A&O 2023 meeting 1 – Jan 24


TUESDAY January 24, 2023

Agenda & Outcomes for first meeting

 Start with “Canonical Content & Personal Meaning

to review the PowerPoint I used on DAY 1. It was a presentation at the International Association for Cognitive Education and Psychology (Greenberg 2021)

    • CHECK-IN: a few comments identifying yourself to the rest of us
      • Tuesday we began to get to know each other and discussed what to expect this spring.  An important aspect of conversation is always intuition and spontaneity, with all that implies about authenticity. 
      • As a kind of “check-in”, as an exercise, I requested a couple of “mind maps” of ideas surrounding two focal topics: YOU (who you are) and “ART.” Mindmaps are a familiar technique in some circles for exploring mental webs of related ideas—a way of discovering and exploring the connections between thoughts that may otherwise go unrecognized.  Again, intuition and spontaneity is highly valued.
    • Q&A
    • CHECK-OUT: what stood out for you

what we accomplished in the first meeting of our seminar and what I was aiming at … including what stood out for us


In advance of Tuesday’s meeting, I e-mailed a few links to look at:

  • About “Sonder,” watch the video that inaugurated the word:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkoML0_FiV4
  • Thinking of tension between apparent opposites … reminds me of resonance (as in a stringed instrument)  (do we want the greatest possible tension without breaking?) We need to get a sense of the incredible creative power of resonance (look at our website on that: ao-resonance-notes/ )
  • Clarity about complexity of Phenomenology – attitude more than detailed philosophy. (look at our notes on existential-phenomenology)
  • Presentation used in class extracted from my presentation to a recent conference: you can see that at  2021-IACEP presentation/) also mentioned above 


See what you spot in these readings that “resonate” with what we talking of so far (on one side) and your own personal interests (on the other side) … be prepared to comment in class.


Also based on discussion and your feedback, this is the right moment to read two papers that speak to our interest in “making a virtue of necessity”  (facis de necessitate virtute”)


We will check in with each other next Tuesday, Jan 31, beginning at 5:30 … be prepared to comment on your stand-out experiences of the week (if any), what one or two ideas stood out from suggested readings, and your favorite music.


The idea of scaffold is  big deal here: we need all the support we can get: Next Tuesday I’ll introduce you to DEEP ETHOLOGY – you can look ahead at the A&O website: https://neilgreenberg.com/deep-ethology/.  


IF you haven’t done that yet–be sure to do it before the next meeting, Tuesday, Feb 1. 

    • NOT a flow-cart of  mechanistic components, but a “map” of “free association” keyed to s specific idea exploiting your capacity for Stream of consciousness
    • Looks like a spider web anchored on ideas about art and science BUT in which you are at the center (helped by remembering a quote from Henry James: Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider‑web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air‑borne particle in its tissue.”) (link to complete essay)
  • CONNECTION: EYE CONTACT seemed a good first phenomenon to bridge gaps between disciplines: be sure to look at  the Abramović art “performance” at MOMA, and a recent BBC article, “WHY MEETING ANOTHER’S GAZE IS SO POWERFUL”  (then compare the ideas emerging to what Eugene Delacroix said)


ABOUT ART: Okay, so our process for exploring ART is anchored in three ideas:  Tuesday I emphasized EXPRESSIVE and RECEPTIVE ART … now add “MEDIUM” to your thinking… 

    • EXPRESSION (of art; creation (deliberate or not) representing thoughts or feelings)
    • MEDIUM (the way information is communicated (an art form: visual, auditory… etc)
    • RECEPTION (perceiving & integrating thoughts or feelings)  


ABOUT BIOLOGY:  our process for exploring its biology begins with the NATURAL HISTORY of ideas

BY NATURAL HISTORY I mean the perspectives embraced by DEEP ETHOLOGY:   

·     DEEP is an acronym for four main perspectives of biology (Development, Ecology, Evolution and Physiologists) and

·     ETHOLOGY is comparative psychology with a (very) strong emphasis on behavior expressed in a natural environment. 

Our interest in human behavior appreciates that at any level of organization (from cell to society) our behavior-of-interest occurs at the INTERSECTION of the four disciplines.  That is, to most fully understand the causes and consequences of any behavioral pattern we must be able to appreciate its development, ecology, evolution, and physiology.
To see how this way of looking at behavior articulates with our class and discussions take a look at some recent writings on EXISTENTIAL PHENOMENOLOGY.  Unlike traditional academic philosophy, this species attempts to look at REAL PEOPLE IN THE REAL WORLD—not idealized.  In this, it is like ethology, looking at “real animals” in their “real world” (as opposed to “lab animals” in cages).   There is a good use for lab research with inbred animals in artificial environments, but the preoccupation for control has led to some terrible misunderstandings. 
Look also at the our A&O website on CONNECTIONS  browse through all the quotes and pick some favorites.

To understand the problems and possible solutions we will play and/or wrestle with in class,  I hope we can become familiar with some ideas from both art and science (as traditionally viewed) that have stood out to me over the years. (“over the years” = we have to be wary of getting stuck in the past: knowledge has a half-life, like drugs in the body or atoms undergoing radioactive decay)




The greatest problem we have is communications; we will try to balance two urgent human needs: to KNOW and to be KNOWN  (we are social organisms)

  • We want to establish a community of understanding
  • NATURE/NURTURE:  We can use our culturally received ideas about ART and BIOLOGY as a though they constituted a converging spiraling helix of threads of information from inside ourselves and from outside as we balance our who we are with the environment in which we find ourselves, representing the two great processes in our development: INDIVIDUATION and SOCIALIZATION.



NOTE: Sometimes I use obscure words—they have less baggage, especially applied out of their usual context—and since words are the principal medium we are stuck with, we can try to make the best of it.  This brings up issue of WORDS  and my gloss on the article was words might refer to things with more-or-less precision, but can never be the things (unless the thing is the word); we are satisfied when for practical purposes we agree sufficiently to move on in a mutually satisfying way ..the understanding is “good enough.”   In other words, words are not the things they represent: “The map is not the territory.” (“A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness—Alfred Korzybski 1948:58)[i] and see Borges on the map-maker [ii] 

 [all experience may be ineffable – we simply look for the best approximation of what we believe – and (to minimize dissonance) either what we perceive or think or express can be “tweaked” to make the imprecision less uncomfortable.]   [BEST APPROXIMATION of TRUTH can refer to the highest ambition of all communications –particularly in SCIENCE; sometimes spoken of as an asymptote of truth –always approaching but never touching the lines that frame it.]


WHAT can we “say” without words?  Ho does that work? For example,  Last year, I Asked people to look at article on Marina Abramović’s 700 hour performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in a piece called The Artist is Present. (Arthur Danto compared his time with Abramović to ‘a shamanic trance’, and described the show as ‘magic’ in The New York Times. More than 1,500 people came and sat with Abramović, and 750,000 attended as observers.)

 LINK: marina-abramovic-at-moma-in-2010


The Abramović art “performance” at MOMA, also brings up the very interesting ETHOLOGICAL issue of EYE CONTACT.  We affect each other by eye-contact, even physiologically (the oxytocin-gaze positive loop) and even with (some) other species (e.g., dogs: see Nagasawa et al., 2015)    Take a look at a recent BBC article, “WHY MEETING ANOTHER’S GAZE IS SO POWERFUL” by By Christian Jarrett (8 January 2019) (compare the ideas emerging to what Eugene Delacroix said about painting as a means of communication)



Gratuitous philosophical allusion: “We know more and more about less and less until we eventually know everything about nothing” —Einstein


 Soon we will speak about DESCRIPTION and its sometimes subtle but always critical contribution to insight about a phenomenon … but always keep in mind, words constrain as much as they enable expression and thinking about experience—what you see and feel and think. 


ASIDE:  As an art student I learned some words new to me that had no baggage– their meanings were completely new but the ideas they referred to were important to me. So here are a few Japanese terms for aesthetic qualities not easily otherwise described.  (can you find some specific real-world situations where these terms apply?)

·        Wabi: a subjective feeling evoked by an object; unassuming, solitary, calm, quiet, still, impoverished or unpretentious; melancholic, lonely, desolate (classic image: abandoned fisherman’s shack on a lonely beach buffeted by a strong wind on a gray wintry day)

·        Sabi: ancient, mature, seasoned, serene, mellowed, antique; lonely, solitary or melancholic (classic image: patina and signs of age/wear on a treasured antique)

·        Shibui: restrained, quiet, composed, understated, reserved, sedate; refined, elegant (classic images: a single delicate flower breaching cracks in a sidewalk; the quiet understated elegance of a formal tea ceremony)

·        Yugen: profound, uncertain, subtle; dark and mysterious (classic image: moon shining behind a veil of clouds, or the morning mist veiling a mountainside)

A few other terms new to me that I’ve encountered in recent months:

  • Flâneur: strolling like a tourist exploring new territory who is both passionately interested and yet disconnected (does that mean more objective?)    ( link to essay in Paris Review ) Are you a flâneur in A&O?
  • Razliubut: Russian to fall out of love;  and Toska: Russian for insatiable longing (homesick? Lovesick?). 

INTERESTED IN WORDS?  Check out “The Untranslatable Emotions You Never Knew You Had” By David Robson [26 January 2017]


[ii]  “On Exactitude in Science” by  Jorge Luis Borges…In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.”  link    Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley.  —Suarez Miranda,Viajes devarones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658   https://kwarc.info/teaching/TDM/Borges.pdf