ESSAYS ON NOTHING AND EVERYTHING
Contributions to a Radicalist Philosophy of the Human Condition
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword by ... .
1. Of metaphysical interest ...
2. Of academic interest ...
3. Of artistic interest ...
4. Of ethical interest ...
Of Academic interest ...
1. Definition of radicalism.
2. Radicalist vat progressivist logic.
3. Radicalism in psychotheraphy.
4. Radicalism in education.
1. Definition of Radicalism
Radicalism is a philosophy that concerns itself with the essence of the origin. It stands in contrast with progressivism, which is a philosophy that concerns itself with directional accumulation. Radicalism and progressivism are radically opposite systems, that they embody contradictory sets of premises. The historical account of Western Civilization, as traditionally given in academic texts, is in a register that presuppose progressivism. Technological developments and scientific theory both presuppose progressivism in the notion of "progress" and "advancement". There is an evaluative component to progressivism as illustrated by the usual contrast between "traditionalism" (seen as anti-progressive and undesirable) and "modernism" (seen as progressive, forward looking, and desirable).
Radicalism, however, is to be distinguished from traditionalism. Historically, radicalism is associated with reactionary movements in spiritual and socio-political endeavors. This is a historical fact, not a logical necessity. In an age where radicalism is predominant ant traditional (as during the end of the Middle Ages in Europe), progressivism may develop as a new and reactionary endeavor (e.g. the Renaissance Movement in art). On the other hand, Luther's Reformation was both radical in content and reactionary in its socio-political scope. Given the current prevalent progressivism in American psychology, the present proposal is similarly both radical and reactionary.
Radicalism presupposes a centralist generic model. In its current form, as proposed here,it is generative as well. All elementary assertions in English take the following form:
X is Y
and we are assuming that other natural human languages contain an equivalent linguistic construction in their underlying structure, if not also in their surface expression.
The English predicate to be, in its surface form, has several homonymous usages with different underlying structures. In the presentation that follows, we shall use the predicate to be as an illustration of the variety of elementary assertions, only one of which is of the radicalist type. We caution the reader not to confuse radicalist assertions with the syntactic surface form of sentences. The following represent particular illustrations, not definitions.
1. Definitional assertions.
2. Categorizing assertions
3. Descriptive assertions.
4. Radicalist assertions.
5, Objectifying assertions.
6. Subjectifying assertions.
7. Vacuous assertions.
8. Nonsensical assertions.
We have presented these illustrations with the hope that the reader will gain an intuitive understanding of the classification system used here. Now we shall present a more explicit account of the intended distinctions being set up here.
Definitional assertions are evaluated by internal considerations. They are either proper or improper; the latter occurs when the internal logic of the reference system is violated or contradicted. The content of the reference system is established through authoritative pronouncement.
Categorizing assertions are evaluated by external considerations. They are either adequate in their empirical Justification or inadequate. Adequacy is adjudicated on the basis of agrees upon operational steps (e.g. that I am an American can be adequately validated by exhibiting a passport).
Descriptive assertions are evaluated through consensual corroboration. They are either corroborated, disconfirmed, or uncorroborated. Corroboration or disconfirmation require consensus on procedural matters
Radicalist assertions teal with the essence of the origin, which is to say that they concern themselves exclusively with linking opposites in a positive assertion. They are evaluated by the process of radical understanding (this is to be elaborated below). Radicalist assertions are either comprehensible or incomprehensible.
Objectifying assertions are evaluated through direct observational validation based on experimental, objective, radical observation. They are either authentic or inauthentic. Inauthentic objectifying assertions are contrary to face.
Subjectifying assertions are based on processes of inferential reasoning. They are evaluated in terms of a pre-defined system of logic or Justification. m They may be true or false.
Vacuous assertions expose redundant relationships. They are either correct or incorrect. They are evaluated through an internal analysis of the linked components, an analysis which depends on encyclopedic knowledge for its verifiability.
Nonsensical assertions produce logical contradictions and are apprehended directly in the case of elementary assertions. They are either sensible or not-sensible.
The following table summarizes the mayor relevant features of the eight assertion types.
I caution the reader, once again not to take the illustrations as defining the nature of an assertion. Instead, the defining characteristic of the 8 assertion types reported here, is given by the "characteristic evaluation" and the basis of their evaluation. For instance, the assertion taken "The president is the supreme commander", may be used in discourse as a verbal display for making a vacuous assertion, as in a newspaper editorial:
One can see that the function of the vacuous assertion, in this illustration, is to serve as a reminder of a well known fact in order to underscore the argument that the president can act now, if he only but did. Ordinary encyclopaedia knowledge would evaluate the vacuous assertion as "correct".
Now, consider another possible function for the token assertion:
One can see that the function of the token assertion, in this second illustration, is to make a categorizing assertion, and the teacher can be seen to present the operational Justification to the children as a means of accounting for classifying the President, a known person, into the category, "supreme commander". We recognize the adequacy of her Justification, within the school register.
Here is a third illustration:
One can recognize the function of the token statement, in this fantastic illustration, as a subjectifying assertion. The Martian's inferencing wee impeccable and we evaluate 0a assertion as "true".
Let us consider another token assertion. "The meek are not the meek." If the orientation of the evaluator, in assessing the nature of the assertion, is to determine by elementary logic, the sensibleness of the assertion, he would categorize it as a nonsensical assertion. If the evaluator approaches the issue with an orientation towards comprehending the assertion, just in case it may be meaningful, he might succeed by contextualizing, as in "The apparent meek are truly not the meek; beware of appearances, etc." -- and in that case, "The meek are not the meek," becomes a comprehensible radicalist assertion.
Later in this essay you will find additional elaborations of the problem of assertion types, particularly within the context of psychotherapy and teaching.
Now we shall give a few additional illustrations, some of which contain in their surface form other than to be constructions.
(1) Physiological processes mediate the probability of covert and overt responses alike. (Skinner)
This statement represents a definitional assertion. Behaviorists ordinarily accept this statement as Proper. This acceptance follows directly from a shared system of definitions for the component terms (processes, mediate, probability of response, etc.). Disagreement with the statement (i.e. evaluating it as "improper") symptomizes lack of acceptance of the definition of component terms, viz. rejecting the authoritative pronouncements attendant to the bests of the system defined as behaviorism.
(2) The self maintains a grip against its own on-going development. (Perls, Hefferline, & Goodman)
This statement is based on inferential reasoning and makes a factual claim that is either true or false. It represents a subjectifying assertion.
(3) The sentence la, preeminently, a conditioning device. (Mowrer)
This is a categorizing assertion. The operational justification supporting the categorizing claim may be Judged either adequate or inadequate.
An example of a categorizing assertion that does not contain to be in its surface form, can also be given.
(3a) Nearly all the phenomena we consider peculiarly human depend upon symbolic mechanisms. (Osgood)
(4) The force of Skinner! 6 argument lies in the enormous wealth and range of examples for which he proposes a functional analysis. (Chomsky)
This represents a descriptive assertion. It may be corroborated by consensual validation, or disconfirmed through disagreement.
(5) Speech is 80 familiar a feature of daily life that we rarely pause to define' it. (Sapir)
This statement can be broken down as follows:
(5a) Speech is a familiar feature of daily life.
(5b) As a result ("so ... that") we rarely pause to define it. It can be seen that statement (5a) represents a vacuous assertion. One would ordinarily evaluate it as correct on the basis of everyman's enclycopaedic knowledge of daily life. Statement (5b) contains two claims as follows:
(5bi) we rarely pause to define speech;
(5bii) this is a result of its being so familiar. Statement (5bi) represents a descriptive assertion. Ordinary consensual validation would corroborate it. Special consensual validation (e.g. in a radicalist enquiry such as this one) would, however, withhold corroboration, inasmuch as the descriptive assertion is cast by Sapir in the nonindexical register which is inappropriate in the specialized register: e.g. who is "we"? As a for instance, whenever come of my colleagues and myself get together, "we frequently pause to define speech."
Statement (5bii) is a subjectifying assertion arrived at through inferential reasoning. It may be true or false.
Thus, Sapir's original statement in (5) is made up of three separate assertions: One vacuous, one descriptive, and one subjectifying. Here are a few additional forms for vacuous assertions.
A much used form of vacuous assertions are metaphorizing statements:
Vacuous metaphorizing assertions are correct or incorrect in terms of the shares encyclopaedic knowledge between speaker and listener.
(6) President Nixon is the first President of the United States. A form of nonsensical assertion that needs no explanation.
(7) I don't blame myself without good reason. (in Ellis) there is a statement given by a client in a therapy session represents an objectifying assertion and is claimed to be based on radical observation. In the interview, the therapist (Dr. Ard) evaluates the client's objectifying assertion as inauthentic ant attempts to show that the client does blame himself in situations where it cannot be properly Justified. He thus tries to establish that his (the therapist s) radical observation of the client's behavior is more authentic than the client's.
(8) When a whistle is silent, it is time to hear. (Shapiro)
To whomever much is given, of him shall much be required. (Jesus)
Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. (Jesus)
We always arrive late at the (meeting & meaning) of life. (Shapiro)
We have met the enemy and they are us. (Pogo)
I will be what I shall be. (Jehova)
A fool may be a person who guards his wisdom. (unknown)
When I was a child I spoke as a child and now I am still younger. (Shapiro)
Since there is nothing from the first, where can the dust alight? (Buddhist saying)
Loosing and chopping off body ant mind, your original face is clear before you. (Zen saying)
Radicalist assertions are rendered comprehensible through radical understanding. Radical understanding is a process of the direct apprehending of elementary relationships, the essence of the origin. Its paradigm is simply elementary; it contextualizes, meaningfully links, indexicalizes X and not-X in such a way as to escape the nonindexical contradictoriness of nonsensical assertions.
2. Radicalist vs. Progressivist Logic
The radicalist position asserts that the whole is contained in the part, that complicity is derivable from elementarism. The progressivist position asserts that the whole is greater than the part, that the characteristics of compounds are not derivable from the properties of the elements. Let us inquire into the fundamental logic underlying these two contradictory assertions.
The statement that "the whole is contained in the part" (radicalist position) is a radicalist assertion, as defined above in the first section. As such it is either comprehensible or incomprehensible depending on the radical understanding of the evaluator. m e statement that "the whole is greater than the part" (progressivist position) is a vacuous assertion. It will be judged "correct" on the basis of the evaluator's shared encyclopedic knowledge (e.g. about chemical compounds). Thus, progessivist logic is both cumulative and directional - cumulative as symptomized by an expanding encyclopedia and, directional, as symptomized by "a school of thought" which may be different in a variety of respects from "another school of thought."
The radicalist position is neither cumulative nor directional. It does not necessitate the gathering ant storage of facts and opinions (as is the case of an encyclopedia), nor does it permit "schools of thought" since radical perception, observation, and understanding are direct and unmodifiable by other considerations.
The concept of "liberation" (in the spiritual awakening sense) will serve as a convenient illustration here. A progressivist perspective sees "liberation" analogously to "the goal of training." Through various instructional strategies (e.g. Yoga or Zen or Ascetic disciplines), the trainee goes through a series of exercises graded along a line of advancement. When enough progress has been made, the trainee reaches the last step (e.g. cosmic insight) and he is then so to speak "liberated." One version has it that "true liberation" la final, irrevocable, irreversible, and permanent. Another version postulates a second front for the "once liberated," and even more intricately, that "true liberation" never comes, that it is only a matter of relative standing.
A radicalist perspective sees "liberation", not as a directional goal for the future, but as something already here now. m e "liberated" refers to those who exercise their radical understanding. Those who do not exercise their radical understanding are engaging in progressivist talk which defines "liberation" as a goal and therefore see themselves as "unliberated" or "not yet liberated."
The logic of the progressivist position on 'liberation" can be shown to be non- sensical. not based on direct sense apprehension, viz. it is an ideal logic, i e. imaginary, pertaining to fantasy. This is in direct contradistinction to the logic of the radicalist position which can be shown to be sensical, based on direct apprehension of the human condition, objectifying the world materially.
The progressivist looks at himself and says "Lo, I am not yet liberated." This statement represents an inauthentic objectifying assertion. It is based on the denial of the sensical apprehension of the human condition, and substitutes for it, the hypothetical, ideal, non-sensical, imaginary notion of "liberation to come" referring to a fantasy state that has contrary to fact characteristics. This kind of discourse can be paraphrased as follows:
step 1: non-sensical denial in the form of "I am not liberated", I will be liberated", "I want to be liberated", etc.
Step 2: ideal (imaginary) description of "What will I be like when I'm liberated - that's what I have to strive for."
Step 3: disciplinary activities along or with a guru, recycled until
Step 4: the nonsensical denial is withdrawn by the trainee.
The radicalist position on "liberation" can be paraphrased as follows:
Step 1: Directly apprehending through objective radical observation of the self that it is capable of non-sensical denials and reforms them (the socializing process is seen as the agency responsible for the non-sensical denial).
Step 2: Exercising one's capacity (inborn) for radical understanding of the observations in Step 1.
Step 3: Continuing to perform the controlled folly of the nonsensical denial while watching the performance and apprehending it as such.
In academic circles, as ordinarily known, the progressivists see their task as contributing to the artistic and scientific body of encyclopedic knowledge that accumulates as public knowledge and is recorded in journalistic, literary and artistic productions. These productions are seen as individual contributions and are acknowledged for credit purposes. Scholarly achievement is measured in terms of the number of vacuous assertions derivable from an individual's productions that are adjudicated as "correct". institutional rules specify the procedure whereby an individual can put some of his vacuous assertions on the record: his definitional assertions must be "proper" to begin with, viz. in line with the current authoritative pronouncements (e.g. "I am a behaviorist", "I am a Gestalt therapist", "I am a Freudian psychoanalist", etc.). Then, his categorizing assertions must be adjudicated "adequate" (e.g. acceptance by a journal editor). If so, he may record his statements publicly, in such a way that his descriptive assertions ("his findings") can be corroborated or disconfirmed. The "impact" of his statements upon fellow specialists is gauged by the claims the individual makes in his subsequent subjectifying assertions ("significance of this research...") which, when adjudicated "true" are reposited within the accumulating body of vacuous assertions (e.g. "it is known that..."). In the current socio-political environment of organized knowledge, radicalist assertions are either excluded altogether (as in the sciences) or reinterpreted within a progressivist perspective (e.g. literary criticism of art, poetry, and religion).
Socio-political and historical support for the progressivist position is rooted in the value attached to technological improvements of man's environment, which is facilitated by the strategy of accumulating knowledge. The radicalist performs these progressivist endeavours and observes that the value placed in them is over-rated, i.e he does not engage in non-sensical denial and continues to be aware of the human condition. He sees no fundamental change in the human condition, with or without technological developments, and therefore his "striving" is merely a performance of striving. He attaches no fundamental value to the changing face of society. When he experiences suffering, he sees that the "suffering" is a performance of suffering put on for a progressivist audience (which may include himself as a social entity with identity). When he sees suffering in others, he apprehends it as stemming from inauthentic objectifying assertions. Thus, his strategy for alleviating human suffering, if he performs one, does not consist in attempting to improve the human environment through knowledge and technology, but rather in reflecting the inauthenticity of the sufferer's objectifying assertions about himself. Such strategies of reflecting form the bases of current practices in radical psychotherapy (Rogesrian, Gestaltist).
3. Radicalism in Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy, being a form of academically sanctioned human intervention process is, of course, a progressivistic conception. The raison d'etre of psychotherapy denies the radicalist position. of current wide interest are two schools of psychotherapy: those that predefine a goal for the therapy in terms of directional, value-laden personality or behavioral changes, and those that to not. The first group includes all those that take an explicit stand on the notion "adequate person"; these specifications then form the basis of "diagnosis" and "significant Improvement". Those in the second group do not set up predefined criteria for functioning adequacy. No particular goals are set up in the therapy process. m e value of the psychotherapeutic experience is seen as facilitating movement, where movement, in and of itself, is considered desirable (given that lack of movement leads 'to suffering.)
In the first group, we find the traditional psychotherapies based on the medical model, (psychoanalytic - including T.A.,and psychodynamic), as well as all the functional therapies (behavior modification, desensitization, classical sensitivity training, psychosynthesis, Adlerian,etc) In the second group, we find the transactional therapies, (but not T.A.): classical Rogesrian; Gestaltist, ant rational-emotive. In this section, I shall also discuss the possible form that a radicalist "psychotherapy" may take.
Progressivist psychotherapies, whether psychodynamic, functional, or transactional, share in common the progressivist logic of a predefined goal to be attained through cumulative practice of one kind or another, depending on the sub-variety. A radicalist psychotherapy, on the other hand, does not project into the future a goal for the individual that represents a desires change, but asserts that everything is already achieved in the here ant now, all the individual needs to to is to recognize that elementary radical fact. Radicalist psychotherapy recognizes that the individual may be seen to change over time, but coca not view the psychotherapeutic process as a contributing agent to this change. In fact, It specifically proscribes deliberate intervention in that change process.
Among the various traditional psychotherapies, the Rogesrian and Gestalt therapies are least interventionist; they place maximum emphasis on the inherent Value of change defining it as forward motion in the therapeutic process. Nevertheless, the insistence on the necessity for change, and the various techniques employed for producing ant facilitating change, represent a misplaced commitment from a radicalist point of view. Instead, it views the patterns of change, very slow at times, very fast at other times, as natural and unavoidable, and focuses, not on interfering with this natural process, but on observing it. That's all. Just observing it. If there is no change to be seen, then that's what there is to be observed. If there is rapid change and emotional restructuring, then that's what there is to be observed. And that's all. No facilitation. No helping. No deliberate legitimizing. Only observing.
Radicalist psychotherapy is, therefore, designed as a method of relating to a client in such a way as to proscribe any commitment towards a progressive change and focus exclusively on the self-observe- process. The function of the radicalist-psychotherapist is to serve as a model for the client in doing radical observation and expressing them in objectifying assertions. The function of the progressivist psychotherapist is to help the client make assertions about himself that are objectifying, categorizing, descriptive, defining, and vacuous, as well as to eliminate nonsensical assertions. Let us examine the nature of many assertions that ordinary public as well as specially informed knowledge recognizes as belonging to the psychotherapeutic register.
Let us consider a concrete example.
During an exchange, the client makes the following remark:
We want to consider the nature of the reply move that a psychotherapist may make in such a situation. We shall consider four varieties of reply moves: ignoring, supporting, evaluating, and paraphrasing.
(1) Ignoring is displayed by changing topics. Some examples:
(2) Supporting is displayed variously by expressing approval, giving reassurance, and agreeing. Some examples:
(3) Evaluating is displayed by challenging, disagreeing, requesting justification, asking for an explanation, elaboration, or clarification. We ahaI1\\ give examples for each of the eight varieties of assertions considered earlier.