Self

 

Ability to relate to others, to find place in a social group, to understand own desires and limitations, to use own experiences to gain understanding of others, and most of all, ability to understand integrity of the society and own integrity, all rely on general understanding of oneself. There is no other way.

This is a foundation of the concept of Self, presented here.

 

The Concept

    The concept of Self reflects, what one feels and what one knows about oneself, as an integral being. Since people are social beings, it is impossible to understand an individual separately from the society to which he belongs. Hence, one’s society with its structure is naturally reflected in one’s understanding of who one is.

    From the other hand, to understand one’s society, one has to view it as having its Self, which reflects its integrity. One has to use oneself as a basis for understanding of a difficult idea, the idea of integrity of the society.

The society has functioning social groups, and we have to view each of them as integral, as having its own Self, reflecting integrity of the group.

We have infinite “tools”, like intuition, feelings, and desires, hence one cannot perceive Self as finite, Self has to be infinite.

Hence, Self is integral, infinite, and structured. It should be possible to be integral and structured simultaneously. An individual reflects the structure of his society and the society reflects the structure of each of its individuals. This is an infinite reflection, like in parallel mirrors. This is an infinite structure of Self. Concepts of integrity and structure do not contradict each other.

 

Self-Interest   

There are many ways to act against Self, they all lead to violation of integrity – integrity of an individual and integrity of the society. Acting against Self usually could be felt as acting against Self-Interest, where, Self-Interest does not mean “selfish”, this is Self-Interest of a person integral with the society.

For example, one could act against Self-Interest for the sake of “collective interest”. However, if integrity of the society is a part of my understanding of who I am, how an idea of “collective standing in opposition to me”, could guide my actions? It should not.

    The concept of “collective” is fine, though. This concept sometimes is used to mitigate a peculiar psychological deficiency, when a person does not feel, does not understand how much his society is a part of him and he is a part of his society. When his society is obviously deficient, then this deficiency should be a source of internal pain, he should feel it. However, there is no “collective interest” contradicting one’s Self-Interest. Often, this is not understood.

 

Fundamental Concepts

Self and Self-Interest should be seen as fundamental concepts, and, like other fundamental concepts, they shape our perception of the world, they affect, what we perceive as important, and what we dismiss as unimportant. This way, they affect our desires, where we focus our attention, what we learn, and how we act.

Understanding of fundamental concepts does not require special education or knowledge of special terms. Often, such understanding exists without concepts being formulated or even named. The need to talk about them explicitly emerges, when there are strong tendencies to misrepresent these concepts and use this misrepresentation to shape people’s thinking and, hence, people’s actions in a way, which are best described as actions against interest of individuals and against interest of the society.

Since such misrepresentation goes on all the time, one has to perpetually make efforts to maintain clear understanding of these concepts.

 

Deficient Approach

    There is a broadly accepted world view, where the concept “individual”, reflecting purely personal tendencies, and the concept “collective”, reflecting social tendencies, combined with the requirement that “individual” should be strictly coordinated with or even subordinated to the “collective”. Often people think that this world view is sufficient for building understanding of integrity of the society and understanding of relationships between individuals and social groups.

    According to this view, social discord is a “feature” of the society, which keeps society agile, adapting to changing circumstances and holding back overreach of some social groups and individuals. Integrity of the society is not a part of this view, and it is assumed that special mechanisms are needed to hold society together. Since people act the way they think, we see competition of “governing” mechanisms of the society for areas of control – competition for power. That, in turn, leads to discord between “governors” and “governed”.

    The concept “collective” does not imply integrity. This concept is easy to understand, however with it comes severe discord in the society, and such discord is dangerous. The discord is much more than divergence of wishes of individuals and social groups. The discord is the real conflict. Each member of such society carries internal discord. Each member of such society has an image of oneself, which reflects such discord - the conflict.

    This has to be mitigated with fundamental concepts reflecting integrity of the society and integrity of each social group and each individual in it. It should be clear to everyone that analysis based on the concept of “collective” is a partial, limited one. Decisions should not be made based on this analysis alone. When it comes to decision-making, one has to have integrity in view - integrity of individuals, integrity of social groups and integrity of the society as a whole.

 

Perpetually in View

    We have to have understanding of integrity and we have to have it perpetually in view, when we make decisions. We have to remember, that in spite of all rationally justifiable barriers and causes for division and conflict, we could relate to each other and understand each other. This is not an idea, the model, to be used with logic. This is the guide for thinking.

    As long we have it in view, we could afford some partial views, analysis of barriers and causes for division and conflict.

These partial views are often not logically compatible between themselves. They are practically never logically compatible with the fundamental view of integrity. However, this is how we usually think. Logic is a tool to be used in a particular logically coherent view. To integrate analysis made from different points of view, we need this universal “view”, which is based on our understanding of integrity.

    This integration could be difficult, especially, when strong emotions are associated with some partial, pretty logical, views. However, that integration has to be done.

This is where concepts of Self and Self-Interest are very helpful, this is where it is clear, that acting against Self-Interest is, usually, asocial. This is where our understanding grows, and where we find seemingly impossible solutions.

Alexander Liss 5/12/2020