Origins of Possession: Owning and Sharing in Development by Philippe Rochat

41KhXU7WmBL._SY291_BO1204203200_QL40_.jpg Author Philippe Rochat
Isbn 9781107032125
File size 1.5MB
Year 2014
Pages 336
Language English
File format PDF
Category psychology


Origins of Possession Human possession psychology originates from deeply rooted experiential capacities shared with other animals. However, unlike other animals, we are a uniquely self-conscious species concerned with reputation, and possessions affect our perception of how we exist in the eyes of others. This book discusses the psychology surrounding the ways in which humans experience possession, claim ownership, and share, from both a developmental and a cross-cultural perspective. Philippe Rochat explores the origins of human possession and its symbolic development across cultures. He proposes that human possession psychology is particularly revealing of human nature, and also the source of our elusive moral sense. PHILIPPE ROCHAT is Professor of Psychology at Emory University in Atlanta and the head of the Emory Infant and Child Laboratory. His research focuses on the developmental origins of human self-awareness and social cognition in infants and children growing up in different social and cultural circumstances. His work includes Others in Mind (Cambridge University Press, 2009), The Infant’s World (2001), Early Social Cognition (1999), and The Self in Infancy (1995). Origins of Possession Owning and Sharing in Development Philippe Rochat University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Information on this title: © Philippe Rochat 2014 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2014 Printed in the United Kingdom by Clays, St Ives plc A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data Rochat, Philippe, 1950– Origins of possession : owning and sharing in development / Philippe Rochat. pages cm ISBN 978-1-107-03212-5 (hardback) 1. Property – Social aspects. 2. Property – Psychological aspects. 3. Possessiveness. I. Title. HM856.R63 2014 306.30 2–dc23 2014006986 ISBN 978-1-107-03212-5 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. Contents Foreword by Jerome S. Bruner Preface page vii ix Introduction: making sense of human possession 1 Psychology: principles of human possession 19 1 Experiencing possession 21 2 Claiming ownership 46 3 Possession and ownership transfer 75 4 Symbolic spinoffs of possession Part I Part II Development: human ontogeny of possession 106 141 5 First possession 143 6 Ownership in development 172 7 Sharing in development 204 Part III Culture: human possession in context 233 8 Culture and possession 235 9 Possession in children across cultures 255 Conclusion: Great Transformation 289 References Index 297 315 v Foreword It is a privilege, though a somewhat daunting one, to introduce the reader to this striking book. For though the subject of possession is an ancient one, it is a forever difficult and controversial one. While “possessing” something is a crucial feature of what we call ownership, it is by no means the only aspect of that conventionalized phenomenon. Indeed, as Rochat puts it, the “transition from possession to property” is the main issue of this challenging book. It is argued that this “possession-to-property transition” is governed by three distinctively human characteristics: human self-consciousness, human symbolic capacity, and characteristically prolonged human immaturity, and this volume sets forth a rich and detailed account of each of these. What is particularly striking about Rochat’s account of this transition is the breadth and depth of his inquiry. This is a scholarly book in the deepest sense. It scans a vast body of literature and treats it with genuine respect – whether it is in a close look at Aristotelian essays, particularly well explored, or in considering the most recent literature on the behavior of young infants carried out in the last decade or two. Indeed, the discussion of changing conceptions of mind in the early and late nineteenth century as well as in our own times is masterly – not to mention his rethinking of the years leading to the French Revolution at the close of the eighteenth century. It is no exaggeration to classify this book as an excursion into the cultural history of our conceptions of human development, and yet we must recognize its vivid contemporaneity as an exercise in classic intellectual history. I, for example, am currently much concerned with the evolution of legal systems (as in my recent Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life (2002)). I wish there had been the opportunity of reading Rochat’s book before I’d written mine! vii viii Foreword One last point. I have long felt that the human sciences risk superficiality by moving further and further from the classic epistemic concerns of philosophy – concerns about the nature of “knowing.” I see this book as a sign that things are changing. For surely it is concerned as much with epistemology as with psychology. And so it should be! Jerome S. Bruner Preface This book was on my mind for some years, particularly while doing crosscultural research with children in the South Pacific, Brazil, and other regions of the world. As far as I can remember, possession always struck me as a crucial aspect of psychology, rarely considered in full by intellectuals and other researchers in the behavioral and developmental sciences. It always seemed to me that most conflicts and concerns in the animal mind pertain to protection of what one controls and feels entitled to. Everything always appeared to me as deriving from issues revolving around possession or ownership. I became obsessed with the idea and started to look at the world in terms of possession as others tend to reduce psychic life to sex or violence. After a few aborted attempts, I started writing the book while visiting and teaching at PUC University in Rio de Janeiro in August 2012, a first fresh breath of great freedom surrounded by welcoming friends and colleagues: my friend Pedro Salem, my generous host Carolina Lampreia, and Octavio Domont de Serpa and his wife Fernanda who offered me a quiet, bright, and comfortable place to stay and write. I enjoyed every minute, thank you. I finally got down to it and wrote the book in one intense period in the spring of 2013 while on sabbatical leave in Paris, enjoying a total absence of constraints to drift and explore the topic ad libitum. I want to express my appreciation to my employer institution, the College of Arts and Sciences of Emory University in Atlanta, for allowing the absolute freedom and open horizon required for such an enterprise. Warm appreciation to my faithful friend François Bertrand, who followed my progress every step of the way and with whom I shared ideas almost twice weekly, taking long walks, roaming the streets, and having lunches, each time at a new, memorable place with memorable people in a city he knows, inhabits, and loves like nobody else. He gave me constant encouragement and undivided attention, always ready to share his vast experience and knowledge, at time even with bibliographic references . . . Thank you Francesco, I’m lucky to have you as a friend. ix x Preface While writing this book, I met people on the streets of Paris, at random talks, cafés, and old bookstores, particularly the one on my street, the Librairie des Alpes, on rue de Seine, in the shadow of the Institute and the French Academy cupola building, as well as the adjacent Bibliothèque Mazarine where I wrote almost daily. I had conversations with the bookstore manager and now friend, Pierre Masson, an erudite, curious, and irreverent storyteller. We talked over cups of bitter coffee at this soulful bookshop, surrounded by old mountain climbing books and pictures of victorious mountaineers bending pine shelves. Conversations with Pierre and all the bookworms, history bum derelicts constantly roaming the shop, oriented some of the book’s content and certainly influenced its spirit. My appreciation also to Barbara Carnevalli, whom I met by luck at a crisp talk on “glory and the struggle for reputation in Thomas Hobbes” she gave in Paris early in my stay. I enjoyed her brilliance and benefited from her intellectual passion and philosophical guidance. Michael Heller, my childhood friend, has been instrumental, as always, in cleaning up my ideas, playing devil’s advocate, and giving me renewed intellectual impetus in my research and soul searching. There is nothing I value more than his wit at detecting wrong intellectual paths and weak arguments, his ability to zero in to what’s important. Since adolescence, I have benefited from his encyclopedic culture and provocative thoughts. I continue to do so. His friendship is invaluable. Likewise, my gratitude to another, more recent friend Gustavo Faigenbaum, whom I finally located in the Argentinian town of Gualeguaychú, of all places, after reading his 2005 precious book on children’s economic experience. We eventually taught together at FLACSO in Buenos Aires. Riding buses and driving across the pampas toward other teaching gigs (Parana and Gualeguaychú), with Gustavo lecturing me on Hegel and Greek tragedies, and hanging out with his lovely family, we had long conversations that changed and shaped my views on possession but also my views on psychology in general that I always tend to construe too much in individualistic terms, isolated from institutions – to a fault – probably because of my Piagetian background. He keeps reminding me of the collective and it has been a real education, even though he thinks this book is still lacking much of the institutional view he tries to instill in me. What can I say? I confess that I am primarily attached to the temporality of embodied experience. I cannot take as seriously as I should all the things that will survive us. A warm thanks to my faithful former doctoral student Erin Robbins, for letting me keep rambling on and bouncing ideas for the past six years, for her friendship and support, and for all her diligent help in making sense of Preface xi the mountain of data we collected together in the USA but also in remote places of the South Pacific and Central America. Her good work, kindness, humor, understanding, and intelligence made a huge difference. Finally, thanks to the French taxpayers for maintaining and allowing public access to wonderful historical and very aristocratic study places like the seventeenth-century Bibliothèque Mazarine, the oldest public library in France. That is where most of this book was written, under the gaze of old dignitaries’ busts lining the vast reading room with its high ceiling, three-story-high book shelving, tall ladders, and parquet floor crackling under each step of the roaming librarians desperately trying to be quiet. Descartes and the French illustrious intellectual past haunted the room. It was very solemn and reverential. While writing, I had the spirit of these long-gone ancestors hovering over my shoulders, keeping me in check. They comforted me. My hope is that I did not betray the tradition of excellence they are supposed to stand for. I dedicate this book to all of these illustrious ghosts and the French taxpayers allowing them to remain alive. Introduction Making sense of human possession Death is the issue. Knowing that one day we shall be dispossessed shapes our lives in unique ways. In the broadest and deepest sense, this is what this book is about, as dispossession is the necessary counterpart and defining element of possession. Without the knowledge of losing, we would not have any reasons to control and hold on to things the way we do. It gives us reasons to hope and discover faith, but also to despair and suffer existential angst like no other animal can. This knowledge comes with a sense of awe and absolute puzzlement. It has inspired millions of books, and shaped rituals and artistic expressions since the dawn of humanity. All can be said to revolve around the knowing of our pending dispossession of embodied self-experience. The bottom line is that human psychology, unlike any other animal psychology, is in essence self-conscious: a psychology whereby subjects constantly reflect and elaborate upon their own value and place in the world, particularly the social world. Arguably, this is unmatched in the animal kingdom. As a case in point, humans are the only species having “fashion instinct,” putting makeup on, wearing clothes, decorating themselves with accessories manifesting insatiable care for their own reputation and what they project to the public eyes. We are the only species selfobjectifying through the evaluative eyes of others. Self-consciousness and possession This book is about how being the self-conscious creatures we are changes the way we relate to things, how we possess and experience having exclusive control over things, an inclination we share with all other living creatures. It is about how being self-conscious transforms the way we relate both affectively and cognitively to things: the way we get attached to them, how we cherish and fetishize what we own, fighting for it, but also how we are capable of relinquishing exclusive control over things by giving, sharing, or simply being forcefully dispossessed of them. 1 2 Origins of Possession The question of interest here is what underlies the human experience of possession. Likewise, and as a necessary counterpart, what underlies the human experience of dispossession? Indeed, in order to share one first needs to own. So, what is the interplay between possession and dispossession in the context of human self-conscious psychology? In an earlier book with the same publisher,1 I wrote about the social underpinnings of self-consciousness, which I view as a unique human adaptation. Unlike any other, human psychology is both symbolic and self-conscious. These two cardinal characteristics of human psychology are in fact inseparable, supporting each other: in order to be self-conscious one needs to have some capacity to be symbolic, and vice versa. By symbolic I mean the basic ability to be referential in thoughts, capable of holding and manipulating multiple representations about things, the capacity of fathoming that something might stand for something else. Symbolic means the mental ability of going beyond the literality of experience, capable of becoming “meta” and not just literal about the world. As part of this symbolic and self-conscious psychology, the goal now is to capture how humans develop their ways of expressing and dealing with possession. I try to show that we develop specific ways of possessing and organizing our social lives around possessions. There is a necessary counterpart to the human ways of possessing expressed in irrational fears of being dispossessed and losing control over what we own and feel entitled to. As part of the same package, humans also develop devastating envies, insatiable needs for more ownership and control, more power over the environment, be it physical or social. These ways can be pathological and devastating, but also the source of great cultural and legal codifications meant to buffer deleterious effects on group harmony. Onion metaphor As a general model, what is proposed here is to look at the phenomenon from a multilayered awareness perspective, what I call the onion metaphor of mind states. The idea is simple: in the course of development, as well as in evolution, various levels of awareness emerge or have emerged, piling up on top of each other, like the layers of an onion. Our awareness of the world is made of these various layers through 1 Rochat, Others in Mind. Introduction 3 which we constantly navigate, through being non-conscious, unconscious, aware, co-aware, conscious, or co-conscious. Attached to these layers of awareness are a variety of possible mind states. Mind states are part of the experience of sentient creatures that are not just sensing the world but feeling it. I am referring here to creatures that, unlike machines, even minimally experience pain or fear for example – in other words and bluntly put, creatures that have affective life in them. It is within this simple schema that we want to approach the complexity of human possession psychology, particularly from a developmental perspective. Facts and ideas about possession Important works exist on the psychology of possession. They come from a broad array of perspectives including interdisciplinary,2 marketing/consumerism,3 organizational/management,4 or social psychology (social identity and social constructionist views on identity).5 However, only a few major developmental works exist, primarily from the 1970s and 1980s.6 Recently a timely resurgence of interest on the topic has occurred from the point of view of infant and child development. New experimental and theoretical takes are proposed.7 For sure, books and articles abound on topics like attachment, money, property, territoriality, copyrights, etc., but there are few on the psychology of possession with a particular focus on the “origins” question from both an ontogenetic and a phylogenetic point of view, particularly from a more phenomenological and developmental perspective. The book compiles a large body of selected empirical and “falsifiable” facts relevant to the question of what the human experience of possession is made of at its origins and in development. What can be critically seen as less falsifiable is the meaning making of such facts and conceptual ideas that the book primarily intends to provide. The reader should know that this is not a survey textbook providing an exhaustive inventory of findings spanning the “possession field” as a whole. The book instead proposes a fresh look at the topic with the intention of providing 2 3 4 5 6 7 Rudmin, “To own is to be perceived to own.” Belk, “The ineluctable mysteries of possessions.” Pierce and Jussila, Psychological Ownership and the Organizational Context. Dittmar, The Social Psychology of Material Possessions. Furby, “Possession in humans.” See Ross and Friedman, “Origins of ownership of property.” 4 Origins of Possession novel ideas and integration of ideas by digging abundantly and opportunistically into philosophy, biology, sociology, anthropology, and developmental psychology, my own specialty. The goal is meaning making, not cataloguing or dressing a laundry list of existing research. It is to make sense of human possession psychology by providing new ontological parsing and a new framing of three main questions: what makes human possession psychology unique compared to other animals? Where does it come from? What determines it? Possession and morality Probably the boldest, most provocative idea running through the book is that the human sense of what is right and what is wrong (i.e., shared and explicit morality) could arise from conflicts over possession. Think of it: six of the Ten Commandments are directly linked to issues surrounding possession and exclusive control over things: “Thou shalt not covet, steal, kill, commit adultery, bear false witness, or have other gods.” This is the Old Testament’s vindication that possession, particularly the risk of social disharmony via possession conflicts, is not estranged from the genealogy of morality. This is arguably true from both an evolutionary and a developmental perspective. In the midst of competition over limited resources, moral principles are necessary requirements for group survival, be they implicit as in the reluctance to kill or engage in incest, or explicit as in the codified systems of retributive justice that exist across human societies. At a very basic level, human moral principles arise from the necessary selective pressure of avoiding conflicts and maintaining social harmony. Once again, these principles can be explicit as in written laws, or implicit as in the normative ways one ought to behave in relation to others. This would be the bottom-line warranty of group preservation and growth of the species, but also the preservation of individuals in relation to their social group. If we accept that such a broad statement holds some truth, then we can gauge how relevant it is to engage in trying to make sense of the human psychology of possession, and its origins in both evolution and development. Group harmony and harmony of the individual within the group demand some solutions as to who owns what and why. It requires some shared principles on how to distribute justice when resources are scarce. Individuals are required to abide by these principles in order to survive and avoid being ostracized as freeriders or bullies. There is indeed an instinctive, innate need to affiliate with others and a universal fear Introduction 5 of being socially rejected, the driving idea of my earlier book Others in Mind. The prevalence of conflicts over possession is an emotional minefield, both in human history and in the life of the developing child. For children and from the outset of their development, these conflicts are rich soil for the early learning of shared values and social norms. Possession conflicts provide the young child with the opportunity to experience and observe most conspicuously normative ways of handling social stress, the active attempts by adults and other peers at restoring group harmony, the enforcement and assertion of shared social practices, etiquettes, and ultimately shared moral principles. Possession, as we shall see, is unquestionably an important part of social learning, because of what it reveals when conflicts occur, but also because it is in the context of possession that children can learn, in the most conspicuous fashion, normative ways of sharing with others, and hence can learn shared, acceptable (normative) ways of relinquishing and transferring ownership. It is also in this context that children explore, often with playful delight, how to transgress the norms, and the limits of these transgressions within their social group. Last but not least, it is also fertile soil for the development of self-conscious emotions like shame, guilt, or pride. As already mentioned, in order to share, one needs first to possess. The ways we possess and experience possession, and relinquish it to others via gift, sharing, or any sorts of bartering exchange, is another central theme of the book that can be summarized as the human psychology of owning and sharing informed by research in child development. Book summary There are three main parts to the book comprising a total of nine chapters. In Part I, basic aspects and principles of human possession psychology are laid out. In a second part, these aspects and principles are reconsidered, but this time specifically from the perspective of child development. Finally, in Part III, possession psychology is considered in relation to culture and context from both an adult and a child perspective. Below is a summary of the book as a whole, chapter by chapter. It is meant to provide an overview of the main ideas. To help the reader, two simple tables are included, providing a synopsis of the main ontological distinctions made in Part I (Psychology) and the developmental “roadmap” discussed in Part II (Development). 6 Origins of Possession Part I Psychology: principles of human possession BASIC ONTOLOGICAL DISTINCTIONS KINDS OF POSSESSION TRANSFER KINDS OF OWNERSHIP PRINCIPLES KINDS OF POSSESSION PATHOLOGY Violent (theft and usurpation) Generous (giving and obliging) Agreed (exchanging and reciprocation) Strongest (“lion’s share” and physical strength) First possession (precedence of control) Labor (effort and energy investment) Creation (invention and originality) Familiarity (history and ancestry) Blood (biological relatedness and inheritance) Luck (haphazard and chance windfall) Expulsive (centrifugal dynamics), e.g., gambling Retentive (centripetal dynamics), e.g., hoarding Chapter 1 (“Experiencing possession”) discusses possession from a phenomenological (experiential) point of view. The goal is to emphasize the centrality of possession as experienced in our lives, as well as in the mental life of any other animals that live in groups. Etymologically, possession means to throw one’s weight over. At a generic level, possession is thus linked to the forceful experience of gaining control and agency over things. A strong case is made for the basic claim that, in order to possess, one must feel and have emotions. Machines cannot possess because they can only sense but cannot feel. They have no affective lives, nor any mental states. Feeling is indeed different from sensing. Feeling, including the feeling experience of possession, refers ontologically to mental states, and our task as psychologists is to document such states. All social animals qualify and meet criteria for having feeling experience. It does not require higher cortical involvement. The chapter goes on to show that we need to distinguish between implicit (non-conscious, self-contained, or private) and explicit levels of possession experience. These are ontologically different. At the explicit level, the experience of possession is shared and publicly articulated, but not at the implicit. In general, I suggest that the human capacity for feeling experience emerges very early on, with first signs already in the womb, by the middle of gestation. A crucial aspect of possession as feeling experience is self-evidence: the immediate

Author Philippe Rochat Isbn 9781107032125 File size 1.5MB Year 2014 Pages 336 Language English File format PDF Category Psychology Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Human possession psychology originates from deeply rooted experiential capacities shared with other animals. However, unlike other animals, we are a uniquely self-conscious species concerned with reputation, and possessions affect our perception of how we exist in the eyes of others. This book discusses the psychology surrounding the ways in which humans experience possession, claim ownership, and share from both a developmental and cross-cultural perspective. Philippe Rochat explores the origins of human possession and its symbolic development across cultures. He proposes that human possession psychology is particularly revealing of human nature, and also the source of our elusive moral sense.     Download (1.5MB) Metamorphosis: On the Conflict of Human Development and the Development of Creativity The Infant’s World Child Development: A Thematic Approach The Shadow of the Tsunami: and the Growth of the Relational Mind The Psychology Book Load more posts

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