Thursday, 6 January 2022

"All humans are somewhat nutty because they refuse pigheadedly to accept reality and, therefore, make themselves depressed, anxious, and enraged.


"I think that practically the whole human race is out of its goddamed mind and could use therapy. All of them, not equally so, are crazy. Males and females are biologically prone to think crookedly. They don't get it from their mothers, or [the latest political cause celebre]. They think crookedly because they are easily prone to do so. All humans are somewhat nutty because they refuse pigheadedly to accept reality and, therefore, make themselves depressed, anxious, and enraged.
    "Because they won’t accept the reality that things should be exactly the way they are right now because that’s the way they are. (Now, I'm not saying it's good that they're that way, it's bad, often quite crummy. So it's crummy. But that's the way it is)....
    "But if you’re pretty crazy then you’re in very good company, because the human race as a whole is really out of its goddam head. Now all of you, of course, know this about others – about your mother and father and sister and brothers and friends and wives and husbands. You know how nutty they are. Now the problem is to get you to admit this about yourself and then to do something about it."
~ Albert Ellis, quoted in Michael Bernard's book Staying Rational in an Irrational World

11 comments:

  1. I largely agree. Man is the rational animal - capable of rationality (aligning their thoughts with reality), but also sharing some of the innate proclivities and instincts as most other animals. To the extent those innate proclivities can get in the way of rationality, it’s generally easier to recognise it in others than it is oneself.

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  2. Serious question. What is the difference between the above view of humanity and what the allegory of Original Sin denotes?

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    1. The above suggests man has proclivities he should be aware of - neither good nor bad, just are. Where they don’t serve him well, they can be overcome with his willpower and rational faculty. The more aware of them he us, the better he can navigate reality.

      The allegory of original sin suggests man is doomed by his nature unless he submits to god, and therefore any attempt to employ his rational faculty is useless.

      Not remotely similar. If anything I’d suggest those unaware of, or in denial of the former are closer to the latter. They’re influenced by evolutionary predispositions they’re not aware of, and haven’t acknowledged an aspect of reality that’s particularly important to them being able to navigate it successfully.

      Man has a particular nature, including certain limitations. Would you also suggest that acknowledging man can’t outrun a tiger attempting to eat him is also consistent with original sin?

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  3. Mark, Thomas Aquinas wrote "original sin is concupiscence, materially, but privation of original justice, formally". Concupiscence is "a desire of the lower appetite contrary to reason", meaning it is essentially irrationality caused by base desires (especially the desire for unearned pride) overriding reason. So again, what is the difference between the view of humanity expounded in this post's quote and what the allegory of Original Sin denotes? Do you at least agree that *materially* they are the same?

    You obviously disagree with what Aquinas wrote about the formal cause of Original Sin on account of your belief that a dichotomy exists between God and reason, despite reason - the unallegorised translation of "Logos" - being identified as God in the beginning in John 1:1, and Aquinas writing volumes on the subject of sin - departure from God - being the irrational.

    Interestingly, the root of the word for faith (also trust and confidence) in Scripture, pistis, is peitho, which means to be persuaded. Logically then, to have "faith" in the Logos, which *is* God according to John, simply means to be persuaded by or through almighty power of reason. What is so objectionable about that?

    It is reasonable to have an aversion to and condemn the religious world's perversion of these ideas. It is not reasonable to assume those perversions are the proper message.

    As for your tiger analogy, are physical limitations the equivalent of moral limitations, where (per Rand) rationality is the essence of morality?

    "If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows." - Ayn Rand

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    1. As I said originally, psychological predispositions created by evolutionary selection are neither good nor bad (morality), they just are. They can serve us well or not serve us well. Just as our ability to run a certain (slow) speed just doesn’t serve us well when matched with a tiger, but our ability to use our hands to construct weapons to defend ourselves from them does.

      You’re assuming that anything not governed by a conscious logical process and/or out of our control somewhat is necessarily “sin”.

      On the one hand, evolution has selected certain traits that often served us well in the past (or at least ensured our survival long enough to reproduce and bring out offspring to maturity), but don’t serve us well in a modern civilisation - what’s called ‘evolutionary mismatch’. An example of that would be the common fear of public speaking, which I suggest is somewhat related to our tribal past where saying the ‘wrong’ thing would he us knocked over the head or expelled from the tribe. Modern civilisation has only existed for a blink of the eye in evolutionary terms, so it shouldn’t be surprising.

      On the other hand, cultural learnings can get in the way of knowing what would have been intuitively obvious to our more primitive ancestors. An example of that would be the differences between the sexes and how they best interact. Our current feminine-primary social order attempts to suppress our natural instincts in this regard to our detriment - by encouraging women to be more masculine and men to be more feminine.

      We can use our reason to work out the difference.

      Granted that the quote didn’t explain all that, and that if you take the quote too literally it could infer original sin. But I think reading it that way throws the baby out with the bath water in an unnecessarily rationalistic way.

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    2. Contrary to your claim, I have not read the quote literally. I do not think everyone is literally insane. Irrational to varying degrees, yes, and per Rand, where that is a conscious choice, immoral. It is your idea that the inherited disposition the quote refers to is neither good nor bad I find rationalistic. The quote clearly says it is bad. You seem to be rationalising some other traits which have nothing to do with the quote or my own points.

      Note that Aquinas wrote that Original Sin is not actual sin. He wrote it is an inordinate disposition of nature, which is *nature's* "sin" or shortcoming, which we inherit.

      I never said that anything not governed by a conscious logical process and/or out of our control somewhat is necessarily “sin”. Those are your words, and shows you misread what I wrote. Perhaps I was not clear enough. The disposition inherited from nature whereby base desires can override reason is what is denoted by Original Sin. For evidence of it just look at a child's first experience of not getting their way on something that would be bad for them. The "sin" must be trained out them and ourselves, which can be only done by us having a fidelity to reason.

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    3. When I hear a claim that sounds plausible, I try to integrate it with the rest of my knowledge and beliefs in a non-contradictory way. In this case, I think I've clearly shown how I integrate the idea that "all humans are somewhat nutty", whilst maintaining my belief in the power of reason, and without adopting the negative moral judgement implied on every human with 'original sin'.

      You by contrast seem to want to go the other way - integrate it with something you presumably don't agree with (original sin). I have no idea your purpose or why you'd want to do that.

      I have no idea whether the author of the quote would agree with me either, but I think it's counter-productive to view evolved traits and proclivities in this way. Man has a specific nature, and they either serve him well or not in a given CONTEXT. For instance a fear of public speaking generally doesn't serve us well now, but it presumably did in our past where it may have helped our survival. Or our evolution to upright primates not able to run very fast doesn't serve us well when being chased by a tiger on the savannah, but it does for other more advanced tasks such as building a weapon.

      Maybe in our evolutionary past, the tendency to be "somewhat nutty" served us well in certain contexts too.

      Instead of regarding it as a sin to be atoned for, why not just regard it the same way as all our other evolved traits?



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    4. >> "Instead of regarding it as a sin to be atoned for, why not just regard it the same way as all our other evolved traits?"

      But what is denoted by the allegory of Original Sin does not need to be atoned for, so long as one has a fidelity to reason.

      I can integrate my interpretation of the allegory just fine. What I cannot integrate is the idea you are espousing: that an inherited trait which stifles our reasoning (our means of survival) from time to time, is neither good nor bad.

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    5. To commit "sin" means to commit an immoral act, and implies negative moral judgement. Seems you're adopting an odd re-interpretation of the word if you're using it in a way to imply no moral wrong-doing.

      And "stifle our reasoning" is too strong a term for what we're talking about here. 'Stifle' means to stop or limit in some way beyond our control, whereas what I'm talking about is a proclivity that we can challenge - if we recognise it, and employ our willpower against it.

      The author of the quote seems to be on the same page when he says "Now the problem is to get you to admit this about yourself and then to do something about it." He's recognising we can do something about it (i.e. our reason is not stifled).

      An evolutionary proclivity that may not serve us well in certain (modern) contexts is not a "sin" by any common definition of the word.

      Morality only applies to what's in our volitional control. In certain contexts going along with our proclivity is a sin, but having the proclivity in the first place is not.

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    6. PS - Re-reading OPAR the past few weeks, there's one thing on this topic I may not entirely agree with Peikoff on.

      He describes emotions as automated value judgements, proceeding from the identification of something, and a previously formed evaluation of what that thing means to you - either good, bad, or otherwise. We don't know in the instant of feeling that emotion whether the previously formed evaluation is correct or not - it's in our subconscious. Therefore we can't rely on emotions necessarily guiding us the right way.

      The part I'm questioning is whether emotions are always the result of previously formed evaluations. Often they are, but I doubt they always are. I think in some cases they're instinctual, related to the evolved proclivities I'm referring to. Take for instance the emotions a newborn baby exhibits, well before they can consciously identify and evaluate something. Or another example, the common fear an adult will exhibit towards snakes or spiders, usually well beyond the risk they actually represent. Or the general tendency for women to exhibit more emotion than men, even when their knowledge and subconscious evaluation of the facts in a particular situation is the same.

      Even if I'm right, I think the conclusion remains the same - emotions are not tools of cognition. We don't know in the moment whether our emotions are based on correct evaluations of the facts, OR on instinctual responses that will necessarily serve us well. Therefore we have to get to the bottom of the reason for an emotion and integrate it with our conscious conclusions. I just don't think the origin of all emotions is limited necessarily in the way Peikoff describes.

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    7. >> "To commit "sin" means to commit an immoral act, and implies negative moral judgement. Seems you're adopting an odd re-interpretation of the word if you're using it in a way to imply no moral wrong-doing."

      Again, a proper understanding of Original Sin is that it is, per Aquinas, the sin of *nature*. It is, per Aquinas, not actual sin. One is not oneself guilty of Original Sin, and so does not need to atone for it, except to have a fidelity to reason (the Logos). The moral wrong-doing is buried in our distant ancestral past, and we bear the consequence for it but not the guilt of it, unless we allow it to rule us.

      >>"And "stifle our reasoning" is too strong a term for what we're talking about here. "
      No it's not. Only someone with perfect reasoning would not be stifled in their reasoning.

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