Neurophilosophy

An interview with Martin Seligman

Beliefnet.com has an interview with Martin Seligman. (Don’t click on the link if you can’t bear promises of finding “eternal joy with Jesus’ word,” or – worse – ads for live psychic readings.)

Seligman is a highly influential psychologist. A former president of the American Psychological Association, he is perhaps best known for his theory of learned helplessness.

Beliefnet also has excerpts from Seligman’s latest book, Authentic Happiness.

Comments

  1. #1 Anonymous
    August 29, 2007

    Marty Seligman is a pompous prick.

  2. #2 Alvaro
    August 29, 2007

    Thanks for the link, Mo!

    In the last paragraph of the interview, he says

    “It more or less fell into place when I read Bob Wright’s book NonZero. He describes life as a positive sum game in which complexity wins out. Evolution works strongly in favor of growth and complexity. In human history, we are going from knowledge to omniscience, from potence to omnipotence, from ethics and religion to righteousness..So, in my view, God comes at the end of this long process. This may not happen in our lifetimes or even in the lifetime of our species. But we can choose lives that are part of this pathway to God, lives that are meaningful and sacred. They’re in the service of God coming at the end. That’s the theology that I can accept.”

    Interesting view. Which incorporates progress and evolution and an individual and collective “pathway” that depends on us. Now, what may “at the end” mean? are we walking, day in day out, from the Big Bang to the Big End? Is “God” the most beautiful, refined, evolved “brain” ever…question for a neurophilosopher…

  3. #3 Josh Charles
    August 29, 2007

    from the Learned Helplessness link:

    The results suggest that helplessness may be the result of a temporary deficit in a neurochemical system involved in learning.

    Does this mean that it may eventually be treated chemically?

  4. #4 gerald spezio
    August 30, 2007

    Mo, I am surprised that you would waste brain cells on Marty Seligman – a scientist he ain’t. An opinionated farceur, or a wordsmith seeking paying raw material, maybe? Anon above called him a “pompous prick.” Seligman has that rep in Supernation.

    Seligman admits to being a “clinical psychologist.” and that alone should send a scientist heading for any exit. Clicking “excerpts” above gives a shining example of literary farceuring, another way to describe the psychologizing trade. I didn’t even “spot it,” in the Nun’s story. I spotted the psychologist though. Absolute nonsense.

    Since you have made many days for me with your great posts, maybe I can reciprocate here. One of the very best pieces of writing, and fatal for most clinical psychologizing. http://www.astraeasweb.net/politics/dsmiv.html

  5. #5 Obdulantist
    August 30, 2007

    Seligman goes way beyond what the real science supports, or can support.

    I think that is about as poilte as I can put it.

  6. #6 gerald spezio
    September 1, 2007

    Mo, I didn’t see your tongue in your cheek. Mea culpa.
    When I clicked Learned Helplessness, and excerpt I thought that you were serious. So much for those of us who are too literal. I have been exposing myself to far too much new age Flak as a natural process of surfing the net.

  7. #7 Wendy
    September 8, 2007

    Have to comment on Gerald Spazio:

    Seligman admits to being a “clinical psychologist.” and that alone should send a scientist heading for any exit. Clicking “excerpts” above gives a shining example of literary farceuring, another way to describe the psychologizing trade.

    I am sorry that you have had some negative experiences with clinical psychology, but I was concerned with your reaction and felt it necessary to respond. First, clinical psychology is not a perfect profession, by any stretch of the imagination. By definition, it tries to apply psychological research to helping people who are having difficulties. Will that effort always be successful? No. But neither is medical science, and I don’t see you treating that profession with the same disdain. Secondly, there are a number of professions which “psychologize” to use your rather quaint, if inaccurate vernacular. Of all of them, clinical psychologists are the most likely to be doing research to improve, create, and apply empirically validated psychological treatments. A growing subsection of clinical psychology training programs are moving to a clinical scientist model, wherein graduate students are trained to be scientists first, then to apply their knowledge to clinical research. Third, your link to the Harper’s magazine article is hardly a death knell to clinical psychology. Ask anyone who has had clinical training, and you will find that we are well aware of the flaws and inconsistencies of the DSM-IV. It is hardly held to be the beginning and end of clinical psychology, and there has been a committee working on DSM-V since the publication of the 4th edition. However, your author misrepresented the book in a number of ways, though I will only comment on three here. First, earlier versions of the book relied much more heavily on clinical judgment and Freud’s (unscientific) conceptualizations of personality and psychopathology than versions III and IV do. The last two editions have tried (albiet not totally successfully) to used behavioral symptoms to describe disorders in order to take out much of the subjectivity of the clinician in assigning a diagnosis. Secondly, it is not suggested that a diagnosis be assigned to everyone, as the article implied. The article said that for example coffee drinking is seen as a disorder. Not true. Disorders in the DSM are defined as needing to cause significant impariment in the daily funcitoning of the indiviudal. You can have every symptom of a disorder, but if you are not having problems (or causing problems for people in your environment) then YOU DON’T HAVE A DISORDER. Third, before you indicate that a work is seminal, you should at least make sure that it has gotten the facts right. There were a number of just outright misrepresentations of disorders in the article. For example, malingering is not playing video games, as the article suggests. It is when an individual misrepresents him or herself as having a mental disorder, when a clinician has not been able to find evidence that that person actually has one. This code is prevalent in settings where person may have something to gain by acting crazy (like pleading guilty by reason of insanity to avoid the death penalty), and is clinical code for calling someone a liar, not slothful, as the author suggests. I could continue all day long, but this post is too long already. Besides, I have some psychologizing to do. :o)

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