Tag: Academia

Dr. Bower Among the Giants

Journey2Psychology, A Project by: Dr. MIchael Gordon
Mike Gordon is travelling across the world to converse with influential Psychologists and discover the stories behind their work.
This journey will form the basis of a book from political animal press
follow Dr. Gordon’s travels in full at Journey2Psychology

Scio (pronounced SIGH-oh, with a little sigh) is a sleepy little town in eastern Ohio. People who remember Gordon Bower as a child in 1930’s Scio probably would conjure up memories of a young pitcher destined for the big leagues. Maybe they’d remember Gordon and his older brother and sister running around their family’s store, Bower’s Merchandise Mart. Dr. Bower would eventually become the youngest Psychologist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, a formative scholar with his research on memory, affect-memory interactions, computational modeling and simulation of mental events, and many other scholarly areas. He would help lead psychology into the modern age as an APS president, and would lobby for the field as the Chief Science Advisor to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). He would become known as much for this tremendous research as his efforts mentoring/training an incredible cohort of influential psychologists in the next generation: from John Anderson (Carnegie Melon University) to Andrea Halpern (Bucknell University) to Doug Hintzman (University of Oregon) to Robert Sternberg (Cornell University) and many, many others.

Dr. Bower is a truly monumental figure in Psychology and it is quite a wonder that no one has ever noticed this before me! (He wrote silently and then paused for a moment to laugh. Only funny to me?)

In point of fact, just about everyone in Psychology has recognized Dr. Bower’s tremendous accomplishments and there are extensive records documenting the major contributions and life events of Dr. Bower. If one had an interest in putting together a biography of Dr. Bower, one would not be disappointed in the fantastic stories, rich background, and thoughtful reflections from him, his notable students, Stanford University records, and the scientific organizations that have sought to honor him.

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Orienting Towards Dr. Mike Posner

Journey2Psychology, A Project by: Dr. MIchael Gordon 
Mike Gordon is travelling across the world to converse with influential Psychologists and discover the stories behind their work.
This journey will form the basis of a book from political animal press 
follow Dr. Gordon’s travels in full at Journey2Psychology

Over a career of more than 50 years Dr. Mike Posner of the University of Oregon has been a defining figure in Psychology — most notably for his efforts shepherding in the age of neuroscience for Psychology. In studies on attention, visual orienting, and a host of related cognitive processes, Dr. Posner and his colleagues have illustrated where and how neural circuits operate in the brain.

If I can wax poetically for a moment, one might recollect the parable of the blind men and elephant. Each one of the blind men reached out to touch the elephant and to describe their experience and each felt something different across the features of this large animal. One patted a solid mid-section, rough skinned body and declared the object to be a wall,  one felt a whip-like tail with a frayed end and shouted that the object was a broom, one grasped the thick, long trunk and exclaimed that it was a snake, and still another touched the fan-like ears and informed his peers that it was a peacock, I mean a fan. That last blind man seemed to often confuse fans and peacocks, much to the chagrin of his wife  and the bewilderment of the other blindmen. In any case, each found something important and exclaimed his excitement about this find to his colleagues! They debated and argued over their experiences. They accused each other of falsehoods and of misinterpretations — how could it be a snake when it was a broom? How could it be a broom when it was a wall? Eventually, slowly, and with much hand-wringing, they put their experiences together to construct an animal larger than any had originally thought and with more complexity than any had directly experienced.

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Psychologist on a Journey (or, Why I hit the road)

Journey2Psychology, A Project by: Dr. MIchael Gordon 
Mike Gordon is travelling across the world to converse with influential Psychologists and discover the stories behind their work.
This journey will form the basis of a book from political animal press 
follow Dr. Gordon’s travels in full at Journey2Psychology

My favorite part of Psychology has always been the stories.

My first project in grad school was to study human echolocation. I read these wonderful papers from Karl Dallenbach and colleagues from the 1940’s and 50’s wherein they expressed not just what they did but how it all happened. There was always a bit of a wry nod to others in the field. A little extra something so that their colleagues in the field might share in the fun of how that whole experiment went down.

As Psychology advanced to more recent days those little winks and nods began to disappear from our writings and, were replaced with greater rigor, more detailed analyses, and more advanced theoretical evaluation. Data, replicability, and theoretical significance are, appropriately, the prominent center of how we communicate with each other in Psychology at this time. To learn the stories of the research one needs to speak to the researchers, meet with them at conferences, and have a few laughs over a beer.

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Judge Posner on Meta-Ethics and Rational vs. Nonrational Argumentation

By:Jeremy Kingston Cynamon

Moral theory is like a system of mathematics that has never gotten beyond addition.R. Posner

Introduction

In his book, Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory, Judge Richard Posner offers a serious critique of the professionalization of moral philosophy that has gone largely ignored by that social milieu. More broadly, his meta-ethical views explaining the nature of morality, which I will reconstruct in this piece, are quite incisive. I generally agree with Posner’s skepticism towards moral realism, and will not attempt to problematize his arguments in this regard. However, in his attempt to delineate different types of moralists (“moral entrepreneurs” from “academic moralists”) he draws some dubious distinctions.

Particularly concerning is his distinction between rational and nonrational argumentation.[1] In my view, it is political rather than philosophical; a sort of social artifact without internal logic. There is, of course, such a thing as a bad argument, but this is not equivalent to a nonrational argument – at least in Posner’s schema, and in academic parlance more generally. Rationality/Nonrationality can be a marginally useful distinction of style, but I argue that it is often misused to track content and thereby unreflectively weaken the normative weight of radical arguments.

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