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The Construction of Morals

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posted on Jul, 7 2015 @ 09:29 PM
We all have views. We all have ways of looking at the world. But for the most, most of us don't recognize the non-linear processes that "root" our views in a particular perspective. In a dynamic systems sense (think visually) we all 'fall' into one of a variety of "wells" or "basins of attraction". A common visual metaphor for this is a wave, with the lower part representing where our minds become located, after we experience ourselves, self-reflectively (that is, with a metacognitive awareness) over and over again, in the same pattern. The "upper wave", like a wall, blocks and separates "well from well". Or, culture from culture, mind from mind. The mind develops just like this, with each person evolving his own "weltanschauung", or world view - most literally - a world crafted from the droplets of past experiences, acting surreptitiously via prerogatives that predate our individuality, such as the need for positive feedback and the avoidance of negative feelings they keep mind focused on a certain quality of experience, consistent with and similar to the concept of "homeostasis" in biology, homeostasis in mind is a complex thing, explicable, very soundly, from an evolutionary viewpoint rooted in one basic dynamic life pattern: adapt to enhance survivability.

I begin with this reminder to just point out how susceptible we all are to believing the world is "such and such a way", when our believing so is oftentimes the activity of two basic things: the want to experience good feelings, and how that basic want becomes complexly expressed with the attitudes we take, the things we think, and most of all, the way we feel were being experienced by others in social interactions.

The concept is simple, yet people have a profound, basic, in built, instinctive bias against questioning their own "assertions" about the world, and again, for good reason: It feels very, very good to make assertions. On the other hand, consider the nature of this theory: the idea that we know that we "know" ourselves, for many people, comes off as very abstract. It almost seems, from their untrained mind (to know objective realities) that 'metacognition' doesn't exist; ergo, it means nothing to them. For these people, the even more complicated fact that such "phenomenological experiences" are events in the brain, time-locked, that is, forming neuronal groups, with other regions of the brain whether motor, sensory, affective, visual-contextual, etc, and thus becoming a "metagrouping", such an idea would mean even less to them. Again, the difficulty is not merely cognitive, but affective-cognitive: when people experience "too much information", implied in the experience, and through the powers of the 'primordial relational matrix', people become 'tilted' towards a certain viewpoint: irritation at not knowing what the other person is talking about, and feeling, via incessant self-other comparisons (this being the route towards the evolution of our mind/brains) that one is being presented badly, it becomes very easy, nay, tempting and enticing, to defend oneself via the expression of some disapproving action.

My point, ultimately, is: question your perceptions, as we often act in contradiction to what we would otherwise, consciously, assert to be our values. In short, to have values as a human being, you need to be aware of the "selves" that make up your conscious experience. You need to pay attention to the non-linear 'resonance affect' of past experience and context on present-moment mental states. This is a fact of the brain. It's not some 'mystery', but a simple fact of the brain being 'physically closed', despite being psychologically open to the influence of other brains.

I assume most of you want to be good people. And you probably, in your better moments, truly do aspire to be compassionate, caring, responsible people. Most people, in fact, would probably regard such an orientation as the paragon of sanity: you make your world and other worlds better by focusing on 'good', instead of bad. This bias we have towards good, naturally, is very much rooted in what we each experience when we suffer in some way. Suffering teaches us the bias, and hopefully, we grew up in an environment that reared our developing minds to cognitively relate to the world in terms of some moral compass. But if you didn't, you are in a very real sense, "unmoored" and disconnected from a common human wisdom: it makes a whole lot of sense to be kind to others because suffering hurts. Science adds to this understanding the inevitability of interpersonal effects: unhappy people tend to create unhappy people; mean people evoke defensiveness, angry people engender contention, depressed people push other people away, shame causes discomfort, humor releases spontaneity, etc. This 'meta-cognitive' sense of knowing basic things about the human condition ultimately places us and binds us in a condition of responsibility: this is how things are, not mysteriously, but by the gradual evolution of consciousness in the context of a body bounded by energy needs, which translates as "adapt to survive" for an organism that is motivated to connect emotionally (feel good) with others.

We seldom think about how feeling good only emerged because of the presence of others. Yet look at how we abuse this fact! We act all the type against others with annoyance and irritation. Some of us are even brought to the point of misanthropism; feeling 'good' about it's hatred, yet ironically, this very goodness derives from the history of the human body's emotional engagement with others.

It's amazing, in terms of recognizing our history, in thinking of our 'animalness', that we can better appreciate our humanness. Our humanness, ultimately, is our power of metacognition. Metacognition, ultimately, lets us know ourselves, how we experience ourselves from moment to moment in response to the "input" of the environment. Metacognition ultimately, leads to the study of evolution in biology, which helps us better comprehend the evolution of our psychology; and in comparing ourselves with other creatures, we both find what makes us just like them - the need for safety, control and coherence - and what makes us different: our ability to track our experiences and learn, cognitively and conceptually, how to improve our 'selves'.


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