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Our Good Comes From Our Belief in Evil
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3/21/2016 3:44:29 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
I have struggled, all day, to put into words a very difficult concept, a concept not very popular with rationally-minded thinkers. The concept is very abstract and challenges the primacy of causality.
In debating someone, today, on the assumption morality was the product of the rational mind, my intuition begged to differ. The rational mind looks for reasons; it looks for cause and effect, and it assumes there is reason in which reason does not exist. In not finding reason, the rational mind will use correlations as though they were causally related. The classic example so often used in pharmacology is the placebo effect: The subject is given an inert treatment; the subject's condition starts to improve, and the subject assumes the correlation between the placebo and one's improved condition is causal, in nature. Many people believe there are causal relationships between their values and the things they value. As though one causes the other or vice versa. For instance, I value being alone. My value is an estimation, or appraisal, of being alone; it is an expression of that which it's worth to me.... At least, that was my assumption.
My estimation is not the cause of my being alone, and my being alone is not the cause of my estimation. The cause of my estimation is being not alone. In 1988, a glam metal group called Cinderella came out with a hit titled "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)". I used that title as a bit of wisdom many times in my life without really understanding its truth. Our values are not based on those things we desire but on the absence of those things. We cannot really appreciate something we have. Appreciation is determined not by the satisfaction of our needs but by our needs going unmet. For example, a classic illustration and one to which everybody can relate is the correlation between hunger and food. Hunger causes our desire for food; the value we give food is based on our desire for it. So, a lack of food, not food, itself, is the basis for our evaluation. Our desires for things are based on wanting those things. Therefore, our values are not determined by those things which we have but by those things which we want.
So often, we evaluate people based on their habits. We say someone is an honest person because he, or she, is in the habit of being honest. However, if we consider an individual with a very strong appetite, we would deduce the eater's habit of eating, profusely, does not come from the perception of being full but from the perception of having unmet desires. In other words, value is not based on a deficiency, itself, but, rather, a perception of a deficiency. The eater eats, profusely, not necessarily because the needs of one's body have gone unmet but because one has a misguided sense of hunger. The same is true about a habitually honest person. The individual is not in the habit of being honest because he, or she, perceives oneself as being too honest but rather because the individual perceives oneself as not being honest, enough. The inverse would be true of a habitually dishonest person or any other characteristic used to describe a person.
The assumptions we have made all along, by the use of intuition, are the beliefs we have in causal relationships between our values and those things which we value. However, just the opposite is true. We do not value being good because we believe we are good; we value being good because we believe we are evil.