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



Brook also write and produced a play based, loosely, on Luria and the man
with a shattered world. I have not seen it.
mike

On Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 8:40 AM, Bruce Robinson <brucerob1953@googlemail.com>
wrote:

> I posted this a while ago but it bouinced for reasons at my end.
>
>
> The Guardian obituary of Sacks is well worth reading and contains some
> useful quotes about his method and responses to it.
>
> From 'Awakenings': "There is nothing alive which is not individual: our
> health is ours; our diseases are ours; our reactions are ours – no less
> than our minds or our faces.”
>
> From the obituary:
>
> " Sacks was such a resonant writer precisely because his sense of the
> importance of the personal and human, learned partly from his humane
> medical parents, is tempered by an equal attraction toward the abstract and
> scientific...
>
> “The sum of anecdote is not evidence,” as the advocates of evidence-based
> medicine like to remind softer-minded folk, and they are right that
> personal experience often misleads, particularly in the context of medical
> treatment. And yet, one can imagine Sacks reflecting, anecdote is in fact
> precisely where evidence begins."
>
> I agree that Sacks' deep humanism, which has been widely commented on, is
> what makes him so appealing as a narrator and a human being. I heard him
> speak once on a panel in Manchester after seeing Peter Brook's staging of '
> The Man Who Mistook...' which brought the case histories to life in a
> striking way and his commitment to the patients came across strongly.
>
> Bruce Robinson
>
>
> On 01/09/2015 16:20, Andy Blunden wrote:
>
>> Could you give an example, Peg?
>> andy
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> *Andy Blunden*
>> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>> On 2/09/2015 1:14 AM, Peg Griffin wrote:
>>
>>> What has always helped me – and helps me appreciate Luria and Sachs –
>>> with rising to the concrete is this funny little square I made (based on
>>> the even funnier JoHari window after Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, I
>>> heard). I can think better by working to fill in each of the four cells in
>>> the square about an issue of interest.   It helps me think about
>>> genetically primary examples in mathematics curricula, too.
>>>     Concrete    Abstract
>>> Specific
>>> General
>>>
>>> A romantic square,
>>> Peg
>>>
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: xmca-l-bounces+peg.griffin=att.net@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
>>> xmca-l-bounces+peg.griffin=att.net@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Rod
>>> Parker-Rees
>>> Sent: Tuesday, September 01, 2015 4:55 AM
>>> To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Oliver Sacks/Romantic Science
>>>
>>> Thanks for posting this, Andy.
>>>
>>> I found Luria's account fascinating, particularly because of his
>>> reference to 'the beauty of the art of science' and his observation that
>>> 'The eye of science does not probe “a thing,” an event isolated from other
>>> things or events. Its real object is to see and understand the way a thing
>>> or event relates to other things or events'.
>>>
>>> We are able to communicate because we are able to agree (more or less)
>>> on ways of organising experience into shareable categories but our
>>> communication ranges across a whole spectrum of ways of using these
>>> categories. Luria refers to classical and romantic branches of science but
>>> he also acknowledges the differences between 'poetic' use of language and
>>> more routine, formulaic forms of communication. The romantic focus on an
>>> 'individual' can only ever be conducted in the medium of a very
>>> un-individual language and no person's life could possibly be understood
>>> without reference to relationships with other persons which then spread
>>> roots and branches out to a forest of connections, causes and consequences.
>>>
>>> David wrote of the impossibility of 'rising' to the level of theory if
>>> one were to immerse oneself in the study of an individual case and Luria
>>> cites Marx's description of science as 'ascending to the concrete'. As
>>> Luria goes on to conclude 'People come and go, but the creative sources of
>>> great historical events and the important ideas and deeds remain' so, in
>>> this sense, what matters is the contribution individuals make to something
>>> bigger and more enduring than themselves but Luria also writes that
>>> 'Romantics in science want neither to split living reality into its
>>> elementary components nor to represent the wealth of life's concrete events
>>> in abstract models that lose the properties of the phenomena themselves'.
>>>
>>> I think Luria's account of Sherashevsky's mental experience is
>>> particularly interesting because it may reveal something about how all
>>> minds work, albeit that Sherashevsky's 'limen' may have been 'set' lower
>>> than most people's, allowing him to notice the sensory associations which
>>> words bring with them in a way which, for most of us, may occur only at a
>>> pre-conscious level. This provides a particularly powerful reminder of the
>>> inescapable fact that every person's use of a shared language (whether of
>>> words, gestures, behaviours or any other units of meaning) is just the
>>> surface of a pool of connections and associations which can never be shared
>>> with or known by anyone else. However romantic our focus may be, we can
>>> only go so far in understanding another person's understanding and much
>>> less far in communicating that to other people (knowing someone is a very
>>> different thing from being able to share that knowledge in a rich and
>>> meaningful way). And of course, on the other side of the spectrum,
>>> classical scientists who pretend that their knowledge is entirely pure and
>>> untainted by the personal associations that swirl beneath the limens of
>>> their knowing are just inventing stories!
>>>
>>> I apologise for rambling but I am particularly interested in what lies
>>> beneath the concrete because of my focus on how very young children are
>>> able to make sense of a world which, for adults, is so powerfully dominated
>>> by abstractions.
>>>
>>> All the best,
>>>
>>> Rod
>>>
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: xmca-l-bounces+rod.parker-rees=plymouth.ac.uk@mailman.ucsd.edu
>>> [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+rod.parker-rees=plymouth.ac.uk@mailman.ucsd.edu]
>>> On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
>>> Sent: 01 September 2015 05:17
>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Oliver Sacks/Romantic Science
>>>
>>> Try this, in Word this time.
>>> Andy
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> *Andy Blunden*
>>> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>> On 1/09/2015 1:32 PM, mike cole wrote:
>>>
>>>> ​It might be helpful to this discussion if someone would post the
>>>> chapter on Romantic Science from Luria's autobiography which MUST be
>>>> somewhere public in pdf. It appears that I do not have one.
>>>>
>>>> After reading what the person said, then discussion of the ideas seems
>>>> appropriate. Ditto Sacks, who has written a couple of extended essay's
>>>> on his view of Romantic Science.
>>>>
>>>> It is true that the Russian psychologists, erudite as they were, were
>>>> not sociologists. Nor were they anthropologists. The nature of their
>>>> enterprise encompassed those fields and more.
>>>>
>>>> Doing Romantic Science and immersing oneself in the individual case in
>>>> no way excludes inclusion of sociology, anthropology, in their work.
>>>> Nor does Luria argue so.
>>>>
>>>> mike
>>>> ​
>>>>
>>>> On Mon, Aug 31, 2015 at 7:29 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com
>>>> <mailto:dkellogg60@gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>>
>>>>      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 <mailto: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/
>>>>      <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>>>      > 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 <mailto: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 <mailto: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 <mailto: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 <mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com>
>>>>      >>>>
>>>>      >>>>
>>>>      >>>>   Sent by sashacole510@gmail.com
>>>>      <mailto: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
>>>>      >>>
>>>>      >>
>>>>      >>
>>>>      >>
>>>>      >
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> --
>>>>
>>>> It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an
>>>> object that creates history. Ernst Boesch
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> ________________________________
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-- 

It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an
object that creates history. Ernst Boesch