Analog Realism III: Psychic Capital

    Yesterday, I talked about the way we use external objects as tools in the development of personality, and mentioned the idea of "psychic capital". Today I will properly define the term, and explain the process in more depth, in the context of Freud's three-fold model of the mind.

    Man is essentially a volitional being. Unlike other conscious beings, we are able to think and act by choice, and this ability is at the root of our rational faculty. Qua perceptual beings, however, our minds are also responsive - certain perceptions automatically shift our awareness, and trigger specific emotions, based on our pre-conceptual associations.

    We are able to control our awareness both directly, by deliberately shifting our focus, and indirectly, by selecting what perceptions we subject ourselves to. The act of warming up for an activity by performing certain actions, for example, is as much a physical process of engaging certain muscles as it is a mental one, of establishing the proper cognitive context.

    Psychic capital refers to any object that is used as a source of perceptual information, with the aim of triggering specific psychologic responses. It does not refer to tools of measurement, like clocks or thermometers, which enable us to quantify specific existents conceptually, but to tools of representation, that facilitate the achievement of a specific state of mind, both conceptually and pre-conceptually.

    This is a process that happens spontaneously, but can be also performed purposefully. The perception of a toy that was precious to us as children will trigger certain emotional responses, and make it easier to access certain memories. Putting on a business suit, a military uniform, or a martial arts outfit, will trigger similar responses, not only because of spontaneous associations we happened to pick up, but because of the meaning we've consciously ascribed to them. On the purposeful end of the spectrum are works of art, whose purpose is to give concrete form to the artist's subconscious experience.

    In economics, "capital" refers to goods that enable or facilitate the production of other goods. Psychic capital is somewhat similar in its nature, as it refers to objects that enable or facilitate the awareness of certain mental content.

  -  May 28th, 2020