There are many ways to trace the transition from self to world, or from the subjective to the objective pole of the mental life, such as from dispositions and implicit beliefs through concepts to objects, from dreamless sleep through dream to perception, from the first budding of a thought to a concrete action, from a personal value to an impersonal duty.
The continuum from personal responsibility to guilt over a broken promise, to moral outrage and a demand for punishment over an unfulfilled obligation, is as much an illustration of the transition from self to world as that from value and intention to conduct and coercion.
One can say that the transition from a disposition, to an intention or resolution, to a promise with an obligation involves an increasing objectification of the will. Specifically there is a progressive surrender of agency from an intrapsychic to an extrapersonal locus. One could also say that the exo-centric values depositing in an object carry with them a feeling of agency that is transferred from the self to the other. In this way, intention objectifies in the other as obligation.
Take the resolution of the arhat to achieve personal salvation versus the obligation of the bodhisattva to strive for the salvation of others. Both are dedicated, but in the latter this dedication is referred outward as a social responsibility. … the transition from self-betterment as a good in itself, to self-betterment as a means to the good of others, i.e. a subtle bias in object-concepts or means/end relations, seems less important than the fact that the ends and means are both expressions of character.
A biding promise may be carried out reluctantly, with little resolve, or be broken, while a resolution that approaches a vow can have considerable force. A moment of resolve can re-define a life.
There are situations in which the moral thing to do is withdraw a promise to a person who is later exposed as unworthy, or if the conditions that motivated the promise no longer apply; for example, an oath to defend one’s country in a war of conquest, a promise to give financial aid to a person who comes into a fortune etc.
The many ways of extracting promises from people, or placing them under an obligation, are the fabric of a society woven together by a trust that obligations will be respected. An abuse of trust is exploitation. … A contract is only as good as the good will of the parties that honour it.
The admonition, to thine own self be true, entails that we avoid making a promise that conflicts with the best of our values. Then the keeping of the promise will not do violence to one’s character. The same is true for the breaking of a promise that is impetuous or foolish.
In a sense, there are three selves in a promise, one representing personal advantage or egoist desires, which may or may not be concordant with the agreement, the other, empathy, compassion, loyalty or obligation, the exocentric values, where the needs of the other are represented, and a third that represents the ideal self, the ideal for that individual, which may or may not be of high ethical quality. The ideal self represents the individual’s idea of what sort of person he would like to be, a construct of aspiration in the dispositional matrix of the core self. The guilt over a bad promise kept, or a good one broken, is the friction of these discordant voices.
From an evolutionary perspective, punishment of social reprobates is comparable to the elimination of the unfit in animal populations. Society takes the place of the physical environment and eliminates organisms who exceed some conventionally accepted deviation from the norm. Ideally, a person who commits a crime should accept, even welcome just punishment, though in the highly individualistic, hedonic and egocentric societies of the west, it is rare that a person accepts responsibility for his actions, still more rare that he accepts the punishment that goes with the verdict.
Threats and rewards, as expectations, are the psychic equivalent of dangers and opportunities. A threat places egoist and other-centered values in a precarious balance, while reward is mainly bound up with self-centered ones.
Praise and punishment, success and failure, are equilibria of self and other that arise in psychological constructs central to character, identity and trust.
As time goes by, the objectivity of the constructual element in the promise may replace the subjectivity of loving.
Customs are implicit accords of values shared in a group over some portion of its history. … It is an implicit agreement by the subject to act in conformity with the culture to encourage closeness in feeling and conduct, and discourage separation and divisiveness.
A promise that is based on virtue, for example giving to charity, donating blood, food, clothing, helping the sick, can and should become so customary that an obligation is unnecessary. In contrast, an unusual custom that is inconsistent with egoist desires, e.g. revenge for a neighbour’s injury, an unjust bequest , may require a promise for its execution. For some , these are major distinctions. To me, they are the shadings of core values that differ in the degree to which obligations – for self and other – are instilled early or acquired late, the degree to which assents are unique or shared, an their extent of publicity, compulsion and enforcement.
To see the organism in nature, the nervous system in the organism, the brain in the nervous system, the cortex in the brain is the answer to the problems which haunt philosophy, and when thus seen they will be seen to be … as events are in history, in a moving, growing, never finished process. ~ John Dewey (1925)
Process and form refer to the dynamic and static aspects of every entity, including the mind/brain state. The dynamic and static, the phasic and tonic, are unified in the relation of quality and quantity, or becoming and being.
Brain morphology is not a collection of anatomical parts that discharge functions or house them, but the specious stability of frozen process. The wave-like spread of configurations laying down the mind-brain state is, myriad patterns of configurations over distributed areas that sweep from archaic to recent formations laying down behaviour or cognition. Behaviour is four dimensional structure as process actualises into form.
The shift from an extrinsic series to a simultaneous arising, from an exogenous to an endogenous development, and the nesting of this pattern in multi-tiered lamination of phase-transitions, forms the essential ‘structure’ of an act of cognition, i.e. the mind/brain state.
In microgenetic theory, cognition is wholly endogenous, the role of experience (social, environmental) being to “fine tune” the specification. Innate dispositions are carved by learning to knowledge, which is derived to concepts of greater specificity. Concepts are formulated with greater precision. The specification by constraints on the cognitive process corresponds to the specification of anatomical and functional connectivity, in maturation, by elimination or inhibition. Learning influences anatomy and physiology by enhancing or impeding endogenous trends, not by an addition to an existing repertoire.
For microgenesis, affect and idea are dependent phenomena. Feeling (quality, becoming) creates and is enfolded by representation or category (quantity, being).
Values that reflect self-interest arise out of drives that ensure survival. Every drop of self interest can be traced to an unconscious pool of self-preservation. Every occasion of genuine empathy can be traced to – but not reduced to – innate constructs relating to patterns of infant care, social hierarchy and deference to others.
All entities have the aim of becoming what they are, and all organisms seek what they need to survive, but it is a long way to go from subjective aim and incipient purposefulness to full fledged human intention.
As mind issues from, and creates, the manifold of the world, the self distributes an array of psychic contents.
Value is realised in the action-stream as self-realisation, but the will can also be channelled in to the perception-stream as an outward derivation of feeling into objects. Generally, manifestation is the action of will, which is primarily egoistic, while perception is the vehicle by which the other is realised.
Desire actualises at successive points in the realisation of acts, percepts and their linguistic derivations. Object development carries a desire outward, as worth, into other objects, whereas act development realises desire in wither selfish or unselfish pursuits.
When an aim becomes an idea, the seeking of it becomes an intention. Intention is a bridge from self to object or idea.
Instinctual Drive (lower mammals) >> Object existence
Instinctual Drive (higher mammals) >> Proto-desire >> Object Value
Instinctual Drive (humans) >> Self >> Desire >> Object Worth
The value in a physical entity, or a perceptual object in the world, arises spontaneously with feeling, as existence, expanding desire to object worth. In this expansion, the innate inheritance is continuous with instilled values. The branching of acquired values accentuates a growth trend obscured by the uniqueness of the human mode of valuation and its obvious cultural determinants. We are the source of feeling and object value because we are entities of value-creation. We create objects of value but we are also products of the value-stream that carries value outward, first into the self, then its desires, finally into its objects. The value of objects is forecast in the worth we give to private images, such as dreams and thoughts.
A psychological distance and a relation of contrast are necessary across segments in the mind/brain for desire to be directed to a target of worth. The self is the source of desire. Its concepts, especially in choice, are the repository of agency, its objects, the principle locus of value.
Yet there are moments when the self is consumed with passion or its objects overflow with value, when love or hate usurp the subjective pole, when objects disappear as the self is overcome with feeling, or objects become so wonderful or detestable that, for the moment at least, nothing else matters.
With a splitting of concepts at the inner or subjective pole, ideas may become so remote from their emotional root that they are valued purely for their rationality. The analysis of conceptual feeling is carried to such an extreme that barely a trickle of personal feeling invades the endpoints of conceptualisation. The idea is a mental object comparable to an object in perception. Such ideas, like objects, seem to have a life of their own, independent of feeling, though the intensity of belief and passion of argument betray a covert subjectivity latent in the idea. With an excessive discrimination of self or world, feeling withers in its objects, which are emptied of affect to become mechanical, even worthless.
The person who argues too passionately for a belief he takes to be rational reveals that his concepts are not logical instruments which persuade by their truth, but derivatives of unconscious presuppositions imbued with feeling.
There are also times when the unconscious pool of magical thought surfaces to a pre-analytic endpoint, and the whole of perception is blanketed with an intense emotion. Then, a certain balance of inner and outer prevails and everything shines with a deep radiance, … At such times we sense the life of feeling in a world of creation and we wonder if we have given this feeling to the world or if the world, including ourselves, is animated by a single feeling that flows from nature through all of us.
Valuations in the self lay down force lines or habits that determine consecutive states. When beliefs and values are habitual or unquestioned, the thoughts and actions of an individual have a limited scope. … receptiveness and openness to novelty are bridges to interest and precursors of valuation. Custom may be the lord of ethics, but it can also be an antidote to desire, just as spontaneous or authentic moral feeling can be dulled by a sense of duty.
The physicist Richard Feynman (1998) wrote, “what looks still to our crude eyes is a wild and dynamic dance.” He was referring to non-cognitive entities, but the dance also occurs in perceptual objects in the mind of the observer, for the apparent stability and independence of the object conceals the minds activity within it.
An object of marginal interest becomes the target of a consuming desire as unconscious phases in the perception are activated. The unconscious source that first inclines the focus of interest in the direction of the object is the basis of a growth in its value. Worth is not a judgement in the sense of a conscious decision, as something is judged to be true or false, but an unconscious feeling that urges the subject to a conscious explanation. When someone is desirable, we give reasons why this occurs … but these reasons alone do not suffice to make [them] desirable, for they could be applied to another person for whom one has no particular interest.