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Ideology: Humanity’s Weakest Link

  1. Oct 2, 2008 #1
    Ideology: Humanity’s Weakest Link

    To study a domain of knowledge one can take several ‘points of view’. One can concentrate on the narrow perspectives or one can take on the ‘standpoint of the whole’. Every citizen of every society has a point of view about almost everything. Opinions are quickly stated on most anything that is within the domain of discussion of a society at a specific time. And that opinion, no matter how bereft of careful consideration, often carries great emotional momentum.

    Society is less a collection of individuals and more a system of points of view. A society is a matrix of positions. To be a member of society is to be part of a pre-structured social space. An individual has multiple roles; within each role is an established point of view. On occasion this is a considered point of view; more often than not it is an unconscious legacy of past experience.

    Each of us harbors a hierarchy of views and I think that in every society there is a dominant position or point of view or ideology. The American dominant ideology is structured about the dominant value system, which is to maximize production and consumption.

    The dominant ideology, like all ideologies or points of view, is narrow and dominated by the self interest of the commanding group who establish the view and maintain its superior position within the society. Being a partial point of view the dominant ideology is biased, distorted and unaware of its own assumptions. The partial point of view often claims universality and absolute validity. In some cases the claims are based on ignorance and in many cases it is based on self-interest.


    An individual may be a Catholic, Republican, American, Capitalist, plus many other ideologies, and when one ideology conflicts with another, the emotionally stronger trumps the weaker. Likewise one ideology will trump all the rest.

    Who controls the dominant ideology in your nation? I am convinced that in the USA the corporate and institutional management control the dominant ideology and the dominant ideology is capitalism, i.e. the acquisition of wealth through the maximization of production and consumption.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 2, 2008 #2
    Though I agree with your conclusion about the prevaling ideological factors in America, I am not quite sure I understand your premise here. Society, it would seem to me, is at its most fundamental level a collection of individuals. The system of disparate points of view is a consequence of an organization of sentient and critically thinking humans. But that system seems to evolve out of the pre-existing framework of a collection of individuals involved in a group interaction, or social contract, or whatever motivating factor you want to apply to individuals as motivation for group behavior. When you speak of pre-structured social space, you tread dangerously close to the ideal of the state as a sort of super organism, that is not reducible to the individuals that compose it, and this seems to ignore evolutionary explanations for group interactions, and ultimately civilization.[/QUOTE]
     
  4. Oct 3, 2008 #3
    jms



    We are taught, both by our educational institutions and through social osmosis, that we are creatures who can find truth by a dispassionate search of reality for that truth. We learn that we have the ability through “a dispassionate mind that makes decisions by weighing the evidence and reasoning to the most valid conclusions” to reach conclusions about truth. “This bears no relation to how the mind and brain works.”

    A study of cognitive science, psychology, and other domains of knowledge convince me that we have a partisan brain. That is too say that we generally exhibit a blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance to a set of abstract ideas when that set of ideas is also held by other members of the society. We tend to be unduly influenced by group think. We are unduly influenced by a group psychology.


    Drew Westen, in his book “The Political Brain”, speaks of the study of the brains of “fifteen committed Democrats and fifteen confirmed Republicans”.

    The brains of these partisans were scanned for activity while they read a series of slides. “Our goal was to present them with reasoning tasks that would lead a “dispassionate” observer to an obvious logical conclusion, but would be in direct conflict with the conclusion a partisan Democrat or Republican would want to reach about his party’s candidate.”

    The results of this testing showed that “when partisans face threatening information, not only are they likely to “reason” to emotionally biased conclusions, but we can trace their neural footprints as they do it…When confronted with potentially troubling political information, a network of neurons becomes active that produces distress…The brain registers the conflict between data and desire and begins the search for ways to turn off the spigot of unpleasant emotion.”

    There was further interesting results from the test. The brain not only shut down distress but very quickly “the neural circuits charged with regulation of emotional state seemed to recruit beliefs that eliminated the distress and conflict partisans had experienced when confronted unpleasant realities. And this all seemed to happen with little involvement of the neural circuits normally involved in reasoning.”

    “The partisan brain did not seem satisfied with just feeling better. It worked overtime to feel good, activating circuits that give partisans a jolt of positive reinforcement for their biased reasoning.”


    Group Mind aka Spin-World aka Ideology

    Freud informs us the reason for this form of behavior is the tendency for humans to be suggestible and influenced by a psychic form of transference.

    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 and short phrases in this post are from this book.
     
  5. Oct 3, 2008 #4
    Thanks Coberst, very interesting. if you could drop in an odd link to references I'd be grateful.

    Other elements of Groupthink decision fiascos are

    The Challenger mishap

    Bay of Pigs invasion and Watergate

    See also:
    http://www.amazon.com/Groupthink-Psychological-Studies-Decisions-Fiascoes/dp/0395317045

    Furthermore it can be argued, that acid rain, anti nucular (new spelling I hear) lobby, hole in the ozone layer, Y2K bug, Eugenics, mutual assured destruction, etc, etc hold elements of groupthink in them. Of course, I'm not mentioning the most obvious and the most important.

    Also think about identifying the 8 symptons of groupthink

     
  6. Oct 3, 2008 #5
    Andre

    This reference might have gotten lost in the verbage.

    I turned to Freud and his book “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” for my answer.
     
  7. Oct 3, 2008 #6
  8. Oct 6, 2008 #7
    I get tired of people trying to sum up the American condition in terms of the "bad guys" screwing over the innocent public. The "bad guys" are themselves members of the innocent public and the innocent public's emotional insecurities are at the heart of the matter.

    Good advertising scares people into needing things which cost money, and in order to get the money you have to make more scary advertisements. It's a cycle which causes everyone to become all the more insecure as time passes. Emotioinaly insecure people eat more and thus we're becoming fatter.

    Some believe that over consumption is good for the economy, but I think the over consumption is a side effect of our social psychology and not the original intention. The Big Machine is operated by ordinary people everywhere, not shadowy cigar smoking figures in big dimly lit offices.
     
  9. Oct 6, 2008 #8
    Our emotions are something that evolution has given us. The problem, I think, is that we have never been taught how to think, i.e. we have never been taught CT (Critical Thinking).

    The first step toward solving our problems is to learn CT (Critical Thinking).

    CT is an acronym for Critical Thinking. Everybody considers themselves to be a critical thinker. That is why we need to differentiate among different levels of critical thinking.

    Most people fall in the category that I call Reagan thinkers—trust but verify. Then there are those who have taken the basic college course taught by the philosophy dept that I call Logic 101. This is a credit course that teaches the basic principles of reasoning. Of course, a person need not take the college course and can learn the matter on their own effort, but I suspect few do that.

    The third level I call CT (Critical Thinking). CT includes the knowledge of Logic 101 and also the knowledge that focuses upon the intellectual character and attitude of critical thinking. It includes knowledge regarding the ego and social centric forces that impede rational thinking.

    Most decisions we have to make are judgment calls. A judgment call is made when we must make a decision when there is no “true” or “false” answers. When we make a judgment call our decision is bad, good, or better.

    Many factors are involved: there are the available facts, assumptions, skills, knowledge, and especially personal experience and attitude. I think that the two most important elements in the mix are personal experience and attitude.

    When we study math we learn how to use various algorithms to facilitate our skill in dealing with quantities. If we never studied math we could deal with quantity on a primary level but our quantifying ability would be minimal. Likewise with making judgments; if we study the art and science of good judgment we can make better decisions and if we never study the art and science of judgment our decision ability will remain minimal.

    I am convinced that a fundamental problem we have in this country (USA) is that our citizens have never learned the art and science of good judgment. Before the recent introduction of CT into our schools and colleges our young people have been taught primarily what to think and not how to think. All of us graduated with insufficient comprehension of the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary for the formulation of good judgment. The result of this inability to make good judgment is evident and is dangerous.

    I am primarily interested in the judgment that adults exercise in regard to public issues. Of course, any improvement in judgment generally will affect both personal and community matters.

    To put the matter into a nut shell:
    1. Normal men and women can significantly improve their ability to make judgments.
    2. CT is the domain of knowledge that delineates the knowledge, skills, and intellectual character demanded for good judgment.
    3. CT has been introduced into our schools and colleges slowly in the last two or three decades.
    4. Few of today’s adults were ever taught CT.
    5. I suspect that at least another two generations will pass before our society reaps significant rewards resulting from teaching CT to our children.
    6. Can our democracy survive that long?
    7. I think that every effort must be made to convince today’s adults that they need to study and learn CT on their own. I am not suggesting that adults find a teacher but I am suggesting that adults become self-actualizing learners.
    8. I am convinced that learning the art and science of Critical Thinking is an important step toward becoming a better citizen in today’s democratic society.
     
  10. Oct 6, 2008 #9
    Well, it's too bad that the Founding Fathers didn't know about this Critical Thinking stuff. They could have made sure that the government was only made up of level 3's and that only level 3's got the vote - not any of those normal men or women. Think of all the trouble it would have saved.
     
  11. Oct 6, 2008 #10
    The problem is that most people don't realize they have any such shortcomings to begin with because they can get through their lives and their jobs without ever seeing a need for self-analysis, so on the few occasions when exotic critical thinking is required they are unprepared.

    I think most people who ponder things above and beyond what is absolutely neccessary have a higher degree of curiousity than those who don't, and what you would really need in order to create more critical thinking is more curiousity because critical thinking follows.
     
  12. Oct 6, 2008 #11
    I really wish that heuristics were taught in high schools, both the intentional good kinds and unintentional bad kinds.

    I think that when a lot of people are confronted with a tough problem in life they immediately shut-off and disown the problem and blame failure on other people or believe that failure was a unavoidable outcome. When people are faced with tough problems they should have a mental tool box they can dig into to help overcome the problem.

    People should also be made aware of how our brains use built in heuristics to make snap judgments that aren't accurate and without our even realizing it's happening. For example, just because a celebrity uses a certain product doesn't mean the product is good, or just because something is inexpensive doesn't mean it's necessarily worse than a more expensive alternative.
     
  13. Oct 6, 2008 #12
    At one time in the distant past rhetoric, which forms a part of CT, was a staple of education.
     
  14. Oct 8, 2008 #13
    Wow, Coberst. Most excellent post. I second that 200%

    One can conquer the world, leaving the thinking to the leaders, but victory would be very very limited. In the end there are only physical restraints to deal with, not ideological restraints, to keep the world going.

    That's a tough one, food for more discussion.
     
  15. Oct 8, 2008 #14
    Ideology is our greatest problem, in my mind. What causes all of our wars but ideology? What caused 9/11 but ideology? What caused the crusades? We have given over to ideology the power to fix our comprehension of what is good and what is evil.
     
  16. Oct 8, 2008 #15
    But you can't be without ideology. "Ideology is our greatest problem" is an ideology itself. Or take the ideology behind science, Empiricism - you don't want to get rid of that, do you?

    It seems to me that you are anointing one particular ideology - "critical thinking" and the conclusions that you believe a "high-level" critical thinker would draw - as the correct way of thinking and dismissing dissenting conclusions as being "just ideology".

    I think you could just as easily say that this sort of attitude - that there's a correct way of thinking and everyone needs to be taught to think properly - is the cause of wars, 9/11, and the crusades.
     
  17. Oct 8, 2008 #16

    The difference in being a critical thinker or an apologist is that the critical thinker is conscious of his or her fallibility and is conscious of the assumptions that are part of the set of ideas making up that particular domain of belief.

    The critical thinker recognizes the tendency to be biased and can remain rational about his or her set of beliefs. The Christian or the Muslim who remains a critical thinker rather than an apologist can keep the set of beliefs while maintaining a balanced view of that domain of knowledge and how that domain of belief fits into a society in harmony.

    “Strange as it may seem, Marx’s concept of apologia bears a remarkable resemblance to, and can be best understood in the context of the traditional discussion of the nature and task of philosophy.”

    Philosophy is, as a philosophy professor said to me when I asked him what philosophy was about, a radically critical self-consciousness form of inquiry. Philosophy is the only domain of knowledge that has the attitude and discipline required to critically question its assumptions. All domains of knowledge start with assumptions and if these assumptions are challenged then the whole domain of theoretically defined knowledge loses its theoretical rational and legitimacy.

    Pull away the foundational assumptions of any domain of knowledge and the edifice crumbles without it.

    A system of knowledge is inherently limited and distorted by its assumptions. Because of these assumptions it abstracts certain aspects of reality and conceptualizes the subject matter in a highly selective manner in accordance with the assumptions. The physicist restricts her focus to matters that can be quantified in terms of weight, time, distance, and perhaps wavelength.

    “Each form of inquiry operates within the framework of and the limits set by its basic assumptions, and offer an inherently inadequate account f the world.” Since non-philosophical inquiry is not aware off or able to question its assumptions “they have a constant tendency to claim universal validity and transgress into areas not their own.”

    The author argues that “the assumptions underlying and constituting a point of view may be not only methodological, ontological, and epistemological, but also social…To be a member of a society is to occupy a prestructured social space and to find one self already related to others in a certain manner.”

    An ideology is systematically biased by its assumptions and it constantly must protect its assumptions from erosion if it is to maintain the status of its ideology. For Marx the ideologist becomes a constant apologist for his ideology. An uncritical or vulgar social theorist, even though personally very critical of the established order cannot overcome the social osmosis resulting from the society and is unable to realize his critical intentions.
     
  18. Oct 8, 2008 #17
    coberst, ideology is a very ambiguous term to put up against critical thinking.
    Ideology, as the root implies, can be simply an idea.
    If that idea is born of critical thought, the foundation is sound and the ideology is not harmful to
    society in general. i.e. "All men are created equal" Equal in the eyes of the law, not equal in
    strength, artistic taste, blood pressure, ambition etc, etc.
    A society following such an ideology will exercise justice without prejudice.
    I think that's a very good ideology.
    As I understand your premise, it is that too many people "trust" or "believe" in the reasoning
    of others without "practicing" critical thought themselves. This leaves the whole of society open
    to the corruption of its "trust".
    With the more intimate, direct and personal issues one deals with, critical thought
    is a very essential path to take. But to put all the woes of the world down to each individual not
    using critical thought 24/7 in all the issues they must trust to their political, social, educational,
    medical, financial, etc, etc, etc representatives, it far too much to ask of the members of today's
    societies.
    I think your advise is crucial for the most crucial decisions each individual makes as a member of society.
    We must use the "utmost" critical thought in choosing those that we will "trust" to do the
    critical thinking for us in all those issues we cannot each address personally.
    This means anyone trying to acquire your trust should not hope to do so by convincing you
    of their ideology, they must convince you they are capable of critical thought.
     
  19. Oct 9, 2008 #18
    It is my conclusion that CT (Critical Thinking) can be considered to be philosophy lite. If we become Critical Thinkers we will be less likely to become apologists. Our set of ideas may not be so bad but our attitude toward that set of ideas can be very bad.

    Group Mind aka Spin-World aka Ideology

    Freud informs us the reason for this form of behavior is the tendency for humans to be suggestible and influenced by a psychic form of transference.

    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 and short phrases in this post are from this book.
     
  20. Oct 9, 2008 #19
    I think what you are saying has a certain truth to it, but I am still concerned that you are linking a social pathology of collective paranoia (delusions of grander) to ideology.
    It does not make any sense to state a group of unrelated ideologies as "entities" and claim the all have a common characteristic called "group mind".
    The ideologies do not have this in common. The blind adherence to the social pathologies arising from the corruption or distortion of these ideologies in isolation of all others is what is called "group mind".
    While all forms of ideology are subject to corruption, and corruption is easily effected on people who follow a "group mind" rather than the critical thought necessary to maintain the premise of the ideology, this does not leave ideology in and of itself, open to the direct criticism you are implying.
    It has been my experience that people who consider objectivism to be a cult rather than a philosophy, are those that define their ego in terms of a particular "group mind". Anyone capable of objective reasoning cannot deny the philosophical rigor of objectivism. To do so is to argue one cannot be objective, an argument that is ultimately fruitless and circular. While it is impossible to state any person can be objective beyond the influence of the physical structure of their own mind, it is not impossible to state a person can be objective within the bounds of any particular ideology.
    As a "Free Democracy" the U.S. has chosen Free Enterprise (of which capitalism is only a subgroup) as one of many ideologies in framework designed to support and protect the freedoms of its citizens.
    There are many people who have "blindly" followed the "group mind" of a corrupted capitalist ideology in isolation of the other necessary ideologies every society needs to maintain its health.
    Again I would suggest that CT is a necessary ingredient in selecting a society's founding ideologies and crucial in preventing the corruption of the objective ideologies of a free society, but CT is not a substitute for ideology.
     
  21. Oct 9, 2008 #20
    I think that a social theory becomes an ideology because few people have critical thinking skills and thus they become apologist for their beliefs in many occassions.
     
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