Human systems: levels and aspects of organization and development
Affective aspects in human systems from cells and organisms to people and groups
ZAAMM part I
Insofar as possible, please follow the indicated order of activities. Also, everyone is to do solo homework - reading and writing assignments before meeting together as a study group.
And now we embark (in a way that is "virtual" in a textually mediated mental movie sense) with Robert Pirsig's nameless narrator on what is - on one level - a literal account of a cross-country motorcycle trip. But this is no ordinary travelogue. Before long we also meet up with the narrator"s (author's?) mysterious and ghostlike former self and alter ego, and are thus led through an "Inquiry into Values"
Try to get as much of the reading as possible done before your first study group meeting; without fail be sure to complete the assignment before next class meeting. We expect all group members to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned portion of the text. (Note: We will be reading Parts I, II, III, and IV of ZAAMM in four successive weekly installments between now and Week #5).
Adler, Mortimer J. "How to Read a Difficult Book." Center for Applied Philosophy: The Radical Academy, n.d. [You are about to begin reading a difficult book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.]
[ZAAMM]. Part I, chapters 1-7, pp. 1-93.
Guidebook to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Pirsig and the Chatauqua Movement
What Was Chautauqua?
Useful list of links to relevant Web resources for [ZAAMM].
"Things of Beauty and Beholder's Eyes": MFA Field Trip: "in search of Quality"
ZAAMM part II
Keep going. Prepare for some rough passages through here! Hard problems will be raised; tough questions will be asked; go slow, but keep going!
a) What is a motorcycle?
b) What is a system?
c) What is the scientific method?
d) At the start of this section of the book the Chautauqua picks up on some earlier remarks about "the machine" and proceeds through a component systems analysis (what is that?) and a discussion of the scientific method. This leads back into the history of the development of scientific ideas. The section ends with a passage in which Pirsig has his narrator recall an episode from Phaedrus' past in which we find his former persona (and alter ego, the youthful university instructor he would have us believe he once was) pondering a puzzling remark that has just been made to him by a senior academic colleague. This leads him to put the question to his students and leads us directly to our own confrontation with the book's ultimate question: "What the hell is Quality? What is it?"
The answer that Pirsig puts in the words of his narrator and alter ego - is the very same one that Plato caused to come out of the mouth of the fabled Socrates - namely that truth and beauty are human social constructs; and that we recognize "quality" through an cognitively unknowable, inscrutable, unconscious and indescribable affect-laden mental/behavioral process of evaluation. The compellingness of the validity (psychological reality) of this process is comparable to that of Descartes' "cogito ergo sum."
MFA Fieldtrip Guide and Workbook
One of the main aims of the fieldtrip is to provide everyone in the class with a chance to share the experience of hands-on involvement in a reasonably well-bounded, timelimited, value-laden exercise. Toward this end, we embark on an expedition to an institution that serves, in effect, as a repository of objects ostensibly exemplifying "quality in the fine arts."
There, we will follow a tightly timed, roughly chronologically organized itinerary. In a relatively very short time, a significant fraction of the museum's many galleries will be traversed as you endeavor to locate, to examine (however many) objects, and to record and explain the cognitive and affective reactions (if any) engendered in you by the resulting encounter.
NOTE: the objects selected for this purpose comprise a minuscule subset of the several millions of objects of various kinds in the MFA collection. Please make every effort to carefully read the MFA Fieldtrip Guide and Workbook before the Field Trip. Be prepared to adhere, as closely as possible to the methods of procedure described in the Guide. To facilitate our follow-up, it would be most helpful for students who have access to a digital camera to bring it with them to the museum. For further details see the MFA Guide.
[ZAAMM]. Part II, chapters 8-15, pp. 97-184
MFA Fieldtrip Guide and Workbook including the MFA Reaction Form MFA Fieldtrip
Guide and Workbook including the MFA Reaction Form
Learning from experience: comparing/contrasting MFA observations
ZAAMM Part III
MFA Field Trip Follow-up: Reflect upon your thoughts and feelings about the Field Trip experience in a way that enables you to draw some conclusions about your own attitudes and actions.
Compare/contrast facial expressions and postures or gestures of affective significance in artworks from different traditions/cultures. What similarities and differences are observed? Any evidence here either for or against the idea that there are cross-cultural "affective universals?" Feel free to discuss in some depth and detail any relevant cognitive and affective aspects of your encounter(s) with specific object(s) as well as with each other.
|[ZAAMM]. Part III, chapters 16-26, pp. 187-326.|
|5||Wrapping up ZAAMM||Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is at once the story of a motorcycle journey across the country; a meditation on values and the concept of Quality; and an allegorical tale of a man coming to terms with his past. No doubt it can be described in many other ways as well. What is your definition of it?|| |
[ZAAMM]. Part IV, chapters 27-32, pp. 329-412.
Some further questions to think about (PDF)
|6||What is quality in education?||How is the question relevant to our inquiry into values? In respect to the MFA experience, our stress was largely upon the basic constancies and the great diversities of opinion among us regarding the aesthetic value of particular works of art. Last week, we considered some of the ways in which the distinction between “classical” and “romantic” plays itself out in the domain of scientific inquiry. This week, we shift our attention to a realm "closer to home" and inquire into the prospects for achieving consensual agreement. (Why might we be inclined to seek such a consensus?) To begin with, compare and contrast Pirsig's comments on education with those of the noted historian Page Smith, whose contention it was that the crisis in American universities is connected with the trend toward research and away from teaching.||Smith, Page. "Mapping the Desert," and "Teaching." Chapters 1 and 14 in Killing the spirit: higher education in America. New York, NY: Viking, 1990, pp. 1-21 and 199-222. ISBN: 9780670828173. (Excerpts)|
Problématique du changement I:
Sustainable paradigms lost and regained what are "Crises?" what is a "Scientific Revolution?" changing beliefs, values and practices in science and society
Is the term "paradigm" clearly comprehensible to you?
The late Thomas S. Kuhn, who is generally credited with first using the word "paradigm" (from an Ancient Greek word meaning both pattern and exemplar) to denote a core set of beliefs, values and practices prevailing within scientific communities at particular points in their organization and development. Kuhn saw the scientific enterprise, as most of us still do, as a quintessentially human inquiry process transgenerationally evolving through successive cycles. In a typical case (of which he explored several) experiments/observations/interpretations predicted on the particular set of core beliefs, begin to generate findings that simply do not fit within the prevailing conceptual and material framework (paradigm).
|8||The neuropsychology of affect; the emotional brain and mental life||Organisms as congeries of systems within systems; of atoms within molecules within macromolecules within organelles within cells within tissues within organs, within organ systems, (pulmonary, cardiovascular, digestive, musculoskeletal, reproductive, nervous, central and peripheral — incl. autonomic — divisions) brains and spinal cords, triune mode of organization and development, within organisms, within sociocultural contexts (families, groups, collectivities) within surrounding geopolitical jurisdictions and local, regional and global environments. We introduce some evolutionary, experiential, neuropsychological, psychodynamic, literary, poetic, dramaturgical and sociological aspects of affect in human systems; discuss the distinction between feelings and emotions as it relates to the neuropsychology of affect; and look more closely at some earlier contributions to our understanding — beginning with what Egyptian high-priests told the first Greek historian, Herodotus, about practices dating back more than 12 centuries before their own time; we go on to identify some significant neuropsychological development.|| |
Damasio, Antonio. "Enter Feelings," "Of Appetites and Emotions," and "Feelings." Chapters 1, 2 and 3 in Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. 1st ed. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2003, pp. 1-8, 25-80, and 81-133. ISBN: 9780151005574. (Excerpts)
|9||Psychosurgery: the science of violence and vice versa||We focus on a neurobiologically psychologically and socioculturally complex medical and legal case study in which you will learn something about the true and tragic tale of Leonard Arthur Kille (1933-1996) — the man dubbed "Thomas R." by Drs. Vernon Mark and Frank R. Ervin in their 1970 book "Violence and the Brain." Drs. Mark and Ervin describe "Thomas R.... as a brilliant 34-year old engineer with several important patents to his credit." According to them, his principal presenting complaint was "episodic dyscontrol" characterized by uncontrollable outbursts of unprovoked rage often accompanied by violently abusive verbal and physical assaultiveness — most of it aimed at his wife. At MGH, after chronically indwelling electrodes were stereotaxically implanted bilaterally in a particular portion of his brain's limbic system (the amygdala), Mr. Kille was intermittently and repeatedly subjected to many weeks of observations (including electroencephalographic recording of his "brain waves" or EEG) and occasionally, the implanted electrodes were used to "stimulate" his amygdalae, thereby provoking a wide range of affectively-charged reactions. In due course, he was given a neuropsychological diagnosis.|| |
Chorover, S. L. "The Pacification of the Brain: From Phrenology to Psychosurgery." In Current Controversies in Neurosurgery. Edited by T. P. Morley. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 1976. ISBN: 9780721665573.
———. "Physician vs. Researcher: Values in Conflict?" Wellesley 4 (1979): 21-27.
———. "Violence: A Localizable Problem?" In The Psychosurgery Debate: Scientific, Ethical and Legal Perspectives. Edited by Elliot S. Valenstein. San Francisco, CA: W. H. Freeman, 1980. ISBN: 9780716711575.
|10||Ethics of/in science||Frayn, Michael. Copenhagen. New York, NY: Anchor Books, 2000. ISBN: 9780385720793. ((A play): text and Postscript)|
|11||"Sustainability" as a worldview, valuesystem, and lifestyle what does it have to do with affect?||Early on in ZAAMM, Pirsig has his narrator meditate on "a kind of force that gives rise to technology, something undefined but inhuman, mechanical, lifeless, a blind monster, a death force, something hideous... " One implication is that technology has had deleterious effect on our quality of life. Another way of putting it is that technology has played a role in making material conditions of our lives unsustainable.|| |
Orr, David W. "The Problem of Sustainability." Chapter 1 in Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Postmodern World. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. ISBN: 9780791408742. (Excerpt)
Chorover, S. L. Homework - An Environmental Literacy Primer. Cambridge, MA: Collaborative Learning Systems, 1995, pp. 36-39, sections 1 and 2 from the hardcopy (workbook) portion of an "electronic book" project intended to promote "sustainability" in a time of human/ecological crisis. (HomeWork: An Environmental Literacy Primer ©1995 Stephan L. Chorover/MIT)
The Foreword (Michael Gorbachev); Preface (Christopher Flavin); Year In Review (Lori Brown), Chapter 1: Security Redefined (Michael Renner); and Chapter 5: Managing water conflict and cooperation (Aaron T. Wolf, Annika Kramer, Alexander Carius and Goeffrey D. Dabelko). In Worldwatch Institute: State of the World 2005. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co., 2005. ISBN: 9780393326666.
Problématique du changement II:
Is a Paradigm shift happening?
|Learning means changing — perceiving and responding differently. Memory: Integrating, retaining and applying the lessons of experience. Relations involving both Stability and Change. What is the aim? To maintain preserve and protect prevailing conditions? To promote change? Evaluating behavior. What is good? What is not good? Who is to say? Moral reasoning and ethical decision-making in a domain of complexity and uncertainty.|| |
Melucci, and Chorover. "Knowledge and Wonder: Beyond the Crisis of Modern Science?" In Overcoming the Language Barrier: Problems of Interdisciplinary Dialogue: proceedings of an international roundtable meeting, sponsored by the Center for Frontier Sciences at Temple University May 14-17, 1997. Edited by Robert G. Flower, T. F. Gordon, N. Kolenda, and L. Souder. Philadelphia, PA: Center for Frontier Sciences, Temple University, c1998, pp.76-90. ISBN: 9780963327215.
Chorover. "Paradigms Lost and Regained: Changing Beliefs, Values and Practices in Neuropsychology." In Theories of the Evolution of Knowing. Edited by Gary Greenberg and Ethel Tobach. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum, 1990, pp. 87-106. ISBN: 9780805807554.
———. "Comparing and Contrasting Scientific Paradigms." In Homework — An Environmental Literacy Primer. Cambridge, MA: Collaborative Learning Systems, 1995, pp. 36-39, table from the hardcopy (workbook) portion of an "electronic book" project intended to promote "sustainability" in a time of human/ecological crisis. (HomeWork: An Environmental Literacy Primer ©1995 Stephan L. Chorover/MIT.)
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