Category Archive 'Mitchell Heisman'

25 Sep 2010

Achieving Objectivity in Harvard Yard

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Mitchell Heisman

In October of 1903, a 23-year-old prodigy who had recently finished his first book and who was widely regarded as a genius, Otto Weininger rented a room in the house in Vienna where Ludwig van Beethoven died 76 years earlier, and shot himself in the heart.

Weininger, a prodigy who had received his doctorate at an unusually young age, wrote a book, titled Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character) arriving at extremely troubling conclusions. Weininger believed that human beings and human culture and society inevitably contain a mixture of positive, active, productive, moral, and logical (male, Christian) traits and impulses as well as their passive, unproductive, amoral, and sensual (female and Jewish) opposites.

Weininger was of Jewish descent and afflicted with homosexual inclinations and was in despair over the decline of modern Western civilization due to ascendancy of the female/Jewish impulses he deplored, so acting in consistency with his philosophical conclusions, Weininger took his own life.

Last Saturday, Mitchell Heisman, a 35-year-old psychology graduate from the University of Albany, shot himself in the head in front of Memorial Church in the Harvard Yard within the sight of a campus tour. Heisman had been residing nearby in Somerville, Massachusetts, supporting himself on a legacy from his father and by working in some Boston area bookshops, while pursuing his own studies and working on a (so far unpublished) book.

Mitchell Heisman published on the Internet a 1905-page suicide note in which he explains his actions as an experiment in nihilism undertaken in search of objectivity. Heisman, like Weininger of Jewish descent, is critical of liberal democracy, egalitarianism, materialism, modernism, and Jewish ethical opposition to “biological realism and the eugenic evolution of biological life.”

The suicide note pdf is fascinating document displaying considerable learning and evidencing a sharp sense of humor and originality of thought.

The most rigorous objectivity implies indifference to the consequence of objectivity, i.e. whether the consequences of objectivity yield life or death for the observer. In other words, the elimination of subjectivity demands indifference to self-preservation when self-preservation conflicts with objectivity. The attempt at rigorous objectivity could potentially counter the interests of self-preservation or even amount to rational self-destruction. The most total objectivity appears to lead to the most total self-negation. Objectivity towards biological factors is objectivity towards life factors. Indifference to life factors leads to indifference between the choices of life and death. To approach objectivity with respect to self-interest ultimately leads to indifference to whether one is alive or dead.

The dead are most indifferent; the least interested; the least biased; the least prejudiced one way or the other. What is closest to total indifference is to be dead. If an observer hypothesizes death then, from that perspective, the observer has no vested interests in life and thus possible grounds for the most objective view. The more an observer is reduced to nothing, the more the observer is no longer a factor, the more the observer might set the conditions for the most rigorous objectivity.

It is likely that most people will not even consider the veracity of this correlation between death and objectivity even if they understand it intellectually because most will consciously or unconsciously choose to place the interests of self-preservation over the interests of objectivity. In other words, to even consider the validity of this view assumes that one is willing and able to even consider prioritizing objectivity over one’s own self-preservation. Since it not safe to simply assume this on an individual level, let alone a social level, relatively few are willing and able to seriously address this issue (and majority consensus can be expected to dismiss the issue). In short, for most people, including most “scientists”, overcoming self-preservation is not ultimately a subject for rational debate and objective discussion.

Maximizing objectivity can be incompatible with maximizing subjective interests. In some situations, anything less than death is compromise. The choice between objectivity and self-preservation may lead one to a Stoic’s choice between life and death.

Whereas the humanities cannot be what they are without human subjectivities, the inhumanities, or hard sciences, require the subjective element be removed as much as possible as sources of error. Objectivity leads towards the elimination of subjectivity, i.e. the elimination of one’s “humanity”. A value free science has no basis on which to value human things over non-human things and thus no basis to value life over death or vice versa. Social science will become equal to the standards of physical science when social scientists overcome the subjective preference for the life of humanity over the death of humanity.

To attempt to resolve the contradiction of myself as a scientist and a human being on the side of science leads towards viewing myself as a material object. While this contradiction may be impossible to resolve, the closest approximation of reconciliation may consist of the state of death. In death, the teleologically-inclining biases of human subjectivity that hinder one from viewing one’s self as a material object are eliminated.

I cannot fully reconcile my understanding of the world with my existence in it. There is a conflict between the value of objectivity and the facts of my life. This experiment is designed to demonstrate a point of incompatibility between “truth” and “life”. In this experiment I hypothesize that the private separation of facts and values, when disclosed to the wider social world, creates a conflict of interest between the value of sociobiological objectivity and the “facts” of my sociobiological existence such that it leads to a voluntary and rational completion of this work in an act of self-destruction. …

How far would one be willing to go in pursuit of scientific objectivity? Objectivity and survival are least compatible when objectivity becomes a means of life, subordinate to life as opposed to life subordinated to objectivity. If the greatest objectivity implicates confronting the most subjective biases, this implicates confronting those truths that most conflict with the subjective will to live. By simply changing my values from life values to death values, and setting my trajectory for rational biological self-destruction, I am able to liberate myself from many of the biases that dominate the horizons of most people’s lives. By valuing certain scientific observations because they are destructive to my life, I am removing self-preservation factors that hinder objectivity. This is how I am in a position to hypothesize my own death.

So if objectivity is not justified as end, then objectivity can be a means of rational self-destruction through the overcoming of the bias towards life. Rational self-destruction through the overcoming of the bias towards life, in turn, can be a means of achieving objectivity. And this means: To will death as a means of willing truth and to will truth as a means of willing death. …

Why am I doing this? Ah, yes, now I remember the punchline: I’ll try anything once!

There is nothing to take seriously!

I have not had time yet to read the whole thing, so I’m not completely sure just what I think of all of the late Mr. Heisman’s opinions, but I am intrigued enough to have resolved to read all of it. I’ve even downloaded and saved a copy.

My guess, at this point, is that his book is probably well worth publishing.

HuffPo story

Harvard Crimson

IvyGate

New York Post


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