Self is the Process of Identity
Unfortunately, we don’t have a verb for self or identity. These are nouns and give a false impression that they are unchanging. Identity is a reference to individuality.
I’ve revised my diagram depicting the evolution of cognitive verbs to incorporate Varela’s self-referentiality->closure->autopoiesis->autonomy.
Self leads to modularity. The Self with Others leads to conflict. Empathy leads to a resolution between the Self and Others. This is depicted in a Peircian triad:
Varela described different autopoietic systems: “1) a minimal or cellular unity, 2) a bodily self in its immunologic foundations, 3) a cognitive perceptuo-motor self associated to animal behavior, 4) a sociolinguistic ‘I’’ of subjectivity, and 5) the collective social multi-individual totality.”
It’s difficult to explain cognition without using metaphors that relate to existing human metaphors of human cognition. When I use the word ‘empathy’, I imply a continuous spectrum that describes the overlap of an agent’s model and its perception of the world.
Organisms derive meaning through the interaction of their self-models with their environment. These interactions are constrained by the organisms existing understanding of their worlds (i.e. umwelt).
An organism can only understand the world if their models of the world overlap with the world. Hence I use the word empathy for lack of a better word.
Note that in Peirce signs, icons and indexes imply a cognitive ability to recognize an overlap (i.e. a similarity) and a causal relation respectively. To emphasize with another, one recognizes similarity and predicts the consequences of subsequent interactions.
If a person is described to lack empathy, then it is intuitive that the person is detached from this world. Detached in a manner that is unable to recognize the subjective perspective of another.
Kegan expressed the development of self as a widening empathy with one’s world:
The self interacts with its society that also has its development path. Formulated in Spiral Dynamics:
The problem of today’s society that is grossly ignorant of frameworks of complexity is that they inhabit one of the 3 bottom layers. Unfortunately, each layer is only able to comprehend the layer below it and not the layer above.
If self is a process of identity. Then a society’s development of identity is a kind of self.