Friday, July 14, 2017

Sándor Szathmári on the monomania of prophets

Sándor Szathmári wrote a novel in Hungarian and Esperanto--Voyage to Kazohinia, now available in English from an American publisher--that belongs in the dystopian pantheon with Karel Čapek's R. U. R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), Zamyatin's We, Huxley's Brave New World, and Orwell's 1984.

Kazohinia is unique in that it presents two diametrically opposite societies, one composed of the Hins, robotically orderly, rational, and mechanistic, and the Behins, totally irrational and chaotic. Gulliver (recycled from Jonathan Swift) finds himself in both neighboring but mutually isolated societies, unable to tolerate either one, and unable to see that the insane, violent Behins are merely an exaggeration of the British and European civilization he uncritically adores.

Szathmári created a panoply of neologisms for the belief systems, cultural practices, institutions etc. of Behin society, that are thinly disguised equivalents of the same phenomena in Western civilization. Even among the Behins there are a small number of sages, prophets, wise men, sacred religious figures, founders and inspirers of religions, called bikru. Gulliver inquires of his Hin guide about the bikru. The bikru are also found wanting. A post on my other blog more extensively documents this:

Sándor Szathmári on the limitations of sages

Here I reproduce the key dialogue that pinpoints the crux of the matter (which also reminds me of why I disliked Hermann Hesse's Siddartha), boldfacing the priceless punchline:
"Don't speak of 'the' bikru. You shouldn't think that they had only one bikru. There were several. Perhaps, you, too, might have become one of them."

"Indeed?!" I looked at him flabbergasted.

"Yes. They burn every bikru first. Later they recognize him because, as you yourself have seen, they have minds but the self-radiation doesn't allow them to dominate clearly and as soon as it comes to words, to say nothing of deeds, everything becomes reversed. The bikrus, however, have the ability to manifest their intelligence but, as I have said, in their being they are Behins and they are not free of imperfections and fixed ideas."

"Of fixed ideas? What is this fixed idea?"

"To be a bikru is also in fact a monomania; the erroneous belief that with the Behins there is a connection between the heard word and the brain. A bikru is a Behin whose only Behinity is that he doesn't realize among whom he lives; for it could not be imagined, could it, that somebody who was aware of the Behinic disease would still want to explain reality to them."

Evolutionary psychology, bourgeois reason, the management of duality & the erasure of history

Evolutionary psychologists should be presumed guilty until proven innocent.

I was amazed to find Christopher Badcock, writing for Psychology Today, advocating Hungarian Esperantist Sándor Szathmári's utopian/dystopian novel Voyage to Kazohinia as a prescient anticipation of Badcock's model of the diametric mind:
 "Voyage to Kazohinia: A Diametric Dystopia" by Christopher Badcock, Psychology Today, May 6, 2017

"The ABC of the Diametric Model, Twenty Years On" by Christopher Badcock, Psychology Today, July 5, 2017
I blogged about these two posts on another of my blogs:
In my work on Szathmári, I have emphasized that this novel embodies a basic cultural and ideological dichotomy of modern civilization in a unique fashion. Badcock in his other work manifests this awareness as well, as well as its relationship to C. P. Snow's "two cultures"--another relationship I have pursued--but he attributes the social configuration to genetic causes. Here are a couple more of Badcock's several contributions to the Psychology Today site:
Brain Imaging Reveals the Diametric Mind: Mentalizing brain areas inhibit mechanistic ones and vice versa. Posted Apr 11, 2014

Diametrically Beyond the Two Cultures: Conflict between science and humanities is rooted in cognition. Posted Aug 29, 2012
Here is a book-length continuation of his original book on the subject:
The Diametric Mind Insights into AI, IQ, the Self and Society: a sequel to The Imprinted Brain.
And here is a related essay referenced by Badcock:
Autism, Psychosis, and the “Two Cultures”: C. P. Snow Reconsidered in Light of Recent Theories about Mentalistic Cognition by Jiro Tanak
Now, the hypothesis that there is a certain structure to the human brain, if there is anything to this model, and that this would have a relationship with the historical development of human institutions, would be a major factor to take into account in understanding why certain modes of thought and behavior are so readily reinforced. But the charlatanism that constitutes a large part of evolutionary psychology obscures the mechanisms and structure of social organization in historical development and uncritically reads society directly off of genetic dispositions.

If you read Badcock's posts and other writings, you may smell something rotten as I do. Reading this sort of material is like reading a parody of the scientific method. The concrete relationship of multifactorial social complexes becomes reduced to the most simplistic schematisms built up on a naive ideological basis. Of course, the irreligionists who gobble up this fare fancy that they have found the master key to irrationality and the reason they think they embody. But this is also a symptom of social and ideological degeneration, bourgeois reason at the end of its rope.