A dialog, forum, editorial page, letters to the editor, electronic journal, and [fill in the blank Frank] of the
10th Annual Winter Chaos Conference of the Blueberry Brain Institute
This will be a personal and somewhat arbitrary summary, my own reflections on the conference.
First, I see the contributions as falling in three categories (quite fuzzy and interrelated; see abstracts for better details):
(1) Ontological-cosmological-metaphysical and the confluence of mind and matter.
I would include here Rick Paar’s opening talk on
the Is and Isn’t of the Universe, and the creation of experience by way of
opposition and negation (No-ing), Joel’s wave-pattern physics and cosmology and the role of the mind in symmetry-breaking in the creation of a differentiated epen-system universe and experience and the dynamics of the subjective/objective interaction, and Jeff Goldstein’s dialog with us about his explorations of the concept of emergence. These constituted a round table Saturday morning. The keynote address, postponed from Friday eve to Saturday afternoon, by Michael Conforti, gave a neo-Jungian version of the confluence of mind and matter. Paar’s and Conforti’s ontologies had direct implications for the conduct of psychological therapy. Mark Filippi belongs here too.
consider these those discussions that focused on the deployment of services to
society and institutions, principally in economics (Bob Eldridge’s exploration
of the limitations of nonlinear forecasting models in market prices), education
(the all purpose school proposals of Karen VanderVen, Carlos Torre, and Valerie
Maholmes which includes social service features with educational ones), and
social work (the programs of the delivery of psychological services to
community, Judith Nagib, and the delivery of shelter services to the homeless
(Kathleen Moffett). Martin Gardiner also discussed the educational and
socialization impact of early music education but with an interaction with the
other educators with respect to the difficulties of assessing the results of an
intervention. While the terrorism round-table was abandoned, two speakers
addressed very different aspects of it. Pat Cristafore spoke to us of the
biological and epidemiological nature of anthrax. Frank Mosca presented the
catechism of the terrorist (which derives from their psychodynamic: “fit in my
world or die”) from 19th century
Here the deployment is of individual and family psychotherapy and the impact of dynamical thinking on our own personal lives. Paar’s and Conforti’s implications were principally here. Matthijs Koopman’s n-bind theoretical generalization of Bateson’s double-bind theory of schizophrenia looked at family dynamics. Frank had much to say about this area as well. Mark Filippi belongs here too. Ok, time to stop joking about Mark. Mark comes at us from a position of delivering health service, chiropracty. But he is the No-ing of that field. His personal experiences with his family (remarkable children), their combat with social institutions, and his combat with the rigid confines of Chiropractic profession and education personalized the themes of the conference, all done within the framework of an ecological view of attention.
Here is my take on some of the common themes that emerged at the conference:
(1) Potentialities and limitations of NLD.
Nonlinear dynamics, for many, was not employed in any formal way. It’s limitations, sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit, were evident, much as the logic/math program to establish a complete axiomatic basis proved inadequate in those fields, but its potentiality and fertility for leading us to our holistic appreciation of a fluid universe, culture, and self was clearly seen in its metaphoric applications. Dynamics inspires a transcendence of itself.
(2) The search for truth and meaning: subjective and objective.
Dynamical thinking had a communality for all of us, but each of us had our own unique spin and linguistic variations and personal meanings derived from dynamics, or better, as we incorporate it into our own personal and world views. I quoted Rorty on describing the search for meaning subjectively through contributions/participation in community, and objectively by the examination of the universe. I think all of us balance both these approaches. Every one told a personal story which was related to the universals of dynamics. Frank saw some of this in his commentary on Jeff, whose search through the library of emergence was proving not to lead to definite answers (Jeff’s own characterization). Frank reflected on this as Jeff’s own search for meaning in his universe. The same was true for all of us.
Frank also commented on change, which he called impossible (I would disagree being a strong believer in self-organization), but I think he was thinking more of the difficulty of changing other people or institutions (I would continue to disagree), but he put a his finger on the other major theme of the conference, that of change. How do we explain it, how do differentiation, conflict, paradox, and negation create it, how does self-organization work, and so on? To me, this is the most important part of dynamics; to help explain change.
(4) Conference quality: the need to move on.
There was also a paradoxical attitude within the conference itself. The brilliance, creativity, and excitement of every individual there as well as the content of their presentations, commentaries, and discussions were really breathtaking in a way that is impossible to describe. An atmosphere of enthusiasm was constantly being expressed. Some of we old timers of the conference though, also had an undercurrent of ennui, of a desire to move on to formats and foci of accomplishment that a succession of speakers could not accomplish. We also felt that our conference transcended that of the national conference because it gave more time for the exploration and discussion of these deeper ideas, and some (Mark, Rick, Matthijs) discussed some proposals for doing this and even taking our output to other platforms, including the national conference and to public venues and media. We’ll hear more from them on that as they (you) shape next year’s process.
These are my personal views. There are 20 others, and please submit them, either to our mail list, or for posting at our web site. I will do both with this one.
I want to express my
appreciation not only to all those that presented, but to those who
participated in the discussions, Eva Diaz, Neil Edwards, friends of Carlos from
the educational community in
Frank’s Reply to Fred’s No-ing. Fred took a statement of Frank’s comment late in his presentation out of context knowing that Frank had something like the following in mind, and he baited Frank into the following wonderful explication:
A small, but for me crucial correction to the otherwise, as always, wonderful overview that Fred has given of the weekend. Fred characterized my position on the question “How do you change a system” to be that Frank believes change is impossible! I do hope that is not the impression that is left with those who listened to my presentation as well as any of my comments over the course of the weekend. Quite the opposite is true. My whole approach to helping people is based on the premise that precisely people can change!
What I took issue with was the notion that the change was the inevitable result of the informational input, enrichment, strategies [whatever language my seem most apposite to those reading these words] that an agent, i.e., therapist, friend etc., might utilize to bring about that change in another human being. Recall, in contexts where change is a change of material state such as ice to water to steam etc., there is no debate about what the results will be. Ice never refuses to become water, nor water to become steam. No therapy is required J. Further, when we are talking about change in humans, there are gradations, at least from my perspective, of a qualitative nature to the kind of change we are addressing. For example, if I speak to you about two movies and strongly recommend one over another; and if this is followed by your agreement to follow my recommendation, you can speak of my input having contributed to the change you made in your choice of movies. But even here the input is not absolutely determinative, but only the offering of a hypothesis that can only be confirmed by that individual through the use of their free will. In such cases however, none of us control the reality of the information that is offered us. Perhaps I am lying about the movie etc. There is no control here of the details of the world nor any guarantee that our acceptance of the values or descriptions of another will result in something we are satisfied with.
The thrust of my entire presentation focuses however on only one moment of experience in the human condition having to do with the only context that, from my perspective, creates the difference that makes a difference. That is the ability of any human to take up an attitude toward whatever is presented to them at any given moment. My point of course was that no informational set, strategy or manipulation of any kind can cause or create a change on that level in a human being apart from the inexplicable and uncapturable moment of the exercise of freedom on the part of that human individual to alter their attitude or not. Now of course so many people are locked into culturally invariant symmetries, to use Joel’s term, so that it would seem at times that changing or controlling people’s attitudes is the easiest thing in the world. But that proves nothing except that people have for their own reasons acceded to the acceptance of the imperatives and prescriptions that are the configuration of any particular belief set or invariable symmetry. The wonder is that at any time, in a fashion that cannot be predicted, a person my exit that set, put a mark or two on the white ball and break symmetry to affirm their equanimity [which is the existential baseline that forms the backbone of all the hypotheses contained in my work] and move a step or so toward what I call greater volitional escape velocity.
So, not to exceed the bounds of what is allowed to come to the point, I repeat not only is change not impossible, it is in this deepest sense, the primal hope of what it is like to be human. I merely say it has a transcendent quality simply not capable of being confined absolutely and predictably by our strategies [including my ownJ] no matter how cleverly configured. Hope that clarifies it. If not, that’s good because it will give me something to talk further about next time. Greetings and best wishes to all. Frank
Robin Robertson hits our main themes very beautifully: Dialectal tension; change & autopoesis; self-reference:.
Thanks for sending your summary of the
I wanted to respond to two of the points you made. The first was in discussing the limits and possibilities of NLD: "Dynamics inspires a transcendence of itself." I think NLD is at much the same point as cybernetics was when it led to 2nd order cybernetics, in which the observer became intertwined in the loop. Cybernetics is enough older than NLD that it has taken NLD a while to really understand what a dynamics position means, and how it fits it various paradigms. When cybernetics was coming into existence at the Macy Conferences starting in 1946, they split into two groups dubbed the "cyberneticians" and the "social scientists." Similarly when NLD was really taking form in the Chaos Society (because I really think it's our little group that has seen all the implications of chaos theory, rather than just limiting it as so many other groups have), starting in 1991, we split into two viewpoints I've dubbed the "techies" and the "metaphorists." With cybernetics a necessary tension had to hold long enough for 2nd order cybernetics to emerge. Similarly a necessary tension over time in our group may now be yielding something new. Your
feelings that it is "time to move on" is probably representative of this time of new emergence (to bring Jeff into the picture :-)
The second of your points was that "to me, this is the most important part of dynamics, to explain change." In my over-simplified shorthand, I've always viewed chaos theory as the most profound approach yet to how complex systems change, while the other side of the coin - how complex systems remain stable - is best represented by cybernetics and most specifically, by Maturana and Varela's concept of autopoesis. It was Varela's attempt to bring change into the picture that caused his disagreements and eventual split with Maturana, but by the time of his death at too young an age, Varela hadn't yet moved into a dynamics position. In
large part because it's quite difficult to blend autopoesis and dynamics.
Again, as you know from my idiosyncratic approaches to all this, self-reference in all its manifestations, is the single most important principle that underlies both areas. It is the self-referential feedback of information that allows autopoetic systems to retain their identity over time. Yet a very similar self-referential feedback of data is what causes the bifurcations of systems that eventually yield to chaos, a chaos that contains its own new order within. These are deep and mysterious areas and the weakest part of NLD for me has always come from those who don't acknowledge the mystery and simply feel that NLD explains everything.
The attempt to get as primitive as possible in dealing with these issues is what has pushed me intellectually into my deep interest in first Kurt Godel, then Carl Jung, then G. Spencer-Brown. On a personal level, it led me into meditation, work with altered states as a clinical psychologist, dreamwork in depth psychology, and even magic. As I said, these are deep and msyterious areas.
Perhaps the core group of your conference will be those who begin to lead dynamics past dynamics into a 2nd order dynamics, or perhaps into a self-referential dynamics in which the subjective and objective intertwine.
All the best to you, Fred,
The Passion according to St. Mark (filippi) reflects themes we all expressed in our own way, but with an intensity of wanting to live it.
Fred and all the other SnowFlakers —
Ever since putting the car in park after our meeting, the earth beneath my feet has been rumbling. I've taken a lurker's role the last few weeks, not by choice though. It seems life had a bifurcation doing push-ups around the corner. Let me explain...
My frustration (warm as it is) surrounding all the interdisciplinary activity I'm involved in comes back to what Rick, Mike, "Norm" and I were haranguing over;
we're still stuck in Whoville! There was a song a few years back that had a line that
summed this angst up; "Despite all my rage, I'm still just a rat in a cage!" Ah, brevity
Fortunately for me, I get to channel my energy back into my neck (no pun) of the woods the next few months. I'll be bringing the chaotic vibe to Parker College of Chiropractic down in Texas this weekend, then to the Research Agenda conference in March and finally down to the World Chiropractic Summit in Washington in April. Again, I'll be traveling in my suburb of Whoville, meeting the same Who's you probably meet in your respective circles. What a strangle dance this all is!
There are some cracks in the cosmic egg worth noting. I shared Joel's work with my research editor and he's agreed to post a short essay about cell communication on the journal's weekly e-zine that'll reach the beach of over 10,000 chiropractors/ educators in the click of a mouse. That's almost 20% of the field now. I just spoke to a student researcher in ATL who's looking to clinically apply cusp/ catastrophe to spinal mechanics. I'll get him Steve Gaustello's contact info pronto. That's some mo'.
I suppose I could spiral this rant down to the conversation I had with Matthijs on the way back from VT. If you position the whole continuum of non-linear dynamics
as a sentient trans-disciplinary template, weaving it's way into the fabric of our everyday lives individual by individual (oops, I sound memetic here!) , it gains it's
energy to materialize in one of two ways; swatting the hive (short cycles) or termite-
like infestation (long cycles). Depending on your context, one'll seem more do-able.
Fred made the comment (or was it Robin) that math occupies a neutral zone, leaving the bias up to the person applying it. Same goes for those cycles I mentioned. Frank gave us a lot of grist for the mill in mentioning escape velocity in his feedback note.
Where would you place this whole shebang if all the constraints were resolved?
I've set aside a good chunk
of my equanimity as Frank terms it, in the name of my art, science and
philosophy -- applying that "tacit ability" Rick reminded us of to
not stop asking questions. For me it boils down to an indoctrinating lifestyle,
one that forever removes your innocence while it enlightens/humbles you. That's
why we'll never see groups, professions, or the grand masses adopt it lock,
stock and ....
Instead, we'll see people IN those groups and professions migrate into this realm and warm their hands at the fire we provide. With that as the scenario, my "glocal"
focus shifts away from the predominant resistance to the "neutral" tools we offer and more toward deepening my sense of community with the misfits in it with me. :)
We have around 20-30 of us active on this list. What can we offer, as a tribe, to the others in Whoville, as a means of carrying this connection with us everyday, to tell the world to BE THE ONE, in effect, be a part of the "vital few" that is willing to try to pull the sword from the stone. My ideas range from a butterfly (overused) to a
Tsunami (my favorite chaotic visual) made into a key chain or fridge magnet or something we'll come in contact with everyday. Get a deal from the manufacturer and we can each distribute them at all our talks, book signings, various conferences, and let self-organization take it from there. It's just my way of resolving frustration;
Let a symbol hold the line... I'm already busy!
With Turbulence, MRF 02.19
[fda note; mark, please explain the meaning in the beautiful califigraphy].
Judith & Mike Arons on Humanistic and Qualitative Psychology.
What follows is Judith bridging from a humanistic/positive psychology discussion from the Dialogues discussion group, starting with Mike Aron's comments on the schism, then her comments on it, relating it to the schism in the dynamics community with which she, Robin, Frank, Mark, Rick, and I are concerned. Then some comments of mine, all in this commentary. Robin’s reply will be posted separately along with another comment of mine. There is relevance not only in the ideas shared from humanistic psychology, which is closely allied to the existential points of view of Frank, myself, and many other others within our WC cabal, but also in the concern to synthesize/synergize qualitative and quantitative approaches within our group, most strongly expressed by Judith, Kathleen, Robin, in fact, most of us. [ed: fda]
From Mike Arons, Ph.D.
One matter that has not been touched, thus far, in this discussion about humanistic and positive psychology, is the issue of science. And it is largely on this ground that humanistic psychology has found itself marginalized in mainstream academic psychology and, conversely, here where positive psychology has been gaining rapid acceptance in that sphere.
Humanistic and transpersonal psychologies have identified with two forms of supportive method that in ways are opposites and both of which do not touch or have yet to directly expand into the traditional science of psychology. That is, it has identified with qualitative, or human science, methods on one hand and, especially in its transpersonal offshoot, with quantum physics insights, e.g., chaos theory, on the other.
Where humanistic psychology interests have veered closest to mainstream science is in the spheres of the neural-cognitive, exemplified by their recognition of "consciousness". But the neural cognitive models have themselves veered off so much in the direction of reductionism that humanistic psychologists generally find no totally comfortable home here either. In other words a humanistic science is still waiting its birth.
Human science methods have gained great respect in other social sciences and the humanities: not in psychology. The blend of traditional Eastern philosophies and approaches with quantum physics and neural sciences have yet to impress mainstream psychology. Whereas, the approaches of positive psychology grow directly out of mainstream psychology traditions. There is a direct cultural-methodological link between Seligman's behavioristically oriented research on, say, Learned Helplessness and the positive psychology he promotes today.
This coming-from-within the "family" tradition (the good ole boy's network) allows Seligman and many of his supporters to "legitimately" ignore humanistic psychology, in the way behaviorists could ignore Aristotle, even when they were saying much the same thing as he had said 2300 years ago:
Or how postivistic (not positive) psychology could ignore philosophy altogether. "All that" — to directly quote my psychology professors — "was merely pre-science". And just as intuition and the creative process is ignored in the final published scientific experiment, as Einstein pointed out about his own field.
Meanwhile, Maslow's dream has yet to come true. Maslow pushed for a human science. And while he embraced phenomenologists, he was not one himself. Nor could his vision of a science of psychology be identified with only that. Nor, also, although he was a founder of transpersonal psychology, did he himself lean on quantum physics or Eastern traditions and approaches to establish that vision. In fact, his early research, e.g., "cafeteria feeding", used animal subjects and his later thinking often leaned on anthropology. The science he envisioned was humanistic in the sense that it had the qualities of mainstream psychology, but one so vastly expanded as to account for all that is human and in all its complexity.
The point that Mark Stern raises about the tragic as essentially human points not only to this complexity but, given as we see it in the two masks (tragic-comic) representing theatre (or the tragic-hero) indicates the paradoxes implied in this complexity. Nowhere is this complexity-paradox more evident than in the theatre of creativity. Mainstream psychology science -- with its positivistic (as distinct from "positive") bent nullifies paradox in its very grounding presuppositions.
It seems to me, in face of the co-opting of humanistic insights by positive psychology, that there are a number of ways we
Humanistic psychologists can go;
1. Why worry? Who needs the credit as long as "the job gets > done".
2. Get a lawyer and sue, or take these positive guys before some ethics committee..
3.. Emphasize the "positive". This in several ways.
a. Give unto positive psychology what is purely and
unequivocally positive in humanistic psychology:
In other words, all that fits its model and method, and give unto the world (see below) the rest.
b. Keep stressing -- emphasize the positive -- the strength of those sciences that do currently support humanistic psychology, i.e., human science, quantum physics and Eastern approaches, plus what "fits" from the neural-cognitive domain..
4. Forget mainstream academic psychology and concentrate on where humanistic-tp psychology has succeeded in the field, e.g., clinical, counseling, education, coaching, O.D., and so forth.
5. Make a more concerted effort to join the qualitative and quantitative methods, as was suggested by Merleau-Ponty in his treatise relating "fact" to "essence". In other words, add the meat of human experiential complexity to the bones of hard research in the interest of both.
6. Find a more natural home, or center of operations: In the humanities. Or, in all areas at the points where these join and "yearn for" wholeness. The human subject is, after all, interdisciplinary, i.e., transcends any and all separately.
7. Smuggle more of our guys and gals into the neural-cognitive enclaves and divert, if necessary subvert and usurp,
their credibility and focus by turning it truly holistic. After all, they stole consciousness from us.
8. Take a new look at what Maslow and Polanyi had in mind by the expansion of science to fit human complexity and
9. Continue to influence the world at large in diverse ways, diverse spheres, and in diverse cultures crying for t these insights, as currently do the Associations for Humanistic Psychology and ATP..
10. Create a whole new vocation -- or field in fact – called humanistic psychology, covering areas of need not well
or at all dealt with by conventional psychology, e.g., caregivers, as we did with Organizational Development and then stress pragmatic research from within these fields.
11. Continue and put even more stress on our role of issues advocates, e.g., environment, gender and especially new
spheres where consciousness expansion is required. And use whatever methods promote these interests.
12. Join holistically what historically was a social transformation from the "hippie" to the "yuppie" culture. Put
differently, and especially in light of the motives behind 9/11, develop a global consciousness which goes in pair with the global economy. Or, put in still another way, join at the global level Maslow's need hierarchy. And, research what it takes to join stomach, engine and destination, universally.
13. All of the above.
From: "louise l sundararajan" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Mary M. Fox" <email@example.com>
Subject: DIALOGUES--humanistic psychology and positive psychology discussion (continued)
From Judith Nagib, firstname.lastname@example.org
New psychology students are often struck by the divisions within the discipline. I remember feeling that way, and there is
not much one can do about it but present what is. The stark differences that exist between the behavioristic (or quantitative") and the psychodynamical (or "qualitative") traditions, although they are both reductionistic, speak for themselves. Then there is the Third + Force to consider.
would hope that somewhere in psychology there are minds creative enough to
bridge the gap, or to nurture attempts to do so. At a recent conference [The
Winter Chaos Conference of the Blueberry Brain Institute in
Metaphoric analysis is a classical method of contemplating ambiguity and quantification is not always suited to the ineffable. But these methods are not mutually exclusive. The left and right hemispheres are specialized in different functions, but are complimentary. Does psychology need a corpus callosum too?
Fred commentary to these, edited from the Dialogues network:
First, I think of our small winter tribe as a small band of merry women and men dedicated to robbing from the rich technicians and giving to the poor metaphoricians (and vice versa). I might add that some of us felt that the bifurcations and trajectories were hitting some experiential features of our lives, but perhaps that is an illusion. Time will tell, and there has been and will be more on that in the Snowflake Forum for sure.
Robin and I have been the principal folks in the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and the Life Sciences dedicated to
getting the technicians and the more metaphorically inclined to synergize. His address to the society on this matter is parked at the Blueberry-Brain web site. He recently responded to our Winter Conference on this schism (Snowflake Forum, 2/12/02), noting that it was similar a schism that developed in the cybernetics group (see also Heim's book), and what is quite nice, is that he also sees our group as potentially focal in producing a next synthesis, beyond chaos theory, or as I put it (see conference summary also at the Snowflake Forum), "Dynamics inspires a transcendence of itself."
did not attend the winter conference as
Briefly, as I see it, the synergy may come from realizing the formal potentialities and limitations of dynamical systems theory, the former coming from its ability to model interactive processes, the latter from the limits of including its
all contextual variables (like Gödel) which would require an infinite (or impossibly huge) expansion of the number of variables required. The synergy also might come from the great imagination of the metaphoric applications that Judith
alludes to, that are often ignored by the techies, as Robin calls them. And from the great advances in our modelling and analysis procedures upon which much substance can be given to our psychological, social, and life sciences.
While we tend to think that the mathematical psychologists tend to ignore serious subjects in our disciplines that prove refractory to such analysis, the fact of the matter is that mathematical psychologists are a small and diminishing part of our science, which I consider a pity. Why that is so is a complex issue, that derives partly from their occasional arrogance or failure to communicate, partly to math illiteracy and phobia, partly to being to busy to bother with it, and partly [fill in the blank as our friend Frank Mosca would say].
Robin on the Beauty in Mathematics versus its Reductionistic Applications in Science
Thanks for the nice words, Fred. I'd like to stress that it's not the math that gets in the way, it's a reductionistic approach to the math, just as a reductionistic approach to science in general gets in the way. I originally came to my somewhat Platonic position (now archetypal) by starting as a "pure" mathematician. That's a commonplace attitude among mathematicians, but uncommon among those in other fields who pick up some subset of mathematics (like dynamics) for use in their field. They tend to overvalue the "usefulness" of the math while undervaluing the "beauty", which is what attracted most to the field originally. I still remember reading Gleick in the 1980's and getting excited when I came to Feigenbaum. That intermediate position between math and science which is, I believe, unique to chaos theory, was so lovely and new. In the broader scheme of things it's still new and it will always be lovely.
Fred comes to the rescue with one of the prettiest images that he has ever stolen off the web of the
Feigenbaum Diagram of the Logistic Equation
Since we all love paradoxes, which I think Robin can appreciate, there is a flip side, in that, for some, reductionism can have its own beauty. We could call it the seduction-reduction. There is also, as dynamics and psychodynamics knows (or Rick’s No’s), the motivation for some of low, mid, or high dimensional simplexity (to use a term of Cohen and Stewart, Collapse of Chaos; sob my copy stolen in Moscow where I had taken it for Jack’s signature); ya, toilet training and all that stuff, or the archetypes that get to you the most. For great beauty in the math, see any of the Mandelbrot, Peitgen, Vos et al. stuff on fractal beauty (e.g., Peitgen & Richter, The Beauty of Fractals, my copy $3 in Russian, so I did my own robbing done Moscow), but also beautiful work at fractint gallery (web) and web sites of Sprott, Pickover, and Schaeffer. Many intellectual enterprises have much to contribute to our understanding of things, and most deconstruct themselves to some extent. I think reductionism has its place in trying to see our way through things often, but the difference is whether we let ourselves be fooled into thinking it has revealed all. That is the problem with the LaPlacian extreme or hard reductionism. Let’s call the acceptable variety, soft reductionism, which allows the fullness of human experience to bring it to fruition. (Fred, editor.)