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Friday, 15 September 2006

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Adam Roberts

"And of the six word fragments, three could be completed as cleansing-related words or as unrelated words!"

"Like W_ _ H, SH_ _ ER, and S_ _P!"

I wonder what it says about me that my first thought was 'Wankah! Shagger! Slurp!' Of course, I wasn't counting the precise number of spaces between the letters.

Must go and have a shower now.

The neurophilosopher

Science is a weekly journal, not a monthly one. That makes you a liar, Mr. Kaufman.

Go and wash your hands!

Luther Blissett

Good to see that psychologists are busy proving what anthropologists have established for decades. Symbolic actions stand in for related "real" actions.

Doesn't this begin to suggest that the mind works very similarly to the way Freud (and, dammit, Lacan) stated? Verbal puns, symbolic substitutions.

Rene Girard would also be pleased by this study. I think we all need to return to myth/ritual studies but minus the Jung.

Scott Eric Kaufmann
Science is a weekly journal, not a monthly one.

You know, a rational person would've seen the "8 September 2006" and figured that out. Lucky for us, I'm not a rational person.

Doesn't this begin to suggest that the mind works very similarly to the way Freud (and, dammit, Lacan) stated? Verbal puns, symbolic substitutions.

It's one thing to describe what the mind does, another to describe why it does it. I don't find the psychoanalytic explanation for why people employ symbolic substitution any more convincing than the bold declarations in the article.

Scott Eric Kaufmann

Corrected the Science info from "September" to "8 September." My earlier comment was not, in fact, a mean-spirited swipe at the Neurophilosopher...whose site you should visit, if only so you can say "I read him before he became a Scienceblogger."

Adam Kotsko

The early Christians basically only let you wash once -- if you sinned after baptism, you were out. This tended to motivate people to wait until their deathbed to be baptised, but it's not clear that they were any more prone to sin because they knew they had a "get out of hell free" card waiting for them around the corner.

On a completely unrelated note, I wonder why the two choices often seem to be "theory" or "unreconstructed scientism."

Tim

I always find it interesting when little nuggets of folk psychology are confirmed.

Scott Eric Kaufmann
On a completely unrelated note, I wonder why the two choices often seem to be "theory" or "unreconstructed scientism."

I don't know. They both seem so terrible to me.

Joseph Kugelmass

There's an interesting division, in these comments, between people who appreciate the confirmation of folk psychology, like Tim, and people who appreciate your (Scott's) implied critique.

As far as "getting clean" goes, I think both parties could be easily satisfied. Available evidence confirms Shakespeare and folk wisdom because our culture has made a resonant, but nonetheless arbitrary, symbolism that most people accept. The symbol itself is culture, not just the recognition of it. It reminds me of Scott's comment in some earlier post on psychoanalysis, that one could give oneself a Freudian unconscious with enough time and effort. The structures of thought are that plastic.

I would love to hear alternatives to the psychoanalytic explanation of symbolism (basically, that symbolism is a symptom of repression). One reason why rituals (of any sort, not just baptisms / cleansings) are appealing has, in my view, to do with our experience of time. Time is undifferentiated, a fact that makes it difficult for us to recognize the moment when our misdeed ceases to apply. The ritual creates a break, one which is entirely justified as a mirror help up to one's freedom: this is the voluntary alienation of consciousness into the material as described in Hegel, as well as the continual estrangement from "self" in Sartre and even Beckett.

In historical terms, however, this break is absurd, no matter how much of a role it might play in Christian mythology. Hence Nietzsche's theory of totality and eternal recurrence, and the revenant-like afterlife of the deed in Macbeth.

Brian

It should perhaps be noted that much of what you’re complaining about can be easily dismissed as a peculiarity of a particular academic subculture. If you read the passages (as well as the rest of the article, I would guess) carefully, you’ll notice that few, if any, actual assertions are made. Every sentence contains a “may” or a “should” or a “remains to be seen”. This is a convention of scientific writing in which we make all kinds of over-the-top predictions and speculations while making it perfectly clear that we are not indulging in any kind of over-the-top predictions or speculations. Most journals have this stuff under the subheading “Discussion”, which basically just means “here comes the rampant speculation and self-promotions!”. The Science/Nature publishing format has done away with the usual introduction/methods/results/discussion subheadings, which means you have to pick it apart yourself.

I always find it interesting when little nuggets of folk psychology are confirmed.

Thus, confirmed is a very strong word...

Lynn

I am often amused by the reactions of some when a piece of brain science research makes the news, especially if the authors of the article make guarded claims about what the research might say about human behavior. Some folks accuse the authors of brain research of being most unholy: thou shall not link brain research to how people behave in the ordinary humdrum world.

Let us back up for a moment. The major impetus for conducting brain research is medicine. When people suffer disease or trauma to the brain it is useful to have physicians who actually know as much as possible about how the brain works.

Those suffering from brain maladies do not rush off to visit an epistemologist or a literary critic expert in the psychology contained in the Eighteenth Century novel. This seems to be an obvious example of people voting with their feet rather than their pens or mouths.

Besides being amused, I am also mystified as to the sacred ox gored by brain research. You might think the notion that we can consciously introspect on the mind and arrive at scientific results had died a natural death. Could its demise be premature because of the large industry the notion supports?

I would coin a name for the effect and phenomenon, but I do not want to step onto dangerous ground.

The neurophilosopher

Some miscellaneous comments on others' comments:

The only absolute fact is that there is no such thing as absolute fact, and, in the case of scientific research, this is absolutely true!

Every sentence contains a "may" or a "should"

The "may" is always refracted to become "does" as it passes through the lens of the media.

Brain imaging studies are very trendy at the moment, and are usually reported in the mass media as showing that this occurs here or that occurs there. This will eventually lead us back to a new phrenology. Brain function is far more complex than that; all behaviours involve parallel processing by multiple modules.

You might think the notion that we can consciously introspect on the mind and arrive at scientific results had died a natural death.

The elucidation of the biological basis of mind and behaviour will be the goal of neuroscience in this century, and beyond.

you should visit [the neurophilosopher's blog] if only so you can say "I read him before he became a Scienceblogger

Me? On ScienceBlogs? Never! Well, actually, I've considered it, but have decided to remain independent.

Finally, and most importantly, have you (Scott) noticed that the layout of our blogs is identical? I think you should click back and forth to obtain some empirical evidence of this fact, and encourage all your readers to do the same!

Brian

The "may" is always refracted to become "does" as it passes through the lens of the media.

No doubt - in fact we're lucky if it doesn't become an "absolutely does" in the media. That said, I actually think it becomes "does" in our own minds all too often. I hate writing like that.

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