Category Archive 'Psychology'
15 Sep 2014
Gustave Dore, Orlando Furioso
From Slavoj Zizek’s How to Read Lacan:
The problem for the hysteric is how to distinguish what he or she is (his true desire) from what others see and desire in him or her. This brings us to another of Lacan’s formulas, that “man’s desire is the other’s desire.” For Lacan, the fundamental impasse of human desire is that it is the other’s desire in both subjective and objective genitive: desire for the other, desire to be desired by the other, and, especially, desire for what the other desires. Envy and resentment are a constitutive component of human desire, as already Augustin knew it so well – recall the passage from his Confessions, often quoted by Lacan, which describes a baby jealous of his brother sucking the mother’s breast: “I myself have seen and known an infant to be jealous though it could not speak. It became pale, and cast bitter looks on its foster-brother.” Based on this insight, Jean-Pierre Dupuy proposed a convincing critique of John Rawls theory of justice: in the Rawls’ model of a just society, social inequalities are tolerated only insofar as they also help those at the bottom of the social ladder, and insofar as they are not based on inherited hierarchies, but on natural inequalities, which are considered contingent, not merits. What Rawls doesn’t see is how such a society would create conditions for an uncontrolled explosion of resentment: in it, I would know that my lower status is fully justified, and would be deprived of excusing my failure as the result of social injustice.
Rawls proposes a terrifying model of a society in which hierarchy is directly legitimized in natural properties, missing the simple lesson of an anecdote about a Slovene peasant who is told by a good witch: “I will do to you whatever you want, but I warn you, I will do it to your neighbor twice!” The peasant, with a cunning smile, asks her: “Take one of my eyes!” No wonder that even today’s conservatives are ready to endorse Rawls’s notion of justice: in December 2005, David Cameron, the newly elected leader of the British Conservatives, signaled his intention to turn the Conservative Party into a defender of the underprivileged, declaring how “I think the test of all our policies should be: what does it do for the people who have the least, the people on the bottom rung of the ladder.” Even Friedrich Hayek.
Lacan shares with Nietzsche and Freud the idea that justice as equality is founded on envy: the envy of the other who has what we do not have, and who enjoys it. The demand for justice is ultimately the demand that the excessive enjoyment of the other should be curtailed, so that everyone’s access to enjoyment will be equal. The necessary outcome of this demand, of course, is ascetism: since it is not possible to impose equal enjoyment, what one can impose is the equally shared prohibition. However, one should not forget that today, in our allegedly permissive society, this ascetism assumes precisely the form of its opposite, of the generalized injunction “Enjoy!”. We are all under the spell of this injunction, with the outcome that our enjoyment is more hindered than ever – recall the yuppie who combines Narcissistic Self-Fulfillment with utter ascetic discipline of jogging and eating health food. This, perhaps, is what Nietzsche had in mind with his notion of the Last Man – it is only today that we can really discern the contours of the Last Man, in the guise of the predominant hedonistic ascetism. In today’s market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol… and the list goes on. What about virtual sex as sex without sex, the Colin Powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties (on our side, of course) as warfare without warfare, the contemporary redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration as politics without politics, up to today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism as an experience of Other deprived of its Otherness (the idealized Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality, while features like wife beating remain out of sight)? Virtual reality simply generalizes this procedure of offering a product deprived of its substance: it provides reality itself deprived of its substance, of the resisting hard kernel of the Real – in the same way decaffeinated coffee smells and tastes like real coffee without being the real one, Virtual Reality is experienced as reality without being one. Everything is permitted, you can enjoy everything – on condition that it is deprived of the substance which makes it dangerous.
Jenny Holzer’s famous truism “Protect me from what I want” renders in a very precise way the fundamental ambiguity of the hysterical position.
28 Nov 2010
Penelope‘s sex life sounds messy and confused, but I’m not sure it actually sounds as different from the norm as one would have supposed.
25 Oct 2010
Matthew Ridley, in the Saturday Wall Street Journal Review section, offers a summary of a new and valuable article on the biases fueling endless government expansion and bad policy.
Slavisa Tasic, of the University of Kiev, wrote a paper recently for the Istituto Bruno Leoni in Italy about [the psychology and neuroscience of government]. He argues that market participants are not the only ones who make mistakes, yet he notes drily that “in the mainstream economic literature there is a near complete absence of concern that regulatory design might suffer from lack of competence.” Public servants are human, too.
Mr. Tasic identifies five mistakes that government regulators often make: action bias, motivated reasoning, the focusing illusion, the affect heuristic and illusions of competence.
In the last case, psychologists have shown that we systematically overestimate how much we understand about the causes and mechanisms of things we half understand. The Swedish health economist Hans Rosling once gave students a list of five pairs of countries and asked which nation in each pair had the higher infant-mortality rate. The students got 1.8 right out of 5. Mr. Rosling noted that if he gave the test to chimpanzees they would get 2.5 right. So his students’ problem was not ignorance, but that they knew with confidence things that were false.
The issue of action bias is better known in England as the “dangerous dogs act,” after a previous government, confronted with a couple of cases in which dogs injured or killed people, felt the need to bring in a major piece of clumsy and bureaucratic legislation that worked poorly. Undoubtedly the rash of legislation following the current financial crisis will include some equivalents of dangerous dogs acts. It takes unusual courage for a regulator to stand up and say “something must not be done,” lest “something” makes the problem worse.
Motivated reasoning means that we tend to believe what it is convenient for us to believe. If you run an organization called, say, the Asteroid Retargeting Group for Humanity (ARGH) and you are worried about potential cuts to your budget, we should not be surprised to find you overreacting to every space rock that passes by. Regulators rarely argue for deregulation.
The focusing illusion partly stems from the fact that people tend to see the benefits of a policy but not the hidden costs. As French theorist FrÃ©dÃ©ric Bastiat argued, it’s a fallacy to think that breaking a window creates work, because while the glazier’s gain of work is visible, the tailor’s loss of work caused by the window-owner’s loss of moneyâ€”and consequent decision to delay purchase of a coatâ€”is not. Recent history is full of government interventions with this characteristic.
“Affect heuristic'” is a fancy name for a pretty obvious concept, namely that we discount the drawbacks of things we are emotionally in favor of. For example, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill certainly killed about 1,300 birds, maybe a few more. Wind turbines in America kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds every year, generally of rarer species, such as eagles. Yet wind companies receive neither the enforcement, nor the opprobrium, that oil companies do.
If lawmakers are to understand how laws get applied in the real world, they need to know and understand the habits of mind of their officials.
13 Jun 2009
Andrew Thomas observes that liberals want to be punished. Liberalism is a lot like BDSM. Liberals yearn to surrender to a domineering master. For them, pain turns into pleasure.
[L]et’s objectively review the initiatives in the neolib agenda: Environmentalism, global passivism, overpopulation, socialized healthcare, and promoting government intervention into all aspects of life. All of these priorities require individuals to sacrifice their lifestyles, their income, and/or their basic comforts.
This past week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi exhorted, “Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory…” in order to sacrifice ourselves to the gods of global warming. As presidential candidate Obama said, “We can’t drive our SUVs and, you know, eat as much as we want and keep our homes on, you know, 72 degrees at all times…” He seems to indicate that he wants us to starve and freeze.
Most of these initiatives involve the inflicting of pain and misery. Tom Daschle, in his book “Critical: What We Can Do About The Health Care Crisis” says health-care reform “will not be pain free” and that seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of having them treated. In other words, you will suffer a slow agonizing death under government mandate.
As a final phenomenological exercise, impassively observe the level of neolib support for this agenda. It has not appeared to wane. In fact, neolib fervor continues to increase as the promised level of suffering increases.
Hatred of life, detestation of abundance and material success, self-infliction of pain are all very old patterns of perversity associated with extreme forms of religious aberration. In the Christian context, this sort of thing was usually classified as a heresy, being rightly identified with Manicheanism, a mystical Middle Eastern sect which viewed the universe as dualistic, featuring a good spiritual world created by a positive “Father of Greatness” and a fallen and defective material world created by the “Prince of Darkness.”
In the good old days, when patterns of insanity of this kind led to destruction of works of art, physical assaults on persons, and rejection of property rights in favor of some new millenialist regime prominently featuring sodomy and free love, the Church of Rome and the knightly aristocracy would take drastic action to stamp it out and restore order.
01 May 2009
Jonathan Haidt (Y ’85) is a Social Psychologist at UVA who focusses on the moral foundations of politics. He has made, what the left perceives as a breakthrough discovery: liberals and conservatives place emphasis on different moral values.
More interestingly, Haidt’s research finds that conservatives understand liberals much better than vice versa.
Jonathan Haidt is hardly a road-rage kind of guy, but he does get irritated by self-righteous bumper stickers. The soft-spoken psychologist is acutely annoyed by certain smug slogans that adorn the cars of fellow liberals: “Support our troops: Bring them home” and “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”
“No conservative reads those bumper stickers and thinks, ‘Hmmâ€”so liberals are patriotic!'” he says, in a sarcastic tone of voice that jarringly contrasts with his usual subdued sincerity. “We liberals are universalists and humanists; it’s not part of our morality to highly value nations. So to claim dissent is patrioticâ€”or that we’re supporting the troops, when in fact we’re opposing the warâ€”is disingenuous. …
The University of Virginia scholar views such slogans as clumsy attempts to insist we all share the same values. In his view, these catch phrases are not only insincereâ€”they’re also fundamentally wrong. Liberals and conservatives, he insists, inhabit different moral universes. There is some overlap in belief systems, but huge differences in emphasis.
In a creative attempt to move beyond red-state/blue-state clichÃ©s, Haidt has created a framework that codifies mankind’s multiplicity of moralities. His outline is simultaneously startling and reassuringâ€”startling in its stark depiction of our differences, and reassuring in that it brings welcome clarity to an arena where murkiness of motivation often breeds contention.
He views the demonization that has marred American political debate in recent decades as a massive failure in moral imagination. We assume everyone’s ethical compass points in the same direction and label those whose views don’t align with our sense of right and wrong as either misguided or evil. In fact, he argues, there are multiple due norths.
“I think of liberals as colorblind,” he says in a hushed tone that conveys the quiet intensity of a low-key crusader. “We have finely tuned sensors for harm and injustice but are blind to other moral dimensions. …
Haidt is best known as the author of The Happiness Hypothesis, a lively look at recent research into the sources of lasting contentment. But his central focusâ€”and the subject of his next book, scheduled to be published in fall 2010â€”is the intersection of psychology and morality. His research examines the wellsprings of ethical beliefs and why they differ across classes and cultures.
Last September, in a widely circulated Internet essay titled Why People Vote Republican, Haidt chastised Democrats who believe blue-collar workers have been duped into voting against their economic interests. In fact, he asserted forcefully, traditionalists are driven to the GOP by moral impulses liberals don’t share (which is fine) or understand (which is not).
To some, this dynamic is deeply depressing. “The educated moral relativism worldview is fundamentally incompatible with the way 50 percent of America thinks, and stereotypes about out-of-touch elitist coastal Democrats are basically correct,” sighed the snarky Web site Gawker.com as it summarized his studies.
Hat tip to the News Junkie.
I think Haidt’s five foundational moral impulses are far from accurate.
Speaking as a conservative, I think liberal’s notions of fairness/reciprocity are both different from ours and are fundamentally inaccurate, constantly asserting exaggerated and unreciprocated claims to supposititious rights.
Example: liberals believe the US is obliged to award humane treatment in accordance with Geneva Convention standards to unlawful combatants who do not abide by that Convention.
Haidt overlooks the conservative “foundational moral impulses” pertaining to individual liberty, the right of the individual human being to think and act freely within his own private sphere, as well as those pertaining to the rights of society, the right of the people to preserve their own institutions and identity. Conservatives believe that change should be organic and voluntary. Liberals believe in the forcible imposition of their own superior moral insights.
14 Mar 2009
In an older essay (have we linked and quoted this one before?) clinical psychologist Gagdad Bob (frequently quoting his own book) explains that it is liberals’ atavism that keeps them from understanding economics, and remarks on the irony of the application of the term “progressive” to the left.
For millennia — until quite recently — human beings struggled to rise above subsistence because of a stubborn inability to recognize how wealth is created. Certainly into the late 18th century, people mistakenly believed that there was simply a fixed amount of wealth in the world, and that it was left to individuals and governments to fight over their share. Not until Adam Smith was it recognized that wealth can grow without limits, but obviously even now people have a hard time wrapping their minds around this idea.â€
In my view, one of the central mechanisms that kept mankind in its rut of subsistence was the expression of constitutional envy. …
â€œOne of the things that makes the creation of wealth possible is the accumulation of surplus capital to invest, but here again, for most of human history this was quite difficult to accomplish because of envious mind parasites that could not tolerate the idea of one person possessing more than another.â€ Thus, envy â€œwas one of the psychological barriers to material development that humans have struggled to overcome.â€…
Which brings up a fascinating irony about so-called progressives. Now, it is a truism that progressives are not just ignorant of economics, but that they confidently embrace and promulgate what can only be called economic innumeracy. Why is this? How can people be so confidently and yet demonstrably wrong? …
The problem — as I touched on in my book — is that the primitive progressive is operating under an economic theory that is not so much cognitive but genetic. In a way, itâ€™s deeper than thought, since it was programmed into us for survival in small groups (obviously, natural selection did not anticipate a high tech, competitive, free market global economy). Thus, Fiske confirms my speculation that the logic of market pricing was a very late development which is not at all â€œhard wiredâ€ — and even goes against our genetic programming. …
For hunter-gatherers in small bands, sharing, matching and ranking were probably as fundamental to survival as eating and breeding. But market pricing involves complex choices based on mathematical ratios…. Commerce and global trade, of course, require a finely honed version of the market-pricing model. But if humans developed this model relatively late, it might well be less than universal, even today.â€..
“In other words, to have an intuitive grasp of economics, you might just need to take a step or two up the evolutionary ladder.”…
In short, to cure yourself of progressivism — or any other kind of atavistic primitivism — you will have to grow and evolve. This is exactly the problem we are facing in the Islamic world, for if we cannot even lift our own tragically backward progressives out of economic magic and superstition, imagine the difficulty of doing so with an explicitly tribal and authoritarian mindset. …
If the most progressive people are those with a concept of market economics, one of the great tragedies of the modern age has been their systematic destruction by less progressive people who call themselves the most progressive…. I’m wondering whether there might be a basic, persistent inability to distinguish forward from backward. I used to think that â€˜progressivesâ€™ imagined themselves to be forward in their thinking, but I’m now thinking that â€˜scientific Marxism’ might have been grounded in an unacknowledged need for primitivism.â€
Would this explain how leftist economic theory functions as a sort of seductive door through which all sorts of other barbarisms rush in? To put the answer in the form of a bumper snicker, â€œCome for the egalitarianism, stay for the bestiality and tyranny.â€
From Dr. Sanity via Bird Dog.
08 Oct 2008
Never Yet Melted was contacted by researchers from the Psychology Department at New York University with a request that we assist them in finding politically-sophisticated blog readers to participate in a 2008 election study.
A research team from the Psychology Department at New York University, headed by Professor Yaacov Trope and supported by the National Science Foundation, is investigating the cognitive causes of voting behavior, political preferences, and candidate evaluations throughout the course of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. This stage of the study focuses on the information people use to inform evaluations during the last few weeks before the election. They seek respondents of all political leanings from all over the country (and from the rest of the world) to complete a 15-minute questionnaire, the responses to which will be completely anonymous.
10 Jul 2008
Call the men in the white coats with the butterfly nets, we’ve got plenty of the afflicted right here in America.
Andrew Bolt in the Melbourne Herald Sun:
Psychiatrists have (diagnosed) the first case of “climate change delusion.” …
Writing in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Joshua Wolf and Robert Salo of our Royal Children’s Hospital say this delusion was a “previously unreported phenomenon”.
“A 17-year-old man was referred to the inpatient psychiatric unit at Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne with an eight-month history of depressed mood . . . He also . . . had visions of apocalyptic events.” …
“The patient had also developed the belief that, due to climate change, his own water consumption could lead within days to the deaths of millions of people through exhaustion of water supplies.”
16 Feb 2008
Based on strikingly irrational beliefs and emotions, modern liberals relentlessly undermine the most important principles on which our freedoms were founded,” says Dr. Lyle Rossiter, author of the new book, “The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness.” “Like spoiled, angry children, they rebel against the normal responsibilities of adulthood and demand that a parental government meet their needs from cradle to grave.”
While political activists on the other side of the spectrum have made similar observations, Rossiter boasts professional credentials and a life virtually free of activism and links to “the vast right-wing conspiracy.”
For more than 35 years he has diagnosed and treated more than 1,500 patients as a board-certified clinical psychiatrist and examined more than 2,700 civil and criminal cases as a board-certified forensic psychiatrist. He received his medical and psychiatric training at the University of Chicago.
Rossiter says the kind of liberalism being displayed by the two major candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination can only be understood as a psychological disorder.
“A social scientist who understands human nature will not dismiss the vital roles of free choice, voluntary cooperation and moral integrity â€“ as liberals do,” he says. “A political leader who understands human nature will not ignore individual differences in talent, drive, personal appeal and work ethic, and then try to impose economic and social equality on the population â€“ as liberals do. And a legislator who understands human nature will not create an environment of rules which over-regulates and over-taxes the nation’s citizens, corrupts their character and reduces them to wards of the state â€“ as liberals do.”
Dr. Rossiter says the liberal agenda preys on weakness and feelings of inferiority in the population by:
creating and reinforcing perceptions of victimization;
satisfying infantile claims to entitlement, indulgence and compensation;
augmenting primitive feelings of envy;
rejecting the sovereignty of the individual, subordinating him to the will of the government.
“The roots of liberalism â€“ and its associated madness â€“ can be clearly identified by understanding how children develop from infancy to adulthood and how distorted development produces the irrational beliefs of the liberal mind,” he says. “When the modern liberal mind whines about imaginary victims, rages against imaginary villains and seeks above all else to run the lives of persons competent to run their own lives, the neurosis of the liberal mind becomes painfully obvious.”
01 Dec 2007
Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education.
Stands to reason, doesn’t it?
Hat tip to Michael Lawler.
12 Oct 2007
This test claims it can determine which side of your brain you use most, depending on in which direction you see the dancer turn.
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