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Contraperception On:2003-03-29 13:43:22

Indulge with me in a little Gedankenexperiment, a thought experiment, you know the sort of thing---wild hypothesizing after the style of the famous Schrodinger’s cat-in-the-box experiment.


Let us hypothesize that a man went to see a psychiatrist, who, in the way of hypothetical psychiatrists showed him some Rorschach-test ink blots. How rude!The man looked at the first one for several seconds and, after mumbling for a bit, we may posit that he finally said
“Well this is a bit embarrassing, but it looks like a couple in a bed making love”.
“Hmmm” said the psychiatrist and presented his subject with another card.
“Well this one looks like a couple of young lovers on a haystack.”
“Hmmm. And tzis vone?”
“A pilot and a stewardess in the cockpit of... I think it’s a Boeing 757”.
“And tzis...?”
“Three young ladies and ... a ... a hippopotamus!!...”


And so our hypothetical psychiatrist theorizes,
“Vell I tzink tzat I know vhat your problem is, you seem to be obsessed vit ze sex.”
Leaping to his feet the patient cries---
“Me! ...
“Me!! ...
“Obsessed?? ...
You’re the one with all the dirty pictures!!!”


Now you might think that that is merely a feeble attempt on my part at getting a cheap laugh, but in actuality it is a plain, unvarnished statement of the relationship between perception and reality. You see, you, sitting at home by your radio, have no way of knowing whether our Schrodingered patient is really obsessed with sex or if the psychiatrist (who was, perhaps, extremely shortsighted) had in fact inadvertently shown the poor chap his extensive collection of racy ‘French’ postcards .
And for that matter neither do I.
You see our hypothetical reality here falls within the scope of indeterminacy.

But as a species we tend not to accept the unknowable. We are intensely uncomfortable with the blank areas on our mental maps. We instinctively feel that we have a (possibly God-given) right to know ... well ... everything! When (as is frequently the case) we can’t, this produces the phenomenon known as ‘Hypothesis Rage’ where otherwise sedate professors have been known to beat even more sedate professors to a pulp with heavy monographs over such essentially unknowable things as the date of composition of Beowulf, the identity of the occupant of Mound One at Sutton Hoo or the extent to which vibrato was used by singers in sixteenth century courtly music. But however interesting and important these and their fellow questions are, why should we expect to understand so much?

I mean we can hardly expect to know everything because that would mean knowing our minds too, which of course would have to include everything that we know including...
No, no that way recursive madness lies.
Yes, yes, and maybe that explains hypothesis rage: since it seems to effect those who obviously know everything it must be the result of going into an infinite epistemological wissenschaftslehre recursion feedback loop. But don’t expect me to know anything about that.

Cheerio for now from
Richard Howland-Bolton

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