Concepts

To communicate meaningfully, we must define terms of discussion. The greater the precision of our definitions, the more powerful the deductions we can derive from those definitions. In number theory, we start with approximately ten axioms, and then elaborate their implications through a series of proofs. The power of the axioms is evident in their elaborations: from those simple axioms, we advance from calculations all the way through algebra, calculus and differential equations. All of classical physics and elementary quantum mechanics are subject to analysis through those methods.

Things are not so simple when the subject is human nature. Our personalities, the subject of discussion, are not susceptible to examination. The simplifying practice of science, to conduct experiments that reveal specific aspects of reality until a unifying whole can be synthesized, is not possible with personality. Much of our character is formed by experiences, largely inaccessible to memory, that occur before we are five. Some of these occur before birth. How are we to establish controlled conditions, when we did not control the development of mother and father?

If we can't fully understand the causes of our behavior, the next resort is to focus on describing behavior itself. If we can envision and describe our intentions accurately, at least we can avoid confusion and surprise when we actually carry out our plans. In constructive and open relationships, we can negotiate conduct in advance, and so hopefully succeed in creating the best possible result for all involved.

Of course, our relationship with ourselves has a special depth and meaning. In evolving our capacity to achieve our goals, we would be aided by an understanding of the basic skills that we have as humans.

This sketch establishes the plan for this section.