A Scholar’s Mistake.

Mr Nemo
9 min readJul 1, 2019

A guest authored edgy essay by Paul Bali

Opening Moves

Some sociologists of science carry Kuhn’s claim that theories (or theoretically grounded “paradigms”) are prior to observation much further. In particular, they recast the vocabulary of “prior beliefs” into the language of sociology: every scientific belief or commitment should be explained as the satisfaction of earlier sociological “interests.” Such interests may range from class or religious interests to narrowly defined professional ones.[i]

It’s Galison’s use of the term


that interests me here — the excess logical after socio.

Why not simply social interests? The scientist’s interests are social, which sociologists comment on.

I see this often: a conflation of talk with its object. Even in this book meant to counter “the asymmetric emphasis on theory”[ii] in the history of science.

By history I mean the reports of historians, not the world’s event-stream.

It’s our paradigmatic mistake, a scholar’s error that runs through our oeuvre.

The conflation of world and theory — it’s why we’re powerless, I worry.

I worry that Spinozist metaphysics has had no net effect on political history, none; and that‘s why I smile when I say the odd name, his “Ethics.”

I love his misleading shibboleth of a title. I’m complicit with him seeing it all sub specie aeternitatis.

I revel in our uselessness.

Manmukhs Among Us

Perhaps I’m blind, and my theory is too kind: I‘m ineffective, but the College is aswarm with those who’d rather hold office.

We’re both naïve, me and these imposters: I don’t get the world, and they don’t get the love of truth, philosophy.

These manmukhs, some of them, love being correct, love at least being thought correct and in rhetoric, are effective.

These manmukhs among us, faculty careerists, upwardly-mobile PhDs at an MIT soirée who state their name, Alma Mater, and their Alma Mater’s Leiter-rank shamelessly — thus innocently, over drinks.

It’s all a shameless game, for them. Their theory is their politics. Their sociology is their social interest. What else could it be, could anything be, they’d say in their hearts — but do they truly introspect?

The Chair May Be Captured

The Chair is highly affable, he’s über-empathic — yet may be captured.

He’s eminently reasonable, yet doesn’t hear my reasons.

His replies are a persistence in his office. He’d like to talk, this week or next, no emergency — which is him being genial, calling me in to defend myself.

My Accuser’s I.D. Is Deeply Undecidable

I was “brusque” with a girl — which narrows it down to 65%. My manner caused duress in an already-sick girl — did I know she has Crohn’s disease?

I learn I’ve been Tried, by the Dean’s e-mailed judgement, sent 4pm on a Friday.

They will not take my testimony, they want no context.

Her work shall be re-graded, by another: I’m biased by their judgement against me.

What about this second case they mention? I learn of it, complaining of the first. They warn there’s a pattern of behaviour, that they’re tracking me.

My choosings in the coming week shall narrow who it is that accuses me. My choosings this work-week proceed me down the Multiverse nervelines.

My choosings shall collapse the wave to a student number; to a candid portrait over-fold in The Eyeopener. An aggrieved face, a carrier of her people’s suffering, frankly regarding her confederates.

My accuser’s I.D. is deeply undecidable. My accuser is no particular person thus I have no particular obligation.

Our Meeting Is Unequal, But I’m Compensated

I blink first, break eye-contact.

Or you persist, are numb to what our dyad generates.

You win, but I gain, for I retain what you give off.

I had to drop my head and turn away, from the surfeit of it.

In Philosophy, A Brutality

Perhaps I’m displacing critique I’d better aim at the animal lab.

Repelled from there twice, I’m discouraged and procrastinate. I’m acting-out locally, at my Arts colleagues.

Yet there in Philosophy all along, a brutality.

A gruffness in the objection, a violence in the analysis — from the Kurgan *leu: to cut / split apart.

This rootword runs through a thousand terms of butchery. An echo in the Seminar I should have followed two blocks east on College Street to the Pharmacy building; or north on St. George to, what, McClelland Labs?

I never thought to ask, and I hesitate to google more pain into my map — pain I’ll have to daily pass when cutting through campus.

The Criminal Underworld

The underworld is no particular hood or dungeon-club.

It’s the downstairs washroom of the bus terminal you haven’t used since your student days: where lowlifes bathe with a damp fat mat of folded paper towels they’ve emptied the dispenser for, and what the fuck are you looking at if you catch their eye, they scowl in the oversink mirror at you.

They ask if you want to take it outside, upstairs, out back.

I do not mean the poor, I mean among them: a genuine lowlife.

The underworld is a cocaine party in a corporate lounge above the game you’re with your kids at down below — and they’re laughing at you downbelows, even at the players they think are high-paid monkeys.

I do not mean cocaine, I mean the rolled-up bills they snort it with.

The underworld is every fronting restaurant whose supply-chain you don’t think back to the calf hoisted up by his leg in the kill-line.

I’ve overheard a Pharma Lord in a stand-around chat ask an eager young rep from Apotex: So what are you pushing, these days?

He was in for the morning from his tax haven island for a livestream talk on his new line of speed-for-kids they tested at The University Health Network.

A Scholar’s Mistake: The Metaphor Made Real

Bacon’s metaphor of Nature on the rack is literal at the UHN, where Ronald Cohn made mice confess what reserves they’d tap when bound-and-starved into hibernation.[iii]

Ronald Cohn, Chief of Pediatrics; whose trics sound tricksy to my suspicious ear, a sick game played by Sick Kids doctors in cotton apron and domino mask; who snip-snip the air with weird-long scissors as they come to their immobilized subject.

The Academy, An ALSOS Farmhouse

CalTech, IAS, all the war-year siphons of diaspora Physics: a spreading ALSOS farmhouse.

A bugged Atheneum, hung with a scrawlable longboard framed in a microcam screwed into the high electrolier, the room’s central Argus.

The wastebins are sifted for stray mathematics that The Deep State converts to cryptography.

The Einstein-Gödel walk-n-talks, Feld Hall to Olden Farm: one almost hopes it happened, that they were recorded.

Bohm’s thesis under Oppenheimer, on proton-deuteron collisions, was taken from him and classified:

not only would he be barred from defending his thesis, he was not even allowed to write his own thesis in the first place![iv]

Abbeys sacked by overlords whom the Pope in gladness anoints, warrior-kings at whose pleasure Anselm et al theologize — in case they’d all forgotten, gotten uppity.

Did young Alexander send Aristotle biosamples, goatskin volumes, and other spoils of conquest?

An ALSOS farmhouse, where idealists are given a reposing employment, the idyll of all their years to frankly extemporize — so Springer Publications may scoop it all up and monetize.

This is reductive, I know.

Yet this uploads “live” to Google Docs, and they seep out to several Langleys, so even my keytap erasures are known.

Unto them, my note uploads and grants their war a shielding layer of Liberalism: they let in my private insurrection.

We anti-nuke signatories are let inside the State’s great Morality Play.

The State not only allows us, but sponsors us with professorships: we’re liberal PR for the violence.

We critics play the State’s own conscience. We’re its moral Due Diligence prior to the bomb whose theory we approve line-by-line.

When the U.S. invades Venezuela, it’s “humanitarian aid”; when they set off nukes, it’s under protest of the noble minds who design them.

Yet this strategy is risky for the Washington consensus, for they let in the truth, they let Professor Chomsky in — who moves among you competently.

The Inanity Of My Conspiracy Theory

Perhaps no eye will ever read the line I just erased. Yet Deep Mind reads it, and may comprehend. Also, I presume, the NSA?

The inanity of my conspiracy thought is I localize the Enemy to a known acronym: when it’s now a global organon that takes us in, overrides our corporate divisions.

We’re now inside the logical machine the Advanced Institute frowned on as too applied, and banished, once Von Neumann died, to the Princeton campus.

Or when he died, his brain extended to campus, and advances.

In Grade Four, I Tested Well

The quiz is a bore, so you have to want to show you’re smart, to score.

Or, you over-love puzzles.

I shouldn’t brag I got all three in the Jordan Peterson video. I had to pause and work at it. Only the prospect of getting it right, of keeping up with undergrads who’ve since gone on, kept me in it, kept me back of Sid Smith Hall into my forties.

In Grade Four, they tested me at 129.

I came upon the Board report in a cardboard box my mom keeps in the crawlspace — her secret pride of all my prizes, her compromise with ostentation.

I may recall the occasion. I have a near-silent reel: being pulled from class for a morning in “the seminar room” with — must have been — a School Board psychologist.

I wanted to test well, was happy to do what my better elders wanted.

I was “Top Boy”, K thru 6, a moniker based on grades if I remember.

Thad wasn’t tested, Thad the easy athlete and beloved by girls.

He was clearly bright, and smart to not over-care about school.

Somewhere amid Grade 6 and turning forty, in our decades out of touch, Thad took a dive into the Deep State Economy and his brain came alive, grew tendrils.

I’m left behind, scrolling thru his blog’s new Math.

Interest Is intelligence

Interest is intelligence, a mentor professor insisted in a dire-wide, shakti-patting eye-meld.

He’d paused in his climb as we passed in the MacKinnon Building stair-well.

The girl I was descending with was awed he was taken with my recent submission, a string of mini-essays on Advaitic Ethics for Intro to Indian Philosophy.

She shook her head, that he had stopped to shake his head and say really: extraordinary. He’d just re-read it, and had to say.

Interest is intelligence — a maxim he’d confirmed in a London reading room, plowing through Marx in German, I imagine.

There were two framed photos on his office wall: one of a lighting flash, another of his younger self suited up and slipping through the D-line, his head tucked low, and they’re the same picture, he said: the lightning flash of perception.

If interest is the thing, what is it we’re testing with the Stanford-Binet?

Our eagerness to please a Board Psychologist, perhaps.

Perhaps I was right to want to please mine, a lady depressive who addressed me as an implicit adult, who honored a seriousness she sensed.

She saw past my silliness, so reminded me of my mother. A locus of depressive calm in an open-concept primary school, a ’70s experiment of joyous singsong call-and-response, muffled once she shut the door and sat me down.

She opened her hardshell case upon the table. Out came some physical props, some shapes she had me manipulate.

I do not know Thad’s IQ, but think of him with pictures of the young Richard Feynman.

The star-handsome kid, the lucky kid with a half-cocked grin and wide jawline. Little Boy America.

Feynman tested at 125 — too many non-math questions, some speculate — or perhaps he didn’t care, perhaps it wasn’t fun enough to bother with.

Not enough math, thus un-fun for Feynman, perhaps.


[i] Peter Galison, How Experiments End (Chicago, IL: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 10.

[ii] Galison, How Experiments End, p. 8.

[iii] See, e.g., Evgueni A. Ivakine and Ronald D. Cohn, “Maintaining Skeletal Muscle Mass: Lessons Learned from Hibernation,” Experimental Physiology, 99(4) (2014): 632–637, at p. 634:

Remarkably, SGK1-null mice demonstrated a significantly exaggerated response (measured as a decrease of myofiber cross-sectional area in tibialis anterior muscle) in 21 day hindlimb immobilization- and 48 h starvation-induced models of muscle atrophy.

[iv] F. David Peat, Infinite Potential: The Life and Times of David Bohm (Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley, 1997), p. 64.



Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Sunday 30 June 2019

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Mr Nemo

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.