Dispatches from Clio's History (part two)



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Joel Markowitz


We should again try to clarify the differences between the   
psychodynamics of the INDIVIDUAL -- and the psychodynamics of   
GROUPS-- in history. 

No one would dispute the value of maternal love in the evolution of   
individuals.  It tends to be a major source of self-acceptance, self- 
confidence, courage and of social advantages ... 

But the determinism of history-- i.e., primarily of GROUP-minds-- is   
more complicated. 

E.g., many individuals in many PRIMITIVE subgroups have been brought   
up with the advantages of significant maternal love and acceptance. 

In contrast, and as we know, Western groups were not impressive in   
their child-rearing practices-- including in their acceptance and   
love of their children. 

        In fact, the Jewish and Christian groups DEPENDED ON the   
criminalization of primitive impulses-- which are immediately evident   
in children. 

No one better describes  the often-brutal, guilt-driven behavior of   
-- especially-- those Western-group parents toward their children--   
than did deMause. 

Yet those Jewish and Christian groups became disproportionately   
successful--   in their social, political, legislative and material   
progress. 

Parental love and acceptance (which tend to be strongly related) seem   
in some ways INVERSELY related to group success. 

Clio does make progress in approaching psychodynamic theory more than   
it used to do.  But it too often tries to understand group evolution   
(fundamental to history) with the dynamics of individuals. 


Joel 







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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Feb 17



Hi Joel.

E.g., many individuals in many PRIMITIVE subgroups have been brought   
up with the advantages of significant maternal love and acceptance. 

You bring up how well DeMause documented the West's brutal childrearing, but you don't reference at all the work he did to establish the allegedly miraculous childrearing of tribal cultures as in fact completely wretched. (For those who want to explore that, you an go here, and here). What gives? ... I hope not that the very same people who enjoy seeing the West's past as barbaric, profoundly want primitive subgroups to be idealized?

As you know, in the DeMausian view, other than what he calls the helping psychoclass -- which has only very recently come into existence -- every single other psychoclass has got some major problems with it. However, each new wretched class that appeared was superior than the one before it. E.g. the socializing psychoclass -- which only gave love if children did as parents expected -- was better than the intrusive, the abandoning, the ambivalent. 

What I'm getting at is that if you accept his view of how appalling tribal culture (those of the infanticidal psychoclass) childrearing is -- how little interest in, how much they can hate, their children -- guilt-ridden behaviour is actually a considerable step up ... it represents the psychic/emotional state of a considerably more evolved psychoclass, "who" were going to much more accept societal growth, spend less time switching into their social trance, spend less time fiddling over their childhood traumas. 

-- Patrick

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Joel Markowitz
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Feb 17


Re: [cliospsyche] Re: maternal love

Patrick,

I don't idealize them at all.  But while some were brutal, many were loving and accepting of their offspring-- beyond anything we know.

And not just tribal cultures-- also some Asian & other cultures.   ALMOST ALL but the Jewish and Christian (and to some extent, Moslem) mindsets were spared the unique guilt that drove

 Western-group self-hatred, self-denigration, sexual and other repressions, obsessions, compulsions, other neuroses ...

My emphasis (again and again) is on the UNIQUELY guilt-driven mindset of the Jewish and Christian groups-- which attacked the fantasies and impulses that are most important to every child-- as to all higher animal groups.

No, I wouldn't change OUR unique-- and in many ways uniquely wonderful-- situation for any in history.   As uniquely stressful as it has proven to be, it has been the cutting edge of evolution.

Joel

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Brian
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Feb 18


RE: [cliospsyche] Re: maternal love

This conversation is beyond my area of my expertise, but I do have some opinions which I’ll share in the hopes that more informed people will take the discussion further.  Yes, Molly, it seems to me that parental love for infants will normally be ambivalent, even if the love they received as infants was not.  Let’s take the ideal case of an infant reared with unambivalent love.  Notwithstanding this ideal environment, the infant will necessarily experience the mother ambivalently in the first three months of life during the paranoid-schizoid position, as shown by Melanie Klein.  In the ideal case, the child will transcend this position in the normal course of development and, if they encounter little or no further trauma in their life, this paranoid-schizoid complex will have no apparent effect on their adult personality. 

However, the paranoid schizoid experience remains in the unconscious unless integrated into the personality through psychoanalysis or some similar process.  As an adult, caring for their own infant will necessarily evoke this unconscious paranoid-schizoid complex, resulting in parental love that is ambivalent.  Further, in a society in which infant care is almost exclusively assigned to women, the part object mother introjects from the paranoid schizoid stage will be projected onto all women, which perpetuates sex-stereotyping and reinforces the gender caste system in the larger society, a phenomenon explored in depth by Nancy Chodorow in The Reproduction of Mothering and Dorothy Dinnerstein in The Mermaid and the Minotaur.

Note also that while sex-stereotyped cultures are far more common than not, they are not universal.  One notable exception, for example, is the Aka Pygmies, in which male and female adults are almost equally involved in infant care; see Barry Hewlett’s Intimate Fathers: The Nature and Context of Aka Pygmy Paternal Infant Care. In such a society, the parental introjects of the paranoid schizoid stage will be male and female, and as adults, this complex will be projected equally onto male and females, hence the lack of sex-typing in such cultures.  “Primitive” cultures may vary in the quality of infant care they provide (here I disagree with Joel that it is necessarily good and with deMause that it is necessarily bad) but as for gender equality, the Aka Pygmies may be the most advanced culture on the planet and provide living proof that viable alternatives to the gender caste system are possible.



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Dcarveth
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Feb 18


Re: [cliospsyche] Re: maternal love

Brian, 

No one ever receives unambivalent love for such does not exist. But even if it did the infant would hate as well as love for even unambivalent love would not be able to protect the infant from frustration. Not even unambivalent love, which doesn't exist, could save the child from the horrible existential fact that it cannot have its cake and eat it too--not to mention the fact that no one gets out of here alive. Given its cognitive limitations, as far as the infant is concerned all frustration is an attack. Hence all infants, no matter the quality of the caretaking will be paranoid. Bad caretaking, of course, makes it worse, and good caretaking makes it better, but we all enter the paranoid-schizoid position, which is not a stage but a position, a layer of the human psyche that no one really "transcends"--thank god, for here is where passion resides, falling in love, the political passion that forced FDR to implement the New Deal and that put Hitler down, etc. As Klein explains, splitting in PS provides the first ordering of experience; people who can't split live in psychotic chaos; people who can only split live in borderline disorder; people who spend more time in D live in neurotic conflict--but even the healthiest and most mature revisit PS frequently (bad moods, irritability, crankiness, but also intense lust, ecstatic love, deep anger, etc.) but have a capacity to oscillate back into D. Marriage that exists only in D is mostly characterized by "dead bed" for a vital sex life requires a capacity to experience rapid oscillations between PS (where one's partner is an object to be used) and D (where one's partner is one's cherished beloved). I agree with Dinnerstein's argument for the need for fathers and mothers to share equally in primary caretaking. 

Don

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Brian
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Feb 27



I have been thinking about the sources of the apocalyptic complex, for lack of a better word, namely the splitting of the world into absolute good and absolute evil.  I have come to the conclusion that it is rooted in the birth trauma or infant experience or both.   I am reading Hannah Segal’s book Klein, and thinking about the Kleinian notion of the paranoid-schizoid position as a possible model for understanding this.  According to Klein, as I understand her theory, the infant in the first three months of life alternates between a state of wellbeing organized around the “good breast” and experiences of pleasure and satisfaction, on the one hand, and the “persecutory breast” and experiences of distress and frustration on the other.
It is not clear to me what reason there is to suppose that the infant experiences distress and frustration as an attack, as supposed to the mere absence of pleasure and satisfaction.  What is the evidence or theoretical rationale for Klein’s way of thinking about infant experience?

I should mention that this problem does not arise with the theory that the birth trauma is the source of the apocalyptic complex.  Here, it is entirely plausible that the infant in the birth canal experiences the mother’s body as an antagonistic force that is trying to destroy it and feels locked into a titanic life and death struggle to escape from and survive the ordeal.  Clinical evidence for this theory is provided by Stanislav Grof in Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LDS research. When I referred to Grof previously on this list, Don said, if I remember correctly, that there is a methodological problem with Grofs’s claim that the memories reported to him actually originated in the birth experience.  But if this is true, doesn’t the same methodological problem arise with Klein’s theory?  Given this ambiguity, is there any empirical or theoretical criteria for deciding between Klien’s and Grof’s theories?

Brian

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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Feb 28



I have been thinking about the sources of the apocalyptic complex, for lack of a better word, namely the splitting of the world into absolute good and absolute evil.  I have come to the conclusion that it is rooted in the birth trauma or infant experience or both. 

If it's birth trauma, then it's something all of us experience, regardless of how well loved we were by our caregivers. If we weren't actually all that well loved, if we had caregivers who felt threatened anytime we as their children impugned them, we can avoid re-experiencing the early childhood feeling of apocalyptic abandonment -- their rejection -- by taking something like psychoanalysis -- which might look a tool to add science in a campaign against them -- and making it in fact a shield against making a "fetish" of the particularities of our own experience. Birth trauma does this aptly; it might attract as a theory because our internal persecutors sense it's actually means to show how intent "you" are to in fact take the eye off them.

There's not much universal birth trauma in DeMause's later works; plenty in his earlier. He mentions the work of Joseph Rheingold a lot, and focuses on how a child develops a fear of apocalyptic annihilation because their mothers were actually afflicted with desires to kill them. 

He talks about how having children represents a form of self-actualization, a turn towards having one's own needs for love attended to rather than keeping focused on one's mothers, and this leading to mothers being possessed by internal terrifying mother alters, demanding sacrifice. But when he brings up Rheingold, he's not thinking of mothers being possessed but more how they project their demanding mothers onto the child:

The parents of the caretaker are still present as “ghosts in the nursery” when
the child is born, in the form of dissociated persecutory alters (alternative
personalities)—internal objects and voices that repeat the traumas and fears the
caretaker experienced as a child, since “The hurtful parent was once a hurt child.”30
Parents often believe that when their babies cry they “sound just like my mother,
complaining all the time” or “just like my father, a real tyrant!” They themselves
repeat exactly the same words and feelings their own mothers always yelled at them:
“You’re so selfish! You never think of me!”31 The mother experiences herself as the
good, persecuted mother while the baby is seen as a primarily bad, utterly
persecuting and justifiable object of hatred.32 The helpless, vulnerable child
experiences this reenactment of maternal fear and hatred as ending in abandonment
or death. 

Anyway, to DeMause, if the child has the luck of having well-cared for parents, the apocalyptic experience would seem to go the way of the dodo ... not being experienced at all. This isn't in sync with his earlier writings, when he's thinking Groff and the trauma of asphyxiation and placental strangling in the womb and being scarily jettisoned out tunnels, but as his work progresses it would seem the significance of this experience is mostly nil ... if the child lives within the womb of a well-cared for mother, and exits to much the same. Apparent universality ... only because "history is a nightmare we are still waking up from": most mothers have not historically been all that well cared for. 

-- Patrick

P.S. His discussion of splitting ends up being mostly about a child's need to split off all his/her mother's negative aspects, so s/he can imagine her as all-loving. He says most men tend to keep romanticized images of their mothers, period, but discusses splitting as becoming the norm for a whole society in his discussion of the warm-up period for war -- when we're intent to shuck off our individuated selves, re-bond to a maternal entity, and war against some other, now chock-full of our mother's negative aspects. 
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Alice Maher
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Mar 1



Hi all,
I just posted this on my personal Facebook page and on Twitter, and I thought I'd share it here as well.  I'm curious if you agree, and if you have any thoughts about the development of our view of God over the space-time continuum.

Religions try to tell us that our particular god is one that exists across space and time - "always was and always will be." But honestly, is that true? Does anyone believe in Zeus any more?
The Gods of Mount Olympus are to the Gods of Abraham as the Gods of Abraham are to...
Assuming humankind survives into the 22nd century - a big if! - our grandchildren will need to reframe their definition of "god" and come together in a way that's grounded in reality but at the same time offers exciting and meaningful new questions about who we are, where we came from and where we're going. A face and a name (or a series of them) may or may not need to be attached to that question.
In the present day, our relationship to religion is chaotic and forces us to regress in our ability to think, feel, and act appropriately and together. The world is too small to allow that to continue. It won't. Humankind won't.
Our children deserve better. Our children deserve to survive.
They need to be able to imagine God in a new way.

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Brian
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Mar 1



This responds to comments by Alice and Bill, as well as by Trevor and Patrick in the previous thread on “The Apocalyptic Complex and Early Experience.”

I like Trevor’s thinking about how the earliest experience of the mother gets projected onto “the world;” this is indeed the basis of much mythology including religious mythology, most notably worship of the Goddess, which is the oldest and most enduring of all religious cults in human history.  This archetype of the Great Mother, as Jung called it, never really disappeared.  It is no coincidence that the Ecumenical Council of 431 CE that proclaimed the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God occurred in Ephesus, the site of one of the most important goddess cults in the ancient world.  The bishops who met there would, of course, have been shocked and offended by the suggestion that they were under the spell of the same archetype as the pagans who worshipped at Ephesus, but such are the workings of unconscious complexes in history. 

This same example illustrates how new religious forms arise out of older ones, an issue raised by Alice.  As for our own age, Liberty, depicted in the Statue of Liberty, and Alma Mater (“nourishing mother”), whose statue appears on the campus of Columbia and many other universities, would appear to be incarnations of the same archetype. But these are entirely peripheral compared to the cult of the supermodel, one of the most central of our capitalist civilization, tended by the advertising and entertainment priesthoods.  So Alice, we don’t need to invent new religions and probably can’t do so as a conscious project even if we wanted to.  We already have new religions, though I discuss below how we can go beyond religion altogether.

Patrick, the very universality of perinatal trauma (with the exception of Caesarian births, which are unusual) suggests that it may be another source of what Jung called archetypes, and I think the early deMause was correct in recognizing the importance of this.  Note however, that while birth is traumatic to some extent under virtually all circumstances, the trauma can be greatly reduced, as in natural childbirth methods, or greatly exacerbated, as in the modern medical practice of separating neonates from their mothers and isolating them.  In any case, birth and rebirth are a universal theme in mythology, however much the expression of the archetype may be modified in this or that culture, depending no doubt largely on the nature of its birthing practices.

Bill, your comment “Nothing is grounded in reality—It is all about perspective and context,” meshes with Trevor’s cosmological relativism, which puts the theory that the earth is the back of a turtle on the same level as modern cosmological theories.  This is consistent with Trevor’s neo-Kantianism, but it is not consistent with modern physics, which I would argue is establishing objective and universal knowledge of the universe.  Kant’s claim that humans cannot conceptualize external reality except in terms of the a priori categories of time and space was invalidated by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, which conceptualizes time as the fourth dimension of a space-time continuum.  The experimental validation of General Relativity indicates, to me at least, that this view of the universe is objectively true and universal.  To be sure, modern cosmology is a work in progress, and even the Big Bang theory may contain vestiges of a primitive creation myth.  But the Big Bang theory is certainly a scientific theory, not merely a creation myth, and will be validated or invalidated by experiment and observation.

In making sense of all this, I find it helpful to think about human psychic evolution as Jung did, namely that throughout most of history, humans projected archetypes of the unconcious onto the external world and thereby populated the universe with gods and goddesses.  The scientific age was a turning point in the withdrawal of these projections and thus in the perception of the universe as it really is—a picture that has evolved from the time of Copernicus and Newton into the present and is still evolving, but which is constructed on a fundamentally different relationship between humans and external reality than that of pre-scientific cultures.  Jung also noted that this disillusioning of humans about our world has created a psychic crisis for modern people, but he offered a solution to this modern dilemma.  Specifically, Jung suggested that by discovering the archetypes in the depths of our own unconscious and by bringing them into relationship with the conscious ego through the interpretation of dreams and other creative products of the unconscious, we can regain wholeness. This overlaps greatly with psychoanalysis, of course, but Jung argued that the Oedipus complex is just one of many archetypal complexes. What he called individuation, which is predicated on the withdrawal of archetypal projections, takes the place of religion, which is predicated on projecting archetypal contents onto external reality.

While this means the end of the gods and goddesses (c.f. Wagner’s Götterdämmerung “Twilight of the Gods”), it does not mean the end of mystical experience.  We can still experience our unity with all things, awe in the face of the cosmos and natural history, and can even know through science and philosophy what Hegel called the Absolute and what previous generations called the Mind of God.      

Brian

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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 1



I would say that the scientific community consists mainly of highly individuated people, but that the mass public consists mainly of people who continue to project archetypes onto external reality, much the way the common people have throughout history.

DeMause is looking to those who received the most love from their caregivers for those who won't project. They won't feel they're full of "bad" aspects they'll feel the need to project onto others. 

Would he see the scientific community as full of humanity's most warmly raised? If they tend to vote progressive, then -- yes. If not, if they're like all those thoroughly educated German  professors who lost themselves as much as the average Joe in the mystical Germanic union -- the Volk -- then no. 

The idea of a scientific community who are immune to what the mass suffers from, owing to their superior education and (ostensibly) highly individuated status, strikes me as maybe itself projective ... the mass suffers from all the wildness, the (humiliating) pliability, the emotion, scientists are immune to. The university community as a kind of an autistic shell -- robotic reasoners -- all the emotion, all the humiliating susceptibility, is on the outside. 

It's the mass that can be tugged on the ear and moved this way or that. 

-- Patrick

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Trevor Pederson
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Mar 2



I think Patrick is right to be skeptical of equating scientists and academics with being more reasonable. In the idea of the "masses" itself there is already a nice schizoid phantasy of the individual being different than the rest of humanity.

The history of philosophy is also the history of the neurosis of different thinkers. Hobbes' state of nature says more about Hobbes than it does about reality, Descartes' mind/body dualism and need for God to guarantee his knowledge, along with the solipsism inherent in that and later idealism can all be related to phantasies.

These people were great and belong in the history of philosophy because of the little piece of reason or rationality in their philosophy, but many other areas of their philosophy were maligned by phantasy and neurosis. 

If these are individuated people (and how could they not be considered so in their achievements?) then it's a more sobering view of them.


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Brian
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Mar 2



Patrick, Trevor, and all,

I agree that scientists are plagued by neurosis as much as everyone else, but this is not identical with the issue of individuation.  Newton was incredibly neurotic, perhaps more so that the average working class person.  But many thousands of equally neurotic people have led uncreative lives, so what can account for Newton’s creative genius?  Extraordinary brain power, probably a genetic inheritance, was no doubt a necessary ingredient but that alone cannot explain his originality.  I would argue that most neurotic people split off their unconscious complexes and project them onto others and the world as a whole.  As a result, the complexes drive their behavior unconsciously. 

By contrast, people like Newton achieve some kind of conscious relationship to their complexes and instead of entirely projecting them, wrestle with them within themselves.  The complexes may still be partially projected and continue to drive their behavior, which is why they act neurotically in their personal and professional lives, but within themselves they transform their psychic garbage into novel creative products of great value.  Jung found alchemy a metaphor for this transformation—the creation of gold out of base metals.  That is individuation—the conscious transformation of psychic dross into a unique creative product, which in the case of great geniuses leads to far reaching transformations of culture, politics, or whatever macrocosm in which the person is active. 

One of the most brilliant applications of Freudian and Jungian analysis to a creative genius is Robert Donington’s classic book Wagner’s Ring and Its Symbols.  He connects Wagner’s art to his psychobiography and shows how Wagner transformed his personal neuroses, which continued to wreak havoc in his personal and professional life, into extraordinary artistic achievement.  I suspect there is a similar story to Newton and other creative geniuses known to be psychologically disordered.  Note also, however, that other creative geniuses, say Spinoza, appeared to be very psychologically integrated and balanced people, so we should not assume that conscious wrestling with neurosis is the only path to extraordinary creative achievement.

Patrick, I can’t point to a particular research study on this but I am almost certain that university professors on average are politically progressive.  That said, the institutional framework within which they work is part of the larger power structure, as embodied in universities’ boards of trustees.  So the president, provosts, and administration are generally not representative of the faculty as a whole and hiring and tenure decisions also reflect power considerations, which imparts a conservative bias to the institution as a whole.  A similar phenomenon occurs in journalism, where working journalists are liberal but the top power holders in the big media corporations tend to be conservative (See Ben Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly).

Brian

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Bora
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Mar 2



To Everyone:


"By contrast, people like Newton achieve some kind of conscious relationship to their complexes and instead of entirely projecting them, wrestle with them within themselves.  The complexes may still be partially projected and continue to drive their behavior, which is why they act neurotically in their personal and professional lives, but within themselves they transform their psychic garbage into novel creative products of great value."

This sounds like locus of control, with Newton's locus operating internally.

I've observed that those who are religious in a traditional, abiding
sense of the term seem to operate from an external locus of control.
And those that have a more spiritual, or even agnostic, interaction
with faith or g/God seem to operate from an internal locus of control.
For the most part, anyway.

What Alice said about future generations needing "to be able to
imagine God in a new way" seems very much like a process that would
have to begin with the self, and within the self.  An internal locus
of control is an inner space of unlimited understanding and potential,
which must be had in order to imagine anything in a new way.  Where
else could the innovation of God take place?

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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 3



One of the interesting things that happened over the last year was a realization amongst many on the left that perpetrators of considerable power, could be taken down. Even a few years ago, powerhouses like Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, and Ghomeshi (in Canada, he was a superstar) just couldn't be put in the situation, where for crimes of child abuse and rape, they could actually lose their power and be sundered to prison. If you were one of their victims, you could feel that the collective need to keep them vital would mean some means would be found to silence your cause -- your protests would have no chance: even many liberals wouldn't speak up for you -- what presumption, you! Your best salve would be to try not to read the next biography about them, which would surely gloss over any accusations made against them and salute them as great men. But this year, you could feel that somehow this was changing ... that now empathy for victims was such that more people registered the harm these men had done and saw them not as greats under (unfair) assault but more and more as vile perpetrators. An example is Lena Dunhams' estimation of not just Allen but his work, experiencing the child-molester in his films that previously the left had only kept on the shelf, proudly, as identity/class-markers. 

Something similar, I think, is happening now in relation to history. The number of times Pinker's book has been referenced, along now with "the Moral Arc," is astonishing. Pinker, as I've mentioned before, doesn't say that modern wo/man is constitutionally different people from living a thousand years ago, but does argue that societies have become less and less violent across the time. "The Moral Arc" comes closer to saying that people themselves have changed, and much for the better. This is not done in a climate of blaming early societies, castigating them, but they evidently aren't working to nevertheless bulwark the past against modern judgment, as historians were once so capable of doing. 

People influenced by these works aren't so much arguing that we have to careful when we judge people living before us, because they were only living according to what they knew -- and mightn't we overselves find ourselves judged by historians in the future? -- but rather arguing that since the past as it turns out is full of perpetrating, sexist, immoral bastards -- even the best, the most liberal, of its greats, were sexist a-holes or the like, and that includes the like of its women, people like Virginia Woolf! -- the last thing we would actually want is spend time with them. If you want a sample of this reaction, check out this article at Salon.com: No "Midnight in Paris, " rather, You would've hated your heroes

History is becoming, to more and more of the informed, a bit akin to DeMause's "nightmare we are just waking up from," but one's association with it, one's protection and support of it, not as innocent as this phrasing might imply/allow. If you choose to enter the past, you're choosing to associate with a room chock-full of repellent Bill Cosbys, Ghomeshis, Woody Allens, and Adrian Petersons. There is no difference in what you're doing than if you chose, now, knowing what we know of him, to nevertheless still go see Bill Cosby's latest comedy performance, arguing that he's still got it

I've never myself like the term psychohistory. I've always wanted to drop the history part of it, and said as much to DeMause. History is nightmare! Why the hell are we latching ourselves to it! I wonder if in the new climate that might be emerging if more and more young progressive minds will refuse to abide his decision, and study his innovative workings on child abuse and society, on how widespread parental rejection is the most profound factor in adults choosing to vote in politicians that curb growth, on the emotional life of nations, in some venue spared its beloved "psycho" being latched to the abhorrent perpetrating sex-fiend -- history. 

-- Patrick

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Barney
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Mar 3


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Display images in this post - Always display images from Barney - Always display images in Clio’s Psyche

Dear Patrick McEvoy-Halston, 

On my planet, we say, "Don't recall history or you will be doomed to repeat it, and make it worse." 

Works, too, for us. We cannot comprehend the sex-fiend analogy. History has no memory, no urge for power, and no intentions. It is simply the trash of time and like a used Kleenex, it lacks all passion, which it leaves to historians, who lust for detritus, for shards, for petrified structures. By that standard, psychohistory is a study of the shed cells of minds. There is no energy in history, only in the historians who reclaim it and hypothesize from its decay-riddled corpses. 

On my planet all historians do their rituals in private, and if they uncover hideousness (as they do) they are honor-bound to disintegrate and disperse it as one might a lethal virus and to take and distribute corrective lessons from it. On my planet, the Holocaust would be long forgotten, as would the deaths of Hutus and Tutus and innocents by the millions, as would be the murderousness of knights, and kings, and presidents, and emperors and their weapons makers, and their financiers, and the soldiers they put in motion. On my planet, the stupidities and viciousness of yesterday are methodically examined and corrected with each new day. One of the foremost proponents of forgetting history  and zeroing in on successful progress toward brilliant pleasure (he hailed from my planet) was the late Dr. Roger Olaf Egeberg, the personal physician and confidant of General Douglas MacArthur during World War Two. He told me once about how he and his wife dealt with history. "Every morning we are together we make up our bed together. If we are together, we never fail in this. It is a new day, new changes, new risks, new possibilities." 

History cannot rape, mutilate, libel, or kill you, but historians can and may. It is often a bit humiliating for some historians to remember that they are humans, too. History is not a sex fiend but it is a straw man, always has been and always will be. Yet there may be a way to exploit wrinkles in the quuantum foam and transport back ten centuries or so; if you have a yen to do that back to 1357 A.D., read Michael Chichton's "Timeline" ~ a perfect non-stop JFK to Buenos Aires book. 

Barney

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drwargus
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Mar 2



Agreed Burton. All ideas are reconstructed in the brain (mind) and are by definition "constructs." All ideas are context and construct dependent. It took me a while to grasp that idea (T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) as I chose a career in science to discover the Truth myself. I was tired of mythic and magical ideologies that made no sense, and science was deemed to be pure. But it is not pure. All scientific ideas have an arbitrary component to them. However, even many scientists have difficulty grasping that fact today.

To be sure, just because everything is relative to everything else, it does not follow that all ideas are equal. Similarly, just because there is no absolute moral authority does not mean that all moral views are equally valid or invalid. Just because there is no absolute physical law does not mean that physics has no meaning, no value, no purpose.

Bill

Intelligence has many facets and cannot be reduced to one number

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dr.bobstern
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Mar 2



"All ideas are reconstructed in the brain (mind) and are by definition "constructs." 


Thank goodness you added: "...it does not follow that all ideas are equal."  Scientific "constructs" are tested, testable, improvable, overturnable ... and thoroughly relevant in the 21st century, regardless of fairytales believed concerning "God's" requirements for genital modifications, dietary preferences, son killing (Jesus or Isaac), misogyny (pretty much universal in all "major" religions, etc.

Religious "constructs" -- utterly arbitrary, having an intimate connection to an accident of birth (parents, culture, etc).  Not too many kids born to Catholic parents in the 21st century finding the innate impulse to worship Zeus or Mohammad.

That being said, Muslim physicists (who intend to actually build workable nuclear devices -- be they for war or peace) are working from pretty much the same modern scientific playbook as non-religious scientists.  And, unlike "sacred texts from God" which far pre-date germ "theory" and the idea that the Earth moves around the Sun (just constructs, I guess), the physics texts are quite changeable as new information is revealed by those who occupy themselves with more than arguing fine points of fairytales.

As far as moral relativism is concerned.  Thank goodness.   Relativism seems to rear its beautiful head occasionally, much to the ire of the Absolutists. It gives room for the evolution of "morals" and is one of the greatest achievements of modernity.  It wasn't so long ago that the Bible was rightly invoked as supporting slavery.  Now, we're still battling the right of gay people to love whom they love...because some believe an Absolute Fairytale about what "God Hates."

The Pope, as rightly infallible in 2007 as the others were wrongly fallible before (apparently), got rid of the horrifying concept of "Limbo" -- where infants who died before their grieved parents could baptize them got stuck for eternity.


B


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Barney
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Mar 2



Exquisitely put. Must be the tequila and salt.



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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 2



The DeMausian take would be that talking about these constructs becomes irrelevant when the majority of scientists belong to the helping psychoclass -- are children of well-loved, permissive parents. He says this class has only come into existence in the last fifty years or so, so before every framework scientists/cultures embraced had to be one which matched their immature psyches — he says, for example, “Newton had to stop seeing falling objects longing to return to Mother Earth before he could posit a force of gravity. Chemists had to give up "alchemical visions of womb-battles between good and evil" inside their flasks before they could observe the real causes of chemical change.” 

If it interests you, he also says that new ideas become popularized because they respond to the psyches, the emotional needs, of a new emerging psychoclass. That is, if Newton had come up instead with an Einsteinian universe, no amount of proof, no degree of accumulation of errors in the previous accepted understanding of the universe, would of had scientists embrace it. Newton aired what a new generation was ready for, responded to a (newly emergent) mode of childrearing, just like Darwin did. 

Since he sees history as being about gradually improving childrearing, each subsequent framework would be more reality-based, less about fiddling with or avoiding childhood “issues.” At some point, the whole discussion of constructs, limitations, seems inappropriate. Modesty becomes only a form of self-flagellation, which pleases only those possessed of alters ready to chastise fulfillment. 

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Brian
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Mar 2



Burton, Bill, and all,

If the laws of nature are merely arbitrary constructs of the human mind, then everything you are saying holds.  I don’t find this picture philosophically satisfactory, though I can’t defend my view with much rigor because I am not trained in philosophy.  Suffice it to say that the human body, brain, and mind evolved as they did because the laws of nature are what they are.  As the most complex physical system we have ever discovered, the human brain and mind is not only a part of nature, but one of the only parts that embodies all the laws of nature that operate at the highest levels of complexity and organization.  That includes not only the laws of biology but of what we now call cognitive science.  So it is entirely plausible that humans contain within ourselves all the laws of nature, and that the discovery of the laws of nature is a form of self-knowledge.  Teilhard de Chardin once said, “Humanity is the universe becoming conscious of itself.”  In other words, our knowledge of nature is really self-knowledge, and the idea that we are discovering “external reality” is not entirely correct.  We cannot directly observe all parts of the universe, but we can observe enough of it to be able to understand the whole thing, assuming only that the laws of nature are the same everywhere.

I don’t know of any law of physics, once discovered, that has been proven wrong.  What advances in science show is that the domain of applicability of the law was not adequately understood.  Relativity and quantum mechanics did not invalidate Newton’s laws of motion, they only showed that they are less universal than Newton thought and do not hold at very small and very large timescales.  So relativity and quantum mechanics provided more general and universally applicable pictures of physical reality, and they in turn, will eventually be superseded by still more adequate pictures.  Notice that we don’t replace one arbitrary picture with another, but build on reliable but limited theoretical and empirical knowledge and subsume it to increasingly adequate theoretical frameworks.  This could not occur unless the human mind were homing in on objectively valid knowledge of reality. 

All of this is consistent with Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions, which is in the first instance a sociology of science not an epistemology, much less a metaphysic.  It is also consistent with Trevor’s psychological ideas about how we construct our picture of reality, but as with Kuhn, this does not address (and is apparently not intended to) the deeper epistemological and metaphysical questions.  I agree with Burton that there is a danger of hubris in science, but I would say that there an equal and opposite danger of solipsism, so perhaps we are dealing here with a Scylla and Charybdis.  I think the need for humility is greatest where science is the least mature, which certainly applies to psychoanalysis and psychohistory.  In this regard, I have been consistently critical of knowledge claims by psychohistorians that are not supported by evidence and adequate theory, which unfortunately includes a great deal of the work in these fields beginning with Freud and up to and including deMause.

Brian


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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 2



Re: I think the need for humility is greatest where science is the least mature, which certainly applies to psychoanalysis and psychohistory.  In this regard, I have been consistently critical of knowledge claims by psychohistorians that are not supported by evidence and adequate theory, which unfortunately includes a great deal of the work in these fields beginning with Freud and up to and including deMause. 

Brian, for someone who talks about the importance of modesty, why is it that so much of what you write has the feeling of final law? You've been patient, you've listened ... but now's when you have to step in so that things don't lapse into total nonsense. I end up feeling paved over.

If your way prevails, psychohistory has perhaps more of a chance in academia -- perhaps because it's not actually saying much beyond what others have already accepted -- but it puts the brake on rather than develops its most exciting and innovative elements. Are you a progressive professor, or part of the conservative institution -- the university -- that inhibits?

It might be noted that while you're putting the brakes on DeMausian history, by fitting it, to its disadvantage, within a narrative of reckless youth vs. measured maturity, it would seem that our society may once again be getting ready to advance a full-on appreciation of his sort of history: you might be becoming out of step. Pinker's widely referenced book (Better Angels of our Nature) has been followed by the bestseller "The Moral Arc," which not only argues that humans have become more empathic and more moral through time, but argues out of astonishing confidence, as if it knows it's what most of us want again to switch to accepting again. 

These books are but a blink away from DeMause, and so perhaps we'll see what happens when those who want to argue that DeMause argues out of a lack of proof are met by a majority that suddenly are prepared to accept his conclusions, rather than cheer on even the most pathetic of disproofs so to humiliate the asshole! Hereto, anyone who argued that DeMause hadn't the proof, knew they were counting themselves amongst majority opinion -- power, was with them. The idea of the universal man, the historian's preference for seeing all eras as of equal value, are all equally worth studying, may be lapsing. 

I'd certainly like to see what it would be like to be able to talk DeMausian theory outside of a climate where people become lenient -- in a way, someone you're behooven to -- simply by allowing you to air your opinions in no less an abashed fashion than they casually do theirs. 

-- Patrick

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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 2



unabashed, not abashed. 

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Barney
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Mar 2


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Dear Patrick McEvoy-Halston,

"I'd certainly like to see what it would be like to be able to talk DeMausian theory outside of a climate where people become lenient -- in a way, someone you're behooven to -- simply by allowing you to air your opinions in no less an abashed fashion than they casually do theirs."

Bashed, abashed, or unabashed, can you help me understand what the above paragraph means?

Your unbehooven friend, 

Barney 

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dr.bobstern
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Mar 2



Brian:  I think "Science" is among the least hubristic of all human endeavors.  

All one needs to do is attend a scientific meeting and see all the presenters with their caveats and statements ("suggests need for further study", etc).  Contrast that to religious meetings  where hubristic "authorities" pound the pulpit while claiming absolute knowledge of what  "God wants" or "demands".  

Scientists are acutely aware that their knowledge is provisional in essence, falsifiable by reality and ripe for supersession.   In contrast, the religious indulge in instinctual "certainties" carved in stone via cultural accident.    

Scientists have achieved much by running counter to form.   Our evolutionary nature (still present even after we left the savannah where getting spooked by the rustling of grass had some survival value) is not instinctually designed to buck instinct and conclude that lighter objects indeed fall as fast as heavier ones -- despite what "common sense" demands.

Scientists suspend credulity in such "common sense" and "deep experience" -- a modern achievement granted that we are probably genetically identical to those humans who were roaming the plains 10,000 years ago..  

Scientists deal in a more humble enterprise involving "probability" -- admittedly, as in the cases of a heliocentric solar system and the evolution of life, a high degree of probability.  Regardless of which religious authority desires to put the thumb screws on them to recant such "blasphemy."


 I find myself in profound alignment with Brian's final statement:

" In this regard, I have been consistently critical of knowledge claims by psychohistorians that are not supported by evidence and adequate theory, which unfortunately includes a great deal of the work in these fields beginning with Freud and up to and including deMause.”

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Brian
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Mar 3



Bill, Burton, Bora, Patrick, and all,

Whew, so much to talk about! Bill, yes “everything is a process.”  But in saying this, you are singing Darwin’s and Einstein’s songs.  Darwin’s theory threw out the notion that species are fixed and immutable and showed how all of life is part of a single evolutionary process.  Einstein showed how time is inseparable from space, and how matter can be transformed into energy, and thus showed how what were thought to be the most fundamental categories of physics are not absolute.  The frontiers of science are all about process.  So to say that everything is process is not a commentary on the limitations of science. 

Burton, physics today is in disarray because no one has yet succeeded in bringing relativity and quantum mechanics into a unified theory that is testable.  The superstring theorists have a unified theory, but it is not testable.  So I take a great deal of what is being done in mainstream physics today, including Big Bang cosmology, with a grain of salt.  But one thing is certain.  Relativity and quantum mechanics are solid and enduring theories that have proven themselves repeatedly by observation and experiment.  Entire realms of technology, including much of chemical and electrical engineering, are based on quantum mechanics.  It works.  This would not be the case if it did not embody some fundamental truths about objective reality.  How relativity and quantum mechanics will eventually be reconciled is the great unsolved problem of physics today, but there is no doubt that the next big paradigm will subsume what is valid in both of these theories.

Bora, what you say about locus of control makes sense but with one proviso.  If the ego remains the locus of control, the unconscious—which is the source of our creativity—gets written out of the equation.  According to Jung, people can only realize their full creative potential if the ego relinquishes control to a new center of the personality that encompasses both the conscious ego and the person’s unconscious.  Jung called this new center, the Self.

Patrick, from where you sit, I may appear to be a custodian of academic rigor who is putting the kibosh on the full bodied exercise of the psychohistorical imagination.  At the same time, however, professional academics see me as someone who is excessively speculative and not a “real” academic because my work does not fit into any of the established academic disciplines.  By way of background, I did a Ph.D. in political science and published an article length version of my doctoral research on the psychology of militarism in a peer reviewed journal.  But my research was too theoretical for the empiricists and too statistical for the theorists and had one foot in American politics and one foot in international relations and so did not seem to belong in either subdiscipline.  Whatever.  In a tight academic job market I was going nowhere in higher education and so I earned my living as a high school teacher, and currently as a math tutor and statistical consultant, while I continue to pursue academic interests that seem important to me and important for the future of the world.  I am well aware of the limitations of organized academia, but I am equally aware of how easy it is for people who are not academically trained to lay claim to scientific authority that they have not earned.

I do not ask that every psychohistorian do empirical work.  There is a role for speculative theorists, provided that they are serious about producing theories that will eventually be tested using statistical or other empirical research.  I have seen plenty of speculation in some quarters of the psychohistory community but very little real interest in designing research that can test these theories, or even of collaborating with people who do this kind of research.  This is not the attitude of science.

Robert, yes I agree that it is hard for professional scientists to be anything but humble.  The problem, of course, is when people who are NOT professional scientists or scholars but who aspire to scientific status make inflated claims about how much they know.

Brian

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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 3



Sure, Barney!

I mean that it'd be nice to be able to talk about DeMause's theories in a climate that is warm to it. If you simply discuss it amongst those who see them as (maybe) useful but extreme and unsupported, amongst those who count themselves amongst those who aren't avant-garde vulnerable but within the mainstream, are conservative, humble, modest and throughly worthy of a pat, it's difficult to argue with the kind of confidence that allows you to be fair to yourself and to be inspiring to others. That's what I want for myself, and others. 

I do sometimes misspell words but like them too much to change. Behooven may not actually be a word, but don't you like the "hoof" in it!

-- Patrick

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Barney
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Mar 3


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Dear Patrick, 

You are a natural writer and to invent words is what really interesting and sometimes even touching writing is all about. Glad to see you are not a slave to fashion or tradition, but are respectful of both. However, it is well to remember that Behoof is not Aloof like most of the Oof family, nor is Poof or Goof, especially when they are high like Roof and his trusty chowhound Woof.  

Barney

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Ken Fuchsman
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Mar 3


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Alice hopes that our grandchildren can forge a new image of God.  I am not sure this is what humanity needs now or will need in the future. We have enough ethical dilemmas to keep us occupied.  The notion that we should do unto others what we want them to do to us is in some form a human universal.  Yet much of humanity's success as a species is built on killing other animals and those within our own species.  Those cultures which have been most advanced culturally and intellectually have also been militarily exploitative.  What has advanced us as a species and what are our ethics conflict.  Our continued history of brutality and exploitation, and the necessity to kill or destroy to live creates dilemmas that few if any religions have been able to successfully confront. I am not sure that any future image of a supreme being will be any better than those in the present or past at confronting these dilemmas.     

I agree with much of what Brian says about psychohistory.  But I do have a few issues to raise.  Brian does not expect every psychohistorian to do empirical work and he worries that the amount of psychohistorical speculation is not matched by research that can test these theories, as that is not the attitude of science.

If a psychohistorical work has a historical component then it would need to be empirical, if we take empirical to mean based on observation or experience.  Historians, of course, base their work on legitimate documents, and thus their work needs to be empirical.  Is there some other meaning of empirical that Brian has in mind?

I do agree it is central to any line of inquiry, including psychohistory, to seek to test theories in a variety of ways.  I am not sure that one needs to have the attitude of science to do so.  History though it has elements that can be considered scientific is not classified as a science or social science. In most university general education requirements, the history courses are listed under the humanities.  Actually, the Congressional act that established the endowment of the humanities includes history as a humanity.  Historians seek to be accurate and truthful without being scientific per se.  There are also questions as to the scientific status of both much academic psychology and the various forms of psychoanalytic and other clinical based psychologies.  It is not clear that we ought to consider psychohistory as falling within the domain of science.  That psychohistory should involve critical thinking, rigorous evaluation of claims, and meet high scholarly standards is essential, that much of what passes as psychohistory has not met these standards is one reason that psychohistory needs to upgrade itself.

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drwargus
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Mar 3



Brian ,

You claimed that there are fundamental truths about objective reality. My point is that there is no objective reality. Any understanding of science requires a perspective that is context and construct dependent. My point is that science itself is a process, constantly changing and evolving. Science is still worth pursuing, but there is no absolute truth because there is no one perspective that is true.

Bill

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Brian
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Mar 3


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Bill, to say that there is no objective reality sounds solipsistic to me.  Please clarify what you mean.  Isn’t the physical world an objective reality?  If someone finds herself working in a minimum-wage job, isn’t that an objective reality?  If someone is dying of cancer, isn’t that an objective reality?  What are you talking about?  

Ken, I have never understood why you are so intent on establishing disciplinary boundaries.  Psychohistory is nothing if not an interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary, and trans-disciplinary field.  Upon close examination, this is true of most if not all academic fields of knowledge.  Does art history belong in history or in art?  Does economic history belong in history or in economics?  I find these questions pointless, and I find it equally pointless whether there is or should be a boundary between recent history and current events, or between theory and empirical research.  Empirical research is necessarily informed by theory, otherwise how do we know what evidence is worth collecting or studying?  Theory that is not consistent with the available evidence cannot be correct and if it is found inconsistent with new evidence it must be modified or discarded.  (In the case of history, new evidence may mean the discovery of evidence that was not previously known to the academic community).  This generally applies to history and the social sciences, though not to a priori disciplines like mathematics and analytic philosophy, or to the humanities, which are not empirical disciplines in the same sense.

So if we dispense with this classification project, how do we insure rigor?  In The Sociological Imagination, C. Wright Mills answered this question by saying that we need to specialize according to research topics, not according to academic disciplines.  If someone wants to understand what caused World War II, they will probably need conceptual tools and methods drawn from both history and the social sciences.  In a doctoral dissertation on some aspect of this topic, it may be appropriate and indeed advisable to have an economist or a sociologist or a political scientist on the committee in addition to historians, depending on the particular angle the student has taken.  In the end, there is no alternative but to think about the specific research topic before us and to ask whether the researcher has chosen appropriate tools and methods and applied them competently.  No one person is likely to be able to evaluate the work adequately or help the researcher develop their ideas, which therefore requires collaboration across disciplinary boundaries.  Am I missing something?    

Brian

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drwargus
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Mar 3


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Similar to the Heisenberg principle, you cannot examine something without altering it. There is a "reality" out there, but you can never see it with purely objective eyes. There will always be the subjective. Your subjective  is composed of your worldviews and sense of meaning (ego). When you psychoanalyze someone, you try to bring one person's subjective out into the open and examine it as object, correct? So when someone says "the reality is," they are really speaking about the reality (object)  that their subjective visualizes. They mistake their subjective Interpretation and reconstruction of reality as a perfect reproduction of reality.

Bill


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Trevor Pederson
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Mar 3


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Bill

The world in many respects very, very regular and people aren't having disagreements all the time about whether 2+2=4, whether the stop sign at the corner of a road means you should stop driving your car, or about whether a man is a tall man or not. We play these language games fairly consistently and regularly with a lot of agreement. 

When it comes to whether we should implement liberal or conservative economic policies, talk about what someone's motivations for a certain behavior were, or have opinions about how others might regard us then there most certainly is a lot of illusion out there.

I don't think the illusions in the second group mean we must disregard the facts and laws of the first group as "subjective".

I also don't think that truth in the second group is impossible, even though the consensus there won't be as uniform as in the first group. There are wise people who have better judgment of the motivation of others and people who have virtually no sense of what motivates people other than hunger and sex. I think that the wisest people still have their blind-spots but they can also be fairly regular in guessing people's feelings or motivations which others can agree avow.

Now, what you are saying totally applies to anyone who wants to say that his religion is the true religion, but otherwise it doesn't fit our practical world in any way.

Trevor   

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Alice Maher
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Mar 3



Much thanks to everyone for your very stimulating responses to my post.  Unfortunately my workdays are 15 hours long so I haven't had time to read and digest your responses, but I will attempt to do that as soon as I get a chance to breathe.

One quick response to Ken.  You say, "Alice hopes that our grandchildren can forge a new image of God.  I am not sure this is what humanity needs now or will need in the future. We have enough ethical dilemmas to keep us occupied."  

Ken, I think our children and grandchildren will give up on those ethical dilemmas unless they have a more distant, overarching vision to work toward.  Climate change, resolving war, and reimagining God, should all be on their radar.  Without those possibilities, they will (collectively, not individually) be left with unresolvable and neverending conflict and regression to depression, narcissism, psychosis and the eventual suicide of our species.   

I often use analogies related to the body.  If you're a right eye, you're only programmed to see the landscape on the right.  Same thing if you're a left eye.  If both eyes persist in arguing that their landscape is the one true reality, the "body politic" will continue to trip over itself and go nowhere fast.  But if the right eye becomes aware and respectful of the different vision seen by the left eye, and they tolerate attempts to integrate those other perspectives, and they focus together on a distant, shared horizon, the individual or the collective is able to move forward with clarity, perspective, and depth perception.  Examples of those "eyes" are religion and atheism, conservative and liberal, Jewish and antisemitic, etc.  

Our kids need to be presented that shared, distant horizon as a focal point, and they to be offered our trust that they have it in them to resolve those conflicts and paradoxes. 

Alice

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Brian
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Mar 3


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Bill, Trevor and all,

I agree with Trevor on the “objective reality” issue, and have a few more things to add.  As with so much else, I see a number of levels to this issue.  On the level of the individual, yes, of course every person has a unique cognitive map of the world that reflects his or her unique psychobiography, which, in turn, reflects the specific historical circumstances into which they were born and live their life, including their socioeconomic circumstances and inherited culture.  In this sense, every person’s reality is indeed subjective. 

At the same time, however, humans are not just individuals but also social beings, and we need to examine “reality” also on the social level.  Here we encounter what Peter Berger called “the social construction of reality,” namely the way that a community of people acting on the basis of shared cognitive maps that are common to their culture create a “world” that no individual, acting alone, can alter.  Related to this are the institutional realities that constrain people’s lives, such as the organization of power in their workplaces.  These realities are objective in the sense that the individual cannot wish them away and must somehow accommodate to them, even if they pit themselves against these realities and act to subvert or overcome them in some way.  However, reality at this level is also subjective in the sense that the society and culture that constructs it is one of many possible societies and cultures and to that extent the reality constructed is arbitrary.

At a third level, we encounter the physical planet that all societies and cultures on Earth inhabit in common.  In representing this physical environment, the social construction of reality still operates—some cultures conceptualize the Earth as the back of a turtle and others as a planet orbiting a star in the Milky Way Galaxy, for example, as Trevor noted.  But at this level, unlike the first two, there are fully objective criteria for what is real.  Measurement and experiment are the ultimate arbiters of what is real.  Yes, chaos, uncertainty, and random variation are an integral part of this reality.  But this only means that there are limits to measurement, not that nothing can be measured.  Reality is not entirely deterministic, but it is deterministic enough that we can organize our lives around the physical niches in which we find ourselves and can predict important things in our everyday lives with a high degree of confidence, as Trevor pointed out.  We can even predict, with the aid of science, things like global warming.  I think it is extremely important that we recognize that this physical reality is not a mere projection of human constructs but is rather an objective set of properties, structures, processes, etc. that exist independently of these constructs. 

To be sure, physical reality is only knowable imperfectly because science is an imperfect institution, corrupted by power and money, distorted by unexamined political and cultural biases, vitiated by mediocrity, incompetence and even fraud.  But the highly public nature of science provides ample opportunity for the correction of many of these imperfections, and in any case, it is the most reliable path to knowledge available to us. It behooves us to conform our human constructs to the common physical reality as science has come to know it.  Otherwise, in accordance with the inexorable laws of nature that we choose to ignore, we may find ourselves in deep doo-doo, as George Bush Sr. so colorfully put it.

Brian

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Ken Fuchsman
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Mar 3


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Brian, you say, "Psychohistory is nothing if not an interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary, and trans-disciplinary field.".  Technically, psychohistory is an interdisicpline, a field where two other fields are interconnected, such as social psychology and biochemistry.  Bill Newell, the long time Exexutive Director of the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, maintains that interdisciplines are not necessarily interdisciplinary.  Within the field of interdisciplinary studies, being interdisciplinary and being multi-disciplinary are seen as being incompatible.  There are multiple approaches that call themselves trans-disciplinary, and some of these are compatible with being interdisciplinary and some are not.  The term trans-disciplinary was coined by Jean Piaget in Paris in 1970 and was designed to be distinct from being interdisciplinary.  Piaget's use of trans-disciplinary could not be correctly applied to psychohistory, You are using these terms much more loosely than is done in the  scholarship of interdisciplinary studies.   

I am not intent on establishing disciplinary boundaries.  You had said that psychohistorical work need not always be empirical.  I replied by saying that as much as psychohistory includes history it must be empirical. You seem to ignore that part of my response.  I thought you were describing psychohistory in a way that ignored that it needed to be empirical.  

Bill you say that all scholarship is based in some way on interpretation.  Let's say, this is accurate.  Is there any thing distinguishing contemporary physics from astrology?  What distinguishes Darwinian evolution from what is called creation science? Or are these things epistemologically on the same level?

—————


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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 4



The topic of the youthfulness of psychohistory has come up lately, and has been argued as a reason for keeping things humble and cautious. I thought I'd present how horrifying this suggestion would come to a DeMausian psychohistorian.

DeMause argued right from "Foundations" that what the psychohistorian requires above all else is a willingness to take emotional risks ... what you're studying, could well blow back on you. When you're studying Hitler, he argues, you're recognizing that some part of him rests also in you.

I thought this particular example not quite appropriate for the point he was trying to make. Plenty of people would be willing to accept that evil rests within themselves, after all, and would use this "fact" to argue for a suspicion of progressive, utopian visions of mankind ... use it in favor of being conservative generally. (I'll add, since the rest of his work works against the importance of psychobiography -- "leaders" only follow the inclinations of the populace; if they stray from this, they're ignored -- this too wasn't helpful.) What he was really trying to say is that what you need to be a psychohistorian is the ability to handle the full emotional tumult that can hit you when you realize that the societies you are studying are not largely motivated by rational reasons, aren't homo economicus, but by experiences out of childhood that you probably at some level have shared but, just like them, want kept protected from being reminded of.

He was arguing for a psychohistorian base, in my judgment, of our most emotionally evolved, for young minds out of our most progressive families. It is hard to imagine appealing to them by advertising the discipline as one that has to play it conservative for it being "immature," young. They'll be our most brazen, our most inclined to pursue the new, our most inclined to inspect elders cautioning them of doing as much, not out of wisdom, but because too much growth unsettles them ... makes them feel disrespectful, full of themselves, spoiled. Some elder in them, that senses in their maybe beginning to embrace exhilarating forward movement brought forward from the young, an abandonment of them, disapproves.

I say we go whole-hog, and find ourselves not worthy of total ridicule, only by the most promising of people alive today.

-- Patrick


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drwargus
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Mar 4


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Display images in this post - Always display images from drwargus - Always display images in Clio’s Psyche

Trevor,

I think that we agree far more than disagree. My focus is on the danger of absolute truth. Most great scientific breakthroughs were initially dismissed. They were dismissed because the previous truths were not able to hold the new information and constructs. I have personally witnessed great new ideas be suppressed by the scientific establishment as the new ideas were threatening to the establishment. Whether the discussion is about the resistance to Galileo or the infectionous cause of gastric ulcer disease, the resistance is caused by a fundamentalist attitude that the current paradigm CAN'T be wrong. It can't be wrong because it's true. If we can accept that there never is absolute truth, only better constructs, we could avoid some of these problems.

You want me to focus on the agreements that can be found between different subjectivities. Exactly. What are the constructs that we psychohistorians can collectively agree upon? What is our foundational belief system from which all of our other theories derive? Is Lloyd's brilliant work about the levels of child-rearing foundational, or is it part of a more broad theory?

I am not familiar with neo-Kantianism. I consider myself Integral, which to my understanding is more evolved than Kant. Integral seeks to integrate the best of all philosophers. The idea is that no one can be wrong all the time! Everyone has something to contribute.

Bill

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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 4



Bill, Lloyd's theories weren't accepted because they require one to be open to the damage within one's own childhood, how mommy and daddy abused you. All the childhood hurts and humiliations stop -- having no influence on you whatsoever!; but instead are brought up again to be re-experienced, and to devastate anyone who's found within their discipline the scholarly collusion to keep that all closeted away.

Theories can get dismissed, not just because they fall outside of current constructs, but because they don't satisfy the emotional/psychic needs that are being met by the current frameworks. What is required is not Kuhn's eventual massing of errors, but a new generation that is emotionally ready for new ways to understand the world. You can get this out of DeMause ... and it's so different, and so exciting!

-- Patrick

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Brian
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Mar 4



Again, I agree with Trevor and only want to supplement what he has already said.  First, I agree with Bill that dogmatism is a barrier to learning; who could disagree with this proposition?  My disagreement is with the notion that science works the same way as other domains of knowledge.  It does not, because science is the only domain of knowledge that is systematically anti-dogmatic.  If someone says that a scientific law cannot be wrong, they are not thinking scientifically.  No scientist says that a law of nature cannot be wrong.  If an experiment shows that the predictions of the law of gravitation do not match what is observed, that would be big news in the scientific community and would immediately become the subject of excited inquiry.  Can the experiment be replicated, or was it a fluke.  If it is replicated over and over, what is going on?  Why does the theory not match reality?  The entire scientific community would go back to the drawing board.  No one expects this to happen with Einstein’s law of gravitation, but if it did happen, that is the predictable result.

This does not mean that every member of the scientific community would immediately discard the theory of gravitation.  For a time the new finding might be regarded as an anomaly, and might remain on the periphery of scientific knowledge.  This can be described as a kind of dogmatism, as Bill correctly says.  But over time, science learns from anomalies, while religious dogmatists just suppress them or try to explain them away without rethinking their fundamental theories.  Younger scientists take note of anomalies and in their eyes they are blow to the authority of the reigning theory.  When someone comes up with a more general theory that accounts for the anomaly along with all the other observations that the original theory accounted for, the old theory will be superseded by the new.  This is exactly how Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s.  What I am saying here is all based on Kuhn, and his theory of scientific revolutions is specific to mature sciences, say physics.  We use the term “paradigm” and “paradigm shift” loosely, but for Kuhn this only describes how mature science works, which at this point is limited to the natural sciences.

Let’s take the map analogy one step further.  Yes, Bill, the map is not the territory.  But scientific laws are not maps.  Rather, we might think of them as machines for making maps, and science is the enterprise of making the machines.  We are constantly exploring the world.  If we have a machine that generates maps for every conceivable terrain and every time we use the map it matches the terrain, and we can make the map incredibly detailed and it matches the terrain with great precision, then we are justified in calling this reliable knowledge.  There is no dogmatism here.  First, the machine by its performance has earned the confidence we have placed in it.  Second, there is a small but finite chance that the machine will not perform as expected in the future and will have to be rebuilt.  This is the opposite of dogmatism.  Further, no one will try to rebuild the machine from scratch.  It worked so well that the question will be how to improve it.  Again, this is how Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s.     

Brian

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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 4



RE: When someone comes up with a more general theory that accounts for the anomaly along with all the other observations that the original theory accounted for, the old theory will be superseded by the new.  

Brian's way of seeing scientists make them seem so sensible. Myself, I have very little faith that if a general theory emerged which accounted for the anomaly, along with all the other observations, but to embrace it one would have to, say, accept that the influence of our mothers -- how well loved, or how much abandoned and despised we were --  is mostly responsible for how we shape our world, that the old theory would simply find itself replaced with the new. 

It is however easy to see a new generation, raised in a bit more loving a fashion, being open to new frameworks that a preponderance of holes and errors and mishaps in previous frameworks couldn't have shaken a previous generation toward embracing. The sun must be the center of the universe, just like mommy was! How do I work through that past if I can't fiddle with it through the stars! How do I find protection from it, if I can't put it out onto the outside world in some way I recognize but feel control over? 

I truly believe that the idea that there is insufficient evidence to support DeMause's understanding of the past, is thoroughly false. I truly believe a generation is emerging that would find itself in the same historical quarters frequented by the legions of historians before them, and see pathology everywhere, bloody-well everywhere -- and know these people hadn't received the care and love they received ... how could you people for so long not see it!!!! The horror!

They'd look at the preponderance, then back at the instructor who was still cautioning and sorting through, and know there's only so much they'd have to learn from the old fellow ... For him, this terror would always be his salve, his teddy bear. So be it ... but time for the rest to move on. 

The fact that the chief obstacle to seeing things as they really are has more to do with one's emotional health than it does quantity of evidence, will be probably be demonstrated first out of anthropology -- where it's still all available to see in our own temporal period. All those anthropologists who've somehow gotten away with seeing these infanticidal, war-crazed societies as benign, as kind of making sense, are going to be met by a liberal generation that no longer needs to romance them to still hold a thoroughly respectful and supportive attitude towards them. 

And they'll know that their predecessors, that previous generation of liberals, as emotionally evolved as they were by historical standards, could still have babies put adrift, even eaten, before their eyes, and even then not see in the pain evidence that could shake them out of ultimately seeing "necessity" involved. No reason, that is, to want to stop the whole thing immediately, by bringing upon them a legion of child-care workers, as they would readily any infestation of child-sacrifice cultists spotted within their own land. 

DeMause talks a lot about the psychological requirements required to do psychohistory. When he delineates examples, it's clear he's looking for those who aren't embarrassed or shamed to recognize the influence their childhoods have had upon them. It's clear he's hoping for those who can write things which others would find ... embarrassing, unprofessional -- counter to the decorum we assume for scientists. I think this is helpful to keep in mind. This construct --"the scientist" -- isn't exactly going to be mistaken for the inward-looking hippie. S/he's still got the white coat; "the professional," is still about rectitude ... we're still limited in what we can find by our need for most prominent fear-fighters/abaters to seem so chastised out of "childish" inclinations, and reach. 


-- Patrick  

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dr.bobstern
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Mar 4



For a good explanation of the misuses of "Heisenberg's  Uncertainty Principle": 

I don't think there is much evidence that the future prospects for humanity will be brightened by some new concept of "God", as it isn't clear how any kind of magical thinking will lead to habitually rational, easily correctable, universally acceptable outcomes.  

As far as the complaint that there is no "absolute truth" -- this is no weakness in science.  Science deals in odds, likelihoods, percentages.  The usefulness (the NECESSITY) of maps is not diminished by pointing out that the map isn't the place.  Such claims are the realm of the fanciful religious where, for example, supposedly rational folks believe that the cracker IS the body of Christ.  If someone claimed that a waffle was the body of Eleanor Roosevelt -- and demanded that that was taught in public school -- would we hear the following?====

 "But when an evolutionist gets up in front of an education panel and states that "I will not have our children being taught religious nonsense. I want them to have the truth," the evolutionist is just as misguided as the creationist in thinking that they own the truth. There is no truth."

Nope.  If we are to teach science, then teach science...arrived at by the processes of science.  If we are to teach -- well, the theology of creationism, "Christian Science" or that waffles can be Eleanor Roosevelt -- then that has to be a different branch of "learning" hopefully unfunded by taxpayers.

The demand that a whole panoply of irrational beliefs (called religions -- privileged and tax exempt) deserve a special status of being off limits to ontological/epistemological scrutiny (after all, there is no "absolute truth" -- so anything goes?), and respectful deference  is something that needs a serious look.  Especially when the religious demand to hijack  taxpayer funded public education of children.


Bob


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dr.bobstern
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Mar 4



"I truly believe that the idea that there is insufficient evidence to support DeMause's understanding of the past, is thoroughly false."

Co you have the evidence (controlled studies) that support the causalities such a theory proposes? 

"When he delineates examples, it's clear he's looking for those who aren't embarrassed or shamed to recognize the influence their childhoods have had upon them."

Isn't this backwards? The legitimacy of any inquiry is undermined by pre-screening for a population which shares the 'belief" (otherwise termed: the hypothesis yet to be confirmed).   Is a compelling example from someone unashamed to report: "I'm told that my toilet training was authoritarian, so of course I tortured small woodland creatures as a kid and became Pol Pot as an adult."  ?

"It is however easy to see a new generation, raised in a bit more loving a fashion"

Is a "more loving fashion" an objective term that has some cross-culturally testable precision?   



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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 4



Co you have the evidence (controlled studies) that support the causalities such a theory proposes?

Causalities? I'm not sure I understand. I'm one who knew DeMause was right simply because it matched my own conclusions from reading history. Sane people don't fight wars, only disturbed people do so, and yet this never got commented on. I knew anthropology was bunk (sorry for the overstatement -- I've been influenced by many gloriously literate anthropologists) when I finally saw some of those initiation rituals I had read so much about. I was watching films of children being tortured, and the narrator, as well as the professor teaching the course, couldn't see the obvious -- these people had no other intention in mind but to brutalize. I knew then this was the problem -- science can't bring you closer to human truths if you're emotionally invested in being obvious to the effects of childhood abuse, your own suffered, childhood abuse.

Have you read all of DeMause? There's a million notes and links to others' studies, if for you that's what's required. (I don't think it hurts, but I personally don't need them. I'll read any old 19th-century text, and feel the entirety of the time within it, just as you could if you took up 1960s Roth or Updike: brilliant, but still sexist and patriarchal.) 

The legitimacy of any inquiry is undermined by pre-screening for a population which shares the 'belief"

No sound inquiry is limited by having it lead by emotionally healthy people. Every inquiry is closer to being doomed when it is lead by a sample that strays from this standard. I realize I'm not quite getting at your challenge, but I haven't quite penetrated it yet. My apologies. I promise to think about it more. 

Is a "more loving fashion" an objective term that has some cross-culturally testable precision?  

Children who were talked to, not hit, children who were respected for their own choices, encouraged to choose their own fates and to believe in their ability to reshape the world -- not daunted by being called "spoiled" -- children who were tended to by both parents (or the plurality that Molly prefers), with abundant time put in by both partners. 

We don't honestly need to test this to know it's better, do we? ... Wouldn't you indeed doubt the full sanity of those who felt the need -- are you alive to the world, or aren't you???

-- Patrick

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Brian
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Mar 4



Patrick, Robert, and all,

Lloyd DeMause has claimed that psychohistory is a science and yet has never pursued the methods of science.  The cherry picking of evidence that fits one’s theory while disregarding evidence that contradicts it is a pitfall that can only be avoided by methods that systematically control for bias.  Random sampling is one such method.  Content analysis of media images or information is another.  To my knowledge, only one controlled study has ever been done on any of Lloyd’s theories and this research did not come from DeMause or his followers; more on that below.  This raises an important question: if deMause’s supporters find his theories so compelling and so self-evidently true, why hasn’t anyone designed research to test these theories?  Until that is done, it is a cop-out to say that people remain skeptical because they are unwilling to confront their own histories of child abuse.  That may be true in some cases, but in all cases people have a right to be skeptical about theories that are put forward on one person’s authority and without controlled research of any kind.

The one controlled study I mentioned was conducted by Ted Goertzel and published in the peer-reviewed journal Political Psychology in 1993.  The study tested deMause’s theory about group fantasies that he claimed caused the 1990-1991 Gulf War.  Here is the link to the study http://crab.rutgers.edu/~goertzel/cartoons.htm and here is the abstract:

ABSTRACT:  A content analysis of imagery in editorial cartoons published from 1989 to 1991 suggests that the primary emotional function of these cartoons is the ritual humiliation of leaders through shame and ridicule. Indulgence and fear are also frequent themes of the cartoons, as are dangerous men, enemies and death. Sexuality, birth and children appear infrequently. Contrary to DeMause's hypothesis, there is no unusual change in the imagery during the period leading up to the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein may have served the American psyche more as a target for externalizing guilt feelings than as a feared enemy. but that does not absolve a person who professes to be founding a science from actually following the methods of science.

Brian

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Brian
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Mar 4



CORRECTION: There was a sentence fragment of mine (“but that does not absolve . . . methods of science.) after the abstract I posted (below) that was not part of the abstract.


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Ken Fuchsman
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Mar 5



Brian,

You are correct that there are a variety of methods of science. What do you think DeMause meant when he said psychohistory was a science?  What scientific standards did he think applied in history?

In the literature on historical methods, controlled studies are rarely mentioned, neither is random sampling, and historians generally do not believe that the materials of their subject enable them to systematically control for bias. 

Psychohistory definitely needs to avoid cherry picking the evidence. Historians regularly will evaluate historical works on the basis of using all the available evidence and often try to discover new evidence. As psychology is divided into so many diverging approaches, it is quite common for psychologists to incorporate findings from their approach and ignore the scholarship from other psychological conceptions. 

Not all historians believe history can base itself on the kinds of scientific methods you mention. There are books written on how historians at some times wanted history to model itself on the sciences but found that was not likely. There are diverging conceptions of what psychological science entails. 

In biology, Ernst Mayr had said that his discipline cannot completely model itself on physics and chemistry, and that biology itself is often closer to history than to other natural sciences. 

As psychohistorians, we are faced with the challenge of coming up with methods of evaluating claims that can take into account that standards in history and psychology may well diverge. Interdisciplines such as psychohistory often face such challenges. 

The issues you raise then can help open the necessary dialogue on what standards of evaluating claims apply to psychohistory. If psychohistory is to come out of the wilderness it currently occupies, it will need to confront the epistemological challenges inherent in being an interdiscipline. 

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J. I. (Hans`) Bakker
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Mar 5 (21 hours ago)



Dear Brian, Ken, and others interested in testing DeMause's research theories, 

I found your use of the term "interdiscipline" quite interesting Ken. You earlier made a distinction between "interdisciplinarity" in general and an "interdiscipline". Psychology and History together form the "interdiscipline" of psychohistory. But for the most part the epistemological assumptions of the discipline of History are quite different from the disciplinary assumptions of the discipline of Psychology. The example of the study that Ted Goertzel did to "test" DeMause's theory of a kind of collective mental disorder is not very convincing from the standpoint of the epistemological rigor often required in the best journals in psychology today. For me the problem lies with the operationalization of the concepts. The cartoons that are shown at the bottom of the page could be interpreted in many different ways. The period of time covered is quite short and does not allow for comparison with times when there was no Saddam Hussein to use as the straw man, boogeyman. 

In the academic discipline of History (as opposed to popular writing in history) there is a standard of rigor based on adequate use of primary sources. (The footnote was first invented as a device by historians who started to actually refer to specific archival documents to substantiate claims about historical events and persons.) 

What would be more convincing to me as a test of DeMause's claim would go outside of the "interdiscipline" of the phrase psychohistory and look at the social psychological aspect of a sociological investigation of public opinion. If people are asked directly about their opinions of cartoons that might be slightly more valid as a test than if it is simply assumed that the general public will be thinking A or B when a specific cartoon is being examined by a researcher. A question like: "What does this cartoon say to you?" might be a beginning. 

How could we ever completely disprove DeMause's theory in general or his specific research theory about cartoons during the specific period studied? I would guess that no complete disproof would be possible. If we found a dozen cartoons that ran counter to his ideas (or if a dozen subjects/respondents said they interpreted them counter to DeMause's assumptions) then we would still not have a "black swan". 

Ideas can be useful and provocative without necessarily being (strictly) "scientific", either in the sense of the physical-natural sciences or even in the expanded sense of the Wissenschaften. 

It is true we need an adequate philosophy of science and philosophy of social science (as well as other aspects of epistemological views), but can that really happen in this group? 

Sincerely, 

Hans    J. I. Bakker  (currently in Boston, having just been in Manhattan for the weekend to attend the Eastern Sociological Society conference). 


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dr.bobstern
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Mar 5 (21 hours ago)



Patrick makes a good point about all-too-human resistance to change. Religions have a particularly nasty time of it, as their ancient "texts" are generally claimed to be "perfect" and "the word of God".  But, of course, in other endeavors, we encounter similar resistances to change (consciously or unconsciously) in our views of "heroes" or "accepted wisdom."  Examples are everywhere.  

--The controversy opened up by Jeffrey Masson re: Freud's "Seduction Theory" is a case in point -- actual child abuse or just fantasy?  How the girls were raised -- or how they IMAGINED they were raised?  Masson doing actual historical investigation from primary documents....or a vendetta against a hero?  

--And, of course, the timeline of resistance to medical science research results on the bacteria/ulcer connection -- skepticism resolved, resistance overcome by the usual, science-based processes.

As far as interesting research attempting to examine causal factors in human development:  Twins and Exercise.

Couldn't similar research be done (perhaps it has been?) to investigate how peri-natal experiences/"loving upbringing" affects genetically identical people as they mature into adults?  

Does the phrase "loving upbringing" have a universally accepted meaning? For example, is raising a child in an environment where "self-esteem" sunshine is constantly blown at them without the child having to associate that feeling with personal engagement -- "loving"?  Or is it a cruel delusion, creating unprepared adults destined to be blindsided by the demands of a relatively impersonal world that cares more about what they do and far less about how they "feel"?

Ripe for study, one would think.

Bob


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Brian
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Mar 5 (18 hours ago)



This responds to Ken, Patrick and Hans.  I think we need to keep in mind the distinction between a mature science like physics and a young science like psychology.  The former can lay claim to laws of nature that can be described mathematically and can make predictions; the latter, not.  Even neuroscience today is not a true science because there is no credible underlying theory about how the brain works.  In the absence of such a theory, we can test all kinds of superficial hypotheses and collect mountains of data but it will not advance true understanding. 

I think that some of deMause’s work does make a contribution to putting psychohistory on the path of becoming a science, but his writings are a mixed bag and it has done more harm than good for the field when deMause and his followers have claimed that his work IS science.  If that were true, it must meet the standards of scientific research which it has not even begun to do.  Ken, I think the scientific theory in Lloyd’s work is the idea that childrearing practices are a major causal factor in explaining historical events and processes.  The current issue of Psychohistory News contains excerpts from a Clio discussion on this subject.  In this discussion, I argued that Adorno et al’s The Authoritarian Personality provided indirect evidence for Lloyd’s psychogenic theory of history (though not for the reductive form in which he stated it).  The article, “How Much Does Childrearing Really Impact History,” is short and I invite anyone interested to read it: http://www.psychohistory.us/resources/IPA_2015_1_winter.pdf  Much, much more empirical work must be done in this area before we can have anything resembling science, but I think the psychogenic theory in some form provides a deep and coherent scientific theory that merits such a program of empirical research.

Ken, The Authoritarian Personality strictly speaking is political psychology, not psychohistory, but it is such an important part of what psychohistorians (at least some of us) need to be thinking about that I don’t know what purpose it serves to say “this is not psychohistory.”  The world and good research often do not fit neatly into the disciplinary boxes (or even the interdisciplines) that universities create for administrative purposes.   

Patrick, you raise an important issue about the need for psychohistorians to connect with our research topics in a personal way.  But it is hard if not impossible to combine this kind of personal involvement with the detachment needed to do replicable scientific research of the sort that Ted Goertzel did.  So we may need to have a division of labor in which different psychohistorians do different kinds of research.  The same issue arises in psychology.  Clinicians need to be reflecting on transferences and countertransferences in order to practice their craft and their contribution to psychology needs to be combined with the very different kind of research done by neuropsychologists, for example.  Freud, in fact, tried to integrate just such disparate contributions from different areas of psychology.  We need to do the same thing.

Hans, I don’t think you are being fair to Ted’s article.  Every researcher needs to choose a methodology and whatever choice they make is going to have strengths and limitations.  In order to do a content analysis, SOMEONE has to code the items.  Once the research has been done, another researcher can look at the coding scheme, criticize it, and propose an alternative that they can argue is better for this or that reason.  Then we can see what difference this makes, if any, for the conclusions of the research.  Ted has done the hard work of collecting a comprehensive data set that can test deMause’s theory and only then can we have a scientific discussion about alternative coding schemes.  Note that no such scientific discussion is possible on the basis of Lloyd’s Gulf War paper because there was no systemic data collection; he only picked cartoons that fit his theory and he provides no information whatsoever about how typical these cartoons were in the media content prior to the Gulf War.  Also, Goertzel’s time frame is quite sufficient to test Lloyd’ theory, which claims that wars are caused by group fantasies that change on a time scale of weeks and months.  I see a number of very serious problems with this theory, but that is another discussion.  Given Lloyd’s theory, Ted’s research provides a reasonable test of it.


Brian

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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 5 (21 hours ago)



Anyone who finds substantial support for DeMause's theories is in a very precarious position. What no psychohistorian will admit about themselves, is that they don't actually want him proven right. They might want to find some corroborating evidence, but with enough of his theories shown up to show once again why DeMause needs to be kept on a very short leash. Let the discipline be lead by those who'd muzzle him. Now, finally, with him "dogged," the rest of his colleagues might count the rest of psychohistory in. (There's an added benefit, which I discuss below.)

What we need is a different intellectual climate. With people who are emotionally ready to accept his ideas, we'll see how many of these studies disproving DeMause were helpful, or just shameful efforts to place themselves within a cozy of historians the rest of the department would admire for keeping the lash on DeMause's back. A shame to the reputation of scientists, a plus to the attraction of kicking the weak and vulnerable. 

Brian is right, Lloyd did talk about psychohistory as a science -- something provable, which I think it is ... or maybe, rather, self-evident, like the fact that there's a sun in the sky. He also talked about people's emotional resistance to accepting truth -- something that would override clear proof, like an internal perpetrator alter overriding youthful reach/impulse. He probably didn't talk enough about it enough. If what you're doing would force people to think about their own childhoods, re-experience the vulnerability and humiliations, if it would force them to think hard on their own relationships with their mothers -- cast doubt on her motives, show her up! -- your efforts are producing exactly the sort of material we established inner alters -- for DeMause, more "internal persecutory alters" than "super-ego" -- in the first place to be on the look for and shut down. 

But as much as the works of his I most re-read are his later works -- Emotional Life of Nations and The Origins of War in Child Abuse -- his later works do show what shaping his discipline so that it would appeal more to the scientific community did to his willingness to take risks, to appear embarrassing, to be inspiring. There are thousands of notes -- every sentence seems to have at least one attached. What there aren't, are references like he has in Foundations of how he himself would curl up into a fetal position in order to experience what people in previous epochs were experiencing. No sign, that is, of anything like this: 

From Foundations: 

Each chapter is a new scientific experiment, in which I try to identify with the actors in the
historical drama and explore my own unconscious as a way of reaching historical motivations. Only if I can
accomplish this inner act of discovery can I move back to new historical material to test the patterns of
motivation and group dynamics I think I have found. As Dilthey recognized long ago, this is the only way
one can do psychohistory. Ultimately, a psyche can only explore itself to discover the motives of another.
The motives of another species, insofar as they are wholly different in kind from ours, are literally
unknowable. It is only by discovering the "Hitler in ourselves" that we can understand a Hitler. If one
denies one has a "Hitler in ourselves," one cannot do psychohistory. I, like Hitler, have been a beaten,
frightened child and a resentful youth. I recognize him in myself, and with some courage can feel in my
own guts the terrors he felt that helped produce the European Gotterddmmerung .

The necessity for plunging into the depths of one's own psyche when doing psychohistorical
research often leads critics to confuse introspection with hallucination. Political psychologist Lloyd
Etheredge admits he can't figure out whether "deMause's work is either that of a bold, visionary genius-or
is wacky enthusiasm for his own excited fantasies." Historian Lawrence Stone wonders on reading my
work how "to solve the problem of how to regard so bold, so challenging, so dogmatic, so enthusiastic, so
perverse, and yet so heavily documented a model." And David Stannard is afraid introspection is only
regression, calling my work "well beyond the fringe of even the most generous definition of scholarship"
because, he says, I do my research by spending" 'hundreds of hours' crawling under the bedclothes with a
two-year-old searching for answers to the riddles of history." Introspection is clearly a dangerous task,
and those who attempt it in psychohistory are likely to be accused of being the sole source of the fantasies
they investigate.

Because introspection is such an important tool in investigating historical motivation the personal
life of a psychohistorian must be intimately connected with his or her choice of topic. "Nothing loved or
hated, nothing understood" is a truism in the psychological sciences. It should surprise no one that during
the decade of my life in which I researched and wrote these chapters I lived through all its topics, writing
about the evolution of childhood during my son's childhood, the origins of war during my divorce, and the
fetal origins of history during my new wife's pregnancy. I could also trace the influence of my first and
second psychoanalysis on these essays, or the development of our Institute for Psychohistory, or of The
Journal of Psychohistory where these essays were first published. All are relevant to discovery. But
ultimately what counts is how well the theory explains the evidence. I methodically study my own dreams
to help me understand both my role in psychohistorical groups and my historical material-because
history, like dreams, makes perfectly good sense when you know its laws of symbolic transformation. Yet
my psychohistorical theories do not derive their truth value from my dreams, but from their power to
explain the shared motives of individuals in historical groups.

When was the last time you heard a social scientist talk about the importance of introspection? How their own childhoods and their own evolving lives were affecting what they needed to make of the material they were studying? Couldn't we do with more people like that, rather than those who add muscle to the fantasy of the scientific reasoner, so disciplined to truth, all the fawning hands trying to mislay her/him to think of career, reputation -- the dangers of unwelcome discoveries --get brushed aside as s/he goes steadfast where the results lead.  

-- Patrick

P.S. It is irresponsible for people to show how DeMause's has been disproved by such and such a study, not to acknowledge what kind of climate would have awaited her if she showed just how much he got right. The person who kept her testing of DeMause to his less aggravating theories -- i.e. those dealing with ostensibly universal theories, like the womb experience; those that don't draw us back to thinking of the particulars of our experiences with mom, how she yelled at us, how she withdrew, when we were already so scared and needful! --  has more room to let the facts prove him right without getting a swat from her peers. But anyone who'd done work to prove things like war and societal Depressions and the nature of international relations actually do relate back to the nature of our relationships with our mothers, has exactly no chance of gaining approval within the scientific community, regardless of facts. They would shame her, they would want to dispose of her. 

Any scientist going in would know this amply, and this student at graduate school who got all As and therefore probably never took any substantial risks and who became ace at sorting out what agitates and what doesn't, doesn't need to be reminded of what happened to graduate students supporting DeMause's research during psychohistory's heady times, when they put their thesises before PhD committees of scared but empowered goons, to make his results fit preference. 

He would feel no guilt, because he'd of done work which waylaid efforts to put the spotlight on mom, and the Terrifying Mom in his own head would be applauding him so much for defeating the enemy, for being, finally, such a very, very good and loyal boy. No guilt, because he was being true to mom, the originator, rather than to the permitted play of those already subordinate to her (scientists), always cooperating with her orders to make sure never to do anything which pisses her off. 

We create a new climate ... I'll start taking a look at these studies, but not when it's being done by people who'll need approval and can't handle the apocalypse of being on the out. We need those who read DeMause and finally note that everywhere he talks about mom ... shouldn't first step be introspection on our relationship with her, including it within all our studies? If it's just wombs, how pumps of good blood then bad blood affect us, how the swoosh of expulsion affects us, how far are we from a discipline in which autistics who know figures and diagrams and who feel comfortable with mechanical parts and no doubt also with Disney rides, but can't reflect on their own emotional experience, take the lead? Here, we're exploring what it is to be born within the dynamics of a washing cycle, not what it was to bear the anger and rejection of our mothers.


-- Patrick

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dr.bobstern
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Mar 5 (19 hours ago)



Patrick,

Any discipline that does not welcome skepticism is, frankly, not engaged in anything remotely resembling science.  An intellectual climate of "acceptance" runs the risk of being a wolf in sheep's clothing -- it appears to value ingenuousness over rigor.  By all means consider hypotheses, no matter how strange.  But, don't just buy them as presented.  Which brings me to this:

"....Lloyd did talk about psychohistory as a science -- something provable, which I think it is ... or maybe, rather, self-evident, like the fact that there's a sun in the sky."


Anything that appears "self-evident" needs to be examined.  "The sun is in the sky" is about as profound an insight as "the sun moves in the sky."  

Of course, the sun isn't "in the sky"any more than it actually "moves in the sky."  The strange idea that the Earth rotates on an axis and orbits around a Sun in a heliocentric solar system is one that is not self-evident.   But, nevertheless, those insights are a greater approximation to the "truth" of the matter.

Perhaps DeMausse's insights are like Galileo's -- but,there are ways to establish that.  Ad hominems and appeals to "the self-evident" aren't winners.

Bob

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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 5 (19 hours ago)




Perhaps DeMausse's insights are like Galileo's -- but,there are ways to establish that.  Ad hominems and appeals to "the self-evident" aren't winners.

Sure, because those who just go about their testing and find he is in fact equivalent to Galileo(!), aren't going to require some cleared ground first. See, yes sir, it turns out the facts do lend toward supporting DeMause's supposition that the nature of international relations depends almost entirely on whether or not the participants were cared for or abandoned by their mothers -- We have here on our hands the next evolution of philosophical thought!!! May I, sir, entertain you with the data ...

I think not: some safe hippie-Berkeley confines are going to have to be created for them, with all its effective -- and earned -- anti-establishment heat. Back off, suits!

And besides, I'm just calling it like it is. Self-evident, was calling it like it is. 

-- Patrick 

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me (Patrick McEvoy-Halston change)
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Mar 5 (18 hours ago)



Third and last post today. 

I actually have some faith that you could, if the facts warranted it, declare DeMause the next Galileo, without any ground needing to be cleared for you -- I think you could handle whatever the fall. Genuinely, kudos! That's the way to be -- an enviable powerhouse.

There are too many encouragements however for the young to play it safe -- we've done everything we can to tame their instinct to be radical, to balk authority and really change things ... so this student debt-ridden, austerity culture, this cling-to-whatever-you've-got culture we live in. If you're smart and got an angle on a place within academia that might actually pay, you're nipping your instinct to be radical in the bud, be sure! Somehow, your thesis is going to align with expectations -- however much your supervisors are delighting in it's rather-easy-for-them-to-assimilate ostensible brilliance. (One suspects it's all about keeping their own self image intact, since it should be harder to daly at conferences and enjoy life's sweets ... while ceding easy accolades to ongoing flows of intellectual Robespierres -- at least some signs of indigestion, no?)

The least I can do is remind them of how good it feels to speak and pursue life in an uninhibited fashion. Some might say, you know what? that feels good enough that I'll forsake my safe path through this punishing period, and become potentially just a loser to everyone who knows me, to be like that, to know myself like that

And so with that, you might see terrific, innovative, youthful scientific/artistic movements emerge out of those periods of time where a dramatic show was intended to be made of how all the pretentious "spoiledness" in youthfulness was going to be sacrificed.

Respectfully,

Patrick

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