Chapter 2: Incorrect Conception

1. Of what must the pupil first be convinced?

2. What is the only way a teacher can convince the pupil?

3. What is the next point of importance to be impressed upon the pupil?

4. What is the point on which even a highly experienced teacher may make shipwreck?

5. In accordance with what will be the pupil’s conception of what the teacher is trying to convey?

6. To what must a teacher give due consideration?

7. What fixed ideas are encountered in the case of almost every pupil?

8. What can a teacher experienced in the work of re-education diagnose at once? How?

9. What must prevail for teaching to occur?

10. Upon what does the form of fixed conceptions depend?

11. What is the cause of the major part of a pupil’s difficulties?

Illustration I. “Doing It Right”

12. What will the pupil have done by the time the teacher has concluded their statement as to the pupil’s psycho-physical condition?

13. Of what will this decision consist?

14. What does the pupil believe must happen in order to secure an end?

15. Why is this belief not surprising?

16. What else will a pupil have been told to do in order to be conscientious?

17. What is most often a person’s insistence on satisfying conscience?

18. What does a person most often argue when orthodox ways repeatedly end in failure? What does this argument show regarding what the person was actually trying to satisfy?

19. Why does the person embrace this way of going to work?

20. What would discarding the orthodox way mean? Why will the pupil not make the effort to discard it?

21. What will the teacher point out when the pupil is observed
attempting to “do something” to gain an end?

22. What will the teacher then advise the pupil?

23. What is the pupil’s usual response?

24. What is the chief reason for the pupil’s response?

25. What do we experience in connection with performing a certain act in a certain way?

26. What is the significance of this experience?

27. What would happen if anything should cause us to change our conception?

28. Why are pupils not conscious of anything being wrong in their manner of doing an activity (e.g. bending their knees)?

29. What does an act become (e.g. bending the knees) when performed to the best advantage in the general use of the pupil’s organism?

30. What choice does the pupil have henceforward?

31. What fact do we often have to face in the case of adult pupils? Why?

32. Because of this fact, what most often happens when a pupil is faced with the two alternatives of how to use their mechanism?

33. What is the only way pupils can extricate themselves from the deadlock produced by trying to be right?

Illustration 2. Doing Things “His Way”

34. What is the equally fixed and unreasoning conception common to most pupils?

35. Upon what is the pupil’s judgement vis-a-vis the issue in the previous question based?

36. What would seem reasonable that a pupil’s judgement should be? Why?

37. What is more often the case? Why?

38. What does the pupil do to carry out the instructions from the teacher?

39. What effect does this have on the instructions?

40. By what is the pupil’s confidence not disturbed?

41. What will the teacher point out to such a “confident” pupil?

42. What is the pupil brought up on subconscious methods not attracted to, as a rule?

43. What will pupils do when the teacher demonstrates over and over again that their way of doing something won’t work?

44. What analogy does Alexander use to illustrate the previous question?

45. What serves to strengthen Alexander’s conviction that the principles underlying present methods of education are erroneous?

46. What have our educational systems and our training in scientific and professional spheres actually done?

47. What does this defect actually amount to?

48. What have people responsible for these methods (in question #46) not realized?

49. What do the terms volition and inhibition stand for?

50. In what sphere has the lack of inhibitory development been fraught with most danger?

51. What does the lack of this development tend to produce?

Illustration 3. Not Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us

52. What is the most striking and pathetic instance of human delusion?

53. What example does Alexander offer to illustrate the previous question?

54. What did the stutterer’s agitation cause him to do?

55. Of what was the stutterer able to persuade himself? How?

Illustration 4. “Out of Shape”

56. Of what is the child’s remark about being pulled out of shape proof positive?

57. What does this indicate about her experiences in connection with the functioning of her organism, and her judgement in these spheres?

58. What point comes out clearly in all the foregoing illustrations?

59. What is significant about the fact that our judgement is based on experience?

60. What must we therefore recognize?

61. With what are our emotional defects linked up?

62. By what is our approach to life generally–our activities, beliefs, emotions, opinions, judgements–conditioned?

63. What great fact must be realized by leaders in all spheres of human activity?

64. What great delusion is operating in people who are interested in improving the human condition?

65. What must happen for us to evolve beyond “herd instinct?”

Thought Questions

1. Alexander writes in this chapter about incorrect conception and fixed ideas and states (p. 126) “…in my experience, there is only one way by which a teacher can really convince a pupil that his sense of feeling is misleading him when he starts to carry out a movement, and that is by demonstration upon the pupil’s own organism.” Clearly when people have fixed ideas about what they must do in order to exist, a “demonstration upon the pupil’s own organism” can sometimes quickly and often dramatically disabuse them of their notions. What about fixed ideas in other spheres? In MSI, Chapter 5, Alexander gives the example of the Free Trader and the Protectionist and states that their mental habits are “precisely similar in kind” to the mental habits of X, who believed he couldn’t draw his lip up before speaking. If our mental habits (beliefs) about the use of ourselves are “precisely similar in kind” to our mental habits (beliefs) about everything in life, what ways are open to us to examine these mental habits? Is beginning with our fixed ideas about what we must do to move the only way, or merely a very convenient one? If we “hold” our beliefs, and we honestly examine our beliefs and change them, does this mean that we “hold” the new beliefs just as rigidly? Is it possible to examine how we react to a belief expressed by another person, a belief with which we are in disagreement, and go through the same process that Alexander used when investigating his “physical” problem of hoarseness, and have a similar outcome, i.e. a change in our “mental habits?”

2. It is fairly simple to observe the results of our beliefs about how we move, and Alexander posits that “how we got this way” is the result of relying on instinct rather than making the evolutionary step of going to conscious reasoned guidance and control. But his hypothesis still begs the question of what the basis of our understanding is. How do we form concepts and beliefs in the first place? What role does language, including metaphors, play in the formation of concepts? Does the concept come first, or does language come first? Or do they somehow go hand in hand? What is the role of experience? Alexander writes (p. 146) that “our judgment is based on experience…[and]…where this experience is incorrect and deceptive, the resulting judgment is bound to be misleading and out of touch with reality.” What is an “incorrect Experience?” Can an infant who has theoretically not had the opportunity to develop an unreliable sensory appreciation, have an “incorrect” experience? Can an experience for anyone in and of itself be correct or incorrect, or can only our judgment of what the experience is be in question? How do we, as psycho-physical wholes, both experience an event and know that we have done so? If we were all living on the plane of conscious control would our children be born onto this plane, or is it one which each person must individually arrive at through exercising their conscious thinking abilities? And would Alexander have been equally successful in recovering from his stroke if it had been a left hemisphere stroke which might have destroyed brain areas subserving the analytical, linear, “reasoning” aspects of language?

3. Alexander writes (p. 127) “…a teacher in dealing with the shortcomings of a particular case must give due consideration to the pupil’s fixed conceptions, otherwise these will greatly complicate the problem for both teacher and pupil.” What is included in the process of giving “due consideration” to the pupil’s fixed conceptions?
4. Alexander writes in a footnote on p. 128 “All that is written here about fixed conceptions applies equally to the teacher as to the pupil.” By what means can we insure that our ideas are not fixed?

5. Alexander writes (p. 128) of the need for the teacher to “…diagnose at once, by the expression and use of the pupil’s eyes, the degree of influence upon him of such [incorrect] conceptions, and at each step in the training he should take preventive measures to counteract this influence.” What might be these preventive measures?