August 9, 2010


ME + me : Real science & real psychology = joy


Note on the notes and links:

The square-bracketed notes refer
to text in the next Nederlog.

I keep being unwell so yesterday there was no Nederlog. And the previous one was about Bloody stupid hysteria + lying but today the subject is quite different.

This Nederlog of today moves back all of 21 years, to the month of February of 1989, when I published my "Echte wetenschap & echte psychologie = genot" which is in English "Real science & real psychology = joy" in "Spiegeloog", which was the monthly of the faculty of psychology, where I wrote a monthly column at the time.

It still seems to me quite excellent - yes, I am not a humble man - and "typically me", while most of the literature I list is as excellent and useful as it was, though I could make a few additions or alterations, which for the moment I will not do (but see my Some Favourite Books & Authors and Ten good modern philosophy texts for more about good books I've read).

Real science & real psychology = joy

Those who know me know that all of my house is filled with books - there is not a wall, or it is graced with a bookcase. These are books in 14 subjects - philosophy, mathematics, logic, psychology, sociology, economy, religion, mysticism, linguistics, physics, medicine, literature, history and computers - in which I have been reading now systematically for over 21 years. [1] This, that is understanding reality, especially in these subjects, is what motivated me all that time, clearly not to obtain course points and get rich, but because real science is beautiful and joyful. How joyful? I literally starved to be able to buy books - for Russell's "Logic and Knowledge" I did not eat 2 days at some point in my life. And it was worth it. [2]

Unfortunately, a really good scientific piece of work is about as rare as an honest man - "as men go, one in tenthousand" (Shakespeare). [3] And thus it happened that in my bookcases there may be found at a few places morons who got lost between geniuses, in the form of some acadamic piece of shit that I had to vomit up to get course points in the University of Amsterdam. [4]

Because in the University of Amsterdam I learned nothing at all (and yes, my marks were always good, but I just as well may have earned them for astrology and magic as for psychology and philosophy). And you will learn little in the University of Amsterdam - unless you are so stupid that you don't really belong in a university, and even then you learn little but some cant that enable you to enact the M.A. in psychology to naive people ("laymen"). [5] If you are not as stupid as that, the best you can do is cut out this text and hang it above your bed, because from an intellectual point of view what is summarized and listed here in this text - if you read those books - is much more educational than 6 years of Dutch academic courses. [6]

For I will try to explain what you should learn and read - and I do so based on the very bitter experience that the "education" I received in the University of Amsterdam and compared with the intellectual joys I found thinking and reading for myself. [7] What follows is in the spirit of what I would propose as a general propaedeutics [preparatory teachings], in some general and propaedeutical and selective first year (as in Norway), that is the same for all students. [8] The question in the background that I use for orientation is: "What general knowledge do you need to become a good scientist?". And the criterion is: "It must be wellwritten, clear, sensible, interesting and be of theoretical and human interest". What follows is tailored to psychology, but of general application.

Background knowledge: In the first place, you need some good understanding of two things: The human civilization in which you live, and the knowledge on which it is based. Two very good renderings of these are given in "The Ascent of Man" by Jacob Bronowski (Polish/English mathematician and Blake-specialist), and "The Condition of Man" by Lewis Mumford (American writer on the philosophies of culture, technology and architecture). Both writers wrote many more books, that are for the most part worth reading as well - wich will hold for most writers I will mention. [9]

For a more systematic insight and overview you have to look into books of reference. The three best are: "Encyclopeadia Brittanica", "Encyclopedia of Philosophy", Ed. P. Edwards and the "Shorter Oxford English Dictionary". Most academic debates would not have existed if the participants had refreshed their knowledge from the EB, had acquired some philosophical savviness from the EoP, and had improved their terminology by way of the Shorter OED. (The unshortened one is very large and expensive.) [10]

Next to general background knowledge, there are three human interests about which you should know more: Natural science, happiness and beauty. [11] Our civilization is, at least as far as technology is concerned (that is used by everybody to eat of, move with, live in, get clothed by and watches screenfuls of), based on physics. There are many good introductions but two excellent ones are "The Investigation of the Physical World" by Toraldo di Franca (Italian physicist) and "Lectures on Physics" by Richard Feynman (American physicist). [12]

Everyone wants to become happy and everybody looks for beauty. What is happiness; what is beauty? All best answers concerning happiness are in "Analysis of Happiness"; all best answers concerning beauty are in A History of Six Ideas" (in esthetics, to be sure). Both books are histories of ideas, and both are by Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz (a Polish philosopher with a very clear mind and an enormous erudition). Also both books (like all of T's books) are exemplary for how to write philosophy and science: Very clear, interesting, to the point, honest and very informative. [13]

History: Whoever does not know history does not know how to properly judge what men are capable of doing. In The Netherlands, the teaching of history nowadays is no longer a required subject in school, apparently because 1 Auschwitz does not suffice - "for who does not know history, is forced to repeat it". [14]

The most beautiful book of history is one of the oldest there are: "The Peloponnesian Wars" by Thucydides (Greek, before -400). Thucydides had a very clear view of human beings, their pretensions, their motives and their capacities. The Jowett-translation (19th C) is the best. [15] The only one who might compete with Thucydides is Burckhardt (Swiss, 19th C, much admired by Nietzsche, and whoever reads Burckhardt intelligently cannot do other than agree with Nietzsche in this). Burchhardt got known with a story about the flowering and decline of the Renaissance: "Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien". He also wrote (in 3 volumes) about the Greeks: "Griechische Kulturgeschichte". And if we are interested in Dutch academic talent - Johan Huizinga's "Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen" also is marvellous. [16]

A modern historian I hold in high esteem is the recently deceased Barbara Tuchman. All her books are good, but in case you think you can judge politics, I recommend that you read her "The March of Folly". [17]

Philosophy: is concerned with answers to the most general questions there are: What is truth; what is probability; what exists; what is knowledge; what are good and evil etc. Most philosophy is nonsense, and especially such philosophy as does not square with science (that evolved from philosophy: what is now called "science" was called until well within the 18th C "natural philosophy"). [18]

Who wants to delve deeper into philosophy is best adviced to invest his talents into W. Stegmuller's "Probleme und Resultaten der analytischen und Wissenschaftsphilosophie" (4 fat bound volumes or about 20 thinner paperbound "Studienausgaben"). This is a deutschgrundlich - thoroughly thorough German - overview of the subjects in its title, and is clear, throrough and rather complete, if occasionally a bit long. But all manner of fundamental problems and procedures are explained in it very well and in really clear terms, and many of these explanations are difficult to find elsewhere. [19]

Philosophy of science: is concerned with the question what are the fundaments of science = human systematized theoretical knowledge. The volumes by Stegmuller I just mentioned are here as well the best introduction. Whoever wants to know more should read "Treatise on Basic Philosophy" (8 vols. on the moment) - a very good, sensible and informed version of scientific realism. (You do need a little knowledge of mathematical logic.) [20]

For psychologists, sociologists etc. it is especially important to know something about the methodological wars in their fields of research. By tar the most sensible abd very well written is C. Wright Mills (American socioliogist, with degrees in engineering and philosophy) "The Sociological Imagination". In this one should read the essays "Abstracted Empiricism", "Grand Theorism" and "On Intellectual Craftsmanship" - excellent expostions of the intellectual incompetence and the fraudulent pretensions of the sot sciences, and about how one can become a good scientist oneself. [21]

Methodology: is more specific than philosophy of science, but closely related. I refer again to Stegmuller and to Mills. For Dutch would be psychologists there is De Groot's "Methodologie" still very much better than everything else that Dutchmen put together on the subject since it first appeared. Another good work is Ernst Nagel's - more philosopht of science oriented - "The Structure of Science" (apart from chapter 6, that is mistaken). But by far the most useful book on methodology takes barely 100 pages:  "Experimental Method" by W.G. Wood & D.G. Martin (2 English professors Engineering): A marvellous exceptionally clear description of how to set up good experiments. (A bit of knowledge of differential equations is required to get all, but is not required at all for the most part.) In this book you may find within a 100 pages what may take a search through a full library of methodological texts without ever finding it. [22]

Logic: is the science of reasoning. Since knowledge is constructed by means of reasoning, logic is the fundament of science. There are many kinds of logics and many introductions on many levels. A simple and adequate introduction for virtually anyone is "Introduction to Logic" by N. Rescher (American philosopher). Who wants to know more should read Stegmuller's part I and II and the beautiful "Naive Set Theory" by Paul Halmos (Hungarian/American mathematician) - which is a marvellous introduction to set theory (that is always applicable to everything: mathematics is the science of arbitrary structures, and the theory of sets is the foundation of mathematics - for everythin that is (thinkable) is (in) some structure, and therefore mathematics is so important.) Those who are really caught by the subject (wuth some talent for and capacity in mathematics) I recommend to look as fast as they can into "Mathematical Logic" by J. Shoenfield (American mathematician) and into "Foundations of Mathematics" by Evert Beth (great Dutch mathematician and philosopher), for both books are a kind o Beethoven symphony in logic: Marvellously clear; esthetically/mathematically correct and resonating on many levels. And very informative, civilizing and inspiring. Yes - for that is logic as well, in case you didn't know yet. [23]

Mathematics: is the science of arbitrary structures. Everything is (in) some structure, so everything is - also - a mathematical expression. Mathematics is beautiful and enjoyable, if you have some talent. Some good general surveys of what is mathematics (other than the shite you got in highschool) are What is mathematics?" by Courant & Robbins and three collections of brilliant essays: ssays: 1. "The World of Mathematics", Ed. J. Newman; 2. "Mathematics: Its Content, Method and Meaning" (3 vols.) Ed. Aleksandrov, Kolmogorov & Lavrent'ev; and 3. "Mathematics: People, Problems, Results" (3 vols.) Ed. Campbell & Higgins. If you want to know more mathematics, you should get the volumes in  Schaum Outline Series: At least 40 fairly priced usually very clear, systematic and complete expositions, always accompanied by hundreds worked out example problems (!!), about all important mathematical fields on all levels. Together with Courant & Robbins and item 2. in this paragraph you should be able, if you have some talent and persistence, to get far into "the queen of the sciences" (Gauss). I much restricted myself here, for real mathematics is real joy, abd who does not understand mathematics can not become a good scientist. [24]

Psychology: Most academic psychology is ordinary fraudulence, in my eyes. Acadamic psychologists are hardly ever truly inspired real scientists, but are usually academically titled bureaucrats who give boring lectures and scribble boring publications because they have to in order to retain tenure and reputation. As ever among human beings, there are exceptions, but these exceptions tend to have a hard life amidst their colleagues. [25]

Those who want to enjoy themselves and acquire a well founded judgment about the pretensions and achievements of 20th C psychology should read "The Principles of Psychology" by William James (american psychologist and philosopher). Beautifully written, 1000 times more sensible, more clear and more informative than almost all psychology I have read and moreover - unlike most academic psycology - based on mostly sensible ideas about philosophy of science. According to Whitehead all philosophy is "a footnote to Plato"; according to me all psychology is a footnote to James. (The reason? James was a genius, as was Plato. Who was a genius in the 20th C. almost never set out to study psychology, or stopped quickly.) [26]

Even so, some interesthing things have been done in psychology in the 20th C: By Russians (Pavlov, Vygotsky, Luria) or by non-psychologists. The result of the sensible efforts in the field is cognitive psychology (that only now starts to come into being), and whoever wants to read nice stuff in this subject I recommend five books: 1. "Embodiments of Mind" van Warren S. McCulloch (American medical doctor, together with Pitt (logician) the originator of the first mathematical theory of the brain). [27] EoM is a collection of essays, including poems, mathematical expositions and a very fine attack on psychoanalysis. A considerable part of cognitive psychology is concerned with mathematical and logical methods. A useful overview here is 2. "Brains, Mathematics and Machines" by M. Arbib. Meanwhile, this is over 20 years old. Much more recent and also more simple, but somewhat inspiring is 3. "The Society of Mind" by Marvin Minsky (American mathematician and specialist on A.I.) More mathematical, also by Minsky, is 4. "Computation: Finite and infinite machines" (the mathematical theory on which computers and some models of the brain are based) and finally, as general background, and to help you learn to think 5. "Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning" (2 vols) by G. Polya (Hungarian/American mathematician): A marvellous - and mathematically elementary! - treatise about heuristics (= the art of guessing). [28]

Personality theory: Many who desire to study psychology desire to understand themselves. The larger part of the science of psychology, it usually transpires rapidly, does not help at all, and neither does most of psychiatry. Five sensible books that may help you are 1. "Maximes" by La Rochefoucauld (17th C, French nobility) - a collection very sharp aphorisms on human incompetence, hypocrisy and ways to deceive others and oneself. 2. "Interpersonal Perception" van Laing, Philipson & Lee. In my opinion, the best Laing did: A formal theory about how human beings perceive each other ("I think that you think that I think that... but actuall I don't think so at all" etc.) 3. "Dyadic Communication" by Wilmott: The same subject, but mostly restricted to two persons, and with a more comprehensive theoretical perspective. 4. "The Intrapsychic Self" by Silvano Arieti. Most psychiatry I read was intellectual fraudulence and/or nonsense. Arieti is a very prominent American psychiatrist and neither fraudulent nor a writer of nonsense. Next to "Interpretation of Schizophrenia" this is his main work, and it is quite good. And for whoever seems to have some personal psychological problems: 5. "Test your own mental health" by W. Gladstone (American psychologist) is based on a sensible commonsense theory about mental health, that is explained in clear terms, and that is followed by a useful selftest. [29]

Literature: If you wanted to acquire understanding of human beings you will have learned little in the academic study of psychology - 20th C psychologists earned their incomes by "scientifically ascertaining" that, on a level of significance of .99, a reward (excuse me: "positive reinforcement") motivates (excuse me: "positively reinforces the antecedent operant behaviour"). That's an easy way to make money, but it produced (Milgram apart) hardly anything of human or theoretical importance. [30]

If you really want to understand what moves people you have to read the great authors - that is: not fashionable shite, but the classical names. They are worth it, because we know them as such because they have been filtered out as such, in the course of centuries. I am myself most impressed by the ancient Greeks: Sophocles and Aeschylos; by Shakespeare (best edition is a 3 volume set Pelican edition); by Montaigne; by William Hazlitt (English essayist 1778-1830, only comparable to Montaigne) and by the one great Dutch writer: Multatuli. I learned more from each of these persons than from all academic education I received, and that is part from the joy - because each of those I mentioned wrote like a semi-divinity. [31]

Computers: I have now since a bit more than one year a computer and I am seriously addicted. In that year I learned more and enjoyed more than I learned from all the academic education I passed through. And one conclusion is that whoever is not competent with computers is running backward. The sooner you know your way in computerland - and that means: a text editor; a spreadsheet; a dbase-program; a program to draw; and a programming language (for the lovers of the subject: my favourites are, in the same order, PCOutline, Lotus, Reflex, Paintbrush and Turbo Pascal) - the more effective you will study, and may think, write, reckon, draw etc. [32]

Given the level of Dutch academic education the minister of it would do wise to close all universities and provide all aspiring intellectuals with a PC+software & a dole-income instead. From the perspective of social justice, this would be much more fair, since in fact only students with rich parents can afford to buy a PC or to study. Another argument: 1 professor = 20 PCs per year, in terms of costs. The net yield of 1 PC used during 1 year = (minimally) 25 times that of 1 professor. Conclusion: The organic professorial intelligence is 500 times inferior to artificial intelligence, seen costs-effectively. O well. [33]

In conclusion: When I started studying (when I was 27) I had given myself a great part of what I listed above as material for a propaedeutical course, together with some 2000 other books. [34] The consequence was one grand horror-experience when confronted with the acadamic "education" I received in the University of Amsterdam. It was an education that totally did not square with what I had learned to know as real science - and my sources were not a few obscure Dutch Masters of Art teaching at some minor Dutch university, but the best scientists, philosophers and writers there are in the world, as made accessible by that most excellent means of joy and education that is called "book". However that may be: There is real joy and real knowledge to be found in science. And more than Buddha I cannot do for you: Behold! Paradise is there, where your intellectual horizon tends to; hell - the Psychotic Lab [35] - rules here. I wish you a lot of pleasure and knowledge.

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought. All that we are is founded upon our thoughts, and formed on our thoughts."
     (Dhammapadda, 1.1)

Four  reasons to translate the above are:

  1. It still is quite a useful and informative text.
  2. It explains rather a lot about me and my "career". (Nobody else could have written the above at that time and at that place, and noone did, because everyone was more stupid and less honest. And let me remark that all my complaints about Dutch education were, by logical implication, fully supported by the Parliamentary Report Dijsselbloem of 2008, that I still believe derives in part from my site - except that I write much better and much more honestly than a Parliamentary Committee, and except that the Labour-liar Dijsselbloem got the kudos, the money, the career-prospects, and the free standing own home in Gouda, while I suffer pain and discrimination).
  3. It also explains implicitly why I have been removed from the University of Amsterdam repeatedly (which would not have happened in Harvard or Cambridge, at the same time, for writing the same things: There exceptional individuals get some protection and chances, instead of systematic discrimination and repeated removal for speaking the truth.)
  4. It provides some background to the formal reason for removing me from the faculty of philosophy, 9 months before the above text was written: 39 Questions about the qualities of education and government in the Netherland

Anyway: The above and the last link have been considered and publicly decried as "fascistic" and "terroristic" by almost everybody employed by, studying in, or seeking a career at the University of Amsterdam, (*) which is a degenerate, decrepit sick institution for the creepier kind of Labour lefty with academic pretensions, a mini-brain and an apparatchik-soul, of which it is full to the brim.

It may be there still are a handful of intellectuals in the University of Amsterdam, but you'll find them only in such departments as require real talent, such as mathematics or physics. 

P.S. I'd like to add a number of notes to the above, if only to clarify myself to myself, but that has to wait till another day, possibly tomorrow. As it is, it should be able to explain in principle even to Americans and Englishmen who know little of Amsterdam or me that and why and how I really differ from other men (and women).

ETA August 10: The numbers of the notes have been inserted today.

It should also give the more intelligent some reason for thought, together with this observation: It was not that I said what only a pure genius could see, for in fact a sizable minority of professors at the time did see things more or less like I did, and indeed wanted me to say these things in public "because you can  do that so well".

But nobody dared to speak up, for fear of loosing money or a career, even in the liberal democratical state of law they lived in, healthy and wealthy also, without any personal physical risks to themselves.

Nobody of the many whores of reason of my generation ever lifted a finger to preserve good education, good universities, real science or real civilization.

Nearly all of them got a university position with verbal or real support for and from the communist party or the radical left.

None of them cared anything for real science: all of them were party-political and/or journalistic careerists.

Many were quite convinced I was "a fascist" and "a terrorist" for saying the above (and similar things, since 1977, in public, while ill with ME, like my then wife).

Nearly all of the whores of reason of my age still are professors, doctors or lecturers; have been so for the last 30 years; have never contributed anything of any scientific, moral, artistic, stylistic or human value; but still appear daily in the media or the papers with elaborate facilities, kudos and portrait pictures to write about "the rights of animals" or "the equivalence of all Dutchmen".

If Holland turns neo-nazi, which it well may do in a few weeks, months or years, what with the freak Wilders; the utterly spineless Dutch political assholes dancing attendance around him; and the moronic level of education of nearly all Dutchmen except a tiny fraction of privately educated ones,  it are the academically educated whores of reason of my generation who are responsible, and who furthered their careers by scolding everyone who stood in their way for being "a fascist".

For more see Why my family was in The Dutch Resistance  in WW II and Laudatio Neerlandica and indeed Heleen  Mees, who may have found her mind at last and at least writes sensibly these days. (**)

P.P.S. It may be I have to stop Nederlog for a while. The reason is that I am physically not well at all. I don't know yet, but if there is no Nederlog, now you know the reason.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon
     insufficient evidence
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

"Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

P.P.S. ME - Resources needs is a Work In Progress that hasn't progressed today.

(*) In case you ask how come I was published, got a studentparty together etc. the answer is that a small number of students and staff agreed with me. But small numbers of able persons are not sufficient to run a decent university or civilization.

(**) I criticized her repeatedly in Nederlog, and have to fairly admit that - after all! - she may be capable of rational thought, which I fairly admit because I am a fairminded man.

Maarten Maartensz

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