Ego Tunnel – The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self

by Thomas Metzinger

Via Basic Books: "We're used to thinking about the self as an independent entity, something that we either have or are. In The Ego Tunnel, philosopher Thomas Metzinger claims otherwise: No such thing as a self exists. The conscious self is the content of a model created by our brain—an internal image, but one we cannot experience as an image. Everything we experience is 'a virtual self in a virtual reality.' But if the self is not real, why and how did it evolve? How does the brain construct it? Do we still have souls, free will, personal autonomy, or moral accountability? In a time when the science of cognition is becoming as controversial as evolution, The Ego Tunnel provides a stunningly original take on the mystery of the mind."

Via Wikipedia: "Thomas Metzinger (born 12 March 1958) is a German philosopher and professor of theoretical philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. [...]

In English he has published two edited works, Conscious Experience (1995), and Neural correlates of consciousness: empirical and conceptual issues (2000). The latter book arose out of the second ASSC meeting, for which he acted as local organizer. In 2015, together with Jennifer M. Windt, he published the Open MIND-collection, containing more than 100 original, peer-reviewed open access-papers from philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and neuroscience. A follow-up project (2017) was Philosophy and Predictive Processing-collection.

In 2003 Metzinger published the monograph Being No One. In this book he argues that no such things as selves exist in the world: nobody ever had or was a self. All that exists are phenomenal selves, as they appear in conscious experience. He argues that the phenomenal self, however, is not a thing but an ongoing process; it is the content of a "transparent self-model." In 2009 Metzinger published a follow-up book to Being No One for a general audience: The Ego Tunnel (Basic Books, New York, ISBN 0-465-04567-7)."

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My Voice Will Go with You – The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson

Sidney Rosen (Editor, Commentaries by)

Via W. W. Norton & Company: "Milton H. Erickson has been called the most influential hypnotherapist of our time. Part of his therapy was his use of teaching tales, which through shock, surprise, or confusion—with genius use of questions, puns, and playful humor—helped people to see their situations in a new way. In this book Sidney Rosen has collected over one hundred of the tales."

Via Wikipedia: "Milton Hyland Erickson (5 December 1901 – 25 March 1980) was an American psychiatrist and psychologist specializing in medical hypnosis and family therapy. He was founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychopathological Association. He is noted for his approach to the unconscious mind as creative and solution-generating. He is also noted for influencing brief therapy, strategic family therapy, family systems therapy, solution focused brief therapy, and neuro-linguistic programming."

Via Bookrags: "Sidney Rosen was a colleague of the late Dr. Erickson and has first hand knowledge of many of the techniques and cases used throughout the book. Rosen has little to add to the work, except for some of his own anecdotes or brief comments regarding a particular case or theory. The work is entirely that of Erickson, a man who has been recognized as a pioneer in his field.

The title of the book, My Voice Will Go with You, relates to one technique Erickson used in his practice. While a subject was under hypnosis or in some form of trance, Erickson would speak to the patient in such a way that the patient would choose to reframe past experiences. The technique often involved personal beliefs or traumas that were formed in the past and therefore, affected the patient's present and future. Erickson talked to the patient, attempting to remove negative programming in the patient's mind. It was obvious to Erickson that he could not be with the patient every waking moment and that the patient would have to learn to hear the suggestions for reframing everywhere the patient went. Erickson began to tell patients that the suggestions would follow no matter where the patient went. Erickson's voice would replace the patient's own as well as the voices of family, friends, colleagues, and anyone else the patient came in contact with on a daily basis. Because Erickson was able to convince the patient that My Voice Will Go With You, the patient was able to reframe or reprogram negative experiences into positive ones.

Overall, the book can be seen as a practical guide to relationships and to simple techniques created to change a patient's life. The examples throughout the book are informing while being entertaining and thought provoking. Erickson's style is reminiscent of a story teller's rather than a medical professional. An added bonus is that Erickson interjects personal stories from his life, including experiences with the Erickson children that show the doctor practiced what he preached.

Rosen's contribution to the book also allows the reader to see that Erickson's work may have been controversial at one time, considered to be almost shamanic by certain colleagues but eventually, the proof of its relevance and effectiveness gave the doctor credibility. The work lives on in the practices of many and has gained Erickson a great deal of respect in the professional realm."

Thanks to William Bennett!

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Cassavetes on Cassavetes

by Ray Carney

Via Wikipedia: "Cassavetes is the subject of several books about the actor/filmmakers life. Cassavetes on Cassavetes is a collection of interviews collected or conducted by Boston University film scholar Ray Carney, in which the late filmmaker recalls his experiences, influences and outlook in the film industry. In the Oscar 2005 edition of Vanity Fair magazine, one article features a tribute to Cassavetes by three members of his stock company: Gena Rowlands, and actors Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk."

Via Google Books: "In his own words Cassavetes tells the story of his life as he lived it, day by day, year by year. He begins with his family and childhood and describes his high school, college, and drama school days. He talks about the years he spent pounding the pavement in New York as a young, unemployed actor unable to get a job - or even an agent. Then he takes the reader behind the scenes to sit in on the planning, rehearsing, shooting, and editing of each of his films. He describes the battles to get them made and the even greater struggle to get them into theaters. It is an extraordinary personal saga of dreams, triumphs, and frustrations; of high-stakes financial gambles, crazy artistic risk-taking, and midnight visions of glory. This is Cassavetes at his most candid and outspoken - uncompromising, humane, and passionate about both life and art."

Via Faber and Faber: "John Cassavetes is the godfather of American independent cinema, saluted by virtually every US maverick who's followed in his stead, from Martin Scorsese to Sean Penn. Since his death in 1989, Cassavetes has become increasingly renowned as a cinematic hero - a loner who fought against the iniquities of the Hollywood system, steering his own creative course in a career spanning thirty years. Having first established himself as an actor, he bravely struck out on his own as a director in 1959 with Shadows, and proceeded to build up a formidable body of work. His major films include Faces, Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Opening Night and Gloria. These unforgettable works are driven and distinguished by Cassavetes's collaboration with actors of the calibre of Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk. Professor Ray Carney, a friend and admirer of Cassavetes, presents a book that offers us Cassavetes in his own words - frank, uncompromising, humane, and passionate about both life and art."

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Women Who Run With the Wolves

by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Via Clarissa Pinkola Estés: "Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species. In Women Who Run With the Wolves, Dr. Estés unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, and stories, many from her own family, in order to help women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature. Through the stories and commentaries in this remarkable book, we retrieve, examine, love, and understand the Wild Woman and hold her against our deep psyches as one who is both magic and medicine. Dr. Estés has created a new lexicon for describing the female psyche. Fertile and life-giving, it is a psychology of women in the truest sense, a knowing of the soul."

Via New York Times: "In the book, Dr. Estes has interpreted old tales in ways that merge Carlos Castaneda with Bruno Bettelheim, from Bluebeard to the Little Match Girl, that reveal an archetypal wild woman whose qualities she says have today been dangerously tamed by a society that preaches the virtue of being nice."

Via Medium: "It’s about a book I wish I’d had in my backpack back then, a book every teenage girl and a grown-up woman should read, a bible of feminine empowerment, and an initiation to a very special club, the Club of Wild Women.
Both scientific and poetic, Women Who Run With the Wolves is not an easy read. It requires your undivided attention and a lot of commitment. But take that journey and I promise, by its end you’ll be rewarded with the greatest gift — your soul.
Here are 13 lessons you can learn from Clarissa Pinkola Estés and her insightful analysis of 20 fairy tales and myths from all over the world."

"If you have never been called a defiant, incorrigible, impossible woman… have faith… there is yet time." –Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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Gestalt Therapy Verbatim

by Fritz Perls

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped.

Fritz Perls, "Gestalt Therapy Verbatim", 1969

Via Wikipedia: "Friedrich (Frederick) Salomon Perls (July 8, 1893 – March 14, 1970), better known as Fritz Perls, was a noted German-born psychiatrist and psychotherapist. Perls coined the term Gestalt therapy to identify the form of psychotherapy that he developed with his wife, Laura Perls, in the 1940s and 1950s. Perls became associated with the Esalen Institute in 1964, and he lived there until 1969. His approach to psychotherapy is related to, but not identical to, Gestalt psychology, and it is different from Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy.

The core of the Gestalt Therapy process is enhanced awareness of sensation, perception, bodily feelings, emotion, and behavior, in the present moment. Relationship is emphasized, along with contact between the self, its environment, and the other."

Thanks to William Bennett!

 

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Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals

by John Gray

Via Wikipedia: "John Nicholas Gray (born 17 April 1948) is an English political philosopher with interests in analytic philosophy and the history of ideas. He retired in 2008 as School Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics and Political Science. [...]

Gray sees volition, and hence morality, as an illusion, and portrays humanity as a ravenous species engaged in wiping out other forms of life. Gray writes that 'humans ... cannot destroy the Earth, but they can easily wreck the environment that sustains them.' [...]

In Straw Dogs he argues that the idea that humans are self-determining agents does not pass the acid test of experience. Those Darwinist thinkers who believe humans can take charge of their own destiny to prevent environmental degradation are, in this view, not naturalists, but apostles of humanism.

He identifies the Enlightenment as the point at which the Christian doctrine of salvation was taken over by secular idealism and became a political religion with universal emancipation as its aim. Communism, fascism and 'global democratic capitalism' are characterised by Gray as Enlightenment 'projects' which have led to needless suffering, in Gray's view, as a result of their ideological allegiance to this religion."

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The Hero with a Thousand Faces

by Joseph Campbell 

Via Wikipedia: "The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) is a work of comparative mythology by American mythologist Joseph Campbell. In this book, Campbell discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies.

Since publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell's theory has been consciously applied by a wide variety of modern writers and artists. The best known is perhaps George Lucas, who has acknowledged Campbell's influence on the Star Wars films. [...]

Campbell explores the theory that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which Campbell called the monomyth. [...]

In laying out the monomyth, Campbell describes a number of stages or steps along this journey. The hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events (a call to adventure). If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, the hero must face tasks and trials (a road of trials), and may have to face these trials alone, or may have assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift (the goal or 'boon'), which often results in the discovery of important self-knowledge. The hero must then decide whether to return with this boon (the return to the ordinary world), often facing challenges on the return journey. If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world (the application of the boon).

Very few myths contain all of these stages—some myths contain many of the stages, while others contain only a few; some myths may have as a focus only one of the stages, while other myths may deal with the stages in a somewhat different order. These stages may be organized in a number of ways, including division into three sections: Departure (sometimes called Separation), Initiation and Return. 'Departure' deals with the hero venturing forth on the quest, "Initiation" deals with the hero's various adventures along the way, and "Return" deals with the hero's return home with knowledge and powers acquired on the journey.

The classic examples of the monomyth relied upon by Campbell and other scholars include the stories of Osiris, Prometheus, the Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, and Jesus, although Campbell cites many other classic myths from many cultures which rely upon this basic structure. The alleged similarities between these shared hero legends is one of the basic arguments of the Christ myth theory.

While Campbell offers a discussion of the hero's journey by using the Freudian concepts popular in the 1940s and 1950s, the monomythic structure is not tied to these concepts. Similarly, Campbell uses a mixture of Jungian archetypes, unconscious forces, and Arnold van Gennep's structuring of rites of passage rituals to provide some illumination.However, this pattern of the hero's journey influences artists and intellectuals worldwide, suggesting a basic usefulness for Campbell's insights not tied to academic categories and mid-20th century forms of analysis."

Alsop, try to see Joseph Campbell's lecture series Transformation of myth through time. It is a life changing experience.

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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

by Robert Cialdini

Via Wikipedia: "Robert Beno Cialdini (born April 27, 1945) is the Regents' Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and was a visiting professor of marketing, business and psychology at Stanford University, as well as at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is best known for his 1984 book on persuasion and marketing, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. [...]
One of Cialdini's other books, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, was a New York Times Bestseller. [...]

Cialdini's theory of influence is based on six key principles: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, scarcity.

Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle.
Commitment and consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. Cialdini notes Chinese brainwashing of American prisoners of war to rewrite their self-image and gain automatic unenforced compliance. Another example is children being made to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance each morning.
Social proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. See conformity, and the Asch conformity experiments.
Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.
Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed. See physical attractiveness stereotype.
Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a 'limited time only' encourages sales.

His 1984 book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, was based on three "undercover" years applying for and training at used car dealerships, fund-raising organizations, and telemarketing firms to observe real-life situations of persuasion. It has been mentioned in 50 Psychology Classics."

Thanks to William Bennett!

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Consciousness: Creeping Up on the Hard Problem

by Jeffrey Gray

Via Wikipedia: "In his book Consciousness: Creeping up on the Hard Problem written towards the end of his life, Gray summarised his ideas about brain function and consciousness. He took the view that the contents of consciousness are usually about something, and this is described as intentionality or meaning. He suggested that intentionality is another aspect of the 'binding problem', as to how the different modalities, such as sight and hearing, are bound together into a single conscious experience. Gray argued that without such binding, eating a banana could involve seeing yellow, feeling a surface, and tasting something, without having the unifying awareness of a particular object known as a banana. Without such unifying binding, he argues that objects would be just meaningless shapes, edges, colours etc.

Gray thought that intentionality was based on unconscious processing. The processing in the visual cortex that underlies conscious perception is not itself conscious. Instead, the perception is argued to spring into consciousness fully formed, including the intentionality of what the conscious perception is about. In arguing for this, Gray uses the example of pictures that can be either of two things, such as a duck or a rabbit. They are never hybrid, but are always completely duck or completely rabbit. The perception of a duck or a rabbit is argued to be constructed unconsciously up to the last moment. Gray's conclusion from this part of his discussion is that intentionality arises from the physical and chemical structure of the brain, but also that if intentionality can be constructed out of unconscious processing, it is unlikely to produce a solution to the 'hard problem' of how consciousness arises. [...]

Gray disagreed with the functionalist theory of consciousness. He described the position of functionalism as saying that consciousness is the nature of certain complex systems, regardless of whether they are made of neurons, silicon chips or some other material. The underlying tissues or machinery are irrelevant. Further to that consciousness relates only to functions performed by the brain or other system, and does not arise as a result of anything that is not functional. For any discriminated difference in qualia, there must be a difference in function. It is also claimed that for every discriminated difference in function, there is a difference in qualia.

In discussing this question further, Gray looked at synaesthesia, where he described modalities as becoming mixed, as when numbers or sounds are experienced with colour. Experimentation in recent years has demonstrated that synaesthesia is most likely the consequence of abnormal projections into the V4 colour region of the visual cortex from other parts of the brain. Brain scanning studies have shown that when words are spoken, in addition to the normal activity in the auditory cortex, the V4 colour vision area in the visual cortex became active, in a way which does not occur in normal subjects. There was no related activation in V1 or V2, the earlier stages of the visual pathway. The conclusion drawn from a whole series of experiments was that the 'word-type' of synaesthete has an abnormal projection from the auditory cortex into the visual cortex causing the V4 colour area to produce consciousness of colour. However, there is no evidence that this colour sensation has any function.

Gray argued from these findings that there was no relationship between the occurrence of the synaesthete's colour experience and the linguistic function that triggers them. Gray argues that this phenomenon refutes the functionalist analysis of consciousness, because the theory claims that conscious experience relates only to functions performed in the brain, and does not arise as a result of anything that is not functional, as is claimed to be the case with this type of synaesthesia."

Thanks to Constantin Rothkopf!

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Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design

by Michael Bierut

Via Wikipedia: "Michael Bierut (born 1957) is a graphic designer, design critic and educator who designed the logo for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. [...]

Bierut was vice president of graphic design at Vignelli Associates. Since 1990 he has been a partner in the New York office of Pentagram. According to his Pentagram online biography: Bierut 'is responsible for leading a team of graphic designers who create identity design, environmental graphic design and editorial design solutions. He has won hundreds of design awards and his work is represented in several permanent collections [...]." Bierut is also known for his involvement in the film Helvetica.

He has published a book called Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design, which was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2007. Bierut is a senior critic at the Yale School of Art in Graphic Design and co-edits the anthology series Looking Closer: Critical Writings on Graphic Design, published by Allworth Press. Bierut is the co-founder of the blog Design Observer and his commentaries about graphic design can be heard nationally on the Public Radio International program Studio 360."

Every year I read the chapter My Phone Call to Arnold Newman (page 44) to my students. It reminds me to try and stay humble.

 

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