Suggestions of how discussions might be framed

Tagged: , ,

  • John Ehrenfeld

    April 12, 2023 at 3:29 pm

    Here is a guess as to what led McGilchrist to his statement about feudalism. Simplifying greatly, feudalism was all about a structure of caring. The lords or nobles took care of there fiefs. There was no institution that served the common good, other than the lords and their roles were limited to defense, mostly. The concept of rights applied more or less only to the lords. Again oversimplifying, as the idea of rights grew large in the society, some institution would have been needed to define and protect those rights. The feudal structures failed to do that and were ultimately replaced by governments “representing” the people of a polity. A move in the right direction most would say, even Marx saw a form of feudalism as a step towards the complete socialist state. But, in McGilchrist’s terms, the connectedness that held feudal systems together (RH) was replaced by a more abstract set of relationships (LH). Obviously the history of social systems is much more complicated than this, but maybe this very simple story will help us to understand his comment.

    • Whit Blauvelt

      April 12, 2023 at 4:32 pm

      McGilchrist is in sympathy with popular culture, which has in the last few decades turned largely from science fiction to fantasy — fantasies are based in feudal cultures.

      Given that the LH handles commanding language, the farming family in feudal times often were left to farm on their own schedules, and holiday on the church’s, which came frequently. The basic requirement was only to turn over a portion of their crop to the lord of the land each harvest. Compare the modern, factory- and military-based cultures, where most workers are having to constantly fit work behaviors to what management requests of them. In European feudal cultures the military matters were largely reserved for the lords and their squires, and hired mercenaries, rather than on a general draft. So the typical feudal farmer didn’t need to internalize the “boss” as super-ego. The modern worker is trained through our school systems to be unimaginative, and fit their actions to the words of the boss — as well as other expert opinion when outside of work, as the ideal. It would have been easier to live in and from the RH while tending the fields, while the boss was away at the Crusades.

      That said, McGilchrist also cites research claiming that people are happier today in societies with more unequal distribution of income, which cuts totally against abundant other research on why Scandinavian cultures, with far greater economic equality as well as more leisure time than American or British, are by many measures happier and healthier. So we might wonder if social democracies can, and in some instances are, tilted back towards RH awareness. Additionally, the super-egoic boss is monovocal. Our current political factions, which McGilchrist so deservedly disapproves of, are decidedly monovocal. Democracy, when functioning well in either society or within us as individuals, is polyvocal. When we’re monovocal, the LH necessarily controls as it maintains the monolog. If we appreciate a Shakespeare-style polyvocality both within and without, does that not require we settle back into the RH POV to achieve that?

  • Charles Rykken

    April 13, 2023 at 12:31 am

    My main concern is with the question of power that maintains structure. The weakness of democracy is the belief in one person, one vote. When I was a teenager I bought into the idea that if most of the people intelligent enough to wield the levers of communication in a competent manner would do so in the direction of the general welfare. However, I had the counter idea that intelligence was NOT the critical factor but instead greed and lust for power were the primary motivators. The press was supposed to be the source of information in the marketplace of ideas but I wasn’t so stupid as to actually believe that line. I knew in grade school that the governments of Europe at the time of Columbus had been basically gangster operations. The American Revolution was intended to put a stop to that dynamic. Initially, only white male property owners were given suffrage. The “founding fathers” understood that the right to vote should not be granted willy nilly. I believed as mentioned above that those who were way too simple minded to meaningfully participate in the marketplace of ideas would have opinions that were randomly(Ein Rand dumbly?) spread so that their sum at the voting booth would cancel out and the “signal” from the “wiser voices” would prevail. That view held sway in my mind for about one or two years while in high school (1965 to 1966). But my studies of the human condition continued and the gangster hypothesis took stronger hold and has been the dominant theme ever since. Greed and power lust has been a powerful undercurrent in human affairs for more than 5000 years. It is a lot like an addiction. In the 1980s The U. S. and the U. K. chose Reagan and Thatcher as their leaders and the greed is good meme rose to prominence once again with the imprimatur of the head of government. When I was in my senior year of high school(1966) I read Goethe’s idea that science should be based on the study of relationships. It was immediately obvious to me that he was correct. His analysis that the reductionist approach of objects and properties where infinite regression was rejected and the nihilism inherent in that view reigned supreme among the intellectuals too stupid to understand they were participating in the death of humanity. Goethe’s meme of a bargain with the devil(Mephistopheles in Faust) was entirely apt. Academics lined up to follow people like B. F. Skinner and the existentialists who embraced nihilism and now we have the social pestilence of postmodernism. But with Maggot Thatcher and Wrong old Raygun the dark side of humanity could surface shamelessly and old Christian wisdom about the love of money being the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10) was dismissed. Reagan declared during an interview when asked by Larry King “What is the purpose of life” Reagan answered without hesitation “The purpose of life is to get rich.” Larry King’s jaw dropped and his eyes bugged out and after a few seconds needed to regain composure replied something to the effect “Oh surely, Mr. President, you don’t really mean that” to which Reagan replied without any hesitation “yes I did”. Yes, God really is dead and the nihilists are well on their way to marching humanity to the fiery end in a global mass murder-suicide. For me, the question is first how to change that direction and install a system that is sustainable. High flying abstract rhetoric won’t cut it. Dr. McGilchrist or his assigned helpers who choose which questions are asked during his live Q&As have consistently passed over my questions about how the Zen Buddhists were ardent supporters of the Japanese militarist government prior to and during WWII. Here are two references that discuss this

    Also the early history of Christianity exposes the same dynamic of left brain power hungry people vs the RH folks. This book is very short and hyper-excellent(imho) and I can’t recommend it too highly.

    This is one of the places where I part company with Dr. McGilchrist, he extols the Catholic Church, I see it as an abomination on Western Civilization. I see his simultaneous embrace of the Catholic Church and Zen Buddhism as highly suspicious. I do see the need for a structure of government where only those who are genuinely competent in the TMAE sense to make decisions in some area of governance are allowed to make those decisions. That could be described as feudal like and that is what I hope Dr. McGilchrist meant by his comment. The problem is how to get there and stay there(sustainability).

    • Whit Blauvelt

      April 13, 2023 at 3:49 am

      Agree that The Gnostic Gospels is great. It’s been a few decades since I read it; it was a great pleasure to discover it back when.

      To some high degree, as the Ohio Players sang, “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.” Values have always been obviously real for me, along with incomprehension of how so many are taken in by ways of turning away from them, and explaining them away. If we grant that they are, then there’s the question of how to have social leadership which embodies them. There are examples from the edges of history of greatly differently constituted societies. The Dawn of Everything is a good recent book on that vast variation.

      I’m in New England for the last 20 years, in Vermont, where people are on average more kind, more honest, more tuned to nature and beauty than across much of America. Vermont is also the least religious state in the nation, in terms of subscribing to congregations. Yet it’s a culture descended from Puritanism. McGilchrist condemns Puritans, after praising pragmatism as well as Milton (and I do love Milton). But Milton was the chief propagandist for Cromwell’s Puritan government; and the New England pragmatists had prominent among them Emerson, who was from a long line of Puritan preachers, not so divergent from them. Do these paradoxes flag a closeness to truth?

      Those who want Trump as king I suspect want a sort of feudalism. So do some of the billionaires who are funding right-wing groups in America seeking to end democracy here, or hollow it out, so that those same billionaires can become true feudal lords — if they aren’t virtually so already.

      Seeing as I 98% agree with McGilchrist’s lines of thought, it’s perhaps too easy to go to the spots of disagreement. I see the Enlightenment in, well, a more positive light — any many of those he so well quotes as being in various branches of it. Does form of government matter most, or is the primary challenge some new turn of enlightenment, a retuning of the hemispheres? If we can find more ways to enlighten people in the rediscovery, and reintegration of values, will our civilization(s) find new, better paths and forms?

  • Charles Rykken

    April 13, 2023 at 1:16 am

    Just a very small addendum that I just discovered where an attempt is made to rescue the reputation of D. T. Suzuki that Brian Victoria trashed.

    I haven’t had a chance to read these two articles carefully(they are connected) but if there are credible opposing views I try to include them.

    • Whit Blauvelt

      April 13, 2023 at 5:07 pm

      Just read the Tricycle article. Thanks. D.T. Suzuki’s translation of the Diamond Sutra deeply impressed me as a teen. The tie between Zen and the samuri goes back centuries — they were always its chief sponsors in Japan. An argument in favor of this tie is the claim that Japan under the Shogunate (samuri rule rather than imperial) was a long period of relative peace. It was under the imperial restoration that Japan became so dangerously imperialist, with the cult of the emperor. Meanwhile for the broader Japanese population, the more attractive Buddhism was always the Pure Land variant, not Zen.

      I’m named after an uncle shot down by the Japanese over Taiwan. His father had been partner to a Japanese expatriate in New York. They were on a business trip in Tokyo for the ’22 earthquake. My dad was in Japan after the surrender, with the Navy. On the other side of my family, a cousin now maintains our national bonzai collection in DC. I was fortunate to attend a series of Maezumi Roshi’s lectures on Dogen Zenji back in the ’70s, which were wonderful.

      In the context of neo-feudalism, we might discuss whether we’re best with different varieties of RH-restoring spiritual practices, an equivalent of Zen for the elite, and Pure Land for the masses.

      • Charles Rykken

        April 27, 2023 at 3:52 am

        I see the framing of Zen for the “elite” as problematic. Here is a book I highly recommend written by Hakunin one of the foremost exponents of Rinzai Zen. The first chapter about false teachings is especially illuminating. There is no such thing as hierarchy in Buddhism but many have a thirst to obey authority and many who occupy authority are not shy about using the most extreme forms of violence against any who challenge their authority.

  • Lucy Fleetwood

    April 17, 2023 at 1:54 pm

    Hi Whit,

    I’ve just been reading this fascinating dialogue. I wondered about your last comment, are you thinking in terms of a prescribed spiritual pathway for people?

    • Whit Blauvelt

      April 18, 2023 at 4:32 pm

      Hi Lucy,

      In the recent online session where McGilchrist spoke with the woman who leads workshops based on Mark Johnson’s Moral Imagination (one of my favorite writers, too), McGilchrist voiced discomfort with the term “spiritual,” while he’s more comfortable with “God.” For me, it’s the reverse. When you ask about a “prescribed” path, well, yes and no. If the hemispheric hypothesis is right, we need more paths, accessible from wherever people are, by which we all can find at least balance, or even to lean to the RH as McGilchrist advises.

      There are the paths we take, and the spirits with which we undertake them. These paths often branch, or converge, or cross. The spirits — both the better and the worse of them — are quite varied too. The notion of reducing all the spirits to one “Great Spirit,” or all the paths to one “True Path,” is that a LH idea? Recognizing that there are spirits and paths of great value, and finding the paths which access those spirits, and the spirits which enable us to walk those paths … that’s what I’m after.

      Working this out in some detail in terms of the “path” and “spirit” metaphors (or schemas, if we’re going to work this out in a Mark Johnson-style way) may be of general use in this. Doing so may constitute one path in — not the only one. This way in quickly gets to levels of abstraction many people aren’t comfortable with. Zen, too, works at high levels of metaphoric abstraction, thus perhaps the greater comfort with the more literal Pure Land Buddhism in the larger Japanese population.

  • Charles Rykken

    April 18, 2023 at 6:45 pm

    There is at least one idea that came from Karl Marx that I agree with. That is the statement that religion is the opiate of the masses. Let me clarify. There are a group of psychologists who work in an area called terror management theory. It is based on the book “The Denial of Death” by Ernest Becker. The denial is what I mean by opiate. Pure land Buddhism is an example of opiate based religion. There are two character flaws that are very widespread, namely cowardice and laziness. The masses want to live a simple life where they can pursue what Buddhists call the eight mundane concerns

    “These eight worldly concerns are: gain and loss, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, and fame and disgrace.

    These are the concerns that pervade most people’s daily lives. They are pervasive precisely because they are mistaken for effective means to attain happiness and to avoid suffering. “

    Doing abstract philosophy is appealing to only a very small minority of people and those who can do that competently are probably less than 1 in 1000. China and India have had their own versions of philosophy that are clearly holistic but if you look into the history of Hinduism or Buddhism, neither have been able to stop the gangster class from ruling their countries. Democracy began in the United States as an open confrontation with gangster government but with the robber barons and the McKinley administration the U. S. government has been wholly owned and operated by the gangster class. The 2014 article by Gilens and Page at Princeton University

    showed very well that the U. S. is a de facto fascist oligarchy.

    Recently, I discovered that the cost of sequencing a full genome has come down in cost to $100 to $300 and that very large gwas studies are popping up like mushrooms. Because it is screamingly obvious that people are different, the question for me is how much comes from heritable traits and how much comes from the environment. Epigenetics make this question extremely complicated but that doesn’t mean people should give up. My impression is that like most social scientists, Dr. McGilchrist comes down on the side that heritable traits are of no consequence. My impression may be mistaken. there is a very interesting article in pnas this year

    Multilevel cultural evolution: From new theory to practical applications

    My desire is to find where these two lines of research, the evolution of social structure and the evolution of heritable traits overlap.

  • Charles Rykken

    April 18, 2023 at 8:29 pm

    One more small thing that I wrote someone in an email a few years ago about journalism. I see myself as a philosophical journalist.

    “it seems to me that a deep sense of intuition would be of great importance in finding important stories hidden beneath a jumble of disinformation or near total lack of information. That same deep intuition could, with not that great an effort be expanded in time to make likely predictions not a major leap. At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union the CIA , well known for its relationship to truth telling, said no one saw it coming. This wiki article says differently.

    I did not see any prominent journalists on the list of early predictors of that collapse. One of the reasons I am interested in this is because I have been told I have the personality of a journalist and I predicted the collapse of not only the Soviet Union but all communist states within about twenty years. I made that prediction in 1967 when I was nineteen years old. It was my primary argument against George Kennan’s policy of containment (the domino theory being associated with the idea of containment). At the time no communist state had collapsed. My reasoning was that the ideas of human engineering and the blank slate were pure bullshit and that the resulting internal corruption that would result from refusing to accept that basic reality would eventually make communist governments unable to function. The black market economy would become a de facto shadow government that would make collapse inevitable. Andrei Amalrik published his prediction in 1970 choosing 1984 as the year of collapse. My prediction was 1987.”

    This is not a coincidence. I predicted in 1994 that the Republicans would choose a total lunatic for president in about twenty years. Here is what I said about that in the same email.

    “Another example is of people who predicted that the Republican Party would choose a clear lunatic as their nominee for president. Dan Greaney of “The Simpsons” predicted a Trump presidency in 2000 In 1994, the House of Representatives chose Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey as the public face of the Republican Party in the U. S. House. I had seen an increasing number of lunatics rise to positions of high power in Republican administrations. James Watt, the Interior Secretary under Reagan, is a case in point of a total looney toons holding a cabinet level office.

    I saw the progressively greater presence of lunatics in the Republican Party as very dark news for the U. S. When Gingrich and Armey were elected by a majority of Republicans in the people’s house it was clear as day to me that within twenty or so years, any Republicans who had a shred of sanity would be thrown out of the party. The lunatics had taken over the asylum and they would eventually choose one of their own as the standard bearer. Do you know of anyone in the ranks of journalism who reacted to the election of Gingrich and Armey with a prediction of a lunatic Republican President? I can already hear the purview argument in reply. When a building uses shoddy materials and design in constructing a building, that is often seen as a newsworthy piece of information. Why isn’t the construction of a lunatic ideology with the potentially disastrous consequences for the entire planet even more newsworthy?”

    My intuition has been a steady and reliable guide. Unfortunately, it tells me very unpleasant truths.

    • zachary baker

      April 27, 2023 at 11:36 am

      Thanks for your very interesting personal history of prediction through intuition. To what extent do you feel that this “power” (small p) is a form of pattern recognition undertaken subconsciously, perhaps even simultaneously with the rise of the question, in the RH? I find I have made my most obviously successful predictions in the least effortful way, as if the first occurrence of an idea is the trustworthy one. Oddly this seems to be true across utterly diverse areas in my life. For example, as a musician, very often the best drum part for new composition turns out to be an extrapolation of what i played in the very first approach to an idea, often the very first time it arose, with no effort at all, just a kind of nonchalant acceptance of what i was playing, more as if the music was expressing me, emerging through me. This may be explained by the idea of a shared flow state consciousness but it always comes as a kind of magical state of grace, and has it’s own socio-spiritual context. Often the process that follows is much less effortless and over months and years as relationships stabilise the state of grace becomes rarer. Nonetheless, there have been many repetitions over my nearly 40 years of improvising composition with other musicians and I remain hopefully in anticipation of the next moment.

      Alternatively, at the very beginning of a football (soccer) tournament a few years ago, as someone who is a level 1 of 10 expert – i really don’t follow much sport at all – i was convinced that the final would be between Italy and England and that it would be very closely fought, there would be foul play from Italy and England would eventually succumb. If only I’d put money on it as this is precisely what happened 2 weeks later. I suppose the point I am trying to make is that I had no business making such a prediction, i hardly even new the names of the players, but I was naiively sure of the way things would pan out and i think there must have been unconscious RH pattern recognition stuff going that for once was not forced to show it’s work and so came out pure and clear.

      • Charles Rykken

        May 19, 2023 at 12:58 am

        Sorry about the delay in my reply. I have been up in Maine helping my older brother out of an existential crisis I can’t go into detail on a public forum as I may lay myself open to a slander lawsuit but I can say my brother nearly died during the whole mess. My younger brother and I (along with one of my younger brother’s sons) spent some time helping him get matters straightened out.

        But getting to your point. The way it works for me is best analogized by a lifting fog. In the early stages I can only see myself clearly but as the fog lifts the sunlight picks out the more reflective parts of the scene, but there comes a point where it all snaps into place even though the fog still covers up most of the scene. This is a common occurrence while learning a new subject. In real life where there is no script, it comes suddenly like bolt out of the blue. An example is when I was nine years old and was studying world history. When I looked at Cortez and Pizarro I saw in a flash that the government of Ferdinand and Isabella was nothing more than a gangster operation. A year later at age ten, I saw that violence was stupid and only proved who was stronger, it created hatred and a desire for revenge. Violence begets violence. With nuclear weapons proliferating across the globe, I had another epiphany. I took a sacred vow to non-violence. That was in 1958. These major epiphanies have been few but when they come it is like a thunderclap when a crack in the clouds opens up to let the light shine in.

  • Charles Rykken

    April 19, 2023 at 1:05 am

    I can see I am posting too much but there is one last thing for today. I just finished watching a YouTube video for the second time and have decided that I do not need to support nor hold back mentioning it. I will let it speak for itself. The fact that Heidegger went to his grave with no apology nor explanation about his relationship with the Nazis was always troubling for me. My relationship with Buddhism has been going through a chill period as well. I sense a gross lack of honesty in both Heidegger and the Buddhists. I even am beginning to wonder if Dr. McGilchrist himself is a crypto-nazi. I have repeatedly attempted to get him to talk about Brian Victoria and the response has been zilch. This video is a full frontal attack on the character of Heidegger and if they are correct in what they say it is a well deserved attack. The reason I despise armchair philosophers so much is their willful ignorance of science. This cockamamy idea that philosophy is about pure thought is such an obvious crock of shit, I am amazed anyone takes that claim seriously. The manner in how a sense of self develops is intertwined with the subjective and objective(measurable). Again, screamingly obvious. To think you can jettison the objective and carry on with the subjective alone is laughably stupid, in my personal estimation. Family and friends as well as the larger culture as well as the physical substrate or stage on which the drama of life unfolds are so complexly intertwined that to ignore any of those contributions is just stupid. There is a basic question of whether holism or reductionism should be preferred as the proper framing of epistemological questions is something that one can decide on in the early stages. I made a commitment to holism when I was 18. I understood systems of ordinary differential equations and the use of the Laplace transform in solving the equations derived from the two rules of Kirchoff in solving for RLC electrical circuits, or more generally linear circuits. I wrote the overhead transparencies that the senior physics teacher used in his high school physics classes as well as helping him grade the homework. He trusted me implicitly to be able to do that job as well as he could. I understood very well what it was I was rejecting(mechanistic materialism). But beyond that, the question of what is reality and does a self exist etc, hoary chestnuts of philosophy going back millennia, I still don’t have an answer that I feel comfortable with. But I still reject mechanistic materialism and reductionism. Here is the url for the documentary on Heidegger

    “Only a God Can Save Us” | Martin Heidegger & Nazism | A Film by Jeffrey Van Davis

    • zachary baker

      April 27, 2023 at 2:00 pm

      <div>apologies for my totally irrelevant reply to comment in this discussion
      feed. I am new to the channel and also online discussion. Having been
      reading McGilchrist since against criticism in around 2001, i was
      surprised at you suspicion of his potential crypto Nazism. Also, and
      surely this is the same q, his extolling of the catholic church and zen
      Buddhism being a source of suspicion. On the one hand, as a seeker for
      answers to the big questions like yourself, and coming from a long
      standing commitment to holistic thought as opposed to reductive, sharing
      your wholehearted rejection of mechanical materialism, such an
      endorsement of organised religious enterprises that are little short of
      balls out cultural colonisers, i too find hard to swallow. Context
      though, suggests that this extolling is is partial, the endorsement
      being of the ritual, spiritual, archetypal, unmeasurable qualities of
      experience that can be championed through these belief systems as
      opposed to an apology for any of their associated with Nazism or
      Japanese militarism. Imo, he sometimes gestures in one direction in
      order to make aparticular point emerge and stick while consciously
      ignoring other implications that could arise should the gesture be taken
      as a declaration rather than the modelling of a position within the
      context of, for example, which aspects of human experience do we need to
      recover following such a protracted period of LH predominance in our


      • Whit Blauvelt

        April 27, 2023 at 4:36 pm

        Many nutritious foods require careful preparation to remove toxins from them prior to safe consumption. Even so, the same food which can provide health to the good person, also can grant strength to the bad. Philosophy is food. Religion is also a feast.

        A plant which is a boon in one ecosystem is a dangerous invader in another. The Puritan Christianity of New England, where I live, has matured into the Unitarianism and Congregationalism of today — both comprised largely of sane, loving, liberal congregations with nuanced views of the world. Meanwhile elsewhere in American the White Christians are an active fascist threat, out to replace democracy with theocratic feudalism. The difference there is that the latter group comprises literalist believers in LH rules to apply to all decisions in life.

        A core population of our would-be theocrats is Scots-Irish, originally from the Scottish lowlands and northern England, by way of Ulster. They’ve become White Baptists here. (I’ve lived among them in the North Carolina mountains, and they’re quite friendly if you’re White and hold back your opinions.) At the same time, the Black Baptist congregations are a bulwark against fascism in America. It’s not the faith and doctrine, as such, which is good or evil. It’s how it’s applied.

      • Charles Rykken

        May 19, 2023 at 7:54 am

        I have been away since a few days ago. I am really emotionally exhausted by what I have been through for the last month or so but I will try to be coherent. It is standard in debate to be able to take both sides of a question. This is something that Dr. McGilchrist extols frequently. So far I not heard one peep from him regarding an in depth criticism of the Catholic Church nor the actions by Zen Buddhists in Japan during WWII. There are many other examples of Buddhism gone bad just as there are many examples when the Catholic Church and for that matter virtually all “schools” of Christianity. I would like to hear from him making those points. So far, he seems to be a coward to me. He has ample criticism of protestants (much of which I share) but no such critique of the Catholic Church(it stinks of hypocrisy). I would like to see him in a discussion with Elaine Pagels, Brian Victoria and Chris Hedges. Fat chance of that happening.

      • Charles Rykken

        May 27, 2023 at 1:33 am

        I share a view with William James and Friedrich Nietzsche that a person’s character will draw them to a philosophy/weltanschauung that is resonant with their character. Self justification runs deep in the human psyche. This is NOT to say that the philosophy they are drawn can only be attractive to people of a certain restricted character. Any particular philosophy islike a work of art. How the artist understands her work and how the people who view her art are two separate subjects. However, there is recent research that suggests that humans “character flock”(humans of a character flock together)

        so there may well be a philosophy/weltanschauung flocking as well. This is a hypothesis that I am pursuing. I am particularly interested in the split within holism over monism vs pluralism. William James was an advocate of pluralism and I am seeing that split as the most important. Here is a link to his lectures on this topic

        • Whit Blauvelt

          May 27, 2023 at 2:59 pm

          Thanks for the pointer to James’ pluralistic monism. I hadn’t read him on that distinction. It’s a nice one. Having only glanced at the text, I wonder if it naturally extends to a sort of polytheism, more so than monotheism. If we can only ever have partial views of the whole (something Fichte, by the way, claimed of our view of our self), then reifying one of those partial views as “the” God is to make a thing of It/Her/Him, and deny the truths in all the other partial, aspectual views.

          • Charles Rykken

            May 28, 2023 at 12:00 am

            I have just very recently discovered a book by Anne Harrington which was published in 1996 while she was on the faculty of Harvard as a historian of science.


            I purchased a copy at their 50% off sale at PUP. I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of this book. It goes into issues that might be counterintuitive for most people. I have struggled for many years how to reconcile material science with various forms of consciousness being the ground of all being as well as why people like Martin Heidegger is a full blown Nazi and the Zen priests in Japan were murderous whores for the militarist government of Japan up to and including all of WWII. My fervent hope is that Anne Harrington’s book will help me understand this strange situation. I personally believe that gangster government began about 7 to 8 thousand years ago. The beginning of agriculture is commonly estimated to have begun about 10 to 12 thousand years ago. A need to protect their crops from people who had chosen to remain hunter-gatherers would raid the farms in times of need. Over time the agriculture based communities developed a caste of professional warriors to protect their farms. I believe that this phase was very short as the best warriors were likely to be psychopaths and having the power to take over the government and institute authoritarian rule is just what psychopaths love to do. Thousands of years of rule by gangsters ensued. More recently, a Canadian social psychologist wrote a book about authoritarian personalities, His website is


            and his book is available as a free download at

            Options for getting the Book

            The question about polytheism and pluralism is interesting. William James was visited by Sigmund Freud and his young apprentice, Carl G. Jung. James was much more interested in Jung than Freud. Jung eventually developed his ideas about archetypes, he thought it was his most important contribution to analytical psychology. Hinduism is essentially pluralistic but it is also panentheistic. Atman = Brahman and Brahman is beyond all duality. The lesser gods are very similar to the archetypes. Bottom line, I do not know if many people have made that connection. I did a Google Scholar search on the two search terms below and the number of hits was low but interesting. I intend to look into it myself but you might like to take a look yourself.

            polytheism + archetypes + jung + pluralism (2,060 hits)

            hinduism + polytheism + archetypes + jung (2,370 hits)

            • Whit Blauvelt

              May 28, 2023 at 4:56 pm

              Charles, Have you read The Dawn of Everything, by Graeber & Wengrow? Their claim — with abundant evidence — is that there have been many more forms of human societies than in any of our “just so” stories. Your gangster hypothesis strikes me as one of those “just so” stories.

              Any broad-brush account oversimplifies. Trump learned much of his approach from Roy Cohn, attorney to Mafia bosses Fat Tony Salerno, Carmine Galante, and John Gotti as well as to Senator Joseph McCarthy. The GOP wants to gut IRS enforcement of tax laws, remembering how they were used to bring down Al Capone. So yes, we have gangsters in American politics.

              But we’ve also got people in high places who aren’t. I knew Van Galbraith, Reagan’s ambassador to France — not a gangster. My wife has known Jill Biden for years — not a gangster, and I’m pretty sure Joe’s not. (My wife would recognize a gangster; her grandfather was acquainted with a few as a longshoreman’s union official.) The notion that it’s all gangsters is promoted by gangsters, who would have the population believe there is no one better than them. There are lots of us better than them. While the Confederate states are still largely run by gangsters, New England decidedly is not, despite Mafia presence in Boston and Providence. Here in Vermont nearly all the political leaders at every level and party are honest, good people. Abe Lincoln was not a gangster, nor was FDR. Truman had been, but got over it. JFK’s dad had been, but the sons were straight. Obama’s clean.

              As for whether Zen priests could have in any way put the brakes on Japan’s imperial goals … how? The emperor was largely Shinto-aligned, and the population’s Buddhism more Pure Land. Have I mentioned I’m named for an uncle killed by the Japanese? No culture, nor person, has ever been purely virtuous. Yet virtue is real. To claim it’s not because it’s never displayed in pure form is to falsely renounce it.

            • Charles Rykken

              May 30, 2023 at 2:14 am

              Thank you very much for pointing out this book!!! I just ordered a copy of the hardcover edition which should arrive before the end of June. As a philosophical journalist, I am not a scholar of early history. I have read quite a lot and at the time all of what I read said that the early forms of government were little more than gangster (hierarchical and warlike) operations. Before I respond to what you said, I will read the book mentioned. My wife graduated from National Taiwan University(Tai da) with a degree in Chinese history. We have had numerous discussions and she agrees that Confucianism was grossly sexist and demeaning of women as was Buddhism. It was collectivist and the emperor’s palace was rife with power politics with murder a commonplace. This is what such power organizations look like, whether they are Asian or European. It seems amazing that I would miss so much of what is claimed in Graeber’s and Wengrows’ book but from the wiki article it appears that the examples come from the pre-Columbian Americas. I am expecting to find that the egalitarian societies were wiped out by the gangster cultures. BTW, I use the expression “gangster culture” to refer to patriarchal, extremely warlike, hierarchical cultures where any challenge to the capo de capos (the big dick, the big dude with a tude, etc) was a recipe for instant death. It was intended to be a metaphor. I would be inordinately pleased if you would read the Anne Harrington book “Reenchanted Science” and we could discuss the relationship between religio-philosophical beliefs and the character of the culture that embraces those beliefs and MOST importantly whether the culture was or was not preliterate.. I believe that the invention of writing is crucial in understanding how this issue manifests in a culture. Preliterate cultures are obviously different from cultures with a written mythology. I still stand by my characterization of Western cultures with a written mythology. In preliterate cultures the relationships between the political, shamanic, and story telling communities was much more fluid where the idea of written law did not exist. There was NO issue with the spirit and the letter of the law.

            • Charles Rykken

              May 31, 2023 at 9:46 pm

              I realized that you are taking what I said in a personal way. First, a government can be a gangster government where not everyone is a gangster (in the metaphoric sense detailed in my other response to this posting). BTW my copy of Graeber and Wengrow is supposed to arrive by June 21! A very important paper published by Gilens and Page in 2014 from Princeton University Press


              is instructive. Dictators, oligarchs, plutocrats, gangsters etc are just words to point to the same mindset. This is the idea of might makes right. The golden rule is he who has the most gold rules. Joseph Conrad, a scion of a wealthy polish aristocratic family called capitalism “piracy with good PR”. The gangster class has been savvy to the idea of mind fucking the plebeians. This is where noblesse oblige, the old fashioned version of treacle dong economics, comes from. There is a huge amount of scholarship on this aspect of history. Most people are clueless about what the gangster class is doing right under their ignorant noses. They have had thousands of years fucking the heads of the lower classes. The divine right of kings is another example of mind fuck. Thomas Jefferson and most of the founders of American democracy were VERY WELL AWARE of what I am saying. Benjamin Franklin is famous for this interchange where his reply was “A republic, if you can keep it”


              Too many Americans have been so indoctrinated by the fascist gangster class over the last 120+ years that few can see through all the bullshit. I am not going to bore you with the very many well written books and articles that show what has been happening beginning when the robber barons(gangsters) decided it was easier to buy the U. S. government than to fight it in court. Edward L. Bernays published a little book titled “Propaganda”


              that put mind fucking on an entirely new level. The advertising industry has made it into a science with neuromarketing


              I am sorry if you see what I say as a personal attack on your family or personal acquaintances. I go by hard data and couldn’t give a fuck who I insult in the process. If that turns out to be someone you know personally, just know that my barbs are aimed at behavior that is subtle and deliberately so. Monsters from hell don’t want to scream out loud to the public that they are fascist filth. As far as Joe Biden goes his debt ceiling compromise included a two year holiday from IRS audits for his fascist filth puppet masters. I despise Joe Biden.

            • Whit Blauvelt

              May 31, 2023 at 10:25 pm


              It’s not that I don’t get your metaphor. Nor do I doubt there are gangsters in the world, in your broad sense. Nor do I dismiss the seriousness of their challenge to civilization. My difference from you is in seeing some regions of the Earth, and of our societies, as civilized beyond such bullying regimes. Your very use of profanity here, however, is bullying. That’s okay. I’ve seen worse.

              As The Dawn of Everything documents, there have been both egalitarian and authoritarian societies since … well, the dawn of human societies. Each also often defines itself as not being the other. What are virtues in the one’s view of the world are vices in the other’s. There have also been better and worse versions of each — by any definition of virtue.

              Being of egalitarian leanings myself, I have to observe that there are a lot of us around. As I’ve many ancestors who fought in the American Revolution, at least one great grandfather who fought in the Civil War (for the North), and a father and his brothers who fought in WWII … and all of my extant relatives aside from my conspiracy-laden kid brother being both good and egalitarian, I reject your claim that every bit of human society is corrupted by gangsterism. Not even every part of the Republican Party is. Van Galbraith wasn’t. When I worked for the Washington State Secretary of State, who was Republican, he wasn’t. I’ve met each of Vermont’s recent senators several times for discussion. Definitely not gangsterish.

              It’s not that I’m taking this personally. It’s that I have personal experience of the world that provides evidence that your thesis of total gangster domination (in your metaphoric sense) doesn’t entirely hold up. Sadly, there are many places where it’s true. But not everywhere. And it’s the gangsters who would have us believe it’s simply true everywhere, so that we see no hope and surrender to their dominance. In painting a picture of the world as you do, you risk serving their interest even as you are motivated to oppose it.

          • Whit Blauvelt

            May 31, 2023 at 11:14 pm

            Now several chapters into James’ A Pluralistic Universe. Amazon has it in paperback for $5, from a publisher in Britain but printed in the US. The pages could use better margins; otherwise it’s a great bargain, easier reading than the online scan of the original. James is excellent on how the limitations of language, especially in the definition of terms, have led to some terrible mistakes in philosophy. He’s also, as always, brilliant in demonstrating how to nonetheless use language clearly. And he does so in presenting a truly radical thesis, beyond both dualism and pantheism, while clear on the limitations of materialism — which his thesis is decidedly not.

            Now, as to how James’s view might help us achieve a less brutal society … Charles have you suggestions?

      • Charles Rykken

        May 28, 2023 at 12:03 am

        I just realized that some of what I was sending to you actually went to Whit Blauvelt. Rather than repeat what I said, I suggest you check out those postings.

  • Charles Rykken

    June 1, 2023 at 1:55 am

    I just ran across a 1987 interview of Hubert Dreyfus who exposes (unknowingly) Heidegger as a totally spineless worm of a coward.

    Husserl, Heidegger & Existentialism – Hubert Dreyfus & Bryan Magee (1987)

    At 23:27 question of zombie groups but go to 22:30 to see the lead in

    at 28:00 to see how Heidegger exposes his coward’s ass with ANXIETY!!!!!

    Existential Angst???? Give me a FUCKING BREAK!!! Heidegger is a

    cowardly hyper-asshole who has constructed an entire philosophy to cover up

    that basic fact!!!!!!!!!

    • Whit Blauvelt

      June 1, 2023 at 6:41 pm

      Charles, Heidegger was at least, per his students including Hannah Arendt, a good teacher, with some core ideas they were able to develop further, without becoming nazis thereby. His inseparability of subject and object, in regarding the self, is straight from Fichte. “Dasein” as the term for that is perhaps better than Fichte’s “X”. That said, I’ve never been motivated to read Heidegger.

      Intelligent people can be seduced by fascism. There are several current American billionaires who clearly have been. We might want to look at the psychopathology there, perhaps furthered by an analysis of how Heidegger took such an evil path. But I doubt our modern American fascists are Heideggerian. Their influence is more from Austrian economics, if you look at what they read and recommend when they aren’t just engaging in flame wars to try to prove that they’re “men”.

      • Charles Rykken

        June 3, 2023 at 9:09 am

        I believe I am drawing very plausible inferences, not engaging in flame wars. There is solid research (which I can easily quote) that says that one of the solid early childhood indicators that someone will become a political conservative as an adult is being very fearful as a child. Look at Ian’s presentation at the AI convention

        and you tell me he doesn’t look like he is about to shit his pants in fear. After calling artificial intelligence artificial stupidity he did have reason to think someone might pop out of the audience and clean his clock. Another early childhood indicator of adult political orientation, this time liberal, is being a leader in grade school. Note, it MUST be in grade school, the later years do not correlate with later political orientation. The boy second to right is(was, he died last month) Howard Ives. He and I put on the first drag queen parade in Tioga, ND in 1955 when I was seven. We both dressed up in his mothers dresses and shoes etc(it was Howard’s idea but I thought, what the hey, why not). He later came out as a flaming gay while in high school. Yay, Howard!!!! The photo below is of my eighth birthday party. I am second from the left. The boy seated to my left is Larry Sandberg. He was a Sioux Indian and his father was the high school janitor. To my right is Duane Larson, a boy’s boy. I was not only the smartest boy in my class, I was the toughest. No one picked a fight with me because they knew it was a losing proposition. However, I NEVER, took the first punch or shove. John Wayne was my model. He would only fight after someone hit him first. At age ten I realized that fighting was stupid and that violence only caused more violence and the only thing that was proven was who was the better fighter. I took a sacred vow that I would no longer practice violence. In the sixth grade, there were about three boys who wanted revenge and forced me into a fight where I basically let them beat me up. Since the age of ten I have not so much as laid a rough hand on anyone (with three exceptions, one at age 13 and two at age 16, those are separate stories of some interest). Fear is not something that has had much of an influence on my life. I have many stories about my near total lack of fear like the time I went to Chicago to attend Illinois Institute of Technology. I started a conversation with a black women who was a ticket taker at a movie theater. I recognized the book she was reading. She was interested in this white bread from North Dakota and when I told her I loved jazz, she invited me to her apartment where she introduced me to her boyfriend and we set up a few dates where we went to some southside bars(black neighborhood) and I got to hear some jazz greats like Muddy Waters perform live. I was in a bar with about 100 patrons and I was the only non-black person. The bartender did not want me in the bar as legal drinking age was 21 and I was 18. The six to eight people who shared the table with me all vouched that I was cool and they would watch me to be sure I didn’t so much as take a tiny sip of any alcoholic drink. People can sniff out prejudice mostly by seeing fear in the eyes of a person. All the black people(and a whole host of prejudiced minorities where I am very welcome) saw immediately that I had zero fear. So…. I know a panty waist coward when I see one. And I am not trying to flame someone because I am not sure of my masculinity. In fact, I utterly despise patriarchy and toxic masculinity. Remember, a life long practitioner of non-violence. But like Mahatma Gandhi, if the situation calls for it I could kill someone in a heart beat. So far the situation has never called for it.