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Figure, Ground and the Notion of Equilibria in the Work of Gilbert Simondon and Gestalt theory

Summary

Based on Clausius’ phrasing of a “transformational content” and the resulting 2nd law of thermodynamics, I demonstrated that Gilbert Simondon’s On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects is historically situated at the threshold of understanding open systems thermodynamics and the related concepts of balance. Furthermore, I showed that Gestalt theory, as represented by Wolfgang Köhler, at least reproduced, if not partially anticipated or even prepared this development of 20th century thinking. Finally, I gave some short examples of how Simondon applied the figure/ground distinction to human perception, memory, and a general theory of becoming and I introduced his proposal to analyse “the grounds” just as thoroughly as the laws of figuration.

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Frondizi and Mandelbaum on the Phenomenology and Ontology of Value

Summary

In this article the ethical systems of Risieri Frondizi and Maurice Mandelbaum, both decisively influenced by Wolfgang Köhler, are investigated for the first time. Each writer took different things from Köhler, Frondizi the idea of value as a Gestalt quality and Mandelbaum the idea of value as a felt demand. Their positions are highly complementary and Frondizi’s axiological approach enlightens the ontology of value whereas Mandelbaum’s phenomenological approach clarifies the nature of “requiredness” (Köhler) or “fittingness.”

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Manifest Dream/Association Comparison: A Criterion to Monitor the Psychotherapeutic Field (2nd part) Field Transformations: A Clinical Case

Summary

The present work focuses on the transformations of the psychotherapeutic field through the relationship dynamics that occur within it.

The first part of this article starts with a brief outline of the Gestalt psychological understanding of the field concept, also in its application to the psychotherapeutic situation, followed by a brief review of the introduction of the field concept into the psychoanalytic theory formation.

After this, the first author first presents the theoretical concept underlying a new approach he has developed for observing the relationship dynamics in psychotherapy. Mirroring a formation both psychoanalytic and gestaltic of the main author, this new approach is based on the combination of psychoanalytic and Gestalt psychological concepts. According to the clinical experience and insights of the author, the phenomenological and relational approach of Gestalt theory fits well with the psychoanalytic approach; on this basis, a criterion for recording the progress of therapy can be developed. This criterion is the phenomenology of the development of the qualities of the relationships of the client, as they become visible in his dream narrations and the subsequent associations in the analysis room, and continue to develop during the session and the further course of therapy. The relationship dynamics in the dream narration is thus compared with those that develop in the course of the subsequent associations.

This is demonstrated and further elaborated in the second part of this paper on the basis of a clinical case. The clinical example shows how the relationship dynamics develop in this sense in the individual therapy sessions and over a longer course of therapy. The associated transformations of the therapeutic field give a good indication of the progress of therapy. The main author gained such insights into the transformations of the therapeutic field and the progression of therapy, which are visible in the course of therapy, from the careful application of the criterion “manifest dream/associations comparison of relational dynamics”. In the specific case, there was also a high degree of correspondence between the results of the application of this phenomenological criterion and the empirical evidence of the symptom questionnaire, a self-report measure requested by the patient himself during the course of the therapy.

Open access
Perceptual Simplicity: The True Role of Prägnanz and Occam

Summary

In recent years, the concept of simplicity in perception has acquired a leading role, above all thanks to scholars linked to Bayesian modeling and to theories like structural information theory derived from information theory. Unfortunately, two misleading ideas made their way into the discussion: that in perception, simplicity is equivalent to Prägnanz and that Occam’s razor plays a role in the simplicity of percepts. Here it is shown that in Gestalt theory, simplicity is only one of the factors of Prägnanz and that the use of Occam’s razor is improper, because it applies only to the theories that generate, in this case, a percept, and not to the product of the theory.

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Bridging Heterodox Views on Language and Symbols: Gilbert Durand’s Imaginaire and Mark Johnson’s Image Schemata

Summary

This paper aims to bridge anthropological and cognitivist research undertaken by Gilbert Durand and Mark Johnson, who studied the phenomenon of meaning making in a similar way, although they had to use different terminology as their disciplines demanded. Durand established systematization for analyzing symbolism by taking into account the position of the body and the perceptions determining the underlying schemata of symbols. Two decades later, Mark Johnson described image schemata as gestalts having an internal structure derived from bodily perceptions. Owing to these similarities, a comparison between Durand and Johnson’s theories is offered first. In the second place, I reviewed the cognitive value of the anthropological regimes of imaginaire described by Durand. During the analysis, the terminology used by these theorists (like ‘image schemata’ or ‘axiomatic schemata’) was comparatively analyzed to find common ground between their positions. In conclusion, the need for recovering theories of imagination proposed by heterodox scholars like Durand is highlighted, since they anticipate the role of images and imagination not only in language, as Johnson demonstrated, but also in the formation of anthropologically relevant symbols, which are of interest for the analysis of literature and other arts.

Open access
Cognitive Contagion: Thinking with and through Theatre

Summary

Theatre offers an opportunity for communities to think with and through fiction. We come together to hear and tell stories because it is moving, both in the literal and the figurative sense: it changes us. Theories from cognitive science of embodied cognition make clear that making sense of theatre is a full-bodied affair. In this essay, I argue that we can see moments when theatre invited its audience to think in new ways by shifting theatrical conventions. I explore how a contemporary production of Hamlet, Pan Pan’s production of “The Rehearsal: Playing the Dane”, brings its audience to question the stability of the self and text by altering the conventions around casting and representation. This is theatre that I may not understand in a traditional way, but this gives me a way to understand a new way of thinking about the world around me. It is theatre I can use.

Open access