Cognition, Dialectics, Whatever (Once was "Guilt, Shame and Coercion plus a little Gramsci")

K d-m-c at
Thu Oct 22 13:21:39 PDT 1998

Paul wrote:
>I don't want that focus to overshadow the general

I agreed w/ much that you said as well.

>however. I could have written a post 3 times
this long amplifying and extending all

'Pologies if I wrote too much. I composed that in bits in pieces in two 4 a.m. sittings while waking up. Probably not a good time to write.

>I agree with this POV, and I'm trying to get at
what this means in terms
>of how we think. Doyle posits an absolute
disjunction of reason and
>emotion -- I reject that.

In both his first and second posts, though, I think he was trying to say that he does recognize that they can't be separated in practice. What he's saying, as I read him, is that thought/reason/ cognition and emotion/feelings, or ather the brain functions that are posited as the physical 'sources' of these phenom are located in separate physical places and this must matter. How, I'm not sure.

>Yes, but completely ignoring what happens on the
level of
>neurophysiology is uwise for several reasons.

I LOVE you, Paul. Big smooches from SnitgrrRl. Agreed very much that we shouldn't dismiss the very ideas that get conservatives' drawers in a bind. And, I do see *some* reasons for taking neuropsych findings seriously. It's not my intellectual interest and probably never will be. But, I don't dismiss it out of hand. I don't get snitty when I think that people naturalize biological arguments which I think are much more prevalent than you. But I let the cognitive sci folks alone to do their work

A division of labor is a 'good thing'

(in the same way that fresh-baked bread is a good thing for Martha Stewart.)

>Pure instinct says....

Heh. :-)

>(4) The neurophysiology of cognition/emotion
supports a dialectical, as
>opposed to a bourgoise conception of science.
The divide between
>bourgoise and dialectical science can be
construed in terms of
>positivism vs. pragmatism (objectivism vs.
constructivism). The former
>defines self-reflexive critical inquiry as
nonscience and even (most
>obviously in logical positivism) as nonsense,
while the latter accepts
>such inquiry as a pluralistically valid purpose.

Now you've lost me. How can neurophysiology readily support a dialectical scientific project rather than a bourgeois one. What is it about neurophys that it seems on this statement is *automatically* dialectical?

I've garnered much of my critique of rationalist science from the work of Habermas, Brian Fay's , Social Theory and Political Practice and Richard Bernstein. Any recommends for my reading list next summer?

I kinda like Fay's argument best. He's trained in analytical phil, but draws on Habermas's framework. I've read others, though nothing about cognitive science which is not really my field. I just dabble. Dilletante-like. Fay argues that it's not simply that science is an ideological construct in the service of capitalist class relations because scientists can't really be 'objective' or some similar sorts of arguments. Rather, Fay argues that the very logic of positvism is *conceptually related* to a kind of social engineering policy science. Now, Fay follows Habermas' work on science, as do I for the most part, so he does dialectically work toward an argument for an emacipatory science that utilizes positivism and hermeneutics (and he doesn't let the social constructionists off the hook either), but doesn't reduce knowledge to either enterprise. I'm being terse and to the point here, assuming a common knowledge/language. More later, if clarification is needed. I think that this might be a response to the concerns you pose in closing.

My polemics were motivated by the sense that, as you note, "there is a persistent fantasy that denies" that feelings and thoughts are socially constructed and I'd add, that also denies that its a good thing that two are interrelated. But the fantasy is very much an obdurate nightmare in my view. I think that the problem is that everyone realizes that they are intertwined, but in an ideal world this wouldn't be the case. Procedures of science are techniques designed to keep emotions separate from scientific thinking, so they don't infest pure science with the nasty germs of human emotion, morality,. and political commitment. Separating the logic of discovery from the logic of justification and all that good stuff. On this view, if we could just think without the confusion of emotion (and others would say, ethical-political commitments as well) then we'd have a better world all 'round.

And, of course, what's been left out of this discussion, though it was included early on, is the capacity for moral reasoning. And *that* is what most concerns me most about recourse to brain research in order to understand how thought and/or emotion 'work' or fail to 'work'

>> ...<best damn fish story I've heard since Moby
Dick excised here>...

That was his very first saltwater fish! I'll send you the photos.

>I agree with this objection completely, but...
>..I want to caution against throwing the baby out
with the bathwater.

NEWSFLASH: The Society for Eliminating Archaic Expressions (SEAP) notes that this one's been tossed in the dustbin long ago. Please substitute: We shouldn't throw the baby out with the dirty diaper. No one throws bathwater out anymore. They let it whirl down the drain. SEAP duly notes, for all you nitpickers, that no one tosses things into the dust bin anymore nor do we know anyone who picks nits. But hey one archaic expression at a time.

Sorry, couldn't resist. It's Friday! (for me)

But seriously, you are entirely right. My polemic was inspired by my completely socially constructed desire to protect academic turf. We sociologists are being attacked on all sides. First the English Lit people, then the Cultural Studs people, now the sociobiologists (again). I've got to make sure that I will have a discipline intact so I can a 'real' job someday, Paul. But there are reasons as well.

>Neuropsych should be expceted to provide an
explanation which any
>radical leftist theories should be compatible

Well, if you reject positivism on the basis of Fay's argument--because of the policy formulation that such a social science not just *implies* or *might* lead to but will inevitably lead to social engineering policies because of the logic of scientific cause and effect thinking, then the positivist framework that cognitive research draws on is a problem. The knowledge produced by such a science lends itself to a social engineering policy science which I view as fundamentally undemocratic--in the expansive sense of that word. I recognize that positivist research need not be thought completely useless--'else why would I have bothered to cite social research in the first place!! However, the political context within which positivism is privileged --in the extreme--, demands that we point out its weaknesses. ESPECIALLY when my interlocutor feels the need to maintain that the moral--what I prefer to call the ethical-political--is the domain of non-marxist theorists. Gets me in a snit.

> Such
>biologically-based explanations should NOT be
expected to fully explain
>or determine what requires a
cultural/historical/economic level of
>analysis, and if they attempt to do so, this
should be taken as prima
>facia evidence that such explanations are

Oh but don't you find that so many times that is precisely what is going on here--an attempt to lay the foundation for explaining human behavior, social interaction, and more macro-social phenomena?

>This is the kind of false dichotomy I want to
warn against. It's not
>either/or, it's both/and.
Feeling/emotion/cognition both resides in the
>brain (although this locution involving the
container metaphor is
>problematic to say the least, we can let it pass
for now) AND is
>culturally defined and learned. Any approach
which does not embrace
>that duality is inherently flawed.

Yes. I thought I had taken care to say that: "There may be a humanly shared physical basis to those emotions, but people have 'cutlure'" Of course, I got increasingly less measured in the rest of my post, but I do recognize that there are biological/physical bases to human behavior and, indeed, I prefer that research which shows that the physical and the social interact. While some found it scary and rejected it on the basis of fears about the social engineering potential of the research, I was intrigued by the study that came out several years ago which suggested that the brain changes physical characteristics depending on the social conditions under which someone had been raised. Or somesuch. Perhaps you recall what I'm referring to?

> but logically if they (shame and guilt)
>were, it would be quite possible for them to
appear developmentally
>regardless of the outside world.

Have you ever read Eli Sagan's work on this. I can't recall the title of the book. It was published around 1989/90. But before I get into it too far, could you explain how you think it would be possible for shame and guilt to develop regardless of the outside world? Not quite sure what you mean. No social world, I don't think its possible. I'm assuming that you're referring to the particular social circumstances that characterize the outside world: the kind of family, the division of labor in that family, community, society, and so forth.

>Time is not the same as arithmetic. Nor do
different ways of measuring
>time negate its objective existence. The moon
was orbiting the Earth,
>going through its phases long before our ancient
ancestors struggled out
>of the primal ooze.

Uhh huh. But we don't have a leap year for nothing.

I'm not suggesting that there is no material basis upon which things like time and logic are conceptually built. I am suggesting, though, that there is no reason to formulate human thought in terms of mathematical logic which I think Doyle uses to refer to A not A reasoning Maybe we're light years ahead because of these discoeries, but then I think that Aristotle had much right already in Physus. Don't ask me to defend that statement right now. I apologize for not being to call up this info since I stopped studying this kind of philosophy quite a while ago and only had an undergrad handle on it anyway, but I do recall arguments to the effect that logic was a system of thought that was developed in a kind of opposition to pagan thought systems. And it was very much connected to the development of a system of measures that sliced up the physical-spatial world in precise ways. So, it's political on some views and Doyle's post naturalized it. I cannot, however, call up the arguments against the position you're taking in their specificity as all my books are in storage.

I am though certainly rejecting what I really read to be Doyle's reasons for calling up the term "mathematical logic"-- cause/effect logic of positivist and neo-positvist science

>Finally, I'd like to point out that this is NOT
totally irrelevent to
>the subject matter of LBO. The basic laws of
neoclassical economics are
>based on assumptions about human nature, which
are in part cognitive

You're the MAN Paul. You see right through me. Scary. I giggled about this as I typed, because I know none of the econo-drones are reading right now but I was secretly hoping that they might get persnickety. So, while I did know that I was skating on this ice with the grocery store and time examples, I was hoping that it'd stir the pot a bit.

Best, SnitgrrRl

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