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Sunday, April 14. 2013
Tallis, a neurologist (and amateur and impressive philosopher) wrote the book as a critique of biological and evolutionary reductionism.
Here's a brief review from the WSJ.One quote:
Here's a quote from an Amazon reviewer:
Aping Mankind is negative research. While most popular-science writers attempt to weave compelling stories from the latest neuroscience experiments to explain 'why we are the way we are', Tallis attempts to show why these stories simply cannot be true. If you are skeptical of media--and scientific journal--headlines such as "Researchers discover the location of love in the brain", then you may enjoy Aping Mankind. In this work Tallis exposes the odd proclivity of scholars, from biologists to literary critics, to anthropomorphize pieces of matter while simultaneously dehumanizing human beings. In effect we are systematically transferring our humanity to matter, and this may not be good for our health--just like vitamins.
Returning to Signorelli's impressive review which opens like this:
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Dr JB, you'd probably enjoy the work (and critiques) of a Dr. Rachel Aviv, which also fights head-on against the 'aping mankind' reductions.
I found her (and her hyper hyperethereal face) in this essay
... by an acclaimed Australian neuroanthropologist, an essay that popped up while running down links from a link you'd provided some months ago.
Aviv (in my clunky impression) seeks to help the mentally ill by helping we the people to form an interest in the understanding of it. An interest in the pedagogy, i guess one could say.
So (that) the writing on it is not just the mode of transmission of something else, but the something else itself. If literature is the attempt to understand the mind, let the attempt also be literature --and thus through art promote acceptance over stigma.
She asks, implicitly, how much of the damage of mental illness is done by the stigma?
Shakespeare himself wondered:
Oh, what the heck --here's a couple paras from the link
What I particularly appreciate about Aviv’s account is that she writes extensively about the nature of the delusions themselves, about the flow of delusional ideas, their relation to the collapse of a clear sense of self, and the challenges facing an individual who begins to feel the implausible welling up in everyday reality. She writes that much of psychiatry has tried to get around the specificities of the delusions — Who’s putting thoughts in your head? How are you being watched? What sort of ghosts or angels or aliens are following you?
Patients and some clinicians alike have a vested interest in discrediting the content of delusions, dismissing the ideas as errant chemicals or glitches in brain function. But as Aviv so clearly demonstrates, the specificities of the delusions are both what the patients struggle with daily and the source of the leverage that some of them find to fight off further drift into idiosyncratic worlds. The delusions matter, both because patients search in them for signs of their truth or unreality, but also because the details of the delusion, not just the fact of having them, arise from our shared reality.
(the 'hyper hyperethereal' -blush -is a typo, i double-typed 'hyper' while searching my mind for the next word, hyper, hyper-what? Two 'hypers' would indicate ga-ga and i'd never go ga-ga over some silly pic, no matter how haunted the eyes)
... Darwinian ideology became a matter of concern for me. ... promoted by a set of persons quite obviously unfamiliar with elementary philosophical reasoning.
there's so much k00ksign here.
the phrase "darwinian ideology" ("dawinian" is a creationist term) sends up the same warning flares as "UFO flap" or "vibrational frequencies". it means I'm in for a lecture by someone incompetent to have a worthwhile opinion.
signorelli is a self described poet and essayist; in fact, he's just another angry leftist. he complains about "darwinian ideology" promoted by a "set of persons quite obviously unfamiliar with elementary philosophical reasoning." for shi'ite's sake, the gaps in his knowledge of science are wide enough to disqualify him from opinion about anything related to evolution.
I disagree. He is not writing about the science, he's talking Philosophy of Mind.
I'm not speaking about tallis (wikipedia describes him as "a philosopher, poet, novelist, cultural critic and a retired medical physician and clinical neuroscientist. Specializing in geriatrics ... ") so he might well be over his head as well. I am challenging m.a. signorelli's competency as a reviewer.
sig, as I noted above, describes himself as a poet and essayist. he calls evolution "Darwinian ideology", a "noxious dogma" and a " dirty little creed" to describe evolution and evolutionists, "a set of persons quite obviously unfamiliar with elementary philosophical reasoning". textbook, albeit stupid, ad homs. Look at the way he structures his rant. However incompetent he is in other ways, I assume he's capable of constructing a paragraph to say exactly what he means.
I lose all interest in sig at this point. to be condescending, you've got to be smarter than the people you're insulting. sig fails. if I want someone to spew on about poetry and essays, I'll whistle for sig. if tallis has something worth saying, its not evident from reading his shill's review.
I don't believe that evolution [or Darwinism if you prefer] explains all of human behavior, belief, etc. [In fact, I once wrote a bio-philosophy paper arguing the human "free choice" or even the illusion thereof of could very easily be seen as adaptive.] However, it certainly does help one understand human behavior.
Even the notion that we can understanding the thinking and therefore the behavior of others may well be an adaptation.
The problem here is the misunderstanding of "Darwinist reductionism". I'm not sure there is any such thing among those who have a basic grasp of evolution. Pretty much all adaptations are not 'reductionist' in the sense that they allow for only one use.
I suppose it's tied up with the notion that a) evolution is 'aiming' at something [it's not], or b) that whatever evolved did so with a single purpose [it didn't]. Evolutionary adaptation merely tends, over a very long period of time, to weed out the truly non-adaptive aspects of a species.
That leaves a lot of room for the 'unexplainable'.
--enjoyed your comment, and nodded rightr along, except that you could so easily add so much power to it by allowing that there is really no way anyone can really know --that is, with certainty --that there is no aim to it all. Not to sound like Cotton Mather, but, really, there isn't any channel of data, but faith. Faith is faith in 'faith', just as understanding the mind is understanding 'understanding'.
So the human nature of faith is an historical fact --and thus can't denied by testimony any more than unassailable facts of history can be. In fact, arguing against it verifies that there is an 'it' to be argued against. Illusions that move people are real things that exist --albeit as illusions. I think that's what the enchanting Dr. Aviv might say.
"Illusions that move people are real things that exist --albeit as illusions."
And there's the rub, ain't it.
--sho nuff is --it leeads to howling at the moon, for lack of any word for it.
(hate to copy a wall of words, but this is hard to cut --it's the 'prodrome' author Greg Downey quoting Aviv (in paraphrase) writing on "Anna" --all emphasis is either Aviv's or Downey's --frankly, i got a little lost right in there, tho regardless from whom it all reads wonderfully)
I met Anna last year at her Illinois home, a small, brightly painted town-house apartment, and she tried to pinpoint when she had stopped believing in the reality she’d contentedly inhabited all her life. A petite twenty-eight-year-old with cleanly parted blond hair, she spoke in a thin, strained voice and avoided looking at me. My lips, she said, appeared as if they were moving at a different pace than my voice, and she had to bat away the thought that she was watching a dubbed film.
Anna’s mother is schizophrenic, and Anna had always found her mother’s world-view—derived in part from messages she deciphered in processed-food packaging—distasteful and impossible to comprehend. She assumed that when her mother had a schizophrenic break, the delusions had taken her by force, engulfing her. But an alternate reality did not come to Anna fully formed….
One day, wandering the halls of an academic department, she became fascinated by the physical details of the building: tiny cracks in the wall, a light switch, a rubber doorstop that looked luminous and functionless. A bust of Plato, which she had never noticed before, seemed to be calling out to her. As she gazed at Plato’s mournful expression, she imagined that he had singled her out to unburden himself and shed light on the “overwhelming strangeness of the world.” …
She blamed herself for attending too avidly to the stream of her own consciousness. “It wasn’t as if this bust suddenly started talking to me out of thin air,” she told me. “I wanted him to, and then I sort of convinced myself that he did. It didn’t feel like I was passively being subjected to another reality. It felt like I somehow actively engaged in creating it.”…
[In] the course of a few months, she had become too suggestible: she would come up with sweeping theories about the structure of reality— that time no longer existed, that the world was made entirely of gasses— and then, moments later, scold herself for allowing the experience when there was “not a shred of scientific evidence.” She kept waiting for the particles to vanish on their own. When they didn’t, she worried she was “addicted to an idea.” She felt that by wondering about the properties of matter—by blowing on books to see whether they would disintegrate—she had taken some irrevocable step toward illness….
For Anna, there was no single moment of “conversion,” no sudden break from one state of mind to the next. If there is a boundary between health and insanity, Anna felt herself creeping across it with pained self-awareness. She remembered as a teenager feeling dismayed by her mother’s inability to communicate: her thoughts no longer conformed to the “laws that literally allow us to make sense.” Now Anna worried that she, too, had somehow been unmoored from the rhythms of everyday life. …
The last time I spoke with Anna, in June, more than two years after she first became a patient at the clinic, she said her delusions had become less compelling. Ordinary activities, like lounging on a bed and trusting that it wouldn’t sink through the floorboards, no longer felt alien and unnatural. She said that her psychologist and psychiatrist strongly believed the change came from her taking a new antipsychotic drug, asenapine, for the past two months, but she couldn’t convince herself of this explanation and was thinking of stopping the medication. It wasn’t as if her perceptions had become normal again, she argued. Hard surfaces still felt airy and insubstantial, but now she made conscious decisions every day to rely on them just as she had before. It was a matter of ignoring swaths of her own perceptual experience, of relearning how to construct the world in her mind….
The illness was about not just the active symptoms but also a more fundamental shift that made them plausible. “The symptom that bothers me the most is the one I can’t even begin to describe,” she said, leaning back on her white couch, the sun pouring into her living room.
After months spent struggling to articulate what she was going through, she felt her memories of the experience slipping away. “I can resort to bizarre metaphors, but I can’t even in the grossest, roughest way communicate that state of mind.” She paused, looking away. “The substance of my experience is thrown into doubt. I am left with this incredibly deep sense that none of these things ever happened to me.”
One dimension of Aviv’s account that I find most interesting, but that gets lost in my encapsulation of the nine page piece, is that Anna actively tried to make sense of a world that seemed perceptually so unstable. The delusional theories she comes to do not hatch from nothing, but from a mind actively trying to figure out why solid objects suddenly seem less than fully tangible, why people appear distant and small, why time temporarily shifts and becomes disarticulated into unconnected moments. Her odd worldviews and theories about reality do not create the delusions but rather arise from an attempt to impose sense on the increasingly nonsensical.
Whether this powerful interpretive process is part of Aviv’s artistry in telling the story, something distinctive about Anna, an unusually intelligent and intellectually gifted individual, or a general property of prodromal experience, I cannot tell. But I think it’s part of what unsettles Anna so much: that her own mad theories seem plausible to her, that she can’t discount what she knows, on some level, is an absurd proposition that she herself is making.
===(end quote from essay)
Life as what an acid trip pretends to be, only, you don't have the comfort of knowing the stuff is tapering off, because the stuff is 'you'.