Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Real Deal On Identity

A healthy understanding of self comes about via few means.

The first, and likely most primary, is via negativa- we learn who we are by learning who we are not. Babies come into the world with a certain amount of awareness, but they have to grow into consciousness, and while they are doing so, they learn to perceive their bodies, and this is also a via negativa process. Babies learn how to move, and what they can move, and they begin to perceive the borders of their own bodies.

The second is observation. This ties in with the first, obviously, since being able to perceive what we are not requires being able to observe. What is probably most useful to point out is that race, gender, body type & size, and even IQ is both observable and either pre-existent or concurrent with consciousness.

The third is relationships. We learn who we are via our mother, father, sister, brother, etc- as well as relationships in the larger community.

The fourth is the struggle for perfection, unless you are a SJW, and then you are struggling to get your proclivities recognized as right and wonderful by society. For most people the struggle for perfection only feels like the struggle to be a little bit better than yesterday, or at least keeping entropy at bay. Attempts at various forms of asceticism, religion, arduous tasks, certain types of risk taking- all of these feedback into observation and allow us to perceive ourselves. Secular people who really need something like this run marathons, which is not very good for people, but does provide a sensation of being tested. So, assuming they manage to cross the finish line, they generally feel like they achieved something.

The need here is to have an identity that fits the person, like we need a map that fits the territory. Modern identity politics is designed to provide a false map, one that allows a bureaucratic elite to set up shop as arbiters between those imagined to be oppressed and oppressors. The struggle for perfection is replaced with a constant struggle to rid the world of oppression, and as long as this game goes on, people generally lose to ease and entropy. Those who struggle for perfection are cast as the oppressor and are hamstrung by society until there is no productivity, while those who are able to proclaim the most intricate and outré forms of victimhood are raised and given society's largess. Neither the persons or the society fare well under the circumstances.

When thinking about these ideas, it is best to view a human being as a process, and as a whole- not positing a soul or identity as the essence, but accepting we cannot fathom essences in our current state, but only experience the whole, over time. From an evolutionary point of view, it is best to consider ourselves as once being nothing, then being something, and trying over time to become more. That we inevitably fail is one of the primary drivers for religion, and despite modern ignorance, there are some mystical answers out there that are advantageous in this space.

It follows, logically, that the modern pop-psych idea of finding yourself is foolishness. Since the bulk of self-knowledge comes via observation and via negativa, the bulk of any inquiry into self transpires right along side any number of other inquiries.

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