Friday, September 01, 2006


A recent anonymous commenter to this post wrote:
Mindless people like Sanity who reflexly cheer on Israel or take her side are truly sick. Israel is at the forefront of most of the evil in this world and Hezbollah and the Iranians are right on the mark when they suggest that most of the world's problems would disappear with the disappearance of Israel. Why not admit that the formation of that country was a big international mistake and evacuate all the people there, giving it back to those who justifiably claim it? Seems reasonable to me.

This comment reminded me that I have been wanting to discuss the issue of self-delusion. Engaging in self-delusion can be defined as the act of deceiving one's self about some aspect of reality.

I have noted in a number of previous posts that we humans have quite a few psychological strategies at our disposal with which we are able to deceive ourselves about the external world, when that world becomes too threatening.

Just a few examples to show what I mean by this:

- by using projection some very violent and angry people are able to convince themselves that they are working for peace and harmony.

- by using delusional projection religious fanatics who behead innocent people are able to convince themselves that they are pure and holy, while "infidels" like Jews are monsters who "eat babies" and decend from "pigs and monkeys"

- by using displacement, some people are able to convince themselves that there is a devious plan to imminently replace our secular government with a Christian theocracy; while they are singularly unconcerned about religious fanatics actively waging war on the U.S. and the rest of the world trying to institute an Islamic theoracy.

- by using fantasy some people are able to convince themselves that these particular religious fanatics who fly airplanes into buildings and behead those who disagree with them, are reasonable and sensible people, amenable to negotiation

- by using denial some people are able to convince themselves that there is no such thing as Islamofascism and that the war on terror is just a political ploy by the Bush administration to accumulate power.

- by using repression some people would like to eliminate all personal thoughts about 9/11 and wipe it from our collective consciousness

These are just a few examples of rampant self-delusion in the world today. There are many more examples--and, of course, self-delusion is not restricted to either the political left or right. Nevertheless, it is the rampant self-delusion of the political left that particularly concerns me because of the serious negative repercussions their denial is having on the course of the war on terror.

When dealing with well-defended and intellectually dishonest people like many of those on the current political left, one of the refrains commonly heard when you point out their defense to them, is that it is not they who are in denial about reality--it is you! It is not they who are projecting, it is you! It is not they who fail to see the danger, it is you!

They point out that, while you may think you are living in a democracy; you are wrong! The U.S. under Bush is the equivalent--even worse perhaps--than the Germans under Hitler (see here, for example). Or, they may point out that you may think that Islam is a problem, but what about the Christian right in this country who intend to establish a Christian theocracy any moment now?

If you cannot see these things, the "reality-based" community says, then it is you who are deluding yourself.

For some it is simply a matter of opinion whether or not a person is out of touch with reality; and their opinion is just as good as yours, thank you very much.
But let's examine that interesting perspective (usually conveyed with a sneer, as in: "That's just your opinion.")

Clearly, the first prerequisite when accusing someone of engaging in self-delusion is that one must accept that there is an objective reality, external and independent to one's self, one's beliefs, or one's emotions/feelings. Without such a fundamental epistomological foundation, it is completely meaningless to accuse anyone of self-delusion, althought this limitation appears not to bother the postmodern intellectuals of the left.

As they wallow in the latest preferred form of social subjectivism and moral relativism, it is perfectly "reasonable" (if that is the word) from their perspective to impute delusion to others--even if every time they do so, they effectively demonstrate the invalidity of their own philosophy!

If truth is relative and there is no objective reality, then anything I say is just as valid as anything they say. That is why it is so amusing to observe their appropriation of the term "reality-based community" -- when they don't believe in any reality except for their own feelings.

It gets excessively wearisome to constantly point out to them that there is a world that exists outside the inside of their heads and beyond the realm of their emotions. The entire purpose of reason and our cognitive faculties --which are dismissed as unimportant in comparison to our emotional faculties--is about understanding that world.

Their social subjectivism posits that our minds are disconnected from reality to begin with. How then is it possible for them to accuse anyone of "self-delusion" when that is what they define as the fundamental state of humanity? All that exists are different and equivalent points of view.

And that is the philosophical basis of the cult of multiculturalism and the politically correct relativism that they consistently espouse. All cultures are equally deserving of respect; but, Western cultures--as exemplified by America and Israel-- are uniquely destructive and bad and the source of all the evil in the world.

That is why I have some disgruntled commenters on my blog who can insist that I am "sick" for supporting Israel's right to exist and defend herself. And that it is therefore "reasonable" to think of simply eliminating this "source of evil" and all the problems of the world will magically cease to exist. Of course, they wouldn't want anything violent to happen to the Jews--just evacuate them! Which isn't much different from what the Iranian president--that eminently reasonable person-- is proposing. It is just a matter of deciding where to "evacuate" them to. Perhaps another plane of existence would be satisfactory?

You see, people like the commenter above feel they can get away with their outrageous statements simply because they don't have to deal with external reality --if they feel it, particularly if they feel it passionately, it must be true and good.

Consider the case of two children, inexperienced with the concepts of causation or personal responsibility, or even truth; who, when confronted with a broken lamp and a baseball accuses each accuses the other of blame("You broke that lamp!" "No, you broke it!" "No, you did!" and so on). Those who do not believe in an external reality--or personal responsibility or truth --may freely throw such accusations at each other, each accusing the other of distortion and blindness.

How fortunate that the cognitive capabilities of mature adults enable them to determine causation--even if that concept eludes many. Just a short series of questions are asked and answers collected-- Who threw the ball that broke the lamp? Whose muddy fingerprints are on the ball? What direction did it come from? Who was in the place where the ball was thrown; were there any witnesses?-- and, in the example of the broken lamp, truth is fleshed out and responsibility assigned.

For all children--and sadly, many adults these days-- "reason" is nothing more than an artistic, individually-created process where "anything goes"; and which is disconnected from any cognition or perception.

Most artists, for example, depend on access to both faculties--emotion and cognition. One would never appreciate this with the high number of Hollywood actors and actresses who completely shun the cognitive process in favor of solely using their creative and emotional process in understanding the world. This is not usually important, except insofar as such individuals are looked up to and given almost godlike status. Nevertheless, they really only cause a lot of trouble when they try to make others accept their--shall we say--creative interpretations of reality? Truly brilliant artists who stand the test of time are exactly the ones who have subjugated their creativity to reason, and managed to bring forth a work of art that is meaningful to others, as well as themselves. If they cannot do this, they never amount to anything more than a second- or third-rate artist, irrespective of medium.

As I have mentioned in previous discussions, children in particular, tend to use the more "primitive" psychological defenses, because their minds are not yet mature enough for optimal cognitive functioning.

As they grow and mature both physically and mentally, they do not need to lose that creative process that utilizes their emotions as perceptual tools -- they only need to learn to subordinate it to their cognitive faculties.

How does this relate to "self-delusion"? When both sides are convinced that the other side is deluding themselves, it becomes extremely important that SOME ADULT SOMEWHERE examine the external reality and follow a process of reason to assess the truth. (An outstanding example of this process is here)

Much as the postmodern political left would like to believe that they have exclusive rights to the truth, they have actually dealt themselves out of any contest for discovering truth by insisting that truth is relative. If it IS relative, they they must agree that I am as correct in what I think as they are.

OTOH, if truth is NOT relative, but exists outside of whatever one side or the other feels is true, then by all means, let's get down to the evidence which will prove which side is correct.

I'm game.

UPDATE: "It isn't especially interesting"--the comments of someone who isn't the least bit interested in the truth because "it doesn't change the basic narrative at all." Why am I not shocked?

No comments: