Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ayn Rand's True concept of 'Selfishness'

Ayn Rand is thought of as opposing charity, friendship or good will, while encouraging selfishness.

But what was her Real concept of selfishness? What did she stand for and what was she against?

Certainly NOT what today's thick headed idiots think she did.
I am referring to persons such as Hitchens [Link] or this dude [Link] which says the following about her views:
"She thought that all the government programs, Medicare, social security etc' were for the weak, and that being selfish was the best thing you could do. Being altruistic and helping others she thought was evil".

Right, Ayn Rand; the exterminator of the weak.

Dude, what the hell is the matter with you? Are you really that stupid, too lazy to try to study someone' actual views or just finding it easier to attack a straw man? Yeah. Freakin' Liar. Aren't you tired of these?

Ayn Rand was not against friendship, family, love, gift-giving, providing help or charity to someone or doing something to make someone else's life better. She was not against taking out the garbage on your wife's turn when she is having a bad day and is tired. Ayn Rand had a very romantic view of love. She saw it as one of the highest experiences a man can have and she would certainly be motivated to give a lot of herself to those she loved.
Regarding charity: In her novel, Atlas Shrugged, the main character, Dagny Taggart offers a free meal and a ride to a homeless man that has boarded the train illegally. The reason she did is because the man appeared to have been a hard working man one time and she offered him charity out of respect for that.

So this may come as a shock to some idiots out there, but Ayn Rand was not fighting for the extermination of the weak and the prevalence of value-less sociopath gold diggers. She was also opposed to the type we consider "selfish" today, who has no moral values and would sell their own mother to slavery to make an extra penny.

Her concept of selfishness takes some attention to grasp and a moment of concentration and thinking. Something a lot of people are apparently incapable of doing nowadays. So listen up, jagheads, because I am about to explain what she really meant.


In her words;

"The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual “package-deal,” which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind.
In popular usage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment."
She does not approve of altruism either. Ayn Rand supported Rational Selfishness. This means a way of living in which a man takes the time to think about what is good for him or bad for him, both for the short term and the long term and chooses his values by thinking. It is a system in which his values are rational and required for human life, instead of values which are destructive, against the requirements of human life or are just senseless. 

She does NOT mean the commonly understood concept of selfishness, and that is the source of the confusion.

Ayn Rand thought that humans beings are a social creature, with love and friendship being a very important value. Her heroes were men of integrity who produced and traded for their existence, not robbed and deceived to get their hands on a pile of money. Like, hello? The guys that did do that were the villains. Didn't you read the book?
John Galt quit his job as an engineer to start a war again the world to provide a better world for the woman he loved. How many men do you know today who would take this course of action? They preach 'altruism' but no love is possible when one is being made to feel guilty for everything and when one is expected to deliver "love" as if they were a cow at a dairy farm.

Ayn Rand thought that one gives love, friendship and sometimes charity when one judges the receiving individual to be deserving of it. She considered it a selfish delight to give something and invest in those one loves and love itself, is a very selfish value.

She recognized that peaceful cooperation and trade among men was the only way to prosperity and therefore she considered a thief immoral.
She thought that to be selfish meant to think hard of one's decisions, not to blindly chase every random desire. She one should live their life passionately, while making choices based on thinking.

The secrete to understand her concept is that charity does not have to be a product of altruism. Caring for someone enough to help them, can be a selfish act. It is selfish because other people are of spiritual value to us, as well as material. By valuing ourselves we also value others with similar virtues and it is natural to express that value in one's behavior, in a way that works with one's specific context of life.

Anyway I hope I helped you understand what Ayn Rand's "Selfishness" is all about. It is not an easy concept to grasp since it is so different from today's concept of "selfishness".
I suspect a lot of people would come to this point without a feeling of new understanding, but rather something like: "well, she says that Ayn Rand thought friendship and love were good, and that Ayn Rand is not entirely opposed to giving, so that means that.... I know! It must mean that Ayn Rand was part altruistic, despite the evil things she preached for!" Well, no, chuckle head. That was not my point. My point was that she would give to others and consider it SELFISH. Yes, giving to others can be selfish. So in those times she gave of herself, she was following her principles to a tee.

That, my friend, is the whole point. Selfishness does not equal sociopath, certainly no in Ayn Rand's view. Her concept of a selfish man was a producer, an inventor, an industrialist, a hard working man happily doing his job well and making good friends, an artist, a family person hoping to raise his children well. All those are selfish actions according to her. They cease to be selfish when one does them out of duty - in THAT case they are altruism and she was against that.

So, good luck to you in your endeavor to understand Ayn Rand's morality and please share this article and forward it to others if you liked it and think it could set the record straight.


Peace and Prosperity to you, dear reader.




Sunday, November 6, 2011

On setting Personal Boundaries


One of Altruism's worst effects is that people feel the obligation to let others step on their personal boundaries or to act toward them in a way that is less than respectful or beneficial.
People believe that this is necessary to maintain healthy relationships and they try to smile as they agree to things that in actuality fill them with resentment.
The final result is that the accumulated frustration comes out in the form of angry eruptions, criticism of the people who take advantage of their "generosity" and so on.

In reality, you get as much respect and personal space as you take for granted you should have.

It is not enough to communicate once in a while what you want and expect, you have to believe it and be convinced of it subconsciously so that it is expressed in small things that you do, in small reactions to how people speak to you, what they ask of you and so on.
When you are truly convinced that you deserve something and you take it for granted that you deserve it, then setting your boundaries is done in a manner that is calm and assertive rather than angry, defensive or demanding.
(That is not to say that it is always the case that if one demands respect angrily that one invited to be stepped on. There are people who want to step on others regardless of how others project themselves).


The irony is that relationships in which people try to be altruistic to one another will end up falling apart because both parties would end up feeling used and disrespected even though they are inviting it with a smile.
They act in a way they consider "generous" and expect others not to take advantage of it at the same time. This shifts the responsibility for setting your personal boundaries from yourself to those around you. They have to try and guess if you would really benefit from something you are offering to do or not. For example, suppose we are talking about a married couple with a kid. The mom, say, offers to leave her work to take the kid out of school several times a week, feeling that she is being generous and expects to be appreciated for it and for her husband to understand that she does indeed sacrifice work time for this. However, surprisingly, the husband starts asking for her to take the kid out of school more and more. In his mind, he may not see it as using her at all because of how nice she acted about the whole thing. Meanwhile she accumulates resentment thinking "who does that bastard thinks he is? Does he think his work is more important than mine? Why doesn't he take our child out of school?" and so on.
Had she simply took it for granted that they should split the responsibility equally, no such emotions would result and the relationship would be much happier. Would the husband really benefit from his wife's "sacrifice"? No. He may save a couple of hours during the week, but he loses something much more precious - the happiness he has had at home.

Altruism ends up benefiting no one.

According to Ayn Rand's concept of rational selfishness, people in a relationship act as traders - they never give when it is a sacrifice and they never expect someone to sacrifice for them. "Trading" is used here in a wide sense that includes emotional payout, not in a business sense of financial deals. The selfishness principle of behavior is based on the idea that people live to be happy and that they get into a relationship to increase their happiness - that they are right in getting into a relationship for the primary purpose of being happy.
Altruism, in contrast, holds that a relationship should be based on an obligation for mutual support in times of trouble. It predicts sickness and trouble primarily rather than happiness, life and self-fulfillment.


One last thing I want to write about on this topic is the effective way to set personal boundaries. This is something I learned from watching numerous episodes of "The Dog whisperer", a famous show on national geographic about dog's psychology.
One of the main things the show teaches you is that an animal must set personal boundaries in a calm and assertive manner if it is to receive them. This becomes especially clear in observing different types of leadership (or attempted leadership) of a pack of dogs. You can't get a pack of dogs to behave by frantically yelling at them or by showing anger. You can't do it by hurting them out of frustration. It won't work if you ask them really nicely or plead them to do what you want and expect. The only way it works is by taking it for granted that they should follow you and calmly asserting the boundaries as soon as a dog crosses them. A pack leader that lets other dogs step on his boundaries will cause a break down of the pack, where everyone attack everyone, including the leader. Dog owners often think they are doing their dog a big favor by not setting limits, but in fact, as the show shows, such dogs become anxious and start assuming the role of leadership themselves and they get very confused if and when they are being punished for something.


I find that for people it works the same way. Suppose someone tells a disrespectful joke to you. How you respond in that instant determines how others will treat you in future cases. If you are convinced that you deserve respect, you are likely to react calmly and assertively in dismissing the joke or communicating that you do not approve of it. If you you believe, however, that you should be tolerant of such jokes you may A) try to accept the joke with a smile or B) erupt angrily against your own inner demand to accept it and burst in anger at the person who told it.
Small cases like these over time create an expectation others have from you on what you should tolerate or not. If you accept such jokes, but then, once a year you bother to tell people you find them offensive, don't be surprised if you will see very little change. If you yourself are not convinced you deserve that respect and that others should give it to you, neither will anyone else be convinced. In conclusion -


You get as much respect and personal space as you take for granted you should have.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bad ideas made powerful by unidentified true ones

A lie is best hidden between two truths.
Nothing can give more feeling of conviction to a wrong idea than to have it sandwiched with a couple of unidentified good ones.


One might look at a person who is blind to facts and to anything that does not confirm some belief of his and conclude that "One must have an open mind", which means, "one must listen to every Bullshit out there and never assert any full confidence in one's own opinion".
The true problem with the stubbornly blind is that they are stubbornly blind - that they do not conform to facts and truth, NOT that they are loyal to their own way and view.

There is a tendency not to distinguish between the different elements, to clamp them together, and then use one of them as the "core guideline", sandwiched in the power of the emotional conviction of the other truths surrounding it.
In this case, unwillingness to listen to others who disagree is what's being targeted - it is the lie that is hidden and reinforced by 2 truths, the truths being that it is bad to be willfully blind, it is bad to ignore people when they present relevant facts.


Consider a few other examples in which the true element explaining some bad behavior remains unidentified and some other good element is made to curry the guilt.

Take for example the following case:

A military-trained sniper decides to take the law into his own hands and execute people whom he believes deserves punishment without a trial. He also kills those who stand in his way and any law-enforcers who try to stop him.

There are many things that can be said about his behavior: He stands on his own, he has a strict moral code he is certain of, he is extreme in doing what he thinks is right, he is more focused on punishing the evil than protecting the good and more.

There are a lot of elements in his behavior that under a different context are admirable and yet in this case they all yield a bad result. If one is unable to determine what is the root of the evil in what this man is doing, one might easily warn oneself against one of those other traits that are good.
One might tell oneself something like: "See? this is what standing above other men will do to you", "See? being extreme can turn a man into a cold blooded killer. It is much better never to be certain of something when it comes to moral issues", or "This is what happens when a man stops listening to other people. One should always come to agree with others before acting on one's own".

The real problem in this sniper's behavior is that he is focused on punishing evil at the expense of hurting the good. If justice is his goal, he does not serve it. He chooses an illogical way to live in society (assuming the legal system is not corrupt - that would be a different discussion).

It is not easy to identify that element among all the rest, but if one does not take the time to do so, one might end up with a conclusion which would be devastating to one's life.
One might become afraid to make decisions on one's own, or do what one thinks is right, or stand alone in disagreement with others or even develop one's own moral code and stick by it.

If a crazy sniper that kills good guys is what happens when one is certain one is right, maybe it's better never to try to be right or do the right thing at all. The conclusion is a spiritual death sentence.


Another example of a lie hidden between "two truths" is the concept of selfishness.
We all know the type of people who seem to think "only of themselves" - they exploit others, do not respect their property or sovereignty and basically see people as tools for their pleasure or goals rather than real people with goals of their own and values.

Then, people confuse that with EVERY form of selfishness. They think THIS is what selfishness IS.
So actions like, making an honest living and wanting to keep the money for oneself, is all of a sudden bad, because one "only thinks of oneself" in doing so. Or wanting to take a vacation in Disneyland instead of giving the money to someone who needs food is "selfish".

Notice, however, that there is a big difference between exploiting someone else for one's own pleasure and simply making an honest living and enjoying it, but this concept of selfishness makes no distinction between the two.
The real problem with those who exploit others or see them as nothing more than a tool is a failure to see other human beings for what they are: human beings with goals and values of their own. It is a psychological problem and it actually makes the one who has it psychologically injured because they can never form intimate relationships and can never enjoy other people.

This element is much harder to identify, but it is the right one, and not identifying it can lead to devastating results, such as feeling guilty for wanting to enjoy one's property, life and money instead of giving it away.


Another example is a wrong conclusion about sex. One might look at a promiscuous person and conclude that sex in itself is wrong. The true element which makes the behavior wrong, is something else. There could be several reasons I can think of why someone would be promiscuous: they are afraid of bonding with someone deeply and so they project their fantasies on strangers, they have low self esteem and are trying to bring it up by getting sexual attention from others and so on.
The true element is harder to identify, but a conclusion like "sex is bad" or "it is bad to be attracted to many people" are wrong and damaging. For teenagers especially, because as a teenager, it's not as easy to identify one's values in others and so it is normal to be attracted to more people than one's adult version would.

Another example is the notion that caring about one's external appearance is "superficial" and bad. It's ground in reality is people that appear to have "no personality" and only care about their appearance, or people who preserve their appearance as a replacement of good character.
A.K.A the Beverley hills bitch who would be caught dead wearing the wrong item but would destroy someone else's hopes without a moment's hesitation.

One might look at her and conclude that somehow caring a lot for one's appearance is tied with being evil. This can lead to giving up on a great pleasure: On looking good and celebrating one's own value in social settings.

Similarly, one might look at a narcissist and conclude that self-love is bad. Or at least "excessive self love". Well, how would one measure something like that? It can't be done.
Narcissism has its root in something entirely different.


One does not have to identify the truth in all of those cases. One does not have to become a trained psychologist in order to avoid the problem of condemning self-love.
However, it is sometimes hard to leave some case one observes without drawing some conclusion from it. In fact, one might conclude from this blog post the conclusion that it is best never to draw conclusions from cases one sees.
I think the correct course of action is either to take the time to completely figure out what is the root and cause of some bad behavior you see, or just to tell yourself that you have no way to determine that and simply walk away without a conclusion.

What one ought to watch out for are those snappy conclusions one makes based on superficial observations (like looking at the pretty bitch and conclude that caring for your looks is bad).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The motivation of creating art

Why should one create art to begin with?

People create art for different reasons: Some are impressed by the skill it takes to depict some object in a realistic manner and want to do it themselves, some want fame or glory or attention and try to do that which is "different" to get attention, some find it relaxing to sit down and create a painting of something aesthetically pleasing that they see, some have a need to give form and visibility to the things in them that they cannot express in words but yet need to see and ponder of.

True art, I believe, originates almost only from the last motivation.

If one wants to describe some object realistically, all one has to do is to grab a camera. It is nonsensical to work X20 as hard to produce the exact same result a camera would. Art is needed to describe those things which can't be seen. To give an example; describing the conflict between good and evil. In real life one may watch the news, however, the news carry with them a lot of details and complexity. A battle between good and evil men does not appear in a dramatized, pure form. In an artwork, on the other hand (like a painting), the artist focuses on the faces of those involved and their body movement reflects what they do, how they feel and what kind of men they are. The surrounding details may be depicted deliberately out-of-focus, both in their location and level of detail. The result is something that no camera could ever capture, but which purifies and dramatizes the meaning of "a battle between good and evil" the way we experience it. It describes it in a much more intimate manner, which makes art very emotional.


A young artist growing up today may be intrigued about the art world and immediately struck with the impression that to be an artist one must draw bowls of fruit. I remember myself at the age of 13 thinking that (however, I found the bowl of fruit routine too boring and after a couple of attempts completely deserted it in favor of painting what I actually wanted to paint).


Art, with its emotional impact is a result of concretization of those things which mean the world to human life and yet have no easily ready physical form in reality. Questions like "what kind of creature is man", "what is the relation of man to the world", "what is the nature of love and beauty" - such questions only art can answer, because it alone has the power to present that which we abstract from numerous cases around us and present them in a pure form, in a form that allows one to focus on that object and get almost a direct grasp of the meaning is of beauty, of man's place in the world, of the nature of good and evil and so on.

So what about the bowl of fruit routine? Isn't it art, also? It is, in a sense, but it is not fully art because it usually does not serve the normal function of art I describe above.
It usually describes no abstract meaning nor does it have any emotional meaning to an observer besides being the feeling of being impressed with the artist's skill. However, one may be impressed with the skill of a vehicle mechanic, that does not make a car into art.
Still life paintings describe several things which correspond to the way the human eye works, more than to man's conceptual faculty.
Such paintings have composition which complement the path our eye takes as we observe the objects in it. It also displays things in a modified way than they are in reality - emphasizing some parts with more light, contrast or glow while diminishing the appearance of others. It creates an effect of focusing our eye on something in a way that does not normally happen in reality - adjusting the world, in a sense, to the way our vision works rather than adjusting our vision to the world.

If the role of art is to show us those things which are so abstract that we rarely get a direct, focused glimpse of them in the real world, then a good still life painting will do the same but in regard to the process of experiencing objects. It is closer to an abstraction of the physical path we take in viewing the world than to the conceptual one, but it still does something of the sort for us.

Occasionally, a painting of still life is art in the full sense, because it carries with it an abstract message with emotional power. A set of keys viewed from an intimate angle in extreme perspective, describing pair of ordinary keys as a shiny, treasured object carries with it an abstract message: It describes a state of mind in which objects are perceived deliberately, calmly and beautifully - the same way a child would see them.
As adults we usually hurry and don't take the time to observe a pair of keys, but a kid may approach it quietly, look at it up close, touch it, observe how the light shines upon it.

To create a still life painting that illustrates that abstract state of mind, is to create art in the full sense. It concretizes, it inspires (or causes pain) - but it has an emotional impact related to some fundamental abstraction (fundamental to human life, that is).
In this case, the fundamental abstraction being concretized would be "living in the moment" or "enjoying the world" or "using our mind in a way which is relaxed and joyful".

Most of the still life work, however, I find completely devoid of any such message. They are usually boring. Those which look just like the object in real life are even worse, in the sense of them being or not being art, because they contribute or alter nothing in terms of how we see the world.

Modern art, relies on the fact that people have a hard time identifying what art IS. It is much easier to identify what art is based on it being in a frame and on a canvas rather on what the abstract essence of it is.
Some of them try to describe "emptiness" by using an empty canvas. But does it? Does an empty canvas the right way to reach the concept and experience of emptiness inside us?
No. Not unless one stretches one's mind very hard to try and remember experiences of feeling emptiness and relate it to the empty canvas. However, a painting showing a desperate man struggling to go through some gray-looking, empty desert would do the job. THAT is how we internalize "emptiness".


So after this discussion of what art is, I go back to what I started with - which is the motivation to create art.

Those who just want attention to themselves will not create art - they will create noise.

Those who are primarily motivated by desiring the ultimate realistic-rendering skill will likely end up with a display of skill, which may occasionally carry some inspiring or emotional message. It will not be art. How could it be? If the process of creating something does not involve the artist's emotions how do you expect it to have an emotional impact on an observer?

Those who try to go for the emotional impact by displaying mutilated bodies and the contents of some animal's gut are a joke. Just because you create something with an emotional impact does not mean it is art. Art is a concretization of some abstract idea related to human life.

The artist that feels compelled to open a drawing pad to put down an image he has in his mind will create art (even if poorly rendered), but it will be art, or the first steps toward it.
The more he manages to describe the abstract meaning that compelled him to draw better, the better the artwork will be. It needs to be realistic to resemble what we see and know, but not camera-realistic as to be indistinguishable from what we see in every-day life.
Composition plays a role is making a work of art successful, but composition has no power to make random objects into art. This is why I believe composition plays a secondary role only in art and can never be made to be the first consideration.

The artist who feels inspired to paint or draw or sculpt some person or object who, to them carries some emotion and abstract meaning will create art also. The artist doesn't have to understand what the message is in verbal, exact terms to make art. I think that in most cases an artist feels the need to express something precisely because they don't know the identity of the thing in full and they want to see it realized to be able to ponder it.

The rest of the motivations will create something which may be art in some sense but not in another.


___________________________
A couple of final notes:

To give due credit: most of my writing here is learned from Ayn Rand's The Romantic Manifesto. I think the analysis I present here is compatible with her ideas.
I am myself an artist - I currently study art in Georgetown Atelier, a school specializing in classically-inspired method of training.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lisa VanDamme Responds to WSJ Article "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior"

These two wonderful videos discuss the question of the proper goals in educating a child: According to the WSJ article, a child's individuality should be repressed in favor of excellence. Lissa VanDamme replies that happiness and personal fulfillment should be the focus of a child's education in a productivity-focused manner.

She holds that there is no dichotomy between a child's happiness and his success in life.

I agree. Well said.

I'll only add that, while Chinese children brought up this way will be good for imitating good violin players, they will never be the kind of good that can invent new things or have any kind of creativity. Creativity requires the self, and that is what has been destroyed in them their whole life.

The personally fulfilled IS also the genius: It is a Darwin, fascinated about animals, a Newton, fascinated about physics, an Einstein or a da Vinci.

The repressed is a parrot that has been excellently trained in copying to perfection.



Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dogs' Psychology - Lessons from The Dog whisperer

Dr. Doolittle was a legend a few years ago, but it is now a reality. Cesar Millan understand dog's communication in full. So much to the point that he can transform years-long habitual behavior of dogs in a matter of minutes and he can explain behaviors which appear inexplicable. He can make dogs act a certain way by using and reading body language. He understand them by observing their facial expressions, the way they breath, bark, what direction they're facing and how they hold their tail.
These are also all the things dogs use to understand one another, making him a true master of "speaking dog-ish".


Cesar's show, The Dog whisperer, airs on the National Geographic channel (link for more info).
The show is about training humans to understand what dogs really need and through that to correct the behavior of the dog and make the dog into a calm, happy follower.
[Episodes are always available on Hulu for free (link) to give you an idea of what the show is like if you have never watched it.]

The show focuses on particular problems with particular dogs, but through dealing with that, it reveals the world of dogs' psychology in depth.
In this post I would summarize what I've learned about dog's psychology from the show and then do a comparison between the similarities and differences I see between dog's psychology and human psychology.
I am sure that the summary would not be complete, as my understanding of dogs' psychology based on the show is partial. But I will summarize what I've gathered.
Cesar's knowledge of dogs is a breakthrough in the field of animal psychology and should, in my opinion, be helpful to understanding human psychology since we are an animal too, though of a different kind.


One main essential of dogs' psychology is that dogs always live in a pack, and they behave according to the norm of the pack, which is set forth by the pack leader. Dogs in the wild travel in packs and a pack always has a pack leader.
The pack leader is the dog which is most confident, high on physical energy and dominant.
"Dominant" is a state of mind every dog (and animal) can have. Some dogs are more genetically inclined to it while others are more genetically inclined to be submissive followers, but every dog is capable of these two states: submission and dominance which they will assume depending on the conditions around them. In fact a lot of animals have these states of mind, including birds, cats, humans. A bird is capable of telling a dog what to do using body language, just as a human can project serious leadership which a dog will follow, or a more passive state of mind, in which case the dog will take charge and assume the role of pack leader. Social roles of leadership or of a follower exist throughout the animal world because animals are social beings and they depend on their species for survival at least early years and in most species beyond that time as well.
The distinction between a leader and a follower is central to dog's psychology. Once a leader is chosen for a pack, the pack will protect the leader.

The pack leader is chosen by dogs by two things: his level of energy (how active he is) and his dominant state of mind (if he is ready to take charge of other dogs).
Whenever the circumstances are that a particular dog is the strongest (mentally) in his environment, he will start acting dominant (while in a stronger pack it would be a follower).

A "dominant" behavior is a behavior in which the animal assumes the role of telling others around it how to behave. It sets the example and punishes or warns those who do not follow.

Animals communicate through emotions, or state of mind and everything they read off of one another is used to understand the state of mind the other dog is at. From a distance, they use body language to figure out how a dog feels about their presence and about the environment. If a dog is fearful they might avoid it so not to get involved in a fight, or the pack may bite it to snap it out of the weak state of mind. Dogs see fear or insecurity as weakness and they punish a weak state of mind. From evolutionary point of view, this makes sense, since a pack in the wild must survive and a weak state of mind will be detrimental to its survival. An interesting point to note is that Human beings don't do this (punish or abandon a weak state of mind) - our behavior is guided by ideas (as I shall discuss later). So if our idea is that a weak state of mind is good, people will nourish it.
In the dog world, however, dogs expect one another to be strong and be responsible for their own state of mind. If a dog is too weak or if it misbehaves and slows down the pack, or is fearful, it will be bitten into behaving or abandoned if it does not overcome its weakness.
I am unsure how dogs act when a pack member is injured. I don't think they desert it, but I am unsure. Dogs get emotionally attached to their pack members, as can easily be seen in the relationship they have with their owners. A dog gets ecstatic when a human returns and sad when the human goes away. If a pack member dies, the pack grieves for about a month, after which they move on.

To go back to dog's communication: As I said, dogs communicate through reading each other's emotional state of mind. they do the same with all other animals, including humans. It is incredible how, while people are not readily capable of identifying each other's state of mind, a dog can easily detect it. A person may seem fine and merry to other people but if he's nervous a dog will pick up on it right away and may attempt to protect the human by becoming aggressive. In any case, the dog always knows how the human really feels.
I think people read one another's emotions as well and use it to decide how to behave, however, not with the same level of accuracy and not with automatic accuracy as dogs seem to have. I should note that dogs are not born with this knowledge; puppies are quite clueless and they may come close to aggressive or fearful dogs, but they learn over time because of seeing the consequence and behavior associated with the body language, sounds and scent that they gather.

A dog that challenges the leadership of an existing pack will immediate draw to himself alert and aggressive behavior from that pack. They detect the challenge from the way the dog moves, hold itself, breathes and looks. Direct eye gaze is a sign of a challenge. Dogs hat get along don't normally gaze at one another. So if a dog stands with its head and tail held high, breathes shallowly and gazes at its surroundings, he is declaring that he has come to own and lead and he will be treated according to this message that he is sending.
Dogs don't actually have a language, like people. Their barks communicate emotions, but not specific words.

A central concept in dog's psychology is ownership. It is not the same concept as in the human world. Dogs don't regard ownership as "the one who created it owns it" as humans do nowadays. In their world, the pack leader owns whatever the pack hunts and the leader decides when the rest of the pack gets to eat. The pack respects the pack leader and will allow it to dictate the time and order of feeding, though they may fight among themselves (a fight which the pack leader will break by punishing the one who started it).
From dogs' perspective, dogs own objects, space and other dogs (or animals).


To compare to humans: Humans beings communicate through highly abstract concepts (which are developed from observations). Dogs are not capable of abstracting to such a level, nor are they capable of creating things beyond hunting. The human race survives through altering its environment, creating things from it to survive, while dogs exploit the environment without creating things from it. Human beings can understand the concept of force, for example, in its scientific sense, while dogs can only get "I push, it moves" but they don't relate a rock falling and moving stuff to another dog pushing them, while the human mind is constantly for the lookout for such generalizations. This is why we have the concept of "force", which generalizes rocks, people, atoms and stars while dogs only go as far as "I push, it moves". This is why us humans have a language and why we need it. Words communicate specific concepts, while dogs stay on the basic level of emotions to understand one another and the world around them. Dogs do generalize (or abstract) on some level: they have a mental group for "the young" (puppies, babies and other animal youngs), females and males, they identify members of different races (they can make a conclusion about the whole human race, for example, and act accordingly to every new human they meet, showing that they distinguish humans as a group).
However, beyond such abstractions, their brain does not abstract further.

Dogs' psychology is simple - it is as if one took a human being on all their psychological complexity and stripped them off of their ideas; leaving simple, emotion-based reactions to observe.

I'll present several examples illustrating the underlying similarity in dog's psychology and human psychology.
Example #1: Dogs who are fearful or insecure tend to be aggressive, because they expect harm to come to them from other dogs, even when there is no sign of it. Humans exhibit the same behavior though it is harder to see it in such simple terms because they would always have reasons for thinking or acting hostile.
Another example: An insecure dog that gets affection from one member of a household will act more aggressive around that human because they derive a sense of confidence against the others when being close to that individual. This behavior also exists in humans. AKA the insecure bitch that finds sudden courage to open her mouth on another member of the "pack" when she is around her good friend, which is also a member of the group.

Example #2: Both dogs and humans have a need to be productive as tied to their self esteem and happiness. Lack of a "job" or productivity leads to depression. Many cases in the show showed dogs who were lifeless and depressed and became happy when given a job such as sheep herding, carrying laggage for the human, pulling the human or tracking scent. It makes the dogs feel proud. This is the same in the human world. There's nothing like lack of a productive purpose to bring a man down and make him feel worthless.
One show featured a dog who was cooked the best Italian food out there and the owners begged the dog to eat it. It came to the point that the dog became like a rag and wanted nothing to do with the food. It was only after a few weeks of training in a new environment that the dog relearned to come to the food and work for it that the dog regained its enthusiasm for life.

Example #3: The way to gain the trust of a fearful dog is by slowly approaching it from the side - making oneself visible yet making slow progression without direct confrontation or sudden movements. The same is true with people, though less so in the physical realm and more in the conversation realm. One does not present personal questions, but carefully tries to talk about a favorite subject to the fearful individual and so on. The execution is different but the underlying approach is the same.

Example #4: In relationships, dogs have four components: trust, respect, affection and submission/ domination. They may trust someone to be good to them and yet disrespect that individual by jumping on them or taking their stuff. They can be fearfully respectful of someone yet distrust them, and they can either be submissive (a follower) to someone or attempt to lead them and feel as if they "own" them, or be equal pack members. It is fairly easy to see these components because dogs show these emotions in direct physical form: If they distrust someone they will not get close to them, and so on. Their affection depend on the energy (or state of mind) of the other dog. Some dogs are a good match in temperament while others are not.
In the human world respect and trust are fundamentals in relationships (and submission/ domination are also present). Trust and respect in the human world are not expressed in jumping on one another, but in more subtle ways via communication and actions. Affection in the human world, however, has vastly different roots than dogs'. Dogs feel affection toward their pack members, and particularly toward dogs which match their energy and temperament. Dogs are selective too toward individuals, as are humans. However, human beings develop affection based on complex subconscious ideas. We develop a subconscious understanding of what we consider good traits and bad traits and then feel affection toward people who have those traits. Temperament does not play a central role in determining whom we would like or dislike.

Example #5: Calm assertive leader vs. frustrated punishment: Dogs follow a calm assertive leader - one that corrects behavior or punishes behavior not out of anger or frustration, but out of intent to set things moving on the right track, keeping in mind the value of the pack member being punished. When a human attempts to punish a dog with anger or frustration the dog will not accept the human as a leader. This is very similar to how human leadership works and how parental leadership works (or does not work). Kids that are punished with anger and frustration do not obey their parent nor respect them - they learn to sneak behind their back or openly defy them even if physical punishment is likely to be administered. However, parents which practice calm assertive limitations on their children gain their children's trust and respect and the kids are disciplined and not rebellious.

Example #6: Grief or sorrow are considered a weak state of mind in the dog world. A dog which is grieving will not be chosen for a leader. In the human world, people feel an almost innate need to hide negative emotions past childhood. Outbursts of cry, for example, are almost never done in public, and when they do, kids past the age of 6 would normally pick on a kid who is doing it and would see it as a weakness. I believe, however, that this inclination can be overriden by cultural ideas. If someone is brought up to think that crying in public is admirable they will do so, however, it seems to an irrational thing to do. Sorrow is recognition of loss of value. It is a vulnerable state of mind, in which normal functioning and survival is harder. A happy, calm individual who has lost nothing can easily function well, think and perform well, but a grieving individual will function slower and in less efficiency.

Example #7: Both species automatically show emotions in body language and facial expressions. Dogs learn to read it, humans may or may not (though the obvious, unsubtle expression are almost automatically learned).


Turning to the fundamental differences between humans and dogs: I see two fundamental differences: Humans beings are motivated by emotions, but their emotions are determined by their ideas. Our ideas are far more complex than dogs' because we have such an amazing ability to abstract. Our mind is built to seek similarities and differences and group them together into generalizations. Only humans can see the similarity between an open sea and an open future (one is physical, the other referring to career and social options which is a completely different field).
The extent to which our ideas determine our motivation and action is so extreme, that a person can feel content killing themselves if they are convinced it is good. The ethical idea of sacrifice is highly abstract - dogs are cognitively incapable of it and so are guided by simple conclusions and instincts. Dogs can never knowingly harm themselves because they can never reach such a high level idea of 'sacrifice'. Instead, they learn right and wrong from physical pain and pleasure.
The second difference, which is a result of the first, is that human beings create for survival, while dogs exploit their environment and travel. It is the cognitive difference, which in turn creates the difference in intelligence that allows humans to invent and create things from our environment. Because of this, people settle down in a home while dogs need to travel daily. If they don't get their power walks, they feel depressed.

The fundamental similarities are: our emotions. We have the same emotions with the same value judgment behind them, only, again, in the human world, our emotions are based off of far more complex ideas and analysis of things. Human beings experience additional emotions which dogs do not have, such as admiration, hatred (according to Cesar dogs are only aggressive but not hateful) and more. However, basically the emotions have the same universal value judgment. Sorrow means loss of a value, happiness means gaining a value, fear means danger to values. It is interesting to note that anger in humans leans on our abstract ethical principles, while dogs get aggressive if they feel threatened, but they do not abstract principles of good and evil and therefore do not feel anger as a moral emotion, but as a simple reaction to someone harming them in one way or another (such as taking their food away). Similarly, dogs feel affection but don't fall in love or admire. They respect, based on the energy someone is having, but not based on their character, as humans do. Jesus in the dog world would have been considered a whiny weak member and would be kicked out the pack. In the human world he is admired by many. This is because their admiration is based primarily on the traits of character and not on the "energy" the person has. A person can have consistently weak state of mind of constant sorrow and yet be admired. Never in the animal world.
Another fundamental similarity is that we are both social and sexual creatures. I think these are built into us in the form of innate psychological and physical needs.

The last thing I have to say in conclusion is that I hope Cesar will some day write a book documenting all his knowledge of dogs' psychology and how they live in the wild. It is a remarkable achievement and the value of his knowledge goes far beyond teaching a few dogs how to get along with their owners. It can contribute tremendously to the field of psychology.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Does Reason destroy Emotions?

As a teenager I had the notion that reason has the power to destroy emotions. That thinking on a subject and analyzing it has the power to make it detached from my values.

I think this a common viewpoint and phenomenon and I wonder what causes it.

I know it is not the way things are for me today, but the very opposite. The fact that I understand things better makes me feel more clearly and intensely - because subconsciously I see the elements involved in daily occurrences more clearly - I see how they relate to my values more clearly and so I get more emotional about them.

Sometimes reason and emotions can have an opposite "opinion". Because emotions are based primarily on subconscious thinking while reason is a conscious process. So it is possible to be very mad at someone while consciously thinking that one has no reason to be mad. The conflict can be resolved with successful introspection, but it is possible to have such a split prior (or without) introspection.

However, it seems like reason as destroying or going against emotions is a bigger issue than just a few instances. People believe that reason is inherently opposed to reason - that the way to know and live fully is to base one's cognition on emotions rather than on thinking.

I think one possible reason is that most people (and me as a teenager) do not hold a rational, consistent system of ethics. What we learn as ethical or "normal behavior" from society is almost entirely a set of arbitrary rules, based on common sense in part and on blind heritage in the other.
Meanwhile, subconsciously, people do develop their own ideas of ethics which are only experienced as "feelings" of what is right and what is wrong, without the ability to understand why it is so. The result is that every time they apply reason, they feel stiffed in their decision making and in how they feel about the situation, while when they use their emotions without reason their automatized values remain safe.

It is knowledge of rational ethics with full, clear understanding of it that actually solves the problem and makes reason a tool and an aid, rather than an enemy and a destroyer.

My conclusion is that reason does not inherently destroy emotions. It is a tool, a valuable tool to understand one's emotions and ultimately, to have the power of conviction and clarity in what one feels.

Intellectualization as a defense mechanism is still possible - it is a process of diverting one's focus from the source of a negative emotion into a "safe", yet related topic, which does not carry with it the power of those negative emotions (because it does not discuss the essence of those emotions). It is a way to use our will to avoid facing the problem. But this is not a process of reasoning. Reasoning and intellectualizing have one element in common - the use of our conscious mind and our will to consider specific content. They are both active, not passive, processes, but that is all they have in common.
In other words, we must not confuse reason with this defense mechanism. Reason is not inherently an enemy of emotions.