Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

The enlightenment myths need revisiting

by Colman Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 07:27:03 AM EST

Madeline Bunting, in a piece in the Guardian today, outlines some of issues being thrown up by current research on how human brains work:

This humbling evidence of our hopeless decision-making exposes consumer capitalism as not being about millions of independent decisions of individuals expressing unique identities, but about how social norms can be manipulated to create eager shoppers. Or take the idea of introducing choice into public services; some bizarre consequences will result, such as the popularity of a hospital being determined by whether it has a car park, not the skill of medical staff.

There are two other areas of this new brain research which are arguably more important. First, we have much underestimated the social nature of the brain: how primed it is to recognise, interpret and respond all the time to the input of others and how that lays down patterns which govern our behaviour. We are herd-like animals who show a strong tendency to conform with group norms; what makes our brains so much bigger than other primates is this remarkable capacity for social skills such as empathy, co-operation and fairness. Instead of the old metaphor of individuals as discrete entities like billiard balls, we need to think instead of them as nodes in a relationship network.

The second area of astonishing discoveries is in the plasticity of the brain. We talk of "hardwiring" (computers have generated many misleading metaphors for the brain) but in fact, the brain can be changed. Parts of the brain can learn entirely new tricks. Neural pathways are not fixed, and even much of the damage done by deprivation in childhood can be repaired with the right circumstances of example, support and determination. We can shape our own brains to create new habits that we might have thought we were not capable of – it's a long, hard process but it is possible.

This all may seem remote from politics, but it's not. Jon Cruddas has a habit of startling audiences by arguing that the regeneration of the left requires a convincing new account of what it is to be human. Are human beings self-interested creatures or are they collaborative? The right's argument for market capitalism is rooted in the former but the research on the social brain supports the latter. Put crudely, we are social creatures with an inbuilt tendency to co-operate and seek out each other's approval and that is probably more important in determining day-to-day behaviours than narrowly conceived self-interest.

Now, there's a lot to argue with in the piece, but it lays out the scope of the debate pretty well, and she's actually written it, which rather trumps the collection of half-scribbled bits and pieces I've been meaning to turn into a post on the subject .


Display:
Mind you, she can't help putting in references to Buddhism in the last paragraph. It is the Guardian, after all.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 07:27:58 AM EST
European Tribune - The enlightenment myths need revisiting
Jon Cruddas has a habit of startling audiences by arguing that the regeneration of the left requires a convincing new account of what it is to be human.

'Liberation, a human phenomenon, cannot be achieved by semihumans'. Paolo Friere

a convincing new account may just be a revelation that our relationships are more important than any other kind of success in life, that in relating to the complex, nuanced signals we can send and remember, (untraining ourselves from ignoring).

right now we have half an idea of what it means to be human, leaving us semihuman. we have all the building blocks needed for a just, compassionate world, yet some silly buggers are still englamoured of the idea that they can take and call it giving, (bankstas, et parasitum al). these retarded attitudes are the sand in the gears of positive change.

meanwhile we watch people starve while passing the grey poupon and serving impeccable meals 30,000 ft above dubai...

tipping point, sooner or later, there's no way this bullet ridden rasputin of an anglo economy is going to stagger around much longer, unless someone doses the water supply with commonsense.

i guess a massive redistribution of wealth would be the only thing that'd bring enough cheering obama supporters out to drown out the teabagger-birther foot-shooters, and i fully expect it to happen this october. (snark)

just in time for the compulsory mass vaccinations...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 07:47:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Madeleine Bunting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bunting is noted for her advocacy of religious belief from a liberal position and her antipathy to atheism, claiming that atheists' antipathy to religion makes it impossible for them to criticise religion effectively.
Of course, Bunting's antipathy for atheism doesn't make it impossible for her to criticise atheism effectively.

But she has a point - if you wanto to reach religious people with rational argument you have to argue within their frame because reasoning from outside their frame will be perceived as either hostile or not even wrong.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:15:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It depends what you mean by "within their frame" - does that mean accepting that faith takes priority over reason - in which case, how can you ARGUE with  them? - and that one accepts - with Christians - that Jesus is our only path to salvation, etc. ?

In fact it's a bit patronising to the religious in suggesting that they're impervious to rational argument which doesn't accept their own beliefs. The ways in which many believers have lost faith through growing awareness of the contradictions within their beliefs is well documented in, for example, ex-christians.net; Some testimonies there are from formerly deeply committed christians, some were preachers who'd converted many others, but doubts set in, contradictions in the Bible become problematic, etc. Some lost friends and even family when they rejected their former beliefs - clearly there are others who have such doubts but suppress them in order to stay within their social network.

Arguably what's needed, especially in the US, is more people who openly criticise religion - NOT within the "frame" of those who accept such a frame on the basis of faith alone. When one philosopher gave a talk questioning religion, one young guy thanked him and said it was the first time he'd ever heard anyone say they  were an atheist - about the least popular social group apparently, in the US - of course.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 11:06:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ted Welch:
The ways in which many believers have lost faith through growing awareness of the contradictions within their beliefs is well documented in, for example, ex-christians.net; Some testimonies there are from formerly deeply committed christians, some were preachers who'd converted many others, but doubts set in, contradictions in the Bible become problematic, etc. Some lost friends and even family when they rejected their former beliefs - clearly there are others who have such doubts but suppress them in order to stay within their social network.
Those are all arguments within the religious frame. Who do you think is more threatening to a religious establishment? A former deeply committed believer, or Richard Dawkins? It is not patronising to say that an argument which is transparently from outside the frame is likely to be either dismissed off-hand as absurd, or defended against as aggressive.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 11:14:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't have to be either/or.

But the frame doesn't have to be intellectual. The conservative frame seems to be based on an emotional identification with a herd or group, and an emotional calculus of status and hierarchy.

The Abrahamic religions are herd rackets, run for the benefit of a relatively small number of individuals who benefit from the money, power and status they provide them.

But for followers, the existence of hierarchy is a feature, not a bug. They want hierarchy, and they want to feel part of a network of personal relationships with careful shadings of better-than and less-than, and a fair measure of covert and not so covert social and physical violence.

When Dawkins attacks Christianity he's attacking that tribal affiliation. But he's doing it by challenging tribal narratives at face value, and not by deconstructing the emotional dynamics that support them.

As for NCE - that's borrowed the hierarchy without borrowing the imagery. The emotional and social dynamics that support capitalism are very similar to those that support religion.

What we don't have is a Dawkins-for-economics. The heterodox types aren't media savvy enough to try to find someone like that - which is a shame, because it would be an interesting thing to see.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 11:35:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
When Dawkins attacks Christianity he's attacking that tribal affiliation. But he's doing it by challenging tribal narratives at face value, and not by deconstructing the emotional dynamics that support them.
And is he being effective? To me he sounds like he's preaching to the converted so to speak. Militant atheists really dig his stuff, ti energises them. How many religious people are swayed by his arguments?
As for NCE - that's borrowed the hierarchy without borrowing the imagery. The emotional and social dynamics that support capitalism are very similar to those that support religion.

What we don't have is a Dawkins-for-economics. The heterodox types aren't media savvy enough to try to find someone like that - which is a shame, because it would be an interesting thing to see.

When Dawkins paid for all that advertising on buses in major cities, what was the result? A counter-campaign by religious advocates paying for advertising on buses.

Any hearts and minds won?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 11:41:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't have to be either/or, nor does it have to be done in Dawkins' manner.  The most devastating arguments are alwaysalways constructed within the frame of the person or group to be devastated.  Not to say it is easy.  First of all, it is necessary to dig into their world view and this one often finds to be obnoxious.  That is why effective opponents of a frame often are those who were raised within but managed to transcend it.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 01:54:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, they were NOT arguments within the religious "frame" as normally understood, where FAITH rules. They started to adopt arguments based on reason and NOT faith, and eventually saw that these revealed gross contradictions within the system of their former beliefs and decided that faith, the basic principle for them before, would have to give way to reason.

Some of them did read Dawkins and that helped them escape (as they saw it) their former misguided beliefs.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 05:30:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are differences within religions. To take the abrahamic religions they all have long traditions of rationally discussing the contradictions within the religions while retaining some fundamental points beyond criticism. And at the same time they have long traditions of someone starting a revival - back to the roots, get rid of the bureacracy - that sees the contradictions more as something to be accepted. It is a sliding scale in my opinion and at the end we have what we today refer to as a cult, a place where hardly no discussion is allowed. The frame is quite different between those places.

On the question of internal critique vs external critique I would say both. The debate within the frame opens the possibility of something being wrong with the frame and the external critique builds an alternative frame that can be jumped to.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Aug 26th, 2009 at 07:51:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We are herd-like animals who show a strong tendency to conform with group norms

I feel like PN-ing on this one. Since Madeline Bunting disparages misleading comparisons with computers, she should get her biological comparisons right and not talk about a 'herd' when she is talking about primate group behaviour. A herd is a distinct entity which protects itself from predators through close proximity and coordinated movements, like a flock or a school. Primates do not do herds in this manner, their group behaviour is different, and I would think it is different in important ways in being more collectively creative.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 07:55:36 AM EST
Well - yes and no. I think a lot of people do act like herd animals. Politics and advertising would be impossible if this weren't true.

One of the foundations of the right is its ability to evoke unthinking herd responses while packaging them as free individual choice. Usually all the right needs to do is set up an external threat, and a significant proportion of the population will fall into line.

Humans sometimes do collective creativity. But it seems to be more an accidental but useful outcome of our ability to store information about ideas and experiences outside of ourselves than an explicity primary goal. (So far, anyway.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 08:08:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Most primates live in groups ranging from a few dozen to a few thousand. That the performance of massed groups on the count of collective creativity does not fare well doesn't have to do with our nature, but rather with alienation from it.

I suspect that we suck as herd animals and far more of us get hurt or die when we exhibit typical herd behaviour (as in, the Ramadan, rock concerts, or the yearly black friday spectacle in the US) than in your typical buffalo stampede.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 08:32:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ramadan should be Hajj, of course
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 08:44:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
One of the foundations of the right is its ability to evoke unthinking herd responses while packaging them as free individual choice.
Framing, framing, framing.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:12:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Humans are social animals with strong and nuanced communications and social organization abilities, not herd animals.  When the biological bases for response to danger and opportunity are exploited to the self advantage of individuals in a social group much of the nuance can be lost and the resultant group behavior can drop to a level more appropriate to a herd of ruminants.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 02:01:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here we have another example of the importance of metaphors.

When she says 'herd behaviour' it's not just a figure of speech - it implies a particular cognitive model of human social interactions. And if the model is wrong as you suggest it will lead to the wrong political strategies to influence group behaviour.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:11:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's go to the full quote:
We are herd-like animals who show a strong tendency to conform with group norms; what makes our brains so much bigger than other primates is this remarkable capacity for social skills such as empathy, co-operation and fairness. Instead of the old metaphor of individuals as discrete entities like billiard balls, we need to think instead of them as nodes in a relationship network.

Some of this is right and some is wrong. First, primates are all social animals with concordant social skills, and also exhibit a basic sense of fairness (see e.g. this pdf by Frans de Waal). Our social skills and our ability to emote are nonetheless far larger and this indeed accounts for a big part of our brain. But this is not something that makes us different from other primates, rather, it is something that makes other primates and us different from cattle (herd animals).

Nonetheless, the billiard ball and the node in a network comparison is not bad, the important thing is what kind of network we are talking about.

With regard to the size of the group in which humans will tend to display collective intelligence, Dunbar's number is interesting.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:47:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent article by de Waal. And it contains references to Hobbes and Adam Smith which are apposite in connection with the subthread on classical economics being the economic theory of the Enlightenment frame.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:34:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also goes into Rawls which is interesting re- the recent diary about Rawls and reason here (too lazy to hunt that one down now).
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:46:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Obama, John Rawls, and a Defense of the Unreasonable by Nonpartisan on June 13th, 2009. Also my LQD: Democrats realise Republicans are certifiable.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 11:12:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I forgot the reference to Rawls.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 11:24:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Herding, flocking, and schooling are emergent behavior, easily derivable from three rules:

  1.  Separation: steer to avoid crowding local flockmates

  2.  Alignment: steer towards the average heading of local flockmates

  3.  Cohesion: steer to move toward the average position of local flockmates

and you get boids:

(Green cubes are 'food')

Flocking, herding, and schooling arises without social bonding.

Primates don't herd.  We troop or band.  Both of these require social interaction within the group to maintain the group.  That's why and how the primate brain evolved: to handle life in a highly interactive, mutually supporting group.  

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:58:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Aug 26th, 2009 at 02:06:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cognitive Linguist George Lakoff had the forllowing recent diary on DKos: The PolicySpeak Disaster for Health Care

The PolicySpeak Disaster

PolicySpeak is the principle that: If you just tell people the policy facts, they will reason to the right conclusion and support the policy wholeheartedly.

PolicySpeak is the principle behind the President's new Reality Check Website.  To my knowledge, the Reality Check Website, has not had a reality check. That is, the administration has not hired a first-class cognitive psychologist to take subjects who have been convinced by right-wing myths and lies, have them read the Reality Check website, and see if the Reality Check website has changed their minds a couple of days or a week later. I have my doubts, but do the test.

To many liberals, PolicySpeak sounds like the high road: a rational, public discussion in the best tradition of liberal democracy. Convince the populace rationally on the objective policy merits. Give the facts and figures. Assume self-interest as the motivator of rational choice. Convince people by the logic of the policymakers that the policy is in their interest.
But to a cognitive scientist or neuroscientist, this sounds nuts. The view of human reason and language behind PolicySpeak is just false. Certainly reason should be used. It's just that you should use real reason, the way people really think. Certainly the truth should be told. It's just that it should be told so it makes sense to people, resonates with them, and inspires them to act. Certainly new media should be used. It's just that a system of communications should be constructed and used effectively.

...

What Is Reason Really Like?

PolicySpeak is supposed to be reasoned, objective discourse. It thus assumes a theory of what reason itself is -- a philosophical theory that dates back to the 17th Century and is still taught.

Over the past four decades, cognitive science and neuroscience have provided a scientific view of how the brain and mind really work. A handful of these results have come into behavioral economics. But most social scientists and policymakers are not trained in these fields.  They still have the old view of mind and language.

The old philosophical theory says that reason is conscious, can fit the world directly, is universal (we all think the same way), is dispassionate (emotions get in the way of reason), is literal (no metaphor or framing in reason), works by logic, is abstract (not physical) and functions to serve our interests. Language on this view is neutral and can directly fit, or not fit, reality.

The scientific research in neuroscience and cognitive science has shown that most reason is unconscious. Since we think with our brains, reason cannot directly fit the world. Emotion is necessary for rational thought; if you cannot feel emotion, you will not know what to want or how anyone else would react to your actions. Rational decisions depend on emotion. Empathy with others has a physical basis, and as much as self-interest, empathy lies behind reason.
Ideas are physical, part of brain circuitry. Ideas are constituted by brain structures called `frames' and `metaphors,' and reason uses them.  Frames form systems, called worldviews.

All language is defined relative to such frames and metaphors. There are very different conservative and progressive worldviews, and different words can activate different worldviews. Important words, like freedom, can have entirely different meanings depending on your worldview. In short, not everybody thinks the same way.

As a result, what is taken as "objective" discourse is often worldview dependent. This is especially true of health care. All progressive writing supporting some version of health care assumes a progressive moral worldview, in which no one should be forced to go without heath care, the government should play a role, market regulation is necessary, and so on.
Those with radical conservative worldviews may well think otherwise: that everyone should be responsible for their own and their family's health care, that the government is oppressive and should stay out of it, that the market should always dominate, and so on.

Overall, the foundational assumptions underlying PolicySpeak are false. It should be no wonder that PolicySpeak isn't working.

The Enlightenment is a narrative/framing/myth about how human reason works. It is total bollocks. Application of the scientific method to human cognition since the Age of Enlightenment 250 years ago has resulted in an understanding of human reason which contradicts the Enlightenment itself. The Scientific Method is closely associated with the Enlightenment narrative, but it is not coterminous with it. Maybe it is time to ditch the Enlightenment without throwing the Scientific Method baby out with the bathwater.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 08:58:01 AM EST
Lakoff:
As a result, what is taken as "objective" discourse is often worldview dependent. This is especially true of health care. All progressive writing supporting some version of health care assumes a progressive moral worldview, in which no one should be forced to go without heath care, the government should play a role, market regulation is necessary, and so on.
Those with radical conservative worldviews may well think otherwise: that everyone should be responsible for their own and their family's health care, that the government is oppressive and should stay out of it, that the market should always dominate, and so on.
One of the things I have learned on ET over the years is that political debates can progress up to the point where it becomes clear that the debate is actually about which frame to use to approach the problem. Up to the point where the respective frames are delineated to everyone's satisfaction, there is progress. At that point it's all over bar the shouting; and shouting is all that takes place if the debate is carried on, as people just talk past each other hopelessly trying to convince the other side to drop their frame. Heat and no light.

As with health care, so with global climate change, nuclear power, the European union, criminal justice...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:03:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's true but - the question becomes, why are extreme right-wing viewpoints being considered at all?

The enlightenment model actually works fairly well for people who are educated to deal with reality.

Framing is fine as far it goes, but the political issue isn't so much about how to persuade people to change their minds about a specific issue - how is Lakoff proposing to do that? - but to question how it happened that extremist right-wing narratives have any political leverage at all.

As for framing: Daily Kos: The PolicySpeak Disaster for Health Care

The American Plan. Health care is a patriotic issue. It is what your countrymen are engaged in because Americans care about each other. The right wing understands this well. It's got conservative veterans at Town Hall meeting shouting things like, "I fought for this country in Vietnam, and I'm fight for it here." Progressives should be stressing the patriotic nature of having our nation guaranteeing care for our people.

A Health Care Emergency. Americans are suffering and dying because of the failure of insurance company health care. 50 million have no insurance at all, and millions of those who do are denied necessary care or lose their insurance. We can't wait any longer. It's an emergency. We have to act now to end the suffering and death.

I like the ideas, and I'd guess that 'patriotic' and 'emergency' would indeed push some right-wing buttons.

But has Lakoff checked if this will actually work?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:16:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The enlightenment model actually works fairly well for people who are educated to deal with reality.

Does it?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:18:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm deliberately excluding economics from that.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:24:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even though at least classical liberal economics is the economics of the Enlightenment frame.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:27:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes it is. And that's always been the problem. The Enlightenment never did political and economic science properly - it just ran with a legacy of medieval nonsense without ever bothering to review it.

It made political sense at the time, because the rights of the individual were a political battleground.

But what happened is that while the rest of science got on with trying to understand the physical world, the medieval nonsense got a free pass and could pretend to be 'enlightened' without having to be rigorous or reality-checked.

And here we are.

And there are still two choices. You can either accept that rational modelling is possible in principle, even if it's limited and contingent.

Or you can say 'Well, we're just fucked. How about that, huh?'

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:26:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:

And there are still two choices. You can either accept that rational modelling is possible in principle, even if it's limited and contingent.

Or you can say 'Well, we're just fucked. How about that, huh?'

I thought you were the one who always claimed rational modelling of economics was impossible.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:32:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Economics != policy.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:36:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Economics subset policy.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:38:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rational modeling (using a set of empirical measurements to satisfice or maximise certain goals) can be different from rational choice modeling (assuming that humans are maximising decision automatons as per BruceMcF).
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:45:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by the "deal with reality" bit...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:28:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
reality
While we're on the topic of the Enlightenment frame, may I reming everyone that according to Kant there's no such thing as a reality independent of cognition?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:35:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not actually what he said. Arguing that knowledge is only possible by imperfect and incomplete analogy is not the same as arguing that reality ceases to exist when cognition stops.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:11:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But you cannot meaningfully talk about reality in itself.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:12:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't need to talk about reality in itself. You only need to worry about the bits that are likely to hit you over the head, set you on fire, or starve you.

You can save the rest for quantum ontology, which - as we know - no one much cares about anyway.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:27:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What, because economics is special in some way?  You think people are any less stupid about any other part of policy? It's only because current economics is more easily expressed mathematically that it's so easy to rip apart.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:30:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep - computers don't actually work. Nor does health care. Nor does food production.

What's your point, exactly? Do you think we're still living in caves and grunting?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:02:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you need to elaborate on
I'm deliberately excluding economics from that.


En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:05:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And all have had pretty awful side effects which have been ignored and denied for ages. Technology is kept grounded by having to deal with physics. Its uses not so much.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:07:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
The enlightenment model actually works fairly well for people who are educated to deal with reality.
Which is why Lakoff can make his argument to DKos in a factual tone. He knows his audience consists of (would-be?) policy wonks and so rational argument is the way to go.

But people who are educated to deal with reality tend to adopt the Enlightenment frame which tells them incorrectly that everyone else is operating in the same frame: at most they're just ignorant and all that needs to be done is to show hem the correct fact.

But that is not the case. Everyone else is operating in a number of different frames and you either have to change their frame or tailor your presentation to their frame. This doesn't mean you need to lie: if the facts support your case it will be easier to fit them into your presentation which fits their frame. Unless, of course, their frame is contradicted by the facts in which case the facts be damned. Or, as a scientist would say, put the supposed facts down to experimental error.

So the first thing that people who operate under the Enlightenment model need to do is realise that the Enlightenment model is wrong in its universality. Eveyone could operate within the frame if they had been raised in it, but given that they haven't the Enlightenment frame cannot be taken to be universal.

Dialectically engaging someone should then first consist of assessing what frame they operate in. Only then can one move to debating issues.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:24:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But people who are educated to deal with reality tend to adopt the Enlightenment frame which tells them incorrectly that everyone else is operating in the same frame

It also tells them, incorrectly, that they're operating in that frame, which they're not unless they are very, very careful about it at every step.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:28:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is an important insight.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:30:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mathematics/symbolic logic and so on are tools to allow one be careful enough to be right, and even then we often get it wrong. It's awfully easy to be convinced by an argument you want to be true.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:32:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
:)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:33:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mathematics and symbolic logic are conceptual metaphors. They do not have an independent existence. They are tools created by humans. Aristotle's greatest contribution is not that he elucidated the rules of a universally applicable propositional logic independent of human cognition. His greatest contribution was to formalise a particular set of argumentation techniques into a technology for reasoning.

On why it's not a given that propositional logic is universally applicable outside of human thought, see topos theory (if you can stomach it - I can't).

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:40:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What, your head too small for uncountable truth values? (And worse)
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:50:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can just about manage constructivist mathematics...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:52:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Liberals need to get interested in pushing any views, not just Lakoff's, to start with, and the media needs to allow them airtime.

95% of what I've read of the US health care "debate" has been through the conservative frame - and I'm biased towards left wing media / sites like this.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 02:51:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]

political debates can progress up to the point where it becomes clear that the debate is actually about which frame to use to approach the problem. Up to the point where the respective frames are delineated to everyone's satisfaction, there is progress. At that point it's all over bar the shouting

But if the delineation is done properly, it at least opens the door to identifying other potential tactics for successful political action (if not for debate). The question becomes, of course, whether the people able to identify that delineation have any competence (or appetite) for such political action.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:32:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm talking about the point where "agree to disagree" is the optimal strategy for all debaters.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True for debate, not necessarily true for politics where there is actual action to be taken. Understanding the frames may make it possible to find solutions that fit into both frames.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:38:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Watching actual policy debates unfold, I actually doubt it.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:41:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The most efficient policy changes is done without the debate. Policy change is promoted by an interested group and buy-in is secured from all groups powerful enough to stop it. That does need proposals that work within different frames and thus needs understanding of the frames involved.

Once the proposal finally reaches a deciding body it just passes. The problem for democracy is that the public is more often then not outside the range of powerful enough groups.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Aug 26th, 2009 at 08:23:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I completely agree. Word by word

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Aug 27th, 2009 at 07:31:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lakoff:
To many liberals, PolicySpeak sounds like the high road: a rational, public discussion in the best tradition of liberal democracy. Convince the populace rationally on the objective policy merits. Give the facts and figures. Assume self-interest as the motivator of rational choice. Convince people by the logic of the policymakers that the policy is in their interest.
But to a cognitive scientist or neuroscientist, this sounds nuts.
So, if the Myth/Narrative/Frame of Liberal Democracy is nuts according to our best understanding of cognitive linguistics, where does this leave Liberal Democracy?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:09:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In need of overhaul.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:19:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Liberal Democracy is the political system of the Enlightenment, after all.

It is a utopia just like any other in that it assumes everyone acts as is needed. In the case of Liberal Democracy, the assumption is that everyone operates in the Enlightenment frame, and then it works.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:27:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, liberal democracy has only ever pretended to be the political system of the Enlightenment.

All actual political systems have been based on accumulating power and prestige for their own sake.

Liberal democracy has never been more than an interesting notion. There's never been any serious attempt to implement it properly.

E.g. you can't have liberal democracy and nation states, or liberal democracy and oligarchies, or liberal democracy and corporate monopolies.

All of these alternatives assume there's a power over democratic demands which places absolute limits on them.

Besides, no one really knows what liberal democracy is.

In practice it just seems to mean that everyone gets to vote. But that's not really much use from a policy-setting point of view.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:35:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
No, liberal democracy has only ever pretended to be the political system of the Enlightenment.

...

Liberal democracy has never been more than an interesting notion. There's never been any serious attempt to implement it properly.

That it has never been implemented properly doesn't contradict the statement that it is the political system of the Enlightenment. You don't get to implement your written constitution with separation of powers and the rule of law with the people you wish you had, but with the people you have. And the people you have don't operate in the Elightenment frame. Therefore Liberal Democracy is utopian and it fails for the same reason, say, "real Socialism" fails: people don't conform to the "theory of Man" that the political system is designed under.
All actual political systems have been based on accumulating power and prestige for their own sake.
No, hardly any political system is explicitly based on that, but the primates who are required to implement the political system being primates, you get competition for power and prestige for their own sake (or for the sake of competition).

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 10:39:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
That it has never been implemented properly doesn't contradict the statement that it is the political system of the Enlightenment.

It's the narrative of the politics of the Enlightenment.

The reality has always been more aristocratic.

The joy and wonder of political systems is that they're always significantly driven by the accumulation of power and prestige, even when explicitly they pretend to be about something different.

That's not necessarily a problem, providing there's a narrative built into the politics which can limit that drive so that policy remains inaccessible to the usual dedicated but sociopathic minorities who crave it.

Liberal Democracy has never been that narrative, because as soon as you have an economy designed for expansion and accumulation, you're not actually in a liberal democracy any more.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Aug 26th, 2009 at 06:40:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of discredited myths.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 09:26:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mig
Maybe it is time to ditch the Enlightenment without throwing the Scientific Method baby out with the bathwater.

We certainly need either to throw out or totally update the Enlightenment view of human nature.  Many of the Enlightenment values remain fundamental and would be much better served if applied with a more appropriate view of how our minds operate.  Individual and social psychology were, at best, rudimentary during the Enlightenment.  Fechner was one of the earliest psychologists who's work remains useful.  Wilhelm Wundt and Hermann Helmholtz and Gustav Fechner are generally considered the founders of experimental psychology.  Less known is Fechner's interest in and works on other aspects of psychology, in particular the original meaning of psychology as the study of the psyche.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 02:29:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I also read this and thought that the problem is not the myths OF the Enlightenment, but such myths ABOUT it - perpetuated by her; enlightenment thinkers did NOT have the simplistic view about the role of reason and rationality usually attributed to them, often by their opponents such as the Romantics, cf.

myth-about-enlightenment

http://books.google.com/books?id=HwHQoCrktNgC&dq  p.112

Apart from that - what is supposed to be so new about the views she presents, who seriously thinks we're entirely rational, and that our thinking is not greatly influenced by others, given the evidence of history, advertising, our tendency to conform, etc.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Aug 25th, 2009 at 11:31:37 AM EST
I guess I have to chime in. In  my first day after a long deserved holiday (and with a cold).
And this is my topic. I have been advocating from an anthropological take on political (and action) discourse.

I still remember how in ET we tried to push strongly the idea that the first thing to get Enlightenment-based legislation was to buy media and push narratives/myths regarding any particular legislation. The american democrats got better at that and Bush failures did the rest. In the 80's they did not know even the basic scientific facts that the right was using with Reagan to change the society.

We have been repeating again and again that the Enlightenment structural myth is just that, a myth. A particular myth that was developed in western Europe a couple of centuries ago. It was a potent myth, but that was all: an structural myth.

So let me repeat again, myths does not mean (or is) false, a myth is just the opposite of false. A myth is an structural narrative which is by definition true and can not be questionable within itself. We consider the existence of our- "self" evident , even if research shows that this not an universal trait. It does not matter, we feel that it is true, We believe that it is true, we think we take decisions and nothing would make us believe otherwise ( we may accept that they can be strongly influenced by other, but not that someone is making the decision for us). This is because we learn it as an structural myth when we are very young. I can assure you that a bororo indian member would not "feel" believe or contemplate what we think or feel as a possibility... in a bororo's brain everybody and every living entity thinks... and they feel that a tree is using one's brain just as I think that it is impossible.

Brains need these basic structural myths. Some of them deal with issues present in all cultures. Obviously they can be solved differently. The narrative behind it can be different. Other myths are related with very particular issues and are present in a small set of cultures.. and they are absolutely true for those having it.

Our behaviour within the group is a case of a topic dealt in our cultures with a structural myth (we are social animals comes form this). All cultures have an structured mythology regarding empathy...and space distribution (left-right, public/private (or clan) space), status. and personal/social decision making (some cultures focus on why we take decisions, other on who, others don't give a shit about who. Some are more individualistic, some are non-personal, some are relational, etc..funny enough all societies have status structural myths).

Enlightenment was a powerful and interesting myth because it dealt with decision making and the self-reference all in "one structure". It spread like fire in some members of our culture as a normal non-structural narrative and,  eventually, it became one. But this does not mean that this myth is self-evident. It must be completely shared by every single member of the society: And in some subgroups of our society it is indeed learnt and taken as an obvious truth. But the reality is that western human behavior is NOT ONLY shaped by the structural myth of independent-rational agent" who is "supposed" to grow and mature". But at the same time we have the "image myth" which makes us believe (remember with us being unaware of the fact) strongly in social reinforcing. The relevance of image, the image making process, the picture , the films as a way to explain relevant histories and tales makes the image mythology one of our structural mythologies. So our every day life reflects this. And both truths are self-evident to every single member of our society.. the problem is that a strong version of Enlightenment where "the image myth" is considered (how we the left ever came to that false conclusion?) irrelevant and "scientific decision making" used as a hierarchical structure to convey rational information" is not shared by everyone. So, the strong version of Enlightenment is NOT a structural myth. And not everyone (read religious right in the US) behaves according to it.

The conclusions and the behaviour described in the article is indeed the most common behaviour around in the western hemisphere... but a dogon would be laughing loud at us... laughing if he/she would ever understand our framework.

I repeat, how the brain "works" regarding social interactions is the realm of structural mythology. Put a different structural mythology and you get different basic behaviour. We do not behave like "this" because the apes do it... there are a lot of cultures with similar "structural myths" regarding cooperative behaviour" because we used to need it like apes. Other don't. The great step of the brain is to differentiate between behaviour and structural myth and normal narratives. This makes the symbolic and action process very powerful (in the sense of maleable and robust).

Normal narratives are related to a basic framework of a small set structural myths. These narratives are multiple and contradictory. Groups of them are reinforcing each other, other groups of narratives oppose each other. A film is a normal narrative: a history about guy who happen to travel to Europe and see "socialized medicine for himself" is a narrative. "The car" and individual freedom is a narrative. (we have thousands of them at different layers and with different formats).. they are "normal" narratives. They allow us to be different from each other as long as there are a bunch of them. One of the reasons science came to exist is that we managed to expand the number of non-structural narratives. On the other hand structural narratives are very very tough to deal if you want to change it.

My position has always been: do not try to change the structural myth, it is impossible. Change the narratives attached to it, the technology and objects used by the culture.. and eventually you would be able to change the structural narratives. Otherwise, it is impossible.
So if we want our "world vision" to prevail (the idea of humans as a ecologically self-sustained species which can expand its narratives and personal will through knowledge and the enhancement of creative cooperative behaviour) we have to change slowly decade by decade the non-essential myths.. those stories that go mouth to mouth and propagate. To generate new narratives that synthesize ideas and get more powerful as they pass along members. To increase our reinforcing chamber (same idea form multiple sources with some variations which agree on the fundamentals). Yes, buy media.. or get blogs everywhere.

And stressing one final point along the lines of Migeru (we normally agree, after all, because we both watched the same TV and studied the same subjects). You need narratives in every single frame. A frame is a subset of narratives which reinforce each other. You need narratives which improve our goals in each and every one of them. This is not to mean we must not provide an alternative "atheist narrative bunch" or an "spiritual narrative group" so that some people in the religious right can have a "conversion" (a very interesting anthropological and phsychological topic, how an individual gets attached to a  particular set of non-structural narratives and how it can change them). But providing only these "external frames" is not going to work...Migeru is right... but of course I also watched  Espinete.

A pleasure.

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Aug 26th, 2009 at 04:20:23 PM EST
kcurie:
My position has always been: do not try to change the structural myth, it is impossible. Change the narratives attached to it, the technology and objects used by the culture.. and eventually you would be able to change the structural narratives. Otherwise, it is impossible.
I am afraid the right-wing propaganda push since the Goldwater Republicans at the end of the 1980's, through the rise of monetarism and the discrediting of Keynesianism in the 1970's, the Reagan/Thatcher revolution, market fundamentalism, etc, may have set in motion a process (after 40 years!) which may be impossible to reverse and it will lead to a change in Structural Myth as you put it.

We can try to sow the conceptual seeds of another shift, but it is likely to take over 40 years for it to take place, if it ever does.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 27th, 2009 at 05:21:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
We can try to sow the conceptual seeds of another shift

some days it sounds like mice squeaking as the lawn roller rolls over them, but the alternative, keeping silent, is not an option for some of us, determined to at least telegraph an SOS, as we watch the greed and fear-driven juggernaut careen.

conceptual seeds were the start of everything great and good we have accomplished as a species, not that it ever amounted to a hill of beans, in geocosmic terms...

we're naked, the shower awaits, the gas smells weird,  many took the fate with silent dignity, others made a noise.

conceiving a new and better world may be an intellectual exercise at the thin edge of the wedge, a hobby associated with long imprisonments, ie hitler, mandela, but some days i perceive our existence, like flies stuck in the slow-moving amber of history, as that of prisoners of political systems few understand enough to affect, here and now- except at the exempt adept level of conceptualisation, where we are only handicapped by our minds' capacities to take on new ideas, sift them, assimilate the best and propagate them anew, lighter of baggage, streamlined with new expressions and linguistic tools. the speed of thought is a joyous freedom compared to the sticky concrete realities we have to navigate in meatspace, yet of course it gets a lot of its juice from imagining a better future than the one we, force majeure, inhabit.

we're like those little fish that are attracted to the rotting hulks of old sunken structures, somewhere amidst their sad skeletons there are clues to nourish our future with, especially now, as we watch the tide start to roll over attitudes and lifestyles that are failing the jared diamond test.

it's healthy, constructive escapism, isn't it?

in cultural terms, 40 years is the blink of an eye.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Aug 27th, 2009 at 07:07:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
kcurie:
"The car" and individual freedom is a narrative. (we have thousands of them at different layers and with different formats).. they are "normal" narratives. They allow us to be different from each other as long as there are a bunch of them.
See Cars Cause Libertarianism by by Chris Kulczycki on January 6th, 2006
George Monbiot, one of my favorite Guardian columnists and author of several best-selling books, equates car use with neo-conservatism. Furthermore, he says that unfettered motoring actually causes neo-conservatism (or neo-liberalism).


En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 27th, 2009 at 05:23:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yes you must!

and why isn't this comment a diary?

your thought and expression have matured considerably since you last graced us with your insights, and you have been much missed, je je je.

kcurie:

This is not to mean we must not provide an alternative "atheist narrative bunch" or an "spiritual narrative group" so that some people in the religious right can have a "conversion" (a very interesting anthropological and phsychological topic, how an individual gets attached to a  particular set of non-structural narratives and how it can change them)

major tweak...

i have been thinking about those two word-symbols, 'spirit' and 'soul' a lot lately, and here's what i deduced:

spirit is inspiration towards the future, a light fantastic, soul is the capacity to empathise.

atheists who are compassionate humanitarians/humanists (someone else can split that hair, lol!) who feel for the planet-as-home, and humanity-as-family have soul, and are responding to a spirit which beckons to our vision of what we want, a way to release our power that furthers the (perceived) general good.

when someone is moved to tears by a collective emotion, or privately touched by a piece of music, then they experience their soul, something deeper than the senses, yet springing through them to beyond.

of course everything can be twisted backwards eventually, but the game is to find the ones which resonate most deeply and last the longest before being corrupted, and pose the greatest challenge to the de-souling agents.

ramble winding down...

i guess we need new ways of reclaiming language, re-steering it, refashioning it, especially word-symbols of great power, such as 'soul' and 'spirit'.

as usual, your take on things is an exotic spice in the minestrone, kc, so glad you find the time after your well-deserved holiday to entertain and ensoul the conversations here.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Aug 27th, 2009 at 07:23:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries