So, who am I? I´ll start by giving you a few hints about fields that I´m interested in:
Many years ago, I studied sociology and psychology, so my main interests could be described as within the fields of perception, epistemology and sociology/anthropology. I´m also a musician, so I´m interested in jazz, blues, afro-cuban styles, pop, rock, film music, music theory (especially theory of rhythm and polyrhythm as used in african music and jazz, and jazz harmony). Two of my alltime musical heroes are Leonard Bernstein and Frank Zappa; I love Michel Camilo´s music and regarding blues, Robben Ford takes me right into blues heaven. I´m particularly fond of jazz piano, especially in solo and trio settings ... and some of my favorite pianists include Jelly Roll Morton, Art Tatum, Theloneous Monk, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Aziza Mustafah Zadeh. Funk/R&B heroes Tower of Power also consistently succeed in getting me out of my chair and moving.
Epistemologically speaking, I´m particularly interested in the epistemology of perception, humor, scientific discovery (as in socalled "paradigm changes"), art and religion - and that includes the epistemology of learning, creativity and change. A better understanding of identity and difference, comparison, abstraction, generalization, categorization, analogy, mapping, story and parable really helps with that. So do conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending theory. Two of my favorite writers on these topics are Gregory Bateson and Arthur Koestler. And one musician whose epistemological ideas are very much in line with the way I think was Leonard Bernstein. His "Candide" is one of my alltime favorites, and so are his Norton Lectures entitled "The Joy of Music". A joy indeed!
To insert a random quote about the "nature" of ideas that really cracks me up and might give you an idea (lol) about the kind of epistemology I´m after, how do you like this one:
- "When the bagel is eaten, the hole does not remain to be reincarnated in a doughnut." (Gregory Bateson: Angels Fear. Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred. New York: Macmillan 1987, p. 57)
Sociologically speaking, I´m interested in in understanding the anthropology, theory and history of the state, money, property and contract law / civil law, the ideas of freedom and equality which represent the core ideas around which the modern european world in both its capitalist and socialist version has been organized around: also in family structures and the resulting overall patterns of economic and demographic development. Like Karl Polanyi, I like to distinguish three basic systems of social relationships: Reciprocity / Solidarity (as in kinship-based tribal systems), Power (as in religion-based feudal systems) and Contract (as in free market systems). Of course, these are merely abstractions and thus useful analytical distinctions. In real life, these only exist in combination and not in "pure" form.
I live in germany and was born there, but I lived in the U.S. for a while and have enjoyed speaking, reading and writing in english as much as I can (to the best of my ability) ever since.
To give you some idea of my strange ways of thinking, I´ll list a few questions that I enjoy asking (myself or others) or being asked. I´m usually interested in starting "big picture" questions rather than burying my head in minute details right away (I like to do that later), so some of my favorite questions are:
- * "what are common epistemological meta-patterns shared by myth, religion, humor, art and science?"
- * "why isn´t there a lot of humor in science and shouldn´t there be more?"
- * how come metaphor has been officially eliminated from science while often playing an important role in scientific discovery and paradigm formation?
- * "what happens when you confuse a metaphor with reality?"
- * "what happens when you turn a metaphor into an analogy"
- * "is projecting family relations and stories onto nature really such a different way of "explaining" it than projecting abstract laws onto it? Sure, the content of the projection is very different, but isn´t the shared mode of explanation "projecting social structures onto nature" (family relationships in one case, abstract laws such as in roman law in the other case) and "seeing patterns in nature in terms of social structures" - and doesnt in both cases the resulting view of nature reaffirm the existing social structures?
- * "do scientists notice that they are using a really strange metaphor to guide their perceptions when they try to explain the "mechanism" of something social: "The patterns and processes resulting from humans interacting are a machine"?
- * Are they maybe so used to the word "mechanism" they take it as "reality", just like Catholics believe the wine to be Jesus´ blood?
- * I´d even generalize that question for some fun inquiries: "Couldn´t it be that some scientists are actually religious believers in their own mythologies?"
- * And, regarding things social, wouldn´t it often be better to ask "what´s the story here?" instead of "what´s the mechanism"?"?
- * "how did money ever become so important in the west"
- * "why didn´t socialism ever become as innovative as capitalism although many people expected it to (since it substituted "rational planning" for the supposed "anarchy of the market", thus extending scientific rationality to an area previously not rationally controlled) and for a while it seemed as if it could"?
- * "how did the demographic imbalances of the west come about - first a total abundance of offspring so europeans could colonize the world, now sub-replacement fertility and mega immigration?" etc.).
- * if the interval between two tones an "octave" apart is based upon the same ratio of movement as the rhythmic relationship between "quarter notes" and "eight notes" (1:2), and the "interval" between two tones a "fifth" apart is based upon the same ratio as the rhythmic relationship of "quarter notes" to "quarter note triplets" (2:3) ... then what might be some of the more general epistemological implications of the "fact" that we hear the same ration in one case as "tone" and in the other case as "rhythm"?
Yea, pretty stupid questions, I know - and I´m sure you probably know all the answers. Well, so do I ... maybe ;-)
What else can I tell you about myself?
Well ... I´m neither a socialist nor a liberal, neither progressive nor conservative but I DO think Europe has seen its best days and is declining pretty fast, mainly for demographic reasons ... 1989 just was the beginning. The best people are leaving, heading for the angloworld, and they know damn well why.
To give you some more hints on specifics within my areas of interest, among some of the most insightful stuff I have been reading recently is Katherine Verdery´s excellent collection of articles called "What was Socialism and What Comes Next?" (and I think anyone with a non-ideological interest in what socialist societies were really like might also love to read her excellent article Anthropology of Socialist Societies). Verdery did anthropological fieldwork in Romania in the 70s, and does a great job integrating theoretical insights by the likes of Janos Kornai about the economics of socialism with her own personal experiences. Excellent and highly insightful, enlightening stuff, which should probably be mandatory reading for every leftist that is still left. The same goes for Gail Kligman´s excellent study "The Politics of Duplicity - Controlling Reproduction in Ceausescu´s Romania". It´s a study of Ceausescu´s pro-natalist legislation regarding birth control and its desastrous consequences (for women and children), but it can be read as an ethnography of the socialist state as such.
I´ve also enjoyed reading Gregory Bateson´s "Mind and Nature", George Lakoff´s and Mark Johnsohn´s "Metaphors We Live By", Mark Turner´s "The Literary Mind" and Mark Turner´s /Gilles Fauconnier´s "The Way We Think" (about conceptual blending, story and parable as basic patterns of human minds). Another alltime favorite is Arthur Koestler´s "The Act of Creation" (a must read for anyone interested in learning about common patters of creativity in humor, science and the arts) - not just highly insightful, but also a reading feast. Koestler and Bateson anticipated something that Lakoff and Turner are now trying to spell out in more detail ... Turner calls it conceptual blending.
Sociologically, the most insightful book I´ve read recently was Gunnar Heinsohn´s "Söhne und Weltmacht". Boy ... although Heinsohn may see some things too simplistically, demography and political influence on individual´s reproductive and contraceptive abilities - ie the politics of birth control - really seem to be one of the most underestimated forces of history. Big insights. And Gail Kligman´s study I mentioned above provides many details on how political control of reproductive matters influences individual lifes adversely. Particularly catholic Christians might have a lot to learn there.
Earlier reading highlights include Klaus Holzkamp´s "Grundlegung der Psychologie", a kind of attempt to lay the groundworks for a german brand of historical/theoretical cognitive anthropology (which he called "critical psychology"). The project of Critical Psychology got stuck as socialism - which Holzkamp had believed in - crumbled and Holzkamp became sick. Most of its protagonists seem not to have been able to come to terms with the collapse of socialism and in my opinion failed to take a realistic look at that system. Nevertheless, the general nature of their approach remains potentially fruitful in my opinion. Inspired by Holzkamp and his wife, I actually read Karl Marx´s "Capital" (yea, I read it in 1993 when everyone said its BS, so that should tell you how crazy I am). And in an attempt to understand socialism and its collapse and what this had to do with Marx´ model, I read a book that provided me with core insights into both Marx´s misconceptions and the real, practical workings of capitalism: Gunnar Heinsohn´s and Otto Steiger´s "Eigentum, Zins und Geld" ("Property, Interest and Money"). Heinsohn and Steiger precisely show where Marx as well as his liberal counterparts went and still go dead wrong: in their theory of money (which has nothing whatsoever to do with the real world of banking and money) and their ignorance of demography.