We’re all hypocrites. Why? Hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind.
Robert Kurzban shows us that the key to understanding our behavioral inconsistencies lies in understanding the mind’s design. The human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection. While these modules sometimes work together seamlessly, they don’t always, resulting in impossibly contradictory beliefs, vacillations between patience and impulsiveness, violations of our supposed moral principles, and overinflated views of ourselves.
This modular, evolutionary psychological view of the mind undermines deeply held intuitions about ourselves, as well as a range of scientific theories that require a “self” with consistent beliefs and preferences. Modularity suggests that there is no “I.” Instead, each of us is a contentious “we”–a collection of discrete but interacting systems whose constant conflicts shape our interactions with one another and our experience of the world.
In clear language, full of wit and rich in examples, Kurzban explains the roots and implications of our inconsistent minds, and why it is perfectly natural to believe that everyone else is a hypocrite.
Watch a video here.
Read a New Yorker piece here.
In his 2003 book, Being No One, Thomas Metzinger contends there is no such thing as a “self.” Rather, the self is a kind of transparent information-processing system. “You don’t see it,” he writes. “But you see with it.”
Read Thomas Metzinger on the nature of subjective experience here.
How does a self help deal with the knowledge of death?
Animals self-deceive, and they motivate by self-deceiving. They have optimism bias; just like human beings, different cognitive biases emerge. So we have to efficiently self-deceive. The self becomes a platform for cultural forms of symbolic immortality, the different ways human beings tackle the fear of death. The most primitive and simple, down-to-the-ground way is they become religious, a Catholic Christian, for instance, and say, “It is just not true, I believe in something else,” and form a community and socially reinforce self-deception. That gives you comfort; it makes you healthier; it is good at fighting against other groups of disbelievers. But as we see in the long run, it creates horrible military catastrophes, for instance. There are higher levels, like, for instance, trying to write a book that will survive you.
Tell Me a Story (about how Strawson gets it wrong about stories)
By Mitchell Aboulafia on September 12, 2015 • ( 2 ) Source
Once upon a time I was having dinner at the home of a colleague, a professional philosopher. The conversation took an intriguing turn when my colleague revealed that he had virtually no visual memory. Of course I had known that people remember things and events with varying degrees of vivacity and in different ways. Some folks remember conversations by hearing the voices of the participants. Others focus on the ideas, moods, or visual images. Nevertheless, I was surprised to hear that my colleague could not recollect common objects, except in an almost abstract form. So, for example, if he tried to recall a Coca Cola bottle, the best he could do is see an outline of the shape, a sort of stick figure version of a bottle. My colleague had no trouble remembering ideas, events, dates, places, etc. He just couldn’t visualize (very well).
Read this response here.
What’s the story here? Part 1 suggested that we are our stories. [thesis]
But in philosophy there is often a development that follows a thesis – antithesis – synthesis model, based roughly on Hegel’s work.
In Part 2 Galen Strawson argues that this claim (summarized below) is not only false it is also dangerous:
Each of us constructs and lives a “narrative”,’ wrote the British neurologist Oliver Sacks, ‘this narrative is us’. Likewise the American cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner: ‘Self is a perpetually rewritten story.’ And: ‘In the end, we become the autobiographical narratives by which we “tell about” our lives.’ Or a fellow American psychologist, Dan P McAdams: ‘We are all storytellers, and we are the stories we tell.’ And here’s the American moral philosopher J David Velleman: ‘We invent ourselves… but we really are the characters we invent.’ And, for good measure, another American philosopher, Daniel Dennett: ‘we are all virtuoso novelists, who find ourselves engaged in all sorts of behaviour… and we always put the best “faces” on it we can. We try to make all of our material cohere into a single good story. And that story is our autobiography. The chief fictional character at the centre of that autobiography is one’s self.’ [Source]
He writes, “I think it’s false – false that everyone stories themselves, and false that it’s always a good thing.” Read his argument at aeon.
What do you think?