Wonder vs the Wonder-Killers: two related thought experiments

I was thinking about two issues tonight. Both of them were thought experiments.

 – – –

The first issue is about sociopaths.

I guess I was thinking about it because I just posted a blog where I mentioned Max Weber’s Iron Cage (Self & Other in the Movies: Redemption or Destruction?). Weber was theorizing about how bureaucracy and hierarchy increases. In that post, I mentioned I learned of Weber’s ideas from George P. Hansen’s book The Trickster and the Paranormal. Hansen points out research that shows a certain type of person (Hartmann’s thick boundary type) tends to be promoted in hierarchical organizations (which would include most major organizations: government institutions, universities, corporations, etc). I was thinking about this in terms of other research that shows that sociopaths are disproportionately found in positions of power. So, I assume that extreme thick boundary types and sociopaths are essentially the same general categories. A thick boundary type would have a stronger sense of individuality and a stronger sense of disconnection from others. Basically, thick boundary types have less empathy and hence less sympathy, less compassion and concern for others. Taken to the extreme, this would manifest as sociopathic behavior.

The thought experiment was: What would happen if sociopaths were removed and excluded from positions of  power and authority? What would happen if sociopaths were separated from normal society? As it is at present, we reward sociopaths and give them immense wealth and power. All of civilization seems built on this worshipping of sociopathy. I’m willing to bet that psychopathic genetics are found most often in those of royal descent and those of old money. My theory is that it’s not just wealth and power that gets passed on from generation to generation. The genetic predispositions that lead to concentration of wealth and power also gets passed on. The question is: Are these the people we really want to be ruling us?

There has been plenty of research done on psychopathy and sociopathy. We know how to test for certain genetics. We know how to test for empathy and moral development. I think it’s only fair that all citizens in positions of power and authority should be forced to have these tests administered. If they test positive for psychopathy and sociopathy, they would be required to seek rehabilitation through medication and therapy. They would be monitored for improvement. Those who couldn’t be rehabilitated would be put into psychiatric institutions or halfway houses. If we learned how to clearly identify psychopathic genetics, those who tested positive would be forcibly sterilized.

Just imagine that. A world where only people with strong empathy and compassion were allowed to be in positions of leadership and management. This would change everything. Our entire society, at present, is designed to benefit sociopaths. If they were excluded from all important positions, all of society would restructure itself. I don’t know if it would be a better world, but it probably wouldn’t be worse than a world ruled by sociopaths. Still, I have reservations. It’s possible that sociopathic behavior (at least in its milder forms) has some benefits for society. It’s possible that modern civilization wouldn’t function (certainly not as we know it) if sociopathy was entirely eliminated.

 – – –

The second issue is about our experience of reality.

I just started Philip K. Dick’s novel Eye in the Sky. There was no particular reason I chose this book to read. I just semi-randomly grabbed a PKD book I hadn’t read. I haven’t been in a great mood for fiction in recent months, but I think my mind might be shifting back in the direction of fiction and PKD is my favorite fiction writer. I’ve read about equal amounts of PKD’s fiction and non-fiction. It was only when I started reading PKD’s non-fiction that I came to understand PKD’s fiction. PKD, of course, obsessively speculated about reality.

Eye in the Sky is a typical PKD story. A group of people become isolated in a separate reality that functions according to religious principles: magic, prayer, grace, merit and whatever else. PKD puts this all into the context of the modern world. Basically, this is a version of PKD’s idea that the Empire Never Ended. In one of PKD’s visions, he saw the Roman world during Jesus life overlaid on the modern world of California. It’s like the Kabbalah theology which interprets Biblical stories as on-going events in the world. So, the flood never ended and those who oblivious to this spiritual reality are drowning. The Roman Empire and the Nixon administration are just two manifestations of the same Black Iron Prison that we are trapped within.

In the blog I linked to above, I connected PKD’s Black Iron Prison to Max Weber’s Iron Cage. Weber theorizes that bureaucracy functions specifically by undermining the traditional religious authority. The old religious world operated according to kinship (between individuals and communities, between mortals and gods, between humans and nature). Such a society would favor thin boundary types or at least would give such people prominent positions of authority and respect (priests, shamans, healers, etc).

Thinking along these lines, I took the first thought experiment a step further. Our idealizing and rewarding sociopathic behavior has created modern bureaucratic civilization. Maybe this alters our very experience of reality. In terms of Robert Anton Wilson’s reality tunnels, maybe we get trapped in a specific worldview. It could be the world isn’t as we think it is or rather that the world becomes as we think it is. The Iron Cage not only destroys the ancient societies of superstition but also destroys the very experience of the supernatural. Research shows that thin boundary types claim to have more supernatural experiences. Research also shows that most people in general have supernatural experiences. The Iron Cage not only disconnects us from a larger context of the supernatural. It disconnects our personal experience from society and often disconnects the individual from their own experience. Maybe there is some truth to the supernatural worldview, but we simply can’t see it because we are trapped in a reality tunnel, trapped in the Iron Cage, in the Black Iron Prison.

This subject is discussed in immense detail in Hansen’s book (The Trickster and the Paranormal). Hansen explains why science has such difficulty grappling with the fundamental issues of our experience of reality. I should point out that neither Hansen nor PKD perceives science as the enemy. However, science is just one viewpoint and when we hold too tightly to one model of reality we become blind to other perspectives, other experiences. The challenge I see is that those prone to sociopathic behavior (and those prone to the thick boundary experience of the world) have personal interest in defending the Iron Cage bureaucracy that benefits them. Bureaucracy is a self-perpetuating system in that those who are promoted to the top are very motivated in defending the system and very talented in manipulating those below them. There is no doubt that sociopaths are very good at maintaining their power.

The question arises again: Is a different world, a different society possible?
And another question follows: How would our very experience of reality change if society changed?

 – – –

May the power of wonder always be greater than the power of the wonder-killers.

20 thoughts on “Wonder vs the Wonder-Killers: two related thought experiments

  1. But what is being fought for, for this society that would benefit from both the presence and absence of sociopaths? Why should this society be fought for?

    I have thought along those lines but without the research data. I only made deductions (unfairly?) about the characteristics of those who are ‘successful’ in society. There are exceptions among the powerful to the sociopathy but generally…

    I’ve been particularly depressed this morning. Kafka and Gödel’s ends keep reverberating in my mind. Ah, you don’t think about death, how very fortunate; there is probably nothing that I don’t think about. Both starved to death and that fate (in lieu of my condition but not restricted to it) has been on my mind.

    Yeah, I agree, science isn’t the enemy. I perceive every creation of man as Art and since science is also a creation of man… But I detest it’s hubris

    • What is being fought for? And why should it be fought for? Heck if I know.

      I really don’t know what any of this might mean. I still don’t fully understand what sociopathy is a symptom of, what deeper issues it represents… or even what exactly is sociopathy. There is a lack of empathy or a damaged empathy response. Even if sociopaths are more successful, why do non-sociopaths consent to such a society ruled by sociopaths? Fear, apathy, what exactly?

      Yep, depression. Your reasons for depression may be different than mine, but depression is depression. Reasons don’t ultimately matter. Maybe ends don’t matter either. We die when we die. No one escapes suffering, although some are fortunate enough to die quickly at the prime of their life.

      Trust me, I think about death all the time. I’m always somewhat surprised that I’ve lived as long as I have. I often wonder how much longer I can keep this charade going. Life is so precarious. Planning for the future never has made much sense to me. I’m not an optimist, especially not about my own life.

  2. Not an optimist about own life uh? Me neither. Life has made sure of that but I try my best to give others pep, even to the point of tears. I tell others “don’t be like me and become like me”.

    Reasons don’t ultimately matter, a similar thing I also think.

    I often thought and still do that I won’t keep long here, it looks like I’ve already exhausted my life. On the personality cafe, some guy (INTJ, I think) said life can be pretty hard for the INTP and the INFP. I’m sure it’s cos of their vagabondage (now, don’t say that’s a British word), just can’t settle on anything. For it’s own sake, in school, I often have this outside-the-stream behavior that comes on, not that I don’t like what’s on, it just hasn’t yet tickled my fancy, cos like Derrick Jensen ‘I love learning but I hate school’, they choose what you learn. Mostly, I’ll crank it up as the exam is at my doorstep, used to shock people. If the thing doesn’t interest me, I’ll be unbelievably forgetful and when it involves too many details and precautions, that turns to dampen my creativity.

    Jack-of-all-trades, master of nothing, how does that sound for you? Well, at least, we the Jacks can write, drawing from far and wide; fiction or no

    • I don’t know that it’s possible to experience severe depression for years on end and remain optimistic about one’s life. The two are polar opposite psychological attitudes.

      You sound like a better person than I in that you try your best to give others pep. I try not to be an asshole, but I can’t claim to necessarily have a positive influence on most people I interact with on a daily basis. I do have a kindhearted side of me that shows sometimes. I’ve experienced enough suffering that petty things may bother me less than for others. I can be very forgiving… up to a point. Beyond that point, I can be absolutely unforgiving. Treat me with disrespect or trample upon one of my values and I may never forgive. Even if I do forgive, I will never forget.

      As for reasons not mattering, I had to learn that lesson through a lot of struggle.

      In high school, I was extremely depressed at one point. I’d been sad and lonely many times before which may have been a precursor, but my first deep experience of depression was a kick to the nuts. Like for many people, high school was tough. Plus, I was always socially akward.

      I didn’t know how to deal with depression. I didn’t even understand that I was depressed. I remember a teacher asking me if I was depressed and it had never occurred to me. It was a new label to place on my experience, but labels don’t lessen the experience. I had no idea where my depression came from. It seemed to me that I had no valid reason to be depressed. I was raised by two loving parents. I lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood with all the basic needs of life met. I had a privileged life as a middle class white male. And I was perfectly healthy. Everything outwardly was fine with my life. It made me even more depressed that I couldn’t explain my depression. I mean, how does one deal with something that is beyond comprehension? If it had no cause, then it could have no solution.

      Furthermore, it bothered me because I certainly couldn’t justify myself and my condition if I couldn’t even explain it. I felt like I had no right, no reason to be depressed. It seemed like a personal failure because there was nothing outside of me that could be blamed. It was a horrible feeling. I even wished something bad would happen to me just so I’d have a reason. Without a reason, I felt like I had to keep my depression to myself. It simply wasn’t socially acceptable. Besides, no one could offer me any answer. I was on my own, isolated in my own suffering.

      Reasons were pointless. Even if I could find a reason, it would have been little comfort. Depression is the great equalizer. You can be rich or poor, healthy or sick… and it just doesn’t matter. Some may be better at hiding their depression. Some people can be functional depressives in the way that some are functional drunks. But it doesn’t change the underlying, unavoidable reality of depression itself.

      I was forced to accept my depression on its own terms.

      Vagabondage? You and your British words. LOL

      Jack-of-all-trades? I guess so. For me, it’s more jack-of-all-knowledge, jack-of-all-that-is-impractical.

  3. Jack-of-all-impractical. I like that label. Fits me too, well. Even that which is practical, I invariably turn into some magical thing with far-fetched conjecture

    How’s ya book coming? The book you were speaking of 3 years ago. Haha, can’t get it off huh?

    I wonder if anything makes you happy. Do you enjoy anything that you engage in? Esp that which you produce

    I have a knack for not finishing or just following through on what I start. It’s evident in videogames I’ve played. My friend brought that to my attention long ago, I’d speak of it so enthusiastically but I’ll be first to grow tired of it. I seem to be happiest when I’m wandering, vagabondage, and just meeting happenings. I remember I used to hop from book to book too when I was younger but I think short supply forced me to go through with it all.

    This new world that values proficiency and where they want you to just start rattling some already-determined facts as soon as you’re asked is not for me. I used to be so good at playing that game, I don’t know what happened for it to change. Ever since, I’ve been sulking like a man who never wanted to be born

    I thought about a course in philosophy but I think I’ll just jump ship on that one too. For me, my mind just seems to play with data when it is offered unless I see the thing itself then I guess, I get surrounded :-).

    Maybe, one day we’ll also find our place. I’ve never had a place since I was young and I still haven’t found one. I remember reading a description for people born under the Cancer sign and they said cancerians generally have a problem finding where they fit, it stabbed me deep; in fact, my sis read that book to my mum and me. Everyone around me seemed to know where he wanted to be, some too were satisfied with their parents’ advice, me? 😦

    Lemme quote the Stereophonics here:

    I been down and I’m wondering why
    These lil black clouds keep walking around me (…)
    Maybe tomorrow, I’ll find my way home

    Philosophy is all that ever gladdened me cos that’s where it’s ok to be an encyclopedia but even that one has come to have a scent of a job about it, proficiency. It used to be the vagabond’s solace, now, look. I used to be the type who’d just read for reading sake, I even used to refer the bible where I hadn’t read the part, just knew it was there. I wasn’t good at quotes either, that is a learned thing, I even write most down, those that I particularly like end up on my book jackets or my room’s walls or shirts I wear (I like putting words on things, I even use words for design). For the most part, I remember when I don’t try to memorise better, somehow too, at my own time. It’s hard, my eyes are even getting heavy

    When I see things like taoist quotes, they just smack of INTP/INFP to me, even if I only know computer descriptions, then I say ‘so which one is not the person’s own unconscious value, is not a personal(ity?) projection?’

    • “How’s ya book coming? The book you were speaking of 3 years ago. Haha, can’t get it off huh?”

      I’m not sure which book you’re referring to. I’ve had a number of ideas for books on my mind for years. You mean I have to transfer them from my mind into an actual book. I can’t merely think about the books in my head?

      “I wonder if anything makes you happy. Do you enjoy anything that you engage in? Esp that which you produce”

      Oh, I suppose. I enjoy various things to some degree. I most enjoy having an interesting discussion with one of my few close friends. I also enjoy my kitties even when they disturb me from my important work. In general, I enjoy the process of researching about a topic, thinking about it, and putting it down in words. I enjoy the process, although sometimes at the end of the process I feel like I was just wasting my time.

      Perceiving types tend to be process-oriented rather than results-oriented, i.e., need for openness vs need for closure. What you say can describe me… wandering and pondering.

      “When I see things like taoist quotes, they just smack of INTP/INFP to me”

      Yeah, I can se that. There is definitely an INXP quality to a lot of Taoist philosophy.

      I read a theory about the typological differences between Western and Eastern cultures. Western culture more focuses on the Judging functions and so more focuses on the distinction between Thinking and Feeling. Eastern culture more focuses on the Perceiving functions and so more focues on the distinction between Intuition and Sensation. Intuition correlates with Taoism and Sensation correlates with Confucianism.

  4. When you merely fancy the books, we become too alike, so much that it’s weird. Write yours and lemme dream so we can be different eh?

    I was originally going to write about Ne and not INXP but I thought the dominant Ne’s seem different. That bit about taoist sayings makes me wonder about the whole shebang: when you look through my posts esp my essays, you easily see a dominant intuition showing its face, or someone who prizes intuition; so can it all just be people’s heroes (a la Beebe) talking? The one they’ll usually use to take on the world? Cos I’m a person who can give an accurate determination of a person’s character from a picture bar that it’s an affected pose, even that says something and I can usually see through the cloud. When we moved into our latest home, I sensed something emanating from the house that wasn’t there. It’s probably only my brother who matches me in these type things. For instance, we both dislike Leo diCaprio cos we think he’s trying too much. Others don’t see it (they nominate him and stuff) but we do.

    It makes me wonder, if intuitors wanted to follow that path of intuition, they’ll surely not follow science, it will be nothing short of magic. I’ve watched history and I think it follows a pattern of personality, intuition has never had the world to itself. Perhaps, that time is coming.

    When you read through some of my posts, you’d see it’s not even intuition functioning anymore but intuition introducing itself as intuition i.e. the post is about intuition 🙂

  5. You know, when you told me about your depression being noticed by your teacher, I imagined you in your glasses, head down, hands behind you, in a black and white chequered shirt, white T, black and white sneakers with your whole class watching you and your teacher with your teacher in a suit saying ‘Ben, are you depressed?’ in a very sympathetic way.

    I also have been depressed for a long time, the best I can recall is 13-14y, that’s probably when mine started. ‘Twas so insidious, kept on dismissing as it grew in the background. Then ‘BOOM’, it hit me 😉

    • I don’t recall what I was wearing when my teacher noticed my depression. I did have glasses back then. I’ve had glasses since I was 9 yrs old.

      It was my art teacher who noticed. He was a great teacher, first person to encourage me to think outside the box. I think I was walking to his class and he was standing by the door. The main detail I remember was I was walking very slowly. The classroom had an outside entrance and so the incident happened outside. I don’t think anyone else was present.

      As you describe your depression is basically the same for me. I’d guess it’s that way for most people. As we grow up, we don’t see the changes that creep over us. Also, depression is particularly insidious in that it’s easy to ignore up to a point… and then it becomes impossible to ignore.

  6. He really wouldn’t be an art teacher if he didn’t think outside the room. My first experiences with that were while arguing with people as well as Einstein.

    So you guys do art in school? That’s nice. I didn’t like ‘drawing’ in school and ‘writing’, they caused me to expose my horrid handwriting and drawing skills from bad dexterity. You see, I had always been complacent with my imaginative skills but I loved art nonetheless, it carried a significance esp being able to translate an idea into a vision. Friends of mine helped me to better my drawing so by class 3, I was among the best artists though I never was satisfied with my output and by that time we had stopped those classes. Those friends were champion artists. I remember I had so every ‘my copy book’ (to improve my handwriting) but I kept on abandoning them (for things of my own choosing) so that I always had a huge backlog. When my pop left, that’s what I was happy about, not having to use that book. Funny thing is when I am told to do it, I won’t but leave me alone and my wandering will lead me there

    My man, where is this depression from?

    • As far as I know, all US schools teach art, although it’s not always required. Anyway, all the schools I went to in all the states I’ve lived taught art. The art class I took from that teacher wasn’t a required class.

      I was actually very good at art. It was in the class of that teacher that I discovered my talent. He was a very inspiring and challenging teacher. When taking his class, I had my art work submitted to some shows. In one show, I won first prize which included scholarship money, but I didn’t pursue art. I’m not sure why. Art never motivated me in the way and to the extent that writing has. I’ve usually only done art for classes or sometimes for family gifts, but writing has always been a very personal endeavor.

      My handwriting was always a bit sloppy. It’s improved somewhat over the years. I don’t recall having worked on handwriting a lot in school, but even if we did I probably didn’t do the homework.

      Where is depression from? I suspect demonic possession is involved somehow. Or maybe it’s psychic vampires.

  7. I’ve been thinking about archetypes. Either there are an infinite number of archetypes which either are there and available to us or not available Or we have an archetype representing infinity so that though we can conceive the concept ‘infinite possibility’ we can’t conceive the infinite possibilities themselves.

    These thoughts were sparked by one of your recent comments saying ‘the possibilities are infinite’, I think in ‘Walking With the Weird’

    • We do seem to think alike about certain topics. I’ve wondered about the idea of an archetype of archetypes, an archetype of potential or something.

      It sounds like something that could be explored through anthropology. Do all existing societies have words for concepts such as infinity, endlessness, eternity, omnipotence, absoluteness, etc? Or are such ideas only existing in more complex modern societies?

      Yep, the possibilities are infinite. Or that is the way it seems to my insatiably curious mind/imagination.

  8. And Oscar Wilde has an interesting theory which he put forth through the character of Lord Henry Wotton, it’s fascinated me ever since I read ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. He thinks that when a person lives artistically, his work gets or is dull, say a poet. Then, should a person live dull, he finds that his work is of the richest quality in artistry.

    What do you make of the theory? Maybe, his observation was limited to introverted artists (who are in the majority, I think), that’s why. Or it’s just a distinction between extraverted and introverted artists. But, I don’t know if any distinction between intro- and extra- art really exists, after all, it is a theory. There should be, but it has to be very general for the individual functions and p-types as wholes will cause much variety

    • I haven’t read ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, but I was listening to a discussion of the book on public radio. It was interesing. It’s hard for me to understand what the theory might mean since I’m not familiar with the context and details of the story.

      It makes me think of the general idea of living simply such as spoken of by Thoreau, Taoists, and Zen masters… or even by certain types of Christians such as Quakers and Shakers. In particular, I was thinking of the idea of it’s necessary to empty the glass in order to refill it, it’s necessary to cleanse the palette so as to better taste the wine.

      I don’t know if it would relate to the difference between introverted and extraverted artists. It makes sense that introverts, especially introverts with intuition, might have more ability to see subtler forms of artistry and more desire to see beauty that goes beyond superficial externalities.

  9. ” Plato and Aristotle I These are not merely two systems ; they are also types of two distinct human natures, which from immemorial time, under every sort of cloak, stand more or less inimically opposed. But pre-eminently the whole medieval period was riven by this conflict, persisting even to the present day ; moreover, this battle is the most essential content of the history of the Christian Church. Though under different names, always and essentially it is of Plato and Aristotle that we speak. Enthusiastic, mystical, Platonic natures reveal Christian ideas and their corresponding symbols from the bottomless depths of their souls. Practical, ordering, Aristotelian natures build up from these ideas and symbols a solid system, a dogma and a cult. The Church eventually embraces both natures one of them sheltering among the clergy, while the other finds refuge in monasticism ; yet both incessantly at feud.”
    H. HEINE, Deutschland (from ‘Psycological Types’, C G Jung)

    “Primordial images are, of course, just as much idea as feeling. Thus, basic ideas such as God, freedom, immortality are just as much feeling-values as they are significant as ideas. Everything, therefore, that has been said of the introverted thinking refers equally to introverted feeling, only here everything is felt while there it was thought But the fact that thoughts can generally be expressed more intelligibly than feelings demands a more than ordinary descriptive or artistic capacity before the real wealth of this feeling can be even approximately presented or communicated to the outer world. Whereas
    subjective thinking, on account of its unrelatedness, finds great difficulty in arousing an adequate understanding, the same, though in perhaps even higher degree, holds good for subjective feeling. In order to communicate with
    others it has to find an external form which is not only fitted to absorb the subjective feeling in a satisfying expression, but which must also convey it to one’s fellowman in such a way that a parallel process takes place in him. Thanks to the relatively great internal (as well as external) similarity of the human being, this effect can actually be achieved, although a form acceptable to feeling is extremely difficult to find, so long as it is still mainly orientated by the fathomless store of primordial images.”
    C G Jung on ‘Feeling in the introverted attitude’ (Psychological Types)

    • I like! Very nice quotes. I’m not sure whether or not I’ve come across either of these before.

      The first sounds familiar. I know I’ve heard that distinction made, but I had forgotten about it. It’s definitely in line with my own thinking about liberalism and conservatism, thin and thick boundaries. I guess I’ve never mentioned this distinction in any of my posts, but the distinction most reminds me of the following post:


      The second quote makes sense. I probably read or at least skimmed that before. I did read parts of Psychological Types and I surely would have read the section on Introverted Feeling. I remember discussing this view of Fi with some other INFPs. It’s hard for an Fi type to explain Fi to others. If you don’t understand descriptions of Fi, then you probably aren’t an Fi type.

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