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[Xmca-l] Re: Oliver Sacks/Romantic Science



I think the problem with this view of romantic science is that it
completely precludes building a psychology on a sociology. In that sense
(and in others), Vygotsky wasn't a romantic scientist at all. Vygotsky
certainly did not believe in "total immersion in the individual case"; such
an immersion is a refusal to rise to the level of theory. I'm not sure
Luria was romantic that way either: "the Man with a Shattered Mind" and
"The Memory of Mnemonist" are really exceptions. Remember the main
criticism of Luria's book "The Nature of Human Conflicts" was always that
it was too quantitative.

There are, of course, some areas of psychology that are well studied as
case histories. Recently, I've been looking into suicidology, and in
particular the work of Edwin Shneidman, who pioneered the linguistic
analysis of suicide notes (and who appears to have been influenced, as
early as the 1970s, by Kasanin and by Vygotsky's work on schizophrinia).
Now you would think that if ever there was a field that would benefit from
total immersion in the individual case, this is one. But Shneidman says
that suicide notes are mostly full of trite, banal phrases, and as a
consequence very easy to code--and treat quantiatively (one of his first
studies was simply to sort a pile of real and imitation suicide notes and
carefully note the criteria he had when he made correct judgements). And of
course the whole point of Durkheim's work on suicide is that the individual
case can be utterly disregarded, since the great variations are
sociological and the psychological variables all seem trivial, transient,
or mutually cancelling when we look at suicide at a large scale (as we must
these days). Shneidman says he has never read a suicide note he would want
to have written.

David Kellogg



On Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 9:21 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> As little as I understand it, Larry, Oliver Sacks' style of Romantic
> Science was his complete immersion in the individual case before him, and
> development of a science of complete persons. The paradigm of this type of
> science was Luria. A limit case of "Qualitative Science" I suppose. The
> opposite is the study of just one aspect of each case, e.g. facial
> recognition, and the attempt to formulate a "covering law" for just this
> aspect.
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> On 1/09/2015 8:40 AM, HENRY SHONERD wrote:
>
>> Mike,
>> I recall in an obituary in the NYTimes that naysayers were cited in
>> reviewing Oliver Sacks’ life work. I am wondering if some of that push back
>> was related to his practice of romantic science, which, if I understand
>> from things Andy has written, involves immersion in the phenomena of
>> interest in search of a unit of analysis. Goethe, for example, immersed
>> himself in the phenomena of living things. His writing prefigures the cell
>> as a unit of analysis, but the technology of microscopes could not confirm
>> such a unit until later on. Your contrasting Bruner and Sacks makes me
>> wonder if the subject, not just the object, is at issue. Different styles
>> of research bring different construals. This may be the bane of
>> objectivist, empiricist science but does it really make Sacks less of a
>> researcher and just a lowly clinician?
>> Henry
>>
>>
>>
>>> On Aug 30, 2015, at 7:02 PM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
>>>
>>> Hi Laura-- I knew Oliver primarily through our connections with Luria and
>>> the fact that we
>>> independently came to embrace the idea of a romantic science. He was a
>>> shy
>>> and diffident person. You can get that feeling, and the difference
>>> between
>>> him and Jerry Bruner in this regard in the interview with them that
>>> someone
>>> pirated on
>>> to youtube.
>>>
>>> Jerry is very old but last heard from by me, engaging intellectually all
>>> the while.
>>>
>>> mike
>>>
>>> On Sun, Aug 30, 2015 at 5:18 PM, Laura Martin <martinl@azscience.org>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>> Thanks, Mike. A number of years ago I had the privilege of spending an
>>>> evening with Sacks when Lena Luria was visiting Jerry Bruner and Carol
>>>> Feldman in NY.  I stood in for Sylvia who couldn't make the dinner - it
>>>> was
>>>> an extraordinary evening in many ways.  Do you ever hear from Bruner? I
>>>> wonder if he's still active.
>>>>
>>>> Laura
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> Sent from my iPad
>>>>
>>>> On Aug 30, 2015, at 3:29 PM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
>>>>
>>>> Dear Colleagues ---
>>>>
>>>> I am forwarding, with personal sadness, the news that Oliver Sacks has
>>>> succumbed to cancer.
>>>> Its not a surprise, but a sad passing indeed.
>>>> mike
>>>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>>>
>>>> Date: Sun, Aug 30, 2015 at 3:07 PM
>>>> Subject: NYTimes.com: Oliver Sacks Dies at 82; Neurologist and Author
>>>> Explored the Brain’s Quirks
>>>> To: lchcmike@gmail.com
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>   Sent by sashacole510@gmail.com: Oliver Sacks Dies at 82; Neurologist
>>>> and Author Explored the Brain’s Quirks
>>>> <
>>>> http://p.nytimes.com/email/re?location=InCMR7g4BCKC2wiZPkcVUieQKbejxL4a&user_id=bd31502e6eb851a9261827fdfbbcdf6d&email_type=eta&task_id=1440972441657668&regi_id=0>
>>>> By
>>>> GREGORY COWLES
>>>>
>>>> Dr. Sacks explored some of the brain’s strangest pathways in
>>>> best-selling
>>>> case histories like “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” achieving
>>>> a
>>>> level of renown rare among scientists.
>>>> Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://nyti.ms/1LL040D
>>>> <
>>>> http://p.nytimes.com/email/re?location=InCMR7g4BCKC2wiZPkcVUieQKbejxL4a&user_id=bd31502e6eb851a9261827fdfbbcdf6d&email_type=eta&task_id=1440972441657668&regi_id=0>
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>>>>
>>>>
>>>> --
>>>>
>>>> It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an
>>>> object that creates history. Ernst Boesch
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>> --
>>>
>>> It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an
>>> object that creates history. Ernst Boesch
>>>
>>
>>
>>
>