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Frost's Meditations Logo
Sometimes at night I light a lamp so as not to see. 
~ Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943

My life has been one great big joke,
A dance that's walked,
A song that's spoke,
I laugh so hard I almost choke,
When I think about myself.

~ Maya Angelou
And remember, no matter where you go, there you are. 
~ Confucius


Graphic depicts a sense of self. A silhouette blurs into a rich rainbow coloured copy

 Identity is an umbrella term used throughout the social sciences to describe an individual's comprehension of him or herself as a discrete, separate entity. This term, though generic, can be further specified by the disciplines of psychology and sociology, including the two forms of social psychology.

Regarding the definition:

In psychology, a psychological identity relates to self-image (a person's mental model of him or herself), self-esteem, and individuation. An important part of identity in psychology is gender identity, as this dictates to a significant degree how an individual views him or herself both as a person and in relation to other people. In cognitive psychology, the term "identity" refers to the capacity for self-reflection and the awareness of self (Leary & Tangney 2003, p. 3).

Sociology places some explanatory weight on the concept of role-behavior. The notion of identity negotiation may arise from the learning of social roles through personal experience. Identity negotiation is a process in which a person negotiates with society at large regarding the meaning of his or her identity.

Psychologists most commonly use the term "identity" to describe personal identity, or the idiosyncratic things that make a person unique. Meanwhile, sociologists often use the term to describe social identity, or the collection of group memberships that define the individual. However, these uses are not proprietary, and each discipline may use either concept.

Identity in psychology
Erik Erikson was one of the earliest psychologists to be explicitly interested in identity. The Eriksonian framework rests upon a distinction among the psychological sense of continuity, known as the ego identity (sometimes identified simply as "the self"); the personal idiosyncrasies that separate one person from the next, known as the personal identity; and the collection of social roles that a person might play, known as either the social identity or the cultural identity. Erikson's work, in the psychodynamic tradition, aimed to investigate the process of identity formation across a lifespan. Progressive strength in the ego identity, for example, can be charted in terms of a series of stages in which identity is formed in response to increasingly sophisticated challenges. On some readings of Erikson, the development of a strong ego identity, along with the proper integration into a stable society and culture, lead to a stronger sense of identity in general. Accordingly, a deficiency in either of these factors may increase the chance of an identity crisis or confusion.

Although the self is distinct from identity, the literature of self-psychology can offer some insight into how identity is maintained. From the vantage point of self-psychology, there are two areas of interest: the processes by which a self is formed (the "I"), and the actual content of the schemata which compose the self-concept (the "Me"). In the latter field, theorists have shown interest in relating the self-concept to self-esteem, the differences between complex and simple ways of organizing self-knowledge, and the links between those organizing principles and the processing of information.

The "Neo-Eriksonian" identity status paradigm emerged in later years, driven largely by the work of James Marcia. This paradigm focuses upon the twin concepts of exploration and commitment. The central idea is that any individual's sense of identity is determined in large part by the explorations and commitments that he or she makes regarding certain personal and social traits. It follows that the core of the research in this paradigm investigates the degrees to which a person has made certain explorations, and the degree to which he or she displays a commitment to those explorations.

A person may display either relative weakness or relative strength in terms of both exploration and commitments. When assigned categories, four possible permutations result: identity diffusion, identity foreclosure, identity moratorium, and identity achievement. Diffusion is when a person lacks both exploration in life and interest in committing even to those unchosen roles that he or she occupies. Foreclosure is when a person has not chosen extensively in the past, but seems willing to commit to some relevant values, goals, or roles in the future. Moratorium is when a person displays a kind of flightiness, ready to make choices but unable to commit to them. Finally, achievement is when a person makes identity choices and commits to them.

Identity in social psychology
At a general level, self-psychology is compelled to investigate the question of how the personal self relates to the social environment. To the extent that these theories place themselves in the tradition of "psychological" social psychology, they focus on explaining an individual's actions within a group in terms of mental events and states. However, some "sociological" social psychology theories go further by attempting to deal with the issue of identity at both the levels of individual cognition and of collective behavior.

The question of what psychological reasons drive the individual's adoption of group identities remains open. Many people gain a sense of positive self-esteem from their identity groups, which furthers a sense of community and belonging. Another issue that researchers have attempted to address is the question of why people engage in discrimination, i.e., why they tend to favor those they consider a part of their "in-group" over those considered to be outsiders. Both questions have been given extensive treatment by Henri Tajfel and John C. Turner's social identity theory. Their theory focuses mainly on the role of self-categorization and attempts to show how a simple sense of distinctiveness can lead people to act in a discriminating way. Moreover, social identity theory shows that merely crafting cognitive distinction between in- and out-groups can lead to subtle effects on people's evaluations of others.

Another issue of interest in social psychology is related to the notion that there are certain identity formation strategies which a person may use to adapt to the social world. Cote and Levine  developed a typology which investigated the different manners of behavior that individuals may have. 

Their typology includes:

Psychological symptoms: Develops cognitive blocks that prevent adoption of adult role-schemas
Personality symptoms: Engages in child-like behavior
Social symptoms: Shows extensive dependency upon others and no meaningful engagement with the community of adults

Psychological symptoms: Possesses greater psychological resources than the Refuser (i.e., intelligence, charisma)
Personality symptoms: Is apathetic toward application of psychological resources
Social symptoms: Has no meaningful engagement with or commitment to adult communities

Psychological symptoms: Has a sense of dissatisfaction due to high personal and social expectations
Personality symptoms: Shows disdain for imperfections within the community
Social symptoms: Interacts to some degree with role-models, but ultimately these relationships are abandoned

Psychological symptoms: Possesses clear personal values and attitudes, but also a deep fear of change
Personality symptoms: Sense of personal identity is almost exhausted by sense of social identity
Social symptoms: Has an extremely rigid sense of social identity and strong identification with adult communities

Psychological symptoms: Consciously desires self-growth
Personality symptoms: Accepts personal skills and competencies and uses them actively
Social symptoms: Is responsive to communities that provide opportunity for self-growth

Kenneth Gergen formulated additional classifications, which include:
• the strategic manipulator,
• the pastiche personality,
• and the relational self.
The strategic manipulator is a person who begins to regard all senses of identity merely as role-playing exercises, and who gradually becomes alienated from his or her social "self".
The pastiche personality abandons all aspirations toward a true or "essential" identity, instead viewing social interactions as opportunities to play out, and hence become, the roles they play.
Finally, the relational self is a perspective by which persons abandon all sense of exclusive self, and view all sense of identity in terms of social engagement with others.

For Gergen, these strategies follow one another in phases, and they are linked to the increase in popularity of postmodern culture and the rise of telecommunications technology.

Identity in social anthropology 
Anthropologists have most frequently employed the term ‘identity’ to refer to this idea of selfhood in a loosely Eriksonian way (Erikson 1972) properties based on the uniqueness and individuality which makes a person distinct from others. Identity became of more interest to anthropologists with the emergence of modern concerns with ethnicity and social movements in the 1970s. This was reinforced by an appreciation, following the trend in sociological thought, of the manner in which the individual is affected by and contributes to the overall social context. At the same time, the Eriksonian approach to identity remained in force, with the result that identity has continued until recently to be used in a largely socio-historical way to refer to qualities of sameness in relation to a person’s connection to others and to a particular group of people.

This ambiguous and confusing approach to identity has led on occasion to rather restrictive interpretations of the concept, following two more or less opposite tendencies. The first favours a primordialist approach which takes the sense of self and belonging to a collective group as a fixed thing, defined by objective criteria such as common ancestry and common biological characteristics. The second, rooted in social constructionist theory, takes the view that identity is formed by a predominantly political choice of certain characteristics. In so doing, it questions the idea that identity is a natural given, characterised by fixed, supposedly objective criteria. Both approaches need to be understood in their respective political and historical contexts, characterised by debate on issues of class, race and ethnicity. While they have been criticized, they continue to exert an influence on approaches to the conceptualisation of identity today.

These different explorations of ‘identity’ demonstrate how difficult a concept it is to pin down. Since identity is a virtual thing, it is impossible to define it empirically. Discussions of identity use the term with different meanings, from fundamental and abiding sameness, to fluidity, contingency, negotiated and so on. Brubaker and Cooper note a tendency in many scholars to confuse identity as a category of practice and as a category of analysis (2000:5). Indeed, many scholars demonstrate a tendency to follow their own preconceptions of identity, following more or less the frameworks listed above, rather than taking into account the mechanisms by which the concept is crystallised as reality. In this environment, some analysts, such as Brubaker and Cooper, have suggested doing away with the concept completely (2000:1). Others, by contrast, have sought to introduce alternative concepts in an attempt to capture the dynamic and fluid qualities of human social self-expression. Hall (1992, 1996), for example, suggests treating identity as a process, to take into account the reality of diverse and ever-changing social experience. Some scholars have introduced the idea of identification, whereby identity is perceived as made up of different components that are ‘identified’ and interpreted by individuals. The construction of an individual sense of self is achieved by personal choices regarding who and what to associate with. Such approaches are liberating in their recognition of the role of the individual in social interaction and the construction of identity.

Anthropologists have contributed to the debate by shifting the focus of research: One of the first challenges for the researcher wishing to carry out empirical research in this area is to identify an appropriate analytical tool. The concept of boundaries is useful here for demonstrating how identity works. In the same way as Barth, in his approach to ethnicity, advocated the critical focus for investigation as being “the ethnic boundary that defines the group rather than the cultural stuff that it encloses” (1969:15), social anthropologists such as Cohen and Bray have shifted the focus of analytical study from identity to the boundaries that are used for purposes of identification. If identity is a kind of virtual site in which the dynamic processes and markers used for identification are made apparent, boundaries provide the framework on which this virtual site is built. They concentrated on how the idea of community belonging is differently constructed by individual members and how individuals within the group conceive ethnic boundaries.

As a non-directive and flexible analytical tool, the concept of boundaries helps both to map and to define the changeability and mutability that are characteristic of people’s experiences of the self in society. While identity is a volatile, flexible and abstract ‘thing’, its manifestations and the ways in which it is exercised are often open to view. Identity is made evident through the use of markers such as language, dress, behaviour and choice of space, whose effect depends on their recognition by other social beings. Markers help to create the boundaries that define similarities or differences between the marker wearer and the marker perceivers, their effectiveness depends on a shared understanding of their meaning. In a social context, misunderstandings can arise due to a misinterpretation of the significance of specific markers. Equally, an individual can use markers of identity to exert influence on other people without necessarily fulfilling all the criteria that an external observer might typically associate with such an abstract identity.

Boundaries can be inclusive or exclusive depending on how they are perceived by other people. An exclusive boundary arises, for example, when a person adopts a marker that imposes restrictions on the behaviour of others. An inclusive boundary is created, by contrast, by the use of a marker with which other people are ready and able to associate. At the same time, however, an inclusive boundary will also impose restrictions on the people it has included by limiting their inclusion within other boundaries. An example of this is the use of a particular language by a newcomer in a room full of people speaking various languages. Some people may understand the language used by this person while others may not. Those who do not understand it might take the newcomer’s use of this particular language merely as a neutral sign of identity. But they might also perceive it as imposing an exclusive boundary that is meant to mark them off from her. On the other hand, those who do understand the newcomer’s language could take it as an inclusive boundary, through which the newcomer associates herself with them to the exclusion of the other people present. Equally, however, it is possible that people who do understand the newcomer but who also speak another language may not want to speak the newcomer’s language and so see her marker as an imposition and a negative boundary. It is possible that the newcomer is either aware or unaware of this, depending on whether she herself knows other languages or is conscious of the plurilingual quality of the people there and is respectful of it or not.


Identity in sociology
In sociology and political science, the notion of social identity is defined as the way that individuals label themselves as members of particular groups (e.g., nation, social class, subculture, ethnicity, gender, etc.). It is in this sense that sociologists and historians speak of the national identity of a particular country, and feminist and queer theorists speak of gender identity. Symbolic interactionism (SI) attempts to show how identity can influence, and be influenced by, social reality at large. SI is based largely on the work of the American pragmatists, such as Charles Peirce and William James. (Cote 2002:32)

SI has two schools of thought: the Iowa School and the Chicago School. SI researchers in the Chicago School argue that social reality is emergent and is constructed from personal, "situated" interaction, i.e., from the process of impression management. To observe identity scientifically, the Chicago school opts for ethnomethodology and qualitative observation techniques. Iowa School researchers attempt to show that personal and social identities are representations of, or are otherwise connected to, social structures, and tend to use quantitative surveys. For example, McCall and Simmons make use of the notion of role-identity, and Sheldon Stryker's theory of structural interactionism explains identity in terms of interaction density and interaction opportunities. (Cote 2002:35-36) Of particular concern to sociologists who subscribe to the theories of Émile Durkheim is the question of how social phenomena such as mass anomie relate to the identity formation strategies.

Identity has played a functional role in social movements. By emphasizing a group identity, social movements have sought to strengthen politically oppressed groups both by improving members' sense of confidence and by familiarizing the external society with the existing social group. However, national or ethnic identity is sometimes also tied to demagogy, leading to ethnic or religious conflicts.

Based on identity theory as rooted in the work of George Herbert Mead (1934) and expanded by Sheldon Stryker (1968), the process of the individual interacting with others in order to create an identity is called identity negotiation. The purpose of identity negotiation is to develop a consistent set of behaviors that reinforce the identity of the person. In general, a person will have to negotiate separately on each identity he or she possesses by interacting with those who are affected by the role in question. For example, a person's identity as "office worker" would be negotiated separately from her identity as "mother", because the collectively established role of the worker involves negotiation with coworkers, and not (directly) with one's children. See Stryker and Burke (2000). A related notion is that of identity capital, developed by Cote & Levine (2002).

Identity and historical sociology
In sociology, social identity can also be examined from the perspective of social and historical change. Postmodern views of identity understand it as a function of historical and cultural circumstances. Some works, like that of Berger and Luckmann, argue that all aspects of social reality are actually social constructions created by historical facts. Nevertheless, they emphasize that these constructs have real consequences upon the lives and behaviors of human beings. (Cote 2002:37)

Kenneth Gergen and Anthony Giddens have both attempted to place theories of identity formation in a historical context. Gergen argues that changes in popular types of identity have run parallel to a change in broader culture: a sense of robust ego identity was present in the romantic period, followed by a sense of self as rational actor during the modernist period, and the sense of a relational self was typical of the postmodern period. In contrast, Giddens accepts that there is historical change in identity styles, but attributes it to aberrations in socio-economic conditions which are unique to the "high modern" period. (Cote 2002:42-43)

The implications are multiple as various research traditions are now heavily utilizing the lens of identity to examine phenomena. One implication of identity and identity construction can be seen in occupational settings. This becomes increasing challenging in stigmatized jobs or “dirty work”(Hughes, 1951). In a recent article Tracy and Trethewey state that “individuals gravitate toward and turn away from particular jobs depending in part, on the extent to which they validate a “preferred organizational self”(Tracy & Trethewey, 2005, p. 169). Some jobs carry different stigmas or acclaims. In her analysis Tracy uses the example of correctional officers trying to shake the stigma of the “glorified maids” (Tracy & Trethewey, 2005) “The process by which people arrive at justifications of and values for various occupational choices.” Among these are workplace satisfaction and overall quality of life (Tracy & Scott 2006, p. 33). People in these types of jobs are forced to find ways in order to create an identity they can live with. “Crafting a positive sense of self at work is more challenging when one’s work is considered “dirty” by societal standards” (Tracy & Scott 2006, p. 7). “In other words, doing taint management is not just about allowing the employee to feel good in that job. “If employees must navigate discourses that question the viability of their work, and/ or experience obstacles in managing taint through transforming dirty work into a badge of honor, it is likely they will find blaming the client to be an efficacious route in affirming their identity”(Tracy & Scott 2006, p. 33).

In any case, the concept that an individual has a unique identity developed relatively late in history. Factors influencing the emphasis on personal identity may include:

• In the West, the Protestant stress on one's responsibility for one's own soul;

• Psychology itself, emerging as a distinct field of knowledge and speculation;

• The growth of a sense of privacy;

• Specialization of worker roles during the industrial period (as opposed, for example, to the undifferentiated roles of peasants in the feudal system);

• Occupation and employment's effect on identity;

Increased emphasis on gender identity, including gender identity disorder and transgender issues.


Graphic shows an arc of multi-colored headsSelf: The Prime Mover

Who is the center of awareness? Where is the source of intent? Who is observing, perceiving, reflecting, recalling, contemplating, anticipating, thinking, contented, hoping, judging, worrying, feeling, deciding, hurting, and concentrating? Who am I? I am the self.

The Observer; the seat of perception,
The Thinker; the seat of consciousness,
The Judge; the seat of evaluation,
The Prime Mover; the seat of intent,
Your physical and mental being with all its human and unique characteristics.
Related Terms
The words: being, individual, soul, and ego have meanings similar to “self”.

Self Spiral
Everything we do and every perception we have of the world around us accumulates over time and contributes to the ever-changing entity we refer to as our “self”.

The first time we smile as an infant we have changed the world by stimulating others to smile back at us.

Seeing their smile—and eventually perceiving the acceptance it represents—begins to change us; it is the beginning of our self-concept, self-image, self-confidence, self-doubt, and the autonomy, competence, and relatedness that form the basis of our motivations.

How we engage the world changes how the world responds to us. This cycle of: do, see, perceive, assess, learn, and do again continues at a rapid pace countless times throughout our lifetimes and forms an ongoing spiral that begins to converge on the stable and consistent pattern of goals, beliefs, wishes, intent, habits, talents, and behavior we call our “self”.

Events that happen to you, the choices you make, and the influential people you meet throughout your life all contribute to what you learn and believe about the world. These factors, and the meaning you assign to them, merge and blend with your human nature and personality to create your ever evolving self. The moment you first tried to roll over, or crawl, or walk, or talk was either successful and satisfying or it was frustrating for you. Your parents, or anyone who may have been watching might have encouraged your exploration or they may have been critical and discouraging. The childhood games you played, the first time you were left alone, the first day of school, the first time you were betrayed, or lied to, punched in the nose, or abandoned are all important events that you have perceived, interpreted, learned from, and have contributed to revising your self-concept. Perhaps you begin to think of the world as a friendly and accepting place where hard work is rewarded, or you may think of it as angry and hostile. You begin to understand the consequences of actions; the connection between an incident and a result. Your attitude toward the world begins to take shape as that attitude influences how you behave in the world. As you grow older you may have participated in sports, or music, or dancing. Perhaps you were talented, perhaps you were not.

Your competence in each of these activities was assessed by yourself and no-doubt by others. As a result your self-concept  expands to include such beliefs as: “I am good at sports, not very good at music and dancing, OK in spelling, and not so good in math.” These ideas are refined as you score your first goal, win your first game, flunk another test, win your first trophy, get badly injured, and get cut from your first team. Believing you are good at sports may cause you to play for more teams, which of course increases your skill in the sport. As a teen you suffer the wrath of your peers; perhaps you are popular and attractive, or alone and plain. You go on your first date, have your first kiss, and agonize over sex. This may go smoothly, but more likely it does not. Learning continues throughout your life as your beliefs are challenged, refined, and revised. Your experiences and beliefs are constantly reinforced, interpreted, evaluated, and inevitably distorted by your self-talk—your ever-present inner dialogue. You may believe the world is a warm and wonderful place, or it may be full of harsh and cruel obstacles. You may be quietly confident, or you may be anxious, afraid, and ashamed.

Although events happen to you, the choices you make are your own responsibility. What education you complete, choices you make about drinking, driving, smoking, and drugs, the friends you keep, what you talk about, where you hang out, choosing to be the conformist or the rebel, deciding whether or not to go to college, career choice, and marriage choices are all shaped by your self-concept as they contribute to your self-concept. You may make these choices confidently and autonomously, based on your own well-considered beliefs, or you may be greatly influenced by peer pressure, parents, or the desire to please others. Critical choice points will reveal your own self and continue to shape your life and your self. Some choices will strengthen your authentic self, and others will contribute to your fictional self.

Certain people will strongly influence you and contribute to your self-concept. These include parents, siblings, peers, teachers, coaches, bullies, heroes, role models, teammates, tormentors, competitors, and your nemesis. You admire some, loath some, and you simply tolerate or ignore others. You learn from them all and they all contribute to who you are today. This self-spiral continues to change you as you change the world.

As your self-spiral grows you will accumulate intrinsic regulations—rules that you have carefully evaluated and decided are congruent with your values and beliefs. These contribute to your authentic self. But you are also likely to accumulate introjected regulations. These are behaviors performed to avoid guilt, humiliation, fear, or anxiety, or to attain a false pride by enhancing your image but not your stature. These move you away from your authentic self and toward your fictional self.

Knowing Yourself
To understand yourself, begin by understanding: human nature, what you can change and what you cannot, your own personality traits, learned behaviors, and your values, beliefs, sense of justice, needs, goals, and motives. Integrate these to form your personal model for human interaction. Understand what guides you throughout your life. Discover your signature strengths, and the basis of your true stature. Examine your self-spiral, purge the introjected regulations, integrate your values, beliefs, and actions, and work to become your authentic self.

Your mind is organized with many thousands of symbols for many objects and concepts including: cars, chairs, the future, your hopes, goodness, your dog, your friends, and even yourself. Your mental symbol that represents yourself is your “self-symbol”. Words we use as symbols for ourselves (and others) are often chosen from our list of trait nouns, and trait adjectives. Some of these labels are accurate and some are not accurate representations of our self.

Humans have the remarkable, and perhaps unique ability to think about our own thoughts. This strange loop allows us to become aware of our self, to plan for the future, reflect and ruminate about the past, think about our selves as separate from others, imagine the thoughts of others, project our experiences into the minds of others, and judge our own actions. Self-awareness provides us the unique ability to control ourselves intentionally by imagining ourselves in the future and talk to ourselves about options for our future.

Self-awareness allows us to imagine the world from a variety of perspectives. Not only can we contemplate what we are perceiving now, but we can reflect on the past and imagine a variety of futures. We can also imagine what others are thinking now, or were thinking in the past, or will be thinking in the future. Self-awareness allows us to travel through time and read minds. But our awareness is less accurate than it may seem.

Humans were earthbound for millions of years. Their only experience of earth was the limited view each of us could gain from our village on the earth's surface. Mountain top vantage points gave a somewhat broader perspective, but even the most expansive view was of only a small portion of the earth. World-wide travel eventually allowed us to experience other regions on earth. Then in December 1968 the Apollo 8 spacecraft broke free from the earth and gave us stunning images of the whole earth, small and alone in the vast blackness of space. For many these images transformed the way they think about our planet. We can achieve a similar perspective when we can detach our consciousness from originating among our thoughts and move our awareness above, or outside of our own thoughts. Just as Apollo 8 peered down on the entire earth, we can adopt an awareness that examines our own thinking and contemplates it as a whole. People sometimes describe this viewpoint transformation as an awakening. This viewpoint can help us detach our egos.

Self-awareness, introspection, and self-consciousness open us up to the emotions of pride, envy, jealousy, guilt, shame, and hope. Our ability to imagine the world from another's perspective allows us to feel empathy, compassion, pity, envy, and jealousy. Self-awareness allows self-appraisal, which is discussed in more detail below.

Our conciseness and attention is often split between what we are doing, sensing, and perceiving in the world around us, and the thoughts we may be having about the past or the future. We constantly live in two worlds, one outside our heads and visible to others and one inside our heads known only to us. Because we have only a limited capacity for attention, our self-talk distracts us from the outside world and the outside world distracts us from our self-talk. Our attention does not always strike a useful balance here. It can be dangerous to be distracted by rumination or planning  while driving. Self-consciousness can cause us to choke under pressure when we are called on to perform, as we meet others, in conversations, presentations, sports contests, or on stage. Self-talk can prolong insomnia as we worry about not falling asleep.

Self-awareness is often excessive. Ruminating, reliving, and repeatedly blaming yourself for a simple mistake in the past does more harm than good when it becomes prolonged, frustrating, distracting, and induces and prolongs shame. Worrying about events you cannot change produces unhelpful anxiety. When you have heard enough, it may be helpful to quiet this self talk. Meditation, either undertaken as either a spiritual or secular activity, can be effective in quieting the self and breaking the cycle of rumination, allowing you to relax, and return your attention to the world present outside your head.

Our self-awareness disappears when we are sufficiently absorbed in an engaging activity and we experience the state of flow.

Since it is our self that has our attention during self-talk, we are constantly listening to an inherently biased and one-sided point of view. This first-person viewpoint, described in more detail below, is responsible for many distortions in perception, assessment, attribution, and reasoning. We are inherently biased. We invariably overestimate our positive qualities; nearly everyone considers themselves above average in characteristics important to their self-image.  We claim more than our share of credit when things go well and we avoid blame when thing go bad. We judge people we identify with more leniently and favorably than we judge people we don't like. We offer advice to others more easily than we accept advice from others. We judge others based on behavior and we judge ourselves based on intent. We each tend to believe that our point of view is the correct one.

Perhaps this unrealistic view of the world helps us compensate for the bias toward safety that triggers fear, the bias toward just action that triggers anger, and the bias toward quickly identifying foe that triggers hate. Thinking well of ourselves provides a respite from anxiety and other negative emotions.

We can begin to counteract our inherent bias by developing a healthy skepticism toward our own ego-directed point of view. We can more accurately assess the world when we learn to compensate for the bias we use to perceive it. Consider a variety of viewpoints and dialogue with people who hold differing views before making important decisions.

We worry about the future we imagine, we ruminate about the past we recall, and we worry about what others did, thought, or might do. Anxiety results directly from our self-awareness and self-talk; it really is all in our head. We monitor the world with a bias toward identifying actual and potential threats. Although worry is beneficial when it alerts us to problems and urges us to avoid them, it is not helpful when there is nothing further we can do to avoid danger or ensure success.

We also worry about threats to our own thoughts and ideas. We protect the ideas we have of our self-concept, ideas we have about others, and our goals—our ideas about the future. Fear, anger, jealousy, and humiliation can be evoked as easily by threats to our ego, significant others, or goals as they can by physical threats. Many emotions are generated or sustained by how we talk to ourselves.

Conflicting Images
We imagine ourselves as similar to people in some groups and different from others. We invariably demonstrate favoritism toward people in the in-group. This affiliation with the in-group and dissociation from the out-group can be triggered even when only trivial characteristics or differences define the groups. Abstract concepts select the symbols we attach to the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. There is almost always some way for the people in the in-group to construe themselves better than the people in the out-group. This has been dramatically demonstrated by sports fans, social clubs, cliques, the Robbers Cave experiment, and in other research. The often misunderstood fact is that you are probably less similar to the members of your group than you assume and you are more similar to members of rival groups that you assume. We all share human nature.

The bias of egotism allows us to interpret events in self-serving ways. We take more credit than we deserve, and accept less blame than is our due. We attribute kind motives to ourselves and evil motives to others. We feel we are unfairly recognized and rewarded for our efforts. We feel we suffer more pain than others understand or appreciate. Although we are egotists ourselves, we dislike others who we see as conceited, vain, arrogant, stuck-up, pompous, snobbish, and boastful.

When our ego is threatened, we feel insulted and suffer humiliation. For some, the greatest fear is to be seen as a wimp.

Our self-awareness provides us the powerful ability control our self intentionally. This requires us to be aware and monitor what we are doing, establish and pursue goals for the future, control our impulses and delay gratification to pursue our long-term goals, and act on the strength of our own decisions.

Detaching our Ego
If we are a two-year old caught up in our own tantrum, it is all consuming. If we are a parent and our two-year old child is having a tantrum, it is disconcerting. If we are walking through the park and see another child having a tantrum, we can simply notice that here is a child who has yet to grow up and gain control of his immature impulses.

We can attain this same detachment, judgment, and self-control over our own destructive egos. We can observe our ego wanting more, clamoring for attention, proving themselves right or better or blameless, distorting facts in frantic attempts at self-justification, seduced by our first-person viewpoint, overcome with arrogance and we can choose to stop it. We can stare back our own thoughts and jump into the space, created by our awareness, between our ego and our values. We can choose to act consistently with our values rather than submit once again to an impulse. We can choose humility over arrogance, stillness over aggression and destruction, cooperation over competition, inclusion over exclusion, needs over wants, generosity over greed, peer over power, candor over deceit, stature over status, dignity over disrespect, and authentic over bogus.

We do not tolerate tantrums from two-year olds. Don't tolerate tantrums from your ego, or anyone else's. Quell ego rants.

Self as our Prototype for Others
To create the mental symbol we use to represent each person we consider to be very similar to ourselves, we begin with our self-symbol and then modify it to create a unique symbol for each of our close friends. For each acquaintance that is more distant from our own self image, we modify the symbol we have for them more from our self-symbol.  This is illustrated on the left where our self is in the center, our closest friends each have individual symbols very much like our own, and our more distant acquaintances have similar, but increasingly different symbols. This is represented here by the differences in the color of the more distant symbols. For strangers, or people we do not want to be associated with, we may not begin with our self-symbol, but instead use the symbol for someone else we also distance ourselves from. The result is that the symbols for close friends are very similar to our own, and the symbols for people we do not identify with are quite different.

The word “intimacy” has several meanings. Here we consider the meaning of  “a close association leading to detailed knowledge and understanding of another person”. An intimate friend is someone we trust enough to expose our own vulnerabilities and secrets during many reciprocal and authentic dialogues.

As we get to know more about an acquaintance we develop an increasingly complete and complex mental symbol for that person. However, there is a limit to how well we ever know the other person. There are limits to how much time we will spend together and there are various boundaries limiting what we will ask, what we will tell, and what we are willing to learn about each other. Because these boundaries limit the information exchange, the information we gather is incomplete and the symbol we are able to create for the acquaintance is necessarily incomplete. Because the symbol is incomplete it remains significantly different from your self-symbol. This is illustrated here by the noticeable distance between the self and the symbol for the acquaintance.

We know more about our close friends than we do about acquaintances. The amount of time we spend together, the number and nature of interactions and common experiences we share, the interest we have in learning more about each other, and our willingness to share more information all help us create a more complete symbol for our close friends. The similarity in our self-symbol and the symbol we create for our close friends is illustrated above by the proximity of the two symbols.

Intimacy takes this information sharing to the next level. During an intimate relationship we feel safe enough to expose and discuss our vulnerabilities and secrets. This additional information allows us to create a more complete symbol for an intimate partner. Also, because of the completeness of the symbol and also because the people we choose to become intimate with typically share many of our characteristics, the symbol we create becomes very similar to our self-symbol. This illustrated in the figure by the significant overlap of the two symbols. We feel empathy for people we become intimate with.

The Extent of Compassion
You naturally feel closer to people who seem most like yourself.  The symbols you create for the people who are most like yourself will be most similar to your own self-symbol. It is easiest to empathize with these people who are most like yourself. You can still feel compassion, if not full empathy, for people who are different, but still something like yourself. But even if you are a caring person, you may feel indifferent toward people who you hardly know, or who are not like yourself. The symbols you have for these people may be very incomplete, or they may include features unlike yourself. In any case their symbols are unlike your self-symbol. Finally there are people who are not like you. In fact, they are unlike you. If you consider them so distant and foreign that you allow yourself to consider them as not quite human, hate can creep in. They are dislike you and you may choose to dislike them. This general scheme is illustrated here in a schematic diagram derived from the figure above. The people most like yourself are shown close to the self-symbol. Those least like you are farther away. The most compassionate people will have large regions of empathy and compassion with small or non-existent regions of indifference and hate.  Less tolerant people will have smaller areas of empathy and compassion and allow the region of hate to close in around themselves as they become a prisoner of hate.

Empathy is other-awareness, symmetrical with self-awareness.

First-Person Viewpoint
Seeing things from your own point of view is always easier, and first-hand experiences seem more real than understanding another's point of view can ever be. Your eyes, nose, taste buds, tactile sensors, and ears connect directly only to your brain.  Only you experience first-hand the direct sensory input of the world; you, your self, is the observer. This raw sensory input is interpreted and gains meaning through your unique perceptions and past experiences. Furthermore, contemplation, desire, intent, pain, introspection, consciousness, and reflection are all private and solitary. This unique first-person experience creates a fundamental asymmetry that contributes to many of the other asymmetries that govern social interactions. It also contributes to the asymmetric character of egotism, narcissism, selfishness, greed, and the magnitude gap. We judge others based on behavior and we judge ourselves based on intent. Your own point of view, the way you see things, is unique. The golden rule and our empathy struggle to overcome this fundamental imbalance.

We influence others by changing their point of view.

For the reasons just described, each of us tends to consider our own point of view as more complete, valid, and important than anyone else's point of view. However, each of us differ in the weight we give to our viewpoint when compared to other viewpoints. A particularly humble, considerate person may understand, appreciate, and evaluate other points of view and grant them an importance similar to their own. They weigh other points of view as heavily as they weigh their own, as in the diagram on the right.

It is more typical, however, to weigh your own viewpoint more heavily than others. We all have a great need for self-justification. If one person disagrees with you, perhaps you will discount that contrary viewpoint, but if two or three people express differing views, you will consider and adopt their viewpoints. This is illustrated in the diagram on the left where several other viewpoints balance the first-person viewpoint.

Egotists, and others with high self-appraisals dismiss all but overwhelming evidence contrary to their point of view. It may take tens, hundreds, or in extreme cases thousands of dissenting voices before any other point of view is considered. This extreme imbalance is shown on the right, where the “eye” and the “I” are just too big.  Where do you strike the balance?

This phenomenon can create a problem when it comes to choosing leaders. Great leaders make decisions, create a compelling vision, hold tenaciously to that vision, and inspire people to overcome obstacles and move forward toward the leader's expressed vision. This vision is often an expression of the leader's first-person viewpoint. A problem can occur, however, if that viewpoint becomes destructive, the leader rejects alternative viewpoints, and the direction cannot be changed. This can be the making of a tyrant.

Many types of self-appraisal, both accurate and distorted, are important to understand. Self-esteem is an overall evaluation of your self by your self. This assessment can be favorable, neutral, or unfavorable. High self-esteem is a favorable self assessment. An unfavorable self assessment is low-self-esteem. Appropriate high self-esteem is (authentic) “pride”, but excessive or unjustified high self-esteem is called: “egotism”, “arrogance”, “hubris”, “conceitedness”, “narcissism”, or a “sense of superiority”. Low self-esteem is “shame”. “Ego” is a synonym for self or self-image.

Self-esteem includes two largely independent appraisals. One is a sense of confidence and competence, called self-efficacy. This includes confidence in your ability to think, understand, learn, choose, and make decisions. The other is a sense of intrinsic worth, called self-respect. This is your right to appropriately assert your own thoughts, values, needs, and wants.

Narcissism is self-love combined with an artificially inflated ego (self-image). It includes “grandiosity” and dominance, and is correlated with an often hostile disregard for others

A major cause of violence is high self-esteem combined with an ego threat. Violence is most likely to occur when someone who thinks well of themselves receives feedback that contradicts their own favorable view of themselves, and they then decide to “fight the feedback” (quite literally “kill the messenger”) rather than assimilate the new information and revise their self-appraisal. This is more likely to occur with someone who holds an unwarranted, exaggerated, or unfounded positive self-image. This can be called “fragile high-self-esteem” or “wounded pride”. People who are highly sensitive to a loss of self-esteem, e.g. “touchy”, may react to seemingly minor ego threats with considerable hostility. They are easily insulted and quick to anger. They may be boastful and arrogant and always trying to prove they are good enough. The terms: wounded pride, disrespect, verbal abuse, insults, anger manipulations, and status inconsistency all describe ego threats. People with high but stable self-esteem tend not to be angry or hostile.

A reliable indicator of low self-esteem is the need to see other groups as inferior. This is the essence of disrespect and a dangerous first step toward hate and violence.

People with (secure) high self-esteem generously appreciate the achievements of others.

Egotism can directly cause violence because the egotist allows their first-person viewpoint to prevail over other relevant, important, but differing points of view. This lack of consideration reduces the typical inhibitions to violence.

Transcending Your Self
Our self is an essential but often pesky companion. Learn to tame it. When you hear your self talking, recognize it is only one voice among the crowd. Shape your self-symbol. Deliberately quiet your self when it is not being helpful. Enjoy the resulting calm and contentment.  Be skeptical of what your self is telling you. Focus on what is real. Seek out alternative viewpoints. Let go of your ego defense mechanisms, and control your self.

We use many words to refer to self-related concepts, including:

Ego—a synonym for self or self-image.
Self-absorbed—Focused on your own affairs and concerns.
Self-admiration—Admiring yourself; pride.
Self-aggrandizement—Exaggerating your own importance or significance.
Self-appraisal—Assessing the value of your self.
Self-awareness—Thinking about our own thoughts
Self-centered—Yielding to the first-person viewpoint.
Self-concept—What you believe about who you are.
Self-control—Exercising willful intent and awareness to choose our actions.
Self-efficacy—Confidence in your own abilities. Recognizing your own power.
Self-esteem—An overall evaluation of your self by your self.
Self-justification—Describing events in a way that preserves your pride and reduces cognitive dissonance.
Selfish—Disregarding other's viewpoints and needs
Self-loathing—A severe lack of self-respect. Shame.
Self-respect—Recognizing your own intrinsic worth. Your right to appropriately assert your own thoughts, values, needs, and wants.

“Know thyself.” ~ Socrates (470–399 BC)

“Somehow we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.” ~ Confucius (551 – 479 BC)

“One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519)

“First-person viewpoint is the fundamental asymmetry of humanity.”  ~ Leland R. Beaumont

“The strength of a man's virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts.” ~ Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)

“Be reasonable, do it my way.” ~ An old joke satirizing the first person viewpoint.

“We don't see the world as it is. We see it as we are.” ~ Anaïs Nin

I Am a Strange Loop, by Douglas Hofstadter
Self Matters, by Phillip C. McGraw
Prisoners of Hate: The Cognitive Basis of Anger, Hostility, and Violence, by Aaron T. Beck
Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, by Nathaniel Branden
The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the Quality of Human Life, by Mark R. Leary.
Relation of Threatened Egotism to Violence and Aggression: The Dark Side of High Self-Esteem, Psychology Review, 1996, Vol. 103, No. 1, 5-33, by Roy F. Baumeister, Laura Smart, Joseph M. Boden


Personal identity

In philosophy, personal identity refers to the essence of a self-conscious person, that which makes him or her unique. It persists: though a person may change in socially important aspects, such as religious belief, these modifications happen through one single identity.

Personal identity over time: What does it take for individuals to persist from moment to moment — or in other words, for the same individual to exist at different moments?

The question regarding personal identity has addressed the conditions under which a person at one time is the same person at another time, known as personal continuity. This sort of analysis of personal identity provides a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for the identity of the person over time. In the modern philosophy of mind, this concept of personal identity is sometimes referred to as the diachronic problem of personal identity. The synchronic problem is grounded in the question of what features or traits characterize a given person at one time.

The mind-body problem
The mind-body problem concerns the explanation of the relationship, if any, that exists between minds, or mental processes, and bodily states or processes. One of the aims of philosophers who work in this area is to explain how a supposedly non-material mind can influence a material body and vice-versa.

Our perceptual experiences depend on stimuli which arrive at our various sensory organs from the external world and these stimuli cause changes in our mental states; ultimately causing us to feel a sensation, which may be pleasant or unpleasant. Someone's desire for a slice of pizza, for example, will tend to cause that person to move their body in a specific manner and in a specific direction to obtain said pizza. The question, then, is how it can be possible for conscious experiences to arise out of a lump of grey matter endowed with nothing but electrochemical properties. A related problem is to explain how someone's propositional attitudes (e.g. beliefs and desires) can cause that individual's neurons to fire and his muscles to contract in exactly the correct manner. These comprise some of the puzzles that have confronted epistemologists and philosophers of mind from at least the time of René Descartes.

Consciousness basis
John Locke considered personal identity (or the self) to be founded on consciousness (viz. Memory), and not on the substance of either the soul or the body. Chapter XXVII "On Identity and Diversity" in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) has been said to be one of the first modern conceptualization of consciousness as the repeated self-identification of oneself. Through this identification, moral responsibility could be attributed to the subject and punishment and guilt could be justified, as critics such as Nietzsche would point out.

According to Locke, personal identity (the self) "depends on consciousness, not on substance" nor on the soul. We are the same person to the extent that we are conscious of our past and future thoughts and actions in the same way as we are conscious of our present thoughts and actions. If consciousness is this "thought" which "that goes along with the substance ... which makes the same person", then personal identity is only founded on the repeated act of consciousness: "This may show us wherein personal identity consists: not in the identity of substance, but... in the identity of consciousness". For example, one may claim to be a reincarnation of Plato, therefore having the same soul substance. However, one would be the same person as Plato only if one had the same consciousness of Plato's thoughts and actions that he himself did. Therefore, self-identity is not based on the soul. One soul may have various personalities.

Neither is self-identity founded on the body substance, argues Locke, as the body may change while the person remains the same. Even the identity of animals is not founded on their body: "animal identity is preserved in identity of life, and not of substance", as the body of the animal grows and changes during its life. On the other hand, identity of humans is based on their consciousness. Take for example a prince's mind which enters the body of a cobbler: to all exterior eyes, the cobbler would remain a cobbler. But to the prince himself, the cobbler would be himself, as he would be conscious of the prince's thoughts and acts, and not those of the cobbler. A prince's consciousness in a cobbler's body: thus the cobbler is, in fact, a prince.

But this interesting border-case leads to this problematic thought that since personal identity is based on consciousness, and that only oneself can be aware of his consciousness, exterior human judges may never know if they really are judging - and punishing - the same person, or simply the same body. In other words, Locke argues that you may be judged only for the acts of your body, as this is what is apparent to all but God; however, you are in truth only responsible for the acts for which you are conscious. This forms the basis of the insanity defense: one cannot be held accountable for acts from which one was unconscious - and therefore leads to interesting philosophical questions:

"personal identity consists [not in the identity of substance] but in the identity of consciousness, wherein if Socrates and the present mayor of Queenborough agree, they are the same person: if the same Socrates waking and sleeping do not partake of the same consciousness, Socrate waking and sleeping is not the same person. And to punish Socrates waking for what sleeping Socrates thought, and waking Socrates was never conscious of, would be no more right, than to punish one twin for what his brother-twin did, whereof he knew nothing, because their outsides were so like, that they could not be distinguished; for such twins have been seen."

Or again:

"PERSON, as I take it, is the name for this self. Wherever a man finds what he calls himself, there, I think, another may say is the same person. It is a forensic term, appropriating actions and their merit; and so belong only to intelligent agents, capable of a law, and happiness, and misery. This personality extends itself beyond present existence to what is past, only by consciousness, --whereby it becomes concerned and accountable; owns and imputes to itself past actions, just upon the same ground and for the same reason as it does the present. All which is founded in a concern for happiness, the unavoidable concomitant of consciousness; that which is conscious of pleasure and pain, desiring that that self that is conscious should be happy. And therefore whatever past actions it cannot reconcile or APPROPRIATE to that present self by consciousness, it can be no more concerned in it than if they had never been done: and to receive pleasure or pain, i.e. reward or punishment, on the account of any such action, is all one as to be made happy or miserable in its first being, without any demerit at all. For, supposing a MAN punished now for what he had done in another life, whereof he could be made to have no consciousness at all, what difference is there between that punishment and being CREATED miserable? And therefore, conformable to this, the apostle tells us, that, at the great day, when every one shall 'receive according to his doings, the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open.' The sentence shall be justified by the consciousness all person shall have, that THEY THEMSELVES, in what bodies soever they appear, or what substances soever that consciousness adheres to, are the SAME that committed those actions, and deserve that punishment for them."

Henceforth, Locke's conception of personal identity founds it not on the substance or the body, but in the "same continued consciousness", which is also distinct from the soul since the soul may have no consciousness of itself (as in reincarnation). He creates a third term between the soul and the body - and Locke's thought may certainly be meditated by those who, following a scientist ideology, would identify too quickly the brain to consciousness. For the brain, as the body and as any substance, may change, while consciousness remains the same. Therefore personal identity is not in the brain, but in consciousness. However, Locke's theory also reveals his debt to theology and to Apocalyptic "great day", which by advance excuse any failings of human justice and therefore humanity's miserable state. The problem of personal identity is at the center of discussions about life after death, and immortality. In order to exist after death, there has to be a person after death who is the same person as the person who died.

The bundle theory of the self
David Hume undertook looking at the mind/body problem (and Mind/brain identity). Hume also investigated a person's character, the relationship between human and animal nature, and the nature of agency. Hume pointed out that we tend to think that we are the same person we were five years ago. Though we've changed in many respects, the same person appears present as was present then. We might start thinking about which features can be changed without changing the underlying self. Hume, however, denies that there is a distinction between the various features of a person and the mysterious self that supposedly bears those features. When we start introspecting, "we are never intimately conscious of anything but a particular perception; man is a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed one another with an inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and movement".

It is plain, that in the course of our thinking, and in the constant revolution of our ideas, our imagination runs easily from one idea to any other that resembles it, and that this quality alone is to the fancy a sufficient bond and association. It is likewise evident that as the senses, in changing their objects, are necessitated to change them regularly, and take them as they lie contiguous to each other, the imagination must by long custom acquire the same method of thinking, and run along the parts of space and time in conceiving its objects.

Note in particular that, in Hume's view, these perceptions do not belong to anything. Hume, similar to the Buddha, compares the soul to a commonwealth, which retains its identity not by virtue of some enduring core substance, but by being composed of many different, related, and yet constantly changing elements. The question of personal identity then becomes a matter of characterizing the loose cohesion of one's personal experience. (Note that in the Appendix to the Treatise, Hume said mysteriously that he was dissatisfied with his account of the self, yet he never returned to the issue.)

In short, what matters for Hume is not that 'identity' exist but that the relations of causation, contiguity, and resemblances obtain among the perceptions. Critics of Hume might point out that in order for the various states and processes of the mind to seem unified, there must be something which perceives their unity, the existence of which would be no less mysterious than a personal identity

Personal continuity
In psychology (which historically is philosophically concerned with dualism), personal continuity, also called personal persistence, is the uninterrupted connection concerning a particular person of his or her private life and personality. Personal continuity is the union affecting the facets arising from personality in order to avoid discontinuities from one moment of time to another time.

Personal continuity is an important part of identity; this is the process of ensuring that the quality of the mind are consistent from moment to the next, generally regarded to comprise qualities such as self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one's environment. Personal continuity is the property of a continuous and connected period of time and is intimately concerned with a person's body or physical being. Associationism, or the method of how ideas combine in the mind, allows events or views to be associated with each other in the mind, thus leading to a form of learning. Associations can result from contiguity, similarity, or contrast. Through contiguity, one associates ideas or events that usually happen to occur at the same time. Some of these events form an autobiographical memory in which each is a personal representation of the general or specific events and personal facts.

Ego identity
Ego integrity is the ego's accumulated assurance of its capacity for order and meaning. Ego identity is the accrued confidence that the inner sameness and continuity prepared in the past are matched by the sameness and continuity of one's meaning for others, as evidenced in the promise of a career. Body and ego must be masters of organ modes and of the other nuclear conflicts in order to face the fear of ego loss in situations which call for self-abandon.

Criticisms and other analysis
The Buddha attacked all attempts to conceive of a fixed self, while stating that holding the view "I have no self" is also mistaken. This is an example of the middle way charted by the Buddha.

Eric Olson gives a definition of a human as a biological organism and asserts that a psychological relation is not necessary for personal continuity. Olson's personal identity lies in life-sustaining processes instead of bodily continuity. This biological approach squares with many other psychological accounts of personal identity but does not fall into common metaphysical traps.

Other criticisms state that the intuitive concept of self is an evolutionary artifact. In the monkey-riding-a-tiger model of consciousness the brain models its own unconscious processes just as it models other people. This modeling makes the assumption that the model will continue to apply through time, and so assumes they are the same person they were yesterday. This leads to the intuitive sense of self. The sense of ‘self’ has also become part of our language, part of our concept of responsibility, and the basis of self based morality.

According to this line of criticism, the sense of self is an evolutionary artifact, which saves time in the circumstances it evolved for. But sense of self breaks down when considering some rare events such as memory loss, split personality disorder, brain damage, brainwashing, and various thought experiments.  When presented with these imperfections in the intuitive sense of self and the consequences to this important concept which rely partly on the strict concept of self, people tend to try to mend the concept, possibly because of cognitive dissonance. Critics of personal continuity believe that this leads to extending the concept of self beyond its practical application and justification


The Duplicates Paradox (The Duplicates Problem)
by Ben Best

I would be glad to know your Lordship's opinion whether when my brain has lost its original structure, and when some hundred years after the same materials are fabricated so curiously as to become an intelligent being, whether, I say that being will be me; or, if, two or three such beings should be formed out of my brain; whether they will all be me, and consequently one and the same intelligent being.
                         -- Thomas Reid letter to Lord Kames, 1775

The idea that personal identity (mind, self, will) is entirely contained in the molecular and biological structure of the brain (ie, is entirely material) implies that a duplicate identity could be created that is identical in every way except physical location. Not only would every element, molecule, neuron and synapse be identical -- and in identical physical relationship to the others -- but every neuron and synapse would be in an identical state of depolarization at the instant of duplication. That is, both the static condition and the dynamic states would be duplicated.

The duplicates question has practical implications for cryonics because if a cryopreserved brain can serve as a template for atom-by-atom reconstruction of a new brain (restoring the original person's identity) there is no reason why the same reconstruction could not be done more than once. Would each reconstructed brain have the same mind/self/personal identity?

It is said that most molecules in the body are replaced every few years, presumably also including the molecules of the brain. This implies that the exact atoms and molecules of which our identity is constituted are not essential to that identity. Thus, lives and minds are much like a candle flame -- life, consciousness and selfhood continues with a material basis despite the fact that the exact material (atoms and molecules) change.

Not only can molecules be changed, but we can acquire new memories and change our interests & tastes without compromising our personal identity -- ie, we still feel ourselves to be the "same person". What determines what can change without compromising personal identity and what cannot change? Do we have thoughts, emotions & motives or are we thoughts, emotions & motives? If we do not always know our true thoughts, emotions & motives, does that make them separate from our identity? Who introspects? And is the change of thoughts, emotions & motives over time a symptom of a changing self? Memories may change less than thoughts, emotions & motives.

Personal identity is perceived as continuous through time. Yet this perception cannot be instantaneous, and must be based on memory. Given the fact that memories can be forgotten, altered or even fabricated, the question arises as to whether memories are essential for personal identity. Certainly no specific memory seems necessary for identity, but a perception of a continuity of the memory process is often believed to be. Subjective experience involves not just memory, but thoughts, desires, feelings and personality. Even when subjectivity is focused on the "outside world", this focus necessarily has a point of view. Any attempt to describe personal identity impersonally will lose an essential element. A self has both sensation and will.

It is facile to say that duplicates are identical people with identical memories, desires and personalities -- who will diverge from the moment of duplication onward as circumstances force them to have different experiences. Subjectively this description is unsatisfying because it does not address the personal experience of being in one location in one moment of time -- and it does not address the issue of the personal qualia of selfhood, ie, the issue of survival of personal identity.

It does not matter that a duplicate can only be a "true duplicate" for a brief instant -- any more than it matters to me that I change from moment to moment -- because for me change is compatible with survival. I not only survive from moment-to-moment, I survive from day-to-day and from year-to-year. My subjective identity survives. And I want to have it continue to survive.

It follows that a duplicate of me would not only be "essentially me" at the moment of duplication -- but would continue to be "essentially me" for a long time afterwards. I do not believe that decades of living have altered my personal identity. Only in the sense that I cannot be in two places at once can I say that the duplicated person is no more me than any other person is me..

People often say "duplicate" without really meaning "duplicate". It makes no sense to describe one copy as an "original" and the other as a "duplicate". Both are originals and/or both are duplicates. I could as easily be him, and I could as easily be called "the duplicate" as he -- if we are true duplicates. If a duplicate is created in a new location, it still makes no sense to use location as a justification for distinguishing between a "duplicate" and an "original", because location is not a component of personal identity. Moving from one location to another does not alter identity. Which leaves the essential paradox: (1) a self can be materially duplicated, (2) a self cannot be in two locations at once -- and (1) & (2) are totally incompatible.

"Which duplicate is me?" cannot be answered with the word "both" because one person cannot be in two locations at the same moment. It cannot be that my physical location is an essential ingredient of my personal identity because I frequently change my location without losing my identity. It does seem, however, that an essential ingredient of personal identity is the inability to be in two different locations at the same moment. If someone punches one duplicate in the nose, only that duplicate will feel pain and only that duplicate will bleed. If the duplicate is not me, I won't bleed. If I am killed and my duplicate is not killed, I do not survive (I lose the "qualia" of life).

From a completely objective point of view, the technical possibility of creating an identically duplicate person is an obvious consequence of materialism and in no way a problem. It is no problem for me to imagine two Robert Ettingers standing side-by-side, identical in every respect. From a subjective point of view, however, the possibility of duplicates poses a serious problem. Specifically, it is a very serious problem for me to imagine two Ben Bests standing side-by-side, one facing North, the other facing South. After duplication, would I see the view to the North or the view to the South? I cannot answer this question with the counter-question "which 'I'?" There can only be one I to me, I can only look in one direction at once. If the duplicate facing North is destroyed, I will be either dead or alive. I cannot be in two minds, two bodies and two locations at the same time. I cannot speak of one "I" facing North and one "I" facing South. That is an objective description of "I" -- and is utterly inappropriate. The experience of being me is unitary, solitary and subjective.

It is easy to take the Objective View of the Duplicates Problem if you only think in terms of memories. If a person is suddenly duplicated to become person1 and person2, then it is not hard to see that although the two persons shared the same memories before the duplication, their memories will diverge and become different after the duplication -- because they cannot possibly share the same location. However, the problem is not so simple if a distinction is made between memories and identities. If identities diverge, the survival of the identity of the original person one cannot be guaranteed -- cannot exist in two places, even if all of the original memories now exist in two places, supplemented by new memories. New identities do not necessarily equate with survival of the old identity. The old identity does not necessarily survive if one of the new identities is killed.

Many people, including most cryonicists, can not (or will not) take anything but the Objective View of the Duplicates Problem. Such people deny that there is a Duplicates Problem and speak of duplicates of themselves with the same detachment with which they discuss the duplicates of others -- holding that duplicating a person is no different than duplicating a toaster or a ballpoint pen. Subjectively this description is unsatisfying for many cryonicists because it does not address the personal experience of being in more than one location in one moment of time. But, more important, it does not address the issue of the personal qualia of selfhood and the issue of survival of personal identity.

A Continuity Criterion has been proposed as a resolution to the Duplicates Problem. By this Criterion there can only be one original, and a duplicate cannot be the original because it cannot be in the original physical location and cannot possess the continuity-of-being of the original. A person who is "beamed" "transported" through space by vaporization & reassembly of atoms has in fact been destroyed, according to the Continuity Criterion. The reassembled person may think he/she is the original, but he/she is not. Any attempt to create duplicates in such a way as to make them perfectly equal (as by splitting the original to create two duplicates, neither of which occupy the physical location of the original) destroys the original, and therefore destroys the original personal identity. No duplicate can ever be created in such a way as to have as much continuity-of-the-original as the original, therefore the original will always retain the original identity -- and a duplicate can never acquire the original identity.

I argue against a "Continuity Criterion" which is based on the idea that the same molecules and the continuity of activity of those molecules are necessary for continuity of a personal identity. At least one life-extensionist believes that the Continuity Criterion renders cryonics impossible in principle. This man even believes that loss of consciousness means loss of personal identity -- ie, if a person is revived from an unconscious state it will not be the same person who went unconscious. Unconsciousness is not the same as sleep. In sleep, brain electrical activity and metabolism can be nearly as great as in the waking state, unlike unconsciousness wherein electrical activity and metabolism may actually stop. A problem with his viewpoint is that it is not based on evidence. If a person recovering from unconsciousness claims to be the same person, how can we justifiably assert that this "new" individual is deluded? You can just as easily deny that a person awakening from sleep is the same person who previously fell asleep. The logical positivists would call such a claim "metaphysical" rather than scientific on the grounds that it is unfalsifiable in principle.

The Continuity Criterion attempts to resolve the Duplicates Paradox by saying that duplication is impossible in practice -- an original can only be continuous with an original, and a duplicate will always be a new creation which cannot be continuous with the original in the same way that the original was. Either an original is distinguishable from a duplicate by virtue of the original location (thus possessing a "continuity" which cannot be claimed by the duplicate) -- or two duplicates can be created in equally new locations, in which case neither can be said to be continuous with the original (which is deemed to have been destroyed). A technical problem becomes a philosophical problem. Thus, despite the fact that the duplicate may be constructed with every one of the duplicate's atoms having identical elemental form, relative position and relative motion to every other atom (as compared with the original) -- the duplicate is distinct by virtue of discontinuity. Thus, the original self resides in the original.

The problem with this argument is that it claims that the duplicate is materially identical but that the original self can only reside in the materially identical original. But if the original and duplicate are identical in every material way, while at the same time differing in the constituent self, this implies that the self has a non-material basis. Materially identical means identical relative location of every atom and identical dynamic state of every atom (including state of electrical activity of the brain). (Some might argue that copies in different locations cannot have identical dynamic states due to different gravitational fields -- but this difference cannot be critical to identity because location is easily changed without changing identity.) Thus, the Continuity Criterion of Identity is implicitly & covertly non-materialist, even if it claims to be a materialist argument.

The question of most practical significance to me is: is the creation of a duplicate a means by which I could survive? In particular, there are scenarios of cryonic reanimation in which the remains of the original cryopreserved person are destructively analyzed, and the results of this destructive analysis used for reconstruction from new materials. If one molecule is identical to another with the same composition of atoms, why should it not be possible to reconstruct the original person? This scenario is grounds for hope (and, perhaps, rationalization) for cryonicists. But, of course, many new people could be built using the same template. Why should any new person differ from the old one if only the particular atoms and locations are different?

The paradoxical intuitive answer to the question of whether duplication could be a survival mechanism is: "yes, but only if the original does not exist." This implies the Continuity Criterion of Identity -- and cannot be regarded as an unproblematic solution. I do accept that survival implies continuity (continuity is a necessary condition for survival), but what I mean by this is continuity of the essential material factors of personhood, not continuity of non-essential factors like location.

The Continuity Criterion of identity is nothing more than an attempt to arrive at a definitive resolution to the Duplicates Problem in the absence of a good solution. But the existence of the problem does not prove that this is the solution, even if no other solution seems tenable. This is particularly true because the Continuity Criterion does not seem tenable. The Continuity Criterion is not materialist. If personal identity consists of the material molecular organization of the brain and the material dynamic states of the neurons, then there can be no material difference between duplicates.

It has been suggested that the Continuity Criterion renders all possibility of cryonic or chemical preservation impossible, even if suspended animation by these means could be achieved with no structural damage. This has also been suggested concerning the Dynamic States Criterion (ie, the belief that identity resides in active neural circuits that cannot be stopped and re-started without loss of identity) of personal identity. But if suspended animation does no structural damage, why would that break in continuity be more fatal than that of a good night's sleep? And continuity of what? In the suspended animation case, continuity of physical location is retained, whereas in the duplication example the dynamic states of neurons are perfectly duplicated. Thus, the Continuity Criterion for personal identity and survival of identity fails to give a material basis for what is essential for personal identity and personal survival.

It may, however, be true that it is not possible to restore the dynamic states of a person to what it was prior to suspended animation by low temperature vitrification. If this is true, then this is a technical problem involving a failure to produce true duplicates. It would not be necessary to invoke the Continuity Criterion to explain a failure to restore personal identity. What remains is a technical question of whether the dynamic states constituting personal identity can be restored. Why could science not "jump-start" these circuits once the brain is restored? In a sense, the reticular activating system "jump-starts" the cerebral cortex with bootstrapping positive feedback every time a person awakens.

Critics who object to the Dynamic States Criterion point to the fact that victims of barbiturate poisoning have recovered after a state of flat EEG (ElectroEncephaloGraph) recordings. People experiencing low-temperature surgery for brain aneurysms also show a flat EEG. Contrary arguments assert either that electrical activity continued which was too faint for the EEG to detect or that the recovered victim was a distinct new identity, even if the victim did not believe this.

A flat EEG is associated with the failure of axons to depolarize and conduct signals to an extent detectable at a gross level. But the capacity of axons to conduct signals should be retained. Analogously, hearts have been taken to low temperatures at which they are electrically passive -- and they regain spontaneous automatic electrical activity upon rewarming. The existence of voltage potentials across cell membranes would also qualify as a brain electrical phenomenon, but there is no rationale for claiming that identity resides in voltage potentials across membranes. Restoration of sodium pump activity will ensure restoration of voltage potentials.

It is probably true that very short-term memory (the working memory -- also called "scratch-pad memory" -- of the frontal lobe of the brain's cerebral cortex, which allows a person to remember telephone numbers long enough to dial them) has a dynamic basis. But long-term memory has its probable basis in synaptic connections and the strength of those connections. It seems unlikely that personal identity would have a basis in the brain which is more like working memory than like long-term memory because the sense of personal identity lasts a lifetime and withstands the discontinuities of sleep. Moreover, if memories were based on dynamic activity of the brain, then the dynamic activity would increase with each new memory. This would be a highly energetically inefficient way to run a brain (which already consumes 20% of the body's energy, while constituting only 1% of the body's weight. But cumulative brain dynamic activity does not increase appreciably with the acquisition of new memories. Therefore, preserving the "hardware" (the neurons, fibers and synapses) should preserve the self.

When an impulse reaches a synapse, it is the structural features of the synapse which determines whether the next neuron will fire -- ie, the number of vesicles of neurotransmitter in the synapse, the size of those vesicles, the number of similar pre-synaptic connections, etc. Learning in the brain occurs by alteration of these structural features. Thus, the dynamic states of the brain are determined by the static states -- ie, function is determined by structure. This implies that the new dynamic states following the stasis of low-temperature cryopreservation must not be like the old static states.

Because personal identity is retained with the passage of time, while static states change, the question arises as to how personal identity could be retained in the face of these changes. The neurological basis of personal identity must be changeless in some way. Possibly either personal identity is encoded in neural circuits that are always active -- or personal identity is distributed throughout the brain -- or both. The former supposition comes uncomfortably close to the homunculus paradox -- ie, the supposition that a "little person" somewhere in the brain "sees" information from the visual cortex, "hears" information from the auditory cortex, etc. This model implies another little person inside the first little person -- an infinite regress that begs the question of identity.

It is conceivable that a person could be created possessing the same memories, desires and personality as another person, and yet still have a distinct personal identity. But if this is true, there must be material differences in the brains. What those material differences would be, certainly cannot be specified by contemporary neuroscience. If a brain imaging procedure existed which could show these material differences, then there would be objective criteria for personal identity. Otherwise, a person with the same memories, desires and personality of another person will believe he or she is that other person and (if the two have identical appearances) others will also be unable to distinguish. Nonetheless, this state of affairs is only a possibility given current knowledge of personal identity and neuroscience.

Caution should be used in discussing cases wherein it is claimed that people showing identical memories are distinct identities, but do not believe that they are distinct identities. To assume that the Continuity Criterion must be true and then conclude that loss of consciousness means death of personal identity makes the Continuity Criterion an unfalsifiable hypothesis. If one denies assertions of a person who has recovered from unconsciousness that he/she is the same person who existed before the loss of consciousness, then one can as easily deny claims that a person remains the same after a full night's sleep or even a change of physical location.

An alternative to the Continuity Criterion as a solution to the Duplicates Problem is the idea that some Random Event determines that the original identity will reside in one duplicate or another. Although this satisfies the subjective paradox, it raises other questions. What materialist grounds are there for the original identity residing in one duplicate or another? What is the material basis of the original identity? Why cannot the original identity be duplicated if it has a material basis (in fact, it should have been duplicated by the original statement of the problem). This "random" solution contains the covert assumption of some unique non-material basis of identity which is not being duplicated. Moreover, like the Continuity Criterion, the Random Event solution is an assumed solution to a thought experiment.

The same can be said of the Idealist Interpretation of the Duplicates Problem. The Idealist claims that any number of instances of a material mind will still correspond to only one instance of mind, presumably in an "ideal form". The claim here is that only one "ideal triangle" or "ideal chair" exists, whereas many instances can exist (drawn on paper, on sand, a physical chair, etc.). Since a mind is composed of ideas, the ideal form is said to constitute its real essence. This is not a materialist interpretation -- which implies that it is a spiritualist one. There are extreme practical problems with the idea that many instances of one mind could be singular (divorced from any physical location) and yet subject to experiential input from many different bodies in different locations.

I do not see a solution to the Duplicates Problem, but I reject the Objective View, the Continuity Criterion, the Dynamic States Criterion, the Idealist Interpretation and the Random Event approaches as being unsatisfactory. If I am ever duplicated, then "I" will have more evidence with which to study the problem. At present, I must simply add the Duplicates Problem to my long list of other problems for which I have no immediate solution. For others, it seems to be unacceptable to acknowledge that a philosophical problem exists without a reasonable solution (although such persons can readily acknowledge technical problems with no immediate solution). And it is easy to settle on a solution when there is little possibility of concrete evidence to support or refute it.



Self-awareness is the concept that one exists as an individual, separate from other people, with private thoughts and individual rights.It may also include the understanding that other people are similarly self-aware.[

Self-awareness is a self-conscious state in which attention focuses on oneself. It makes people more sensitive to their own attitudes and dispositions.

Sometimes when self-consciousness is not taken to mean shyness or embarrassment, it is used synonymously with self-awareness:

Self-consciousness is credited only with the development of identity (see ego). In an epistemological sense, self-consciousness is a personal understanding of the very core of one's own identity. It is during periods of self-consciousness that people come the closest to knowing themselves objectively. Jean Paul Sartre describes self-consciousness as being "non-positional", in that it is not from any location in particular.

Self-consciousness plays a large role in behavior, as it is common to act differently when people "lose one's self in a crowd". It is the basis for human traits, such as accountability and conscientiousness. Self-consciousness affects people in varying degrees, as some people self-monitor (or scrutinize) themselves more than others. Different cultures vary in the importance they place on self-consciousness but the individual remains self-motivated rather than socially driven.

The basis of personal identity

A philosophical view:

I think I am

"...And as I observed that this truth 'I think, therefore I am' (Cogito ergo sum) was so certain and of such evidence ...I concluded that I might, without scruple, accept it as the first principle of the Philosophy I was in search."

"...In the statement 'I think, therefore I am' ...I see very clearly that to think it is necessary to be, I concluded that I might take, as a general rule, the principle, that all the things which we very clearly and distinctly conceive are true..."

While reading Descartes, Locke began to relish the great ideas of philosophy and the scientific method. On one occasion, while in a meeting with friends, the question of the "limits of human understanding" arose. He spent almost twenty years of his life on the subject until the publication of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, a great chapter in the History of Philosophy.

John Locke's chapter XXVII "On Identity and Diversity" in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) has been said to be one of the first modern conceptualizations of consciousness as the repeated self-identification of oneself, through which moral responsibility could be attributed to the subject - and therefore punishment and guiltiness justified, as critics such as Nietzsche would point out, affirming "...the psychology of conscience is not 'the voice of God in man'; it is the instinct of cruelty...expresed, for the first time, as one of the oldest and most indispensable elements in the foundation of culture."

John Locke does not use the terms self-awareness or self-consciousness though.Nietzsche himself, in his brilliant work On the Genealogy of Morals, based on Philology, brakes away from the traditional views of Judaeo Christian Ethics but his work in general is so plagued with wrong thinking, his alienation in particular, that it could be taken as a contributing factor that would eventually make him madder than a hatter, and he ended up in a mental instituion, though some scholars believe he may have been suffering from syphilis.

According to Locke, personal identity (the self) "depends on consciousness, not on substance" nor on the soul. We are the same person to the extent that we are conscious of our past and future thoughts and actions in the same way as we are conscious of our present thoughts and actions. If consciousness is this "thought" which doubles all thoughts, then personal identity is only founded on the repeated act of consciousness: "This may show us wherein personal identity consists: not in the identity of substance, but... in the identity of consciousness". For example, one may claim to be a reincarnation of Plato, therefore having the same soul.

However, one would be the same person as Plato only if one had the same consciousness of Plato's thoughts and actions that he himself did. Therefore, self-identity is not based on the soul. One soul may have various personalities. Self-identity is not founded either on the body or the substance, argues Locke, as the substance may change while the person remains the same: "animal identity is preserved in identity of life, and not of substance", as the body of the animal grows and changes during its life.
Take for example a prince's soul which enters the body of a cobbler: to all exterior eyes, the cobbler would remain a cobbler. But to the prince himself, the cobbler would be himself, as he would be conscious of the prince's thoughts and acts, and not of the cobbler's life. A prince's consciousness in a cobbler body: thus the cobbler is, in fact, a prince. But this interesting border-case leads to this problematic thought that since personal identity is based on consciousness, and that only oneself can be aware of his consciousness, exterior human judges may never know if they really are judging - and punishing - the same person, or simply the same body.

In other words, Locke argues that you may be judged only for the acts of your body, as this is what is apparent to all but God; however, you are in truth only responsible for the acts for which you are conscious. This forms the basis of the insanity defense: one can't be held accountable for acts in which one was unconsciously irrational, mentally ill  - and therefore leads to interesting philosophical questions:

"personal identity consists [not in the identity of substance] but in the identity of consciousness, wherein if Socrates and the present mayor of Queenborough agree, they are the same person: if the same Socrates waking and sleeping do not partake of the same consciousness, Socrates waking and sleeping is not the same person. And to punish Socrates waking for what sleeping Socrates thought, and waking Socrates was never conscious of, would be no more right, than to punish one twin for what his brother-twin did, whereof he knew nothing, because their outsides were so like, that they could not be distinguished; for such twins have been seen."

Or again:

"PERSON, as I take it, is the name for this self. Wherever a man finds what he calls himself, there, I think, another may say is the same person. It is a forensic term, appropriating actions and their merit; and so belong only to intelligent agents, capable of a law, and happiness, and misery. This personality extends itself beyond present existence to what is past, only by consciousness, --whereby it becomes concerned and accountable; owns and imputes to itself past actions, just upon the same ground and for the same reason as it does the present. All which is founded in a concern for happiness, the unavoidable concomitant of consciousness; that which is conscious of pleasure and pain, desiring that that self that is conscious should be happy. And therefore whatever past actions it cannot reconcile or APPROPRIATE to that present self by consciousness, it can be no more concerned in it than if they had never been done: and to receive pleasure or pain, i.e. reward or punishment, on the account of any such action, is all one as to be made happy or miserable in its first being, without any demerit at all. For, supposing a MAN punished now for what he had done in another life, whereof he could be made to have no consciousness at all, what difference is there between that punishment and being CREATED miserable? And therefore, conformable to this, the apostle tells us, that, at the great day, when every one shall 'receive according to his doings, the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open.' The sentence shall be justified by the consciousness all person shall have, that THEY THEMSELVES, in what bodies soever they appear, or what substances soever that consciousness adheres to, are the SAME that committed those actions, and deserve that punishment for them."

Henceforth, Locke's conception of personal identity founds it not on the substance or the body, but in the "same continued consciousness", which is also distinct from the soul since the soul may have no consciousness of itself (as in reincarnation). He creates a third term between the soul and the body - and Locke's thought may certainly be meditated by those who, following a scientist ideology, would identify too quickly the brain to consciousness. For the brain, as the body and as any substance, may change, while consciousness remains the same. Therefore personal identity is not in the brain, but in consciousness. However, Locke's theory also reveals his debt to theology and to Apocalyptic "great day", which by advance excuse any failings of human justice and therefore humanity's miserable state.

A modern scientific view
Self-Awareness Theory

Self-Awareness Theory states that when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behavior to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves. Various emotional states are intensified by self-awareness, and people sometimes try to reduce or escape it through things like television, video games, alcohol, drugs, etc. People are more likely to align their behavior with their standards when made self-aware. People will be negatively affected if they don’t live up to their personal standards. Various environmental cues and situations induce awareness of the self, such as mirrors, an audience, or being videotaped or recorded. These cues also increase accuracy of personal memory.

Non-local Quantum - Circuit 8
Constructs inhabiting this circuit are to be found throughout the cosmos. It becomes obvious that there are constructs which hold from the smallest to the largest entities in the universe. The electron orbits the atom, and the planets orbit the sun. Orbiting is the construct, operating atomically and cosmologically as an example.

The Eight Basic Scripts

How the scripts render into human reality:

1. The biosurvival: I will live forever or die trying. I am aware of survival.

2. The emotional-territorial: I am free; you are free; I can work in my own space. If I like things I'll smile. I am aware of moods.

3. The semantic: I am learning more about everything, including how to learn more. I am aware of order.

4. The sociosexual: We together. Enjoy contact. I am aware of your company.

5. The neurosomatic: How I feel depends on my neurological know how. I am aware of my feelings.

6. The metaprogramming: I detect synchronicities in information, recurrence of patterns. I am aware of courses of action and their effects on my lower circuits.

7. The neurogenetic: Future evolution depends on my decisions now. I am aware of my decisions on generations of descendants.

8. The neuroatomic: I can search and choose a future solution here and now. I am aware there are a multitudes of decisions to choose from.

9. The Nth: I am aware of the effects of compassion from the implicate order, meta-physically rendered on the explicate order of the Universal Fractal.

Self-awareness in theater
Theater also concerns itself with other awareness besides self-awareness. There is a possible correlation between the experience of the theater audience and individual self-awareness. As actors and audiences must not 'break' the fourth wall in order to maintain context, so individuals must not be aware of the artificial, or the constructed perception of his or her reality. This suggests that self-awareness is an artificial continuum just as theater is. Theatrical efforts such as Six Characters in Search of an Author or say, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, construct yet another layer of the fourth wall, but they do not destroy the primary illusion. Refer to Erving Goffman's Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience.

Self-awareness in animals
Humans are not the only creatures who are self-aware. Thus far, there is evidence that bottlenose dolphins, some apes, and elephants have the capacity to be self aware. Recent studies from the Goethe University Frankfurt show that Magpies may also possess self-awareness.  Common speculation suggests that some other animals are self-aware.

Self-awareness in science fiction
In science fiction, self-awareness describes an essential human property that bestows "personhood" onto a non-human.

If a computer, alien or other object is described as "self-aware", the reader may assume that it will be treated as completely human character, with similar rights, capabilities and desires to a normal human being.

The words sentience, sapience and consciousness are used in similar ways in science fiction.


On the Genealogy of Morals
A Polemical Tract by Friedrich Nietzsche

First Essay: Good and Evil, Good and Bad

—These English psychologists whom we have to thank for the only attempts up to this point to produce a history of the origins of morality —in themselves they serve up to us no small riddle. By way of a living riddle, they even offer, I confess, something substantially more than their books—they are interesting in themselves! These English psychologists—what do they really want? We find them, willingly or unwillingly, always at the same work, that is, hauling the partie honteuse [shameful part] of our inner world into the foreground, in order to look right there for the truly effective and operative factor which has determined our development, the very place where man’s intellectual pride least wishes to find it (for example, in the vis inertiae [force of inertia] of habit or in forgetfulness or in a blind, contingent, mechanical joining of ideas or in something else purely passive, automatic, reflex, molecular, and fundamentally stupid)—what is it that really drives these psychologists always in this particular direction? Is it a secret, malicious, common instinct, perhaps one which cannot be acknowledged even to itself, for belittling humanity? Or something like a pessimistic suspicion, the mistrust of idealists who’ve become disappointed, gloomy, venomous, and green? Or a small underground hostility and rancour towards Christianity (and Plato), which perhaps has never once managed to cross the threshold of consciousness? Or even a lecherous taste for what is odd or painfully paradoxical, for what in existence is questionable and ridiculous? Or finally—a bit of all of these: a little vulgarity, a little gloominess, a little hostility to Christianity, a little thrill, and a need for pepper? . . . But I’m told that these men are simply old, cold, boring frogs, who creep and hop around and into people as if they were in their own proper element, that is, in a swamp. I resist that idea when I hear it. What’s more, I don’t believe it. And if one is permitted to hope where one cannot know, then I hope from my heart that the situation with these men might be reversed, that these investigators and the ones peering at the soul through their microscopes may be thoroughly brave, generous, and proud animals, who know how to control their hearts and their pain and who at the same time have educated themselves to sacrifice everything desirable for the sake of the truth, for the sake of every truth, even the simple, bitter, hateful, repellent, unchristian, immoral truth. . . . For there are such truths. —

So all respect to the good spirits that may govern in these historians of morality! But it’s certainly a pity that they lack the historical spirit itself, that they’ve been left in the lurch by all the good spirits of history! As a group they all think essentially unhistorically, in what is now the traditional manner of philosophers. Of that there is no doubt. The incompetence of their genealogies of morals reveals itself at the very beginning, where the issue is to determine the origin of the idea and of the judgment “good.” “People,” so they proclaim, “originally praised unegoistic actions and called them good from the perspective of those for whom they were done, that is, those for whom such actions were useful. Later people forgot how this praise began, and because unegoistic actions had, according to custom, always been praised as good, people then felt them as good—as if they were something inherently  good.” We perceive right away that this initial derivation already contains all the typical characteristics of the idiosyncrasies of English psychologists—we have “usefulness,” “forgetting,” “habit,” and finally “error,” all as the foundation for an evaluation in which the higher man up to this time has taken pride, as if it were a sort of privilege of men generally. This pride is to be humbled, this evaluation of worth emptied of value. Has that been achieved? . . .  Now, first of all, it’s obvious to me that from this theory the essential focus for the origin of the idea “good” has been sought for and established in the wrong place: the judgment “good” did not move here from those to whom “goodness” was shown! On the contrary, it was the “good people” themselves, that is, the noble, powerful, higher-ranking, and higher-thinking people who felt and set themselves and their actions up as good, that is to say, of the first rank, in opposition to everything low, low-minded, common, and vulgar. From this pathos of distance they first arrogated to themselves the right to create values, to stamp out the names for values. What did they care about usefulness! Particularly in relation to such a hot pouring out of the highest rank-ordering, rank-setting judgments of value, the point of view which considers utility is as foreign and inappropriate as possible. Here the feeling has reached the very opposite of that low level of warmth which is a condition for that calculating shrewdness, that reckoning  by utility—and not just for a moment, not for an exceptional hour, but permanently. The pathos of nobility and distance, as mentioned, the lasting and domineering feeling, something total and fundamental, of a higher ruling nature in relation to a lower type, to a “beneath”—that is the origin of the opposition between “good” and “bad.” (The right of the master to give names extends so far that we could permit ourselves to grasp the origin of language itself as an expression of the power of the rulers: they say “that is such and such”; they seal every object and event with a sound, and in the process, as it were, take possession of it.) Given this origin, the word “good” is from the start in no way necessarily tied up with “unegoistic” actions, as it is in the superstition of those genealogists of morality. Rather, that occurs for the first time with the collapse of aristocratic value judgments, when this entire contrast between “egoistic” and “unegoistic” pressed itself ever more strongly into human awareness—it is, to use my own words, the instinct of the herd which, through this contrast, finally gets its word (and its words). And even then, it still takes a long time until this instinct in the masses becomes master, with the result that moral evaluation gets thoroughly hung up and bogged down on this opposition (as is the case, for example, in modern Europe: today the prejudice that takes “moralistic,” “unegoistic,” and “désintéressé” [disinterested] as equally valuable ideas already governs, with the force of a “fixed idea” and a disease of the brain).

Secondly, however, and quite separate from the fact that this hypothesis about the origin of the value judgment “good” is historically untenable, it suffers from an inherent psychological contradiction. The utility of the unegoistic action is supposed to be the origin of the praise it receives, and this origin has allegedly been forgotten:—but how is this forgetting even possible? Could the usefulness of such actions at some time or other perhaps just have stopped? The opposite is the case: this utility has rather been an everyday experience throughout the ages, and thus something that has always been constantly re-emphasized. Hence, instead of disappearing from consciousness, instead of becoming something forgettable, it must have pressed itself into the consciousness with ever-increasing clarity. How much more sensible is that contrasting theory (which is not therefore closer to the truth—) which is advocated, for example, by Herbert Spencer: he proposes that the idea “good” is essentially the same as the idea “useful” or “functional,” so that in judgments about “good” and “bad” human beings sum up and endorse the experiences they have not forgotten and cannot forget concerning the useful-functional and the harmful-useless.* According to this theory, good is something which has always proved useful, so that it may assert its validity as “valuable in the highest degree,” as “valuable in itself.” This path to an explanation is, as mentioned, also false, but at least the account is inherently sensible and psychologically tenable.

I was given a hint of the right direction by the question: What, from an etymological perspective, do the meanings of “Good” as manifested in different languages really mean? There I found that all of them lead back to the same transformation of ideas—that everywhere “noble” and “aristocratic” in a social sense is the fundamental idea out of which “good” in the sense of “spiritually noble,” “aristocratic,” “spiritually high-minded,” “spiritually privileged” necessarily develops, a process which always runs in parallel with that other one which finally transforms “common,” “vulgar,” and “low” into the concept “bad.” The most eloquent example of the latter is the German word “schlect”[bad] itself, which is identical with the word “schlicht” [plain]—compare “schlectweg” [simply] and “schlechterdings” [simply]—and which originally designated the plain, common man, still without any suspicious side glance, simply in contrast to the noble man. Around the time of the Thirty Years War approximately, hence late enough, this sense changed into the one used now.* As far as the genealogy of morals is concerned, this point strikes me as a fundamental insight; that it was first discovered so late we can ascribe to the repressive influence which democratic prejudice in the modern world exercises concerning all questions of origin. And this occurs in what appears to be the most objective realm of natural science and physiology, a point which I can only hint at here. But the sort of mischief this prejudice can cause, once it has become unleashed as hatred, particularly where morality and history are concerned, is revealed in the well-known case of Buckle: the plebeian nature of the modern spirit, which originated in England, broke out once again on its home turf, as violently as a muddy volcano and with that salty, over-loud, and common eloquence with which all previous volcanoes have spoken.—*

With respect to our problem—which for good reasons we can call a quiet problem, which addresses in a refined manner only a few ears,— there is no little interest in establishing the point that often in those words and roots which designate “good” there still shines through the main nuance of what made the nobility feel they were men of higher rank. It’s true that in most cases they perhaps named themselves simply after their superiority in power (as “the powerful,” “the masters,” “those in command”) or after the most visible sign of their superiority, for example, as “the rich” or “the owners” (that is the meaning of arya [noble], and the corresponding words in Iranian and Slavic). But they also named themselves after a typical characteristic, and that is the case which is our concern here.  For instance, they called themselves “the truthful,” above all the Greek nobility, whose mouthpiece is the Megarian poet Theogonis.* The word developed for this characteristic, esthlos [fine, noble] , indicates, according to its root meaning, a man who is, who possess reality, who really exists, who is true. Then, with a subjective transformation, it indicates the true man as the truthful man. In this phase of conceptual transformation it became the slogan and catch phrase for the nobility, and its sense shifted entirely over to “aristocratic,” to mark a distinction from the lying common man, as Theogonis takes and presents him—until finally, after the decline of the nobility, the word remains as a designation of spiritual nobility and becomes, as it were, ripe and sweet. In the word kakos [weak, worthless], as in the word deilos [cowardly] (the plebeian in contrast to the agathos [good] man), the cowardice is emphasized. This perhaps provides a hint about the direction in which we have to seek the etymological origin for the multiple meanings of agathos. In the Latin word malus [bad] (which I place alongside melas [black, dark]) the common man could be designated as the dark-coloured, above all as the dark-haired (“hic niger est” [“this man is dark”]), as the pre-Aryan inhabitant of Italian soil, who stood out from those who became dominant, the blonds, that is, the conquering race of Aryans, most clearly through this colour. At any rate, Gaelic offers me an exactly corresponding example—the word fin (for example, in the name Fin-Gal), the term designating nobility and finally the good, noble, and pure, originally referred to the blond-headed man in contrast to the dusky, dark-haired original inhabitants. Incidentally, the Celts were a thoroughly blond race. People are wrong when they link those traces of a basically dark-haired population, which are noticeable on the carefully prepared ethnographic maps of Germany, with any Celtic origin and mixing of blood, as Virchow still does.* It is much rather the case that in these places the pre-Aryan population of Germany predominates. (The same is true for almost all of Europe: essentially the conquered races finally attained the upper hand for themselves once again in colour, shortness of skull, perhaps even in the intellectual and social instincts. Who can confirm for us whether modern democracy, the even more modern anarchism, and indeed that preference for the “Commune,” for the most primitive form of society, which all European socialists now share, does not indicate for the most part a monstrous counterattack— and that the ruling and master race, the Aryans, is not being defeated, even physiologically?). The Latin word bonus [good] I believe I can explicate as “the warrior,” provided that I am correct in tracing bonus back to an older word duonus (compare bellum [war] = duellum [war] = duen-lum, which seems to me to contain that word duonus). Hence, bonus as a man of war, of division (duo), as a warrior. We see what constituted a man’s “goodness” in ancient Rome. What about our German word “Gut” [good] itself? Doesn’t it indicate “den Göttlichen” [the god-like man], the man of “göttlichen Geschlechts” [“the generation of gods]”? And isn’t that identical to the people’s (originally the nobles’) name for the Goths? The reasons for this hypothesis do not belong here.—

To this rule that the concept of political superiority always resolves itself into the concept of spiritual superiority, it is not really an exception (although there is room for exceptions), when the highest caste is also the priestly caste and consequently for its total range of meanings prefers a rating which recalls its priestly function. So, for example, for the first time the words “pure” and “impure” appear as contrasting marks of one’s social position, and later a “good” and a “bad” also develop with a meaning which no longer refers to social position. Incidentally, people should be warned not to begin by taking these ideas of “pure” and “impure” too seriously, too broadly, or even symbolically. Instead they should understand from the start that all the ideas of ancient humanity, to a degree we can hardly imagine, are much more coarse, crude, superficial, narrow, blunt and, in particular, unsymbolic. The “pure man” is initially simply a man who washes himself, who forbids himself certain foods which produce diseases of the skin, who doesn’t sleep with the dirty women of the lower people, who has a horror of blood—no more, not much more! On the other hand, of course, from the very nature of an essentially priestly aristocracy it is clear enough how it’s precisely here that early on the opposition between different evaluations could become dangerously internalized and sharpened. And, in fact, they finally ripped open fissures between man and man, over which even an Achilles of the free spirit could not cross without shivering.* From the beginning there is something unhealthy about such priestly aristocracies and about the customary attitudes which govern in them, which turn away from action, sometimes brooding, sometimes exploding with emotion, as a result of which in the priests of almost all ages there have appeared almost unavoidably those debilitating intestinal illnesses and neurasthenia. But what they themselves came up with as a remedy for this pathological disease—surely we can assert that it has finally shown itself, through its effects, as even a hundred times more dangerous than the illness for which it was to provide relief. Human beings themselves are still sick from the after-effects of this priestly naivete in healing! Let’s think, for example, of certain forms of diet (avoiding meat), of fasting, of celibacy, of the flight “into the desert” (Weir-Mitchell’s isolation, but naturally without the fattening up cure and overeating which follow it, which constitutes the most effective treatment for all hysteria induced by the ascetic ideal)*: consider also the whole metaphysic of the priests, so hostile to the senses, making men lazy and sophisticated, the way they hypnotize themselves in the manner of fakirs and Brahmins—Brahmanism employed as a glass knob and a fixed idea—and finally the only too understandable and common dissatisfaction with its radical cure, with nothingness (or God—the desire for a unio mystica [mystical union] with God is the desire of the Buddhist for nothingness, nirvana—and nothing more!). Among the priests, everything simply becomes more dangerous—not only the remedies and arts of healing, but also pride, vengeance, mental acuity, excess, love, thirst for power, virtue, illness—although it’s fair enough also to add that on the foundation of this fundamentally dangerous form of human existence, the priestly, for the first time the human being became, in general, an interesting animal, that here the human soul first attained depth in a higher sense and became evil—and, indeed, these are the two basic reasons for humanity’s superiority, up to now, over other animals! . . .

You will have already guessed how easily the priestly way of evaluating can split from the knightly-aristocratic and then continue to develop into its opposite. Such a development receives a special stimulus every time the priestly caste and the warrior caste confront each other jealously and are not willing to agree amongst themselves about the winner. The knightly-aristocratic judgments of value have as their basic assumption a powerful physicality, a blooming, rich, even overflowing health, together with those things required to maintain these qualities—war, adventure, hunting, dancing, war games, and, in general, everything which involves strong, free, happy action. The priestly-noble method of evaluating has, as we saw, other preconditions: these make it difficult enough for them when it comes to war! As is well known, priests are the most evil of enemies—but why? Because they are the most powerless. From their powerlessness, their hate grows among them into something huge and terrifying, to the most spiritual and most poisonous manifestations. The really great haters in world history and the most spiritual haters have always been priests—in comparison with the spirit of priestly revenge all the remaining spirits are generally hardly worth considering. Human history would be a really stupid affair without that spirit which entered it from the powerless. Let us quickly consider the greatest example. Everything on earth which has been done against “the nobility,” “the powerful,” “the masters,” “the possessors of power” is not worth mentioning in comparison with what the Jews have done against them: the Jews, that priestly people, who knew how to get final satisfaction from their enemies and conquerors through a radical transformation of their values, that is, through an act of the most spiritual revenge. This was appropriate only to a priestly people with the most deeply repressed priestly desire for revenge. In opposition to the aristocratic value equations (good = noble = powerful = beautiful = fortunate = loved by god), the Jews, with a consistency inspiring fear, dared to reverse things and to hang on to that with the teeth of the most profound hatred (the hatred of the powerless), that is, to “only those who suffer are good; the poor, the powerless, the low are the only good people; the suffering, those in need, the sick, the ugly are also the only pious people; only they are blessed by God; for them alone there is salvation.—By contrast, you privileged and powerful people, you are for all eternity the evil, the cruel, the lecherous, the insatiable, the godless; you will also be the unblessed, the cursed, and the damned for all eternity!” . . . We know who inherited this Judaic transformation of values . . . In connection with that huge and immeasurably disastrous initiative which the Jews launched with this most fundamental of all declarations of war, I recall the sentence I wrote at another time (in Beyond Good and Evil, section 195)—namely, that with the Jews the slave rebellion in morality begins: that rebellion which has a two-thousand-year-old history behind it and which we nowadays no longer notice because it—has triumphed. . . .*

But you fail to understand that? You have no eye for something that needed two millennia to emerge victorious? . . . That’s nothing to wonder at: all lengthy things are hard to see, to assess. However, that’s what took place: out of the trunk of that tree of vengeance and hatred, Jewish hatred—the deepest and most sublime hatred, that is, a hatred which creates ideals and transforms values, something whose like has never existed on earth—from that grew something just as incomparable, a new love, the deepest and most sublime of all the forms of love: —from what other trunk could it have grown? . . . However, one should not assume that this love arose essentially as the denial of that thirst for vengeance, as the opposite of Jewish hatred! No. The reverse is the truth! This love grew out of that hatred, as its crown, as the victorious crown unfolding itself wider and wider in the purest brightness and sunshine, which, so to speak, was seeking for the kingdom of light and height, the goal of that hate, aiming for victory, trophies, seduction, with the same urgency with which the roots of that hatred were sinking down ever deeper and more greedily into everything that was evil and possessed depth. This Jesus of Nazareth, the living evangelist of love, the “Saviour” bringing holiness and victory to the poor, to the sick, to the sinners—was he not that very seduction in its most terrible and most irresistible form, the seduction and detour to exactly those Judaic values and innovations in ideals? Didn’t Israel attain, precisely with the detour of this “Saviour,” of this apparent enemy to and dissolver of Israel, the final goal of its sublime thirst for vengeance? Isn’t it part of the secret black art of a truly great politics of vengeance, a farsighted, underground, slowly expropriating, and premeditated revenge, that Israel itself had to disown and nail to the cross, like some mortal enemy, the tool essential to its revenge before all the world, so that “all the world,” that is, all Israel’s enemies, could then swallow this particular bait without a second thought? On the other hand, could anyone, using the full subtlety of his mind, even imagine in general a more dangerous bait? Something to match the enticing, intoxicating, narcotizing, corrupting power of that symbol of the “holy cross,” that ghastly paradox of a “god on the cross,” that mystery of an unimaginable and ultimate final cruelty and self-crucifixion of god for the salvation of mankind? . . . At least it is certain that sub hoc signo [under this sign] Israel, with its vengeance and revaluation of the worth of all other previous values, has triumphed again and again over all other ideals, over all nobler ideals.

—”But what are you doing still talking about more noble ideals! Let’s look at the facts: the people have triumphed—or ‘the slaves,’ or ‘the rabble,’ or ‘the herd,’ or whatever you want to call them—if this has taken place because of the Jews, then good for them! No people ever had a more world-historical mission. ‘The masters’ have been disposed of. The morality of the common man has won. We may also take this victory as a blood poisoning (it did mix the races up together)—I don’t deny that. But this intoxication has undoubtedly been successful. The ‘Salvation’ of the human race (namely, from ‘the masters’) is well under way. Everything is visibly turning Jewish or Christian or plebeian (what do the words matter!). The progress of this poison through the entire body of humanity seems irresistible, although its tempo and pace may seem from now on constantly slower, more delicate, less audible, more circumspect—well, we have time enough. . . From this point of view, does the church today still have necessary work to do, does it generally still have a right to exist? Or could we dispense with it? Quaeritur [That’s a question to be asked]. It seems that it rather obstructs and hinders the progress of that poison, instead of speeding it up? Well, that just might be what makes the church useful . . . Certainly the church is something positively gross and vulgar, which a more delicate intelligence, a truly modern taste, resists. Shouldn’t the church at least be something more sophisticated? . . . Today the church alienates more than it seduces. . . . Who among us would really be a free spirit if the church were not there? The church repels us, not its poison. . . . Apart from the church, we even love the poison. . . .”— This is the epilogue of a “free thinker” to my speech, an honest animal, as he has richly revealed, and in addition he’s a democrat. He listened to me up to this point and couldn’t bear to hear my silence—since for me at this juncture there is much to be silent about.

The slave revolt in morality begins when the ressentiment itself becomes creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of those beings who are prevented from a genuine reaction, that is, something active, and who compensate for that with a merely imaginary vengeance.* While all noble morality grows out of a triumphant affirmation of one’s own self, slave morality from the start says “No” to what is “outside,” “other,” to “a not itself.” And this “No” is its creative act. This transformation of the glance which confers value—this necessary projection towards what is outer instead of back onto itself—that is inherent in ressentiment. In order to arise, slave morality always requires first an opposing world, a world outside itself. Psychologically speaking, it needs external stimuli in order to act at all—its action is basically reaction. The reverse is the case with the noble method of valuing: it acts and grows spontaneously. It seeks its opposite only to affirm its own self even more thankfully, with even more rejoicing— its negative concept of “low,” “common,” “bad” is merely a pale contrasting image after the fact in relation to its positive basic concept, thoroughly intoxicated with life and passion, “We are noble, good, beautiful, and happy!” When the noble way of evaluating makes a mistake and abuses reality, this happens with reference to the sphere which it does not know well enough, indeed, the sphere it has strongly resisted learning the truth about: under certain circumstances it misjudges the sphere it despises, the sphere of the common man, of the low people. On the other hand, we should consider that even assuming that the feeling of contempt, of looking down, or of looking superior falsifies the image of the person despised, such distortions will fall short by a long way of the distortion with which the suppressed hatred, the vengeance of the powerless man, assaults his opponent—naturally, in effigy. In fact, in contempt there is too much negligence, too much dismissiveness, too much looking away and impatience, all mixed together, even too much of a characteristic feeling of joy, for it to be capable of converting its object into a truly distorted image and monster. For example, we should not fail to hear the almost benevolent nuances which for a Greek noble lay in all the words with which he set himself above the lower people—how a constant form of pity, consideration, and forbearance is mixed in there, sweetening the words, to the point where almost all words which refer to the common man finally remain as expressions for “unhappy,” “worthy of pity” (compare deilos [cowardly], deilaios [lowly, mean], poneros [oppressed by toil, wretched], mochtheros [suffering, wretched]—the last two basically designating the common man as a slave worker and beast of burden)—and how, on the other hand, for the Greek ear the words “bad,” “low,” “unhappy” have never stopped echoing a single note, one tone colour, in which “unhappy” predominates. This is the inheritance of the old, noble, aristocratic way of evaluating, which does not betray its principles even in contempt. (—Philologists should recall the sense in which oizuros [miserable], anolbos [unblessed], tlemon [wretched], dystychein [unfortunate], xymfora [misfortune] were used). The “well born” simply felt that they were “the happy ones”; they did not have to construct their happiness artificially first by looking at their enemies, or in some circumstance to talk themselves into it, to lie to themselves (the way all men of ressentiment habitually do). Similarly they knew, as complete men, overloaded with power and thus necessarily active, that they must not separate action from happiness—they considered being active necessarily associated with happiness (that’s where the phrase eu prattein [do well, succeed] derives its origin)—all this is very much the opposite of “happiness” at the level of the powerless, the oppressed, those festering with poisonous and hostile feelings, among whom happiness comes out essentially as a narcotic, an anaesthetic, quiet, peace, “Sabbath,” relaxing the soul, and stretching one’s limbs, in short, as something passive. While the noble man lives for himself with trust and candour (gennaios, meaning “of noble birth,” stresses the nuance “upright” and also probably “naive”), the man of ressentiment is neither upright nor naive, nor honest and direct with himself. His soul squints. His spirit loves hiding places, secret paths, and back doors. Everything furtive attracts him as his world, his security, his refreshment. He understands about remaining silent, not forgetting, waiting, temporarily diminishing himself, humiliating himself. A race of such men of ressentiment will necessarily end up cleverer than any noble race. It will value cleverness to a completely different extent, that is, as a condition of existence of the utmost importance; whereas, cleverness among noble men easily acquires a delicate aftertaste of luxury and sophistication about it:—here it is simply less important than the complete functional certainly of the ruling unconscious instincts or even a certain lack of cleverness, something like brave recklessness, whether in the face of danger or of an enemy, or those wildly enthusiastic, sudden fits of anger, love, reverence, thankfulness, and vengeance, by which in all ages noble souls have recognized each other. The ressentiment of the noble man himself, if it comes over him, consumes and exhausts itself in an immediate reaction and therefore does not poison. On the other hand, in countless cases it just does not appear at all; whereas, in the case of all weak and powerless people it is unavoidable. Being unable to take one’s enemies, one’s misfortunes, even one’s bad deeds seriously for very long—that is the mark of strong, complete natures, in whom there is a surplus of plastic, creative, healing power, as well as the power to forget (a good example for that from the modern world is Mirabeau, who had no memory of insults and maliciousness people directed at him, and who therefore could not forgive, merely because he—forgot).* Such a man with a single shrug simply throws off himself the many worms which eat into other men. Only here is possible—provided that it is at all possible on earth—the real “love for one’s enemy.” How much respect a noble man already has for his enemies!—and such a respect is already a bridge to love. . . . In fact, he demands his enemy for himself, as his mark of honour. Indeed, he has no enemy other than one in whom there is nothing to despise and a great deal to respect! By contrast, imagine for yourself “the enemy” as a man of ressentiment conceives him—and right here we have his action, his creation: he has conceptualized “the evil enemy,” “the evil one,” and as a fundamental idea, from which he now also thinks his way to an opposite image and counterpart, a “good man”— himself! . . .

We see exactly the opposite with the noble man, who conceives the fundamental idea “good” in advance and spontaneously, that is, from himself and from there first creates a picture of “bad” for himself! This “bad” originating from the noble man and that “evil” arising out of the stew pot of insatiable hatred—of these the first is a later creation, an afterthought, a complementary colour; by contrast, the second is the original, the beginning, the essential act of conception in slave morality—although the two words “bad” and “evil” both seem opposite to the same idea of “good,” how different they are! But it is not the same idea of “good”; it is much rather a question of who the “evil man” really is, in the sense of the morality of ressentiment. The strict answer to that is as follows: simply the “good man” of the other morality, the noble man, the powerful, the ruling man, only coloured over, only reinterpreted, only seen through the poisonous eyes of ressentiment. Here there is one thing we will be the last to deny: the man who gets to know these “good men” only as enemies, knows them also as nothing but evil enemies, and the same good men who are kept within strict limits by custom, honour, habit, thankfulness, even more by mutual protection, through jealousy inter pares [among equals] and who, by contrast, demonstrate in relation to each other such resourceful consideration, self-control, refinement, loyalty, pride, and friendship—towards the outside, where the strange world, the world of foreigners, begins, these men are not much better than beasts of prey turned loose. There they enjoy freedom from all social constraints. In the wilderness they make up for the tension which a long fenced-in confinement within the peace of the community brings about. They go back to the innocent consciousness of a wild beast of prey, as joyful monsters, who perhaps walk away from a dreadful sequence of murder, arson, rape, and torture with an exhilaration and spiritual equilibrium, as if they had merely pulled off a student prank, convinced that the poets now once again have something to sing about and praise for a long time to come. At the bottom of all these noble races we cannot fail to recognize the beast of prey, the blond beast splendidly roaming around in its lust for loot and victory. This hidden basis from time to time needs to be discharged: the animal must come out again, must go back into the wilderness,—Roman, Arab, German, Japanese nobility, Homeric heroes, Scandinavian Vikings—in this need they are all alike.  It is the noble races which left behind the concept of the “barbarian” in all their tracks, wherever they went. A consciousness of and even a pride in this fact still reveals itself in their highest culture (for example, when Pericles says to his Athenians, in that famous Funeral Speech, “our audacity has broken a way through to every land and sea, putting up permanent memorials to itself for good and ill”). This “audacity” of the noble races, mad, absurd, sudden in the way it expresses itself, its unpredictability, even the improbability of its undertakings—Pericles emphatically praises the rayhumia [mental balance, freedom from anxiety] of the Athenians—their indifference to and contempt for safety, body, life, comfort, their fearsome cheerfulness and the depth of their joy in all destruction, in all the physical pleasures of victory and cruelty—everything summed up for those who suffer from such audacity in the image of the “barbarian,” of the “evil enemy,” of something like the “Goths” or the “Vandals.”* The deep, icy mistrust which the German evokes, as soon as he comes to power, once more again today—is always still an after-effect of that unforgettable terror with which for centuries Europe confronted the rage of the blond German beast (although there is hardly any idea linking the old Germanic tribes and we Germans, let alone any blood relationship). Once before I have remarked on Hesiod’s dilemma when he thought up his sequence of cultural periods and sought to express them as Gold, Silver, and Bronze.* But he didn’t know what to do with the contradiction presented to him by the marvellous but, at the same time, horrifying and violent world of Homer, other than to make two cultural ages out of one and then place one after the other—first the age of Heroes and Demi-gods from Troy and Thebes, just as that world remained in the memories of the noble families who had their own ancestors in it, and then the Bronze age as that same world appeared to the descendants of the downtrodden, exploited, ill treated, those carried off and sold—a Bronze age, as mentioned: hard, cold, cruel, empty of feeling and scruples, with everything crushed and covered over in blood. Assuming as true what in any event is taken as “the truth” nowadays, that it is the purpose of all culture simply to breed a tame and civilized animal, a domestic pet, out of the beast of prey “man,” then we would undoubtedly have to consider all those instincts of reaction and ressentiment with whose help the noble races and all their ideals were finally disgraced and overpowered as the essential instruments of culture—though to do that would not be to claim that the bearers of these instincts also in themselves represented culture. By contrast, the opposite would not only be probable—no! nowadays it is visibly apparent! These people carrying instincts of oppression and of a lust for revenge, the descendants of all European and non-European slavery, of all pre-Aryan populations in particular—they represent the regression of mankind! These “instruments of culture” are a disgrace to humanity, and more a reason to be suspicious of or a counterargument against “culture” in general! We may well be right when we hang onto our fear of the blond beast at the base of all noble races and keep up our guard. But who would not find it a hundred times better to fear if he could at the same time be allowed to admire, rather than not fear but in the process no longer be able to rid himself of the disgusting sight of the failures, the stunted, the emaciated, the poisoned? Is not that our fate? Today what is it that constitutes our aversion to “man”?—For we suffer from man. There’s no doubt of that. It’s not a matter of fear. Rather it’s the fact that we have nothing more to fear from man, that the maggot “man” is in the foreground swarming around, that the “tame man,” the hopelessly mediocre and unpleasant man, has already learned to feel that he is the goal, the pinnacle, the meaning of history, “the higher man,”—yes indeed, that he even has a certain right to feel that about himself, insofar as he feels separate from the excess of failed, sick, tired, spent people, who are nowadays beginning to make Europe stink, so that he feels at least relatively successful, at least still capable of life, of at least saying “Yes” to life.

—At this point I won’t suppress a sigh and a final confidence. What is it exactly that I find so totally unbearable? Something which I cannot deal with on my own, which makes me choke and feel faint? Bad air! Bad air! It’s when something which has failed comes close to me, when I have to smell the entrails of a failed soul! . . . Apart from that what can we not endure by way of need, deprivation, bad weather, infirmity, hardship, loneliness? Basically we can deal with all the other things, born as we are to an underground and struggling existence. We come back again and again into the light, we live over and over our golden hour of victory—and then we stand there, just as we were born, unbreakable, tense, ready for something new, for something even more difficult, more distant, like a bow which all troubles only serve always to pull still tighter. But if there are heavenly goddesses who are our patrons, beyond good and evil, then from time to time grant me a glimpse, just grant me a single glimpse into something perfect, something completely developed, happy, powerful, triumphant, from which there is still something to fear! A glimpse of a man who justifies humanity, of a complementary and redeeming stroke-of-luck of a man, for whose sake we can hang onto a faith in humanity! . . .  For matters stand like this: the diminution and levelling of European man conceal our greatest danger, for at the sight of him we grow tired . . . We see nothing today which wants to be greater. We suspect that things are constantly still going down, down into something thinner, more good-natured, more prudent, more comfortable, more mediocre, more indifferent, more Chinese, more Christian—humanity, there is no doubt, is becoming constantly “better.” . . .  Europe’s fate lies right here—with the fear of man we also have lost the love for him, the reverence for him, the hope for him, indeed, our will to him. A glimpse at man nowadays makes us tired—what is contemporary nihilism, if it is not that? . . .We are weary of man. . . .

—But let’s come back: the problem with the other origin of the “good,” of the good man, as the person of ressentiment has imagined it for himself, demands its own conclusion.—That the lambs are upset about the great predatory birds is not a strange thing, and the fact that they snatch away small lambs provides no reason for holding anything against these large birds of prey. And if the lambs say among themselves, “These predatory birds are evil, and whoever is least like a predatory bird, especially anyone who is like its opposite, a lamb— shouldn’t that animal be good?” there is nothing to find fault with in this setting up of an ideal, except for the fact that the birds of prey might look down on them with a little mockery and perhaps say to themselves, “We are not at all annoyed with these good lambs. We even love them. Nothing is tastier than a tender lamb.” To demand from strength that it does not express itself as strength, that it does not consist of a will to overpower, a will to throw down, a will to rule, a thirst for enemies and opposition and triumph, is just as unreasonable as to demand from weakness that it express itself as strength. A quantum of force is simply such a quantum of drive, will, action—rather, it is nothing but this very driving, willing, acting itself—and it cannot appear as anything else except through the seduction of language (and the fundamental errors of reason petrified in it), which understands and misunderstands all action as conditioned by something which causes actions, by a “Subject.” For, in just the same way as people separate lightning from its flash and take the latter as an action, as the effect of a subject, which is called lightning, so popular morality separates strength from the manifestations of strength, as if behind the strong person there were an indifferent substrate, which is free to express strength or not. But there is no such substrate; there is no “being” behind the doing, acting, becoming. “The doer” is merely made up and added into the action—the act is everything. People basically duplicate the action: when they see a lightning flash, that is an action of an action: they set up the same event first as the cause and then yet again as its effect. Natural scientists are no better when they say “Force moves, force causes,” and so on—our entire scientific knowledge, for all its coolness, its freedom from feelings, still remains exposed to the seductions of language and has not gotten rid of the changelings foisted on it, the “Subjects” (the atom, for example, is such a changeling, like the Kantian “thing-in-itself”): it’s no wonder that the repressed, secretly smouldering feelings of rage and hate use this belief for themselves and basically even maintain a faith in nothing more fervently than in the idea that the strong are free to be weak and that predatory birds are free to be lambs:—in so doing, they arrogate to themselves the right to blame the birds of prey for being birds of prey. When the oppressed, the downtrodden, the conquered say to each other, with the vengeful cunning of the powerless, “Let us be different from evil people, namely, good! And that man is good who does not overpower, who hurts no one, who does not attack, who does not retaliate, who hands revenge over to God, who keeps himself hidden, as we do, the man who avoids all evil and demands little from life in general, like us, the patient, humble, and upright”—what that amounts to, coolly expressed and without bias, is essentially nothing more than “We weak people are merely weak. It’s good if we do nothing; we are not strong enough for that”—but this bitter state, this shrewdness of the lowest ranks, which even insects possess (when in great danger they stand as if they were dead in order not to do “too much”), has, thanks to that counterfeiting and self-deception of powerlessness, dressed itself in the splendour of a self-denying, still, patient virtue, just as if the weakness of the weak man himself—that means his essence, his actions, his entire single, inevitable, and irredeemable reality—is a voluntary achievement, something willed, chosen, an act, something of merit. This kind of man has to believe in the disinterested, freely choosing “subject” out of his instinct for self-preservation, self-approval, in which every falsehood is habitually sanctified. Hence, the subject (or, to use a more popular style, the soul) has up to now perhaps been the best principle for belief on earth, because, for the majority of the dying, the weak, and the downtrodden of all sorts, it makes possible that sublime self-deception which establishes weakness itself as freedom and their being like this or that as something meritorious.

Is there anyone who would like to take a little look down on and under that secret how man fabricates an ideal on earth? Who has the courage for that? . . . Come on, now! Here’s an open glimpse into this dark workshop. Just wait a moment, my dear Mr. Nosy and Presumptuous: your eye must first get used to this artificial flickering light. . . . So, enough! Now speak! What’s going on down there? Speak up. Say what you see, man of the most dangerous curiosity—now I’m the one who’s listening.—

—”I see nothing, but I hear all the more. It is a careful, crafty, light rumour-mongering and whispering from every nook and cranny. It seems to me that people are lying; a sugary mildness clings to every sound. Weakness is going to be falsified into something of merit. There’s no doubt about it—things are just as you said they were.”

—Keep talking!

—”And powerlessness which does not retaliate is being falsified into ‘goodness,’ anxious baseness into ‘humility,’ submission before those one hates to ‘obedience’ (of course, obedience to the one who, they say, commands this submission—they call him God). The inoffensiveness of the weak man—cowardice itself, in which he is rich, his standing at the door, his inevitable need to wait around—here acquires a good name, like ‘patience,’ and is called virtue itself. That incapacity for revenge is called the lack of desire for revenge, perhaps even forgiveness (‘for they know not what they do—only we know what they do!’). And people are talking about ‘love for one’s enemies’—and sweating as they say it.”

—Keep talking!

—”They are miserable—there’s no doubt about that—all these rumour-mongers and counterfeiters in the corners, although crouched down beside each other in the warmth—but they are telling me that their misery is God’s choice, His sign. One beats the dog one loves the most. Perhaps this misery may be a preparation, a test, an education, perhaps it is even more—something that will one day be rewarded and paid out with huge interest in gold, no, in happiness. They call that ‘blessedness’.”

—Go on!

—”Now they are letting me know that they are not only better than the powerful, the masters of the earth, whose spit they have to lick (not out of fear, certainly not out of fear, but because God commands that they honour all those in authority)—they are not only better than these, but they also are ‘better off,’ or at any rate will one day have it better. But enough! Enough! I can’t take it any more. Bad air! Bad air! This workshop where man fabricates ideals—it seems to me it stinks  of nothing but lies.”

—No! Just one minute more! So far you haven’t said anything about  the masterpiece of these black magicians who make whiteness, milk, and innocence out of every blackness:—have you not noticed the perfection of their sophistication, their most daring, most refined, most spiritual, most fallacious artistic attempt? Pay attention! These cellar animals full of vengeance and hatred—what exactly are they making out of that vengeance and hatred? Have you ever heard these words? If you heard only their words, would you suspect that you were completely among men of ressentiment? . . .

—”I understand. Once again I’ll open my ears (oh! oh! oh! and hold my nose). Now I’m hearing for the first time what they’ve been saying so often: ‘We good men—we are the righteous’—what they demand they don’t call repayment but ‘the triumph of righteousness.’ What they hate is not their enemy. No! They hate ‘injustice,’ ‘godlessness.’ What they believe and hope is not a hope for revenge, the intoxication of sweet vengeance (something Homer has already called ‘sweeter than honey’), but the victory of God, the righteous God, over the godless. What remains for them to love on earth is not their brothers in hatred but their ‘brothers in love,’ as they say, all the good and righteous people on the earth.”

—And what do they call what serves them as a consolation for all the suffering of life—their phantasmagoria of future blessedness which they are expecting?

—”What’s that? Am I hearing correctly? They call that ‘the last judgment,’ the coming of their kingdom, the coming of ‘God’s kingdom’— but in the meanwhile they live ‘in faith,’ ‘in love,’ ‘in hope.’”

—Enough! Enough!

In belief in what? In love with what? In hope for what?—There’s no doubt that these weak people—at some time or another they also want to be the strong people, some day their “kingdom” is to arrive—they call it simply “the kingdom of God,” as I mentioned. People are indeed so humble about everything! Only to experience that, one has to live a long time, beyond death—in fact, people must have an eternal life, so they can also win eternal recompense in the “kingdom of God” for that earthly life “in faith, in love, in hope.” Recompense for what? Recompense through what? . . . In my view, Dante was grossly in error when, with an ingenuity inspiring terror, he set that inscription over the gateway into his hell: “Eternal love also created me.”* Over the gateway into the Christian paradise and its “eternal blessedness” it would, in  any event, be more fitting to let the inscription stand “Eternal hate also created me”—provided it’s all right to set a truth over the gateway to a lie! For what is the bliss of that paradise? . . . Perhaps we might have guessed that already, but it is better for it to be expressly described for us by an authority we cannot underestimate in such matters, Thomas Aquinas, the great teacher and saint:  “In the kingdom of heaven” he says as gently as a lamb, “the blessed will see the punishment of the damned, so that they will derive all the more pleasure from their heavenly bliss.”* Or do you want to hear that message in a stronger tone, something from the mouth of a triumphant father of the church, who warns his Christians against the cruel sensuality of the public spectacles. But why? “Faith, in fact, offers much more to us,” he says (in de Spectaculis, c. 29 ff), “something much stronger. Thanks to the redemption, very different joys are ours to command; in place of the athletes, we have our martyrs. If we want blood, well, we have the blood of Christ . . . But what awaits us on the day of his coming again, his triumph!”—and now he takes off, the rapturous visionary:* “However there are other spectacles—that last eternal day of judgment, ignored by nations, derided by them, when the accumulation of the years and all the many things which they produced will be burned in a single fire. What a broad spectacle then appears! How I will be lost in admiration! How I will laugh! How I will rejoice! I will be full of exaltation then as I see so many great kings who by public report were accepted into heaven groaning in the deepest darkness with Jove himself and alongside those very men who testified on their behalf! They will include governors of provinces who persecuted the name of our Lord burning in flames more fierce than those with which they proudly raged against the Christians! And those wise philosophers who earlier convinced their disciples that God was irrelevant and who claimed either that there is no such thing as a soul or that our souls would not return to their original bodies will be ashamed as they burn in the conflagration with those very disciples! And the poets will be there, shaking with fear, not in front of the tribunal of Rhadamanthus or Minos, but of the Christ they did not anticipate!* Then it will be easier to hear the tragic actors, because their voices will be more resonant in their own calamity” (better voices since they will be screaming in greater terror). “The actors will then be easier to recognize, for the fire will make them much more agile. Then the charioteer will be on show, all red in a wheel of fire, and the athletes will be visible, thrown, not in the gymnasium, but in the fire, unless I have no wish to look at their bodies then, so that I can more readily cast an insatiable gaze on those who raged against our Lord. ‘This is the man,’ I will say, ‘the son of a workman or a prostitute’” (in everything that follows and especially in the well-known description of the mother of Jesus from the Talamud, Tertullian from this point on is referring to the Jews) “the destroyer of the Sabbath, the Samaritan possessed by the devil. He is the man whom you brought from Judas, the man who was beaten with a reed and with fists, reviled with spit, who was given gall and vinegar to drink. He is the man whom his disciples took away in secret, so that it could be said that he was resurrected, or whom the gardener took away, so that the crowd of visitors would not harm his lettuce.’ What praetor or consul or quaestor or priest will from his own generosity grant this to you so that you may see such sights, so that you can exult in such things?* And yet we already have these things to a certain extent through faith, represented to us by the imagining spirit. Besides, what sorts of things has the eye not seen or the ear not heard and what sorts of things have not arisen in the human heart?” (1. Cor. 2, 9). “I believe these are more pleasing than the race track and the circus and both enclosures” (first and fourth tier of seats or, according to others, the comic and tragic stages). Through faith: that’s how it’s written.*

Let’s bring this to a conclusion. The two opposing values “good and bad,” “good and evil” have fought a fearful battle on earth for thousands of years. And if it’s true that the second value has for a long time had the upper hand, even now there’s still no lack of places where the battle goes on without a final decision. We could even say that in the intervening time the battle has been constantly drawn to greater heights and in the process to constantly greater depths and has become constantly more spiritual, so that nowadays there is perhaps no more decisive mark of a “higher nature,” a more spiritual nature, than that it is split in that sense and is truly still a battleground for those opposites. The symbol of this battle, written in a script which has remained legible through all human history up to the present, is called “Rome Against Judea, Judea Against Rome.” To this point there has been no greater event than this war, this posing of a question, this contradiction between deadly enemies. Rome felt that the Jew was like something contrary to nature itself, its monstrous polar opposite, as it were. In Rome the Jew was considered “guilty of hatred against the entire human race.” And that view was correct, to the extent that we are right to link the health and the future of the human race to the unconditional rule of aristocratic values, the Roman values. By contrast, how did the Jews feel about Rome? We can guess that from a thousand signs, but it is sufficient to treat ourselves again to the Apocalypse of John, that wildest of all written outbursts which vengeance has on its conscience. (Incidentally, we must not underestimate the deep consistency of the Christian instinct, when it ascribed this very book of hate to the name of the disciple of love, the same man to whom it attributed that enthusiastic amorous gospel—: there is some truth to this, no matter how much literary counterfeiting may have been necessary for this purpose). The Romans were indeed strong and noble men, stronger and nobler than any people who had lived on earth up until then or even than any people who had ever been dreamed up. Everything they left as remains, every inscription, is delightful, provided that we can guess what is doing the writing there. By contrast, the Jews were par excellence that priestly people of ressentiment, who possessed an unparalleled genius for popular morality. Just compare people with related talents—say, the Chinese or the Germans —with the Jews, in order to understand what is ranked first and what is ranked fifth. Which of them has proved victorious for the time being, Rome or Judea? Surely there’s not the slightest doubt. Just think of who it is people bow down to today in Rome itself as the personification of all the highest values—and not only in Rome, but in almost half the earth, all the places where people have become merely tame or want to become tame—in front of three Jews, as we know, and one Jewess (in front of Jesus of Nazareth, the fisherman Peter, the carpet maker Paul, and the mother of the first-mentioned Jesus, named Mary). This is very remarkable: without doubt Rome has been conquered. It is true that in the Renaissance there was an incredibly brilliant reawakening of the classical ideal, the noble way of evaluating everything. Rome itself behaved like someone who had woken up from a coma induced by the pressure of the new Jewish Rome built over it, which looked like an ecumenical synagogue and was called “the church.” But Judea immediately triumphed again, thanks to that basically vulgar (German and English) movement of ressentiment, which we call the Reformation, together with what had to follow as a result, the re-establishment of the church—as well as the re-establishment of the old grave-like tranquillity of classical Rome. In what is an even more decisive and deeper sense than that, Judea once again was victorious over the classical ideal at the time of the French Revolution. The last political nobility which there was in Europe, in seventeenth and eighteenth century France, broke apart under the instincts of popular ressentiment—never on earth has there been heard a greater rejoicing, a noisier enthusiasm! It’s true that in the midst of all this the most dreadful and most unexpected events took place: the old ideal itself stepped physically and with unheard of splendour before the eyes and the conscience of humanity— and once again stronger, simpler, and more urgently than ever rang out, in opposition to the old lying slogan of ressentiment about the privileged rights of the majority, in opposition to that will for a low condition, for abasement, for equality, for the decline and extinguishing of mankind—in opposition to all that there rang out a fearsome and delightful counter-slogan about the rights of the very few! As a last signpost to a different road, Napoleon appeared, the most singular and late-born man there ever was, and in him the problem of the inherently noble ideal was made flesh—we should consider well what a problem that is: Napoleon, this synthesis of the inhuman and the superhuman. . . .

— Did that end it? Was that greatest of all opposition of ideals thus set ad acta [aside] for all time? Or was it merely postponed, postponed indefinitely? . . .  Some day, after a much longer preparation, will an even more fearful blaze from the old fire not have to take place?  More than that: wouldn’t this be exactly what we should hope for with all our strength? Even will it? Even demand it? Anyone who, like my readers, begins to reflect on these points, to think further, will have difficulty coming to a quick conclusion—reason enough for me to come to a conclusion myself, provided that it has been sufficiently clear for a long time what I want, precisely what I want with that dangerous slogan which is written on the body of my last book: “Beyond Good and Evil” . . . At least this does not mean “Beyond Good and Bad.”—

I am taking the opportunity provided to me by this essay publicly and formally to state a desire which I have expressed up to now only in occasional conversations with scholars, namely, that some faculty of philosophy might set up a series of award-winning academic essays in order to serve the advancement of studies into the history of morality. Perhaps this book will serve to provide a forceful push in precisely such a direction. Bearing in mind a possibility of this sort, let me propose the following question—it merits the attention of philologists and historians as much as of real professional philosophical scholars:

What suggestions does the scientific study of language, especially etymological research, provide for the history of the development of moral concepts?

—On the other hand, it is, of course, just as necessary to attract the participation of physiologists and doctors to this problem (of the value of all methods of evaluating up to now). Also for this task it might be left to the faculties of philosophers in this single case to become advocates and mediators, after they have completely succeeded in converting the relationship between philosophy, physiology, and medicine, originally so aloof, so mistrusting, into the most friendly and fruitful exchange. In fact, all the tables of value, all the “you should’s” which history or ethnological research knows about, need, first and foremost, illumination and interpretation from physiology, in any case even before psychology. All of them similarly await a critique from the point of view of medical science. The question “What is this or that table of values and ‘morality’ worth?” will be set under the different perspectives. For we cannot analyze the question “Value for what?” too finely. Something, for example, that would have an apparent value with respect to the longest possible capacity for survival of a race (or for an increase in its power to adapt to a certain climate or for the preservation of the greatest number) would have nothing like the same value, if the issue were one of developing a stronger type. The well-being of the majority and the well-being of the fewest are opposing viewpoints for values. We wish to leave it to the naivete of English biologists to take the first as already the one of inherently higher value. . . . All the sciences from now on have to do the preparatory work for the future task of the philosopher, understanding that the philosopher’s task is to solve the problem of value, that he has to determine the rank order of values.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), English philosopher and liberal political theorist, who extended Darwin’s evolutionary theories into sociology.

Thirty Years War: a prolonged, devastating, and inconclusive European war over religion (1618-1648).

Buckle: Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862), English historian, author of The History of Civilization in England. Buckle’s attempt to explain historical events as the results of certain mathematically precise laws generated a great deal of controversy.

Theogonis: a Greek poet from Megara in the sixth century BC.

Virchow: Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), German doctor and anthropologist.

Achilles: the warrior hero of Homer’s Iliad, one of the greatest Greek heroes.

Weir-Mitchell: Silas Weir-Mitchell (1829-1914), American doctor and writer, well known for his rest cure for nervous diseases. [Back to Text]

Beyond Good and Evil: Nietzsche published this work in 1886.

 . . . ressentiment: Nietzsche uses this French word, which since his writing, and largely because of it, has entered the English language as an important term in psychology: a short definition is as follows: “deep-seated resentment, frustration, and hostility, accompanied by a sense of being powerless to express these feelings directly” (Merriam-Webster). Ressentiment is thus significantly different in meaning from resentment.

Mirabeau: Honore Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau (1749-1791), French politician and writer at the time of the French Revolution.

Pericles (495-429 BC), political leader and general in Athens at the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. He delivered his famous funeral oration at the end of the first year of the war. The Goths: tribes from Eastern Germany who attacked the Roman Empire in the third and fourth centuries.  Later (as the Visigoths and Ostrogoths) they gained political dominance in parts of Europe, once the Roman Empire collapsed; Vandals: Eastern Germanic tribes, allied to the Goths, who invaded the Roman Empire.

Hesiod (c. 700 BC), Greek poet.

Dante: Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), a Florentine poet who wrote The Divine Comedy. The phrase Nietzsche quotes comes from the first book, The Inferno, and stands over the gateway to hell.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Catholic saint, Bishop of Hippo, one of the great Catholic theologians. Nietzsche quotes the Latin, as follows “Beati in regno coelesti videbunt poenas damnatorum, ut beatitudo illis magis complaceat.” 

The “triumphant father of the church” is Tertullian (c. 155-230), an important figure in the early church and a fierce Christian apologist. [Back to Text]

Rhadamanthus or Minos: These were the names of the judges in the pagan underworld.

praetor or consul or quaestor: important Roman political officials.

Nietzsche quotes the Latin and inserts some of his own comments, as follows: “At enim supersunt alia spectacula, ille ultimus et perpetuus judicii dies, ille nationibus insperatus, ille derisus, cum tanta saeculi vetustas et tot eius nativitates uno igne haurientur. Quae tunc spectaculi latitudo! Quid admirer! Quid rideam! Ubi gaudeam! Ubi exultem, spectans tot et tantos reges, qui in coelum recepti nuntiabantur, cum ipso Jove et ipsis suis testibus in imis tenebris congemescentes! Item praesides” (die Provinzialstatthalter) “persecutores dominici nominis saevioribus quam ipsi flammis saevierunt insultantibus contra Christianos liquescentes! Quos praeterea sapientes illos philosophos coram discipulis suis una conflagrantibus erubescentes, quibus nihil ad deum pertinere suadebant, quibus animas aut nullas aut non in pristina corpora redituras affirmabant! Etiam poetas non ad Rhadamanti nec ad Minois, sed ad inopinati Christi tribunal palpitantes! Tunc magis tragoedi audiendi, magis scilicet vocales” (besser bei Stimme, noch ärgere Schreier) “in sua propria calamitate; tunc histriones cognoscendi, solutiores multo per ignem; tunc spectandus auriga in flammea rota totus rubens, tunc xystici contemplandi non in gymnasiis, sed in igne jaculati, nisi quod ne tunc quidem illos velim vivos, ut qui malim ad eos potius conspectum insatiabilem conferre, qui in dominum desaevierunt. Hic est ille,’ dicam, ‘fabri aut quaestuariae filius’” (wie alles Folgende und insbesondere auch diese aus dem Talmud bekannte Bezeichnung der Mutter Jesu zeigt, meint Tertullian von hier ab die Juden), “‘sabbati destructor, Samarites et daemonium habens. Hic est, quem a Juda redemistis, hic est ille arundine et colaphis diverberatus, sputamentis dedecoratus, felle et aceto potatus. Hic est, quem clam discentes subripuerunt, ut resurrexisse dicatur vel hortulanus detraxit, ne lactucae suae frequentia commeantium laederentur.’ Ut talia spectes, ut talibus exultes, quis tibi praetor aut consul aut quaestor aut sacerdos de sua liberalitate praestabit? Et tamen haec jam habemus quodammodo per fidem spiritu imaginante repraesentata. Ceterum qualia illa sunt, quae nec oculus vidit nec auris audivit nec in cor hominis ascenderunt?” (1. Cor. 2, 9.) “Credo circo et utraque cavea” (erster und vierter Rang oder, nach anderen, komische und tragische Bühne) “et omni stadio gratiora.”


What Does Heinz Kohut Mean by the Self?
by Rudolf Suesske. Dipl.-Psych / Psychotherapist

The present version of this paper is based on a lecture presented under the same title at a meeting of the "Society for the Philosophy and Sciences of the Psyche" (Berlin, May 8, 1997) and incorporates audience questions and suggestions, particularly in the footnotes. A first version was presented in June 1993 at a continuing education seminar of the Department of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic Medicine (Chair: E. Schiffer) of the Christian Hospital e.V. in Quakenbrück.

"Guilty" and "Tragic": Man’s Double Nature
The Structure of the "Self"
The "Self" and the Drives
From the Virtual Self to the Cohesive Self 
Body, Self, and Beginninglessness

The following remarks, with all their digressions, address a single question: what does Heinz Kohut mean by the "self"? We are not primarily concerned here with Kohut’s contribution to research on narcissism (Kohut 1971), nor with his specific therapeutic concepts (selfobject transference and the like), but rather with his psychoanalytic and anthropological theory of the self, which contains the conceptual foundations of both his therapeutic practice and his intellectual excursions into sociology, art, and history.

"Conceptual foundations" suggests Kohut’s adversary: the metapsychology of Sigmund Freud. Freud’s own relationship to his metapsychology was at once passionate and detached. With respect to the problem of how the ego can control the drives, he wrote in 1937: "’We must call the Witch to our aid after all.'1 That is to say, the witch of metapsychology. Without metapsychological speculation and theorizing—I might almost have said fantasizing -, one gets no further" (Freud, Suppl. 365f).

The keystone here, and the stumbling block, was drive theory. The ego—consciousness—is not master in its own house. Its reactions are in perpetual conflict between instinctual wishes and the natural or cultural adversities of external reality. Both are subject to an epistemological qualification which Freud addresses in The Interpretation of Dreams:

"The unconscious is the true psychical reality: in its innermost nature it is as much unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is as incompletely presented by the data of consciousness as is the external world by the communications of our sense organs" (1900, 580).

This is also the source of the concept of the object and the correlated (cognitive) subject, containing structures which first constitute an object as an object. But what is important now is no longer the structures of reason or the intellect, but rather those of the instinctual drives. The source of the drives (which is inaccessible to psychological knowledge) lies in the biological bedrock; its goal is the release of tension. Objects exist chiefly for the purpose of gratification; that is, they serve to remove tension. Their obstinacy and recalcitrance, as well as the inner logic of drive development, not only banish people from the oceanic feeling of their self-sufficient primary narcissism, thus leading to the formation of ego structures responsible for cognition and action; they also challenge its moral standards. The destiny of the drives is to evolve the psychic structure of id, ego, and superego on the rocky path leading from autoeroticism to the Oedipus conflict. But life in the reality of nature and culture (the principle of reality) remains exposed to the depredations of a force striving anarchically toward pleasure. Psychoanalysis, as is well known, seeks to constrain this force: "Where id was, there ego shall be."

"Guilty" and "Tragic": Man’s Double Nature

Kohut does not reject this model of the psyche’s structure. "Man lives inside the pleasure principle; he attempts to satisfy his pleasure searching drives for, to relieve tensions which arise in his erogenic zones. The fact that man is often unable to reach his goals in this domain—not because of pressure from his environment, but primarily due to inner conflicts—leads me," Kohut writes, "to term him Guilty Man when regarded from this perspective" (Kohut 1977, 120).

This is the sphere of classical psychoanalysis, the structural neuroses, and their therapy. But man does not live only in a world of neurotic conflicts, or—in the best case—of drives sublimated into creativity. A primitive core of spontaneity exists in him, a "life beyond the pleasure principle," which strives for self-expression (cf. Kohut 1975, 269ff; 1977, 120f).

Kohut speaks of "the realization through action of the (life) plan laid down in [man’s] nuclear self." Kohut writes, "Here the undeniable fact that man fails more often than he succeeds leads me to give this aspect of man the negative designation Tragic Man, instead of ‘expressive’ or ‘creative man’" (Kohut 1977, 120f).

The individual whose self-expression is blocked experiences himself as prevented from building a tension arc from basic strivings (ambitions) to basic ideals (values, goals) using inborn talents and acquired abilities.

"This tension arc is the dynamic essence of the complete, non-defective self; it is the conceptualization of the structure whose establishment makes possible a creative-productive, fulfilling life" (Kohut 1984, 21).

"Narcissism" for the most part still stands for "self" in Kohut’s earlier writings (Kohut 1966 ff.), but two main tendencies inherent in man are already beginning to become distinct—his striving toward pleasure and his striving to give expression to the structure of his self, tendencies "which can either work together harmoniously or conflict with one another" (Kohut 1975, 273). There is no quantitative equilibrium between them, but the possibility exists that "the weaker ... sector may be able to play a supplementary role" (ibid.), just as there may also be lifelong "trouble-free cooperation" between them. There is no path leading from narcissism to object-love—selfobjects are not replaced by love objects— the two interact.

Kohut writes, "I have repeatedly stressed ... that object-love ..., like any other intense experience, strengthens the self. Furthermore, it is well known that a strong self enables us to experience love and desire more intensely"
(Kohut 1984, 86).

So far we have only hinted at an answer to our question, "What does Kohut mean by the ‘self.’" Let us take a closer look.

The Structure of the "Self"

Kohut is indefatigable in stressing the role of empathy, that is, sympathetic understanding of the introspection of the Other. Though he never says exactly what it is. Kohut intends empathy not only as a therapeutic agent, but also as an instrument of theoretical knowledge2; in many places in Kohut’s writings it even becomes a model of social conduct.

If we ask empathically what the self is, we get the following answers:

- "our sense of being an independent center of initiative and perception,"
- of being "integrated with our most central ambitions and ideals,"
- "and with our experience that our body and mind form a unit in space and a continuum in time" (Kohut 1977, 155).

Here we have, in embryo, the essential features of the self—more precisely of the bipolar self—to which we shall now turn.

If we leave the origins of the self unelucidated for the moment and, in the manner of most psychoanalytic theory, start from a hypothetical symbiotic phase, the course of events is as follows:

"The equilibrium of the complete security of the child is disturbed by the inevitable limits of maternal care, but the child replaces the previous perfection (a) by constructing a grandiose and exhibitionistic image of the self, the grandiose self, and (b) by assigning the previous perfection to a venerated, omnipotent (transitional) selfobject, the idealized parent imago" (Kohut 1971, 43).

Kohut uses the linguistic monstrosity self-selfobject relationship to designate this state of affairs. Selfobjects are thus objects 3 or functions of objects which arouse the self-feeling, maintain it, or influence it positively.

Here only two clues—offered by Kohut—to the origin of the self, a matter which we will discuss in more depth:

(1) The child’s environment (selfobjects) reacts to its utterances as if it already had a self, or a self-experience of its own initiative, integrity, and continuity. That is, if empathic care by the mother is to be successful, she not only takes notice of some of the infant’s requirements and achievements (e.g., the sucking reflex, thrashing, etc.), but speaks to the child as an integral whole (see above).

(2) Psychoanalytical research has pushed back the acquisition of a rudimentary self to an earlier and earlier point. For Kohut, the child’s earliest expressions of narcissistic rage and anxiety are indications of a rudimentary self. An active striving toward total mastery and possession of the dimly perceived exterior of the selfobject manifests itself (earlier than had been assumed)—or, complementary to this striving, anxiety about the disintegration and fragmentation 4 of the self (phenomena widely seen in the therapy of narcissistic personality disorders, among others).

Kohut makes repeated reference to the mother’s empathic care for the child’s entire self, by which he means not so much praise and satisfaction of needs as a style, an atmosphere of acceptance. The embryonic grandiose self is reflected "in the radiance of the mother’s eyes"; its own grandiosity shares in the omnipotence of its selfobject. The two are fused, yet take the form of a differentiated whole.5

Early on (in the first through third years of life), the parents will supportively mirror the strivings of the child’s grandiose self and not threaten their idealization as parents. Provided what Kohut calls the nuclear self has established itself, a stronger movement toward disillusionment begins. Margaret S. Mahler’s developmental model of separation and individuation (normalized to self psychology) is applicable here.6  Kohut calls the incorporation of the self-selfobject experience into the internal structure of the self transmuting internalization. What does this mean more precisely?

"The selfobject which possesses a mature psychological organization able to realistically evaluate the child’s needs and how to meet them will be absorbed by the child into its own psychological organization and rectify the child’s homeostatic disequilibrium through behavior" (Kohut 1977, 84).

The first point of this response is important: "absorption into its own psychological organization" is a more technical way of saying empathy: sympathetic understanding (Einfühlung) of the introspection of the Other. Rage and anxiety, for example, do not derive from the primordial drives which the mother must tame through love or strength (neutralized aggression); rather, they are "the experience of disintegration [of a] formerly complete and complex psychological unit of self-evident approval." The mother senses the child’s anxiety and initially shares it with him, then "picks up the child, talks to it while holding and carrying it, and thus creates conditions that the child phase-appropriately experiences as a fusion with the omnipotent selfobject" (ibid., 84f).

But fusion for the sake of transmuting internalization; relationship is transformed (participant) into structure:7   The selfobject (the mother) responds to the progression of anxiety—disintegration anxiety—experienced in the child’s self with slight anxiety, that is, with an affect signal that leads to calm; the affect abates—i.e., the anxiety fades. What applies in the early area of pre-linguistic affect is equally valid later (e.g., in therapy): I perceive the anxiety, I share it in a self-controlled, moderate fashion, and show how it can be made more intelligible and how it might go away. (Kohut’s two-phase transference—understanding and interpreting—and Winnicott’s holding function are both based on this phenomenon.)

A lack of fusion or harmful fusion, i.e., a lack of empathy or inadequate reactions, leads to a weakening of the ability to curb affect or to the acquisition of faulty, defective structures. In our example, if the selfobject responds with a spreading of affect instead of an affect signal. The disintegration anxiety of the self intensifies in the fusion with the mother’s panic reaction. Disregard or ambivalence of reaction patterns of selfobjects not only leads to disintegrating spreading of affect, but can also deprive the child of the security of the self’s reality and the appropriateness of his affect: "Is that really my feeling?"

Kohut’s ontogenetic timeline is as follows:

- Signs of success-oriented strivings and idealized goals become evident in infancy.
- Most nuclear grandiosity becomes consolidated as core strivings (ambitions) at the age of 2-4 years.
- The acquisition of nuclear strivings toward goals—matters of greater or lesser importance or transpersonal ideals which form the meaning of life—lasts until age 6.

To summarize: the nuclear self consists of strivings (ambitions)—which spring from the grandiose self—and transmute ideals, goals, and values—from the idealized parent imago. A tension arc exists between these poles which mobilizes talents and acquired abilities. More precisely: Kohut speaks of a tension arc as the "abiding flow of actual psychological activity ... between the two poles of the self" and of a tension gradient, an "action-producing state which arises between man’s strivings and his ideals" (Kohut 1977, 157).8

Man is established in his life plan with the formation of a specific bipolar nuclear self,9 which can succeed or fail. We now see Tragic Man more clearly.

Kohut’s description makes use of highly questionable metaphors from physics, such as electrical tension gradient (Kohut 1977, 156f). Somatically-related events are swiftly given meaningless causal interpretations.10

Merleau-Ponty, on the other hand, is at pains to describe operative intentionality of an embodied incarnated consciousness.

"Conscious life [is] supported by an ‘arch of intention,’ which lays out for us our past, our future, our human environment, our physical situation ... our moral situation, or rather brings it about that we are situated in all these relationships. It is this arch of intention which makes up the unity of consciousness, the unity of the intelligence, and the unity of the sensorium and motor activity. It is what loses its ‘tone’ in illness" (Merleau-Ponty 1945, 164f).

The psychoanalytic reification of (briefly put) situated, embodied, emotional, and cognitive achievements in concrete terms such as self, object, and so on makes a dialogue with these phenomenological concepts extremely difficult.11  We are entering rough waters where even early Merleau-Ponty is questionable at points.

Let us return to Kohut. The bipolar self owes its existence (constitution) to structure-forming self-selfobject relationships; recall transmuting internalization. This never comes to an end. Relationships of this kind never become superfluous, remain necessary throughout life.

"A person experiences himself as a cohesive, harmonious unit in space and time which is connected with its past and directed toward a creative and productive future, [but] only if he has the experience at every stage of his life that certain representatives of his human environment react enthusiastically to him, are available as sources of idealized strength and calm, present in nursing, but essentially always able to undertand his inner life more or less correctly so that their reactions and his needs are in tune and he is permitted to comprehend their inner life if he requires such support" (Kohut 1984, 84).

By this yardstick, fragmented selves are almost all Kohut can see in the ‘modern world’; he almost laments the disintegration of traditional ideals and values. He speaks frequently of the lack of great artistic or historical figures with the function of an idealized parent imago. Beyond the ordinary case (Grundregel)—i.e., outside the analytical situation—his alternative interpretative horizon is quite limited. Compare Russel Jacoby:

"The frigidity of warm, subjective love persists in its refusal to perceive the social mechanism which produces the frigidity. Stubborn adherence to subjective love drives it to its opposite, to the justification of a loveless world" (Jacoby 1975, 148).

This form of radical social criticism seems quite alien to Kohut. He leaps from dual relationships (mother/child) over the great figures and into "cosmic regions," speaks of "communing in a timeless transpersonal existence" (Kohut 1966, 162); in this way he extricates himself from complications reminiscent of his "leap" from physics into psychism.

After so much self and (tragic) self-realization, where is Guilty Man? Or is the recognition of drive-determined object relations an empty promise? One of Kohut’s critics once made this accusation in the form of a typical joke:

"A Hollywood film magnate is talking non-stop about himself to a young actress. In a rare moment of self-awareness he interrupts himself and says, ‘Enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?" (cited in Eagle 1988, 79).

The "Self" and the Drives

Kohut’s definition of the relationship between drive psychology and self psychology turns out not to be completely consistent. He speaks of complementarity,12 meaning that a psychic phenomenon can be expressed in terms of either, then gives clear primacy to self psychology, which incorporates object relations.13

His model of the bipolar self seems analogous to that of the instinctual drives. If we recall the introductory remarks above, drives are determined by (psychologically inaccessible) source, motivation, object, and goal (= release of tension). The most variable aspect—the object with its oppositional or gratificational character—impinges on hardly any important intraorganismic event. Otherwise Freud’s destiny of the drives would have no tangible meaning.

A source—strivings—and a goal—ideals and values—are also contained in the self, but they derive rather from the respondent self-structures of the parents as from nature (the somatic). Just as ego structures and achievements are based on inhibited gratification, strivings bring out talents and abilities, polarized toward the realization of ideals. Self-realization is not the release of tension, nor does is it fulfilled in actual relationships with others (Intersubjectivity).14

Drive theory vs. self theory: What could this mean exactly? According to classical drive theory, "oral-clinging behavior" is characterized as "the manifestation of

(1) a drive fixation on oral fixation points and
(2) a corresponding developmental arrest of the ego, in consequence of infantile gratifications to which the analysand’s pleasure-oriented immature ego has become addicted" (Kohut 1977, 74).

But this is not the focus of psychopathology, neither developmentally nor dynamically/ structurally. As a consequence of the disrupted empathic reactions of the parents, the child’s self was not securely established. That is, in the case of a weak self threatened by fragmentation, the attempt to make certain of oneself in one’s own livingness leads to the "stimulation of erogenic zones, [which] then, secondarily, brings about the oral (and anal) drive orientation of the ego’s enslavement to the drive aims correlated to the stimulated body zones" (ibid., 75).

As with the character pathology of "anal stinginess," the mother, in accepting, rejecting, or ignoring the "fecal gift," is not reacting to the drive, but "to a self that, in giving and offering, seeks confirmation iby the mirroring selfobject" (ibid., 76).

Destructiveness (rage) is also not based on a primary drive, but represents a disintegration product of self-experience. According to Kohut (ibid., 88f), if a patient reacts to an interpretation with rage, that does not show a relaxation of resistance in which a neutralization is reversed and transmuted back into aggressive energy. It would be more in keeping with experience to describe it as representing a developmentally important traumatic situation which is recapitulated in the therapeutic context: a faulty, unempathic reaction of the selfobject refers to a state of affairs in which the child demands total control over reactions and complete empathy.

To summarize in general terms: "The establishment of fixations and of the correlated activities of the ego occurs in consequence of the feebleness of the self. The unresponded-to self had not been able to transform its archaic grandiosity and its archaic wish to merge with an omnipotent selfobject into reliable self-esteem, realistic ambitions, attainable ideals. The abnormality of the drives and the ego are the symptomatic consequences of this central defect of the self" (ibid., 81).

"Symptomatic consequences" means the formulation of a compromise between the demands of the drives and the achievements of the defenses. In self psychology, the latter corresponds roughly to the formation of defensive structures (see, e.g., ibid., 20). They "paper over" the primary defect. Compensatory structures, also established in childhood, compensate for the weakness of the self pole or sector by strengthening the other pole or sector; the self-perception of a weakened self in the realm of ambition and exhibitionism generally encourages the intense pursuit of ideals. We cannot discuss this point further here (cf. Kohut 1977, 160ff). By forming compensatory structures, the individual gets a second chance; according to Kohut, these too have repercussions in therapy.

Drive aims, defense mechanisms, and conflicts represent subordinate areas of the self 15 whose disequilibrium can also affect feelings of self-esteem that do not have primary defects. Here we may speak of secondary pathology of the self. But because we do not wish to focus on the classification and therapy of personality disorders, let us turn to another point: If drive-determined symptomatic and character pathologies are disintegration products of a defective self, it might be asked when, where, and how anything determined by the drives becomes "integrated" into the self at all. This will be discussed as part of our reflections on the origins of the self.

From the Virtual Self to the Cohesive Self

Kohut assumes "that the newborn infant cannot have any reflexive awareness of himself, that he is not capable of experiencing himself, if ever so dimly, as a unit, cohesive in space and enduring in time, which is a center of initiative and the recipient of impressions" (Kohut 1977, 95).

And yet his environment reacts to the emotions of the newborn child ab initio as if it were a whole person, it "anticipates the later self-awareness of the child" (ibid.). Kohut speaks here of a virtual self, metaphorically described as "corresponding in reverse to that geometric point in infinity where two parallel lines intersect" (ibid., 96).

In Analysis of the Self (1971), Kohut still agrees with traditional psychoanalytic theory and assumes that the self is formed "through the fusion of its parts," in a sequence opposite to that of the fragmentation that may later occur under adverse circumstances. The child’s experience of himself as a somatic and psychological unit (see above) "takes hold gradually through the fusion of experiences of individual (at first still unassociated) body parts and isolated somatic and psychological functions" (Kohut 1975, 260).

Before a cohesive self forms, "stages of the fragmented self," isolated somatic and psychological fragments or nuclei—self-nuclei—must exist (cf. Kohut 1971, 48). In his "Remarks on the Formation of the Self" (1975), Kohut casts doubt on this thesis: there is no evidence, he writes, for a process of fusion of self nuclei (cf. Kohut 1975, 262f). Here we find the important claim that the development of the child’s self-experience is independent of that of his drive-determined areas. But this self-experience does not only arise independently, it grows in importance as "the experience of the body parts and individual functions first assumes a coordinate position, then a superordinate one. ... The parts do not make up the self, they become incorporated into it" (ibid.).

It seems significant that a Jungian (M. Jacoby 1985) lays particular stress on this importation of holism into psychoanalysis; others of Kohut’s hypotheses also find echoes in holistic psychology.

In seeking the developmental roots of the self, Kohut "obtained the impression that during early psychic development a process takes place in which some archaic mental contents that had been experienced as belonging to the self become obliterated or are assigned to the area of the nonself while others are retained within the self or are added to it" (Kohut 1977, 154).

This passage again refers to the significance of selfobjects, which treat the child’s emotions and the child as an entire self according to their abilities, their own structure, and the image of the virtual self which they contain. The process of differentiation and expulsion takes place in the self-selfobject relationship.

But the passage contains a difficulty. If we speak of self-experience or self-development and the destiny of drive-impulses as separate or posit their integration, the question no longer arises where disintegrated or not yet integrated material is, if the self is in fact to form the "center of a psychic universe" (ibid., 12) and not "part of a psychic apparatus." The two aspects cannot be as arbitrarily divided as Kohut believes. One would in fact have to speak of a self in the self. In our view, however, this would again lead to metaphoric and reifying talk of the self as an object with spatial extension and physical substance.

To return to the main theme: the self is one thing from its beginning;16 it is not the sum of its parts, still less fragments (which would assume the existence of a former whole). There are no separate, then patched-together parts, but rather (to use a formulation related to the work of Merleau-Ponty) increasing inner organization (via differentiation and expulsion) of an amorphous and opaque original unity. Thus the entire body (Leib) at the beginning of life has appellative character—it is all expression: crying, thrashing, looking are all barely separate embodiments of one intention which becomes differentiated later, permitting separation into gesture, mimicry, speech, and acts of movement executed with causal and semantic purpose.

Thus speech does not develop by stringing together meaningful sounds which are then syntactically and semantically joined to form a language. The child babbles, it produces all the sounds of spoken language (modulo its anatomical equipment and maturity), and, via differentiation and expulsion, retains those which are relevant in its language. However, what is expelled—nonsense—can later find its way into neologisms or other linguistic games.

For Kohut, the entire self precedes its elements (for a qualification, cf. 1975, 281). But with respect to the "parts of the body," the "somatic-psychological functions," and their occupation by the libido for "erogenic zones," he make the quite classical assumption that isolated parts are integrated into a whole.

Body, Self, and Beginninglessness

The virtual self (in the imagination) of the Other is not the beginning of the child’s own self-experience; there is no absolute beginning to reflexive experience, but beginninglessness. For consciousness, every beginning is a assumed one, the achievement of a consciousness with a past. We fall into an infinite regress or into the abyss of German Idealism.

Kohut and others notice rarely notice this philosophical problem because the perspective changes in ontogenetic thinking. When we participate empathically, as Kohut asks, in self-experience recalling scenes of childhood or infancy, such as disintegration anxiety, then—in the murk of the earliest pre-linguistic impressions—we change point of view and understand the putative pre-experience in the categories of a functioning organism. "I hold, indeed, that the states existing before the apparatus of the central nervous system has sufficiently matured and before the secondary processes have yet been established must be described in terms of tensions—of tensions increased, of tensions decreased—and not in terms of verbalizable fantasies" (Kohut 1977, 96).

Kohut rightly rejects Melanie Klein’s assumption that fantasies capable of verbalization exist in early childhood. Research on "the competent infant" is emphatic confirmation of Kohut’s position (cf. Dornes 1993). Self-experience of a vague spatio-temporal existence (experiencing); or else an active organism (living). Tertium non datur? I hazard two pieces of evidence for a possible answer:

This problem—from which the great battle over the origins of "self-feeling" or self- experience, and ultimately of self-consciousness, derives—seems to me to be one of the underdetermination of the body and of what Merleau-Ponty calls "intercorporeality." Embodied subjectivity avoids the subject/object split and protects itself by formulating intentional (self-)achievements from reifying concepts.17  The reflexive "I am" is a loan from the Other to the active, intentional, embodied achievements of the child. But the child also possesses a center of urges and perceptions. Only this center, this self, is not one of experience which is reflexive and thus capable of being remembered, but rather one of embodied ability, of operative (fungierende) intentionality (Merleau-Ponty).

One consequence of these reflections would require an investigation of its own—in this respect it remains intentionally null (leerintentional). Just one suggestive concrete example: "If I playfully take the finger of a fifteen-month-old child between my teeth and give it a little bite, the child opens its mouth. And yet it has hardly ever seen its own face in the mirror and its teeth do not resemble mine. But its own mouth and its teeth are directly perceived by the child—felt from inside—as tools for biting, and my jaw is directly perceived by the child—seen from outside—as equipped for the same purpose. ‘Biting’ has in fact an intersubjective meaning for the child" (Merleau-Ponty 1945, 403; cf. 405).18

But "intercorporeality" also takes place in the "mirroring" cited above, which would certainly not have to be restricted to the "radiance of the mother’s eyes." Along with empathy toward the child’s disintegration anxiety, mirroring and holding (Winnicott) and "amodal affect attunement" (Stern) are also meant.

But the embodied union of experience is not an adequate characterization of the context in which the self is born. "Even before language, the baby’s body appears as a text of pleasure and pain ... by which its parents are possessed, because they read their own destiny in every sound, every uproar, every smile, and every tear. In this way, every generation of parents is willingly subjugated by the majestic pantomime of their children" (O'Neill 1986, 254).

Brazelton and Cramer (1990) develop the concept of an imaginary interaction, which includes the directly observable interaction, the subjectiv expectations and the unconscious fantasies of the participants. "The expectations that parents cherish for their future child even before it is conceived are rooted in their own ... history. ... This context (fantasized relationships) is what the child enters when it comes into the world; its spontaneous behavior ‘awakens’ these fantasies and gives rise to interpretations and attributions. The child’s perception of itself is conditioned by this interaction—its self-image develops mirrored in the conscious and unconscious fantasies of the parents about themselves and about the child" (Hamburger 1995, 66). Here the fantasies which make up the child’s self are the parents’; the fantasies make themselves felt in the parents’ ways of behaving with the child.19  That is, they form a structure which is hardly founded in natural conditions,20 but also not adopted in such a way that it is accessible to consciousness, even potentially. The child’s virtual self is laid down in the Other, in his or her plans, wishes, and fantasies—entrusted to it, so to speak. This structure cannot be avoided, but must be called to account: all projective plans inevitably "misjudge" the child’s self.21

Consciousness, self-experience, always comes too late for its own beginning. This primordial lateness cannot be mastered constructively, but there is a reprise, so to speak a heteronomous spontaneity. The time before consciousness awakens—earliest childhood—is not accessible to memory; it remains a dream, a realm of imagination (but not one of willful fiction) in which the—sometimes traumatic—life history has found expression in a style, in the individual limitations of the embodied achievement. Thus this dream too has its (not insignificant) day’s residues.
Brazelton, T.B., / B.G. Cramer (1990). Die frühe Bindung. Stuttgart, 1994.
Dornes, M. (1993). Der kompetente Säugling. Frankfurt.
Eagle, M.N. (1988). Neuere Entwicklungen der Psychoanalyse. Munich.
Freud, S. (1900). Die Traumdeutung, St.A. Bd.1, Frankfurt, 1972. (1937). Die endliche und die unendliche Analyse, St.A.Erg.,1975.
Hamburger, A. (1995). Entwicklung der Sprache. Stuttgart-Berlin-Köln.
Jacoby, M. (1985). Individuation und Narzißmus. Munich.
Jacoby, R. (1971). Soziale Amnesie. Frankfurt.

Kohut, H. (1966). Formen und Umformungen des Narzißmus. In Kohut (1985).
(1971). Narzißmus. Frankfurt, 1973.
(1975). Bemerkungen zur Bildung des Selbst. In Kohut (1985).
(1977). Die Heilung des Selbst. Frankfurt, 1979.
(1984). Wie heilt die Psychoanalyse. Frankfurt, 1987.
(1985). Die Zukunft der Psychoanalyse. Frankfurt..

See also
The dark side of self esteem [2307KB PDF]
Mortality and self identity [96KB PDF]
Understanding paranoia [75KB PDF] 
Towards Wisdom
Faith and fallibility... how the shadows of childhood can endure  
The concept of character
Personality disorders
Tracey Emin: 'You have to watch out for death when you are most happy'
I’m Not Lying, I’m Telling a Future Truth. Really
Science, religion and the battle for the human soul
Discussing memories
Staying Alive - the game
The Buddhist explanation of how we are impelled to act out habitual patterns of behaviour

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