Magical Marxism & Other Alternative Visions

I noticed the book Magical Marxism by Andy Merrifield (links at the end to give some understanding about the book and author). I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this post. I simply was interested in the basic idea as presented in the title.

I was thinking about how this could be taken in a slightly different direction: Imaginal Socialism, Fortean Anarchism, Zetetic Leftism, Gnostic Radicalism, Taoist Revolution, etc. My thought was combining two aspects: 1) the unknown and murky, desire and imagination, curiosity and wonder, questioning and seeking, etc; and 2) revolutionary politics, radical visions, ways of relating that challenge the status quo, etc.

The failure I see of left-wing politics seems connected to an overly masculine worldview. This made me think of the differences between a thick boundary type and a thin boundary type, and how these differences relate to the liminal, the imaginal, and the Trickster archetype. I see many left-wingers go back and forth between two masculine attitudes: 1) willful plans of action and tactics of directly challenging power; and 2) abstract intellectuality with in-group terminology to clearly define the boundaries and distinctions. The feminine aspects of being in the world are forgotten or dismissed or simply de-emphasized.  Politics, society and the larger world isn’t just about individuals acting. There is a being-in-the-world that goes beyond mere passivity toward a fecund creativity.

What if it isn’t about intellectually or tactically willing something into reality? What if, instead, there was some unknown to lure us forward into realms we could never find on purpose? Maybe the best way forward is to lose the path we’ve been following.

These are just thoughts. I haven’t cleared up my thinking. I was just wondering about a particular angle. I just wanted to pick at this crack I noticed at the foundation of leftist politics. I see some light shining out of the crack and it made me curious about what this light might be.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JQP/is_442/ai_n57755935/

http://www.envplan.com/abstract.cgi?id=d2703eda

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13604813.2011.595116

http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=12233

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Qg8PHs9tG6EJ:www.amerikanistik.uni-muenchen.de/ip_60s/finalpapers/duncan_kjoelholt.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESh2hFN_bq5d9QuQfvJot8NOGsTPMBS4Oi9_s0QawavZwVGPSX98cnQsrqbpRJ99w7HQKWViBCejmSpu6pmg4kMHkQU_fE0AwgS0vOWHWLUu_ApDNgAibFtvCJ0IAiChTevyC34W&sig=AHIEtbRFJodqqntFCimQ1wLqQJJwdkSc4A

 

Open-Mindedness: Pros & Cons

There are a few labels that describe my relationship to belief and knowledge: weak atheist, agnostic, weak agnostic, militant agnostic, agnostic gnostic, gnostic, Fortean, epistemological anarchist, skeptic, zetetic, philosophical pessimist, truth-seeker, and I’m sure I could add a few more. Basically, I trust both personal experience and intellectual inquiry more than collective belief, trust facts and rationality more than appeal to authority.

I, of course, consider my position to be superior to the alternatives… and, besides, it’s just my way of seeing and thinking about the world. Ever since a child, I’ve always been a questioner… and conventional answers tend not to satisfy me. I don’t have a choice but to be who I am. But, for the sake of argument, let me present the pros and cons of my attitude.

There are two main pros that come to mind.

First, I have no particular beliefs that I have to defend at all cost. This makes it easy to have a debate with someone who feels compelled to defend their beliefs. Having no absolute beliefs gives me room to shift my position.

Second, this gives me a more open attitude toward knowledge. I don’t have to worry about new data challenging my assumptions. In fact, I seek out new data to challenge my assumptions. In a sense, I can’t lose a debate as long as I maintain this open position because I have nothing to lose. Any debate is an opportunity to learn something I didn’t previously know and I’ll simply adapt my arguments to that new data.

Now for a couple of cons.

First, this may seem like an easy position to maintain, but it actually takes a lot of effort. I never accept anything on faith or on authority. I’m constantly seeking out new info and new perspectives. I’m constantly double-checking what I think I know and verifying claimed facts. This is an endless effort. I might spend hours or even days researching a single point. I honestly try to understand all sides. Because of my values and ideals, I hold truth above all else even when the person I’m debating doesn’t. Depending on time and energy, I’ll often try to understand someone else’s perspective even if they merely dismiss mine.

Second, it can be psychologically difficult living with endless questions and no certainties. At least, I live in a liberal community and so don’t have to defend my lack of belief and ideological certitude. I’m very glad I wasn’t born into a religiously fundamentalist society. Still, even in a liberal community, maintaining a lack of belief isn’t easy. There is something in human nature that makes us want to grasp onto a worldview. A sense of certainty (even when that certainty is vague and/or superficial) can be one of the most comforting things in the world. There is a reason religious people tend to be happier and live longer. Thinking and questioning might be good for social progress, but it’s not necessarily good for personal gain.

I’d say that, if you want to be happy and healthy, you probably should choose to be a closed-minded ideologue. But such isn’t the choice most of us face. I doubt most people choose their psychological attitude towards the world. Such things are a combination of genetics and experiences (especially early experiences), both of which aren’t generally within our control. I couldn’t choose to be a closed-minded ideologue even if I tried. Maybe in the future they’ll have drugs and genetic engineering that will help people to question less and think less independently. Until then, we freethinkers will have to suffer the burden of rationality (it’s similar to the white man’s burden except that it’s open to all races).

Skeptics & Debunkers

C. P. Snow

The Two Cultures

Science Wars

Sociology of Scientific Knowledge


2/15 3/15 4/15 5/15 6/15 7/15 8/15 9/15 10/15 11/15 12/15 13/15 14/15 15/15 

Charles Fort

The Book of the Damned



2/12 3/12 4/12 5/12 6/12 7/12 8/12 9/12 10/12 11/12 12/12

Jacques Vallée


2/4 3/4 4/4

Robert Anton Wilson

The New Inquisition


Rupert Sheldrake

Richard Dawkins comes to call

He dismissed all research on the subject out of hand. […] “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

“This depends on what you regard as extraordinary”, I replied. “Most people say they have experienced telepathy, especially in connection with telephone calls. In that sense, telepathy is ordinary. The claim that most people are deluded about their own experience is extraordinary. Where is the extraordinary evidence for that?”

He produced no evidence at all, apart from generic arguments about the fallibility of human judgment. He assumed that people want to believe in “the paranormal” because of wishful thinking.

We then agreed that controlled experiments were necessary. I said that this was why I had actually been doing such experiments, including tests to find out if people really could tell who was calling them on the telephone when the caller was selected at random. The results were far above the chance level.

The previous week I had sent Richard copies of some of my papers, published in peer-reviewed journals, so that he could look at the data.

Richard seemed uneasy and said, “I’m don’t want to discuss evidence”. “Why not?” I asked. “There isn’t time. It’s too complicated. And that’s not what this programme is about.” The camera stopped.

George P. Hansen

Magicians Who Endorsed Psychic Phenomena

CSICOP and the Skeptics: An Overview

CSICOP to CSI: the Stigma of the Paranormal

Has CSICOP Lost the Thirty Years’ War?
Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4, Pt. 5, Pt. 6

Marcello Truzzi

Skeptics

Pseudoskepticism

Pyrrhonism

SCEPCOP

Closeminded Science

Scientism

Parapsychology, Anomalies, Science, Skepticism, and CSICOP

Parapsychology, [Marcello] Truzzi contends as a sociologist, is more tough-minded than many other academic fields, yet paradoxically, it remains a fringe subject.  “Parapsychologists really want to play the game by the proper statistical rules,” he expounds. “They’re very staid. They thought they could convince these sceptics but the sceptics keep raising the goalposts. It’s ironic, because real psychic researchers are very committed to doing real science, more than a lot of people in science are. Yet they get rejected, while we can be slipshod in psychology and sociology and economics and get away with it. We’re not painted as the witchdoctors, but they are.”  Jonathon Margolis in Uri Geller: Magician or Mystic?
 
“. . . members of the scientific community often judge the parapsychological claims without firsthand knowledge of the experimental evidence. Very few of the scientific critics have examined even one of the many experimental reports on psychic phenomena. Even fewer, if any, have examined the bulk of the parapsychological literature…. Consequently, parapsychologists have justification for their complaint that the scientific community is dismissing their claims without a fair hearing. . . .” Ray Hyman

 “I call them scoffers, not skeptics,” says Marcello Truzzi, director of the Center of Scientific Anomalies Research at Eastern Michigan University.

Truzzi, who studies what he calls protoscience, was a founding member of the world’s oldest and most respected skeptic society, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). But Truzzi says he withdrew after growing disillusioned with the group’s research methods.

“They tend to block honest inquiry, in my opinion,” he asserts. “Most of them are not agnostic toward claims of the paranormal; they are out to knock them.”

Truzzi says that some of the CSICOP researchers set the bar of proof outrageously high when it comes to the study of the paranormal. “When an experiment of the paranormal meets their requirements, then they move the goal posts,” he says. “Then, if the experiment is reputable, they say it’s a mere anomaly.”  Tanya Barrientos in  The Paranormal? Pshaw!

“The most ardent skeptics enjoy their skepticism as long as it does not encroach upon their most cherished beliefs. Then incredulity flies out the window. . . . It is easy, even fun to challenge others’ beliefs, when we are smug in our certainty about our own. But when ours are challenged, it takes great patience and ego strength to listen with an unjaundiced ear.” Michael Shermer in A Skeptical Manifesto
 
“. . . the same scientific mind-set that thrives on high precision and critical thinking is also extremely adept at forming clever rationalizations that get in the way of progress. In extreme cases, these rationalizations have prevented psi research from taking place at all. Ironically, the very same skeptics who have attempted to block psi research through the use of rhetoric and ridicule have also been responsible for perpetuating the many popular myths associated with psychic phenomena. If serious scientists are prevented from investigating claims of psi out of fear for their reputations, then who is left to conduct these investigations? Extreme skeptics? No, because the fact is that most extremists do not conduct research, they specialize in criticism. Extreme believers? No, because they are usually not interested in conducting rigorous scientific studies. Dean Radin in The Conscious Universe, p. 206-207
 
“There are three broad approaches to anomaly studies. . . . The second common approach is what critics usually call the debunkers’ approach. This is the main attitude of the orthodox scientific community towards anomaly claims. It is characterized by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). “Whatever is claimed is nothing but … something else.” Seemingly anomalous phenomena are denied first and sometimes investigated only second. Like the Fortean the debunker is not concerned with the full explanation. Whereas the Fortean types don’t want explanations, the debunkers don’t need them as they believe they have already them.”  Marcello Truzzi in Reflections on the Reception of Unconventional Claims in Science
“Despite years of attempts to study paranormal phenomena, there’s been a scientific iron curtain raised against serious research on these experiences.” Andrew Greeley in The “Impossible”:  It’s Happening
 
“In 1819, Ernst Chladni reflected back on his struggles for the recognition of meteorites. While the Enlightenment, the 18th century intellectual movement that examined accepted doctrines of the time, had brought certain benefits, he felt it also brought with it certain intellectual problems. Now scientists ‘thought it necessary to throw away or reject as error anything that did not conform to a self-constructed model.’ The very success of scientific experiment and theory had led to a misplaced confidence that what was real was already within the circle of science. What was outside, therefore, what did not conform to scientists’ theories, could be dismissed by invoking scientific authority and by ignoring or ridiculing observations not supported by it.”  Ron Westrum in The Blind Eye of Science
 
“New data and discordant, anomalous, or bizarre experiences or facts can destroy the best explanations. Thus we cannot say with absolute confidence that the data and theories of parapsychology must be false because they contradict the existing body of physical [scientific] theory.” Paul Kurtz in The Transcendental Temptation