Monday, December 27, 2010

a merely-adaptive sense of self formation
vs. a progressive interest

I’m amazed at the pervasiveness of the adaptive mind in the “human” professions (education, health care, human sciences, etc.), because I’m wanting progressive inspiration for my progressive interests.

But I shouldn’t be amazed: So much of the world is not “up to par,” as they say. There’s so much suffering, thus so much remedial value to spreading healthy normalcy to all humanity. What is education for or health care for (thus the psychology that advances professions), if one isn’t giving high, high value to well-adapted lives, thus conceiving “well-being” accordingly? Nonetheless, this causes the human sciences (including positive psychology) to be prevalently oriented by desire to maximize adaptability, rather than thinking more progressively.

For children, we want to do what we can to at least provide a baseline of “protective factors for psychosocial resilience” (p. 126) which includes wanting for one’s child:
• easy temperament in infancy [thanks to good pre-natal and post-natal care]; adaptable personality later in development
• talents valued by self and society
• self regulation skills for self control of attention, arousal, and impulses
• general appealingness or attractiveness to others
• a positive outlook on life
• problem-solving skills
• positive self perceptions or self efficacy
• a sense of meaning in life
At best, that’s complemented by a range of aspects belonging to good families and close relationships; aspects of community and relationships with organizations (ibid). I do have realism about general conditions of normal good.

But one’s conception of development doesn’t have to be timid. Orientation to actualizing general normalcy is a lower valuing of “adaptation” than orientation to actualizing human potential. Pursuing the latter maximizes accomplishment of the former; pursuing the former does not educe promise of higher valuing. With all due regard for the lack of baseline humanity (rights, public health, decent quality of life, etc.) throughout much of the world, we are regularly inspired by the salience of high aspiration in developing areas. I’m carrying that admiration further in terms of interest in the horizons of excellence, albeit in my especially-interested way (which I do not pretend to evaluatively generalize). Progressive ambition has always been integral to humanistic ventures. But the human professions are not especially humanistic. They have a prevailing orientation to baseline adaptation (its about social costs, I guess) which denies the professions an ambitious conception of their calling (or “vision,” as they say). I’m not, in the near term, speaking directly to that lack by going my own way with highly aspirational (and often very conceptual) prospecting. But what goes up will come down.

Progressive prudence is very different from adaptive prudence. I deeply feel that adaptive resiliance is best conceived relative to aspirational self-efficacy. My sense of pragmatism is, heuristically speaking, a weave of idealism and realism. But pragmatism can be ambitious or timid. I consider the adaptationist horizon of the human professions to be opportunistically constrained (due at least to a budgetary legacy that has shaped professions’ conception). There’s easily an ethos of homeostasis in functionalist society that’s quietistic and, ultimately, unhumanistic. The classical ethos in philosophy of flourishing has always been “dangerous” to vested interests, if only because it asks for too much human development. It’s “unrealistic” to ask others to give primacy to their potential. It’s exhausting.

You can presume that all I want to do is ultimately for an advancement of humanistic union, though only in terms of what especially interests this one humanist, which is ultimately philosophical.