More generally, Postmodernity can be characterised as a process of de-differentation of what Modernity has differentiated. Max Weber analysed the modernisation process as a progressive autonomisation of domains such as Science, Religion, Art, Justice, Philosophy, Technology and so on (Lash, 1990). Psychology is a product of this modern process of differnetiation. Lash describes postmodernism as a process of de-differentation of all these domains. The moves of the subdisciplines of psychology can so be re-interpreted. Part of them will join Technology. But the core of Psychology, in other words the historically developed art and science of self-reflexivity and ‘political’ action (the participation of the individual in the constrcution of social networks), will have to make itself a new future by developing a science of postmodern men and women. This whole field now is open to sociologists, philosophers and pyschoanalysts. When I read The Meeting of the Waters : Individuality, Community and Solidarity (Kristensen, 1997), I was convinced that most of the chapters – the book is a reader – were written down by personality psychologists or social psychologists, as many chapters deal with Self and Identity. Rob Shields’ analysis of Cinderella as a prefiguration of the postmodern problem of identity in everyday life and in cyberspaces leading to ‘psychoanaesthesia’ and depression, should have been written by a psychologists. However, all these chapters are written by sociologists. The book is a fine example of the deadlock in which modern psychology has brought itself by cutting off its communication with the culturally and historically rooted problems of individual men and women in their everyday life. For the psychologist of postmodernity this should not be a reason for bitterness or envy, but an encouragement. It should strengthen him or her in the conviction that the death of the Modern Ego does not imply the death of psychology as such (Rosseel 2001).
Having acquired my first digital recorder while working in Iqaluit, Nunavut I began to depend on this exciting new technology. To my frustration later on I realized that I was unable to use the .dss files in most applications. But today I found Switch 1.04 and for the first time I was able to save a .dss file to .wav. I chose an audio summary I had made of Kristensen’s (1997) The Meeting of the Waters : Individuality, Community and Solidarity. I would now like to find a place to put in into cyberspace. The conversion was seamless! And I have an editor now so I can edit my audio clips.
Keywords: .dss, .wav, Rob Shields, reflexive modernity, self-reflexivity, postmodernity, modernity, sociology, Switch 1.04, .
Kristensen. 1997. The Meeting of the Waters : Individuality, Community and Solidarity.
Rosseel, Eric. 2001. “The Death of the Helmsman: A Psychology of Postmodernity.” November.
Shields, Rob. 1997. “Cinderella Punk.” The Meeting of the Waters : Individuality, Community and Solidarity.
Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2003. Audio summary of Kristensen The Meeting of the Waters: Individuality, Community and Solidarity.
We know that we feel an emotion by sensing something happening in our organism (Damasio 1999:279). When the sense of the feeling self is created in our minds through consciousness, then we can know that we feel an emotion. Our proto-self interprets activity patterns of changes to our organism and represents them as knowable patterns necessary for our core consciousness. Mental images arise from neural patterns representing biological changes in our body and brain (1999:280). Without this second level representation into knowable emotions these neural patterns would be simply noise.
Changes related to the body and cognitive states are related to different mechanisms in different sites of the brain although they are both constituted by a collection of neural patterns in a number of brain circuits and involve changes in the body’s chemical profile (1999:281).
Damasio summarizes this feeling an emotion,
[I] s the representation of that transient change in organism state in terms of neural patterns and ensuing images. When those images are accompanied, one instant later, by a sense of self in the act of knowing, and when they are enhanced, they become conscious. They are, in the true sense, feelings of feelings (Damasio 1999:282).
Damasio argues that this cognitive state, when we know we are feeling our emotions, allows us to plan specific, nonstereotyped responses to the emotive bodily state — to choose to pay attention or not to the biochemical changes in our organism. Damasio claims then that this endowment of consciousness of the knowing subject, provides a marked advantage in evolutionary terms over those creatures who have emotions but lack subjective knowledge and therefore the incentive or ability to solve complex problems of survival (1999:284-5).
Damasio distinguishes between core consciousness and extended consciousness. Core consciousness is only slightly above “other foundational capacities, such as action, emotion, and sensory representation, which we share with several nonhuman species (1999:311).” Consciousness begins with a ‘vague, elusive and yet unmistakable’ feeling, a mental image ‘like some kind of pattern built with nonverbal vocabulary or signs of body states.’ (1999:312). The transient core self, which emerges in core consciousness is ‘ceaselessly re-created for each and every object with which the brain interacts’ (1999:17).
Extended consciousness at its most complex and elaborate level provides the key to the examined life (Damasio 1999:5). I interpret this as meaning that extended consciousness allows us to nurture ethical relationships of mutual respect between ourselves and the other-I. The more traditional sense of self “linked to a notion of identity and corresponds to a nontransient collection of unique facts and ways of being which characterizes a person” is what Damasio calls the autobiographical self. The autobiographical self depends on systematized memory and organized recording of the organism’s unique biography.
The recognizable universal Darwinian core emotions are fear, anger, disgust, surprise and happiness. Damasio suggests that most of the time we do not experience these emotions or the secondary or social emotions but we do experience low-grade background feelings. Background emotions such as ‘fatigue, energy, excitement, wellness, sickness, tension, relaxation, surging, dragging, stability, instability, balance, imbalance, harmony and discord (1999: 286) are intimately linked to consciousness, moods, drives and motivations. Core emotions can be experienced as a burst pattern with a rapid onset-intensity-release pattern or a wavelike pattern. Sadness in some forms and background emotions are wavelike patterns. A particular background emotion that is fairly frequent or sustained over a long period of time is better described as a mood not simply a background emotion (1999:341). Damasio acknowledges resonance between his notion of background feelings and developmental psychologist Daniel Stern’s concept of vitality affects and the work of Susanne Langer.
Damasio uses the term image to refer to a mental image as synonym for mental pattern. He distinguishes between this mental pattern or mental image (as in feeling states) and the neural pattern or map of the processing of neural activities as studied in current neuroscience. Damasio’s notion of mental images refers to unconscious images and conscious images that are only accessible through qualia or first-person perspective. Consciousness is an entirely private, first-person phenomenon which occurs as part of the mind (1999:12). Neurologists are able to access neural patterns and maps through advanced technologies so that most individuals will never see this image of their own neural architecture (1999:318). The brain is constantly constructing mental images or mental patterns with a structure composed of ‘visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory and somatosensory modalities’. So Damasio’s images are in no way limited to visual pictures.
For Damasio, the notion of the mind is as a process of continual flow of mental images that become conscious and may be logically interrelated. He uses the notion of thought to describe this flow of mental images that moves forward in time concurrently, convergent or divergent (1999:318).
He describes the limitations of our minds to attend to all the mental images constructed by our brains. He offers the metaphor of a multiple layered subterranean underneath the conscious mind of unconscious mental image, those that our minds did not attend to, a layer of neural patterns and relationships among neural patterns which subtend all conscious and unconscious mental images and a layer of neural machinery which holds records of neural patterns in memory (1999:319).
In spite of his status as leader of thought in consciousness studies, Damasio adopts a humble stance. He reminds us that as science helps us understand consciousness better and ravel some of the mysteries of the mind, there is still enough awe at nature to keep us modest for the foreseeable future (1999:28). It is not through neuroscience, psychology or biology that we will explain the origin of the universe or the meaning of life.
BibliographyDamasio, Antonio R. Descartes’ Error.
Damasio, Antonio R. 1999. The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. New York: Harcourt.
Langer, Susanne. 1942. Philosophy in a New Key: a Study in the Symbolism of Reasons, Rite and Art. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Stern, Daniel. 1985. The Interpersonal World of the Infant: a View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology. New York: Basic Books.
Men feel what they imagine they feel. From that to thinking that they imagine they feel what they feel was a very short step (Gide 1925)
April 27, 2007
How can I know what I’m feeling isn’t just me imagining that I am feeling? What is counterfeit and what is real?
Psychological analysis lost all interest for me from the moment that I became aware that men feel what they imagine they feel. From that to thinking that they imagine they feel what they feel was a very short step . . .! I see it clearly in the case of my love for Laura: between loving her and imagining I love her- between loving her less and imagining I love her less – what God could tell the difference? In the domain of feeling, what is real is indistinguishable from what is imaginary. And if it is sufficient to imagine one loves, in order to love, so it is sufficient to say to oneself that when one loves one imagines one loves, in order to love a little less and even in order to detach oneself a little from one’s love, or at any rate to detach some of the crystals from one’s love. But if one is able to say such a thing to oneself, must one not already love a little less? (Gide 1925 [1958:84])
These are the questions asked by Edouard, the narrator and protagonist of André Gide’s novel Les Faux-Monnayers (1925). Edouard reads the letters, poetry and novels of others and writes in his journal as a background to his experiment in writing a new, more authentic form of novel entitled Les Faux-Monnayers. In the post WWI period of confused values and identities, Edouard begins to question his own reality:
The only existence that anything (including myself) has for me, is poetical – I restore this word its full signification. It seems to me sometimes that I do not really exist, but that I merely imagine I exist. The thing that I have the greatest difficulty in believing in, is my own reality. I am constantly getting outside myself, and as I watch myself act I cannot understand how a person who acts is the same as the person who is watching him act, and who wonders in astonishment and doubt how he can be an actor and a watcher at the same moment. (Gide 1925 [1958:84])
But is it Gide who also experiencing an existential crisis?
André Gide introduced the concept of the mise en abîme in his Journal (1893),
J’aime assez qu’en une œuvre d’art on retrouve ainsi transposé, à l’échelle des personnages, le sujet même de cette œuvre par comparaison avec ce procédé du blason qui consiste, dans le premier, à mettre le second en abyme (Gide 1893).
It is defined by Rimmon-Kenan as,
An analogy which verges on identity, making the hypodiegetic level a mirror and reduplication of the diegetic, is known in French as mise en abyme. It can be described as the equivalent in narrative fiction of something like Matisse’s [1933 painting La Condition Humaine] of a room in which a miniature version of the same painting hangs on one of the walls (Rimmon-Kenan 2002: 94).
and described by Wenche Ommundsen, who foregrounds the metatextual significance of such text-segments, considers mise en abyme as ‘an embedded self-representation or mirror-image of the text within the text. The mise en abyme may […] refer to the whole work which includes it; it may also refer to a particular element within that work, or it may take as its subject the processes of fictional creation and communication’ (Ommundsen 1993: 10 cited by Weiss).
Bal, Mieke. 1985. Narratology. Introduction to the Theory of Narrative (transl.).Toronto/London: University of California Press.
Boheemen. “Notes on Narrative Embedding.” Poetics Today 2.2 (1981): 41-59.
Gide, André. 1925. Les Faux-Monnayers.
Gide, André. 1958. The Coiners. Trans. Dorothy Bussy. London: Cassell & Company.
Gide, André. 1958. XIII. “Edouard’s Journal: Douviers and Profitendieu.” The Coiners. Trans. Dorothy Bussy. London: Cassell & Company. p. 358
Caws, Mary Ann. 1986. Reading Frames in Modern Fiction. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP.
Dällenbach, Lucien. 1977. Le récit spéculaire. Essai sur la mise en abyme .– Paris : Seuil, 1977. The Mirror in the Text.– Cambridge : Polity Pres, 1989.
Ommundsen, Wenche. 1993. Metafictions? Reflexivity in Contemporary Texts. Victoria: Melbourne University Press.
Ricardou, Jean.1990 . Le Nouveau Roman. Paris : Seuil.
Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith. 2002. Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. 2nd edn. London and New York: Routledge.