Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Teaser ~ The Politics of Experience

The Politics of Experience ~ by R. D. Laing, 1967

Laing was a young British psychiatrist who attacked the Establishment assumptions about "normality" with "a radical and challenging view of the mental sickness built into our society."  I've quoted from the back cover of this book that I read in the early 1970s.  Wow, that's 40 years ago!  Unpacking boxes of books, I ran across this dusty paperback and decided to share some quotes from it as today's teaser.
"As we experience the world, so we act.  We conduct ourselves in the light of our view of what is the case and what is not the case.  That is, each person is a more or less naive ontologist.  Each person has views of what is and what is not" (p. 142).
Okay, I suppose I should define ontologist for you, since I'm probably the only philosophy major here.  Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being or reality.  It deals with questions about what is.  So an ontologist is one who investigates what makes a human, human.  Have I lost you?  Okay, let's try another quote.
"Psychotherapy must remain an obstinate attempt of two people to recover the wholeness of being human through the relationship between them" (p. 53).
I never took a class in psychology, so I asked a professor of social psychology about taking his beginning class he was visiting at my house with one of my friends.  He had been reading the titles on my bookshelves and said, with a wave toward my books, "You don't need it."  This book was probably right there on those shelves that day.
"Human beings seem to have an almost unlimited capacity to deceive themselves, and to deceive themselves into taking their own lies for truth" (pp. 72-73).
On the previous pages, Laing was describing the way our teachers teach — or taught back then, 40-some years ago, before "common core" and "teaching to the test" became the norm.  Reading snippets of this book, I notice it seems very dated.  Or maybe I just haven't thought about these ideas in decades.  Has anyone else read this book?  Or even heard of it?

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