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Archive for October, 2012


We can learn any skill we can conceive of as urgent. Think about someone whose skills and abilities you admire and who you despair of ever being able to emulate. I promise you that the day that person was born, she or he did not possess any of those skills which you so admire. They learned. So can you.



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I could say to you that if I dropped this apple it would fall at a rate of 9.8 m/(sec*sec), and you might agree. Then I could say that because we agree on what a meter is and what a second is and what it means to fall, that therefore that’s the way things actually are. That as soon as I clear up any confusion about each term in my statement, we must, on the strength of the empirical data, agree that apples actually do fall towards the earth when dropped and that they actually accelerate at the rate of 9.8 m/(sec*sec). But a pragmatist might jump in here and object that in fact I just pulled a philosophical sleight of hand. That the statement that an apple will fall at a rate of 9.8 m/(sec*sec) and the statement that that’s the way things actually are, are two different events, not necessarily or even empirically related to one another in any clear and distinct manner. The first is a matter of pragmatics, she might observe, the second of piety. And she would, I believe, have no trouble accepting the first even as she severely desires to punish the second. Thus in this way we can equally embrace all the statements of science as well as Derrida’s desire to break with the entire tradition of Western Faith. Because one need not have anything to do with the other. The problem, as I see it, is when self-conscious poets like Derrida get hit on the head and want to steal science’s thunder. Then they change their name to Lacan. For although we have ample data to suggest that faith and poetry are events that promote healing and recovery from illness, to then turn over control of the cancer drugs to the poets and the priests would be utter madness. A fact that I suspect Derrida unfortunately appreciated towards the end of his life as he was dying of pancreatic cancer. And even though for most of my adult life I have considered him a charlatan, I have continued thinking about him and it was just there in light of these very considerations that I finally learned to adopt a new attitude towards him. Indeed, based on these considerations, one could begin to see, pace Nietzsche, all “-isms” as normative theories masquerading as descriptions.

I’m trying to figure out how to use science to help people. To put it another way, I’m trying to figure out how to allow my behaviors to be shaped by the behaviors of people who look like scientists, in order to shape the behaviors of people who look like clients.



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i think that the word should is as useful as believing that because you own the land, you can make the waterfall run backwards up the hill. in fact, i think i’m beginning to experience “should” as one of the most massive failures in the history of human linguistic experimentation.



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Bergson stated that Kant had confused space and time in a mixture and proposed to advance our understanding of human reason by unmixing them. A deliberately poetic metaphor that begs for some redescription. What I believe Bergson wants to express is the fact that we often measure time by measuring space. And because we believe space is infinitely divisible into innumerable little packets, each one uniformly the same as the other for everyone everywhere in the universe, we therefore also believe the same about time. This model ostensibly helped Kant undermine the 17th century Cartesian notion that thinking substance is essentially separable from material substance. For if, as Kant proposes, space is merely the expression of our external awareness of these innumerable little packets and time merely the internal awareness of the same, then the 17th century dialectic (subjective vs. objective, thinking vs. material substance) devolves upon a cognitive description of homogenous awareness applied to a heterogeneous world of mere appearances. In a manner redolent with Cartesian solipsism, Kant proposes that we offset the instability of a world of experience with the consistency of the manner in which we experience that experience. Property dualism is undone by a description of cognitive monism. How neat.

What Bergson proposes is that we redescribe Kant’s idea of the homogeneity of our intuition of space and time as sets of quantitative heuristic tendencies (our sense of space and time as infinitely divisible) and sets of qualitative heuristic tendencies (our sense of change or “duration”). For Bergson the idea of duration functions to alert us to the distinct character of qualitative metaphors such as the difference between “anger” and “joy.” Such comparisons cannot rest on quantitative descriptions, but are expressed through qualitative comparisons only. Bergson thought that Kant had used his model of space and time to describe our sense of quantity only, mixing them together into an ineffective blend of “quantitative multiplicity” and thereby neglecting our qualitative sense. Thus Kantian space and time become for Bergson the manifold of quantitative understanding only, whereas Bergson’s idea of “true internal time” (duration) becomes the manifold of qualitative understanding. This was the clarification that Bergson hoped to promote by speaking of time and space all mixed up in the mind of old Kant. One might as well describe our sense of constancy (manifolds that can be counted) and our sense of change (manifolds that cannot be counted but only experienced).

After Bergson, two questions then arise: One is in regard to the impact of a model which no longer views space and time as the absolute unchangeable entities that they once were. What happens to our notion of cause and effect when the only identifiable constant in the universe is movement (change)? And furthermore, if nothing can be known as being where we think it is, at a given point in space or time, what can be said to exist? Finally, by redescribing duration (internal sense of change), as something distinct from space (external sense of constancy) doesn’t Bergson just get us into another (inverted) solipsistic trap, like a hole in space that has been neatly turned inside out but which still holds us tightly bound at its quicksand depth?


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            Poetry Leaf


Are you beautiful?
You were to me.
I loved your veins.
I held you close.
I knew your name
and something else.
What light to me
burned so bright
when I called you out
when I let you be?



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Because I don’t want to tell you goodbye,
I declare a sunlit day. I declare
a wonton sale of salacious rapture
a dawn of unrepentant trust,
birth of mornings everafter.
I declare this journey won.
I declare the quest complete.
I declare the mountain overrun,
and from the dead-night collector,
all our dreams set free.


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                        my mother and i were both therapists

You can dance away the silence
that comes hard upon a poem’s end,
just grandstanding things aside
that you long to defend:
like my mother choosing psychology
over music, music that went
from love to family weapon.

Still, I think how sweet she chose to write
out the answer to her prayer—
a mint of hope in the book of a life,
wishing the earth would open
to swallow her pain hidden care.

And anyway, what would mine be like
if her father had stayed over yonder
beyond the sea, beyond the snow
in the land of frozen hate,
the land I was born to know?

Now we sweep the same floors
polish with the same wax.
And a bird on a daisy told me true
that there are people walking around
still alive because they talked to you.

I suppose this and all is all
that we carry,
carry underground.


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when i suggest that we view tacts and mands as features of a relatively more heterogeneous or homogenous verbal context, i’m suggesting that we make the same move we recommend to our clients: to view the world contextually instead of categorically. to describe our context and its features rather than trying to track down “cause and effect.” the idea is to try to edit less and be more.



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kant returned to the age old question of “what sort of resting place can we discover for our sense of certainty in a world of uncertainty?” the form of this question for him was “what place can we find for morality in a world of science?” or “what place does freedom have in a world of contingent events?” which is nothing more than the question of the teleological suspension of the necessary and the conditioned. one might as well redescribe it as the question of “where does the individual fit in with other people?” his answer was that since our sense of freedom is at odds, experientially, with our sense of contingency it must therefore be separate from it. reason is taxonomized into a dialectic divided against itself—into speculative, constrained, aesthetic categories and practical, creative, moral categories. indeed, he made the same move plato did when plato assumed that if some pattern in the world, such as the consistent ratio of the hypotenuse to the rest of the triangle, was present to our senses, it must therefore have a real cause, expressed in that case by a mathematical relationship. for both plato and kant, mathematics and deduction were the paradigm for the discovery of the real. kierkegaard on the other hand chose to approach from another path. the question for kierkegaard was how to build a world in which both aesthete and ethicist could live in harmony. the aesthete is the one constrained by ecstatic inspiration, nietzsche’s dionysian spirit if you will, and therefore subject to contingency, not free. the ethicist on the other hand is the manifestation of kant’s free, apollonian, a priori rational good will which gives the law unto itself. except that for kierkegaard, neither of these individuals takes priority, neither wins the battle. each is constrained to live their lives as they are thrown into them, trapped within the facticity of a leap unto faith that wanders out and about themselves with every breath. don’t you know that yet?



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Nietzsche suggested that we view Kant’s work not so much as an a priori generality, but as the product of his particular journey through life. Still useful and beautiful and necessary for him and perhaps for us as well, once we have understood the process that we are calling “us”….

Both Freud and Skinner followed Nietzsche along this path, encouraging the rest of us to see our words as part and parcel of our experiences. The difference between them, as I experience it, is that Freud also followed Nietzsche into an inverted Platonism and Skinner did not.



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