Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Psychology & Philosophy Books

Three new books I want to own came up in this week's Metapsychology Online Reviews.

Dialectics of the Self: Transcending Charles Taylor
by Ian Fraser
Imprint Academic, 2007
Review by Laxminarayan Lenka
Fraser offers an immanent and transcendental critique of Taylor's notion of the self. He attempts to show how Taylor fails to make a total rejection of Marxism and how the weakness of Taylor's arguments for the social, theistic, religious, moral and aesthetic dimensions of modern self can be overcome by adopting a more advanced humanist Marxist approach. The novelty of this critique is its humanist Marxist approach that not only finds how Taylor misreads Marx but also attempts to surpass the misgivings of Taylor' s approach and, thereby, certainly makes an advancement, however little it might be in comparison to Taylor's grand enterprise, of our understanding of the self.

Keeping 'affirmation of ordinary life', 'self-interpretation' 'language' and 'dialogue' as the points of reference, in Chapter 1, Fraser compares Taylor's notion of the self with Marx's notion of the self. Here he attempts to show how 'Taylor's discussion on the self has a relatively strong resonance in Marx's own writings; a resonance which Taylor failed to explore' (p. 13). Both Marx and Taylor, reject 'the emblematic figure of Crusoe as the starting point for understanding individuals' and advocate for an understanding of the selves 'in their social setting as part of a community and as historically developed in different forms' (p.16). Fraser finds 'the affirmation of ordinary life' as 'a part of the expressivist humanist Marxist tradition' (p. 30) and the dialogical nature of language in Marx's idea that the development of language presupposes 'individuals living together and talking together' (p. 17). He observes that Tailor fails to appreciate 'the real links between class, ethics and culture' (p. 30) and considers Marxist emphasis on class detrimental to ethics and culture.

Read the whole review.

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This next book is a must have for any woman who grew up with a mentally unstable mother, or who loves a woman who grew up in that atmosphere.

Daughters of Madness: Growing Up and Older with a Mentally Ill Mother
by Susan Nathiel
Praeger, 2007
Review by Sue Bond
The foreword to this book begins with a quotation by Hodding Carter: 'A wise woman once said to me: "There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings."' It is sadly apparent that the mothers of the women interviewed for Susan Nathiel's thoughtful and approachable study, were unable to give either of these things to their daughters. Their illnesses rendered them barely able to look after themselves.

The author begins by giving the reader background information on infant development, and the importance of bonding between a baby and her primary caregiver. Interestingly, Nathiel defines 'maternal' as referring to the primary caregiver, whether male or female, parent or other relative or guardian, but the focus of the study is the failure of the mother's ability to parent.
Read the whole review.

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The Mind in Nature

by C.B. Martin
Oxford University Press, 2008
Review by Christina Behme, M.Sc.
C.B. Martin, an early proponent of the causal theory of mind, wrote yet another volume promoting his 'ontologically serious' realist metaphysics and its implications for philosophical concepts of causation, intentionality, consciousness, and the mind-body problem. According to the preface The mind in nature has three foci: (i) the defense of realism of dispositions and a disposition based account of causality, (ii) the importance of nonconscious, nonmental systems for the philosophy of mind and (iii) the importance of percept and percept like dreamings and imagines for conscious systems.

Martin argues for realism of properties and dispositions in reference only to the nonabstract actual world (p.1) He defends this account against operationalist, conditional or counterfactual, possible world accounts (e.g., Quine, 1948; Goodman, 1955; Sellars, 1963; Lewis, 1973; 1997) and insists on the importance of his 'Truthmaker Principle': the principle that when a statement is true, there must be something (some fact or event or property) that makes it true (pp.24-25). He opposes a supervenience view of causation (e.g., Searle, 1992) arguing that "there is no causal work for the whole that is not done by the parts, provided the complex role of the parts is fully appreciated" (p.35). Instead, Martin suggests a compositional model in which the parts and their properties exhaust the explanatory relevant entities. Properties "have a dual nature: in virtue of having a property, an object possesses both a particular dispositionality and a particular qualitative character" (p.44). He firmly rejects Humean models of causality in which cause and effect are distinct temporal events (e.g., Hume, 1748; Goodman, 1955; Stalnaker, 1968; Lewis, 1973) but also objects to reductionist accounts and insists that "every disposition is a holistic web" (p.60). For Martin's work the resulting gradualist account of reality is essential because he firmly rejects the idea that fundamental differences between the mental and non-mental, between the non-conscious and conscious, between the intentional and non-intentional exist.
Read the whole review.


Anonymous said...

i may have to break down and buy the mother book ......

william harryman said...

I'll probably get this one pretty quickly, so unless you can get your work to pay for it, you can borrow mine when I get it.