MORE ON: WHAT ARE WE?
By Karl Arnold Belser
22 July 2015
I first became aware that I was more than just one person when I read Richard Posner's book Aging and Old Age
more than 20 years ago. Posner pointed out that a person at age
60 could not understand the person he would become at the end of
his life. Therefor, it seems unfair for the 60 year old person to
dictate with a power of health document what will happen to him at the
end of his life. The observation is that people change who they
are with time.
Richard Thaler's latest book Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics talks about how we are effectively two people when we decide to not buy cookies because we cannot trust ourselves not to eat them in excess. There is apparently a manager and an emotionally impulsive part of a person. Daniel Kehneman talks about the same phenomenon in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. There is the Rule of Thumb, fast thinking part and a calculating part within every person.
Sigmund Freud was the first to recognize that human beings have a subconscious mind. One might view the subconscious components of mind as little processors that interrupt the conscious mind to allow different aspects of a person to emerge. Certainly Freud's work is known by just about everyone, but its manifestations are now being observed and studied by behavioral economists. I regard Freud's Id, Ego and Super-ego ideas as being archaic. Freud at least identified more than one factor in the subconscious mind, even if they are not highly thought of today.
The movie Inside Out by Pixar Animation Studios was an epiphany for me. The girl protagonist Riley was shown to have five sub personalities: Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness. Joy was the conscious arbitrator over the other personality factors.
The idea of a society of mind that I describe in my previous post What Are We Anyway? is apparently being recognized. I am viewing my own self differently as a result of this insight. specifically I am recognizing that my subconscious does do problem solving and in many cases I consciously recognize that I would be better served to have patience and perseverance by allowing my subconscious to guide my actions.
I observe that this human situation is very similar to the macro economics problem in which a central control can be ineffective because it does not base its central behavior on adequate feedback from the people. See my post The Macro Economics Problem.
In the case of the human being the conscious mind is nominally in control, like an overall government of the body. The parts of the subconscious mind are like the people. There needs to be harmony between the body and the mind, which I believe means that I might want to recognize and listen to my thoughts as if these thoughts came from my subconscious constituents.
Last updated July 26, 2015
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