Conceptual Confusion in Psychology - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#14715010
On the concluding page of what is now called ‘Part II’ of the Investigations, Wittgenstein wrote

The confusion and barrenness of psychology is not to be explained by calling it a “young science”; its state is not comparable with that of physics, for instance, in its beginnings. (Rather with that of certain branches of mathematics. Set theory.) For in psychology there are experimental methods and conceptual confusion. (As in the other case, conceptual confusion and methods of proof.)
The existence of the experimental method makes us think we have the means of solving the problems that trouble us; though problem and method pass one another by. (PI p. 232)
http://info.sjc.ox.ac.uk/scr/hacker/docs/Relevance%20of%20W's%20phil.%20of%20psychol.%20to%20science.pdf


1. The Curious State Of Psychology: Empirical Expansion but Theoretical Disarray

Psychology is flourishing. It is a hugely popular subject for study. In application it finds its way into all corners of modern life. In empirical research there seems hardly a topic that the many thousands of research psychologists in departments around the world do not investigate. And the development of varied and sophisticated techniques, from statistical modelling and multivariate analyses, to computer-aided content analysis, to nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, is extending its reach into areas inaccessible just a few decades ago. The sheer volume of research output is enormous, with some 200,000 references added annually to the American Psychological Association’s data base.

Yet, paradoxically, psychology is also struggling. Despite the volume of empirical research, psychology is no grand monolith rising on a foundation of common psychological knowledge and theory. The median readership of those 200,000 references is a mere 1. And alongside the rapid expansion of the discipline there is a morass of conflicting theories together with, for the most part, an insouciance about the matter. Indeed, psychology is not so much one discipline as many, a large, disparate and sprawling enterprise, whose subdomains, ranging from cultural studies to brain science, depend on concepts of mind, action and person so various that they are almost unrecognisable as part of the same venture. In Kuhnian terms, psychology is still as described half a century ago, “pre-paradigmatic”(Kuhn, 1962). And as every student of psychology soon realises,there is little cohesion across the theories that are encountered in psychology's different subdomains. Psychology is a veritable boomtown with scores of rambling unconnected buildings, some once fashionable but abandoned, others planned but never built, some large, many small, in different regions isolated from one another.Perhaps a more apposite analogy would be that of a thriving circus.As P. T. Barnum reportedly said of his “greatest show on earth”: "a good circus should have a little bit of something for everyone". Psychology certainly qualifies.

http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2098&context=hbspapers


Do you agree with Wittgenstein about the state of psychology? Is it that psychology has been conceptually confused and this confusion is yet to be resolved?
OR
Is the idea it'll sort itself out once we develop some sort of comprehensive and dominant school of psychological thought, that all others will become obsolete true?

And if it is conceptually confused, why is it? Is it because we haven't properly addressed the philosophy of the mind? What do you think this means for the future of psychology? Are you optimistic that these barriers can be overcome in time or will psychology and our understanding of ourselves be thoroughly confused and limited for the distant foreseeable future?
Is psychology limited by the philosophical underpinnings of the hard sciences and in need of a new paradigm to explore the subjectivity of human psychology that is possibly beyond the limits of empiricism and rationalism?
#14715059
I think it has become conceptually confused and would say that this is due to it being framed wholly as a science such as physics, chemistry etc. Two reasons for this are that you get more funding if you look like a science, and another is that such a framing is more pleasing to the modern materialist mindset.

I say it has become conceptually confused, but really I think that is inherent in the field ie, we can't be science subjects and experimenters at the same time, a separation is necessary for those other sciences. There is also the fact that one does not really need a lab, equipment, funding, colleagues or an institution to do psychology, just one's senses, critical thinking skills and some rigour to do valuable work (ie 'in the field'), this really bypasses the rigid pyramidical structure that other sciences have (unavoidably) come to exist in.

There needn't be a problem though, this only comes from trying to force it into the too-small box of science.. treat it as unique subject in it's own right and that dissonance disappears. It's big enough to exist as a subject in it's own right, in fact it's huge.

(a good start has been made by placing this under 'Philosophy')
#14754219
I found a article here that asserts that Wittgenstein’s thought as a rejection of essentialism, anti-reducitonist and non-systematic when applied to science of the mind reveals confusion from essentialist, referentialist and reductionist assumptions.

It's first discussion of causality I think is also touched upon in previous OP paper under '2.3.3 Determinism and a Field/Network Approach to Causality.'.
Where a problem of transcribing philosophical assumptions of natural sciences to that of the human subject breaks how causality is conceived of as interaction between two independent entities. Where mental processes are treated as independent entities and a relation simultaneously resulting in contradiction.
But psychology generally fails to work through the fact that cognition is a relation, and mental talk, especially that in psychological theory, also treats cognitions as if they were things in the mind, indeed in the brain, internal to the person, specifiable independently of anything outside the person. Indeed, modern psychological theory, with its functionalist philosophy, proceeds in direct contradiction of the logic of relations. It explicitly defines mental processes by their relations (functions). Yet simultaneously it attempts to treat mental “things” and processes as independent entities with measurable dimensions—exactly like the entities of the natural sciences we wish to emulate—because this is what is required for events to be causes in a properly causal, scientific psychology. Hence, in this cognitivist scheme beliefs (cognitions) are simultaneously, and impossibly, treated on the one hand as if they are entities that occupy space and time, specifically within the mind/brain, may be measured, may be causes or effects of other independently occurring events, and on the other as defined by their relations.


The article itself focuses on the assumption that neural processes are correlated/associated with thinking. And...
Even if assuming a system of impulses going out from the brain is correlated with thoughts, this does not provide reason to think these thoughts would proceed systematically. It is plausible that certain psychological phenomena cannot be investigated physiologically, as physiologically nothing corresponds to them: as Wittgenstein states this assumption begs the question; “why should there not be a psychological regularity to which no physiological regularity corresponds?”[2]


This is the sort of bold assumption that makes pretty dubious recent fMRI based research in which what is scanned is thought to somehow accurately represent what the person reports of their internal thoughts.
Plenty of scientists during this period were swept up by the excitement of probing the activity in people’s brains to locate the regions or areas responsible for different mental behaviours. The emerging field of fMRI seemed to give us a special insight into the mind, but the methods involved are often rudimentary or extremely questionable.

Participants are routinely asked to “do nothing” or “think about nothing” while their “baseline” brain activity is recorded by the MRI machine. This baseline is then compared against their results during the experimental task, often in a very crude way. Researchers will simply subtract the baseline activation from the task activation, assuming that this will leave them with only the task activation, removing all the background noise. Researchers also frequently use mathematical tweaking to produce results that look good on a “heat map” by removing data that are “noisy” and don’t cluster neatly on the hotspots of activation.

In one famous example of the flaws of fMRIs, researchers used a dead salmon as their fMRI subject. The salmon was shown a series of images of various human social situations, designed to evoke an emotional response. The researchers found that, using the standard methods employed by neuroscientists and psychologists, the dead salmon responded to the images, illustrating the insanely high false-positive rate of fMRI research.

On a deeper theoretical level, it is rarely assumed anymore that discrete brain regions “do” any particular task. More and more evidence is emerging that distributed networks, graphical and topological features of the whole brain, and other kinds of non-localizable processes are what actually drive our mental life.

And this is a pretty significant assumption that has to be defended for the validity of a lot psychological research. This friction goes back to father of experimental psychology, Wilhelm Wundt, who engaged in the first debates of whether psychological research, the empirical investigation of the human subject, was even possible. So perhaps from the very beginning it was on shaky foundations and never adequately resolved them.

Then comes next from the article is the matter of reductivism, which is summarized as
the method of reducing the explanation of phenomena to the smallest possible number of primitive natural laws.
which Wittgenstein is claimed to go for the an alternative route...
For Wittgenstein complexity, rather than reduction to ‘essences’ is the route to conceptual clarification.
.
The problem here of course is that much of the internal is simply ignored and thus our understanding diminished. That we may find simplicity useful but should distrust it and realize it isn't the whole truth. A good example of this would be the Big 5 personality theory which might be interesting in its descriptive classification but doesn't really explain all too much about human personality.
And from this reductivism comes a presumption for systematization in psychology, that psychology could somehow build up a series of psychological laws like that of physics. But to Wittgenstein's POV, the experimental designs already exist, the problem is the conceptualizations are confused and from this confusion comes distorted interpretations of data.

Relating back to the point of thinking internal things as independent entities, the article goes onto speak of referentialism. Which is the the notion that a word refers to a thing in the world, this becomes problematic in psychology when dealing with things internal to a subject in whcih concepts become reified. From this we can thus see how there can be the confusion of treating mental processes as entities and thus causing a confused sense of causality.

Next comes the essentialism within psychology which is found in the belief that psychology investigates a single and essential psychological process. So a term like intelligence is muddled between being used in a technical sense to being used in an everyday sense. Terms like this, along with things like memory, consciousness and other psychological concepts are confused in their usage. The problem here is without adequately resolving what these things mean in a technical sense and finding a standardized meaning, then it becomes difficult if not impossible to agree to a means in which to investigate these aspects of the subject. Even operantional definitions are thought still problematic for their reliance on everyday beliefs. Essentialist beliefs thus go unchecked. communication of concepts confused and the validity of research entirely undermined if they are meant to be replicating research or building upon it.

They suggest that the positive route out of some of this is Wittgenstein's conception of meaning in 'use'.
Wittgenstein’s critique of psychology is not entirely destructive; he holds that we may still understand human psychology; however, to do so we must dispel misleading conceptual tendencies entrenched in psychologists practice. Wittgenstein has been incredibly influential on current trends in critical psychology, and central to the development of ‘social therapy’ a method, endeavouring to move away from causal connections between mental and physical acts and to help people get free from some of the constraints of language and the conceptual confusions that permeate everyday life.[22] Wittgenstein’s conception of meaning as ‘use’ informs such a view, and provides an avenue for dispelling that very conceptual confusion. All the preceding critiques fit Wittgenstein’s overarching approach to meaning as ‘use’ and endeavour to achieve clarity about the meaning of ordinary propositions by attaining a surveyable representation of our use of words. Hence the avenue for replacing essentialism and referentialism involves considering the diversity of kinds of words and there uses. We have seen how these themes inform his critique of psychology.


Seems it might be good to look more into Wittgenstein, I have seen his influence in some cognitive psychology, as I had been exposed to his ideas before I even knew of him or his work. In fact, such an exposure was instrumental in helping me begin to question essentialism and become more comfortable with the difficulty to see such a stable essentialism in many things.
#14754242
Do you not think the actual practice of psychology/psychiatry has rendered this argument moot? Psychiatry has become totally physical while psychology has become providing individuals with a vocabulary to understand what they are feeling. There can be no one psychology because each person needs a different vocabulary?
#14754543
One Degree wrote:Do you not think the actual practice of psychology/psychiatry has rendered this argument moot? Psychiatry has become totally physical while psychology has become providing individuals with a vocabulary to understand what they are feeling. There can be no one psychology because each person needs a different vocabulary?

Not really, as I think the criticism seems more at psychological research, where treating patients probably comes down to some sense of pragmatism with a theoretical justification if one is even needed.
I'm thinking now the point about there being many schools of thought detracts from what is perhaps the direct criticism and its focus from the Wittgenstein quote. Which I'm not sure is a desire to resolve the many schools of thought, but is more about the idea that improving experimental designs will somehow bring clarity to psychological research for things that are beyond their implications of experimental methods.
For example, the fMRI didn't somehow magically resolve many debates, if anything it spurred further discussion around epistemology on how and what valid evidence fMRIs could create.
So the later article speaks about a confusion on what something like intelligence is or means and how it can be investigated for example. The idea being that it can't be resolved by any fancy new gadget, but must be resolved from examining the philosophical assumptions that underpin ones psychological research. Which are criticized as having problematic elements of referentialism, essentialism, reductivism and mistaken applications of the concept of causality.

The practice of treating clients is perhaps indirectly related but more likely distant to the issue being raised since its concern would likely be research that somehow effects treatment and working with clients. But psychology isn't limited to treating psychological pathologies but researching the human subject in the broadest sense. And what is put in practice would still require theorizing, many things are done without any adequate explanation as to why they work or with many competing explanations, but that is probably of little concern for the practitioner than it is for the researcher or philosopher. Unless the practitioner has it in them to make broad conceptualizations based on their work like the big names like Carl Rogers.
#14754544
Thank you for the explanation and for being so polite about me leaving out a large part of psychology. :moron: :)
#14758590
Wellsy wrote:Do you agree with Wittgenstein about the state of psychology? Is it that psychology has been conceptually confused and this confusion is yet to be resolved?
OR
Is the idea it'll sort itself out once we develop some sort of comprehensive and dominant school of psychological thought, that all others will become obsolete true?

And if it is conceptually confused, why is it? Is it because we haven't properly addressed the philosophy of the mind? What do you think this means for the future of psychology? Are you optimistic that these barriers can be overcome in time or will psychology and our understanding of ourselves be thoroughly confused and limited for the distant foreseeable future?
Is psychology limited by the philosophical underpinnings of the hard sciences and in need of a new paradigm to explore the subjectivity of human psychology that is possibly beyond the limits of empiricism and rationalism?


It's always going to be a difficult science, because so many of the mind's processes are unobservable.

It's amazing they've come as far as they have.
#14758601
anna wrote:It's always going to be a difficult science, because so many of the mind's processes are unobservable.

It's amazing they've come as far as they have.


Indeed, as well as the fact that the human brain did not evolve to understand itself. We still don't really understand consciousness. We don't know exactly what dreams are, why they happen, and what they mean, if anything (although we have plenty of competing ideas, some more convincing than others). We don't even understand what hypnosis is.

In more concrete fields, even something like developmental psychology consists of competing ideas.

Psychology is a science, but it is (in my opinion) the most fascinating one because it is, arguably, the most speculative one. The amount we don't know is truly staggering.
#14758605
Bulaba Jones wrote:Indeed, as well as the fact that the human brain did not evolve to understand itself. We still don't really understand consciousness. We don't know exactly what dreams are, why they happen, and what they mean, if anything (although we have plenty of competing ideas, some more convincing than others). We don't even understand what hypnosis is.

In more concrete fields, even something like developmental psychology consists of competing ideas.

Psychology is a science, but it is (in my opinion) the most fascinating one because it is, arguably, the most speculative one. The amount we don't know is truly staggering.


Very true. I'm finishing up a degree in psychology, and my favorite classes were in neuroscience. The mind is so infinitely complex, it's simply staggering. I've wavered between agnosticism and belief all throughout because one part of me says how can such a indescribably magnificent thing as the human mind have evolved without a Designer, and the other part of me keeps it all squarely in the science that I'm studying.

As for hypnosis - we were hypnotized in one of my classes on stress, trauma and PTSD, and it took all the mystery out of it for me. :)
#14758713
anna wrote:It's always going to be a difficult science, because so many of the mind's processes are unobservable.

It's amazing they've come as far as they have.

This is certainly an interesting tension that I assume needs to be adequately defended to legitimize a lot of psychological research, the validity of introspection.
https://epistemicepistles.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/a-wittgensteinian-critique-of-conceptual-confusion-in-psychological-research/
The attempt to relate mental events to neural and cortical processes is informed by a view of the mental on which through ‘introspection’ a person is able to report on a mental event or process, which a psychologist can then correlate with neural processes. James,[3] a leading figure in early experimental psychology, endorses such a picture of introspection; as looking into one’s own mind and reporting what we there discover. However this is the conception of mind Wittgenstein argues adheres to insufficiently grounded assumptions:[4] primarily the assumption that neural states or processes can be inductively correlated with mental attributes on the basis of an individual’s introspective reports. Wittgenstein questions introspections’ status, arguing it is not a form of perceptual observation, but rather a type of reflection on motives and on their explanation. It can as often lead to self deception as self-knowledge. As such it is wrong to suppose that the ‘states’ and ‘events’ than an individual introspectively attempts to report can actually be correlated with neural events, states and processes. Psychologists cannot study mental phenomena directly without their interpretation being distorted by both the subjects and their own bias. As such misplaced notions of causal connections skew the interpretation of research data.


This sort of thing really goes back to the very beginning of experimental psychology.
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wilhelm-wundt/
Psychology, as a part of philosophy, had already several times changed the way it defined its object: as “soul”, “mental substance”, “mind”, etc. By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many regarded psychology to be the account of consciousness or “inner experience”, distinct from the natural scientific accounts of external, sensible reality. After having dealt the coup de grâce to the speculative, rational, a priori psychology of the soul epitomized by Christian Wolff, however, Kant tried to cut off any retreat into the empirical study of consciousness, as well. In the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, he argued that empirical psychology cannot be an exact science because the phenomena it seeks to explain are not mathematically expressible (Kitcher 1990: 11). Moreover, it can never become an experimental science “because it is not possible to isolate different thoughts” (Kitcher 1990: 11). Finally, and most fatally, the only access to the phenomena of inner experience, introspection, ipso facto alters those phenomena: if I try, by introspection, to study what it’s like to be tristful, the phenomena of my sadness are now something different, namely, phenomena of my sadness-being-studied-by-me (Kitcher 1990: 11). Thus psychologists found their object declared beyond the limit of possible investigation and their methods vain. While such arguments did not persuade all of Kant’s successors of the hopelessness of their enterprise, their attempts were unpromising. On the one hand, the German Idealists’ fanciful speculation about Geist collapsed upon itself. On the other hand, the efforts of J.F. Herbart to devise a mathematical mental mechanics suggested a possible way forward although in the end it proved equally fruitless. Thus, for those mid-nineteenth-century enthusiasts of mental phenomena, the future of a genuine psychology seemed blocked.


Wundt tried to argue for the ability of introspection to be a valid means of investigating the internal.
Nevertheless, Wundt repeatedly addresses the objections raised against the very possibility of psychological, as opposed to physiological or psychophysical, experimentation. How are we to subject the mind-body complex to physiological stimulation such that the reactions may be given a purely psychological interpretation? From the physiological point of view, experimentation with stimulus and response are not experiments of sensation, but of externally observable excitations and reactions of nerve and muscle tissue. For example, a nerve fiber or a skin surface may be given an electric shock or brought into contact with acid, and twitches of muscle fiber are observed to follow. It is obvious, especially when the nerve-tissue in question belongs to a dead frog (Wundt describes such an experiment in PP), that these experiments say nothing about the “inner” experience or consciousness of sensation. Wundt’s innovation is the attempt to project the experimental rigor of physiology into the domain of inner experience by supplementing these experiments with a purely psychological set of procedures. These procedures constitute Wundt’s well-known yet misunderstood method of Selbstbeobachtung, i.e. “introspection” or, better, “self-observation”.

Because “inner” distinguishes itself from “external” experience by virtue of its immediacy, all psychology must begin with self-observation, so that physiological experiment is given an ancillary function (Boring 1950: 320–21). Now Wundt is well aware of the common criticism that self-observation seems inescapably to involve the paradoxical identity (described in the previous section) of the observing subject and observed object. Indeed, he takes pains to distinguish his notion of self-observation from that of “most advocates of the so-called empirical psychology”, which he calls “a fount of self-delusions [Selbsttäuschungen]”:

Since in this case the observing subject coincides with the observed object, it is obvious that the direction of attention upon these phenomena alters them. Now since our consciousness has less room for many simultaneous activities the more intense these activities are, the alteration in question as a rule consists in this: the phenomena that one wishes to observe are altogether suppressed [i.e., by the activity of focused attention upon them]. (L III: 162)

Wundt believes that one can experimentally correct for this problem by

using, as much as possible, unexpected processes, processes not intentionally adduced, but rather such as involuntarily present themselves [sich darbieten]. (L III: 162)[19]

In other words, it is in the controlled conditions of a laboratory that one can, by means of experimenter, experimental subject, and various apparatus, arbitrarily and repeatedly call forth precisely predetermined phenomena of consciousness. The psychologist is not then interested in the psychophysical connections between the somatic or nervous sense-mechanisms and the elicited “inner” phenomena, but solely in describing, “and where possible measuring”, the psychological regularities that such experiments can reveal, viz., regular causal links within the domain of the psychic alone (L III: 165). According to Wundt, psychological experiments thus conceived accomplish in the realm of consciousness precisely what natural-scientific experiments do in nature: they do not leave consciousness to itself, but force it to answer the experimenter’s questions, by placing it under regulated conditions. Only in this way is

a [psychological] observation [as opposed to a mere perception {Wahrnehmung}] at all possible in the scientific sense, i.e., the attentive, regulated pursuit of the phenomena. (L III: 165)[20]


But Wundt's idea of introspection is of course rather particular and so variations and discussions on the limits of introspection as a method of inquiry should be debated and under what conditions.

A lack of direct observation does reduce the capacity for empiricism within psychology as much as it often seeks to be empirical. But it would seem to me that like many experiments, that things can be better understood indirectly which does give a limited avenue to somethings we might be able to understand about humans. But is certainly unclear to me to what extent introspection can be validated as I am certainly skeptical to any conscious attribution I make from introspection.
Some experiments have made me doubt the confidence I could have to any rationale I provide to why I feel the way I do at any given time due to being unable to properly account for all the thing that may act on me without my conscious awareness.
#14758767
A lack of direct observation does reduce the capacity for empiricism within psychology as much as it often seeks to be empirical. But it would seem to me that like many experiments, that things can be better understood indirectly which does give a limited avenue to somethings we might be able to understand about humans. But is certainly unclear to me to what extent introspection can be validated as I am certainly skeptical to any conscious attribution I make from introspection.
Some experiments have made me doubt the confidence I could have to any rationale I provide to why I feel the way I do at any given time due to being unable to properly account for all the thing that may act on me without my conscious awareness.


Despite it's flaws, do you not believe introspection, especially directed by a professional, allows us to better understand ourselves? Does not honest introspection improve upon our understanding of self with time and effort? I find those who have not walked this path to be shallow people, dependent upon outside sources for their identity. I will apologize in advance if I am confusing a discussion of research with clinical practice, but I was curious as to your views on this.
#14758822
One Degree wrote:Despite it's flaws, do you not believe introspection, especially directed by a professional, allows us to better understand ourselves? Does not honest introspection improve upon our understanding of self with time and effort? I find those who have not walked this path to be shallow people, dependent upon outside sources for their identity. I will apologize in advance if I am confusing a discussion of research with clinical practice, but I was curious as to your views on this.


One problem with introspection is that there's no way to be sure that one's introspection is "honest."

Or that one's judgment of whether another has 'walked a path' adequately is any more honest - or accurate.

It's not easy to recognize our own biases because our own filters protect us from seeing them.
#14758824
Wellsy wrote:This is certainly an interesting tension that I assume needs to be adequately defended to legitimize a lot of psychological research, the validity of introspection.
https://epistemicepistles.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/a-wittgensteinian-critique-of-conceptual-confusion-in-psychological-research/


This sort of thing really goes back to the very beginning of experimental psychology.
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wilhelm-wundt/


Wundt tried to argue for the ability of introspection to be a valid means of investigating the internal.

But Wundt's idea of introspection is of course rather particular and so variations and discussions on the limits of introspection as a method of inquiry should be debated and under what conditions.

A lack of direct observation does reduce the capacity for empiricism within psychology as much as it often seeks to be empirical. But it would seem to me that like many experiments, that things can be better understood indirectly which does give a limited avenue to somethings we might be able to understand about humans. But is certainly unclear to me to what extent introspection can be validated as I am certainly skeptical to any conscious attribution I make from introspection.
Some experiments have made me doubt the confidence I could have to any rationale I provide to why I feel the way I do at any given time due to being unable to properly account for all the thing that may act on me without my conscious awareness.


On the bolded part - I agree with you.

I'll read those links later today (if the day goes as planned). Psychologists seek empiricism because of the common perception that psychology wasn't a hard science. There are many things about the physiological processes of the brain that are becoming more evident thanks to neuroscience, but when it comes to the mind (the mind is what the brain does) all bets are off. For now we have to accept that the workings of the mind remain largely in the realm of theory, because they are unquantifiable.
#14758830
One problem with introspection is that there's no way to be sure that one's introspection is "honest."

Or that one's judgment of whether another has 'walked a path' adequately is any more honest - or accurate.

It's not easy to recognize our own biases because our own filters protect us from seeing them.


Granted this is all true, but I guess my question is, "Isn't it still the most worthwhile tool we have for individual moral/intellectual improvement?".
#14759233
One Degree wrote:Despite it's flaws, do you not believe introspection, especially directed by a professional, allows us to better understand ourselves? Does not honest introspection improve upon our understanding of self with time and effort? I find those who have not walked this path to be shallow people, dependent upon outside sources for their identity. I will apologize in advance if I am confusing a discussion of research with clinical practice, but I was curious as to your views on this.

I certainly think introspection is useful, but to what extent we can learn something true about ourselves would have to be investigated in greater detail and debated. I don't have a clear opinion on where the limits might be having never really pondered it at length and being unfamiliar with the literature on anything in relation to the subject.
But as an example, I find that I am prone to self delusions, that I often block out things and neglect the reality of them entirely. When someone confronted me with the precedent and pattern of my own actions recently, I was compelled to confront and contrast the sense I had of myself with the reality of my actions. Realizing that I speak a lot of bullshit much to the detriment of others and myself because I merely seek to satisfy my emotional state through delusion.
So I think introspection that considers external/observable actions can pose a nice contrast for figuring ourselves out. Being aware of course doesn't necessarily mean that one acts differently either though, behavioral change takes a lot of work. It's sort of an immanent critique of the self where one might hold certain ideas about themselves but can be criticized as they don't actually adhere to those professed ideals.

A more difficult area is trying to investigate our unconscious, which is arguably the more significant part of ourselves.
http://rickroderick.org/108-philosophy-and-post-modern-culture-1990/
Freud compares the conscious mind, in the book I have – I am talking about now – he compares the conscious mind to a garrison. A captured, tiny garrison in an immense city, the city of Rome; with all its layers of history, all its archaic barbarisms, all its hidden avenues, covered over by civilization after civilization. That’s our mind, that whole thing. But the conscious part of it is that one garrison that’s clear, that holds out in this captured city. A magnificent metaphor for all the surrounding motives, motivations, motifs, desires, that drive us… that are not philosophical… that cannot, even if we talk to our therapist a long time, all be brought up at once.

Now, it is true that Freud’s goal, was that the “it“; the unconscious, the “id” – translated by Americans as the “id” – in German, the “it”; kind of a more normal word. The “it” – the “id” – was to become conscious. Ego, the English word again being less spectacular: “I”, the “I”. I don’t know why translators do that, it’s to make the person sound like they are a scientist, you know. Freud says “it” and “I”, and we go “id” and “ego”; all of a sudden it sounds like science. It’s not; it’s just a myth, but a very interesting and fascinating one.

So the goal of analytic treatment would be for those unreflected massive areas – again to go back to that metaphor of the city – to become part of the garrison as it spreads out to things we are clear about. In other words, it’s not a bad metaphor saying we shouldn’t be clear about who we are, and have an “I”, or a self, or a subject.

Basically Freud's emphasis on having patients simply talk things out, seems to be that it is an avenue into our unconscious and that we can bring our unconscious into the conscious. So like my example above that I likened to an immanent critique, the unconscious part would be that one doesn't realize that they aren't actually adhering to their own beliefs about themselves in their action.

This seems to be a limited route in understanding ourselves, though still incredibly useful. And there is no doubt that by bringing things into our awareness that it can help us understand something true about ourselves and use that knowledge to our advantage ie behavioural change. This is quite important since our understanding of things need to be true or truer than not for us to have the freedom to make informed decisions and navigate the world effectively. False knowledge can survive and be maintained in spite of the pain of being wrong and being confronted with a discrepant reality, but it can be quite painful to hold onto things rather than endure the pain of cutting things lose and growing beyond it.

An example of something more difficult to discern and understand is asking the question ofwhat do you want/desire? And why do you want and desire it?
This is a very interesting thing in regards to propaganda/marketing, which with the rise of mass production became more complex by instilling want/desire in people instead of a blunt "this product is good, buy it!".
(See p. 54 of Edward Bernays' Propaganda for further detail. That our desires or wants are manipulated and still have lots of people saying that they're unaffected by the most superficial aspects of marketing (explicit ads) because they aren't diagnosed as shopaholics and in great amounts of debt from frivolous spending. Because we don't have a good grasp on how we come to desire things other than through inferences from feelings, it's a vulnerability. Not saying that even if we did understand how desire originates and works we'd necessarily be masters of it and be able to control it for ourselves as knowledge of such things doesn't necessarily mean we overcome it.

I believe a likely difficulty of it is that our rationalism is post hoc to our base emotions. This is why I wrote the sentence that anna bolded in her quoted response of me. Because I can offer a series of rationalizations for anything after the fact and I don't have a clear means of establishing the truth of it. I take this tendency to be correct based on summaries of experiments I've heard where people have their physical responses manipulated and their attribution to what caused their emotions is incorrect (or unlikely as we can always be so skeptical rather than certain).
There's also interesting stuff summarized in pop-sci like where Kaku is discussing the possibility of Robots with emotions. (p. 118 for start of section, p. 119 for quoted section, Michio Kaku's Physics of the Impossible)
Emotions are vital in decision making, as well. People who have suffered a certain kind of brain injury lack the ability to experience emotions. Their reasoning ability is intact, but they cannot express any feelings. Neurologist Dr. Antonio Damasio of the University of Iowa College of Medicine, who has studied people with these types of brain injuries, concludes that they seem "to know, but not to feel."

Dr. Damasio finds that such individuals are often paralyzed in making the smallest decisions. Without emotions to guide them, they endlessly debate over this option or that option, leading to crippling indecision. One patient of Dr. Damasio spent half an hour trying to decide the date of his next appointment.
Scientists believe that emotions are processed in the "limbic system" of the brain, which lies deep in the center of our brain. When people suffer from a loss of communication between the neocortex (which governs rational thinking) and the limbic system, their reasoning powers are intact but they have no emotions to guide them in making decisions. Sometimes we have a "hunch" or a "gut reaction" that propels our decision making. People with injuries that effect the communication between the rational and emotional parts of the brain do not have this ability.
For example, when we go shopping we unconsciously make thousands of value judgments about almost everything we see, such as "This is too expensive, too cheap, too colorful, too silly, or just right." For people with this type of brain injury, shopping can be a nightmare because everything seems to have the same value.

As robots become more intelligent and are able to make choices of their own, they could likewise become paralyzed with indecision. (This is reminiscent of the parable of the donkey sitting between two bales of hay that eventually dies of starvation because it cannot decide which to eat.) To aid them, robots of the future may need to have emotions hardwired into their brains. Commenting on the lack of emotions in robots, Dr. Rosalind Picard of the MIT Media Lab says, "They can't feel what's most important. That's one of their biggest failings. Computers just don't get it."
As Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, "If everything on Earth were rational, nothing would happen."In other words, robots of the future may need emotions to set goals and to give meaning and structure to their "lives," or else they will find themselves paralyzed with infinite possibilities.

So to understand ourselves, we have to go beyond the empirical and even rational because what ever is going on in us is simply beyond empirical investigation or plain logic and reason. That doesn't mean that we can't perhaps theorize about how we function in a way that we might have a theory of ourselves that has explanatory and predictive power perhaps, but that such a thing is beyond what we think of science today. This makes investigating ourselves very confusion because we don't even have any great investigative conceptual tools at our disposal for the greatest inner depths. For all that we've learnt about ourselves, significant lack of understanding remains, which I suppose keeps things interesting ;)

So overall, I think the practical utility of something like talking things out with people and guiding them to understand themselves by making them conscious of things that they're unconscious of. Through contradicting beliefs (ie cogntiive dissoannce) or behaviours in relation to belief is certainly useful in the clinical setting as well as just in our personal lives. I mean, the 'talking cure' that Freud popularized has come to be the foundation of what therapy, counselling and similar variations largely work on. It seems well established to be an incredibly useful tool for many ends for our own well being and function. That being unconscious to ourselves is quite dangerous if we want to improve things, because need to be aware, conscious to make an informed decision about a lot of things, its just that we can never escape that we are primarily unconscious rather than conscious. I say this in the most basic sense with being conscious meaning an active awareness of things, its how we direct attention to certain things whilst neglecting everything else, which is quite useful.

We don't overcome the limitations of introspection in regards to many other things about ourselves which aren't subject to investigation through that sort of immanent critique I spoke about. It seems that we function in a way that maintains self delusion and lack of awareness to most things. Our capacity to function at all relies on tricks of the mind which are useful for our function but not necessarily as much for investigating the truth of ourselves.
Last edited by Wellsy on 05 Jan 2017 16:56, edited 2 times in total.
#14759269
@Wellsy

I believe I grasp what you are saying. Would it be fair to say this was what Scott Peck was alluding to in his books? I found his concept of 'lies' a useful tool in understanding our personal fantasy world and seeing how it related to other fantasy worlds. I find his vocabulary useful for trying to understand myself and the rest of the world. I know I am detracting from the main topic again, but I find it difficult to pass up an opportunity for your views on this. Simply ignore my post, if you wish to get back on topic. ;)
#14759360
Wellsy wrote:Because I can offer a series of rationalizations for anything after the fact and I don't have a clear means of establishing the truth of it.


In general, we're not aware of how often we make a decision based on emotion and then rationalize it. It's nice to think that we've rationally and carefully thought out an action before commencing, but that's so often not the case...

Attitudes follow behavior, saying is believing. We're motivated to maintain cognitive consistency, which is where the theory of cognitive dissonance comes into play.

There's so much that can be said, I wish I had the time to go into this more - but I will say that anyone who thinks they engage in honest introspection that has lead to a thorough self-understanding is deluding themselves (literally).
#14759377
One Degree wrote:@Wellsy

I believe I grasp what you are saying. Would it be fair to say this was what Scott Peck was alluding to in his books? I found his concept of 'lies' a useful tool in understanding our personal fantasy world and seeing how it related to other fantasy worlds. I find his vocabulary useful for trying to understand myself and the rest of the world. I know I am detracting from the main topic again, but I find it difficult to pass up an opportunity for your views on this. Simply ignore my post, if you wish to get back on topic. ;)


I'm guessing that would be 'People of the Lie"

Didn't read that one, only 'The Road Less Travelled', which contained an equally interesting (to me) concept. It's not entirely relevant here, but I may try to work it into the conversation at some point as it does touch on psychology.
#14759401
jakell wrote:I'm guessing that would be 'People of the Lie"

Didn't read that one, only 'The Road Less Travelled', which contained an equally interesting (to me) concept. It's not entirely relevant here, but I may try to work it into the conversation at some point as it does touch on psychology.


I've read People of the Lie, and while it started off well, I wasn't impressed with Peck's wandering off into demon possession territory. Much of Freud's psychoanalytical theory has been discounted in the intervening years, and I found a couple things Peck said in reference to the Oedipus complex, and some of his therapy methods (what he did or would do), were disturbing.
#14759405
I've read People of the Lie, and while it started off well, I wasn't impressed with Peck's wandering off into demon possession territory. Much of Freud's psychoanalytical theory has been discounted in the intervening years, and I found a couple things Peck said in reference to the Oedipus complex, and some of his therapy methods (what he did or would do), were disturbing.


I agree he got a little weird in the end. His overall discussion of lies in individuals and society as a whole was still a valuable vocabulary to help understanding.

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