Book Recommendations


Expanding Your World: Modeling the Structure of Experience by David Gordon and Graham Dawes, Desert Rain, 2005

        For those who don't know the work of David Gordon and Graham Dawes, when they talk about modeling, they aren't talking about how to pose in front of a camera.  Though, using their method of modeling a person's ability to do something, you certainly could find out how people who are excellent photo-shoot models do what they do.  You could then start to take on their ability to improve the way you pose in pictures. 

        The modeling David Gordon and Graham Dawes teach in their book is an approach to eliciting what is essential in the way someone structures their experience when doing something they do really well.  This allows you, and other people, to acquire that ability.  The person who does something really well is called an exemplar.  The way they "structure their experience" means the beliefs, strategies, emotions and behaviors that are active in them when they manifest the ability.

        For example, in the book we meet Kendall, who is an exemplar at "being passionate about something".  We go through the process of eliciting her "array", the schema that Gordon and Dawes use to capture the essence of an ability.  First they identify the beliefs that are active in Kendall when she is being passionate about something.  This starts with her criterion, the thing that is "most important to her" when she is being passionate about something.  In Kendall's case, the thing that is most important to her when she is being passionate is "being appreciative", by which she means she is "noticing what is special, and making myself or others aware of it". 

        After finding out an exemplar's criterion, and eliciting her definition of it, the modeling goes on to find out more about the exemplar's beliefs.  It then identifies primary and secondary strategies, sustaining emotion, and behaviors.  Once the array is elicited, there is a process to help someone take on the ability him or herself..  This process connects the pieces of the array to reference experiences in the acquirer's own life, so they can start to manifest the ability.  As Gordon and Dawes emphasize, the goal is not to become the exemplar when you do their ability--that is in fact not even possible.  The goal is to allow the exemplar's ability to be expressed through oneself.

        Modeling offers a fundamentally different way to approach life for most of us.  Most people believe that a large percentage of abilities are natural--that one either has them or doesn't, and if he/she doesn't, that's where it ends.  Modeling offers the potential of a world with many more choices, where we aren't limited by the abilities we happened to develop through our personal experiences.  We can also have access to the abilities others have developed through their life experiences.

        There is an accompanying DVD, which shows David Gordon taking Kendall through the elicitation process, and then taking Kathy, who acquired the skill, through the acquisition process.


Truth: A Guide by Simon Blackburn, Oxford University Press, 2005

        One NLP presupposition is that "the map is not the territory."  It's a good metaphor for framing the discussion of subjective experience vs. the objective world.  Blackburn uses it himself at one point in his book.  From an NLP perspective, we tend to evaluate maps for their usefulness, based on their ability to support a person staying in a resourceful state.  For instance, we might note that a person is often unresourceful when using a map that points to all his failures.  He becomes more resourceful when he modifies his map to also notice all the times he has acted successfully.  He becomes even more resourceful when he uses those times as reference experiences for what he is capable of accomplishing across a wide range of situations, including situations beyond the original experiences of success.

        Usefulness is not the only possible way to judge a map.  The phrase "the map is not the territory" presupposes that there is a territory.  So another way a map could be assessed, other than for usefulness, is for accuracy--how well does the map represent the territory?  Are some maps more accurate than others?  Is there any way to compare maps based on their accuracy?  That discussion is the territory which Blackburn maps out in this book. 

        Blackburn fairly quickly shows the problematic nature of both a simplistic belief in truth, and confident dismissals of the possibility of truth.  As he points out, most arguments that all truth is relative in some way fall back on the observation that there are many conflicting claims about what  is true.  But a multiplicity of claims, in itself, does not prove that all claims are equal.

        There is no easy answer provided in the book--no simple instruction about how we should deal with the issue of truth.  What the book gives us is a thorough-going, and fun to read, tour of the issues raised by the problem of truth.  Given that fundamentalism is a strong component of public life (religious fundamentalism gets the most press, but people are fundamentalist on everything from religion to economics to environmentalism to NLP to any other thing about which one can have an opinion), it seems key to think a little more not just about what it true, but about how we think about truth itself.  And on the other side, we do have to make decisions about what claims we take as true.  It does us little good to retreat into an absolutist relativism and claim one can never know--we again and again have to take actions based on what we perceive, to the best of our ability, is the case in a given situation.  The problem becomes, in my estimation, walking that narrow path of struggling to judge which claims are true to the world, and which ones aren't, while not becoming fundamentalists about our judgments.  This book is an excellent guide to the challenges of walking that path.


- Recommended by James Swingle.


As stated in the Submission Guidelines, Noneuclidean Cafe has an editorial policy of publishing book recommendations, not book reviews.  There is a great deal of value in publishing critical reviews, and creating an ongoing critical debate over published works.  However, given the limited coverage of books available to a tri-annual journal like this, Noneuclidean Cafe would prefer to use this forum to call people's attention to works, both new and previously published, which our reviewers think would be enjoyable and valuable.  Therefore our policy is to only discuss books we can whole-heartedly recommend, and then recommend them.  Another way to put it is, rather than tell you what's wrong with books we didn't love, we'd rather say, "Check it out--this is COOL!" about books we really loved.

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Copyright 2005 James Swingle. All rights reserved.