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VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality

6. Our Holosymbiotic Personal Selves

As evolutionary life stirs to self-awareness, the broad field of human psychology sought to understand our human mental milieu, behaviors, emotions, and more with reference to anatomical, biochemical and genetic substrates. A first concern was to identify and mitigate the psychic maladies that inflict night and day. In the 1980s a confluence of neuroscience, linguistics, comprehension, artificial intelligence, and philosophy became known as cognitive science. Humanistic and transpersonal versions began shift the focus from deficits to positive enhancement.

This project often divided into camps of nature vs. nurture. One side, under rubrics of nativism, essentialism or rationalism, argues that preset programs govern. The other, variously as behaviorism, constructivism or empiricism, contends people hold to external influences and make life up as they go along. In the 1990s and 2000s an “evolutionary psychology” traced Darwinian roots for paternal investment, mate choice, altruism, rank, prejudice and so on. Another take conceived mental capacity as a congress of “modules” or “mental organs,” so to solve adaptive problems or deal with new experience. And as observers note, knowledge of ourselves does not determine but can in fact liberate.

2020: Into the 2010s, individual identity studies, broadly conceived, have likewise proceeded by way the sciences of complex network systems to reach deeper and wider understandings. One’s personal psyche is seen to arise from and be sustained by the same self-organized, fractal, autopoietic mutualities as life’s developmental course. We cite a Holosymbiotic image by reference to the Cellular Holobiont Symbiosis section above. Another 21st century theme is a view that personal beingness ought to be situated in their behavioral, societal, and environmental milieu. In response, an embodied, extended body and mind perception has come forth. Altogether now each individual entity could be seen to be graced by an integral me + We vitality both in their microbiome persona and within their reciprocal communities.

Bolis, Dimitris and Leonhard Schilbach. I Interact Therefore I Am: The Self as an Historical Product of Dialectical Attunement. Topoi. 39/2, 2020.
Cambray, Joseph and Leslie Sawin, eds. Research in Analytical Psychology: Applications from Scientific, Historical, and Cross-Cultural. London: Routledge, 2018
Ciaunica, Anna. The Relational Self: Basic Forms of Self-Awareness. Topoi. 39/2, 2020.
Gilbert, Scott, et al. A Symbiotic View of Life: We Have Never Been Individuals. Quarterly Review of Biology. 87/4, 2012.
Heersmink, Richard. Varieties of the Extended Self. Consciousness and Cognition September, 2020.
Laland, Kevin and Amanda Seed. Annual Review of Psychology. 72/689, 2020.
Moura, Joelson, et al. Theoretical Insights of Evolutionary Psychology. Evolutionary Biology. January, 2020.
O'Malley, Maureen. From Endosymbiosis to Holobionts. Journal of Theoretical Biology. Online March, 2017.
Rees, Tobias, et al. How the Microbiome Challenges Our Concept of Self.
Thagard, Paul. The Self as a System of Multilevel Interacting Mechanisms. Philosophical Psychology. 27/2, 2014.


Abraham, Fred and Albert Gilgen, eds. Chaos Theory in Psychology. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1995. An initial effort to apply complex systems to psychological phenomena. A sample paper is “Fractal Geometry and Human Understanding” by T. Marks-Tarlow which contends that ones personality reflects its self-similar, complex organization.

Amiot, Catherine, et al. Integration of Social Identities in the Self: Toward a Cognitive-Developmental Model. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 11/4, 2007. Although written in the academic jargon of the field, another contribution (see also Christopher & Bickhard) which engages a dynamical self/society relation.

Arbib, Michael. Towards a Neuroscience of the Person. Robert Russell, et al, eds. Neuroscience and the Person. Vatican City: Vatican Observatory, 1999. Arbib theorizes that the brain employs “schemas” or mosaic representations which constantly assimilate and accommodate new experience. The self is an ‘encyclopedia’ of thousands of these schemas gained throughout ones life.

Baldwin, Mark, ed. Interpersonal Cognition. New York: Guilford Press, 2005. Our individual selves are much constructed through social interaction. This relational dimension is then thoroughly explored from evolutionary origins to therapeutic concerns. An impression is that what makes us uniquely human is not only a larger brain but our embeddedness in dynamic cognitive networks, as if a fledgling cultural cerebration.

Barkow, Jerome, ed. Missing the Revolution: Darwinism for Social Scientists. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Barkow was an author, along with John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, of the 1992 book The Adapted Mind that largely initiated the search for evolutionary explanations of human psychology and cultural behavior. But during the intervening years the endeavor has been subject to much contention, misunderstanding and attack. Many psychologists, sociologists, economists, political scientists, and so on, for a number of vested reasons, reject any biological cause or determination. In his lead essay, Barkow carefully reviews this state of affairs and tries to set a necessary “Darwinian metanarrative” on a correct course. Notable authors such as Anne Campbell, Ullica Segerstrale, and Lee Cronk then delve into its value for feminist studies, resolving domestic violence, and many other subjects. What seems to be indeed missing is a common sense of humankind’s project to comprehend, heal and enhance itself, which is hampered by these unproductive, disciplinary dissent.

Barkow, Jerome, et al, eds. The Adapted Mind. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. For the record, the compendium that introduced the field of evolutionary psychology as based on a cocatenation of specific modules in the brain.

Bell, Nancy and Anindita Das. Emergent Organization in the Dialogical Self: Evolution of a ‘‘both’’ Ethnic Identity Position. Culture & Psychology. 17/2, 2011. In an issue devoted to forming a personal identity in cultural settings, Texas Tech and Kansas State University social psychologists present a case study of an Asian-American woman which illustrates how an individual draws together disparate life experience into a coherent narrative. And in a “human universe” might we imagine an evolutionary genesis trying to similarly organize and narrate itself into viable selfhood as a child of the cosmos?

The dialogical self is a dynamic self-organizing system, on whom we base the following discussion. Self-organization refers to emergent organization of systems that occurs without external “instruction” or preformed design. It is not a single theory, but rather a set of metatheoretical principles that increasingly guide many scientific domains, including developmental science. The underlying principles of self-organization enable dialogical self theory to coordinate and integrate the dichotomies of variability-stability, discontinuity-continuity, multiplicity-unity, and thus to serve as a framework for reconciling the divergent positions within the identity literature. (244)

Bjorklund, David and Anthony Pellegrini. The Origins of Human Nature: Evolutionary Developmental Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2002. This large volume tries to expand the field of evolutionary psychology to include how we learn to think and act, which is set in a broadly recapitulative and epigenetic context.

Bolhuis, Johan, et al. Darwin in Mind: New Opportunities for Evolutionary Psychology. PLoS Biology. 9/7, 2011. After some two decades of pro and con debate on this approach, behavioral biologist Bolhuis, Utrecht University, Gillian Brown and Kevin Laland, University of St. Andrews anthropologists, and philosopher Robert Richardson, University of Cincinnati, survey the psychospace so to find a clearer path forward. Surely human cognitive, sexual, familial, and social behaviors have real evolutionary roots, which it would serve us to rightly sort out, understand, and avail.

Evolutionary Psychology (EP) views the human mind as organized into many modules, each underpinned by psychological adaptations designed to solve problems faced by our Pleistocene ancestors. We argue that the key tenets of the established EP paradigm require modification in the light of recent findings from a number of disciplines, including human genetics, evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and paleoecology. For instance, many human genes have been subject to recent selective sweeps; humans play an active, constructive role in co-directing their own development and evolution; and experimental evidence often favours a general process, rather than a modular account, of cognition. A redefined EP could use the theoretical insights of modern evolutionary biology as a rich source of hypotheses concerning the human mind, and could exploit novel methods from a variety of adjacent research fields. (Abstract, e1001109)

Bolis, Dimitris and Leonhard Schilbach. “I Interact Therefore I Am:” The Self as an Historical Product of Dialectical Attunement. Topoi. 39/2, 2020. In a special section about The Relational Self (A. Ciaunica), MPI Psychiatry social neuroscientists make a strong case for the evident mutuality of ones “psychophysiological identity,” as situated within an active socialcultural milieu. In regard, an internal/external dialectic, free energy, Bayesian ways, a shared intentionality and more are seen to be in a formative effect. And wouldn’t it be grand if after separated for so long, these me and We = US complements and triplements could finally return to and confirm their natural ubuntu, Taoist origins.

In this article, moving from being to becoming, we construe the ‘self’ as a dynamic process rather than as a static entity. To this end we draw on dialectics and Bayesian accounts of cognition so to holistically consider the ‘self’ as the interplay between internalization and externalization. Internalization here stands for bodily hierarchical models of the (social) world and the organism, while externalization is taken as the collective transformation of the world. These processes form a dialectic between the collective and the individual such that the self is a historical product of dialectical attunement across multiple time scales. Altogether, we suggest that social interactivity allows us to view the ‘self’ not as static individual but how it emerges and manifests in social relations. (Abstract excerpt)

Bosma, Harke and E. Saskia Kunnen, eds. Identity and Emotion: Development Through Self-Organization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. More examples of how the psychological study of personality is gaining new insights through dynamic systems theory. By this view, ones self develops and is sustained by the same principles of recursion, complementarity and emergence as all natural systems.

Buchman, Timothy. The Community of the Self. Nature. 420/246, 2002. A surgeon and cardiologist, presently at Emory University, explores entryways to a novel “systems physiology” via a reconception of body and heart as a dynamically poised complexities. An August 18, 2010 lecture by Dr. Buchman given at the Santa Fe Institute on the latest progress in this medical revolution entitled “Secrets of the Heart: The Electrocardiogram, Complex Systems Science, and the Fundamental Laws of Biology” can be viewed at http://www.santafe.edu/research/videos/play/?id=a5d6f206-fb0a-42ce-be9a-b1aafc583643.

At all levels – from genes to the web of organ systems that make up an individual – it is the balance of autonomy and connectedness that sustains health. These two fonts of stability have complementary roles in guarding the communities of cells that, in aggregate, is the organism itself. (246)

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