Change, Threat and the Mutable Self
Thu, 21 Mar 1996 23:39:44 -0500
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Change, Threat and the Mutability of Self
Aristotle described four types of changes and they may have relevance to =
disagreements I have with the death treat theory of Neimeyer and Epting.
Three of the types involve motion: Changes in Quantity, Place, and Change=
Aristotle called these "accidental changes." The fourth type of change
concerns generation (life) and corruption (death). These types of change=
have relevance to the issue of the changes of the self across contexts, a=
alluded to by John Fisher. The fourth type, concerning generation/corrupt=
also has to do with what I have called "nature's causation" in my
conversations with Lois. It is a kind of instant change, as when we insta=
add X1 and X2 and instantly get Y. Aristotle grounded his notion of
"natural" or generative cause in the substance. The variations I describe=
self going through across the 50 or so contexts, generally concern the
"accidental variations" of Aristotle, at least when we are using grids.
Accidental changes concern variations of the self that do not violate th=
identity (being) of the self. For example, we may be happy in some contex=
sad in others, precise in our thinking in some sitations, and rather loos=
e in
others. But regardless, we can still integrate this variety by a permeabl=
core construct (The Self) so that we do not have the being of our core
corrupted. This is not to say the accidental predicates do not characteri=
our being.They do, but not totally. In the winter, a tree may have no lea=
As the seasons progress, the leaves come and go, changing their nature an=
that of the tree. But the tree and the person remain the same tree and
person. =

Such accidental changes need not constitute a threat to the person. If th=
person differentiates a community of selves, including, perhaps those
included in my posting Death Threat and Community of Selves, the person m=
actualize each of these selves, at differrent times and places, without
corrupting The Self. Assume that The Self is the substantial person,
including all her variations. Such accidental changes will not be threate=
to the person. They fall under Aristotle's notion of
potential/actualization. There is the potential for red leaves in the fal=
and this potential is actualized in October. The notions I forwarded in =
Death and Community postings, as well as posting to Lois on actualization=
concern the actualization of potential selves. =

Corresponding regressions will reflect those contexts across which the
accidental building blocks of nature contribute to the existence of the
Self. Mary-like may be characterized as the sum of living self, fulfill=
self, validated self, resting self, dead self, fragmented self, threate=
self and challenged self. Each of these are seasons of The Self, and if e=
were rated across various contexts they might be causally independent of =
another but add up to Maryness. The Cronbach's alpha would be low for the=

items constituting the total score Maryness. She is factorially complex i=
her mutations.
Where death threat theory runs into trouble is that they confound changes=
place with generation/corruption. If the person's living self is semantic=
near dying self, then less threat is assumed to occur. There is less dist=
to travel when death surfaces. Less motion would be needed in the change.=
Death- REAL Death- is corruption. It is not a change based in motion, but=
decomposition. Death threat theory assumes nearness in place will prevent=
threat of change by motion, but real death is the decomposition of the Se=
not a shift from one accidental potential to another. =

Decomposition concerns a violation that is more akin to logical
inconsistency. The identity principle is violated, P=3Dnot P. With this
violation there is change but not the motions that occur in seasonal
accidents of the Self. Death threat theorists fail to see that a person
could be threatened by the very nearness of the living self and dying sel=
This might change suddenly when nature forces upon a cognitively simple
construct system the recognition of the difference between the anticipati=
of dying (accidental variation of self) with the natural reality of
corruption. This is where the issue of denial and simple lack of
imagination enters the picture with cognitive simplicity. Getting 20 or s=
students to imagine death, as Neimyer did in his rebuttal to my early
criticism of death threat, is an exercise in accidental anticipation.
Watching a child die from a stroke or a loved one from suicide is rather
closer to true corruption. In the latter cases one is less likely to pain=
t a
Polyanna face on death, and go with the flow.
Of course death threat theorists fall in a long philosophical tradition o=
mechanics. Since Descartes and Locke, change has been associated exclusi=
with motion. This is why correlations and their "city cousin"- calculus, =
the methods of choice in modern science. Corresponding regressions, being=

based in tautological statements concerning being and not requiring time =
motion 1+1=3D2 (independent of any time or motion), seems so strange to t=
mechanics. When substances lose their formal building blocks, they vanis=
h in
corruption... to the world of souls and God and of pure transparent
Nothingness- casting neither shadows not leaves with the seasons. As
Aristotle's prime matter, they are without form and free, incomprehensibl=
e to
us, except perhaps by philosophy and the Grace of God, and we go through =
changes, hoping with Shakespeare that "Love is not love which alters when=
alteration finds."