Essay // Psychology: The Concept of Self

SelfRope

The concept of the self will be explored in this essay – where it comes from, what it looks like and how it influences thought and behaviour. Since self and identity are cognitive constructs that influence social interaction and perception, and are themselves partially influenced by society, the material of this essay connects to virtually all aspects of psychological science. The self is an enormously popular focus of research (e.g. Leary and Tangney, 2003; Sedikides and Brewer, 2001; Swann and Bosson, 2010). A 1997 review by Ashmore and Jussim reported 31,000 social psychological publications on the self over a two-decade period to the mid-1990s, and there is now even an International Society for Self and Identity and a scholarly journal imaginatively entitled Self and Identity.

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The concept of the “self” is a relatively new idea in psychological science. While Roy Baumeister’s (1987) painted a picture of a medievally organised society where most human organism’s reality were fixed and predefined by rigid social relations and legitimised with religious affiliations [family membership, social rank, birth order & place of birth, etc], the modern perspectives adopted by scholars and innovative psychologists has been contradicting such outdated concepts. The idea of a complex & sophisticated individual self, lurking underneath would have been difficult, if not impossible, to entertain under such atavistic assumptions of social structures affecting an individual human organism.

However, all this changed in the 16th century, where momentum gathered ever since from forces such as:

Secularisation – where the idea that fulfilment occurs in afterlife was replaced by the idea that one should actively pursue personal fulfilment in this life

Industrialisation – where the human being was increasingly being seen as individual units of production who moved from place to place with their own “portable” personal identity which was not locked into static social structures such as extended family

Enlightenment – where people felt they were solely responsible for choosing, organising and creating better identities for themselves by overthrowing orthodox value systems and oppressive regimes [e.g. the French revolution and the American revolution of the late 18th century]

and

Psychoanalysis – the psychoanalytic theory of the human mind unleashed the creative individual with the notion that the self was unfathomable because it lived in the depth of the unconscious [e.g. Theory of social representations – theory invoking psychoanalysis as an example of how a novel idea or analysis can entirely change how people think about their world (e.g. Moscovici, 1961; see Lorenzi-Cioldi and Clémence, 2001). [See: Psychoanalysis: History, Foundations, Legacy, Impact & Evolution]

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Jacques Lacan (1901 – 1981)

Together, these and other socio-political and cultural influences lead to society thinking about the self and identity as complex subjects, where theories of self and identity propagated and flourished in this fertile soil.

As far as self and identity are concerned, we have noticed one pervasive finding in cultural differences. The so called “Western” world involving continents such as Western Europe, North America and Australasia, tend to be individualistic, whereas most other cultures, such as in Asia, South America and Africa are collectivist (Triandis, 1989; also see Chiu and Hong, 2007, Heine, 2010, 2012; Oyserman, Coon and Kemmelmeier, 2002). Anthropologist Geertz puts it beautifully:

“The Western conception of the person as a bounded, unique, more or less integrated, motivational and cognitive universe, a dynamic centre of awareness, emotion, judgement, and action organized into a distinctive whole and set contrastively both against other such wholes and against a social and natural background is, however incorrigible it may seem to us, a rather peculiar idea within the context of the world’s cultures.”

Geertz (1975, p.48)

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Markus and Kityama (1991) describe how those from individualistic cultures tend to have an independent self, whereas people from collectivist cultures have an interdependent self. Although in both cases, people seek a clear sense of who they are, the [Western] independent self is grounded in a view of the self that is autonomous, separate from other people and revealed through one’s inner thoughts and feelings. The [Eastern] interdependent self on the other hand, unlike in the West, tends to be grounded in one’s connection to and relationships with other people [expressed through one’s roles and relationships]. As Gao explained: ‘Self… is defined by a person’s surrounding relations, which often are derived from kinship networks and supported by cultural values based on subjective definitions of filial piety, loyalty, dignity, and integrity’ (Gao, 1996, p. 83).

From a conceptual review of the cultural context of self-conception, Vignoles, Chryssochoou and Breakwell (2000) conclude that the need to have a distinctive and integrated sense of self is “likely” universal. However from individualist and collectivist cultures, the term “self-distinctiveness” holds a set of very different assumptions. In the individualist West, separateness adds meaning and definition to the isolated and bounded self. In the collectivist & Eastern others, the “self” is relational and gains meaning from its relations with others.

universal

A logic proposed by analysing historical conceptions of self with an account of the origins of individualist and collectivist cultures along with the associated independent and interdependent self-conceptions may be related to economic policies. The labour market is an example where mobility helped the industry by viewing humans as “units” of production who are expected to shift their geographical locations from places of low labour demand to those of higher demand, along with their ability to organise their lives, relationships, self-concepts around mobility and transient relationships.

New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam

Construction workers eat their lunches atop a steel beam 800 feet above ground, at the building site of the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center.

Independence, separateness and uniqueness have become more important than connectedness and long-term maintenance of enduring relationships [values that seem to have become pillars of modern Western Labour Culture – self-conceptions reflect cultural norms that codify economic activity].

However, this logic applied to any modern human organism seems to clearly offer more routes to development [personal and professional], more options to continuously nurture the evolving concepts of self-conception through expansive social experience and cultural exploration, while being a set of philosophy that places more powers of self-defined identity in the hands of the individual [more modern and sophisticated].

TheMan

Now that some basic concepts and origins of the “self” along with its importance and significance to psychological science has been covered, we are going to explore two creative ways of learning about ourselves.

Firstly, the concept of self-knowledge which involves us storing information about ourselves in a complex and varied way in the form of a schema means that information about the self is assumed to be stored cognitively as separate context specific nodes such that different nodes activate different ones and thus, different aspects of self (Breckler, Pratkanis and McCann, 1991; Higgins, van Hook and Dorfman, 1988). The concept of self emerges from widely distributed brain activity across the medial prefrontal and medial precuneus cortex of the brain (e.g. Saxe, Moran, Scholz, and Gabrieli, 2006). According the Hazel Markus, self-concept is neither “a singular, static, lump-like entity” nor a simple averaged view of the self – it is a complex and multi-faceted, with a relatively large number of discrete self-schemas (Markus, 1977; Markus and Wurf, 1987).

masks

Most individuals tend to have clear conceptions of themselves on some dimensions but not others – generally more self-schematic on dimensions that hold more meaning to them, for e.g. if one thinks of oneself as sophisticated and being sophisticated is of importance to oneself, then we would be self-schematic on that dimension [part of our self-concept], if not then we would not [would not be part of our self-concept – unsophisticated]. It is widely believed that most people have a complex self-concept with a large number of discrete self-schemas. Patrice Linville (1985, 1987; see below) has suggested that this variety helps to buffer people from life’s negative impacts by ensuring enough self-schemas are available for the individual to maintain a sense of satisfaction. We can be strategic in the use of our self-schemas – Linville described such judgement colourfully by saying: “don’t put all your eggs in one cognitive basket.” Self-schemas influence information processing and behaviour similarly to how schemas about others do (Markus and Sentis, 1982): self-schematic information is more readily noticed, is overrepresented in cognition and is associated with longer processing time.

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Self-schemas do not only describe how we are, but they are also believed to differ as we have an array of possible selves (Markus and Nurius, 1986) – future-oriented schemas of what we would like to become, or what we fear we might become. For example, a scholar completing a postgraduate may think of a career as an artist, lecturer, writer, philosopher, politician, actor, singer, producer, entrepreneur, etc. Higgins (1987) proposed the self-discrepancy theory, suggesting that we have 3 major types of self-schema:

  • The actual self – how we are
  • The ideal self – how we would like to be
  • The ‘ought’ self – how we think we should be

Discrepancies between the actual, ideal and/or ought, can motivate change to reduce the discrepancy – in this way we engage in self-regulation. Furthermore, the self-discrepancy and the general notion of self-regulation have been elaborated into the regulatory focus-theory (Higgins, 1997, 1998).This theory proposes that most individuals have two separate self-regulatory systems, termed Promotion and Prevention. The “Promotion” system is concerned with the attainment of one’s hopes and aspirations – one’s ideals. For example, those in a promotion focus adopt approach strategic means to attain their goals [e.g. promotion-focused students would seek ways to improve their grades, find new challenges and treat problems as interesting obstacles to overcome. The “Prevention” system is concerned with the fulfilment of one’s duties and obligations. Those in a prevention focus use avoidance strategy means to attain their goals. For example, prevention-focussed students would avoid new situations or new people and concentrate on avoiding failure rather than achieving highest possible grade.

aimhigh

Whether an individual is more approach or prevention focussed is believed to stem during childhood (Higgins and Silberman, 1998). Promotion-focus may arise if children are habitually hugged and kissed for behaving in a desired manner and love is withdrawn as a form of discipline. Prevention-focus may arise if children are encouraged to be alert to potential dangers and punished when they display undesirable behaviours. Against this background of individual differences however, regulatory focus has also been observed to be influenced by immediate context, for example by structuring the situation so that subjects focus on prevention or on promotion (Higgins, Roney, Crowe and Hymes, 1994). Research also revealed that those who are promotion-focussed are more likely to recall information relating to the pursuit of success by others (Higgins and Tykocinski, 1992). Lockwood and her associates found that those who are promotion-focussed look for inspiration to positive role models who emphasise strategies for achieving success (Lockwood, Jordan and Kunda, 2002). Such individuals also show elevated motivation and persistence on tasks framed in terms of gains and non-gains (Shah, Higgins and Friedman, 1998). On the other side of the spectrum, individuals who are prevention-focussed tend to recall information relating to the avoidance of failure by others, are most inspired by negative role models who highlight strategies for avoiding failure and exhibit motivation and persistence on tasks that framed in terms of losses and non-losses. After being studied in intergroup relations (Shah, Higgins and Friedman, 1998), the regulatory focus theory was found to strengthen positive emotion related bias and behavioural tendencies towards the ingroup when in the context of a measured or manipulated promotion focus. Prevention-focus strengthens more negative emotion-related bias [haters] and behavioural tendencies against the outgroup (Shah, Brazy and Higgins, 2004).

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The second way of learning about the concept of self is through the understanding of our “many selves” and multiple identities. In the book, The Concepf of Self, Kenneth Gergen (1971) depicts the self-concept as containing a repertoire of relatively discrete and often quite varied identities, each with a distinct body of knowledge. These identities have their origins in a vast array of different types of social relationships that form, or have formed, the anchoring points for our lives, ranging from close personal relationships with other professionals, mentors, trusted friends, etc and roles defined by skills, fields, divisions and categories, to relationships fully or partially defined by languages, geography, cultures [sub-cultures], groups values, philosophy, religion, gender and/or ethnicity. Linville (1985) also noted that individuals differ in terms of self-complexity, in the sense that some individuals have more diverse and extensive set of selves than othersthose with many independent aspects of selves have higher self-complexity than those with a few, relatively similar, aspects of self. The notion of self-complexity is given a rather different emphasis by Marilynn Brewer and her colleagues (Brewer and Pierce, 2005; Roccas and Bewer, 2002) who focussed on the self that is defined in group terms (social identity) and the relationship among identities rather than number of identities individuals have.

TheMask

They argued that individuals have a complex social identity if they have discrete social identities that do not share many attributes but a simple social identity if they have overlapping social identities that share many attributes [simple]. For example, when Cognitive Psychologists [cognitive psychology explores mental processes] study high-level functions such as problem solving and decision making, they often ask participants to think aloud. The verbal protocols that are obtained [heard] are then analysed at different levels of granularity: e.g. to look at the speed with which participants carry out mental processes, or, at a higher level of analysis, to identify the strategies being used. Grant and Hogg (2012) have recently suggested and empirically shown that the effect, particularly on group identification and group behaviours of the number of identities one has and their overlap may be better explained in terms of the general property of social identity prominencehow subjectively prominent, overall and in a specific situation, a particular identity is one’s self-concept. Social identity theorists (Tajfel and Turner, 1979) argued 2 broad classes of identity that define different types of self:

(i) Social Identity [which defines self in terms of a « particular » group membership (if any meaningful ones exist for the individual), and

(ii) Personal Identity [which defines self in terms of idiosyncratic traits & close personal relationships with specific individuals/groups (if any) which may be more than physical/social, e.g. mental [strength of association with specific others on specific tasks/degrees]

The first main focus question here is asked by Brewer and Gardner (1996), ‘Who is this “we”?’ and distinguished three forms of self:

  • Individual self – based on personal traits that differentiate the self from all others
  • Relational self – based on connections and role relationships with significant/meaningful others
  • Collective self – based on group membership [can depend of many criteria] that differentiates ‘us’ from ‘them’

More recently it has been proposed that there are four types of identity (Brewer, 2001; Chen, Boucher and Tapias, 2006):

  • Personal-based social identities – emphasising the way that group properties are internalised by individual group members as part of their self-concept
  • Relational social identities – defining the self in relation to specific other people with whom one interacts [may not be physical or social only] in a group context – corresponding to Brewer and Gardner’s (1996) relational identity and to Markus and Kitayama’s (1991) ‘interdependent self’.
  • Group-based social identities – equivalent to social identity as defined above [sense of belonging and emotional salience for a group is subjective]
  • Collective identities – referring to a process whereby  those who consider themselves as « group members » not only share self-defining attributes, but also engage in social action to forge an image of what the group stands for and how it is represented and viewed by others.

China Collective

The relational self  [for those who choose to be defined by others at least] is a concept that can be considered a particular type of collective self. As Masaki Yuki (2003) observed, some groups and cultures (notable East-Asian cultures) define groups in terms of networks of relationships. Research also revealed that women tend to place a greater importance than men on their relationships with others in a group (Seeley, Gardner, Pennington and Gabriel, 2003; see also Baumeister and Sommer, 1997; Cross and Madson, 1997).

In search for the evidence for the existence of multiple selves which came from research where contextual factors were varied to discover that most individuals describe themselves and behave differently in different contexts. In one experiment, participants were made to describe themselves on very different ways by being asked loaded questions which prompted them to search from their stock of self-knowledge for information that presented the self in a different light (Fazio, Effrein and Falender, 1981). Other researchers also found, time and time again, that experimental procedures that focus on group membership lead people to act very differently from procedures that focus on individuality and interpersonal relationships. Even “minimal group” studies in which participants are either: (a) identified as individuals; or (b) explicitly categorised, randomly or by some minimal or trivial criterion as ‘group’ members (Tajfel, 1970; see Diehl, 1990), a consistent finding is that being categorised tends to lead people to being discriminatory towards an outgroup, conform to ingroup norms, express attitudes and feelings that favour ingroup, and indicate a sense of belonging and loyalty to the ingroup.

ManVsGorilla

Furthermore, these effects of minimal group categorisation are generally very fast and automatic (Otten and Wentura, 1999). The idea that we may have many selves and that contextual factors can bring different selves into play, has a number of ramifications. Social constructionists have suggested that the self is entirely situation-dependent. An extreme form of this position argues that we do not carry self-knowledge around in our heads as cognitive representations at all, but rather that we construct disposable selves through talk (e.g. Potter and Wetherell, 1987). A less extreme version was proposed by Penny Oakes (e.g. Oakes, Haslam and Reynolds, 1999), who does not emphasise the role of talk but still maintains that self-conception is highly context-dependent. It is argued that most people have cognitive representations of the self that they carry in their heads as organising principles for perception, categorisation and action, but that these representations are temporarily or more enduringly modified by situational factors (e.g. Abrams and Hogg, 2001; Turner, Reynolds, Haslam and Veenstra, 2006).

evolution

Although we have a diversity of relatively discrete selves, we also have a quest: to find and maintain a reasonably integrated picture of who we are. Self-conceptual coherence provides us with a continuing theme for our lives – an ‘autobiography’ that weaves our various identities and selves together into a whole person. Individuals who have highly fragmented selves (e.g. some patients suffering from schizophrenia, amnesia or Alzheimer’s disease) find it very difficult to function effectively. People use many strategies to construct a coherent sense of self (Baumeister, 1998). Here is a list of some that we have used ourselves:

Sometimes we restrict our life to a limited set of contexts. Because different selves come into play as contexts keep changing, protections from self-conceptual clashes seem like a valid motive.

Other times, we continuously keep revising and integrating our ‘biographies’ to accommodate new identities. Along the way, we dispose of any meaningless inconsistencies. In effect, we are rewriting our own history to make it work to our advantage (Greenwald, 1980).

We also tend to attribute some change in the self externally to changing circumstances [e.g. educational achievements, professional circle, industry, etc] rather than only internally, to construct who we are. This is an application of the actor-observer effect (Jones and Nisbett, 1972).

In other cases, we can also develop self-schemas that embody a core set of attributes that we feel distinguishes us from all other peoplethat makes us unique (Markus, 1977). We then tend to recognise these attributes disproportionately in all our selves, providing thematic consistency that delivers a sense of a stable and unitary self (Cantor and Kihlstrom, 1987). To sum up, individuals tend to construct their lives such that their self-conceptions are both steady and coherent. A major element in the conception of self, is the ability to master language and its varying degrees of granularity that hold a major role in social identity [linguistic discourse].

[The remaining part of this essay will focus on the power and importance of language as the essence of the human being]

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The Essence of the Modern Human Being: Language, Psycholinguistics & Self-Definition

Human communication is completely different from that of other species as it allows virtually limitless amounts of ideas to be expressed by combining finite sets of elements (Hauser, Chomsky, & Fitch, 2005; Wargo, 2008). Other species [e.g. apes] do have communicative methods but none of them compare with human language. For example, monkeys use unique warning calls for different threats, but never combine these calls on new ideas. Similarly, birds and whales sing complex songs, but creative recombination of these sounds in the expression of new ideas has not occurred to these animals either.

As a system of symbols, language lies at the heart of social life and all its multitude of aspects in social identity. Language may be at the essence of existence if explored from the philosopher Descartes most famous quote, “Cogito Ergo Sum” which is Latin for “I think, therefore I am.”, as thought is believed to be experienced and entertained in language. In expressing his discourse, Descartes based the science system on the knowing subject in front of the world that it constructs and represents to itself – a system that would later also be the basis for many of the concepts of Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalysis.

cogito ergo sum

The act of thinking often involves an inner personal conversation with oneself, as we tend to perceived and think about the world in terms of linguistic categories. Lev Vygotsky (1962) believed that inner speech was the medium of thought and that it was interdependent with external speech [the medium of social communication]. This interdependence would lead to the logical conclusion that cultural differences in language and speech are reflected in cultural differences in thought.

In the theory of linguistic relativity devised by linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, a more extreme version of that logic was proposed. Brown writes:

Linguistic relativity is the reverse of the view that human cognition constrains the form of language. Relativity is the view that the cognitive processes of a human being – perception, memory, inference, deduction – vary with structural characteristics – lexicon, morphology, syntax – of the language [one speaks].

rene-descartes

Rene Descartes was not only one of the most prominent philosophers of the 17th century but in the history of Western philosophy. Often referred to as the « father of modern philosophy », Descartes profoundly influenced intellectuals across Europe with his writings. Best known for his statement « Cogito ergo sum » (I think, therefore I am), the philosopher started the school of rationalism which broke with the scholastic Aristotelianism. Firstly, Descartes rejected the mind-body dualism, arguing that matter (the body) and intelligence (the mind) are 2 independent substances (metaphysical dualism) and secondly rejected the causal model of explaining natural phenomena and replaced it with science-based observation and experiment. The philosopher spent a great part of his life in conflict with scholastic approach (historically part of the religious order and its adherents) which still dominated thoughts in the early 17th century.

 

Les bons plans de René

Rene Descartes (1596-1659) / Image: Université Paris-Descartes

Communication & Language

The study of communication is therefore an enormous undertaking that draws on a wide range of disciplines, such as psychology, social psychology, sociology, linguistics, socio-linguistics, philosophy and literary criticism. Social psychologists have tended to distinguish between the study of language and the study of non-verbal communication [where scholars agree both are vital to study communication (Ambady and Weisbuch, 2010; Holtgraves, 2010; Semin, 2007)]; with also a focus on conversation and the nature of discourse. However the scientific revolution has quickly turned our era into one hugely influenced by computer-mediated communication which is quickly turning into a dominant channel of communication for many (Birchmeier, Dietz-Uhler and Stasser, 2011; Hollingshead, 2001).

Communication in all its varieties is the essence of social interaction: when we interact we communicate. Information is constantly being transmitted about what we sense, think and feel – even about “who we are” – and some of our “messages” are unintentional [instinctive]. Communication among educated humans comprises of words, facial expressions, signs, gestures and touch; and this is done face-to-face or by phone, writing, texting, emails or video. The social factors of communication are inescapable:

  • It involves our relationship with others
  • It is built upon a shared understanding of meaning
  • It is how people influence each other

Spoken languages are based on rule-governed structuring of meaningless sounds (phonemes) into basic units of meaning (morphemes), which are further structured by morphological rules into words and by syntactic rules into sentences. The meanings of words, sentences and entire utterances are determined by semantic rules; which together represent “grammar”. Language has remained an incredibly and endlessly powerful medium of communication due to the limitless amount of meaningful utterances it can generate through the shared knowledge of morphological, syntactic and semantic rules. Meaning can be communicated by language at a number of levels, ranging from a simple utterance [a sound made by one person to another] to a locution [words placed in sequence, e.g. ‘It’s cold in this room’], to an illocution [the locution and context in which it is made: ‘It’s cold in this room’ may be a statement, or a criticism of the institution for not providing adequate heating, or a request to close the window, or a plea to move to another room (Austin, 1962; Hall, 2000)].

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Linguistic mastery therefore involves dexterity at many levels of cultural understanding and therefore should likely differ from one individual to another depending on their personality, IQ, education and cultural proficiency in self adjustment. This would lead to being able to navigate properly in the appropriate cultural context through language whilst knowing the appropriateness of the choice of words in term of “when, where, how and to whom say it.” Being able to master these, opens the doors to sociolinguistics (Fishman, 1972; also see Forgas, 1985), and the study of discourse as the basic unit of analysis (Edwards and Potter, 1992; McKinlay and McVittie, 2008; Potter and Wetherell, 1987). The philosopher John Searle (1979) has identified five sorts of meanings that humans can intentionally use language to communicate; we can use language:

  • To say how something is signified
  • To get someone to do something.
  • To express feelings and attitudes
  • To make a commitment
  • To accomplish something directly

Language is a uniquely human form of communication, as observed in the natural world, no other mammal has the elaborate form of communication in its repertoire of survival skills. Young apes have been taught to combine basic signs in order to communicate meaningfully (Gardner and Gardner, 1971; Patterson, 1978), however not even the most precocious ape can match the complexity of hierarchical language structure used by a normal 3-year-old child (Limber, 1977).

BabyBoy

Language has been called a human instinct because it is so readily and universally learned by infants. At 10 months of age, little is said, but at 30-month-old infants speak in complete sentences and user over 500 words (Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2006). Moreover, over this very 20 month period, the plastic infant brain reorganises itself to learn the language of its environment(s). At 10 months infants can distinguish the sounds of all languages, but by 30 months, they can readily discriminate only those sounds to which they have been exposed (Kraus and Banai, 2007). Once the ability to discriminate particular speech sounds is lost, it is very hard to regain in most, which is one of the reason why most adults tend to have difficulties with learning a new language without an accent.

Neuro_SpeakingAHeardWord

Processes involved in the brain when speaking a heard word. Damage to areas of the Primary auditory cortex on the Left temporal lobe induce Language Recognition Problems & damage to the same areas on the Right produce deficits in processing more complex & delicate sounds [e.g. music, vocal performances, etc]. Hence, in Neuroscience, although it is not always the case, it can be generalised with a fair amount of confidence that Left is concerned with Speed, and Right is focused on Complex Frequency Patterns.

Most intellectuals researching the evolution of sophisticated human languages turned first to comparative studies of the vocal communications between human beings and other lesser primates [e.g. apes / monkeys]. For example, vervet monkeys do not use alarm calls unless other similar monkeys are within the vicinity, and the calls are more likely to be made only if the surrounding monkeys are relatives (Cheney and Seyfarth, 2005). Furthermore, chimpanzees vary the screams they produce during aggressive encounters depending on the severity of the encounter, their role in it, and which other chimpanzees can hear them (Slocombe and Zuberbuhler, 2005).

A fairly consistent pattern has emerged in the study of non-human vocal communication: There is a substantial difference between vocal production and auditory comprehension. Even the most vocal non-human primates can produce a relatively few calls, yet they are capable of interpreting a wide range of other sonic patterns in their environment. This seems to suggest that non-human primates’ ability to produce vocal language is limited, not by their inability to interpret sounds, but by their inability to exert ‘fine motor control’ over their voices – only humans have this distinct ability. It also confidently suggests that human language has likely evolved from a competence in comprehension already existing in our primate ancestors.

theyoungafricanape

The species specificity to language has led to some linguistic theorist to assume that an innate component to language must be unique to humans, notably Noam Chomsky (1957) who argued that the most basic universal rules of grammar are innate [called a “Language Acquisition Device”] and are activated through social interaction which enables the “code of language” to be cracked. However some other theorists argue for a different proposal, believing that the basic rules of language may not be innate as they can be learnt from the prelinguistic parent-child interaction (Lock, 1978, 1980), furthermore the meanings of utterances are so dependent on social context that they seem unlikely to be innate (Bloom, 1970; Rommetveit, 1974; see Durkin, 1995).

Motor Theory of Speech Perception

The motor theory of speech perception proposes that the perception of speech depends on the words activating the same neural circuits in the motor system that would be activated if the listener said the words (see Scott, McGettigan, and Eisner, 2009). Support for this theory has come from evidence that simply thinking about performing a particular task often activates the similar brain areas as performing the action itself, and also the discover of mirror neurons, motor cortex neurons that fire when particular responses are either observed or performed (Fogassi and Ferrari, 2007).

Cerebellum

Broca’s area: Speech production & Language processing // Wernicke’s area: Speech Comprehension

This seems to make perfect sense when solving the equation on the simple observation that Broca’s Area [speech area] is a part of the left premotor cortex [motor skills/movement area]. And since the main thesis of the motor theory of speech perception is that the motor cortex is essential in language comprehension (Andres, Olivier, and Badets, 2008; Hagoort and Levelt, 2009; Sahin et al., 2009), the confirmation comes from the fact that many functional brain-imaging studies have revealed activity in the primary or secondary motor cortex during language tests that do not involve language expression at all (i.e., speaking or writing). This may also suggest that fine linguistic skills may be linked to fine motor skills. Scott, McGettigan, and Eisner (2009) compiled and evaluated results of recorded activity in the motor cortex during speech perception and concluded that the motor cortex is active during conversation.

Gestural Language

Since the unique ability of a high degree of motor control over the vocal apparatus is present only in humans, communication in lesser non-human primates are mainly gestural rather than vocal.

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Image: Reuters

This hypothesis was tested by Pollick, and de Waal in 2007, who compared the gestures and the vocalisations of chimpanzees. They found a highly nuanced vocabulary of hand gestures being used in numerous situations with a variety of combinations. To conclude, chimpanzees gestures were much more comparable to human language than were their vocalisations. Could this simply suggest that primate gestures have been a critical stage in the evolution of human language (Corballis, 2003)?

On this same note, we may focus on the already mentioned “Theory of Linguistic Relativity” (Whorf, 1956) which states that our internalised cognitions as a human being, i.e. perception, memory, inference, deduction, vary with the structural characteristics, i.e. lexicon, morphology and syntax of the language we speak [cultural influence shapes our thoughts].

Thoughts

In support of of Sapir and Whorf’s position, Diederik Stapel and Gun Semin (2007) refer poetically to the “magic spell of language” and report their research, showing how different categories in the language we speak guide our observations in particular ways. We tend to use our category of language to attend to different aspects of reality. The strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is that language entirely determines thought, so those who speak different languages actually perceive the world in entirely different ways and effectively live in entirely different cognitive-perceptual universes. However extreme this suggestion may seem, a good argument against this assumption would be to consider whether the fact that we can distinguish between living and non-living things in English means that the Hopi of North-America, who do not, cannot distinguish between a bee and an aeroplane? Japanese personal pronouns differentiate between interpersonal relationships more subtly than do English personal pronouns; does this mean that English speakers cannot tell the difference between relationships? [What about Chong, Khan, Balaraggoo, Tyrone, Vodkadinov, Jacob, Obatemba M’benge and Boringski – where would you attribute their skills in the former question?]

The strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is believed to be the most extreme version to be applicable to the mainstream, so a weak form seems to better accord with the quantitative facts (Hoffman, Lau and Johnson, 1986). Language does not determine thought but allows for the communication of aspects of the physical or social environment deemed important for the community. Therefore in the event of being in a situation where the expertise in snow is deemed essential, one would likely develop a rich vocabulary around the subject. Similarly, should one feel the need to have a connoisseur’s discussion about fine wines, the language of the wine masters would be a vital requisite in being able to interact with flawless granularity in the expression of finer tasting experiences.

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Although language may not determine thought, its limitations across cultures may entrap those ‘cultured’ to a specific one due to its limited range of available words. Logically, if there are no words to express a particular thought or experience we would not likely be able to think about it. Nowadays such an idea based on enhancing freedom of expression and the evolution of human emancipation, a huge borrowing of words across languages has been noted over the years: for example, English has borrowed Zeitgeist from German, raison d’être from French, aficionado from Spanish and verandah from Hindi. This particular concept is powerfully illustrated in George Orwell’s novel 1984, in which a totalitarian regime based on Stalin’s Soviet Union is described as imposing its own highly restricted language called “Newspeak” designed specifically to prohibit people from even thinking non-orthodox or heretical thoughts, because the relevant words do not exist.

Further evidence over the impact of language on thought-restriction comes from research led by Andrea Carnaghi and her colleagues (Carnaghi, Maas, Gresta, Bianchi, Cardinu and Arcuri, 2008). In German, Italian and some other Indo-European languages [such as English], nouns and adjectives can have different effects on how we perceive people. Compare ‘Mark is gay’ [using an adjective] with ‘Mark is a gay’ [using a noun]. When describing an individual, the use of an adjective suggests an attribute of that individual; whereas a noun seems to imply a social group and being a member of a ‘gay’ group. The latter description with a noun is more likely to invoke further stereotypic/prejudicial inferences and an associated process of essentialism (e.g. Haslam, Rothschild and Ernst, 1998) that maps attributes onto invariant, often bio-genetic properties of the particular social category/group.

Paralanguage and speech style

The impact of language on communication is not only dependent on what is said but also by how it is said. Paralanguage refers to all the non-linguistic accompaniment of speech – volume, stress, pitch, speed, tone of voice, pauses, throat clearing, grunts and sighs (Knapp, 1978; Trager, 1958). Timing, pitch and loudness (the prosodic features of language; e.g. Argyle, 1975) play major roles in communication as they can completely change the meaning of utterances: a rising intonation at the end of a statement turns it into a question or communicates uncertainty, doubt or need for approval (Lakoff, 1973). Underlying emotions are often revealed in prosodic features of speech: low pitch could signify sadness or boredom, while high pitch could communicate anger, fear or surprise (Frick,1985). Naturally fast speech often reflects power and control (Ng and Bradac, 1993).

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To gain further understanding of the feelings elicited by different paralinguistic features, Klaus Scherer (1974) used a synthesizer to vary short neutral utterances and has had individuals identify the emotions that were being communicated. Fig. A shows how different paralinguistic features communicate information about the speaker’s feelings.

In addition to paralinguistic cues, communication can also happen in different accents, different language varieties and different languages altogether. These are important speech style differences that have been well researched in social psychology (Giles and Coupland, 1991). From social psychology, the focus in language is mainly on how something is said rather than on what is said, with speech style instead of speech content; whereas discourse analytic approaches also place importance on what is said.

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Fig. A | Emotions displayed through paralinguistic cues

Social Markers in Speech

Most individuals have a repertoire of speech styles that is automatically or deliberately tailored depending on the context of the communicative event. For example, one would tend to speak slowly, use short words and simple grammatical constructions when dealing with foreigners and children (Clyne, 1981; Elliot, 1981). Longer, more complex constructions along with formalised language varieties or standard accents tend to be used in more formal contexts such as an interview or a speech.

In 1979, Penelope Brown and Colin Fraser categorised different components of a communicative situation that may influence speech style and distinguished between two broad features:

  • The scene (e.g. its purpose, time of day, whether there are bystanders or an audience, etc)
  • The participants (e.g. their personality, ethnicity, chemistry between them)

It is important to note however that individual differences have a major role to play in this objective classification of situations as different individuals may not define the similar “objective” situations similarly. For example, what is deemed formal for some may simply be common place to others; this subjective perception of objective situations has an effect on one’s chosen speech style.

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One amazing point raised by Adrian Furnham (1986) is the fact that not only does one adjust speech styles to subjectively perceived situational demands, but one also seeks out situations that are appropriate to a preferred speech style. Contextual variations in speech style contains information about who is speaking to whom, in what context and on what topic? Speech contains social markers (Scherer and Giles, 1979). The most researched markers in social psychology are of group “memberships” such as society, social class, ethnicity, education, age and sex. Social markers are in most cases clearly identifiable and act as reliable clues to group membership. For example, most of the English can easily identify Americans, Australians and South Africans from their speech style alone, and (see Watson, 2009) are probably even better at identifying people who have been cultured in Exeter, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds and Essex! Speech style generally elicits a listener’s attitude towards the group that the speaker “represents” [at the exception of some non-mainstream individuals – as in any other group]. A mainstream media example could be the actress Eliza Doolittle’s tremendous efforts in the film My Fair Lady to acquire a standard English accent in order to hide her Cockney origins. This idea or concept is known as the match-guise technique, one of the most widely used research paradigms in the social psychology of language – devised to investigate language attitudes based on speech alone (Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner and Fillenbaum, 1960). The method involves individuals rating short speech extracts similar in paralinguistic, prosodic and content respects, differing ONLY in speech style (accent, dialect, language). All the speech extracts were spoken by the very same individual – who was fluently bilingual. The speaker is rated on a number of evaluative dimensions, which fall into 2 clusters reflecting competence and warmth as the 2 most basic dimensions of social perception (Fiske, Cuddy and Glick, 2007).

  • Status variables (e.g. intelligent, competent, powerful);
  • Solidarity variables (e.g. close, friendly, warm).

The matched-guise technique has been used extensively in a wide range of cultural contexts to investigate how speakers of standard and non-standard language varieties are evaluated. The standard language variety is the one that is associated with high economic status, power and media usage – in England, for example, it is what has been called received pronunciation (RP) English. Non-standard varieties include regional accents (e.g. Yorkshire, Essex), non-standard urban accents (e.g. Birmingham, North/South London) and minority ethnic languages (e.g. Afrikaan, Urdu, Arab, Hindi, Mandarin and other foreign minority languages in Britain). Research reveals that standard language varieties are more favourably evaluated on status and competence dimensions (such as intelligence, confidence, ambition) than non-standard varieties (e.g. Giles and Powesland, 1975).

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There is also a tendency for non-standard variety speakers to be more favourably evaluated on solidarity dimensions. For example, Cindy Gallois and her colleagues (1984) found that both white Australians and Australian Aborigines upgraded Aboriginal-accented English on solidarity dimensions (Gallois, Callan and Johnstone, 1984). Hogg, Joyce and Abrams (1984) found that a similar scenario occurs in other linguistic cultures, for e.g. Swiss Germans upgraded speakers of non-standard Swiss German relative to speakers of High German on solidarity dimensions.

Language, Identity & Ethnicity

Matched-guise technique and other studies in linguistics have revealed how our speech style [accents, language, grammatical proficiency & voice] can affect how others evaluate us socially. This is unlikely to be due to the fact that some speech styles are aesthetically more pleasant than others, but more likely to be because speech styles are associated with particular social groups that are consensually evaluated more or less positively in society’s scale. Unless being acted, a person speaking naturally in the speech style of lower-status groups may lead to an evaluation similar to that of the group and their image [i.e. way of life] in society [for most mainstream cases & not expert assessors of individuality]. This suggests that processes associated with intergroup relations and group memberships may affect language and social behaviour among the mainstream crowd.

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René Descartes (1596-1650) par C. Jacquand • Crédits : Gianni Dagli Orti / The Art Archive / The Picture Desk – AFP

Howard Giles and Richard Bourhis and their colleagues employed and extended principles from the social identity theory to develop an intergroup perspective on the social psychology of language (Giles, Bourhis and Taylor, 1977; Giles and Johnson, 1981, 1987). Since the original analysis focussed mainly on ethnic groups that differ in speech style, the theory is called ethnolinguistic identity theory; however, the wider intergroup analysis of language and communication casts a much wider net to embrace all manner of intergroup contexts (e.g. Giles, 2012; Giles, Reid and Harwood, 2010). 

Speech Style and Ethnicity

Although it is well know that ethnic groups differ in appearance, dress, cultural practices, and religious beliefs, language or speech style is often one of the most distinct and clear markers of ethnic identitysocial identity as a member of an ethnolinguistic group (an ethnic group defined by language or speech-style). For instance, the Welsh and the English in the UK are most distinctive in terms of accent and language. Speech style, then, is an important and often central stereotypical or normative property of group identity: one of the most powerful ways to display your Welshness is to speak English with a marked Welsh accent – or, even better to simply speak Welsh.

Language or speech style cues ethnolinguistic identity. Therefore, whether people accentuate or de-emphasise their ethnic language is generally influenced by the extent to which they see their ethnic identity as being a source of self-respect or pride. This perception will in turn be influenced by the real nature of the power and status relations between ethnic groups in society. Research in England, on regional accents rather than ethnic groups, illustrates this (e.g. Watson, 2009) – some accents are strengthening and spreading and others retreating or fading, but overall despite mobility, mass culture and the small size of England, the accent landscape is surprisingly unchanged. Northern accents in particular such as Scouse and Geordie have endured due to low immigration and marked subjective regional pride of these respective communities. Brummie is slowly spreading into the Welsh Marches due to population spread, and Cockney-influenced Estuary English popular due to it being portrayed in mainstream middle-class films has luckily not influenced East Anglia and South East England – that have kept their grammar and granularity.

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It should be noted that almost all major societies have a multicultural component with ethnic groups, however all contain a single dominant high-status group whose language is the lingua franca of the nation with ethnic groups whose languages are subordinate. However, in major immigrant economies such as the United States, Canada and Australia some of the biggest variety of large ethnic groups occur. Unsurprisingly, most of the research on ethnicity and language comes from these countries, in particular, Australia and Canada. In Australia for example, English is the lingua franca, but there are also large ethnic Chinese, Italian, Greek and Vietnamese communities – language research has been carried out on all these communities (e.g.  Gallois, Barker, Jones and Callan, 1992; Gallois and Callan, 1986; Giles, Rosenthal and Young, 1985; Hogg, D’Agata and Abrams, 1989; McNamara, 1987; Smolicz, 1983)

Speech Accommodation

Social categories such as ethnic groups may develop and maintain or lose their distinctive languages or speech style as a consequence of intergroup relations. However, categories do not speak. People speak, and it is generally done with one another, usually in face-to-face interaction. As mentioned earlier, when people interact conversationally, they tend to adapt their speech style to the context – the situation, and in particular the listener. This concept is the foundation of the speech accommodation theory (Giles, 1984; Giles, Taylor and Bourhis, 1973), which invokes specific motivations to explain the ways in which people accommodate their speech style to those who are present. Motivation involved for such adaptations may be a desire to help the listener to understand what is being said or to promote specific impressions of oneself.

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Radcliffe Square at Night, Oxford [Image: Y. Song]

 Speech Convergence and Divergence 

Since most conversations involve individuals who are potentially of unequal social status, speech accommodation theory describes the type of accommodation that might occur as a function of the sort of social orientation that the speakers may have towards one another (See Fig. B). Where a simple interpersonal orientation exists (e.g. between two friends), bilateral speech convergence occurs. Higher-status speakers shift their accent or speech style ‘downwards’ towards that of the lower-status speakers, who in turn shift ‘upwards’. In this scenario, speech convergence satisfies a need for approval or liking. The act of convergence increases interpersonal speech style similarity and this enhances interpersonal approval and liking (Bourhis, Giles and Lambert, 1975), particularly if the convergence behaviour is clearly intentional (Simard, Taylor and Giles, 1976). The process is based on the supported idea that similarity typically leads to attraction in most cases (e.g. Byrne, 1971).

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Fig. B | Speech accommodation as a function of status, social orientation and subjective vitality

Consider a particular scenario where an intergroup orientation exists. If the lower status group has low subjective vitality coupled with a belief in social mobility (i.e. one can pass, linguistically, into the higher status group), there is unilateral upward convergence on the part of the lower status speaker and unilateral speech divergence on the part of the higher status speaker. In intergroup contexts, divergence achieves psycholinguistic distinctiveness: it differentiates the speaker’s ingroup on linguistic grounds from the outgroup. Where an intergroup orientation exists and the lower status group has high subjective vitality coupled with a belief in social change (i.e. one cannot pass into the higher status group), bilateral divergence occurs. Both speakers pursue psycholinguistic distinctiveness.

Speech accommodation theory has been well supported empirically (Gallois, Ogay and Giles, 2005; Giles and Coupland, 1991). Bourhis and Giles found that Welsh adults accentuated their Welsh accent in the presence of RP English speakers (i.e. the standard non-regional variety of English). Bourhis, Giles, Leyens and Tajfel (1979) obtained a similar finding in Belgium, with Flemish speakers in the presence of French speakers. In both cases, a language revival was under way at the same time, and thus an intergroup orientation with high vitality was salient. In a low-vitality social mobility context, Hogg (1985) found that female students in Britain shifted their speech style ‘upwards’ towards that of their male partners. Accommodation in intergroup contexts reflects an intergroup or social identity mechanism in which speech style is dynamically governed by the speakers’ motivation to adopt ingroup or outgroup speech patterns. These motivations are in turn formed by perception of:

  • The relative status and prestige of the speech varieties and their associated groups; and
  • The vitality of their own ethnolinguistic group

Stereotyped Speech

One important factor that may actually govern changes in speech style is conformity to stereotypical perceptions of the appropriate speech norm. Thakerar, Giles and Cheshire (1982) distinguished between objective and subjective accommodation. People converge on or diverge from what they perceive to be the relevant speech style. Objective accommodation may reflect this, but in some circumstances it may not: for instance subjective convergence may resemble objective divergence if the speech style stereotype is different from the actual speech behaviour of the other speaker.

Even the “Queen’s English” is susceptible to some accommodation towards a more popular stereotype (Harrington, 2006). An analysis of the phonetics in the speech of Elizabeth II from her Christmas broadcasts to the world since 1952 show a gradual change in the Royal vowels, moving from ‘upper-class’ RP to a more ‘standard’ and less aristocratic RP. This may simply reflect a softening of the once strong demarcation between the social classes – social change may sometimes be a catalyst for speech change. Where once she might have said “thet men in the bleck het”, she would now say “that man in the black hat”.

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Red Queen Illustration from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass (Oxford Classics)

Speech accommodation theory has been extended in recognition of the role of non-verbal behaviour in communication – now called communication accommodation theory (Gallois, Ogay and Giles, 2005; Giles, Mulac, Bradac and Johnson, 1987; Giles and Noels, 2002), which acknowledges that convergence and divergence can occur non-verbally as well as verbally. Anthony Mulac and his colleagues found that women in mixed-sex dyads converged towards the amount of eye contact (now called ‘gaze’) made by their partner (Mulac, Studley, Wiemann and Bradac, 1987). While accommodation is often synchronised in verbal and non-verbal channels, this is not necessarily the case. Frances Bilous and Robert Kraus (1988) found that women in mixed-sex dyads converged towards men on some dimensions (e.g. total words uttered and interruptions) but diverged on others (e.g. laughter).

Bilingualism and second-language acquisition 

Due to the excessive and culturally destructive waves of migration caused by the exploitation of diplomacy and corrupt politicians with their partners in the mainstream media to promote uncontrolled migration, most major countries are now bilingual or multilingual, meaning that people need to be able to speak two or more languages with a fair amount of proficiency to communicate effectively and successfully achieve their goals in different contexts. These countries contain a variety of ethnolinguistic groups with a single dominant group whose language is the lingua franca – very few countries are effectively monolingual (e.g. Portugal and Japan) anymore – which nowadays seems to be reflected in the lack of socio-psychological coherence and the clash of values and visions.

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The Intervention of Sabine Women par Jacques-Louis David (1795-1799)

The acquisition of a second language is rarely a matter of acquiring basic classroom proficiency, as one might in order to ‘get by’ on holiday – in fact, it is a wholesale acquisition of a language embedded in a highly cultural context with varying degrees of granularity to reach the levels of flawless/effective communication (Gardner, 1979). Second-language acquisition requires native-like mastery (being able to speak like a native speaker), and this hinges more on the motivations of the second-language learner than on linguistic aptitude or pedagogical factors. Failure to acquire native-like mastery can undermine self-confidence and cause physical and social isolation, leading to material hardship and psychological suffering. For example, Noels, Pon and Clément (1996) found low self-esteem and marked symptoms of stress among Chinese immigrants in Canada with poor English skills. Building on earlier models (Gardner, 1979; Clément, 1980), Giles and Byrne (1982) proposed an intergroup model of second language acquisition. There are five socio-psychological dimensions that influence a subordinate group member’s motivational goals in learning the language of a dominant group (see Fig. C):

  • Strength of ethnolinguistic identification
  • Number of alternative identities available
  • Number of high-status alternative identities available
  • Subjective vitality perceptions
  • Social beliefs regarding whether it is or is not possible to pass linguistically into the dominant group

Low identification with one’s ethnic ingroup, low subjective vitality and a belief that one can ‘pass’ linguistically coupled with a large number of other potential identities of which many are high-status are conditions that motivate someone to acquire native-like mastery in the second language. Proficiency in the second language is seen to be economically and culturally useful; it is considered additive to our identity. Realisation of this motivation is facilitated or inhibited by the extent to which we are made to feel confident or anxious about using the second language in specific contexts. The converse set of socio-psychological conditions motivates people to acquire only classroom proficiency. Through fear of assimilation, the second language is considered subtractive in that it may attract ingroup hostility and accusations of ethnic betrayal. Early education, individual Intelligence, personality and aptitude may also affect the individual’s proficiency.

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This analysis of second-language acquisition grounds language firmly in its cultural context and thus relates language acquisition to broader acculturation processes. John Berry and his colleagues distinguished between integration (individuals maintain ethnic culture and relate to dominant culture), assimilation (individuals give up their ethnic culture and wholeheartedly embrace the dominant culture), separation (individuals maintain their ethnic culture and isolate themselves from the dominant culture) and marginalisation (individuals give up their ethnic culture and fail to relate properly to the dominant culture (Berry, Trimble and Olmedo, 1986).

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Human brain specimen being studied in neuroscience professor Ron Kalil’s Medical School research lab. © UW-Madison News & Public Affairs 608/262-0067 Photo by: Jeff Miller

While the most effective forms of adjustments that completely benefit a system remain « native citizens » [in terms of creating organisms equipped to be part of an inherited system from the lower to the upper scale of society], along with assimilation [i.e the culturally & educationally worthwhile & proficient organisms that manage to adjust themselves and become fully part of the dominant culture], the remaining could simply be qualified as burden to most systems, for example, unassimilated children deriving from labour and 3rd world migration who are being born in mass due to the higher fertility culture from their parents’ traditional origins, and who seem to want native-like treatment and consideration, which seem to be illogical demands and expectations if they are unable to interact, communicate, adjust their perspective and perception to orient and group themselves with native-like proficiency in order to fully identify with the dominant culture [i.e. cultural belonging and identity], find their place in the society and contribute like all the citizens to the development and continuity of the dominant civilisation. This unassimilated and ‘nomadic‘ generation whose parents initially moved from land to land simply for financial gains from a larger economy may unfortunately [at the exception of some mediocre college-educated extreme-leftist human rights activists] be a scenario fit to be described metaphorically as « parasitic« , while to others [e.g. another segment of the same crowd of mediocre college-educated extreme-leftist human rights activists], this could be what they describe as « cultural-enrichment » [See the Essay: Psychological Explanations of Prejudice & Discrimination].

In a sophisticated reality, from the perspective of the experienced scholar and intellectual drenched in literature, psychology, science and philosophy that I have grown to become over the years, I believe that the « parasitic » example may simply be described as a mass phenomenon that civilised society is not used to dealing with and has not been monitoring effectively since the 1950s to a point where confusion and desperation sets for both native citizens and authorities when thinking of a « rational » solution that seems to be constantly shunned by illogical laws and extreme-leftists global conventions that are generally unfavourable to civilised societies while unconditionally defending excessive refugee resettlement programs and cheap and unskilled migration originating from linguistically, culturally and economically atavistic systems [e.g. the third world, middle east, some areas of Europe & parts of Southern and Eastern Asia] to be relocated and transformed into our collective burden.

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Thus, the consequences for second language learning can indeed be very dramatic and have a life changing impact. The major economies of Europe are still divided and unsynchronised due to linguistic barriers and psychosocial differences. Furthermore, language and discourse are refined, enhanced and cultivated from interactions and exposure; the lack of psychosocial and linguistic coherence may also play a role in the drop in cultural standards along with the appearance of a generation that does not seem to have any direction or to represent any concrete philosophical ideals or values, composed of nothing but a simple classroom proficiency in order to meet the basics of daily communication with hardly any granularity or refinement in the psycholinguistic and cultural context of a rich heritage built on and developed over centuries of human civilisation.

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Majority group members do not generally have the motivation to acquire native-like mastery of another language. According to John Edwards (1994), it is the international prestige and utility, and of course widespread use of English that makes native English speakers such poor language students: they simply lack the motivation to become proficient. Itesh Sachdev and Audrey Wright (1996) pursued this point and found that English children were more motivated to learn languages from the European continent (e.g. French, German, Italian) than those from the Asian continent (e.g. Mandarin, Hindi, Russian, Urdu, Tamil, Arabic, etc) even though a fair amount of children in the sample were exposed to more Asian & African immigration [due to years of mediocre policies linked to cheap democratic governments & extreme-leftist agendas bent on promoting alien invasions – fragmenting societies & violently destabilising geographical compositions] than languages & cultures from Europe. A possible reason would be that English children perceive more prestige and desirability in mastering additional languages & learning about cultures such as French, German & Italian instead of far-flung incompatible foreign ones [e.g. African Third world, Middle-East, Asia etc].

Communicating without words

Speech rarely happens in complete isolation from non-verbal cues. Even on a phone, individuals tend to automatically use a variety of gestures [body language] that cannot be ‘seen’ by the recipient at the other end of the phone line. In a similar fashion, phone and computer-mediated communication (CMC) conversations can be difficult precisely because many non-verbal cues are not accessible [e.g. users may interpret some messages as ‘cold’, ‘short’ or ‘rude’ when a participant might simply not be proficient at expressing themselves on a keyboard]. However, non-verbal channels do not always work in combination with speech to facilitate understanding. In some cases, non-verbal message starkly contradicts the verbal message [e.g. threats, sarcasm and other negative messages accompanied by a smile; Bugental, Love and Gianetto, 1971; Noller, 1984].

Agony, Torture, and Fright by Charles Darwin

Agony, Torture, and Fright | Charles Darwin, 1868

Human beings can produce about 20,000 different facial expressions and about 1,000 different cues based on paralanguage. There are also about 700,000 physical gestures, facial expressions and movements (see Birdwhistell, 1970; Hewes, 1957; Pei, 1965). Even the briefest interaction may involve the fleeting and simultaneous use of a huge number of such devices in combination, making it unclear even to code behaviour, let alone analyse the causes and consequences of particular non-verbal communications. However, their importance is now acknowledged in social psychology (Ambady and Weisbuch, 2010; Burgoon, Buller and Woodall, 1989; DePaulo and Friedman, 1998), and doing research in this area has remained a major challenge. Non-verbal behaviour can be used for a variety of purposes, one may use it to:

  • Glean information about feelings and intentions of others (e.g. non-verbal cues are often reliable indicators of whether someone likes you, is emotionally suffering, etc);
  • Regulate interactions (e.g. non-verbal cues can signal the approaching end of an utterance, or that someone else wishes to speak)
  • Express intimacy (e.g. touching and mutual eye contact);
  • Establish dominance or control (non-verbal threats);
  • Facilitate goal attainment (e.g. pointing)

These functions are to be found in most aspects of non-verbal behaviour such as gaze, facial expressions, body language, touch and interpersonal distance. Non-verbal communications has a large impact, yet it goes largely ‘unnoticed’ – perhaps since we acquire them unaware, we tend not to be conscious when using them. Most individuals acquire non-verbal skills without any formal training yet manage to master a rich repertoire of non-verbal behaviour very early in life – suggesting that huge individual differences in skills and uses should be noticed. Social norms can have a strong influence on our use of non-verbal language, for example, if one is delighted at the demise of an arrogant narcissist or foe, one would be unlikely to smile at their funeral – Schadenfreude is not a noble emotion to express [at least in most situations].

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Individual and group differences also have an influence on, or are associated with, non-verbal cues. Robert Rosenthal and his colleagues (Rosenthal, Hall, DiMatteo, Rogers and Archer, 1979) devised a profile of non-verbal sensitivity (PONS) as a test to chart some of these differences. All things equal, non-verbal competence improves with age, is more advanced among successful people and is compromised among individuals with a range of psychopathologies (e.g. psychosis, autism).

Gender Differences 

Reviews conclude that women are generally better than men at decoding both visual cues and auditory cues, such as voice tone and pitch (E. T. Hall, 1979; J. A. Hall, 1978, 1984). The explanation for this seems to be rather social than evolutionary (Manstead, 1992), including child-rearing strategies that encourage girls more than boys to be emotionally expressive and attentive. One major question remains whether women’s greater competence is due to greater knowledge about non-verbal cues. According to Janelle Rosip and Judith Hall (2004), the answer seems to be ‘yes’ – women have a slight advantage, based on results from their test of non-verbal cue knowledge (TONCK). A meta-analysis by William Ickes has shown that when motivated to do so, women can become even more accurate: for example when women think they are being evaluated for their empathy or when gender-role expectations of empathy are brought to the fore (Ickes, Gesn and Graham, 2000).

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Most individuals can improve their non-verbal skills (Matsumoto and Hwang, 2011), that can be useful for improving interpersonal communication, detecting deception, presenting a good impression and hiding our feelings [when required in some situations]. Practical books have been written and courses on communications has always had an enduring appeal. Why not try yourself out on the TONCK?

Non-verbal behaviour differs among individuals since most have different attachment styles thus different relationships too. In the case of intimate relationships, we would tend to assume that partners would enhance each other’s emotional security through accurate decoding of their individualistic non-verbal cues and responding appropriately (Schachner, Shaver and Mikulincer, 2005). Although there are data dealing with non-verbal behaviour in parent-child interactions and how they relate to the development of attachment styles in children (Bugental, 2005), there is less research focussing on how adult attachment styles are reflected ‘non-verbally’ in intimate relationships.

Discovering the Self

In turning our attention to ourselves, we begin to apply the psychological concept of self to the individual’s consciousness of his or her own identity. What does the “mind’s eye” see when it looks into the self – into that special mirror that reveals one’s innermost thoughts and feelings, i.e. our own private world we so often hide from others. Ancient Greeks who travel to the Oracle at Delphi for answers to their problems, found this message inscribed on the shrine: “Know Thyself”.

Centuries later, it was William James who in 1890, set the stage for the modern resurgence of psychology’s interest in the self. In studying what he called “the mind from within”, James distinguished three aspects of the self: the material, the spiritual and the social.

The material self is our awareness of the physical world: our body and the people and things around us.

The spiritual self is the part that “thinks of ourselves as thinkers” – the inner witness to events.

And the part of the self that focuses on the images we create in the minds of others is called the social self.

While it was William James who pioneered the scientific concept of the self, many earlier philosophers and writers had also recognised this dimension of human nature. Some psychologists believe that the gradual separation of a young child from its mother, a process called individuation, is essential for developing a unique sense of self and a healthy personalityfailure to acquire an independent self-identity may lead to psychological problems.

Today many psychologists are keenly interested in studying the self, however there was a time when psychology focused almost exclusively on behaviour – there was no place for anything as fuzzy as the concept of self. Even to Freud, the conscious self was little more than a weak, passive link in his triad of Id, Ego and Superego. Freud defined the Id as a primitive, unconscious part of the personality where drives and passions originate. The Superego restrains the Id. For Freud the Superego is a combination of the conscience and the ideal self. The ego, our conscious self of self-identity, moderate between the Id and Superegobetween our primitive impulses and our sense of moral obligation. Freud was much more interested in the dramatic confrontations between the unconscious Id and Superego, than he was in the conscious processes of the ego [which we believe accommodates many basic principles of Cognitive Psychology, although not sufficient to explain a complete model of the mind, behaviour, drives and motivation as it tends to ignore the unconscious processes].

Carl Rogers in the 1960s placed a much greater emphasis on aspects of the conscious self [the conscious Ego]. Rogers led the humanistic movement, which was hugely responsible for psychology’s return to the self. In contrast to Freud’s view of a conflicted, impulse driven creature, Rogers offered a vision of psychological growth and health. There exists within the healthy individual, a capacity for self-understanding, for self-direction, for guiding behaviour in self-directed ways, which can be tapped if the right conditions [e.g. resources, education, commitment, training, etc] are provided.

LArt de l'Éducation education dpurb d'purb site web 2019.jpg

In other words, the individual does have the capacity and a potential for self-development, change and integration [eventually leading to assimilation in various “cultural” contexts, i.e. linguistic, socio-behavioural, philosophical, geographic, etc] – which does not need to be supplied from the “outside world”, but rather learnt and developed from within the individual. As Jacques Lacan beautifully puts it in describing the mirror stage, one unfortunate outcome of the stage is that individuals tend to look outward and not inward in their search for identity – such external orientation toward individuals’ own identity is doomed to fail.

One great historical example of self-development, change and integration is Paul Léautaud, the son of an indifferent father and an absent mother, who never had any formal literary education and left school at 15, worked in all kinds of small jobs to live, and educated himself by reading all the great authors voraciously late at night. Eventually, he would become part of the literary crowd and be pivotal in the discovery of Guillaume Apollinaire, even if he would not publish much himself. He was an « Écrivain pour hommes de lettres » in his own words [French for: « Writer for men of letters »]. To have the freedom to write, something that meant the world to him, he accepted a badly paid job at the Mercure de France, where he was charged for a short time to be a drama critic under the name of Maurice Boissard; he would make himself known for his frankness, his mocking and subversive mind. Léautaud went through hard times financially but never allowed his problems to become an obstacle to his literary aspirations, stating « Quand je marque mes dépenses chaque jour, quand j’inscris 20 francs, il y a 15 francs pour les bêtes et 5 francs pour moi. Je vais avec des souliers percés, du linge en loques et souvent sale par économie, ce qui est une grande souffrance pour moi, je mange insuffisamment et des choses qui me répugnent, je porte mes vêtements au-delà de toute durée et toujours par économie ou impossibilité de les remplacer, je ne m’achète rien, je ne m’offre aucun plaisir, aucune fantaisie. Je vais même peut-être être obligé de cesser de m’éclairer à la bougie pour travailler, ce qui me plaît tant. Voilà ma vie à 52 ans accomplis ou presque » [French for: « When I mark my expenses every day, when I enter 20 francs, there are 15 francs for the animals and 5 francs for me. I go with pierced shoes, ragged clothes and often dirty by economy, which is a great suffering for me, I eat insufficiently and things that repel me, I wear my clothes beyond any duration and always by economy or impossibility to replace them, I buy nothing, I offer myself no pleasure, no fantasy. I may even have to stop lighting myself with candles to work, which I like so much. This is my life at 52 years or so. »] Solitary, collecting abandoned animals in his pavilion in Fontenay-aux-Roses and living in poverty himself, he devoted himself for more than 60 years to his Journal, which he called literary, where he recounted, day by day, under the direct impression, the events that affected him: « Je n’ai vécu que pour écrire. Je n’ai senti, vu, entendu les choses, les sentiments, les gens que pour écrire. J’ai préféré cela au bonheur matériel, aux réputations faciles. J’y ai même souvent sacrifié mon plaisir du moment, mes plus secrets bonheurs et affections, même le bonheur de quelques êtres, pour écrire ce qui me faisait plaisir à écrire. Je garde de tout cela un profond bonheur. » [French for: « I only lived to write. I only felt, saw, heard things, feelings, people only to write. I preferred this to material happiness, to easy reputations. I have even often sacrificed my pleasure of the moment, my most secret happiness and affections, even the happiness of a few people, to write what made me happy to write about. I keep a deep happiness from all this.« ] He was also elitist, and in terms of the mind and the absence of prejudice, he puts himself above most of his contemporaries, declaring: « Sorti de l’école à 15 ans, mis aussitôt à travailler comme employé par mon père, ayant appris seul ce que je peux savoir, m’étant donné seul la culture que je peux avoir (je n’ai jamais cessé), m’étant perfectionné seul comme écrivain, cela n’a pas fait de moi un démocrate. Tout le contraire : un aristocrate. Je l’entends par mon esprit, ma façon de penser et de juger. » [French for: « Leaving school at 15, immediately made to work as an employee by my father, having learned alone what I can know, having alone given myself the culture that I can have (I have never stopped), having perfected myself alone as a writer, that did not make me a democrat. Quite the opposite: an aristocrat. I mean it by my mind, my way of thinking and judging.« ] A great admirer of Stendhal, he readily acknowledged a taste for egotistical exploration: « J’ai un grand penchant […] à parler de moi, de mes souvenirs. Aussi, dans mes songeries, j’aurai passé ma vie à me revivre » [French for: « I have a great inclination[…] to talk about myself, about my memories. Also, in my thoughts, I will have spent my life reliving myself« ]. He thought that good writing should have the qualities of tone, the sensitivity, of a certain personality and that the great brand is to write in complete relationship with the man we are and that it causes fire works. Léautaud’s last words before dying were, « Maintenant, foutez-moi la paix. » [French for: « Now, leave me alone. »] Marie Dormoy, whose lover he had been, became his universal legatee and executor and helped to publish and make known his Literary Journal after his death. The style of the journal is natural and spontaneous. Léautaud practiced, without vulgarity, a living French, a delicious mixture of writing and orality, through a stream of emotional, reactive and lively thought. For those who discovered Leautaud’s voice in his famous radio interviews, the reader has the impression, on each page, of hearing it. Few writers have been able to create the plastic dynamism of the French language as he has. A man of the eighteenth century lost in the first twentieth century, he had the dryness, naturalness and ease of the great masters of French prose before Chateaubriand. Paul Gilson, director of the Services artistiques de la radio would say: « Nous n’avons jamais eu d’entretiens aussi vivants, intéressants et qui aient un pareil succès. » [French for: « We have never had such lively, interesting and successful interviews. »] It seems that Paul Léautaud’s life can be resumed in one quotation from Adèle de Bellegarde, which is « Je n’ai réussi qu’une seule chose, vivre selon mon goût » [French for: « I only managed one thing, to live according to my taste. »]

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Traduction(EN): « I only managed one thing, to live according to my taste » – Adèle de Bellegarde

Marcel Gauchet put it well by explaining that when one lives in a world structured by republican meritocracy and when one is a good student, one knows that there are paths to social ascension.

Hence, in the humanistic view, we find a self that is striving towards personal fulfilmenta guiding force that moves us towards positive actions and enhancements imbued with a kind of virtue that gives humans kinship with the angels. For psychologists, the next step after describing the properties of the self has been to explore just how this dynamic mental structure works in controlling behaviour. Researchers who study the self usually speak of the self-concept: the individual’s awareness of his or her continuing identity as a person. This self-concept is viewed as an internal regulator of thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It interprets and organises our ongoing experiences. It reflects on how our present actions compare with our standards and expectations, and it affects our performance by providing plans, scripts, goals and incentives.

We tend to organise our beliefs and information about ourselves in terms of schemas, or knowledge clusters. For example, to some people, gender schemas are all-important – masculinity and femininity dominate their thinking. To others, “weight schematic” may be more important, where they may be trying to lose weight and perceive others primarily in terms of being fat (out of control) or being thin (having it all together). Our self-schema or self-image can have a powerful impact on our behaviour. If our self-image is good, we try to live up to our standard: we try harder and succeed more often. If our self-image is bad, we tend to adjust downward, and end up failing more often. So, self-image can work for or against us. Along this line, Albert Bandura of Stanford developed what he calls the theory of self-efficacy, a new theory of how the self works which can help us understand how some people translate promise and passion into optimal performance. In this experiment, researcher Delia Cioffi would give one subject the task of improving production at the model furniture factory. She would tell the subject that his ability to make good decisions for the factory is based on innate intelligence and ability. The higher one’s basic capacities in the skills, the better one will perform. Nowadays however computer programs tend to ease this process. The next subject is told that complex decision-making is an acquirable skill, and that his performance can improve through his own efforts. In any new skill, one does not begin with faultless performance, but the more one practices formulating and testing decisions, the better one gets at it. The first subject who believes that decision-making is a measure of his intelligence proceeds cautiously and sets lower goals for himself and is frustrated by an increasing number of incorrect decisions. His confidence is measured by the number on the lower left of the screen which keeps falling, as does his sense of efficacy. The second subject, however, sees early mistakes as a necessary part of learning. He profits by them and his performance improves. He sets higher goals for himself, and his response to questions about confidence demonstrate an increasing sense of his own efficacy.

The issue is not what you have, but how you use what you have. From this point of view, we can see that we can have the same competencies and subskills and use them poorly, adequately, or extraordinarily, depending on our self-belief. So for this reason, we can often predict people’s accomplishments better from their self-belief rather than from just their past attainments.

Up to this point we have been focusing on the part of the self which focuses inward to assess its capabilities. But there is another aspect of the self that focuses outward to get an understanding on the impression being created in others. This outward focus, the awareness of the social self, asked the questions: “How am I coming across? What impression am I creating? Do you see me the way I see myself? Do you see me the way I would like you to see me?”

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Image: Audiobook and child: Audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular to the literary crowd in 2019 as they ease the process of transfering information to the brain while leaving the hands free, but also pack a more powerful emotional punch through the sound of speech which also allow the listener [reader] to learn and improve their vocal skills. Neuroscience research has also shown that audiobooks are more emotionally engaging than film or TV [see: Richardson, D., Griffin, N., Zaki, L., Stephenson, A., Yan, J., Curry, T., Noble, R., Hogan, J., Skipper, J. and Devlin, J. (2018). Measuring narrative engagement: The heart tells the story.

 

Statistiques Livre Audio les Critères 2019 dpurb site web

Cette statistique montre les critères de choix les plus importants lors de l’achat de livres audio parmi les consommateurs français en 2017. On y apprend que près de 70 % des lecteurs accordaient une très grande importance au sujet des livres audio lors du choix. Un peu moins de la moitié des lecteurs considéraient la voix de l’interprète comme un critère très important. / Source: Statista France

« Je suis officier de la Légion d’honneur, je n’en tire pas de vanité. Je vous dis ces choses parce qu’aux yeux de certaines personnes cet accessoire vestimentaire confère à ceux qui le portent un certain prestige. Cet attribut me donne le privilège d’être écouté respectueusement par les imbéciles. Les autres ne me prêtant quelque attention qu’à cause de mon talent, de ma carrière ou de mon passé. » [Traduction(EN): « I’m an officer of the Legion of Honor, I don’t get any vanity out of it. I say these things to you because in the eyes of some people this clothing accessory confers a certain prestige on those who wear it. This attribute gives me the privilege of being listened to respectfully by imbeciles. Others only pay attention to me because of my talent, my career or my past. » – Professeur Lambertin (joué par Louis Jouvet) / Un Extrait du film, Entrée des artistes (1938)

To better explain this part about self-presentation, we are going to explore the arts, particularly drama which addresses the nuances of self-presentation. As a former student of literature and drama, I will use the example of the drama teacher who trains young individuals and actors in self-presentation skills to help them convey an impression to an audience. How does this work? Well, we are going to use the concept of status, which has to do with how we manipulate the affect of our self to one another. The content in a given circumstance may be the same, however the way in which I choose to speak to you [the way I use non-verbal cues, i.e. body language] may affect my relationship to you.

These status transactions, come in different aspects, and here we are going to discuss some of them.

The first of these would be eye contact, as it is commonly known that eye contact is a useful device in asserting oneself.

The second variable is of course whether or not one’s body is moving in a sustained way or whether it has jerky movements. As soon as a person starts to move in jerky ways it also affects his or her speech, as it is hard to sustain sentences when for example one is moving there head up and down. Many people tend to speak uncomfortably while moving at the cost of their status [e.g. Uh, as soon as, um, I begin to move my body in, uh, jerky ways – it also affects my speech you notice, It’s hard to uh, sustain sentences when I’m moving, uh, kind uhbut, but it, uh…. At the cost of their status in some cases]. A third kind of jerky motion we notice often is people touching the face, their hair or their hands, which conveys a sense of nervousness – which again would be lowering their status as a speaker]. In other words, anything we might consider to be nervous gestures would be in the category of lowering one’s status. So, the prototype for high status would be someone who is basically calm and composed, and who speaks in complete sentences, breathes deeply, makes eye contact and [uh?] does not have any particular jerky mannerisms.

These factors in interactions are known as status transactions, and they take place all the time between all kinds of people. They are a form of interpersonal communication where individuals establish their degree of social status and power, and demonstrate as well as anything the social aspects of the self-concept. To manage the impressions we create in others, we all engage in what is known as strategic self-presentation – how we present ourselves to others so that they perceive us in the way we see ourselves. Society reacts to us according to the context our behaviour has created [e.g. profession(s), values, education, language(s), nationality(ies), etc], then we see the way they respond to us, which confirms our original belief about the kind of individual we truly are [have become through growth and development]. It is a closed circle – what researcher Mark Snyder has called behavioural confirmation. Our beliefs, our sense of self, create their own reality. That is why depressed people elicit negative reactions and tend to be treated as if, in fact, they are inadequate in most aspects of normal life. While extroverts create an easy-going social climate in which others tend to respond positively to them.

There is also an intimate connection between self and culture [please note that culture here may be related to many fields, e.g. language, profession, clubs, private circles, orientations, identities, musical circles, arts, etc] – culture can be defined objectively [scientifically] as behavioural patterns individualised to a particular select group.

When we talk about the self, we are referring to the way in which the biological organism/being becomes a person. Becoming a person [human being], is largely a social endeavour, and there is nothing more social than language [i.e. linguistic discourse]; language creates a social bond, as Jacques Lacan also pointed out, language [i.e. linguistic discourse] gives the Subject the ability to attain recognition from others [i.e. the rest of humanity]. We can be a biological being [a primate] all by ourselves but to become a person, to become a self, we must engage with or take on or incorporate the cultural meanings, cultural ideas and practices of a particular group or groups [for individuals who have the chance to be bi or tri-cultural] and all these are learnt by language in its different forms. We must use these to become a person as it would be impossible to be a self by ourself. We can be a biological entity, but to be a person with a sense of self, we normally do it in some set of culture specific ways.

Culture can be seen not as biologically based, but rather socially based. It is a set of behavioural patterns and attitudes that we adopt as a means of defining who we are depending of where we are and who we want to be.

Danny D'Purb dpurb.com official concept of self dpurb site web

« Le jour où je cesserai de questionner, d’apprendre, de créer et d’innover sera le jour où je serai mort. » – Danny D’Purb // Traduction(EN): « The day when I will stop questioning, learning, creating and innovating, will be the day that I will be dead. » -Danny J. D’Purb | 2018

Many tend to think of “culture” as an entity inside people, similar to some sort of essence. Taking myself as an example, I qualify myself as bi-cultural, being a Franco-British individual, and since the majority of people do not have the chance to receive the heritage of two European empires, I will focus on the French side. Many people tend to think about us French [yes, the heirs of the language of Hugo, Molière, Chateaubriand, Balzac, Lacan & Foucault] as having some kind of French genes, or French traits or some kind of French attributes that make us French. It is absolutely not true, as culture is “what we choose to do”. And so, as the French school of thought, which has always been avant-garde in structuring minds to the French family; if we take an individual and guide him or her to connect with and use French ideas/concepts, and French ways of perceiving, feeling, behaving and doing things [i.e. values], then eventually that person will become French. Similarly, if I took that same person and placed him or her in the British context, that person will then become British in that sense [at least the science of Psychology in 20th century has enough evidence that I have collected throughout the dpurb.com website, to show that such a scenario depending on the individual’s abilities should be scientifically and psychologically valid – the mainstream people at large are still to embed and share this principle to open new perspectives to their own lives and in doing so allow themselves to grow psychologically and culturally]. After studying intellectual humility, psychologists have found that individuals with this personality trait have superior general knowledge (Krumrei-Mancuso, Haggard, LaBouff and Rowatt, 2019). Intellectual humility has consequences for learning and styles of thinking; the process of learning itself requires intellectual humility to acknowledge that one lacks a particular knowledge and hence has something to learn in order to continue evolving. In the same study in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Krumrei-Mancuso and her colleagues found that intellectual humility was associated with less claiming of knowledge that one does not have, indicating a more accurate assessment of one’s own knowledge. In the study, intellectual humility was also correlated with being more inclined to reflective thinking, and also possessing more « need for cognition » [i.e. enjoying thinking hard and problem solving], greater curiosity, and open-minded thinking. In the journal Self and Identity, the results from a study by Porter and Schumann (2017) suggest that intellectual humility can be increased in individuals through a growth mindset of intelligence; hence we could all benefit from intellectual humility in our lifetime development. The authors concluded that « teaching people a malleable view of intelligence may be one promising way to foster intellectual humility and its associated benefits. »

Culture is simply a set of common ideas and common ways of doing things – although each culture has its sub-cultures that may vary [e.g. geographically, linguistically, artistically and philosophically].

We can view culture and self as a collaboration where each has an effect on the other: culture shapes self and the Self also has the power to shape culture. This idea is known as mutual constitution and it is reflected in the artefacts of all societies through art, literature and languages of all societies. It also affects each individuals differently in their choice of identification, consumption and adoption of particular products of culture. For example, having been brought up in a society with a Franco-British heritage, it was my choice to shape my self with French literature, arts, journalism, music, heritage, along with Oxford English, literature and heritage as a foundation to establishing myself as an individual with a self of Western European origin, and to make the region a place that I call home. As Jacques Lacan beautifully placed it:

«…en disant que seule la perspective de l’histoire de la reconnaissance permet de définir ce qui compte pour le sujet.

Je voudrais, pour ceux qui ne sont pas familiers avec cette dialectique que j’ai déjà abondamment développée, vous donner un certain nombre de notions de base. Il faut toujours être au niveau de l’alphabet. Aussi vais-je prendre un exemple qui vous fera bien comprendre les questions que pose pour la reconnaissance, et qui vous détourne de la noyer dans des notions aussi confuse que celles de mémoires ou de souvenir…

…un refoulement est autre chose qu’un jugement qui rejette et choisit. » – Jacques Lacan

___________

French for :

« by saying that only the perspective of the history of recognition allows the definition of what matters for the subject.

I would like to, for those who are not familiar with that dialectic that I have already abundantly developed, give you a number of basic notions. We must always be at the level of the alphabet. So I will take an example that will make you understand the questions posed for recognition, and that distracts you from drowning it in notions as confusing as those of memories or souvenirs…

…a repression is something other than a judgment that rejects and chooses. » – Jacques Lacan

Most of us are exposed to thousands of images in a given day, which many go by our conscious [not the unconscious] senses unnoticed. While these images discarded by our attention are deemed unnecessary, they collectively shape our thinking about how to be a person [a model to follow], how to be a self [the chosen self]. Take Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin or Oscar Wilde for example; it is quite clear that none of those characters would be qualified as the boy next door; they have been taken here as examples because, as myself, none of us with an English linguistic, literary and intellectual heritage [specially those with the educational elements to optimise their output in life] choose to be the “boy next door”.

A discussion published in the Oxford Journal of Applied Linguistics based on the emerging field of heritage speaker bilingual studies challenged the generally accepted position in the linguistic sciences, conscious or not, that monolingualism and nativeness are exclusively synonymous; from modern academic discussions, it is now being acknowledged that heritage speaker bilinguals and multilinguals exposed to a language in early childhood are also natives; they have multiple native languages, and nativeness can be applicable to a state of linguistic knowledge that is characterized by significant differences to the monolingual baseline (Rothman and Treffers-Daller, 2014).

This may also be said in the French realm for those who received a French linguistic, literary, and intellectual heritage like myself, with examples such as Jean Fanchette, Malcolm de Chazal, Voltaire, René Descartes, François-René de Chateaubriand, Honoré de Balzac, Napoléon 1er, Jacques Lacan, Pierre Bourdieu, Francis Cabrel or Florent Pagny, since none of these « héritiers de la langue Française » would also qualify as the “boy next door”. This is because none of us of French heritage with the intellectual capacity to optimise our output in life would choose to be the “boy next door”.

BNF aventure écriture & livre d'purb dpurb site web

« Chaque civilisation se forge un mythe destiné à expliquer son apparition et construit sa tradition écrite autour d’un support privilégié » / Découvrez (Liens): (i) l’aventure des écritures et (ii) l’aventure du livre | Source: La Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF)

The French heritage is known for its philosophical values embedded in the “grandeur d’esprit et de l’être”, as Charles de Gaulle famously said: « Un peuple comme le nôtre accoutumé aux malheurs comme aux gloires, sait reconnaître les États qui forment avec lui, l’équipe de la liberté. » [Translation: “A people like ours accustomed to misfortunes as well as glories, knows how to recognize the states that form with him, the team of freedom.”] We can thus conclude confidently that intelligent and reasoning beings are unlike unchangeable lifeless objects such as stones, coins and pennies.

pieces coins pennies d'purb dpurb site web

Unlike animals, humans have the ability to express themselves linguistically while using sophisticated and complex reasoning; we are bodies of flesh, blood and bones with a malleable brain and we know from anthropology and biological science that the morphology of our cerebral cortex is substantially less genetically heritable than in chimpanzees, the closest fossil and living relatives of humans, and this means that we, humans, have a brain that is highly responsive to moulding by complex environmental influences of various types; this specific anatomical property of increased plasticity which is likely related to the human pattern of development may underlie our species’ capacity for cultural evolution (Gómez-Robles, Hopkins, Schapiro and Sherwood, 2015).

Hence, we can conclude that individuals with a functional brain have the capacity to construct themselves based on their choices and abilities and are not absolute copies of their parents, siblings, or relatives [even if they may happen to share some personality traits such as for e.g. IQ, emotional intelligence, creativity, temperament, etc], neither are they simply products of exposure to their social circle, acquaintances, or « direct/initial » environment – as the reductionist and deterministic minds of pure cognitive-behavioural psychology wrongly assume [although a wide range of simple and basic vital behaviours can be explained from the cognitive-behavioural perspective in terms of Stimulus and Response, e.g. using the toilets, but complex thought processes of creativity and individuality in various aspects of mental life remain problematic to their branch of psychology]. This is because individuals are unique just like their finger prints, blood type and eyes, and this extends to their tastes, desires, direction, choices, field, creative influences, artistry, identities and parcours. For example, Leonardo Da Vinci’s father was not the productive and creative genius that his son was, but he may have shared some degree of fluid intelligence and reasoning that he passed to his son through his genes; Rafael Nadal’s parents cannot serve and destroy the world’s best tennis player like he does; Victor Hugo’s father was an imperial general and a military person, not the prolific writer and literary master that his son was; Napoleon’s father did not have the personality or imperial vision of his son but married his wife Maria Letizia Ramolino when she was 14 and was a man in law, however he may have had a good sense of judgement in matters related to the management of society that Napoleon inherited; Jacques Lacan’s father was a business man who simply dealt in oil and soap and was not the academically cultured and innovative theorist in psychology that Jacques Lacan was; the father of Sigmund Freud was a poor and unsuccessful wool merchant, and did not have Sigmund Freud’s theoretical creativity in psychology; the family of Carl Jung was very modest financially and were not the deep thinker and theorist that Carl Jung was; Pascal Picq, the author of  « L’homme est-il un grand singe politique? » was born to parents who worked in the market, and whose father later worked in transportation while his mother became a factory worker, they were not affiliated to the prestigious « Collège de France » as their son would later be; and Pierre Bourdieu, the author of « Langage et pouvoir symbolique » was the son of a man who came from the the small peasantry of Béarn, a daily farmer who then became a postman without leaving his rural environment, and was not the gifted researcher, thinker and speaker that his son Pierre would grow up to be. And if we were to also extend these examples to the spiritual domain for Christians, we can also note that the father of Jesus Christ was a wood worker, not the prophet, messiah, philosopher and founder of Christianity that his son Jesus was, he also did not walk on water, turn it into wine and restore sight to the blind, perhaps on the same religious note for those who see science as the systematic study of God’s works, it may be perfect to quote Michael Langlois: « Si Dieu nous a créés avec un cerveau, c’est pour qu’on s’en serve ! » [which is French for « If God created us with a brain, it’s so we can use it! »]. These examples to show that individuals are unique and not absolute copies go on and on, and although they are obvious, it seems that reminding the masses of the reality of individual psychological construction in our world is the job [or burden] that destiny has placed on my shoulders. A lie will remain untrue even if the whole world believes in it, and the truth will always stay true even if noone believes in it.

 

L’heritage de Voltaire: a pioneer of individual self-conception and the liberation of the mind

voltaire-heritage-des-lumieres-dpurb-dpurb-site-web

Voltaire (1694 – 1778)

We are now going to explore the life of one of the most enigmatic intellectuals of the enlightenment of the 18th century, Voltaire, because he is one of the pioneers of self-conception and the liberation of the individual. It is fundamental to understand that the society that we now live in was not simply given to us on a plateau. Many individuals have fought intellectually and dedicated their lives to justice and individual freedom and emancipation. It would be incredibly atavistic to remain ignorant about the intellectual heritage, the founding pillars passed on to us by men and women who have changed our world by the power of their mind and pen.

We all have heard of Voltaire, and today his name can be found on so many institutional buildings, monuments and places, not to mention paintings by some of the greatest artists and statues that adorn France and other countries. So, why do we do this? Why do we as a civilisation ensure that his name lives on throughout time? We do this in the hope that the fire that lived inside his mind is passed on to the next generation; we do this in the hope that the minds of the present and future generation may follow his example and choose a path of dedication, excellence, values, persistence and courage.

1jour1actu - Voltaire expliqué aux enfants - France Education - d'purb dpurb site web

Source: Education Philosophique en France: Voltaire expliqué aux enfants / Consulté le 7 novembre 2020 sur 1 Jour 1 Actu

In France, Voltaire’s life is even taught to young children, his legacy has become part of modern French intellectual heritage, identity and education, and the majority of people with a French intellectual and/or literary heritage embody the values of Voltaire – both consciously and in many cases unconsciously. Voltaire’s life has become part of French educational heritage and is taught to the young in order to shape their minds, character and values at an early age, he is considered as a sort of prophet, and remains to French identity and heritage what Muhammad is to Muslim identity and heritage.

During the times of Voltaire, 18th century Europe was going through an incredible period of change through the intellectual revolution of the enlightenment, a change that would be permanent and that has since shaped the mind of human civilisation. In those times, the whole of Europe, shook by the enlightenment, spoke French, i.e. the Europe of the intellectuals, diplomats, bureaucrats, emperors and even cooks. As Stéphane Bern phrased it in 2019: it is in the calm countryside on the Franco-Swiss border, in the Auverge-Rhône-Alpes region that slept a strange volcano, uncontrollable, it was a volcano of the mind, of relevance and liberty, his name was Voltaire – the great, the immense, who would die in Paris at the age of 83 years old on the 30th of May 1778. However, it was in the village of Ferney that he had moved to a few years before, in his refuge residence that has recently been restored at the heart of a village baptised Ferney-Voltaire in order to honour his memory.

Voltaire’s initial name was François -Marie Arouet, but for the whole of Europe, he is Voltaire, the prince of philosophers, the passionate poet, the dedicated historian and the writer in his twenties of his first play, « Oedipe » which would open the doors of all the theatres to him. He was also a passionate lover, most famously of the brilliant Émilie du Châtelet, the « grand amour » of his life with whom he discovered true love for more than 15 years.

A man who considered himself the equal or superior to people in power and who was never intimidated by them, crowned or not, Voltaire constantly fought against hypocrisy, superstition, and for justice while always remaining loyal to God, whom he never denied, but he never stopped denouncing the abuses of the religious authorities of his time as an atavistic institution that persecuted people and condemned many to atrocious deaths.

Ne vous conformez pas au monde actuel, soyez transformés par l'intelligence - Romains 12-2 d'purb dpurb site web

Romain 12:2 : Ne vous conformez pas au monde actuel, mais soyez transformés par le renouvellement de l’intelligence afin de discerner quelle est la volonté de Dieu, ce qui est bon, agréable et parfait. // Traduction(EN): Romans 12:2 : Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Voltaire is known for his usual irony and intellectual ferociousness along with a courage without equal in the conservative and unforgiving climate of the ancient regime of his time in the 18th century. Eventually, he paid harshly for such a flamboyant and defiant character through a few trips to La Bastille prison, but Voltaire’s mind remains free and alive!

As Stéphane Berne perfectly phrased it in the 2019 documentary « Voltaire ou la liberté de penser » dedicated to the memory of Voltaire: « Un homme seul peut parfois changer le monde avec sa plume » [French for: « One man alone can sometimes change the world with his pen. »]

Un homme seul peut parfois changer le monde avec sa plume - Stéphane Bern - d'purb dpurb site web

« Un homme seul peut parfois changer le monde avec sa plume » – Stéphane Bern [French for: « One man alone can sometimes change the world with his pen. »] Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Voltaire never hesitated to defend causes deemed lost, such as that of Jean Callas, the unfortunate protestant from Toulouse who was unjustly condemned to death by the Catholic Church and whose name and honour would be restored by Voltaire. He was a dedicated intellectual, always connected with his era, never atavistic or living in the past, but was a passionate lover of the world with surprising originality who applied reason and philosophy to challenge all the irrational conventions of the social structure of the ancient regime and in doing so he is nowadays regarded as an intellectual who was always in advance over his contemporaries by a few centuries. Early in his life, he became a vegetarian, refusing to see meat at his table with this very Voltarian argument embedded with heavy connotations: « On ne mange pas ses semblables! » [French for: « one does not eat his similars! »]

Voltaire’s incredible parcours ends in apotheosis in 1791, when l’Assemblée National brings Voltaire into the Panthéon 13 years after his death – voilà, he reached immortality! That day was memorable because Voltaire’s body, before entering the Panthéon, crossed Paris by programmed stages; first it passed La Bastille where he spent some time, then Voltaire, homme de lettres (man of letters), homme de théâtre passed all the great Parisian theatres, the troops were there with texts that praised his memory. One of the moving parts was when the procession stopped where Voltaire died, l’hôtel de Villette which is on the quai des Théatins, which would later become the Quai Voltaire.

It is amazing to see how the French people treated a man who was not a noble, but through his mind and intellectual abilities rose to gain the respect and acclaim comparable to that of kings and emperors. This ceremony was so grandiose that a commentator had even said that it was a national ceremony, the ceremony of the nation who found itself around the remains of Voltaire. However, the remains arrived at the Panthéon at night and the bishop who was to consecrate Voltaire’s body was absent, since as a clergyman he did not want to receive the remains of a man who throughout his life had fought against the Catholic institutions. Yet, Voltaire’s remains entered the Panthéon and he has since been acknowledged as one of the greats of our civilisation; he entered a monument constructed to be a church and transformed into a pantheon for him. There is a funny anecdote from the obese Louis XVIII after the restoration when Napoléon I was sent to exile after his unfortunate last battle at Waterloo when at that point his regime was riddled with spies and traitors, apparently the monument was to be transformed into a church and there were debates about whether to move Voltaire, and the obese monarch said: « Laissez le, il sera bien puni d’entendre la messe tous les jours. » [French for: « Leave him, he will be punished by hearing mass every day! »]. So, Voltaire remains in the monument.

The tombeau of Voltaire constituted from the catafalque that crossed the whole of Paris is important for all the inscriptions that show the importance of the great man, historian, philosopher, poet, but it is also the recognition by the Assemblée Nationale of the immortal genius of Voltaire.

Voltaire au Panthéon - l'esprit humain doit être libre dpurb d'purb site web

Le tombeau de Voltaire au Panthéon / Traduction(EN): Poet, Historian, Philosopher He Widens The Human Mind And Showed It That It Had To Be Free

The intellectual also has a very special place, because he is in the front of the monument, hence all the great men and women have to pass in front of it before entering the Panthéon. In 1794, Voltaire will be joined by Rousseau, and although the two had some clashes in their life, they are considered as the two major philosophers who spread the mind of the enlightenment and carried its eternal spirit of freedom and justice.

It is to be noted that 11 years after Voltaire’s death in 1778, and 2 years before his remains were transferred to the Panthéon in 1789, a historical event would shake the world forever: France had for the first time in its history gone through the revolution, with the iconic takeover of La Bastille, but the Republic had not yet been proclaimed. To this day Voltaire remains the most ancient personality to remain at the Panthéon. The revolution was looking for modern heroes, men who were not saints, kings or men of war, and began to look for minds of the ancient regime who were already dead who in some way, announced the revolution.

Intellectuals debate to this day whether Voltaire could be seen as an artist and architect of the revolution. In some way it may be true, since the ideas of personal liberty and individual emancipation that he defended were the base on which the revolution was founded. But it can also be said that Voltaire was not a man made by the revolution, although in his times, he was aware of the English revolution of 1649 which sent shockwaves across Europe as Charles I was put to death in England after Oliver Cromwell, the English general and statesman had led the armies of the Parliament of England against the king during the English Civil War to then rule the British Isles as Lord Protector from 1653 until his death in 1658, also acting simultaneously as head of state and head of government of the new republican commonwealth. Voltaire in France was very close to many crowned heads, and although he was not of noble decent himself and despised the abuses of the church and royalty, he socialised with them and saw them as part of his circle; he was close to the monarchy and never thought that the monarchy in France could ever be overturned; however he wanted the monarchy to be constitutional, tolerant, humane and respectful towards individuals and their liberties. French historians argue that Voltaire was definitely not a republican, although this remains debatable since he is not alive to respond to the question and the world can keep on guessing.

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Image: Voltaire en train d’écrire / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Voltaire was a sophisticated man of words and a refined thinker who believed in the power of the pen, mind and intellectual discourse, hence he was not a grotesque brute and would have probably been disgusted around the majority of average, simple, nasty, infantile and petty animalistic minds who infest the political scene of the 21st century, who probably would not be able to interact with him linguistically at the level of language he would have expected and naturally functioned at psychologically; his discourse would not have reached optimal understanding among the mediocre majority of his audience and he would have had to slow down and simplify himself constantly, which would have been very frustating and painful for such a brilliant intellectual; and a struggle in maintaining his mind sharp.

The man was definitely one of the most talented intellectuals of the 18th century that the Assemblée Nationale has crowned. French historian Évelyne Lever observed that Voltaire had an enigmatic and powerful gaze that marked his presence and would say:

« Le regard chez Voltaire c’est essentiel. C’est un regard qui capte tout et c’est un regard qui rend tout ce qu’il a vu, et il a évidemment des possibilités intellectuelles extrêmement vastes, c’est l’homme des lumières dans tous les sens du terme. »

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French for :

« The look in Voltaire’s eyes is essential. It is a gaze that captures everything and it is a gaze that gives back all that he saw, and he obviously has extremely vast intellectual possibilities, he is the man of the enlightenment in every sense of the word. »

For French writer Philippe Sollers, Voltaire was an adventurer who was very agitated, very clandestine, constantly fighting through his intellectual discourse, like being at war with the conventions of his time. The author of « L’invention de l’intellectuel dans l’Europe du XVIIIe siècle » and « Les Ennemis des Philosophes », who also co-directed « Inventaire Voltaire », Didier Masseau, saw in Voltaire, a character who had a great presence and who entertained some kind of tradition, with his large Louis XIV styled wig that was completely out of fashion in the 18th century; hence Voltaire was a very singular character. François Jacob, the author of « Voltaire », believes that Voltaire was someone who had always been conscious of his own worth, and knew that he was among the greatest –  someone who could bring a tremendous amount to his contemporaries.

The recognition obtained at the Panthéon, Voltaire had been looking for it during the early years of his life. Voltaire from the very beginning entertained the spark of the self-made and self-defined man, since the man who was not yet named Voltaire is in fact François-Marie Arouet and does not have any aristocratic ancestry, and hence could not be considered as noble. While in the 21st century the educational cultivation or the discourse, views and ideas of an individual may lead to him or her being perceived as a noble man or woman of intellect or a noble mind, it was not the case in the 18th century, where there was a strong division between classes – where nobility was usually given by royalty or inherited by birth. Hence, Voltaire from a very early age worked to make the notion of « origins » meaningless in the emancipation and development of the individual – a task that was titanic in the old days of the 18th century.

Voltaire’s father belonged to the middle-class, i.e. the bourgeoisie. It was a relatively well-to-do bourgeoisie and they lived comfortably, but they did not swim in gold either. François-Marie’s mother passed away when he was only 6, and he was raised by his father and benefited of an exceptional formation. At 10 years of age, he had gained admission at the most prestigious institution of the kingdom, the collège Louis-le-Grand, where both the sons of the bourgeoisie and highest nobility were scholarised. So, there he experienced a social climate generated by the best minds of his generation who were destined for a prestigious future and of course, some of his alliances had allowed him to build a network in some of the highest milieus. Even if the young François-Marie was not treated as well as some of his comrades, he would very soon distinguish himself through his intelligence, personality and individuality.

Among the young aristocrats there, some had a room with their own domestics and their private prefect, while the young Arouet was condemned to share the room with 15 or 20 of his classmates. Among the subjects taught, at the college, there was dissertation in Latin, the writing of poetry and versification. Voltaire was particularly gifted in those linguistic and literary fields, especially in exercises of amplification, that put the emphasis on a sense of rhetoric [i.e. the ability to analyse, synthesise, respond and argue convincingly], this is how he would get himself noticed. Voltaire would get the best results in linguistic eloquence in Latin, and this was also the first time that he developed the confidence and pride of a writer or a thinker, since he had just proven himself by winning a contest of eloquence and that would finally be the birth of his career as a thinker.

Le jeune Voltaire au collège - d'purb dpurb site web

Le jeune Voltaire au collège / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

During these college years, he also benefited from the teaching of the Jesuits which is characterised by a great open-minded view of the world, it was about forming a true citizen, i.e. a profoundly Christian mind but who is also open to the reality of his times, hence the importance of the voyages, history, and this constant open-minded view and of course the dramatic arts, such as the theatre. The theatrical arts after all is an opening on the city. The young Arouet developed a taste for drama and theatre, he did not play comedies, but rather tragedies, and from there Voltaire was already blossoming and was certainly thinking of a writing future.

The personality of the future Voltaire was also shaped by his godfather, a man of thought who was a member of the Société du Temple, a world apart that the young François-Marie was introduced to in his teenage years. That society had been a sort of microcosm in Paris, and Voltaire would develop a taste for its aristocratic and libertarian side and also for « le bon mot » [French for: the good word]. It is an epicurean society: a society that lives for pleasure as well as for the freedom of thought. There he had found people who were less conformist and who held different views about the social structure of his time, and the young Voltaire started to love this milieu as it opened new horizons to him. After his godfather had introduced him to one of his older female friends, the latter saw in Voltaire a young man with an exceptional intelligence and left him a small amount of money in her will. With that money, François-Marie, a lover of literature, would go and buy books since his choice had been made, he was not going to follow the career planned by his father since that notarial and legal bureaucratic bourgeois milieu would not have allowed him to fully explore and develop his literary talent, artistic and intellectual creativity, and would have been too narrow and mundane for his ambition and deep mind.

When the young Arouet left college, he was still not known as Voltaire, but in the logic of the future Voltaire, he already wanted to be an « homme de lettres » [French for: man of words or letters], an « homme de plume » [French for: man of the pen]. Of course, for his father that was truly scandalous, because from his bourgeois perspective and milieu, poets are considered as « crève-la-faim » [French for: someone who cannot afford to eat properly] – being a poet is not considered a job. Hence, Voltaire’s father had imagined him studying law and perhaps becoming a notary but he instead wanted to enter the domain of the « belles-lettres » [French for: beautiful words], and hence there the young intellectual’s choice experienced a first form of rejection by his father.

This unpleasant experience led him to even invent his own aristocratic origin, since ironically the future Voltaire would say that he was not the son of his father, and that his real father was an aristocrat who probably wrote verses and who was the lover of his mother; Voltaire said this openly without any shame, since he preferred to come across as a prestigious bastard born out of wedlock rather than a mediocre legitimate child. Of course, this was fairly petty, and could be attributed to a childish frustration, being a fiction that Voltaire created that allowed him to discard his own origin, but from a deeper look it showed how he was already being marked by the concept of the self-made and self-created individual governed by his own abilities and will-power.

Voltaire was already refusing to be a victim of the past and the random location where the fusion of a spermatozoid and an egg, i.e. birth, had placed him; we can take note here that it was what modern psychologists and psychoanalysts qualify as « the concept of self » , i.e. the individual is not dependent on anyone, is not simply a biological lump of flesh created by two primates who copulated, compelled to be defined by an imposed legacy and carry whatever burden it may include – that is an option of course, depending on the individual’s choice in relation to his or her desires but it is definitely not an obligation. We are who we are and who we choose to make ourselves through our own efforts, desires and choices – that is Voltairean heritage and the mind of the intellectual enlightenment! Coincidentally, this simple yet immense and fundamental concept aligns with my own reflections, scientific arguments and philosophical orientations based on the organismic perspective of the free organism that follows a constant evolution throughout its lifetime in a Piagetian style of cognitive growth. So in a way, it is like finding a partial form of synchronisation of my own intellectual thoughts with Voltaire’s, while Jacques Lacan’s theory of the mind, language and concept of symbolic chain and desires follows an almost similar line of thought – it shows that while most of my contemporaries missed the emphasis on the organismic perspective, one of the minds who changed the world in the 18th century shared my beliefs – this particular intellectual similarity is personally satisfying.

L'individu libre dans une société éclairée Danny D'Purb dpurb site web 2019

« Dans une société éclairée, éduquée, cultivée, sophistiquée et moderne, un individu libre devrait être capable de dire ce qu’il veut, quand il veut, où il veut, comment il veut, à qui il veut, et selon ses capacités, il devrait aussi pouvoir choisir son propre chemin, identité, domaine et cercle, et lorsque ces actes ne causent la mort à personne, cela semble totalement noble et juste. » -Danny d’Purb // Traduction(EN): « In an enlightened, educated, cultivated, sophisticated and modern society, a free individual should be able to say what he wants, when he wants, where he wants, how he wants, to whomever he wants, and according to his abilities, he should also be able to choose his own path, identity, domain and circle, and when these acts do not cause death to anyone, this seems totally noble and right. » -Danny D’Purb | (2019)

When later in his life Voltaire managed to acquire the château de Ferney, he had the old building demolished which he had qualified as atavistic in style, and had a new one built to his taste. It would also become the place where he received many intellectuals and also his friend, the mathematician Nicolas de Condorcet, along with the actor Lequin who would take part in many of the plays written by Voltaire. One of the other great intellectuals who never came to Ferney is Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the solitary philosopher, since those two sometimes clashed on some philosophical issues without ever meeting each other, however they both recognised each other’s greatness which reminds us today that they have been two of the most illustrious [i.e. well known, respected and admired] homme de lettres of the century of the enlightenment. After his death, Voltaire’s heart was stored in a cenotaph in France at his Ferney residence for several years, with the inscription:

« Son esprit est partout et son coeur est ici. »

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French for :

« His mind is everywhere and his heart is here. »

Voltaire also invited the most intimate of his guests at Ferney into his personal library where he would read them extracts that meant a lot to him and were connected to his intellectual fight against the problems of the society of his time, for example, against the rigid religious institutions of the Ancient Regime and the persecutions and horrors they orchestrated. The complete works of Voltaire can also be found at Ferney, where he first started writing and focussed on tragedy, a popular genre in his times.

It is with the literature, dramatic arts and the theatre that he was drenched in at college that Voltaire would create and build a name for himself. He thought that this would suffice to take his legacy to posterity, i.e. through his tragedies, however as we would see, it took much more to have Voltaire accepted among the greats of his time, since the division of classes was rigid in the 18th century.

At around 20 years old, the young Arouet had already become quite used to the Parisian salons and his personality and mind quickly made him popular – he became well-known and a habitué of the court at the château de Sceaux. The young Arouet had already risen in society through his intellectual and artistic abilities and original personality, and at that court he was a little boute-en-train (i.e. joker); he improvised clever rhymes and poetry and would say exactly what the great seigneurs wanted to hear. He was stunned by the early success he had found at Sceaux; and although he should have toned himself down in this milieu, he just could not resist the urge to be even more extroverted, flamboyant, defiant and outgoing – it seems that Voltaire was an early embodiment of a form of open-minded libertarian conservatism. During his time there he also enjoyed a wide range of literary, theatrical and musical pleasures.

However, he would soon go beyond his limits, and reveal himself as an extremely biting, facetious mind that could become nasty when provoked, according to French historian Évelyne Lever. In his poem, « Puero Regnante », he offended a man whom no one would have dared to insult, namely Philippe d’Orléans who was the man in charge of the French monarchy since the death of Louis XIV in 1715; d’Orléans was ensuring the regency of the kingdom until the young Louis XV reached the age to govern. The futur Voltaire’s verses in his poem came with heavy consequences since his dramatic poem accused the regent of having killed the grand children of Louis XIV by poison in order to get as close as possible to power while going even further to accuse the regent of having sexual relations with his daughter.

The poem was so scary that Voltaire found himself imprisoned at La Bastille. He was incarcerated on the 16th of May 1717 while in his twenties, and he would remain locked for almost a year. However, his conditions while in detention were far from terrible; the young Arouet was placed in the quarters that we could consider in today’s terms as those reserved for the V.I.Ps [i.e. very important person]. There he had lunch with the governor, where people would also visit and write to him; it was a place where you could serenely plan and prepare for your release.

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Voltaire enfermé à La Bastille / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

If someone is imprisoned at the special quarters of La Bastille, it is because they hold a degree of importance and because they have the power over society, hence the writer used it as a formidable source of publicity to push himself at the front of the social scene. It is also during that period that François-Marie Arouet decided to bury his old name and transform himself into Voltaire; he thought that he should find himself a signature to match his size and to prepare for his future glory; he considered his old name, François-Marie Arouet, to have been a burden to him. French historian, Évelyne Lever noticed that the name, Voltaire, contained the term « Volte » which carries the connotation of one who danses and flies. On the name of Voltaire, the French intellectual, François Bessire said:

« C’est l’invention d’une marque, c’est l’invention d’un nom tout à fait remarquable, un travail de communication étonnamment réussie. »

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French for:

« It’s the invention of a brand, it’s the invention of a very remarkable name, a surprisingly successful work of communication. »

Voltaire also made the most of his time in detention to finalise his first play, however after his release, his perfectionist approach and the numerous repetitions and modifications he made to the script caused conflicts among the troop of actors of the Comédie-Française who accepted to take part in it. One of the actresses, Miss Desmares, had categorically refused to receive new verses from Voltaire to repeat, but had quite an appetite. So, Voltaire ironically sent over small pâtés that she would open to eat and inside there were the new lines that Voltaire wanted her to learn, everyone of course laughed at this adventure, yet the verses were learnt and of course the small pâtés eaten.

The première of Voltaire’s play, Oedipe, opened on the 18th of November 1718, and the whole of Paris rushed to watch the spectacle of the young author with a sulphurous reputation. It was a triumphant success for the writer, and that would be the moment that Voltaire began to earn a living with his pen, and his desire for glory at the same time was satisfied. The success of his writing was fundamental to Voltaire because it confirmed that he was a great author of the classical tragedies.

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Image: Le triomphe du premier oeuvre de Voltaire / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

After that event, Voltaire would start to build a network of acquaintances and friends among the nobles, and would visit Jean-René de Longueil at the Château de Maisons, today known as the Château de Maisons-Laffitte. It is there that Voltaire worked on his epic poem, la Henriade, and one time during a lecture in the great hall of the château, Voltaire did not hesitate to ask the opinions of the guests invited and they, who were not writers and never wrote a play in their life allowed themselves to a number of criticisms. As this went on, Voltaire began to lose his calm and in an abrupt gesture he took his manuscripts and threw them all in the fireplace in a raging gesture; one of the guests stormed to pick them up and gave them back to Voltaire. Another unfortunate episode there was when Voltaire caught a potentially deadly disease: smallpox. However, Voltaire in a few weeks miraculously recovered but a fire spread from the chimney under his room, having been kept constantly lit during the weeks of his illness, the place was ravaged, but that blow of fate would not affect the solid friendship that bound him to Jean-René de Longueil.

After proving himself through his intellectual, linguistic, literary and artistic abilities, Voltaire in his thirties thought that he could finally consider himself as the equal of the nobles, him, a sort of aristocrat of the mind. However, an altercation with one of them during a soirée would cruelly prove him wrong. During that night, the chevalier de Rohan-Chabot had been joking unsympathetically about the name of Voltaire, trying to mock him, and Voltaire in an affirmative and insolent tone abruptly responded:

« Mon nom commence là ou fini le votre! »

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French for:

« My name starts where your name ends! »

A few days later, Rohan-Chabot had Voltaire beaten violently as he was leaving a house where he had had him invited. Voltaire was permuted with pain with all the blows he received from sticks. Voltaire asked for reparation and began to realise that his noble friends certainly pitied him, but would do nothing concrete to help him as the days went by. Voltaire eventually realised that he was being advised to remain silent and to get over this humiliation. That event likely marked Voltaire for life in his fight against the atavistic structure of the ancient regime because it brought him back to the condition that the 18th century of France imposed on individuals; hence, he could be a star on the intellectual, literary and artistic scene, he could be the great Voltaire, but in the 18th century, to the nobles, he would always be considered a « roturier » [note that this is an archaic term that is not used anymore in the 21st century as it used to mean someone who does not have aristocratic origins, it is a term that can very rarely be heard in a minority of social circles that still abide by the social structure of the ancient regime, for example, among some circles in England, the English term is usually « commoner »]; and this irrational concept allowed the nobles of the 18th century to hold the illusory belief that they were superior to anyone who did not have aristocratic origins and that the person could be given the stick by them, even if the individual was incredibly educated, cultured and intellectually superior to the nobles. That was of course something that Voltaire would not accept and towards the end of his life he would receive the acclaim only reserved for kings and emperors for changing the perception of French society and the whole of Europe about individual emancipation forever. But for the time being Voltaire’s humiliation would not stop there, since conscious of Voltaire’s relentless and daring personality and character, the entourage of chevalier Rohan-Chabot feared for the desires of vengeance of the prolific author and so, they arranged for Voltaire to be sent once more to the Bastille prison. He would be freed after only 2 weeks on the condition that he left Paris.

For his exile, the man of letters chose to go to England. It was 1726 and Voltaire would end up staying in the neighbouring country for almost 3 years. It is important to note that in those times, England had already gone through the English Civil War and had shocked Europe by putting King Charles I to death, the latter was beheaded publicly after Oliver Cromwell had defeated the Royal armies. France on the other hand had not yet gone through the revolution, something that would take place 63 years later in 1789, 11 years after Voltaire’s death in 1778, with the iconic takeover of La Bastille on the 14th of July 1789. So, when Voltaire went to England, the power of the ancient regime there was already weakening through the socio-cultural change brought by the English civil war. Hence, in some aspects regarding the structure of society, England at that time appeared slightly in advance to Voltaire in matters regarding the personal liberties of the individual where the organisation of society was different compared to the strict climate imposed by the Ancient Regime of the monarchy in 18th century France, that caused Voltaire to be victimised and jailed for a simple vocal retaliation.

It was Voltaire’s curiosity that motivated him to go to England and also his personal circumstances; that trip would calm down the tension in France by allowing Voltaire to be forgotten for a few years at least. Once in England, Voltaire who was especially gifted with language quickly learned to master English, which is much simpler than French. Being a believer in the values of the intellectual enlightenment, a man who fought for individual freedom and self-conception, and also a proven man of words, intellect and a sort of aristocrat of the mind in France, it seemed logical to expect that Voltaire would work on a similar mastery of language in England and create his own individual identity, and so he did not learn English by socialising, but rather through Shakespeare. He would visit the theatre at Drury-Lane where it is believed that he took the prompter’s manuscripts to learn English through Shakespeare.

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France still conserves a collection of his courier that shows his incredible mastery of the English language but also the affinity he developed for some English customs. The fact that Voltaire took pride in writing in English while in England was not insignificant, because Voltaire in England had felt at home, and very quickly started to see himself as an Englishman, during his voyage he slightly toned down his French identity. Charles Eloi-Vidal, a curator at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France suggested that it seemed that Voltaire during his time in England gave the impression that he had fallen in love with the country and its people. Voltaire was seduced by the atmosphere of freedom that his anonymity may also have contributed to in England. The writer stated that in England, no mode of life seemed strange, we see men who complete 6 miles daily for their health, who feed on only roots, who never eat meat, who wear a lighter outfit in winter than your ladies’ costume on the hottest days. Voltaire thought that all that in England was perceived as a singularity but was not taxed by anyone as ridiculous or insane.

In reality, the French still mock the English for their eccentricity but what Voltaire saw in some aspects of the English society of the 18th century was the freedom to be anything we wanted, an opinion that seemed slightly exaggerated by Voltaire who only lived in England for about 3 years, since nowadays in the 21st century England is far behind modern day France in terms of individual social mobility, although it is encouraging to see that gradual progress is taking place through the contribution of dedicated intellectuals at major universities [e.g. the Voltaire Foundation at the University of Oxford] who are changing the atavistic minds of the Anglo-Saxon masses through the propagation of modern psychological, scientific and philosophical works about development, conception, individuality and identity.

What also stunned Voltaire in 18th century England was the religious tolerance. When in France the rigid institutions firmly controlled and regulated by the Catholic church would persecute people for their beliefs and practices and even send them to horrible death sentences, in England Voltaire saw Jews, Muslims, Christians and atheists all somehow living together. However, in the 21st century when we scratch the surface, we find that underneath the illusion of this « living together » in a secular society with the vague concept of « political correctness », there is a passive and silent yet constant competition between each group, all desiring supremacy over one another; this even applies at a global level from the basic population count, to the geographical hold of living space of each group with different languages on our planet; and each group would be ready « diplomatically » to defend their borders with guns, tanks, fighter planes and even nuclear weapons if necessary, and of course, not to mention the periodic violence that traumatises society at large, especially from Muslim jihadists. It is also fair to note how each group – under the illusion of « living together » and « political correctness » – still « indirectly » fragment the population by organising events that celebrate and promote each group’s identity and characteristics within their own geographical population, and that does not seem to be a genuine sense of living together as a singular community but rather a politically correct form of hypocrisy.

We can observe that that the idea of « living together » can be associated with the modern-day phenomenon known as « globalisation » that portrays the society that Voltaire saw in 18th century England. Unfortunately, the « living together » of globalisation is simply focussed on labour and migratory movement and financial motives, whereas true harmony in a genuine community of sophisticated, educated and enlightened minds relies on the construction of a united society and is closer to post-revolutionary French philosophical values of « Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité », which is not simply a question of living side by side with each other, but involves getting all individuals – besides their personal tastes as unique humans beings – to also honestly agree on identity, belonging, values and goals; feel, understand and synchronise their lives with each other as a genuinely united community that supports and helps one another, while also working and building harmoniously together at every level of human life – not simply economically. After all, we are living in pivotal times where the human civilisation is evolving at breakneck speed in so many ways and changing era right before our eyes in the 21st century; with a generation that has the chance of having access to the wide range of accelerated learning technologies available. The world’s societies have evolved beyond recognition from their « primitive » past, and are today interconnected and inspire and influence each other in so many ways [e.g. science, sport, medicine, cuisine, arts, literature, philosophy & education]. We can only imagine what a brilliant mind like Voltaire would have achieved if he lived in our time with all the tools available to us in the 21st century.

Even if nowadays, in the 21st century, after centuries of imperfect democratic parliamentary regimes we have begun to see the lack of organisation, the corruption, the greed for money, the unethical financial motives, the apathy and lack of sophistication and sensibility from the average financial workers crowding the political scene along with their simple binary minds and outlook, the illogical concepts of political parties dividing people by orientation, and the badly organised departments of the state; in the times of Voltaire in the 18th century, this less than perfect parliamentary regime was considered as the only solution and represented a step towards defying the abuses of the Ancient Regime of hereditary traditions and undisputed domination of the crowned heads. So back then, when the parliamentary regime was in its early days in England, Voltaire was fascinated with it, since he thought of it as a movement that kept the King in check, since whenever the crown would try to abuse its powers, it could instantly be stopped by the parliamentary regime – that to Voltaire created a King that could only be kind. Since it was 1726, 63 years before the French revolution, hence this to Voltaire was quite another world – he would most certainly have much to write about if he was alive today to see the horror show of the majority of mediocrity in modern politics in the 21st century.

It is almost certain that if a brilliant, perceptive and volcanic mind like Voltaire lived in the 21st century he would have ferociously criticized the current democratic parliamentary regime, and would be engaged in a fight like ourself to crease out the imperfections, being just like ourself focussed on the liberation of the human mind through reason and science, individual liberty, meritocracy, order, love and justice for all, along with a concern about a harmonious, ethical, intellectually enlightened and a sophisticated society devoid of alienating irrational superstitions, political abuses and unnecessary suffering.

During his English séjour, Voltaire had maintained a journal that he completed once back in France, those écrits, packed with explosive content, would later become his « Lettres Philosophiques ». Those would have two objectives. Firstly, it was an expression of gratitude towards the English society that welcomed and hosted him for almost 3 years. Secondly, Voltaire wanted to point out the problems of the society of pre-revolutionary France in the 18th century where he castigated the French monarchical despotism along with the climate of intolerance towards individual liberties – such as religious beliefs – that it imposed on individuals with heavy consequences to those who chose to deviate from the Church’s rigid outlook [e.g. the persecution of other forms of Christianity such as Protestantism].

Voltaire’s writings were seized and burnt in front of the palais de justice in France; the power of the ancient regime understood that this was a bomb that could seriously cause a storm in France where unlike anywhere else in the world the people are sophisticated, highly receptive and reactive, and always in the constant quest to refine and cultivate themselves intellectually through fresh philosophical discourse. Hence, as soon as Voltaire returned from his exile in England, the enigmatic thinker and writer had once again become persona non grata in Paris and would have to remain discrete and keep a safe distance from monarchical power for some time. Besides, Voltaire using aspects of the English society of the 18th century as examples to criticize France was not going to be well perceived. Although French society acknowledges the pivotal works of some hardworking individuals who dedicated their lives to particular fields [e.g. medecine, science, literature, music, etc] and who have been translated into French, for example, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing, just like many other hardworking and dedicated minds across the globe, it certainly does not consider the English heritage or the Anglo-Saxon world as superior, a model to follow or something to be envious about; that is an opinion even shared by a great amount of English intellectuals and people themselves and even the former English King, Henry V, who used the French language to write « Dieu et mon droit » on the coat of arms of the British monarchy. If anything, French society has always considered the Anglo-Saxon world as rough, petty, cold, mechanical, calculating, ruthless and much less refined and sophisticated emotionally, philosophically, artistically and linguistically; while lacking sensibility in human affairs, with the tragedy of Jeanne d’Arc embedded in the hearts of the French people along with the Hundred Years War, not to mention Waterloo. Even the iconic English writer, Oscar Wilde, was persecuted by the society that produced him and ended up seeking refuge and spending the last days of his life in France; a fairly similar fate was imposed on the English mathematician, Alan Turing, who dedicated his life to saving his country and whose contributions were decisive in shifting the outcomes of World War II – he would be persecuted by his own country treated like a criminal and was left to die as a recluse in a room in almost complete anonymity. Hence, a tremendous work of cultivation remained to be done in the Anglo-Saxon world in order to reconcile and build a firm bridge between these two environments and create a genuine sense of trust and respect from the French – a work involving the cultivation of the masses to sophisticated French values that is still ongoing up to this day. The great way to put this could be by saying: « We are from the same planet but not from the same world. »

In the room of Voltaire at Ferney we still find an immense portrait of empress Maria Theresa of Austria and the inscription shows that it was given to Voltaire on the 15th of July 1770, historians do not know the circumstances of the arrival of the portrait here but its presence is quite surprising since Maria Theresa did not have a high esteem of Voltaire, she had in fact forbidden her son Joseph II to visit such a miscreant. To Voltaire, exposing such a portrait was nothing more than a way to show his familiarity with crowned heads even if his relations with kings were very complicated because of his intellectual and philosophical orientations.

French historians observe that Voltaire was an elegant man with incredible style who took great care of his body and cultivated his appearance and looks, however in private he sometimes received people in his night gown. In his residence at Ferney we can also find a portrait of the most meaningful woman in his life, Émilie de Châtelet, who according to the French painter Marianne Loir was among the first women to dedicate herself to science with whom Voltaire finds true love for more than 15 years Voltaire met her in 1733 when he was almost 40 years old while she was in her twenties and fell immediately under her spell, she had an impressive physique and a mind that was no less. Émilie was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant women of the 18th century, a true woman of science, but that did not prevent her from knowing literature admirably – there was a reciprocal coup de foudre between those two geniuses who acknowledged each other’s greatness. Their love story would blossom at the château de Cirey where Voltaire found refuge in 1734 after the scandal provoked by his « lettres philosophique » right after his return from England.

At first, Voltaire did not plan on settling at Cirey, and only intended to spend a few months, just enough time to be forgotten and for things to calm down in Paris. However, when he arrived at Cirey there was an instant feeling of love at first sight with the place and he decided to settle. In the beginning, he would restore an existing part and later decided to enlarge it to install a wing with his own apartments. What is striking is that Voltaire added his unique touch to the architecture, for example, a sculpted door that is still present today dedicated to the arts and to the sciences where we find a tribute to astronomy, painting, sculpture and of course the art of writing and literature.

Chateau de Cirey - La marque de Voltaire

Image: La touche de Voltaire à Cirey

Voltaire hated to waste time and was always busy and mentally drenched in a project. The days at Cirey were shared between philosophical discussions, the pleasures of love that of course should never be neglected and a range of experiments. The couple were 2 dedicated hard workers, each working in their office and they would meet over lunch. There was a real atmosphere of joy, both physical and the joy of being together while not being burdened by the surrounding society and intellectual crowd. Voltaire would say to a friend in one of his letters that they were very voluptuous philosophers. Once, the couple took part in a competition at the Académie des Sciences, and while they did not win, Voltaire had insisted for the memory of Émilie to be printed by the Académie des Sciences, which would have been a great honour – he never asked the same treatment for himself; a gesture that historians nowadays believe to have been a genuine proof of sincere love.

Voltaire ou la liberté de penser - Émilie du Châtelet traduit Newton - d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Tableau representant Émilie du Châtelet étudiant les travaux de Newton

Émilie du Châtelet also signed the first translation of Newton’s mathematical principles of philosophy, one of the major works of the 18th century regarding universal gravity. However, it is important to note that Voltaire cannot be considered as purely and simply a man of the mathematical sciences; he definitely took a genuine interest in the pivotal scientific discoveries of his time such as universal gravitation but only to meditate and extract philosophical meaning about the implications of scientific discoveries, i.e. to explain how all the scientific discoveries will impact the way society and humans function, such as the impact on the education of the individual, society at large and the values to be taught in relation to them.

Voltaire ou la liberté de penser - Émilie du Châtelet - d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Émilie du Châtelet en train de travailler sur ses écrits / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Modern day French historians believe that Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet were unquestionably the leading couple of that particular century, the 18th century, the century of the enlightenment that gave way to an open-minded view of our world and our wider environment, and that also motivated intellectuals worldwide to take the world out of the claws of obscurantism and into the light. It was the century enlightened by reason where men and women were encouraged to rely on their own experience and knowledge to apprehend the world around them [i.e. to work on their understanding and perception] – this was a turning point in the evolution of mankind! From then, the individual did not feel that he had to respect or abide uncritically to any form of hierarchy whether it was religious or political but was instead encouraged to learn to use intellectual and logical reasoning to understand the world instead of simply believing without thinking.

The 18th century was also the period where we almost completely mapped the terrestrial globe; where we had begun to get a deeper understanding of the inner mechanism of the human body since the early works Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century. All this new knowledge led to a turning point because it allowed the emancipation of the individual; now we were no longer subject to the traditional obligation to play our role, to take our place quietly in a society that was regulated by religious authorities and that was patriarchal, because now we finally had the sensible and thoughtful knowledge and hence we had the ability to get out of our former conditions and follow a different chosen path, find our way and ourself.

During all those years at Cirey with Émilie, the main entertainment would somehow remain the arts, namely drama and theatre. Between his intellectual endeavours, Voltaire would not give up on his creative writings dedicated to the theatrical arts and his plays would be performed in a small home theatre that was under the attic, it would become an iconic place since many afternoons and evenings would be spent there and sometimes the only spectator would be the cat and Émilie. Sometimes the couple would also have arguments that would end up in disputes.

Voltaire dans une profonde réflexion

Image: Voltaire sérieux et dans une profonde réflexion / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Émilie displayed an excessively authoritarian nature and would choose how Voltaire should dress, she would even choose the wine that he should drink, and would even forbid him from showing some texts that she had locked away; she knew of Voltaire’s explosive personality and that he would write special and subversive texts; conscious of the nature of those texts and the possible legal consequences that could be even more violent, Émilie kept a close eye on them along with Voltaire’s correspondence. All that would generate moments of tension when they already had disputes, and when those occured they communicated in English so that prying ears across doors and walls would not understand the content of their exchanges. Voltaire would often leave the table in anger when he was annoyed and would sulk, then after they would reconcile with each other and open dialogue through messages on small pieces of paper that they would send to each other through the domestics.

Voltaire dans une profonde réflexion et souriant d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Voltaire souriant et en train d’écrire / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

When Voltaire reached the age of 50, his relationship with crowned heads had already been complex, he looked for their favour but remained true to his intellectual perspectives that were not always favourable to the powers of the ancient regime. Voltaire never regarded the king as the representative of god on earth, hence it became incredibly hard for him to display the signs of adoration that the conventions expected. He was fairly insolent and impertinent and at the same time he had already built the solid reputation of a man of words who mastered the pen with incredible efficacy. Hence, he was perceived as a scary revolutionary mind, so the royal powers in France would remain very wary of the ingenious writer permanently. Louis XV never accepted Voltaire, who for him was a profoundly unsympathetic man with subversive ideas that he did not want to hear anything about.

But even if he was not regarded highly by the monarchy in France, there was a sovereign in Europe who had boundless admiration for him and his avant-garde ideas. That man was Frederick II of Prussia, the one who would be known as Frederick the great, who had already been known as the philosopher king. It had been a while already since the two man had maintained a passionate correspondence which was initiated by Frederick himself when he was heir to the throne.

The future Frederick II wrote to Voltaire so that the prolific intellectual could correct his verses and help him with his French. The Prussian heir swore by the French language and only spoke German with the horses; to him the French language and the mastery of it was higher than everything else. So, he wrote to Voltaire as a sycophant, qualifying him as the greatest writer of all time and the man he admired the most in Europe. Voltaire was so flattered to find himself celebrated in this way by the future king of Prussia that it made him dizzy with pride. The form of complicity would eventually develop between those two, on the topics of the freedom of mind and ideas. Voltaire on the other hand saw in the future King of Prussia the possibility to hold a very particular role; the role of the one who thinks for the Prince and who participates in the elaboration of political reflections – he had imagined this as a great duo, philosopher and king.

When Frederik II was crowned, he continuously invited Voltaire to join him in Prussia. At around the same period, on the 10th of September 1749, Voltaire was struck by the most demoralising news of his life: Émilie de Châtelet had suddenly passed away. He would be utterly devastated by the death of the woman whom he had loved the most in his life, it was a very painful period for Voltaire who went mad with grief; and it is following this irreparable mourning for him that he left for Prussia.

In July 1750, Voltaire arrived in Potsdam near Berlin where the court of Frederick was located. Once there, his main task consisted in correcting and embellishing the verses of Frederick II. There however, he found many other philosophers and intellectuals united around Frederick II and hence did not feel like the greatest or the most important anymore. Voltaire thus found himself as a token among others of a king whose writing and verses were incredibly mediocre. The king however could be unsympathetic as Voltaire would later discover when a conversation was reported to him where apparently it was said that we squeeze the orange and we discard the core. This seemed to showcase the monarchic mentality about using talented people to further itself and to discard them when they were no longer needed.

That moment had Voltaire realising that he was to Frederick II someone considered as some kind of buffoon that could be disposed of when his services would not be required. Voltaire knew that his situation had changed and that he was not respected by Frederick anymore; so, he concluded that it was time to escape after having spent 3 years there. So, in March 1753, Voltaire left and turned a page on the king but a rocambolesque event will delay his return to France. After arriving at Francfort, he was stopped by Frederick’s men and assigned to residence until he returned a number of documents that he had kept; these were the drafts of poems that Frederick had written along with all the corrections that Voltaire brought. When the King found that out he realised that it would be a catastrophe for him since the world would find out the immense contribution of Voltaire who was almost the co-author of his originally mediocre writing.

Volaire bloqué à Francfor par Frédéric II

Voltaire enfermé à Francfort par Frédéric II / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Voltaire would be held for several weeks as a form of humiliation from Frederick, someone that the writer had previously flattered. It was a sinister farce, but Voltaire eventually got out of it after returning the drafts. The two would not see each other again, however their epistolary friendship would resume in spite of everything.

Back in Ferney, France near the Swiss border in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Voltaire thought that a tiny church nearby was hiding the perspective of the residence, so he took it upon him to move the church and had a central alley drawn. He started this modification without any authorisation which was of course not to the taste of the ecclesiastical authorities; hence Voltaire had to renounce to it and rebuild the facade. However cheekily, he had his name on it written much larger than that of god which was of course frowned upon.

In those times, Voltaire was often sick and he knew that death could come knocking at any moment. Since he had wished to be buried at Ferney, he would have a tombeau constructed in the shape of a pyramid that was leaning against the wall of the church, adjoined to the outside; Voltaire envisaged that clever people would say that he was neither inside or outside of the tomb. Voltaire had a particular liking for his garden and had a bower made for walks with his intimate guests sometimes; the talented writer’s influence was not limited to his residence since the whole village profits from his presence and saw its popularity rise. After all his adventures with the kings of France and Europe, it was in a way Voltaire’s own time to become the little king of Ferney. However, Voltaire’s independent and volcanic mind and intellectual orientations never allowed him to build strong links with those who held institutional powers, so he sought refuge to establish himself firmly. It would be in Geneva before finally ending up in Ferney that Voltaire’s last and perhaps most pivotal legacy would be forged.

Voltaire - le reigne à Ferney

In his sixties, Voltaire fell under the charm of a quiet and bucolic place near the Léman lake, a peaceful property in Geneva from where he had a view of the mountains. He would name his residence there « Les Délices » and had the place enlarged to live slightly more comfortably. It is to be noted that at that time, Geneva was independent and was not part of any kingdom, it was outside of the French and the Prussian borders and so Voltaire had settled in a completely neutral territory for a while. Voltaire would take many reflective walks in his garden there but his main activity remained writing, his eternal true love.

Les Délices to this day conserves a range of Voltaire’s furniture and other gadgets. We can find the iconic Louis XV styled desk with floral and musical motives. It was on that very desk that Voltaire wrote a great number of his literary and intellectual works.

Meubles de Voltaire aux Délices - d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Meubles et accesoires de Voltaire / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Even in the 18th century, he seemed to have an affinity for gadgets as we can also find a small écritoire [i.e. writing case] which allowed him to write during his voyages, inside we can find a pen holder, and two small objects in silver with the coat of arms of Voltaire [i.e. the three flames and the two greyhounds] which are in fact a travel ink pot where the writer would draw the ink to write his letters and on the other side a powder case with sand that Voltaire would sprinkle over a page as soon as it was written to act as blotting paper in order to absorb the excess ink from the document; which in the 21st century could be the equivalent of a portable computer.

Aux Délices - Pot d'encre - Armoiries de Voltaire - Les 2 Levriers - d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Les armoiries de Voltaire sur le pot d’encre de voyage: Les trois flammes et les deux Levriers

Voltaire wrote his poem on the Lisbon disaster there after the terrible earthquake of 1755 but most importantly it was the location where he wrote his most famous work, the one that is still the most read in the 21st century, his philosophical tale that summarised and covered all the great themes of the movement of the enlightenment: Candide. The book would go to become a best-seller of the second half of the 18th century which surprised Voltaire himself to see his book sales reaching 20 000 copies; for that time, it was an incredible amount and considered as a planetary success with a range of smaller formats also released: pocket editions, luxurious editions and others.

However, soon Voltaire would lack the breathing space he needed in Geneva and return to Ferney. In Geneva, theatre was not allowed and the writer found this unacceptable when he made arrangements to have small theatrical representations at Les Délices. He would get into problems with the Geneva pastors who were not content with the fact that he was organising theatrical sessions and attracted the daughters of Calvinist pastors to take part and feature as characters in them, that was unacceptable to those pastors. So, he went back to Ferney which was located in a strategic place since it was in France but on the Swiss borders. He would turn Ferney into a living utopia, a world where the earth was celebrated, where one lives comfortably and safely. He would also take the opportunity to transform the village of Ferney which was in a miserable state and launch himself in a variety of enterprises; which shows that Voltaire was not only a pure mind but that he could also take actions and contribute to the benefit of society around him, and that would have an immense impact. Under Voltaire’s reign in Ferney, the village saw a spectacular development. It is also there that Voltaire’s fight against religious fanaticism amplified gloriously.

In a France where the Catholic institution occupied a dominant position, it is very important to understand that Voltaire’s perspective did not insult or deny the existence of a god as the creator, but he took a firm combative stance and spoke out against all dogmatisms. Voltaire has never been an atheist, he is a deist, he states that in the incredible complexity of the natural world there must be a godly power that governs it all. What shocked him are the institutions that claim supremacy over god: the weight of those institutions that tells us what we have the right to believe in or not, and that classifies us in different groups, among the heretics, and that even had the powers to send us to the stake to die a painful and horrible death. Voltaire fought against all the abuses of the religious institutions that declared to have been revealed, namely the 3 most popular monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

In 18th century France under Louis XV, tensions had been persistent between Catholics and Protestants. Protestantism was not a recognised religion and its adepts faced repression and even severe persecution.

Volatire - Tension entre les religions en France au 18ème siècle

Image: Persécution religieuse en France au XVIIIe siècle

What Voltaire had observed in the years 1750-60 was a resurgence of tension between religions and it was the letter of the contemporary world then: religious fanaticism. Voltaire could never accept that in the name of religion, in the name of a God that is supposed to be good and merciful, men have such atrocious practices and persecute one another – always in the name of their God. To Voltaire, religious fanaticism associated with power was still present and would always be a threat to civilisation, and as from 1760 he intensified his fight with the shocking formula: Écrasez l’infâme [French for: crush the infamous]. This expression surfaces again during the correspondence he exchanged with his friend, the philosopher, d’Alembert.

Voltaire ou la liberté de penser - d'Alembert - Écrasez l'infame d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Correspondence de Voltaire à d’Alembert: Adieu mon grand philosophe… Écrasez l’infâme! / Source: Bibliothèque Nationale de France | Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

We have records at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France of those exchanges where he spoke of his lectures, philosophy, life in Paris and concludes his letter by saying: « Adieu mon grand philosophe. Écrasez l’infâme. » What was that « infâme » [French for: infamous] that he wanted to crush? It was the superstition that clouded reason, it was the institutional power of religious authorities over justice and the management of society by enlightened minds.

Another incident that motivated Voltaire to be even more engaged in his fight took place on the 10th of March 1762, when Jean Callas, a merchant from Toulouse is sentenced to the torment of the wheel and killed by strangulation in the public square.

Voltaire - Jean Callas - condamné au supplice de la roue et étranglé

Image: Jean Callas le protestant étranglé en public

Jean Callas had been an old protestant accused in Toulouse to have assassinated his son because the latter wished to convert to the Catholic religion. In fact, the son perhaps wanted to convert but committed suicide by hanging. In the beginning of this affair, Voltaire showed no interest and even asked himself if Jean Callas could be guilty. He only really became aware of the reality behind through the visit of a reformed person who would tell him the story and how it had been an obvious injustice. Voltaire would study the case at length and denounce a quick and incriminating investigation. For him, there was no doubt that Jean Callas had been executed because he was a Protestant.

Voltaire - en colère et en train de lire à Ferney - d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Voltaire étudiant les dossiers sur Jean Callas à Ferney / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

For 3 years, Voltaire would attempt to rehabilitate the memory of Jean Callas by relying on his network. He wrote to all the people who were the most influent and tried to show that there had been a horrible misunderstanding. Today, when we simply look at Voltaire’s correspondence made of numerous letters to convince each of them to join the fight for Callas, we realise that hours and hours of his life were given to the memory of Callas, a man with whom he had no direct links and never even knew personally.

It would take several years for the judgement of Toulouse to be first adulated and for Jean Callas to be subsequently rehabilitated, but Voltaire would succeed; the King’s council would make this return which was quite exceptional for the conservative religious climate of the 18th century. Voltaire would also get involved in many other issues of the society of his time, however the story of Jean-Callas remained the fight of his life. It is in fact the major catalyst that led him to write his timeless treaty on tolerance, a work that remains until this day a reference on the subject.

In 2015, the working premises of the popular satirical and “over the top” newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, known for its defiant, exaggerated and limitless comics, was assaulted by Muslim Jihadists, Chérif and Said Kouachi and 11 people lost their lives brutally: the cartoonists, Jean Cabu, Stéphane Charbonnier, Philippe Honoré, Bernard Verlhac, Georges Wolinski; the psychoanalyst, Elsa Cayat; the economist, Bernard Maris; the corrector, Mustapha Ourrad; a maintenance worker, Frédéric Boisseau; and Michel Renaud, the cofounder of the festival « Rendez-vous du carnet de voyage », who had been invited to assist the editorial conference. The following day, another Muslim Jihadist who claimed to be of the Islamic State, namely, Amedy Coulibaly, stormed a super market and killed 4 people, fuelled by his Islamic jihadist teachings and Jew hatred. The whole of France and the world were in a state of shock. Parisians manifested in mass the following day, and it is to be noted that when they did, they brandished the writings of a man known as Voltaire who lived 250 years ago, and it was his « Traité de Tolérance ». Spontaneously, people and even the youth looked for Voltaire’s mind, since he remains the man who best embodied liberty “à la Française”; meaning a form of freedom for all that is superior to every other belief whatever it is and wherever it comes from – that proves how avant-garde and ahead of his time Voltaire was.

To this day, we can find a painting known as « Le Triomphe de Voltaire » [French for: The Triumph of Voltaire] at his former residence in Ferney, which was realised 3 years before his death that Stéphane Bern in 2019 pointed out to be very interesting for its biographical value, because in the centre we see two faces of Voltaire: one that shows a mortal man like all human beings on our planet, and a second that shows Voltaire as the immortal creator; at the bottom of the painting we see the Callas family who are portrayed as protégés of Voltaire, then we also see the bust of Voltaire that is going to be installed in a temple on the right next to the those of Sophocle, Euripide, Corneille and Racine; the temple also strangely resembles the Panthéon where Voltaire’s remains are, as if it was written in the books of destiny that Voltaire would have an incredible homage or that Voltaire knew that his memory would be celebrated by those who inherited, feel and stand for his values and philosophy.

During the last years of his life, Voltaire had become the best-known personality in Europe, so many people made the trip to meet him in Ferney. Voltaire called himself « l’aubergiste de l’Europe » [French for: Europe’s innkeeper], simply because his residence at Ferney would receive so many personalities from all over Europe. When visitors arrived daily, everyone was received by Voltaire himself; sometimes he would drop kind words, other times he would greet by nodding his head. His visitors could be writers, aristocrats, intellectuals from so many domains, for example, some of them worked in Italy on the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii.

It is also important to remember since we tend to forget, that the whole of Europe, the Europe of the aristocrats and of the bourgeoisie of the enlightenment spoke French, and in Europe no one was Voltaire’s equal because he made people laugh and also cry, and also because he had a mind with extraordinary agility – everyone read Voltaire!

Voltaire - en train de lire - d'purb dpurb site web

Voltaire en pleine lecture / Source: Voltaire ou la liberté de penser (2019)

Some women would even respectfully come and kiss Voltaire’s hands. To travel to such a place in order to meet a man of letters and bowing down before him as if he was a religious messiah remains a remarkable phenomenon – Voltaire is an 18th century star like that century would not have any other. This would also be one of the most fruitful periods in Voltaire’s correspondence at Ferney; he wrote nearly a quarter of his 25,000 known letters which is an integral part of his legacy and work.

Being a prolific communicator in the days where people wrote letters: official letters and clandestine letters, we found out how he dealt with those in power and the authorities; French writer, Philippe Sollers thought that Voltaire sliced and reigned with his words – just like Napoléon. To this day, there are very few correspondences that can be read and enjoyed as masterpieces.

La correspondence de Voltaire en plusieurs volumes - d'purb dpurb site web

Image: La correspondence de Voltaire compilé en plusieurs volumes

Voltaire spoke of everything in his correspondence, his own life and the life of others along with a number of extraordinary thoughts that emerged and that completes his work in a sense. French philosopher, Elizabeth Badinter considers the compiled volumes of Voltaire’s correspondence as the most exciting reading of all, arguing that one can read his correspondence over and over without ever being bored.

Another extraordinary achievement remains the fact that Voltaire was entitled to his marble statue during his lifetime when such a privilege had generally only been reserved for kings. The statue realised by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle is exposed at the Musée du Louvre, an iconic work of sculpture that represents Voltaire naked, with nothing but a small drapery, sitting on a tree trunk and we can also see two accessories: a mask which symbolised comedy, a dagger for tragedy, but also a phylactery which is a piece of paper that is usually attributed to prophets and Voltaire is represented with it, barefoot as a prophet, because he is seen as the prophet of the republic of letters who announced the time of the liberation of the individual.

Voltaire Nu de Jean-Baptiste Pigalle d'purb dpurb site web

Image; Voltaire nu (1776) par Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (1714 – 1785)

That extraordinary statue was funded through a subscription launched to all men of words, and we can find the names of the subscribers on the base of the statue: King Frederick of Prussia, the King of Denmark and even Jean-Jacques Rousseau his great intellectual rival.

The sculptor, Jean-Baptise Pigalle was inspired by the great philosophers of antiquity and hence realised a naked and natural Voltaire without exaggeratingly idealising him and that led to scandals. Pigalle wanted to portrait Voltaire in the reality of a man, that is, an old man, but a handsome old man. However, the statue would generate a lot of irony. King Gustav III of Sweden who was passing through Paris would say that he was willing to subscribe but for clothes, so we can conclude that Gustav was ignorant and did not understand anything of Pigalle’s artistic message and perspective. Many sarcasms will follow, minor sonnets that ridiculed Voltaire and the statue. Voltaire then understood that it was time to calm things down and put a stop to all the nonsense around the shock and perhaps jealousy of a man getting the accolade of an emperor with a statue in his living, and declared that he found Pigalle’s statue to be a masterpiece. Voltaire stated that he himself had suffered so much from censorship and if Pigalle perceived and conceived it like that, he is a great artist and should be free!

While Voltaire enjoyed a formidable recognition in Ferney, he still dreamt of a last séjour in Paris in his eighties, which was an exceptional age to reach in the 18th century when medicine was almost prehistoric without vaccines and antibiotics, and where people of various segments of society and all walks of life died of diseases such as tuberculosis, that would have been considered as minor and curable in the 21st century that we now live in, or they would sometimes be killed by the unscientific and barbaric surgical practices of the times when bacteria and medical hygiene were unknown; modern medicine would only begin in the 19th century with the invention of the stethoscope by René Laennec. Voltaire did not have much to fear from the power held by the young Louis XVI who had no idea that he would be the last king of France of the period known as the Ancien Régime and during the unstable reign of terror before the proclamation of a republican constitution, would be sentenced to the guillotine in 1793 at the Place de la Révolution in Paris along with his wife Marie-Antoinette of Austria, sadly even the pioneering chemist, Antoine Lavoisier, who is considered as the father of modern nutrition, would suffer the same fate for having worked as a tax collector for the monarchy.

In February 1778, Voltaire made his great return to the capital that he had left 30 years earlier. He was cheered by thousands of Parisians and would not be able to leave his house since his carriage was constantly surrounded by crowds of people. People wanted to touch him as they wanted to touch relics, some even proposed to uncouple the horses from his carriage to put themselves in their place in order to have the honour of transporting this modern-day Apollo to his home. There were crowds clustered on the rooftop balconies which was something surprising for the times. During his time in Paris, Voltaire stayed at his friend, Charles de Villette’s place at the Quai de Théatins also known today as Quai Voltaire. That would be the place where he completed his last play, Irène. Historians would later find out that in 1777, Voltaire tried to make the play, Irène, seem like a piece that he had just completed, but his correspondence revealed that he had been working on it and minutely crafted that story for more than twenty years before it came out.

Voltaire - Irène

Image: Irène par Voltaire

When Irène was played, the spectators were hardly interested in the show because everyone was interested in Voltaire and his presence. Yet, it was a success and after the play, Voltaire’s bust was brought in. The man of letters was crowned and the French actors sung verses in honour of the great man. Voltaire stood up while being crowned with laurels and said:

« Vous allez me faire mourir de plaisir. »

___________

French for:

« You are going to make me die of pleasure! »

That was Voltaire’s apotheosis! That same year, 1778, Voltaire died on the 30th of May at the age of 83 years old. The body was opened and embalmed by candlelight on the kitchen table of Charles de Villette; the heart and the brain were extracted to be conserved and the entrails would be thrown in the latrine. His skull was covered with a cap to hide the opening where his brain was removed, make up was applied on his lips and cheeks to give the illusion of life and his body was strapped upright in the carriage and all that jolly entourage would leave in complete discretion. Since, to the displeasure of his religious enemies, he remained true to his beliefs and never confessed to a sworn Catholic priest who could have given him the last rites of unction, people were worried that his remains would not be buried in Christian soil. To avoid the common grave, the transfer of his body out of Paris was hastily organised and sent to the Abbaye de Sellières.

There are tales that suggest that loud thunder manifested when Voltaire’s body was in the church, the weather was so bad that the doors slammed open and the candles were blown out and Voltaire’s body fell, the monks started to pray in panic in complete darkness and balls of fire were rolling on the grass. Voltaire was inhumated at Sellières where his remains stayed until 1791 when they were transferred to the Panthéon. The heart of Voltaire, which had been removed during the embalmment was first placed in the room of Voltaire at Ferney where a mausoleum was specially fitted out, it would then later be given to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France where it would be stored in the base of the famous statue of Voltaire sitting sculpted by Houdon between 1780 and 1790.

Voltaire_Assis par Jean-Antoine_Houdon 1780-1790 d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Voltaire assis (1780 – 1790) par Jean-Antoine Houdon (1714 – 1785)

In 2010, during renovation works to enlarge the BNF, Voltaire’s statue had to be temporarily moved and during that move, the base was opened and the workers found a shiny heart-shaped metal box with the inscription, « Coeur de Voltaire, mort à Paris le 30 Mai 1778 ». The heart has since been put back in the base of Houdon’s statue as we would have treated that of a Saint, which is ironic, and would have definitely amused the man who during his whole life fought the rigid religious institutions of the 18th century.

« Je meurs en adorant dieu, en aimant mes amis, en ne haïssant point mes ennemis, en détestant la superstition ! »

–        Voltaire

___________

French for:

« I die worshipping God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, hating superstition!  »

–        Voltaire

Those were the last words uttered at the end of his life which perfectly summarises his faith, personality and vision of the world. After the philosopher’s death, Ferney lost a great part of its economic activities but the memory of Voltaire continues to animate the little town. Iconic writers such as Chateaubriand, Stendhal, Flaubert and Alexandre Dumas père would come to pay homage to the great master of French letters after his death. The town has since been renamed Ferney-Voltaire to honour the man who will remain as the master craftsman of the Age of Enlightenment.

Ferney-Voltaire - Blason et Logo de la ville d'purb dpurb site web

Image: Blason et Logo de la ville de Ferney-Voltaire

The modern individual is unique and makes choices in self-conception

It is important to understand that an individual will never be what others believe or want them to be, whatever the size of the crowd, because individuals are creative and adaptive organisms with the ability to make conscious decisions about their lives and identities, and can leave their initial enviroment for new locations, adapt and recreate themselves to be part of a new society [there many illustrious examples in the 21st century to cite] depending on their desires and abilities, or they can also simply visit places for the sake of exploration without adapting or being part of them.

Fritz Perls Citation

Traduction(EN): “I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.” -Fritz Perls, Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist who coined the ‘Gestalt therapy’

In most modern and enlightened societies of Western European intellectual and philosophical heritage, we are a culture of individuals, a society of unique people who besides their individual characteristics and differences manage to synchronise and work together in matters of national importance without it being restrictive to our personal liberties and choices from one person to the other. To be a person generally means to be connected [even indirectly, e.g. through arts and literature] to others. However, taking the metaphor of a golf competition to explain the picture, we cannot all win the contest. Clearly, one person will win and others will still perform well while some will need training to reach a decent standard although not within competitive categories. However, in an advert promoting golf, no company would only show one golfer by himself on all its adverts, but rather they show and promote many golfers, happy to be together. Hence, the way to be a person in modern society seems to be a part of it [directly or indirectly, all representatives of the society but with varying degrees of skills and abilities].

As with myself, having pushed the limits of my Franco-British heritage to the academic stage globally, more and more people are slowly getting the opportunity to be bi or tri-cultural. It is not a simple thing to do or accommodate, but it will be the task of more and more people in the world if individuals are to overcome their limitations in perception, feeling and understanding, and experience the world from the finest socio-linguistic lenses to explore their different senses on a planet that is more accessible in its depth through the magic of modern media [e.g. internet, multimedia experiences, high definition packages, distance learning, virtual reality, audiobooks, and even university lectures online [e.g. Les cours de Michel Butor] that is changing the processes of learning at a speed never seen before.

The reasoning person, being the intelligent being who has infinite worth and dignity would logically try to assimilate into the best heritage / linguistic-culture(s), knowing that the world is not flat and that we have natural masters and natural slaves, where intelligence is the only thing that distinguishes them – as Immanuel Kant also concluded. Like the analogy of humans, who being more intelligent than other living creatures, have become the supreme beings at the top of the food chain to rule over our planet. If we also side with this evolutionary logic, the best and most sophisticated society or societies [in terms of language, education, philosophy, heritage, etc] should by the laws of meritocracy have the privilege to guide and/or inspire the human civilisation to create a singular society/human empire in synchronisation with itself in the future as our civilisation evolves and comes to terms with its insignificance as a mortal bunch of organisms on a small, depleting and lonely planet in the universe without a spare planet to colonise that could still be wiped out and never remembered like the dinosaurs with an asteroid at any moment.

Asteroid Impact on Earth

Image: Illustration of an asteroid impact on Earth that could wipe out all life / See: Le Jour Où Les Dinosaures Ont Disparu (2017)

Modern psychological research has shown that we are reflections of all social interactions that mark us throughout our life and these interactions do not only come in the physical form, but also through arts, film, modern media and literature, all these create symbolic desires that affects each individual differently. And those who choose who and what shapes them, will tend to be inspired by those they admire [this extends beyond minor interactions such as the fishmonger at the market place or the coconut seller at the beach, but reaches as far as the mind goes up to the highest level of culture through exposure directly or indirectly (modern media) and breaches barriers once thought impossible]. As Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic writings also suggest – relying heavily on linguistic theory and intellectual trends in late 20th-century France, such as the structuralist movementour sense of self is a tissue of identification with people we have known [directly or indirectly exposed to, e.g. mentors, fictional characters, authority figures, artists, etc], and the only wholeness we imagine ourselves to have is a fiction, a comforting and self-deceiving way of narrating our personal story, since our “selves” are profoundly “de-centred”.

The greatest child psychologist of all time, Jean Piaget argued that all forms of social interaction [which also includes artistic exposure] in the process of learning play an important role in « cognitive growth ». Bernard Lahire pointed out that differences in cultural education [e.g. various forms of artistic exposure] have an impact on the developing child and leads to inequalities early in life, i.e. the child exposed to finer artistic experiences (e.g. literature, music, film, digital experiences, etc) has a better chance of developing a sophisticated mastery of language early in life than the child who is not. This does not mean that all individuals are doomed for failure because of their inadequate early development, as some gifted or dedicated individuals do catch up on their linguistic development later in life.

La fabrique des inégalités

Crédits : Youst – Getty

However, one of the greatest challenges to individual cultural identity remains the overcoming of bigotry. The prejudices of a superior heritage can eat away the self-regard of inferior cultures, languages and heritage. Prejudice is a form of psychological genocide that works across generations and contributes to the despair, drug abuse and violence we see in communities whose cultural identities are under siege. This can be seen through high levels of depression, alcoholism and suicide among Native Americans for example. Hence, an agreement that respects the achievements, strengths and individuality of others would likely ease the tensions with inferior cultures who may have more to gain in assimilating into superior ones. Diplomacy and empathy will also help in the transition to adopting new patterns of living if we [as a group of organisms on planet Earth] take the direction that leads to a synchronised civilisation/empire in the future, looking into space for new planets to ensure our existence and continuity as a space race.

In the face of adversity we have seen another side of the self that creates new realities, transforming life into art. This is what Alfred Adler called the creative self. Throughout history, men and women have put their creative imprint on anything that can be shaped, coloured and re-arranged. Even in the depths of despair, Jews who were imprisoned in German deportation camps [that had been heavily damaged by allied bombings, and cut off from receiving rations due to bombed train tracks while the lack of sanitation led to outbreaks of typhus which killed thousands], still managed to create art on whatever scraps of paper they could get their hands on to give meaning to the incomprehensible horror of their lives at that time.

However, research from Brandeis University that explored the creativity of two groups of girls aged 7 to 11 from the community centre of an apartment complex has found that people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest and enjoyment, the satisfaction, the challenge of the work itself, and not by external pressures (Amabile, 1982).

So, now, you have learnt some of the ways in which intellectuals, academics and psychologists try to follow the Delphic Oracle’s exhortation to “Know Thyself.” We have explored a number of aspects and dimensions of the self, some of which may be known readily – although not accurately – through empirical investigations [e.g. using basic constructs for variables such as traits in questionnaires of quantitative empirical research that remain questionable in terms of construct validity and internal consistency], while others [such as the impact of art on the mind and implicit learning] can only be explained theoretically [since traits too can be modified, affected or changed through an individual’s desires or external influence (e.g. arts) and evolve into different behaviours through cultural evolution as we move further into human history]. We have also seen how we differ in our self-concepts from one individual to another, and how our behaviour differs as a result [e.g. the choices we make as unique organisms/individuals with unique fingerprints and brain chemistry].

Reflections

Finesse

The concluding thoughts are logically the fact that men and women who make the choice and who have the necessary education and intelligence to guide them, build themselves and gain the ability to change cultural and national registers & identity, when they have the capacity for development, the linguistic heritage and the genetics of intellect with a mastery of expression and speech. It is only then that they manage to represent a nation or an empire [or two?].

In the 21st century, as far as ‘The Organic Theory’ [which focuses on the singularity of the individual organism] is concerned, there is no debate between intellectuals in psychology, but simply the discovery of the new mechanical / scientific perspectives that it introduces to explain the psychological and philosophical conception of the individual – as Carl Sagan phrased it, ‘Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.

Construction [training], which ‘can be’ mechanical and structured in its application [e.g. distance learning by text / video / audio], develops indirectly to create and give a socio-cultural dimension to the individual once the desired skills have been fully adopted, mastered, and deployed in life. The term ‘social’ is also far too vague to be important as such… the term ‘social’ can simply be defined as the interaction [of all types] between organisms. So the term ‘social’ is not really valid scientifically and it lacks precision itself since it may refer to a wide range of variables. What we are left with then is only the individual’s choices, language(s) & abilities of personal development [e.g. cultural & psycholinguistic synthesis]: the major factors in the psychological & philosophical explanation of his/her singular conception [to note that each conception is unique to the individual human organism such as his/her fingerprints, skull shape, or body structure: singularity]. Thus: training, meritocracy, order and love [simple… in theory].

However, the concept of self is not an overnight process but a gradual, systematic and intelligent process involving calculated, precise and minute adjustments to one’s inner thoughts, thus, over time [this depends on individual abilities], changing one’s cognitive schemas, personality, identity and linguistic proficiency. It is a process hugely dependent on individual motivation, education, dedication, capability, IQ and socio-psychological proficiency. This is also reminiscent of some of the writings of Diogenes Laërtius, which is likely a stoic interpretation that compares athletic training to psychological and moral training which consequently highlights the idea of a form of asceticism in construction which implies a « Ponos«  [a labour and/or a challenge].

Fundamental to the concept of self, language(s) is the essence of identity because it creates a social bond and it is also fundamental to all forms of social activity and discourse which lead to cultural belonging, and thus, cognitive schemas related to internalised emotions and thoughts that allow one to navigate efficiently within the particular cultural theme and become part of the societies related to the languages. Together, psychology, linguistic culture, personality and intelligence are the core foundations of individual conception – to sum it up beautifully for colleagues in innovation, science and psychology out there, “It is not what is in the book and brain that counts, but the ability to turn it into a believable logical reality and promote psychologically valid human concepts/identities.”

Bourdon-DescartesX2-dpurb-conceptofself

Images: (i) Sébastien Bourdon par Hyacinthe Rigaud (1733) | (ii) René Descartes par Sébastien Bourdon (1671) | (iii) René Descartes par Alessandro Lonati (2016)

 

Ad Augusta Per Angusta

Translation (EN): « Has grandiose results by narrow lanes » / Source: Le Petit Larousse 2018 / Les locutions étrangères gravées dans nos mémoires ont la magie des formules oubliées dont le charme va croissant lorsque l’alchimie des mots nous est plus mystérieuses. Elles ont l’autorité de la chose écrite. / Mot de passe des conjurés au quatrième acte d’Hernani, de Victor Hugo. On n’arrive au triomphe qu’en surmontant maintes épreuves.

 

uomo vitruviano - da vinci (1490) d'purb site

« L’Huomo Vitruviano  » ou « L’Homme de Vitruve » par Léonard de Vinci (1490)

*****

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8 réflexions sur “Essay // Psychology: The Concept of Self

  1. _____________________________________________________

    «Fréquente ceux qui peuvent te rendre meilleur. Accueille ceux que tu peux rendre meilleurs. C’est une démarche réciproque : les hommes apprennent en enseignant». -Sénèque

    Traduction (EN): « See those who can make you better. Welcome those you can make better. It is a reciprocal process: men learn by teaching. » -Seneca

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    Les Chiens du Monde, Les Boeufs, Les Sauvages, La Psychologie, La Théorie et Moi

    « J’ai vu un chien, avec 3 autres chiens des amériques et un indien… trop d’alcool, des égos qui surpassaient leurs personalités aux valeurs d’insect…

    Le chien voulait être guide de France et aussi ambassadeur culturel. Et moi je me demaindais s’il allait emmener ses invités des Amériques rencontrer ses camarades d’écoles, Pierrot, Marcel [le beau] et Didier. Alors, gentiment je les ai tous fait comprendre que s’ils ne voulaient pas se faire écrabouiller trop tôt, ils devraient aller jouer très [très] loin de moi, parce que je n’ai jamais eu de la patience pour les bals de sauvages et surtout pas de temps pour y consacrer!

    D’ailleurs concernant le chien, je ne pouvais pas savoir à quel moment de sa vie d’asticot et d’animal qu’il a pu développer l’idée que ses pulsions et ses fantasmes pouvaient définir le monde et les gens qui y habitent comme vous et moi ; comme Dieu qui marche et qui décore comme il le plait.

    Pour la dernière fois alors je leurs ai dit que je suis un homme pensant comme Descartes, et comme je pense, donc je suis, j’existe, je me construis, je me définis, j’absorbe la connaissance que je choisis et je me transforme et évolue avec… libre comme l’esprit des lumières et l’air, et non pas votre esclave!

    Alors, continuant mon discours adressé à ces imbéciles répugnants et répulsifs, j’ai ressenti le besoin d’ajouter qu’ils devraient parler et s’exprimer comme des hommes nobles, aussitôt qu’ils apprennent à utiliser les outils de la langue et de l’expression. Que les conversations inutiles avec des insinuations stupides et sans impactes tout comme les années à écouter leurs plaintes misérables jamais poursuivis par des actions concrètes, ne nous conduirons qu’a un monde statique, insipide, vulgaire et emmerdant, où les esprits sauvages oublient ou ne savent toujours pas que les individus ont et font des choix dans la vie, et que ces choix les conduisent à des résultats fort différents d’un individu à l’autre.

    Et là, j’ai soudainement pensé que, ça faisait un bail que j’avais été à la réception des pires banalités de sauvages de la part de ces certains cochons de la presse juive, de la crasse politique de gauche, du grand roi des porcs américains qui était aussi devenu l’amant de l’enfant à l’égo démesurée à l’Elysée, et aussi des bœufs frustrés et laids de France, alors je ressenti cette vague qui remonta jusqu’à mon cerveau, qui me poussait à en finir pour de bon avec ces sauvages et de aussi finaliser les termes qui vont avec les choix de l’individu [et oui moi ici], la connaissance et le talent.

    Alors, je leurs ai dit calmement que l’empire Français et son héritage ne leur appartenait pas, et que j’en suis aussi l’héritier et aussi un meilleur ambassadeur que les médiocrités dégradant à la France qu’ils sont, et aussi que leurs consentements ou leurs commentaires de sauvages mal-éduqués n’étaient pas requises pour le droit d’exister et de s’orienter dans la vie.

    Je suis toujours choqué par le fait que ces bouffons ont pu croire et se convaincre qu’un permis d’eux et leur bande d’animaux était requis pour exister en tant que français ou se définir dans une classe linguistique que seul l’intellectuel talentueux peut atteindre. Alors je leurs ai dit avec colère de fermer leurs gueules de chiens et d’arrêter de rêver.

    D’ailleurs les chiens, et les vieux chevaux fous, frustrés et impotents devraient lire et relire mes écrits sur la psychologie, les neurosciences et le langage dans la conception de soi, jusqu’à ce qu’ils n’ont plus de questions stupides et jusqu’à ce qu’ils comprennent et apprennent eux-mêmes à se cultiver, parce qu’il n’y a pas d’argument, il n’y en a plus, mais leurs actions nous démontrent, nous les hommes de la culture, des sciences et de la connaissance, leurs stupidités qui révèlent une haine primitive et biensûr la jalousie des chiens blancs frustrés. » -Danny D’Purb

    Traduction(EN) :

    “I saw a dog, with 3 other dogs from the Americas and an Indian… too much alcohol, egos that surpassed their personalities of insect values…

    The dog wanted to be a guide of France and also a cultural ambassador. And I was asking myself if he was going to take his guests from the Americas to meet his classmates, Pierrot, Marcel [pretty boy] and Didier. So, kindly I made them all understand that if they did not want to get squashed too early, they should go play very [very] far from me, because I have never had patience for the balls of savages and especially no time to devote to them!

    Besides, regarding the dog, I could guess at what point in his maggot and animal life that he could have developped the idea that his impulses and his fantasies could define the world and the people who live in it [like you and I]; Like God who walks and decorates as he pleases.

    For the last time I told them I’m a thinking man like Descartes, and as I think, so I am, I exist, I build myself, I define myself, I absorb the knowledge that I choose and I transform and evolve with it… I am free like the spirit of the enlightenment and air, and not your slave!

    So, continuing my speech to these disgusting and repellent imbeciles, I felt the need to add that they should speak and express themselves as noble men, as soon as they learn to use the tools of language and expression. That useless conversations with stupid insinuations and without impact just as the years of listening to their miserable complaints never pursued by concrete actions, will only lead us to a static, insipid, vulgar and boring world; where savage minds forget or still do not know that individuals have and make choices in life, and that these choices lead them to very different results from one individual to another.

    And then I suddenly thought that, it’s been a while since I have been at the receiving end of the worst banalities of savages from some pigs of the Jewish press, the political grime of the left, the great king of American pigs who had also become the lover of The child with the disproportionate ego at the Elysée, and also of the frustrated and ugly oxen of France, then I felt this wave that went up to my brain, which pushed me to end this for good with these savages and also finalise the terms that go with the choices of the individual [And yes me here], knowledge and talent.

    So I told them calmly that the French Empire and its inheritance did not belong to them, and that I am also the heir and also a better ambassador than the degrading mediocrities that they are to France, and also that the consents or comments of ill-educated savages were not required for the right to exist and to orient ourselves in life.

    I am still shocked by the fact that these buffoons were able to believe and convince themselves that a permit from them and their flock of animals was required to exist as a Frenchman or to be defined in a linguistic class that only the talented intellectual can achieve. So I told them angrily to shut their dog-mouths and stop dreaming.

    Besides dogs and frustrated and impotent crazy old horses should read and re-read my writings on psychology, neuroscience and language on self-conception until they no longer have stupid questions, and until they understand and learn to cultivate themselves, because there is no argument, there are no more, but their actions only show us, men of culture, science and knowledge, their stupidity which reveals a primitive hatred and of course the Jealousy of frustrated white dogs.” –Danny J. D’Purb

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    « Et pour la dernière fois, Un théoricien de la psychologie d’élite qui s’occupe du comportement et de la sculpture cérébral au niveau granulaire n’écoutera pas les absurdités d’un esprit simple, même si les partenaires de cet esprit simple peuvent payer tous les annonceurs du monde pour publier leurs absurdités sur du papier toilette, des boîtes de céréales, la presse animale bon marché aux arrêts de bus. Nous sommes au-dessus de cela ! Chaque fois qu’un éditeur drogué d’un coin obscur d’Internet crée un titre avec une image qu’il considère dégradante, cela n’a aucun effet sur nous, aucun, zéro ; avec ses doigts moites et collants claquant sur un clavier crasseux au 10e étage d’un vieil immeuble dans un coin bondé d’une jungle urbaine polluée ? Nous sommes au-dessus de ces petites campagnes de diffamation organisées par les grands enfants politiques et les médias juifs qui leur sont si chers. Il ne peut être antisémite de simplement affirmer que la majorité de la presse appartient à des Juifs et est donc contrôlée par eux. Mon message à ces gens est : « Essayez de grandir ! Aucune personne intelligente au monde n’est définie par vos pulsions…. vous êtes pire que des enfants. Les gens se définissent eux-mêmes…. simple….. vos opinions, ce ne sont que de simples opinions aussi simples que votre esprit ! » -Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction (EN): « And for the last time, An elite psychology theorist who deals with brain behaviour and sculpture at the granular level will not listen to the absurdities of a simple mind, even if the partners of this simple mind can pay all the advertisers in the world to publish their nonsense on toilet paper, cereal boxes, the cheap animal press to bus stops. We are above that! Every time a drugged out publisher of an obscure corner of the Internet creates a title with an image he considers degrading, it has no effect on us, none, zero; with his sweaty, sticky fingers slamming on a dirty keyboard on the 10th floor of an old building in a crowded corner of a polluted urban jungle? we are above these little defamation campaigns organized by childish politicians and the Jewish media they love so much. It cannot be anti-semitic to simply state that the majority of the press in owned, and hence controlled by Jews. My message to these people is: « Try to grow up! Not a single intelligent person in the world is defined by your impulses… you are worse than children. People define themselves… simple….. your opinions, they’re just simple opinions as simple as your mind! » -Danny J. D’Purb

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    « Aux personnes frustrées et intellectuellement désespérant, qui ne savent toujours pas pourquoi ils se lèvent chaque matin et quel héritage ils ont l’intention de quitter lorsqu’ils meurent:

    « Vous devez apprendre l’art de vous taire quand il n’y a rien à dire, surtout devant un être supérieur intellectuellement. Il faut comprendre que les individus ne sont pas et n’ont jamais été égaux en matière de compétences. Pensez à retourner à l’école et quand vous le faites, apprenez l’art de poser les bonnes questions. Parce que la façon dont vous voyez les choses n’est pas la façon dont le monde fonctionne, en d’autres termes, ce que vous voyez n’est pas ce que vous obtenez. » – Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction(EN): « To the frustrated and intellectually hopeless people who still do not know why they wake up every morning and what legacy they intend to leave when they die:

    « You have to learn the art of silence when there is nothing to say, especially in front of individuals who are superior intellectually. It must be understood that individuals are not and have never been equal in terms of skills. Go back to school and when you do, learn the art of asking the right questions. Because the way you see things is not the way the world works, in other words, what you see is not what you get. » -Danny J. D’Purb

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    Individual differences in the learning potential of human beings

    Abstract:

    To the best of our knowledge, the genetic foundations that guide human brain development have not changed fundamentally during the past 50,000 years. However, because of their cognitive potential, humans have changed the world tremendously in the past centuries. They have invented technical devices, institutions that regulate cooperation and competition, and symbol systems, such as script and mathematics, that serve as reasoning tools. The exceptional learning ability of humans allows newborns to adapt to the world they are born into; however, there are tremendous individual differences in learning ability among humans that become obvious in school at the latest. Cognitive psychology has developed models of memory and information processing that attempt to explain how humans learn (general perspective), while the variation among individuals (differential perspective) has been the focus of psychometric intelligence research. Although both lines of research have been proceeding independently, they increasingly converge, as both investigate the concepts of working memory and knowledge construction. This review begins with presenting state-of-the-art research on human information processing and its potential in academic learning. Then, a brief overview of the history of psychometric intelligence research is combined with presenting recent work on the role of intelligence in modern societies and on the nature-nurture debate. Finally, promising approaches to integrating the general and differential perspective will be discussed in the conclusion of this review.

    Stern, E. (2017). Individual differences in the learning potential of human beings. npj Science of Learning, 2(1).

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    Adulte surdoué : comment le reconnaître ? – Monique de Kermadec

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    Monique de Kermadec : L’adulte surdoué : bien vivre sa douance (2012)

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    « La vraie question n’est pas de savoir si les machines pensent, mais si les hommes le font … » -B.F. Skinner

    Traduction (EN): « The real question is not whether machines think, but whether men do… » -B.F. Skinner

    “Ce sont ceux qui savent peu, et pas ceux qui en savent beaucoup, qui affirment si positivement que tel ou tel problème ne sera jamais résolu par la science.” -Charles Darwin

    Traduction(EN): “It is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” -Charles Darwin


    [I]

    « Beaucoup de choses peuvent être révélées sur une personne par qui et à quoi elles se comparent. » -Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction(EN): « Much can be revealed about a person by who & what they compare themselves to. » -Danny J. D’Purb

    [II]

    «Oui … les hommes et les femmes qui en font le choix et qui ont l’éducation et l’intelligence nécessaires pour les guider, se construisent et modifient leurs registres d’identification culturelle / nationale lorsqu’ils ont la capacité de développement, l’héritage linguistique et les gènes de l’intellect avec une maîtrise de l’expression et de la parole. Ce n’est qu’alors qu’ils parviennent à représenter une nation ou un empire [ou deux?]. En 2018, en ce qui concerne ‘La Théorie Organique’ [qui met l’accent sur la singularité de l’organisme individuel], il n’y a pas de débat entre intellectuels en psychologie, mais simplement la découverte des nouvelles perspectives mécaniques / scientifiques qu’elle introduit pour expliquer la conception psychologique et philosophique de l’individu – comme l’a dit Carl Sagan: «La science est une façon de penser beaucoup plus qu’un corpus de connaissances. Donc, la construction [formation], qui «peut être» mécanique et structuré dans son application [p. Ex. apprentissage à distance par texte / vidéo / audio], se développe indirectement pour créer et donner une dimension socioculturelle à l’individu une fois que les compétences souhaitées ont été pleinement adoptées, maîtrisées et déployées dans la vie. Le terme «social» est également beaucoup trop vague pour être important en tant que tel… le terme «social» peut simplement être défini comme des interactions [de tous types] entre des organismes. Ainsi, le terme «social» n’est pas vraiment valable scientifiquement et manque de précision, car il peut faire référence à un large éventail de variables. Il ne nous reste alors que les choix, les langues et les capacités de développement personnel de l’individu [par exemple. de synthèse culturelle et psycholinguistique]: les principaux facteurs observables dans l’explication psychologique et philosophique de sa conception singulière [à noter que chaque conception est unique pour l’organisme humain individuel tel que ses empreintes digitales, la forme de son crâne ou la structure de son corps: singularité]. Ainsi: formation, méritocratie, ordre et amour! Simple… en théorie!» – Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction (EN): « Yes… men and women who make the choice and who have the necessary education and intelligence to guide them, build themselves and change cultural / national identification registers when they have the capacity for development, the linguistic heritage and the genetics of intellect with a mastery of expression and speech. It is only then that they manage to represent a nation or an empire [or two?]. In 2018, as far as ‘The Organic Theory’ [which focuses on the singularity of the individual organism] is concerned, there is no debate between intellectuals in psychology, but simply the discovery of the new mechanical / scientific perspectives that it introduces to explain the psychological and philosophical conception of the individual – as Carl Sagan phrased it, ‘Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge’. Construction [training], which ‘can be’ mechanical and structured in its application [e.g. distance learning by text / video / audio], develops indirectly to create and give a socio-cultural dimension to the individual once the desired skills have been fully adopted, mastered, and deployed in life. The term ‘social’ is also far too vague to be important as such… the term ‘social’ can simply be defined as the interaction [of all types] between organisms. So the term ‘social’ is not really valid scientifically and it lacks precision itself since it may refer to a wide range of variables. What we are left with then is only the individual’s choices, language(s) & abilities of personal development [e.g. cultural & psycholinguistic synthesis]: the major observable factors in the psychological & philosophical explanation of his/her singular conception [to note that each conception is unique to the individual human organism such as his/her fingerprints, skull shape, or body structure: singularity]. Thus: training, meritocracy, order and love! Simple… in theory! » -Danny J. D’Purb

    [III]

    «Les membres de certaines nations intelligentes qui ont adopté la tradition des lumières s’aiment, se poussent et s’encouragent mutuellement pour aller de l’avant. Ils se voient comme des frères et sœurs et membres d’une communauté unie avec les mêmes chances de réussir dans la vie. Mais plus important encore, ils respectent réellement ceux qu’ils savent qu’ils ne pourront jamais égaler en termes de capacités et de compétences; ils les appellent même véritablement et affectueusement «master», ou «maître», comme un geste d’honnêteté et d’encouragement. Le fait est que la plupart des gens veulent être reconnus, mais ne semblent jamais vouloir reconnaître les autres. Eh bien, si nous voulons de la croissance et un changement de notre statut dans la société par les fruits et la sueur de notre travail, nous devons d’abord reconnaître le fait que le statut existe et que les individus ne sont pas égaux en fonction de leurs compétences acquises,capacités individuelles, éducation, présentation, développement, appartenance culturelle, langage et vocabulaire. N’oubliez jamais le terme ‘singularité’!” -Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction(EN):”Members of some enlightened & intelligent nations actually love, push and encourage each other to move forward. They see each other as brothers/sisters & a member of a united community with the same chances of succeeding in life. But more importantly, they actually respect those they know they will never be able to match in terms of abilities & skills; they even genuinely & lovingly call them “master”, or “maître”, as a gesture of honesty and encouragement. The point is, most people want to be recognised, but never seem to be willing to recognise others. Well, if we want growth along with a change to our status in society through the fruits and sweat of our hard work, then we should first acknowledge the fact that ‘status’ actually exists, and individuals are not equal in regards to their acquired skills, individual abilities, education, presentation, development, cultural belonging, language and vocabulary. Never forget the term singularity!” -Danny J. D’Purb

    [IV]

    “Le language, la seule capacité sophistiquée qui sépare les hommes des animaux. Sans la philosophie et la profondeur linguistique, vous restez un animal … peut-être bien formé, ou techniquement doué avec un bon salaire, mais un animal néanmoins. Le discours ne devrait pas être une horreur pour les tympans occidentaux, c’est ce qu’on appelle un usage grammaticalement incorrect du langage. Pour que le langage soit considéré comme correct grammaticalement, il devrait être parlé de la façon dont il était censé être parlé. Et, John B. Thompson est un sociolinguiste de Cambridge, et Pierre Bourdieu un sociolinguiste de Paris … mais vous, qui et quoi exactement êtes-vous? Diplomatie? J’apprécie … mais comment vont parler vos légions à la fin? Avec des signes et des dessins? D’ailleurs, en tant qu’homme de lettres et de mots, je pensais qu’ils auraient déjà compris que la communication [l’héritage vocale et écrite] est vitale pour les vraies relations humaines pour moi [le psychologue] et aussi dans la création d’un environnement harmonieux pour un groupe harmonieux.” -Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction (EN): “Language, the only sophisticated ability that separates men from animals. Without philosophy & linguistic depth, you remain an animal… maybe well trained, or technically gifted with a good salary, but an animal nonetheless. Speech should not be a horror to Western eardrums, this is what is called as grammatically incorrect usage of language. For language to be considered correct grammatically, it should be spoken in the way it was meant to be spoken. And, John B. Thompson is a sociolinguist from Cambridge, and Pierre Bourdieu a sociolinguist from Paris… but you, who & what exactly are you? Diplomacy? I appreciate … but how will your legions talk in the end? With signs and drawings? Besides, as a man of letters and words, I thought that they would already have understood that communication [vocal & written heritage] is vital in regards to true human relations for me [the psychologist] but also in the creation of a harmonious environment for a harmonious group.” -Danny J. D’Purb

    [V]

    “D’une composition organique supérieure… un bijou de l’évolution par ses formations, son individualité et ses capacités intellectuels.” -Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction(EN): “Of a superior organic composition… a jewel of evolution through the training, individuality and intellectual abilities.” -Danny J. D’Purb

    [VI]

    «Avez-vous généralisé en pensant que si vos conditions vous ont placé au bas de l’échelle, cela devrait aussi placer tous les autres comme vous dans la même catégorie? Eh bien, ce n’est pas une façon valide de penser en science, en philosophie ou en psychologie. Rappelez-vous que ce sont vos insécurités, et ils n’affectent que vous, pas le monde entier! » -Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction(EN): « Have you generalised, thinking that if your conditions have placed you at the bottom of the ladder, it should also place all others like you in the same category? Well, it’s not a valid way of thinking in science, philosophy or psychology. Remember that these are your insecurities, and they only affect you, not the whole world! -Danny J. D’Purb

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    Neural correlates of creative insight: Amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation of resting-state brain activity predicts creative insight

    Abstract:

    Creative insight has attracted much attention across cultures. Although previous studies have explored the neural correlates of creative insight by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), little is known about intrinsic resting-state brain activity associated with creative insight. In the present study, we used amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation (ALFF) as an index in resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI) to identify brain regions involved in individual differences in creative insight, which was measured by the response time of creative Chinese character chunk decomposition. Our results showed that ALFF in the superior frontal gyrus (SFG) positively predicted creative insight, while ALFF in the middle cingulate cortex/insula cortex (MCC/IC), superior temporal gyrus/angular gyrus (STG/AG), anterior cingulate cortex/caudate nucleus (ACC/CN), and culmen/declive (CU/DC) negatively predicted creative insight. Moreover, these findings indicate that spontaneous brain activity in multiple regions related to breaking mental sets, solutions exploring, evaluation of novel solutions, forming task-related associations, and emotion experience contributes to creative insight. In conclusion, the present study provides new evidence to further understand the cognitive processing and neural correlates of creative insight.

    Lin, J., Cui, X., Dai, X., Chen, Y. and Mo, L. (2019). Correction: Neural correlates of creative insight: Amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation of resting-state brain activity predicts creative insight. PLOS ONE, 14(2), p.e0213212.

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    [VII]

    «J’étudie le cerveau, la psychologie, la littérature, l’art, le développement, la singularité, le langage et la conception … vous croyez en quoi?» -Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction(EN): « I study brains, psychology, literature, art, development, singularity, language & conception… you believe in what? » -Danny J. D’Purb

    [VIII]

    « La vraie question n’est pas de savoir si les machines pensent mais si les hommes le font. Le mystère qui entoure une machine à penser entoure déjà un homme pensant. » -B.F. Skinner

    Traduction(EN): « The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do. The mystery which surrounds a thinking machine already surrounds a thinking man.” -B.F. Skinner

    [IX]

    «De nos jours, les gens connaissent le prix de tout et la valeur de rien.» ― Oscar Wilde

    Traduction(EN): “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” ― Oscar Wilde

    [X]

    « Argumenter avec une personne qui a renoncé à l’usage de la raison, c’est comme administrer des médicaments a un mort. » -Thomas Paine

    Traduction(EN): « To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead. » -Thomas Paine

    [XI]

    “Est-ce que vous ne pouvez pas comprendre? Ou vous ne voulez pas comprendre? C’est une question que j’ai toujours trouvée intéressante en face de la stupidité, la frustration et le mal.” -Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction(EN): “Can not you understand? Or do you not want to understand? It’s a question I’ve always found interesting in the face of stupidity, frustration and evil. “-Danny J. D’Purb

    [XII]

    « Savoir ou écouter ceux qui savent. » – Baltasar Gracian

    Traduction(EN): « Know or listen to those who know. » – Baltasar Gracian

    [XIII]

    “Dans les questions de science, l’autorité de mille ne vaut pas l’humble raisonnement d’un seul individu.” -Galilée

    Traduction(EN): “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.” -Galileo Galilei”

  2. « La vérité et le mensonge sont des attributs de la parole, pas des choses, et là où la parole n’est pas, il n’y a ni vérité ni mensonge ». – Thomas Hobbes

    Traduction(EN): »True and False are attributes of speech, not of things. And where speech is not, there is neither Truth nor Falsehood. » – Thomas Hobbes

    « Sur la question du patrimoine comme de l’histoire, je sens que beaucoup d’idiots comprennent toujours mal les termes. L’histoire est un parcours écrit des événements de l’héritage humain et de son évolution et doit être continuellement travaillé et écrit dans le présent, pas simplement une reconstitution théâtrale du passé pour rester son prisonnier, mais plutôt suivre le cours des multiples facettes du processus d’évolution. En ce qui concerne le patrimoine, c’est le système cognitif ancré par l’environnement [avec des influences neuro-génétiques possibles] chez l’individu sous forme de langage, de philosophie, de parole, d’éducation, d’art et d’expression. Je trouve cela étrange en 2018 quand des imbéciles ignorants et déconnectés semblent toujours incertains par l’innovation de la théorie organique dans la psycholinguistique, la science psychologique, la culture [schémas comportementaux géo-environnementaux] et la philosophie liée à l’organisme individuel lorsque le patrimoine en question est complètement synchronisé avec les piliers fondateurs de l’environnement lui-même; dans mon cas, un héritage franco-britannique originaire de l’europe de l’ouest. » -Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction(EN): « On the question of heritage like history, I feel that many idiots still misunderstand the terms. History is a written parcours of events in human legacy and its evolution and is to be continuously worked on and written in the present, not simply a theatrical recreation of the past to remain its prisoner, but rather to follow the course of the multi-faceted process of evolution.. As for heritage, it is the cognitive system embedded environmentally [with possible neuro-genetic influences] in the individual in the form of language, philosophy, speech, education, arts and expression. I find it strange in 2018 when some ignorant unexposed imbeciles still seem baffled by the Organic’s theory’s innovation in psycho-linguistics, psychological science, culture [geo-environmental behavioural patterns] and philosophy related to the individual organism when the heritage in question is completely synchronised with the founding pillars of the environment itself; in my case a Franco-British heritage of Western European origin.  » -Danny J. D’Purb

    Philosophie, Science et Société: https://philosciences.com/Pss/

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    « Tout homme peut, s’il le désire, devenir le sculpteur de son propre cerveau ». -Santiago Ramón y Cajal

    Traduction (EN): « Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain. » ― Santiago Ramón y Cajal

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    « Je crois aux preuves. Je crois en l’observation, la mesure et le raisonnement, confirmés par des observateurs indépendants. Je croirai n’importe quoi, aussi sauvage et ridicule soit-il, s’il y a des preuves à l’appui. Mais plus quelque chose est sauvage et ridicule, plus les preuves devront être fermes et solides ». -Isaac Asimov

    Traduction (EN): « I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be. » -Isaac Asimov

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    Developmental Psychology: The 3 Major Theories of Childhood Development

    In 1984, Nicholas Humphrey described us as “nature’s psychologists’” or homo psychologicus. What he meant was that as intelligent social beings, we tend to use our knowledge of our own thoughts and feelings – “introspection” – as a guide for understanding how others are likely to think, feel and hence, behave. He also argued that we are conscious [i.e. we have self-awareness] precisely because such an attribute is useful in the process of understanding others and having a successful social existence – consciousness is a biological adaptation that enables us to perform introspective psychology. Today, we are confident in the knowledge that the process of understanding others’ thoughts, feelings and behaviour is an ability that develops through childhood and most likely throughout our lives; and according to the greatest child psychologist of all time, Jean Piaget, a crucial phase of this process occurs in middle childhood.

    Developmental psychology can be characterised as the field that attempts to understand and explain the changes that happen over time in the thought, behaviour, reasoning and functioning of a person due to biological, individual and environmental influences. Developmental psychologists study children’s development, and the development of human behaviour across the organism’s lifetime from a variety of different perspectives. Hence, if we are studying different areas of development, different theoretical perspectives will be fundamental and may influence the ways psychologists and scholars think about and study development.

    Through the systematic collection of knowledge and experiments, we can develop a greater understanding and awareness of ourselves than would otherwise be possible…

    Full Article: https://dpurb.com/2018/07/15/developmental-psychology-the-3-major-theories-of-development/

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    Albert Einstein on Fairy Tales & Education

    Extract:

    “How far superior an education that stresses independent action and personal responsibility is to one that relies on drill, external authority and ambition.”

    Albert Einstein, celebrated as “the quintessential modern genius,” is credited with many things — from era-defining scientific discoveries to great wisdom on everything from creativity to kindness to war to the secret to learning anything. Among them is also a sentiment of admirable insight yet questionable attribution: In Christopher Frayling’s 2005 book Mad, Bad and Dangerous?: The Scientist and the Cinema, Einstein is credited as having said:
    “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

    Article: http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/03/14/einstein-fairy-tales/

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    Brain Networks of Explicit and Implicit Learning

    Abstract:

    Are explicit versus implicit learning mechanisms reflected in the brain as distinct neural structures, as previous research indicates, or are they distinguished by brain networks that involve overlapping systems with differential connectivity? In this functional MRI study we examined the neural correlates of explicit and implicit learning of artificial grammar sequences. Using effective connectivity analyses we found that brain networks of different connectivity underlie the two types of learning: while both processes involve activation in a set of cortical and subcortical structures, explicit learners engage a network that uses the insula as a key mediator whereas implicit learners evoke a direct frontal-striatal network. Individual differences in working memory also differentially impact the two types of sequence learning.

    Yang, J. and Li, P. (2012). Brain Networks of Explicit and Implicit Learning. PLoS ONE, 7(8), p.e42993.

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    Psychologists investigate whether fictional characters can help our self development

    Extract:

    « Researchers led by Randi Shedlosky-Shoemaker may have some answers. Their paper, “Self-Expansion through Fictional Characters” rests on the concept of parasocial relationships—a relatively new construct in the social sciences that is becoming increasingly relevant in our media-saturated age.

    While there is a clear, bright line between real people and imaginary people (I exist, Hermione Granger does not), there is no such line dividing real and imaginary relationships. (As far as you are concerned, dear reader, both Ms. Granger and I are studious women who exist only on the page or screen.)

    Even in our most intimate personal relationships, we are often interacting with a mental model of our partner or parent, imagining their current state of mind, or how they would respond to whatever situation we find ourselves in.

    Although operationalised in this article as relationships with fictional characters, other researchers have included connections with real people whom we don’t personally know (artists, politicians, athletes) and historical figures in the spectrum of parasocial relationships… »

    Link: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15298868.2014.882269

    Tintin : L’Île Noire (1938) & / Infoi: http://fr.tintin.com/albums/show/id/7/page/0/0/l-ile-noire

    Tintin : L’Affaire Tournesol (1936) / Info: http://fr.tintin.com/albums/show/id/18/page/0/0/l-affaire-tournesol

    « A L’Ombre de Tintin (2016) » / Ce documentaire passionnant révèle des archives exceptionnelles des Studio Hergé et de Moulinsart SA

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    On neural correlates of individual differences in novel grammar learning: An fMRI study

    Abstract:

    We examine the role of language analytical ability, one of the components of language aptitude – a specific ability for learning languages – during acquisition of a novel grammar. We investigated whether the neural basis of Artificial Grammar Learning (AGL) differs between populations of highly and moderately skilled learners. Participants performed an AGL task during an fMRI scan and data from task’s test phases were analysed. Highly skilled learners performed better than moderately skilled ones and engaged during the task more neural resources in the right hemisphere, i.e. in the right angular/supramarginal gyrus and superior frontal and middle frontal gyrus and in the posterior cingulate gyrus. Additional analyses investigating the temporal dynamics of brain activity during learning revealed lateralisation differences in the modulation of activity in the parietal and temporal cortex. In particular, the left angular gyrus BOLD activity was coupled with high performance on the AGL task and with a steep learning curve.

    Kepinska, O., de Rover, M., Caspers, J. and Schiller, N. (2017). On neural correlates of individual differences in novel grammar learning: An fMRI study. Neuropsychologia, 98, pp.156-168.

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    Association Parole Bégaiement France

    L’APB a été créée en 1992 par Anne-Marie Simon, orthophoniste très impliquée dans la cause du bégaiement, avec le Dr François Le Huche comme premier président. C’est une association internationale qui rassemble aujourd’hui 800 membres, des personnes qui bégaient et des thérapeutes. Riche du vécu et de la compétence des uns et des autres, elle s’attache à développer et soutenir des projets matériels, intellectuels ou scientifiques ayant pour objet l’aide aux personnes bègues et la recherche sur le bégaiement.

    Soucieuse de sa parité, – personnes concernées par le bégaiement et professionnels -, elle a à coeur d’informer sur le bégaiement, la nature et les implications du trouble, les thérapies, de mener des actions d’information auprès des parents de jeunes enfants, des professions de la santé et de l’éducation, de porter assistance aux personnes bègues et à leur entourage, de sensibiliser les pouvoirs publics, etc.

    Le bégaiement

    Le bégaiement est un trouble du flux ou rythme de la parole, caractérisé par des répétitions de mots, de syllabes et de sons (phonèmes), par des prolongations de sons, des arrêts et des blocages qui donnent l’impression d’un effort. Le comportement d’effort peut aussi se manifester par des tensions respiratoires, des mouvements involontaires du visage ou du corps, etc. Le bégaiement peut aussi paradoxalement passer inaperçu, la personne qui bégaie parvient à le dissimuler en utilisant différentes stratégies – on parle alors de bégaiement masqué.

    Le bégaiement est un trouble qui apparaît dans la communication. On ne bégaie généralement pas lorsqu’on parle seul, lorsqu’on s’adresse à un animal ou à un très jeune enfant, ni quand on chante ou joue du théâtre. Un certain nombre d’acteurs bégaient dans la vie mais pas sur scène.

    On insiste actuellement sur l’incidence probable d’une composante génétique et sur l’existence d’un terrain familial. Statistiquement, un parent bègue a trois fois plus de risque d’avoir un enfant qui bégaie. Si ce terrain prédisposant amène à être particulièrement vigilant, il n’est en rien une condition suffisante pour qu’apparaisse un bégaiement. De même, la recherche scientifique actuelle se concentre sur une base neurologique invoquant l’idée d’une fragilité constitutionnelle, fragilité sur laquelle se greffent d’autres facteurs. Ceux-ci peuvent concerner l’enfant (retard de parole, tempérament…) ou son environnement (événements familiaux, réactions de son entourage à sa difficulté.) Le bégaiement est un trouble où les aspects neurologiques et psychologiques interagissent constamment.

    Quelques données

    – On dit qu’environ 1% de la population est bègue, soit plus de 600000 personnes bègues en France.

    – Le bégaiement touche 3 à 4 fois plus les sujets masculins.

    – Trouble affectant la parole, le bégaiement est plus encore un trouble dans la communication. Ses retentissements sur la vie sociale en font un véritable handicap, souvent encore mal compris. Il peut provoquer le rire, la gêne, le rejet, à l’origine d’une grande souffrance.

    – Ce symptôme peut s’intégrer dans un tableau clinique plus large comprenant d’autres symptômes tels que le bredouillement, un déficit attentionnel, des problèmes de coordination motrice, etc.

    – Il existe également des bégaiements acquis d’origine neurologique suite à une lésion cérébrale touchant aussi bien l’hémisphère droit que gauche. Il survient généralement dans un contexte pathologique plus vaste qui généralement le met en second plan…

    https://www.begaiement.org/

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    Brain Imaging of Language Plasticity in Adopted Adults: Can a Second Language Replace the First?

    Abstract:

    Do the neural circuits that subserve language acquisition lose plasticity as they become tuned to the maternal language? We tested adult subjects born in Korea and adopted by French families in childhood; they have become fluent in their second language and report no conscious recollection of their native language. In behavioral tests assessing their memory for Korean, we found that they do not perform better than a control group of native French subjects who have never been exposed to Korean. We also used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor cortical activations while the Korean adoptees and native French listened to sentences spoken in Korean, French and other, unknown, foreign languages. The adopted subjects did not show any specific activations to Korean stimuli relative to unknown languages. The areas activated more by French stimuli than by foreign stimuli were similar in the Korean adoptees and in the French native subjects, but with relatively larger extents of activation in the latter group. We discuss these data in light of the critical period hypothesis for language acquisition.

    Pallier, C. (2003). Brain Imaging of Language Plasticity in Adopted Adults: Can a Second Language Replace the First?. Cerebral Cortex, 13(2), pp.155-161.

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    Structural Correlates of Semantic and Phonemic Fluency Ability in First and Second Languages

    Abstract:

    Category and letter fluency tasks are commonly used clinically to investigate the semantic and phonological processes central to speech production, but the neural correlates of these processes are difficult to establish with functional neuroimaging because of the relatively unconstrained nature of the tasks. This study investigated whether differential performance on semantic (category) and phonemic (letter) fluency in neurologically normal participants was reflected in regional gray matter density. The participants were 59 highly proficient speakers of 2 languages. Our findings corroborate the importance of the left inferior temporal cortex in semantic relative to phonemic fluency and show this effect to be the same in a first language (L1) and second language (L2). Additionally, we show that the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA) and head of caudate bilaterally are associated with phonemic more than semantic fluency, and this effect is stronger for L2 than L1 in the caudate nuclei. To further validate these structural results, we reanalyzed previously reported functional data and found that pre-SMA and left caudate activation was higher for phonemic than semantic fluency. On the basis of our findings, we also predict that lesions to the pre-SMA and caudate nuclei may have a greater impact on phonemic than semantic fluency, particularly in L2 speakers.

    Grogan, A., Green, D., Ali, N., Crinion, J. and Price, C. (2009). Structural Correlates of Semantic and Phonemic Fluency Ability in First and Second Languages. Cerebral Cortex, 19(11), pp.2690-2698.

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    Does learning a second language lead to a new identity?

    Extract:

    One group of successful language learners includes those who write in a second language. For example, Joseph Conrad, born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, wrote Heart of Darkness in English, a language he spoke with a very strong accent. He was of Polish origin and considered himself to be of Polish origin his entire life. Despite his heavy accent, he is regarded by many as one of the greatest English writers. Interestingly, English was his third language. Before moving to England, he lived in France and was known to have a very good accent in his second language. Hence, success came to Conrad in a language he spoke less than perfectly.

    Article: https://blog.oup.com/2014/06/does-learning-a-second-language-lead-to-a-new-identity/

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    Changes in Thickness & Surface Area of the HumanCortex & Their Relationship with Intelligence

    Changes in cortical thickness over time have been related to intelligence, but whether changes in cortical surface area are related to general cognitive functioning is unknown. We therefore examined the relationship between intelligence quotient (IQ) and changes in cortical thickness and surface over time in 504 healthy subjects. At 10 years of age, more intelligent children have a slightly thinner cortex than children with a lower IQ. This relationship becomes more pronounced with increasing age: with higher IQ, a faster thinning of the cortex is found over time. In the more intelligent young adults, this relationship reverses so that by the age of 42 a thicker cortex is associated with higher intelligence. In contrast, cortical surface is larger in more intelligent children at the age of 10. The cortical surface is still expanding, reaching its maximum area during adolescence. With higher IQ, cortical expansion is completed at a younger age; and once completed, surface area decreases at a higher rate. These findings suggest that intelligence may be more related to the magnitude and timing of changes in brain structure during development than to brain structure per se, and that the cortex is never completed but shows continuing intelligence-dependent development.

    Schnack, H., van Haren, N., Brouwer, R., Evans, A., Durston, S., Boomsma, D., Kahn, R. and Hulshoff Pol, H. (2014). Changes in Thickness and Surface Area of the Human Cortex and Their Relationship with Intelligence. Cerebral Cortex, 25(6), pp.1608-1617.

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    Higher IQ in adolescence is related to a younger subjective age in later life: Findings from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study

    Higher IQ in adolescence was associated with a younger subjective age in late life. Bootstrap analysis further showed that this association was mediated by higher openness. The present study suggests that how old or young individuals feel is partly influenced by lifespan developmental processes that may begin with early life cognitive ability.

    Stephan, Y., Sutin, A., Kornadt, A., Caudroit, J. and Terracciano, A. (2018). Higher IQ in adolescence is related to a younger subjective age in later life: Findings from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. Intelligence, 69, pp.195-199.

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    fMRI of Simultaneous Interpretation Reveals the Neural Basis of Extreme Language Control

    We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural basis of extreme multilingual language control in a group of 50 multilingual participants. Comparing brain responses arising during simultaneous interpretation (SI) with those arising during simultaneous repetition revealed activation of regions known to be involved in speech perception and production, alongside a network incorporating the caudate nucleus that is known to be implicated in domain-general cognitive control.

    The similarity between the networks underlying bilingual language control and general executive control supports the notion that the frequently reported bilingual advantage on executive tasks stems from the day-to-day demands of language control in the multilingual brain.

    We examined neural correlates of the management of simultaneity by correlating brain activity during interpretation with the duration of simultaneous speaking and hearing. This analysis showed significant modulation of the putamen by the duration of simultaneity.

    Our findings suggest that, during SI, the caudate nucleus is implicated in the overarching selection and control of the lexico-semantic system, while the putamen is implicated in ongoing control of language output.
    These findings provide the first clear dissociation of specific dorsal striatum structures in polyglot language control, roles that are consistent with previously described involvement of these regions in nonlinguistic executive control.

    Bilingualism confers a variety of cognitive advantages (Abutalebi et al. 2009; Diamond 2010), including improved nonlinguistic executive skills (Bialystok et al. 2012), and delaying the appearance of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (Schweizer et al. 2012).

    It has been suggested that the observed benefits of bilingualism stem from enhanced inhibitory control, required for continual selection between multiple languages in bilinguals (Green 1998). More recently, it has been proposed that the bilingual advantage arises from increased use of a more general “conflict monitoring” system in bilinguals compared with monolinguals (Costa et al. 2009; Hilchey and Klein 2011; Abutalebi et al. 2012b). Consistent with these suggestions, brain-imaging evidence indicates that bilingual language control depends upon a cortico-subcortical network incorporating the dorsal striatum, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the supplementary motor area (SMA) (Abutalebi and Green 2008; Kroll et al. 2008; Hervais-Adelman et al. 2011; Abutalebi et al. 2012a).

    These brain regions are known to participate in nonlinguistic executive-control processes such as response selection (Grahn et al. 2008), response inhibition (Aron 2008), and conflict monitoring (Botvinick et al. 2004;Abutalebi et al. 2012b).

    Our results provide new insights into the profound overlap between the neural bases of extreme language control and those of domain-general control of cognition and action. Indeed, recent evidence suggests that experienced simultaneous interpreters display enhanced cognitive flexibility compared even with bilingual individuals (Yudes et al. 2011;Stavrakaki et al. 2012).

    The recruitment of similar fronto-subcortical-cerebellar circuits during language and executive control provides powerful evidence that the continuous demands of language control in the multilingual brain, and associated experience-dependent plasticity, could underlie the nonlinguistic, executive advantages that have been observed in bilingual individuals, advantages that may also be protective in defying challenges posed by aging and even disease.

    Hervais-Adelman, A., Moser-Mercer, B., Michel, C. and Golestani, N. (2014). fMRI of Simultaneous Interpretation Reveals the Neural Basis of Extreme Language Control. Cereb. Cortex, 25(12), pp.4727-4739.

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    Watching the Brain during Meaning Acquisition

    Abstract:

    Acquiring the meaning of a new word in a foreign language can be achieved either by rote memorizing or, similar to meaning acquisition during infancy, by extracting it from context. Little is known about the brain mechanisms involved in word learning. Here we demonstrate, using event-related brain potentials, the rapid development of a brain signature related to lexical and semantic processing during contextual word learning. Healthy volunteers engaged in a simple word-learning task were required to discover the meaning of a novel word from a context during silent reading. After 3 exposures, brain potentials to novel words in meaningful contexts were indistinguishable from real words, although this acquisition effect was not observed for novel words, for which sentence contexts allowed no meaning derivation. Furthermore, when the learned novel words were presented in isolation, an activation of their corresponding meaning was observed, although this process was slower than for real words.

    Mestres-Misse, A., Rodriguez-Fornells, A. and Munte, T. (2006). Watching the Brain during Meaning Acquisition. Cerebral Cortex, 17(8), pp.1858-1866.

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    The Neural Representation of Abstract Words: The Role of Emotion

    Abstract:

    It is generally assumed that abstract concepts are linguistically coded, in line with imaging evidence of greater engagement of the left perisylvian language network for abstract than concrete words (Binder JR, Desai RH, Graves WW, Conant LL. 2009. Where is the semantic system? A critical review and meta-analysis of 120 functional neuroimaging studies. Cerebral Cortex. 19:2767–2796; Wang J, Conder JA, Blitzer DN, Shinkareva SV. 2010. Neural representation of abstract and concrete concepts: A meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies. Hum Brain Map. 31:1459–1468). Recent behavioral work, which used tighter matching of items than previous studies, however, suggests that abstract concepts also entail affective processing to a greater extent than concrete concepts (Kousta S-T, Vigliocco G, Vinson DP, Andrews M, Del Campo E. The representation of abstract words: Why emotion matters. J Exp Psychol Gen. 140:14–34). Here we report a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment that shows greater engagement of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, an area associated with emotion processing (e.g., Etkin A, Egner T, Peraza DM, Kandel ER, Hirsch J. 2006. Resolving emotional conflict: A role for the rostral anterior cingulate cortex in modulating activity in the amygdala. Neuron. 52:871), in abstract processing. For abstract words, activation in this area was modulated by the hedonic valence (degree of positive or negative affective association) of our items. A correlation analysis of more than 1,400 English words further showed that abstract words, in general, receive higher ratings for affective associations (both valence and arousal) than concrete words, supporting the view that engagement of emotional processing is generally required for processing abstract words. We argue that these results support embodiment views of semantic representation, according to which, whereas concrete concepts are grounded in our sensory–motor experience, affective experience is crucial in the grounding of abstract concepts.

    Vigliocco, G., Kousta, S., Della Rosa, P., Vinson, D., Tettamanti, M., Devlin, J. and Cappa, S. (2013). The Neural Representation of Abstract Words: The Role of Emotion. Cerebral Cortex, 24(7), pp.1767-1777.

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    An essay on intelligence | Aristotle: there are natural masters and natural slaves, and intelligence is what distinguishes them…

    « The story of intelligence begins with Plato. In all his writings, he ascribes a very high value to thinking, declaring (through the mouth of Socrates) that the unexamined life is not worth living. Plato emerged from a world steeped in myth and mysticism to claim something new: that the truth about reality could be established through reason, or what we might consider today to be the application of intelligence. This led him to conclude, in The Republic, that the ideal ruler is ‘the philosopher king’, as only a philosopher can work out the proper order of things. And so he launched the idea that the cleverest should rule over the rest – an intellectual meritocracy…

    […]

    The idea that intelligence defines humanity persisted into the Enlightenment. It was enthusiastically embraced by Immanuel Kant, probably the most influential moral philosopher since the ancients. For Kant, only reasoning creatures had moral standing. Rational beings were to be called ‘persons’ and were ‘ends in themselves’. Beings that were not rational, on the other hand, had ‘only a relative value as means, and are therefore called things’. We could do with them what we liked.

    According to Kant, the reasoning being – today, we’d say the intelligent being – has infinite worth or dignity, whereas the unreasoning or unintelligent one has none. His arguments are more sophisticated, but essentially he arrives at the same conclusion as Aristotle: there are natural masters and natural slaves, and intelligence is what distinguishes them…

    by Stephen Cave, executive director and senior research fellow of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge. A philosopher by training, he has also served as a British diplomat, and written widely on philosophical and scientific subjects

    Full Article: https://aeon.co/essays/on-the-dark-history-of-intelligence-as-domination

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    The Role of Corticostriatal Systems in Speech Category Learning

    Abstract:

    One of the most difficult category learning problems for humans is learning nonnative speech categories. While feedback-based category training can enhance speech learning, the mechanisms underlying these benefits are unclear. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated neural and computational mechanisms underlying feedback-dependent speech category learning in adults. Positive feedback activated a large corticostriatal network including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, inferior parietal lobule, middle temporal gyrus, caudate, putamen, and the ventral striatum. Successful learning was contingent upon the activity of domain-general category learning systems: the fast-learning reflective system, involving the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that develops and tests explicit rules based on the feedback content, and the slow-learning reflexive system, involving the putamen in which the stimuli are implicitly associated with category responses based on the reward value in feedback. Computational modeling of response strategies revealed significant use of reflective strategies early in training and greater use of reflexive strategies later in training. Reflexive strategy use was associated with increased activation in the putamen. Our results demonstrate a critical role for the reflexive corticostriatal learning system as a function of response strategy and proficiency during speech category learning.

    Yi, H., Maddox, W., Mumford, J. and Chandrasekaran, B. (2014). The Role of Corticostriatal Systems in Speech Category Learning. Cerebral Cortex, 26(4), pp.1409-1420.

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    Learning-Induced Changes in the Cerebral Processing of Voice Identity

    Abstract:

    Temporal voice areas showing a larger activity for vocal than non-vocal sounds have been identified along the superior temporal sulcus (STS); more voice-sensitive areas have been described in frontal and parietal lobes. Yet, the role of voice-sensitive regions in representing voice identity remains unclear. Using a functional magnetic resonance adaptation design, we aimed at disentangling acoustic- from identity-based representations of voices. Sixteen participants were scanned while listening to pairs of voices drawn from morphed continua between 2 initially unfamiliar voices, before and after a voice learning phase. In a given pair, the first and second stimuli could be identical or acoustically different and, at the second session, perceptually similar or different. At both sessions, right mid-STS/superior temporal gyrus (STG) and superior temporal pole (sTP) showed sensitivity to acoustical changes. Critically, voice learning induced changes in the acoustical processing of voices in inferior frontal cortices (IFCs). At the second session only, right IFC and left cingulate gyrus showed sensitivity to changes in perceived identity. The processing of voice identity appears to be subserved by a large network of brain areas ranging from the sTP, involved in an acoustic-based representation of unfamiliar voices, to areas along the convexity of the IFC for identity-related processing of familiar voices.

    Latinus, M., Crabbe, F. and Belin, P. (2011). Learning-Induced Changes in the Cerebral Processing of Voice Identity. Cerebral Cortex, 21(12), pp.2820-2828.

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    Oxford Journals: A Prolegomenon to the Construct of the Native Speaker: Heritage Speaker Bilinguals are Natives Too!

    Abstract:

    This Forum challenges the generally accepted position in the linguistic sciences—conscious or not—that monolingualism and nativeness are essentially synonymous in an exclusive way. We discuss two consequences of our position that naturalistic bilinguals and multilinguals exposed to a language in early childhood are also native speakers: (i) that bi-/multilinguals have multiple native languages; and (ii) nativeness can be applicable to a state of linguistic knowledge that is characterized by significant differences to the monolingual baseline.

    Rothman, J. and Treffers-Daller, J. (2014). A Prolegomenon to the Construct of the Native Speaker: Heritage Speaker Bilinguals are Natives Too!. Applied Linguistics, 35(1), pp.93-98.

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    « Je ne suis pas venu au monde pour répondre à tes attentes, ni toi pour répondre aux miennes ». – Fritz Perls

    Traduction (EN): “I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.”

    – Fritz Perls (July 8, 1893 – March 14, 1970) / Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist who coined the ‘Gestalt therapy’

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    Merely desiring to alter your personality is not enough, and may backfire unless you take concrete action to change

    Extract:

    Debate about how much a person’s character can and can’t change have occupied psychologists for decades, but a growing consensus is beginning to emerge. While our traits are relatively stable, they are not fixed.

    Change is often passive – that is, experience leaves its mark on personality. But excitingly, initial findings suggest that we can also change ourselves.

    What prior research has so far not addressed, however, is whether simply desiring to change is enough (perhaps by triggering automatic, subtle shifts in our identity and behaviour), or whether we must take deliberate, active steps to change. A new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explores this question. The results show once again that wilful personality change is possible…

    Full Article: https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/11/01/merely-desiring-to-alter-your-personality-is-not-enough-and-may-backfire-unless-you-take-concrete-action-to-change/

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    A little discussed effect of therapy: it changes your personality

    Talk of personality change can sound unsettling because we think of our personalities as reflecting our essential “me-ness”. But from a wellbeing perspective, the trait changes uncovered by this new research are welcome and may even underlie the benefits of therapy. Neuroticism or emotional instability is an especially important risk factor for future poor mental and physical health, and meanwhile high scorers on Extraversion are known to be happier on average and more optimistic.

    The current meta-analysis investigated the extent to which personality traits changed as a result of intervention, with the primary focus on clinical interventions. We identified 207 studies that had tracked changes in measures of personality traits during interventions, including true experiments and prepost change designs. Interventions were associated with marked changes in personality trait measures over an average time of 24 weeks (e.g., d = .37). Additional analyses showed that the increases replicated across experimental and nonexperimental designs, for nonclinical interventions, and persisted in longitudinal follow-ups of samples beyond the course of intervention. Emotional stability was the primary trait domain showing changes as a result of therapy, followed by extraversion.

    Roberts, B. W., Luo, J., Briley, D. A., Chow, P. I., Su, R., & Hill, P. L. (2017). A systematic review of personality trait change through intervention. Psychological Bulletin, 143(2), 117-141.

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    Clinical Psychology: Learning Disabilities, Anxiety, Depression & Schizophrenia and the Effectiveness of Psychotherapy

    CAMHS deal with the psychological issues of people under the age of 18. They are a non-specialist service and often refer to other more specialised departments following the initial assessment of patients. The most common cases tend to be adolescents with depression and anxiety whose manifestations are not different to those of adults and so are treated fairly similarly.

    Inclusivism in Learning Disabilities

    In 1969, Bengt Nirje adopted and developed the concept of normalisation in Sweden and beautifully described it as…
    “making available to all mentally retarded people patterns of life and conditions of everyday living which are as close as possible to the regular circumstances and ways of life of society.”

    – Nirje, 1980

    Learning Disability is not just an impairment in Cognition

    The social impairment of Learning Disabilities – US Statute 111 – 256: Rosa’s Law defines the factual impairment, the imposed or acquired disability and the awareness of being different.

    The Normalisation Theory

    This theory focuses on the mainstream social trends of social devaluation or deviancy making. Some categories of people tend to be valued negatively due to their behaviours, appearances and characteristics, and this places them at the risk of being devalued [according to the Normalisation Theory of Nirje on the societal processes he assumed] – people fulfil various social roles and stereotypes. As part of the deviancy making or social devaluation, the unsophisticated minds of the masses generally do not mean to stereotype, however they seem to do it unconsciously [the unconscious is a concept Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan acknowledged in their psychoanalytic theories of mental/psychological activity and its disorders land mental health problems linked to psychopathic tendencies in people towards others], i.e. deviant groups with social symbols or images that are at a higher risk of being devalued are the focus of the normalisation theory, which is believed to be done with the aim of providing them with the skills they need and eventually change the status of these deviant groups.

    Society tends to distance itself from deviant groups without any purpose or belonging, however psychologists provide support for the social integration and valued social participation of people with learning disabilities through exercises that involve learning through imitation. This challenges stereotypes within wider society through direct experiences of spending time with people who are affected by learning disabilities.

    While psychology evolves and sophisticated and modern theories about intelligence and communication such as our « Organic Theory » take shape, we hope that observations such as this one may be digested and understood by the masses, that is:

    « While the communicative patterns [language] in human primates vary with socio-behavioural and geographical patterns; creativity and IQ remain constant and do not change. Intelligence and creativity cannot be stopped because of linguistic differences, since talented and gifted humans do not choose the location of their birth nor their linguistic heritage but still contribute to the enhancement of our civilisation. »

    Which concludes that that the intelligence of an invidual when assessed on a range of variables [e.g. perception, fluid intelligence, reasoning, emotional intelligence, courage, etc] cannot be deduced by simply assessing their academic abilities, since human life has various sides to itself. Hence, the true worth and value of an individual may always remain a problem and a mystery to fully assess, and this seems to go in line with Jean Piaget’s deduction about the uniqueness of the human organism and mind.

    Full Article: https://dpurb.com/2018/07/02/clinical-psychology-learning-disabilities-anxiety-depression-schizophrenia-and-the-effectiveness-of-psychotherapy/

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    Raising Windhorse: How to Harness Personal Power

    by Dr. Donna Rockwell, Psy.D., L.P. Clinical psychologist, adjunct faculty member, community outreach worker, columnist, and mindfulness meditation teacher

    Extract:

    « We learn from the earliest age to look to others to determine our self-worth and deservedness. »

    “… we learn from the earliest age to look to others to determine our self-worth and deservedness. Paralyzed by fear, we reduce our likelihood of success and achievement. Instead of being trained to ask, why not me, our minds are trained to ask, why would it be me? Rather than simply living out our unique and individual giftedness, engaging in life with the fervor of a love affair, our brains have developed deeply entrenched ruts that drag us through baseless fears and career-stopping apprehensions. Looking outside the self and treating the illusory reflection as a mirror is the first problem.
    We need to understand that due to years of mental conditioning and popculture brainwashing, negative self-appraisals and knee-jerk self-doubt are as much a bad habit as nail biting. The trick is to break the habit.

    The way to free ourselves from such conditioned habits of mind is to build inner-confidence through a process Tibetan meditation master, Chögyam Trungpa calls, “raising windhorse.”

    There is an uplifted quality that exists in our lives. You could call it sacred existence, which is automatically created because of your mindfulness and awareness. We pay attention to details: we wash the dishes, we clean our room, we press our shirts, and we fold our sheets. When we pay attention to everything around us, the overall effect is “upliftedness.” The…term for that is “windhorse.”
    The best way to raise windhorse, and generate this state of upliftedness that makes everything else…”

    Full Article: http://www.psychalive.org/raising-windhorse-harness-personal-power/

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    Depression is often the result of some form of mental oppression. Liberate yourself.

    Don’t let your mind be occupied by blame towards others. A liberated mind is a forgiving one.

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    Carl Jung & creative definition

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    Robust prediction of individual creative ability from brain functional connectivity

    Significance:

    People’s capacity to generate creative ideas is central to technological and cultural progress. Despite advances in the neuroscience of creativity, the field lacks clarity on whether a specific neural architecture distinguishes the highly creative brain. Using methods in network neuroscience, we modeled individual creative thinking ability as a function of variation in whole-brain functional connectivity. We identified a brain network associated with creative ability comprised of regions within default, salience, and executive systems—neural circuits that often work in opposition. Across four independent datasets, we show that a person’s capacity to generate original ideas can be reliably predicted from the strength of functional connectivity within this network, indicating that creative thinking ability is characterized by a distinct brain connectivity profile.

    Abstract:

    People’s ability to think creatively is a primary means of technological and cultural progress, yet the neural architecture of the highly creative brain remains largely undefined. Here, we employed a recently developed method in functional brain imaging analysis—connectome-based predictive modeling—to identify a brain network associated with high-creative ability, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data acquired from 163 participants engaged in a classic divergent thinking task. At the behavioral level, we found a strong correlation between creative thinking ability and self-reported creative behavior and accomplishment in the arts and sciences (r = 0.54). At the neural level, we found a pattern of functional brain connectivity related to high-creative thinking ability consisting of frontal and parietal regions within default, salience, and executive brain systems. In a leave-one-out cross-validation analysis, we show that this neural model can reliably predict the creative quality of ideas generated by novel participants within the sample. Furthermore, in a series of external validation analyses using data from two independent task fMRI samples and a large task-free resting-state fMRI sample, we demonstrate robust prediction of individual creative thinking ability from the same pattern of brain connectivity. The findings thus reveal a whole-brain network associated with high-creative ability comprised of cortical hubs within default, salience, and executive systems—intrinsic functional networks that tend to work in opposition—suggesting that highly creative people are characterized by the ability to simultaneously engage these large-scale brain networks.

    Beaty, R., Kenett, Y., Christensen, A., Rosenberg, M., Benedek, M., Chen, Q., Fink, A., Qiu, J., Kwapil, T., Kane, M. and Silvia, P. (2018). Robust prediction of individual creative ability from brain functional connectivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(5), pp.1087-1092.

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    Mindfulness changes the brain

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    Neural Basis of Sensorimotor Plasticity in Speech Motor Adaptation

    Abstract:

    When we speak, we get correlated sensory feedback from speech sounds and from the muscles and soft tissues of the vocal tract. Here we dissociate the contributions of auditory and somatosensory feedback to identify brain networks that underlie the somatic contribution to speech motor learning. The technique uses a robotic device that selectively alters somatosensory inputs in combination with resting-state fMRI scans that reveal learning-related changes in functional connectivity. A partial correlation analysis is used to identify connectivity changes that are not explained by the time course of activity in any other learning-related areas. This analysis revealed changes related to behavioral improvements in movement and separately, to changes in auditory perception: Speech motor adaptation itself was associated with connectivity changes that were primarily in non-motor areas of brain, specifically, to a strengthening of connectivity between auditory and somatosensory cortex and between presupplementary motor area and the inferior parietal lobule. In contrast, connectively changes associated with alterations to auditory perception were restricted to speech motor areas, specifically, primary motor cortex and inferior frontal gyrus. Overall, our findings show that during adaptation, somatosensory inputs result in a broad range of changes in connectivity in areas associated with speech motor control and learning.

    Darainy, M., Vahdat, S. and Ostry, D. (2018). Neural Basis of Sensorimotor Plasticity in Speech Motor Adaptation. Cerebral Cortex, 29(7), pp.2876-2889.

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    Dissecting a brain

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    Study of healthy adults finds 2 types of extroverts have more brain matter than most common brains

    The neuroanatomical delineation of agentic and affiliative extraversion:

    Extraversion is a fascinating personality dimension that consists of two major components, agentic extraversion and affiliative extraversion. Agentic extraversion involves incentive motivation and is expressed as a tendency toward assertiveness, persistence, and achievement. Affiliative extraversion involves the positive emotion of social warmth and is expressed as a tendency toward amicability, gregariousness, and affection.

    Here we investigate the neuroanatomical correlates of the personality traits of agentic and affiliative extraversion using the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire Brief Form, structural magnetic resonance imaging, and voxel-based morphometry in a sample of 83 healthy adult volunteers.

    We found that trait agentic extraversion and trait affiliative extraversion were each positively associated with the volume of the medial orbitofrontal cortex bilaterally (t’s ≥ 2.03, r’s ≥ .23, p’s < .05). Agentic extraversion was specifically and positively related to the volume of the left parahippocampal gyrus (t = 4.08, r = .21, p < .05), left cingulate gyrus (t = 4.75, r = .28, p < .05), left caudate (t = 4.29, r = .24, p < .05), and left precentral gyrus (t = 4.00, r = .18, p < .05) in males and females, and the volume of the right nucleus accumbens in males (t = 2.92, r = .20, p < .05).

    Trait affiliative extraversion was not found to be associated with additional regions beyond the medial orbitofrontal cortex.

    The findings provide the first evidence of a neuroanatomical dissociation between the personality traits of agentic and affiliative extraversion in healthy adults.

    Grodin, E. and White, T. (2015). The neuroanatomical delineation of agentic and affiliative extraversion. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci, 15(2), pp.321-334.

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    « Il est le plus puissant qui a du pouvoir sur lui-même ». -Seneca

    Traduction(EN): « He is most powerful who has power over himself. » -Seneca

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    Redefinition/Conception

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    La Jeunesse de Napoleon: L’enfant Prodige, Guerrier Académique

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    « In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. » -Galileo Galilei

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    Wisdom is more of a state than a trait

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    Human Brains Evolved to Be More Responsive to Environmental Influences

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    Scientists discover 1,000 new “intelligence genes”

    Intelligence is associated with important economic and health-related life outcomes1. Despite intelligence having substantial heritability2 (0.54) and a confirmed polygenic nature, initial genetic studies were mostly underpowered3,4,5. Here we report a meta-analysis for intelligence of 78,308 individuals. We identify 336 associated SNPs (METAL P < 5 × 10−8) in 18 genomic loci, of which 15 are new. Around half of the SNPs are located inside a gene, implicating 22 genes, of which 11 are new findings. Gene-based analyses identified an additional 30 genes (MAGMA P < 2.73 × 10−6), of which all but one had not been implicated previously. We show that the identified genes are predominantly expressed in brain tissue, and pathway analysis indicates the involvement of genes regulating cell development (MAGMA competitive P = 3.5 × 10−6). Despite the well-known difference in twin-based heritability2 for intelligence in childhood (0.45) and adulthood (0.80), we show substantial genetic correlation (rg = 0.89, LD score regression P = 5.4 × 10−29). These findings provide new insight into the genetic architecture of intelligence.

    Sniekers, S., Stringer, S., Watanabe, K., Jansen, P., Coleman, J., Krapohl, E., Taskesen, E., Hammerschlag, A., Okbay, A., Zabaneh, D., Amin, N., Breen, G., Cesarini, D., Chabris, C., Iacono, W., Ikram, M., Johannesson, M., Koellinger, P., Lee, J., Magnusson, P., McGue, M., Miller, M., Ollier, W., Payton, A., Pendleton, N., Plomin, R., Rietveld, C., Tiemeier, H., van Duijn, C. and Posthuma, D. (2017). Genome-wide association meta-analysis of 78,308 individuals identifies new loci and genes influencing human intelligence. Nature Genetics, 49(7), pp.1107-1112.

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    « It’s Beyond Your Control » by Frank Sonnenberg

    Extract:

    Face it…some things are beyond your control. Yet some folks don’t always see it that way. For example: We want the sun to shine on our parade and we get upset when the weather doesn’t comply with our wishes. We expect everything to go according to plan and get stressed when it doesn’t turn out that way. We ask folks to change their behavior and then we’re surprised when they refuse to change their ways. The fact is, you can’t control the weather, but that doesn’t stop people from trying…

    Full Article: http://www.franksonnenbergonline.com/blog/its-beyond-your-control/

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    « Le progrès est impossible sans changement, et ceux qui ne peuvent pas changer d’avis ne peuvent rien changer ». -G.B. Shaw

    Traduction (EN): « Progress is impossible without change, & those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. » -G.B. Shaw

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    Article by Daniel J Siegel [clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, and executive director of the Mindsight Institute]

    The Open Mind: Why novel experiences feel more intense, gritty, & real

    Extract:

    For some 2,500 years, humans have located the mind in the brain inside our heads. But we ought to consider the origin of mind with an open mind. Is the mind truly within the brain? Or is this an illusion?

    I gained some insight back in the 1980s, as college drew to a close. I was in my 20s and working in Mexico for the World Health Organization on a project to study curanderos – folk healers – in a region where the press of modernisation of a local dam, La Presa Miguel Alemán, 250 miles south-east of Mexico City, was changing communities and local medical services. One morning, on a horseback journey to interview a local healer as part of my project, the saddle on my horse loosened and, with feet still strapped into the stirrups, I was dragged, they tell me, a hundred yards over gravel and rock, my head banging against the ground beneath the horse’s racing hooves… [CLICK TO READ]

  4. Human language’s deep origins appear to have come directly from birds, primates

    Human language builds on birdsong and speech forms of other primates, researchers hypothesize in new research. From birds, the researchers say, we derived the melodic part of our language, and from other primates, the pragmatic, content-carrying parts of speech. Sometime within the last 100,000 years, those capacities fused into roughly the form of human language that we know today.

    Introducing the ‘integration hypothesis’

    The paper’s conclusions build on past work by Miyagawa, which holds that human language consists of two distinct layers: the expressive layer, which relates to the mutable structure of sentences, and the lexical layer, where the core content of a sentence resides. That idea, in turn, is based on previous work by linguistics scholars including Noam Chomsky, Kenneth Hale, and Samuel Jay Keyser.

    The expressive layer and lexical layer have antecedents, the researchers believe, in the languages of birds and other mammals, respectively. For instance, in another paper published last year, Miyagawa, Berwick, and Okanoya presented a broader case for the connection between the expressive layer of human language and birdsong, including similarities in melody and range of beat patterns.

    Birds, however, have a limited number of melodies they can sing or recombine, and nonhuman primates have a limited number of sounds they make with particular meanings. That would seem to present a challenge to the idea that human language could have derived from those modes of communication, given the seemingly infinite expression possibilities of humans.

    Miyagawa, S., Ojima, S., Berwick, R. and Okanoya, K. (2014). The integration hypothesis of human language evolution and the nature of contemporary languages. Frontiers in Psychology, 5.

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    Social Subordination Stress and Serotonin Transporter Polymorphisms: Associations With Brain White Matter Tract Integrity and Behavior in Juvenile Female Macaques

    Extract:

    “We examined the relationship between social rank and brain white matter (WM) microstructure, and socioemotional behavior, and its modulation by serotonin (5HT) transporter (5HTT) polymorphisms in prepubertal female macaques.

    Using diffusion tensor imaging and tract-based spatial statistics, social status differences were found in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) WM and cortico-thalamic tracts, with subordinates showing higher WM structural integrity (measured as fractional anisotropy, FA) than dominant animals. 5HTT genotype-related differences were detected in the posterior limb of the internal capsule, where s-variants had higher FA than l/l animals.
    Status by 5HTT interaction effects were found in (1) external capsule (middle longitudinal fasciculus), (2) parietal WM, and (3) short-range PFC tracts, with opposite effects in dominant and subordinate animals. In most regions showing FA differences, opposite differences were detected in radial diffusivity, but none in axial diffusivity, suggesting that differences in tract integrity likely involve differences in Myelin [regulates speed & efficiency of axonal conduction]

    These findings highlight that differences in social rank among Macaques are associated with differences in WM structural integrity in juveniles, particularly in tracts connecting prefrontal, sensory processing, motor and association regions, sometimes modulated by 5HTT genotype. Differences in these tracts were associated with increased emotional reactivity in subordinates, particularly with higher submissive and fear behaviors…”

    Howell, B., Godfrey, J., Gutman, D., Michopoulos, V., Zhang, X., Nair, G., Hu, X., Wilson, M. and Sanchez, M. (2013). Social Subordination Stress and Serotonin Transporter Polymorphisms: Associations With Brain White Matter Tract Integrity and Behavior in Juvenile Female Macaques. Cerebral Cortex, 24(12), pp.3334-3349.

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    Organizing Principles of Human Cortical Development—Thickness and Area from 4 to 30 Years: Insights from Comparative Primate Neuroanatomy

    The human cerebral cortex undergoes a protracted, regionally heterogeneous development well into young adulthood. Cortical areas that expand the most during human development correspond to those that differ most markedly when the brains of macaque monkeys and humans are compared.

    However, it remains unclear to what extent this relationship derives from allometric scaling laws that apply to primate brains in general, or represents unique evolutionary adaptations. Furthermore, it is unknown whether the relationship only applies to surface area (SA), or also holds for cortical thickness (CT). In 331 participants aged 4 to 30, we calculated age functions of SA and CT, and examined the correspondence of human cortical development with macaque to human expansion, and with expansion across nonhuman primates.

    CT followed a linear negative age function from 4 to 30 years, while SA showed positive age functions until 12 years with little further development. Differential cortical expansion across primates was related to regional maturation of SA and CT, with age trajectories differing between high- and low-expanding cortical regions.

    This relationship adhered to allometric scaling laws rather than representing uniquely macaque–human differences: regional correspondence with human development was as large for expansion across nonhuman primates as between humans and macaque.

    Amlien, I., Fjell, A., Tamnes, C., Grydeland, H., Krogsrud, S., Chaplin, T., Rosa, M. and Walhovd, K. (2014). Organizing Principles of Human Cortical Development—Thickness and Area from 4 to 30 Years: Insights from Comparative Primate Neuroanatomy. Cereb. Cortex, 26(1), pp.257-267.

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    Richard Dawkins: Why are there still Chimpanzees?

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    A depiction that human face has undergone significant evolution within the last 6 million years.

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    Craniofacial genetics: Where have we been and where are we going?

    Looking at faces is always illuminating. Perhaps, this is because our faces reveal so much about us, ranging from our evolutionary history to our embryological development, genetic endowment, propensity for disease, current health status, and exposures over our lifespan. The structure of our faces may even reveal insights into our personalities—an idea that stretches back to the ancient Greeks. The face is a complex constellation of parts serving functions as diverse as sight, hearing, smell, breathing, nourishment and digestion, protection, and communication. Despite our collective fascination, we still have limited understanding of the molecular machinery that controls how our faces form or how morphological variation in facial features arises, from the typical and often subtle differences that endow each of us with our unique facial appearance to the rare craniofacial malformations seen in the clinic. However, we are making incredible progress in these areas, and the pace of discovery is poised to accelerate rapidly, facilitated by the emergence of high-throughput experimental methods, advances in computational modeling, and the investment and availability of large-scale craniofacial data resources, (e.g., the FaceBase Consortium).

    Weinberg, S., Cornell, R. and Leslie, E. (2018). Craniofacial genetics: Where have we been and where are we going?. PLOS Genetics, 14(6), p.e1007438.

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    Understanding Evolution through Dinosaurs

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  5. «Je vous enseigne Der Übermensch (le surhomme). L’homme est quelque chose qui doit être surpassé.»-Friedrich Nietzsche

    Traduction(EN): “I teach you Der Übermensch (the superman). Man is something which shall be surpassed.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

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    «Parlez de bon sens à un imbécile et il vous appelle stupide.» -Euripides

    Traduction(EN): “Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.” -Euripides

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    «Le bon sens est la marchandise la mieux distribuée dans le monde, car tout homme est convaincu qu’il en est bien pourvu.» -Rene Descartes

    Traduction(EN): “Common sense is the best distributed commodity in the world, for every man is convinced that he is well supplied with it.” -Rene Descartes

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    «Ce que les gens disent de vous est une manifestation de leur propre pensée, elle en dit plus sur eux que sur vous.” Apprenez à ne pas le prendre personnellement.» -Jerry Corstens

    Traduction(EN): « What people say about you is a manifestation of their own thought. It says more about them than about you. Learn not to take it personally. » -Jerry Corstens

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    «Lorsque vous vous concentrez sur la correction des autres, vous ne serez pas en mesure de vous corriger.» -Jerry Corstens

    Traduction(EN): « When your focus is on correcting others, you won’t be able to correct yourself. » -Jerry Corstens

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    «Se prouver aux” autres “ne prouve rien. Réalisez que vous n’avez rien à prouver.»- Jerry Corstens

    Traduction(EN): « Proving yourself to ‘others’ doesn’t prove anything. Realize you have nothing to prove. » – Jerry Corstens

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    «Ce n’est pas le serment qui nous fait croire un homme, mais l’homme le serment.» -Aeschylus

    Traduction(EN): « It is not the oath that makes us believe a man, but the man the oath. » -Aeschylus

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    «Même le roi dans ses richesses n’échappe pas à la mort.» -Aeschylus

    Traduction(EN): « Even the king in his riches does not escape death. » -Aeschylus

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    «La vie non examinée ne vaut peut-être pas la peine d’être vécue, mais la vie sur-examinée n’est pas un sujet à raconter non plus.» -Daniel Dennett

    Traduction(EN): « The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the overexamined life is nothing to write home about either. » -Daniel Dennett

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    «L’homme envieux pense que si son voisin casse une jambe, il sera capable de mieux marcher lui-même.» -Helmut Schoeck

    Traduction(EN): « The envious man thinks that if his neighbour breaks a leg, he will be able to walk better himself. » -Helmut Schoeck

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    «Vous n’atteindrez jamais votre destination si vous vous arrêtez et lancez des pierres sur tous les chiens qui aboient.» – Winston S. Churchill

    Traduction(EN): “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” – Winston S. Churchill

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    «Je ne parlerai pas de philosophie à mes collègues … Ils sont trop stupides.» -Colin McGinn

    Traduction(EN): « I won’t talk to my colleagues about philosophy… They are too stupid. » -Colin McGinn

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    «Toutes les institutions civiles assument le même type d’homme médiocre. Il n’est donc pas surprenant de les trouver pleins de mensonges.»-Friedrich Nietzsche

    Traduction(EN): « All civil institutions assume the same mediocre type of man. It is therefore not suprising when we find them full of lies. » -Friedrich Nietzsche

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    «Les maladies de l’âme sont à la fois plus dangereuses et plus nombreuses que celles du corps.»– Cicero

    Traduction(EN): « Diseases of the soul are both more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body. » – Cicero

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    «La vérité est souvent une terrible arme d’agression, il est possible de mentir, même de tuer, pour la vérité.» -Alfred Adler

    Traduction(EN): « The truth is often a terrible weapon of aggression. It is possible to lie, even to murder, for the truth. » -Alfred Adler

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    «L’éducation n’est pas une préparation à la vie; l’éducation est la vie elle-même.»-John Dewey

    Traduction(EN): « Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. » -John Dewey

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    «Vous payez un prix pour le dire simplement, à savoir qu’il est plus facile pour les professionnels de mal le comprendre.» -John Searle

    Traduction(EN): « You do pay a price for stating it simply, namely it’s easier for the professionals to misunderstand it. » -John Searle

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    «A partir d’une petite graine, un tronc puissant peut pousser.» -Aeschylus

    Traduction(EN): « From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow. » -Aeschylus

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    «Ce que vous ne voulez pas que les autres fassent pour vous, ne leur faites pas.» -Confucius

    Traduction(EN): « What you do not wish others should do unto you, do not do unto them. » -Confucius

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    «Un ami est un reflet de soi.» -Aristotle

    Traduction(EN): « A friend is a second self. » -Aristotle

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    «Il est impossible de concevoir un système si parfait que personne ne doit être bon.»– T.S. Eliot

    Traduction(EN):“It is impossible to design a system so perfect that no-one needs to be good.”— T.S. Eliot

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    « Les analphabètes du XXIe siècle ne seront pas ceux qui ne savent ni lire ni écrire, mais ceux qui ne peuvent ni apprendre, ni désapprendre, ni réapprendre.  » -Alvin Toffler

    Education(EN): « The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. » -Alvin Toffler

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    «Avec un état d’esprit négatif, vous ne voyez que des choses négatives se produire, mais des choses positives se produisent tout le temps, modifiez votre état d’esprit pour les voir.» -Jerry Corstens

    Traduction(EN): « With a negative mindset you only see negative things happen, yet positive things happen all the time. Alter your state of mind to see them. » -Jerry Corstens

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    «Avec une attitude négative, vous attirez des gens négatifs, ce qui vous donne encore plus de négativité. Développez une vision positive de la vie.» -Jerry Corstens

    Traduction(EN): « With a negative attitude you attract negative people, which gives you cause for even more negativity. Develop a positive outlook on life. » -Jerry Corstens

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    «L’esprit grandit avec de nouvelles idées, mais il devient sombre en embrassant ceux qui ne sont pas éthiques. Ouvrez votre esprit quand vous le devez et fermez-le quand il le faut.» -Jerry Corstens

    Traduction(EN): « The mind grows with new ideas, but turns dark by embracing unethical ones. Open your mind when you must and close it when needed. » -Jerry Corstens

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    «Le progrès est impossible sans changement, et ceux qui ne peuvent pas changer d’avis ne peuvent rien changer.» -G.B. Shaw

    Traduction(EN): « Progress is impossible without change, & those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. » -G.B. Shaw

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    «Quand vous continuez à jouer le même rôle, vous continuez à attirer les mêmes personnes.» -Jerry Corstens

    Traduction(EN): « When you keep playing the same role, you keep attracting the same people. » -Jerry Corstens

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    «La science est une façon de penser beaucoup plus qu’elle n’est un corps de connaissances.» -Carl Sagan

    Traduction(EN): « La science est une façon de penser beaucoup plus qu’elle n’est un corps de connaissances. » -Carl Sagan

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    «Beaucoup de gens ont peur de la liberté. Ils sont conditionnés pour en avoir peur.»-Herbert Marcuse

    Traduction(EN): « Many people are afraid of freedom. They are conditioned to be afraid of it. » -Herbert Marcuse

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    «Il n’y a pas de grand génie sans un peu de folie.» -Seneca

    Traduction(EN): « There is no great genius without some touch of madness. » -Seneca

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    « Sans la reconnaissance de la valeur humaine de la folie, c’est l’homme même qui disparaît. » -François Tosquelles

    Traduction(EN): « Without the recognition of the human value of eccentricity, it is man himself who disappears. » -François Tosquelles

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    «L’imitation est la forme de flatterie la plus sincère que la médiocrité peut payer à la grandeur.» -Oscar Wilde

    Traduction(EN): « Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery that mediocrity can pay for greatness. » -Oscar Wilde

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    «Ce qui distingue l’homme des autres animaux, c’est qu’il est le seul à disposer de la conscience, alors que les autres ont des sensations sans avoir la conscience.» -Alcméon de Crotone

    « What distinguishes man from other animals is that he is the only one who has consciousness, while others have sensations without consciousness. » -Alcméon de Crotone

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    Philosophie, Science et Société: https://philosciences.com/Pss/

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  6. Jacques Lacan, La Psychanalyse Réinventée (2001)

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    «Le monument était si grand qu’il faisait de l’ombre aux montagnes. Son architecture défiait la logique, et il était recouvert de symboles inconnus. Mais le plus étrange, c’est qu’il était apparu du jour au lendemain, suivi par des choeurs dissonants qui semblaient venir du ciel.»

    -Patrick Baud

    Traduction(EN): “The monument was so huge that it was shadowing the mountains. Its architecture defied logic, and it was covered with unknown symbols. But the strangest thing was that it had appeared overnight, followed by dissonant choruses that seemed to come from the sky.”

    -Patrick Baud

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    – Maintenant que vous êtes membre de notre ordre secret, vous devez savoir que nous sommes à l’origine de la plupart des théories du complot.
    – Vraiment ? Pourquoi ?
    – Un jour, sur un forum, quelqu’un a posté une théorie exacte. Depuis, on essaie de la noyer dans la masse.

    -Patrick Baud

    Traduction(EN):

    – Now that you are a member of our secret order, you must know that we are at the root of most conspiracy theories.
    – Really? Why?
    – One day, on a forum, someone posted an exact theory. Since then, they have been trying to drown it in the masses.

    -Patrick Baud

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  8. 10 tips from Leonardo da Vinci

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    Philosophy Review: “The World as Will and Idea”, by Arthur Schopenhauer (1818)

    Extract:

    Schopenhauer, a pessimistic philosopher, focused on the dark side of life and mental evils and cruelty, which he considered inevitable and that we as psychologists, intellectuals and masters of the mind view as mental disorders that have a negative effect on both the character of the affected and the human environment at large exposed to the vile side of human nature.

    This negative view of man’s behaviour and role in life was a sharp contrast to the other more euphoric philosophers who marked the spirits of the generation before him, and who embraced a more idealistic and perhaps a slightly exaggerated euphoric side of man’s mind and character. Though Schopenhauer’s work originally gained little attention at the time it was published [perhaps being too avant-garde for the atavistic institutions of his time], he expressed an interpretation of the world that was dragging and opposed the great ideal of who went before him, such as Victor Schelling and Hegel on some very important points but did not deny expressions of art such as the romantic movement in its various forms.

    Schopenhauer who never refrained from publicly criticising people and ideas he disliked was very vocal in his complete contempt for these men, and regarded himself as their great opponent in the ring of the leaders delivering the “Real truth” to mankind and civilisation. Schopenhauer’s work in many ways could be viewed as an extension of another famous German philosopher, namely Immanuel Kant, who preceded him by one generation, delivering his major philosophical work, “a critique of pure reason”. Schopenhauer worked out a system in which reality is known inwardly by a kind of feeling where intellect is only an instrument of the will: the biological will to live and where process rather than result is ultimate.

    Schopenhauer’s pessimism lies in his very strong rejection of life. In fact, this rejection is so strong that he even had to address the question of suicide as a solution to life. He fortunately also rejected this “solution” to life, this rejection to life reflected influences with roots in Eastern philosophy, particularly Buddhism, and it is one of the most significant aspects of his work that he was the first Western philosopher to integrate Buddhist thought into Western philosophy. His preoccupation with the evil of the world and the tragedy of life was also somewhat reminiscent of ancient Hindu philosophies. His writings helped to stimulate in Germany an interest in Oriental thought and religion, which can also be seen in the work of many later German philosophers.

    In “The World as Will and Idea”, Schopenhauer also considered the important question of the function of art. The value of arts to human life in far more depth than any of his predecessors, and even graded each of the arts, such as music, poetry, architecture [etc], from most important to least important. For that reason, his book had not only a profound effect on future philosophers, but also artists, particularly poets and composers, such as the enigmatic Wagner, who felt indebted to him and sent him a letter of gratitude when he was first introduced to Schopenhauer’s work.

    Full Article: https://dpurb.com/2018/08/24/essay-philosophy-review-the-world-as-will-and-idea-by-arthur-schopenhauer-1818/

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    « N’ayez pas peur de la grandeur: certains hommes naissent grands, certains atteignent la grandeur et certains ont la grandeur poussée sur eux. » -William Shakespeare

    Traduction(EN): « Be not afraid of greatness: some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. » -William Shakespeare

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    Erik Satie – Gnossienne No.1 (1890 – 1897)

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