Archive for October, 2009

We, Unlike The Rest Of Nature, Stand As A Problem To Ourselves

October 22, 2009

Similarities, dissimilarities, categorization, and particularization emerge from logi with their negations. Embedded in the set of differences out of which a particular arises, we find negation. Billig describes this condition, in the context of the rhetoric of argumentation, when he says: “Since the loci of arguments (the claim to essential set of differences) represent basic forms of thought, negation is a basic, even essential, characteristic of the thinking.” Nowhere is this clearer than in the agency of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. If it were not for the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self we would lack the capacity to: 1) become an “object” to ourselves, 2) access reflexive thought processes and self-narratives, and 3) make manifest the reflections that are most characteristically human.

The Structure Of Thinking-Inner Deliberations Or Silent Arguments Conducted Within A Single Self

The Interdependent Nature Of Logoi And Negation-The Paradox Is That These Two Processes Seem To Pull In Opposite Cognitive Directions: The One Pulls Towards The Aggregation Of Things And The Other Towards The Uniqueness Of Things

Billig argues that people in the real world are confronted by infinitely different stimuli and in order to keep from being overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of stimuli we mentally categorize these stimuli. In the management of our everyday affairs we apply these categories to our common sense knowledge of the world so that we can reasonably proceed with our daily affairs.

In Billig’s critique, he takes exception to the cognitive social psychological focus on categorical and inflexible aspects of thought processes. These one-sided theories see human thought “as aspiring to little more than the utility of an efficient computer” (Billig, 1987: 118). Concentrating on the categorical aspect of thinking ignores, according to Billig, the “inner deliberations [or] silent arguments conducted within a single self” (Billig. 1987: 5). Cognitive psychologists emphasize the inflexible aspects of thought processes because they practice what Billig calls the psychology of logos as they ignore the psychology of anti-logos. In order to avoid this failing, psychologists should see the basic psychological units of thoughts as pairs of conflicting processes. “If thinking is seen to be built upon conflicting tendencies,” according to Billig, “then there will be less danger of pushing the conflict between logos and anti-logos to a neglected siding. Instead, this conflict will be rooted in the psychological structure of thinking itself” (Billig, 1987: 119).

Billig argues that the structure of thinking is centered on categorization and particularization interdependence. It is just as important to see the specialness or uniqueness of a stimulus, as it is to see similarities among stimuli. In so far as one can identify an infinite amount of similarities among objects, one can also identify an infinite amount of dissimilarities among objects. For every good argument for the role played by categorization in cognition, there is an equally good argument for the role played by particularization in cognition. But, and this is Billig’s point, if we look too long or too hard at the details we risk wasting our energy and time, therefore, an examination of cognition must neither concentrate on the particularization component of cognition nor on the categorization component of cognition. According to Billig, what we end up with is the interdependent nature of two opposing processes: categorization and particularization. Billig states (1987: 134):

“Categorization and particularization, inasmuch as they refer to human thought processes, are not to be considered as two distinct capabilities, as separate, for example, as the olfactory and visual senses. The two processes are interrelated, at least as far as linguistic categories and particularities are concerned. In order to use categories, we must be able to particularize and vice versa. The paradox is that these two processes seem to pull in opposite cognitive directions: the one pulls towards the aggregation of things and the other towards the uniqueness of things. The result is that the human mind is equipped with the two contrary skills of being able to put things into categories and to treat them as special. Thus, our thought processes are not held in the thrall of a single process, which inevitably leads to a distorting narrow-mindedness. Nor do our basic cognitive processes merely function to provide psychological stability and order. They also provide the seeds of argumentation and deliberation, as our logoi of categorization are always liable to be opposed by our anti-logoi of particularization. However, in order to see how this might operate, we need to move from the perceptual metaphor, used in much cognitive psychology, to consider directly logoi and their negations.”

The Cognitive Dimension Of Ambivalence From Which Psyche And Self Follow

Embedded In The Set Of Differences Out Of Which A Particular Arises We Find Negation-It Is An Essential Characteristic Of Thinking

Billig’s critique of the interdependent nature of cognition may be unusual but it is not totally unfamiliar. Simmel’s identification of a person as a sociological category and as a stranger, and, Thom’s identification of ambivalence as the ground for human nature (the opposition between the modes of difference and no difference) are not all that different from Billig’s categorization/particularization interdependence that simultaneously pulls toward the aggregation of things, and, towards the uniqueness of things. It appears that Billig, with his concept of categorization/particularization interdependence, has, so to speak, put his finger on the cognitive dimension of ambivalence that, as Thom points out, “reproduce(s) its basic structure in every form it creates or observes”…and from which ”psyche and self follow” (Thom, 1984: xi).

But Billig’s description of thinking as that which takes place in terms of conflicting yet interdependent processes does more than just resonate similarities with Simmel’s and Thom’s views concerning a person, it also brings into focus the necessary role negation plays in the processing of thoughts.

The ability to categorize, according to Billig, presupposes the ability to particularize. The categorization of thoughts depends upon the opposing process of particularization because information must be “selected” before it can be categorized. There is, however, a requisite condition permitting the particularization of a particular and that is the essential set of differences out of which a particular arises. Embedded in the set of differences, out of which a particular arises, we find negation. Billig describes this condition, in the context of the rhetoric of argumentation, when he says: “[S]ince the loci of arguments [the claim to essential set of differences] represent basic forms of thought, negation is a basic, even essential, characteristic of thinking (Billig, 1987 : 139). We may conclude from Billig’s analysis of categorization/particularization interdependence that negation is an essential constituent of thinking conscious thoughts.

If, in the processing of thoughts we exercise negation, then negation is a necessary constituent in the project of self as it “constitutes itself,” according to Giddens (1991: 244), “through the reflexive ordering of self-narratives.” Nowhere is this clearer than in the agency of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. Just as Billig argued when he said that people must categorize stimuli to keep from being overwhelmed by a constant bombardment of stimuli, it is argued here that the agency of self, the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, requires an affirmation of self to keep from being overwhelmed by a constant bombardment of stimuli (the not-me-self stimuli). Without this affirmation a person risks disenfranchisement, dislocation and self-image, self-esteem problems.

Beyond self-affirmation, however, there are additional efficacies in the negative facet of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. If it were not for the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self we would lack the capacity to; 1) become an “object” to ourselves, 2) access reflexive thought processes and self-narratives, and 3) make manifest the reflections that are most characteristically human. L.C. Simpson (1995: 29), in his reflections on the nature of self-understanding, states: “We, unlike the rest of nature, stand as a problem to ourselves. How are we to make sense of our lives? How are we to comport ourselves? What stories are we enacting and ought we to enact?”


The Root Basis Of Self—Negation

October 16, 2009

Descartes, in his own fashion, placed the essence of Being in thinking. He affirmed, with absolute certainty, and through a second order affirmation, his own existence. But, this certainty followed from the logic, not his physical condition. It is the “thinking of thoughts” that the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self implies, and the thought that is being thought would not be thought if it were not for the negation of the me-self, the negation of biography.

Negation Is A Second Degree Affirmation–Not-Me-Self Affirmation

In The Highest Tradition Of Rationalism, Descartes Places The Essence Of Being In Thinking

Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self

It is somewhat ironic that the implicative nature of negation, in its most significant form, can be traced back to the man who is given the tribute, according to Hermans and Kempen (1993 : 2), of being “the founder of Enlightenment, an era in which questions relating to the body were increasingly answered in terms of physical, mechanical, and biochemical explanations.” Descartes (1650), the seventeenth-century French philosopher, is also recognized for giving the Western world the notorious mind–body split which not only separates mind and body, it also separates self and others. When we speak in terms of the outside world as an “objective, matter of fact reality,” we are using Cartesian terminology and, in the process, following a 17th Century line of thought, whether we want to or not.

Descartes, using his method of systematically doubting the existence of everything in the mental and physical world, concluded, with absolute certainty, that the only thing he could not doubt was that he exists. In his imaginary battle with the wicked demon who possessed mind-controlling powers, Descartes concludes in his second meditation, according to Flew (1979: 91), “I am, I exist, is necessarily, true as often as I put it forward or conceive of it in my mind.” This argument is expressed in the Discourse in the form “I think, [doubt] therefore I am.” Descartes, in his attempt to escape the powers of his imaginary controlling demon arrives at absolute certainty by shutting his eyes, stopping up his ears, and eliminating from his thoughts all images of bodily things. In this way, Descartes realized his famous Cogito, ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”). For Descartes, negation (doubt) is at the heart of a person’s I-ness.

[Footnote.Toms (1962: 72) puts this idea in its simplest form when he states: “The paradox of non-existence is most simply stated by saying that, in so far as a negative existential proposition seems to be about the very object or objects denied existence, it presupposes their existence.” Further, Gale (1976: 43-44), in support of his own thesis in which negation is itself held to be a higher order affirmation, recounts some of the people who have argued that affirmation is in some sense “prior” to negation. He states:

“According to Sigwart (1885:119), a negative judgment is not as primitive as a positive one because it ‘presupposes the positive attribution of a predicate, and has its meaning only in contradicting or annulling such an affirmation.’ This theme is echoed, with modifications, by both Bradley and Bosanquet. For Bradley (1922: 114), a negative judgment occurs on a higher level than a positive one because in affirmation we refer an ideal content to reality while in negation we deny that some real X accepts this ideal content. “The primitive basis of affirmation is the coalescence of idea with perception. But mere non-coalescence of an idea with perception is a good deal further removed…” Bosanquet expressed a similar view in (1911: 280): ‘Negation is a degree more remote from reality than is affirmation,’ for while an affirmation can be given as a fact a negation is ‘made by setting an ideal reality over against real reality and finding them incongruous.’ Bergson, although he differed radically from the idealist logicians, nevertheless followed them on this point. He wrote (1944: 313) that ‘negation…differs from affirmation… in that it is an affirmation of the second degree: it affirms something of an affirmation which itself affirms something of an object.’”]

Of course, what Descartes actually discovered with his Cogito argument is that the existence of the thing, which cannot be doubted, is, in fact, the thought that is being thought, not the “I” that is thinking the thought. Descartes’ inference, according to Anscombe, can be described as: “The thinking that thinks this thought–that is what is guaranteed by cogito” (Cassam, 1994: 152). But, to give Descartes his do (without, of course accepting Descartes’ excess baggage, or what Hermans and Kempen (1993: 39) describe as “…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,” Descartes, in the highest tradition of rationalism, placed the essence of being in thinking.

The Process Of Thinking Is Reflexively Oriented Within Biography And Its Negation

The Self Consists Of A System Of Me/Not Me Oppositions—When “I” Appears In Memory, It Has Already Become A “Me”

It is the “thinking of thoughts” that the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self implies, and the thought that is being thought would not be thought if it were not for the negation of the me-self. In other words, the give and take that goes into the process of thinking is reflexively orientated within biography, and, the negation of biography, instead of within the “me” and the “I” as Mead would have it.

[Footnote. According to Hermans and Kempen (1993 : 119), Gregg, recognizing that biography and the negation of biography are pivot points within which the “self” develops, argues:

“[T]hat the self consists, not of a collection of Me attributions, as cognitive personality theories would have it, nor of ego-syntonic identifications, as most psychoanalytic personality theories would have it, but of a system of Me/not Me oppositions. He holds that every Me attribution or identification must have at least two defining relations (implying at least two meanings); a positing, which establishes the self as the presence of something, and a negation, which establishes the self as the absence or opposite of something else. However, the ‘thing’ negated also must be, in some sense, the same sort of entity as the ‘thing’ posited.”]

If, in the following quote, you replace the words biography and negation with Mead’s “me” and “I” reference, then Mead could just as easily be talking about the not-me-self, as opposed to the I/me couplet, when he states (1934: 182):

“The ‘me’ (biography) and the ‘I’ (negation) lie in the process of thinking and they indicate the give-and-take which characterizes it. There would not be an ‘I’ (negation) in the sense in which we use that term if there were not a ‘me’ (biography); there would not be a ‘me’ (biography) without a response in the form of the ‘I’ (negation). These two, as they appear in our experience, constitute the personality.”

In a like manner, using the words negation and biography in place of the “I” and “me” allows for a more consistent reading of Mead when he says (1934:174):

“The ‘I’ (negation) of this moment is present in the ‘me’ (biography) of the next moment. There again I cannot turn around quick enough to catch myself…. If you ask, then, where directly in your own experience the ‘I’ (negation) comes in, the answer is that it comes in as a historical figure. It is what you were a second ago that is the ‘I’ (negation) of the ‘me’ (biography).”

In the reflexivity of biography and its negation, biography is in syncopation with Mead’s “me” and the implicative affirmative (of the not-me-self) is in syncopation with Mead’s “I.” In this way logical consistency reinforces Mead’s claim when he says: “…[T]he actor never catches sight of himself or herself as ‘I.’ The ‘I’ appears in memory, it has already become a ‘me’” (Mead, 1934: 171).

Although the above passages cited from Mead are consistent with how the normal give-and-take of thought processing proceeds, Billig’s (1987) critique–concerning cognitive psychology’s penchant for describing the thinking process in terms of basic units of thought, –offers a more cogent description of the thinking process.

Newsflash Extra Extra Proof Of Gods Existence

October 9, 2009

Here’s something different. Think of this post as being consistent with my thesis/story, but not part of it. My thesis, unbeknownst to my Professors at the time, succeeded on two levels. First, it satisfied a degree requirement, and second, it enhanced my argument for the existence of God, an argument that predated my studies in Sociology. In so far as the Not-Me-Self is a value assessment mechanism that critiques the inner deliberations [or] silent arguments conducted within a single self, it does so by using a voice based in self/other interdependence. In my argument below, this voice not only establishes God’s existence, it also establishes the right of the “Other’s otherness,” as it binds a person’s “self” to “others,” to society, and to the Universe at large. For me, the possibility of “right thinking” and “good behavior” necessarily follows from God/Divinity. On a more personal level, however, what also follows from Divinity (but not necessarily) are my inner deliberations that identify “right and wrong.”

[Mead’s I-self, in the God argument below, is symbolically indicated by ~bb, while Mead’s Me-self is indicated by b~b. Being What Is Not While Not Being What Is, when understood in this light, describes “the participatory moment of a conscious self in the physical event of a self-conscious being.” With this interpretation of Mead’s I-Me couplet, and by using survey research to link certain kinds of private self-conscious activity to a tolerance of ambiguity and, thus, a low level of prejudice, I was able to accumulate empirical data (scientific evidence) that not only gives the concept of the Implicative Affirmative of the Not-Me-Self credibility, it also adds indirect evidence that supports my claim that God exists.]

Lift A Stone And God Is There; Ask A Question And God Is There — My Argument For Why God Exists

In The Beginning was the paradox: How does unity coexist with multiplicity? How does oneness make room for otherness? How does the all-perfect source of everything become something less than itself? God, being up for this challenge, solved this dilemma, and She (gender is optional here, in fact, it’s probably best to think of God in terms of process, in terms of “processing divinity”) did it by liberating Her own non-being. This event had to be performed in such a way as to both be and not be God in the same phenomenon. Her solution is doable, even logically doable, in the form of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In this double negation, God becomes free in the phenomenon of not, not being God, (~~b) while affirming (by implication) the God that is free to not be God. In other words, the liberation of God’s non-being becomes God’s immanence while, at the same time, there exists an implied transcendent God. God’s immanence is particularly important to humans because it is what we call “reality.”

[Footnote: The idea that God is free to not be God is unusual but not unique. In the journal, Deconstruction and Theology (1982, p. 89-90), Robert P. Scharlemann, in the article The Being of God When God is Not Being God, adds some documentation to this idea when he says: “The thesis I should like to propound here is that, in the theological tradition of this picture (the concept of finite being as ens creatum) is that the world is itself a moment in the being of God; what cannot be thought is that the world is the being of God when God is not being deity, or the being of God in the time of not being.”

It follows from this view that an infinite amount of diversity is both permitted and discovered in God’s freedom to not be, a diversity that, ultimately, is at one with God. What makes this possible (and logically consistent) is the peculiar state of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is, for, in addition to characterizing God’s freedom, this divine state of being also characterizes the liberation process that evolves God’s freedom (God becomes more free as freedom evolves) and this freedom, ultimately, characterizes physical events, biological events, and psychological events, (or the divine self-consciousness of “now”).]

Pure change, or that which is both release and preservation, bond and liberation, is what’s happening within the polarity of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is,–the defining poles of God’s immanence. Unqualified change is simply change, but this change, over time, evolves into more complex forms of change, eventually creating the conditions that support life. But even here change is ongoing, life in its environment continues to change and evolve, bringing forth more evolved, complex forms of life. And, as life acquires more consciousness, freedom expands.

Evolution, in addition to evolving content, evolves “form.” A change in form is not necessarily a change in meaning however, e.g., two means 2, 1+1 means 2, 4-2 means 2. In the same way that the meaning of the number 2 is conserved in the subtraction of 120 from 122, so to is the meaning of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is, conserved in the decay/death cycle of life. This birth/death cycle is God’s way of conserving non-being in feeling-sensing life forms that evolve from simple to more complex life forms.

Some evolved life forms become sentient, sentient to the point of answering to a more highly evolved “form.” One might be tempted to imagine that I am suggesting the existence of an alien creature here, one that walks among us yet is not one of us. True, aliens do exist, but we walk among them because we are them. Life forms that answer to a “more evolved form” are the symbol producing, problem solving, psychologically complex life forms that go by the name Homo sapiens. Being born into this select population, being alive in the species that “answers to this more evolved form,” brings with it not just self-awareness in a physical environment (the participatory moment of a conscious self in the physical event of a self-conscious being), but also the immense potential to expand one’s freedom and horizons. What I am trying to communicate here is unfamiliar, so what follows is my attempt to simplify the language with a picture, a picture of the “forms” that, ultimately, culminates in the species that “answers to a higher “form” of God’s freedom:

Let the V image represent God’s freedom. Let the left side of the V represent the empirical world (the world of our senses) and the right side of the V represent the liberating aspect of freedom. Identify the vertex, the bottom of V, as ~~b (the purist form of unity). Somewhere above the V vertex, on the freedom side of the V, let the letter b represent life and ~b represent the negative space of life (~b on the empirical side). Life moves freedom forward and in this case upward too. Further up the V, let ~bb (discontinuity occurring in continuity) represent the next transformation state of freedom—the participatory moment of a conscious self, and let b~b (continuity occurring in discontinuity) represent, on the empirical side of the V, the physical event of self-consciousness. With the advent of self-consciousness, freedom again moves forward. The V grows larger (and wider) as the story of the history of human civilization unfolds.

What the above transformational states of God’s freedom are defining is God in the phenomenal world as immanence while simultaneously implying a transcendent Divinity (the God of all religions). All we can know about transcendent God is that God exists. The space of logical implication tells us that much. On the other hand, we can know a great deal about God’s immanence because, as the ancient Greeks have told us, in Mythos and Logos is where the world lies. We, as self-conscious beings, embedded in sensual experience, participate in inquiry, analysis, conscience, and imagination. Now, let’s take a closer look at what the form of ~bb, (of b~b~bb) entails, i.e., the freedom to think thoughts.

Discontinuity occurring in continuity (~bb) is like a chisel splitting wood, the wood (conscious wood in this example) experiences a gap, hole, or emptiness in itself. Likewise, in human consciousness, the gap, hole, or emptiness experienced is the result of discontinuity occurring in the continuity of consciousness. This experience (some call it psychological time), when deconstructed, has produced a litany of accomplishments. Descartes turned this experience into doubt and then proceeded to doubt everything, thus concluding that doubting implied a doubter, thus Descartes established the validity of his own existence. The psychologist and structuralist, Piaget, identified this experience as the center of functional activity, or the locus of the “constructionist self.” The philosopher, Sartre, labeled this experience the pre-reflective Cogito, thus recognizing that human consciousness is based in this experience. Of the three examples cited, only Sartre put the horse in front of the cart as opposed to (as they say) putting the cart before the horse. Non-being is the antecedent of understanding. Non-being is the antecedent of any stand alone “mental given.”

“Mental givens” are experienced front and center in consciousness (the unreflective consciousness) while not being the object of consciousness permits conscious reflection on the content (the “mental given”) of consciousness. Functionally, ~bb, or the cognitive experience of discontinuity occurring in continuity, not only identifies the source of conceptual representation (symbolic meaning), it also explains why our thoughts should be able to represent the world outside our mind (especially when it comes to the application of mathematics to theories of physical phenomena). It should come as no surprise that since both the world and our ideas are coupled to the logical form of God, that, on many occasions, a necessary correspondence arises between logical form (deductive reasoning) and the physical events predicted by that form. In other words, the laws of nature correspond to the laws of mathematics reflected in our minds because both are based on a more fundamental law–the logical form of God becoming freer in the phenomenal world. Applying this supposition to the variances that crop up in comparisons of the physics of the macro world to the physics of the micro world produces some revealing insights. (Disclaimer here, I read books “about physics,” I am not physicist. The supposition I am defending, however, is that both the universe and our ideas are coupled to the logical form of God, thus the physics of the universe, on one level at least, must be describing the same phenomenon).

Determinism, locality and continuity allow for the reductionist methods of science to work only until science penetrates deep into that area where the integrity of the physical universe breaks down, where the deterministic motions of mass points no longer exist. At the depths of the material world there exists a fuzzy world that exhibits statistical behavior, behavior that only becomes determinate when we observe it. At this ground level, we find a physical reality with no uniquely determinable location, a physical reality that exists in several states at the same time, a physical reality structured by a mathematical equation. In God’s non-being, or, in this context I guess I should say, in the theory of freedom’s structural form, two “forms” stand out as a way to better understand the contradictory concepts which remain at odds with one another in the theory of relativity and quantum physics.

The same attributes (discontinuity, indeterminism and non-locality) that characterize self-consciousness, characterize also the “double negation” that serves as the ground of freedom. Both of these “forms” generate implication. At the “ground of freedom” implication remains open (until observed), while in self-consciousness, implication opens up the human world-historical-process. In other words, the negation that lies at the center of self-consciousness, the negation that permits our capacity to solve mathematical equations, lies also at the “ground that serves as the ground of freedom.” Because observation takes place in the space of continuity, determinism and locality (self-consciousness’s negative space) there is an unavoidable clash of worlds—the world of continuity, determinism and locality (relativity) clashes with the world of discontinuity, indeterminism, and non-locality (quantum physics). Bottom line here is that the theory of relativity accurately describes natural phenomena. Einstein’s equations, when applied to the world of physical events, provide accurate information concerning our status as participating agents in the physical universe. Likewise, quantum mechanics accurately describes natural phenomena. Only the phenomena being described are “fuzzy” because, as it is throughout freedom’s dialectic, the space that separates also embeds and connects. On the quantum level, self-consciousness confronts its own ground state in the form of the phenomenal strangeness of quantum physics.

Ultimately, from the most holistic perspective, the connection that connects logical form, world, and freedom tells us: Were it not for the negative space of determinism, continuity, and locality, the discontinuity, non-locality, and indeterminism of human consciousness (opposites are necessary to conserve wholeness) would not be free in a world of our own experience (by degrees, experience of our own choosing), seeking truth, justice, and religious meaning!

To sum up my spiritual worldview as it relates to modern science (the three physicists I paraphrase and quote here are described in Ken Wilber’s book: Quantum Questions, Mystical Writings of the World’s Greatest Physicists): My worldview is very close to what Wolfgang Pauli believed. A Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Pauli, earned a reputation for being a ruthless critic of ideas during the time when physics was birthing the principles governing sub atomic particles. His contributions were numerous, including the famous “exclusion principle” and the prediction of the existence of the neutrino. At the center of Pauli’s philosophical outlook was his “wish for a unitary understanding of the world, a unity incorporating the tension of opposites,” and he hailed the interpretation of quantum theory as a major development toward this end. (p. 173)

My worldview is also very sympathetic to the profound reverence Einstein held for rationality. Einstein believed that scientific knowledge ennobles true religion—not the religion that inspires fear in God, but rather a religion “capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself.” For Einstein, “the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence” was the highest religious attitude. (p.113)

But, even more than with Pauli and Einstein, my worldview resonates with what Arthur Eddington believed. He was possibly the first person to fully comprehend Einstein’s relativity theory. He also headed up the famous expedition that photographed the solar eclipse which offered proof of relativity theory. Eddington believed that if you want to fill a vessel you must first make it hollow. He also said, “our present conception of the physical world is hollow enough to hold almost anything,” hollow enough to hold “that which asks the question,” hollow enough to hold “the scheme of symbols connected by mathematical equations that describes the basis of all phenomena.” He also said, however, “If ever the physicist solves the problem of the living body, he should no longer be tempted to point to his result and say ‘That’s you.’ He should say rather ‘That is the aggregation of symbols which stands for you in my description and explanation of those of your properties which I can observe and measure. If you claim a deeper insight into your own nature by which you can interpret these symbols—a more intimate knowledge of the reality which I can only deal with by symbolism—you can rest assured that I have no rival interpretation to propose. The skeleton is the contribution of physics to the solution of the Problem of Experience; from the clothing of the skeleton it (physics) stands aloof.” (p. 194)

In my God argument above, without the Not-Me-Self, science, books, ethics, all that gets called civilization would not exist. The Not-Me-Self has an even greater significance, though, for in it resides the potential to liberate Divinity. The Implicative Affirmative of the Not-Me-Self is, in fact, the Logos image of God made whole in woman/man/humanity.

I want to conclude this post with a brief account of the social implications that follow from the Not-Me-Self (the “~bb” of b~b~bb). In addition to liberating human cognition, the Not-Me-Self also liberates good and bad feelings. The “or else,” that typically follows a command, is written in the blood of the rise and fall of civilizations. The civilizing process, to be sure, is not just a product of war mongering, influence peddling, and greed. Benevolence, generosity and good will move the civilizing process forward. I believe that, under the best of conditions, humans will choose kindness and consideration over uncaring and selfish behavior. In fact, for me, altruism, compassion, the “golden rule” (in all its forms) defines the Omega point of Divine liberation. This is not just wishful thinking; it is the only voice that calls forth from the Not-Me-Self. Because this voice is based in self/other interdependence, whose only claim to authority is a claim to contingency, this voice grounds individual freedoms and the emancipatory right of Others. This contingency, at the center of the Not-Me-Self, establishes the right of the Other to his/her otherness while it also establishes the basis of legitimacy from which to construct, express, and defend my own rights. Because this voice is universal, it also provides an ideal basis from which to critique the legitimatization of social and political power structures, as it also provides the ideal basis from which to evaluate justice, equality, and individual and collective freedoms.

Following from the right to my own contingency, and following from the right of the Other to her/his contingency, arises the politics of emancipation. This politics entails 1) the freeing of social life from the fixities of tradition and custom, 2) the reduction (or elimination) of exploitation, inequality and oppression (which includes the right to a living wage, universal health care, and protection from wrongful harms), and 3) the liberation of Divinity—the perpetuation of a more egalitarian social order, a social order that is based on insuring the availability of a standard of living (quality of life) sufficient for the actualization of individual freedoms. In other words, in the language of “how one ought to behave,” one should behave in a way that is consistent with Divinity’s liberation, consistent with self/other interdependence, consistent with life enhancement—righting the wrongs that perpetuate unnecessary suffering and pain.

The Non Being Of Rationality The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self

October 7, 2009

By replacing the I/me distinction with the concept of the implicative affirmative of the not-me self self-autonomy and self-reflexivity increases while the novelty and originality that identifies Mead’s I-self, his psychological mechanism for the inner restructuring of experience into self and other, and his theory of developmental stages is preserved and enhanced.

The Not-Me-Self Identifies A Person’s Biography And The Self/Other

In Order To Simplify The Continuity/Discontinuity Distinction, Provide A Theoretically Consistent Interpretation Of Collective Voices Of The Generalized Other, And Account For The Ambivalent-Like Condition Of What Simmel And Thom Suggest Lies At The Seat Of Self-Conscious Activity, I Propose That Mead’s Concept Of The I/Me Couplet Be Replaced With The Concept Of The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self

Mead reversed the content of the I/Me distinction, which, originally, was a psychological construct created by James to describe a multiplicity of social selves.

[Footnote. James’ multiplicity of social selves preceded Mead’s generalized other. It was James who said: “…a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their mind” (James, 1890:294). Hermans and Kempen concede this point and state that in their position, “…the concept of collective voice comes… closer to James than to Mead” (Hermans and Kempen, 1993:119)]

For Mead, the me-self, as it accounts for the rules and conventions of the generalized other, guaranteed continuity of self. The me-self, for James, on the other hand, since it guaranteed the multiple social selves that are occasioned in a heterogeneous society, accounted for the self’s discontinuities, that is, the multiple varieties of social selves that a person identifies with. The I-self, on the other hand, in Mead, was identified with novelty and originality and therefore gave an account of the self’s discontinuous nature. But, for James, the I-self unified all the separate, socially generated me-selves that are occasioned in society (the I takes the position of “mine” for every me-self), thus, the I-self guaranteed the continuity of self. In order to arrive at his concept of the collective voice of the generalized other, Hermans and Kempen, had to adapt James’ version of the continuity/discontinuity distinction of the I-self and me-self.

As has already been noted, the basis for Mead’s social behaviorism resides in his characterization of the logical structure of meaning. It is in the triadic relation between gesture, adjustive response, and resultant of the social act which the gesture initiates, where socially generated meanings arise. More specifically, this meaning (the location of the stimulus) becomes processed in the adjustive response, that is, the I/me couplet, where the subject reflexively indicates to herself/himself the significances that her/his actions or gestures have for other individuals. In order to simplify the continuity/discontinuity distinction, provide a theoretically consistent interpretation of the collective voices of the generalized other, and, account for the ambivalent-like condition that Simmel and Thom suggest lies at the seat of self-consciousness activity, I propose that Mead’s concept of the I/me couplet be replaced with the concept of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. In other words, a more appropriate interpretation for the adjustive response component of Mead’s triadic relation characterizing the logical structure of meaning will be found in the relational qualities of the concept of the implicative affirmation of the negated me-self.

Put simply, the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self identifies both a person’s biography and the social and psychological mechanism for the inner restructuring of experience into self and other. By biography I mean any component of self; that is, the expressive and limiting aspects of one’s personal history that can be brought to bear on the present experience of the person. “The human animal’s past,” according to Mead (1934:116), “is constantly present in the facility with which he acts….”

The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self Affirms Biography

The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self Is Consistent With Mead’s Concept Of Self While It Adds Increased Capacity For Self-Autonomy And Self-Reflexivity

For Mead, a person who acts rationally does so based on her/his ability to indicate the significance of past events to another person or to herself/himself. From this indicative act emerges the significance of possible future events, events that, via the act of rational reflection, permits the person a certain amount of autonomy and control in the implementation of her/his future.

[Footnote. It is this indicative act based in rational self-reflection that Angyal (1941) identified with the symbolic part of the biological subject. According to Angyal, it was this symbolic state within the biological state that permitted a person to greatly increase her/his autonomy and control.]

The not-me-self, as a linguistic expression, is meant to characterize the functional mechanism relating to how a person is going to respond in terms of her/his substantive identity and behavior in any given situation.

When Mead describes, in his characterization of the logical structure of meaning, the response on the part of the second organism to the gesture of the first, the second organism is there as a presence-to herself/himself, in addition to being there as, a presence-to the first organism. The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is located in this presence-to of the organism, as an affirmation of the organism’s history.

[Footnote. A person’s past experience in the present is what is being affirmed in the not-me-self. Sartre (1966: 176), in his description of what is implied in the concept of “presence” develops this idea when he says: “Anything which can be present to must be such in its being that there is in it a relation of being with other beings. I can be present to this chair only if I am there in the being of the chair as not being the chair. A being which is present to can not be at rest “in-itself….”]

Specifically, in Mead’s context of the relation between gesture, adjustive response, and resultant of the social act, which the gesture initiates, the second organism is called to respond to the first organism’s gesture by first sifting through its own historical experience (memory) in order to come up with an “appropriate response” to the first organism’s gesture. Once this meaningful historical content is identified (the interpretation of the gesture), then the organism reacts. After the second organism “responds appropriately,” the first organism is, in a like manner, expected to respond in kind. This is how the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self substitutes for Mead’s I-self in Mead’s conversation of gestures.

In Mead’s theory of child developmental stages, the concept of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self acts in a similar manner. In terms of early child development the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is the same as Mead’s functional mechanism for learning behavior; that is, a child, by engaging in role taking, becomes socialized to cultural norms. This developmental process is permitted because a person is capable of acting toward herself/himself in the same manner that she/he acts toward other people. In this respect, it is the generalized other and the social organization represented by the generalized other that gives continuity to the not-me-self.

The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is consistent with Mead’s concept of self while it adds to Mead’s concept of self an increased capacity for self-autonomy and self-reflexivity. The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, in addition to being able to take the role of the “other”, is also able to refrain from taking the role of the “other”. For instance, in as much as a child learns how to respond to others, —how to resist, retaliate, giveaway, co-operate, exchange, reward, punish, joke, obey, request, compose, describe, criticize, remain silent, etc., —the child also learns how to apply these same techniques to herself/himself, and, in as much as she/he applies these same techniques to herself/himself, she/he is reflexively acting out the capacity to negate the me-self. It is in the utilization of the capacity to negate the me-self where inner self-deliberations are carried on and through these inner self-deliberations a person accesses the strength to reverse the internalization process which, if left unchecked, produces “over socialized agents.” But, if we are to understand how the individualization process occurs we must first ask what is implied by negation?