Friday, July 27, 2012

Why Academic Freedom? Why Tenure? - E. C. Tolman

In recent years there has been a concerted attack, in the US at least, on academic freedom and tenure. From an administrative point of view, the target seems primarily to be tenure (as many administrators see it as an impediment to their power); while from a political point of view, the target seems primarily to be academic freedom (as many seek to censure discourse in all areas of society, and find it particularly difficult to do so in the academe). In my opinion, the academe is so vulnerable to these attacks because we have, as a group, failed to articulate the social importance of these mechanisms. Given that one might presume we were educators of some sort, and that we had a role in educating virtually all administrators and members of the government, this is a striking failure. I have my own thoughts on how best to articulate the importance of these ideas, but will save them for another time. At the moment I want to note a brilliant defense of  academic freedom and tenure delivered by Edward Chase Tolman.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cheiron 2012 - Post Conference Report

Cheiron: The International Society for the History of Behavioral & Social Sciences is a great group of people who have been meeting since 1968. There is a lot of overlap with the American Psychological Association's Division 24, but there is a more international and a more interdisciplinary emphasis. To whit, this year's meeting in Montreal, was co-hosted by the European Society for the History of the Social Sciences. There are three reasons that Cheiron has become one of my annual go-to conferences: 1) There is an amazing mix of people interested in history for the sake of history, for the sake of the field, and for the sake of our discipline's future. 2) There is a tremendous breadth of interest, making it one of the few decent conferences with representation across the entire discipline of psychology. 3) The people are amazingly supportive. For most of the time Cheiron has two simultaneous sessions, and occasionally one gets waylaid in great conversation. Of the sessions I attended, and the conversations I had, the highlights included:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Note regarding Eco Psych and Epistemology

Continuing the theme of propping Ecological Psychology against its detractors through reference to American Philosophy. One challenge holds that Eco Psych has no implications for epistemology and no relevance in understanding phenomenon such as "thinking". But the philosophical lineage descended from pragmatism breaks down divisions commonly assumed in the Continental traditions. In that context, the relevance of Eco Psych is clear....

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Reply to Fodor and Phylshyn - Part 2

Continuing the reply that I think should have been made to Fodor and Pylyshyn's 1981 attack on Ecological Psychology. In F&P's article, the key elements of which are summarized here. They assert a very traditional, dualistic view of perception - as a process requiring sensory information to be supplemented by other cognitive processes in order to create an representational mental model of the world. They then point out (rightly) that some of Gibson's insights can be integrated into the traditional view and further assert (wrongly) that Gibson is thus offering nothing new. In so doing, I want to avoid as much as possible taking any bait offered by F&P which risk reeling us into to covert dualistic assumptions. I suggest that the best way to avoid such missteps is to stay firmly rooted in the line of thinking descended from pragmatism. Part 1 of my reply covered the meaning of "perception", "specification", and "direct perception", and the importance of remembering that if two things have all the same consequences, then they are the same thing (one crucial way of avoiding false distinctions). In this part I will continue to explain Gibson's approach by elucidating problems in F&P's critique.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A New Blog (sort of)

By the way, Gregg (mentioned in the last post) has been encouraging me for a while to try a Psychology Today blog. Now Andrew and Sabrina are doing one as well. Sigh. Maybe I am more suceptable to peer pressure than I thought. At any rate, there is now a first post!


I will probably post at Psychology Today no more than once a month, and only when I have something much more accessible to lay audiences. This will remain my primary blog, where any "real work" gets done.

New Unified Theory of Psychology

I blogged a bit ago about Gregg Henriques's "New Unified Theory of Psychology", which had seen several in-press discussions, and a book. Gregg also blogs over at Psychology Today.

I mention this because my practice of reviewing one book a year for PsychCritiques provided me with a copy of Gregg's recent book, and the review has just released. As in the past, I don't want to provide too much of the review, for fear of violating copyright, but, as I liked the book, something should be said here.