References - Week Three
Outline - Session Three

Carry Over ..,

NYTimes on how to flourish and not languish. (download pdf of article)  For me, many of the suggestions are sadly lacking in meaning.

Question: What’s your opinion of the reporter’s suggestions?


The problem with meaning is that it, meaning, needs to be for someone or some thing. I’m comfortable selecting a social group that I value and using the group’s assessment of meaning as the basis for determining the meaning of what I’m doing or plan to do.

Question: Are you comfortable with assessing meaning in this way?

Role of Social Groups

Going back a century or more, there is a growing body of literature that speaks to the importance of social groups to development of the child. We discover ourselves through social groups. And we actively draw on social groups to make the right decisions.

Question: Do social groups really play such an important role in “the self”?

Existential Conundrum

Freedom and its accompanying  isolation would seem to fly in the face of the role that has been assigned to social groups. Thanks to our evolutionary development process we are equipped with a desire to be accepted by our group. The freedom is abstract, the will to belong is visceral.

Question: Is it that our freedom is abstract; but our need to belong is more immediate?

Embodied & Embedded

The view of the brain as our central controller with its control extending throughout our body fails to recognize reality. We developed processing capabilities throughout our body. As the brain developed, it took advantage of such lower level processing. Our bodies are very much a part of our cognition. In a similar way, we take advantage of what we find in our environment. That environment is very much a part of our cognition.

Question: Is it useful to think of ourselves as embedded in and dependent on our environments?


Challenges of the Third Age – Meaning and Purpose in Later Life (excerpt)

This book of chapters by different authors was published in 2002. It already seems a bit dated. Those coming after us into the 3rd age may not see the world in the same way. The excerpt includes the chapter on “Social Sources of Meaning in Later Life”, and an epilogue by the editors. The epilogue in particular is recommended.

G.H.Mead and L.S. Vygotsky on Meaning and the Self (14 page article)

This relatively brief article provide valuable background information on the roles that social groups play in the development of the self. Mead was working in Chicago at the beginning of the 20th century; Vygotsky worked in the early years (before Stalinist controls were imposed) of the Soviet revolution. They reached similar conclusions about social groups. Good background.

Freedom (Sartre) vs. Belonging (Vygotsky) My illustration of the tension between these two views.

According to the existential psychotherapists Freedom is one of the fundamental challenges that we all face. Each of us must decide the future we will pursue. We are also social animals, with a desire for a place in a social world, ... and with a fear of rejection. For me, freedom is almost an abstraction, but finding my place is visceral.

The Mind-Expanding Ideas of Andy Clark (pdf of an 11 page New Yorker article from 2018)

The great virtue of this piece is that it was written for a lay audience, albeit an intelligent lay audience. You get gently led through and around Andy Clark’s ideas, conclusions and speculations about the embodied and embedded mind. Note: the document prints to 22 pages, but it’s double spaced throughout.

Andy Clark and His Critics (excerpt from a 2019 book of readings)

Everyone doesn’t agree with Andy Clark, but we don’t have the time required to develop a balanced view of his ideas. This set of readings provides a partial counter-balance to “straight” Andy Clark. Dip into this if you’re interested, ... and have the time.

What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (excerpt from a short 1987 text)

On the surface of it, it would seem that philosophy should have many useful things to say about meaning. Philosophy does have much to say, but often its only of interest to other philosophers. This brief text tries to be different. Included are the chapters on Death and on Meaning (15 pages)