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 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 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 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 ^_^

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