The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

A: To Justify Fascism

Posted on | June 16, 2012 | 26 Comments

by Smitty

Q (emphasis mine):

Although Hood believes the self may be the greatest trick our brain has ever played on us, he concludes that believing in it makes life more fulfilling. The illusion is difficult–if not impossible–to dispel. Even if we could, why deny an experience that enables empathy, storytelling and love?

Insty links the SciAm review of a new book which is worth bringing up in discussion. If you want to factor out any theistic concept of a soul or notion of free will in one fell swoop, this sort of materialistic reduction is the way to go.

And it’s cool, too: once we’ve got life reduced to measurable bits of matter, and have nuked the idea of a ‘self’, we can set about the elimination of the individual and manage society through a series of spreadsheets. The molecules made us do it–how could there be a Devil?

This is not an evangelical pleading, though. My secular answer to this discussion is that the self, and freewill, have got to be taken as an assumption. That is, barring clear genetic-level defects like Downs, free moral agency has got to be the default position for the individual. Otherwise, we remain a societal collection of infants, forced into heroin addiction and inter-species romance because we’re, you know, victims.

Maybe there is some middle ground here, some non-slippery-slope argument. Self portrait of a ProgressiveHowever, we will no sooner make some famous last concession to the purely materialistic worldview then some power-mad individual is going to use that concession as a pretext to herd people. E.g. ObamaCare. As you love liberty, don’t give up the conceptual ship of freewill, or you’ll be awash in authoritarianism!

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Comments

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady
  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Of course, don’t you get the impression that Barack Obama is an illusion and the image is starting to flicker…  

  • WarEagle82

    Marxism is “Scientific Socialism” and Marxists tried to dehumanize mankind and reduce the human race to an equation. 

    This came in really handy as they murdered tens of millions in Europe and Asia in less than 100 years…

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet!  

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady
  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/2012/06/we-should-have-pool-time-and-date-that.html  We should have a pool.  Time and date that Kilgore Trout gets banned at LGF.  Bonus if you can predict the type of post that actually does it.  

  • Anamika

    We think somethings are not there because they are present in inexpressible ways and we allow ourselves to experience only what we can convey to the group, for example: pleasure is culturally referred while bliss has no language.

  • Shawny

    “Otherwise, we remain a societal collection of infants, forced into heroin addiction and inter-species romance because we’re, you know, victims.”  Why yes, that nicely sums up our current administration and their delusional followers.  Where the rubber hits the road is that this societal collection of infants having frequent tantrums has nuclear capability, 30,000+ drones with a list of GPS coordinates and an anti-American leader which is leaning heavily against our concept of freedom, God given rights and personal safety or any kind of equal justice under the law.  While we still have the luxury of justifying (or freely discussing) anything, we should probably do something about that obstacle in the conversation. 

  • http://theothermccain.com smitty

    Trivially disproven: BLISS.

  • Anamika

     LOL!  You just made my day.

  • Anamika

    Although Hood believes the self may be the greatest trick our brain has ever played on us, he concludes that believing in it makes life more fulfilling. The
    illusion is difficult–if not impossible–to dispel. Even if we could,
    why deny an experience that enables empathy, storytelling and love?

    The mystics say that the illusion is possible and goodto dispel. The self may enable storytelling but not love — love stands on its own — and meanwhile, it also enables war and insecurity and fear and greed and all the other baddies he fails to mention.

  • http://theothermccain.com smitty

    As far as I can tell, your argument against “baddies” would be akin to saying that we should eliminate the square root function from mathematics, because the taking the square root of nine allows for an answer of -3, and we can’t have all that negativity about.
    If you’re not at liberty to let math be math, and life be life, then you may be in a grave somewhere.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    Interesting article.  More interesting of course will be how it could be used or argued against to promote an ideology.

    Of course there is no “self” in the sense of an entity that stands outside of and apart from the universe, but it does occur as an entity within the system (in which case “self” does exist just as assuredly as “no-self”) — this could be argued philosophically as well as scientifically with reasonable success.  

    There is no value judgement in that statement however (there is no good/evil, right/wrong affixed), so what will really matter is within the moral/ethical paradigm — how people decide to come to terms with this apparent duality(which really isn’t but will most certainly lead to such thinking).  

  • Dandapani

    I’ve covered this before.  Many religions don’t believe in the “Devil” and this doesn’t make them atheist, perhaps you would consider them heathen, but that’s your viewpoint.  Many Paths lead to the Mountain-top. 

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  • http://profiles.google.com/kdhall61 Kenneth Hall

    The ideas presented by Wegner, Hood, et al are at least as old as B.F. Skinner. If free will can be read out, it merely remains to determine who gets to wield the levers: and when those are the stakes, as we have seen, anything goes and the skulls tend to pile to the sky. 

  • DaveO

    This is the philosophical underpinning to “The Matrix.” Problem being, in 2006 and 2008, America took the Blue Pill. Obviously escaping the illusion requires America to take the Red Pill in 2012.

  • JeffS

    … it also enables war and insecurity and fear and greed and all the other baddies he fails to mention.

    As the self makes the decisions between good and bad, it follows that you (and by extension, Hood and other “progressives”) would deny that choice to individuals through the use of the use of illusions.  This would be by convincing them that people “smarter” than the individuals are better suited for that sort of decision making.  Or by convincing them they are wrong to make that choice through a false guilty conscience.

    That ignores the reality that so-called “progressives” have called for — or acted on — exactly that sort of illusion.  This ranges from white guilt to political incorrectness to calmly accepting the banning of certain food and drink. 

    And your assertion of “……love stands on its own…..” is incorrect.  Love is a powerful force.  It does not stand on on it’s own, but stands in contrast to the others, which will exist regardless of what “progressives” may want to believe.  Love will overcome those “baddies”, if one is willing to accept the cost of doing so.  This is the strength of the individual. And the weakness as well — they have to make that choice as to what is good and worth striving for. 

    Which is pretty much what the liberal mindset does not want to see as the standard.  It makes the job of any self-appointed ruling class much harder.

  • DaveO

    Goes back a bit further than Skinner. Immanual Kant wrote “Up to now it has been assumed that all our cognition must conform to the objects; but … let us once try whether we do not get farther with the problems of metaphysics by assuming that the objects must conform to our cognition.”

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  • Shawny

    Oh, nothing awakened so many from the matrix as realizing that blue pill was a suppository and that the red pill sold to break free of it only lead to a different act in the same illusion.  Neo never escaped the matrix of the hand which held only those two pills. 

  • DaveO

    June 19th, 2012, noon.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

     I have “septic tank” in the Anamika Location Pool.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    There was a pop psychologist – or is that redundant? – who postulated that consciousness is an evolution of the mind, that ancient man had what he described as a divided brain in which the communications from the “superego” were received as if revelations from the gods, that we “heard” our own consciences, in effect.  He claimed that once we developed a true conscious self-awareness, we no longer “heard the voices,” and that writings before this occurred in ancient times never show a narrative ability to see our lives in sequence.  His name was Julian Jaynes, I think.

    So this idea seems like a more shallow version of his work.  But all of it, in the immortal words of Eric Cartman, “sounds like a bunch of g**damn hippy crap to me.”

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    ‘Sounds like’?

  • htowt

    Smitty:

    Your post ties in with Iain McGilchrist’s book “The Master and his Emissary.”  (See http://www.anti-republicanculture.com/2012/01/food-for-thought.html)

    Dr. McGilchrist makes the point that the human brain thinks of the world in two distinct fashions, and we are along for the ride.  (Your post helps us ensure it is an informed ride.)