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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

6. A Symbiotic Personal Self

Kray, Christine. The Pentecostal Re-Formation of Self. Ethos. 29/4, 2002. In this journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology, a report on a field study in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico on the tension between autonomy (aligned with the Pentecostals) and community (Catholicism) explores how they affect the formation of a coherent personality. The dichotomy is also set as fragmentation vs. integral unity.

La Cerra, Peggy and Roger Bingham. The Origin of Minds: Evolution, Uniqueness, and the New Science of the Self. New York: Harmony Books, 2002. Neuroscientists popularize a novel conception of an inherent drive from microbes to people which fosters successful selfhood by means of “behavioral energy management.” Creatures surely act for our own edification but within an encompassing social milieu.

Laland, Kevin and Gillian Brown. Sense and Nonsense: Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Behavior. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. In order to bring cohesion to the contentious field of evolutionary psychology, a synthesis of its various facets of human sociobiology, human behavioral ecology, mimetics and gene-culture coevolution is proposed.

Leary, Mark and June Price Tangney, eds. Handbook of Self and Identity. New York: Guilford Press, 2003. Its many aspects of structure, agency, emotion, control, interpersonality and so on, receive capsule articles. A final section considers the phylogeny and ontogeny of parallel evolutionary and individual development.

LeDoux, Joseph, et al, eds. The Self: From Soul to Brain. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Vol. 1001, 2003. A collection of papers from a premier conference to discuss how an “explicit” self – a narrative, psychological, social and spiritual identity – emerges from our “implicit” neurological unconscious. Patricia Churchland, Michael Gazzaniga, Daniel Dennett, Nancey Murphy, Marc Hauser, Antonio Damasio, Rodolfo Llinas, Mahzarin Banaji, Terrence Sejnowski, Eric Kandel, Francesca Happe and many others range from biological roots to developmental, cultural, fictional, and theological aspects. In an evolutionary view, at some point “the brain went from dark to light” as organisms became distinct, introspective entities. These contributions suggest that both our individual lives and the course of earth life is defined by the directional emergence of an integral self.

Li, Shu-Chen. Biocultural Orchestration of Developmental Plasticity Across Levels. Psychological Bulletin. 129/2, 2003. The article’s subtitle is: The Interplay of Biology and Culture in Shaping the Mind and Behavior Across the Life Span. By a theory of “cross-level biocultural coconstructivism,” the course of a lifetime can be given both a biological and cultural context. In this integration, an accord appears between personal ontogeny and evolutionary phylogeny.

Taking into account these three facets simultaneously (i.e., resource, process, and developmental relevancy), culture as defined here is not only the passive product of socially inherited esources of human civilizations such as tools, technology,….Rather, it is the “cogenerator” of culture-gene coevolution during human phylogeny in the long run; and together with behavioral, cognitive, and neurobiological mechanisms, it is the active “coproducer” of behavioral, cognitive, and neurobiological development during individual life span ontogeny at present. (173)

Lickliter, Robert and Hunter Honeycutt. Developmental Dynamics: Toward a Biologically Plausible Evolutionary Psychology. Psychological Bulletin. 129/6, 2003. Another attempt to correct the perceived gene-centered bias of the study of human traits and behavior by adding an evolutionary setting. Rather than genetic instructions alone upon which natural selection operates, an array of epigenetic factors influence the course of ontogeny. Peer reviews of the article also divide on either side to such an extent this endeavor seems to spend undue effort in argument.

There exists a large and growing body of evidence that demonstrates that the development of any individual organism is the consequence of a unique web of interactions among the genes it carries: the complex, multidetermined molecular interactions within and across individual cells; and the nature and sequence of the physical, biological, and social environments through which it passes during development. (820) ….development is seen as a self-organizing, probabilistic process in which pattern and order emerge and change as a result of complex interactions among developmentally relevant components both internal (including genes) and external to the organism, not from some set of prespecified instructions. (828)

MacKenzie, Matthew. Enacting the Self: Buddhist and Enactivist Approaches to the Emergence of the Self. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences. 9/1, 2010. A Colorado State University philosopher seeks to meld these disparate encounters separated by millennia to endorse a view of a human, and implied universe, that thus constructs and narrates itself into a progressive individuation. That is to say, as if a greater reality ever trying individually and cosmically to attain and express its own cognizance and personage.

Finally I sketch a Buddhist-enactivist account of the self. I argue for a nonreductionist view of the self as an active, embodied, embedded, self-organizing process—what the Buddhists call ‘I’-making (ahaṃkāra). This emergent process of self-making is grounded in the fundamentally recursive processes that characterize lived experience: autopoiesis at the biological level, temporalization and self-reference at the level of conscious experience, and conceptual and narrative construction at the level of intersubjectivity.(75)

Mahoney, Michael. Constructive Psychotherapy. New York: Guilford Press, 2003. A survey of the constructivist school which believes that persons have innate power to self-organize their own psychic wholeness. This is a stance said to be beyond nihilist postmodernism which allows for positive accomplishment. Although Mahoney summarizes much work, spanning Immanuel Kant, Jean Piaget and Francisco Varela, it still seems to need a “natavist” cosmological basis.

Constructivism is a view of humans as active, meaning-making individuals who are afloat on webs of relationships while they are moving along streams of life that relentlessly require new directions and connections. (xii)

Markus, Hazel and Shinobu Kitayama. Cultures and Selves: A Cycle of Mutual Constitution. Perspectives on Psychological Science. 5/4, 2010. For some two decades, parallel, companion studies have sought to quantity how personal and social factors might cross-influence each other, along with a bicameral complementarity amongst hemispheric peoples. Here veteran researchers from Stanford University and the University of Michigan can finally provide a synoptic retrospective of both intertwined realms. As other articles in the issue affirm, and noted on this website, an independent/interdependent, (me and we) reciprocity really does grace our humanity.

But a broach a further perception ought to be broached. While the ‘independent’ mode fixates on “me,” devoid of circumstance or concern, the ‘interdependent’ way is not an opposite, communist immersion and loss of selfhood. Rather this “we” in preferred practice is an obvious, beneficial reciprocity of individual self and supportive group. This November 3, a day after the 2010 elections of a red and blue Congress, this is lost on our polar culture of a Republican “me party” that wants unrestrained freedom, which is anarchy, and Democrats cast as some sort of “socialist” threat to liberties. How can we ever avail an organic democracy (see section) founded on nature’s actual complementary wisdom?

The study of culture and self casts psychology’s understanding of the self, identity, or agency as central to the analysis and interpretation of behavior and demonstrates that cultures and selves define and build upon each other in an ongoing cycle of mutual constitution. In a selective review of theoretical and empirical work, we define self and what the self does, define culture and how it constitutes the self (and vice versa), define independence and interdependence and determine how they shape psychological functioning, and examine the continuing challenges and controversies in the study of culture and self. We propose that a self is the “me” at the center of experience—a continually developing sense of awareness and agency that guides actions and takes shape as the individual, both brain and body, becomes attuned to various environments. Selves incorporate the patterning of their various environments and thus confer particular and culture-specific form and function to the psychological processes they organize (e.g., attention, perception, cognition, emotion, motivation, interpersonal relationship, group). In turn, as selves engage with their sociocultural contexts, they reinforce and sometimes change the ideas, practices, and institutions of these environments. (420)

Martin, Jack. Emergent Persons. New Ideas in Psychology. 21/2, 2003. A survey of the pervasive paradigm shift taking place in psychological thinking from a reductive model to one that recognizes the creation of a holistic self as an interactive emergence. Personhood arises by these common dynamics both in evolution and over ones life course.

Nonetheless, in terms of levels of reality and their assumed interactions and relations, there are some similarities across phylogenetic evolutionary patterns and ontogenetic developmental scenarios. (96)

Martin, Jack and Mark Bickhard. An Introduction to the Special Issue on “The New Psychology of Personhood.”. New Ideas in Psychology. 30/1, 2012. A traditional view that folks are not isolated biological, mental selves, but actually gain their identity and character through intense social interrelation is being revived and quantified in the 21st century. Martin and Bickhard each have pithy papers, along with contributions by Daniel Robinson, Charles Guignon, John Barresi, and Anna Stetsenko. See also a 2013 Cambridge University Press volume The Psychology of Personhood: Philosophical, Historical, Social-Developmental, and Narrative Perspectives edited by the authors, which collects some of these papers and adds others. Indeed, one could witness, in retrospect, an evolutionary course of regnant personal individuation, in affirmative community.

The goal of this paper (Personhood) is to contribute to recent scholarship that pursues radical revision of prevalent models of personhood mired in outdated notions of human development and its foundational principles. To achieve this goal, I revisit and expand Vygotsky's project of cultural historical psychology to offer a dialectical framework that encompasses but is not limited to relational ontology. Premised on the notion of collaborative transformative practice as the grounding for human Being and Becoming,1 my proposal is that at the core of human nature and development lies an ineluctably activist stance vis-à-vis the world; it is the realization of this stance through answerable deeds composing one unified life project that forms the path to personhood. (Anna Stetsenko, 144)

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