Listen starting at about Minute 14:30, here:
Here’s the key quote, which is a perfect summary of what I meant by 1) Negative Knowledge and 2) the positive movement of thought, which can result in a swing towards Literalism and all the vicious circles this confusion and self-deception inevitably generates; or it can swing towards a swifter, metaphoric mentality, as long as negative awareness keeps the positive aspects of thought in check (not controlled, but stripped of self-deception perhaps):
Bohm: “… in physics you could use a measuring instrument in 2 ways, the positive and the negative. Like an electric current, you can measure. You can measure the current by the swing of the instrument. Or you can use it in what is called the Wheatstone Bridge, where the reading you look for is a null reading; a null reading indicates harmony or balance of the 2 sides as it were. So if you are using the instrument negatively, then the non-functioning of the instrument is the sign that it is working right. Could we say the brain may have used thought positively to make an image of the world… K: which is the function of thought … B: …One of the functions of thought. The other function of thought is negative, which is to indicate non-harmony….”
I have no memory of Bohm saying this, but it obviously made an impact because the entire Negative Geography project is based on that very observation above. Interesting to me, and worth noting as a matter of record.
This is how lazy and ignorant I tend to be: I never looked up the phrase “negative knowledge”, partially because I want to avoid as much influence as I can when I’m already on the trail of something. It’s distracting to read things that are close but not quite what I wanted to say. I tend to get pulled into the way others are looking at things before I have time to coax out my own perceptions from the periphery of consciousness.
But I did a search for the phrase “negative knowledge” and apparently it’s a term that’s been in circulation for quite some time. Here are two articles (which I haven’t read in full yet, but enough to see that it’s a parallel, but not duplicate idea to what I’m driving at). What they seem to leave out (although I need to read more carefully before asserting this too conclusively) is that they’re not looking at the problem of Literalism, and how Negative Knowledge has the potential to dissolve that self-deception and usher in a radically altered metaphoric mentality, which is also free of any “Executive Controller” or conventional Self concept — which is to say free of the Literalism that binds us to the script of “who we think we are.” Two examples of many:
- Negative Knowledge: Understanding Professional Learning and Expertise, by Martin Gartmeier, Johannes Bauer, Hans Gruber and Helmut Heid.
- On the Value of Negative Knowledge (an interview with Martin Minsky, who apparently coined the term).