On narcissism and classification

Daniel posted a link to The 15 types of Narcissism (and their characteristics)

[ 18/June/22 ]

Hi Daniel,

A few years ago a psychologist gave me the label “Autistic” and my wife the label “Neurotypical”. To some extent, those labels have been useful, but they seem to generate almost as many issues as they solve.

We all need systems of understanding and classification, but all such systems become traps, tending to hide the subtlety between classification states, and thus potentially hiding entire realms of abstraction or domains of relatedness.

I could easily see many “neurotypicals” stuffing “autistics” into a narcissistic classification, and never really being willing to question it thereafter.

And the years I spent studying biochemistry, and the 50 years since that I have kept skimming abstracts and occasionally reading papers; and listening to various speakers as I drive places (the nearest big city is 2.2 hours drive away, and some weeks I might go there 2 or 3 times for meetings, and our small farm is 7 hours drive away), all build upon the idea that human beings are more complex than any computational entity can deal with in anything remotely approaching real time. The evidence from neuroscience over the last 5 or so years is that the human brain is capable of searching a space of some 10^50 patterns per second (using intrasynaptic protein complexes as pattern integrators).

So yes, we do have major and minor systems, and yes there are multiple levels of attributes of those systems that can be issues, particularly if they are denied, or they are over simplified; but over simplification, particularly the over-reliance on any system of categorisation, holds at least as many issues as it solves for. {In this sense, the classical notion of rationality is a simplistic trap, even as it can be very powerful in some contexts.}

We all need to be willing to dwell in uncertainty with respect to anything and everything from time to time (as contexts allow), so that we can have at least some finite (however limited) probability of going beyond the systems of understanding and classification that define our current experience of being.

And it can be really hard, when there is so little shared experience with others that communication about those things one finds truly interesting has such low probability that most would think it impossible.

So yes, certainly, be alert for pathologies, most particularly within ourselves, but also within those within our networks; and always be willing to grant that no one is ever one thing all the time – we are all necessarily much more complex than that, and we are all capable of being more (or less) than we normally are.

The Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn quote has been with me a lot in the last few months, as it seems to be that he was very close to truth when he wrote “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart…even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains…an uprooted small corner of evil.”

In as much as good and evil have any reality, they seem to me to be limiting cases of spectra of deeply parallel and dimensional complexity.

I guess my key message is, classification is essential, and over doing it, being over confident about it, creates at least as many issues as it solves.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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