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Quick thought on Werner Herzog, psychology, and art.

December 13, 2009
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In the middle of pre-Christmas insanity and end-of-semester oppression, but I want to issue a brief thought. . .

Werner Herzog, inflammatory filmmaker with whom I have a love-hate relationship, has said:

Reality is a superficial layer and what we should be looking out for is a deep strata of truth. I’ve always been after what I call an ecstatic truth. . . the truth beyond the facts.

The above suggests a certain openness –aggressive openness–when searching for the heart of humanity ; the facts of any given situation bring something to bear on truth, but they are not the whole story, and we must look wider and deeper–and maybe further from science to get at what we’re looking for. At the same time this is just what good science does–tries to sift through the facts of any one situation and find what is shared across many many similar situations, what is the underlying truth buried behind the intricacies of life? Interestingly, Herzog claims that ecstatic truth can be found just as often in fiction as in reality; he is seeking it in both his documentaries and feature films.

When we ask what other fields concern themselves with how humans think, feel and behave in highly specific contexts, are social psychologists really surprised that these fields include the arts? Maybe only the arts?  Somehow psychology’s unique position—situated so advantageously and beautifully between the humanities and the sciences—has been lost.

More on this later, but it’s something brewing in my mind.

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