Logic vs Psychology
A powerful yet often overlooked consequence of our environmental vulnerability to adapt to the existing culture is that our very identity and personality is often linked to the institutions, practices, trends and hence values we are born into and exist in. This psychological adaptation and inevitable familiarity creates a comfort zone which, over time, can be painful to disrupt, regardless of how well reasoned the data standing to the contrary of what we believe may be.
In fact, the vast majority of objections currently found against The Zeitgeist Movement, specifically points made with respect to solutions and hence change, appear to be driven by narrow frames of reference and emotional bias more than intellectual assessment. Common reactions of this kind are often singular propositions that, rather than critically addressing the actual premises articulated by an argument, serve to dismiss them outright via haphazard associations. The most common classification of such arguments are “projections” and it becomes clear very often that such opponents are actually more concerned with defending their psychological identity rather than objectively considering a new perspective.
In a classic work by authors Cohen and Nagel titled “An Introduction to Logic and The Scientific Method”, this point is well made with respect to the process of logical evaluation and its independence from human psychology.
“The weight of evidence is not itself a temporal event, but a relation of implication between certain classes or types of propositions...Of course, thought is necessary to apprehend such implications...however [that] does not make physics a branch of psychology. The realization that logic cannot be restricted to psychological phenomenon will help us to discriminate between our science and rhetoric - conceiving the latter as the art of persuasion or of arguing so as to produce the feeling of certainty. Our emotional dispositions make it very difficult for us to accept certain propositions, no matter how strong the evidence in their favor. And since all proof depends upon the acceptance of certain propositions as true, no proposition can be proved to be true to one who is sufficiently determined not to believe it.”
The term “mind lock” has been coined by some philosophers with respect to this phenomenon, defined as 'the condition where one's perspective becomes self-referring, in a closed loop of reasoning'. Seemingly empirical presuppositions frame and secure one's worldview and anything contradictory coming from the outside can be blocked or rejected, often even subconsciously. This reaction could be likened to the common physical reflex to protect oneself from a foreign object moving towards your person – only in this circumstance the “reflex” is to defend one's beliefs, not body.
While such phrases as “thinking outside the box” might be common rhetoric today in the activist community, seldom are the foundations of our way of thinking and the integrity of our most established institutions challenged. They are, more often than not, considered to be “givens” and assumed inalterable.
For example, in the so-called democracies of the world, a “president”, or the equivalent, is a common point of focus with respect to the quality of a country's governance. A large amount of attention is spent toward such a figure, his perspectives and actions. Yet, seldom does one step back and ask: “Why do we have a president to begin with?” “How is his/her power as an institutional figure justified as an optimized manner of social governance?” “Is it not a contradiction of terms to claim a democratic society when the public has virtually no real say with respect to the actions of the president once he or she is elected?”
Such questions are seldom considered as people tend, again, to adapt to their culture without objection, assuming it is “just the way it is”. Such static orientations are almost universally a result of cultural tradition and, as Cohen and Nagel point out, it is very difficult to communicate a new, challenging idea to those who are “sufficiently determined not to believe it”. Such traditional presuppositions, held as empirical, are likely a root source of personal and social retardation in the world today. This phenomenon, coupled with an educational system that constantly reinforces such established notions through its institutions of “academia”, further seals this cultural inhibition and compounds the hindrance to relevant change.
While the scope of this tendency is wide with respect to debate, there are two common argumentative fallacies worth noting here as they constantly come up with respect to the application-set and train of thought promoted by TZM. Put in colorful terms, these tactics comprise what could be called a “value war” which is waged, consciously or not, by those who have vested emotional/material interest in keeping things the same, opposing change.
The “Prima Facie” Fallacy
The first is the “prima facie” association. This simply means “upon first appearance”; “before investigation”. This is by far the most common type of objection. A classical case study is the common claim that the observations and solutions presented by TZM are simply rehashed “Marxist communism”.
Let's briefly explore this as an example. Referencing “The Communist Manifesto” Marx and Engels present various observations with respect to the evolution of society, specifically “class war”, inherent structural relationships regarding “capital”, along with a general logic as to how the social order will transition through “revolution” to a stateless, classless system, in part, while also noting a series of direct social changes, such as the “centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state”, “equal liability of all to labor.” and other specifics. Marx creates players in the schema he suggests like the ongoing battle between the “bourgeoisie and proletarians”, expressing contempt for the inherent exploitation, which he says is essentially rooted in the idea of “private property”. In the end, the accumulated goal in general is in seeking a “stateless and classless society”.
On the surface, reformations proposed in TZM's promoted solutions might appear to mirror attributes of “Marxism” if one was to completely ignore the underlying reasoning. The idea of a society “without classes”, “without universal property”, and the complete redefinition of what comprises the “state” might, on the surface, show confluence by the mere gestures themselves, especially since western academia commonly promotes a “duality” between “communism” and “capitalism” with the aforementioned character points noted as the core differences. However, the actual train of thought to support these seemingly similar conclusions is quite different.
TZM's advocated benchmark for decision-making is not a Moral Philosophy, which, when examined at its root, is essentially what Marxist philosophy was a manifestation of. TZM is not interested in the poetic, subjective and arbitrary notions of “a fair society”, ”guaranteed freedom”, “world peace”, or “making a better world” simply because it sounds “right”, “humane” or “good”. Without a technical framework that has a direct physical referent to such terms, such moral relativism serves little to no long-term purpose.
Rather, TZM is interested in scientific application, as applied to societal sustainability, both physical and cultural. As will be expressed in greater detail in further essays, the method of science is not restricted in its application within the “physical world” and hence the social system, infrastructure, educational relevance and even understanding human behavior itself, all exist within the confines of scientific causality. In turn, there is a natural feedback system built into physical reality which will express itself very clearly in the context of what “works” and what doesn't over time, guiding our conscious adaptation.
Marxism is not based on this “calculated” worldview at all, even though there might be some scientifically based characteristics inherent. For example, the Marxist notion of a “classless society” was to overcome the capitalist originating “inhumanity” imposed on the working class or “proletariat”.TZM's advocated train of thought, on the other hand, sources advancements in human studies. It finds, for example, that social stratification, which is inherent to the capitalist/market model, to actually be a form of indirect violence against the vast majority as a result of the evolutionary psychology we humans naturally posses. It generates an unnecessary form of human suffering on many levels, which is destabilizing and, by implication, technically unsustainable.
Another example is TZM's interest in removing universal property and setting up a system of “shared access”. This is often quickly condemned to the Marxist idea of “abolishing private property”. However, generally speaking, the Marxist logic relates the existence of private property to the perpetuation of the “bourgeois” and their ongoing exploitation of the “proletariat”. He states in the Manifesto: “The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property.”TZM's advocated logic, on the other hand, relates the fact that the practice of universal, individual ownership of goods is environmentally inefficient, wasteful and ultimately unsustainable as a practice. This supports a restrictive system behavior and a great deal of unnecessary deprivation, and hence crime is common in societies with an unequal distribution of resources.
At any rate, such “prima facie” allegations are very common and many more could be expressed. However, it is not the scope of this section to discuss all alleged connections between Marxism and TZM's advocated train of thought. In the end, the debate is essentially pointless as to argue such a correlation is to simply ignore the true purpose and merit of the societal conception itself.
The “Straw-Man” Fallacy
The second argumentative fallacy has to do with the misrepresentation of a position, deliberate or projected, commonly referred to as a “straw-man”. When it comes to TZM, this usually has to do with imposed interpretations that are without legitimate evidence to be considered relevant to a point in question.
For example, when discussing the organization of a new social system, people often project their current values and concerns into the new model without considering the vast change of context inherent which would likely nullify such concerns immediately. A common straw-man projection in this context would be that in a society where material production were based upon technological application directly and not an exchange system requiring paid human labor, people would have no incentive to do anything and therefore the model would fail as nothing would get done.
This kind of argument is without testable validity with respect to the human sciences and is really an intuitive assumption originating from the current cultural climate where the economic system coerces all humans into labor roles for survival (income/profit). This often occurs regardless of one's personal interest or social utility, often generating a psychological distortion with respect to motivation.In the words of Margaret Mead: ”If you look closely you will see that almost anything that really matters to us, anything that embodies our deepest commitment to the way human life should be lived and cared for, depends on some form of volunteerism.” In a 1992 Gallup Poll, more than 50% of American adults (94 million Americans) volunteered time for social causes, at an average of 4.2 hours a week, for a total of 20.5 billion hours a year.It has also been found in studies that repetitive, mundane jobs lend themselves more to traditional rewards such as money, whereas money doesn't seem to motivate innovation and creativity. In later essays, the idea of mechanization/automation applied to mundane labor to free the human being will be discussed, expressing how the labor-for-income system is outdated and restrictive of not only industrial potential and efficiency, but also human potential and creativity overall.Another common, contextual example of a “straw-man” is the claim that if the transition to a new social system was acted upon, the property of others must be forcefully confiscated by a “ruling power” and violence would be the result. This, once again, is a value projection/fear, imposed upon TZM's advocated logic without validation.
TZM sees the materialization of a new socioeconomic model happening with the needed consensus of the population. Its very understanding, along with the “bio-social pressures” occurring as the current system worsens, is the basis of influence. The logic does not support a “dictatorial” disposition because that approach, apart from being inhumane, wouldn't work.In order for such a system to work, it needs to be accepted without active state coercion. Therefore, it is an issue of investigation, education, and broad personal acceptance in the community. In fact, the very specifics of social interaction and lifestyle actually demand a vast majority acceptance of the system's mechanics and values.Similarly, and final example here of the “straw-man”, is the confusion about how a transition to a new system could happen at all. In fact, many tend to dismiss TZM's proposals on that basis alone, simply because they don't understand how it can happen. This argument, in principle, is the same reasoning as the example of a sick man who is seeking treatment for his illness but does not know where he can get such treatment, when it would be available, or what the treatment is. Does his lack of knowing how and when stop his need to seek? No - not if he wants to be healthy. Given the dire state of affairs on this planet, humanity must also keep seeking and a path will inevitably come clear.
In the end, it is worth reiterating that the battle between logic and psychology is really a central conflict in the arena of societal change. There is no context more personal and sensitive than the way we organize our lives in society and an important objective of TZM, in many ways, is to find techniques that can educate the public as to the merit of this logical train of thought, overcoming the baggage of outdated psychological comforts which serve no progressive, viable value role in the modern world.
- Source: The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers, Will Durant, 1926
- Sigmund Freud was first to make famous the idea of Psychological Projection, defined as 'a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people.' However, the use of the term is more general in this context, reflecting the simple notion of assuming to understand an idea based on a false or superficial relationship to prior understandings - usually in a defensive posture for dismissal of validity.
- The term “cognitive pathology” is a suggested descriptor of this phenomenon. A common characteristic is 'circular reasoning' where a belief is justified by merely re-referencing the belief itself. For example, to ask a Theist why they believe in God, a common answer might be “Faith”. To ask why they have “Faith” often results in a response like “because God rewards those who have Faith”. The causality orientation is truncated and self-referring.
- Logic and The Scientific Method, Cohen and Nagel, Harcourt, 1934, p.19
- Reference: The Cancer Stage of Capitalism, John McMurtry, Pluto Press, 1999, Chapter 1
- Criticism here of “academia” is not to be confused with its standard definition, meaning a 'community of students and scholars engaged in higher education and research.' The context here is the inhibiting nature of “schools” of thought which all too often evolve to create an ego unto itself where conflicting data is ignored or haphazardly dismissed. Also, there is a risk common to this mode of thought where “theory” and “tradition” take prominence over “experience” and “experiment” very often, perpetuating false conclusions.
- Reference: Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy: Moral Philosophy and Humanity, John McMurtry, Pluto Press, 2002
- Source: Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/prima+facie)
- Written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848 this text is widely considered the definitive ideological expression of Marxist communism. “Communism” is said to be the practical implementation of “Marxism”. View Online: (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/index.htm)
- Defined as 'the branch of philosophy dealing with both argument about the content of morality and meta-ethical discussion of the nature of moral judgment, language, argument, and value.' (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/moral+philosophy)
- The argument that science is not a philosophy is certainly open to semantics and interpretation but the point being made here is that notions of “right and wrong” and other “ethical” distinctions common to philosophy take on a very different light in the scientific context as it has more to do with utility and balance than mere concepts of “morality” as it is classically defined. In the view of Science, human behavior is best aligned with the inherent causality discovered in the natural world, validated by testing, building inference and logical associations to justify human actions as “appropriate” to a given purpose. Again, this is always ambiguous on some level and likely the most accurate context of philosophy as related to science is as a precursor to validation during investigation and experimentation.
- The term “physical world” is often used to differentiate between the “mental” processes of the human mind or sociological type phenomena, and the physical environment that exists outside of the cognitive processes of human perception. In reality there is nothing outside the “physical world” as we know it, as there is to be found no concrete example where causal relationships are simply voided.
- Feedback from the Environment could be said to be the “correction mechanism” of nature as it relates to human decisions. A simple example would be the industrial production of chemicals that produce negative retroactions when released into the environment, showing incompatibility with environmental needs for life-support - such as was the case with CFCs and their effect on Ozone Depletion.
- Reference: The Spirit Level, Kate Pickett & Richard Wilkinson, Bloomsbury Press, 2011
- This concept will be explored more in part III but it is worth noting that the type of “access” enabled by the suggested social system (NLRBE) does not rule out legal relationships to secure the use of goods. The idea of reducing the current property system to one of 'protected access' where, for example, a camera obtained from a distribution center is given legal status upon it rental to that person, is not to be confused with the capitalist notion of property, which is a universal distinction and a great source of industrial inefficiency and imbalance.
- Likely the best description of this is to imagine a fight in which one of the opponents sets up a man made of straw, attacks it, then proclaims victory. All the while, the real opponent stands by untouched.
- Source: “Have you noticed...”, Vital Speeches of the Day, Robert Krikorian, 1985, p.301
- Source: Giving and Volunteering in the United States: Findings from a National Survey, Hodgkinson & Weitzman, 1992, p.2
- Reference: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink, Riverhead, 2011
- More on the subject of transition in part IV.
- This essay belong to Zeitgeist Movement Defined: Realizing a New Train of Thought