Analog Realism I: Mental Fabric
One of the great insights the theory of evolution brought is that biological change is a slow, gradual process, on which new structures are built on top of previous ones. Much like his reason, Man's sense of self - the subconscious notion that we are one thing - is a biological faculty, and as such, must have developed gradually. There wasn't a single ape who was born fully human, out of fully perceptual parents.
Perceptual consciousness is essentially responsive. A tiger's actions are integrated, not by its knowledge that it is a singular entity that must chase coherent goals, but by a somewhat cohesive set of instincts. Certain sets of stimuli, like hunger or the sight of a potential prey, set his body and consciousness up for specific tasks. Whatever its current state of mind, however, it still retains the possibility of being primed into a different state, by different stimuli, at a later point in time.
Primitive men did not use concepts to choose their life's purpose, and then plan his actions accordingly - Erich Neumann identifies they first arose as a tool for our essentially perceptual ancestors. A concept like "wolf" might have been a useful tool for him to better deal with a specific type of predator, by narrowing the otherwise broad "fight or flight" response of our pleasure-pain system. A concept like "sharp", might have led him to build better tools, for example, while the overall action of building tools came from the same instinct we see in apes.
So when does our distinctively human form of self-awareness begin? That's where Freud's three-fold model of the mind comes in.
At any given point in time, our mental content is divided into what we are directly aware of (conscious), what we can easily become directly aware of (pre-conscious), and what we know, but cannot bring to mind right now (unconscious). If our associations are organized in large clusters, with only a feeble relationship to one another, our mind is essentially a collective of multiple sub-personalities.
Under these circumstances, I am not pre-conscious of the necessary mental content required to volitionally access some other part of my mind. The attitude we'd have towards the content of any of the other "clusters of associations" is the same one we now have to a very distant memory, that we're not even sure really happened. The only way to access that content is by having external stimuli change your state of mind. This is why the life of primitive Man is extremely ritualistic - it cannot go from "man the father" to "man the hunter" without a particular set of external stimuli to change his cognitive context.
Free will begins when our associations are structured, not in large, isolated clusters, but in a cohesive web of clusters. The moment we are able to take enough control of our own minds to understand and choose our own rituals, is the moment we become distinctively human. This is the essence of my theory of personality.
- May 19th, 2020