Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Las Vegas: The Unanswerable

10/4/17. The motives for this mass killing of 59 people with 500 injuries is beyond our imagination of evil. We will endlessly search for reasons to explain this evil and come up empty handed. We need to know more about human nature.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Naked Ladies and Weird Invisable Men

Milton Friedman on Collectivism vs the Free Market

8/12/17. The arguments for the free market are subtle and hard for people to understand.
“The argument for collectivism, for government doing something, is simple. Anybody can understand it. 'If there's something wrong, pass a law. If somebody is in trouble, get Mr. X to help them out.' The argument for voluntary cooperation, for a free market, is not nearly so simple. It says, 'You know, if you allow people to cooperate voluntarily and don't interfere with them, indirectly, through the operation of the market, they will improve matters more than you can improve it directly by appointing somebody.' That's a subtle argument, and it's hard for people to understand. Moreover, people think that when you argue that way you're arguing for selfishness, for greed. That's utter nonsense.”
— Milton Friedman

Thomas Sowell on Helping Others

8/12/17. Truth.
“When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.”
— Thomas Sowell

Anne Lamott On Loss

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
— Anne Lamott 

Google and Diversity

Monday, July 31, 2017

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: "Everybody Lies"

7/31/17. Forward by Steven Pinker, Ph.D. We all lie when we examine big data, new data, and what the internet can tell us. A look a google searches reveals a view of human nature we cannot see.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Taking on the Scourge of Opiods

6/26/17. Psychiatrist Dr. Sally Satel describes the crisis of opioid addiction and offers some suggestions for treatment. Dr. Satel is an expert on drug addiction.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


5/9/17. “That it makes you do the harder thing when that is the right thing.”


FROM: Robert Sapolsky.  "Behave. Humans at Our Best and Worst"

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

On Robert Nozick

5/2/17. I had the privilege of introducing Professor Nozick when he talked to the American Psychological Association in 1998 on Consciousness. He was an extraordinary man.

August 1998

American Psychological Association
San Francisco


 I am Steve Ceresnie, President of the Michigan Psychological Association, a long-time fan of Professor Robert Nozick, and one of the many friends of Marty Seligman.

Anyone familiar with the remarkable work of Professor Robert Nozick knows that he is no ordinary modern philosopher.   Professor Nozick tell us that “Life or living is not the kind of topic whose investigation philosophers find especially rewarding.” 

But Professor Nozick has the creativity, the guts and  the will to deal with the life, living and the massive problems of the 20th century.  He goes after fundamental questions of human existence that his colleagues ignore:

 “Are there objective ethical truths?”

"Do we have a free will?”

"Is there is meaning to life?"

 In his recent APA Monitor Presidential column, Marty Seligman laments and even says he loses sleep over how  there are so few talented academics who study the guts of human existence such as love, work, and play – and so few talented academics who bring to bear both analytic and synthetic thinking –  Marty  is not talking about our distinguished speaker --- Robert Nozick. 

In his introduction to his book The Examined Life, Professor Nozick writes and I quote:

“I want to think about living and what is important in life, to clarify my thinking---and also my life. Mostly we tend---I do too---to live on automatic pilot, following through the views of ourselves and the aims we acquired early, with only minor adjustments…”

 Later in the same paragraph he writes:

“---would you design an intelligent species so continually shaped by its childhood, one whose emotions had ho half-life and where statues of limitations could be involved only with great difficulty?”

Known by many for his early work as a “political philosopher,” Robert Nozick, the Arthur Kingsley Porter  Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, tells us that his famous book Anarchy, State, and Utopia was written by “accident.” A fortunate accident for us I might add. He says he originally planned to write a book on free will --------but perhaps--- it wasn’t in the cards to write on free will.

Robert Nozick is the author of five books:

Anarchy, State, and Utopia (which received a National Book Award), which I mentioned, Philosophical Explanations (which received the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of Phi Beta Kappa), The Examined Life, The Nature of Rationality, and most recently, Socratic Puzzles, published in the Spring of 1997.

He has also published stories in literary magazines including the piece “God --- A Story” which begins: “Proving God’s existence isn’t all that easy---even when you’re God. So, I ask you, how can people expect to do it?”

In the Spring of 1997, he delivered the six John Locke Lectures at Oxford University, and a revision of these lectures will be published by Harvard University with the title Objectivity and Invariance.

When you read Robert Nozick’s work, your mind is aroused by  his remarkable gift for offering elegant, witty, and playful cases and thought experiments to represent problems. 

To read his books is to imagine inviting a brilliant friend over for dinner. The following chapter headings from Robert Nozick’s books give you only a taste of the full course meal to come:

 Dying; Parents and Children; Love’s Bond; The Nature of God, the Nature of Faith; Sexuality; Creating; Love’s Bond; Emotions; Being more Real; Why Do Intellectual Oppose Capitalism; The Holocaust.

His brilliant chapter on The Holocaust--- alone--- makes the book worth reading.

You should know that we have two Presidents of APA with us today.  Robert Nozick is the President  --- the American Philosophical Association (Eastern Division). He is a member of the Council of Scholars of the Library of Congress, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, a Senior Fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard university, and was Christensen Visiting Fellow at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University in the Spring of 1997. He was a Cultural Adviser to the U.S. Delegation to the UNESCO Conference on World Cultural Policy in 1982.

He has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for the Advance Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, educated at Columbia College and Princeton University, he has lived in Italy, Israel,  France, and England. He is married to Gjertrud Schnackenberg.

Professor Robert Nozick will speak on:

The Place of Consciousness. A discussion of the function of consciousness and the relation of conscious experience to neurophysiological process and events.

Please welcome Professor Nozick.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Lucky or Smart?


"A simple rule that every good man knows by heart / It's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart."

--- Pippin

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A prescription for mental-health policy

4/18/17. Doctors Sally Satel & E. Fuller Torrey

About 10 million Americans have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression. They aren't getting the help they need.

Monday, April 10, 2017

"No One Cares about Crazy People"

4/10/17. Review of a new book about a family's experiences raising two schizophrenic sons; the history of America's treatment of the mentally ill; and a courageous story of horror, humility, sadness, and resilience.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Words of Wisdom


Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D.
MPA Newsletter, Spring 2017

The following are some observations, ideas, and concepts that have filled my tires with air over the road covered with the wonder, mystery, and humor of the human condition:


 When Anna Freud was eighty-five, a depressed young man sent her a lament about the chaotic state of the world, she sent him a succinct statement of her credo:

“I agree with you wholeheartedly that things are not as well as you would like them to be. However, my feeling is that there is only one way to deal with it, namely to try and be all right with oneself, and to create around one at least a small circle where matters are arranged as one wants them to be.”

 --- Anna Freud


Don’t be too sweet, lest you be eaten up; don’t be too bitter, lest you be spewed out.”

 --- Yiddish proverb


“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?

 --- Steven Wright

 “The only way one can allow oneself to be content is to remember the dead --- and the let them be in on one’s memory.”

 --- Elvin Semrad


 “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.”

 --- Richard Dawkins

 “I’m going to live forever. So far, so good.”

 --- Steven Wright


 “If you want your dreams to come true, don’t sleep.”

 --- Yiddish proverb

“Enjoy yourself --- it’s later than you think.”

 --- Chinese proverb


 “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.”

 --- Chinese proverb

"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a hell of heaven, a heaven of hell.”

 --- John Milton

 “Self-love is the greatest of all flatterers.”

 “We are all strong enough to bear the misfortunes of others.”

 ---Francois, Sixth Duc, de la Rochefoucauld


 “…the least common denominator of all therapies, and the one to which their claims to success must depend, is their ability to combat a destructive state of mind which characterizes persons who seek psychotherapy, whatever their specific symptoms. The state may be termed demoralization…feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, impotence, isolation…Since the meaning of life derives from the ties of individuals with persons whose values they share, alienation may contribute to a sense of meaninglessness."

 --- Jerome Frank

 Freud was once asked what he thought a normal person should be able to do well. The questioner probably expected a complicated answer. But Freud, in the curt way of his old days, is reported to have said, “Lieben und arbeiten” (to love and to work).

"A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to get in accord with them; they are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world.”

 --- Sigmund Freud

 “The most important task of a human being is to make up his mind --- what’s for him and what’s not for him.”

 --- Elvin Semrad

 “…I judge the success of psychotherapy in two ways. Does the patient’s appearance change? Does he get new friends?”

 --- Leston Havens


 “We are all here for a spell; get all the good laughs you can.”

 --- Will Rogers

 “A sense of humor is just common sense dancing."

--- William James

 “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”

 --- Mel Brooks

"I don't use humor with people I don't like. It always comes out wrong."

--- Steven Ceresnie


“It’s a very short trip. While alive, live.”

 --- Malcolm Forbes

“Life can be altered by what a patient HAS – diseases.

Life can be altered by what a patient IS – personality and intelligence.

Life can be altered by what a patient DOES --- behaviors.

Life can be altered by what a patient ENCOUNTERS – life story.”

--- Paul McHugh and Philip Slavney


 “The ego’s relation to the id might be compared to that of a rider to his horse. The horse supplies the locomotive energy, while the rider has the privilege of deciding on the goals and of guiding the powerful animal’s movement. But only too often there arises between the ego and the id the not precisely ideal situation of the rider being obliged to guide the horse along the path by which itself wants to go.”

 --- Sigmund Freud


 “Let’s have a merry journey, and should about how light is good and dark is not. What we should do is not future ourselves so much. We should now ourselves more. Now you is more important than Know thyself. Reason is what tells us to ignore the present and live in the future. So all we do is make plans. We think that somewhere there are going to be green pastures. It’s crazy. Heaven is nothing but a grand monumental instance of future. Listen, now is good. Now is wonderful”

 --- Mel Brooks


 “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

 --- Goethe


 “I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this:  the intensity of a conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing on whether it is true or not.”

 --- Sir Peter Medawar


 “You can have too much self-esteem but not too much self-respect.”

 --- Charles Murray

 “Your two-cents is as good as anybody else’s two-cents.”

 --- Anonymous


 “All therapies attract a loyal following, and I have yet to hear of a school that has disbanded because it became convinced of the superiority of its rivals.”

 --- Jerome Frank


 “Respect is conveyed by mean of all aspects of the therapist’s behavior and has its basis in the therapist’s self-respect.”

 “Do not engage in far-fetched constructions. Learn to feel comfortable in acknowledging that you are at a loss. It can be a powerful lesson in reality testing.”

 --- Hans Strupp and Jeffrey Binder

 "We must help the patient to acknowledge, bear, and put into perspective his feelings.”

 --- Elvin Semrad

 “The greatest power of psychotherapy may be precisely this power not to confirm the patients’ expectations, not to collude in the games they and their personal world have long played, but, slowly to turn them toward a more natural and happy course.”

--- Leston Havens


 “When in doubt, tell the truth.”

 --- Mark Twain

 “As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and we're gonna make mistakes.”

 --- Mel Brooks


 “The art of being wise is to know what to overlook."

 --- William James

 “You cannot exert influence if you are not susceptible to influence.”

 --- Carl Jung

 “You cannot control the length of your life but you can control the width.”

 --- Anonymous

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Shelby Steele: The Promise of President Trump

1/20/17. Wall Street Journal 

The Promise of President Trump: Shelby Steele

‘Mr. Trump’s special charisma is that he seems to function entirely outside the framework of today’s cultural liberalism.’

What I hope for in the Trump presidency is exactly the cultural battle that he already seems to have engaged. Even before taking office he has put himself at odds with America’s entrenched cultural and institutional liberalism, and brought deep insecurity to its standard-bearers.

             Shelby Steele. Photo: Rita Steele        Perhaps the greatest problem with post-1960s liberalism is that, in the end, it is always driven by dreams. No matter the circumstances, it always sees the way ahead in idealisms that are static rather than dynamic: “equality” in which injustice is anything less than perfect parity between all people; “diversity” that is color-coded and optically correct; stressless “spaces” of social and moral perfection. This liberalism was born of the shame America came to feel after acknowledging in the 1960s its history of racism and sexism. The essence is a longing for innocence against the accusations of history. If the intentions were good, the actual practice has been disastrous. The War on Poverty, the Great Society, affirmative action, political correctness—all this failure reveals a stopgap liberalism of expedience that sought only the fastest route back to moral authority and thus to power. Beyond this it was all dreams and self-congratulation.Mr. Trump’s special charisma is that he seems to function entirely outside the framework of today’s cultural liberalism. I hope he will not be a “redemptive” president, as his predecessor longed to be. There should be no posture of contrition, no undercurrent of apology, when he discusses social inequities. Inequality is a fact, a problem that will—fairly or unfairly—require pragmatic solutions and something close to heroism in those who suffer it. No government can change this.