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.