North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Psycho-epistemology and Psychology

Psycho-epistemology and Psychology

A former member
Post #: 99
I think there has been some confusion at some of the NTOS meeting regarding the difference between a psycho-epistemological problem versus a psychological problem. The difference is one between bad mental habits and mental malfunctions.

From The Ayn Rand Lexicon (emphasis added):

Psycho-epistemology: Psycho-epistemology is the study of man's cognitive process from the aspect of the interaction between the conscious mind and the automatic functions of the subconscious.

Psychology: The task of evaluating the processes of man's subconscious is the province of psychology. Psychology does not regard its subject morally, but medically -- i.e. from the aspect of health or malfunction (with cognitive competence as the proper standard of health).

Psycho-epistemology has to do with the habits one forms when one is utilizing one's conscious mind and what has been automatized by the subconscious. The conscious mind directs the subconscious to perform certain functions and it is this interaction that is psycho-epistemology. For example, when thinking about something does one habitually go to the facts and previous reasoning one has stored on the subject or does one habitually turn to one's emotions as guidance? does one turn to what others have said on the topic rather than of one's own thoughts? does one habitually look for more evidence before coming to a conclusion or does one simply state what is on the tip of one's tongue without thinking it through further? does one want to take the facts into account or does one only take the hype into account? does one cue off of other people's emotions and go along with them or does one make a first-hand evaluation? does one like to discover new things and integrate them with the rest of one's knowledge or does one's mind remain idle when something new is presented? does one prefer a routine at work or does one prefer challenging productive tasks?

Basically, these types of choices and how one interacts with one's own mind is psycho-epistemology.

A psycho-epistemological problem is one in which one has developed a habit of misdirecting one's own mind. One may have developed the habit of, say, going along with others before one has clearly understood the difference between the first-hander and the second-hander as presented in The Fountainhead. This is a bad habit, since independence is a virtue. But it is a bad habit that can be corrected by being more aware of what one does automatically when an argument arises. Does one come up with one's own position and try to verify it or does one take the position that so and so is against me so I must be wrong? By developing the habit of turning to the facts and thinking it through on one's own, one will gain independence and correct the bad intellectual habit.

A psychological problem is a conflict that arises in the subconscious, and is not the expression of a habit. Though one can develop psychological problems by misusing one's own mind, one can have a good psycho-epistemology and yet develop psychological problems. This is because one does not have direct access to what is going on in one's subconscious, and it can be disrupted by a seriously distressing event.

Let's say that one loves having picnics at sunset with one's wife. You are at such an outing and she announces that she wants a divorce, claiming that she has never really loved you all along. You are devastated as she walks off and leaves you.

One gets along after a while and falls in love with someone else, who loves to have picnics at sunset. One goes on this picnic, and one feels a great deal of anxiety and can't figure out why, and the date is ruined.

This is a psychological problem. A conflict between enjoying the sunset and past events have clashed in the subconscious, leading to the anxiety and the inability to function normally. For example, one may have pushed her away instead of bring her closer, because the clash is so great. One may not even be consciously aware that the anxiety came about due to past events, and a competent psycho-therapist may be in order.

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Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand

www.appliedphilosophyonline.com­

Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!

tmiovas@appliedphilosophyonline.com

All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

A former member
Post #: 15
A psycho-epistemological problem is a disconnect between your subconscious automatizations and your conscious convictions.

"Though one can develop psychological problems by misusing one's own mind, one can have a good psycho-epistemology and yet develop psychological problems. This is because one does not have direct access to what is going on in one's subconscious, and it can be disrupted by a seriously distressing event. "

I disagree with your observation. A man's direct access to his subconscious is his psycho-epistemology, and it can function in one of two ways:

1) issuing commands to or inputing data into his subconscious (input)
or
2) directly using his subconscious, as in pulling information out of it, understanding his emotional states, writing an essay, etc. (output).

A good psycho-epistemology is best defined as: the ability to properly define, control and utilize the content of one's subconscious.

By this definition, how could one have a good psycho-epistemology and have major psychological problems? If one has firm control over one's subconscious, how does a "distressing event" override that control and disrupt the flow between conscious ideas/judgments and subconscious integrations/responses? By losing focus and control; i.e., by adopting a "bad" psycho-epistemology.
A former member
Post #: 101
[Chad Merritt said]
A psycho-epistemological problem is a disconnect between your subconscious automatizations and your conscious convictions.


This would be more the result of having a psycho-epistemological problem -- i.e the habit of not thinking ideas through and verifying them, not integrating one's new ideas with the rest of one's knowledge. But the psycho-epistemological problem would be the failure to integrate leading to that disconnect.

If one is integrated rationally, then the material from the subconscious flows naturally as needed. Such as the ability to write an essay without having to look up the meaning of every word; one's subconscious takes care of that and punctuation, without having to think every word through explicitly before writing it down. Of course, a good writer will then check it through more consciously, but I'm speaking more of the automatic functions of, say, typing and choice of words and phrases. If we had to be deliberately conscious of all those minuscule actions, it would be like having to learn to walk again at every step; or like trying to write in a language one is just learning.

I disagree with your observation. A man's direct access to his subconscious is his psycho-epistemology....
<snip>
A good psycho-epistemology is best defined as: the ability to properly define, control and utilize the content of one's subconscious.

Well, one has direct access, in the sense of being able to retrieve information or to input new information, but one doesn't have direct volitional control over the automatized functions. For example, one does not have direct volitional control over what emotion one feels for a given existent; the emotion that comes up from the subconscious evaluation is the one you get, and one can't volitionally change the emotional reaction to some other emotion.

Likewise, if one is searching for a word to use that means what one is trying to convey, a word will pop up; and one can then either accept it or tell oneself to find another word. But one doesn't actually have the control of finding only just that right word, and no other, that means exactly what one wants to convey when one is stuck on a word to use.

Also, it should be kept in mind that we are talking about the automatic functioning of the subconscious as directed by the conscious to perform a certain task. Let's say one has learned to utilize a specific skill in a specific setting, and one has automatized "reach two feet to the left to pick up my wrench" and then one's work area is re-arranged and that automatic reach will no longer work. One cannot simply re-program one's subconscious directly to "reach one foot to the right to pick up my wrench." The automatics will kick in to get you to reach to your left instead of to your right, until one goes through a re-training exercise and actually reaches to one's right a few times until the auto-code is re-written.

Or turn your keyboard around and try typing with the new configuration. You will find that you have to do quite a bit of re-learning where the keys are before you can type that way.

By this definition, how could one have a good psycho-epistemology and have major psychological problems? If one has firm control over one's subconscious, how does a "distressing event" override that control and disrupt the flow between conscious ideas/judgments and subconscious integrations/responses? By losing focus and control; i.e., by adopting a "bad" psycho-epistemology.


I disagree. Let's say one is cruising down one's favorite scenic drive and out of the blue a car sideswipes you and you go over the cliff, nearly losing your life, but recover after spending several months in the hospital. You are not going to be able to just get back behind the wheel and drive casually down that road again, because instead of that road being psychologically associated with pleasant drives, it is now psychologically associated with nearly dying and seriously disrupting your life.

Now, if one has a good psycho-epistemology, one can get back onto that road with some effort; the effort of re-integrating it as a value instead of a dis-value; which would require driving down that road until one can enjoy it again. But this won't happen if one has the bad mental habit of going by one's emotions instead of one's thoughts. Something along the lines of, "I've been driving down this road for five years and never had an accident, which is not something that is going to happen to me every time I get on this road; so I'm going to recover the value of that scenic drive."

The mind is an integrating mechanism.The more rational one is, the better it integrates. Some aspects of integration occur automatically or semi-automatically, and by getting in that accident that road has become integrated with the disaster; and it happened so quickly that one may not even realize the integration took place until after one tries to drive down that road and has to pull over out of distress because your subconscious mind keeps throwing the accident back up into your face.

That's how even a rational man, who has a perfectly functioning psycho-epistemology, can develop psychological problems.


$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$­$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand

www.appliedphilosophyonline.com­

Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!

tmiovas@appliedphilosophyonline.com

All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

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