It’s only ontology.

From the Dictionary:


noun: ontology; plural noun: ontologies
the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.
a set of concepts and categories in a subject area or domain that shows their properties and the relations between them.
“what’s new about our ontology is that it is created automatically from large datasets”


early 18th century: from modern Latin ontologia, from Greek ōn, ont- ‘being’ + -logy.

I have long had a phrase I use “It’s only ontology”.  I use it to listen to people as they talk about Jesus, Chi, Shan, God, spirit or soul and so on.  My little phrase reminds me to listen to the person rather than get into a debate about the existence of this or that. Also, irrespective of the existence of stuff, ontology  “shows properties and the relations between” categories.  For an archetypal psychologist, for example,  there is a fundamental distinction between soul and spirit. Other people may use the words differently, yet they can reveal much about their world view.  It’s only ontology.

PSM_V10_D562_The_hindoo_earthScreen Shot 2020-07-27 at 11.19.24 PM

I am looking back on earlier posts in relationship to ontology.  Here is one where my phrase does not hold:

Continue reading “It’s only ontology.”

Marx and Engels on Human Nature

Useful simple short article.


“Estranged labour, therefore, turns man’s species-being – both nature and his intellectual species-power – into a being alien to him and a means of his individual existence. It estranges man from his own body, from nature as it exists outside him, from his spiritual essence, his human existence.”

Working for money and not for love changes our nature. We become alien to ourselves, to our bodies and minds. We become alien to to our nature and the world around us. When we are strangers to our creativity we become strangers our own bodies, to nature as it exists outside us, to our spiritual essence and our human existence.

Slavoj Žižek, Quantum and Dialectics

“The idea that knowing changes reality is what quantum physics shares with both psychoanalysis (for which interpretation has effects in the real) and historical materialism”.

Slavoj Žižek – quoted on Redit

This is a great little paragraph!



A useful read!!


I wish they had an inkling of Moreno in these discussions — psychodrama fits in more tightly than “psychoanalysis.”


Interesting the extent to which Bohm was influenced by dialectical materialism:

“In this way Bohm understood it as idealistic. In Bohm’s interpretation, however, the particle possesses at all times a well-defined position and momentum regardless of observation or associating ideas. So, in Bohm’s view, matter came before mind in his theory. Thus he called his interpretation a materialistic one.4 With this materialist interpretation, Bohm wanted to expel mysticism from physics.”

Christian Forstner
Dialectical Materialism and the Construction of a New Quantum Theory: David Joseph Bohm, 1917–1992


The Moment in History

I am a psychodramatist and hence a student of the work of J.L. Moreno.  And I hold his philosophy and methods to be revolutionary in the sense of having potential to heal humanity.  There is an area of his philosophy and outlook where he comes short of the potential, it is in the conception of mass action and the macro forces that operate in the world.  He lacks a good grasp of Marxism. And I think Marxism lacks the science of sociometry, the outlook of small groups.

Moreno and Marx have a lot of common ground. Both Marx and Moreno have an experimental, scientific outlook. Action and learning go together. Its integrated.  This is what is meant by dialectical, a term both Moreno and Marx use for describing the process of participation in the world.  Its not one or another or even one and the other, Action and learning combine in the flow of life.

I will comment on the following passage by Moreno to show how it is similar to marxism and how it is progressive and also where it shows a gap in Moreno’s approach:

“All this, of course, could only happen if the warming up process of all human characters and all participating groups coalesce naturally into an experiment . (Rule of “gradual” inclusion of all extraneous criteria .) There are many steps and more barriers which a sensitive crew of coexperimenters might encounter on the way to a scientific utopia . However little or far they advance they never fool themselves and never fool others ; they prefer the “slow” dialectic process of the sociometric experiment in situ to social experiments which are based on inference and logic only or the social revolutions of mass action which do not know when to start and when to end .”

“Who Shall Survive?” P63

First the progressive:

Warm-up is a key concept in psychodrama, the process is complex, yet the term is somewhat self explanatory. I have written with approval of Moreno’s scientific method and the “Rule of “gradual” inclusion of all extraneous criteria.” It makes total sense sense when working with the group process of warming up.  What is central, what is extraneous? How not to dismiss all that emerges? The group warms up together and a focus emerges. See my psychodrama thesis about finding the focal conflict and central concern in a psychodrama group.

In the next few lines “slow” is a word to review.  It is sometimes slow and sometimes fast.  He has it gradual and slow in quotes. I take it he means it is relative, and as he says. part of the “dialectic process” which can be seen as outside of linear time. There are moments of dramatic change in a psychodrama group. The oft quoted idea from Lenin comes to mind:

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

― Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

I can imagine Moreno agreeing that this happens in psychodrama, though he does not address the flow of history in this way.

Moreno is also progressive when he contrasts “sociometric experiment in situ”  and “social experiments which are based on inference and logic only”. Here again is a shared outlook with Marx.  It is a moment where Moreno is clearly not a philosophical idealist, i.e. someone who dreams up a plan and then works out the steps to execute it.  That way of thinking is anathema to both Moreno and Marx. When Moreno says in situ, he means in the world and not on the psychodrama stage. On the stage the enactment is as close to life as possible, but he regularly affirms that life itself is the most important arena.

A gap in his methods are revealed in his concluding negative comment about mass action: “the social revolutions of mass action which do not know when to start and when to end.” These are not according to Moreno the sort of group that “coalesce naturally into an experiment.”

This is where Moreno’s vision, focussed on small groups is at a loss to grapple with major social upheaval. It seems he does not have a problem with “social revolution”, but a particular type of mass action. It is true, there is no knowing what will happen when it comes to masses, social forces, large groups, classes and nations. So Moreno is then at a loss, he has no way of knowing where to stand on mass movements, how to be with them or assess them. He is not able to make use of his theory of the moment or concept of spontaneity and theory of change.

There is no denying that there is a conundrum. A challenge.  A small group can have a life of its own that is bigger than the individual will of the participants. The methods, philosophy and history of psychodrama are about the collective relational processes. Moreno made unique contributions including the philosophy of the moment. But what about the clashing of multiple large social collectives? What about the moment in history? Marxism adresses this area, (but does not have ready answers.)

Note this classic statement from Marx:

“Men and women make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

But can it be done well?  Marx is not always optimistic, here is the rest of the paragraph:

The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”

― Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

For those familiar with Moreno will see that Marx is grappling with what Moreno would call cultural conserves.  And Morenian theory has lots to say about cultural conserves. The theory of change, tried and tested in small groups is the Canon of Creativity. To become creative, to have the emergence of the adequate and new, the path is through warm up and spontaneity to creativity. But how does this theory of change apply at a macro level?

This brings us to an eternal discussion in revolutionary political discourse, where the word spontaneity is also used: the relationship between the spontaneity of the people and leadership. To get an idea about the debate, look at these two paragraphs from Wikipedia on Revolutionary Spontaneity

Revolutionary spontaneity, also known as spontaneism, is a revolutionary socialist tendency that believes the social revolution can and should occur spontaneously from below by the working class itself, without the aid or guidance of a vanguard party and that it cannot and should not be brought about by the actions of individuals such as professional revolutionaries or political parties who might attempt to foment such a revolution.

In his work What Is to Be Done? (1902), Vladimir Lenin argued fiercely against revolutionary spontaneity as a dangerous revisionist concept that strips away the disciplined nature of Marxist political thought and leaves it arbitrary and ineffective.[1]

To counterpose the two perspectives as polar opposites in this way is to do them both a disservice, but the question of the relationship between spontaneity and leadership of revolution is clear. This is also a question of the relationship between small groups and large social forces.  It is fruitful to have both the contributions of Moreno and Marx.

Identity politics

Mistaken Identity by Asad Haider review – the best criticism of identity politics

I found this review of the book by Asad Haider satisfying — despite the title of the book, and the title of the review, I don’t think he just criticises identity politics. Haider defends a strand of it and criticises another and makes the distinction quite clear.

Haider traverses a tricky area. OTOH he can be critical of corporate feminism or indigenous capitalism. On the other hand he avoids two traps: One would be to go (or be seen to go) all sexist and racist. The other would be to fall into offensive class dogma, and say that all will be well in these areas of identity after the working class revolution.

Even in the summary in the review what is constructive and what is not, comes through clearly:

This is the original demand of identity politics, and it’s one that Haider embraces: for a revolutionary practice rooted in people’s identities as racialised, sexed, gendered and classed individuals who face interlocking systems of oppression. These systems have to be fought together, by organising people of different identities in what Haider calls “a project of universal emancipation” devoted to dismantling all of the structures that make them unfree, including and especially capitalism itself.

But if anticapitalist revolution is where identity politics began, it has since become something quite different, and is now invoked by certain liberals and leftists to serve distinctly non-revolutionary ends, Haider argues. It involves members of marginalised groups demanding inclusion, recognition, or restitution from above – a seat at the table. These demands are made in response to very real injuries endured by those groups. But their method, he says, ends up strengthening the structures that produced those injuries in the first place.



I’m intrigued that Asad Haider is a PhD candidate in the History of Consciousness. I listened to him in a podcast and he is indeed knowledgeable in this area. See my blog post.

I look forward to what else he has written.


Found this:

An Intercept interview with Haider.

The Map is not the Territory

Structural Differential — Alfred Korzybski.



#278: Tim O’Reilly – The Trend Spotter The Tim Ferriss Show podcast


Tim O’Reilly: Let me go back to George Simon because a lot of what he taught was a kind of mental discipline that was rooted in a model of how consciousness happens. It was framed somewhat in the language of Alfred Korzybski’s general semantics. Korzybski drew this wonderful diagram – it was actually a tool he used to train people – that he called the structural differential.

Korzybski’s fundamental idea was that people are stuck in language, but language is about something. And so, he represented what he called the process of abstraction so that people could ask themselves, “Where am I in that process?” So, the first part of the structural differential was a parabola, and the reason why it was a parabola is because reality is infinite, but we can’t take in all of reality.

And so, hanging from the parabola was a circle, and the circle was our experience, which is our first abstraction from reality. And then, hanging from the circle are a bunch of label-shaped tags – multiple strings of them – and these are the words that we use to describe our experience.

Korzybski’s training was for people to recognize when they were in the words, when they were in the experience, and when they were open to the reality. George mixed that in with this work of Sri Aurobindo, who was an Indian sage, and had come up with a model that integrated a spiritual view of this, and a practice which was just listening and being open to the unknown.