cognitive feudalism

I heven’t yet reread, with laptop to hand, Pascal Boyer, though I know that I will. It is one of those books that requires innocent (at least not guilty) contemplation; but the idea that has stuck with me as I go along is is the sheer disconnection and autonomy of our reasoning processes. This is he uses as his general explanaiton of the religious imagination: our tendency thio think in autonomous, unconscious threads, or deamons, each running simple programs continually.

This needn’t be cognitive dissonance — two threads may not conflict at all, and the dissonance only comes when two incompatible conclusions are generated by two processes (probably both unconscious) acting on the same input. But it does account for the extraordinary ways in which people are fragmentary and inconsistent, without any central authority. This is a particular sort of society of the mind, on which the great baronies are self-sustaining and largely independent, though all will pay homage to the central court. In fact, what I suffer from is cognitive feudalism.

This entry was posted in God. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to cognitive feudalism

  1. Prince Far Rupert says:

    Is this news? Things go on beneath the surface; that much was obvious well before Freud, and more than one thing at once at that.

    Does he say anything about the nature of the central court, though?


  2. Andrew says:

    ell, what’s novel about Boyer, at least to me, is the algorithmic nature of unconscious cogitation: that input ‘x’ will always produce output ‘y’. This is rather different from the monster-haunted unconsciouses of uncle Sigmund and Uncle Carl-Gustaf. It’s more like a oocean that turns out to be made of gearwheels.

    And the sort of feudalism I was considering was early feudalism, in which the king had to go around living off each barony in turn, and every war was a matter for negotiation first.

  3. Oliver Morton says:

    Reminds me of a nice line of Martin Amis’s: “The self — that holding ground between the mind’s various fractions”
    The difference with Freud, I think, is that Freud (or at least Freudians) tended to think of the unconscious as a part of the self; the idea of self as a product of other processes, rather than a historical sum of them, seems to be slightly different here, at least to me.


Comments are closed.