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Some thoughts from phenomenology and psychoanalysis

"Might the origin of philosophy be the infant's first experience of wanting milk and not getting it?" (BMcC)

When I worked at IBM, Poughkeepsie, System Products Division (1979), in Building 705 there was a second-line manager, Morris Taradowsky(sp?), who had a big white-board covering one wall of his office. On the thin, side edge of the white-board, a friend of mine wrote: "What are you looking for here? You will find it at the bottom of Lake Strategic." ("Lake Strategic" was the name my friend and I gave to a small pond (that's not a good word to describe it -- maybe it was just a big puddle that never dried up? or a cooling pond?) to the Northeast of and below Building 705, of unknown purpose if any.)

The business case

I now think that "having a business case" may be an ultimate case of waking Sleepwalking in our time. We'll beat the competition, but unthought by any (except some liberal intellectuals who speak but are not heard), and even though we will have beat down a lot of persons getting there (employees, et al.), "Mother Nature" will eventually beat us all, unless we can absolutely beat her [profoundly modify the fundamental forces of physics to make them obey the laws of market economics]. Have we overslept our wake up time, as Professor Paul Krugman said it in an NYT OpEd piece, "to die for The Dow"?

Nature v. the natural attitude

I think disaster is almost inevitable due to the disparity of forces between the waking and the Sleepwalking. There are a lot of "good folks" out (t)here who, some more and some less, know what the problem is and may have ideas how to address it, but they [we?] are simply too few and under-armed to be able to beat the all-too-many, the TMTC [aka too many to count], with their arsenasl of arbitrages, leveraged buyouts, hostile takeover engines... including troops of rank PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) who neither love wisdom nor heal anything.

The root problem is quite simply what (almost?) everybody gets child-reared into: "the natural attitude", i.e., the notion that each individual human person is just a ca. 2 meter high sub-assembly in the machinations of a google-size "objective", i.e., indepentent of any observer, universe. We are little people, each hardly more significant than a grain of sand (except as "human resources" to be mined) in this scheme of things. The cosmic diminution of the individual wouldn't be too bad if everybody thought of everybody as family members, as peers in a universal community of mutual nurturance, wherein they would all console one another about their insignificance.

But, in reality, this notion [Weltanschauung? or less than that?] works itself out as one particular "we" [e.g., (POTUS №45) Donald J. Trump and his buddies; the sublunary luminaries] disposing over their supply chain "they" [i.e., The American People and Everyman, woman, child else, especially employees, soldiers, immigrants, etc.]. And even that wouldn't be so bad if "they" (the "we", not us!) were all Abraham Lincolns, Winston Churchills, Martin Luther Kings, et al. But they are not. That being the case, this erroneous notion is, like its fathers before it throughout history, life wasting and life destroying beyond the physical requirements. As the population arcs asymptotically (or even just more gradually) toward infinity, but the rising Dow does not lift all "boats" (aka people), the only logical end to it will be, having finally covered the earth, to suffocate it. I seem to recall an old New Yorker magazine article that said that after the extinction of the human race by a nuclear war, the earth would become a kingdom of grasses and cockroaches (which are highly resilient to radiation).

Of course, I have not even mentioned human greed here. Nor am I a fan of altruism. In this regard, I am a Brechtean. As the title of military historian Professor Richard A. Gabriel's book says: "No more heros" (his subtitle: "Madness and Psychiatry in War", but I would apply it universally). Wilfred Owen was there before him. And the labels on the package change but the product inside changes less: slaves, serfs, peasants, workers, wage slaves (aka employees).... (A couple years ago, even so elevated a person as my primary care physician who was senior staff in a large medical group, resigned, I believe, because the business measured him by patients-seen-per-hour.)

But enough of my "whining". Let's get on with the good stuff!

What is needed is a radical change in the educational curriculum (that means also in the spirit of teachers, not just what texts are assigned). (I know there are many good teachers out there, but a sufficiently large avalanche buries even the hardiest mountain climbers.) Maybe we could start with teaching the new science, which is at least as old as Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Reolusions" and Norwood Hanson, not to mention Immanuel Kant. The "objective world" is not lumps out there but gestalts in here constituting lumps out there. And, no, this is not post-modernist or (POTUS №45) Trumpean denial of facts. Whatever, beyond our ken, "exists" [I think any word for it is just a placeholder, not a designator] is what it is beyond our ability to conjure it away, but we can only "see it as", not see it, and that "as" is for each of us a human world that was somehow constituted in the social process whereby each newborn eventually becomes a person. At the center of each person [even cat? dog?] is a place where nobody, no scientific researcher, no ad man, no psychophysicist will ever reach -- although anybody with a gun or even just their bare hands or knee [ref.: the case of George Floyd] can maim or destroy it. The most basic thing that must be honored in human social relations, including especially in childrearing, and which must be taught in school, is that no man knows or -- I'd bet everything I have to nothing -- ever will know whence words [images, etc.] come from into the light. Every invention is an epiphany. There would never have been any human civilization without this. There can be at best universal stagflation if the tap runs dry while we continue to act as if we could run forever on battery power. So "we" had better "get with it" and take care of it. And that means a universal but plausibly peaceful social revolution, with many winners and no losers except for day traders and their fellow travellers who would have to come down from their macro/microeconomic empyrean and trade their accustomed habit of doing trades and making deals out of all their fellow humans for living an aliquotely apportioned daily life on earth.

For where two or three are gathered together....

Jesus said: "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." (Matthew 18:20). Hegel says the same, substituting "God" for "Jesus", in the story of Evil and Forgivness in his "Phenomenology of Spirit". It's Jurgen Habermas's discourse ethics. It's nothing new. Seek and ye shall find. It's hiding in plain sight. But, in what is an at least almost universal human tragedy, whatever timezone one lives in, it's still what I've called "Alice Miller time" (ref. Alice Miller's books "The Drama of the Gifted Child", "For Your Own Good", "Thou Shalt Not Be Aware", etc.). Edmund Husserl said, in his "Vienna lecture" (1935):

"The practical must no longer take its norms from naïve everyday experience and from tradition but from the objective truth. In this way ideal truth becomes an absolute value that in the movement of education and in its constant application in the training of children carries with it a universal revision of practice."

(Aside: Imagine! The so-called idealist philosopher coming down to the earth of potty training!) But once again to avoid well-deserved flippancy toward those to whom I would apply Senator Joseph R. McCarthy's dictum that one of them is one too many. I don't think this "revolution" would cost very much, at least in schools that are blessed with a low student to teacher ratio. All that is needed is to stop jerking the kids (or in the case of my doctoral dissertation, psychoanalytic supervisees) around. All my "masters" in "prep" school would have needed to do is learn to use "Mr. [student-name]" as a respectful salutation instead as the preface to a reprimend. Sounds simple, but maybe as simple as seeing the elephant in the middle of the room or the beam in one's own eye. We'd have ro change all the clocks to stop running on Alice Miller time. Ojala! [I take that word from the only sentence I remember from Spanish class, the opening sentence of Pedro Antonio de Alarcon's "El Sombrero de Tres Picos", which I translate here. It is a man speaking to his donkey: "Ay, Anacletta! I don't know what to do about you. Four time I have taken you to market and four times I have come back with you. May you find a buyer!" "Ojala se encuentre un comprador!"]


A quote from an essay by Paulo Cesar Sandler, "Bion's work presented: A memoir of the future, some thoughts on its oblivion and dawn":

"Bion's text approaches the absurdity of life in ways similar to [The Theater of the Absurd playwrights]. The seemingly novel is a way to show that the more 'social' that anything sounds to be (that is, a slave of the establishment) it is shared hallucinosis. Is this a great contribution of Bion to psycho-analysis and to mankind, namely, the discovery of psychosis in the everyday life as composing any establishment's kingpin."

Norwood Hanson's "seeing as" (duck-rabbits, etc.): There is ?something? "out there" [provided that, in saying that, we undertand it is no-where]. But its ontological category is not: objectively real external object independent of the observer. Persons see it as "employers and employees", "independent contractors", etc., and they imagine that is how God or Adam Smith made the world (Bion's "shared hallucinosis"). I see neo-slavery with diminished responsibility on the part of the masters, especially "the gig economy" (just a different hallucination? like seeing the earth go around the sun instead of the other way around prior to people flying into outer space or even benefitting from high-power telescopes here on earth?). We can guess what CXOs see, and that may even be the same thing immigrant agricultural workers see, albeit with a different emotional secondary property. What do you see?


"Physics is not about how the world is, it is about what we can say about the world" (Niels Bohr)

Phenomenology has its own "unconscious", which is not the unconscious of psychoanalysis, but I don't see why the two cannot "join together". Phenomenology's unconscious is the scientist qua scientist, who is not thematized in "the natural attitude". Scientific laws are not "laws of nature" apart from human lived existence, rather they are laws of human activity, namely, experimentation. It may or may not be the case that a body in motion will remain in motion and a body at rest will remain at rest unless acted by an outside force. We can never know this. What we can know is that if a scientist measures a body in motion he or she will continue to measure it as remaining in motion, and if he or she measures a body at rest he or she will continue to measure it as remaining at rest unless it is acted by an outside force [also measurable by said scientist]. This is not any kind of "relativism" in a way anti-scientists may mean that. As often as anyone conducts the same experiment they should get the same result (else it's time for more seientific investigation). That's a fact. It is true. (At least until a new experiment shows otherwise.) But it is a different kind if relativism, namely being relative to the scientist, or, we might say, of concern to the scientist, or, in phenomenological jargon, the scientist's intentional object. It seems to me most everybody is oblivious of this and most all imagine that everything would be the same if there were no scientists (Would there be a sound if a tree fell in the forest and there was nobody listening? is a similar question).

And this unconsciousness has a "payoff", just like the obliviousness of the psychoanalyst's unconscious. Why? Because if all of science is a human activity, then the social constitution of science is the root of science and therefore a matter of concern to scientists (and others). Of course scientists should continue to conduct their experiments into other subject matters. But the most fundamental research of all is not about fundamental particles but about the fundamentals of the social organization and practice of science wherein those particles exist. Of course people talk about scientific ethics, but as a kind off "add on". It's not an add on but at the root (every experiment was chosen to be done by somebody; justify that choice[1]). And such things as whether scientists are salaried employees, etc. is also part of it.

Self and other

I am driving up a street (Aldrich Road, Chappaqua NY), looking to see once again after years the house where Dr. David Bruce Robbins, the IBM corporate psychiatrist (or at least he was in the 1980's) lives or used to live: Horace Greeley's barn. Interesting house; if I lived in the neighborhood I would know it. Dr Robbins knew my house, which was several blocks away and much less significant than his house.

I espy a man walking down the street, walking his nondescript middling-small dog. I stop my car, and roll down my front passenger side car window and ask him if he knows if Dr. Robbins still lives there. He curtly replies: "I've lived here fifteen years and never heard of him." I think: Would a person who lives on this street not be interested in Horace Greeley's barn? His loss."

It's also my loss, because this person apparently is a loss. He had an opportunity to learn something and talk with a potentially interesting person (communicate with me), and he passed it up. More precisely: he shut it down. That gave me an opportunity to reinforce something I had long thought about "people". Sad, but true → so I'm making the best of it by writing these words.

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The East is Red!

New York City Department of Health guidance for safe sex during Covid-19 pandemic

A new day will dawn, barring unexpected events. The Kuomintang was defeated and pushed to Formosa. William Hinton and Edgar Snow are dead. As Cat Stevens (aka: Yusef) sings: "You will still be here tomorrow but your dreams may not" → unless, of course, The Grim Reaper gets you first. This is philosophy, i.e., love of wisdom concerning what is real and true. NYCHealth (right) has given you guidance how to have safe fun in pandemic. That is real and true too.

Reality bites, even for philosophy professors. David Hume was an example of a clear-sighted dying lived philosophically. Dying is a mystery, not just bio-medical research data. Read Hermann Broch's novel "The Death of Virgil" before you embark on your crossing of the river Styx -- even just the first paragraph and last couple of pages of that incredible book. Seize the day before the day seizes you! Smile, you're on surveillance camera!

Live philosophically, not like that great PR self-promoter Socrates who should have taken a walk after making fools of his fellow citizens at his trial for corrupting the youth of his city, but like Diogenes of Sinope who did scientific research on human bones and discovered that he could not distinguish the bones of Alexander the Great's father from the bones of a slave.

Diogenes also told Sigmund Freud and all his hypocrite fellow bourgeois citizens of the polis what he thought of them. No, he did a brave deed in the public forum and not just mouthed shining words. All things are one: God is in the loo. Tolle, lege! Godspeed, all waking sleepwalkers in thrall of the natural attitude who have not bracketed your beliefs!


Why don't scientists and philosophers and psychoanalysts all join together and reflect on all forms of un-consciousness? From the psychoanalytic side, isn't "the natural attitude" a good name for at least some of what psychoanalysis attempts to free persons from? I have no place in academia, so maybe everybody is already doing this and I just don't know about it. I hope so. If so, somebody please let me know! As always, Ojala! (  

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  1. Dr. Jonas Salk would presumably have not trouble here. Drs. Shirō Ishii and Josef Mengele perhaps more trouble.

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2022-05-14 12:01:55