While writing this, I acknowledge that all things put here have been thought & written about way more thoroughly that I can ever hope myself to do, & that I’m being gross even for making the effort, as this adds nothing to the pre-existing discourse about the subject.
I am sorry; so as of why am I doing this should be left to my own consideration, for later :)
Few things before we get into it:
- I use the terms : “mind” & “psyche” interchangeably, whether such an assumption is valid or not is not discussed here, in case the reader disagrees.
- I cannot see any reason whatsoever that the source of all our behaviors, intentions & passions might be from an outer source than our physical brain, or more technically correctly put, out side of our CNS & PNS. Unfortunately arguing this point would be a big digression which I am not willing to make here.
- The discussion put forward here is quite a mix of philosophy, science & personal opinions, although I have done my best to stick to logic & be fair in my opinions, this writing is no hard science.
Ramblings on Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis has been a mission; an attempt to accomplish that old saying, “Know Thyself”, mainly publicized in early 20th century. And it should as any other attempt (particularly of that volatile period of history) face the criticism upon itself. Psychoanalysis has been based on a noble pursue since its inception, caring & curing the psyche; so for all its intent and purposes should remain a discipline with clinical applications. In simple terms it should Work, it is allowed to be as much fiction, metaphoric or linguistic as it like to be, but it has to retain its initial purpose to be a clinical “science”. It would be appropriate to ask whether we should hold it true just because it can predict us, and in clinics–sometimes–can produce favorable results. We should be skeptics mainly because psychoanalysis has been developed mostly by trails and errors. An anecdote that can help my case here: medieval astronomers could predict the movement of all planets in our planetary system way before they found out that earth is not the center of all things. My point here being, just because it works, it doesn’t mean it’s true.
For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with psychoanalysis, and due to the atmosphere that I grew up in—very open-minded and elitist if you will—I was exposed to its ideas and discussions very early on. As a child nothing could have been more interesting & holy, all these abstract ideas and explicit concepts with real life examples everywhere, if you looked for them. At that age anything abstract with enough sophistication was held by me as sacred Truth & every person speaking of psychoanalysis in all probability was a messenger of god, speaking the True words of Wisdom. Today our relationship is all very different.
Psychoanalysis is about knowing & discovering “thyself”, but how? All there is is a human being trying to figure out another human being (or itself), but with what tool? Language; one word in particular, its dissecting scalpel “why”. & how the interpretation is carried out, one should ask, & that would be in & by the interpreter’s own mind (whether these are sound tools or not is left to the consideration of the reader). So simply put, psychoanalysis is the study of psyche through the prism of another psyche; is a way for the mind to think & talk about itself.
To check authenticity of psychoanalysis I want to suggest we should go a level higher, so we can talk about psychoanalysis itself, Lets call this level Meta-psychoanalysis. Although I’m not going to prove the psychoanalysis wrong, as I don’t have neither enough credibility (ethos) nor a strong enough of argument, I want to suggest that one should enter the Meta-Psychoanalysis discourse as a skeptic, as much as one should be in the discourse of Meta-Religion; one shall see with a little bit of thinking horrifying similarities in and between the two.
I can see 2 ways to interpret the mind in this discourse, let us call them a romantic way & a classic way, borrowing these terms along with their meanings from literature (one should wonder why the digress to literature! or maybe one shouldn’t… Anyhow).
- In the romantic pathway (if you will) you pay close attention to every little thing, aware of every little detail in its very own right, not really being fond of simplifications.
- In Classicism, the details are not particularly important, but what we are more interested in is the bigger picture. As a joke it is famous that for a Classicist to describe the whole story of Romeo & Juliet would be: “It is a Tragedy”.
Psychoanalysis is a very Romantic discipline in this regard, as is the mentality of its followers. Science is not a very Romantic discipline (now that I’m thinking of it, apart from areas of science under the jurisdiction of “Chaos Theory”; should the science of mind be studied under this discipline? One might argue!)
Personally I don’t find the descriptions in psychoanalysis about the “psyche” (whatever that is) and the way it operates compelling anymore. I have become quiet skeptic of its mentality, even though it still can make sense of our daily lives in all sorts of levels. Through the years I have come to my own understandings about the mechanism of the brain & the psyche, which I find more plausible & convincing.
Binary Systems & I
Lets begin with the assumption that our brain is a physical system,in particular a binary system,since with a bit of simplification the only thing going on in brain is presence of a signal or a lack of it,so whether a neuron is ON or OFF. That feature makes the brain a superb analogy to any electrical system,also makes it a logical system very well suited for studying under a formal system. what is a formal system though?
A formal system is, broadly defined as any well-defined system of abstract thought based on the model of mathematics…
The entailment of the system by its logical foundation is what distinguishes a formal system from others which may have some basis in an abstract model. Often the formal system will be the basis for or even identified with a larger theory or field consistent with the usage in modern mathematics such as model theory.
Anyone with simple knowledge of Computer Science knows computers just like any electrical system are binary, whether there is a signal or there isn’t, more technically whether there is 1 or 0;it is so simple one stays at awe of how far complexity & abstraction it can produce. Programming languages are mainly categorized into 2:
- a low-level programming language is a programming language that provides little or no abstraction from a computer’s instruction set architecture. Generally this refers to either machine code or assembly language. The word “low” refers to the small or nonexistent amount of abstraction between the language and machine language; because of this, low-level languages are sometimes described as being “close to the hardware.”
- A high-level programming language is a programming language with strong abstraction from the details of the computer. In comparison to low-level programming languages, it may use natural language elements, be easier to use, or may automate (or even hide entirely) significant areas of computing systems (e.g. memory management), making the process of developing a program simpler and more understandable in respect to a low-level language. The amount of abstraction provided defines how “high-level” a programming language is.
In high level languages (particularly in the recently born ones like Ruby) the code syntax mimics very much our very own daily spoken english, so much that a guy with no knowledge of programming what so ever can readily read the program and figure out what the code is trying to do. This is to say we have already built systems complex and powerful enough to be able to interpret and operate on a language close to our own language. So with a little bit of exaggeration I want to state that today computers and we are speaking and understanding the same language.
One upset with the analogy I’m drawing should speak in disagreement:does not matter how much computer scientists try to mimic computers more closely to us, ultimately they will stay the same in their very nature & separate from us,as that they are machines & us humans, intelligent beings… I’m in some degrees sympathetic with this view,that we are intelligent and they are still machines. I want to suggest that the main difference between an intelligent being and a machine is the way they deal with the information, the input; if you too agree lets do what we do best, Categorize:
- Mechanical mode: dealing with information/input with pre-defined definitions and rules.
- Intelligent mode: trying to figure out what the information/input means, applying passive meanings (in our case using language, with lously defined words and structure) to the elements,to see what fits & maybe what can predict the subsequent consequences the best.
Now I want to suggest my main agenda; that these are not different categories,but that intelligent mode is in its very basic (low-level) nature is indeed a mechanical mode, that: intelligence can arise from a mechanical binary system—like our brain and computers—if the system is powerful and complex enough. Regretfully I should confess I cannot argue this point further as of now and deciding whether this is a probable possibility is left to the consideration of the reader.
Now what is left untouched up to here is the subject of “Consciousness”, frankly I have not much to say on the matter either,but I’d like to say I feel comfortable defining it as a group of very fleeting things (“things” here very loosely defined) that are at a very fleeting instant under our attention. under my definition computers might never develop this “attention” or “consciousness”as I don’t see any necessary causality or relation between intelligence & consciousness; so computers might become Intelligent without being (at least in its classical sense) “conscious”that is the characteristic of us, animals.
Then you should ask me what is this “attention” that I speak of,and I shall say I don’t know, but again I feel comfortable thinking about it as the highest level,the peak of these levels which are the manifestations of the vast complexity of our binary brain1 (here you might say I’m pulling these out of thin air; you are not very wrong).
Now back to the subject of Psychoanalysis. All I have said aside I still choose to hold my belief in the discipline, through its prism we will never see the hard dry truth of why we are what we are, but really you and I should admit that “so what?”.
Psychoanalysis might be even more relevant today than it has been before, today it is more clinical-oriented than it has ever been and the charisma surrounding it once has been almost diminished. It is much closer to human reality than truth can ever be, & really the truth has no real world or clinical use. But Psychoanalysis works they say, even if you don’t believe in it!
So yes, we agree with The Beatles to “Let it be” and I should confess, I still have a bias in favoring it & really enjoy the discussions. Although this probably is because to my very personal satisfaction it was the first serious evidence-rich & not-entirely-philosophical discourse which proved our psyche in its all seemingly complexity & superiority is not much different from the psyche of a common animal & it crushed our old view of ourselves as pious beings; and That always causes me to rejoice :)
If you take the idea of these levels seriously, when I talk about these levels in context of animals I am thinking in an pyramidal hierarchical order that the lowest levels are the largest in the matter of volume (of info/input) but least in the matter of structural complexities, and the higher levels less capable of handling large volumes of info or input but possess higher power in dealing with complexities & using abstractions. Now think of a computer with high enough power & complexity that our consciousness, the peak of our pyramid is just one of its lowest levels, & it–unlike us– won’t be limited just to one peak,it can have as many as it needs! What does this image can remind you of…? I’m gonna leave it here because otherwise the rest will be pure Sci-Fi. but just before I do that I want you to hear this first from me: strange loops, for more read “Gödel,Escher,Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid”by Douglas R. Hofstadter :-) ↩