Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Men cannot be made happy against their will." Ludwig Von Mises

"Men cannot be made happy against their will." Ludwig Von Mises.

Someone said: "Well who can? If your not happy, your not happy! I am trying to envision someone trying to force another to be happy. How would you do that. Hold his face in a permanent grin and tickle him? Feed him happy pills? Send telepathic messages to his mind of the happy kind?"

That quote is from _Liberalism: The Classical Tradition_, by Mises. He explained the fact that there were slaves that believed that they need masters. Why? Because those slaves were not only physical slaves, but spiritual slaves. They believed that having their master be in control of certain things, that leaves the slave to not have to worry about those things. They believed that they were intellectually inferior to their masters. This spiritual slave doesn't realize that if he were free, he could bring himself happiness. He doesn't know this because he's never experienced it, nor did he have a philosophical understanding of liberalism.

Whats interesting is that if you gave a spiritual slave his freedom (of no longer having a master), he wouldn't necessarily achieve happiness. Why? Because he doesn't know how to. His current preferences are bad and he doesn't know how to learn new preferences nor how to find/create good preferences -- since he's never really did it. Somebody who has lived his whole life having other people choose for him has not learned the skill of creating new preferences. And without that, happiness is impossible. Why? Because no one else can know what preferences would be right for you -- no one else can know what would bring you happiness.

This idea reaches to the parent-child relationship. Many parents routinely act against their child's will, thinking that they are doing it for the child's benefit, the benefit of happiness. The parent thinks that they know better than the child about what would bring happiness to the child. The parent thinks that he can make the child happy by raising him a certain way. But this is a mistake for the same reason that a slave should not have a master. (For more on the parent-child relationship.)

This idea also reaches to the romantic relationship. Some women expect their husbands to "make" them happy -- if the woman is not happy, then *he* is to blame. The woman is denying responsibility and trying to shift that responsibility to the man for something that the man has little to no control over. (I expect that these kinds of relationships generally occur only with women who were raised in sexist societies where the roles of husband and wife are analogous in many relevant ways to the roles of master and slave.) (For more on the romantic relationship. And here's some relevant discussion.)

This idea also reaches to morality and politics. Ayn Rand explains that the altruist doctrine and the socialist doctrine are doctrines of master and slave. (Here's a discussion about that.)

This idea also reaches to the situation of a single person, that is, a conflict of ideas within a single mind. Sometimes people try to force themselves to be happy, but it doesn't work. It doesn't work because in these situations they have one idea 
that the person is happy about, and it conflicts with another idea that the person is unhappy about (and sometimes this second idea is subconscious/inexplicit, meaning that the person is unaware of it explicitly). So how does one know that he has a subconscious idea conflicting with his conscious idea? Thats what emotions are for, like the gut feeling. A gut feeling indicates that you have a subconscious/inexplicit idea, and that it could be conflicting with a conscious idea.

So the person mistakenly thinks that the first idea can make him happy, when in reality it doesn't work because he has a conflicting idea doing the opposite. This is a problem, and all problems are soluble, so whats the solution? Or rather, how does one find the solution? By what process? At the start, both ideas are labeled false/inactive. By the end, the solution explains the flaws within both ideas and fixes the flaws of the (now true) idea, the one that he now fully agrees with, i.e. that he has no criticisms of. The solution also explains the criticisms of the rival (now false) ideas. (Here's an example of solving a problem of a conflict of ideas where one idea is represented by a value judgment and the other is represented by an emotion.)

Its important to note a common mistake people make which is to assume that either of the two ideas were true at the start of the process. Doing so means appealing to authority -- the authority of one of the ideas (or emotions). Judging ideas by authority (a form of justificationism) doesn't work because its an arbitrary method of determining the truth of ideas. It means making it harder to flush out and fix mistakes and consequently to more harm to the people afflicted by the mistakes -- therefore it is immoral.

A discussion on the symbiotic evolution of master and slave roles.

More ideas from _Liberalism: The Classical Tradition_, by Ludwig Von Mises.


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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Can science answer moral questions?

Can science answer moral questions? Sam Harris believes so, but he's wrong. Scientific theories are theories that can be ruled out with physical evidence, while moral theories (and philosophical theories) cannot be ruled out with physical evidence.

Sam Harris says that we do not have free will -- that we are not responsible. This is a moral issue, not a scientific one. Yet Sam Harris believes that science says we are not responsible and he cites some neurology studies that indicate that the brain makes decisions before the person is aware of those decisions. In other words, one's subconscious does some thinking before it serves the result to the conscious. And he says that this implies that we have no control over our thoughts. This, together with his false scientific theory that the Universe is deterministic, and with his false philosophical theory that all knowledge must be justified, leads Sam Harris to the conclusion that people are not responsible because the Big Bang made it so. So, he basically endorses destiny, but he has replaced God with the Universe. But, Harris is wrong on determinism and he is wrong on justificationism (the philosophical theory that all knowledge must be justified).

Consider that one's subconscious is a set of ideas that were conditioned. And that people have the capacity to change their conditioning (note that other animals do not have this capacity because they do not have the capacity for reason). People are responsible for their ideas and actions. They are responsible for improving their ideas and actions. They are responsible for improving their lives and the lives of the people they are responsible for (their children). Nothing is stopping them from accepting their responsibility and enacting change, except for the false belief that one is not responsible for his problems.

I believe that this is one of the worst psychological problems in existence today. Why? Because it works to prevent change of all of one's problems. If one believes he does not have the capacity to change himself, to solve his problems, then he will not work towards that end. Its a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is not to say that people who have this belief never solve their problems. Sometimes randomness is on their side and problems get solved in spite of their false belief.

My criticism of _Life Without Free Will_, by Sam Harris.


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