A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Madness – Part One

It is commonplace for commentators on the human condition to show moments of frustration in which they lash out at the Madness of some bit of human behavior.  My impression is that this is occurring more and more often, but it may be that my sampling is biased; it certainly does, and has, occurred regularly.  But this Madness that we storm over, when it rises up ponderously obstructing some hoped for action, is actually not a local or momentary condition.  Madness has become the central form of the human condition. I realize this is a serious charge. 

Individual madness is the failure to live in the Real.  A person whose views and decisions are informed by perceptions and principles that consistently disagree with both what most people see as real and what is demonstrably real (physical reality), such a person is considered mad and is often described as a danger to self and others.  It can be very reasonably argued that our whole collective of human societies fail to live in the Real, and that they have for a very long time.  The argument that societies create their own reality, their own political, economic, religious and social truth, is only evidence for my assertion.

To believe and to act on the belief that hundreds of the best and the brightest of a population must have their hearts cut from their living bodies so that rains will come, success in war will actualize and the political structure will sustain is both repugnant to many and a failure to live in The Real.  And yet similar social/religious/political systems have existed.  This is not to say that these devices do not work to sustain a social and political system (bringing rain is quite different matter).  A similar action on the personal level: A “cutter” is relieved of anxiety for a time by cutting and creates “a culture” around razor blades against a time of needing them. 

However, in both the individual and the societal cases the actions are not direct actions on Reality, but are actions on the human capacity to believe, to feel and to be motivated.  There are many possible ways to influence feelings and beliefs.  And there are many possible ways to live outside of Reality.  Living in The Real is actually very restricted and ultimately the most free (another way to say this is: 'There are infinite ways to be crazy, but only one way to be sane').  Living outside of The Real habituates; beliefs and actions need to be refreshed, improved or replaced with new ones.  This is endless and leads to apparent patterns of change (called history), but not to Reality.

What makes these concerns important today is that Reality will always have the final judgment.  A person may live for a time believing that all protein is poison, but Real mammalian physiology will be the ultimate arbiter.   Our societies do not live in response to or recognition of the biophysical Realities of earthly life.  We, individually, have suffered the difficulties of living in Mad societies in various ways.  It will be interesting how we come to live if we are able to again find ways to function our societies in The Real.

(The next installment will begin to look at the basis for how human societies came to live in Madness.)

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