Bloggingheads Community

Bloggingheads Community (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/index.php)
-   Diavlog comments (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=9)
-   -   Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe) (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=7225)

Simon Willard 12-11-2011 11:42 AM

Re: Thanks, but no thanks. Beyond Good and Evil is Evil
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Sulla the Dictator (Post 234296)
An important thing to consider here is that Alan Wolfe seems to be ignoring the role success has in determining who is "better or worse".
...
The reason "everyone can agree" about Hitler is because we defeated him in the field. Conquering his nation and applying a rigorous inspection of the records of the Third Reich, along with trials, gave us full view into the atrocities and horrors of the Germans.


Exactly. History is written by the victors. Our view of good and evil is influenced by history lessons we grow up with.

"I have not always been wrong. History will bear me out, particularly as I will write that history myself” - Winston Churchill.

Ocean 12-11-2011 12:57 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 234279)
I just don't see how we could successfully prescribe the use of words in political discourse. I will agree with you that words can be incendiary. It remains true in American society that you should not use certain words beginning with F and N or you will offend most people. But politicians normally don't want to offend their constituents.

I also think that words have different effects on different populations. There are words that really grate on liberal sensitives that seen quite innocuous to conservatives. And vice-versa. And the valence of these words is constantly shifting with time, which would make it difficult to prescribe rules.

You are making it sound like we're talking about words not being politically correct, in the usual sense of not using pejorative or discriminatory language.

But that's not the issue discussed. There are certain words which are code for larger narratives that tap into primitive fears. This is the case in the way the word "evil" was used at the time. It wasn't about using it just once, but creating that epic narrative and making it part of everyday discourse in America. It is plain old political manipulation of the public. It capitalizes on deeply seated beliefs and values. The deeper, the better. It goes straight to our emotional responses and bypasses reasoning.

Quote:

Words acquire connotations from context and usage. If, instead of "axis of evil", George W. Bush had spoken about "the bad group" of Iran, Iraq and N. Korea, how long would it take until Democrats developed an objection to the phrase "the bad group"?
No, not the same. There's certainly some skill in finding the right words that tap into core beliefs/fears. Evil is too close to religious connotations to be compared to milder words such as "bad" in its power to elicit a response.

Quote:

The bottom line for me is that the audience for your words will ultimately decide on the appropriateness of your language. If Bush thinks that the word "evil" can fire up the Right, he may not care if it irritates the Left. In fact, he may use the word deliberately to irritate the Left.
Well, of course, that's a given. But your first sentence in the above paragraph misses the point. There's no such thing as a decision when it comes to being political manipulated by messaging. It just bypasses those levels.

Quote:

Did Churchill skew the debate when he said "blood tears toil and sweat"? Did Roosevelt skew the debate when he said "day of infamy"? Did King skew the debate by using the word "dream"? Did Jesus skew the debate by calling the pharisees "thieves"?

Of course they did.
Rhetoric, when used effectively can change and shape the debate. The question is what kind of narrative is a particular message tapping on.

We're not discussing the effectiveness of using this kind of rhetoric. We are questioning the consequences of using a message, and of creating a narrative that leads to extreme measures and preempts other means of conflict resolution. Negotiation, compromise, using diplomacy in various contexts are all rendered practically impossible when you set up the framework of dealing with evil entities. Evil entities don't share our values. They lack morality of any kind. They don't have common interests. And if you put that together with some sort of belief that we have a moral responsibility to be the warriors for the "good", then the recipe for war is unavoidable.

Ocean 12-11-2011 01:02 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Hume's Bastard (Post 234302)
... I also was put off by Wolfe's philosophical analysis of "political evil". He seems to want to start with a common-sense connotation of evil, and then whittle down the meaning until he can talk about the sausage-grinding business of diplomacy and politics without abandoning this word "evil". Call me a social science type, but I just think Wolfe needs a stiff whiff of empiricism. He tries to first to distinguish types of evil. Then, he distinguishes between four types of political evil, which are terrorism, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and torture. These are four different concepts. And then, my sample ended.

Yes, I can see that. He probably should have used a different word, but I guess that was the catch for his book (finding a redefinition of the word that adopts a more benign outcome).

Quote:

I'm inclined to accept that a philosophical analysis of the problem of evil is necessary. But, Wolfe's argument sounds like rationalizations pasted together with one word, evil, running through them.
I got that impression too when he mentioned the four types of political evil. But, without reading the book it's hard to tell whether his concept holds together. After all, "evil" is a word that can be shaped to include many kinds of evil things (pardon the redundancy).

Ocean 12-11-2011 01:15 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Parallax (Post 234284)
The very idea that there are no black and whites and everyone is shade of gray to me is wicked in itself.

So, accuracy seems wicked to you?

Quote:

And since when explanation of motives absolves one from responsibility? "I really wanted a $100K car because all my friends from high school now have one and I did not wanted to go to the reunion with my Toyota Tercel so I stole the BMW and shot the security guard."
We're not discussing this at all. Straw man.

Quote:

And liberals wonder why they lose elections b/c they disregard the public's sense of morality as regressive and then tell them they are dumb not to vote for them. I myself would willingly take a financial hit if it would make sure people who think genocide is bad but stopping it might be worse stay out of office.
Wow, anti-liberal propaganda and more straw men.

I guess your preference is to continue to deceive the public, making them believe a story that's grossly distorted, simplified and twisted so that those in power can go ahead and act with impunity in order to achieve their goals.

The story, of course, is that the world is divided between those who are good and rational and just (us) and those who are evil and crazy and dangerous (them). "We" are always right, "they" are always wrong. Anything we do is good. Anything.

Is that the story that you so defend and advocate for?

Is that the only version of reality that "the public" is ready for?

I think it is you who is underestimating people's ability to understand more complex dynamics. However, if all they're being fed is this kind of black and white epic story, you continue to dumb them down. This is one of the greatest evils of American culture.

Ocean 12-11-2011 01:18 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Parallax (Post 234285)
What has rationality to do with morality? You can't drive human rights with logic, it is a belief, it is a religion. Humans are inherently irrational and that irrationality is deeply connected to our idea of fairness and morality, see the ultimatum game for example.

What does morality have to do with political manipulation?

Sure, irrational fear is what words like "evil" tap into. That's why some of us would like to avoid feeding into this kind of irrational reactions, and use a discourse that appeals to reason. In order to do that we need to avoid using charged terms such as evil.

Ray in Seattle 12-11-2011 01:29 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard;234264I
am surprised how muddled the presentation was. He wants to avoid using the word "evil", especially as a noun, preferring the adjective form as somehow less provocative. The word was, however, used freely in this discussion, and without any attempt at definition.

It is asserted that Hitler really was evil, but the Axis of Evil isn't really evil. Well, how do we really know this? Where is the ground of Truth?

Ideas can be partly good and partly bad. That's a fair point, but rather trivial. If we can't define "evil", can we define "bad" instead? If there is such a thing as "bad", should we be upset at those who fight against it? Or shall we drop the good/bad distinction altogether and just not worry about anything?

I don't know what the goal is here. I don't see rational thought at all. I see word games. Show me the rational thought.

Good points. Wolfe repeatedly used "evil" as a noun after starting out the diavlog by saying that he thinks its use a noun doesn't work. Lot's of muddled thinking - although Bob did a good job IMO of trying to focus Wolfe to say something that was meaningful. My overall impression is that the book is an apologia for the standard elements at the top of the prog/liberal belief hieracrchy:

i.e. That everyone is really good at heart and if we are just stop being so intolerant of them by doing non-inclusive things like naming them "evil" they will eventually be nice too - that everything wrong with the world (evilishness) is in our (western democracies') power to correct by becoming more tolerant to its practitioners - i.e. "understanding" them instead of condemning them. This liberal hawk will not be placing this book on his "to buy" list.

Ocean 12-11-2011 01:42 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 234322)

i.e. That everyone is really good at heart and if we are just stop being so intolerant of them by doing non-inclusive things like naming them "evil" they will eventually be nice too - that everything wrong with the world (evilishness) is in our (western democracies') power to correct by becoming more tolerant to its practitioners - i.e. "understanding" them instead of condemning them.

I don't agree with the above at all. It's just a caricature. And I certainly don't think this is what Wolfe was trying to say.

Wolfe stated that there are indeed people, including infamous political leaders who are corrupt or evil (if you must use the word). But conceptualizing the problem that they cause by invoking their evilness is an oversimplification. There are other factors that influence their actions. It's important to look at those other factors with the goal of intervening to prevent or stop their actions.

But if you create a narrative that they only act as they do because they're evil, the only measure to counter them is war.

Hawks have a problem with this kind of discussion because in order to be a hawk you have to polarize the world into this good/evil dichotomy. Looking at the dynamics in more depth threatens that hawk identity.

Don Zeko 12-11-2011 02:02 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 234322)
My overall impression is that the book is an apologia for the standard elements at the top of the prog/liberal belief hieracrchy:

i.e. That everyone is really good at heart and if we are just stop being so intolerant of them by doing non-inclusive things like naming them "evil" they will eventually be nice too - that everything wrong with the world (evilishness) is in our (western democracies') power to correct by becoming more tolerant to its practitioners - i.e. "understanding" them instead of condemning them. This liberal hawk will not be placing this book on his "to buy" list.

Those straw men sure can't stand up to you. Who do you think actually thinks like this?

sugarkang 12-11-2011 02:09 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Parallax (Post 234285)
What has rationality to do with morality? You can't drive human rights with logic, it is a belief, it is a religion.

This is half right.

Quote:

Humans are inherently irrational and that irrationality is deeply connected to our idea of fairness and morality, see the ultimatum game for example.
Quite the opposite. Humans are inherently rational and that rationality is deeply connected to our idea of fairness and morality.

The trouble begins with people's understanding of the word "rationality." In actuality, rationality means to have reason or logic attached to human motives. Everyone agrees on that. Unfortunately, many people also use this word to describe what they think of as "correct." Reasons are many, logic is myriad, but correct can only mean one. So, it's really a problem with people using the word for situations that are inappropriate.

Once this is understood, many of our current political problems become clear. You will frequently see Ocean, as well as others on this board, use rationality interchangeably with correctness. It's no surprise, then, why the left harbors so much indignation against Republicans for the issues on which they disagree.

As David Hume has taught us, "rationality is the slave of the passions," i.e., emotions first; reasons subsequent. In other words, humans are inherently rational, which is to say that humans are inherently emotional. They give rational explanations for their behavior and they argue as if their positions were the only legitimate ones; yet we have nine Supreme Court Justices that rarely agree unanimously, and in the handful of cases they do, it's virtually never for the same reasons.

So, as to the very first part of my reply, you can see why I agree that human rights cannot be driven with logic alone. As you say, a belief in human rights is akin to a belief in religion, one that I hold very closely. But rationality and morality are completely connected. Morality always has a reason.

Baz 12-11-2011 03:14 PM

Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Parallax (Post 234301)
I guess there is a language issue:

But seriously, the civillian death numbers range from 200,000 to 2,000,000 in Vietnam which is for a period from 1955 - 1975. A large number of civilians were killed by Vietnamese themselves (both North and South).

Finally even if there was a genocide in Vietnam what does that have to do with my earlier point??

Genocide has been commited by all powerful states. People like you just ignore it when its the home team that commits it.

Is this deliberate?

Quote:

It's an order, it's to be done. Anything that flies on everything that moves. You got that?
Kissinger passed on this order to his General's during the Vietnam war (bombing of Cambodia). This is an explicit call for genocide or indiscriminate mass murder...what ever you wanna call it.

Have you read any of the declassified material now available relating to the Vietnam war...stupid question.

Ray in Seattle 12-11-2011 03:20 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 234323)
Hawks have a problem with this kind of discussion because in order to be a hawk you have to polarize the world into this good/evil dichotomy. Looking at the dynamics in more depth threatens that hawk identity.

Good caricature. ;-)

I think you are missing the point. People do not do good or bad because of irrational thought processes. (I think Parallax also tried to explain this.) They do it because they have strong emotional beliefs high in their identity zone that direct their behavior in those ways. i.e. it's because of the beliefs they have held - since they were very young in most cases - that define who they are, their identity. In that regard - some people believe (as part of their identity) that instead of persuasion and negotiation - it'is not just fine but even preferable to use coercive (non-defensive) violence to get what they want from someone else.

Western values that emerged from the ideas of the enlightenment and the US Constitution, etc. said that such non-defensive violence is morally wrong (evil). We shaped our domestic and external policies with other states around the principle that violent coercion and intimidation are immoral; that persuasion and negotiation are the acceptable (moral) way to relate with others. As those ideas became more widely institutionalized in law much of the world (to the extent they adopted those principles) became a less violent, more productive, healthier - and essentially an overall happier place to spend one's life. You and I are the beneficiaries of those ideas - and of the millions of our ancestors who died to defend them.

Morality is certainly a man-made product of human minds. What is moral for me is not what is moral for Saddam Hussein. I justify my morality because of the greater happiness it creates for those who abide by it and have the integrity and responsibility to enforce it. It's not perfectly expressed in all Western societies but it's pretty good for a man-made paradigm. And even the poorly implemented versions are vastly better than dictatorships or fascist regimes. So far, you and I and the world generally, are fortunate that the societies that base their morality around such principles have used much of the wealth created by that "better system of rules" to create strong military forces and weapons systems. So far we have been able to defeat foreign societies and groups that maintain individual and national identities formed around warrior values and the use of violence to take what they want from weaker societies. (I'm not saying that every use of such power was for that purpose alone. But I will say that the great majority of it was - and that we worry about such things and try to correct them when we err.)

Much of the continued violence and genocide that exists today is the result of this weakening of Western resolve. The Arab/Israeli conflict is a case in point. You and others here claim that the Arabs were justified in attacking Israel when it won its right to statehood through the UN Partition Plan - and are still justified to use non-defensive violence to correct that outcome. Creating the state of Israel was done non-violently through the process of negotiation and persuasion. Yet you justify violent attacks against Israel because you disagree with the result of the process.

(You claim that its not black and white and we should try to "understand" their motives - or some version of that. It's hard to keep all the apologists for terrorism stories straight here so correct me if I mis-characterized your views on that in some important way.)

Without going into the psychological and sociological reasons for this lowering of standards of morality in the West I'd just say that you are advocating for war - whenever someone feels they have a justification to attack someone else who has not attacked them - when you claim that calling out such anti-enlightenment evil for what it is is an oversimplification.

Ocean 12-11-2011 03:31 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 234325)
This is half right.

Quite the opposite. Humans are inherently rational and that rationality is deeply connected to our idea of fairness and morality.

The trouble begins with people's understanding of the word "rationality." In actuality, rationality means to have reason or logic attached to human motives. Everyone agrees on that. Unfortunately, many people also use this word to describe what they think of as "correct." Reasons are many, logic is myriad, but correct can only mean one. So, it's really a problem with people using the word for situations that are inappropriate.

Just for the sake of accuracy:

Quote:

In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action. However, the term "rationality" tends to be used in the specialized discussions of economics, sociology, psychology and political science. A rational decision is one that is not just reasoned, but is also optimal for achieving a goal or solving a problem. The term "rationality" is used differently in different disciplines.

Determining optimality for rational behavior requires a quantifiable formulation of the problem, and the making of several key assumptions. When the goal or problem involves making a decision, rationality factors in how much information is available (e.g. complete or incomplete knowledge). Collectively, the formulation and background assumptions are the model within which rationality applies. Illustrating the relativity of rationality: if one accepts a model in which benefiting oneself is optimal, then rationality is equated with behavior that is self-interested to the point of being selfish; whereas if one accepts a model in which benefiting the group is optimal, then purely selfish behavior is deemed irrational. It is thus meaningless to assert rationality without also specifying the background model assumptions describing how the problem is framed and formulated.
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 234325)
Once this is understood, many of our current political problems become clear. You will frequently see Ocean, as well as others on this board, use rationality interchangeably with correctness. It's no surprise, then, why the left harbors so much indignation against Republicans for the issues on which they disagree.

In this case I've used rationality in the way you defined it above (to have reason or logic attached to human motives). That's why when the use of certain language/rhetoric has an effect of hijacking reason in favor of a blind automatic emotional response of fear/hatred we refer to it as irrational. The careful considerations of pros and cons, facts, historic context, background, etc, are all nullified by the abrupt emergence of a primitive sense of "evil". It's a typical example of conditioned emotional responses overriding reason.

So, you're wrong in assuming that I'm using rationality here as in "correctness", although, from the perspective of some definitions it would be appropriate in the sense of logical aligning reason for opinion or action with one's values.

Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 234325)
As David Hume has taught us, "rationality is the slave of the passions," i.e., emotions first; reasons subsequent. In other words, humans are inherently rational, which is to say that humans are inherently emotional.

We've had this discussion around here before.

Indeed emotions drive a great part of our psychological life. I'm completely aware of that. However, that doesn't mean that emotions are the only driver. We do have the ability to reason. The more we practice it the better it works. We don't get rid of emotions or moral intuitions (and probably this wouldn't be desirable either), but we are, under certain circumstances, able to examine our actions and make some reasoned/ rational choices in spite of what our emotions may try to push.

Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 234325)
They give rational explanations for their behavior and they argue as if their positions were the only legitimate ones; yet we have nine Supreme Court Justices that rarely agree unanimously, and in the handful of cases they do, it's virtually never for the same reasons.

Would you also consider that some decisions can be arrived at for multiple reasons?

Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 234325)
So, as to the very first part of my reply, you can see why I agree that human rights cannot be driven with logic alone. As you say, a belief in human rights is akin to a belief in religion, one that I hold very closely. But rationality and morality are completely connected. Morality always has a reason.

Human rights reflect a set of moral standards. Morality seems to have a significant component that comes from our emotional life, how we relate to each other, empathy, etc. So, indeed logic alone may not take us to the same places. But morality is a result of both our emotional life and reason. It's a great example of balance between the two. A constant struggle, constant tension.

Ocean 12-11-2011 03:52 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 234328)
Good caricature. ;-)

I think you are missing the point. People do not do good or bad because of irrational thought processes. (I think Parallax also tried to explain this.) They do it because they have strong emotional beliefs high in their identity zone that direct their behavior in those ways. i.e. it's because of the beliefs they have held - since they were very young in most cases - that define who they are, their identity. In that regard - some people believe (as part of their identity) that instead of persuasion and negotiation - it'is not just fine but even preferable to use coercive (non-defensive) violence to get what they want from someone else.

Sure, some people don't need to be manipulated through narratives of larger than life good and evil. Some people, by ideology, or because they've never known other possibilities, resort to primitive forms of conflict resolution: violence.

But, there are people who would understand the non-violent forms of conflict resolution as long as they're allowed to operate within the limits of rationality. If their rationality is bypassed by engaging their automatic emotional responses to key narratives, such as those invoked by words like "evil", then their consideration of alternatives is rendered null.

Quote:

Western values that emerged from the ideas of the enlightenment and the US Constitution, etc. said that such non-defensive violence is morally wrong (evil). We shaped our domestic and external policies with other states around the principle that violent coercion and intimidation are immoral; that persuasion and negotiation are the acceptable (moral) way to relate with others. As those ideas became more widely institutionalized in law much of the world (to the extent they adopted those principles) became a less violent, more productive, healthier - and essentially an overall happier place to spend one's life. You and I are the beneficiaries of those ideas - and of the millions of our ancestors who died to defend them.
Okay.

Quote:

Morality is certainly a man-made product of human minds. What is moral for me is not what is moral for Saddam Hussein. I justify my morality because of the greater happiness it creates for those who abide by it and have the integrity and responsibility to enforce it. It's not perfectly expressed in all Western societies but it's pretty good for a man-made paradigm. And even the poorly implemented versions are vastly better than dictatorships or fascist regimes. So far, you and I and the world generally, are fortunate that the societies that base their morality around such principles have used much of the wealth created by that "better system of rules" to create strong military forces and weapons systems. So far we have been able to defeat foreign societies and groups that maintain individual and national identities formed around warrior values and the use of violence to take what they want from weaker societies. (I'm not saying that every use of such power was for that purpose alone. But I will say that the great majority of it was - and that we worry about such things and try to correct them when we err.)
I will accept the above for the sake of this discussion, although I would have to qualify quite a number of statements to make sure we're in agreement, since a number of views there seem extremely simplistic.

Quote:

Much of the continued violence and genocide that exists today is the result of this weakening of Western resolve. The Arab/Israeli conflict is a case in point. You and others here claim that the Arabs were justified in attacking Israel when it won its right to statehood through the UN Partition Plan - and are still justified to use non-defensive violence to correct that outcome. Creating the state of Israel was done non-violently through the process of negotiation and persuasion. Yet you justify violent attacks against Israel because you disagree with the result of the process.

(You claim that its not black and white and we should try to "understand" their motives - or some version of that. It's hard to keep all the apologists for terrorism stories straight here so correct me if I mis-characterized your views on that in some important way.)
I'm not going back to this discussion. I'm skipping this segment.

Quote:

Without going into the psychological and sociological reasons for this lowering of standards of morality in the West I'd just say that you are advocating for war - whenever someone feels they have a justification to attack someone else who has not attacked them - when you claim that calling out such anti-enlightenment evil for what it is is an oversimplification.
I don't see any lowering of standards of morality at all. I'm not advocating, and neither is Wolfe for what I could gather, to justify the actions of those who attack others without just cause.

The main claim here is that by calling someone else evil, we don't advance our cause. We would be better off not using that charged term, which sets up the narrative for violent response. We would be better off trying to understand the cause of the actions so that they can be addressed by whatever means are appropriate.

If I see my neighbor dumping garbage on my lawn, and my immediate reaction is to think that he's evil, it will be less likely that I'll try to find out why he's doing it. It may turn out that my kids have been dumping that same garbage at his front door, and he's fed up with it.

Ray in Seattle 12-11-2011 04:02 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 234329)
Indeed emotions drive a great part of our psychological life. I'm completely aware of that. However, that doesn't mean that emotions are the only driver. We do have the ability to reason. The more we practice it the better it works. We don't get rid of emotions or moral intuitions (and probably this wouldn't be desirable either), but we are, under certain circumstances, able to examine our actions and make some reasoned/ rational choices in spite of what our emotions may try to push.

I disagree. Whatever reasoning we apply to a decision, its power to affect that decision is solely due to its ability to change our emotional estimate of the outcome of adopting that view. The brain always decides based on its estimate of the optimal emotional outcome of the decision - not the logical validity of the decision.

If we highly value rationality, then we have developed an emotional appreciation (salience) for the results of its use in decision-making. In practice humans can develop such salience for rationality in certain areas of their life and ignore it completely in others. That's because of the different emotional salience that our identities attach to different domains of behavior and belief.

You can find many engineers who spend their lives pursuing precisely rational conclusions about bridge design, for example, who also believe that the universe was created by some God for his purposes. The simplest explanation for this anomaly is that the emotions we attach to our beliefs and the emotions we attach to our logical conclusions - are both weighed in our behavior decisions.

Reasoning is a behavior. Like all behavior decisions - when we use it to justify other behavior decisions it is selected for the purpose of creating an emotionally pleasing outcome - having others agree that our behavior was acceptable.

ohreally 12-11-2011 04:18 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Only Americans, fresh from killing more foreign civilians than any other nation on earth in the last half-century, seem sufficiently lacking in self-awareness to discuss, in all seriousness, the meaning of evil... from others.

Ocean 12-11-2011 04:25 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 234331)
I disagree. Whatever reasoning we apply to a decision, its power to affect that decision is solely due to its ability to change our emotional estimate of the outcome of adopting that view. The brain always decides based on its estimate of the optimal emotional outcome of the decision - not the logical validity of the decision.

If we highly value rationality, then we have developed an emotional appreciation (salience) for the results of its use in decision-making. In practice humans can develop such salience for rationality in certain areas of their life and ignore it completely in others. That's because of the different emotional salience that our identities attach to different domains of behavior and belief.

You can find many engineers who spend their lives pursuing precisely rational conclusions about bridge design, for example, who also believe that the universe was created by some God for his purposes. The simplest explanation for this anomaly is that the emotions we attach to our beliefs and the emotions we attach to our logical conclusions - are both weighed in our behavior decisions.

Reasoning is a behavior. Like all behavior decisions - when we use it to justify other behavior decisions it is selected for the purpose of creating an emotionally pleasing outcome - having others agree that our behavior was acceptable.

Yes, Ray, of course, there's some involvement of emotionality if you keep searching, somewhere, somehow. But this is all irrelevant to the topic we're discussing.

There's a big stretch between acting reflexively on pure fear/hatred or existential threat, and having an emotional tone attached to wanting to be a rational being.

thouartgob 12-11-2011 04:26 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 234328)
What is moral for me is not what is moral for Saddam Hussein.

... or Yigal Amir. He saw and understood what evil was and took action. Pre-Defensive Violence or Pre-Attack Defensive Attack if you will ( like the Iraq war etc. )

Florian 12-11-2011 04:27 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Zeko (Post 234324)
Those straw men sure can't stand up to you. Who do you think actually thinks like this?


Ray repeats again and again that human beings--I assume he includes himself in this category*-- have no reasons for their beliefs, they only have emotions, irrational prejudices, to justify their beliefs. Therefore, it follows that Ray has no reason(s) for his belief that liberals have no reason(s) for their beliefs (whatever they may be). Ray by his own admission has only emotions, irrational prejudices, to support his belief that liberals have nothing but emotions, irrational prejudices, to support their beliefs.

*Actually, since he seems to exempt himself from having irrational beliefs, I think we can conclude that he is not human.

thouartgob 12-11-2011 04:32 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Zeko (Post 234324)
Those straw men sure can't stand up to you. Who do you think actually thinks like this?

Evil people or appeasers of evil people or apologists for evil people or people who negotiate with evil people or...

Of course replace "evil people" with terrorist or islamo-fascist or abortion doctor or ...

Ray in Seattle 12-11-2011 05:17 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 234334)
Yes, Ray, of course, there's some involvement of emotionality if you keep searching, somewhere, somehow. But this is all irrelevant to the topic we're discussing.

There's a big stretch between acting reflexively on pure fear/hatred or existential threat, and having an emotional tone attached to wanting to be a rational being.

Well, it's irrelevant for you. I believe I have a different understanding about how brains produce behavior. esp. in regards the respective roles of reasoning and emotion. And that understanding makes it central to the discussion.

Although we disagree, my purpose is not to chase that dragon through the countryside but to discuss these interesting things about behavior. Do you have a view of how brains produce behavior? I realize that your profession is to make people feel happier than they are (yes, I know - simplistic ;-) and such mechanics may not be as important as simply knowing what works and what doesn't from a therapy perspective. But, have you considered the psychological forces involved in behavior decisions, where they come from and how evolution has shaped them in humans and mammals generally? I'd love to hear your views on this topic some time.

Have you read Descarte's Error? Here's a review I ran across recently by a psychologist in England that I pretty much agree with.

Ocean 12-11-2011 05:46 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ray in Seattle (Post 234338)
Well, it's irrelevant for you. I believe I have a different understanding about how brains produce behavior. esp. in regards the respective roles of reasoning and emotion. And that understanding makes it central to the discussion.

Although we disagree, my purpose is not to chase that dragon through the countryside but to discuss these interesting things about behavior. Do you have a view of how brains produce behavior? I realize that your profession is to make people feel happier than they are (yes, I know - simplistic ;-) and such mechanics may not be as important as simply knowing what works and what doesn't from a therapy perspective. But, have you considered the psychological forces involved in behavior decisions, where they come from and how evolution has shaped them in humans and mammals generally? I'd love to hear your views on this topic some time.

Yes, I have considered psychological forces, as you call them. My interest in this field started as an interest in psychology, in how the mind works, rather than psychiatry. How I ended up in psychiatry is a long story, certainly more than irrelevant to this topic. And psychiatrists' goal isn't to make people happier, but rather healthier. But, again, this is not the point of this discussion.

Quote:

Have you read Descarte's Error? Here's a review I ran across recently by a psychologist in England that I pretty much agree with.
No, I haven't read the book. It sounds interesting. Perhaps when I retire, or when my children are grown and gone. Or when I stop posting in BhTV...

Florian 12-11-2011 05:48 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 234334)
Yes, Ray, of course, there's some involvement of emotionality if you keep searching, somewhere, somehow. But this is all irrelevant to the topic we're discussing.

There's a big stretch between acting reflexively on pure fear/hatred or existential threat, and having an emotional tone attached to wanting to be a rational being.

But Ray is not a rational being; he has repeatedly told us that he is not a rational being. He is motivated by his "brain", about which he knows nothing, except that it motivates him to expose his "thoughts," pitiful though they may be, about various subjects---Israel, liberals etc.

That is the end of the matter. Further discussion is useless.

Simon Willard 12-11-2011 06:08 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 234315)
There are certain words which are code for larger narratives that tap into primitive fears. This is the case in the way the word "evil" was used at the time. It wasn't about using it just once, but creating that epic narrative and making it part of everyday discourse in America. It is plain old political manipulation of the public. It capitalizes on deeply seated beliefs and values. The deeper, the better. It goes straight to our emotional responses and bypasses reasoning.

It's fine to make your argument; your point is defensible. Your argument is useful in rebutting the rhetoric of those who throw around the word "evil". If someone says "Iran is evil" you can and should stand up and say "that's a dangerous and misleading statement".

The larger point, I take it, is that discourse in America has been somehow corrupted by the use of language that capitalizes on deep-seated emotions. This is where I say "So what?". Of course people appeal to emotions and religious prejudices. It's a normal part of arguing. You can't control that. It doesn't happen only on the Republican side; everyone does it.

Sulla the Dictator 12-11-2011 06:25 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by thouartgob (Post 234337)
Evil people or appeasers of evil people or apologists for evil people or people who negotiate with evil people or...

Of course replace "evil people" with terrorist or islamo-fascist or abortion doctor or ...

Interesting how in your mockery of sanity, you seem to be suggesting that it is as absurd to consider a terrorist evil as it is to consider an abortion doctor evil.

Do you want to clarify that? I would be surprised if you had much of a problem with the abortion mill. Are you suggesting that you consider a view of terrorism as evil as equally flawed?

Sulla the Dictator 12-11-2011 06:28 PM

Re: Thanks, but no thanks. Beyond Good and Evil is Evil
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 234311)
Within five months of becoming Chancellor (1933) Hitler, with the help of his henchmen Göring and Himmler, had sent half a million communists, social democrats, liberals and Christians to forced labor camps. Before 1938 (Kristallnacht) when violence against Jews began in earnest, they had already been excluded from administrative offices (including university positions) and deprived of civil rights.

"Better" than Saddam? I suppose, but the word has as little meaning as "evil" when applied without historical discrimination.

It has less meaning. Because better is a relative term, where as evil is a definitive one. If Hitler had died of a heart attack in 1938, the "Long Knives" and Kristallnacht might have been the "greatest" of his atrocities. People would be arguing now that Hitler killed fewer people than Castro; and they would be right. And Alan Wolfe would be suggesting that people like myself, who would call Hitler an evil man, would be actively engaging in debasing the language.

basman 12-11-2011 07:11 PM

Re: Hannah Arendt and Samantha Power
 
...Radical evil for Arendt was the theory and horrifically deranged emergence of totalitarianism in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. The banality of evil was the bureaucratic manifestation or routine of evil as personified by Eichmann in his pathetic ordinariness. "Evil" can be radical in intent and abusiveness, yet numbingly stupid and boring in practice. The leadership is composed of radical zealots, the followers (implementers) are dull drones--- just following orders and doing their job....

This is acute and correct. I thought I heard Wolfe say that Arendt's movement from from thinking about "radical evil" to "the banality of evil" represented a shift in her views. If I'm right in that impression then he's wrong in missing in Arendt's thought the different modes of evil's simultaneous manifestation.

Itzik Basman

Ocean 12-11-2011 07:14 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 234343)
It's fine to make your argument; your point is defensible. Your argument is useful in rebutting the rhetoric of those who throw around the word "evil". If someone says "Iran is evil" you can and should stand up and say "that's a dangerous and misleading statement".

Yes, that's it.

Quote:

The larger point, I take it, is that discourse in America has been somehow corrupted by the use of language that capitalizes on deep-seated emotions.
Yes.

Quote:

This is where I say "So what?". Of course people appeal to emotions and religious prejudices. It's a normal part of arguing. You can't control that. It doesn't happen only on the Republican side; everyone does it.
Simply some people may object to the use of this kind of rhetoric because of its particularly dangerous consequences. There's nothing wrong, as far as I can tell, in expressing an opinion, explaining why this is dangerous and generating a discussion.

If you understand, for example, that some people may object to politicians lying, deceiving, in order to manipulate, this is just another form of manipulation.

Do we all manipulate to some degree or the other? Sure, we do. But there are some forms of rhetoric that are particularly malignant because they're plainly dishonest and misleading and have very serious consequences(wars, violence).

Should I assume that you don't have any problems with dishonesty and deception? Or do you?

basman 12-11-2011 07:16 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 234268)
Given his performance as a politician and the resulting prime minister of Canada, "the Evil of Banality" would also have been a propos

Sidebar admittedly: but Pretty good P.M. if you ask me. But don't ask me: ask the first past the post Canadian electorate who keeping giving him an increased share of their vote.

Itzik Basman

basman 12-11-2011 07:42 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by David Edenden (Post 234239)
FYI: Michael Ignatieff's review of Wolfe's book in Slate:

"How To Learn the Language of Evil"

My review of Michael Ignatieff's deeds, not words, while leader of the Liberal Party of Canada ... read it and weep:

Michael Ignatieff and the Banality of Evil

Thanks for the link to Ignatieff's review of Wolfe's book, which book I haven't read. I thought it a good review both at the level of rehearsing Wolfe's general arguments and of pointing to the difficulty of applying these general arguments to specific cases. As to your review of Ignatieff, maybe in the next life.

Itzik Basman

miceelf 12-11-2011 07:46 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by basman (Post 234356)
Sidebar admittedly: but Pretty good P.M. if you ask me. But don't ask me: ask the first past the post Canadian electorate who keeping giving him an increased share of their vote.

Itzik Basman

I assume you are talking about Harper rather than Ignatieff, who managed to convert at best general dissatisfaction with harper into a pretty stunning decimation of the liberals.

Harper's party increased in the popular vote from 36.3% to 37.7% to 39.6%. It's true that that's an increase each time, but certainly a very modest one.

As to his merits as prime minister, I suspect we will agree to disagree.

Wonderment 12-11-2011 07:47 PM

Re: Hannah Arendt and Samantha Power
 
Aside: I'm getting a little worried about our bet. And no, I don't want to raise it to $10,000.

sugarkang 12-11-2011 08:07 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 234329)
We've had this discussion around here before.

We have? If you and I have personally had this conversation, then it clearly didn't help you understand what I'm saying now.

Quote:

However, that doesn't mean that emotions are the only driver.
They do on issues of morality. Your feelings on what is moral or is not moral is based on emotion. That's why we call them "feelings."

Quote:

We do have the ability to reason. The more we practice it the better it works. We don't get rid of emotions or moral intuitions (and probably this wouldn't be desirable either), but we are, under certain circumstances, able to examine our actions and make some reasoned/ rational choices in spite of what our emotions may try to push.
So, you're encouraging sociopathy as something to be practiced more often? I suggest you put down your Rx pad and seek a psychiatrist.

Quote:

Would you also consider that some decisions can be arrived at for multiple reasons?
Are you purposely trying to not understand? What went through your mind when I was talking about nine different Justices?

Quote:

Human rights reflect a set of moral standards. Morality seems to have a significant component that comes from our emotional life, how we relate to each other, empathy, etc. So, indeed logic alone may not take us to the same places. But morality is a result of both our emotional life and reason.
I'll repeat it again. On issues of morality, emotion is all there is. That emotion determines all of your moral reasons, rationality or logic. The only reason you don't believe in Allah is because you didn't grow up Muslim. The only reason Muslims don't share your American values is because they didn't grow up American. As Richard Dawkins says, Christian children don't grow up with the choice of whether or not they want to believe in God. And that's true. But if it is true, then it applies to all of the morals that people have. That's why I accept that my belief in human rights is no different than someone who believes in God. It's faith and it's a feeling. That feeling is the source of rational arguments that I give to persuade other people.

Here's some homework.

Ocean 12-11-2011 08:38 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 234364)
So, you're encouraging sociopathy as something to be practiced more often? I suggest you put down your Rx pad and seek a psychiatrist.

This is so you, SK. Soooo you.

And this is the reason it's so useless to respond to anything you say. You're loaded with such disgraceful inability to generate respect from others.

How could I take what you say seriously when you use any opportunity to spit out hostility against those who disagree with you?

Oh, well, I could have anticipated the end of this conversation with you.

miceelf 12-11-2011 09:42 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 234364)
They do on issues of morality. Your feelings on what is moral or is not moral is based on emotion. That's why we call them "feelings."

...

So, you're encouraging sociopathy as something to be practiced more often? I suggest you put down your Rx pad and seek a psychiatrist.


Ignoring emotions in order to do the rational thing isn't usually sociopathy. It can be in very specific circumstances. usually, however, it's "maturity" or "being objective"

As to feelings on what is moral. if we called them 'thoughts on what is moral' it would change your argument a great deal, but not much else.

I am not convinced that emotions are all there is when it comes to morality. At least not as "emotions" or "morality" are usually understood. In fact, your example of various religious beliefs and the fact that people born into belief systems usually stay there is an example of things other than emotions determining beliefs. It also ignores that most atheists, at least historically (if not today) were brought up as believers in one religion or another. (and among religions that aggressively proselytize, conversions from other religions and from no religion are also common). Although I was brought up and remain a Christian, the substance of my Christianity has changed substantially from when I was a teenager. I am not sure that "emotion" is any more useful a way of understanding such changes than is "experience" or "rational disputation."

chamblee54 12-11-2011 11:12 PM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Outdoor light is much better for Mr. Wright than the indoor light he usually uses.
chamblee54

Parallax 12-12-2011 12:05 AM

Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Baz (Post 234327)
Genocide has been commited by all powerful states. People like you just ignore it when its the home team that commits it.

Is this deliberate?

If I knew US were committing genocide and I was around and a US citizen of course I would do anything in my power to stop it.

An example is Christopher Hitchens who was mentioned by Mr. Wolfe go read his book on Kissinger and then look into his current views on US involvement in middle east. But if you want a quick response, here is a 5 minute video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRKXzER5AH8

Parallax 12-12-2011 12:14 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 234320)
What does morality have to do with political manipulation?

It has everything to do with it! For example TARP was one of the most successful policy initiatives in recent times. Yet it was and is wildly unpopular to the point that I am not sure if that moment comes again there are enough votes to pass it. Why? Because people felt it was immoral.

Policy makers should understand just saying this policy is best without any regards to issues such as morality is just not good enough. A brutal cold blooded realist foreign policy might be the best way of securing US national interests but if it clearly violates the basic moral beliefs of the populace it is not going to happen.

Parallax 12-12-2011 12:25 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 234325)
Quite the opposite. Humans are inherently rational and that rationality is deeply connected to our idea of fairness and morality.

We are using the word rational in different ways, maybe I am not using the right word. Your say humans are rational b/c their actions follow from their motives.

My version of rationality is more concerned with the motives/emotions themselves. Take a person and show them a video of someone getting shot and dying. The emotional response (if they are normal & healthy) is irrational, a rational actor would stay neutral when watching that video.

Hume's Bastard 12-12-2011 01:39 AM

Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)
 
I could be wrong, though. It's also possible Wolfe is setting up an opening for an empirical treatment of the four political evils with a philosophical analysis.

basman 12-12-2011 03:52 AM

Re: Hannah Arendt and Samantha Power
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 234363)
Aside: I'm getting a little worried about our bet. And no, I don't want to raise it to $10,000.

Quite the mind reader you are.

Itzik Basman


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 02:24 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.