Wednesday, January 30, 2008

tggp said...

I think I'd like to try and make some of the comments part of an extended posting dialogue on the page...an experiment of sorts. Hope you don't mind, tggp...


"Nice blog. I'll agree with you on religion and free-will (the best thing I've read on that is Greene & Cohen's For the Law, Neuroscience Changes Nothing and Everything). But I have to say, I like living and I don't think my experience is unusual. We are primed by evolution to like living enough that we try to avoid death." tggp...


I don't doubt that plenty of people enjoy living to some degree, depending on lots of personal factors. And while I'm sympathetic to the idea that we often talk ourselves into a happiness that's not justified by our own sense of empathy or morality; still, I'm not sure we can always draw a solid dividing line between 'pure' happiness, and a internally generated 'false' happiness (as opposed to a feigned happiness, for instance).

As for evolutionary factors; well, I suppose we could reduce everything down to evolutionary predispositions, or perhaps even further, to 'mere' chemistry (or quantum physics! After that, who knows???). But if we talk at the level of behaviorism, we can find many exceptions to evolutionary generalities concerning a variety of actions. In fact, there is a sense in which our inherited behavioral structures have extended themselves out into the environment to form societies, with rules of order which sometimes fly in the face of our individual, genetically inherited predilections. Thus we learn to cooperate instead of fight (sometimes). We learn to plan, instead of acting on stictly instinctual needs of immediate gratification (again, sometimes).
And, sometimes, we choose not to have children; and sometimes, we even choose to kill ourselves.

I guess what I'm saying is that there are always these emergent factors which appear with increases in complexity, and certainly the social human, as well as the society as a whole, is tougher to predict the further you move away from the root primitivism. I'm hoping that most readers will recognize that the thread running through my arguments is one of sympathy for the human condition; and indeed, for all of life- though I believe a human being, as the most overall complex system in the known universe, also suffers the most, and ultimately owes the gift of non-existence to future generations which-should-not-be (pardon the silly verbosity...I also have a poety website...hehehe!). Thanks for reading, tggp, and for your comment.

2 comments:

TGGP said...

I don't see how "an internally generated 'false' happiness" is a useful concept, from a positivist (which is pretty much what I am and hope you are) standpoint. If life seems okily-dokily to me, there isn't some objective standard that can show me to be wrong.

your host said...

I agree, although technically I do think it's very possible to generate a positive attitude towards something that might generally rub us the wrong way otherwise. False contextual shifting, special pleading, nuancing our self-talk into the comfort zone, and the like. Still, I have problems with saying to someone "youre unhappy, but you just don't know it." Seems too condescendingly facile to me.
Which was actually my point, though perhaps I worded it badly.

Still, I think that by careful reasoning, and specific examples, a person can be led to recognize certain logical inconsistencies in his thinking, as well as in the attendant emotional state(s). When we talk about things like beliefs, moral frameworks, etc., aren't we seeking to actualize an 'objective standard', at least, to some degree? (and, IMO, objectivity is always served up in degrees). We communicate, we uncover the areas that we can agree on, and in this way construct an edifice against which we measure the things we don't agree on, and then try to judge who is more consistent...no?

Anyhow, just got home from work...nappy time. Thanks for the input, as always.


I'd like to add this lift from Chip over at the 'Hog', to sum up what I've tried to say here...

'Because the people-makers are acting in bad faith; with every new life they create, with every unconsenting heartbeat they countenance, they flout their own cherished rules.'