Defusing a Bomb with Phenomenology

Here is one of my favorite scenes from John Carpenter’s Dark Star. As I said in my last post, solipsism is identifying the ego with God. If the tech had explained to the bomb the Jungian concept of the Self versus the Ego, maybe this would have gone differently.

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The Jungian Self and God

I’ve started a Facebook group for discussing psychology and social media, to explore my thesis that social media has precipitated a crisis of persona management and that it’s a very hazardous tool. The following post I made to the group really concerns my broader reflections on Jung’s claim that Christ is a symbol of the Self. I thought this was one of my better posts, but it got no play at all:

Persona, Ego, Self, and the Locus of God. The Persona is the archetype of the various masks we wear to represent ourselves to other people. A consistent self-presentation is so vital to functioning in groups that the Persona is a significant mode of the psyche, fixed by evolution, and is there organizing our experience whether we’re conscious of it or not. The Ego, on the other hand, is the center of awareness, and the Persona can shield the Ego, help represent the Ego, or eclipse and stunt the Ego, which is the condition of Persona inflation, or identification. All the archetypes threaten to subsume a weak Ego.

The Self is neither Persona nor Ego. The Self is Everything set in proper order. It is a mode of the entire psyche setting all the archetypes in dynamic balance. Its symbol, according to Jung, is the mandala. The Self, like the Tao, comprises your entire multiverse: conscious, unconscious, the material universe, heaven, and hell. Jung said that Christ was a symbol of the Self. For Christians, therefore, the Self is God.

There are several potential loci for God as I see it. There is the externalized supernatural God who is situated in a perfected idealized realm apart from humanity; there is God as the Ego, that is, the God of the solipsist; and then there is God as immanent from the Self.

Consider that there is nothing outside your experience, except theoretically, and that perforce your world is represented to you through your own psyche, which for all its collective aspects is a unique expression of the genome. Your multiverse is not quite like anyone else’s. And so must it be with God. “God is your own Self” is a far different proposition from “God is the Ego.” The Ego is not the locus of Meaning organizing the entire psyche; it is just the surface tip of the vast subterranean mountain of your unconscious. Where is God? From the Jungian perspective, God is in you, the larger you that represents everything ordered to the Good. The monotheistic religious system is an attempt to recognize and give voice to the Self. There is a bit of a problem, though: because you are a unique instantiation of the genome — and even identical twins are differentiated by experience — at some point the road you walk toward the Self is one you have to take alone.

You avoid inflation, narcissism, and solipsism by subordinating the Ego to the Self. Unlike the other, fractional archetypes, the Self will not betray your veneration. However, all the archetypes, even the Self, will make you a generic function of the instincts if you become identified with them, say by acting like a dogmatic partisan on Facebook.

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Rules for Logical Argument

I’m keeping this post to link to from any argument space that I control, like my Facebook wall. I prefer to argue in an objective mode, even if the subject is religion, aesthetics, or politics. I wholly reject the proposition that all categorical statements are political.

This is what I expect from all participants:

1. Clarify any special terms you are using. Do not proceed to argue until you agree on the meaning of your words.

2. Do not use logical fallacies, which includes argument against identity, explicit or coded in buzzwords like “mansplain” or “femsplain.”

3. Do not tell other people what they think or feel. As a procedural necessity, everyone must be treated as an authority over their own experience.

4. If the argument gets heated, have each person summarize the other’s point and gain their acceptance of the interpretation before moving on.

5. If you are asked if you are arguing from a certain premise, give an unequivocal answer, no prevaricating with “It’s more complicated than that” if the question must have a yes-or-no answer. You can qualify your position, but at some point, you must also commit to a premise in order to argue at all.

6. Don’t indulge in sarcasm when countering someone’s points.

7. Take the most charitable interpretation of your opponent’s statements that you can.

8. Do not ask or expect other people to do your own research for you. “Google it” is not a valid rejoinder to a request for evidence.

General Observations:

Just as in a trial it is incumbent on the prosecution to build their case, in an argument the person advancing the proposition must supply their own evidence. People hate to be exposed as wrong, so asking them to supply evidence against their position is tantamount to asking the defense to support the prosecution’s case.

Instead of calling someone out on an obscure logical fallacy, say, “That’s not an argument,” and only elaborate if necessary. (Nod to Jack Raynard on this latter idea.) Character assassination is the genetic fallacy. You cannot win a rational argument with moral superiority. It doesn’t matter if your opponent is literally the Devil.

Charitable interpretation, even charitable inference beyond the literal words, demonstrates both your cleverness and reasonableness. People will think you’re either disingenuous or not very bright if you miss alternate valid interpretations to win points in an argument.

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Civilized Argument Online

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been involved in a private Facebook group that has sought to bring ideological opponents together to discuss contentious issues. I was part of the moderating staff for a few months, and I gave input on the guidelines. Whereas the founder’s primary interest has been in building the group and inviting quality members, I’ve been more interested in seeing if his experiment could succeed and be translated into a system that anyone could use. I’ve reached the conclusion that the experiment is largely a success, and that we can radically improve our online dialog.

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When identity politics trumps all

In a recent Facebook thread on identity politics, I made the following contribution, with some redaction here.

I see a dozen online memes an hour speaking to Trump’s “misogyny” and “racism.” These terms have suffered scope creep. They no longer refer to an avowed attitude of racial or gender superiority. Now they apply to people’s actions. So why shouldn’t they? After all, if someone uses racist language or targets a minority group for discrimination or exploitation, they probably hold racist attitudes; if a man takes sexual liberties with a woman, he probably holds women in contempt. Anyone who objects to judging people to be racist or sexist based on their actions is probably racist or sexist themselves. Continue reading

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Do Dungeon Masters roll magic dice?

Tony Daniel at Baen commissioned this article from me. I’d been thinking about the role of self-deception in both creating and appreciating stories.

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Glossary for The Precambrian Conspiracy

The Precambrian Conspiracy is either my public-domain project or the real state of affairs. In either case, feel free to set stories in this universe. Ideas are cheap and this is no exception. However, I ask that you give me or other contributors attribution for ideas you crib — you can just reference this blog if you’re in doubt. Thanks. I will update this glossary from time to time. Feel free to contribute to it in the comments. Continue reading

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