Archive for November, 2009

The Footprint–Determinism

November 26, 2009

Yes, God has a physical footprint and it’s grounded in the Logos of existence as it is described in the “the new model of the observer/observed relationship.” Accordingly, we live in a universe that, on one level, is deterministic, while, on another level, is less deterministic. However, the entire universe is comprehensible by people who can comprehend—you, me, and the scientist. Also, according to this Logos, death is not “the end;” rather, death is like the off ramp of one highway merging on to another highway—all energy far from equilibrium, eventually, must take this “off ramp.” However, information generated on the highway of life moves full speed ahead (by reproduction and natural selection, on the one hand, and by culture—language, books, libraries, etc., on the other hand). And, finally, we live in a universe where comprehensibility begins and ends in duality. Initially, this duality begins with the wave/particle duality of conjugate variables, and later, this duality is defined by human intelligence embedded in the physical events. The boundaries that shape God’s footprint then are defined by the duality that constitutes the comprehensibility of the universe, e.g., ~~b (wave/particle duality), ~bb (accommodation/assimilation of living creatures duality), and, b~b~bb (the duality of physical event/human intelligence).

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Godzilla was when Matthew Broderick found himself in a huge hole searching for Godzilla’s footprint. The craterlike hole and the footprint were one, but Godzilla’s footprint was off the scale of any footprint Matthew had ever encountered so it remained hidden from him until a military officer pointed out that he was standing in the middle it. In a like manner, we are standing in the middle of God’s footprint, the breath of which begins in the quasi-material world described by quantum physics, extends up into Einstein’s space-time continuum and is as deep as what is humanly possible to imagine. Since we know the parameters of the footprint, we can extrapolate a shape that is much more manageable. The footprint is shaped like a piece of pie! The space-time continuum exists in the mind’s eye of the physicist, but the rest of us know this continuum only through its effect on (some) physical events, so let the physical event represent one end of the piecrust and at the other end of the crust sits the observer. Both the physical event edge of the pie and the observer edge of the pie comes together at the narrow slivered end of the pie piece. Let the slivered part of the pie represent the quasi-material world of quantum phenomena.

The physical event, or that which we see, smell, taste, touch, and hear, occurs along the physical event edge of the pie piece while the comprehensibility aspect of the universe occurs along the pie piece’s observer’s edge. In other words, the physical event side represents what I (and Northrop) call the aesthetic continuum while the observer’s edge of the pie— or that which, in one form or another, senses an environment, — represents “liberation from the aesthetic continuum.” As always, from the human observer’s point of view, the aesthetic continuum is subject to an analytical account, or the hypothetical deductive method which postulates the public side of the continuum, and of course, there is the more personal, relative, experiential aspect of that continuum, one’s own individual, relative experience of it. The public side of the continuum, though, thanks to the advances of Relativity and quantum physics has changed the meaning and significance of the physical event, and that change woke me from my drunken slumber (my drunken slumber comment is a very loose paraphrase of Kant’s comment on Hume’s critique of Locke’s theory of knowledge). Of course, the implications of Relativity theory and quantum mechanics are still being debated (after ninety years and counting) and I, like so many more, am eagerly waiting to see how it turns out. Fortunately, I’m not holding my breath,—which brings me to a brief description of my upcoming posts.

While trying to comprehend the meaning of the “new physics” awhile back, I wrote some dialogue. The dialogue below deals mostly with Relativity theory. Next week’s post wanders in and out of Relativity theory and quantum mechanics. After that, well, I’m only sure of a post on the observer, or the connecting link that shapes God’s footprint. After that maybe a post on temporality etc. etc., time will tell.

Our old Professor friends, — the philosopher, Noel, the physicist, Tony, and the English Professor, Stan, — have been discussing this situation (the significance of the physical event), so perhaps they can make this idea more clear?

“Maybe Noel,” interrupted Tony, “you’re referring to a different Einstein. The one that I thought we were talking about is the one who eliminated the confusion concerning space and time. We have known for a long time that people in other cultures experience space and time differently. But that’s the beauty of Einstein’s work; now we can all agree that space-time intervals are the same for everybody, even for space aliens traveling at close to the speed of light. We now know that the length of a space-time interval between any two events is the same for everybody.”
“Okay, Tony, if you want to jump into the thick of it, than lets do it,” replied Noel. “The space-time interval, what’s it based on?”
“The speed of light, or rather the constancy of the velocity of light,” Tony responded. “You and I share the same space-time, but my space and your space, and my time and your time, are the same only when we are at rest relative to each other. We live in our own private worlds of space and time, but in the new public domain of space-time, space and time are the same for everybody. In fact, the intrinsic structure of space-time accounts for the constancy of the velocity of light for all observers.”

“Do you know why?” said Noel.
“Sure,” responded Tony, “it has to do with the implications of relativity theory. In the mathematics of space-time, Minkowski, Einstein’s mathematics professor, showed that even though the Pythagorean theorem does not work in space-time, something like the Pythagorean theorem is still at work. In Euclid’s geometry the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of its two sides. In the geometry of space-time, the distance between two events, like in the Pythagorean theorem, is equal to the time interval squared minus the space interval squared, however, that minus is the reverse of what takes place in the geometry of Euclid. Subtracting, instead of adding the two intervals, produces four-dimensional space-time. In space-time the distance between two events connected by a light ray becomes zero. Light rays coming at us from outer space take time to reach us, but in space-time no distance is traveled. That’s one of the incredible results that follow from Einstein’s theory. And that is also why the speed of light is constant for all observers. In space-time light is just there, everywhere.”

“I’m just a little confused,” said Noel, “If light doesn’t go anywhere, how can we know that the length of a space-time interval between any two events is the same for everybody?”
“Because of the constancy of light’s velocity,” Tony replied.
“So what you’re saying is that time doesn’t change, just space?” said Noel. “Is that the answer? Don’t answer that. There’s ‘no’ time to answer, right? Anyway, Einstein’s field equations dictate the space of space-time, and, as you have all ready pointed out Tony, we can agree upon the measured value of space-time. Is that about right?”
“Well, a stab in time will get you nine,” Tony muttered. “You know damn well what I’m talking about Noel. It’s just that you don’t like it. You won’t accept that in the cosmic scheme of things, you and I, and everybody else, are just world lines. That past, present, and future may, or may not, possess meaning scares the hell out of you. You hate the idea that your private frame of reference might be limited and meaningful only to you. Einstein’s universe attacks your sense of freedom, your dignity. Well I’ve got news for you. Nobody was more concerned about dignity than the old man. He didn’t bemoan the fact that he wasn’t God. It was enough for him to peer into the heart of nature, or the mind of God if you prefer to call it that, and understand what was really going on. It was enough for him to know that all human beings had this gift, but how it was used was a person’s own business. Denying it, however, was not dignified. It was just plain stupid; and anyway, what about the effects, the predictable consequences of Einstein’s theory? If they don’t occur in reality then where do they occur?”

“Right where they are predicted to occur,” Noel replied, “in the surrounding manifold of our sensual experience. Nature, or the name that we give to that manifold, takes in everything we can see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and explain. Space, as an ontological entity, in the theory of general relativity, doesn’t exist. The being of space has been replaced with purely methodological considerations. What space ‘is,’ or whether any definite character can be attributed to it, is no longer a concern. Rather, we must be concerned with the geometrical presuppositions, the ‘ideal meanings’ that get used in the interpretation of the phenomena that we ascribe to nature according to law.”
“I’m getting tired of this,” said Tony. “Science gets done and benefits follow, which, really, is all we have to worry about, right Stan? How come you’re so quiet, anyway? That’s not like you. Are you sick or something?”
“I’m fine. You know me, quiet as a mouse, but sharp as a tack,” said Stan. There’s a time for talking and time for listening. I’ve been enjoying the latter. Let me try to simplify this conversation, eh fellows; that is, after I throw another log on the fire.”
“Always the educator, eh Stan,” said Tony, “but that’s why we love ya.”

“Take nature for instance,” responded Stan, “for you Tony, its independent of the observer. It’s a bit complicated, but knowable, and it exists before one begins to experiment on it. That’s not the case for Noel. For him, nature does not exist independent from the observer. In fact, questions asked concerning nature, for Noel at least, actually brings nature into existence. And, he looks to quantum mechanics to substantiate that claim. On that level, the physical world seems to emerge from observations made on it. Any argument there fellows?”

“You’ve got the stage,” replied Noel, “go for it.”
“Now for the hard part,” said Stan, “On the one hand we have Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and on the other hand we have quantum theory. Both theories are proven successes, but when taken together they are out of joint. The equations that describe the gravitational field are completely different from the one’s that describe subatomic interactions. Moreover, space and time are intimately related in relativity theory. They are dependent on the state of motion of the observer. In quantum theory space and time are not tied to existence at all. As far as a person’s limited reason is concerned, there is no quantum world, just an abstract quantum physical description. Given this confusing state of affairs, it would be doctrinaire and dogmatic to say that one theory is better than the other, or that one is talking sense and the other is lacking in it. Right fellows?”
“Who’s patronizing now,” said Tony.
“Guilty as charged,” responded Stan, “I guess nobody’s perfect. For you Tony, the mind’s ability to discover reality’s true nature is a religious belief, just like it was for Einstein. If Einstein had a religious belief, it was that the world is comprehensible and objective.”
“I’d probably go to church, if I could sit next to Einstein,” Tony replied.

“As I was saying,” said Stan, “under the rule of cause and effect everything has its place and time, but that is not what works for you Noel. Knowledge, for Noel, constitutes what we take to be the physical world, and new knowledge may substantially alter that world. In other words, over time, both knowledge and the perceived field that we find ourselves in changes. Both Cassirer and Kant agreed on this. The function of the mind’s capacity to connect meaning to sensual contents goes beyond sensual contents and establishes an order among the connections between them. The necessary elements of every assertion—being and non-being, similarity and dissimilarity, unity and plurality, identity and opposition—cannot be represented by any content of perception, but through them ‘ideal meanings’ get created, and when applied to the perceptual field those elements fill our perceptions with meaning. That process, over time, alters both the meaning and the content of our perceptual field. But, what it comes down to in the end is testing the deductive consequences of those ‘ideal meanings’ against the sensual contents in the field of our perceptions. That was the way it worked for Einstein and, in any universe that will not change.”

Based on the above dialogue, for me at least, the physical event seems a little less obvious! But it’s still there; the foundational attribute of our knowledge of the objective world is still there. It’s just that it seems a little more open to interpretation at this point. Anyway, the physical event is only one aspect of God’s footprint. To get a better perspective on the footprint, (and I’m sure Matthew Broderick would agree here), we need to climb out of the hole in order to see the whole pie piece—errrr footprint!

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The Voice Of The We Of Divinity Concluded

November 21, 2009

This is a continuation of lasts week’s post, but I have more to say in this one. There is some explanation for why I believe the We Voice of Divinity exists, but, there is more description than explanation; that said, I’ve decided to stay with this theme in future posts, at least for a while. Because of the lack of explanation, for the next couple of weeks, I will be describing some of the considerations that brought me to affirm the We Voice of Divinity. I will talk about God’s footprint. Yes, a lot of why I say what I say is because the length of God’s footprint extends up out of the strange behavior of quantum phenomena and into the heavy determinism of the physics of relativity—big footprint. The depth of the footprint extends as deep as the observer/observed relationship described below, which, in turn, is based on the experience/existence of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, or the ~bb of b~b~bb also described below.Here’s a quick sense of what I’m getting at (by chance I discovered this as I was shutting down my computer, I wrote it but I don’t remember when): God is a recursive loop of increasing complexity that liberates consciousness. Initially, this content/form relationship produced very little consciousness, but, upon increased complexity, the content of consciousness became human, while the form of this relationship remains imbedded in its source, i.e., God.Horizons Of Self: Mind, Emotions, And Body

Language, politics, morality, and religion originate here. Justice gets done here. Worldviews are created here—the purple quadrant.

This new physics, to be sure, is still in the midst of growing pains, but whatever the outcome, John Locke’s concrete material substance is history. We do not exist a three-term relationship (mental substance, material object, appearance) we exist a two-term relationship with the second term being our theoretically postulated, hypothetically designated component of experience while the first term of experience is the immediately sensed determinate portion of the aesthetic continuum,– which is part of our very being. The immediately sensed component is relative to each individual while the theoretic component is public, exists within our understanding, and therefore is accessible to everybody, everywhere.

We experience our three horizons–emotional life (red), embodied life (pink), and psychological life (yellow)–in their aesthetic immediacy, within which differentiations come and go. In this way, change and understanding change, is pervasive. Theories follow from questions, and correct theories follow from confirmation of experimental results. In other words, the scientific method is one way to expand our horizons, but that method works best when dealing with physical phenomena, the embodied state (pink horizon). The scientific method is less effective when it comes to expanding our psychological and emotional horizons. However, with education, all three horizons expand. Understanding, whether it comes from the hypothetically conceived, experimentally verified component of our experience, or whether it comes from the “school of hard knocks,” so to speak, still educates.

Here’s how F. S. C. Northrop describes the two-term relationship of a fully known thing: “Both components are equally real and primary, and hence good, the one being the complement of the other… (He states) “To be any complete thing is to be not merely an immediately experienced, aesthetically and emotionally felt thing, but also to be what hypothetically conceived and experimentally verified theory designates.” (The Meeting Of East And West, p. 450) So, we may ask, into what do our self-horizons expand when they expand? In other words, I now want to talk about the blue, green, and purple quadrants in the above diagram. By way of introduction, and to keep the topic focused, here is another person’s take on why the three-term relationship is no longer needed; the physicist Henry Margenau, like Northrop before him, described human experience in terms of a two-term relationship.

In his book, The Nature of Physical Reality, Margenau elaborates on what the theoretic component of our experience entails when he says, “…that we come to knowledge of our experience in two ways—through the mental states of prepositional attitudes and sensation.” He then lumps these attitudes and sensation together in what he calls our P-plane experience—a combination of immediate experience with its significance (sensed qualia embedded in a knowledge matrix). In this way we come to “know” the same thing in two different ways, through sensed qualia and through the significance that we attach to this sensed qualia. For Margenau, there are four levels of P-plane significance. Language, with its lexical, syntactical, and contextual designations represents the first level. The second level, science, raises P-plane significance by connecting P-plane experience with the propositional aspects of our cognitive experience via what Margenau calls rules of correspondence—the sensed aspect of what may be inferred or deduced from theoretical postulates. On the third and fourth level of P-plane experience, significance deals with ethical behavior and existential meaning. Here the cognitive connection to P-plane experience does not entail the rigor of analysis that describes the scientific method. But, according to Margenau, this lack of rigor does not impose a lesser degree of significance.

Connecting understanding up with ethical behavior and existential meaning moves P-plane experience out of the blue quadrant—or the science of how our body works, and into the purple quadrant,–why we make our body do the things that it does. Here, in the psychological mind quadrant, we are constantly being stimulated, inspired, (and disgusted) by the hermeneutic circle of communication that comprises this quadrant. The independence, integrity, and freedom of the individual,–the groups, organizations, and institutions that the individual participates in, all are encountered in this quadrant. Language, politics, morality, and religion originate here. Justice gets done here. Worldviews are created here. “Approved life styles” are affirmed here. Hamlet gets read, discussed, and criticized here. When our yellow horizon expands, it moves us further into this quadrant, into that place where the scope of human discourse burgeons. In brief, to quote Lett, (speaking in a different context) this is the quadrant “where people will assign meanings to their activities and experiences and will invest considerable intellectual and emotional currency in the development, expression, and preservation of those meanings.” (James Lett, The Human Enterprise, p.97) But, even though our mind is, so to speak, set free in the purple quadrant (yellow self-horizon), our body remains in the blue quadrant. So, where do we go when our pink horizon (blue quadrant) expands?

If we’re lucky, and say, for instance, that we’re in the middle of a Michigan winter, we pack our bags and go to Florida. For those of us who can’t quite swing a Florida vacation, however, we continue to punch the cloak, put in our 40 hours per week, and all for the purpose of keeping food on the table, rents and mortgages paid, and a little spending money in our pockets. The blue quadrant is the brick and mortar world we live in. It is also where scientific predictions are confirmed, and, on a more solemn note, where justice and injustice are experienced. Take me, for instance, I’m sitting in front of my computer screen and when I look up, I immediately see sand and cement laden material used in the construction of, oh well, you name it. In order to get into my room, I had to shove against an atmosphere pressing against my body with a force of fourteen pounds per square inch, a body constituted by a physical-chemical system, e.g., bone, nervous system, and cortex-brain. This physical body lives approximately 70 years, dies, and breaks down into constituent parts—rots. While I’m alive I am presented with voluminous products for the purpose of consumption, and, if I were able to invent a product that everybody desires, I would be able to follow the sun to my heart’s content. But, enough said about the blue quadrant; it’s depressing to note that many intelligent people never get beyond the blue quadrant, i.e., see everything as a by-product of the blue quadrant.

The New Model Of The Observer/Observed Relationship Continued

The source of everything, including Northrop’s two-term relationship, lies embedded in the indeterminate aesthetic continuum.

As was pointed out above, considerable emotional currency goes into preserving the meanings that give us comfort. In an odd sort of way then, you might say the more invested we are in production and consumption (blue quadrant) the more we expand our red emotional horizon. However, a passionate desire for wealth and power has little in common with the empowering emotion that calls us to love, beauty and truth. The gorgeous sunset that sometimes swells our eyes to tears is not just a product of the spinning earth; it is also part of the spontaneous, pulsating, emotion that flows from the whole of the aesthetic continuum. The material of the poet, painter, and musician is not the product of Locke’s mental substance; rather, it is the empowering emotion that inspires life, imagination, and awe. The mental substance, which Locke presupposed as necessary in order to explain the existence of appearance, is no longer necessary because appearance is not just appearance, it is the real stuff of the universe. It is too bad the syntactically designated, indirectly and experimentally verified, theoretic component of knowledge treats the reality of the aesthetic component as a mere sign. The immediately grasped, emotionally moving ground out of which all things arise,–the aesthetic component of our experience–beckons us to seek the impossible, express the unspeakable, and imagine the inconceivable.

Emotions, therefore, are not, as Locke believed, and many of the religiously informed persons who followed him also believed, the product of bestial urges that must be subdued. It is also unfortunate that Plato, although recognizing emotions to be an inseparable part of the human psyche, identified them with evil. For Plato, reason was the great charioteer, forever reining in the unruly emotions. It is to the credit of Northrop’s two-term relationship of the aesthetic-theoretic experience that emotion gets valued on par with reason. Indeed, reason becomes sterile without emotion and emotion without reason becomes misery–more often than not. The poet William Blake said it best when he said: “It is good when you are in a passion, but not when a passion is in you.” All emotion is meaningful, but that meaning is unjustifiably limited by Locke’s use of the three-term relationship of appearance, material object, and observer. We do not exist a three-term relationship, we exist a two-term relationship with the second term being our theoretically postulated, hypothetically designated component of experience while the first term of experience is the immediately sensed determinate portion of the aesthetic continuum. The continuity of emotion/reason follows naturally from this two term relationship, as does the psychological freedom that, if actualized, leads to reverence for all that is true, good, and beautiful in life.

Without psychological freedom we would be condemned to blue-quadrant existence—a life hardly worth living. Not to worry, though, the allure of freedom has, throughout history, inspired “greatness in thought, word, and deed,” and, when practiced in environments of some spiritual disciplines, this freedom is said to produce incredible “experiences of emancipation,” e.g., Patanjellie’s eight steps of yoga, the Buddha’s eight fold path to enlightenment, and, the more recent schools of transpersonal psychologies which, I believe began with Maslow’s self-actualization psychology, but now these schools are researching such things as meditation, higher levels of consciousness, and even Para psychological phenomena. Encouraging awareness, understanding, and the appreciation for this kind of in depth freedom is what my up dated description of the observer/observed relationship is supposed to be about. Ultimately, though, to fully comprehend the meaning of this freedom we must rethink what it means to be alive and belong to this universe of ours, and, in the process, we must get beyond the worldview that has outlived its usefulness and now inhibits.

To recap, the #8 bridge binds and separates life and death while the #9 bridge binds and separates the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self and the physical event, (or the emotionally felt immediate experience that at any given time may be hypothetically conceived and experimentally verified via its predictable consequences). The bridge that is not depicted in the diagram above is the bridge in which the universe lies suspended. Logically, this bridge is structured along the lines of a double negative (the logic of neither this nor that). The universe then hangs suspended in a Logos that is the equivalent of God’s non-being, but, via the Logos, God’s non-being implies transcendence. This is, obviously, a lot of information to take in. Hopefully, however, by incorporating a V structure and logical design in the paragraph below, I will have summed up (and simplified) the Divinity that simultaneously exists inside of Nature and outside of Nature. In this sense, Divinity is somewhat like the one sided surface of a Mobius strip; Divinity existing both outside and inside the loop.

Let the V image represent God’s freedom. Let one side of the V represent the empirical world (aesthetic continuum) and the other freedom. Identify the vertex, the bottom of V, as ~~b (the purist form of unity and the ground of the Logos that structures all existence). 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 stage 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 a conscious self. With the advent of self-consciousness, freedom again moves forward. The V grows larger (and wider) as the story of civilization unfolds.

Freedom here defines God as immanent (the phenomenal world) and transcendent (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, on a day-to-day basis, that’s what “we call reality.”

We struggle to become educated and, in the process, obtain reasonable beliefs that endure. However, when faced with blatant evidence to the contrary our beliefs may change (ought/need to change). In the absence of contradictions, though, we choose to believe emotionally fulfilling beliefs. If you’ve read this far, you probably have found something I’ve said interesting. Thanks for that. In conclusion (and without embellishment), here is a list of reasons why I find my worldview emotionally satisfying. Oh, and by the way, this is also my reasoning for why some values are not culturally relative:

1) Religion and science are brought into harmony; that is, they may be equally reverenced without conflict. 2) Because human self-awareness, life, and the physical-chemical processes that support life, are all embedded in divine extensive connection, humans are born with the potential to right the wrongs caused by “ignorance based injustices.” 3) The values used to judge right from wrong follow from the extensive connection process; that is, values used to judge right from wrong are life affirming and freedom affirming values. In other words, in terms of a minimum quality of life, within the prevailing economic realities, no person should be denied the basic necessities of life; and further, sufficient freedoms (within the limits of reasonable expectation) should be in place to allow for meaningful self-expression (the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution are a good place to start). As long as these two conditions are satisfied market competition, within prevailing economic realities, should be permitted. Anything less than this—the minimum standard of living for all human beings, — is an “ignorance based injustice.” 4) And finally, in regards to a religious afterlife: death is not the end, but things like virgins, talks with Jesus, and eternal bliss, are spurious and misplaced expectations.

For many of us, saying “yes to God” is easy, but getting to know the meaning of the relationships behind that affirmation is the all-important, and difficult, next step. At the end of the first part of this essay (last week’s post) I let Martin Buber have the last words, and likewise, he gets the last words here. Martin Buber understood that affirming the existence of God is no more difficult than affirming the ground out of which duality arises. In his book, I And Thou, he alludes to the spiritual significance of this affirmation when he says:

“Dimly we apprehend this double movement –that turning away from the primal ground by virtue of which the universe preserves itself in its becoming, and that turning toward the primal ground by virtue of which the universe redeems itself in being –as the metacosmic primal form of duality that inheres in the world as a whole in its relation to that which is not world, and whose human form is the duality of attitudes, of basic words, and of the two aspects of the world. Both movements are unfolded fatefully in time and enclosed, as by grace, in the timeless creation that, incomprehensibly, is at once release and preservation, at once bond and liberation. Our knowledge of duality is reduced to silence by the paradox of the primal mystery” (1970, p. 149).

“That you need God more than anything, you know at all times in your heart. But don’t you know also that God needs you–in the fullness of his eternity, you? How would man exist if God did not need him, and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you for that which is the meaning of your life.” (1970, p. 130)

The Voice Of The We Of Divinity

November 18, 2009

Change of plans, instead of posting the statistical evidence (weak evidence) that I gathered in support of the existence of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, I have decided to describe the relationship that exists between the not-me-self and divinity. This relationship is complimentary and symmetrical, like the coming together of the right and left hand gloves.

Understanding the below post requires a lot of jumping back and forth from description to diagram–a difficult task–on the other hand, the few quotes from Buber’s “I And Thou” book at the bottom of this post say everything I am trying to communicate here–in the fewest possible words! FYI a click on the above diagram enlarges it; also, clicking on the before/after posts above or the related posts below expands the meaning/significance of this post.

In last week’s “end of story post” (the We Voice of Humanity) I wrote: [“Otherness”, when understood from within the context of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self’s self/other relationship, manifests multi-layers of “otherness”. “Otherness” is always embedded in a whirl of “otherness” and unravels in layers. (Footnote. The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self occasions “otherness” first in the form of the common values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group, that is, the products of symbolic interaction. A second layer of “otherness” is encountered when the self engages the novelty, impulsiveness and spontaneity — the creative potentials of self-determination — in the self’s option to affirm, reject, and/or qualify the common values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group. A third layer of “otherness” occurs in the “thickness of description” used to validate intersubjective positions concerning values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group. And, a forth layer of “otherness” is occasioned when the “ought,” as in non-relative ethics and morality, is applied to intersubjective positions concerning values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group.)]

In the “We Voice of Divinity,” I will talk about what I didn’t talk about in the last post; that is, I will describe that layer of “otherness” which is occasioned when the “ought” (as in non-relative ethics and morality) is applied to intersubjective positions concerning values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group. However, in order to talk about “that,” I must first talk about a new way of understanding the observer/ observed relationship, and that discussion begins now.

“Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.”
(Einstein, Ideas And Opinions, p. 225)

For me at least, the above diagram, speaks directly to this Einstein quote, as it also speaks to the issues of why nature responds so strangely when certain questions are put to her, questions like: Wave or particle? Why is the universe comprehensible as opposed to incomprehensible? Is nature independent of the observer? Why, on the quantum level, do 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? Nature’s response to these types of questions becomes less strange, I believe, if we look through the prism of this new look (understanding) of the observer/ observed relationship.

Science, doing science, is limited to the reductionist, physical/cultural, self-boundary, or the dark blue quadrant. The pink horizon of self is part of that quadrant, but I have made it pink for labeling purposes. In other words, when I look up from my computer screen, I see a physical world of cinder block walls, tile floors, furniture, colors etc. My five senses inform me of this world and science informs me that there is more to these sensations then what my five senses are telling me about the nature of the world. The unfortunate thing about science is that, in most cases, it tries to reduce all other quadrants, life and mind, to the physical/cultural platform—not possible.

The red horizon of self is a product of the overlap of the mind/life platforms—the green quadrant. This quadrant, in addition to representing life, also represents emotional life. Emotions are a defining characteristic of the plant/animal kingdom (yes, a quirky group of scientists have produced evidence that plants have feelings), but emotions are not just a product of the green quadrant. Emotions are informed by the mind and that is the difference that makes a difference. J.E. Creighton puts it like this:

“In the development of mind, feeling does not remain a static element, constant in form and content at all levels, but…is transformed and disciplined through its interplay with other aspects of experience. Indeed, the character of the feeling in any experience may be taken as an index of the mind’s grasp of its object; at the lower levels of experience, where the mind is only partially or superficially involved, feeling appears as something isolated and opaque, as the passive accompaniment of mere bodily sensation… In the higher experience, the feelings assume an entirely different character, just as do the sensations and the other contents of mind.” (Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, A Study in the Symbolism of Rite, Reason, and Art, p. 100)

The yellow self-horizon is also a product of the overlap of the mind/life/reductionist platforms, but its content—the purple quadrant, is restricted to the psychological, sociocultural, self-boundary of human discourse. This purple quadrant deviates somewhat from the standard science model, which lumps the “self “into the “physical stuff” of body/brain/mind— the blue quadrant. However, there is some disagreement here. If you were to ask a “structuralist” or a “symbolic anthropologist” if the mind can stand alone, their answers would be interesting. Here’s how the philosopher, Ernst Cassirer, addressed this question:

“Man has, as it were, discovered a new method of adapting himself to his environment. Between the receptor system and the effector system, which are to be found in all animal species, we find in man a third link which we may describe as the “symbolic system.” This new acquisition transforms the whole of human life. As compared with the other animals man lives not merely in a broader reality; he lives, so to speak, in a new dimension of reality.” (An Essay On Man, p. 25)

Cassirer, also adds:

“All knowledge of the world and all strictly spiritual action upon the world require that I thrust the world back from itself, that in contemplation as in action it gain a certain distance from it. Animals do not know this distance: the animal lives in his environment; he does not place himself over against it and so represent it. This acquisition of the world as idea is, rather, the aim and product of the symbolic forms ––the result of language, myth, religion, art, and theoretical knowledge.” (Cassirer, The Phenomenology of Knowledge, p. 276)

The reductionist/ life/mind platforms are connected and separated by bridges that hold everything together. The self, or our experience of self, starts at the horizons of the overlapping quadrants and proceeds inward via our experience of these quadrants. Concerning the bridges, just to give a little perspective here, in Chinese mythology, the jovial Chuang-tzu, when asked what supports the turtle that supports the world, (the world sits on the tortoise shell), replied, “Its turtles all the way down.” Well, in this cosmology, the world doesn’t sit on tortoise shells, instead, the universe hangs suspended, all the way up and all the way down, in logic, the Logos that structures existence.

Here are the labels (by the numbers) of the layered sequencing of platforms—reductionist, life, mind—that constitute self.

1 R—The reductionist, mass/energy, platform.

2 L—The life, biological/reproductive, platform.

3 M—The mind, symbol/meaning, platform.

4 S—Human self—is not an entity, rather, it is intersubjective boundary horizons.

5 The reductionist, physical/cultural, self-boundary.

6 The life, biological/emotional, self-boundary.

7 The mind, psychological, sociocultural, self-boundary of human discourse.

8 The connecting bridge that separates and connects the life platform to the reductionist platform.

9 The connecting bridge that separates and connects the mind platform to the life platform and to the life platform’s limiting condition—the reductionist platform.

In my concluding post next week, I will expand on what it means to have a “self,” as I continue to talk about the connecting bridges that define this “self.” I will also discuss the connecting bridge that is not in the diagram above, the bridge connecting Divinity to everything else. Stay tuned. I leave you with a few quotes from Martin Buber’s book I And Thou. Buber, based on the quotes below, was very much in tune with the implications that follow from the new look of the observer/observed relationship.

“…in every You we address the eternal You, in every sphere according to its manner. All spheres are included in it, while it is included in none.” (p. 150)

“Of course, God is ‘the wholly other’; but he is also the wholly same: the wholly present. Of course, he is the mysterium tremendum that appears and overwhelms; but he is also the mystery of the obvious that is closer to me than my own I.” (p. 127)

“…in truth, there is no God-seeking because there is nothing where one could not find him. How foolish and hopeless must one be to leave one’s way of life to seek God: even if one gained all the wisdom of solitude and all the power of concentration, one would miss him.” (p. 128)

“The word of revelation is: I am there as whoever I am there. That which reveals is that which reveals. That which has being is there, nothing more. The eternal source of strength flows, the eternal touch is waiting, the eternal voice sounds, nothing more.” (p. 160)

“The encounter with God does not come to man in order that he may henceforth attend to God, but in order that he may prove its meaning in action in the world. All revelation is a calling and a mission.” (p. 164)

“God embraces but is not the universe; just so, God embraces but is not my self. On account of this which cannot be spoken about, I can say in my language, as all can say in theirs: You. For the sake of this there are I and You, there is dialogue, there is language, and spirit whose primal deed language is, and there is, in eternity, the word.” (p. 143)

The Voice Of The We Of Humanity

November 11, 2009

This post, essentially, brings to a close the theoretical side of my thesis. Future posts (five I think) speak to fleshing out the empirical side of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. Below, I use the concept of the not-me-self as a tool to critique the symbolic interactionist school of thought. This critiquing voice—the voice of contingency which binds “self” to society and to “others,” is then used, in the second part of this post, to argue for the legitimization of social and political institutions that practice the politics of emancipation, or the politics that sustain and promote justice, equality, and individual and collective freedoms.

The Symbolic Interactionist School Of Thought Does Not Address Macrosocietal Issues

In Translating Mead’s Generalized Other As A Collective Voice, The Next Step Is To Pose The Question: What Stories Are Told By A Collective Voice And, More Specifically, To What Extent Do Collective Stories Reflect And Even Sustain Existing Power Differences In Macrosocial Structures?

The Implicative Affirmative of the Not-Me-Self as a Value-Assessment Mechanism

According to Ritzer’s (1992) account of symbolic interactionism, although Mead’s theoretical perspective on mind and self is centered in the accumulated social relations that constitute society, Mead has very little to say about society. For Mead, society represents the ongoing social process that precedes self and mind. Self and mind are formed and shaped by society but they play little or no role in shaping social structure and institutions. Mead’s me-self is, after all, the depository of the shared sets of values that are common to the social system thus contributing to social unity. Because Mead’s theoretical system, and the symbolic interactionist school of thought that is based on, Mead’s theoretical system lacks a macrosocietal orientation and thus it opens itself up to critique. According to Reynolds, the symbolic interactionist school of thought does not address macrosocietal issues. He (1993: 137) states:

“Interactionism truly lacks a decent appreciation and adequate understanding of social structure and social organization. All of this is to say that symbolic interactionism manifests a marked astructural, or microscopic, bias, and any framework with such a bias is bound to be both ahistorical and noneconomic; with respect to power politics, it is also destined to be profoundly apolitical.”

When the concept of collective voices of generalized others is added to the theoretical orientation of Mead’s thinking, a focus on society at the macro-level becomes possible within the framework of Mead’s theory. Collective voices tell collective stories and collective stories may be analyzed from the point of view of the many different attributes of the collectivity. For instance, according to Hermans and Kempen (1993: 117): “In translating Mead’s generalized other as a collective voice, the next step is to pose the question: What stories are told by a collective voice? And more specifically, to what extent do collective stories reflect and even sustain existing power differences in macrosocial structures?”

Society is textured with many influential collective stories; stories that preserve and perpetuate social stratification and institutional hierarchy. The biblical story, as Hermans and Kempen point out (1993: 118), of a sinful and seductive Eve, tells a story that has an ongoing history of influencing relationships between men and women. Also, among persons who have a stake in maintaining social and economic inequality, the Horatio Alger story of the destitute, but brave lad who succeeds after overcoming travail and hardship, bares constant repeating in the face of the excessive wherewithal of the “haves” as opposed to the “have-nots.”

As a product of the socialization process, we are never far removed from some collective story that either consciously or unconsciously we take for granted. Indeed, it is only after we have held our practical consciousness up against the light of analysis (negation/selection) that we come to realize collective voices of generalized others speak through us, as we, in turn, speak through them. A person almost always (as we recall Gidden’s premise) knows what she/he is doing and why she/he is doing it. I would only add to this insightful assertion that people not only know what they are doing, but that they know also that they are doing what they are doing for all the “right reasons.”

The Critiquing Voice Must Speak Through The Self/Other Interdependent Relationship

In So Far As This Micro-Level Collective Voice Is Both Human And Universal, It Provides The Ideal Basis From Which To Critique The Legitimization Of Macro-Level Social And Political Power Structures, As It Provides The Ideal Basis From Which To Evaluate Justice, Equality, And Individual And Collective Freedoms

The Implicative Affirmative of the Not-Me-Self as a Value-Assessment Mechanism

If we are to analyze and interpret macrosocietal collective stories in terms of how they reinforce and institutionalize existing power structures then it is not enough to identify the stories per se. The collective voices used to legitimate these stories must also be identified. It is significant that the collective stories and voices, for example, the divine right of kings, race superiority, self-evident truths (self-evident truths that have been proven wrong-Euclid’s postulate that parallel lines never meet, the notions of absolute space and time, etc.), used to legitimate macro-level power structures are themselves macro-level collective stories; whereas, the collective voice used to critique these macro-level collective stories (for example, Simmel’s concept of stranger/sociological category, Thom’s ontologically primary opposition of difference/no-difference, and, the researcher’s own concept of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self), articulates a different kind of voice, a voice that speaks through the interdependent relationship of self/other. Developing the implications of this micro-level voice (a voice based in self/other interdependence) reveals not only a voice upon which to critique existing social and political power structures but also a voice upon which to ground individual freedoms and the emancipatory rights of “others”.

In Modernity and Ambivalence , Bauman (1991), analyses the emancipatory experience of the human being and concludes that contingency is the necessary element common to all emancipatory experience. According to Bauman (1991: 235):

“The preference for one’s own, communally shared form of life must therefore, be immune to the temptation of cultural crusade. Emancipation means, such acceptance of one’s own contingency as is grounded in recognition of contingency as the sufficient reason to live and to be allowed to live. It signals the end to the horror of alterity and to the abhorrence of ambivalence.”

For Bauman, contingency applies equally to the otherness of the individual self and to the “other’s otherness”. This relationship is not unlike the interdependent relationship of self/other as it is characterized by the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self.

“Otherness”, when understood from within the context of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self’s self/other relationship, manifests multi-layers of “otherness”. “Otherness”, in this sense, does not stand alone. “Otherness” is always embedded in a whirl of “otherness” and unravels in layers.

[Footnote. The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self occasions “otherness” first in the form of the common values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group, that is, the products of symbolic interaction. A second layer of “otherness” is encountered when the self engages the novelty, impulsiveness and spontaneity — the creative potentials of self-determination — in the self’s option to affirm, reject, and/or qualify the common values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group. A third layer of “otherness” occurs in the “thickness of description” used to validate intersubjective positions concerning values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group. And, a forth layer of “otherness” is occasioned when the “ought” (as in non-relative ethics and morality) is applied to intersubjective positions concerning values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group.]

However, this “otherness” is grounded in the contingency of the self’s affirmation of “otherness”. Emancipatory experience follows from this contingency in that the self and “other selves” must affirm their not-me-selves (their otherness). Recognizing that contingency resides at the center of the self’s emancipatory experience Bauman states (1991: 236): “The right of the Other to his strangerhood is the only way in which my own right may express, establish and defend itself. It is from the right of the Other that my right is put together.”

It is this contingency–the contingency which binds a person’s “self” to society and to “others”–which manifests the micro-level voice of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, a voice whose only claim to authority is a claim to contingency, a contingency without which it could not exist. Simpson (1995: 127) in response to the question: “Are we playing the right game?” (acting on the “right” collective voice), gives voice to the “meaning of contingency” when he states: “(It is)…the virtual ‘we’ of a humanity that is a negotiated, unfinished project functioning as an ideal community, a notion that makes a virtue both of being open to and willing to take seriously the conjecture that there is a disjunction between one’s own standpoint and the regulative ideal of the ‘good life,’ and of being critically respectful of the other.”

In so far as this micro-level collective voice is both human and universal it provides the ideal basis from which to critique the legitimization of macro-level social and political power structures, as it 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 their own contingency, arises the politics of
emancipation which articulates the rights of Government and socioeconomic institutions to procure both the collective and the individual right to contingency.

[Footnote. Giddens (1991: 215), in summary form, tells us what emancipatory politics entails when he states:

1 The freeing of social life from the fixities of tradition and custom.

2 The reduction or elimination of exploitation, inequality or oppression. (It is) concerned with divisive distribution of power/ resources.

3 Obeys imperatives suggested by the ethics of justice, equality and participation]

When Mead’s theory and the symbolic interactionist school of thought is considered from the fundamental ground upon which both macro-level and micro-level collective voices are founded (the other as contingency), then symbolic interactionist thought may be applied to macrosocietal issues. By appealing to the “rights of others,” — the right to a more egalitarian social order that is based on insuring the availability of a standard of living sufficient for the actualization of individual freedoms, that is, the right to a living wage, political liberty, and protection from wrongful harms, — a symbolic interactionist would find herself/himself in a powerful position to defend against criticisms such as Lichtman’s when he (1970: 77) states: [Symbolic interactionism] “… is overly subjective and voluntaristic, lacks an awareness of historical concreteness, is naive in its account of mutual typification and ultimately abandons the sense of human beings in a struggle against an alien reality which they both master and to which they are subordinate.”

Fleeing An Identity Crisis

November 5, 2009


I guess I forgot to post last week  so this is a two for one blog–this one and the one below.

Here is a small list of ways people flee an identity crisis. Tension-arousing circumstances are uncomfortable, sometimes so uncomfortable that they force a person to question their own identity and values. However, a person can be flexible and consistent when forced to choose between alternative, and, at times, conflicting value systems.

When A Crises Of Identity Causes Ambivalence-Induced Distress, A Person Flees

Giving Up Faculties Of Critical Judgment In Exchange For The Convictions Supplied By An Authority Whose Rules Cover Most Aspects Of Life, Is A Reasonable Alternative For Some People

In reflexive self-awareness, when a person becomes aware of the simultaneous presence of positive and negative affects, these incongruities or inconsistencies, according to Rosenberg and Abelson (1960), “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’” (Billig, 1987: 147). When a crises of identity causes ambivalence-induced distress, this distress is temporary because a person tends to flee ambivalence.

There is more than one way to remove ambivalence. Ambivalences, for the most part, according to Freud, are consciously or unconsciously repressed. When ambivalence arises as a result of the parent/child relationship, according to Adorno, the child may flee ambivalence by identifying with closed-minded authority figures. In a like manner, a person may escape the burden that comes with “the freedom to choose” by identifying with a person in authority. “[Giving] up faculties of critical judgment in exchange for the convictions supplied by an authority whose rules and provision cover most aspects of life,” is, according to Giddens (1991: 196), a reasonable alternative for some people. Also, we have all had the experience (I presume) of turning to consumption (for at least as long as it takes before our “practical consciousness” returns) in order to lesson the severity of an ambivalence-generating emotional crisis.

For some individuals, in particular, individuals who have invested a great deal of time analyzing questions of the existential variety, –questions like, “What is, Being, non-being, self-purpose, freedom, etc.?” — the question of identity has been pushed aside and, accordingly, so has the possibility of an identity crisis.

[Footnote. Existential questions concern the defining boundaries of human life, and are answered by the way we “go on” in the contexts of social activity. They presume, according to Giddens (1991: 55), the following ontological and epistemological elements:

Existence and being : the nature of existence, the identity of objects and events.

Finitude and human life: the existential contradiction by means of which human beings are of nature yet set apart from it as sentient and reflexive creatures.

The experience of others: how individuals interpret the traits and action of other individuals.

The continuity of self-identity: the persistence of feelings of personhood in a continuous self and body.]

These individuals, rather than identify with a self, have reduced the “self” to the existential proposition that takes the human condition to be in a state (at its most fundamental level) of dread (Angst). According to Flew (1979: 14):

“…[dread is] occasioned by man’s realization that his existence is open towards an undetermined future, the emptiness of which must be filled by his freely chosen actions. Anxiety characterizes the human state, which entails constant confrontation with possibility and the need for decision, with the concomitant burden of responsibility.”

For those of us who are less likely to philosophize about the human condition (or, perhaps, entertain a more worldly philosophy) an identity crisis usually ends up with a reassessment of personal values. Fortunately, a crisis of personal identity is not a necessary condition before a reassessment of values can take place.

In The Struggle For Synthesis A Person’s Self/Non-Self Boundaries Shift Continually

It Is Through Evaluative Juxtaposing Of Collective Voices Of Generalized Others That Allows James To Maintain A Stabilized Set Of Values; That Is, Stabilized Only For As Long As It Takes Before He Finds Himself Listening To A More Powerful And Persuasive Collective Voice

Values tend to get reassessed in the critical juggling of collective voices of generalized others when they are reflexively juxtaposed one to another. According to Hermans and Kempen (1993: 120):

“In the course of development, however, the growing child and adult learns not only to incorporate an increasing variety of opposing and conflicting positions in the self, but is also challenged to synthesize them in such a way that he or she learns, more or less, to live with a complex mixture of positive and negative self-valuations. In this development, the developing person finds himself or herself somewhere between splitting and synthesis and, therefore, the struggle of synthesis is always associated with a continuous shifting of the self/non-self boundaries.”

The mental juxtaposition of collective voices of generalized others, in addition to teaching a person how to live with a complex mixture of positive and negative self-valuations, also makes possible the development of the kind of autonomy that permits a person to stay the course in the midst of the push and pull of many collective voices.

The self (biography and negation) exerts its autonomy by selecting (differentiating) the collective voices that are to be juxtaposed one to another. Collective voices, though they are products of society, are still accountable, as Billig pointed out (1987: 5), “to the inner deliberations [or] silent arguments conducted within a single self.” It is through the distinguishing and opposing of collective voices that the autonomy of the self gets expressed. For instance, if we return to the example of James’ reference to opposing me-self voices (1890: 295): “As a man I pity you, but as an official I must show you no mercy; as a politician I regard him as an ally, but as a moralist I loathe him,” it can be assumed that preceding these value judgments, James, had to have a pretty good idea of what it meant to be a man, a judge, a politician, and a moralist. In order to come up with an answer to the question: “What is a man?,” it is reasonable to assume that James, in posing the question to himself, had to chew on the meaningful content of the answer for a considerable length of time. Mead, of course, told us that a person encounters meaning by taking the roles of others, but, by actively pursuing the meaning of roles in terms of the collective voices of generalized others (reflexively in the form of interrogation and reply), we find that role meanings must be considered from a level of meaning which includes the concept of consistency.

When a person juxtaposes collective voices one to another a loci arises wherein the discovery of consistency becomes possible. In this respect, me-self autonomy is expressed in the consistent fixing of collective voices to their respective social roles (as opposed to fixing a desired object to a convenient collective voice). For example, James fixes the opposition of the collective voice espousing the imperfect character of human beings to the collective voice of the responsibility of a judge to uphold the law. In this case, James is fitting the collective voice of law and order to the case specific situation of the violation of law and order. If a judge on odd days were to act true to the maxim “to error is human, to forgive is divine” and release lawbreakers, while on even days imprison lawbreakers, it would not take long before the disapproval of society would pressure the judge into reassessing her/his sense of justice. If the judge, on the other hand, by fixing the collective voice of “law abiding citizen” to the social role of “good citizen” and then, based on this linkage, chose to consistently sentence defendants, then community pressure would cease and the judge would not feel the need to reevaluate her/his sense of justice. It is this type of evaluative juxtaposing of collective voices of generalized others that allows James to maintain his sense of values in the midst of conflicting collective voices, and it is this type of evaluative juxtaposing of collective voices that allows the rest of us to maintain a stabilized set of values, stabilized that is, for only as long as it takes before we find ourselves listening to a more powerful and persuasive collective voice.

Outside A Persons Protective Cocoon Self-Relevance Evaporates

November 5, 2009

I guess I forgot to post here last week so this is a two for one blog–this one and the one above.
When we come to question our own language games we are constantly thrown back upon our presuppositions, upon prior meanings, and this reflection on self-knowledge expands our self-understanding. But, before the question, before the interrogation agency of self becomes empowered with self-direction, we were/are practicing an even more vital knowledge–the knowledge of “trust” –and securing this knowledge is a lifelong pursuit.

The Perspective-Boundedness Of Acquired Meanings-The Motor That Drives Experience

We Begin To Understand How We Can Live In A World Of Shared Values, Meanings, And Expectations, While, At The Same Time, Live In A World Where Each Person Creates Her/His Own Unique Perceptions, Meanings, And Purpose, When Our Questions Are Reflexively Applied To The Collective Voices Of Generalized Others

In the application of negation it is the negative facet of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self that charges “things” with meaning and ascribes to the “self” self-meaning. L. C. Simpson (1995: 32) illustrates negation’s role in how meaning is generated out of
experience when he describes how prereflective acquired meanings are always thought to be implicitly held to be adequate to their objects when he states:

“But through them [acquired meanings] we are unavoidably tied to a perspective. Experience involves a growing awareness of the perspective-boundedness of those claims. It is the contradiction between the implicit claim to adequacy and the perspective-boundedness of these meanings that is the motor that drives the process of experience. But this means that experience is essentially negative; the meanings that situate us, that, at least in part, define us, are constantly being problematized. Our ordinary language games come to be questioned. Here, in the notion of negativity, we have the idea of freedom thematized. Instead, then, of proceeding with a complacent satisfaction, we are constantly thrown back upon ourselves, upon those prior meanings. Such a reflective return to those presuppositions is what I mean by ‘self-reflection.’ The process of experience, then, leads to self-reflection. This reflection on my own situation furthers my self-knowledge, expanding my self-understanding.”

Negation, in the language of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, takes the form of that which binds an “implicit claim to adequacy” to a “particular boundedness.” When negation is revealed (applied), an awareness of “perspective-boundedness claims to adequacy” becomes more resolute and in this resolute awareness we begin to understand how we can live in a world of shared values, meanings, and expectations, while, at the same time, live in a world where each person creates her/his own unique perceptions, meanings, and purpose. In the human world of self-determination (affirmation), with all of its unique perceptions, meanings and purpose, a person generates meaning unique to the person when the person negates socially shaped values, meanings and expectations. Thus, as an indicator of biographical relevance, negation empowers the salience of our personal experience.

It is negation that allows thinking to be reflexive. It is negation that allows a person to take herself/himself as an object, in Mead’s sense of the term, and to call out to the “self” the meaning of the other’s response. The meaning of the other’s response exists prior to experience of it, in so far as it exists, first, in language, history and culture. But, in so far as this response is affirmed as relevant to the biography of the observing person, the observing person selects for (particularizes) the relevant meaning of the other’s response. When the observing person assigns meaning to the other’s response, a relevant aspect of the observing person’s not-me-self is selected for and affirmed. With the addition of new information (the response of the other) the observer is, potentially, able to synthesize on going experience with relevant biographical information, consequently, an alteration of a person’s assumptions and beliefs may occur.

This communication process is accelerated every time we ask a question. Applied negation is expressed through interrogation. Through interrogation the agency of self becomes empowered with self-direction. When we ask questions we are, essentially, selecting (negating) the way we will relate to (particularize) a situation/object. Asking questions is our most direct route to biographical relevance. When questions are reflexively applied to the collective voices of generalized others we encounter the significance of what it means to add a dialogical perspective to Mead’s social psychology. However, before I begin this discussion I want to say a few words concerning the embodied or biological aspect of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self.

In Doing Everyday Life All Human Beings Answer The Question Of Self

During Bouts With Intense Emotional Insecurity, The Split Between Biography And Not-Me-Self (now perceptible) Avails Itself To A Person’s Ruminations Of Mixed Feelings And Self-Doubts

The Embodied Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self

In the earliest stages of development, according to Piaget (1980), the infant encounters a resistant environment, and, it is through an action-generated vocabulary that the infant is made aware of objects, space, time, and causality.

[Footnote. According to Piaget (1970: 704), “From the most elementary sensorimotor actions (such as pulling and pushing) to the most sophisticated intellectual operations, which are interiorized actions, carried out mentally…knowledge is constantly linked with actions or operations.”]

It is at this stage, the sensorimotor stage, where the infant develops what Piaget calls a “practical intelligence.” Giddens, following Piaget’s lead, states: “A child does not learn that it ‘has’ a body, because self-consciousness emerges through bodily differentiation rather than the other way around” (Giddens, 1991: 56). The discovery of bodily properties, for example, fingers, toes, lips, hunger, thirst, irritation, etc., precedes the infant’s discoveries of objects, others, and self-consciousness. At this stage in the developmental process, according to Giddens, the infant develops a sense of “trust.”

During this crucial period, trust emerges from the relationship of caregiver (the mother) to infant. Trust gives the infant a sense of security during periods when the mother is absent. It is also this trust that allows the infant (and the adult) to orient herself/himself to others and to objects in the world. According to Giddens (1991: 40):

“The trust which the child, in normal circumstances, vests in its caretakers, I want to argue, can be seen as a sort of emotional inoculation against existential anxieties – a protection against future threats and dangers which allows the individual to sustain hope and courage in the face of whatever debilitating circumstances she or he might later confront… It is the main emotional support of a defensive carapace or protective cocoon which all normal individuals carry around with them as the means whereby they are able to get on with the affairs of day-to-day life.”

Acknowledging trust as the starting point and drawing from the perspective of existential phenomenology and Wittgensteinian philosophy, Giddens’ concept of self-identity (reflexive ordering of self-narratives) is premised on the belief that a person knows, virtually all of the time, what she/he is doing and why she/he is doing it. Reflexive awareness, on a day-to-day basis, is oriented around doing what it takes to secure this knowledge. Consequently, reflexive awareness, for the most part, is restricted to guaranteeing that day-to-day routines remain routine.

Out of what Giddens’ calls a “practical consciousness” arises the cognitive and emotive anchor that sustains feelings of ontological security. By remaining focused on the daily routines that keep us “going on,” we secure ourselves from the chaos and anxiety that exists just outside of our acquired routines. In ‘doing’ everyday life, all human beings ‘answer’ the question of self in the behavior that gets carried out. Giddens’ “practical consciousness” focuses on the day-to-dayness of what “needs to be done” and “on what’s going on.” In this way, the individual remains insulated from internal and external anxieties that could threaten ontological security.

During periods of emotional insecurity and crisis a person’s protective cocoon becomes vulnerable.

[Footnote. This cocoon also becomes vulnerable from an analytical point of view, as is testified to by an abundance of existentialist literature. For instance, the problem of self (the absence of I-ness), and its relation to existence, has been scrutinized by Kierkegaard (1855) and found to be synonymous with “the struggle of being against non-being” (Giddens, 1991: 48). Heidegger (1976/1962), in what he refers to as the person’s state of Dasein, describes the self in terms of falling (verfallen) or the deterioration of one’s self as it falls through common everydayness. Sartre (1980/1966) penetrates to the core of the matter by identifying being (self-conscious being) with the nothingness of the for-itself as it strives to complete itself, but, given the nature of its being, must fail. In a more positive light, however, the self, in Jasper’s (1969) description of the Encompassing and Existenz, gets connected with reason. “Existenz only becomes clear through reason; reason only has content through Existenz” (Jaspers, l955: 67)]

Feelings of inadequacy, the sudden loss of a loved one, a close encounter with death, all of these infrequent, but very real events, rattle our sense of ontological security and, at times, call into question our sense of purpose, meaning, and self. During bouts with intense emotional insecurity it is not unusual for a person to turn self-narrative back upon itself and inquire: “Who is the narrator?” It is at this time when the split between biography and not-me-self (now perceptible) avails itself to a person’s ruminations of mixed feelings and self-doubts.