Home » Irreducible Complexity, Mind, News » Irreducible complexity: “The Enigma Code could be broken, whereas the enigma of the unconscious cannot.”

Irreducible complexity: “The Enigma Code could be broken, whereas the enigma of the unconscious cannot.”

In “The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind: Hitler, Hess and the Analysts by Daniel Pick – review,” Frances Stonor Saunders (The Guardian , August 1, 2012) – inadvertently? – sheds some light on the irreducible complexity of human nature, while reviewing Pick’s book about the psychoanalysis of a captured Nazi, Rudolph Hess. During and after World War II, many Freudians tried their hand at psychoanalyzing Nazis, usually from a distance. The output was about as useful as evolutionary psychology attempts to psychoanalyze Neanderthal man (yes, that too has been tried).

At any rate, she writes,

Whether or not such a thing as the Nazi mind could be said to exist, let alone recovered or explained, lies at the heart of this book, which examines how psychoanalysis was harnessed to political thought about Nazism, and the legacy of that encounter. Just as the teams of Bletchley Park and the US Army Signals Intelligence Service sought to crack the enemy’s secret codes, so psychoanalysts and psychiatrists were mobilised to decipher the unconscious encryptions and fantasies that were thought to drive Nazi ideology.

The analogy has its limitations: one approach is empirical and scientific, the other is amorphous and speculative. The Enigma Code could be broken, whereas the enigma of the unconscious cannot. Indeed, in four years of forensic probing, the psychoanalysts assigned to Hess were unable to reach any coherent opinions as to the subterranean contours of his mind. Was there a repressed homosexual identification with the Führer? Did he exert a Svengali-like influence on Hitler, or was it the other way around? Did he have a mother fixation? Did his rise in the Nazi party derive from a triumph of the will or its elimination? Was he insane? “No discrete diagnostic view of Hess lasted for long without some amendment,” Pick writes. “He was conceptualised variously, or in combination, as obsessional, hysterical, paranoid and schizoid; a malingerer, manipulator and fantasist; highly neurotic; dissociated and confused; perverse and phobic.”

Yes indeed. The key point is that Engima was a code, designed by certain individuals to communicate specific, concrete information of agreed importance, and it could be broken by other, enemy individuals in order to listen in. Nothing was amorphous and general.

Nothing like Enigma explains, or ever can explain, in reductive terms, the behaviour of a large group of people, all with separate individual histories, who get involved with a mass movement.

And depending on one captured individual (Rudolph Hess) for a lot of information, helps us understand why Freudianism – at the heart of the project Pick’s book details – bit the dust, as Darwinism also must, despite the intense beliefs of its proponents and the large amounts of taxpayer cash and judicial power they command.

Prediction: Fewer people will mis evolutionary psychology than missed Freudian psychology.

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2 Responses to Irreducible complexity: “The Enigma Code could be broken, whereas the enigma of the unconscious cannot.”

  1. 2 points.

    1. “Enigma” was a mechanical device for encoding teletype-style text. No human had any chance of breaking that coding, since the machine was constantly changing the code. The English got a copy of the Enigma machine from the Poles before Poland was completely overrun in 1939. The challenge after that was guessing/stealing the starting sequence to set on the machine for a given day. The Germans, and Japanese, assumed the code was unbreakable because they didn’t believe the English (or Americans) had copies of the coding machines. Um, so there was an “intelligent design” by a known designer. In the 1930s, a version of Enigma was sold commerically to encode sensitive business information being sent by telegram.

    2. There is no significant difference between German National Socialists and Russian or Chinese or anyone else’s Communist Socialists. Mao killed/was responsible for the deaths of 100 million people. Explain Mao’s mind. Stalin killed/was responsible for the deaths of 35-50 million people. Explain Stalin’s mind. Explain Pol Pot. Explain any of the Kims in Korea. They’re not “crazy”. They’re simply ruthless to a degree that normal humans can’t understand.

    But to understand Hitler read “From Darwin to Hitler”. To understand Hess, read “Motive for a Mission” by James Douglas-Hamilton.

  2. The evidence nowadays seems pretty clear about the existence of people who, in plain old-fashioned language, were called sociopaths and psychopaths. Who for some nature/nurture reason or another, posses no faculty of conscience. And it seems that they come in two varieties, those who attain some mantle of legitimacy in the societies where they live and those who do not.

    What the former discover, in action (and not only in politics), is that the only real barrier to power being effective — short of running afoul of some greater power — is scruples. An assertion that Darwinism, from what I can tell, falls somewhat short of positively refuting.

    In light of which, it seems to me that of more immediate interest than psychological forensics of the dead political psychopaths of history, is whether the rationale behind the emplacement of surveillance cameras that has been accomplished on every street corner in the country, without debate or vote, really is all about traffic safety and crime prevention.

    Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me…

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