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Barrett's Forums This discussion is devoted to the latest advances in neuroscience and the clinical phenomena it explains.

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Old 20-05-2009, 01:45 PM   #1
Barrett Dorko
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Default Born to Be Good

He begins this book with a tribute to Anton Van Leeuwenhoek, the father of microbiology and, for me, that’s all it took. Anybody who understands the significance of the deep model to this extent is going to get my attention immediately. If their conclusions prove rational and not decided upon before the evidence indicates what they should be, well, they’ve found a fan in me.

Dacher Keltner was a name new to me until recently but he appeared on Point of Inquiry as an authority respected by the Center for Inquiry so I paid attention immediately. When people whom you trust are recommending others, you listen. This also cuts down on the amount of investigation you have to do on your own.

Keltner’s book is titled Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.

It is as I had hoped, an examination of the deep model – a model that explains so much. Beyond that, it is a wonderful companion to many other books recommended here on Soma Simple.

I hope you’ll get the book yourself and follow along as I introduce some of Keltner’s ideas, and that you’ll contribute your own thoughts.

More soon.
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Old 21-05-2009, 05:38 PM   #2
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Barrett if your interested I listened to a radio program on CBC called "Tapestry" that had an interview with Keltner talking about his book "Born to Good". It was quite interesting. It can be found in the CBC archieves. The interview was Apr 2 2009. Go to CBC.ca and search for Tapestry. I was reading Ronald Wright's book "What is America" at the time . Reading that book makes it diffucult to believe that humans are born to good [at least people of European descent]but I keep hoping that people like Keltner are right.
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Old 22-05-2009, 03:08 AM   #3
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Thanks. I wish I could remember your name.

Here's a link that may help nudge the thread along.
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Old 22-05-2009, 01:52 PM   #4
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Default The Jen Ratio

In order to understand where Keltner is coming from you have to understand the Confucian concept of Jen: “a complex mix of kindness, humanity and respect that transpires between people.” To Keltner, a meaningful life is derived from its cultivation and, as Confucius observed, “(a person of Jen) wishing to establish his own character, also establishes the character of others…(they) bring the good things of others to completion and does not bring the bad things of others to completion.”

The “Jen ratio” is a simple way of seeing what surrounds you and its connection to the concept itself; the numerator is the good stuff and the denominator is the bad stuff.

How does this display itself in your department?
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Old 22-05-2009, 06:54 PM   #5
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I also listened to the Point of Inquiry interview and was very impressed with Keltner. I plan to buy the book which I have already skimmed through at a local Barnes & Noble; it looks fascinating to say the least!
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Old 23-05-2009, 03:47 AM   #6
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I went to the web site and invited the author here, or, at least somebody from there.

I think Confucius was on to something, and so is Keltner. Somewhere in between these two I wrote:

Quote:
I want to emphasize that a therapist should never act as a servant to any patient, but as one who through maturity and experience can see the strength and wholeness within others.

From PT In Service
This sounds like an appreciation of Jen to me. So I’m actually kind of Confucian, I guess. I remember sending this to PT Magazine with high hopes but the editor told me, quite exasperated, “Barrett, therapists don’t know who Herman Hesse is.” Well, I suppose some don’t, but couldn’t the things sent them to read introduce them? Wouldn’t that improve the Jen ratio?
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Old 23-05-2009, 02:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
To touch is to give life.

Michelangelo
There’s a chapter in the book devoted to touch as a numerator of the Jen ratio. It’s not bad, but I struggle with Keltner’s tendency to equate touching and something like massage. Studies certainly indicate that massage may prove beneficial in a variety of situations but as one who touches others for a living I feel that there is a world of difference between the method I call Simple Contact and the coercive albeit well-intentioned stroking, pressing and controlling actions of the one doing the massaging.

Michelangelo was famous for his attitude toward the inert material he carved; he treated it as if it were alive in some way, “revealing” the figure within as he worked. One might say he “gave life” to the marble.

I’m no Michelangelo but I have a distinct advantage when it comes to the materials I work with, and so do you. I wonder of Keltner understands this.
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Old 26-05-2009, 01:47 PM   #8
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In a recent Radio Lab rebroadcast I’m pretty sure that the original work of William James was mentioned. The hosts spoke of James’ idea that emotion had its origin in the viscera and muscles. James reasoned that if this were the case, paralyzed individuals would lose some emotive capability. Though the idea had been dismissed for a long time, modern examination of this phenomenon has proven it to be true.

In the chapter Rational Irrationality he says:

Quote:
Our moral judgments of blame are guided by sensations arising from the viscera and facial musculature…(and these) emotions are guides to moral reasoning, to ethical action.
There’s a lot there, and I can’t help but think of how unhappy so many therapists are with the nature of their current practice because they know it isn’t justified with the feelings they expected to feel when deciding to enter the profession. They just aren't feeling it in their gut.

An appeal to emotion then is provocative to any audience, and, if they aren’t especially interested in the plausibility of the basic premise, the speaker will be deemed successful; brilliant even. But most of all the audience will imagine that the one presenting the information wrapped in an emotion-laden package is a “good” person. This, of course, is a manipulation, and anyone capable of feeling the Jen that Confucius refers to will be bothered by what they’ve done. Of course, it is possible not to feel any of this.

I included the link immediately preceding this because while Keltner makes a compelling case for our inherent goodness, he makes no mention of the possibility of inherent badness. If we assume that our profession is populated in the main by those who tend toward altruism and the like, it stands to reason that as a group we might more easily fall victim to those among us whose ulterior motives are hidden because they are wrapped in an emotive appeal.

More soon.
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Old 26-05-2009, 06:09 PM   #9
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I emailed the author's web site and just got this in return:

Quote:
Hi Barrett,

Thanks for sending this to us -- I have forwarded your email on to Dr. Keltner.

Best,
Alexandra
GGSC (Greater Good Science Center)
Maybe we can get another contributor from the source here. Please consider asking a question or two if you've got any.
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Old 27-05-2009, 01:18 AM   #10
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Post No. 8 is outstanding.
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