writing about my life

socially deconstructing the real – why going mad isn’t that bad

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An adventure in sociology

I decided to make axiomatic for myself a concept that all of what we call Reality is purely a structure that humans create and maintain to protect themselves from the swirling chaos of the true reality.

So I set about dismantling all the joints, beams and members of my conventional worldview and waited to see what came. What resulted was a journey, neither an ascent nor a descent, sideways into a realm of magic and the unknown. I became a naked tribesman, wandering lost in a great city of pleasures and dangers that he does not understand.

My thoughts about this are redolent of a debate between a physicist, “Jack” and a practitioner of “magick”, “Jill”, as follows

Jack: “Physics states that matter and energy operate thus, thus and thus… predictably, reliably, knowably.”

Jill: Pah ! I can unweave this with my magic and create any phenomenon I wish with my power

..and so on

The conversation becomes more interesting when a sociologist, “Fred” , joins the fray and speaks

Fred: Ahh but both of you are in fact merely socially constructing your worldviews here, according to the game rules you have acquired when you joined the trade. Each of your myths occupies an equal status to me when I view them merely as human creations, artefacts like a clay pot or a papyrus scroll.

Jack: Nonsense the laws of Physics are Objective

Jill: Ahh but Magick is Subjective, the other half of the sky, night to your day and equally powerful

Fred: you have both chosen roles as cultural creators, your job is to create knowledge, there should be no dispute about which is the more valid… horses for courses.

Jack: but this magician is a crank

Jill: this scientist is worse – a know-all

Jack: Physics has proved to be a reliable way to obtain concrete knowledge about the universe, I have colleagues all over the world

Jill: well it may have more people who pursue it, but does that lend any more weight to its claims for truth. magicians are rare because True Insight is rare. Narrow is the path and few there are who find it

Fred: ahh well this is an interesting question. I agree sir that strength in numbers is not all, but it does mean that the constructed reality has a degree more power sociopolitically.

Jill: you are both subject to a misunderstanding of what we call “the power of naming”… naming a thing is not understanding its true nature. for that you need intuition too. your material reality is not independent of the mind. it doesn’t matter what you call things in a spell. you are dealing in myth not truth

Jack: there is a real world out there. I refute you thus (he slams down a fist)

Fred: we really need a philosopher of mind for this

Jill: the self is all of the real you are staring at yourself through a scratched and cloudy lens, scientist!

Fred: you are no better than him. You too are being an absolutist. it is my analysis that embraces relativism and therefore tolerance

Jack: bunkum

Jill: gobledigook

… and so they adjourn

What can we learn from this little dialogue? perhaps conducted over coffee in a small smokey establishment in the sixieme arondissement.

the physicist stresses the solidity and reliability of his myth. the magician relies on a notion of her personal power. the scientist too claims a puissance, but of a different kind, he claims to possess an intellectual gift to see truth

but the sociologist is claiming to supersede both with his analysis, while somehow denying that it is just as much of an objective picture with a claim to truth. his claim of the need for relativism is somewhat convincing, but he might be accused of elevating relativity to the status of an absolute truth.

the latent question to me in this is whether there is a real out there somehow beyond the lens of the model/map/myth description.

I am a westerner and so I see this real as “out there” while an easterner or the magician perhaps sees the self as “in here” and the ultimate reality.

I’m flummoxed so that’s enough for now.


Written by Luke Dunn

August 8, 2014 at 2:08 pm

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