A. E. Housman’s (1859-1936) words “alone and afraid in a world I never made” ring loud and true for those who haven’t found meaning in their lives, or have no connection with “something” greater than themselves. Behaviorists like B.F. Skinner would settle for finding ourselves in habits, even obsolete habits! Gestalt psychologists suggest we are more than the sum of our habits. Noam Chomsky would have us find ourselves in the “magic of language.” Humanists, philosophers and theologians have “fired” our imaginations for centuries without science. Can a combination of old natural science and new value science (i.e., axiological science) give us a deeper knowledge of the self?
We are a lucky species! Our search for meaning is merciful because “when we don’t know we guess!” We are good at inventing stories. Others help us invent stories, because individual and collective life without meaning is painful. It is painful in the moment. It is painful over years. The “force” of values lies behind stories, and behind the self of identity and personhood. This begs the “origins question” concerning where values come from, how they sustain us, and how they produce great, transcendent consequences like spiritual enlightenment; not to mention the “inner peace” that helps us avoid feeling “alone and afraid in a world I never made”
Adaptation, survival, flourishing and great consequences flow from our General Capacity to Value (GCV). This is what axiological science works with, and it is here we begin our search for knowledge of the self. The GCV involves the interactions of three value dimensions called Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Systemic dimensions of value. Employing more intuitive, even deceptively simple terminology, I call them the Feeler (F), Doer (D) and Thinker (T) dimensions of value. Since values become the “architecture” of mind, these dimensions become "imprinted" on the self, emotions, motivations, and behavior. At any given moment one dimension rules as it continuously draws upon the resources of the remaining two. This interactive dynamism yields a steady-state called “psychostasis,” which partners with the body’s “homeostasis” to maintain the sense of the adequate, competent, familiar self at the center of personality and behavior, including that of make-work, make-love, and matters of great consequence involving the “soul” that shepherds our being and becoming.
Like the boxer in a ring, whose success depends on successful movements toward, away, and against his opponent, adaptation and survival of the self depends on the “dance” of the Feeler (F), Doer (D) and Thinker (T) dimensions of value. This “dance” is an expression of one’s General Capacity to Value given by nature and nurture. It appears in many forms ranging from the aesthetic sensibilities of artists to highly developed vocational skills.
The value-profiling methodology of axiological science is The Hartman Value Profile (HVP). It measures one’s General Capacity to Value (GCV), and records the influence of all three value dimensions which anchor axiological psychology in science rather than personalities or clinical speculation. The HVP is psychological testing without psychological tests because everything psychological rests on values. It’s worth noting that the evolution of values is such that we would “choke” on them if they weren’t organized in a way consistent with the laws of physics (e.g., “Conservation of Energy”). The result is organization around three dimensions of value identified by Hartman’s theory of value, and validated by my published research.
These value dimensions vary as to sensitivity, balance, priority and plasticity. Being aware of our Feeler, Doer, and Thinker “selves” can enrich our lives while promoting “sanity”…which amounts to being on friendly terms with one’s “demons,” and not being “stuck” anywhere. The “optimal alignment” of value dimensions makes the difference between pro-self, anti-self, pro-social and anti-social behavior.
Objectification of the Feeler-Self
On the road of being and becoming, we engage in objectification or projection. Examples include "I love my dog," and "I love my Prius." We sometimes refer to a “ship” as “she?” We speak of “Mother Nature.” We speak of “Mother Earth?” This is objectification or projection of the Feeler-Self onto “things” (and ideas). Sadly, sometimes the human grip on ideas becomes fanatical. Objectification of the Feeler-Self can be a big deal. In moderation it is important to creativity. Aristotle’s “Golden Mean” is especially important in matters of objectification of the Feeler-Self. On the other hand, without this ability to objectify and project the Feeler-Self, we would find ourselves living in a world of psychopathic and sociopathic evil. This is one of the “great consequences” of our General Capacity to Value, and taken to "mystical levels," we end up with “mysticism” …with or without anthropomorphic characteristics. Some read this as metaphor or poetry. Others are more doctrinaire...even dogmatic. Both can end up in a “spiritual place” that allows them to escape the emotion of feeling “alone and afraid in a world I never made!”
We spend most of our time in one value dimension (i.e., axiological state) at a time, as it pulls information from the remaining two. Given the importance of Feeler, Doer, Thinker orientations, (thought-styles, habits, consciousness, emotional-bias, etc.), we had better “own” them (i.e., become aware of them), and strive to make them work for us. For example, if your hobby is photography, you might ask yourself “am I trying to capture a Feeler, Doer or Thinker moment?” The same may be said when making-work or making-love. With practice, this “planned spontaneity” comes alive within us and focuses the mind for great consequences beyond the comprehension of Behaviorists, and in range of Gestalt Phenomenology.
Before considering the humble origins of values, let’s dispose of two “cosmic” considerations involving objectification of “Mother Earth” (Gaia) and the spirit-of-the-times (PersonaGaia).
The Gaia hypothesis asserts that our earth is a living, breathing organism. The self of identity and personhood is rooted in the soil of Gaia. The concept was proposed by James Lovelock and calls attention to the earth as a living system to be “loved” and “nurtured.” This is not teleology. It is a serious scientific hypothesis. It won the 2006 Geological Society of London’s Wollaston Medal for Lovelock.
My PersonaGaia hypothesis points to measures of “given free-will” and “earned free-will.” I bet you never thought of “free will” as being both “given” and “earned.” The many terms referring to PersonaGaia include zeitgeist, weltanschauung, spirit-of-the-times, collective-mind, mass mind and hint at the reality and importance of this dimension of Gaia, as do the immortal words of John Donne (1572-1631) who reminds us that “no man is an island unto himself.” The self of identity and personhood is also grounded in PersonaGaia…which "the ghost in the machine of " globalization and internet-commuication are constantly "engineering," "synchronizing," and "strengthening" in one way or another...hopefully to bring out the best in humanity! The interactions among Self, Gaia and PersonaGaia suggest T.S. Elliot (1888-1965) got it right when he wrote “we are neither precisely what we were nor precisely what we will be” in our journey of being and becoming. We travel with hope in a "sea of selves" more interconnected than ever.
So much for “great consequences!” What about the "humble origins" of values? Here I’m guided by Robert Hartman’s Feeler, Doer and Thinker dimensions of values rather than Sigmund Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego. However, I find it interesting, and more than a coincidence, that both Freud and Hartman came up with three dimensions of personality. The difference is that Hartman’s three dimensions have the descriptive, predictive and explanatory powers of a science that psychoanalysis never achieved. These “conceptual triads” are no accident. Values lurk behind everything psychological. Loosely speaking, we might equate the Feeler-Self with “Id,” the Doer-Self with Ego, and the Thinker-Self with Superego….but this is more “adumbrationism” (i.e., blind foreshadowing) than substance.
Much as the “atomic theory” of the ancient Greek philosopher (i.e., Democritus 460-370 B.C.) foreshadowed modern atomic theory; so too, Freud’s three dimensions foreshadow Hartman’s three dimensions. This is so, because both have to do with "human nature" which builds on values and valuations; much as nature rests on the universality of atoms. Psychology cannot escape the influence of three value dimensions pulling so many strings; nor can physics escape the influence of atoms behind so many things.
Our biological understanding of values begins with a consideration of the single cell organism called Paramecium...in the larger context of evolution. Putting moral relativists on notice, the evolutionary origin of values implies the existence of moral absolutes behind situation-ethics and moral relativity.
Now, imagine you are looking through a microscope at Paramecium. Poke it gently with a needle. It’s an animal. It’s alive. It immediately withdraws. It swims away. Biologists call this "protoplasmic irritability.” It is “the stuff” of life. In his 1907 book Creative Evolution, the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) referred to protoplasm as the “life force” or “élan vital.” In the case of Paramecium, protoplasmic irritability in the vicinity of food evokes approach-behavior while irritations evoke avoidance-behavior. At this level, approach-avoidance behavior is proto-valuation. Multicellular organisms build on this “biological template,” and evolve more complex structural values and functional valuations. In the case of human beings, language skills take this behavior to levels of great consequence. “Protoplasmic irritability” is “thrown up” to be acted upon by the environment and this “kick-starts” the formation of values around Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ranging from the biological to self-actualization and beyond.
During the course of biological evolution cells multiply and specialize, giving rise to the tissues and organs of multicellular organisms studied by natural science. During psychosocial evolution values multiply and specialize, giving rise to minds and normative values called morals which favor collective adaptation and survival under Gaia and PersonaGaia which favor life over death, sanity over insanity, and good over evil.
Who would have thought values could be linked to Henri Bergson’s élan vital, and in a manner consistent with Havelock Ellis’ “dance of life” discussed in the pages of his book entitled The Dance of Life. He was among the first to investigate the frontier of science and mysticism. One of the goals of axiological science and psychology is a better understanding of this frontier and improved knowledge of the self in relation to the “humble origins” and “great consequences” of values and valuations. Before us, we have seen the transformation of cells and values into great consequences displaying the “mysteries” of evolution and the “dance of three value dimensions" giving rise to the self of identity and personhood that reaches for the stars!
© Dr. Leon Pomeroy, Ph.D.
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