Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Thickening Philosophy with Psychology

Originally posted on July 11, 2013

Increasingly philosophy is coming round to appreciating the inevitability of distortions due to depth psychology. Carlin Romano’s book, America, the Philosphical (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), offers a nice review that brought me up to date about some figures about whom I had been sadly ignorant, such as Richard Rorty. Apparently a number of thinkers have hit the edge of what can be thought out and also gain some consensus based on the sheer brilliance of their argument. It’s not gonna happen.

There’s too much ambiguity in language. Another book, titled Surfaces & Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking, by Richard Hofstadter & Emmanuel Sander (New York: Basic Books / Perseus, 2013), impresses me with this fact. The authors don’t take it to the next step, but, perhaps mistakenly, I do:

I have been pondering philosophy for many decades and am continually astonished at the variety of theories, all well argued. Finally, it struck me that people have a need to make a mark, and especially if that’s their game / profession, they will find some original angle to play. I think this is also true for me.

The unconscious mind, I submit, is ten to fifty times as clever as any individual can be intentionally, and much of our more brilliant explanations are in fact rationalizations. The very clever ones of us tend to come up with more compelling explanations, and they are more rationally coordinated than the less clever of us can argue.

My provisional conclusion is that I value philosophy, but I don’t take it as capable of establishing anything near ultimate truth. One reason is that in the next few hundred years we’ll find out more about the cosmos and come up with more tools. More tools generate more metaphors for describing mind and reality. (A hundred years ago, it was elaborate hydraulic systems, then machines, then telephone switchboards, then computers—mind tends to be represented by the most contemporary technology!)

Another reason is that we’ve learned so much that we’re also learning about linguistics, self-deception, illusion, the power of the unconscious, and other ways that mind distorts what we construct to be reality, what we include as relevant. Just say in a couple of centuries we’re going to need a philosophy that includes psychic phenomena, synchronicity (meaningful coincidences, Grace, minor miracles), and the like. Hm.

The idea that mind participates in the cosmos has been touched on by quantum physicists; and the idea that there are indeed other dimensions has now begun to be taken seriously. The implications of these are stupendous and world-view changing.

So what I see is that there is a convergence of mysteries in the physical sciences (e.g., dark matter, dark energy, the Higgs field, what was before the “big bang,” etc.), postmodernism in philosophy, modern psycho-linguistics, depth psychology—bottom line is that it’s not possible to pin down the external, objective world.

I think there are many paradigm shifts, basic world-view shifts, going on at present. (It makes it rather thrilling for a reflective sort.) But the biggest one is that there’s no ‘there’ there, no outside reality independent from inner co-creativity.  It’s not that there really is an external solid truth that we just haven’t figured out yet. We are co-creating now, more than ever, and that idea that it is our minds that are co-creating is hard to swallow for those immersed in the old paradigm. But it’s a natural extension of creativity theory and a deeper contemplation of the function of mind in nature.

Let’s add to this, approaching the problem from a depth psychology perspective (as a psychiatrist back from the olden days when psychiatrists did depth psychology): Most of mind dynamics are muddy and mixed, drawing constantly from the non-rational and creating meaning, first in dreams, then more condensed and tested, in what we call ordinary awake-ness. Now add this idea to philosophy and what we get is a thickening of philosophy.

Am I suggesting that philosophy cannot be separated from depth psychology? Yes. Am I suggesting that anyone or school of thought has a lock on depth psychology? No way: They’ve only recently “opened the doors” and discovered unending trap-doors and secret passages, pitfalls and blind-alleys, all seeming quite plausible. Lots of room to explore, folks. Philosophy can help, up to a point. I envision and interplay between the non-rational and poetic and the rational, trying to limit the play of the irrational.

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