Inventing the Self


October 22nd, 2013 by Adam Wagner · 2 Comments

I feel this week’s reading ties closely to the ideas I would like to explore in the development of self. I feel there is a stark difference between the biological understanding of life and the phenomenological feelingof living.  Although I subscribe to a strict biological understanding of humans (I feel everything has biological underpinnings, even subscribing to a biological determinism), however, that doesn’t discount the phenomenological aspects of life.  Having this understanding does not suddenly undo millions of years of evolution and cause me to lose my phenomenologica feelings of perception, becoming a machine-like human.  With that being said, I feel like these two disciplines of thought are in competition with each other when they should embrace each as different, but fundamentally connected.

This reading seems to come across the same problem of the inability to synthesize work focusing on the biological and phenomenological. Constantly, Hornstein was astonished at the methods of the HVN and how incompatible they were with her own training in the States. Strictly clinical, her training tended to focus on hearing voices as a symptom of a biological imbalance, to be treated with drugs. Whereas, HVN was less “treatment” in the clinical sense of the word and more just an open forum for those who here voices to find comfort in people like them. These two strategies vary drastically but they are not unconnected. Those who were represented in Hornstein’s book seemed to view the biological as a wrong diagnosis. Maybe not complete, and ultimately detrimental to recovery, but there is a biological underpinning to hearing voices.

I understand the reservation and strife involved with hospitalization involving mental illness and I ultimately believe the HVN is a wonderful organization attempting to use novel ways at treating voice hearing.  However, I think the propensity of both sides to deny the other as useful and/or influential is detrimental to an overall understanding of the experience on a multidimensional level. I feel there is a benefit that can be had from both sides working together to realise there is a biological and phenomenological side to hearing voices.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • Jason Tougaw (he/him/his) // Oct 23rd 2013 at 11:01 am

    It strikes me that you’ve articulated the crux of your research question here: “a stark difference between the biological understanding of life and the phenomenological feeling of living.”

    You might turn this into a motivating question, by asking, “How do influential thinkers in x disciplines handle the stark difference between the biological understanding of life and the phenomenological feeling of living? What are the most fruitful methods for accounting for the importance of the differences–and relationships–between biology and phenomenology?”

    Something like this could give you a very clear focus. Your job would be pretty clear.

  • matthew finston // Oct 23rd 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Reading this clarifies the stakes of your project. On one hand you subscribe to the ideology of biological determinism, on the other growing research has demonstrated the limitations of a purely biological way of thinking. I would like to see arguments for both. Ultimately, what would a synthesis look like? This is still unclear. In ideologically advocating for the value of one’s science, scholars of consciousness seem unwillingly to see the other side. What are the obstacles of doing this? In my research, one could argue that the people who subscribe to exorcism over psychiatric care are biologically inferior. There is something lacking in their brains. However, the religious mind is not a precursor to measure intelligence. And there is no proof that holding one ideology makes you intellectually superior on an IQ scale. Here phenomenology tells a different story from biology. To me, thinking our biology as “plastic” to borrow Noe’s term is useful for our thinking about biology. Biological determinism is limited because it doesn’t account for how education, wealth, race, or gender prefigure in determining the future composition of our biology. The opportunities we are given in a way determine the evolution of our biological makeup.

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