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Archive for May 25th, 2010

Historically, the search for a way to describe the mechanics of what is going on out there in the world and how it impacts what is going on with organisms [sometimes referenced as “the mind”, personality, cognition, consciousness, intuition, etc.] is that the fields of psychology have always used metaphors, similes, and analogies, in part, because most of the areas morphed out of philosophy, religion and literature.

Clearly for Descartes, mechanisms [particularly clocks and hydraulics] were big at the time and from there it wasn’t a stretch to embrace the naturalistic model, then the disease model, then the computer analogies, all the while not letting go of the metaphors, analogies, and similes that preceded it.

Yes, don’t forget the impact of the 70’s drug culture on 40+ years of speculation on consciousness, the inner self, higher self, etc.

The outcome of much of the theory and speculation was increased awareness at the cost of precision.  All three influences are with us today as embedded vernacular, imagery, and rationales’ applied to the understanding of organisms.  We still embrace the vernacular and the idioms of Freud as if they were true, valid or valuable.  At another level, these approaches are embraced and morph as needed because there is little to replace them that the populace could cling to considering Western Judo-Christian history, laws, and sometimes even a bully Western philosophical interpretation of all matters. The terms, concepts, etc., work because they explain behavior to many that are clueless and communication-less without such pop-snarkness, having otherwise to depend on greater superstition, folklore and ‘commonsense’ explanations than they currently do.  Said more succinctly, while the theory of mind may keep us from looking at the causes of behavior, it has some value, more than other Freudian alternatives or those endless literature dumps proposed by philosophy, theology and sociology.

As metaphors are wont to do, they work to make intangibly complex relationships more tangible, understandable, usable and communicable.  Science has not had a history of doing that well either so the result is there is little pragmatic value change in understanding what the heck is going on out there and ‘in’ there if science doesn’t make cases well enough.

The lay vocabulary we end up using is residue that provides consistent, sometimes vivid equivalents for concepts until the understanding of relationships and patterns can get sorted out.   A MAJOR problem comes from the reification of those terms like mind, need, motivation, personality, evil, addiction, intuition, etc., such that they are never scientifically challenged or shown to be what they are; a trail of metaphysical left-overs from philosophy, theoretical speculations and dependence on analogies, similes, and metaphors.

Unfortunately, the metaphor has become reified to the extreme by the world’s citizens and, through the conditioning we all used to get an education, became the reality of what it was a ‘place holder’ for. We’ve all seen it over and over: what had been an incomplete story-like example became the “thing” studied, described, interacted with before suddenly becoming raison d’être.

There is no bridge between pragmatism and articulated science.  If one can’t use what science provides people – even academia – will embellish what they have and use it it as they have for centuries.   Traditions allow us to avoid the constant assessment tasks that are needed.You know the old saw,

insanity is doing the same things over and over and expected the results to be different’ (-Einstein or W. Deming; take your pick) 

By embracing those states that come to keep us comfortable and un-questioning, only those events we subjectively or theatrically sense as catastrophic will generate uncomfortable questions that when answered will make a difference.

Thus, for you to entertain changing your sense of how anything works, business, families, social networks, corporations, football teams, etc. (you get the idea) you’ll need to get fired, get shunned, get de-friended, get passed over, lose the Super Bowl, and many other things equivalent to a kick in the ass.  When that happens, most of us change our perspective a wee bit after we get up… others just continue to blame or claim the world is evil, unkind, gone mad, filled with greed before setting out to get restitution, get even or get a lawyer.

How’s that last option working?

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