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Thursday, October 16, 2014

On Global Contextualism as a Social Regulator

The most recent social regulator is what I'm going to call "global contextualism." It is part of the holistic (turquoise) psychological level in the Gravesean model. It builds on naturalistic principles, adding to this internal regulator an external aspect -- the global network and the local contexts are taken into consideration alongside (as variations on) naturalistic principles. Naturalistic principles see the unity under the variety of human cultural expressions; global contextualism sees the variety which emerges from those universals and the networks of people and the long-tern consequences of various actions within those varying contexts.

The global contextualist sees the big picture, over space and time, taking into consideration all the network effects (including butterfly effects). This may appear to be "unprincipled," but it still has naturalistic principles underlying it. And, practitioners having second tier psychologies, lower levels are not rejected, but fully integrated. They also can resolve some of the paradoxes that emerge in naturalistic principles.

Let us take, for example, the moral issue of whether or not one should cheat on one's wife.

The tribalist would argue against disappointing one's family. But of course, this would vary based on cultural norms. One may not disappoint one's family if one has lovers.

Those who feel shame would only worry about whether or not they would get caught.

Those who feel guilt wouldn't cheat if the external principles included fidelity to one's spouse.

Those who feel responsibility wouldn't cheat so long as they could continue to live up to their responsibilities toward their spouses. That responsibility may include fidelity itself, but it may not.

Those who feel collective guilt may see cheating as disrespecting the spouse as a man or woman, though if something were arranged between the two beforehand, such that there were no disrespect of the spouse as a member of the opposite sex, that would be fine.

For those who feel naturalistic principles, there are natural tendencies toward loyalty, and one understands that cheating leads to lack of trust, which reduces the spousal bonds. However, there is also understood to be a tendency to be mildly polyandrous; meaning, a spouse and a lover.Relying on internal information is not enough to necessarily tip the scales one way or another, though other values will certainly come into play in making the decision.

The global contextualists consider all pathways before them and decide based on that. It is unlikely that cheating would result in a pathway that would benefit oneself, one's spouse, the potential lover, whatever if any children are involved, social relations, familial relations, etc. This external network information helps one to tip the scales toward loyalty rather than mildly polyandrous tendencies.

Of course, as noted above in the discussion of naturalistic principles, other values necessarily come into play, so things are hardly so clear-cut as laid out above. And of course, it should also be clear from the discussion above that things are hardly clear-cut at any of the levels themselves. The nature of one's culture matters (and the nature of one's spouse). What changes is how one considers what actions to take.

Of course, while global contextualism is the latest to emerge, it's hardly the endpoint. Whatever emerges next will require investigation once it emerges. But we can only investigate that which already exists.

On Familial Disappointment as Social Regulator

The earliest social regulator -- found in tribes, and founding all of our social regulations -- is familial disappointment, which is extended to the extended family of the tribe as a whole (and relegated, in larger, more complex societies, to the household). Rituals are also adopted to aid in social regulation, since rituals allow people to enter and exit private and/or sacred spaces. The regularities of rituals allow social regulation by helping people understand what they need to do when. However, even with this, the rituals do not in and of themselves punish you for violating them. That falls to one's relatives.

We see direct familial interactions regulating social behaviors in the social mammals as a whole, but with humans we get the added element of disappointment. Disappointment requires language to clearly communicate it. The last thing most people want to do is disappoint their parents or other family members. That extends to one's spouse when one marries.

When a society (or a person) enters into shame as the primary regulator, though, familial disappointment fades fast. In the U.S., people tend to enter into shame as social regulator when they are 12 or 13. Have you ever met a 12 or 13 year old American who cared about whether or not he or she was disappointing his or her parents? Of course not. But they were concerned with what their friends thought. When they emerge into guilt and then responsibility, etc., they often loosen up on familial disappointment as a regulator (even if they do tend to more strongly reject the level they just emerged out of -- those who enter into guilt thus reject shame; those who enter into responsibility reject guilt; those who enter into collective guilt reject responsibility -- though this latter one, being egalitarian, also tends to reject all others in equal measure).

We would thus expect shame cultures to be more abusive toward family members, particularly spouses. And while we would not expect those regulated by collective guilt to be explicitly abusive, we would expect a weakening of family structures and perhaps an increase in divorce as a result. Those who feel guilt and responsibility are more likely to return to feeling familial regulations more strongly, so we would expect to see support for "family values" and stronger family structures in general.

We can thus see that these levels are not necessarily clear-cut and explicit. New levels contain the levels below -- those feelings don't go away once they emerge, though they may be suppressed to varying degrees. Healthy families likely have strong familial regulations in place, even if different members are at different psychological levels and thus use different social regulators.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bureaucracy Spreads Ebola

The reports of what was happening at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas by the nurse's union highlight the dangers of the bureaucratic mindset. The bureaucratic mindset is that of egalitarian (green) psychology. Which means that nobody was making a decision, because nobody wanted to be held responsible for what might happen. I promise you that while Duncan was surrounded by other patients, there was a nice, long, pointless meeting taking place to decide what ought to be done.

Nice, long, pointless meetings is the main feature of egalitarian social interactions. The meetings are found in our schools, in our governments, in our corporations, and in our hospitals. In our schools, they only waste teachers' time and make teachers' jobs impossible and work to ensure our students get the worst education possible. In our governments, they only waste tax money and ensure nothing gets done until and unless everyone is on board (including the corporations attending). In our corporations, they only waste time and money and make businesses less efficient and their products more expensive.

But when this happens in our health care system, illness spreads and people die.

And that is what we are seeing here in Dallas. The disastrous bureaucratic mindset will actually kill people when it comes to health care. It is one thing for it to interfere with things like preventative care or seeing patients who later, quietly, die. It is quite another for it to cause an epidemic.

Had there been someone in that hospital who took responsibility for what was going on, Duncan would probably still be alive, and the two people who contracted Ebola would have likely never done so. Instead, when one person did in fact try to take responsibility, "A nursing supervisor faced resistance from hospital authorities when the supervisor demanded that Duncan be moved to an isolation unit."

The issue is that the majority egalitarian psychologies in charge at the hospital see those who express responsibility as morally inferior and, therefore, someone it is okay to ignore. The facts of the matter don't matter, only that the right person with the right attitude is making the suggestion. But in a psychological level that rejects responsibility (because it is the level immediately below that level) and opts rather for collective guilt, the recommendations of someone preaching responsibility are specifically going to be ignored.

The nursing supervisor was not speaking the right language to the hospital authorities. That is why Duncan died, and that is why two more people have Ebola here in Dallas.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Seneca's Phaedra as Transition from Guilt to Responsibility Culture

Writers are attracted to some stories over others because of the kinds of things those stories highlight. An example of this is the myth of Hippolytus and Phaedra, which investigates the issue of transitioning from one kind of social regulation to another.

Euripides' version of the story is a tragedy that takes place in the transition from shame culture to guilt culture, and it highlights the danger of this transition in the actions of Phaedra. In The Phaedra Syndrome: Of Shame and Guilt in Drama, Albert Gerard argues that the modern sense of guilt was "clearly beyond the reach of Euripides' Phaidra," since "This sense of guilt has two components: remorse and atonement" (34). While it is clear that Phaedra is feels remorse for her feelings toward Hippoltyus, it is hardly atonement which drives her self-punishment.

If we consider the fact that guilt is internal and that it compels one to want to confess one's sins (internal desires are also sins with guilt, while with shame, only actions are sins), we can see why the transition is particularly dangerous. In the play, Phaedra feels guilt for desiring her step-son, Hippolytus. This guilt compels her to confess to her Nurse and the chorus, and her nurse in turn tells Hippolytus. Her feelings being exposed, Phaedra's feelings of shame compel her to commit suicide. With either guilt or shame, Phaedra would have been fine. With guilt alone, she wouldn't have felt the shame that would have driven her to commit suicide, and with shame alone, she wouldn't have told the nurse, and her failure to act would have resulted in a failure to feel shame. It was the combination of the two that was fatal.

While Euripides' Phaedra is driven by guilt to confess to the Nurse and chorus, then driven by shame to commit suicide after the confession exposes her shameful feelings, Seneca "Makes his Phaedra responsible for whatever she says and does."

By transferring to her some of the Greek Nurse's flashes of cynical insight and pragmatic advice her enhances the audience's perception of her unwavering awareness of right and wrong: she embarks on her evil course of action in full knowledge that she is violating the rational-ethical principles that should govern human conduct. (Gerard, 27-28)
It is on rational-ethical principles which the very idea of responsibility is founded. So if the Nurse is trying to push Phaedra toward rational-ethics, she is trying to push her toward responsibility. This is thus a tragedy dealing with the transition from guilt to responsibility -- which probably explains the strong interest in Seneca's work during the Renaissance transition from a guilt culture to a responsibility culture. Seneca's Phaedra thus moves from guilt to responsibility. She recognizes her own responsibility for Hippolytus' death, and it is this recognition of responsibility that causes her to commit suicide as punishment to herself for her sin. 

Seneca's Phaedra is safe from outward punishment, but not from "the built-in sanction, the voice of conscience, the inner sense of guilt in a soul tormented by the gnawing awareness of her own crime" (35). That is, she has clearly gotten away with everything such that nobody is going to punish her for what she's done or felt. Were this a shame culture in Seneca's version, Phaedra would have never committed suicide after Hippolytus' death. This is why she has to commit suicide in Euripides' version before Hippolytus' death. Yet, with guilt, Phaedra has not done anything before Hippolytus' death that would warrant her own death.

Gerard argues that
The suicide of Euripides' Phaidra was a clear example of shame-culture behaviour: her sole concern was to preserve her reputation. The suicide of Seneca's Phaedra is an early example of guilt-culture behaviour: repentance is the gist of her final rhesis, atonement is the purpose of her ultimate action. (35)
and that
The tragedy of Seneca's Phaedra signals the triumph of a guilt ethic based on the primacy of reason and the inner sanctions of conscience just as the tragedy of Euripides' Phaidra had illustrated the failure of a shame ethic based on the primacy of reputation and the outward sanctions of society. (37)
Except Gerard is not quite right, as we have seen. Gerard is confusing guilt and responsibility, which are two different social regulators. More, it is the transition between the two that drives Phaedra's decision in each case. Euripides' Phaedra slipped back into shame from guilt, and that slippage resulted in her committing suicide. Seneca's Phaedra is on the transition between guilt and responsibility. She is encouraged by the Nurse to take responsibility for her actions, and the combination of guilt-driven conscience and reason-driven responsibility is what drove Phaedra to commit suicide after she caused Hippolytus' death. The recognition that she was the responsible cause of the bad action is what makes it clear that this is a factor.

We can thus see that Seneca's Phaedra is a proper tragedy insofar as it is driven by the transition from one form of social regulation to another; it is their co-dominance which drives each Phaedra's suicide. Without the transition, there would be no tragedy, since there would be no internal conflict making living impossible.

Of course, historically, the budding responsibility culture surrounding Stoicism retreats in the face of emergent Christianity. It will be over 1000 years before the responsibility culture returns, with the European Renaissance. With it will return the influence of Seneca and the return of tragedy in Shakespeare and Racine. It is perhaps no coincidence that it is during this time that we get a new version of Phaedra, from Racine.

Monday, October 13, 2014

On Collective Guilt

Guilt is a form of social regulation in which one is internally regulated in relation to external principles -- more often than not, religious principles. This is beyond being concerned with what others think, as one sees with shame. Religious principles transcend the merely human, while shame is deeply embedded in the human. Responsibility, which follows guilt, is equally deeply embedded in the human. As Kimura observes, "Responsibility is the individual’s ability to respond to any situation in life as the cause, not as the victim, of the situation." That is, the human being is the cause of the situation that that human being is in and is the cause of that individual's future. Shame, guilt, and responsibility are "conservative" forms of social regulation.

The social regulator that emerges after responsibility is collective guilt. It is the common trope of the progressive left. While traditional guilt requires an external source of principles that acts to unify the group into a collective (think of Catholic Medieval Europe), collective guilt is collective first and foremost. People are placed into groups, and the situation of those groups are compared. If there is a group who is doing better than some other group, and we combine it with the assumption that the world is a zero sum game (an evolved psychological trait it takes effort to overcome), the result is the conclusion that that inequality came about due to exploitation from the group which is doing better relative to everyone else.

Thus, men should feel guilty relative to women; whites should feel guilty relative to other racial/ethnic groups; the rich should feel guilty relative to the middle class and poor (and the middle class should feel guilty relative to the poor); etc. Those who are working to rectify these disparities are exempt from collective guilt and are made saints. Thus the feminist logic that a government almost entirely controlled by men can and ought to take care of women; thus the African-American progressives' logic that a government almost entirely controlled by whites can and ought to take care of African-Americans; thus the egalitarians' logic that a government entirely controlled by rich people ought to be given more power to redistribute wealth.

A major difference between traditional guilt and collective guilt is that principles are not involved in the latter. There is a rejection of natural laws, whether those natural laws come from a theological source or from a natural source. Human beings have no nature, there are no cultural universals, and social orders have no rules. The result is unprincipled guilt -- a sense of guilt with no foundation in anything other than a sense that, because you or others are doing better than others, you ought to feel bad. But why ought you to feel bad? It is the feeling -- the only "principle" left in your repertoire -- that the world is a zero sum game, meaning your advantage is necessarily as the expense of others. But this notion that the world is a zero sum game is a primitive evolved trait. It is ironic that those who call themselves "progressives" are basing almost all of their ideas on a very primitive part of their evolved psychology. Of course, progressives would equally deny that this is a factor, since they deny human nature.

If the world is a zero sum game, the only fair outcome is equal distribution of resources. This idea is the closest thing to a principle one comes to with the egalitarian psychology. But while I demonstrated the foundation of this principle, egalitarian logic dictates that egalitarianism is itself less a principle than an ideal goal. Using this logic, the progressive can argue that they are future-focused (progressive) rather than foundational (and, therefore, "conservative"). Thus the source of their antifoundational arguments.

Out of this idea of collective guilt, we can also begin to understand politically correct thinking. Political correctness is based entirely on collective guilt. Certain groups can say and do things other groups cannot. Political correctness is designed to reform the group by making it impossible for members of that group to say and do certain things. Only those who need to feel guilt need to be reformed.

With traditional guilt, it is important that one protect one's external principles from competitors. This is why we get things like the Inquisition and religious radicalism. Given that the nature of guilt -- even collective guilt -- requires something external to feel guilty about violating, it makes sense to want to protect that external source. It is, after all, what makes you and others virtuous and thus works to create community. Anything that threatens that threatens the very structure of the community. This is why Islamic radicals hate Christians and Jews and why Medieval Christians hated Jews and Muslims. And it is why progressives sincerely see conservatives as evil villains. It's not enough that they be wrong; no, they have to be a poison to society itself. At its most extreme you get the purges of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. We continue to hear people argue that these are extreme examples, and in no way indicate what the "moderates" of these world views believe, while at the same time we hear a discomforting silence from these moderates when these outcomes do in fact emerge. Idealists driven by guilt -- collective or traditional -- are among the most dangerous people on earth.

Of course, we must keep in mind that while collective guilt emerges as a social regulator, that does not mean that people do not still feel a sense of responsibility, traditional guilt, shame, or familial bonds. Collective guilt is built on top of these. Further, a society in which collective guilt has emerges as the dominant form of social regulation will still have people in it who are socially regulated by responsibility, traditional guilt, shame, and familial bonds. This is bound to create social conflicts among these different groups with different dominate social regulators. For those who feel collective guilt is insufficient as a social regulator -- because of the inherent paradoxes of this world view, or because they learn some evolutionary psychology and/or basic economics, for example -- naturalistic principles emerge.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

On Naturalistic Principles

Intregrationist thinkers are principled thinkers. More, their moral system and social regulation is built on naturalistic principles rather than on guilt,shame, or responsibility. But this means we have to have some sort of understanding of what we mean when we talk about principles.

Principles are rules that provide the foundation for a system, which in the case of psychological and social systems includes systems of beliefs and moral systems. These rules are the discovered rules of nature, including human nature and society. Of course, this requires a recognition that nature has rules, that there is such a thing as human nature for which we can discover and apply the rules, and that social systems themselves have rules which can also be discovered and applied.Out of this, one develops the concept of naturalistic principles.

Given this definition of naturalistic principles, we can see that my book, Diaphysics, is an integrationist work, insofar as what I do in it is investigate the rules of nature, human nature, and society. For various reasons I mostly hint at the latter while focusing mostly on the former. But I have had several readers make the connection.

Of course, if one does not believe there is such a thing as human nature or social laws, then one cannot be a principled thinker. One necessarily rejects principles to the degree one rejects human universals. Egalitarian thinkers are deeply unprincipled in their morals, relying on collective guilt to regulate their behaviors. This explains their combination of permissiveness and political correctness.

The recognition that there moral rules that apply to all human beings equally everywhere at all times and is a quality of the species itself is necessary before principled ethics can emerge.

Of course, the idea of principles has been around for a long time; however, those principles have been "conservative" principles, or religion-based principles. Such people do believe that there are moral rules that apply to all human beings equally everywhere at all times, but they believe those principles come from God. One is not socially regulated by those principles, but rather feel guilt at violating God's principles. There is thus an internal regulator against violating external principles.

Naturalistic principles are different. With naturalistic principles, you realize that the principles driving your moral decisions are internal -- deeply internal -- having been created through the process of evolution. You fulfill those principles because you realize those principles are, in fact, a part of you. One does not feel guilt for violating those principles, because they are not external to oneself. However, one equally does not want to violate those principles precisely because they are a part of you.

Here the dictum to "know yourself" means you have to come to a fuller understanding of the nature of human universals, the natural of our evolved moral rules, and the rules that govern our social interactions. One's principles improve upon learning things like evolutionary psychology, evolutionary morals, economics, sociology, etc. Especially if one learns those fields with the aim at learning about the rules of human nature and human social orders. It is certainly possible to have naive naturalistic principles; that would mean that you are generally ignorant of the research explicating the naturalistic rules of human morality and our social rules. But one becomes even more principled if one does take it upon oneself to learn the laws of economics and other spontaneous social orders, for example.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Responsibility and Other Social Regulators

Over the past month or so, I have written several posts on social regulation, mostly discussing guilt and shame, including transitions from shame to guilt cultures, but also bringing up the fact that, from a Gravesean perspective, there are many more social regulators, including things like the idea of responsibility and adhering to principles.

This suggests that I ought to spend some time discussing these other forms of social regulation which have emerged over time, both psychologically and socially. Fortunately, Yasuhiko Genku Kimura has already done the work for me on responsibility. I couldn't have stated it better or more clearly.

That leaves me with discussing familial disappointment and rituals as social regulators (tribal), collective guilt (egalitarian), naturalistic principles (integrative), and the kind of globalized contextual regulation we find in holistic psychologies, since I have already discussed shame and guilt, and Kimura has done an excellent job with responsibility.

So stay tuned. And do keep in mind that as new social regulators are added, the old ones don't exactly go away -- any more than do other aspects of one's emergent, increasingly complex psychologies. But that integration is itself another posting entirely.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Ideas or Beauty

I'm one of those few people who actually alternates between ideas and aesthetics. About half the time I am writing scholarly articles; the other half, I am writing poems and plays. Given my publications and discussions on social media, one might assume a preference for ideas over aesthetics; yet, when given the opportunity to teach on any topic I wanted for the composition course at SMU, I chose to teach variations on the myth of Hippolytus and Phaedra this semester, and on the nature of beauty next semester.

Admittedly, the discussions of Hippolytus and Phaedra have given rise to discussions about shame and guilt, both in class and here, on this blog, but the focus in class has mostly been on the interactions of the myth with the different cultures in which they were written and performed. Yes, when we discuss Seneca's version of Phaedra, we will discuss Stoicism, but in the end, we will be discussing an aesthetic representation of that general philosophy.

These musings have been prompted by an essay by Terry Teachout in which he observes that, "To be an aesthete in an idea-driven age is to run the risk of being dismissed as irrelevant by those who prefer ideas to beauty." Indeed, I strongly relate to that observation. I expressed this frustration in a poem, meaning that for too many people, I wasted my time, since nobody's going to read the poem, while if I had written it in a blog post or essay, it would have been read. Ironically, though it would have been read, it likely would have been just as ignored as the poem.

Of course, just because something is written as a poem or a play (or a short story or a novel), that does not mean that aesthetics has triumphed. There are plenty of creative works out there intended to model an idea. But when this happens, all too often the complexity of the world -- a complexity which gives the world beauty, and which in turn gives beautiful works of art their own beauty -- is sacrificed for the simplicity of ideas. If a work of art is intended to demonstrate the truth of socialism, Marxism, Keynesianism, Monetarism, or Austrian economics, that work will fail as art. Yes, even if one uses what I consider the view of the economy that best encompasses the economy's complexity, the work will fail unless it serves beauty first and foremost. Only if and when it encompasses beauty will it most accurately describe the world in its full complexity.

One could of course ask, "Well, what, then, is beauty?" But to do so would be to start on the path of ideas. I could talk about Francis Hutcheson's definition of beauty as unity in variety and variety in unity and move on from there. Or I could do a dialogue like Plato's dialogues and have a group of people discussing beauty, allowing people to develop their own ideas on beauty, to see those ideas emerge, to have beauty itself demonstrated in the work itself. But even then, it is beauty discussed as an idea, even if the dialogue form and the language itself could move one beyond beauty as idea.

Or I could write a poem or two. (Of course, those poems both discuss the idea of beauty and demonstrate it, whereas most of the rest of my poems only demonstrate beauty -- when they do in fact demonstrate beauty, of course. But will you read them without links?)