VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
6. A Symbiotic Personal Self
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.
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)
Forgas, Joseph and Kipling Williams, eds. The Social Self: Cognitive, Interpersonal and Intergroup Perspectives. New York: Psychology Press, 2002. A worldwide assembly of papers describe a ‘tripartite model of the self’ as a symbiosis of individual, interpersonal or relational and socially collective features. Human persons are intensely social beings engaged in a ‘symbolic interactionist’ role between their own personality and an encompassing community.
Friedenberg, Jay. Dynamical Psychology: Complexity, Self-Organization and Mind. Litchfield Park, AZ: ISCE Publishing, 2009. A Manhattan College psychologist ventures a book-length treatment of a nonlinear reconception akin to Jeffery Wagman (2010). A procession of chapters from Systems and Complexity, Self-Organization, Dynamical Systems, Networks, to The Fractal Mind, Cognitive Processes, and Problem Solving and Evolution advance this welling revolution. Not seen in full, here is the publisher’s précis.
Over the past several decades, the sciences have witnessed a significant paradigm shift. Our traditional notions of order, energy, causality and methodology have all been upended. A new set of views has arisen that enables us to better understand and examine the complexity of nature. In this perspective, behavior is nonlinear, order emerges spontaneously and responses are best understood as the movement of trajectories through multi-dimensional space. This book examines the role that dynamical systems, complexity science, networks, and fractals play in helping to explain the most difficult thing of all: ourselves.
Gallagher, Shaun. Philosophical Conceptions of the Self. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 4/1, 2000. Thoughts on various definitions of personal integrity with an emphasis on the “narrative self” constructed as one’s distinct “center of gravity,” which is maintained in social relationships.
Gelfand, Michele and Ed Diener, eds. Culture and Psychological Science. Perspectives on Psychological Science. 5/4, 2010. In this new journal of the Association for Psychological Science, an Introduction to a section on the convergent cross-fertilization between psychology and sociology which now seems to have reached a new phase of mature confirmation. See Markus and Kitayama, and Park and Huang herein.
The field of psychology is witnessing a revolution of sorts of which it may not be fully aware. From neuropsychology to globalization, this volume makes clear that culture research is beginning to permeate all areas of psychological science. The special issue includes articles on culture and neuroscience, culture and memory, culture and decision making, culture and self, culture and development, culture and organizational processes, culture and national well-being, acculturation, and intersubjective culture. Collectively, the articles highlight the fundamental nature of culture research in psychological science. (390)
Gergen, Kenneth. Relational Being: Beyond Self and Community. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. In this manifesto, the Swarthmore College psychologist draws upon years of research, teaching, and counseling to advocate a vital turn from bounded, isolated individuals to conversational, supportive communities. The chapters run from our compromised personal lives onto palliative paths to a connective, enhanced livingness, from an impoverished “me” to an enchanted “we.” Practical ways are then advised for therapies, education, knowledge co-creation, and effective organizations. Closing sections broach nurturing moralities that open to a “sacred” consciousness. Kenneth and feminist scholar spouse Mary Gergen are also founders of The Taos Institute to help facilitate these thoughts, please visit its website. If this movement is joined with similar volumes from Franz de Waal, Jeremy Rifkin, Martin Novak and others, along with David Brooks’ The Social Animal (Random House, March 2011) a course correction from our us vs. them gridlock might at last avail, heal and empower.
Constructionist theory and practice locates the source of meaning, value and action in the relational connection among people. It is through relational processes that we create the world in which we most want to live and work. (Taos Institute)
A Framework for the Unification of the Behavioral Sciences.
Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
The mind as a decision-making organ, along with a game-theoretic approach, is said to help toward an explanatory basis. Along with peer responses, many who beg to differ, provides a good sense of efforts to forge an evolutionary social psychology.