Open Minded People Frequently Experience Self-Directed Inquiries

MV Conversation Continues
In Limbo

“Except for you, who experiences the self as being-what-is-not-while-not–being-what-is?” responded MV.

“Anybody who hangs close to the self,” I said. “People who meditate
know this firsthand. Existentialists deal with this condition on a
theoretical basis, and liberal-minded humanists, although they might
not experience self-scrutiny first hand, struggle to keep this freedom
alive fore everyone else. If the issues of self-identity, for those
people who seek that knowledge, are not ambivalence generating, than I
don’t know what is–and that’s the approach I took when writing my
thesis. I investigated the question: Why do some people handle
ambivalence better than others? And I ended up hypothesizing: People
who frequently deal with self-directed inquiries are less likely to
exhibit prejudiced attitudes (they get used to dealing with
ambivalences) and, thus, the corollary becomes prejudiced attitudes
are more likely to be found in people who engage in infrequent
self-directed inquires.”

“How the heck is something like that measured? said MV.

“Well, that was the problem,” I replied. “But, while doing my
research, I stumbled upon a measure of private self-conscious
activity. After looking over the questions, which already had a high
reliability quotient built into them, I decided those questions would
work for me. My problem was half solved, but finding a scale to
measure ambivalence was not so easy. In the end, I created my own
questions. My committee had already signed off on my thesis, so this
new expanded area of inquiry did not alarm them. The thesis became
more difficult to write, but, in the end, it became a scientific
investigation of my own metaphysic–if only indirectly.”

“I see,” MV replied, “but I still don’t understand what you’re talking
about.”

“Yeah, that was also a problem,” I said. “The four professors on my
committee pretty much left me alone. I guess they figured that since I
was a good student I could handle the new material. Nobody questioned
what I was doing because measuring prejudice attitudes toward African
Americans and physically disabled persons (the level of significance
that connects prejudice to both groups) was a valued sociological
project all by itself. But, now that I think about it, Professor
Julian did require some clarification on what I was talking about.”

“He thought you were crazy? replied MV.

“Not at all,” I replied. “He was a big help. If it weren’t for him my
thesis would never have made it past the conceptual stage. He guided
me through the statistical analysis and that was necessary because, for me,
mathematics has always been difficult. Anyway, my thesis was
a numbers thesis and I was so scared that before I even got started I
wanted to ditch the whole project and go to plan B, which, as a
requirement for graduation, substituted taking exams for writing a
thesis. But I went to Jim and asked for help. It wasn’t hard to go to
him because I knew him from an earlier time. We met in the `60′s when
we were both students at CMU. You could say we were old friends.”

“So what didn’t he like?” said MV.

“Jim was very sociological,” I replied. “He didn’t buy into the
`freedom issue,’ especially when it came to personal identity and
volition concerns. At one point, he turned to me and said, `I don’t
understand what the hell you’re talking about. Draw me a picture why
don’t you.’ And that is exactly what I did.”

“What picture? How did you draw a picture of the self?” said MV.

“I didn’t,” I replied, “but the cognitive boundaries that define the
self can be drawn. Once again, it’s a holistic thing. It encompasses
all that we know, and a little more.”

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About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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3 Responses to Open Minded People Frequently Experience Self-Directed Inquiries

  1. Glad I decided to do some floating and self care today. Wish when feeling in water over my head, I could let go of all I think I have to do and float around among my more cherished blogging friends. Loved this one. As usual, you speak to my being and non-being.

  2. bwinwnbwi says:

    Consciousness (and self-consciousness) is an emergent property of physical reality (matter and the laws of nature) or so said Origin in 1859. I would only add that inclusive in the laws of nature is the freedom to become conscious—conscious enough to discover the laws of nature. Douglas Hofstadter, in his book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, echoes this “sense of freedom” when he says:

    The self-problem: “All the limitative Theorems of metamathematics and the theory of computation suggest that once the ability to represent your own structure has reached a certain critical point, that is the kiss of death: it guarantees that you can never represent yourself totally. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, Church’s Undecidability Theorem, Turing’s Halting Theorem, Tarski’s Truth Theorem—all have the flavor of some ancient fairy tale which warns you that “To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which…will always be incomplete, cannot be charted on any map, will never halt, cannot be described” (Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, p. 697).

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