Posts Tagged ‘NEUROETHICS BOOK’

Does Placidity Elevate Always? Hell No! On Spinoza’s Slumber

February 23, 2020

Do Cows Have Higher Minds? Spinoza’s Philosophy Condemned For Apathy

A famous leitmotiv of Baruch de Spinoza: “Man soll die Welt nicht belachen nicht beweinen sondern begreifen”. The quote (originally in Latin) is from his Tractatus theologico-politicus. English translation: “one should neither laugh at nor lament the world, but only understand it.” That sentiment has been much lauded, by those who want to feel elevated. It’s wrong in more ways than one.

Spinoza’s idea is that one would not associate the world with negativism, or positivism, tragedy or comedy, but just, well, understand it. Thus one would avoid categorizing, prejudice, bias, etc. which reminds us to avoid the tendency to categorize and judge other people or ideas (as if there was a different way of thinking than categorizing and judging stuff). 

Instead, Spinoza calls for an openness to learning, akin to what Jane Addams called “affectionate interpretation” in A modern Lear, her (flawed) interpretation of the lethal plutocratic events in Chicago in 1894. There was a strike, strikers were executed in a plutocratic plot, plutocrats won. Around 30 workers were murdered by railroad agents and their allies. Conveniently Ms. Addams depicts the malefactors as in need of “affectionate interpretation”. Quick! A Nobel Prize! 

Jane Addams: “good citizens actively pursue knowledge of others—not just facts but a deeper understanding—for the possibility of caring and acting on their behalf.” Depict suspected criminal against humanity Joe Biden, telling us “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble. The folks at the top aren’t bad guys…billionaires are actually nice guys”.  

Addams was famous for “Hull House”. Co-founder Ellen Gates Starr said of Jane Addams, “if the devil himself came riding down Halsted Street with his tail waving out behind him, [Jane Addams would say] what a beautiful curve he had in his tail.” Of course, Addams, as a good agent of plutocratic affectionate understanding, got the Nobel Peace prize in 1931 (she had also advanced “colored” people, etc…)

The idea is often attributed to HARVARD professor Santayana … probably because Hardwart is so superior. Actually Santanaya didn’t hide Spinoza’s influence on himYes, well, sometimes, the best citizens line up their U.S. Navy Dauntless dive bombers on that gigantic red sun on the yellow decks of the Akagi and Kaga plunging and waiting until the last second to drop their 1,000 pound bombs. In five minutes three large Japanese aircraft carriers from Pearl Harbor were on fire, shaken by explosions, and their elite aircrews were roasting… never to be replaced, as Japan, differently from the USA, didn’t have the plane-smart manpower, and gasoline, to train replacement aviators. 

Affectionate interpretation” as an advanced intellectual doctrine should have stopped long before it led to Auschwitz. The moral imperative is the exact opposite, when in doubt.

Now Baruch (“Blessed” in Hebrew) Spinoza had reason to play the passion-less violin, in times when people were executed for opinion on a routine basis by fascist autocrats such as Louis XIV, the Pope, the catholic Inquisition, and countless lesser tyrants throughout Europe. So, I excuse Spinoza, then. But I don’t excuse the same benevolent attitude to the world, now. Although I do use benevolence on a routine basis, I don’t make a religion of it. Actually, I made a religion of overruling it. 

Some view this method as the way to reject dogma and insist on reason. One couldn’t be more mistaken… A proof, as usual, was the apathy with which German Jews received Hitler: they got too busy trying to understand Hitler… affectionately, for the best. Thus they became not just victims, bt his accomplices 

The quote (originally in Latin) is from his Tractatus theologico-politicus, but the general idea recurs throughout his Ethics. It’s actually not so much a “should” as it is Spinoza’s attempt to describe his own method–what he’s endeavored to do through his philosophy.

Friedrich Nietzsche picks up on Spinoza’s method in The joyful wisdom (aka, “The Gay Science”, La Gaya Scienza). He emphasizes that the issue is not to replace emotions with reason, but actually to realize that reason grows from the emotions (hence their name, hey!):

“What does Knowing Mean? Non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere! says Spinoza, so simply and sublimely, as is his wont. Nevertheless, what else is this intelligere ultimately, but just the form in which the three other things become perceptible to us all at once? A result of the diverging and opposite impulses of desiring to deride, lament and execrate? Before knowledge is possible each of these impulses must first have brought forward its one-sided view of the object or event.”

Nietzsche is right, and Spinoza (whom he admired), at best, naive. Spinoza tried to deny our psychological motivation, as if intelligence was a castle in the air. Instead the deep emotions are the groundwork, the foundations, of logic. This is what Nietzsche noticed. Amusingly, René Descartes, contrarily to repute given by some cheap US author (Demasio), was not like Spinoza at all: Descartes was very aware, when constructing its magnificent advance in mathematics, of the psychological reasons to do so (I read the originals). To achieve constructive understanding was more satisfying he said, and thus he proceeded to make mathematics which could do so.

Spinoza was a great philosopher. To do so, he had to keep on polishing lenses (that killed him), refusing a belated university job. He had his reasons, that the times forced on him. He lived in a time where tyrants ruled Europe, and the world. The choice for free spirit was to be burned alive in Europe…many printers were, a century earlier, even in France:… or being eaten alive in the Pacific (no refrigeration!)

Nowadays, though, we have no excuses. The likes of Obama and the plutocratic leaders of the world dare say we need leaders, but, in truth, we need to be led by the best ideas, and that means the best cognition, no secrecy a la Xi. In that direction our moral trajectory curves.

Those trains of thought which advocate to collaborate with evil from “affectionate interpretation” should be rejected, so should Spinoza’s official lack of understanding upon how his mind worked. .

Patrice Ayme

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REMORSE: When WILL To TRUTH Bites Back

February 20, 2020

Abstract: Many human emotions make sense when analyzed in the context of humanity’s purpose… which is to establish truth. Humans are truth machines.

Where does this strong emotion, remorse come from? From the Will to Truth, and, more specifically the will to moral truth. Remorse entices humans to obsess So remorse is a good thing, a teaching attitude. Individuals and societies should practice it more. 

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Emotions Such As Remorse, Which Ground Morality, Are Grounded In The Last Billion Years:

Morality, considered in its most fundamental way, is revealed to be a neurological, a neurogenetical (in the sense of genesis) aptitude to manage optimally the ways which enable the survival of the species… This neuroethics is more or less automatically inherited (in ways science has not fully elucidated yet… but research as deployed here should help). Automatic systems such as walking: when one has two legs, one ends up walking on them, as long as one is in “human” circumstances (that is not stuffed in a small cage; having other walking humans around helps).   

Thus, all and any trait of fundamental moral etiology is grounded in the old ways of our ancestors, some living hundreds of millions of years. A lot of our neurological biochemistry works so well, it has not changed since our fishy ancestors.
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WHAT IS REMORSE?

The feeling of remorse consists more specifically in deep regret or guilt for a moral wrong committed. Morality (from “mores”, the old ways in Latin) is what insures group survival[1]. For example, the Nazis violated the old ways, the mores, so at least 8.5 million Germans died (that was about 10% of all Germans) [2]. 

So remorse addresses wrongs against the ways which insure group survival. Remorse is the motivation, the spur for much truth seeking of a social nature

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An Example: Afghan Remorse:

The USA has been officially at war in Afghanistan for 18 years, the longest US war, ever. In truth, the order of attack was given on July 3, 1979, by “Democratic” president Jimmy Carter. The cynical excuse to justify the attack was to harass the Soviets, allied to the Republic of Afghanistan with Muslim Fundamentalists (the true reason, laying below, was even more sinister…. It was to insure no Franco-Russian sphere of co-prosperity would grow in Central Asia).

But that immoral war, initially launched, by Carter, for the indefensible reasons, in the most abject way (advise Muslim Fundamentalists to attack schools for girls)…  is not the subject of this essay. Instead the subject of remorse is.

From the New York Times: “My Friend Lives Inside the War on Terror. Listen to Him.”

“A moment of moral reckoning came when Specialist Murphy had to conduct a body cavity search of a college professor who could barely walk without a cane, during his prison intake for some unknown crime.

“And here I was in my United States Army uniform and here was this very sensitive looking grandfather-type guy, and just the … I don’t know. It kind of was one of those moments where I was just taken aback and I just was affected.”

All the while there were nightly mortar attacks. Rockets, too. There were ambushes at the gate and explosives on the roads. 

But MORAL INJURY — the damage to the soul caused by participating in something unjust — has a wide blast radius for anyone with a conscience. The ambiguity of military operations since 9/11 are fertile ground for moral injury. Average Americans may feel guilt or shame for the conduct of the war on terrorism — the pardoning of war criminals or the indefinite jailing, without trial, of men at Guantánamo or the civilian casualties caused by drone strikes — but it can be devastating for those who are a part of it.

To keep from being desensitized, he told me, he resolved to learn all his prisoners’ names and listen to all the questions they had for him during the twice-daily head counts.”

Moral injury? A good concept, because it reflects reality. Human beings are made prone to moral injury, so they can be hurt, and, hence, learn from it. 

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SEARCH FOR TRUTH REQUIRES REHASHING THE PAST:

Human beings with a normally functioning mental machinery tend to relive past events and to regret their actions. Some sneer that it’s useless to relive the past. But of course, if such were the case, all literature would be of no interest and be gone. Besides, we would never examine our lives, thus, according to Socrates, would not have lives worth living. 

Less amusingly, and more fundamentally, if we didn’t revisit the past, we would learn nothing as learning consists into backtracking over what one thought one knew, finding all the inputs which preceded the errors, and proceed to the probable truth by systematic elimination of failing logic or bad data. Those who can’t revisit the past, can’t learn. When one can’t learn, one may suspect it has to do with inability to revisit the past.  

Some call learning by trial, error, and rehashing what went wrong, the “scientific method”, insinuating “science” is new. We the smarties have been doing science for 500 million years, it’s our home. Humans, who are truth machines, do much more of science than our beastly ancestors. Thus we thrive from much more equity seeking and remorse… among other apparently weird, very human behaviors.

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WW 2 Hirohito riding proud with fellow criminal army idiots

An Example of Insufficient Remorse: Japan

Japan declared war to all of South East Asia in a period of half a century, concluded by the two atomic explosion, and the immediate threat of a third atomic strike. The Japanese invasions killed up to 50 million people, most of them civilians. By contrast, Japan suffered around 2.5 million dead… most of them Japanese troops which died of starvation. US bombings of Japan, conventional or not, killed less than 700,000… Thus, however horrifying the death toll was for Japan, it’s not commensurate to the death toll Japan inflicted to the the rest of the world… And in particular Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia (to put the aggressed countries in chronological order).

Germany, starting in 1945, recognized its crimes against humanity, through remorse which brought genuine atonement (see below; atonement took decades: top Nazis like von Manstein stayed influential for decades, preventing recognition of the German resistance against Hitler).

As he was preparing his 1952 speech at a ceremony to commemorate Japan’s return to independence with the end of the U.S. occupation, Hirohito insisted that he “must include the word remorse”. Hirohito was in excellent position to express “remorse” as he was nominally in charge. Hirohito felt that, instead of surrender, he wished he had been able to end the war earlier. He also privately expressed horror at the atrocities committed by the Japanese military, according to the documents. But he also said that the military was so powerful that he couldn’t influence it.

Hirohito wish to express remorse was relayed to then-Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, who advised against it. However, since then, the present Japanese emperor, grandson of Hirohito, has expressed “deep remorse”. However these things take time to percolate down throughout society. The switch of Japan from nuclear to massive coal, presently underway with the complicity of Australia, shows that Japanese remorse doesn’t go far enough yet.

More of the same Hirohito riding high. The problem with such plutocrats is that they ride on hubris, and with hubris they blind the peasants. Clearly the imperial position, symbol of hubris, per se, should be cancelled in Japan (in China too: they justify each other…

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EQUITY BRINGS TRUTH:

Experiments have shown monkeys attach an overwhelming importance to truth: submitted to unfair situations, they can cut the Gordian Knot by attacking the experimenter. Why is equity so important to primates? Because being just insures the survival of the group, by making sure they all get taken care enough. Thus one would expect all social animals with intelligent societies to have a developed sense of equity. There is some evidence of this with, say, lions, wolves, hyenas.

Now equity has the equal sign therein: before having some equity, one needs to have some truth (to find out what’s equal; hence the power of equations!) Without truth, no equity. Conversely, much truth is socially, culturally derived (monkeys and apes don’t discover all by themselves foods and pharmaceuticals in the forest: they learn it from their parents, elders…). So equity and truth are entangled.

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Atonement is Jewish, Remorse, French:

Remorse is often conceptually entangled with “atonement”, particularly in the USA, of course… Atonement is any change of attitude to create unity, to make many “at one” (at-one-ment).    In other words, “atonement” is a more primitive form of psychology than true remorse. To survive, the monkeys need to be “at one” (Latin adunare “unite,” from ad “to, at” (see ad-) + unum “one.”). Atonement is tribal, something monkeys and other advanced social animals (say wolves) have plenty of practice, to constitute the group which will allow them to live. 

Unity is most major in the USA, otherwise they would have none (since Americans are immigrants who came from all over the world, the US traditions use every possible tricks to create unity). Translating “Day of Atonement” gives Yom Kippur in Hebrew, the most sacred celebration of the Jews.

In a country such as France, an old instinct says that survival comes from mental diversity, not “atonement”.  Indeed, France got its unity from diversity! (Now Britain and the USA, descendant states from France are also ruled by that notion… historically to a lesser extent, but they caught up…)

Hence is France atonement is practiced only very reluctantly, to the point that the notion, this side of Vichy, is not even conceptualized…

In a country such as France, one would expect only a fascist government to set-up a day of atonement, repentance, etc. Right, this sort of thing happened in the Middle Ages… Times of great theological fascism and plutocracy, indeed. And that’s precisely why the late Middle Ages have bad press nowadays. Also then, in the Middle Ages, the Pope would go once a year to the Synagogue in Rome and try to persuade the Jews to convert to Catholicism: a fight of universalism, as Catholicism means just that. Catholicism proved more universal than Yom Kippur: there are barely more Jews now than under Rome, whereas the Christo-Islamists have multiplied like rodents (there are more than three billions)… Christo-Islamism expanded, precisely because it celebrated universalism, that it, to some extent, diversity, rather than Jewish atonement, unity as necessary, to plaster over the fragility

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True remorse is more specifically human, it rises above the herd to question the lonely conscience. Nostalgia and a capacity to sit away from oneself, let others be, and, more generally, listening to life speaking for itself, are not far behind. 

Want the truth? Learning to bite back at your own soul should be part of your arsenal!

Patrice Ayme

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[1] Medieval Latin remorsum” a biting back or in return,” noun use of neuter past participle of Latin remordere “to vex, torment disturb,” literally “to bite back, bite again”

Medieval Latin phrase remorsus conscientiæ (“remorse of the conscience,” 

 

One could also say, some Medievalists, obsessed as they were with words, have got to think about it, that re-morse is uncannily close to re-mores (refurbishing one’s mores…)

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[2] These are minimal numbers. I use spanking new statistics

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_casualties_in_World_War_II

Notice that includes 5.5 million dead young men, the soldiers, presumably the best stock of the German “race”…