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Man the doer


Man the Doer. …

Man the Doer.
The concept of human activity
Human being and Being Human

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  • 1. Dialect ical Mat erialism (A. Spirkin)Prev Chapter 5. On the Human Being and Being Human Next Man the Doer The concept of human activity. A human being lives in a material and spiritual world. He is connected with nature and the events of social life by innumerable material and spiritual threads. In this constant interaction between the individual and the world there is a meaning which is denoted by the comprehensive term "life". The social effect of the individuals activity is determined to a great extent by his position in the structure of the social whole. The individual world forms around the things, institutions and relationships created by human beings, and around other people and their activity. Human activity· is motivated by needs which are the objectively determined forms of a persons dependence on the external world, his subjective expectations of that world, his lack of certain objects and conditions that are necessary for his normal activity, self-fulfilment and development. A persons life is not simply vegetation in the world, but a purposeful, historically shaped form of creative social activity. A person achieves maximum growth when he expresses this active essence to the fullest extent. According to Saint-Exupéry, the inner life of Louis Pasteur when he bent excitedly over his microscope was self-fulfilling. Pasteur became a person in the fullest sense of the term when he was observing. This was when he was in a hurry. This was when he was moving forward with huge strides, although physically he was completely still, and yet here he saw infinity revealed before him. Or, to take another example, Cezanne, standing motionless before his eazel, was also living an invaluable inner life. The painter was at his most human when he was silent, observing and judging. It was then that his canvas was as infinite to him as the ocean. Action is the clearest and most expressive revelation of the personality, the revelation of a persons state of mind and his goals. What is activity? In the broad sense it is behaviour regulated by the mind, by consciousness, a process of interaction of living beings as integral systems with the environment. Only man is capable of the highest forms of activity. Activity, as the basic mode of social and personal existence and the decisive form of mans self-fulfilment in the world, is a complex integral system. It comprises such elements as need, goal, motive, and purposeful activity itself as a process consisting of separate acts and movements. Activity is always directed at a certain object. Without this objective orientation it is not activity. Moreover, the influencing of an object presupposes the application of certain means. The concept of the means of activity is very broad, comprising not only the ordinary tools, beginning with the stick,
  • 2. the chisel and ending with modern machinery and logical robots, but also goal-achieving means that have a moral content. Activity, in realising its goal, culminates in a certain result, which is also a part of its structure. In short, in performing any activity aperson always proceeds from a certain need and out of something, by means of something and for the sake of something, createssomething. The ultimate cause of activity lies not in the subject himself and his will. The real basis of will, which manifests itself as a fusion ofthought and feeling, is need. It is through the objects that satisfy them that needs acquire their objective quality. A person constantlyexperiences dissatisfaction, the upsetting of the balance in his organism and the world of his mind, his consciousness; he is constantlydeprived of something that is necessary for the restoration of this equilibrium; he constantly desires something and strives for something. Need is constantly reproduced and modified through changes in the character of the objects and the modes of their satisfaction. In thecourse of history all peoples needs have undergone substantial transformation. In our activity we are both subordinated to our needs andconstantly free ourselves from them. We have a highly intricate hierarchy of needs, from the simplest biological, physiological andmaterial needs to the most subtle demands of the intellect, demands of a moral, aesthetic and generally spiritual nature. Needs may alsobe classified as objective, that is to say, needs for certain objects, and functional, needs for certain forms of activity. As a certain stateof the organism and the mind, need prompts the individual to mobilise his biological, psychological and social activity to restoreequilibrium. There is no escape from need. It demands satisfaction, which can be achieved only through activity designed to bringsatisfaction. Conscious need, having discovered the object of its satisfaction, becomes a goal. It is the goal that provides the model forthat part of the content of our thought that must become action. A goal is the intended result of activity, an ideal model of a desiredfuture. Through his anticipatory thinking a person creates a certain plan of the expected results of his activity. If the activity coincideswith this plan, it is culminated and ceases, if it does not coincide, the information again circulates and the search for a solution continues.Every action presupposes two closely interconnected processes: anticipation, foreseeing of the future, and programming, planning ofthe ways of its achievement. Thus activity obeys a force moving from the individuals past experience towards the future, and the goal-setting force that moves from the future to the present. From being the ideal form of the goal the future is transformed into the reality ofthe present. A goal determines the means for changing a thing, and an effort of will makes it possible to achieve the goal through action.While thought takes the world as it is, will, on the contrary, aims at making the world into something that it should be. It is the will thatenables us to objectify the force of knowledge. The effectiveness of activity depends to a great extent on our ability to see theconnection between the goal and the means of its achievement.
  • 3. The term "means" implies everything that exists for the achievement of a goal. It may be a hand, the surgeons scalpel, the banditsknife, the axe of the savage, modern machinery, an animal, or another person. A thing is not a means unless it has a goal, and a goal ismerely an abstract and empty desire if there is no means to achieve it. In a certain sense, a means is something higher than a goal.Possession of means gives a person great power over nature, whereas when formulating his goals he tends to be subordinate to nature.Human reason constantly, persistently and inventively creates increasingly powerful and sophisticated means, and puts them to work forthe achievement of its countless and constantly proliferating goals. We have been analysing human activity as the highest form of activity, but activity also exists in animals, which also proceed fromneeds, from the goals and means available, but the determining factor in animal behaviour is only biological need. Activity in general is aproperty of the animate form of the organisation of matter, when its animate structural formations acquire the ability to perceive, storeand transform information, using it for purposes of survival and adaptation to the conditions of existence or—at the human level—theiractive rational modification. So one can speak of the behaviour of non-organic objects (for example, the behaviour of the electron, theplanet, a machine, and so on) only in the metaphorical sense. The term "behaviour" is applicable both to individuals and to groups of individuals—the behaviour of the biological species, thebehaviour of the social group. Of fundamental importance in activity is a persons world-view, which determines the orientation of activity and its social value.Human activity is inseparably connected with the system of speech signals which a person assimilates in the process of communicationwith other people. This provides the preconditions for the transference of external activities to the internal plane. This is what enables usto create the image of the desired future in our consciousness, to evaluate ourselves and maintain self-control. In social life a persons activity depends on the character of his relations with the groups of which he is a member. The group itselfacts as a special kind of subject of activity, with collective goals and motivations. In group behaviour one observes such uniquephenomena as imitation, emotional "infection", empathy, the subordination of individual activity to group standards and role requirements,and the appearance of a leader, a person exerting the most influence over the group. The evaluative, axiological aspects of activity appear most clearly when activity acquires the character of an act, an action that has asharply expressed personal significance and is related to a special social responsibility both in its accomplishment and in its possibleconsequences. Heroic acts have a special place in all human activity. In the social consciousness only an individual, guided by thehighest moral ideals, who fearlessly, at the risk of his own well-being or even life itself undertakes an action for the sake of these
  • 4. ideals, deserves the evaluation of heroic. This is what raises the heroic act above the level of ordinary human activity. Any real behaviour is affected by the complex relationship between its conscious and unconscious components. Al though, at bottom,human activity is rational and follows a certain logic, which actively reflects the objective logic of real events, human activity alsocomprises unconscious psychological factors, whose influence is most apparent in the emotional sphere, in likes and dislikes, in theaffective manifestations of behaviour and so on, when it obeys the "logic of the emotions". The most significant symptoms of pathological behaviour are the individuals failure to respond to the demands of the objectivesituation and his own principles, a discrepancy between the objective stimulus and the behavioural act, between motive and action. Theintegrity of behaviour is destroyed by any breakdown of the connection between its verbal and actual planes. An action is begun but notcompleted according to the individuals intention, the critical faculty controlling the realisation of the programme of action is weakened,and obsessive activities take place, compelling the individual to act independently, as it were, of his own will. Because it is socially conditioned, human behaviour changes its character in different societies. The characteristic feature of humanbehaviour in a socialist society is its orientation on realisation of the highest moral and social ideals, its adherence to the principles ofthe scientific world-view. Motivation. Activity is not just the spontaneous reactions of the individual. It is stimulated by external and internal forces which arecalled motives. Motivation is a crucial factor in the spiritual, mental regulation of life-activity, a factor which stimulates such activity and gives it itsselective, stable orientation. As an expression of human activity, motivation tells us why, for what purpose and in what way a personsactual activities are carried out. The concept of motivation embraces a broad range of intellectual phenomena constituting the personalityand its activity—needs, attractions, intentions, interests, precepts, stance, value orientations and ideals. Nobody does anything or can doanything without doing it for the direct or indirect satisfaction of his needs and interests. But motivation as such cannot be reduced to oneof these mental factors. Because it is closely connected with need and interest, motivation may in certain circumstances come intocontradiction with them. Actions imposed on the individual from outside, particularly those that are imposed forcibly, against his will andinterests, and thus sometimes setting up a very sharp motivational conflict, fall into a special category. To understand the meaning of any action or deed one must discover why it was performed, i.e., what its motivation was. Unmotivatedactions often bespeak pathological disorders in the individual. Objectively motivation may not coincide with its subjective reflection in
  • 5. the consciousness, with the way the individual himself explains the causes and purpose of his actions, not only in cases when hedeliberately hides them, but also when he is puzzled as to the true motivation of his actions. Identification and comprehension of humanmotives help to restore mental health in cases of neurotic behaviour. Motivation is a crucial factor not only in the realisation of actionsbut in their inhibition, which plays an important part in shaping the personality with a stable will, capable of resisting undesirable impulsesand attractions. Motivation may come into conflict with the organisms direct biological needs, regulating behaviour in contradiction tothese needs or impelling a person to perfrom actions that compensate for their absence. For example, in a sick man who feels no needfor food the absence of this need is compensated by the motivation created by his understanding of the importance of food for thefunction of his organism. A motivation comprises not only certain goals but also the ways of achieving them. Even mans mostelementary organic needs are conditioned by the history of society and culture. Hunger is always hunger. But hunger which is satisfiedby roast meat with various flavourings or spices, and eaten with a knife and fork is not the same as the hunger satisfied by tearing at thebloody flesh of the prey. In the development of the theory of the personality the category of motivation has always been treated as one of the mostfundamental. It comprises all the motivating forces of human behaviour, defined by such terms as "instinct", "passion", "emotion , affect",and so on. Up to the time of modern psychology, which now has a developed apparatus of categories, the phenomena related tomotivation were attributed either to the effect of organismic needs (hunger, thirst, self-preservation) or to the activity of theconsciousness and will, understood as special immaterial forces. The specific feature of motivation as a psychological factor that couldnot be reduced either to physiological mechanisms or to projections in the individuals consciousness was not investigated. The firstpsychological theories of motivation were proposed by Sigmund Freud and his school, by the German psychologist Kurt Lewin and theAmerican behaviourists. All these theories share the notion that motivation intervenes in the system of tensions between the individual andhis environment as a way of releasing this tension. The general biological principle of homeostasis was thus extended to thepsychological regulation of behaviour. Freud believed that tension, originating from unconscious psychic impulses (sexual oraggressive) and striving to break through the censorship of the consciousness, was released in various symbolic forms, both intellectualand behavioural. This idea gained a particularly wide following in the psychoanalytical schools of Western psychiatry. A large number ofexperimental researches on motivation were carried out on the basis of Lewins dynamic theory of personality (field theory) whichmaintained that when the individual interacts with his environment the objects of this environment themselves acquire a stimulating force,that is to say, become motives of behaviour. It was established that in the case of interrupted, incomplete action the motive, beingunreleased, retained its urgency. For this reason uncompleted actions make a deeper impression on the memory than the completed,whose motivation potential has been exhausted ("incomplete action phenomenon"). It was also discovered that constant repetition of one
  • 6. and the same action resulted in the phenomena of "satiation" and "oversatiation", due to the drop in pressure in the system of motivation,which had been exhausted. Exhaustion was less in cases of activity that was of great importance to the individual and affected the stable"nucleus" and not the peripheral aims and values. In contrast to Freud who reduced motivation to infantile impulses, Lewin believed thatthe origin of motivation in human beings was to be found in the contact between the immediate concrete environment and the individual ata given micro-interval of time. He also studied the dynamics of motivation as a process depending on success or failure in solvingvarious kinds of problems, both practical and theoretical, and showed the dependence of motivation on the level of expectation, that isto say, the degree of difficulty that might be encountered in achieving the chosen goal. Much importance is also attached to the problem of motivation in the theories of the behaviourists, who under stand a motive as astimulus, external or internal, influencing behaviour, and activating certain responses in the organism. The behaviourist position, whichstresses the determining role of biological motivation, contrasts with conceptions that give priority to high intellectual values, aims, andideals as having a unique human character (humanistic or existentialist psychology). The individuals desire to fortify and expand hisinternal "phenomenal world", to unfold his creative potentials and strengthen his own Ego is regarded as a most important aspect ofmotivation. The basic motivation of human behaviour lies in the desire originally implanted in the subject for self-realisation, self-actualisation. The structure of the personality has various levels of motivation, the lower levels being connected with homeostatic needs(desire to relieve tension), and the higher, with the development of such human qualities as initiative, sense of responsibility, quest fornew situations, demanding effort and the accomplishment of increasingly complex tasks in life. In man such higher motivations dominateand are functionally autonomous in relation to elementary biological motivation. Mans basic motivations include the need to communicate, to feel that one belongs to other people, the need for love, creativity, inwhich the personality finds self-fulfilment. Failure to satisfy these needs can cause neuroses. However, these theories tend to ignore thesocio-historical nature of human motivation. Motives are shaped in the system of a persons vital relations with the real world and for this reason, while having biologicalpreconditions in the form of the corresponding needs of the organism, they are concretised, transformed and realised according to theconditions of a persons social existence. Since they are an objectively operating factor, motives are refracted at the level ofconsciousness in various intellectual forms: the image, the concept, the idea, the dream, and the ideal, which expresses global motivesdetermining the behaviour of individuals and the social group in the long term. The degree to which a motive is understood by a specificindividual may differ and depends both on the individuals experience of life and on his individual qualities and peculiarities. Acute formsof inadequate reflection of real motives in consciousness are to be observed in pathological behaviour. Psychology has evolved
  • 7. theories of the dynamics of motivation as a conflict of motives, which is one of the important phases of volitional action. Inpathological cases the individual finds himself unable to take a decision that adequately answers the situation. A prolonged conflict of motives may paralyse the individuals abilities to act and induce acute suggestibility. Motivation is closely connected with the individuals emotional make-up, which reflects the nature and degree of satisfaction of hisneeds. Emotional experiences in their various forms are enriched through the development of motives, which draw into the sphere ofhuman activity an increasing range of objects, evoking positive and negative emotions. The individuals need to assert his own value and dignity in the process of real activity, in socially significant actions and creativeachievements plays a special role in motivation. Satisfaction of this need is closely connected with positive assessments of theindividuals achievements by other people, particularly those whose opinion he values. When such an assessment is not forthcoming or isseen by the individual as inadequate, he experiences emotional discomfort, which may, in extreme cases, have a negative effect on hismental health. A persons mental health may also be unfavourably affected by excessive pretensions, making satisfaction of his own high self-appraisal impossible. This leads to emotional stress, breakdown and conflicts with other people. The building of a sound self-appraisalas a factor of motivation plays an important part in medical pedagogics and psychiatric therapy. Obviously the study of the decision-making mechanisms, particularly in crisis situations, when alternative situations require that anindividual take the optimal decision in the shortest period of time in accordance with changing circumstances, is of great importance. Theabsence of such an ability may cause disorientation and have disastrous results for the personality. In the process of activity human motives range in importance. Recent studies have thrown light on the complex relationship, dependingon upbringing, between such personal motivations as orientation on oneself, on ones cause, on the group to which one belongs. Insocialist society upbringing tends to orient a person in a socially valuable direction. Motives differ not only in their orientation but also in their intensity. A persons eagerness or reluctance to act depends on the force ofhis motivation. A strong motivation provides the psychological basis for an individuals belief in the importance of the goals he ispursuing and the rightness of his cause. In the process of historical development the range of objects on which human activity may be centered changes, as does the character
  • 8. of the needs that are objectified thanks to the creation of new cultural values. The needs of modern man which motivate his behaviour areimmeasurably enriched by scientific, technological and social progress. A specifically human form of motivation is linked with theindividuals historically formed need to create, i.e., to transform reality in the sphere of material and intellectual production.Characteristically the creative personality is guided by motives conditioned by human culture, a deep sense of being involved in itsdevelopment (something called "internal" motivation, i.e., motivation created by activity in transforming and creating objects of cultureand emerging in the form of the play of vital human forces). This "internal" motivation has a complex relationship with the "external"motivation towards the object of creativity itself—the desire for fame, ambition, material enrichment, and so on. As an individual develops, his motivational sphere expands through the strengthening of cognitive, moral, aesthetic, civic andphilosophical motives. The personality and its social roles. Human activity is sometimes understood as the playing of roles. Plato saw life as a kind of drama,both tragedy and comedy, in which people play the parts assigned to them by fate or the gods. In world literature human life has oftenbeen portrayed as a stage on which people play their appointed roles, changing them according to age, social status, and circumstances.Shakespeare vividly and aptly described the life of man in its role-playing aspects. When we want to know something about a stranger we ask the question, "What is he?" In reply we receive a description of his socialroles or functions, his status at work, his profession, his family position (father of a family, bachelor), and so on. This is all easilyunderstandable. The individual is characterised primarily through the various forms of his activity. These forms reveal the essence of hispersonality— his intellectual, emotional and volitional qualities, features of character, temperament, morality, aesthetic taste, sociopolitical and other positions. When a theatre producer is considering the staging of a play or a film he selects certain actors for the parts—emperor, fool, lover,and so on. To perform any role an actor must be able to transform himself. This is the essence of his profession. This involves one Egobecoming another, one Self leaving itself and entering another Self. The actor tries to get away from the sense of being himself in acertain role to the sense of that role becoming his Self. By putting himself in the place of another Self the actor acts in the name of thatperson, as though by proxy. This ability implies living a second life or even quite a different life and, in doing so, manifesting ones trueartistic life, ones artistic Ego. Much though he may desire it, however, even if he loves another person immeasurably, no one can, inprinciple, become wholly fused with another. He may only temporarily assume his role, assimilate and reproduce his manner ofbehaviour, his gestures and manners, the unique features of his make-up, way of life, thinking, feeling, the way his will acts, and so on.
  • 9. In order to play a role skilfully, an actor impersonates the character of another man and expresses his inner world by his acting. But to beable to assume the role of another man, whether on the stage or in life, is not the same as merging with him completely. This is not onlyimpossible but entirely unnecessary. As a reflective being, the actor is always clearly aware of himself in a certain role. And by this factalone he performs not only as an actor but also in a certain sense as a director, and even as a viewer of his own performance. Alongwith the spectators he views himself from the side and can adopt a critical attitude to the image he has created and also towards himselfin this image. The concept of role is complex. At the level of ordinary consciousness, role is often understood as behaviour that is unnatural to theindividual, does not reveal his true Self and is assumed as something unreal, programmed not by the deepest motivation of the Ego butby external forces. The expression "getting into a role" suggests simulation, acting. Philosophy and psychology, however, following aprofound literary and sociological tradition, use this concept for defining historically shaped, generalised and socially fixed modes ofbehaviour, which are constantly reproduced in human life. And in this, scientific sense one can say that all our lives we do nothing butplay certain roles, and each of us does this to the extent of his gifts, inclinations, moral culture, aesthetic taste, view of the world, andhis understanding of social duty and mission in life. Even children in their play activity enter into a situation of role-playing withaccepted rules of the game. The child begins by playing the role of pupil and various other school roles, then goes on to the roles headopts at college. When he later enters the full sweep of life, the young man feels the need to choose a certain role or a system of rolesfor himself, which is mainly a matter of choosing a profession. History has prepared and perfected for us its "scenario", containing all the various roles that society needs at a given stage of itsdevelopment. And the logic of life offers every person who enters it a kind of list of roles, mainly in the form of certain professions. Itgoes without saying that to play one or another role there must be a vacancy for that role. With different people this comes about indifferent ways. Some persistently and purposefully choose and carefully assume their role, while others adopt quite a different approachand allow themselves to be drawn into a certain role by the spontaneous forces of life. Yet others are placed or even pushed in variousways into a certain role. In offering people its specific roles society makes specific demands on the performers. In slave society, for instance, certain roleswere allotted to the masters and to free citizens in general, while quite different roles were assigned to the slaves, who were deprivedof almost every opportunity of displaying social activity. Feudalism substantially changed the roles and the demands on the performers.The new roles were those of kings, tsars, feudal lords, stewards, serfs, servants. Capitalism introduced more new roles andrequirements for those who were to perform them. Here there were business men, entrepreneurs, merchants, manufacturers, workers.
  • 10. Qualitatively different roles and demands on the performers were brought into being by the world of socialism with its principles ofequality, the abolition of exploitation, the new moral content of labour and of other social functions. Role-playing in society is not what it is on stage. While an actor plays the part of another person, the human being in real life is not anactor, he is playing himself and remains himself in all the forms of his life-activity. Here we have the true essence of the human being asa non-actor. Exceptions are to be found in the work of the intelligence agent, and so on. But even in ordinary life people may resort toacting when they find themselves in a difficult situation that requires cunning or even hypocrisy. This is pretence and it is by no meansharmful for the individuals integrity. When he has played his role, the actor discards the mask and returns to his own Self, he becomeshimself again. Admittedly, there have been cases of an actor entering his role so completely, particularly when playing a pathologicaltype, that for some time afterwards he feels the "scratches" left on him by the sick personality he impersonated. In life a human beingmay receive not just "scratches" on his Ego, but deep and sometimes dangerous wounds, when he plays a role to the point of innerdiscord between his true Self and the mask. On the moral plane, the splitting of ones own conduct into that of Ego and mask, no matterhow we may try to justify it, signifies an attempt to avoid responsibility for certain aspects of ones activity. The victory of the maskover the Ego, for which the individual very often blames circumstances—such is life!—sometimes signifies the triumph of the maskover the true face. It is impossible without serious harm to the subtle mechanism of ones mentality to live for a long time in anatmosphere of psychological division, of constant bargaining with oneself. Sooner or later a person must make his choice. And what atfirst seemed to be an adaptive mechanism, with the passage of time is reinforced and assimilated and becomes ones own. The maskbecomes the face. If the person publicly, time and again says something that he does not believe, this gradually, without his realising it, may cause achange in his beliefs and his motivations. It is difficult for him to justify his lack of principle, so what is he to do? His only resort is toadapt his views to his publicly expressed time-serving position. The inner conflict is thus reduced and then removed and the Egorecovers its integrity, but in a different quality. Sometimes a person does not identify himself with a certain act, if it remains anonymousor if the action is forced upon him, or in the case of collectively taken decisions, where the measure of personal responsibility is notdefined and here there may be no conflict. The human Ego is sometimes compared to a rubber ball: it can be compressed, squeezed out of shape, even trodden on and yet is stillcapable of recovering its previous "inflated" state. But sometimes we encounter the powerfully protected Ego, hard as a diamond,invulnerable to ridicule, proud, free of any servility, and not easily influenced. These are whole, compact personalities and their structurediffers from the looseness and flabbiness of some other Egos. Besides physiological protective mechanisms there are also
  • 11. psychological mechanisms. Some people protect their Egos by attack ing, others are less aggressive and more skilful in defence, andothers rely on a real or assumed indifference to everything. A childish helplessness may also serve as a kind of armour for the Ego.Some people are astonishingly vulnerable. They protect themselves with the gleaming shield of unlimited kindness, the shield of "moralholiness". It must be stressed that the individual himself and not someone else is the initiator of all the aspects of his behaviour. We may stressthe impersonality of social roles when we want to awaken a critical attitude to the inherited modes of life. But when this impersonality isabsolutised, this may serve as a justification for passivity and moral irresponsibility, for becoming a tool in somebody elses hands. Thewry joke that the respectable person is one who feels disgusted by the dirty tricks he plays only emphasises the fact that the trulyrespectable, decent person would not play a dirty trick for anything in the world. This is the inspiring integrity of the morally cultivatedpersonality who truly understands his noble purpose in life. The integrity that humanity so deeply needs has nothing in common with therock-like hardness of the unfeeling monolith, which is only eroded by time. Every sensible person shows the necessary flexibility infulfilling the role dictated by the nature of the specific situation. There can be no set roles or rules, instructions or orders, for all theinfinitely varied situations in life. Peoples characters are different and this shows itself in literally everything. According to our knowledge of people we expect fromthose around us certain actions characteristic of a given person in a given concrete situation. All the time we are in a state ofexpectation. From one person we expect help, kindness, sympathy, humour, from another stubbornness, ambition, from another, silentthoughtfulness or vigorous action. Sometimes, however, the response may not be quite what we expected. The person concerned suffersfrom a conflict of roles. This may happen for many reasons, for example, the performer lacks the intellect required for the role he has toplay. The role may demand exceptional wisdom while the performer is a primitive, undeveloped person. Conflicts may also arise onmoral grounds. A person thinks one thing but acts differently, or holds one view but expresses another. In one situation a person may sayone thing, in another the opposite. Unfortunately, this is common enough in life. Fiction has often portrayed such situations and roles.Role-playing activity is noted for its polarity. Where a trusting simpleton appears we also find an arrogant trickster, the humble person isoften associated with a dominating personality, and where somebody is "holier than the pope" we also find heretics. In other words,where there is an anvil we may expect to see a hammer. Is a person responsible for his social role? Or is he rather the victim than theresponsible agent of his actions? This is the problem of the conflict of the mask and the Ego. The mask is not the Ego but somethingquite separate from it. It is put on to hide the true face, to free oneself from convention and obtain anonymity, and at the same time apersonal freedom amounting to irresponsibility. This happens, for example, in the masquerade. The shy person no longer has to play therole of shyness, and the servile person need no longer be servile. A character in one of Marcel Marceaus pantomimes changes his
  • 12. masks before the public. He is happy, merry and entertains his audience. But suddenly everything takes on a tragic note: the mask sticks tohis face. He struggles and tries to tear it off with both hands, but it is no use. It wont come off and becomes his new face. Similar situations are often portrayed by contemporary Western writers. The idea of the "insincerity" of life one has lived, of the needto fight to preserve ones own Self, to guard its integrity is found in various forms in the work of Albert Camus, Kobo Abe, HeinrichBoll and Graham Greene, and in the tragic films of Antonioni and Bergman, which deal with the profound spiritual conflicts incontemporary bourgeois society, constantly stressing the fragility of human existence. How difficult it is to live without pretence! Howimpossible to be oneself! Writers who think profoundly and honestly have graphically described the tragic situation of the person who gazes sadly at the faceof the unknown. Hence such pessimistic statements as: "Life is but the melting smoke of a cigarette!" or "Living only means deepeningthe squalor we live in!" Quite often, particularly at turning points in his life, a person has to reappraise all his previous values and ask himself burning questionsthat he places before the judgement of his own conscience. Have I played my roles on the stage of life properly and have I played theright roles? Or perhaps I have cancelled out the real side of life? Perhaps I have played roles that were not in the character of my trueSelf? Perhaps I never found myself in life and was merely a pawn in the hands of circumstances? Then what is my true calling? Has itgone past me? Social status does not, of course, rigidly determine the whole diversity of personal qualities. But every society, social group, class,or social institution does have a ramified system of "filters", of selective devices by means of which certain kinds, certain types ofpeople who are most suited to play this or that role come to the top. It is naive to moralise on the cruelty of the fascist executioners and all other dictatorial regimes. No person with a fine spiritualorganisation could, in principle, succeed in such systems: he would be either sifted out or perish, or perhaps he might win through as ahero. To sum up, in human behaviour there is always something preconditioned by society, by its standards, taboos, traditions, andexperience. This is what makes the human being an "actor" on the great stage of life. At the same time human behaviour cannot be equatedwith mere obedience to this precondition. In the very character of the performance of his social role the individual brings somethinguniquely individual, something actively creative. When we speak of the social function of the individual worker, student, scientist, writer,
  • 13. artist, athlete, politician, we have in mind the personal features of the individual that are essential to him precisely in this social function. But in studying any individual one cannot confine oneself to his social function. The psychological aspect is no less essential to a definition of his personality. So, the concept of "personality" embraces not only the persons social function but primarily his inner essence, which determines how a person performs his social function.Prev Home NextMan as a Personality Up Destiny, Freedom and Responsibility