INFORMATION AS DEBATE,

Or Peer Review and Publication

  by Kristo Ivanov, prof. em., Umeå University, (April 2014, version 190704)


http:www.informatik.umu.se/~kivanov/debate.html
https://ia800107.us.archive.org/9/items/Debate_201801/Debate.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONTENTS

 

 

Introduction

Debate in personal relationships

Debate in provocation

Debate in the "art of worldly wisdom"

Neutralizing criticism, "Why not?" and "Constructive criticism"

Cronyism and political correctness

Debate as semantics vs. consciousness

Semantics as socialization

Debate in foundations of mathematics and logic

Debate as democracy and emergent truth

Debate: Catholic Church and gender ideology

Debate as scientific method: "Hegelian-Singerian inquiring systems"

Pseudo-debates in democracy's mass media

The type-psychology of debate

A case study of psychological syndrome as type-psychology
Pathology of type-psychology: political correctness

Political theology, and theology

Terminal breakdown and theology

Conclusion

 

 

Introduction

 

On occasion of my retirement in 2002 I intended to carry out in full scale my research that had been neglected because of managerial duties, and to summarize my experiences and reflections in one or several publications. At the time I edited (and later updated) a sort of position statement and letter of intent that portrayed my state of spirit. The more I studied and reflected upon my experiences, the more I got convinced that the main problem was not the lack of debates, books, publications, experiences, reflections, but rather the lack of wish, will, courage, that is "lack of time" , to select readings, to read, to think, or to understand in depth and to act upon knowledge that is still valid and already available. There were other signs of reasons related to cultural crisis such as I surveyed in a paper on Belief and Reason (esp. the text associated with note 30 on "tolerance"). But it is obvious that debates about an issue have an intrinsic value, at least initially, as an expression of human respect or friendship including the wish to improve each other's life, as a test of one own's arguments and as a way of trying to understand others' and the own mind or psyche. The concept of "argument" itself, often based on a misunderstood and naively overvalued logic, is open to diverse problematic interpretations within the context of an argumentation that is the subject of inquiry or inquiring (cf. ref. below). To accept and possibly respond to a single criticism is recommendable but a continued argumentative dialog is to be ethically expected only when reciprocally needed, with a few true close friends (true in the meaning of Aristotle's ethics, or of spiritual friendship) as Plato lets Socrates affirm for his dialogs.

This is partly analog to the situation of a physician who must have a contact with ill people and illness in order to get a chance to understand and cure them, or to assist with palliative care while checking his own health and awaiting the occasion of becoming in turn old or sick, patient of another physician and under the care of other people.
Such reflexive and paradoxical aspects of the issue are also illustrated, despite of my not being a materialist, by the insight summarized in a quotation by the Swedish "engineer-philosopher" and Christian apologist Krister Renard, about the big dilemma of materialism: the whole thing reminded him of a philosopher he once read about, who wrote book after book, in which he tried to prove that any form of human communication, including the verbal one, is impossible. I am rescued from this conundrum by my concession that this difficulty does not arise in any form of communication, but only in the context of more complex forms of debate involving scientific method or the design of inquiring systems (see below.)

Part of the text that follows was originally created in December 2011 as an item of my weblog, which gradually grew in size because of several additions that were motivated by new consecutive related experiences in my activities and professional interactions. Eventually I perceived that, as some other items of the blog and because of its length, it could be developed and better categorized as a scientific paper on informatics in the sense of having become extense reflections on the philosophy of inquiry. In the transition from blog to science I also changed the original title that was The meaning of "debate" one-liners
. Because of this history of formation of the paper it retains until further notice the somewhat "bushy" implicit structure it acquired in the blog. Furthermore, it displays a particular style of writing, with a profusion of references and digressions, motivated by reasons that are explained in my earlier mentioned position statement.

 

Let me initially clarify that this paper, as its title indicates, deals with problems to be found in the context of debates, which in their most infected and hopeless cases may be exemplified by, say, "war in the Middle East and it's national agenda", in discussions of Cambridge University rescinding offer of visiting fellowship to Jordan Peterson, in a book by Stephen Sniegoski, as reviewed by Tim Wilkinson, and the author's response to the criticism directed against the book. Another iconic example of hopelessness in debates is the more recent and popular case (and cause) of the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson who endured to start passing the whole year 2018 debating in books and YouTube his position about political correctness, postmodern radical feminism, identity politics, and such. It culminated in a three hours' interview summarizing his experiences and reflections about the debates, soon followed other hopeless attacks, among others one by a former colleague of his, attack that in turn has been summarized in social media.

 

My paper includes details such as the academic process of peer review and publication, but in general it deals with what a synonym dictionary may equate with discussion, dispute, disputation, argumentation, questioning, polemic, disagreement, controversy, dissension, deliberation, reflection, or ultimately conflict, or simply conversation and dialog. Terminological niceties about debate and technicalities do not help to understand and practice better these terms and their inherent difficulties, but there are some helpful insights on the net, for instance under the keywords <debate+technique>. The matter's complexity appears most clearly and constructively in the history of academic disputation, in academic dissensions such as referenced in my account of a disciplinary jubilee of Informatics in 2014, and in philosophy's relation to rhetoric and sophistry, as after Plato. The latter includes descriptions of particular techniques such as apophasis, contrasted to the Pre-Socratics, especially the Sophists. All this completed by references to "rhetoric" in my paper on East and West of Information Systems. The problem is also exposed historically by Arthur Schopenhauer in his classic to be recommended as a complement here, The Art of Being Right or in his translated original text, The Art of Controversy. A feministic, polemical and superficial variant of the idea is found in the widely advertised Master Suppression Techniques [in Swedish: Härskartekniker], partly related to the "gaslight effect" of gaslighting (more below). Another less superficial but scientistic variant is exemplified by the case of a university teaching material on Glossary of logical fallacies. Technically the question is related to the problem of statistical outliers and is implied by my PhD dissertation on Quality control of Information (1972), which, in turn, was influenced by the conceptions advanced by professor West Churchman at the University of California, Berkeley, and were summarized in his book The Design of Inquiring Systems (1971). More on this below.

In doing so, I disregard what I consider here as less relevant dimensions of the issue that are illustrated, for instance, in G.E.R. Lloyd's book Cognitive Variations: Reflections on the Unity and Diversity of the Human Mind (2007). Another dimension I disregard is the detailed philosophical treatment by Immanuel Kant of "The Discipline of Pure Reason in its Polemical Use", found in his Critique of Pure Reason, in the part on the Method of Transcendentalism (chapter I, section 2) having, however, struggled with some of Kant's relevant texts mainly in my East and West of Information Systems, but also in my Critical Systems Thinking and Information Technology, and in my notes in Ethics and Politics in Design and System Cultures and Dialectical Systems Design and Beyond. There I suggest, regarding Kant, that my problem is not only the complexity of his thought but mainly the relation between his Critique of Pure Reason and his Critique of Practical Reason that he purported to solve in the highly problematic Critique of Judgment.

 

I also disregard more contemporary attempts to conceptualize the relations between reason, reasons, motives, intuition, emotion and such, by adducing, for instance, cognitive bias and in particular confirmation bias. Swedish readers can find some relevant authors' work named or outlined in a newspaper article by Peter Gärdenfors': Förnuftig blir bara den som möter motstånd, which can be translated into "Reasonable becomes only who meets resistance", in Svenska Dagbladet 29 April 2019. The authors' names are: Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, William von Hippel, Robert Trivers, Jonathan Haidt , Lars Hall and Petter Johansson. One reason for this disregard is my conviction that that such approaches should be evaluated in the light of analytical psychology, and that their social implications should be evaluated for their theological assumptions, as suggested in my text on Information and Theology and in C.W. Churchman's book The Design of Inquiring Systems (see below). An example is the following quote (presented later in this text): "Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons." The reason being that such people happen to be gifted logic-craftsmen who do not know what logic and mathematics are about, but get their beliefs from unconscious passions rather than from Christianity or the few great religions.

Finally, the particular connection to peer reviews and publication is, in part, considered in my paper on Wikipedia Democracy, and Wikicracy (2013) and in the conclusions of my Computers as Embodiment of Mathematics and Logic that that also include considerations on the limitations of debate.
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Debate in personal relationships

If one conceives writing as the building up of a relationship between the writer-author and the reader, I perceive the problem as being the difficulty of creating in the Western culture's latest trends a genuine I and Thou relationship in the sense of Martin Buber's "dialogue and existence." Examples of breakdowns, besides the obvious debacles of simply declaring one's counterpart as incompetent are verbal abuses and bullying. Archetypal examples are divorces, the more so after the generation of children, where the ultimate divorce or conflictual debate is illustrated by the last rejoinder "OK, you are right but I want the divorce" or worse: "I don't argue, I shoot". It recalls the most important problem of dialog and debate as introduction to both peace and conflict, as well to Carl von Clausewitz's famous "War is merely the continuation of politics by other means", not to mention terrorism. The latest examples of high-tech debate breakdown seem to be represented today by the one-liners or fewliners of the Facebook's or Twitter's blog or microblog phenomena. The contrast to Buber's I and Thou is then illustrated by the changeover to I and all of you, since I cannot afford the time to write to each of you individually. And I don't care to hear from you except for cheers or something useful or important to me. You belong to the mass of my massmedia. The prevailing cultural climate has reached the extreme of wilfully disrupting the archetypal I-Thou relationship represented by religious intimate conversation of a priest who assumes that he is counseling a parish's believer. For instance, the public-service Swedish television arranged a fake confession where a journalist played the role of a Christian believer while recording the conversation with the priest in order to uncover and later broadcast it as representing the political incorrect opinions of the Church regarding homosexuality. The patent abuse and breach of a pact for a priest who works under oath of secrecy raised for once expressions of outrage in two newspapers (in Swedish: "Tystnadsplikten får aldrig naggas i kanten", Svenska Dagbladet, 30 May 2014, and "Olagligt av Uppdrag Granskning?", Dagen, 5 June 2014.)

Facebook and Twitter, as examples of the latest debate techniques represent networked fragmentation opposed to the systems concept, and facilitate the segmentation of debate in isolated communities where everyone reinforces his peers (cf. peers review) while ignoring other communities' arguments, which are superficially twittered away. Facebook and Twitter are then some of the latest additional onslaughts of technology with hypothetical advantages and paradoxical cumulative waste of the time that would have been required, say, to form a personal committed old fashioned letter or even a book with its own context or "system" of arguments that are explained away in Twitterlike or e-mail debates: the concept of book itself is put into question. This is accompanied by other psychosocial phenomena that historically were grasped by the Danish social critic Søren Kierkegaard, and summarized by Prof. Richard Stivers in the book on Technology and Magic: The Triumph of the Irrational (1999, pp. 122-124): "With the decline of inwardness and passion, one's relationship to the other becomes concurrently that of aesthetic possibility and ethical indifference." This also explains the general lack of respect for the other. Respect, as honor, are words of difficult etymology that refer to gradually vanishing qualities such as respect for elders who embody the otherwise praised "experiences". No place, there, for the kind of reflections by a medical surgeon like Gabriel Weston (in Direct Red: A Surgeon's Story, pp. 65, 80) about "excessive self-confidence, never stronger than in youth" and about the long training (five years of medical school plus apprenticeship which usually runs into decades) for awareness of one's own limits and "to ensure the self-doubt that is part of getting older." Likewise I can witness that the general praise of "diversity" in the context of debates often does not reach those who happen to have multicultural experiences of life in different countries. On the contrary I have seen contempt for, and demands for political correctness from counterparts, especially when they are perceived as multiculti elders. Contempt is also implied in that they can be simply labeled as "disgruntled".

One interesting aspect of "deafness" to "the other" appears in the fields of teaching and research when everybody prefers to engage in "research", wants to get research funds, to write, publish, and to be read, while claiming to not having time for the less glamorous task of teaching or reading what others including close colleagues have written on the subject. The latter are then requested to write "executive summaries" to spare the time of the unwilling readers. Instead of executive summaries a philosopher colleague of mine requests a greater "transparency" or readability in others' writings, a non-philosophical term that seems to be seriously recognized only in the French Wikipedia. It apparently ignores the difference between easiness and simplicity, and it stands simply for desirable promotion of consensus or putative intelligibility. The value of teaching what has already been written, easily intelligible or not, is then downplayed as if it were obsolete "old stuff" or displayed a lack of creativity and a lesser intelligence. I know a few brilliant people in the university world who unglamourously have mainly been teaching, since they have really read and understood the persistent value of the best writing of other brilliant minds, both dead and alive. A thought experiment that I have recommended to myself as well as to colleagues and students has been to reckon that the time dedicated to the writing of a text should take at least as much time as the time of reading it, not to mention understanding and acting upon it, multiplied by the estimated or desired number of potential readers. I have met researchers who, instead, prefer to get away with the self-imposed requirement of dedicating at least as many hours to writing as to reading.

There are also popular descriptions and analyses of these phenomena in a few research reports and essays such as (in Swedish) Lasse Granestrand's "Resa i den twittrande klassens universum" (Trip in the twittering class' universe, Dagens Nyheter, 7 October 2012.) See also some more superficial criticism as by Annina Rabe in Svenska Dagbladet, (11 September 2012.) On occasion of my 70th and 75th birthdays, when the issue of available time and the meaning of it all becomes increasingly acute, I tried to summarize this insight in my virtual research summaries.
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Debate in provocation

One main problem in matters of debate is the role of "divinely sacrosanct" freedom of expression or freedom of speech, and in particular freedom of art, in the sacrosanct democracy that is taken to characterize Western cultures. The problem appears whenever freedom of expression is adduced not mainly with the direct purpose of dialog or communication but, rather, of
provocation, including provocative art that melts with the concept of anti-art. The assumption then is that provocation or "call to" will lead to debates and introspective self-examination and attainment of deeper insights, though this is not assumed when it comes to personal insults, espionage, or, say, Holocaust denial that seems to be the modern counterpart of atheism disputes such as in the career of J.-G Fichte. A modern example of the miserable idea of the legitimacy of outrageous provocation for the supposed purpose of constructive debate (and artistic self-promotion) is the artist Lars Vilks and Muhammad drawings controversy. Associated to these views is a quite common attitude of assumed "neutral observer" of sort of gladiatorial games, where a cowardly observer claims to be interested in raising of multiplicity of points of view with the hope of the advent of a victorious "emergent truth" (cf. the reference below to Tage Lindbom). After my active involvement in some academic discussions I myself have been approached by spectators who congratulated me while simultaneously asking me not to reveal that they had appreciated my contribution. I have also experience of graduate students who, after earning a PhD, refrain from making the dissertation available on the net because of fear for raising controversies that may lead to academic ostracism or career persecutions. So much for faith in debate and truth.
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Debate in the "art of worldly wisdom"

The art of worldly wisdom is a classic text available on the net, of a book written originally in Spanish as Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia where prudence is supposed to be understood in Plato's or Aristotle's sense or, more problematically, in the Christian sense as one of the cardinal virtues. Wikipedia explains that the book was written in 1647 (sometimes claimed 1637) by Balthasar Gracián y Morales, better known as Balthasar Gracián, a Spanish Jesuit and baroque prose writer and philosopher, whose writings were lauded by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. It is a collection of 300 maxims, each with a commentary, on various topics giving advice and guidance on how to be socially meaningful, and be a better person, that became popular throughout Europe. Gracián's style, is characterized by ellipsis and the concentration of a maximum of significance in a minimum of form. In my own conception the book may be seen as a Christian analog to Machiavelli's teachings. I did find that the following maxims are relevant advices in my context of debates (the most relevant in bold face): 43, 101, 108, 114, 135, 136, 159, 160, 172, 176, 179, 183, 210, 213, 245, 279. Here I dwell only upon excerpts from the following four maxims as they appear in the book (Shambala edition, 1993):

43 - Think with the few and speak with the many: "Swimming against the stream makes it impossible to remove error and easy to fall into danger...The wise person is not known by what he says in the public square...The prudent person avoids being contradicted as much as he avoids contradicting others -- though they have their judgment ready they are not ready to publish it. Thought is free, force cannot and should not be used on it. The wise person therefore retires into silence and if he allows himself to come out of it, he does so in the shade and before few and fit persons."

210 - Know how to play the Card of Truth: "For those who can understand a word is sufficient, and if it does not suffice, it is a case for silence."

213 - Know how to Contradict: "An affected doubt is the subtlest picklock that curiosity can use to find out what it wants to know. Also in learning it is a subtle plan of the pupil to contradict the master, who thereupon takes pains to explain the truth more thoroughly and with more force, so that a moderate contradiction produces complete instruction."

279 - Do not respond to those who contradict you. "You have to distinguish whether the contradiction comes from cunning or from vulgarity. It is not always obstinacy, but may be artfulness. Notice this, for in the first case one may bet into difficulties, in the other into danger. Caution is never more needed than against spies."

Having been submitted to the situation described in the third maxim #213 above, I escaped the burden thrown upon me by making myself conscious of having been contradicted and thereby required a "complete instruction". I did estimate the "subtle plan of the pupil" and his uncertain would-be benefits, versus my costs, in my being flattered and supposedly considered a would-be master teacher.

Regarding the second maxim #210 it is the conclusion I drew from many debates in my life and I hope to draw from this present essay of mine, about the limitations and inconclusiveness of most debates. For the rest I am aware that objections can be raised against details of these maxims but their value consists in forcing the reader to think and meditate upon them.
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Neutralizing criticism: "Why not?" and "Constructive criticism"

It is common knowledge that humans do not easily accept criticism. Nevertheless, instead of outrightly and visibly rejecting it they find ways to shift the burden of proof to the critic. This may be equivalent to say that all initiatives for changes or reforms are or may be basically good or lead to improvement. If they are challenged by means of the question of why they are good the apparently reasonable counter-answer will be "why it is not good?". I have called this as the department of (too) easy questions and difficult answers, and questions are are made even easier when the questioned person uncritically accepts the question because of not being aware of its hidden premises or of the intended further use of the answer. (Standard simple example: "have you stoppet beating your wife?") Else, objecting to the proposed changes by claiming that they seem to be bad or should be proved to be good will be countered by the answer that "your criticism is not constructive". If the reformer's argument was based on superficial analogies that suit elementary linear logical thinking the critic must painstakingly analyze the analogy and prove where it breaks down, and that it is wrong. Implicitly all this means an appeal to the critic to drop his priorities and (unfinanced) take over the job and responsibility of the reformer. If not, with the help of "statistical-political support" the critic will be charged for being cowardly conservative, enemy of progress and innovation. Debate becomes elementary politics where asking whether change means improvement is summarily and wrongly classified as simple-minded conservatism.

In a paper written in 1991 on Computer-supported human science or humanistic computing science?, in a section devoted to "Neutralizing criticism" I exposed some rhetorical devices that in my experience have been used to pervert or kill debates, noticing later its relation to the notion of Machiavellianism. I copy here below a slightly edited part of the text without the numbered notes and the references in the original titled above. I imitate there the style of English author, philologist and historian C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) as represented by his book The screwtape letters (1942). In order to reveal the dynamics of unrecognized evil, that book is edited in the form of a correspondence going on between a young devil-apprentice and his old devil-master, where only the master's letters with his advices are visible, while the apprentice's answers and further questions to the master are to be inferred in the course of his attempts to learn how to ruin his "client" by means of devices that include the insidious WHY NOT? that evidently deceives even its most sincere and sophisticated unsuspecting advocates such as in a blog (in Swedish) by a professor of Islamic Theology and Philosophy at Uppsala University. Here follows the extensive slightly edited quotations from my paper in the words attributed to the devil:

The process consists of eliciting the collaboration of those who will prove that you are right. This process is only mirroring the process of neutralizing those competitors and clients who refuse to collaborate, and who might prove that you are wrong. This is only my way of expressing the "fact" that reality, ideals, and truth, are socially constructed, and that everybody has the right of trying to construct his own reality in the same way as he has the right to specify to the seller his own customized capital good, or consumer appliance.

First of all you must express yourself in plain language and you must oversimplify your message by appealing to the earlier defined Zeitgeist. This together with a policy of easy promises will make you widely popular. In contrast, your critics or competitors will most surely have to complicate your original message or present another one which is much less plain than yours, in order to get forth their own point. This is a variant of the "why not?" strategy that I formulated elsewhere, and we must adapt it to our purposes: the basic idea is that the easier your questions, the more difficult will be your competitors' answers. You must therefore keep the priority of initiative, and put forth easy and "rhetorical" simple questions or statements, leaving to others the task of criticizing them by means of messages that necessarily will be more complicated and less understood than yours. In the same spirit, if you have to dismiss any extensive criticism or objection that is raised against you or your products, you must shatter its wholeness. If you are served an extensive "system" of critical arguments you should not try to counter it with a whole system of your own. You must rather take the critic's attempt of creating a dialectics of systems, and reduce it to an atomic dialogue of short and simple statements of opinions and marginal remarks, like when answering a long letter by returning it to the sender with some notes on its margins. You have to pick up some single easy marginal point leaving the rest intact, and comment upon it in a fragmentary, superficial or absent-minded way. In this way you shift over to your discussants the time- and energy consuming burden of striving for wholeness and systems thinking in their next argument. This is a good way of shifting people's attention from "systems" over to "discourses", "dialogues" and "language games". In the long run I bet you will blow up your discussants' minds.

In the same way as you shift the intellectual burden of proof on the shoulders of your critics, so you should also shift the economic burden of proof. In other words, you must exploit the "lamentable" fact that "verification of the theory depends as much on the cost of trying to apply it as it does on other empirical evidence" (West Churchman in Prediction and Optimal Decision, 1961, p.331). This also means that you can express cheap opinions of the type "why not?" that you do not need to pay for, but are expensive to disprove. Those who cannot afford to compete financially with you are by definition out of business. The idea is that you get money for your pet project by promising the profitability of your "doing". Whenever you get criticized you can respond by challenging your critics to prove your failure or to do something better by themselves without your cooperation and without your money or, rather, the money of your client who profits of your conclusions. Tell them to be constructive on their own economic premises, instead of just criticizing you in a negative way. Such a challenge will put them automatically in the awkward position of having to compete with you without having your resources. If they have not your money, probably they cannot afford to prove you wrong. In this way you may succeed in eliminating all competitors who do not share your own presuppositions and your own profitability ethics, i.e. those who, after all, do not share our own goals. If, against all odds, you don't succeed, don't despair. There are other techniques for dealing in a more general way with all kinds of competitors.

Let's suppose that your conviction or opinion on a key issue is just not shared, or it is made object of competitive criticism by people either in private or in some forum of debate. Let's call all such people, who can be an individual representing a group of friends, by the generic name "Joe". My definite advice is that you do not loose time in attempting a rebuttal of this criticism on its own "intellectual" grounds since there are no facts but only opinions. If you are convinced that you are right and that your success will ultimately benefit a majority of those affected, you can construct truth - not the truth - in the following way. Under the dictum that reality is socially constructed and that there are no distinctions between public and private, or between science, politics and ethics, you can transform the whole into a conflict of opinions where you try to get democratic majority [Read more at "Neutralizing criticism".]

A common easy alternative to the devil's strategy above is the common request that before criticizing negatively one must carefully read and in detail take notice of what is being criticized, not relying on secondary sources. That is: WHY NOT take a view of the whole original source, accepting at least some part of what is being criticized?" In view of the sheer volume of what is to be read about the subject or taken notice of, scarcity of time and resources will do the devil's role of letting it be.


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Cronyism and political correctness

Publications and peer-reviews, which are considered to be the criteria for academic success, can also be perceived as examples of present sterile debates, i.e. debates with editors and colleagues in tenliners if not oneliners, often with view on career advancement as related to academic alliances with currently influential peers who are editors in influential journals and their subcultures, or to intrigues or to the selling of books, journals and ideas.
Conversely, everything that may be understood as criticism of the closest peers must be selectively silenced in order not to endanger the esprit de corps or collective identity of the alliance. It is not necessary to go so far as to politics in order to, justly or unjustly, perceive this phenomenon of cronyism also typically appearing in university departments where colleagues are supposed to dampen sincere reciprocal criticism in favor of only applause as if it they were sheer cheerleaders in sport events rather than research. No place, there, for the kind of candid confession by the earlier mentioned Gabriel Weston in Direct Red, pp. 16-108) about the professional temptations of cronyism. The basic idea for a successful cronyist career is to prioritize the avoidance of creation of enemies, and the promotion of vulgar versions of Machiavellianism, with disregard of Aristotelian ideas of true courage. I myself and colleagues in various universities could early recognize among graduate students those who would make such a rapid successful career, behaving with exquisite meekness, far from appearing as simple smart alecks. They apparently praised the recommendations of their old professors, which they in fact derided or ignored as being obsolete "pet theories" with no prospects for raising profitable research funds, and claimed that their responding to hard arguments with opportune silence was motivated by "respect". In this context students can be perceived by older professors as children or grandchildren are perceived by parents in the dialectics I described elsewhere under the label of Parents, adult children, childish adults - Inverted identities?

A much more important and nowadays dominating phenomenon related to cronyism is, of course, the controversial and extremely complex political correctness or, in French, intellectual terrorism (analyzed in a Swedish text with bibliography, by Jan Olof Bengtsson) that I considered elsewhere in the context of my blog entry on alleged harassments, and in my review of a book on organizational self-destruction authored by organizational psychologist Howard Schwartz. Alternative expressions of political correctness appear in the phenomena of bias and suppression in the supposedly scientific process of peer review, deeply revered by academic careerists who aim at and brag about comparative "statistics" on the meritorious number of their own peer reviewed publications, but do not anymore appreciate to study the discipline of statistics with its presuppositions, limitations and misuses (cf. Churchman's Theory of Experimental Inference.) They prefer, then, to appeal to eclectic mixtures of so called qualitative methods and to ignore controversial aspects of peer reviews such as exemplified in reported historical embarrassing examples can be found in polemic battles such as illustrated in the process of academic review , Wikipedia wars, beyond outright criticism of the system of peer review (exemplified here, and here).
The important thing here is to note how such phenomena undermine not only debate that turns into trivial politics, but also simple dialog that becomes a display of daily political correctness. They become a display of fears, struggles of power and of self-affirmation where the excellence of a scientist is a victory of cronyism and shows up "statistically" as a superior number of scientific publications. As many as 50% of the published articles, however, may happen to be read by only a few readers, or a minimum of three for each published article: the author, the referees, and the journal editors. That may be less than for articles that must be purposefully downloaded by readers who are interested in the articles' subject or author, e.g. from the Internet Archive.
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Debate as semantics vs. consciousness


All this undermines communication and dialog from an ethical point of view but still presupposes a "semantic understanding" of what others say or write. Such a semantic understanding presupposes that semantics itself is not from the beginnings undermined by unconscious sociopsychological agendas as when human relationships are tinted by personality disorders such as in debates about feminism that I considered elsewhere, in my essay on The Illusion of Communicative Information. Richard Stivers in the earlier mentioned book on Technology and Magic (pp. 44-78) advances the insight that the semantics itself is in question because of an ongoing decline of language in the technological society. Language decays to Twitter-levels and coded abbreviations, far from the cultural ideals exposed in arcane controversial articles such as (pdf) Literate language: a wise basis for defending national sovereignity. It has to be validated by, or replaced by images, visualization, aesthetics, and aestheticism, with the consequent decline of capacity of thought and understanding that accompanies language and explains the emptiness of what is written or said (cf. examples in Swedish in the article on vacuity by Malin Ullgren, Dagens Nyheter - Kultur, 27 June 2014, p. 2.) Stivers predicts Tweet-Facebook language when describing how talk shows on television and radio "reduce dialog to the level os street talk - emotional outbursts, simple assertions, and elliptic sentences". All this while mass culture "is based on the creed that everything can and must be made effortless and immediately understandable." Despite all this there are research trends that in the spirit of an unconscious "Heideggerian" aestheticism claim that it opens the way for a deeper and intuitive or unconscious kind of understanding. Words that express this dream are the following, abstracted from a PhD dissertation on human-experiential design: "tangible interaction, unconsciously executed through the computer itself will restore the primacy of action and re-integrate the mind and the body. There should be no conscious effort in the behaviors, because experience has already made possible the series of right actions, but unconsciously, in that it uses the memory that our bodies know, erasing the awareness of people as users but not as humans, and the need of willpower to act. To be pleasant and invigorating, life should be free of the need to always be conscious of the environment in which we exist.
"

Stivers continues adducing a study conducted at the University of Texas that found that less than half of the sample of adults could understand a plainly written paragraph. Others found that students increasingly think in "nonsequential and visual ways." This recalls my own late experiences that in a e-mail containing more than one question about a subject, or more than a subject, the answer if it comes at all, may often respond to only one question of one subject, as if the rest of the original text had not been read at all. Summarizing various research results Stivers observes further that where once visual images were subject to language, now language is becoming subordinate to visual images. The meaning of life becomes exclusively aesthetic and now resides in cultural experimentation as in technologically conditioned consumption, lifestyle, and entertainment. Now we have "communication" rather than speech, writing, literature, art; we have "relationship" or "network" of "networked friends" rather than friends and lovers. People think less and less in sentences and allow themselves to be led more and more by words or at best, as I wrote, by twittered, facebooked, e-mailed oneliners. Stivers refers particularly to the phenomenon of "plastic words" that were defined by Uwe Poerksen as words that aspire to be scientific or technical but end up being amorphous, having as chief purpose to "provide security and perform exorcisms". I myself noted that supposedly scientific words are no longer defined. "Method", "model", "theory", "information", "communication", "interaction", "system", or "design" have no longer contended definitions because of their being definitely "plasticized", and lately have been supplanted by other still less defined such as "conceptual framework" and, most recently "methodical and conceptual toolbox", never mind the meaning of concept, or the difference between tool and instrument. Or, for that matter, in the context of technology's benefits, between growth and development.

 

Stivers is not alone in his pertinent reflections about language. Much has been said about the global crisis experienced by Western societies and about globalization in general despite of continued domination by Anglo-American academic culture to the disadvantage of other ignored European cultural voices. The tendency is often to view them mainly in terms of economic consequences when the crisis actually affects all facets of the present. The Cathalan anthropologist and theologian Lluís Duch, who has devoted much of his career to think about "the word", claims in his lectures about La Banalització de la Paraula [The Banalization of the Word], related to the book Emparaular el Món [To Bespeak the World] that our epoch has its correlate in a weakened power to bespeak reality. He believes that there is a critical correlation in that a trivialization of the word affects all aspects of our public, private, and intimate life.

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Semantics as socialization

Among those who are constrained to adopt old and new plastic words we find graduate students who are obliged to get socialized into the sub-cultures of their sub-specialties; forget about dialog and debate within specialties. In the manuscript of a dissertation dealing with informatic digital capability, ICT co-evolution and business strategies I found, for instance, the following terms, which put off even specialists since they suggest the need for an initiation and socialization into the particular sub-field of study: conceptual framework, theoretical framework, functional view, design & enactment, ICT-assets & knowledge on design, conceptual tools, conceptual models, design capital, functionality, performance, complex-unstable-dynamic environments, strategic options portfolio, strategic foresight vs. systemic insight, functional resources, organizational-operational-dynamic capability, co-evolutionary perspective, and ambidexterity. The latter being the ability to both exploit current opportunities through efficient operations and to adapt to future exogenenous (sic) change through exploration. And there are references to philosophical foundations of the work in terms of perspectives on causality, ontology, epistemology, and critical realism.

Smart alecks and cronyists also know how to borrow into their publications terms used by their influential disciplinary patrons. Such patrons will furthermore be found as presiding increasingly narrow specialized subfields with inventive denominations where the key to being published is the availability of increasingly narrow publications, on paper or digital, made financially possible by the "information explosion" or the explosion of the number of universities, colleges, researchers, many with the inflationary title of "professors". And in the context of interaction never mind about the more subtle forms of human interaction that tend to be submerged into hateful commentaries, harassment, and competition of popularity in terms of the number of "friends" or "likes" on the net. Compassion, ethical love, trust and patience are concepts that have disappeared from general cultural discourse, as terms like honour, virtue, temperance, modesty, and chastity. Stivers summarizes these tendencies by noting that "there is no effective way of raising ethical questions", and this is also my own summary as background of my position regarding "debate".

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Debate
as foundations of mathematics and logic

A view of debates that is related to the above as well as to other items such as the type psychology of debate (below) is presented in the historical discussions about the foundations of mathematics and logic - the essence of computers - as represented by the pioneer of mathematical intuitionism Jan Brouwer vs. the mathematical formalism of David Hilbert and followers in computing science. This is the focus of another ongoing work of mine under the title of Computers as embodiment of mathematics and logic.

In the English translation of Brouwer's book
Life, Art, and Mysticism (1905) that appeared in the Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic (Vol 37, No. 3, Summer 1996, Italian translation with review by P. Zellini) he has the following - among other things - to say about language (chap. 5) initiating with a statement that recalls Plato. The italics are mine in order to emphasize the need of downplaying the hubris of those who believe in the superior rationality of mathematics and logic as embodied in computers and computing science, an issue to which I intend to return in a coming essay where I also intend to relate it to the psychology of Carl Jung as an alternative to interpretations of misogyny and to the drift toward Heideggerianism or Buddhism in certain quarters of computing and cognitive or systems science. Now, to Brouwer, keeping in view that the complexity of the background of the following text requires, for a proper interpretation, the kind of theological knowledge that is advanced, for instance, in Fr. Raymond Gawronski, S.J. Word and Silence (1995):

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Language can only be the accompaniment of an already existing mutual understanding. Even when two people share the same needs and aspirations, they will be in constant danger of being led by their uncontrolled desires into different side roads and of drifting apart: they will suffer pain and anxiety in their struggle to keep together. Only in the very narrowly restricted domains of the imagination such as in the exclusively intellectual sciences - which are completely separated from the world of perception and therefore touch the least upon the essentially human - only there can mutual understanding be maintained for some time. There is little scope for misunderstanding notions such as "equal" and "triangle", but even then two different people will never feel them in exactly the same way. Even in the case of the most restricted sciences, logic and mathematics - a sharp distinction between there two is hardly possible - no two different people will have the same conception of the fundamental concepts on which these two sciences are constructed; and yet their wills are parallel, and in both there is a small, unimportant part of the brain which forces their attention in the same way. This also happens when people together fight a common enemy, together build a house or bridge, go into business or strike a deal. Then too language will serve its purpose: that is, to keep the wills of separate people on one path.

 

But ridiculous is the use of language when one tries to express subtle nuances of will which are not part of the living reality of those concerned, when for example so-called philosophers of metaphysicians discuss among themselves morality, God, consciousness, immortality, or the free will. These people do not even love each other, let alone share the same subtle movements of the soul; sometimes they even do not know each other personally. They either talk at cross-purposes or each builds his own little logical system which lacks any connection with reality. For logic is life in the human brain; it may accompany life outside the brain but it can never guide it by virtue of its own power. [...]

 

Ridiculous too is the use of language when there is an argument and people try to come to an agreement by means of reasoning. Both parties are so much under the influence of mass suggestion of society that they feel ashamed of appearing to be "unreasonable", that is, to admit that they search for something different from "the good" and "the right", that mirage of human society. In this case language, which presumes a harmony of will, may well be used to accompany strife and combat. But they might just as well keep silent; they only play off their wills against each other and work on each other's desires and fears, and the strongest man wins. [...]

 

In everyday life language only makes sense as a means of holding the already harmonious wills of two people together on one path. The belief in a reality, the same for all - existing outside and independent of them - made society foolishly attach great importance to "speaking the truth". Yet ""telling the truth" is often far less effective that what is known as "telling a lie". Once someone is imprisoned in the belief in a logically coherent (i.e. conceived without pain in a certain region of the brain) complex of externalities, which he calls "reality", it becomes rather difficult to try to evoke in him a particular emotion or state of mind by means of words which he can only interpret in accordance with his reality.

 

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Debate as democracy and emergent truth


When approaching 75 and with an increasing feeling of urgency because of consciousness of finding myself in the "vestibule of death" I did reread the Swedish political scientist Tage Lindbom's The Myth of Democracy where he finds a way of exposing the phenomenon of "debate", which dispenses of any further explanations and recalls that the deepest truths have already been revealed in the many great books. In a cursory review of the history of ideas about democracy he writes the following three paragraphs that I would have risked to waste my time by trying to express myself, namely:

 

"A seductive notion is that truth is to be found like a 'vein of gold'; and the hope of finding this 'vein' of truth gave impetus to feverish philosophical search" (p. 30). [And gave impetus to scientific development, I may add.]

 

"[Jean-Jacques Rousseau] tries to find and explain different ways in which this ascension can be accomplished [wherein human choices are elevated from the merely private to the general level, where the Popular Will is to be realized]. By deliberation, he says, it may be possible to bring a multitude of different opinions into concert. The more thoroughly we discuss a question, the more our differences can be reduced. By this means we can come nearer to what we want to achieve, namely unanimity, and unanimity expresses the Popular Will" (p. 35f). These ideas foreshadow, by the way, a Hegelian dialectic of the kind that I myself applied in my dissertation on quality-control of information. With the great difference, however, that I did not assume that one would come nearer to unanimity, and for that very same reason I called for an accounting of a measure of the degree of disagreement.

 

"Truth is an endless number of fragments in which true and false are mingled. But the golden grains of truth can be sifted out; and this is accomplished by the unending, reiterated exchange of opinions. The lifeblood of liberalism, therefore, is debate and discussion. Every restraint, every limit on opinion must be denied." (p.41). "Continual searching and researching, gathering raw data, empirical trials, analysis through logical and discursive processes of thinking, always in a cadre of continuous debate: these are the operative demands of the liberal search for truth - truth which, it is believed, is like grains of gold, washed and sifted in a free selective process, the false dross being separated from the noble metal of truth. ...A world of freedom in which truth will win out over the lie ...The true will become better and better, ever more 'true'" (p. 43).

 

Leaving Tage Lindbom's general problematization of democracy we have also one particular illustration of pseudo-democracy as denounced in the Catholic Church's internal struggles during the Extraordinary assembly of the synod of bishops, 5-19 October 2014, dealing with "Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization". (Not to mention sordid allegations in externalized internal struggles about sexual scandals, which illustrate the dangerous hopelessness of debates.) Alleged attempts to manipulate the Synod are described as follows, in Culture Wars (January 2015 issue) by an Italian journalist specialized in the section "Vatican Insider" of the newspaper La Stampa (20th September 2014):

"[T]he Extraordinary Synod was going to be manipulated in order to achieve the desired result. This would be done in three ways; the first, which had already been accomplished, was that all interventions by synod fathers had to be submitted by September 8. This made possible the second strategy, which was to read all the interventions carefully to ensure that any points contrary to the desired agenda could be answered in the most effective way possible before the speaker even had chance to speak. The third strategy was simply to prevent certain synod fathers from even addressing the assembly. They would be told that there was no more time for interventions but that their views would be taken into account in the final report."

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Debate: Catholic Church and gender ideology

 

What follows can be a challenging productive example of Catholic view of debate at the confluence of democracy and religions. It deals with an interview about the criticism of gender ideology in a document published by the Catholic Church in June 2019 and signed by the prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi. See the excerpt from Catholic Herald, "Cardinal Versaldi: Why we have produced the gender document", regarding the full text of the Vatican document (translated from Italian) providing schools with guidance on gender issues: "Male and female he created them. For a path of dialogue on the issue of gender in education":

 

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The Church wants to intervene in a dialogical way in this debate, not with arguments of faith, but with arguments of reason. The very method we suggest to our operators is that of dialogue, which means three steps, to wit:

CH [Catholic Herald]: However, if there is one thing on which the document is clear and unequivocal, it is that the state — civil authorities — hence public institutions as such, need to stay out of the anthropological debate: when schools — even primary schools — are transformed into battlefields for irreconcilable ideologies, the society for which those institutions are given is already in a pretty bad way?

 

CV [Cardinal Versaldi]: Yes, this is the problem. It is an epistemological problem [confused] with the political problem: because a state cannot impose a single way of thinking [It. pensiero unico], above all in the ethical field. Having different opinions, which the state ought to respect, favors that pluralism, which is the basis of democracy. Because — above all in our [Catholic] schools — we are not the ones who choose the students. The students are the ones who choose us. They choose us, moreover, because they espouse — they believe — the Catholic identity even in this field. If the state imposes a pensée unique even in our schools, this ideology that we believe has no scientific basis — and that in any case has assumptions that are meta-scientific — then it is not possible that there should be democracy.

Because, if we all have to conform to a pensée unique — a single way of thinking — we subtract from those with the primary responsibility for education, ie from families when it comes to minor children, and [from] young people, when they are of age, the possibility of choice. With choice, however, there must be a pluralism. If, on the other hand, we all have to think the same way: that is not only an ethical state [a philosophical term of art, indicating the notion that the state is the supreme end of human endeavor, to which all human activity tends and is to be ordered], but a dictatorial state.

 

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So far the Vatican document on gender. In another essay on Information and Theology I have indicated that one main problem of such a Catholic official approach to debate (besides wishful thinking such as that everyone should abandon the ideological aspect) is cardinal Versaldi's claim, above, that "we must be able, let us say, to translate into rational terms also those, which are the intuitions of faith". These "should", "must" and "let us say" appear to me as equivalent to wishful thinking and to the wrong belief that one can do away with faith or even talk about religion, with the consequence of reducing religion to politics - power games and "debates" in negotiations.

 

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Debate as scientific method: "Hegelian-Singerian inquiring systems"

Why are others' views and conviction not taken into account? This is the issue of subjectivity or the person's subjective conviction of being objective while dissidents are in error, as in naive empiricism. Sometimes, if not often, it may be in psychological terms a case of tragic pathological narcissism or, more professionally, narcissistic personality disorder, reaching the extremes of psychological manipulation exemplified in so called gaslighting, with the conscious or unconscious objective to impose one's views and convictions upon the counterpart. In analytic psychology this recalls the phenomenon of ego inflation. Otherwise it is the case when everybody tends to start his logic from different and often unconscious basic assumptions, contrasted to earlier times' more general, collective Christian assumptions in the Western world. Furthermore, it may be a question of relying upon different cultural backgrounds or experiences. One may get help in the forgotten method of uncovering basic assumptions by means of a Platonic or Hegelian dialectic that requires much more than the typical blog-oneliners.
One main problem is that each participant in a debate may start, and unfortunately keep, being honestly or, rather, naively convinced of being right and be unable to "relativize" himself by imagining that others can and do see him as he sees them, or worse. It is a classic Christian image of the case of Matthew 7:3, "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

At this point we can adduce
the philosophy of information systems as advanced in West Churchman's The Design of Inquiring Systems, countering the naive idea of data and information as "fragments" related to a supposed logical truth or empirical reality, and advancing the conception of debate as dialectic Hegelian or Singerian inquiring systems. They account for and "synergetically" (otherwise it being a vulgar buzzword) are intended to transcend opposing or multiple perspectives of the same question. It seems to be a main if not only theoretical approach for a scientific understanding of the pertinent debate-related field of diplomacy. The idea is to conceive of a higher level of understanding or system that synthesizes and is consistent with the earlier apparently opposed views based on the same data. To avoid the fallacy of divinizing man by believing that humans can gradually reach the level of an all encompassing "God's eye" view, and the implicit worldly relativism, the process will have to stop at the point where the contenders' educated or religiously educated, initiated conscience tells them to have reached (their) "truth" and, if necessary, their readiness for martyrdom.

That requirement explains why each "fragmentary debater" expects that the counterpart(s) will read all his background references, which is often perceived as an impossible pre-requisite because of lack of resources and time - even in a lifetime, as implied by the difficulties of implementing the earlier mentioned quality control of information. At this point appears a paradox: those honest debaters who are conscious of ignoring their counterpart's background references or supposed "facts" may be prone to withdraw from the discussion, based on their acknowledgement of their shortcomings. And this will apparently strengthen their counterparts' position. I have seen this phenomenon in the context of the challenging of absurdities of feministic and LGBT theorizing about "TERF" (sic!): wise people suspend their judgment and give the benefit of doubt to absurdities, which then gain public credibility. Such kinds of complex debates presume not only an emotional content that transcends the limits of logic, but also a consciousness of the complexity of "facts", which are often mistakenly assumed to be per se a sort of monolithic atomic arguments that would talk by themselves. There exists also the question of cost and financial power since there is a cost (ultimately even political and life endangering costs) associated with digging out facts, or rather creating or measuring and assembling them with appropriately designed instruments, as the same Churchman states it in the earlier mentioned statement of Prediction and Optimal Decision (1961, p. 331): "It should be noted that the verification of the theory depends as much on the cost of trying to apply it as it does on other empirical evidence." Not to mention sheer power beyond financial power as when the public statement of an opinion can lead to being persecuted as in many cases of challenges to political correctness that I comment elsewhere. This is also the background for attempts to contrast the term data to capta, with consideration of arguments of the type advanced by, say, Christopher Chippindale in an article on "Capta and data" about the nature of archeological information (in American Antiquity, 65(4), 2000.)

I witness what happens today's with the so called social media not to mention computer games and blogs, phenomena that academia is desperately trying to intellectualize by selling basic courses on, for instance, "Blog's theory and practice". Such kind of theory and practice, including Facebooks, Twitters and all the rest of the net including Wikipedia and Wikileaks, thrives on the assumption that systems can be reduced to networks as in books like Peter Hinssen's The Network Always Wins (2014). Consequently debates are supposed to be reducible to exchange of oneliners or tenliners in inserts in blog commentaries, Wikipedia-talk exchanges, facebook comments including those with fateful consequences, or tweets. The book, apparently ignoring late coming warnings such as "Do social media threaten democracy?" is presented with, among others, the following words:

"Peter Hinssen explores the enormous opportunities in our completely networked world. Perhaps the strangest thing about networks is that they grow without a grand design. In that respect, they're much more organic than any structure we deliberately create in our organizations.[...] That fact can be vexing to technologists seeking to create logical systems that bring control and certainty to an increasingly volatile world. But those who cling to this nostalgic goal are doomed to fail. In this age of uncertainty, the best hope for organizations is to learn how networks operate so that they can become more like networks themselves. In an era of fluid strategy, companies have to act more quickly – and be more agile – than ever before. Their future – like ours – depends on it. The Network Always Wins will be a source of inspiration to any business person who deals with customers, partners and employees, and who feels the need to adapt the internal workings of his job, team or company to the way the world around him is evolving."

These words, fortunately, seem to be directed to "technologists" and "business persons" but unfortunately they also are taken at face value by university researchers who have given up the idea of what a university should do, beyond "exploring enormous opportunities" uncritically given or imposed by technology and offered research funds. They want to renounce to "grand design", whatever that is besides not being a system, preferring to become more like networks themselves, to adapt their job to the world with the help of fluid strategies, whatever that is, and forgetting grand designs. Grand design are alike, one must suppose, those that take the concept of strategy (and consequently innovation) seriously as, say, Igor Ansoff did, or those networkers who take psychological and sociological knowledge seriously as in symbolic interactionism, or connectivism.

 

The question is then whether there are alternatives to see debate mainly as this networking that I have criticized in another context (Presuppositions in Information Systems Design: From Systems to Networks and Contexts?) Yes, I know, the following too good advices (more on this below), apparently still more simple than Plato's dialectics, like the following one: "Conversation is a game with some hard rules: say only what you mean; say it as accurately as you can; listen to and respect what the other says, however different or other; be willing to correct or defend your opinions if challenged by the conversation partner; be willing to argue if necessary, to confront if demanded, to endure necessary conflict, to change your mind if the evidence suggests it." Quoted from David Tracy, Plurality and Ambiguity: Hermeneutics, Religion, Hope. (Harper & Row, 1987, p. 19, referenced in Anthony Flood's web page).

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Pseudo-debates in democracy's mass media

Occasionally it pops ut in political debates that leaders of political parties do not themselves believe in sheer debate based on sheer freedom of expression. As the leader of the Swedish Center party  Annie Lööf expressed it in a debate article on a controversial issue (including "polygamy") in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter on 11 January 2013:  "A point is reached when a kind of stop line must be drawn in the debate to avoid confusion to be created". Also occasionally it will be found that some insightful journalist like Niklas Wahllöf (TV column in Dagens Nyheter 29 November 2012) uncovers the empty dramaturgy of many pseudo-debates and interviews at the supposedly "public service" Swedish television. It also happens that this strange atmosphere of empty, sterile egocentric debates is noted in unpretentious musings and deeper probings in very symptomatic newspaper essays as for instance, in the titles' translation from Swedish, "The air in the debate is stale and confined", (Dagens Nyheter, 17 September 2013), "All talk and no one says anything", (Metro, 26 September 2013), "After threats and lampoons I take now leave from the gender debate" (Swedish Television Debate Page, 8 November 2013), or "When verbal vomit drowns public discourse" (Svenska Dagbladet, 26 January 2014), and in "The debate about the debate is hereby declared dead" (Svenska Dagbladet, 29 January 2014.) A new wave of such insights did arise in the press on occasion of the onslaught of political correctness or "opinion corridor" (PC/OC) connected with the tabu matter of limits to immigration, especially refugees to Sweden, carrying accusations of racism, akin to sexism.

Examples of insightful difficult analyses of such political correctness, sexism and racism are (in Swedish) "Uncomfortable when moralisms are disguised as goodness" (Swedish Television's Opinion, 2 April 2014), (Victims cardigan: An anti-racism that reinforces inequality" (Dagens Nyheter, 24 August 2014) where victims cardigan refers to the phenomenon of self-victimization, "Jasenko Selimovic: Your battle is not mine" (Dagens Nyheter, 2 September 2014), and "Sweden's idealized image contains nothing ugly" (Dagens Nyheter 5 September 2014, by Jenny Nordberg). A didactic archetypal example of political correctness was at last offered by the treatment by the press of the pressing Swedish national problem of refugees to the country, as confessed by Jasenko Selimovic in the article "Therefore nobody dared to speak openly about the refugee crisis" (11 January 2016). It is obvious that many citizens sense deep frustration at the emptiness and poverty of the debates despite of not being able to grasp the core and the why of the phenomenon as related to controversial political correctness. Sometimes this frustration about mass media and social media appears in more elaborate personal blogs, an example being (in Swedish) Krister Renard's "Dummeligens - eller varför högt intelligenta människor kan ha så korkade åsikter" [Stupidintelligence - or why highly intelligent people can have so stupid opinions]: quote: "Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons."


I have come to realize that in many ongoing debates about crises or problems "Democracy" is named as the theoretical basis of debate and as a general solution in a way that recalls the old universal appeal to God and religion. So, it can be in the case of trying to explain the mass murder tragedy of Anders Breivik in Norway, or Islamic terrorism, or the wave of economic crises in the USA, or in Europe as analyzed by Roger Cohen in The Age of Outrage. What becomes apparent is that the solution is supposed to be "more of the same" whatever that same could be, if only it is called Democracy. It seems never to occur the possibility if not the need of the analyzers self-criticism. With that I mean the hypothesis that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" but in our case not Denmark but perhaps in the practice of democracy in the Western world, where Democracy has become an idol that has replaced the supposedly old-fashioned God. As Cohen writes "Egos expanded...Money outpaced politics. Rage surged... The only people who walked away unscathed from the great financial binge that preceded this mess were its main architects and greatest beneficiaries: bankers, financiers and hedge-fund honchos". Nevertheless there is no real analysis, no real questioning of the sources of ethics or of why democracy went wrong and may be going towards a short or long term disaster. I suppose that democracy went and goes wrong because it has been equated to the implementation of a truth determined by a supposed majority in the supposedly free market of opinions, never mind wise arguments. And this is gradually being represented by the Internet or by more communication and pluralism despite the likewise gradual realization that notwithstanding freedom of speech there must be rules of communication, and a motivation to avoid seeking narrow consensus based on restricted social  "debate groups" that foster oversimplification in face of complexity.

 

Nevertheless more than 150 years ago Alexis de Tocqueville, to whom I have repeatedly referred to in my writings, in an insightful analysis of democracy in the USA offered an analysis that is surprisingly modern and deserves attention. The more so during times of financial crises and upheavals such as in Europe  after year 2010. One very focused and clear analysis of financial crisis as example of the failure of debate or rather of dialogue in the democratic system is offered in an editorial of 27 January 2013 (in Swedish Det verkliga hotet, The real threat) by the economy columnist Andreas Cervenka of the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

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The type-psychology of debate

 

C. G. Jung is described as a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology, having been influential not only in psychiatry but also in philosophy, anthropology, archaeology, literature, and religious studies. One of his most famous works is on psychological types, corresponding to the contents of volume 6 of his Collected Works (CW6). The so-called types is a classification conceptualized in terms of two basic attitudes, extraversion and introversion, each one combined with one main conscious out of two "rational" psychic functions: thinking or feeling, and one conscious out of two "irrational" ones: sensation, and intuition.

 

It is claimed that Jung was driven to develop this classification in order to understand the motives behind the differences between him and his early mentor or associate Sigmund Freud. In other words, it is a paradoxical matter of "understanding the misunderstandings" that are common in academic or political contexts, as in most human relations, especially debates and wars. Persons with different type-constitutions, just because their are simply human and not divinely god-like, have limitations and different grasps of one same "reality", and are prone if not bound to misunderstand each other. In the following I will disregard an important aspect of difficulty of debates as in Jung's conception of "Animus possession", exemplified in a specific video about debate involving prof. Jordan Peterson's critique of academic "political correctness". Swedish readers can get an orientation about basics in a chapter of my manuscript on psychological manhood and womanhood (pdf-format, p. 198 ff., also in the Internet Archive).

 

It would take too far to describe Jung's conceptions here but for the purpose of future studies I wish to point out that the question is implicit in the whole text of the CW6. The whole CW can accommodate even psychological enigmas such as Gregory Bateson's socio-psychological double bind that also involves the dimension of power and dependency. Sometimes the problem is considered explicitly with the reference to the term misunderstandings or analogue as on the following pages of the English translation of the Collected Works (first Princeton/Bollingen paperback printing, with corrections, 1976): 282, 311, 314, 353, 356, 370, 372f, 377, 384f, and 391f.

If one sees the idea of "types" as also embracing the roots of religiosity which is no longer understood in the secularized "tolerant" or, rather, simply indifferent West, it is also interesting to witness what is told about the poet, social activist and student of comparative religion Thomas Merton (1915-1968) in Wikipedia with reference to what he reports in The Seven Storey Mountain: He admired the devout Catholic couple, whom he saw as good and decent people, but religion only once came up as a topic between them. Merton expressed his belief that all religions "lead to God, only in different ways, and every man should go according to his own conscience, and settle things according to his own private way of looking at things." He wanted them to argue with him, but they did not. As he came to understand later, they realized that his attitude "implied a fundamental and utter lack of faith, and a dependence on my own lights, and attachment to my own opinion"; furthermore, since "I did not believe in anything,... anything I might say I believed would be only empty talk." He could have gone (in vain) further by espousing perennialism whose expression in Frithjof Schuon, however inspired Tage Lindbom, one of the few intellectuals who in my opinion did leave notable traces in Swedish intellectual life.

 

This recalls what the scholar and humanist Juan Luis Vives, sometimes titled as "father of modern psychology", is quoted to have written, awakening my own memories and experiences of discussions with, and endless "questioning" by atheist engineers and enthusiasts of amateur-science:

"Even the youngest scholars are accustomed never to keep silence;

they are always asserting vigorously whatever comes uppermost to their minds,

lest they should seem to be giving up the dispute.

Nor does one disputation, or even two a day prove sufficient, as for instance at dinner.

They wrangle at breakfast; they wrangle after breakfast;

they wrangle before supper and they wrangle after supper.

At home they dispute, out of doors they dispute.

They wrangle over their food, in the bath, in the sweating room,

in the church, in the town, in the country, in public, in private.

At all times they are wrangling."

Anybody may argue endlessly, claiming to believe in (one own's perceived and undefined) "Reason", and this leads further to beyond the question of type-psychology: the trivialization of the concept of psychology (and consequently politics) itself. The failure of debates is then attributed to unitelligibility or incomprehensibility of the text, sheer "lack of knowledge", unwillingness or incapacity to keep on answering repeated continuous questioning, stupidity or outright idiocy which makes them unworthy to be allowed to talk and be listened to, or rabid madness of the devilishly abusive "racist-sexist" arguments. Compare with e.g. the case of Anders Breivik or the Trollhättan school attack not to mention Nazism etc. This amounts to accuse the counterpart for not wanting or not being able to adduce "scientifically" empirical fact, to manipulate computerized statistics of "big data", to follow the basic rules of logic or mathematics or of so called common sense that is vaguely understood as popular empiricism or induction. It also often implies also an unstated invitation or injunction to the opponent to reduce all human knowledge to natural science and engineering. Consequently the counterpart's 's arguments are not even worth to be listened to and his writings, which are only verbose empty talk, are not worth to be read, especially if they counter one own's or the supposed the "statistical" public opinion, or, worse, the "majority of scientists". And, by the way, "I have not time for reading and arguing [or thinking?] and please, give me an executive summary or explain why I should read this and that, or finally, get lost: I keep my opinion and you may keep yours if you don't bother me and my cause."

 

 

A case study of psychological syndrome as type-psychology

 

This latter remark leads me to recall a case I know, of a dialog involving a gifted and successful engineer who also had studied undergraduate university courses in Anglo-American analytic philosophy. He was puzzled by how different and apparently intelligent people he appreciated could have so different opinions about, and difficulty to debate a same "existential" subject such as the essence of rationality or the importance of psychology or religion or the overwhelming importance of the problem with global warming for all humanity. When he got from a friend a hint about Jung's type psychology to explain individual differences that play a key role in debates' misunderstandings he tried to read about that in the suggested reading (cf. the collected works, CW volume 6, "General description of types".) Nevertheless he had difficulty to understand the text while at the same time expressing diffidence for psychology and all claims for knowledge that are not based on logically structured "facts" of natural "empirical" or "evidence-based" science. Because of this he requested repeatedly detailed guidance, summaries, explanations, logical arguments and motivation for why he should confide in the value of what he was going to try to read: why should he read Jung who wrote so long ago as about 80 years ago, rather than read updated knowledge of facts from biology, neurology, psychiatry, or works about empathy. And, by the way (as I mention elsewhere): when I recommended him to read something specific about theology because of its possible relevance (despite of my knowing that he had refused to debate whenever he did not have the same background knowledge as his counterpart), he answered that he did not judge the recommended text to be relevant because (1) He is materialist and therefore he does not believe in God - or the other way round. (2) For a materialist free will is, in its basic meaning, logically impossible. Disregarding my intuition that the first item was a naive tautology, and disregarding my own conclusions on the futility of debates on such complexities, I answered that I think that he simply only believes in both materialism and logic (the power of matter and of logic). Such an attitude of endless questioning or wrangling in what he did not even see as deserving the name of debate is akin or analog to the earlier mentioned "Why not?" strategy and amounts to placing the burden of proof on the other party exhausting his resources, energy and patience.

A further reflection by the original proponent of the hint to read Jung was that the engineer was used to understand immediately all what is customarily required in a secular technical society. Consequently he came to believe that anything he did not understand speedily was either badly written requiring extensive clarification and motivation, or sheer humbug. Repeated endless requests for motivation to further study, for clarification of badly written or badly read short twitter-like excerpts from the text, complaints of not understanding them or rather for being incomprehensible, several "Why not the contrary or something else". Refusal to read other explanatory texts because of their supposed lack of relevance or of interest , raise the question of what is the source of "interest", after all. It becomes then an unintended or intended increased intellectual burden on the counterpart, a protraction and final impasse in the debate that seems to end with the defeat of whoever is the first one to surrender and give up. The whole sequence of events tended to be also crowned by victim playing or self-victimisation by the challenger or other party in the dialogue according to the cannons of the abuse industry as exemplified in its alleged application by radical feminism to family conflicts. This means that the feeling or conviction of having been abused by whatever arguments (or defective arguments) have been adduced. Shortcomings in their linguistic form gives a final justification for a supposed original rightfulness or for interruption of the otherwise endless dialog. This may be accompanied by a public display of self-righteousness - since a victim is definitionally supposed to be always right. Otherwise the ending of such kind of debates becomes tragically problematic when power, dependency and coercion come into the picture recalling the issue of terrorism: "I don't argue, I shoot". Jung's type psychology could explain this case as one of conflict of types, say (including the so called auxiliary function) "EXTRAVERTED+THINKING-sensation" type (cf. empirical+logical) vs. "INTROVERTED+THINKING-intuition type". (Cf. CW vol. 6, p. 333ff, § 562ff.) Of course, these described events can also be related to other superficial explanations such as cognitive dissonance and the earlier mentioned double-bind.

 

One most interesting aspect of this tale I told above is that the engineer symptomatically refuted the account: he had not demanded any executive summaries, he had indeed read attentively the proposed texts, he had had no difficulties to understand it, etc. This recalled to my mind the famous Japanese film Rasho-mon, which acquired cult status in the fifties to the point of originating the term Rashomon effect, referring to real-world situations in which multiple eye-witness testimonies of an event contain conflicting information. As Wikipedia puts it, the film is known for a plot device that involves various characters providing alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same incident. One intermediate conclusion in the film is that all men are motivated only by self-interest (as usual, except for us, supposedly neutral observers who always are supposed to be good and honest?) Their deceptions and lies shake faith in humanity. One of the involved figures, however, reveals at last an inner genuine goodness that reestablishes this faith. It is symptomatic that such a tale in our secularized Western world may not recall the religious holy story of redemption through love and goodness. Consciousness about one's own type as related to others may foster a self-examination and self-therapy that Jung refers to as individuation, and recalls the practical effect of religious confession.

 

Another interesting reaction of the engineer in my tale or account was a violent reaction that I see as caused by belonging to the EXTRAVERTED+THINKING-sensation type: the abomination of what is perceived as the counterpart's was the insinuation that somebody can know or intuit his feelings and motives better than he himself does. This was also perceived when there was a request for his introspection, i.e. the opposite of objective external observation that is paramount in extraversion. The request is perceived as "psychologizing" and bullying, as if the counterpart wished to play the abominable role of psychotherapeut. In The Design of Inquiring Systems Churchman criticizes this reactive behavior in a section dedicated to "The Self-knowing Self: The Subjectivity Syndrome" (p. 151f.), which is the paradoxical unconscious psychological compensations of objectifying extraversion.. The criticized syndrome implies that "because I and I alone know the inner states of my own mind, no one else can possibly supply any better evidence about my own inner states than I can; at best other people can only infer the properties of my inner states by observing my outward behavior."

 

When applied to debate and to my tale or account above, this led to the violent reaction in terms of accusation that one attributed to the counterpart-engineer opinions and motives that were not true. The counterpart should have asked for his opinions, and as they had been stated in writing One should have asked verbally again, something which, by the way, is only possible with a still living person. Such a request is, per se, reasonable for once, but it neglects the basics of hermeneutics: the meaning of what is said or, especially of what is written, is "objectively" not known except in terms of interpretations that include the context, bordering to the problematics around ad hominem. When a particular interpretation does not please the author it will be countered by his personal statement that it was a "misinterpretation", followed by a - for him - tedious rephrasing ad infinitum. If the interpreter eventually does not satisfy the author the latter could apply the victim playing declaring to have been abused, and disrupt the debate because of having been willfully misunderstood. An illustrative example is the engineer commenting upon one of the counterpart's statements, after a long e-mail dialog, in the following way: "I needed a few days to formulate my answer but you responded within three hours. The only conclusion I can draw from your comments is that you do not read at all carefully what I write, alternatively do not care, but you just scan it quickly and then write a brief association on some sentences. Sometimes it just gets wrong and often completely incomprehensible." What to make out of this?

 

The final paradox is then the destruction of friendship because of the wish to continue debating, analog to divorce in a marriage. In the particular case a gradual erosion of demanding friendship was triggered by the insight that the engineer, as often seems to be the case with computer nerds, showed clear signs of what is associated with autism spectrum, a condition that is analyzable in terms of psychological types. Some main interests, motivations, and arguments of the engineer were very analog to those confessed by a 15-years old climate activist diagnosed with autism who symptomatically became suddenly world-famous, having traces of indigo children and savant syndrome. In an interview at the Swedish television she explains how her syndrome directed her focus on climate activism, a black-and-white vision of a physical world where ethical human-social preconditions and urgencies are seen as "social games", and get relegated to others or to anonymous sociopolitcal forces. In a later video of the same activist's address to the World Economic Forum in January 2019 it is evident that concern for climate has become as strong as earlier concern for God's will and wrath, recalling in my mind Chesteron's discussed quote that "A man who won’t believe in God will believe in anything". It should be needless to say that such a condition makes it practically impossible to surmount the subjectivity syndrome mentioned above, associated with the incapacity of understanding the inner mentality of a debating counterpart. This sort of lighter form of autism may allow a high-functioning professional and daily life but, as in narcissistic personlity disorders, lead the individual to unconscious manipulations and for instance to terminate a relationship without a personal intimate feeling-interaction. An example is putting suddently the counterpart's e-mail address on the spam-filter of the own computer or, in the most communicative cases, by sending an SMS-message to the mobile cellular phone.


Ultimately I believe that the surmounting of the misunderstandings would have required either a godly "grace" or predisposition as suggested in Pascal's Pensées, and exemplified by the case of Krister Renard quoted above, or then the Socratic recommendation mentioned in the above introduction to this essay. That is, mutual trust of true friendship and good intentions that open the way of feelings and intuitions, enabled by a loving attachment in religious faith, or in a type-psychology that accounts for such realities. Swedish readers may check a description of this approach in a book by Iris Johansson "En annorlunda barndom" [A different childhood], preferably completed with the more analytically based by Gunilla Gerland in "En riktig människa" [A genuine human being]. A fruitful debate or teaching may only be between friends or in the context of agape: therefore the connection between love and wisdom and the Bible's Song of Songs.

In this spirit, partly extended to cover the aims of the present essay of mine, those who can read Portuguese (or Spanish) can be referred to an essay written (6 April 2015) by Marcia Tiburi and Rubens Casara, "A arte de escrever para idiotas" [The art of writing for idiots] published in the Brazilian magazine CULT, reproduced in Emporio do Direito, and on a site related to the Brazilian bank Banco do Estado de S.Paulo. Unfortunately the authors do not mean "idiocy" in its original etymological sense, as exemplified by the mathematical physicist and historian of science Clifford Truesdell in his An Idiot's Fugitive Essays on Science" (1984), especially its essays on The scholar, a species threatened by the professions, and The computer: ruin of science and threat to mankind.

 

The whole endeavour, however, is doomed to failure according to the main message of this paper regarding the insurmountable difficulties of debate on foundational matters. For instance, the whole mass of references to Carl Jung's psychology is easily offset by classifying it as "old obsolete stuff" and by alternative reference to "modern research" or references to "Schrödinger and biological consciousness" or along the thoughts of "An integrative theory of consciousnessthat is supposed to incorporate "self-psychology, self-theory, artificial intelligence, quantum physics, visual cognitive science and philosophy" with "inroads made from the fields of computer science, machine technology and artificial intelligence, including robotics." I keep looking for dignified synonyms of the term "buzzword" and associated magic megalomanic verbiage that raises suspicions of developmental disorders.

 

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Pathology of type-psychology: political correctness

 

A particular case of problematic debates arises because of psychodynamic personality disorders consisting in the subversion of the above mentioned types whenever one main conscious dimension of the psyche is dominated by the one which is unconscious or undifferentiated, playing havoc with the whole psyche and obfuscating rationality. This leads to either outright psychosis or to what in analytic psychology is called (for men) Anima possession - or (for women) Animus possession. The question of conscious vs. unconscious requires the repetition of what what written in the previous section, namely that the so-called types is a classification conceptualized in terms of two basic attitudes, extraversion and introversion, each one combined with one main conscious out of two "rational" psychic functions: thinking or feeling, and one conscious out of two "irrational" ones: sensation, and intuition.

 

This is not the place for an explanation of the details of the dynamics of the pathology that is extremely complicated, as it is properly mentioned in one of the videos referred below. Fortunately these videos can illustrate empirically how all this worked in a particularly virulent case of so called political correctness related to the Canadian political and academic milieu.

 

The account starts with an introduction to two main protagonists of the case. Prof. Jordan Peterson and TV-journalist Cathy Newman, followed by a specification of the videos that were available on the Internet by the date of 12 February 2018:

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jordan_Peterson#Critiques_of_political_correctness>
Jordan Peterson: on critiques of political correctness. Wikipedia introduces Peterson as a Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. His main areas of study are in abnormal, social, and personality psychology, with a particular interest in the psychology of religious and ideological belief, and the assessment and improvement of personality and performance.

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathy_Newman#Jordan_Peterson_interview>
Wikipedia introduces Cathy Newman, as an English journalist and presenter of Channel 4 News in England. She interviewed the Canadian psychology Professor Jordan Peterson on various topics, including identity politics. Peterson was in the UK promoting his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. The interview had been viewed more than two million times on YouTube within three days, and within two weeks more than 6 million times.

<https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/07/how-dangerous-is-jordan-b-peterson-the-rightwing-professor-who-hit-a-hornets-nest>
How dangerous is Jordan B. Peterson? A left-wing review of the events since his confrontation with Cathy Newman: the Canadian academic's book has become a bestseller. But his arguments are seen as riddled with 'pseudo-facts' and conspiracy theories.

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMcjxSThD54>
(ONE MAIN FOCUS OF DEBATE)
30 min. Jordan Peterson interviewed by Cathy Newman & debate on the gender pay gap, campus protests and postmodernism.

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXkLaZLSzgM>
30 min. Jordan Peterson and Cathy Newman POST-INTERVIEW ANALYSIS. Jordan Peterson analyzes the aftermath of his interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News. He shares his reflections and thoughts on Cathy Newman and how it turned from interesting to an ugly controversy of purportedly online abuse.

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lz7jhFMavo8>
7 min. Animus Possession [regarding Jordan Peterson interviewed by Cathy Newman].

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kasiov0ytEc>
55 min. "Gender, Rights and Freedom of Speech: Free Speech vs. Social Justice", starring mainly Jordan Peterson, Nicholas Matte, Mary Rogan.

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvsPbOY5Lgg>
24 min. Jordan B Peterson's very best moments, all-in-one. Most will probably find the first clip almost unbearable due to the nature of the ''definitely not a she'' social justice warrior ''trying'' to debate with Dr. Jordan B Peterson.

All this seems to indicate that "political correctness" is a problem tainted by a breakdown of the psychological (and theological) presuppositions for political debate, and they can destroy any debate and debater, as already suggested by the mathematician Jan Brouwer's views on limitations of language long before the explanations in terms of analytical psychology (chap. 5 of his Life, Art, and Mysticism). Empirical evidence for such destruction appears when somebody speaks truth, believing in debate. One example is the Guardian's account of the case of James Damore being fired by Google for claiming the politically incorrect existence and consequences of certain differences between men and women. Another example of empirical evidence is presented in Peterson's post-interview analysis (starting at the 12th minute of the video) of what may be perceived as a perfidious troll-hypothesis regarding the threats directed on the Internet to his interviewer Cathy Newman. This perfidious strategy is well described after the first 2:40 minutes of a video involving Peterson and dealing with the "trickster figure".

 

Another apparently perfidious evidence appears in a personal communication that I received so early as in February 2018, claiming that Peterson's pronunciation appears to be anti-Semitic for the following reasons. (1) He characterizes Ashkenazi Jews (constituting a majority of north-American Jews) as being a different group, and falsely claims that they have an IQ above the average (check, however an account of the evidence). This would have been a starting point for the application of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the Jews. (2) Peterson would associate every evil in the world such as communism and capitalism to the Jews. (3) He affirms correctly that the majority of Jews vote for democrats-liberal, but does not mention that African Americans and Latinos also do that, because it would banalize the argument. All this is supposed to be the classic process of reasoning of traditional anti-Semites exemplified by journalist and author Édouard Drumont in France, and later still active "conspirationists and negationists" (Holocaust denial). Further insidious attacks against Peterson are donounced by himself in a later video published in October 2018 where he is interviewed by the feminist Helen Lewis, much in the same style as earlier by Cathy Newman, complete with a summarizing interview and discussion of the general hopeless "debate problem" in Jordan B. Peterson finally asked about the Catholic Faith.

In my view such "perfidious" interpretational outcomes may be caused by the fact that prof. Peterson's ultimate analysis of the source of political incorrectness is partially flawed for reasons well beyond his own his good advices on "The art of argument". They are flawed because of his wavering theological position as stated in Wikipedia, albeit addressed in his videos Thoughts on God, and Why still believe in God. It leads to inconsequential political wrangling about conservatism vs. liberalism, left-right wing's sympathies, identitarian collectivism vs. individualism. Nowhere Peterson's wavering theological position appears to me more clear than in the integral version of the interview at the Swedish television channel SVT1 in October 2018. He explains there (with start at about 20 minutes from the beginning) his apprehension for danger of chaos and destabilization of the Western culture when people tend to put their own group identity ahead of their individuality. This, he says, leads to increasingly violent tribalism in contrast to what happens when we try to achieve peace bringing people under the same roof, into a single shared identity. What he does not (rhetorically dare to) say is that this is exactly the purpose of great religions in general and the stated purpose of Christianity in particular where the term "catholic" means universal, on the whole, or general. Besides that, despite of being knowledgeable about analytic psychology, Peterson does not (rhetorically dare to) go into the definition of "individuality" as related to the process of individuation where the regression of the Ego in favour of the Self implies an approach to the divine dimension of that archetype (of the self). Without a proper religious education (as explained in the context of "conscience and truth") the Self is seldom fully understood (as also in Wikipedia). Peterson's wavering theological position, which is most probably necessary for his rhetorical impact, implies an impossible attempt to do away with religion and all talk about God. It also implies a reliance upon logic and empiricism in which Peterson appears to excel, and that I already denounced in my text on debate as ultimately fated to fail. It incurs into the curses of "diabolic" sterile and hopeless debates.

 

I already analyzed a consequence of this issue in a review of a book about the Swedish state individualism with the symptomatic title of Is the Swede a human being? Several articles in this direction based on the conflicts around Jordan Peterson have already been published (with chosen Peterson's videos), in English with the title Jordan Peterson's Rejection Of Identity Politics Allows White Ethnocide, and in Swedish, with a title that translates into Jordan Peterson's tactical nominalism - a response to the centrism. Not to mention the violent attacks on all fronts such as in Jordan Peterson puts facts aside to defend retrograde thinking, which expose the deepest wounds of the present Western civilization in general, and of its universities in particular, culminating with the "scandal" of the Cambridge University rescinding an invitation for a fellowship in March 2019 (Twitter "debate" here). Stuff for "diabolic" sterile and hopeless debates as mentioned above, appears in English language exemplified by texts in the sites of Toronto's Star (by Bernard Schiff, May 25, 2018) and passably countered by such as Esquire (by Wesley Yang, May 1, 2018). For the rest there have been only partial, timidly balanced portraits such as by David Brooks in the New York Times' The Jordan Peterson Moment.

 

More on theology below and as suggested in other texts of mine, as that related to the so called MeToo-debate on sexual harassment and to Information and Theology. Also in my review of a book on political correctness by organizational psychologist Howard Schwartz, and (in French) by Olivier Rey "Quoi faire des différences?" [What to make of the differences?] in Recherches de Science Religieuse 2013/3 (Tome 101), pp. 329-350.

 

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Political theology, and theology

After Tocqueville mentioned above we also have Carl Schmitt whose controversial work exposes the connection between the misunderstandings about debate and the perils of dictatorship if not totalitarianism. In the context of political theology he is referred to as follows: "Schmitt criticized the institutional practices of liberal politics, arguing that they are justified by a faith in rational discussion and openness that is at odds with actual parliamentary party politics, in which outcomes are hammered out in smoke-filled rooms by party leaders. Schmitt also posits an essential division between the liberal doctrine of separation of powers and what he holds to be the nature of democracy itself, the identity of the rulers and the ruled. Although many critics of Schmitt today, such as Stephen Holmes in his The Anatomy of Anti-Liberalism, take exception to his fundamentally authoritarian outlook, the idea of incompatibility between liberalism and democracy is one reason for the continued interest in his political philosophy." (ref. The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy.) Another reason that has been noted in Sweden by Hjalmar Falk for the continued interest in his political philosophy in the political-theological complex (cf. review in Swedish in Lýchnos, 2015, pp. 241-245) is that "all significant concepts of modern state theory are secularized theological concepts".

 

This has deep implications for the ongoing debate about the relation between the Islamic and the Western world with its ignored Christian background, an issue that has been buried by the kind of politically a-theoretical debate based on logic acrobatics with a plethora of the latest ad-hoc trendy political terms (cf. extremism, fundamentalism), such as in Sam Harris & Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Intolerance (2015). Their in my view neo-religion, in the eloquent words of Nawaz, hides under the ambition of, based on secularism and liberalism, i.e. scientific rationality, human rights and gender equality, facilitate "a genuine grass root movement to popularize alternative narratives that can compete with Islamist ones". (My italics, pp. 64, 122.) It seems that self-appointed representatives of dialog about Islam in the secularized Western world (in the book published by Harvard University Press), completely lacking self-criticism, berate others' religious convictions by recommending their own narrative religion or religious narrative with its "more of the same": a new islamic or cosmopolitan version of the good old Religion of Humanity. This is probably perceived by the many others as further undermining the presumed morality of the West itself as it appears to them daily in its mass media, Internet, and international television networks.

"The genie is let out of the bottle", and language is no longer effective for meaningful communication, leading to overconfident illusions about the power of unbridled debate or "art" in the style of the earlier mentioned Muhammad drawings controversy, or "artful" caricatures of dialog such as Kränkta vita män (Swedish for "Outraged white men", possibly and paradoxically inspired by the book title Stupid white men) a degrading Facebook group where presumedly righteous feminists  scornfully urge critics of feminism to join. It is ritually praised by other feminist journalists (like Catia Hultquist in Dagens Nyheter 17 December 2012) who use the rhetorical trick of equating antifeminism with racial discrimination or worse.
Occasional deep but paradoxical insights about "debates" versus political correctness appear very seldom in daily newspapers, but are exemplified by Johan Hilton in Dagens Nyheter (17 September 2013.) The self-avowed lesbian feminist Kristina Hultman earlier in the same Dagens Nyheter (9 October 2012) equates antifeminists with "terrorists like Anders Behring Breivik, aggrieved white men, religious patriarchs and fascist movements." Never mind about guilt by association. I can only despair about the empty hopes and wasting of time in one-liners by millions of Internet users (see just one example) who unconsciously maintain an unfounded faith in a sort of intellectual social Darwinism. My latest distressing experience besides a short free subscription to a major Swedish newspaper and its section on a symptomatic "culture & entertainment" (cf. "edutainment"!) has been to witness some of the discussions about the theater staging in Sweden of the unfortunate "feminist" S.C.U.M. manifesto. It is no longer justified to put hope into democratic debate when, for instance, Swedish newspaper columnists write articles (Dagens Nyheter, 25 August 2012) that are equivalent to one-liners and reject democratic votes (the hollow new god of Democracy) in the name of libertarian cultural radicalism. The voting human being seems to be considered as an object, such as a sort of biotechnological automobile platform with sexual organs as styling accessories, and his supposedly wrong voting behavior is said to be due to pseudo-Marxist false consciousness. Opposing intellectual currents are demeaned in a few lines, resembling Twitter's 140 characters, as "romantic enlightenment" and are swept away in the name of the latest trends in "gender theory".

 

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Terminal breakdown and theology

 

The fact that "The genie is let out of the bottle", and that language is no longer effective for meaningful communication indicates the road towards the terminal breakdown represented by sheer war, war between nations, civil war, war between the sexes and between generations. Elsewhere I have already addressed some of these terminal breakdowns in terms of papers about the previously mentioned S.C.U.M. Manifesto, about Philip Zimbardo in his quest against evil in The Lucifer Effect, about unconscious sources of radical feminism, and about terrorism in terms of the case of Anders Behring Breivik. What is seldom recognized in these contexts is the remarkable relation between, first of all, violence as distinct from power (and force, or strength) as suggested by Hannah Arendt in her book On Violence. I understand that the less is the power, including the power of communication and conviction, the greater is the motivation to use violence. But the most remarkable relation is the forgotten one between love and power. Regarding the lesser kind of power to awaken interest and motivation for understanding "the other" I have often been amazed at noticing how the sheer fact of sympathetically, personally knowing or having met this other, raises the wish of listening and reading, even commenting whatever he (or she - yes, I know the PC code, including how to follow it) writes. In this context I am also amazed by the apparent increased inability to notice and to appreciate (not to mention to retribute) the goodness or kindness (not to mention the beauty - as the platonic form of goodness) of others, which should foster the raise of love.

 

For the rest, I recall the quotation from Carl Jung in the conclusion of my paper The Illusion of Communicative Information about sources of radical feminism: "Logically, the opposite of love is hate, and of Eros, Phobos (fear); but psychologically it is the will to power. Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking." Consequently, the lesser the love, the greater will be the perceived need for power, and the lesser the power, the greater will be the perceived need of violence. I perceive that such insights are also those that lead Richard Stivers in the previously mentioned book on technology as magic to the conclusion (p. 138) that "We have turned power into a value. Uncontrolled power, however, produces cynicism, for trust rests upon shared moral meaning that places some limitations on the exercise of power." It is symptomatic that the philosopher J.G. Fichte took so much trouble, in the context of his atheism dispute mentioned above, to try to explain why Christianity, even contrasted to "monarchical" Islam, is a religion of love above power (ref. Fichte, Querelle de l'Athéisme, pp. 199-213, cf. The Atheism Dispute.) An updated Catholic theological summary of all these issue with respect to specifically political debate is offered in the Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in Political Life, published on November 24, 2002, by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Nevertheless the main historical contribution of Catholicism to the issues treated in this paper, and which should properly be put below at its end is pope Piux X famous encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, (1907) on the doctrines of the modernists.

Because of all this it is a great impediment for debate when discussants do not share basic values or have unconscious presuppositions. In particular, whoever declares himself to be atheist, agnostic or "religiously tone deaf" without having studied or reflected upon the matter to an extent comparable to the one necessary for a professional education risks to explain away at least 2000 years of cultural history of humanity. What is also forgotten in this context is that a human's life length is definitely not enough for reinventing, let alone reading and understanding some thousands of years of historical discussions and conclusions about religion, which is completely ignored if not also derided by only a tiny fraction of the word population, consisting of "enlightened" people, mainly in the Western world. This is also the basis for the rational necessity of trust in all cognitive and scientific work (cf. Steven Shapin's A Social History of Truth), as much as it is necessary for economic life (cf. Lars Huemer's Trust in Business Relationships). This turns also to be especially valid in question of ethics or moral conduct including ethics of research, the choice of research problems and what is to be taken as truth, as in the case of ad hominem arguments. This is probably what lies behind West Churchman's statement in his The Systems Approach and Its Enemies (p. 99): "My colleagues like to argue endlessly as to what should be required courses for our MBAs. My answer is that I have grave doubts about making any of the existing ones required, but that I have no doubt that we should require a basic course in theology." For myself I have extended this requirement in that I do not consider as intellectually serious any approach, theory or tradition that explains away a couple of thousands of years of cultural theological history. This is an attitude that appears consistent with many others' such as Werner Heisenberg's in his essay "Scientific and religious truth", in Across the frontiers (1975, pp. 213-229, text available also here and commented on other sites of the net.)

 

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Conclusion

 

Conclusion? I feel strengthened in my earlier research-reflections expressed on occasion of my 75th birthday. It is no longer a question of writing or reading but, of enemies of the systems approach, or as I did write elsewhere, of simply of adducing the remaining alternatives of either Evangelization or Apocalypticism. One option is evangelization in a small local scale, in and around one's own family or in retreat environment as joining a monastic life, as suggested in the kind of discussion that has been going on about Rod Dreher's book on the so called Benedict Option, or "A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation" (review here). It can also be seen as an echo of ancient wisdom such as systematized in the Confucian I Ching (but, to avoid new-age pseudo-mysticism and superficialities, keep to the I Ching edition with the introduction by C. Jung, cf. hexagrams 33 on "Retreat" plus 12 and 18). All this besides the considerations in my essay on Computers as Embodiment of Mathematics and Logic.

There was a time when the attainment of consensus and resulting action was not mainly a question of debates but, rather, of recognizing and accepting the "narrow road" of Matthew 7:13f. which It is not an exclusively religious question. It is no longer a question of entering endless so called debates, neither in academia nor in mass media, the least so at old age when time turns to be more scarce. If one happens to regard religion in general and Christian theology in particular as a vehicle for discussing ultimate values then the breakdown of communication, which also appears under the guise of increased perceived need of debates, may correspond to the ultimate denial of forgiveness and be related to Matthew 18:15 (integral text in Matthew 18:15ff.), and finally to the famous Matthew 12:31: "And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." Refer further to available commentaries on the text (p. 654), with due regard for the criticism leveled against such commentaries. It is symptomatic that long after I had written the main body of this text, one Swedish main newspaper dedicated a long, ambitious, cultural analysis of political correctness as seen in the breakdown of debate as contrasted to conversation in Swedish mass and social media ("Titta de snackar!", Svenska Dagbladet, 7 April 2019). What is most symptomatic is its
forgoing to mention the possibility of religion being a necessary basis of meaningful consensus: charity and respect for the human being, where respect does not mean tolerance in the sense it does not matter what somebody thinks so long it does not bother me or "us". It means that we all want to help each other to reach a common truth and good. One opportunity for getting convinced about this is to study very carefully the most ingenious analysis I have seen of the breakdown of debate vs. political correctness, or whatever you want to call it, in Ian Buruma's bewildering article, related to the #MeToo issue, "Editing in an age of outrage", in Financial Times, March 29th 2019. (Swedish translation "Det ska fan vara publicist när Twitterstormen viner" in Dagens Nyheter, April 14th 2019.)


All this is the reason of why, objectionably, I write as I write, with a preliminarily poor graphic layout and structure, with an intentional profusion of references and without much hope for dialog with people who expect one-liners, or "executive summaries" of about half page that they hope will enable them to avoid painful studies of something they really do not know why they should care about. This style of writing becomes gradually more urgent as life is perceived to get short and the most important task becomes to leave a heritage of the type "take it or leave it" to those who happen to want to study further. Or, as I did write in the introduction to my weblog: psychologically I may be writing in the spirit of "Dixi et salvavi animam meam" ["I have spoken and saved my soul"], a quote that is attributed to Karl Marx's ending of his Critique of the Gotha Program, while its origin and meaning can be traced to the Bible (Ezekiel 33:9). The reason why I do not encourage debates in general is tentatively explained in the present text, and in Plato's famous Seventh Letter about the questionable value of writing. It culminates at §341 ff. and did already considered it in part in my analysis essay on Platonic information information technology - Reading Plato, (pre-publication text here), extracted from an earlier study, (also in pdf, with a table of contents).

 

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