Vol 2 - Chap 5

 

 

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- The Marble Game - Part II -
  
By Geoffrey Wallace Brown, PhD.

  • Chapter 5

1. 

I left High School for College knowing that the answer to the agony I felt in my soul was not going to be answered in the Wilds of Montana.

It had to come from a book.

It had to come from a period of time of deep inward searching and introspection, plus a real academic acquaintance with the history of Ideas.

Which took me to the gentle, remote, dedicated little school that was later to become my alma mater and first sustained teaching job.

Whitman College.

Nestled against the Blue Mountains.

Cradled by a gentle climate perfectly suited for the raising of Delicious Apples.

In a little valley, called by the Indians "Walla Walla," or "Valley of Many Waters."

Surrounded, and isolated, by vast expanses of wheat fields.

And solely dedicated to the singular purpose of providing a "liberal arts education in the tradition of the New England college."

Western style, of course.

By the end of my first year I had almost flunked four courses.

I had been hog-tied and forced under a car on a pledge sneak for wanting to fight everybody in the house.

And I had made and broken up with a girl friend in an intense love affair that left me wondering if she was going to break into my study apartment and shoot me.

But, by the end of the first year I realized where I should be: Philosophy.  Even though I hadn't had any courses in it, and had concentrated my efforts in every other academic discipline instead.

The reason I knew this stemmed from a conversation with my mother.

I had asked her the question that I had narrowed things down to by the end of my freshman year.

Descartes had had a "truth" from which he could build a system, I later was to learn.

I had a question.

It seemed to me that everything seemed to hang on the answer to this one idea:

"What," I asked my mother as we were driving along in the car one day, "is it that distinguishes men from animals?"

Just one thing.

That was all I needed.

One dinky little item that essentially set man off apart from the animals, such that he could be recognized as essentially different in kind.

One thing.

No banana.

Everywhere I looked.

I tried everything.

Art, literature, poetry, psychology, sociology, political science, biology......the great minds.

Nothing.

A smart chimpanzee could come up with any of that stuff.

Any of it.

No, there had to be something truly special, that would show mankind what it was that was different about him, that would justify the arrogance, or the seeming arrogance, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, that he was somehow special or different from the animals.

That led me into Philosophy.

What I didn't know, of course, is that there is no class of people who believe more strongly that man is a member of the animal species, and only a member of the animal species.

Period.

It's all "Reason" from there, buddy.

That is, once you predicate that man is an animal, the only distinguishing characteristic he has is his "Reason." His ability to "think" rationally.  Such as it is.

This is not a very powerful point of distinction.

Either way.

For example, apes and monkeys can "think" pretty well.

And, conversely, man sometimes "thinks" poorly enough and acts upon his so-called "ideas" irrationally and hatefully enough, that it is not a characteristic that separates him very far from the animals.

Certainly not far enough to be a radical difference in "kind" from the rest of the animals.

So, Philosophy leaves us with Aristotle’s notion that "Man is a rational animal."

Which, as far as I was concerned, gave up the whole ball game.

That is, it abandoned the deep and powerful intuition...  irrational, mystical, romantic, call it what you like...that there indeed was something different going on in this restless, unhappy critter called ourselves that was indeed the cause of all that restless discontent that we called "human history."

All of these ideas were just being formed back then, and they were little sprouts, not recognizable yet as tares or wheat.

But there was a terrific amount of academic pressure on them to cave in and give way to the belief that they were just fanciful sophomoric illusions, without reasonable evidence to justify them, especially since they came from the Social Sciences.

The Social Sciences dealt them an especially sturdy blow (since the hard sciences made no pretense to justify my romantic hopes), because they did make the putative claim to be honestly analyzing the same topic that formed the heart of my endeavor: they were studying, analyzing, and claiming to have knowledge about the essence of the human psyche, or "soul," as we called it once upon a time.

Now, of course, the Behaviorists have the Social Sciences firmly in their grip, where they logically belong, given their scientific presuppositions about the nature of law and evidence; and the Behaviorists have removed any shred of pretense that there was anything more to their school of thought than stripping every last thread of "freedom" and "dignity" from our concept of what this magnificent creation is up to.  (As B.F.  Skinner, the historical spokesman for the school, would have it.)

Philosophy led me into the study of people like John Locke, who first made it clear that there was a difference between what was out there in the physical world and what was going on in my ideas about it.

There was a discrepancy.

And this notion formed the basis for my first real glimpse of the distinction between Appearance and Reality.

There was a difference, there really was, between how things were, and how they seemed to be.

I was glad.

That meant there was hope.

That maybe things weren't stuck in the awful predicament that they seemed to be stuck in.

Immanuel Kant was the guy who really brought that distinction home to me, when he said that we seem to be locked up in space and time, but that these are really only forms for the way we perceive things, not things in themselves, necessarily.

What was going on out there, he said, in itself, apart from our perceiving of it, was something we could never know about.

It was a world, a universe, in itself.

A "noumenal" world he called it.

As opposed to the "phenomenal" world that we lived in.

The phenomenal world is the world of tastes, touches, sights, sounds, and smells, the phenomena that we directly experience through consciousness itself.  It is our world.

The reason we can't experience the noumenal world is because whenever we did, if we could, we would turn it into the phenomenal world, simply by the act of being conscious of it.

So, there had to be these two separate and distinct entities--the noumenal and phenomenal worlds, or realms.

And, actually, we couldn't even be perfectly sure, in an absolute sense, that the noumenal world was there, since, by definition, we could never directly experience it.

But, it had to be there, actually, for the rest of the world, the phenomenal world we live in, to hang together.

Something had to be there, or the phenomenal world, if it depended just on my (or our) impressions of it, would be in much shakier shape than I know it to be.

And that something cannot be material.

Because matter, or at least what I understand matter to be, cannot produce something so unlike itself (an idea in my mind); therefore, there is virtually no point of similarity between what the idea is and what the idea is of, namely matter.

This gets at the idea that there is an essential and radical difference in kind between consciousness and matter, but, that is a long story, that began with Descartes, and composes the cluster of problems that we are working with in contemporary philosophy today.

When we are honest.

And faithful to the heart of Philosophical Inquiry.

And not dismissing questions by pretending that they are linguistic questions about language instead.

The Social Sciences gave me another lead as well.

The way you get leads in the pursuit of truth, I have found, is to look at the biggest challenge squarely in the eye.   If you are true to your pursuit, true in your heart, looking for truth, and not getting sidetracked on things like glory, prestige, grades, or women, then, if you stare at it long enough, the barriers will fall, and the truth will come springing out of the corner, where it was all along.

The greatest threat, I perceived long ago, was not the built-in resistance on the part of Philosophers to saying that man was anything more than a rational animal, nor the hardheaded stupidity of people in the academic world, nor the ignorant fear of people not in the academic world that Philosophy was just a bunch of romantic dreamers and "armchair" theoreticians.

The greatest threat came from Freud, who said that man is an unconscious dreamer who thrives on his illusions, and has every (unconscious) reason to want to perpetuate his self-glorifying fabrications.

Freud was the guy who introduced the crucial term--the unconscious.

The scientists didn’t bother me.

They had their own set of assumptions and their own criteria for evidence and proof.

They were wrong.

And they had power.

But they didn't bother me.

Because the Freudians might be right; and, in my opinion, there was no possibility that the hard scientists were right.

About the nature of ultimate reality.

The Freudians were saying that I had a secret little desire in my heart to keep the truth away from myself, because it was too frightening and awful for me to swallow.

There seemed to me that that had some plausibility to it.

I had seen self-deception all my life.

I knew the power of it.

This was a route I definitely had to explore.

So I pursued a degree in Psychology as well as Philosophy.

And now I had the Philosophers mad at me, as well as all the other important intellectual segments of the Civilization I was studying.

The Philosophers kept saying that it doesn't matter what the motivation for claiming what you are claiming: truth is truth, and it shouldn't matter what the reasons for saying it or who it comes from.

Truth should be evaluated on its own merits regardless of who is speaking the sentences.

Each sentence, each claim, should be evaluatable independently, without any reference to any speaker, in fact.

Well, I knew that that was a bunch of horseshit, having grown up the way I did.

The Philosophers had simply been taken over by the Scientists on this point, as well as on all the other points of their methodology.

What they were saying was true, for science, given its set of methodologicalized assumptions about inquiry, repeatability of experiment, and the irrelevance of the observer.

I knew from my own experience that who the guy was that was doing the observing, the experimenting, and the concluding made all the difference in the world, when you put a little power into the concoction.

In fact, it was just because I knew the importance of this factor that I was led into psychoanalysis, psychiatry, and depth psychology as a legitimate field of inquiry in the first place.

 

 

2.

Good morning.

What makes a person a Philosopher is his outrage at the puzzles of common sense.

That everybody else around him eats.

And sells to him.

As Gospel.

Now these puzzles may start out as trivial things, like whether a tree falling in the forest makes a sound or not, but they graduate to bigger and bigger things as one hangs on to his inquiry.

One indeed is driven to his inquiry if he refuses to eat the paradoxes of Common Sense as if they made sense, and thus refuses to make the decisions in life to get out of Philosophy.

Decisions that must take these paradoxes for granted if they are to be made.

I speak in particular about the mind-body problem.

The perception that there is a radical, fundamental difference between the mind and the body is something that any intelligent chimpanzee could make.

Yet we go about our lives as if this difference made no difference at all.

We stroll around the planet working out our lives on the calm assumption that these two utterly unlike forces (that putatively compose us) harmoniously interact in a way that is beneficial to the race and will be beneficial to us.

We forget the fact, conveniently, that the conceptual scheme upon which this notion is based is utterly incoherent.

And blithely walk around as if nothing is the matter.

In fact, this little flaw in our thinking about ourselves and our environment is the cause of most of our problems.

And, although I could only dimly perceive it at the time, I thought I had better stop here and check this out.

I never got any further in my intellectual endeavors.

Because it became clear to me that this conceptual, or intellectual flaw, was the source of most of the practical problems we face in everyday life.

There are a set of other peculiarities, commonly called "Philosophical Problems," that attend this major theoretical malfunction.

And one of them is the problem of identity.

How do I know I am the same person over time?

What is it that remains the same?

That the question "Who Am I?" can sensibly be asked is the result of this conceptual debacle known as the mind/body problem.

How do the two interact?

How can something, as seemingly without mass, matter, extension, without weight, height, or material force affect something that has all the properties that a physical body has?

And vice versa.

How can something so thoroughly unlike this ephemeral, vaporless, physically unimaginable event we call "mind" affect it?

We go along our lives assuming the causal interaction going both ways all the time.

Hungry? Have a Big Mac.

Thirsty? Have a Diet Pepsi.

Physical problems? Maybe it's psychosomatic.

Another problem is time.

We feel time as duration.

Past, present, future.

And, the continuous, specious, present.

But the present does not exist.

It is always slipping into the past.

Or about to happen.

It's something we can't hold on to.

Yet it is always here.

And we can't get out of it.

We pretend to control time with minutes, hours, days, and years.

But (a) we know that those designations are arbitrary, depending on the accidents of the solar system, and (b) that sort of thing assumes that time is a solid sort of thing which can be chopped up into pieces.

Which directly conflicts with the way we perceive it.

As subjective.

Mental.

Not as an objective event out there in the world of things.

Some of the time.

Other times it is very much "out there," and there is nothing I can do about it.

And I wish I could.

Which is it?

Subjective or objective?

Mental or physical?

A function of our minds or independent of the way we perceive things?

We can never know, the way things are set up now.

So, we pretend it doesn't matter.

That it is a "philosophical" question.

Which is identical in meaning to saying that it is of no consequence in our practical lives.

Which is false.

A lie.

Which we tell ourselves to reassure ourselves about the dark.

Because the dismissal comes from fear.

Again.

About our (sensed) inability to handle a "philosophical" problem.

Which is false.

Because we can.

The key has been found.

The paradoxes of Common Sense can also be seen to focus on the problem of Substance.

What is substantial, in life, really?

Is it matter?

Is it ideas?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

What, or who, is the first cause that got this business rolling in the first place?

What is a cause?

You see event A, and you see event B, but do you see the cause, such that you can see that it produced B?

What transpired between A and B?

All we can see for sure is A, then B.

What happened?

Force?

What is force?

Who has ever seen force?

It's just another mystery brought in to explain another mystery.

Energy!

That's it.

Bullshit.

Energy is the biggest hoax since the development of Sophistry five centuries before the birth of Christ.

Let me tell you a story about energy.

Aristotle was the man who invented the way we think about the universe we live in.

That's right.

He was a very smart man, and even though he lived in 350 B.C.  he thought up the basic Categories and Conceptual Scheme for the way Western mankind was going to view the world around him.

We have been fighting it ever since.

We are still fighting it; but with the same dedication to the belief in matter that he had.

Which was the source of the problem, his problem, in the first place.

We have inherited his problem because we bought his conceptual scheme, which is now thoroughly grounded in our language, the way we understand and teach the understanding of the world today.

Aristotle raised the question, "What is substance?"

Indeed, that is what his whole Metaphysics is about.

People have been trying to answer it ever since.

What is it that holds things together?

It can't be matter, he said because matter is always changing, moving around, and decaying.

It can't be mind, because mind, alone, has no substantial element.

"I know!" he said, "It's the combination of the two in all sorts of wondrous ways that make up the growing and changing that we see in Nature."

The mental part forms the law and purpose, of, say, how an acorn becomes an oak tree.

The material part provides the "stuff" out of which the tree is fashioned.

And so it is with all things great and small.

He said.

Well, that sort of reasoning leads to problems, problems that have formed the heart of the history of Western Philosophy over the past 2300 years.

When you give up the idea that the tree has a "soul," where do you turn to see where the purpose, direction, and laws for its growth come from?

When you give up the idea that plants have "purposes," how do you explain the beauty, grandeur, and harmony of Nature?

When you give up the idea that "matter" has "substance," how do you explain the apparent solidity and tangibility of the objects around us?

Aristotle was looking for substance, or, "that upon which all else depends for its existence, but which itself depends upon nothing."

What was it?

Nothing in the physical universe seemed to fit the criterion.

God!

That was it.

Or, at least that was what Aristotle, Plato, and the Medieval scholars came down to.

The problem there was a different sort.

If God exists, how could he permit evil?

How could he allow the inconceivable savageries of Life to go on in His Creation?

So gradually, God got phased out by many right-thinking individuals of the Renaissance who recognized their own moral superiority to Any Being who would allow such things to happen to His little children.

As He Himself had named them.

In the Bible.

His Word.

So, with great sadness and heaviness of heart, the Philosophical Sages had to turn elsewhere to find their substance, their Cause of all that is, the thing that holds the Universe together, and makes it a One Universe instead of a Random Chaos.

John Locke didn't know what it was.

It was "something, I know not what."

Bishop Berkeley took the last religious gasp and said, "It has to be God."

Because the whole thing is mental, and God is entirely mental, and, even though we can't see Him, He has to be Holding It All Together.

David Hume, who has led us to where we are today in our "scientific" thinking, said, "Bullshit."

It's true that, since all we can experience is our experience, which is mental, or ideas, but there is nothing that hangs these ideas together in any necessary way except habit, habits of thought.  Everything could change tomorrow.  There is no single unifying Principle that holds everything together and guides everything.

In fact, there is not even a little unifying principle that holds for necessary connections between the events in our lives.

Causality does not exist.

This was a strong stand.

Kant said, "the something I know not what," or "the thing in itself," as he called it, does exist, but only in the noumenal world, which we can only speculate about, since we are in the phenomenal world.

Well, today we have a new answer to the "something I know not what," "the thing in itself," the noumenal world beyond and behind the world that appears to our senses.

Today it comes from Physics, which is our modern version of Metaphysics, which was what the ancients used to call it in the absence of experimental procedures.

And today we have a new answer to the question of what it is that we can't see, touch, taste, smell, or feel that does indeed hold everything together for us, that holds the answers to the secrets and the mysteries of the Universe, and the finding of whose key will unlock the treasures of human hope and promise for ever after.

Energy!

For a strong America!

Yes indeed, folks.

Here we have it, right here in our little treasure chest, right here in front of God and everybody, we have the answer.

It is energy.

Well, uh, sir, pardon me, but what is energy? If you don't mind my asking.

Energy--MC2, imbecile.

Anybody knows that.

We all learned that in grade school, didn't we, imbecile.

But no, sir, I don't understand what that means, sir, E=MC2.  What does it mean? If you don't mind my asking.

Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared, imbecile.

I'm sorry, sir.

I don't know what "energy" means.

Energy, cretin, means, simply, the ability to do work.

But, sir, what is this "ability?"

Well, it's energy, obviously.  In order for there to be "work" done there has to be energy present.

Hmmmmm.

There seems to be an element of mystery here.

Concerning these words "work," "ability," and "energy."

Don't worry about that, and do the formulas and the experiments, and then you will see how it works.

Oh, I don't deny that it works, sir, just like I don't deny that there are all kinds of games you can set up, indeed a "reality" you can set up, once you have agreed on the definitions and the rules.

But I am still back there on this seemingly trivial problem of substance, and finding a meaningful definition of that.

One that I can understand and that makes sense to me.

One that has a good intellectual footing, so I know where I am conceptually before I go launching off in every impulsive direction with the first thing that looks like it might glimmer of the real meaning.

Your definition is circular.

You define energy in terms of mass, and force in terms of mass and energy.

And none of your terms make any sense.

They are all, at bottom, just as mysterious as the "thing I know not what."

In fact, they are the thing I know not what, in a new form.

One that suits the contemporary spirit.

Of conquering.

Accumulating.

Destroying.

Killing.

Your definition of energy fits very well in with the mood of the times.

In fact, that is why it is taken as the real definition of substance.

Because it is useful to the mood of the times.

 

 

3.

Good morning.

I think my professional career began, as a conscious, deliberate pursuit in a class I took from Bill Soper in the Philosophy of Religion.

Soper, who was one of those refugees from big time academic pursuits of prestige, power, and money, and who still has, I think, the most curious mind in Philosophy that I have ever met (notwithstanding the fact that it has been thoroughly pickled in home brew), Soper asked a very simple question in that class on Religion to the group of us Sophomores.  He said, "Man is the creature who knows he was born and must die--and wonders why.  He can look at the future and past, relating himself to both (from the present), and it is from this ability that he gets his notion of temporality."

That is a direct quote.

I still have the notes, from 1963.

Thank you Dr.  Soper, for getting me into this......perplexity.

Soper was an existentialist, as close a thing to a real living breathing Kierkegaardian existentialist as you could find.

He was always pacing around and asking the question "Why? Why? Why? "

Wringing his hands.

Wondering.

Out loud.

To his students.

Soper had dreamed up every possible metaphysical theory to explain why we were the chosen people, i.  e., why man should have the suffering and anguish to cope with that he has.

He loved anguish.

It gave him meaning.

An existentialist without anguish is, well, Tarzan without a jungle.

So we jumped right into the problem of Time, Evil, Immortality, the need for a finite God.

(You have to have a finite God in order to tolerate the presence of evil.)

God had to be bounded by time; because time was such a dramatically apparent reality to us.

And Soper's idea of immortality was something along the order of the idea that the self you were choosing now was the self that you were constructing for all eternity.

A kind of blend of Calvanism and atheism.

George Ball, who lived down the hall, and from whom I took a couple of Religion courses, was an attorney.  First.  A Christian second.

George had the idea that you should give both sides of the case as honestly as you could when presenting a religious point.

The net effect of which was to water down the case for religion to a point that it was a mild excuse for a socially acceptable belief.

But his charity did allow his light to shine through.  Occasionally.

No, Soper was the tough mind who wanted proof for God's existence, knew he couldn't have it, and was content in his despair, refusing to take the leap, and drinking huge vats of home brew to console himself.

Thus, he taught Kierkegaard effectively.

Kierkegaard, I think, has been the most interesting theologian of the age.

He always had himself in there.  On the line.  None of this abstract, dusty, medieval speculation for him.

He had a girlfriend.

Regina.

It never did work out.

And you heard about it all the way through his metaphysical anguishings.

He also had Guts.

The titles of his books were things like "Either/Or," or "Sickness Unto Death," or "Fear and Trembling."

My favorite was "Concluding Unscientific Postscript."

That was class.

Kierkegaard had a notion that appealed to me greatly at the time.  He said that you go through these stages, each with its own kind of anxiety.

First there is the aesthetic stage, where you eat, drink, make Mary, and take the rap.

The rap, however, is not just a hangover; it is a dawning awareness that there has got to be more.  And, a corresponding dissatisfaction with the pleasures of the grape and the bosom.

Next, there is the stage of ethical anxiety, the ethical stage characterized a peculiar kind of existential anxiety.

You want to do good.

You try to find meaning in doing good.

But (a) you don't know how, (b) you don't know how to prove that what you have chosen is good, and (c) you can't find any ultimate meaning in it because it is just as temporary as you are.

This forces you into the religious stage.

The religious stage is characterized by your having been forced there against your will, (more or less).

The only way, you eventually come to realize, to get meaning in your life that is not going to turn to dust the moment you croak is to form some kind of absolute God-relationship.

And then you run into trouble.

You spend the whole rest of your life in this kind of trouble once you agree to peek in the box.

All of the paradoxes of Christianity come swooping out at you.

How can God be a man?

Why should I have been put in this situation?

What did I do?

Was Christ a God-man?

What do I do about a conflict between the ethical and the religious, (the example of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac)?

How do I let go of all my worldly values and choose the religious?

The essence of Christianity is mystery: what conceivable justification is there for choosing the mysterious over the known?

Am I doing it out of fear?

Or calculation?

How can you form an absolute relationship to God, when you are finite and He is infinite?

Am I doing it out of despair?

Or dread?

Or cowardice?

I am alone in the Universe; by what right do I come up with a makeshift God that has a sinner like me as something He could care about?

The essence of the search is perplexity.  Paradox.

But the crucial part of the search, for me, as opposed to the crucial part of the search in depth psychology or philosophy, was the frank admission that what Kierkegaard was searching for was frankly absurd.

But, as I was later to learn, it was absurd in the technical sense of being beyond reason.

And that is where he loses most people.

And that is where he caught my interest most strongly.

It seemed to me that religious conviction had to have some other basis for its evidence appeal than reason as we know it in science and common sense today.

I was sure of that.

But what?

If you look at all the history of Christianity, as far as I was concerned, it was full of cranks and crackpots, who wanted to draw attention to themselves and inflict their will on other people for their own gain.

All very human; but not a very good evidence base for the Truth of Christianity.

All of the people I had ever known who were tied up in Christianity were characterizable, not as being wicked, as the people in the history of Christianity were, I felt, but as really dumb.

That's right.  Dumb.

The religion, about which I knew practically nothing, had said something about sheep.

And boy, if the folks in that operation were anything to this kid, they were sheep.

Dumb like the sheep who let you put one leg in one boot, and the other leg in the other boot....

How could anybody buy all this horseshit, I had long since assured myself, without being a really mindless sloth.

But Kierkegaard was something else.

He was appealing to what had to be a higher basis of knowledge.

And, since by that time I had seen the results of all the other bases of knowledge the culture had seriously to offer, I thought I would seriously entertain what he had to say.

In the back of my mind.

Tucked away.

The possibility lay open for me that there was another way: faith.

By virtue of the absurd.

As Kierkegaard put it.

That is, a way of knowledge or understanding that was beyond everyday reason, that was, technically, for that reason absurd, i.e., without reason, that was strictly a matter of faith between you and God.

Pappy.

The man upstairs.

Someone whom, I felt, I was already in touch with, but whose whereabouts or legitimacy I could not reveal to anyone.

Largely because I couldn't see a way to do it without people thinking I was nuts.

Or one of those pretentious goddamn Christians.

Which would have been worse.

By far.

So I kept the whole thing to myself.  Buried it.  And went on to more directly challenging things.

Like, what does it really mean to be "nuts?"

 

 

4.

Good morning.

When I went to graduate school, at Washington University in St.  Louis, I traveled there with my first wife in a 1961 Volkswagen.

We arrived on a hot August afternoon.

I was a country bumpkin arriving at a city of three million people, all surrounding this small, respectable University which I had elected to attend for my formal training in Philosophy.

I almost turned around and went back the first day.

The smog and the heat were enough to kill a good humor man.

And the school was worse.

Or at least the reception I got.

I had agreed to go to Washington U., or Wash-out U., as I later heard it called by the locals who were not overly fond of the intensely competitive heart of the school.

I had been innocently sitting in my Ethics class back at Whitman, and the Chairman of the Department at Washington University, a man named Richard Rudner, called the secretary of my Division at Whitman and asked her to get me out of class.  He offered me an assistantship right then and there if I would come to his school.

Needless to say, following the intuition that I had learned to follow, I accepted.

I think Rudner had been impressed by the fact that I had gone off the end of the scale in the Advanced Graduate Record Exam in Philosophy.

The only time I had ever been lucky on one of those goddamn standardized tests.

There certainly was nothing else to recommend me.

My first meeting with Rudner was in the bottom of Dunker 14, or Dungeon 14, as I came to call it in my secret mind.

He had brought us together, as teaching assistants, to discuss our duties for the year.

The first question he asked was, "How much logic have you had?"

You must understand.

I am a cretin in logic.

I simply cannot think that way.

I resist it.

I fight it.

I hate it.

I will not have anything to do with it.

In fact, I had gotten a 'D' in logic my last year at Whitman.

After I had received the phone call from Rudner.

"How much logic have you had?"

I explained that I had had two courses, completing what was probably the standard text in symbolic logic used in courses across the country.

"Baby logic," he sneered.

That was when I began to see what I was up against.

Little old me.  And my innocent ideals.  About education.

This was going to be a crash course in how to survive boot camp in higher academia, where the goals are prestige, one-ups-manship, and hate.

Rudner was a highly contemptuous man.

And vicious.

And he had no use for the likes of me, whatsoever.

I began to appreciate the seriousness of the game I was about to play.

You see, in Philosophy, there is nothing to do if you only get part of a degree.

At least not for me.

I wanted to teach in a school exactly like Whitman.  And if you don't complete your Ph.D.  they toss you out when your tenure decision comes up.

Thus it was absolutely imperative for me to finish my Ph.D.  before I went looking for a job.

It was not going to be easy working for this clown.

The next encounter I had with my future colleagues and compatriots-to-be was at a tea.

A four-o'clock tea.

There must have been over a hundred people there.

I didn't know a soul.

But I looked around the room, found a guy who looked like he had been there for a few years, and asked him how many degrees the Department had given out the year before.

"None," he replied.

"None?" I asked.

"That's right," he replied, looking at me as though that shouldn't be a surprise to me.

"Hmmmmm," I mused.

"Son-of-a-bitch," I said to myself in my secret place.

It looked like there were over a hundred graduate students in this room, and not one student got a Ph.D.  last year!

Verrry interesting as they were saying on TV in those days.

By the end of the year I had been dealt the first real, genuine failure of my life.

It happened in a logic course taught by Joe Ullian.

Ullian was said to be one of the top logicians in the United States.

He later wrote a book with Willard Van Orman Quine, who was the top Philosopher in the world, as far as most of us were concerned.

The problem with Ullian's course in logic was that it attracted all the Engineering and Math majors for miles around trying to get rid of their humanities requirements.

Then there was this frightened camouflaged Montananite with big eyes in the middle of them, trying to blend in.

Trying to squeak through.

I thought surely if I gave it maximum effort I could pass the course.

No banana.

Ullian was talking about something utterly fascinating; I could tell because there were all these people around who could understand him.

There is in logic I am told, a certain desire to get all the quantifiers over on the left hand side of your formula.

Thus, they are in, what is called Prenex Normal Skolem Form.

There is a problem with this, which leads to a problem with the completeness of quantificational theory, which Quine works on in the back of his Methods of Logic, the bible for serious scholars of symbolic logic.

Ullian was developing what he called a "Lemma" to aid in the proof for showing that this was possible...that, yes indeed, quantificational theory was "complete" after all.

Well, I had been stuck way back in what is called truth functional logic, truly "Baby Logic."

In logic, which is the heart and soul, the raison d’Ítre of Philosophy today, there is a result which illustrates why that way of thinking is so repugnant to me.

In a conditional statement, a sentence beginning with the word "if" that goes on to set up a condition for the whole thing's being true, if the first part of the conditional is false, that is, it isn't true, then it "logically" follows that the whole thing is true, and anything in the world follows from it.

For example, from the statement "If I am a monkey's uncle, then the third world will fall to communism," absolutely anything can be "logically" deduced from it, given the contemporary rules of symbolic logic.

From this it follows, for example, that the moon is made of green camel semen, and I am not here talking to you after all.

Any system of thought that has such preposterous consequences has got to be thrown out, I maintained.  To myself.  In my secret hiding place.

Ah no! Declared the logicians.

This logic business is just a game.  Something driven by the necessity of computers and the language they need to operate.

But they really meant that people should think that way, along the lines of symbolic logic; and this was made clear time and again by their implicit and explicit criticisms of ordinary thought for not shaping up to the demands of logic.

It was the essence of female logic.  I felt.

Where you blame the world for not conforming to your way of thinking about it.

Instead of blaming your way of thinking about it.

Unless you have a good reason for blaming the world for not shaping up to the way you think about it, where the way you think about it is more real than the world as it strikes the human eye.

But certainly, bending and distorting all human sensibility so that it would fit in the demands of a computer was not good enough reason for blaming the world.

Anyway, I couldn't pass the class.

I did everything.

I begged, I pleaded, I brown-nosed.

Nothing.

No matter how well I thought I had it down, Ullian would think of a way of asking the question that would outfox me.

And in the end, I had to pray for forgiveness and be grateful for being let out of the course without failing, or having it registered on my transcript.

At the end of that first year, generally, I had failed.

By any external standard.

They had taken my assistantship away from me, and informed me I was on probation.  And it was clear that next year I was going to have to "prove" myself, which meant "conform" to every exacting standard for "right thinking" that they could administer under the most brutal of circumstances.

I hit the bottom that first year.

Many was the night where I put my head down on the pillow at night, and got up at 6:00 o'clock the next morning without having slept a wink.

Not a wink.

I had a duodenal ulcer.

I was eating about ten Gelusil a day.

This was during the Vietnam War, and I was in my mid-twenties; and the ulcer kept me out of the draft.

Small consolation.

I was assessing the situation.

I learned how to pray.

Before, it was just kiddie stuff.

Now I knew that something was up: there was no way I had been brought here, in the way I had been brought here, simply to be overrun by the mindless forces of logical positivism and behaviorism.

Under the guise of logic.

I knew I had to turn and face this enemy, and overcome it.

And so I turned to prayer.

Deep, certain, quiet knowledge that I was not alone, and that I would be led if I turned completely to the Man in Charge for help.

Which I did.

There was an Interstate Highway, which went East and West, close by my apartment, called Route 40.

Each evening I would walk over the Overpass that crossed the Freeway, and contemplate my thoughts as I watched the cars.

I dreamed of the day I would one day get in my car and drive away on that Freeway, West, home to the land I loved.

For five years.

I walked across that Freeway.

And prayed.

To be shown the light.

For the next day.

And it worked out pretty well.

I received mostly all A's the next year, and had made friends with most of the people in the Department, and was clearly on my way to the Preliminary Qualifying Exams, which was the main hurdle that graduate schools use to wash people out.

I had watched most of my friends leave, most of the people I liked, and felt would be good teachers.

They left in disgust at the utterly inhumane, brutal, arbitrary systems of goals and evaluation that this department, like any other major Big League Department, inflicts upon its aspirants.

In fact, the guys here were nicer than most.

Which meant they gave you aspirin before they cut your balls off.

I remember going into the chairman of the logic exam, a guy named Bob Barrett, and explaining to him about how I froze in terror on logic tests.

He explained that I obviously didn't know the material that well.

I wouldn't have frozen if the problems had been simple arithmetic, would I?

Barrett was destined to become my very good friend in later years.

Because he had a heart.

And didn't know it.

Or, want to give in to it.

Philosophy, in the United States, has been taken over by science, both in the thinking and in the Power Structure of the academic world.

This was accelerated when, under Lyndon Johnson, an awful lot of money went to Philosophy of Science from the National Science Foundation.

Rudner was a big stick in the money-grabbing frenzy and securing of praise by identifying himself and his Department with the nationwide effort to capitulate and surrender Philosophy completely to the scientists.

The Journal of Philosophy of Science was edited at Washington University.

Under his tender loving care.

It became an increasingly prominent plum of prestige.

He built his Department around the Philosophy of Science, too.

Except that there was a nationwide phenomenon that filtered into our Department.

It was called "Ordinary Language Philosophy."

It was a reaction against science, logic and logical positivism, which had nowhere to turn but to Common Sense.  This time in the form of language.

The game of Ordinary Language Philosophy was to analyze the common, pedestrian use of the language, and then pose that as the foil against the "ideal" (or computer language) that was being introduced by the logical positivists.

Logical Positivists, by the way, won't call themselves logical positivists because their position is so demonstrably preposterous.

It is science taken to its underpinnings and exposed for what it is--babbling nonsense horseshit.

Instead, they hide under different or labelless cloaks, and refuse to be identified with the early logical positivists, like Russell, Wittgenstein, and Carnap, guys with ferocious philosophical balls, who wrote about the turn of the century or a little thereafter.

By exaggerating their differences with the founders of this school, which is theoretically the most perfectly arranged opposite of the Christian conception of man that could be thought up, they are able to conceal the fact that they are there to destroy every last trace of dignity, respect, courage, and love for all of the classical (spiritual) virtues of man.

Logical Positivism is the theoretical basis for behaviorism.

Which is the dominant school of thought in the Social Sciences right now.

The Ordinary Language Philosophers, whom I perceive to be, generally, people who have had enough of grinding the hopes and highest aspirations of man into computer disks to feed our television sets, are the bitter enemies of the logical positivists in academia today.

Hallelujah.  Somebody besides me to take them on!

So my strategy in the Department was to sit back and watch.

I had learned to watch real good in Montana.

I could do that.

I watched, and kept my nose clean, and did my homework.

Right up to the Preliminary Exams.

When the Preliminary Exams came along, it turned out, our Department was in a raging battle.

I mean there were guys hating and ready to kill over the issues of logical positivism vs.  ordinary language.

What do you think?

Is the issue over whether the language we use today is okay, or should it be improved by an "ideal" language, one that excludes reference to such vagaries as "feelings," and "minds," and "beliefs," is this issue one of sufficient magnitude to threaten bodily harm over?

Is it one that warrants long periods of not speaking to one another by colleagues in the same department, devoted to freedom of inquiry?

I had found a home for myself.

This was the same old typical academic noise, fights on the school ground I had grown up with.

I was friends with everybody.

Everybody thought I was on their side.

I was.

I couldn't care less about such a preposterous fight.

I was always for the guy underneath (what I now call) the hypnotic dream that is gripping him.

And they sensed that.

And they, bless their little hearts and souls, were on my side when it came time to grade the Pre-Lims.

It was a squeaker.

Again.

God help me I don't know why.

I barely inched past the Ph.D.  "Pass" mark on my Metaphysics and Epistemology exam, thanks to the help of the leader of one side.

And, much to my surprise, the leader of the other group, the Positivists, Robert Barrett, stood up and explained that while I had failed the logic part of my Pre-Lim, I had done the Philosophy of Science part of the exam better than any other candidate.

And he thought that that warranted a Master's Degree level pass.

Which was enough, by a very slim hair, to edge me over the top.

Out of the four exams, I had passed three at the Ph.D.  level and one at the Master's.

Enough.

Thank God.

Once you pass your exams it's just a matter of time before you finish your dissertation and your degree.

If you stay around to do it.

And not get the hell out, like so many do, and run off teaching somewhere.

Where you see what complete bullshit the degree program was anyway, and lose all interest in going back to it.

I had chosen Washington University, partly because of the phone call from Rudner, partly because it was a small private University (sort of like Whitman was a small private liberal arts college), where I thought I could get the treatment I knew I would need (for my fragile, delicate, psyche).  And partly too, because they had some big guns there, and I thought it would be nice to see how the Big Leagues played.

They had Rudner, who was about as big a hotshot in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences as there was.

They had Herbert Spiegelberg, who was a similarly big gun in Phenomenology--a field of Philosophy which specializes in studying Consciousness.

These were the two areas that interested me the most.

That, and the fact that the Washington University Medical School was about the third best in the country.

Here I thought I could study the union (as I was to learn it was called in Set Theory) of Psychology, Philosophy, and Religion...that is, where the three of them overlapped.

But it was clear that I wasn't going to have an easy time of it with these clowns.

They thought I was interested in studying all of the mindless, pretentious, academic literal-mindedness games that they made they made their living by.

I was sure that somewhere there would be a domain of compromise.

I found it in the field of Health.

For two years I studied, working adjunct to the Medical School, on the concept of health, mental health, in particular.

This was brand new territory I discovered, perfect ground for a doctoral dissertation, doing some beneficial philosophical analysis in an area that sorely needed it.

I was pleased and happy.

It was actually smooth sailing.

Barrett helped me with the structure of it, which is a euphemism for saying what he would let pass his eye and his desk.

Carl Wellman, a big gun in Ethics, my favorite course of study in professional academic philosophy proper (except that it too was turned into a system of linguistic games (hypnotic nightmares if you are trying to get anywhere)) was appointed to my committee.

But the man who saw the fruit of possibility in my idea was Red Watson, who had done a lot of work in the History of Philosophy, and had written a really excellent book on the essence of what the history of the dispute had been all about.

Watson had guided my work in a little book called Concerning Being and Essence, the single most difficult book ever written by Thomas Aquinas.

We spent a semester on it together.

It was about what happened to Aristotle when you let him loose in the hands of a mad Catholic who had the Cross and Christ to defend.

With Aristotelian metaphysics.

It was an amazing experience.

How self-contradictory the proposition of defending Christianity with Aristotelian metaphysics is.

And how devoted men can be in their efforts to do it.

To preserve their own theology.

The other guy who helped me ex officio was Jerome Schiller, a man from Harvard, and a top scholar on Plato and Aristotle.

Schiller had led me every inch of the way through Aristotle's Metaphysics, probably the most difficult piece ever written in the History of Philosophy.

I had to write six papers on it.

Back when I was on probation.

When I got an 'A' in that course on Aristotle, I knew I had thoroughly broken the resistance of those who thought I couldn't make it.

Schiller was known for being a hatchet man, in de-balling graduate students.

There were fights about it every year.

Well, Watson, Schiller, and Barrett and I would go out, occasionally, in the countryside, and hunt.  That's right.  We would go hunting for squirrels, rabbits, and quail.

I was an expert hunter of course.

And, the one thing about hunting that I knew was that it removed the thin veneer of Civilization enough that you could see each other, and get to know each other a little bit for who you are.

We had a hell of a good time.

Things were reversed, a bit.

If I was a little boy in Big Time Philosophy, old Barrett was an (eager and happy) little kid out in the country with a gun in his hands.

He had grown up in Brooklyn.

We would shoot up the countryside around Missouri, where they "harvest" around two or three million rabbits a year, and then go home to one of their houses, get our wives or stray girlfriends together, and have a feast.

This was the time of the Great Peace Marches of the late sixties, and Schiller was a central figure in the Peace Movement organization in St.  Louis.

And we would have plenty to talk about.

Raucous roaring drunks they turned into.

These ding-a-lings wanted me to shoot doves, of all things.

They loved doves.

Which was a hunting bird, but it had never crossed my mind to blast one of the little critters in Montana.

Well, if doves was what they wanted, I guessed that a few sacrificed for the cause of Truth wouldn't hurt.

So I blasted bags full.

Hard shots.

They would come swooping across at you in cornfields in very uneven motions, from quite a distance.

My pals would often get skunked.

I got zillions.

I was a hero.

Because then we got to bring home some to eat.

And have our raucous drunks.

We loved it.

I can remember, my last year there, bringing them each a knife.

That's right, a handmade hunting knife.

Each made from a Studebaker car spring by a guy I knew in Bonner, Montana.  With Elk horn handles.

Beautiful things.

Modeled after the famous Bowie knife.

They thought that was very classy.

It was.

Well, the day of truth was arriving for the oral exam defense of my doctoral dissertation.

I had already gotten a job for the next year--back at my old Alma Mater, Whitman College, where by a strange quirk of fate the faculty had decided that they needed to expand the faculty by one Philosophy Department member, and I was it.

Coincidentally.

I hadn't even applied anyplace else.

In a bearishly tight teaching market.

I had my dissertation just about wrapped up, with the title "Psychological Abnormality--A Philosophical Analysis of Its Normative Commitments," just in case I ever needed a dissertation with an unmistakably academic name.

I had gone through and proved, beyond a scintilla of a doubt, that the Medical Concept of Health was utilitarian, that the norms were arbitrary, dependent on what people sought in health, and that for these reasons the medical concept of psychological health had to be screwed up because nobody agreed on any of these things when it came to head normalcy.

Something everybody knew anyway.

But I proved.

Well Rudner was fit to be tied.

He had been excluded from the whole process of my dissertation conception and fruitage.

He didn't even get the dissertation until two weeks before my oral.

It contradicted and counteracted everything he believed in and defended with his heart, mind, and soul, such as they were, coming at the discipline as the behaviorist he was.

Rudner was the most hard-core behaviorist on the books.

Even his colleagues laughed at him.

No one could be that concerned, that devoted, to eliminating all concepts that might elevate man to something above a behavioral biochemical organism.

Unless it was Barrett.

Barrett was more dogmatic than Rudner.

In word.

Not in spirit.

Barrett once told me that his goal in Philosophy was to stamp out all "profundity." That is, get rid of anything that was ever "profound" or meaningful to the heart of man.

Barrett was the hatchet man on the logic exam.

Where they usually nailed people.  In that Department.

They would simply make it so difficult that you couldn't get through it unless you were a genius in math and logic.

Otherwise it was a well balanced department.

So, by all appearances, my dissertation should have been in good hands with Barrett on the committee.

As far as the positivists were concerned.

But, not so.

Barrett had a heart.

And a mind.

And a soul.

And a spirit.

And I spotted all of them.

And they were the basis of the way I related to him.

And he to me.

And there is no power in the Universe that can equal the power that flows in the love and the respect that is recognized and known when two people greet each other in those terms.

Even though they may never speak a word of it.

To each other.

Rudner couldn't believe his eyes!

Or his ears!

When we got down in that oral exam, and he was thoroughly outnumbered.

He tried.

Oh God he tried.

He said, "Mr.  Brown, you seem to have covered all the important points on this topic; I just have a couple of questions on some rather trivial issues."

And then he proceeded to get out his sword and flay me alive.

But he couldn't get any support.

He was just one voice.

In a room full of people.

He grilled me for what seemed like an hour and a half, and finally had to let me go.

There just wasn't anybody taking up his lead.

Silence.

Oh, the beautiful power of absolute silence!

Finally, they sent me out to stew in my juices while they talked over my performance.

It had been thoroughly mediocre.

I knew it.

They knew it.

It didn't matter.

Rudner was the first one to come out of the room.

With a big smile on his face.

Saying, "Congratulations, Doctor Brown."

I knew that he thought that I knew that he was congratulating me on a superb political maneuver.

Which it had been.

If you want to look at it like that.

I knew that it had been Good Old Love doing its work.

On the way over to the faculty club where the group of us were going afterwards to celebrate my success on the exam (which was the final step toward getting the degree) Rudner put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Now your education really begins."

He was right.

And we both knew it.



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