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Reply To: Don’t Look Up: The Doomsday Dilettante,” with mythologist Norland Téllez”

Robert Juliano

Mythistorian – Recently, I was in a discussion with a wonderful professor of mine at PGI about the ancient problem of squaring the circle. It began because I had posted an article on a recent paper which solves it through the process of equidecomposition, the breaking up of an object into identical potentially complex pieces. The idea is to take as the object a circle, decompose it into equal pieces, and rearrange the pieces such that it forms a square of equal area to the circle. This paper used 10^200 pieces (10 with 200 zeroes after it), each identical peace being exceedingly complicated and very difficult to visualize. In our discussion, I made the distinction between a rational interpretation of the problem and the problem as embodying a true mystery. The original problem posed in the 5th century B.C. took on an entirely rational character, and it turns out it was unsolvable (the additional requirements were that only the Euclidean tools of compass and straightedge could be used, and that the process entailed a finite number of steps), though this was not proven until 1882. Yet there was an intuition of its unsolveability. Thus, eventually it became acquainted with anything thought to be impossible. The medieval and early modern Latin alchemists adopted a less rational interpretation of the problem, one which embraced to a much larger degree the irrational and preserved the far deeper mystery it embodied.

I suppose I see the problem of human-caused climate decline in a similar way – it embodies a profound mystery which is lost if made completely rational. For here there is a parallel between the comet in the movie and climate decline. When the comet becomes visible to the naked eye, it is too late. Likewise, if the problem of climate decline becomes fully visible (i.e., every scientific measure indicates catastrophe), then it is too late – the point of no return has been reached. The visibility and measurability of the problem where cause-effect is completely uncontroversial indicates the problem has fully manifested into the rational sphere and is too late to solve. But, while there is still mystery in the problem where there is an irrational relationship to it, then there is hope.

With respect to the challenges posed by differing agendas and existing power structures which have long history, I think that Naomi Klein’s book entitled This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate (see enclosed link below) is quite excellent. One argument is that those who are pushing for progressive agendas are obfuscating their intentions by using climate decline as their argument for certain actions. And this is a very difficult argument to counter.

I am not sure I agree that simplicity is preferable in all cases. For example, you expressed interest in Giegerich’s work. But he argued that what is required for psychology and for the world more generally is a higher form of thinking or thinking on a higher plain, an approach which is far from being simple. The process of using thinking to accomplish the alchemical dissolution is itself of high complexity. And he feels Hegelian dialectics is the best tool we have, not the easiest approach to learn or use. To be honest, I fully agree with Giegerich here – we do need a higher form of thinking to solve modern problems, psychological or otherwise.