PMTH NEWS                                    08/18/99

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The  fact that we ...conceptualize arguments in terms of battle systematically influences the shape arguments take and the way we talk about what we do in arguing.
Lakoff and Johnson, p.7

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Our New PMTH Subscribers

PMTH grows at a slow but steady pace (we are now 122), and recently, as a group, we raised the question of how to welcome new list members. 

Claire Robson noted that we do not celebrate all new members the way we did when Lynn Hoffman joined us. 

I (Lois Shawver)  protested: How can we do this, I asked , without violating the privacy of new subscribers? Hoffman began to post as soon as she joined us.  Most newsubscribers take a while to do that, and presumably, I argued, they want a little privacy to orient themselves to our online discussion. 

Then, almost as soon as I said this, a new subscriber, Gabrielle Guedet, spoke up and told us the story of how she, as a stranger, was welcomed once in an airport.  (Interestingly, she told us this story in a different context.)  The story was that she was sitting in an airport waiting for a plane one Sunday afternoon in May some years ago. She had some flowers in her lap and a couple sitting near her asked her about them.  She smiled and said she had just defended her Ph.D. dissertation. Then, the couple turned around and announced to the airport, "We have a new doctor here -- she gets to go on the plane first," and people stood and clapped.

Guedet said, she thought of C.S. Lewis' book, "Till We Have Faces".  Never having read that book, I connected it with a conversation we have often had on PMTH.  Should we have faces here?  That is, should we tell each other and the world who we are?  Should that be part of the way we welcome people here?

Well, some of us do, and now Guedet is one who does.  You can read about her in PMTH, and presumably she'll write again and join us.

I am still reluctant to break the silence of our many lurkers until they give me some sign that it's okay, either by writing to our list, or by giving me permission to put information about them in our webpage records. 

However, in addition to Guedet, several other new subscribers  have given me permission to post information about them. 

First, there is, Richard Catlett  Wilkerson.  He is an author of a book on cyberspace and postmodern dreaming, as well as another book, it seems, that you can reach directly at Amazon.  Just click on his name above and follow the path to the Amazon link.  I'm not sure what postmodern dreaming is, but I am hopeful he will give us a clue in the next few weeks.

And there is also Hershey Bell.    Bell is not so new here, but he is newly back after a vacation, and I want to welcome him back.  Bell is an M.D. with a delicious first name - and he brings a distinctive passion to his posts that newcomer, Chris Kinman, quickly said that he appreciated. 

And, let me tell you about Chris Kinman. I have read one of Kinman's pre-published papers, and his ideas are very interesting and postmodern.  He also has said some provocative things that we have let pass by.  For example, Kinman told us:

One of the troubles with therapy, as I see it, is that it so often, ... attempts to replicate the listening which only community can and should adequately supply. 

I wonder what he meant by that?  I will stop right now to send him a note and hope that this line of thought unfolds in a way that I can report on it next time.  [A few minutes pass here while I get a fresh cup of tea.]  Ah, let me say, my note did start an interesting thread on the advantages and disadvantages of working in the office verus working in the community.  Claire Robson is resonating with his points.  I am thinking about some of the difficulties.  If this conversation continues, I'll tell you more about it in the next edition of this news sheet.

Other PMTHERS who have not shown your face (so to speak) on PMTH, let me invite you to do so.  Several people have volunteered to welcome people privately.  If someone has contacted you, you might talk with that person about giving us information about yourself to put in our name list.  If you want someone to contact you, please write write me by clicking on my name:
Lois Shawver

If you want to subscribe to PMTH, you should know that PMTH is a closed list for professional therapists, graduate students in a related field, and academics or scholars with a special interest in postmodern therapy and its philosophy.  If this describes you, write me, Lois Shawver, and tell me how you fit this profile. 

Glenn Larner reviews Derrida

Glenn Larner is a clinical psychologist and a student of Jacques Derrida's deconstrucionism.  He is also  a friend of PMTH.  And he has just sent me his review of one of Derrida recent books.

Now, Derrida, in case you haven't heard, is difficult for many people to read, and Larner makes a habit of working through his densest texts.  I'm grateful for his summaries because I sometimes try to make my way through Derrida's text, too. I know how thick that jungle of words can be.

And this latest book that Larner reviews for us is a book I haven't read yet.  Derrida writes them faster than I can read them.  This particular book is called, "Resistances of Psycho- analysis."  Down my alley, since I think of myself as an pioneer for postmodern psychoanalysis, which describes Glenn Larner, too, (I think).

So, what does Derrida say?  For the full story, read Larner's review, but let me give you a taste: As Larner reports it, Derrida complains that  psycho-
analysis has become oversimplified.  It no longer recognizes within itself its resources for richness and meaning.  It has fallen victim to the deficiencies of the Enlightenment

Derrida does not think this problem is unique to psychoanalysis, of course.  But with psychoanalysis the consequences are particularly important because, by simplifying and forgetting the complexity of its analyses psychoanalysis forgets it requires an ordeal in order to give what it has to give.

I suspect that Larner agrees with that.  I do, too, in a way.  The worst trends in psychoanalysis reduce human life to a simplified formula, interpreting everything to a failure of Oedipal resolution.  On the other hand, it seems to me that it is a myth that psychoanalysis has nothing to offer except by way of an ordeal.  It has all sorts and grades of experiences to offer in this postmodern world (that does not tie psychoanalysis to an Oedipal Complex).   At least I hope that is true. 

I say: Let's deconstruct the model of psychoanalysis and let it that requires it to be an ordeal and let it evolve.  Brevity and simplication are not the same thing. 

But then, please understand, I have not yet read this particular Derrida book.

The Wittgenstein Readings

The Wittgenstein readings of the Philosophical Investigations have started up again.  They promise to compliment our work on social poetics, too.  We are working on teh aphorisms in the 80s. His talk on something like social poetics, that inspired John Shotter, is right around the corner.


This is a past issue of 
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Agonistics is Not Good Enough

Much of our conversation on PMTH recently can be organized around this issue: 

We are not satisfied with Lyotard's notion of "agonistics," not for therapy, anyway.  Lyotard's phlosophy generally inspires most PMTHers, but 
this notion of "agonistics" is not quite right.  Agonisitcs is too warring.  We don't want to war with our clients, or with each other.

Of course, in the past, Judy Weintraub has taken the position that Lyotard is not recommending that we go to war with people.  I think she has a point.  Still, many seem to agree with me here that the very term "agonisitcs" takes us into the imagery of thinking of ourself as warring and encourages us to war. 

So, we want other terms -- and Weintraub was too busy these last two weeks, it seems, to keep up with our prolific discussions.  This doesn't mean that most PMTHers want to remove the word "agonistics" from our vocabulary. We just need other terms that help us do some of the work that the term "agonistics" does in Lyotard's theory - some of the work, less some of the warring imagery.

So, what is the work that the term "agonistics" does in Lyotard's theory?  He introduces the term on page 10 of The Postmodern Condition.  My reading of the term is that it involves strategies for winning over an adversary.  At one point, p.10, he says that the adversary can be language itself.  However, this is not a point he develops and much of his writing suggests that the adversary is typically a person.

I have argued (1998) that Lyotard's word "agonistics" as well as his word "ruse" traps him in a generative metaphor that encourages us to war even if the rules allow us to do otherwise.  I believe much of the work we do in PMTH amounts to combatting such a spell.  Wittgenstein said:

 Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by
means of language. 

Perhaps. our conversation in PMTH amounts to such a battle, although, it is intriguing that even battling this spell against the warlike metaphor we perpetuate it by calling it a "battle".  (Is there no end to this metaphor?)

So we talk alot about this issue.   Tom Strong was not unusual when he said, "Like Claire [Robson], I'm troubled by war metaphors."  Last issue (of PMTH NEWS) I told you about our discussions of the word "ruse" and our attempts to find another term.  This discussion about "agonistics" is a continuation of our discussion about "ruse."

Talking about agonistics, Lynn Hoffman suggested the term "social poetics." as a replacement.   I like this term a lot.  The word "poetics," by itself,  makes it sound as though we should submit our articles to a poetry magazine, when in fact our interests are a bit different.  Also, I feel that what we are thinking about is very close to what John Shotter and Arlene Katz mean in their articles on social poetics .  Moreover, Shotter has rooted his concept in the work of Wittgenstein, as did Lyotard and much of our collaborative work in PMTH is rooted in Wittgenstein, so this is a very promising concept for us, indeed.

Still, this does not settle the matter entirely.  We still have the task of working out what the word "agonistics" means in Lyotard and how we can escape this metaphoric trap with a concept like "social poetics" and still have the power of Lyotard's philosophy.  These things are not so easy.

To this end, let me refer you to some notes that Riet Samuels has given us.
Samuels reminds us that an important term in Lyotard is "pagan."  But Lyotard, if you recall, defines the pagan as one who judges without criteria.  For us on PMTH, this means we speak with a pagan voice when we are willing to go beyond the facts at our disposal to try to make sense of things.  Because we know we are going beyond the facts, we try not to snuff out the opposing voice who can give us much desired diverging points of view (i.e., alterity.)

But Lyotard invented the term "pagan" to mean voices that propose theories and ideas without basing them on the law handed down by some god (or author).  The pagan is one who creates new moves in new language games

One can imagine that such moves are created as part of agonistic strategies for winning at the expense of some adversary, but one can also imagine them being done as part of a kind of social artistry painted with the language of poetry. 

Along this line, Val Lewis helped us focus for a while on the way in which this notion of agonistics permeates our way of thinking, how it leads people to think that the best way to do therapy is to help people "get their anger out."  New social poetry may help us find new images for therapy.

I have great faith in this new idea.  I wish Lynn Hoffman were with us to talk about it now -- but she is off in Germany giving a workshop.  I have heard, however, that Arlene Katz is interested in joining us soon.

So, this leaves us with an ongoing issue here on PMTH.  But we love ongoing issues.  It promotes our paralogy.

A Conference You Might Really Like

PMTHer, Craig Smith announces a conference that sounds quite fun, relevant, and appropriate for those of postmodern inclinations. 

Do check it out by clicking here.

More on Our Tool Bar

Two new tools on our toolbar.  First, there is the new tool, way up at the top, that will take you to old PMTH NEWS editions.  Before too long I'll include more of the older ones.  For now, you have two older editions.  See that tool?  It's right below the tool about PMTH.  Just click here, and I'll take you there.

And there is a new search engine tool.  This search engine has nothing that makes it particularly appropriate for PMTH, except that it is exceptionally good, fast as blazes, no graphics to speak of.  You'll like it.  It is the first search in the search engine tool box. Click here to get there.

Shaffer's Joke

Many thanks to Jerry Shaffer for a new joke.  He directed it at me, but I'm happy to share the honors, and some PMTHERS have tossed it around for others to enjoy.  Shaffer said, that I didn't leave any stones unturned, or turns unstoned. 

I think that sounds like Shaffer thinks I'm agonistic, and he's probably right.  Argh!  I need social poetic therapy.

And it's coming.


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