Our freedom does not lie outside us- Carl Jung

Our freedom does not lie outside us, but within us. One can be bound outside, and yet one will still feel free since one has burst inner bonds. One can certainly gain outer freedom through powerful actions, but one creates inner freedom only through the symbol.

The symbol is the word that goes out of the mouth, that one does not simply speak, but that rises out of the depths of the self as a word of power and great need and places itself unexpectedly on the tongue. It is an astonishing and perhaps seemingly irrational word, but one recognizes it as a symbol since it is alien to the conscious mind. If one accepts the symbol, it is as if a door opens leading into a new room whose existence one previously did not know. But if one does not accept the symbol, it is as if one carelessly went past this door; and since this was the only door leading to the inner chambers, one must pass outside into the streets again, exposed to everything external. But the soul suffers great need, since outer freedom is of no use to it. Salvation is a long road that leads through many gates. These gates are symbols. Each new gate is at first invisible; indeed, it seems at first that / it must be created, for it exists only if one has dug up the spring’s root, the symbol.

P.311, The red book

[Jung] Jung, C. G., Shamdasani, S. E., Kyburz, M. T., & Peck, J. T. (2009). The red book: Liber novus. WW Norton & Co.

Thoughts on Physics, Maths and Reality (Part II)

This is a rethink of the same topic and I realised that at this point of my life I have corrected my definitions and philosophical system ever since I’m concerned about the issue of reality. I remember that when I wrote down these thoughts in part I, I used lots of parenthesises to indicate that these words are not well-defined and the discussion is loose and casual. What I’m trying to convey here is my current view on this topic and my personal systemising.

Given the advance of physical sciences, the temptation is to downgrade the subjectivity of mental entity. Yet subjectivity is an undeniable part of the definition of reality. By saying that it’s undeniable I mean incorporating the subjectivity of mental state into the definition of reality is an inevitable part of developing a more consistent philosophical theory. Some attempts to define reality without account for subjectivity of mental entity include:

1. defining reality as concrete existence that is consistent for everyone.

2. defining reality as an existence of something independent of observations, the so called “outside world” as in part I.

The first one is a raw definition and has already been refined or abandoned by most people gradually in their cognitive development. Mathematical theory, together with concrete existences (experiments, observations etc.), are intrinsically accepted by most people as reality. People accept a later established definition and build their theories upon it until at some points they realised this contradicts their raw definition of reality and posted the question what reality is. When this contradiction arises, it’s the raw definition to be abandoned.

The second one is a very common one among physicists: Reality is something existing independent of observation which reflects its existence on our perception. Such existence is a very fascinating part of our worldview that motivates discovery and exploration . This is a very sound standpoint and would not contradict anything that I try to establish. To resolve some unsolvable problems like whether multiple universes exist, whether god exists, we want to incorporate subjectivity of mental entity in such way that this questions become either solvable or turned into a systematic investigation of our own mental states. Take thinking bear as an example. For me, my thinking bear is a soulmate since they fit into the several defining properties of a soulmate. Physically, most of my bear’s body is a bunch of cotton and fabrics, eyes are made of plastic. These materials are arranged in such a way that the materials in bear’s facial area stimulate the part of my brain responsible for facial recognition which in turns activate a series of mental activities and other brain activities. Bear’s fur casting shadow on their facial area results in different perceived facial expressions under different lighting and viewing angles. This gives an impression of changing moods. Bear’s long limbs have greater velocity than other parts of the body when the whole bear is given a small amount of momentum. Such movements of the limbs are perceived as activities of the bear. So far this can be summarised as personification based on concrete characters of bear’s appearance. To get a complete figure, my imagination fills in the nonconcrete parts based on my preference. Bear’s personality, interests and emotional states are created by me. All these imaginations together with concrete characters created a figure matching the defining properties of a soulmate. There can also be such an argument in terms of whether god exists. I would need to define god as I did not get a predefined definition of god from the community where I grew up.

One thing that I need to clarify at this point is when I say a word is not defined, it doesn’t mean it’s not defined in dictionary, in society or in general discussion. I mean this word is not incorporated into my philosophical system. Indeed any generally well defined word could end up having various definitions for different people. Most of the time when we make arguments, we could work with others to try to agree on the objective aspects of the definitions but what’re mostly neglected are the definition on the aspect of mental state. For example, people who doubt whether god exists are likely those that define god based on concrete properties. Yet for those who believe in god, the spiritual existence of god is in the definition hence their answers would be positive. When an atheist try to argue with an theist that god doesn’t exist. Almost both sides try to explicitly define god by concrete properties and based on their arguments from there. But what make their arguments diverge is the difference of the mental aspects of the definition of god. Hence in most cases, to resolve such a problem is to analyse the mental aspect of a definition. Such analysis is usually not easy, it can be personal, requires some kind of self-awareness and systemising. But by inspecting and systemising the mental aspect of our definitions, we incorporate subjectivity of mental entity in such way that many potentially disturbing questions become either solvable or turned into a systematic investigation of our own mental states.

Masculinity, femininity and the inequality

This post was inspired by an interview with Beauvoir 25 years after the publication of The Second Sex. Here is the link to the interview: The Second Sex 25 years later: Interview with Simone de Beauvoir

What Beauvoir said is classic. For women who can live independently and don’t feel many obstacles in their life, it’s easy to forget that gender inequality is real. You may be a privileged woman because you’re an intellectual, or you have more masculinity and suppressed femininity (a so-called “class collaborationist”) and benefit from the male-oriented society. You might tend to think that other women have choices too but they chose to be in a lower position because of their suppressed nature. No, most of them don’t. The inequality is real and we need to understand the struggle of femininity. 

Here I say the struggle of femininity instead of women. Since women are not the sole targets being discriminated. Discrimination is not targeted mainly on biological sex. Or at least it’s less so now. Feminism has greatly promoted rights for women and gradually made inequality less visible. But what hasn’t changed much is discrimination against femininity. Most people don’t consciously discriminate against certain biological gender. But unconscious bias always exists and, without correction, creates discrimination. In some communities, why do some people shame and despise femininity in men so much as if they’re a failure?

Historical inequality in biological gender resulted in a society valuing masculinity more. Traditionally masculine personalities are often more highly regarded than feminine ones. Besides historical reasons, people tend to relate masculine traits to success. In fact, it depends on the context and the current social values. Back in the days when society focused more on literature, music and arts, “feminine traits” like sensitivity, expressiveness, empathy could represent traits of success as well. Moreover, social expectations on how gendered personalities match biological genders create gender norms. Under such gender norms, regardless of biological gender, everyone can become a victim of gender inequality. 

The specific form of gender norms also varies among different communities. In some cultures, the same feminine traits in men and women often result in more serious discrimination against men. Some society accepts and welcomes masculine expression from females but discriminates against feminine expression from males.

From a more psychological point of view, as complete human beings, we have both masculine and feminine sides and integrating them is part of the individualization process. As Jung puts it in his Red book

What about masculinity? Do you know how much femininity man lacks for completeness? Do you know how much masculinity woman lacks for completeness? You seek the feminine in women and the masculine in men. And thus there are always only men and women. But where are people? You, man, should not seek the feminine in women, but seek and recognize it in yourself as you /possess it from the beginning. It pleases you, however, to play at manliness, because it travels on a well-worn track. You, woman, should not seek the masculine in men, but assume the masculine in yourself since you possess it from the beginning. But it amuses you and is easy to play at femininity; consequently man
despises you because he despises his femininity. But humankind is masculine and feminine, not just man or woman. You can hardly say of your soul what sex it is. But if you pay close attention, you will see that the most masculine man has a feminine soul, and the most feminine woman has a masculine soul. The more manly you are, the more remote from you is what woman really is, since the feminine in yourself is alien and contemptuous. *

The Red Book, P.263

* In 1921 in Psychological Types, Jung wrote: ”A very feminine woman has a masculine soul, and a very masculine man has a feminine soul. The contrast is due to the fact that for example a man is not in all things wholly masculine, but also normally has certain feminine traits. The more masculine his outer attitude is, the more his
feminine traits are obliterated: instead, they appear in the unconscious” (CW 6; §804). He designated the man’s feminine soul as the anima, and the woman’s masculine soul as the animus, and described how individuals projected their soul images onto members of the opposite sex (§805).

Lastly, here are some of my favourite excerpts from the interview with Beauvoir.

“In writing The Second Sex I became aware, for the first time, that I myself was leading a false life, or rather, that I was profiting from this male-oriented society without even knowing it. What had happened is that quite early in my life I had accepted the male values, and was living accordingly. Of course, I was quite successful, and that reinforced in me the belief that man and woman could be equal if the woman wanted such equality. In other words, I was an intellectual. I had the luck to come from a sector of society, the bourgeoisie, which could afford not only to send me to the best schools but also to allow me to play leisurely with ideas. Because of that I managed to enter the man’s world without too much difficulty. I showed that I could discuss philosophy, art, literature, etc., on “man’s level.” I kept whatever was particular to womanhood to myself. I was then reinforced by my success to continue. As I did, I saw I could earn as good a living as any male intellectual and that I was taken as seriously as any of my male peers. “

“Each stage fortified my sense of independence and equality. It became, therefore, very easy for me to forget that a secretary could in no way enjoy the same privileges. She could not sit in a café and read a book without being molested. She was rarely invited to parties for “her mind.” She could not establish credit or own property. I could. More importantly still, I tended to scorn the kind of woman who felt incapable, financially or spiritually, to show her independence from men. In effect, I was thinking, without even saying it to myself, “if I can, so can they.” In researching and writing The Second Sex I did come to realize that my privileges were the result of my having abdicated, in some crucial respects at least, my womanhood. If we put it in class economic terms, you would understand it easily: I had become a class collaborationist. Well, I was sort of the equivalent in terms of the sex struggle. Through The Second Sex I became aware of the struggle needed. I understood that the vast majority of women simply did not have the choices that I had had, that women are, in fact, defined and treated as a second sex by a male-oriented society whose structure would totally collapse if that orientation was genuinely destroyed. But like economically and politically dominated peoples anywhere, it is very hard and very slow for rebellion to develop. “

Beauvoir

Thoughts on Physics, Maths and Reality (Part I)

Here are some casual thoughts related to my old passion for physics and different mindsets between people doing maths and physics. Most of the things discussed here are open to interpretations.

At the early age of physics, physical laws tended to fit into some sort of common sense or intuitions. As physics developed further, people found the existence of “reality” more elusive , particularly for quantum mechanics which has been thought to be counterintuitive. Physics uses maths to construct a “physical reality” that is in some sense highly subjective. Only a tiny part of the presumed existence of an outside world interacts with us by reflecting itself on our perceptions. The rest of the physics story is filled out with mathematical fabrications. How much is fabricated depends on how much we can perceive, to measure or to build a physical picture for it. Lack of direct observations and perceptions in quantum mechanics makes its story less intuitive so that sometimes people feel the need to find a more sensible interpretation which fit in their philosophical views better, like the alternative Bohmian interpretation for Copenhagen interpretation.

 I was ever driven to quest for an “interpretation” of quantum mechanics by studying a few alternative quantum theories including quantum Baysianism, and Bohmian Mechanics (the pilot-wave model). These theories are almost equivalently good at predictions. But the orthodox quantum theory has remained in textbooks as it came first in history. These alternatives are all good candidates of quantum mechanics. There might be some areas in which some of them work slightly better than the others. But none of them stands out to resolve the inconsistency problem in general relativity. People in favour of one of them is in favour of a kind of interpretation or worldview they are happy to accept.

Indeed, all these quantum theories are mathematical theories with their own beauty. That’s how I like pure maths: it stands out as a subject with a lot more freedom creating an abstract reality which does not explicitly depends on the external world.