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Man as a Personality
The concept of personality. Whereas the concept "human being" emphasises man's biosocial, body-mind origin, the concept "personality" is connected mainly with his social and psychological aspects, such as his sense of dignity, his self-appraisal, his value orientations, beliefs, the principles by which he lives, his moral, aesthetic, socio-political and other social positions, his convictions and ideals, and also the character, the special features of his intellect, the style and independence of his thinking, the specific nature of his emotional make-up, his willpower, cast of mind and feelings, his social status.
One cannot conceive of a personality as something separate from the human being, or even from his external and general physical appearance. The personality (Lat. persona= mask) is the face that confronts us. When in their later years, people have plastic operations and face-lifts, they change their external appearance, which, as psychological observations have shown, also changes something in their mentality. Everything in a person is "interconnected" and affects the personality as a whole. What a person looks like is the outward expression of his inner world.
A personality is a socially developed person, one who is part of a certain specific historical and natural context, one or another social group, a person possessing a relatively stable system of socially significant personal features and performing corresponding social roles. The personality's intellectual framework is formed by his requirements, interests, frame of reference, peculiarities of temperament, emotion, willpower, motivation, value orientations, independence of thought, consciousness and self-consciousness. The central feature of the personality is world outlook. A person cannot become a personality without evolving what is known as a world outlook or world-view, which includes his philosophical view of the world.
A knowledge of philosophy is an inseparable attribute of a person's higher education and culture. Because a world-view is the privilege of modern man and its core is philosophy, one must know a person's philosophy in order to understand him. Even those who deny and make fun of philosophy possess a philosophy. Only the animal has no world-view whatever. It does not meditate upon things in the world, the meaning of life and other problems. A world-view is the privilege of the personality, that is to say, a human being uplifted by culture. Both historically and ontogenetically, man becomes a personality to the extent that he assimilates culture and contributes to its creation. Our distant ancestor, in the conditions of the primitive horde and the initial stages of the formation of society, was not yet a personality, although he was already a person, a human being. A child, particularly in his earliest years, is, of course, a human being, but not yet a personality. He has yet to become one in the course of his development, education and upbringing. A human being may or may not become a personality. The child who is isolated from people and surrounded by animals does not. Personality may or may not take shape, and it may also disintegrate, be deformed, or broken up altogether either by pathological processes in the organism, mental disorders, alcoholism, and so on, or by certain extremely unfavourable, tragic circumstances.
So, the term "personality" implies an integrating principle that unites the biological and social in a single whole, and also all the psychological processes, qualities and states that regulate behaviour, giving it a certain consistency and stability in relation to the rest of the world, to other people and itself. The personality is a socially historical, naturally conditioned and individually expressed being. A human being is a personality inasmuch as he consciously distinguishes himself from everything that surrounds him, and his relation to the world exists in his consciousness as a certain standpoint in life. The personality is a human being who possesses self-consciousness and a world-view, and who has achieved an understanding of his social functions, his place in the world, who has comprehended himself as a subject of historical creativity, a maker of history. The essence of personality is not its physical nature but its socio-psychological properties and the mechanism of its mental life and behaviour. The personality is an individual concentration or expression of social relationships and functions, a subject of cognition and transformation of the world, of rights and duties, of ethical, aesthetic and all other social standards. When we speak of a personality, we have in mind its social, moral, psychological and aesthetic qualities crystallised in a human being's intellectual world.
In each of his essential relations a person appears in an especial quality, in his specific social function, as the subject of material or spiritual production, the vehicle of certain production relations, as a member of a certain social group, of class, the representative of a certain nation, as a husband or wife, father or mother, in short, as the creator of family relations.
The social functions which man has to perform in society are many and various, but personality cannot be reduced to these functions, even taken as an integral whole. The thing is that the personal is what belongs to a given person and distinguishes him from others. In a certain sense one can agree with the view of those who find it difficult to draw a line between what a person calls "himself" and what he calls "his own". Personality is the sum-total of everything that a person may call his own. How does a person describe himself as a personality when he is asked what he is? He does this by relating himself to what he does or has done, by telling us with whom he is associated. Hence the principle: "Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you what you are." In addition, he tells us what belongs to him, what he has mastered, what he has made his own, and in what way he has fulfilled himself, to what context of life he belongs—labour, social, age, family, education, and so on. What belongs to the personality is not only his physical and intellectual qualities, but his clothing, the roof over his head, husband and children, ancestors and friends, social status and reputation, first name and family name. The structure of the personality also includes what it has given its strength to and also the powers that have been embodied in it. It is a personal manifestation of embodied labour.
Take, for example, a person's name. It is not something purely extraneous in relation to the personality. A name grows together, as it were, with the personality, becomes affixed to the face and forms something inseparable from the given personality. And only if he is playing someone else on stage, or works as an intelligence agent, or has adopted a different faith does a person change his name, and everyone knows how difficult that is both for the person himself and for others. The whole physical existence of the personality is confined to the framework of a person's life, to the limits of his complex biography. But does this account for the existence of personality in general? Of course, not. Particular ly if we consider historical personalities, whose existence extends far beyond the framework of their bio-physical lives; they live on through the centuries and not only live but "work" actively through the hands and heads of subsequent generations.
Thus, the limits of the personality are far broader than those of the human body and its inner intellectual world. These limits may be compared to circles spreading over water; the nearest circles are the fruit of creative activity, then come the circles of one's family, one's personal property and friendships. The far-out circles merge with the seas and oceans of all social life, its history and prospects.
The fullness of the personality is expressed in its individual ity, in its uniqueness, its irrepeatability. Personality in general is an abstraction, which is concretised in real individuals, in separate, single rational beings with all the inimitable proper ties of their mentality and physique, the colour of their skin, hair, eyes, and so on. The personality is a unique representative of the human race, always particular and unlike any other personality in the fullness of his spiritual and material, physical life: every "ego" is unique.
Take, for example, a striking personality like Socrates. He attracted the attention of literally everyone he met both by his outward appearance and by his way of life, his beliefs, his activities, his teachings, and everything connected with his unique individuality. Socrates was rather stocky, with thick lips, a paunchy stomach, a short neck and a large bald head with a huge bulging brow. He had a habit of going about barefoot, both winter and summer, and looking around him with prominent eyes from under lowered brows. Marvelling at the individuality of Socrates, Alcibiades stressed the exceptional originality of his intellectual personality, in which something incomprehensible, mysterious, elusive seemed to be hidden. The most surprising thing was that he was quite unlike anyone else. In his manner and conversation Socrates was so original that we search in vain for anyone remotely resembling him either among the ancients or among the people of today.
One could similarly describe the appearance and personalities of other great men and eminent individuals, and each of them would be unique in some way.
A personality is an individual rational being. In the broader sense the individual is not only a person but a synonym for a separate specific being. This also applies to the concept of "individuality", which includes the personality's spiritual features as well as his physical peculiarities.
There is nothing more individualised in the world than the human being, the person, nothing in creation is more diverse than people. At the human level diversity achieves its highest peak, the world contains as many individuals as there are people. This is due entirely to the complexity of human organisation, whose dynamics would appear to have no limits. Human individuality is expressed in its having different opinions, in abilities, level of knowledge, experience, degree of competence, in temperament and character. Personality is individual to the extent that it has independence in its judgements, beliefs and views, that is to say, when the brain is not "stereotyped" and possesses unique "patterns". In every person, regardless of the general structure of his individuality, there are specific features of contemplation, observation, attention, various types of memory, of orientation, and so on. The level of individual thinking varies, for example, from the heights of genius to the worst cases of mental retardation.
The principle of individualisation has its limits, its proportion. Beyond this borderline we come to complete relativism, which maintains that if every person has his own soul, then every person must also have his own world, and hence there are as many worlds as there are people. But the actual dialectics of existence tells us that the uniqueness both of outward appearance and a person's spiritual world is relative. It is derived from the universal, to which it belongs and from which it has sprung. The personality has a general origin, position, culture, language, certain standards, a world-view, and so on, that it shares with others. The more fully it represents, individually, the universal human principle, the more significant the personality becomes. Every person is a unique individuality in the whole complex of his physical and spiritual peculiarities, but at the same time he embodies the essence of the race and also certain general features of his class and nation.
People may be divided into various types, depending on the predominance of certain elements in the structure of their personalities. A person may be inclined to practical or theoretical thinking, to rational or intuitive understanding of reality, to operating with sensuous images, or he may possess an analytical cast of mind. There are people who are largely governed by their emotions. For example, sensuous types have an exceptionally highly developed perception of reality. For them the sensation is the concrete expression of the fullness of their life. A person of the intellectual-intuitive type constantly strives for new opportunities. He cannot be satisfied with a commitment to generally recognised values but is always seeking new ideas. People of this type are the driving force of culture, the initiators and inspirers of new enterprises. The types of personality may also be classified according to behaviour orientation. A person may be classified as extrovert or introvert according to whether his orientation is on objective reality or his own inner world. Introverts are often reticent, and rarely, or with difficulty, open their hearts to those around them. As a rule, their temperament is melancholic and they rarely stand out or come to the fore. Outwardly calm, even indifferent, they never try to compel anyone else to do anything. Their true motives usually remain hidden.
In psychology and sociology a person is usually characterised by his individual peculiarities. Qualities connected with a certain manner of perception or judgement and also with the way a person is influenced by his environment are singled out. Attention is focussed on originality, on the features that make a person stand out in society, on the functions he performs, on the degree of influence he exercises or the impression that he makes on other people: "aggressive", "submissive", "hard", and so on.
Independence, decisive judgement, willpower, determination, passion, intellect and wisdom are regarded as highly important.
Intelligence and wisdom. What do we mean when we say a person is clever? Usually someone who thinks well, with subtlety and profundity, who is able to speak convincingly and precisely, and who suits his actions to present and future circumstances. Intelligence is an adequate reaction to a situation. A clever person is capable in any circumstances of coming to grips flexibly with events, of finding his place and asserting himself. He says no more than the situation and the circumstances demand, but is not at a loss if something of importance to the matter in hand needs to be said. Intelligence should be clearly distinguished from various other gifts, for example, talent, when a person because of his resourcefulness, the vitality of his intellect or phenomenal memory, his gifts of spoken or written speech is able to brilliantly interpret or convey something that has already been achieved by humanity, that is available in the general experience and to perfect it in certain ways. However, a talented person may not be clever, astute. These are different forms of human ability and they do not always go together. A talented person may be careless, unorganised, and unmotivated. He may be carried away by some idea, forget about everything else and even appear absurd to those around him, forgetful of the world, impractical and in general "have his head in the clouds". A clever or astute person has a well-ordered mind, is diplomatic in his words and actions. He may be quite untalented or possess only a small talent. But his chief advantage is his ability to make maximum use of even small gifts for the sake of achieving his aims, particularly those of a practical or organisational nature. The clever person does not suffer from the carelessness of the talented.
The highest expression of the gifted personality is genius, an unusually powerful gift of nature, moulded and polished by education and upbringing. History places on men of genius the tremendous and extremely responsible mission of pioneering new paths and, by the power of their mighty reason, advancing science, art, technology, and social and political life. Destiny endows the genius with strong wings for his great flights of imagination. They are capable of carrying him high in the realms of thought and in the world of public affairs. But anything that flies very high is extremely vulnerable to the lightning! And an essential feature of genius is courage. Very often these luminaries of humanity are martyrs on whose shoulders human culture rises to new heights.
Both talent and genius are not only a gift of nature, not only the product of education and upbringing; they are also achieved by extraordinary diligence, which is a crucial component in the structure of talent. In analysing talent, genius and intelligence, I have no desire to contrast them. It would be absurd to speak of the genius being stupid. The stupidity for which humanity has as yet found no remedy is characterised by a primitive and muddled way of thinking. The judgements of the foolish person are poorly thought out, disordered and vague. He is always being diverted from the chosen direction of his thought and with the greatest difficulty struggles out of the jungles of his own vagueness and muddle. Foolishness comes from the inability to concentrate attention on anything definite and consists in a constant flitting from one object to another. Foolish people are a great burden to those around them. They are the embodiment of intellectual chaos and empty chatter.
The measure of human intelligence and its effectiveness is determined by the degree to which things, events and their· transformation conform to logic. To a certain extent intelligence depends on experience, on knowledge. But an intelligent person is not merely someone who knows something. Much knowledge, as most people realise, does not necessarily make a person clever. Goethe's Faust was a person of great erudition but he was a split personality. With horror he sees in a mask features that are not characteristic of his true self. But he can do nothing about it. The metaphor fully expresses the common destiny of his contemporaries and this serves as some consolation to the hero. Finally, however, comes the moment of enlightenment. This is my real face and that which I believed to be my real face is, in fact, only a mask. There the mask is the symbol of adaptation to circumstances, the symbol of alienated impersonal forces that impose their laws, their way of acting and style of thinking on the personality. All their lives people perform roles, and yet preserve the stamp of their individuality, which itself, in essence, is a variation of the socially typical. We move freely within the framework of the role we have chosen or that has been chosen for us, and this frame has both its centre and its periphery. Some people may take efficiency to the point of bureaucratism or convert liberalism into anarchy, while others do their work intelligently, reasonably and even wisely. Role-playing demands discipline. But if it fetters the creative principle in the personality, it loses its reasonable proportions and evokes a natural protest.
The choice of a role in life and its performance are, in effect, the whole of our life. And it is a bitter feeling when neither role nor performance are what we would have wished, what our true self desired and needed. In later life a person may ask himself bitterly, "Hasn't it worked out that the whole of my conscious life has been 'not what it should be'?" So intelligence is not merely knowledge in itself, but the ability to realise that knowledge, to apply it in practice. Intelligence is not simply a characteristic of thought but a special feature of the personality that is able to behave properly according to the circumstances.
When we wish to stress the highest expression of a person's intelligence we call him wise. Cleverness may be bound up with egoistic centres, with narrow personal expectations and everyday interests. Wisdom, on the other hand, has a rich moral content. Socrates associated wisdom with virtue, maintaining that one could not consider a person wise who possessed knowledge but lacked virtue. The clever person may turn out to be an adventurer, a criminal, and, as a criminal, the cleverer he is the more dangerous he may be. This cannot be the case with a wise man. The immoral and everything connected with the narrow egoistic centres of cold rationalism is incompatible with the very essence of wisdom. As a personal characteristic of perfect knowledge, wisdom presupposes the ability not only to apply one's knowledge, but to apply it skilfully and behave with dignity and consideration, in accordance with the objective logic of things and the interests of the matter in hand. The wise man has the ability to grasp the very essence of events, to solve problems that seem insoluble. The characteristic feature of wisdom is the achievement of maximum results with the least expenditure of means, the ability to grasp even the most confused situation and to find the best way out of what seems to be a hopeless situation and, while doing so, to maintain coolness and restraint.
A person who has true wisdom cannot live by the purely private interests of the philistine. This is the lot of stupidity, of self-satisfied and comfortable stagnation. A truly wise person is one who possesses knowledge of what really matters in life and behaves in accordance with the situation and the objective tendencies of its development, who would not spare even his life to have these tendencies realised. Wisdom is bound up not only with intellectual and emotional culture but also with moral culture, the ability and desire to use it in life, to bring good to others. The truly wise person lives by the principle: we are forever indebted to one another.
Wisdom is often reduced to the notion of carefulness, caution, the ability to trim one's sails to the wind. But this is a great mistake. If everyone in society were that kind of wise" person, progress would slow down sharply. There would be no revolutionaries, burning with the desire to transform life in the interests of humanity, of the people. As a rule, this can only be achieved at the cost of suffering or even life itself. Wisdom, of course, presupposes not only knowledge but also a reasonable way of life, which cannot however be identified with moderation, obedience and certainly not with mere adaptability. "Wisdom for a man's self is, in many branches thereof, a depraved thing. It is the wisdom of rats, that will be sure to leave a house somewhat before it fall. It is the wisdom of the fox, that thrusts out the badger, who digged and made room for him. It is the wisdom of crocodiles, that shed tears when they would devour".
Personal self-appraisal. The human being as a personality is a self-appraising being. Without this ability it would be very difficult or even impossible for anyone to assert his identity in life. A true self-appraisal presumes an adequate degree of self-consciousness and knowledge of one's intellectual, emotional and volitional powers, the features of one's character and in general everything that goes to make up one's mental and spiritual world, and also one's physical abilities. Life makes extremely varied demands upon us. We are constantly obliged to relate these demands to our capabilities so that our obligations do not exceed our powers. Otherwise there are bound to be internal conflicts and breakdowns, disorders of our neuro-psychological organisation, which may lead to various kinds of illness. An adequate self-appraisal implies the ability to set oneself realisable goals, to rationally control the flow of one's thoughts, to guide their general direction and choose their final destination, to constantly check the suppositions one is making and to weigh up pros and cons, to reject unjustified variants and hypotheses, in other words, to be self-critical. In performing the very important function of organising effective control of one's behaviour, self-appraisal is a necessary precondition for measuring the level of one's expectations, i.e., the tasks that a person sets himself and considers himself capable of accomplishing. A true self-appraisal enables us to abandon any undertaking we may have begun if we realise that it cannot yield good results, and particularly if we see that it is a wrong or harmful course.
Self-appraisal helps to establish a person's dignity and gives him moral satisfaction. A correct appraisal leads to inner harmony, ensuring a reasonable self-confidence, an incorrect one, to constant conflict. The ability to see oneself as one really is is the highest degree of self-appraisal and is to be found only in wisdom. As the experience of history has shown, even some very intelligent people, not to mention mediocrities, suffer from conceit, while others, on the contrary, fall into a state of self-depreciation and acquire an inferiority complex.
To make a true appraisal of oneself, a person needs to take into consideration all his personal experience, although sometimes even this is not enough. One must test and check on many levels: one's own experience in personal life, the overall experience of humanity, public opinion, particularly the opinion of those who are something, and also the power of one's own reason. The ability to assess one's own value springs initially not from the depths of the personality itself but from outside. A person begins to sum himself up more or less correctly after he has learned to adjust to other people and take in their assessments of himself. A child acquires a notion of himself on the basis of the assessment made by adults and by children of his own age. Subsequently a great deal depends on teachers, who check both the pupil's intellectual development and behaviour, pronouncing their judgement both in words and in marks. Here one has an intensive daily correlation of oneself with the behaviour, words and actions of others, particularly one's classmates. The growing child comes to know himself more and more fully and accurately and to judge himself by receiving encouragement or criticism that corrects his own self-appraisal. In short, the result is that we find ourselves in others and begin to penetrate more and more deeply into our own world. We thus look at ourselves primarily through the eyes of society, the eyes of its whole history, and then through the eyes of the future, which emerges as the supreme judge of our present, of our thoughts, actions and our own self-appraisal. At first the individual assesses himself through others, and later he himself becomes a yardstick for assessing others. In this complex interaction of personal relationships one observes a general principle: self-appraisal and self-testing of the personality is mediated, indirect social appraisal and testing.
Self-appraisal has a wide range of modalities, beginning from Narcissus-like self-adoration to pitiless self-condemnation, bordering on cruelty, or pangs of conscience so violent that they may sometimes drive a person to a tragic end. An abated and more relaxed form of self-condemnation is constant scepticism, remorse, a painful contempt for oneself, an inferiority complex and, in general, a convoluted personality, which has no confidence in anything and believes in nothing, a personality tangled up in itself. Such self-consciousness is permeated with a feeling of constant anxiety and tragedy. But this state of mind, no matter how regrettable, is often the fate of people with a very subtle and hence vulnerable spiritual make-up. Self-admiration, over whelming self-confidence approaching arrogance and acting on the principle that everything is permissible, is quite a different matter. Arrogance uses not the mind but the elbows and fists, bulldozing its way through. It can be put down by a sudden and vigorous rebuff or protest. Otherwise it runs riot until it is curbed by severe public censure or even by legal coercion. The mild appeal to the conscience of those who have no conscience is useless.
Personal self-appraisal and also self-appraisal by a social group, a party or nation is an exceptionally complex psychological phenomenon. People have somehow evaluated themselves from time immemorial. We find such self-portraits in diaries, autobiographies, letters, paintings, religious and other forms of confession. True self-portraits are rare. Most people are tempted to embellish themselves in the eyes of others and of history. It is rather different with one's own self. In his secret thoughts a person can be perfectly frank and trust himself with the whole truth. Yet much of what people think about themselves is pure illusion, which they nevertheless cherish because it helps them to endure the difficulties and disappointments of real life. Here not only moral but epistemological factors come into play. A person is not really so clearly visible to himself. Fear of public opinion and fear of losing prestige, lack of clarity in one's self consciousness, all these things lead people to misjudge themselves. Here we may observe a specific tendency to compensate one or another kind of one-sidedness in the personality, a quite understandable desire to maintain psychological equilibrium, which has a valid biological purpose. This is no apology for incorrect self-appraisal but a desire to understand what brings it about. Knowing all this, everyday wisdom advises us to judge a person by his deeds rather than by what he says about himself.
What is the human "Self"? In ancient times the concept of the Self was the object of much attention among the philosophers of India. The Self was interpreted as individuali ty of spiritual existence, as the vehicle of the infinitely diverse relations of the personality both with itself and with everything around it. With great zeal and psychological detail this amazingly subtle and complex problem has been tackled, mostly at the practical intuitive level, in the various schools of yoga, which have refined their methods of self-training to an astonishing degree, making wide use of the techniques of long and systematic concentration on one thing, such as the state and functioning of the internal organs. In order to achieve complete isolation the yogis went out into the deserts, the mountains, the forests and plunged themselves into the contemplation of the world and themselves, and achieved amazing results in self-control, in changing their physical states and reaching the point of dissolving themselves in the natural whole and the total self-abnegation known as nirvana, a state of unequalled beatitude. By means of exercises evolved through the centuries the yogis achieve great self-control over both body and mind. Yoga has been practised for thousands of years and allowed its adherents to make a very subtle analysis of the gradations of the various states of the Self, the levels of its regulative functions, the specific features of its structure.
In ancient Greek culture, the problem of the Self attracted particular attention from Socrates. He thought of it as something independent, supra-personal, as a very powerful razor-sharp conscience—the daimonion by which he was guided at the most critical moments of his life. This dictating or advising Self told him how best to act.
In medieval philosophy the Self was identified with the soul, whose volitional, emotional and intellectual forces were striving for communion with God. The individual is torn between constant fear of punishment and hope of salvation, of the forgiveness of sins, of the goodness of the Lord. He feels himself a helpless toy before the absolute power of the Creator, while at the same time he carries on a constant dialogue with God, appealing for his help at moments of trouble and despair and imploring forgiveness for his sins. The individual is always and everywhere watched over by a god regarded as the regulating principle in the structure of the Self. This is observed with great psychological subtlety in the "Confessions" of Saint Augustine, who identifies the sense and knowledge of Self with the sense of God in oneself. Augustine maintained that he could not even have a Self if there were no God in him as the regulating principle of his personal will. Thomas Acquinas was, in effect, proceeding from the same principle when he maintained that everyone should test his actions in the light of the knowledge given to him by God. On the whole, the Christian orientation is on personal spirituality, as expressed in the maxim: "Linger not without, but enter into thyself!"
Beginning with the Renaissance, the orientation of the Self changes sharply. Leonardo da Vinci defined man as a model of the universe. The personality sets out to reveal itself. This is the time of the triumph of individuality, the great awakening of the sense of being a person. The individual enters the arena of modern history, asserting the principle of the self-sufficient value of the Self. According to Descartes, Self means the same thing as "my soul", thanks to which "I am what I am". A thinking Self knows only one incontrovertible truth—that it thinks, doubts, affirms, desires, loves and hates. Descartes stressed the rational principle in the structure of the personality. In his philosophy the Self acts, above all, as the subject of thought, its regulator and organiser. Rejecting the Cartesian interpretation of the Self as a special substance, English empiricism regards the Self as a totality of processes. ". . .For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without perception, and never can observe anything but the perception." So the Self, it turns out, is nothing but a bundle of perceptions, which "succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement". These profound reflections of a subtle thinker show that our subjective pursuit of the essence of the Self is constantly baffled by the actual flow of the concrete sensations of the given moment, either directed inwardly or outwardly. Nothing else is perceived. This is rather like a traveller in a wood, who literally cannot see the wood for the trees. He is in the wood and therefore cannot see it as a whole. It is just the same with ourselves. Wishing to reconcile rationalism with empiricism, Kant distinguished two types of Self, the empirical and the pure. The first was the flow of intellectual processes, of various sense impressions rushing hither and thither, while the pure Self was something that had a kind of supra-individual character. Its basic function was to unite the multiform by means of pure categories of Reason. This was known as transcendental apperception, which meant the unity of consciousness, which was the essence of the Self.
According to Hegel, the Self is the individual as a universal formula embracing all personalities in general. The individual "self s" become part of the formula as a means of giving it individual expression. Hegel loathed all preoccupation with the individual and had a great bent for raising the individual to the universal, to an all-embracing formula in which everything intimately personal dissolved. In Hegel the Self as a universal formula swallows up all the concrete egos of separate individuals.
In contemporary Soviet philosophy and psychological literature the concept of the Ego or Self is usually identified with that of the personality. In my view, this is not quite correct. The concept of the personality is much wider than that of the Ego. It cannot be identified either with consciousness or self-consciousness because it also embraces something from the depths of the subconscious, and this something acts as a kind of irrational "governor" in the structure of the personality when the unconscious takes into its sinister hands the will o,f the individual and drives the flows of energy towards irrational behaviour. This is seen particularly clearly, for example, in neuroses of obsession and paranoidal forms of schizophrenia. The person who suffers from such mental disorders becomes a prey to voices and images that command him and guide his thoughts and feelings into nightmares of illogicality and disordered conduct, void of all adaptive powers.
Man's mental world, generated by the brain and depending on its biophysical condition and the state of the organism as a whole, presents a kind of relatively independent structure, with its own logic, its own specific mental mechanisms, the elements of this structure are mental states, processes and formations. Moreover, these elements may have several values and are not all of the same value. And it is this intimately profound subject of all mental phenomena in their integral wholeness that forms the Ego. This Ego is the spiritual nucleus in the structure of the personality. It is the very deepest and most profound part of it. In its essence it is psycho-social. When people speak of "my Self", they have in mind something that is not simply personal but intimately personal in the highest degree, something extremely precious and valuable and therefore vulnerable. Hence the phenome non of "hurt Ego", when the personality is wounded to the quick on its tenderest spot. It is damage to our Ego that causes our most painful and morbid reactions and moral suffering. The Ego is the throne of conscience itself.
The term "Ego" or "Self" also denotes the personality as seen in the light of its own self-consciousness, i.e., a personality as perceived by itself, as it is known and felt by the Self. The "Ego" is the regulative principle of mental life, the self-controlling force of the spirit; it is everything that we are essentially both for the world and for other people and, above all, for ourselves in our self-consciousness, self-appraisal and self-knowledge. The "Ego" presupposes know ledge of and a relationship to objective reality and a constant awareness of oneself in that reality.
Sensuous and conceptual images, states and goals are all part of the Ego, but they are not the Ego itself. The Ego rises above all the elements that compose the spirit and commands them, regulates their life.
Every personality has a large number of facets to its Ego—what it is in itself, how it is mirrored by its own self-consciousness (the "Ego image") in general and at a given moment in time, what kind of ideal Ego it conceives (what it would like to be), how it looks in the eyes of other people at a given moment, particularly the eyes of "those who are something" and also the "eyes" of the future and even, posthumously, of history, while among religious people it is important how the Ego looks in the "eyes" of God. All these constantly interflowing aspects of the Ego, glittering with their own specific colours, possess a certain stability, balance and harmony. The Ego is essentially reflexive. Its regulative and controlling power takes part in every act of the individual. It is not the separate mental processes, formations, properties and states, as was assumed by Hume and long before him by Plato, who urged his readers to think of themselves as wounderful living dolls manipulated by the gods. The internal states of the personality are controlled by very fine strings, which pull a person in various and sometimes opposite directions, some towards good and others towards the precipices of vice. But, one may ask, who pulls these strings? In Plato, it is a god who made these dolls, called human beings, either for his own divine pleasure or for some serious purpose unknown to us.
If we look at the problem through the categorial apparatus of modern culture, we find that our Ego is nothing but the integrity, the wholeness of our mental, intellectual world, notwithstanding its internal contradictions, which are nevertheless harmonised if, of course, the Ego is in order. The healthy vector of its energy flow is vitality-oriented, life-asserting and in general self-asserting. The means by which it asserts itself in the stream of existence depend on the level of its moral culture.
To recapitulate, the Ego is not just the sum-total of sense impressions; it is that to which all impressions are related. It is not only the vehicle of consciousness, self-consciousness, world-view and other intellectual phenomena, but also the core of a person's character, the expression of his principles and positions. It is a living bundle not simply of experience accumulated by the individual in action, but of the active and guiding force of experience, the power of selfhood, a certain psychic mechanism regulating this experience and expressed in the fact that the individual feels himself to be the master of his desires, emotions, thoughts, efforts of will and actions. Through the prism of our Ego we become aware of the difference between us and everything else, and feel the constant identity of ourselves with ourselves. The fact that the Ego performs the role of "master" in the spiritual world of our subjectivity is aptly illustrated by the phenomena of dreams. In dreams the "master" is absent or rather he is asleep; his controlling power is no longer active and hence the meaningless kaleidoscope of images, whose origin, direction and purpose we cannot understand any more than we can understand their connection with other equally strange guests of our soul.
In a normal waking state, however, the flow of our feelings and volitions has its own logic, a certain integrity and organising principle, and also a surprising stability of the whole amid this constant change of its elements. The Ego is something united in its diversity and variability. The Ego of our childhood is something quite different from the Ego of puberty and adolescence. The Ego of maturity differs substantially from the Ego of rebellious youth with its abundant hopes, and also from the Ego of old age and senility, burdened with physical disabilities and an intense awareness of the approaching and inevitable end.
The differences spanned by the age ladder, particularly between its top and bottom rungs, are so great that it is hardly believable that this is one and the same person. Evidently we all experience something similar when we look at photographs taken in our childhood, from which gaze the naive, innocent, inexperienced eyes of our distant and almost dream-like past. Our Ego may also change almost instantaneously, depending on the state of our health. It is different in a state of sickness from when we are healthy. At times of joy and inspiration and high flights of the intellect the Ego differs greatly from what it is when we are tired. And how enormously, sometimes beyond recognition, does the Ego change under the influence of drink! As the poet says:
|At every instant we are not the same.|
|All changes, changes not the name.|
At the same time in all this interflow of the changing Ego, in all conditions, something invariable, stable, integral is preserved which, like the thread of Ariadne guides a person through life, saving the something that is his Ego, the something that distinguishes it from any other Ego. Through out his life a person carries in himself all his ages, recorded on the "tape of memory". Without this thread that leads us along all the roads of life, our Ego would fall apart into separate, disintegrated acts of existence and feeling.
The Ego is impossible without concrete sensations, thoughts, feelings and motivations, principles, positions and value orientations. But sensations, thoughts and feelings constantly change, moving from one qualitative state to another. They may also be controlled, programmed, for example, as in the change of personality achieved by an actor. If the Ego were nothing more than these separate acts of consciousness, it would change together with them and there would be no unity in this diversity of constantly changing states. There are "situational personalities" who drift with life and become so malleable that they adapt to any situation, become mere playthings of circumstance. And there are also natures that are quite the opposite, integrated, stable, confidently and firmly following their chosen path in life.
The fact that the Ego remains relatively stable and can resist external influence is based on the brain's ability to record, store and reproduce information. A person regards even his childish pranks as his own, although they were performed by a different body and a different (child's) mind. Between our Ego of today and our Ego of yesterday lies a night full of dreams—the triumph of the unconscious, in which the chain of conscious acts is broken. There would be no continuity between these Egos but for the bridge of memory that spans the gap.
The plasticity and variability of our Ego reveals itself also in its changes of role. At work as a manager a person is different, for example, from what he is in the role of father of the family. When he finds himself in an official atmosphere a person cannot permit himself all that he does in the family circle. Constantly moving with the flow of life, every person changes his Ego on entering an office, his home, a railway carriage, an airoplane, theatre, hospital, and so on. Every day of our lives we are in motion, crossing various thresholds, entering this or that place, which has its own specific psychological atmosphere, requiring a certain readiness, a certain tuning of thought and feeling, a certain attitude and state of mind. Any change of situation influences our state in some way.
This is particularly apparent when a person is in critical situations, taking an examination, consulting his doctor, meeting somebody he loves, and so on. In order to cope with such situations a person must reckon with what lies beyond each "threshold of existence". But despite the amazing plasticity of our Ego, it possesses, when healthy, an internal connectedness, integrity and relative stability.
That this is so can be seen in cases of mental illness. Highly relevant to our understanding of the human Ego is the well-known syndrome of depersonalisation, which sometimes assumes the strangest forms of deformation of the personality, ranging from a diffused awareness of Self to the complete disappearance of self-awareness, when a person loses the sense of controlling his own feelings, thoughts and actions: I am no longer I. The initial stage of this mental disorder is derealisation, when reality is removed, alienated from the person; objects, events and people, without losing their empirical existence, become psychologically insignificant, unreal in the sense that the patient is incapable of establishing any meaningful contact with them. A wall rises between him and the world in general. He is alienated from his surroundings. He sees and understands but feels everything in a different way from what he did before. He loses his intelligent, comprehending sense of existence. The perception of things becomes a sensationless, "dead" fixation of only their outward appearance. In more serious cases, when depersonalisation in the full sense of the word takes place, the patient loses all sense of the reality of his own body. The body is alienated and seen as something extraneous, the patient ceases to be aware of any form of life activity. He suffers from complete apathy. His feelings are blunted, he no longer experiences any joy in life. All its emotional colours fade. Out of sheer necessity he tries to appear cheerful. But inwardly he is drained and empty and consumed by hopeless misery. At times of temporary depression, overfatigue, a bad mood, apathy evoked by certain unfavourable circumstances, such a state can, of course, overcome people who are mentally quite healthy. In such cases the zest for life is sometimes lost, everything seems grey, dull and uninteresting. But when the condition becomes permanent, it may cloud the reason, destroying the unity of the Ego, splitting or even causing pluralism.
Psychiatry has described cases of the so-called alternating Ego, when a person somehow has within himself two coexisting autonomous Egos, which take possession of him for periods of a few hours or even years. In such cases, when dominated by one Ego, a person is unaware of the existence of the other. Everything he does under the sway of his other Ego is ousted from his consciousness. The two Egos may be quite different from one another and even opposites. If the first Ego is shy, timid, indecisive and oversensitive, the second Ego may be very resolute, unceremonious, outgoing, free, and even impudent. The second Ego may know nothing at all about the life of the first. Sometimes one Ego is more grown up than the other.
Such is the tragedy of mental disorders. When a person is in a healthy state he carries through the whole of his life, through all its transformations, transmutations and states, the stable nucleus of his Ego, conditioned both by the unity of his bodily organisation, particularly the nervous system, and by the sturdy framework of character, temperament, and manner of feeling, thinking and acting. When remembering any stage of the path travelled, some surrender of principle or taste, a person tends to identify his present Self with the past, his childhood and youth, with mature age. Not everything in us flows away irredeemably with the river of oblivion.
Thus, the human Ego, while substantially changing under the influence of social conditions and together with growing knowledge, cultivated emotions and training of the will, and also with changes in physical states, health, and so on, nonetheless preserves its intrinsic integrity and relative stability. Thanks to the existence of certain essential invariable characteristics of the structure of his mental world, a person "remains himself". We move from one stage in life to another, carrying with us all the baggage of our intellectual gains, and change as this wealth increases and our physical organisation develops.
To sum up, at the point when the Ego comes into being there is a self-identification of the personality; it knows itself. The Ego is a unity, an entity of spiritual and physical existence. It is given as the vehicle of infinite relationships both with the surrounding world and with ourselves. These connections, while infinitely diverse, are possible only thanks to this unity and wholeness of mind as the system of the highest organisation of everything we know.