After going through the reader posts, I most closely related to Caitlyn’s perspective on the novel thus far. The major themes resonating with me are the significance of the elevators in society and the contrasting positions between the empiricists and the intuitionists. Whitehead sets up the story in this other society to parallel our own. Admittedly, it has been difficult seeing the extent of the parallelism and what direction Whitehead will take it. Obvious racial, political, and technological issues are illustrated in the elevators, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was the conflict between empiricists and intuitionists. Unlike Caitlyn, I initially thought of these two groups as a parallel to science and religion and their implications in our societies, cultures, and politics.
The empiricists and intuitionists hold to their methods and beliefs in a way that extends beyond politics. It governs their day to day thinking and affects every aspect of their lives. Religion plays a similar role in today’s society as well. The Middle-East and northern Africa are being governed and swayed politically through religious groups in conflict with each other. Their beliefs dictate their lives which entail their work, social life, and political views and involvement in government. I see the empiricists and intuitionists in this same way. Whitehead addresses these two groups in ways that allude to a deeper sense of belief and conviction than simply a political stance. Lila Mae and Mr. Reed are described as having conversion experiences that “discovered and altered Lila Mae early in her studies; she can only reckon what kind of spiritual catastrophe the book (Fulton’s Theoretical Elevators Vol. 1) would have caused in a man like Mr. Reed”(pg.59). There are also multiple comments of “conversions” to intuitionism.
All of the subtle references to faith in intuitionism in contrast to the fact-based empiricism belief system make me think of the real-life struggle between religion and science. Whitehead explains that “the empiricists stoop to check for tell-tale striations on the lift winch and seize upon oxidation scars on the compensating rope sheave, all that muscle work, and think the intuitionists get off easy. Lazy slobs.”(pg.57). While in contrast, the intuitionists (Lila Mae in particular) are viewed early in the novel as voodoo inspectors who do not need to see anything, they just feel it and are called witch doctors. Lila Mae responds to these accusations by simple saying “intuitionist” in response to the accusations. I also could not help but notice the regard in which they hold Fulton. It is as if he is a prophet from the elevator Gods who has revolutionized the entire belief system structured around vertical transportation. From him their “faiths” are derived and sustained. Their battle seems to be approaching a climax with the discovery of Fulton’s black box. Mr. Reed explains that “there have always been rumors about Fulton’s black box and suddenly comes this new variable-it does exist, and its intuitionist. Not only do you lose the election, but everything else too, your faith.”(pg.63)
I am excited to see if this parallel to science and religion continues with the empiricists and the intuitionists. I can definitely see Caitlyn’s view of these as political parties because of the context they operate, but I cannot help but feel these group’s beliefs run deeper than political stances and preferred methods of inspecting elevators.
I think this illustration parallels quite well with the intuitionists and the empiricists. Although the fight takes place in the political arena revolving around elections for the guild chair, the conflict seems to have deeper roots. The empiricists (science) take a low to the intuitionists (faith) by allegedly framing Lila Mae, a black intuitionist, in the hopes to taint the intuitionist name and stall the imminent discovery that Fulton’s black box theory was established upon intuitionist principles instead of empiricism. I have no doubt this conflict is far from over, and am curious to see how the elevator continues to be the fulcrum this society and its beliefs balance on.
Image source: https://regenerationayk.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/below-the-belt.jpg