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  1. 1 point

    All About Evasion

    I've threatened to do this for quite some time... so I guess now is as good a time as any. There's been some discussion on this topic recently, and I'm not opposed to importing quotes -- but for this OP, I'd like to start fresh. I don't have a particular thesis or argument, but I would like to explore the topic of "evasion," and importantly how it intersects with ethics. That is, given "evasion" (however we conceive of it, though obviously that's central to the discussion) what do we do about it? How do we recognize and deal with evasion in others? How do we recognize and deal with evasion in ourselves. Let me back up for a moment. The first time I ever dealt with evasion, and recognized it as such, was long before reading Rand/discovering Objectivism. I'm sure I didn't use the word "evasion" to describe the phenomenon -- probably something like "denial" would have been quicker to my mind -- but I was debating the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden with a Christian friend of mine, and I wished to make a point by reference to the text of Genesis. I didn't have a copy on-hand, but I was certain that my friend must keep a copy (and we were at his home). I asked him to break out his Bible, so that I could demonstrate the textual basis of my argument -- show that the Bible really did say what I claimed that it did -- and... my friend refused. He did not want to look at the Bible, to see whether I was right or wrong. He didn't want to know. Now, I know that many people will think that this is besides the point. "Evasion" is an internal phenomenon, a subconscious phenomenon, and so it is. You can't see it happen. I agree. But I have come to believe that evasion often has surface features and effects which may be recognized and addressed. It's kind of like a "tell" in poker: you can't see the other person's cards, but you can see their reaction to their cards, and often people have a characteristic reaction, depending on their hand. That is information, and just like any information, we can try to make sense of it through our best use of reason (bearing in mind the context that we may easily make mistakes in doing so; and sometimes you bet in poker on the basis of what you think you know, and lose). Usually, this doesn't take the form of someone specifically refusing to look at something -- refusing to look through the proverbial (or literal) telescope -- though sometimes it does. But especially through a long history of debate and conversation, on this forum and elsewhere, what I've found is more often a pronounced reluctance or resistance to specific argument. There are untold arguments where someone has made a claim of, "I will get to that point soon," and then they never, ever do. Not even if it is brought up time and again, or made a point of emphasis. This is not, in itself, proof of anything, let alone "evasion," but especially in context I consider it my best means of determining when a partner in conversation is focused and oriented (in the manner that they would need to be to determine their own error, should I be correct) or otherwise. When examples go unaddressed, when my arguments are paraphrased incorrectly (sometimes wildly so), when questions are asked but never answered, and so forth, it is all information that helps me to see whether someone is engaging with the discussion... or perhaps deflecting it. And then, in myself, I wonder: how should I know it, if I evade? Because I take it for granted (though perhaps I shouldn't) that a person does not have conscious awareness of his own evasion; if he had conscious awareness, it wouldn't be evasion. That's what makes it so damned troublesome! What I have found in others, I look for in myself. I look for the effects of evasion, rather than counting on my ability to detect it, as such (or rather than what I fear most do, which is to implicitly assume that I am the only human on earth somehow immune to evasion, of my nature). When I feel reluctant to address some argument or answer some question directly, I try to make it a point of emphasis to do exactly what I am initially disinclined to do. If a question is asked of me, and I fear that my answer will somehow put me at a rhetorical disadvantage, because my instinctive answer somehow "sounds bad" for me or the point I'm trying to make, I consider it doubly important to answer the question directly, and to try to assess whether what I consider a "rhetorical disadvantage" isn't actually just me being wrong about something. I may also choose to answer such a question at length, in an attempt to explain myself more fully, or provide the proper context for interpreting my answer, but I don't let it pass unaddressed because it seems "easier" or feels more comfortable. I fear that those emotional cues, sometimes, may actually be symptoms of an attempt at evasion. For as I'd recently mentioned elsewhere, I have come to regard evasion as a sort of psychological self-defense mechanism. I think no one is immune. When I try to imagine the extremes of evasion, what I come up with is something like "dissociative identity disorder." To be very honest, I'm not certain whether that's a real phenomenon or not (or the extent, at least, of its "reality"). But suppose that it is. My layman's perspective on it is that it might make sense for a person, in a given context, to "go to war with reality" to some certain extent in order to preserve one's sanity otherwise. To pretend that some outrageous forms of abuse (especially in early childhood) are not truly happening to the self, but "someone else." It is a desperate measure in the face of the truly horrendous, and it portends a lifetime of difficulty and recovery, but in some cases it might still be better than the alternative. I think that, to lesser or greater extents, evasion is a subconscious means of such self or "ego" preservation. With my Christian friend (and I sorely wish that I had this level of insight then), it's worth asking: what would he need to defend? What vested interest does a teenager (as we both were) have in the details of the story of bleeding Genesis, such that his emotions would scream at him to avoid looking at his own professed Holy Book? Well, only everything. He'd been raised Christian, in a Christian family, in a Christian community. Though it may not be so simple as this, he regarded his own understanding of the universe -- and his own morality, his own self -- as being based upon his beliefs in the Bible. So... if he were wrong about that, even to the smallest degree, what would that mean for... his beliefs about literally everything else? What would it mean for his regard for his family, for his friends, for himself (in that he had been so thoroughly taken in)? Having been so wrong about this, how could he ever again trust himself going forward? It's an immensity to consider. And I think that this lies at the heart of the pushback against thought, against evidence, that evasion fundamentally represents. Our survival, our happiness, our lives and all that this represents, depends upon our ability to think, and to be right. And so the possibility of being wrong (and sometimes thoroughly wrong) feels like an attack on our very lives. Evasion, then, is the fear of pain that being wrong, and all that it entails, made manifest at the subconscious level... and then represented at the conscious level by emotional reactions and biases that shade our responses, choices and actions, whether it be something so striking and obvious as an explicit "refusal to look," or something so subtle as an indirect answer to a direct question. Beyond looking for the "tells" I'd mentioned, resolving to answer questions directly, and etc., what can one do to fight against this tendency? I think that some of my conscious convictions have helped (or at least, so I hope). My conviction, for instance, that being wrong is no moral crime. That it is, in fact, a wondrous joy to discover my own errors -- not a slight against my ego or value, but a tribute to my ability and intelligence. This is how I have come to view debate and argument, not as a contest between enemies, but as a collaboration between allies. I do not feel put off by challenging material; I am drawn to it. (And indeed, I read Rand initially, not because I thought she would agree with me or provide me with some defense of already-held arguments... but because I thought she would disagree with me utterly, and I looked forward to the project of identifying her errors!) There is an analogy to be made here with my experience of playing games with my daughter. She does not like to lose. Of course. Nobody does. But over the course of my life -- and reflective of what I hope to instill in her early on -- I have come to view losing at games (or "failures" more generally) as being instrumental to the course of improvement... and eventual winning/success. So it is with being wrong. We are all wrong, at times. We are all probably wrong, right now, with respect to some of our beliefs. It is no moral failure to be wrong about things. But the right way of viewing this, in my opinion, is to deeply value the experience of being proved wrong. To then put ourselves in the best position possible to be proved wrong, and to embrace that feeling, embrace the difficult emotions associated with a stern challenge to one's ego, as being part of the true path towards success. And then, also, to look for the concrete manifestations that I have mentioned -- and seek out and discover others, and amend our actions accordingly. It ain't easy. I'm not always successful, either. But I believe that it's the key to addressing one's own evasion and pushing past it to discover and embrace the truth.
  2. 1 point
    There is no specific Objectivist objection to “social sciences”, but there are objections to practices of particular disciplines. These objections aren’t peculiar to Objectivism, rather they are straightforward scientific objections. It’s just that Objectivists make superior scientists, so we are well attuned to checking our premises (we do it all the time), and we understand the importance of a good philosophical foundation for any activity, with terms being defined. Any claim (social science or otherwise) must be justified by reference to facts of the universe which can be observed. Part of the evaluation of a claim is consideration of alternatives for which there is also evidence. Once there is no remaining evidence, even conceptual evidence, that supports an alternative claim, the conclusion is certain: it is proven, and justified (basically, OPAR ch. 5). Social sciences fall quite short in the enterprise of considering reasonable alternatives. The main problem of social sciences, as I see it, is even articulating a valid conceptual claim. It is not at all difficult to come up with (valid) empirical law in physical science, but it is nigh onto impossible to do this in social science (economics has the greatest potential that I can see). What is a “law of sociology”? What indeed is a meaningful theoretical question in sociology? Here are some examples of what seem to be theory questions in sociology (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociological_theory) What is action? What is social order? How is intersubjectivity achieved? Do social structures determine an individual's behaviour or does human agency? What is the social world made of? You need a certain amount of background knowledge to grasp the meaning of these questions, but it should not be an infinite regress of arbitrary stipulations and conditionals (“if we define X as Y, then Q follows”). Social sciences are very abstract, in the sense of being significantly removed from experience. Unlike concepts in physical sciences, concepts in social science do not reduce to undeniable observations (iron bars and what happens to them if you stick them in a fire), they reduce to other concepts which reduce to conditionals of the form “We can define X as Y”. There are two broad kinds of scientific activity: observing, and theorizing. Framed in Objectivist terms, there are perceptual questions, and conceptual questions. Physicists don’t just ask “what happens what you bash two Rolexes against each other at a million miles an hour?”, they ask “why does this happen?”, and “how do we increase the energy output?”. Social science is for the most part stuck in the descriptive, perceptual phase: “this is what these subjects did”. Even answering the most elementary descriptive questions can be extremely difficult, since for the most part, social sciences are observational (not experimental), and the observational data is in disarray (who collects it? how cooperative are those being observed, or those collecting the data? how accurately do the collectors employ the academician’s protocol?). In the realm of conceptual-level theorizing, the prospects for saying anything meaningful in the social sciences are dim, for two reasons: people are free to chose, and people are free to chose irrationally. Most people can’t predict my future actions, because they don’t understand my hierarchy of values. It’s even harder to make a prediction when the object of investigation (an individual) does not always act rationally. Contrary to the Wikipedia characterization of “social science”, I would say it has to do with the interaction between choices of an individual and the value one expects to obtain from interacting with other persons. Correspondingly, much of linguistics and cognitive psychology are not social science.
  3. 1 point

    Is it time, is the hour striking?

    You describe a man-made issue, then offer the "solution" is to accept it as one ought the metaphysically given.
  4. 1 point
    I do agree that doing the same thing that's been done while expecting a different outcome isn't rational, very generally speaking, but not that there's nothing that Objectivists can do about the state of the world, or the direction it's currently heading in. (Medieval Europe, perhaps, didn't look so rosy until Aristotle's rediscovery; why oughtn't the world enjoy a Randian Renaissance?) I think, rather, that Objectivists should take stock of the methods we've used, our approach in engaging the wider world, the way we communicate ourselves and our ideas, and make some changes. One of my takeaways from reading Rand is that philosophy has the power to move the world; I still believe that's true. Are we including Rand's own efforts in writing essays to describe her philosophy, and etc.? Because as far as I can tell, she designed arguments in order to convince others of what she believed to be true, which is part and parcel to what I consider "proselytization." For what it's worth, that worked for me. I believe that changing peoples' minds is a difficult task, but if we instead frame this in terms of learning how to make arguments (and other sorts of presentations; "argument," as I conceive of it, need not be so formal as an essay or a debate), how to approach people and groups diplomatically or tactfully, how to make better use of academic infrastructure or the media, how to make inroads into the culture, and such -- if that's how we think of our efforts, then I think we stand a better shot of success, on our own terms. It's kind of like, if I ask how I can force students to learn some given material... well, that's a difficult notion. Just like you can lead a whore to culture (which conjures Allen's Whore of Mensa to my mind) but you cannot make her think, so too you cannot make a student learn. Yet teachers can (and ideally do) strive to sharpen their pedagogical skills, so that they can make the best use of whatever skills the students provide, leverage whatever efforts the student is willing to perform, and hopefully incite further effort. There are reasonable people in the world, some to a lesser extent, some to a high degree -- and not all of them are Objectivists (to put it lightly). I'm not satisfied that, because we have not yet figured out the best means of outreach, that means that we will not be able to do so going forward. You're doing fine. I'm weighing my options about starting the thread I've long had in mind... but I enjoy and appreciate the conversation in the meantime.
  5. 1 point
    There seem to be two kinds of evasion: 1.Not thinking 2.Thinking or thoughts that override the truth For (1) How is anyone to know when they are not thinking? For (2) anxiety is one's friend because there is an implication that the truth is known but suppressed.
  6. 1 point
    The implication is that drug addiction is a situation where one's emotional mechanism is not attuned to survival anymore. And of course we are all born with some wants that we wish we did not want and vice versa, we wish we wanted something that we could not care less about. The way you find out about the misalignment of emotions is when something hurts and you find out that you caused it because you wanted an unwantable. Its just that coming up with an ethics based on the interplay of emotions, reason, perception, sensation, and imagination is too overwhelming, at least for me it is. Furthermore, I know, based on experience, that my emotions are misaligned. Therefore I feel safer (emotionally) using reason to guide me. Consequentialism with an ultimate end fits my bill. Do you know anyone whose emotions are perfectly aligned to survival? As in they are attracted to eating only what is good for them, they want the right companion simply by an emotional reaction, they control the order of activities simply by emotion, they are on time simply by feeling it, they don't want excesses that prevent important survival necessities (smoking, gambling, Netflix, video games, drugs, alcohol, and procrastination). I think everyone's emotions are misaligned and an addictive drug is not the only cause.
  7. 0 points

    Donald Trump

    You have not proved anything. Ayn Rand concluded with: "How could I advocate restricting immigration when I wouldn’t be alive today if our borders had been closed?" But she was alive that day, so the borders weren't closed to her, so the immigration controls active when she immigrated did not amount to closed borders. I skipped a step. Having a functional border requires immigration control of some degree. An "economic migrant" is an anti-concept. What comes across the border are whole human beings, not interchangeable labor units. Once someone has immigrated they have the freedom to be as economically active or inactive as anyone else. "Economic migrant" tries to distract us away from considering the politics of the immigrant, but immigration policy is crafted with an eye to importing more voters for particular political parties. "Economic migrant" and "criminal" are not mutually exclusive categories, as most criminals commit crimes to obtain money, i.e. economic motivation. If you buy the notion that the U.S. is a nation of ideas, then the chief qualification for immigration is that the immigrant accept those same ideas.