Psychology

A Problem With Analytic Philosophy: The Case Of ‘Forgiveness’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/05/2020 - 2:03am in

‘Forgiveness’ is a ‘big topic’ in contemporary philosophy–part of its current preoccupations in moral psychology. A quick search of journal articles, books, book chapters, edited collections, conference proceedings, and invited talks throws up many titles and topics; clearly, philosophers are working on a topic of great interest in the personal and moral domains. Forgiveness, healing, regret, guilt, anger–this cluster of concerns animates many. Present company included: I bear grudges, I carry around the anger of unresolved personal disputes within me, I regret my many moral errors and omissions, I seek to introduce healing into my many conflicted personal relationships–forgiveness plays a crucial role in addressing these personal zones of conflict and contestation. Philosophy is doing salutary work in addressing these in its current ruminations. So far, so good. 

But how does contemporary philosophy really ‘tackle’ forgiveness? Here is one wholly impressionistic take. 

I once attended a talk on forgiveness by a noted contemporary philosopher; s/he began by talking about ‘two kinds of forgiveness’ and after offering definitions of the pair, then went on to argue that in fact, under some kinds of conditions, the ‘two kinds of forgiveness’ collapsed into one, or entailed the other. Or something like that. Pardon my vagueness here, but that is merely a reflection of the fact that my attention had drifted, away and out of the seminar room. I went into the seminar expecting to find something that would resonate with my personal experiences of moral and political domains where forgiveness, or its lack thereof, played a crucial role. I found instead an exploration of the various logical and conceptual relationships that obtained between various definitions of forgiveness. The descriptions of the conditions under which these definitions of forgiveness were to be shown to be identical or logically related was mildly interesting but nowhere in any of this was to be found any of the emotional dimensions of forgiveness or of any of the human encounters that make forgiveness so interesting to a ‘normal’ human being. 

The problem, as I saw it, was quite simple: analytic philosophy is concerned with all the right topics; it delves into the domains of perplexity that are rightly of great and enduring interest to mankind; in this regard it is fulfilling its ‘social function’ and also its ‘cultural responsibility”; but,  it employs a style of argumentation and reasoning and, er, analysis that ensures its efforts fail to engage the concerns that animate those folks–i.e., most of us–who grapple with forgiveness in their lives. 

Forgiveness is a difficult business; perhaps among the most perplexing of all in human relationships. We cannot build structures of family and friendship without dealing with its challenges. But we will find no guidance in this regard from formal analytic philosophy. If I need guidance in my struggling with forgiveness in a crucial relationship, I will not turn there–and neither, I suspect, will anyone else. (Literature, the movies, perhaps a good play–all of those would be more useful.) In this moral domain, as in many others, analytic philosophy simply makes itself irrelevant.  

Mindfulness On The New York City Subway

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/05/2020 - 10:31pm in

Shortly after I began attending my first and only meditation training class, my teacher began a session by claiming meditation could be done anywhere; the ‘meditator’ should not worry about finding the best or the correct place to do ‘sits.’ Sit anywhere; find a support for your back so you can sit upright; but if you can’t you can meditate lying down. I found this catholic attitude to the position and location of the meditation sit refreshingly non-stifling. I found the last of my many excuses to not meditate melting away: no longer could I complain about the discomforts of meditation sits. So I began meditating. I would meditate at home in my living-room, sometimes in my daughter’s room when our household was busy, in an academic library, at a friend’s home. All I needed was a chair and a quiet spot.

And it didn’t have to be too quiet either.  All I had to do was sit comfortably, close my eyes, and meditate. If noise was present, then I had to be mindful of that too: acknowledge the noise, notice its presence, but don’t dwell on it; do pay attention to what happens if you find yourself trying to ‘process’ the noise. The key was to acknowledge that meditation was about mindfulness, not about escape from the every-day, or beguilement. Meditation asked me to be present in the present, not absent in the present. In a mindful way.

With all that said, one logical venue for meditation became apparent: the New York City subway. I often read in subway cars; indeed, they were one of my primary reading venues in my daily life in the city. But I never thought of them as a place of tranquility even though, quite clearly, they were for an experienced New York City commuter like me. All I had to do was find a seat, open a book, and very often I would be ‘lost’; a reading reverie had caused me to miss my intended station of disembarkation on more than one occasion. So why not meditate?

An opportunity presented itself soon enough: one day, while working in the library, I missed my afternoon meditation session by the stacks. Now, time was running out; I still had to catch the subway back to Brooklyn to pick up my daughter from after-school care. I would have to meditate on the subway if I wanted to get my session in before nighttime parenting duties began. And so it came to be that I took the Q train downtown, scouted for a seat, found one, plopped myself down, secured my backpack between my legs, pushed myself back, and closed my eyes. 

I sat for twenty minutes, while the subway took me from downtown Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn, through Chinatown, over the Manhattan Bridge. All around me I could hear sounds, feel sensation, smell aromas: the train scraping and screeching on the tracks, station and delay announcements, phone notifications, the occasional murmured conversation, french fries being eaten, my body moved and swayed, my head drooped, bodies around me moved and shifted as fellow passengers arranged themselves in various configurations for standing and sitting. 

I was in a subway car; I was present, not absent; I was mindful. I’m a human being; sight is my overpowering sensory modality. With the eyes closed, a different world pops into view. That day, while supposedly ‘checking out,’ I was more aware and sensitive to a certain dimension of the interior of a subway car than I had ever been with my eyes closed. I hadn’t gone anywhere; but I was still in a different place. On the subway, that was true literally, and figuratively. 

 

Radio 4 Serialising New Version of ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 2:12am in

Interesting news for fans of the Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Radio 4 begins a new version of his short story, ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’ on Monday, 25th May 2020. It’s split into ten parts, and is being broadcast on weekdays at the same time of 7.45 pm. It’s been updated by the show’s writer, Julian Simpson, so that the the pair investigating Ward’s disappearance from a secure psychiatric hospital are a couple of podcasters, Matthew Heawood and Kennedy Fisher. In several of Lovecraft’s short stories, the main characters’ final act is to write down their adventures for others to find just before they’re finally killed or captured by whatever nameless cosmic horrors are pursuing them. ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, in which a sailor, who has narrowly survived an encounter with the malign elder god in his sunken island of R’lyeh, and writes down his account of the experience shortly before his own death, is one classic example of this. However, as it’s now 2020 instead of the 1920s, and it’s for the radio, Friday’s edition of the show, according to the Radio Times, has the pair uncovering his audio files.

This could be good. The Beeb has broadcast some of Lovecraft’s works before. Radio 4 Extra a few years ago serialised ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, which was read by a narrator. That seemed to stick faithfully to Lovecraft’s text. While this obviously takes a few liberties, it could still be worth listening to. On the other hand, it could be like the BBC 1’s version of the War of the Worlds last year, which diverged so much from Wells’ book that it was ultimately disappointing. Let’s hope it isn’t.

Talking with Robert Jay Lifton: 9/11, the Climate Crisis and a Society Losing Reality

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 17/05/2020 - 8:15am in

At many critical junctures in our history Bill Moyers has talked with distinguished scholar Robert Jay Lifton — a society governed by falsehoods, the cimate crisis and 9/11. Together they try to piece together a fracturing world. Continue reading

The post Talking with Robert Jay Lifton: 9/11, the Climate Crisis and a Society Losing Reality appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

After Only Three Days on the Job, Boris Is Off On Paternity Leave

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/04/2020 - 6:15pm in

So much for Boris’ big return to work which was greeted with so much loud hullabaloo by the Tories on Monday. Now with the birth of his latest child – no. 6, but that’s only an approximate figure, as he doesn’t know how many he has – Boris has decided to leave work to take paternity leave. That means he’s spent a grand total of three days back at work, if that.

Mike in his article about this points out that if count backwards, it seems that he begat the child around the time he won the Tory election last year. It was what he did to celebrate, no doubt. Mike goes on to speculate that he may have done so knowing full well that it would arrive at about this time, and he’d have a reasonable excuse to go back on holiday.

How many holidays has he had since became prime minister, Mike asks rhetorically. Is he trying to get the record for the prime minister who spent the least amount of work in the role? Mike states that some might say it’s churlish to criticise the PM to take even more time off, but Mike’s reply is that it’s irresponsible of him to abandon his duties yet again.

Indeed. I realise that feminists have been campaigning for men to be given paternity leave for a very long time. I can remember the women’s column in the Absurder publishing articles demanding it in 1984/5. I’m also aware of the new research showing how profoundly a new baby affects the father’s mood and psychology as well as the mother. But I am also aware that Johnson is the head of this country’s government during an unprecedented health crisis. A crisis that is putting the NHS and its heroic staff under stress, and killing people. And it’s a crisis that Johnson has made immensely worse through his incompetence, complacency, his callous decision to put the economy before human lives, and sheer idleness. Mike says

‘We will remember him as the prime minister who created a catastrophe, waved his fist at it, and then ran away.’

Exactly. He also remembers an old comment about people making such a fuss and noise about being in charge, that nobody realises that they aren’t.

But in Johnson’s case, who is?

I think the answer to that one is probably Dominic Cummings, the eminence gristly who’s the real power behind Johnson. An abusive manipulator who demands total obedience from the press and media.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s compare the media’s reaction to the arrival of Johnson’s baby with the way they treated Tony Blair at the birth of his latest child when he was in office. Johnson has been greeted with a torrent of messages wishing him well, and very loud celebrations from the Tory press. While I don’t doubt Blair also enjoyed the public and the media also celebrating his new arrival, certain papers also indulged in a bit of coarse speculation. They published pieces wondering where he and Cherie were when the baby was conceived. I notice that Johnson has not been subjected to similar lese majeste.

Johnson seems to be aiming to be the Prime Minister, who has spent the least time actually governing the country, leaving the job to other people. Perhaps that’s no bad thing, considering the utter mess he’s made of it so far. A few days ago one of the left wing internet news sites reported that Dr Kailash Chand, a fierce critic of the government, stated that Johnson was so negligent and culpable that he should resign.

I’d say he’s right, except that all the members of his government are as incompetent and corrupt as he.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/29/so-much-for-boris-johnsons-big-return-to-work-now-hes-off-on-paternity-leave/

Is This the Most Insulting Comment Aliens Have Said to an Abductee?

I’ve just finished reading Dr. David Clarke’s The UFO Files, a history of UFOs in Britain from the phantom airship scares of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the abduction experiences from the 60s onwards, the 70’s craze created by Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, right up to the years immediately preceding the book’s publication in 2009. The book was written to accompany the release of the government’s files on UFOs by the National Archives, and is naturally based on the records compiled by the MOD, the Air Ministry, RAF and armed forces, and the Airmiss inquiry group, which investigates near misses between aircraft.

It’s a fascinating book that shows that UFOs have been around for over a century and that the government and the British military don’t really know any more about them than anyone else. The aliens haven’t established secret bases in Britain, and neither to the RAF or anyone else for that matter have alien bodies stashed away in a secret hangar somewhere. The official government line, repeated over and again, is that UFOs or of ‘no defence significance’, and they really don’t want to get involved unless it’s absolutely necessary. They’ve therefore investigate UFO sightings and encounters when it affects national security, such as if the UFOs may actually be foreign planes. The last government report on the phenomenon concluded that most of them were generated by people wrongly identifying a variety of artificial objects and natural phenomena. Those that couldn’t be properly identified, were probably poorly understood meteorological phenomena, electromagnetic plasmas, which could also create hallucinations through interfering with the brains of witnesses. This part of the report was, however, attacked by scientists on its release as pseudoscience.

But very many of the UFOs reported over the years have been people mistaking a variety of normal objects and phenomena for alien craft. During the First World War, an anti-aircraft crew at an army base in Cumbria fired at what they honestly believed was a German Zeppelin. Except that an officer, arriving at the scene, reported that he saw them staring at a star. It was discovered during the Second World War that flocks of migrating birds could make radar trails very much like approaching enemy aircraft, although the airmen sent up to intercept them would find no-one except themselves up there. During the Cold War, UFO reports were generated by the Americans releasing the Mogul spy balloons from their base in Scotland, as well as later flights by spy planes like the U2 and SR-71. These were so secret, the Americans didn’t inform their NATO allies in the countries across which the planes and balloons traveled on their way to the USSR. As a result, RAF jets were scrambled to intercept these unidentified aircraft, while there was a spate of UFO reports along the German border.

Some UFO sightings were also caused by particularly spectacular fireball meteors burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. One of these was responsible for the Berwyn mountain crash, dubbed by some ‘the Welsh Roswell’. A series of meteors were seen over England, followed by an earthquake measuring 4-5 on the Richter scale centred in Bala. It was feared that a military plane had crashed on the mountain, as several had done so previously. The RAF therefore sent up a mountain rescue squad, which found nothing and came back down again. This was subsequently inflated into stories of the RAF’s retrieval of a crashed UFO and alien bodies.

Other sightings were caused by the re-entry of Soviet spacecraft burning up in the atmosphere. This is believed to be the cause of the Rendlesham Forest incident, ‘the British Roswell’, in which a group of American squaddies from a USAF base entered the forest to encounter a triangular UFO in 1980. It seems that the Americans seen the rocket for a Soviet Cosmos spy satellite re-entering, and then the lights from a nearby lighthouse, believing they came from an alien spacecraft.

One MOD scientific/intelligence officer believed that most UFO reports could be satisfactorily explained if they had been investigated immediately they occurred, rather than sometime afterwards. Nevertheless, there are encounters that are still genuinely perplexing. Such as the report a trucker driving through Devon in the ’70s made at a local police station. He had been driving along the main road there when a craft shaped like a mushroom descended, landing on the road ahead, out of which came six short figures wearing uniforms. After gesturing at him, the creatures eventually got in their spacecraft, which lifted up into the air and flew on, leaving the trucker shaken by the experience.

And then there’s the encounter reported by a gent in Basingstoke in 1968. The fellow had been walking down by the canal one morning when a UFO descended and he was taken aboard by their occupants. They examined him, before telling the poor chap, “You can go. You are too old and infirm for our purposes.” Popular SF, which seems to have strongly influenced the content of UFO encounters, has been full of tales of evil aliens coming to other to conquer and enslaved humanity, and carry off people off for breeding purposes. It’s usually females, as in the SF B-movie Mars Needs Women, but sometimes men as in the 1949 Hammer flick, Devil Girl from Mars. This episode occurred around about the time of the Villas Boas encounter, when a Brazilian farmer of that name had been abducted by aliens and forced to have sex with a red-headed alien woman. Possibly the crew of the Basingstoke UFO also had something similar in mind. If so, both they and the poor bloke they abducted were out of luck. Or perhaps they had in mind something far more unpleasant, in which case their intended victim was lucky. The Contactees, who met peaceful aliens in the 1950s, and the abductees from the 1980s onwards, were given messages by humanity by the aliens they encountered. These tend to moralistic sermons preaching international and intergalactic brotherhood, peace, an end to nuclear weapons and concern for the environment. Sometimes they include descriptions of the aliens’ own planets and their societies. Sometimes they’re even whisked away on journeys to these distant worlds. This poor fellow didn’t get any of that, just the blunt statement that he was too old and infirm for them. He was spared the horror and humiliation of being examined and experimented upon, but their comments still seem just a tiny bit insulting. They could have put it a bit more tactfully.

My own feeling is that UFOs, when they aren’t misidentified normal objects or phenomena, are internal visionary experiences drawing on the imagery of Science Fiction, but expressing deep-seated human fears and needs. I don’t know what generates them. I think some are probably the result of poorly understood psychological states, such as sleep paralysis. But I also wonder if others are genuine encounters with something paranormal, something that in previous centuries took the form of fairies and other supernatural beings, and now takes the form of aliens and spaceships as images more suitable for our technological society.

While David Clarke’s done excellent work researching the government’s UFO archives, and has shown that very many of them have entirely rational explanations, there may still be something genuinely paranormal out there. But it didn’t want the man from Basingstoke it encountered on that day in 1968.

William James’ “Higher Vision of Inner Significance”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 10:02pm in

An analysis of the enduring contributions of William James to philosophy and psychology, including pragmatism, the will to believe, stream of consciousness, and habit formation.

On Howling in Mill Valley and Walt Whitman’s “Barbaric Yawp”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/04/2020 - 5:24am in

Whitman would be proud of the people of Mill Valley, California, and their new nightly ritual of communal howling at each other out of their windows during the pandemic. Continue reading

The post On Howling in Mill Valley and Walt Whitman’s “Barbaric Yawp” appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

In a Crisis, Follow the Leader

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 12:40am in

In wartime, national leaders generally become extremely popular. Think Winston Churchill during the war, or George W. Bush after 9/11.

A Formative Quarantine in an Earlier Era

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/04/2020 - 9:01am in

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Health, Psychology

How I developed effective survival skills as a 5-year-old kid in quarantine.

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