Tag Archives: Wittgenstein

New Fiction: Skinner’s Quests

A new novel, by Richard Gilbert, offers of fictionalized account of what might have happened had B.F. Skinner and Sigmund Freud met. Skinner’s Quests is described as follows:

Two of the best known psychologists of the twentieth century, B.F. Skinner and Sigmund Freud, never met. What if they had met? What if, as well, the young B.F. Skinner had discussed matters of mutual interest with Ludwig Wittgenstein, the century’s best known and most eccentric philosopher, also living in England in 1939?

Skinner’s Quests, a novel of ideas and relationships, describes a fictional trip to England by Skinner in May and June 1939. He traveled from his home in Minneapolis to London and Cambridge via Montreal and Glasgow. He returned via Lisbon and New York.

Skinner had two quests. Both were conceived by philosopher and political activist Bertrand Russell, then at the University of Chicago. Both were to do with Russell’s former student Ludwig Wittgenstein – already the 20th century’s preeminent philosopher.

One quest was to correct what Russell regarded as Wittgenstein’s futile flirtation with behaviorism. (Russell had misunderstood Skinner’s position.)

The other quest, in collaboration with the White House, was to exploit Wittgenstein’s association with Adolf Hitler. The two were born a few days apart and were at high school together. Moreover, in 1939 Wittgenstein was involved with the German government, negotiating exemptions for his family from the Nuremburg (Race) Laws. He was also pally with the Soviet government.

Skinner had little interest in Wittgenstein. He welcomed the trip – over the strong objections of his wife – for a chance to meet Sigmund Freud, who was dying in London. Skinner was an admirer of Freud’s writings, even though he disagreed with much of what the founder of psychoanalysis had to say. Skinner met Freud, and Freud’s daughter Anna. In Cambridge, Skinner met Alan Turing as well as Wittgenstein. This was just after Turing had devised the modern computer and before he become a key figure in British cryptanalysis.

During the odyssey, Skinner met with other real and several fictional characters. Some of his encounters were romantic. Some were merely social. Some had a sinister edge that reflected the time of his travels, made during one of modern history’s most fraught periods.

Skinner’s odyssey had mixed success. He had little apparent impact on Wittgenstein, but he clarified his own thinking about several matters and provided information of possible value to the White House. Early in his odyssey, Skinner had visions of being the Darwin of the twentieth century, doing for psychology what Darwin had done for biology in the nineteenth century. Freud cautioned Skinner that his disregard for free will could become associated with totalitarianism. Skinner let the matter rest, at least for the moment.

The book will appeal to readers interested in some or all of these topics: psychology, philosophy, language, evolution, transportation in the 1930s, and the politics of North America and Europe just before the Second World War.

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August Issue of Theory &Psychology : Implicit Mentalization, Intercorporeality, Affective Conjunctions, & More

The latest issue of Theory & Psychology has been posted online and contains many T & Pcompelling pieces, including works on Situated and Embodied Social Psychology, a critical Wittgensteinian investigation of methodological plurality, and a cultural-historical standpoint on subjectivity and Social Representation theory. We’ve compiled the abstracts here for your convenience:

Rethinking situated and embodied social psychology 

Wim T. J. L. Pouw, & Huib Looren de Jong

This article aims to explore the scope of a Situated and Embodied Social Psychology (ESP). At first sight, social cognition seems embodied cognition par excellence. Social cognition is first and foremost a supra-individual, interactive, and dynamic process (Semin & Smith, 2013). Radical approaches in Situated/Embodied Cognitive Science (Enactivism) claim that social cognition consists in an emergent pattern of interaction between a continuously coupled organism and the (social) environment; it rejects representationalist accounts of cognition (Hutto & Myin, 2013). However, mainstream ESP (Barsalou, 1999, 2008) still takes a rather representation-friendly approach that construes embodiment in terms of specific bodily formatted representations used (activated) in social cognition. We argue that mainstream ESP suffers from vestiges of theoretical solipsism, which may be resolved by going beyond internalistic spirit that haunts mainstream ESP today.

Continue reading August Issue of Theory &Psychology : Implicit Mentalization, Intercorporeality, Affective Conjunctions, & More

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More BPS Hist. of Psychological Disciplines Talks!

The British Psychological Society‘s (BPS) History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series (discussed previously on AHP here) has two events scheduled for later this month. Organized by the BPS’s History of Psychology Centre and University College London’s (UCL) Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, the events take place at 6pm at UCL. If you’re in the London area, be sure to stop by (no registration necessary). Full details follow below and can also be found on the seminar series’s website.

The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines

Location: UCL Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Room 544,* 5th Floor, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ (map)

Time: 6pm-7.30pm

Wednesday 14 November
Professor Ramón del Castillo (Universdad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Madrid), “Madness and rules: A case for Wittgenstein.” The abstract reads,

This talk explores Wittgenstein’s philosophy of psychology through exploring his  work on comedy, tragedy, jokes and humour, showing the connection between his  understanding of these and his conception of philosophy. Wittgenstein one said that a serious and philosophical work could be written that would consist entirely of jokes. His philosophical work was serious and included some jokes. However he was not a good joker, and his perception of social life was as limited as his sense of humour. It argues that Wittgenstein’s later ideas on rules and language-games are better understood if we think in terms of different types of jokes. It explains the diverse types of what Wittgenstein called ‘gramatical jokes’ (from the logical ones to the performative ones), and also indicates the relevance of certain types of humour in illuminating the background of linguistic games (using examples from sports and social acts).

Wednesday 21 November
Dr Maria Teresa Brancaccio (left) (Maastricht University), “War trauma in France and Italy (1920s-1980s).” The abstract reads,

In the twentieth century, medical-psychological theories on the health effects of war- related suffering as well as their social recognition presented large variations in different European countries. Focusing on the medical debates and on the diagnostic categories adopted in France and in Italy in the aftermaths of the two World Wars, the paper will investigate how changes in medical, social and political thinking influenced the understanding of war trauma in the two countries.

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