The Saybrook Forum



What's the "true self?" 21st century experts disagree


Polonius “To thine own self be true.”

Great advice, Shakespeare, but could you help us a bit with that first part?  What’s a “True self?”

“Experimental philosopher” Joshua Knobe recently wrote a New York Times blog in which he suggested that the true self is whatever one is ideologically disposed to believe it is:  conservatives think it’s the rational self which tames the impulses, liberals think it’s the romantic impulses that chafe at rationality.

A blog in The Economist, meanwhile, responded that the “true self” is in fact an illusory product of evolution:  it’s adaptive if we have “selves” that others can trust, therefore we create the image of selves:

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Taking collaboration to the fourth dimension


We used to know what "collaboration" meant.  But in the 21st century we can collaborate "in person," or through chat, or video chat, or through email, or "waves," or 3D avatars in a virtual environment.

Are they all the same thing?  Or does the new technology for collaboration mean new kinds of collaboration? 

Organizational Systems PhD student Jan Spencer has looked at the issue, and has an answer.

Let us know what you think.  Has technology changed the way you work with others?  Is it for the better?

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Mind-Body Medicine

"This is basic to all medicine" - an interview with James Gordon, M.D.


The Dean of Saybrook’s College of Mind-Body Medicine, Dr. James Gordon, is one of the leading global voices calling for a change in the way medicine is practiced. 

The Founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine and a Clinical Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at Georgetown Medical School, he recently served as Chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. He also served as the first Chair of the Program Advisory Council of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine and is a former member of the Cancer Advisory Panel on Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the NIH.

The Saybrook Forum asked Dr. Gordon to talk with us about the changes he sees in medicine as a field, and his recent book Unstuck:  Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression (Penguin Press).

Forum:  Are there myths about depression that most Americans hold?

James Gordon:   “Basically we’ve decided, with the fervent urging of the pharmaceutical companies and the sometimes active participation of the medical community, that depression is a disease and that it’s best treated with medications we call ‘anti-depressant’ drugs. 

This is a misunderstanding, this is a myth, and it goes against the scientific grain as well as the experience of many, many, people. 

Depression is a very painful experience, but it’s not the same as diabetes or coronary artery occlusion.  There’s no consistent chemical abnormality.  Depression is a state of being that we get into when we’re out of balance.  Sometimes physically out of balance, to be sure, but also socially, spiritually, emotionally.  It has many causes, but the causes are not Prozac deficiency, or even serotonin deficiency.  These are often results, rather than causes.  So what I’m doing in Unstuck is saying let’s look at the evidence, and the evidence is quite clear that depression is not a disease like these other entities are, that there is no simple biochemical abnormality, and that when you look at the so-called magic bullets that are supposed to wipe out depression, the research shows that they are little better than placebo, than sugar pills.  When you look at the history of the research, the published studies make them look like they’re very effective therapeutic agents, but when you put these together with the unpublished studies, you see that they’re of very little use.

It’s an emperor’s new clothes situation. We’ve developed and marketed a cure that doesn’t really work very well.”

Forum:  What should we do differently? 

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The power of place -- in Cuba


800px-Necropolis_colon_habana Saybrook OS PhD student Aimee Juarez recently returned from a trip to Cuba -- and has thoughts about how "place" impacts "consciousness."

Read Part 1

Read part 2


How have specific places affected you?  Do you think differently in certain spots?  Tell us about it in the comments section below. 

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How should we feel about killing a monster?


At the LIOS blog, David Franklin wants to know if celebrating is an appropriate response to the death of Osama bin Laden. 

Do we give ourselves a pat on the back, or do we recognize that we have to take our moral obligation to be better just as seriously in victory? 

Read the post, and tell us what you think.


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Bin Laden’s Death: Celebration or Wake-up Call?


by David Franklin

This just in: Bin Laden has finally been killed.Bigstockphoto_A_Drop_In_The_Ocean___50189

I start to see the reaction amongst many people in the West: celebration, rejoicing, time to party, “it’s about time he got what was coming to him.”

Somehow, I get the feeling he (and many other people he was aligned with) were thinking the same things about us after 9/11.

And we hated them for it.

Which begs the question, “why is it then acceptable for us to feel and react that way?”

Are we better than they are? Are we right and they are wrong? Why do we get to claim the “moral high ground?”

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A widening gender gap -- for therapists


Is it too hard to find a male therapist? 

A recent article in the New York Times suggested that only one in five new Masters Degrees in therapy are awarded to men … and that this means patients who are seeking a male perspective, or are more comfortable confiding to a man, are out of luck. 

Says the times:

Some college psychology programs cannot even attract male applicants, much less students. And at many therapists’ conferences, attendees with salt-and-pepper beards wander the hallways as lonely as peaceniks at a gun fair.

The result, many therapists argue, is that the profession is at risk of losing its appeal for a large group of sufferers — most of them men — who would like to receive therapy but prefer to start with a male therapist.

Is this a real shift?  Or, more to the point, is it a real problem?

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Bread or church? Where does civilization come from?


Greek_temple_ruins The story I got in high school is that agriculture was the magic potion that eventually turned “cave men” into “urban man.”  We got together and created a civilization because we wanted to eat. 

The needs of our new farms with their domesticated animals and seasonal crops kept pushing us to bigger and bigger feats of civilization:  the idea is that a culture evolves on its stomach.

But an article in National Geographic says maybe the high school text books got it wrong. It's not "food" - it's "spirituality."

The oldest human architectural structure ever discovered – over 11 thousand years old – turns out to be a temple -- and it turns out that our ancestors were building temples before they were making farms.  

At a time when human beings were living in nomadic tribes, they were also carving massive stone pillars to provide a better place to worship. 

Was it our sense of the sacred – and our need to relate to an awe-inspiring universe – that really inspired civilization?

According to National Geographic, many archeologists say the evidence suggests that’s the case.

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Alumni Messenger

Alumnus Carl M. Hild, PhD, OS, ’07 Voted by Peers to Receive the 2010-2011 Alaska Pacific University Faculty Merit Award for Research, Scholarship, and Creativity

Alumnus Carl M. Hild, PhD, Organizational Systems ’07 was voted from among his peers to receive the 2010-2011 Alaska Pacific University Faculty Merit Award for Research, Scholarship, and Creativity. He has also been notified by the Academic Dean that she will be appointing him to serve as the Chair of the Business Administration Department for the 2011-2012 academic year.

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Alumni Messenger

Saybrook Alumnus and Faculty Member Bob Flax, Ph.D.. '92 Elected to Board of Directors of the Democratic World Federalists

Saybrook Alumnus and Faculty Member Bob Flax, Ph.D., '92 Elected to Board of Directors of the Democratic World Federalists Bob Flax, Ph.D. was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Democratic World Federalists, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco ( The DWF is one of a number of organizations around the world that is dedicated to establishing a...

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