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cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Theory & Comics, Together At Last (Again); or, What If…?

Posted by Scott Eric Kaufman on 07/04/06 at 12:03 AM

[X-posted to Acephalous.  The reason for the “again” above, if you’re curious.]

Passage from a letter excerpted in Ernest Jone’s The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (3:392):

If I had my life to live over again, I should devote myself to telepathy rather than to psychoanalysis.

To which I can only say this:


What would the world look like if Freud had his druthers?  What would theory debates look like?  What claims made?  I planned on outlining this all, but got so involved in the gimmick I’m too tired to make the joke.


But ... we would be able to empirically verify telepathy. Subject A draws a card from the deck and looks at it. Subject B (in another room) tells the experimenter which card A can see. And gets it right, repeatedly and repeatably. All good experimental science.

The existence of telepathy would also make it much easier to reason about authorial intent. We could know what an author really meant by reading their mind directly. This could be experimentally repeatable because anyone who wants to can read the author’s mind themselves, and check that the author really is thinking what the critic claims they are thinking.

By on 07/04/06 at 05:21 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Roger Luckhurst’s The Invention of Telepathy (Oxford, 2002) is a very good book to read if you’re interested in the cultural history of telepathy.

By Jonathan Goodwin on 07/04/06 at 09:04 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Dude, why settle for cultural history? I want to read people’s minds.

By John Holbo on 07/04/06 at 11:56 AM | Permanent link to this comment

What if the author changes his mind?

By mythusmage on 07/05/06 at 02:32 AM | Permanent link to this comment



A man is strapped to a chair, with electrodes taped to his skull. The electrodes are connected to a Rube Goldberg contraption of giant capacitors, Tesla coils, etc. A projector screen on the wall shows a martian from “Quatermass and the Pit”.

DR FREUD: At last! I have perfected the device!

(cut to projected image of martian)

DR FREUD (VOICE OVER): I can see into men’s minds!

(cut to close-up of Dr Freud)

DR FREUD: There will be no more misunderstandings! No more war!

DR FREUD: A new era of human happiness!


Five middle-aged men in dark suits sit around a table.

COMMITTEE MEMBER #1: Does Dr Freud have any idea what we will do with his invention?

COMMITTEE MEMBER #2: Not a clue.

COMMITTEE MEMBER #3: He’s a useful idiot.

By on 07/05/06 at 01:04 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Susan, that’s what I’d have like to have written, had I still the energy to do so then.

Jonathan, Alison Winter’s Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain is also interesting.

mythusmage, I suppose we’d have to create a hierarchy of intention, in which the most valuable intent statements would be those made in the weeks and months immediately after the passages in question were written. 

Another interesting question would be: what would we do if the author answered “I don’t know” and we read his mind and, in fact, he didn’t.  Character X has a scar on his left arm just because.  Could that still be meaningful?

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 07/05/06 at 04:21 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I’d be interested to hear a bit more about Freud’s useful idiocy, from either Scott or Susan. How so, in your opinion?

By CR on 07/05/06 at 11:40 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Patience, CR, patience.  I’m getting there.  (You’ll remember, of course, that that was precisely the topic of inaugural post here.  I still think it may be had, but it’ll have to be earned, not granted.)

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 07/05/06 at 11:48 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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