THE QUANTITY THEORY OF INSANITY

Once you have published, grown old and then died, the events surrounding the original theoretical discovery with which you have been associated take on an impossible causal direction and momentum.  One which certainly wasn’t apparent at the time.  Scientists are particularly prone to this syndrome.  For example, take Gödel and his Incompleteness.  Once he had made the proposition, everything in his life had necessarily led up to that moment, that piece of work.  Thus, when the infant Gödel cried in his cot, the particular twist of phlegm striations, wafted in his gullet by his bawling, implied that no logical symbolic system can construct full grounds for its own proof.  Poor Gödel, his breakdowns, his anorexia, all of them inextricably bound up with his fifteen minutes of academic fame.  Why?

Well, put simply, when aberrant events occur they become subject to the same principle – at the level of human, social observation – as particles do to instrumental observation at the sub-atomic level.  The effect of observation has a direct impact on the nature of the event, altering its coordinates as it were, although not in any simple dimension.  I mean, if an aberrant event occurs it doesn’t then occur in another place or time because of the attention it subsequently attracts.  It doesn’t retroactively take up that other position or time, or even rate of occurance before it has in fact taken place.  That would be absurd.

Rather all of these: the effect of observation on aberrant events tends to be the reversal of their causality, their causal direction.  However, there is no reversal of necessity as far as the occurance of P is concerned – and I think this is something that has been ignored.

Will Self, The Quantity Theory of Insanity.

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