Monday, May 30, 2016

Quotes on the mind watching itself

We all have some level of self-awareness about our own thoughts. On a minimal level, this simply makes us conscious beings.

"I posit two theorems: (1) The mind is all the information in the brain. (2) Consciousness is the brain's awareness of some of that information." - 
J. Allan Hobson.

Beyond that, we face difficulties in maintaining the awareness in a deep way and on an ongoing basis.

"It occurred to me: awareness no more permitted its own description than life allowed you a seat at your own funeral. Awareness trapped itself inside itself." - Richard Powers

"In observing the operation of his own mind, incidentally, Galton was faced with the 'difficulty of keeping watch without embarrassing the freedom of its action'." - Douwe Draaisma

If we persist, we may be called "intellectuals."

"An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself." - Albert Camus

"Tetlock found that the most important difference between fox thinking and hedgehog thinking is that the fox thinker is more likely to study his own decision-making process. In other words, he thinks about how he thinks..." - Jonah Lehrer


J. Allan Hobson. The Chemistry of Conscious States: How the Brain Changes its Mind. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co, 1994. p 203.

Richard Powers. Galatea 2.2. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1995. p. 217.

Douwe Draaisma. Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older: How Memory Shapes Our Past. (2001) Translated by Arnold and Erica Pomerans in 2004. Cambridge University Press, 2005. p 3.

Albert Camus, quoted in, quoted in The Week, August 10, 2012, p. 17.

Jonah Lehrer. How We Decide. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. p. 242. See Tetlock, Expert Political Judgment, Princeton 2006. Based on Isaiah Berlin's classic essay, "The Hedgehog and the Fox."

Celibacy as service and as self-development

Some people worry about sexual abstinence as a matter of personal moral purity, but it is a different matter to cast it in the light of a form of service to others. James Hinton wrote: "The man who separated the thought of chastity from Service and made it revolve round Self betrayed the human race." Raquel Isabelle de Alderete wrote, "Instead of worrying about people's 'purity' and how it defines them as a person, worry instead about how you can protect other people's emotions." Relationships – particularly marriage and child-rearing – take a lot of time. Rabbi Ben-Asai, second century CE, explaining why he shouldn't have to marry and procreate, said: "What can I do? My soul clings to the Torah. The world can be maintained by other people." But the people who do that form of world-maintenance will develop knowledge and skills about relationships that can only be imagined by those who do not personally participate in their own instance of such a relationship. In other words, lifelong celibates are not ideally positioned to dole out marriage and family advice. Uta Ranke-Heinemann wrote: "If only the Church's celibates would stop using the confessional to meddle in matters that don't concern them..." The nature of the service enabled by celibacy is to be defined.

Then again, there is a way of understanding celibacy as a focus on the self without having it be narcissistic. Celibacy can be an intentional part of personal development. Barbara Feldon wrote: "Lovers may leave us, husbands and wives may die, friends can move away, but creativity is faithfully ours if we honor our solitude by diving to realms that are deeper, freer and more complete than our surface lives. Once we know the way we can home to it anytime we wish – if we make the first mark." Sometimes that solitude is needed, not to demonstrate superiority to oneself or to others, but simply to grow.



James Hinton, unpublished manuscript. Quoted in Havelock Ellis. On Life and Sex: Essays of Love and Virtue. Two Volumes in One. New York: Garden City Publishing Company, Inc. 1937. (Formerly Little Essays of Love and Virtue, 1921, and More Essays of Love and Virtue, 1931.) Vol. 1, p. 45.

R.I.D (Raquel Isabelle de Alderete). We Don't Have a Compass but I'm Sure We'll Find Home: A Collection of Poems. 2015.

Rabbi Ben-Asai, quoted in the Talmud, bYabmuth 63b, quoted by Uta Ranke-Heinemann. Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality, and the Catholic Church. Trans. Peter Heinegg. New York: Doubleday, 1990. p 45.

Uta Ranke-Heinemann. Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and the Catholic Church. Translated by Peter Heinegg. New York: Doubleday, 1990. p 198.

Barbara Feldon. Living Alone and Loving It: A Guide to Relishing the Single Life. New York: Fireside, 2003. p. 159.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Quotes: Role of psychology in healing the body

Rollo May:

"When I was ill with tuberculosis two and a half decades ago, I found that my inherited "will power" was strangely ineffective. In those days, the only cure was bed rest and carefully graduated exercise. We could not will ourselves to get well, and the "strong-willed," dominating type of person sick with TB generally got worse. But I found that listening to my body was of critical importance in my cure. ... This may seem like a poetic and "mystical" viewpoint for someone seriously ill to be indulged in, but actually it was a hard-rock, empirical issue of whether I would live or die. ... There is, therefore, a willing which is not merely against bodily desires but with the body, a willing from within; it is a willing of participation rather than opposition.

J. Allan Hobson:

"The best doctor, then, is the self, the only agent who can engineer sound health practices. This view, and its application to our mental and physical health, is something I call 'scientific humanism.'"

Edward Tenner:

"But as yet there is still no reliable technique to establish the existence of suffering. Insurance company lawyers may call automobile whiplash injury a license to steal because no objective imaging procedure or test can diagnose it, but a strained muscle or sprained ligament in the neck is an extremely painful condition that can arise from even a minor collision. As often happens, such injuries may easily be faked. And perhaps there is a borderline region in which honest people, knowing that even minor symptoms are grounds for compensation, subconsciously focus on their pain, amplifying it. Yet the most recent research on whiplash injury suggests that there is no relationship between "neuroticism" and time needed for recovery."


Rollo May, Love and Will, New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1969. p 239-240.

J. Allan Hobson. The Chemistry of Conscious States: How the Brain Changes its Mind. (Originally 1994). p 225.

Edward Tenner. Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. p. 213.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Nature or nurture?: Embracing choice

James Hormel wrote, "As a young boy growing up in Austin, Minnesota, teachers forced pens into my right hand in the futile hope of correcting my left-handedness. If they had known I was gay, they might have tried to fix that, too. They would have failed."

And why do we try to change each other? Whether we can succeed at changing someone else's personality, character and drive seems a secondary question to why we would want to do so in the first place. Instead of trying to control each other, could we try to protect each other from injury?

Simon LeVay wrote: ”The true moral issue in the area of sexuality is not to establish or refute 'naturalness' – a slippery concept if there ever was one – but to make difficult decisions that balance respect for individual freedom against protection from interpersonal or societal harm.”

Meanwhile, in exercising our individual freedom, we can elevate our behavior from unconscious impulse to conscious choice. Nicholas Fearn wrote: ”If we take a repressed homosexual as our thesis, the antithesis is when he or she realizes that sexual desire can be suppressed by will-power. The clash between desire and self-control leads to a synthesis, since with the power to control oneself comes also the ability to liberate oneself – to express desire deliberately rather than as a response to instinct. All being well, the result is new self-respect in which sexual preferences can be acted on without shame. This is probably not what Hegel had in mind when he conceived of the dialectic, but his method is nothing if not flexible.” Kate Bornstein described a similar process in coming to accept one's gender: "There's a myth in our culture that defines transsexuality as rare, and transsexuals as oddities. But nearly everyone has some sort of bone to pick with their own gender status...We're most of us – whether "transsexual" or not – dissatisfied. Some of us have less tolerance for the dissatisfaction, that's all. I accept the label transsexual as meaning only that I was dissatisfied with my given gender, and I acted to change it. I am transsexual by choice, not by pathology." In both cases, moving past the assumption of fatalism and embracing the idea of choice leads to a new self-respect.


"Being gay is not a choice." James Hormel. Special to CNN. Nov. 16, 2011.

Simon LeVay, in his book review, "'Evolution's Rainbow' by Joan Roughgarden." Accessed February 24, 2004.

Nicholas Fearn, How to Think Like a Philosopher. New York: Grove Press, 2001. p 120.

Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us. NY: Vintage Books, 1994. p 118.