In The Mind Of The Bigot–Flight From Ambivalence


The Defining Condition Of Ambivalence/Self Becomes Identified With A “Neither This Nor That” Circumstance

Prospectus Continued

If the genesis of ambivalence can be located in the differentiating space [to paraphrase Thom’s (1983, p.187) description of Simmel’s concept of a person], arising between what is simultaneously social and individual, social, in the form of the product of sociological categories, and individual, as the stranger existing outside of sociological categories, then the defining condition of ambivalence/self becomes identified with a “neither this nor that” circumstance. It is for this reason that ambivalence, in its most primitive form, becomes objectified as a “flight from ambivalence.” This “flight from ambivalence,” in turn, may be understood to be a powerful contributing factor to both the closing of the mind of the bigot, and, the modern penchant for division, domination, order, and technology.

In modern society’s matter-centered universe a human being’s “so-called” value and worth is never far removed from some objective measure that claims to be able to scientifically predict and explain human behavior. In this research project I propose to challenge this idea by putting forth a theory of self that recognizes ambivalence to be the locus of self where cognitive objects acquire salience. In this way I hope to show that science, or, as F. S. Northrop defines it (1946, p. 301), “the hypothetically proposed, apriori, theoretical component indirectly confirmed through its deductive consequences,” is merely one of the many expressive possibilities of a creative self and should, therefore, be judged accordingly.

In so far as I am to identify, in this research project, the locus of convergence of three relatively unrelated research areas – prejudice, ambivalence, and self-theory, I have made a survey of the relevant literature in the various research fields. Since the scope of this project is large, my survey of the literature has been more selective than comprehensive, so, in the interest of brevity and coherence, I will describe this literature from its convergent theoretical perspective. Therefore, the next section of this prospectus combines my survey of literature with my theoretical perspective.

It Is The So-Called Democratic Personality Who Is Saddled With Painful Ambivalences

I Will Argue How Ambivalence, In Its Most Elemental Form, and Self (As Defined By a Three-Term Relationship), Are Reflections Of One Another
Prospectus Continued

Survey of Literature and Theoretical Foundation

There will be a brief overview of theories concerning prejudice. My focus will be on prejudice as way to harden cognitive boundaries. In this respect, prejudice and fear will be connected. Sartre (1965) and Held (1980) will be quoted in support of this connection. I will continue to explore prejudice by citing Aboud’s (1988, p.4) definition: “Prejudice refers to an organized predisposition to respond in an unfavorable manner toward people from an ethnic group because of their ethnic affiliation.” I will briefly discuss Allport’s (1958) reflective theory of prejudice, that is, the idea that prejudice is a product of an environment where power, status and competition are reflected in the attitudes of the people who compete for power and status; and then I will turn to Adorno’s (et al., 1950) view of prejudice as it may be understood as a result of a child’s inner conflict with his/her authoritarian parents. The cognitive developmental theory of prejudice will also be mentioned (Piaget and Weil, 1951), as will a number of studies linking prejudice, or, attitudes toward marginal groups, with ambivalence (Myrdal, 1944; Katz, 1981; Katz and Hass, 1988; Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey, and Eisenstadt, 1991; and Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey and Moore, 1992).

At this point I will turn my attention to the literature of ambivalence beginning with Merton’s (1976) use of Bleuler’s (1910) coinage of the word. Bleuler identified three types of ambivalence which, according to Robert Merton (1976, p.3), may be characterized as: “the emotional (or affective) type in which the same object arouses both positive and negative feelings, as in parent-child relations; the voluntary (or conative) type in which conflicting wishes make it difficult or impossible to decide how to act; and the intellectual (or cognitive) type, in which men hold contradictory ideas.” Ever since Bleuler, ambivalence has been an object for investigation by psychologists and sociologists alike.

I will briefly discuss the basis of ambivalence as it is presented by Freud (1939) and further interpreted by Thom (1983). I will then take a much closer look at how ambivalence, as a motivating factor, plays itself out in Adorno’s (et al., 1950) Authoritarian Personality. Using quotations from Billig (1982) and Gregg (1991), I will argue that an ambivalence grounded self is perpetually looking for an escape from ambivalence. Both of these authors have argued in a similar fashion and a good example of what this means for the individual is readily expressed in the following quote from Billig. Although ambivalence may generate negative as well as positive affects, this particular quote is an example of a positive affect. According to Billig’s (1982, p. 147) reading of Rosenberg and Abelson’s Congruity Model of cognitive consistency, ambivalence may be defined in the following way:

“Ambivalence refers to ‘the simultaneous presence of positive and negative affect in reaction to a cognized object’. Ambivalences are forms of inconsistency or incongruity, and as such they are ‘tension-arousing’ – ‘they set in motion processes directed toward their removal’, because ‘if the ambivalences are not removed, they continue to be unpleasant, even painful, to the subject so long as he continues to think about the concepts at issue’. Thus there is an implication that the authoritarian personality, whose basic motivation, according to the theory of Adorno et al., is an intolerance of ambiguity, is someone who has been able to remove inconsistencies; it is the so-called democratic personality who is saddled with painful ambivalences.”

Focusing on Thom’s (1984, p.xi) treatment of self as “the overcoming of the primitive ambivalence or opposition between the modes of difference and no difference….(and,) as some combination of difference and equality, dividing and making equal or identical,” I will begin to argue how ambivalence and self are intrinsically connected. Continuing this line of reasoning, I will discuss Simmel’s (Levine, 1971) concept of man as both the fixing of boundaries and the reaching out across these boundaries, and, Billig’s (1987, p.5) presentation of the categorization/particularization interdependence that characterizes the “inner deliberations [or] silent arguments conducted within a single self,” I will then proceed to argue how ambivalence, in its most elemental form, and self (as defined by a three-term relationship) are reflections of one another.

This argument will begin with a description of Descartes’ cogito (Flew, 1979), giving specific attention to the “identity” inference implied by this cogito. This inference is described by Anscombe (Ed. Cassam,1994, p152) as: “The thinking that thinks this thought–that is what is guaranteed by cogito”. I will then describe how the self, when the self is understood in terms of a triadic relationship, – “me-self,” the negation of the “me-self,” and, the “I-self,” – offers a different conceptual basis from which to derive the “identity” inference without attaching itself to Descartes’ excess baggage, or, as this baggage is described by Hermans, et al., (1993, p. 39), “the existence of a unitary, closed, highly centralized subject or self, as an entity in itself, having an existence ‘above’ or ‘outside’ the social environment.”

With the triadic self-concept in place, I will then proceed to describe why “a relativity to a basis,” according to Evans (Ed. Cassam, 1994, p. 196), “becomes a conditional attribute of the self-ascription of mental predicates,” and, why acquiring knowledge (accessing the truth or falsity of knowledge) invokes an act of self-reference where the subject is required to reflect on the credibility, or basis, of the knowledge in question.

From this model of a triadic concept of self I will be able to forcefully argue that much of what Mead (1934) and James (1890) described as the socially generated component parts of self, is, in fact, an accurate description of self. However, I will also argue that, as a consequence of the conditional attribute of the self-ascription of mental predicates, a second, inner component of self is at work. It is this inner component of self that generates the salience of cognitive objects, and, in so far as this inner-self is capable of instantiating inner directed values, e.g., numbers, sets, multi-valued logics, this inner-self makes possible the hypothetical-deductive method of scientific explanation and prediction. It is relevant that the source of these inner values can be traced to the space that differentiates the self into a “neither this” (social), “nor that” (individual), circumstance, as opposed to Descartes’ “clear and distinct ideas” that, since the time of Descartes, have been identified as the source of these values. My discussion of science as a type of self-investigation of informational states should make this idea more clear. In lieu of this discussion I will cite literature on negation as it pertains to differentiation and affirmation (Billig, 1982; Blanco, 1975, Thoms, 1962, Gale, 1976).

After citing some friendly theoretical perspectives (Angyal, 1941; Jung, 1969; Billig, 1987 & 1982; Gregg, 1991; Hermans & Kempen 1993), that I believe are sympathetically disposed to my own position, – that of an ambivalence shunning, salience generating triadic self concept, – I will turn my attention to the literature of Self-Cognizing Research and the literature of Self-Inference Process and Motivation. In this literature clarifying insights and supportive empirical data will be cited.


One Response to “In The Mind Of The Bigot–Flight From Ambivalence”

  1. bwinwnbwi Says:

    The self-problem: “All the limitative Theorems of metamathematics and the theory of computation suggest that once the ability to represent your own structure has reached a certain critical point, that is the kiss of death: it guarantees that you can never represent yourself totally. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, Church’s Undecidability Theorem, Turing’s Halting Theorem, Tarski’s Truth Theorem—all have the flavor of some ancient fairy tale which warns you that “To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which…will always be incomplete, cannot be charted on any map, will never halt, cannot be described” (Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, p. 697).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: