The Law of the Mental Mirror Image.
March 30, 2002 11:33 PM   Subscribe

The Law of the Mental Mirror Image. We write what we are not. It is not merely that we fail to live up to our best ideas but that our best ideas, and the tone that goes with them, tend to be the opposite of our natural temperament. --Adam Gopnik on Popper in The New Yorker
posted by semmi (9 comments total)
Interesting article. It rambles too much, without any real point that I could find, and I disagree with the "almost a law" of the Mental Mirror Image- it's true sometimes, but often it's wishful thinking in drama: the pious character who secretly harbors a dark secret, or the bedraggled ruffian or criminal who brings beatific redemption. But other than that, an interesting fugue of writing.
posted by hincandenza at 1:07 AM on March 31, 2002

I dunno. After the MeFi L.A. (now apparently known as L.A.M.E.) gathering last night, I've looked at a number of comments from those I met, and the way they talk is not so much different from the way they write (in some cases, the writing is more verbose and/or refined than the talking, but the attitude is basically the same). I think crossing the mirror is often more about having a chance to go back and reword your thoughts than anything else.
posted by bingo at 3:05 AM on March 31, 2002

I have found that many professors focus upon heroic gigures--romantic rebels, daring men of action etc--that are in fact quite the opposite of what those same professors are in their own lives.
The irony in the piece is that historicism, a no no for Popper, is what the article is in part about: Popper not taking his "rightful" place in the history of ideas.
posted by Postroad at 4:00 AM on March 31, 2002

bingo - I, for, one talk exactly the same way I post, ask anyone. (Well, when I speak I don't use emoticons of course.)
posted by jonmc at 8:04 AM on March 31, 2002

Version without teeny tiny type.
posted by swell at 8:21 AM on March 31, 2002

For those who are interested in Adam Gopnik, we are reading his book, Paris to the Moon, for the MetaFilter Book Discussion Group in April to be discussed in May.
posted by willnot at 8:40 AM on March 31, 2002

I love Popper and have always been a Popperian. He was one of the great philosophers of science, aware that fundamental truths lay as much in the hands of the scientists as in objective experiments and verifiability. How does one really arrive at truth? How fragile is it? What is the validity of the abstract principles of aesthetics and the simplifying assumptions of principles like Occam's Razor? Popper showed us the limits of the inductive method and the provisionality of truth.

I read Wittgenstein's Poker. It tends to portray Wittgenstein as a subtle and brilliant con-artist. His philosophy of language and language games makes him less a philosopher of the real world and more of a precursor of the post-modernists.
posted by vacapinta at 9:38 AM on March 31, 2002

Thinkers' inability to take criticism is one of the worst things about studying philosophy. Gopnik observes that even in science, theories get "mauled" (instead of being nobly debated, or whatever) -- but at least in the physical sciences there is some independently observable evidence to appeal to. In philosophy, there is little you can do if another philosopher simply refuses to honestly and openly consider the possibility that someone's ideas other than his own might in fact have merit.

And Wittgenstein, at least, cared not about who said a thing, but whether it was right.
posted by mattpfeff at 11:43 AM on March 31, 2002

It must be a popular law, I did a search for "mental mirror image" on Google and got.. 7 replies. I was looking forward to learning about this, but found the New Yorker article too rambling, and Google is shooting blanks on the term.

They have a point though. We often speak and act in an opposing way to our thoughts. At least, I do. Or I don't. Or however it works out.
posted by wackybrit at 5:27 PM on March 31, 2002

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