‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part twelve)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on August 31, 2018 @ 3:30 pm

Vygotsky argues that “inner speech develops through a slow accumulation of functional and structural changes, that it branches off from the child’s external speech simultaneously with the differentiation of the social and egocentric functions of speech, and finally that the speech structures mastered by the child become the basic structures of his thinking.” (p.94). He continues “thought development is determined by language i.e., by the linguistic tools of thought and by the sociocultural experience of the child. Essentially, the development of inner speech depends on outside factors; the development of logic in the child, as Piaget’s studies have shown, is a direct function of his socialised speech. The child’s intellectual growth is contingent on his mastering the social means of thought, that is, language.” Vygotsky concludes “If we compare the early development of speech and intellect… with the development of inner speech and verbal thought, we must conclude that the late stage is not a simple continuation of the earlier. The nature of the development itself changes, from biological to sociohistorical. Verbal thought is not an innate, natural form of behaviour, but is determined by a historical-cultural process and has specific properties and laws that cannot be found in the natural forms of thought in speech. Once we acknowledge the historical character of verbal thought, we must consider it subject to all the premises of historical materialism, which are valid for any historical phenomenon in human society. It is only to be expected that on this level the development of behaviour will be governed by the general laws of the historical development of human society.” (p.94-95).
On examining the relationship between thought and word Vygotsky argues “the meaning of a word represents such a close amalgam of thought and language that it is hard to tell whether it is a phenomenon of speech or a phenomenon of thought. A word without meaning is an empty sound; meaning, therefore, is a criterion of “word”, its indispensable component. It would seem, then, that it may be regarded as a phenomenon of speech. But from the point of view of psychology, the meaning of every word is a generalization or a concept. And since generalizations and concepts are undeniably acts of thought, we may regard meaning as a phenomenon of thinking. It does not follow, however, that meaning formally belongs in two different spheres of psychic life. Word meaning is a phenomenon of thought only insofar as thought is embodied in speech, and speech only insofar as speech is connected with thought and illuminated by it. It is a phenomenon of verbal thought, or meaningful speech – a union of word or thought.” (Vygotsky, p.212). Vygotsky suggests that the experimental investigations that he was part of confirm the basic thesis that ‘word meanings develop’. He takes into account with a critical eyes the school of association theory that the bond between word and meaning is an associative bond, established through the repeated simultaneous perception of a certain sound and a certain object. However he argues that “the association between word and meaning may grow stronger or weaker, be enriched by linkage with other objects of a similar kind, spread over a wider field, or become limited (i.e. it may undergo quantitative and external changes), but it cannot change its psychological nature. To do that it would have to cease being an association. From that point of view, any development in word meanings is inexplicable and impossible.” (p.213). Vygotsky then moves on to the influence of the Wurzburg school (as does Jaynes). Vygotsky argued that the Wurzburg school argued for the impossibility of reducing thinking to a mere play of associations in order to demonstrate specific laws governing the flow of thought. Vygotsky suggested that the upshot of this divorce of thought from association theory, left theories of speech even more in the sway of association theory. In Vygotsky’s history of speech and thought it was Gestalt theory that next tried to lift both thought and speech from association theory. Vygotsky’s criticism of the Gestalt school however is that they completely separated the functions of thought and speech which then “appears as simple analogy, a reduction of both to a common structural denominator… words enter into the structure of things and acquire certain functional meaning, in much the same way as a stick, to the chimpanzee, becomes part of the structure of obtaining the fruit and acquires the functional meaning of tool. The connection between word and meaning is no longer regarded as a matter of simple association, but as a matter of structure.” (p.215-216). Vygotsky argues that this move forward is an illusion and the same sweeping argument that was entertained by the associationists is here applies to structure, as Vygotsky says “all cats are gray in the dusk of Gestalt theory, as in the earlier fogs of universal associationism” (p.216). The two fundamental errors of the older theory remain: “the assumption of the identical nature of all connections and the assumption that word meanings do not change” (p.216). Vygotsky believes that the discovery that word meanings evolve leads psychology out a blind alley. “word meanings are dynamic rather than static formations. They change as the child develops; they change also with the various ways in which thought functions. If word meanings change in their inner nature, then the relation of thought to word also changes.” (p.217). Vygotsky continues “the relation between thought to word is not a thing but a process of continual movement back and forth from thought to word and word to thought. In that process, the relation of thought to word undergoes changes that themselves may be regarded as development in the functional sense. Thought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into existence through them. Every thought tends to connect something with something else, to establish a relation between things. Every thought moves, grows and develops, fulfils a function, solves a problem. This flow of thought occurs as an inner movement through a series of planes. An analysis of the interaction of thought and word must begin with an investigation of different phases and plans a thought traverses before it is embodied in words.” (p.218). In Vygotsky’s view a child masters external speech by starting from one read, then connecting two or three words; then, upon advancing to simple sentences and then to more complicated ones towards coherent speech made up of a series of sentences, that is the development of coherent speech proceeds from a part to the whole. However, with regards to meaning the first word of a child is a sentence. So semantically the child starts from the whole, from a meaningful complex, and only starts to master the separate semantic units, the meaning of words, later, and it is only then the formerly undifferentiated thought is divided into these units. Thus “the external and the semantic aspects of speech develop in opposite directions – one from the particular to the whole, from word to sentence, and the other from the whole to the particular, from sentence to word.” (p.219). This means the development of the vocal and semantic aspects of speech does not coincide, although this does not mean they are independent of each other. “In a sense, there are more differences than likeness between them. The structure of speech does not simply mirror the structure of thought; that is why words cannot be put on by thought like a ready-made garment. Thought undergoes many changes as it turns into speech. It does not merely find expression in speech; it finds its reality and form.” (p.219).
With regards the development of reasoning Vygotsky notes that Piaget observes that the use of subordinate clauses such as because or although etc. develop syntactically before their meaning is understood, grammar precedes logic. With regards signifying (discussed elsewhere) Vygotsky argues that any part of the sentence may become a psychological predicate, the carrier of topical analysis… entirely different meanings may lie hidden behind one and the same grammatical structure. Accord between syntactical organisation and psychological organisation is not as prevalent as we tend to assume – rather, it is a requirement that is seldom met… a spontaneous utterance, wrong from the point of view of grammar, may have charm and aesthetic value… absolute correctness is achieved only in mathematics” (p.220-221). Vygotsky continues “behind words, there is the independent grammar of thought, the syntax of word meanings. The simplest utterance, far from reflecting a constant, rigid correspondence between sound and meaning, is really a process. Verbal expressions cannot emerge fully formed, but must develop gradually. This complex process of transition from meaning to sound must itself be developed and perfected. The child must learn to distinguish between semantics and phonetics and understand the nature of difference. At first, he uses verbal forms and meanings without being conscious of them as separate. The word, to the child, is an integral part of the object it denotes. Such a conception seems to be characteristic of primitive linguistic consciousness.” (p.222). He concludes “The fusion of the two planes of speech, semantic and vocal, begins to break down as the child grows older, and the distance between them gradually increases. Each stage in the development of word meanings has its own specific interrelation of the two planes. A child’s ability to communicate through language is directly related to the differentiation of word meanings in his speech and consciousness… To understand this, we must remember a basic characteristic of the structure of word meanings. In the semantic structure of a word, we distinguish between referent and meaning; correspondingly, we distinguish a word’s nominative function from its significative function. When we compare these structural and functional relations at the earliest, middle, and advanced stages of development, we find the following genetic regularity: in the beginning, only the normative function exists; and semantically, only the objective reference; signification independent of naming, and meaning independent of reference, appear later and develop along the paths we have attempted to trace and describe… Only when this development is completed does the child become fully able to formulate his own thought and to understand the speech of others. Until then, his usage of words coincides with that of adults in its objective reference, but not its meaning.” (p.223-224).


‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part eleven)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on August 29, 2018 @ 6:58 pm

Vygotsky points out that “no matter how we approach the controversial problem of the relation between thought and speech, we shall have to deal extensively with inner speech” (Vygotsky, p.84). Vygotsky tackles Piaget’s concept of egocentric speech, a form of speech that speech that the young child first learns. Piaget argues that children’s conversation falls into two camps: egocentric speech; and socialised speech. With egocentric speech the child mainly talks about herself, no attempting to place herself at the point of view of the hearer. “The child does not try to communicate, expects no answers and does not even care whether anyone listens to him. It is similar to a monologue in a play.” (Vygotsky, p.26). Socialised speech is different; “here a child begs, commands, threatens, conveys information, asks questions” (p.26). Piaget argues that even by age six the child’s speech is still predominantly egocentric. “Piaget emphasises that egocentric speech does not provide communication. It is rather chanting, rhyming, and accompanying the major melody of the child’s activity.” (p.28). As a lot of this talk is the child talking about their own activities, the fact that this occurs less in later stages of maturity means that it develops and moves to different stages of speech. According to Vygotsky, Piaget argues that this form of egocentric speech dies off, Vygotsky suggests that Piaget does not give sufficient attention to the development of inner speech, that Vygotsky thinks egocentric speech turns in to. “From the point of view of functional psychology, all silent thinking is nothing but ‘egocentric speech’” (p.32).
Vygotsky suggests that the total development runs as follows: “the primary function of speech, in both children and adults, is communication, social contact. The earliest speech of the child is essentially social. At first it is global and multifunctional; later its functions become undifferentiated. At a certain age the social speech of the child is quite sharply divided into egocentric speech and communicative speech… Egocentric speech emerges when the child transfers social, collaborative forms of behaviour to the sphere of inner-personal psychic functions. The child’s tendency to transfer to his inner processes the behaviour patterns that were formerly were social is well known to Piaget. He describes in another context how arguments between children give rise to the beginnings of logical reflection. Something similar happens, we believe, when the child starts conversing with himself as he has with others. When circumstances force him to stop and think, he is likely to think aloud. Egocentric speech, splintered off from general speech, in time leads to inner speech, which serves both autistic and logical thinking.” (p.34-35). Vygotsky goes on to say that “egocentric speech as a separate linguistic form is the highly important genetic link in the transition from vocal to inner speech, an intermediate stage between the differentiation of the functions of vocal speech and the final transformation of one part of vocal speech into inner speech.” (p.35). He states that the conception of speech development hinges on the interpretation given to egocentric speech so Vygotsky’s schemata of social, egocentric then inner speech differs from the schemata of the behaviourist pattern of vocal speech, whisper, inner speech which again differs from Piaget’s nonverbal autistic thought through egocentric thought and speech to socialised speech and logical thinking.
Vygotsky talks of the behaviourism of Watson, he suggests Watson questions whether we can know when this stage occurs, but Vygotsky suggests that problem is posed incorrectly, “there are no valid reasons to assume that inner speech develops in some mechanical way through the gradual decrease in the audibility of speech (whispering)”. (p.84). Vygotsky continues “there are no grounds for assuming that the two processes, so different functionally (social as opposed to personal adaptation) and structurally (the extreme elliptical economy of inner speech, changing the speech pattern almost beyond recognition) may be genetically parallel and concurrent.” (p.85). Vygotsky argues that whispering is only phenotypically different not genotypically, and that his own research suggests “structurally there is almost no difference between whispering and speaking aloud; functionally, whispering differs profoundly from inner speech and does not even manifest a tendency toward the characteristics typical of the latter.” (p.85). However whilst disagreeing with Watson’s thesis, Vygotsky notes that he hit on the right methodological approach: “to solve the problem, we must look for the intermediate link between overt and inner speech”. In conclusion Vygotsky states “in considering the function of inner speech in adults after the development is completed, we must ask whether in their case thought and linguistic processes are necessarily connected, whether the two can be equated. Again, as in the case of animals and of children, we must answer ‘no’.” (p.88). He continues “Schematically, we may imagine thought and speech as two intersecting circles. In their overlapping parts thought and speech coincide to produce what is called verbal thought. Verbal thought, however, does not by any means include all forms of speech. The thinking manifested in the use of tools belongs in this area, as does practical intellect in general.” (p.88).
Julian Jaynes discusses the issue of being conscious of being conscious, “in being conscious of consciousness, we feel it is the defining attribute of all our waking states, our moods and affections, our memories, our thoughts, attentions and volitions. We feel comfortably certain that consciousness is the basis of concepts, of learning and reasoning, of thought and judgment, and that it is so because it records and stores our experiences as they happen, allowing us to introspect on them and learn from them at will. We are also quite conscious that all this wonderful set of operations and contents that we call consciousness is located somewhere in the head… On critical examination, all these statements are false. They are the costume that consciousness has been masquerading in for centuries.” (Jaynes, p.21). Jaynes argues that using the method of introspection to illuminate consciousness is akin to shining a torch in a dark room, and upon finding that the parts of the dark room that the torch is shining on are bright with light, assuming that the whole room is lit up. Jaynes looks at different perspective on our understanding of consciousness, and then discounts certain cognitive relations, cognitive relations that we have been discussing in reference to the Reisberg text, Jaynes refutes the idea that “consciousness is an actual space inhabited by elements called sensations and ideas” (p.8); he also refutes that consciousness is necessary for concepts, arguing there is no necessary connection between them as root concepts are prior to experience, language lets words stand in for a concept; nor is consciousness necessary for learning, associative learning can be show to go ahead without any consciousness that it has occurred, for example the well-known Pavlovian response can be replicated by playing a certain type of music while eating a delicious meal can provoke a saliva response next time the music is played. Even though if you know about the phenomenon beforehand and are conscious of the contingency between the music and food then the learning does not occur. So consciousness is both unnecessary for the learning and can actually reduce this type of learning ability. In the learning of skills, as was discussed with regards Bateson, learning skills like tossing a coin, archery, football, or the piano consciousness does not take part in the acquiring of the skill, and even after the skill is learnt self-consciousness can undermine the application of those skills. Solution learning or instrumental learning is a more complex case. Jaynes points out that consciousness does indeed play a part in working out the solution to some goal, he argues, though, not always a necessary one. For example a group of psychology students were asked to compliment every female student wearing red, within a week a lot more people were wearing red, but on interview no-one was aware of having been influenced; Jaynes also argues that consciousness is not necessary for thinking, one of the examples Jaynes uses is very interesting with regards the type of Mindfulness course that is offered on many ‘recovery’ courses. There is a mindfulness technique that involves being given raisin, and really being ‘mindful’ of the raisin, its texture, what it looks like, its size, taste, what it feels like to chew it. This is a form of deliberate and focused introspection that allows one to be mindful of the moment, to be ‘present’ as the courses suggest is good for one’s mental health. In the experiment Jaynes describes one is asked to take two glasses with slightly different amounts of liquid in them and assess their weight. One is asked to introspect, just as the mindfulness course asks us to with the raisin, and then decide the different weights of the glasses. When one considers where this decision comes from it is discovered this introspection takes no part in the decision which is supplied by one’s nervous system. Another constraint takes place with regards partially-constrained association (as opposed to free association), it was found that once the stimulus word was given thinking was automatic. This is related to the use of priming in the discussion of cognitive thinking earlier. “Thinking, then, is not conscious. Rather it is an automatic process following a struction and the materials on which the struction is to operate.” (p.39). Jaynes goes on to say “Nor is this different from the case of speech which I mentioned earlier. When we speak, we are not really conscious either of the search for words, or of putting the words together into phrases or of putting the phrases into sentences. We are only conscious of the ongoing series of structions that we give ourselves, which then, automatically, without any consciousness whatever, result in speech. The speech itself we can be conscious of as it is produced if we wish, thus giving some feedback to result in further structions. So we arrive at the position that the actual process of thinking so usually thought to be the very life of consciousness, is not conscious at all and that only it preparation, its materials, and its result are consciously perceived.” (p.40-41); Jaynes then goes on to argue that consciousness is not necessary for reason, he says “reasoning refers to a gamut of natural thought processes in the everyday world. Logic is how we ought to think if objective truth is our goal – and the everyday world is very little concerned with objective truth. Logic is the science of the justification of conclusions we have reached by natural reasoning. My point here is that, for such natural reasoning to occur, consciousness is not necessary. The very reason we need logic at all is that most reasoning is not conscious at all.” (p.41). He describes reasoning from particulars, that is if I note that a particular piece of wood floats on one pond I might conclude that this piece of wood will float on a different pond. David Hume notes that much reasoning works along these lines, and Saul Kripke uses this Humean logic to discuss Ludwig Wittgenstein on language. And we will be returning to this later when analysing CBT’s relation to language. But for now we return to Jaynes who argues that this type of reasoning is simply expectation based on generalisation, there is nothing particularly extraordinary about it and it is an ability common to all higher vertebrates. “Such reasoning is the structure of the nervous system, not the structure of consciousness” (p.42). “But more complex reasoning without consciousness is continually going on. Our minds work much faster than consciousness can keep up with. We commonly make general assertions based on our past experiences in an automatic way, and only as an afterthought are we sometimes able to retrieve any of the past experiences on which an assertion is based. How often we reach sound conclusions and are unable to justify them! Because reasoning is not conscious. And consider the kind of reasoning that we do about others’ feelings and character, or in reasoning out the motives from of others from their actions. These are clearly the result of automatic inferences by our nervous systems in which consciousness is not only unnecessary, but, as we have seen in the performance of motor skills, would probably hinder the process.” (p.42). Jaynes is referring to the unconscious processes that Freud thought could be teased out with free association. Partially due to the automatic responses mentioned in the experiments on partially-constrained associative processes. Joyce refers to the thinking processes that scientists claim bring about solutions to their scientific and mathematical problems. Often when not working on the problem itself. “The essential point here is that there are several stages of creative thought: first, a stage of preparation in which the problem is consciously worked over; then a period of incubation without any conscious concentration upon the problem; and then the illumination which is later justified by logic… The period of preparation is essentially the setting up of a complex struction together with conscious attention to the materials on which the struction is to work. But then the actual process of reasoning, the dark leap into huge discovery, just as in the simple trivial judgment of weights, has no representation in consciousness. Indeed, it is sometimes almost as if the problem had to be forgotten to be solved.” (p.44).
Which brings us back to Vygotsky.


A Field Guide to Getting the Lost Art of Unrecovery (part eight)

Filed under:A Field Guide to the Lost Art of Unrecovery — posted by Schizostroller on August 3, 2018 @ 8:07 am

There is a question prevalent in Honneth’s work on Verstehen with regards mutual understanding and recognition and diagnosis , especially when one takes into account the work of Michel Foucault in his book the Birth of the Clinic and the shift from the patient speaking for himself to the gaze of the physician, the therapeutic relation’s historical relation to psychoanalysis, and from there to the later history of psychiatry, to which we can add Michel Foucault’s observations with regards Pinel and Tuke and the question of a possible preference for chains rather than therapy that is later taken up in Discipline and Punish with regards his critique of Benthamite utilitarianism and the disciplinary society . It is here we get to the ideas of ‘techne’ whether Heideggerian or Foucauldian (analysed in the History of Sexuality as well as Discipline and Punish ) and we then have to tackle the relation of diagnosis and ‘recovery’ to techniques and strategies used in treatment, that are always situated from a Gramscian hegemonic point of view within an economic discourse (both supportive of any dominant hegemony and always working counter to it, it is here we can really get to grips with a Foucauldian analysis of power, and specifically to mental health we can bring in the work on the history of social movements of Nick Crossley , and his argument that these different intensities of power in the different truth claims to power of mental health social movements and psychology, social work, nursing and psychiatry are working in a competitive field of knowledge and influence, and it is here a criticism of recovery discourse really takes place). What are the methods and practices (techne) used in nursing? What is the clients’ relation to these techne, his/her experience with regards the institutional intentions of the NHS with regards his/her care?
Perhaps there is a way of looking at problems of diagnosis and cure where one thinks of the distinction between letting something be as it is, specifically as something which resists understanding, and trying to ‘understand’ something, where ‘to understand’ is equivalent to working out where something should be (i.e. categorising), Phronesis. There is a difference between the different words for understanding, Phronesis and Verstehen, as a matter of hermeneutics. A theorist who dealt with this was Habermas who when pressed for a translation into English of his use of Verstehen (as it it’s meaning is vague) said ‘consensus’. However, it also means ‘mutual understanding’ in a sense that might be closer to Honneth’s use of Recognition, where one does not have to diagnose but ‘understand something for what it is’ ‘or someone for ‘who they are’ rather than the way two subjects ‘need it [the thing] to be about’ which Verstehen can also mean, ie consensus. However, the level of ‘understanding’ that is phronesis, which is a more diagnostic gaze, may move from epistemology to ontology, or at least that is the truth claim of psychiatry in its discursive addition to knowledge of mental health as a science. There are also issues of power excavated by Foucault in his use of the word ‘gaze’ here as well, we can look to the Birth of the Clinic here as well as Discipline and Punish with regards this. The effect this has on power relations, especially two individuals in an institutional engagement and the different calls they can make on differing power and knowledge bases, not to mention economic bases. How this will affect not just the engagement, but the application of techne and the result on the subjectivity of the one with less power, bearing in mind this power is not contained merely in the two individuals participating but is contained in the broader relations to power, knowledge and economy mentioned. In a sense the individuals involved are conduits of these relations.
Giorgio Agamben’s use of Foucault’s biopolitics takes in zoe and bios . Zoe refers to life in the sense of being alive or dead, bios refers to the art of living, ethics, possibilities of personal fulfilment etc. Another way of looking at the above CS Lewis quote and its relation to a curative gaze with regards mental health issues is to see the tyranny of conscience playing out as a death wish by figuratively looking at zoe versus bios as a distinction between negative liberty and positive liberty, as defined by Isaiah Berlin . Where we see the tyranny of conscience denies the right to define one’s own bios as negative freedom in the name of a zoe death wish, the drive to cure the other limits the more autonomous possibilities of the person ‘suffering’. An example of this is David Pilgrim’s analysis of the terms ‘nuisance’ and ‘danger’ with regards the social control of people with mental health issues . Where a positive freedom, the drive to decide the other’s way of life, is aimed at such individuals as a puritan thanatos denial of vitality, attitudes that people with mental health issues are victims of their own errant behaviour rather than appreciating the potential in the struggle ‘to be’ as a libidinous Eros facing outwards concerned with their own ways to live, ideas and a positive vitalism. It is perhaps here that we can see Foucault’s ambivalence with regards the York Retreat Tuke holistic pastoral working cure for mental health illness in Madness and Civilisation , and later his criticism of the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham in Discipline and Punish . The soft ability to punish through ‘care’ or the ‘pursuit of happiness’ as outcome measure rather than happiness as a vital product of a life well-lived.
With Lewis’ tyranny the example is obviously aimed at religious tyranny, but I think there is another economic and political policy one that stems through the relation, or elective affinity that Max Weber outlined in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism that is then reflected hegemonically within capitalism itself through techniques with regards mental health in NHS (and entrepreneurial mental health recovery – due to the instrumental pursuit of profit) for ideological reasons. This is part and parcel of the critique of instrumental reason of the Frankfurt School found in Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Reason and Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man .
Therefore when critiquing recovery and looking for unrecovery escape vectors we specifically need to look at the use of certain more tyrannical or punitive techniques (those used ‘for your own good’) and their relation to cost effectiveness as extant within the requirements of the system rather than as a result of a more anthropomorphised understanding of the economy (i.e. beliefs that the crisis was due to banker’s greed rather than the way capitalism works – and any elective affinities that may occur between such anthropomorphisation and ideas of the individual subject vis a vis psychological discourse as a result of what are, to be honest, consumerist subjectivities required for certain hegemonic relations with the means of production without capital) or as simply nothing more than the power struggles of psychiatrists versus psychologists for territory (although this paradigmatic competition certainly exists) outside and separate from the workings of the economy.
If we return to the Tuke York Retreat working cure we can return to the relationship between unemployment, the Work Capability Assessment , or moreover mental health disability and the ESA WRAG group and ‘workfare’ (especially the research showing the failings of workfare ), and from that the relation between the Protestant Ethic and the problem of what is valued as work with regards criticisms such as those of Kathi Weeks , and to the relation between recovery, diagnosis and cure from there. The relations of feminism to low paid affective labour, the right to recover – wages after all come from the relation between the supply and demand of available labour and the surplus profit that can be squeezed out of the labour-time they are for, so in this sense the time allowed to recover when related to back-to-work outcome measures will be related to that labour time and therefore recovery from diagnosis fits into the work relation of capitalist exploitation right there, when combined with ESA, WCA tests and outcome measure based recovery techne.
One can then think of not just the needs of those who have specific diagnoses and the very concrete effect austerity has had on the possibilities of autonomous ‘bios’, the possibilities of ways of living, but also hegemonically with regards discursive core beliefs that are related to attitudes towards people with mental health issues as ‘scroungers’ or ‘spongers’ (that one can analyse by looking at sado-masochistic and fascistic theories in both Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle and his Theory of the Group , as well as ideas of microfascism as explicated by Deleuze and Guattari especially where this involves receipt of social security and it’s labour-time relation to diagnosis and recovery becuase one cannot receive ESA, DLA or PIP for mental health issues without a diagnosis.
As a form of techne we can look at CBT, where CBT, and its promotion in policy in a utilitarian form by Layard, is one that has been specifically targeted with regards cost cutting (not just it’s purported efficacy in Layard, and criticisms of such efficacy almost everywhere else) . Where materialist neuroscientists such as Damasio and others can show that there is indeed a relation between emotion and cognition, but the short training, the issues in therapeutic relationship (noted by Richard Bentall ) and the limited hegemonic non-discursive relation to language (a quick perusal of either Saussure or Charles S Pierce will find fault, let alone Althusser or Lacan) leads it to being a subjectivising biopower techne rather than a vitalist biopolitical one (where we use Foucault’s distinction ).
We can look at a similar point in past history to this attempt to cut costs under austerity with regards Andrew Scull’s analysis of the cost cutting behind decarceration in the ‘80s and ‘90s and its relation to diagnosis and recovery then there where medication was claimed to be the factor behind the move to care in the community, but Scull’s historical analysis shows it was costs, and we can look at the turf war between social working, nursing, psychiatry and psychology there, with some arguing that the psychiatrists won back power through CTOs .
One interesting in-road to the question of recognition is Habermas’ communicative ethics and their place in his deliberative democracy and it’s relation to Gramsci’s idea of Hegemony , the place of language in that and RD Laing’s authoritarian nexus and its place in psychosis and from there appreciate that there is the doubling effect of austerity that the average psychotic will hear in everyday life, especially those place in the WRAG who end up in workfare. If we are to look aty a vital relation to the double binds that Bateson notes as important, then outside the family nexus, for those very unwell, or distressed, who find it hard to work, find work, or stay in work, with the threats of sanctions, then given the arguments above here is the vital, zoe, life or death relation. How can a recognition-based communicative practice that looks at the social causes, issues and support involved in mental health nursing help in these circumstances?
Habermas’ communicative ethics requires a critical agency on the part of the speaker in order for the dialogue to be reasonable, from the lacuna in this everyday experience illocutionary aspects of speech will occur (Hannah Arendt would argue this is inevitable ), these illocutionary speech acts can end up, using Freud’s unfulfilled wish fulfilment as an example of a possible route to a micro-tyranny, in becoming part of this hypothetical psychotic’s everyday linguistic experience within their nexus, those aspects of everyday language use uncritical of austerity, rather than active deliberative democratic critical agency, can come across as authoritarian. This is a result of the requirements of everyday citizens to act in certain ways and hold certain relations towards each other, certain performative frameworks, in order for any form of recognition to take place in the workplace, as a result of working within the remits of a policy of austerity. As austerity requires the working class to cut what little resources they have (more and more so as inequality increases ) then these illocutionary everyday affects will tend to be more ‘austere’ with regards acts of recognition with regards shared social space and resources and will be unlikely to create solidarity without at least some cognitive dissonance, thus taking issues in the general mental ‘wealth’ out of any family group nexus to a more social issue with regards the prevalence of psychosis and recovery from it in the long run in the general population.
Unrecovery therefore is an attempt to regain some autonomy in this milieu. Honneth tries in the book Disrespect tries to wrest the fate of Kantian autonomy from the twin critiques of Freud, romanticism and Nietzsche on the one hand “pointing to the unconscious drives and motives of individual action” demonstrating that “the human subject cannot be transparent to itself in the manner claimed in the classical notion of autonomy”; and on the other hand the history of linguistics from the intellectual current of Saussure and Wittgenstein that points to “the dependence of individual speech on a pre-given system of linguistic meanings” showing that “the human subject cannot constitute or exhaust meaning in the manner of transcendental philosophy…[calling] the possibility of the individual constitution of meaning into question, thereby invalidating autonomy in the sense of the authorship of the subject.” So whilst “the psychological critique sees libidinal forces within the subject as something foreign but necessary to its action, the language-philosophical deconstruction of subjectivity is covered with uncovering the actuality of linguistic systems of meaning, and actuality that precedes all intentionality. Both dimensions, the unconscious as well as language, refer to powers or forces operative in every individual action without the subject ever being able to control them completely or even detect them. This conclusion however disturbing it might be for the subject’s narcissism, is largely accepted in philosophy today.”
In Honneth’s attempt to reconcile this thorny subject with Kant’s original thesis on autonomy. To do this he refers to theory of intersubjectivity to formulate a meaningful concept of personal autonomy. He turns to G.H Mead and Donald .W. Winnicott to find the first outlines of a position “which allows the uncontrollable powers of language and the unconscious to be grasped not as a limitation for the acquisition of personal autonomy, but as it’s enabling condition.” And it is precisely this struggle that the psychotic finds him/her/themselves in when meeting the institutions of the NHS and the DWP as well as in the marketplace that we all struggle with.


In this chapter I very much wanted to explore from the psychotic subject’s point of view the narrative arc self-expression can take in not just contemporary late capitalist society but specifically under austerity, something I argue is a new economic policy with respect to post-WWII economics, a period in which the discourse of ‘recovery’ has changed massively, largely in relation to the NHS and welfare state that did not exist previously, but specifically under threat of that social support structure being lost to those who require for reasons of their mental distress. So there is the double quandary of both its institutional governance but also the threat of the removal of a safety net that on humanitarian terms is an improvement on the free market of the Victorian era. As such I have resorted to the linguistic cultural knowledge of society’s musical and other cultural undercurrents: black urban music culture, the Hardcore continuum, hip hop, dance and jazz, as well as the history of the baby of the blues; rock n’ roll, especially punk in order to speak this subaltern but British condition .
There is a thesis that Wright and Bartlett and the contributors involved suggest in the book Outside the Walls of The Asylum that there has been a hidden history of mental health care that goes back through nursing to midwifery and witchcraft, or at least herbal healers, the original community care, hints of the relation to this can be found in Silvia Federici’s book Caliban and the Witch which she traces in relation to the history of capitalism and primitive accumulation. There is a sense where the psychotic is Wolf-head , banished but blameless, who doesn’t quite fit into an iron cage required of the outlaw shaman by the market. A relation to the requirements of personal autonomy that makes the tick box outcome measures of the Recovery Star quite pointless.

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A Field Guide to Getting the Lost Art of Unrecovery (part seven)

Filed under:A Field Guide to the Lost Art of Unrecovery — posted by Schizostroller on August 2, 2018 @ 10:32 am

The Unrecovery career path – Unrecovery low theory apophenic example #3

If unrecovery is anything it is this. Since Freud found his book in a bookshop, it has been discovered that President Schreber’s father was an incredibly abusive man, he was an inventor of child disciplinary instruments, almost suitable for a modern S&M dungeon, or worse the torture devices of the Inquisitions of the Middle Ages. These the father tested on his own child, the future Schreber and his solar anus. It is in the sense that mental health strategies are a way of living with trauma and it is here that Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle and its discussion of the relation in childhood between trauma, play and repetition begins to make a lot of sense with regards the punk strategy of the UK Mad Pride collective of the 1990s where punk was used as a mad vehicle The fanzine Sniffin’ Glue’s famous statement “here’s three chords now form a band” (the editor of the fanzine, Mark Perry of Alternative TV, did indeed play a fair few Mad Pride fund raisers in order to then protest CTOs) then becomes here’s three practices now find a way to live with your mental health, repeat, repeat, repeat, and onwards to the improvised jazz method, here’s four to twenty standards, practice the hell out of them, learn to improvise riffs off of them and then signify the fuck out of your knots, anti-language as mad practice. This can’t be copyrighted as a ‘recovery tool’, this is the madness of the commons, the Lollards, Ranters and Ravers, the modern English Dissenters of psychosis. During Les Evènements in 1968 the graffiti proclaimed, “Beneath the Streets, The Beach”. And then there’s Morton Feldman crying to Alvin Curran not much later (over 20 years after Adorno declared no more poetry after Auschwitz,) “Can’t you hear them? They’re screaming! Still screaming out from under the pavements!” Which of these aphorisms today, 50 years later, holds more weight?”

Exegesis Exit

With regards Hegel I think it is worth noting that Deleuze mentions his anti-Hegelianism as a ‘silent conversation’ with Hegel , where he states especially morphogenesis, the idea that the genetic material contains potential information that then has broad diverse limits to its future form dependent on that relation with the environment versus the idea of Aristotle/ Platonic ideal forms and that ideological relation to Hegel’s concept of the world spirit. And I would suggest it is worth approaching my discussion of Hegelian/ Marxist theories and Deleuze & Guattari and the relation to the phenomenology of psychosis, that I have narrated here, with that in mind

Tyranny or phantasm?

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. ”

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief ”

“As the child passes over from the passivity of the experience to the activity of the game, he hands on the disagreeable experience to one of his playmates and in this way revenges himself on a substitute ”

“The means to do this [effect a double-bind] are not direct injunctions but attributions. That is, the mother both in effect orders the daughter to remember, and in effect orders her not to remember… In effect, then, as soon as anything comes into her mind the mother attributes both badness and madness to the daughter in oscillation. If the daughter tries not to be bad she is defined as mad. If she tries to avoid being mad she is defined as bad. The only partial way for the daughter out of this untenable position might be for her to falsify her perceptions and her own memory to fit in with what her mother might want to perceive or to remember. ”


A Field Guide to Getting the Lost Art of Unrecovery (part six)

Filed under:A Field Guide to the Lost Art of Unrecovery — posted by Schizostroller on August 1, 2018 @ 11:59 am

Another failed exegesis. Fail and fail better, pick yourself up and fail again.
With regards, not just Deleuze and Guattari and the Body without Organs , but also with respect to Foucault’s use of the idea of the body and its relation to the corps in his study on biopolitics , it is worth noting that trauma research seems to be centred in the body . Neuroscience prioritizes the emotions before cognition and language comes after that so in this sense there is a rationale to Lacan’s argument that the symbolic should be understood as being related to The Law . But here amongst the word salads (Radio Crazy as the Stones’ Voice Dialogue technique calls it ), alongside Wittgenstein’s unknowable or incomparable beetles, one comes across the frustration of Lacan’s Mathemes (we can also think of frustration leading to thought as described by Bion and his negative K – or the aspects of the partial object theory of Klein that also influenced Deleuze and Guattari ). This frustration seems to be why we get word salads as apophenic lines of flight, Deleuze and Guattari’s point was to use this embodied tendency of the mind to desire to escape for intentional practice, hence their honorific of the ‘artistic’ schizophrenic, but with regards psychology and the experience of dissociative states, these escape attempts of the mind, from knots as both Laing and Lacan called them, do indeed lead to lines of flight as the body, rather than the ‘will’ (it is worth thinking of the bodywork of Moshe Feldenkrais here where he distinguishes between ability and will. He claims ability is more important than will, he uses an example of having the sense of self and awareness to feel the fly land on the end of a feather (ability) something one cannot do at the end of an iron rod . Gregory Bateson discusses a similar thing with regards to “Samuel Butler’s insistence that the better an organism ‘knows’ something, the less conscious it becomes of its knowledge i.e there is a process whereby knowledge (or ‘habit’ – whether of action, perception or thought) sinks to deeper and deeper levels of the mind” . Again we can relate this back to the quote by Lefebvre above of primary and secondary nature), tries to work out and communicate, express, divulge, these unspeakable, unutterable, unmentionable feelings and the resulting verbal expression thus sounds like a word salad to someone they are communicated to who has a very different emotional subjectivity (Bateson argues this is the Ecology of Mind in his question and answer session with his daughter ) the language games are very different and the mental health professional trying to untangle them is playing, unavoidably, an often more institutionally hegemonic game, no matter the intentions of either party.
However, it is also in this sense that narrative becomes highly important in mental health recovery studies. But with respect to this import we still have the problem of normalisation and its relation to agency and the person in the subaltern position’s relation to the means of production within that and thus the complex problematic of their right to speak, or even the struggle, the fight to speak, for and as oneself, oneselves, themself, themselves.

Framing the experience

My own experience of voice hearing and dissociation leads me to enjoy the work of Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett as they chime with my own experience, some of which I have tried to convey by leaving this article as part word salad, one that has a social theoretic and cultural referential framing within which to situate it, that also creates vacuoles in what would otherwise be a standard academic text. So, therefore, I have left the example narratives without citations. As such I do find the theory of Deleuze and Guattari useful with regards my self-understanding, their theory of assemblages is one I find can be adapted to earlier theories of nexi, phantasms and constructs. Ron Coleman argued that the voices are real , this is the same argument Laing quotes Isaacs as proposing about phantasms , however assemblages have a more complex and dynamic morphology . I also find the communicative ethics of Jurgen Habermas and the recognition theory of Axel Honneth useful too, they have the possibility to ground the experiences of the psychotic and the theories of Deleuze and Guattari in a potential theory of recognition (accepting the challenges Foucault’s theories of power presented for Habermas ), and between these theories one can use the plethora of theories that have tried to reconcile Habermas, Foucault, Freudian, Weberian and Marxist theories of economic organisation (especially Frankfurt School) and from there is this well-trodden path seems to lead via autonomism outwards to semiotic theories of modern working relations (whether Hardt and Negri , Bifo Berardi , Silvia Federici and the affective body, or Kathi Weeks and the problem with work , especially after 7 years of austerity). I find the theory of recognition when combined with what Deleuze called microfascist reterritorialization especially useful, especially where Habermas’ use of the term Verstehen means less ‘consensus’ and more ‘mutual understanding’ , an understanding that allows for disagreement and refusal, respect and recognition in other words, whilst still supporting a right to be, to exist. But I do see with regards autonomism’s criticism of the problem of work (and David Graeber’s concept of bullshit jobs ) in Deleuze’s postscript to a control society an interesting reflection of middle class white collar aspirational subjectivity and its relation to the entrepreneurial side of mental health recovery, especially the idea of ‘recovery champions’- people whose exemplary recovery as peers are supposed to lead a path for others, but is often another career path for those with advantages.


image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace