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VII. WumanKinder: An EarthSphere Transition in Individuality

6. Our Holosymbiotic Personal Selves

Ploeger, Annemie, et al. Is Evolutionary Psychology a Metatheory for Psychology? A Discussion of Four Major Issues in Psychology from an Evolutionary Developmental Perspective. Psychological Inquiry. 19/1, 2008. In this target article, University of Amsterdam psychologists argue that the compass and content of EP ought to include biological and developmental dimensions for a complete theoretical basis. This would rightly involve novel appreciations of self-organizational and system dynamics along with their phase transitions and ubiquitous modularity. Commentaries by advocates such as David Bjorklund and David Buss, among others, elaborate in turn.

The starting point in evolutionary developmental biology is the thesis that new variants emerge before natural selection can do its work. The relevance of natural selection is not disputed, but evolutionary developmental biology provides a better account of the evolutionary origin of new forms that does neo-Darwinian theory. (3) The general idea is that complex systems arise by means of nonlinear interactions among local elements, and these self-organizing processes always occur by means of phase transitions. (11) If complex systems arise by means of self-organization, and thus by means of phase transitions, it would seem unavoidable that individual development is characterized by self-organization and phase transitions. (11)

Prinz, Wolfgang. Open Minds: The Social Making of Agency and Intentionality. Cambridge: MIT Press,, 2012. We enter this pithy volume by the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences psychologist with its book announcement and Preface scene setter of Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) initiating a Renaissance humanist autonomy. Centuries later, it can indeed be averred that we compose ourselves, now understood by reflective interaction with other persons, mediated by ones cognitive memories. And Prinz muses in closing that late re-interpretation might accrue for the old Adam and Eve story. By these lights, human beings are compelled, even divinely intended, to strike out on their own, rather than remain in an Edenic nursery. See also Prinz’s 2013 paper “Self in the Mirror” in Consciousness and Cognition.

In Open Minds, Wolfgang Prinz offers the novel claim that agency and intentionality are first perceived and understood in others, and that it is only through practices and discourses of social mirroring that individuals come to apply these features to themselves and to shape their architectures for volition and cognition accordingly. Developing a (social science) constructive approach within a (cognitive science) representational framework, Prinz argues that the architectures for agency (volition) and intentionality (cognition) arise from particular kinds of social interaction and communication. Rather than working as closed, individual systems, our minds operate in ways that are fundamentally open to other minds. (Publisher)

In 1486, in the heyday of Renaissance humanism in Northern Italy, the Tuscan nobleman Giovanni Pico della Mirandola delivered to the Florentine intellectual elite an oration entitled “On the Dignity of Man.” This oration was to become a manifesto of humanism – a programmatic document of a novel understanding of man’s place in the world, remapping the human landscape to focus all attention on human talent and capacities and the human perspective. At the heart of the novel understanding lies the idea that man is not only God’s creation but his own creator as well. God, after creating man in His own image and shaping him after His likeness, grants man creatorship to make and mold himself and freedom of choice to fashion himself in whatever shape he may prefer. (xi) In a nutshell, Pico’s account of human autonomy is as simple as it is radical: God gives man autonomy as a gift, and man, who is furnished with all the necessary talents for making use of that gift, thankfully accepts it and happily enjoys it. (xii)

Prinz, Wolfgang. Self in the Mirror. Consciousness and Cognition. 22/3, 2013. The Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences psychologist continues the project of his 2012 work Open Minds: The Social Making of Agency and Intentionality by reaffirming its key themes. Indeed by ones lifelong individual-group reciprocity each person may conceive, form, and hone their own validated identity.

What are mirror systems good for? Several suggestions have been made in response to this question, addressing the putative functions of mirror systems in minds and brains. This paper examines possible contributions of mirror systems to the emergence of subjectivity. At the heart of the discussion is the notion of social mirroring, which has a long tradition in social philosophy and social anthropology. Taking the existence of mirror devices in minds and brains for granted, I argue that social mirroring is a prerequisite for the constitution of mental selves, and, hence, the emergence of subjectivity. However, the fact that self and subjectivity are socially created should not be taken to indicate that they are illusory. They are as real as natural facts are. (Abstract)

Quartz, Steven. Toward a Developmental Evolutionary Psychology. Rauscher, Frederick and Steven Scher, eds. Evolutionary Psychology: Alternative Approaches. Boston: Kluwer Academic, 2003. On the need to include ontogenetic factors in the study of how human behavior was formed. Rather than due to modularity alone, cerebral evolution and development is seen to proceed in a hierarchical sequence. A crucial impetus is the “progressive externalization” of symbolic culture which in turn influences brain architecture. Behavioral systems are thus seen as a more appropriate conceptual vehicle than evolved modules.

Ramos, Renato, et al. Self-Organized Criticality and the Predictability of Human Behavior. New Ideas in Psychology. Online in Press, 2010. Brazilian neuroscientists find that nature’s ubiquitous complex, dynamical systems of interacting entities applies to and explains even our variegated social conduct and manners.

The behavior of normal individuals and psychiatric patients vary in a similar way following power laws. The presence of identical patterns of behavioral variation occurring in individuals with different levels of activity is suggestive of self-similarity phenomena. Based on these findings, we propose that the human behavior in social context can constitute a system exhibiting self-organized criticality (SOC). The introduction of SOC concept in psychological theories can help to approach the question of behavior predictability by taking into consideration their intrinsic stochastic character. Also, the ceteris paribus generalizations characteristic of psychological laws can be seen as a consequence of individual level description of a more complex collective phenomena.

Rauscher, Frederick and Steven Scher, eds. Evolutionary Psychology: Alternative Approaches. Boston: Kluwer Academic, 2003. Taking issue with earlier efforts which are seen as too narrow and skewed, these essays seek a broader compass that can include, e.g., group selection, culture/gene interaction, developmental aspects, so as to provide a more comprehensive, robust endeavor. (See Quartz above for a typical article.)

Read, Stephen, et al. A Neural Network Model of the Structure and Dynamics of Human Personality. Psychological Review. 117/1, 2010. A University of Southern California team, in a lengthy technical article, propose to bridge a prior gap between pattern and process in such studies by way of motive-based generic neural nets. Please compare this work with Judith Armitage’s, et al, neural net model for bacterial communities as examples how this version of a complex adaptive system is being realized across such disparate realms. All of which may suggest a grand universe to us learning experience.

Rees, Tobias, et al. How the Microbiome Challenges Our Concept of Self. PLoS Biology. February, 2018. . T. Rees, McGill University, Thomas Bosch, University of Kiel, Germany, and Angela Douglas, Cornell University survey how this latest integration of our human persona with myriad internal bacteria proceeds to redefine and indeed expand our “selves.” By these vital insights, we peoples gain further integration into life’s biospheric evolution.

Today, the three classical biological explanations of the individual self––the immune system, the brain, the genome––are being challenged by the new field of microbiome research. Evidence shows that our resident microbes orchestrate the adaptive immune system, influence the brain, and contribute more gene functions than our own genome. The realization that humans are not individual, discrete entities but rather the outcome of ever-changing interactions with microorganisms has consequences beyond the biological disciplines. In particular, it calls into question the assumption that distinctive human traits set us apart from all other animals––and therefore also the traditional disciplinary divisions between the arts and the sciences. (Abstract)

Ried, Katja, et al. Modelling Collective Motion Based on the Principle of Agency. arXiv:1712.01334. University of Innsbruck and of Konstanz philosopher physicists study how animal groupings take on an overall dynamic forms for better survival. Their interest is to show that this benefit is achieved not by subverting individual members, but rather by fluidly integrating the semi-autonomous behaviors of each entity.

Rochat, Philippe. The Self as Phenotype. Consciousness and Cognition. 20/1, 2011. Based on studies of a minimal self-awareness in fetuses and newborn infants, the Emory University psychologist advances a novel perception, per the quote, of an affinity between one’s bodily development and how a child may arise into personal selfhood. The essay then led to my wonderings whether such a composite individual sensibility and identity might likewise be in ascent for our quickening, embryonic Earthkin.

As a general framework, I propose to think of the self as a phenotype, in the literal sense of an organism emerging from the interaction of the genotype and the environment. At the origins, and at a basic level, it is perceived as something that has form and unity, a Gestalt that is more than the sum of its parts. The self is indeed an organism, in the dictionary sense of “a form of life composed of mutually interdependent parts that maintain various vital processes” or “a complex system having properties and functions determined not only by the properties and relations of its individual parts, but by the character of the whole that they compose and by the relations of the parts to the whole.” (109)

Rosen, David and Michael Luebbert, eds. Evolution of the Psyche. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999. A volume on the concerns of evolutionary psychology such as sexual strategies, collective memory, social mores, creativity, intelligence, and so on, set in a general recapitulatory matrix.

Rossano, Matthew. Evolutionary Psychology: The Science of Human Behavior. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2003. A proficient introductory text that ranges from basic tenets to feelings, actions, cooperation, development, family dynamics, sexual mores, and cognition.

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