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“ Science” Of Psychology: Presentism, Other Errors

Uploaded 7/24/2023, approx. 23 minute read

Good morning. It's a beautiful, glorious Monday morning. Yes, I know. Glorious Monday morning is an oxymoron. At least where I come from.

So today we are going to discuss issues which are at the heart of psychology, including sharks, politics in the United Kingdom in the 18th century, and similar relevant hot-button topics in contemporary psychology.

Stay with me for this extremely wild ride.

Here's the problem.

Social sciences. That's really an oxymoron. If it's social, it can never be a science. If it has to do with human beings, it can never be a science.

Why?

Search my channel. There are a few videos I've made about why psychology and social sciences by extension are pseudosciences, fake sciences, pretend sciences.

But regrettably, because they carry forward this pretension to science, these disciplines of study, these literary endeavors, hamper and obstruct themselves.

And so this is a bad thing. Rather than own up to their limitations on the one hand, and to their strong points, forties on the other, these areas of study pretend to be sciences.

And by doing so, they tie their own hands and they disable many of the research directions which would have been profitable and productive.


One of the main problems in social sciences is that they reflect social mores, cultural values, contemporary preferences, beliefs, even conspiracies to some extent.

So social sciences are what we call culture bound. They reflect the here and now. They reflect what people believe, what people aspire to, what people hope for, what people are afraid of, rather than any purported or objective reality.

And so one of the main errors in social sciences in general and psychology and history, by the way, in particular, is called presentism. And it is a topic of today's interminable Monday lecture. History professor and British social scientist, Arthur Maui, argued that, I'm quoting, "a grasp of the fact that past societies are very different from our own and very difficult to get to know is an essential and fundamental skill of the professional historian.

Anachronism is still one of the most obvious faults when the unqualified, those experts in other disciplines, perhaps, for example, psychologists, attempt to do history.

Now, presentism is the imposition of current ideas, contemporary values, existing knowledge, preferred perspectives at any given time in history into imposition on depictions and interpretations of the past.

It is when we take our beliefs and we attribute them to the past, when we take our values and we judge the past in light of these values, when we have a worldview and we somehow develop the superstition that this worldview is objective, measurable, has always been here, and that humanity throughout history has always had this worldview.

All these statements are profoundly ignorant and utterly fallacious.

Anachronism, both parachronism and propronism, by the way, there are several types of anachronism.

Anachronism is a chronological inconsistency in some juxtaposition of people's events, objects, language terms and customs from different time periods.

I don't know, an 18th century nobleman texting would be an anachronism or a 19th century Inuit in the North Pole watching television. That would be an anachronism.

Tending to believe that we have always had the same view of childhood, that's an anachronism because childhood is a very, very new concept.

Or, to say that the maternal instinct, whatever it may be, has always been with us and that the mother's role has always been the same throughout history. That's an anachronism.

These statements are untrue. They also reflect profound ignorance.

So the most common type of anachronism is an object misplaced in time.

But it could be other things.

For example, a verbal expression out of its time. A technology, a philosophical idea, a musical style, a material, a substance, a plant, an animal, a custom, anything else associated with a particular period that is placed outside its proper temporal domain.

This happens all the time in psychology. We tend to believe, even if we don't verbalize it, even if we don't openly admit it, we tend to believe as practitioners and teachers of psychology that things have always been the same. That a mother has always been a mother, a child has always been a child, a father has always been a father, collectives have always been more or less hierarchical, etc., etc.

These assumptions are wrong.

When Margaret Mead traveled to America and Samoa, she discovered that the very construct of adolescence is probably mostly Western.

Today, there's some revision of her work and we know that adolescence does exist even in primitive societies, but definitely not the way we conceive of adolescence in Western civilization.

So when you, as a psychologist, as a therapist, as a practitioner, as a psychiatrist, as a professor of psychology, and I'm a former visiting professor of psychology and I teach psychology, when you make these hidden assumptions, even if they are unconscious, even if you are not aware of them, you're misleading, you're leading people astray.

You must always ask yourself, "Is what I'm saying right now, is this observation, is the design of this experiment, is this study, are these outcomes or conclusions, do these things that I teach, are they influenced by who I am, when I am, in which period of history I'm embedded, where I come from, where I reside right now, my cultures, the cultures I've been exposed to, the societies I'm a part of, mores, values, beliefs, and norms?"

And the answer is yes, I am being influenced.

What you're doing is you are misleading people, you're not teaching, you're definitely not teaching science.

Regrettably, this is the case 99% of the time.


Let's take the example of motherhood and fatherhood.

Everyone and his dog will tell you nowadays, laymen and professionals and scholars alike will tell you that a mother and a father are crucial to the development, to the healthy development and growth, personal growth of the child.

Absent one of these, a maternal figure and a maternal figure, there is going to be trouble, there's going to be dysfunction later on in adulthood. Is this true?

No, it's absolutely not true. Even in contemporary psychology we know that the role of the mother in the formative period up to age 36 months far outweighs and is far more critical than anything the father has to offer.

So even within contemporary psychology this politically correct symmetry, this woke equilibrium, "Yeah, mothers are as important as fathers are as important as mothers, mothers and fathers are both needed." It's not supported, it is not supported by science, by studies, and by many schools in psychology.

For example, object relations. In object relations the emphasis is on the mother 100%.

But it gets even worse. The father's role throughout history has been changing dramatically and so there have been periods in history where the father was utterly unimportant in the first few years of a child's life, not only unimportant but absent.

And yet, these children grew up to be well balanced, healthy, functional.

Let me tell you a bit about the history, the biography of Cyrus, known in Hebrew as Kogesh. Cyrus was the king of the Persian, the emperor of the Persians, and he had a childhood typical of his peers.

I'm reading to you from a book titled Persians: The Age of the Great Kings by the author Lloyd Llewellyn Jones published by Basic Books in 2022 last year.

And so I'm quoting, "Pay attention to the way Cyrus had been brought up. Until they turned six years old, Persian boys were raised among the women and girls. And they barely saw their fathers or had any other adult male company.

So the strong empathy created between mothers and sons became a defining feature of their subsequent adult lives.

In societies which valued gender segregation, parents tended to fill the voids in their mother's lives.

Today, this is known as parentification, and it is frowned upon as a pathological and dysfunctional feature of improper parenting.

But it was the thing to do in ancient Persia.

I'm going to read this last sentence again. "The strong empathy created between mothers and sons became a defining feature of their subsequent adult lives.

In societies which valued gender segregation, sons tended to fill the voids in their mother's lives created by husbands who were literally or emotionally absent or preoccupied.

Persian women trained their sons to replace the older, adored men. And as a consequence, they bonded with their sons very deeply.

Finally, the day came for Cyrus to be taken away from the women's tents.

He was six years old at the age of four. There was no choice, there was no discussion, and perhaps he cried as clinging on to Mandanis, his mother's veil with his soft little hands, he was passed into the arms of his father.

His hair was cropped and he was thrust into the brooding society of the menfolk and into the rough and tumble world of horses, hunting and warfare, and of finding faults, punishments, and the flexing of muscles.

It must have come as a shock to Cyrus as to every Persian boy to experience so swift and resolute a departure from all the comforts he had known.

So, incestuous bonding with a mother, parentification, no father figure until age six, no male figure until age six, and yet Cyrus is known to have been a well-balanced, mentally healthy, rigorously truthful, value-applying, upright, morally upright man. A saint in many traditions.

It seems that everything we think we know about proper parenting and good enough mothers, so maybe it's questionable. Definitely many cultures and societies throughout the world and in different periods of history have contested this.

So, what is it that we are teaching in psychology? Is it science or is it white, straight, middle-class preferences?

I'm not sure of the answer, regrettably.


Let's take another example.

Abuse, more specifically narcissistic abuse, the phrase I coined, I introduced the very construct into the literature and the online sphere.

Abuse in general and narcissistic abuse in particular are frowned upon. They are socially unacceptable and condemned. They are bad things. They are being even criminalized as we speak.

And yet, throughout history, some of the greatest names have been rampant, rabid abusers and this was not held against them. It was part of their allure, part of their mystique and part and parcel of their charismatic magnetism.

One prime example of this is Picasso. The book is The Art of Love, the Romantic and Explosive Stories Behind Art's Greatest Couples. It was authored by Kate Bryan, published by White Line Publishing in 2019. Here's what she has to say about Picasso.

"Although Picasso was a singular modern genius who could be generous and affectionate, he was also a volatile and difficult man. He left behind him a trail of devastation as he moved on to new sources of excitement, quickly tiring of wives and lovers and overlooking his children and grandchildren.

And then he met Francois Gillaud. Gillaud and Picasso spent 10 years together between 1943 and 1953. She was 40 years, that's four zero years, his junior. They had two children, Claude and Paloma.

For Picasso, Gillaud represented a safe, idealized retreat from reality. With Gillaud, he could be pure, brilliant sunshine and with others, moody and belligerent.

Picasso was a temperamental genius. He gorged on his own intellect and simultaneously delighted and loathed the unfaltering respect he received from all corners.

His world was psychophantic. He dangled paintings before the eyes of hungry dealers, playing them off against one another, just as he tormented his mistresses. He was cruelly delighted in seeing a heartbroken Maggitais Valtortort and Dora Maar, two of his lovers, in a physical fight. He often tested the limits of Gillaud's affection for him.

And when she refused to take the bait, he would scream that she was called, calculating and unkind.

His biggest disappointment was that he could not fully command, contain or understand fans, orators.

For the last two years of their relationship, Gillaud was exhausted and unhappy.

Picasso, ever the sadist, was badly behaved and unsympathetic to her ill health, caused in large part by being denied rest in a disruptive household.

Eventually she made the decision to leave, despite Picasso threatening, "You're headed straight for the desert."

In the same way that she entered the relationship, with her eyes wide open, she left it, knowing that Paris would be a poison chalice for her. She relocated to New York where she lives to this day, still painting at the age of 97, having outlived the great force in her life. I think she died. I'm not sure but I think she died.

As well as a lifetime of painting, Gillaud also created a beautiful and compelling memoir, chronicling her decade with Picasso. He tried to ban its publication in 1964 but he failed.

He would always take on Gillaud and never understood why he could not win.

He was a man that famously thought women were either goddesses or doormats.

But what he failed to grasp with all his macho ego was Gillaud's fundamental position.

It's a bad idea that women have to concede. Why shouldn't they?

That was not for me. Probably I was a bit ahead of my generation.

Gillaud spoke to Picasso only once after she left him on the telephone after her book was published.

Her accomplishments post Paris are many and she has been fiercely vocal about them so as not to be seen in his shadow.

However, there is no escaping that one of her life's great victories was to be the only lover to outmaneuver Picasso.

Another period, a hundred years ago, when abuse was considered a legitimate coinage, a legitimate form of interaction between men and women, Gillaud was the exception, not the rule, and she feels to this very day in need of justifying herself.

When we demonize abuse, when we cast it in scientific terms of dysfunction or in psychoanalytic terms, we are scientific, a value. We are pretending that a social moray, that a value system, that our current contemporary preferences, the ideology we are all subsumed in, the interpolation of society itself, we pretend that these are objective truths that have been the same throughout history and that can be observed and measured in a laboratory.

That is rank nonsense.

The rise of the construct of abuse and narcissistic abuse by small contribution has to do with the rise of feminism, with the emancipation of women, with the egalitarianism that is engulfing society, with our emphasis on equity, with our desire to eliminate power asymmetries and discrimination. These are all very noble goals. I am all for them. I have contributed my share to use an understatement, but this is not science. This has nothing to do with science. It's social activism. It's a political movement. It's identity politics. Call it what you wish. It's a work movement. I don't care what label you slap on it.

Psychology, it's not. Science definitely is not.


And yet we keep pretending that it's both.

I'm going to make an interlude here just to demonstrate how universal themes that run through history are accorded a different treatment depending on the cultural, social and historical context.

Darya Zhukovska, my collaborator in Poland, a psychologist, published this on her Instagram. It's a poem by Wysława Żymbska. I hope I'm pronouncing it correctly. I think the Polish language is a crime against humanity.

But she won't be the one who gets the 1996 Nobel Prize in literature for good reasons, it seems. Here is her poem, 1962, titled "Drinking Wine."

And as Darya Zhukovska says, to my mind, this is a gist of narcissistic love. Listen well.

"He looked at me, bestowing beauty, and I took it from my own. Happy, I swallowed a star. I let him invent me in the image of the reflection in his eyes. I dance, I dance in an abundance of sudden wings. A table is a table. Wine is wine. In a wine glass, which is a wine glass, and it stands standing on a table.

But I am a phantasm, a phantasm beyond belief, a phantasm to the core. I tell him what he wants to hear about ants dying of love under a daisies constellation. I swear that sprinkled with wine a white rose will sing. I laugh and tilt my head carefully as if I were testing an invention. I dance, I dance in astounded skin in the embrace that creates me.

Eve from a rib, Venus from sea foam, Minerva from the head of Jupiter were much more real.

When he is not looking at me, I search for my reflection on the wall. All I see is a nail on which a painting hung. Magnificent. She deserved a Nobel Prize. Stunning poem. And it captures indeed the exact concept of shared fantasy.

How the narcissist idealizes you and then makes you see yourself through his gaze. And as you apprehend yourself through his gaze, you fall in love with yourself. You fall in love with his gaze and you fall in love with him for having allowed you to see yourself this way.

It's a magnificent song. But I read it to you in order to demonstrate her attitude.

She could come perhaps as a shock to some of you, but she is very positive about this experience. Her attitude is positive. She doesn't see anything wrong in the shared fantasy, in her narcissist, in the way he forces her to conform to his expectations and the way he sees her. Something that I call coerced snapshotting. Everything that I describe as negative, as threatening, as ominous, even possibly criminal. She sees as positive, as wonderful, as a phantasm to be cherished. She dances. She dances. She's happy. She feels created. She feels alive. She comes alive in his gaze.

Narcissism has undergone a transformation, many things. When this strong, expressive woman regarded narcissism as a positive experience or being with a narcissist as a positive experience, today the universal, the universal ID, universal conception is that it is a very negative experience.

And yes, I was the first to describe this in the early 1990s, but I didn't pretend. I didn't pretend at any point that what I'm saying is science or objective, even though I've gained access to almost 2000 narcissists and studied them in depth. I still don't pretend that it's a science.

In today's environment where men and women are equal, equipotent, they have the same power and in some respects women are superior. In this environment, the shared fantasy, which was essentially and originally propagated and perpetrated by men, can have no place. Women can have no place.

So as women become more masculine, self-described as men, as they adopt masculine or manly values, they become more and more narcissistic and more and more psychopathic. And at some point we will have to apply the same criteria to them as well, because they are becoming the abusers.

So what is it all about? Values, ideologies, beliefs, reflections of changing social dynamics and trends, nothing permanent, it's all a funeral. It's all contingent on, I don't know, the next pandemic or the next world war, post nuclear war.

I think many of these questions would be moot because masculine muscle power would be needed. I mean, give me a break.

None of this is cast or set in stone. It's just us talking about our preferences and priorities and wishes and dreams. It's just us trying to survive. It's just us fighting off predators and abusers and enemies and haters. It's just us that we use fancy words, $10 words doesn't make us scientists. This makes us pretentious or pompous, but not scientists.

Allow me to proceed.

There's something called semantic change. There's a branch of linguistic known as diachronic linguistics. Words change their meaning.

One process is known as pageration. It's when a word that used to denote something acceptable, commendable has become a curse word or a derogatory word.

And milioration is the opposite process where something that used to be negative is not considered positive.

Let me give you two examples. The word nice. The word nice today is a positive word. You're a nice person. That's a nice meal. This is a nice sitting. This is a nice requisition or a nice article.

Nice. Nice is positive. I am not aware of any interpretation of nice that is negative.

And yet for many, many centuries, nice was a highly negative word. It meant foolish. If you said about someone, he's a nice man, you meant he's an idiot. If today you say about someone is a nice man, you mean he's kind and empathetic and a potential mate, potential intimate partner and maybe smart enough to fake being nice, but in the past, nice meant foolish, stupid, incapable of learning, repeating mistakes, making idiotic, moronic decisions.

Let's take the word silly. Silly today is a largely negative word. It means foolish and sophisticated, largely negative. It has some positive connotations or comic connotations. So you could be silly, but it's largely positive. It's actually negative.

I'm sorry. Foolish and sophisticated, stupid, silly. In the past, the word silly meant happy, fortunate. If you said about someone, he's a silly man, you meant he's happy probably because he has good fortune. Today, if you say about someone, you're a silly man, you're likely to end up in a brawl and in jail.

So the meanings of words change all the time and this is known as semantic change or semantic shift in diachronic linguistics.

This is very important to understand. We'll come to it in a minute.


I want to give you another example.

It's from a book titled Our First Revolution by Michael Barron, published by Crown Publishing Group in 2007.

Many of you, especially those in the United Kingdom and those who have studied the history of the United States, have heard the terms "wigs" and "tories". Wigs and tories are terms still in use when describing the political scene in the United Kingdom.

But wigs and tories were originally insults. A wig was a Scottish term used for horse thieves and applied to Presbyterians. I'm not sure which is worse. Tory was an Irish term used for outlaws, criminals, and applied to Catholics.

Why am I mentioning all this? Why am I mentioning the shifting meanings, even lexical meanings in dictionaries of words?

Because as we speak, narcissists and psychopaths are being glamorized, glorified, exalted, and elevated in multiple settings, especially in academe.

In academe, there is a group of scholars who describe narcissism and psychopathy as positive evolutionary adaptations. They talk about high-functioning narcissists and psychopaths and how they are indispensable to the progress and march of the species, how they're saving us, in effect, and how in certain professions being a narcissist and a psychopath is an advantage.

And this idea, which is counterfactual, it's stupid, it runs against every single study we have.

This idiotic idea permeated popular culture.

And today, all kinds of YouTube commentators, the worst of the worst, the lowest in the intellectual ladder, expostulate on how all politicians are narcissists and how it's great to be a psychopath when you are a surgeon or a soldier.

So we are in the throes of redefining the word narcissist and the word psychopath to mean something positive.

As narcissism and psychopathy spread and they are spreading, they are wildfire, it's a pandemic, as they spread, we would need to legitimize them or excommunicate half the population. It's impractical to excommunicate or to shun or to ostracize so many people.

So what we're going to do, we're going to redefine narcissism and psychopathy as positive, high-functioning, evolutionarily valuable adaptations.

Indeed, in 2016, New Scientist, the science magazine in the United Kingdom had a cover story. Parents, teach your children to be narcissists. It's starting.

Finally, the field is riddled with persistent misinformation, myths and legends. This is also true in medicine, by the way.

A recent study in medicine has shown that the practitioners of medicine, general practitioners, surgeons, specialists, are 17 years behind cutting-edge, bleeding-edge knowledge. It's the same in psychology. A lot of nonsense online of course, where the vast majority of information is misinformation by people with zero credentials in the fields they claim to be experts in, but also misinformation and disinformation in textbooks, in faculties, passed on as that much poisonous hemlock to the next generations.

And misinformation is everywhere. It's very difficult to get rid of, and I'm calling my friends, the sharks, to attest.

Quoting from a book titled Why Sharks Matter, a deep dive with the world's most misunderstood predator, by the author David Schiffman, publisher is Johns Hopkins University Press last year, 2022. And here's what he has to say.

"There are also sharks that live in fresh water."

No, I'm not just referring to the bull shark, which Discovery's Shark Week programming wrongly claims year after year is the only shark that can enter fresh water.

Are you listening what this guy is saying? This guy is saying the Discovery Network television, Discovery television, in its prime program on sharks known as Shark Week has been getting its facts wrong year after year and perpetuating the misinformation to millions of years over multiple generations.

Discovery Channel says that only bull sharks live in fresh water. That is not true. That is misinformation. That is misleading because there's another shark, at least one other shark, that inhabits fresh water. It's the gleeffis shark, sometimes known as the River shark.

They live almost their entire lives in fresh water.

Schiffman says, "Unfortunately, River sharks are some of the most critically endangered sharks in the world, in no small part because they live closer to humans than ocean-dwelling sharks do.

If we can't get our facts about sharks, in the most important television program on sharks, in the most important nature channel after National Geographic, what hope is there to get our facts straight in psychology? Zero hope.

The amount of sheer, inane nonsense, misinformation, disinformation, myths and legends is so hugely overwhelming that I could safely say that nine out of every ten things you hear read or learn are wrong. They contradict and conflict with studies, most studies.

So tomorrow I'm going to post a video about the toxic self-help industry. This video today is an introduction to the philosophy behind my attitude towards self-help. It's a toxic scam inhabited and populated by mostly con artists.

They are capitalizing on psychology's pretension to be a science, the gullibility of the consumers of psychology, and the intellectual laziness of the overwhelming vast majority of practitioners of psychology, whatever they may be.

Thank you for listening.

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