Monday, May 31, 2010

Some Notes/Meaning and Anger.

I literally intend this to be a note of sorts. I am currently working on three different posts.

One is on my thoughts on my experience with reiki/yoga and how I sorta deal with it today after reading about quantum physics and neuroscience and other stuff. One is on Foucault's Discipline and Punish and how I see it being similar to Clausewitz's On War. Unfortunately I haven't been reading a lot the last two days cause I have been busy. But I'll be moving forward in D&P soon. The last post is on the 'everyday a priori imagination.' I explored the possible role of Collingwood's notion of the a priori imagination in a compassionate world view in my post of 3/30/10. At the time, however, I was just exploring some experiences that I had with road rage and thinking about the imagination, so I was surprised to make the connection. But now I think it seems pretty worthwhile, and I would like to pursue that idea more explicitly and more in depth.

Lastly, the note that initially spawned this post. In my post of 5/25 I think I made some statements that don't really pay attention to the effects of stress. I am very curious about the imagination and how we can craft it. I talked about becoming the crafter of your own world of meaning. It is about meaning. Many things in society feel good or bad because of the meaning that is associated with it. Anger, however, I'm not sure. We certainly assign meaning to anger after the fact. But in the actual moment of anger, are we capable of overcoming it through exercising power over meaning? Umm, my sense is that anger on some level must be essential. It must just happen. It doesn't need society's world of meaning to be a thing. Sometimes I have been pretty mad an it didn't feel like there were many words between me and that anger. But I don't think meaning operates entirely in the world of words. Definitely not. So I'm not sure. But at the same times, the 'essential' expression of anger can often be triggered by meaning in the social world. I want to explore this at some point. Right now it feels hard to think about and I'm going to eat.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ethical Behavior, the Internalization and Simulation of Perspectives, and the Idea of God

So, I am kinda curious about how it is that people are able to act ethically, how people have certain moral understandings, and how it is that people engage with those ideas to transform it into behavior. I am interested in pursuing this idea along the lines of simulating and internalizing certain perspectives. I can think of certain instances where behaving ethically involves internalizing a certain perspective, and being able to simulate thoughts about yourself from that other perspective. For example, God. An always present, judgmental observer that helps us imagine our own thoughts and actions in a different light.

Anyways, I think that internalization and simulation of a moral perspective may have something to do with a lot of ethical behavior.

I started this post quite a while ago, 4/11/10. But now maybe I'll just explore it and write a little bit.

So, when someone is alone in a room and they are thinking about doing something considered immoral (drugs, killing animals, anything at all), how do they gauge themselves? How do you understand the meaning of your own behavior even when you are alone?

Cause I guess that is one of the main things that seems strange to me. That people can be alone yet still feel critical of themselves. Still maintain some sense of moral perspective despite their aloneness.

I think simulation theory of mind can at least help account for this.

Simulation theory of mind basically argues that people understand other people and themselves by internally simulating the thoughts and feelings that other people have expressed through words, body language, etc.. Simulation has a lot to do with self-recognition. As a child we learn to understand our own facial expressions because of interactions with others. We smile as babies, mothers and others smile back and we thus learn what smiling is. Mirror neurons are also a way in which we learn to gauge our own behavior. Mirror neurons are pretty fascinating. But onward. How could simulation theory of mind account for ethical behavior?

Let me just run with the example of God, cause it is the easiest to think about. So, if I am alone in a room, or I am in a crowd, how do I think of myself as behaving ethically? How do I make myself behave ethically? Well, the idea of God provides a constant perspective that I can inhabit at anytime and think of myself in relation to. God supposedly has a strict moral code, he is always watching, and he is always judging. So, if I ever need to gauge my own behavior I can think, 'well God is watching, what would he do?' or 'what would Jesus do?'

Religion offers a moral perspective that we can always imagine in order to understand our own behavior better. It is about having a perspective simulate/imagine. God is a straightforward case, that is probably why it was so popular for so very long. It offers the quickest moral fix.

But prisons and other forms of social justice (similar to religion) also enable their own forms of internalization and simulation. Prisons for example, give us an understanding of what it would be like to go to jail, or to experience being arrested or punished. So, when we are about to commit a crime or do something illegal, we can imagine/simulate what it would be like to go to jail. Clearly it would be bad, so our ability to imagine/simulate possible consequences can deter us from acting immorally.

I'm really not doing a very good job explaining this.

In order to do this well I would need a full blown discussion of simulation theory of mind, and I would need to do research into religious and legal practices. But I don't want to do that right now. If you want to understand this (my invisible/non-existent audience) then go and read some of my other posts (there are many) on simulation theory of mind, and these fragments might make sense.

Summing up.

I think that ethical behavior has something to do with internalization and simulation. I bet that moral codes allow us to imagine and simulate certain perspectives, and create an outside perspective on ourselves that allows us to gauge our own behavior. God is supposedly an all present and moral observer, and therefore we can imagine a moral being who is watching us at all times. It lets us see ourselves in different ways when we can imagine/simulate a certain perspective. Prisons and other modern institutions of morality also give us a certain perspective on ourselves.

It is about simulating perspectives beyond the self. I think that is what moral codes allow us to do. They give us a way of imagining a view beyond our own. It lets us shape our own behavior by having an outside view. Anyways, bad post. Not very clear.

I think that this idea could be very worthwhile to explore in the future. I have an incomplete grasp of what is up with this idea. I will say two things, I know two authors who are skirting these issues, Alvin Goldman and Michel Foucault. Goldman, in Simulating Minds, concludes with a section on moral philosophy as it is relevant to simulation, so I know there is more to say. Foucault, in Discipline & Punish, is spending a fair amount of time talking about the people are how they witness public torture and execution. He mentions how it gives them a way to imagine the power exercised by the state, and how they may experience pain if they choose to subvert the state. It seems like it could involve the internalization of someone else's experience to attain a sense of their experience, which would allow you to behave in a different way. It sounds like internalization and intuitive simulation.

In conclusion, I think that these ideas are legitimate and are grounded in my reading, but I can't really explain them very well yet.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Customer Service: What the Heck is Goin' on Here?

So I'd like to spend a little time reflecting on my experiences with customer service jobs. Mainly how much I enjoy them. What is that all about?

My first thought is of small talk. I've had quite a number of people tell me that they are anti-small talk. Totally anti-small talk. They really dislike it.

I often enjoy small talk. More importantly, though, I think it is essential. Literally indispensable for social life. We need it. We need a way to engage with people. Perhaps people thing small talk should lead to big talk. More so, people associate small talk with superficial talk, and think that they should get to real talk ('big talk'). Whatever. I am going to leave this questions on the nature of 'small talk' for the end of this post. I just wanna talk about some of my past experiences in customer service and try to clarify why it is that I seem to gain so much pleasure from them.

So first things first, the most obvious thing that I find satisfying about customer service: I am in a social situation in which it is acceptable for me to say hello to anyone at any moment. I can start talking to literally anyone I want. Old people, peers, couples, cute girls, watch out, cause if I feel like I will totally say hello to you. And I suppose in the real world, at any moment, this is the case. Social situations, however, often compel to not say hello to someone because it feels inappropriate. I can't very well say hello to some couple or some girl on the street and feel comfortable just starting a conversation. Perhaps I should work on that. But in any case, working a customer service job it is expected that I will say hello to people, so I do, and I enjoy it.

I used to enjoy being a cashier when I worked at the UBC. I used to tell people that I like it because I would get an instant glimpse at a face, and then I would immediately find out what that person was like (on some level). I see someone, I say hey how are you, etc., and then we are interacting. As soon as I perceive their face, demeanor, etc., I am interacting with them. Conceptions based on appearance are immediately entangled with real live speech and interaction. Sure, sometimes it is superficial interaction with customer service/cashiering, but whatever, sometime it isn't.

I often find myself torn between the worlds of appearances and reality, though. I think that I've always like to watch people and think about people. I would like to think I like to pay attention. But for a long time I think I was a lot shyer. So it was easy for me to see someone randomly for a long time, and to completely mentalize that person. They exist in my mind only as this appearance and all these random and uninformed conceptions I have about them. It seems hard to avoid thinking things about people, or speculating about people. Basically, I think my mind likes to think about people a lot even when I haven't met them, and that can be a very strange experience to know someone only as an appearance.

A college campus is a pretty ideal environment to have a lot of this. You see certain people on a very regular basis (class, food, etc.) and you may never talk to them. It is easy to see all kinds of people and to have thoughts about them even though you know nothing of them at all. Perhaps your like the way they dress and think they are probably cool. Or you like the way they walk, you think they carry themselves well and that makes you curious.

Well, I will say, I have had many instances in which I have seen a person on the regular, and managed to remember them and have an imagined sense of them. I have also, however, had instances in which I met those people. Not too many, but definitely there have been some occasions where I had seen someone for a long time and then ended up meeting them in person.

It can be really fascinating.

Sometimes they are totally cooler than you could have anticipated. Sometimes they are just whatever. I mean. It is fascinating how appearances totally don't line up with personality all the time. I mean, it seems obvious. But I just find people to be very unique. It is always fun to meet new people. It's true.

But anyways, customer service. With these jobs the amount of time between the first sight of a person and the moment of first interaction is really short. You see someone and then you are saying hello to them. That is cool. That doesn't happen all the time.

When it comes to meeting new people, I prefer my imagination to have as little time as possible. I'd prefer to spend a fair amount of time with someone and get to know them. It is really difficult to meet people only vaguely or in passing, and then have my imagination create some wild and complex picture of them.

I like my imagination a lot, but when it comes to people, I don't trust it to work super well unless I have some evidence of what a person is like.

Anyways, I like customer service because I like talking to people.

Especially where I am working now, I am a little bit less knowledgeable on what I am dealing with, so it is really dynamic and interesting. I just talk to people. They want to know what the deal is with these products. What is the difference. What is better. Sometimes I just straight up don't know. I ask if it seems like I should. But you just gotta go from person to person. Every customer is a different experience. Sometimes it just breaks down into long conversations. That only happens sometimes. But I enjoy it.

Also, I read something the other day. Religious leaders were asked to give their thoughts on how to be happy. It was a hindu, or a Buddhist, I forget, but he said the best way to be happy was to make other people feel happy. When you help someone it feels pretty good. Someone needs something and you can totally help them out. It feel good.

Plus, I am a huge fan of simulation theory of mind. Thinking about other minds is like being that mind for yourself. So making other people happy, you bring happiness to your own mind. It is cool.

Well, the customer service thing seems pretty straight forward. I like talking to people, it lets me talk to lots of new and different people, and its about helping people. Also, I think that the simulation theory of mind explanation could be quite strong. I feel like that is something I should explore at length, but this isn't the time.

But I suppose I'll return briefly to small talk vs. big talk. I want to say first that I don't even know what I mean by these terms really. It is hard to say. I think the distinction of superficial talk vs. personal talk might be better. But personal talk. I dunno. I don't know how to define this stuff exactly.

But here is what I'll say for now. I really like making small talk. It feels really nice to just be able to interact with someone on any level. You can just react and be with that person. Talk to them. See them react. Then react again. It's just dynamism. Reaction.

Ah, an example. Is it enjoyable to talk to people about the weather? Isn't that like the barest small talk? But I still think their can be satisfaction in that.

Talking is about sharing experience with people. And I can do that with the weather. You and me both feel this heat. It sucks. Right on, bro.

So why does it bother some people to engage in small exchanges of experience (small talk)? I will pose a wild and not thought of sort of thought.

Basically, I think that some people find small talk frustrating because of the current social/cultural/historical situation. Again, this is bs speculation. But, what if living in America gives us a hyper awareness of how it is that people are 'supposed' to interact. I think I am generalizing based on my own experience. I felt a weird social awareness in college. Like, I already had an understanding of what typical college social interactions were like. The kinds of things people talked about, the kinds of things they did or said, the way people were. I already 'knew' what people were supposed to be like. So acting in an organic way felt strange. I couldn't make my mind lose its awareness.

But these days I think I feel a lot more organic. A lot more intuitive.

I put it all on history. Or I think about it in historical terms. I think of the student culture of the university's in the last 70 years. I think about what American social life is like for young people. I think about the media that has been producing images. I think about my exposure to these images.

I think about the historical contingencies of my own thinking.

The idea is to realize that I am only thinking I should be certain ways because of the particular standards that have emerged in this unique cultural moment. Once I can see the historicity of my thought then I can start approaching the frontiers of my thought.

It's about thinking differently. And so I think at some point I started thinking differently about social interactions. I started thinking about dynamism and intuition and reaction. About flow and people.

Who knows, this post took some strange turns. But the bottom line is that I like interacting with people. Customer service jobs let me do that. I really like doing it in general too, but sometimes find myself averse to it. But as usual I would like to think historically about the way I am thinking about socializing. Ultimately because I don't want to think about socializing so much. I wan't to do it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Expressing Surprise and Being Surprised by Expression: Words and Identity

I feel disconnected from my blog posts. Rob feels like he sees where his music goes, I feel like I am bearing my core. Maybe he does too.

Either way me and Rob were having a conversation about how it is that we relate to the things that we produce creatively. Rob is a musician, I would like to be a writer/philosopher.

I told rob that with my writing I was often trying to capture some sort of surprising thought that I had. I often have very strange moments where all of a sudden I'm thinking something I've never thought before. My post of 4/6/10 'Planning and Remembering' was me trying to understand why I was so surprised by Efron's false memory. My post of 4/8/10 'Anticipating Moments, Anticipating Memories' tried to explore the surprise and shock I felt at my graduation dinner with my parents where I was thinking about memory in brand new ways.

Even my longer posts, my post of 4/30/10, my post of 3/19/10, are all me trying to deal with the surprising way in which my thoughts present themselves to me. My thought surprises me all the time.

Rob, I think, said he was trying to express emotional surprise with his music. But I don't know if I understand. He isn't here.

But I will say a bit more about feeling disconnected from posts.

That is why my post of 4/30/10 feels so strange to me in hindsight. I'm not sure how I relate to it. I'm not sure what part of me produced it. Is that what I think? Where did that come from? How did I think that? Do I still think that? These outputs come so sporadically to me. They escape my sense of identity in a way, though. I often feel like they have come from somewhere other than myself.

So much of my thought has a sort of disconnect between parts of the mind. I definitely am not in favor of seeing myself in a unified identity. I am not some singular coherent being. My anger takes me different places. Maybe that is why I identified so much with my paper on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which I posted on 5/21/2010. That book is pretty incredible in terms of what types of challenges it is posing, what types of questions it is asking about science, evolution, language, and identity. Suchhh a tight book.

Claxton and emotions as personalities. If an identity/personality is all about goals, perspectives, etc., then don't emotions give us different personalities? Emotions are there to help us achieve a wide variety of goals. They change what we want. My emotions change me into a different thing.

But I'm about to give up on this post. All I know is that I like the way I think. I think that it pops differently all the time. I think I change. I think I am often surprised by how I think. If I surprise myself, how can I have a coherent sense of intellectual identity? Any type of identity?

I think I do identify with myself, and with my writing. But the process of expressing my thoughts feels so different from living with them. My emotions feel very different than my analytical writing does. But they are the same thing. They come from the same place. They are all part of my general brain/mind.

Luckily, I kinda like Buddhism and stuff, so I don't have too much of a stake in a coherent identity.

Me and rob talked about this a bit later. A few hours later. Came to a few more clear conclusions.

Basically, creative output, whether its music or writing, can happen very fast and very unexpectedly. It can be jarring. When I first write something fast it is so strange to see it in front of me that I don't know how I relate to it.

But, when I take the time to really get to know an idea, or really refine a paper, I suppose then I feel like I know it a little better. My Jekyll and Hyde paper I feel like I can identify with. I feel like I know it pretty well and it says a lot of things that I want to say.

So its all about getting to know the things that I have created very quickly and spontaneously. It seems interesting that I would have to get to know myself by reading something I wrote. Lots of famous quotations come to mind. Flannery O'Connor, ahem.

But it is true. Writing comes fast and it feels like it has come from somewhere other than myself, or at least somewhere that I don't understand or have access to. So, I get to know myself through my own writing? Sure.

Academics and Connecting with Other People: Empathy in Life and the Humanities

Me and Rob were sitting outside and I saw two hispanic men and started thinking about all the culture and language that separated us. And the academic world and how it simultaneously brings me closer to people and distances me from them. It brings me closer to them when I am alone in my room. Articulation and people and pain. Can I get closer to their experiences? yes no?

The bulk of the academic work that I am interested in has to do with experience. With living. With feeling and breathing without a choice. I really like getting close to other people. I like feeling other people's pain and love. I'd like to think of myself as being pretty sensitive. I try to embrace it and make it into a good thing rather than something that overwhelms me or troubles me. But I'll be honest, my sensitivity can overwhelm me and sometimes it troubles me. But more so, much more so, I think of it as a way to feel closer to other people.

I think it has to do with the imagination. Last night my friend Efron asked me if my imagination was running away with me, or something like that. I said typically.

I like my imagination. I like thinking about it. I like writing about it.

I'm now gonna transition to my major discussion here, but basically what I have said is that I think I am really sensitive and have a really strong imagination, and that this leaves me open to feeling a lot of other things. It makes me very empathetic. Further! all of my favorite disciplines (history, philosophy, literature, sociology), are all about getting closer to other people's experiences with the imagination. My favorite disciplines all involve a more complex form of empathy. Empathy is what I'm all about.

So this question (does academics enable me to connect with more people or does it alienate me from them) feels like a very serious question to me. I will state my (very preliminary) answer in plain language now then I'll discuss it.

I believe that my academic work ultimately lets me connect with other people more. But it does it in a counter-intuitive way. By engaging in really serious academic work, thinking about taking it to the PhD level, you are in many ways separating yourself from the bulk of people. You are learning to read and think things that most people have no interest in doing. There is no denying that it separates you. But, at the same time I think that some academic work can enhance your ability to connect with other people. It gives you an awareness of the limited scope of your own perspective. It can strengthen your imagination to let you empathize with people in a wide range of situations despite your lack of personal experience. You can become the crafter of your own world of meaning once you've realized somethings about yourself and about your imagination.

So, turns out I don't really feel like exploring this question at too much length right now because I believe so much of my other writing has it covered.

The humanities can indeed give you the ability to empathize with lots of other people who are very far removed from our situation. The key is synthetic experience. You read other things and you can feel for other people. You can get a sense of other things even if you don't go through them yourself.

But at the same time it can feel alienating. Expending mental effort to get in touch with people who are out of touch with me. That sounds arrogant and silly. But I think it can be a thing. Sometimes people don't care. And if I push myself to understand why they don't care, it hurts. Because I am expending lots of effort to be like a mind that is expending no effort, and it feels bad to make my mind be that way.

But hey my post from April 30th totally covers so much of this stuff in depth and more technically. How do you like your pain? is a section of that post. Do you like it as the absence of understanding or do you like it as a process of painful understanding? The latter. Always the latter. maybe not sometimes though.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Feeling and Not Feeling: I Don't Know What to Think, but Here is a Summary of my Current Reading and my Thoughts on Violence and Social Order

I'm not quite sure how to make sense of my inconsistent thinking and behavior.

This statement is really broad and can apply to a lot of different things. But the one thing that I feel the most curious about is my tendency to flip between lots of reading and writing, and not quite so much reading and writing.

I think these days I am feeling more things than I am thinking things. I mean, I'm thinking lots of things. But I have more curiosity about the social world. About other people.

Ummmm.

I still just feel like since I finished my essay of April 30th I don't quite know how to gauge my thinking.

But the 30th post was a beast. An absolute beast. Just in terms of how it felt for me to produce it. It felt beastly. Confusing. Exciting.

Lol also I am eagerly anticipating The-Dream's new cd. All 4 songs he has released so far are tighttt. So good. Can't wait. Very excited.

But I am reading slowly.

I am reading W.G. Sebald's Vertigo. A novel that is written like it is a memoir. It is just one guy reflecting on himself and other people he knows. He has been traveling over Europe. Spent some time talking about a guy in the Napoleonic wars. I read Sebald's Austerlitz, which my dad loved, and I thought was pretty good. Sebald's style is meandering and reflective. He takes his time. A paragraph, or even a single sentence, might go on for a couple pages. It just toddles. Plus, I like to read in bed when I'm tired, and I find it really hard to follow when I'm tired.

I am also reading Michel Foucault's Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Foucault is always a challenge, so I have been taking it slow. I finished the first chapter. So I am done the intro and getting ready to go into the rest of it.

After the first 30 pages, it seems like Foucault's major questions are, why did social discipline change from public torture to confinement in an elaborate prison system? What elements of torture remain in modern prison systems? If the body is no longer involved, then what is it that prisons torture? Is it the soul? How is the exercise of power (prisons as the specific example) related to forms of knowledge?

The last one, the power/knowledge question, is something Foucault is quite well known for, and a part of his work that I am pretty familiar with from other books, essays, and interviews. But, I would like to say a few things about the way Foucault describes power within society.

There are two things that I'm not quite sure how to reconcile right now. First, Foucault's claim (which I know he believed and makes sense) that every use of power comes along with a certain form of knowledge that enables that power. Further, the exercise of power creates knowledge. This is a complicated idea and I don't feel like explicating it heavily right now. I just don't. Also, I think reading D&P I feel a bit like I am in the process of coming to a fuller understanding of the idea of power/knowledge, so I'll write about it later.

In addition to the idea of power/knowledge, I want to understand how Foucault believes war plays into the exercising of power. I know he took Clausewitz's phrase (war is the continuation of politics by other means), and said the inverse: 'Politics is the continuation of war by other means.' Foucault said in an interview from the volume "Power/Knowledge" that he was trying to figure out how fundamental war was. Did it stand at the center of everything? Is it really the basis of all other power relations? Does violence, or the idea of it, the implication of it, stand at the heart of all power relations? I sorta like this idea.

Reading the intro of D&P I wrote something in the margins that I have been thinking about for a long time. I was a military history major, so I have read a lot about war and I tend to think about it in relation to a lot of things. But anyways, Foucault said that with the decline of torture and the rise of government juridical institutions the idea of punishment changes. "it is the certainty of being punished and not the horrifying spectacle of public punishment that must discourage crime; the exemplary mechanics of punishment changes its mechanisms. As a result, justice no longer takes public responsibility for the violence that is bound up with its practice." I italicized that line. I want to reflect on this.

In the margins I wrote, 'society's implicit war.' For a while I have been thinking about how the rise of stable governments corresponds with the rise of stable military institutions (Jon Sumida, you changed the way I think). Why do these things correspond? What is the link between society at large and the government's ability to monopolize armed force?

Well, I have thought for a while that society rests on violence far more than people are aware. Police carry guns. The government gets very worried when anyone tries to buy a lot of guns. So much of the American budget is spent on the military. Historically, governments have spent so much money on their military. Often over 50% sometimes over 75%, I have 85%? But that was like 18th century. Anyways, I think that society is the way it is because we have people with guns that will hurt anybody that breaks the social order.

The idea of the social contract I guess I have a problem with. I don't think that people are just engaged in an agreement with a government where they sacrifice and exchange or whatever. I don't understand the idea very well, so forgive me if I am misrepresenting it. But, I think it is about violence. It's about being able to hurt people if they don't do what you want.

Once I had a conversation with a friend about how we could find a more peaceful way to help the Middle East. They went so far as to say that we shouldn't even have people on the ground with guns. That we should be able to find a way to help them without all that. She admitted it was probably a pipe dream. I think it is a full blown pipe dream.

If you don't have guys there with guns, other guys with guns are gonna take your shit. Why were so many tons of U.N. aid diverted by warlords? Why did people with guns manage to take so much stuff from an international institution that was trying to help? People with guns take things, and you need people with guns to stop them. Sounds kinda terrible. But it seems hard for me to think otherwise.

The first step to creating social order is to have guys with weapons that can kill anyone who tries to break your idea of social order. You can't have a society unless you have a stable means of killing or hurting.

In March I was sitting in a hotel lobby reading The Order of Things and I started daydreaming about something. I was thinking, what if someone took this book from me and refused to give it back. What if I asked them and they refused? How would I get it back? I would perhaps tell the front desk staff, and they would tell him to give it back. And if he refused they may call security, then they may call the police.

The bottom line is someone has to get physical.

If someone really refuses to give you something that is yours you have to take it. This seems like what the use of power is. Forcing another person to do something. It is a relationship with another.

Now, I think that this last example I gave of myself to hotel staff to security to police. A hierarchy of power. The hotel and legal rights, security and legal rights, the police. Power is very much facilitated through modern institutions these days. But I think at its most basic element it still comes back to physicality and violence.

If someone refuses to give me my property then someone has to make him. How do you make other people do things? Power? Sure, but what type? Well, at its most basic it is physical, but again, modern power is facilitated by these institutions. I can make someone do something by calling security or police, both whole hold the implicit threat of violence.

I have gone astray. Let me try to just wrap up.

I think all society rests on the implicit threat of violence. The government has a monopoly on armed force for a reason. Their police need to be able to hurt us if we step out of line, and the military needs to be able to hurt people if nations step out of line.

Interestingly, in America, the line of what is appropriate behavior seems to be so broad and flashy that we don't notice the armed guards standing on either side of us. We have lost touch with society's implicit violence in America, I think.

Anyways, a closing thought that I find somewhat interesting.

If the maintenance of the social order is contingent upon violence, then how should political leaders think or talk about violence? Well, I think they should embrace it. They need to recognize the centrality of violence and war. If politicians are reflective and intelligent individuals, then they need to handle the issue of violence straight up.

In other words, society's most brutal and violent decisions should be made by the most thoughtful and sensitive people.

Articulation and Ineffability: Science, Language, and Modern Identity in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde


Articulation and Ineffability: Science, Language, and Modern Identity in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

In Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson depicts the bifurcation of a nineteenth-century intellect. The main character’s original, singular identity of Dr. Henry Jekyll is divided when a chemical transforms him into another being named Mr. Edward Hyde. The personalities of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde exhibit radically different behavior. The chemical substance, however, had “no discriminating action; it was neither diabolical nor divine;” and was not the base cause of his mind’s division (Stevenson, 2003, 51). Instead, the split between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was caused by the nineteenth-century intellectual community’s strictly articulable criteria for human identity and its failure to account for much of Dr. Jekyll’s experience. Dr. Jekyll was torn between the highly articulate world of the intellect, and the ineffable world of his emotions and experiences.

In nineteenth-century England, industrialism and the natural sciences were producing more results than ever. Dr. Jekyll himself was an esteemed scientist and member of the English intellectual community. At the heart of scientific pursuits is the deliberate observation of reality with the goal of using language to classify, explain, and predict. For those involved in intellectual pursuits, therefore, articulation and identity became linked in the nineteenth-century. As a result, Dr. Jekyll only incorporates his thoughts and feelings into his identity so long as they can be put into words. The human mind, however, cannot be subjected to the rigorous standards of scientific observation and articulation. Thoughts are frequently blended with emotions, images, sounds, and other inarticulate sensations. In other words, there are parts of the human mind that are ineffable. Mr. Hyde’s existence, his physical appearance, and his behavior are a result of Dr. Jekyll’s over reliance on language and his failure to tend to the ineffable and animalistic parts of his mind.

My analysis of Strange Case revolves around three themes: the role of articulation within European and American culture; the dynamism and ineffability of the human mind; and the connection between human’s ineffability and their status as animals. Each of these three themes will be explored in turn utilizing textual analysis, historical context, biographical evidence, and twentieth- and twenty-first-century science and philosophy. The theme of articulation will be explored through character’s engagement with articulation, the historical context of the Romantic movement, Stevenson’s writings on science and articulation, and twentieth-century cognitive science. The theme of ineffability will be illuminated with the novella’s descriptions of thought, nineteenth-century medical context, Stevenson’s reflections on his own mind, and late twentieth-century neuroscience. Finally, the connection between ineffability and animalism will be demonstrated with the novella’s references to animals, a discussion of nineteenth-century evolutionary theory, Stevenson’s thoughts on evolutionary theory, and twenty-first century-philosophy of evolution.

The role of articulation within the world of Strange Case is exhibited by both minor and major characters. Minor characters repeatedly express the importance of articulate thought. Dr. Jekyll, too, provides evidence for the existence of an over-reliance on articulation. Dr. Jekyll’s experience, however, seems to be in conflict with the logocentric standards of the scientific community. As a result, he often expresses frustration with language. A discussion of the Romantic movement will provide historical context for the novella’s publication. Stevenson’s concern about the cultural role of articulation will be explored in his writing on popular literature. and his thoughts on the scientific and industrial revolutions. Lastly, twentieth-century cognitive science will corroborate the connections between the scientific and industrial revolutions and a modern culture of articulation.

Throughout the course of the novella both minor and major characters make it clear that articulation is highly regarded. Most of the minor characters, as well as Dr. Jekyll, belong to specific professions that rely almost exclusively on articulation – they are doctors, lawyers, and scientists. In fact, English Professor Jane Rago argues that their ability to articulate and represent reality allows these men to regulate the way in which other individuals conceive of identity. They constitute a medico-juridico-scientific discursive regime. “It is precisely this discursive regime,” Rago argues, “that Hyde threatens, and this results in a panic of representation and self-implication that surrounds the professional world” (Rago, 2006, 277). In other words, language dominates the minds of these characters, and Hyde’s ineffability shakes their faith in articulation, and thus in their own identities.

Minor characters, and Mr. Utterson in particular, cling to language and articulation as their primary source of knowledge throughout the text. For example, while trying to understand the actions of Hyde, Mr. Utterson grapples with thoughts that are described as “shifting, insubstantial mists.” Despite the inarticulate nature of his thoughts, or perhaps in response to them, Utterson decides to consult his friend Dr. Lanyon. He travels to “Cavendish Square, that citadel of medicine, where his friend, the great Dr. Lanyon, had his house and received his crowding patients. ‘If anyone knows, it will be Lanyon,‘ He had thought” (Stevenson, 2003, 13, emphasis added, all italics mine). When Hyde’s presence produces inarticulate thoughts, and his legal knowledge fails to explain them, Utterson turns to another highly articulate field, medicine. Utterson also hopes that close observation of Hyde will ease the cognitive dissonance he produces. “If he could but once set eyes on him, he thought the mystery would lighten and perhaps roll altogether away, as was the habit of mysterious things when well examined” (Ibid., 15). Utterson assumes that individuals can be handled scientifically – that they can be observed, understood, and articulated. Even when dealing with intense emotions Utterson maintains his reliance on articulation. For example, Mr. Utterson urges his friend to clearly articulate his feelings when he says, “Now, my good man,... be explicit. What are you afraid of?” (Ibid., 32). This line confirms that Utterson and others regard articulation of thought as highly important – even something as affective as fear must be put into words.
While attempting to solve the disappearance of Jekyll, Utterson continues to rely on language. He says, “supposed Dr. Jekyll to have been... murdered, what could induce the murder to stay? That won’t hold water; it doesn’t commend itself to reason” (Ibid., 35). Utterson fails to consider that some situations in general, and this situation in particular, cannot be tackled with language. Despite its shortcomings, Utterson repeatedly speaks of articulation as the supreme form of cognition, showing that he has been thoroughly indoctrinated into a culture of articulation.

Dr. Jekyll is also immersed in the British culture of articulation. Unlike other characters, however, Dr. Jekyll has begun to lose his faith in language’s ability to accurately represent human experience. He begins criticizing fellow scientists for their over-reliance on language. Moreover, he begins seeing less articulate thought in a positive light.

Despite his involvement with law and science, Dr. Jekyll is averse to his over-reliance on articulation. For example, Dr. Jekyll scorns Dr. Lanyon for being a “hide-bound pedant.... I know he’s a good fellow... but a hide-bound pedant for all that; an ignorant, blatant pedant. I was never more disappointed in any man than Lanyon” (Ibid., 20). Apart from Dr. Jekyll’s hostility to pedantry, it is important to note the double meaning of the term ‘hide-bound.’ This is meant to signify not only the rigidity of Lanyon’s thinking, but also that it will ultimately estrange Dr. Lanyon from the ineffable, making him more likely to develop a ‘Mr. Hyde’ of his own.

Moments before transforming back into Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde also offers a harsh admonishment of scientific pursuits. Mr. Hyde asks Dr. Lanyon,
Will you be wise?... or has the greed of curiosity too much command of you?... As you decide, you shall be left as you were before, and neither richer nor wiser, unless the sense of service rendered to a man in mortal distress may be counted as a kind of riches of the soul. Or, if you prefer to choose, a new province of knowledge... shall be laid open to you.... (Ibid., 46).

Given that Mr. Hyde represents the parts of Dr. Jekyll that have been ignored by articulation, we can consider these to be Dr. Jekyll’s views, however withheld from his conscious self they are. As Victorian scholar Ronald Thomas argues, Mr. Hyde “is both what is produced by Jekyll’s utterances and what cannot be contained in them” (Thomas, 1986, 164), meaning that any view expressed by Mr. Hyde essentially belongs to the mind of Dr. Jekyll. Dr. Jekyll believes that scientific knowledge is inherently rapacious, and that it does not necessarily lead to greater wisdom. Instead, Dr. Jekyll claims that helping other individuals can lead to an enrichment of ‘the soul,‘ by which he means the emotional and affective parts of the self: the ineffable. Finally, Dr. Jekyll believes that embracing the ineffable can lead to a ‘new province of knowledge’ – it would offer an escape from the culture of articulation, and could exist as its own legitimate form of understanding. Dr. Jekyll’s engagement with the Victorian culture of articulation has made him skeptical of scientific language, and has inclined him to embrace less articulate thinking. Stevenson’s depiction of a logocentric British culture was part of a larger movement that spoke out against the dominance of science and articulation.

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Romantic thinkers articulated a view of the mind that challenged the assumption that language and rationality were the chief human traits. Psychologist Guy Claxton argues that a culture of articulation was formed when the majority of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century thinkers espoused a logocentric view of the mind. Romantics, on the contrary, believed that human minds could not be fully explained by language and reason. The Romantic movement, Claxton claims, was fundamentally about “leaning far back on one end of the epistemological seesaw on whose other end sat Locke and Newton, in order simply to try to create a little movement” (Claxton, 2005, 135). Romantic’s of all periods put their faith in “experience, emotion and imagination not as material for reason to work on, but as valuable ways of knowing in their own right” (Ibid., 136). Biographical information shows that Stevenson held similar views on the role of language in British culture, and was concerned with the limitations of articulation.

As an heir to the Romantic movement, Stevenson expressed similar views on the issues of science, language, and the mind. In his engagement with the English intellectual community, he regularly had discussions with leading thinkers, and reportedly contributed to conversations on the shortcomings of rationality, and particularly “the connection between imaginative writing and dreaming” (Reid, 2006, 217). Furthermore, Stevenson doubted the intellectual utility of popular novels. He suspected that large scale reading did not necessarily lead to wide spread intellectual growth. On the contrary, Stevenson and other Romantics believed that many nineteenth-century novels were “a mark not of intellectual progress but of morbid overcivilization” (Ibid.). Stevenson, instead, thought that novels ought to invigorate the “sensual and quite illogical tendencies in man” and should reacquaint us with our “atavistic instincts”(Ibid., 218).

Stevenson’s emphasis on Romance and emotion is directly related to his thoughts on science and industrialism. He claimed that scientific thought took people “into zones of speculation where there is no habitable city for the mind of man” (Turnbull, 2006, 228). This is because it gave people the idea that the world should work “deftly and perfectly, like the play of an ideal machine” (Ibid., 229). Stevenson could not have been more explicit when he said, “Scientific language, like most other language, is extremely unsatisfactory” (Ibid.). Stevenson questioned the primacy of rationality and language, suspected that mass reading would not lead to uninterrupted intellectual progress, and saw both of these fallacies as directly linked to the scientific and industrial culture of articulation. Late twentieth century cognitive science has drawn strikingly similar connections between the scientific revolution and the emergence of a culture of articulation.

Contemporary cognitive scientists have argued that many Western cultures pay excessive credence to the use of language. These cognitive scientists also argue, however, that language can provide only a partial picture of the human mind. In 1997’s Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind, Claxton argues that Western culture has lost touch with less articulate ways of knowing in favor of more conscious and deliberate modes of thought. Claxton calls this over-reliance on language and reason “d-mode,” with the d standing for both deliberation and default. “We have been inadvertently trapped,” Claxton argues, “in a single mode of mind that is characterised by information gathering, intellect and impatience, one that requires you to be explicit, articulate, purposeful, and to show your reasoning.” More than anything else d-mode relies on “language (or other symbol systems) as a medium and deliberation as a method” (Claxton, 1997, 6). As a result, “d-mode must operate at the rates at which language can be received, produced and processed” (Ibid., 10). In short, Western societies have often eschewed the ineffable in favor of articulation.

Claxton traces the origins of this rigid mode of thinking to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophers and scientists. Thinkers like John Locke claimed that deliberate rationality was the only legitimate form of thought. “The assumption that conscious reason was the core of human identity,...” Claxton claims, “fed the growth of empirical science and the plethora of technological miracles to which it gave rise. From technology, it was a short step to the effective cultural takeover which we see today” (Ibid., 206). To combat the ubiquity of d-mode Claxton proposes that we embrace “sources of knowledge that are less articulate, less conscious and less predictable” (Ibid., 13). Dr. Jekyll was immersed in the scientific community and was therefore indoctrinated into the culture of d-mode. Dr. Jekyll’s over-reliance on d-mode inherently involves the neglect of less articulate ways of knowing described by Claxton, forcing the ineffable to become Mr. Hyde.

The world of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, therefore, is permeated with a culture of articulation that favors scientific pursuits. Both minor and major characters simultaneously reflect the cultural value of articulation, and question its absolute applicability. Further, Stevenson’s historical context was fraught with controversy over the effects of the scientific and industrial revolutions. In fact, Stevenson himself regarded language as a limited tool, and thought science placed too much faith in articulation. Finally, late-twentieth-century cognitive scientists substantiate these ideas by identifying British and American culture with the term d-mode: an overly-deliberate pattern of thought that allows no time for inarticulate, ineffable thought. In short, the novella, historical context, Stevenson’s biographical information, and contemporary ideas confirm the existence of a Western culture of articulation.

In addition to an over-reliance on language, the novella abounds with dynamic minds that defy articulation. The novella’s characters are shown to have complex minds that cannot be precisely articulated. For Dr. Jekyll, scientific standards of articulation fail to account for his ineffabilities, and he is transformed into Mr. Hyde. Stevenson’s depiction of a divided mind may have been influenced by nineteenth-century medical experiments. Further, Stevenson suspected that his own mind was composed of many facets, many of which were inaccessible to language. Lastly, twenty- and twenty-first century neuroscience suggests the existence of multiple minds within humans.

During the novella both minor and major characters express the shortcomings of language, and hint at the ineffability of their minds. Many minor characters recognize the shortcomings of language, and find their minds processing information without words. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde demonstrate similar lessons about the conflict between articulation and ineffability. Dr. Jekyll has a troubled relationship with language, but ultimately fails to identify with the ineffable portions of his mind. Mr. Hyde, on the other hand, is described mainly by his ineffable nature and his refusal to engage in articulation. The friction between articulation and ineffability becomes too great for Dr. Jekyll, and his personality divides into Mr. Hyde.

Despite the excessive cultural significance ascribed to articulation, the minor characters of Strange Case doubt language’s ability to explain certain phenomena. In particular, language falls short when grappling with complex situations that involve imagery or emotions. Further, many characters implicitly recognize that their minds possess ineffable qualities: they process information without the help of language and they act based on wordless emotions and impulses.

Although articulation dominates the culture of the novella, minor characters express views that question the universality of language, and show that thought occurs in ways that are ineffable. Mr. Utterson, for example, regards inquiry as a potentially dangerous process that may lead to unintended consequences. He says:
I feel very strongly about putting questions;.... You start a question, and it’s like starting a stone. You sit quietly on the top of a hill; and away the stone goes, starting others; and presently some bland old bird (the last you would have thought of) is knocked on the head in his own back garden and the family have to change their name. No, sir, I make it a rule of mine: the more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask (Ibid., 11).
This quotation demonstrates Utterson’s selective engagement with articulation. He favors language and inquisition only so far as they support his quest for clarity. If there is any chance that a question will lead to obscurity, Utterson’s desire for articulation evaporates. The novella’s culture of articulation, therefore, is limited in it’s ability to facilitate understanding, and must be augmented by less articulate thought.

In addition to selective articulation, Utterson also engages with ineffable forms of thought that involve detailed images. For example, late at night Utterson contemplates difficult questions: “Hitherto it had touched him on the intellectual side alone; but now his imagination also was engaged or rather enslaved;... Mr. Enfield’s tale went by before his mind in a scroll of lighted pictures” (Ibid., 14). Although Utterson’s engagement with the culture of articulation has dulled his awareness of ineffable thought, it is clear that his mind still operates beyond language.

Similarly, characters recognize that communication between humans is not restricted to language. For example, after Mr. Poole expresses fear to Utterson, Stevenson writes that “The man’s appearance amply bore out his words; his manner was altered for the worse” (Ibid., 33). While words were Poole’s original medium, it is his body posture that truly communicates his feelings. In addition to the limited scope of language, some characters entertain the idea that articulable understanding is a burden.

In a conversation between Mr. Utterson and Dr. Lanyon they both express views that question the benefits of articulate knowledge. Mr. Utterson says of Dr. Jekyll, “he is a doctor, he must know his own state and that his days are counted; and the knowledge is more than he can bear,” to which Lanyon replies, “I sometimes think if we knew all, we should be more glad to get away” (Ibid., 29). Dr. Lanyon is referring to the ways in which medical knowledge can heighten our awareness our bodies deterioration and our mortality. While medicine provides insights that improve health, it also gives us an understandings of health and age that binds our thoughts and actions. The historical philosopher Michel Foucault also thought that forms of power, which always corresponds with a form of knowledge, could transform individuals into subjects in two senses of the word. Power/knowledge could simultaneously makes one “subject to someone else by control and dependance,” and allow a sense of one’s “own identity by a conscience or self-knowledge.” There existed, therefore, “a form of power with subjugates and makes subject to”(Foucault, 1982, 781). This perfectly describes Mr. Utterson and Dr. Lanyon’s relationship with medical knowledge. Medical knowledge allows Dr. Lanyon to constitute his identity as a doctor, and it lets him gain insight into the functioning of human bodies. On the other hand, his knowledge is a burden that he will never be able to escape. He is both subjugated by and subject to medical knowledge. Mr. Utterson, Dr. Lanyon, and Poole all recognize that articulation and knowledge can be a burden, and are not indiscriminately beneficial to the mind.

Dr. Lanyon continues to recognize the limitations of articulation. Lanyon, however, notices the way in which thought and language operate at different speeds. He notes, “These observations, though they have taken so great a space to be set down in, were yet the work of a few seconds” (Ibid., 45). In this moment Dr. Lanyon, although deeply committed to articulation, realizes that his mind has the ability to process information without ratiocination. These characters demonstrate the limitations of language and the inarticulate nature of thought.

While these characters acknowledge the limitations of language, they also recognize that certain aspects of their minds are ineffable. Somewhat appropriately, however, they acknowledge their ineffability implicitly, and through action. On the first page of the story Mr. Utterson is described as a charming man who is an awkward conversationalist. “At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to his taste, something eminently human beaconed from his eye; something indeed which never found its way into his talk, but which spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinner face, but more often and loudly in the acts of his life” (Ibid., 7). This passage demonstrates that the definitive characteristic of human beings is not our ability to articulate. On the contrary, the description of Mr. Utterson shows there is an aspect of human identity that is only revealed under the influence of alcohol and in action. Most importantly, Mr. Utterson’s ‘eminently human’ characteristics never manifest themselves through words, but in silence and in action.

Similarly, one of Utterson’s closest friendships cannot be explained. His relationship with Mr. Enfield seems to be based on no articulable criteria:
It was a nut to crack for many, what these two could see in each other or what subject they could find in common.... in their Sunday walks... they said nothing, looked singularly dull.... For all that, the two men put the greatest store by these excursions, counted them the chief jewel of each week, and not only set aside occasions of pleasure, but even resisted the calls of business, that they might enjoy them uninterrupted (Ibid., 8).
Utterson and Enfield have an affinity for one another not because they can articulate their relationship, but because they identify on a level that transcends language – because together they can exist ineffably.

Other characters also find Mr. Utterson’s quiet nature a great comfort, “Hosts loved to detain the dry lawyer, when... the loose-tongued had already their foot on the threshold; they liked to sit... in his unobtrusive company, practicing for solitude; sobering their minds in the man’s rich silence” (Ibid., 19). Other characters find silence and dreaming to be an infinitely human activity. The maid who witnesses Dr. Lanyon’s murder was “romantically given, for she sat down upon her box,... and fell into a dream of musing.... never had she felt more at peace with all men or thought more kindly of the world” (Ibid., 21).

As the story continues characters continue to recognize the difficulties of defining human emotions and identity with words. Mr. Poole says, “It is well, then, that we should be frank.... We both think more than we have said” (Ibid., 37). In this passage Mr. Poole makes a simple admission that has significant implications. His statement is further evidence that characters in the story recognize the ineffable nature of the mind. Further, Poole’s difficulty with explicating his thoughts also comes from the limited analytical tools available to him. The novella’s culture of articulation excels when discussing science, but flounders when faced with emotions. These moments from the text demonstrate language’s shortcomings when attempting to capture an individuals characteristics, and the ineffability inherent to the human mind.

Dr. Jekyll, too, often expresses the inadequacy of language, and frequently drifts into the realm of the ineffable. For example, Dr. Jekyll admits on several occasions that his thoughts and problems cannot be articulated. He expresses the shortcomings of language when he says, “My good Utterson... this is downright good of you, and I cannot find words to thank you in” (Ibid., 20). His skepticism of language extends to his personal problems. While speaking to Utterson, he says, “I am painfully situated, Utterson; my position is... a very strange one. It is one... that cannot be mended by talking” (Ibid.). In this moment Dr. Jekyll is recognizing the divide between himself and Mr. Hyde. He operates in the realm of articulation while Hyde exists as the ineffable. He furthers this notion when he says, “my instinct and all the circumstances of my nameless situation tell me that the end is sure” (Ibid., 41).

At times, Dr. Jekyll even prefers to eschew articulation: “I have brought on myself a punishment and a danger that I cannot name.... you can do but one thing, Utterson,... and that is to respect my silence” (Ibid., 30). Again, he gives up on articulate thinking when “he had grown very silent, he did not read; it seemed as if he had something on his mind” (Ibid., 31). Dr. Jekyll even explicitly states his awareness of the division in his mind. He says, “Though so profound a double-dealer, I was in no sense a hypocrite; both sides of me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I laboured... at the furtherance of knowledge” (Ibid., 48). He goes so far as to suggest that all humans may be composed of many different minds, not just the two that he has been able to identify within himself:
With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth,... that man is not truly one, but truly two. I say two, because the state of my own knowledge does not pass beyond that point. Others will follow;.. and I hazard to guess that man will ultimately be known for a mere polity of multifarious, incongruous and independent denizens (Ibid.)
Clearly, Dr. Jekyll knows that his mind is composed of far more facets than he is aware, and that the ability to articulate, his ‘intellectual intelligence,’ is only one of them. He even feels inclined to save the ineffable portion of his mind when he tells Mr. Utterson, “I only ask you to help [Mr. Hyde] for my sake, when I am no longer here” (Ibid., 21). Dr. Jekyll’s statements reveal his skepticism of articulation, and his awareness of the ineffability of his mind.
Although Dr. Jekyll seems to recognize the shortcomings of language and his minds ineffability, he is too enmeshed in the culture of articulation and ultimately rejects the ineffable portions of his mind. Rather than embrace the ineffable, he attempts to banish Mr. Hyde through rational choice. Dr. Jekyll claims that he could easily be done with Mr. Hyde. “The moment I choose,” he claims, “I can be rid of Mr. Hyde” (Ibid., 20). As Mr. Hyde’s disconcerting behavior continues, Jekyll reaffirms his faith in choice, albeit in a more desperate tone. “I swear to God I will never set eyes on him again. I bind my honour to you that I am done with him in this world” (Ibid., 25).

When Jekyll is incapable of suppressing Hyde, he begins to openly denounce him. He says, “I cannot say I care what becomes of Hyde; I am quite done with him. I was thinking of my own character which this hateful business has rather exposed” (Ibid., 26). When Jekyll speaks of his ‘own character,’ he is referring to a specific identity; his reputation as an articulate member of the intellectual community. Although Hyde can legitimately be considered part of Jekyll’s overarching identity, he is incapable of relating to these portions of himself. “Henry Jekyll stood at times aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde.” Jekyll, however, reconciles this by saying, “It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty. Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired” (Ibid., 53).

At one point, Jekyll believes that he has been able to conquer the presence of Mr. Hyde. He says he “bade a resolute farewell to the liberty,... the light step, leaping pulses and secret pleasures, that I enjoyed in the disguise of Hyde. I made this choice perhaps with some unconscious reservation, for I neither gave up the house in Soho, nor destroyed the clothes of Edward Hyde” (Ibid., 54-55). Despite his confidence in rational choice, it proves to be an inadequate form of personal control. His articulate self was able to concoct a convincing rationalization, while the ineffable portions of his mind maintained their own agenda, leading to the eventual return of Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll even explicitly notes that Hyde seems to function as though he were indifferent to his rationality. “Hyde was indifferent to Jekyll,...” he says, “Jekyll had more than a father’s interest; Hyde had more than a son’s indifference” (Ibid., 55). It seems as thought the impulsive, emotional, ineffable Mr. Hyde is able to trump Dr. Jekyll’s reason. As we will see, twentieth-century neuroscience has confirmed that emotions can overwhelm reason.

Dr. Jekyll is only able to discount Mr. Hyde as a part of himself because he uses limited criteria to constitute the identity known as ‘Dr. Jekyll.’ Meaning that Dr. Jekyll can think of himself as a coherent individual so long as his only metric is his rational scientific pursuits. Jekyll even admits that he had long wished to separate his articulate self from his ineffability. “I had learned to dwell with pleasure,” he says, “as a beloved daydream, on the thought of the separation of these elements. If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable” (Stevenson, 2003, 49). Ironically, however, Dr. Jekyll contemplates the idea of rationally banishing his ineffability with an inarticulate form of thought: a daydream.

Dr. Jekyll’s quest to conquer his ineffability is grounded in his experience with a culture that assumed the primacy of articulation. Jekyll continues to show how his articulate scientific pursuits have affected his relationship with himself. While reflecting on the course of his life Dr. Jekyll laments, “I saw my life as a whole: I followed it up from the days of childhood,... and through the self-denying toils of my professional life,.... I could have screamed aloud; I sought with tears and prayers to smother down the crowd of hideous images and sounds which my memory swarmed against me” (Ibid., 57). When presented with cognitive information that is ineffable, ‘images and sounds,’ Dr. Jekyll feels confused and overwhelmed. Rather than accept it, he turns to a plea that is rooted in language: prayer. Given that Jekyll utilizes prayer in reaction to ‘sounds and images,‘ we can be sure that he is launching an articulate assault against the ineffable. This moment fully demonstrates Dr. Jekyll’s dependence on his ability to articulate, and that he has an intense aversion to cognition that consists of ineffables.
Once Dr. Jekyll has disowned the ineffable portions of his mind, they start to manifest themselves as Mr. Hyde. Since Hyde rarely speaks, his uncanny, ineffable nature is expressed primarily by the story’s secondary characters. From the start of the story characters find it difficult to put words to Mr. Hyde. Mr. Enfield, for example, says, “He is not easy to describe.... I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scare know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point.... And it’s not want of memory; for I declare I can see him this moment” (Ibid.,11). Enfied not only experiences Hyde as an ineffable feeling, but he assumes that this means he is monstrous and detestable.
Hyde’s ineffability is so startling that characters give up on attempts to articulate him. “Mr. Utterson sighed deeply but said never a word; and the young man presently resumed.... ‘Let us... never to refer to this again.’ ‘With all my heart,’ said the lawyer. ‘I shake hands on that, Richard.’” (Ibid., 12). Mr. Hyde is so disconcerting that these characters are willing to give up on articulation, their most prized cultural asset.

When Hyde encounters Mr. Carew he continues to exist in a wordless space, “He had in his hand a heavy cane, with which he was trifling; but he answered never a word” (Ibid., 21). Even when multiple people witness Mr. Hyde they can find no consensus: “[T]he few who could describe him differed widely,.... Only on one point were they agreed; and that was the haunting sense of unexpressed deformity with which the fugitive impressed his beholders” (Ibid., 24). Again, Mr. Hyde’s central attribute is ineffability. Dr. Jekyll’s butler, Mr. Poole, despite his familiarity with Jekyll, is also incapable of expressing this aspect of his master, “there was something queer about that gentleman... I don’t know rightly how to say it, sire, beyond this: that you felt it in your marrow kind of cold and thin.”

Poole even recognizes that Hyde is antithetical to intellectual standards of articulation. He says Mr. Hyde’s presence “went down his spine like ice. O, I know it’s not evidence, Mr. Utterson; I‘m book-learned enough for that; but a man his his feelings.” Mr. Utterson concurs, “Ay, ay,.... My fears incline me to the same point” (Ibid., 37). In this moment Mr. Poole and Mr. Utterson experience thoughts that defy articulation. Again, when Mr. Utterson sees Hyde weeping he becomes “conscious of a sudden chill of horror” (Ibid., 38). Rather than articulable thought, they experience Mr. Hyde as a feeling, as an inkling of trouble, as ineffability. Dr. Lanyon also finds that Hyde’s presence gives him a feeling that “bore some resemblance to incipient rigor, and was accompanied by a marked sinking of the pulse” (Ibid., 44).

Furthermore, even when Dr. Jekyll explains Hyde’s existence to Lanyon, he is incapable of articulating it: “What he told me..., I cannot bring my mind to set on paper. I saw what I saw, I heard what I heard.... I ask myself if I believe it, and I cannot answer. My life is shaken to its roots” (Ibid., 47). Hyde’s ineffable nature is so disconcerting because he threatens everything that their cultural and professional lives are founded upon. Observation of Hyde only leads to horror, attempts to articulate him fail completely, and he leaves them with overwhelming emotions.

Mr. Hyde’s ineffability is also confirmed when Dr. Jekyll involuntarily transforms after entering a less articulate frame of mind. While reflecting on Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll says that in his “psychological way, began lazily to inquire into the elements of this illusion, occasionally, even as I did so, dropping back into a comfortable morning doze. I was still so engaged when, in one of my more wakeful moments, my eye fell upon my hand.... But the hand which I now saw... was the hand of Edward Hyde” (Ibid., 54). Clearly, Hyde thrives on inarticulate forms of thought, and represents the ineffable portions of Jekyll’s mind. Prior to the novella’s publication, nineteenth-century medical experiments were suggesting the possibility that humans may have multiple minds.

Indeed, nineteenth-century scientific endeavors were providing evidence for the existence of multiple minds in the human brain. A.L. Wigan, in 1844, for example, conducted an autopsy of a well known friend, only to find that “one cerebral hemisphere was totally absent” (Cytowic, 1993, 213). Given that this individual had a completely normal life and personality, Wigan concluded that a single hemisphere was sufficient to house a complete mind. Following this logic, Wigan argued that “the brain is not a single organ of two halves but a closely apposed pair, just as the kidneys or lungs are paired organs” (Ibid.). Wigan’s work implies that “having two hemispheres means that we possess two minds that differ in content, mode of organization, and even in goals” (Ibid., 214). In nineteenth-century England the notion of multiple minds was being argued from many angles. Stevenson, too, explored the possibility of multiple minds in his writing, and believed that language was only one facet of the mind.

Stevenson’s essays shows that he suspected that his mind was comprised of multiple elements, some of which were inherently beyond the reach of language and consciousness. In his article “Crossing the Bounds of Single Identity,” Richard Dury argues that Stevenson was most likely aware of contemporary scientific theories that distinguished consciousness and rationality from the unconscious. “The concept of the unconscious,...” Dury argues, “undermined any sense of a simple and single identity ruled by will and reason, an idea as disconcerting to contemporary received ideas as any of the theories of Darwin” (Dury, 2006, 240). In this vein, Stevenson believed that life’s dynamic experiences could provide us with many different perspectives, many of which were absorbed at an unconscious level. While reflecting on his childhood Stevenson recognized that his pre-conscious experiences must have deeply influenced him: “that too, was a scene of my education. Some part of me played there” (Reid, 2006, 220.). Stevenson blatantly expressed this view when he said, “Our conscious years are but a moment in the history of the elements that build us” (Ibid.).
Apart from the dynamism of experiences, Stevenson thought the human mind inherently possessed multiple faculties. In fact, he wrote about a part of his mind that he called his “‘sleepless Brownies’” (Ibid., 222). Stevenson believed that this part of his mind was beyond his control, and that his Brownies “‘manage[d] man’s internal theatre,’ and... provide[d] inspiration for the tales that the waking Stevenson [was] able to write” (Ibid.). Stevenson even wrote as if his Brownies could not be fully incorporated into his identity. While thinking about himself as an ethical agent, Stevenson placed more emphasis on the rational portions of his mind, while doubting the morality of his Brownies. “I,” Stevenson wrote, “do most of the morality, worse luck! and my Brownies have not a rudiment of what we call a conscience” (Ibid., 223). Stevenson’s reflections on his own mind reveal a deep understanding of the relationship between articulation, ineffability, and identity. He knew that his mind possessed attributes that functioned without language, and more importantly, that these portions may act entirely beyond the consent or influence of the “I” that was responsible for speaking. Contemporary theories of mind also recognize different roles played by language and emotion, and the existence of multiple minds.

Twentieth-century neuroscience has confirmed that emotion, and not rationality, has the greatest impact on behavior. Neurologist Richard Cytowic has written on the different faculties of the mind, paying special attention to limited role of language. Cytowic draws a distinction between the “cognitive mind” that deals exclusively with reason and language, and the emotional mind that “is attuned to a deep source of wisdom and engaged in a process to which the cognitive mind has no access” (Ibid., 213). Neurologically speaking, the cognitive mind is controlled by the frontal cortex, while emotions are controlled mainly by the limbic system. The cortex and the limbic system remain in constant communication with one another, balancing reason and emotion. Many neuroscientists, however, have made the logocentric assumption that the cortex exerted greater control over the limbic system. But measurement of the neural connections between the two shows otherwise. The limbic system provides far more information to the cortex than it receives in return. “Thus,” Cytowic concludes, “the emotional brain is physiologically able to overwhelm the rationality of the cortex” (Cytowic, 1993, 162). This perfectly explains why Mr. Hyde’s impulses are able to overwhelm Dr. Jekyll’s reasoning.
Cytowic believes that the cognitive and emotional mind are simply the most obvious of our multiple minds. Humans possess “multiple modes of thinking, not just two, and that most of them occur at a level about which we have no sense of pulling the strings” (Ibid., 214). This notion is corroborated by Claxton in 2005’s The Wayward Mind. Claxton argues that a personality or mind is essentially “a point of view that can be characterised by a set of goals, fears and hopes that give rise to a backdrop of expectations and attitudes” (Claxton, 2005, 284). The human mind, however, experiences a wide range of emotional states that come along with different sets of views and priorities. Claxton thus concludes that different emotional states create a variety personalities and minds within one individual.
When these multiple personalities conflict with one another, however, there can be noticeable effects. In Strange Case, for example, Dr. Jekyll’s participation in a hyper-articulate culture forces his emotional, ineffable self to find expression as Mr. Hyde. Indeed, Claxton addresses the issue of split identity with a reference to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Claxton aptly concludes, “By playing Jekyll too hard, I make myself Hyde” (Claxton, 2005, 350). Mr. Hyde, therefore, should be understood in terms of the strength of the limbic system in determining behavior, and the fact that different emotions constitute multiple personalities. Furthermore, Hyde’s emotional behavior can only be understood in relation to the nineteenth-century scientific culture that paid little credence to the ineffability of the human mind, exacerbating Jekyll’s emotional stress and forcing it into a separate identity. In short, Dr. Jekyll’s emotional mind created Mr. Hyde to revolt against the cultural tyranny of his cognitive mind.

The novella’s tension between articulation and ineffability is compounded by a nineteenth-century scientific discovery: that evolution has left humans and other animals with primitive, inarticulable, and emotional minds. Evolutionary theory exposed the inherent ineffability of the human mind. The distinction between humans and animals, as well as the distinction between ‘civilized’ and ‘savage’ humans, often centers around the role of language in human culture. Western scientists assumed they were beyond the ineffable world of emotional ‘savagery’ and animalism. Evolutionary theory, however, gave humans a new perspective on their biological development through deep time. Suddenly it was possible to conceptualize humans as part of an evolutionary cycle that was defined by emotion and ineffability rather than reason and articulation. In short, evolutionary theory challenges the supremacy of articulation by drawing attention to the ineffable qualities of the human mind.

The ubiquity of articulation, therefore, was challenged by theories evolution that claimed humans were emotional, ineffable animals. Indeed, both minor and major character’s ineffable qualities are related to animalism throughout the text. An examination of Charles Darwin’s work will provide context for Stevenson’s depictions of animals. Further, Stevenson explicitly addressed evolutionary theory and believed it provided insight into human life. Finally, twenty-first-century philosophy provides similar insights into the relationship between human identity and evolutionary theory.

There is textual evidence that suggests the ineffable nature of the human mind is directly related to the fact that humans are animals. Both minor and major characters regularly behave as if they were driven by animal instincts, and are often compared to animals. For example, while exploring London, Mr. Utterson is struck with how the weather has emptied the streets, “The wind made talking difficult,.... He could have wished it otherwise; never in his life had he been conscious of so sharp a wish to see and touch his fellow-creatures” (Ibid., 33). In this moment Utterson does not crave articulation. Rather, he feels an affection for humans as animals, as ‘creatures.’ In another instance, Utterson chooses not to express his thoughts aloud, but turns to inarticulate noises. “‘Good God!’ thought Mr. Utterson,.... ‘But he kept his feelings to himself and only grunted in acknowledgement of the address” (Ibid, 17).

Dr. Jekyll’s servants also behave like animals, particularly when they are experiencing fear. While Dr. Jekyll is acting strangely his servants do not know how to respond. “The whole of the servants, men and women, stood huddled together like a flock of sheep.” Further, “the housemaid broke into hysterical whimpering” and then “lifted up her voice and... wept loudly” (Ibid., 34,). As I will discuss, evolutionary theory recognizes fear and weeping as expressions shared by humans and apes. In this scene, these emotions blur the distinction between humans and animals, demonstrating that these characters exist as ineffable animals.

Just like the minor characters in the story, Hyde’s ineffability is directly related to his status as an animal. Indeed, Hyde is constantly described as inhuman or animalistic. “It wasn’t like a man;” Mr. Enfield says, “it was like some damned Juggernaut” (Ibid., 9). During Mr. Hyde’s assault on Mr. Carew, he is said to act with “ape-like fury” (Ibid., 22). Similarly, after encountering Hyde, Mr. Poole says, “Well sir, it went so quick, and the creature was so doubled up, that I could hardly swear to that” (Ibid., 37). He reaffirms Hyde’s lack of humanity when he says “that thing was not my master” (Ibid., 36). Again, Hyde is compared to an ape when Poole says, “that masked thing like a monkey jumped from among the chemicals” (Ibid., 37). Additionally, Hyde is described with words that are typically reserved for animals such as “haunches” (Ibid., 45). Moreover, Jekyll says that Hyde’s penchant for alcohol reaches a “bestial avidity” (Ibid., 53). Furthermore, Jekyll describes Hyde’s hand as “lean, corded, knuckly, of a dusky pallor and thickly shaded with a swart growth of hair” (Ibid., 54). Those who witness Hyde almost always describe him as animalistic – as beastly and atavistic.
Apart from external descriptions of Mr. Hyde, his animalism is also apparent in his use of inarticulate sounds. When confronted by Mr. Utterson “Mr. Hyde shrank back with a hissing intake of breath” (Ibid., 16). Again, Hyde is described as making odd sounds, “He looked up when I came in, gave a kind of cry, and whipped upstairs.” Poole even says that these sounds resembled an animal, “If it was my master, why did he cry out like a rat, and run from me?” (Ibid., 36). Hyde is also said to be caught weeping at times, “Once I heard it weeping!.... Weeping like a woman or a lost soul” (Ibid., 38). As Utterson and Poole are attempting to enter his room Hyde’s fear causes him to emit beastly sounds: “A dismal screech, as of mere animal terror, rang from the cabinet” (Ibid.).

Mr. Hyde continues to communicate not with words, but through facial expressions and sounds. Dr. Lanyon says, “I could hear his teeth grate with the convulsive action of his jaws; and his face was so ghastly to see that I grew alarmed both for his life and reason.” When told to act more rationally “he uttered one loud sob of such immense relief that I was petrified” (Ibid., 46). Right before transforming back into Dr. Jekyll, Hyde continues his inarticulate expression and bestial appearance: “He put the glass to his lips and drank at one gulp. A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth” (Ibid., 47). Based on the fact that most characters describe Hyde as an animal, and that he vocalizes himself primarily through inarticulate sounds and gesturers, he clearly represents the atavistic portions of human’s that still dwell within us – he represents humanity’s ineffability that comes from our evolutionary history.

For all of his animalism and misdeeds, however, Hyde is not intrinsically evil. On the contrary, his behavior is caused by the culture of articulation that forced Dr. Jekyll to ignore his ineffability and animalism. Several characters make this point clear. Mr. Guest, for example, initially assumes that Mr. Hyde is driven by insanity. After seeing Hyde’s handwriting, however, Guest concludes otherwise: “Guest’s eyes brightened, and he sat down at once and studied it with passions ‘No, sir,’ he said; “not mad; but it is an odd hand” (Ibid., 28). Far from being mad, Hyde represents something within all humans. While trying to understand Hyde’s confounding nature, Dr. Lanyon realizes that it is not anger that defines Hyde, but something much deeper and universal. Of his reaction to Hyde he says,“I have since had reason to believe the cause lie much deeper in the nature of man, and to turn on some nobler hinge than... hatred” (Ibid., 45).

At times, Dr. Jekyll also doubts that Hyde’s anger can exist within human nature. He says that Hyde is “even beyond what [he] had thought possible to man” (Ibid., 60). This is because Hyde does not exist as a ‘man,’ but as an animal. These statements are irreconcilable with the fact, however, that “[t]he drug had no discriminating action; it was neither diabolical nor divine; it but shook the doors of the prisonhouse of my disposition” (Ibid., 51-52). Dr. Jekyll’s mind is described as a ‘prisonhouse’ because his rational mind had been suppressing his ineffability and animalism for much of his life. Dr. Jekyll recognizes the universality of Hyde, however, when he describes him as “the common quarry of mankind” (Ibid., 58). Dr. Jekyll’s challenge, then, is not to see Hyde’s behavior as consistent with humanity, but to conceptualize his ability to articulate as compatible with his status as an ineffable animal. Hyde’s evil, therefore, is not essential, but is created by Dr. Jekyll’s rejection of the foundational parts of his mind: ineffability and animalism. On the whole, some nineteenth-century thinkers were exploring the implications of evolutionary theory for human identity.
The work of Charles Darwin is the most well known example of nineteenth-century comparisons between humans and animals. In1872 Darwin published, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. This book implied that humans are not different, or superior, than other animals. Throughout the nineteenth century, evolutionary theory threatened the distinction between humans and animals. When Darwin directly compared the emotional expressions of humans with apes, the conclusions were hard to avoid. Darwin notes that both humans and monkeys express sadness and anger in similar ways. For example, both humans and animals are prone to weeping when they experience intense sadness or grief (Darwin, 1872, 134-136). As for anger, Darwin notes that both humans and animals experience a quickening of respiration, a tensing of the lips and mouth, a reddening of exposed skin, a widening of the eyes, and a contraction of the eyebrows (Ibid., 136-138; 234-235). Darwin notes one important difference, however. Some species of monkeys will bear their teeth when threatened. This is important to keep in mind when considering how Stevenson depicts Hyde. In fact, Ilaria Sborgi notes that some scholars have commented on how Stevenson’s depictions of Hyde resemble Darwin’s descriptions of animal emotions (Sborgi, 2006, 148, 154). Stevenson’s comparisons between humans and animals in Strange Case are embedded in this scientific and cultural climate.
Biographical information confirms that Stevenson was concerned with the implications of evolutionary theory. Namely, that humans possess the qualities of most animals, and that we are driven mainly by emotion rather language. In particular, Stevenson was intimately familiar with Darwin’s ideas and pressed his fellow intellectuals to embrace its implications. He claimed it offered a new way of viewing human existence, but that it was “still not properly worked into the body of our thoughts” (Turnbull, 2006, 233). In fact, many of Stevenson’s essays highlighted “the persistence of pre-civilized states of consciousness” (Reid, 2006, 222). Furthermore, Stevenson also stressed that humans should embrace this new understanding because it “lights us a step further into the heart of [our] rough but noble universe” (Turnbull, 2006, 233). Stevenson was even more explicit when he drew a direct comparison between humans and monkeys: “Of all earth’s meteors, here at least is the most strange and consoling: that this ennobled lemur, this hair-crowned bubble of the dust, this inheritor of a few years and sorrows, should yet deny himself his rare delights, and add to his frequent pains, and live for an ideal, however misconceived” (Ibid.). In this last quotation the ‘misconceived ideal’ that Stevenson speaks of is the idea that language and reason make humans fundamentally different from other animals. And when he refers to our tendency to deny pleasures, he is likely thinking of the culture of science and industrialism, which as we have seen, favors articulation while eschewing ‘pre-civilized states of consciousness’ like sensual pleasure and emotion. Steven suggests, on the contrary, that we should embrace the animalistic sides of ourselves. He believed that the Romantic movement specifically appealed to “humankind’s primitive heritage” (Reid, 2006, 218). Stevenson embraced Darwinism precisely because it problematized assumptions about “relations between ‘primitive’ and ‘civilized’ life” (Ibid., 216). He felt that humans must begin to conceptualize themselves as animals, and more importantly, they must avoid the tendency to rely exclusively on language. Instead, he thought that articulation should be used to pursue the ineffable and animalistic parts of the mind. Stevenson’s thoughts on evolution have been substantiated by twenty-first century philosophy.
Twenty-first century explorations of evolutionary theory also shed light on the world of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In Straw Dogs, John Gray attacks secular liberal humanists’ faith in science and technology. Gray claims that many liberal humanists act as if science and technology will solve all of humanity’s problems. By pursuing technological solutions to humanity’s problems, Gray asserts, “they renew one of Christianity’s most dubious promises – that salvation is open to all. The humanist belief in progress is only a secular version of the Christian faith” (Gray, 2002, 4). Instead of flocking to scientific and technological forms of salvation, Gray proposes that we embrace the implications of evolutionary theory and cognitive science. Chiefly, Gray believes that humans have failed to embrace two particular lessons of these disciplines. First, Gray claims that evolutionary theory means that humans are essentially animals that exist in a world defined by emotions and the drive for survival. Second, Gray believes cognitive science has convincingly shown that humans are not fundamentally rational beings. Gray summarizes: “The lesson of evolutionary psychology and cognitive science is that we are descendants of a long lineage, only a fraction of which is human. We are far more than the traces that other humans have left in us. Our brains and spinals cords are encrypted with traces of far older worlds” (Ibid., 79).
Gray’s thoughts apply to the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in two ways. First, Gray shows that humanity’s relationship with science and technology has become a culture of progress and salvation. Second, Gray’s thoughts on evolution deflate the notion that humans are different from other animals. In the end, Gray synthesizes thoughts on the limitations of science and technology with the implications of evolutionary theory to blur the distinction between humans and animals.
The cultural theorist Jaun Baudrillard also claims that animals threaten the Western culture of articulation and representation. Referring to animals Baudrillard says, “In a world bent on doing nothing but making one speak, in a world assembled under the hegemony of signs and discourse, their silence weighs more and more heavily on our organization of meaning” (Baudrillard, 1984, 137). Awareness of animals and their inability to articulate draws our attention to humanity’s culturally definitive systems of language and our alienation from the ineffable.
If humans are unique in their ability to articulate, and human life has become largely a matter of language, than how do we identify with the ineffability that is inherent to animal life? Strange Case explores these questions and implies some interesting answers. We must recognize our place within a culture of articulation, find ways to identify with the dynamic and ineffable nature of our minds, and begin to see ourselves as members of the animal world.
In Conclusion, Strange Case revolves around a scientific culture of articulation, the presence of dynamic and inarticulable minds, and a failure to account for the ineffable animalism of humans. Minor characters simultaneously express the cultural value of articulation and its shortcomings in the face of human’s ineffable animalism. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, on the other hand, serve as a physical embodiment of the imbalance between a culture of articulation and the ineffability of life as an animal. Prior to Stevenson’s writing, nineteenth-century thinkers were exploring the dominance of articulate scientific thought, the inherent ineffability of the human mind, and the implications of evolutionary theory. Perhaps most importantly, Stevenson himself explicitly claimed that the scientific and industrial revolutions ushered in an era of over-articulate thinking, that the mind possessed qualities that could not be accessed by language, and that humans should embrace their evolutionary history as a guide to life’s difficulties. Furthermore, all of these claims have been substantiated by contemporary work that show the persistence of a culture of articulation, the ineffability of the human mind, and a failure to draw the full implications of evolutionary theory.
Strange Case, therefore, should be considered a challenge to forge a new type of identity that transcends the hegemony of articulation, incorporates mental ineffabilities, and embraces the painful and emotional nature of animal life. Stevenson seems convinced that ignoring the ineffable and animalistic parts of the self can have dire consequences. Perhaps we should take John Gray’s advice when he says: “Today the good life means making full use of science and technology – without succumbing to the illusion that they can make us free, reasonable or even sane. It means seeking peace – without hoping for a world without war.... The good life is not found in dreams of progress, but in coping with tragic contingencies” (Gray, 2003, 194). While it is unlikely that many human beings will begin to experience dual or multiplicitous identities, it is probable that Western civilizations will become increasingly estranged from less articulate forms of thought. If this trend of alienation from the ineffable continues, many people may find a bit of ‘Mr. Hyde’ in themselves. But if we can learn to embrace the limitations of language, the ubiquity of dynamism and uncertainty, and the persistence of animalism, we might feel a little more okay with life’s pains and difficulties.
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