Saturday, September 04, 2010

Sogyal Rinpoche - Glimpse of the Day

Cool parable from Sogyal Rinpoche's Glimpse of the Day, repeating a story from Dudjom Rinpoche.

Dudjom Rinpoche used to tell the story of a powerful bandit in India, who, after countless successful raids, realized the terrible suffering he had been causing. He yearned for some way of atoning for what he had done, and visited a famous master. He asked him: "I am a sinner, I am in torment. What's the way out? What can I do?"

The master looked the bandit up and down and then asked him what he was good at.

"Nothing," replied the bandit.

"Nothing?" barked the master. "You must be good at something!"

The bandit was silent for a while, and eventually admitted: "Actually there is one thing I have a talent for, and that's stealing."

The master chuckled: "Good! That's exactly the skill you'll need now. Go to a quiet place and rob all your perceptions, and steal all the stars and planets in the sky, and dissolve them into the belly of emptiness, the all-encompassing space of the nature of mind."

Within twenty-one days, the bandit had realized the nature of his mind, and eventually came to be regarded as one of the great saints of India.

Pew Research Center - The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.

Back in February, the Pew Research Center released an extensive (almost 150 pages) report on the Millennials - the newest generation entering into adulthood.

The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. The whole report is available as a free PDF download. Here is the Preface, where the authors give a little taste of what they were looking at and why. I am also including the Executive Summary below this section.

This report represents the Pew Research Center’s most ambitious examination to date of America’s newest generation, the Millennials, many of whom have now crossed into adulthood. We began looking at this age group in 2006 in a comprehensive survey we conducted in association with the PBS documentary series, “Generation Next.”

Our new report greatly expands on that seminal work. In the pages that follow we set out to compare the values, attitudes and behaviors of Millennials with those of today’s older adults. And to the extent that we can, we also compare them with older adults back when they were the age that Millennials are now.

But we undertake this exercise in generational portraiture with a healthy dose of humility. We know that, in one sense, it’s too easy – and in another, it’s too hard.

It’s too easy because most readers don’t need a team of researchers to tell them that the typical 20-year-old, 45-year-old and 70-year-old are likely to be different from one another. People already know that.

It’s too difficult because, try as we might, we know we can never completely disentangle the multiple reasons that generations differ. At any given moment in time, age group differences can be the result of three overlapping processes: 1) Life cycle effects. Young people may be different from older people today, but they may well become more like them tomorrow, once they themselves age. 2) Period effects. Major events (wars; social movements; economic downturns; medical, scientific or technological breakthroughs) affect all age groups simultaneously, but the degree of impact may differ according to where people are located in the life cycle. 3) Cohort effects. Period events and trends often leave a particularly deep impression on young adults because they are still developing their core values; these imprints stay with them as they move through their life cycle.

It’s not always possible to identify – much less unpack and analyze – these various processes. On many measures, the long-term trend data needed to make comparisons simply do not exist. Also, while generations may have personalities, they are not monolithic. There are as many differences within generations as there are among generations. Moreover, the composition of a given age cohort can change over time as result of demographic factors such as immigration and differential mortality. Finally, even if we had a full set of long-term data, we know that the discrete effects of life cycle, cohort and period cannot be statistically separated from one another with absolute certainty.

Nonetheless, we believe this journey is worth taking. All of us know people who still bear the marks of their distinctive coming-of-age experiences: the grandmother raised during the Depression who reuses her tea bags; the child of the Cold War who favors an assertive national security policy; the uncle who grew up in the 1960s and sports a pony tail.

We don’t yet know which formative experiences the Millennials will carry forward throughout their life cycle. But we hope that the findings presented here begin to shine a light on what they are like today – and on what America might be like tomorrow.

Paul Taylor and Scott Keeter, editors
Here is the Executive Summary - some of the findings here are very cool, suggesting that GenNext is perhaps a full developmental stage ahead of the Boomer generation.

I find it telling that their top three priorities in life are: (1) being a good parent, (2) having a successful relationship, and (3) helping others. They seem, despite the claims that they are a generation of narcissists, to be more other-focused than previous generations, especially the "ME Generation" Boomers.

I also find it interesting that in those who indicated that their generation was unique from the others, the Millennials listed being liberal as a defining characteristic (in a list of the top four), while Gen X listed traditional/conservative values as a defining characteristic. Both were only at 7%, but that is a serious shift.

On the other hand, most of them sleep with their cell phone - that ain't right.

Executive Summary

Generations, like people, have personalities, and Millennials -- the American teens and twenty-somethings who are making the passage into adulthood at the start of a new millennium -- have begun to forge theirs: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.

They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They're less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.

Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession, but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation.(See chapter 4 in the full report)

They embrace multiple modes of self-expression. Three-quarters have created a profile on a social networking site. One-in-five have posted a video of themselves online. Nearly four-in-ten have a tattoo (and for most who do, one is not enough: about half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18% have six or more). Nearly one-in-four have a piercing in some place other than an earlobe -- about six times the share of older adults who've done this. But their look-at-me tendencies are not without limits. Most Millennials have placed privacy boundaries on their social media profiles. And 70% say their tattoos are hidden beneath clothing. (See chapters 4 and 7 in the full report)

Despite struggling (and often failing) to find jobs in the teeth of a recession, about nine-in-ten either say that they currently have enough money or that they will eventually meet their long-term financial goals. But at the moment, fully 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in more than three decades. Research shows that young people who graduate from college in a bad economy typically suffer long-term consequences -- with effects on their careers and earnings that linger as long as 15 years.1 (See chapter 5 in the full report)

Whether as a by-product of protective parents, the age of terrorism or a media culture that focuses on dangers, they cast a wary eye on human nature. Two-thirds say "you can't be too careful" when dealing with people. Yet they are less skeptical than their elders of government. More so than other generations, they believe government should do more to solve problems. (See chapter 8 in the full report).

They are the least overtly religious American generation in modern times. One-in-four are unaffiliated with any religion, far more than the share of older adults when they were ages 18 to 29. Yet not belonging does not necessarily mean not believing. Millennials pray about as often as their elders did in their own youth. (See chapter 9 in the full report)

Only about six-in-ten were raised by both parents -- a smaller share than was the case with older generations. In weighing their own life priorities, Millennials (like older adults) place parenthood and marriage far above career and financial success. But they aren't rushing to the altar. Just one-in-five Millennials (21%) are married now, half the share of their parents' generation at the same stage of life. About a third (34%) are parents, according to the Pew Research survey. We estimate that, in 2006, more than a third of 18 to 29 year old women who gave birth were unmarried. This is a far higher share than was the case in earlier generations.2 (See chapters 2 and 3 in the full report)

Millennials are on course to become the most educated generation in American history, a trend driven largely by the demands of a modern knowledge-based economy, but most likely accelerated in recent years by the millions of 20-somethings enrolling in graduate schools, colleges or community colleges in part because they can't find a job. Among 18 to 24 year olds a record share -- 39.6% -- was enrolled in college as of 2008, according to census data. (See chapter 5 in the full report)

They get along well with their parents. Looking back at their teenage years, Millennials report having had fewer spats with mom or dad than older adults say they had with their own parents when they were growing up. And now, hard times have kept a significant share of adult Millennials and their parents under the same roof. About one-in-eight older Millennials (ages 22 and older) say they've "boomeranged" back to a parent's home because of the recession. (See chapters 3 and 5 in the full report)

They respect their elders. A majority say that the older generation is superior to the younger generation when it comes to moral values and work ethic. Also, more than six-in-ten say that families have a responsibility to have an elderly parent come live with them if that parent wants to. By contrast, fewer than four-in-ten adults ages 60 and older agree that this is a family responsibility.

Despite coming of age at a time when the United States has been waging two wars, relatively few Millennials-just 2% of males-are military veterans. At a comparable stage of their life cycle, 6% of Gen Xer men, 13% of Baby Boomer men and 24% of Silent men were veterans. (See chapter 2 in the full report)

Politically, Millennials were among Barack Obama's strongest supporters in 2008, backing him for president by more than a two-to-one ratio (66% to 32%) while older adults were giving just 50% of their votes to the Democratic nominee. This was the largest disparity between younger and older voters recorded in four decades of modern election day exit polling. Moreover, after decades of low voter participation by the young, the turnout gap in 2008 between voters under and over the age of 30 was the smallest it had been since 18- to 20-year-olds were given the right to vote in 1972. (See chapter 8 in the full report)

But the political enthusiasms of Millennials have since cooled -for Obama and his message of change, for the Democratic Party and, quite possibly, for politics itself. About half of Millennials say the president has failed to change the way Washington works, which had been the central promise of his candidacy. Of those who say this, three-in-ten blame Obama himself, while more than half blame his political opponents and special interests.

To be sure, Millennials remain the most likely of any generation to self-identify as liberals; they are less supportive than their elders of an assertive national security policy and more supportive of a progressive domestic social agenda. They are still more likely than any other age group to identify as Democrats. Yet by early 2010, their support for Obama and the Democrats had receded, as evidenced both by survey data and by their low level of participation in recent off-year and special elections. (See chapter 8 in the full report)

Our Research Methods

This Pew Research Center report profiles the roughly 50 million Millennials who currently span the ages of 18 to 29. It's likely that when future analysts are in a position to take a fuller measure of this new generation, they will conclude that millions of additional younger teens (and perhaps even pre-teens) should be grouped together with their older brothers and sisters. But for the purposes of this report, unless we indicate otherwise, we focus on Millennials who are at least 18 years old.

We examine their demographics; their political and social values; their lifestyles and life priorities; their digital technology and social media habits; and their economic and educational aspirations. We also compare and contrast Millennials with the nation's three other living generations-Gen Xers (ages 30 to 45), Baby Boomers (ages 46 to 64) and Silents (ages 65 and older). Whenever the trend data permit, we compare the four generations as they all are now-and also as older generations were at the ages that adult Millennials are now.3

Most of the findings in this report are based on a new survey of a national cross-section of 2,020 adults (including an oversample of Millennials), conducted by landline and cellular telephone from Jan. 14 to 27, 2010; this survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points for the full sample and larger percentages for various subgroups (for more details, see page 110 in the full report). The report also draws on more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, supplemented by our analysis of Census Bureau data and other relevant studies.

Some Caveats

A few notes of caution are in order. Generational analysis has a long and distinguished place in social science, and we cast our lot with those scholars who believe it is not only possible, but often highly illuminating, to search for the unique and distinctive characteristics of any given age group of Americans. But we also know this is not an exact science.

We acknowledge, for example, that there is an element of false precision in setting hard chronological boundaries between the generations. Can we say with certainty that a typical 30-year-old adult is a Gen Xer while a typical 29-year-old adult is a Millennial? Of course not.
Nevertheless, we must draw lines in order to carry out the statistical analyses that form the core of our research methodology. And our boundaries-while admittedly too crisp-are not arbitrary. They are based on our own research findings and those of other scholars.

We are mindful that there are as many differences in attitudes, values, behaviors and lifestyles within a generation as there are between generations. But we believe this reality does not diminish the value of generational analysis; it merely adds to its richness and complexity. Throughout this report, we will not only explore how Millennials differ from other generations, we will also look at how they differ among themselves.

The Millennial Identity

Most Millennials (61%) in our January, 2010 survey say their generation has a unique and distinctive identity. That doesn't make them unusual, however. Roughly two-thirds of Silents, nearly six-in-ten Boomers and about half of Xers feel the same way about their generation.

But Millennials have a distinctive reason for feeling distinctive. In response to an open-ended follow-up question, 24% say it's because of their use of technology. Gen Xers also cite technology as their generation's biggest source of distinctiveness, but far fewer-just 12%-say this. Boomers' feelings of distinctiveness coalesce mainly around work ethic, which 17% cite as their most prominent identity badge. For Silents, it's the shared experience of the Depression and World War II, which 14% cite as the biggest reason their generation stands apart. (See chapter 3 in the full report)

Millennials' technological exceptionalism is chronicled throughout the survey. It's not just their gadgets -- it's the way they've fused their social lives into them. For example, three-quarters of Millennials have created a profile on a social networking site, compared with half of Xers, 30% of Boomers and 6% of Silents. There are big generation gaps, as well, in using wireless technology, playing video games and posting self-created videos online. Millennials are also more likely than older adults to say technology makes life easier and brings family and friends closer together (though the generation gaps on these questions are relatively narrow). (See chapter 4 in the full report)

Work Ethic, Moral Values, Race Relations

Of the four generations, Millennials are the only one that doesn't cite "work ethic" as one of their principal claims to distinctiveness. A nationwide Pew Research Center survey taken in 2009 may help explain why. This one focused on differences between young and old rather than between specific age groups. Nonetheless, its findings are instructive.

Nearly six-in-ten respondents cited work ethic as one of the big sources of differences between young and old. Asked who has the better work ethic, about three-fourths of respondents said that older people do. By similar margins, survey respondents also found older adults have the upper hand when it comes to moral values and their respect for others.

It might be tempting to dismiss these findings as a typical older adult gripe about "kids today." But when it comes to each of these traits -- work ethic, moral values, respect for others -- young adults agree that older adults have the better of it. In short, Millennials may be a self-confident generation, but they display little appetite for claims of moral superiority.

That 2009 survey also found that the public -- young and old alike -- thinks the younger generation is more racially tolerant than their elders. More than two decades of Pew Research surveys confirm that assessment. In their views about interracial dating, for example, Millennials are the most open to change of any generation, followed closely by Gen Xers, then Boomers, then Silents.

Likewise, Millennials are more receptive to immigrants than are their elders. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) say immigrants strengthen the country, according to a 2009 Pew Research survey; just 43% of adults ages 30 and older agree.

The same pattern holds on a range of attitudes about nontraditional family arrangements, from mothers of young children working outside the home, to adults living together without being married, to more people of different races marrying each other. Millennials are more accepting than older generations of these more modern family arrangements, followed closely by Gen Xers. To be sure, acceptance does not in all cases translate into outright approval. But it does mean Millennials disapprove less. (See chapter 6 in the full report)

A Gentler Generation Gap

A 1969 Gallup survey, taken near the height of the social and political upheavals of that turbulent decade, found that 74% of the public believed there was a "generation gap" in American society. Surprisingly, when that same question was asked in a Pew Research Center survey last year -- in an era marked by hard economic times but little if any overt age-based social tension -- the share of the public saying there was a generation gap had risen slightly to 79%.

But as the 2009 results also make clear, this modern generation gap is a much more benign affair than the one that cast a shadow over the 1960s. The public says this one is mostly about the different ways that old and young use technology -- and relatively few people see that gap as a source of conflict. Indeed, only about a quarter of the respondents in the 2009 survey said they see big conflicts between young and old in America. Many more see conflicts between immigrants and the native born, between rich and poor, and between black and whites.

There is one generation gap that has widened notably in recent years. It has to do with satisfaction over the state of the nation. In recent decades the young have always tended to be a bit more upbeat than their elders on this key measure, but the gap is wider now than it has been in at least twenty years. Some 41% of Millennials say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, compared with just 26% of those ages 30 and older. Whatever toll a recession, a housing crisis, a financial meltdown and a pair of wars may have taken on the national psyche in the past few years, it appears to have hit the old harder than the young. (See chapter 3 in the full report)

But this speaks to a difference in outlook and attitude; it's not a source of conflict or tension. As they make their way into adulthood, Millennials have already distinguished themselves as a generation that gets along well with others, especially their elders. For a nation whose population is rapidly going gray, that could prove to be a most welcome character trait.

Download Complete Report [PDF ]

1. Lisa B. Kahn. “The Long-Term Labor Market Consequences of Graduating from College in a Bad Economy,” Yale School of Management, Aug. 13, 2009 (forthcoming in Labour Economics).
2. This Pew Research estimate is drawn from our analysis of government data for women ages 18 to 29 who gave birth in 2006, the most recent year for which such data is available. Martin, Joyce A., Brady E. Hamilton, Paul D. Sutton, Stephanie J. Ventura, Fay Menacker, Sharon Kirmeyer, and TJ Mathews. Births: Final Data for 2006. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 57 no 7. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009.
3. We do not have enough respondents ages 83 and older in our 2010 survey to permit an analysis of the Greatest Generation, which is usually defined as encompassing adults born before 1928. Throughout much of this report, we have grouped these older respondents in with the Silent generation. However, Chapter 8 on politics and Chapter 9 on religion each draw on long-term trend data from other sources, permitting us in some instances in those chapters to present findings about the Greatest Generation.

Authors@Google: Albert László Barabási on "Bursts"

Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do

I hadn't heard about this book or Barabasi's theory of Bursts - it makes sense intuitively, but I would have to read the book to know for sure. Being critical, I need to see the research.
The Authors@Google program welcomed to Google's New York office to discuss his book, "BURSTS: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do"

"In BURSTS (April 2010), Barabasi, Director of the Center for Network Science at Northeastern University, shatters one of the most fundamental assumptions in modern science and technology regarding human behavior. Barabasi argues that, rather than being random, humans actually act in predictable patterns. We go along for long periods of quiet routine followed suddenly by loud bursts of activity. Barabasi demonstrates that these breaks in routine, or "bursts," are present in all aspects of our existence— in the way we write emails, spend our money, manage our health, form ideas. Barabasi has even found "burstiness" in our webpage clicking activity and the online news cycle."

This event took place on June 30, 2010.

Here is the publisher's info from Amazon:
Can we scientifically predict our future? Scientists and pseudoscientists have been pursuing this mystery for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. But now, amazing new research is revealing that patterns in human behavior, previously thought to be purely random, follow predictable laws.

Albert-László Barabási, already the world's preeminent researcher on the science of networks, describes his work on this profound mystery in Bursts, a stunningly original investigation into human behavior. His approach relies on the way our lives have become digital. Mobile phones, the Internet, and e-mail have made human activities more accessible to quantitative analysis, turning our society into a huge research laboratory. All those electronic trails of time- stamped texts, voice mails, and searches add up to a previously unavailable massive data set that tracks our movements, our decisions, our lives. Analysis of these trails is offering deep insights into the rhythm of how we do everything. His finding? We work and fight and play in short flourishes of activity followed by next to nothing. Our daily pattern isn't random, it's "bursty." Bursts uncovers an astonishing deep order in our actions that makes us far more predictable than we like to think.

Illustrating this revolutionary science, Barabási artfully weaves together the story of a sixteenth-century burst of human activity-a bloody medieval crusade launched in his homeland, Transylvania-with the modern tale of a contemporary artist hunted by the FBI through our post-9/11 surveillance society. These narratives illustrate how predicting human behavior has long been the obsession, sometimes the duty, of those in power. Barabási's wide range of examples from seemingly unrelated areas includes how dollar bills move around the United States, the pattern everyone follows in writing e-mail, the spread of epidemics, and even the flight patterns of albatross. In all these phenomena a virtually identical bursty pattern emerges, a reflection of the universality of human behavior.

Bursts reveals where individual spontaneity ends and predictability in human behavior begins. The way you think about your own potential to do something truly extraordinary will never be the same.

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Single Eye Movement - Integral Horizons, an interview with William Harryman

Jeremy Johnson at Single Eye Movement recently interviewed me by email (so all of the typos are mine - d'oh!) - check it out: Integral Horizons, an interview with William Harryman.

We talk mostly about integral theory and the state of integral culture.

Thanks to Jeremy for the interest!

Friday, September 03, 2010

New Book: Philosophy as Therapeia

The Royal Institute of Philosophy has published a collection of papers from their Conference at the University of Liverpool - Philosophy as Therapeia, edited by Clare Carlisle and Jonardon Ganeri.

Several of the essays look into Buddhist philosophy, so those with that interest may find this book useful and informative.

New Book: Philosophy as Therapeia

The collected papers for a Royal Institute of Philosophy Conference at the University of Liverpool is now published. The book is edited by Jonardon Ganeri and Clare Carlisle.

Here is the Introduction:

‘Empty are the words of that philosopher who offers therapy for no human suffering. For just as there is no use in medical expertise if it does not give therapy for bodily diseases, so too there is no use in philosophy if it does not expel the suffering of the soul.’ The philosopher Epicurus (341-271 BCE) gave famous voice to a conception of philosophy as a cure or remedy for the maladies of the human soul, and this recurring theme in Hellenistic thought has been the subject of two important recent studies.

That has not until now received a comparable degree of attention is just how prominent an idea it has been across a whole spectrum of philosophical tradition. Scholars of Buddhism have known for some time that a medical analogy features strongly in Buddhist conceptions of philosophical practice, but this fact has rarely been the object of explicit discussion. The idea that philosophy should be therapeutic, indeed that this is philosophy’s first function, was indeed widely spread in India, and the analogy between philosophy and medicine was put to important use in several other, non-Buddhist, Indian schools. In the West, too, this conception of philosophy has displayed a great resilience, persisting long past the Hellenistic age. It can and will be argued that medieval scholasticism, a mode of philosophizing now so often and often so naively criticised, should be understood as therapeutic in intent. If that is right it is important, because it allows us to see continuities between ancient, medieval and early modern thought where too often discontinuities alone are emphasised. For Spinoza too thought of philosophy as therapeutic, and after him Nietzsche and Wittgenstein. So the conception of philosophy as therapeia allows for, and even necessitates, a new reading of the history of philosophy, one in which deep continuities come into vision which have been obscured, a reading which also contradicts those who have wanted to maintain that philosophy is a peculiarly European cultural product, and instead affirms its identity as a global intellectual practice.

With this in mind, we have assembled together here a set of new essays, all specially commissioned for our volume. We begin where the studies by Nussbaum and Sorabji leave off, with discussions of the therapeutic model from two leading voices in Buddhist philosophy. One of these studies, by Christopher Gowans, an expert in both Hellenistic and early Buddhist philosophy, focusses on the many similarities between Hellenistic and Buddhist uses of the model. The other, by David Burton, goes deeply into the Buddhist sources, including Tibetan along with later Indian contributions. As per their brief, neither writer merely documents, both instead putting challenging questions to the literature they survey. For it was our intention that the volume contain a thorough examination both of the scope and of the limits of the medicinal model. Kate Wharton, emphasising a disanalogy, very creatively plays with the use of two educational metaphors, juxtaposing the maieutic Socrates with the Vedic teacher who gestates his students; and Stephen Clark, in a complementary way, traces the original meaning of the word “therapeia” to that of an idea of service. These two essays press us to think through the value we now habitually attach to notions of autonomy. Jayandra Soni uses the therapeutic paradigm to demonstrate that the school of Yoga philosophy has far more in common with a Hellenistic school than its contemporary image would lead one to think.

The chapter by Martin Ganeri is a pivotal one. He argues precisely that scholasticism embodies a therapeutic conception of philosophy, and does so by bringing into dialogue two great scholastic thinkers, Aquinas and Rāmānuja. His chapter thus simultaneously displays the two dimensions of continuity that this volume aims to demonstrate, those that obtain within and across philosophical traditions. With a view to tracing this continuity through the work of more modern thinkers, we invited experts on Spinoza, Nietzsche, William James and Wittgenstein to examine how these philosophers take up the theme. Michael Hampe has shown how Spinoza was able to rejuvenate the conception of philosophy as therapeia and finesse difficulties in earlier formulations. Keith Ansell Pearson has written for this volume on Nietzsche, and contributes to the growing body of work on Nietzsche as a therapeutic philosopher with a new reading of Nietzsche’s Dawn or Daybreak. In an age when thoughts about immortality—whether in the shape of the hope for an after-life, or in the form of a fear of endless re-birth—no longer serve to animate the lives we try to lead, philosophical reflection is what awakens us to our condition. The question is, can it also help us find ways to live in the face of these acknowledgements? Logi Gunnarsson writes about William James, casting new light on this thinker at a moment of philosophical crisis in his intellectual life. Gunnarsson uses his study of James to make the important point that the maladies of the soul for which philosophy might be held up as a cure are sometimes not everyday emotional turmoils but difficulties of a peculiarly philosophical sort; for James they arose from a confrontation with possibility that there is no freedom of will, and are not themselves susceptible to further reflection. Implicit in Jonardon Ganeri’s chapter is the sense that it is our inability to think of ourselves without fear in relationship to different cultures, nations or religions which gives shape to a distinctively contemporary malaise, to which philosophy renders a new service in the fashioning of new sorts of cosmopolitan identity. We seem to need either to domesticate or else to deride what is alien, too bound by what is our own to be able to let it ‘inform’ us. With some of the above concerns, Wittgenstein too might have agreed. Garry Hagberg has written a very provocative and stimulating chapter on Wittgenstein, drawing attention to a previously unnoticed affinity between Wittgenstein’s interest in architecture and his conception of the role and function of philosophy, an affinity that the “philosophy as therapiea” model makes visible.

Among the central themes our contributors explore, then, are:
  • What are the ‘illnesses’ that afflict us as subjects, for which philosophy might provide a remedy?
  • What is the content of the medical analogy? Is the medicine a curative, a tonic, or a prophylactic?
  • Why do both Sextus Empiricus and Nāgārjuna regard the medicine that is philosophy to be an emetic, purging itself as well as the disease?
  • What is the relationship between thinking well and the integrity of the self?
  • Is there a tension between philosophy as treatment and the autonomy of the subject? Can those who suffer cure themselves?
  • To what extent must a philosophical ‘treatment’ be adapted to fit the needs of the particular individual? Is there a risk that, in locating the cause of suffering in all that human being, the cure deprives individuals of their individuality?
Our contributors have considerably eased our editorial labour by providing material for the ensuing summaries of their contributions. Together, these summaries constitute a synopsis of all the many interwoven strands of investigation. Our volume owes its existence to the Royal Institute of Philosophy, who supported the idea by awarding us one of its annual conferences, and we would like to thank Anthony O’Hear and James Garvey for their help and patience. That conference took place in Liverpool on June 19–21, 2008, an enjoyable gathering and an indispensible preparatory event for this volume. The University of Liverpool provided additional support, for which we are grateful.
Read the whole introduction.

Philosophy TV - Tamar Gendler and Eric Schwitzgebel on implicit associations and belief

Very cool - who needs actual television to see good tv. Philosophy TV is a new online venture to feature actual philosophy discussions that people can watch and comment on (no anonymous comments allowed). I may be one of the few people who is psyched about this, but I'm sure that are at least 20 or 30 other people who dig philosophy, too.

Tamar Gendler and Eric Schwitzgebel

Tamar Gendler (left) and Eric Schwitzgebel (right) on implicit associations and belief.

Most of us explicitly renounce racist beliefs. Yet empirical work suggests that, for many people, their implicit racial associations are in tension with their explicit avowals. So what do we really believe? Gendler contends that, in general, our implicit associations (which she calls “aliefs”) are distinct from our beliefs, while Schwitzgebel argues that our beliefs are a composite that includes our implicit assumptions.

Related works

by Gendler:
Alief and Belief” (2008)
Alief in Action (and Reaction)” (2008)

by Schwitzgebel:
Acting Contrary to Our Professed Beliefs” (forthcoming)
Blog: The Splintered Mind

More video:
Tamar Gendler and Paul Bloom (BhTV)
Eric Schwitzgebel and Josh Knobe (BhTV)

To download this episode of Philosophy TV click here and select “save link as” to download a .mp4 version of this conversation. If your mobile device supports .mp4 streaming, clicking that link will allow you stream the video.

Book: Religion and Spirituality in Psychiatry

Religion and Spirituality in Psychiatry

This looks like a very useful book - although quite expensive (cheaper at Amazon, and only slightly less than that for the Kindle).

Am J Psychiatry 167:871-a-872, July 2010
doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.10010027
© 2010 American Psychiatric Association

Religion and Spirituality in Psychiatry

edited by Philippe Huguelet and Harold G. Koenig. New York, Cambridge University Press, 2009, 384pp., $99.00.

Marc Galanter, M.D.

New York, N.Y.

This book, which is carefully conceived and well referenced, does justice to its title. But you may ask, how relevant, really, is the issue of religion and spirituality to the practice of psychiatry? Does it have a place in a discipline that is increasingly evidence based and oriented toward biologically grounded research?

In answering this question, you might consider where many patients actually turn for help with their medical problems. The surprisingly high prevalence of alternative medical techniques that people prefer, ones often grounded in religion and spirituality traditions, became clear in data from a national probability survey (1) and subsequent related studies. One-third of all adults had used these unconventional approaches in the previous year, and prayer was principal among those chosen. In fact, one-quarter of the respondents suffering from anxiety or depression had opted for alternative medical approaches—more than the proportion that turned to professionals for help. Such people often do not report this to psychiatric caregivers, if indeed they seek conventional treatment at all, and insurers are increasingly looking to alternative and complementary techniques to provide interventions that may be less expensive than our evidence-based therapies.

Given the advances we've seen in contemporary science, one might think that there would be a decline in people's spiritual orientations relative to scientific findings. But actually, the opposite may be the case. Since the 1960s, when less than a quarter of people surveyed reported having had religious or mystical experiences, they now constitute the majority (2). At the same time, belief in God or a higher power—typically a deity who plays an active role in people's lives—continues to be espoused by at least 90% of the population.

Is the coming generation of psychiatrists attentive to this issue, which apparently is influential in the emotional lives of many patients? In surveys we have conducted, psychiatric residents underestimate by far the importance that patients lend to religion and spirituality in coping with illness (3). Furthermore, when our own residents are asked to present a case related to religion or spirituality, almost without exception they present a patient suffering from religion-related delusions, rather than positive, meaningful experiences. These views are consistent with many of their psychiatric faculty and also with the way religious issues are represented in DSM. This bias against seeing religion and spirituality as a meaningful part of patients' emotional lives is bolstered as well by reading our principal academic journals, which are oriented toward a methodology of experimental controls and statistical modeling, quite at variance with an openness to the subjective and idiosyncratic beliefs patients may espouse. A paucity of religion and spirituality-related research also derives from the fact that many of the research paradigms relevant to understanding the intensity of people's beliefs lie more in the social-psychological and anthropological domains. Contemporary psychiatric research rarely deals with such issues.

Perhaps, then, psychiatrists should read this book. It draws together a diversity of topics that illustrate clearly how religion and spirituality are pertinent to psychiatrists. One chapter, for example, on neuropsychiatric issues, reviews recent literature on the relationship between specific neurotransmitters and spiritual and meditative experiences. In associating this literature with genetic correlates of these experiences, the author posits a heuristically useful model for the relationship between physiologic systems and the nature of spiritual and religious practices. This illustrates both the breadth of emerging findings in this research area and opportunities to expand on it.

From an entirely different perspective, another chapter discusses the issue of self-identity as it relates to spiritual experiences. It draws on a wide variety of psychoanalytic writers, from a mystically related Jungian perspective to a developmental model drawn from John Bowlby to the clinical psychoanalytic work of Ana-Maria Rizzuto. Case examples given here are illustrative of the value of understanding how religion and spirituality can bear on the practice of dynamically oriented psychotherapy.

Harold Koenig, a coeditor of the book, offers a chapter on how religion and spirituality issues can play a role in the work of a consultation-liaison psychiatrist. The topics discussed here and elsewhere in the book illustrate well how the clinician in such a setting needs to be very attentive to religion and spirituality in relation to patients in cases where anxiety and depression are generated in coping with medical illness. A broad array of medical problems, from dealing with pain to the treatment of substance abuse, are discussed as well.

Chapters like these make the relevance of religion and spirituality to the work of a practicing psychiatrist clearer, and they underline the value of introducing it more actively into psychiatric training. To this end, one chapter offers two examples of four questions that can be used in psychiatric assessment, as well as a longer list of topics that can be addressed. In our experience, religion and spirituality have often been thought to be of marginal importance in patient assessment on teaching units and often relegated to a social worker's evaluation. So we ask residents to pose only one question to all their patients: "Spirituality can be important to people. Does spirituality help you deal with your problems?" The residents are typically quite surprised by the positive responses they receive. We have also introduced resident-run spirituality groups on our training units, in parallel with conventional ones.

Although this book is quite comprehensive, not all aspects of religion and spirituality can be addressed in the depth they might deserve. Sociobiologic research, for example, could be covered, as it has given us models for the cognitive and affiliative underpinnings of religiosity, particularly in relation to altruistic commitments. Buddhist approaches could be dealt with in more depth. Religious orientations out of the mainstream, like Christian Science, Mormonism, even Santeria, would illustrate how clinicians may encounter traditions unfamiliar to them and their colleagues.

Some problematic areas in the religion and spirituality domain also merit attention (the book is, in essence, pro-religion and spirituality): highly religious psychiatrists may sometimes miss out on salient clinical problems because they overemphasize religious commitment with their patients (APA has a position statement on this). Religious movements may be cultic or even destructive—plenty in the news on this—and a clinician may be asked to consult to a family or even to the press on this topic. Overall, however, the authors in this volume illustrate in an excellent manner the value and depth of an issue that deserves more attention from our profession than it currently receives.


The author reports no financial relationships with commercial interests.


  1. Eisenberg DM, Kessler RC, Foster C, Norlock FE, Calkins DR, Delbanco TL: Unconventional medicine in the United States: prevalence, costs, and patterns of use. N Engl J Med 1993; 328:246–252[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  2. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths, 2009.
  3. Galanter M, Dermatis H, Talbot N, McMahon C, Alexander MJ: Introducing spirituality into psychiatric care. J Religion and Health 2009 (Epub ahead of print, Sept 1, 2009)

George Lackoff - The Cry for Democratic Moral Leadership and Effective Communication

As usual, Lackoff makes more sense than any of the pundits writing about politics - even the ones who think they "get it" - they don't, especially the Dems. People like Karl Rove did get it, which is how he got W elected twice.

It comes down to this, over and over again:
In the conservative moral system, the highest value is preserving and extending the moral system itself. That is why they keep saying no to Obama's proposals, even voting against their own ideas when Obama accepts them. To give Obama any victory at all would be a blow to their moral system. Their moral system requires non-cooperation. That is a major thing the Obama administration has not understood.
Until or unless the Dems figure this out, the GOP will continue to steer the nation toward their insane economic and moral agenda.

The Cry for Democratic Moral Leadership and Effective Communication

George Lakoff

Posted: September 2, 2010 09:01 AM

If you have not read Drew Westen's outstanding piece, "What Created the Populist Explosion and How Democrats Can Avoid the Shrapnel in November", on the Huffington Post, Alternet, and other venues, read it immediately. Westen states as eloquently and forcefully as anyone what he, I, and other progressives have been saying from the beginning of the Obama administration. I agree fully with everything he says. But ...

Westen's piece is incomplete in crucial ways. His piece can be read as saying that this election is about kitchen table economics (right) and only kitchen table economics (wrong).

This election is about more than just jobs, mortgages, and adequate health care. All politics is moral. All political leaders say to do what they propose because it is right. No political leaders say to do what they say because it is wrong. Morality is behind everything in politics -- and progressives and conservatives have different moral systems.

In the conservative moral system, the highest value is preserving and extending the moral system itself. That is why they keep saying no to Obama's proposals, even voting against their own ideas when Obama accepts them. To give Obama any victory at all would be a blow to their moral system. Their moral system requires non-cooperation. That is a major thing the Obama administration has not understood.

The conservatives understand the centrality of morality. They attacked the Obama health care plan as immoral for violating the moral principles of freedom ("government takeover") and reverence for life ("death panels.") The Obama administration made a policy case, not a moral case. The conservatives have characterized the bailouts as thievery and Obama's ties to Wall St. as immoral -- as being in bed with the thieves. The attacks on government are seen as moral attacks, with government seen as taking money out of working people's pockets and giving it to people who don't deserve it. Whether it is the birthers, or the anti-Muslims, or the anti-immigrants, of the pro-lifers, the attack is a moral attack. The Tea Party cry is moral -- for "freedom" (see my book Whose Freedom?), for God, for patriotism. Even jobless benefits are seen as giving money to people who are not working and don't deserve it. Even social security that workers have earned, that are deferred payments for work, are seen as undeserving people "sucking on the tits of the government."

The moral case is not answered just by good policy that will help people who need help -- as Westen proposed. The good policies -- extending unemployment benefits, help to small businesses, help for teachers and firemen, limits on credit card rates, restrictions on rate increases and service reductions by HMO's -- in themselves fit a progressive moral system, but don't in themselves make a case for progressive moral leadership.

Why are so many people about to vote against their interests? The Republicans are not offering kitchen-table benefits. When people are voting against their interests, more interest-based arguments don't help.

Westen's discussion of "the center" and of populism in general, misses what is crucial in this election. There is no one "center." Instead, a considerable number of Americans (perhaps as many as 15 to 20 percent) are conservative in some respects and progressive in other respects. The have both moral systems and apply them to different issues -- in all kinds of ways. You can be conservative on economics and progressive on social issues, or conservative on foreign policy and progressive on domestic issues, and so on -- in all sorts of combinations.

Neuroscience 101, which Westen correctly invokes, tells us that in the brains of such voters, the two incompatible systems inhibit each other, that strengthening one weakens the other, and that the stronger one can have its influence spread to other issues. The "swing voters" are really "swing thinkers." And it is language -- moral language, not policy language, heard over and over -- that strengthens one political moral system over the other and determines how people vote. The Democrats need to reach the swing thinkers -- the people who are moral conservatives on some issues and moral progressives on others -- and strengthen their progressive moral views. The kitchen table arguments must become moral arguments as well -- arguments about freedom, life, fairness, and the most central of American values.

What are those values? They are the values that won the 2008 election for Barack Obama -- and they were not just hope and change. Candidate Obama made the case that American is, and has always been, fundamentally about Americans caring about each other and acting responsibly on that care. Empathy, which he proclaimed over and over was the most important thing his mother taught him, and is the basis of our form of government. Responsibility is both personal and social. "I am my brother's keeper," as he said over and over in the campaign. And thirdly, excellence -- doing everything as well as we can, individually and as a nation. That is why we have life, freedom, fairness, equality -- and quality -- as fundamental values.

We haven't heard that kind of moral leadership since the inauguration. Americans are longing for it. And those moral values really do motivate every kitchen table policy!

It is morality, not just the right policy, that excites voters, that moves them to action -- that creates movements. Legislative action must come from a moral center, with moral language repeated over and over.

What should be avoided, besides policy-wonk and pure-policy discourse? Again, the answer comes from Neuroscience 101. Offense not defense. Argue for your values. Frame all issues in terms of your values. Avoid their language, even in arguing against them. There is a reason that I wrote a book called, Don't Think of an Elephant! Don't list their arguments and argue against them using their language. It just activates their arguments in the brains of listeners.

Don't move to the right in your discourse or action. That will just strengthen the conservative moral system in the brains of swing thinkers. Frame your arguments from your moral position.

In addition, beware of the same pollsters and focus-group-dialers who missed Scott Brown's moral message to the swing-thinkers in Massachusetts and claimed that Martha Coakley would win so handily that she could go on vacation. Just because a message plays well in focus-group-dialing doesn't mean it will win elections.

Finally, Democrats need a truly effective communication system. They need unified, morally-based framing of issues. They need to train spokespeople all over the country in using such framing and avoiding mistakes. They need to organize those spokespeople. And they need to book them, as conservatives do, on radio, TV, in civic and religious groups, in schools and universities. This is doable, but this late, it will take resolve from the top.

Winning this election will require the right policies and actions, but it will also require moral leadership with honest, morally-based messaging and a communications that will not just blog and knock on doors, but will be there in the districts with the crucial swing-thinkers 24/7 day and night.

The Democrats cannot take their base for granted. Only moral leadership backed by actions and communicated effectively can excite the Obama base once more. Without that excitement, the Democrats will lose big.

George Lakoff is Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of The Political Mind, Don't Think of an Elephant, Moral Politics, Whose Freedom, and Thinking Points -- as well as many books on the brain, mind, and language.

Robert Wright On: Physics and Metaphysics w/ 2004 Physics Nobel Laureate Frank Wliczek

Interesting conversation between Robert Wright and Frank Wilczek about quantum physics, philosophy, and the ultimate nature of reality.

What does quantum mechanics tell us about the nature of ultimate reality? A diavlog between Robert Wright and 2004 Nobel physics laureate Frank Wilczek of MIT.
There are six brief chapters to the discussion - go check it out at Big Questions Online.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Hell Explained by a Chemistry Student

One of my clients is a Dean at the University of Arizona - she received this email today, which has been making the rounds on campus, and probably around the country. Whether it actually came from a student or not (this looks familiar, I'm pretty sure I've seen it before) is irrelevant - it's funny.

AND, no chemistry professor would reward this with an A+.
The following is an actual question given on a University of Arizona chemistry mid term, and an actual answer turned in by a student.

The answer by one student was so 'profound' that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well :

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:
First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving, which is unlikely. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. There fore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today.

Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, 'It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,' and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct..... ...leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting 'Oh my God.'

Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man

Awesome! Leonard Cohen is an awesome musician, a long-time Zen student/monk, and a living legend. It's great that this is available fro free online now.

Here is a preview - you can watch the whole film at Snag Films.

(2006) 103 min

This documentary offers an intimate look at the songs, poetry and life of the influential troubadour, Leonard Cohen.

In 2005, music producer Hal Wilner staged an all-star tribute concert in Australia in which a handful of major artists offered their interpretations of Cohen’s songs, including Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, Rufus Wainwright, Beth Orton, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and many more. This documentary offers an intimate look at the songs, poetry and life of the influential troubadour, Leonard Cohen.

Watch more free documentaries

David Hirschman for Big Think - What Is Consciousness?

Nice review of the current mainstream neuroscience on the nature of consciousness - of the folks mentioned, Damasio is the most interesting to me, and probably the one closest to actually being on the right track.

What Is Consciousness?


What does it mean to be conscious? It's a question that philosophers and scientists have puzzled over perhaps since there have been philosophers and scientists.

In his book "Consciousness Explained," Tufts University philosopher Daniel Dennett calls human consciousness "just about the last surviving mystery," explaining that a mystery is something that people don't yet know how to think about. "We do not yet have all the answers to any of the questions of cosmology and particle physics, molecular genetics and evolutionary theory, but we do know how to think about them," writes Dennett. "With consciousness, however, we are still in a terrible muddle. Consciousness stands alone today as a topic that often leaves even the most sophisticated thinkers tongue-tied and confused. And, as with all of the earlier mysteries, there are many who insist—and hope—that there will never be a demystification of consciousness."

On a base level, consciousness is the fact of being awake and processing information. Doctors judge people conscious or not depending on their wakefulness and how they respond to external stimuli. But being conscious is also a neurological phenomenon, and it is part of what allows us to exist and understand ourselves in the world.

Dr. Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist from the University of Southern California who has studied the neurological basis of consciousness for years, tells Big Think that being conscious is a "special quality of mind" that permits us to know both that we exist and that the things around us exist. He differentiates this from the way the mind is able to portray reality to itself merely by encoding sensory information. Rather, consciousness implies subjectivity—a sense of having a self that observes one’s own organism as separate from the world around that organism.

"Many species, many creatures on earth that are very likely to have a mind, but are very unlikely to have a consciousness in the sense that you and I have," says Damasio. "That is a self that is very robust, that has many, many levels of organization, from simple to complex, and that functions as a sort of witness to what is going on in our organisms. That kind of process is very interesting because I believe that it is made out of the same cloth of mind, but it is an add-on, it was something that was specialized to create what we call the self."

Scientists don't fully understand what is happening in the brain that creates what we call consciousness, but researchers like Damasio are refining our knowledge about how firing neurons can lead to our thoughts and experience of the world.

Twelve years ago, Cal Tech professors Christof Koch and Francis Crick put forward the idea that consciousness resides in the brain's prefrontal cortex; they described where in the brain we experience things when we experience them—but not why we do. In 2009, physicist Roger Penrose and anesthesiologist Stuart Hamerhoff advanced a "quantum mind theory" that took Koch and Crick's ideas to a deeper, cellular level, suggesting that consciousness is a result of quantum mechanics, with microtubules inside the brain working as computing elements in a system they call "orchestrated objective reduction." The theory suggests that human consciousness is a result of the wave functions of quantum particles collapsing once they reach specific energy levels. Hamerhoff's blog, Quantum Consciousness, describes this theory in depth, and details how he and Penrose believe the brain's neural networks and cells process information that results in consciousness. Critics of the quantum mind theory contend that consciousness is hardly demystified by relating the brain to the rarefied realm of subatomic physics.

One thing to keep in mind is that consciousness is not uniform among humans, according to Damasio. Different people may experience consciousness in different ways, and it can be difficult to make comparisons of people's subjective perceptions of reality with very much detail. Nonetheless, he notes: "When you look at people that say, from the same culture, roughly the same age, and not very difference intelligence, and you make a lot of detailed questions about the experiences of say colors, situations, and so on, you’ll get very similar answers. So I think it’s reasonable to say that even though, in all likelihood, we have slightly different experiences of reality, they are similar enough to us not to clash."

Studies of consciousness don't all center on wakefulness. Dr. Sam Parnia, director of the Human Consciousness Project, embarked in 2008 on a three-year, 1500-patient quest to try and figure out whether people continue to be conscious when their bodies are clinically dead. Analyzing reports of near-death experiences when patients are in cardiac arrest, the project is seeking quantifiable data about what happens in a person's brain when oxygenated blood stops flowing, and whether we then continue to think consciously.


What we call consciousness is the fact of our having a subjective experience of the world—it is our sense that the world is separate from us, and that we exist independently. While it is unclear exactly how neural firings in specific parts of the brain result in this kind of subjective thought, it's believed that conscious thinking is related to the prefrontal cortex—and possibly extends down to a cellular level.

More Resources

PhysOrg article describing Roger Penrose and Stuart Hamerhoff's theory of quantum mechanics in consciousness and "orchestrated objective reduction.

— Quantum Consciousness blog's description of the brain science behind subjective thought.

— "The First Few Minutes After Death," 10/31/2008 article from Popular Science.

— "Consciousness and Neuroscience," 1998 article by Francis Crick and Christof Koch from the journal Cerebral Cortex.