Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Uses of the knife

For Nick, who seems to have a pretenatural grasp on this relationship.

Getting a grip on my anxiety and avoidance of medical entrapment
is an ongoing process that involves externalizing
a lot of my long-held received wisdom into conflicts
with people who don't understand what I've come to conclude:
That psychology isn't science, it's rhetoric.

This isn't to say it should be done away with.
On the contrary, I love rhetoric.
If I didn't, I would not make a career out of criticizing it,
but it is important to know when rhetoric
is what we're dealing with
because our approach to its claims depends on it,
and our honesty as intellectuals can not exist
if we fail at a simple problem of demarcation
and allow narrative impositions to be admitted
as purely data-driven discussion.

The theory built from observed behavior,
drawing heavily from positional influence
that is properly heuristic
will still predict
a good deal of phenomena in useful ways
but its relationship to the reality of matter's states
is always going to be problematic.

It might dress itself up in the tools of inquiry,
positing hypotheses and testing the outcomes
in properly controlled laboratories,
but this alone can not redeem psychology,
because science is not naked methodology.

What is missing is the verifiable actions that allow human interaction
to overcome the description
of spooky action at a distance.
The physical states of the body better explained by biology,
chemistry, and their interdisciplinary examinations of life as
an ongoing chain chemical reaction
is shored up by not only empiricism,
but a healthy dose of introspection
into what ways intuition limited the range
of acceptable hypotheses
and lead to the original theories being tested.
Naturally, too, these natural sciences do not settle
for testing their own interior mettle,
but instead devise ways to unify their
statements, to build bridges across disciplines,
and to make sure that all true science
is eventually reconciled into a master model of existence.

It's not complete, nor is it perfect,
but what it is is honest. Scientific proceedings that
contradict the physical evidence from other disciplines
are eventually debunked, and then the field is forced to begin again
if it wishes to solve the problems that the intellectual dishonesty began with.

By contrast, rhetoric is an imposition of narrative,
using an analytical knife to cut out a slice of existence,
to examine it in relationship to other events around it,
and to enshrine the rhetor's understanding of phenomena
as the common explanation, so that others understand
the understanding that the rhetor started with.
Pattern recognition makes this more credible,
but since patterns can emerge from chaos,
picked out like shells on a storm-tossed beach,
it is true that observational pattern recognition is flawed to begin with,
as alas, patterns pointed out do not have to have existed
independently of the narrative impositions
that creates a comprehension of them.

If they did, then poetry would be an emergent property of language
and not an art form.

It is possible to have a unified form of human understanding,
to cross-check narrative impositions against both
a comprehension of the speaker's original intentions
and an objective description of the mechanisms of existence.
For psychology to accomplish this, it needs biology, chemistry,
physics, and especially their interdisciplinary child, neuroscience
(which I will admit, has a ways to grow before it comes into its own).
It also needs to acknowledge its existence as rhetoric,
to find its situational place in academic discussions
and to enrich its own discourse with critical examinations
of both its end and its influences.

Until that happens, though, I am loathe to trust the tender mercies
of anyone who can not see the difference
between what they believe and what they can show to be.