Agent in Athens, Patient in Jerusalem: The Cosmic (Sense of) Self in Ancient Greek and Judaic Cultures

LECTURES > PREVIOUS [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

One of the great insights of the modern era is that notions of what a “person” is, as well as notions about the “cosmos” those persons inhabit, vary from culture to culture. Indeed the two are linked. In this talk, we will explore the interconnections between cultural notions of “self’ and “cosmos” by considering the cases of ancient Greek culture on the one hand and ancient Judaic culture on the other. In each case, notions of creation were correlated with notions of the cosmos that in turn were correlated with notions of the nature of man and the nature of wisdom. In Athens, the cosmic (sense of) self was that of a cosmic agent, while in Jerusalem it was that of a cosmic patient. Continue reading

Agent in Athens, Patient in Jerusalem: The Cosmic (Sense of) Self in Greek and Hebrew Culture and their Descendents

WRITINGS > Unfinished

This essay is a generalization about idealizations.  As such, it is necessarily imperfect and incorrect.  In some ways it says too little.  In other ways it says too much.  Nonetheless, my hope is that this essay still says something true, something that begins to get at some of the ways that Greek and Hebrew civilizations spawned “senses of self” (or even more radically, actual “selves”) that were fundamentally different from, perhaps even antithetical to, one another — just as they also spawned “worldviews” (or even actual “worlds”) that were fundamentally different and perhaps antithetical.  As such, this essay is an exploration in what might be called “historical cultural psychology” — an examination of the ways in which “self” and “world” mutually constituted one another in two historically-important civilizations.  And to the extent Athens and Jerusalem live on in at least two contemporary civilizations, this essay is also an exploration of the ways in which “self” and “world” mutually constitute one another today. Continue reading

Mediating Mormonism: The Book of Mormon in Mormon Culture and Cognition

WRITINGS > FINISHED

The dissertation proposed is an effort to further the development of an overarching model of the “textual mediation of culture and cognition” through an initial interdisciplinary case study of the dialectical relationship which has existed between the Book of Mormon and Mormonism since the publication of the former and the founding of the latter in 1830. Continue reading

The Scientific Construction of Developmental Norms

WRITINGS > FINISHED

Although the notion of a dialectical (or reciprocal) relationship between psychology and culture has been nominally acknowledged for over a generation, it is only recently and tentatively that the study of developmental norms has begun to be shaped by this fact.  This paper presents a theoretical outline of this relationship and the resulting need for a self-conscious (or reflexive) study of developmental norms. Continue reading

Self-Evident Truths? Origin Myths and the Founding of America

WRITINGS > FINISHED

Every people has stories that it tells about itself-stories about where it comes from, about its place in the universe, about its essential characteristics. Indeed, one of the key functions of “culture” is to impress these stories on each succeeding generation. When successful, this process makes these stories so “obvious” to insiders as to be self-evidently true (despite the fact that these same stories remain self-evidently dubious to outsiders). In these respects, the American people and American culture are no different than any others. From the beginning, Americans have constructed stories —political, historical, literary — as a way of defining themselves and their place in the world and thus as a way of shaping their destiny. A look at works as diverse as The Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, The Scarlet Letter, The Gettysburg Address, and “Paul Revere’s Ride,” can illustrate this phenomenon and help us temporarily stand outside ourselves as we seek a better understanding of who we truly are. Continue reading

Self-Evident Truths? Origin Myths and the Founding of America

LECTURES > PREVIOUS

Every people has stories that it tells about itself-stories about where it comes from, about its place in the universe, about its essential characteristics. Indeed, one of the key functions of “culture” is to impress these stories on each succeeding generation. When successful, this process makes these stories so “obvious” to insiders as to be self-evidently true (despite the fact that these same stories remain self-evidently dubious to outsiders). In these respects, the American people and American culture are no different than any others. From the beginning, Americans have constructed stories —political, historical, literary — as a way of defining themselves and their place in the world and thus as a way of shaping their destiny. A look at works as diverse as The Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, The Scarlet Letter, The Gettysburg Address, and “Paul Revere’s Ride,” can illustrate this phenomenon and help us temporarily stand outside ourselves as we seek a better understanding of who we truly are. Continue reading

The Scientific Construction of Developmental Norms

LECTURES > PREVIOUS

Although the notion of a dialectical (or reciprocal) relationship between psychology and culture has been nominally acknowledged for over a generation, it is only recently and tentatively that the study of developmental norms has begun to be shaped by this fact.  This paper presents a theoretical outline of this relationship and the resulting need for a self-conscious (or reflexive) study of developmental norms. Continue reading

An ‘Is’ and ‘Ought’ of Developmental Psychology: Toward a Scientific Study of Human Ontogeny

WRITINGS > FINISHED

This paper is an attempt to weave an account of developmental psychology that is alternately descriptive and normative.  In the descriptive mode it takes the discipline as data for which it seeks an explanation.  In the normative mode, it takes the discipline as an enterprise for which it seeks optimal goals, theories and methodologies.  Descriptive, it is anthropological, examining a Western sociocultural artifact.  Normative, it is psychological, participating in a scientific undertaking to systematically study human ontogeny.  Descriptive, it is on the outside looking in; normative, it is on the inside looking out.  Collectively this paper claims that developmental psychology neither is what it says it is nor what it ought to be and asks: What is this project called “developmental psychology” and how ought it best be conducted? Continue reading

An ‘Is’ and ‘Ought’ of Developmental Psychology: Toward a Scientific Study of Human Ontogeny

LECTURES > PREVIOUS

This paper is an attempt to weave an account of developmental psychology that is alternately descriptive and normative.  In the descriptive mode it takes the discipline as data for which it seeks an explanation.  In the normative mode, it takes the discipline as an enterprise for which it seeks optimal goals, theories and methodologies.  Descriptive, it is anthropological, examining a Western sociocultural artifact.  Normative, it is psychological, participating in a scientific undertaking to systematically study human ontogeny.  Descriptive, it is on the outside looking in; normative, it is on the inside looking out.  Collectively this paper claims that developmental psychology neither is what it says it is nor what it ought to be and asks: What is this project called “developmental psychology” and how ought it best be conducted? Continue reading