philosophy and psychology: the Objectivist Syndrome

You come into a discussion venue set up to grapple with “philosophical issues”. Over a period of time you begin to note those who champion rationalism over empiricism…essentialism over existentialism…objectivism over perspectivism.

Now, these intellectual chasms have existed in philosophy for literally centuries and, by and large, we are still no closer to resolving them.

But this does nothing, of course, to dissuade those convinced they have been resolved. In other words, they have resolved them. They are the Truth Tellers.

And what I have come to discern over the years about truth telling, however, is an angle not often broached in these exchanges----the psychological one.

Here, in my view, is how the psychology of truth telling unfolds.

  1. For whatever reason initially you take an interest in philosophy
  2. As time goes by you find yourself increasingly pulled into exploring the Big Questions systemically, as a discipline
  3. Over time you gravitate towards particular philosophers and schools thought
  4. After a while you are convinced these thinkers and perspectives express the Most Rational Philosophy of all
  5. Eventually, you begin to bump into others who feel the same way; you may even begin to actually seek out folks similarly inclined to view the world in a particular way
  6. Then you are sharing this philosophy with family, friends, colleagues, associates and Internet denizens; it becomes more and more a part of your life
  7. As more time passes, the line between “my philosophy” and “my life” starts to become increasingly more blurred
  8. As yet more time passes you start to feel increasingly compelled not only to share your Philosophy Of Life with others but, in turn, to vigorously defend it against any and all detractors as well
  9. For some, it reaches the point where they are no longer able to realistically construe an argument that disputes their own as merely a difference of opinion; they see it instead as, for all intents and pirposes, an attack on their intellectual integrity…on their very Self
  10. Finally a stage is reached [again for some] where the original philosophical quest for truth, for wisdom has become so profoundly integrated into their self-identity [professionally, socially, psychologically] defending it has less and less to do with philosophy at all

Let alone wisdom.

I call this the Objectivist Syndrome. But Truth Telling come in lots of other flavors too.

How can you understand a state of being that has absolutely no social content at all? What is wrong with this world? Why do you want to change this world? This is an extraordinarily beautiful world! You want to change the world so that you can live in a world of your own ideas. The real problem is that you want to change yourself and you find it’s impossible, and so you want to change the world so that you can fit the world into your own pattern.

What’s there is just the functional activity of life. Life is not something abstract; it’s the life of the senses, functioning naturally without the interference of thought. Thought is an interloper, which thrusts itself into the affairs of the senses. It has a profit motive: thought directs the activity of the senses to get something out of them, and uses them to give continuity to itself.

We are using the neurons, our memory, constantly to maintain our identity. Whether you are awake, asleep or dreaming, this process is carried on. But, it is wearing you out.

The so called self realization is the discovery for yourself and by yourself that there is no self to discover. That will be a very shocking thing. You are not one thing and life another. It is one unitary movement. Anything you say about it is misleading and confusing.

Nothing new here, this is Arcesilaus the skeptic reloaded for the gazillionth time. You should check out nameta9’s new thread. He’s advocating something more along the lines of Pyrrho the skeptic. That’d be fun, eh? Imagine a modern philosophical movement-- neo-Pyrrhonism. That bus doesn’t exist so I don’t have to jump out of the way. Christ is returning tomorrow so I don’t have to pay my bills.

What if there was a way to resolve all the disputes and dichotomies? What if that way was, ubiquitous compatibalism or universal dualism? See my posts contra Satyr on equal2u’s latest thread. I think ethical, metaphysical and philosophical moderation may be the key.


I think…

Okay, pick a particular set of behaviors that come into conflict [abortion, gun control, affirmative action etc.] and suggest a way to resolve the conflict using “ubiquitous compatibalism or universal dualism?”

Metaphysical moderation? Wouldn’t that constitute an oxymoron?

What in the world does that mean?

All rather abstract in my view.

Why don’t we attempt to instantiate this by discussing a moral or political issue where we find lots of Truth Tellers in conflict.

Ok, let’s try abortion.

Thesis-- Life begins at conception.

Antithesis-- Life begins at birth.

Synthesis-- It’s more alive at birth than at conception. Degrees of alive.


…pick a particular set of behaviors that come into conflict [abortion, gun control, affirmative action etc.] and suggest a way to resolve the conflict using “ubiquitous compatibalism or universal dualism?”

Can you do this with abortion?

After all, the point of my OP was to suggest a sequence [rooted in human psychology] that Truth Tellers traverse in order to become Truth Tellers—on either side of the abortion debate.

In the abortion wars there are those who insist that whether human life begins at conception or at birth it is still human life. And thus immoral to kill. And many of these folks embrace either a religious or secular dogma to advance their absolutist, authoritarian argument. They are deontologists whatever the source of their Truth.

Degrees of alive equals degrees of criminality.

These debates have been around for so long because there’s validity on both sides. They need to be ronconciled whenever and wherever possible.

Perhaps a small fine for those who kill a month old.

Perhaps a large fine for those who kill a 3 month old.

6 months to a year in jail for those who kill a 5 month old and so on…

trust you can be very impressive…would you be able to add in your sequence that payment for the abortion must be made by the person having the abortion…


Yes, but suppose a particular polity chooses not to see abortion as a crime? And generally crimes come to reflect behaviors that folks think of as wrong or immoral. But how would anyone be able to argue that, morally and ethically, abortion should or must be made a crime?

And the fierce arguments in the abortion wars revolve more around the much more complex relationship between “life” and “being human.” Is a zygote a human being? an embryo? a previable fetus?

How would you situate “ubiquitous compatibalism and universal dualism” in that debate?

I agree. I find myself embracing Bob Dylan’s rather trenchent observation that, regarding complex moral and political issues, “you’re right from your side and I’m right from mine.”

I champion moderation, negociation and compromise myself. In other words, democracy and the rule of law.

If you champion compromise, then those who do not will get you to come half way towards them, while they stay right where they like. At least, this seems like a danger. How do you avoid that?

Further are there things you will not compromise on. If so, are you really a champion of compromise.

For example, you neighbor wants to eat one of your kids. Like, you are not even going to let your neighbor eat your kid’s hair from her haircuts, even though this does not hurt your kid - I admit I am making assumptions here. So no compromise. Most people have things they do not care so much about - sure, we can have Thai tonight (even though I like Indian better). But then they have issues where they do not compromise or will fight hard not to.

Someone owning a slave, just to pick a charged example.

I think two issues are being blurred here. One is people thinking that certain issues have been resolved in general, when they have not, and the other issue being people thinking that they have resolved the issue (when in fact they are likely presenting a position already presented elsewhere ((and likely not as well)) and still the issue was not resolved in general.

Is this avoidable? Can one really believe that they all seem equally correct?

Which is what those philosophers were doing and are doing today.

Now we are getting into an area that may be more avoidable. I think sometimes the anxiety about not being able to convince others is really about not fully being able to convince oneself. One’s confidence is dependence on the acceptance of the ideas by others.

I have some sympathy for people feeling like the ideas are themselves. It may seem very important that the ideas are correct and it may even be important. But this gets mixed in with performance issues. One can be right but not be as good a debater, for example.

I found 10 a little odd since I would have thought you would think the quest was really over. They were too settled in some way. Too fixed.

And so what is the compromise position on abortion? (edit: I found it)
Further I am not sure pro choice people believe that ‘life’ starts at birth. IOW I think the premises are problematic. They would not consider the foetus non-living/dead.

1)Let’s shift this over to slavery. Should the abolitionists have had a more compromised position. The pro slavery people put forward their position. The Abolitionists put forward theirs. Then someone taking on - what seems to me is your role - says

these debates have been around for long because there is validity on both sides. I suggest we give the slaves better house and better redress for abuse.

  1. Why stop your progression at birth. Infants are a misdemeanor, retarded people, if highly functioning are also. Adults are felonies. Old people are again misdemeanors.

  2. one last and perhaps the main problem I see with your compromise is that it is not a compromise, it is a whole new position. You are definitely not going along with the idea of a soul at conception. So really there is no compromise at all with the pro life position philosophically. You are also not compromising with the pro choice position since you are saying that the state can determine what a woman should do. (I’ll admit that some pro-choice people might see you as philosophically making a compromise, but many will not.)

You have created a new position that is not, philosophically, a compromise. In terms of consequences, it is a compromise, but not in terms of ontology, for example.

  1. a small note, but paying your way out of killing is problematic - of course non-income dependent paying your way out of anything is problematic. But why should the poor suffer more for their abortions?

This is a weird question. People do. Get yourself out in the world and there’s your answer. Legislating comes after morality in such cases; Lucis’ answer was a legislative one rather than a moral one, and won’t affect the moral arguments.


Excellent counterargument. Well, I should add-- I’m trying to establish a relative guideline, not a universal law. I think our primitive brains (reason & emotions) and culture often have trouble encompassing the dynamics, complexities and intricacies of problems ranging from ethical issues such as abortion, to metaphysical issues such as reductionism vs holism. Often we’re only able to fully grasp one side of the debate, due to time constraints in addition to the aforementioned. Our puny brains succumb to the enormity and gravity of the dispute and conveniently assume the other side has no validity. This generates internal and external conflict, a biased, bipolar, polemical split within inviduals and collectives (left brain republicans vs right brain liberals, among others, although this particular split is more superficial than it seems). In order to overcome this process of division and fragmentation, we must first recognize it and second make an effort to cast aside our biases and cultural, emotion fetishes, attatchments and make a sincere attempt to reach out to and objectively assess the other side(s). From authoritarianism and libertarianism to rationalism and empiricism, they’re all more or less part of the human condition. Lately we’ve been stuck in scientism and nihilism, I personally loathe scientism and especially nihilism. I suppose even nothingism has it’s merits, albeit less than somethingism.

You’re talking about consciousness, which is an important factor for determining value but, I was talking more about biological dependence vs biological independence. Consciousness does and ought to play a significant role in evaluation, in addition to humanity and biological independence. Perhaps retards do have slightly less value (they’re still human, they’re still biologically independent lifeforms) than the mass mediocrities and geniuses. I’d be more than a little tempted, if I were a judge, to order a less severe penalty for murdering a retard than for murdering a norm.