Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Some Thoughts On the Suppression of Agency by Displacement

Always, it now seems to me safe to say, in trying to explain agency away, materialists merely displace agency onto inanimate objects. A suppressive, barely conscious, occulted mental disposition.

Criminals are fully aware of advantages to the therapeutic and sociological bent of modernity. It pervades their own accounts of their behavior. Eichmann, for example, argued that he was just following orders. It was the system that was broken. He was not responsible.

One has to ask to what extent such “non-responsible” explanations of human behavior undermine behaving responsibly, by moving the onus off the competent agent onto objects now mystically endowed with the agents’ power. This has been a recurrent theme for materialists of various brands: the Marxist historical-sociological determinism being an example and the tendency to anthropomorphize genes and “memes” as determining agents being another. Those taught by these doctrines are encouraged to think of human behavior as something caused purely by outside forces. Concepts necessary for self-discipline are subsequently eroded, while any deleterious effect is loudly denied.

One example of the inculcation of passive, sheep-like self identity is the use of the term ‘consumer’, or, in other words, ‘blind mouths’. A critic of Christianity might point out its stress on obedience and the identity of being “the people of his pasture”, but there is a difference between being obedient and easily led by a God who is understood as being above every man, and thinking in terms of societal organizations which are ultimately in the hands of individuals. If an individuals ultimate dut, a duty which trumps every other duty, is to God, then his obedience to other men and women must always be mitigated by this higher fealty. Not so in social contracts, etc. By exalting a system to the level of primary cause, do we subtly exalt the systematizers?

“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” -Proverbs 25:28

“ People know life as a series of choices. Sometimes a choice has no clear outcome; in such cases, people make their best guess. Yet, even when guessing, people make the choice themselves. By robbing people of the desire to think and act differently, or robbing them of the ability to see the consequences of their actions, Artificial Happiness makes the choices for them. Whether it pushes them toward inaction, freezing them in their present circumstances no matter how noxious those circumstances might be, or conceals from them the outcome of different choices, Artificial Happiness disrupts the natural decision-making process by which people navigate life. Doctors abet this paralysis of mind by pushing drugs, alternative medicine, and obsessive exercise. They also contribute to the phenomenon by getting people to see unhappiness as something separate from life. This mind-set prepares people to seek or receive Artificial Happiness. A case told to me by a prison psychiatrist illustrates how far people have taken this attitude. In jail for robbery and second-degree murder, one of the psychiatrist’s patients complained of low self-esteem. The psychiatrist responded, “You have low self-esteem? Of course you have low self-esteem. You’re a murderer and a thief!” The psychiatrist complained that too many of his patients these days saw self-esteem as something disconnected from life and to be given out in the form of a pill. To the extent that people today uncouple happiness from life, they are merely following the doctors’ lead, while the doctors themselves fall into the clutches of this logic after several decades of faulty reasoning.
Doctors once saw unhappiness as something embedded in life. In the late 1960s, during the medical profession’s first crisis, doctors began to reflect on the mechanics of unhappiness. During the course of their reflections, their attention shifted, first from life to the brain, then from the brain to neurons, then from neurons to synapses, and finally from synapses to neurotransmitters. They concluded that the whole unhappiness problem lay in the neurotransmitters, which caused their entire understanding of life and happiness to be thrown out of gear. In a twisted way, they were right; their error led them to detach unhappiness from life and treat it separately. The public took the doctors’ message to heart; eventually the whole country’s deliberations on unhappiness lost their way. Because of this train of errors, Artificial Happiness is now the country’s favored solution to unhappiness, concealing from people a proper understanding of the relationship between happiness and life.” – Ronald W. Dworkin, Artificial Happiness: The Dark Side of the New Happy Class, p. 252-253.

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