Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talked about how human beings rely on the artifacts at the beginning of the last paragraph in Why We Need Things as follows:

If one develops control over the processes of the mind, the need to keep thoughts and feelings in shape by leaning on things decreases.

He mentioned this in the last paragraph in order to echo with his argument in the earlier part of the article:

Contrary to what we ordinarily believe, consciousness if not a stable, self-regulating entity. When left to itself, deprived of organized sensory input, the mind begins to wander and is soon prey to unbridled hallucinations. Most people require an external order to keep randomness from invading their mind.

The intention of this article is to urge people to control themselves from sticking on artifacts and objects around them too much by taking a deeper look on how artifacts affect our life. However, I disagree with him on the approach to promote human independence. I refuse self-control but self-understanding as the right way.

In his article, Csikszentmihalyi builds a causal relationship between human consciousness and human independence. He believes that people can only be independent when their consciousness is under control. However, he doesn’t explain clearly how this relationship is established. Also, he doesn’t define consciousness and independence in his article either. Without carefully managing the terminologies he used, we can say the underlying relationship among these terminologies is ambiguous and weakly bound.

If we take a deeper look into the logic of this “consciousness-independence” relationship, we can see therein lie a logical loop. Where does self-control come from? Isn’t it clear that the source of self-control is in fact consciousness? How can people develop self-control without consciousness, while people are in the mess of wandering mind? The casual relationship between consciousness and self-control is actually an endless loop with no beginning and no end. Therefore, it is impossible for people to gain independence through self-control, when the connection between self-control and consciousness is still a loop.

I argue that the reason why this loop is created is because Csikzentmihalyi wrongly separates “consciousness” and “self-control” into to two distinct elements of human. In my opinion, these two elements are actually both related with, but not two things in a loop, our inner life. Here, “our inner life” refers to how people think and feel inside. This inner life should not only be invisible to anyone outside, nor should it be concrete and tangible, such as a pain in our body. It is an ongoing mental state in each individual. “Self-control” is a state when one consciously controls his/her mental state. This mental state can then reflect on ones action, which can be seen by other people. Csikzentmihalyi describes “consciousness” as an independent object in people’s inner life. But while inner life is only an ongoing mental state that goes from one state to another continuously, there’s no such independent background or thing called “consciousness” there. Everything is a state, and each state connects with each other to form an inner life with no interruption.

What I’m trying to claim here is that I believe people can promote their independence through self-understanding of their own inner life. Different people have different inner lives, and the only one that can realize and understand one’s inner life is oneself. The inclination to rely on artifacts to reflect oneself or to promote one’s power and social status is indeed a state, or similar states occur at different time, in one’s inner life. The only way to be independent is not to control oneself, but be aware of one’s inner life states, which is self-understanding. By looking at and reflecting what triggers on these inner states, one can have a deeper understanding about oneself, and this is all we need for independence.

(I know this argument is poorly written but I just wanna practice on writing arguments… I haven’t written any argument for a long time… The reading is next Tuesday’s one for Methods. Since it relates with artifact, I think I can discuss a little bit about it here as well.)

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