Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Ivan the K Saves the Mystery

...of the human soul from the scientism of the neuroscientists. Questions for dicussion: Did the Scarecrow in THE WIZARD OF OZ have a soul prior to having a brain? Or does the talking, yearning Scarecrow already have a brain and body and MORE and not even know it? Is THE WIZARD OF OZ, deep down, a criticism of the abstractness of modern thought--especially in its presentation of WHO we are and WHAT we want?

Discussions - 5 Comments

The WIZARD OF OZ is appealing because the lesson of it is that we all yearn for things outside of ourselves that, if we only stopped all of our "if onlys," we would realize are already within our immediate reach. We are all capable of greater wisdom, greater goodness, greater courage and greater contentment than we dare to believe. It is a hymn and a fable against the vice that ought to get the least respect in America and, yet, has always been our greatest temptation: whining. It is a reflection of our perpetual insecurity with real freedom and our knowledge that we can (and do) abuse it when we give it too much slack and neglect our responsibilities. It is also a great discrediting of the pretentious puffing up of one's credentials.

Those are good questions and challenge my memory of the story...I think the Wizard never provides either the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, or the Lion with anything of value reaffirming that they possessed brains,hearts, and courage all along. But it does seem to be a general critique of the sort of biological compartmentalization that comes with rejecting the soul as a unifying element. If our humanity is nothing other than the sum of its mechanistic parts its impossible not to end up with a thoroughgoingly impersonal account of personhood.

Well said, and aptly said about America, Julie. Each of us is capable of becoming more, if one is willing to work and to gratefully and humbly begin with the resources at hand.

By contrast, the fabulous and faraway Oz doesn't grant anything, except illusions and superficial satisfactions. When the Wizard confers the Doctor of Thinkology (that is, the Ph.D.) on the Scarecrow (thereby "certifying" his "braininess"), the Scarecrow then excitedly and pompously announces a mangled geometrical formula.

Rising above one's own lot is possible, though not easy, and the way out is fraught with delusions and dangers (and a wistful homesickness). An ironic and very American film.

Dr. Lawler is jokeing around by asking questions about the Wizard of Oz. I mean come on. The story has something the matter with Kansas, tornadoes, monetary policy...good lord its a whole book! Maybe even multiple volumes. Hell, I could write a column for the New York Times under the heading Wizard of Oz adapting historical and economic themes to the present. I might last a year on account only of ADD and not lack of material.

How many poor historians and economists have a lifetime of work buried under this motif?

Wizard of Oz narratives like Austrian economics and Oz of Gold in general tend to gain wind in downcycles. I have a strong inclination that this is true, but being too lazy to prove it stateing it as a hypothesis is easier.

I am sure there is also something to do with oil in the telling, no doubt some good attacks on Standard Oil, some stabs at Rockefeller...but also some myths about soundtracks, suicide, drug use...populist discussion of the Robber Barrons/anti-Lockeanism/greedy scottsmen...

Hell lets keep this ball rolling back into history until we settle upon Bentham and the benthamite reformers who founded the University college of London...was it not the empowerment to grant medical degrees that broke the hereditary establishment, paved the way for neuroscience, fostered a populist utilitarianism, angered and alarmed the german intellectuals...alright, so my ADD does me in.

I am just teasing you Ivan K. But isn't that the german critique of Bentham?

And is Neuroscience not simply by virtue of being science in some way capable of trancsending class and social divides? In other words because in science what is particular to the individual is erased and only pure experimental theory remains, it is capable of being duplicated and having its tasks divided. In some sense then the farm boy from Kansas is capable of being a neuroscientist. In other words it still seems that Karl Popper is right about the Open society and science.

In addition to this it should seem clear that as neuroscience progresses even if it did achieve a complete understanding of the human mind within the constraints of its method even if such an understanding were stilted and incomplete, nevertheless even this partial picture would be beyond the grasp of any particular expert.

In other words the library of congress does not necessarily hold all human understanding, and even if it did, none can live to digest it. If they live to digest it, by virtue of what they had digested they would find themselves in a sad place vis a vis other humans, because to a large extent they would have markers filled out were others had simply conjecture.

In other words I still have no clue what I am talking about, except to say that the Wizard of Oz is a good kids movie enjoyable on some levels, interesting on others, and confounding in its possible extentions.

I might doubt that neuroscience has the final answer, albeit not being in a position to determine this, I can understand the stupidity of a historian lecturing a 4 year old on the "full" implications of the Wizard of Oz.

The thoroughgoingly impersonal account of personhood thus resides in the disparity between what individuals of necessity know understand and ultimately care about.

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