Unfortunately, one of the best books I’ve found on Personology has not yet been made digital. Thankfully, it is available fairly cheaply used online, such as here: https://www.amazon.com/Toward-New-Personology-Evolutionary-Model/dp/0471515736. You won’t need it to learn from and enjoy this series of posts, but I like to keep my sources clear.
Toward a New Personology: An Evolutionary Model is thoroughly philosophically intriguing and insightful. While I don’t agree with every detail of the model Millon puts forward, I do agree with his general direction. Research on how to collect and display (or input and output) information has advanced since Millon wrote and these advances benefit our understanding of personality and people.
Numbers in parentheses in this post will be page numbers from the 1990 Millon book.
“People exhibit distinctive and abiding characteristics” (5). This is the insight from which we begin Personology. The aims can be categorized as theoretical, nosological, instrumental, and interventional. I.e. Personology is a clinical science of which theories, nosology, instruments, and interventions are desiderata. Whereas past works merely sought to describe personality, Millon’s evolutionary model seeks explanatory quality for classification (18). This is in line with how sciences evolve.
At any point in time, a species possesses a limited set of genes that serve as trait potentials. The salience of these potentials evolves within each individual’s life (22). When someone is born, she comes with some genetic makeup. Whatever made the entity is something, and because it’s something it has characteristics, or properties. These properties affect the lives it effects.
A critical distinction to make is between phylogenesis and ontogenesis. Phylogenesis is gene frequencies changing over generations, whereas ontogenesis is the salience of traits changing over a lifetime (22). Genetic material is just that which is passed on in the course of reproduction.
Evolutionary and ecological principles are demonstrated in the aims of existence, adaptation, replication, and abstraction. Millon defines each of the four as follows:
Existence: “serendipitous transformation of random or less organized states into those possessing distinct structures of greater organization.”
Adaptation: “homeostatic processes employed to sustain in open ecosystems”
Replication: “reproductive styles that maximize the diversification and selection of ecologically effective attributes”
Abstraction: “emergence of competencies that foster anticipatory planning and reasoned decision making” (25).
Each of these can be understood so formally as the necessary patterns of beings interacting, or materially as our pain-avoidance and pleasure-seeking, tendencies to change ourselves to fit the world and change the world to fit ourselves, how we interact with ourselves and others, and how we think and feel. Or perhaps I’ll need to come back and write a post for each one of these aims in case these definitions are unclear.
“Random fluctuations assume sequences that often become both self-sustaining and recurrent” (30). If even a random string of numbers will contain order, which is the case, then it’s no surprise that order arises in the material world. Preservation of identity through reproduction and recombination is mathematically certain to come about.
The two strategies of existence are to achieve existence and to preserve existence. In life, these take the form of life enhancement and life preservation, that is, the drives to create life and avoid death. The pair is analogous to attraction and repulsion, as life enhancement is pleasure, i.e. attraction to life, and life preservation is pain, i.e. repulsion from death. Everything must override entropy to become, and then circumvent entropy to be (25-30). That is, for a thing to physically go from nothing to something, it must, for a time, overcome entropy–be a space with less chaos inside than outside. Then, for a thing to physically remain a thing, it must have that time of its overcoming entropy last awhile.
The two modes of adaptation are ecologic accommodation and ecologic modification. As modes of being, these are to passively fit in and to actively stir. The former is the core process of the plant kingdom, the autotrophs, and the latter of the animal kingdom, the heterotrophs. The passive mode requires that the environment provide nourishment and protection, whereas the active mode requires that the being consume preformed organic matter (32-36).
What is this difference in requirement between the modes of being? Plants depend on their environments for nourishment and protection, i.e. life enhancement and death avoidance. So, for plants, pleasure and pain come from outside. For animals, pre-formed organic matter must be consumed. In becoming able to actively protect their lives, animals became dependent on outside sources for nourishment. We can further divide the heterotrophs into herbivores and carnivores, the former depending on plants for nourishment, and the latter animals. These interactions anticipate the next bipolarity.
Existence is to becoming as adaptation is to being (34). As an aim of life, existence just is becoming something, whatever one is becoming. There’s some part of the current arrangement of the world that is me at 6:38 PM right now (as I write this, at least), and with any luck, there will be some part of the arrangement of the world that is me at 6:39. All the patterns of stuff moving around that make up my body will continue as we move forward in the time dimension. Why is that? The answer is what serves existence’s aim. It’s about growth and preservation. Adaptation is more about homeostasis. 637-me is a certain way and unless something happened to change her, 638-me is the same way. Of course, a lot of things do happen in a minute, from cells dying and reproducing to thoughts and feelings streaming through one’s mind, from ambient temperature changing to political scandal occurring. Some things also happen to thwart or alter these changes: adaptation’s aim.
Modes of adaptation sustain organisms by “sucking orderliness” from its environment, i.e. receiving more energy than expended in harvesting (35). Everything we consume we turn into body, activity, and waste, and consumption just is the process of taking material from the environment and getting something out of it, that “something” being the energy or orderliness the consumable had.
“Life arose when molecular aggregates formed a complex system capable of reproducing itself” (36). Reproduction is central to what life is. The two strategies for the aim of reproduction are propagation and nurturance. Propagation is exemplified by the oysters that have millions of offspring to which the parents pay minimal attention and effort. It’s the r-strategy, the male gender, and the selfish orientation. In humans, males produce billions of sperm. Nurturance is exemplified by the apes which have few offspring that the parents pay a high amount of attention to. It’s the k-strategy, the female gender, and the otherish orientation. In humans, females produce about 400 eggs.
I want to ward off an objection I imagine will come up here: One may suspect then, that there’s some wisdom to the tendency for folks to call men who have sex with a lot of women “players” and women who have sex with a lot of men “sluts”. (How the “wisdom” applies to the LGBTQ+ community is a matter of on-going debate.) It is the case that men and women behave differently as groups, and that the differences vary across cultures, and that you can find some regularities in the differences. Some of these regularities are natural, but do remember that natural does not always mean good, nor does it mean inevitable or unchangeable. So even if a culture’s rewarding men and punishing women for having many sexual partners is natural, that just means it’s one of those cases where the artificial option is better. Of course, actual women and men aren’t gender archetypes, we’re people, so we use some balance of the two strategies. We shouldn’t expect all other species of life to have the strategies used match the sexes of the organisms, though I’d expect most.
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