Sunday, May 13, 2018

On the “pathology of normalcy” … or psychoanalysis on the fly at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital

What follows is the dialogue between Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, a surgeon, and Major Sidney Theodore Freedman, an Army psychiatrist, in a scene from one of my favorite M*A*S*H episodes (on the ‘pathology of normalcy’). Allan Arbus plays the part of Major Sidney Theodore Freedman, the Army psychiatrist who visited the 4077th many times. Alan Alda plays Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (the only character to appear in all 251 episodes). “Between long, intense sessions of treating critically wounded patients, he makes the best of his life in an isolated Army camp by making wisecracks, drinking heavily, carousing, womanizing, and pulling pranks on the people around him.”
M*A*S*H Season 5, Episode 109: “Hawk’s Nightmare” … or psychoanalysis on the fly at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War, 1950-1953 (written by Burt Prelutsky; originally aired December 21, 1976):
Sidney [hereafter S.] How’s it going?
Hawkeye [hereafter H.] Well, you is the cuckoo expert. I’m just a cuckoo.
H. Potter call you? S. Would you be upset if he had? H. – No, I’d appreciate his concern.
S. – I’m just here to play a little poker, have a couple of drinks and figure out the meaning of life.
H. – Sidney, I’m afraid to go to sleep. S. – So I hear.
H. – And they tell me I’ve been playing a mean game of zombie basketball.
S. – They tell me you’ve been worrying about losing your marbles.
H. – Ah, very good. S. – For my next trick I’ll invent sibling rivalry.
H. – Tell me, what’s happening, Sidney? I’m scared sick.
H. – Why do I sleepwalk? Why do I have these terrible nightmares? I see old pals as clearly as I see you, and they’re getting zapped. And then I call the States, and they’re home watching Milton Berle. If this keeps up, people are gonna realize I’m as crazy as I think I am. What do you think? S. – I think I’d like to sit down.
H. – Tell me, Sidney, has my little red choo-choo gone chugging around the bend? S. – You amateurs just can’t resist tossing around that psychoanalytical jargon.
H. – Okay. Have it your way. Has my, uh, trolley been derailed? Am I playing with half a deck? Am I driving without my headlights? S. – That’s better.
S. – So you’ve been walking in your sleep.
S. – What do you think it means? H. – I’m walking. I’m, uh, uh I’m walking towards something. I’m walking away from something.
S. – Mm-hmm. H. – I’m trying to escape.
S. – In other words, you go to sleep, your subconscious takes a little walk and brings your body along for company. H. – Yeah, well, I don’t seem to be getting very far.
S. – You’re making it all the way back to Crabapple Cove. All the way back to a time when playing ball and shooting marbles and going on picnics were all there was to worry about. No more responsibility. No more life and death decisions. And pain was a skinned knee.
H. – What about my nightmares? What about them? I keep having these dreams about these kids I grew up with. The dreams start out okay. The kids are fine. And then they end in disaster.
S. – Like those kids who roll past you on that bloody assembly line. You dream to escape, but the war invades your dream, and you wake up screaming. The dream is peaceful. Reality is the nightmare.
H. – Am I crazy, Sidney? S. – [Scoffs] No. A bit confused, a little ‘fershimmeled’ [a Yiddish word] is all. Actually, Hawkeye, you’re probably the sanest person I’ve ever known. The fact is, if you were crazy, you’d sleep like a baby.
H. – So when do my nightmares end? S. – When this big one ends, most of the others should go away. But there’s a lot of suffering going on here, Hawkeye, and you can’t avoid it. You can’t even dream it away.
H. – You’re very reassuring, Sidney. You’ve got a heck of a ‘warside’ manner.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Assessing Arguments

A recent post at The Faculty Lounge about citations in law review articles not being a “good proxy for article quality” (the conclusion being that the ‘only way to judge the quality of an article is to actually read it!’), together with the observation that President Trump’s speeches, insofar as they involve claims, arguments, or simply conclusions (with the premises assumed or implied) of one kind or another, abundantly exemplify formal and informal fallacies in reasoning and thus amount to awful arguments,* prompted me—by way of free association—to think about works I often rely on to refresh my memory regarding the relevant methods and criteria one should keep in mind when assessing and judging the qualities or simply merits of an argument.

In addition to knowing some basic rules of formal logic, the nature of practical reasoning, and being acquainted with the many informal fallacies (which are not, strictly speaking, always ‘fallacious,’ hence their ‘informal’ characterization), I have found a handful of books particularly helpful for evaluating the merits of arguments in both everyday conversational contexts and more formal fields of knowledge, inquiry, and praxis (e.g., history, law, medicine, science, the arts, social sciences…). I’ve also included several philosophy-related texts: a dictionary, a compendium, and a work in epistemology, all of which I think are useful for those of us outside philosophy proper but perhaps in possession of (or at least desiring) a philosopher’s temperament or an ardent amateur’s taste for philosophy.

  • Angeles, Peter A. The HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy (HarperCollins, 2nd ed., 1992).
  • Baggini, Julian and Peter S. Fosl. The Philosopher’s Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods (Blackwell, 2003).
  • Fisher, Alec. The Logic of Real Arguments (Cambridge University Press, 1988).
  • Haack, Susan. Evidence Matters: Science, Proof, and Truth in the Law (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
  • Rescher, Nicholas. Cognitive Pragmatism: The Theory of Knowledge in Pragmatic Perspective (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001).
  • Toulmin, Stephen. The Uses of Argument (Cambridge University Press, updated ed., 2003).
  • Toulmin, Stephen, Richard Rieke, and Allan Janik. An Introduction to Reasoning (Macmillan Publishing, 2nd ed., 1984).
  • Walton, Douglas N. Informal Logic: A Handbook for Critical Argumentation (Cambridge University Press, 1989).
  • Walton, Douglas N. Plausible Argument in Everyday Conversation (State University of New York Press, 1992).
  • Warburton, Nigel. Thinking from A to Z (Routledge, 2nd ed., 2000).
* Incidentally, it seems Trump has an inordinate fondness and proclivity for both “abusive” and “circumstantial” ad hominem arguments, which makes sense, given his narcissistic megalomania (his mission to dismantle ‘Obama’s legacy’ has relevance here as well, but that speaks to motives, beliefs, and racism which we can set aside in most instances when looking at his ‘arguments’).  

See too this bibliography, which is more or less about arguments in the social sciences.

    Tuesday, May 08, 2018

    Making Sense of Science Under the Conditions of Neoliberal Capitalism: A Syllabus of Twenty-Five Titles

    Well-ordered science is an ideal. It may seem a utopian fancy, the sort of thing that may figure in philosophical discussions but that has little place in a realistic account of the sciences. There is an important distinction between specifying an ideal, something at which our practices should aim, and identifying procedures for attaining or approximating the ideal. To proceed to the latter task requires a large amount of empirical information, information no one yet has. Nonetheless, meaningful ideals are those for which we can envisage a path that might lead toward them, and a philosopher who proposes an ideal should be able to point to the initial steps we might take (as Dewey insisted, it is also important to appreciate that, as we move toward an ideal, our conception of it may be refined). — Philip Kitcher


    In constructing a list of this sort, the number of titles is unavoidably arbitrary and its composition indelibly idiosyncratic. By way of mitigating these properties, I wanted a list that could be reasonably considered “manageable” by anyone with a well-motivated interest in the topic, even if it is, strictly speaking, outside one’s professional field of expertise, or contains material about which one might have some strong intuitions or inchoate thoughts and thus prone to being persuaded to search in earnest for confirming or disconfirming evidence. If the length of this compilation does not satisfy your hunger but merely whets your appetite, you’re invited to browse through the list of bibliographies appended below from which this list was culled. 


    The conservative and right-wing assault on science as seen, for example, in (religiously charged) skepticism or outright denial of evolutionary theory, the dismissal of climate science about global warming, and the refusal to face the social, economic, and political imperatives implied by acquaintance with the ecological and environmental sciences, should not lead us to be naïve or uncritical about the nature and function of science in societies around the globe. Nor should it cause us to ignore the literature penned by philosophers (of science) as well as those examining the epistemics and praxis of science “in society” that has sketched the contours of scientism and “science as ideology.” In other words, within the considerably less than ideal conditions of science often sullied by all-too-human intentions and motives contrary to our normative if not idealized conceptions of its role in a would-be democratic society sensitive to our deepest and broadest ethical sensibilities and concerns, science can and often does fall far short of what it should be, that is, what the late John Ziman called “real science” or what Philip Kitcher terms “well-ordered science.” In short, we should not hesitate to study where, when, how, and (especially) why the practice of science has gone (or is in danger of going) awry, egregiously failing to modestly conform to or at least sufficiently approach our ideal or best conceptions or models of what constitutes science as a form of knowledge inquiry and praxis. I share Ziman’s belief that “[i]n less than a generation we have witnessed a radical, irreversible, worldwide transformation in the way that science is organized, managed and performed:” 

    “Post-academic science is organized on market principles. One of the consequences of this is that the post-academic research project is subordinate to the sphere of influence of bodies with the corresponding material interests. Thus, for example, basic research findings in molecular genetics have potential applications in plant breeding. Agrochemical firms and farmers are therefore deemed to have a legitimate right to influence the course of this research, from the formulation of projects to the interpretation of outcomes.

    In general … post-academic natural scientists can usually be trusted to tell ‘nothing but the truth,’ on matters about which they are knowledgeable. But unlike academic scientists, they are not bound to tell ‘the whole truth.’ They are often prevented, in the interests of their employers, clients or patrons, from revealing discoveries or expressing doubts that would put a very different complexion on their testimony. The meaning of what is said is secretly undermined by what is not said. This proprietorial attitude to the results of research has become so familiar that we have forgotten how damaging it is to the credibility of scientists and their institutions. This is one result of the fact that ‘the context of application’ is largely defined by the material interests of bodies outside science.”

    In short, writes Ziman, we have “increasing subordination to corporate and political interests that do not put a high value on the production of knowledge for the benefit of society at large.”

    Finally, I should note that I do not believe there should be strict boundaries (hence there is some overlap) between what we understand as “science” and what is characterized or defined as “folk knowledge” and “Indigenous Knowledge Systems” (e.g., ‘ethnobotany’ or ‘traditional medicine’). Much of what is found in the latter resembles some forms of science, even if more “collective” or communal, or largely oral, or on the order of “amateur” science.

    1. Aoki, Keith. Seed Wars: Controversies and Cases on Plant Genetic Resources and Intellectual Property. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2008.
    2. Bennett, M.R. and P.M.S. Hacker. Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.
    3. Buller, David J. Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.
    4. Dupré, John. Human Nature and the Limits of Science. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
    5. Elster, Jon. Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
    6. Greenberg, Gary. The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry. New York: Blue Rider Press/Penguin, 2013.
    7. Healy, David. The Creation of Psychopharmacology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.
    8. Horst, Steven. Beyond Reduction: Philosophy of Mind and Post-Reductionist Philosophy of Science. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.
    9. Keller, Evelyn Fox. Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors, and Machines. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.
    10. Kenny, Martin. Bio-technology: The University-Industrial Complex. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986.
    11. Kitcher, Philip. Science, Truth, and Democracy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001.
    12. Kitcher, Philip. Science in a Democratic Society. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2011.
    13. Kloppenburg, Jack Ralph. First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2nd ed., 2004.
    14. Lakoff, Andrew. Pharmaceutical Reason: Knowledge and Value in Global Psychiatry. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
    15. Lewontin, Richard and Richard Levins. Biology Under the Influence: Dialectical Essays on Ecology, Agriculture, and Health. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2007.
    16. McCloskey, Donald N. Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
    17. McCloskey, Deirdre. The Secret Sins of Economics. Chicago, IL: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2002.
    18. Mgbeoji, Ikechi. Global Biopiracy: Patents, Plants, and Indigenous Knowledge. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006.
    19. Midgley, Mary. Science and Poetry. New York: Routledge, 2001.
    20. Mirowski, Philip. Science-Mart: Privatizing American Science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.
    21. Patterson, Dennis and Michael S. Pardo, eds. Philosophical Foundations of Law and Neuroscience. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
    22. Rose, Hilary and Steven Rose. Genes, Cells and Brains: Bioscience’s Promethean Promises. London: Verso, 2012.
    23. Shrader-Frechette, K.S. Risk and Rationality: Philosophical Foundations for Populist Reforms. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991.
    24. Tallis, Raymond. Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis, and the Misrepresentation of Humanity. Durham, UK: Acumen, 2011.
    25. Ziman, John. Real Science: What It Is, and What It Means. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
    The following bibliographies, available at my Academia page, contain quite a number of titles germane to the endeavor to understand the nature and function of contemporary science (i.e., under the conditions of neoliberal capitalism) in formal and informal fields of systematic knowledge inquiry in which theory and praxis is distinguishable but inseparable.
    • Animal Ethics, Rights, and Law
    • Beyond Capitalist Agribusiness: Toward Agroecology & Food Justice
    • Bioethics
    • Biological Psychiatry, Sullied Psychology and Pharmaceutical Reason
    • Ecological & Environmental Politics, Philosophies, and Worldviews
    • Ethical Perspectives on Science & Technology
    • Health: Law, Ethics & Social Justice
    • Nuclear Weapons
    • Philosophy, Psychology, & Methodology for the Social Sciences
    • Science and Religion
    • Science and Technology
    • Sullied (Natural & Social) Sciences

    Tuesday, May 01, 2018

    Happy May Day!

    Today we celebrate the dignity, personhood (including personal agency), and capabilities (existing and potential) of working people everywhere; today we honor their struggles to be identified not just as people who labor, often under compulsion and thus in a manner of which they exercise little meaningful (i.e., democratic) and fulfilling self-control, but in recognition of their full humanity in its most elevated expressions and incarnations as partially captured in the history of arts and crafts; in the triune moto of the French Revolution: liberté, égalité, fraternité; and in the sundry values and virtues articulated and exemplified in religious and non-religious worldviews and philosophies in the history of mankind. One day, the opportunity for individual and collective or joint self-realization, for what Condorcet and Godwin understood as the never-ending quest for “perfectibility,” will be the prerogative of every human being.

    Here are some posts from the archives of both Ratio Juris and Religious Left Law in honor of this date: 2008, 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2017

    Tuesday, April 17, 2018

    Ilham Dilman: a neglected philosopher (comparatively speaking)

    Occasionally one comes across a philosopher who, one believes quite strongly, was unduly neglected when alive, and thus virtually forgotten or ignored after his or her death. Ilham Dilman (November 4, 1930 – January 17, 2003) perfectly illustrates such a case (or at least that’s how it appears from my vantage point). I was surprised to discover some years ago from my dear friend, Nandini Iyer, that Dilman, a philosopher par excellence, taught for a brief period at UC Santa Barbara (I doubt they made an offer to keep him, knowing the philosophical or ideological orientation of the department in those days, although I suspect, with very little evidence, that he got along well with Herbert Fingarette). (Incidentally, I was no less surprised to learn that Kristin Shrader-Frechette once taught in the department as well: for two years, in the Philosophy of Science and Environmental Studies).
    Among the titles by Dilman in my “library,” three of them I bought as “used” after being drawn to their cover art while browsing in The Book Den in downtown Santa Barbara many years ago, thereby providing proof of a sort that, at least sometimes, and albeit inadvertently and in part retrospectively, one can judge a book by its cover.
    I want to bring to your attention four books in particular by Dilman that treat various dimensions of Freudian psychology and psychoanalysis (sometimes in comparison to what is termed ‘academic,’ ‘scientific,’ ‘empirical,’ or ‘experimental’ psychology, that is, that sort of psychology that dominates the academic discipline in the U.S. and perhaps elsewhere) in a manner that is at once incisive, elegant, and accessible if not simply brilliant (one hesitates to use the latter adjective today, given that such adjectives of assessment and praise are all-too-frequently employed for hyperbolic and rhetorical effect in both public and specialized discourses, thereby diminishing their semantic intent and power):
    • Freud and Human Nature (Basil Blackwell, 1983).
    • Freud and the Mind (Basil Blackwell, 1984).
    • Freud: Insight and Change (Basil Blackwell, 1988)
    • Raskolnikov’s Rebirth: Psychology and the Understanding of Good and Evil (Open Court, 2000).
    Other works by Dilman (not an exhaustive list):
    • Morality and Inner Life: A Study in Plato’s Gorgias (Macmillan, 1979).
    • Love and Human Separateness (Basil Blackwell, 1987).
    • Philosophy and the Philosophic Life: A Study in Plato’s Phaedo (Macmillan, 1992).
    • Existential Critiques of Cartesianism (Macmillan, 1993).
    • Free Will: A Historical and Philosophical Introduction (Routledge, 1999).
    • Wittgenstein’s Copernican Revolution (Palgrave, 2002).
    • Philosophy as Criticism: Essays on Dennett, Searle, Foot, Davidson, Nozick (Continuum, 2011).
    My bibliography for Freudian Psychoanalytic Psychology is here.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2018

    Oliver Sacks & Psychoanalysis

    “In an extraordinary decision, the Library of Congress this week bowed to pressure from angry anti-Freudians and postponed for as long as a year a major exhibition called ‘Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture.’ According to a front-page story in The Washington Post, some library officials blamed the delay on budget problems; but others contended the real reason was heated criticism of a show that might take a neutral or even favorable view of the father of psychoanalysis. Some fifty psychologists and others, including Gloria Steinem and Oliver Sacks, signed a petition denouncing the proposed exhibit; as Steinem complained to the Post, it seemed to ‘have the attitude of “He was a genius, but…” instead of “He’s a very troubled man, and….”’ Though the library assured them that the exhibit ‘is not about whether Freudians or Freud critics, of whatever camp, are right or wrong,’ the critics refused an offer to contribute to the catalog or advise on the show.”

    This is the opening paragraph from Jonathan Lear’s article, “The Shrink Is In,” The New Republic, December 25, 1995. The entire essay was reprinted (with slight modifications), albeit with a new title: “On Killing Freud (Again),” in Lear’s book, Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul (Harvard University Press, 1998): 16-32.

    I’m sharing this, not only to let you know of an important and compelling article by Lear (assuming you’ve not read it; if you have, forgive my presumption), but because I was taken aback by the fact that Sacks was one of the signatories to the petition. Of course I don’t know what precisely motivated him to add his well-known name—hence, authority—to this document, but it’s rather curious or perhaps even disturbing in light of the fact that Sacks himself saw a psychoanalyst for over 40 years, beginning in 1966 when he was struggling with an inordinate desire for (if not addiction to) amphetamines. In an article on Sacks by Michael Roth* in The Atlantic (May 16, 2015), not long after we learned from Sacks himself that he was suffering from terminal cancer, Roth quotes from Sacks’ “glorious memoir:”

    “In brief remarks on his almost 50 years of psychoanalysis, Sacks tells the reader that his analyst, Leonard Shengold, ‘has taught me about paying attention, listening to what lies beyond consciousness or words.’ [In an interview Sacks once described this as listening with a ‘third ear.’] This is what Sacks has taught so many through his practice as a healer and through his work as a writer.” 
    It is thus clear that in both his personal and professional life that Sacks was deeply indebted to the founder of psychoanalytic therapy. Indeed, Roth writes that “Sacks sees himself in the tradition of Freud and of the Russian neurologist A. R. Luria, medical men who took upon themselves the depiction of the fullness of a patient’s life and not just the course of an illness.” So it remains a bit puzzling that Sacks would have lent his good name to the animus directed at the Library’s planned exhibition.

    Incidentally, the Library of Congress exhibition eventually took place: October 15, 1998 – January 16, 1999.

    * Yes, this is the same Michael S. Roth that was Curator of the Exhibition on Freud for the Library of Congress (at that time Associate Director, The Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, Los Angeles; he became the 16th president of Wesleyan University in 2007). 

    Image (top): “The Unconscious” (1915) Manuscript Division, Library of Congress 

    Image (bottom): Oliver Sacks

    Monday, April 02, 2018

    Toward New Models for the Scale and Practice of Agriculture (at the Agricultural Law blog)

    Some readers may be interested in this post at the Agricultural Law blog: Toward New Models for the Scale and Practice of Agriculture. What follows is the introduction without the embedded links:
    Over the course of a month or two (perhaps longer), I’m going to occasionally post snippets from a handful of Rob Wallace’s rhetorically pungent, intellectually incisive, and politically powerful collection of essays in his book Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatchers on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science (Monthly Review Press, 2016). Early last year I posted notice of an article in New Left Review, 102 (Nov/Dec 2016): “Ebola’s Ecologies: Agro-Economics and Epidemiology in West Africa,” co-authored by Rob Wallace and Rodrick Wallace, appending a list of suggested reading that included Big Farms. I will post bits and pieces from the book sans the notes and with slight editing (e.g., in the interest of length, I’ve left out some of the many examples that illuminate the arguments), although I may provide some embedded links (some of which are found in the book’s notes). As this work—with notes—is well over 400 pages, the material I’m sharing is best viewed as providing but the slightest taste of its contents, although I hope it is sufficiently representative and enticing enough to stimulate your desire to read it in toto.

    Thursday, March 29, 2018

    Some thoughts on Freudian psychoanalysis from the philosopher John Wisdom (1904-1993)

    We know that the notion of an unconscious mind or mental states predates Freud, and in fact is found, more or less, in both Eastern and Western thought, even if there is little or no systematic reflection and examination of this idea in conceptual terms concerned at once with its philosophical and psychological facets and clarification. Thus, we typically don’t say Freud “discovered” the unconscious but when we think of the unconscious, Freud’s name leaps to mind, if not his provocative and groundbreaking thoughts on “the unconscious.”

    More often, it is said that Newton “discovered” gravity, but in one very important sense, he did no such thing, any more than Freud discovered the unconscious part of our minds. So, what was it that both Newton and Freud did in their respective fields of inquiry?

    “After all we didn’t need Newton to tell us that apples fall. The well-taught child replies ‘He explained why apples fall. He said they fall because of gravity.’ But wasn’t this explanation like the doctor’s when we tell him how we feel and he tells us that we are run down. For what is gravity but the fall of apples and the like—in short, all these incidents we pretend to explain by gravity. ‘Ah’ the clever child replies, ‘gravity is much more than the fall of apples. It is the fall of apples and the like.’ And this is true. With the word ‘gravity,’ or the word ‘attraction,’ used in a modified way, Newton connected apples in an orchard with stars in heaven, a mammoth in a pitfall with waves high on the beach. Till he spoke we had no word connecting every incident in nature by thin lines of likeness, thin as the lines of force but stronger than steel.

    Unlike one who uses a pattern ready made for him Newton had to cut out a pattern in order to show the connections in a whole which no one had ever apprehended as a whole. We now are given the conceptions of gravity and of energy. Newton developed the conception of attraction and presented it with the power of the distant. Freud developed the conception of the unconscious and with it presented the power of the past. Each introduced a word and from it bred a notation which encourages us towards new experience and also enables us to co-ordinate old experience.”

    Like poets, both “philosophical scientists” and “metaphysical philosophers” writes John Wisdom, “mould the use of language to their needs,” and the casts produced by these molds can be a bit unsettling or startling, at least upon first sight. Yet poets, philosophers, and scientists are at their best when moving back and forth, to and fro, from the concrete to the general, from the general to the concrete (or from order to chaos or paradox…), from molds to casts, and thus new molds to new casts. Freudian psychoanalysis, insofar as it is a “battle with illusion, disillusion, and despair is something more personal than this,” that is, it is more personal than the movement back and forth between the general and the concrete, between order and chaos:

    “ …[I]t is notorious … that it is hard to see oneself as others see one, and this implies that it is hard to see oneself as one can see others, that the advice ‘Know yourself’ is not easy to follow. In psychoanalysis a determined attempt is made to do this with someone else’s help. Concrete detail after concrete detail is assembled and slowly, very slowly, the bewildering chaos comes into order and the shifting shadows begin to have shape. But there are strong forces opposing this.

    It is not only that the incidents one needs to recall are half forgotten. Added to this and bound up with it is the fact that there exists already a way of telling the story which selects, emphasizes and assembles things in certain constellations. For instance, the story is told in terms of loving certain people and hating others. You loved your kind mother and your good father and your little sister, who was weaker than yourself. You hated the people next door who poisoned the cat, and you despised Uncle Jack who disgraced the family name by selling on prodigious scale, bogus shares. You despised him of course although he drove so magnificent a motor car. You loved your sister. Of course there were occasions when you lost your temper with her, but these were temporary aberrations when perhaps she broke your best soldiers or tore your best book. So far so good. It is only later, perhaps, that the adequacy of this picture begins to be suspected. You love your wife. You are of course sometimes angry with her. And here you are sorry to say you are sometimes extraordinarily angry with her, unreasonably angry, much angrier than you would be with someone else who had done what she did. Perhaps of course she has done the same thing before. But sometimes she has not. And anyway why were you so angry with her from the first? You might be tempted to say sometimes that you detest your wife if it were not that you love her and love her very much. And now you come to think of it, though sometimes your sister was very provoking it is also true that you were sometimes angry with her about very little, and no less when grown-ups in a certain tone of voice again said that she was smaller and weaker than you. Did you really detest her for the love she won so easily?

    The suggestion is preposterous. But is it pointless? Isn’t it in fact extremely pointed? The suggestion that a hat is a monument, that legal discussion is verbal, that knowledge of other minds isn’t really knowledge [these are examples discussed earlier in the essay] are all preposterous. But they are not pointless. They force us to recognize things familiar but unrecognized. Psychological suggestions also, preposterous as they sometimes are, reveal to our dismay and our relief things we had felt creeping in the shadows and now must see in light. [….]

    Psycho-analysts in order to reveal to us things about ourselves modify and sophisticate our conceptions of love, hate, jealously, envy, sympathy, sense of responsibility. They use familiar words not with a disregard to established usage but not in bondage to it. [….] The psychoanalyst also tries [i.e., like the ‘metaphysician’] to bring to light models which dominate our thought, our talk, our feelings, our actions, in short our lives. And of course it is not the professional psychoanalyst only who does this—anyone who reflects upon people and tries to come at the truth does in some degree the same thing. [And this is one reason why Marcia Cavell can write: “I think it is true that Freudian interpretation depends generally on the everyday reason-explanation model—sometimes called ‘folk psychology’—which it then expands in various ways, and that precisely this is one of its strengths.”] [….]

    The psycho-analyst seeks to bring into the light those models from the past which for good and evil so powerfully influence our lives in the present, so powerfully distort reality and so powerfully illuminate it. For, of course, these models don’t only distort. By no means. No doubt the lover see what we see isn’t there. But doesn’t he also see what we can’t see? Unquestionably Miss E. Brown is not Aphrodite nor Diana. But then maybe she isn’t the Miss Brown we think we know. Hate may blind, but hate, even neurotic hate, also reveals.”— John Wisdom, from the essay, “Philosophy, Metaphysics and Psycho-Analysis,” in his book, Philosophy and Psycho-Analysis (Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, 1957 [1953]).

    Of course the entire essay is best read in toto, thus I hope this extract provides sufficient enticement toward that end.

    A bibliography on Freudian and Post-Freudian psychology is here.

    Sunday, March 25, 2018

    Famine: History, Causes, and Consequences — A Select Bibliography

    Saturday, March 17, 2018

    The Great (Irish) Famine

    “The law stands between food availability and food entitlement. Starvation deaths can reflect legality with a vengeance.” — Amartya Sen

    “ … [A]s it happens, quite a few famines have taken place without much violation of law and order. Even in the disastrous Irish famines of the 1840s (in which about an eighth of the population died, and which led to the emigration of a comparable number to North America), the law and order situation was, in many respects, apparently ‘excellent.’ In fact, even as the higher purchasing power of the English consumers attracted food away, through the market mechanism, from famine-stricken Ireland to rich England, with ship after ship sailing down the river Shannon laden with various types of food, there were few violent attempts to interfere with that contrary—and grisly—process. In many famines people starve and die in front of food shops, without attempting to seize law and order by the collar. [….]

    There have, of course, been well-known cases of protest and rebellion associated with food crises, and ‘the food riot as a form of political conflict’ has considerable historical significance. Despite this important causal link, the exact period of a severe famine is often not one of effective rebellion. Indeed, the debilitation and general helplessness brought about by a famine situation is not typically conducive to immediate revolt and rebellion. This is not to deny that looting, raiding and other forms of unorganized crime can be quite frequent in famine situations. But the millions that die in a famine typically die in an astonishingly ‘legal’ and ‘orderly’ way.” — Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen

    For St. Patrick’s Day, which I do not celebrate, some titles on the Great (Irish) Famine:

    • Coogan, Tim Pat. The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2012.
    • Gallagher, Thomas. Paddy’s Lament. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1982.
    • Kelly, John. The Graves are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2012.
    • Kelly, Mary C. Ireland’s Great Famine in Irish-American History: Enshrining a Fateful Memory. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.
    • Kinealy, Christine. A Death-Dealing Famine: The Great Hunger in Ireland. London: Pluto Press, 1997.
    • Ó Gráda, Cormac. Black ’47 and Beyond: The Great Irish Famine in History, Economy, and Memory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.
    • Ó Gráda, Cormac. Ireland’s Great Famine: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2006.
    • Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger: Ireland, 1845-1849. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1991 (1962).

    Further Reading:
    • Devereux, Stephen, ed. The New Famines: Why Famines Persist in an Era of Globalization. New York: Routledge, 2007.
    • Drèze, Jean and Amartya Sen. Hunger and Public Action. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1989.
    • Drèze, Jean, Amartya Sen and Athar Hussain, eds. The Political Economy of Hunger. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1995.
    • Ó Gráda, Cormac. Famine: A Short History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.
    • Sen, Amartya. Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
    • Watts, Michael J. Silent Violence: Food, Famine, and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2013 ed. (1983).
    • Yang, Jisheng. Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012 (2008).

    John Dewey on the United States, Inc. … or, Liberalism’s flaccid response to Capitalism

    Two philosophers, (the late) Hilary Putnam and his wife, Ruth Anna Putnam, are together largely responsible for re-awakening my interest in the work of John Dewey (Robert Westbrook’s excellent intellectual biography shares some blame as well). The language in much of Dewey’s philosophical writing appears deceptively simple. And some have complained about his prose style, but in both composition and meaning, his writing proves to be rather complex and provocative. As Tom Leddy states in his SEP entry on “Dewey’s Aesthetics,” “although Dewey seems to write in an almost folksy style, his philosophical prose is often difficult and dense” (however, what I share below from Dewey is not, strictly speaking, a sample of his philosophical prose). One should therefore read him rather slowly and carefully (in principle, of course, that is what one should do with all philosophical writing, but I’ve found that, at least with some philosophers, one can at once read carefully and quickly!). Dewey and Wittgenstein strike me as two very different kinds of characters of very different sorts of upbringing and cultural background, and yet there appears, in the end, to be considerable overlap, at least in spirit, in what they are trying to convey to us in their philosophical work (I wouldn’t label Wittgenstein a ‘pragmatist’ however, even if there’s a significant pragmatic quality to his later work). That is only a tentative conclusion, subject to possible qualification or revision at a later date (as I’m also reading Wittgenstein afresh).
    I recently initiated a series on one fairly well-known facet of Dewey’s philosophy titled “Philosophy of Education, Education as Philosophy & Education for Democracy,” but this post is not part of that project, even if it has obvious or implicit ties to the principled democratic motivations of the moral psychology and political philosophy incarnate in his philosophy of education. Indeed, as it strikes my fancy, I may end up posting on sundry topics from Dewey’s corpus.
    *           *           *
    Close to 90 years ago the wide-ranging (pragmatist) philosopher, political commentator, and activist John Dewey (1859–1952) wrote a series of powerful essays for the New Republic* criticizing this country’s “materialism” and “money culture,” including the wholesale “corporatization” of American life. In short, these contribute to a compelling indictment of capitalism that presciently identified its myriad distortions and deformations of democracy, be they patent or insidious. What follows are a few snippets I think are representative of the righteous anger (in part sublimated by the written word) and incisive critique of these pieces. It is utterly remarkable and equally telling that, with a little updating or tweaking here and there, these essays are no less trenchant and discerning when viewed through the prism of our time and place.
    Dewey begins this series with reflections prompted in part by Robert Staughton Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd’s pioneering work in sociology (using methods borrowed from cultural anthropology), Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture (1929), which was followed some years later by Middletown in Transition: A Study in Cultural Conflicts (1937). The Lynds’ case studies focused on the white residents of Muncie, Indiana:
    “The word ‘middletown’ was meant to suggest the average or typical American small city. While there are many places in the U.S. actually named Middletown (in Connecticut, in New Jersey, in New York, in Ohio and elsewhere), the Lynds were interested in an idealized conceptual American type, and concealed the identity of the city by referring to it by this term. Sometime after publication, however, the residents of Muncie began to guess that their town had been the subject of the book.” [….]
    *Written for the New Republic in 1929 and 1930, these articles are available in book form: Individualism Old and New (Prometheus Books, 1999).
    *           *           *
    • “Anthropologically speaking, we are living in a money culture. Its cult and rites dominate. ‘The money-medium of exchange and the cluster of activities associated with its acquisition drastically condition the other activities of the people.’”
    • “We live as if economic forces determined the growth and decay of institutions and settled the fate of individuals. Liberty becomes a well-nigh obsolete term; we start, go, and stop at the signal of a vast industrial machine. [….] The philosophy appropriate to such a situation is that of struggle for existence and survival of the economically fit [elsewhere he describes this in terms of a Social Darwinism, which probably owes more to Herbert Spencer and an argument from Thomas Malthus than it does Darwin].”
    • We loath to admit our everyday subscription to a “materialist scheme of value” as it would lay bare the “obvious contradictions between our institutions and practices on one hand, and our creeds and theories on the other.”
    • “The glorification of religion as setting the final seal of approval on pecuniary success, and supplying the active motive to more energetic struggle for such success [this is not limited to the influence of what today is known as ‘prosperity gospel’ or ‘prosperity theology,’ as both Max Weber and R.H. Tawney remind us], and the adoption by the churches of the latest devices of the movies and the advertiser approach to close to the obscene.”
    • “It is evident enough that the rapid industrialization of our civilization took us unawares. Being mentally and morally unprepared, our older creeds have become ingrowing; the more we depart from them in fact, the more loudly we proclaim them [among other things, this speaks volumes for the sorry state of evangelical Christianity, at least as it is expressed among those conservative white evangelicals that enthusiastically support Donald Trump’s xenophobic and racist populist nationalism]. In effect, we treat them as magic formulae. By repeating them often enough we hope to ward off the evils of the new situation, or at least to prevent ourselves from seeing them—and this latter function is ably performed by our nominal beliefs [in ‘individualism,’ in the ‘free market,’ in ‘liberty,’ and so forth].”
    • “With an enormous command of instrumentalities, with possession of a secure technology, we glorify the past, and legalize and idealize the status quo, instead of seriously asking how we are able to employ the means at our disposal so as to form an equitable and stable society. This is our great abdication. It explains how and why we are a house divided against itself. Our tradition, our heritage, is itself double. It contains in itself the ideal of equality of opportunity and of freedom for all, without regard to birth and status, as a condition for the realization of that equality. This ideal and endeavor in its behalf once constituted our essential Americanism; that which was prized as the note of a new world. It is the genuinely spiritual element of our tradition. No one can truthfully say that it has entirely disappeared. But its promise of a new moral and religious outlook has not been attained. It has not become the well-spring of a new intellectual consensus; it is not (even unconsciously) the vital source of any distinctive and shared philosophy. It directs our politics only spasmodically, and while it has generously provided schools, it does not control their aims or their methods.” [emphasis added]
    • “Our law and politics and the incidents of human association depend upon a novel combination of machine and money, and the result is the pecuniary culture characteristic of our civilization. The spiritual factor of our tradition, equal opportunity and free association and intercommunication, is obscured and crowded out. Instead of the development of individualities which it prophetically set forth, there is a perversion of the whole ideal of individualism to conform to the practices of a pecuniary culture [cf. conservative claptrap about capitalism as a unique and unassailable fount of our ‘liberty’]. It has become the source and justification of inequalities and oppressions.”
    • “ … [T]he growth of legal corporations in manufacturing, transportation, distribution and finance is symbolic of the development of corporateness in all phases of life. The era of trust-busting is an almost forgotten age. Not only are big mergers the order of the day, but popular sentiment now looks upon them with pride rather than with fear [this may be less true today, as such corporate behavior generates at least a modest amount of skepticism or distrust, even if it is rarely prohibited]. Size is our current measure of greatness in this as in other matters [Donald Trump has an uncanny appreciation and inordinate fondness for this fact]. It is not necessary to ask whether the opportunity for speculative manipulation for the sake of private gain, or increased public service at a lower cost, is the dominant motive. Personal motives hardly count as productive causes in comparison with impersonal forces. [….] Aggregated capital and concentrated control are the contemporary responses. Political control is needed, but the movement cannot be arrested by legislation.” [One can well imagine what Dewey would have thought about the prevailing ‘neoliberal’ logic of de-regulation and privatization of public goods.]
    • “We live exposed to the greatest flood of mass suggestion that any people has ever experienced. [….] The publicity agent is perhaps the most significant symbol of our present social life.”
    • “The significant thing is that the loyalties which once held individuals, which gave them support, direction and unity of outlook on life, have well-nigh disappeared. In consequence, individuals are confused and bewildered. It would be difficult to find in history an epoch as lacking in solid and assured objects of belief and approved ends of action as in the present. Stability of individuality is dependent upon stable objects to which allegiance firmly attaches itself. There are, of course, those who are militantly fundamentalist in religious and social creed. But their very clamor is evidence that the tide is set against them. For others, traditional objects of loyalty have become hollow or are openly repudiated, and they drift without sure anchorage.”
    • “The most marked trait of present life, economically speaking, is insecurity. It is tragic that millions of men desirous of working should be recurrently out of employment; aside from cyclical depressions there is a standing army at all times who have no regular work. We have not any adequate information as to the number of these persons. But the ignorance even as to numbers is slight compared with our inability to grasp the psychological and moral consequences of the precarious conditions in which vast multitudes live. Insecurity cuts deeper and extends more widely than bare unemployment. Fear of loss of work, dread of the oncoming of old age, create anxiety and eat into self-respect in a way that impairs personal dignity. Where fears abound, courageous and robust individuality is undermined. The vast development of technological resources that might bring security in its train has actually brought a new mode of insecurity, as mechanization displaces labor. The mergers and consolidations that mark a corporate age are beginning to bring uncertainty into the economic lives of the higher salaried [i.e., managerial and professional] class, and that tendency is only just in its early stage. Realization that honest and industrious pursuit of a calling or business will not guarantee any stable level of life lessens respect for work and stirs large numbers to take a chance of some adventitious way of getting the wealth that will make security possible: witness the orgies of the stock-market in recent days [we might come up with any number of legal and illegal examples to illustrate Dewey’s point there].” [emphasis added]

    Saturday, March 10, 2018

    The Eastside 13 and the East L.A. “Blowouts” (walkouts)

    They faced 66 years in prison. The‘Eastside 13’ and how they helped plan the East L.A. walkouts,” Los Angeles Times (March 8, 2018)

    By Louis Sahagun

    “As Los Angeles schools and others this week observe the 50th anniversary of the East L.A. walkouts, when thousands of Mexican American students marched to demand a better education, much attention has focused on those who became known as the Eastside 13. But who were the Eastside 13? They were 13 men secretly indicted by a grand jury June 1, 1968, on conspiracy charges stemming from the East L.A. ‘blowouts.’ The walkouts kicked off March 5, 1968, when students began protesting at Garfield High School, and spread to other campuses to decry the shortcomings of public schools in Los Angeles’ barrios. The walkouts are viewed as a turning point in the political development of the nation’s Mexican American community.
    Some local leaders at the time, including Mayor Sam Yorty, denounced the walkouts as a communist plot, and in the months that followed, law enforcement responded with undercover operations, raids and arrests.

    In returning the indictments, the grand jurors found there was sufficient evidence to show that the protests staged at Garfield, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Belmont high schools were not spontaneous, but rather the result of careful off-campus planning by non-students. Defense attorneys would later argue, successfully, that the protest organizers were merely exercising their 1st Amendment rights. But when the indictments were handed down, each defendant faced 66 years in prison.

    Among the 13 arrested was Carlos Muñoz Jr., who recalled how the police arrived at his apartment at dawn with guns drawn. Muñoz, then a 20-year-old college student, had been writing a paper for a graduate seminar on the ‘international communist movement’ when the officers broke in. One of the officers noticed a stack of books on the kitchen table where Muñoz had been typing. He scanned the names of the authors — Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx — and yelled out, ‘We’ve got the goods on this damn communist agitator!’

    Also indicted on multiple charges of conspiracy to disturb public schools and conspiracy to disturb the peace were Sal Castro, 34, a teacher at Lincoln High, and Eliezer Risco, 31, a Cuban-born editor of La Raza, a newspaper circulated in the Mexican American community. Indicted members of the militant Brown Berets, who often took the title of ‘minister,’ were David Sanchez, 19, chairman; Ralph Ramirez, 18, minister of discipline; Fred Lopez, 19, minister of communication; and Carlos Montes, 20, minister of public relations and holy grace. Others indicted were Gilberto Olmeda, 23; Richard Vigil, 27; Joe Razo, 29; Henry Gomez, 20; Moctesuma Esparza, 19; and Juan Sanchez, 41. [….]

    The indictments were struck down in 1970 by an appeals court in a case that became a cause celebre to Chicanos. ‘The No. 1 thing that the walkouts achieved is that it gave our own community a voice — that we didn’t have to rely on what other people thought we should be doing or who we should be,’ said Esparza, who went on to become an award-winning filmmaker, producing movies such as ‘Gettysburg,’ ‘Selena’ and ‘Walkout,’ a dramatization of the 1968 Chicano student protests. ‘I never gave up my identity as a Chicano,’ Esparza said. ‘The struggle never ends.’” The entire article is here.

    See too:

    The Chicano Movement & the 1960s:
    • Acuña, Rodolfo. Occupied America: The Chicano’s Struggle Toward Liberation. San Francisco, CA: Canfield Press, 1972.
    • Castro, Tony. Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America. New York: Saturday Review Press, 1974.
    • Chávez, Ernesto. “¡Mi Raza Primero!”— Nationalism, Identity, and Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002.
    • Donato, Rubén. The Other Struggle for Equal Schools: Mexican Americans during the Civil Rights Era. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997.
    • García, Alma M., ed. Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings. New York: Routledge, 1997.
    • García, Ignacio M. United We Win: The Rise and Fall of La Raza Unida Party. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1989.
    • García, Mario T. Memories of Chicano History: The Life and Narrative of Bert Corona. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994.
    • García, Mario T. and Sal Castro. Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
    • Marin, Marguerite V. Social Protest in an Urban Barrio: A Study of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1974. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1991.
    • Mariscal, George. Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.
    • Mariscal, George, ed. Aztlán and Vietnam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999.
    • Montejano, David. Quixote’s Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966–1981. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2010.
    • Muñoz, Carlos, Jr. Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement. London: Verso, 1989.
    • Navarro, Armando. Mexican American Youth Organization: Avant-Garde of the Chicano Movement in Texas. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1995.
    • Navarro, Armando. The Cristal Experiment: A Chicano Struggle for Community Control. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.
    • Navarro, Armando. La Raza Unida Party: A Chicano Challenge to the U.S. Two-Party Dictatorship. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2000.
    • Oropeza, Lorena. ¡Raza Si! ¡Guerra No!: Chicano Protest and Patriotism during the Viet Nam War Era. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005.
    • Rendon, Armando B. Chicano Manifesto: The History and Aspirations of the Second Largest Minority in America. New York: Macmillan, 1971.
    • Rosales, Francisco Arturo. CHICANO! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, University of Houston, 2nd ed., 1997.
    • Vigil, Ernesto B. The Crusade for Justice: Chicano Militancy and the Government’s War on Dissent. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999.

    Images (from top to bottom):
    • John Ortiz addresses fellow students at Garfield High on March 7. (H.O. McCarthy/Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library)
    • Sheriff’s deputies form a line near Garfield High on March 5, the first day of the student “blowouts.” (Joe Kennedy/Los Angeles Times)
    • Freddie Resendez rallies students at Lincoln High School. (Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library; Los Angeles Times)
    • Members of the Brown Berets, above, listen to a speaker on June 9, 1968. (Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library; Los Angeles Times)