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Open letter No,1-8

Open letter 1

The two Selves and image of self-reference

Ian Graeme Barbour, American physicist and theologian, author of “When science meets religion,” to which I refer in this article, makes the following statement in this book. Let me explain about the social self. In the biblical tradition, we humans are inherently social beings. God’s covenant was not with individuals from generation to generation, but with peoples. The Old Testament “psalms” and some of the later prophetic writings focus on the individual. For example, the Old Testament book of Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant written on the heart of each person. The individual, however, is always seen as a person within a community. Judaism has emphasized and maintained this for the community, while Protestant Christianity has tended to look at it in an individualistic way.

In the biblical tradition, we are inherently social beings. God’s covenant was with a people, not with a succession of individuals. Some of the psalms and writings of the later prophets focus on the individual, but individuals are always seen as persons-in-community. Judaism has preserved this emphasis on the community, whereas Protestant Christianity has tended to be more individualistic. In the Bible, we are not self-contained individuals; we are constituted by our relationships. We are who we are as children, husbands and wives, parents, citizens, and members of a covenant people. God is concerned about the character of the life of the community as well as the motives and actions of each individual. The religious community shares a common set of sacred stories and rituals. Even the prayer and meditation of individuals take place within a framework of shared historical memories and assumptions. The theme of the social self is prominent among contemporary theologians.

American Christian theologian H. Richard Niebuhr defends the fundamentally social character of selfhood. “Every aspect of every self’s existence is conditioned by membership in the interpersonal group.”

George Herbert Mead, American social psychologist, philosopher, and historian of ideas, said that it is only in dialogue with the individual within the community of subjects that we come into existence as individuals. We are not impartial bystanders, but members of an interpretive community. The social context reveals the existence of the individual only in the thought of the speaking self.

Notre Dame professor and philosopher Alisdair McIntyre and others maintain that our personal identities are established by the stories we tell, the narratives of which we are each the subject. These stories always involve other people. Advocates of “narrative theology” insist that our personal stories are set in the context of the stories of a community. They hold that religious beliefs are transmitted not primarily through abstract theological doctrines but through the stories that provide the wider framework for our own life stories.

Ian Graeme Barbour, American physicist and theologian, author of “When science meets religion,” to which I refer in this article, makes the following statement in this book. The doctrine of the Incarnation asserts the importance of the full incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the importance of possessing a human body. The doctrine asserts the unique relationship of the Father and Son of Jesus Christ to God and the complete identity of the will of God and the will of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the human potential to reflect God’s purposes in the world, as well as the absence of original sin and the Incarnation, can be understood as essential characteristics of the personhood of Jesus Christ.

It can be expressed in the correlative relationship of self and ego. The self is God Almighty, and the ego is Jesus Christ. Here, it can be understood as a comprehensive view of the human being, as a synthesis of body and mind in correlation with each other. I believe that this view of man is consistent with both the biblical view of man and the evidence from modern science.

It is my belief that God lived in the hearts of men before the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, as a human being, had a dialogue with this God and made a “new covenant” with Him. You could say that he represented mankind. Jesus Christ had the human potential to reflect God’s purposes to the world. Because he had no original sin, and being incarnated as a human being was an essential characteristic of the personhood of Jesus Christ as a human being. This “new covenant” took place inside the heart of Jesus Christ. What this means is that the divine self and the human ego entered into a dialogue and entered into a “new covenant.”

On the image of self-reference

In the modern industrial field, in the control systems of machines, there are two types of control techniques: feedback and feedforward. These two techniques were conceived for the self-control of machines, and the purpose of both is to create self-similarity. These are practical applications of self-referential systems that are actualized as functioning tools. To create a better self is achieved by putting some of the output back into the input. It is a kind of self-referential system.

The latest systems theory of our time is called “autopoiesis.” Usually, there are several types of systems theories called complex systems, ranging from simple to complex in a hierarchical manner, and self-organization is the highest of them all. The latest system theory, so-called “autopoiesis,” is the first system theory that can be applied to living organisms. This system is self-creation. It is an organism, so it divides cells to make its own parts, produces its own offspring, and repairs itself. However, this is only a thought experiment, and no actual artificial organism has ever been created.

What I am trying to say here is that autopoiesis was conceived as an attempt to explain and express the first part of creation using only matter. As is often said, the rest of creation can be explained in evolutionary terms using factors such as heredity and environmental factors, but the problem was how to express the first part of creation. Autopoiesis is an attempt to solve this problem.

What people say about their own existence is called self-referentiality and is one of the basic human conditions. One comes to perceive the world further by referring to one’s own existence and interpreting one’s self. Since the 1970s, various areas that can be called social systems, such as life, personality, and organization in the social sciences, have been described as recursive. In other words, a system in which the reference to what is being described selects the structure that appears in the description and produces the elements is a self-sustaining system. This is called an autopoiesis system, and its characteristic self-referentiality has come to receive renewed attention along with the problem of self-organization.

On the image of self-reference (figures)

Three diagrams are shown above. The left diagram is a block diagram of a control circuit that incorporates feedback and feedforward in the control technique. A portion of the output is fed back into the input to make self-similarity more accurate.

The right-upper and right-lower figures show a single bar-shaped permanent magnet with S and N poles. The right-upper figure is a schematic representation of the magnetic field lines. The figure on the right-lower is a photograph of iron sand lining up along the magnetic field lines.

As an example of this, I feel that a single magnet with S and N poles represents one of the self-referential units, or a set of states. We think of several such things in parallel. Self-reference is a magnetic field. This is just my image, and I have only described it to explain what I imagined to a third party in an easy-to-understand way, not to support it in any way. To accurately understand the magnetism of matter requires knowledge of quantum mechanics, but quantum mechanics is a realm that denies objective reality. The mysterious properties of magnets are said to originate from the spin of electrons.

Owen Flanagan, professor of philosophy and professor of neurobiology at Duke University in the United States, argues that the self is constructed; it is not given to us as a single entity or a transcendental ego. The newborn gradually builds an integrated self with the help of parents and other people. With maturation and socialization, a distinct identity is shaped, cast largely in narrative form in the stories we tell ourselves. The self-changes as a result of active engagement with the environment and other persons.

The self-changes as a result of active engagement with the environment and other persons. Our self-representations organize our memories of past events and our plans and aspirations for the future. Models of the self-do not use concepts applicable to neurons, for they reflect our aims and values and our patterns of action and human relationships. The narrative self has causal efficacy as a complex and ever-changing self-representation. It causes people to say and do things and hence has an ontological and not merely a linguistic status. The self is a many-leveled reality that is constructed rather than given; activities at each level have some autonomy and yet are related to each other.

David Charmers, Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University and philosopher, holds that consciousness is irreducible but argues that all other biological and psychological states are determined by physical states and are in principle explainable by physical theories. He holds that the cognitive sciences can give detailed functional accounts of memory, learning, and information processing, but they cannot say why these processes are accompanied by conscious experience, which is not defined by its causal roles. Phenomenal subjective experience is known firsthand in sensory perception, pain, emotions, mental images, and conscious thought.

Malcolm Jeeves & Warren S. Brown, authors of “Neuroscience Psychology and Religion,” remark in their book. Where does the physicalist view of human nature stand? Although the physicalist stance aims for a unitary and embodied understanding of the mind, it does not necessarily presume that mental life must be reduced only to chemistry and physics. Instead, it supports a range of theories that operate under the heading of nonreductive physicalism.

In this view, while humans are taken to be entirely physical, the brain is seen as complex enough to support the emergence of mental properties and experiences that have a real influence on behavior. This psychological trait or experience has a practical impact on behavior.

A similar view, but with a different emphasis, is dual-aspect monism. The term monism means, in this context, essentially the same thing as physicalism. But the modifier dual-aspect emphasizes the fact that an adequate description of human nature must entail at least two levels (or aspects)—a physical description provided by neuroscience and a mental description as represented in our subjective experiences and studied by psychology.

There is another view called emergent dualism. Here, the physical reality is taken as first and primary but then from it emerges a completely new entity—a mind or soul. This might seem like it circles back to the dualism of Descartes, but it is actually different: it gives the physical side precedence.

On “Deep Social Mind”

Malcolm Jeeves & Warren S. Brown, authors of “Neuroscience Psychology and Religion,” remark in their book. Given the remarkable successes already achieved in neuroscience, neuropsychology, and evolutionary psychology, it is easy to assume assume that the scientific approach is the only way of gaining reliable knowledge about ourselves. However, to do so would be to ignore a lively and ongoing debate within science itself about how best to balance the benefits of a reductionist approach to the phenomena we study with the contributions made by less reductionist disciplines such as social science. It seems clear from the view of social science that human behavior cannot simply be reduced to the explanations of biological science nor can biological science be reduced to physical science.

Whiten, who is affiliated with the Psychology Lab at the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom, took this approach in his study of what he called a “deep social mind” in humankind: “At a descriptive level, the claim is that human beings are not merely the cleverest species, but also the most social, in the depth of their cognitive interpenetration.” Drawing attention to such features is important in the task of classifying organisms.

Whiten calls this distinguishing feature a “deep social mind” and further claims that humans are more social—more deeply social—than any other species on earth, our closest primate relatives not excepted…. by “deep” I am referring to a special degree of cognitive and mental penetration between individuals.

Earlier interpretations about substantive “reason” being unique to humans are being replaced by functional interpretations. One reason for this is that substantive views appear to be too static and too dependent upon a belief in a thinking “substance” called the mind that is distinct and separate from the body. In contrast, however, the Old Testament scholar Gerhard Von Rad has argued that the imago dei is found not in what we are, but in what we are called to do. This is the functionalist view of the imago dei. It presents humans as having divine status by exercising control and stewardship in the creation.

Another major theme proposed by those championing the relational aspects of the imago dei is the capacity for relationship with God. For theologian Karl Barth, it is not just a capacity for relationships that is crucial, but it is relationships themselves—that is, a relationship with God and relationships with each other. In a similar manner, Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer, professor of dogmatics at the Free University of Amsterdam, argues that the Bible emphasizes the whole human being as the image of God. Human uniqueness is grounded in relational action rather than a substantive property: our love of others makes us concretely in the image of God. Of course, the capacity for interpersonal relationships is not some free-floating, nonmaterial capacity or entity. According to social neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, this capacity is firmly embodied in ways that we are beginning to understand.

Two of today’s most distinguished Christian theologians, Wolfhart Pannenberg and Jurgen Moltmann, add a transcendent and eschatological dimension to the relationship idea. A key word for Pannenberg is exocentricity, emphasizing that we are constantly reaching beyond our experiences of the present world in a search for fulfillment and meaning. Moltmann, in turn, believes that there is a fundamental self-transcendence that defines humankind and will ultimately find its proper identity only in Jesus Christ, who fulfills the image of God in its entirety.

To be continued