Your beliefs are counter productive

by imnotme

What about mine? I have… few. Precious few. Honestly, I struggle to identify a single one. Which I suppose at least partly explains why I have become less socially effective and more aloof.

Or, for the sake of full disclosure I can definitely name one belief that I do have, which is probably counter-productive whether or not I want to admit it: that people ought to be considerate. I really believe this no matter how much evidence (mostly deconstructivist or theorist) is presented to me. I believe that, regardless of your beliefs, you should be considerate.

With that in mind, I would like to address political/social/religious/economic/legal/any-other-word-that-encompasses-the-notion-that-some-general-concepts-are-necessarily-bound-to-infinite-dead-ends, behaviour versus discourse… OR, it’s possible I mean to address discourse versus behaviour. It’s possible that I will address both now by stating the following:

In no uncertain terms you are accountable for every instance of your being. Regardless of how this becomes manifest. So basic is this assertion that I would say, with confidence, that any reader who understands the first premise of my argument will also concede the following: that those who recognize accountability also recognize their own offenses, AND FURTHERMORE, will then be necessarily tethered to an obligation to speak in their own defense or apology. This is a trick few have mastered in tandem with maintaining what dignity they feel they should have in a given situation. Yet, this is precisely the trick that I feel yields the most valuable written discussion/argument.  If not for its pleasantries and freedoms then for its security. You see, atmosphere is something that most people seem to innately understand. IF you stumble across this blog and find it “combative” then we have failed. If you meet me in person and find me to be “pompous”, then I have failed.

Yep. It’s on one hand elementary and on the other an issue that demands such refined attentions that high academia would only be jesters in its court. The ‘recognized polarity’* and unity of this concept is precisely the same reason socially minded discourse often turns violent, or at the worst, counter productive. Some groups of feminists, some groups of masculists, some groups of atheists, some groups of theists, some groups of ethicists and some groups of moralists have been and will be prone to ‘group-think’ as it is a human problem; therefore, self-assuredness would be the ultimate crime one could commit in terms of bringing their own beliefs into discussions that seek definition and reconciliation (which I truly believe both Nice Feminist and Feminist Critics really seek).

One last note, and this will sound simple to those of you who have been interested up to this point, that I would like to point to is that Male/Female is abstractly congruent. Whether it be an artistic, academic or sensual impression, it is hard to find ways in which the norms of sexual expression are symbolized as obtuse. Stated otherwise: it is problematic to defend one belief against a sea of perspectives. Stated otherwise: it is permissive to defend one perspective against an ocean of beliefs.

For further illustrations of this problem (and a further defense of why consideration is possibly the ultimate ‘virtue’-whatever that means to you) read “On Contradiction” by Mao Tse-tung.

[if you’re wondering what in the hell this has to do with feminism simply wonder on the nature of being pro or anti a “stance.” I.e. wonder on the productivity of choosing a “side” as it were]

*The conflict of perception versus absolutism

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19 responses to “Your beliefs are counter productive

  1. I’m only fluent in standard, American English, so I could barely comprehend a cumulative paragraph of any of that post, but:

    it is problematic to defend one belief against a sea of perspectives. Stated otherwise: it is permissive to defend one perspective with an ocean of beliefs.

    That is a really excellent theory, and the way in which you stated it is so accessible and thought-provoking.

    Not sure if this was what you were trying to get at, but that’s a really good argument on the side of the less privileged: There are times when complaining about your ruined rug is just simply inappropriate, and therefore inconsiderate, and, as an example on the other side, my perspective as a female –understood to be underprivileged– helps my case in a situation where I need to prove that I am/was the victim of (institutionalised?) sexism.

  2. How would you differeniate between what you are suggesting and the concept of humility?

  3. Sounat,

    That is such a remarkably insightful question for many reasons. I am heartened to think that there are some people who really read (consider) the thoughts of others by taking in the whole context, which clearly you have done.

    As far as the distinction between humility and the overarching concept I put forth here is concerned, there may not really be one -although, I want to say that it has to do with the person. This is going to border-line marry and divorce Kant simultaneously in that he was a moral-logician, not to devalue his estate, whereas I am an ethical moralist, or one who interprets. Or, to use a judicial metaphor, Kant would function as a philosophical congressman where I would function as a supreme court justice (Kant would care to create rules where I would seek to interpret their form/validity).

    I only over-explained that for the benefit of the trollers.

    Now, with this philosophical distinction in mind I can then treat the distinction between an ethical mindset and humility. I will separate them on the basis of the dimension of time. Since all actions are based firstly on other things, all actions are either the future or the present (that is, all real world actions not occurring in any form of speech, since speech can only be heard/read). If all action is no later than now (say, my typing, for example, as opposed to this post as a whole), then all thought is either the present or the past. If all thought is, at the most, in the present, then an ethical mindset precludes humility because humility is judged whereas an ethical mindset judges. Therefore consideration and humility are classified together only by their moral association (or by their sharing of the virtue ‘patience;) and not by their functions.

    Another way of illustrating the difference would be how each is judged ultimately, which could be something like:

    “That person is so humble they accomplish nothing tangible.”
    Or,
    “That person is so ethically minded that they accomplish nothing tangible.”

    I feel this illustrates how the statement that our beliefs are counterproductive is a confusion more than an answer, yet necessarily so, because the real answer is always buried behind questions we haven’t asked yet.

    (if someone is reading this in seventy years or whatever, I just want to tell you, re-read this comment until you ‘get it,’ this is the most important comment in the thread in terms of really merging physical reality with thought and expression)

    • I’m struggling with understanding your response. If I understand you correctly you’re suggesting that humility is a characterization we give a choice in retrospect, where as an ethical mindset is more of a deliberate disposition to act in a way that could be later judged humble? Is it that we are assigning qualtative value to each based on the motivation of the individual?

      If you are suggesting the former, than I believe that you have created a strawman by narrowing the definition of humility. I think that the common understanding, i.e. dictionary defition, of humility would encompass what you describe.

      If you are suggesting the latter, then the distinction is not quite clear to me. Is it purely a temporal one or is there something we have judged superior, or inferior, about a premeditated choice of selflessness.

      Finally, if I am way off base altogether, break it down for me another way.

  4. I feel that the basis of time is the best breakdown I can offer. Having, or using an ethical mindset does not come from the impetus to be judged humble. Say… liken it to the difference between ethos and mores.

    • But what about a desire to be humble. I suppose the distinction that I could make is that I may have arrived at my desire to be humble analagously to your “ethical mindset” though some intellectual rigor and pursuing truth. Though I suppose the term humility carries some dogmatic connotation, and if you neccesarily imply those connotations they can be very different things.

      • But what about a desire to be humble.

        If you have a desire to be humble, can you really still be considered humble?

        Actually, let me rephrase that: If you you have a desire to be humble, while believing yourself to act humbly and be humble, are you capable of being humble (god I’m sick of typing that word)?

        Or, is there mere desire to be humble an indication that you are not, and probably are not capable of being, a humble person? And would that make one less “good” as a result?

        If this comment is completely off-base, I won’t even be offended if you tell me that’s the case. I can hardly track with the majority of what the two of you are discussing, as I’ve barely skimmed one of imnotme’s ethics textbooks, finished my cigarette, and put it back on the bookshelf, never to pick it up again.

  5. Again I have to cite the passage of time to answer this.

    An ‘ethical mindset’ is not moral. Mores preclude ethos in that ethos should not be pre-determined (the most common mistreatment of the word Ethical). In THAT circular thinking, yes, your point holds. However, I am not addressing mores. Humility can be a moral, and it is also subject to judgment. An ethical mindset is neither pre-determined nor subject to judgment (how can one judge my given preference in a particular instance if not by the output).

    Humility does not come from an ethical mindset, that would be amoral(immoral if you prefer). Ethos is YOU, in the here and now. The term has been bastardized by modern phrases like “business ethics” which is a complete linguistic failure. I can support this assertion by referencing a paper I wrote for Ethics (that specifically treated morality vs. ethics in the real world):

    “A useful, if not simple, analogy would be thus: the way a man approaches a door. A moral man approaches any door and assumes that, because it is the same in form and function, it will open just as the one before. An ethical man approaches each door noting the placement of hinges, a handle or knob, and whether it should be pushed or pulled. There are positive and negative aspects to each approach. For, while the ethical man will be less likely to cause injury to himself or others in the process of opening various doors, he also takes more time to get on. The moral man saves himself time by generally being right about the way a door will open, sparing himself all the mulling over details. The moral man will also find justification for his blunders when, upon stubbing his toe or flattening another’s face with the door, he can simply apologize that he did not know any better.”

    I’m glad I remember writing that, because it suits this purpose splendidly. The catch is that humility (morality) in spite of ethos, and ethos in spite of humility, are both counterproductive, because (as is hinted at in the preceding passage) the revolution of one causes the birth of the other.

    • 1,025 words after my question I’ve come to:

      The ethical mindset is a pragmatism or methodology which often has the appearence of or shares characteristics with humility.

      Humility is a a value or dogma that may or may not be inferred from experiences practicing an ethical mindset.

    • The ethical man’s situation made perfect sense to me, and I can easily see how his could be considered an “ethical” way of thinking. The moral man, however, seemed to be kind of stupid, and was for some reason genuinely pleased to be able to tell people that he is ignorant. I’m not sure you intended for him to be perceived that way.

      I think that the example has a flaw where the door being used as the object explaining the difference between the two is that doors generally open one of two ways; I often push a door that needs to be pulled and vice-versa. I have not, however, ever been injured as a result of incorrectly handling a door.

      Furthermore, the moral man will, during the course of his average lifespan, encounter countless doors that open in one of the two ways. What you seem to be suggesting is that the moral man will never acquire or learn the capability to either avoid potential injury by inspecting the design of the door before opening it, or realize that doors generally open in one or two ways and be more careful when pushing or pulling, so as not to inadvertently pull it forcefully into himself when it needs to be pushed, or using excessive inertia to push, ramming himself into the door that has to be pulled instead. He will likely not consistently shove or throw doors open often at all, because he has learned this simply from experience.

      Basically, the ethical man and the moral man are trying to achieve the same goal (to effectively get oneself into or out of a room by opening a door in such a way that will not cause injury), and in the opposite ways that they’ve figured out how to do that, they both succeed.

      This last thing, however, can only be completely valid if you agree that the moral man would have to, by his nature as a human and presumably neurotypical person, quickly learn the negative consequences of a certain action and, because the consequences of one method are known to be negative, avoid them because continuing to try the way that’s proven to have negative consequences and expecting different results is a really believable definition of insanity (who said that?).

      In what you are saying, you are implying that the moral man (let’s just use “person” for a second) is insane.

    • The moral man saves himself time by generally being right about the way a door will open, sparing himself all the mulling over details.

      Just realized that you said that. So I’ll rephrase: The following alleged “benefit” that the moral man has (the ability to apologize for not knowing any better) is not, in my opinion, a benefit at all, more possibly similar to a situation where, for example, a white woman marvels at a black man’s articulate speech and expensive suit by blatantly implying that she doesn’t expect black men to be articulate or wealthy, but believing that she actually complimented the man.

      • I’m not implying that either a moral or ethical person will not “learn” the benefits of the other. Observation occurs, it’s part of the revolution of thought.

  6. That’s fine and valid, but it also ties into the difficulty of dissolving the Liar’s Paradox (socrates) In so much that a seemingly polar “stance” can in fact be rooted up through binary reasoning.

    This is my ultimate distinction:

    Humility happens later. The problem is not that it shares characteristics of an ethical mindset, it can not, rather, the problem is that an ethical mindset can lead to humility through self awareness, which is arguably timeless. My reference to the Liar’s Paradox serves this definition thusly: If Socrates says only what is false, then asserting “I always lie” must be logically assumptive (an idea which is beautifully stated here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_option.

    Preclusion and exclusion are the opposing forces. Humility (a more) is not congruent with ethos (an ethic) in the very binary sense that your ethos cannot be defined or predicted whereas humility (as a disposition or moral imperative, see Kant) can.

    • Please define Ethos and Mores for me.

      Random House Dictionary defines them as:

      e⋅thos  /ˈiθɒs, ˈiθoʊs, ˈɛθɒs, -oʊs/
      Pronunciation [ee-thos, ee-thohs, eth-os, -ohs] Show IPA
      Use ethos in a Sentence
      –noun 1. Sociology. the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period: In the Greek ethos the individual was highly valued.
      2. the character or disposition of a community, group, person, etc.
      3. the moral element in dramatic literature that determines a character’s action rather than his or her thought or emotion.

      and

      mo⋅res  /ˈmɔreɪz, -iz, ˈmoʊr-/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [mawr-eyz, -eez, mohr-] Show IPA
      Use mores in a Sentence
      –plural noun Sociology. folkways of central importance accepted without question and embodying the fundamental moral views of a group.

      These definitions do not seem to be inline with what you are suggesting, and subsequently I am having a difficult time. I am starting to feel as though you could explain your assertion to me in much simpler terms but are chosing not to. Why can’t we characterize an “Ethos”?

      • Oops, you asked for an answer in simpler terms, this was a fair request and I failed you on those grounds. Here is a simply termed metaphor to the concept I am describing.

        To commit suicide is an ethical decision. To prevent suicide is a moral decision. The former is a genuine decision the latter is a prescription

  7. Indeed, this is not my intention. I did skip a few major steps in my overconfidence that others would know the denotative functions of words. I am a student of logic and linguistics, which I very often forget makes my communications troublesome. I apologize sincerely for that. It’s inappropriate and condescending.

    I have to pull a quote from Wikipedia’s semantics works to answer your question:

    In any of several studies that treat the use of signs, for example in linguistics, logic, mathematics, semantics, and semiotics, the extension of a concept, idea, or sign consists of the things to which it applies, in contrast with its comprehension or intension, which consists very roughly of the ideas, properties, or corresponding signs that are implied or suggested by the concept in question

    Emphasis mine.

    Dictionary definitions of words most often betray the original function of the word, for example, I just googled the word discrimination and received the following (note #4 is specified as archaic:

    –noun
    1. an act or instance of discriminating.
    2. treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.
    3. the power of making fine distinctions; discriminating judgment: She chose the colors with great discrimination.
    4. Archaic. something that serves to differentiate.

    The first three definitions, which are the common usage of the word, betray the original function of the word by connotation. And it’s exactly the same with Ethos and Mores. I regrettably do not have access to the Oxford English Dictionary at this time, but I did when wrote a formal paper on the matter for my Ethics class which caused me to receive an Honors designation for the course (a point I mention solely to concede that writing a paper obviously does not lend automatic credence to any assertion). The originating functions of each word conceptually are as follows, and I have recently confirmed this again with a Ph.D. student of literature at the U of M:

    An “ethic” can be effectively treated as meaning to symbolize a personal decision made by any individual who is considering only the information they are presented with augmented by their given preferences (preferences which are the person’s private property and cannot be assigned any moral or ethical value, i.e. “magic.”).

    A “moral,” and forgive me for now switching to the singular form, can be likewise treated as a thought prescription.

    The importance of separating the two has little value to common language use; but in philosophy, and this is a philosophical post, it is crucial. Humility is not ethical as it is the result of a prescription. The prescribed thought which results in humility as an overarching state of being is roughly: “I will be humble because it is right.”

    One can conduct themselves ethically and still be judged humble. One can conduct themselves morally and be deemed self-righteous. So the crux here is that, if a decision is in real-time and stripped of all prescription, it is ethical. If a decision relies on prescription, it is moral. The Random House definition of Ethos is very far removed from the original function of the word (which they appear to admit by citing the Greek emphasis on the individual).

    To tie this all in to the original post, your beliefs are counterproductive because they can be counted as a prescription, and are therefore moral, and moral decisions are less productive by remaining tethered to a prior thought or belief, thereby excluding new information or the transitions from past to future.

  8. moral decisions are less productive by remaining tethered to a prior thought of belief, thereby excluding new information or the transitions from past to future.

    ok, but isn’t

    The first three definitions, which are the common usage of the word, betray the original function of the word by connotation… I just googled the word discrimination and received the following (note #4 is specified as archaic: 4. Archaic. something that serves to differentiate.

    an example of how ethical decisions are remaining tethered to a prior thought of belief, thereby excluding new information or the transitions from past to future– like how our society now more commonly refers to discrimination as a form of oppressive bigotry, instead of it’s original definition of something that serves to differentiate?

  9. You win a new car with that question. That question is the genuine root of all seeking of knowledge.

    It is absolutely true that my post is an axiom (assumption or man-made rule). Any thesis or idea is necessarily bound to a contradiction. It’s inescapable, and I will again reference Mao Tse-tung’s “On contradiction,” as one of the most important works treating this problem.

    The one point I would like to make in apology for that conundrum is that, while defining a ‘truth’ is impossible logically, there are certain ‘truths’ defined that aid in our progress. So in a very abstract sense, our confusion leads to our clarification, which is the birth of a new revolution seeing as the clarification itself will, in time, come under attack.

    So, for the sake of this post, I will say that the problem with my argument is that Ethos and Mores being defined in any sense, is a logical misstep since the drive to define precedes debate about the definition. Which would serve to suggest that seeking respectful discourse, in regards to feminist debate, is simply a belief. Yet I maintain it as ethical. This is deconstructionist theory at its ultimate contrast to other theories.

  10. Some final thoughts as leave this thread for my sanity’s sake:

    I think I finally have a handle on the nuance, or at least be starting to, thanks for that. What I remained unconvinced of is is whether the degree of nuance is completely relevant, perhaps even unwise in this context. As the ethical man stops to examine the hinges of the door, do those behind him waiting to open the door burn to death in the flames they seek to escape?
    For the first time in a very long time, I have the desire to go the library, this is a special gift and I thank you for it.
    I’m struck by my own reliance on internet sources, e.g. “dictionary.com”. It is my genuine hope that we as a species and as a people to not become too depedent on the internet as a single authority. A amalgamation of resources which often cater to the lowest common denominator.

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