Scientific introspection and the analytical advantage of average people

When you have thoughts and feelings and drives, note them and try to understand which variables about yourself cause them. The best way to do this is to compare yourself to others, and the best way to do that is by learning where you fall within empirical distributions.

This is a rare context in which average people may enjoy an analytical advantage over “superior” people. For when they note in themselves a particular thought or feeling, they can be relatively confident that many others have similar thoughts and feelings. The introspective data of exceptional people are much less reliable for generating hypotheses or inferences about sociological phenomena.

Rap is not art but it’s cool

Rap is not art, it’s stylized abjection. Same with punk. Indeed, this is one reason why it has been possible for rap and punk to merge today, musically and sociologically. Who ever would have predicted this from first musical principles? In rap and punk, sounds primarily have social effects, not musical significances or aesthetic qualities such as beauty (as singers with beautiful voices optimize for beautiful singing, and are appreciated for this reason). Rap and punk are forms of low-conscientiousness signaling, which are enjoyable and attractive because the artist does not care about optimizing for admirable qualities such as beauty. Paradoxically, we admire people who can afford to not be admired. We infer, correctly, that they must be quite powerful in some way that’s not obvious. The popular name for this hidden, mysterious power is “cool.” Rap and punk are not beautiful art, and they never have been. But they are cool, and cool is at least as valuable and important as beauty. Genuinely cool artists make us feel, or rather they make us know — through the incontrovertible proof of their own life — that no matter how imperfect we might be, and no matter how undervalued or even hated we might be, it is always still possible to be great.

The Psychology of Antifa with Geoffrey Miller

This is a conversation I had with Geoffrey Miller on the psychology of Antifa and antifascism. It was first recorded yesterday (July 2, 2019) as a livestream on Geoffrey's new Youtube channel. Watch the video here and subscribe to Geoffrey's channel here.

The only reason I'm able to expand my projects like this, e.g. moving to Albuquerque for this big experiment with Geoffrey and Diana, is because I have financial support from fans of my work. Consider making a monthly pledge if you'd like to be a part of what I'm doing. https://www.patreon.com/jmrphy

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My Lacanian Psychotherapy Session with Eliot Rosenstock

Eliot Rosenstock is a practicing psychotherapist and author of Žižek in the Clinic.

Big thanks to all the patrons who help me keep the lights on.

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This conversation was first recorded on Dec 15, 2018 as a livestream on Youtube. To receive notifications when future livestreams begin, subscribe to my channel with one click, then click the little bell.

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The Second Problem of Being Perceptible Is Motivational Highjacking (Becoming Imperceptible III)

Another problem with being perceptible is easy to understand in our current digital context. It is a problem we might summarize as the motivational problem. Being perceived triggers dopamine, and dopamine hits train you to do more of whatever got you the dopamine. The more your motivation relies on dopamine via perceivability, the more surely you are not creating original and longer-term projects, because such projects require long periods of zero perceivability. When Deleuze and Guatarri say "bring something incomprehensible into the world," this is what they are saying. They're not saying that any old nonsense should be brought into the world, or that ideas or artworks should be impenetrable by design. Deleuze and Guattari are saying that nothing worth thinking, saying, or making will pre-fit the perceptual schemas of others, in advance. All worthy creative projects are incomprehensible at first, when they are brought into the world. Any project that is immediately comprehensible is the product of someone opportunistically filling currently existing schemas of perceptions. That is the opposite of creation, that type of work is taking orders from arbitrary social opinion dynamics (and guess where those opinions are most likely to come from, guess the higher function those opinions are most likely to serve). They are not railing against clear communication or transparent self-presentation; they are railing against anyone who creates in order to be valued from within already existing schemas of perception. Perfectly normal communication and self-presentation can totally scramble perceptions, and the most esoteric, anonymous, scrambled communications can be slavishly pre-fit to pre-exisisting perceptions.

If one is not creating on the fuel provided by immediate recognition, how is the work of creation motivated in the period of zero perceivability? To create anything other than reproductions of the status quo requires a different kind of motivational system. Lo and behold, Deleuze and Guattari offer one, which at every point is contrasted to capture by perceivability. In their language, they advise one to rather construct a plane of immanence (a "DGAF" gesture of creative violence, which is intrinsically self-rewarding) and then working on it as a labor of love. "The secret always has to do with love" (ATP 97). But this is no cliché; while half of their analyses are about the mechanisms of domination, the other is dedicated to modeling in exquisite detail what the labor of love involves, and how to do it. If you can't access such a state, it is because you are captured, if not by perceptibility then by some other trap ("Is it good? Is it worth it?" Questions which usually veil a "What will people think?"). Thus, becoming imperceptible is about constituting a different kind of project, on a different motivational system — a system of immanent, intrinsically self-motivating creative productivity, rather than a mediated, extrinsic, alienated toil, the satisfaction of which is always out of reach even if temporary recognitions are won.

To make an irresistible reference back to the Twitter Deleuzians with which we began, it is some vindication of my contention here that the digital masks of these individuals do not seem to help in the slightest with this problem of capture by perceivability. For many of these people are prolific with short bursts of creative possibility, so long as they receive a perceptual payment of dopamine; but very rarely can these individuals bring such creative bursts to the constitution of a plane of immanence. This is because, as we will see, the mask is the face.

So the problem of being perceived is capture, susceptibility to manipulation, and losing the ability to create and execute works of substance.

The First Problem of Being Perceptible Is Being Manipulated (Becoming Imperceptible 2)

This is the second post in a series, on the concept of "becoming imperceptible" in Deleuze and Guattari. The first one is here.

For obvious reasons, we have strong inclinations to be understood by others. There is a problem here because, to the degree we wish to be perceptible to others, we are conditioning our own expressions on contingent social and political variables. In an ideal community, this might not be a problem. If technological or other contextual variables veer off in a way that biases and malforms popular perceptions, then thinking and speaking to be perceptible can easily lock one into a life of inescapable confusion, suffering, and reproduction of precisely what one despises. This is the problem of perceptibility, in a nutshell.

Note that perception refers to sense data. Perceptibility therefore has pre-conscious connotations. You might think of perception as kind of like "understanding,"but the latter is misleading because it connotes conscious intellection. It's worth clarifying this point because the problem here is not the prospect of being correctly understood intellectually. We will seek to be understood, but only by those who can understand. Seeking to be perceptible means catering to the initial and cheapest pieces of others' psychological and behavioral equipment.

To be perceptible means that institutions, and their human trustees, know how to manipulate you. Being perceptible means you are easily pigeonholed, and what's worse is that often you are correctly pigeonholed. If you optimize for how you are perceived, and especially if you build a life on how you are perceived (i.e., anyone who's income is based on status in an institutional hierarchy), then your thoughts, words, and actions are easily controlled by anyone above you in the institutional hierarchy. For by definition their edicts have greater influence on the perceptions of everyone attuned to the hierarchy than anything you might say or do, thus pleasing one's status-superiors is a necessity for those who wish to be perceived well. (This matter is greatly complicated in contexts of institutional breakdown and fragmentation, as we are currently observing, so we will need to treat the matter in greater detail later; but for now, most of us are still maneuvering lives overwhelmingly characterized by the inertia of mass institutions, so even if institutions break down rapidly over the course of the next few generations, the general lessons here will suffice for most people for quite some time.)

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