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Alan Watts – There Are Two Types Of People – Which Kind Are You?

October 15, 2019

But I want to just put into your mind
the notion that this may be the prejudice of a certain personality type
you see in in the history of philosophy and poetry and art we always find the
interchange of two personality types which I call prickle and goo the prickly
people advocates of intellectual poppin ism they want a rigor they want precise
statistics and they have a certain clipped attitude in their voices and you
know this very well in academic circles oh oh and they accuse other people of
being disgustingly vague and miasmic and mystical but the vague miasma can
mystical people accused the prickly people of being mere skeletons with no
flesh on their bones and they say to you you just rattle
you’re not really a human being you know the words but you don’t know the music
and so therefore if you belong to the prickly type you hope that the ultimate
constituent of matter is particles if you belong to the gooey type you hope
it’s waves if you prickly you’re a classicist
and if you’re gooey you’re a romanticist and they’re going back into medieval
philosophy if you’re prickly or a nominalist
if you’re gooey or a realist and so it goes but we know very well that this
natural universe is neither prickles nor guru exclusively it’s gooey prickles and
prickly goo and you see it all depends on your level of magnification if you’ve
got your magnification on something so that the focus is clear you’ve got a
prickly point of view you’ve got structure shape clearly outline sharply
defined the little out of focus is going to be there and you’ve got goo but we’re
always playing with the two because it’s like the question is then is the world
basically stuff like matter or is it basically structure
well we find out of course today that in science we don’t consider the idea of
matter of just any of their being some sort of stuff because supposing you
wanted to describe stuff in what terms would you describe it
you always have to describe it in terms of structure something comfortable
something that can be designated as a pattern so we never get to any basic
stuff it seems to me that this way of thinking is based on a form of
consciousness which we could best call scanning the capacity to divide
experiences into bits is somehow related to a physical facility which corresponds
to sweeping a radar beam or a spotlight over the environment it bonded with the
spotlight as it gives you intensely concentrated light on restricted areas a floodlight by comparison has less
intensity but if you examine say this room were in total darkness and you use
the spotlight very thin beam and you scan the room with it you would have to
retain in memory all the areas over which it passed and then by an additive
process you would make out the contours of the room and it seems to me that this
is something in which civilized man both in the east and in the West has
specialized in an inhale method of paying attention to things which we call
noticing and therefore it’s highly selective it picks out its punctus it
picks out features in the environment which we say are noteworthy and which we
therefore register with a notation be it the notation of words the notation of
numbers or such a notation say as algebra or
music so that we notice those things only those things for which we have
notation when a child very often child will point at something and say to his
parents what’s that and they’re not clear what the child is pointing to the
child has pointed to something which we consider is not a thing the child has
pointed to an area say of funny pattern on a dirty wall and there’s noticed a
figure on it but the child doesn’t have a word for it and says what’s that and
the adults is oh that’s just a mess because that doesn’t count for us as a
thing here you come through this to the understanding what do you mean by a
thing it’s very fascinating to our children what do you mean by a thing and
they don’t know because it’s one of the unexamined sub positions of the culture
what do you mean by an event well everybody knows what an event is but
nobody can say because a thing is a think it’s a unit of thought like an
inch is the unit of measurement and so we thing the world that is to say in
order to measure a curve you have to reduce it to point instance and apply
the calculus so in exactly the same way in order to discuss or talk about the
universe you have to reduce it to things but each thing or think is as it were
one grasp of that spotlight thank Joe Joe Joe Joe Joe Joe Joe Joe like that
you see so we reduce the infinite wiggliness
of the world to grasps for bits we’re getting back to biting and see the idea
of the teeth to grasps of thought and so we thereby describe the world in terms
of things just as that fishermen could describe his view by the number of net
whole / through which the view was showing and this has been the immensely
and apparently successful Enterprise of all technological culture superbly
emphasized by also he emphasized by also be emphasized by

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