Thursday, June 9, 2011
Sane man nowhere
The thread that runs throughout my life is thinking. I'm a thinker, and have been one for as long as I can remember. If I have to wear a label, give me the one that reads ‘Philosopher’. Or maybe ‘Adventurer-philosopher’. That’s the field where I’d probably feel most at home: applied philosophy, or maybe do-it-yourself metaphysics. Since the earliest age, I’ve been preoccupied with gaining a clearer understanding of the nature of the universe, my relationship to it, and the meaning of life. To quote Einstein, “I want to know God’s thoughts; the rest are details.”
Did you squirm a little in your seat? If someone tells you that they regard themselves as a philosopher, you want to make sure of their sanity, right. But you can’t come out and ask, ‘Are you insane?’ That’s rather gauche. It’s also rather hard to answer. I regard it as a catch-22 type of inquiry requiring a catch-22-category response.
I am insane in the sense that I don’t go along with group thinking. That would be my short reply. Because what is it to be ‘insane’? Simply, that you don't think in the way that most other people do. And in that sense I fall into that pigeonhole (you have to watch out for them).
But hang about, you answer. That reasoning is faulty. Surely, since all of us are individuals, doesn’t everyone see things in a different light? Since there are as many ways of seeing things are there are colours and sentient beings (Thom’s six billion answers), how can you claim distinction on that score?
Yes, I see what you mean. I'd go along with you, except for the the fact that everyone else does—‘go along’, that is. People follow the crowd, you can’t deny. They think not as individuals but as as a pack. Consensus thinking is what defines them. Pack mentality s what they indulge in. So, by virtue of the fact that most people hide from one another—and from themselves—what they really feel, I’d say that they are the insane ones. To defer to the group as a matter of course is really insane.
No, but hey. That's being unfair. You ought to redefine the definition. How about: If one or a few dissenters differ from the majority view, where the majority view is more-or-less accurately represented, then it’s fair—is it not?—to label them insane.
So . . . if you are the odd man out in a conscientious-objector type of situation, say as a citizen in Nazi Germany, are you then insane to resist the mob-thinking of the Jew-haters around you? And another example: if you are the first scientist to challenge a hypothesis that everyone believes in as a Law—for example, that the Earth is round and not flat—is it reasonable for others to dismiss you as insane? That would rather stimmy the spirit of scientific inquiry, wouldn’t you say, and shut down research and original thinking.
Insanity—inschmamity. When all’s said and done, there’s no such beast. Without exception, everyone acts in a manner that is rational and sensible within the context of their background, genes, world view and what have you.