On Quality: Thesis by Ian P. Hornsby
Section Three: Elocutio|
Style, the third and final stage in the production of classical rhetorical discourse
Chapter Ten The Sweat & Spirit: Part 1
As locations go, the one I presently find myself in just has to be the most bizarre I've ever frequented. I take a sip from my drink, a whiskey in a waxed paper cup adorned with advertisements for forthcoming academic conferences, and begin, a little self-consciously, to look around at the collection of characters with whom I share this extraordinary space. It then occurs to me that some fifteen minutes ago, as I plodded up the steep winding path towards an unfamiliar entrance, I'd considered this place no more anomalous than any other provincial English tavern. Yet, on closer examination, as I trudged slowly and steadily nearer, its whole structure began to strike me as being far from typical. It emerged instead as a visual pastiche of designs in various styles and forms of architectural kitsch. Its roof being a quite remarkable patchwork of unfinished moulded thatch; huge lumps of synthetic material interrupted sporadically by gaping holes containing oak-like joists, supposedly there to give the impression of restoration, wear and age. At one point I even stood on tiptoes and craned my neck so that I might peer around the edge of the building and catch a glimpse of a waxwork thatcher fixed to the roof in bib-and-brace overalls. Then I realised of course, no self respecting synthetic crafts-person would be seen working at this time of day instead; he'd be inside having a non-alcoholic Beer. I saw that a stone wall faŤade supported the roof and that on either side of the heavily studded Elizabethan doors were the twin glazed, polyvinyl chloride, eyes of the establishment. Hanging next to the 'cast iron' Victorian gas lamps, with their partially concealed wiring, swung a huge white sign inscribed with the words:
THE SWEAT AND SPIRIT
Entering the public bar was like walking into a museum devoted entirely to the history of the public house, its low beams, oak panelling and wooden barrels, standing alongside video game apparatus, fruit machines, a jukebox and a technicoloured Karaoke system. I notice that a smooth and well-worn shove-ha'penny board had been placed upon a western style saloon bar between a large neon bottle of Budweiser(tm) and what looked like a stuffed black cat. High above the bar hung a slender and very dusty glass 'yard/meter of ale' which had had a ten centimetre segment untidily added into its centre section. Assortments of surfaces were dotted about the establishment ranging from archaic wooden benches to chrome legged, Formica(tm) topped tables. And if all of this blended together like tuna fish and chocolate sauce, nobody else, it seemed to me, took any notice.
On the right hand side of the small bureau where I'm presently sitting, (positioned next to a large gas fire decorated with electrically illuminated pieces of 'fossil' fuel,) stands a neat collection of gold-coated wood-finish, plastic hearth tools. On the wall to my left hangs a framed notice informing its reader that several years previously this building had been used for the purposes of religious worship. Printed beneath the typewritten caption is a black and white photocopied photograph of the aforementioned Church. Reading the caption I discover that this representation has been taken from an original artist's impression of the building that had been carefully reproduced from the words of a poem now sadly lost.
I'm jolted out of my daydreaming by the sudden, yet vague, notion of feeling somewhat uncomfortable. I then realise that I'm sitting directly in the draft created by the door of the pub whenever it swings open. Through the entrance walks a young woman followed by an older looking chap who's carrying a small greenish backpack, which he slides off his shoulder and places on the nearest vacant table. They look as though they are unfamiliar with the layout of the bar; perhaps they too are strangers.
After taking several seconds to catch their breath and gather their thoughts the pair make their way to the bar. They order their drinks and I notice that the young woman appears surprised to recognise the bartender, who is dressed, for some strange reason, in a postman's uniform. He greets them both with a smile, serves them their drinks and then moves along the bar to serve his next customer. The young woman and man then walk back to their table and look decidedly glad to sit down and take the weight off of the feet. Quite a climb, I remember, getting up here.
I take another sip from my drink and become aware of an uncomfortable cacophony that I habitually presume to be emerging from two large black speakers above the bar. I then see what I believe to be the cause of this racket. An ageing hippie decked out in flared jeans and a T-shirt with the faded words 'Haight-Ashbury' on the front is giving it her all upon a small raised platform at the karaoke microphone. She's half reading, half shouting, the words that are flashing before her on a video monitor.
I'm tethered to the logic of Homo sapiens; can't take my eyes from the great salvation of bullshit faith.(167)
I note that an argument sounds as though it is striking up at the bar between an androgynous pair of identical twins and several other members of the pub. As the argument becomes more intense their voices begin to rise.
"Metaphysics, meta-nonsense more like, it's nothing more than a na•ve collection of unproven and 'meaningless' assertions none of which are necessary for a scientific observation of reality," pronounces the twin who sits soberly upon an orange plastic bar stool. "If you're after a Popper understanding of reality, metaphysics is far too mystical."
"Too mystical? Too logical you mean," reciprocated the second twin while slouching intoxicated upon the bar. "For a suitable understanding of reality metaphysics is too scientific."
"There is no way in which metaphysical statements can be taken as scientific. They're neither a matter of logic, i.e. true by definition a priori, nor are they provided by empirical evidence a posteriori." "So we both agree on this one point," slurred the second twin, "metaphysics is meaningless! Although our reasons for seeing it as such are quite different. From my point of view metaphysics bears no relationship to reality, indeed, how can it when it is merely names about reality."(168)
"Merely names," exclaims a tall gaunt-looking individual from the far end of the bar, "what is that supposed to mean? You show me a thought that isn't first language, you show me anything that can be perceived without language, in one form or another, and I'll promise to join which ever ridiculous cult it is that you belong too."
"What I'm trying to say," stressed the second twin looking across the pub at the tall thin man who'd just goaded him, "is that metaphysics isn't a pathway to reality, it's a brick wall. When you exercise thought, via language, you can't reach something that's prior to thought because your thinking just carries you away from how things actually are in themselves. By using language you are literally placing yourself in an artificial reality created by that language. A reality as it is 'in itself' is something completely different from our intellectual creation of it. We can only experience intuitively what an 'exterior reality' is like. Through intellect and logic we will only ever come to understand an 'interior reality'; via analytical and rational methods, an 'exterior reality' will always remain for us an impossibility."
The second twin then proceeds to take out a piece of paper from a jacket pocket and scribble something upon it. When the androgynous twin clumsily holds up the piece of paper, it reads, 'WHISKEY.'
"There-you-are," is the legato declaration of the intoxicated twin, "you can have this piece of paper with mere words upon it and I'll have the real McCoy." With this said, (or rather slurred,) the twin first picks up a waxed paper cup and finishes off its contents, and then places it back down upon the bar and gestures to the bartender for a refill. "Mine's a whiskey barkeep, my friend down the end there just wants a word."
"The only word I want right now is 'ridiculous', and the reason I want to hear this is because it describes so aptly all of your babbling on about intuitions and 'interior' and 'exterior' realities. How do you imagine all these so-called 'intuitive feelings' come about if they're not first and foremost constructed through a thought process linked inextricably and primarily to our languages? It is essentially the structure of languages which determines the way we think of the real world. We can't discuss the world or even think of the world without some form of conceptual apparatus; and what provides this apparatus is language. How would you order a Whiskey without language, be it through bodily expression or verbal articulation. And if you insist on pointlessly retelling us that we can only ever know this world as an 'interior world', so be it. 'What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.'"(169)
The second twin laughs momentarily and then begins to slide helplessly along the bar getting lower and lower until agonisingly the knees begin to buckle and the legs slowly give way from underneath the body. Eventually the twin ends up collapsing upon an unyielding, gold coloured radiator that's secured to the wall at the far end of the bar.
Moments later however, the twin is leaping off of the angular object and shouting out unrepeatable expletives, whilst at the same time hopping recklessly around the pub holding the back of the left thigh. Finally the second twin comes to an ungainly stop upon a tabletop near to where I'm sitting.
"That fuckin' radiator just burnt me. Have you got those bleedin' things turned up to boiling point to parch the pallets of your patrons, Barkeep?" "How is it may I ask," says a stout fellow with a Scottish accent, whose lap the twin nearly landed in, "that you're so sure it was the radiator which caused your pain?"
"Because it's bloody hot. You feel it for yourself."
"But that still wouldn't prove that it was the radiator that caused the pain, would it?"
"Excuse me," says the second twin holding his hands out and looking around the pub, "but did I miss the sign above the door on my way in which read, 'reflective-thinkers only'? Have some compassion 'man' I've just melted the flesh off of my left buttock."
"Forgive me; all I was suggesting was that there were important points to be discussed surrounding your misadventure. One of which concerns the causal link that you have implied exists between the heat of the radiator and your pain. I would suggest that if this claim were to be scrutinised in an objective, scientific, manner it would be impossible to prove."
"This isn't some ill-defined, quasi-religious, metaphysical abstraction," rejoins the twin, "this is, or rather was, an actual experience, not just some pointless judgement about an experience. I will even predict with absolute certainty that if you sit on that radiator, right now, your system of nerve endings will send electrical impulses to the synapses in your brain informing you that the outer layers of your defence system, your flesh, is melting. Which should in turn tell you to get the hell off the radiator. I will even predict that this experience is verifiable by anyone, with an operational nervous system, either daft enough, or curious enough, to reproduce the experiment. Pain is caused by hot or sharp implements coming into contact with our flesh; it is an inevitable part of our present human condition."
"The problem here is that you're under the distinct illusion that you can prove your experiences by demonstrating the truth of the things you believe in. You can't; those beliefs that you hold on to so tightly are simply habits that you have formed and become so accustomed to, that now you accept these habits as facts. Just because we experience the same sequence of events on countless occasions does not by itself reveal something that we didn't already notice on the first occasion, specifically the causal link. However, what it does expose is the workings of our minds in an extraordinary way; it sheds light upon how we form habits from our experiences. In the particular case in question, we believe almost without question that the hot radiator will burn us when we sit upon it."
"Surely that's a good thing," says the young woman who'd recently entered the pub, "the alternative is that we'd be forever injuring ourselves. If we hadn't learnt from our mistakes and from cause and effect we would have remained forever as ignorant as cave-people."
"From a pragmatic point of view obviously I agree with you; but we are talking here about the causal link that this person," replies the stout Scotsman nodding in the direction of the second twin, "was implying exists between the radiator and the experience of pain. I can see the radiator and I also saw a reaction to sitting upon it, but I challenge anyone to show me this third entity called 'cause' which is supposedly operating between our friends' discomfort, and this, 'Ouch', hot radiator."
"So how do you account for cause and effect?" Asks the chap with the greenish backpack.
"Because we are constantly experiencing connections between events, such as the production of pain from sitting on hot radiators, we come to expect one of the pair to put us in mind of the other; effect to bring forth a cause or cause to have had an effect. Eventually through a habit of the mind, developed through experience, we come to say that sitting on a hot radiator must produce pain. However, we mistakenly cast this habit as an eternal effect of the world around us, rather than as an inference which expects things to happen in the future as they have happened in the past." "Are you implying, therefore, that cause and effect, and radiators and pain, exist only in the mind?" Inquires the second twin.
"What I'm suggesting," replies the Scotsman, "is that when you burnt yourself upon the hot radiator, you received an immediate impression; after which you became aware that you had burnt yourself and formed an idea of that event. However, an impression is more forceful and more vigorous than your reflective memory of that impression. It is the impression that is the direct cause of the idea created in the mind. Impressions form ideas but ideas do not form impressions."
I began to feel slightly nauseous and become aware that a discomforting and distracting sound is being inflicted upon my eardrums; then I realise that the karaoke system has been activated once more.
When I was back in seminary school there was a man there who put forward the proposition that you could petition the lord with prayer. That you could petition the lord with prayer.
You cannot petition the lord with prayer!(170)
"You're arguing that our idea of causality is gathered ultimately from the sensory experience that we receive from regularly connected events," says a fellow whose voice has a heavy German accent and who is wearing a white legal wig. "I would turn this idea around and argue that we have to have the concept of causality in order to have any objective experience. Your radical empiricist claim that sense experience is the source of our beliefs is, I grant you, an attractive one; but I cannot accept the sceptical conclusion that these beliefs cannot be justified. Empiricism explains how sensations enable us to perceive matter, but I suggest that instead of knowledge conforming to objects, it is objects which conform to our knowledge. Although knowledge begins with experience it doesn't necessarily follow that it arises out of experience. There are aspects of reality which are not supplied immediately by the senses. These take place through our pure forms of intuition, such as time and space, which are in the mind a priori and ultimately form our opinion of what our knowledge of reality is. It is our modes of knowing which are universal."
Straight in front of me on the TV monitor that is fixed to an oak beam near the ceiling, I begin to read the prompt words that slide along the bottom of the screen under a white bouncing ball. It seems that for no apparent reason the karaoke machine has just kicked into gear, yet I appear to be the only one to notice.
Unless we apply the concepts of space and time to the impressions we receive, the world is unintelligible, just a kaleidoscopic jumble of colours and patterns and noises and smells and pains and tastes without meaning. We sense objects in a certain way because of our applications of a priori intuitions such as space and time, but we do not create these objects out of our imagination, as pure philosophical idealists would maintain. The forms of space and time are applied to data as they are received from the object producing them. The a priori concepts are neither caused by the sensed object nor bring it into being, but provide a kind of screening function for what sense data we will accept. When our eyes blink, for example, our sense data tells us that the world has disappeared. But this is screened out and never gets to our consciousness because we have in our minds an a priori concept that the world has continuity. What we think of as reality is a continuous synthesis of elements from a fixed hierarchy of a priori concepts and the ever-changing data of the senses.(171)
At the same time as the bouncing ball makes its jocose way along the sliding words at the base of the TV screen, the bartender responds to the man in the white wig. "Your main problem, it would appear, is that neither time nor space are present in themselves, they have no empirical reality. This, therefore, produces an unbridgeable gap between the so-called noumenal world of 'things in themselves' and our phenomenal world of objects and ideas translated through languages and the like. What you're proposing ultimately relies upon some invention of faith for acceptability, and surely this resorting to faith is an unacceptable way of resolving this type of dilemma."
I find myself itching to respond to this rejection of faith, yet before I've a chance to speak the second twin jumps in.
"In what you're saying proof becomes your only concern; it is logic itself which has become your all conquering faith."
"Where did you get that idea from? I don't remember mentioning either logic or proof," says the bartender.
"You may not have mentioned them by name but they lurk behind every sentence you utter."
"I'd suggest," intervenes a middle aged man, who is placing a small book with the name Lao Tzu on the cover into his motorcycle helmet, "that the first problem of empiricism, if empiricism is believed, concerns the nature of 'substance'. What exactly is this substance which is supposed to give off the sensory data?"(172)
"There is no evidence for the existence of any substance, just as there is no evidence for causality," says the stout Scot. "Substance, like causality, is just something we imagine when one thing repeatedly follows another. Substance has no real existence in the world we observe. Causation, nature, and substance are all creations of the human imagination."
"Are you saying, in effect," says the young woman, "that everything I experience, let us say for instance this table, comes to me through my senses alone?"
"It has to be, there is no other way."
"So I cannot even say that this table's legs are made from a hard, shiny, cold-to-touch substance called metal?" questions the young woman. "That you can't lass," replies the Scotsman," because the descriptions you've given, such as hard and shiny, are all sensations. Explain to me what this substance is without referring to sensations."
The young woman thought for a moment and then made to say something but checked back. She thought for a moment more and once again she made to answer but no words came out. Eventually she sighed and shook her head.
"I have to admit that I'm stuck. Yet, if there is no substance, what are we left to say about the sense data we receive? If I hold my head to the left and look down at the table I get one pattern of sense data. If I move my head to the right I get a slihtly different pattern of sense data. The two views are different. The angles of the plains and curves of the material are different. The light strikes them differently. If there's no logical basis for substance then there is no logical basis for concluding that what's producing these two separate views is the same table."
In the background the Karaoke plays on:
Whatever gets you through the night,
It's all right(173)
"All I can add," says the Scotsman after taking a sip from his drink, "is that you cannot say for certain that these different patterns of sense data are the same table. You can have no absolute proof for this statement. The floor which the table appears to be standing on is as much a part of the equation as the table itself. Yet you have not mentioned the plains, angles, and curves made by these materials; you have simply defined the table as a separate category from the rest of the sense data you receive. This is a cultural habit of your imagination, not a product of the world."
"Surely reason is supposed to make life more intelligible," says the young woman, "not more confusing. What would be the point of that?" "Thus reason is defeating its own purpose and must be re-structured," states the man in the white wig. "The fact that there is no immediate sensing of a table as distinguished from the colours and shapes of all the other objects in existence, is no proof that there's no table there. We have in our minds a priori tables, which have continuity in time and space and are capable of changing appearance as one moves one's head from side to side. Therefore the belief in the existence of a consistent table is not contradicted by the multitude of sense-data one receives."
"Those so called a priori concepts of the mind, such as time and space," says the Bartender, "are habits we form from experience, they are not an intrinsic property of the world. An infant child has no concept of time and space and is only considered intelligent and reasonable when it finally copies our habits of assigning these created values to experience."
"Yet we are those people who have in our minds a priori tables whose existence we have little reason to doubt and whose reality can be confirmed any time."
"The sense data you receive confirms the existence of the table but the sense data isn't the table," says the Man with the motorcycle helmet. "The table that I believe in an a priori way to be outside of myself is like the cessation of light I believe to occur whenever I close the door of my fridge. I suppose that I could climb inside my fridge to investigate if indeed the light does go out when the door is shut. However, I feel my scientific curiosity would wonder what would happen the next time I shut the door of the fridge while I was standing outside. So, instead of following this paranoid pattern of behaviour, I remain satisfied in the belief that the fridge light does indeed go out whenever I close the door. I place faith(174) in the workings of electrical switches. Correspondingly, even though my sense data has never produced or detected anything that could be called 'substance' I'm satisfied that there is a capacity within the sense data which matches the a priori table in my mind."
"However, getting back to the situation concerning the hot radiator and the question of causality; I should like to suggest that when a person of any philosophical persuasion jumps off a hot [radiator] it is not because of an idea or impression but because they are in an undeniably low quality situation. 'Later that person may generate some oath to describe this low value, but the value will always come first, the oath second. Without the primary low valuation, the secondary oaths will not follow. Our stream of cultural consciousness teaches us to think it is the hot radiator that directly causes the oaths. It teaches that the low values are a property of the person uttering the oaths. Not so. The value is between the [radiator] and the oaths. Between the subject and the object lies the value. The value is more immediate, more directly sensed than any 'self' or any 'object' to which it might be later assigned. It is more real than the [radiator]. Whether the [radiator] is the cause of the low quality or whether possibly something else is the cause is not yet absolutely certain. But that the quality is low is absolutely certain. It is the primary empirical reality from which such things as radiators and heat and oaths and self are later intellectually constructed. Once this primary relationship is cleared up an awful lot of mysteries get solved. The reason values seem so woolly-headed to empiricists is that empiricists keep trying to assign them to subjects and objects. You can't do it. You get all mixed up because values don't belong to either group. They're in a separate category all of their own.'"(175)
"This suggested hierarchy within your concept of 'Quality', causes me a problem," declares the Bartender. "I'm left wondering who it is that legitimises that which is to be considered high or low Quality. If it's the individual who postulates this entity does this imply that it's subjective, and to all intents and purposes, meaningless to all but the particular person who suggests it at that particular moment? Are you perhaps claiming that Quality is a universal predicate? If so, you would appear to be claiming a god-like status for your own capacity to define what Quality is for all people and all matter at all times in the universe. Or does everything hinge upon Quality being read as a transcendental signifier, a meaning existing beyond everything in the entire universe? Or are we once again confronted by the dubious placement of faith within the gaps of a weak argument?" "Why are you so hostile towards faith?" I remark, unable to hold myself back any longer, "we must all have a level of faith in our lives in order to be able to function."
"That's complete nonsensical, religious bollocks, that is!" booms a disembodied voice from behind the toilet door.
"Even atheists," I reply, somewhat fearful of the response, "must place faith in the belief that the floor will be there when they put their feet out of bed in the morning. For all we know there could be an endless chasm of darkness beneath our feet but we have faith in the knowledge that the floor will be there. We cannot know for certain that the floor will be there simply because it was there when we went to bed, because the sceptical empiricist views expressed already have shown us the fallibility of cause, effect and habits."
"I've no problem with laying faith upon the relative continuity of the world," declares the Bartender, "but I do have doubts about the religious connotations linked to the word faith."
The second twin is just about to re-enter the discussion when the door of the pub swings open and a man rushes in complaining that he has been robbed. He begins to fumble around in his jacket pocket and eventually brings out a battered leather wallet. He opens it and holds it out to reveal its rather healthy contents to the clientele of the establishment. The members of the pub, including me, look a little unsure as to our expected response. The man then claims that everything that he owns has been takn and replaced with identical replicas.
There is a short stunned silence until the Bartender asks, with a distinct lack of tact, "so, what difference does it make?"
"I said, what difference does it make? You've still got your money, right?"
"It's not just my money, my wife has also been taken," explains the alleged victim, "my children, my car and also my house have all been stolen and replaced with identical replicas."
"How are you so sure that they're replicas?" asks the young woman.
"It's the little things that gave it away at first; like the way my wife used to fix her hair, the colloquialisms my kids used to use, and the change in the ride and handling of my car. They've all changed."
"Forgive me, but I still don't understand what difference it makes." repeats the Bartender. "If they look the same then surely they must be the same; the alternatives are just too weird to be a possibility. All that can have happened is that they've simply changed their behavioural patterns, or perhaps it is you that has changed, or something about you?"
"Can't you understand; my life is shattered? Everything has altered so much that to everyone else things appear the same," blurts out this man who is now shaking and close to breaking point. He places his wallet awkwardly back into his jacket pocket and backs out of the pub with his head bowed low and is soon gone, leaving the whole place in complete silence.
Chapter ElevenThe Sweat & Spirit: Part 2
A sound strikes up from a large black speaker above the bar breaking the silence and causing my nerves to sting the surface of my skin in a thousand different places. I look around and see that a man has taken hold of the microphone and is wailing the words from the TV monitor:
We are stardust we are golden.
"Did a guy just burst in here claiming to have had his whole life replaced with an identical reproduction, or did I just imagine that?" asks the Bartender, chuckling to himself. "Or perhaps he was a ghost?"
"That's complete paranormal psychobabble,"
It's that disembodied voice behind the toilet door, once more.
"All that garbage about ghosts and spirits is for primitive cultures."
"Somebody's irony bypass operation went well," says the bartender in a low voice.
"Modern man has his ghosts and spirits too," says the motorcyclist. "The laws of physics and of logic . . .the number system . . . and the principles of algebraic substitution. These are ghosts. We just believe in them so thoroughly they seem real.(177) We must therefore come to terms with the idea that it is the ghosts of rationality which underpin all of modern science, technology and society."
"In what way?" enquires the young woman.
"One could take Isaac Newton's 17th century discovery of gravitation as an example(178), but the trust of this debate works just as well on any of our generally held modern beliefs, including the relatively modern tenet of Werner Heisenberg's 'uncertainty principle'."
"Which is?" questioned the Scotsman.
"The belief that it is impossible to know simultaneously both the momentum (mass times velocity) and the position, of a sub-atomic particle with absolute certainty. In the words of Stephen Hawking, "the more accurately you try to measure the position of a particle, the less accurately you can measure its speed and vice versa."(179)
"The harder we try to pin down answers the more they will elude us," says an American woman sitting at the far end of the bar mixing a strange cocktail of liquids together. "We must, therefore, content ourselves with partial truths and ambiguities."(180)
"Exactly," says the motorcyclist, "and when Heisenberg's uncertainty principle was applied to the hydrogen atom, it became inherently impossible to know simultaneously both the precise location and precise velocity of the electron particle because when measuring its position photons were reflected from the electron, therefore, altering its momentum. Thus, it was no longer appropriate to imagine the electron circling the nucleus in well-defined orbits.(181) In the 1920s, this observation led to the new theories of 'quantum mechanics'(182) which brought randomness and unpredictability into the realm of science. Today quantum theory underlines nearly all of modern physics and technology and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is, as Hawking says, "an inescapable property of the world."(183) Therefore, does it not seem logical enough to presume that the uncertainty principle existed long before Heisenberg illuminated it?"
"Yes, that would seem fair enough," answers the guy with the green backpack.
"So when did this principle of uncertainty begin? Has it always existed?"
"I would have thought so, yes!"
"Then the uncertainty principle existed before science was invented by men and women; before the existence of our world, before the primal generation of anything, it existed? With 'no energy of its own, not in anyone's mind because there wasn't anyone, not in space because there was no space either.'(184) If this is the case then I must ask what a thing has to do to be non-existent, because before the beginning of the earth the uncertainty principle had no scientific attributes of existence yet it is 'common sense' to believe that it did exist."
"You're suggesting that the uncertainty principle only came into existence when Heisenberg invented it," says the young woman. "There's no other conclusion that makes sense. The uncertainty principle does not exist anywhere except in the minds of people. 'It's a ghost!' and like ghosts, science too is only in the mind."
"Why would the simultaneous measurement of particles have any relevance for the universe at large?" says the bartender. "These measurements only have relevance for a species who wants desperately to encapsulate and control the world within its own mind."
"Perhaps you are right, yet it is the word 'only' which bothers me, because everything exists only in the mind and surely this doesn't make it necessarily bad."
Again, I see the white ball bounce across the top of the words on the TV monitor,
Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Laws of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions like ghosts. The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that it isn't a human invention. The world has no existence whatsoever outside of the human imagination. It's run by ghosts. We see what we see because these ghosts show it to us, ghosts of Moses and Christ and the Buddha, and Plato, and Descartes, and Rousseau . . .Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past. Ghosts and more ghosts. Ghosts trying to find their place among the living.(185)
"In order to tie these ideas down to something more specific," continues the motorcycle man, "we must understand that the concept worked out in shapes of wood and steel that we call tables, are primarily mental phenomena. Steel can be made to fit any shape and all steel shapes come out of someone's mind. Even the concept of steel itself comes out of someone's mind. Nature gives us the potential for steel, but even potential 'only' exists in the mind."
"I still feel a little uncomfortable with the term ghosts," says the young woman, "it sounds so, paranormal."
"Quantum physicists of the 'Zen variety'(186) believe in them along with other phenomena possibly explained by the 'holographic paradigm'," says the American woman who is sitting at the far end of the bar. "A hologram, as you probably know, is a film showing nothing but overlapping concentric circles which when light hits its surface presents a three-dimensional image. However, a hologram's strangest property is that it can be cut up into any number of pieces, all of which, will reproduce the entire image. This indicates that the information is everywhere on the film simultaneously. It is called the 'Principle of non-locality'(187) and scientists are now observing this phenomenon almost everywhere, especially at the quantum or subatomic level where location seemingly ceases to exist."
"Is it true that the results of quantum experiments are actually effected by the presence or absence of observers?" asks the young woman. "Yes, this phenomena is named after me," says the cat that had been lying dormant upon the bar since I'd entered the pub. "You're alive!" says the Bartender, only to see the cat roll over with its feet in the air.
"It could be the case," continues the American physicist, "that all the sub-atomic particles in existence are interconnected forming a single universal, non-local consciousness of which any one piece contains all the information of the universe. Just as any living cell contains all the genetic information necessary to clone an entirely new organism."
"As fascinating as all of this is," says the first twin, "how, may I ask, does this explain ghosts?"
"One could argue that if a universal consciousness is non-local and everywhere at once, it must be all around us all of the time. Yet it becomes known to us only when a new child is born, whereupon a part of consciousness enters and animates the child."
"So, this non-local consciousness is similar to radio waves which are all around us all of the time but only become known when the radio is switched on?" questions the rambler with the backpack, who slowly gets to his feet and walks to the bar.
"And the so-called collective consciousness is composed of separate identities - ghosts - akin to different radio stations?"
"Yes, with each person's life energy or 'soul' returning to the omniconsciousness upon death, there to await the birth of another child." "Reincarnation?"
"More of the Zen variety I mentioned earlier."
When I had my loft
"If no stable foundations can ever be arrived at because the truth is always suspended between differing versions, or deferred by other interpretations," says the first twin, "then there is no implicit stance or final conclusion which can be made in favour of, or against, any discourse." "And your point being, what exactly?" questions the Bartender.
"That this nihilistic position leads to a view of 'the text' as incomprehensible. One could not even say for sure anymore that two and two equals four." I hear a cough that comes from the direction of a gentleman dressed all in black and sporting a large bushy moustache that hides his entire mouth. He begins to speak in a soft lyrical German accent. "'One should not understand this compulsion to construct concepts, species, forms, purposes, laws and mathematics as if they enable us to fix the 'real world'; but as a compulsion to arrange a world for ourselves in which our existence is made possible. The world seems illogical to us because we have made it logical.'(189) I am afraid there is no place to hide from our lack of certainty, no final ground upon which we can rest. It is essential that we face up to and embrace reflexivity."
"And what do you mean by reflexivity?" asks the young woman.
"The self awareness which constitutes a destruction of the frame within which reality, art, science, religion, and all knowledge is placed. The complete realisation that all truths, values and metaphysical elements are no more than man-made illusions, constructed out of 'a mobile army of metaphors, metonymies and anthropomorphisms.'"(190)
"It is within the embrace of reflexivity that we are able to utilise processes of indirect communication, such as irony, fictions and pseudonymous inventions," says a young man who is sitting on the floor of the pub reading a script of Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal. "We can use reflexivity to make visible the leap of faith towards an ideal no matter how absurd or contradictory these claims may be."
"Herein lies the drift of my reference to Quality as the intuitive uncovering of that which is hidden," it's the motorcyclist. "However, the reflexive paradox is evident from the outset because that which is uncovered will no longer be hidden. Yet it is through signs - the created elements of the human condition, which tell us about something other than themselves - that the world is made apparent. Although the status of the sign remains obscure because of its own reflexive character, the sign makes available the resources we have at our disposal for interpreting the world. However, in announcing the world to us, the sign also announces itself, and instead of merely indicating Quality, it becomes synonymous with Quality. This misunderstanding resides in the assumption that Quality can be explained through language; it is rather through both indirect communication and poetry that the abyss of reflexivity can be embraced and a faith in Quality can be accepted. The incorporation of reflexivity into the rhetorical elements of explaining Quality will not explain Quality, or reflexivity for that matter, but may perhaps indicate the essential character of the poetic language within which Quality is to be explained. It is within the collapsing of representation which reflexivity motivates, that one is able to catch a glimpse of Quality through the potential of poetic language."
Without going out of my door
"Aren't those words from an ancient Chinese text?" inquires an elderly fellow, who, whilst making this reference to the marks flashing up upon the karaoke screen, is constantly caressing his rather impressive facial hair.
"I believe they're taken from the forty-seventh chapter of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching," confirms the man who has this very text tucked inside his motorcycle helmet, "although it's a revised translation."
"The translation of revered texts is a task undertaken by renegades and psychopaths," declares the second twin who is now lying flat out along a tabletop looking up at the pub's ceiling.
"The appeal of the Tao Te Ching for me," says the motorcyclist, "lies in the text's ability to convey a message which transcends cultural and linguistic differences. Yet perhaps I only say this because I too, long ago, made an attempt to translate part of this text by using certain substitutions in order to find out if the concept of Quality could be both mystical as well as metaphysical."(192)
He begins to Quote;
The Quality that can be defined is not the Absolute Quality.
"The problem still exists, nevertheless," says the barman, "that this Quality or Tao takes itself to be an Absolute; a truth for all people at all times, a transcendental signified. "
"Although what constitutes the Tao or Quality is as varied as the number of individuals that exist," maintains the chap with the green backpack whom I assume, because of his attire, is a rambler of some sort. "Were I to try and express what I regard as Quality, my examples would be very different from anything you might have in mind. Yet, from another perspective our very different, perhaps even opposed, moments of Quality are analogous, in that they represent our individual choices and desires. It is simply a matter of accepting each person's moment of quality as being as important for him or her as your own is for you. One should not attempt, or deem it necessary, to impose a single pattern of Quality upon everyone else." "But what of the person who wishes to choose murder as his or her own personal moment of quality?" asks the Bartender while wiping the bar with an old wine-splattered towel.
"I said nothing about prohibiting others from expressing opinions about what they consider to be good Quality. What is to stop you from attempting to convince a person who has committed or is about to commit a murder, why you consider it a choice of extremely low Quality? The use of rhetoric is not only acceptable in this situation; it is to be positively encouraged. As long as one is not under the illusion that rhetoric can or will reveal an absolute truth. Each individual's interpretation of Quality is exactly that, an individual interpretation of Quality. You have a right to express an opinion but this opinion can never be imposed as fact."
I watch as the bartender lifts his hands into the air in a sign of complete indignation.
"Even this pious notion you call Quality contains an element of moralistic certitude. Especially when one considers that you're setting a precedent by laying out a system of values for that which you believe constitutes Quality itself."
"But the parameters that I have set forward are merely my opinions of what constitutes Quality," replies the young man with the backpack. "Exactly," says the bartender.
"I didn't suggest for one moment that you agree with my definition without question. You're more than free to make your own assessment of these issues. Then, by way of rhetoric you can inform me as to your opinion. After this we can agree to differ, we can agree to agree, or we could agree to compromise depending upon our own free will."
"However, this concept of free will is itself a discourse invented by someone and not an absolute foundation stone of existence," declares the bartender.
"If I understand you correctly you appear to be implying that the human condition is merely that of a living creature which possess among other faculties, language," says a middle aged man with a receding hairline and a truncated black moustache. "Yet surely language is but the house of being within which we exist as dwelling beings in the world. Language will always guard the truth of being to which we belong."
"A truth I might add," says the fellow with the Bergman script, "which is infinitely larger than a single being."
"Which would suggest," replies the bartender, "that if there were a timeless truth we could never know what that truth was, as we are finite beings."
"Which is exactly what I believe the Tao Te Ching to be suggesting within its many chapters," stresses the Buddhist Biker. "There is really very little difference here between what each of us is saying; the major difficulty exists within the ambiguous linguistic terminology that each of us is employing." "I believe that in order to quell this disorder we must begin by pursuing a phenomenological reduction," says the fellow with the impressive grey beard.
"What a magnificent idea," enthuses the young woman. "Because phenomenological reduction isn't ambiguous 'linguistic terminology', now is it?"
"If you will allow me a moment to explain this technique, which I strongly believe will place philosophy upon a more rigorous scientific foundation, I'm sure all will become clear. For each one of us, one thing is unequivocally certain, and that is our own conscious awareness. This is the solid ground upon which I suggest we build our foundations for reality."
"This sounds very Cartesian," suggests the rambler.
"It is, up to a point, but we must recognise that our conscious awareness is always a conscious awareness of something and not an object-less state of mind. We must always be mindful never to distinguish between states of consciousness and objects of consciousness."
"I feel compelled to concur," the stout Scotsman affirms, "it's impossible to know whether the objects of consciousness have a separate and independent existence from consciousness itself."
"But, you would agree," tenders the bearded fellow, "that whatever existential conditions these objects may or may not have, these objects of consciousness have existence as objects of consciousness for us."
"Indeed I would."
"Therefore, we can investigate them without making any presuppositions, either positively or negatively, about their independent existence from us?"
"This would at the very least allow for a discussion of objects without first having to confirm the validity of an object's independent existence from our consciousness," ponders the Scotsman, approvingly.
"This is what I mean by the rather awkward term, 'Phenomenology'; a technique which, when employed, allows for an analysis of what we experience regardless of whether or not these things are objectively as we experience them."
"But, wouldn't this technique also allow analysis of abstract ideas such as the Easter Bunny and subjective phenomena like memories and emotions?" inquires the sober twin.
"Yes, indeed it would."
"Then I don't see the relevance in your claiming to place philosophy upon a more rigorous scientific foundation. I only see confusion resulting from this rather trivial self-indulgence."
"Then what would you suggest?" the bearded fellow asks.
"The only rigorous scientific foundations are those of observable empirical evidence," says the first twin. "And I should also like to add that it remains impossible to rest the infinite perceptions received from sense data upon a single unified self."
"What your positively illogical position suggests," counters the fellow with the grey beard, "is a reduction of the world to isolated objects in which consciousness is completely dismissed."
They make everything,
"I propose that scientific and mathematical discoveries are more or less artistic intuitions," says a Frenchman whose beard and glasses are reminiscent of Toulouse-Lautrec. "It may seem surprising that sensibility should be introduced in connection with mathematical demonstrations, which it would seem, can only interest the intellect. But not if we bear in mind the feeling of mathematical beauty, of the harmony in numbers and the forms of geometric elegance. These are the real aesthetic feelings that all true mathematicians recognise.(194) Intuition is the essence of all thinking. Moreover, within this concrete act of reasoning, the mind's active experience is both intuitive and intellectual. Admittedly 'it never happens that unconscious work supplies ready-made the results of a lengthy calculation in which we have only to apply fixed rules. But as for the calculations themselves, they must be made in the second period of conscious work, which follows the inspiration, and in which the result of the inspiration are verified and the consequences deducted.'(195) Therefore, the essence of what I'm proposing is that axioms, such as those of geometry, are merely conventions; they are our choice among all possible conventions which are guided by experimental facts, but remain free and are limited only by the necessity of avoiding all contradictions. One type of geometry cannot be more true than another; it can only be more convenient. Scientists do not choose at random the data they observe; instead, the interesting information breaks into the domain of consciousness by way of the 'subliminal-self', an entity that corresponds exactly with what Pirsig terms 'preintellectual awareness. Solutions are then selected by the subliminal-self based on beauty and harmony. This selection then becomes the basis for distinguishing between inconsistent empirical evidence and intuition. The quest for beauty and harmony is the journey one makes in order to be able to choose that data that will be most fitting for the description one i things that result in the universal harmony that is the sole objective reality."(196) "What guarantees the objectivity of the world in which we live, is common to us with other thinking beings," says the motorcyclist. "Through the communications that we have with other beings, we receive from them ready-made harmonious reasonings. We know that these reasonings do not come from us and at the same time we recognise in them, because of their harmony, the work of reasonable beings like ourselves. And as these reasonings appear to fit the worlds of our sensations, we think we may infer that these reasonable beings have seen the same things as we; thus it is that we know we haven't been dreaming. It is this harmony, this quality if you will, that is the sole basis for the only reality we can ever know."(197)
"My own suggestion, which relates in part to what's already been said," remarks the bearded fellow again picking up the thread of his thinking. "Is that Phenomenology rests upon the radical conviction that meaning is neither in the mind alone, nor in the world alone, but in the intentional relationship between the two. All I'm doing is taking the subject matter of philosophy to be the objects of consciousness. The functional essence of these objects of consciousness are known by the coming together of the intended thing with the intentional consciousness, via a united intuition. What we know only takes on significance through the essence of how we understand it. This technique enables one to analyse such things as art and mathematics, as well as physical and mental feelings, by putting off to one side the question of their independent existential condition. This then allows the study of these things as elements of conscious awareness. I could for example perceive that radiator over there as an object seen from a side-on perspective, but I can also remember and imagine what it looks like from many other angles of perception. 'I can shift my standpoint in space and time, look this way and that. . .I can provide for myself constantly new and more or less clear and meaningful perceptions and representations . . .in which I make intuitable to myself whatever can possibly exist really or supposedly in the steadfast order of space and time.'(198) However, this is not all; I can also have certain beliefs about this radiator; for example, if I get close to it or touch it, it may burn me. Alternatively, I could have desires about owning such a powerful radiator to warm my icy-cold house during the winter months. All these examples show how my mental content is directed towards things outside of itself. A feature which I believe is unique to the human mind."
"It is this pure phenomenological element of consciousness which the 'beginner's mind' of Zen Buddhist teaching is attempting to reach," intervenes the rambler. "When the Zen student begins to see that the existence of the object is not so different from his or her own existence he or she moves closer to a level the Zen masters call 'intimacy' or 'no separation'."
"Quite so, yet Zen is an anti-intellectual pursuit for spiritual enlightenment; pure Phenomenology is grounded in a re-evaluation of habitual intellectual ideas, such as, whether the subject-object conjunction really is the best explanation of how things are. What I'm suggesting is that one can place the doubts one has about the actual existence of objects outside of ourselves off to one side and reflect upon the intentional content of our consciousness. This allows me to reflect upon that radiator there, because I know that I am accepting that there is a radiator there. I can not be wrong about this. Therefore, I can take this incontrovertible premeditated essence of my consciousness as the pure foundation of everything; because we experience everything, people, radiators and emotions on the strength of our unambiguous mental content."
The grey haired guy, who had only just taken a swig of his drink before the last statement was made, begins to splutter and choke violently. When he's eventually able to speak, his voice has been reduced to a whisper by the strength of the spirit. I believe only his playing companions and those that really tried hard to listen actually took any notice.
"This attempt to distinguish a moment of authentic self-presence is far from ambiguous. The system of signs within which we operate, including both the written and verbal signs of language are always already caught up in a network of pre-existent codes and conventions, which enable these signs to have significance. Thus, the user of these signs can never distinguish a moment of pure self-presence because the signs are not immediately present in themselves. Each sign relies upon an infinite loop of other signs in order to gain its significance."
"This pure Phenomenology," says the motorcyclist, "is similar in many ways to the moment of pure Quality, in which there is no subject and no object, there is only a sense of Quality that produces the later awareness of subjects and objects. At the moment of pure Quality both subject and object are identical, like energy and matter or space and time, or the tat tvam asi truth of the Upanishads."(199)
Chapter Twelve The Sweat & Spirit: Part 3
The Master makes the rules
"Much of what has been said thus far raises the question of whether our basic technique of experiencing things and people requires subjective experience," says the man with the receding hairline and trimmed moustache. "You say that if we follow this phenomenological route things will be revealed as they are in themselves. Yet I suggest that if we look at the way people relate to things we will find that it is not simply as subjects related to objects."
"Then how would you describe the human relationship with the external world?" asks the first twin.
"Try to imagine, firstly, that the human contact with the world is not that of a detached observer, but rather, that of an active participant within the world. Then, secondly, envisage a situation whereby awareness and consciousness play no part within the relationship of subject to object. For example, think of a highly skilled bricklayer and the swift motion of this crafts-person's trowel at work. Try to appreciate the way in which this tool becomes transparent to the user as she or he applies cement, levels off a course of bricks and cleans and points the finished wall. This bricklayer is not a subject directed towards an object, because she is working without consciously controlling her every movement. The bricklayer is an active participant in a mode of diaphanous coping. What is in action here, is a 'primordial understanding' in which the trowel is connected to being in a way which is 'ready-to-hand'."(201)
"What you say about a bricklayer being an active participant within the world and not a spectator of the world is extremely appealing. However," the guy with the backpack intervenes, "when the bricklayer works without being consciously aware of his or her actions, it is because trivial matters are cluttering up the mind. Incidental anxieties, such as, what to eat for tea, what route to take home from work, or what song is playing on the radio, all these things get in the way. When perhaps the bricklayer's performance would improve, be of higher Quality, if he focused all of his skills towards the task at hand instead of separating himself off from the task at hand. But I'm rambling again, I'm sorry, please carry on."
"Why apologise? I accept part of your criticism. This Zen Buddhist notion of the caring, focused, individual achieving high standards within their everyday tasks and lives, is appealing."
"I would suggest that one should be mindful of the pitfalls involved in remaining complacent about the exploitation and injustice, which others may inflict upon you if you remain too 'happy with your lot' so to speak," says the motorcycle man.
"I suggest that my 'bricklayer /trowel example was an attempt to illustrate that the active use of 'tools,' both physical and mental, can become transparent, that both operator and instrument can become one. I wanted also to highlight the possibility that human activity is not guided by conscious rational choices alone, but is also connected to a form of diaphanous coping that places the human being as always already a 'being-in-the-world'. In this sense existence need not be understood in terms of mere subjectivity or mere objectivity but can be appreciated instead as a basic openness to the Being of being."
"To the what of what?" queries the fellow with the Bergman script.
"The Being of being, in which Being, with a capital B, indicates the primordial ground which allows everything else to come into existence; and being, with a small b, indicates the entities that exist in the world. It is within this Being of being, that Dasein, or 'being-there' is . . ."
"Dasein?" questioned the bartender.
"It is a term I use to denote the type of being we call human being, whose essential mode of existence is the inquiry into its own and into the primordial ground of Being itself. Is that Okay?"
"With these concepts in mind," continues the man with the truncated moustache, "I propose that when the bricklayer, whom we contemplated earlier, becomes fully involved with the situation and task at hand, Dasein shifts into a condition I think of as care.(202) For me this condition of caring affirms an internal relation between 'human being' and 'world'.
"I think it's important to tie this concept of care to Quality," the Buddhist biker suggests, "by pointing out that care and quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who is bound to have some characteristics of Quality."(203)
"As I see it," expresses the man with the bright shiny forehead, "the human being is thrown into an already existing world. It has no control over this 'thrown-ness' and is therefore completely shaped by the situation in which it lands. This moulding process is usually performed within the cultural and social environment Dasein finds itself thrown into. Recognition of this ultimate thrown-ness of existence leaves little room for the problematic concept of human nature; one is left rather to acknowledge that we are constituted to a far larger degree in terms of our nurturing. With this in mind, I propose that there are, broadly speaking, three different ways of existing in the world. Firstly, there is the undifferentiated mode, in which the human being never questions the mode of its existence and is unaware and perhaps unaffected by the basic thrown-ness of life. Secondly, there is the inauthentic mode in which the human being recognises the thrown-ness of existence but remains trapped within a mode of being which has been set out by its cultural and social environment. Thirdly, there is the authentic mode in which the human being not only recognises the thrown-ness of existence but also accepts, after a process of anguish, the eventual nothingness at the end of existence. This development transforms the human into a 'being-towards-death', which must also take responsibility for its own existence. This responsible, authentic, existence involves the human being realising that it must 'care' for its 'being-in-the-world' as well as caring for the world as the ground of its Being. It also brings back to Dasein the notion of the world as not merely created out of its own private subjectivity but as a concept given it by Being. This form of 'caring' encourages Dasein to deal with the world and everything in it as something that cannot fail to be of importance to Being and therefore to its own being. This does not mean seeing the world as something that exists for us to use and exploit. It is perhaps because we view the product for our manipulation and profit that we are losing touch with the question of Being. When we exclusively judge the world by what we can get from it and what it can give to us, we miss its beauty and lose sight of Being by measuring everything as a commodity."
"There appears to be a correlation between your authentic existence and the Zen Buddhist experience of Kensho," declares the rambler. "Both authenticity and Kensho, which is perhaps better known as Sartori or enlightenment, are sought through a long and difficult preparatory process; and yet each is experienced in a sudden and abrupt event. Both are also fascinated by the transparent primordial mode of being in which 'Dasein,' as you term it, makes contact with the underlying ground of existence, or Being, by interacting with the world from a perspective other than the undifferentiated, rational, intellectual mode of being."
"There also seems to be a revision of Phenomenology at work here," says the bartender, "away from the epistemological question of - what it means to know - towards the ontological question of - what it means to be."
"We must accept before anything else, before any knowledge, thing or event, that the world exists, that Being exists, that there is Being rather than nothing," says the man whose short black moustache is covered with the froth from his beer. "Between these two possibilities, Being and nothingness, exist beings, such things as animals and plants which come into Being and end up in a state of nothingness. However, the human being is unique in that it has the ability to inquire and reflect upon Being and recognise that before anything else it exists, it is there. The human is able to perceive that it is a being-in-the-world before it is conscious of the world. It is this mode of existence, which I refer to as 'Dasein'."
"In effect this reverses Descartes Cogito by implying that "I am therefore I think," says the young woman.
"Exactly; because our existence operates at the basic level of Dasein, our existence determines our capacity for knowledge."
"Going back for a moment, if I may, to your third mode of existence, namely, 'authenticity'," says the bartender, "I'd like to ask where are, and what are, the foundations for this so-called 'authenticity'?" "Your question is a misleading one," says the man with the frothy moustache, "for the simple reason that if authenticity had any kind of foundation it would cease to be an authentic existence and would therefore have drifted back into the second mode of existence, inauthenticity."
"Yet you've described authenticity as a being-towards-death and deliberately created a link between authenticity and this other concept of yours 'care'," says the bartender. "Surely this description is founded upon a firm notion of what authenticity is, otherwise it could end up being just whatever you like, including inauthenticity."
"It would seem to be you who has the problem of inauthenticity being just whatever you like, which would suggest you have a problem with either your own or other people's freedom to choose," says the pale looking young man who slowly puts down his copy of a Bergman script.
"You also seem to have a need to control the destiny of each and every word you hear and use," adds the young man with the backpack.
"I can assure you I have no desire to control every word I come across. The idea that each word relies upon every other word for its meaning and that no single word stands apart from this axiom, is a concept I stand by. But, even within this frame it would seem ludicrous for me to suggest that each and every word can mean just whatever one would like."
"I would like to think that what these gentlemen are proposing," says the gaunt looking chap at the far end of the pub, "is that if you really want to understand the meaning of a word, don't ask for a dictionary definition, but look closely at how it is actually being used within the particular area of discourse that is under consideration. To use a handy little sound bite, 'don't ask for the meaning, ask for the use.' This being the case, we should ask how we use expressions like Quality, not what do terms like this actually mean."
"Then I would be inclined to say that the word Quality is being used to justify whatever you like, which must in both theory and practice mean that it is useless."
"'I'm angered by the suggestion that Quality is just what ever you like," says the motorcycle man who doesn't sound too angry. "Why should Quality be just what you like? Why should what you like be just? What does 'just' mean in this case? It seems to me that the word 'just' in this situation achieves nothing. It's a purely irreverent term, whose logical contribution to the sentence is nil. With the word removed, the sentence becomes 'Quality is what you like,' its meaning becomes an innocuous truism. Perhaps what you really mean by saying that 'Quality is just whatever you like' is that what you like is bad, or at least inconsequential. Little children are trained not to do just what they like, but what others like. And which others? Parents, teachers, supervisors, policeman, judges, officials, kings, dictators. All authorities. When you are trained to despise 'just what you like' then, of course, you become a much more obedient servant of others - a good slave. But suppose you do just as you like? Does this mean you're going to go out and shoot heroin, rob banks, rape old ladies? The person who is counselling you not to do 'just what you like' is making some remarkable presumptions as to what is likeable."(204)
"I've no problem with social relativity," the bartender maintains, "quite the contrary in fact. It just seems to me that Quality is not a concept as free and open as is being suggested here. In fact I feel by its very metaphysical structure it is perceived as a guiding principle for what is considered to be 'good'; but one must ask, 'whose definition of good is this'?"
"In today's world, ideas that are incompatible with scientific knowledge don't get off the ground," says the motorcyclist, "by this criterion 'what you like' is not composed of matter or measurable by instruments, and is therefore unreal."(205)
"Quite so!" says the gaunt looking chap. "If you want to understand a particular mode of discourse, like for instance Zen Buddhism, then you must look at the part this discourse actually plays in people's lives. It is perhaps the gravest mistake of our present age that we try to treat all discourses as if they were striving to be the discourse of science. Of course science has its place but to treat things that are plainly not science and technology as though they were, is to do these particular discourses a great disservice."
Out of the corner of my eye I think that I see the dead/live cat lick its lips, but by the time I've thought about expressing this information to the other members of the pub the feline creature is completely motionless once more.
Everybody wants to go up to heaven,
Flashed the marks across the TV screen in conjunction with the heavy bass beat of the karaoke system.
I sense once more a change in the room's temperature and realise that the door of the pub is open; I look over and see a silhouette positioned in the frame of the entrance. As the door shuts, this two-dimensional shape transmogrifies into a three-dimensional figure dressed in highly polished black shoes and an impeccably well-tailored black suit. I notice that the man in the doorway is carrying a text in much the same way as a soldier carries his rifle.
I watch in astonishment as this guy tears down an advertisement from the wall of the pub, which, until this moment I'd not even noticed. After screwing up the poster, the man begins to sermonise. "You discuss social and moral relativism as though you lived in a vacuum. Might I remind you that you actually live in a world crumbling under a tidal wave of immorality and social injustice. It is moral relativism that is the cause of all the cultural uprooting and uncertainty that leaves in its wake the huge problems of social decline. Human beings must have an anchor for their thoughts and beliefs, some pattern of how they should live their lives. This pattern is created for us by The Almighty and is given to us through his word."
The man now begins to point his finger around the room and stops on the rather respectable looking gentleman whose top lip and mouth are completely hidden by his large bushy moustache.
"No one can stand without foundations and God is our foundation. Ambiguity is darkness and God is not ambiguous. Certainty is light and God is the creator of all light. Our faith in him is not ambiguous, because if it were how should I derive the strength to do all the things that I must do? Moral relativism is a fireball from the other side."
"I'm not in need of idols," says the sombre gentleman with the large moustache, "therefore, what need have I of Gods to tell me what is good and evil?"
"How else, except through divine instruction, can you find the right way to live? How else, except through divine forgiveness, will the weak survive the power of the strong? How else except through divine creation can you explain all the wonders of the universe? Science cannot explain these things; all science has is theories but The Almighty is the Absolute meaning of truth itself."
"When all transcendental realms are seen as narratives," says the gentleman with the bushy facial hair, "man will eventually rise up off his knees and see that standards of all kinds, such as truths, values, and rationality are not given to him by an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being, but are created by men and women in order to meet their own pathetic needs."
"If you think like this then you're damned to self-annihilation in a world where all manner of evil is possible and where there will be no recourse to justice and no chance of escape. When that moment comes, and it will come, when you are faced with death, I know you will look back upon this day and rue the chance you threw away to make peace with your creator. I pity you all."
"Your attempt at converting my soul by scorching it with your cheap rhetoric of eternal damnation is deserving of pity. I'll grant you that."
"My Lord forgive them for they know not what they do."
With this, he is through the door and away.
- Once more, the karaoke system sparks into life.
I'm not a prophet or a Stone Age man,
"Any suggestion of relative values spewing forth a set of natural laws which guide us in the direction of an anarchistic utopia, is a rather confused and retrograde step back towards the unconvincing traditional arguments for a system of transcendental values," says an attractive looking French woman, whose remarkably short male companion appears to be scribbling down every word she articulates. She then begins to state uncompromisingly that: "Anguish is the very condition of action - for action presupposes that there is a plurality of possibilities and in choosing one of these, we relate that it has value only because it is chosen."(208)
"Can there genuinely be such a thing as values that are held without conviction?" questions the rambler. "Surely values without conviction, value free values, are not values at all. I'm inclined to believe that it is the faith we place in our values that defines much about our present human condition. Why would we struggle for our values if they were just something that we had merely chosen for ourselves simply for the sake of it? I would urge that even though our values are at source dependent upon contingency and relativity, and even though I recognise that if we strip back the thin layers of these values a core of man-made rhetorical constructions will be revealed, it is still these values that enable our fragile communities to function in a state of order to a much greater degree than the imposed laws which uncomfortably bind us. Don't get me wrong, I'd be the first to admit that many present community values need some serious revision but you don't ban technology because someone builds a bomb. I feel your implication that values only have value because they are the ones that have been chosen, not only points to a privileging of the subject/object relationship whereby self-existence is the only certainty, but also points to a form of Cartesian solipsism. It also fails to take into account temporality and thrown-ness. Your assumption forgets that choices and values are not taken or made in a vacuum but have a relationship towards the way Dasein sees and constructs the world through a sense of past, present and future."
"If you strip away the abstract creation of mechanically measured time, we exist in a permanent now, an eternal present," says the French woman, "yet our deterministic view of experience is to see the present as endlessly running out of the past and into the future. In this sense, freedom is impossible because what we are able to choose now is constantly determined by the effects of the past. What I suggest is that as human beings living for ourselves without the weight of transcendental determinism, we are able to separate ourselves from the past by nothingness. This is in effect saying that nothing in my past can cause me to do anything now. No human action is caused or determined by the effects of the past. If we choose not to allow our past to dictate to us who we are going to be in the present and future; we should eventually realise that we are each condemned to be free. We are therefore at liberty to create our values through our choices."
"But what of the conditions into which we are thrown?" questions the man with the truncated moustache who gets to his feet and walks towards the bar. "The social environment and historical context into which we are born; not to mention the physical condition we find ourselves in. We are not free to choose these elements of our existence nor do we have any control over them."
"I've never felt comfortable with the metaphor that suggests we're born like blank sheet of paper; a better description of the human situation would be to see ourselves as free flowing ink upon a lined and headed document. Obviously I accept that there are elements of both our past and our thrown-ness, as you call it, which we cannot change, but this still doesn't make our present and future determined. We are free to choose how we exist within the limitations of these circumstances. Our thrown-ness may be undeniable but it is the individual who chooses to give a particular meaning to this thrown-ness. Without our definition, throwness is meaningless. There are always other interpretations; we are never faced with a single truth. There's always the most extreme choice of all." "Slavery," says the Bartender while serving the man with the cropped moustache.
"Ironically what you're insinuating is that life is determined," says the rambler, ignoring what he considers to be a glib remark from the Bartender. "In what you say, we are forever sentenced to the freedom of choice; the freedom to live or to die."
"If that's how you want to put it," answers the French woman.
"This dilemma betwixt free will and determinism," says the Buddhist biker, "is an opposition which we naively attempt to resolve on to one side of the argument or the other, with little or no hope of compromise or conclusion. I suggest that 'to the extent that one's behaviour is controlled by static patterns of quality [including the thrown-ness of our existence] it is without choice. But to the extent that one follows Dynamic Quality, which is undefinable, one's behaviour is free."(209)
"Why is Dynamic Quality indefinable?" questions the Bartender, who is polishing the large neon bottle of beer on the bar.
"Because it is the pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality, the source of all things, completely simple and always new. Dynamic Quality contains no patterns of fixed rewards or punishments. Its only perceived good is freedom and its only perceived evil is static quality (any pattern of one-sided fixed values that tries to contain and kill the ongoing free force of life)."(210) Dynamic Quality is the moral force that motivates existence; and although I realise that this answer does not fulfil the requirements of your sceptical needs, I will attempt, at the very least, to penetrate your cynicism before 'last orders.'"
"The Metaphysics of Quality," the motorcyclist continues, "says that if moral judgements are essentially assertions of value and if value is the fundamental ground-stuff of the world, then moral judgements are the fundamental ground-stuff of the world."
As the Motorcycle man continues to talk, I imagine that I see his words flashing across the TV monitor:
The metaphysics of Quality says that even at the most fundamental level of the universe, static patterns of value and moral judgement are identical. The 'laws of Nature' are moral laws. Of course it sounds peculiar at first and awkward and unnecessary to say that hydrogen and oxygen form water because it is moral to do so. But it is no less peculiar and awkward and unnecessary than to say chemistry professors smoke pipes and go to movies because irresistible cause-and-effect forces of the cosmos force them to do it. In the past the logic has been that if chemistry professors are composed exclusively of atoms and if atoms follow only the laws of cause and effect, then chemistry professors must follow the laws of cause and effect too. But this logic can be applied in a reverse direction. We can just as easily deduce the morality of atoms from the observation that chemistry professors are, in general, moral. If chemistry professors exercise choice, and chemistry professors are composed entirely of atoms, then it follows that atoms must exercise choice too. The difference between these two points is philosophic, not scientific.(211)
"Professor Higgs, a particle physicist from Edinburgh University, has put forward the hypothesis that predicts the finding of a fifth force(212) in the universe; a force which appears to act upon elementary particles," says the American woman sitting upon a tall stool at the bar. "In order to describe this hypothesis it may help to imagine that an elementary particle can take one of two basic paths, isolation or articulation. If the particle takes the first path, let us say for the point of the explanation, the red path, then it simply moves at a constant rate and remains in a solitary state. However, if the elementary particle chooses the second path, the blue path, then it starts to gain inertia, and begins to attract other particles towards itself. These particles then begin to bond to one another inducing more and more particles to amalgamate, eventually forming into more complex structures, such as atoms, molecules, matter and chemistry professors. Higgs believes that it is this fifth force, now known as the 'Higgs force', which produces this bonding. The reasons why elementary particles make these choices are at present a complete mystery to scientists everywhere."
"As interesting a narrative as this 'Higgs force' hypothesis may be," says the Bartender, "it's like all of science, merely a narrative fulfilling a self-contained prophecy. It has little meaning outside of its own discourse and no significance outside of the human mind. Not to mention that your use of the term 'choice', anthropomorphises sub-atomic elements; they are particles not people."
"I would say that the formation of Hypotheses is the most mysterious of all the categories within scientific method(213)," says the motorcycle man, sounding as though he were thinking aloud. "Especially if one considers the possibility that 'the number of rational hypotheses that can be chosen to explain any given phenomena is infinite.'(214) This infinite growth in hypotheses is not a minor flaw within scientific reasoning but a catastrophic logical disproof of the general validity of all scientific method!"
"Wait one minute," says the American woman who begins to fish frantically around in a large brown bag, eventually bringing out a notebook with the hand-written words Godel's Theorem on the front cover. She opens the book and begins to read: "If it can be shown that the unprovable truths of any given formal system can be proven within an expanded system containing additional axioms, then the expanded system itself would have to contain further true but unprovable statements. Therefore, no finitely describable system, or finite language, can prove all truths. Truth cannot be fully caught in a finite net."(215)
"What seems to be motivating this growth in the number of hypotheses in recent decades seems to be nothing other than scientific method itself. The purpose of scientific method is to select a single truth from among many hypotheses but historically science has done exactly the opposite. Through multiplication upon multiplication of facts, information, theories and hypotheses, it is science itself that is leading humankind from single absolute truths to multiple, indeterminate, relative ones. The major producer of the social chaos, the indeterminacy of thought and values that rational knowledge is supposed to eliminate, is none other than science itself."(216)
"So what's to be done about the increasing conflicts within scientific method?" asks the guy with the backpack.
"A re-valuation of reason itself; an adjustment within scientific methodology away from elusive and exclusive truths, towards an evaluation of each hypothesis on the merits of the question that it is investigating. If a hypothesis is shown to have value within a particular inquiry, even when it contradicts another valid hypothesis, then it should be accepted as valuable until it is shown to be otherwise. Multiple hypotheses fit a revised rationality which seeks the best evaluation for each investigation, including multiple ways of seeing."
"What the metaphysics of Quality attempts to make known," continues the motorcycle man, "is that it isn't just life which is an ethical activity, but everything from scientific method to electron orbits. Everything in the universe is an ethical activity; there is nothing else. 'When inorganic patterns of reality create life the Metaphysics of Quality postulates that they've done so because it's 'better' and that this definition of 'betterness' - this beginning response to Dynamic Quality - is an elementary unit of ethics upon which all right and wrong can be based.'"(217)
"This sounds as though choice is determined at a sub-atomic level," says the Bartender. "Not at all. What the development within the Metaphysics of Quality displays is that there is not just one moral system but many, including, among others, the inorganic patterns of Quality, which challenge the laws of entropy(218) by attempting to triumph over chaos. Next come the biological patterns of quality which triumph over inorganic forces; then the social patterns of quality which predominate over biology; and finally the intellectual morality, which is still battling to control society."
"So what happens when an intellectual idea, choice, value, threatens society?" questions the Bartender.
"It is more moral for an idea to kill a society than it is for the society to kill an idea,(219)" says the Buddhist biker.
"This sounds suspiciously like the worst type of social Darwinism," comments the rambler, "survival of the fittest and all that."
"Survival of the fittest is one of those catch phrases like 'mutants' and 'misfits' that sounds best when you don't ask precisely what it means. Fittest for what? Fittest for survival? That reduces to 'survival of the survivors' which doesn't say anything."(220)
"So what about the Nazi idea of mass extermination to eradicate all difference? Their inhumane attempt to create a prefect race of identical, genetically superior, beings. Is this an idea for which one should destroy a society?"
"Nazism is an attempt to place society above the intellect, in that it endeavours to exterminate all ideas opposed to its own. It fears difference and seeks to bring a common identity to a so-called ruling elite of genetically engineered beings. It strives to eliminate biological diversity through eugenic practices, which it does in order to control society through power and ignorance, not to eliminate harmful disease and illness. I admit that saying 'it is more moral for an idea to kill a society than for a society to kill an idea' raises very contentious issues but to attack me as a na•ve Nazi is way off target. Of course a society has the right to protect itself against its own destruction, but to the extent that it would restrict the growth of the human intellect for the sake of its own social survival, this I perceive as an immoral act."
"This is sloppy liberal morality at its most pathetic," booms the disembodied voice from behind the toilet door.
"If an established social structure is not seriously threatened, let us say when an individual criminal is to be executed, then an evolutionary morality would argue that there is no moral justification for killing him."(221)
"You might not," responds the voice, " but I'd ring every bloody paedophiles' neck I could lay me hands on."
"As difficult as it is to hear, appalling crimes, such as paedophilia, are often symptoms of an ailing society. 'What makes killing the individual immoral is that the criminal is not just a biological organism. He is not even just a defective unit of society. Whenever you kill a human being, you are killing a source of thought too. A human being is a collection of ideas, and these ideas take moral precedence over a society. Ideas are patterns of value. They are at a higher level of evolution than social patterns of value. Just as it is more moral for a doctor to kill a germ than a patient, so it is more moral for an idea to kill a society than for a society to kill an idea.(222)"
"We're the bloody patients and the perve's the bloody germs!" responds the disembodied voice. "What powers of expression there are in a limited vocabulary," says the Stout Scot.
"This would suggest that it's a society that produces the sexual deviance which must be destroyed or modified," says the young woman. "Yet surely there is a sense in which the individual should take a proportion, and I'd be inclined to say a large proportion, of the blame and responsibility for his or her actions. Otherwise, where's the free will in life?"
"Agreed," says the motorcycle man, "but I should like to add that it is a sign of an unhealthy society which allows an individual to forsake the duties of responsibilities. Responsibility is the duty of the individual towards others; if responsibility is determined and imposed from elsewhere, free will is severely restricted."
"It is undeniable that society has not eradicated the problem of sexual deviance by murdering individuals or locking them away without help," says the guy with the backpack.
"Beyond this there is an even more compelling reason, which is, that societies, beliefs and principles are themselves no more than sets of static patterns. These patterns cannot by themselves perceive or adjust to Dynamic Quality. Only a living being can do that. The strongest moral argument against capital punishment is that it weakens a society's Dynamic capability - its capability for change and evolution.(223)"
"Perhaps it's the weight of living in a world where the god myth has been exposed, which causes people to act in an anti-social way," says the young woman. "If you can't be judged unless you're seen, who, other than yourself of course, is to stop you doing what ever you like?"
"I suppose that depends upon what people like," says the motorcycle man.
"Maybe the realisation that we are condemned to control our own destiny, will take a little time to come to terms with," remarks the man with the large bushy moustache. "Like children breaking free from the elders for the very first time."
"It would seem as through coming to terms with the inescapable consequences of making one's own choices produces a tremendous dilemma within the individual," declares the French woman, who is absently pondering the question of which end of her crisp packet to open. "One can either choose to pull back from this realisation, this anguish, and lie to oneself," she says while turning the packet over in her hands, "therefore surrendering to a mode of existence which is in terribly 'bad faith'," she pulls at the edges of the packet but nothing happens. "If an individual who feels swamped by the sheer responsibility of choosing a meaning and a value for their life accepts a stereotypical role, which provides for them a ready-made meaning to life which they have not had to create for themselves, then they may avoid life's anguish but in doing so may (a)void life itself."
I watch as the French woman clasps the two edges of the packet and gives the whole thing a sharp tug, but still it doesn't open. "Alternatively," she continues, turning over the crisp packet, "one can face up to the experiences of anguish and accept that our choices fill us with dread. We now recognise that by being made aware that there are no foundations upon which to validate our choices, we are at the mercy of contingency and relativity." A final pull on the edges of the crisp packet releases the entire contents of the receptacle into the air and over her short male companion; she giggles and continues on with her disquisition. "When an individual moves towards the authentic existence he or she will begin to embrace the inevitability of anguish and will not seek sanctuary from it."
"It is doubt which induces anguish," says the fellow with the Bergman script. "If you can deceive yourself as to the freedom of your own conscious thought by giving yourself over to religious, cultural or social patterns, then you'll be in a state of belief. Paradoxically however, the closure required for certain knowledge will remain out of reach because consciousness is far from being a form of certainty, it's rather a form of uncertainty. Consciousness is a form of doubt because that which is in consciousness is always already in question. To believe in consciousness is to have already made a small leap of faith."
"Our convictions," expresses an American gentleman of practical appearance who has dark rimmed eyes and a long white beard, "command our desires and forms our behaviour. The sensation of belief is a manifestation of the existence of habit within the mind, which helps us to avoid making difficult choices at every moment of our day. Doubt is not at all like this. Doubt is an anxious and displeasing state of mind from which we struggle to free ourselves. Belief we can leave to take care of itself but doubt must be confronted until it is either defeated through destruction, or assimilated into a new belief. Thought is therefore an activity we engage with in order to move from a paralysing state of doubt to the desirable state belief."
"I suggest," says the bushy moustachioed German, who stands upon the oche preparing to throw his final dart, "that although this state you call belief is more desirable;"
"One-hundred and Eighty!" says the first twin, chalking up upon the blackboard.
"It is rather doubt," continues the dart player, "which is the more dynamic experience because of its, (how do you say,) authentic possibilities."
"Like the Zen Buddhist 'beginner's mind'," repeats the rambler.
"I'd be inclined to see this belief/doubt opposition in terms of the Apollonian and the Dionysian," says the German fellow withdrawing his darts from the board. "The Apollonian establishes the elucidation of representation, creating the possibility for communication which frees the individual from isolation. This I feel is close to your idea of belief whereby the Apollonian vanquishes the suffering that would otherwise be endured by the individual by collapsing the noumenal into the perceivable world of phenomenal entities. On the other hand, the Dionysian shatters the illusion of both the individual and communication by absorbing us into original being. We are forced to confront the pain and anguish of existence through the Dionysian, or as you call it doubt, in which we come closer to an understanding of what this gentleman here referred to as Dasein."
"Would I be right in assuming that there is an element within the Apollonian which is mediatory?" ponders the motorcycle man. "This would seem to imply a level of intellectual contemplation of the object which re-presents this reflection as the phenomenal entities we recognise as reality. Whereas the Dionysian is immediate perception, it is the pre-intellectual awareness of existence, the noumenal world of things in themselves. This separation fits my own Metaphysics of Quality, in which Dynamic Quality resides at the cutting edge of reality as we encounter it. While running counter to this is Static Quality, the patterns of reality we create in order to re-present the world to one another and ourselves." "There is a sense in which our relation to otherness is always self reflection," says a woman, with an Eastern European edge to her French accent, who is vacillating back and forth upon a large wooden rodeo horse. "Other people, things and events are only perceived by us through our own self knowledge. We project versions of our own personality outward on to other people and other things, just as we project versions of our own experience on to other events. How is it possible that we could know others as they are in themselves when our own character is a mystery to us? Perhaps this is because the construction of the 'I' rests upon an indeterminate discourse. Our relation to others is always based upon an unstable self-reflection, since everything in our world is constituted and mediated by this vacillating self, itself. The only valid relation to the other would be immediate and as such is not part of knowledge as we would understand it. As soon as immediacy gives way to mediation, other is reduced to same."
"One could also choose to look at the other side of this situation," remarks the motorcyclist, "how reflections affect the images we have of ourselves. 'Each person you come to is a different mirror, some mirrors distort you one way and some distort you another. And since you're another person like them maybe you're another mirror too, and there is no way of ever knowing whether your own view of yourself is another distortion. Maybe all you ever see are distorted reflections. Maybe mirrors are all you ever get. First the mirrors of your parents, then friends and teachers, then bosses and officials, priests and ministers and maybe writers and painters too, because that's their job, to hold up mirrors. What controls all of these mirrors is culture: the giant (the large metropolis), and the gods (the static cultural patterns). And if you run foul of culture it will start to throw up reflections that try to destroy you, or it will withdraw the mirrors and try to destroy you that way."(224)
"You sound a little paranoid," declares the Bartender.
"These mirrors that you speak of," mentions a bespectacled scrabble player, "not only mould us into adulthood, but in early childhood they aid us in our creation of the 'self'. It's through the recognition of our own reflected image, or via the image of another, that we come to mistakenly recognise a false perception of ourselves which will remain with us, as an 'ideal ego,'(225) for the rest of our lives. During infancy when we first begin to identify with an image outside of ourselves, we will begin to mimic the actions and behaviour that surround us. It is here as infants that we first enter the human world of space and movement or as it was termed earlier, Dasein. However, this identification, or 'mirror stage',(226) traps the infant in a mode of existence through which it can no longer act spontaneously. The infant's relationship to the world is always mediated by way of the image; a representation, or rather re-presentation, which is essentially alien and outside of itself and Other to the world as it is in itself. Thus, our ego that is not present at birth is established by an alienating identification brought about because of our initial lack of completeness in the body's motor functions at birth. We are born prematurely which indicates that our relationship to ourselves is constructed from outside."
I then catch a few audible words coming from the Karaoke:
Psychotic builds the castle
"The mirror stage also contributes to the way in which we acquire languages," continues the bespectacled scrabble player. "The mirror, or Other, supplies the infant's first signified, something existing outside of the infant that has symbolic meaning. It's the infant who acts as the signifier, the recipient and chronicler of the symbolic meaning. The social structure, or symbolic order, into which the infant is born is constructed through language which inevitably structures the concept of self." "When these mirrors become distorted for whatever reason, I imagine the ideal ego is put under enormous strain," speculates the rambler.
"And considering that living with the ideal ego is similar to living with our respiratory system," says the young woman, "we exist with it rarely being conscious of it; when the ideal ego is brought to the front of our thinking it must surely induce anxiety."
"If we can succeed in realigning the mirrors and see the same reflections as the majority, live by the same symbolic order," declares the guy with the backpack, "then we can return to the social structure. However, if we succeed only in shifting our perception and seeing these distorted mirrors as perfect reflections, then our symbolic order will be out of synchronisation with the rest of society and could lead to severe psychological problems."
"What if the mirror image remains distorted for any length of time?" asks the young woman. "I suppose that the anxiety one suffers will become so great that a call to a kindly Samaritan or Paramedic will be needed; because a turning in upon one's own distorted mirrors in an attempt to shatter the image it reveals, could leave the victim out of reach from the rest of society. However, if this move towards the distorted reflections is a gradual controlled process of strict personal discipline, then one could manage to live in an endlessly dynamic state of distorted reflections and reach a form of Zen wisdom."
"It is the task of psychoanalysts to use discourse to realign the mirror's reflections back to the commonly accepted symbolic order," says the bespectacled scrabble player.
"This takes insanity to be a disease," the Buddhist biker responds, "when perhaps 'the insanity is the adjustment. Insanity isn't necessarily a step in the wrong direction, it could be part of a cure.'(228) I'm no expert but it would seem to me that 'curing' an insane person is like the problem of 'curing' a Moslem or 'curing' a communist. You're not going to make much progress by telling them how wrong you think they are. If you can convince a Mullah that everything will be of higher value if he changes his beliefs, then change is not only possible but also likely. But if you can't, forget it.'"(229) "Yet I submit that the unconscious is structured like a language," asserts the bespectacled scrabble player, "therefore, the psychoanalyst is able to remould the individual by striving to disclose what is malfunctioning within the internal discourse of the individual's structure of languages."
"You're indicating that the psychoanalyst is able to realign the reflections and recreate the perceptions of the insane by returning the individual to the controlling discourse and doing so by restoring the individual to the social order," says the second twin. "Yet isn't this how ideology works, by indoctrinating others into false convictions and beliefs? The recipient of a false ideology, like the members of the Hitler youth of the 1930s, is lulled or coerced into believing in an idea or social system which is presented to them as a meta-discourse; claiming itself to be the one true belief above and beyond all others. Surely this collective distortion of the mirror leads to mass insanity." "It all depends upon how many people believe in a discourse, whether it is considered sane or insane," pronounces the motorcyclist. "A group can't hold an insane delusion. 'A person isn't considered insane if there are a number of people who believe the same way. Insanity isn't supposed to be a communicable disease; if one other person starts to believe then it becomes a religion. Thus, when sane grown men in Italy and Spain carry statues of Christ through the streets, that's not an insane delusion. That's a meaningful religious activity because there are so many of them. But if a distraught person carries a statue of a child with them wherever they go, that's an insane delusion because there's only one of them. The Metaphysics of Quality identifies religious mysticism with insanity and links both to Dynamic Quality. The two are almost the same. Both lunatics and mystics have freed themselves from the conventional static intellectual patterns of their culture. The only difference is that the lunatic has shifted over to a private static pattern, whereas the mystic has abandoned all static patterns in favour of pure Dynamic Quality.'(230) Yet, it would be a mistake to think that the Metaphysics of Quality endorses the static beliefs of any particular religious sect. Sectarian religion is a static social fallout from Dynamic Quality."(231)
"I recall one of Plato's dialogues," says the rambler, "where he has Socrates say "Our greatest blessing comes to us by way of madness provided the madness is given to us by divine gift." I find it amusing that in a statement like this the psychiatric profession hasn't got a clue what he's talking about.(232)"
"Psychiatry," remarks a gentleman with a shiny bald pate, "is a part of our complex social institutions which exist to collect knowledge about individuals. However, one should remain conscious of the thought that this knowledge is far easier to collect if it is given freely by individuals who categorise themselves by allowing this body of knowledge to categorise them. This is an essential ingredient within the institutional recipe for linking knowledge to power. Through categorisation, the individual is excluded or included, perhaps even through choice, into simplifying the potential of their existence by allowing themselves to be catalogued and therefore controlled by their own behavioural 'bond'. Even the psychopath, who recognises his social position, plays the game. When he is brought to trial the institution of the law will only claim him and legitimise its own position as the rightful wielder of judgement and power if it can get the individual to categorise himself within the common perception of knowledge. In this respect, knowledge is linked to power, and each part of the institution is a tool of this power. Yet, power could easily fail if its only task were to restrain. No! Power isn't what is possessed by a few; it is a shrewd and inventive discourse and weaves its way into the fabric of all of our lives. It survives, and controls our lives by imposing itself upon the way we think and the way we desire and feel the need for a dominating narrative. We succumb to this discourse rather than take any responsibility for it."
"Not another victim of paranoia?" declares the Bartender.
"I suppose that if it weren't for institutional categorisation of recidivists, delinquents and psychopaths," says the first twin, "these people might contemplate their position in the social structure, challenge the ruling ideology and begin to write their own narrative and no doubt shatter the prevailing discourse."
"Now everybody's paranoid," reiterates the Bartender.
"Delirium introduces anxiety into social structures because it challenges the static order," expresses the motorcycle man. "As individuals we too fear the insane, not simply because they're a threat to our own fragile construction of sanity but because they're a hindrance, a waste of time and an interruption to more important purposes in life. No one admits it, but that's the real reason the insane get locked up; it's not just that they have absurd ideas that nobody else believes. What makes them insane is that they have these ideas and are a nuisance to somebody else. The pretence that we're trying to help them by getting rid of them is a cover-up. What this pretence ignores is that you cannot hide people or run away from people without injuring yourself too. The hardest thing to deal with during my own commitment was not the insanity. That came naturally. The hardest thing to deal with was the righteousness of the sane. When you're in agreement with the sane, they're a great comfort and protection, but when you disagree with them, it's a different matter. Then they're dangerous. The sane always know they are good because their culture tells them so. Anyone who tells them otherwise is sick, paranoid, and needs further treatment.'(233) I've written a book that deals with this issue and attempts to set out a solution to this problem, which is a little too long to deal with right now." "I'm interested to hear more," says the young woman.
"You'll find it in Appendix B at the back of this thesis," I inform her, holding up the document you're reading right now.
She nods over in my direction, in what I take to be a sign of acknowledgement.
Chapter Thirteen The Sweat & Spirit: Part 4
I don't know much about the Highway Code,
"In all the talk of mirrors a little earlier," remarks the Bartender, "no one mentioned that the mirror is designed to reflect rays of light and that in complete darkness the purpose of the mirror is nullified. One could argue that languages are the rays of light that allow the 'human mirror' to reflect; without languages the human situation is one spent in 'darkness' in which no comprehension of reflection exists at all."
"Aren't we more than simply mirrors that reflect light?" enquires the young woman, "more than objects that use signs? Language is senseless without an eye to see and a hand to write, without a mouth to speak and an ear to listen. What of our mind, consciousness and creative attributes?" "It's through the use of signs that we become creative; it's signs which give us a mind," says the Bartender. "The light/dark mirror analogy, although an opprobrious use of the binary opposition, isn't intended to communicate a form of mechanical materialism whereby there is no real distinction between the human body and a bath mat. Obviously, the human physical form is a means of creativity in the way a bath mat can never be, except in the films of Walt Disney. It is because the human body can sign and enter linguistic communication that it becomes a creative point of organisation for objects such as bath mats. Language creates an invented centre for the human body called the 'self' which then gives purpose to objects around it. It is this which makes the human situation distinct from the rest of the animal world. It is language which creates a sense of self, not the other way around." "However, I wonder if this whole question of Being isn't actually far larger than language taken in isolation?" comments the man with the receding hairline and shiny forehead.
"If it is, then we're not large enough to see it," returns the Bartender. "This 'house of Being' or 'universe' or whatever it is you'd like to call it, cannot be perceived as reasonable or intellectual or full of beginnings, middles and ends. It doesn't need a sense of closure, nor does it need explaining; only the present human situation finds it necessary to make sense of it all. How can we answer a question as large and absurd as the ones 'philosophers' continually ask, such as, 'what is Being?'"
"One could just as easily claim that language and theory have drawn us away from a personal correspondence with the world," says a voice from under the glare of a shiny forehead which is reflecting the rays of light from an overhead illumination straight into my eyes. "Language cannot constitute Dasein. 'In order to be who we are, we human beings remain committed to and within the being of language, and can never step out of it and look at it from somewhere else. Thus we always see the nature of language only to the extent to which language itself has us in view, has appropriated us to itself.'(235) One must not forget that an investigation is a search for, or about, something and, as such, must have at its opening a bearing of some kind; no matter how contingently based this bearing may be. Otherwise, how would the investigation ever get under way? We must not lose sight of the idea that an enquiry into Being requires a being who is enquiring into the Being of the enquirer."
"I'm not completely sure that I followed all of that," the Bartender admits, "but an enquiry into ontological questions such as, 'what is Being', have a tendency to lead into the contradictory concept of a pre-linguistic awareness. Within these ontological concepts the philosopher becomes a mystic and seems to forget that the light of language comes first; that the light seizes us and enables us to invent the linguistic world we call reality long before the 'guru' can see the pre-linguistic world. The paradox for the guru is that the light must exist before the seeing; one first needs the light of languages in order to be enlightened to the pre-linguistic position."
"What about the moment of vision at the cutting edge of time before the intellect steps in and rationalises the world into objects and categorise and separates the viewer off as an observer, a subject, which is other to the event of seeing?" says the Buddhist biker.
"Perhaps I'll concede that it's possible to have a moment of vision before intellectualisation takes place; but this is a trivial truth. One could never know this moment, because knowing is knowledge and by its very nature, knowledge requires language. Any theory that makes a claim to knowledge without language is literally nonsense. In the moment that light reaches the eye the light of language has not formed a reflection of representation and we can only ever know the world as re-presentation." "To realise, through whatever form, an instant of pre-intellectual awareness, 'a moment of pure Quality', requires not only an understanding of the 'I' before language, but also a pure form of self communication," affirms the grey-haired Scrabble player. "Each of these presumptions demands a fixed concept, or centre, whereby the 'I' can be contained within signification yet at the same time remaining outside of the signification within which it is contained. This, as you can see, suggests a paradox in which the pre-linguistic 'I' and the pure self-communicating 'I' are each the originator which encapsulates all other."
"The moment of pure Quality is not to be understood as a conscious representation of the world but rather as an immediate intuitive reaction to the stimulus of the physical world," says the motorcycle man. "Our intellectual choice to represent the world in a homogenous form through signs is a response to Quality. It is Quality which creates the 'I' and the world, the subject and the object."
"Yet, the concept of Quality demands that the 'I' be prior to and transcend signification, just as the earlier concepts of Human Being and Dasein have done," returns the grey-haired Scrabble player.
"This takes Quality to be a concept when it isn't a concept."
"It has to be, it is an idea invented in somebody's mind."
"Quality is the reason why people have ideas."
"No, that's language."
"Language is a part of Quality."
"I can show you language, show me Quality."
"Show me a world without Quality and I'll show you a wasteland."
"Any form of transcendental signification," states the guy with grey hair, "is an illusion because signifiers and signifieds are continually breaking apart and re-coupling in new associations, which by necessity dispels any possibility of a secure, unambiguous and isolated 'trace'."
"The what?" questions the second twin.
"The trace, the opinion that all signs are in a state of chaotic dissemination; tearing the makeshift lid off the assumption that identifies both signified and signifier as attached to one another like two sides of a single sheet of paper.(236) In the light of this explosive dissemination, of word to concept so to speak, Quality is revealed as simply one more transcendental signifier within a tradition which has consumed Western thinking for three thousand years.
This tradition has sought to establish a 'metaphysics of presence'," continues the grey-haired guy, "which presumes that whatever is present to us is immediately and completely comprehended in the pure act of intuition and as such has no dependence upon signs of any kind. However, if presence does proceed signification how could we be conscious of it, since consciousness relies upon signs to represent the physical world? There can be no such concept as immediate presence when we recognise that everything is caught up and traced through by everything else. Moreover, who is to say that a pure moment of vision is unambiguous, especially if we think about ambigrams and optical illusions such as the duck/rabbit picture which can be seen from one or the other perspective but never both together."
"The inevitable implications of this," says the American woman at the bar," are that not only are foundations, values and meanings all in a continuous state of dissemination, and therefore incapable of being at one with themselves, but also the whole concept of 'me', the 'I', also has no fixed centre or origin. Like foundations, meanings, and values, the 'I' cannot be both its own referent or origin and its own goal or end."
"Inasmuch as language constructs the whole concept of the 'I'," says the grey-haired 'Scrabbler', "rather than language being simply a convenient tool which the 'I' uses to describe the world; the whole assumption that the 'I' is a stable, unified entity becomes a fiction."
"Then what's the difference between computation and comprehension?" asks the American. "I'm not quite sure what it is you're trying say."
"Well," continues the American woman, "if it is language, and language alone, which constructs the 'I' then one is left wondering what the difference is between a human being using language and a complex computer using language. Isn't it fair to assume, from what you have said yourself, that the computer using language has as much right to the concept 'I' as a so-called 'human being'? Both the human 'I' and the computer 'I' are linguistic constructions."
"You would notice the difference," says the first twin, "if you set both a machine capable of complicated computation and a human child the task of counting whole numbers from one proceeding upwards. Because the human situation is one that sees its particular existence as finite, the child will begin counting and soon realise, a priori, that the task is infinite. If we accept that the child has come to see time as a precious and exhaustible commodity in relation to its own life, it must also seem highly unlikely that the child would want to prove the number counting hypothesis by spending its entire life counting numbers. The machine on the other hand has no such concept of finality and will continue counting until it is told to stop or until it is unplugged. Understanding involves a plurality of diverging and splintering thoughts, as well as memory, strategy and innovation; whereas computation is focused and directed with no concept of ambiguity, paradox or irony. It follows a binary path of either/or, ones and zeros, on or off."
"A machine can be programmed to have a finite time span," says the guy with grey (Barnet Fair), "it can be programmed to see paradox and irony; it can even be programmed to make guesses in an a priori way. This is because it is programmed through a language in the same way that we are. I also question your references to time as an unambiguous concept. Many cultures different from our own, view time quite differently from the way that we see it. These concepts that we take for granted are always more enigmatic than we think. "
"Surely comprehension and understanding involves more than a disseminating language with trace-like qualities, ambiguity, irony and paradox," says the rambler; "it must also involve a biological being with an intellectual capacity to create narratives from a system of signs. Isn't it true that language requires Dasein in the same way that Dasein requires language? They're inseparable, for without the other each would cease to exist."
"This doesn't detract from an interpretation of the conceptual 'I' as a product of language," remarks the grey-haired man whilst placing the final tile of a seven-letter word upon a triple scoring square. "A so-called intuitive moment is not a point but a structure depending for its existence on its relation to a suppositious past and future. Like all linguistic signs the intuitive moment is inhabited by, and traced through with, every other sign."
I look up surprised to see marks flickering across the TV monitor; so, I begin to read:
The concept of origin or nature is nothing but the myth of addition, of supplementarity annulled by being purely additive. It is the myth of effacement of the trace, that is to say of an originary difference that is neither absence nor presence, neither negative nor positive. Originary difference is supplementarity as structure. Here structure means the irreducible complexity within which one can only shape or shift the play of presence or absence; that within which metaphysics can be produced but which metaphysics cannot think.
I look around the bar and everyone appears suddenly frozen in time. The only movement that I detect is a slight twitch from the black cat. I turn back to the TV monitor and as the words begin to move across the screen again the pub becomes animated once more.
The movement of the effacement of the trace has been, from Plato to Rousseau to Hegel, imposed upon writing in the narrow sense; the necessity of such a displacement may now be apparent. Writing is one of the representatives of the trace in general, it is not the trace itself. The trace itself does not exist. (To exist is to be, to be an entity, a being present, to on.) In a way, the displacement leaves the place of the decision hidden, but it also indicates it unmistakably.(237)
"There appears to be a similarity between this 'trace' you speak of and Quality," says the guy with the greenish backpack.
"In what way?"
"In that each encapsulates the whole while remaining indefinable."
"The trace itself does not exist," repeats the victorious Scrabble player, "because it isn't anything real. What you appear to be attempting to do with the word 'Quality' is place it within the gaps that appear in the discourse of rationality. Gaps which are an inevitable part of rational discourse not only because of its attempts to find closure through logic and truth but also due to its inability to recognise its own narrative dependence. The 'trace' implies a connection between every sign in an inexhaustible chain, yet it is not something visible or transcendental. It is rather an attempt to show the fallacy of any sign being the creator or originator of every other signs."
"I think that you're quite mistaken in your endeavour to categorise Quality as a term which freezes the play of 'differance'," says the motorcyclist, "Quality isn't the central term within a binary opposition; it is (n)either subject (n)or object. And although it is perceived in the intuitive moment before intellectualisation and sense perception take place, when an attempt is made to understand Quality, it soon becomes clear that it is traced through the infinite web of signifiers and signifieds, so no attempt is made on its part to contain a fixed meaning. A strong component of Quality is Mu: (n)either yes (n)or no."
"Perhaps the term Quality would be best utilised if it were placed under erasure," says the rambler, "in much the same way that 'Being' and 'is' have been crossed through in the past. One can indicate this concept in writing by drawing an 'X' through the word, thereby placing the word under erasure. The purpose of 'sous rature' is to have both the word and the deletion on view so as to suggest that the word is essential but that the term is also inadequate in describing the more abstract and playfully ambiguous elements of the concept."
Instant Karma's gonna get you,
"So perhaps the critical question that we are faced with is one concerning choice and whether or not the individual has any choice," states the first twin.
"You have choice," says the fourth and final scrabble player, "so long as you remain included within the dance of perpetual consumption. The industrial population of the world has the ultimate freedom of choice and this we exercise through selecting whatever signs of consumption we desire, from babies to bestiality, from bodies to bananas and from celebrity to car crashes. We have individual choice on a scale never dreamed of in any past utopia; yet it is all a false consciousness, spoon-fed to us all via the electronic highway of the institutional discourse of knowledge and power. Freedom of choice is now imposed upon us through the power of signs that confront us in an unrelenting collage of pictures, posters, and pixels. As consumers, we are controlled through our own unrelenting consumption of signs. We can never get enough of them and hence we will never be satisfied with the ones that we consume, we simply feel the need to consume more and more in the hopeless pursuit of trying to fill the unquenchable thirst of our self-created and devouring void."
"Self righteous bastard," mutters the bartender to his stuffed black cat.
"Surely one has the choice to stand outside the signs of consumerism," mumbles the second twin. "It is possible to remain upon the fringe of society."
"I don't know, go and live in an old bus or a tepee, or something."
"The autonomous individual, guided by his or her own principles has become so unrecognisably fragmented within our technological fantasy world that even this autonomous subject, the artist, the hippie, and the revolutionary, has become so embroiled within the edifice of signs that there is no longer any inside or outside, just signs circling around one inside other in an endless play of consumption."
"The way you continuously use the term 'play' would suggest that you see everything as a game."
"Well isn't it?"
"I suppose in one sense it is but, what of starvation and disease?"
The fourth scrabble player side-steps the question like a skilled politician by suggesting that: "The real tyranny of this game is that it is so often played as if its signs were fixed entities when they are merely representations of something other than themselves. When the game is played out over the deeply repressed fear of allowing signs to be perceived as ambivalent, you end up with our present society; where even culture becomes a system of signs driven no longer by the people and their anxieties about harvesting, hunting and story-telling, but rather driven by the production and consumption of signs themselves. Culture is thus trapped within, and therefore controlled by, the rules of a game, at the heart of which is the production of signs. There is no escape, it is an enormous devouring giant."
I hear a yell from a man standing by the toilet door and then see a body lying on the floor which I assume from probable cause and effect, has been asphyxiated by the 'limited edition' bio-degradable 'Happy Shopper' polythene carrier bag which is moulded to the contours of the anonymous head. I walk over realising this must have been the same guy who'd been shouting abuse through the toilet door. I look around and see that the dead guy is surrounded by an enormous collection of plastic shopping bags in every colour shape and size. Next to the body is a till receipt with the words "Eureka" written upon it.
You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack.
"Last orders Ladies and gentlemen please," rings out the call of the bartender.
I finish my drink and begin to collect my things when I hear the young woman lean over and talk to her friend with the green backpack; "Doesn't this nihilistic death knell within post-structuralism destroy your faith in Quality?" I hear her ask.
"Not at all," he replies, "post-structuralist ideas strengthen the whole concept of quality. Both post-structuralism and the Metaphysics of Quality are means of disclosing our habits of categorising and centralising the diversity of existence. Obviously my own faith is one of optimism in which:
The significant philo-story, on bringing into play the craft of poetry, is capable of designing patterns for the open-minded scientist; not by way of dialectic truth but as a consequence of rhetorical 'good'. This self-corrective field of study, with its relative foundations and values, is capable of supplying a contingent support for 'malleable logic,' communication and thought. Because this 'malleable science' involves the restraint of self-reflection, this makes it a component of ethics, in that it supplies the standards for all habitual behaviour. In turn, ethics is a component of aesthetics because ethical guidance is directed towards values and values are conceived and perceived aesthetically.
Quality is a form of harmony and this is why things such as language, DNA, and the physical forces which bond particles together, survive. It is because they have beauty. Beauty, poetry, Quality, maybe this is the reason that there is something in the universe rather than nothing."
"Time! Ladies and gentleman please," shouts the bartender, "come on haven't you lot got homes to go to?.
"Good as a noun," says the motorcycle man, to the stout Scotsman, "rather than an adjective, this is all the Metaphysics of Quality is about. Of course. . .
The answer to this whole dilemma concerning Quality, choice, values, post-structuralism and the human condition rests upon. . .
"What kind of cat is that?" The American woman asks the bartender. "That's a dead cat," he replies
And the pub door closes behind me.
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