Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 85

Here it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

People with multiple personalities are changing psychologists’ ideas of the self.

The “busy” trap and how to escape it.

Radical theory overturns old model of how emotions are made.

Calm yourself, write in a diary.

The psychologists who helped the CIA to torture detainees speak, trying to defend themselves. It’s chilling.


P.S.: beginning next week, the regular publication schedule for the blog will shift to essays on Tuesdays (rather than Monday) and reading suggestions on Friday (as usual). Please notice that the current duration of the comments window is three days (including publication day), and that comments are moderated for relevance (to the post one is allegedly commenting on), redundancy (not good), and tone (constructive is what we aim for).

42 thoughts on “Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 85

  1. Robin Herbert

    From the “busy” article:

    Not long ago I Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France.

    That tells me the article is not for the likes of me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. stevenjohnson

    On multiple personality disorder, and

    Also consider that hypnosis has produced alternate personalities in past life regression since at least the days of Bridey Murphy. I’m afraid I’m ruling out the hypothesis of real memories of past lives because of my scientism. I’ve also ruled out universal fraud for pretty much the same reasons I don’t deny the subjective reality of all other religious experiences.

    The overlap with recovered memory is especially strong in this reading. But from other reading it seems to me there are overlaps as well with autism spectrum disorder behaviors, even if the trend there has long led away from claims of early childhood abuse. And of course so-called normal people occasionally suffer disturbances in identity, just as they can suffer hallucinations. A feeling of unreality during stress may suffice as an example.

    The simplest conclusion at this point it seems to me is that MPD/DID is iatrogenic, a product of intervention. Other personalities produced in hypnosis may act as a kind of role-playing, perhaps compulsive in the sense that the role is believed to be in some sense real. Absent intervention, the expression of severe pathologies would I think have taken a different form.

    The alternative theory, that MPD/DID is a sham, seems untenable, because fugue states and delusions of an imaginary biography (such as a royal romance) or even another identity (being Jesus reborn for example) seem to be due to the same mechanism, not really something different, just rationalized differently. Currently psychiatry identifies syndromes, collections of symptoms, rather than etiology. But the individual response to impairments in thinking must surely be as individual as all everyday thinking. One person beset by inexplicable thoughts may in desperation conceive an “explanation” as abduction by space aliens, another as a defense against previously unremembered abuse, or another as obsession, in its original demonic meaning.

    There are I think a couple of SF writers who have played about with the notion of future people deliberately fostering multiple personalities/ASD, apparently conceiving it as a way to get multiple/unique perspectives on problems!

    But I have no idea whatsoever as to how this kind of thing will cause psychologists to change their idea of self. All complex phenomena inevitably engage the philosophical/religious prejudices of the specialists studying them, as well as of the people caught up in them. The view that the understanding is to be founded on empirical knowledge only implies that values that do not conform to reality cannot be foundational or justly normative. That is scientism, which very few people endorse (hence the necessity for the vigilance against the folly of scientism.) There are implications for orthodox beliefs about personal responsibility, i.e., the law, that would be affected by really changing our notions. Religion/philosophy/law find it entirely correct to lock up the mentally ill, for example. Exempting even the most gravely impaired is highly controversial.

    The article on busyness seems very typical of philosophy, which views everything we do as individual choice, freely made, hence entirely culpable. Personally, I would have thought that the pressures from employers to work, work, work for their profit, harder, faster and longer, plays a staggering role. The barely concealed fury of educational bureaucrats at the thought of children spending time off task and the punishment of failed teachers who don’t get the work done ensures the idea that you’re supposed to be busy all the time is instilled very early. We shouldn’t thank God I suppose for the philosophers who know better, but thank them instead.

    The article on how emotions are made is not very understandable. If the book should make the public library I will be eager to read it. As is, it is unclear how this is not just a more detailed version of Whorf/Sapir. But it is unclear how “interoception” is not a function of the ego, a summary for the executive more akin to the tachyometer and temperature gauge on a car dashboard, Part of this seems confused about the distinction between interior and exterior. That may be more on the part of the article writer than the book writer? At any rate, the notion of an interior seems to me to be a version of the soul in the body image.

    I suspect that any exercise in putting events into perspective that engages the attention would be helpful. Interpretive dance, anyone?

    The thing about the psychologist torturers is that if you admit that some kinds of people are in a different moral category, then issues like torture are pragmatism, not principle. Torture is exemplary terror, hence pragmatic. Whether it is also exemplary justice is more an aesthetic debate. Moreover, it is not clear that torture of evil people isn’t exemplary justice, from a philosophical point of view. The notion that experience (or science) tells us that people are all pretty much equal is one of those global propositions that most philosophies of science forbid, starting with Hume’s fork. How is that a logical necessity like a mathematical theorem? What experiment could prove this? Hating enemies and treating them differently is like loving your children and treating them differently: They are in different moral categories. Revising those moral categories just because of some alleged science is purest scientism, thus to be rejected.


  3. Alessio Persichetti

    Regarding the article on the emotions, is no more no less what John McDowell already said in his article, contained in Mind, Value and Reality: «Non-Cognitivism and Rule-Following». In this paper, his clearly argue in favor of the idea that emotions aren’t external to the field our concepts, something that accompanies a particular situation. But instead, join the concepts in shaping our aptitude towards a particular context, in McDowell’s example moral decisions (supposing that I’ve correctly understood the argument). Nice to see an empirical evidence of this.


  4. Massimo Post author


    “The article on busyness seems very typical of philosophy, which views everything we do as individual choice, freely made, hence entirely culpable. Personally, I would have thought that the pressures from employers to work, work, work for their profit, harder, faster and longer, plays a staggering role.”

    Except that the author of that article isn’t a philosopher. I wonder whether your self-professed scientism led you to write that sentence.

    And no, he is not assuming that he is in complete control of his time. He is simply saying that some people don’t seem to realize that they have a bit more control over their “busyness” than they realize, that a significant amount of it comes out of our own choices.

    Which is why, Robin, the author should speak to you as well. The fact that he has a friend who moved to the south of France seems entirely irrelevant to the content and the point of the article.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. wtc48

    On busyness: good article. It’s a welcome reminder that the work ethic is not necessarily hard-wired into human nature. I think leaving children out of the rat race is especially important. Perhaps the drive to keep them occupied stems from the shortage of vacant lots due to saturation city planning. They were important venues for my neighborhood rat pack 70 years ago, but seem to have disappeared in the town I grew up in.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. SocraticGadfly

    Back to the Kreider piece.

    He’s right from the start, that for many Americans, it’s a boast. A big swinging gonads boast, most often to be found in the business/finance world on the job front.

    On the home front, I think it’s somewhat connected with “helicopter” parenting.

    I support the idea of basic income, but as a tool for both economic security and restructuring society, it’s only one tool. Here’s my piece on that.

    Oh, one “fail” of sorts? Kreider doesn’t discuss in detail our “devices.” He does talk in brief about personally being somewhat “disconnected,” but doesn’t extend that, in earlier paragraphs, to today’s version of the “rat race.” And, to tie this back to psychology? Yes, I think for many people — and not just those in the US — it’s an addiction. It’s a “process” addiction similar to gambling addiction and other such things.


  7. Thomas Jones

    I thought the “busyness” article was well-written, made valid points, but I did chuckle a bit when imagining how some guy making minimum wage and working two jobs might respond. The audience for pieces like this will respond appropriately and nod their bourgeoisie heads in unison, and I’m not alluding to Marx. But, yeah, if I understand Robin’s comment, the sarcasm is not entirely misplaced.


  8. Robin Herbert

    The comment was somewhat lighthearted, but I kind of expected that sentence to end something like ‘…and now faces a long and tiring commute from an outer suburb”, which experience might not be as conducive to taking control of your time.


  9. Thomas Jones

    I don’t know how Robin supports himself and his family, but what has that to do with his not particularly identifying with this piece? To his credit, the author himself is careful to note that he’s not addressing those who have to work two or three jobs to makes ends meet. At the same time, he reveals little detail about himself or his friends other than banalities like this to make his point:

    “She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again.”

    Can we get a “Wow”?

    I’ve been hearing exhortations like this since the 60’s. Hey, if you guys aren’t too busy, let’s watch “The Big Chill” twenty-four hours straight and then flash forward to watch Trump’s inauguration while we scratch our heads.


  10. SocraticGadfly

    Thomas, Kreider DID mention basic income, re the person working two jobs. And, he did name-check Ted Rall, who is at least left-liberal or somewhere even further beyond most Democratic Party issues on both domestic and foreign policy.


  11. davidlduffy

    “article on how emotions are made is not very understandable…interoception”


    “the biological basis of emotions…a brain-based, computational account..the brain uses emotion concepts to categorize sensations to construct an instance of emotion. That is, the brain constructs meaning by correctly anticipating (predicting and adjusting to) incoming sensations. Sensations are categorized so that they are (i) actionable in a situated way and therefore (ii) meaningful…”

    As to interoception in this context, it derives from Craig [2002, 2004,2009]; Craig [2009]:

    “…[the] cortical basis for subjective awareness [is] a serial set of representations of all feelings at each immediate moment (‘now’) extend[ing] across a finite period of present time (‘the specious moment’). The progression of emotional feelings at successive moments across time effectively provides a cinemascopic view of the sentient the anterior insular cortex (AIC)…The phylogenetically novel homeostatic afferent pathway from lamina I and the solitary nucleus in primates provides the basis for the sense of the physiological condition of the entire body in the posterior insular cortex.”

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