Tuesday, April 30, 2013

471: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 36

Ghana is one of the largest producers of cocoa, but it has a price. Children of 5 to 7 years old are working on the cacao plantations in appalling living conditions.

A New York cacao broker boosted , that he made big money with speculating with cacao. Then he was confronted with the fact 

that kids of 5 to 7 years old were poisoned by pesticides, working on the cacao plantations, exploited and underfed.

Yes, that was a sad thing to hear,  and personally he hated such situations, but in the cacao broker business there is no room for such sentiments.

In India and Bangladesh there are tens of thousands of children exploited in the textile industry. It is a known fact and we go to the department store and buy ourselves a nice summer outfit, made in India.

We all know these facts. Then, how is it possible that we can live in these two worlds without being emotionally torn apart.

On the one hand the world of our personal interests and experiences and on the other hand the world of our profession, economic cycles and free market rules? 

Think also of bankers, who see individual clients been thrown into deep financial misery due to their actions. And still the show goes on.

How is it possible, that we can store two such contradictory facts in our mind, where they don't seem to meet, not even create a cognitive dissonance? Amazing, isn't it? Our self-image stays unharmed by it.

To understand this we have to listen to Talcott Parsons (1902 - 1979), an American sociologist who served on the faculty of Harvard University, who published his "The Social System" in 1951.

- quote -
The fundamental starting point is the concept of social systems of action. The interaction of individual actors, that is, takes place
under such conditions 

that it is possible to treat such a process of interaction as a system in the scientific sense and subject it to the same order of theoretical analysis which has been successfully applied to other types of systems in other sciences.
- end quote -

A highly abstract statement, but what does it mean? The old way of looking at society was to divide it into nobility, clergy, citizens and workers and to use this model to interpret social structures.

Parsons however suggests to understand society as a total of social systems of action, which you can organize according to their social function: performing religious ceremonies, administer justice, handling money and savings, educating children, taking care of the sick, and so on….. These systems are our society.

All these contexts have their own structure and become rather independent systems. Surgery has its specific place…a hospital. Mathematics don't belong there. That is a part of the educational system, for instance.

In all these systems we play roles. A broker at the New York Exchange has to make profits. That is the main rule of the system. What he thinks about exploited children in Ghana is not relevant for the system.

His moral insights belong to his personal social system. They don't fit in in his professional system. Like bankers, who knew that they caused financial disaster for some clients, justified their products by saying "There is no law who forbids selling them".

We have a serious issue here. Every social system has its own rules and goals and it is not a law of nature that these rules and goals are related to ethics.

Don't you know that drill? "What do you want with your moralizing about exploiting children or destroying rain forests and chancing away natives from there land?
You want me to close my factory and make hundreds of people loose their job? 

Besides that, when we don't buy thiese low cost produced textiles, that country won't have an economy at all anymore. You only can count on starvation for those people then!"

We may consider two fundamental questions.
1. Why in particular should I be the one, who tries to make the world a better place?

2. Can I, even when I really wanted to, really put any weight on the scale?

Let me give you one example of colliding social systems. Big department store companies in the Netherlands were forced to remove clothes from their collection, which were produced in India and Bangladesh due to public pressure.

And there still are organizations like Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch. We didn't have those in the Middle Ages, so I would say, we are learning, slowly but steadily.

Main Resources:
Richard David Precht, Die Kunst kein Egoist zu sein (2012)
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition

The Discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:21] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you herman
[13:21] Mouse Moorlord: claps
[13:21] herman Bergson: I guess I yet managed to shot circuit Scors' antenna:-)
[13:22] Bejiita Imako: heheh
[13:22] .: Beertje :.: lol
[13:22] herman Bergson: the basic point here is sociology.....or...how to analyze society
[13:23] herman Bergson: and in a way it is a bit shocking if you follow Parsons
[13:23] Lizzy Pleides: if we only would pay a few more cents for our cloths the people in Bangladesh would have a better life
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:23] Gemma Allen: it is a hard judgement
[13:23] herman Bergson: A German sociologist. Niklas Luhman (1998+) went even further....
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: aaa
[13:24] seekerp: so is our fault?
[13:24] Gemma Allen: because it IS true in some of these countries they would have no job for that person earning so little for so much time
[13:24] herman Bergson: Morals isn't a part of these systems of social action alt all....morals belong only to the personal system....
[13:25] seekerp: what you guys think the solution is ?
[13:25] Gemma Allen: i wonder how the factory owners in bangledesh will justify MakIng the workers enter the building that fell down by saying no pay for a month if you dont
[13:25] herman Bergson: Well, like the argument....not selling these products will cost us jobs here...
[13:25] Gemma Allen: I think eventually the people will rise up
[13:25] Gemma Allen: and force changes in their own countries
[13:25] herman Bergson: In fact it is already happening Gemma
[13:25] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:25] Gemma Allen: today big demonstrations
[13:25] herman Bergson: Like in the Netherlands....
[13:26] Lizzy Pleides: these countries are extremely corrupt
[13:26] seekerp: hank do u know anything about that?
[13:26] herman Bergson: the Big stores were scared like hell by the actions agains INdian and Bangladesh clothing
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:26] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:26] Gemma Allen: same here with walmart
[13:26] Gemma Allen: and other stores
[13:26] Hαηk: i kno alot bout netherlands because im from there lol
[13:26] Hαηk: XD
[13:26] herman Bergson: there....! So it is happpening.....still on a small scale perhaps....
[13:26] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:27] Gemma Allen: but i am I'm Sorry! to say i still buy clothing from those countries
[13:27] Gemma Allen: I sorry..
[13:27] seekerp: but what is it that we want
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: lets just hope it gives results also
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes Seekerp....a good question....
[13:27] seekerp: what should our goal be?
[13:27] herman Bergson: and there is an answer to it....
[13:28] herman Bergson: we want what you want.....
[13:28] seekerp: so what do we do?
[13:28] seekerp: nothing?
[13:28] herman Bergson: I suppose you like to live a rewarding and fulfilled life....
[13:28] herman Bergson: to say ...life is worth living...
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: however i think that when we go and buy something we don't think about the situation for the ones that made them , see a good looking clothing with a good price so we buy it
[13:29] Gemma Allen: oops
[13:29] seekerp: but if we r talking other countries do we intervene or not?
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: eee what happened
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: aaa there I am
[13:29] herman Bergson  frowns at Bejiita
[13:29] Gemma Allen: hit a trigger
[13:29] Mouse Moorlord: yea but its different to every single person...
[13:29] .: Beertje :.: why not make your own cloths?..instead of buying what a child has made?
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes
[13:29] herman Bergson: Yes Mouse
[13:29] seekerp: no mouse
[13:29] seekerp: u r wrong mouse
[13:29] Gemma Allen: I think the only way we can intervene is by not buying
[13:30] seekerp: is the same for all
[13:30] herman Bergson: It makes no sense to start a discussion on details indeed...
[13:30] Gemma Allen: and using the large banks
[13:30] herman Bergson: but there are some basics every human being needs
[13:30] Gemma Allen: go to smaller local banks
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: the prob with that is we stopped do that when the industrial revolution came and the clothing factories sprung up in the 1800 s everywhere
[13:30] Gemma Allen: or credit unions
[13:30] Mouse Moorlord: well if you happy with less or if you happy with the most ...depends on the person right
[13:30] herman Bergson: Like food and shelter to begin with
[13:31] Gemma Allen: i wish i could sew my own clothes but then where does the material come from lllll same contries
[13:31] herman Bergson: People need a family and the safety of its family for instance
[13:31] Lizzy Pleides: the cotton pluckers are starving too
[13:31] Gemma Allen: cant make my own shoes either ...
[13:31] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: yes and we don't have weaving looms at home anymore or the general knowledge how to use them, that knowledge only those working in the factories making fabric ect have nowadays
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes Gemma the world has become too complex for such wishes
[13:32] Gemma Allen: yep
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: and todays machines are to expensive also to have at hope, huge computerized things requiring certified training to operate and so
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: home
[13:32] Gemma Allen: during the summer i support local farmers and buy their produce
[13:33] herman Bergson: The main issue here is that we all are playing roles.....
[13:33] herman Bergson: you as a citizen Gemma, but on your job you play another role...
[13:34] herman Bergson: among friends again another one....
[13:34] herman Bergson: We love to think of ourselves as being one person....
[13:34] herman Bergson: In a way we are, I guess
[13:34] seekerp: sure herman but its been like that forever
[13:34] herman Bergson: but we are also a collection of roles
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:35] Lizzy Pleides: and we are having inter role conflicts sometimes
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes Seekerp...nothing wrong with that
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes Lizzy...
[13:35] Gemma Allen: yep
[13:36] herman Bergson: and what we may see more perhaps is an increase of conflicts between systems of social action
[13:36] herman Bergson: Like the banking system is really in conflict with other systems today
[13:37] herman Bergson: even the personal system of individuals where morals is a basic issue
[13:37] seekerp: but all this seems to me its due to the fact that we as humans don't have a clue what we want and how to get it
[13:38] seekerp: sometimes i think that we act like unicellular beings
[13:38] seekerp: just running away from pain towards pleasure
[13:38] herman Bergson: True Seekerp....
[13:38] seekerp: running from death towards life
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: aha
[13:38] seekerp: but is that it?
[13:39] herman Bergson: We are products of evolution....a random process without a goal
[13:39] seekerp: this is all
[13:39] seekerp: ?
[13:39] herman Bergson: Well...we have our fantasies Seekerp....
[13:39] seekerp: so if there is no goal then if everything its chaos its ok
[13:40] seekerp: since there is no clear goal
[13:40] Lizzy Pleides: are you sure that evolution has not a goal?
[13:40] herman Bergson: I don't see the logic in that Seekerp...
[13:40] herman Bergson: What is there is causality...
[13:40] herman Bergson: not chaos
[13:40] seekerp: that is the question
[13:40] Gemma Allen: hope not
[13:40] seekerp: we dont know
[13:40] herman Bergson: To be sure that evolution has no goal is impossible of course
[13:41] seekerp: and think about before there was life on the planet
[13:41] seekerp: so there was no evolution then ?
[13:41] herman Bergson: but the more difficult question is...what is meant by "GOAL"
[13:42] seekerp: a propose
[13:42] seekerp: is god playing with us
[13:42] seekerp: or do we come from nothing
[13:42] seekerp: r we gods?
[13:42] herman Bergson: we come from matter
[13:42] seekerp: or nothing at all
[13:42] seekerp: sure
[13:42] seekerp: but even matter they say it came to be
[13:43] Gemma Allen: regardless we are all involved with ethics
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes what did all those sub atomic particles come from in the beginning
[13:43] seekerp: yes
[13:43] herman Bergson: yes...like any organic or chemical reaction can come to be
[13:43] seekerp: but is ethics separate from matter
[13:44] herman Bergson: not if you mean that ethics is produced by our mind
[13:44] seekerp: i dont think that
[13:44] herman Bergson: and it is the result of living together as social animals
[13:44] seekerp: social is too recent
[13:44] herman Bergson: A way to survive
[13:45] herman Bergson: we have no knowledge about that...
[13:45] seekerp: yes
[13:45] seekerp: but when we try to solve problems now
[13:45] herman Bergson: there may have been dinosaur species which lived in groups....so as social animals
[13:45] seekerp: we need those answer
[13:45] seekerp: if we dont have them
[13:45] seekerp: then we have the world we have now
[13:46] .: Beertje :.: sorry I have to go...have a goodnight all
[13:46] Lizzy Pleides: TC Beertje
[13:46] Gemma Allen: Bye, Bye   
[13:46] Gemma Allen: beetjie
[13:46] Mouse Moorlord: ni ni
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: bye then Beertje
[13:46] .: Beertje :.: bye
[13:46] herman Bergson: Well Look at the wallThe comic......
[13:46] seekerp: we must go too guys
[13:46] Gemma Allen: i bought the gown she had on last week
[13:46] seekerp: have to go back to the other game
[13:46] Gemma Allen: her gown that is
[13:46] Gemma Allen: LOL
[13:46] Gemma Allen: there is another game???
[13:46] seekerp: thank u guys
[13:47] seekerp: rl
[13:47] Gemma Allen: looool
[13:47] Gemma Allen: ok
[13:47] herman Bergson: ok Seekerp...:-)
[13:47] Lizzy Pleides: bye Seekerb
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: bye seeker
[13:47] Mouse Moorlord: bye for now
[13:47] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation....
[13:47] Lizzy Pleides: TC Mouse
[13:47] seekerp: its a game but we have no clue why we r playing it
[13:47] Gemma Allen: herman came on line to say sorrry he is so tired went to bed
[13:47] Gemma Allen: ♪♫♩ ((-:  QWARK  :-))  ♪♫♩
[13:47] herman Bergson: if you have no further remarks or questions you may return to all your games ^_^
[13:47] Gemma Allen: he is working too long hours and busy
[13:48] Gemma Allen: alll day
[13:48] Gemma Allen: 12 hours
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: aaaw
[13:48] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: I miss him
[13:48] herman Bergson: Yes so I heard Gemma ....poor guy...
[13:48] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:48] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

470: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 35

Drew Westen, professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia wrote the book "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation" (2007)

The central thesis of this book is that the vision of the mind that has captured the imagination of philosophers, cognitive scientists, economists, and political scientists since the eighteenth century

--a dispassionate mind that makes decisions by weighing the evidence and reasoning to the most valid conclusions--bears no relation to how the mind and brain actually work. (p. ix, Introduction)
- end quote -

And this is exactly what I am lecturing about in the past few projects. As a traditionally educated philosopher it is a steadily increasing problem for me.

Descartes (1650+) thought that he had found the roots of certain knowledge with his "Cogito, ergo sum". Kant  (1804+) believed that he had found the rational basis of ethics in his Categorical Imperative.

They both believed that the real human being was guided by the "dispassionate mind". And that is the big mistake of philosophy, at least in certain areas like ethics.

The core of our moral actions is not based on Kantian ideas but on our self-image. Our self-image and self-esteem are our most valuable possessions in life.

We'll do anything to keep them unharmed. And for that we have developed a number of tricks, which iron out the unethical wrinkles and make all look smooth and right.

One method is to change our language. The "war on terror" was changed into "Overseas Contingency Operations".  And thus  US intervention abroad looked like an operation of the Red Cross.

In war is almost everything allowed to justify killing.  We don't kill human beings, we kill the ENEMY. This is not a metaphor for hostile human beings, 'human being' is completely replaced by 'enemy'.

All kinds of tricks to keep our self-image unharmed. In general we just want to believe, that we are reasonable, decent people, who make the right decisions and don't behave immoral.

We love this image. Just think…when you hear people talk about cars or politics you hardly listen, but as soon as you hear your name mentioned your ears grow at least twice at large.

In everyday psychology when they blame us, we are never to blame. It were the circumstances, that brought us in this position.

On the other hand, when we judge the actions of others, we are prone to say, "you know, he is not such a smart guy" or "how dumb can you be?!"

In the fairytale of Aesop (about 500 BC) the fox wanted the grapes, but he couldn't reach them. Then he says to himself…well those grapes will taste like acid. Why should I jump to try to get them? 

Already the ancient Greek knew of cognitive dissonance. In modern psychology, cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort 

when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions. Rationalization (making excuses) is often involved in reducing anxiety about conflicting cognitions.

When we are in such a situation, we could change our behavior or ideas. But that is exactly what we don't like to do. We rather kill the messenger and yell: "He is a communist !!!!!"

This is only a small sample of the ways our mind has found ways to keep our self-image and self-esteem undamaged.

And it leaves me with the question what to do with academic philosophical debates on ethics. I haven't an answer yet.

Main Resources:
Richard David Precht, Die Kunst kein Egoist zu sein (2012)
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition

The Discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:21] Debbie DJ: *•.¸♥MwAHh♥¸.•*
[13:21] Lizzy Pleides: brilliant Herman!
[13:21] herman Bergson: thank you
[13:22] herman Bergson blushes
[13:22] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:22] .: Beertje :.: it's always hard to say ..put the blame on me..
[13:22] Debbie DJ: I hope you figure it out. I caame to get the answers , oh gur :)
[13:22] .: Beertje :.: lol Debbie
[13:22] Lizzy Pleides: Hi Ciska
[13:22] herman Bergson: ohmy
[13:22] Ciska Riverstone: hello all - i guess i'm too late
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: hi CIska
[13:23] herman Bergson: Hi Ciska :-)
[13:23] Debbie DJ: Hi ciska
[13:23] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman
[13:23] .: Beertje :.: hallo Ciska
[13:23] herman Bergson: Still on Wintertime? ^_^
[13:23] herman Bergson: Anyway....
[13:23] Ciska Riverstone: hello Framdor herman Beertje Lizzy and Bejiita
[13:23] Ciska Riverstone: seems so ;)
[13:24] herman Bergson: the point is that our mind has found a number of ways to call something straight what is bend :-)
[13:24] Debbie DJ: So Herman, we use language to deporsanilise killing. We also do a similar thing with advertising... present facts in a certain way to make things look good and sell.
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: manipulation
[13:24] Debbie DJ: and to some extent, self delusion....
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: and then when u get the stuff its just crap sometimes what they said was so good
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: in the commercial
[13:25] herman Bergson: it is not self delusion Debbie....it is to keep our belief upright that we are good people
[13:25] Debbie DJ: we want to believe that the cosmetic (or product) will make us more accepted...
[13:26] herman Bergson: ahh yes...
[13:26] .: Beertje :.: even shampoo..
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: its like a status thing
[13:26] herman Bergson: such ads play with our doubts about our self image
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:26] Lizzy Pleides: it also belongs to our congenital selfishness probably to behave like this
[13:26] herman Bergson: Yes Bejiita....status will be a next subject of a lecture
[13:26] Debbie DJ: and we lie to ourselves at so many levels... the popular ethics are almost a shield
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: same thing with brands of clothes, even if the difference is just the brand and not in quality everyone just have to have THOSE even they cost maybe twice or more just cause of the commercials
[13:27] Debbie DJ: as in - its ok to kill the enemy... we don't really believe that
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: Lewis Jeans for ex
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes we do even unconsciously....
[13:28] herman Bergson: But we are not selfish Lizzy...we protect ourselves..our self-esteem
[13:28] Debbie DJ: and it is this framework of self delusion that makes us behave the way we do...
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:28] herman Bergson: I think we have a kind of double image of ourselves.....
[13:29] herman Bergson: You see that in history.....
[13:29] herman Bergson: what is history...?
[13:29] herman Bergson: the sequence of one great statesman after the other...
[13:29] herman Bergson: or the social processes in societies that lead to all kinds of changes...
[13:29] herman Bergson: But ok...
[13:29] Debbie DJ: So maybe its not how to not be an egotist that matters, but overcoming fear and self delusion
[13:30] herman Bergson: assume it is the work of great statesmen...
[13:30] herman Bergson: But when you read for what reasons some great statesmen screwed up a conference on peace ....
[13:30] Debbie DJ: Granted there are great leaders - but don't they just change the language, and motivate people to change direction for their own ends?
[13:31] herman Bergson: just because individuals don't like each other....
[13:31] Ciska Riverstone: true herman - or because the food was making a bad mood
[13:31] herman Bergson: and in tis case I would say....feel themselves attacked in their self-image and self-esteem
[13:31] Lizzy Pleides: the most great leaders are involved into a war
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes..even a bad wine can spoil an international meeting :-)
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: seems so
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: its hopeless
[13:32] Ciska Riverstone: well..
[13:32] herman Bergson: no Bejiita..it is human
[13:32] Ciska Riverstone: maybe not Bejiita
[13:32] Ciska Riverstone: maybe we just focus on the wrong things
[13:32] Ciska Riverstone: when we think that being objective is soooo sooo good
[13:33] Debbie DJ: yes.. and to be human, is to want to feel ok, and have a good self image. even if we are jerks, we pretend to be nice...
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: well when u do a meeting like that you should focus on that and not ruin all just cause of the food taste crap or similar
[13:33] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:33] Ciska Riverstone: maybe its time to choose people who work for societies differently
[13:33] Ciska Riverstone: yes
[13:33] herman Bergson: the silly belief in the dispassionate mind
[13:33] Ciska Riverstone: but maybe
[13:33] Ciska Riverstone: we need to focus on people who really can do that.... kind of
[13:34] Ciska Riverstone: testing them first
[13:34] Ciska Riverstone: can they really be ok when they have the wrong wine ? ;)
[13:34] herman Bergson: I think that that os one of the biggest mistakes of today.....
[13:34] herman Bergson: in the media they tell us about negotiations about this or that....
[13:34] herman Bergson: people get together....
[13:35] herman Bergson: the comments in the newspaper are all based on the idea of the dispassionate mind
[13:35] herman Bergson: We are told to believe that these negotiators are rational beings only
[13:36] Debbie DJ: and trustworthy...
[13:36] herman Bergson: A big mistake....
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:36] Debbie DJ: The problem these days is there is not even one great leader visible around the world...
[13:36] herman Bergson: and so on
[13:36] herman Bergson: From the start we should be informed that Mr A doesn't like Mr B because he smells....
[13:37] Lizzy Pleides: lol
[13:37] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: and therefore they might start W W 3
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: hahaha
[13:37] .: Beertje :.: yak
[13:37] herman Bergson: Don't make jokes about that Bejiita...it has happened in history
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: its almost like that in some circumstances I d say
[13:37] herman Bergson: ^_^
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: when personal problems destroy much more important things like ex peace meetings
[13:38] Ciska Riverstone: well... look at hitler... any psychologist nowadays could have told you why this man was absolutely not made for his job
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: that can affect the entire world
[13:38] herman Bergson: True Ciska
[13:38] Debbie DJ: Herman, you always express optimism for the world, but we are all unable to deal with the current problems... we just pretend it will all be ok...
[13:39] Ciska Riverstone: look at many of the "big managers"
[13:39] Ciska Riverstone: some of them fit descriptions of psychopats
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: I am very sorry, i have go, TC all and thank you Herman
[13:39] herman Bergson smiles at Debbie
[13:39] Ciska Riverstone: enjoy lizzy
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: ok cu Lizzy
[13:39] herman Bergson: No Debbie...these problems only keep us busy and at our toes :-)
[13:40] Debbie DJ: see - you did the positive thing again :)
[13:40] herman Bergson: Ever imagined how dull paradise would be?
[13:40] Debbie DJ: I like it...
[13:40] Debbie DJ: yes... Unendurable happiness indefinitely prolonged... sound like a good idea at first...
[13:41] herman Bergson: Believe it or not Debbie....but poverty HAS decreased in the world...
[13:41] Debbie DJ: Herman that is not true.
[13:41] Debbie DJ: there are 7 Bn people and half the oil is finished
[13:41] .: Beertje :.: you can't reconise happines without sadness
[13:41] herman Bergson: Read it in my newspaper....IMF report or so...
[13:42] Debbie DJ: Statistics are the main weapons of the liars...
[13:42] herman Bergson: True Debbie :-)
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: a matter of how this was measured i guess...
[13:42] Debbie DJ: I've compiled a few biassed reports my self...
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: yes debbie
[13:42] herman Bergson: Probably I love the positive lies of my newspaper then :-)
[13:43] Debbie DJ: In south africa, the paper said we are all 3 % poorer since 2008
[13:43] Debbie DJ: wtf???
[13:43] herman Bergson: you know...cognitive dissonance ? ^_^
[13:43] Debbie DJ: how do they measure that ?
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: guess was biased on the finance crisis then
[13:44] Debbie DJ: yes... thanks for reminding me of cognitive dissonance - great phrase.
[13:44] herman Bergson: yes I am always amazed by such figures....
[13:45] Debbie DJ: I think 49.53% of all statistics are made up on the spur of the moment
[13:45] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:45] herman Bergson: Good and really accurate estimate, Debbie :-)
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: aaa true
[13:45] herman Bergson: I thought it was 49.52%
[13:45] Ciska Riverstone: and interpreted as needed.
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: hahahah
[[13:46] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:46] Debbie DJ: it makes the point
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:46] Bejiita Imako:
[13:46] Ciska Riverstone:
[13:47] herman Bergson: Ok ...thank you all again for your participation...
[13:47] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman - sorry for being late
[13:47] Debbie DJ: anyway, your insights as a classically trained philosopher into the current situation are great.
[13:47] herman Bergson: If you have no questions or remarks anymore.....
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: nice again Herman
[13:47] Bejiita Imako:
[13:47] Debbie DJ: thanks for class !
[13:47] herman Bergson: My pleasure Debbie...
[13:48] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^

Monday, April 22, 2013

469: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 34

The more I immerse myself in the subject of our project, the more questions come to me about the relation between all these insights and the traditional philosophical ethics.

While philosophers like Kant (1724 - 1804) try formulate to the basics of ethics in his Categorical Imperative, the social psychologists try to show us that ethics is not the product of our rationality.

Albert Bandura (born December 4, 1925, in Mundare, Alberta, Canada) is a psychologist who is the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University.

His idea was, that we do not only learn to behave because we are rewarded or punished for our behavior, but also by observing the behavior of others. He called it social cognition.

Social cognitive theory, used in psychology, education, and communication, posits that  people do not learn new behaviors solely by trying them and either succeeding or failing, but rather, the survival of humanity is dependent upon the replication of the actions of others. 

Depending on whether people are rewarded or punished for their behavior and the outcome of the behavior, that behavior may be modeled. Further, media provide models for a vast array of people in many different environmental settings.

For the most part, social cognitive theory remains the same for various cultures. Since the concepts of moral behavior did not vary much between cultures (as crimes like murder, theft, and unwarranted violence are illegal in virtually every society), there is not much room for people to have different views on what is morally right or wrong. 

The main reason that social cognitive theory applies to all nations is because it does not say what is moral and immoral; it simply states that we can acknowledge these two concepts. 

Our actions in real-life scenarios will be based on whether or not we believe the action to be moral and whether or not the reward for violating our morals is significant enough, and nothing else.

The technique we use for that is not applying the Kantian Categorical Imperative, but by using the "Categorical Comparative", which is a real part of human nature.

This term is self-invented, but does it mean? It means that we want to feel good. We want to say to ourselves, "I am a good person and not an asshole."

Thence we say to ourselves that we act morally right (most of the time). We don't do that by testing our behavior with the Categorical Imperative, but by comparing our behavior with that of others.

The most horrible example is that of the soldier who killed only children, while his comrades killed the mothers. And his reasoning was something like "I killed only these poor orphans, but look at them who killed the mothers!"

Or a more familiar example. A child got a D for his test and says to his parents…."Yes a D, but most of the class got E-s and F-s", which makes a D almost a intellectual victory.

What we see here is that "the comrades" and "the rest of the class" become the standard to decide whether something is right or wrong.

We define ourselves by comparing ourselves with others. When we can look down on them this is balm for our Ego. Looking up to others can be both, motivating and demotivating.

Two groups of girls were shown photos of a model. One group was told that the model happened to have the same birthday as them. Afterwards they were asked to describe their own  appearance.

The first group was much more negative about their appearance than the second group. The explanation was, that it was already enough to have just something in common with the other to say "she is beautiful, but I am too more or less" instead of"I am not so beautiful as that model", which can make the other a motivating example.

In moral situations we are easily inclined to emphasize, how bad the others are. When your brother says to you that he is more ethical than you are, so you should look up to him, I don't think you will do that without discussion.

Yet the philosophical question remains, whether morals show constant shifting baselines, or can there be universal rock solid moral standards.

Main Resources:
Richard David Precht, Die Kunst kein Egoist zu sein (2012)
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition

The Discussion

[13:25] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:25] herman Bergson: My apologies I messed up a little
[13:25] Gemma Allen: shifting baselines seems interesting ..
[13:25] Bejiita Imako:
[13:25] Gemma Allen: seems to fit sometimes
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:26] herman Bergson: But the main thought is that we don't learn moral behavior because of rational moral principles but by comparing behavior and imitation in fact
[13:26] herman Bergson: yes Gemma....
[13:26] Lizzy Pleides: for the term of the Categorical Comparative you should get the nobel prize
[13:27] Gemma AllenGemma Allen GIGGLES!!
[13:27] Gemma Allen: ...LOL...
[13:27] herman Bergson: When I look in the mirror I don't compare my face with that of 20 years ago....dis so 20 years ago :-)
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: hahahahah
[13:27] herman Bergson: Now I compare it only with the image of yesterday
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: (Throws to Herman a Nobel prize)
[13:27] herman Bergson: so I shift the baseline
[13:27] Bejiita Imako:
[13:28] herman Bergson: We see now a number of ways how we define our selves morally...
[13:28] herman Bergson: conformity to the group
[13:28] herman Bergson: shifting baselines
[13:28] herman Bergson: comparing behavior and boosting our by looking down on others
[13:28] Gemma Allen: teen years are such a problem this way
[13:29] Gemma Allen: everyone wants to be like their peers
[13:29] Lizzy Pleides: for intelligent people there is a big variety to define themselves a moral persons
[13:29] herman Bergson: there you see the adoration of idols
[13:29] herman Bergson: yes Lizzy.....and what you may conclude...it is not a constant....
[13:30] Lizzy Pleides: true
[13:30] herman Bergson: just look at sexual behavior....
[13:30] herman Bergson: fi the ones you look up to behave in a certain way....why shouldn't you.....
[13:30] herman Bergson: tho years ago you might have detested it
[13:31] .: Beertje :.: same with cloth of famous brands
[13:31] herman Bergson: or clothing...
[13:31] herman Bergson: just recall what happened when the mini skirt arrived on the scene...
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes, just for the brand u pay 3 times as much if not more even if the fabric is same quality in both cases
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: thats a bit crazy
[13:32] Gemma Allen: well it is back
[13:32] herman Bergson: and look around now.....
[13:32] .: Beertje :.: yes Bejiita..but youngsters think they must have it
[13:32] herman Bergson: what is right and wrong in clothing?
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:32] Gemma Allen: of course
[13:32] herman Bergson: people look at each other....
[13:32] .: Beertje :.: they feel good when they wear those cloths
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: also lot of group pressure and such
[13:33] herman Bergson: if they see that other get away with it....well..then it must be right
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: and what is in and what is out
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: trends
[13:33] herman Bergson: I am beginning to think that we have two levels of ethics....
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: indeed but that other person might just be lucky he did get away for that time and the other will not be when he tries himself
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: a bit dangerous
[13:34] herman Bergson: one of our every day use....where baselines shift, where we compare.....where standards change all the time....
[13:34] herman Bergson: and one more basic......
[13:35] herman Bergson: where there are solid values...
[13:35] herman Bergson: like not murdering or stealing or using violence...
[13:35] herman Bergson: but changing the length of your skirt has little to do with such standards...
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: that i think should be obvious to all that u dont do things like that but apparently thats not how it is
[13:36] herman Bergson: so that issue can be liquid....
[13:36] herman Bergson: that is the point Bejiita...
[13:36] herman Bergson: take murder for instance....
[13:36] herman Bergson: the word is already judgmental....
[13:37] herman Bergson: so back to killing another human being.....
[13:37] herman Bergson: then the question becomes fundamental....
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: just now in the news i saw lot of theft cases and a gang that goes around asking for help by laying a paper with something on it over your mobile or wallet and ask if they can help them with this
[13:37] herman Bergson: like the discussion on the death penalty...
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: then the phone and wallet is gone and they leave
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: really nasty
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: and was cases all over my city where that had happened
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: also how they use al sorts of viruses to try to empty peoples bank accounts
[13:39] herman Bergson: I think ..the question about having the right to take the life of another is more fundamental than taking his cellphone :-)
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: also really terrible and gets worse and worse
[13:39] herman Bergson: Tho I am not sure anymore these days about that :-))
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: yes herman and its always the question who can decide about death and life
[13:39] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:39] herman Bergson: Indeed Lizzy....
[13:40] herman Bergson: Even when you have taken a life yourself by murdering someone...
[13:40] herman Bergson: is it completely arbitrary what right we have to our life or is it more than that
[13:41] Gemma Allen: well self preservation would be one right
[13:41] Gemma Allen: tho i would still find it hard or impossible to do
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes and you do not need to KILL someone to preserve yourself
[13:42] Gemma Allen: oh sometimes one does
[13:42] .: Beertje :.: brb
[13:42] Gemma Allen: if that person is threatening you with murder
[13:42] Lizzy Pleides: Hi Rod
[13:42] Gemma Allen: rod
[13:42] herman Bergson: In situations of war it is used as an argument indeed Gemma...yes
[13:43] Rodney Handrick: Hi Lizzy
[13:43] Gemma Allen: of abuse
[13:43] Gemma Allen: or *
[13:43] Rodney Handrick: Hi Gemma
[13:44] herman Bergson: Complicated questions.....
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:44] herman Bergson: Fortunately we don't need to answer them...
[13:44] Gemma Allen: as usual
[13:44] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:44] herman Bergson: the meaning of this project is that you look for your own answers afterwards ^_^
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: we have to leave some problems to be solved by our followers
[13:45] herman Bergson: Well...if you ran out of questions or remarks...?
[13:45] Gemma Allen: LOL
[13:45] herman Bergson: May I thank you for your participation again ^_^
[[13:46] Gemma Allen: Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!!
[13:46] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ...
[13:46] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you Herman!
[13:46] Gemma Allen: see you next week
[13:46] Gemma Allen: Bye, Bye   
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: aaaa cu
[13:46] herman Bergson: Bye Gemma
[13:46] Lizzy Pleides: TC Gemma
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: great as usual
[13:46] herman Bergson: thank you Bejiita
[13:48] herman Bergson: Hi Rodney :-)
[13:48] Rodney Handrick: Hi Herman
[13:48] Lizzy Pleides: good night everybody
[13:48] herman Bergson: Attending the end of class for years now ^_^
[13:48] Rodney Handrick: Goodnight Lizzy
[13:49] herman Bergson: I am sorry I still can't match with your time schedule Rodney ^_^