An Inescapable Tyranny?

Sunni's picture

Some time ago I explored the workings of brains, and therein as well as in the discussion that followed, I hinted that I would take up related matters at some point. That day has arrived for one of them. It seems to me we each operate under a tyranny that is inescapable—at least permanently and meaningfully inescapable. But then, I am probably showing my ignorance with that statement.

In my previous blog ramble on brains, my primary point was that each individual’s brain is custom-built, so to speak: it gets the way it is from one’s genetic blueprint, plus one’s experiences in the world. As several people commented, brains—even older ones—are remarkably plastic, tweaking and rerouting and reassigning as needed in some cases (disease or physical damage), or seemingly inexplicably in others. Yet, despite this constant fluidity, our brains create a tyranny that some seem unable to recognize, much less crack.

This tyranny is the tyranny of self.

I’d been thinking about this, and wondering how to present the idea, when I came across a transcript of David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon College commencement address. He expressed my musings better than I ever will, so allow me to pass on his assertion:

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Now, please don’t mistake where I’m going here; I am in no way trying to claim that this is necessarily and always a bad thing. The experience of self is metaphorically equivalent to one’s skin—it keeps us together, more or less, through all of life. And as such is it just as important as skin—without it we would be a heap of disparate mental stuff with no uniting context.

But, because we are locked in to this narrow perspective, the uniting function of the self spreads ... it seeps into our thinking in areas where it doesn’t belong—and where it can be downright dangerous. It can lead to ego issues. It can create as well as perpetuate communications difficulties with others. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, many psychological phenomena may ultimately be pinned on the tyranny of self—the fundamental attribution error and in-group bias are two, for starters.

One example of its pervasiveness has been briefly touched on here before. We are curious creatures, always trying to understand things. When we wonder about something—especially when something unusual happens in a familiar context—we try to come up with explanations for these situations. A more accurate frame would be that we tell ourselves stories, because that elucidates what pure fiction they can be. And a large part of what makes them fiction is that we place ourselves at the center of those stories. I explain someone’s behavior in terms of a shift in their thinking about me, when it turns out I requested (and then forgot about) the behavior, or—even richer—their choice is completely independent of me ... it just impacts me in some way. [And, for those of you reading and telling yourself that I must not like you any more, else I’d reply to your email, well, it isn’t you. I remain way behind and am getting even behinder.]

Some people are more aware of this self-focus than others. Some seem to grasp it intellectually, but appear to be unable to act on it in practice. This is the origin of many otherwise senseless squabbles among pro-freedom individuals, I think, as well as charges of hypocrisy. Yes, I may be a hypocrite for whining about shifts in relationships when I have removed people from this blogroll—but in my own view my actions stem from good cause: it isn’t mere disagreement that prompts removal, but rather I may encounter something from the other that strikes me as being contra freedom [or it’s possible that it was a housekeeping accident]. Was it hypocritical of me to complain about a lack of business at Sunni’s Salon and shutter it, after allegedly helping to shut down a pro-freedom bookseller? Some apparently see it that way; I do not. But enough of this diversion.

Is it not accurate to say that semantic differences have contributed to much of the rancor between pro-freedom individuals—and by extension, the groups which seem to form around certain individuals and/or ideas? Why is it so hard for some to acknowledge that their definitions of, say, “capitalism” differ from others’, and that as long as they understand and keep those distinctions in mind, communication can remain fairly productive? If we all must agree on one definition for each word before we can exchange ideas, we truly are doomed.

There are ways by which we appear to step out of the trap of self. Probably the most common one is empathy—stepping in to someone else’s position. In shifting our frame of reference in this way we can gain deeper understanding, and a wider appreciation for how our experiences differ from another’s; but is this not ultimately a joke we try to pull on ourselves? Our understanding of any person is filtered through that self-context. That includes ourselves. Which is not to say that our efforts to empathize are worthless, because they most emphatically are not—but we can delude ourselves as to how much we’re actually stepping outside our own context and into another’s.

Some who’ve made it this far—and who have certain experiences with substances that I lack—might step up at this point and advance the claim that entheogens provide a more enduring way out of self’s tyranny. As best I recall, I do think every person who’s spoken to me about them has claimed that it has forever changed how he views the world ... but still those experiences come from within that framework of self. I don’t doubt that they expand one’s perspective, but I’m not sure that they break through it. By that I mean that entheogen use enables a different perspective on living and experiences, but it doesn’t allow one to mind-meld with another ... does it?

Now, in musing publicly about all this, I hope to raise awareness and assist better understanding, rather than contribute to a sense of frustration or futility—because I do think we have some power to step outside our usual context. David Foster Wallace again:

If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities [in response to scenarios outlined earlier] that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it.

He’s talking about something I touched on before: the stories we tell ourselves—the ongoing context-building or –sustaining narrative on which our actions are pinned. They are often overly self-focused. As a result they’re frequently inaccurate, and worse, uncharitable to the others in our lives. I’m reminded of a story I linked to in my last Salon, The Gold Wrapping Paper; and I must admit, in my haste and self-absorption I have at times come too close to that man than I care to consider.

The tyranny of the self—or of the ego, if one prefers—may be an unconquerable tyranny when viewed from one perspective, but from others it need not be. As Wallace implicitly shows (and his entire address really is worth reading), a nontrivial part of that tyranny is simply a choice to follow habit. The willingness to change that—to give the stories we tell ourselves a different angle (irrespective of whether it is more accurate or not, and whether we ever learn whether it’s accurate)—may be the most enduring way we can break out of this tyranny and gain a more compassionate view of others. I see this as vitally important in raising children, as well as being a beacon of liberty to others.

[Also, whilst wandering around and musing about this subject, I came across another essay that seems to come at the same idea from a very different angle. I’m not sure how Why Most of Our Lives Is a Rationale for the Imprint ties in, but it seems it does; and thus I offer it in hopes that one of you can help me understand better.]

Curious speculation

From the link you gave I came across this:

Example: during the birth process there is no help. The baby is drugged by the anesthesia given to the mother and cannot help out to get born. It is “all too much”---the imprint. Even when there are no words to describe it is still imprinted. Much later when we have words and concepts we will put an explanation to it; but it will always be inadequate because until we arrive there we have no real idea what the feeling is that is driving us.

DAMN. I wonder if this has any relation with the transition from independent pioneers to whining sheeple which has occurred in the last century (the same time in which children born via anesthetic intervention has been prevalent.)

- NonE

Not at all more enduring!

Sunni sed:

Some who’ve made it this far—and who have certain experiences with substances that I lack—might step up at this point and advance the claim that entheogens provide a more enduring way out of self’s tyranny.

As I'm probably one of those them, let me try to expand upon the apparent miscommunication I may have made.

I only praise "entheogens" as a gift, not as a solution. Consider the elevator. One may take an elevator to the observation deck of the Empire State building, from whence a spectacular view of the city may be obtained. Until one has seen the city from that perspective one cannot even imagine the experience in anything near the reality. One may also climb the stairs to the same observation deck. Having done this it is possible that one might even appreciate the viewing experience with greater appreciation and perhaps greater clarity due to the investment made in getting there. Nonetheless, either way you arrived, you will have a view of the city which will forever alter your understanding of it. From this point forward your life will provide you with other views, and other understandings, but all of them will include this particular view as a background.

It is in this manner that I proclaim entheogens as a gift. They are like an elevator in providing people with the chance at a view that many might not have taken the time and trouble to obtain on their own. In this they are also a crutch and so, like so many things, a double-edged sword. The other ways one may use to examine life from a different perspective include meditation, having a near-death experience like Aaron Ralston did in that Utah canyon where he had to cut his own arm off to escape, or surviving a typhoon or concentration camp. Each such experience will forever change one's perspective of what life is about.

I hope that may help to clarify my meaning. There are no elevators to many places we wish to go. Having taken an elevator to one height may induce one to make the hard climb to other locations equally worthy of the effort, and if nothing more have at least openned one's eyes to the fact that there are other perspectives on the world.

- NonE

[edited by None to enhance the clarity of the message, or so he hopes]


Said a bit differently, there's more than one way to get to those places which afford us new perspectives on ourselves. The drugs happen to be one of the cheaper and easier ways.

But just as Sunni suggests, the mind-meld, no matter how desirable, just doesn't happen. One may enjoy illusions to the effect that it does happen, but ultimately those are shown to be just that: illusions.

A thought-provoking piece. And it's on Strike the Root today :)

the tyranny of self

is either impossible or meaningless. Looking at the various definitions given for tyranny here and here the two that come closest to applying are "Absolute power, or its use" and "Extreme severity or rigour". Now, logically, if the self has absolute power, then it can control the severity of whatever pain it is causing to itself.

I read the transcript several times to see if I could get any value out of it. I did not. This is a nice way of saying that I found it to be a bunch of self-serving meaningless drivel. The bit that is quoted is at best an incomplete view of human and indeed general animal behavior. One need go no further back than Kropotkin's Mutual Aid to see that this is not the way people and animals act. We are all social creatures. At times we are the most important, at times others, such as our spouses and children, are far more important. At other times, abstracts, like community and nation are the most important. This is why tyrants can get people to die for the country, or for the leader.

The transcript itself contains so many things that are, to me, with no training in either Liberal Arts or Psychology, completely wrong. His view of life is a very depressing one that I do not share.

Turning to the Imprint piece, I find myself, once again, thinking "what total nonsense." First of all he provides no supporting material for his rather sweeping claims. Secondly he gives two opposite birth examples, one of a child that is drugged coming into the world, the other of one that has to fight every millimeter of the way. These opposite experiences cause serious problems. It seems no one can win. Then there is the little bit that if negative experiences leave unshakable imprints, then so must positive ones. This is not mentioned. The statement that we are "irrational beings" is wrong. For the most part we are non-rational, in the sense that what we do is not rationally thought out. This does not mean we are irrational. If we were irrational the Human race would not be here. Walking into a pride of lions is irrational. Early Humans who did did not reproduce, breading a lot of irrationality out of the species.

We are capable of rationality. When one of the genus homo figured out how to make a splint to help a friend or tribe mate, they demonstrated Reason, compassion, and a variety of other characteristics, many of them unselfcentered.

The statement that "each individual’s brain is custom-built" is undoubtedly true, but this does not mean that a basic template (for lack of a better term) does not exist. If this were not true then Kipling's statement "if a lion could talk we still would not understand him" would apply to our fellow humans as well.

There are outliers. Sociopaths, for example. But these are outliers. Several standard deviations outs. If the behavior attributed to Humanity in those two pieces was true for the majority, or even for a significant minority, the race would have died off a long time ago.

Imprints and the effects of early experience

Jorge, you point out that Janov "provides no supporting material" in his blog post -- true -- but it's worth mentioning that Janov has written a dozen or so books that provide quite a bit of supporting material for what he is saying. (See some of the books listed at left of page at the referenced post; here it is again). And no, not every early experience causes problems; traumatic experiences do cause problems, however, and it takes less to create trauma in a newborn than in, say, a 25 year old.

I'm taking time to comment because I view this as a key point for liberty: feelings and emotional health matter, and matter a lot -- not just personally but socially, and thus politically. I believe that love and freedom actually require each other -- try to find, or even imagine, a functioning, long-lasting free society peopled by sociopaths, for instance. For that matter, consider the cruelty inflicted on children in pre-war Germany as it relates to Hitler's rise to power (see Alice Miller's For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, for instance). Love is the lubricant and anti-corrosive for the market, and for society generally.

Rose Wilder Lane put it well in The Discovery of Freedom:

"The real protection of life and property, always and everywhere, is the general recognition of the brotherhood of man."

That sense of brotherhood is fostered by loving and respectful treatment early in life, and harmed by the opposite. It can also be harmed by trauma of other types.

An important related point is that libertarianism has languished (i.e., failed) rather than thrived because it is seen by the public as cold and lacking humanity. This is an accurate perception, not because libertarians personally are cold but because we have ignored the duality of love and freedom and thus conceded love and compassion generally to the left. Libertarians know that government socialism is a horror, but the public mostly doesn't want to see that bit of truth, and that is good information that we need to learn from: people want compassion and brotherhood explicitly incorporated into their personal and political worldview. For libertarians to do so does NOT require (or even allow for) using government force to somehow "implement compassion" at gunpoint; it DOES require the explicit, formal recognition that we are all brothers and sisters and the suggestion to treat others (and especially the young) with compassion and respect. Unlike the nonaggression principle, this aspect of a healthy approach to life cannot be stated as a command, but it is nonetheless critically important.

I cover the topic in more detail in many of my columns for STR; here are 4:

Blinding by Paradigm

The Root Evil of Widespread Emotional Damage

Womb, Birth, Infancy, Childhood

Feeling, Emotion, Intellect

Some disagreement

Jorge will speak for himself (if he so chooses), but I'd like to comment here on your remarks.

First, let me say that I believe "love and freedom" *will* go hand in hand in a free society. Just because it's not been emphasized doesn't mean it will be ignored when/if that society comes into existence. In fact I see love as springing from respect, and I don't believe one could live happily - or would choose to live - in a free society unless he respects others as equals with equal rights of their own.

I do question, however, that the 'coldness' of libertarianism is reason for its rejection; at least in many discussions concerning its philosophy, I've never had *anyone* mention this aspect of libertarianism as a reason for rejecting it.

Secondly: I understand what trauma can do to a person, especially when it occurs in a child, and how it may affect his life negatively thereafter. I know of and have studied many cases, including those in history (such as Hitler).

But I don't agree with your (psychiatric) intimation that negative treatment, even repressed from early on, will *necessarily* (more often than not?), result in a troubled personality in adulthood. It's quite possible it will; but many individuals compensate by becoming the opposite - a caring, compassionate, positive personality for good.

I think you've rejected or minimized influence of the "logical" part of the human brain which allows the individual to *choose* how he will act in either normal or abnormal situations. Though he may have been traumatized as a child, pre-verbal or even in utero (though I have my own doubts about how strongly in utero affects a person over a lifetime), he may well decide, consciously or subconsciously, to treat others as he wishes he had been treated, i.e. he may react *against* the very hell he was put through. The person may repress his trauma, and even reject the person or situation that traumatized him, but he becomes a rational, loving parent and spouse, and a decent, likeable, productive adult in his community.

Humans are capable of rising above their environment (likewise above their genes). Their very adaptability - physical, intellectual *and* emotional - makes this so. But while the files may indicate many who were traumatized and became anti-social to one degree or another, there are very few files on those traumatized, but never came under scrutiny, who went on to lead 'normal' lives. The 'abnormal' inundate the filing system *because* they call attention to themselves.

Could not have said it better

Pagan has captured my thinking on this matter almost exactly.

Replying to Glen:

I read Miller and several others when my children were much younger. To me she really seems to be stretching a point. In any event, as David Friedman showed in The Machinery of Freedom, love is not enough. It is impossible to love the entire world. This is where economics comes in, and that has nothing to do with love. You can hate someone and still trade with them. Likewise you can respect their rights. Love is not necessary, and indeed is not possible, when dealing with strangers. All that is necessary is respect for rights. So I disagree with Lane's statement.

I agree with Pagan that a free society will have more love (I would use a different word, perhaps compassion) than the current one. I think freedom will come first. When people see that Liberty is a better way, for a variety of reasons, including very selfish ones, then violence, of all kinds, will diminish.

I do not think many people will be convinced by the argument that the entire cause of their problems relates to childhood abuse in society. Intuitively it does not make sense.

I read the STR articles. For the most part I disagree with the implicit assumptions and many of the explicit statements. For example, I disagree that emotional damage is widespread and that most children have been abused. To change my mind on these, and other points, I would need to see the raw data and know the methodology used to gather it. Along with the definitions of "emotional damage" and "abuse".

Some agreement?

Whilst perusing some dietary information I happened across the following article which may be of interest to those considering the "imprint" theory.

Early Childhood Stress Can Have a Lingering Effect on Your Health

I note that the article claims that EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), a practice Mama Liberty extols and facilitates, can be significantly beneficial in recovery from (or transition beyond?) these repressed early traumas.

- NonE

It seems to me

Jorge, I don’t have the time at the moment to respond to each of your points; so I’ll do what I can for now.

First, it seems to me that your comments prove my point. From your perspective, nothing I said, nor nothing I linked to, offers anything of value to you. That stems more from the self-tyranny I spoke of than it does the custom-built aspect of brains. Your self appears to be highly focused on rationality and logic. Ideas and systems that do not meet some minimal criteria appear to be quickly discarded by you. This isn’t a judgment on my part—simply an observation.

Perhaps I would have communicated better if I had labeled the concept I attempted to elucidate more clearly: I meant that our frame of reference is built upon and around our own experiences, feedback, thoughts, feelings, and ideas. We cannot at present look at things completely objectively, because even that frame of reference has been built by ourselves. I call this a tyranny because its influence is absolute: we cannot escape our self-built and self-focused frame of reference.

The bit that is quoted is at best an incomplete view of human and indeed general animal behavior.

I didn’t see it as a model of behavior at all. Rather, it identifies and highlights an inescapable aspect of our consciousness. We are social creatures, true; our choices as to social interactions are influenced by one’s frame of reference and details of the situation (one is usually more likely to jump into a freezing river to save one’s own child than a total stranger). We choose to put others’ needs or interests ahead of our own at times because we care for them—again, our frame of reference is an implicit part of those choices.

I see rationality not as impossible under the model I tried to address. It is however, a differing level of operation. We judge rationalty or the lack thereof based on our frame of reference, informed by our experiences, ideas, and values. Thus some judge tax resistance as rational, while other pro-freedom individuals see it as a pointless, even dangerous tactic.

I will try to clarify further later, if necessary (does this help you, NonE?), and address some other issues as well.

Different point

Perhaps I would have communicated better if I had labeled the concept I attempted to elucidate more clearly: I meant that our frame of reference is built upon and around our own experiences, feedback, thoughts, feelings, and ideas. We cannot at present look at things completely objectively, because even that frame of reference has been built by ourselves.

I get a very different message from this statement than from the original post. This I sort of agree with, but then shrug. If there is observer bias, a sort of Heisenberg uncertainty principle for the world we interact with, it clearly has not stopped humanity from moving forward. It does not stop us from loving, from caring, from thinking and building. It also does not stop us from doing all the negative stuff either, but I seriously doubt it is the cause, or even a contributing factor. Just a reality of the world, like gravity or oxygen. What we do with this reality is, to a very large extent, up to us.

I call this a tyranny because its influence is absolute: we cannot escape our self-built and self-focused frame of reference.

I am unclear that the frame is self-built. The little I have read on this topic indicates that a lot of our brain is hardwired. For example, we are hardwired with the ability to learn language. It seems that most animals are hardwired with a concept of quantity. So yes, we build a lot of the framework, but we build on an extensive scaffolding. That base is common to humanity, and a lot of it is common to other animals. This is why we can communicate with other people and indeed with our pets.

Your self appears to be highly focused on rationality and logic. Ideas and systems that do not meet some minimal criteria appear to be quickly discarded by you. This isn’t a judgment on my part—simply an observation.

It is a fairly accurate observation. I consider it a feature :) although I could stand to learn how to communicate less bluntly. However, I arrived here through a lot of conscious and deliberate effort. My greatest problem with the post and the links is the hidden, or in the case of the Imprint post, blatant, assertion that we are helpless because we have been "programmed" by external events.

The bottom line is I do not accept the concept that an inescapable self-tyranny exists. Perhaps an individual is making their own life miserable, but this can be changed. If they want to, and more specifically, if they are willing to do the work necessary.

By happenstance


After reading your post above, I happened across this article on, The Dark Lesson of Bernie Madoff. It is quite interesting from the mechanical view of the brain, for want of a better phrase. Sunni's term "tyranny" seems a foreign concept to me, as I've attempted to indicate in my glimpses into meditation and other means that we have for self observation and change, but this article goes straight into the hardwired part with information that is new (at least to me).

To take one paragraph out of context simply because I'd love to stick Obama's face next to it if we had graphics capabilities here: (the article actually goes into some depth on the complexity of different parts of the brain interacting in myriads of ways we are apparently only beginning to be aware of. So maybe Sunni's tyranny is more real than I am giving it credit for.)

Perhaps the most compelling predictive data supporting the "bad seed" hypothesis is a 25-year study showing that, as early as the age of 3, there are temperamental and physiological difference between those who show psychopathic tendencies as adults and those who don't. In the early '70s, 1,800 3-year-olds were observed and rated on several psychological scales, including their degree of fearfulness and inhibition. Twenty-five years later they were reexamined. Those with the higher psychopathy rating scores were found to be significantly less fearful and inhibited and more glib, charming and manipulative.

(empahsis mine)

(end of gratuitous inflamatory posting here)

In a January 2009 study, French neuroscientist Nicolas Danziger wanted to see whether a person could empathize with an unfamiliar emotional state. He studied a group of patients with congenital insensitivity to pain -- a rare condition present at birth and related to genetic changes in sensory nerves. Such patients have never felt physical pain sensations and have no idea what pain feels like. Interested in seeing how these patients would respond to seeing others in pain, Danziger showed them photos of a person getting her finger caught in gardening shears and a video clip of Theismann's leg being broken.

Surprisingly, some of the pain-insensitive patients responded on fMRI similarly to normal controls -- their pain perception regions lit up. Others had the anticipated lack of response. The difference between the two groups correlated with the degree of empathy that was elicited on a standard empathy assessment questionnaire. The authors concluded that those patients who responded had the "empathy trait."

If this study pans out and can be duplicated under a variety of similar circumstances, the inference is profound: Each of us is wired differently for feeling the pain and suffering of others, irrespective of our past personal experience.

So is empathy an inborn trait?
[article continues...]

I must take issue with the author of the article regarding his conclusion:

Madoff can't repay his victims, but we can learn from him. That's why he should be forced to participate in medical studies as part of his sentence. The best cognitive scientists, philosophers, geneticists and sociologists should be allowed to administer to him whatever non-invasive and ethically appropriate clinical studies they can dream up. See if any pattern emerges that is sufficiently reliable to qualify as predictive. Even if our present knowledge is insufficient to draw conclusions, Madoff would make a great set of data points. Perhaps one day he can give something back to society by teaching us about human empathy, and its limitations.

The name "Mengele" pops to the forefront of my mind upon reading this final paragraph.

- NonE


We cannot at present look at things completely objectively, because even that frame of reference has been built by ourselves. I call this a tyranny because its influence is absolute: we cannot escape our self-built and self-focused frame of reference.

Hi Sunni. Intriguing post. But I disagree on a first principle here. Is it an objective statement that "we cannot at present look at things completely objectively"? If so, how would you know (objectively speaking, of course)? If not, how do you expect it to be taken seriously (empirically and logically, i.e., scientifically and philosophically)?

Objectivity is the core characteristic of a consciousness engaged in the process of non-contradictory identification. That most creatures of reason fall short of this at present only indicates how many factors can lead them astray. We currently live in the age of pre-logic, in which humans as a species are just beginning to awaken from their psychological slumber and philosophical nightmares.

Consciousness is axiomatic and thus inescapable. But it is no tyranny, which as another commenter noted, only begs the question of the true definition of tyranny.

Objectivity is our glory as reasoning beings—to identify the identity of things correctly, according to the contextual and hierarchical nature of knowledge, and to evaluate them in accordance with the value (or not) they have for our lives and well-being. The problem of bias that you focus on arises when people fail at this task of objectivity, instead losing context and proper perspective, for a whole host of philosophical and psychological reasons.

Even Ayn Rand indulged in contradictions, particularly the one known as government. Such is the challenge of logic for each of us.

Contradictions and semantic sleights-of-hand

Is it an objective statement that "we cannot at present look at things completely objectively"? If so, how would you know (objectively speaking, of course)? If not, how do you expect it to be taken seriously (empirically and logically, i.e., scientifically and philosophically)?

I expect my statement was taken seriously by readers who recognize the differing meanings possible for the term “objective”. That’s hardly an example of the stolen concept fallacy.


Is it an objective statement that "we cannot at present look at things completely objectively"? If so, how would you know (objectively speaking, of course)? If not, how do you expect it to be taken seriously (empirically and logically, i.e., scientifically and philosophically)?

I think this is spot on. :)

Consciousness is axiomatic and thus inescapable. But it is no tyranny, which as another commenter noted, only begs the question of the true definition of tyranny.

This... not so much. ;)
First, on the aspect raised earlier, if I'm following the position accurately, I'd offer that a tyrant isn't one who necessarily, literally, controls every iota and facet of another, but instead simply retains the power to, where and when and to the degree of benefit to the tyrant.

Relative to this regarding one's 'self' (some's word choice = "consciousness", another's = "conscience"), I can easily see where the false self (some's word choice = the ego) is tyrannical, or potentially so: where the false self is more precisely the voice(s) of others (including potentially, "genetic memory/generational memories").
One anarchist I've listened to in the past, theorizes that universally (i.e. generally, with proportionately rare exceptions), each individual is born brilliant when it comes to learning social and personal skills (akin to intuition), which lend to genuine happiness and peace.

This is distinctive from the "blank slate" theory. And as I understand it, sees a combination of a "pre-written" slate (similar to, but distinct from, animalistic instinct) and a blank slate.

Building upon that theory, it is only in having parental, as primarily adult abuse of the "true self" occur, that the "false self" (false 'voice') becomes the tyrant. The false 'self' being then the con+fusion of abusive, perverted, tyrannical influence, physical and verbal, absorbed and fashioned (taken) as being one's (whole) self, one's self 'talk'.
Central then to restoring the true self to 'the throne' (of self control/of inner happiness and peace) is via persistent objective (empirical and logical, i.e., scientific and philosophical) examination/reflection. Thus, examining The Voice for determining whether it is who 'one' truly, genuinely, is --as opposed to a 'who' one has been led to take, and/or assumed, to be. [as a total take-it-or-leave it aside, I easily see in this theory who --or what-- those that "hear God" are actually "hearing": the true, but most often long repressed, pressed 'down' genuine/true self]

I hope I've communicated what I'm seeing; an obviously complex matter (did Horton hear a Who here?). Thanks for allowing me to attempt to. :)

Re: daffynitioning? and false-self tyranny

Well said (er, written;). Yet "genetic memory/generational memories" sound a bit like Jungian archetypes, which overlook the fact that concepts can only be formed, integrated, and retained via experiences with reality, employing reason and emotion.

Maria Montessori's book "The Secret of Childhood" lends much empirical and theoretical credence to the idea that we are born "brilliant," as you mentioned. It's my favorite child psych book. :)

False-self thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are indicative of low self-esteem, oftentimes being the aftermath of negative influences from the complex adult world of defenses against realizations of low self-esteem. Passing the psychological buck won't do, of course. Only by introspecting can we free ourselves from such "tyranny." On that note, I can't recommend Nathaniel Branden's "The Art of Self-Discovery" too highly. It's the mother of all little psychotherapeutic workbooks, utilizing sentence completion exercises, or "sentence stems," for getting really acquainted with one's vast subconscious mind and emotions.

[Edited by Sunni to remove content and link to an individual I am not comfortable recommending or supporting]

Only? ONLY?

"Only by introspecting can we free ourselves from such 'tyranny.'"

I must say I think that sentence is a bit grandiose and probably wrong. I'm not so sure that the problems we create with the mental "maps" of reality can necessarily only, or maybe ever be cured by using even more "maps" (word picture representations of what we think reality is) of reality. E.F.T., for instance, is a profoundly powerful healing modality, based upon the "energy meridians" of Asian (Chinese?) studies. Ain't no intellectualizin' goin' on there, for sure.

I'm not claiming to know, I'm just pointing out things which I find problematical as "facts."

And once again, I point to Stuart Chase's wonderful book, "The Tyranny of Words."

- NonE

Outside the Tunnel

This RA Wilson piece is the first time I believe I breached this topic. The filters and perspectives we view everything through effects our version of reality, even word definitions and the strict adherence to someone else's definition.

Good post, Sunni. Lots to chew on.

RAW piece

Thanks so much for that link, Pint. It has expanded my world a bit more.

- NonE

My reflections


Experiencing this post of yours and the resultant thread have proven interesting. The first time I read it, I didn't connect with much of anything. I read the words, and they didn't make any sense to me. I didn't understand what point you were attempting to make. Then there were some comments, so I read them, and was even more lost, mostly. But I went back and read it again, and perused the links, and read more comments. I was still pretty much at a loss. I felt out of context. There were words there, but they didn't form images in my brain to which I could connect. I felt a disappointment in that it appeared that there was something of import (to you at least, and to others also, it seemed) which you were attempting to convey, and I was just not getting it. So I read it again. I read the R.A.W. link PintofStout pointed to and that helped a lot.

One thing which I find interesting is that I think I can see where Jorge, Brian, and others are coming from when they suggest that what I've written is often meaningless incoherent drivel (my interpretative summary of what they've said). We have differing referants.

As I've gone over your post, examined the links, perused the other pieces of your writing that you've linked to regarding the same subject, I've started to get a handle on your referants, if a tentative one, and am starting to be able to form a picture of the idea you are attempting to communicate.

And I think that perhaps what I am saying right here is exactly that at which you point.

Which makes me more sure of one thing. That it is very important to be precise with words, and just as important to recognise that there is no such precision possible as each of us is an entirely different conglomeration of history, learning, experience (all three of these words meaning exactly the same thing in this context).

Perhaps this is another way of saying what I've said before, the journey is all, for there is no destination. It is all in the dance. Or, as Wilson said:

The existentialist experiences the collapse of the absolute, shudders, decides the universe is meaningless, and determines to be brave and impose a meaning on life anyway. Nietzsche experiences the collapse, laughs joyously, decides the universe contains all possible meanings, and tells us to pick the meaning that will liberate our own Will to Power most totally.

I want to point out something here that I've not mentioned before in this space. "The Work" of Byron Katie is a process of inquiry which is extraordinarily powerful, perhaps mostly for it's utter simplicity. Somehow or other she had a very traumatic experience which resulted in a flash of insight for her, insight she codified into four simple questions which, when applied to our beliefs, helps us gain clarity on our thoughts. Let me point out that there is no judgement whatsoever in her process, no right, no wrong, only a method of approaching our thinking in a way that helps us examine our own thoughts more clearly. Highly recommended. Her site has some audio and video files where you can observe people going through the process and in so doing gain an idea of it's power.

I mention "The Work" here simply because it has shown itself to me to be a means of helping me to find other ways of seeing things, it's powerful, it's easy, and it's free.

I hope that something I've said here connects in some manner with what you were writing about.

- NonE (I'm a ramblin' man, made a lot of stops, all over the world... - paraphrasing Ricky Nelson)


Oh, Sunni. I'm humbled by this post. Thank you very much for making it. It reminds me that studying our own nature (as human beings) is something to look forward to, rather than shrink from, or yawn at. And my own actions lately toward some people in my life have been far too self-centered, and self-righteous, when they ought not to have been. I might need to talk to you privately about some things (I know, I know - you're a million years behind on emails). :)


Well, I’m glad someone was able to follow it, and find some value from it ...

And my own actions lately toward some people in my life have been far too self-centered, and self-righteous, when they ought not to have been.

I dunno about that ... “ought” and “should” strike me as two of the most dangerous words in the English language. You may be right in your reassessment—but you may not be; and I’m not in a position to make the assessment, much less offer even a tentative answer.

All that said, your emails are always welcome. :-D

Letting Go of Ought

Hey Sunni, I know an interesting essay on that topic. ;-)

Regarding the deleted comment

Some of you may have noticed that a comment posted here was deleted unanswered. I did that because the question is one I consider much more appropriate for private email rather than a public conversation (I have tried to clarify my preferences on this elsewhere); and also, because the person commenting appeared to take something I said personally ... but that was inaccurate. To that end, I have slightly modified the relevant portion of my ramble.

I’m sorry it took me so long to clear up any confusion that my actions may have enabled; but I have been mostly away from computers of late.