The MWS Podcast: Episode 15, Lesley Jeffries and Jim O’Driscoll

In this episode, Professor Lesley Jeffries and Doctor Jim O’Driscoll talk to us about Language in Conflict, a project set up to look at the potential contribution of linguistics to conflict studies by examining the use of language in conflict situations and resolution at all levels. They talk about the roles they have in the organisation, what they have achieved so far and their hopes for the future. We also talk about what conflict is, some examples of the conflictive nature of language, embodied meaning, incrementality and cognitive biases and what their understanding is of the Middle Way.


MWS Podcast 15: Lesley Jeffries & Jim O’Driscoll as audio only:
Download audio: MWS_Podcast_15_Lesley_Jeffries_&_Jim_ODriscoll

Previous podcasts:

Episode 14: The writer and journalist Mark Vernon on agnosticism.
Episode 13: Robert M. Ellis on his life and why he formed the Middle Way Society.
Episode 12: Paul Gilbert on Compassion Focused Therapy
Episode 11: Monica Garvey on Family Mediation
Episode 10: Emilie Åberg on horticultural therapy, agnosticism, the Quakers and awe.
Episode 9: T’ai Chi instructor John Bolwell gives an overview of this popular martial art.
Episode 8: Peter Goble on his career as a nurse and his work as a Buddhist Chaplain.
Episode 7: The author Stephen Batchelor on his work with photography and collage.
Episode 6: Iain McGilchrist, author of the Master and his Emissary.
Episode 5: Julian Adkins on introducing MWP to his meditation group in Edinburgh
Episode 4: Daren Dewitt on Nonviolent communiction.
Episode 3: Vidyamala Burch on her new book “Mindfulness for Health”.
Episode 2: Norma Smith on why she joined the society, art, agnosticism and metaphor.
Episode 1: Robert M. Ellis on critical thinking.

About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

4 thoughts on “The MWS Podcast: Episode 15, Lesley Jeffries and Jim O’Driscoll

  1. Hi Barry,
    Thank you for another very interesting podcast. The study of language I am gradually realising, covers a vast area, here we hear the couple explaining their views on yet another approach as to how every day language may be used when resolving conflict situations. Binary statements are often used – this or that, good or bad, and how in an incremental way integration may be achieved, perhaps not when dead or alive which seem absolute, but even that could be sort of explained in terms of energy transferred after death in cremation or burial, I’ve rather stretched my imagination here!
    I was surprised that the use metaphor in language is not part of their remit at the moment, maybe because it is something new to me and I expect others to be thinking about it to, although the image schema that George Lakoff describes was acknowledged.

    I look forward to your comments and hope that Robert will comment in reply to the statement from Jim that a philosophy is not necessary to find a middle way, – I’ve probably misunderstood the context in which he said that – I felt a little deflated, but of course they have different aims.

    1. An interesting interview. Thanks, Barry. I just felt it was a bit of a shame you didn’t offer them at least a short account of the Middle Way when they asked for it (e.g. just the idea of avoiding positive and negative metaphysics), and you could then have worked with their reactions to the idea. It’s good that they relate to the importance of incrementality, but there’s an important link between incrementality and being able to discuss our concepts in the terms of experience rather than in terms of absolutes. which takes us straight to the Middle Way.

      As for Norma’s point regarding what Leslie (not Jim) said about philosophy, I think what Leslie actually said was something like “you don’t have to necessarily sign up to a particular philosophical approach”. She might have been talking about ‘signing up’ as much as about philosophy (and I’d agree with her that it’s not necessary to ‘sign up’ to engage with anything to some extent), or she might have had a rather limited idea of what philosophy does or might do, presumably based on what academic colleagues in philosophy do or don’t do.

      The key point here, I’d suggest, is to apply incrementality to philosophy: everyone is doing philosophy to some extent, whenever they reflect on a belief or a concept and start asking questions about its justification. We are all philosophers to varying degrees. I get fed up with people responding to ‘philosophical’ questions with ‘I’m not a philosopher’, which basically means ‘I can’t be bothered to think about this’!

      For the ancient Greeks ‘philosophy’ meant the whole of academic study, including what we’d now see as humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. I would still use the term to refer to a synthetic overview of all areas of study which considers our basic assumptions in all areas. All kinds of people are doing this kind of ‘philosophy’ today – including the two interviewees, I’d suggest. Leslie’s reflections on incrementality are, in my book, philosophical reflections. But the analytic philosophers who dominate British universities have a much narrower conception of what philosophy is, and tend to define it as the analysis of terms – as a subservient ‘handmaiden’ to science that doesn’t dare trespass on scientific assumptions, rather than as a challenging friend that can remind scientists of the limitations of their starting assumptions.

      1. Robert, I like your challenges to us in this comment of yours, especially your telling us (me) what you get fed up about. It’s enormously encouraging to me to have you speak to us so directly, and it gives me a different take on philosophy, because I’m on record as tilting at philosophy (don’t ask me for chapter and verse, if it’s not there in print it’s certainly here in my head).

        For the record , I woke from sleep in the early hours the other morning, after several frustrated efforts at drafting something on meditation for this week’s blog. The word that that woke me -suddenly – was “provisionality”, it was like a banner strung over my sleepy head, and although I might not be able to define it clearly, I can vouch for the ‘shift’ in my cognition that it represents for me, and I thank you, and Barry, And Rich, and Norma and others for your collective contribution to an under-the-duvet process I’m undergoing, as a novice miggler.

        I was interested in the response of the latest podcast interviewees to Barry’s question about the Middle Way. Somehow, even for me, it doesn’t quite express the attitude of tentative enquiry that miggling suggests, and I can’t really warm to it, although that – I reckon – is the point of the approach, it encourages provisionality, holding something at arm’s length and giving it a good eyeballing before clasping it to one’s metaphorical bosom, and I value that, and affirm its originality.

      2. Hi Robert
        I appreciate your comment about me not offering Jim a response to his question about the Middle Way. I wasn’t really aware of it during the interview but noticed it myself to my regret whilst doing the editing. It’s an unfortunate habit of mine that I think harks back to my days in teaching when I’d throw a question right back to the students (normally to buy me some time). I imagine it stems to a degree from a certain lack of confidence. However, with each podcast I do feel I am gradually becoming more confident and hopefully should an opportunity arise like that again I would handle it a bit more appropriately.

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