My last post (“Herman, Science, and Research”) was about what I take to be the emerging modern view of the human mind.  This view, as I pointed out, does not preclude reaching (little “t”, largely probabilistic) truth, if and when we don’t just trust ourselves alone and, therefore, compare notes, use good tools, respect evidence, and network with people with diverse viewpoints.  Formalized this process is science, but it is the foundation of any human life that wants to do as little harm and much good as possible, given our limitations as human beings.

Some philosophers and psychologists argue this view of the mind implies that the idea each of us humans has that we have an “inner self” is wrong.  This idea of such a self is an illusion based on our strong feeling that we are a self, even though, in actuality, what we do, think, and feel is the outcome of multiple, parallel processes most of which we have no conscious access to and for which the interpreter (one module of the brain) makes up a good story in order to allow us to feel a sense of agency and control.

I would argue this is only a partially correct view.  It is true that we humans very often do not really know WHY we have acted, thought, or felt as we have, though we tell ourselves a convincing story about the matter.  But this does not mean that we humans do not often know WHAT we did, thought, or felt.  I may not know why am angry, but I know I am, and so do those around me.  Climate deniers may not really know why (differently in different people) they don’t believe in human-caused climate change, but they do know THAT they do not believe it.

The fact that we sometimes (not always) clearly know what we believe and feel and how we have acted is a personal datum that we can bring to the table for collective intelligence.  I can discuss with myself and others the fact that I am a person of certain characteristics and background who has lived in and across such and such contexts and in some of these contexts—like this one now—I feel angry or don’t believe what many others believe.  Each of us brings a potentially powerful piece of the puzzle to the table, if and when we seek together to understand the patterns of human experience in the world across complex similarities and differences.  I do not privilege my data and I know I need yours so that together we can experiment with our lives in ways that respect the world and others.

When this discussion about personal data is formalized it is the basis of much literature and film.  In fact, art is often science practiced with human data (what we as different sorts of people think, feel, and do in specific contexts, so we can compare notes).  When it is not formalized it is the basis of how we can compare notes, question our own motives, get better at respecting the world and each other, and come to marvel in the complexity, wonder, and fragility of life and the world.  It is the best we can do— not perfect—but better than going it alone and trusting in ourselves as the ultimate source of truth.  Our minds are biologically made to make us need the world and others as anchors for collective intelligence.  It seems to me this biological imperative is also a moral one, though that is a topic for another day.



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March 29th, 2018

The Interpreter System (7)

Let’s return to our diagram of a human being (or, “an enviro-human system”).  I want now to look just at […]

March 27th, 2018

Joint Actor Systems (6)

The diagram I used in the last post is misleading in that it makes things look more contained and bounded […]

March 26th, 2018

A Human Being (5)

Last time, we raised the question: “What is ‘Jim”?” (substitute your own name for “Jim” here).  We think of ourselves […]

March 25th, 2018

Jim and Identities/Discourses (4)

When we make a choice, who is making the choice?  We have already seen that there are lots of things […]

March 10th, 2018

Alternates (3)

When we make a choice about ourselves often that choice is vastly undetermined by the information we have available.  Say […]

March 7th, 2018

Flourishing (2)

It makes little sense to see a human being (or any other animal) as an individual making free choices.  In […]

February 25th, 2018

Free Will (1)

Note that the question of free will simply does not arise for animals.  We think that, even for intelligent species, […]

October 29th, 2017

The Principle of Charity

October 8th, 2017

Character Education

Recently, the College of Education at Arizona State University—where I work— received funding from the Kern Family Foundation to make […]

June 15th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 6 (The End)

What killed people’s sense of mattering was the growth of very high levels of inequality.  What caused such high levels […]

June 14th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 5

Many of us tend to think of history as a march forward and upward. So, we tend to interpret the […]

June 14th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 4

The Catholic Church declined in three stages. The same was true for many other institutions.  “The Sixties” (roughly from 1963 […]

June 12th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 3

Today, we have among the highest levels of inequality we have ever had.  Drug addiction, environmental degradation, flows of climate […]

June 11th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 2

The British economist John Maynard Keynes and “Keynesian Economics” were foundational to the Bretton Woods Agreement and to the world […]

June 10th, 2017

Neoliberalism Part 1

Though neo-liberalism is the “usual suspect” for the miseries of our institutions and society, it is not nearly as relevant […]

May 30th, 2017

Main Points from My New Book

Teaching, Learning, Literary in our High-Risk, High-Tech World: A Framework for Becoming Human (Teachers College Press, 2017). Ignorance We humans […]

April 17th, 2017

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 10 The End

Neither love nor liking is necessary for the sorts of critical discussions among different frameworks that might lead to shared […]

April 15th, 2016

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 9 Interpretation

Goodwill.  What could possibly encourage people in a fractured and inequitable world to have goodwill?  I, for one, do not […]

April 14th, 2016

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 8 An Example

I want now to give an example of two different frameworks that certainly appear incommensurable.  My purpose here is make […]

April 12th, 2016

The Importance of Discourse Analysis:
Step 7 Discussion

We are at a critical juncture now in our attempt to understand why frameworks can cause us humans such grief.  […]