Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Reply to comment

Paul Grobstein's picture

"I-function," "story teller," culture, and conflict

"It seems that many world cultures would define the individual much more in terms of relationship to community than in terms of individual or "self" properties."

Yep, and this indeed raises some interesting questions (here, and above and below). Along these lines there is a perhaps relevant story about the story we're developing. The "I-function" is an idiosyncratic neologism I developed for teaching purposes that was challenged by a student five or six years ago precisely on the grounds that it was not culturally universal. Partly for that reason, partly for others, I started using the term "story teller" instead of "I-function." And then had to wrestle with the question of what the relation is between the "I-function" and the "story teller". For some of this history of this, see The Art Historian and the Neurobiologist.

My current thinking is that the "I-function" is a subset of the "story teller," and it may indeed be different in different cultures, and in different people in the same culture. In particular one's story of oneself may be either primarily relational ("I am defined by my relations to other people") or primarily individualistic ("I exist and I have relationships with other people"). At the same time, there is a "primal" characteristic of the "I-function": it is what one most directly experiences ("primary story") and what cannot be challenged by others. Someone may challenge one's story of why one is in pain, but cannot, in these terms, challenge that pain is being experienced. The only one who can know how one feels at any given time is oneself (though others may see signs of relevant unconscious activities that one is not oneself aware of).

Yep, I think there is more than adequate grounds for conflict in all of this, both within people and between people and other people (up to and including culture). My guess is that one will find evidence of conflict both in individualistic and in community oriented cultures, but that expressions of that conflict will be different. As will the new stories that emerge from the various conflicts.



The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
5 + 8 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.