Emotional obstacles abound


[Hans Memling -- Last Judgment, detail]


Let us permit ourselves a brief remark -- apart from our principal point -- concerning the emotional resistance to the thesis of physicalism. Such resistance is always exerted against any thesis when an Idol is being dethroned by it, when we are asked to discard an idea with which dignity and grandeur are associated. As a result of Copernicus' work, man lost the distinction of a central point in the universe; as a result of Darwin's, he was deprived of the dignity of a special supra-animal existence; as a result of Marx's, the factors by means of which history can be causally explained were degraded from the realm of ideas to that of material events; as a result of Nietzsche's, the origins of morals were stripped of their halo; as a result of Freud's, the factors by means of which the ideas and actions of men can be causally explained were located in the darkest depth's, in man's nether regions. The extent to which the sober, objective examination of these theories was obstructed by emotional opposition is well known. Now it is proposed that psychology, which has hitherto been robed in majesty as the theory of spiritual events, be degraded to the status of a part of physics. Doubtless, many will consider this an offensive presumption.

Rudolf Carnap -- 'Psychology in Physical Language' (1932/33)

More to say about this later, but I've lately noticed shifts and changes in what I'm willing to talk about, and what I want to keep private. I refer to conversations here. I'm also noticing a growing reluctance to put aside 'the emotions' and also 'the spirit.' I feel a bit stubborn clinging to these things, to my ineffables -- stubborn because I cannot provide an explanation for them, I cannot translate them into any other language, I cannot point to them with any reliability, cannot understand them with my mind. But despite that utter failure to prove that they exist or even to say very much about them at all, I stubbornly refuse to discard them -- my ineffables.

Another interesting thing has been this return to the problem of mind and body -- both in the classes I am taking this term and also in my teaching thus far. More later. Always later.