The Normal | The Fallacy of Normalcy | No Wish to be Normal

Hole in the Heavens

365 days of writing prompts: June 9 The normal. Is being “normal” — whatever that means to you — a good thing, or a bad thing? Neither?

The term fallacy is ambiguous. From a philosophical point of view, it can mean: a kind of error in an argument; a kind of error in reasoning (including arguments, definitions, explanations, and so forth); a false belief; or the cause of any of the previous errors, including what are normally referred to as “rhetorical techniques.” Researchers disagree about how to define the very term “fallacy.” Focusing just on fallacies in the sense of fallacies of argumentation, some researchers define a fallacy as an argument that is deductively invalid or that has very little inductive strength. If one thinks of normal as something fallacious, then normal could mean the race to the bottom, or a mediocrity, or something that does not exist at all, because it is based on a fallacious argument. Erich Fromm refers to the pathology of normalcy. In The Sane Society Fromm says:

“It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth. Consensual validation as such has no bearing whatsoever on reason or mental health. Just as there is a folie à deux (delusional ideas between two persons). there is a folie à millionsThe fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same mental pathology does not make these people sane.” (p. 14).

One of my favourite writers, Ronald David Laing, says the following from an existential point of view:

We are all murderers and prostitutes — no matter to what culture, society, class, nation, we belong, no matter how normal, moral, or mature we take ourselves to be. Humanity is estranged from its authentic possibilities. This basic vision prevents us from taking any unequivocal view of the sanity of common sense, or of the madness of the so-called madman. … Our alientation goes to the roots. The realisation of this is the essential springboard for any serious reflection on any aspect of present inter-human life.” (p. 2 of the Introduction to The Politics of Experience, 1967).

These kinds of statements can seem shocking. So, if we are estranged as a society from our authentic possibilities, at the root alienated, then it is true for me to say that I have no wish to be normal. If our normalcy cannot be considered sane, or authentic, then I have no wish to be a participant in the creation of a hole in the heavens, or other such pursits. In my view, normalcy is a fallacy, it is a false belief, an error in argument. Normal has a kind of stasis about it, when in fact things are in flux, constantly changing. What do you think? What does “normal” mean for you. Is it a pathology? Is so called “normalcy” absurd?

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5 comments

  1. Normal is the bulge on the bell curve. What’s worrying is as you say that this clumping of agreement on what is ok/right/normal is not necessarily right or sane but is assumed to be. It’s the kind of truth that unseats your worldview, but it’s just as well to realise you’re kind of on your own when it comes to measuring right and wrong. It does mean the burden of responsibility is on ourselves as individuals. And that leads to mindfulness.

    1. Hi great comment. This element of awareness is the essential factor for controlling human life and directing that life to the end goal of all values. Erich Fromm asserted, “As man approaches maturity he gradually frees himself from instinctive and compulsive behavior and he develops his powers of self-reliance and choice.”
      From a Buddhist perspective, “Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow” (Dhammapada verse 2). So, it comes down to questioning and being mindful as you say. In this way we need to be very responsible, for our body, (what we do), our speech (what we say) and our mind (what we think).

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