Sunday, October 13, 2019

Positive Psychology - Looking at the Whole Person, and the Person in the Social Context

Scott Barry Kaufman recently reviewed Glenn Geher and Nicole Wedberg's Positive Evolutionary Psychology: Darwin's Guide to Living a Richer Life in  Scientific American. The review is based on Kaufman's introduction to the book, but goes beyond just framing and describing the book. He adds a valuable critique of the writers's approach. In concluding he writes that "...those working within the field of positive evolutionary psychology should look not only at the individual parts that may have increased reproductive fitness in our distant past, but also at the whole person, right here, right now, listening to their dreams, desires, priorities, and conflicts and helping them become something greater than the sum of their parts."

To that I would like to add that we need not only to look at the whole person, but to see every person as a member of a social group. Humans are social animals and can only be understood in a social context, and it is in that context that Kaufman's call for a discussion of "meaning" becomes, well, meaningful.

Scott Barry Kaufman: Toward a Positive Evolutionary Psychology (Scientific American,  August 30, 2019) 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

You ask me what books to read...

"You ask me what books to read. Read Montaigne; read him slowly, steadily. He will calm you. And do not listen to people who talk of his egotism. You will like him, you will see. But do not read, as the children read, to amuse yourself, nor as ambitious people read, to get instruction. No! read to live! 
Make an intellectual atmosphere for your soul, which shall be composed of the emanation of all the great minds. Study Shakespeare and Goethe thoroughly. Read translations of the Greek and Roman authors,—Homer, Petronius, Plautus, Apuleius, etc."
(Gustave Flaubert in a letter to Mme Leroyer de Chantepie, 1867)

Monday, June 17, 2019

Sorry AOC and Liz Warren, but Jon Snow Did the Right Thing

My two favorite politicians - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren - complained about the ending of Game of Thrones, but they were deeply wrong on this one.

"I feel like we were just getting so close to having this ending with just women running the world and then the last two episodes it's like, oh they're too emotional, the end. It's like ugh this was written by men.'" AOC frustratedly explained.
"Yeah, exactly. Can't do that," Warren added.
This is where their feminism stumbles.

Overlooking her Spartan army, Daenerys Targaryen revealed herself as a female Pol Pot, itching to order her legions to slaughter the rest of the seven kingdoms as she slaughtered the people of King's Landing.

This is a moment that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would have understood perfectly:
“Macbeth's self-justifications were feeble – and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb, too. The imagination and spiritual strength of Shakespeare's evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Ideology—that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others' eyes, so that he won't hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations....”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956 
When Jon Snow realized - being advised by Tyrion Lannister - that Daenerys were about to launch a campaign of mass murder and genocide driven by utopian fanaticism, he had no choice but to kill his beloved queen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Paris for Ever

Notre Dame, 1959. By Harald Sandberg.
This is part of a Paris suite consisting of eight large oil paintings.
Photo: Hans Sandberg