1st Edition

The Self-Field Mind, Body and Environment

By Chris Abel Copyright 2021
    346 Pages
    by Routledge

    346 Pages
    by Routledge

    In this incisive study of the biological and cultural origins of the human self, the author challenges readers to re-think ideas about the self and consciousness as being exclusive to humans. In their place, he expounds a metatheoretical approach to the self as a purposeful system of extended cognition common to animal life: the invisible medium maintaining mind, body and environment as an integrated ‘field of being’.

    Supported by recent research in evolutionary and developmental studies together with related discoveries in animal behaviour and the neurosciences, the author examines the factors that have shaped the evolution of the animal self across widely different species and times, through to the modern, technologically enmeshed human self; the differences between which, he contends, are relations of degree rather than absolute differences. We are, he concludes, instinctive and ‘fuzzy individuals’ clinging to fragile identities in an artificial and volatile world of humanity’s own making, but which we now struggle to control.

    This book, which restores the self to its fundamental place in identity formation, will be of great interest for students and academics in the fields of social, developmental and environmental psychology, together with readers from other disciplines in the humanities, especially philosophy, cultural theory and architecture.



    PART I: The background

    1. The nature-nurture debate

    Personality traits – Cognitive abilities – Epigenetic factors – Gene regulation – New terms of debate – Neural plasticity – Embodied development

    2. Inheritance systems

    Evo-Devo – Homological thinking – Niche construction – Sociocultural learning – Cooperative behavior – Gene-culture coevolution – Interacting dimensions – Novel behavior

    PART II: The metatheory

    3. Self-organization

    Order of a complex sort – Hierarchical model – Emergentism - Strong versus weak emergence – Levels of description – Autopoiesis – Structure and organization - Diachronic emergence

    4. The invisible self

    Science and common sense – The self that won’t go away – Psychological connectedness – Field theory – Boundary conditions – Social dimensions - The self as a self-organizing system – Some propositions

    5. Mapping the field

    Brain-body schemas – Spatial extensions – Unity of perception and action – Social cues – Self-agency – Mirror images – Emotional signals – Self-regulation of emotions

    6. The evolving self

    Metamorphosis - Memory and consciousness – Knowing and feeling – The three-stage self – The core-self across species - Evolutionary continuity – Subjective experience – The cultural ratchet

    7. Tacit nexus

    Overlapping brain functions – Stringing things together – Rapid sequencing –Practical intelligence - Dexterous hands - Science and praxis – Artifactual knowledge

    PART III: The self in the world

    8. Technically extended selves

    Nature’s home builders – Animal tool use – Knowledge in common – Cumulative technology - Artificial versus natural selection – Self-producing technologies – Promethean gifts

    9. Self-images

    Good impressions – Bodily idioms Reciprocal perspectives - Home-making as self-actualization - Attachments to things – Material culture matters - Fashion conscious - Automania

    10. Self and group identity

    Tribal ties – Discomfort with inconsistent beliefs - Self and the out-group other – Group dynamics – Sectarian conflict – Effects of spatial segregation

    11. Occupational identity

    Creation of a modern workforce – Class division and unionization - Fordism – Automation – The vanishing workplace – The encroachment of AI – Social groups most affected

    12. Selves online

    Cultivating the narcissistic personality – Bidirectional media - Hooked on the Internet – Games designed to keep players playing - The networked self – Promoting the self

    13. Transformations

    Turning points – Perpetual connectivity – Treating people as objects – Cultural shift – The threat to critical thinking - Rewiring the brain – Augmented reality

    14. Loss of the private self

    A cautionary tale of the digital age – Mining the data – Engineering social change – Winning tactics - Selves for sale – The fightback

    Part IV: Summation

    15. Instinctive and fuzzy selves

    Resistance to change - Not just a collection of neurons – Relations of degree – Techno-cultural coevolution - The profligate species – Existential crisis

    Pandemic postscript

    Notes and references




    Chris Abel is an award-winning author of numerous interdisciplinary publications on the built environment and identity theory. He has taught at universities around the world, most recently at the University of Sydney and the University of Ulster, Belfast.