02 October 2010

 

The Autistic Nature of Secular-Humanist Philosophy

This item is by Wilf Gaunt.

In Lone Frank's book 'Mindfield,' she describes how, in conversation with the (superstar) neuroeconomists Colin Camerer and George Loewenstein, they reformulated Plato's old metaphore: comparing the human mind to a chariot drawn by two horses, one representing reason, the other emotion. This is true enough they said, with the important difference that reason should be represented by a pony, and emotion by an elephant.

The book then goes on to point out that reason cannot be put into practice without the involvement of emotion: emotion being the primary driving force of our system, inherited through evolutionary time, and reason being a more recent, subordinate application. Autism can be defined as a malfunction of the connection between the reasoning part of the brain and the origins of our emotions. No matter how high the IQ of an autistic person, their attempts to apply the results of their reasoning fall apart because of the non-involvement of emotion.

It struck me, reading this, that the lack of emotion involved in the production, and attempted application of, Secular-Humanist philosophy generally, puts us firmly in the autistic category; and probably explains our inability to appeal to the statistically observed wider audience in society, which we should have working actively with us to forward our aims. As for trying to convert people from the emotional comfort zones of their religions, forget it.

When asked about his use of the current popular music of his times in his services, the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, famously replied: 'Why should the Devil have all the best tunes?' He obviously understood the value of raised emotional levels in putting across his message. Goebbels successfully deployed every emotional weapon at his disposal (film, music, pageant, language) to forward the Nazi message: even knowing the outcome, Hitler's speeches are still frighteningly, hypnotically persuasive. President Kennedy praised the way Churchill had mobilised the English language during WW2: he should also have stressed the emotional uplift of that language, which I well remember as a child.

Without emotion, even the best ideas are dead things; with emotion, even nonsense can become king.

Wilfred Gaunt

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Comments:
Emotion is important. With my son, though. I have found that he is very emotional. He feels deeply. Only, he isn't always able to show his feelings.
 
I like to distinguish between what I call "imotion" (inwardly felt feeling) and emotion (outwardly expressed feeling). According to my theory (an account of which I put into one of the LSS Newsletters that I produced) reasoning depends on imotion. We place a certain strength of feeling onto ideas according as we like or dislike them, and this value changes according to the evidence of our experiences. If the positive feeling is strong enough we "believe" the idea to be true. If the feelings for or against are equal we can't make up our minds. If the feelings for and against are equal and also strong then we experience angst, and may swing from one to the other. The use of the term "emotion" for both inward and outward feelings is an oversimplification that can lead to a false dichotomy between emotion and reason. I don't know how far my ideas on this are borne out by psychologists, but I have found it a helpful way of thinking about the subject.
 
Original, as ever, George. My own initial reaction is, like you, to question the Reason-Emotion dichotomy. Might be more accurate in the mental model if Reason is posed opposite to Instinct. Fact is that as humans all three come into play when making decisions and if you're a woman there's also Intuition. (That's got to incite responses, surely.)

But Wilf's argument is that to win more to their cause non-believers need to appeal not merely to rational argument backed by evidence but to the listener's 'hearts' and feelings. Offer comfort, reassurance, etc., be less prone to arguing over points in seeking truth, be accommodating and forgiving...

Can't see it happening myself so we may be condemned to permanent opposition!
 
An alternative view: "Perhaps animals are almost pure automatons - with urges, instincts, hormonal rushes, driving them toward behaviour which in turn is carefully honed and selected to aid the propagation of a particular genetic sequence. Perhaps states of consciousness, no matter how vivid, are as Huxley suggested. 'immediately caused by molecular changes in the brain substance.' But from the point of view of the animal, it must seem - as it does with us - natural, passionate, and occasionally even thought out. Perhaps a flurry of impulses and intersecting sub-routines at times feels something like the exercise of free will. Certainly the animal cannot much have an impression of being impelled against its will. It voluntarily chooses to behave in the manner dictated by its contesting programs. Mainly, it's just following 'orders'."

That was for animals but the authors go on ...

"We are also at the mercy of our feelings. We too are profoundly ignorant of what motivates us." Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan 'Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, Ch 9.

Or, as the robot says (I think in 'I Robot') "I choose to do what I am programmed to do."

Harry
 
The point about choosing, or exercising our will freely to some extent, is that there is a time lapse in the process during which we go through a reasoning process. This can be a simple balancing of feelings (as in my theory) or a step by step logical argument, of the type seen in Euclid. Once a conclusion has been reached, and it is convincing enough (in terms of our inward feelings) a decision can be made and sufficient energy (motivation) for action becomes available. We are programmed, by evolution, not to make definite predestined choices but to try to reason them out as best we can. We differ from (other) animals only in having a more sophisticated reasoning apparatus. Of course if there is insufficient time for this process we have to act on instinct or impulse or guesswork.
 
It says I'm including too many words and the word count says I'm not so I'm trying this out to see if it works
Dave
 
it says Im writing too many words and the word count says I'm ont so this is ab=n experiment.
Dave
 
I 'm going to put it in two parts because although it's quite a lot smaller that google's limit it still won't publish.
Dave
 
Part 2

Artist Piero Manzoni put his excrement up for sale as a work of art symbolic of all that was sh-t in advertising.
Animals mark their territory with smells. Humans do it with symbols, signs, barriers, prisons and uniforms; all symbols. Animals differ from humans in that they have virtually no imagination. People can visualise what might be rather than what is, frequently their imagination creates fear then instinct takes over.
When fear grips they instinctively adopt pack behaviour with others of similar attitude.
In the light of the above - belief or not - in god cannot be a “cause”.
Belief or non-belief when branded as a “cause” is a symptom not the disease. The disease in my understanding is fear – the rationalist “cause” is to overcome the fear that makes people want to become part of a pack whose objectives are irrational. It’s uneducated unthinking people that are profoundly ignorant of what motivates them. Education and knowledge CAN overcome emotion. We are NOT robots programmed to a fixed course of action but we do need information to allow us to come to rational conclusions. That’s why a free press is essential to a free society and far more important than railing against a church that lost control of peoples minds two hundred years ago. Consumerism has in general terms replaced religion and the media and advertising have supplanted the priest in the pulpit.
Jewish Media mogul and inveterate truth distorter Rupert Murdoch has received a papal knighthood and with Henry Kissinger and Mortimer Zuckerman is on the Anti-Defamation League dinner committee. According to a New York Times report on the recent ADL fundraiser the indicted Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlesconi who has his job courtesy of the CIA received the ADL’s distinguished Statesman Award.
With individuals like these running the world’s media people are frightened and so they should be.
Dave Ray
 

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