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Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison) 
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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
youkrst wrote:
may the Barry be with you :lol:


And may the farce be with you too


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Thu Jan 28, 2016 1:37 am
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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry Marks wrote:
I took your proposal to "make the unconscious conscious" to be something like Freudian dream interpretation, in which a person becomes able to recognize hitherto incomprehensible experiences as results of forces which can be described and analyzed. I see now that you are satisfied with any process which analyzes the unconscious of anyone, so that it does not necessitate a change in internal perspective by the person experiencing the unconscious phenomena.
Harrison provide some good analysis of the unconscious in Good Thinking, noting that our conscious mind is only a tiny fraction of our mental process. As we see in debates with religious believers, people have strong blockages regarding their unconscious drivers, and it can be a better ambition to discuss typical thought processes than to expect people who are beset by delusion to recognise their own problems. Even so, I think that Christianity has the kernel of an ability to be self aware in the teaching of John the Baptist that forgiveness is conditional upon repentance, which means that addressing sin requires understanding.
Harry Marks wrote:
you should assess values propositions by different criteria than fact propositions. Values propositions can be apparently contradictory but in fact both true or correct. "Truth" about a should is not the same as "truth" about an is. The epistemology is different, and the notion that contradictory claims cannot both be true simply fails to understand the nature of truth in the context of values.
That is some very thorny ground, opening the same themes that Tillich discusses in terms of faith in an absolute. Back to Hume, he argued that values are expressions of sentiment or preference, not correct statements of true fact. My sense here is that values always rest logically upon moral axioms that are statements of principle, unlike empirical facts which can be proven true or false by observation of evidence. The type of world that we personally think it is good to create can only be called a correct view on the basis of faith, and I would tend to see ‘true or correct’ as a category error to describe values, except in terms of an agreed social framework.
Harry Marks wrote:

It would be good if you would query that if you disagree, because I find it frustrating to proceed without it having been clarified when you regularly show evidence of confusion on the point.
The relation between facts and values is among the most interesting and confusing problems in philosophy, for epistemology and for ethics. I don’t think your introduction of the idea of correct values is particularly clear, for example. My thinking on this topic is influenced by Heidegger, from my MA thesis on ethics and ontology, especially his central idea that care is the meaning of being. People do routinely imagine that facts imply values, and that effects have a necessary connection to their causes, despite Hume’s famous scepticism about both. I think that Kant’s idea of necessary truth as discerned by transcendental imagination is a good way to address these philosophical problems systematically.
Harry Marks wrote:

I am arguing second that you should distinguish between assessing the motivation for beliefs and assessing the truth of beliefs. You have repeatedly, on this thread, dismissed the possibility that worthy motives could be behind a belief on the basis of your belief that it is factually incorrect. I understand the notion of "bad faith", in which wrong motives can be uncovered based on refusal to consider evidence, but that is itself easily used as an excuse not to assess the actual motivation involved.
You seem to be trying to make excuses for why people believe things that are not true. That is a reasonable exercise, since often untrue beliefs such as heaven can be socially adaptive. And in Plato’s terms, there could be a case for the noble lie, teachings that are factually incorrect but socially useful. The Historical Jesus springs to mind as a great example. I heard a superb radio program last night about a girl who recovered from heroin addiction and prostitution through faith in Jesus, and was able to use her sincere faith to help rescue other lost souls through evangelism. This psychology of the armour of faith can be a highly valuable motivation, and its epistemic basis can be secondary. But it is still a reasonable question to explore its epistemic and neural basis.
Harry Marks wrote:
We are claiming to understand the reasons why a myth (or a presidential candidate) "resonates" in a force of which the resonated person is not aware. Some of it operates like movie music: going on in the background without conscious processing. But let's face it, people are often all too aware of why they respond to what they respond to.
Tyrants are the worst example of people who can manipulate sentiment to achieve mass popularity. Hitler was particularly astute at that in the design of symbols and use of rhetoric. I have a far lower opinion of human rationality than you evince regarding why people respond. The ability of marketing to use symbols to manipulate desire is well recognised, except by those who are manipulated.
Harry Marks wrote:

A broken myth is essentially a parable, or perhaps if it operates on a more limited scale, a symbol. And since the whole point is to learn to process these effectively, recognizing the reasons for their effects, I think it would be a good idea not to start with claims of superior insight until that has been demonstrated.
You might like to expand on that point Harry, since I don’t understand it. What do you mean by processing parables and symbols? I thought breaking a myth in Tillich’s terms was about demythologising, and the broken myth about a functional story whose epistemic foundations have begun to totter. The feet of clay spring to mind as an example of a collapsing story, in this case both literally and symbolically.
Harry Marks wrote:
I remain dissatisfied on some relatively minor aspects, and one of them is the requirement that the function of myth must operate by means of unconscious factors.
I will dig out Harrison’s comments about the unconscious, since I think they nicely address your point, and help to show how our very extended digression has been relevant to the original topic of the thread. It is absolutely clear to me that myth mainly operates unconsciously, much as trends in popular music and art and politics involve deep shifts of the zeitgeist rather than the superficial factors that can be consciously understood by mass opinion. I think that Jungian analysis provides the best tools to bring the theory of the unconscious into explicit focus, especially his concepts of symbolic types as applied to religion.

Christianity also provides tools for its own redemption by bringing unknown factors into awareness, such as the line that the truth will set you free, and Paul’s comment that we see through a glass darkly.

How very darkly ironic that the line that caused Trump such grief recently from Second Corinthians was 'where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty'. Liberty is a concept that is used now by American politicians much in the way jingos used to speak of glory, in terms astutely mocked by Humpty Dumpty as concealing unconscious motives.


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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harrison provide some good analysis of the unconscious in Good Thinking, noting that our conscious mind is only a tiny fraction of our mental process. As we see in debates with religious believers, people have strong blockages regarding their unconscious drivers, and it can be a better ambition to discuss typical thought processes than to expect people who are beset by delusion to recognise their own problems.

There are two processes being jumbled together. Harrison's note is based on the huge amount of processing that "stays under the radar", not requiring any awareness to get it right. The entire operation of the cerebellum, for example, simply stays outside conscious processing.

The second process is the more dangerous business of repressing knowledge. "Blockage" occurs when someone is unconsciously suppressing awareness of something whose recognition triggers threat feelings. I recognize there is plenty of this going around (including among militant atheists - we all do it) but I tend to be skeptical of those who claim to know why others repress knowledge.

I am not a lot more impressed by skeptics' analysis of cognitive dissonance among creationists than by evangelicals claiming atheists don't see the evidence for God because they don't want to change their ways. In both cases it is at best a working hypothesis to be investigated.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
you should assess values propositions by different criteria than fact propositions.
That is some very thorny ground, opening the same themes that Tillich discusses in terms of faith in an absolute. Back to Hume, he argued that values are expressions of sentiment or preference, not correct statements of true fact. My sense here is that values always rest logically upon moral axioms that are statements of principle, unlike empirical facts which can be proven true or false by observation of evidence.

Yes, that is the point. I fail to see why it is thorny ground. Maybe I haven't read enough Tillich.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The type of world that we personally think it is good to create can only be called a correct view on the basis of faith, and I would tend to see ‘true or correct’ as a category error to describe values, except in terms of an agreed social framework.

That used to be my complete position. I now have moved a bit, based partly on the recognition that there is a logical framework implicit in agreed social frameworks. My current view is that the meaning of the terms (located in the way our brain processes the terms, not in some dialectical space in the noösphere) emerges as a reflection of the Golden Rule, or reciprocity (Rawlsian justice). As a result, a proposition may be demonstrably false morally if it contradicts the Golden Rule, but that not all true moral propositions can be demonstrated to be so. Incompleteness, a la Gödel, in a sense.

Imagine a very large number of non-Euclidean geometries, to get the flavor. Lots of propositions can be shown false, but some propositions are true in some geometries and false in others. That is how I think epistemology of values works.
Robert Tulip wrote:
I don’t think your introduction of the idea of correct values is particularly clear, for example.

Well, I can hardly imagine anything I say being unclear. But just in case, feel free to ask about them. Maybe I will end up agreeing with you.
Robert Tulip wrote:
My thinking on this topic is influenced by Heidegger, from my MA thesis on ethics and ontology, especially his central idea that care is the meaning of being.

I think that is excellent. I must admit I have not encountered that idea, but it works brilliantly, if you ask me. Can I get a source by Heidegger (not too tough to read, please, though I did get through Buber)?

But yes, when people say "life feels meaningless" I think they are expressing the same idea as "I don't care about anything". It is interesting that those two ways of expressing a similar concept are so intimately related.
Robert Tulip wrote:
I think that Kant’s idea of necessary truth as discerned by transcendental imagination is a good way to address these philosophical problems systematically.

I am not familiar with that idea, at least not expressed that way, but it sounds vaguely reminiscent of my use of "the meaning of the terms" right and wrong above.
Robert Tulip wrote:
You seem to be trying to make excuses for why people believe things that are not true.

That is not how I see my efforts. I would argue that the continuum of arguments for believing something, between "evidence" (think of it as the real axis in complex numbers) and "usefulness" (think of it as the imaginary axis) is not very clear to the average person, and they have a sort of fuzzy version of the modulus, in which either a very useful idea or a very well evidenced idea have roughly equal status.
Combine this with an unwillingness to question beliefs which are both socially useful and accepted by general society and you have the situation of the religious literalist.
Robert Tulip wrote:
That is a reasonable exercise, since often untrue beliefs such as heaven can be socially adaptive. And in Plato’s terms, there could be a case for the noble lie, teachings that are factually incorrect but socially useful.

Although there is undoubtedly something corrupting about sticking to a noble lie despite knowledge (or even strong suspicion) that it is false. Public affairs leads to all sorts of corrupting influences, but that one may be one of the most overlooked, as the current state of the Republican Party attests.
Robert Tulip wrote:
But it is still a reasonable question to explore its [traditional Christian theology's] epistemic and neural basis.

Oh, aye, but it is also a good idea to learn to examine motivations separately from epistemological methods, if only to avoid confusion.
Robert Tulip wrote:
I have a far lower opinion of human rationality than you evince regarding why people respond. The ability of marketing to use symbols to manipulate desire is well recognised, except by those who are manipulated.

An excellent example to raise. We have a good idea that marketing works mainly by manipulating the price someone is willing to pay to buy something, and only secondarily their motivation to buy it in the first place. (There is little science in marketing, and that recognition only goes back about 30 years. Efforts to demonstrate efficacy of advertising have routinely failed.)
This makes sense in light of general vagueness in the average person's evaluation of the worth of an object (anchor effects are demonstrable) but fairly clear idea whether they think the product or service is worth buying at all.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
A broken myth is essentially a parable, or perhaps if it operates on a more limited scale, a symbol. And since the whole point is to learn to process these effectively, recognizing the reasons for their effects, I think it would be a good idea not to start with claims of superior insight until that has been demonstrated.
You might like to expand on that point Harry, since I don’t understand it. What do you mean by processing parables and symbols? I thought breaking a myth in Tillich’s terms was about demythologising, and the broken myth about a functional story whose epistemic foundations have begun to totter. The feet of clay spring to mind as an example of a collapsing story, in this case both literally and symbolically.

A broken myth is one that we can "see through". Nobody really believes Theseus killed a minotaur, regardless of the bull leaping and tribute collection of Knossos which may have been the basis for the tale. So we treat it as fiction and think about why it engages us. The point has little to do with whether its epistemic foundations are strong, weak or somewhere in between, but we are wiser if we learn to recognize when our reasons for believing are essentially independent of evidence and (instrumental) usefulness.
Why do people continue to spread de-bunked history, such as the claim (once found in textbooks) that the Church opposed Columbus' belief in a round earth? It was a complete fiction, invented by a couple of propagandists against religion on the basis of one quote that wasn't even close to saying that. But as you said, people often hear what they want to hear, and if we can detect that before we know anything about evidence, we are wiser for it.
Robert Tulip wrote:
It is absolutely clear to me that myth mainly operates unconsciously, much as trends in popular music and art and politics involve deep shifts of the zeitgeist rather than the superficial factors that can be consciously understood by mass opinion.

So you think it is not worth asking people why they like Trump, but we should just proceed on the basis of what we know about human psychology universally? I don't see it, I have to admit.

I don't doubt these forces exist, but (as I once said in another context) our t stats are good (i.e. the forces we posit really are in operation) but our R-squareds are low (i.e. we can't explain much of the variation in the world with the forces we posit).
Robert Tulip wrote:
How very darkly ironic that the line that caused Trump such grief recently from Second Corinthians was 'where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty'. Liberty is a concept that is used now by American politicians much in the way jingos used to speak of glory, in terms astutely mocked by Humpty Dumpty as concealing unconscious motives.

Sure, but we have plenty on our plate already with the conscious motives. Liberty means lack of government regulation to a large number of people, by which they mean freedom from busing students for racial integration, freedom from restrictions on their use and purchase of guns, freedom from high taxes, and, ironically enough, freedom to control the sex lives of others based on religion. Not much of that is unconscious.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry Marks wrote:
It seems to me that suspension of disbelief works primarily by excluding the distraction of fact-checking. We don't really care whether Hamlet talks with a ghost or the whole conversation occurs in his head, or whether Macbeth got some reassuring guidance from wielders of dark power or just decided "to hell with it, I am going for the crown." The interesting use of the plot device is to raise aspects of the matter that would lose their emotional force if we had to keep assessing whether we believe that things happen that way.
Another way of putting that is that when the story captivates us we are swept up in it emotionally and have no conscious attention space for asking if it makes sense from some objective reference point.
Harry Marks wrote:
I don't think that means the emotional force is unconscious, only that it is a whole lot more work to access it and work with it by explicit means than by a good story.
Well I do think the emotional force is largely unconscious. It touches on the quality of the acting, which is about the ability of the players to fully enter the characters. The difference between compelling natural acting and wooden stilted acting can be very subtle, and while it might be describable for an expert critic the ordinary person is not really conscious of why one performance is great and another is pedestrian except in terms of feelings that are hard to describe.
Harry Marks wrote:
the need for femininity to be controlled by masculinity strikes me as an example of an unconscious force at work, but I fear I cannot see how it is at work in the Immaculate Conception material.
That is the main point of the dogma of the virgin birth, that for Catholicism woman is the devil’s gateway, as the ancients put it, and so sexuality must be sublimated into a framework of patriarchal control that separates spirit from flesh. The iconic virgin mother on the pedestal emerged from the demonising of Eve as the source of original sin. This is a fascinating area of study, for example in Pagels’ Adam, Eve and the Serpent, and in feminist theology that explores how the equal female Lilith, a goddess of power and dignity, was replaced by Eve, a deceptive twit, as Adam’s partner in the process of destroying the stone age matrifocal cultures.

The Biblical demotion of the female goddess Asherah from Yahweh’s partner as the first of the real ten commandments in Exodus 34 http://biblehub.com/niv/exodus/34.htm similarly prepared the way for the Christian cult of sole male leadership. There are massive unconscious factors at work in exploring the whole attitude of Christianity to sex and power, but that analysis is still hindered, in the academy as well as in broader society, by the aggressive magical fantasy of patriarchal monotheism.
Harry Marks wrote:
some cultural relativism is inevitable. I do not hold that it is impossible to ever make judgments about which values are better (though I do believe it is impossible to demonstrate them with the methods we use for adjudication of factual claims), only that it is an incomplete system of comparison. It works sometimes, but in many, many cases one cannot give arguments from one perspective that a different perspective will find persuasive, nor demonstrate that the reason for this is a violation of moral principles. Liberal tolerance emphasizes cultural relativism for good reason, and the inevitability of cultural relativism, that is, the dependence of a principle's value on the conditions in which it is held, is part of that reason.
A good example of the problem of cultural relativism is seen in the development challenges of a nation such as Papua New Guinea, large parts of which were in the stone age almost in living memory. Keeping tradition alive is valuable, but the old myths were broken by the arrival of guns, germs and steel, to use Jared Diamond’s summary of the main factors in western conquest of the world. I think there is a need for a Hegelian dialectic in the relation between tradition and modernity, seeing primitive traditions as the original cultural thesis which was overturned by a modern antithesis, with these conflicting ways of thought gradually evolving towards a synthesis. In one sense such a synthesis is relativistic, in seeking respect for diversity, but then it also involves genuine difficult debate and conflict about social values.
Harry Marks wrote:
accepting the onus to understand [a culture] is not the same as being required to agree or even tolerate.
I don’t think that distinction works in practice. Pure relativism says we cannot say one culture is better than another. It is political correctness gone mad.
Harry Marks wrote:
I know people who will not drive on Third World roads. Are they just sissies, or are they going by sensible precautions? That is not adjudicable because right and wrong are internal categories. And for the same reason, cultures may differ in the relative emphasis they put on competing values.
People who have internalised a strong moral system regarding the value of human life can find it very difficult to understand different views. The military ‘do or die’ ethic of king and country which produced the slaughter of the Somme is hard to imagine for people who see individual rights as the framework of value. Human life is given lower value in societies that see risk as character building.


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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Robert Tulip wrote:
Another way of putting that is that when the story captivates us we are swept up in it emotionally and have no conscious attention space for asking if it makes sense from some objective reference point.

We have spent quite a few words on "subconscious", and I am not really feeling it is worth the effort. Let me propose that a fruitful program would be to work out some of the ways which story makes use of emotional "current" to bypass the fact-checking process we call "reason". I am not sure anyone has looked at the ability of story to capture attention, but there is some neurological stuff out there about competition for attention by different motivational factors.
Robert Tulip wrote:
It touches on the quality of the acting, which is about the ability of the players to fully enter the characters. The difference between compelling natural acting and wooden stilted acting can be very subtle, and while it might be describable for an expert critic the ordinary person is not really conscious of why one performance is great and another is pedestrian except in terms of feelings that are hard to describe.


This sounds like a model in which the subtleties of non-verbal communication, subconscious if you will but not repressed, can either facilitate or obstruct the emotional sweep of the story. There is some interesting sociobiology stuff on lying, or mimicry, and I would guess that if bad acting sends up signals of inauthentic non-verbal communication that it triggers our fact-checking reactions and interferes with the sweep.

This is rather like the "less trouble" version I proposed of how suspension of disbelief works. But the "unconscious forces" version says they causing particular emotional triggers to be more captivating - more of a "more meaning" effect than a "less trouble" effect. I expect both are going on in good story-telling.

One of the problems with the Trump phenomenon, like the Reagan phenomenon it stems from, is its emotional basis in over-riding some people's concern for reason. As people said about Goebbels' spectaculars, they want to be fooled. The followers of Trump have recognized that the complexity of the real world is overwhelming, emotionally and cognitively. They want to be told "complexity, comshlecksity - everything is simple, really."

All this reminds me of Oliver Sacks' story of how patients whose ability to translate speech into meaning was lost, but they could still read non-verbal cues. They found Reagan hilarious. Presumably he was sending up conflicting signals: the world is dangerous **and** there is nothing to worry about, etc.. That takes a special quality of acting ability, and I think Trump has it.

Robert Tulip wrote:
That is the main point of the dogma of the virgin birth, that for Catholicism woman is the devil’s gateway, as the ancients put it, and so sexuality must be sublimated into a framework of patriarchal control that separates spirit from flesh.

I will take your word for it. These ideas are not especially new to me, but it still feels like a stretch from the self-control and sublimation ethic to patriarchal control as the mechanism. There is at least a backdoor connection through the pagan view that the victor gets the maiden, in which military effectiveness was seen as an expression of masculine virility. That was evidently how patriarchy was established. I have some trouble connecting the dots to sublimation as an expression of the same force.

Robert Tulip wrote:
I think there is a need for a Hegelian dialectic in the relation between tradition and modernity, seeing primitive traditions as the original cultural thesis which was overturned by a modern antithesis, with these conflicting ways of thought gradually evolving towards a synthesis.

Sure, and not just in Papua New Guinea, for sure. "Primitive traditions" come from a setting which omits many of the things that are driving us crazy in modern life, from the seemingly infinite supply of women-who-are-more-physically-attractive-than-my-wife, to half a billion Chinese workers competing for jobs with me.

We've got to get ourselves back into the garden.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry wrote:
We've got to get ourselves back into the garden.


greetings from the garden :-D

it still needs weeding :)



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry wrote:
Leibniz


thanks Harry, you mentioning Leibniz got me watching this vid.

i hadn't checked out Leibniz before and enjoy learning about him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W8fA0Z ... 4A288E5A03

:up:



Last edited by youkrst on Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
youkrst wrote:
got me watching


Non Liquet



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