Semantic Polarities – Ugazio, Parks

“Valeria Ugazio’s book Semantic Polarities and Psychopathologies in the Family: Permitted and Forbidden Stories proved particularly useful. Ugazio considers the construction of identity in terms of a number of “semantic polarities” (fear/courage, good/evil, success/failure, belonging/exclusion) and suggests that in each family of origin one criterion of value will tend to be hierarchically more important than […]

Risk as Source of Validation

“The psychotherapist—marriage counselor says that I abhor planning and seek risk because it’s the way I receive confirmation of my right to live. For me things must happen by chance, because I need to feel that I have passed some test. It’s as if I were a gambler. When Simone Weil says only the impersonal […]

Rationalism Bias and Tragedy

“Because modern Western culture typically presumes to have grasped a world amenable to rational and scientific investigation, tragedy retains special power to shock. It reminds us that there is no more reason to presume that the universe fits human reason than to regard the Earth as its center. Behind rationalism lies an unnoticed anthropomorphism. Tragedy […]

Spinoza and the False Tag

“More than three centuries ago, Baruch Spinoza pointed out that the human mind cannot suspend disbelief in the truth or falsity of a statement and leave it hanging in logical limbo awaiting a “true” or “false” tag to be hung on it. To hear or read a statement is to believe it, at least for […]

Ethical Obligation to be Optimistic

“It is an ethical obligation to look for hope; it is an ethical obligation not to despair.” As spoken by the playwright Tony Kushner in a friendly, reasonable voice in “Wrestling With Angels,” Freida Lee Mock’s admiring documentary portrait of Mr. Kushner, those words sound like basic common sense. If we want a better world, […]

Emerson – Solitude

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between […]

Questionable Value of Authenticity

In the 1970s, the cultural critic Lionel Trilling encouraged us to take seriously the distinction between sincerity and authenticity. Sincerity, he said, requires us to act and really be the way that we present ourselves to others. Authenticity involves finding and expressing the true inner self and judging all relationships in terms of it. Authenticity […]

The Extended Mind

Where does the mind end and the world begin? Is the mind locked inside its skull, sealed in with skin, or does it expand outward, merging with things and places and other minds that it thinks with? What if there are objects outside—a pen and paper, a phone—that serve the same function as parts of […]