When the other gets tangled

The figure of 'information' transfer is 'joint action' and its ground is in the vagueness due to the 'others'. This transferral will make sense at the 'boundary', therefore, by way of the 'joint action'. It "is at that uncertain moment, when a first person has finished speaking and a second must respond in accord with the set of possibilities made available to them by the first, that people between them make sense of their exchange. It is in the tense or tension filled boundaries between different people, where they cannot not respond to each other's actions and people must cope with novel 'circumstances' as they occur, that new and unique meanings are made" (Shotter, 1994: 57). Clearly the quality of the communication relates to the commonalties and clashes of the 'others'. If dialogue breaks down and this transferral won't make sense, therefore, it is by way of confusion related to those 'others'.

Suppose now that the 'other' of a sapient being is generically incomprehensible. Such would likely be the case in the alien experiment, since their 'calculus of beings' would have an illusory quality due to the experimental manipulation and not reflect the bizarre originary circumstances of the 'first nation'. The crossing of boundaries becomes perilous indeed if there is a major likelihood of destructive confusion. We need to understand helping as it's limited by the comprehensibility of the 'other' to discuss 'psychotherapy'. If the helping person can't figure things out, if the possibilities are spaced out or beyond any good assessment, and generically deal with things complex and volatile, then help becomes problematical and risky. 'Therapy' as a social institution today relies on things not being generically 'too bad'. For if they were, everybody would be like a fool and every conversational entry like a piece of disconnected foolishness.

We need to address the case where the context of interaction goes from rationalizing individual behavior to rendering coherent the uncoordinated foolishness of people whose 'joint action' is of modest proportions and whose information 'disconnect' is relatively large. Where we have in effect 'providential contexts for dialogue' rather than merely 'providential dialogues'. We find madness inasmuch as 'mind' is an attribute of 'situation' (Natanson, 1956: 17-19) and here the situation is maddening! And this being said, we will then consider what is this phenomenon of dis-ease that provokes helping.


The fools' play

Here I shall go back to a popular French dramatic form from the 15th and 16th centuries, the sottie or fools' play. This form will serve as metaphor for the kind of social situation encountered when the 'generalized other' is inchoate and out-of-hand and the sphere of 'joint action' or information exchange is very limited. In this form, the norms of dialogue are inane if indeed not wholly illogical. The actors are not a fortiori mad or representing madness, but they are understood as fools by the audience.

Some readers may object here that the end of the medieval era in France was in effect a period of (the onset of) 'barbarism' in the sense of Vico. Therefore, it may be claimed, this metaphor can't very well refer to the alien artifice that I'm positing, but is a natural illustration of the usual Vichian order. However, I submit that the significance of a sottie kind of form, given the posited manipulation, could yet be the similar. The irrational aspect might well be stronger or more usual, as there could arise additional uncanny or 'mad' elements due to the experiment. The sottie itself should be viewed as minimally representing the dialogic of such a social reality. The point is, there needs to be more room for dialogue to be (or appear) nonsensical.

Nothing much happens in a fools' play. A "sottie does not have 'characters' as we conceive them, neither does it have a 'plot' in the modern sense. .. The only possible source of suspense was the question: Who else might appear" (Arden, 1980: 43-44)? In other words, there is interaction, then another fool comes on stage and the interaction shifts in some way in response to his presence. The "preoccupation with the appearance on stage of a character will prove to be symptomatic of a concern .. with what a character appears to be, and what he turns out to be in reality" (Arden, 1981: 45). If real life has this experiential content, how are we then to discern what things are in reality? As it were, the fool stumbles in mumbling something about chocolates, and we must engage.

If we now wish to understand mental 'dis-ease', and how philosophy and 'psychotherapy' relate on the boundaries, the model of the sottie evinces a kind of free social interaction in the conditions where things tend to be awry or out of sorts. In the sottie, the audience 'chases the other' as it seeks for amusement and comprehension. In life, the challenge of helping arises largely in relation to questions of managing and/or inhibiting such free social interaction - we need to control uncanny phenomena. Especially in the unsettling condition of the alien experiment, the disturbance of social awareness will be accurately reflected in fools' interactions and interfered with by more controlling ones. For the fools' play challenges the ground of the 'out of sorts', highlighting the irrationality of the 'other' (Sampson, 1993). The fool's kind of statement about phenomena renders actual the 'ease' (of 'dis-ease') to the extent it is possible.

There is abundant irrationality in a sottie type environment, loose undirected mental energy; there, the helping situation is highly impacted psychologically. As to help, the word itself betrays the issue. We call the helping person the- rapist, and that is an appropriate trope. For the helping relationship is governed by a control process, a social manipulation which is violent in its very nature to the client. And it is highly libidinally invested as that is the energy medium of our psychiatric dialogue (Masson, 1994; Schaef, 1992). In this sottie of a life, to the extent that that is a good metaphor, the helping person who intrudes on such inchoate affairs must perforce exhibit (in the service of managing) a seemingly unwarranted rationality. The rationality of the helping situation is at the price of distance and control, of masking the involvement process. There follows a natural logic leading to what Wittgenstein (1980) calls 'wrong descriptions' that do not "accord with the practice of the person giving the description." This sort of statement is described by the client 'Bill' in Shotter's example as 'conditional' language. 1

What is the kind of way we talk about helping and controlling? Wittgenstein says, "we must remind ourselves .. of the kind of statement that we make about phenomena .. our investigation is therefore a grammatical one. Such investigations shed light on our problem by clearing misunderstandings away" (1953: #90). Here the 'conditional' of the therapist checks the condition of the client by asking stupid factual questions, creating a grammatical tangle. Bill, above, complains that the therapist was not talking with 'him', that is, the person he intended to be. In an hermeneutical and phenomenological study of the mentality of madness, Sass (1994) compares Wittgenstein's critique of solipsism with the mind problems encountered by the mad person. He finds a strong reflection of the philosophical issues related to rationality in the typical ideation of the 'schizophrenic' client. As with Bill, the mindset of the mad person is hard to access to the point of occultness and the rational approaches to it present process conundrums of their own.

We need to look at a helping process that collaborates with the foolishness and psychologically impacted character of our situations. We need something that is superior to a control process management that interferes with Being. In the controlled setting of psychotherapy, 'free association' (or any analogous or derivative process) breaks down the awareness of the client in a 'primal' direction, closer to the mentality of Vico's 'first people', more open to social conditioning. But note! Remaining within this line of thinking, we seem to get a bit 'stuck'.

Past the clinical paradigm