Allan Kurzberg And The Four Postulates, Part 1.


“The depths and the mysteries of the universe lie not where the clouds and blackness are; the depths are to be found in the spaces of clarity and serenity.”–Hermann Hesse


Allan Kurzberg is known primarily for his philosophical works and essays.  His four postulates serve as the best introduction to his thinking.   Therefore, I will begin this exposition with a listing of the postulates with some comments about their origins and applications:

Postulate 1.  The ability of humans to think rationally developed late in human history.


The latest research has shown that the development of the neocortex (the seat of rational thinking) occurred quite recently.  This would imply that for the majority of man’s existence, a lack of rational thought, or ‘primal emotion”  has dominated.  So in lieu of the above, Allan provided a new definition of human being, grounded in the area of thought: A human being is an irrational being that is mostly capable of rational thought.  He explained that “mostly capable” was necessary, because some humans are born with defective brains that deprive them of all rational functions, and some people suffer strokes or forms of Alzheimers that prevent any kind of reasoning power.  However, the most important conclusion to be drawn is the overwhelming dominance of unreason as compared to reason.  Kurzberg affirmed that the proof of this statement is demonstrated throughout human history, including the present.  Indeed, Allan thought that what unites all human beings is not reason, but unreason.


Postulate 2.  No perceivable creature on earth lies, prevaricates, or pretends more than a human being. (the clause “perceivable” is necessary, because there may exist beings on earth in dimensions unknown to us that lie, prevaricate, and pretend more than humans.)  Kurzberg believed that this postulate cannot be overestimated.  It is precisely because of P 2 that rational thought and precise definition are so essential in understanding human discourse.  He applied the postulate approach of mathematics and the use of precise definition to study human interactive behavior, because mathematics represents the pinnacle of pure reasoning.  His postulates, corollaries and definitions provide the impetus that occurs when he analyzes their implications for human behavior.


As a consequence of P 1, Allan concluded that there are five primary motivational forces in every human being.  Using the abstract approach to generality from mathematics, he proposed the Corollary of Human Existence or The Five Motivational Forces:  The five motivational forces are:  E+, E-, OE+, OE-, and r.  E+ and E- represent emotions that are positive and negative, respectively, but are not strong enough to overcome rational thought. OE+ and OE- also represent positive and negative emotions, respectively, but they are strong enough to overpower rational thought.  r, rational thought, is not capitalized to show its relative weakness in relation to the forces of unreason, another consequence of P 1.

Note:  One could literally write volumes about the fundamental instability of r and its struggles with the forces that seek to undermine it.  r’s instability is the source of plays, films, poetry, novels, law, economics, philosophy, organized religion, and many other human endeavors.  The truly fragile r has been given a daunting task:  to try to make intelligible a mental environment permeated with irrationality.


In the next post I will explore new ways of defining self-awareness and self-knowledge according to Kurzberg, and study briefly the enormous implications of his next postulate.


About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

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