Friday, September 06, 2013

Cogntive Miser: I Want to Know What Love Is.

One of the things about cognitive misers not only do they "think" in terms of heuristics but also interpret data through them as well. Incoming data is "simplified" into broad impressions conforming to per-concieved notions rather than precise representations, bypassing System Two thinking.  Idea's tend to be grouped according to their similarity and are "best fit" into preconceived categories. The problem with this approach,is that the cognitive miser is apt to make certain predictable types of errors,  and one of the most significant type errors is that of conflation.

A conflation error occurs when two or more separate things are categorised as the same on the basis of a superficial semblance. To quote wiki.
Conflation occurs when the identities of two or more individuals, concepts, or places, sharing some characteristics of one another, seem to be a single identity — the differences appear to become lost. In logic, it is the practice of treating two distinct concepts as if they were one, which produces errors or misunderstandings as a fusion of distinct subjects tends to obscure analysis of relationships which are emphasized by contrasts. However, if the distinctions between the two concepts appear to be superficial, intentional conflation may be desirable for the sake of conciseness and recall.
The conflation error is of particular importance to religious conservatives since it is responsible for a great deal of moral destruction in Christianity.  The particular conflation in question is the mixing up of "good" and "nice" and "love".

As mentioned in my previous post, the Christian notion of love is different to what mainstream notions of love are. Caritas, the specific type of Christian love, is rooted in the will and expressed as a desire to do good to others, irrespective of  one's emotional response to the other.  Christian love, Caritas, is essentially above emotion. You do good to the other regardless of how you feel about them.

On the other hand;  Eros, Agape, Philia and Storge are types of love which are fundamentally hedonic in nature, the nature of the pleasure being contextually dependent upon the perception of the other. It's easy to do good to people we have positive feelings for and this is how the pagans (and moderns) understood love. You did nice stuff for people that you liked and put the hurt on those you didn't.  The relevant passages from scripture can be found here.

Where the trouble begins is when your realise that there is actually an overlap between the two concepts. It is possible to express Caritas to people we like, thus it is possible to conflate Caritas with the positive feelings which we associate with sense of love.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that the English language has a rather limited vocabulary when it comes to expressing the different notions of love, they all tend to get lumped together.  Eros becomes erotic love, Storge becomes a sort of familial love and so on.

Finally, sloppy translations of the Bible don't help either, where the specific Greek words for types of love are lumped together under the English common word.

Peter Kreeft, in a good essay, explains the problem;
The old word for agape in English was charity. Unfortunately, that word now means to most people simply handouts to beggars or to the United Fund. But the word love won't do either. It means to most people either sexual love (eros) or a feeling of affection (storge), or a vague love-in-general. Perhaps it is necessary to insist on the Greek word agape (pronounced ah-gah-pay) even at the risk of sounding snobbish or scholarly, so that we do not confuse this most important thing in the world with something else and miss it, for there is enormous misunderstanding about it in our society.
Perceptive readers will see where this is going. Love, in the Christian tradition is a specific thing, and a fair amount of discernment is required when tackling the subject. The problem arises when the subject of love gets tackled by the cognitive miser. Love is likely conflated with its associates. Recently, the Prime Minister of Australia quite spectacularly demonstrated an example of a cognitive miser tackling the subject of the New Testament in the context of gay marriage. (The fun stuff starts at the 3.00 minute mark)


According to the Australian PM, the central tenet of the new Testament is all about "love." Now being a Catholic, I'm allowed a bit more latitude in interpreting the Bible, but even with a very liberal reading I'm hard pressed to find anything less than a condemnation of homosexuality.  But you see, it doesn't matter according to our cognitive miser, as long as you "wuv" then you're in God's good books. You've got to admit that he is typical of a lot of modern "Christians".

Christian cognitive misers are prone to conflate the subject of love, because they interpret biblical teaching to their preconceived love heuristic. In their minds, Christian love morphs from a desire to do good (Caritas) to the other into a desire to have benevolent feelings for the other. Jesus is thus transformed from a moral law giver into a "nice feelings type of guy". Nice guy Jesus doesn't make any demands, he doesn't judge, rather, he is accepting non judgmental, he's always helpful and so on. He becomes like a mother who can see no fault in her son because she "loves" him.  Our Lord overlooks everything because he wants everyone to be happy.

The conflation error doesn't follow any set pattern rather is influence by the presence of other heuristics. The high Anglicans (Episcopalians) with their traditions of gentlemanly class and behaviour, in the current liberal climate, through cognitive miserliness, will morph Jesus into a type of nice guy with good manners, who would never dream of giving offence.  Ergo, modern liberalism. Amongst Catholics, the conflation error is also responsible for the "gospel of life" crowd being against the death penalty and the embrace of militant pacifism and open borders.

Likewise, the conflation error is a strong enabling mechanism for the whole gay marriage push. Amongst the half-wits, their "understanding" of marriage needs to seen not as an understanding but more as an associative heuristic. Hard arsed theologians will point out that marriage is a spiritual union between two people, cognitive misers associate it as an arrangement of two people who love each other living together. Thus marriage becomes morphs from a sacrament into a "loving union" in the hive mind. Love, not the blessing of God, becomes the sole determinant of its validity. In the hive mind as long as it looks like a marriage it is a marriage.

Catholicism is less prone to conflation errors simply because Catholicism does not permit the faithful to think, their job is to follow. Therefore the quality of thinking is better, but this is no guarantee against the clergy being dumb. Where the conflation error has wrecked the most harm is in Protestant countries. In Protestant culture, the cognitive miser is given special privilege because "filled with genetically influenced intuitive emotion "the Holy Spirit" he is inerrant in his interpretation of the Bible.  That's not to say that Protestants are incapable of good theology, rather their system has no check upon the bad.

The point of all this is to show that cognitive errors are more than just objects of academic interest but are powerful forces shaping our culture.  Liberalism's malignant variant is a direct product of hive mind that is characterised by the  dominance of the cognitive miser. The legitimisation of the opinion of the hive mind brought about by universal democracy has not only brought about a corruption in governance but a corruption in religion and culture  as well.

15 comments:

neutrino-cannon said...

"That's not to say that Protestants aren't incapable of good theology"


I'm reasonably sure that's a typo.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Neutrino Canon

Thanks. Fixed.

Cane Caldo said...

"That's not to say that Protestants aren't incapable of good theology"

I kind of liked it that way. It reminded me of:

I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve!

These cognitive miser posts have been great.

Alejandro said...

1 of 2:
"Catholicism is less prone to conflation errors simply because Catholicism does not permit the faithful to think, their job is to follow. Therefore the quality of thinking is better, but this is no guarantee against the clergy being dumb." Your quoted statement implies that you believe higher intelligence and more developed cognitive processes come from clergy, not the masses. You seem to imply this is so because they're the clergy, and not the masses, a circular argument - they're the clergy because they're more intelligent, and they're more intelligent because they're the clergy.

You also suggest that the cognitive miser masses engage frequently in heuristics, conflation and other "associative afflictions", thus resulting in "liberalized" modes of thinking. But you don't say why it results in liberalized modes of thinking, you simply state that it does. You also state: "the conflation error is also responsible for the 'gospel of life' crowd being against the death penalty and the embrace of militant pacifism and open borders", but again, without any logical deduction behind it.

Here: "Likewise, the conflation error is a strong enabling mechanism for the whole gay marriage push. Amongst the half-wits, their "understanding" of marriage needs to seen not as an understanding but more as an associative heuristic." - Half-wits ey? Your disdain (and numerous typos with sloppy editing) aside, you state that their understanding of marriage needs to be seen as more of an associative heuristic. Why? and by whom? By those who only agree with you? And why would your vision of such be the only "correct vision" ? Again you state that it should be seen as an associative heuristic, but you don't say why.

"That's not to say that Protestants are incapable of good theology, rather their system has no check upon the bad. " Bad? What is "bad" exactly? Bad to whom?

"Liberalism's malignant variant is a direct product of hive mind that is characterised by the dominance of the cognitive miser.. " Again, you don't lay down premises laid out in logical steps, instead making daisy-chained conclusions, violating again the one clear rule of validity in arguments: http://bit.ly/1cTf9Zt

"The legimisation (sic) of the opinion of the hive mind bought (sic) about by universal democracy has not only bought (sic) about a corruption in governance but a corruption in religion and culture as well." You could take the word "Liberalism" in the prior paragraph and replace it with "Conservative", and many other people could come up with the very same conclusion. Why? Because there is no deduction going on, only conclusions from statements because, well just because. And that precisely is the problem.

Alejandro said...

2 of 2:
You also disparage intuition and other intelligence processes that do not necessarily take place in the mind, or that do take place in the mind but because they don't count as "system 2" processes to you, they're dismissed. "Hive mind" thinking's best example is how bees work. Bees are responsible for 80% of the food humans consume, yet you discount that type of "intelligence". Who are you to discount the intelligence of bees? Granted, hive mentality can be connected to group thinking, if you choose to. However it is also collective intelligence, which can be encouraged to overcome "groupthink" and individual cognitive bias as well. A proven, documented example (time and again) - take a very large jar and ask a crowd to guess the #. That average will be astoundingly accurate, and is an example of collective intelligence, which is very related (and perhaps synonymous) with "hive mind".

You disparage "heuristics". Trial and error is an example of such, so is common sense and intuition (see Gerd Gigerenzer's work on heuristics and eliminating most cognitive bias involved). So trial and error and intuition lead us to worse sociological conditions? Really? Again, you say so but don't lay out any premises to build your conclusion.

When you're not sure something is safe to eat, what do you do? You smell it. Even though there's an expiration date on the package, you still resort to your body to tell you if something is good or not. So don't discount your body's intelligence, because it also has one, aside from your mind, and is not necessarily any less valid, it's just different.

* "but even with a very liberal reading I'm hard pressed to find anything less than a condemnation of homosexuality." - Well yes, you, given the way YOU perceive the world around you, and the way YOU choose to interpret the bible, you ONLY see that the bible condemns homosexuality, and you see this as overriding ALL other examples in the bible that do not speak to condemning others who do you no harm. Your perception is ONLY YOUR truth, but it isn't necessarily THE truth for many others who do not think/believe/perceive like you do. Just because they are different, does not make them wrong. You blog as if you engage in critical thinking, but when you believe - YOUR way is the "only way", what you're saying is "my way or the highway", "you're either with us or you're against us" - this is demonstrative of a "them vs us" mentality, this is groupthink, this is the lower form of conflation and heuristics which you precisely say you do not engage in though I also believe you don't realize it. This is cognitive dissonance, cloaked in flawed attempts at critical thinking jargon, leading you (and the reader) to believe that you are indeed engaging in critical thinking process, thus leading you to conservative conclusions. The problem is they're all circular.

You analyze your world around you in an either/or paradigm, as black and white, all or nothing. It's akin to a zero-sum mentality. The world is not that way. The physical world is not 1's and 0's, it's analog, it's fuzzy logic. The digital world is, but the physical is not. The physical is both black AND white, or better yet, it's grey.

To conclude without fully structured supportive arguments, is merely conjecture, and perhaps hyperbole. People need to know how to distinguish real critical thinking from ensconced conjecture, hyperbole, bias, mere opinion and cognitive dissonance. Especially those who are going to blog about it, but don't know that what they're really promoting, is precisely that which they condemn.

The Social Pathologist said...

You seem to imply this is so because they're the clergy, and not the masses, a circular argument

Ummmmm......No.

You see, moral pronouncements by the clergy are usually scrutinised by theologians, people who think about morals a lot. Therefore, there is usually more rigor in their thinking as opposed to the average man when asked about their opinion on morals. It's not about them being clergy as much as it is about them putting more thought into the subject than the average layman.

But you don't say why it results in liberalized modes of thinking, you simply state that it does

I suggest you re read the post. The basis of morality in a cognitive miser are their feelings about the subject. i.e Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is not conservative.

you state that their understanding of marriage needs to be seen as more of an associative heuristic. Why?

Because that's the way it is.

Again you state that it should be seen as an associative heuristic, but you don't say why.

People judge on appearances. If it looks like a marriage for most people it is a marriage. Try Googling "marriage is just a piece of paper". The religious component is irrelevant to the average mind.

Note. This blog asserts that marriage is a sacramental union between man an woman. traditional and Biblical understanding.

BTW, why do people stereotype?

Bad? What is "bad" exactly? Bad to whom?

Did you stumble here by accident? This blog doesn't do moral relativism. It upholds the idea that there is objective good and bad as understood in the traditional Christian sense.

You could take the word "Liberalism" in the prior paragraph and replace it with "Conservative",

Read my post on alpha socialism.

Again, you don't lay down premises laid out in logical steps, instead making daisy-chained conclusions, violating again the one clear rule of validity in arguments:

1) System 1 thinking is "feelings" based.
2) In System 1 thinking, "feelings" determine the rightness or wrongness of the actions.
3) Utilitarianism is the morality of feelings.
4) Therefore system 1 thinking is utilitarian in nature.
5) Utilitarianism is a malign outgrowth of liberalism.

Capish?

The Social Pathologist said...

You also disparage intuition and other intelligence processes .

Putting words in my mouth. A logician like yourself should know better. Where exactly have I said that system 1 thinking doesn't have its uses?

The problem with system 1 thinking is that while it may be perfectly suitable for the easy and obvious problems of day to day life, it tends to fail when subtle distinctions need to be made or when complex issues are at stake.
Politics and morality are hard.

I don't disparage heuristics as much as recognise their limitations.

So trial and error and intuition lead us to worse sociological conditions? Really? Again, you say so but don't lay out any premises to build your conclusion.

Where exactly have I said it? (about the trial and error heuristic), Quotes please.

You also state: "the conflation error is also responsible for the 'gospel of life' crowd being against the death penalty and the embrace of militant pacifism and open borders", but again, without any logical deduction behind it.

Because my readership is not usually so "impaired".

Let me help you out.

The Bible clearly permits capital punishment. However the "right to life" crowd, who are usually Christian, conflate all forms of killing as the same. Therefore they oppose capital punishment even though it is approved in the Bible.
Does this help?

Just because they are different, does not make them wrong

Stalin and Pol Pot would have disagreed with me, does that make them right? Sometimes it really isn't that hard.

You analyze your world around you in an either/or paradigm, as black and white, all or nothing. It's akin to a zero-sum mentality. The world is not that way. The physical world is not 1's and 0's, it's analog, it's fuzzy logic. The digital world is, but the physical is not. The physical is both black AND white, or better yet, it's grey.


Right. Now we're getting to the nitty gritty. If everyone's truth is relative there is no objective truth. That's logic not my opinion.
Note, the subjectivity of the truth is a different matter but the existence of the truth is not.


Your perception is ONLY YOUR truth, but it isn't necessarily THE truth for many others who do not think/believe/perceive like you do

If reality is X then those who hold -X are wrong. That's also logic.

Grey is for people who can't see black or white. You see, most things are black or white if you push the issue, notice the subtleties, or make an effort to make distinctions. Complex issues tend to be those where our emotions are in conflict with our reason.

Then, of course, there are prudential judgements. Here, there are no right or wrong courses of action, rather, a judgement on the best trade-offs between competing interests. To the uninformed mind these may appear to be grey but are black and white to the wise man.

Well yes, you, given the way YOU perceive the world around you, and the way YOU choose to interpret the bible, you ONLY see that the bible condemns homosexuality, and you see this as overriding ALL other examples in the bible that do not speak to condemning others who do you no harm.

Can you find me a passage in the Bible which celebrates homosexuality? I'd be in a bit of a bind if you could.

You see, from my perspective, I don't really care who you or your homosexual friends have relationships with. But what matters is what God thinks of such matters.

Because;
1) If there is a God and
2) that God has an eternal unchanging nature, and
3)that eternal unchanging nature has definite opinion on homosexuality, and
4) if that opinion is negative and prejudicial to those who practice it.

Then homosexuality is objectively wrong, regardless our opinions on the matter. (Unless God is capable of error) Can you follow that?

The Social Pathologist said...

Finally, I'll conceded that my writing is bad, part of the reason is because I suffer from dyslexia which gets worse at particular times. I'm particularly prone to atomic typos. I quite literally don't see the mistake until its pointed out to me, sometimes not even then. It used to be a real problem in maths where I would drop mathematical operators.

I'll correct the errors. Anyone else that finds them is welcome to chime in.

But I'm more about the ideas than the writing.

The Social Pathologist said...

As if to prove the point.

Finally, I'll conceded that my writing is bad, part of the reason is because I suffer from dyslexia which gets worse at particular times.

Should be

Finally, I'll conceded that my writing is bad. Part of the reason is because I suffer from dyslexia which gets worse at particular times.

MarcusD said...

What I find particularly interesting (and ironic) is that the concept of "cognitive miser" was developed by Susan Fiske, the same person who helped develop one of the best examples of academic cognitive miserliness, the "Ambivalent Sexism Inventory."

Jack said...

One more, Soc: I think perhaps you mean to concede with no d. Your writing skill is commendable.

Jack

The Social Pathologist said...

Thanks Jack. The brain was really mushy that day.

mdavid said...

Now being a Catholic, I'm allowed a bit more latitude in interpreting the Bible, but even with a very liberal reading...

I don't see this. Catholics are limited in how they interpret Scripture, while protestants are not in any way; they have no authority to answer to but themselves. However, for a Catholic to remain Catholic he acknowledges limits to his interpretation as part of his very belief system. A protestant merely chooses the flavor of Christianity that best fit his interpretation.

The Social Pathologist said...

@mdavid.

With regard to my latitude I'd just like to make several points.

Firstly, the Church is the official interpreter of the Bible but it does not mean it has made definitive interpretations on every issue. Ongoing revelation and the findings of science and the insights of reason still give room for doctrinal developement.

Secondly, there is the issue of conscience. The Catholic still has some legitimate room to move when it comes to non definitive issues. Benedict, I think, quite emphatically stated that Catholics can legitimately disagree with the church on certain issues such as the legitimacy of the death penalty.

Basically there is still a lot of room to move within the Catholic Church. With regard to the Homosexual issue, even if I wasn't a Catholic, there's no way that I can generate an approval of it from even a liberal reading of the Biblical text. The find an approval of homosexuality one has to assume and Orwellian interpretation of the text, i.e., where words mean the opposite of what is written.

The Social Pathologist said...

The find an approval of homosexuality

Should be,

"To find approval.."