Mental Faculties

Much of our personal energy is spent managing the subjective reality of our minds. Even the professional athlete participates in tactical analysis, or at least to the degree required to respond to the tactics of his competitor. An assembly line worker, at the most minimal level, evolves behavior to maximize productivity and manage repetitive stress. And the prostitute engages in creative psychological manipulation that allows her to successfully capture, and then disengage, the interest of her clients.

I organize our mental faculties into three categories: primitive, reflective and synthetic. There may be more sophisticated characterizations. The partitioning reflects a sense of the arc of their development. We enter life with the primitive capacities. The reflective capacities are attainments that allow us to suppress magical thinking in favor of respectful rational inquiry, and the synthetic capacities are the hallmark of maturity.

If we consider ourselves as explorations, we can choose to be an active or passive part of the party. Applying the reflective capacities to our primitive capacities allows us to refine, extend and integrate them more effectively. The synthetic capacities enable us to focus our faculties to a chosen purpose. We stop playing at the game, and start guiding it.

With this kind of feedback in place, the reader might guess that the process is open-ended. This is true. I have come to understand that the resources of the human personality support expression of these faculties to any degree necessary to our survival. Since our survival, at this point in our history, is largely determined by our competition with other humans, every personal advance demands another. The bounding condition on this scaling process may be the ability to the Earth to support life. In that case, the expression of human personality may be driven, in short order, to a new phase. I defer this analysis to the appropriate context.