When the wise man points to the moon, the fool looks at the finger.
Reason is a foundation of humanity. But it is only one of its foundations. When it pretends to be the sole foundation, it becomes a form of power without limits by losing the moderating function (by the left hand): the existential human side. That is when reason produces monsters (1).
We have seen in chapter 27 Neuroscience: mind and brain (2) that the cerebral hemisphere that manages language and reasoning, has an “interpreter” function; creative function, capable of inventing elements that complete the sense of a situation, and thus capable of deceiving others and oneself.
This capacity for deception and self-deception facilitates us not to see what does not interest us or can cause us problems or force us to think for ourselves. It also consists in limiting the meaning of words; or using others -as euphemisms- to avoid social rejection. And this has to do with hypocrisy.
Not everything is bad in the interpreter; On the contrary, it is an important element of creativity. The cerebral hemispheres work closely with each other to resolve compromised situations that arise in life. And they often do very well.
It can also be fun. The humor is based on that game hiding from show, hide, rediscover and surprise.
Illusionist magicians thus mount their shows that fascinate young and old. The moment of disappearance is fundamental. No one should realize how it happened. The illusionist says something, makes a deception maneuver, that kidnaps for a moment the attention of the spectators. That precise moment is the one that takes advantage of the magician to make the disappearance.
Wolfgang Iser (1926-2007)
In his theory of the act of reading, Iser (3) explains that social systems generate virtual possibilities that, in practice are denied. The victors rewrite history by eliminating the defeated from it. Hegel referred to this as the blank pages of the story. But not only do the victors, but all kinds of executioners with their victims. Slaves disappear from the collective mind. Women become invisible except that “for what they were created” (give pleasure, give birth and clean).
Tyrannies often eliminate freedom of expression to prevent under heavy punishment the exposure of a story or thought that could jeopardize its power. But there is another softer, but more effective, form of mental repression: to consider socially in bad taste to refer to certain issues.
LGBT people have suffered for centuries the same erasure of the collective imaginary. Therefore, in an admirable act of counterparadox (4), they turned into “pride” even the expressions of hatred that indicated their existence. LGBT pride thus made it impossible to deny its existence.
What is buried grows
And just as life makes its way, so does the humble truth of reality finally break through the despotic or subtle power. An especially important way out of paralysis is art.
We have seen in Michelangelo’s trick (5), how this artist managed to avoid censorship without using words or reasoning (precisely avoiding using them), and visually stripping the artifice of the dominant hypocrisy in his time.
Art focuses on the particular (of a painting, a statue, a fictional narrative or a musical work) to break the limits imposed by the power of social rules aimed at denying reality.
The right hand has exercised the power of reason and force for two million years. And the left hand influences aesthetically -through pragnanz– extending from the darkness possibilities not yet realized – or unmentionable – making them perceptible, recognizable and even realizable. Both hands – both sides of the brain, both aspects of the human mind – thus collaborated to create humanity. And they continue to do so to reconstruct the human way of facing existence.
That is why it is literally in our hands to turn the possibilities denied by despotism or hypocrisy into opportunities.
Science and art are the two most sophisticated sides of facing that same collaboration from human culture. Science and art are the two most sophisticated sides of facing that same collaboration from human culture. In both, and in life, engagement is needed.
To finish this essay, we just need to read the epilogue: Responsible for the future. What the Angelus Novus can’t see, but we can.
See Chapter index
Current chapter NOTES
(1) This Goya engraving “The dream of reason produces monsters” has been interpreted to mean that, when the world of lights goes out, man enters a world of monsters. Can be. But in this chapter and throughout this essay, my concern is the opposite: that the reason, left to itself, is toxic and produces virtuous dehumanized men, as Robespierre, who become tyrants.
(2) Go to Chp. Neuroscience: brain and mind.
Neurosciences study the mind as a result of brain activity.
(3) Wolfgang Iser (1926-2007) was one of the founders of the Constance School of aesthetic reception. His book The act of reading (1976) was a revolution in discovering the function of the reader or the viewer to make sense of the work before him. Iser’s theory is based on the phenomenology of Ingarden (1893-1970), Gadamer’s hermeneutics (Truth and Method, 1960) and Ricoeur. Its philosophical roots are found in the phenomenology of Husserl and in the existentialism of Heidegger, Sartre and Jaspers.
(4) Counterparadox. According to Watzlawick, the counterparadox consists in prescribing the symptom, doing what you want to avoid. In this case, turning insults into pride.
(5) See: Michelangelo’s trick