Epistemic closure and close-mindedness has been one of my “obsessions” in the six years I’ve been blogging. There is no doubt that this is because I have spent my life in that prison and this “blathering” is my feeble effort to talk/think/write my way out of it. But this effort is teaching me that there is no escape…or as Sartre put it in his short story, “No Exit,”…for we are confined to live in the world of appearance where we can only at best, “see through a glass darkly,” trusting that there is some, “Divinity that doeth shape our ends, rough hew them how we may.” And I do have faith in that Divinity but the “faith” and the “Divinity” itself is of a different stripe than the one I was presented with by the happenstance of birth. Accepting this world of limitations is slow and tedious and one is always dragged there kicking and screaming, for the ego wants to cling to the illusion that it is completely in control. Accepting life in this world of incomplete knowledge…”seeing darkly”…is what I think the Biblical “fall” was about, the “fall” from the Uroborous of innocence into the world of cognition.
In the following quotation from Vaclav Havel’s 1986 book of essays, “Living in Truth,” we see his description of the, “post-totalitarian state” that he lived through in Czechoslovakia in the late 1980’s, leading to the Velvet Revolution which he led in 1992. By the term, “post-totalitarian state” Havel was referring to a subtle form of totalitarianism which purports to no longer be totalitarian but only because the system of bondage has become systematized so finely that it is not readily recognized. It brings to mind an observation made by psychologist B.F. Skinner who, in his book, “Beyond Freedom and Dignity,” declared that the most pernicious form of slavery is one which is so subtle that it does not breed revolt. In Havel’s description we find a description of epistemic closure on the group level which closely parallels the epistemic closure of the individuals who have been consumed by “group think,” a dark cloud with whom they have a symbiotic relationship. (I will address the individual dimension of this problem in my next post.)
The post-industrial system touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies, government by bureaucracy is called popular government, the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class, the complete degradation of the individual is presented as his or her ultimate liberation, depriving people of information is called making it available; the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical election become the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views, military occupation becomes fraternal assistance. Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing. (pg. 44-45, Vaclav Havel, “Living in Truth.”)