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April 16, 2010

a note on self valuation

Appropriations posting

revised 10.10.10 and 11.21.10

‘Ego’ has become such a common word, we might forget (or never knew) that it just means “I”. Egoism is just a concept of I-ism or selfism, which tends to be selfish in the worst sense: exclusive much more than inclusive. But ‘ego’ itself was initially a technical notion of selfidentification or active self conception, but narrowly: apart from fleshed-out instances of full persons who may be variably interested in their own (or ownmost) life.

In recent months, I’ve claimed (more or less) that self-interest (hyphenated: reflectivity of self interest) can be easily (or naturally) not selfish. So, I want to make a distinction between the [a] self-centrism or selfness of very good individuation (wanting inclusiveness) and [b] egoism or selfism (wanting exclusiveness). I’m not especially interested in using ‘ego’, but I’m very interested in differences between [a] and [b]. Rather than talk in terms of ego centrism, I’d rather talk in terms of very good selfidentity or high sense of selfness or self centrism in an inclusive, integrative sense of ‘self’. But it’s good, to me, to use ‘ego’ relative to focusing on the [a]/[b] difference because—here is the point of this posting—so-called narcissism might be confused with a validly high self absorption (e.g., in art or research) that is actually inclusive. Also, I want to get away from the term ‘narcissism’ when considering extreme (willfully suppressive, if not pathogenic) holds on selfness or very defensive self absorption.

But we all relate easily, due to cultural legacy, to ‘narcissism’. In theory of child development, it’s normal to proffer “healthy narcissism” (or constructive self absorption) when focusing on good self development, also called “positive narcissism.” I don’t like ‘positive narcissism’, because it’s a misleading inheritance from psychoanalytic notions of pathogenic child development, where Freud drew from a folktale for a concept of self-possession (hyphenated: an extremism of healthy self formation or self possession) intimately related to pathogenic family dynamics. Though the genius of psychoanalysis was to establish the life-long importance of early child development, its clinical interest has required later generations of developmental psychologists to formulate better (non-compensatory) senses of healthy self development.

Relative to a use of ‘ego’, we see in daily life all degrees of egoism, from little episodes shown by generally inclusive persons (with good self-centrism or flourishing sense of inclusive selfness) through egoistic persons (e.g., extreme vanity) that isn’t yet apparently pathological (but is easily felt by others as an egoistic person) to, rarely, pathology or egoistic personality disorder, in the clinical sense (classified as “narcissistic personality disorder”: NPD).

Egoistic personality disorder is actually unusual, though egoistic personalities are common. In my view (and experience), egoistic personality disorder which is clearly that happens with persons born highly sensitive who have been dominated by extrinsic appreciation and exclusiveness. I’ve known persons that are unbearably egoistic (and can cause others so much difficulty); they all (it seems to me) have high sensitivity—but they tend to be pathogenically social: exclusive and easily demeaning in their “politeness,” etc. At heart, they are (or were as children) “highly sensitive persons,” as therapist Elaine Aron puts it in several books. Her most recent book, The Undervalued Self, calls to mind a keynote of egoistic personality disorder: an emptiness of “real self,” which therapist James Masterson theorized very usefully, years ago, in The Search for the Real Self and other books. Masterson especially focused on “abandonment depression” (re: chronically-underappreciated inner self sense), which is easily associated with the recognized risks for NPD, especially “causes in the family of origin” (halfway down that page), such as egoistic parents; e.g., careerist parents who don’t have time for regularly good-enough parenting (which is about caring time, not about being an Ideal Parent). [I mention Masterson and Aron because they are typical of a large literature on difficulties of self development. I’m not intending to soon focus on Masterson’s very practical work. I was quite influenced by him in the mid-‘90s. I’m aware of Aron, but not especially influenced by her practical books intended for wide readership. But their book titles are useful here—appropriately evocative.]

Generally for my Project (and my development), I’m pursuing senses of self development beyond normal concerns for merely-healthy self development to such a degree that I need to emphasize my sensitivity to avoiding implications (if not overtones) of egoistic personality. I’m very drawn to a highly inclusive sense of self absorption, but brief discussions elsewhere can be misleading. Understanding overt narcissism is a good way to distinguish and emphasize the opposite: very desireable and enabling features of highly inclusive self development (especially lacking in egoism).

So, eventually, I’ll focus on egoism as such, in terms of some resources on egoism and NPD. But not soon. Focusing on NPD is especially useful for understanding egoism as it’s broadly evident in daily life (not obviously pathological). But it’s important to appreciate that NPD is the extreme on a continuum that includes the great plurality of persons who don’t have a good sense of self at all; and show that dependently or needily (e.g., through “medicative” consumptiveness), rather than egoistically (the vanity fair).

I’ve inquired into healthy self development (little so far shared online) for the sake of developing a conception of selformation that is quite beyond normal concerns for thriving lives in daily society. I’m especially intersted in understanding highly creative individuation. But that isn’t meant to connote that I’m theorizing my self understanding (i.e., that I presume myself to be some exemplar). One may be very interested in creative individuation because one wants to understand one’s own lack of that, in wishing to understand as well as possible what one does not exemplify. One is not claiming to be an Olympian just by being interested in understanding Olympians. That said, what I’ve shared so far online (the entire website, as of 11.21.10—you may be reading much later) is precursory for a large-scale philosophical project. But I hope for some usefulness to others of what draws me; I don’t presume some evident exemplarity. Philosophy idealizes exemplarity. In light of ideals, one does the best one can. Others may find exemplarity in that or, usually, not.

In one far horizon of usefulness, democratic theory idealizes the individual who not only speaks well for their own interests and potential, but does so inclusively and with a good (warm, broad-horizoned) sense of belonging in one’s (our) humanity.

By the way, my interest is coincidently mirrored, delightfully to me, in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged definition of ‘ego’, which is primarily indicated in terms of philosophers!: Descartes, Kant, Fichte, and Hume (none of whom especially interest me)—very unusual for a dictionary. The standard meaning of ‘ego’ expresses an intellectual legacy of interest in self, soul, and mind. I think that’s lovely. The capability of oneself to inquire into one’s own nature is a keynote of our nature.

The subject of self valuation is ultimately boundless, necessarily never completely fulfilled, because the horizon of curiosity and inquiry, into which one may expand one’s sense of Self-to-World habitation and an Appeal of manifold interplays, can be as endless as a life—which, of course, ends; but what a mind can do builds on what minds have done, so we grow on, in our evolving, via threads in a weave, if not a vining with telic clarity.

April 10, 2010

need, want, desire

Appropriations posting

The normal meaning of ‘need,’ ‘want,’ and ‘desire’ are such that a person may desire, but not need. But wanting may be either needing or desiring. Needing implies both wanting and desiring; if you need S, then you want it, and you desire it. If you desire S, you want it, but may not need it. So, I regard wanting as ambiguous (it could mean need; it could mean desire). Whether “want” associates to need rather than desire or the converse depends on context. I regard need and desire as basically different. There is much that one may desire but not need. But in cases of both need and desire, it’s normal to say that one wants.

Suppose that Terri believes that Gene is “needy” in a non-economic sense. To be needy is to be “marked by want of affection, attention, or emotional support,” the M-W Unabridged online indicates. It’s not just that one needs support, but one is “marked” by the need; i.e., the want of affection, etc., seems to prevail as an unsatisfiable need.

Gene might merely want information, but the unsatisfied desire would be needy (a persistent want, rather than persistent desire such as love of learning) if the desire prevailed like a want of emotional support (i.e., the prevalently unsatisfied “desire” is really prevalently unsatisfied need).

I give philosophical importance to letting desire emerge (making desire prevail) over ambiguous want (so entangled with others’ wants!) in what one wants for their life.

That’s not to deny need (which, chronically experienced, makes one later needy). Rather, I’m interested in the individuating life as oriented relative to developing desire (in light of leading values and aspirations), realizing desire (relative to identity), and actualizing (fulfilling) realized desire (making happiness). Desire emerges beyond need. I’m interested in one’s life inasmuch as a one’s needs are met; now what?

Neediness precludes a prospect of desire. Worse yet, suppressing neediness (thus a prospect of satisfying need) represses the prospect of desire, as if one not only has little need, but also little interest in realizing desire. Boredom is a typical aspect of suppression, I believe.

Prevalently unfulfilled desire (yet as desire realized that can become fulfilled) can be wonderful motivation for actualizing what truly one’s life is about, i.e., actualizing realized desire leading to fulfillment and real happiness. (Real happiness is not basically about pleasure or satisfying need—though I’m all for maximal pleasure! And of course need must be satisfied before desire-beyond-need can be fulfilled.)

Creative love of solitude and love of truly appreciative companionship may express presistently anewable desire that embodies the value of new fulfillment. Renewed desire leads to new fulfillment (just as renewed need leads to new satisfaction).



We all want emotional support. But the needy person is one who seems prevalently dissatisfied with the support available.

Suppose that Gene is not needy, though Terri believes that he is. What might be going on? Terri misunderstands his behavior? Terri wants to see Gene as needy?

Gene may be cheerful without seeking affection, but Terri believes that the cheerfulness is solicitous. Perhaps, she can’t receive unsolicitous cheerfulness from Gene, or she can’t appreciate his cheerfulness as unsolicitous.

Genuine affection is at heart unsolicitous. Love, especially, takes pleasure in the other’s presence without needing to even let that be known—but desiring, always desiring, to show itself. Love causes easy elation, which deserves to show.

Love also desires to see the other flourish in their ownmost way. Love desires to see the other living in their ownmost way. Love desires to fulfill the other’s desire (and satisfy need).

But real desire is not need. The ordinary world doesn’t normally appreciate the difference between need and real desire. People use ‘need’ and ‘desire’ as synonyms. But there’s good reason to appreciate the difference.

Individuation, in my sense of the notion, embodies senses of purpose educing desire that motivates fulfillment, beyond need. Emotion may be individuational inasmuch as desire-fulfillment prevails over need-satisfaction (i.e., need is largely met).

Desire is also integral to important approaches to philosophy of action that I want to discuss down the road.



Some of the above assertions may read like non sequiturs because I’ve deleted long paragraphs sketching a story of Terri and Gene that were intended to contribute to the topic here, but got more complicated than useful. Fleshing out the story could be useful in a broader context. But desire to do it would follow from the broader context or venture. It’s not something I need to do or desire to do soon. But the above is just a posting. I can live with the aire of non sequitur as a neighborhood of themes for use and elaboration.

April 03, 2010

textual intimacy

Appropriations posting

life as literary psychology, part 2 of 5


revised 10.6.10. I got so wound up with this posting, in personal terms that are now removed, that I forgot that it was intended to be a sequel to part 1 of the envisioned 5. I still haven’t done parts 3-5, but this posting is now properly a sequel to part 1.


Listening to you, a cohering sense of your attitude about what we’re talking about likely emerges. Your coherent stance is part of you, instancing something trOpical of your whole sense of the world and life.

If I know you well, a confident sense of you all told (as if all tolled) may be implied in any instance of your presence, a sense made nonconsciously by you over time from all your presentations of yourself—and my projections (perceptions) that prove durable as simply you there being yourself, you so shown in the way you are for any instance. Yet, whom you wholly are can never be exactly known—a life ongrowing.

But one can have a confident sense of an other, in light of time—true for parenting, true for friendship, true all around.

A good story can be like a real other, over time implying a confident sense of the narrator or main character as distinct identity. Between authorial narration and readerly invocation, the story becomes “ours,” emergent from the text. A great story may shorten readers’ actual struggles or educe a real potential for living through whatever better, providing ready advantage for the reader that was unavailable for the author’s struggles or potentials. Conversely, actual (in the flesh) interaction can be like a text. Actual lives may resonate with vintage echoes, archetypal scenery.

Trite to the sophisticated mind, perhaps, but quite important for what we are in nature, stories and lives educate, mentor, heal, and inspire each other like living texts or reading lives (which was a key theme of Deconstructive literary theory and criticism during the latter decades of the 20thC).

So, let us have relief through Literature. And, conversely, let’s live so fruitfully—and dramatically?—that we unwittingly garden stories worth making into so much more than common time allows.

Walt Whitman heralded prospects of some great “Commerce” between Americans (which was by no means about a commodity market, of course). My anticipated Conversation of humanity is probably beyond my talents to gather (though I have an excellent library), but what better to echo than the aspiration of Literary life to embrace a synergy of multimodal mind: all modes of being human gathered into some cohering Eros of, say, philosophically psychological Poiesis.

We shall see. I’m not backing away from the aspiration—though commonly losing the forest through fascination with various trees, like theory of reading, which I want to develop into a sense of especially “literary” reading (but fear I lack the Literary background—but maybe I have deeply inhabited enough; I’m never confident about that).



One’s reading of another across instances, like first reading of a rich text, may be not yet imaginable as one self, a singular voice. Worse yet, our better nature (like the perfect photo) mixes with simulacral ephemora, hiding vulnerability in a mass of sheltered, safe vacuity.

So, Literature is a history of misreading and learning to read—as well as being rhetorical journalism, psychology, therapy, and what all storytelling that fits every conceivable dimension of being alive into a stream of being read.

Software for graphical work may, by default, “snap to grid.” A mind goes for ready coherence. One draws the other into what keeps distant one’s basic questioning of the grid (or schema of understanding), but the question returns in mirrors of willfulness and control, dissociation and carelessness, or one’s selection of memory coalesces the insignificance of what must stay excommunicated (including denial that there is any such endeavor).

So, Literature is so many little stories making time in which a reader selects what trees prevail in a forest drawn; or real lives struggle with the difference.

To have acted wrongly is not to have made oneself essentially all those wrongs.

How interpersonal life relates to one Self (or light to dark) is what literary art best explores.



“The narrative technique known as ‘free indirect style,’” says a recent article, “mingles the character’s voice with the narrator’s. Indirect style enables readers to inhabit two or even three mind-sets at a time. This style, ...became the hallmark of the novel beginning in the 19th century with Jane Austen....”

With “indirect style,” there’s a pretense of synergy between narrator and character minds, as if magically read by the narrator. But it’s derivative of authorial life (which a reader would not see), and the reader releases himself into a synergy with the narration, a displaced affair with the author, together looking “outward” into narrator-read character—the mind reading—distanced from authorial life by narrator confession, framing in the play of different minds a resonance of authorial knowing that one’s mind is a mystery only partially held through each character (irreducible to the lot of them via authorial-narrator difference)—as each of us are various characters with and through each other, in each other, parsing self and interself into postures to which each character belongs in mirrorplays growing each other, cross-pollinating, secretly hybriding through caring and distancing—though the narrator singularly confesses it all as cohering world, as if the author had always been as cohering as the distanced and distancing narrator “unwittingly” expresses; or the author was never so fragmented as the unreliable voice of some self-betraying confidence.

It’s an authorial god’s work: pretending there were no actual lives distanced into characters contemplated (as if all is not ultimately-displaced roman à clef in avowals of artistry), thus magically known by mere fabrication—audacity of talent!—rather than lived, secreted through mere narrator’s confession and framing, and they lived all that because the author is such a talented imagination—that’s all, as their intimacy is just what can be imagined for one’s kind.

We make our ways through streams of well-read letters possibly having some other purely at last in a narrator’s voice made to be entertaining someone else.

“They love longing for boundless synergy, selves merged in highly shared beholding, entwining in the same unfolding time.”

April 02, 2010

Self/personal difference irt multiple perspectivity

Appropriations posting

life as literary psychology, part 1 of 5

Beyond “my” assimilating what others say (or accomodating it to one’s own interests), we commonly want to implicitly appreciate the other’s perspective, assess the other’s genuineness, or keep up with a play of perspectives. “Knowing They Know That You Know” renders so-called “mind reading” as “one person’s ability to interpret another person’s mental state...in order to assess its validity” such that interaction—interpersonal action—involves “keep[ing] track of ... different mental states at [the same] time.” Selves can be considered irt “how well an individual is able to track multiple sources,” when the “source” is another person.

Obviously, a very ordinary activity of understanding (appreciating) each other’s genuineness or perspective is being conceptualized in terms of tracking ability, interpretive ability, and mental states. The ordinary sense of this is valuable in reading because it’s integral to daily life; but it can also be theorized.

A common pleasure of fiction is the reader’s access to other selves, other minds, “behind” the evident personalities between characters. Here, we have magical access to an integral difference we seldom confess: the difference between sense of Self and evident personality that we’re known for, usually variously, depending on the relationship. Our lives are full of interpersonal relations whose boundaries implicate one Self in an array of interpersonal relationships, and fiction gives us easy access to wonders of the difference between Self presence and presence with others.

The pleasure of finding that “novels are frequently constructed around mistaken interpretations” is a godly access to the difference between innerworldliness and outerworldliness, self understanding (confusion, prospecting, etc.) and interpersonal representation. The “layered process of figuring out what someone else is thinking” in ordinary life is organized for us in the psychological story, whose “layers” are scenes informing each other within the emerging Act prevailing over them, Act leading to Act within the emerging story prevailing over them, place to place within space, horizon in play with horizon (or against) times with times within Time. Each character may evidence, imply, or hide a different sense of self in each aspect of the story, where complexity of character becomes trOpical of complexity of each’s sense of the world, the play of all, a play of the world.

Especially, “people find the interaction of three minds compelling” as oneself (mind one) relating to two others relating to each other, because “I” entertain a single difference (contrast, complement, conflict, etc.) as two interpersonal relations to “me.” They play out—unwittingly, at least—what makes a difference to me.

A keynote of drama, in daily life as in art, is the differences—luminous, haunting, enchanting, disturbing, or mysterious—among evident self (personality), implied (projected) self—”Is it just me, or do you not really love me?”—and hidden self—hidden from oneself, thereby from the other; or not hidden from oneself, but hidden from the other; projections that are partially accurate; evident genuineness that’s partially valid—evident, projected, and hidden self amid interplays of interpersonal—evident—relations (often with each episodically projecting in their own way) of developing selves.