New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

The December 2013 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Included in this issue is an article on psychologist Raleigh M. Drake’s work on musical ability, discussion of cognitivism, and a special section on eros. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The extent of cognitivism,” by V. P. J. Arponen. The abstract reads,

In this article, cognitivism is understood as the view that the engine of human (individual and collective) action is the intentional, dispositional, or other mental capacities of the brain or the mind. Cognitivism has been criticized for considering the essence of human action to reside in its alleged source in mental processes at the expense of the social surroundings of the action, criticism that has often been inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. This article explores the logical extent of the critique of cognitivism, arguing that by positing collectively shared knowledge of criteria as the engine of human action many such critiques themselves display latent cognitivism.

“There is no evidence of ‘latent cognitivism’ in Peter Hacker’s treatment of criteria,” by Michael A. Tissaw. No abstract provided.

“On the extent of cognitivism: A response to Michael Tissaw,” by V. P. J. Arponen. No abstract provided.

“Scent in science and culture,” by Beata Hoffmann. The abstract reads,

Although we are not aware of many spontaneous sensual experiences, we learn about the surrounding world through our senses. One of the objects of sensual experience is smell. It influences our decisions, shapes social interactions and is also a carrier of social meanings. Unfortunately, long-term conviction about the domination of sight over smell led to a belief in the pictorial character of our contemporary culture. Moreover, constant fluctuations between the promotion and ignoring of olfactory data have played a role in the neglect of the importance of smell in social studies. In this article I show how important the sense of smell has been through many centuries of science, and point out that the alleged linguistic and methodological difficulties of this topic, as well as the subjective interpretation of smell, should not be an obstacle in the development of research on smell in social studies.

“Testing musical ability: An American dissenter and some related historical comparisons,” by F. Robert Treichler. The abstract reads,

Both American and European investigators have long searched for factors that contribute to musical proficiency. The present article considers several interpretations of musical talent that were advanced by persons who were themselves skilled musicians. Especial emphasis is afforded to the approach of Raleigh M. Drake, an American, who obtained his PhD in Europe, but opposed the most widely utilized early 20th-century American conception of musical talent. Drake also interacted with several early and eminent American psychologists in considering the underlying issue of ‘special talents’. The scholarly contributions of Drake are assessed both in terms of their relationship to some early 20th-century conceptions of musical talent and as a prospective influence on other investigations of that ability.

“The gravity of eros in the contemporary: Introduction to the special section,” by Agnes Horvath and Arpad Szakolczai. The abstract reads,

The study of eros as passionate devotion leads back to the classical foundations of social and political analysis, in particular Plato’s philosophical anthropology, focusing on imitation and not rationality as the moving force of social life.

“The fascination with eros: The role of passionate interests under communism,” by Agnes Horvath. The abstract reads,

Plato’s work offers insights into the corrosive impact of eros, insights central for contemporary politics. The article combines an in-depth reading of Plato with a case study, arguing for the relevance of communism. This is because love also establishes a relationship of subordination to the object of desire, which can subjugate and entrap the lover in his or her feelings. Such instrumentalization of eros in communism was promoted by adherents being supposed to love the sufferers. The obligation that to understand and help the sufferers one must become a sufferer turned suffering into an autopoietic system. The acceptance of such instrumentalization of love was rendered possible first by a sense of guilt due to the system of passionate interests (Tarde and Latour), connected to the rise of capitalism as a solution for the period of civil wars, and then by the liminal conditions that emerged, especially in eastern Europe, after two world wars; conditions that were purposefully perpetuated through staging a sacrificial system, paralysing social life. The character of such liminal leaders can be analysed through the figure of the trickster, developed by anthropologists, complementing Weber’s notion of charisma. While communism disappeared as a force, contemporary political life is increasingly reduced to a politics of victimhood and suffering, where the search for the good life is replaced by the double negation of eliminating all suffering from the world – an effort that only produces the opposite result, while public reality becomes torn apart by sex scandals, confirming Foucault’s insight about the investment of desire and enslavement to sexuality.

“In liminal tension towards giving birth: Eros, the educator,” by Arpad Szakolczai. The abstract reads,

The discussion on the nature of eros (love as sexual desire) in Plato’s Symposium offers us special insights concerning the potential role played by love in social and political life. While about eros, the dialogue also claims to offer a true image of Socrates, generating a complex puzzle. This article offers a solution to this puzzle by reconstructing and interpreting Plato’s theatrical presentation of his argument, making use of the structure of the plays of Aristophanes, a protagonist in the dialogue. The new image of Socrates, it is argued, signals Plato’s move beyond the way he envisioned so far his master, best visible in his introducing Diotima, a prophetess who takes over the role of guide from Socrates; and by his presenting the truth about Socrates through Alcibiades, cast into the role of a boastful intruder, a central figure in Aristophanes’ comedies. Eros and Socrates are both ‘in-between’ or liminal figures, indicating that Socrates is still entrapped in the crisis of Athenian democracy. The way out, according to the new philosophy of Plato, lies in redirecting eros from the hunting of beautiful objects that are to be possessed, to elevating the soul to the essence of beauty as a primary means for further generating beauty, in particular through engendering and educating children, thus reasserting a harmonious coexistence with the order of the cosmos.

“Eros and ironic intoxication: Profound longing, madness and discipleship in Plato’s Symposium and in modern life,” by Kieran Bonner. The abstract reads,

The Symposium addresses the relation between desire, beauty and the good life, while indicating the fascination that strong teaching arouses in followers. For Plato, unlike for moderns, power, desire and ethics are interrelated. This article takes Socrates as a case study for the Platonic understanding of this interrelation and it will put into play the grounds involved in their modern separation. It focuses on the three speakers in the dialogue who were followers of Socrates as a way of addressing the role of desire in the teacher–student relation. The article demonstrates how the radical interpretive method brings to life the challenges a strong engagement with Eros risks, especially those related to Socrates’ strong and influential teaching, while addressing and exemplifying theorizing’s need for ironic intoxication.

“Hermes as Eros in Plato’s Lysis,” by John von Heyking. The abstract reads,

This article examines how Plato uses mythological symbolisms in the Lysis, specifically those of Hermes, to show how our experience of the good makes possible our capacity to love our friend as an individual, and in so doing overturns the static dualities usually associated with Plato’s ‘metaphysics’. Instead of appealing to allegedly impersonal ideas, Plato refigures Greek mythological understandings of Hermes to signal, first, that friendship is a movement of divine love in which human beings participate and to which they are reoriented so that they may behold their friend as an individual, as a person, and second, that this reorientation is needed to place the dialectical inquiry into friendship upon proper starting points. Instead of eclipsing the individual in the shadow of impersonal ideas, Plato appeals to Hermes, the most human, most creative and thus most political, of Olympians, whose name means windfall [hermaion], to show how we must open ourselves up to the divine in order fully to love our friend as an individual person.

Book Reviews

The Truth Machine: A Social History of the Lie Detector, reviewed by Andrew S. Balmer

The Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America, reviewed by David Keller

Depression in Japan: Psychiatric Cures for a Society in Distress, reviewed by Katherine Angel

Preparing for Life in Humanity 2.0, reviewed by Henry C. Alphin, Jr.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.