Sunday, August 16, 2009

growing up as exemplifying our humanity singularly

I’m not going to dwell soon on child development, though Gopnik’s breezy The Philosophical Baby (see the last 2 paragraphs of last week’s posting) might be a good way into recent theory, e.g., Katherine Nelson’s important Young Minds in Social Worlds, Harvard, 2007.

Yet, dwelling on child development is something I could do: As of today, I have 49 titles identified for that pursuit. I’m especially interested in conceptual development, creativity, and ethical life. I’ll indicate a few titles, to provide a sense of what interests me:
The Origin of Concepts, Susan Carey, Oxford 2009
Conceptual Self in Context, Ulric Neisser, Cambridge 1997
Empathy and Moral Development, M.L. Hoffman, Cambridge 2001
Ethical Formation, Sabina Lovibond, Harvard 2002
Creativity and Development, R. Keith Sawyer, Oxford 2003
Conceptions of Giftedness, R. J. Sternberg, ed., Cambridge 2005
Character Strengths and Virtues, C. Peterson, ed., Oxford 2004.

In the beginning, you know, our humanity was a now-irretrievable mix of ethnicities (“tribes”) spread across central and southern Asia, survivors of “recent” ice ages—aggregately, diffusely, called the IndoEuropeans, echoed now at least in linguistic legacy, etymologically, a human trace of being in Big Time, so to speak, such that the root of some English words are traceable to Sanskrit as well as Greek.

They spoke, and we are. There was/is Sanskrit’s janati: “he begets,” from jana, “person.” Persons beget. Greek gignesthai (later, Latin’s gignere), “to be born” spawned (from Greek and Sanskrit) Greek genos (Latin genus): race, kin, kind; i.e., the kindred differentiations we may now make as “race,” “kin,” and “kind” were first a synergy of undifferentiated meaning—appreciable only retrospectively as such—genos. A genos spreads across the Earth, not yet differentiated as to race vs. kin, kin vs. kind. “We” were a genos, diasporic by nature, wanderers, wonderers by nature.

From genos was born genea: birth, race, family. In genea, the sense of our kind as kindred with our birth bears the legacy of Greek gignesthai. Old Norse kyn becomes High German kind (pronounced “kent”), “child.” From the sense of kindredness comes the sense of kind as belonging to us, primarily ascribed to how we are: a kind of kindredness. To be kind was, in Middle English, to be consistent with nature, fitting, to be of a good variety or in thriving condition, one of a kind, so exemplary, kind in its kind, thus kind to its kind, having an affectionate nature born of one’s kind, kind in its very kindness, echoing a lineage of genos.

Genesis: the origin or coming into being. Yet, ‘being’ comes from Sanskrit bhavati and Greek phyein, Latin fui, Gothic bauen, Old Norse bUa, “to live, to dwell,” Middle English bEen. Genesis: the coming into living, into dwelling, not like the rock merely present, rather living, inhabiting.

But these days when one is academically referring to child development, ontogeny is often used (or its variant ontogenesis). Ont- comes from another Greek sense of being, einai: “to be,” as enactive existence, individual living “thing,” organism. Ontogeny: coming to fully inhabit our kind of world, a fullness of flowering presence—a sense lost in its scientized definition: “the biological development or course of development of an individual organism” (from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged, citing the term’s etymology as “International Scientific Vocabulary”).

So, I would pursue ontogeny relative to a fullness of human flourishing, born of The Deep, instilling her/his ecstatic self-possession in the world as if there were no history before him/her, yet-another flower of possible originality that may elude all frames of mind entertaining her/him.

S/He comes into the Conversation of humanity, s/he portends some art of living through his/her—hiers?—embodiment (ungendered, as well as gendered), sensuality, perceptiveness, capacity for novelty, eros of bricolagic synergy, odd kinds of gardening, and high-altitude flight, writing life by sundry means.

May s/he show exemplary kindness, may s/he show insatiable love of learning, play, and constructiveness.

In an entirely different key, there is pure theory—which is not at all contrary to a figurative sense of well growing: “We shall distinguish, in our theory, between effective and defective functioning, according to 7 ontogenic modalities,” says one theoretical chapter of Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual (Alliance of Psychoanalytic Organizations, 2006, pp. 442-468):
• Self-regulation and interest in the world (homeostasis): espectially during 0–3 months of life
• Forming relationships, attachment, and engagement: 2–7 mos
• Two-way, purposeful communication (somatopsychological differentiation): 3–10 mos
• Behavioral organization, problem-solving, and internalization: a complex sense of self: 9–18 mos
• Representational capacity: 18–30 mos
• Representational differentiation (building logical bridges between ideas and emotional thinking): 30–48 mos
• Higher levels of mental (ego) functioning
I like that seventh one: the nebulous “higher levels.” “Well, things happen so differently per individual that theoretical synopsis may offer a mere wave of the hand.”

I seek and honor capability, responsiveness, and inspiring appreciations. I’m especially impressed by innovative conceptuality (not mere conceptual novelty). We become walking theater, maybe deftly playing a kind of politics, as if “deliberate dishonesty” could be a kind of graciousness or playful invalidation a kind of affectionate reserve—Self hidden in protean plays of persona.

Be a field trip in the ways of valuing, ethicality, and inspired inquiry. Be well-grounded in healthy thinking, yet an exemplary individuality, gaining character and a happy identity in one’s ownmost way.

There so is some hierarchy of needs (and many ways of doing a model). Be in throes of self-actualization (yet something better than “transcendence,” is available, I think, in discursive wayfaring).

Grow up into good sense, valuing realism, showing care reliably, living in good health, having ample self-efficacy, gaining easy admirability, persisting in curiosity, standing for reasonability and holism, and loving truth.

Have purpose, durable Purpose, to which your identity is wedded. But stay open to changing aims in living fruitfully with developing, evolving realities. Yet, do live, really live, making your life a working art.