December 7, 2010

The Same Old Consciousness

From:  It makes sense to paraphrase Einstein’s famous dictum in regard to consciousness. Our problem is the unsustainability of the world we have created, and we should be clear that we can’t solve this problem with the same kind of consciousness that gave rise to it.

But many people try to do just that, even the leaders of the world’s twenty richest and most powerful nations. The November 2010 meeting of the G20 in Seoul gave indisputable proof of it. Not only did the meeting fail to achieve its main objectives (among them rebalancing international trade and reaching an accommodation between the U.S. and South Korea), the objectives themselves proved to be out-of-date. They centered on re-stabilizing the same moribund economic and financial system that made the world unsustainable in the first place.

But why is the G20’s failure due to wrong consciousness? Because consciousness in the social, political, and cultural context is sum total of our view of the world, with its values, aspirations, and background assumptions. It’s the “paradigm” that underlies the way we think and the way we set our priorities. The consciousness of the G20 gives rise to an obsolete view of the world, with faulty values and outdated aspirations. The leaders view the world as the arena for a Darwinian struggle for survival, seen as a competition for growth in the economies of nations. Since assured growth cannot be achieved even by the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world by itself, the leaders recognize the need for some level and form of cooperation—as a means to an end. The end is for the rich nations to make sure that they remain rich.

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January 25, 2009

Organizing for the Kingdom of Behavior: Academic Battles and Organizational Policies in the Twenties

history — alice @ 1:51 am

In his paper, Samelson (1985) highlights structural changes that occurred in academia and beyond during the 1920′s; like the changes and activities that were going on in research, these external changes were largely influenced by World War I.  Samelson demonstrates that the historical developments of behaviorism were complicated and that a variety of forces and counter forces were operating.  He describes, in detail, the role of Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM) and its members in directing the research program of the social sciences. 

After the war, the LSRM planned to fund research that would help improve the social problems of post-war America by distributing enormous grants to research groups that conducted interdisciplinary, empirical social science research that served practical (not only academic) interests.  The LSRM was looking to fund research that would result in substantial social control, in time, to help improve societal post-war conditions in America.  Although it is unknown whether the LSRM funding drove universities to form interdisciplinary groups so that they could apply for LSRM funding or if academia and the Memorial were influencing each other the whole time, as the LSRM grants became available the formation of interdisciplinary social science research groups were on the rise, and the common topic of interest that brought them together were factors that affect the behavior of individuals and societies.  

Although Watson and Skinner provided the faces and philosophies for behaviorism, the “Kingdom of Behaviorism” could not have risen at it did without the contributions of other factors.  Evidently, the contribution of funding agencies, the directors of these organizations, and other larger social factors, such as the war, played a large role in the rise of behaviorism.

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‘Introspectionism’ and the Mythical Origins of Scientific Psychology

Alan Costall
Article in Consciousness and Cognition

According to the majority of the textbooks, the history of modern, scientific psychology can be tidily encapsulated in the following three stages. Scientific psychology began with a commitment to the study of mind, but based on the method of introspection. Watson rejected introspectionism as both unreliable and effete, and redefined psychology, instead, as the science of behaviour. The cognitive revolution, in turn, replaced the mind as the subject of study, and rejected both behaviourism and a reliance on introspection. This paper argues that all three stages of this history are largely mythical. Introspectionism was never a dominant movement within modern psychology, and the method of introspection never went away. Furthermore, this version of psychology’s history obscures some deep conceptual problems, not least surrounding the modern conception of “behaviour,” that continues to make the scientific study of consciousness seem so weird.

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November 20, 2008

“Giving Up Maleness”: Abraham Maslow, Masculinity, and the Boundaries of Psychology

history — alice @ 1:37 am

In a paper in History of Psychology, Nicholson (2001) examines Abraham Maslow’s attempt to reconstruct the boundaries of psychology. This paper focuses on Maslow’s struggle to find a way to “soften” scientific psychology without completely undermining what he believed was its essentially male nature.  Nicholson argues that Maslow’s attempt to broaden what it meant to be a psychologist was intimately linked to the question of what it meant to be a man, and that Maslow’s struggle to come to terms with his masculinity should stand as a testament to the power of gender assumptions in psychology and in American professional life as a whole.  According to Nicholson, Maslow stands as a dramatic demonstration of how significant the search for a powerful masculinity can be for the seemingly unrelated task of developing a powerful discipline.

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