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PersonalityLanguage and Power

Lorin Friesen, December 2013

Language and Power , written by Norman Fairclough in 1989, was instrumental in starting a new school of thought known as critical discourse analysis. If one looks merely at what Fairclough says in this groundbreaking book, then one can see that it contains a detailed description of mental networks that is remarkably consistent with the theory of mental symmetry. However, as we shall see, there is a tension between Fairclough’s description of mental networks and the rest of his material. If one examines Fairclough’s later writings, one notices that this tension has been resolved in favor of dropping the concept of mental networks.

The core concept of critical discourse analysis is that one should go beyond the written text to look for underlying presuppositions. Fairclough emphasizes in his book that the specific method that one uses to perform critical discourse analysis is of secondary importance. Therefore, this essay will apply a form of critical discourse analysis to Fairclough’s book on critical discourse analysis. We will look at Faircloth’s underlying assumptions, we will compare his description of mental networks with the rest of his volume, and we will attempt to understand why he has abandoned the concept of mental networks.

Stepping back to look at the bigger picture, we will also take some time to compare what Fairclough says about theories with Thomas Kuhn’s description about paradigms, and we will attempt to analyze the cognitive reasons behind the shift from modern thought to post-modern thought.

When one is studying the physical world, then the person doing the studying is different than the physical phenomena being studied. However, when one is studying human behavior, then the mind is observing itself. This means that a theory of human behavior must always be self-reflexive; it must apply to itself.

Applying a theory of personality to itself is a risky business. The analysis may fail. This usually indicates that theory is incomplete. For instance, MBTI divides people into 16 categories based upon the four divisions of thinking versus feeling, sensing versus intuition, perceiving versus judging, and introverted versus extroverted. Using these four divisions, it is possible to come up with significant insights into human behavior. However, while MBTI can describe aspects of human behavior, it cannot explain how this behavior emerges. That is because a theory based in walls cannot explain how the mind functions.

Using a theory to analyze itself may also end up undermining the theory. I suggest that this occurs when one attempts to apply critical discourse analysis to critical discourse analysis (which we will now abbreviate as CDA). Stated briefly, Fairclough says that social groups dominate today’s society primarily through the use of ideology and that ideology is based in language. “Let me briefly mention recent contributions to social theory which have explored the role of language in the exercise,

maintenance and change of power. I shall refer to just three such contributions. The first is work on the theory of ideology, which on the one hand has pointed to the increasing relative importance of ideology as a mechanism of power in modem society, as against the exercise of power through coercive means, and on the other hand has come to see language as a (or indeed the) major locus of ideology, and so of major significance with respect to power” (p.13).

If one focuses merely upon the text of Fairclough’s book, then one concludes that Fairclough is presenting a theory of CDA. But Fairclough’s theory says that theories are all actually ideologies backed up by power groups. Therefore, if Fairclough is right, then all he is doing is using language to promote an ideology and he is attempting to use his social power to impose his ideology upon the rest of society.

One of the prime features of the theory of mental symmetry is that it is capable of analyzing itself. On the one hand, it is a theory of personality that describes how the mind functions. On the other hand, it also describes a path of personal transformation makes it possible to get the mind to function. Similarly, not only does it describe how the mind functions, but it can also explain how the mind grasps how the mind functions. This makes the theory of mental symmetry self-reinforcing. In my experience, the more one applies this theory the more one is capable of understanding it—and vice-versa. Strangely enough, this self-reinforcement appears to open intellectual doors rather than close them. Again based upon my experience, the more one embraces mental symmetry, the more one becomes capable of explaining other theories.

For instance, it is possible to use the theory of mental symmetry to explain Language and Power. If one places the findings of Fairclough within the theory of mental symmetry, then one concludes that they are an accurate description of one possible way in which the mind can function. Fairclough’s error, I suggest, lies in assuming that this is the only way in which the mind functions. We will now examine this in more detail.

Normally, principles such as these are only mentioned at the beginning of an essay, while the rest of the essay refers to data in an objective manner. However, if one merely talks about applying a theory of human personality to itself, then one is not actually applying a theory of personality to itself. Of course, the danger of including self-reference is that a theory can turn into mere introspection. Therefore, the focus of this essay will be upon human thought in general, but self-referent comments will be added that show how the theory applies to itself as well.

Members Resources (MR)

Fairclough says that people base their thinking in ‘members resources’, which he abbreviates as MR. MR appear to correspond to what mental symmetry calls mental networks. In fact, this correspondence is so striking that I need to mention that before November 2013 I had never heard of either Fairclough or MR. Instead, I suggest that this type of independent confirmation provides evidence that underlying cognitive mechanisms are being described. Fairclough defines an MR in the following quote. “You do not simply 'decode' an utterance, you arrive at an interpretation through an active process of matching features of the utterance at various levels with representations you have stored in your long-term memory. These representations are prototypes for a very diverse collection of things - the shapes of words, the grammatical forms of sentences, the typical structure of a narrative, the properties of types of object and person, the expected sequence of events in a particular situation type, and so forth. Some of these are linguistic, and some of them are not. Anticipating later discussion, let us refer to these prototypes collectively as 'members' resources', or MR for short. The main point is that comprehension is the outcome of interactions between the utterance being interpreted, and MR. Not surprisingly, cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence have given little attention to the social origins or significance of MR. I shall argue later that attention to the processes of production and comprehension is essential to an understanding of the interrelations of language, power and ideology, and that this is so because MR are socially determined and ideologically shaped, though their ‘common sense’ and automatic character typically disguises that fact. Routine and unselfconscious resort to MR in the ordinary business of discourse is, I shall suggest, a powerful mechanism for sustaining the relations of power which ultimately underlie them” (p.11).

Summarizing the essential points from this quote, an MR is not just an individual memory but rather a network of memories. This network may involve experiences, people, sequences, or words. Speech will trigger MRs and these triggered MRs will help to decode what is said. Going further, MRs are fundamentally related to language, power, and ideology. MRs function implicitly and automatically under the surface and their existence is not usually recognized by scientific thinking.

Compare this with the description of a mental network. Modifying the explanation given in the essay on TESOL, if the mind contains a number of similar emotional memories, then these will coalesce and begin functioning as a unit, which I refer to as a mental network. Individual experiences have emotional labels of pain and pleasure. In contrast, a mental network generates emotion based upon consistency and inconsistency. In order to trigger a mental network, one of the memories within that mental network must be accessed. When a mental network is triggered, then it will generate positive hyper-emotion when input is consistent, and it will generate negative hyper-emotion when experiencing inconsistent input. (The term hyper-emotion is used to distinguish the emotions generated by a mental network from the emotions associated with the memories within that mental network.)

A habit is an example of a mental network. For instance, suppose that I have formed a habit of eating chocolate. As long as I am not thinking about chocolate, then my mental network involving chocolate will not be triggered. However, if I think about chocolate, see chocolate, hear about chocolate, or sense chocolate in some other way, then this will trigger the mental network, which will then respond with positive or negative hyper-emotion, depending upon whether my behavior is consistent or inconsistent with the pattern of eating and enjoying chocolate.

Fairclough states that MR are cognitive structures that are both based in social interaction and influence social interaction. “The MR which people draw upon to produce and interpret texts are cognitive in the sense that they are in people’s heads, but they are social in the sense that they have social origins - they are socially generated, and their nature is dependent on the social relations and struggles out of which they were generated - as well as being socially transmitted and, in our society, unequally distributed. People internalize what is socially produced and made available to them, and use this internalized MR to engage in their social practice, including discourse” (p.24). Translating this into the language of mental symmetry, a mental network forms when there is a collection of similar emotional memories. When a mental network is triggered then it will generate an emotional drive to re-create its structure.

Fairclough describes the triggering nature of mental networks. “Participants arrive at interpretations of situational context partly on the basis of external cues - features of the physical situation, properties of participants, what has previously been said; but also partly on the basis of aspects of their MR in terms of which they interpret these cues - specifically, representations of societal and institutional social orders which allow them to ascribe the situations they are actually in to particular situation types” (p.144). Notice how the environment is triggering the mental network, which is then imposing its pattern upon what is being said.

Mental symmetry suggests that mental networks are responsible for implicature, in which the mind jumps to conclusions based upon incomplete information. Fairclough makes a similar claim about MR. “These are connections which we make as interpreters of texts; they are not made by the text itself. But in order to make them, we have to draw upon those background 'assumptions and expectations' I have just been referring to. The sense or coherence of a whole text is generated in a sort of chemical reaction which you get when you put together what's in the text and what's already 'in' the interpreter - that is, the common-sense assumptions and expectations of the interpreter, part of what I have called 'members' resources' (MR)” (p.78).

Mental symmetry suggests that the mind stores schemata in the form of mental networks, and Fairclough agrees. “Schemata are a part of MR constituting interpretative procedures for the fourth level of text interpretation in Fig. 6.1, and frames and scripts are closely related notions, which is why I am including them in this discussion” (p.158).

Going further, mental symmetry suggests that culture is based upon mental networks. People with similar mental networks are attracted to each other because they are driven by their similar mental networks to think and act in ways that are similar. When people from different cultures interact, then people from one culture will be driven by their mental networks to act in ways that are inconsistent with the mental networks of the other culture. Fairclough describes interaction based upon consistent mental networks as normative and interaction based upon inconsistent mental networks as problematic. “Broadly speaking, the choice between these contrasting relations of participants to MR depends on the nature of the situation. Normative relations to MR are associated with situations which are unproblematic for participants, whereas creative relations to MR are characteristic of situations which are problematic. A situation is unproblematic if participants can easily and harmoniously interpret it as an instance of a familiar situation type - if what is going on, who's involved, and the relations between those involved, are clear and 'according to type'. In such cases, MR constitute appropriate norms (discourse types, interpretative procedures) which can simply be followed. Conversely, if these things are not clear, MR do not provide dear-cut norms. There is a mismatch between the concrete situation and familiar situation types, which requires participants to draw upon the resources which their MR provide in creative ways in order to cope with the problematic properties of the situation. Such situations constitute moments of crisis for participants, and they typically arise when social struggle becomes overt, and when MR and the power relations which underlie them...themselves come into crisis” (p.165).

Fairclough says that problematic interaction leads to moments of crisis and power struggles. In a similar manner, mental symmetry suggests that when mental networks collide, then each will attempt to impose its structure upon the other, and the weaker mental network will have to modify its structure to be consistent with the stronger one. Fairclough suggests that this is the whole story, whereas mental symmetry suggests that there is more to the story, which we will examine later.

Mental Networks and People

Moving on, mental symmetry suggests that the mind uses mental networks to represent people. That is because people emote, they generate experiences, and they behave in a consistent manner. Therefore, any form of extended interaction with a specific person, such as my friend Jane, or a type of person, such as a fireman, will cause a mental network to form. When that person comes to mind, then the mental network that represents that person will be triggered and it will predict how that person will respond.

This seems like an obvious conclusion, and yet as far as I can tell, Fairclough does not say this anywhere in his book. Instead, Fairclough says that the mind uses mental networks to represent groups of people. “Participants arrive at interpretations of situational context partly on the basis of external cues – features of the physical situation, properties of participants, what is previously been said; but also partly on the basis of aspects of their MR in terms of which they interpret these cues – specifically, representations of societal and institutional social orders which allow them to ascribe the situations they are actually in particular situation types” (p.144).

Fairclough gives an illustration of using a mental network to internally represent a specific type of person. “How does the text implicitly convey this meaning? I think it very clearly relies upon the interpreters MR to do so: the meaning that Jenny Keeble is a ‘good wife’ is not explicitly expressed in the text, and it is only because interpreters have in their heads a mental representation of what a ‘good wife’ is stereotypically supposed to be that they are able to recognize attributes thereof which incur in the text and so infer the meaning” (p.160).

Mental symmetry would agree that mental networks are used to represent groups of people as well as ideal images of people. However, a group is made up of individuals. Groups are incapable of remembering anything. Groups do not have brain cells; individuals do. Groups form out of individuals who are attracted to each other because they share similar mental networks. Similarly, the mental concept of a ‘good wife’ is primarily a mental concept of a person, and not the mental concept of a group of people.

Why would Fairclough miss such an obvious connection? In the spirit of CDA, let us see if we can look behind his text for an underlying reason. As Fairclough mentions, mental networks operate under the surface, therefore interpretation is often required to bring them up to the surface. “The stage of interpretation corrects delusions of autonomy on the parts of subjects in discourse. It makes explicit what for participants is generally implicit: the dependence of discourse practice on the unexplicated common sense assumptions of MR and discourse type” (p.162). Mental networks are especially powerful when people do not realize that their thinking is being guided by mental networks. “Routine and unselfconscious resort to MR in the ordinary business of discourse is, I shall suggest, a powerful mechanism for sustaining the relations of power which ultimately underlie them” (p.11).

Core mental networks usually function invisibly because they provide the set of underlying assumptions that is used to analyze other mental networks. And what is the core mental network that Fairclough is using to analyze other mental networks? He tells us on page 2: “My main focus in this book will be on...trying to explain existing conventions as the outcome of power relations and power struggles...An example would be how the conventions for a traditional type of consultation between doctors and patients embody common sense assumptions which treat authority and hierarchy as natural” (p.2). This suggests that the Fairclough does not recognize that the mind uses mental networks to represent people because his starting point is conflict between people.

Mental symmetry agrees that conflict between people is significant. However, mental symmetry suggests that the real conflict is occurring internally between mental networks that represent people. Remember that whenever mental networks interact, then each will attempt to impose its structure upon the other, and the weaker mental network will be ‘oppressed’ by the stronger one. This distinction is significant. If the primary conflict is external, then emancipation can only be achieved through social strife. However, if the primary conflict is occurring within the mind of each individual between mental networks that represent various people and societies, then emancipation is achieved through internal reprogramming.

Let us examine this further from a different perspective. As we saw in an earlier quote, Fairclough says that cognitive psychology ignores MR ( Language and Power was written in 1989). However, mental symmetry suggests that Fairclough is ignoring the emotional aspect to mental networks. Emotions and hyper-emotions play a major role in the formation and operation of mental networks. Mental networks are composed of similar emotional memories, and when they are triggered they create an emotional drive to act and behave in a way that is consistent with their structure.

Instead of referring to emotion, Fairclough frames social interaction in terms of power struggles between oppressors and the oppressed—his assumed starting point. I suggest that this distinction is significant. As I have mentioned, power struggle implies that the basic unit is the person or the group and that the fundamental response is suppression. Obviously, if an individual or group is being suppressed then it should struggle to free itself from suppression. Fairclough begins his book by saying that his goal is emancipation from domination. “This book is about language and power, or more precisely about connections between language use and unequal relations of power, particularly in modern Britain. I have written it...to help increase consciousness of how language contributes to the domination of some people by others, because consciousness is the first step towards emancipation” (p.1).

However, if the starting point is a verbal struggle between oppressor and oppressed, then education and parenting are nothing more than powerless students being controlled through words by powerful teachers and parents. Fairclough says essentially this. “Once children become more aware of the way their MR function in discourse, questions can be raised about its social origins, the ideological effects upon it of relations of power, and how both MR and the social relations underlying them are reproduced and transformed in discourse. This second level of awareness is essential if the schools are to develop children’s language capabilities to the point where the common sense practices and constraints of currently dominant orders of discourse are probed, challenged and transformed – rather than simply training children to be good at being conventional...Such critical social awareness will facilitate the development in children of emancipatory discourse which stretches and breaks conventions, as part of individual and, especially, collective struggle” (p.241). Notice how children are supposed to learn about the relationship between mental networks in speech so that they can verbally rebel against ‘the establishment’.

Restating this in crude terms, when a parent tells a child “Don’t touch the hot stove,” the child should respond, “Don’t you tell me what to do, you fascist pig!” Similarly, when the teacher gives the student a failing mark on a math exam, the student should go to his teacher and demand that his teacher stop oppressing him. Going further, as Haig has pointed out, when college professors teach CDA, they are using their social status as professors to impose a way of thinking upon their students, a form of social oppression that becomes blatant if they dare to give homework and assign grades.

Defining Common Sense

Fairclough uses the word ‘common sense’ in the previous quote. Normally, one thinks of common sense as independent of social struggle, but Fairclough redefines this term in terms of social struggle. “The sociologist Harold Garfinkel has written of ‘the familiar common sense world of everyday life’, a world which is built entirely upon assumptions and expectations which control both the actions of members of a society and their interpretation of the actions of others. Such assumptions and expectations are implicit, backgrounded, taken for granted, not things that people are consciously aware of, rarely explicitly formulated or examined or question” (p.77). Thus, if one is to apply Fairclough’s advice, when an adult warns a child about touching a hot stove, then the child really should respond by saying “Stop telling me what to do!” with the exclamation mark included.

Why does a parent warn a child about touching the stove? Because touching a hot stove will lead to inescapable, lasting, painful consequences that are independent of social status and power groups. The child lives in a physical body that will be burned if it comes into close contact with extreme heat. Saying this more generally, the physical world is governed by universal natural laws. But nowhere in Language and Power is the existence of natural law openly acknowledged. Instead, everything is framed in terms of social struggle. In the few instances where Fairclough does refer obliquely to natural law, he focuses exclusively upon the way in which the words and perceptions of people are being modified by social pressure.

I strongly suspect that if Fairclough were faced with the illustration of a child touching a hot stove, he would acknowledge that there is an aspect of common sense that is independent of social status. But by talking exclusively about the relationship between common sense and social status, Fairclough gives the impression that natural law does not exist. And according to Fairclough, a person’s choice of language plays a major role in exerting power over others. “We can think of such struggle as not only in language in the obvious sense that it takes place in discourse and is evidenced in language text, but also over language. It is over language in the sense that language itself is a stake in social struggle as well as the site of social struggle...Having the power to determine things like which word meanings or which linguistic and communicative norms are legitimate or ‘correct’ or ‘appropriate’ is an important aspect of social and ideological power” (p.88).

For instance, the first example in Fairclough’s book discusses the relationship between medical doctors and their patients. “An example would be how the conventions for traditional type of consultation between doctors and patients embody ‘common-sense’ assumptions which treat authority and hierarchy as natural – the doctor knows about medicine and the patient doesn’t; the doctor is in a position to determine how a health problem should be dealt with and the patient isn’t; it is right (and ‘natural’) that the doctor should make the decisions and control the course of the consultation and of the treatment, and that the patient should comply and cooperate; and so on. A crucial point is that it is possible, as we shall see, to find assumptions of this sort embedded in the forms of language that are used. Such assumptions are ideologies. Ideologies are closely linked to power, because the nature of the ideological assumptions embedded in particular conventions, and so the nature of those conventions themselves, depends on the power relations which underlie the conventions” (p.2).

But why does a patient go to see a doctor? Because there is something wrong with his physical body and he wants to have the problem fixed. Physical ailments are independent of social status and do not depend upon social status. Fairclough is bringing up a valid complaint. It is much more pleasant to interact with a caring physician. But I am sure that everyone, Fairclough included, would prefer a competent doctor to a caring doctor. If a doctor does not know much more about medicine than a patient, then the patient will conclude that the doctor is incompetent and will go elsewhere to find another doctor who is more knowledgeable. Similarly, why does a patient comply and cooperate with the instructions of the physician? In order to get well. His body is not functioning properly and he wants to return to a state in which it is functioning properly. Again, being sick or well is independent of social status.

Why does Language and Power imply that nothing exists independent of social status? I suggest that this is a natural byproduct of civilization, because civilization shields people from natural cause-and-effect. Suppose that I jump off a cliff. I will encounter the law of gravity and plunge to my demise below. As I have emphasized, this unpleasant result has nothing to do with social status. Instead, it applies equally to both peasants and presidents. Civilization tries to protect people from personal harm by putting fences in front of cliffs. If civilization succeeds, then people will never encounter natural cliffs but only man-made fences, and they will conclude—like Fairclough—that nothing exists except man-made fences placed there by those who are in authority. In the words of Fairclough, “The world that human beings live in is massively a humanly created world, a world created in the course of social practice. This applies not only to the social world but also to what we normally call the ‘natural world’” (p.37).

Mental Networks and Emotion

We have seen the implications of associating MR with societal oppression and struggle. I suggest that a different mindset emerges if one associates mental networks with emotion. Oppression is something that one person does to another. Emotion, in contrast, is felt by each individual within his own mind. Damasio suggests in Descartes’s Error that emotion is a shortcut that the mind uses to respond to situations efficiently and speedily. Thus, mental networks and emotions form a cognitive package. Mental networks allow the mind to jump to a conclusion based upon partial information, while emotions turn this conclusion into an immediate motivation to head either toward some goal or away from some threat.

Because mental networks jump to conclusions and generate emotions based upon incomplete data, they can also be mistaken. This is a problem because the mind uses mental networks with their emotions to model the physical world which is governed by natural cause-and-effect. Ignoring natural consequences can lead to pain, injury, or death. If a person had to test every action for possible harm before doing it, then nothing would get done. For instance, in the United States all drugs must be passed by the FDA before they are allowed to be used. Even in fast-track mode, it takes at least 60 days the test a new drug. Mental networks with their emotions provide a quick-and-dirty method for guiding a person through the physical world. If natural law did not exist, then life would be like driving a car on the prairies. If a driver goes off the road then he can simply continue driving across the field. Natural law adds hills and valleys to the landscape of life making it both possible and necessary to head for the hills, stay out of the valleys, and avoid falling off cliffs.

For instance, when I use a soldering iron, I am careful not to touch the hot tip because I do not want to be burned. This does not require conscious thought, but rather is an intuitive, automatic response that is guided by my mental networks. Saying this in more detail, painful experiences of touching hot items and getting burnt have formed a mental network within my mind. When I think about touching a hot soldering iron, this triggers that mental network, which then imposes its structure upon my mind by predicting that ‘touching a hot item will lead to getting burnt’. This results in an unpleasant emotion, which prompts me to pull my hand away. All of this occurs in much less time than it takes to read the description.

A young child who has not experienced what it means to be burned will not have such a mental network, therefore if a loving parent wants to protect a child from getting burnt, then that parent will use emotional experiences to create such a mental network. This can be done in several ways. One way is for the parent to scold or spank the child who reaches for a red hot stove. In the short term, this method may work—and sometimes it is the only method that will work, but in the long term it may cause the child to conclude, as Fairclough does, that all restrictions are imposed by those who have authority. Another way is for the parent to bring the child’s hand close enough to the stove so that the child feels uncomfortable but not close enough to be harmed. This will create a mental network that is based upon natural cause-and-effect which is independent of parents and social authority. This is a better approach over the long term. Unfortunately, for some children even this is not enough and the only way that they will learn is by touching the stove and getting burnt. Hopefully, they will recover completely from the physical injury.

Perceiver Thought and Repetition

Perceiver thought is the cognitive module that deals with facts and information. Repeating part of an explanation given in another essay, mental symmetry suggests that Perceiver thought can acquire facts in one of two ways. First, emotional status can mesmerize Perceiver thought into blindly accepting the statements of some authority as absolute truth. A person who practices blind faith usually does not realize that he is using blind faith. He is just certain that he knows what is true. But if asked to give a reason for his knowledge, then he will respond ‘it is obvious’ or ‘everyone knows that...’ or ‘the experts say’. Thus, he has belief but not necessarily knowledge. If everyone within a community shares the same set of blind beliefs, then these beliefs will be assumed and never questioned. Blind faith only becomes apparent when assumed facts are questioned, either by contrary evidence or by other people.

Second, instead of blindly accepting facts based upon emotional status, Perceiver thought can look for facts that are repeated. Blind faith has certainty. Perceiver thought, in contrast, struggles with doubt. However, it is possible to use Perceiver thought to increase certainty and minimize doubt. The more times a fact is encountered, the more certain Perceiver thought will be that this fact is correct. Thus, when Perceiver thought is used, it may appear that there is less belief because a person will no longer dogmatically proclaim what is true. However, in actual fact there is far more knowledge because a person who uses Perceiver thought is able to give reasons for what he believes.

Fairclough’s basic premise is that knowledge is based in power. Thus, he is describing the first way of knowing in which the emotions present within mental networks are overwhelming Perceiver thought into blindly accepting facts from established authority, and he describes how competing emotional sources are struggling for the privilege of being able to determine belief.1

But Fairclough also describes how repetition can lead to a different form of Perceiver knowing. He describes this as naturalization leading to common sense. “If a discourse type so dominates an institution that dominated types are more or less entirely suppressed or contained, then it will cease to be seen as arbitrary (in the sense of being one among several possible ways of seeing things) and will come to be seen as natural, and legitimate because it is simply the way of conducting oneself. I will refer to this, as others have done, as the naturalization of a discourse type...what is the connection of naturalization to the ideological common sense I’ve been discussing? Naturalization is the royal road to common sense. Ideologies come to be ideological common sense to the extent that the discourse types which embody them become naturalized” (p.91).

Translating this into the language of mental symmetry, if people see a certain set of connections being repeated everywhere, then Perceiver thought in their minds will conclude that these connections describe universal truth. For instance, if I repeatedly see trunks, branches, and leaves occurring together in a specific configuration, then this repetition will convince Perceiver thought to believe facts about trees. Similarly, if I repeatedly see metal objects with rubber wheels rolling down the street, then Perceiver thought will acquire facts about cars.

But why are cars universally present? Fairclough thinks that it is because large powerful corporations have decided to fill the streets with cars while removing other vehicles from the road. “Practices which appear to be universal and commonsensical can often be shown to originate in the dominant class or the dominant bloc, and to have become naturalized” (p.33). “Ideological power, the power to project one’s practices as universal and ‘common sense’, is a significant complement to economic and political power, and of particular significance here because it is exercised in discourse” (p.33).

Fairclough is describing something that happens. The rich and powerful do use their position to pass laws that qualify them and disqualify others. For instance, evidence suggests that automobile companies did buy up streetcar systems in order to dismantle them and replace them with cars and buses. This abuse of power is analyzed further in the essay on Tony Robbins.

However, mental symmetry suggests that the real problem is a cognitive one. Why are the rich and powerful succeeding in imposing their agenda upon the population? Because they are represented within the minds of the average person by potent mental networks, and these mental networks are overwhelming Perceiver thought in the average person into believing that the rich and powerful define truth. This is brought out by the popular hippie slogan, “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came’, which originally came from a 1936 poem. The point is that people do come when leaders declare war and they come because leaders know how to trigger and manipulate powerful mental networks, which is what Fairclough is saying. Fairclough’s conclusion is that the weak need to stand up to the powerful. Mental symmetry suggests that this is not the answer because it merely replaces one powerful mental network with another rather than dealing with the underlying issue, which is learning how to use Perceiver thought without being overwhelmed by mental networks. Saying this more simply, the root problem is not that the strong are oppressing the weak, but rather that the weak are worshiping the strong.

Perceiver thought looks for connections that are repeated. If Perceiver thought is to become independent of mental networks, then repeatable connections must exist that are independent of mental networks and social pressure. Fairclough appears to be saying that independent, repeatable connections do not exist. “In so far as homogeneity is achieved– as it is to some extent in the case of standardization – it is imposed by those who have power” (p.22).2

Repetition and Natural Law

Mental symmetry, in contrast, suggests that there are two primary sources of repeatable connections. The first is natural cause-and-effect, as described by the universal laws of nature. The second is the structure of the mind, which can be uncovered by looking for cognitive mechanisms.

Looking first at the realm of scientific facts. Fairclough says that “In news reports, reported happenings are generally represented as categorical truths – facts – without the sort of intermediate modalities I’ve just illustrated...‘News’ generally disguises the complex and messy processes of information gathering and interpretation which go into its production, and the role therein of ideologies embedded in the established practices and assumptions which interpreters bring to the process of interpretation” (p.129). In other words, because facts about the real world are being interpreted by people, real facts do not exist. This is like a man with blurry vision concluding that the physical world does not exist because he cannot see objects clearly. Even a man with blurry vision can see clearly enough to avoid obstacles, and the one who concludes that obstacles do not exist will soon discover through the school of hard knocks that there is a physical world of solid, unchanging facts. Fairclough is correct in stating that mental networks make it difficult to see the physical world clearly, and Thomas Kuhn describes the warped vision of the typical scientist. However, science goes to great lengths to craft ‘corrective lenses’ so that it can see the physical world more clearly.

Why does Fairclough think that universality comes from people? Again I suggest that the blame can be laid at the existence of civilization. Repeating an earlier quote from Fairclough, “The world that human beings live in is massively a humanly created world, a world created in the course of social practice. This applies not only to the social world but also to what we normally call the ‘natural world’” (p.37). Saying this more simply, civilization cuts down trees—which grow naturally—and replaces them with cars and roads—which are assembled by humans. As a result, people will think that all repetition is the result of human activity because most of the repetition that they see is the result of human activity.

But what makes it possible for humans to create so many repeated objects? Fairclough gives us the answer. “Consumerism is a product of mature capitalism when productive capacity is such that an apparently endless variety of commodities can be produced in apparently unlimited quantities...the technological conditions are, firstly, a modern press, which was already in place at the beginning of the century; but secondly, the development of film, radio, and television. It is with the emergence of television not only as a technology but as a cultural institution which has absorbed a high proportion of leisure time of a high proportion of the population, the consumerism has really ‘taken off’...Advertising is of course the most visible practice, and discourse, of consumerism, and its most immediately striking characteristic is its sheer scale. We are all exposed to massive daily injections of advertising.” (p.200).

In other words, what makes it possible for humans to create massive numbers of repeated objects is the technology of the factory backed up by advertising. What makes advertising possible? The technology of modern communications. And technology is the fruit of science, which believes that the natural world is governed by repeatable principles that are independent of social status and personal importance. However, modern civilization hides this fundamental connection from the typical consumer. When a consumer wants to purchase some item, he does not go to the factory and invent it or assemble it. Instead, he goes to a store and buys it from a person. Similarly, when that item ceases to function, then the consumer does not fix the object, but rather takes it to a repair shop and gives it to a person. Thus, even though technology is the fruit of science, what the average consumer encounters is not science but rather people, social structures, and advertising.

Going further, all man-made objects are composed of atoms and molecules. And every atom of a certain element is identical to every other atom of that element (if they are the same isotope). For instance, suppose I go to the store to buy aluminum foil. I will see a number of similar boxes, each containing rolls of aluminum foil. Perceiver thought will notice this repetition and come up with the fact that aluminum foil comes in boxes. What will also be noticed is that some of these boxes are labeled ‘Reynolds wrap’, some are labeled ‘Alcan’, while others have different labels. Based upon this data, the obvious conclusion is that ‘In so far as homogeneity is achieved– as it is to some extent in the case of standardization – it is imposed by those who have power.’ However, if one were to look more closely, then one would notice that all aluminum foil (barring impurities) is composed of the same aluminum atoms, and that this repetition is independent of human effort or human activity. But the average individual lacks the special equipment that is required to see atoms. Instead all he sees is packages of aluminum foil covered with corporate labels. Therefore, common sense tells him that Fairclough is right.

Repetition and Cognitive Mechanisms

Turning now to the realm of cognitive mechanisms, Fairclough is observing human society and concluding that power struggles play a fundamental role. Mental symmetry suggests that this is an accurate observation. But why do social groups struggle for power? Why is the mind driven by MR? Because the mind is structured in such a way that it forms MR and is driven by MR. Saying this another way, MR, or mental networks, describe the software of the mind. Software runs on hardware. Without a computer one cannot run programs. If everyone is running mental software that is driven by MR, as Fairclough suggests and mental symmetry agrees, then this actually means that everyone has similar mental hardware, which means that one is describing underlying cognitive mechanisms.

But how do I know that I am not using circular reasoning to make these statements? Thomas Kuhn makes it clear that circular reasoning is always involved to some extent whenever one is attempting to prove a theory. However, we now know how to build computers that can perform many of the functions of a human mind. And one of the most basic lessons that working with a computer teaches is that one needs a computer to run a program. Similarly, lesion studies show that when a physical part of the brain is damaged, then the corresponding mental function is lost as well.

Going further with a computer analogy, in the same way that various software companies are all vying to get us to install their programs, use their browsers, and fill our computer screens with their menu bars; so social, political, and religious groups are using advertising and other means to implant mental networks within our minds that resonate with their products, embody their viewpoints, and resonate with their way of doing things. As Fairclough says, “We are all exposed to massive daily injections of advertising. Readers might like to work out how many advertisements they see or hear each day, on TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, on hoardings, coming through the letterbox, in shops and shopping centres, and so forth” (p.201) For a more modern example, users of the Internet might like to work out what percentage of the average webpage is devoted to advertising, motivating us in increasingly appealing, annoying, and deceptive ways to click on ads. This is the topic of Fairclough’s book and he describes it in some detail. It also summarizes the experience of the typical consumer as well as the typical computer user. However, if this is all there is, then one is forced to conclude that Fairclough himself is nothing more than a pop-up screen—an advertiser attempting to program people’s minds with his mental network.

And what advice does Fairclough have to offer? We should struggle to emancipate ourselves from this oppression. In Fairclough’s words, “The effectiveness of resistance and the realization of change depend on people developing a critical consciousness of domination and its modalities, rather than just experiencing them. The more practical object of this book is therefore to make a contribution to the general raising of consciousness of exploitative social relations” (p.4).

What happens when individuals struggle to free themselves from domination? They themselves turn into advertisers attempting to program other people’s minds with their mental networks. In the same way that television began with a few national networks and has now fragmented into hundreds of channels, so the social voice of authority has fractured into myriad special interest groups. As Fairclough says, “Any listing of the new social movements reflects their bewildering variety, for the movements are often quite incomparable in such matters as the size and nature of their social base, the breadth of the issue(s) they are concerned with, the (in)directness of their relationship to impingements by the system, and so on. A list might include: the women’s movement, ecological and antinuclear groups, national movements, alternate lifestyle groups, the black movement and ethnic groups, the gay liberation movement, the peace movement, animal liberation groups, and so on” (p.229).

However, software is not the most fundamental. Instead, software runs on hardware. For instance, suppose that I own a copy of Microsoft Office. In order to use this software, I must own a computer. Without a computer, the software is useless. Similarly, mental networks are not the most fundamental aspect of human thought. Instead, they describe the software that runs upon the hardware of the mind. If one wishes to emancipate the computer user from rogue programs and viruses, the best way is to teach him how a computer functions—to give the user an understanding of the hardware that underlies the software.

This will also change his focus. Instead of continually asking, “How do I stop others from taking over my computer?”, he will ask “How can I optimize my computer so that it runs more effectively?” Using the language of mental symmetry, focusing upon cognitive mechanisms programs Perceiver thought with facts that do not change, making it possible for Perceiver thought to become independent of the emotional pressure of mental networks. When a person understands how his mind functions, then personal status becomes of secondary importance, because everyone is stuck within a brain that cannot be reconfigured, from which it is impossible to escape. And the brain of one person is similar to the brain of another. Realizing this fundamental principle changes the basic question. Instead of asking “How do I stop others from telling me what to do?” I will start asking “How to I reprogram my mind so that it functions most effectively?”

Using an analogy, I suggest that focusing upon social struggle is like arguing over who will get to sit in first class on an airplane that is out-of-control and heading for the ground. As Fairclough suggests, money and power does make it possible to travel first class. But that is of secondary importance when the existence of the airplane itself is at stake. Instead, all that matters is gaining control of the aircraft. If the pilot of the aircraft cannot use the controls of the airplane to gain mastery over the laws of aerodynamics, then everyone is doomed. Similarly, what matters more than gaining social status is gaining control over one’s mind. If an individual cannot gain mastery over cognitive mechanisms, then he is personally doomed—not by people but rather by inescapable principles of cause-and-effect.

Education and Power

Unfortunately, we all enter life with unprogrammed minds; we all start life flying in an airplane that is out of control. Therefore, we need parents, schools, and social structures to help us learn how to use our mental hardware. It is much more efficient to have someone else teach me how to use my mind than to attempt to discover on my own how my mind works. But Fairclough says that “The general point is that education, along with all the other social institutions, has as its hidden agenda the reproduction of class relations and other higher-level social structures, in addition to its overt educational agenda” (p.40).

The goal of education is to pass the knowledge and mental networks of adults on to the next generation. As Fairclough says, those who control the system of education have a profound influence over the mental networks that guide people’s minds. Therefore, how can one distinguish between a special interest group that is attempting to hijack peoples’ minds with its mental networks and an educational system that is trying to help individuals to develop their minds? How does one distinguish between a computer virus and a computer program? A computer virus will force itself on my computer and resist my attempts to uninstall it, while a legitimate program will invite me to use it and accept my choice to uninstall it. The legitimate program can afford to be polite because using this program will have beneficial effects, while the virus must struggle to be installed and remain installed because it does not have beneficial effects. In addition, a computer virus will reduce the capability of my computer, while a computer program will add to its capabilities. Thus, I suggest that one can use the two litmus tests of free will and mental wholeness.

Applying this to the mind, education that is consistent with the structure of the mind will be polite. It may begin with rote learning, but it will follow this by stepping back and allowing the student to test for himself whether this programming is beneficial. In the end, it will enlarge the student’s world. In contrast, education that is inconsistent with the structure of the mind cannot afford to go beyond rote learning, because it knows that it will be rejected by those who learn how to think. Thus, it must remain ‘narrow-minded’; it must continue to restrict the world of the student. Compare this with what Fairclough advises. According to Fairclough, each viewpoint should struggle to make its voice known. However, mental symmetry suggests that this type of strident behavior is a warning sign. Truth does not have to shout because it is already being inescapably imposed by natural law and the structure of the mind. Truth does not want to shout, because it does not want to use emotional pressure to overwhelm Perceiver thought. Instead, truth merely needs to point out inescapable connections that already exist.

In the short term, the loudest voice may be able to set the social agenda, but it takes a lot of energy, both mental and physical, to continue acting in ways that are inconsistent with underlying structure. Therefore, if the loudest voice is to continue setting the social agenda, then it must continue shouting loud enough to mask the pain and effort of fighting natural law. World War I provides a poignant example. The political leaders set an agenda of war and they used mental networks representing God and country to motivate soldiers to fight. As this BBC article relates, “Most of the three million British troops soon knew they faced almost certain death on the battlefield. Day after day they would witness the annihilation of their friends, never knowing if or when they would be next. On some occasions whole battalions were wiped out, leaving just a handful of confused, terrified men. But those who shirked their responsibility soon learned there was no way out of the horror - if they ran from German guns, they would be shot by British ones.” Therefore, political leaders had to use propaganda and coercion to continue setting an agenda of war. “To their far-off generals, the soldiers’ executions served a dual purpose - to punish the deserters and to dispel similar ideas in their comrades. Court martials were anxious to make an example and those on trial could expect little support from medical officers.”

Saying this in the language of mental symmetry, the painful experiences produced by violating principles of cause-and-effect, whether physical or cognitive, will lead to potent mental networks, and these mental networks will warn individuals of the pain that comes from violating cause-and-effect. As the BBC article says, ‘Most of the three million British troops soon knew they faced almost certain death on the battlefield’ because ‘Day after day they would witness the annihilation of their friends.’ In order to overcome these mental networks that warn about the dangers of fighting, leaders must create even stronger mental networks that motivate soldiers to continue fighting. ‘Far-off generals’ had to execute soldiers who refuse to fight in order to ‘dispel similar ideas of their comrades.’

Obviously, it is emotionally uncomfortable to make statements about death and annihilation in an essay on Fairclough. However, if Perceiver thought is to become free of the emotional pressure of mental networks, then it must be free to point out facts that make these mental networks feel uncomfortable. For the World War I soldier, there was an inescapable connection between going into the trenches and personal annihilation. Pointing out this inescapable connection brought emotional discomfort to many of the existing mental networks of Victorian culture, and those who refused to fight experienced extreme pressure from the rest of society. However, most of the individuals who mentally submitted to cultural mental networks ended up physically dead.

Thus, mental symmetry suggests that the real struggle is a cognitive struggle between mental networks and Perceiver thought. The individual who submits to the dominant mental networks of society will receive approval from others, but he may be emotionally driven to violate natural law in major ways, such as stepping out of a trench in order to be mowed down by machine gun fire. The struggle is for individuals to gain sufficient Perceiver confidence to point out these connections of repeatable, inescapable, natural cause and effect.

The primary question for those who are in power will probably be how to continue imposing their mental networks upon the rest of society. For instance, World War I generals worried about how they could continue motivating soldiers to act as cannon fodder. Thus, the primary goal for those in power will be to continue using mental networks to suppress Perceiver thought. When the oppressed follow the advice of Fairclough and respond with social struggle, then this perpetuates the mindset of those who are in power. Even if they succeed in overthrowing the leadership, the general environment of oppression will remain intact because the mindset of social struggle has not been challenged. All that will change is the specific people and groups doing the oppressing.

In the words of Fairclough, war may be a sad fact, but it is still a fact. “Power exists in various modalities, including the concrete and unmistakable modality of physical force. It is a fact, if a sad fact, that power is often enough exercised through depriving people of their jobs, their homes, and their lives... It is perhaps helpful to make a broad distinction between the exercise of power through coercion of various sorts including physical violence, and the exercise of power through the manufacture of consent to or at least acquiescence toward it. Power relations depend on both, though in varying proportions. Ideology is the prime means of manufacturing consent” (p.3).

If the oppressed are to succeed in changing the underlying mindset, then I suggest that they must view the situation as a personal struggle for common sense, rather than a social struggle for emancipation. Those who are in power may have no reason to develop common sense, but those who are being oppressed are not being permitted to impose their mental networks upon others, therefore they will be strongly motivated to come up with an alternative strategy. If they acquire the cognitive ability to use Perceiver thought to evaluate their own mental networks in the light of common sense, then they will begin to see through the ways in which the leadership is manipulating the mental networks of society, and they will become mentally capable of pointing out the lack of common sense in the leadership. This type of struggle is illustrated by the fable of the Emperor’s new clothes. Everyone in this story was taken in by the mental networks of society until a little boy restored common sense by pointing out out that the Emperor had no clothes.

Summarizing, I suggest that Fairclough is accurate in suggesting that those who are in power will attempt to redefine common sense. However, I suggest that the solution is not to fight over who redefines common sense, but rather to acquire the ability to use Perceiver thought to define common sense. This is the topic which we will now examine in more detail.

Theory and Mental Networks

We have looked at the power side of Language and Power in the light of mental networks. Let us now turn our attention to the language aspect. So far we have assumed that emotions are related to experiences. However, the mind appears to have two different ways of generating emotion, one related to experiences and the other to theories. (Correspondingly, the brain contains two amygadalae—emotional processors. One is in the right experiential hemisphere and the others in the left verbal hemisphere.) Since mental networks are composed of emotional memories, this means that there are two kinds of mental networks. Mercy thought remembers experiences and associates experiences with emotional labels of pain and pleasure. Emotional experiences that are similar combine to form Mercy mental networks. Teacher thought, in contrast, generates emotion based upon order-within-complexity. When many items fit together to form a unified whole, that this produces positive Teacher emotion. When items do not fit together, or when an item is out of place, this produces negative Teacher emotion. Teacher thought works with words and uses words to build general theories, driven by an emotional desire to find order-within-complexity. If a theory is used for long enough, then it will turn into a Teacher mental network.

When a Mercy mental network is triggered, then it will attempt to impose its pattern upon experiences, which is usually done to sum combination of objects and behavior. Think, for instance, of the MMNs associated with Christmas. During the holiday season, decorations go up, songs are played, and gifts are given. When a Teacher mental network is triggered, then it will attempt to impose its explanation or interpretation upon the situation. When a situation triggers two competing theories (or paradigms), then each theory will attempt to impose its explanation and the two paradigms will fight for domination. The winning theory will then growing generality by becoming the accepted explanation for the situation, while the losing theory will become less general. One could compare this to neighboring countries fighting over bordering lands. Competing paradigms will only continue to coexist if one is a translation of the other or if one is a subset of the other.

Notice that all of this happens automatically. When a mental network is triggered, then this brings to mind the pattern of that mental network. If input is consistent with that pattern, then this generates positive hyper-emotion, leading to positive reinforcement. In contrast, inconsistent input will generate negative hyper-emotion, motivating an individual to avoid the inconsistency. When a Teacher mental network is triggered, then inconsistency may be avoided by imposing the theory upon the situation, avoiding the subject, focusing upon one aspect of the subject, or attempting to understand or translate the situation into terms that are consistent.

Fairclough also has a general theory that is attempting to impose its explanation upon situations—and lesser theories—whenever it is being triggered. Fairclough tells us this theory in the opening sentence of the first chapter. “This book is about language and power, or more precisely about connections between language use and unequal relations of power” (p.1) Fairclough’s book contains other theories as well. One is a theory about MR, or mental networks. Another is a three-dimensional framework for analyzing discourse—which we are implicitly using but have not yet discussed. One can tell that Fairclough’s primary theory is his theory about social struggle, because whenever any other theory is mentioned it is always presented in a way that is consistent with the explanation of social struggle. Saying this another way, the theory of social struggle has formed a Teacher mental network within the mind of Fairclough and it is mentally imposing its structure upon all other theories.

For instance, when Fairclough talks about medicine, he focuses upon the unequal social relationship between doctor and patient, while ignoring health and sickness (p.2). When Fairclough mentions news, he emphasizes that news is being filtered by those who have social power, while ignoring the fact that news is based in physical incidents (p.129). Similarly, when he talks about scientific dialogue, he mentions that this dialogue is affected by ideology, while ignoring that science is the study of nature (p.102). Likewise, when he discusses education, he focuses upon the fact that education can be controlled by power groups, while ignoring that the goal of education is to teach knowledge (p.40). In each case, the aspect that is consistent with Fairclough’s general theory is being emphasized, while the aspect that is inconsistent is being ignored. This is how a Teacher mental network functions. It imposes its explanation whenever it is triggered.

Fairclough and Theory

Now that we understand the general nature of Teacher thought and Teacher mental networks, let us examine how Fairclough describes Teacher thought and Teacher mental networks, starting with his definition of a bureaucracy. “A bureaucracy is a hierarchical organization designed rationally to coordinate the work of many individuals in the pursuit of large-scale administrative tasks and organizational goals...From the perspective of bureaucratic rationality, people are often objects to be ordered, checked, registered, shifted, and so forth” (p.212).

Notice the characteristics of Teacher thought. There is generality and order-within-complexity, because the various members of a bureaucracy are all working together in a coordinated fashion. Notice also that Mercy thought is being minimized, because people are being treated as objects within a general system rather than individuals with personal emotions.

When a person works within a bureaucracy, its order-within-complexity will lead to the formation of a Teacher mental network within his mind. In the same way that I am emotionally driven to continue expanding and applying the theory of mental symmetry and Fairclough is emotionally driven to continue expanding and applying his theory of social struggle, so the bureaucrat is emotionally driven to continue expanding and applying his bureaucracy. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.’ Such growth is self-reinforcing and has nothing to do with whether the bureaucracy is meeting a useful need or not. That is because bureaucratic growth is driven by Teacher emotion, whereas meeting a useful need is guided by Mercy emotion. Even though these two emotions feel the same they are being generated by different cognitive modules.

Fairclough describes this process of ‘colonization’ in which general systems are driven by the Teacher mental networks thawillt they create to grow, expand, and swallow up any alternatives. “At the center of Jurgen Habermas’s analysis of contemporary capitalism is the claim that it is characterized by a degree of ‘colonization’ of people’s lives by systems that has reached crisis proportions. The ‘systems’ are money and power – or the economy, and the state and institutions. On the one hand, in the form of consumerism, the economy and the commodity market have a massive and unremitting influence upon various aspects of life, most obviously through the medium of television and advertising. On the other hand, unprecedented state institutional control (specifically by ‘public’ institutions) is exercised over individuals through various forms of bureaucracy” (p.197). Notice again the presence of growing generality and order-within-complexity. Money, power, the economy, the state, and institutions are all general systems of order-within-complexity and these systems are ‘colonizing peoples’ lives’. Television and advertising also exhibit generality and order-within-complexity because millions of viewers are being presented with a single message. As Fairclough says, “Many readers will I am sure be conscious of...the way in which discourses of consumerism and bureaucracy have colonized other discourse types, or expanded at their expense” (p.198).

Fairclough also describes how the social sciences are increasingly being guided by ever-growing Teacher mental networks. “I defined discourse technologies above as types of discourse which involve a more or less self-conscious application of social scientific knowledge for purposes of bureaucratic control...Discourse technologies are a specifically modern phenomenon, as are the social sciences which feed them. They represent a fairly generalized effect of bureaucracy and the modern state upon the social order of discourse. Although their origins can be traced in specific institutions, they have come to have a trans-institutional status which allows them to be drawn in to – to colonize – a whole variety of institutions, and articulated with other discoursal elements in the whole varieties of ways” (p.213). Notice that this process is being driven by bureaucracy and the modern state. And not only are institutions (which themselves are examples of order-within-complexity) being colonized, but the institutions themselves are being integrated to produce further order-within-complexity.

The new methodology used by social sciences is itself guided by order-within-complexity. “One of the routes by which the results of social scientific research have passed into discoursal practice is through social skills training (SST for short), which has developed out of social psychological research into social skills...Larger units of practice, and discourse, such as an interview, are assumed to be composed of sequences of smaller units which are produced through the automatic application of skills which are selected on the basis of their contribution to the achievement of goals” (p.214).

Summarizing, everything so far in Fairclough’s quotes about bureaucracy, institutions, the modern state, and colonization is consistent with the theory of mental symmetry.

We saw earlier that Fairclough focuses upon social interaction while ignoring natural cause and effect. Faircloth does something similar when discussing language and theory. Fairclough describes how the English language began as the language of the British commercial class and eventually became imposed upon the rest of British society as standard English (p.56). Language is arbitrary. As we all know, the world is divided into many different language groups, each speaking a standard tongue that is imposed by some official authority. Thus, Fairclough’s assertion that theory is ideology based in some power group is true when applied to language. But then Fairclough takes the logical leap of assuming that since scientific language is affected by ideology, science itself is also subject to ideology.

“Althusser adds that ‘linguists and those who appeal to linguistics for various purposes often run up against difficulties which arise because they ignore the action of the ideological affected all discourses – including even scientific discourses’” (p.102).

However, language is not the same as the thing that language describes. For instance, it is possible to refer to an apple using many different terms in many different languages, but this has no bearing on the nature of an apple. The verbal label that is used to refer to an apple is completely independent of the object of an apple. Applying this to science, scientific discourse does not use English or any other human-constructed language to describe natural processes. Instead, it uses the language of mathematics. And mathematics is a strange beast. For some reason, even though the symbols used by mathematics have been invented by humans, the grammar of mathematics corresponds with natural processes. As Paul Dirac, the famous physicist said, “It seems to be one of the fundamental features of nature that fundamental physical laws are described in terms of a mathematical theory of great beauty and power, needing quite a high standard of mathematics for one to understand it. You may wonder: Why is nature constructed along these lines? One can only answer that our present knowledge seems to show that nature is so constructed. We simply have to accept it. One could perhaps describe the situation by saying that God is a mathematician of a very high order, and He used very advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.” Mathematics is a difficult language to master. The individual who does not understand mathematics observes mathematicians inventing symbols and developing theorems and concludes that mathematics, like any other language, is being created by mathematicians who are using their social status to impose their artificially constructed language upon the rest of the population. Thus, his common sense tells him that the language of mathematics is another example ideology.

Similarly, natural language is also not arbitrary, but instead is governed by underlying rules of ‘universal grammar’. In a paper delivered at the 2012 Canadian National TESOL conference, Angelina Van Dyke and I suggested that this universal grammar can be explained by the underlying structure of the mind, as described by the diagram of mental symmetry. Fairclough acknowledges grammar but then dismisses it as irrelevant and drops the subject. “They have to draw on that aspect of the MR which is often referred to as their ‘knowledge of the language’, and which I have specified as ‘phonology, grammar, vocabulary’ in the left-hand column. This level is not of particular relevance here, and I shall say no more about it” (p.143). This, I suggest, is like saying that one can ignore the engine of the car because one is focusing upon the driver and how he is controlling the path of the vehicle. Without an engine, the driver could not go anywhere. Similarly, without mechanisms of grammar based in mental structure there would be no such thing as language.

Modern Thought and Objectivity

Moving on, this modern growth of Teacher mental networks has generally occurred at the expense of Mercy mental networks. Fairclough describes this loss. “Capitalism, in the processes of industrialization and urbanization, has fractured traditional cultural ties associated with the extended family, the local or regional or ethnic community, religion, and so forth” (p.200). Fairclough adds that Teacher-based social sciences have stepped in to fill the void created by the loss of Mercy-based culture. “This cutting off of people from cultural communities which could provide them with senses of identity, values, purposes, is what underlies the growth of, broadly, therapeutic practice and discourse, as I argue later” (p.200).

Mental symmetry would agree with this assessment, but suggests that the underlying problem is not capitalism. That is because socialism and communism are essentially inhuman whereas capitalism turns inhuman. Using the language of mental symmetry, socialism is explicitly guided by Teacher notions of theory and group, whereas capitalism begins by pursuing the Mercy goal of individual profit. When a corporation becomes large enough, it then starts to pursue the Teacher goal of kingdom building. Thus, capitalism begins by exploiting individuals and it becomes inhuman when it starts treating people as cogs in the machine, whereas socialism and communism begin with the inhuman perspective of treating the individual as merely a member of a group.

Rather than capitalism, mental symmetry suggests that the underlying problem is the meta-theory of modern thought, which has turned into a Teacher mental network and is forcing every other theory into its mold. The overarching assumption of modern science is that research is objective; in order to search for general Teacher understanding, one must suppress subjective Mercy feelings. This objective bias began with the noble aim of encouraging Perceiver thought. After all, if emotional pressure from Mercy mental networks can prevent Perceiver thought from functioning, then the easiest solution is to avoid Mercy mental networks when using Perceiver thought. When the starting point of scientific research is to ignore Mercy thought, then obviously this will lead to the development of general Teacher theories that by their very nature suppress Mercy mental networks, and the technology that results from this understanding will also be objective. Because science and technology have been so successful at transforming the natural world, the Teacher mental network associated with objective science has imposed its pattern upon other forms of thought, such as the social sciences.

This inherent bias toward objectivity is now starting to crumble with the emergence of postmodern thought. First, researchers are increasingly realizing that there is no such thing as objective thought because personal bias always enters into the equation. Second, consumers are sensing that technology which lacks a personal element is inhuman, and no one wants to live an inhuman existence. But, postmodern thought is also fundamentally inadequate, because it has no place for general theory.

Mental symmetry suggests that a cognitive meta-theory, such as mental symmetry, can provide a possible solution. On the one hand, mental symmetry recognizes the existence of mental networks and the effect that they have upon thought and perception. Thus, mental symmetry is consistent with the observations of Fairclough. But by going beyond mental networks to underlying cognitive mechanisms, mental symmetry makes it possible to discover universal principles within the realm of subjective experience. Similarly, by looking beyond the assumptions of modern scientific thought to the cognitive needs that these assumptions meet, mental symmetry rephrases scientific thought in terms of cognitive requirements. Instead of asking, ‘How does the natural world function?’ mental symmetry suggests that the more fundamental question is “How can I program my mind so that I am capable of understanding how the natural world functions?” Finally, mental symmetry suggests that it is possible to replace the certainty and rigor of modern scientific thought with the partial certainty and semi-rigor of pattern and metaphor. It may not be possible to prove for certain that the natural world is governed by universal law, but the repeated success of science and technology provide considerable evidence that this is the case. Similarly, it may not be possible to prove for certain that universal cognitive mechanisms exist, but the repeated observance of similar mechanisms in unrelated fields provides considerable evidence that this is the case.

I am not suggesting that everyone should become a physical scientist who observes facts about nature, studies mathematics, and uses technology to transform the physical world. Rather, I am suggesting that every person needs to become a ‘mental scientist’ who observes facts about personal identity, gains understanding about human thought, and uses personal application to transform his internal world. That is because each person can only transform his own internal world. No one can transform the internal world of another.

Knowledge and Mental Networks

Let us us look further at the relationship between Mercy mental networks and Teacher mental networks. We have seen that repetition programs Perceiver thought. We also know that Teacher thought looks for order-within-complexity. As one can see from the diagram of mental symmetry, these two cooperate to generate abstract thought. First, Perceiver thought comes up with facts by organizing Mercy experiences into categories based upon similar connections, and then Teacher thought comes up with general theories that summarize the essence of these various Perceiver categories.

We saw earlier that there are two ways of determining Perceiver truth. Each method is backed up emotionally by a mental network. The personal method uses the emotional status of some Mercy mental network (that represents an important person or group) to overwhelm Perceiver thought into believing that the pronouncements of this personal source are true. For instance, the primary student knows that his teacher is right; the religious believer knows that his holy book contains absolute truth; the consumer knows that the product is good because it is sponsored by some important person. The universal method begins by using Perceiver thought to look for connections that are repeated, and then these Perceiver facts become emotionally supported by the Teacher mental network of a general theory. For instance, Perceiver thought notices that objects that are released will always fall to the ground. This Perceiver fact will then be emotionally supported by the Teacher theory of gravity.

Notice that the personal method occurs immediately whereas the universal method takes time to emerge. The personal method begins with ‘hero worship’ and then acquires Perceiver facts guided by this hero worship. If ‘my hero’ says something, then it must be true. If the enemy of ‘my hero’ says something, then it must be false. In contrast, the universal method begins by using Perceiver thought to look for repetition. As Perceiver thought gathers facts, this motivates Teacher thought to come up with a general theory that will bring order to the complexity, and if this Teacher theory is used for sufficient time it will then turn into a Teacher mental network that will give emotional support to the Perceiver facts and the theory.

Thomas Kuhn describes how this process occurs within science. He mentions the thinking that characterizes a field of science before it acquires its first general theory. “The history of electrical research in the first half of the 18th century provides a more concrete and better-known example of the way a science develops before it acquires its first universally received paradigm. During that period there were almost as many views about the nature of electricity as there were important electrical experimenters” (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962. p.13). Notice how each viewpoint is mentally backed up by the Mercy mental network of some important individual. This changes when a general theory emerges that can explain most of the facts. Quoting further from Thomas Kuhn, “Only through the work of Franklin and his immediate successors did a theory arise that could account with something like equal facility for very nearly all these effects and that therefore could indeed provide a subsequent generation of ‘electricians’ with a common paradigm for its research” (Ibid, p.15). Initially, Perceiver facts are gathered at random, guided by Mercy experiences. Again quoting from Kuhn, “Early fact-gathering is a far more nearly random activity than the one that subsequent scientific development makes familiar. Furthermore, in the absence of a reason for seeking some particular form of more recondite information, early fact-gathering is usually restricted to the wealth of data that lie ready to hand” (p.15). When a general Teacher theory emerges, then this becomes the emotional glue that directs attention and holds facts together. In the words of Kuhn, “In the early stages of the development of any science different men confronting the same range of phenomena, but not usually all the same particular phenomena, describe and interpret them in different ways. What is surprising, and perhaps also unique in its degree to the fields we call science, is that such initial divergences should ever largely disappear. For they do disappear to a very considerable extent and then apparently once and for all. Furthermore, their disappearance is usually caused by the triumph of one of the pre-paradigm schools, which, because of its own characteristic beliefs and preconceptions, emphasized only some special part of the too sizable and inchoate pool of information” (p.17).

Theory and Ideology

Fairclough describes this same transition from being based in the Mercy mental network of some respected source to being supported by the Teacher mental network of a general theory. “In the naturalization of discourse types and the creation of common sense, discourse types actually appear to lose their ideological character. A naturalized type tends to be perceived not as that of a particular grouping within the institution, but as simply that of the institution itself. So it appears to be neutral in struggles for power, which is tantamount to it being placed outside ideology” (p.92).

But Fairclough thinks that this transition from Mercy mental network to Teacher mental network is actually a sham. In his view, general theories are actually ideologies that are based in the viewpoint of some dominant societal power. “A more significant factor is ideology. Institutional practices which people draw upon without thinking often embody assumptions which directly or indirectly legitimize existing power relations. Practices which appear to be universal and commonsensical can often be shown to originate in the dominant class or the dominant bloc, and to have become naturalized. Where types of practice, and in many cases types of discourse, function in this way to sustain unequal power relations, I shall say they are functioning ideologically. Ideological power, the power to project one’s practices as universal and ‘common sense’, is a significant complement to economic and political power, and of particular significance here because it is exercised in discourse” (p.33).

Fairclough thinks that when people use Teacher thought to accept some theory, then they are actually being fooled by an ideology. “When ideology becomes common sense, it apparently ceases to be ideology; this is itself an ideological effect, for ideology is truly effective only when it is disguised” (p.107). Saying this more simply, it is all a conspiracy, and if you don’t think that it is a conspiracy, then this proves that it is a very good conspiracy.

Fairclough is often right. For instance, the current Snowdon files are showing that the Internet is not an international body that is free of politics but rather has been infiltrated by the United States (and Britain) for nationalistic goals. A recent article quotes a former technology advisor to President Obama. “The NSA surveillance has led to an intense ‘level of anger and the degree of betrayal’ in many countries that U.S. policy makers don't seem to fully appreciate, he said. And many countries have begun to explore other options beyond U.S. technology companies because of the surveillance revelations, he added. There’s now a perception outside the U.S. that the country’s technology companies ‘are willing instruments of violation of civil rights and civil liberties,’ McLaughlin said. ‘We have essentially nationalized what were previously seen as stateless Internet entities.’” Notice the last sentence. What was initially perceived to be stateless and Teacher based has now been revealed to be national and Mercy based. Notice also the intense emotion that this revelation has produced, telling us that mental networks are being violated.

The idea of standard English provides another example that backs up the assertion of Fairclough, which he describes in some detail. “There is an element of schizophrenia about standard English, the sense that it aspires to be and is certainly portrayed as a national language belonging to all classes in sections of the society, and yet remains in many respects a class dialect...standard English is an asset because it is a passport to good jobs and positions of influence and power in national and local communities.” (p.57). Restating this in terms of the current debate over World English, is English really an international language or is it being imposed by inner circle countries upon the rest of the world? This is a valid question.

But is Fairclough always right? On the surface he says that “Practices which appear to be universal and commonsensical can often be shown to originate in the dominant class or the dominant bloc, and to have become naturalized” (p.33). Thus, he is covering his bases by saying ‘often’ rather than ‘always’. However, whenever Fairclough analyzes theory, it is always within the context of ideology. Thus Fairclough’s underlying message (and according to CDA what really matters is the underlying message) is that all theory is ideology. According to Fairclough, even science is influenced by ideology. “Althusser adds that ‘linguists and those who appeal to linguistics for various purposes often run up against difficulties which arise because they ignore the action of the ideological affected all discourses – including even scientific discourses’” (p.102).

Fairclough addresses the relationship between science and ideology in more detail. “In contrast with ideology, there is (as far as I am aware) no variation in or struggle around the meaning of nose. Nevertheless, the meaning system which embodies the familiar classification of body parts does have some of the properties associated with naturalization. First, there is an element of what Bourdieu called ‘the misrecognition of arbitrariness’, in that the meaning system seems to have a transparent and natural relationship to the body, as if it could be named in no other way. For instance, one can perfectly well imagine a meaning system which included a term for the groove between the nose and the upper lip, yet there happens to be no such term in English. Secondly, the meaning system is sustained by power: by the power of the relevant experts, medical scientists, and by the power of those sections of the intelligentsia (teachers, dictionary makers, etc.) who are guarantors of this as of other elements of the codified standard language” (p.95).

Summarizing, Fairclough admits that there are facts about the natural world that are independent of personal opinion. However, Fairclough argues that social power still rules because people (and power groups) are choosing how facts will be arranged and which facts will be emphasized or ignored.

Ideology and Incommensurability

I suggest that Fairclough is confusing personal opinion with what Thomas Kuhn calls incommensurability. Personal opinion is driven by Mercy mental networks, whereas incommensurability is the result of Teacher mental networks. As Kuhn describes, “Since new paradigms are born from old ones, they ordinarily incorporate much of the vocabulary and apparatus, both conceptual and manipulative, that the traditional paradigm had previously employed. But they seldom employ these borrowed elements in quite the traditional way. Within the new paradigm, old terms, concepts, and experiments fall into new relationships one with another. The inevitable result is what we must call, though the term is not quite right, a misunderstanding between the two competing schools” (p.149). Kuhn goes further to describe “the third and most fundamental aspect of the incommensurability of competing paradigms. In a sense that I am unable to explicate further, the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds...That is not to say that they can see anything they please. Both are looking at the world, and what they look at has not changed. But in some areas they see different things, and they see them in different relations one to the other” (p.150).

In other words, Fairclough is correct in pointing out that there is no term for ‘the groove between the nose and the upper lip’. But I suggest that his reason is wrong. We come up with names for body parts that are visually distinctive and have functions. A nose sticks out and it smells. Therefore, we have a name for it. Lips are red and they are used in speech. In contrast, the ‘groove between the nose and the upper lip’ is neither visually distinctive nor does it have a specific function other than to integrate other parts that are visually distinctive and do have major functions. In other words, there is a theoretical, Teacher-based reason for ignoring this part of the facial physiognomy.

I suggest that this essay on Fairclough illustrates incommensurability. Even though I am quoting extended passages from Language and Power, the specific passages that I choose to quote, as well as the way that I am interpreting these passages, is quite different than the approach taken by the typical individual who reads Fairclough. That is because I am approaching this book through the lens of the theory of mental symmetry, and this theory is causing me to focus upon certain facts while downplaying other facts. Thomas Kuhn describes what it means to view the same set of facts through the lens of a different general theory. “One perceptive historian, viewing a classic case of the science’s reorientation by paradigm change, recently described it as ‘picking up the other end of the stick,’ a process that involves ‘handling the same bundle of data as before, but placing them in a new system of relations with one another by giving them a different framework’” (p.85).

Notice the precise difference between ideology and incommensurability. Ideology uses Mercy mental networks to create Perceiver facts. Thus, the very building blocks of abstract thought cannot be trusted. Incommensurability, in contrast, uses Teacher mental networks to adjust and rearrange Perceiver facts. As a result, the building blocks of abstract thought may have to be reinterpreted but they can still be trusted.

This is one reason why I write extended essays about single volumes using extensive quotes. The more of a book that one can explain, the greater the probability that one is really explaining it and not simply focusing upon the parts that fit with the theory. In contrast, while Fairclough analysis of mental networks is quite thorough, he appears to be picking and choosing whenever he gets close to the topic of scientific facts and physical reality. That is because his paradigm is not big enough to explain all of the facts.

We saw earlier that if the physical world is governed by a system of natural law that is independent of social opinion, then Perceiver thought can become independent of mental networks by looking for repeated facts in the external world. This describes the path of science, which is based upon empirical evidence. If one ignores science, as Fairclough does, then there is no mental escape from ideology, and all systems of thought are merely a matter of personal opinion. We will now return to this topic, this time focusing upon the cognitive side.

Why would Fairclough ignore scientific law? Earlier we suggested a physical reason. As Fairclough mentions, most of the structures that one encounters in civilization are man-made. Therefore, the natural conclusion is that everything is man-made and nothing is natural. However, if one examines further, then one realizes that all man-made structures are simply a reassembling of basic atomic components that have nothing to do with social structure.

There is also a cognitive reason. The scientific researcher has to use Perceiver thought to observe natural phenomena, which means that Perceiver thought in his mind has to become mentally independent of Mercy mental networks. In contrast, the student of science can regard the original researcher as an expert and use Mercy mental networks to learn truth from the expert. Saying this another way, the original researcher has to use critical thinking, whereas those who come later can get away with rote learning.

A similar principle applies to the researcher himself. Generally speaking, those who come up with new theories are individuals who either lack social status or are outside of the dominant social status quo. Quoting again from Kuhn, “Almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change. And perhaps that point need not have been made explicit, for obviously these are the men who, being little committed by prior practice to the traditional rules of normal science, are particularly likely to see that those rules no longer define a playable game and to conceive another set that can replace them” (p.90).

Once a researcher’s theory becomes accepted by others, then it defines the new status quo and the researcher himself becomes an esteemed expert. That is why I prefer to analyze the first edition of a groundbreaking book. Its material is guided purely by the observations and thinking of the writer, whereas later editions are often adjusted to blend in with accepted mental networks of the status quo. (Notice that we are analyzing the first edition of Fairclough’s book. The introduction to the 1999 second edition says that Fairclough has altered very little of his book, but we shall see later that Fairclough’s later works are quite different.)

The same principle, I suggest, applies to scientific research as a whole. Science began as an attempt to make sense of the natural environment. However, science has turned into a way of thinking and functioning that is practiced by a group of people. It is interesting to note that in the appendix to Kuhn’s book, which he wrote seven years after writing the first edition, he gives a new definition of science that is consistent with the thinking of Fairclough. He begins the postscript by attempting to define more carefully the word ‘paradigm’. In other words, like Fairclough, he is asking about the nature of general theories. And like Fairclough, he concludes that theory is ultimately based in groups with social status “Both normal science and revolutions are, however, community-based activities. To discover and analyze them, one must first unravel the changing community structure of the sciences over time. A paradigm governs, in the first instant, not a subject matter but rather a group of practitioners. Any study of paradigm-directed or a paradigm-shattering research must begin by locating the responsible group or groups” (p.180).

However, remember that hardware is more basic than software. People may be guided by their social groups to use different theories, words, and languages, but the only reason that they can use theories, words, and languages is because the structure of mental hardware makes it possible to use words to construct languages and build theories. Using a computer analogy, some people use Microsoft Windows, while others use Apple computers that run OS X. Computer users get into great debates over whether Windows PCs or Macs are better. However, the fact that one can run either Windows or OS X on the same computer (currently both of these operating systems run on the same x86 hardware) does not prove that computers do not exist.

But when the mind is making a transition from rote learning to critical thinking—from using mental networks to dominate Perceiver thought to using Perceiver thought independently of mental networks—then a multiplicity of opinions will make it cognitively difficult to believe that truth exists, giving a person the impression that a multiplicity of operating systems questions the existence of computers.

In other words, the problem is not with the nature of reality but rather with people’s view of reality. Love & Guthrie (1999) compared a number of systems of cognitive development. They state that “Each of the theories also describes the gradual breakdown and the view of knowledge, truth, and authority as absolute through a process where uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity creep into and disturb the sense-making process. This uncertainty and ambiguity may initially be resisted, viewed as temporary, or written off as anomalous. The student experiences a sense of confusion, as if being suddenly thrust into a game without any clear rules to determine right and wrong...Among the many accommodations experienced by students as they develop cognitively, the greatest of these appears to be the accommodation of moving from viewing the world as predominantly known, certain, and knowable to viewing the world as predominantly ambiguous, complex, and not completely knowable. The great accommodation occurs when the individual comes to realize that uncertainty is neither anomalous nor restricted to certain knowledge domains—that it is evident everywhere. As the place of knowledge, truth, and authority disintegrates, the individual’s own role as knower and authority emerges” (p.79).

A similar transition occurs with the typical teenager. When a child reaches the teenage years, then his parents instantly are transformed from experts who know everything to doddering idiots who know nothing. At least, that is how the teenager views the situation. But it isn’t the parents who have changed, but rather the teenager’s perception of his parents, because the teenager is making a mental transition from rote learning to critical thinking. Similarly, when society changes from the certainty and rational thinking of modern thought to the uncertainty and self-questioning doubt of post-modern thought, I suggest that neither reality nor the structure of the mind have changed. Rather, the average individual is undergoing a mental transition from one form of knowing to another form of knowing, and the very fact that a similar transition from blind certainty to self-doubt is occurring in so many individuals from so many different fields tells us that one is dealing with a cognitive mechanism.

Using an analogy, if one person experiences a problem with some gadget, then this problem was probably caused by circumstances unique to that individual. However, if many people are experiencing the same problem with that gadget, then this problem was probably caused by the manufacturer and has nothing to do with the individual user.

Moving further, we have seen that there are two kinds of mental networks, one driven by Mercy experiences and the other by Teacher theory. Fairclough says something similar when he distinguishes between social struggle and naturalization, common sense, and ideology. Fairclough concludes that people who accept common sense are actually being fooled into believing the ideology of some group. For instance those who view English as an international language are being fooled into accepting the language of some culture as universal.

However, if one looks beyond software to mental hardware, that I suggest that a different conclusion emerges. Why is the person using common sense being fooled? Because he is using a different method to evaluate truth backed up by a different kind of mental network. This means that it is possible for the mind to define truth and theory in a way that is independent of social pressure. However, in order for this mental transition to happen, these two ways of knowing must be internally decoupled, which is a cognitive problem. Saying this with the help of an analogy, Fairclough is saying that the listener is being fooled into thinking that the speaker is speaking French when he is actually speaking English. Fairclough’s conclusion is that all French is fake French, while mental symmetry suggests that this demonstrates that French and English are distinct languages and that it is possible to think in either English or French. (This is not a perfect analogy because languages are artificially constructed. In contrast, Mercy thought and Teacher thought are distinct cognitive modules.)

For instance, in a democracy, laws are made by legislators. Fairclough would view the situation and conclude that all law is artificial and based in the needs of some power group. This describes the current situation in many countries. Even the United States, which officially states that it is governed by a constitution, is increasingly being revealed to be under the domination of an elite ruling class.

But I suggest that this does not have to be the case. Instead it is a matter of choice. Mental symmetry suggests that the ability to use Perceiver thought in the midst of emotional pressure is not acquired instantly but rather must be developed over time. Whenever a person succeeds in holding onto a fact when faced with emotional pressure, then certainty in that fact will grow, and it will be easier to use Perceiver thought within that mental context. Applying this to law and democracy, what really matters is the choices that are made when legislators encounter laws. Is a legislator subject to his own law, or do laws only apply to those who lack social status? If certain groups are ‘above the law’, then this means that Perceiver thought is being overwhelmed by mental networks. And if the average citizen accepts that certain groups are above the law, then this means that Perceiver thought in the average citizen is also being overwhelmed by mental networks.

Thus, mental symmetry agrees with Fairclough that existing conventions are often the outcome of power relations and power struggle. However, mental symmetry suggests that the solution is not to rebel externally against authority but rather to gain the internal ability to follow the rule of law. Saying this another way, Teacher thought is capable of functioning independently of Mercy thought. But Teacher thought must be developed whereas Mercy thought is naturally programmed by experiences of pain and pleasure from the physical body. Because Mercy thought develops before Teacher thought, Teacher thought with its abstract thinking acquires its initial content from Mercy thought with its concrete thinking. For instance, in Piaget’s concrete operational stage, the growing child is only capable of using abstract thought when given concrete examples. But it is possible for Teacher thought to acquire the ability to function independently of Mercy thought, as evidenced by Piaget’s formal operational stage.

In essence, Fairclough is saying that because Piaget’s formal operational stage follows his concrete operational stage, common sense is merely an illusion and theory is actually ideology in disguise. In contrast, mental symmetry suggests that the reason that Piaget discovered a difference between the concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage is because these involve different mental circuits, which means that it is possible for abstract thought to function independently of concrete thought. However, achieving this mental independence is difficult because abstract thought acquires its initial programming from concrete thought. Similarly, Fairclough suggests that because students acquire their initial knowledge through rote learning based in social status, all knowledge is based in social status. In contrast, mental symmetry suggests that it is possible for a student to use critical thinking to make knowledge his own, but this is a difficult task that most students only partially achieve because knowledge is initially acquired through rote learning based in social status. That explains why there are stages of cognitive development. Knowledge is not changing, but a person’s view of knowledge as well as the ability to process knowledge is developing.

Why is it important for abstract thought to become independent of concrete thought? Using a physical analogy, a person needs two legs to walk. In order to move one leg forward, the weight of the body must be placed upon the other leg. Similarly, in order to transform childish Mercy mental networks, the emotional weight of the mind must be placed upon Teacher mental networks. Saying this another way, a person will do everything to avoid the fragmentation of core mental networks. But, it is possible to handle the fragmentation of core Mercy mental networks to the extent that these can be replaced by core Teacher mental networks.

Incommensurability and Cognitive Distortion

I have suggested that it is possible for Perceiver facts to be held together internally by a Teacher mental network. When this happens, then the Teacher mental network will impose its interpretation upon facts. However, a Teacher mental network will affect thinking in a different way than a Mercy mental network does.

A Teacher mental network adjusts facts primarily through the mechanism of incommensurability mentioned earlier. First, a new theory will not change the facts, but it will cause the facts to be viewed in a different light, similar to the way that objects that used to be in the shadow will be in the light and vice versa when the sun moves from one position in the sky to another. That is because Teacher thought is guided by generality. Situations that are more like the general case or that illustrate general principles especially clearly will tend to be emphasized. Second, a new theory will not change the facts, but it may alter them slightly. Thus, viewing the facts from a different paradigm could be compared to examining a poorly lit scene using glasses that throw objects slightly out of focus. (I suggest that this is the cognitive mechanism behind Platonic forms, which are discussed in other essays.)

Fairclough notices this distorting effect and concludes that scientific theory is no better than ideology. However, that is like concluding that objects do not exist because they look fuzzy and strangely lit when the lamp is moved and one wears someone else’s set of glasses. Similarly, many have concluded that incommensurability means that it is not possible to compare one paradigm with another. It may be difficult, but difficult is quite different than impossible, and it is also a skill that can be learned.

As Kuhn points out, part of the problem is that the typical scientist spends most of his time working within a specific paradigm and will not learn what it means to compare paradigms unless forced to do so. “It is, I think, particularly in periods of acknowledged crisis that scientists turn to philosophical analysis as a device for unlocking the riddles of their field. Scientists have not generally needed or wanted to be philosophers. Indeed, normal science usually holds creative philosophy at arms length, and probably for good reasons. To the extent that normal research work can be conducted by using the paradigm as a model, rules and assumptions may not be made explicit” (p.88).

A Teacher mental network will rearrange and adjust Perceiver facts to better suit the ‘lighting’ of a general theory. In contrast, when thinking is based in Mercy mental networks, then the lighting of emotion will be used to blind Perceiver thought rather than re-illumine the scene. 3 Fairclough gives an illustration of what this involves in his analysis of “the opening of an article in a feminist newspaper...The wording of the rapes shows a vocabulary feature characteristic of the text as a whole: compound expressions which are vocabulary items in feminist wordings: male violence, crimes against women and rape survivors. Notice that such vocabulary items belong to a distinctively feminist classification of the persons and events of the feminist domain of political action: male violence is not just something which happens, but a key phenomena (and target) of the domain...Turning to the protest action, again there are a number of compounds: women’s anger, angry women, feminist anger and direct action... The wording of responses to the women’s action draws upon the most obvious feminist political vocabulary – misogyny, misogynist, patriarchal, anti-women. A final point to notice is the extent to which key expressions, such as male violence and women’s anger are repeated through the text” (p.229). In other words, the reader is being emotionally bludgeoned. The goal of the writer is not to build an understanding, but rather to provoke outrage. Perceiver thought is not being shown facts, but rather is being overwhelmed. 4

Fairclough obviously shrinks back from using this type of extreme language. However, if one takes Fairclough’s assertion that all theory is ultimately based in some power group, then I suggest that this type of emotionally laden vitriol is a logical conclusion of Fairclough’s theory.

Going further, when Perceiver thought is overwhelmed by the Mercy mental network of some expert or social group, then there will be no error checking or critical analysis. That is because Perceiver thought, the cognitive module that performs error checking, is being overwhelmed. Instead, information that comes from a good source will be regarded as true and information that comes from a bad source will be regarded as false.

Stated more generally, there will be a general attitude of ‘us versus them’. Fairclough does not use the emotionally intense language illustrated by the feminist article. However, a flavor of ‘us versus them’ is present in the writing of Fairclough. He gives a number of examples in which he applies CDA to capitalism, but nowhere in the book does one find the same critical analysis being applied to socialism or communism. And yet, he recognizes that it is possible to apply CDA to books written about CDA. “This connects with a general risk run by writers on CLS [critical language study]: their critical apparatus is liable to be applied to their own writing, almost certainly with some success, because the impress of power and ideology on language is not self-evident, and it is not something that you can necessarily escape from in particular instances by virtue of being aware of it in general” (p.16).

Mental symmetry suggests that one is again dealing with a choice. Does a universal theory apply also to ‘us’ or does it apply only to ‘them’? If one looks explicitly at Fairclough’s text, then one notices that his universal theory is only being applied to them—‘them’ being the exploiting, ruling capitalists. Does Fairclough’s theory apply to ‘them’? Yes. But it also applies to ‘us’, which in this case is Fairclough himself as well as the system of socialism. In other words, Fairclough really is describing aspects of a universal theory of human personality, because it is possible to apply this theory equally to both ‘us’ and ‘them’. But Fairclough is choosing to limit the universality of his theory by applying it only to ‘them’ and not to ‘us’. Similarly, he is choosing to leave abstract thought dependent upon concrete thought by failing to apply CDA to his own book. Most of what has been said in this essay could be summarized as applying the principles of CDA to the book that started CDA. Such self-analysis is important if one wishes to turn cognitive ideology into cognitive theory. In the same way that one knows that one is living in a democracy that is governed by the rule of law when legislators themselves are subject to the law, so one knows that one is being guided by the Teacher mental network of a universal cognitive theory when this theory also applies to the discoverer of this theory. In simple terms, is the writer above his theory, or does the theory also apply to the writer?

Notice that this is a different requirement than that used by objective science. Objective science protects Perceiver thought by avoiding Mercy mental networks. This works when studying the natural world, but not when studying human behavior. Instead, when one is dealing with cognitive science, social science, and government, then Perceiver thought is protected by applying the theory equally to both self and others, to one’s own social group and to other social groups. In both cases the goal is to preserve Perceiver thought, but the means to achieve this goal is different.

When Teacher thought remains dependent upon Mercy thought, then this does not stop Teacher thought from forming a general theory. However, dependence upon Mercy thought will become an aspect of the general Teacher theory, and when this theory turns into a Teacher mental network, then the researcher will be emotionally driven by Teacher thought to universalize this dependence upon Mercy thought. This, I suggest, describes Fairclough’s general theory.

As I have mentioned, Fairclough presents his general theory in the opening sentence of the first chapter. “This book is about language and power, or more precisely about connections between language use and unequal relations of power” (p.1). Whenever a general theory turns into a Teacher mental network, then this mental network will attempt to impose its explanation upon a situation whenever it is triggered. Fairclough has developed a general theory about social inequality. If social inequality were to disappear from society, then this would be inconsistent with Fairclough’s theory and he would be emotionally driven by his Teacher mental network to continue searching for social inequality. This is similar to the situation faced by the typical battered spouse. Obviously, living in such a situation leads to painful experiences. But leaving the situation creates an environment that is inconsistent with existing mental networks, creating an emotional drive to return to the familiarity of the abusive situation. Likewise, by making social inequality the basic aspect of his theory, Fairclough makes it very difficult to move beyond social inequality.

Previously, we suggested that a Teacher theory is required to become free of struggling Mercy mental networks. However, merely constructing a Teacher theory is not sufficient. If the theory is based upon struggling Mercy mental networks, then instead of solving the problem the theory will make it more difficult to escape from the problem. Instead, what is required is the Teacher theory of a healthy society, because such a theory will emotionally drive individuals to function in a manner that is mentally and socially healthy. Mental symmetry would define a healthy society as one in which all cognitive styles (and all cognitive modules) are able to operate freely in cooperation with one another.

For instance, Fairclough says that it is possible for individuals to interact in a manner that is not driven by power struggles, a form of interaction that is analyzed elsewhere as Community of Practice. “Informal conversation between equals has great significance and mobilizing power as an ideal form of social interaction, but its actual occurrence in our class-divided in power-riven society is extremely limited” (p.134). Unfortunately, by making dysfunctional social interaction the foundation of his theory, Fairclough ensures that healthy social interaction will remain ‘extremely limited’. In contrast, the goal of mental symmetry is to construct a general theory about healthy thinking and healthy social interaction. When this type of theory turns into a Teacher mental network, then it will drive individuals to think and interact in ways that are more ideal. This does not mean that one ignores dysfunctional interaction, but rather that one places it within the larger context of functionality. For this reason, this essay goes beyond merely explaining Fairclough’s theory to placing his theory within the context of a more general understanding.5

Theory, Technical Thought, and Mental Networks

I have suggested that Fairclough’s view that all theory is ideology is flawed. However, I suggest that is also mistaken to suggest that theory is independent of emotions and emotional pressure. Therefore, we will now turn our attention to the relationship between theory, technical thought and mental networks. While we will refer occasionally to Fairclough, most of the quotes in this section will be from Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

We will begin by looking more closely at the relationship between Teacher theories and Perceiver facts. In simple terms, Perceiver facts act like guards that either allow or prevent Teacher theory from expanding into a certain region. Teacher emotion comes from generality, therefore there is an emotional drive to say things in the most general terms possible. For instance, instead of saying “It rained last Sunday,” there will be a natural tendency to say “It always rains on the weekend.” This tendency is known as overgeneralization, and it shows up when learning a language. Perceiver thought limits Teacher overgeneralization by coming up with counterexamples. For instance, if last Saturday was a cloudless day, then this will this disprove the general statement that it always rains on the weekend. Saying this another way, Perceiver thought looks for certainty while Teacher thought wants universality. Abstract thought, which combines Perceiver thought and Teacher thought, looks for universality that is certain.

Karl Popper says that falsifiability is one of the hallmarks of science. In other words, it must be possible to come up with Perceiver facts that would disprove the Teacher theory. This makes sense from a cognitive perspective. We have seen that one of the requirements for scientific thought is that Perceiver thought must be functioning. Obviously, if Perceiver thought is not functioning, then it will not step in and come up with counterexamples such as ‘But last Saturday it did not rain’ that falsify the Teacher theory.

However, as Kuhn points out, while Popper may be officially correct, the relationship between Teacher theories and Perceiver facts is not as straightforward as Popper assumes. Instead, Kuhn states that “No process yet disclosed by the historical study of scientific development at all resembles the methodological stereotype of falsification by direct comparison with nature...The act of judgment that leads scientists to reject a previously accepted theory is always based upon more than a comparison of that theory with the world. The decision to reject one paradigm is always simultaneously the decision to accept another, and the judgment leading to that decision involves the comparison of both paradigms with nature and with each other” (p.77). That is because science requires the presence of a general Teacher theory. In Kuhn’s words, “Once a first paradigm through which to view nature has been found, there is no such thing as research in the absence of any paradigm. To reject one paradigm without simultaneously substituting another is to reject science itself” (p.79).

Saying this in the language of mental symmetry, once a general theory forms a Teacher mental network within a person’s mind, then that person can only handle the emotional trauma of abandoning this Teacher mental network if he can replace it with another Teacher mental network. Saying this more generally, it is not possible for a person to choose to dismantle a mental network that is sufficiently strong. When this point is reached, then one must play one mental network against another.

At first glance, this might be seen as proof that Fairclough is right and that even scientific thought is irrational and driven by power struggles between various schools of thought. However, I suggest that the answer is more subtle than that. In order to understand more precisely the relationship between science and mental networks, we need to look briefly at technical thought. This essay is focusing upon mental networks, but the interaction between technical thought and mental networks is of interest, and Kuhn talks extensively about technical thought, therefore we will need to define how technical thought functions. I should mention that abstract and concrete thought can both function in a technical manner. Kuhn does not discussconcrete technical thought. Instead, because his focus is upon science, he discusses only abstract technical thought, which he refers to as normal science. Similarly, the discussion here will focus upon abstract technical thought, while only referring peripherally to concrete technical thought. Concrete technical thought is described in detail in the essay on Tony Robbins.

As one can see from the diagram of mental symmetry, Contributor thought combines two streams of information. First, Contributor ties together Perceiver and Server. Second, Contributor receives input from either Mercy or Teacher via Exhorter. Technical thought emerges when Contributor strategy restricts thinking to a limited playing field of well-formed Server sequences and carefully defined Perceiver facts. The motivation for abstract technical thought comes via Exhorter thought from Teacher mental networks; the motivation for concrete technical thought comes via Exhorter thought from Mercy mental networks. Saying this more succinctly, technical thought uses rigorous thinking within a playing field guided by a mental network that is restricted to this playing field.

For instance, suppose that one is playing a game of soccer. Like any game, the rules are carefully defined and movement is restricted to the playing field. However, what drives the players is the neither the rules nor the playing field but rather the Mercy mental network of defeating the opponent and winning the game, a version of the struggle that Fairclough describes. Similarly, the scientist uses rigorous thought with precise statements and meanings limited to the ‘playing field’ of some specialization. But what motivates the scientist is the Teacher mental network of a paradigm. In both cases, the playing field of specialization limits the extent of the mental network, which is consistent with the statement made earlier that Perceiver facts limit Teacher generalization.

Kuhn describes this type of thinking that is limited to a playing field. “What the fluid theory of electricity did for the subgroup that held it, the Franklinian paradigm later did for the entire group of electricians. It suggested which experiments would be worth performing and which, because directed to secondary or to overly complex manifestations of electricity, would not...Freed from the concern with any and all electrical phenomena, the united group of electricians could pursue selected phenomenon in far more detail...Both collection and theory articulation became highly directed activities” (p.18).

One can also find an example of this narrowing of focus in Fairclough’s book. When referring to rules of grammar, Fairclough says, “The first level of text interpretation relates to the process by which interpreters convert strings of sounds or marks on paper into recognizable words, phrases and sentences. To do this they have to draw on that aspect of their MR which is often referred to as their knowledge of the language, and which I have specified as phonology, grammar, vocabulary in the left-hand column. This level is not of particular relevance here, and I shall say no more about it” (p.143). Notice how all of traditional grammar is being dismissed as irrelevant because Fairclough is narrowing his focus to the relationship between language and power.

Contributor thought is the primary guiding force behind this narrowing of focus, because Contributor thought is choosing to restrict the mind to some mental playing field. However, if this limited focus continues, then mental networks will also come in to play. Inside the playing field, the use of technical thought will lead to a further development of the general theory, strengthening the Teacher mental network that is guiding thought. As Kuhn says, “Both fact collection and theory articulation became highly directed activities. The effectiveness and efficiency of electrical research increased accordingly... We shall be examining the nature of this highly directed or paradigm-based research in the next section” (p.18). However, focusing upon the inside of the playing field also means that anything outside of this field will be ignored. And when a topic is ignored, then understanding will not grow.

The end result is the selective expertise of specialization. The Contributor person often exhibits this combination of being an expert in some field while remaining ignorant in other areas. This may have begun by using Contributor thought to choose to focus upon some specific area, but over time this choice will become emotionally reinforced. Teacher thought feels good when there is understanding; Teacher thought feels bad when there is a lack of understanding. Therefore, the Contributor person (or other individual) who continues to use technical thought will be driven by Teacher pleasure to continually focusing upon the area of expertise while driven by Teacher pain to avoid thinking about other areas.

This ability to focus upon a limited field gives the Contributor person a competitive edge when remaining within a field. However, it becomes a major disadvantage when the field changes or a person moves from one field to another. For instance, for many years my sister, who is a Contributor person, avoided learning about computers because they did not relate to her primary areas of expertise, which were being a mother and playing and teaching piano. Thus, when faced with a computer, her natural response was to say “I do not need to know about computers” or “I do not know anything about computers.” However, when she started teaching at an international school in Korea, then computers became very important, because they were needed in the classroom and they were her primary means of remaining in contact with family back in America.

There is an additional factor. That is because we are not dealing with generality but rather with a person’s perception of generality. If I spend my all of my time working in the produce section of the local supermarket, then fruits and vegetables will make up a large aspect of my existence. As a result, Teacher thought within my mind will regard theories about produce as universal, not because they are universal but rather because they are universal for me. If a theory explains most of the situations within my own mind, then as far as I am concerned that theory is universal. And if I use technical thought to limit my personal world to the realm of fruits and vegetables, then this will indirectly reinforce my Teacher feeling that theories about produce are universal, because I seldom encounter experiences which lie outside of the realm of fruits and vegetables.

As a result, what will be emotionally projected is not just a lack of curiosity in areas that lie outside of the field of expertise but rather the more general feeling that anything outside of this limited field is not important and can be ignored. Notice the precise progression. First, technical thought limits itself to some realm. Second, a Teacher mental network develops in this field of expertise. Third, this Teacher emotion drives thinking to remain within the area of expertise. Fourth, because the mind contains so much information that is limited to the area of expertise, this gives Teacher thought the impression that the theory of the field of expertise is actually a general theory of knowledge. Finally, this artificially generated Teacher feeling of generality emotionally drives the individual to project the emotion that any knowledge outside of this area of expertise is not worth knowing. This emotional ‘aura’ of superiority is often projected by the Contributor person.

Countries and empires can also regarded surrounding societies in a similar manner. For instance, as far as the Roman Empire was concerned, it was the center of civilization and most of its neighbors were nothing more than barbarians. Historically, China has regarded the rest of the world in a similar condescending manner. Similarly, until recently the typical American also regarded the rest of the world as largely irrelevant, and felt no need or desire to to travel—or learn—beyond the borders of the good old U.S. of A. Notice how the technical success of a civilization is causing other societies to be ignored, which is leading indirectly to the impression that nothing outside of the civilization is important or worthy of thought.

The Meta-culture of Technical Thought

So far we have looked at the impact which technical thought has upon Teacher mental networks. Technical thought will also lead to Mercy mental networks. We can understand how this functions by looking at the example of the third culture kid. Research has shown that the experience of moving from one culture to another will lead to the formation of a cross-cultural culture, because TCKs will find themselves attracted to each other even if the specific cultures in which they have lived are totally different. For instance, a TCK who was born in Canada and raised in Bolivia will find himself culturally attracted more to the TCK who was born in Kenya and raised in France than to either a Canadian or a Bolivian. In addition, there is a natural tendency for TCKs to look down on mono-cultural individuals who lack their cross-cultural awareness.

A similar Mercy-based effect occurs with technical thought. We have seen that technical thought emerges when Contributor thought takes control of the mind in order to pursue some intellectual or practical goal. In the same way that the TCK has a cross-cultural awareness that transcends the thinking of the typical individual, so technical thought with its expertise also transcends normal thought and behavior. And just as TCKs find themselves attracted to each other, so there is a professional courtesy that unites those who use technical thought, regardless of their specific area of expertise. In a similar manner, Contributor persons (even if they know nothing about cognitive styles) have an uncanny ability to instinctively recognize one another and be attracted to one another, because they are conscious in the cognitive module that controls technical thought. Going further, just as TCKs tend to look down on ‘normal’ individuals, both the professional with expertise in some technical area and the typical Contributor person have a natural tendency to look down on ‘normal’ individuals. In simple terms, what unites users of technical thought, especially Contributor persons who use technical thought, is a feeling that they share ‘the right stuff’.

Kuhn describes the intellectual interaction that results from these various factors. “The more rigid definition of a scientific group has other consequences. When the individual scientist can take a paradigm for granted, he need no longer, in his major works, attempt to build his field anew, starting from first principles and justifying the use of each concept introduced. That can be left to the writer of textbooks. Given the textbook, however, the creative scientist can begin his research where it leaves off and thus concentrate exclusively upon the subtlest and most esoteric aspects of the natural phenomena that concern his group... No longer will his researches usually be embodied in books addressed...to anyone who might be interested in the subject matter of the field. Instead they will usually appear in brief articles addressed only to professional colleagues, the men whose knowledge of a shared paradigm can be assumed and who prove to be the only ones able to read the papers addressed to them. Today in the sciences, books are usually either texts or retrospective reflections upon one aspect or another of the scientific life. The scientist who writes one is more likely to find his professional reputation impaired than enhanced” (p.19).

Notice the general attitude being portrayed by this quote. In brief, technical experts do not feel a need to communicate in a way that is comprehensible to those who are outside of their technical field. This tells us that the technical expert thinks that there is no benefit in attempting to communicate with those who are outside the field. In addition, anyone who does attempt to try to communicate with normal people will find his reputation of being an expert tarnished, telling us that, like the typical TCK, the technical expert believes that he is a member of a superior cross-cultural culture that should avoid contact with the ‘inferior’ culture of normal society.

It is possible that a socialist academic, such as Fairclough, would have experienced this sort of academic rejection in capitalist Great Britain. Having done most of my initial research outside of the mainstream, I know what it feels like for my research to be regarded as unimportant and my person to be regarded as inferior. Therefore, it would be natural for Fairclough to conclude that all theory is ideology maintained by some dominant social group. However, I suggest that the actual situation is more nuanced.

First of all, I suggest that technical thought is a superior form of thinking, partially because it transcends the power-based ideology described by Fairclough. When Fairclough says that all theory is actually ideology based in Mercy mental networks, then I suggest that it is proper for the technical expert to regard the conclusions of Fairclough as personally and intellectually inferior, because they describe a mode of thought that is less rational and less effective than technical thought. However, Fairclough is not entirely mistaken, because the typical technical scientist thinks that he is driven purely by rational thought and does not realize that under the surface he is also motivated emotionally by mental networks. The technical scientist may be driven primarily by the Teacher mental network of a paradigm and the Mercy mental network of technical expertise but mixed in with this will usually be an element of intellectual arrogance combined with a feeling of personal superiority. Someone like Fairclough would sense this emotional flavor and conclude that since research is emotionally contaminated by feelings of arrogance and superiority, it is composed of nothing but arrogance and superiority.

Suppose that someone like Fairclough were to accuse a scientist of arrogance and superiority. The typical scientist would probably respond with indignation because his technical expertise is being disregarded and his technical culture is being denigrated. One does not simply tell a scientist that his theory is nothing more than the self-delusion of ideology or that his culture of technical thought is merely a struggle for personal power. Anyone who tries to do so will probably experience withering sarcasm combined with the rejection of the questioner as an ignoramus who is scientifically illiterate. Obviously, this type of emotional rejection will reinforce Fairclough’s conclusion that knowledge is based in social power.

The solution, I suggest, is to recognize that technical thought is a superior form of thinking that has inherent imitations. Technical thought is unsurpassed for learning more within some field. However, it is poor at recognizing underlying motives or building bridges between various specializations. If one wishes to understand underlying motives, then one needs to study mental networks, which Fairclough does. If one wishes to tie various fields together, then one must use the analogy and metaphor of normal thought, which mental symmetry attempts to do. Each of these three describes a different way of using the same mental circuits. Technical thought may appear to be ideology to the outsider who is being excluded. But the solution is not to view the situation as a power struggle, but rather to gain the technical knowledge that is required to learn from the experts. I know from personal experience that it is not easy to understand the technical writings of a field, and it is even harder to break into a field and be accepted as a legitimate expert. But if one can manage to overcome these hurdles, then one will be rewarded with knowledge and understanding.

Official Certification

Unfortunately, government often steps in and makes it more difficult or even forbidden to learn from other fields of knowledge. We have already seen that experts within a field have a tendency to erect barriers that prevent outsiders from entering the field unless they demonstrate that they are capable of using technical thought. In many cases, professional certification is backed up by government legislation. For instance, if someone attempts to practice medicine without being officially trained, then the government will step in to stop him. At first glance, this seems to lend credence to Fairclough’s assertion that theory is imposed by power. After all, government power is being used to support the status of the physician. But why is the untrained individual being prohibited from practicing medicine? Because of natural cause-and-effect. Hairdressers are not subject to government regulation because a bad haircut will not kill you. In contrast, treating a physical ailment the wrong way can lead to permanent damage or death. Again I suggest that we are dealing with the situation in which a ‘fence’ of human regulation is being placed in front of a ‘cliff’ of natural cause-and-effect. Someone like Fairclough will see the fence and conclude that cliffs do not exist.

Going further, who is the one who generally calls for physicians and other dangerous activities to be regulated by the government? The average citizen who lacks knowledge. The knowledgeable individual can distinguish between the fake and the real. He does not need the government to tell him who is and is not a real physician. Instead, it is the one who lacks knowledge that is taken in by the fake expert. Using the language of mental symmetry, when Perceiver thought lacks knowledge, then Mercy status must be used to evaluate individuals. This makes it possible to fool Perceiver thought by projecting the appearance and aura of an expert. However, the individual who goes to the fake expert will experience real consequences because the fake expert may have Mercy status but lacks Perceiver facts (and Server skills). How will the average citizen address this problem? By applying more Mercy status. Government will be expected to step in and use their Mercy status to ensure that all experts are real experts. And how will the average citizen know that an expert is a real expert? Because he has an official piece of paper hanging on his wall from a government approved institution of learning.

Saying this more succinctly, the ultimate problem is not institutions supported by government power, but rather ignorant citizens who demand that governments regulate institutions because these citizens are unable to evaluate knowledge. We see again that societal struggle is the problem and not the solution. This is illustrated by Habermas’ first two stages of society (discussed in the TESOL essay). During the first stage, rulers tried to create an aura of authority that would create Mercy mental networks in the minds of the average person in order to overwhelm Perceiver thought into accepting the pronouncements of rulers as truth. In other words, during Habermas’ first stage, theory was ideology. Stated more bluntly, in order to be a physician you had to act like a quack. (And if one examines medicine from this time, it largely consisted of quackery that tended to do more harm than good.) Habermas’ second stage emerged when Perceiver thought in the average individual acquired the knowledge and ability to evaluate information. One of the byproducts of the second stage was that Perceiver thought in the average individual was no longer blinded by the emotional status of rulers and nobility. Instead, as Habermas points out, the coffeehouses were filled with individuals using Perceiver thought to debate and analyze truth.

Taking this one step further, when individuals must meet government mandated requirements in order to be officially qualified, then it becomes possible to use Mercy status to exclude knowledge and expertise. Standards of qualification will only protect people as long as what is being tested is knowledge that is based in either natural law or cognitive mechanisms. If the experts in a field ever start to believe that knowledge is based in power, then they will start to use the entrance requirements to exclude others and protect themselves regardless of knowledge. The officially approved ‘experts’ will then stop learning about natural cause and effect, while those who have knowledge but lack official status will be forbidden to practice.

For instance, one of the violinists in an orchestra in which I used to play was a brain surgeon from South Africa. His expertise was greater than that of the local Canadian physicians, but he was not permitted to practice brain surgery in Canada because he had received his training at a university that was not officially recognized by the Canadian Medical Association. Because the focus was upon official status rather than actual expertise, patients were receiving inferior care.

I am not suggesting that accreditation boards should not exist. However, I am suggesting that these agencies only need to exist in order to protect individuals from natural consequences that are independent of social status. And whenever an accreditation board is established, there is always a natural tendency for it to turn into an exclusive club that suppresses knowledge, hides knowledge, excludes knowledge, and protects a lack of knowledge. The medieval guilds of Europe provide a good example.

The Rise and Fall of Modern Science

Modern thought views science and scientific thought as the example to emulate. Post-modern thought, in contrast, questions the validity of science. Fairclough is an example of post-modern thought. Now that we understand the relationship between science, technical thought, and mental networks, I would like to look more closely at the transition from modern thought to post-modern thought.

The success of science is easy to explain. The natural world is governed by universal laws of cause-and-effect. If one knows and understands these laws, then it is possible to take advantage of this knowledge to gain mastery over nature. Thus, science leads to technology and technology can make cool gadgets that can do awesome things. In order to observe the success of science one simply has to open one’s eyes and look around at the marvels of technology.

We have seen that technical thought creates two contradictory impulses. On the one hand, the limited playing field of technical thought backed up by Teacher mental networks leads to specialization that keeps fields separated and knowledge isolated. On the other hand, individuals who practice technical thought will view each other as colleagues who belong to a common meta-culture. The result could be described as respect from a distance. “I have my area of expertise and my colleague has his. When dealing with topics that are outside my area of expertise, I defer to the knowledge of others.

Intellectual interaction between technical fields tends to occur in less formal situations where the strict rules of technical thought do not apply. This type of interaction is known as Community of Practice, and one of the characteristics of Community of Practice is that it will only function effectively if individuals who have official status do not use their power to control the interaction.

This professional respect will describe the interaction between scientific specializations. But it will also describe the relationship between science, religion, and philosophy. I am focusing specifically on these three fields because they have traditionally been recognized as the primary sources of general Teacher theories. Scientists will view theologians and philosophers as colleagues. Science will feel that it is only qualified to talk about physical reality and it will defer to the expertise of religion when dealing with the non-physical and the expertise of philosophy when dealing with the metaphysical. In other words, the scientist will say, “God, heaven, and life after death may or may not exist. However, I am not qualified to make a judgment about these topics because they lie outside of the domain of science.”

Over the long term, this mutual respect between science, religion, and philosophy will change and science will become the dominant partner. Fairclough refers to this as colonization and he describes how standard English displaced other dialects through colonization. “The social dialect which developed into standard English was the East Midland dialect associated with the merchant class in London at the end of the medieval period. This underlines the link to capitalism, for these feudal merchants became the first capitalists, and the rise of standard English is linked to the growing power of the merchants...We can think of its growth as a long process of colonization, whereby it gradually ‘took over’ major social institutions, pushing out Latin and French, vastly extending the purposes it was used for and its formal resources as a result, and coming to be accepted (if not always widely used) by more and more people” (p.56).

Fairclough’s illustration is informative, but it also begs the question. Why did the language of capitalism become dominant? I suggest that the main reason is that capitalism uses concrete technical thought, and we have seen that technical thought is a superior way of functioning. In the same way that the abstract technical thought of science makes it possible to transcend common sense, so the concrete technical thought of capitalism makes it possible to transcend cultural limitations. (Technical thought also has limitations and is not always the best strategy to use.) Thus, just as the language of commerce will tend to become dominant because commerce uses the superior mental strategy of concrete technical thought, so the theories of science will tend to become dominant because they use the superior mental strategy of abstract technical thought.

Some games are won because of the strength of the victor. Others are won because of the weakness of the loser. And some are decided when one of the players becomes disqualified. We have seen that science has three major benefits. First, it bases its Perceiver facts in the repetition of natural cause-and-effect, which is independent of social pressure and cannot be altered by social pressure. Second, it is able to describe natural cause-and-effect with general Teacher theories using the language of mathematics. Third, it is able to transform the natural world through the development of technology. Religion lacks these three benefits. First, religion ultimately bases its Perceiver facts in blind faith in some holy book. (This does not mean that religion is only composed of blind faith, but rather that the ultimate authority is blind faith.) Second, religion has at best only a partially integrated Teacher understanding of religious doctrine, and it ultimately asserts that God functions in an incomprehensible, transcendent manner that is beyond the grasp of finite man. Third, religion does not have direct, measurable, external benefits.6 Religion often claims that God performs miracles, but miracles, by definition, are a rare occurrence.

These various points can be seen in a quote by Paul Dirac. “If we are honest — and scientists have to be — we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can't for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet.”

Dirac begins by saying that scientists have to be honest. In other words, science uses Perceiver thought. Dirac asserts that religion does not use Perceiver thought, but instead is a ‘jumble of false assertions’. Science is based in empirical evidence, whereas religion, according to Dirac, has ‘no basis in reality’. When Teacher understanding is inadequate, then knowledge has to be held together by Mercy mental networks. Similarly, Dirac says that primitive people ‘personalized forces in fear and trembling’, whereas today’s understanding of natural processes means that ‘we have no need for such solutions’. Science leads to the practical benefits of technology. In contrast, Dirac says that he cannot ‘see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way.”

I have mentioned that Perceiver facts prevent Teacher thought from overgeneralizing. I have also mentioned that different specializations respect each other’s expertise. But what happens if the Perceiver facts of some field fall into disrepute and the thinking of that field is no longer accepted as valid? This would be like a neighboring house turning out to be a hideout for criminals. The law-abiding neighbors would take it upon themselves to expel the criminals from the neighborhood and clean up the house. Similarly, scientists such as Richard Dawkins have taken upon themselves the mission of attempting to free the world of what they regard as the evil of religion.

Thus, instead of saying “Science deals with empirical evidence and is not qualified to discuss non-physical matter”, the response turned into “Science is successful and religion is a failure. Therefore, nothing exists except physical matter.” Mentally speaking, when the Perceiver facts of religion fell into disrepute, then Teacher thought in the mind of the scientist was free to over-generalize beyond the physical realm to include all of thought and existence.”

Philosophy, in contrast, discredited itself when the philosopher Wittgenstein committed philosophicalhari-kari in the Tractatus. Quoting from the Wikipedia article, “Since logical language can only reflect the world, any discussion of the mystical, that which lies outside of the metaphysical subject's world, is meaningless. This suggests that many of the traditional domains of philosophy, e.g. ethics and metaphysics, cannot in fact be discussed meaningfully. Any attempt to discuss them immediately loses all sense. This also suggests that his own project of trying to explain language is impossible for exactly these reasons. He suggests that the project of philosophy must ultimately be abandoned for those logical practices which attempt to reflect the world, not what is outside of it. The natural sciences are just such a practice, he suggests. At the very end of the text he borrows an analogy from Arthur Schopenhauer, and compares the book to a ladder that must be thrown away after one has climbed it.” In other words, the early Wittgenstein concluded that it is only possible to make meaningful statements about physical reality and that philosophy itself cannot exist because it attempts to make meaningful statements about the non-physical realm. Thus, the only logical conclusion is for philosophy to commit suicide in an honorable way.

Saying this more simply, Wittgenstein concluded that philosophy cannot come up with answers and that it must turn to science and empirical evidence for answers. With religion being discredited and philosophy turning itself into a rationalization for science, objective empirical science was free to overgeneralize beyond the objective to the subjective and beyond the empirical to the non-physical without restraint. And as Fairclough observes, “If a discourse type so dominates an institution that dominated types are more or less entirely suppressed or contained, then it will cease to be seen as arbitrary (in the sense of being one among several possible ways of ‘seeing’ things) and will come to be seen as natural, and legitimate because it is simply the way of conducting oneself” (p.91).

Ironically, I suggest that the success of science has also led to its downfall. First, as we have seen, and as Fairclough points out, modern science has succeeded in creating an artificial world. Instead of interacting with nature, today’s typical citizen lives in a concrete jungle of man-made cities. Similarly, most of the ‘cliffs’ of natural law are now shielded by the ‘fences’ of man-made restrictions and regulations. Likewise, when a person does experience painful natural consequences, then he can usually go to some officially approved expert for a solution. Finally, most students learn about natural law not by interacting with nature but rather by being taught by experts. Thus, even though modern thought officially believes in natural cause-and-effect, the average person encounters people, personal status, personal punishment, and man-made objects rather than nature. As a result, if one goes beyond the statements made by science to the underlying mental networks, one finds a form of thinking that is quite non-scientific. Notice that this is not a rational process, but rather one that is driven by mental networks. The experiences of living in an artificial environment, interacting with people, buying goods from people, and being helped by people have created mental networks within people’s minds, and these mental networks are imposing their patterns upon the rest of thought.

Second, if one examines the topics of religion from a cognitive perspective, one will notice that religion deals primarily with mental networks, how they interact, and how they survive. For instance, when one examines the Mercy mental networks of personal identity, then one is searching for personal meaning. Asking about the relationship between the mental concept of a person and the physical appearance of a person brings up questions about existence apart from the physical body and life after death. Viewing the Teacher mental network of a theory in personal terms leads to questions about the nature and existence of a universal being. Finally, examining the relationship between this Teacher mental network and the Mercy mental networks of personal identity brings up questions about cosmic meaning and the relationship between God and personal identity. Religion may have dealt with these topics in a manner that combined logic with mysticism, but it least it acknowledged and addressed the needs of core mental networks. When objective, empirical science overgeneralized beyond the objective and empirical, this created a consumer society without personal or cosmic meaning. After all, what meaning is there in continuing to buy new and improved gadgets when one’s personal identity is being ignored?

Third, the suicide of inphilosophy leads inevitably to the demise of science as well. Modern philosophy, in a nutshell, attempts to use abstract technical thought to construct self-consistent systems of understanding. Thus, when Wittgenstein concluded that philosophy has no reason to exist, he was actually stating that it is not possible to use technical thought to build a complete, coherent system. But what is objective, empirical science doing when it overgeneralizes beyond its realm of the objective and the empirical? It is attempting to build a universal, self-consistent system using abstract technical thought, something which philosophy—the expert in using abstract technical thought—has concluded is not possible.

Summarizing, one can see why modern thought is being succeeded by post-modern thought. First, the post-modern individual sees the shallowness of the consumer society and is searching for some sort of ‘spiritual meaning’. Second, the post-modern scientist realizes that he has no basis for using technical thought, resulting in theoretical self-questioning and deconstructionism, as illustrated by CDA. Finally, despite being surrounded by the fruit of science, today’s typical consumer tends to be scientifically illiterate.

This means that there three problems that need to be solved. First, how does one use technical thought? Second, how can one deal with mental networks in a meaningful manner? Third, why should one learn about universal law or even believe in universal law?

Using Technical Thought

Let us look first at the nature of technical thought. Technical thought has an inherent weakness, which can be understood by analyzing what happens when the mind enters technical thought. In normal thought, Perceiver thought works with partially known facts, Server thought uses partially defined sequences, and the context is open-ended. This describes how the mind normally functions. Technical thought emerges when Contributor thought restricts the context to a limited set of clearly known Perceiver facts and well defined Server sequences.

I have suggested that science can use technical thought to analyze the natural world. This is not entirely true. Stated more accurately, science can use technical thought to analyze simplified versions of the natural world. This principle is illustrated by the typical high school physics problem. For instance, consider the following problem. “A ball is thrown up at a velocity of 14.8 m/s at an angle of 32.1°. Where will the ball land?” This problem can be easily solved using simple mathematics. However, in order to use simple mathematics, a number of assumptions have to be made: assume that the ground is flat; assume that gravity is a constant; assume that there is no air resistance.

Notice exactly what is happening. The physical world is messy. At the atomic scale, it may be composed of identical elementary particles, but at the human scale, every object and every situation is slightly different. That is why the partially certain thinking of normal thought must be used to interact with the environment. For instance, instead of saying like Spock of Star Trek that “We will meet at precisely 10:02:36”, we are forced to say “I will meet you at about 10 o’clock, unless I get caught in a traffic jam. If something else comes up I will call you.” Similarly, using mental networks to model the real world may be quick-and-dirty, but what better solution is there when dealing with a world that is messy?

Whenever the mind enters technical thought it enters a limited realm of total certainty through a leap of faith. It is possible to use mathematics within technical thought to come up with precise answers. But these answers only apply to simplified versions of reality. And the answers are only as accurate as the given information. In order to enter the certain world of mathematics, one must first make numerous assumptions about reality. In addition, any answer that one calculates is only as accurate as the given information. For instance, if one assumes that gravity is 9.81 m/s2, then the answer to the physics problem is 21.8713 m. However, the last few digits of this answer are meaningless. Since the velocity and angle were measured to three digits, the answer can only be given to three digits: 21.9 m.

One can now understand why the early Wittgenstein concluded that philosophy is nonsense. Philosophy uses abstract technical thought to come up with rigorous answers. But in order to enter technical thought with its rigorous thinking, one must begin by making certain assumptions, and making assumptions is not rigorous. Saying this another way, every system of rigorous thought is based upon a set of axioms that cannot be proven. How did Wittgenstein deal with this problem? By minimizing the uncertainty. Wittgenstein concluded that the only valid starting point for rigorous thought is empirical observation.

Unfortunately, Wittgenstein’s solution deals with the symptoms while leaving the underlying problem unaddressed. The real problem is not a world that is messy but rather a mind that is confused, and it is not just a normal mind that is being confused but rather a technical mind. Normal thought can operate in the midst of semi-confusion, while mental networks ignore confusion, jump to conclusions, and impose structure upon the environment. Technical thought, in contrast, cannot handle confusion.

Let us explore this in more detail with the help of Thomas Kuhn.

The Weakness of Technical Thought

The common impression is that science builds theories. Kuhn says that this is not the case and that normal science uses theories but does not build them. Using the car analogy, technical thought does not invent or build cars. Instead it tests, improves, and drives cars. “Mopping-up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. They constitute what I am here calling normal science. Closely examined, whether historically or in the contemporary laboratory, that enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies. No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others. Instead, normal scientific research is directed to the articulation of those phenomena and theories that the paradigm already supplies...By focusing attention upon a small range of relatively esoteric problems, the paradigm forces scientists to investigate some part of nature in a detail and depth that would otherwise by unimaginable” (p.24). Notice how the scientist is not inventing new theories but rather working within an existing theory.

In fact, not only does it technical thought work within a theory, but it will use Teacher overgeneralization to rewrite history in order to give the impression that people always used this theory. In the words of Kuhn, “Partly by selection and partly by distortion, scientists of earlier ages are implicitly represented as having worked upon the same set of fixed problems in accordance with the same set of fixed canons that the most recent revolution in scientific theory and method has made seem scientific. No wonder the textbooks and the historical tradition they imply have to be rewritten after each scientific revolution. And no wonder that, as they are rewritten, science once again comes to seem largely cumulative” (p.138). We saw previously that Perceiver facts limit Teacher generalization. When Perceiver facts become discredited, then Teacher thought will be free to overgeneralize. We saw this occurring before with science and religion. Here we see the same thing happening with the current scientific theory and previous scientific theories.

Notice the fundamental problem. Technical thought can handle uncertain information. As we saw from the sample physics problem, physics has worked out extensive procedures for dealing with partially known data. However, technical thought does not know how to handle uncertain theories or uncertain thinking. Instead, it works within some given theory and it will even falsely imply that those who ascribed to different theories were also using this same theory.

Technical thought may be good at forming specific hypotheses within a general theory, but it is lousy at stepping back and examining the general theory that it is currently using. As Kuhn says, “One is at liberty to suppose that somewhere along the way the scientist has intuitively abstracted rules of the game for himself, but there is little reason to believe it. Though many scientists talk easily and well about the particular individual hypotheses that underlie a concrete piece of current research, they are little better than laymen at characterizing the established bases of their field, its legitimate problems and methods. If they have learned such abstractions at all, they show it mainly through their ability to do successful research” (p.47).

When a theory falls apart, then technical thought has to turn elsewhere for help. Repeating an earlier quote from Kuhn, “It is, I think, particularly in periods of acknowledged crisis that scientists have turned to philosophical analysis as a device for unlocking the riddles of their field. Scientists have not generally needed or wanted to be philosophers. Indeed, normal science usually holds creative philosophy at arms length, and probably for good reasons. To the extent that normal research work can be conducted by using the paradigm as a model, rules and assumptions need not be made explicit” (p.88).

Kuhn mentions one possible source to which science can turn when understanding becomes uncertain, which is philosophy. Science can also look to religion for insight. Historically speaking, Christianity provided the mental foundation out of which modern science emerged. But notice the problem faced by post-modern science. Religion has become academically discredited. And because of philosophical self-questioning, philosophy says that it cannot provide answers but says rather that one must look to scientific data for answers. But the problem is not with uncertain data, but rather with uncertainty involving technical thought itself.

The joke is told about the drunk who lost his keys and was searching under a street lamp in order to find them. Even though he knew his keys were not by the street lamp, he kept looking there because that was where he could see clearly. I suggest that post-modern science finds itself in a similar situation. The underlying problem is a lack of mental certainty in the absence of an adequate paradigm to guide technical thought. But technical thought is poor at developing paradigms, and it cannot turn to either philosophy or religion for help. Therefore, science continues to focus upon empirical evidence, because technical thought needs certainty and the easiest way to gain certainty is by examining the physical world.

Using an analogy, suppose that I am in a dark room and I want to see clearly. The obvious solution is to turn on the light. But if the room is dark, then I will not know where the light switch is and I will not even know that there is a light. Instead, I will probably head to the window in order to see clearly. However, as long as I am by the window I will not discover the light switch and the room will remain dark.

This, I suggest, describes the dilemma faced by Wittgenstein. He wanted to use technical thought to see more clearly the room of human thought, but he could not because the room was dark. Therefore, his solution was to stop examining the room and head to the window of physical reality, where it was possible to see clearly. However, as long as one studies only empirical evidence by the window, the room of the mind will remain dark, and the light switch will not be discovered.

Fairclough does something similar. He says that mental networks guide the interpretation of words. “The sense or coherence of the whole text is generated in a sort of chemical reaction which you get when you put together what’s in the text and what’s already in the interpreter – that is, the common sense assumptions and expectations of the interpreter, part of what I have called ‘members’ resources (MR)” (p.78). He also says that mental networks guide the interpretation of culture. “Participants arrive at interpretations of situational context partly on the basis of external cues – features of the physical situation, properties of participants, what has previously been said; but also partly on the basis of aspects of their MR in terms of which they interpret these cues – specifically, representations of societal and institutional social orders which allow them to describe the situations they are actually in to particular situation types” (p.144). He also says that mental networks assist in comprehension. “Schemata are part of MR constituting interpretive procedures for the fourth level of text interpretations in figure 6.1, and frames and scripts are closely related notions... They constitute a family of types of mental representation of aspects of the world” (p.158). Mental symmetry suggests that these descriptions are both accurate and significant.

Fairclough recognizes that social interaction is primarily occurring within people’s minds as mental networks which represent various people and institutions are interacting, and he even recognizes that the analyst himself is using mental networks within his own mind to analyze social interaction. “How is the analyst to gain access to the discourse processes of production and interpretation? These processes take place in people’s heads, and it is therefore not possible to observe them as one might observe processes in the physical world. The only access that the analyst has to them is in fact through her capacity to herself engage in the discourse processes she is investigating. In other words, the analyst must draw upon her own MR (interpretive procedures) in order to explain how participants draw upon theirs” (p.167).

But then instead of focusing upon internal interaction between mental networks, Fairclough turns his attention to external social relationships in order to build a theory of social struggle. After having established that what really matters is what is happening within the darkened room of the mind, Fairclough tells us that he is going to turn his back on the room of the mind in order to stare out of the window to observe the external social manifestation of this internal interaction. “These social determinations and effects are mediated by MR: that is, social structures shape MR, which in turn shape discourses; and discourses sustain or change MR, which in turn sustain or change structures. Given the orientation of this book, the social structures which are in focus are relations of power, and the social processes and practices which are in focus are processes and practices of social struggle. So explanation is a matter of seeing a discourse as part of processes of social struggle, within a matrix of relations of power” (p.163). Notice the progression of steps. First, Fairclough mentions the relationship between mental networks and social interaction. Second, he says that he will focus upon relations of power and social struggle. Finally, he defines ‘explanation’ as using his theory of ‘relations of power and social struggle’ to explain the situation.

And because mental networks can be modified by social pressure, Fairclough feels justified in focusing upon social pressure rather than mental networks. “Schemata, scripts and frames are as I said earlier ideologically variable, like MR generally, and it is schemata, etc., which bear the ideological imprint of socially dominant power-holders that are likely to be a naturalized resource for all. In this way, thoroughly routine ways of appropriating and internalizing texts can be indirectly constrained by unequal relations of power” (p160).

In a similar fashion, post-modernism knows that science and technical thought are being influenced by the ‘darkened room’ of the mind. But technical thought requires a system of well-defined sequences and clearly-defined facts in order to see clearly. Because the mind is a darkened room, it is not possible to see clearly enough to use technical thought to analyze the mind. Therefore, the only option is to head to the window of empirical evidence and hope that staring out the window will throw some light on the room. Unfortunately, continuing to use technical thought to stare out the window worsens the epistemological post-modern crisis of knowing, because technical thought is still being used with an inadequate foundation. In response, technical thought will stare even more strongly out of the window in an attempt to see clearly. Empirical science, which focuses upon physical evidence will gradually strengthen to become scientism, which fixates upon physical evidence.

To some extent, this staring out of the window has been successful. That is because neurology makes it possible to see the functioning of the brain, psychology has conducted a number of empirical studies about human behavior, while computers provide hands-on experience of dealing with computing devices.

For instance, I have mentioned that science has traditionally stayed objective in order to protect Perceiver thought from being overwhelmed by subjective emotions. In Descartes’ Error, Damasio, a renowned neuroscientist, made emotion a legitimate scientific topic by asserting that it is an essential aspect of rational thought as well as using a physical explanation based in neurology to analyze emotion. The Wikipedia article states that “Damasio’s book is widely acknowledged to be a ‘work with far-reaching implications for understanding mental life’. Partly in consequence, there is ‘at present introduced by literature such as Damasio’s Descartes’ Error...a trend to include (or rather rehabilitate) the body and its movement into the research of the social and behavioral sciences’. In literature too ‘it is Damasio who seems to be the key inspiration behind the dismantling of the emotion/reason dichotomy.’”

However, Damasio is quite adamant in insisting that nothing exists except physical processes—that one can learn everything about the room of human thought by staring out of the window at the physical world. In The Feeling of What Happens, Damasio attempts to provide a materialistic explanation for human consciousness. Damasio describes in impressive detail what is happening in the brain that relates to consciousness, but he provides an inadequate answer for what is known as the hard problem of consciousness.

Obviously, one cannot solve the hard problem of consciousness in an essay on Fairclough. However, I suggest that it is possible to make some observations. First, I suggest that the fundamental problem is not materialism versus non-materialism but rather finding an adequate basis for technical thought. Materialism is being emphasized today because it is easiest for the mind to find certainty in physical data. Second, I suggest that it is possible to come up with reasonable certainty by using normal thought with its analogies and metaphors. If one compares the descriptions of human behavior from different fields, then one notices patterns that are repeated. If these patterns are compared with sufficient detail, then it is possible to come up with a semi-rigorous cognitive model, and this model can then be checked by comparing it with empirical evidence. A semi-rigorous model of the mind can provide a starting point for technical thought to analyze itself, providing a possible way out of post-modern uncertainty. Third, for some strange reason, I have found that it is possible to use the theory of mental symmetry to make sense of a number of topics from totally unrelated fields, including the physical, the metaphysical, the religious, and even the supernatural and the spiritual. If the same theory can be applied to both physical and non-physical, then it is possible to postpone attempting to define the boundary between material and non-material and simply try to understand what is happening.

Let me repeat this one more time, using slightly different language. Technical thought cannot function without certainty. Observing the external world can bring certainty to the data used by technical thought, but it cannot bring certainty to technical thought itself. Instead, technical thought must acquire this certainty about itself from somewhere else. Modern science came into existence when technical thought acquired its underlying certainty from the blind faith of Christianity. However, blind faith has now become discredited, largely because of the critical thinking of technical thought. Philosophy can no longer act as a source of certainty for science, because philosophy now looks to science for its underlying certainty. Mental symmetry suggests that the solution lies in comparing many different forms of philosophy and religion for common patterns, because these common patterns reveal information about the structure of the mind, and if one acquires certainty about the structure of the mind then this can provide a solid basis for technical thought.

Notice that this does not mean using statistical thinking to average the viewpoints of various philosophies and religions. Instead, one looks for common patterns. The later Wittgenstein took this kind of approach. Quoting from Wikipedia, “According to Wittgenstein, philosophical problems arise when language is forced from its proper home into a metaphysical environment, where all the familiar and necessary landmarks and contextual clues are removed. He describes this metaphysical environment as like being on frictionless ice: where the conditions are apparently perfect for a philosophically and logically perfect language, all philosophical problems can be solved without the muddying effects of everyday contexts; but where, precisely because of the lack of friction, language can in fact do no work at all. Wittgenstein argues that philosophers must leave the frictionless ice and return to the ‘rough ground’ of ordinary language in use.” Notice how Wittgenstein is not trying to build a technical theory or talking about any specific philosophy, but rather is focusing upon a common pattern that emerges when philosophers attempt to build technical theories. Translated into the language of mental symmetry, Wittgenstein is describing the relationship between technical thought and normal thought. Thus, philosophy may be unable to solve philosophical problems, but the history of philosophy provides extensive information for uncovering cognitive mechanisms.

For instance, Wikipedia gives a list of ‘ unsolved problems of philosophy’. These are very interesting from a cognitive viewpoint, because they describe what happens when the mind ‘glitches’. It appears that most of these philosophical ‘glitches’ occur when Contributor thought attempts to combine concrete technical thought with abstract technical thought. This is analyzed in more detail in one of the appendices of God, Theology & Cognitive Modules.

Science and God

Before continuing our examination of post-modern thought, let us look briefly at the other two questions that were posed. I have suggested that religion addresses topics that deal with core mental networks. A few paragraphs earlier, Dirac was quoted as saying that “The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can't for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way.” Wolfgang Pauli, another famous physicist, made the comment that “There is no God and Dirac is his prophet.” Similarly, Heisenberg, another physics luminary, wrote that “our friend Dirac, too, has a religion, and its guiding principle is ‘God does not exist, and Dirac is his prophet.”

Despite this, Dirac does find the ‘postulate of an Almighty God’ to be helpful, because he also said that “One could perhaps describe the situation by saying that God is a mathematician of a very high order, and He used very advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.” Thus, I suggest that the problem is not with religion or the concept of God but rather with the type of mental network in which one bases a mental concept of God.

I suggested earlier that the mind uses Mercy mental networks to represent people. But a Mercy mental network forms whenever there are similar emotional experiences. Thus, as Dirac suggests, it is natural for people who are ‘exposed to the overpowering forces of nature’ to ‘personify these forces in fear and trembling’. In other words, experiencing the forces of nature will lead to emotional Mercy experiences, these will form into mental networks, and the mind will interpret these Mercy mental networks as people. Researchers in the cognitive science of religion say something similar when referring to what they call the Agency Detector Device.

Dirac then says that modern man does not need a concept of God because we now have an understanding of natural processes. In other words, we do not need to view nature from the viewpoint of Mercy mental networks because we now have the Teacher mental networks of scientific theory. Notice that Dirac in this quote is implicitly defining God as a superhuman being ultimately based in Mercy mental networks, along the lines of the Greek deities, who were merely larger-than-life versions of normal humans. However, in the second quote Dirac is using a different definition of God, referring to God as a ‘mathematician of a very high order’. Here the starting point for a mental concept of God is not the Mercy mental network of some real or imagined person but rather a Teacher mental network based in the language of mathematics.

Dirac says that “The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination.” Mental symmetry agrees that it is natural for the mind to form a concept of God. But why is it natural for the mind to form a concept of God? If one has a cognitive model, then it is possible to address this question, just as a cognitive model makes it possible to analyze Fairclough’s MR. In both cases, I suggest that mental networks are responsible. In the same way that the mind uses Mercy mental networks to represent people and has a natural tendency to interpret Mercy mental networks as people, so I suggest that the mind uses Teacher mental networks to represent universality and has a natural tendency to interpret Teacher mental networks in personal terms. Stating this more formally, mental symmetry suggests that a mental concept of God forms when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity.

Applying this to Dirac’s quotes, Dirac rejects the concept of a God that is based in Mercy mental networks but he has no problem accepting the concept of a God that is based in Teacher mental networks. Now let us return to the statements that were made earlier about the weaknesses of religion. When religion is based in awesome Mercy experiences, then the resulting concept of God is ultimately based in Mercy mental networks. Similarly, when religion is based in blind faith in some holy book, then religion may contain theology that gives it the appearance of a general Teacher understanding, but it is still ultimately based in the emotional status of some Mercy mental network.

According to Fairclough, religion, like other institutions, is controlled by the dominant social bloc. “Religion is not really that much different in this respect from medicine, or education, or law. Medical examinations, or lessons, or litigation, may not be as ritualized as a religious service, but nevertheless there are strict constraints on who can do them, and strict constraints on who can acquire the qualifications required to do them. In principle (as well as in law and in the rules of the professions), anyone is free to obtain such qualifications. But in practice, the people who do obtain them come mainly from the dominant bloc” (p.63).

Notice that Fairclough has the same definition of theory as the fundamentalist. Fairclough says that theory is ultimately ideology imposed upon people by the Mercy mental network of some powerful social group. Similarly, the religious fundamentalist says that theology is ultimately revelation imposed upon people by the Mercy mental network of the Very Important Person known as God, backed up by mystical religious experiences and/or religious authorities. Dirac says, and mental symmetry agrees, that if one wishes to comprehend either universality, or a universal person, then one must start with a Teacher mental network. However, Fairclough insists that it is not possible to start with a Teacher mental network and that those who do start with Teacher mental networks are being fooled into accepting ideologies based upon the Mercy mental networks of power groups.

Fairclough’s theory also throws some interesting light on another aspect of Dirac’s quote. Dirac says that a concept of God leads to “such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented.” Dirac is referring to what is commonly known as the problem of evil. In simple terms, how could a good God create a world of evil and suffering? I suggest that Fairclough’s theory indirectly provides a possible answer to the problem of evil. As we have seen, the core element of Fairclough’s theory is that we live in an injust world full of misery in which the rich exploit the poor. However, in order to explain this evil, Fairclough does not feel that it is necessary to blame God or even invoke the concept of God. Instead, Fairclough says that one of the primary ways of perpetrating social injustice is by having ideology masquerade as theory. In other words, people think that they are following Teacher theories, but they are actually following fake Teacher theories that are being imposed upon them by Mercy-based groups. Restating this using religious language, people think that they are following a mental concept of God, but they are actually following a fake concept of God that is based in Mercy importance and not Teacher universality. This suggests that evil is associated with following a fake or inadequate concept of God. Put more simply, the problem is not religion, but rather fundamentalism.

What happens if one analyzes God and religion starting from the viewpoint of a Teacher mental network? If one begins with the cognitive model of mental symmetry, then religion actually makes sense.

That brings us to the next question, which is the motivation for being educated. I suggest that we have just described the answer. Education brings light to the mind. If one starts from the viewpoint of Teacher understanding, then it is possible to make sense of the natural world, the mind, and religion. However, as Piaget has described, the childish mind does not have a Teacher viewpoint but instead is mentally integrated around Mercy mental networks of parents, teachers and other authorities, leading naturally to the power struggles described by Fairclough. Education builds Teacher mental networks within the mind of the student making it possible to transcend the tyranny of childish Mercy mental networks. However, this tyranny will only be transcended if the student is given a Teacher understanding that is independent of Mercy mental networks—something which Fairclough says does not exist, that is based upon a source of Perceiver facts that cannot be affected by Mercy mental networks—which Fairclough consistently ignores in his book.

Post-modern Science

I have suggested that a need for mental certainty will cause technical thought to ‘stare out the window’ for empirical evidence even when the problem lies within the ‘darkened room’ of the mind. We will now take a few paragraphs to examine what happens when this path is followed. In order to explain what happens when technical thought loses certainty, we need to understand the difference between Perceiver confidence and Server confidence. I have mentioned that Perceiver thought can either be overwhelmed by Mercy emotions into believing certain facts to be true, or Perceiver thought can discover facts by looking for connections that are repeated. Whenever Perceiver thought discovers that a fact is repeated, then confidence in this fact will grow. Confidence gives Perceiver thought the ability to function in the midst of emotional pressure, and whenever Perceiver thought manages to continue functioning under emotional stress, then the level of Perceiver confidence will rise. As was pointed out earlier, If Perceiver thought is to become free of emotional pressure, then it must be possible to observe facts that are independent of emotional pressure. Mental symmetry suggests that these facts can be found either in natural law or in cognitive mechanisms.

Perceiver thought works with facts. Server thought, which has not been discussed in this essay, works with sequences. Perceiver confidence describes the ability to hold on to a set of connections, whereas Server confidence indicates the ability to hold on to a sequence. For instance, when someone is taking a test and cannot remember the facts, this indicates that Perceiver confidence is being threatened by emotional pressure. In contrast, when a person gets stage fright playing a musical instrument in public, or is frightened of walking on a narrow bridge above a deep chasm, then Server confidence is being threatened by emotional pressure.

Technical thought requires Perceiver facts that are certain as well as Server sequences that are well-formed. This essay has been focusing upon the difficulty of gaining Perceiver certainty. This is not because Server confidence is unimportant, but rather because a person can develop his own Server confidence but needs an outside source of facts in order to develop Perceiver confidence. Server thought is the cognitive module that handles physical action. Whenever a person practices a sequence of actions, then Server thought is gaining confidence in that sequence. This needs to be repeated. A person can grow Server confidence merely by repeating a set of actions. In contrast, in order to grow Perceiver confidence, a person must observe a collection of facts being repeated.

Now let us apply this to the transition from modern to post-modern thought. In modern thought, science is dominant. I have mentioned that science observes the physical world for Perceiver facts. However, science does not just look at static objects. Instead, it observes how objects behave. In other words, science looks at the Server sequences that occur naturally in the external world. When scientific thought has a post-modern crisis and starts to question its very mode of operation, then it will lose confidence in both Perceiver facts and Server sequences. But it is always possible to regain Server confidence by repeating a sequence of actions. Thus, science will change from being a study of external objects and sequences to a description of how scientists act and behave.

How do scientists behave? They use technical thought, and they are connected to each other by a meta-culture based in technical thought which is known as academia. Science originally used technical thought to learn more about the natural world. This led to the development of the meta-culture of academia. When an epistemological crisis strikes that is deep enough to question technical thought itself, then what remains is the culture of academia and its use of technical thought. Originally, technical thought was a means to the end of understanding the natural world. Eventually, technical thought itself becomes the end and one of the main goals of research will be to study the process of doing research.

For instance, in today’s academic world, it is difficult to be regarded as a serious researcher if one does not have a PhD. But what does writing a PhD thesis do? It teaches a person how to use technical thought, because a thesis will focus upon some limited playing field in order to carefully define facts and sequences. Thus, when a person does a PhD, then this builds Server confidence in the methodology of technical thought. This leads in the direction of Heidegger, who attempted to redefine all of existence in terms of Server actions and Server thought.

A few paragraphs back, we saw that science in crisis will tend to look for a solution in empirical evidence, because the problem is a lack of knowing and the easiest way to gain certainty is by observing the external environment. Therefore, the focus will be upon describing the external manifestation of how scientists behave when they are using technical thought. Restating, when technical thought falls apart, then what remains is the meta-culture of academia, which is mentally backed up by the Server confidence that is gained by acting and behaving as a scientist. However, when certainty is lacking, then the scientist will ‘go to the window’ to look for empirical evidence. Therefore, what will form the basis for theory is not simply acting and behaving as a scientist, but rather the external evidence of acting and behaving as a scientist.

Kuhn describes this view of science in the appendix to his book. “A scientific community consists, on this view, of the practitioners of a scientific specialty. To an extent unparalleled in most other fields they have undergone similar educations and professional initiations; in the process they have absorbed the same technical literature and drawn many of the same lessons from it... As a result, the members of the scientific community see themselves and are seen by others as the men uniquely responsible for the pursuit of a set of shared goals, including the training of their successors” (p.177). And as was partially quoted earlier, a few pages later Kuhn explicitly states that “Both normal science and revolutions are, however, community-based activities. To discover and analyze them, one must first unravel the changing community structure of the sciences over time. A paradigm governs, in the first instance, not subject matter but rather a group of practitioners. Any study of paradigm-directed or paradigm- shattering research must begin by locating the responsible group or groups” (p. 179). Note that the physical world has been totally forgotten. Instead, all that remains is a group of scientists and their social behavior. Where Kuhn ends, Fairclough begins. As far as Fairclough is concerned, nothing exists except groups and their ideologies.

Consistent with this, one of the concepts which Damasio emphasizes is embodiment, which simply states that the physical body has a profound influence upon the mind. But why has embodiment become a popular theoretical concept? Is it because the mind is embodied, or is it because post-modern thought is regaining Server confidence by repeating physical action and it is turning this regained Server confidence into a general theory. In other words, does the mind always gain its content only from the physical body, or is it the post-modern scientist who is gaining his content from the physical body? Mental symmetry agrees that input from the physical body provides the initial programming for the mind and that meaning is originally derived through analogies with the physical world and the physical body. However, mental symmetry also suggests that it is possible to transcend this physical foundation by building the mind around the Teacher mental network of a general understanding. In contrast, embodiment is essentially a technical restatement of post-modern thought.

Fairclough’s Three-level Methodology

Let us now turn our attention to the aspect of Fairclough that is normally emphasized, which is his methodology for analyzing a text. For instance, this is the part of Fairclough’s theory that is mentioned in the Wikipedia article on CDA. It is also the aspect that is emphasized in the University of Strathclyde introduction to CDA.

Before we begin, I should point out that we now know why this is the aspect of Fairclough upon which post-modern thought will focus. Remember that what matters to post-modern thought is an external description of how a group of scientists behave. The methodology we are about to examine provides precisely that, because it provides researchers with a set of practical steps to follow when analyzing a text—it tells us a group of scientists how they should behave w willhen using technical thought. This emphasis on Server thought and doing is brought out in the subheadings of the University of Strathclyde introduction: “How to do CDA – a framework for analysis”, “How to do CDA – Language aspects”, And “How to do CDA – Pre-analysis Orientation”. Notice that the emphasis is not upon understanding CDA but rather upon doing it.

Fairclough’s method focuses upon text, process, and social conditions. “I shall use the term discourse to refer to the whole process of social interaction of which the text is just the part. This process includes in addition to the text of the process of production, of which the text is a product, and the process of interpretation, for which the text is a resource” (p.24).

Fairclough says that MR (mental networks) play an important role in both the process of production and the process of interpretation. “It is an important property of productive and interpretive processes that they involve an interplay between properties of texts and a considerable range of what I referred to in Chapter 1 as ‘members’ resources’ (MR) which people have in their heads and draw upon when they produce or interpret texts – including their knowledge of language, representations of the natural and social worlds they inhabit, values, beliefs, assumptions, and so on” (p.24).

Fairclough also says that MR (mental networks) determine the social conditions that guide discourse. “No account of the processes of production and interpretation can be complete which ignores the way in which they are socially determined, which brings us to the third implication of seeing language as social practice: that it is conditioned by other, non-linguistics, parts of society. The MR which people draw upon to produce and interpret texts are cognitive in the sense that they are in people’s heads, but they are social in the sense that they have sociaisl origins – they are socially generated, and their nature is dependent on the social relations and struggles out of which they were generated – as well as being socially transmitted and, in our society, inequally distributed. People internalize what is socially produced and made available to them, and use this internalized MR to engage in their social practice, including discourse” (p.24).

Thus, one would assume that any discussion about CDA would give a central position to the role played by mental networks. Mental symmetry agrees with Fairclough that mental networks play a fundamental role in the software of the mind. And yet, neither the Wikipedia article nor the University of Strathclyde introduction even mention MR (mental networks). This is consistent with the earlier assertion that post-modern technical thought will turn its back on the mind in order to stare out the window at the physical world. Using an analogy, Fairclough is telling us that the car of the mind is driven by the engine of mental networks. However, what researchers appear to be focusing upon is Fairclough’s procedure for checking the driver’s dials, gauges, and controls. Instead of opening the hood to examine the engine, they are not even mentioning that the engine exists, despite the fact that Fairclough says that the engine drives the car. (We will see later that that Fairclough himself abandons the concept of MR in later works in favor of social interaction.)

Rather than focusing upon the role played by mental networks, the emphasis is upon the external conflict that results when minds are driven by Mercy mental networks. As the Wikipedia article states, “Although CDA is sometimes mistaken to represent a 'method' of discourse analysis, it is generally agreed upon that any explicit method in discourse studies, the humanities and social sciences may be used in CDA research, as long as it is able to adequately and relevantly produce insights into the way discourse reproduces (or resists) social and political inequality, power abuse or domination.”

Similarly, the University of Strathclyde introduction says that “In CDA, the notion of ‘critical’ is primarily applied to the engagement with power relations associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. In this, it argues against a realist, neutral and rationalist view of the world. Instead the role is to uncloak the hidden power relations, largely constructed through language, and to demonstrate and challenge social inequities reinforced and reproduced.”

Continuing with the car analogy, instead of looking at the engine, researchers are focusing upon the behavior of the driver, and the fundamental assumption is that all drivers are ‘road hogs’ and that it is not possible to learn how to be a rational driver. Using the language of mental symmetry, the fundamental assumption is that the human mind is driven inescapably by childish Mercy mental networks. This may be an accurate description of how many individuals function, but mental symmetry suggests that it is possible to use Teacher understanding to transform the Mercy mental networks of childish identity. However, if Teacher understanding is used to reinforce childish Mercy mental networks, then personal transformation is no longer possible.

Moving further, Fairclough relates the three levels of text, interaction, and context to description, interpretation, and explanation. In Fairclough’s words, “Description is the stage which is concerned with formal properties of the text. Interpretation is concerned with the relationship between text and interaction – with seeing the text as the product of a process of production, and as a resource in the process of interpretation... Explanation is concerned with the relationship between interaction and social context – with the social determination of the processes of production and interpretation, and their social effects” (p.26).

Translating this into mental symmetry, Fairclough says that description refers to words and grammar. Here, mental networks have an indirect effect as they influence which words will be chosen and which words will be ignored. Interpretation uses mental networks to assist communication. This relates to the role that mental networks play in implicature and politeness as described in the essay on TESOL. Explanation examines the core mental networks, such as the mental networks of culture, religion, and common sense that impose their structure upon lesser mental networks.

Compare this with the approach taken in this essay. First, instead of focusing merely upon words, we have examined the way in which mental networks indirectly affect abstract thought that uses words. Second, instead of looking just at the mental networks that assist communication, we have examined the cognitive mechanisms that lie behind these mental networks. Finally, rather than simply referring to the core mental networks of society, we have attempted to show how these core mental networks are formed by the interaction between cognitive mechanisms and the physical and social environment. Thus, in each case we have attempted to examine what lies behind the three levels of Fairclough’s analysis.

This bears repeating. Abstract thought uses Perceiver facts and Teacher words to construct general theories. Text is the external expression of abstract thought. Communication is guided by the mental software of mental networks. However, this software runs upon the hardware of cognitive mechanisms. Thought and action is guided by core mental networks that result from the interaction between the mind and the environment. Social interaction acts in a secondary manner to trigger an update core mental networks that reside within people’s minds.

Fairclough’s Ten Questions of Textual Analysis

Now that we have the big picture, let us look at Faircloth’s three level methodology in more detail. Fairclough suggests ten possible questions for analyzing text—his first level of analysis.

First, “What experiential values do words have?” (p.112). In other words, words are being chosen in a way that assumes that certain Mercy mental networks are good and other Mercy mental networks are bad. For instance, “the second text words these practices from the perspective of psychiatrists who favour them, whereas the first is an ‘oppositional’ wording. We can in fact see it as a ‘rewording’: an existing, dominant, and naturalized, wording is being systematically replaced by another one in conscious opposition to it” (p.113). As we saw earlier, when Perceiver facts are determined by Mercy mental networks, then facts which connect with ‘good’ Mercy mental networks will be labeled as good while facts related to ‘bad’ Mercy mental networks will be regarded as bad.

Second, “What relational values do words have?” (p.116). In other words, words occur in an environment in which Mercy mental networks are imposing themselves upon one another.

Fairclough says, “This question focuses on how a text’s choice of wording depends on, and helps create, social relationships between participants...For instance, the use of racist vocabulary... has experiential value in terms of a racist representation of a particular ethnic grouping.”

Third, “What expressive values do words have?” (p.118). In other words, how do words express the emotional labels inherent in Mercy mental networks. For instance, Fairclough mentions that “There are a number of examples in psychiatric text 1 where the writer’s negative evaluation of the practices described are implicit in the vocabulary – exhibiting, incarceration, humiliations, for instance” (p.118).

Fourth, “What metaphors are used?” Mental symmetry agrees that normal thought uses metaphors to compare various situations and that metaphors are often packaged as mental networks. Fairclough wants to know the emotional label that is attached to the mental network that is being used as a metaphor. He elaborates, “Metaphor is a means of representing one aspect of experience in terms of another, and is by no means restricted to the sort of discourse it tends to be stereotypically associated with – poetry and literary discourse. But any aspect of experience can be represented in terms of any number of metaphors, and it is the relationship between alternative metaphors that is of particular interest here, for different metaphors have different ideological attachments” (p.119).

Fifth, “What experiential value do grammatical features have?” (p.120). We have seen that Mercy mental networks interact with one another. This interaction is evident in the fundamental structure of a sentence with its subject, verb, and object. By altering the SVO relationship of the sentence, making a sentence active or passive, or nominalizing a verb, it is possible to either emphasize or obfuscate the relationship between various Mercy mental networks. As Fairclough mentions in his example, “representing the death of Nicaraguan peasants as an action with responsible agents, an event, or an attributed state, are choices with clear significance; similarly the representation of the burning of South African townships as an event or an action on the part of agents. Such choices to highlight or background agency may be consistent, automatic and commonsensical, and therefore ideological; or they may be conscious hedging or deception” (p.122).

Sixth, “What relational values do grammatical features have?” (p.125). For instance, in an imperative, one Mercy mental network is imposing itself upon. Similarly, using the pronoun ‘we’ implies that the Mercy mental network of the reader is submitting itself to the Mercy mental network of the writer. As Fairclough states when discussing imperatives, “It is precisely implicit authority claims and implicit power relations of the sort illustrated here that make relational modality a matter of ideological interest” (p.127).

Seventh, “What expressive values do grammatical features have?” (p.128). According to Fairclough, “the ideological interest is in the authenticity claims, or claims to knowledge, which are evidenced by modality forms” (p.129). For instance, when a fact is stated as certain in the news, Fairclough concludes that the source of news is using the emotional status of its Mercy mental network to impose truth upon the audience. In Fairclough’s words, “news generally disguises the complex and messy processes of information gathering and interpretation which go into its production, and the role therein of ideologies embedded in the established practices and assumptions which interpreters bring to the process of interpretation” (p.129).

Eighth, “How are (simple) sentences linked together?” (p.129). Fairclough focuses upon logical connectors and subordinate clauses because they indicate that one Mercy mental network is being affected by another. Fairclough gives the example of a 13-year-old girl. “‘I’ve never been out with anyone even though mum says I’m quite pretty. The connector in this case is even though, but notice that the sentence can be paraphrased with other connectors... In each case, coherence depends on the assumption that if a young woman (of 13, in this case) is ‘quite pretty’ (not, notice, if her mum says she is quite pretty!), She can expect to have been out with someone” (p.131). The assumption here is that Mercy mental networks are expected to interact in a prescribed manner.

Ninth, “What interactional conventions are used?” Fairclough focuses here upon turn-taking in conversation. Do people take turns talking, or does one person control the conversation. Obviously, the person who controls the conversation is imposing the structure of his Mercy mental networks upon other individuals.

Tenth, “What larger scale structures does the text have?” In other words, the general structure of the text may reflect the structure of a mental network that is being imposed upon an audience. In Fairclough’s words, “The significance of global structuring is also longer-term: such structures can impose higher levels of routine on social practice in a way which ideologically sets encloses agendas... aspects of events which do not conventionally get separated out a structural elements, will tend to disappear from view and consciousness” (p.138).

Notice how in each case Fairclough is asking how speech is guided by Mercy mental networks. It is possible for speech, the expression of Teacher thought, to be guided by Mercy emotions, and this does describes the starting point for mental programming. However, I suggest that this cross-linking is cognitively unnatural and that it is more natural for Teacher thought to be guided by Teacher emotions of order-within-complexity. Using an analogy, humans can swim in water but it is natural for humans to breathe air. However, even though it is more natural to live on land rather than in water, every human begins existence immersed within the fluid in the mother’s womb. In essence, Fairclough is implying that we are all mentally trapped within the womb and that birth is not possible. Unfortunately, by turning Teacher thought guided by Mercy emotions into a general theory, Fairclough is taking the cognitive mechanism that normally gives ‘birth’ to rational thought and using it to force the infant to remain ‘within the mother’s womb.’ 7

Applying Fairclough’s third question to Fairclough’s methodology of analysis, it is interesting to note that nowhere in the two chapters in which he describes his methodology does he use the word ‘emotion’ or ‘feeling’ to analyze what is happening. These words do occur in the examples that are being analyzed, but they do not form part of Fairclough’s analysis, even though Fairclough is analyzing a mental process that he says is irrational and driven by experiences and not by logic. This, I suggest, illustrates the extent to which modern science attempts to be objective. Notice that Fairclough wrote his book in 1989, before Damasio and others rehabilitated emotion and made it a legitimate topic of research.

Interpretation

Now let us turn to Fairclough’s second stage of interpretation. As we have seen, Fairclough says that interpretation is assisted by mental networks. “Interpretations are generated through a combination of what is in the text and what is ‘in’ the interpreter, in the sense of the members’ resources (MR) which the latter brings to interpretation. We also saw that, from the point of view of the interpreter of a text, formal features of the text are ‘cues’ which activate elements of interpreters’ MR, and that interpretations are generated through the dialectic interplay of cues and MR” (p.141). Using the language of mental symmetry, mental networks are being triggered, triggered mental networks are imposing their structure upon thought, and mental networks are being modified by thought and input from the environment.

Fairclough then mentions a hierarchy of four different ways in which interpretation is guided by mental networks.

The first level is the surface of utterance. As Fairclough says in a passage that was already quoted, “This first level of text interpretation relates to the process by which interpreters convert strings of sounds or marks on paper into recognizable words, phrases and sentences. To do this, they have to draw upon that aspect of their MR which is often referred to as their ‘knowledge of the language’, in which I have specified as ‘phonology, grammar, vocabulary’ in the left-hand column. This level is not of particular relevance here, and I shall say no more about it” (p.143).

The second level is the meaning of utterance. Fairclough says that “Interpreters here draw upon semantic aspects of their MR – representations of the meanings of words, their ability to combine word-meanings and grammatical information and work out implicit meanings to arrive at meanings for whole propositions” (p.143)

The third level is local coherence. Here, “Interpreters draw upon that aspect of their knowledge of language which has to do with cohesion... Interpreters can infer coherence relations between utterances even in the absence of formal cohesive cues, on the basis of implicit assumptions” (p.143).

The fourth level is text structure and point. The goal is “working out how a whole text hangs together. This involves matching the text with one of a repertoire of schemata, or representations of characteristic patterns of organization associated with different types of discourse. Once an interpreter has decided she is involved in a telephone conversation, for example, she knows she can expects particular things to happen in a particular order (Greetings, establishing a conversational topic, changing topics, closing off the conversation, farewells)” (p.144).

These four points give the impression of technical rigor and are accompanied by diagrams with boxes and arrows. However, Fairclough does not actually apply these four levels of analysis in his book. Instead, what one actually finds in Fairclough’s book is fundamental grammar (which is not discussed), mental networks, and schemata. In other words, the first level is ignored, the second and third levels are related to mental networks, and the fourth is connected with schemata.

Now that we have described these various elements, let us examine them in more detail, beginning with the level of surface of utterance which Fairclough ignores. As was mentioned above, Angelina Van Dyke and I suggested in a paper presented in 2012 that phonology, grammar, and vocabulary are only secondarily influenced by mental networks. Instead, if one uses the diagram of mental symmetry to examine how cognitive modules function and interact, then it is possible to explain the ‘rules of universal grammar’ to which linguists refer. This correspondence is described in the opening slides of the TESOL PowerPoint presentation. Thus, Fairclough conveniently glosses over the aspect of language that is most closely related to mental hardware and is least affected by mental networks.

Moving on, mental symmetry suggests that it does make sense to distinguish between the second level of meaning of utterance and the third level of local coherence. This is because each of the four cognitive modules that deal with content (Mercy, Perceiver, Server, and Teacher) appears to be associated with a region in the frontal cortex as well as a corresponding region in the back of the brain. For instance, Perceiver thought is associated with right dorsolateral frontal cortex as well as the right parietal lobe. Specific information is stored in the back of the brain, whereas the front contains more general information. Applying this to Fairclough’s levels, the second level of meaning of utterance would be associated with the back of the brain and the third level of local coherence with the front of the brain. Evidence suggests that mental networks reside in the front of the brain. While memories in the back of the brain also appear to be associative, these networks do not appear to use emotional pressure to impose their structure upon thought in the same way that mental networks do.

Looking now at schemata, Fairclough says that “Schemata are a part of MR constituting interpretative procedures for the fourth level of text interpretation... and frames and scripts are closely related notions... They constitute a family of types of mental representation of aspects of the world... A schema (plural schemata) is a representation of a particular type of activity... in terms of predictable elements in a predictable sequence... A frame is a representation of whatever can figure as a topic, or subject matter, or referent within an activity...They can also represent complex processes or series of events which involve combinations of such entities: an air crash, a car factory (car production), a thunderstorm... Scripts represent the subjects who are involved in these activities, and their relationships... For instance, people have scripts for a doctor, for a patient, and for how a doctor and patient can be expected to interact” (p.159). Summarizing, a schema is an activity, a frame is a process, and a script applies to people.

Fairclough says that schemata, frames, and scripts constitute ‘a family of types of mental representation of aspects of the world’. This brings out an important aspect of mental networks. One can see from the diagram of mental symmetry that Contributor connects Perceiver and Server. Perceiver deals with facts, Server with sequences. As we know, technical thought is built upon a framework of Perceiver facts and Server sequences. One of the things that Contributor thought does is connect Perceiver facts with Server sequences, leading to elements that combine space and time. For instance, cause-and-effect is a Perceiver fact that connects experiences that are linked by a Server sequence. The cause is followed by the effect; they do not occur at the same time. Because we live in a physical universe composed of objects, Perceiver thought comes first when dealing with the concrete world, and then Server sequences are created as objects move. In language, the opposite is the case. Because language is primarily a sequence of sounds, Server thought comes first and then Perceiver thought adds meanings to words.

The point is that when one is focusing upon the structure of mental networks, then time and space will tend to get mixed together. Combining this with the earlier observation that the mind uses mental networks to represent people, one can see that Mercy mental networks may be composed out of experiences, but these experiences will be placed within situations, these situations will contain expected sequences, and they often describe the behavior of people.

Turning to the distinction between mental networks and schemata, mental symmetry suggests that it is possible to approach a mental network in one of two ways. One can either focus upon the emotional response that a mental network produces or one can focus upon the structure contained within a mental network. As is mentioned in the TESOL essay, implicature uses the structure of a mental network to fill in missing pieces in communication, whereas politeness focuses upon the emotional response that a mental network generates.

This overlapping dichotomy is consistent with recent research in neurology. Quoting from the linked paper, “Neural systems involved in experience sharing and mentalizing commonly coactivate when perceivers encounter complex social cues, such as videos of targets describing autobiographical events or targets engaging perceivers in live joint attention tasks... Neural systems previously identified as accompanying experience sharing and mentalizing become functionally coupled during complex social tasks” (p.678). Stated another way, if mental networks are used to identify emotionally with another individual, then this will activate one brain region (primarily the medial prefrontal cortex and the temporal pole, associated with Teacher and Mercy thought). If mental networks are used as schemata to guess the structure of a situation or conversation, then this will activate another brain region (primarily the premotor cortex and inferior parietal lobule, which are associated with Perceiver and Server thought). If a situation requires both emotional involvement and theory of mind, then both of these brain regions will be activated.

Explanation

Fairclough says that “The objective of the stage of explanation is to portray a discourse as part of the social process, as a social practice, showing how it is determined by social structures, and what reproductive effects discourses can cumulatively have on those structures, sustaining them or changing them. These social determinations and effects are ‘mediated’ by MR: that is, social structures shape MR, which in turn shape discourses; and discourses sustain or change MR, which in turn sustain or change structures” (p.163). In other words, explanation involves mental networks at a more global level.

In order to understand explanation properly, I suggest that one needs to examine both the explanation and the part of the mind that is doing the explaining. This is especially true when one is attempting to explain how the mind explains, because in this case explanation is both the subject and the object. Saying this another way, when one is explaining explanation, one is using a mental circuit to analyze that same mental circuit.

Mental symmetry suggests that explaining something simply means placing it within some Teacher theory. Words form the basic building blocks for Teacher thought. Therefore, an explanation will be verbal. For instance, Fairclough’s book is an explanation, as is this essay. Not all words lead to explanations. Instead, an explanation explicitly uses words to place a situation within the structure of a Teacher theory.

That brings us to the content of an explanation. In order to explain a natural event, one uses the laws of nature—which the mind represents as mental networks. In order to explain human behavior, one refers to cognitive mechanisms, physical and mental capabilities, and mental networks. This second type of explanation is seen in a trial. When a person is accused of a crime in court, then the focus will be upon capability and motive. Could the person have committed the crime? Was he physically present? Did he have the skills and knowledge to commit the crime? What was his motive? What were the mental networks that drove his behavior?

While mental networks play a major role in the content of an explanation, the goal of an explanation is still to place this content within an ordered, self-consistent structure, which means verbally describing it as a Teacher theory. The lawyer in a trial may refer to various abilities and mental networks, but he is using speech to place these various pieces into a coherent package.

Suppose that a lawyer says that all explanations are lies and fabrications. If this is true, then the lawyer’s statement that ‘all explanations are lies and fabrications’ is itself a lie and a fabrication. This, I suggest, summarizes the problem with Fairclough’s explanation of explanation. Let us look at this briefly, expanding on some points made earlier in the essay.

This problem is illustrated by a passage that was partially quoted earlier. “Given the orientation of this book, the social structures which are in focus are relations of power, and the social processes and practices which are in focus are processes and practices of social struggle. So explanation is a matter of seeing a discourse as part of processes of social struggle, within a matrix of relations of power. We can think of explanation as having two dimensions, depending on whether the emphasis is upon process or structure – upon processes of struggle, within a matrix of relations of power” (p.163).

Fairclough is saying that explanation ‘is a matter of seeing the discourse as part of processes of social struggle, within a matrix of relations of power’. But Fairclough’s statement is itself an explanation. If one applies Fairclough’s definition of explanation to Fairclough’s explanation, then one comes to the conclusion that Fairclough is an oppressed socialist scholar who is attempting to make his voice heard in a capitalist Britain that is currently being ruled by Thatcherism (Fairclough devotes an entire chapter to analyzing a text by Margaret Thatcher).

Obviously, Fairclough would insist that his theory is more than merely the diatribe of an embittered academic. Unfortunately, the only kind of theory that Fairclough’s theory discusses is ideology. “Practices which appear to be universal and commonsensical can often be shown to originate in the dominant class or the dominant bloc, and to have become naturalized... Ideological power, the power to project one’s practices as universal and common sense, is a significant complement to economic and particular power, and of particular significance here because it is exercised in discourse” (p.33). Thus, we are forced to conclude that Fairclough really is an oppressed socialist scholar struggling for power who is describing practices that only ‘appear to be universal and commonsensical’.

Fairclough would probably respond that his theory really does describe universal principles of common sense and is not just an ideology. Unfortunately, Fairclough’s theory has considered this possibility as well. “A dominant discourse is subject to a process of naturalization, in which it appears to lose its connection with particular ideologies and interests and become the common-sense practice of the institution. Thus when ideology becomes common sense, it apparently ceases to be ideology, this is itself an ideological affect, for ideology is truly effective only when it is disguised” (p.107). This leads us to conclude that Fairclough is a very clever, oppressed, socialist scholar struggling for power who is managing to cloak his ideology as a universal theory.

The point is that Fairclough’s detailed analysis of explanation very effectively deconstructs Fairclough’s detailed analysis of explanation, leaving nothing behind except an angry scholar.

Mental symmetry suggests that all theory is ideology in the sense that a person is attempting to place everything within the framework of a mental network that resides within his own mind, which is consistent with what Fairclough says about the nature of mental networks.

Thus, what Fairclough should really say is that: “Given the orientation of my book (in which I am using Teacher words to present a general theory), I am using words to explain everything in terms of my general theory of the processes and practices of social struggle. So my explanation is a matter of seeing a discourse as part of processes of social struggle, within a matrix of relations of power. I think of explanation as having two dimensions, depending on whether the emphasis is upon process or structure, which I interpret as processes of struggle within a matrix of relations of power.”

One would then ask whether Fairclough’s explanation makes sense, whether it matches reality, and how Fairclough’s thinking is being warped by his mental networks. The first question one asks by using abstract thought to evaluate the theory (the test of internal consistency), the second one asks by comparing the theory with what one knows about physical reality and cognitive mechanisms (the test of correspondence), while the third question one only becomes capable of asking to the extent that one’s own thinking is not being warped by mental networks.

In other words, explanation is guided by mental networks, it can turn into a mental network, and it refers to mental networks. However, there are Mercy mental networks and Teacher mental networks. If one regards Mercy mental networks as the ultimate source of explanation, then explanation itself deconstructs into a more polite form of crowd control, which Fairclough describes on page 33. “The state includes repressive forces which can be used to coerce if necessary, but any ruling class find less costly and less risky to rule if possible by consent. Ideology is the key mechanism of rule by consent.”

However, if one regards Teacher mental networks as the ultimate source of explanation, then it is possible to explain explanation in a way that preserves explanation. Fairclough’s theory then becomes a valid and insightful explanation of a possible, unpleasant way in which people can think, behave, and interact. Fairclough has risen above this unpleasant social atmosphere sufficiently to provide a theoretical explanation of it, but not enough to provide a way of escape.

Summarizing, it is only possible to regard Fairclough’s theory as more than mere ideology if it is possible for the human mind to construct a theory that is free of ideology. But if it is possible to construct theories that are free of ideology, then the primary question becomes “How can one acquire the ability to construct theories that are free of ideology?” This will lead a person to focus upon the topic of personal transformation and ask “How can a person transform his mind so that he becomes capable of thinking and acting in a rational manner?” This question has been the primary focus of my research into mental symmetry.

Analysing Discourse

Fairclough says in a more recent article that his theory has changed since writing Language and Power. “My own work in this area has also changed to some extent in these respects between the publication of Language and Power (Longman 1989) and the publication of Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research (2003). My current research is on processes of social change and their discourse aspect (Fairclough 1992 is an early formulation of a version of CDA specialized for this theme). More specifically, I am concerned with recent and contemporary processes of social transformation” (p.1).

In order to see how Fairclough’s theory has changed over the years, I have taken a brief look at Analysing Discourse, written by Fairclough in 2003.

The following changes are apparent:

  • While natural law is still being ignored, there appears to be an acknowledgment that a physical world exists that is independent of people’s opinions.

  • One can tell that Fairclough is interacting with other individuals. He quotes others more, he describes collaboration with others, and he compares his definitions with the definitions of others.

  • One can still tell that he is a socialist who opposes capitalism, but he has softened his approach and he now includes examples that are independent of politics. In general, his writing style is now more that of a mainstream writer.

  • His theoretical basis is no longer just social struggle and power inequalities. Instead, some of his thinking is now based in the theory of systemic functional linguistics, a pragmatic approach to language.

  • The biggest change is that MR or member’s resources are not mentioned anywhere in the book. Instead, there is a heavy emphasis upon social interaction. He describes what mental networks do and how they influence discourse without referring to mental networks. He still says that people are using their minds to interpret communication, but this is only mentioned in passing.

It is interesting to note that one can still use Fairclough to analyze Fairclough. He describes what he calls nominalization, in which change that is produced by people is described as an agent that acts by itself. “Let us go back to example 4, the European Union text. It is similar to many other contemporary texts in representing global economic change as a process without human agents, in which changes nominalized... and so represented as itself an entity which can act as an agent (it imposes ‘deep and rapid adjustments’, a process in a general and ill-defined present and without a history (it is just what ‘is’) which is universal (or, precisely, ‘global’) in terms of place, and an inevitable process which must be responded to in particular ways” (p.45). For instance, when one says that ‘the cars are driving fast’, this gives the impression that the cars are driving themselves and it ignores the fact that cars being driven by people.

Using Fairclough’s language, when Fairclough ignores the mental networks within people’s minds that cause social interaction and acts as if social interaction is an agent that is capable of behaving by itself, then Fairclough is himself practicing nominalization.

This process of nominalization is especially apparent in Fairclough’s article mentioned at the beginning of this section. In this essay, social interaction is no longer being described as an interaction between humans and their environment. Instead, Fairclough says that “social events are constituted through the intersection of two causal powers – those of social practices (and, behind them, of social structures), and those of social agents. We may say that social agents produce events in occasioned and situated ways, but they depend on social structures and social practices do so – the causal powers of social agents are mediated by those of social structures and practices, and vice-versa” (p.4). Notice how people are being referred to as ‘social agents’ as if social interaction is the primary quality and the individual is merely an accessory. Instead of people being driven by their mental networks to behave in a certain manner, Fairclough refers to ‘the causal powers of social agents’. Using Fairclough’s terms, social interaction has been nominalized.

Fairclough also talks about ‘imaginaries’, using nominalization to give the impression that a person’s internal thoughts exist as external agents that can somehow function on their own. “Discourses include representations of how things are and have been, as well as imaginaries – representations of how things might or could or should be. The ‘knowledge’ of the knowledge-based economy includes imaginaries in this sense – projections of possible states of affairs, ‘possible worlds’. In terms of the concept of social practice, they imagine possible social practices and networks of social practices – possible articulations of activities, social subjects, social relations, instruments, objects, space times, values. These imaginaries may be operationalized as actual (networks of) practices – imagined activities, subjects, social relations etc can become real activities, subjects, social relations etc” (p.6). This language is simply not accurate. Imaginaries are not operationalized. Instead, people are driven by their imagination to change reality.

Fairclough describes the acquiring of a new mental network as inculcation. “Inculcation is a matter of people coming to ‘own’ discourses, to position themselves inside them, to act and think and talk and see themselves in terms of new discourses. A stage towards inculcation is rhetorical deployment: people may learn new discourses and use them for certain purposes (eg. procuring funding for regional development projects or academic research) while at the same time self-consciously keeping a distance from them. One of the complexities of the dialectics of discourse is the process in which what begins as self-conscious rhetorical deployment becomes ‘ownership’ – how people become un-self-consciously positioned ‘within’ a discourse. Inculcation also has its material aspects: discourses are dialectically

inculcated not only in styles, ways of using language, they are also materialised in bodies, postures, gestures, ways of moving, and so forth (which are themselves semioticized to various degrees, but without being reducible to semiosis).” (p.7). Notice how discourse is being portrayed as a physical entity within which people position themselves. Notice also how people have been reduced to bodies, postures, gestures, and ways of moving.” Thus, mental networks have been transformed into the ‘physical entities’ of discourses, and people are nothing more than physical bodies.

Similarly, notice how the following passage manages to discuss the behavior of people without referring to either individuals or their minds. “It is a commonplace in contemporary social science that social entities (institutions, organisations, social agents, etc.) are or have been constituted or ‘constructed’ through social processes, and a common understanding of these processes highlights the effectivity of discourses, as I have done above: social entities are in some sense effects of discourses. Where social constructionism becomes problematic is where it disregards the relative solidity and permanence of social entities (their ‘intransitive’ reality in critical realist terms, Sayer 2000), which may be more or less amenable or resistant to change of particular sorts. In using a dialectical theory of discourse in social research, one needs to take account, case by case, of the circumstances and factors which condition the allowances and resistances of social entities to particular discourse-led changes (eg. those led by the powerful discourses of new public management)” (p.7). I suggest that this is like trying to talk about the Internet without referring to computers. The Internet resides on computers. Without computers there would be no Internet. Similarly, people generate social behavior. Without people there would be no social behavior.

Fairclough describes human thought with its mental networks as an ‘internal social agent’, giving the impression that society is the agent and that the human mind is merely a passive realm in which society acts. “Recontextualization is always an active process on the part of ‘internal’ social agents of inserting an ‘external’ element into a new context, working it into a new set of relations with its existing elements, and in so doing transforming it. This is often manifested in the interdiscursive hybridity of texts, the mixing of ‘external’ with ‘internal’ discursive elements. Moreover, in strategic terms one could argue that strategic relations between ‘external’ and ‘internal’ social agents will always be inflected by strategic relations between ‘internal’ social agents” (p.19). But ‘society’ is a figment of the imagination. It does not exist. Instead, ‘society’ appears when people with similar mental networks interact.

Why would Fairclough apply normalization to such an extent by ignoring what is happening within people’s minds and focusing upon social interaction? I suggest that Fairclough is exhibiting a trait of postmodern thought that was discussed earlier. Instead of examining how people interact, Fairclough is focusing upon the external manifestation of how people interact.

Since we have been examining how the writing of Fairclough has changed over the years, I would like to look briefly at how my text has changed over the years. This is quite simple to do, because Thomas Kuhn is discussed extensively in this essay and I wrote my original essay on Thomas Kuhn three years ago in December 2010, before I started interacting with Angelina Van Dyke in order to apply the theory of mental symmetry to the TESOL field.

Re-reading my article on Kuhn from three years ago, I notice the following changes:

  • What struck me when originally reading Kuhn was how well his description of paradigm change corresponded to my personal experience of attempting to introduce the new paradigm of mental symmetry. Therefore, one can detect an attitude of personal rejection in my writing that is less present in my current writing.

  • Back then I was using more of my own terminology without referring to the research of others. I am now more able to convey my concepts using the accepted language of well-known researchers. My examples in the previous article were also drawn more from my personal experience.

  • My general theory has not changed. However, I can now explain a number of details that were only partially understood before.

  • The most obvious change is that the previous article contains a number of references to Christianity while the current essay only refers briefly to religion. Why?

I would like to examine this last point briefly. Have I abandoned Christianity? No. My summer project was to analyze the main branches of Christianity from a cognitive perspective, and I have posted several essays on this topic. However, I have become increasingly wary of fundamentalism, with its blind faith in divine revelation. And this is where one can notice a partial contradiction in my previous essay on Kuhn. In that essay I suggested that Christianity should be defined as a general theory using Teacher thought, rather than presented as a form of ideology using Mercy status. But the terminology that I used and the examples that I gave were still connected with the Christian subculture. Since then, I have spent considerable time comparing my work with the research of others. As a result, I now realize more completely that it really is possible to explain religion using a general Teacher theory based in universal cognitive principles. Before, I said that it was not necessary to quote from a holy book while continuing to quote from a holy book. Now, I am more able to describe universal cognitive principles by quoting from a variety of sources.

Talk is Cheap

Earlier, we saw that Fairclough focused on language rather than examining the mental content that drives this language. In contrast, mental symmetry suggests that what really matters is the mental networks that lie behind language. Fairclough finds himself reluctantly agreeing with this in the conclusion to his essay. His essay analyzes text, more specifically the text of the ‘Romanian National Strategy for the Promotion of the New Economy and the Implementation of the Information Society’.

But then Fairclough states in the conclusion that “There is a general and widespread public cynicism about government and politics, and about how much the Romanian government’s commitments on paper mean in reality. A commonplace in commentaries is that they are, in the much-used expression of the nineteenth century Romanian literary critic Maiorescu ‘form without content’ – as modernisation and westernization in Romania have always been, many would add. The language of modernisation is readily ‘imitated’ from the West, but without much change in social realities. Governments since 1989 stand accused of echoing the language of neoliberalism, of the Washington Consensus, of EU accession, of perfecting a ‘rhetoric’ for external consumption, while the Romanian economy, government and society remain relatively unchanged” (p.20).

In other words, talk is cheap. Words ultimately are meaningless if they are not backed up by mental content. But how can Fairclough help people to add content to words when he nominalizes speech in his essay in a way that ignores the content of human thought and personal choice?

That leads us to pose the question. How cheap is the talk of Fairclough? What mental content backs up his words? I suggest that it is possible to address this question from a cognitive perspective. We saw in Language and Power that Fairclough presents a general theory that ideology is based in social struggle. But Fairclough also mentions that there is an interplay between social struggle and mental networks. Therefore, is Fairclough making a social statement: “Ideology is based in social struggle” or is he making a cognitive statement: “Teacher mental networks are being twisted by Mercy mental networks”?

One way to distinguish between these two possibilities is to observe what happens when the Mercy mental networks of a person change. Does theory remain the same, or does understanding shift to reflect the new personal experiences? Saying this more simply, does the socialist remain a socialist when he becomes an accepted part of society, or does he turn into a conservative?

If one compares the later Fairclough with the earlier Fairclough, one notices several changes that are consistent with a shift in his personal status. The original Fairclough said that theory is dominated by power struggles and that is very rare for colleagues to interact on a basis of equality. The later Fairclough informs us that he is now collaborating with colleagues in social science. Consistent with this, we find the later Fairclough saying that ideology is not always driven by power struggles. The original Fairclough said that ideology is used by those in power to control the weak. The later Fairclough tells us that ideology can also be used to promote change in a group of people, and Fairclough is now studying how ideology can be used to promote change in Romania. The original Fairclough implied that ideology is used by ‘them’ to control ‘us’. But now that Fairclough is part of the establishment with his own school of thought, his illustrations are less antagonistic.

Thus, evidence suggests that Fairclough is implicitly making the cognitive statement that Teacher mental networks are being twisted by Mercy mental networks, because when Fairclough’s Mercy mental networks shifted, then his message also shifted to reflect his new Mercy mental networks.

Explicitly, the new Fairclough now ignores mental networks and focuses only upon social interaction. However, if one compares the new Fairclough with the old Fairclough, this implicitly suggests that what really matters is mental networks. If the words of Fairclough automatically adjust themselves to remain consistent with his Mercy mental networks, and if Fairclough has stopped talking about mental networks, then this implies that Fairclough’s words about CDA have become disconnected from the meaning of CDA. In the words of the nineteenth century Romanian literary critic Maiorescu, they have become ‘form without content’.

I am not suggesting that all of Fairclough’s words are now meaningless. However, I am suggesting that there now appears to be a fundamental disconnect between the initial concept of CDA, which went beyond written text to examine underlying motives, and Fairclough’s current approach, which appears to ignore underlying motives.

I suggest that Fairclough’s original cognitive statement is accurate. Most theory is ideology. Teacher mental networks usually are twisted by the Mercy mental networks of personal identity. However, because this is a cognitive statement, it applies to everyone’s mind, including the mind of the researcher who states this as a theory. Unfortunately, Fairclough did not use CDA reflexively in Language and Power to examine the underlying assumptions behind his own writing, even though he warned that it is possible to do this. “This connects with a general risk run by writers on CLS: their critical apparatus is liable to be applied to their own writing, almost certainly with some success, because the impressive power and ideology on language is not self-evident, and it is not something that you can necessarily escape from in particular instances by virtue of being aware of it in general” (p.15).

But cognitive mechanisms will continue to function inexorably whether one acknowledges them or not—that is what makes them cognitive mechanisms. Thus, Fairclough may have avoided discussing the Mercy mental networks that lay behind his Teacher theory, but this did not stop these Mercy mental networks from influencing his Teacher understanding. That is why this essay has included a number of self-references which would be regarded as academically unsound. I am trying to avoid a similar fate.

Science eliminates subjective bias by avoiding Mercy mental networks. Methodology may be mentioned at the beginning of an academic essay, but after this the observer steps out of the way and the focus will be upon the data. This option is not possible when studying human behavior. Instead, I suggest that there is a natural tendency for research that involves the subjective to turn into a form of ideology. When a person comes up with a new general theory and uses this theory, then, cognitively speaking, the Mercy mental networks of his personal identity acted as the source of the Teacher mental network of the general theory. Stated more simply, a specific person came up with the theory. In order to break this cognitive connection, the theory must be applied to that person. This is especially difficult to do when the theory involves the person. Somehow, the theory must become independent of the person; the Teacher mental network must become independent of the Mercy mental network. I suggest that this can only happen if the theory describes cognitive mechanisms that are independent of personal opinion, and it will only happen within the mind of the researcher if he applies his research reflexively to himself.

Why would Fairclough ignore mental networks and focus upon social interaction? Why would he focus upon words and ignore mental content? I suggest that the answer lies in our analysis of post-modern thought. Remember that the post-modern individual will tend to stare out of the window at physical reality and forget that he is staring from the inside of the darkened room of the mind. Words and social interaction can be observed by staring out the window at physical reality, whereas mental networks and mental content lie within the darkened room of the mind. This leads to the curious situation of critical discourse analysis turning into the appearance of critical discourse analysis, because instead of analyzing the mental networks that actually drive human behavior, one is only analyzing the social interaction that is the external result of interacting mental networks.

Again, I am not suggesting that Fairclough is not doing meaningful research. It is interesting to study the interaction between society and language. Rather, to paraphrase Plato’s allegory of the cave, I suggest that Fairclough is focusing upon the shadow which human behavior projects upon reality, while ignoring the human mind that is causing that behavior. One can learn about human thought by focusing upon the external shadow of social interaction. But one can learn so much more by breaking free of the chains of scientism and turning around to observe people directly.

Retroductive Reasoning

Glynos and Howarth, in Logics of Critical Explanation in Social and Political Theory , a 2007 book on CDA, describe this tendency to ‘stare out the window’ and ‘focus upon the shadow’. “One way to conceptualize this emergent disquiet is to highlight the increasing scientism of the dominant approaches and methods of social and political theory. To use Habermas’s prescient formulation, this disquiet is focused on the widespread ‘conviction that we can no longer understand science as one form of knowledge, but rather must identify knowledge with science’... The dream of those who want a science of politics in the modern period comprises, among other things, the discovery of a set of laws or robust empirical generalizations that approximate those found in the natural sciences, which would allow political scientists, as well as policymakers, administrators and practitioners, to explain and predict relevant political events and practices” (p.2).

Mental symmetry suggests that if one wishes to perform critical analysis that looks beyond the text to the assumptions of the writer of the text, then one must examine the thinking of the writer. Stated simply, if one wishes to understand the room of human thought, one must stop staring out of the window.

However, examining the room means dealing with subjective experience, and how can one bring rigor to self-interpretation? As the authors ask, “Can we develop an approach that respects the self-interpretations of social actors, while not reducing explanations to their subjective viewpoints alone? Is it possible to have a type of explanation that admits of a certain generality, provides the space for critique, and yet respects the specificity of the case under investigation?” (p.4)

The authors suggest taking the approach of retroductive reasoning, which Wikipedia defines as a ‘mode of inference in which events are explained by postulating (and identifying) mechanisms which are capable of producing them’. Quoting from Glynos and Howarth, “While deductive reasoning purports to prove what is the case, and inductive reasoning purports to approximate what is the case, retroductive reasoning conjectures what is the case” (p.26).

The authors mention two difficulties in using retroductive reasoning to analyze social science. (p.27) First, retroduction can come up with a theory that explains the data, but in order to be accepted as valid, a theory needs to be tested through experiment and prediction. How can this be done? Second, retroductive reasoning has been used to explain how natural science comes up with theories. How does one apply retroductive reasoning to the social sciences?

If retroduction means postulating and identifying mechanisms, then this describes the approach taken by the theory of mental symmetry, because it attempts to describe cognitive mechanisms that lie behind thought and behavior. How can one test the theory of mental symmetry? As I have mentioned several times, one way is through independent confirmation. For instance, when Fairclough independently comes up with the idea of MR that is very similar to the idea of mental networks in mental symmetry, then this independent confirmation suggests that cognitive mechanisms are being described.

Another way is through prediction. For instance, when I was beginning research back in the 1980s, enough was known about the basal ganglia to suggest that it was associated with Exhorter thought and Contributor thought. Studying the behavior and interaction of Exhorter person and the Contributor person led to predictions about how these two modes of thought would interact within the basal ganglia. Subsequent neurological research has confirmed these predictions. Similar statements can be made about other brain regions, such as the interaction between the amygdala and hippocampus, or the function of regions within the frontal cortex.

The difference between the old and the new Fairclough also involves a form of prediction. When we examined the transition from modern thought to post-modern thought, we saw that it was quite probable that Fairclough would ignore the mind and focus upon empirical evidence. When we examined the new Fairclough, we saw that this actually occurred (and I wrote the section on post-modern thought before finding out that the new Fairclough was different than the old Fairclough).

Finally, it is also possible to test the theory of mental symmetry through experiment. I am doing that as an individual by using this theory as a guide to program my mind. If following this theory causes more of my mind to function in an integrated fashion, then this supports the assertion that the theory of mental symmetry accurately describes the structure of the mind. Regarding personal identity as ‘an experiment’ may sound strange, but I suggest that if one wishes to study the mind then this is the only option. When the Teacher mental network of a general understanding comes into contact with the Mercy mental networks of personal identity, then one will impose itself upon the other. If personal identity remains fixed, then understanding will be forced to shift, and research will turn into self-delusion. In contrast, if understanding is to remain fixed, then personal identity must shift, and personal identity will turn into ‘an experiment’.

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1 Saying that knowledge is based in power is different than saying that knowledge leads to power. Technology has power over nature because of the knowledge that science has of nature. In contrast, Fairclough is saying that social power is the source of knowledge.

2 For the Perceiver person, this is a personal struggle. On the one hand, he has a personal identity composed of mental networks like everyone else, but on the other hand he is conscious in Perceiver thought and he notices when his ability to use conscious thought is being attacked by mental networks. In practice, the immature Perceiver person will use conscious energy to force Perceiver thought in his mind operate while temporarily submitting to mental networks when he is mentally tired or the battle is too strong. The immature Perceiver person may also use anger to attempt to force others to acknowledge Perceiver thought, but this strategy is counterproductive because the strong emotions will create mental networks in other people’s minds that prevent them from using Perceiver thought.

3 This may leave the impression that all Mercy mental networks are flawed. I suggest that this is not the case. Rather, I suggest that Mercy mental networks become compatible with mental wholeness when they are constructed upon an internal foundation of Platonic forms. This is discussed in other essays.

4 Those who are familiar with CDA will probably observe that I do not use gender inclusive speech. It is easy to change the occasional ‘he’ to ‘she’ or replace ‘he’ with ‘they’. All that is required is a few clicks of the mouse. It is much more difficult—and rewarding—to recognize, acknowledge, and value the thinking of the opposite gender. Even though I am male, I know from personal experience what it is like to be associated with beauty and emotional sensitivity because many people know me as the violinist who is able to touch their hearts with music. This is a major aspect of my personal identity because I began violin at the age of three and I played professionally in orchestras for a number of years.

5 I know that one does not normally include all these self-references in an academic essay. However, when subjective human thought is the topic of research, then self-deception is a major concern. First, in order to ensure that Perceiver thought is operating, one should analyze the findings of several researchers and corroborate any introspective conclusions with independent findings. Second, in order to ensure that Perceiver thought is not being internally overwhelmed by Mercy mental networks, one should also take an introspective glance to see whether these Perceiver facts are also being applied personally. As was mentioned earlier, a theory of the subjective should also apply to the discoverer of the theory.

6 Religion can have indirect physical benefits. For instance, a Protestant work ethic will indirectly increase the wealth of a society. However, these indirect benefits are difficult to measure.

7 Applying Fairclough’s fourth question to this analogy, are there associated Mercy mental networks? Yes.