The Righteous Mind - Jonathan Haidt and Liberal vs Conservative ethics

hlat

The Living Force
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I think you missed his point, which was that within religions, group cooperation was created.
On the scale of within the religion, you are right.

It depends on the scale under consideration. Within these big religions, people cooperate under certain norms. Granted, they need to achieve this cohesiveness in a dialectic that exclude "the other" (misbeliever, pagan, etc.) but within the limit of said religions, people are driven to form a society.
When considering the scale bigger than one religion, and taking into account truth and lies, the 3 monotheistic religions are a scourge on mankind. And Haidt completely forecloses the possibility that religions based on truth are not fantasies but tap into a reality beyond mainstream science, because religion to him is the byproduct of agency detection gone wrong. Plus, false religions are not necessary for group cooperation, and his egalitarian pre-agriculture example demonstrates as much.
 

Laura

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When considering the scale bigger than one religion, and taking into account truth and lies, the 3 monotheistic religions are a scourge on mankind. And Haidt completely forecloses the possibility that religions based on truth are not fantasies but tap into a reality beyond mainstream science, because religion to him is the byproduct of agency detection gone wrong. Plus, false religions are not necessary for group cooperation, and his egalitarian pre-agriculture example demonstrates as much.
Yes, this is true. Agency Detection, or Pattern Recognition run amok, is the new explanation for about everything. They never undertake to really study some of the things that are detected or recognized, nor to stop and think how - REALLY - such a characteristic could have survived if it was not advantageous. My copy of the book is marked up with a number of comments along those lines.
 

Approaching Infinity

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I just read a fascinating passage in Collingwood's book "Principles of Art". As a bit of background, in the second chapter, he argues that art is not a "craft" (like carpentry, for instance). In the third, he argues that it is not "representational", i.e., not for the explicit end of representing something else (either literally or emotionally). (Although, art can have elements of 'craft' and 'representation', it cannot be reduced to them.) In the fourth chapter he describes one type of pseudo-art: magic (pseudo, because it is primarily representational, explicitly designed to produce an effect). Anyways, in this section he criticizes the theories about 'primitive magic' popular at the time (like Frazer and Levy-Bruhl, and Freud), basically saying those guys had no idea what they were talking about when they talk about magic as if it were just pseudo-science and belief in magical action at a distance. Then he goes on to give his own account of what magic is, which struck me as in line with the perspective of Haidt, Taleb, and Peterson on religion and myth:

Magic is a representation where the emotion evoked is an
emotion valued on account of its function in practical life,
evoked in order that it may discharge that function, and
fed by the generative or focusing magical activity into the
practical life that needs it. Magical activity is a kind of
dynamo supplying the mechanism of practical life with the
emotional current that drives it.
Hence magic is a necessity
for every sort and condition of man, and is actually found in
every healthy society. A society which thinks, as our own
thinks, that it has outlived the need of magic, is either mis-
taken in that opinion, or else it is a dying society, perishing
for lack of interest in its own maintenance.
Some examples given: war-dances, which inspire warlike emotions, or even rain-magic, which may be "to cheer up the cultivator and induce him to work harder, rain or no rain", "to produce in men an emotional state of willingness to bear [calamities] with fortitude and hope". That would at least partly explain why such "beliefs" (really, practices) persist, despite their "obvious" inefficacy. (And if it truly is a belief in the efficacy of the practice, Collingwood calls that "a perversion of magic".)

The section on Magical Art is worth reading, IMO:

Magical Art

A magical art is an art which is representative and there-
fore evocative of emotion, and evokes of set purpose some
emotions rather than others in order to discharge them into
the affairs of practical life. Such an art may be good or bad
when judged by aesthetic standards, but that kind of good-
ness or badness has little, if any, connexion with its efficacy
in its own proper work. The brilliant naturalism of the
admittedly magical palaeolithic animal paintings cannot be
explained by their magical function. Any kind of scrawl or
smudge would have served the purpose, if the neophyte on
approaching it had been solemnly told that it ‘was’ a bison.
When magical art reaches a high aesthetic level, this is
because the society to which it belongs (not the artists alone,
but artists and audience alike) demands of it an aesthetic
excellence quite other than the very modest degree of
competence which would enable it to fulfil its magical
function. Such an art has a double motive. It remains at a
high level only so long as the two motives are felt as absolutely
coincident.
As soon as a sculptor thinks to himself ‘surely
it is a waste of labour to finish this portrait with such care,
when it is going to be shut up in a tomb as soon as it leaves
my hand’, the two motives have come apart in his mind.
He has conceived the idea that something short of his best
work, in the aesthetic sense of that phrase, would satisfy the
needs of magic; and decadence at once begins. Indeed, it
has begun already; for ideas of that kind only come up into
consciousness long after they have begun to influence
conduct.

The change of spirit which divides Renaissance and
modern art from that of the Middle Ages consists in the
fact that medieval art was frankly and definitely magical,
while Renaissance and modern art was not. I say ‘was’ not,
because the climax of this non-magical or anti-magical
period in the history of art was reached in the late nineteenth
century, and the tide is now visibly turning. But there were
always eddies in the tide-stream. There were cross-currents
even in the nineties, when English literary circles were domi-
nated by a school of so-called aesthetes professing the doctrine
that art must not subserve any utilitarian end but must be
practised for its own sake alone. This cry of art for art’s sake
was in some ways ambiguous; it did not, for example,
distinguish art proper from amusement, and the art which
its partisans admired and practised was in fact a shameless
amusement art, amusing a select and self-appointed clique;
but in one way it was perfectly definite: it ruled out magical
art altogether. Into the perfumed and stuffy atmosphere
of this china-shop burst Rudyard Kipling, young, nervous,
short-sighted, and all on fire with the notion of using his
very able pen to evoke and canalize the emotions which in
his Indian life he had found to be associated with the govern-
ing of the British Empire. The aesthetes were horrified, not
because they disapproved of imperialism, but because they
disapproved of magical art; Kipling had blundered right up
against their most cherished taboo.
What was worse, he
made a huge success of it. Thousands of people who knew
those emotions as the steam in the engine of their daily work
took him to their hearts. But Kipling was a morbidly sensi-
tive little man, and the rebuff he had met with from the
aesthetes blasted the early summer of his life. Henceforth he
was torn between two ideals, and could pursue neither with
undivided allegiance.

To-day the boot is on the other leg. It is Kipling, and
not Wilde, whose principles are in favour. Most of our
leading young writers have reverted to magical art; and this
reversion is by far the most conspicuous fact in English art
to-day. To the aesthetician it is unimportant that this new
magical literature is the propaganda no longer of imperialism
but of communism. It is unimportant to him (though very
important to the politician) that, of the two warring creeds
which are dividing the inheritance of nineteenth-century
liberalism, communism appears to have tongue, eyes, and
fingers, and fascism only teeth and claws
. What is important
to the aesthetician is the re-emergence of a very old kind of
aesthetic consciousness: one which reverses the painfully
taught lesson of nineteenth-century criticism, and instead of
saying ‘never mind about the subject; the subject is only a
corpus vile on which the artist has exercised his powers, and
what concerns you is the artist’s powers and the way in
which he has here displayed them’, says ‘the artist’s powers
can be displayed only when he uses them upon a subject
that is worthy of them’
. {I.e., what Peterson would call ideological
propaganda.}
This new aesthetic consciousness
involves a two-eyed stance. It regards the subject as an
integral element in the work of art; it holds that, in order to
appreciate any given work of art, one must be interested in its
subject for its own sake, as well as in the artist’s handling of it.

To the aesthetician trained in a nineteenth-century school,
these are words of horror. To take them seriously would
mean looking forward to an age of artistic decadence and
barbarism: an age when the infinitely difficult quest of
artistic perfection will be shelved in favour of an easy pro-
paganda; when artists will be judged not on their artistic
merits but on their conformity with the political and moral
and economic dogmas accepted by the society to which they
belong; when the hard-won freedom of modern art will be
thrown away, and obscurantism will reign supreme.

I will not pursue this question further. In another place
we shall have to consider it seriously. For the present, we
will simply register the facts that a recrudescence of magical
art is going on before our eyes, and that aesthetic theorists
and critics are in two minds how to take it.

I spoke of a recrudescence. But it appears as a recrudes-
cence only if we take a very snobbish or high-brow view of
what constitutes art. The self-elected circle of artists and
litterateurs have no monopoly of artistic production.
Out-
side that circle we have had two vigorous streams at least
of artistic tradition since the Renaissance; and in each case
the magical quality of the art is unmistakable.

First, there is the native art of the poor: in particular, that
rustic or peasant art which goes by the patronizing name of
folk-art. This folk-art, consisting of songs and dances and
stories and dramas which in this country (with its tradition
of a patronizing contempt for the poor) were allowed to perish
almost completely before ‘educated’ persons had become
aware of their existence, was largely magical in its origin
and motive
. It was the magical art of an agricultural people.

Secondly, there are the traditional low-brow arts of the
upper classes
. Of these (since their nature is very often
misunderstood) it will be necessary to speak in greater
detail. I refer to such things as the prose of the pulpit, the
verse of hymns, the instrumental music of the military band
and the dance band, the decoration of drawing-rooms, and
so forth.
I can see the high-brow reader pulling a face and
hear him cry ‘This, God help us, is not art at all’. I know;
but it is magic; and now that the relation between art and
magic is becoming an important problem once more, no
longer to be dismissed with a facile negation, it concerns the
aesthetician to find that magic has been flourishing, unre-
cognized but omnipresent, among the leaders (as they think
themselves) of a society whose claim to enlightenment is
based on its belief that it has given magic up altogether.

The case of religious art eo nomine, with its hymns and
ceremonies and ritual acts, hardly needs analysis. Obviously
its function is to evoke, and constantly re-evoke, certain
emotions whose discharge is to be effected in the activities
of everyday life
. In calling it magical I am not denying its
claim to the title religious. Now that we have given up using
the word ‘magic’ as a term of abuse, and have decided what
it means, no one need fasten it upon things because he dis-
likes them, or hesitate to use it for things which he respects.
Magic and religion are not the same thing, for magic is the
evocation of emotions that are needed for the work of practical
life, and a religion is a creed, or system of beliefs about the
world, which is also a scale of values or system of conduct. {I.e., a "map of meaning"}
But every religion has its magic, and what is commonly
called ‘practising’ a religion is practising its magic.


Equally obvious, or jhardly less so, is the case of patriotic
art, whether the patriotism be national or civic or attached
to a party or class or any other corporate body: the patriotic
poem, the school song, the portraits of worthies or statues of
statesmen, the war-memorial, the pictures or plays recalling
historic events, military music, and all the innumerable
forms of pageantry, procession, and ceremonial whose pur-
pose is to stimulate loyalty towards country or city or party
or class or family or any other social or political unit. All
these are magical in so far as they are meant to arouse
emotions not discharged there and then, in the experience
that evokes them, but canalized into the activities of every-
day life and modifying those activities in the interest of the
social or political unit concerned.

Another group of examples may be found in the rituals
which we commonly call sport. Fox-hunting and amateur
football are primarily not amusements, practised for the sake
of harmless entertainment; not means of physical training,
intended to develop bodily strength and skill; they are ritual
activities, undertaken as social duties and surrounded by all
the well-known marks and trappings of magic: the ritual
costume, the ritual vocabulary, the ritual instruments, and
above all the sense of electedness, or superiority over the
common herd, which always distinguishes the initiate and the
hierophant.
And in saying this I am not saying anything
new. The ordinary man has already reflected sufficiently
on these things to have formed a just appreciation of their
purpose. He regards them as methods of what he calls
‘training character’,
whose function is to fit their devotees for
the work of living, and in particular for the work of living in
that station to which it has pleased God to call them. These
sports, we are told, inculcate a team-spirit, a sense of fair
play, a habit of riding straight and taking one’s fences like a
man.
In other words, they generate certain emotions destined
to be discharged in certain kinds of everyday situations, with-
out which these situations would not be faced in a becoming
manner.
They are the magical part of the religion of being
a gentleman. And even their harshest critics do not deny
this. They do not say that these sports are not magical, or
that their magic is not efficacious. What they say is that the
emotions generated by this traditional English upper-class
magic are not the emotions that best equip a man to live
effectively in the world as it exists to-day.

As a last group of examples, we will consider the cere-
monies of social life: such things as weddings, funerals,
dinner-parties, dances
; forms of pageantry (and therefore,
potentially at least, forms of art) which decorate in their
fashion the private lives of modern civilized men and women.
All these are in essence magical. They all involve dressing
up, and a dressing-up which is done not for amusement,
and not for the gratification of individual taste, but according
to a prescribed pattern, often very uncomfortable, and always
so designed as to emphasize the solemnity of the occasion.

This is what anthropologists call the ritual dress of the
initiate. They all involve prescribed forms of speech and at
any rate the rudiments of a ritual vocabulary. They all
involve ritual instruments: a ring, a hearse, a peculiar and
complicated outfit of knives and forks and glasses, each with
its prescribed function. Almost always they involve the use
of flowers of prescribed kinds, arranged in a prescribed
manner, offerings to the genius of the ritual. They always
involve a prescribed demeanour, a ritual gaiety or a ritual
gloom.


As for their purpose, each one is consciously and explicitly
aimed at arousing certain emotions which are meant to
fructify in the later business of practical life.

The pageantry of marriage has nothing to do with the
fact, when it is a fact, that the principals are in love with each
other. On that subject it is dumb; and this is why many
persons deeply in love detest it as an insult to their passion,
and undergo it only because they are forced into it by
the opinion of their families. Its purpose is to create an
emotional motive for maintaining a partnership of a certain
kind, not the partnership of lovers but the partnership of
married people, recognized as such by the world, whether
love is present or no. {I.e., enforced monogamy!}


The funeral is an emotional reorientation of a different
kind. The mourners are not, essentially, making a public
exhibition of their grief; they are publicly laying aside their
old emotional relation to a living person and taking up a new
emotional relation to that same person as dead. The funeral
is their public undertaking that they are going to live in
future without him.
How difficult an undertaking to fulfil
completely, which of us knows his own heart well enough to
say?

The ceremonial of a dinner-party is intended to create
or renew a bond
, not of understanding or interest or policy,
but simply of emotion, among the diners, and more par-
ticularly between the host and each several guest. It
consolidates and crystallizes a sentiment of friendship, at
best making each feel what a charming person the other is,
and at worst, that he is not such a bad fellow after all. It
would be a poor dinner-party in which these feelings were
not to some extent evoked, and did not to some extent
survive the party itself.

The dance has always been magical; and so it still is
among ourselves. In its modern and ‘civilized’ form it is
essentially a courtship-ritual. Its intention is to arouse in the
young of each sex an interest in some member of the other
sex, to be selected in the ritual act itself from among the
persons qualified by birth and upbringing (that is to say,
by proper initiations undergone at the various critical stages
of life) to unite together in matrimony.
This interest, so far
from being satisfied and therefore exhausted in the dance
itself, is intended to fructify in a future partnership. At
bottom, as our more outspoken grandmothers quite correctly
put it, a ball is the occasion on which girls find husbands.

True to type, all these magical ceremonies are represen-
tative. They literally, though selectively, represent the
practical activities they are intended to promote.
Like the
war-dance and the plough-ritual, they are ‘symbolic’ in
the sense of that word defined under protest at the end of
Chapter III, § 4. Thus, in marriage, the principals join
hands and walk arm-in-arm through the company, to sym-
bolize their partnership in the eyes of the world. At a
funeral, the mourners leave the dead behind them to sym-
bolize their renunciation of the emotional attitude which
they maintained towards him in life. At a dinner party,
host and guest eat the same food to symbolize the sense of
intimacy and friendliness that is to pervade their more
sympathetic future relations. At a dance the embrace of
partners is a symbol for the embrace of love.

Regarded from the strictly aesthetic point of view, all
these rituals are in general as mediocre as an average
Academy portrait, and for the same reason. The artistic
motive is present in them all; but it is enslaved and denatured
by its subordination to the magical. Hymn-tunes and
patriotic songs do not as a rule inspire respect in a musician.
A ballet-master is not likely to feel much enthusiasm for a
meet of foxhounds or a cricket-match. The stage manage-
ment of a wedding or dinner-party is seldom of high quality;
and a professional dancer would have little praise for what
goes on at a fashionable ball. But this is of a piece with the
strictly magical character of these rituals: or rather, with the
representative character of which their magical character is
one specific form. They are not art proper, any more than
a portrait or a landscape. Like these things, they have a
primary function which is wholly non-aesthetic: the function
of generating specific emotions.
Like them, they may in
the hands of a true artist (who is never to be thought of as
separable from a public that demands true art) become art
as well; and if the artistic and magical motives are felt as
one motive, this is bound to happen, as it happened among
the Aurignacian and Magdalenian cave-men, the ancient
Egyptians, the Greeks, and the medieval Europeans
. It can
never happen so long as the motives are felt as distinct, as
among ourselves they invariably are.
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
When considering the scale bigger than one religion, and taking into account truth and lies, the 3 monotheistic religions are a scourge on mankind.
I'm pretty sure that hadn't they emerged (there are more than 3 monotheistic religions by the way) something else would have emerged to serve as justification for conquest and persecution.
 

luc

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
I almost finished the book and I must say it's definitely a must-read to understand the current political situation. Watching the situation in Germany unfold with the new "right-wing" party AfD (which might be more accurately described as conservative), Haidt's theory of moral taste buds describes the situation perfectly - you can even track the different words the politicians use that reflect their "moral universe".

It basically comes down to liberals having no frame of reference at all to even understand, much less agree with

a) proportionate fairness, i.e. "you deserve as much as you give" as opposed to unconditional fairness, i.e. "everyone should get the same"
b) the concept that some things can be "holy" to a community (what Haidt calls sancticy), such as a flag, a nation, a symbol or institution (think of traditional marriage)
c) that people are instinctively disgusted by certain moral transgressions (such as gay prides, perverted sexual practices etc.)

But many conservatives have their blind spots too, for example some have a rather low "fairness" dimension and so cannot understand the fight for people in need. The result is that each side (but more so the liberal side) simply considers the other side as "evil", because that's the only explanation left: those people must be evil!

The idea that perhaps this is one thing that separates OPs from souled humans might not be 100% accurate, but it yields some interesting thoughts. Perhaps souled beings have some dim awareness of a "higher moral order"/the "natural law", which makes them consider some things "holy" and others "disgusting"? Like a built-in, although vague and error-prone, higher moral compass? Perhaps OPs will emulate these higher values when they are under societal pressure and the authorities promote such values, but all bets are off once this social pressure is removed and the authorities go postmodern (as we are seeing now)? Would they accept even the most horrendous moral deprivations as long as they can somehow convince themselves that "nobody gets harmed"? We can see steps in that direction with lowering the age of consent ("it's not hurting children because they want it! It's their right!), the authoritarian bullying of dissenters and the expansion of the nanny state ("nobody gets hurt, it's just helping the oppressed!") and so on.

Other topics in the book are fascinating as well, such as the many studies on moral behavior Haidt quotes - how religious people form better communities, act more morally within their groups etc. I don't really buy some of his evolutionary arguments (though some of them are intriguing), but other than that, it's full of fascinating insights from cover to cover, IMO.
 

genero81

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
It basically comes down to liberals having no frame of reference at all to even understand, much less agree with

a) proportionate fairness, i.e. "you deserve as much as you give" as opposed to unconditional fairness, i.e. "everyone should get the same"
b) the concept that some things can be "holy" to a community (what Haidt calls sancticy), such as a flag, a nation, a symbol or institution (think of traditional marriage)
c) that people are instinctively disgusted by certain moral transgressions (such as gay prides, perverted sexual practices etc.)

But many conservatives have their blind spots too, for example some have a rather low "fairness" dimension and so cannot understand the fight for people in need. The result is that each side (but more so the liberal side) simply considers the other side as "evil", because that's the only explanation left: those people must be evil!
I finally finished this book. I agree, a must read. In an ideal world where pathological types were not a major factor, the interplay between conservatives and liberals would likely yield good results. As long as there was a healthy push/pull between the two, the best of both types could make for a truly successful and fair society. OSIT
 

bjorn

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I wasn't exactly sure where to put this, but hopefully the following info fits in this topic since it concerns the ongoing culture war. (if not, feel free to move it elsewhere ofcourse)

I think it's fair to say that Putin positioned Russia as a leader of international conservatism. Here are some snippets of speeches he made that I think helps point out to this, I think it also shows insight in Putin's state of mind and why he seems to favor conversatism above liberalism. Anyhow, decide for yourself :-)

In Putin annual dress to the Federal Assembly at the end of 2013, he declared:

We have always been proud of our country. But we don’t have superpower aspirations; we don’t want global or regional domination, we don’t interfere with anyone’s interests, trying to play a patron, we are not going to lecture others. But we will strive to be leaders by defending international law, making sure that national sovereignty, independence and identity are respected. This is a natural approach for a country like Russia with its great history and culture, its vast experience in the area of different ethnicities living in harmony, side by side, in one state. This is different from the so-called tolerance, which is gender-free and futile.

Today, many nations are revising their moral values and ethical norms, eroding ethnic traditions and differences between peoples and cultures. Society is now required not only to recognise everyone's right to the freedom of consciousness, political views and privacy, but also to accept without question the equality of good and evil, strange as it seems, concepts that are opposite in meaning. This destruction of traditional values from above not only leads to negative consequences for society, but is also essentially anti-democratic, since it is carried out on the basis of abstract, speculative ideas, contrary to the will of the majority, which does not accept the changes occurring or the proposed revision of values.

We know that there are more and more people in the world who support our position on defending traditional values that have made up the spiritual and moral foundation of civilisation in every nation for thousands of years: the values of traditional families, real human life, including religious life, not just material existence but also spirituality, the values of humanism and global diversity.

Of course, this is a conservative position. But speaking in the words of Nikolai Berdyaev, the point of conservatism is not that it prevents movement forward and upward, but that it prevents movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state.
Moreover, during that same year (2013) at the Valdai International Discussion Club, he said:

We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, regions and even sexual. […]

Without the values embedded in Christianity and other world religions, without the standards of morality that have taken shape over millennia, people will inevitably lose their human dignity. We consider it natural and right to defend these values . One must respect every minority’s right to be different, but the rights of the majority must not be put into question.
 

Pashalis

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Yes, having followed and listened to Putin closely over the years, coupled with comparing all of this to his actual deeds, he very clearly stands for a very sensible and not over the top conservative standpoint and with that is pretty much the only leader left in this world who does so constructively. He is like the last leader who enforces and actively promotes decency, common sense, truth, a historical perspective on things and striving for something higher, in many areas.
 

lilies

Jedi Council Member
Moreover, during that same year (2013) at the Valdai International Discussion Club, he - Putin - said:
We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, regions and even sexual. […]

Without the values embedded in Christianity and other world religions, without the standards of morality that have taken shape over millennia, people will inevitably lose their human dignity. We consider it natural and right to defend these values . One must respect every minority’s right to be different, but the rights of the majority must not be put into question.
I think, Putin means the values of Early Christianity, which doesn't include the corrupted Church, Vatican, the Inquisition and witch burnings. Humanity could really use the stability that such a real Christianity is able to give. I think, if people manage to become aware of their Free Will regards that they have every right to stand firm by the positive values of Early Christianity, - which realization I think has a tremendous energy in its unifying power - , it may cause a chain reaction in the minds of the masses and the battle for this sector of space could be won.

All the Lizards are doing currently on this planet is dividing everybody, erasing willpower and making people forget that they have a free will. If their targeted consumer base suddenly started to realize that they have been lied to, - there are no "our troops to support" abroad, because all they do is rape and murder and rob countries - they lose their heroes. If they start to doubt their leaders, begin to scorn their Russia-vilifying Talk Show hosts, start a new YT challenge of 'I Smoke Again!', the Lizzies might suddenly get very bad cards in their hands, no matter how they try to re-shuffle the deck and cheat again.
 

c.a.

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Maria Popova 6-8 minute Read: Via / Jonathan Haidt
“The longest-lived and those who will die soonest lose the same thing. The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have, you cannot lose."
Snip:


“When you realize you are mortal you also realize the tremendousness of the future. You fall in love with a Time you will never perceive,” the great Lebanese poet, painter, and philosopher Etel Adnan wrote in her beautiful meditation on time, self, impermanence, and transcendence.

It is a sentiment of tremendous truth and simplicity, yet tremendously difficult for the mind to metabolize — we remain material creatures, spiritually sundered by the fact of our borrowed atoms, which we will each return to the universe, to the stardust that made us, despite our best earthly efforts. Physicist Alan Lightman contemplated this paradox in his lyrical essay on our longing for permanence in a universe of constant change:
“It is one of the profound contradictions of human existence that we long for immortality, indeed fervently believe that something must be unchanging and permanent, when all of the evidence in nature argues against us.”

Two millennia earlier, before the very notion of a universe even existed, the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius (April 26, 121–March 17, 180) provided uncommonly lucid consolation for this most disquieting paradox of existence in his Meditations (public library | free ebook) — the timeless trove of ancient wisdom that gave us his advice on how to motivate yourself to get out of bed each morning, the mental trick for maintaining sanity, and the key to living fully.


Eons before the modern invention of self-help, the Stoics equipped the human animal with a foundational toolkit for self-refinement, articulating their recipes for mental discipline with uncottoned candor that often borders on brutality — an instructional style they share with the Zen masters, whose teachings are often given in a stern tone that seems berating and downright angry but is animated by absolute well-wishing for the spiritual growth of the pupil.

It is with this mindset that Marcus Aurelius takes up the question of how to embrace our mortality and live with life-expanding presence in Book II of his Meditations, translated here by Gregory Hays:

The speed with which all of them vanish — the objects in the world, and the memory of them in time. And the real nature of the things our senses experience, especially those that entice us with pleasure or frighten us with pain or are loudly trumpeted by pride. To understand those things — how stupid, contemptible, grimy, decaying, and dead they are — that’s what our intellectual powers are for. And to understand what those people really amount to, whose opinions and voices constitute fame. And what dying is — and that if you look at it in the abstract and break down your imaginary ideas of it by logical analysis, you realize that it’s nothing but a process of nature, which only children can be afraid of. (And not only a process of nature but a necessary one.) Continued:
 

Keit

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Ambassador
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I stumbled upon the following talk with Benjamin Sasse, a republican senator, about his book "The Vanishing American Adult" and found it to be a good example of "positive" republican values.

Now, apparently he was a loud critic of Trump's candidacy for president. And he also thinks that Putin is a thug. :-D And there are probably a bunch of other things to consider about him, not to mention that he is a polititian after all. But I did find his words about the new generation and what values should be emphasised as useful and interesting.

 

Keit

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Haidt's new book"The Coddling of the American Mind", was already discussed on MindMatters, but here's a recent interview with Haidt about it:

John Anderson speaks to Jonathan Haidt, renowned social psychologist, NYU Professor and public intellectual. In this episode they discuss Jonathan's new book, The Coddling of the American Mind, which considers how we are setting our young people up for failure by overprotecting them and preventing them from developing resilience.
 
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