This short interview is worth reading: ‘What About Tutoring Instead of Pills?’
Kagan: I share your unhappiness. But that is the history of humanity: Those in authority believe they’re doing the right thing, and they harm those who have no power.
Semiotics—what we take to have meaning and how we perceive it symbolically—is generally driven by “those in authority.” They may be academics, doctors, media personalities, corporations, politicians, and so on.
We structure our understanding of ourselves and the world around us based on the semiotics we have accepted. Ordinary people accept, almost always unconsciously, “retail semiotics” that are fashioned, marketed, and sold by “those in authority.”
For example, what has happened to our retail understanding of child development and the treatment of mental illness is the semiotics of these categories is dominated by Big Pharma, which pushes expensive drug treatments while at the same time funding research which has been compromised by that funding.
You can see similar retail-wholesale arrangements in many other areas in any society in the world.
Rather than thinking of people as developing psychologically, it can be very helpful to think of them as developing linguistically, emotionally, and semiotically.
Semiotics is not the same as linguistics, but it does develop in rough parallel to linguistics. As our capacities for language mature, so also does our understanding of meaning and the signs and symbols that bear meaning.
If we decide on a practical career and have few other interests, our understanding of the semiotics of other fields (art, sociology, Buddhism, etc.) will probably suffer. If we are raising a child who is doing poorly in school, we may very well just follow along with what is recommended by “experts” who are themselves retail consumers of the “child development semiotic.”
If those “experts”—a pediatrician, say, and a couple of teachers—claim our child “needs” drugs to perform well in school, we will probably accept what they say with few reservations.
It is very difficult not to do this in many areas of our lives.
The Buddha is famous for saying we should not blindly believe him or anyone else but that we should discover for ourselves what is true. In modern terms, this can be restated to mean be careful of retail semiotics, be skeptical of them and where they originate, look to the evidence and who is providing it.
As Kagan says, if your kid is having trouble in school “…what about tutoring instead of pills?”
Edit: The reason we use the term semiotics on this site is when FIML partners do a FIML query, the data in their minds at the moment(s) in question is best described as raw semiotics. That is, it is the raw material that makes up the composite of consciousness at the moment(s) in question. This material, or data, can be sharply focused, vague, irrelevant to the subject at hand, emotional, associative, organized, disorganized, and so on. When partners get good at observing this data accurately and describing it to each other, they will find that much of it, if not all of it, is connected to a psycho-semiotic network that underlies awareness and gives rise to it. Understanding this network is extremely valuable and will provide partners with great insights into how and why they feel, think, and behave as they do. It is very difficult (and I think impossible) to understand this network through solitary pursuits only. The reason for this is a solitary mind will fool itself. In contrast, two minds working together will be able to observe this network with much greater accuracy. Language, semiotics, and emotion are fundamentally interpersonal operations, so it is reasonable to expect that deep comprehension of these operations will be best achieved through interpersonal activity.