An Unreduced Mind

A confluence brings my attention to the reductionistic approaches to understanding our minds tonight.

I’ve begun studying psychology in university and one of the stressed points at the beginning has been how biological and physical processes are increasing in importance in the study of our minds. The text book I’m using, Psychology: Frontiers and Applications, divides the realms of study into biological (in AQAL, the UR), individual (the UL) and environmental (the LR and LL), which is fine as far as it goes, but so far lectures have included a strong bias toward the merely biological. While remaining very much open as a student, I do find a less than integral presentation of this incredibly rich landscape to unnecessarily limit opportunity for exploration of what is happening and why. Even just understanding that our minds arise in all four quadrants would clarify so very much.

The shakeup has especially touched the field of psychoanalysis. In “Patching Up the Frayed Couch” a bleak present of exploring the interior of a person is painted.

Since the mid-20th century, the profession has been assailed from all sides — by the emergence of cognitive behavioral therapy and by the convenience of short-term counseling, by health insurance companies and by feminism and by Prozac. At one point in the 1990s, the number of new enrollees at the institute fell to zero.

And this isn’t even mentioning the weakening of the field by pre-rational silliness and little coherency in the field when it came to mapping out just what was happening! In “The Changing Face of Psychoanalysis” from Mind Hacks, another, more insightful, look at the problems facing psychoanalysis is given, pointing out the difficulties of giving credibility to a discipline with hard to pin down results.

Without a coherent framework for considering the contributions of neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, behaviorism, psychodynamics and other assets, it seems there is more infighting and confusion than understanding and benefit being offered to the world. This disjointed appearance is possibly the biggest obstacle in mass and personal appreciation for the sciences of the mind. In the coming years we should work so that focus will shift to those who can deftly and accessibly map out the dimensions of our minds and consciousness.

On Saturday William at Integral Options Cafe wrote of his interpretation of A Mind So Rare by Merlin Donald in “The Integral Mind” and William followed up with a simple expression of what a more comprehensive view of the mind is.

According to Donald, what makes the human mind unique in all of nature (and I’m not sure I agree that this is an exclusively human trait) is that it is not simply a material structure — as so many neuroscientists like to argue these days — but is also composed of our individual subjective experiences AND our cultural experiences. In his view, our minds would not exist as we currently understand them without the influence of culture.

[W]e are a combination of our biology (the brain), our interior experience (the psyche), and our collaborative experience (culture). The mind is an integral experience.

For a clear look at the leading edge of understanding consciousness without reductionism, I highly recommend Ken Wilber‘s “An Integral Theory of Consciousness“.

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