Hiroshige : Fireworks at Ryōgoku
Figure of the heavenly bodies — An illustration of the Ptolemaic geocentric system by Portuguese cosmographer and cartographer Bartolomeu Velho, 1568 (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris)
The Joyless Economy suggested that our freely chosen ends may be
the very source of our unhappiness. Scitovsky (1976) wrote:
We gradually dismantled the Laws of God and came to believe in man as the final arbiter of what is best for him. That was a bold idea and a proud assumption, but it set back for generations all scientific inquiry into consumer behavior, for it seemed to rule out—as a logical impossibility—any conflict between what man chooses to get and what will best satisfy him.
Landschap met val van Icarus
(Landscape with the Fall of Icarus)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder (circa. 1558)
Descartes was no fool; by parsing reality into the res extensa and res cogitans he captured something critical about human experience. You do not need to be a hard-core dualist to imagine that subjective experience might not be amenable to mathematical law. For Douglas, ‘the attempt to force experience into logical categories of non-contradiction’ is the ‘final paradox’ of an obsessive search for purity. ‘But experience is not amenable [to this narrowing],’ she insists, and ‘those who make the attempt find themselves led into contradictions.’
Quintessentially, the qualities that are amenable to quantification are those that are shared. All electrons are essentially the same: given a set of physical circumstances, every electron will behave like any other. But humans are not like this. It is our individuality that makes us so infuriatingly human, and when science attempts to reduce us to the status of electrons it is no wonder that professors of literature scoff.