Monday, September 25, 2017


Aren’t there enough mysteries in knowable things? Whole industries have sprung up from the quest for the unknown and the unseen. Religion with its temples, churches and mosques is one of them. Of course in his fight against indulgences Martin Luther attempted to purify one aspect of the quest— which lies in absolution. Max Weber distinguished between the sect and the church in his discussion of what he called the “routinization of charisma” and there are still religions (early Christianity was one) that seek to create a closer relationship with divinity in which fervor overshadows invisibility. Practical spirituality is the keynote of the quest that’s found for instance in Quakerism and the Recovery movement. In the realm of psychology the notion of an unconscious is predicated on a force that’s defined by its inaccessibility to the reasoning areas of the brain. Repressed thoughts end up in the unconscious. In terms of the brain itself Descartes set the stage for dualism in which consciousness or mind itself is a property that exists outside of the brain. Depth psychology makes sense to the extent that a lot of the things people do are irrational, but the notion of the unconscious wouldn’t stand up in court and many neuroscientists today take the monist approach (towards consciousness itself) which looks at thinking as an organic and material process that’s similar to eating, ambulating or having sex. It’s fun to imagine parallel universes in which over the infinity of time and space, a monkey could type out all of Shakespeare’s plays, but in reality monkeys may be more interesting for what they tell us about maternal attachment, a la the experiments Harry Harlow performed at the University of Wisconsin during the 50’s.

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