Monthly Archives: March 2014

Spinoza on Commercial Television

“We can, for example, decide not to watch commercial television, and advocate its eternal banishment from the households of intelligent citizens. By controlling our interaction with objects that cause emotions we are in effect exerting some control over the life process and leading the organism into greater or lesser harmony, as Spinoza would wish. We are in effect overriding the tyrannical automaticity and mindlessness of the emotional machinery.” (Says Damasio in “Looking for Spinoza”, http://www.amazon.com/Looking-Spinoza-Sorrow-Feeling-Brain/dp/0156028719).

He doesn’t say anything about Facebook, though.

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Sandplay

I’ve just read about 140 pages of “Sandplay Therapy” by Barbara Labovitz Boik and Anna Goodwin. It’s a down-to-earth manual with step by step instructions about how to use this technique in clinical contexts. It’s not a theoretically ambitious book. Yet the technique does impress me as very interesting and powerful; the book offers very clear guidelines and I’m sure I will start using it in my private practice.

I am surprised by how Jungian the authors are. They are focused on producing meanings, actually in making each patient saturate her or his sand tray with images loaded with meanings. In theory this is the opposite to what Lacanian analysts do; the latter are supposed to concentrate on the signifier, the symbolic relations, and to patiently wait for meanings to erupt at certain specific points  when discourse breaks up-for instance in Freudian slips, memory lapses, etc. Also, this strain of Jungians seems not to interpret what patients say, because they believe that the unconscious does all the healing by itself. The psychologist is just a witness that “holds” the patient’s work.

Of course, in spite of how analysts describe their practice, they end up doing more or less the same, no matter which theory they adhere to.

Middle Ages

I’ve been reading “Sophia’s World” with my daughter, who is 10 now. We’ve already read about Antiquity (Democritus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) and we’re now starting with the Middle Ages. But she interrupts me: “Stop! Stop! Are you saying that the Middle Ages come after all this? How is that possible?”

Change is death

Today I was reading about Plato’s theory of ideas and the allegory of the cave.

All of the sudden, one of Plato’s counter-intuitive points made sense to me. I am referring to Plato’s claim that the material world known to us through sensation does not really exist or, more precisely, that it has a derivative type of existence. In other words, for Plato, it is only the world of ideas that is really real. The material world, the world that we see, hear and touch, has a lower ontological status.

Plato’s theory is built upon a mathematical-geometrical version of truth. From within this paradigm, truths are eternal. Thus, the concept of a circle never changes, it is the material embodiment of circles, such as cart-wheels, that change.

Plato’s stance is, in part, a reaction to previous, pre-Socratic philosophies, above all to the opposition between the doctrines of Parmenides and Heraclitus. For them, change consists in something turning into something else. Change is ubiquitous, according to one point of view; change is impossible, according to the other. They both agree, perhaps, in the following: when A turns into B, B being something radically different from A, A needs to die for B to be born. A has to be negated for B to be asserted.

And if change means death, then things that change-as Plato claimed-don’t really exist. Or they exist ephemerally, they enjoy only a transient, fragile existence that depends on more fundamental, invariable concepts and structures.

If this is the case, then we, humans, don’t exist. Because our life consists in becoming something else, something different, all the time. And therefore, we stay alive by dying, we survive by killing ourselves.