Cartamania (A pk coinage): Preferring the Menu to the Meal: a Pandemic / Teaching / Society / Social Epistemology / Reality /

Mission: to discuss the lack of empirical basis for kleptocratic ideals

right arrow drawing Cartamania right arrow drawing Realism right arrow drawing Cartamania right arrow drawing
Scholastic Realism & Cartamania
Our Millennium-Long Pandemic of Non-Empirically-Based Idealism

I’ve long needed a term for the mental habits, semiotic pathologies, I see as relating to Scholastic Realism. I believe I’ve found it in “cartamania”: cart- not as in Cartesian, but cart as in Latin: map. Mania as in Greek: crazy, delirious. Map-crazy.

Let me repeat an important note from [my Shakespeare Sonnets] Foyer (note below):

Scholastic Realism was a serious philosophy worked on by serious men, some, like Saint Thomas Aquinas, of serious genius. The largely unconscious “philosophy” that preceded Scholasticism and continues to seem immortal I shall henceforth characterize as cartamania. I tried Ur-Realism, Pseudo-Realism, Meta-Scholasticism, Meta-Realism, Junk-Idealism … one as awful as the other. I am at least for the moment happy with my decision as it avoids the wholly misleading homonym “realism.” As I plan to make stentorianly apparent, cartamania is the habit of “thought” by which man prefers familiar “maps” to actual territories, especially if the maps are old. Man’s natural tendency will be the better facilitated where the maps are supported by institutional force. It’s Scholastic Realism that encourages the faithful to believe that the priest represents God, the bride to concentrate on the sacrament of marriage and ignore her black eye. Cartamania is both ancestor to and descendant of Scholastic Realism. Whether or not Shakespeare ever heard of Scholastic Realism, he certainly knew of Christian Orthodoxy. It’s cartamania that in part empowers the ideal sonnets [1 to 126]. It’s cartamania in part that gives us epiphanies while reading Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments. It is also cartamania that leads citizens of states to believe that the police or military protect, that “law” and “order” can be connected by a government, that courtroom procedures are justice, that medical procedures are health care.

Now that I’ve found my term nearly everything here and much throughout the rest of the site will have to be rewritten. Wherever you see Meta-Realism or Meta-Scholasticism, or indeed Realism where the reference is not specifically to Scholastic Realism, please substitute cartamania.

Once again let me distinguish between my thesis as planned thirty-five years ago and what it’s become to me since. I studied Scholastic Realism from the mid-’60s till I turned my back on NYU’s turning its back on my work in 1971 or thereabouts. The thesis that didn’t get written in the ’60s would have been academically humble and slavishly scholarly in its approach. There I would have been pseudo-deductive: starting with the examples, and drawing implications from them. Now I am unapologetically impatient with the “proof” and keep harking ahead to my conclusions.

With FLEX (Free Learning Exchange) I said the hell with universities: dense filters to keep good ideas from spreading — not just between disciplines, but to the public. The public said the hell with FLEX and its own freedom. The public supports the ignorant schools, the fraudulent churches, the state-tamed universities, the James Bonds, the (natural-)law-contemptuous law, the rights-mocking police, the Johnsons, the Nixons … kleptocrats every one. Why keep our hands to ourselves when theft and genocide are so profitable? Why honor life if some can die rich? Why be truthful when we have the lottery?

This home page is me talking — as responsibly as I can — to you. If there is a you. Today, 1999 08 15, I want to make sweeping generalizations about Scholastic Realism as an apotheosis of human “reason” and how our “official” “best reasoning” continues to keep us from becoming rational. (Even a semi-alert reader should be able to tell when I mean Scholastic Realism as a scholar and when I’m generalizing into a metaphor, i.e., cartamania for all such thinking.) I make no claim that we are “conscious” of this self-retarding process. Is the drunk aware that he’s taking another drink? Is a kitten conscious that its batting the yarn around is practice for adult predation? Neither am I saying that Shakespeare “intended” the specific things I’m about to say. In Act II, scene I of Henry the Fourth, First Part, Gadshill asks to borrow a lantern from a carrier at the inn’s stable. The carrier is reluctant, fearing a trick. Do I claim that Shakespeare was talking about Whitewater? No, he was dramatizing justifiable fear of all too real theft. Shakespeare’s sonnets weren’t forecasting Galileo and the cardinals. They didn’t have to: Abelard and Aquinas had already lived. Tightening back to the example: there were thieves and trickery before “Gadshill,” before the American presidency or modern banking.

I return to this draft on its second day, what next to develop hot in my mind, but then can’t help starting to fix yesterday’s beginning. That happens to me again and again. My repairs make things worse. Stick around. I’ll make it really good. (Now it’s the third day and I’m more happy than not with how it’s going.)

The Sonnets juxtapose ideals with empirical experience. The ideals move us, stir us: genuinely. I’ll read examples shortly. As I do so I will want us first to be feeling them, responding to them. But then we’ll examine them. Anticipate based on your own sense of the sonnets. But we’ll do it fresh here. Regardless of what we find in the sonnets themselves, we’ll start sorting them and related ideals into at least two categories: genuinely related to the verifiable universe of matter or life; or, related only to belly lint. We’ll sort sane ideals from pathological ideals. Then we’ll look again at those we find in the sonnets, then stick them smack up against “My mistress eyes are nothing like the sun” and “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame.” [That is, at the complementary set, the "real" sonnets (lower-case real, about actual, not ideal, experience: nominalistic, empirical: Sonnets 128 ff. Note: there is some mixing. Remember, the Sonnets were pirated, their order has no authority from Shakespeare.]

We’ll agree with the Realists that the universe is formed by principles; we’ll disagree that the principles are dictated by a boss or that they have anything to do with human ethics or morals. The universe’s do’s and don’t’s are independent of consciousness. Thus, though we’ll agree with the nominalists that particulars are essential, we’ll disagree to the extent that despite the ubiquity of bad ideas about principle, principle remains just the same. Not: “there is no God”; rather: “you got god all wrong.”

The effect of Shakespeare’s ideals in the sonnets is magical. This home page talks a great deal about magic. If we sorted examples of magic into two piles, real and fake, how many examples would remain in the “real” pile after rational examination?

But hey: let’s believe that the unexamined ones are genuine!

Many of the ideals of the first 126 sonnets move us. But many of them move us from our navel. The way they move our minds relates to Platonic philosophy: unverifiable. They move us like the bride’s hope chest, like the hope of heaven. The experiences of the dark sonnets move us too, but very differently. It’s not just a modulation of key, not just a graduation of color or tonal saturation, not even a mere change of religion; it’s a revolution of epistemology. The soft lit bridal photo becomes a glaringly contrastive mug shot. From special effects Technicolor to documentary black and white. The effect is more like Galileo taking his pulse as he slides objects on an inclined plane. Or like suspecting what you’ve just stepped in. Or like the morning after. The fair love is the high; the dark love is the hangover. It’s a different mind that’s being appealed to.

These are generalizations of the human kind. In actuality, we’ll see them to mix. Sobriety too has its highs. They’re like racial differences more than species or genus differences: think “lips: thick or thin” as distinct from “wings instead of arms,” many as distinct from all.

I intend that part to be as rational as literary criticism gets (distinguishing criticism from say textual scholarship, linguistic analysis …). Here I am developing and anticipating development of a part necessarily more theoretical (in the soft-, not hard-science sense).

It was seeing Shakespeare’s juxtaposition, his meta-oxymoron, that reminded me, informally but overwhelmingly, of the medieval controversy between Realism and nominalism. I say that epistemologically, that controversy is major to our entire millennium. I say further that it relates to an epistemological dilemma that my be a permanent part of the human ratiocinative process.

Before narrowing myself to a mock-medieval treatment of Realism or a mock-Elizabethan treatment of the sonnets, I am going to discuss Western Idealism as Scholastic Realism’s ward, and discuss it from my vantage point in the final dozen and a half months of the Twentieth Century. I trust you’ve noticed from the stack of introductions thus far that I was not totally blinded by society’s series of indoctrinations and that society (again, I do not say consciously) has denied me the share of resources liberally given to those who either are blinded or pretend to be. (I don’t care about competitive consumption. I managed to reproduce one son anyway. I don’t even care that I have been unable to support that son: not nearly so much as I care that my learning has been silenced. Without my current, lover-bestowed subsidy, I couldn’t even maintain this pathetic home page.) (2012, that lover long dead, my current love is rich: and though she buys me nicknacks, and pastry, she does nothing to see that my work functions, that my internet connection is reliable!)

I say that belly-lint idealism produced Scholastic Realism. Whether or not the Scholastics were “sincere” in their pursuit of “truth,” their errors have been very convenient for the perpetuation of hierarchical institutions like churches and kleptocracies. Scholastic Realism produced its antagonist, nominalism. Nominalism from its outset was inconvenient for such institutions. Realism makes sweeping generalizations supported by imaginary examples. (Let’s decide how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.) Nominalism demanded the examination of particulars. (Get a pin, invite angels to dance, count the angels.)

Nominalism produced William of Occam. Occam recognized that important areas of inquiry lack evidence. He cautioned that where evidence is lacking (that is: practically everywhere), prefer the explanation that requires the fewest unverifiable assumptions. All claimed miracles that can be examined prove before long to have non-miraculous explanations. note Occam advises us to prefer the non-miraculous. (Here’s a nice side-subject: At first glance, explaining everything by saying that God did it, may seem simpler. On examination it’s more troublesome.)

Realism: in simple, read baseless idealism.

Nominalism: in simple, read empiricism, based in experience.

For the first, read superstition. For the second, read science, reason, rational procedure. No wonder my English professors cut me off at the knees. No wonder my science fiction hasn’t been published: too much science, too little fiction. Too much of the scientific principle that inconveniences even professional “scientists.” Realism is sure handy if you want shortcuts to power without responsibility [Link to be restored].

I’ve already “apologized” for how my thesis has gotten mixed with my life. One more point and I’ll try to focus on the subject alone: it’s only now that more than a few of my most basic teaching modules are in place that I can make progress here. For example, what I have to say about Realism and idealism overlaps heavily with my Korzybskian semantics.

Now: Shakespeare’s sonnets helped me to see idealism pitted raw against experience. Realism vs. nominalism extended beyond the Middle Ages. My studies of subsequent decades (Bateson’s Mind and Nature of 1979 in particular), combined with my experience at NYU, helped me to see our history as “Realism” run amok. Korzybski iterated that the map is not the territory. More on that as we go.

Our remote ancestors believed that their magic made the drought end. Additional “magic” persuaded them that the shaman was better at it than they themselves. The shaman’s experience with his magic led to the attribution of the “real magic” that finally ended the drought to non-human entities. Those entities become increasingly remote over time. Pre-history had the magical entities ever and ever more remote from the individual suffering the drought. Recorded history has them in the sky. History is just the tip of the iceberg. Early monotheism nominated one such entity as boss to the others. Later monotheism attempted to deny existence to all but the one. Those that persisted in people’s minds were demoted to demons. Note that in mid-prehistoric magic there would have been little difference between god and demon. All that counted was that the drought end. (Or that the eclipse end. Or that the game come.) In later monotheism all the attributes of all the magical entities got put on the one God, plus whatever new ones got thought up: Creation and so forth.

I repeat: do not mistake me for an atheist. No one is more religious than I. I’ve just transferred my religiosity from the map to the territory. I honor not what we imagine the truth to be, but the truth itself (making no claim to have more than a bit of it, and that, never perfectly).

The gods that persisted, Milton’s denizens of hell, had put on them whatever aspects of the magical entities that the monotheists decided to demote: fecundity not controlled by the priests, inebriation not administered by the priests … Marriage and communion stay in the Church; Venus, Pan, and Saturn go to hell. (Mars, of course, is kept.)

Plato and his ilk did their geometry in the sand. The sand didn’t match what was in their minds. Plato decided it was the sand’s fault. He preferred his imaginings to reality. He put his Forms in something very like the monotheist’s heaven. Plato was a product of the surplus leisure that devolved from the surplus food that devolved from domesticated plants and animals. Surplus population also devolved, clever enough to ruin the last millennia’s farms. The Fertile Crescent became desert (still hotly contested). The farms spread. Once herders who also farmed a little developed horsemanship, the previous millennium’s farmers got swept aside by the horsemen: and Indo-Europeanism changed the maps of Eurasia. The genes mixed but the language intruded near absolutely. Speakers of Indo-European Greek displaced the earlier farmers of Pelops. And Plato moved our drawings from the sand to our minds.

A dozen and a half centuries later his cousins a bit further west in Europe, who’d heard little to nothing of him, were wrestling with the same problems. They were the Scholastics: monks, priests … the “philosophers” of the monotheism borrowed for their own purposes from Semitic monotheism by some of the Indo-European mount-advantaged semi-nomadic semi-farmers. The solutions they came up with were similar.

Just as the sand draws your circle falsely — the “real” circle is in your mind — everything connected with the sand is false, the “real” reality is in heaven. God is real: you are a false circle in the sand.

Why didn’t God make his creation with real circles? Never mind. Or give any answer you want to: because how could the creation match the perfection of the creator? If they knew fractals, maybe all this could have been bypassed. But they didn’t. And it wasn’t.

Right now I’m more interested in skipping ahead to the manifestation of this philosophy in the behavior of institutions directly related to the Church and of a public directly related to the medieval faithful. The faithful are told by the Church that it represents this perfect God. The faithful are told that they are imperfect. Necessarily, the Church is all we can see of perfection from our misadvantage in the sand. Therefore: you are not holy; the priest is. But the bishop is holier than the priest. Etc. (See the medieval Ladder of Love [Link to be restored])

What do you do when the priest has buggered you son? Or your wife is carrying the priest’s child? Why, it isn’t true! It can’t be true. By ultimate existential definition. note

The Church tells the faithful that baptism will save it, the congregation. Then that it needs confraternity, then mass, then communion: then more masses. Then more masses even after it’s dead. The shaman said that butchering your virgin would bring the rain. Then that one virgin wasn’t enough. Of course it’s your own damn fault. When he asked for one virgin you should have known to give him ten. Governments say to give them $10 and your child for six hours a day and the governments will civilize it. Next the governments take $500 and your child for eight hours … By the time the governments have sutured their siphon directly into your pocket, sucked fifty or a hundred billion a year, all for “your” child, that child is less civilized than ever: still can’t read, carries a gun, and can buy or be given dope in any hallway.

Governments have existed for six or so thousand years. Modern religions have a similar antiquity. Neither waited for medieval Scholasticism to promise rain, grain, secular or spiritual immortality. The behavior was already in place. I say that medieval Scholasticism was the apotheosis of such “reasoning.” I say that there has never been a better philosophy for disguising (bad) theory as fact. They called it “Realism”!

If Shakespeare had only written sonnets 1 through 126, we’d celebrate them. Justly. Great, great poetry. (Technically, the Italian sonnet may be more challenging, but the Shakespearean effect requires the Shakespearean form: the cap (a rimed couplet at the end). I never would have thought of Scholastic Realism while reading them. Idealism, sure. Ideal thinking. Ideal expression. Ideal diction. Ideal subject matter. … Dazzling technique. Shakespearean vocabulary and reference. … (Circular? Sure.) But the dark sonnets change everything. As we shall see. The “proof” comes after the “to prove.”

(I continue to throw the paint about Realism. We’ll fine brush it later.)

The behavior of the Church has spread, only slightly diluted, not only to government, but to ever-cloning fledgling institutions: The Professions: medicine, law … Don’t rationally examine what you get, swallow it. “Realistically.” You go to the hospital with a broken finger, you come home with a broken finger and scarlet fever: practically bankrupt as well. They were caring for your health. Cheated, you go to a lawyer. Need I say more? And so forth.

In addition, there are now myriad pseudo-professions: certified teachers, police, labor unions … All Realist. All immune to empirical criticism. Your neighbor fixed your faucet for free? No good. You need a union plumber: top dollar for certified work, whether the faucet is fixed or not. Don’t look at the goods: look at the label. (If you haven’t read my mental modeling, map/territory piece, don’t neglect to do so.) And the shaman knew nothing about mislabeling compared to the modern magicians. The early shaman, the early kings … didn’t know their magic was false. Hell, it finally rained, didn’t it? The eclipse is over. You paid me, and now it’s over. Therefore …

The Church taught the faithful that the earth was the center of everything. (Any earth infant would agree.) Not content, they added frills: The earth has satellites. Only the earth has satellites. There can be no other bodies that have satellites. Straight from their navel. Galileo heard that the Dutch had invented something that helped see over distances: overnight, Galileo had his own telescope. Practically by the next night Galileo had seen satellites revolving around Jupiter.

Realism is intuitively true. At least for the faithful of kleptocracies it is. Realism is irrefutable: so long as you keep your eyes shut. Or, if you’re faithful enough, even if you keep your eyes open. What does your non-circle in the sand prove about my perfect circle in my mind? The experts wouldn’t even look through Galileo’s telescope. What does Evidence have to do with Truth?

Well, the nominalists thought that evidence had everything to do with truth. Or, they dispensed with the “idea” of truth. All you can know are particulars. Whatever you can’t know, you can’t know. (Nothing like a tautology.) What’s in the sand is whatever is in the sand. If you can’t draw what you call a perfect circle, then the circle you’ve drawn is the “circle” you have.

Once again, my illustrations issue from my sense of things. I deliberately salt both sides with Plato because it’s Plato that’s commonly known today on the subject, not the Scholastic particulars of the Realists nor the particulars of Abelard and his tormented colleagues (both mutually unread in the not-yet-available-to-them Plato). (Also realize that the Realists were banded together, the nominalists were scattered: meaning both “few” and “repressed, driven underground.” Think of the Temple of Jerusalem’s Sanhedrin in contrast to John or Jesus. The Sanhedrin met together regularly; I recall the cousins John and Jesus meeting only once: the established prophet baptizing the neophyte.)

The last illustration also serves to point out that the medieval Church wasn’t the world’s first religious monopoly to repress dissident ideas and that Realism had a tradition before it was articulated as “Realism”.

(1999 08 16 I was going great guns here till I was interrupted by a most welcome visitor. I’ll catch the thread tomorrow.)

Scrap examples to be rewoven: When the Church sells indulgences, it’s holy. When the police, the rapist’s lawyer … insult you after you’ve reported being raped, it’s justice, law and order. They’re protecting you. Protecting your “rights.” (A real right would be something that couldn’t be taken away, denied, or infringed.)
Whatever God does is good. Drowning everybody but Noah was good. Beating Rodney King was lawful, standard procedure.

If a research institute funded to cure cancer was caught faking evidence it’s funding will be reviewed first chance. It may be expected to return funding given in good faith but fraudulently accepted. Police have again and again be found to plant evidence. One cop is disciplined. Does the cancer institute get away with blaming the janitor? No: it’s the White House that sees Agnew, Mitchell, Dean … go off to jail, Hunt hide in shadows … while the Real criminal continues to rule. [2012 04 03 I can not longer correct the first part of that sentence because I no longer remember what it meant.] Now the FBI lab has been found to fake results. Funny the pattern it takes: the nigger is guilty; the orthodox white collar guy innocent. Has the FBI lost one penny of revenue? How could we tell since this “open society” keeps so many budgets secret? The government launders as much black money as the Mafia.

When the teacher feeds you falsehoods, everyone will presume the teacher Knowledgeable note and you ignorant. If won’t matter if her IQ is 100 and yours 200. It won’t matter if you got your data from Science News while she got hers from a text book written by hacks.

If the state certifies your repairman, and now you’ve a hole in your roof, how is the state not responsible? Because of Realism. Do you demand that the Church show you your grandmother in heaven after your ten thousandth candle for her in Purgatory? (Please read Ivan Illich on why Purgatory was invented. If I don’t already have a note or a module on the subject I should add one.)

If your lawyer decides to argue your case “on merit,” everyone in the court knows all is lost. For “Realists,” merit comes last; for “nominalists,” merit is the only consideration. Of course major parts of this home page already made many of these arguments. Here we’ll see how my “thesis” helped me to notice them increasingly over the years. Of course thirty-five years after I conceived my thesis on Shakespeare, there’s less and less of Shakespeare here and more and more of everything that’s concerned me since that conception. I insist it’s directly related.

“Realism” is where we live in theory.
Nominalism is where we live in fact.

Chaucer had his Wife of Bath take sides. Thirty years ago I had no intention of taking sides myself. Today I do. No apology. But nowhere here will I suggest that Shakespeare took sides. He did though put the issues where we couldn’t help but trip over them.

I’ll shortly be qualifying these generalizations. Nominalism was not Popper, not Wason … But it was on the track. I’ll also say more about abstractions. There really are principles, not just particulars. But I don’t judge that Plato or Aquinas got them as well as did Darwin or Einstein.

2003 04 01 I am moving this 1999 file from a backwater of the folder for my thesis on Meta-Oxymoron in Shakespeare to my Society folder: a more active water (I hope). It will need a great deal of revision to fit in its new environment.

@ K. 1999 09 04


Non-Miraculous Explanations:

A few years ago the media around here were filled with reports of a miraculous apparition of “The Virgin” on the window of a steel and glass building in the Tampa Bay area. “No one know how …” etc. was iterated from pulp to TV news. Faithful gawkers were interviewed on camera. And so forth.

Tampa Bay Skeptics visited the site. They didn’t have to dig too deeply before coming up with a perfectly simple scenario. A sabal palm had recently been growing there, downwind from a car-wash. Wax and chemical-filled water had blown onto the surface for years, screened by the palm’s silhouette. The regular work of the window washers was hampered by the tree. Once the tree was removed, some of the “palm-screened print” was left. The Skeptics further reported that the Church knew all about it and had been denying the miracle to anyone who would listen. That audience did not include the “faithful” or the media. The media seems to have a mission to encourage our credulity, not to correct it.

I’ll preview here another important note I’ve been meaning to add, directly related: President Bush promised that the Green House Effect would soon meet the White House Effect. The White House Effect turned out to be a program designed to fan public confusion on the issue, to encourage a “skepticism” of ignorance against the scientists … Sure we’ll have to reform: tomorrow. Today is for profit taking.


Ultimate Existential Definition:

I heard a story as a teen in Rockville Centre, Long Island. A woman was driving home from the market. She felt a bump, slowed, looked around, didn’t see anything, and continued home. As she carried her groceries into the house from the garage, she felt increasingly uneasy. She couldn’t get away from the feeling that now she was hearing something as well. Finally, she got down on her knees on the garage floor. Sure enough: it was whimpering. A child was mangled amid the paraphernalia of her car’s undercarriage.

She called the police but denied that she had “done it.” I wouldn’t have.
(Therefore) I couldn’t have.



An illustration from my own experience that has not yet found it’s way into my biographical narratives I’ll birth here. Somewhere in grammar school, perhaps the fifth grade, the teacher was saying that only humans use tools. I certainly didn’t “know” differently. But even in my ignorance, the sweep of her generalization struck me as more likely to be based on prejudice than observation. I doubt that I thought through how impossible observation would be: you wouldn’t just need examples; you’d need all examples. She asserted a negative positive; I retorted a positive negative. I didn’t know about chimps termiting twigs or sea otter’s smashing stones. I wasn’t even recalling what I had seen: gulls dropping shellfish onto rocks.

She counter-challenged for an example. I couldn’t get more red-faced than I already was before I improvised my lie: “I saw a squirrel use a branch to catapult an acorn.” As I said it, I was as sure I was representing Truth as Galileo’s cardinal may have been. We’re all Realists to start with.


*Foyer: 2011 12 31 note: the foyer of my folder on my PhD thesis: Shakespeare: Oxymoron of Idea (not yet recreated at pKnatz, coming.)

2012 04 27 Thirteen years after coining the term “Cartamania” I see that I’d been shown a synonym already in use: model-theism. bk had written me: “Oh, you mean model-theism“: belief that your thought-model is Real.

Social Epistemology Reality

About pk

Jesus symbolizes institutions' stagnancy of learning: the temple didn't get it, didn't want to get it. The whole society still doesn't.
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One Response to Cartamania

  1. Pingback: realism about idealism « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality

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