Holding The Centre

Suspending Belief and Pretending

I would ask readers to consider the implications of the processes involved in “pretending” Suspending all belief

In Role Theory it is “taking the role of the other” and in sociological Reference Group Theory and in the psychological phenomenon of “identification” it is behaviour by which individuals identify with others and attempt to become like them. The young Charles Stuart in claiming the throne became known as the Young Pretender. The process of pretending is the key concept in games involving imaginary identities and also those criminals or spies who pass themselves off with false identities.

In my own case I am not pretending to be a wizard since that position and title were awarded me legitimately. However obviously claiming to be the centre of the subjective universe for the purposes of an imaginary experiment involves pretending. This was certainly true of the thought experiments of Kepler, Galileo and Einstein. The “As If” concept of Vaihinger or the useful fiction has proved invaluable in the advancement of science. Kuhn’s paradigms and working hypotheses in general are very similar. At the time many Arab mathematicians were well aware of the absurdity of Ptolemy’s epicycle model of the apparent movement of heavenly bodies but carried on with the useful fiction since at time as they couldn’t navigate without it. For thousands of years belief in supernatural beings has been acting like a useful fiction providing an essential absolute reference point not only for the moral and ethical control but for the meaning of life itself. In the scientific belief system which arose in a monotheistic civilization it was important to avoid relativistic fragmentation of time, space and identity. Newton was a Deist out of necessity since he needed an absolute frame of reference for his theory of solar system kinematics.

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