Common-sense, as defined on this website , tells us that we can't be using the right rites (or protocols) if they're not achieving their purposes or fulfilling their function. What's left to do, then, other than trying to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps?


Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!

Were it possible for each of us to resolve our own (and others) problems without the help of others, we would be capable of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Unfortunately this exhortation is effective only sometimes. More often than not it too fails. And it fails because we're blindly following what are assumed to be unquestionable rituals; forgetting or ignoring the fact that rites are always framed within particular contexts and provide the measure of particular mind-sets.

If we are going to be successful in pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps -to overcome an intractable problem - we first need to change our rites' mind-set. But here we hit a bootstrapping problem: what mind-set are we going to use to change our mind-set? How can anyone grasp something they can't yet grasp when they don't yet have the mental frame, structure, mind-set, or world-view to do so?"

But this problem isn't just a personal one. For there are two contexts in which we can be said to be doing something new: self- and other-referenced. The other-referenced context involves doing something that no one else has yet thought or done. The self-referenced context involves the individual coming to see, hear, grasp or do something they currently couldn't see, hear, grasp or do. This web-site stands as testimony to both sets of problem: helping individuals to do what they can't yet do and engaging other organisations and institutions in the task of helping such individuals. In the latter case, more often than not, one will be at best ignored or dismissed and at worst castigated for wishing to establish new rituals instead of conforming to long established old ones. Were one to attempt to do so they would be deemed to be acting unprofessionally.

In brief, innovators must then confront a Catch 22: how do we convince reasonable sceptics that another way might achieve the hoped for result. But this cannot be done without inducing a change in mind-set? To paraphrase Marc Gold we'll never know whether the new mind-set works - until we try another way. One radical mind-set change involves de-sanctifying 'individuality' and regarding every personal and interpersonal problem as:

like every other problem at least in some respect,
like some other problems in another respect
and only then like no other problem?

This radically different 'progressive problem shifting' mind-set entails attending to apparently trivial detail, such that we can:

- check for a possible mis-match between the writing and the adept hand,
- inform parents, professionals, academics and the media about writing with the non-adept hand,
- stop children / adults developing avoidable intractable problems,
- present Pepper's world-view work and Karl Popper's interpretation-laden view of objective facts,
- define common-sense as did Descartes and the Ancient Greeks,
- emulate Dr Sattler's work with left handers and converted left handers.

The critical feature of this radical mind-set involves accepting that problems lie-within-yet-to-be-revealed-problems, that tasks are multi-faceted and lie -within-other tasks; that purposes lie-within-other purposes and that puzzles-lie-within-other-puzzles. This means :

The origin of the hegemony of the right?

Starting with a side step: what do infants need to do to grasp the different but overlapping meanings of the "right" sound? The answer is simple: interact with others who are using them appropriately. But this doesn't explain why the side labelled the 'right' is considered to be the good or better side, in almost every society we care to look at?

  • right-----opposite of left
  • wright---indicating craftsmanship as in: arkwright ... kenwright ... playwright, and of course Mr Wright
  • rite--------as in ritual
  • write -----with a pen in the hand 'thinking' on paper- and its variants

What we're looking for is a reason for labelling the right side and not the left side as the good side of the self. Merely stating that the right side is the good side isn't a sufficient explanation, for if we're left handers it's our left side that does the job "right"! What we're looking for then is evidence for embodied thinking. And we find it, via the Ancient Romans and Ancient Greeks, with the Ancient Egyptians. Here we find the following facts:

  1. the ever-lasting good life was to be found, entombed in pyramids, on what we call the west bank of the Nile.
  2. imagine yourself, on a boat, in the middle of the Nile
  3. now orient yourself so that you face the source of the (good) life-sustaining Nile
  4. which direction are you facing: south
  5. without turning round, which side of the body 'faces' the good ever-lasting life side? The right!
  6. it is but a short step to assigning the attribute 'good side' to the hand pointing to the 'good side'
  7. this hand-land connection, is an example of what is called embodied thinking
  8. it is then but another short step for this self-world-view to refer to human entitlements.

For native English speakers the hegemon /right/ pervades everything they hear, see, think feel and do; acting as a transparent filter. This has many consequences one of which is that it makes it difficult if not impossible for non-native English speakers to inhabit the same common-ground when translating the utterance /right/. Inevitably there will be loss of nuanced meaning. The sense of selfhood amongst Anglo-Saxon speakers is thus inevitably shaped by the hegemon of the /right/. It is for this simple reason that left handers face a core self-world mirroring mis-match.

Handedness: adept, converted or latent?

When we talk about the ability to handle tasks, we're talking literally as well as metaphorically. Hence, the need to note what each hand is doing and how it is doing it to identify the adept and the non-adept hand. Why? Well because of the structural link between the problem-solving brain (mind) and the manipulating body (hand). In effect, we're rejecting labels such as: strong / weak; clumsy-cackhanded / good, sinister / dexterous.

  • Adept or wright hand is the hand which is able to execute complex manipulations with seemingly effortless ease. Using the non-adept hand as though it were the adept one is defined as latent or converted handedness. In the context of literacy this condition manifests itself when the writing-hand is unable to competently re-present the confident mind's-eye word or image on the page. As a core mind-body condition it is a co-factor in dyslexia and dyspraxia and with a variety of other conditions apparently unrelated to reading-writing.
  • Latent hand signifies unwittingly using the non-adept hand as though it were the adept hand. The condition appears to be hidden from the self and from others.
  • Converted hand signifies knowing that one has been induced or coerced into using the non-adept hand as if it were the adept hand some time in the past.

Labels are not explanations

Label are not explanations, although are often used as though they are. This is the result of reification -treating an imagining, idea or concept as though they were a tangible entity. This does not stop labels being commonly attributed when 'assessing' a condition or state of affairs. It is this confusion between description and explanation that accounts for why there is so much argument over which label is the right label in a particular context. This is not to dispute the fact that some children and adults experience greater difficulty than others in handling themselves and the worlds in which they find themselves.

Common difficulties include reading / writing fluently / legibly, handling mathematical tasks competently and confidently, executing hand-eye co-ordination tasks expertly, being at ease under conditions of stress and obesity.

Many waste much time, energy and money disputing whether such difficulties represent body-mind conditions indicative of differences in genetics, epigenetics or life experiences. These 'academic' issues have been replaced here by focusing on actions and the thinking that accompanies it. Such thinking reveals a possible body-mind condition labelled latent / converted handedness. Its non-diagnosis and therefore non-management is widespread throughout the English speaking world. One consequence is that unnecessarily burdensome emotional and financial costs are imposed on individuals, their families, industry, and the entire gamut of education, legal-judicial, penal and health-care systems: in short, on society as a whole.

This raises a systemic meta-puzzle: why do professionals who conduct personal, educational, medico-legal or legal evaluations fail to spot a possible mis-match between the writing and the adept hand when it is present?

Failure to eliminate the mis-match between the adept and the writing hand as a co-factor in any personal problem goes a long way to explaining why there is such limited success in remedying poor self-efficacy and poor self-esteem, reducing stress, remedying many special education needs conditions - such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, poor literacy, ADHD; and reducing recidivism rates.


Our self-identity is determined by our sense of self-efficacy: defined here in terms of:

  • what we handle, literally and metaphorically and the seemingly effortless ease with which we do so,
  • who we interact with, how and whether to mutual benefit or not,
  • the words and labels we use and how we use them.

In general we overlook what hand-use tells us even though hand and brain work as-one. Mistakenly we tend to focus on what words come out of the mouth and what the hands achieve, rather than watching how they perform. This oversight sets up the false dichotomy in which we regard people as good with either their brains or with their hands. Brains and hands have evolved co-extensively: the brain 'controlling ' the hand via feed-forward from the hand to the brain.

Ignoring the role of the hegemony of the /right/ results in having to accept one of two 'non-/rights/' explanations for the origin and persistence of intractable difficulties. The more pessimistic holds that we are born fated to endure such difficulties. A less pessimistic view holds that we should frame difficulties as challenges or problems to be overcome or solved. A more optimistic approach holds that we should frame difficulties as puzzles, because puzzling compels us to attend as much to apparently insignificant details. For without the detail we cannot see the bigger, emerging new picture.

Common-sense as an issue

The issue with appealing to common-sense is that one person's common-sense is another's nonsense. We can reach this conclusion because "common-sense" has two meanings:

  • when everyone agrees with every one else
  • when what we see agrees with what wehear and thus feel: in other words, when the message to the brain, from the different senses, is the same

The 'common' meaning is 'when we all agree'. The 'different senses' definition assumes that brains don't intentionally try make life more difficult for their 'owners' than needs be.

It is the first definition that explains why appealing to common-sense so often leaves us locked into seemingly impossible-to-solve difficulties. The engendered problem is not so much lack of common-sense as lack of a common-ground, common tools and agreement over the common-good.

The common meaning definition explains why the role of converted / latent handedness as a co-factor in a variety of presenting difficulties is ignored. It's caught in a Catch-22 which requires a cultural paradigm shift in how we think about talking about thinking: not as a disembodied 'cognitive' process, but as an embodied (pen and paper 'hand') activity.

The rationale for confirming that the adept hand is indeed being used to write, even when identifying and resolving non-literacy related intractable difficulties, is simple:

in a literate world writing plays a key role in creating and structuring a sense of the self,
and hence self-efficacy and sense of self-worth.

A puzzling expertise

The puzzle, for some, is why experts so often disagree among themselves in reporting findings and in telling us what to do and how to do it. This meta-puzzle is solved by recognising that they hold different and therefore conflicting world-views.

How do you know which expert to choose to help you then, when you have an intractable personal or inter-personal problems: for which there are no obvious solutions, and where even trying to do the right thing, the right way, at the right time and in the right order seldom achieves the right result. The uneasy answer is to ask whether the expert is a puzzling one or an implementation one.

Pepper and Sattler

It is rarely admitted that systemic factors lie beneath the surface of many seemingly intractable personal, educational, medico-legal and legal problems. Two such factors are represented by the neglected conceptual work of Stephen Pepper and the ignored practical work of Barbara Sattler. Pepper provides a conceptual framework for mapping the world-views of those offering, and those in need of help in his World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence. Sattler offers detailed case-studies on the direct and indirect consequences of being a converted left-hander. Her many publications evidence the need for similarly oriented 'behaviour change agents' in the non-German speaking world: in order to note both the writing and the adept hand of those with educational, occupational and well-being difficulties. She states the position succinctly: to paraphrase - writing with the wrong hand causes 'knots in the brain' with attendant educational, relationship, mental health, and behavioural consequences.

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