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Old 12-17-2011, 02:18 PM
Ray in Seattle Ray in Seattle is offline
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: NW Washington
Posts: 441
Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
So we now know how one gets to the grocery store to buy coffee beans. But how does one decide, based on your analysis, who to vote for for president? Or how does one decide whether or not to support the invasion of Iraq?
Or how does one decide what profession to pursue - or whether to ask a particular person to marry you - or if a young newlywed should decide to stay home to raise her kids and give up a long dreamed of professional life?

My view is that one is far more likely to use reason to figure out from which market to buy coffee beans - than to answer any of those other questions. For one thing, reason is very unlikely to yield a logical answer to such questions. It is with the most important of life's questions - the questions that will have the greatest effect on our happiness for the rest of our lives - where the limitations of reason and logic are often the most apparent. How could someone logically determine whether a career as a lawyer or an auto mechanic will provide them the most happiness in life, for example. One simply "knows" (intuits) the answer to such questions by the time they are 15 or so, perhaps earlier.

It is in these areas where the elegant mechanism of intuition shows its greatest strength. In these cases, intuition makes its opinions known through those top levels of one's belief hierarchy where one's identity is taking shape as we "try on" various identities. Even at 15 years old one has significant blocks of those identity beliefs taking shape. And those will start yielding reliable emotional guides to such questions - narrowing the possibilities as our identity becomes more complete in those areas. But it is those high level beliefs that define who we are (or who we are becoming) where the answer to those questions lie - not in some impossible to apply multi-variable logical analysis.

It is important to stress that it is the emotional power of such beliefs and not their manifestation in logical (or sometimes illogical) words that affect our behavior. The words we use to describe our motives in these cases are often simply justifications to make others (or ourselves) feel better about our choices after the fact - not the result of logical deliberation - which, as I noted, is almost impossible to apply to such huge questions with so many unquantifiable variables. When imagining ourselves arguing a case in court or modifying a high performance engine - one or the other of those will obviously feel satisfyingly right or uncomfortably foreign - to the person we imagine ourselves to be some day.

After the first few of our basic identity beliefs become anchored - even by three or four years old - we will tend to acquire new identity beliefs in a way that our personality becomes coherent and free of epistemological contradictions as far as possible. i.e. we will favor new beliefs that support our existing beliefs and reject those that are not compatible. In that way we progress on our path to maturity acquiring a set of useful beliefs that tell us how to get by in life with the greatest happiness.

Added: We can acquire new identity beliefs and edit existing ones as the result of reasoning. I think everyone probably does this occasionally in life. By experience and use those logical results can become new intuition-producing beliefs. But I think it's not nearly as common as most of us believe. In most cases we acquire beliefs that emotionally support what we already believe to be true about the world.

But sometimes we do acquire seemingly compatible beliefs that turn out to be not so compatible later and may cause us problems life. I knew many women in the sixties who read "The Feminine Mystique" and faced the contradictions caused by the clash of career dreams and motherhood that you mentioned. I suspect many young women today face that same dilemma. But if, at some time in their life if they believe both of those are noble aspirations (compatible with their identity) and they become pregnant - I'm sure making that choice has to be painful. I know those women get through it somehow and come out on one side or they other - in many cases only after a lot of self doubt and anguish.

I have also seen that some women who make that choice will (non-consciously) edit their identity beliefs as a result. They will find themselves to be a different person to some extent after that wrenching experience. They may even become outspoken advocates for the path they chose to follow - and disparaging of women who chose the other path - perhaps to hide any doubts they still carry with them.

I also know some women who have done a good job of combining their motherhood and career aspirations. It takes a lot of effort I'm sure but I've seen it done very well.

In any case, I find that trying to understand my own and others' behavior through this window - the emotional power of identity beliefs acquired starting early in life and reinforced as we mature, to shape one's personality, behavior, beliefs and choices - can be pretty helpful.

Added: In case it is not obvious to others by now I find this window applies very well to the range of questions explored and the views expressed in this forum.
Self determination for DNA

Last edited by Ray in Seattle; 12-17-2011 at 03:56 PM..
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