Mind Matters 5: Power

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MMPOSTER5Mind Matters V: Power was held on Sunday, March 15, 2015. We sold out a 500-seat venue in a record-breaking 12 hours. Thank you for your enthusiasm!


John Vervaeke

JAVedit2Reverence and Power

Abstract: To be a cognitive agent is to be immersed in a process of relevance realization.  Relevance realization is an evolving process of deep involvement and identity construction.  As such it is not a cold cognitive process but an encompassing existential process of caring.  One of the things a cognitive agent must care about is power. In fact power is something towards which human beings direct a particular kind of relevance and salience, viz. reverence.  Building on the work of Woodruff and Murdoch, this talk will argue that power is something deserving of our attention and therefore towards which we experience reverence. As such, a transformation of our framing of power can afford a fundamental transformation of our identity and being in the world.  By making use of the work of Whitehead and the Kyoto School, this talk will explore three ontological framings of power:  power as asymmetrical dependence, power as deep reciprocity, and power as the affordance of events and processes.  The talk will conclude with a discussion how a shift in the framing of power results in a fundamental transformation of our experience of caring and reverence.

Dan Dolderman

DDedit2Power and Cognition:  From Foolishness to Wisdom

Abstract: Exploring the psychology of power in cognitive systems requires first examining how power and cognition are each conceptualized.  Taking a dynamic systems approach highlights the process-nature of cognition, and the relational nature of power, but it leads directly to the problem of not knowing how to draw a boundary around consciousness.  Examining this boundary problem involves the inclusion of levels of analysis that are normally kept out of standard psychological discussions, such as political, sociological, and environmental.  This then leads to the moral and pragmatic question of how to redress power imbalances that have perverted the organization of our society, and have set us on a path that can only be considered foolish.  After considering this multi-system integration, we arrive back at the level of individual psychology and the challenge of how to engage people in actions that will reorient society from its current foolish path, to a path of wisdom.

Jordan Peterson

JBPedit2Power: Productive, Varied, and Cooperative

Abstract: Many intellectual discussions of power fall prey to three counterproductive temptations. The first is to assume that power is necessarily tyrannical and self-serving. The second is the assumption that the basis of power is singular – economic, class-based, sexual, etc. The third is that there is only power. If these three assumptions were true, society itself would be impossible. There are instead positive elements to power (when, for example, it is based on competence). There are also various forms of power. Finally, it is absurd to reduce all human motivation to power, both conceptually (as the word “power” then loses any specific meaning) and psychologically (as additional basic motivations clearly exist). Organizing the various forms of motivation presents an problem, but stable solutions certainly exist. Those depend on cooperation and attention, more than coercion or force – and there are reasons for that.

Robert Romanyshyn

The Frankenstein Prophecies: Reflections on the Shadows of Technological Power

Abstract: My approach to the issue of power is as a psychologist educated in phenomenological philosophy, especially the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Martin Heidegger, and depth psychology, especially the traditions of  Freudian, Jungian, and Archetypal psychologies. As such I have come to appreciate the issue of power as an unconscious dynamic that shadows human affairs, and I have written about its presence in psychotherapy, education, research, and cultural-historical contexts.

The power dynamic that is at the heart of our contemporary technological civilization has been of special concern to me, not least of which because its reach now imperils nature on a global scale. Indeed, this aspect is the main focus of my presentation. In conjunction with this focus, I have also explored how the power principle in technology is intertwined with language, and in this context I have used my own discipline of psychology as a case study to show the connection between the ways in which we construct our belief systems about realty and the languages that express those systems.

Stephen Batchelor

Anarchy in the City

Abstract: This presentation will explore from both a personal and a historical perspective the relation in Buddhism between truth and power.  I will argue that the historical Buddha Gotama envisaged establishing a community of equals governed by an impersonal law (the Dharma) that underpinned an ethics of care, risk and non-violence.  Over time, however, this vision gave way to a polarized hierarchy dominated by priests, whose enlightenment into ultimate truth provided them with the ecclesiastical authority to dominate the unenlightened.  This resulted in the establishment of various forms of the Buddhist religion. Is it possible at this distance in time and on the basis of a relative paucity of textual and other evidence to recover Gotama’s original inspiration and imagine a secular Buddhism or a culture of awakening that is grounded on the uncertainty of “not knowing” yet provides men and women with an adequate foundation to engage with the suffering of the world.

Special Thanks to:

  • Buddhist Education Foundation for Canada
  • Dean’s Student Initiative Fund
  • New College Initiatives Fund
  • Principal’s Innovation Fund
  • Arts & Science Students’ Union (ASSU)
  • Buddhism, Psychology & Mental Health (BPMH)
  • The Ross & Marion Woodman Endowment for Jungian Studies.
  • Our Tireless Mind Matters Volunteer Crew
  • Ammar Ijaz, and his Peerless PR Corps & Tech Team
  • The Jungian Society and Buddhism & Psychology Student Union Execs