Archives for posts with tag: religion culture civilization

The state of being calm and not easily worried or excited.

Many human beings praise themselves for being able to ignore emotion when trying to make decisions. And the more important a decision is, the harder they try to ignore their own feelings about the matter.

People with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) can be witty, charming, and fun to be around — but they also lie and exploit others. ASPD makes people uncaring. Someone with the disorder may act rashly, destructively, and unsafely without feeling guilty when their actions hurt other people.

Modern diagnostic systems consider ASPD to include two related but not identical conditions: A “psychopath” is someone whose hurtful actions toward others tend to reflect calculation, manipulation and cunning; they also tend not to feel emotion and mimic (rather than experience) empathy for others. They can be deceptively charismatic and charming. By contrast, “sociopaths” are somewhat more able to form attachments to others but still disregard social rules; they tend to be more impulsive, haphazard, and easily agitated than people with psychopathy. ASPD is uncommon, affecting just 0.6% of the population.

Am I the only one here baffled by how little free space is left between these two definitions? By how little leeway we have between the constant pressure to ‘act rationally’ and becoming a ASPD patient?

On a more practical level – now that I’ve noticed this, I’m even more baffled by our duplicity. As a species, I mean.
‘Concerned Citizens’ insist that ‘conflict of interests’ should be avoided at ‘all costs’ – lest it generates even higher ones, while some ‘thinkers’ consider that it is possible for humans to actually put aside their personal feelings.

Daniel Kahneman, among others, has done a brilliant job in describing many of the intricate ways of our thinking processes. Which are nothing but continuous tugs of war between emotional pulsions more or less kept in check by rational processes.
Basically, most of those concerned with human decision making have reached the conclusion that we’re not rational thinkers but rationalizing agents.

Hence my ‘nagging question’:

What keeps a cool-headed rationalizing agent from becoming a ASPD patient?
Specially given the constant social pressure towards ‘coolheadedness’…

OK, some people are better at rationalizing than others… but that would tend to help them at remaining undetected rather than not becoming affected…
Frans de Waals – again, among others, posits that, ‘statistically’,  altruism/empathy is an inbred feature of many animals, all primates included. Given this concept, ASPD would be rather simply explained as an ‘organic’ deficiency. Due to a ‘wiring error’, those affected by ASPD display less ‘phenotypically’ expressed altruism/empathy than the ‘average’ members of the society.

Bingo!

phenotype. (fē′nə-tīp′) n. The observable physical or biochemical characteristics of an organism, as determined by both genetic makeup and environmental influences. The expression of a specific trait, such as stature or blood type, based on genetic and environmental influences.

It seems that ‘what you get’ is not solely determined by the genetic information inherited from the parents but also by the specific environment in which the given genetic information gets to express itself.

For the rest of the living realm, things are relatively simple. Lady Luck is the sole ‘director’ in these matters. A really lucky organism gets to spend its life in a more suited environment than a less lucky one.

For humans… things are a tad more complicated.
Besides the fact that each of us enjoys a relative autonomy – some call it freedom of will, we also contribute enormously to the environment in which we get to live. And no, I don’t want to talk about pollution or man-made global heating.

The thing I have in mind right now is usually called ‘culture’.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow, 2013
Frans de Waal, The Bonobo and the Atheist, 2014

 

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Huh?!?

thinking

We’re not the only ones able to use tools to solve problems.
We’re not the only ones capable of self-awareness. Otherwise said, to recognize ourselves in a mirror.
We’re not even the only ones able to use language to dampen our feelings for long enough so that the frontal cortex might take over from the amygdala.

So?

But what does it mean to be human?

What if being human means being able to do all those three things, simultaneously?

Well, I’m not so sure I’d be comfortable with that…

‘Dampen our feelings for long enough so that the frontal cortex might take over from the amygdala’.

A key difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is whether he has a conscience, the little voice inside that lets us know when we’re doing something wrong, says L. Michael Tompkins, EdD. He’s a psychologist at the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center.

A psychopath doesn’t have a conscience. If he lies to you so he can steal your money, he won’t feel any moral qualms, though he may pretend to. He may observe others and then act the way they do so he’s not “found out,” Tompkins says.

A sociopath typically has a conscience, but it’s weak. He may know that taking your money is wrong, and he might feel some guilt or remorse, but that won’t stop his behavior.

Both lack empathy, the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes and understand how they feel. But a psychopath has less regard for others, says Aaron Kipnis, PhD, author of The Midas Complex. Someone with this personality type sees others as objects he can use for his own benefit.

Oops!

So one of the very things which make us human might also explain why some of us become psycho/sociopaths?

No, not only one. All three of them.

For a psycho/sociopath to become manifest, one has to behave like one. To act like one. To make the difference between their own persona and the rest – self-awareness, and then to use tools to defend/enhance what makes their own persona so special. Regardless of whatever consequences those actions might impose upon any second or third party.

Then how come we have survived for so long?
As a species?

According to Ernst Mayr – ‘evolution is not about ‘survival of the best’ but about the demise of the unfit’, whatever psycho/sociopathy has plagued us wasn’t enough to kill us.
What kept it in check?
We might have a natural propensity for doing the right thing but… bad things still happen… the mechanism which ‘tames’ us has to be a dynamic one… Does the job in an at least satisfactory manner – we’re still here, it has successfully adapted to whatever historical changes had fallen upon our head – again, we’re still here, but is not fail proof. From time to time, evil explodes into the world.

We’ve somehow coped with these ‘explosions’. For now, at least.

Basically, any future strategy for survival might imply one of the next two scenarios.

Put our faith in God. Who had created us. And who’ll lead us out of whatever predicament we might get in. Even if/when we do it to ourselves. Simply because he is our loving father.

Remember that when we had really pissed him off, he had preferred to cleanse the entire (known) world with water. And learn to reign in our own ability to do the wrong thing.

And, maybe, our distance nephews will consider that being human means being able to innovate AND to knowingly keep that ability in check.

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