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ontogenic phenomenology of the developmental interest
november 13, 2011 / May 25, 2012


I’m unwilling presently to really do this discussion properly because the vortex (which I mentioned in part 2: “...a Point (eonically distal, proximally living) of effective intelligence...”) is a mountain climb I’ve been doing too many years to now implicitly pretend it’s just a hill to attend to briefly now (but I want to be brief). Actually, a well that is also a forest is a better trope.

What is the vortex? a proximal note

How willing are you to immerse yourself into extended, deepening self reflection? A few hours? An hour per week in psychoanalysis (each hour ending with distraction back into the chaos of dailiness)? An extended retreat? A career in psychoanalysis or philosophy? The history of philosophy and Literature expresses interests of self-reflection which are ultimately phenomenological (proximally journalistic, autobiographical, cultural, etc., all integrable only as some narrative, ultimately about narratability).

Prospects of understanding Deep Time experientially—self-examination or self reflection about feelings, presumptions (nonconscious and unconscious), etc.— is no direct application of a developmental model of understanding to one’s own experience. But models are useful, of course. Yet, the heart of the matter is that it’s all about how we already are, regardless of interpretive education. One is the ongoing result of an ontogeny, accessible through self reflection (phenomenal and analytical) and by applying interpretive schemes to that.

One can’t remember much at all about early childhood, let alone infancy; but one’s parents might have documented a lot (though unlikely to have had the time). Indisputably, a lot happened, which developmental specialists and clinical specialists can recount generally. The child of a child development researcher might later dread to hear about their infancy and early childhood (e.g., Piaget’s own child?), so much might be said. Each day of infancy was a developmental milestone, a formation of mental ability mostly unnoticeable, but in principle highly documentable. The result of early development is later implied immanently (even wholly) by any focus of attention, as background capability is implicated as a horizon of a given phenomenon’s presence (including possible meaning).

Developmental time shows as phenomenological constancy implying stable capacities, good temperament, effective learnability, durable interest, capability for categorization and conceptualization (“water,” “table,” etc.); capability to make, sustain, and remember differences; stabilization of preferences, etc. The entirety of developmental time can be implicitly implied by the presence of anything interesting. What can be said about that is inestimable, but “that” is living—embodying ontogenic time through an ongoing history of interests.

horizonality of the thing

Consider for a moment Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.” Having physiological and safety needs met is a given homeostasis that emotionally (pleasantly) colors the experience of things, allowing happy emergence of interests, including focus on relations with others (thus openness to learning through others) and enjoyment of interpsychal relations. The emotional tonality of having basic needs met is a horizon on one’s focus on happy interpsychal relations. Given this, sense of self can come happily into focus: what I desire or my enactivity, distinct from what Is Needed. The happy presumption of belonging and flow of interpsychal relations is a background frame for happy focus on my enactivity—a horizon within the horizon of homeostasis. Then, given good flow of enactivity, interest in learning and knowing (capability formation, absorption of interesting experience, etc.) can be the happy focus within the horizon of well-flowing enactivity within the horizon of belonging within the horizon of homeostasis. Mommy says “S/He’s a happy baby,” thriving thanks to the whole home ecology that will barely remember the countless moments contributing to happy Baby’s mental growth. And years forward, Baby will remember nothing at all of it, but have the Flow of easily getting What Is Needed satisfied for the sake of interpsychal relations for the sake of enactivity for the sake of learning and making things.

Maslow’s triangle can be usefully regarded as a slice of concentric horizons within horizons. For example, interpsychal relations don’t stand on satisfied basic needs; happy relations are contained by satisfied needs. Interest in learning is contained by happy interpsychal relations.

Good establishment of infant development becomes the containing implicature or horizon of good establishment of childhood, horizoning good establishment of pubescence, etc. We may vaguely remember the ontogeny of our horizonality (mirroring the ontogenic vortex) as far back as preschool, maybe. We remember early childhood better, a nearer horizon, but that remains vague (all the better in later light of parental narratives and evocative keepsakes, like photos and videos). The definiteness of our mirrored vortex gets clearer, the nearer in time that it is.

What is the vortex? a distal note

We know nebulously that the vortext extends back into gestation, extending back into evolution, as if our shared primate background is a horizon of our epigenesis and early childhood. And mammalian characteristics of basic need are shared vastly, as we are mammals. (I suppose that an MD and a veterinarian could have much to chuckle about together.) Our intelligent life is mammalian, then primative, then human.

Consider a difference between adaptive and enactive intelligence (or intentionality or desire). All mammals have some degree of capacity for enactive intelligence, but its flexibility stays near to hardwired dispositions. More flexibility provides for more fitness in chaotic circumstances, but mammalian intelligence is almost entirely adaptive, marginally enactive (i.e., actualizing little formulated preference). We love domesticated pets so much because we can so easily read enactiveness in their relations with us (more so with dogs than with cats). We remain mixtures of adaptive and enactive intelligence or intentionality or desire that becomes prevalently enactive (one hopes), but the difference is inherent to being a human animal.

a bio-natural/psychal-natural difference

One can model activity on a continuum of adaptive-to-enactive behavior, but as intentional behavior (which is action) that continuum would be adaptive-to-enactive action. A notion of enactive action seems redundant, but initiative or intentions that are chosen (inner-directed) are more than intentions happening, as if received. Enactivity is more than activity. Enactive intelligence is basically different from responsive intelligence which is not just reactive behavior. (One sometimes says “I didn’t mean to do that,” though it was not just involuntary behavior.) Responsive action is intentional, but adaptive, composed of assimilation and accomodation of experience. I’ll call this bionatural action, for the moment. Enactive action is appropriative, possibly composed of transformative and mediative experience (e.g., intervening, changing something, making something—beyond adapting to something). For the moment, I’ll call this psychalnatural action (associated with my preference for ‘psychalogical’ over ‘psychological,’ which is analogous to a difference between phenomenal experience and systematically-interpreted experience).

Enactivity fulfills desires; responsiveness satisfies needs. (That is, I want to associate desire with enactive prospects; need with responsive prospects, for the sake of bonding one’s sense of self to enowned desire, which I’ve done variably elsewhere.) Such differences aren’t clearcut in any given situation because our activities are nested within activities they serve. For example, getting dressed may satisfy a need which serves a desire to go somewhere by high preference (i.e., a preference connected to what matters to oneself as who one is). Beginning a day is a very mixed bag. Life is made of little projects serving major projects serving general plans (let’s hope) serving life-defining aspirations (ideally). The ability to integrate levels of projects with plans with aspirations and to sustain fidelity to this Openly (as life changes eras and one grows—in principle, endlessly) is a keynote of lives that flourish.

But differences between desire and need, enactivity and responsiveness, appropriation and adaptation are real, useful, and often importantnotwithstanding that my notion of appropriation would seem odd. However, I have a philosophical interest in notions of appropriation. For now, let my vague sense of appropriation just be the correlate difference irt adaptation, in a set of differences: between desire and need; enactiveness and responsiveness; transformation and assimilation; mediation [inner-directed] and accomodation [outer-directed]). Presently, I only want to establish that some differences can be analogously interesting. I’m satisfied to leave this rather vague.

Generally gathering all of that into a difference between bionatural and psychalnatural aspects of activity is heuristic for indicating some features of individuational child development or ontogeny. But my prevailing interest is the claim that our especially-psychal enactivity is the natural feature of our animality that distinguishes us as human. Our enactive nature is nonbiological. Call it post-biological or transbiological, but our psychality is integral to our animality. We are the highly psychal animal, most saliently distinguished from other animals by our psychality.

biogenic irt autogenic mentality

Commonly in theorizing about learning or intelligence, we distinguish automatic activity from deliberate activity. The more that we deliberately do something, the more automatic that doing it may become. We easily say that it becomes “instinctive.” As we become very habituated to something, it seems “natural.” The horizon of the difference between enactive and responsive activity is a fusion of the difference between automaticity and instinct. Strong habituation is like hardwired intention, as if instinctive. High attraction to something repeatedly attended to is analogized as “addictive” when it’s not yet addictive because strong habituation is like hardwired intention.

Inasmuch as an intention or desire is effectively like a hardwired intention, it could be effectively regarded that way (e.g., requiring methodic intervention to change). Highly automatic activity is like instinct. You know English as if it was hardwired. (“Votre accent français est très américain.”)

In fact, highly habituated activity is thereby easily weaved into actually-instinctive activity, as an effective background of strong habituation doesn’t need to distinguish really-instinctive response from functionally-instinctive response. It all just works (or all doesn’t: Maladaptive habituation gets all mixed up with earlier development).

There’s good reason to make a distinction between activity that works like instinct and activity that works like deliberate preference, such that actualization of want can evince from phenomenal need or from phenomenal desire (or both). Is apparent desire actually need? Is want ambivalent about its relation to need vs. desire? Experientially, there’s good reason to regard activity as if it’s generated from non-human animal/mammalian/primate “reasons” or is phenomenally-biogenic activity. But the more that activity evinces from deliberation, overt preference, and attentive choice, the more that the activity is phenomenally autogenic. One might be easily deceived about oneself, but it would be deception about a phenomenally-definite difference. Selfidentity can become variably composed of investment in biogenic intentions: feelings, strongly-embodied habits—even defining one’s sense of oneself—one’s Self—in “terms” of feeling or body Image: as the body one is, with all its “natural” dispositions or feeling—or literal appearance: the fashionable Image that is so “natural” for onself. (Classical phenomenology sought to escape “the natural attitude,” like an escape from sociocentric fallenness; but a phenomenal naturalism can be quite authentically part of one’s deliberate, individuated selfidentity. Of course, all this is a very elusive matter: life-historically, socio-economically, and politically—altogether: anthropological, implicating one's at-least-implicit sense of oneSelf as such.)

However, autogenic psychality is strongly deliberative or self reflective in especially-accomplished or authentic senses (rather than adaptive), e.g., in terms of enowned aspirations and enowned idealizations. Sometimes, depression is related to implicit anger about outer-directed denial of one’s ownmost desire which has become confused as inner-directed (realized) fault.

By now in my writing online, my use of ‘mindality’ might seem familiar. In short: We readily distinguish something mental from an entire mentality. Likewise, a “mind” belongs to an entire wholism of mindedness. Using ‘mindality’ is a way to express interest in a lifeworldly holism of mindedness (which is more than, but includes, dispositional “mindfulness”).

Keynotes of development (ontogeny, individuation) can be usefully regarded along a continuum from biogenic mindality to autogenic mindality, i.e., relative to living as if the world is hardwired vs. living as if the world is chosen. Individuation involves decreasing prevalence of real and phenomenal biogenic activity in one’s wants, intentions, and purposes. (The teen’s so-called “raging hormones” expresses biological purpose, as does overwhelming desire to consume things or to control.) Though it’s inapt to simply associate individuation with autogenic activity, individation is a manifold of interests (ideally in bio-/auto-genic balance) for autogenic directions: interests, aspirations, etc.; i.e., a balance is for the sake of an ideally project-ive life.

When we are healthy, happy, and fruitful, we’re wanting as much reasonable freedom as we can have. We want autogenic interests to prevail over biogenic interests, even though biogenic interests must be important parts of our life (so, we must be “reasonable” about our own freedom irt what’s feasible for our present life).

It’s highly appropriate, I think, to emphasize interests of autogeny in understanding issues of “mind” as essence (so to speak) of our being, which is essentially temporal—essentially futural, rather than essentially constituted by a past. Good individuation increases the prevalence of autogenic mindality as much as feasible; so, it’s better to understand mindality relative to its intrinsic prospectiveness as much as possible.

Of course, autonmous lives are full of needs and strong habits (as well as fidelity to constitution, remembrance, legacy, etc.). Lives flourish thanks to developed capabilities, reliable belief, and given values orienting activity. But intentionality, interest, etc. is primarily futural in flourishing lives. Regarding human development relative to its futurity is more important than regarding oneself relative to one’s development. Regarding a given context relative to its possibilities is more important than controlling it. Regarding a home ecology or life era relative to its potential is more important than being dependent on a given arrangement.

For developmental modeling, that view can gel importantly with standard neo-Piagetian distinctions between preconventional (biogenic), conventional (sociocentric), and postconventional (autogenic) eras of life (though biogenic, sociocentric, and autogenic dynamics belong to every day of a life). For a long time, I’ve modularized this continuum: Some present aspects of one’s life will be prevalently conventional, while other aspects are preconventional; postconventional with conventional. Or preconventional (animal) aspects may really imply postconventional dispositions (e.g., the willfulness of a toddler). Some capacities develop more autogenic capability than others. One “has a talent” for one “thing” more than another; or becomes noteably “experienced” more in one area than another, due to modular differences in potential for “autonomy,” which is basically about autogenic capability (as autonomy is more about state descriptions than capabilities—though one might easily disagree, because the notion of autonomy is often ambiguously understood). One might feel preconventional with an unfair supervisor (I joke), feel conventional with family (boring), and feel postconventional with a best friend (adventurous).

In any event for a given life, it’s useful to ask: Do prevailing values emerge from outer-directed initiatives or inner-directed initiatives? Do aversive imperatives seem “natural” (imposed) or deliberately appreciated (as, say, regrettable consequences of freedom)? (I’m not trying to be analytically clear, just rendering differences that are worth further attention.)

biogenic/autogenic differences in modeling human development

A leading specialist in infant and early child development, S.I. Greenspan, considers “7 ontogenic modalities” in evaluating “effective and defective functioning” which I want to consider briefly. (I mentioned this model two years ago, but didn’t discuss it. Greenspan is a leading psychodynamic theorist of child development.) His interest, indicated below, is diagnostic, relative to a highly-researched model of healthy development. My interest here is wholly developmental.

mode 1: “Self-regulation and interest in the world (homeostasis): especially during 0–3 months of life.” One can formulate criteria for evaluating the extent of this, relative to standardized expectations. But one can also have a prevailing interest in educing or facilitating the developmental value of self-regulation and interest. Especially interesting here is that homeostasis is associated with mental development, rather than mere physiological satisfaction (Maslow). In the interest of educing durable interest in learning and curiosity, a parent would want to promote intentional self-regulation (e.g., learning to use crying fruitfully) rather than merely make biogenic regulation functionally satisfactory. You see here that the difference between biogenic and autogenic activity is immediately relevant for infant development. Interest in promoting individuation is pertinent from day one. We want growing interest in the world to be human, rather than just adaptive. At day one, human mental development is biogenically racing to establish spatial sense, kinesthetically and visually. (Our “nature” is a drive to form autogenically; or a self-formative drive of burgeoning psychality.) Concordantly, we want Baby to take charge of that rapt and rapid drive to comprehend and master (psychal ontogeny in biogenesis)—to make drives serve pleasures of taking interest in the surround. We want experience to be not only well responsive, but increasingly initiated. Almost immediately, Baby gains a biogenically-caused sense of its own somatic meaning, e.g., in “terms” of body contact, full-bodied need satisfaction, and feeling for the surround, which we want Baby to feel happy owning, not just assimilating experience or adjusting well.

Much can be said about any one of Greenspan’s “ontogenic modalities” (the above being the first exsmple), and inestimably much can be said about any era of child development. I’m going to largely skip discussing Greenspan’s modalities for now, but offer a few comments, to emphasize that the bio-/auto-genic difference easily applies to clinically-based developmental modeling. (Extended discussion is appealing, but I want to move on to a sense of much-later individuation—a sense of high individuation).

Below, presume (which can be shown) that each developmental mode becomes the phenomenal-background horizon (or capability horizon) for the later modes cumulatively. (You might recall my fondness for a sense of “horizoning child.”) To begin with (mode 1 above), self-regulation and interest in the world is the condition for the feasibility of ....

mode 2: “Forming relationships, attachment, and engagement: 2–7 mos.” Does one’s capability for adult intimacy begin here? I believe that such capability does begin to form this early.

3: “Two-way, purposeful communication (somatopsychological differentiation): 3–10 mos.” Notice that this is way before acquisition of linguistic language. The “language” of communication is first olfactorial, kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and interpersonal long before it becomes linguistic. Indeed, “somatopsychological” communication is the background condition for easy linguistic language acquisition (I would argue, relative to an embodied cognitivist approach to intelligence—or “language of thought”—which becomes so linguistic for most persons, though perhaps not for mathematicians, visual designers, musicians, etc.).

4: “Behavioral organization, problem-solving, and internalization: a complex sense of self: 9–18 mos.” Less than 2 years old, the child is already desiring chances to regard oneself complexly (long before the classical sense of “ego formation” around age 3-4).

5: “Representational capacity: 18–30 mos.” Adaptive/biogenic dispositions will make all of early development happen to some degree. But adaptive motives are pre- individuational. In “good enough” parenting, promotion of individuation (autogenic activity—acting by self-assertive initiative and enowning available intentions) belongs to the beginning of activity. (A child has a natural right to child-centered parenting and education).

I’m being abstract and general for the sake of my cherished distinction between autogenic and biogenic intentions. But the point is that the difference matters from the very beginning: individuational development vs. adaptive development—making the latter (so important in the short run) serve the former (more important in the long run), as much as feasible.

6: “Representational differentiation (building logical bridges between ideas and emotional thinking): 30–48 mos.”

7: “Higher levels of mental (ego) functioning.” As I said a couple of years ago, this mode delights me. It’s like saying, relative to the earlier modes: 1, 2, 3, infinity! Obviously, mental development is also self development. We want intellectual development to serve loved values and high aspirations, not merely adapt well. For example, perfectionism is perfectly adaptive, but will not be very fulfilling.

The phenomenon of “mind”

A tenable conception of “mind” is [1] neuropsychological (or biogenic or adaptive “mind,” not simply biopsychological; neuroscience is more than neurophysiology) and [2] psychological as such (enactive, always desiring autogenic or autonomous activity). This is analogous, within a conception of developmental psychology, to [1] child developmentality irt [2] adult developmentality—not that a child is essentially adaptive, and an adult is beyond that; rather, that the ontogenic distance between biogeny and autogeny is like the distance between infancy and adulthood; and the vastly temporalized, ontogenic biogenic/autogenic difference is fundamental for a tenable conception of mind as such.

The child always variably horizons the adult (e.g., unfinished capabilities, potentially deep-seated feelings, and variable coping—regression?—under stress), which is sometimes endearing, sometimes frustrating, and ultimately an amazing holism or integrity of selfidentity over time that, in principle, is never limited by interest in learning. Accordingly, emotion always variably horizons value (grammatically odd to say, but—), which is sometimes appealing, sometimes frustrating, and always part of being.

Psychiatric disorder and aging are dramatic reminders that a mind remains always neuropsychological or biogenic (in becoming maladaptive). Yet “the” difference between [1] a person’s neurology (so complexly elusive as to be a discursive prospectus when presumably instilled descriptively, as if scientific narrative becomes analogous to fiction!—which idealizes realism [or writes “against” that idealization]) and [2] psychology (ditto!)—“the” difference is vastly temporal, simulated in reconstructions informed by scientific and clinical knowledge that are weaved into discursive narratives. “Mind” is a conception of ultimately-cohering self-understanding, easily aspiring to clarify a sense of conceptuality unto itself (longing for comprehensively well-formed formedness, which is native to the history of philosophy).

The concept of mind is an adult notion relative to a vastly developed sensibility. The nature of mind is vastly developmental. The emergence of mind belongs to infancy, a point I want to bring into leading others’ thinking about mind as such (way, way up the road). However, at this point, a claim that any tenable philosophy of mind is firstly (foundationally) abstracted from developmental psychology and might do well to dwell in this reality—such a claim likely seems naïve about contemporary philosophy of mind. I don’t mind.

Next: section 4 of “biomindality


  Be fair. © 2017, gary e. davis