by Carlo Carnevale
Il classico Mapping the Mind (1982) di Charles Hampden-Turner include sessanta modelli di mappatura dell’essere umano, della sua psiche. Le sue categorie di mappa spaziano dallo storico al religioso, fino a prospettive psicoanalitiche, esistenzialiste, psicosociali, creative, linguistico-simboliche, cibernetiche, strutturali e “paradigmatiche”. Dal Taoismo, Sant’Agostino, Blake, Darwin, Marx, Weber e Freud, fino a Lacan, Bateson, Chomsky e Varela. Per l’epoca, il testo di Hampden-Turner è estremamente sofisticato, ricco e accessibile; oggi il suo approccio necessita disperatamente di un aggiornamento.
If the best way to learn something is to acquire it through practice, the best way to approach a psychological system, a mapping of the self, is to apply it on oneself.
Applying a map of the psyche is simpler in the abstract dimension of theory and models. A map of the mind, of the self, however we may call it, depending on the mapping we adopt, might not be a thing at all, but have to do with how we experience the world qualitatively.
The situation becomes more complex when these mappings are then applied at an ecological level, where they integrate with the territory. This is where a theory of change becomes useful. In religious terms, the “theory of change” is essentially equivalent to the soteriological dimension: the theory of salvation (which religious scholars generalize to include theories of enlightenment, liberation, and so on). Theories of change arise from the idea that the state of things (being) is not good enough; that we could and, in some way, should do better (ought-to-be). In social theory, this fully equates to a theory of emancipation.
In conceptualizing our emotional relationship with the world we begin to get a hint of why the stakes are dizzyingly high. For central authors in the philosophical debate such as Whitehead and Peirce, affection, emotion and/or feeling are considered primary elements; cognition and behavior emerge depending on the feeling or affective tone that colors our interaction with the phenomenal world. This primacy of affection (and/or aesthetics) is discussed by Whitehead in his influential critique of the "bifurcation of nature" (a split between substantial entities and attributive intuitions) where a substantialist paradigm of nature is challenged (the ephemeral relationship between substance and attribute) dating back to Aristotle and deeply embedded in modern science and its ontology (The Concept of Nature, 1920).
«Being an abstraction does not mean that an entity is nothing. It simply means that its existence is only a factor of a more concrete element of nature. Thus an electron is abstract, because you cannot strip away the entire structure of events and still retain the existence of the electron».
Thus science is not «a fantasy tale: it does not have the task of inventing unknowable entities equipped with fantastic and arbitrary properties. […] science determines the characteristics of known things, that is, the characteristics of apparent nature. But we can also eliminate the term “apparent” since there is only one nature, that is, the nature that lies before us in perceptive knowledge.» (A. N. Whitehead, The Concept of Nature).
These, and other, procedural and relational concepts find a strong echo today in Buddhist, environmentalist, feminist, decolonial theories and in other lines of thought and it is extremely urgent to give back to experience and its qualities (and therefore also to emotions) a place in the discourse on nature in the West.
Keeping this primacy in mind, in a series of articles we will bring together some salient aspects of the debate in affective neuroscience and emotion.
Sources & Further Readings:
A. N. Whitehead, 1920, The Concept of Nature.
C. Hampden-Turner, 1982, Mapping the Mind.