Monday, 12 October 2009

Theory of knowledge and minds out of synch

You are Norman, a scientist, a mathematician. You are slightly autistic, with a clear disconnection from normal social procedures with other human beings; you are very clever in doing the math. For this, you’ve been hired by the government to invent some awesome trick with physics and warfare. Your disconnection get worse. You become paranoid, you see things, you build an articulated and complex belief about a conspiracy, the government, some of your friends involved: usual stuff. After some years you become completely nutter. Nothing of what you see has the minimal pertinence with reality. The funny thing is that actually some guys of the government were looking at you, some of your friends actually worked for an enemy State, some episodes of your life have been disturbed by this plot. What can we say? Did you have an intuition of what was happening? Were you right, to some extent? No, not all. You were mentally high as a kite AND accidentally and parallelly, facts in real life were similar to your hallucinations. I’m sorry.

You are Rosemary and you’re pregnant. Your husband does something strange; not patently, just a bit. You are nervous, exhausted; you see things are not completely in order, but don’t understand precisely where. A couple of clues leads you to a morbid, delirious , impossible version: your husband sold your baby to the devil. Come on guys!, back to reality. You think you’re mad: too weird, too unacceptable, too unreal, too mad. But true!

Have you ever been in situations like Norman or Rosemary? Congratulations all of you are intensely disturbed. If you needed a confirmation, here we go: in your mind a bunch of crazy monkeys are inventing stories to have fun of your life (if only they had 100 000 years these stories would be very interesting…wouldn’t they, oh my Bard?). You are a lunatic if you believe you’ve been in similar conditions. Because every one of us is more or less in those conditions. But we are unaware of being there. Let me explain.

First, Norman and Rosemary are in a condition of building theory of how things are (we normally do this, but not often). This is an (implicit) theory of knowledge. Norman's mind is affected by a stete of disorder (a large chunk of the population is affected by state of mental disorder more or less pronounced); Rosemary’s version is fictional (a large chunk of what we believe scientifically and with good proofs, is fictional). When you dramatically diverge from the theory of how things are of your social environment, you start to have problems. If we believe what others believe, we are fine. But if we miss some coordination, some accordance, some synchronization, we get lost. Why Norman got lost? He simply dissociated himself from his social environment and so became mad and paranoid. The fact his paranoia was similar to reality doesn’t count. Isn't it ironic? We normally are more lucky: our paranoia is less severe and the parallel facts with reality give us the false belief we are right. It’s only we don’t experience the extreme verification Norman did: the verification your beliefs are paranoid (Everyone is telling Norman is mad and when he starts to accept this, the reaction of his social environment is positive: Norman is still seeing the same but now calls himself paranoid either.) Rosemary is simply discovering something to weird to be accepted: let’s just think to quantum theory or the degree of corruption in Italy. Alone is too difficult to manage the building of shared theory. Einstein didn’t believe to accept what he helped to discover. Judges Falcone and Borsellino have been killed by the mafia (large sectors of power said mafia doesn’t exist…).

OK now we have our stage: Norman and Rosemary aren’t more disturbed than us. They simply miss the beat. One too much. When you go out of synch, you see things. You see others dancing but you realize there is no music. It’s only the synchronized movement of everyone that is giving the perception of music to dance for. But there is no music. Or better there is only the multiple coordination of your social environment. The multiple movement gets the resonance of the mind involved: everyone is convinced to hear the music. But there is none.

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