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How?

 

How has this class changed me? Well I think a better question is how has it not? I came to this class having had some big thoughts in previous classes about topics like gender, sexuality and disability, drugs, brain and culture. I had thought about education a little bit I suppose. For my final in the last class I had with Anne I thought a lot about the ideal learning space. I began thinking about education in terms of the real world, but I still felt like I had only dipped my pinky-toe into the ocean that is educational theory. I had read one diary, The Diary of Anne Frank. I had never read anything by the James Family. I ended up in this class purely by chance. Having done a search for classes during the particular time I had free and telling a friend to randomly choose one from the search results for me. (Not the wisest choice, but I feel as if it paid off)

I got a lot of courage from this class. The day that Paul Jefferson was pointing out who he thought were freshwomen and he didn’t pick me was a sign of how far I have come in my self-confidence as an academic this year. For the first time at Bryn Mawr, (because I don’t count E-sem) I was taking an English course. I had always been good at English in high school but this was my first college level English course. In group discussion, I felt in my element talking about these texts. Most days, when I was able to attend class, I was truly interested in what the class was talking about and pretty determined to get my two cents in (especially when education was brought up). Online my presence was non-existent. I regret this but with the different challenges that I was faced with this semester, even though I wish I would have been able to be more of a presence, I was honestly just trying to keep up with the readings so I could contribute in class. I also think my lack of posting was due to the fact I was extremely turned off by the commonplace book form. I liked the online conversation format that I experienced in the last class I had with Anne and (as a creature of habit) when that changed I was reluctant (at best) to change along with it. During class I would think of things I wanted to write on, but I rarely ended up posting what I was thinking and had taken notes about. (This is the stuff that my last 8 posts are from, actual class notes that just never made it online)

In terms of my written work in this semester, I got to play a little more with form in different ways than I did last semester. I really liked the first paper I wrote where I narrated the “performance of disability” and I think I echoed that in the creative approach I took to my final paper. This has helped me to identify what type of writing I do best and enjoy most. Keeping up with the papers despite the very rough semester I had was a challenge, but I am really happy with each essay that I wrote for this class. I felt lost (think Lynda Barry) when starting to think about most of these papers, but Anne helped me learn how to strategize and be able to write papers that interested me in forms that interested me. Through meeting with Anne several times this semester, she taught me to really examine what I found most interesting and not just what, but why and how that could translate into other interests of mine such as theatre and creative writing.

Also I know this isn’t part of the two points we are supposed to touch on in this reflection but I just wanted to briefly say how my classmates have helped me grow and sparked my interests along the way. I really liked the class dynamic, because unlike “sensitive” topics like Gender or Sexuality I really appreciated how my classmates felt comfortable arguing with everyone, the authors, the teachers, other students, etc. It was lovely! And even though sometimes I felt like the conversation got slightly over my head, the level of conversation forced me to rise to it which was a very valuable intellectual growth for me. Because of my difficulties this semester, the fact that in class everyone was so prepared and the level of conversation was so enticing was one of the things that helped me stay engaged with this course.

I learned about new exciting recipes almost daily in class, I learned new cell phone etiquette and I even became a better multi-tasker through simultaneous note taking and attempts at class participation. This has been a wonderful outlet for an awful semester and I am truly sad for the class to be over. I keep getting so attached to my Anne classes… I think it has something to do with knowing everyone’s name… damn naming exercises!

 

 

 

 

CLASS PERFORMANCE:

Once There Was This Family From All Over

 

There once was this chick named alice

Oppressed by society’s phallus

She took to her bed,

Rarely lifting her head

And a few years later shes dead.

 

There once was a guy named Henry

But nothing rhymed with Henry

So he wrote some stories

Horror? For surezies!

And then he got lots of dough.

 

There once was a guy named bill

He could never get his fill

Told people what to do

Till his face turned blue

and eventually he died too.

 

This poem was my final performance I mainly wrote it in jest as to highlight how quickly this course moved in comparison to the complexity of the authors we were reading. That is truly my only regret about this course is that we couldn’t spend more time on each individual. I realize that there is a difficulty presented by Alice’s lack of published work and it’s hard to base more time than a week or two on one text but I feel like especially with Henry and William James there was enough things written by each of them to warrant an entire course. The family dynamics alone could fill half a semester. The simplistic form of my poem was intended to be just slightly cheeky in its limiting of what can be said in the way the time constraint limited how much time we could spend with each of the James Family writers.

Despite the time constraint I was still able to relate to each of the three siblings we read in a different way.

Alice was great in that she pushed me to connect my previous class that touched on disability in terms of gender and sexuality and further that to consider disability as a performance of gender. I also began to think more in terms of society’s idea of the excusability of the frailty of women and the fact that hysterics were rarely questioned but frequently diagnosed, almost as if that was their adderrol of the day. When someone was too much to be handled, especially a woman, they were labelled a hysteric and sent to rot in their beds.

I really liked the transition into “The Real Thing” by Henry James and then into “The Turn of the Screw”. Even though Henry had a much more complex and circuitous way of writing, I found the medium of fiction more accessible in general. I was attracted to his writings and I found it worthwhile to sift through his dense writing in order to be amazed by the interesting things he had to say about illness, supernatural, performance of self, etc.

Lastly, James has ruined my entire academic life. His essays and our class discussions have lead me to formulate thoughts of my own that are not at all beneficial. Having become obsessed with the idea of what each of our “stream of consciousnesses” could do given the opportunity to flow freely has made me resent institutionalized education in some ways. This is not good for a freshwoman in college with 3 more years to go. But I am thankful at the same time for this heightened awareness and curiosity because it has awoken my passion for thought and expansion of thought despite the very difficult semester I have had personally. This course has helped and hurt in many different ways for sure...

 

 

Better Late than Never?: Commonplace postings

 

 

Thoughts regarding Day 4: The Afterlife of Alice James

"One has a greater sense of intellectual degradation after an interview with a doctor than from any human experience." -Alice James

For me, this quote has began to mean more as the semester has gone on. At the beginning of the semester the idea of disability was a far off concept. I had really enjoyed studying it the previous semester in the Gender and Sexuality class I also took with Anne, but I had never considered the term "disability" personally applicable. Throughout this semester, some symptoms from an athletics related concussion i sustained in the fall began to surface in my academic life. I was having an especially hard time in my spanish class with memorization of vocabulary words. Having to spend extra time in Spanish (with little result) also effected my other classes. This made disability personal. It was only later in the semester when I really understood what Kristen was saying on day 4 when she said, "No one likes to hear my illness story." It's true! And for me at least, the only thing less appealing than hearing an illness story is telling my own. I allowed myself to go the entire semester not communicating any of my symptoms to my professor or to access services because I didn’t want to tell my illness story. When I wrote my paper on Alice’s performance of disability I couldn’t fathom why Alice would choose to live in bed quietly suffering rather than do something about her illness. But that is where the quote from the beginning of this entry comes in, doctors and hospitals and for me teachers and access services can feel degrading though they are never meant to. It’s definitely a pride thing. And I can relate to Alice in that I don’t want to endure the degradation necessary to get help. 

 

Thoughts regarding day 10:The Education of Isabel Archer; or, The Trouble with Imagination

 

“The girl had a certain nobleness of imagination which rendered her a good many services and played her a great many tricks.”

I looked at Anne at about this point in the course and was like, “YOU HAVE NO CLUE HOW MUCH THIS BOOK RELATES TO ME RIGHT NOW” (referring to Portrait of a Lady by Henry James) She said she went through something similar when she read this novel. For me it made me think a lot about the relationship I’m in. Isabel seemed to like to be able to paint what she thought a proper husband and relationship should be on a fairly blank canvas just because it was more moldable than the other people who pursued her would have been. I have a very active imagination and without going into too much detail I was also living in a delusional world about my relationship, making it what I wanted it to be, rather than seeing things as they truly were. Literally the book was so applicable at one point it was my sole source of relationship advice. Who needs to phone Miss Cleo when she has the late, great Henry James right?!? The fact that the book ended with Isabel going back to her husband sort of helped me make a decision in my life when I needed the decision to be someone’s other than my own. It’s interesting how literature can do that. I find it humorous that some young women would look to their, friends, family or religion to help them make proper decisions and I chose to blindly follow a piece of fiction!

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Day 11: The Kiss!

 

 "He glared at her a moment through the dusk, and the next instant she felt his arms about her and his lips on her own lips. His kiss was like white lightning, a flash that spread, and spread again, and stayed; and it was extraordinarily as if, while she took it, she felt each thing in his hard manhood that had least pleased her, each aggressive fact of his face, his figure, his presence, justified of its intense identity and made one with this act of possession…she was free.... She had not known where to turn; but she knew now. There was a very straight path.”

 

 

The thought provoked by this passage actually has absolutely nothing to do with my personal life. (SURPRISE!!!) This passage got me thinking about speech acts and how in his use of the exact opposite of a speech act (in including everything in the making of a decision except for words uttered) Henry James is putting a lot of faith in his readers and issuing them a challenge of sorts. For example, when one says, “I do” you know they are getting married. But if you are given two other words, describing an action, such as “they kissed” much more is left to the imagination of the reader. Why did they kiss? Was it an act of love? Just to try it out? Farewell? A secret romance?etc. And I think a lot of what James did through his didactic approach to communicating his radical thoughts, Henry did in an equally didactic but much less directly. It’s hard to explain but after reading Portrait of a Lady and “The Turn of the Screw” and truly analyzing some of the things Henry James incorporated in his writing style, I felt like he was teaching me a lesson. Like he’s sitting there behind the book, looking up at me like “Haha yeh I knew that if I left some stuff out you would make it apply to your life. My brother gives lectures on how self-centered and desperate to relate humans are, but I just use it to make bank…hahahaha” Okay, so I’m sure he wouldn’t have used the phrase “make bank” but you get my point I’m sure. I can’t decide whether him leaving out so many key parts in both Portrait of a Lady and in “The Turn of the Screw” is a sign of his faith in his readers, his faith in how well he knows his readers, or his faith that his writing will help his audience think what he wants them to. Yes I realize this is painting Henry James as a bit of a scheming writer, but I think it just means he was as wise and conscious about the human mind as his brother was.

 

 

Thoughts on Day 14: Cultivating Habit

 

“Plasticity ... means the possession of a structure weak enough to yield to an influence, but strong enough not to yield all at once.”

 

This idea of the plasticity in regard to habit is in my opinion William James’s most interesting contribution to the way I have come to think of many things. The idea that something is breakable, but does not break easy is important not only when applied to habit (I think in terms of habit, its merely a definition of the nature of a habit) but also when applied to how one lives their life. The idea that a habit is only useful if it is revisable (or breakable) is necessary to habit being an advantageous part of how humans structure their lives. But it is interesting to me how many things become habitual and how for many people that translates to a lack of revision. I also think this points out the strong danger in anything addictive such as cigarettes. (I’m a smoker, for now…so I know) That when something becomes not just a habit, but an addiction there is no room for revision so it becomes very easy to engage in a behaviour one knows is very harmful without there seeming to be any option of revision. Then I began to relate this to how people function on a daily basis and how other things, even non-addictive things become “non-revisable”. Such as when there are people depending on you to keep with your habit. For example a person works at a mortgage lending office and they are known for staying up late at night to get work done and pick up the slack others have left behind. This person is constantly fighting off some sort of illness merely due to exhaustion and never taking care of his/her body fully. His/ her co-workers depend on the work getting done by this person. This person’s family depends on him/her having this job to keep a steady income for the household. And suddenly this person is trapped in an unhealthy habit not by any conscious decision of their own but merely by the expectations and dependency of others on the continuation of this behaviour. This I believe is how many people lead unhappy and unhealthy lives. They become entrapped in a world they didn’t even make for themselves, constantly putting others before them. A question for another day might be what part of us finds this fulfilling or at least not bad enough that something radical is done to change it? Is it our will to believe that we are important to the world? Is it our need to be needed?  

 

 

Thoughts on Day 15: Willingly (Suspending?) Our (Dis??)Belief

 

 

“In all important transactions of life we have to take a leap in the dark .... whatever choice we make, we make it at our peril .... We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist ... If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? .... Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes ... we cannot meet death better.”

 

This quote in particular reminded me a lot of what people say about love being a “leap” or whatever. This has also called to mind the phrase “Leap of faith”. I believe that this series of imagery is very key to understanding the power of belief. When first reading this I felt like, “Okay James, be a little more dramatic why don’t you” but then it sunk in. So much of our world is based on beliefs that are these giant leaps into the dark. I mean when a Christian chooses to follow Christianity they are essentially putting a bet on their immortal soul that either a.) god isn’t spiteful if you choose the wrong religion or b.) they have chosen the “right” religion. Not to mention the whole gamble of whether there is a god and the realization that if not they have spent their whole lives following some doctrine that some mere mortal pulled out of their ass. How does anyone manage faith with all this thinking involved? I personally have never been able to have faith fully in anything that I can not see, but there are many people I know that have found such a comfort and haven in religious belief that I can’t imagine a world without it. Not to mention other beliefs: the belief that your husband will be faithful, the belief that you will get paid by your employer in a timely manner, etc. But I suppose most fascinating to me is that once someone’s “good faith” in one of these things is betrayed it is so hard to get back. So I have thought after reading James’s dire imagery of the choice to believe, what about getting your trust in a belief betrayed makes one so willing to be “frozen to death” on a mountain pass rather than get hurt again? If it is so in our nature to believe and to make the decision to move forward even though the path we may take may be wrong, how come the fear of a wounded believer often outweighs this natural impulse?

 

 

Thoughts on Day 17: Interior Octopus

 

"It seems to me high time to rouse ourselves to consciousness, and to cast a critical eye upon this decidedly grotesque tendency .... a tyrannical Machine with unforeseen powers of exclusion and corruption."

 

THANK YOU WILLIAM JAMES!!!! This is what I have been struggling against my entire life! The system. Yeh James u tell it! Down with the man!!!

Seriously though I can not begin to conceive how incredibly revolutionary this must have been for James’s time. Even today when someone suggests that the educational system be revolutionized from it’s archaic methods of hoop jumping people think of them as a “trouble starter”.  

This is slightly unrelated to the quote I put up, but relevant to another of Jame’s essays (“The Stream of Thought”) and it intersects with this idea of alternative education thinking. So James has busted my bubble and turned me upside down with the thoughts his “Stream of Thought” essay has conjured up in my buzzing little brain. This same tyrannical Machine he talks of takes our natural flowing streams and forces them along a guided path pre-determined during class discussion. (I must give Anne credit where it is due: She is the teacher I’ve had thus far who has confined my thoughts least.) And if this is true, that the education system as it exists now encourages a narrowing of thought in favour of productivity, can thought evolution happen? As in evolution happens by mutation, but if mutant thoughts are discouraged and shunned in favour of “a productive class discussion” (that has been had a zillion times before in a zillion different places) then how are we ever to adapt this mutation if there is a constant stream of mentacide counteracting the evolution of thought that we are in such desperate need of?

 

 Thoughts on Day 18-19: The Man William James

 

“James main concern here is religious posture. He is clearing a space for science and religion to co exist. Religion is a part of the moral dimension are different sorts of areas of human life existential and intellectual where the rules about belief are a little different than the rules about science.”- Paul Jefferson

 

Though Paul Jefferson and I didn’t exactly hit it off at first, I really took a lot from his visit to class, especially in how he further emphasized for me James’s connection between science and religious belief. I liked how he not only paraphrased a bit of what James was saying, but also put it in historical context. He explained how James’s main problem with his contemporaries was syncing up science with religion. Most of the intelligent men of this time were “either…or” types: either religion or science. And being the contemporary, revolutionary thinker that he is, he thought to combine the two in a metaphysical way. I think the most valuable thing that I got from Paul Jefferson’s visit was context: what James was thinking in comparison to what the others around him were coming up with. I’m sort of obsessed with the fact that James was so recognized in life, despite the revolutionary nature of his ideas. Were they just that universally appealing and irrefutably logical? Did he get widely criticized and I just haven’t learned about that part of his career? I really wish this was a year long course so that we could have followed up a little more on the environment in which a lot of these pieces were written. 

Thoughts on Notes Towards Day 23: Turned by/Schooled by/Strolling with William James

 

”Stein could change her readers' habits of mental association by changing the arrangements of words on the page ... the ways she arranges words ... are an artistic adaptation of James's scientific work .... Stein calls attention to our necessary habits of human thought ... and makes us question assumptions that so many of us hold so deeply we haven't noticed them .... Stein's weird series of words might have the capacity to rearrange those arrangements in our minds ... redesign our neural pathways, developing in us a greater number of associational paths”-Dana Cairns Watson

 

I was very intrigued by Stein’s work. I had never encountered anything like it before. The way she manipulates words and sentence structure to encourage the reader’s mind to desperately search for some sort of logic or meaning where there very well may be none is absolutely baffling and amazing to me. I think as much as she learned from William James, she quite reminds me of what I think of Henry. I said in an earlier post that I feel as if, “he was teaching me a lesson. Like he’s sitting there behind the book, looking up at me like “Haha yeh I knew that if I left some stuff out you would make it apply to your life. My brother gives lectures on how self-centered and desperate to relate humans are, but I just use it to make bank…hahahaha” And I feel the same way about Stein. The quote above says it quite well. Stein makes absolute nonsense say more about human thought (similar to how Henry made gaps in his writing teach us about ourselves) than any essay. It’s like when you learn a lesson the hard way rather than listening to some wise elder who is trying to give you guidance. That is what Stein did for me. She took all that I thought I knew about the way I read and learned and slapped me in the face with a whole bucket of inadequacy. It was great. 

 

 

CLASS NOTES Day 21:

 

“Various Optics”

 

We are between visitors so let us share with each other what we have learned from the visitors about James and ourselves as learners…

 

What did Paul bring us?

 

exsoloadsolem: he is a goof

 

aseidman: He had good attention to detail and to background. Made me understand why James is as he is.

 

Anne: Fun seeing my class interact with my colleagues. He said he was bringing an optic of an intellectual historian. He seemed shocked that I was teaching a course on the jameses without giving the historical background. It was interesting to be called on that.

exsoloadsolem: I like ur approach better

 

Anne: well ariel just said she learned something from this background.

 

aseidman: Jefferson’s conversation with us explained why in james writings it seems hes rejecting a lot of things.

 

exsoloadsolem: I respond really well to jefferson’s lesson. I respond well to crude lecture and his style. He made james argument seem less extreme and in place, but I was already aware of his place in his time…I think the thorough study Jefferson suggested would be fascinating…

Anne: You are saying this is interesting, but it had no “cash value” the optic was not useful in the way james would see it.

What BV gave us was the practical and the pragmatic analysis of his things

General Class Consensus: WE LIKE HIM

 

jrlewis: BV was very “user friendly”

 

fabelhaft:BV was more personal in relation to the text, but I didn’t get that with PJ

 

MissArcher2: I think its important to have the txt in front of u as to avoid mis-paraphrasings

 

Anne-If pj gave us the historical context what did BV give us?

 

aseidman- the personal context. He was taking what was said, and turing it into a context we could make sense of.

 

Anne-when I redesign this txt should I do more historical background

 

jrlewis- It would take away from the txt so no.

 

exsoloadsolem- idk if there is a way to look at jameses txt as independent of literature

 

aseidman-context is a big part o it. U must look at the txt as txt. When we look at historyand other philosiphers it becomes more philosophical.

 

exsoloadsolem- The context we r looking for is putting each sibling in not only their intellectual space, but how they are as a result of their mutual upbringing.

 

Anne-PJs talk about james as the man and bv both focuses on james’s celebration of his idiocyncracies. The other thing I learned from pj was when he said about us being such modern thinkers that we cnt see james’s ideas for how incredible they were in context. The relativism is part of the world james has created for you.

 

aseidman:I do see that James is encouraging us to accept individual, subjective truths for ourselves, based on what is practical and valuable for our own purposes and in our own lives. The place where James and I lose touch with one another is when he starts to try to articulate the idea that we are able to choose for ourselves, based on what we prefer to believe. I take umbrage at the idea that we can accept a belief as true, and that we should be allowed to accept a belief as true, simply because it is what is best for us. There are such things as concrete truths. There are things that happen in life, and things that exist in life that do not improve our lives or effectively fit into them, and not accepting them as legitimate truths does not solve any problems....

The key, perhaps, to coming to terms with James is perhaps Professor Vallabha's idea that James speaks a great deal in abstract terms. Justice, Truth, even Belief are not conrete terms, and trying to make something concrete out of them, as I have tried to do, is a foolish venture.

I misunderstood james before BV spoke…

 

Marina reading BV’s comment to anne:It was interesting that some students resisted James for being too wishy-washy and not taking a stand, and others resisted him for being authoritarian and for prescribing how everyone should think .... it would have been fun to pursue some more the thought of why James' openness to interpretation seems disturbing, while the openness of a work of fiction is not disturbing. I take it behind it is the thought: "things we make up like stories and poems can have openness, but the world itself as it is in itself can't have that openness." Ironic that this is something both scientists and humanists seem to share. What I find challenging about James' pluralism is its questioning this assumption about the nature of reality.

 

fabelhaft reading her online post: James is telling us that pragmatism can solve most, if not all, of our problems because it will help us identify the best course of action ... if we take an objective look at the choices, if we think rationally about the consequences of our actions .... But then a comment from class ... pops into my head. Wasn't there some discussion about spontaneity and William James?

I had trouble putting james support for individualism together with his encouragement of pragmatism.

 

Anne: Can anyone help Jessika? Can u hold james’s two ideas together.

 

fabelhaft: could it be that within the boundaries of pragmatism there can be spontaneity and individualism?

 

Calamity: I think despite the it seeming incongruous, the two can coexist.

 

Anne: Revision is the entering of spontaneity in James’s pragmatic belief method. Paul grobestein wants you to read pages 6 and 7 for Wednesday. They are diary entries from jame’s depression, his belief in free will, and the description of his depressive episode… Then we r going to dump “the world of pure experience” in favour of Paul’s essay “paths of story telling as life” that has a lot of rorty (neo-pragmatism). Understand James is the grand daddy of this essay, what’s interesting is that grobestein comes at this from a biological perspective. I don’t want you to miss the last passage of “the world of experience”

 

Penguins reading James: "if you should liken the universe of absolute idealism to an aquarium, a crystal globe in which goldfish are swimming, you would have to compare the empiricist universe to something more like one of those dried human heads ... the skull forms a solid nucleus; but innumerable feathers, leaves, strings, beads, and loose appendices of every description float and dangle from it, and save that they terminate in it, seem to have nothing to do with one another. Even so my experiences and yours float and dangle, terminating ... in a nucleus of common perception, but for the most part out of sight and irrelevant and unimaginable to one another .... Radical empiricism ... is fair to both the unity and the disconnection.


 

Anne: What does this 1st paragraph give us?

 

Calamity: The goldfish bowl is contained and idealist where as the dried human heads are more disconnected in composure.

 

Anne: If u are an idealist the world will look like a goldfish bowl, if u r an empiricist, the world is going to look messy and disconnected like a dried human head.

 

Penguins reading more james:
...a philosophy of pure experience...I call...a mosaic philosophy. In actual mosaics the pieces are held together by their bedding .... In radical empiricism there is no bedding; it is as if the pieces clung together by their edges, the transitions experienced between them forming their cement...such a metaphor is misleading, for...there is in general no separateness needing to be overcome by an external cement; and whatever separateness is actually experienced...stays and counts as separateness to the end. But the metaphor serves to symbolize the fact that Experience can grow by its edges....Life is in the transitions....These relations of continuous transition...make our experiences cognitive...of one another....The world is...a pluralism of which the unity is not fully experienced.

 

Anne: so along with the head metaphor he has one of a mosaic, and critiques his own metaphor… “there is in general no separateness needing to be overcome by an external cement; and whatever separateness is actually experienced...stays and counts as separateness to the end.”

James believes in radical subjectivity.

 

Lucky for you we r not reading hegel…we will move to contemporary thinkers who have learned from james.

“Hegel and his method”

 

fabelhaft reading her online post: fabelhaft: I really enjoyed Willam's rant about Hegel; it made him (William) seem more human. Also, this essay just seemed more humorous to me ... "passion for slipshod in the way of sentences" just made me laugh. I'm actually inclined to agree with good old William in terms of his view on Hegel. The notion of interacting with reality by being conscious of what it is not seems like a lot of effort .... My favorite line: "divine oracles are notoriously hard to interpret" (520). You made me laugh out loud, William, something I never thought would happen while reading your essays.

 

Anne: Did u find William more relatable?

 

fabelhaft: Like Stockholm’s syndrome.

 

jrlewis reading her post: jrlewis: "The absolute is defined as the ideally perfect whole, yet most of its parts, if not all, are admittedly imperfect” (526) ....  James makes the implicit assumption that the whole is simply the sum of its parts.  He does not consider that the whole might be an emergent system, something more that the sum of its parts .... not predicted by studying the behavior of its smaller components ... It is an act of reductionism to assume that in order for the whole to be perfect, all its smaller components must be perfect.  For example, an excellent fruit cobbler can result from a package of not quite ripe raspberries ...

 

Rasberry vodka in cobbler?

 

fabelhaft: the whole is more than the parts…okay maybe dunno what Julia is saying

 

Anne: if u r an idealist u think the world is perfect…but we all knw its made of imperfect parts… but james says this dsnt work…julia says it does…in her cobbler idea.

 

jrlewis- to be fair idk if beingin the age of naive reductionism but I got to give him cred.

 

Who was Hegel? (German idealist philosopher, 1770-1831)


 

Marina: I guess hegel is saying everything is relative? Or am I wrong?

 

Anne: I dnt think so. James tells us what hegel’s method was, what he admires and where hegel went wrong

What was his method?

 

MissArcher2: The dialectic?

 

Anne: what else?

 

Calamity: did Hegel do the master-slave dialectic?

Explaining the master-slave dialectic…

The master takes over the slave, this could be a metaphor, but after a while the master becomes so dependent on the slave, the slave becomes the master.

 

Anne: Hegel is interested in showing us how ideas work, how ideas generate the opposite, then these two get combined, than another opposite is created.

 

MissArcher2: how do u find truth if ideas r only defined by their opposite?

 

Anne: What did James admire about it?


POKING FUN (at unnamed ppl) COMENSES.

He likes the “Hegelian intuition of the essential provisionality of everything empirical and finite”

 

jrlewis: this is a very radical movement james is making away from peirce.

 

Anne: I agree. So james Loves the intro of the negative…What did he dislike? Where did hegel go wrong?

 

Calamity: his sentences

 

Anne: This is hilarious because a lot of u dislike the way james speaks.

 

aseidman: but hegel doesn’t even try!

 

Anne: so he criticises his writing style…what about his method?

 

Calamity: He thought hegel was too vague and clung to old rationalism and hegel wasn’t logical enough.

 

Anne: What does james consider logic?

 

fabelhaft:Pg 514 “to supersede…all Europe had brought up”

 

Anne: You have your finger right on it… start “concepts were not in his eyes…that hegel really means to work with”

 

Anne: Ideas are germanative and this dialectic is how this happens, marina read this.

 

Marina “I regret that... in every instance of their use”

 

Anne: This is the answer…“he clung fast to old rationalist contempt…might be empirical only”. What is the difference between idealism and empiricism?

The empiricist cares about this world, the idealist cares about god’s world. James hates that Hegel idealised his dialectic.

So, In light of all we've learned about James:
Why is Hegel important? (What's his "cash-value"?)

 

Calamity: he says, 515 “Hegel with the category of negation… stoke” this is his cash value.

 

Anne: and I think the sense of movement that Hegel gives it. What is the difference between Hegel and James? What's the difference between the absolutist and the pragmatist?

 

Penguins: Idealists like fishbowls,

 

aseidman: you can always see the fish

 

jrlewis: can I put this in science terms? …the idea of an open system vs a closed system. The fishbowl is a closed system. Where as the human head is in the active process of decomposition.

 

Anne: the head image is so macabre. If we were psychologists suggests…

 

aseidman: mental deficiency.

 

Anne: We have 5 mins left, 
How would you characterize your own philosophic method?

 

Anne: I think im a pragmatist. I buy James’s theory. The way I teach is as an open revisable system. I dnt attach myself to ideal forms.

 

MissArcher2: I think the world is a decomposing head. I dnt like to be a philosopher, they all think too much. I’m a non-philosopher.

 

aseidman: I’m a non-Jamesian pragmatist. I may be a Peircian pragmatist.

 

Calamity: I’m a Bismarkian-pragmatist. Very practical. A practicalist

 

fabelhaft: idk if I have dabbled in enough ponds yet. Not ready to identify yet. All I knw is james and hegel as now. Im a pre-philosipher

 

Marina: I’m a pragmatist/empiricist but I’d like to be absolutist.

 

Me: I’m a pragmatist.

 

exsoloadsolem: I’m a Jamesian pragmatist. Everything is defined by what it is not

 

jrlewis: I’m a Jamesian pragmatist

 

Penguins: I’m an non-philosipher.

 

 

 

March 31,2010 CLASS NOTES

 

I'd like to preface this little note taking I did by saying it was very hard to keep up with Paul Jefferson, but I'm sure that is only my inadequacy as simultaneous stenographer and student.

 

With guest professor Paul Jefferson from Haverford College

For Monday: read “What Pragmatism Means”

 

Jefferson: Here’s the deal. This is an ambitious two day ordeal. You’re teacher has been approaching this from an English stand point, and I am an intellectual historian. So this will be messy.

You guys have played with anne’s conceit that we can understand james thru his family. You should buy “the Metaphysical Club” Jame’s family is marvellous. In short they are crazy. James Sr. said his family had not been guilty of a stroke of business in 2 generations. The eldest William, then Henry, then the two sons injured by their participation in the civil war. And Alice. Who’s struggle became the reason for schools like Bryn Mawr. I talk too damn much! I’m also salty but ill tone that down for you…. Jane Adams you should know more about her.

 

JAMES THE MAN

Given what you have learned so far, using text to ground the high flying BS, exploit the PHD octopus for what it says about James as a man. Then we will move to Charles Perce, the founder of the “metaphysical club” of which james, oliver wyndal holmes were members. Let me try to shut up now. Collectively construct an image of William James.

 

fabelhaft: Concerned with individuality.

 

Jefferson: Yes, go on

 

jrlewis: an important force in psychology and philosophy

 

Jefferson: more substantive please…

 

MissArcher2: James’s children’s lack of formal education

 

Jefferson: yes they were curiously educated, no sustained formal education in one place.

 

Me: Moving around could have effected his opinion of human connection

 

Jefferson: Let me recouperate your reading…(proceeds to say my idea in a long winded, but definitely more clear way than I stated it… after trying twice)

 

exsoloadsolem: James’s scepticism toward institutional education… tied in with the PHD octopus.

 

aseidman: It seemed to me that he was interested in the justification of religious belief. Talking about pragmatism and the will to believe

 

Jefferson: Good. One more comment then to the texts. I’m going to assume you like James. Right or wrong?

 

Me and MissArcher2: WRONG!

 

Jefferson: Why wrong?

 

MissArcher2: the PHD octopus dissapointed me.

 

Me: (My cell phone rings)

 

Jefferson: Was that your cellphone?

 

Me: (Silence)

 

aseidman: I think that was a save button

 

Me: (Oh dear god. Thank you aseidman!!!!)

 

Jefferson: Lets go to the PHD octopus. Lets reconstruct his argument and what it tells us about James as a man. Why did james dissapoint you Isabel?

MissArcher2l: Basically james thinks bmc makes this prof jump thru hoops…and bmc needs to require that all profs hold phds in order for bmc to have any street cred. William james thinks the phd is unnecessary because a phd is no indication of how well someone will teach.

 

Me: (mentally praying my phone dsnt go off again)

 

Jefferson: Why does this bother u? b/c he is dissing bmc? Or bc he is wrong?

You must see precisely what the person you are reading intends to say…you have to see what words and thoughts are available to him. BE FAIR TO HIM!

I’m talking too much…Institutional development…could do a long song and dance on this…single sex colleges…pressure on womens colleges to be able to reresent themselves as strong and good as their male counterparts.

PHD producers (Harvard etc.) PHD consumers (top teir liberal arts colleges). He makes a cultural critique of the flattening of the differences between human beings.

 

Calamity: so he says that it is not logical that only phds should be teachers… teachers can just be able gifted people.

 

Jefferson: James says other qualities are more reasonable to determine teaching ability… vs current credentialism. What does james think these qualities are?

 

fabelhaft: Looking for passion and drive to teach and to impart ones knowledge

 

exsoloadsolem: I think his argument between professional vs. professorship success. A phd only gives one the bare minimum for teaching. One must have the ability to stimulate scholarship.

 

Jefferson: We at Harvard can get the best men. But he says to get a phd, it is not enough to be intellectual, you have to also show mastery of the technical apparatus of the scholarship in your field. James speaks of himself of undoubted brilliance that getting a phd, jumping thru anyone elses hoops, the phd is a minor annoyance, but doesn’t thwart or challenge their individualism. A second class of ppl who learn and rise to the challenge of getting a phd. Heres the deal says james because the phd is emerging as a credential for professorship, it appeals to people who don’t necessarily have what it takes to get the phd. They suffer, never speaking with eloquence in their own voice. Enough of that. We don’t have time… lets move to the will to believe. We want to read this in a way to compare james and perce. Lets talk about the will to believe. There is a jaundiced, simpleminded reading of this text, that too many of his contemporaries took up. Thinking it a low brow, under bred idea. James argument has many more nuances than his contemporaries acknowledged. What is he doing? What is he arguing? How does he set it up? What does this say about James the man?

 

Calamity: There had to be momentous, living and forced decision is genuine.

Jeff: How does this set of qualifications fit into his overall project in the will to believe?

 

Calamity: How does belief work?

 

exsoloadsolem: May I read no more than I need to read? From the introduction to the fist chapter “I have brough with me something of a sermon…may not have been coerced”

 

Jefferson: he is presenting an essay on the justification of faith… Logical and psychological posture... Did you read about his near collapse? Post 1859… an age of what was understood to be scientific was becoming more culturally authoritative. Post Darwinian age science seemed to be carrying everything before it. Most people are still religious in sensibility and temperament. An age in which science is in the ascendant but for the masses of the world this is still a religious age. The normative relm: the relm of shoulds and oughts is under threat by science. James is at the nexus of these contending forces and is trying to communicate a via media (middle way) How does he argue and vindicate the right to believe? Lemme say this, the strategy he uses in the argument is relevant today…. Racism? (confused) Quote me only what you need then gloss to make your point. Let me ask you this.. do you like making mistakes?

 

Class: Depends on the consequence?

 

Jefferson: No one likes to make mistakes. There are a couple of attitudes that attend knowledge getting. What are those 2 basic attitudes? He says “one posture is to seek truth” the other is to “avoid error at all costs”. James acknowledges counter to the science part of view, that in interrogating the meaning of our mistakes we advance in our knowledge.

 

Calamity: there has to be a leap of faith at some point.

 

MissArcher2: “We have the right to believe at our own risk any hypothesis that is live enough to tempt our will”

 

Jefferson: Example of modern Christian scientist kids, kid dies because the parents don’t believe in medicine. They are asserting their “right to believe” but this is a risk to the life of their innocent kid”

 

Calamity: Pascal’s wager is denounced by James…

 

Jefferson: James main concern here is religious posture. He is clearing a space for science and religion to co exist. Religion is a part of the moral dimension are different sorts of areas of human life existential and intellectual where the rules about belief are a little different than the rules about science.

Let me do this… I don’t like to but let me practice my own method. Page 270 middle of the page “the talk of our believing by our…” then he says lets contrast with science “when one turns from the…what patience and postponement… what submission to the icy… how absolutely impersonal… contemptible… private dream… can we wonder in the rugged and manly school of science…minds”

James is quarrelling with a reductionist reading of science. And that may leave out our myriad of molds of knowledge getting. Where does James find room to clear out the space for one to have the right to believe.

Weezie: Pg. 730 “We must consult what Pascal calls the heart…the question of having moral beliefs… by our will…moral scepticism… when we stick to it that there is truth… the sceptic with his whole nature adopts the doubting attitude”

Jefferson: yes this is central to James’s point. We must throw ourselves with passion. If we don’t act, that is also a form of acting.

 

Calamity:  Religion demands throwing yourself all into it. You either have to believe it or not.

 

Jefferson: nothing says religion has to be a live hypothesis for modern scholars, but I agree with you… this is one of the situations James speaks of. We are speaking about the moral dimension, not narrowly in religion pg730 “a certain class of questions of fact…”He says ‘curious example of a man wooing a woman’ “ how many women’s hearts…he will not consent to the hypothesis they do not…brings about that special truth’s existence…” p731 “there are then cases where a fact can not come at all unless a preliminary faith exists … and where faith in a fact can help create the fact…yet such is the logic where scientific abolitionists pretend to regulate our lives”

James is arguing for a brief for individuality and heroism and our agency as post Darwinian organism…” Next time we will talk about peirce’s fixation of belief.

BRING THE TEXT TO GOD DAMN CLASS. IT IS TO BE DONE. 

 

 

 

 

 

March 31, 2010

So it's been a while... I realize that. I just find myself either having little to say until someone sparks an idea in class, then I usually forget that idea... But I've been keeping my own little class journal (notes things that sparked my interest) and incorporating that into my commonplace book before the end of the term. 

But let us talk about Peirce! Not a resident of the house of wits, but certainly a guest or even williams imaginary friend? 

Peirce says, "Doubt is an uneasy and dissatisfied state from which we struggle to free ourselves and pass into the state of belief: while the latter is a calm and satisfactory state which we do not wish to avoid, or to change to a belief in anything else.

My brain almost burst when I read this.

Because two equally interesting thoughts happened at once. I suppose my stream suddenly broken into two paths and my canoe was headed for the rock directly in between the two options.

 

Path one took me to the question of Isabel Archer and her actions in portrait of a lady and her "painting" on Osmond's boringly empty canvas... Was the fact that this illusion she had created lasted several years due to what Peirce states? Was it just simply a more enjoyable emotion to believe something that wasn't true?

Then this took me to an idea I had been talking with a friend about. The idea that ignorance is bliss. And how often this contributes to societal inequities because when people are told they are nothing they are expected to do nothing. No contributions necessary and this belief is sadly comfortable and they continue to "take what they are given" without questioning. But if you tell a person who has been told the former all their life that they are going to change the world, that they are a member of the next generation of great thinkers, they question. "Puhlease! where the hell did you get that crack pot idea, I work at fuckin McDonalds, I ain't gonna change shit".

Though this first idea hit me the same time the second one did, they have this nice little circular connection. 

 

The second question that came to mind was, "Since doubt is unpleasant and education encourages us to doubt the hypothesis and the words on the pages of every book we are given, is this another way that education is merely a conditioning of the mind to do what it doesn't do willfully. Further funneling of the experience of thought?"

I don't know what exactly I think the answer is to this question. Peirce asserts that doubt is just as natural to the human mind as belief, but if in fact it is, then why do we need to be taught to doubt and question in school? Also why is it a recognizably less pleasant thought to doubt than to believe? Does the pleasantness of a thought lend insight into our mind's willingness to perform that process? When are we taught to doubt? Is it the first time we tell a lie? 

 

 

 

 

Feb 17, 2010

This episode of my favourite television show "The Boondocks" tells the story of "gangstalicious" a rapper who despite his image of being a hard core gangsta rapper is really quite less than "the real thing". 

http://www.freeonlineepisodes.net/the-boondocks-season-1-episode-6-the-story-of-gangstalicious/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 2, 2010

Since I'm doing my paper on Alice James and her performance of disability and it's due FRIDAY I was looking online for some sources to help me illuminate how others see/saw her. I came across an article on pbs that interpreted her illness as the possible manifestation of the frustration common among women of her era in being unable to fully live their lives due to social decorum: "To identify the class and gender biases underlying the 19th-century diagnosis of hysteria in women is not to discount its reality or to dismiss the seriousness of its symptoms. As a number of feminist thinkers have argued in recent years, hysteria may well have resulted from the widespread suppression of women's energies and talents in the name of "femininity" and ladylike conduct. Alice James certainly recognized this, understanding her own collapses as the failure to control feelings of rage that were leveled primarily at the father who kept his daughter in the house, tied to him and removed from outside stimulation and outlets. " Though I'm not exactly sure what to do with the idea of instead of the disability being a performance in and of itself, but rather that the disability was caused by Alice's inability to perform her gender as she would have felt satisfied doing. I begin this posting with a painting by Picasso, because i think it is a very applicable visual for how woman chooses to view herself as fitting in (or not in the case of Alice) to her society's gender constructions. I'm unclear on whether pictures are encouraged in a commonplace book, but I feel comfortable tweaking the format for a more modern, visual age. 

 

 

 
Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships, / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium? / Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss! / Her lips suck forth my soul: see, where it flies!
Faustus.

 

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Serendip Visitor's picture

hi

i would like to say that although i do agree with your adamant feelings towards the sense of bastardization the educational structure has continued to undergo, one must also consider that despite the invaluable growth a student gains through the manipulation of new and yet to be established schools of thought, we in this culture are somewhat pragmatic, meaning we support what works best for those in power.

Anonymous's picture

thoughts on post 17 the interior octopus

i would like to say that although i do agree with your adamant feelings towards the sense of bastardization the educational structure has continued to undergo, one must also consider that despite the invaluable growth a student gains through the manipulation of new and yet to be established schools of thought, we in this culture are somewhat pragmatic, meaning we support what works best for those in power. School for many is no more than a means to an end, the end being money and job security, all other reward tends to be of less importance. I am not arguing that this is an ideal perspective, but rather that it is the reality in which we find ourselves. Also, it is crucial to understand that the educational institution is just a small component of a greater institution called society, and the staple of control in either the realm of the micro or macro depends greatly upon conformity. The authority figure(s) must determine what is true and what is false, and stand by these beliefs with a solid conviction, setting an example of what is acceptable. When everything falls into question with the intention of cultivating conflicting perspectives it weakens the power structure and increases the susceptibility for disagreement and rebellion. i conclude that the limitations set in place to limit free thought are there to maintain the status-quo and sustain control by the wealthy majority.

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