Saturday 30 March 2024

The literally delusional nature of that resentment which motivates so much socio-political action

The thing about paranoid and persecutory delusions (that is; beliefs that are false, strongly held, powerfully-motivating, in practice irrefutable), is that they cannot be contradicted by further knowledge or experience. 

Once a person has decided that X is "out to get them", is-harming or will-harm them in some way; then the whole cognitive apparatus is orientated towards collecting evidence based on this assumption. The assumption shapes the entire realm of facts, interpretation and theory. 

This delusional mechanism happens at the individual level; but also the long-standing, and sometimes all-consuming, resentments of history are understandable in this way. e.g. In the world today one race may attribute its low socio-economic situation to the effect of racism; while another race infers the reality of massive and worldwide racism despite occupying the highest socio-economic status and power. 

Once the assumption of racism, or sexism, or "fill-in the word"-phobia has been made, and once a person (or race/ sex/ orientation) builds its motivational system around racism - there is no possible empirical evidence or argument that can shake this delusion

In a very fundamental sense, it does not matter whether there is some or even a great deal of truth to the delusion of being-persecuted. The point is that the delusion is a psychological and motivational fact, for which reality is an irrelevance. Once established, a change in reality does not change the delusion. 

Therefore, when delusional thinking underlies political movement (as it so often does), when one group is delusionally-convinced of the hostility of another; then there can - in principle - be no political solution to the problem. 

Even a "final solution" of eradication of the perceived threat will fail; because it will turn-out that the threat has not, after all, been eradicated - but continues in some covert or crypto- form! The currently influential concept of implicit racism is a clear example... Even after all perceptible racism has been eliminated, racism nonetheless remains - and all the more threatening because of its invisibility.   

I have termed these "theory of mind" delusions; because they are based on normal cognitive processes (i.e. they are Not psychotic) and instead are rooted in a false inference concerning the intent and motivations of others - but this false inference cannot be corrected by evidence, because other people's minds are not transparent, and can only be inferred indirectly. 

What this means (as I - apparently - never tire of saying!) is that recognizing and critiquing the basis of underlying assumptions is of extreme importance

We all base our understanding upon assumptions of a metaphysical kind, that can neither be proved nor refuted; therefore we have a profound individual responsibility to examine our own baseline assumptions about the world with respect to coherence, and "good-ness" - because some assumptions sustain a good life and society, while others are deeply and incurably pernicious in their effects.

And ultimately the spiritual victims of that resentment which is rooted in delusional thinking, is the resenter himself; because resentment is a sin that must (like all sins) be repented if we are to want to choose salvation. 

(...Because we cannot carry our resentments into Heaven, which is a place motivated only by Love: we must check our resentment in at the door - permanently. One who does not want to leave-behind all sins, does not want Heaven - but something-else instead.)

(...And, resentment is an especially pervasive and dangerous sin to modern Western Man; because it is widely inculcated, engineered, encouraged, rewarded - sometimes mandatory.)

In sum: theory of mind rooted assumptions are inevitable and ubiquitous forms of thinking; what makes an assumption "delusional" is essentially that it is an evil model of reality.

Even when delusional thinking has some factual basis, it is an evil; because it is a spiritually-false orientation of life - a projection of attention and motivation onto "other people" that denies our absolute personal responsibility for our own salvation and theosis.  

The harm of such delusions is primarily spiritual and related to eternal post-mortal life; although the material harms caused by this trap of thinking during this world and life may also be colossal.


Donald Buss said...

In many physical endeavors, one of the best pieces of advice is: Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. Your head tends to follow your eyes and your body tends to follow your head. It seems so simple, but when you are skiing through trees and become afraid of hitting that one ahead on your left, it is so hard not to look left at the tree. Which makes you turn left, which makes you more afraid … …

In short, your _orientation_ to reality matters!

I think the delusions you point out not only are impervious to correction from empirical reality but, through resentment and fear, they create that very reality. An orientation towards love and graciousness creates that reality. (I think this is what you are saying with theory of mind). All of which calls for discernment!

Bruce Charlton said...

@DB - "not only are impervious to correction from empirical reality but, through resentment and fear, they create that very reality"

Very true, as we see in geopolitics especially when a defender - after persistent attack - may become an aggressor; and that is then taken as confirmation: "See! I was right all along".

Geir said...

I published a book on the lack of knowledge about the climate last year, and now some people have translated it into English and I am looking through the translation these days. In chapter 66 Recommended literature I have included this paragraph which I think you may find amusing in connection with your blogthoughts of today:
"One of the most thorough and profound authors I have read is the English physician Bruce Charlton. I would regard three of his books as curriculum for those who want to understand what is happening around us in society, in the mass media and even within the sacred domain of science, and what this does to us. Thought Prison. The Fundamental Nature of Political Correctness is a relentless reckoning with the fundamental activity of thought that arises from denying the reality around oneself. Political correctness is like a religion and it is actually immune to reasoning since it is built on lies. The climate area is a stellar example of political correctness. Not even trying... The Corruption of Real Science tells about how scientific work has been corrupted beyond recognition, and explains how the research bureaucracy works. And in Addicted to Distraction. The psychological consequences of the modern mass media we are shown what the mass media actually does to us and how we become addicted to the stimuli that the media, including social media, give us. The books may be shocking to many, but no less are the necessary wake-up calls, no matter how bitter it is to have to realize what society has become and how easy we are to influence."
In addition, in chapter 41, I have referred to your article on Mouse Utopia.
Thank you again for everything your books have meant to me!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Geir - Thanks very much!

Although these books seemed extreme at the time they were published, I now regard them as not extreme enough!

In particular, I am Now convinced that the Mass Media are under direct centralized direction, when it comes to their core agenda items. My excuse is that this was not as blatantly obvious a decade ago as it is now - when it is an almost everyday occurrence to see near-instant, simultaneous, global repetition of a standard "message".

Geir said...

Actually, it is not even a conspiracy any more to state that the mass media are under centralized direction. For instance, with regard to the climate news, there is a bureau in the US which produces the news and outlets all over the world are subscribers. They plan these things so that news items are published in accordance with the annual climate councils and other sorts of events.
It is incredibly easy to see through the material, because it is rather stupidly written. Treatment of climate nonsense makes up a lot of my book on climate.

Joel said...

It's not unusual for computer programs to get into "hung states" where they churn and churn, but no new input can be accepted. For animals, this is rather rare, but it would seem that humans are closer to computers than to animals in their ability to reach a state where they are no longer capable of processing and reacting to new inputs.

Letting a logical system [pick your favorite ideology] do all of the thinking for you, on the strength of its ability to give a simple answer to every complex problem, seems like such a bad idea that very few people could ever fall for it. Many or most people do fall for it though. This is possibly due to the social reinforcement that popular movements bring with them. If all of your friends praise you for adopting an idea, and your paycheck depends on it, and romantic partners require it, well...

Outside of politics, in science and academics, you also see this sort of thing, and it gets significantly less rare the further you move away from the more asocial hard sciences. You see extremely comprehensive theories that can be fitted to every possible observation, often pushed by star academics. It can decades for these theories to finally fail (ie. Freudianism).

The personal takeaway for me is that this winds up being a good discernment tool for judging my own personal beliefs. Does my faith (or theory or belief) give me simple answers to complex questions, or does it require me to think deeply about hard problems? If it's not the second, the my belief is presumably significantly less complex than the phenomena that it claims to describe.