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2023年12月31日 (日)

Kimura Bin, The self as boundary,1997

Source of the title piece: "Gendai shi techo," May 1997, vol. 40, no. 5, pp. 26-30, special feature "Boundary ecriture.

This essay is not included in the book by Bin Kimura. Therefore, the only way to read this intellectually interesting essay by Kimura is to go to the library and look through the back issues of the magazine, or to buy the old magazine itself at a second-hand bookshop. If I had not subscribed to this minor magazine in the first place, I would never have known of its existence. I came to know about this essay entirely by chance, as I read it at work in the 2012 National Centre Test for University Entrance Examinations (Japanese) (but in a simplified version). It is extremely sad to see it buried, so I am posting it here in full, as it is a 30-year-old magazine article, and I will comply with any removal claims received from copyright holders.

My comments on this essay are varied. 'Mach bands and identity', 'Boundaries and the W.James fringe', 'Ortega and me/my environment', etc. None of them can be written about in a few minutes, so I'll do my best to post any of them during the New Year holidays. For now, I will post this essay before the end of the year.

Bin Kimura, The Self as Boundary, 1997.

Recently I had a happy experience. When I was teaching psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine of Kyoto University, I had several graduate students in clinical psychology from the Faculty of Education at Kyoto University and Kyoto Women's University each year as part of their clinical training, and they observed my outpatient consultations once a week. After each consultation, we would go together to a restaurant in the nearby Kyoto University Hall for an inexpensive lunch and talk about the patients we had seen that day. One happy occasion was that one year, a male student from Kyoto University and a female student from Kyoto Women's University, who had been practising together, met each other and got married and were invited to the reception.

The invitation letter from the woman said. 'If that training had ended only in the hospital, I would have thought of it as training, but I think it changed something in me to go to the Kyoto University Hall after each training session, have lunch and then leave .......' To put it bluntly, I could say that sharing lunch with him gave me a chance to get to know his personality. ......."

The psychiatric consultation is, in a sense, a serious contest between doctor and patient, where the doctor and patient confront each other for their own existence. The doctor, as the other to himself, cuts the patient, and the patient, as the other to himself, the doctor, with sparks. Out of these sparks something emerges that will eventually lead to the patient's healing, and for the doctor, something that will encourage his development as a psychiatrist. This something is the essence of psychiatry. This is why it is not something that should be shown to people. But because universities are places of education, they show this to medical students and young interns, as well as to trainees in clinical psychology. The tension of doing something that should not be done, the inconvenience of not being able to explain about the patient in front of the patient, and the fact that all of my 'interpersonal energy' is poured into a single patient, mean that the relationship with the trainees is rather tenuous. [Interview with Dr. M. H. Harris, University of California, Berkeley The reason we all went out to eat together after the consultation was to make up for the lack of educational atmosphere in the consultation room, a habit I had followed since my days at Nagoya City University before transferring to Kyoto University.

This educational consideration had the unexpected and heartwarming by-product of bringing two people together who happened to meet there. If her letter is to be believed, and I did not mean to be so devious, it would seem that sharing a meal with him changed things in some way and gave me a chance to get to know his personality in a way that I had not been able to during the training, and that they ended up loving each other and starting a family. They fell in love and started a family. What exactly is this change?

When we look at young patients with problems in the formation of the independent self, we notice that in many cases there are very few opportunities to sit down at home around the family table. It has been pointed out that such cases are particularly common among patients with anorexia and bulimia, which have been the subject of much discussion recently. There may be many reasons why a family mealtime is not possible, such as fathers who go to work early in the morning and come home late at night, mothers who are dual-income earners and cannot prepare meals, or children whose time is tied up with cram school or club activities. All of these phenomena are deeply rooted in the structure of modern society. It may be that a deep relationship exists between family mealtimes and healthy self-development, and that this has now become apparent, albeit reluctantly.

All living things, not just humans, maintain life by maintaining optimal contact with their environment at the boundary of their environment. Finding a spouse and carrying out reproductive and parental behaviour in order to leave offspring, taking shelter or changing residence to avoid cold, heat and wind, escaping from enemies or destroying competitors are also in line with the life-supporting purposes of living organisms in general. However, it is undisputed that, above all, feeding behaviour, in which living organisms take nourishment from their environment, is the most basic life-support activity at the boundary with the environment.

It goes without saying that each living organism carries out its life-supporting behaviour as an individual. Each individual acts for its own survival in contact with its unique environment, sometimes in cooperation with other individuals of the same species, and sometimes in competition with other individuals of the same or different species. In such cases, it goes without saying that the other individuals with whom an individual has a relationship also constitute a requirement for the individual's environment, and furthermore, the individual's own conditions (e.g. degree of hunger and fatigue, sexual desire, motor and sensory abilities) are added to the requirements of the environment in terms of the 'internal environment'. In this light, it is quite difficult to determine unambiguously what is meant by the interface or boundary between the individual and the environment. First and foremost, if all the conditions that constitute the individual itself are also regarded as the environment, then what does the 'individual' refer to in the first place? It is good that the environment is on the 'other side' of the boundary, but what is on 'this side' of the same boundary? It is unlikely that we can simply place individuals or their organisms there.

What about the case of multiple individuals? To simplify the discussion, let us consider the case of two people in a cooperative relationship with each other, for example a married couple. Even a husband and wife are still independent individuals, each living in their own unique world. I am living in the present, which is the accumulation of my experiences and memories since my childhood, and the same applies to my wife. These cannot simply be assimilated, or exchanged so to speak. But every couple has their own joint history since their marriage, which is also fundamentally different from other couples. This has led to the habit of unconsciously taking a coherent course of action in response to a situation, even if they don't discuss it out loud. In this sense, the couple can be regarded as a single 'individual'. The same can be said for whole families, long-standing friends or groups of people connected by common interests. In the case of animals other than humans, such as groups of fish or birds, or insects that form an orderly society, this tendency for the whole group to act as if it were an individual is even more evident.

In other words, even in the case of such groups, the reason why they behave in a coherent manner is that they seek optimal contact with the environment at the boundary, in the same way as individuals seek to maintain their survival, since their goal is the survival of the group as a whole, which can be thought of in the same way as the survival of individuals. And here, too, it is not possible to simply place the whole group on this 'side' of the boundary. Firstly, unlike the case of individuals, there is no such thing as a physical boundary between a group and its environment, and if we consider that each of the individuals that make up a group is an important internal environment for the group as a whole, we can see that this is not an easy task. The behaviour of each individual constituting a group is never fully assimilated into the behaviour of the group as a whole, but also corresponds to the individual needs of each individual. While each individual carries out its own life-supporting behaviour at the boundary with its environment, the group as a whole maintains a unified behaviour. It is unlikely that individual behaviour will destroy the control of the whole.

As we have seen above, the life-supporting activities of individual organisms and groups of organisms, which are considered to be similar to individuals, at the boundary between them and the environment have an unexpectedly complex structure, but this complexity increases dramatically when it comes to human groups, each of which has its own firm sense of self. The complexity increases dramatically in the case of a group of people, each of whom has a strong sense of self. For example, in the case of a family, even if the family shows relatively coherent behaviour in terms of contact with the external environment, within the family the self-consciousness and self-assertion of each individual comes to the surface much more strongly than in the case of animals. It is not uncommon for an individual's individual behaviour to destroy the cohesion of the family as a whole. Here, the confrontation between 'I' and 'others' other than me, which does not occur in non-human organisms, is clearly superior to the cohesion of the family as a group. It is not necessary to give examples of how the same thing can be seen in all human groups outside the family.

Various hypotheses are possible as to how self-consciousness came to be in human beings. But in any case, there is no doubt that it is a product of 'evolution'. The fact that it is a product of evolution means that it serves the purpose of survival. By acquiring a sense of self, humans have acquired new strategies in their negotiations with the environment. However, self-consciousness, which was originally supposed to be advantageous for survival, is sometimes in direct conflict with collective action, which is also supposed to be for survival. This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of man as an organism. What can be done to give the human dignity of self-consciousness back its original meaning?

The self-consciousness of the 'I' is not merely a consciousness of individuality. The degree to which each individual is aware that he or she is separate from other individuals is probably present in many other animals. Many animals have the ability to clearly identify themselves, and identification of other individuals and self-knowledge are two sides of the same cognitive function. Unlike this, humans are aware of themselves as a unique 'I', giving this first-person pronoun-expressed being the privileged meaning of being unique, absolutely separate from all other individuals (distinguished from others by a specific difference that is absolutely foreign to the differences among all other individuals). I. The 'I' is not an arbitrary point in a homogeneous space, so to speak, but rather a singular point, qualitatively different from all other points, as in the centre of a circle.

Between the self as such an 'I' and others, it is possible to conceive of a boundary in the form of what psychoanalysis calls an 'ego-boundary'. The "relationship between self and others" as it is commonly referred to is a psychological relationship that is exchanged on this boundary. There, too, two areas across the boundary are envisaged, where the other is placed in the external world and the self in the internal world. However, such an image is not appropriate when considering the self, the 'I', as a singularity. If the 'I' is the centre of the circle, then all others outside of me are outside the centre. Even the 'I' itself is pushed out of the centre as soon as it is aware of this. But the centre has no interior. Or if we see the centre itself as 'inside', then the centre is itself the boundary between 'inside' and 'outside'. The relationship between 'I' and the other is the same: 'I' occupies the irrational position of being both 'inside' and the boundary between 'inside' and 'outside' itself. The 'I' is, in fact, the 'ego-boundary' itself.

Unlike the boundary drawn in isospace, the boundary between the individual and the environment in life space has no 'inside', which should be on this 'side' of it. The same thing can be said in another way: living beings live this boundary as the boundary between themselves and what they are not. Human self-consciousness is born when we not only live, but are clearly aware of this 'boundary' between self and other. And this is true not only for the individual but also for the group as a whole. In the case of human beings, not only 'I' but also 'we' live and are aware of the boundaries with others.

If we project this onto physical space, all of life's activities take the form of boundaries. Conversely, all boundaries in the world around us (including both spatial and temporal boundaries) always contain an indefinable sign of life. This presence is what makes the boundary a mysterious place that cannot be explained rationally. Boundaries may be the dwelling place of life (or, to borrow Nietzsche's phrase, of the 'will to power') that has yet to take form.

Let us return to the subject of eating. Eating is the most basic activity of life. By sharing a meal ('eating from the same pot'), people who happen to meet each other are integrated into a single life group. An expanded private world of 'we' is formed. Of course, as human beings with a strong sense of self, the boundary between 'I' and others cannot be drowned out even within this group. However, they will be much more aware of this than in a group with which they do not share any life activity.

Modern societies are bringing such life spaces closer to isogeneous spaces at an accelerating rate. The singularity of the centre of a non-isogeneous field rooted in life is lost, and the 'I' can only barely maintain a private world as an omnipotent person in a virtual reality. 'We' also share a barely enclosed private fantasy only by setting up virtual enemies in the form of cults and totalitarianism. The family can no longer be more than an economic unit and a closely related residential unit. Even life itself is being deconstructed into a micro-life mechanism by molecular biology on the one hand, and reduced to a computerised network by computer simulations in the name of 'artificial life' and the subsequent 'back-simulation' of its re-application to the understanding of living organisms on the other. The other side of the spectrum is the computer simulation of 'artificial life' and its subsequent reapplication to the understanding of living organisms. There is no room left for living boundaries as a place of residence.

Even so, people still try to live. To live, they have to eat. Today's diet is represented by homogenous, simple meals mass-produced in fast-food restaurants. In contrast, the centripetal force of 'mother's taste', which is different from the rest of the world, is more than just nostalgia. The experience of table-top community is the best, and perhaps the easiest, way to recover the primordial 'we' and to live the boundary with the outside world as the place of 'we' and ourselves. Family time around the table is not only a prescription for psychiatric patients.


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« 木村敏「境界としての自己」1997年/Kimura Bin, The self as boundary,1997 | トップページ | Kimura Bin, "Das Selbst als Grenze", 1997 »