Sorry if I’m being hard to understand. I’m still trying to put together some pieces of the puzzle regarding cultural conditioning, in a way that makes some sense.
>I rather assume that all people have a personal unconscious.
Yes, I think so too… But I’m more interested in constructing a map of the cultural unconscious, not the personal unconscious….
>Part of the utility of consciousness results from assorted habits of thought that guide attention and behavior. Consciousness is efficient and useful, because it limits the impression of a multitude of sensory data which are nonetheless dutifully stored or “remembered.”
Right. I suspect that in the cultural sense, our consciousness is the result of adopting certain codes or ideologies or mythological frameworks, which are selected because they resonate very well with our cultural unconscious – that is with the memories that we have, including the ways that these have been ideologically framed by our parents and elders – such ideological framing having left an emotional impression upon us, causing us to find certain social and environmental patterns more appealing than others, due to the deep level of the memory traces they have left on our personalities.
Now, this seems like a ‘circular definition’ of how the conscious works on the unconscious and the unconscious works on the conscious, as if in tandem — However, I don’t think that this is so. If you take a fresh water fish out of its natural environment and put it into salt water, it will shrivel up. Similarly, if you take a salt water fish and put it in fresh water, it will puff up until the point that it might explode. So, this is the way that I see the cultural unconscious working within us. It is a hidden regulator, which adjusts us to the environments that we are dwelling in as children. Like fish swimming through water currents, we perceive our environments as being “the norm”. We don’t know that we are living in very particularised environments, with very special features. We universalise, and think that all fish swim in the same kinds of ocean currents… That is, until we discover fresh water fish – or indeed, we enter upon fresh water. And when we enter upon fresh water, we find that our cultural metabolisms are quite unconsciously adjusting us to an environment which to all intents and purposes no longer exists for us. Thus we discover how much of the way we are has been regulated not by rational choices – as we might like to assume – but by unconscious processes, relating to our earlier conditioning.
>Clearly I’m not saying this very precisely.
>What’s so interesting, as if changing channels on radio or TV is to realise that personal consciousness–the habits of thought–are quite variable. Indeed, that the way people think is quite plastic.
I think that this plasticity can be understood as part and parcel of a kind of multiplicity of conditioning processes. The postmoderns are very familiar with this sort of an adjustment, although I would be inclined to argue that to be able to absorb multiplicity in this way is very much a part of an Urban post-industrial consciousness. This is not to say that pre-postmodern civilisation is totally unable to reflect a multiplicity, or that it is somehow inherently more “rational”. Not at all. One reflects what one has been exposed to – and what’s more, I’m inclined to think of the nature of the mind as being made up somehow of something like lots of little crystals, which are structurally separate micro-processing units, but which can come together to make a whole. This whole is made up of irrational, emotional parts, which gives the appearance of being rational, when many of the parts are combined together in a coherent schema (say, in the form of a mythology or ideology).
>It also seems to me the case that there are certain habits of thought collectively shared by people who roughly share the same place in time. Cultural biases–again being very inprecise.
Yes. Certain environments will support certain mythic structures better than others.
>I was very intriqued by your hypothesis that the environment imprints itself on people at a very young age.
>I think something like that happens. Just as I assume that our pattern of development: baby–child–adult imprints on us a way of ordering the world around us.
>That’s why, although terribly out of fashion, I think Piaget’s “genetic epistemology” (I think that’s what he called it) makes a sort of sense in viewing the history of human ideas.
>One of the modern versions of Roget’s edited by Robert Chapman significally recast earlier editions in a way that seems familiar to Piaget’s genetic epistemology. Chapman writes:
>”At this distance from his historical milieu, Roget’s scheme no longer seems simple and natural. It reflects a Platonic view of the cosmos, combined with Aristotlean marshalling of concepts…”
>”However respectable this cosmos and its deployment may be philosophically, it does not coincide with the way most people now apprehend the universe…I chose what I call a ‘developmental-existential’ scheme…The notion has been to make the arrangement analogous with the development of the human individual..”
I don’t know how much the development of the individual human psyche, from childhood to adulthood reflects the development of the human race itself. (I’m not sure that this is what you or Roget are saying……….). I do think that there is a certain analogy with the development of the human psyche and the growth of …let’s say, a grapevine. A young vine can be trained to grow in certain directions, say, along a broad-based frame. However, after a certain point of becoming firm and hard, there is no longer the same possibility in shaping the vine. Only its new shoots can still be shaped in that fashion. Similarly human beings, once they have received the main quantity of their conditioning.
>I’m not sure what the origin of Chapman’s “the way most people now apprehend the universe” is. On one hand the book is intended for Americans and to lesser extent other English speakers worldwide. So “most people” is probably intended to mean “most Americans.” But on the other hand, I suspect that this modernity extends much more widely. I’m not sure it’s really a product of Western culture and values, but not sure really what sort of change it marks. Only I will say that the edition of Roget’s is easy for me to use.
I’m trying to see to what degree we can understand Modernity as coinciding with Industrialism. I think that would be a nice, neat way of looking at things………
>My brother was murdered. My parents were both from New England and moved south during my father’s career. So my brother lived in a very Southern state. Trying to come to grips with “the reasons” for his murder–he was killed by neighborhood teens playing out some gangsta drama–I tired to imagine the mindset that led to his murder.
I’m sorry to hear about your brother. I think that delving into the mind-sets of those who cause us problems can be very fruitful – also very hard to do. Such a process of investigation into various (in some ways more minor) distressing events in my life has led me to the conclusion that despite the assumption or appearance that we are all motivated by some clear and relatively graspable ideology or myth-structure, this is rarely the case for most people. It seems to me that most people are not motivated by a rational ideological structure, but rather by the imprints they’ve received from various experiences they have had. Perhaps it could be a sense of trauma from being hit as a child, or some experiences which linked violence with a temporary sense of gaining respect and freedom – perhaps being the source of an ideology of “honour”… But the basic aspects of our personality appear to come from micro-programming like I’ve attempted to describe – and not directly, at least, from a salient idea that is already in the community. (That is because the “ideology” – the germ – always has to find an already emotionally receptive psyche – the “host”. Parents and authorities can do very much to make sure that the individual’s subjectivity is ready to receive a certain ideological message — but ultimately other factors or accidents of life can intervene in this process of ideological preparation or indoctrination…….). In any case, the true origin of any “mindset” is hidden in the person’s cultural unconscious.
>Such titles as “Devil’s Spawn” and books about youthful sociopathy didn’t resonate. However a notion of “a culture of honor” did. At first I was highly skeptical, but rather solid sociological data as well as narratives of individual biography seemed rather convincing.
I don’t know a great deal specifically about research into this “culture of honour”……..
>Voting patterns here follow a Red state/Blue state divide. There are real cultural factors at play. Factors which I suspect are derived from a priori categories rather more “mythic” than the categories you suggest.
You might be right – but I suspect that these values have been inculcated at a pre-mythical level, into each child, prior to the point that the child actually adopts the myth in question. There is also the aspect of cognitive dissonance which can help to sway a child towards adopting certain myths. For example if a father is always absent and yet proclaims his undying love for a child then such a child might well grow up rationalising a certain emptiness or appearance of ascetic hardship as “love”. This felt need to so rationalise might predispose the child to adopting one particular ideological stance rather than another.
>LOL, dear unsane, I’m afraid that what you’re trying to tell me is going right over my head, and further afraid that my replies miss the mark by a mile. In any case, I appreciate your engagement of me and with very important ideas. I especially enjoy how grounded in your personal experience your wider insights are.
Sorry for going over your head. I do that often, and with most people. I think it is because I am trying to forge ideas which are truly original. On the other hand, I could just be deluding myself….
Hopefully not, though – as I have had experiences which cry out for a better explanation than I have seen in the journal articles I’ve read so far.