Monday, July 7, 2014

Conscience, A Sense Unrecognized

There are plenty of people in this world who will assert that good and evil have no objective reality.

Some of them are materialists, who believe that human beings, and all other living creatures, are merely meat-machines, driven by our biology to survive at any cost. Morality, for them, is at best, a utilitarian affair, a socially convenient illusion. "Evolution", according to the materialist paradigm, is purely about survival. Survival of the "fittest", is the only "good" that matters. In other words: might makes right.

Some of them are followers of religious cults, who believe that goodness is defined by the will of their deity, as laid out in His best-selling books. Why? Because their deity is ultimately powerful; and therefore, who are we puny mortals to question His judgement? If He says sexually mutilating babies is the moral thing to do, then by golly, that's good enough for them! If their deity, (through His earthly representatives of course)) mandates a genocide, they will carry it out and sleep soundly during and after. Because might makes right.

Some of them drank the new-age kool-aid. They've been sold the idea that there's no such thing as evil, because it's all good! (Apart from the deplorable practice of thinking negative thoughts, that is.) Everything is perfect, so whatever is, is what should be. If the strong torment the weak, it might look like evil, but it's really only the out-working of karma or voluntary soul agreements. One should never give it any attention, or attempt to stop it, because then you'd be giving it energy and opening a door to those unacceptable negative thoughts. I feel sorry for these frightened bunnies. Their beliefs are so contradictory and incoherent. They deny the existence of objective morality, so "might makes right" is never really affirmed or denied. Nor could it be, because that would be judgemental. (Judgement being another exception to the it's-all-good rule.)

At the extreme end of the, objective morality-denying, spectrum are the moral nihilists, generally known as "Satanists", who not only affirm, but adore, the principle of "might makes right". These incredibly deviant individuals believe that, not only do the strong have a right to torment the weak, but that they should do so, to the ultimate extent possible, as a "spiritual" practice. These people currently rule the world.

All of these groups, as a matter of policy, either openly affirm, or fail to denounce, "might makes right". From every side, it is upheld. It's the reason so few are allowed to take so much from so many. We have to use money to reward the "fit" and punish the "unfit", because "might makes right". It's the idea that goodness is defined by the decree of authority; and that, authority, rightly belongs to the strongest. "If the many did not submit to the domination of the few, all would be chaos!", so "might makes right".

Might makes right.

It's either true, or it isn't.

It's no use flopping around, pretending that it sometimes is, and sometimes isn't. Where do you draw that line? And by what criteria? If not might, what does make right?

There is only one thing that can stand against the assertion that "might makes right". It's CONSCIENCE. Every other argument against "might makes right" ultimately depends on conscience. By "conscience", I don't mean: a set of internalized rules from one's culture. I mean the inner certainty, regardless of what one was taught, no matter what authority mandates or condones it, that torturing children is wrong. That knowledge arises from within, and nowhere else, yet there is nothing arbitrary about it. People who base their moral judgement on conscience are remarkable for their spontaneous unanimity. All people of conscience uphold these characteristics of goodness:
Kindness
Compassion
Fairness
Truthfulness
Generosity
Gratitude
Freedom
Furthermore, all people of conscience denounce these things as evil:
Cruelty
Callousness
Injustice
Deceitfulness
Greed
Destructiveness
Domination/submission

I might not be able to put my assertions before a court of law or a research scientist, But I know that no one blessed with a conscience of their own, and a lick of common sense, is going to disagree. Even most people whose awareness of conscience has been rendered dis- or non- functional, through various means, would not dispute those lists. It is laughably disingenuous to demand legal or scientific proof for something so self-evident. It's like asking for proof that grass is green. This consensus exists because conscience is a sense, just like sight or hearing. Just as we're all in general agreement about what we see with our eyes, we also all generally agree about what we KNOW with conscience. It does what all senses do; it interprets vibration within a given frequency range. Like every other sense, it can atrophy with lack of use. Like every other sense, its acuity varies, but it is commonly present. And just as a few are born, or became deaf or blind, a few lack the sense of conscience. Some of those were born without it, or they lost it as a result of brain-injury. They're called primary psychopaths. Primary psychopathy is analogous to total blindness, the physical inability of the eyes to respond to light. Some became that way through emotional trauma; they're called sociopaths (although, not all sociopaths lack conscience). Sociopathy is analogous to extreme myopia or "hysterical blindness". All psychopaths, and many sociopaths, have no functioning sense of conscience.

As I said before, conscience is the only thing that can, and does, absolutely refute the belief that "might makes right". A person who lacks the sense of conscience has no inner defense against that belief. He has only two options:
1.) He could take note of his deficit, and decide it's to his advantage to be guided by "the rules", of civil law or religion (unless he was pretty sure he could get away with something). He would idolize those sets of rules, and consider unquestioning obedience to them, absolutely necessary to maintain social order.
2.) He could decide that his freedom from conscience was a great blessing, and proceed to take full advantage of the silly fools who are bound by it.  He may, or may not, believe that people with conscience are delusional or faking. "Might makes right!", he would cry. I'm willing to do absolutely anything to get what I want. I am the fittest of them all!

Just as a blind person is able to experience through his other senses, often more keenly because of his blindness, those without conscience can still appreciate some social values that are not tied to morality per se. One of these is orderliness. It appears that conscience-less people often attach more importance to orderliness than a normal person would. Orderliness is one of the commonest justifications of "might makes right". It is asserted that, if the few did not rule over the many, chaos would ensue. Most people with impaired or non-existent conscience have no more wish to see a break-down of social order than anyone else. They are understandably convinced that "Mad Max"-style mayhem would inevitably follow. For social order to achieve maximal stability and efficiency, they believe it must have a single head (one world government). They believe that social order has to be artificially imposed. They believe all these things because they lack the sense-faculty, conscience, that allows for spontaneous order among humans. It's too bad they've managed to get so many people to share their baseless fear. It has created the risk of a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Most of the people in the first three groups mentioned earlier, do not lack the sense of conscience. As disfunctional as our civilization is, it would be much worst if they did. They have, instead, been conditioned to believe that the source of conscience lies outside themselves. Psychopaths know they're different. A long time ago, the cleverest of them figured out that their best chance of success lay in convincing the rest of us to see the world as they do, in order to render their own deficits invisible. They've been very successful. Only very recently have a very few begun to take notice of their existence. Even so, the most important implications have been largely missed because a missing sense of conscience has not been recognized as the defining feature of the disorder.

The main tool, currently being used for diagnosis, is Robert Hare's Psychopathy Checklist. It is, unfortunately, a dangerously flawed tool. It works well for identifying sociopaths, but not psychopaths. Unlike many other diagnostic checklists, it doesn't rank its twenty items according to importance, but assigns them all equal weight. That's a mistake, because only two of the twenty items are essential features of psychopathy: "lack of remorse or guilt" and "callous/lack of empathy". The remaining eighteen items are inessential and secondary traits. In other words, if a person displayed every one of the twenty features apart from the two essential ones, he would be a sociopath, but not a psychopath. If he displayed just those two, and no others, he still would be a psychopath, but he would entirely escape detection through this diagnostic tool. To make matters worse, the list was developed through studies of prison populations. As a result, some of the items are probably not features of psychopathy/sociopathy at all, but rather, features of the ones who end up in prison; "impulsivity" and "poor behavior controls", for example. If any other psychological disorder (eg. autism or schizophrenia) were studied only within prisons, would you really expect an accurate picture to emerge?

We don't have much hope of properly understanding and dealing with psychopathy, unless the central role of missing conscience is acknowledged. That can't really happen until we're able to face the fact that conscience is a sense, and like every other sense, it is designed to perceive a shared and objective reality. The perceptions of conscience can certainly be distorted or unclear, but so can those of any other sense. Nobody claims on the basis of this, that when I assert that the grass outside is green, it's just my personal opinion! How is it that, a sense that most people share, is not recognized as being a sense?

Conscience differs from the five physical senses in one important respect: the information it perceives does not pertain to the material realm. It pertains to the moral realm, which materialists believe has no objective existence. That makes the recognition of conscience, as a sense, a hard sell for materialists. Materialism is the dominant paradigm in academia today.
The major religious cults are not much more open to the idea, since their relevance and power would be diminished by its implications:
1. That morality is not synonymous with an internalized set of rules. It is rooted in an objective aspect of our reality that transcends the edicts of their pet deity.
2. That ordinary people are naturally qualified to tell the difference between moral right and wrong.

Almost everyone in this "civilization" has been successfully herded into one of those two camps; materialism and religion. They're frequently represented as the only two choices that exist. These two socially powerful groups have a strong vested interest in suppressing the truth about conscience. Also, it is the suppression of that truth which has allowed psychopaths to go unrecognized and, by utilizing their advantage of utter ruthlessness, to amass untold wealth and power- those "mighty", who claim to make right. They stand to lose even more, if the truth were known.

It really is tragic. It's like "The Emperor's New Clothes" in reverse. People are seeing something and pretending not to see; even convincing themselves that it isn't really there. And yet, there it is! Apart from the exceptions noted above,,,


You know. Don't you? That's what the sense of conscience does. It knows. You might not have realized it until now, but you know. Sometimes you just don't notice something, like a very faint noise for instance, until someone with keener perception points it out, but once it has been pointed out, you do notice. If we could admit that we know, we couldn't be fooled and ruled so easily. Every lie requires at least two people; one to tell it, and one to believe it.

You know what the truth is. Even though everyone told you that you were mistaken. "Naive." "Too idealistic." Most of them believed it too. Maybe you were punished when what you knew turned out to be against "the rules". The people who forget that they know, are lucky, in a way; the same way blind people who live in ugly environments are lucky not to have to see them. But many people are never really sure if what they know is true or not. It's not easy to trust your own experience when everyone around you is in a state of committed denial. It's a form of "gas-lighting", and I think it's an important aspect of the "depression" epidemic. I know it was in my own case. I had let other people almost convince me that there was something wrong with me because of what I know. It was only when I resolved to trust and honour that knowing, that I was able to heal myself. That was more difficult than it might sound. I had to put my foot down hard against the enormous weight of dominant cultural belief-systems. I had to say, "I'm not crazy; the world is!" and mean it. I don't even know if I could have managed it if it hadn't been a matter of life or death. Nobody should berate themselves for having succumbed to manipulation of that intensity, on such a scale.

All the physical senses are capable of sending pain/pleasure signals to the brain. They send pain signals in response to threat. For example, if you put your hand in boiling water, it hurts. The pain is there to warn you that damage is being caused to your skin. A very loud noise hurts your ears; the pain warns you that your ears are being damaged. That is the purpose of all pain. It's a warning that says, "STOP! damage is occurring!"
Pleasure signals are at the other end of the spectrum. They are there to let you know when optimal conditions exist within the vibratory range of a given sense. Vibrant physical health feels wonderful. Music gives pleasure to the ears. Visual beauty gives pleasure to the eyes. We don't know why. We do know that beauty, or its absence, has an significant effect on our health and well-being. What we call "beauty" could be defined as: optimal conditions within a given vibratory range. "Optimal conditions" vary somewhat from one person to another. I dislike country music, but other people like it. That's because we each embody our own unique vibratory patterns, and how we react to a stimulus is affected by how the two fields interact. On the other hand, nobody enjoys the sound of a jack-hammer.

Conscience is a sense. It too, sends pain/pleasure signals to the brain. The intensity of those signals, and the specific forms they take, vary as with any other sense. It's not something people usually talk about, except in passing. I have only a vague idea of what other people experience, but I can try to describe my own. I'll start with the pleasure signals. I experience these whenever I am involved in, or witness to, any of the items in the first list, above: Kindness, Compassion, Fairness, Truthfulness, Generosity, Gratitude, Freedom. Some of the pleasure signals are emotional: joy, affection, admiration, thankfulness, wonder. Some signals are physical. Those include: a feeling of very pleasurable warm expansion in the centre of the chest, a lump in the throat and/or the urge to cry from gratitude, an increased feeling of vitality, the urge to smile or laugh as an expression of delight, generalized warmth and relaxation. The pleasure signals I've listed will be recognizable as effects of beauty in general. No surprise, since their triggers also represent optimal conditions within a given vibratory range.

Then there are the pain signals. I experience these whenever I am involved in, or witness to, any of the items in the second list above: Cruelty, Callousness, Injustice, Deceitfulness, Greed, Destructiveness, Domination/submission. Again, many of the pain signals are emotional ones: anger, sadness, revulsion, anguish, horror, shame, remorse. Some are physically felt: adrenaline surge, a feeling of having been punched in the solar plexus, nausea, dizziness, crawling skin sensation, hot or cold pressure in the head, aching pain in the center of the chest and palms of the hands, the urge to cry or scream. I don't usually experience all of those at the same time. It depends on the situation and on which emotional states are strongest. It isn't an on/off sort of thing. Intensity varies from mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful, again, depending on the situation. Those feelings might sound like something to be avoided. However, it's very important to recall the purpose of pain here: a warning. STOP! Damage is occurring! I believe it would be a dangerous mistake to try to suppress them. It is far better to let them come, and respond appropriately to whatever caused them.

The pain/pleasure signals I've described, are the reason I've never really understood the whole heaven/hell and karma thing. Posthumous rewards and punishment just seem superfluous as incentives to moral conduct, when I'm getting this kind of feedback in real time. I have no idea how widespread sensations like these are. I wish I did. I only know they can't be universal or this world would be a different sort of place. My best guess is that most people experience them to some degree, but they have been encouraged to mistrust, and therefore, disregard and suppress the information. With time it grows fainter, atrophying from lack of use. The trend in that regard is not encouraging, and that way lies extinction or worse. We must find some way of turning it around. "The rules" just don't cut it. We've had those for thousands of years. Only conscience can stand against "might makes right". If it were recognized to be a sense, people might respect it more because all senses exist for a good reason.

7 comments:

  1. great post :) Conscience v Psychopathy. It is becoming more and more clear that our system of "civilisation" is actually a barbarity that fosters the ascent to power of ruthless psychopaths - in the guise of "great leaders" and "heroes". I was just watching a documentary on Lance Armstrong - good example! However most are never shamed in public. This system cannot now be fixed - it is too far gone. Thankfully it is disintegrating. What we can do is to ensure that what replaces it is much more fit for purpose - that is, based on virtue, and thereby on conscience. This will happen naturally IMO. We are innately virtuous. We simply have to become our true selves. When we change ourselves, we also change the world.

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    1. Thanks Ian.
      Just planting seeds in the noosphere, hoping they sprout.
      (-;.

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  2. This is a good 'take' on the matter. The idea that there are phenomena which can be detected by Mind but not by Machine (yet?) is anathema to certain kinds of scientist who should know better. In architecture, Christopher Alexander has devoted a career to the idea that there is such a thing as 'good' design, which because it cannot (yet?) be detected by any mechanism we possess is denied by most architects, leading to the ruination of the built environment. The entire field of ESP stems from the simple idea that our mind can detect things which our mechanisms cannot (yet?). And what is wrong with that idea? Maybe the mind is a mechanism. But do we understand it? Well, some would say 'yes', but I think that's foolish.

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    1. Hi speedbird.
      Some of the things that mainstream "science" believes are totally incompatible with actual science; like the idea that direct observations should be disregarded if their mechanism is unknown. Would they have denied the existence of gravity before Issac Newton explained it? Probably. When evidence doesn't conform with what they BELIEVE, they disregard the evidence. A real scientist would adjust his beliefs. Science has been hijacked by Scientism, which is nothing but a cult.
      I am surprised to hear that most architects would deny the beneficial effect of harmonious form on living beings though. That just seems so palpably obvious. One of the best examples of "good" design I know of is the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. Whenever I walk into the lobby of that building I always feel instantly relaxed and wonderful.

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  3. The cult of Scientism indeed. It was something of a coming-of-age moment for me when I finally realised that you can't use the scientific method to justify the scientific method. And correlation without a known mechanism should be an invitation to wonder; any other reaction suggests a vested interest in the status quo. And Christopher Alexander is awesome, though you don't get a whole heap of friends when you stand up in public and accuse most members of your profession of 'f[oul]ing up the world'.

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  4. This is such a terrific post! Thank you is all I need to say in reply! The best to you and yours always

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