Psychologists deal with the slippery subject of mental states. Now, your general practitioner, who you see for your annual physical check up, can flirt with the treatment of mental states. She or he may prescribe you something for low-level anxiety or sleep but they generally only provide medication or a referral.
That is the standard physician approach: there is a tangible thing presented as the probable solution for any given health concen–medication to produce chemical changes within the body; an incision to physically pluck the ailment from the body; a replacement for a broken part, a lung transplant, for instance. A general practicier, however, cannot help with that root canal you’ve been ignoring.
Fair enough, right?
Human bodies are complicated meat sacks with numerous systems, pieces of anatomy, sensory receptor devices like eyes or tongues, and organs that keep it all going. So we see specialization (dentistry, gynocology, surgery, etc) and even specialized specialization (neurosurgeon, pediatrist, optometrist, etc).
Yet. those specialities related to mental wellness appear idiosyncratic in regards to both the doctor-patient relationship and the standards & management of patient care. Namely, the coordination of medication with therapeutic treatment sessions.
Historically, health praticicioners and society referred to mentally unwell folks as mental defectives, demonically possessed, undesirable, prophets, lazy, feeble-minded, and genetically undesirable
It is elusive to us in a way ‘physical’ illness is not
I can see a hairline fracture with x-ray technology and I can see lab results produced by the scientific testing of my bodily fluids, and the report advises the lab discerned a virus had invaded my system,accounting for my aches and pains.I cannot see Post Traumatic Syndrome; I can take someone’s blood pressure, I cannot quantitatively measure someone’s level of depression.
Perhaps this is why we feel the need to distinguish between ‘physical’ malady and ‘mental’ malady in the first place, as opposed to just calling all illnesses ‘illness.’
The connections wired throughout the physical brain, create a self and this self experiences the surrounding reality to the extent that the physical body remains in its proper working condition (good health).
The symptoms of mental maladies manifest via our behaviors in the way that anatomical and physiological maladies present in the body’s various organ systems.
Perhaps we cannot shake the idea that physical sickness is largely outside of a person’s control. If my appendix ruptures I cannot will it back together again, nor would anyone in their right mind expect me to be able to do so.
However, what if I won’t go to work because I believe an evil elf lives inside my mailbox and will kill me if I walk by it? Do you expect me to will myself to ‘get over it?’ If my sense of reality has ruptured somewhere within my perceiving mind am I anymore capable of willing it back together than I was capable of willing my appendix back together?
It is almost as though some area of my mind I am generally unaware of on a day to day basis is taking control over ‘me’ or whatever you call that perceiver who examines the thoughts of the mind and chooses which to act on, which to ignore, which to believe, etc. Think of autoimmune diseases whereby an afflicted individual’s immune system begins to attack good, healthy cells. Here an evolved physiological system goes haywire and attacks that which gives it being and existence in the first place.
Similarly, the mind can go haywire, and attack the mental state of the self. Having an appendectomy is an acceptable reason to take leave from work and family and to rest and heal. Taking these same allowances while working past the evil mailbox troll (with all it’s panic attack inducing, odd behavior causing, work/family missing consequences) until I no longer suffer from its alleged influence is a much harder sell to make to the rest of society at large. The idea of allowing people to openly profess and work through their own mental delusions does not always sit well with the rest of our cultural compadres.
This mental, existential type of malady requires a certain amount of comfort with the idea that we are not always in control of our minds that society, by virtue of it being society, cannot accept. Society forces us to constantly be in control of our minds. We pick up and send out cues to signal and follow other cues and behaviors such that our many independent parts become something larger than the sum of ourselves. Collectively we are one of Douglas Hofstadter’s ‘epiphenomena.’
Society’s existence requires the creation of, learning of, and obeying of accepted rules. These rules inform our mind in various situations, and we remember past situations which required us to follow these same rules and we use those memories to guide us to appropriately follow the rules this time, too. Thus society sets up a framework through which we can perceive others in relation to ourselves. More accurately, it is a system that allows us to see ourselves by juxtaposing your self against other selves, seeing your own idiosyncratic mind reveal itself in contrast to the minds of others , and we glimpse within those other minds that we can never open up and look inside. Thus society gives us a framework with which to perceive ourselves as individuals creating something bigger than our individual selves.
The idea that the mind could, at anytime, take that socially learned framework and distort it, terrifies and undermines society’s teleological purpose, which is to bring order to chaos. So society has a vested interest in defining what is real and what is not; what is expected and what is unacceptable; what a normal brain is and what a disordered brain is. But perhaps there is no such thing as a normal brain. We must be careful not to confuse the demands of society on an individual’s mind with the demands of natural selection or misfortune on an individual’s brain.
The radical cultural relativism popular in contemporary anthropological thought presupposes that cultures are incommensurable* with one another. On one level, this is true, on a higher level, it is a truism–they are still both ‘cultures.’ Cultures, as considered here, is a fundamental psychological mechanism that is included in the homo sapiens adaptive package.
This is not a reductionist call to arms. By reference to biology and physics, we anchor the human experiences to the same weight–we do so with awareness of the western biomedical paradigm which we in the western sciences use to see–we do not do so to reduce the human experiences to the same end or to the sum of their parts, as much as out of respect to those who would be upset were not to acknowledge our own self-awareness (I find this practice tedious and unnecessary, but I am pliable).
The elegance of anthropology is not to be found in the creation of axiomatic laws of culture nor can it be found with long-winded diatribes that can appear to be little more than an appeal to authority–not a legitimate data source.
Its elegance lies in its ability to elucidate the unseen and unseeable veil of the unknown and the unknowable. It is the notion of experiencing that meta-pattern which is the epi-phenomenon of our actions and thoughts and their innumerable interactions and influences. “Except in pure mathematics, nothing is known for certain (although much is certainly false).”(Sagan)
To tack the discussion back towards something more tangible, there exists a black and white distinction within the hard sciences in regards to what is scientific and what, conversely, is not scientific: does it meet the standards of the scientific method (is it repeatable, is it measurable?) Yes or no?
“Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions.”(Sagan, a candle in the dark).
Whereas a biologist can confidently announce, ‘yes, this is so’ (assuming proper lab conditions and standards); a social ‘scientist’ cannot. A social scientist has reservations and restrictions: about the repeatability of the experiment and the repeatability of the experiment’s environment, about phantom variables that may not have been controlled for, about the success of maintaining objectivity during methodology.
The biologist’s evidence is ‘scientific’ by definition and thus the biologist’s conclusions are sure-footed, so to speak (even if they are not directly on the bull’s eye). The social scientist’s evidence is ‘take my word for it’ or ‘you had to be there’ (i.e. others have no way to verify the data or methodology and thus the social scientist’s conclusions are grasping at straws (even if the analogies appear to be commonsense).
(1) Whether the social scientist’s conclusions are correct in the ultimate sense, is not the the concern here. The concern is the social scientist’s conclusions are intuitions but there is not a whole lot in the way of objective evidence for the social scientist to point at and say ‘see for yourself.’
(2) The heart of what this blog tries to get at directly reduces to the phenomenon of a priori reasoning.
Many physicists, especially of the theoretical persuasion, use a priori reasoning and only afterward design and perform an experiment. But when social scientists, particularly anthropologists, use a priori reasoning they construct a paradigm or viewpoint, a perspective, from which they will watch the experiment as it unfolds. What they see and what they do not see will be determined by this a priori explanatory paradigmatic scaffolding. When someone later on questions this constructed meaning-making paradigm, you can point to the experiment; but, what has happened is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You decide what “culture” means scientifically, measurably, precisely, and consistently. To prove this definition you cite the experiment you performed using your personal or externally referenced paradigm of what culture is. But, your experimental evidence does not confirm or support your paradigm necessarily, it reflects the assumptions you made before you even began experimenting. You did not really learn anything, you saw what you set out to see.
I owe some references here and will cite sources shortly.
The word ‘paragon’ entered the cultural consciousness in the 16th Century.
noun: paragon; plural noun: paragons
a person or thing regarded as a perfect example of a particular quality.
“it would have taken a paragon of virtue not to feel viciously jealous”
mid 16th century: from obsolete French, from Italian paragone ‘touchstone used to discriminate good (gold) from bad,’ from medieval Greek parakonē ‘whetstone.’Original Source
Three places show widely dispersed, common usage of words expressing the bones of ‘paragon’.
Anyone who claims they don’t know the feeling of magic and terror that accompanies adolescence has surely forgotten.
My father completed his dissertation while I was a tyke; and, he, my Mom, and I lived in student apartments. I have only happy memories of this time.
I also have memories of seeing my father’s work: a bunch of weird symbols strung together forming what appears to be some alien form of writing. It was mathematical formulae, mathematical statements, mathematical symbols, constants, variables, imaginary, irrational. It was like musical notation is to writing. It was magic. I never saw most other adults using this language in my 3 year old, day to day goings on, so it was special magic.
The benefit of being in the same city as something like the University of Alabama is that nice, local intellectual atmosphere, lots of thinkers & questioners living within a very near physical proximity of one another and the local community
Looking back, however, the intellectual milieu associated with the university’s presence was more tolerated than embraced by the local community and only under the implicit understanding that the university had better also produce some fine athletic feats for large groups of people to enjoy watching.
Science is dangerous to religiousness in the South.
Scientific knowledge benefits mankind. It provides him a place in the world that is demarcating by very specific standards of measurement. It enables liberty of thought and provides the freedom to be wrong and not be ashamed. It is like music. Can we say that music and evolution are incompatible? Sure, but do we pat ourselves on the back when we say “apples are not oranges?”
Can we assert that science conceivably evokes that same sensation as that spiritual impulse that drives many to religion?
Eek, what an awkward thing to say. Let me talk about that esoteric bit for a moment. Religious texts frequently use moments of prophecying & revelation as themes associated with connecting to God/the divine: feeling the spirit; being touched; being moved; feeling grace, etc
The feeling of magic and the experience of being in the presence of something aweinspiring, is one described and experienced by both those in Academia and those in religious groups.
Whatever you choose to term this feeling and whatever causal force with which you choose to associate it, the sensation experienced appears to be the same one. The physical feeling of connecting to God and that physical feeling experienced through elucidating hitherto unknown/unobserved phenomenona via scientific methods, might be the same sensation. The actions of the mind have produced stimuli which the sense organs take in (like raw data into a computer) and convert into a physical and psychological experience via the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.
Speaking personally, as child I believed in God in a way that an young person believes in Santa, superficially until deeper contemplation occurred. I have never heard God speak to me and am, in fact, quite jealous of those who ‘talk to the Lord’ or ‘hear Him.’
To those, I would ask-
“Why not me? I prayed as a child and did everything asked of me. What did science do to you guys anyhow?
To those who benefit from experiencing His existence, your patience with the rest of us and with a unaffiliated like me.
I don’t think you should give up on science. I also do not think you should take things so personally. Maybe some of us losers only know how to seek this “god” through scientific means (particularly, those of us who do not hear His voice). Well, if God does exist, God does not have to be knowable through science nor does He have to reveal himself to me. He could judge me for trying to see my world scientifically, but I would say that to not have tried to see my world through the paradigm of science would have been a blasphemous life for me.
Beauty is subjective, eye of the beholder. What I point to when I use the term ‘beautiful’ may not be the same as that to which you allude as beautiful. But, that phenomenon to which we are referring-that thing of which the alluded to objects possess-is beauty; and, that thing, beauty, is fundamentally experienced via phenomenon basic to each and all of us, .
How do we talk and/or should we? Does the animosity produce any observable or even foreseeable benefits? Can we and/or should we be pragmatic?
These are honest questions. I am not religious in the common sense. I prefer to think I have moments of insight that feel larger or more infinite than I could previously have imagined, but they usual arrive when I work with science and logic, or read certain pieces of writing.
But then college, and physical anthropology and the sweet processes of inductive and deductive logic took hold of me. I have been moved emotionally upon reading x, actually creating a proof to show that there is no highest number, upon reading The Glass Bead Game…..
Can science and religion reconcile? And, if they can, to what gain
The most recognizable voices from the scientific community engaged in the evolution/creationist debate include Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Lawrence M. Krauss among others. These scientists take an offensive approach to those peoples and groups who would deny science’s authority as a way of defining the world. They do this because of their belief that religious thought and reasoning are actively hurting our world. Now by ‘aggressive,’ I do not mean to imply these academics are threatening violence, nor are they harassing individuals unduly, but they are aggressive.
Activity: Please complete this sentence…
The aggressive scientist……
The subject of the sentence above does not resound with my individual conception of ‘scientists.’ Now, passionate, consumed, obsessed-these scientists I can imagine. But aggressive scientists? None spring to mind, with the exception of those scientists whom have been deemed Militant Atheists (by their religiously inclined counterparts) and this vilification tactic began within the last ten to 20 years.
This raises fundamental questions for me like-
cientific discovery can be hazardous to one’s health
I spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not I am right when me submits a proposition and ascribes it to be truthful; and, I then spend a lot of time worrying about whether it is important or even relevant to worry at all about a proposition being true or not.
I know that I do not know nearly as much as me thinks myself knows.
I do not know what is actually knowable for the me that I know as myself.
Thus, how can I ever know if what I think is right or wrong?
More importantly, if knowledge exists outside of my realm of perception, it does not matter if I am right or wrong, the closest or not.
This makes me spend a lot of time worrying about how anyone can act like they know anything. This terrifies me and myself because I do not want to live in a world whose existence cannot be perceptible.
But why does that terrify me? Shouldn’t it liberate me from the responsibility of trying to be right and seek truth all the time. If everything just is what it is; I could just be what I am or I could fret and fuss about proving that the my reality is knowable to me.
It’s just too scary to get dropped into a world and have no clue how you got there, what you are, and what will happen when you inevitably are not here anymore.
How familiar are you with nostalpogy?
Not at all? Yeah, me neither.
it does not exist (at least to my knowledge as of 10 FEB 2017). So, whatever it is that nosalpogy represents, it is something of which I cannot conceptualize. Moreover, I’m incapable of conceptualizing it. If no person can elucidate what nosalpogy is , if no one can help me see ‘it’ against the setting of everything else, then nosalpogy is nothing.
Get thinking about Russell & Whitehead’s attempt to derive all of mathematics from purely logical axioms and remember how Godel’s Sentence G (just one example).
Russell & Whitehead wanted to irrefutably prove that a consistent system based on a few simple assumptions (aka axioms), whose theorems can be listed by an effective procedure (i.e., an algorithm), is capable of proving all truths about the arithmetic of the natural numbers.
Well, they failed to achieve that goal, but that failure brought its own success and furthered theoretical mathematics. Godel demonstrated, for any such formal system, such as the proposed one of Russell & Whitehead, there will always be statements about the natural numbers that are true, but that are unprovable within the system. Godel then provided proof that the system cannot demonstrate its own consistency.
To give the gist without the jargon– I imagine a tube with 3 tennis balls inside. Now, imagine you have 3 box each filled with 10 of these tubes, each containing three balls. Each tube contains a set of three balls. Each box contains a set of 10 tubes; another way to say this is, each box contains a set of 30 balls. So a set of 3 boxes is a set of 90 balls or a set of 30 tubes.
Imagine I am shipping out boxes of tennis balls. On each shipping pallatte, a set of 4 boxes, each containing three boxes of tennis balls, can be packed That means a pallatte contains a set of 360 tennis balls which is equal to a set of 90 tubes which is equal to a set of of 12 boxes. The pallatte can also hold a set of 4 boxes each holding 3 boxes.
The point is, I can define a set of tennis balls many ways. I can also imagine a set of sets of tennis balls (a box = 10 tubes and 10 tubes = 30 balls). A box is a set of tubes and a set of tubes is a set of tennis balls.
So if I can imagine of box of tubes containing tennis balls; and, if I can imagine a box that contains several boxes of tubes of tennis balls, and so on…at what point do hit the top? At what point do I reach the highest possible set? Never. I can always conceive of one more box around boxes just as I cannot name the highest number-I can always imagine one more.
Apologies-work in progress-researching underway.
Being a member of society requires behaving in specific ways and performing specific actions. By doing so, you and I reaffirm not only, that our society actually exists, but also, that you and I (the individual entities) belong to this society. As members of society, we also do certain things that exclude other individuals. Now, this may read as more antagonistic or cynical than I intend. Ultimately, it is the excluding and ‘othering process’ that validates a culture’s solidarity and solidarity is a necessary condition for the existence of the social phenomena.
THE CONTEXT OF THIS DISCUSSION IS EVERYTHING, AND THE PRESENTED ARGUMENTS SHOULD NOT BE SEEN AS SUPPORT FOR ANY GROUP OR ETHOS THAT PROMOTES THE EXCLUSION OF OTHERS. DIFFERENT DOES NOT EQUAL WRONG OR VIOLENT. IN FACT, THE MORE EXPOSURE TO OTHERS YOU EXPERIENCE, THE MORE YOU COME TO KNOW YOURSELF AND THE MORE YOU ENRICH YOUR CREATIVITY.
To know your society, you must know what is not your society.
Has anyone ever asked you what something was or what something was like or how it could be best described?
And, did you ever hear yourself say, “it would probably be easier to tell you what this what not!.”
Empathizer: So, I know what a hipster is, but what is a shoe-gazing, bird watcher?
Whiner: He’s not your stereotypical hipster douche wearing a lady’s scarf and a sports coat over torn jeans and t-shirts. He’s not an arty, magic realist steam punk kinda of hipster either.
Empathizer: Ooh Ooh, is it that heavy set hipster guy that has unruly hair and full mustache, beard, and neck beard? You know, the ones that wear the light blue denim jacket that was his grandfather’s and a pair of navy jeans that have been steam ironed, with some arty (but mostly comic strip looking) ironic T-shirt. Like a bright yellow shirt that has “you’re brilliant at everything you never tried” embossed over the knitted applique of a beret-wearing, cigarette smoking, French Mongoose standing in front of the Eiffel Tower?
Whiner: Oh oh, almost, but this kind of hipster is not fat, he’s usually real lanky, always wears white t-shirts like he doesn’t care, but he still spends just as long as the sorority girl does to get ready to go out on the town. Can grow, like, a five o’clock shadow but barely muster a lady’s mustachio- like, we’re talking early menopausal mustache fuzz at best here.
Now that I imagine ‘not good,’ (or now that I can imagine what is not a shoe-gazing, bird watching hipster) I find myself with pieces comprising the concept ‘good’-good & not good.
Why must I include ‘not good’ in my conception of ‘good’? Because, it is only by virtue of the existence of things that are not ‘good, by which I can conceptualize ‘good.’ If there is nothing that is not ‘good’; if everything is ‘good’, why would I need the concept ‘good’ at all? Could a concept ‘good’ even exist in those circumstances?
“Bad’ is simply the negation of ‘good.’ If I know if something is ‘good,” I know if something is “not good.’ I know this concept is meaningful, because other members of my culture agree and see the differences too. Because we agree that things can be described as ‘good’ we express meaning when we talk to one other about ‘good’ things. We communicate information and understand.
So, we can take a step further and say
Bad = Not Good
Good = Not Bad
Or, on a larger scale, we could imagine:
GOOD = good + not good GOOD=bad + not bad
BAD = good + not good BAD = good + not good
The words in capital letters represent that entire meaningful content (epiphenomenon)connoted by the concept of ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ The words in lowercase letters represent the pieces of that totality that is represented by the capitalized words. So from ‘good’ we can produce two concepts: good and bad. Each term meanings requires the existence of what the other term represents.
“That was good!”
“What does ‘good’ mean?”
I could try to describe it to the inquirer by describing times and things that are good, but that means that I can imagine things and times that are not good. By remembering the variation in emotional reaction to ‘good’ or ‘bad’ stimuli, I am able to ‘decide’ if something is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ I am also able to understand, through metaphor and simile, what others mean when they describe something as good.
But such a black and white, either/or, mutually exclusive, definition of the terms, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ can only exist in the abstract, intangible form, at the collective or social level. We, as actual individuals, not abstract, averaged, idealized hypotheticals, cannot define the terms so concretely. Whereas society may only see in black and white, we atoms of a society, at the very least and to varying degrees, see some grey in between.
So, what makes a concept meaningful things carrying encoded information to some audience? The thing being expressed must be a thing/experience/etc recognized by the audience. It must be something the audience can point out in contrast to those things that are not the same thing. So meaning requires knowing what is and is not the knowledge in questions’s object. To know what ‘fat’ is I can show you fat and not-fat in way that you identify as typical or true.
So a concept is composed of those things that is and those thing from which it is distinguishable.
So then, does that mean that meaningful concepts refer to the total of everything that is ‘that thing’ and everything that is ‘not that thing?” No. For a concept to be meaningful, it is the degree and variance in tension of those things that are and those things that are not the concept which bestows meaning on any given concept.
When you name something as a good thing, my consciousness relies on the tension of good versus not good in order to infer your intended meaning. The meaning produced is greater than the sum of its parts. A concept we consider meaningful is not simply the total of what it is and what it is not. If I understand your intended meaning, it is because the code you used to express meaning (the word ‘good’ in this instance) resonates with the tension maintaining my understanding of the concept good. That tension exists by virtue of my ability to distinguish between other instances of things I believe to be good and not good.