Monday, October 28, 2013

On the Basis of Morality

On the Basis of Morality is the title of  a work by Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer viewed compassion as, virtually, the singular factor that determines ethical reasoning. If you are guided by compassion then, you are most likely on solid ethical ground. While I certainly acknowledge the enormous importance of compassion and the critical role it plays in morality and in the living of an ethical life, I argue in Ethical Empowerment that it is only one component of morality and cannot by itself comprise a coherent ethics. From this perspective, I see much to admire in both socialism and libertarianism. Self-interest and altruism are both highly charged ingredients of ethical life. Selfishness, however--Ayn Rand aside--is intrinsically amoral and a precursor of unethical reasoning. And pure altruism also, I believe, can at times produce unethical results. I welcome your participation in this discussion!

While there is more to morality than the ethical expressions of compassion, it seems impossible that morality could exist without any emotion. That's what the Stoics tried to do but, in the end, they were victims of a grand self-deception. Morality without emotion would be like life absent any sensation. Without motive force there can be only pure chaos or pure inaction. The great problem of ethics is not, as the Stoics believed, the extirpation of emotion but, rather, the quest of its fine tuning and harmony in concert with the rational mind. (I refer to my book, Ethical Empowerment: Virtue Beyond the Paradigms.)                                                                                  

Philosophy, Hypnosis and Wittgenstein

There are many interconnections between philosophy and hypnosis. Even the use of words is in itself hypnotic. Wittgenstein's understanding of the morphing of a word's meaning from one context to another is extraordinarily hypnotic. How many arguments and vitriol have been fomented by the use of words that are understood differently by the parties concerned? And the controversy deepens because words far too often substitute for meaning. Yes, we require words to communicate meaning but, as Wittgenstein's ladder suggests and, I believe, Plato understood as well, ultimately particular language fades as meaning, understanding, knowledge and wisdom emerges. Many deep and ideological confusions are forms of mass hypnosis founded on disconnected abstractions("forms of life"). (originally posted 6/29/13)                                                                                  

The Snowden Affair

I admit I haven't been studying the details of the current Edward Snowden affair. It seems as though the entire nation is forming a posse to drag this guy in. But it also seems to me that the issue of massive surveillance of telephone conversations and, etc. is something that may be as threatening in the long run or even more threatening that terrorism. The entire herd wants Snowden taken in a tried as a traitor. Honestly, I am not familiar enough with the details to form a strong opinion, at this point, one way or the other. But I am a bit surprised that a herd reaction rising up against the specter of something reminiscent of Orwell's 1984 has not been stronger and more strident. Regardless of the culpability of Mr. Snowden, the everyday hypnotism that is expressed in the acceptance of growing surveillance is disconcerting. Having said that, however, I don't understand the concerns of some people regarding the mounting of cameras at traffic intersection or on street corners that monitor public activity. That type of surveillance is not intrusive and clearly can and has prevented and/or solved serious crime. (originally posted 6/25/13)                                                                                  

Everyday Hypnotisms

We are constantly being hypnotized by the occurrences and events in our lives. Combine deep or continuing focus with repetition and continual reinforcement and we have what might be called the everyday hypnotisms of life itself. As a practicing hypnotherapist, I have clients who come in to see me with all sorts of bad habits that may be described in both behavioral or mental terms. However, this blog is not about stopping smoking or nailbiting, or improving motivation or self-esteem, etc. Here we engage the hypnotic-like phenomena that characterize much of social, cultural and political life.

So let's begin with a short list of some everyday hypnotisms.

  • Political parties. It is with much satisfaction that I observe growing frustration with the institution of political parties. I have advocated an independent, non-party political systems since 1970, and now California and a few other states have passed laws that implement non-partisan qualifying primaries in which the top two finishers are selected, with the election then decided by runoff. This is similar to a tradition in some U.S. city governments and elsewhere. A no-party politics has the potential to empower politics and the citizenry, esp. if it is combined with meaningful public campaign financing.
  • The U.S. government is spending over $1billion dollars in interest payments every day! The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund loans money to poor countries that can never pay back their loans and, as a result further cripples their economies. And personal dept is allowed to exponentially increase. Is there something wrong with banks that earn UNLIMITED profit when debtors run into difficulties that are compounded by the never-ending spiral of compound interest?
  • One word: Ideology. Okay, two words: ideology and dogma. Are these not everyday hypnotisms that pervade human existence? 
The above are three huge examples of everyday hypnotisms that are adored by the masses (excepting, perhaps, the astronomic compounding of interest!) Respond to the above, or add your own examples of everyday hypnotisms. (originally posted 4/14/13)                                                                                  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

UFO Sightings and the Courtroom

The UFO phenomena is a favorite issue for skeptics to kick around. Despite the widespread view of many that there is something to it, the mechanisms of the conventional wisdom produces a psychological license to joke about it so that anyone who seriously discusses it in "polite" conventional society is dismissed as a kook or a crackpot and becomes fodder for derisive humor. What is really funny is that that the "non-scientific" thinking that goes into courtroom deliberations over guilt or innocence often utilizes the same level of circumstantial and secondhand observation that produces a rational basis for believing that many UFOs are more than swamp gas or meteors or some other random, natural event. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to start making jokes about the justice system and its so-called carefully deliberated verdicts. Ha! Ha! Hysterical.                                                                                  

Is 'Pseudoscience' a Fair Tag?

Is the "pseudoscience" tag always a fair dismissal? I am not a scientist, and I will not pretend to be one on this blog. However, the nature of what constitutes fair play and objective inquiry is at least as much a matter of philosophic inquiry as it is of scientific inquiry. And when inordinate efforts are made--sometimes violent--to suppress purported discoveries or inventions from ever seeing the light of day the scientist has a duty to don the uniform of an ethicist or, at least, of serious ethical agency.

Thomas Kuhn and Michael Polanyi have written about the phenomena of what Kuhn calls scientific paradigms and both acknowledge that the work of everyday science may be characterized as an organized effort to confirm existing paradigms. Very slowly, paradigms may eventually shift and a new understanding emerges...only to form a new paradigm. In this blog, I will discuss some instances in which challenges to the prevailing orthodoxy are resisted along the lines of what Kuhn and Polanyi described, which is that of institutional enforcement or stigma that  frustrates any would-be paradigm smasher. However, a plethora of stories concerning unconventional inventions have been reportedly suppressed with heavy-handed tactics. I am referring to claims that "can't be validated" because "they can't be true" because apparently their validation would overthrow laws of physics or other paradigms.

Perhaps the most extreme, documented victim of suppression was the burning of  Wilhelm Reich's books and destruction of some of his equipment in 1956 that related to his orgone accumulators. I don't know whether or not anything in Reich's writing or his equipment  have merit, however, the conduct of the FDA in orchestrating this thuggery is terribly disconcerting. I will also mention the name of T. Henry Moray whose invention seemed to pull energy out of thin air and was witnessed by many including the much acclaimed physicist, Harvey Fletcher. 

I will go into more detail about Moray's claim and many others during the life of this blog, but in the meantime please enter replies pro or con, for or against respective to what I have said thus far. Alternative science, suppressed inventions and the possible merits of some "pseudoscience" are some of the topics that are discussed in my book, Ethical Empowerment: Virtue Beyond the Paradigms.