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Conversation with Author Lois Holzman:

The Overweight Brain

February 8-12, 2016

Lois Holzman
 invites you to join in for an online discussion of her provocative online book project, The Overweight Brain: How Our Obsession with Knowing Keeps Us from Getting Smart Enough to Change the World.

Thank you for joining us for this week in dialogue with the author. The forum below will continue to be open so please feel free to stay connected with this conversation.

The recording for the webinar which took place on Friday, Feb. 12, can be found at this link:

Video recording of the webinar with Lois Holzman on The Overweight Brain:

Audio recording only of the webinar with Lois Holzman on The Overweight Brain:


Over the past year-and-a-half, Lois has posted successive chapters online, soliciting readers’ feedback throughout. This is an opportunity to join in! There are two ways to read The Overweight Brain. Download the PDF (by clicking HERE) or, if you want to see photos, graphics, readers polls and comments, go to

The Overweight Brain explores the human development predicament we face: as a global culture, we are obsessed with the need to know, but at a time of such instability and unpredictability our knowing has become of little good. We have unprecedented access to information and no shortage of explanations of nearly everything, and yet we have never been so stuck—unable to find solutions to the urgent problems confronting us as a species. The Overweight Brain takes a look at how knowing as a way of engaging the world stops us from growing as individuals, communities and a civilization. Lois puts a special focus on causality and dualism as the primary shapers of what it means to know. She illustrates how these conceptual tools are at play in every area of our lives, and how discourse in education, psychology, science, politics and the media lead us into a developmental dead end.

What is to be done? Lois makes the case that what is required to make a better world is “non-knowing growing”—a fundamental shift in understanding and relating that’s no less a conceptual revolution than the Scientific Revolution that gave us the knowing paradigm in the first place. This 21st century conceptual revolution is well underway. What does it look like, and how do we advance it?

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  • Thank you Lois for the wonderful webinar this morning! I'm so glad you addressed the question about the ZPD as you see its relevance today. May I ask, could we suppose then that knowing happens together? And if so, that "knowing" which "happens apart" or "endures while we are apart" is not the same thing as the shared, social knowing which we see as social growth? The lady who asked about the ZPD also asked when it is that knowing "turns sour" if I may say it that way. What my research has been suggesting, is that when our knowing is not dynamic, together, and in each moment, it tends to a sourness and unpleasant relational feelings. So you can see my excitement about non-knowing growing... Thanks! -- Lonny

    • Thanks Lonny for extending the conversation about my questions.  I am very much supporting as well as taking a not-knowing stance too. I am glad the conversation with Lois reinforced the link between not-knowing stance and the zone of proximal development as these two, together, are possibly a response to our today questions about the knowing paradigm.  Regards, Tahereh

      • Thank you Tahereh! I apologize for not knowing how to recall the spelling of your name correctly (maybe I was practicing non-knowing? LOL). Thank you for sharing those wonderful questions with us. Such great insight! Many thanks. -- Lonny

  • Lois and Nobonke,

    Let me try to explain the problem of dualism and causality using the words of the actor-network theory by Bruno Latour and Michell Callon. Using the word of actor-network theory, the reality is improvisationally re-weaving ‘hybrid actor network’ of which actors can not distinguish whether human or non human; such as so called ‘material’, ‘social’, and so on.

    Dualism pick out typical aspect of hybrid actor network as an entity, and then shape another entity which explain what is difficult to explain by the first entity. Those two entities are mutually shaping each other, that make them seem oppose each other.
    The explanation by those two entities ignore most part of the hybrid actor network, as a result, dualism make our practice poor.
    The dualism seems to make the world into two, but sum of those two is far from cover all. In other word, the opposite is not complementary or residual of the first. As a result, the effort to ’put them back together’ is in vain.

    The causality pick out one of typical aspects of the hybrid actor network as a ‘result’ entity, and ‘cause’ seems search by backward in time, but actually not. The ‘cause’ is almost the paraphrase of the ’result’.
    For example, a venture business got success, three key factors, at the moment, for success are told as ‘cause’.
    (1) When focus is on the business itself, macro factor, such as ’potential demand’, ‘the trend of the times’, etc are told.
    (2) When focus is on individual (entrepreneur), psychological trait (micro factor) such as ‘insight’, ‘creativity’, ’inspiration’, ‘industriousness’, ’fortitude’,  ‘communication ability’, ‘entrepreneurship’, that enable entrepreneur find out ‘potential demand’ or ‘the trend of the times’, are told.
    (3) When the process is focused, ‘encounter’ and 'emergent' are told.

    Consider the relation of those three factors, the macro factor and process factor are ’result’ of micro factor. Consider the three factors from the view point of ’Is it possible for me?’, three factors are just necessary conditions for success and out of our reach as a practical matter. As a result, key factor for success would not make our practice fruitful, although those are NOT wrong in textually.

    The most alarming problem of dualism and causality is NOT because those do not put in a field of view all portion of hybrid actor network, but the two entities of each (A and opposite of A, cause and result) are mutually shaping, in other word, self-referential paraphrase. In this regard, dualism and causality have same structure.

  • I love Jerry,s statement that fellowship is an essential condition of growth. This fellowship has been very growthful for me-paradigm changing-but sadly I have to miss the seminar as I must visit an ancient uncle admitted to hospital yesterday. I hope to maintain my relation with this community and plan to follow up reading recommendations. Thanks so much Lois and everyone else.
  • Somewhere Lois invited someone to give a technical example of non causality. So here goes:

    Electrons inhabit orbital shells that surround the nucleus of atoms. The further away an orbital shell is from the nucleus, the higher the energy level of the electrons in that orbital shell. An electron can absorb energy by bumping into a light ray, and move to an orbital shell of higher energy, further away from the nucleus. An electron can also give off energy in the form of light, and move to an orbital shell of lower energy, closer to the nucleus. So electrons move between orbital shells of different energy levels.

    How much energy an electron needs to inhabit any orbital shell is very precise. An electron has to absorb or emit the exact amount of energy required to move from one energy level to another energy level. 

    The oddly interesting thing is that electrons, when connected to atoms, have to be in an orbital shell, and nowhere in between. The question is, "How does an electron get from here to there without being anywhere in between?" The answer is that they drop out of existence here and instantaneously pop into existence there. 

    You can't say that this electron popped into existence here because that electron dropped out of existence there. How can you know? All electrons look alike. Actually, electrons are popping in and out of existence all over the place. It's an eternal dance that involves all the electrons of the Universe. There's no cause and effect to it.

    As far as I know, there is little or no "cause and effect" relationships at the atomic and sub atomic levels, which is the foundation of our world of solid substance full of cause and effect relationships. How strange that a foundation of randomness can support such order.

    • Thank you Paul for the nice explanation. Being a huge fan of the various theories that go about guessing the subjacency of what appears to be an elegant and orderly universe, maybe an appropriate question is, how can a concept of causality/certainty arise from quantum uncertainty? Does the frequency of uncertainties round about a doubt approximate a confidence interval? Where do electrons "go" when they are not "in the universe" but reliably reappear? How can there be an "Elsewhere of the Present"? and where would we put it?

      The old adage "Ex nihilo nihil fit" alludes to the idea that a non-causal relationship is always the norm (we seem to share a kind of reciprocity of being), and what is non-normative and unnatural are those durations wherein we are not overwhelmed by the need for social knowing. I feel you are right not only about there being no cause and effect at the invisible level, but also this seems so at every level of detail (as Susie Vrobel puts it) -- except to whatever degree and span we do not challenge our underlying assumptions. Thanks for this! I am loving this forum discussion -- Lonny

  • Somewhere in these many pages of written conversation, Lonny said: "Life is everywhere, and life doesn't have "objectives" but revels in diversity of solution. Like my daughter as a toddler... happily rummaging through novel things, uttering her joy. "

    The image of happily rummaging reminds me of the end of Jonathan Kozol's The Shame of the Nation: “The schools where children and their teachers still are given opportunities to poke at worms, and poke around into the satisfaction of uncertainty…are the schools I call ‘the treasured places.’ They remind us always of the possible.” 

    • Thank you Lois :)

      -- Lonny

  • You raise a tough and important issues, Rubens, one that is seemingly merely abstract but is also extremely practical. You ask: "Is it possible to think differently without having another paradigm?"

    Probably at this historical moment, no...or rarely. However, what is possible now is to continuously create paradigms, throw them out, create new ones, throw them out, etc. You see, it's the activity of creating them that makes them "paradigms that aren't really paradigms," but creative material. So, in the depression example, the loosening of the "common causality" is hopefully a beginning of an exploration of the felt need for a cause. Period. Not to find another but to "move about and around" the depression/search for a cause (or, as you suggestion, many causes) of the depression. This kind of language play/language game can be a way to create new possibilites with and for this person.

    Re dialectics...the dialectic here is who the person is/who he is not.


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