fiction has become less fiction, more science. Arthur C. Clarke's wacky
idea of a communications satellite turned out not to be so wacky. Space
travel is another example. Speculation seems to be prophecy, as Edmund
Hall, the New Adam says: in a universe of infinite possibilities and
infinite time, every possibility must sooner or later be actualized.
In the last few years,
scientists have even speculated that the science fiction fancy of parallel
universes may in fact be true. One way this could be is if the binding
forces between some atoms do not clash with each other. The space between
atoms is so vast that many objects could co-exist in the same space and
pass through each other as long as their binding forces did not smack
against each other. But it is obvious that there are already many
universes in our own experience. There are two kinds.
First, the kind we can
move between; second, the kind we can't. There are the Permeable:
a) Universes are social
spaces created and maintained by common consent, a game with rules that no
one questions as long as they work. These are "cognitive universes,"
"symbolic universes" (Bergen & Luckmann). They are maintained by
"plausibility structures" of peer pressure and assent. Such a universe is
a map of reality a group has decided to adopt. To those in another group,
these people's interpretations of reality seem to be delusions of
b) But in the common
round of daily activities all of us visit several worlds. They may be
divided according to the roles we play among the people there. We relate
to them in different ways. Sports, theatre, religious services, etc., are
also parallel worlds, "finite provinces of meaning," in which different
beliefs, rules, standards of behavior apply, different costumes are
permitted, even required.
And then there are the
Impermeable: Each person walking down the street is a world unto
himself, herself. It is momentarily staggering to become suddenly aware of
this. As many worlds as there are people in a rush hour crowd.
As Kant said, the
universe, the world, is a transcendental construct. It is a conceptual
category we use to synthesize the wide variety of our experiences. And all
of us synthesize them differently, so we all have, or are, different
Leibniz & the monadology.
Must we always, inevitably, encounter others as functions of our own
universes, according to our construal? Can we even encounter them in their
otherness? You have had the experience of not being able to penetrate the
impression someone has of you. They are operating with a self-sealing
premise about you. Any attempt you make to penetrate or disarm it will
only be taken as evidence that his or her perception of you is right after
all. Because their self-serving picture of you (formed to make themselves
look good, to justify themselves) is the paradigm through which they
interpret signals that come from you. Maybe you can outfox them by
providing so much anomalous data that they will be forced to reconsider
their old paradigm and adopt a new one.
Copyright©2009 by Robert
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