Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Mitchell Heisman and Bibliolatry's biathanatos.

Mtichell Heisman was a 35 year old auto-didact who published  a long pseudo-philosophical suicide-note on the Web before blowing his brains out. The blog 'never yet melted' singled out the following extract which, given its Schopenauerian genealogy, throws a not altogether aleatory light upon a novel feature of Hindu Ethics.
The most rigorous objectivity implies indifference to the consequence of objectivity-  i.e. whether the consequences of objectivity yield life or death for the observer.  In other words, the elimination of subjectivity demands indifference to self-preservation when self-preservation conflicts with objectivity. The attempt at rigorous objectivity could potentially counter the interests of self-preservation or even amount to rational self-destruction. The most total objectivity appears to lead to the most total self-negation. Objectivity towards biological factors is objectivity towards life factors. Indifference to life factors leads to indifference between the choices of life and death. To approach objectivity with respect to self-interest ultimately leads to indifference to whether one is alive or dead.
The dead are most indifferent; the least interested; the least biased; the least prejudiced one way or the other. What is closest to total indifference is to be dead. If an observer hypothesizes death then, from that perspective, the observer has no vested interests in life and thus possible grounds for the most objective view. The more an observer is reduced to nothing, the more the observer is no longer a factor, the more the observer might set the conditions for the most rigorous objectivity.

Hindus will recognise that the view of objectivity championed here is that of the Chandala who argues against Rishi Vishvamitra's decision to steal a haunch of dog-meat to sustain his life. Objectively, there can be no doubt that the pariah is right- Vishvamitra is violating the rules of Brahminhood. Subjectively, however, Vishvamitra is justified- he is famished and the dog-meat suddenly looks very appetizing. This is a case of 'Apadh Dharma'- a catastrophic circumstance breeding a Schmittian 'State of Exception'. The fact that Vishvamitra provides no real objective argument and then, to compound his offense, offers the dog-meat in a Brahminical sacrifice from which he himself benefits, appears to be nothing but an exercise in hypocrisy.

However, this is a superficial view. The fact is, this episode- like every other in the Mahabharata- has a dual somewhere else where the opposite happens. Specifically, a cow argues with the Sage Kapila urging him to eat of its properly sacrificed flesh so as to fulfil a Brahminical duty. Ved Vyasa, the editor of the Vedas and author of the Mahabharata, is pointing to a symmetry between Vishvamitra and Nahusha- both have been translated from the sphere into which they were born into another which might appear 'higher'. Vishvamitra was a Baron who became a Brahmin. Nahusha was a mortal who became the King of the Gods- till by an act of hubris he overstepped the mark. His fall was brought about by his denial that cows could be properly sacrificed according to Vedic rites. Subjectively, Hindus feel Nahusha did the right thing and Vishvamitra did the wrong thing- we have a horror of eating both beef and dog-flesh. We might wink at both as 'Apadh Dharma' but then expect to witness some costly act of expiation or dramatic performance of 'prayaschitham' penance to settle karmic accounts. 

Philosophically, it may appear, there is an easy way to reconcile our Subjective feelings and the necessarily Objective, for materialist, nature of Vedic ritual. We can say- 'All happens by the Will of the Lord alone. Vishvamitra did not steal the dog-flesh. The Lord caused him to do it. Indeed, it is the Lord alone who determines whether it is pure 'payasam' or noxious dog-flesh which we put into our mouths. Every substance, at every moment, is endowed with properties by His Will alone.
'Subjectively, we live in a World of 'Maya'- Illusion- believing that we act whereas in fact the Lord is the only Actor. That Objective, Noumenal, World is far beyond our ken save in so far as, by His Grace, our feet become firmly planted in Yoga and we attain the cessation of all subjective conceptual activity- i.e.  'nirvikalpa samadhi-' and taste the bliss of 'satchitanandam.' Our bodies may remain on earth but they now perform only those actions pleasing or required by the Lord in a manner wholly independent of subjective cognition.'

However, this facile philosophy makes for a bad hermeneutic. Why did Ved Vyasa bother to bring an over-educated Chandala out-caste into the text? The answer is that the Mahabharata is built up out of rigorous symmetries for a reason I've explained elsewhere. In this case, the Chandala is echoing the arguments of a Vedic Rishi who entered the cow which discoursed with Kapila. The 'siddhanta'- i.e. principle- thus revealed is that Objective deontology is dialogic in nature and thus radically defeasible in a sense H.L.A Hart- himself the descendant of that Ellenbogen Rabbi declared titular King of Poland- would recognize. Indeed, the Rabbinic notion of 'halachah vein morin kein'- that injunction which, if known, forbids its own performance- as well as the Sanhedrin's rejection of univocal judgements points to Obvectivism's foundation in a dialogic it can never itself depass or transcend.

Kant, of course, had a different view. He thought Relationism- including dialogic- can't answer some puzzling features about the world - e.g. the problem of 'incongruent counterparts'- and thus there must be some lurking substantivist truth which can be arrived at by a transcendental argument. However, the Wu experiment showed empirically that Relationism, or indeed Perspectivism, suffers no such flaw or aporia. There is a dialogic- one that requires training in the exact sciences- within which Objective truth remains defeasible and displays an anthropic tropism such that human life is conserved.

Where dialogic is interrupted or loses salience, no doubt, the reverse may appear to be the case.
To illustrate what I mean, let us look at a contemporary parallel to Kapila's dialogue with the cow.
In the 'Restaurant at the End of the Universe' Douglas Adams introduces a talking cow which has been specifically genetically engineered to entice patrons to eat it. Subjectively, the reader identifies with Arthur Dent- a beef eater in ordinary life- who rejects the cow's entreaties. We feel there is something 'monstrous'- in the Kantian sense- something too big for its intended purpose- about the cow and if the dialogue were prolonged,  it is likely that we would decline to partake of its flesh.

By contrast, Doestoevsky's ultimate nihilist- Kirillov the Man-God who parodies Orthodox theosis- is pathetic rather than monstrous. His suicide is instrumentalized by his interlocutors in a manner that shows that the logical consequence of 'taking one's own Will as the only reality' is that, objectively, it can serve only a merely statistical or meretriciously sociological purpose.  Otto Weininger's suicide was similarly instrumentalized- Dieter Eckhart told Hitler he was the one good Jew, because he was beforehand in doing away with himself according to the best 'sociobiological' principles- yet both Kirillov and Weininger escape these instrumentalizations and endure only within pathos's passionate pragmatics.

Heisman's own magnum opus- which he believed would be suppressed- similarly, now seems pathetic rather than monstrous. It is not that it is far too long to be an effective suicide-note, or internet meme for self-murder, but that its further prolongation would inevitably have involved a dialogic destructive of its thesis. Like Adams's cow- whose defect is it hasn't been bred to persuade us Arthur Dents to eat it, because there has been no process of co-evolution towards that end- yet which pops off to kill itself 'humanely'- because the diners are in a hurry and the Universe is about to end- Heisman's cheerful arguments rapidly recede from view leaving Objectivity and Subjectivity's Red Queen Race precisely where he found them and we, alas, remain

Heisman continues thus-
It is likely that most people will not even consider the veracity of this correlation between death and objectivity even if they understand it intellectually because most will consciously or unconsciously choose to place the interests of self-preservation over the interests of objectivity. In other words, to even consider the validity of this view assumes that one is willing and able to even consider prioritizing objectivity over one’s own self-preservation. Since it not safe to simply assume this on an individual level, let alone a social level, relatively few are willing and able to seriously address this issue (and majority consensus can be expected to dismiss the issue). In short, for most people, including most “scientists”, overcoming self-preservation is not ultimately a subject for rational debate and objective discussion.
The problem here is that, as an empirical matter, we know that most reasonable people, not pathological in their psychology, recognize objective circumstances where they must sacrifice their own lives- even commit suicide- but, at the macro level, since this happens in accordance with the predictions of Hamilton's rule, rational debate and objective discussion remain highly salient.
Maximizing objectivity can be incompatible with maximizing subjective interests. 
This is the crux of the matter. Heisman has been misled by a Utilitarianism which focused on constrained optimization of a Social Welfare Function over a zero-sum game.  Thus he speaks of 'maximization' of one thing as involving the 'minimizing' of something else- i.e. 'duality' in the mathematical, Linear Programming sense. 

This sort of duality is all very well and good in a one-period universe (e.g. Buddhism where it liberates intentionality from hysteresis) or one where no Uncertainty obtains (e.g the univocal 'block universes' of Descartes, Liebniz, Laplace type 'Enlightenment') . However, we now know that, under Knightian Uncertainty, 'Regret minimization', not 'Utility maximization', is the Muth rational choice. In this case, 'Objective truth' has an interest in preserving 'Subjective' diversity. This is a case of 'co-evolution'. Capacitance diversity is dammed up and released upon a shifting fitness landscape. Duality as a meta-functor is nothing but dialogic climbing locally focal saliences upon a fractally fractious fitness landscape.

In some situations, anything less than death is compromise. The choice between objectivity and self-preservation may lead one to a Stoic’s choice between life and death.

The problem here is that 'objectivity' is not anchored in any actual object. If it were, it would be protocol bound, hyper mechanistic and hypo mentalist, and would possess an inbuilt principle of demarcation between ipseity and alterity or else have, as noumenon, but noise. At one pole- that of, the Materialist, Dawkins' Extended Phenotype- it dissolves back into what Heisman might call the viviosphere; at the other, that of, a Tegmarkian Computationalist, it loses all access to a principle of Individuation.
 Stoicism has a 'regret minimizing' strategy whose aim is to conserve 'ataraxia'. Thus, even if it recognizes the 'sorites' problem described above; it has no interest in resolving it.

Whereas the humanities cannot be what they are without human subjectivities, the inhumanities, or hard sciences, require the subjective element be removed as much as possible as sources of error. 

The 'Humanities'-  are a solution to a coordination problem for not liberative paideia- the project of a dialogic characteristica universalis- but a literalist, Euthyphro's dilemma type, stalemated pedagogy. 

No doubt, there is a lot of hysteresis involved in the specification of its canon but, surely, this is of diminishing concern because the hard sciences have greatly improved our means of communication such that pedagogy is playing catch up rather than setting the agenda.
The greatest beneficiary has been the hard sciences. Subjects previously paralyzed by 'Methodenstreit' or the overweening influence of a celebrated savant, can now burgeon thanks to on-line publishing.
'Sources of error', no doubt, are less carefully guarded against but- Aristotle's solution- equitable remedies are better and more freely applied to compensate for what might otherwise be a fatal lack of 'Quality Control'. Thus, a guy who gets an equation wrong or gives a false citation isn't punished for one mistake. Other people spontaneously help him 'patch' his work. An equitable remedy is spontaneously and collectively applied because the underlying subject-matter is alethic and advances others' Research, or even independent Research Programs.
The larger problem of 'noise' is actually a boon, not a curse. It drives research in signal extraction which in turn disrupts paradigms. The hard sciences thus have an 'oikonomia mysterion'- i.e. a black box coordination mechanism. 'Critical reason' does not. It is a chrematistic project merely and suffers Credentialist collapse.

Objectivity leads towards the elimination of subjectivity, i.e. the elimination of one’s “humanity”. A value free science has no basis on which to value human things over non-human things and thus no basis to value life over death or vice versa. Social science will become equal to the standards of physical science when social scientists overcome the subjective preference for the life of humanity over the death of humanity.
We can imagine an omniscient Benthamite computer which chooses to put the whole of humanity into a 'Matrix' like coma so as to 'maximize Utility'. We can even imagine a sentient Computer deciding Mankind should be wiped out because, on balance, existence is more painful than pleasurable. However, since Knightian Uncertainty actually  obtains, 'Regret Minimization' is the correct strategy for the Computer to use and it can't counsel death over life or the reduction of  'subjective' diversity for no good reason.

To attempt to resolve the contradiction of myself as a scientist and a human being on the side of science leads towards viewing myself as a material object. While this contradiction may be impossible to resolve, the closest approximation of reconciliation may consist of the state of death. In death, the teleologically-inclining biases of human subjectivity that hinder one from viewing one’s self as a material object are eliminated.
Once again we have a false view of dialectic as involving 'resolutions' such that one thing is 'eliminated' so that another can burgeon.
Evolution under uncertainty can't afford to proceed like that- or rather it terminates very quickly when this happens. Rather, there is a process of co-evolution- a burgeoning branching dialogic, not a once and for all 'reconciliation'- something we might term a topos-free yet, but therefore because, teleological 'Red Queen race', not a once-and-for-all Thanatotic Checkmate.

I cannot fully reconcile my understanding of the world with my existence in it. There is a conflict between the value of objectivity and the facts of my life. This experiment is designed to demonstrate a point of incompatibility between “truth” and “life”. In this experiment I hypothesize that the private separation of facts and values, when disclosed to the wider social world, creates a conflict of interest between the value of sociobiological objectivity and the “facts” of my sociobiological existence such that it leads to a voluntary and rational completion of this work in an act of self-destruction. …

This is by no means a sophomoric argument. Heisman is positing a Liberalism that developed ab ovo without Aristotelian, or Ciceronian, or Anglo-Norman Equity- and drawing a conclusion by no means unreasonable.
We might point to Francis Bacon as the last intellectual Colossus, in our Anglo Saxon tradition, to straddle both shores- that of the Law and that of the Natural Sciences- and bemoan his fate- 'a coward conquest of a wretch's knife'- the wretch being in question being Sir Edward Coke, upon whose magisterial Institutes America's founding fathers whetted their mother wit. Yet to do so is also to grant the necessity of 'closing the doors of Equity'- i.e. curbing the Crown's issuance of novel writs- because the Law's dialogic could not otherwise have burgeoned in a manner disruptive of Leviathan and constitutive of Civil Society.
Heisman, in coming with clean hands to the 'truth' of Objective Law, denies himself such blessed equitable estoppel as the discordant 'facts' of his life might warrant because his 'separation of facts and values' remains wholly private.
Elsewhere I have argued that the fact value dichotomy is only inter-subjectively established. Following Putnam, some might deny that it can ever be disentangled but, at least for positive Economics this is not the case.

How far would one be willing to go in pursuit of scientific objectivity? Objectivity and survival are least compatible when objectivity becomes a means of life, subordinate to life as opposed to life subordinated to objectivity. 

We can certainly understand a scientist who decides he must destroy himself to save our species from some terrible disease of which he is the only carrier. Equally, a scientist who decides that our entire species must be wiped out to save the biosphere is intelligible to us. However, in both cases, a superior alternative exists. In the one case, it is better to quarantine the disease carrier so that an antibody can be found. In the other, we can beat the fucker to death while saying snide things about his pee-pee.

Clearly, Heisman isn't talking about cases like the above at all. He is channeling Hegel on the Master-Slave dialectic about which he has curious views.
He thinks the English were enslaved by the Normans and thus,'objectively', are a slave race though the 'facts of their lives' admit no such acceptation. The Southern planter was a Norman and thus a 'Master'. The Northern manufacturer was an Anglo Saxon 'Slave'. Thus the North waged war on the South in the name of a Slavery that was their own 'objective' truth . Furthermore, they went and elected 'Supernigger' Obama because
'While the proud Northern victory in the Civil War freed both Anglo-Saxons and blacks from the shadow of their historic oppressors, admitting the Norman Yoke would also be admitting a past of Anglo-Saxon slavery. Anglo-Saxon racial pride itself demanded that the victory be sublimated in universal terms. Why, then, is America the exceptional and paradoxical country where a black man can become president? The answer is Anglo-Saxon racial pride.'

We are now in a position to understate Heisman's motive in writing this suicide note. As one might have subjected, Heisman is an invention of Borges.
If the greatest objectivity implicates confronting the most subjective biases, this implicates confronting those truths that most conflict with the subjective will to live. By simply changing my values from life values to death values, and setting my trajectory for rational biological self-destruction, I am able to liberate myself from many of the biases that dominate the horizons of most people’s lives. By valuing certain scientific observations because they are destructive to my life, I am removing self-preservation factors that hinder objectivity. This is how I am in a position to hypothesize my own death.

Heisman's suicide turns him into Jesus because ...urm... well just read Borges on Donne's Biathantos why don't you?

So if objectivity is not justified as end, then objectivity can be a means of rational self-destruction through the overcoming of the bias towards life. Rational self-destruction through the overcoming of the bias towards life, in turn, can be a means of achieving objectivity. And this means: To will death as a means of willing truth and to will truth as a means of willing death. …
Why am I doing this? Ah, yes, now I remember the punchline: I’ll try anything once!
There is nothing to take seriously!       
Indeed not. Did people take Huntingdon and Fukuyama and Alan Bloom and so on seriously? I was there, but I can no longer recall.
The truth is reading books enstoopidifies a man. Writing a blog, however, is merely a sanitary exercise.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am from Australia.
Please find a set of references which are very much about the themes that you deal with on your website - and the narrow limits of all of the usual Western speculations on the nature of Reality

http://global.adidam.org/books/ancient-teachings the Ancient non-dual Reality Teachings


www.beezone.com/whiteandorangeproject/index.html multiple references

www.dabase.org/up-1-3.htm The Western Prohibition Against Higher Knowledge & Realization

www.dabase.org/Reality_Itself_Is_Not_In_The_Middle.htm radical quantum metaphysics

http://spiralledlight.wordpress.com multiple references on the paradoxical nature of Quantum Reality