Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Re: Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Postby thelivyjr » Sun Aug 18, 2019 1:40 p

COGNITION: the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
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Re: Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Postby thelivyjr » Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:40 p

Edward Slingerland:

What I argue is that the reason we tend to think of the sciences and humanities as two separate things is rooted in mind-body dualism.



in T'ai Chi, we seek to rid ourselves of that mind-body dualism through cementing the mind-body connection ...

The mind-body connection is cemented through mind-directed movement of the body ...

Mind-directed movement means seeing a pattern of movement, and then formulating the various commands that will cause the movement of your body to follow the patterns the mind perceives ...

And that takes us back to cognition, which as defined above as the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses ...

And so ...
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Re: Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Postby thelivyjr » Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:40 p

EDGE.org

The Paradox of Wu-Wei - A Conversation with Edward Slingerland
, continued ...

5.2.14

It's very clear in German.

In German the humanities are called the Geisteswissenschaften, “the knowledges of the Geist,” which is the mysterious ghost that inhabits our bodies, and then the sciences or natural sciences are Naturwissenschaften, so they look at dumb nature.

We do have this sense of which the humanities study the mysterious movements of the human mind, and science studies the body, and those are two separate projects.

I think the power of the embodied cognition movement and getting out of dualism as a model for the way we think is to say, "No, all these levels are interrelated."

So they're different levels, and you don't want to use physics to talk about art when that's completely ridiculous.

It's also true that you wouldn't use physics to talk about organic chemistry.

Organic chemists at some level will say, "Yeah, our stuff comes out of physics, but we have our new emergent levels of explanation and new entities we talk about that we need to do our work."

The same is true of the humanities.

So we have new concepts.

We have new explanatory principles emerging at higher levels of explanation, but they should all be seen as grounded in the lower levels, and that's where you have the bridge for helpful communication to happen.

But it's got to be two ways, and there's got to be a recognition that when it comes to scientifically studying human phenomena, you need to have humanities expertise helping you out.

The failure to do that often leads to some really silly looking work, and it turns off humanities scholars.

After proselytizing to my humanities colleagues, I've now been proselytizing to scientists and going to psychologists and saying, "Hey, you want to study religion?"

"You want to study the self?"

"You want to study any of these things, you actually need to talk to humanities scholars for a variety of reasons."

One of them is just getting beyond the WEIRD problem, right?

90 something percent of social psychology and research is done on university undergraduates in North America.

My colleagues at UBC, Joe Henrich, Ara Norenzayan and Steve Heine, published a big piece in BBS [Behavioral and Brain Sciences] three years ago or so, called "The Weirdest People in the World?"

They laid out the evidence for, first of all, the fact that psychology and research is overwhelmingly based on North America undergraduates — usually psychology majors — and they are, it turns out, the WEIRDest subgroup of the WEIRDest subgroup of the WEIRDest people who have ever lived on the planet.

In some cases that may not matter, but if you're making claims about universal human cognition, that might be a problem.

WEIRD stands for [Western], Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic.

It really is a pattern of life.

If you think about why university undergraduates are so WEIRD: they leave home, they're living in these dorms with a lot of other people their own age, they're disconnected from their families, they're disconnected from productive work.

People never lived like that before — taken out of their natural community frameworks, and it changes human cognition in very basic ways.

So one of the things we've been trying to do is get scientists to start taking culture seriously.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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Re: Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Postby thelivyjr » Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:40 p

Edward Slingerland:

People never lived like that before — taken out of their natural community frameworks, and it changes human cognition in very basic ways.

So one of the things we've been trying to do is get scientists to start taking culture seriously.



METAPHOR: a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract.


And it does indeed go back to the metaphors which come from both culture and nature ...

If someone has never seen water flowing, then how can they picture in their minds being like water?

If they have never felt the wind, how can they picture in their mind moving softly and gently like a zephyr breeze?

If you have never seen clouds, then how can you wave your hands like clouds?

Culture certainly does enter into the picture when learning t'ai chi, at least in my own experience, both learning and then teaching others ...

Understanding the culture that t'ai chi came out of, as opposed to the vastly different culture we in this country are used to, with modern technology to do much of our work for us, makes understanding how the body is used and force and power developed in t'ai chi, especially the use of the waist ...

People who sit all day at work do not use their waist, thus they do not develop use of the waist to generate power ...

When they then try to do t'ai chi, it is very difficult for them, because the waist plays such a vital role ...

When people had to rely much more on themselves for their own survival, they had to rely on the waist much more than today ...

Understanding that then guides one over to the kinds of exercises they must do on their own to develop control of the waist ...

In my teaching of older people who are not physically active in their daily lives, I now concentrate more on those kinds of exercises rather than forms ...

If you can't use your waist, then what is the sense of learning a bunch of forms?

Better to focus on exercises that gain you control of yourself is my thought, and then use that control to learn the forms ...

And so ...
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Re: Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Postby thelivyjr » Thu Aug 22, 2019 1:40 p

EDGE.org

The Paradox of Wu-Wei - A Conversation with Edward Slingerland
, continued ...

5.2.14

The fact is that we're not just Pleistocene brains who happen to have a little bit of culture thrown on, but that human culture plays this very profound role in shaping our cognition and our genes as well.

Our framework we work with is sometimes called Dual Inheritance Theory: we are the product of our genes, so we have information passed down through genes, but we're the product of our culture, too, and there are very powerful cultural evolutionary processes that can come up with solutions to problems that no single generation can figure out, no single person can figure out.

What we are as people is the integration of those two streams of information.

You have to take the culture side seriously, which is not always done in some of the early consilience approaches.

We're trying to get psychologists and other scientists to take culture seriously.

We're trying to get them to realize that they actually have a whole amazing subject pool available that they've never thought about, which is dead people.

Historians study dead people, right?

We study them through these traces: archeological traces, textual traces.

You can't do some things with these subjects.

You can't do controlled experiments, you can't run an fMRI on them, but you can do lots of things.

And there are a lot of them — people have been dying for a long time.

And they're very diverse — people have been dying all over the world.

You can work with ancient Chinese subjects.

You can work with early Egyptian subjects.

You don't need human subject approval; you don't have to pay them — they're free.

So I'm trying to get people interested in human cognition to see that we have a lot to learn from the traces of past cognition.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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Re: Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Postby thelivyjr » Fri Aug 23, 2019 1:40 p

Edward Slingerland:

So I'm trying to get people interested in human cognition to see that we have a lot to learn from the traces of past cognition.



Once again, cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses ...

When we do t'ai chi today, whether we are aware of it or not, we are in fact connecting with traces of past cognition ...

T'ai chi has come to us from antiquity and from the minds of those who resided in those times for reasons related directly to those times …

Without that realization, t'ai chi becomes less than it could be …

In our modern times, we have no need to use and move our bodies as the ancients, who lacked all of our modern technology that does much of our work for us …

It is that separation that makes t'ai chi so hard to learn has been my experience of teaching over the years …

Having spent so much of their lives not having to move or use their bodies, people find it a hard challenge to overcome to move and use their bodies as you do when performing t'ai chi forms …

And so ...
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Re: Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Postby thelivyjr » Sat Aug 24, 2019 1:40 p

EDGE.org

The Paradox of Wu-Wei - A Conversation with Edward Slingerland
, continued ...

5.2.14

Luther Martin at [University of] Vermont has called this "data from dead minds."

We have these records of dead minds and we can learn a lot about them.

Trying to get scientists to take seriously humanistic expertise in terms of our ability to unlock that data is a whole new exciting data set for people.

The people living today are only a small fraction of the people who have ever lived, and we don’t even study a small fraction of that fraction, we just study this little weird part of that fraction.

Our major research initiative right now is one that I'm a P.I. on.

It's this six-year, three million dollar project from the Canadian government to study the evolution of religion and morality.

It's explicitly founded on an atheistic framework.

We have two basic questions we want to answer, and we think the answers are connected.

One is why are humans religious?

From a biological perspective, it seems odd, because you would think that organisms that went to the mountain and sacrificed, who burned their food for non-existent entities, who spent 30% of gross natural product (early China), got buried in the ground with dead people, right, you would think that organisms that didn't waste all that time and energy and resources would outcompete ones that did, but that's not what we see.

One of the puzzles is just why do people believe in stuff that doesn't exist?

The other puzzle is that, human beings, for most of our evolutionary history we've lived in relatively small groups, hunter-gatherer bands, much like our primate relatives.

Around 10,000 years ago, we start coming together into these big agricultural communities where we're having to interact with strangers all the time.

We have a really good story about how small scale interaction and cooperation works.

So in kin selection, you cooperate with people who share your genes and reciprocal altruism.

You cooperate with people you can keep track of and monitor, at least through reputation, whether or not they're reliable.

Those mechanisms can't get you beyond a certain number, and so there's something else going on when people start living in a city and interacting with strangers all the time.

We think that those two puzzles are connected.

We think the reason that religion has survived and actually changed in a predictable way has to do with the role it plays in tying human groups together.

Our basic hypothesis is religion arises out of a byproduct, so Pascal Boyer-style cognitive mistakes.

We have theory of mind that we evolved for social cognition, but it overfires, and so things happen and we think that there's a reason for it.

There's a storm and we think that it must be some intentional being who's behind the storm.

We've got to figure out why they're angry at us.

That's a mistake.

So you get basic religious cognition as an over-firing of stuff that evolved for other reasons.

That gives you a small scale society religion.

So miscellaneous supernatural beings.

Probably gives you afterlife beliefs.

But what it doesn't get you is what you see in what Ara [Norenzayan] calls "big god religions."

These are religions where you've got a morally concerned high god.

You've got supernatural surveillance.

The high god can see you, not only everywhere but often can see into you and see your motives, not just your behavior.

You have all sorts of costly displays and practices that tie people together.

You've got ritual practices where people sing and march in unity and do all sorts of ecstatic practices together that bind them.

This is a package.

You have moral realism, so you get the idea that the normative values of our tribe don't just happen to be something we like, but they're God's will or they're the law of karma, or they're somehow grounded in the reality of the world.

This a very powerful set of cultural practices, and once they evolve, once they arise, they allow groups to coordinate in a very powerful way and outcompete other groups.

It's kind of a byproduct combined with cultural group selection story.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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Re: Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Postby thelivyjr » Sun Aug 25, 2019 1:40 p

Edward Slingerland wrote:

One of the puzzles is just why do people believe in stuff that doesn't exist?



PARADOX:

• a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

• a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.

• a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.



Here, in my experience, is where one of the greatest hurdles to overcome in learning t'ai chi comes into play - accepting ideas from an ancient culture we have no real knowledge of that seem foreign and strange compared to our experiences in our modern culture ...

The concept of softness overcoming hardness, for example ...

It took me many years of thought to see finally how that is so ...

It goes back to the concept of being like water flowing ...

Or not flowing when it meets resistance ...

All of that seems so foreign to our way of life in this country and in this time we are in ...

So to do t'ai chi, one has to open his or her mind to other possibilities ...

Which means believing in stuff that those around us believe doesn't exist ...

Which takes strength of character, one of the qualities the martial arts, which include t'ai chi, are intended to develop ...

And so ...
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Re: Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Postby thelivyjr » Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:40 p

EDGE.org

The Paradox of Wu-Wei - A Conversation with Edward Slingerland
, continued ...

5.2.14

These kinds of theories are not new.

Anyone who does religious studies knows about Durkheim's functionalist theory of religion.

There's actually an early Chinese thinker who had an early functionalist view of religion about social solidarities.

These ideas have been around for 2000 years.

What's new is we're trying to formulate this as a hypothesis and a set of sub-hypotheses that can actually be tested against data and tested against a massive variety of data.

We've got an ethnographic-experimental team, they're doing experimental games all over the world.

We're not just studying WEIRD people — we're going to the field and studying small scale societies all over the world.

We're doing laboratory experiments, we're doing neuroimaging experiments, we're doing ecologically valid field projects.

We've got people going out to fire-walking ceremonies — Dimitris Xygalatas did a study of fire walking practices in southern Spain, wiring people up with heart monitors and getting some real data about what's going on, both in the participants and the observers when people are practicing rituals like this.

So all sorts of contemporary data.

Then we've got a historical team that's looking at this "data from dead minds."

We're looking at textual records, we're looking at archeological records.

We're constructing a massive database in collaboration with some people at Oxford and UConn of cultural histories so that we can actually test theories about cultural change in a rigorous way because we'll have data we can actually run analyses on.

The way this would work with the historical database is, so, we're actually coding the Maya, that's one of our priority areas.

So you have a theory that you can't get beyond a certain community size unless you have cohesion created by human sacrifice or this type of ritual practice or this other thing.

People have theories like this, right?

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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Re: Inward Bound - The T'ai Chi Corner

Postby thelivyjr » Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:40 p

EDGE.org

The Paradox of Wu-Wei - A Conversation with Edward Slingerland
, continued ...

5.2.14

Or, you've got to have certain ecological conditions.

Typically when people make claims like this, they then pull out a couple examples.

They say, "Oh, the Maya did it, and here's another example I know of."

It's completely ad hoc.

They're often relying on data that they don't understand themselves very well because they're not experts in ancient Mayan or whatever other examples we're using.

What the database is going to allow us to do is get beyond ad hoc claims and actually have a complete record of certain parts of the world where we can say, "If that's the case let's run a regression analysis and see if it really is the case that group size tracks this other thing."

We can track religions over time, so we can actually track a religion that had a certain type of sacrifice and then they drop it or they move to something else.

What does that do to group size?

What does it do to warfare variables?

Is it in response to increased warfare?

We're gathering data on all sorts of social complexity and political variables.

The idea is that it's a way to get beyond "Just So" stories.

I mean, people have a theory about history and they trot out a couple of cherry picked examples and that's their claim.

We can actually now mathematically, statistically, test claims because we'll have a complete data set in certain parts of the world.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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