VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality
6. Our Holosymbiotic Personal Selves
Collier, John. A Dynamical Approach to Identity and Diversity in Complex Systems. Cilliers, Paul and Rika Preiser, eds. Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective. Berlin: Springer, 2010. The University of KwaZulu-Natal, RSA, philosopher (Google for his PDF papers) strives to resolve the persistent dichotomy of an abiding endogenous essence or baseless, random contingency. By any measure, from ancient Greece to our global 21st century, there must be not opposition but mutuality of an indispensible ground, and a free, but not postmodern, play of creativity.
Aristotle regarded every thing to be a member of a species falling under a genus, with higher genera less specific until we get to basic metaphysical categories. Although he was concerned with kinds of entities, Aristotle had less concern with the identity of particular things. He thought that there are substances that form the substratum for attributes, or properties. The essential properties of a substance are those without which the substance would not exist, with other, changeable, properties being accidents. The being or essence of a substance is what determines its identity, and is the basis of its distinctness from other substances. (79)
Combs, Allan and Ken Wilber. The Radiance of Being: Understanding the Grand Integral Vision: Living the Integral Life. New York: Continuum, 2002. The sciences of complexity and consciousness reveal an expanded view of the human person as a creative participant oriented toward spiritually unfoldment.
Comfort, Nathaniel. How Science Has Shifted our Sense of Identity. Nature. 574/167, 2019. A Johns Hopkins University historian of medicine surveys some 150 years of an array of constantly modified, relative opinions, in step with academic schools and sensory techniques.
Cosmides, Leda and John Tooby. Evolutionary Psychology: New Perspectives on Cognition and Motivation. Annual Review of Psychology. 64/201, 2013. The University of California, Santa Barbara, psychologist and anthropologist who were the main founders of this endeavor to seek a deep heritage for brains and behaviors here provide an update survey of the art and argument. To wit, it just makes sense that there are such ancient roots to trace and avail. Lately an appreciation of compete and/or cooperate dynamics in a group can inform, instead of total dismissals.
Evolutionary psychology is the second wave of the cognitive revolution. The first wave focused on computational processes that generate knowledge about the world: perception, attention, categorization, reasoning, learning, and memory. The second wave views the brain as composed of evolved computational systems, engineered by natural selection to use information to adaptively regulate physiology and behavior. This shift in focus—from knowledge acquisition to the adaptive regulation of behavior—provides new ways of thinking about every topic in psychology. It suggests a mind populated by a large number of adaptive specializations, each equipped with content-rich representations, concepts, inference systems, and regulatory variables, which are functionally organized to solve the complex problems of survival and reproduction encountered by the ancestral hunter-gatherers from whom we are descended. We present recent empirical examples that illustrate how this approach has been used to discover new features of attention, categorization, reasoning, learning, emotion, and motivation. (Abstract)
Crawford, Charles and Dennis Krebs, eds. Foundations of Evolutionary Psychology. New York: Erlbaum, 2007. After much rancorous academic debate, the obvious association of our personal and social behavioral mores with their deep primate origins has gained wide acceptance and a literature in its support. This present volume offers a good entry to the often convoluted venue, and the range of references.
Evolutionary psychology is concerned with the adaptive problems early humans faced in ancestral human environments, the nature of the psychological mechanisms natural selection shaped to deal with those ancient problems, and the ability of the resulting evolved psychological mechanisms to deal with the problems people face in the modern world. Evolutionary psychology is currently advancing our understanding of altruism, moral behavior, family violence, sexual aggression, warfare, aesthetics, the nature of language, and gender differences in mate choice and perception. It is helping us understand the relationships between cognitive science, developmental psychology, behavior genetics, personality, and social psychology.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly and Isabella Selega Csikszentmihalyi, eds. A Life Worth Living. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. A volume of papers from the First International Positive Psychology Summit about the historic shift in emphasis from maladies to enhancement.
Dale, Edward. Completing Piaget’s Project: Transpersonal Philosophy and the Future of Psychology. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2014. In a work that could be a companion to Alan Mulhern’s The Sower and the Seed, (2015, herein) a psychology writer finds Jean Piaget’s insights into life’s developmental course from infancy and childhood to imply and spring from an eternal immanence. Once again, inherent parallels of ontogeny and phylogeny are evident. The author’s addition is to then recast and update by way of the nonlinear sciences of complex dynamic systems, seen as a 21st century version of his “transpersonal genetic psychology.”
Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain.
New York: Pantheon Books,
This latest lucid volume by the University of Southern California neuropsychologist and director of its Brain and Creativity Institute, appears at a moment when for such fields of study across the sciences, a new sense of convergent clarity is in the air. It is now becoming possible to explain, beyond stones and bones, with a new veracity how life’s creaturely procession is indeed distinguished by a sequential rise of brains, minds and sentient selves. Although Damasio does not press, what is implied is a once and future evolutionary process with an axial awakening and personification via an episodic tandem of complexity and consciousness.
The title of this book, as well as its first pages, leave no doubt that in approaching the conscious mind, I privilege the self. I believe conscious minds arise when a self process is added onto a basic mind process. (8) There is indeed a self, but it is a process, not a thing, and the process is present at all times when we are presumed to be conscious. (8) In the perspective of evolution and in the perspective one’s life history, the knower came in steps: the protoself and its primordial feelings; the action-driven core self; and finally the autobiographical self, which incorporates social and spiritual dimensions. (10)
Decety, Jean and Jessica Sommerville. Shared Representations Between Self and Other: A Social Cognitive Neuroscience View. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 7/12, 2003. Ones integrity is a unique merger of neural and behavioral components which are formed by a social response to other persons. This self-other cognitive capacity, discourse and “interpersonal awareness” is seen to draw upon right brain hemisphere resources.
In this paper we argue that the self is a multi-dimensional construct that relies on a distributed neural network that encompasses shared self-other representations. Rather than considering this network as a single module, we view it as a collection of interconnected regions that are essential for the subjective experience of a ‘self’. (527)
Feinberg, Todd. Brain and Self: Bridging the Gap. Consciousness & Cognition. 20/1, 2011. An introduction to a special issue with 15 diverse articles on this subject. For example, Feinberg continues his views on “The Nested Hierarchy and the Self,” Philippe Rochat notes “The Self as Phenotype,” (search), Michael Lewis’ “The Origins and Uses of Self-Awareness or the Mental Representation of Me” explores “the meaning and development of consciousness in a child,” and Lucina Uddin engages “Brain Connectivity and the Self: The Case of Cerebral Disconnection.”
Feinberg, Todd. From Axons to Identity: Neurological Explorations of the Nature of the Self. New York: Norton, 2009. A well-written, book-length development by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine neurologist of a lifetime of listening to and helping people. This “self” is defined as “a unity of consciousness in perception and action that persists in time.” Albeit with much pain, one’s integrative personality arises via a strata of wholes systems from neuronal net to behavior. As this view is presented, a constant theme seems to be a parallel path traced by a hierarchically sequential evolution.
Feinberg, Todd. Neural Hierarchies and the Self. Feinberg, Todd and Julian Keenan, eds. The Lost Self. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. In a book on the impact of brain pathologies on personal identity, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine psychiatrist details his theory of mind and self as an emergent quality from a hierarchical neural faculty. This is seen to occur in the same way as organisms grow and life evolves, the perennial microcosm and macrocosm revealed anew.
An alternative framework for viewing the mind-brain relationship is a type of hierarchy known as a compositional or nested hierarchy. All living things operate as nested hierarchies. At the lower levels of an organism are organelles that are combined to produce single cells that are in turn organized to produce tissues, which are then combined to produce organs that are ultimately organized to product an entire living organism. (39) Thus, the unified subjective experience that we experience as the integrated self is the result of the nested hierarchy of meaning created by the brain. (46) In this manner many brain regions are coordinated into a single nested entity that constitutes the unified self, and the self is ultimately a nested hierarchy of meaning and purpose created by the brain. (46)