Posts Tagged ‘self’

The Language Of Freedom

June 11, 2011





While puzzling over how to respond to INspired Ink’s post, “The Here and Now”– A Post A Day 2011 post, I stumbled upon the following 2008 post of mine and thought it special enough to post again (my response to Ink’s post was a single paragraph response from the below post).

The Reciprocal Relationship Of Content/Form Interdependence

What’s Going On With These Posts—Are They Random, Directed, Or Something Else?

I think I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. If there’s a common theme running through these posts, it’s my quest to understand what I don’t understand. That said, in this post the suggestion is that I understand something, or, to put it more gently, what I haven’t understood so far, begins to make more sense if understood in the following way:

The subject of freedom is a major theme in my writing. Freedom, depending on its context, means many things to many people. Operationally speaking, though, we first encounter freedom as the freedom to act. Satisfying our biological needs frames this freedom. I associate Aristotle with this freedom because he was the first to recognize, as far as I can tell, the importance of the sensation/understanding connection. Freedom is not just a sensation, however. The freedom to avoid the unpleasant and pursue the pleasant has the indirect effect of creating the environment out of which all other freedoms are expressed.

On another level, a higher level, phenomenological freedom expresses the question that theoretical freedom answers (the freedom to be logically consistent). This answer, scientifically speaking, is verified through its reliable predictions as they relate to our aesthetic experience. This answer, sociologically speaking, allows for behavioral change and emotional growth. In other words, as a dynamic process, freedom (or lack there of) is continually being discovered in the “universal limiting space that defines it.” As knowledge accumulates, for instance, life’s expectations and goals may change. The value and meaning of relationships may change. What at one time was sought for pleasure and comfort may, with increased understanding, become unpleasant, and so on and so forth.

But there is another kind of freedom, one that escapes categorizations. This is Buddhist freedom– a freedom we cannot sense, a freedom that is by definition indeterminate. Even so, paradoxically, much has been said (and written) about this freedom. Fortunately, the Japanese sage, and student of Zen Buddhism, Nishida Kitaro, has discussed Buddhist freedom without venturing outside the “limiting space” framework of freedom.

Nishida went looking for “pure experience” and found it in the “absolute free will” emerging from and returning to absolute nothingness. Since Nishida wanted to communicate this realization, he created his own logic, the logic of basho, because he believed the only way to communicate ultimate reality—true selfhood, was through a rational methodology. To be fair, I think his logic referenced existence more than analysis, but when you need to communicate the reality at the center of the creative world, where “absolute free will” lives in the “eternal now,” analysis by itself just can’t do the job. Anyway, three categories distinguished Nishida’s logic: basho of being, basho of relative nothingness, and basho of absolute nothingness. (Most of my information on Nishida comes from the book, Great Thinkers Of The Eastern World, Ian P. McGreal, Editor, p. 384-5.

For me at least, basho logic seems to be describing three different levels of interconnectivity—the interconnectivity of three different “pulses of freedom.” The basho of being becomes the limiting space of existence while the basho of relative nothingness becomes the defining characteristic of that limitation. The basho of absolute nothingness, on the other hand, is the glue and ultimate reality that Nishida is trying to communicate. In this interconnectivity a dual purpose is at work. As the ground of everything, the logic of basho works to support and restrict all beings. Upon achieving a state of self-realization, however, one experiences the absolute interpenetration of nothingness with all the particular existents in the universe. According to Nishida, everything that Is, is within the interconnectivity of basho, and, at bottom, the “self as basho” identifies itself with all the existents and beings of the world. The “self as basho,” “self as absolute nothingness,’’ wakes to perfect freedom, perfect wisdom and perfect bliss.

The fact that language will not (can not) permit a description of “fully enlightened beings,” is what inspired Nishida to create his basho logic. Was he successful? I cannot say, but I’m glad he tried because the second major theme in my writing is to search out a language rich enough to express all of freedom’s ramifications. Next week’s blog, in fact, will be a good indication of just how far I’ve come in achieving that goal. Like Nishida, I believe that a sufficiently strong freedom language will incorporate logic, albeit a logic referencing existence and analysis, and the concepts of interconnectivity and interpenetration. This language will require also (for me at least) the concepts of transformation and reciprocity, more specifically, the reciprocity that exists structurally in content/form interdependence.

One of the things I’ve found intriguing is how certain conceptual forms can go through various transformations without loosing meaning, e.g. 2 means two, two also means 1+1=2, two also means 4-2= 2. In logic, in a like manner, A and ~A cannot exist at the same time (the law of non-contradiction wherein a statement and its negation cannot both be true and false at the same time), but, ~~A then A (the principle that any proposition implies and is implied by the negation of its negation) is perfectly true, e.g. it is the case that not, not A implies A.

Transformations like above are not limited to analysis. For instance, suppose that my own self-awareness was a product of mind and something else. Suppose also that this something else not only defined (formed) self-awareness, but also was responsible for the interconnectivity of my self-awareness across time, which is to say past mind events connect present mind events and present mind events connect future mind events in the same way that form interpenetrates content, i.e., the reciprocal relationship of content/form interdependence.

Self-awareness as a structured reciprocal relationship is not simply a product of my imagination; it surfaced for me after reading a book by Jean Piaget. Before I describe what I found in his book on Structuralism, here’s what the Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Vol. 6, p.306) has to say about what he studied: “Piaget examined the development of not only abstract concepts such as classes, relations, and numbers, but also physical concepts like space, time, atomism, conservation and chance, all of which he has regarded as constructed from behavioral activities.” My search for a vocabulary rich enough to describe freedom’s ramifications increased ten fold after reading Piaget.

The Psychologist, Jean Piaget, put the origin of structure and the symbolic content that it generates, in an organisms capacity for action. For Piaget then, the knowledge of our objective and subjective experience begins in the recognition and coordination of sensorimotor activity. By locating the source of cognitive structure in the sensorimotor activity of babies, Piaget opened up the possibility that “structure” was grounded in “nature”– not in “mind.” Through his investigations, he was able to show how the subject and object poles of experience are “products” of experience. In fact, what we typically call “normal cognitive skills,” for Piaget, is a product of necessary developmental stages, i.e. sensorimotor, representational, and formal operative. Only after the individual passes through theses stages does one acquire “normal cognitive skills.” The subject pole and object pole of a child’s experience remains undissociated early in the sensorimotor stage, but after passing through the stage of formal operations the child (8-12 year old), in his/her capacity to invoke reasoned judgments and deductive thought, is then able to conceptualize what is not perceived (e.g. principles of conservation, reversibility, transitivity, etc.). For Piaget then, cognitive-awareness is not something we are born with; rather it is the product of an ongoing developmental process. This is important because it tells us that logic stems from a sort of spontaneous organization of activity,– that the pre-condition for knowledge is an assimilation of a given external into the structures of the subject,– and that out of these subjective structures arise, phoenix like, the genesis of self-awareness. Thus, not only do we find the relationship of context/form interdependence in the ongoing activity of accommodation/assimilation of environment, we also find it in the relationship that binds natural structure to cognitive structure.

The mental event structure that we cognitively experience as “movement into the future” becomes (according to the way I understand Piaget) a product of the externally given context/form interdependent relationship of accommodation/assimilation. In the externally given accommodation/assimilation structure, accommodation is understood to be a change in the assimilated product of environmental interaction, i.e. acting on the past to create a present, and, likewise, assimilation is understood as an action actively reproduced in such a way as to incorporate new (accommodated) objects into one’s own assimilated experience, i.e. actualizing the potential to intelligently navigate a course through an uncertain future, thus, this externally given “structure” of accommodation/assimilation becomes (when subjectively internalized) what Piaget calls the center of functional activity, or, the context/form interdependent experience of “self” moving from past, to present, to future. However, to introduce a caveat that I believe any anthropologist would agree to, the capacity to dissociate one thing from another is itself a product of social evolution. The “self” experience of today is not the “self” experience of archaic people. Social consciousness is intimately connected with its environment, and only gradually, through the process of reification, does that environment become externalized as an object of consciousness. In other words, today what is perceived in clarity and sharpness was, for archaic people, perceived as a relatively undifferentiated whole. The evolution of mind then, in addition to evolving structurally, “in time,” also evolves linearly, “across time.”

The question that still needs to be answered is where exactly is Piaget’s “self” located? According to Piaget, “the center of functional activity is not located in the traditional ‘me space’ that we so often take for granted; nor is it located in the ‘lived space’ that is described in the works of various existentialists; nor is it located in the positivists physico-chemical brain activity,” Nietzsche’s will to power, Marx’s economic determinate, or Durkheim’s normative order etc. Rather, Piaget locates his “constructionist self,” in general terms, “somewhere midway between the nervous system and conscious behavior (because) ‘psychology is first of all a biology.”’ To be more specific, however, Piaget locates the “constructionist self” in the structure of content/form interdependence. Piaget explains:

“But what manner of existence is left, then, for the mind, if it is neither social, nor mental in the subjective sense, nor organic?

…If it is, as Levi-Strauss says, necessary to ‘reintegrate content with form,’ it is no less essential to recall that neither forms nor contents exist per se: in nature as in mathematics every form is content for ‘higher’ forms and every content form of what it ‘contains’….

This uninterrupted process of coordinating and setting in reciprocal relations is the true ‘generator’ of structures as constantly under construction and reconstruction. The subject exists because, to put it very briefly, the being of structures consists in their coming to be, that is, their being ‘under construction.”’ [Piaget, Structuralism, p. 112]

If Piaget is right, and intelligence is an extension of natural structure then intelligence arises, phoenix like, from natural structure, but, suppose intelligence (rather than arising from structure) was, just as Piaget believed, contained in the structure of content/form interdependence, and here’s where it gets somewhat tricky,
what if this content/form interdependence became self-conscious, and, this self-consciousness then became the “start up” of human intelligence, and/or what Piaget calls the center of functional activity.

This is a bit much to take in, to be sure, but that is what I will write about in next week’s blog. In closing, I want to end this blog with a modern day description of self-awareness, one that also upholds the idea that human intelligence is a product of context/form interdependence.

Identifying Jean Paul Sartre’s philosophy as structuralism is, I am aware, pushing the envelope. However, an authority on structuralism has proposed this option (without, I might add, elaborating on it.) “One might go as far as to say…that structuralism is analogous to Sartre’s view of consciousness — it is what it is not, and it is not what it is.” [Jean-Marie Benoist, A Structural Revolution, p. 1] In Sartre’s book Being And Nothingness, his chapter on Being-For-Itself is subtitled “Immediate Structures of the For-Itself.” [Jean-Paul Sartre, Being And Nothingness, p. 119] Structure is not hidden in Sartre; it’s just that on the whole Sartre’s book is a polemic against reading structure as anything more than appearance.

In the representation of Sartre’s thought as “consciousness is what it is not, and it is not what it is,” we find reciprocal movement, the same reciprocal movement encountered, in Piaget’s content/form interdependence. Specifically, Sartre defines the consciousness of the transcending For-itself (our self-space) as: “Consciousness is a being such that in its being, its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself.” (Ibid. p. 801) [As far as I am concerned this for-itself concept, and much of what is also written in Being And Nothingness, is as much a product of the thought of Simone deBeauvoir, Sartre’s life long confident, as it was the creation of Jean Paul Sartre. Throughout the writing of the book she (PhD in Philosophy) was his sounding board, and editor. Unlike Sartre, she stayed committed to this philosophy until she died.) In an extrapolation on Sartre’s definition of consciousness, Benoist describes the relationship inherent in consciousness as: “it is what it is not, and it is not what it is.” My own reading of this relationship is: being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In either case, however, we end up with a description of content/form interdependence.

This double movement is represented on many levels in Sartre’s exegesis on being and nothingness. This double movement becomes very specific in Sartre’s description of his pre-reflective Cogito. In so far as we find ”nothingness” at the center of Cogito, consciousness per se must be understood to be set apart from itself, therefore, Sartre’s pre-reflective Cogito will always form one pole of our conscious experience while the “objects” of consciousness will take their place at the other pole of conscious experience. This condition, where the pre-reflective Cogito becomes the preexistent structure for conscious awareness of objects, is another way of arriving at what Piaget called the center of functional activity. Depending on where “you” focus your concern, the content of consciousness is either pushed to the front of consciousness (the unreflective consciousness), or, the object of consciousness is pushed into the background, as the “negation of consciousness” is brought into the foreground (the reflected upon object of consciousness).

Together, our pre-reflective Cogito and the object of consciousness form our conscious experience of the knower-known dyad– content/form interdependence. In so far as this double movement turns on the pivot point of pure negation, the known exists for the knower, but the knower can never be fully known. As self-consciousness rises in consciousness, it is denied the possibility of becoming fully self-aware. This result, the incompleteness of self, brings us back to Sartre’s original definition of consciousness, or, “consciousness is such that in its being its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself.” This center of functional activity, this content/form interdependence that makes thinking possible, this symbol-generating movement of free thought that emancipates language, myth, science, and morality, pushes and pulls self-awareness down the road that hopefully leads to a more civilized society. In the absence of this center of functional activity, “thinking” is restricted to the manipulation of signs—mere sensual indicators, minus the symbols that carry the significance of those same indicators. In other words, in the absence of this center of functional activity, language becomes severely limited, if not impossible.

Self-consciousness emerges where the center of functional activity– begins. This experience comes with a price. As individuals, we are condemned to be free. In the words of Sartre, we must perpetually “confront the world and self as a lack,” and, because of this, we cannot escape responsibility for our choices. Irregardless of how we choose to act, we must take responsibility for our choice. For Sartre, responsibility lies in the chosen act and therefore can never be separated from the person who chooses. If, on the other hand, we happen to be living in the episteme that the postmodernist Foucault characterized as, “belonging to the questioning of that to which one belongs,” then responsibility becomes absorbed into the power/knowledge relationship of “responsible to whom for what ends.” Certainly Foucault argues this position and, I might add, it is not a coincidence that Foucault characterized the modern episteme as “man’s obsession with what eludes him.” Just as I am sure that Foucault read Sartre, I am also sure that Foucault’s description of epistemes is off the mark and here’s why:

While Sartre has delineated the not-self and the consequences that follow from not-self in our everyday world of social interaction, he stops far short of identifying the structure of his pre-reflective Cogito— the content/form interdependence that constitutes self-awareness—with what Piaget called natural structure. The short answer here is that content/form interdependence encompasses both nature and human consciousness– as the “innate structuring capacity of all structures,” and this will be the subject of next week’s blog.

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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.”

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.

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

October 22, 2009

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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.

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?

September 30, 2009

100_3109The Defining Condition Of Ambivalence/Self Becomes Identified With A “Neither This Nor That” Circumstance

Prospectus Continued

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

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

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

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

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

Survey of Literature and Theoretical Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prospectus Continued

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

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

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

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

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

Survey of Literature and Theoretical Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After citing some friendly theoretical perspectives (Angyal, 1941; Jung, 1969; Billig, 1987 & 1982; Gregg, 1991; Hermans & Kempen 1993), that I believe are sympathetically disposed to my own position, – that of an ambivalence shunning, salience generating triadic self concept, – I will turn my attention to the literature of Self-Cognizing Research and the literature of Self-Inference Process and Motivation. In this literature clarifying insights and supportive empirical data will be cited.100_3109

A THEORY OF SELF, AMBIVALENCE, AND TOLERANCE

August 27, 2009

100_3106This Theory Is Expected To Help Us Better Understand The Conjugate Complexity Of Prejudice

1997 Thesis

“For every difference that makes us more unique there is a common thread which connects us all. We share the need for home and community, for love and respect. May these common threads form a beautiful world in which all people and all cultures are honored.” — unknown

ABSTRACT
PREJUDICE: EMPIRICAL DATA BECKONING TOWARD

A THEORY OF SELF, AMBIVALENCE,
AND TOLERANCE

This research proposes a Self-Awareness theory that theoretically connects prejudiced attitudes with the conceptual framework of self-focused attention, attention directed at personal domains of enduring feelings, opinions, and behavioral tendencies of self, and, with ambivalence, the psychological stress of not knowing how to proceed in a given situation. The claim that ambivalence is a frequent effect of private self-consciousness activity is explored in this thesis. The claim that prejudiced attitudes arise when the presence of ambivalence is excluded from salient private self-consciousness activity is also explored in this thesis.

Responses to a survey questionnaire were collected and the data has been analyzed in order to measure the linkage of prejudiced attitudes, ambivalence, and self-focused attention. Three scales, the 9-item Private Self-Consciousness Scale, the 20-item Multifactor Measure of Whites’ Attitudes Toward Blacks scale, and the 20-item Evaluation of Physically Disabled Persons Measure scale, and two ambivalence-inducing vignettes, were administered to college students.

Results were varied. Of the nine proposed hypotheses four resulted in statistically significant results consistent with the researcher’s expectations. It was concluded that more research is needed if the hypothesized connection between prejudiced attitudes, private self-consciousness activity and ambivalence is to be conclusively established.

INTRODUCTION

Statement Of The Problem

This thesis attempts to advance an understanding of prejudice whereupon the likelihood of a person to seize upon prejudiced attitudes toward African Americans and the likelihood of a person to seize upon prejudiced attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities will be conceptually linked to the proneness of a person to engage self-focused attention.

In this regard, a Self-Awareness theory is proposed that theoretically connects prejudiced attitudes with the conceptual framework of self-focused attention, attention directed at personal domains of enduring feelings, opinions, and behavioral tendencies of self, and, with ambivalence, the psychological stress of not knowing how to proceed in a given situation. The claim that ambivalence is a frequent effect of private self-consciousness activity is explored in this thesis. The claim that prejudiced attitudes arise when the presence of ambivalence is excluded from salient private self-consciousness activity is also explored in this thesis. Responses to a survey questionnaire were collected and the data has been analyzed in order to measure the linkage of prejudiced attitudes, ambivalence, and self-focused attention.

This thesis attempts to advance an understanding of prejudice/tolerance by measuring respondents’ attitudes towards private self-consciousness, prejudiced attitudes toward African Americans and prejudiced attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities. More specifically, this thesis research explores two different sets of data. Individuals were surveyed in order to test whether the self-perception of self-focused attention and prejudiced attitudes are related; and, individuals were surveyed to test whether individuals prejudiced toward African Americans were also prejudiced toward persons with physical disabilities.

Since prejudiced attitudes are manifested, for the most part, through injurious acts and judgments occurring on the global stage ad infinitum, this theory is not meant to suggest a definitive explanatory account of prejudice. Albeit, this theory, as a tool for illumination, is expected to help us better understand the conjugate complexity of prejudice.

The Inner Life Of The Individual Is Either Abandoned Or Not Taken Seriously

In America, Prejudice Against Such Groups As African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, Homosexuals, Jews and Others Is All Too Prevalent

Significance Of The Problem

A study of prejudiced attitudes toward African Americans, prejudiced attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities, and attitudes towards the self-perception of private self-consciousness is also a study of human nature, group membership, and intergroup relationships. Human needs are best satisfied when individuals organize themselves into groups. Group membership may be voluntarily selected or ascribed. When individuals organize themselves into groups, they tend to classify and evaluate people according to intergroup norms. Group members tend also to evaluate other people according to whether they are a members of the group, or, members of an outgroup. Prejudiced attitudes towards members of other groups are the outcomes of this process. According to Gaertner (1986 : 322), “…at the intergroup level, people act in terms of their social identity, more faithfully conforming to the group’s norms and also treating others in terms of their corresponding group memberships rather than their personal identities. Outgroup members, in particular, become depersonalized, undifferentiated, substitutable entities.”

In social relationships intergroup dynamics of prejudiced attitudes towards outgroups are usually described in terms of confrontation, violence, and, depending on the scope of animosities, war. In American society, the evidence is all too convincing that prejudice persists at alarmingly high rates against such groups as African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, homosexuals, Jews and others. In human costs, prejudiced attitudes and racial discrimination are measured in terms of poverty, drug addiction, physical and mental health, and crime. Deriving a better understanding of the relationship between prejudiced attitudes towards both racial minorities and persons with physical disabilities will help us to better understand both intergroup relationships and prejudice.

This research project has offered an opportunity to further our understanding of the process that results in prejudiced attitudes towards outgroups by furthering our understanding of the boundary-making (labeling) process. Cognitive boundaries do not stand alone, they are continuous with, and informed by, socioeconomic status, linguistic expression, and cultural values [and, in the absence of values, by feelings of detachment, displacement and groundlessness].

[Footnote. Sociology, in this era of postmodern sensibilities, is under attack. For postmodernists, the assumptions of Enlightenment rationality, traditional Western epistemology, and any supposedly “secure” representation of a reality that exits outside of discourse, are, according to A. J. Vidich and S. M. Lyman (N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln, 1994), a subgroup of assumptions that fall into “an all-encompassing critical skepticism about knowledge.” As a consequence of the postmodern critique of Sociology, the “inner life” of the individual is either abandoned or not taken seriously. Further, the desire to reach agreement on normative guidelines for scientific practice or argumentative consistency is also not taken seriously. A Self-Awareness theory, as it is proposed in this Thesis, speaks to these concerns while remaining within the discourse of postmodernism.]

This thesis contributes data and a theoretical foundation for why attention frequently focused on private self-consciousness activity facilitates the likelihood of cooperative, self-restrained behavior among individuals, and, by extension, cooperative interaction between groups. A major theoretical premise directing this research project maintains that the need to reconcile ambivalence-inducing thoughts, feelings, and desires has the potential to reshuffle and expand cognitive boundaries (intergroup identities).

The data generated in this research project is directed toward answering two questions: 1) Does a preoccupation with private self-consciousness activity, for example, the tendency to think about feelings, beliefs, values, generalizations, and, self-identity, lead a person to be tolerant of ambivalence and therefore less likely to exhibit prejudiced attitudes?; and, 2) Are people who demonstrate prejudiced attitudes toward African Americans also likely to demonstrate prejudiced attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities? If the answer to the first question is yes, then a new direction would open up for studies of prejudice and intergroup boundary manipulation. If the answer to the second question is yes, then this data, in addition to supporting the juxtaposition of prejudiced attitudes and authoritarian syndrome, [that is, the phenomena of authoritarianism as it is linked with anti-Semitic ideology in the classic work, The Authoritarian Personality (Adorno, et. al., 1950)], would also act to underscore, at the risk of stating the superfluous, that persons with physical disabilities face similar obstacles that confront other racial minorities, for example, discrimination in employment, education, income, and housing.

The sequel will address the interdependent link between prejudiced attitudes and ambivalence. I would like to suggest that on a different level, a more significant level perhaps, acquiring an understanding of ambivalence (as opposed to acquiring an understanding of the specific elements of prejudice), may have an impact on sustaining (or creating) a healthy, caring society; that is, if our common objective is to reduce unnecessary human suffering.

Certainty-Oriented Persons Lack Interest In Discovering New Information About The Self Or The Environment

August 22, 2009

100_3108An Uncertainty-Oriented Person Is A “Need To Know” Type Who Is “Primarily Concerned With, And Interested In, Finding Out New Things About The Self Or The Environment.”
Prospectus Continued

Survey of Literature and Theoretical Foundation Continued

Self-Cognizing Research literature goes back to the objective self-awareness theory of Duval and Wicklund (1972) which holds that whenever a person takes himself or herself to be an object (in the form of self-focused attention) a negative affect will follow. Although I was originally drawn to the Self-Cognizing literature because I thought the negative affect discussed in the objective self-awareness theory could be directly attributed to the negated “me-self” component of the triadic self concept that I proposed, I found, after surveying the literature (Wicklund, 1975; Carver and Scheier, 1981; Gibbons, 1990,), that a negative affect, although a frequent occurrence, does not necessarily occur as a result of self-focused attention, i.e., whenever attention became fixed on a within-self dimension. The literature on Self-Cognition theory does contribute to this research project in other ways however. Self-Cognition theory tends to analyze human behavior in terms of “information processing,” and assumes that all information that is accessible to awareness originates in the environment and “in the person” (Carver and Scheier, 1981, p. 35.)

Self-focused attention may be attuned to public or private concerns. Evidence has been gathered to support the claim that a public self exists side by side with a private self (Froming and Walker,1980; Froming et al., 1981; Caver and Scheirer, 1981) and when attention is focused on the public self, – the self-presentational, public aspect of self – attention is likely to remain focused, according to Gibbons (1990, p.281), on the “feelings of group cohesion ….thereby promoting conformity with group norms and, when carried to an extreme, resulting in deindividuation. The deindividuated state, then, is characterized by a more or less constant absence of self-focus. When this happens, behavior essentially comes under control of the group” (Diener, 1979; Prentice-Dunn & Rogers, 1982). On the other hand, when attention is focused on the private aspect of self, on the feelings, opinions, motives, and behavioral tendencies of self, then self-focused attention has been found to “encourage a more careful and thoughtful consideration of the antecedents and the consequences of behavior” (Gibbons, 1983; Gibbons, 1990, p.255). The evidence gathered in these self-cognizing studies, particularly Froming and Walker (1980) and Froming et al. (1981), according to Carver, et al. (1981, p.320), “make it clear that different manipulations of self-attention can push behavior in different ways in the same situation by directing attention to different aspects of the self.” Significantly, as is demonstrated by these studies, when attention is directed inward (at the private self-consciousness dimension of self), an increase in the salience of cognitive boundaries occurs. As cognitive boundary salience increases, so to does the likelihood that a person’s attitudes and behaviors will change (alter, intensify).

More support for the claim that attention directed at the self initiates a salience generating cognitive process is accumulating in the literature of Self-Inference and Motivation. By investigating individual differences in uncertainty-oriented and certainty oriented persons Sorrentino et al. (1990, ed. Olson et al., p.242), found that an uncertainty-oriented person can be described as a “need to know” type who is “primarily concerned with, and interested in, finding out new things about the self or the environment.” Certainty-oriented persons, on the other hand, were found to ignore or avoid circumstances of fixed self-attention. Certainty-oriented persons demonstrated a lack of interest in, according to Sorrentino, “discovering new information about the self or the environment.”

While I understand that the attitudes and behaviors of uncertainty-oriented persons are not necessarily similar to the attitudes and behaviors of persons who score high on the Private Self-Consciousness Scale (Scheirer et. al., 1987), I cannot ignore the similarity that exists between the evaluative self-appraisal behavior that characterizes persons predisposed to private self-consciousness activity and the “need to know” type behavior that characterizes uncertainty-oriented persons. This similarity in behaviors seems to be, at least in part, brought on by the “need to acquire self-relevant information,” and, according to the Self-Cognizing literature, the trigger for this “need to acquire self-relevant information” gets jerked when attention becomes focused on the private aspect of self.

Investigating the implications that follow from this “need to acquire self-relevant information,” at least in those persons who demonstrate this need, is an important part of the research undertaken in this research project. Based on a careful reading of the above literature survey, there is a strong indication that the “need for self-relevant information” (in the people who develop or have this need) is as important in determining cognitive boundaries as is the heretofore mentioned principal determinants, or, socioeconomic status, linguistic expression, and cultural values.

If, in this research project, the data shows that persons who score high on the Private Self-Consciousness Scale are not as likely to hold prejudice attitudes towards racial minorities and persons with physical disabilities then persons who score low on the same scale, then another important similarity will, again, arise, between the attitudes of uncertainty-oriented persons and the attitudes of persons who score high on the Private Self-Consciousness Scale. “An uncertainty-oriented person,” according to Sorrentino et al., (ed. Olson et. al., 1990, p. 242), “is one who scores high on our projective measure of the need to resolve uncertainty, or n Uncertainty (Frederick, Sorrentino, & Hewitt, 1987), and low on a measure of authoritarianism (Byrne & Lamberth, 1971).” This result is not only important because it points out that uncertainty-oriented persons (i.e., persons who “need to acquire self-relevant information), tend not to hold prejudiced attitudes, it is also important because it seems to suggest that a reduction in the salience of cognitive boundaries (intergroup identities) facilates the likelihood of cooperative self-restrained behavior among individuals, and, this is one of the implications which I contend follows from the theory of an ambivalence shunning, salience generating triadic self.

Uncertainty-Oriented Persons Have A Tendency Not To Be Prejudiced, Bigoted, Opinionated, Or Sexist

Uncertainty-Oriented Persons Have A Tendency To Feel Helpless, Guilt, Discontent, And Loneliness

Prospectus Concluded

Summarizing, in this research project I will attempt to produce data that is consistent with and supportive of, the claim that cognitive boundaries are determined and shaped by the “need to acquire self-relevant information.” It is my contention that the “need to acquire self-relevant information” plays a significant role in the cognitive boundary formation process, perhaps, a role as significant as the more recognizable cognitive boundary determinants of socioeconomic status, linguistic expression and cultural values. In conjunction with producing relevant data to support this contention, I will also provide a theory of self, a salience generating triadic self (ambivalence/self), that offers a unique perspective upon which to base an explanation for: 1) why “rational conduct always involves a reflexive reference to self, that is, an indication to the individual of the significances which his actions or gestures have for other individuals” (Mead, 1936, p.122); 2) why “sensing ones individuality is thus connected with a self critical attitude, a sense of uncertainty or insufficiency” (Wicklund and Eckert, 1992, p.108)

[Footnote. With the answer to the second question I will also be able to answer why uncertainty-oriented persons have a tendency not to be prejudiced, bigoted, opinionated, or sexist (Sorrentino et al., 1986, p399); while, they also have a tendency to “feel helpless, guilt, discontent, and loneliness” (Sorrentino et al., ed. Olson et al., 1990, p. 248)]

And, 3) why the public, presentational aspect of self, – the Mead (1936), Cooley (1902), Goffman, (1963) variety of selves,- is not able to account for why “self-awareness occurs when aspects of the self [the private self] are more salient than environmental stimuli” (Gibbons, 1990, p.252).

Hypotheses And Methods

Towards a Toleration of Differences: Derivation of Hypotheses and Empirical Data.

Ambivalences are motivationally affective in directing the person to remove ambivalences. Emotional (parent child relations), voluntary (conflicting wishes), and cognitive (contradictory wishes) ambivalences can be neutralized by reactive behavior, e.g., repression, education, denial. Confronting ambivalence generating cognized conditions initiates a cognitive search for a counter proposal in order to neutralize the ambivalence. For instance, I would rather continue to work on this paper, but I have been invited over to a friend’s house. What should I do? The due date of the paper is not tomorrow, so I will choose to visit with my friend. This is an easy case, but, when the focus of attention is directed toward the self’s more ambivalence-prone covert nature, such as privately held beliefs, aspirations, values, and feelings, then neutralizing counter proposals are not so readily available. And further, if the ambivalence generating cognized condition becomes the self itself, i.e., self-identity, then no (satisfactory) ambivalence neutralizing counter proposal will be found. Self-identity centered ambivalence informs all other ambivalences. It is, according to Thom (1984, p. x.), “the most primitive of oppositions.”

Thus, a person encountering ambivalence will be motivated to escape
ambivalence by seeking a neutralizing counter proposal to ambivalence generating
cognized conditions. A prolonged search for ambivalence-reducing counter proposals will entail encounters with numerous unsatisfactory counter proposals. In this way ambivalence-generating cognized conditions stimulate self-awareness and self-conscious inquiry, and, depending on the nature of the ambivalence-generating cognized condition, e.g., life/death, egalitarian values/greed, to invest in the market/when to invest in the market, this inquiry may or may not succeed in producing a satisfactory counter proposal. The longer the search continues, however, the more likely cognitive boundaries will shift and cognitive horizons expand. Therefore, I hypothesize that the persons who engage in persistent private self-consciousness activity – evaluative self-appraisals, will be the same persons who are able and willing to deal with self-inflicted cognitive tensions, discords, variances, contrarieties, and uncertainties, and, these same persons will be the persons most likely to hold tolerant attitudes towards racial and ethnic minorities as well as maintain a respectful sensitivity toward persons with physical disabilities.

[Footnote. Billig (1987, p.250), in his inquiry concerning thought and the spirit of contradiction, expresses the significance of evaluative self-appraisals: “The switching of a stance, whether from criticism to justification or vice versa, can represent a process of self-discovery for the individual. Having been placed in a new rhetorical context, individuals may experience an unforeseen rising of the spirit of contradiction, and in this way they may encounter a new side to their attitudes and maybe to their own selves.”]

In order to test this hypothesis, a population of university students will be surveyed for their attitudes on prejudice and self-consciousness activity. The data gathered from this survey will be evaluated. If a large number of affirmative responses indicating prejudiced attitudes towards racial minorities and prejudiced attitudes towards persons with physical disabilities is recorded on the survey then those responses would indicate a highly prejudiced person. Data that supports the above mentioned hypothesis would result in respondents indicating a high score on questions indicating prejudiced attitudes and a low score on questions indicating private self-consciousness activity. Conversely, respondents who score high on the Private Self-Consciousness Scale would be expected to score low on the scales measuring prejudiced attitudes toward racial minorities and persons with physical disabilities.

The Instruments and Procedure

The sample for this study will be taken from university students who volunteer to fill out a questionnaire. With the aid of one or more of my sociology professors, I will distribute questionnaires to students enrolled in Sociology classes on the campus of Central Michigan University. Results from this survey will be obtained from a non-random sample of students. Although this more or less homogenious group of students does restrict the generalizability of this study to other populations, this non-generalizability does not threaten the internal consistency of the hypothesis. In order to get a more significant test of the hypothesis in question, future studies will have to be undertaken to replicate the results of this present study. If significant results are obtained from this particular study then I suggest that future studies be carried out on large, randomly selected populations.