Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Phase Transitions: Habit, Novelty, and Emergence

Why are humans so different from the rest of nature? 
Is the progression of the universe just a chaotic march without direction?  
Or does the unfolding of the universe follow a pattern? 
If so, how do humans fit into the pattern?

Life is known for its diversity. Evolution has produced a myriad of organic forms which we call the web of life. Throughout all this variety, there are underlying commonalities which bind everything under the classification of life; these commonalities include things like reproduction, metabolism, death/birth, genetic makeup, etc. But for some, there seems to be an organism unlike the rest. Granted, all organisms are unique in their own right, but this animal is unique in a way that is different from all others. This organism is unique because it has inhabited a space in nature all of its own. This is the space of mind which the human is defined by. The homo sapient means the one who knows or wise one. This act of knowing constitutes a new kind of landscape or territory that no other organism inhabits, filled with symbols, abstractions, meaning, and purpose. However this process of opening up new frontiers is not unique to humans, for that procedure is inherent to the universe, and represents a phase transition between biological life, and teleological mind.

The cosmos, as chaotic as it may seem, has an underlying rhythm or process to it. Since the big bang, the unfolding of the universe has followed a specific pattern: more novelty and less habit over time. That is, at the start of the universe, things being very simple, habit is at its peak; the low organization of matter in the early universe lacks the variety necessary for novel or new things to emerge. As the universe ages and grows in complexity, novelty is allowed to emerge, actualizing the potential of matter. Novelty is then seen as the continuous development of new forms of matter and energy, which add to the totality of existence in the universe. Novelty is that in the present moment which is different from what came prior to it in time. In a nutshell, habit is/are repeated processes, while novelty is/are the new variation on those repeated processes.

Its clear to see how the growth of the universe is one from mostly habit (nothingness) to first a little, then an exponential growth of novelty through new forms and complexity. The novelty as it grows, finds itself nested within the repeated process of habit; an example of novelty nested inside of habit would be a a kind a of variation on a repeated process. This kind of subtle intrusion does grow over time, leading a habitual process to become something different altogether in time. But as novelty grows within habit, habit does not disappear; instead habit acts as the base for variation and novelty to grow upon. Therefore, for every novel form, habit stands as its base providing the stock to alter into new forms. To illustrate novelty nested in habit, one would think of phenomenon like the combining of base parts in DNA, genetic reproduction and mutation, or staple foods and the varied spices/flavors. This means that there is no super-novel state in the future where all habit is atrophied. Rather, novelty will continue to grow, but with habit at its base. The same is for habit: at the start of the universe, the big bang itself was the novel event within the habit of nothingness. This makes sense as the two are defined by contrast with the other. Novelty is always based on or nested within habit, although the former can outweigh the latter.

As the universe progresses to greater and greater novelty, it undoubtedly goes through changes. Things like new chemicals, life forms, elements, etc, all represents changes comprising the leading edge of novelty. Changes happen constantly, but there comes a time when a change is so radically novel, its emergence adds a new layer to existence. That is the novel is so radical, it constitutes the new base habit for all novelty thereafter; this radically novel change we can call emergence, adding a novel tier or level to existence. For example, when the early universe only contained subatomic and atomic particles, any novelty was confined to the domain of pure physics. It was only with the interaction of atoms that the novel layer or tier of chemistry emerged; novelty was then after bootstrapped to the level of chemical interactions. This makes sense as what makes physics and chemistry differ is that the latter is concerned with the interactions of the parts, while the former is only concerned with the parts and their make up. Biology emerging from chemistry brings in a force against natural entropy; this brings a change so radical to the make up of physical chemistry- anti-entropy as metabolism and reproduction- biology becomes a new tier or layer on reality. The emergence of new layers or tiers of reality continue on- from physics to chemistry, from chemistry to biology, and currently, from biology to mind. Each novel layer becomes the base habit in which new novelty emerges.

The concept of emergence comes from systems theory. There are two kinds: strong and weak. Weak emergence refers to any kind of complexity which can be easily reduced to its parts. Strong emergence on the other hand, refers to a whole which is not directly reducible to its parts. This lack of reductionism is what constitutes a new tier or layer to reality. Therefore, each level strongly emerges from the other; this act of emerging novel layers is called a phase transition An example of strong emergence can be seen in the phase transition between physics and chemistry: both the elements hydrogen and oxygen have properties very different from water. Having its own properties, water is made of two elements which do not resemble any of its properties. This fact illustrates how the properties of water can emerge from two elements which have no continuous proprieties between them. Thus every phase transition is a strong emergence in which the prior proprieties do not relate to the novel form on a one to one basis. Simply, the whole is not the sum of its parts.

Some argue that a whole can only be made up of its parts. What they fail to see is that what makes up or organizes a whole is much more then its parts; what a whole leaves out constitutes it's form as much as what it's made of. As things become more complex or novel, they adopt constraints which limit their freedom; that is, the more freedom a system has, the less structured or complex it is. For instance, in order for an engine to work properly, its parts need to be restricted in their movement. The more freedom the parts have to move, the less the engine can work properly. Hence freedom in any system mean less organization, and the lack of freedom helps organize the form. This makes sense as complexity is a restraint on potential freedom. What's missing in turn structures the form as much as any part of it could- this is how something can be made up of more or perhaps less of what its parts are.

When it comes to humans, we represent another novel layer to reality because of our unique kinds of consciousnesses and what it reveals/adds to the environment. Because of our animal drives and bodies, some may forget that they are much more then an animal, or then any biological life form all together. Although its true that the human is an animal, it is also much more. A quick glance at the ecology of the earth shows one species to be the most pervasive, as if it was an invasion. Homo sapiens have controlled the environment in a way unmatched by any other life form. On top of that, humans inhabit a novel space in reality made up of symbols and abstractions inaccessible to the rest of life. It's as if humanity's environmental niche is not anywhere in the physical environment, but rather inside the minds, society, and culture of each person. This gives humans an obvious advantage in the evolutionary game. With the power to abstract and make symbols, a new landscape or territory emerges that is available to all humans. This extra/super space which makes up the new layer or tier of reality for novelty to emerge from, naturally becomes a zone of concern for humans. Because of this, humans have concerns unlike all other life forms. Whereas most organisms only concern is either the fullness of their stomachs or the propagation of their genes, humans have a whole slew of involvements and anxieties altogether removed from the physical environment; their concerns deal with abstracts like time, death, love, honor, justice, etc. In essence, the emergence of human thoughts and cognition in general represents a new direction for novelty; cultural evolution has taken the novelty baton from biological evolution; the human mind deals with multiple realities.

Part of what makes the human more then a biological creature is not only the mind, but the evolving technology it creates and utilizes. Most of what makes humans unique is their tool use. Tools and technology in general are very broad and involve any innovation from language to stone axes. Humans not only create technology, they are shaped by it; that is, if one removes technology from a persons development, they will not come close to behaving or being human. Take for instance the tragic stories of feral children who grow up empty of human language and culture. These individuals are unable to participate in human society or culture. Because of this, they are restricted to lives with concerns of bodily sensation and its immediate feelings, just like many animals. Its plain to see how without culture or language, a person ceases to be just that, and assumes the existence of a sole biological organism: an animal- not a human. Cultural evolution’s is were the emerging novelty is situated at this time. Therefore, if someone is not able to participate in cultural evolution, they cannot be apart of the landscape or territory were the emergence of novelty is taking place. Humans thus represent a interdependence of different process (biological, social, cultural, technological) which facilitate the emergence of a new tier to reality: a teleological or purposeful layer added to existence.

If there was a pivotal moment when the human species first phase transitioned, it was perhaps when a key component was added to the human diet. This aspect is what started to separate the humans from other hominids. This ingredient must have provided the catalyst for the human imagination to grow and move in the direction of novel territory. That is, this food may have been the push in the direction of the novel landscape, territory, layer, or tier of reality for the human mind. Perhaps, before this push, the human mind occupied the same space as other animals. The question remains: why did this ingredient only produce this change in humans and not other hominids or animals? This can be so because of chance: perhaps the human brain or body acted like a puzzle piece, with the food acting as the other fitting piece; both pieces are unique so they only fit each other. This is a possible explanation which leaves it all up to chance and gives a reason for humans exclusive transformation. It seems that this specific kind of food acted as the catalyst which propelled the human mind into novel territory or landscape in reality.

There is good reason to believe that the key ingredient must have been a group of mushrooms which contain a psychoactive chemical called psilocybin; this chemical is a psychoactive one meaning it affects mood. This class of drug/compound is known as a serotonergic psychedelic- works on the serotonin neurotransmitter. First, these kinds of mushrooms are found all over the world, making them very accessible to foraging early humans. Second, they are ready to eat in their natural form, requiring no preparation, making consumption very easy. Third, the chemical is readily metabolized in the body and is virtually non-toxic. Fourth, the compound is very compatible with the brain, working with it to produce the changes. Lastly and most importantly, the psychological effects of the chemical facilitate a feeling of portentousness; this pertains to a feeling of experiencing more then one can comprehend. This creates significance toward things beyond immediate appearances. This feeling lays the seeds for all kinds of cultural and abstract sensibilities to be developed and elaborated. The feeling of portentousness helps open the door for uniquely human concerns by shifting attention from the biological plane, and into the teleological or purposeful plane- the new layer on top of biology. These reasons show how the chemical in these kinds of mushrooms may have provided the catalyst for human thought and behavior to leave the domain of pure biology, and into the novel landscape of symbols, abstractions, meaning, and purpose.

A rough outline of how humans went from biological hominids to teleological humans would start around 200,000 years ago, when anatomically modern humans first appeared. Archaeological evidence shows that human uniqueness as culture began around 70,000 years ago. Between these periods, humans must of lived like many other hominids. The encounter with the mushrooms must of happened in different locations at different times during this period. Upon first experiencing the effects of expanded consciousness and feelings of portentousness, people in awe must of rushed to describe their ineffable experiences to each other; this is much like today and through history, people always have painstakingly attempted to convey their mystical or expanded states of mind, despite their ineffability. Because of this drive to share their experiences, people started pushing the power of what language could communicate. The push for new metaphors and phrases created the space for thought to inhabit when concerned with unique human aspects like purpose, meaning, time, justice, morality, religion, etc. Then as people were expanding their use of language, they probably became settled in a single spot to either obverse its significance, or to share their experiences. Another possibility has the psychedelic effect of synthesia-blending of the senses- may have provided the guide to link abstractions with mouth noises- helping develop language. It's important to note that the oldest human settlement was created before the advent of farming (Göbekli Tepe). Therefore the orthodox idea of farming first then settlements may be wrong. People may have been establishing settlements because of their experiences of portentousness and their effort to share their experiences with others. As time went on, people settled in one spot may have encountered others who where still nomadic. These settlements may have been a place to share tips and could have been where the idea of farming was first mentioned and spread from. This shows how cultural evolution emerges from biological evolution as novelty is bootstrapped into realm of memes. The reason human thought and consciousness have emerged into a new landscape of reality is because psilocybin acted as a catalyst, propelling the human mind into new territories of meaning and purpose.

Many evolutionary biologists admit that humans typify an anomaly of natural processes. Factors like the doubling of the brain size, progressive tool use, language and culture, our stark difference relative to other primates, our motor and thinking ability, the rapid development of the changes, etc, support this idea. Using this model of emerging novelty from habit, which adds layers to reality, with humans representing a new tier of reality- a new landscape or territory- the anomaly ceases to be so. Reality has progressed from psychics, to chemistry, to biology, and currently, teleology. The growth of novelty will continue as another novel layer emerges from teleology. Till then, the human species is at the cutting edge of the universe's drive toward greater novelty out of habit.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Liberty and Security: The False Dilemma

Minarchism, not anarchism, is the way to liberty!

Liberty is one of the foundational beliefs in American political philosophy. It represents freedom in our choices. A libertarian is someone who thinks liberty is the highest political virtue.

Lately it seems we have forgotten that the USA's main political end is liberty. But some see the idea as more of a danger then a necessity. Hoping to prevent another terrorist attack, many are willing to give up their liberties in return for physical safety. What they fail to understand is that protecting liberty ensures the greatest security. Many have the wrong idea of safety, relating it to only their physical security, rather then their potential to express freedom of choice- expressing their liberty to act. In accordance with this idea of safety, the federal government should decrease drastically in size becoming a minarchistic state also known as a night watchman state- with a few additions pertaining to social services for the under privileged. Gaining liberty does not mean giving up security.

Many think- as shown by the loss of our privacy and civil liberties- that the relationship between liberty and safety is an asymmetrical one. That is, more of one causes less of the other. If liberty represents our freedom of choice and from oppression, then security should not interfere with it. Security means to be free from harm or threat to our potential, not just our physical bodies.

At this point, it may seem reasonable to assume that a restriction on liberty ensures some safety by reducing the potential of an attack. This view of safety is skewed. If safety means a restriction on personal potential or liberty, then by that logic, we should all be in prisons, because its only then that the individual is virtually free from harm; yet, there seems to be something wrong with living in a prison, even though its safe: our lack of free choice. True security is the protection from harm to the potential of the individual. This means a person is most secure when they are able to exercise their liberty or potential to the fullest. A security of this kind would focus on threats to the liberty of the person, rather then the blatant physical safety which leads to oppression via a police state. The negative about protecting physical safety over liberty is that it leads to oppression, and people are not able to thrive. If a society is not able to thrive with their liberty, then no matter how free from physical harm they may be, the society is still worse off then if the physical safety of the people was compromised but liberty was fully protected. This is because that society would have a tyranny that is much worse then a vague possible threat. The security state will unavoidably overstep its bounds. As long as people are able to thrive, there should be not much reason for people to hurt each other. Most crime is done because the criminal lacks something which is made up with the crime.

One concern is that some people think a society which upholds libertarianism would leave people without social assistance. This concern ignores the two fundamental kinds of liberty: positive and negative. The one most are familiar with is negative liberty. This is the liberty or freedom from outside forces and oppression, as long as the person does not violate other peoples liberty. The lesser known kind, positive liberty, means the liberty to have the resources and potential available to fulfill one's choices. Therefore, people who are in poverty, or have a lack of education, or are sick, do not have positive liberty. In order to have positive liberties, these kinds of social ills must be dealt with so as to allow people to thrive with their freedom. Therefore, with these kinds of liberty in practice, the concern of people who are underprivileged can have a chance to better there situation and thrive with their freedom.

A misconception is that libertarian and anarchist are synonyms. This is not true; in order to secure these liberties, there must be some form of collective authority- validated by voluntary convention- to protect these liberties. Because of this, a limited form of government is needed. So in contrast to an anarchist a minarchist is one who believe government should be restricted to protecting people from aggression, theft, breach of contract, fraud. The only government organizations would be police and fire departments, courts, legislative and executive branches. I would add- because of positive liberty- the services of healthcare, and education, because if a person is sick or undereducated, they are able to exercise their liberty to the fullest. These social services need not come from tax money, but can come about though voluntary measures like tax credits or encouraged incentives. Hence, a libertarian society does not have to resort to anarchism, or ignore the needs of underprivileged people.

Familiarizing oneself with both kinds of liberty, one can see how the common misconception that liberty means giving up security or social assistance is a facile one. It ignores how broad liberty and its philosophy really are. This is because people see safety as only physical safety. Once the true definition of safety is learned- that it pertains to the potential to exercise liberty and not only physical safety- one is ready and able to understand how upholding and protecting liberty should be restored to the forefront political concern in the united states; a minarchist form of federal government would best uphold and protect the liberty of the people.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Thoughts On Entering Graduate School And “Escaping The Real World”

I’m about to enter graduate school this fall. I am going for my masters in psychology, which I hope to act as a steppingstone toward my acceptance in a PhD program in social-cognitive psychology, perhaps with a specialty in human evolution. Some feel that the choice of a PhD is an alternative to life in the “real world”. A life outside of direct concern for markets and finance. An idle life of contemplation, not bothered by the worries of ordinary reality. Some might say an escape. 

With that said, my career goals are not exactly clear for most outside of academia. Most upon hearing my choice of study immediately begin to ask me to evaluate and diagnose some person they know, who is alleged to be anything from slightly odd to completely insane. I usually try to cheerfully tell them I’m not going to work in the mental health field. That ordinarily sparks the question of what I actually do then. I then explain I’m more of a scientist/researcher and not a medical professional; I would mainly conduct experiments or research and write papers on them. 

Most have no idea that this is what many in the field of psychology do; its not all mental health. Part of the reason for this ignorance is that our society is driven by market economics. If the job is not either high paying or in high demand, its not seen as too important. Increasing GDP is the name of the economic game. 

I once had a conversation with a graduate student while I was an undergrad about entering graduate school. He told me that most feel that the choice is one of leaving the “real world” of practicality and entering, to put it lamely, a fantasy. I snapped at him and questioned if a person acting as a paper pusher or corporate lackey bent on increasing GDP in an environmentally unsustainable way is better then what we are trying to do: then discovering the dynamics of human behavior for the benefit of others? Of furthering understanding of our nature and actions towards others? Of helping others come to know their situation in more optimal ways? This is lower then being a middle manager at a pen company? Or an administrator at a corporate firm? I told him that is nonsense, and that the people who have that opinion are brainwashed by a consumerist media bent on keeping them entranced by a never ending shit-stream of useless novelty products clogging up the worlds landfills, and enslaving the 3rd world to make it for them. I told him that what we do is not insignificant but to the contrary quite important. But not to get full of our selves, we are reminded that what we do is to ultimately to serve all of humanity. After I strongly explained this to him, he seemed agree, perhaps out of fear because of my stern tone.      

Graduate school is a difficult and noble goal to purse in one life. If you consider this path, do not let anyone convince you that you are escaping into an irrelevant part of life. Rather you are going deeper into it all, and discovering new aspects of reality; this is no evasion of reality, not the slightest. 

Relative and Absolute Self-Esteem: Removing The Jerry Springer Effect

All lives are trade-offs of each other; no one life is any better then any other: no one has it all.

Scandals, gossip, drama, and the like. For many people, stories and events having such themes make up a huge portion of their entertainment diet. They watch with vicarious excitement at the next outrageous issue or dilemma troubling some person or group. This kind of humor at others problems is similar to the comedy of slapstick. Its obvious that people find amusement in the problems of others when they are at a safe distance from those troubles. The question then emerges: why do people like to see the misery of others, preferably, from a (spacial and mental) distance? Although there may be other explanations, I believe this is because people use others problems as ways of either justifying their own issues or to provide themselves a relative frame work where there own problems fit into a context where they perceive their troubles as “not that bad” in the light of those “worse” problems. Because of this, people in our society build their self-esteem on the backs of others. I suggest another way of creating self value which does not rely on marginalizing others and creating a sense of superiority over them.

The building of self-esteem on top of the perceived troubles of others can be named. I prefer to call it: The Jerry Springer Effect (JSE). This is based on the talk show with the same name. The talk show serves as a prime example of this way to prop-up self-esteem. The show's main premise is to host guests who's problems are deem outrageous by the status quo. This includes things like: finding out your significant other was born the opposite sex they appear to be now, or that ones spouse was cheating on them with their parent, or that a family member is a prostitute and proud of it. These extremely taboo and uncommon (we hope) issues are they key to why the show has been one of the longest running on TV. For most people watching, the problems of the shows guests are so far removed from their daily lives, it gives them more then sufficient psychological and personal distance from the guest's troubles. Because of this, people use this show to frame their own problems. They may say to themselves in the back of their mind: “John not washing the dishes is annoying, but at least he's not sleeping with my mother.” The shows overly shocking guests give most a reason to see their troubles as not so bad, thereby raising their self-esteem. In a sense, they proper their self-worth on the backs of the show's guests.  

Although there are many ways of increasing self-esteem, many find it hard to do so in an ethical way. It may seem that one can only prop themselves on the backs of others to elevate their sense of self. Some may argue that gaining self-esteem can only be done at the expense of others, like a kind of social food chain or hierarchy. This point fails to acknowledge that there are two basic ways of gaining self-esteem: absolute and relative. The argument that self-esteem comes at the expense of others fits into the absolute category. Absolute refers to the idea that there is an objective measure to which everyone can compare their situation. Self-esteem becomes dependent upon ones opinion or perception regarding their place on that objective scale. The people they perceive to be below them on the scale represent the base on which one props their self worth on. One looks at those below them with a range of emotions from pity to contempt. While they look at those higher then them with feelings like envy or admiration. On the other hand, relative self-esteem acknowledges that all people are on a level playing field when it comes to self worth. None are more valued then others; there is no social ladder or objective scale to adhere too. Rather, people see each other as equal by virtue of the fact no one can have it all. That is, although from a distance another self-esteem or life-condition may seem desirable and superior, but the law of habituation ensures that all lusts lose their shine, and all novelty becomes habit. In other words, people get used to what they have, turning it into the mundane banality of day to day life. Because of this, a relative self-esteem sees all self-worth and life-conditions as trade offs of each other; each one has something positive and negative about it, thereby neutralizing it and evening all of them out. Its plain to see how relative self-esteem is the more ethical choice, but are the various self-esteems really even?

It can be hard to imagine how the life of a CEO at a fortune 500 company can be a trade off of the life of a homeless person. Its obvious that the CEO has a lot more money and is thereby able to get the necessities and wants of life which are denied to the homeless person. The poverty of the homeless person seems to stand as an obstacle between them and any kind of happiness and security. Although this may be a common view, its a facile one. Consider the case of a self made millionaire who after gaining his fortune, returns six months out of the year to the life he had before his riches: that of a hobo. He leaves his big house, prestigious job, and lovely wife, to live a life “off the grid” as he calls it. For him and perhaps many others, there are perks to living a homeless life free from stagnate commitments and responsibilities. He talks with great fondness about the feeling of watching the stars from a freight train car, or feeling excitement about what the next day brought. I would like to make note that although all lives may be trade off of each others, it does not necessarily justify keeping people in positions of poverty or oppression. What a trade off signifies is that although one understands that all lives have their good and bad sides to them, it does not mean that one’s life-condition or self-esteem must stay in the same place. Counter-intuitively, there may be good sides to poverty like a lack of boredom or an absence of existential nihilism; but it does not mean a poor person would want to stay poor. Part of the possible good sides of being poor may be the hope of a better tomorrow, which colors their present moment with a positive/optimistic mood. Appearances are deceiving by leaving out most of the story. We let our superficial assumptions hinder a complete view of these “undesirable” kinds of lives.

To clarify this a bit further, consider a hypothetical scenario involving a real world person. In the MTV reality show Rob & Big a commercially successful skateboarder (Rob) and his bodyguard (Big) perform various outrageous activities, usually at the command of Rob. For rob, everything is paid for, from his house utilities to his clothing are all provided for him by his skating sponsors. Many see this as an ideal life. One does what they love, gets attention and fame for it, and lives free from bills and others adult responsibilities. The show itself perhaps attracts most of its viewers because of a kind of celebrity voyeurism. Although some see this as the perfect life, its worth mentioning some drawbacks that would make this life unbearable for the person as any poverty condition, notwithstanding whether the distress is physical/external or mental/internal. Its well known that skateboarding can lead to various moderate and serious injuries. But a deeper, maybe more agonizing pain, would be the fact he needs to stay within the contracts issued to him by his sponsors. If for example he hears or sees a skateboard which is much better then any he has access to now, but is patented by another company, it would defiantly become a problem for him. Another possible issue facing Rob would be the lost of interest in his sponsored activity. If for any reason he feels he does not want to skateboard anymore or finds that he hates it, he would be forced to continue, or face losing the ideal life so many cherish as their dream. Its clear how although at fist glance a life may seem more valuable or have better self-esteem then another, with a closer look, the negatives come out, ultimately evening out all lives because of this balance between positive and negative aspects; no one has it all.

Its important to addresses the issue of people, for some reason or another, who have rob, are violent, commit theft, are con artists, etc. Some would ask how a life which is devoid of these kinds of negative behaviors be equal to a life filled with those kinds of habits. The answer is simple: relative self-esteem is subjective, in that the good and bad aspects are defined by the persons own feelings and thoughts. The good and bad aspects of live are not measured from outside. Because of this, a person who lives a life of theft may have the negative of being a few steps from prison, but may also have the positive of lots of quick money and the excitement of a big heist. The aspects are subjective. This is important for self-esteem because it does not allow one to use the absolute style by propping their self-worth on top of those they perceive to be bad or evil people. A relative self-esteem acknowledges that although actions may be hurtful to others, those committing them are ultimately equal because all people are products of forces they themselves are not in much control of, if at all. Again, a relative self-esteem does not mean to allow negative behaviors, thereby allowing people to be arrested. The point is that one does not build their self-esteem or worth on others who they perceive to be worse then themselves.

How does one derive their self-esteem, if not by relation to others perceived either better or worse then oneself? It seems second nature to feel good about not being this person, or trying to become that person. But what is lost is a focus on the self and its own abilities. That is, when one has an absolute sense of self-esteem, they spend their time in a kind of fantasy running away or toward imagined ideals or icons of others. No attention is given to the good and bad aspects of one's self. With a relative self-esteem one understands that their good and bad aspects are like light and dark aspects. When it comes to self worth or value, if one focuses on themselves, rather then on others, they can become more familiar with these two aspects of themselves, altering them in turn. Focusing on one's light or good side for example can lead to thought over what one sees good in themselves. This helps to have the person develop these good qualities, expanding and enriching them. The same can be said about the negative aspects but in reverse. The person can help themselves to lesson the bad aspects and help either accept and integrate them, or replace them with better aspects. Its with a relative self-esteem that one can help to progress their self-development through focusing on their good and bad qualities, rather then the qualities of others. In short, absolute self-esteem encourages stagnation and stratification because one feels in a perceptual middle between the better and the worse, and one perceives others in different levels on a hierarchy of good and bad. While a relative self-esteem encourages production and growth because the individual, in focusing on their own qualities, is able to fix or expand on them.

Like many things in recent human history and society, there has been a change in how we relate the multiplicity of things in the world, including each other; we have gone from a absolute to a relative understanding of the world. For example, culture used to be thought of in the in an absolute sense where all cultures fell on an hierarchy with western civilization on top being the most advanced. Today a relative understand is favored, with the difference that all cultures are seen as equal and unique in of themselves. Another instance of moving from relative to absolute is evolution. People used to talk of humans or other animals as higher or better then others, but now most researches are stern to point out that there is not vertical ladder of better and worse in nature, its all equal. Perhaps the most personal case of this change in understanding is with morality. Most people in our society today believe that people are entitled to their own morals. They wouldn't consider that their morals are inherently any better then others, maybe just suited better for them because of their familiarity to it. But more traditional societies understood morals to be absolute and would use the law to enforce moral codes on people. Granted today’s laws are kinds of morals, but they are much broader and allow more freedom then anything that has existed before. Therefore, the change from an absolute to a relative self-esteem is not alone in that process; many aspects of our society and understanding of the world and each other have also undergone the same absolute/relative change.

A common habit of ours is to build our self-esteem in an absolute way. We prop ours on the backs of others, deriving our self-worth and mood from our difference, whether better or worse, to others. This way is not conducive to a society where people learn to respect each others differences and see one another as equal. Rather it fosters a society which keeps people in a vertical line caught between the ideal and the undesirable, causing them to see each other as different and more antagonized by their differences and shortcomings. A relative self-esteem can fix this by helping people grow through self-development and cultivate a sense of unity in diversity by virtue of everyone not only being equal but unique as well.