Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Bi-Partisan Mind

Abstract

The Krugman Problem states: “The modern American Right seems to have abandoned the idea that there is an objective reality out there.” Political systems invariably divide into The Right and The Left, a consequence of the Bi-Partisan Mind. An exegesis of the Krugman Problem makes clear how The MODERN American Right has lost its way.

The Mind is not a structure. It is recognized by its actions, which are as durable and predictable as in any three-dimensional system but which can only be recognized in statu nascendi. Mind is a bird on the wing.

Freud kick-started psychoanalysis by assuming Mind is a decision-maker. It speaks only in the active voice. It decides what to do when pangs of hunger occur and keep re-occurring. Freud discovered the Mind exercises one of two options:

One, it can consent to the delay in its next feeding, accepting the Unpleasure. Or

Two, it can obtain Pleasure by hallucinating an internal perception that feeding has occurred and the pain of hunger abated.

Freud recognized the power of fantasies, a momentous achievement. Everywhere he listened, lo and behold, fantasies!In his inchoate psychoanalytic work, he heard endless stories of childhood seduction, childhood molestation, often with an uncle or other close relative. Incestuous tales abounded.

As was his habit, his work-day finished, Freud took a long walk, a custom shared by many of his fellow citizens. As the Viennese aristocracy strolled by, Freud found it astonishing that he was being greeted by a platoon of pedophiles. How is that possible! To his astonishment, he realized what he had heard told were fantasies. It was, arguably, his greatest discovery.

All animals “read” accurately the physical facts of their environment as witnessed by successful adaptation. However, did the australopithecines live in two worlds, one “outside” and one “inside?” as each of us does? Did they bring the torrent of information streaming in through the five senses from the “outside” into a single focus on the “inside” by a power we call consciousness? Does a present day chimp? It’s a mystery. Is consciousness a qualitative emergent from the great river flowing out of Eden? Or was it written in the stars before our planet ever congealed, as suggested by philosopher John Searle? For our purpose, it doesn’t matter.

What is a fact is that Mind looks “outside,” registering the three-dimensional, closed world through the five senses. And it is a fact that Mind looks “inside,” accessing an infinite universe through its powers of imagination.

These two facts, I will assume, are fundamental in splitting political parties into The Right and The Left. The Right emphasizes ideology, The Left factuality.

In the next blog, I will examine the Krugman Problem assuming this bi-lateral structure of Mind.

The Bi-Partisan Brain

Whenever a behavior is expressed universally, it evolved through natural selection. Noam Chomsky postulated a universal grammar, providing a syntactical foundation for language, a behavior found in all hominids. Some 5,000 languages are spoken world-wide, even as we speak, their syntax custom-made but on the foundation of a universal grammar.

Language and mind are as inextricably linked together as two strands of DNA. You can’t have one without the other. If language is universal, so is Mind. Throughout the ages, philosophers and theologians and metaphysicians have had exclusive property rights to Mind. Freud intends to claim it for science, launching psychoanalysis with a question.

Question: What does the Mind do with Pain? with the Unpleasure of Pain?
Answer: It follows the Unpleasure-Pleasure Principle.

“Let’s stop right here! Can anything sound more banal? Yet I’m supposed to believe we’re on the cusp of Freud’s greatest discovery. Are you kidding me? Little wonder it went unrecognized.”

But wait! Hear me out. Mind exists only by virtue of what it does. It has no physical dimension. It is non-Euclidean. True, the question Freud asks is simple and straightforward. The experience of Pain registers on the Mind as Unpleasure. Pain is destabilizing, as claimant as an alarm bell pulled by an empty belly. What does the Mind do in response? The Mind acts on the basis of The Unpleasure-Pleasure Principle.

Pleasure and Pain are what philosophers call qualia.
The laws of thermodynamics describe quantities only, the basis for Freud’s Project for a Scientific Psychology. It landed in that unopened drawer. Daniel Dennett, American philosopher and cognitive scientist, famously writes that qualia is “an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us.” Qualia are feeings, experienced in and through the body. These physiologic changes register, consciously or unconsciously, on the Mind. Emotions are a physical event.

Unpleasure is a qualia. It acts as a signaling device to the Mind, which takes action in response. Emotions come in on the back of Mind. “Ride ’em. cowboy!” Without a rider, Mind is useless, or dangerous.

“The modern American right seems to have abandoned the idea that there is an objective reality out there.” That’s the Paul Krugman problem we’ve wrestled with in this and previous blogs. In my judgment, the Bi-Partisan Brain throws light on Krugman’s observation. In the next blog, I will focus entirely on the structure and function of the Bi-Partisan Brain, and then in subsequent blogs show its usefulness with the Krugman problem.

Freud’s Greatest But Unrecognized Discovery

Patrick Moynihan claimed that the liberal tradition is based on a respect for facts, its doctrines derived from experience. Given political complexity, Moynihan insisted politics must be grounded in the concrete and empirical.

In a shattering moment of truth, Moynihan realizes the sheer complexity of the world imposes limitations on human understanding. The certitude of ideology simplifies complex situations, which leads to the seduction of grandiose promises.

“A while back, one of Harvard’s great chemists was discoursing on what he called the “many-body problem,” a condition in which the number of variables interacting with one another in any given situation makes that situation extraordinarily complicated and difficult to fathom. I asked in what range of numbers this “many-body problem” begins. A somehow suspicious glance was returned. Did I really not know? Apparently not. “Three,” he replied.
This is an aspect of our reality.”

My son-in-law, a world class theoretical physicist, had clued me in to the three-body problem 20 years ago: Calculate the gravitional forces between the sun, the planet Neptune and one of its moon; Or how ’bout, Suppose the three bodies are not astronomical but human, calculate the sexual force between them; or how ’bout If the three bodies are states, like the United States of America and Russia and the Ukraine? Moynihan imagined a newly inaugurated President Kennedy stirring a nation with the words of prudent perspective, “So let every nation know that we would be crazy to undertake to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.” No, there would have been nothing inspiring in this. There might also have been no Vietnam.”

Moynihan, a Liberal, and Edmund Burke, it should be noted, a Conservative, agree that history is a process of clarification through experience. Institutions that grow in this organic way may not be tidy, but they are strong and functional. Burke, a great writer as well as thinker, states, “The old building stands well enough, though part gothic, part Grecian and part Chinese, until an attempt is made to square it into uniformity. Then it may come down around our heads altogether, in much uniformity of ruin.”

Since the French Revolution, the political spectrum has been divided into The Left and the Right. Wherever the practice of politics is allowed, to quote Steve Schmidt, a Republican savant, 47% are Republican and 47% are Democrats. The Left favors the empirical, The Right, ideology. Good politics provides space for a never-ending conflicted but mutually beneficial interaction, as we see with liberal Moynihan and conservative Burke.

Freud’s greatest discovery, in my judgment, is that, like bi-sexuality, Mind comes bi-partisan, the vicissitudes of history and factors unknown pushing it to The Right or to The Left. At the present time in our Congress, however, The Right has apotheosized ideology, so that fruitful interaction with The Left is impossible. I will classify Republicans into three categories, only the third providing a working political party, fundamental to the intent of the Founders.

The American political experiment was and is something entirely new under the sun. It is the only political structure in which conflict is fundamental. No other polity has conflict as the grand mover. The Greek word for “a contest” is agon. A contest is agony, as is the practice of American politics. A contest can’t be fixed. Each contestent must have equal gravitas.

(to be continued)