclaimed that class struggle would find him on the side „of the educated bourgeoisie“ which reflects that economics is to a very high, actually abnormal, degree an ideological battleground, reflecting, of course, also the difference of interests within the social realm. In order to understand economics you not only have to be familiar with all economic schools of thought and their rights and their wrongs, but you have to try to sort this all out free of ideologically constrained epistemology. That is also difficult for humans. The most comprehensive and maybe greatest single economist, Karl Marx, was an ideological fanatic (not without reason, however). Therefore Marx was far less intellectually productive in the second half of his life where he presumably ruminated whether his architecture might not be too narrow or maybe wrong at all, without, however, being ready to draw any conclusions from those ruminations.
I have read hundreds of books, papers, essays on economics, international political economy, globalisation studies, economic history, and development economics. For random reasons Porter´s „Competetive Advantage of Nations“ comes to my mind at the moment. It contains studies what (industrial) strategies have made several, and distinct, nations economically successful. It is somehow strange that the question about the benefits or fallacies of infant industry protection is hardly ever properly adressed in modern day economics and its textbooks, where infant industry protection is disfavored although successful Western and Asian nations relied on it, whereas, granted, in other nations it was a failure (or something resemblant to a failure). Well, the secret to successful infant industry protection lies in protecting the national infant industry from competition from the world market but not on the domestic market. Because of competition on the domestic market infant industries in successful nations increased their productivity and became therefore fit for competition on a global scale, whereas in Latin American or African countries infant industries were also protected from competition on the domestic market and therefore did not get very far. That is a key message of Porter´s book. I remember Keynes´ „General Theory“ to be badly written and not easily accessible. Hyman Minsky somehow always says the same. The time when I was obsessed about economics was the time when Kindleberger died. Kindleberger died in 2003 and I studied economics for my doctoral thesis which I completed in 2004. In 2005 I wrote a postgraduate thesis „Problems and Perspectives in Contemporary World Order“ where I tried to discuss all international problems of our time on 50 pages, and on p. 27 it says: „Nevertheless, one should avoid too optimistic thinking concerning the unlikeliness of serious economic trouble the USA might slip into at almost any point of time. Too many are the sins of carelessness within the American economy: saving rates are low, the sectors of the „old economy“ are relatively unproductive and at the real estate market a major bubble could burst.“ (I was familiar with such things because they have been frequently reported in, for instance, The Economist magazine but no one, apart from a few like Robert Brenner, took the warning signs serious enough, including me.) After having written the thesis I found it superficial, neglected it, became depressed about it, but of course my supervisors also never really understood what an omega mind I carry, respectively did not care. I also did not understand that I carry the omega mind back then since having the omega mind means permanently falling into the abyss and being somehow devoid of orientation as well as ususally operating at such a high level of abstraction that what the omega mind ejects then is in danger of being mistaken as „practically“ useless. The omega mind is actually not easy to understand, due to its complexity. People like me are seen as „intelligent, but strange“, and therefore neglected. But we are not strange. We are hypernormal. This is not very well understood about us. However it is true our proper place are not the institutions but is in the twilight zone. Jenseits des Gradienten. The omega mind is not academic and does not fit into disciplines, is also not interdisciplinary, nor transdisciplinary, nor a-disciplinary and is also not interested in doing complexity studies, it tries to establish a productive mimesis of the all seeing eye. And communication is impaired between the omega mind and other minds. Yet we will shoot back. Behold.
I have, however, never read Adam Smith. #theroadahead
I have bought an old textbook about industrial economics at a cheap price at the university some years ago but still not have read it. Same thing goes for the big bad book by Kahnemann. I have, however, read Thaler and Sunstein´s book „Nudge“ about behavioural economics.
This week it came to my mind I also want to write a note about the „Dostojevski Idiot and the incompleteness theorem within human morals“. As I have mentioned the concept of mimesis I came to remember that I also want to finally read sociologist Gabriel de Tarde who based his grasp on society on a concept of mimesis. He is not very well known but was one or the other time mentioned by Deleuze and Guattari; at his time he was overshadowed by Durkheim as well as modern French sociology is overshadowed by Bourdieu. I have read some Bourdieu, but no Durkheim so far.
(I edited some comments I made on a thread in the Polymathica group into a note, content relating to a master thesis I wrote years ago at the university. Ahhh … apart from that not much is happening inside me at the moment, before my inner eye, looking inside my mind, the current vision is a yellow-coloured space and there are three black dots in it forming some triangle, these days I keep looking at them, watching them in silence and inertia, not producing, or feeling the urge to produce, overly relevant thoughts. Incipit Zarathustra.)
In 2005 I wrote a pretentious Master thesis at the university titled „Problems and Perspectives in Contemporary World Order“ in which I tried to discuss all the current major world problems as well as current and prospective developments in the world regions on 50 pages. In the introduction I ruminated that a heuristic framework in which the New (post Cold War) World Order may be conceptualised is established by a coordinate system made out of the „Fukuyama Narrative“ on the one hand and of the „Huntington Narrative“ on the other.
The „Fukuyama Narrative“, established in „The End of History“, in general, argues that after the end of the Cold War respectively the system competition between capitalism and communism, with capitalism respectively free markets (and liberal democracy) having „won“, there are no principled conflicts (Grundsatzkonflikte) in the world anymore and the world is headed for (cultural, political, social and economic) „unification“. Look at science fiction movies where foreign planets with advanced civilisations are usually governed by a planetary government – the road ahead seems intuitively clear (which does not, however, mean: straight). In a globalised world respectively a world dominated by reason and by looking after the common good multilateralism or global governance and a unified spirit seem imperative (at least in the child´s eye and children are always right). The „Fukuyama Narrative“ is Hegelian and stands in the tradition of enlighenment, given at least the more blunt implications of a reading/reception of the „Fukuyama Narrative“ however it is a (probably, likely) dangerous and undialectical, naive form of enlightenment ideology. And at the time when I wrote the thesis the Bush II administration seemed to be guided by such a spirit in their (originally much more far-reaching neoconservative/PNAC) endeavours to bomb in democracy into the Middle East. (Many motives have come into play for marching into Iraq, with George W.´s inferiority complex as the family idiot trying to „get the job done where daddy didn´t“ being one of them, but more general toppling governments hostile to the USA and replacing them with friendly ones as a neoconservative agenda mixed with a genuine hope to promote democracy and progress in the world and, most important, getting a foot in the region: according to an article I read only once (in Harper´s magazine) Cheney´s idea was that with Turkey, Saudi-Arabia and Iraq being allies to the USA US global hegemony would have been secured for the next 50 years, as being the core motive for the Iraq war.) Before that the Western world was guided by such a „Fukuyman“ spirit when it promoted hardcore neoliberalism for the ex-communist countries in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet empire, with mixed results, at best. The „Fukuyama Narrative“ has become somehow prevalent or the underlying narrative among globalisation enthusiasts, another prominent label for it is e.g. the maxime about „the world is flat“ established by Thomas Friedman.
Huntington´s book „The Clash of Civilisations“ was written as a critical reaction to Fukuyama. In general, the „Huntington Narrative“ is based on the concept that principled conflicts are still in place and likely to remain indefinitely (with, however, the nature of principled conflicts shifting), where Huntington argues that the dividing lines of the nearer future lie across cultural dividing lines. Although Huntington´s thesis and argumentation was in the utmost majority of cases disapproved or modified (for instance that the actual dividing lines for conlicts will not lie along the grand cultural divides since actually different cultures like Orient and Occident are more likely to be indifferent to each other, but rather in the (seeming) „narcissism of the small differences“ e.g. between Sunna and Shia, etc.) it was a major work of reference, and, as I argued, in the light of the general implication: namely that principled conflicts are not a thing of the past, not a thing which can be, in the spirit of enlightenment, resolved within „rational discourse“ but are likely to remain. On an abstract level the „Fukuyama Narrative“ is about a world headed for community based on mutually shared values and mentality, the „Huntington Narrative“ is about idiosyncracies and (core) differences between people and peoples likely to remain indefinitely. Yet this does not mean that cooperation and becoming closer to each other and unusual, unexpected marriages are impossible or rare (among people as well as among peoples). „Huntington“ is a nemesis to „Fukuyama“ – but also it is the other way round. That may be the, somehow more complicated and diffuse, dialectics of contemporary world order.
So, made up by that coordinates, the question of new world order seems to be: is the world headed for unification and peace or for conflict and divide? And the answer is that within that practical framework complexities are likely to arise which go over the head of politicians and people. This seems to have been confirmed by the developments in the last 10 years. Note also that a defining question for world politics will be what power blocks will stand against each other and in what relationship to each other in the future, and current attempts obviously are about forging such power blocks which, by nature, does include both inclusion and exclusion (or exclusive inclusion as the West seems to try with Russia, which the West tries to weaken in order to subjugate Russia; also consider the ongoing politics to reshape the Middle East, etc.). The relationships within and between the power blocks are likely to be more flexible and fluid, yet maybe also more fragile, unstable and unpredictable, triggering additional policy errors. Concerning the prospects of a world government it was, somehow ironically, Fukuyama himself who, a decade after the publication of „The End of History“ (in 2002) called such an idea, prominent in the West, naive, also in the respect that the larger and more comphrehensive the political entities are the less are the chances that they are democratic and that the multitude can identify with them. What can be said however is that governance in the new world order will/should involve many layers and that people of very high intelligence who are usually excluded from institutions of any sort but who are able to oversee those layers should be included the respective institutions.
The question for democracy in the world is also settled within that coordinate system. It has been argued that in most world regions democracy is „not wanted“ as a perceived cultural artefact of the West, alien and inappropriate for, for instance, Russia, China, Saudi-Arabia or African countries – and not only by Russian etc. leaders but by the populace themselves. Yet democracy was alien in the Western world as well up to recently and the hostility of the insecure European elites and significant parts of the general population like the petty bourgeoisie against the democratic regimes installed after WW1 led to the dictatorships which led to WW2 (however it has to be noted that without the devastations caused by the Great Depression history would likely have gone in another direction). For the most part of history man has been reluctant or hostile to change and progress and feared it. That people are (relatively) open to progress is a new phenomenon and clusters in the industrialised world. Note that for the most time in history man struggled against nature on a day to day basis and established routines were literally held sacred as providing security, and deviations were seen as great dangers to survival, not in a few cases, because of the usual trial and error method with which innovations come into being, for justified reasons. A friend of mine once worked at a developmental project in Ethiopia. Well, it was largely about transfering money from one pocket to the other, apart from that he made the observation that the major obstacle to change and to do something against the hunger in the land was the ordinary farmer´s resistance to try out new agricultural methods, because they feared that it might lead to bad harvest. From that perspective the brutal policy in communist countries, notably under Stalin and Mao, to modernise agriculture with the intention to end the recurrent famines become apparent and, despite their horrendous execution, not the work of psychopaths (which neither Stalin nor Mao were, though they have nevetheless been highly unpleasant characters), and at least Mao was praised by Henry Kissinger as a moderniser of China, which, as should be remembered, was unable to emerge from its backwardness against the West for 300 years.
This needs to be taken into account adressing the initial question of the threat whether democracy is applicable for the Middle East or more general in many parts of the world. In order for democracy, innovation and modernisation to succeed it needs to lead to positive results in the first place. The hostility in Europe soon faded (apart from the most memorable consequence of Nazism/Fascism and WW2) when European countries became (economically) successful, however the conditions of the golden age of postwar prosperity in the Western world were in parts contingent, local and unrepeatable, we were lucky, but there are also other opportunities to be lucky, for instance being a late moderniser who initially just has to copy everything and profit from the lessons learned by predecessors in order to progress relatively smoothly and at fast pace like China. Yes, people in Russia, China or Saudi-Arabia may be unfavorable to liberal democracy, maybe also out of an inferiority complex-triggered cultural narcissism against the Occident, but this does not mean they´re right with their assessment. Time and circumstances may overcome that. Of course it has to be noted that social structures and mentalities influence a lot whether liberal democracy can be an option. Western countries were not composed of multiethnical tribal societies with clientilist structures and they were not overly corrupt. Yet China is an example for a highly corrupt and authoritarian country which is (at least at the moment) (economically) successful. In general in should be avoided to look at single factors as supposedly major determinants of how societies respectively complex systems may develop. It is the interplay of many factors which make up for it. Yeah, we are relatively helpless and incompetent foreseeing the future, but the best approach is to know all the single theoretical models and to keep your models open.