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Humans are artifact adoring artisans

  1. May 20, 2007 #1
    Humans are artifact adoring artisans

    Humans are meme (idea) adoring creators.

    Humans create symbols (abstract ideas) upon which they place value sufficient for killing and dying.

    Americans create a flag (an artifact of cloth) which symbolizes the value they place in a nation (artifact, idea, meme) for which they will really kill and die (nothing artificial here).

    Humans require meaningful symbols upon which to give life sufficient purpose for living, dying, and killing.

    Because humans can create their own meaningful artifacts why does our species place meaning into such dangerous artifacts (memes, ideologies) as religion, nation, capitalism, communism, etc?

    The freedom we have to create that which is meaningful to us is poorly used, why?

    Why do we waste such a precious freedom on such dangerous toys?

    We do so because we lack the courage (self-reliance) to go against the flow.

    Our adaptation to society as infants and children has left us without the courage and confidence required to go against the flow of society. We have the freedom but not the energy and courage to overcome the blind habit of conformity.

    We are not determined atoms; we do have the potential to do much better. How can we overcome what we have become and thus become something better?

    We can overcome our present predicament by creating a new reality, a new set of meaningful symbols that we choose to give value.

    Imagination is the instrument by which we can overcome.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 20, 2007 #2


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    Benedict Anderson has an interesting thesis regarding the origin of nations that attempts to explain how nationalism can inspire such love and devotion, up to the willingness to die. He talks of them being "imagined communities" in the sense that no person that considers himself part of a nation is ever going to meet or interact with or really have anything to do with every other person in that nation, yet a brotherhood is felt. He posits that this brotherhood was initially created through the advent of print capitalism. When the press was invented and especially when newspapers came out in vernaculars, it allowed people to imagine themselves as part of a community of all German-speakers or French speakers, where previously they had been members of a tribe or kingdom or city that just happened to speak the same language as other tribes, but felt no real brotherhood with them.

    The things is, it wasn't nationalism that created the willingness to kill and die for things outside of oneself; it just played off a pre-existing tendency to do so for any community that was felt to be "fundamentally pure," as Anderson calls it, meaning one does not choose it (you're born into your family, your kingdom, your nation) and each is primordial. In the case of a nation, even though it is historical fact that they are young, at most a couple hundred years old, nationalists experience them as ancient, as if all Greek-speaking people had always thought of themselves as Greeks and not as Athenians and Spartans and what have you.

    So the propensity to go to war, kill, and die for something outside of oneself is not a new thing and probably arises from evolved altruism, that is, the simple genetic advantage in sacrifice for a family member that carries the same genes. Though it has nothing to do with the costs and benefits of your own death to the general pool of those who carry the same genetic material, we always see this in-group/out-group mentality with humans. We identify as human a certain group of people we consider ourselves to be a part of, and as less-than-human everyone else. We show greater concern and care for, and brotherhood with, the in-group, to the point we are often willing to die for its perceived perpetuation. This in-group can be anything felt as pure: family, friends, fellow Americans, fellow Christians, the proletariat.

    There are limits to Anderson's analysis. At least, I think there are, but I've found it useful as a paradigm for interpreting human action on a global scale. We see it breaking down today in the middle east, where what we thought was a single Arab nation turns out to actually be the same group of disparate tribes and sects first united against the Ottomans by T.E. Lawrence all those years back. But, that's a limitation regarding his thesis being that nation's constitute the major in-group community of contemporary humans. The idea of in-groups themselves, and of fundamental purity and brotherhood as prerequisites to sacrifice, make a lot of sense to me. The evolved altruism part is my own addition to address what Anderson never does - the primordial origin of life sacrifice - and it unfortunately leads me to believe that, until we find some kind of way to get humans to think of their in-group as simply being the set of all humans on the planet, and not nations, families, persons with similar ideologies, and the like, we're always going to have things like senseless wars killing us off for no good reason. It's not the memes themselves that are dangerous, but their uniting effect on an inherently limited audience, and hence their categorizing effect in creating one group of persons that carry the meme, and one group that does not. The truly dangerous thing is that we'll find a way to latch onto almost anything, and use it as a metric by which we are more like one person than another.
  4. May 20, 2007 #3


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    What could be more important to kill or die for?
  5. May 21, 2007 #4
    I appears to me that we have two problems that you have accented. It is about having the correct meme and it is also about the behavior of members in a group. It is the problem of group psychology and the problem of getting the meme right.

    What do the following entities have in common: fascism, capitalism, communism, political parties, and religions? They all have a common characteristic that can be called “group mind”.

    What is striking is that members of these entities often undergo a major change in behavior just by being members of such entities. Under certain conditions individuals who become members of these groups behave differently than they would as individuals. These individuals acquire the characteristics of a ‘psychological group’.

    What is the nature of the ‘group mind’, i.e. the mental changes such individuals undergo as a result of becoming a group?

    A bond develops much like cells which constitute a living body—group mind is more of an unconscious than a conscious force—there are motives for action that elude conscious attention—distinctiveness and individuality become group behavior based upon unconscious motives—there develops a sentiment of invincible power, anonymous and irresponsible attitudes--repressions of unconscious forces under normal situations are ignored—conscience which results from social anxiety disappear.

    Contagion sets in—hypnotic order becomes prevalent—individuals sacrifice personal interest for the group interest.

    Suggestibility of which contagion is a symptom leads to the lose of conscious personality—the individual follows suggestions for actions totally contradictory to person conscience—hypnotic like fascination sets in—will an discernment vanishes—direction is taken from the leader in an hypnotic like manner—the conscious personality disappears.

    “Moreover, by the mere fact that he forms part of an organized group, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization.” Isolated, he my be a cultivated individual; in a crowd, he is a barbarian—that is, a creature acting by instinct. “He possesses the spontaneity, the violence, the ferocity, and also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beings.”

    There is a lowering of intellectual ability “pointing to its similarity with the mental life of primitive people and of children…A group is credulous and easily influenced—the improbable seldom exists—they think in images—feelings are very simple and exaggerated—the group knows neither doubt nor uncertainty—extremes are prevalent, antipathy becomes hate and suspicion becomes certainty.

    Force is king—force is respected and obeyed without question—kindness is weakness—tradition is triumphant—words have a magical power—supernatural powers are easily accepted—groups never thirst for truth, they demand illusions—the unreal receives precedence over the real—the group is an obedient herd—prestige is a source for domination, however it “is also dependent upon success, and is lost in the event of failure”.

    I have read that some consider objectivism to be a cult rather than a philosophy; I asked my self what is the difference between a philosophy and an ideology. I turned to Freud and his book “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” for my answer. I discovered that Freud had turned to the Frenchman Gustave Le Bon for an understanding of group behavior.

    Gustave Le Bon was a French social psychologist, sociologist, and amateur physicist. His work on crowd psychology became important in the first half of the twentieth century. Le Bon was one of the great popularizers of theories of the unconscious at a critical moment in the formation of new theories of sociology.
    English translation Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 1922) was explicitly based on a critique of Le Bon's work. The quotes in this post are from this book.
  6. May 21, 2007 #5

    Something that would not require death but would utilize dialogue to settle differences.
  7. May 21, 2007 #6


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    Huh? Something that would not require death would be worth killing for? That doesn't make any sense.
  8. May 21, 2007 #7
    Obviously some ideas, which one will kill and die for, are better than other ideas that one will kill and die for. It is all a matter of judgment. The better judgments that we make the fewer people who will die because of these ideas. Humans must create ideas that have meaning. Some are better than others. That is what life is all about.
  9. May 21, 2007 #8
    I don't understand you coberst.. You make very strange threads. These individuals are part of the politikal-machine. They are not as strong intellectually as you are.
  10. May 21, 2007 #9


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    You're still not addressing what I said. Let me be more direct than just asking an open-ended question to answer your question:
    We place meaning on these ideas because they are what most directly affects the course of our lives. So the types of ideas you listed are the most meanignful ideas there are to kill or die for.
    Such as...? See, I don't think it is possible to escape the principle above: the ideas people kill/die for are the ones that most directly and drastically affect their lives.

    Perhaps what you really meant to argue is that people shouldn't kill or die for ideas, no matter how important they are. But what you actually said was that they should find more important ideas. That's not very meaningful.
  11. May 21, 2007 #10
    I think that it is worthwhile to consider comprehension as being a hierarchy and shaped like a pyramid. At the base is awareness followed by consciousness (awareness plus attention). Next we have knowing followed by understanding which is at the pinnacle.

    We are aware of many more things than we are conscious of. We are conscious of many more things than we have knowledge of. We know much more than we understand. A person processes from the bottom up in our attempt of comprehension.

    The Internet discussion forum is a great place to become aware of and then conscious of new ideas. However, it is not a place to gain knowledge beyond rather superficial matters.

    If you find new ideas that excite your curiosity you need to go to the books to gain knowledge. You cannot expect to gain knowledge about any significant matters without engaging in some intellectual study, which means studying the thoughts of the best thinkers who have written books about the material in question.
  12. May 21, 2007 #11
    Again.. You don't understand. What are you looking for?
  13. May 21, 2007 #12


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    No. No body has ever killed or died for the flag, they killed or died in hopes that other people will live with certain values and ideas (American ones). The flag symbolizes the United States, the United States does not symbolize the flag.
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