Re: [xmca] Considering ARL's view of Romantic Science

From: Beth Ferholt (
Date: Tue Mar 28 2006 - 18:10:11 PST

It's interesting to me that in 'rising to the concrete' of individual
cases Luria makes use of an artistic form -- the novel. He writes in
this chapter that he considers 'The Mind of a Mnemonist' and 'The Man
with a Shattered World' to be his efforts to revive the traditions
of romantic science, and both of these books stand out in their
discipline for their novelistic qualities. I am thinking about this
issue as I work on my paper for AERA, and any thoughts will be much
(Luria also writes that his autobiography itself was the 'unimagined'
story he wrote when he had not the time, nor the the individual with
'exceptional qualities', which were need to write another book
similar to 'The Mind of a Mnemonist' and 'The Man with a Shattered
World'! And, Mike and Karl's "Dialogic Autobiography" does, like
these two works of Luria's, challenge the linearity (and various
other restraints) of the traditional social science written text,
helping us 'rise to the concrete' of the individual case of Luria's
life and work, through the DVD which accompanies the book.
Completing the circle, in this DVD Oliver Sachs describes the
novelistic qualities of Luria's two works of romantic science with a
tone of voice, gestures and facial expressions which helped me to
understand Luria's Romantic Science much more fully ('concretely'?)
than I could have without the DVD ... although not much of this is
captured when transcribed, the following does capture something
because the words maintain their oral quality even on the page!:
“An entirely different sort of excitement came in when I read The
Mind of a Mnemonist. I read the first thirty pages thinking it was a
novel. And then I realized it wasn’t a novel, but a wonderful case
history, with all the accuracy of science but all the sensibility of
drama and the structure of a novel. I’m sort of a story teller
myself ... but certainly seeing The Mind of a Mnemonist ... fortified
me in my own feeling that I had to attempt some similar sort of
portraits of my own patients.” )

On Mar 28, 2006, at 5:06 PM, Mike Cole wrote:

> As a followup on Peter and Dot's contributions, let me single out the
> following part of Luria's document.
> I have always admired Lenin's observation that a glass, as an
> object of
> science, can be understood only when it is viewed from many
> perspectives.
> With respect to the material of which it is made, it becomes an
> object of
> physics; with respect to its value, an object of economics; and
> with respect
> to its form, an object of aesthetics. The more we single out important
> relations during
> 177 . . .
> *. . . The Making **of **Mind*
> * *
> our description, the closer we come to the essence of the object,
> to an
> understanding of its qualities and the rules of its existence. And
> the more
> we preserve the whole wealth of its qualities, the closer we come
> to the
> inner laws that determine its existence. It was this perspective
> which led
> Karl Marx to describe the process of scientific description with the
> strange‑sounding expression, "ascending to the concrete."
> The observation and description of psychological facts should
> follow the
> same process. Clinical and psychological observations have nothing
> in common
> with the reductionism of the classicist. The clinical analysis of
> my early
> research is a case in point. Such an analysis seeks out the most
> important
> traits or primary basic factors that have immediate consequences
> and then
> seeks the secondary or "systemic" consequences of these basic
> underlying
> factors. Only after these basic factors and their consequences have
> been
> identified can the entire picture become clear. The object of
> observation is
> thus to ascertain a net‑work of important relations. When done
> properly,
> observation accomplishes the classical aim of explaining facts,
> while not
> losing sight of the romantic aim of preserving the manifold
> richness of the
> subject.
> By my reading, Luria rejects the antimonies of classical and
> romantic and
> goes for a hybrid approach that uses all the classical info it can
> get and
> then
> "rises to the concrete:" of individual cases. Its as if he were
> reversing
> the Piagetian idea that little kids cannot say which is more, the
> brown
> beads on the beads,
> and saying instead, of brown and white, there a beads and they vary
> in such
> a such a way, not just as brown and white, but as each individual. Not
> reductionism,
> some form of diversity in unity.
> mike
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sat Apr 01 2006 - 01:00:13 PST