An Extraordinary Commentary on the Festschrift “Mind, Work, and Life”

by Howard Gardner

I was thrilled–though also a bit skeptical—when my wife, Ellen Winner, and my long time colleague, Mindy Kornhaber, proposed a Festschrift (a celebratory book) to make my 70th birthday. My skepticism evaporated when over 100 friends and colleagues wrote appreciations, which were compiled in two hefty volumes. And I was tremendously touched when most of these friends—as well as my mother, my wife, my four children, and my first two grandchildren—arranged a celebration at a local restaurant.

Taking advantage of an illness that kept me at home for a few months, I wrote a response to each of the contributors. (I don’t recommend heart surgery as the prescription for penning appreciative notes!) And then, once we had established that it was easy to do, we arranged to post the two volumes on the internet and to make them available at nominal cost via Amazon (click here for Volume 1 and here for Volume 2).

From time to time, friends and strangers will peruse the volumes and send me their thoughts. I respond appreciatively. That recognized, I was completely unprepared for the extraordinary document that I reprint here: a detailed and sophisticated review by Catalin Mamali of many of the contributors, and a quite original weaving together of many—perhaps most—of the themes introduced in the 116 separate contributions. Indeed, I dare to coin a new term—a meta-Festschrift.

At this moment, to my regret, I don’t have the bandwidth to respond to Catalin’s unique essay. (Though I don’t think that we have met in person, I have corresponded with him a few times over the years.) But at the conclusion of his essay, he raises two questions, and I believe that I owe him responses—and here they are.

“Your question about what I would have done had I lived in a totalitarian country: As you know, my parents escaped from Nazi Germany just in time, so my first thought is that I would not even have survived. I did visit my friend-student Miki Singer in Bucharest a few years ago. She is very musical and both she and her husband studied mathematics during the Ceausescu regime and she explained that this was a ‘pure’ topic and could not be seen as political. (They are both Jewish, which may have complicated their life choices.) I could not have done research in math, but I might well have become a math teacher, a music teacher or both. And probably my synthesizing mind would have worked on issues having great distance from contemporary politics, like the early Roman Empire!”

I close by reiterating my gratitude to Catalin for this singular gift to me. I dare to hope that some others will read and perhaps comment on what he has written. Even more, I hope that in the future, a practice of creating meta-Festschrifts will flourish—and if so, the world will join me in saluting Catalin Mamali.

 

Creating minds and the genesis, maintenance and development of a creative Ecology of interactive minds*

by Cătălin Mamali

*Revised form of the letter sent to Howard Gardner on Sept 9th, 2018, at his generous invitation to post the letter on his site.

 

Dear Howard,

Here are my thoughts inspired by “Mind. Work, Life”.

The ecology of interactive creative minds

Mind, Work, and Life. A Festschrift on the occasion of Howard Gardner’s 70’s birthday, (Ed. Mindy L. Kornhaber & Ellen Winner. Cambridge MA: Published by The Offices of Howard Gardner, 2014.) is a fascinating and inspiring dialogical document for your unique and major contributions to psychology, education and scientifically-informed societal intervention. This monumental dialogical work initiated, assembled and edited in a wonderful mode by its outstanding editors Mindy L. Kornhaber and Ellen Winner is a resource that enhances the better grasping of the wide spectrum and originality of your crucial contributions and of the dynamics of the ecology of interactive creative minds, of truth-seekers who are at the same time dedicated to the common-good. I am convinced that this dialogical work, besides its functions for the history of science, besides its balanced assessment of crucial achievements, besides its bold epistemic suggestions, its practiced values, its profound interrogative spirit serves also the needs of other creative minds from all over the USA and from all over the World. The fact that other minds did not have the chance and the privilege to be actual members of this ecology of the interactive creating minds engaged directly by your path-breaking contributions and projects is generously compensated by these volumes that invite to systematic, open-minded and constructive processing of the essays and of your answers as a dialogical unit. The readers have the opportunity to explore a fertile land that is nurturing for new ideas and stimulating for other dialogues, solitary and/or joint creative inquiries.

It is obvious that at the origin of this enterprise is the innovative nature of your work that covers in a unifying way a wide range, not just of topics, but also of disciplines and action-oriented strategies designed for advancing the common well-being. The two volumes offer the chance to better realize the generative interaction between the creative core developed by your original work and a developing ecology of interactive creative minds. Your self-categorization, which is in tune with what most of us who studied your works might think, is expressed succinctly by yourself: “I think of myself as a synthesizer, one who desires to learn about a new topic or field, survey it broadly, and then tries to put it together in a way that makes sense to himself and, he hopes, to others as well. If one looks over the shelf of books that I’ve authored, several of the works are best described as syntheses…” (pp. XVIII-XIX, italics in original). This self-conception does not exclude features of other types of scientists, like those identified by Mitroff based on Jung’s typology, such as “hard experimentalist” or Saxe’s view, which characterizes you as “ethical theorist” on a very “solid ground” (Volume two, pp. 324-325). It seems to me that you share also features with the type called “humanist”. Almost no typology could capture the diversity and spontaneity of developmental processes, invites creative minds first to invent, and then to use fuzzy sets and Venn diagrams when applying a typology.

Howard Gardner confronts in an imaginative and transparent way the competitive nature that marks the development of science and says that being fundamentally “a synthesizer, rather a paradigmatic experimental psychologist [as Hiram Brownell, Ellen Winner or Edgar Zurif]”… I concluded that there were many dozens who could do what I did as well or better than I did. Instead I had a ‘competitive edge’ when it came to synthesizing disparate strands of thought, yoking diverse bodies of data…” (Gardner’s response to Hiram Brownell, p. 166, Volume one). I will return later on to the issue of types of scientists, and in a wider sense of truth-seekers, which include intuitive synthesizer, hard experimentalist, and abstract theorizer…types exemplified by many contributors to this epistemic fest that is concerned by the good societal use of its fruits.

Howard Gardner is a synthesizer for sure; it is a synthesizer who transcends a given state of the field (of a paradigm) and deepens and enlarges our previous understanding through one’s innovations and discoveries. Long before the theory of multiple intelligences had been in the making, with reproducible traces in personal notes (I’m not at all sure that such traces might not exist) papers and publications, Howard rebelled with pathos (but on a strong rational foundation) against the canonic view of the time that unintentionally reduced intelligence to an IQ score. You were still a student and had the privilege to express your perplexity to an icon of our field, Jerome Bruner, who listened and engaged in a many chats with you within an open intellectual environment with a long and healthy tradition of debates between teachers and students. I wonder what might have happened if you had been a biologist and had dared to discuss your new ideas with Trofim Lysenko within the repressive environment of Soviet Union that obediently preached the communist ideology.

The theoretical construct “creating minds” and the research that supports it is a landmark contribution to the understanding of Creativity (Gardner, H. (1993). Creating minds. New York: Basic Books). Creating minds ask fundamental questions and develop innovative and appropriate answers to major puzzles. Their new questions and innovative solutions fit to the major criteria of science, restructure an entire research field (paradigm) that later on will become the new norm (1993, pp. 34-36) . Creating minds might work in solitude, might be engaged in challenging research teams, might enter into strong conflicts while they are shaped by and boldly confront the conditions set by specific cultures. At the same time, creating minds spontaneously seek the company of other creating minds who might be contemporary with them – sharing the same environment, might live at great physical and un-crossable political distances dominated by opposing worldviews, or might seek the intellectual company of creating minds that lived long time ago. Groundbreaking creativity that shakes the old structures and generates new frames of understanding and development always imply inner gifts, personal effort and connectivity with previous creative performances plus some luck.

It seems useful to make some explicit connections with a few major theoretical approaches that suggest that creating minds emerge within creative networks, might generate and search for creative networks. My reading – and I am sure that I need to do a re-reading of “Mind, Work, Life” – suggested to me four such possible connections. Such possible connections might help one grasp the integrative force of the fascinating Two Volumes.

First, the emergence of creating minds needs a nurturing “ecology of mind”, using Bateson construct (Bateson. G. (1973). Steps toward and Ecology of Mind: Collected Essay in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution and Epistemology. Paladin).

Second, it seems to me that the understanding of the dynamics of any ecology, especially of those involved in the long-term intellectual development might be advanced by the conception of coevolutionary processes (Lumsden, C. J. & Wilson, E. O. (1981). Genes, mind and culture: The coevolutionary process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.), which help to explore the complex influences on human behaviors of the interaction genes and environment while many collective actors are involved.

The third connection refers to the theoretical construct of memes (Dawkins, R. (1976). The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.; Dawkins, R. (1982). The extended phenotype. Oxford: Oxford University Press.) That suggests that memes replicate and can be accessed at a given time by successive generations. Memes might facilitate, under proper conditions, the development of ecology of creative interactive minds across spatial, temporal, political, epistemic borders and even borders set by worldviews, while under repressive conditions they might hinder its development.

The fourth connection is focused on the increased connectivity among all humans that is captured by the concept of Homo Dictyous (the network human) as introduced by Christakis and Fowler (Christakis, N. A., & Fowler, J. M. (2011). Connected: The surprising power of our social networks and how they shape our lives – How your friends’ friends’ friends’ affect everything you feel, think and do. New York: Back Bay Books, Little Brown and Company). Probably the connectivity is higher (content, novelty, intensity, symmetry, frequency, number of links) among creating minds. Is connectivity associated with the scientific drive for unity and coherence while there is at work a tough competition among researchers, theories and experimental approaches?

Howard Gardner’s work aims explicitly toward the improvement of the environments. However, this is carried out not just within research teams but also in dialogue and cooperation with educators, educational institutions, and people with various needs. For instance, R. Selman and J. Kwok, referring to GoodWork that aims to all areas of possible excellence, are stating that this project: “inspires people to do GoodWork and how we can foster environments that encourage it” (p. 393) Volume two, Counting Hearts an Eye Balls: How to Help Adolescents Make Better Decisions Using Entertainment and the New Media (and Know that You Have Succeeded).

Questioning potential and the inspiring reversal of epistemic and social roles

As an imaginative and reliable questions-generator, Howard Gardner warns about the risks to become “too Howard-centric” (p. 200, his response to Jie-Qi Chen). Ellen Winner has observed this questioning gift and drive in the 1980s in England at a highly significant conference where “he asked a probing and original question after each presentation” (p. XII, italics added). In fact, Gardner refers to this feature of his cognitive style that is observable in his entire work. For instance, in Truth, beauty, and goodness reframed, Howard raised many of the right questions to which he refers with epistemic humility, “even if I did not come up with the right answer, it raised the right questions” (Volume One, p. 99, response to Eric Blumenson and Eva Nilsen). On could notice both at intrapersonal and interpersonal levels multiple and complex reversals (in the sense of Apter’s reversal theory: Apter, M. (1982). Reversal theory and its relevance to educational psychology, British Psychological Society, 61(1) 33-37; Smith K. C. P., & Apter, M. (1975). A theory of psychological reversals. Chipenham Wiltshire, United Kingdom: Picton.) during the process of creative inquiry. The more or less predictable reversals between solitary work and cooperative work, between isolated search for answers and joint search for answers in small or large and diverse teams, reversals between expression of self-confidence and nurturing the others confidence in their own research ways, and reversals between self-doubting and well-grounded skepticism in some ideas widely accepted mark Gardner’s becoming. Such reversals that overcome many asymmetries that might hinder the productive encounters associated with Howard’s practice to encourage “mutual rethinking” (Kornhaber, Volume two, p. 41). So, even if it can be surprising the syntagm “doubting” Howard Gardner used by Verducci (p. 564, Volume two), that sends to the Cartesian method, it fits so well in this multi-voiced exploration of Gardner’s works, life, and versatile styles. Verducci points out that Gardner is in tune with truth seekers who “acknowledge and negotiate our human epistemic limitations.” (“Doubting” Howard Gardner, Volume two, p. 562).

All (more accurately would be almost all) truth seekers are marked by an epistemic humbleness, the readiness to recognize one’s errors, to correct their own and others mistakes and to stand for truth. This comes into antagonistic relation with the epistemic arrogance visible mainly within totalitarian systems and ideologies.

Openness to others creative powers, to different perspectives, to competing (complementary) theories and well-grounded speculations.

The need to communicate truthfully, the urge for to engage in interactions that open widely the gates between the “inner dialogue” (Şora, M. (1949). Le dialogue interieur. Paris: Gallimard), and the dialogue with others, as Socrates practiced, are associated with deep respect for one’s own potential and for the potential of others. Csikszentmihalyi reveals his longing for “stimulating conversations” and discloses that talking with Howard “one can always learn a new perspective, a new connection from the interchange” (p. 285, Volume One). Some of these conversations have been at the core of wonderful projects such as Goodwork. Gardner’s ability to listen (for instance, see Krechevsky, p. 56, Volume two) to others with similar and different views, to learn from people who witnessed how children’s creativity can be “stolen by the horrible civil chaos” (Li, p. 106, Volume two), to invite a janitor to share his view about the ways he “picked up his job knowledge” (Kornhaber, p. 41) and his empathic orientation toward those who have to overcome structural obstacles, among others, are interpersonal skills nurtured by the joint powers of epistemic creativity and epistemic humility. As a matter of fact, you expressed full responsibility for the failure of a promising and important project, as it is the case of ATLAS (p. 221, Volume one). These complex and fertile interactions are revealed by some of your peers and colleagues co-engaged in innovative projects and by your responses in a dialogue that invites to future explorations.

For now I can mention just a few cases as the two-way critical comments, inspiring suggestions, exchanges of scientific roles, for instance as those with Teresa Amabile, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, William Damon, Antonio Damasio, Hanna Damasio, Anne Colby, David Henry Feldman, Wendy Fischman, David Perkins, Robert J. Sternberg and Edgar Zurif to mention only a few from a much longer list. In some cases, these have been multi-faced creative dialogical interactions carried orally and/or in writing. Let me make just three illustrations. One regards the inspiring critical feedback provided by David Feldman to your “early drafts of Frames of Mind” that also accurately predicted, “the book was likely to be seen as a major critique of the standard theory of intelligence” (Howard’s response, p. 395, Volume one). This is a highly significant feedback, provided on time, to a crucial work (Frames of Mind) that creatively advanced a new, integrative theoretical framework that changed an entire field. The old norm of reciprocity used in a generous and productive mode for the common good is exemplified by the inspiring suggestion made by Howard Gardner in support of David Feldman when “Howard supported my (Feldman) case by claiming that I may have started a new subdiscipline which he labeled ‘cultural genetic epistemology’ “(Re-questing quest for mind: An essay in honor of Howard Gardner, p. 389, Volume one). This form of insight that identifies the innovative character of a work in the making is vital for nurturing an ecology that enhances the creativity of interactive minds. The ability to grasp the value of an approach that is not yet a finite product, but one that is unfolding, even anticipating its future importance, is a vital force for advancing the frontiers of any inquiring field.

Such encounters between creative minds as the two volumes make them obvious to the lucky readers contain difficult epistemological battles that are carried out with fairness and a strong drive to understand and recognize the value of the ideas proposed by those who have different perspectives. For instance, Robert J. Sternberg who advanced new theoretical frameworks in the case of major themata such as intelligence, love, wisdom…, and as it is well-known pleads for transparency of peer-reviews is just one of them. You underscore the fact that Sternberg is a scientist who is “not afraid to be critical and not afraid to sign your name to a negative review” (p. 472, Volume two). Robert Sternberg provides an amazing account of your work that receives from you this response: “I can say that if I have been asked to write an autobiographical essay and have come out with your account, I would have been more than satisfied with that literary effort” (p.472). Sternberg’s essay points out a feature of innovative scientific approaches that might look to others as reciprocally incompatible, but, in fact, such encounters invite to explore their possible complementarity of different theories. Sternberg’s posits that despite his critical view “I realized that the two theories [MI and triarchic] are largely compatible. Howard theory specifies domains of intelligence; my own theory specifies processes (analytical, creative, practical) operating within those domains. One could imagine a 3 x 8 matrix, with the three abilities of the triarchic theory as rows and the eight intelligences of MI theory as columns (Howard Gardner’s contribution to psychology and education: Woefully incomplete retrospective that is nevertheless the best I can do, p. 463, Volume two).

The third example refers to an original contribution, called “speculation,” by author Seana Moran, to the type of intelligence identified by Gardner as “existential intelligence”. Despite the fact that existential intelligence is a relatively late addition by Gardner to his revolutionary MI theory, it has wide ramifications for advancing the understanding of the interaction between intelligences development and environment. Moran’s approach (What does “1/2” an intelligence mean?” Volume two) is openly encouraged by Howard Gardner who stated in his response to her contribution: “In candor (and this is not something I have said very often with respect to MI theory) you have thought more deeply about these issues than I have” (p. 199, Volume two). Moran advanced the bold idea of a “family tree of intelligences”, of an evolutionary process that leads to a new generation of intelligence(s). “The existential intelligence” belongs to the “fourth generation” of intelligences (pp. 181-182). Here is the order of the four generations of intelligences that emerged during co-evolutionary (bio-social-cultural-moral) processes according to Moran:

I: – Bodily-kinesthetic – Spatial – Musical

II: – Interpersonal – Naturalistic – Linguistics – Logical-mathematical

III: -Third generation – Interpersonal

IV – Existential

Moran’s approach invites to a systematic exploration of the possible relations between the assumed evolutionary sequence of intelligences and coevolutionary processes (Lumsden & Wilson, 1981) and the “cultural homeostasis” as conceived by Damasio and Damasio in their essay on moral brain. According to Damasio & Damasio: “Creativity and reason have extended the discoveries of nature and the reach of biological regulation to the human social space. In the process, they invented sociocultural homeostasis. The basic homeostasis of human body is automated and non-conscious, designed to ensure our survival thoughtlessly. Sociocultural homeostasis, on the other hand, is largely deliberate and conscious, and morality is the most important consequence of sociocultural homeostasis” (p. 295, italics added, Volume 1). I do not know if Seana Moran already knows this essay, but as far as I can grasp now, existential intelligence may be a game-changer for a given cultural homeostasis and this might explain why there is a resistance toward EI (existential intelligence, which might look alien or extra-terrestrial). Such an exploration is in tune with Moran’s question: “What would it look like when newly evolving intelligence meets culture? Would we embrace it immediately? Not likely” (p.186). This is at least obvious in the cases of exemplars such as Socrates, Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mandela, Patočka who have been imprisoned, killed, or both. Societies (various societies in various eras) did not accept their solutions to painful societal issues. By the way, Thoreau did plead for a very long time for friendly relationships between knower and object, observer and observed, experimenter and subject (sometimes we call them “participants”, but manipulate them). It seems to me that Thoreau’s support for what today we call unobtrusive methods is in tune with his care for the moral match between means and goals not just in social actions but during the knowledge processes too.

Gardner’s creative synthesizer type, besides the fact that it is part of his self-concept, is observable not only in his articles, books and lectures but in his face-to-face interactions when he and his peers, colleagues, mentees met surprises and fragmentary answers where integrative ideas are much needed. Foldi refers explicitly to the “the ability to connect and incorporate disparate learned material” (Aging? Never mind, p.418, Volume One). In great intellectual environments, a powerful synthesis comes down from the abstract levels and becomes a teachable skill through modeling. To learn about and from individuals who are able to model and to be modeled by this skill within an ecology that is creativity-enhancing is a source of happiness.

Howard Gardner warned us not be “too Howard-centric”. Besides this wise warning we should take into account that Howard Gardner’s work, life, care for the daily needs of others (such as women colleagues who have been pregnant or just gave birth), and his practical approaches designed to improve educational processes and institutions reveal the existence of a “Polycentric-Howard,” in quest for truth in diverse areas of inquiry, who engages and is engaged by other creative minds. In the words of Alan Wolfe, this is phrased as: Howard Gardner is “the most pluralistic person I know” (p. 584, Volume two). Howard Gardner is an imaginative unifier, a seeker of coherence who has the ability of grasping perplexing cases, situations.

I do not know if nowadays there are enough students in psychology and even philosophy who are reading Maimonides. I say it because in his essay, Saxe advances a stimulating perspective. Here it is: “A direct comparison of Maimonides and Howard Gardner would be inappropriate, but in several interesting ways, Howard’s work reflects a Maimonidean approach to understanding and improving work. At a simple level, Maimonides was concerned with turning complex ideas into concepts that could be understood and used by ordinary individuals to enhance their lives” (p. 327, Volume 2). Is it not a deep form of democratic and participatory production and use of social knowledge? These features, which reveal that the creative efforts that have the highest value for a humane becoming are, as Saxe writes, “ethically driven” (p. 325). According to my limited knowledge of Maimonides’ work, I dare to add one more feature: the ability to observe significant disparities, to be perplexed by them and to strive to understand why they happen. Regarding perplexity, I have in mind The guide of the perplexed by Maimonides.

Gardner with humor and modesty reacted to the comparison between him and the Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides. This is his reaction from which is plenty to learn: “I am moved by the comparison. But, then, in the background I hear my father voice saying, ‘Den Unterschied mőchte ich Klavierspielen kőnnen.’ Very loosely translated what Dad might have interjected at this point is ‘Howard, — you and Maimonides! I’d like to be able to play the difference on the piano’ (p. 333)”

The two volumes have a tremendously rich epistemic substance, personal and interpersonal stories and a well-connected network of guiding values among many other treasures that can be discovered by each and every reader.

The value of reciprocally valued epistolary interactions and beyond them.

Dear Howard, when I say many other treasures I have in mind specific components that belong to the co-developmental stories. For instance, the place of letters in this dialogical working and living space is highly significant. Connie Wolf, who first received via telephone a negative answer to her application for a job justified by the fact that “you decided to hire another candidate who had her Ph.D.” , wrote to you an “unsolicited letter”, what she calls “THE letter” (Another letter to Howard -30 years after “THE” letter, p. 574, Volume two). This epistolary event informs the readers that your dialogical capacity goes across all communicational means (verbal, reviews, face-to-face, e-mail…) leading most of the times to fruitful solutions to various problems. Wolf confesses, “I am forever grateful that you were open to THE letter and recognized something in me that I never knew I have” (574). Your response recognizes this epistolary episode and invites the readers to dig deeper into your epistolary interactions. The openness to the received letters (e-mails) and their dialogical treatment that implies a balanced view on the dynamics of epistolary interactions that have to be treated within the wider context of the Harvard’s cultural tradition that preserves correspondence objects and invites to the systematic study of these reciprocally self-recorded dialogues.

The value of epistolary interactions for understanding the “scientific imagination” and the genesis of a new paradigm can lead to surprising results that, probably, contradict a previous widely accepted representation. Gerald Holton in his essay “Intuition in scientific research” and in his previous research, as the landmark work on the thematic character of scientific thought (Holton, G. (1973/1988). Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press) provides strong evidence supporting the value of correspondence for clarifying critical moments in the genesis of a new theory. For instance, Einstein, in a letter to F. G. Davenport, contradicts the common view that the experiment of Michelson-Morley played an important role in the genesis of the special relativity theory. The systematic research of epistolary interactions offers the chance to re-construct what Holton identifies as the “cultural roots of science” (Holton, G. (1998). Einstein and the cultural roots of modern science. Daedalus, 127, 1, pp. 1-44). Exploring the cultural roots of science Holton illuminates essential sides of the epistemic need to search preserved epistolary interactions. There is evidence that the dynamic of “thematic, visual and metaphorical elements in the thought process of researchers” are most of the time at work “long before they reduce their results to traditional types of publication” (Holton, p. 537, Volume one, italics added). Holton refers to the “diverse correspondence” and suggests that “the letters exchanged during just one of Einstein’s immensely busy and creative periods (1914-18); they indicate a wide spectrum of interests among the correspondents” (Holton, 1998, pp.4-6, italics added). Mapping the trajectory of scientific ideas (as well as of other products: visual arts, music, political decisions, technological inventions) cannot be carried out only by studying the publications; their forms of canonic public delivery which do not offer access to many components of the creative process that are less visible or even completely excluded from these formal records despite the fact that such traces might have been expressed within the dialogical stream of correspondence.

Within Harvard cultural context there is a rich tradition of substantial, intense and persistent epistolary interaction; the epistolary dialogue is a well nurtured cultural habit. In your response to the essay of Sissela Bok (William James on ‘What makes a life significant?”) you state, “we inhabit the campus of Thoreau and Emerson and Hellen Keller” (p. 133, Volume one, italics added). Thoreau treated the received letters with the same respect as his Journal, giving to the received letters the same chances of survival as to his own Journal, which had some of its entries written on the back side of received letters. I have been partially surprised that you mention Thoreau prior to his mentor, Emerson who had the wonderful habit to invite his disciples to treat his ideas critically. Did you reverse even the alphabetical order (T, D) by chance or because Thoreau might have a special place within your becoming?

  1. Bok’s essay is triggered by one of the powerful and perennial questions asked by William James and by his answers that marked our field. The power and the habit of reflecting questioning are obvious in the huge correspondence of William James.
  2. Bok is fascinated by the dynamics of Hereclitean dialectics between social or moral blindness and illumination, between omission and self-awareness implied by the becoming of the consciousness stream in the case of William James, and her essay fascinates the reader. With my own reader bias, I disclose that I have been deeply impressed by S. Bok’s inspiring meditation on the Armenian genocide as well as on all genocides. Following with great care and interrogative alertness the ways in which James himself struggled with social blindness she shares with all the participants to the Festschrift and to any other reader her view about the way toward recovery reminding that James “suddenly became aware of such a blindness in himself” (p. 126, Volume one). This happened after James spent a happy week at Chautauqua during which James, according to his own report felt that “sobriety and industry, intelligence and goodness, orderliness and cheerfulness, pervade the air.” But soon, facing “the dark and wicked world again”, James discloses a terrible inner feeling: “something primordial and savage, even though it were as bad as an Armenian massacre, to set the balance straight again.”

I think that the above citation from James used by Bok could become a great exercise in sell-reflection. It reminds me of similar feelings and thoughts of some moral exemplars that never engaged in any violent acts and have been concerned with the wellbeing of all; despite scriptures from diverse cultures, some writers expressed almost identical thoughts (Kazantzakis might be considered just one of many). S. Bok inserts the above citation within a wider context and advances the search of its meaning: “Really? Was he longing for a massacre? There had in fact been horrendous massacres of Armenians in 1894-1896, just a few years before James gave his lectures, killing hundreds of thousands of people. These massacres were the precursors to the even vaster 1915 massacre of Armenians in April 1915-one about which the question of whether it should count as genocide is still so bitterly disputed” (p. 126). More than one hundred years of perennial denial of Armenian genocide the denial is necessarily confronted by a growing wave of perennial questioning of this macro-blindness that, hopefully, might bring closer the recognition of the 1915 genocide. There is an answer to this type of blindness investigated by James who considered that one cause of his blindness was nurtured, as he said so clearly, by “looking at life with the eyes of a remote spectator” (italics added).

The spectator remoteness from a tragic reality, described by James, and further explored by Bok, that can mark our lives while encountering shaking events, seems to be an old and good relative of the bystander effect (Latané & Darley). We like or we do not like it – in the case of the Armenian genocide, as of other genocides, the “remote spectator”, the bystander might be not just an individual, but a group, a community, and many times a collective formal bystander that is well informed about the mega-tragedy, about the victims and perpetrators. Over one hundred years of denial should invite a hard question: Why is it so hard to get out from the condition of collective bystander? Why even unfulfilled promises of genocide recognition are possible?

A series of James qualities such as the gift to observe and be moved by life events, to travel mentally between concrete events and abstract levels, to conceptualize and develop his observational and participatory skills, his inner dialogue and moral values might be important resources that helped him to overcome this non-visual blindness. Bok states: “Here James exemplifies a blindness on a monumental scale, not only to the inner lives of the individuals he had met in Chautauqua but also to victims of the massacre for which he had felt a momentary longing”. Bok’s analysis points out to the process through which James liberated himself from the captivity of the previous blindness: “James challenges his own perceptions…arguing with himself, and , in so doing testing his own views about what makes a life significant” (p. 126, italics added). Bok’s inquiry leads to counter-question the answer provided by James to the posed question and to be cautious in relation to some calls that are very attractively dressed up: “after all, persecutions, inquisitions and any number of brutal crimes are carried out in the name of some higher cause or some noble ideal” (p. 127). This could be considered a strong reason in support of James’ dialectical idea of converting the features needed in war in resources needed for constructive endeavors expressed as he suggests in his lecture on “The Moral Equivalent of War”. Awareness of one’s limits, errors, and blindness is a must for a humane becoming. In his response to the essay Howard Gardner says: “What unites the three of us (William James, Sissela Bok & Howard Gardner), I would dare to speculate, is that we recognize human frailties, all too clearly, and yet we actually believe our species can better itself and that should be a chief obligation during our time here” (p.132).

In the two volumes are many other instances that indicate your attraction, mastery, and respect for the epistolary interaction. For instance, Veronica Boix Mansilla (Taking the pulse: Howard, human potential and our changing times) shares with the readers her observation of your office: “in his office, where carefully framed old letters stand as reminders of the dialogical nature of his thinking” (p. 106, Volume one). Boix Mansilla mentions just two outstanding epistolary partners – Erik Erikson and Claude Lévi-Strauss, but it is reasonable to assume that there are many such epistolary treasures. Melissa Rivard adds to this your correspondence with S.J. Gould, Yo-Yo Ma or E. Wilson and expresses her “voyeuristic thrill” produced by the reading of these letters (p. 291, Volume, two). Elisabeth Soep gives to the reader the chance to see some of your highly instructive “minutes”, “notes” as they cover a wide range of topics from practical observation to sharing his and welcoming others new perspectives (Memorabilia: An education on education through notes in a box”, Volume two, pp.441-448). In more specific terms the content is focused on the hard issues of Project Zero, as that of assessment, for instance.

There are many short letters received with the occasion of the 70th birthday. One, which is a handwritten letter, belongs to Oliver Sacks (p. 299, Volume two). Sacks, referring to his long-term rich relationships with Gardner, states about his works that “made me see things in a different light – above all, your theory (but it is much more than a theory) of “multiple intelligences”. You have transformed so many lives, and so many educational practices” (p. 298, Volume two, italics added, if allowed to a holograph text). Oliver’s short and dense letter prompts a self-revealing answer from Gardner which, and I am as confident as one can be about future, will stimulate one day a deep research of the creative personalities who had to overcome some hard inner conditions. Here is Howard’s answer: “You have personal experiences with some of the conditions that you’ve written about. I don’t know that I have written about my own cognitive and perceptual anomalies, but I happen to be both color blind and prosopagnosic (unable to recognize or remember faces). Moreover, my daughter has the same flavor of prosopagnosia, and we believe that my late father had it as well. We’ve talked about this for years within the family, but it was during the week of August 30, 2010, that my daughter phoned me excitedly to say, “Did you see this week’s New Yorker? We’ve been found out!” And from then on, I have referred literally dozens of persons to your brilliant description of prosopagnosia. Now once skeptical friends can understand it, we (you, my daughter, I) may not mistake a spouse for a hat, we are simply unable to easily encode the features that allow most people to readily distinguish between Person A from Person B, C, and D”. (Gardner’s response to Oliver Sacks, p. 299, Volume two). We know that other luminaries of psychology such as William James, Alfred Adler, for instance, coped fantastically well with hard conditions. In this case, this personal condition offers the chance to dig deeper into Gardner’s model of human mind, of its modularity, a concept that reminds us Fodor’s work. This disclosure invites to a systematic inquiry within a wider context of such cases and in direct connection to the genesis of Gardner’s theory of “frames of mind”.

The just treatment of the sent and received letters, which is an essential condition for the accurate reconstruction and exploration of any correspondence flow, is remarkably achieved in the case of William James. At the same time we know that his huge correspondence received a much deserved outstanding treatment that is obvious in The Correspondence of William James (General Editor: John J. McDermott. Editors: Ignas K. Skrupskelis and Elizabeth N. Berkeley Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992-2004, 12 volumes). I mention this tremendous resource because in the stream of James’s correspondence, he is relentlessly expressing his questioning drive, his urge to ask probing questions, which is one reliable sign of creating minds. I have an interest in the holistic approach of the epistolary space that emerged while I have not been allowed by bureaucrats to practice psychology, more exactly social psychology, in my country of origin. Epistolary interactions are self-recorded, dated, and sent thoughts, narratives, feelings and speech acts to a spatially, socially or temporally distant (unavailable) others. Sometimes the epistolary interactions and networks compensated and replaced unfriendly publications as it has been the case with the transcendentalists, including Thoreau and as happened in many other historical contexts. The correspondence objects (letters, cards, e-mails) that can be reciprocally stored by the epistolary partners provide many surprises regarding the genesis of creative ideas. I worked on a few cases (Descartes, Mill, Machiavelli, J. S. Mill, Dreiser and Mencken, Wittgenstein and Russell) while for political reasons being denied to practice my profession in Romania during mid-80’s. The systematic research of the correspondence of William James that has been so well symmetrically preserved is an open invitation to a comprehensive approach.

Your epistolary style (letters, e-mail, other means and recorded distant calls) that is intrinsically dialogical remained always open to the situation and needs of the other. Mindy L. Kornhaber reveals that you “maintained a continuous stream of emails” rooted in professional reasons but open to wider life events, even extremely dangerous for the person who has been helped by you (Howard Gardner superhero, Volume two, pp. 47-48). It seems to me, if I am trying to reach a more coherent–and of course quite incomplete picture on your epistolary (e-mail) patterns, it is evident that you treat with justice the received letters both from famous people as well as from people who are unknown, at least yet unknown. This treatment comes out naturally from your dialogical way across all types of human encounters. I imagine that, besides your huge correspondence developed over years of creative work, these two volumes might stimulate many epistolary (e-mail) exchanges among the direct contributors as well as among readers across the U.S. and the World who might have the privilege and the joy to learn from the Festschrift dedicated to you.

Citizen, character and good work

The issue of good citizen is visible in many relevant ways in “Mind, Work, and Life”. The essay “Truth and citizen” by David Perkins is focused on this theme. To be a good citizen represents, as Perkins argues, a local, national, and world goal. Perkins identifies a highly significant puzzle: “not so much how citizenly thinking operates for better or worse but what it operates on for better or worse: the data, the information, and the baseline understandings.” As a consequence he illuminates the citizen’s dilemma: “How can citizens make wise judgments toward a better society when relevant reasonably grounded baseline truths are so hard to come by?” (p. 246). This approach is helping us to advance in the study of Gardner’s approach of the old triad “truth, goodness, and beauty” with which must cope any good citizen (Gardner, H. (2011). Truth, beauty, and goodness reframed: Educating for the virtues in the 20-first century. New York: Basic Books).

Perkins’ essay warns us that the search of truth is not only an uphill climb but one in which “the hill gets steeper yet with the ROI (Return On Investment) problem” (p.259, Volume two). Havel argued that besides the problems posed by finding the truth, there are also the problems of when, to whom, and how it is communicated. The search for truth, regardless of many difficulties that must be solved, motivates so many creative minds; it is a source for experiencing flow (Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper and Row) the public expression of truth, standing up for truth within a hostile environment, and pleading for it in uncertain times, asks for a high moral development and other personality features. For instance, the development that increases the chances of achieving “Good Work” implies besides “competence” and “character” the potentials of “differentiation and integration” (Gardner, H., Csikszentmihalyi, M., &Damon, W. (2001). Good work: When excellence and ethics meet. New York: Basic Books).

The essay “Truth and citizen” contrasts the ways in which truth is approached in various areas: the issue of truth is approached with great civility in the most diverse areas of science, while in other social areas, such as of governance, the discourse on the issues of truth is marked many times by hostile behaviors, deceiving practices and other misbehaviors. Perkins considers that a responsible citizen must ask and answer four basic questions: (1) “Does the issue matter to the society at large?; (2) Does it matter to me, to my family, my neighbors, my peers?; (3) Will the investigative effort allow me to arrive to a much better situation?; (4) “What will be the influence of my position on social decisions?” (p. 251). These questions underscore the individual responsibility in close connection with the state and dynamics of the entire society and they have a wide range of theoretical, moral, and political implications. It seems to me that these become unavoidable questions within the nowadays-existential condition for each and every citizen across our world.

Searching for valid answers to these questions and solving the citizen’s dilemma are major tasks that according to the perspective developed by Perkins should be approached by the help of heuristics in spite of the fact that : “Heuristics come without guarantees, but they often help” (p. 253). Awareness of the citizen’s dilemma and the heuristic approach to major political as conceived in Perkins’s essay are necessary conditions to improve the relationship between citizens and truth. It seems to me that the selection of the heuristic approach is by far the best in the case of political conflicts, and painful societal problems than is the algorithmic approach.

In your response to Perkins you say “Rarely are we exactly on the same page, but we are looking for illumination rather than for conflict… In your own terms, Dave, you remain the “theoretical”, or “idea” visionary. As in the past, I fully suspect that political and practical visionaries will appear and help put your promising ideas to the test” (p.263).

Because there are many historical cases when responsible, creative, highly intelligent, and moral and individuals did become deeply engaged in the efforts to solve major societal pains (issues of independence, societal injustice, human rights for instance) systematic explorations of such cases, and especially of their imagined and applied solutions could help us to learn more about the dynamics of the interaction citizens-truth-societal problems. This might become a more urgent need while realizing that the acceptance of the fallibility of our models, ideas, theories brings us closer to truth. Accepting the fallibility of our views increases the chances to find and correct our errors and to correct them while a “post-truth” mentality seems to gain more social space. Gandhi’s autobiography through its content and title searches for truth being essentially focused on his own errors (M. Gandhi – Autobiography: The story of my experiments with truth). Now I have in mind two “creating minds”, both good citizens and truth-seekers: B. Franklin and H. D. Thoreau. There is a common denominator for the two cases: a deep concern for method. In Franklin’s case, the issue is that of developing a method that serves the self-construction and improvement of character. In Thoreau’s case, the issue is to imagine, test and use a method that can be used to oppose societal evils. I think that both cases are related to some of your major contributions.

Your innovative approach to the deep interaction of excellence, engagement and ethics is intimately combined with the way in which you assess the role (position too) of character within the educational process. You are on the same wavelength with Gandhi who explored his experiences with truth considering that character is by far more important than some specific cognitive skills. There is old and strong evidence that character, understood mainly as the virtues and strengths that become engraved in one’s own being, is a major personality sub-system that is a combination of the self and socially construction. Its nature and becoming are very different than other personality sub-systems such as temperament that are mostly given. I noticed that many creating minds—some clearly moral exemplars too—had a deep interest in the construction of their own character. James’ concept of the dynamics of habits is a wonderful source of inspiration for this field. There are landmark studies carried out on spiritual modeling (Bandura), on moral exemplars and commitment (Colby & Damon) or moral learning (Lind) to mention just a few areas (Bandura, A. (2003). “On the psychosocial impact and mechanisms of spiritual modeling”. The International Journal for the Psycho-logy of Religion, 13(3) 167-173; Colby, A., & Damon, W. (1992). Some do care. Contemporary lives of moral commitment. New York: The Free Press, McMillan; Lind, G. (2002). Ist Moral lehrbar? Ergebnisse der modernen moralpsychologischen Forschung. Berlin: Logos-Verlag). All these studies, and many others, strongly suggest that character must be at the core of the formal and informal educational processes if there is a real interest in the common good.

We know that the theme (using this concept as defined by Holton) of character has been explored prior to the birth of psychology as a science. One of these contributions aimed to improve the character self-construction is the method developed and self-applied by Benjamin Franklin. I adjusted it and used it with the participation of many series of students at different colleges since 2008 (Franklin’s method to learn about and to develop one’s own character: An exercise in self-knowledge and self-improvement of character). Theophrastus and after him many others identified dangerous features of character, such as authoritarianism. Franklin, a creative scientist and skillful and loyal diplomat who displayed a powerful pragmatic orientation, made a critical turn: he designed a method to train the good and strong character. According to my experience Franklin’s method is liked and used by the students. Some students even enjoy helping to introduce Franklin’s method to other people. On the other hand, Gandhi’s approach to character is intertwined with his view on training ahimsa (non-violence), i.e., it has a practical goal. It seems that even in the case of moral exemplars, there is the dark possibility of a negative reversal, at least as it can be grasped from outside. The distance between the behavior of A. S. S. Kyi during her brave resistance against military dictatorship and her behaviors versus the Rohingas’ desperate situation is puzzling.

From an educational perspective, I lived a perplexing experience, which is part of a greater “cultural shock” (Furnham’s concept). Coming in the U.S.A. from a former communist country, I enjoyed the richness and accessibility of amazing teaching-learning resources and the free access to personal computers. Preparing for part-time teaching jobs at different colleges and universities, I realized quickly the high quality and the variety of psychological textbooks for various courses (introductory psychology, life-span psychology, adult development, psychology of aging and social gerontology, motivation, social psychology). There are so many excellent textbooks, that it makes the choice of one textbook quite difficult. I experienced this outstanding intellectual richness in contrast with my experience in Romania, where many times there were no textbooks or just one per course during my college years. In the USA, I had the chance make choices from a wide range of excellentresourcesfortheteaching-learning process.

However, I noticed with perplexity, first in scanning a few psychological textbooks, that the concept of character was missing. During years, while I had to move to different teaching places and using various textbooks I realized that the missing concept is not an exception, but a rule for the following areas: introductory psychology, life-span psychology, adult development, and psychology of aging and social gerontology, social psychology. Observing this conceptual neglect I surveyed from 1992 to 2011 – 478 textbooks of psychology (introductory psychology, lifespan development, adult development, and psychology of aging and social gerontology, social psychology) by taking into account that many of them have over 12 editions, and that each new edition, which is counted as a different text- book, gives the chance of improvements. None of these textbooks introduces the concept of character. I have been and I am still asking students, forced by the same conceptual omission, to search for the concept of character in the subject index and to discuss what they think about the fact that this notion ismissing.

This conceptual gap continued 8 years or so even after the publication of crucial work Character Strengths and Virtues carried out by Peterson and Seligman (Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues. A handbook and classification. Washington, DC: Oxford University Press). Being profoundly impressed by their masterpiece I wrote to Peterson and Seligman, as I wrote to many authors of the textbooks, and mentioned this conceptual neglect. According to their assessment this error was assumed to remain uncorrected for a long time. To my dismay, Peterson and Seligman have been and are still right. Many anthropologists say that usually the insiders’ views are right in comparison with alien observers. Only since 2016, I have observed in just a few textbooks that “character” is indeed to be found in the subject index and that there is reference to the work of Peterson and Seligman. If we consider that for some future psychologists, who may go into very specialized fields, the highest chance to have an intellectual encounter with the concept of character is provided by introductory textbooks, this could be considered an important educational issue.

What might happen if the recognition of one’s own serious (even lethal) errors is very severely punished by the society? What might happen to the tendency and need to acknowledge publicly such errors? This acknowledgement might be considered a liminal test of the character (goodness and strength) – but such a test goes far beyond the ethical norms of any formal experiment. Myths, legends, old narratives and great literature created imaginary experiments for such liminal cases. One of them is the history of Oedipus: after a careful and relentless inquiry that aimed to find out the killer of his own father, he discovers, doubtlessly, that he is the killer and courageously and justly punishes oneself by pulling out with his own eyes, i.e. a major organ of knowledge, with his fingers. This is a self-punishment for his failure to see the truth. There are other truth-seekers in the fields of science, arts, morals and politics who recognized their errors and at the same time have been ready to suffer for truth-finding and truth-telling. These instances, however, are rather rare even in fairy tales and Confucius reflected on this question. He doubted deeply that a character as that of Oedipus, who was almost sure unknown to him, might exist in real life: “In vain I have looked for a single man capable of seeing his own faults and bringing the charge home against himself” (Book 5, 26, The Analects of Confucius. Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching. Translated with notes by Arthur Waley. New York: Barnes & Nobles.). Oedipus search for truth, his self-inflicted punishment for his own blindness despite that his vision was sharp, his cognitive recovery, later on wisdom and moral growth are still perplexing events.

It is interesting to take into account that Franklin has been skeptical toward the so-called “silver bullet” solutions and urged himself and others to identify errors. In this mode he is, like Thoreau, much more for a heuristic approach than for algorithmic solutions to complex issues. This is obvious in the way he describes the procedure of “Moral or prudential algebra”. It unfolds in the following way: “If I find a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out three. If I judge some two Reasons con equal to some three Reasons pro, I strike out five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the Balance lies.” Only after a day or two or more if after “further Consideration nothing new of Importance occurs on either side, I come to a determination accordingly”. Franklin warns that this Prudential Algebra is not identical to the “Precision of Algebraic Quantities” but it helps to judge better difficult cases (p. 878).    Self-control is a much-needed process for strong and good characters. Franklin’s method includes specific targets identified in his method, such as “silence”, “temperance”, “resolution”, “humility that have to be monitored by anybody who is attempting to develop one’s character. Each of these targets of character self-construction can develop and turn useful in hard social situations. For instance, “silence” turned in the Gandhian practice also into “silence strike” and helped to cope with hot conflicts, inner anger and external hostility. Franklin proved his efficient self-control while he was tested in a tough-minded but clear, civilized, and democratic mode in the House of Commons (“The EXAMINATION of Doctor Benjamin Franklin by the AUGUST ASSEMBLY, relating to the Repeal of the STAMP-ACT, &c”. It took place on February 13, 1766. Franklin appeared as the principal witness before the Committee of the Whole of the House of Commons, (Franklin, Vol. 13, 129-159 – Franklin, B. (1969). January 1 through December 31, 1766. New Haven: Yale University Press; Franklin, B. (2006). The completed autobiography by Benjamin Franklin. Compiled and edited by Mark Skousen. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing Inc.; Franklin, B. (2003). A Benjamin Franklin reader. Edited annotated by Walter Isaacson. New York: Simon & Schuster; Franklin, B. (1987). Writings. Boston and London, 1722-1726; Philadelphia, 1726-1757; London, 1757-1775; Paris, 1776-1785; Philadelphia, 1785-1790; Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1733-1758; The autobiography. New York: The Library of America.

David Olson (Social responsibility, self-control, and doing good work) states in his essay: “Social control is…the basis of self-control” (p.226, Volume two). Based on his previous studies on intention (Olson 2007) and on the construct of “agency” (Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy. The exercise of control. New York: Freeman & Freeman) Olson reveals the cultural roots and social consequences of “deliberate intentions” that are publicly expressed: “Promising oneself, thereby forming a deliberate intention, is just what is involved in self-control whether in the form of delay of gratification, planning for the future, for adopting manners and morals for oneself rather than merely complying with those imposed by others” (p. 226). The choice one makes under the high pressure, as suggested W. Wundt, generated by conflicting interests, especially by deciding against one’s own interest, is a vital character test. Olson’s approach advances our understanding of the cultural roots and ramifications of self-control and mainly of “promising”. Olson’s vision reveals the power of promising, a speech act (Austin; Searle) that entails a form of joint responsibility toward truth.

The second case is that of Thoreau. He designed a self-experiment, which has a joint individual and societal value, being focused on the identification of basic human needs and their threshold that would allow moving toward self-emancipatory, self-transcendental needs. Thoreau was profoundly concerned by and compassionately engaged in the search of solutions to major societal pains, such as slavery. His crucial social invention, known as “civil disobedience”, is morally and heuristically driven.

I have to confess that since a long time I am bewildered by the fact that great and well informed scholars in the transcendental philosophical tradition, and especially in the works of Thoreau as well as scholars dedicated to the study of Marx’s works, did not observe an astonishing synchronicity: the two major action oriented texts Civil Disobedience (CD), which, initially, had a different title, on one side and the Manifesto of the Communist Party (MCP) on the other side were delivered (the first as a lecture on January 26 1848, the second as a brochure in the first weeks of February 1848) almost simultaneously on the historical stage. I think that this historic synchronicity significantly informs us with respect to the qualitatively different outcomes of heuristic and algorithmic approaches of societal major problems. The simultaneous delivery of these two action oriented texts on the public stage and a number of essential features of both of them (identical longevity—over 170 years, identification of major societal problems, the presentation of a method to solve them) might be considered as providing the conditions for a historical quasi-experimental situation.

If the two texts are considered as vignettes in this historical, quasi-experimental situation that introduced the independent variable (a violent ideology versus a non-violent one as inscribed in the two texts) then it might be useful to identify a possible dependent variable. This is offered by the behavior of the political leaders who accepted and applied the measures/methods of one of the two texts. There is strong evidence that the MCP is significantly associated with a long series of political leaders who used and abused violence (Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Kaganovich, Pauker, Dej, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gomulka, Hoenecker, Ceauşescu, Jivdkov, Hoxha, Husak, Castro….). On the other side, those who have been inspired by CD (Tolstoy, Cato, Gandhi, Danish anti-Nazi movement, Martin Luther King, Mandela, Havel…) are political actors who used non-violent means. MCP contains an algorithmic solution that includes 10 measures, which have been used as political dictates that lead to a one party political system, bloody revolution, dictatorship, and abolition of private property. The CD uses a heuristic approach based on internalization of high moral principles and on individual responsibility; it recommends non-violent actions and separation from evil structures and processes.

Thoreau’s approach to deeply painful societal problems is supported by high moral principles asks explicitly for a responsible acceptance of all the consequences (including harsh punishments) of one’s disobedience to evil. The stakes are extremely high: “But even suppose blood should flow. Is there not a sort of bloodshed when the conscience is wounded? Through this wound a man’s real manhood and immortality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death.” (CD, p. 466, italics added). “Everlasting death” is a moral condemnation that denies to the person any chance to survive after the physical death. This is a humane answer to the fear of death that is at the core of Terror Management Theory that has been provided by many other individuals. Socrates, Gandhi, Martin Luther King are well known. However people such as Patočka or the young Jan Palach who resorted to self-immolation as an answer to the 1968 Prague invasion by Soviet Union and most of the communist countries that signed the Warsaw Pact, half a century back who are not so well known. Havel called Palach’s gesture as a rejection of “moral suicide”. It seems to me that Thoreau’s way to oppose evil, as well as Palach’s way, can be considered as ways of preempting moral death. Thoreau, according to his own declaration faced a democratic system, while Palach faced a totalitarian system.

“Mind, Work, Life” has a rich and highly stimulating thematic configurations (using the notion of “theme” as defined and applied by Holton) that reflects the diversity and unity of the intellectual interests of the contributors. Some of the themes are obviously at the intersection of philosophy, psychology, education and political sciences. So the volumes contain stimulating connections between philosophical perspectives such as those of Socrates, Plato, Maimonides, Kant or existentialist philosophy and questions that are at the core of present scientific inquiry. Jerome Bruner refers explicitly to the connection between Gardner’s research interests and his view of the “human condition” (p. 168, Volume one), syntagm that reminds me the novel of André Malraux, La condition humaine, that was read also in Romania by many intellectuals. Bruner reveals that he and Gardner have “both been addicted to exploring links among the intellectual, the personal, and the ideological” (p. 168, italics added).

These are instances when scientists might be relatively blind (the inner blindness that is explored in S. Bok’s essay) to the some axiological and ideological components of their own research activity and outside it, as common citizens. The resilient exploration of the links among the three areas suggested by Bruner is a way to satisfy the need for coherence and unity. It helps to make explicit the philosophical views of scientists. The fact that psychologists, social psychologists do have an explicit interest in existentialism is no surprise as I noticed in some essays as those of Bruner and Moran, for instance. The research of the links among “the intellectual, the personal and the ideological” might help to better grasp puzzling choices made by various intellectuals. For instance, Sartre and Camus strongly rejected fascism and Nazi’s ideology. However it seems quite obvious that Sartre suffered from a form of ideological blindness that did not allow him to recognize the horrors of and to criticize the Soviet System and made him accept violent means. Camus rejected strongly communism, too, as a form of totalitarianism. Within the philosophical realm it seems to me that one of the paradigmatic figures who tried in modern era under very harsh conditions to live in tune with his philosophical views, as Socrates did, is Patočka. He is becoming relatively better known long time after his tragic death that followed a harsh interrogatory conducted by communist secret service (Chvatík. I. (1992-1993). “Solidarity of the shaken”. Telos 94, 163-155; Chvatík. I. (2009). The responsibility of the “shaken”, Jan Patočka and his “Care for the soul” in the “post-European” world. Paper presented at Bergamo in May 2009; Patočka, J. (1990). La surcivilization et son conflict. In Liberté et sacrifice. Ecrits politiques. Translated by E.Abrams and J. Millon. Grenoble; Patočka, J. (1975/1996). Heretical essays in the philosophy of history. Edited by J. Dodd, translated by Kohák. Chicago and La Salle: Open Court).

“Activist”, its meanings across cultural, political and ideological borders.

Many of the contributors, reflecting on the trajectories of your work, do point out that your theoretical constructs, observations, experiments and field studies have been followed by explicitly practical (application) stages as assessment and intervention. The distance between theory – assessment – intervention has been boldly navigated, as it is so clear in the field of education. This is at the same associated with complex participatory enterprises. I noticed that in many instances this path breaking approaches are associated in both volumes with the notion of activist (for instance p. 473, Volume two). There are many other instances when the notion “activist” is used as indicating great qualities of people who achieved excellent works with high moral standards and remained engaged socially for the common good in the Two Volumes and in other works (for instance, in the landmark project on GoodWork : Gardner, H., Csikszentmihalyi M., & Damon, W. (2001). Good work. When excellence and ethics meet. New York: Basic Books, p. 246). The use of the notion “activist” associated with wonderful achievements puzzled me, as well as many other people who have been unfortunate to meet within totalitarian societies, like those of the communist type, the “activists” at work. The narrow mindedness, illiteracy, class hatred and threatening behaviors of the activists bring back terrible memories.

I learned step by step since 1990, when I faced for the first time the frequent use of the notion of “activist” in the U.S.A, that its content, meaning, and practice are qualitatively different from the notion of “activist” imposed, used, and abused in former communist countries. For instance, before 1945 the word activist and the persons who played this role, have been associated with that of Soviet “political commissar” and induced strong negative emotions in most people. Orwell in his Political essays warned us about the erosion of the language (he refers to English). But an ideological erosion of language is threat for many other languages as tools of free thinking and expression. The widespread social representation among common people of an activist (above all an activist of the Communist Party, but called simply “activist”) was that of a brutal instrument of the repressive regime. In Romania the notion “activist” generated mainly negative emotions such as fear, disgust and harsh political jokes. Today in Romania the notion of activist has a bizarre connotation that is a source of political double-bind for people of different generations despite the fact that the young people under 30 did not share the old painful experiences.

Besides these historical and cross-cultural experiences, which invite us to adjust to the new meaning and the new context, it seems to me that the concept of activist invites a deeper epistemic and moral question. As many theoretical constructs and their empirical support suggest, each and every human, potentially, is an active system (theory of personal constructs, Kelly), and is able of “agency” (that can be expressed at individual and collective levels, Bandura), makes choices and has responsibility. Accordingly, the notion of “activist” and the social role of the “activist” imply a paternalist orientation toward the rest, the non-activists, those that must be activated. On the other hand, it is obvious that competence, creativity and courage to initiate actions, changes of societal importance are expressed in different degrees by diverse social actors. Is initiator a better notion than that of activist? I am not sure. But, due to the long and tragic history of the practices carried out by activists within totalitarian systems, it might be useful to consider such possible negative experiences in order to avoid even the chance of ideological contamination and involuntary support for the nowadays use and abuse of the notion and role of activist in the service of some terrible dictatorships and political goals that do still exist.

Theoretical models, assessment and intervention in the never ending cycles of abstract and concrete problem-solving processes.

What are the benefits? This question, which might come in many forms, indicates the interest in the practical consequences of educational research. The essayGreatness in concrete terms” by Jie-Qi Chen helps the better understanding of the major stages and their rich innovative sides that lead to the valuable intervention programs based on MI. Due to new empirical, experimental, field research and theoretical developments, the road from the puzzling evidence provided by concrete cases to the high levels of abstraction and theoretical construction has been advanced by what Chen calls “innovation in assessment”, as has been the case, with Project Spectrum (pp. 186-188) and the innovative approach to intervention based on MI theory. This is to say, a road from a great variety of puzzling, and yet disconnected facts (concrete cases) to an original and powerful theory (MI) that advances in a critical mode the explanatory resources; and from the theory toward a concreteness that is guided and enriched by new methods, conceptual tools and well informed and directed interventions. I have to confess that the concrete case of the first grader Tom (one of the many Chen worked with) who “loved to build things”, who was “fascinated with tools” (pp. 189-190) is highly significant for intervention. The birth, through the well-informed (creative and wise) intervention of Tom’s Tool Dictionary helps to better grasp, appreciate and put at good work, the potential of children from all walks of life and with various personal traits and conditions. On a wider scale it teaches us about the huge potential of the common people who face hard challenges. Chen’s essay invites to reflect on common features of great ideas developed at various levels of cognitive abilities by individuals who generated new and powerful ideas. I dare to think to Wittgenstein’s use of metaphors of chess and “tool box” while exploring language and what he called “language games”.

The never ending cycles of abstract and concrete problem-solving processes appears in various forms across the Festschrift. I will mention two cases. One is provided by the long term, rich and fruitful collaboration within the complex educational, political, social and even financial landscape of Reggio Emilia (Howard’s response to Carla Rinaldi, p. 288). Howard discloses that “of all the educational environments in which I’ve been immersed, the continuing learning, improving, reflecting, and documenting in Riggio stands out” (p. 288). A cross-cultural perspective on the responsibility and accountability of educational actors is developed by Thomas Hatch. Despite the fact that the focus of the essay is the Norwegian educational system (Responsibility and accountability in (a Norwegian) context, Volume one), the essay explores how responsibility and accountability develop in the educational systems of Finland, Singapore, the Netherlands with explicit comparison with the situation in the U.S.A. The essay reveals the vital importance of formal and informal networks, of flexible strategies that apply to educational history, social conditions and national interests (“nation-building”) in each context. Educational innovations emerge in specific contexts and are assumed and expected to enhance the development of the respective systems (pp. 500-503).

Resorting to his personal experience combined with field observations, and research findings and volunteer work, James Comer discusses the relationship between the African-American community and African culture (p. 211, Volume one). His essay reveals a series of turning points that marked the development of his interest in educating students who belong to “the poor minority” (p. 214).

The essays and the responses provide many other illuminating and inspiring ideas. I will restrain myself just to one more: your deeply participatory engagement that moves so naturally from the most abstract issues to practical issues, to issues of assessment and of intervention (I prefer the concept of co-participation). I learned with great joy, for instance, your participatory experience in Denmark when you heartily accepted the invitation to spend some nights in the homes of Danish workers: “When I was first invited to Denmark by the metal worker unions over 25 years ago, my hosts insisted that I spend some nights in the homes of the workers. For most of my colleagues, this would have been a strange request, but as soon as I stayed in a few homes, I got the point. Denmark operated by an entirely different set of domestic practices and values” (Howard’s response to Hans Henrik Knoop, p. 36, Volume two). This is an exemplary case of the vital importance of openness to and engagement in participatory knowledge and the ability and gift to be fully enriched by such an experience. Thank you!

Such experiences that imply joint actions of researchers from various countries, of groups of individuals who excel in research, education and other areas, of practitioners and people who face various challenges invite a speculation regarding the chances of co-development that might be increased by such participatory projects. Besides the cognitive and practical gains, it seems that such joint actions might facilitate motivational co-development, i.e., a transition in the case of all the involved actors toward more powerful structures of intrinsic motives (Amabile, Csikszentmihalyi, Deci, Ryan), toward higher motivational levels (Maslow). The idea starts from the existence of motivational fields with multiple actors (Mamali, C. (1981). Motivational balance and coevolution; Mamali, C., & G. Păun (1986). Classification and hierarchization in motivational fields: Vectors of co-evolution. In C. A. Mallmann & O. Nudler (Eds.) Human development in its social context. A collective exploration. London: Hodder and Stoughton in Association with the United Nations University.). Such fields include motivational vectors that are associated with a specific motivational balance among various actors. The motivational balance varies between two extremes. On one extreme, the actors can jointly enter into a state of motivational co-regression (for instance, moving down on the motivational hierarchy, but this time one must renounce to the visual representation of a ladder, triangle, or ‘one sided pyramid’ – images specific for Maslow’s model and imagine a pyramid with a few sides, each of it representing the motivational dominance of one actor). On the other extreme, the actors could jointly enter into a state of motivational co-development (moving together toward higher levels). The point is that within research groups, within education environments, between research and educational teams and within participatory action research, theoretically, the chances for all actors to enter into co-developmental motivational relationships should be relatively high. It is my guess that in many of the projects initiated by Gardner, as various contributors and Gardner’s responses tell us, the motivational balance moved clearly toward co-developmental states.

Core values, intuition, types of scientists and love

Once internalized, values, which have old cultural roots related to human needs, become an inner GPS that helps us to navigate under dark social skies, political confusions, unethical pressures from friends or enemies and hard deliberation times. The truth-seekers and scientists are strongly motivated to search for truth. Due to scientific tools and inter-subjective verification, scientists are among the best equipped truth-seekers. But, for sure, scientists are not the only truth-seekers. There is no doubt that the accurate observations, case studies, accurate reasoning processes, and mainly rigorous experiments are ways to find out the truth, to approximate it, to correct previous errors. All these ways might feed intuition and are used to verify intuition, which, as Holton argues in his essay, is a major component of scientific research, both by its possible outcomes and by the powerful motivational consequences that can be generated by it when the intuition proves to be correct., or as Hans Christian Oersted described it as “anticipatory consonance with nature” (cited in Holton, p. 538, Volume one).

According to Holton, intuition is just one, among a much wider tool box, “tool kit of scientists”. The function of this tool kit, i.e. “intuition”, which is observable much more by historians of science than by other researchers, interested in scientific creativity could be explored mainly by answering to how and what: “how the research project was planned in the first place… what imaginative leap may have been worth risking during the early stage of research” (Intuition in scientific research, p. 538). Holton, as he argued before in his research on scientific themata, takes paradigmatic cases of scientists who excelled in intuition and left records (notes, diaries, and letters) that could help to go beyond the polished, sanitized, canonized history of science based only on the formal publications. The cases approached by Holton are: Henri Poincaré, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, and Enrico Fermi. Yes, science, big science (Derek de Solla Price) becomes more and more an enterprise for teams, even very large teams. Nevertheless many of its most significant leaps, that later on are proved to be necessary, are still generated by efforts carried out in solitude. It seems to be true for an old science such as physics as well as for the computing science (Erol Gelenbe – “Computer system and network performance analysis”, pp. 31-32; Juris Hartmanis “Computational complexity”, pp. 53-54. Both published in Calude, C. (2016). The human face of computing. London: Imperial College Press).

Holton cites Einstein’s view about the function intuition: “There is no logical way to the discovery of the elementary laws. There is only the way of intuition supported by being sympathetically in touch with experience” (cited by Holton, p. 538, italics added). It might be reasonable to assume that intuition is a more important (up to unavoidable) way in those areas where the inquiring mind must “travel” huge distances between concrete and abstract, and the scientist is able and willing to go back and forth. Holton explores the genesis of the intuition within the context of cultural roots and personal history and style of the scientist.

If the giant leap of an intuition leads to an important, testable, and confirmed outcome, i.e., to a truth that has been beyond the existing “horizon of our knowledge” (Blaga’s concept) then the joy produced by the discovered truth (“anticipated consonance with nature”) becomes the greatest reward for a truth-seeker.

As seen from many other essays and responses the search for truth, its communication and possible use face an uphill climb most of the times. There are many inner, political, job-place, ideological, organizational forces that might hinder this process. This seems to be one of the major reasons why Good Work, in all fields, turned into a major research project with many possible applications, not just for the journalists and geneticists. Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi and Damon identified three essential questions that “could arise in the mind of any professional, are especially likely to do so during periods of crisis:

Core values: Why should my society entrust me with power and prestige?

Exemplary Beliefs and Practices: Which workers realize the calling best?

Sense of Moral Identity: How do I feel about myself when I look in the mirror?” (Good Work, p. 210, italics in original).

Across the two volumes it is obvious that the search, communication and practice of truth are part of a common denominator. Could there be errors? Could there be alternative answers to research, educational, and other approaches? The possibility of errors seems to be, beyond any doubt, an accepted postulate. The search for truth implies the identification and correction of errors. S. Bok considers that “trust in some degree of veracity functions as a foundation of relations among human beings” (1999, Lying. Moral choice in public and private life. New York: Vintage Books, p. 31, italics in original). If this is so, why might truth, its search, expression, and use become so hard to attain? Does it happen because it is so difficult to search for and find out the truth with love (with nonviolent means as Gandhi says, or in “friendly” relation with the object of search, as Thoreau tried)? Is it so because truth could run against what some individual and collective actors perceive as being against their vital interests? Perkins reminds us that two Soviet publications (Izvestia meaning news, and Pravda meaning truth) excelled in double speak (Orwell) captured by the saying (a joke) about the two front line communist publications: “There’s no truth in The News, and no news in The Truth”).

Dear Howard, I feel the need to share with you an experience that seems to me significant for the way truth functions are represented in various societies. I had the privilege, and for sure, the chance, to participate to a research on values and core political attitudes that has been conceived by Shalom Schwartz, Gian Vittorio Caprara and Michele Vecchione (Schwartz, S.H., Caprara, G. V.,Vecchione, M., Bain, P. Bianchi, G. , Caprara, M. G., Cieciuch , J., Kirmanoglu, H., Baslevent, C., Lőnnqvist, J. E., Mamali , C., Manzi , J.,Pavlopoulos, V., Posnova, T., Schoen, H., Silvester, J., Tabernero C., Torres , C., Verkasalo , M.,Vondra´kova´ , E., Welzel, C. & Zaleski, Z. (2013). Basic personal values underlie and give coherence to political values: A cross national study in 15 countries. In Polit Behav, DOI 10.1007/s11109-013-9255-z). I am deeply grateful to the initiators and the entire team for this deeply enriching experience. Now, the model of universal values has been developed by Schwartz and tested many years in many studies across many countries. As one of the participants to one of the research projects initiated by Schwartz, Caprara and Vecchione I have been puzzled by the fact that while truth is an essential value in science, at least, and for many moral exemplars, it does not appear explicitly in theoretical models of universal values. I wondered why truth is not one of the values represented and measured by the model of universal values developed by Shalom Schwartz; see Figure 1 (Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol.25, pp. 1-65). New York: Academic Press; Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Are there universal aspects in the content and structure of values? Journal of Social Issues, 50, 19-45.)

One of the answers to this puzzle has been provided in a personal communication from Shalom Schwartz who invites to consider the reality that in most areas of everyday life truth is not an active value. This highly important justification can be subject to empirical research and theoretical and moral debates. Despite this strong argument I think that truth remains a core value, regardless the number of people and life areas in which it is actually active, it is used. At the same time, the fact that the complex model of universal values developed and tested by Schwartz worked and is working so well in so many different cultures and led to highly significant findings invites questions regarding the causes of the decline of “truth” as a core value in many areas of reality. Did the Machiavellian mindset and principles spill over from the real politics to many other areas of human life than ever before? We noticed this erosion of truth in the field of arts as art forgery, in many sports, in economic activity, in cars production, in financial areas. Is the value of truth nowadays confined only to very strict areas, such as scientific research; and so it cannot anymore be considered as a universal value?

Your perspective on the place of virtues in education and of their cultivation is intimately related with the re-activation of the classical axiological triangle: truth-beauty-goodness (Gardner, H. (2011). Truth, beauty, and goodness reframed: Educating for the virtues in the twenty-first century. New York: Basic Books.). Yet, the obvious decline of the search and practice of truth in so many areas of life remains perplexing. The fact that the techniques of deception have been developed and their use increased in relations to many goals may add to this puzzle. But all these possible answers do not cover what looks as being a persistent and more powerful cultural trend that has a global hue. It seems that the decline of truth in so many areas of life has been associated with a growing cynicism that has become a form of reasoning identified since 80’s by Sloterdijk as “cynical reason” (Sloterdijk, P. (1987). Critique of cynical reason. Translation by M. Eldred, Forward by A. Huyssen. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.). The alienation from truth searching, telling and using has become justified by other criteria that might support the perceived self-interests cynically advanced. A strong force against truth is propaganda (I lived in a country were all the newspapers did look identical; the same paper repeating the same slogans). Sternberg suggests that smart people can be foolish, and make stupid decisions, a probability that increases tremendously under the influence of deceiving propaganda (Sternberg, R. (2002). Some people are not stupid, but they sure can be foolish: The imbalance theory of foolishness. In R. Sternberg (Ed.), Why people smart can be so stupid. New Haven: Yale University Press; Sternberg, R. (2018) Review: 1984 Redux How propaganda works by J. Stanley).

Mind, work, life” discloses, through its essays, responses, through so many studies, research projects and the dialogical spirit that brings them together the engagement of the participants in the quest for truth, its expression and use for the common good. The two volumes stand as a challenge for systematic exploration and future research that can help to advance our understanding of the genesis and development of the ecology of interactive creative minds that are committed to realization of happiness, improving human condition.                        

I relate to the groundbreaking findings presented in the study co-authored with Ellen (Winner, E., & Gardner, H. (1977). The comprehension of metaphor in brain-damaged patients. Brain, 100, 719-727) on right hemisphere damaged patients and to many other studies carried out by you in this field, I have a question focused on an essential cognitive ability (both for survival as well as for approaching abstract puzzles that look remote from basic needs) that might be pre-linguistic. This is the questioning potential. Of course questions, as speech acts, have a verbal form as it is visible in the case of the seven basic word questions (what, which, who, where, when, why and how) that do exist in almost all languages either these language belong or do not belong to the same linguistic family.

At the same time, the questioning potential seems to be much older from an evolutionary perspective: the startle reflex and mainly the orienting reflex might be considered as simplest forms of this potential. Now, due to the vital practical, theoretical and moral importance of questions I think that there must be specific brain structures (in and beyond the classical verbal areas Broca, Wernicke, and more precisely Brodmann 44, 45) that support questioning. I looked to this issue in a project called Oracle-Sphinx (Mamali, C. (2010). The Oracle-Sphinx model: The development of questioning and answering abilities. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.247-272.). Oracle is the symbol of the answering force, while the Sphinx is the symbol of the questioning force (both internalized during cultural evolution and ontogenetic development). But, I have never had the chance to get even close to one of these marvelous unobtrusive tools of brain imaging to test if there are and what might be the brain structures that support questioning. I wonder what do you think about such a possibility and if you encountered any reliable traces in the brain activity related to the questioning potential?

Mind, work, life” makes obvious the complex connections among complex areas that exist in the life of every scientist but are not submitted to such diverse inquiry forms from so many perspectives as the reader has the chance to learn about from the two volumes. Howard Gardner and many of the contributors bring to light components of the intellectual areas, of personality features, of complex encounters, of philosophical and axiological perspectives, of life events and historical and cultural contexts. Howard tells us in his introduction to the essays that the two volumes could be organized in many ways. One of the reasons is the variety and richness of these areas. Howard, as well as many of the authors who have been in a very long, some for more than half a century in a co-developmental relationship with him, disclose intimate aspects of the intellectual biography as well as from the personal life events, family history, and many other experiences. Gardner himself refers to the his background telling to the readers that he is the “offspring of German Jews who managed to make it to the United States just in time, arriving in New York on Kristallnacht” (the day of November 9, 1938, see Howard’s response to Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, p. 286, Volume one)). This historical episode and the family life are discussed by Saxe (p. 320, Volume two) who provides a window into the family environment: “He grew up in a home that exemplified what Jewish tradition calls gemilut hasadim (acts of loving kindness)” (Volume two p. 321).

In your introduction, which gives a synthetic view of the two volumes, besides referring to your scholarship becoming as reflected in the two volumes, you warmly refer to your four children – “each of whom made good natured-fun of their father”, and to your grandson. This is a direct reminder of the deep interplay among mind, work, and life. One could find out many other revealing events, features and relations: your older brother died very young, you rebelled with passion, as a student, against the standard ideas on IQ, your children have been born through two marriages and loved in both households, you enjoy playing piano, you are facing some harsh physical conditions (prosopagnosia being one of them), you jog….

Howard had a deep interest in the published conversations (Discussions in Child Development) among luminaries such as J. Bowlby, E. Erikson, B. Inhelder, and K. Lorenz, M. Mead, J. Piaget, J. T. Tanner). The scientific, family, historical, political (ideological too), relational, and personal sides of your becoming are all included in various degrees. In a way even this source enjoyed so much by you represents a different form of the ecology of interactive creative minds that develops within open societies and stimulates the genesis of many other similar niches. Such environments can emerge within cultures that nurture worldviews that are guided by high moral principles, are open to new ideas, stimulate the efforts to identify errors, correct them and respect human rights.

There are obvious historical cases, macro-social conditions, political systems and worldviews that hinder the emergence and functioning of ecologies of interactive creative minds. I will take one individual case from Romania: in 1928 a psychologist, Mihai Ralea, who had a left political orientation and later did join the communist governmental structures (he has been also a Romanian ambassador to the USA) sketched a theory called by him the theory of delay (“teoria amânării”). He pointed out that intentional long term postponement of actions that can gratify needs and ensure the attainment of long-terms goals is a specific feature of humans that distinguishes us from most animals. It is also true that he did not engage in any experimental, longitudinal or field research on delay (as it is the case of W. Mischel’s ground breaking theory and experiments) but beyond this his idea has not been supported by others, missed a dialogical environment. On a much wider scale, the research of the history of the failure to create an Internet in the former Soviet Union clearly suggests that the repressive political structures, totalitarian ideology and a worldview that is hostile to individual freedom, spontaneity and to the association of creative minds generate disastrous consequences.

In a study that is the result of a landmark, interdisciplinary field study, Benjamin Peters argues that within the Soviet context, the collaboration among those who designed the project collapsed. The informal connections were “accidentally” distorted prior to a decisive Politburo meeting where “comrade Glushkov” [an eminent scientist from Kiev, who designed the All-State Automatic System Project – OGAS] had to listen to a speech on a poultry farm: “The machine can perform three programs—turns on music when the hen lays eggs, turn lights on and off, and so on. This increased egg production” (p. 163). This sounds like a report from Animal Farm! The undoing of OGAS was a long process (1970‒1989) with devastating consequences for what could have become the post-Soviet Internet, but turned into the Internyet. Internyet is rather a misconception and not a misspelling (nyet means no). Internyet preserves plenty of malicious goals, abilities, and functions against the Internet. Peters’s diagnostic combines individual features and systemic traits: Creative minds had to face “counter-innovational institutional conditions” (p. 89, Benjamin Peters, B. (2016). How not to network a nation: The uneasy history of the soviet internet, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, italics added).

Reflecting on your self-categorization as a synthesizer, I thought of the research carried out by I. Mitroff on The subjective side of science: Apollo Moon scientists (published in 1974). Resorting explicitly to Jung’s model of personality he came out with the following four types: hard experimentalist, intuitive synthesizer, abstract theorizee and humanist scientist. He authored a paper that is part of a much wider research report that presents some finding of a research carried out in 70’s and 80’s in Romania, which could not be published there due to the well-known totalitarian censorship. What is the problem? If one would be an inquiring mind, and a creative mind within a country that has relatively small financial resources and on top of it is suffocated by a totalitarian system, what might be the type of scientist and of research style that could offer to the person the highest chances of success? My guess was that the “intuitive synthesizer” and the “abstract theorizer” might be these types. My guess was in tune with most of the intellectuals who kindly and generously participated in a series of interviews (over 100 carried out in Romania, each interview lasted between 2 and over 4 hours, in 70s’ and 80’s). After 1990, while in the U.S.A., I carried out a similar study.

Here is my question: your becoming as a synthesizer, as revealed from your own perspective, implies also a strategic choice: you assessed that this type (synthesizer) both fits you best and offers you the greatest chances—you even refer to a competitive edge within the wider context of cumulative research efforts to access to what you call the “lion’s share”. Obviously, your choice generated wonderful, original and unique scientific fruits with tremendous practical applications. However, your choice – and the high level of agency implied by it and its course – happened in an open, democratic society, with huge and generous resources, including grants, with a powerful tradition in innovation and discoveries, within an ecology of interactive creative minds due to the environment provided by Harvard and many other universities. Two questions are invited that I feel the need to ask you: a) in a terrible hypothetical situation in which you would have to work within a closed and repressive society would you make the same choice regarding your scientific (inquiring) type? b) What might have been in such a situation your inquiring trajectory?

In preparation for the Festschrift you, the synthesizer, faced a test, lovingly designed by Ellen Winner as a surprise (very close to an experimental one: on the morning of Sept. 28, 2013 “Ellen told me that a photographer was coming at our home at 10AM” (p. 604, Howard’s response to Edgar Zurif). This announcement irritated Howard; his “blood pressure went up,” especially when Ellen announced at 10 AM, “the photographers are here.” Howard went to meet them: “The door opened, there was a moment of no-recognition, and then I immediately deduced that the whole photographer story was a ruse. The couple was you, Edgar and your wife Françoise, who had flown from Paris to surprise me. It was the only time that day that I criedI was so happy to see you, so relieved that you were well, and completely forgiving of the photographer ruse” (Gardner’s response to Edgar Zurif, p. 604, Volume two, italics added). The heart of a scientist is a humane heart, regardless in which and in how many types of the multiple intelligences one might excel in and put at good use. This re-union of old friends reminds us that in daily lives we can be in certain degrees hard experimentalists (is not “ruse” many times an ingredient of the experimental method?) or intuitive synthesizers, or abstract theorizers… and even subjects to these expert inquirers. Regardless the roles in the inquiring process if the search for truth is associated with love everybody will win.

In the first edition of the landmark work of George Homans on social behavior and its elementary forms, he reminds us that the sciences that study humans are facing a different object of study than natural sciences such as physics. In the latter case, atoms do not talk back in plain words to the scientists about the research methods, their “feelings” and inner states, while humans react to the research process, avoid it, may contribute to it, and could complain about it and so on. These possibilities increase the need for a “friendly” relation between knowers (experimenters) and those that are researched (subjects, participants).

The work Mind, Work, and Life helps the reader to better grasp your landmark innovations to various psychological fields, education and societal changing efforts, the tremendous impact of your work on the dynamics of creative interactive minds, the value of the joint projects you participated, the personal and interpersonal substance of the journey and the successful actions to apply and enrich in a participatory mode the findings of the research for the common good. This unique enterprise is disclosed in a dialogical mode. In addition you made it freely accessible on Google, which is answering to the needs of so many researchers, inquiring minds, and curious people from all over the world. The cyberspace when wisely loaded with great nutrients for intelligent, creative and moral approaches is a new dimension of the ecology of interactive creative minds. I recommend it to my students who are enchanted by this opportunity of learning from great sources and not only to them. Reading and reflecting on “Mind, Work, and Life” can help one to transcend with great profit professional, cultural, social and even worldviews borders. HAPPY BIRTHDAY and THANK YOU

With gratitude,

Cătălin

Cătălin Mamali (e-mail: catalin.mamali@loras.edu)

August 2018; September 24, 2018

 

Figure 1. Shalom Schwartz’s model of universal values.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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