ART & ORGANISM
INDIVIDUATION and SOCIALIZATION
“To Know and to be known”
- “The Butterfly in the Brain” You have likely heard of the “butterfly effect”— the dependence of the current state on a very small change in a previous state. In other words, small changes can cascade and be amplified in subsequent states. In recent years, partly considering the interplay of nature and nurture, after the relatively small contribution of genetics to subsequent behavior in humans (see about the science of individuality), “Geneticists such as at King’s College London argue that much of the remaining variation is the result of chance events as our brains develop in the uterus. As [neuroscientist David] Linden* puts it: “The wiring diagram of the human brain is so enormous and complicated that it cannot be specified exactly in the sequence of an individual’s DNA. Subtle random changes in the position or movement of cells within the developing nervous system can cascade through time to produce important differences in neural wiring and function.” (read about this idea in context in a book review of Unique in newscientist) [*(David Linden is author of Unique: The new science of human individuality; reviewed in New Scientist, 12 Dec 2020.)] (from A&O notes on DEVELOPMENT)
Since deep antiquity seekers of wisdom have been urged to “KNOW THYSELF”
But also, in one’s behavior, to express NOTHING IN EXCESS .
And then about the dynamic balance between individuation and socialization seen in light of the differences between LONELINESS and SOLITUDE: read A&O notes on NEEDS for SOCIALITY and SOLITUDE
Arguably, REASON itself evolved as a result of this tension and the necessity for socialization to develop and contribute to self actualization. [recall that in our integrative biological version of Maslow’s hierarchy of motivational NEEDS, socialization preceded emergence of “esteem”–how one stood out from the group and being recognized by potential partners for your useful uniqueness. You might, for example, act in a way to evoke a critical thought in a potential reproductive partner: “I want those genes (and/or memes) in my babies.”
Consider in terms of the idea that amongst our most urgent needs are
TO KNOW AND TO BE KNOWN
read about LISTENING ANGELS
Exceptionalism –the idea of uniqueness is two edged –obviously to students of Art & Organism now– we are speaking at two different levels of organization.
What do you think of the quote: “Separation is an illusion that we have made real by agreement. The fundamental nature of the universe is one of harmony and unity in relationship. There is no separation. . . . We have no way of knowing that when we are born, our feeling of separation flows from an illusion that is built upon our lack of experience in the reality in which we find ourselves. We simply can’t see that our feeling of being separate is a result of our limited perception of the true nature of the universe. . . . Being born is like waking up inside a dream and not knowing it.” – Stewart Emery (“Actualizations”))
MORE ABOUT OUR “SEPERATENESS:”
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security. (Einstein 1950)[i] (Jon Kabat-Zinn tells a similar story: in “No Separation” in Coming to our Senses 2005 publ by Hyperion, NY. pp 338-339)
clinical: in the balance between the multiple elements of the sense of individual uniqueness and that of social integration, any combination of specific elements can get out of balance in ways that are dysfunctional if not at least troubling: for example, the profound sense of loneliness many people experience sometimes, and some people all the time:
CONSIDER the word “SONDER.” It was invented by John Koenig and posted to his project, “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.” I think it helps crystalize something about mutual connectivity to which check-ins at the beginning of seminar helps us aspire. In our A&O webnotes, now look at “intersubjectivity” (below). BTW: for all the inadequacies of language, you still must appreciate the power of WORDS: Koenig has a beautiful promotion for a book that eventually emerged from his project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkoML0_FiV4)
In a new book, “The Enigma of Reason” (Harvard), the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber take a stab at answering this question [about the evolution of reason]. Mercier, who works at a French research institute in Lyon, and Sperber, now based at the Central European University, in Budapest, point out that reason is an evolved trait, like bipedalism or three-color vision. It emerged on the savannas of Africa, and has to be understood in that context.
“Stripped of a lot of what might be called cognitive-science-ese, Mercier and Sperber’s argument runs, more or less, as follows: Humans’ biggest advantage over other species is our ability to coöperate. Coöperation is difficult to establish and almost as difficult to sustain. For any individual, freeloading is always the best course of action. Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data; rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups.”
“Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche humans have evolved for themselves,” Mercier and Sperber write. Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an “intellectualist” point of view prove shrewd when seen from a social “interactionist” perspective. (excerpt from Elizabeth Kolbert’s essay review of The Enigma of Reason, by the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber: “That’s What You Think” By Elizabeth Kolbert The New Yorker Books February 27, 2017 Issue pp 66-71 https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds
ARISTOTLE on the necessity to be social to be fully human:
“… if each individual when separate is not self-sufficient, he must be related to the whole state as other parts are to their whole, while a man who is incapable of entering into partnership, or who is so self-sufficing that he has no need to do so, is no part of a state, so that he must be either a lower animal or a god.” (from Perseus, an open educational resource for Greek and Latin)
Now go further with: CONNECTIONS BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS
SOCIAL and HISTORICAL FORCES
- “Before modern times, very few human beings lived alone. Slowly, beginning not much more than a century ago, that changed. In the United States, more than one in four people now lives alone; in some parts of the country, especially big cities, that percentage is much higher. You can live alone without being lonely, and you can be lonely without living alone, but the two are closely tied together, which makes lockdowns, sheltering in place, that much harder to bear. Loneliness, it seems unnecessary to say, is terrible for your health.” Read excerpts from “The History of Lonliness.”
- INDIVIDUATION and SOCIALIZATION;
- CONNECTIONS BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS and LISTENING ANGELS
- KNOW THYSELF:
- SELF in the CLASSROOM
- BIOLOGICAL NEEDS
- COGNITION and the THEORY of MIND – is loneliness at the heart of existential angst?
- A&O post on Loneliness
- READING – about loneliness as a social construct