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									       THE MEANING OF THE PSYCHICAL


       Note: A full understanding of the following theses requires familiarity with the
       Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea, and in particular, an understanding of its
       theory of modalities. Nevertheless, this article is instructive for all in that it
       shows how one can argue a number of central issues in contemporary psychology
       by using a particular system of philosophy. I have structured the article in the
       form of a number of theses.

1       When discussing the meaning kernel (zinkern) of a modality, it is important to
realize that we are not talking about a characteristic of certain entities in reality such as
animals and human beings, but about „a way of being‟ of the whole of reality in which all
entities function. All created entities function psychically, or function (subjectively or
objectively) in the psychic modality.

2        When delimiting the psychical modality, it is important to note that it has sphere
sovereignty (i.e. it refers to a set of lawfulnesses that cannot be reduced to the lawfulness
of any other modality), and that it has sphere universality. (That is: the meaning kernels
of all other modalities are, and the order in which they occur in creation is analogically
reflected in the psychical modality). Only the meaning kernel of the psychical itself is
originally present in the psychical modality.

3       The irreducibility of the psychical modality is structurally guaranteed by the place
it occupies in the modal coherence of creation, and by its meaning kernel.

4       Something can only function as the meaning kernel of the psychical modality
when it
        a)    adequately explains all the phenomena currently under investigation in
              psychology (i.e. when we can demonstrate that all these phenomena are at
              bottom nothing but variations of the meaning kernel), or when it
        b)    serves to relegate those phenomena which it cannot subsume under its
              general heading to other modalities, thus, when we can demonstrate that
              certain phenomena, which now are unsuccessfully seen as illustrations of
              the meaning kernel of the psychical, are really better explained by the
              meaning kernel of another modality.

5       The meaning kernel of the psychical modality is Affekt. Whatever else psychical
phenomena are, they are always affektive phenomena. I have chosen the German word
“Affekt” to denote the precise content of the psychical meaning kernel. We define Affekt
as, „the subjective capacity of some created entities to be affected by... (“aangedaan
door”:
Dutch), and the objective capacity of all created entities to affect psychical subjects. The
term denotes that capacity and only that capacity. Any further qualification of affektive
phenomena must be seen as secondary to their meaning kernel, and due to analogous
anticipations or retrocipations of the psychical modality in other modalities. Affekt, for
example, must not be equated to emotionality or feeling only. The term also means to
include the meaning kernel of sensation, motivation, and condition-ability.

6       Biotic functioning is foundational for subjective affektive existence. All post-
biotic phenomena are affektive subjects unless their meaning content can be better
explained by the meaning kernel of a higher modality. Usually, subjective, affektive
functioning also requires the presence of a central nervous system, and/or an autonomic
nervous system, and/or sense organs. For example, whether, the functioning of amoebas
and the tropism of plants are to be considered subjective, affektive phenomena, must be
determined by detailed investigation. In any case, they appear to be limiting cases, which
in no way ought to determine the general rule.

7       Attention, perception, and awareness are not psychological, but respectively
analytical, formative and lingual phenomena. Generally speaking, the proper qualification
of these phenomena requires some form of action on the part of the subject. This
requirement is, per definition, lacking in psychical phenomena, which all have the
characteristic of “undergoing”, and “being done unto...”. Psychical phenomena “happen
to” psychical subjects. (This, parenthetically, is also why the problem of freedom and
determinism is, of all the sciences, most hotly debated in psychology). One might argue
that sensitivity as the active form of affektivity implies some form of action on the part of
the subject. If this is so, then sensitivity denotes the action of being passive, of receiving,
of being open/vulnerable to... thus, the ability to be affected by.

8       Attention is inherently selective. It is impossible to be affected by all psychical
objects (stimuli), (potentially) present in one‟s environment at any given time (in the
same manner or to the same degree). In its simplest form, „to attend‟ means to allow
oneself to be affected by some stimuli and not by others. Such action requires logical
discrimination of at least the kind that says “This, but not that”. The psychical counterpart
of attention, which also founds attention, is conditionability. In the latter, the state of the
environment or of the subject, rather than the action of the subject, determines what will
actually affect the subject. In attention, the subject uses his senses as tentacles to scan the
world. In conditionability, the senses and/or the world determine what of the world or the
senses will affect the subject.

9        Ever since the rise of Gestalt Psychology, it is generally accepted that the
meaning kernel of perception is “Gestaltation”, or forming. It is an active process that
forms analytically discriminated psychically affektive material (usually called
“sensations”) into percepts in accordance with a relatively free design or project. It is this
freely forming character of perception that is especially emphasized in so called “social
perception”, to indicate that people in different cultures and with differing personality
makeups, perceive the world in different ways. Perceptual phenomena are, therefore,
most often seen as personal or cultural phenomena. It is this personal or socio-cultural
characteristic that distinguishes perception from sensation. As the Asch experiments have
shown, this distinction even holds for so-called “physical perception”. Depending on
their “field dependency”, in accordance with group pressure, subjects can be made to
perceive the length of lines in a physically distorted fashion. It is interesting to note that
the problem which subjects must overcome in such experiments is the undeniable
evidence of their own senses, hence of sensation. The effects of sensory qualities occur
outside the activity of our will. We cannot help but see green as green, red as red, etc.

10 We can be affected by, we can attend to, and we can perceive respectively psychical,
analytical, and historical objects without awareness. These do not occur unconsciously
but subconsciously because they are potentially available to awareness. As biofeedback
experiments have shown, so are even such biotic phenomena as our vegetative
functioning, which hitherto were thought to be principally unavailable to awareness
because they normally occur automatically, thus without thought. Awareness is an
intrinsically lingual phenomenon because it requires symbolic activity on the part of a
lingual subject. Awareness is representational in character, it is necessarily always about
reality. Without the lingual activity of a subject who reflects on, and thus “duplicates”
reality in symbols as imagined reality, no awareness of reality is possible.

11       W. Ouweneel (De Psychische Modaliteit by Geestverwanten van Dooyeweerd.
Reformational Forum, vol.11, no.2, 1955, pp.13—32; and Hart en Ziel, Buyten en
Schipperheyn, 1984, pp.19—29), correctly sees that perception and emotion/feeling are
not reducible to one modality. In my view, however, his argument that this necessitates
the splitting of the psychical modality or aspect, into a perceptive and a sensitive aspect
or modality, is incorrect, since perception is not at all psychically but rather historially
(better term techno-formatively: Seerveldt) qualified. He is also incorrect when he
implies that perception precedes emotion/feeling in modal time because techno-formative
(or historial) subjects, (such as human beings and [certain?] animals), do not perceive, (or
form perceptual gestalts), until such time as when they are (emotionally) affected by
them.

12      For the sake of terminological clarity, it must be noted that for Ouweneel,
emotions/feelings are (inner) activities. For me, they are passivities. For him, perception
is passive (a being informed by the „external‟ world). For me, it is active (a forming by
us of our world, [and also a forming by us of ourselves!]).

13      Ouweneel struggles with an inner-outer problematics. He inherits these
problematics from (particularly European) psychology itself, and to some extent from
Reformed thought as well, (which according to Fernhout, Olthuis and DeGraaf is
monarchian in character. Thus Kuyper, Bavinck, and Waterink stress the ego, and
Dooyeweerd, the heart as a central core, inside human beings). An inner-outer
problematics drives us to speak about “something” hidden, unobservable „in‟ human
beings, about which per definition nothing can be said until it becomes observable and,
therefore, no longer hidden or „inner‟. This formulation also leads to a homunculus
theory of human nature. One tries to explain all „outer‟ observable phenomena in terms
of this hidden, unobservable, indescribable “thing”.

14      Ouweneel also struggles with an active-passive problematics, perhaps under the
influence of the „Nativism—Empiricism‟ debate in psychology. The context of this
debate is the relation of human beings to their environment or world. Empiricism states
that, with respect to the environment, human beings are passive and the environment
active. In this view, human beings are determined by their environment (cf. Locke‟s
associationism, Dewey‟s functionalism, Watson‟s behaviorism). This is a mechanistic
view. Nativism states that human beings are active with respect to their environment,
human beings form their environment (cf. Kant, Gestalt Psychology, Existentialistic
Phenomenology, Humanistic Psychology). It is a teleological view.

Fact is that both human beings and their environment are both active and both passive.
Moreover, human beings form themselves and are determined by themselves, quite apart
from the (influence of the) environment. Thoughts determine feelings, feelings determine
thoughts, both determine actions, and actions determine both thought and feeling. Human
beings are both active and passive to themselves. The same can be said for the
environment, apart from human beings.

With respect to perception, Gestalt Psychology takes a middle position vis a vis
Empiricism and Nativism. This school of psychology holds that perceptual subjects form
(the sense data of) the environment into Gestalts, -- but in accordance with gestalt (or
form) qualities inherent in the environment. Gestalt Psychology is a form of perceptual
interactionism.
There is an essential difference between sensation (gewaar-wording) and perception
(waar- neming), that has to do with the active-passive distinction. Therefore, perception
cannot be a psychical phenomenon. Ouweneel „s designation of sensory sensation
(zintuigelijke gewaar wording) as perceptive is a misnomer.

15      Ouweneel correctly states (Forum, p.19 contra Coetsee) that we can distinguish a
sensitive and a perceptive moment in drives. But, he fails to see that a drive moment can
also be distinguished in sensitive and perceptive phenomena. Thus, his argument that
drives are essentially either perceptive or sensitive phenomena does not hold. A drive is
not a sensation or a perception or an emotion.

16      I propose that we include sensation, motivation (drive), and emotion/feeling in the
psychical modality as meaning moments surrounding the meaning kernel of affekt. I
prefer to speak of sensory affekts (sensation), drive affekt (motivation), and mood affekt
(emotion). These respectively inform our lives, activate our lives, and colour our lives.
Sensory affekt is an anticipation on the analytical, drive affekt a retrocipation to the
kinematic, and mood affekt a retrocipation to the physical aspect. Other meaning
moments may also be distinguished in this manner.

17 In mapping out the psychical modality, we must not let ourselves be sidetracked by
such secondary distinctions as human being vs. animal, or normative vs. natural.
Dooyeweerd characterized these distinctions as modal distinctions. This has had the
unfortunate effect of saddling psychology with having to determine the difference
between people and animal. It has also placed the psychical in the awkward position of
being the boundary between the normative, and the natural modes of being. I propose that
we declare all aspects potentially both normative and natural, and that we declare human
beings as well as animals potentially capable of functioning subjectively in all modalities.
The number of modalities a given animal species genuinely functions in (subjectively),
can be determined empirically. This rids Christian psychology from having to
demonstrate that animal intelligence or socializing is not “really” that, but something less
than that. The essential distinction between human beings and animals then becomes that
human beings function in all aspects both naturally and normatively, whereas animals can
only function naturally.

18 With reference to the „truth functions‟ of motivation, emotion, and sensation,
psychologists qua scientists are not competent to determine the right motives by which
human beings should live, or the evil and the good that should make man sad or glad, or
the correctness of the states of affairs that should determine us when we sense the world
(e.g. the environment post-fall can lead us astray). All these are primarily religious, rather
than scientific questions. All psychology can do is determine the manner in which all
these affect us, rightly or wrongly. (We cannot scientifically, infallibly determine what
“ought to be” from what "is").

								
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