How do you think?

A friend sent me an off-print of his which referred to Eugene Gendlin as someone who has explored implicit understanding a great deal.  At the same time I was reading Alexis Shotwell’s intriguing Knowing Otherwise, which also explores how we have an implicit, bodily-based grasp of things that forms a great deal of our take on ourselves and others.  Nearly the same day, was recommending that I pre-order Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, of which Publisher’s Weekly says:

“The mind is a hilariously muddled compromise between incompatible modes of thought in this fascinating treatise by a giant in the field of decision research. Nobel-winning psychologist Kahneman (Attention and Effort) posits a brain governed by two clashing decision-making processes. The largely unconscious System 1, he contends, makes intuitive snap judgments based on emotion, memory, and hard-wired rules of thumb; the painfully conscious System 2 laboriously checks the facts and does the math, but is so “lazy” and distractible that it usually defers to System 1.

Kahneman’s unconscious System 1 is at least aimed at implicit understanding.  And then Read Montague’s work has recently turned to what seems to me to be a fascinating example of implicit bias, first described by Ann Harvey, who is in his lab.

So on reading Gendlin on accessing this level, I wondered what sort of role employing the unconscious/implicit understanding has for philosophers today.  Here in fact is a description from Gendlin of what such accessing is like.  I suspect that if it plays a significant role in your cognition as a philosopher, then you’ll recognize it, even if the description definitely does not come from an analytically trained philosopher:

You have a bodily orienting sense. You know who you are and how you come to be reading this page. To know this you don’t need to think. The knowing is physically sensed in your body and can easily be found. But this bodily knowing can extend much more deeply. You can learn how to let a deeper bodily felt sense come in relation to any problem or situation. Your body “knows” the whole of each context, vastly more aspects of it than you can enumerate separately.

You can sense your living body directly under your thoughts and memories and under your familiar feelings. Focusing happens at a deeper level than your feelings. Under them you can discover a physically sensed “murky zone” which is concretely there. This is a source from which new steps emerge.

At first, this murky “something” may seem opaque. Although concretely there, it may not seem promising. With certain teachable steps of bodily attention it opens. How you sense the situation shifts. New possibilities for fresh thinking and action arise beyond the already-given alternatives. The whole scene changes. An intricate territory of factors, events, conditions, and new questions emerges where there was only a slight bodily sense at the start.

If you’ve followed so far, and you work as a professional philosopher in the sense of producing work you have or would like to see published as academic philosophy, it would be wonderful if you would take the poll:

Anita Hill on Reimagining Equality

Reimagining Equality:  Stories of Race, Gender and Home,  is the title of Anita Hill’s new book.  She was recently interviewed on NPR and commented on one of the obstacles preventing equality of opportunity in the US.  This seems timely as the hiring season is upon us:

“I do think that just in general, people are comfortable with people who look like them or they believe think like them. And I think we have a lot to do in terms of really giving people full opportunity in employment, whether … you think of them as safe or not. I think full opportunity in employment just does not exist today in the way that maybe I thought it would have when I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s. I really thought some of these battles and some of these issues would have been resolved by now.

“And I really aggressively titled my book Reimagining Equality because that’s a process that I’m having to go through, like: What is equality like today? How can we envision it in terms of the way people live every day as opposed to the abstract rights that we say that everybody has and that, you know, we can go to court to enforce?”

I haven’t read the book, but it seems an interesting project to try to conceptualize what we do have in the way of equality, and what we do not, which may be what she is doing.

Two interesting comments on Amazon’s website; I take it these were blurbs for the book:

“In a book that is rigorous and heartfelt, sharply analytical and deeply moving, Anita Hill examines the idea of what ‘home’ means to Americans. Bringing to bear her formidable skills as a scholar of American law, history, and culture, Hill has produced a personal narrative that reaches across color and class to explore how our family homes and our national home are inextricably linked to how we understand achievement, opportunity, and equality.”—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University 

“In her new book, Reimagining Equality: Stories of Race, Gender, and Finding Home, Professor Anita Hill has written a sobering and compelling book about the plight of woman historically and now. This book is a must read for anyone who is committed to gender equality, and will be invaluable to those who are trying to understand many of the burdens that women, black and white face, in their everyday lives. An easy read, this book has both tragic and triumphant stories and covers the life of women through slavery, and those who now live in the Obama era. They remind us that we still have to come to grips with issues of race and gender, and that we need to re-imagine the question of equality for all. I recommend it with great enthusiasm and excitement about its value to a large audience of readers.”—Professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr., author of The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Race, Class, and Crime in America