Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Synthesis And Sensitivity

When I was a postgraduate philosophy student in 1973-'74, the Head of Lancaster University Philosophy Department told myself and some fellow students that he thought that the whole of philosophy was in a wretched state. One mistake had been to think that big questions, like "Does God exist?", could be answered in short books. Instead, a very long book would be necessary to answer a very small question, perhaps clarifying just one aspect of a single concept. And then who would be able to synthesize all the diverse answers to the many very small questions?

In Poul Anderson's "Un-Man," this question is asked not of analytic philosophy but of the empirical sciences:

"The sciences had grown too big and complex, like everything else, and there was too much overlap between the specialities. Further progress required the fully trained synthesizing mentality." (The Psychotechnic League, New York, 1981, p. 94)

This is provided by "...Synthesis..." which is described as "The multi-ordinal integrating education..." (ibid.) In the course of a conversation, a young Un-Man/Brother (see recent posts) sits still with a withdrawn expression while his trained mind assembles logic networks. He estimates an 80% probability that Arnold Besser, the chief of international finance, is head of "the gang," based on:

Besser's history and character;
his country's recent history;
the necessary communications for a least-effort planet-wide anti-UN group;
other factors that he does not enumerate.

Then he calculates the best plan for destroying the gang by assuming that Besser:

acts on a survival axiom;
acts logically apart from his inadequate grounding in current social theory and his personal bias.

Synthesis education is known to the public but the secret, more advanced, training involving:

physical exercises;
mental practice;
other factors

- is intended "' produce the completely integrated human being.'" (p. 196)

This "Sensitive Man" has heightened senses, enabling him even to hear subvocalized thoughts, and also has "'...conscious control of certain normally subconscious and involuntary functions.'" (p. 198) Thus, he can temporarily increase his strength and speed and, consequently, is even more of a superman than the Un-men.

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