Bulletin 4 June, 20, 1997
Q stand for quixotic. A manifesto for the human intellect
The plot. This Bull. is meant to reveal to the student the almost impossible antinomy to tame - (a) the human mind is incapable of grasping the nature of reality; (b) it is only the deepest application of scientific study that can provide any actual operational sense of reality, or it's all in the language that persons can use.
Prologue to Act one. Signor, signora, this is a play within a play. It is meant to entertain you and to teach you. This AM figure will attempt to be your guide.
Let the stream of action begin!
Act one, Scene one. On July, 23, 1972, the NY Times had a book review by the consummate journalist, Murray Kempton (just deceased), of Papers on the War, by D. Ellsberg. The review stated - quoting in part just enough to get the key thoughts across - Ellsberg's career began with "intimations of [a] young man making his way. He took orders in the service of that church of systems analysis ... [beginning] at Harvard with economic games theory ... [then] the Marines, [returning] to quasi-civilian life in 1959 to join the Rand Corporation as an economist studying the missile gap. ... It would be a while before Ellsberg joined its retinue of stewards to Vietnam ... in 1964, when he was called to the Department of Defense, his prime interest was in the chance it gave him for first-hand study of the decision-making process in government". [Fade out for a moment].
The AM figure speaks. What intimations might we, observing such a scene, draw as to its possible consequences? Can we perceive or succeed in estimating an optimal or lesser reasonable course of thought that some such fairly fortunate trained young man might learn from his experiences to come? Will it result in him becoming expert in any of the following techniques of pursuing action?
Will he become a pundit?
Will he become a deconstructionist?
Will he take on the faith of religiosity?
Will he become mathematically elegant?
Will he take on the role of a mystic?
Will he become a dialectician?
Will he become a narrow expert in deductive reasoning?
Will he become a wide ranging inductive reasoner?
Will he become a master in abductive reasoning?
Will he withdraw and become a solipsist?
We have to vote for 'none of the above'. Let the play proceed!
Act two. "He made, by all reports, a most intense and conscientious paramilitary intellectual. By 1965, he was asking to be assigned to Vietnam ... texts of three reports he dispatched home over the next two years [were] models of cool observation, and could, if attended, have done much to separate the fact of failure from the fancy of success. ... By 1967, his disillusion extended more to the techniques than the purposes of the enterprise. His ... indignation at this point arose from his conviction that the American mission in Saigon was not telling Washington the truth ... The vice was ... in 'the bureaucratic practices that poison the flow of information' ... still ... when he returned from Vietnam in 1967 'I did not have a sense that our involvement was criminal,...' His field experience ... 'made it natural ... to be urged... to participate in the McNamara task force studying the history of United States involvement in Vietnam ...' ... He took as his area of research for the Pentagon history the 1961 period in Indochina. He entered it expecting to come upon a President deceived by the lies and decisions of quick success ... His ... great discovery ... was to find a President who [did know] at every crisis that reason was on the side of pessimism ... that this was a war the President could not win and yet for which there never existed a convenient moment [politically] to lose ... [Ellsberg remembered that in Saigon he believed that] all would be well if the Czar only knew; now he understood that the Czar had known all along ... and had adjusted that knowledge to his electoral necessities ... the primary rule .. of the domestic political history of the fifties: ... Do not lose South Vietnam to Communist control ... before the next election. ... 'could it be then that none of the lying to the Presidents had mattered?' [Ellsberg, as Newman before him] had [been] brought ... to the overthrow of what he had always thought [of as] the logic of his life. ... Ellsberg had been struck at the core of his religious creed ... that systems analysis was an instrument consequential to policy decisions and that, even perverted ... it remained a force in our affairs ... and now the ghost had whispered to him that ... the flow of systems analysis ... had only been irrelevant. ... here was an insight so extraordinary as almost to have justified Ellsberg in releasing the Pentagon Papers for no purpose ... than the support it might provide for his analysis. As it was, he set forth his analysis ... veiled, in the paper, 'the Quagmire Myth and the Stalemate Machine'... before the 1971 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. ... [Perhaps, most importantly] we have overlooked Ellsberg, the analyst ... the image of the man who always goes too far - too far then in his moral allegiance to the war, too far now in his moral wrath against its authors ... But may it not be that he makes so many of us .... uncomfortable with the passion of his apostasy because we have failed to recognize the particular church he has abandoned? ...how then must Ellsberg have felt when he came upon the reports of the [CIA], the product not of systems theory but of the old fashioned observation of the real toads in the real garden, and found them not only accurate as descriptions .. as projections of what would be, and recognized at the end that the findings even of those remarkable perceptive reports had gone unattended at the White House. ... The end of ... Ellsberg's search for the decision-making process was the discovery that it was governed not by intelligence ... nor science - even one as dubious as his own - but simply by superstition and mere instinct. The confrontation of the horror of government's essential contempt for every sort of mind that tries to reason ... provides a thoroughly sufficient explanation of his course ... and ... excuse for his conduct since."
Flowing in a second vein, we might examine the poet's view, an editorial by Archibald MacLeish (Phila. Inquirer, July 25, 1972 - just days after the Ellsberg review). He begins by referring to various 'nutty' behaviors reported in the news media. He points out a fair inference that 'a reasonable explanation might be that we have lost our minds.' He continues: " ... [some might infer] possibility of mass lunacy, ... [perhaps] what is truly frightening in the age we live in is that something has gone wrong with our humanity itself ... There was a time, no longer than the beginning of this century, when it was commonly believed that there were certain things that a man, because he was a man, could be counted on not to do. ... Now this is changed. ... We hold, on the contrary [now] that men are capable of anything ... We are, we tell the world, the first generation to know, or ... say, what humanity truly is.... how does one one go about believing in humanity when the [material we produce] show us what men really are ...? One comment might be ...: that the belief in man is and always has been an act of faith, not a demonstrable proposition. ...Another [possibility] would be that human behavior responds to what is expected of it not [vice versa]. ... the most relevant remark would be a little harsher ... what [people] are really talking about is not [e.g., nasty] fact at all but fashion ... merely the latest shift in the always changing vogues of thought, ... [In America] they see half the situation. That the republic derives from a set of ideas fashionable in the 18th Century and now quite out of style. ... What they do not see is the other half: ... the present decline in the belief in man derives from intellectual fashion; from the [current] cult of the absurd ... Self-pity was as much the 'in' thing in the 1950's as the enlightenment was in the 1770's and '80's, and those who ... announce that the enlightenment ... is out of fashion ... should prepare themselves for the imminent discovery that self-pity and human abasement are fashions also and will pass. ... What is constant ... throughout the history of humankind ... is the ... miracle of the human spirit."
We are in sympathy with the poet. If we, as scientists, cannot see or catch the poet's eye or vision, then that 'miracle' of the human spirit is for naught. Scientifically, we must identify that 'miracle'. It is the ability of the human nervous system to overcome the lateral inhibition that quenches other animals' interest in any but the direct motor - sensory path of connection, and instead imposes the extensive 'abstractions' of human language (see 'On a Third Dimensional Manifold of Human Mind - A Speculation on its Embodiment', Intern. J. Psychobiol., 2, 219, 1972; 'On the Genesis of 'Is' and 'Ought' ', Amer. J. Physiol. 246, R937, 1984; 'On Understanding Language,' Compar. Civiliz. Rev., 35, 67, Winter 1997).What emerges is a correction to MacLeish's flawed assertion that "A reasonable explanation [for governance and command-control] might be that we have lost our minds." We prefer, instead, 'A reasonable explanation is that humans are not exclusively reasonable animals.'
Postlude [in the style of Tartuffe]. We, homeokinetic physicists, are not willing to nor do we find a need to forswear our allegience to mother church, the engineering physics, the academic physics, and the infinitude of experimental detail we bathe the stream of reality that confronts us place by place moment by moment, in a Bridgman instrumental sense. We know that our persistence: for 2300 years from the time of Aristotle; 750 years from the time of Thomas Aquinas; 650 years from the time of William of Ockham, 500 years from the time of Copernicus; the 300 years from the time of Newton, and our other godhead figures; we have been able to create a hierarchy of systems that tie together by our principles, that permit us to pursue their forms and processes in our minds, in our laboratories and workshops, and in the working world in which we are immersed.
When differences arise, we have to face antinomies, differences in views, until we can resolve them. What we offer here, as the best possible process we have been able to produce for complex systems, is to find a sympathetic partner who will debate with you or me the problem as its difficulty mounts.
We are not trying to create a middle school debating team in which questions are purely exercises in academic rhetoric. Rather , we want the debates to be life engrossing, on the verge of life threatening, in which a very large corpus of knowledge and information has to be winnowed, and where the resolution truly counts.
What we have presented in this Bull, having posed the usual selection of paths that commonly face the young student, is the rather slim residue of our homeokinetics of an engineering physics and academic physics, and the deep study of almost infinite - at least nondenumerable - number of facts and details in the observable instantiation or representation of the form and processes we wish to isolate within our attention and perception. We then seek 'integrative' ideas that condense the observations, however imperfectly. We proceed to form a descriptive 'logical' structure for those ideas in the form of language, symbols, words. We have offered as references a number of our papers on this technical problem of the logics of brain that lead to such human command - control. We would also offer Emil Post's multivalued logic studies, and Alan Turing's studies. This is the point - up to now - that we have reached in the past. So what is new?
(a). In approximation, the Czar - as command-controller, as governer - always 'knows'. The intellect, the intellectual, as catalyst, as manipulator of 'language' is always the guide to the perplexed, the guide for action - for the next six seconds of resolving the internal - external chemical reality. But it/he/she is a very important guide.
(b) The consequence is that the body is almost always near the point of 'failure'. Can we truly live that way? Yes, we must. It is why our behavior is almost always nearly nutty. Can we achieve any kind of stability in the stream of (our) actions?
(c). You are told, e.g., in a sense of morality, that there is a good spirit and a bad spirit within you, and that your life is a conflict between 'listening' to the two inner 'voices'. We finally make some sense of this in a homeokinetic sense.
(d). You certainly have to perform some such conflict within yourself to achieve some sort of balanced motion. This is an absolute truth, almost a tautology in self-governing systems. Regardless of what is being measured in an 'equation', it is a comparison between two sides (or more). It offers you the binary motion of back and forth, move and rest, move and rest, or if you want another depiction of the process, a Turing machine - like process of computation for the operating mechanism. But - as we point out - you have to face the great antinomies, in which either or both elections provide equal force in directing motion. What then?
(e). Our - at the moment - best homeokinetic resolution seems to be : seek out a partner in in whom you have some trust. He/ she/ it is not supposed to be your clone, but one who you believe also has some capability of exploring the path of (his / her / its) reality. And if it is to have a homeokinetic - complex system resolution, that person will also have to be competent or complementary in ability to deal with the contents and notions of the engineering science, and experimental details, and academic physics of complex systems.
(f). If the antinomies are not too complex, you ought to be able to argue out dialectically a fair position of resolution [of that perpetual question - to be or not to be ...] .At least it offers you some companionship in this otherwise complexly organized universe.
The play is finished. Ciao!
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