Posts Tagged ‘Plato’

How does a behavioral psychologist think?

January 17, 2013

All my professional life I was a professor of developmental psychology. I retired in 1998, four years before Dr. Daniel Kahneman, another professor of psychology, got his Nobel Price in – Economics – in 2002. I will speak at the University of Valencia this month on his research on the behavior of the economic man: Is he as rational as society believes? Behavioral Economics was born the moment empirical evidence replaced rationality in the decision-making about money. Hey, young dude, join me on the edge of discovery? Today is only 10 years since the new profession began and people associated with the Symposium (and here in Canada) are already thinking of Behavioral Politics, Behavioral Medicine, etc. as the next step in the evolution of solutions and human success. I want to thank Hippocrates for asking the question 2500 years ago: Should Medicine be rational or empirical. I also want to thank Plato and Aristotle 2400 years ago for asking the question: Should language be rational-logical or natural-empirical?


The beauty of adding behavioral in front of any name of a discipline is that solutions become clear. For example, for years as a psychologist I struggled with the issue, “Does man kills or do guns kill?” On the day I became a behavioral thinker the answer became clear. Man kills, not guns. As a behavioral psychologist I know very clearly that the problem is not a billion gun in every home, its behavior. American society needs to look at how it raises its kids! What behaviors are rewarded and what behaviors are punished by parents, schools, etc.

I just came from the mall. I saw a mother screaming at her daughter, “Don’t shout at me,” she screamed. You know something, dude, Buddha once said that the word perfect means awareness, not  the absence of errors. Now I understand what he meant. Hey dude, have a better day!


Understand language and be free.

January 18, 2010

Twenty four hundred years ago Plato and Aristotle argued language. Aristotle said that language means the use of words in a community to convey the community’s culture. Plato said that language is the soul of humanity that expresses itself in successive layers of love.

You are free to the extent that you know the difference. If you are happy to feel the way you feel the rest of your life, you probably use words the way Plato did. If you don’t want to feel that way the rest of your life, you  probably use words the way Aristotle did. If you have the courage to test  yourself, define love. I’ll respond to the first ten.

Bet you didn’t know that language can kill.

December 15, 2009

This is a true story: Three thinking  giants, an old teacher, his adult student, and his young student, got together twenty-four hundred years ago in Athens. The old teacher, Mr. S said, “Future communication between people on this planet depends on what we decide tonight.” His adult student, Mr. P asked, “Are we going to publish a dictionary, Master?” His young student, Mr. A said, “I don’t think so. P only wants us to establish the sources for future philologists where they can get information about the meaning of words.” S and P looked at the young student, “That was very good, Aris,” bursting out with appreciation of the young mind.

The young man’s confidence soared, not that he had come to the meeting with lack of it. Aris was an independent thinker at a period in Athen’s life when philologists were were not.

“My dear teachers, the meaning of words would always be based on how they are used by the people,” he said.

“It appears to me that you are proposing a new concept,” Plat said in visible discomfort.

“Yes, my teacher, I call it Community Standard of Language.

“What about the essence of words, my son?” Soc questioned.

“Words have no essence, Master, only local meaning.”

Socra and Plat gave Aris a disdainful look, “If what you are proposing is true, future dictionaries will be a source of discord and not a source of consensus in the world.”

“I’m sorry, gentlemen, words have no true meaning. Take, for example the word ‘love.’ Do you really believe that men and women could ever mean the same thing when they communicate love to each other?”

Socrates and Plato started crying. Socrates took a deep breath and said, “Then language will kill. Think of all the wars that misunderstanding will cause.”

“I’m sorry, gentlemen, but culture decides the meaning of words, not philologists.”

Socrates said, “You have a point, my son, I was condemned to death last week for teaching our youth that language has an inherent meaning, different from what is taught in Athens.”

The  above story has a profound meaning in my life. I presented a research paper on the above topic at the 69th Annual Meeting of the California Educational Research association, 1990. There was silence in the room. 25 PhDs shuffled their feet out of the room in silence, not a word, not a question, just looks, you know, the kind of looks people give you when they think you are a weird killjoy.

Readers, I want you to retrieve my reasearch paper, It is called “Critical Thinking Skills” by Dr. Elior Kinarthy. You will know why so many people in your life disagree with what you say!