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  • April 29, 2023 7:30 AM | Anonymous

    by Riccardo Manzotti

    Book review by Dr. Gary Ward MBBS BMedSci, BSc

    Professor Riccardo Manzotti is a philosopher, psychologist, and AI expert and the author of The Spread Mind: Why Consciousness and the World Are One published in 2017.


    Manzotti, currently professor of theoretical philosophy at IULM University (Milan), originally specialized in robotics and artificial intelligence, particularly in the field of artificial vision, where he started to wonder “how can matter have experience of the surrounding world?” 1

    Intrigued by this question, he focused his research on the nature of phenomenal experience, how it emerges from physical processes, and how it is related to the object perceived. 

    In 2014, while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Manzotti presented the Spread Mind Theory (elsewhere dubbed the Mind-Object Identity Theory) which addresses the “hard problem” of consciousness in a completely radical, challenging way. 

    Manzotti has continued to develop and test this hypothesis, which proposes that  one’s consciousness of an object and the external object are the same – they are identical. Manzotti proposes that consciousness of an object is the object. This theory challenges the widespread and popular notion that consciousness resides within the human brain. 

    In the book, The Spread Mind – Why Consciousness and the World Are One, Manzotti offers a potential solution to a major problem in neuroscience and philosophy that appears simple, elegant and scientifically verifiable.The theory offers a refreshing framework for thinking about the relationship that humanity has with the world.


    Science and philosophy, at least in the “western” world, have traditionally conceived of the “self” as though it were separate from the world. This dualistic view, often attributed to René Descartes, proposes that mental phenomena are non-physical and that the mind and body are distinct and separable.  In both philosophy and religion, the notion of the “soul” persists as a non-physical aspect of humans. It reinforces the view that humans are separate, special, and fundamentally distinct from other processes in the universe. 

    This dualistic view encompasses a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, as well as between subject and object in human experience.

    Although Manzotti does not, to my knowledge, acknowledge Dewey and Bentley's work in “Knowing and the Known,” or Dewey’s writing in “Experience and Nature,” the theory of the spread mind articulates an essential message of the philosophy of transactionalism. Manzotti would likely give his emphatic approval to the following quote from Trevor J Phillips in Transactionalism, An Historical and Interpretive Study:

    “transactionalists reject any bifurcation of nature implicit in so many dualisms… nature is regarded as a unity in that supernatural or extra natural realms are denied. All that is, is in nature and of nature. Inanimate matter, living organisms, human beings with intelligence, social institutions and culture – all are realities of nature.”  4

    Manzotti’s theory of the Spread Mind offers a key perspective for recognizing and challenging an ingrained and dangerous fallacy regarding human consciousness – a fallacy that perpetuates the perspective that we are separate from our environment.  

    In most of the developed world, we continue as a species to act in a way that asserts separation and attempts to dominate our environment, although we are beginning to recognize that separation and dominance are problematic. Similarly, the prevailing perspective that each human’s consciousness resides within the brain is a perspective that locks us into this same belief system of duality. 

    Manzotti’s theory addresses not only the problem of “mind-body” duality, but also that of “subject-object” duality” and “organism-environment” duality.​

    In the case of “mind-body” duality, consider that most people, if asked where their  “mind” is, would instinctively point to their head. Even most neuroscientists would assert that memories, our knowledge, our abilities and capacities, and our perceptions of the world are processed, stored and represented in the neural structures of the brain.

    However, as neuroscientists map the macroscopic and microscopic details of the human brain and its interplay with the rest of the body and the surrounding environment, they remain baffled by the location and mechanism of consciousness - what is essentially human: our “selves.” 

    As of this writing, scientists have yet  to be able to correlate neural networks in the brain in which the content of consciousness might be stored, suggesting that this correlation may not actually exist. Manzotti suggests that science has given up on searching for the location of consciousness and has fallen back on the notion that “mind” or “consciousness” remains intangible, mysterious, ethereal, or is somehow encapsulated in the equally intangible concept of “sense-data.” 5

    In neuroscience, much has been learned about correlations between brain activity and subjective, conscious experiences. Many suggest that neuroscience will ultimately explain consciousness: ‘Consciousness is a biological process that will eventually be explained in terms of molecular signaling pathways used by interacting populations of nerve cells…’ However, this view has been criticized because consciousness has yet to be shown to be a process and the ‘hard problem of relating consciousness directly to brain activity remains elusive.’ 6

    The prevailing idea that consciousness resides as a non-physical aspect of the brain is reminiscent of Dewey’s assertion in Knowing and the Known that “All the spooks, fairies, essences, and entities that once inhabited portions of matter now took flight to new homes, mostly in or at the human body, and particularly the human brain.” 7


    In The Spread Mind, Riccardo Manzotti argues that our bodies do not contain “subjective” experience – that if we accept that consciousness is real, then, like the rest of the universe, like any other real phenomenon, perhaps consciousness is physical. 

    The book starts from the premise that nature, our universe, is all there is. We live in a physical universe, a universe made of objects in process. Therefore, if everything is physical, then perhaps experience or consciousness is also made of objects. If we might for a moment consider consciousness as physical, then where is it? Where is it located? Since neuroscience has failed to find any physical evidence of consciousness in the brain, Manzotti's radical hypothesis is that consciousness is one and the same as the physical world surrounding us: “Consciousness is physical, and it is outside one’s body. Our mind is physical and yet, ironically perhaps, it is neither our body nor our brain (or any property of them).” 8

    Manzotti explores the possibility that consciousness is located in the objects of which we are conscious. In some respects, this appeals to common sense. When you consider this perspective, look at your hand. Where does your hand exist? If you are conscious of your hand, perhaps your consciousness is the same as your hand. In the same way, your consciousness of an apple is the apple. 

    From this perspective, consciousness is no longer an unexpected ethereal addition to the physical world, somehow located in a “mind” somewhere in our head, or even in some ethereal proposed “spirit” world of the universe; but as Manzotti proposes, consciousness is identical with the objects one experiences. Consciousness is where and when the physical objects that one experiences take place. 

    Manzotti’s theory acknowledges the process-relational nature of all physical structures as “spread” in time and space. Common perception might view a wooden table as a fixed object but, in a process-relational perspective, the table was once a tree and, in the future, may be firewood or termite food. All objects are in process, including the human body. 

    In addition, objects exist in relation to other objects. Manzotti asks us to consider:

    “First and foremost, objects are relative objects. They are relative to other objects rather than, as is the case with idealism, to subjects. This is key. The kind of relativity we are considering is a pure physical notion. It is just like the notion of relative velocity – something that does not require one to step outside of nature.”  9


    “Existence is relative. Since objects are bundles of relative properties, objects are relative objects. They are also actual insofar as relative existence always needs to be embodied by an ongoing causal process. Existence is relative and actual.”  10

    The theory of the spread mind does not negate the perspective that one’s mind, sense of self, or individual consciousness is personal to each of us, but challenges us to consider that the location of our mind is not within us but is “spread” and consists of the world as we perceive it. 

    Some may interpret the spread mind theory as a form of “panpsychism,” which is the proposition that the type of mentality we know through our own experience is present, in some form, in a wide range of natural bodies. Some panpsychists ascribe attributes such as life or spirits to all entities. Some would ascribe a primitive form of mentality to entities at the fundamental level of physics - and some “animists,” even rocks or buildings. 11  Manzotti is emphatic that his theory is one of “no-psychism.” 12

    Drawing on Einstein's theories of relativity, his own expertise in evidence about the geometry of light in perception and using vivid, real-world examples to illustrate his ideas (including dreams and hallucination), Manzotti argues that consciousness is not a ''movie in the head.'' 13  Experience is not in our head: it is the actual world we move in. 14

    In ways reminiscent of the works of American transactionalist philosopher John Dewey and the modern architect of the philosophy of transactionalism, Kirkland Tibbels, Riccardo Manzotti asserts that there is a co-constitutive causal relationship between the objects we experience and the object that is our physical body when he asserts that “We experience the part of nature whose existence is a causal by-product of our bodies.” 15

    Manzotti offers an analogy. Just as a dam wall causes a lake to form in the right conditions, the experience of the flow of our lives in relation to the objects we experience causes our consciousness to exist. In this way, the processual flow of our lives in relation to the processual flow of objects fills our “lake” of conscious experience. In this analogy, the lake is made of objects, and is our consciousness.  16

    A causal account of objects allows us to merge what we call “experience” and the physical world (“reality”) seamlessly. Objects are no longer static entities, but cause their existence. 

    “Objects take place relatively to the causal circumstances that our bodies contribute to. They would not exist, as they do, if our bodies were not there; they're not internal to our bodies. They are akin to the relative velocities of things surrounding us. Such relative velocities depend on their own speed and direction, yet they are both physical and relative to us”  17


    In this sense “a person is a world that exists causally relative to his /her body. The body is the proxy that allows the objects one experiences to produce effects here and now. In this regard, a person is a physical part of the world like a pebble or a thunderstorm, only the world is not identical with one's body. 18

    “We cannot experience what the world would be if our bodies were not there. Likewise what we experience is what the world is when our body is there”  19

    “The Spread Mind allows us to find our true nature in the very world that surrounds us. We are the starry sky, the clouds, a rainbow, trees, people, even simple objects such as an apple or a rock. We are not inside our body, we are out there, in the world!”  20


    In this theory of the Spread Mind, Manzotti not only offers a perspective in which we can begin to experience our existence and the world as a unity, but he also asserts that this is a theory that aligns more accurately with current scientific evidence. The book provides a wealth of evidence to support the theory, and perhaps just as we mostly now accept the evidence that the world is not flat, and that the theory of evolution best accords with observable data, perhaps it is time to consider the validity of the location of consciousness. Perhaps we might consider that who we truly are is the world: each of us is not our body, but a “soul” and that soul, our consciousness, our “self,” is the physical universe.  

    And perhaps this perspective, like that offered by the philosophy of transactionalism,  might contribute to freeing us from the hazards implicit in a bifurcated, dualistic, disconnected world.

    1   Manzotti, Riccardo. "Riccardo Manzotti." Riccardo Manzotti: Philosopher, Psychologist, and AI Scholar. 2023.
    2  Illustration of mind-body dualism.  Descartes believed inputs were passed on by the sensory organs to the epiphysis in the brain and from there to the immaterial spirit.   
    3  Descartes, René. Treatise on Man and on the Formation of the Foetus. Paris, 1674.
    4  Phillips, Trevor J., foreword by Kirkland Tibbels. 2013. Transactionalism: An Historical and Interpretive Study. 1st ed. Independently Published. 80.
    5  Manzotti, Riccardo. 2018. The Spread Mind: Why Consciousness and the World Are One. 1st ed. New York City: OR Books. 230.
    6  "Mind-Body Problem." En.Wikipedia.Org. March 13, 2023.
    7    Dewey, John and Arthur F. Bentley. 1949. Knowing and the Known. 1st ed. Boston: The Beacon Press.131.
    8   Manzotti. The Spread Mind. viii.
    9    Manzotti. The Spread Mind. 42.
    10  Manzotti. The Spread Mind. 44.
    11   "Panpsychism." En.Wikipedia.Org. March 22, 2023.
    12  Manzotti. The Spread Mind. 67.
    13  Manzotti. The Spread Mind. 69, 84. 
    14  Manzotti. The Spread Mind. viii.
    15  Manzotti. The Spread Mind. 21.
    17  Manzotti. The Spread Mind. 37.16  Manzotti. The Spread Mind. 12. 
    17  Manzotti. The Spread Mind. 37.
    18  Manzotti. The Spread Mind. viii-ix. 
    19  Manzotti. The Spread Mind. 59.
    20  Manzotti, Riccardo. "The Spread Mind: How to Experience Myself and the World as One." Science and Nonduality. Science and Nonduality (SAND), February 1, 2019.

  • April 28, 2023 2:54 PM | Anonymous

    Two transactionalists walk into a bar ...
    they needed to do some accurate drinking.

    - Doug Robertson

  • April 28, 2023 4:35 AM | Anonymous

    by Kirkland Tibbels

    In the study of transactional philosophy, we think of any situation or concern that living organisms must confront in order to survive or avoid suffering as a “Condition of Life.” These inescapable circumstances are, on one end, as foundational as our biological needs for water, food, shelter and the like, and on the other, can emerge as social needs, including those more material or even aspirational. In this essay, I will be attempting to distinguish the unavoidable aspects and forms that constitute one of our “biological” Conditions of Life, referred to as “activity.” 

    Conditions of Life can be viewed as having a hierarchical organization. Similar in structure to “Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation,” on the most fundamental side of that organization we find situations related to our biological concerns. These are situations and circumstances related to our physical health and safety, which include a distinct concern for the needs we must inevitably face related to our bodies, and that correlate to specific circumstances, requiring us to think and act in order to do that.

    Biological Conditions of Life comprise “health”, “activity”, and “knowing.” Here, I will be attempting to distinguish the unavoidable aspects and forms that constitute the Condition of Life “activity.” 

    Following those most primary biological concerns are conditions that are reliant on our ability to function among others, our sociality, in concert with our facility and use of language. These “linguistic conditions” include unavoidable concerns human beings must face to live a good life and include money, career, relationship, and more. The final group of concerns we confront that go beyond our individual or immediate personal needs are those more ecologically universal, including concerns for environment, aesthetics, politics and others – our “transactional” Conditions of Life.   


    Critters on planet earth that have brains – move. They must move to survive. Moving, in the case of human beings, is the most fundamental aspect of the Condition of Life we are addressing here – that of activity

    One form of this inescapable human concern is that of play. Play is a necessary activity for altricial species, those who are born helpless, who must learn while under parental protection and care, how to deal with the reality of a hostile and threatening world. Other forms of activity include “labor,” “work,” and the socially bound need of coordinating these as we attempt to satisfy loftier aims throughout our life – “action.” 

    Success in whatever form it may take, from basic survival to that of reaching the loftiest stations we might hope to reach, requires that we navigate and negotiate with our environments, from the most raw natural habitats where we may find ourselves to the highly complex social constructs in which we engage. 

    Moving about with our complex brains in tow, in continual engagement with other complex-brain-wielding critters, we eventually find ourselves satisfying more and more of our basic needs and wants. And, predictably, new needs and wants begin to emerge. Said another way, as we satisfy our basic needs and wants in one Condition of Life, new needs and wants in other Conditions of Life come into view. As Maslow suggests, to a starving person, food is God. We could consider this orientation and ask, when food is no longer our only aim, what becomes available to us? Do new needs and wants emerge from the very effort we make in moving around? 

    How we function among others in our process of moving around in the world matters in ways most of us rarely recognize. Our needs in our Conditions of Life –  for example, our need for relationships, including the physical need for sex, the biological instinct to reproduce, and the psychological need for intimacy they fulfil – are informed by the constructs and social narratives we accept. Other needs and desires too, like our desire to have material comforts or social identities, come into view, in large part, from what we learn and what we attract to us as we navigate and negotiate with the elements we confront in our environment(s). Again, how we move around in our environments and (especially) how  we engage others in the process, has a lot to do with the possibilities, opportunities, and threats that emerge as a result.  

    A helpful distinction in orienting ourselves to the inquiry of how we might move with others, is to recognize what kinds of specific activities are required to satisfy those needs, wants, and desires in the process. This concern is what we are all dealing with in the Condition of Life activity.  

    Recognizing the particular form of activity in which we are engaged can help. 

    Activity takes shape through four recognizable forms; labor, work, play, and action


    Labor is considered the inescapable circumstance in which every human being “must” engage in order to maintain satisfaction in their life and avoid unwanted suffering. Recurrent activities requiring labor are synonymous with, and no more or less significant than, that of maintenance. Labor refers to the need for recurrent and routine upkeep or preservation of our body and material existence. From the most biological need to maintain our health by acquiring daily supplies of clean water, and food, as well as finding safe shelter and more – maintenance is required. 

    Every Condition of Life includes with it an inescapable amount of maintenance. If we want to keep our teeth or stay in shape or build a legendary career, each condition, in its own way and depending on our aims, requires a great deal of upkeep, preservation, and maintenance. Each of us faces, on a daily basis, a continual confrontation with exactly how much labor we can afford to manage ourselves versus how much we can afford to outsource by sacrificing other resources from other Conditions of Life. Labor is an unavoidable and inescapable form of the Condition of Life “activity” – even if we aren’t the actual doer or source of it. 

    Recognizing the role labor plays in our lives in how we are occupied by the recurrent and repetitive routines of life, allows us some important facility in how we choose (or not) to move around in our environments. Recognizing labor as an aspect of activity can produce some freedom for some folks who otherwise are consumed with it or are mistakenly led to believe that they must do everything themselves. Maybe for others, recognizing how much maintenance they produce for others would be a useful consideration in understanding why they have difficulties in other areas of their life like their careers and relationships. The term “high maintenance” might be a commonsense reference to point to in recognizing how moving around in the world affects satisfaction in our Conditions of Life. 


    Work is another form of activity human beings encounter. Work refers to the activity associated with our overwhelming need and desire for objects and things. Like it or not, we human beings must confront our reliance and dependency on our constructed environment(s) – our object-oriented world. Simply put, we function through objects. We are, to say it baldly – wholly object-oriented critters. As a tool-using, object-oriented social being, we humans do a great deal of making and using stuff, relying on a variety of objects and things to survive and live a good life. We count on the production, construction, or fabrication of things for practically every activity of our modern existence. Sociologist and philosopher Georg Simmel’s assertion that the human ego would crumble up and die without objects seems truer today than ever. Whether you make them or not, in one way or another – objects fulfill needs that each of us has and they produce a necessary experience of permanence we must have to live a satisfying existence. 

    Most of us seek to avoid the daily toil of the recurrent and sometimes hard labor required to satisfy our basic needs, and have enjoyed the freedom objects give us to enjoy other pursuits. We are not consumed on a daily basis with our individual functional security and existential certainty because of the worldhood of objects in which we share. A dwelling or home, its furnishings, personal items like photos and sentimental keepsakes, useful tools and equipment, and so much more, produce protection, comforts, and the kind of permanence and belonging we aspire to enjoy in our modern existence. 

    In this discussion of “activity,” we are distinguishing “work” from “labor” as the making and/or creating of things. In our concern and recognition of “work” as a form of activity, we mean the fabrication, production, building, or creating things/objects and, with little exception, doing so through the use of other objects or tools. 

    Physical or material objects are easy to see. Beyond material things that take up space, and consume our resources, there are other non-physical things that occupy much of the same. Philosopher Karl Popper attempted to confront these other objects which he named “mental and physiological objects.” Mental objects are thought of as content, such as scientific knowledge or art, whereas psychological objects live in the world of mental states that explain psychological traits and behavior. Psychological objects, such as the entity known as the United States of America, exist as shared knowledge. In this example, this shared knowledge comprises what it is to be “American,” whether that be mom, baseball, apple pie, or the rugged individual. We share in both the feeling and activity we can direct towards it. “Thoughts are things.” 

    Popper and others have declared, and it is worth considering, how much our ideas, constructs, theories, and more occupy us. Non-physical objects too often go unnoticed in terms of the cost they carry and the amount of maintenance they can produce. How  we operate in our environments through the constructs of mental or psychological objects matters as we seek to engage others in effective and satisfying ways. For instance, a good idea or argument that results in all kinds of activity with which others must contend, are circumstances that involve no physical object in the moment – but certainly can produce a great deal of cost. 


    Action is another form of the Condition of Life “activity” and is meant to represent a purely social construct that lives predominantly in the world of trans-action. For our purposes, we relate to “action” as the coordination of purposeful activity with and through others; a coordination of labor, work and play. Action occurs through the purposeful coordinated activity engaged in by others and more often than not it finds its ultimate expression in groups aimed at events. Taking action asserts a processual orientation that, for the most part, has a particular conclusion in view. If “activity” is related to as a state, then that state or situation is arrived at through the creation of something(s) (work), the continued maintenance of that thing (or things), and is rarely if ever an isolate but always a part of something else. Act-ion is an abstraction that asserts a pursuit of some outcome or result. 

    Action denotes, when transactionally applied, a reciprocal, processual, and relational set of acts and efforts that are aimed toward bringing about, through social discourse and engagement, particular outcomes. Occurring in the result of social ‘acting’ – action actualizes activity.   


    Play, as a form of the Condition of Life ‘activity’ where we engage with others (or things) in our environment in a particular way, is distinct from the forms of activity we have referenced thus far. We tend to find ourselves in highly reflective, concentrated, and sometimes energetic and/or physical activity when we play. Playing has a particularly unique orientation of being less “consequential” than other forms of activity in terms of satisfying basic needs and wants. In other words, we do not depend on or rely on specific acts of play (explicitly or immediately) for our survival or to satisfy the most important needs in our life. That being said, play is critically important in the early physical and social development of human (and mammalian) life, and maintains its relevance throughout our adult lives in the continued development of skills and facilities in every area of our existence, especially in sociality and other linguistic Conditions of Life. To be clear, skills developed while in the protective environments of play can translate to the ability for surviving other situations in the day to day activities of life. The actual and immediate activity of play, in a protected and confined environment however, is to be viewed as non-threatening and limited in its immediate consequence. 

    Although there are numerous modes of play identified in scores of research around human development and psychology, in the context of this essay, we are going to focus on the two primary modes of trans-actional play, “gaming” and “practice.” In gaming, we set up a structured and typically closed environment that enjoys a sense of separation from the immediacy of our day to day “real” or “normal” life. Games almost always mimic or carry with them some relationship to active daily life and can offer outstanding opportunities to hone skills and exercise practical applications of those activities we use in our routines or specific occupations. Gaming allows us to experience a healthy escape from the rigors and toil of everyday life – unless – of course, we stay too long and thus negatively affect other Conditions of Life. 

    Considering the term “practice” as play is another useful view of this form of human activity. When we are practicing, we set up much the same kind of structured event as we might if we are gaming. However, practice tends to be closely associated with developing knowhow and skills for more explicit “real-world” application – or more serious gaming. Robert Bellah, in his book Religion in Human Evolution, From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age, offers that play holds a significant place in the development of early social constructs – relating to it as primal and fundamental to how human beings formed the early workings of language and community. Play, according to Bellah, is a luxury, void of the stresses and concerns of daily life. It mimics and often exaggerates purposeful acts of human life. We use gaming, for example, to learn skills we can apply in actual (real life) situations or aspirational endeavors. As ‘practice,’ play offers opportunities to fail our way to success in learning highly consequential skills that otherwise might be catastrophic if not learned or mastered before applying them, like flying an airplane. In practice and gaming, we can learn how to perform in more beneficial or valuable ways that enhance our labor or work. For example, to borrow again from Robert Bellah, we can play-fight, or play war games, but if we fight too hard or are hurtful - the game is over. We can role-play in our intimate relationship, but try too hard or take it too far – the game is over. You can play with spending your money, but if you can’t play with it without worrying about losing it and threatening the survival or comforts of real-life – the game is over. 

    Like “labor” and “work,” “play” exists in every Condition of Life. 

    Practices that once seemed difficult make their way into the background of our activity and become more non-reflective and habitual over time. Transferring skill sets and knowhow into a background of familiarity is one of the main applications of play in our lives. 

    “Play is the luxury of luxuries” declares Bellah, as he points out that “play is expensive. It makes playing animals vulnerable to predators and keeps them from helping to forage. So we have many theories of the functions of play – it is exercising the muscles, it is learning to be social, it is learning to outwit the other players, and so on – yet few observers doubt an element of sheer joy that is seldom seen in other things animals do.” 1  Gaming can, for good or bad, offers Bellah, “artificially create a separate reality” and produce unrealistic expectations about a player’s abilities, competencies and/or fitness. 

    Play is a kind of event or activity that begins and ends, and it takes place in the context of daily life, from which it is to some degree differentiated. Bellah refers to Gordon Burghardt: 

    “whose book The Genesis of Animal Play is the best recent treatment of the subject. Burghardt sums up by indicating five things that must in some way be present before we can call something ‘animal’ play: 

    1. Limited immediate function 
    2. Endogenous component
    3. Structural or temporal difference
    4. Repeated performance
    5. Relaxed field

    The first criterion, limited immediate function, indicates that play is ‘not fully functional in the context in which it is expressed,’ that it does not contribute to current survival. If, according to Darwin, evolution can be characterized as ‘the struggle for existence,’ and according to Spencer as “the survival of the fittest,” then play is something different from the ‘paramount reality’ of the world of daily life in evolutionary history, and the something different is the first alternative reality.

    The second criterion is that play is something “done for its own sake,” pleasurable in itself, spontaneous and voluntary; it is not a means to an end. This is what Burghardt means by speaking of its ‘endogenous component’. The third criterion, ‘structural or temporal difference,’ indicates that play may use behaviors from ordinary life, like fighting, chasing, and wrestling, but without the aim that such behaviors would ordinarily have. It uses features of ordinary life playfully, for their own sake, and not to achieve the aim that they have in ordinary life. This is one of the bases for seeing play as not serious. The fourth criterion is that play behavior is performed ‘repeatedly in a similar, but not rigidly stereotyped form’.  It is then, something that is repeatedly performed, often in bouts, during a predictable period in the animals’ life, which in some cases can span a life. The fifth and final criterion is related to the first one: play behavior ‘is initiated when an animal is adequately fed, healthy, and free from stress (e.g. predator threat, harsh microclimate, social instability, etc.) or intense competing systems (e.g. feeding, mating, predator avoidance). In other words, the animal is in a ‘relaxed field’. This criterion is important for helping us understand the origin of play and the reason why it is limited, largely but not absolutely exclusively, to mammals and birds, and also why it is often limited to the young, though in some species it continues throughout life. One can think of a variety of conditions that would produce a relaxed field, but an obvious one is parental care. Young animals whose primary needs are taken care of by others, who are fed and safe, are the ones mostly likely to play. Also, a hierarchical social structure that provides some relief from aggression within the group and a more adequate defense against external dangers could provide conditions that encourage play, not only for the young, but for adults as well. This might be especially true for hierarchical structure like that of the chimpanzees, one that has moved away from despotism toward something that begins to look like a “constitutional monarchy.” 23

    Activity is an inescapable and unavoidable Condition of Life that every human being must face to live a good life and avoid suffering. How we move makes a difference in how we live our lives. These distinctions are useful in recognizing where we spend our time and where we might want to reconsider our activity. How might we deploy our limited resources around “work” and “labor” (including where we might be better off delegating or outsourcing activity) so that we can spend our limited time and resources in other ways? Distinguishing certain activities as “play,” rather than work or labor, can help lighten moods and produce more enjoyable situations in our day to day lives. Allowing play to be not only acceptable but necessary to the satisfaction of our life and wellbeing, can go a long way towards alleviating the angst we often feel when we believe we are wasting time or not getting anything done, when in fact – we’re just living very active lives.  

    * This essay references an extensive study found in the curriculum of Influential U’s Mechanics and Practice Two Program, written by Kirkland Tibbels, and with the exception of cited works by Robert Bellah, references here to that extensive body of work were originally influenced by and include the following references: 

    Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
    Georg Simmel, The Philosophy of Money
    John Dewey and Arthur F. Bentley, Knowing and the Known

    1   Robert Bellah, Religion in Human Evolution, From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age (Belknap Harvard) XXI-XXII
    2   Bellah, 76-78 
    3   For a fascinating and deeper dive into the origins, function, and further distinctions of animal play, see: Bellah 74 – 83.

  • April 28, 2023 4:30 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Friends,

    Welcome to the very first newsletter of The Institute of Transactional Philosophy! This newsletter will come to you a few times a year to share thought-provoking inquiries, announcements about upcoming events, opportunities, and with any luck, some levity to uplift us all. 

    2023 started with the much anticipated Institute Studies hosted at Influential U’s Annual Conference in Hollywood, CA in January. This live event featured philosophers Matt Segall, PhD and Kirkland Tibbels, PhD-candidate along with Institute Programs Co-Chairs Lauren Robertson and Sarah Shepherd. The afternoon of discussion spanned a variety of topics from the modern day value of philosophical inquiry to the nature of an organism / environment metaphysics and the application of our recent worldviews study in our day to day transactions. 

    The Institute also hosted a salon-style fundraising dinner, supported by the generosity of Influential U and emceed by the most charming duo we know, Josh Damigo and Doug Robertson. During the dinner - where most agreed we had the best hotel banquet short rib any of us had ever had - we heard stories of how adopting a transactional approach had affected the lives of Khush Cooper, PhD, and Doug Robertson, and Matt Segall spoke on what it has been like to be embraced by folks outside his world of philosophy and academia. In the end, donors contributed to raise over $30,000 to fund the programs and operations of the Institute in 2023, for which we are very grateful as we work to make a difference through our work here. 

    Looking forward, the Institute is at work planning our next event, to be held May 19th, once again featuring Matt Segall, PhD, who will be facilitating an inquiry about the relationship between sympathetic imagination and worldviews, and how we might utilize these distinctions as tools to help us become more effective transactors. We are also in the midst of planning a fun social engagement event at Influential U’s Mid-Year Summit in Dove Mountain that we intend to provide us all with a much needed dose of play, as well as another virtual event featuring Matt Segall in the early fall. 

    Outside of upcoming events and scholarship, the Institute is at work on:

    • Completing development of the long-term strategic plan for the Institute’s future;

    • Inviting and nurturing relationships with academics and other ecologies that demonstrate transactional approaches; 

    • Building new programs and opportunities for you all to come play with us;

    • Continuing to build and hone the administrative infrastructure to support and fulfill the vision and mission of the Institute; and

    • Developing the Institute’s fitness in metrics and assessment to measure its impact over the long term. 

    We look forward to sharing more about each of these in future newsletters. 

    Transactionally yours, 

    Trisha  &  Lauren
    Chairperson & Editor

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