Friday, September 7, 2007

950 Multitudes in the Valley of Decisions

Message no. 950[Branch from no. 946] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Friday, May 11, 2007 4:10pm Subject: Re: Relational Summary

What a fun summary Dawn (though it ends kind of abruptly, wouldn't you say... we kind of expected a summary to the summary, a "and they all lived happily ever after" tag at the end... some conclusion...

Your metaphors (the dog choker, and the "where's Waldo"for example) are great, and you paint great imagery.

Also, thanks for bringing new perspective to the idea of why people don't leave home even if it is dangerous. I think I go a bit overboard trying to paint people as rational, and you helped me see the powerful emotions that come into play when considering one's territory or home environment.

I think in terms of the way an environment controls our behavior we have to ask what our behavior would be like without the context of an environment to constrain it. What is freedom without an environment to act in? Don't environments help determine how we want to behave? Joshua Epstein (2001) quoted in Phillip Ball's chapter "Multitudes in the Valley of Decision" (p. 295 of Critical Mass) "When I'd had my coffee this morning and went upstairs to get dressed for work, I never considered being a nudist for the day. When I got into my car to drive to work, it never crossed my mind to drive on the left. And when I joined my colleagues at lunch, I did not consider eating my salad bare handed; without a thought I used a fork." The author also quotes Karl Mannheim from 1936 saying, "Only in a quite limited sense does the individual create out of himself the mode of speech and thought we attribute to him. He speaks the language of his group; he thinks in the manner in which the group thinks."

I think one of the tensions in our modern society is that we are uncertain to which group we belong. We are aware of a pluricultural potential for behavior and it is hard to design for so many cultural norms. At some point though, we do conform to what we each consider normal. I think our dogs do too -- I observe that many animals, particularly pack animals like dogs, do not exhibit a free range of behaviors but "choke" themselves into postures of dominance and submission and "appropriate behavior" depending on the social environment around them.

Your thoughts?

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