Why Common Sense Isn’t So Common

To a psychiatric observer the world is a multiple fractured personality that defies common sense description.  There are so many different cultures, political groups, and religions and yet all of them tend to some very insane assumptions about life and basic living.  Each tries to find some FIRST PRINCIPLE by which to base all the logic of their assumptions and state their case that they alone have a corner on the truth in the marketplace of ideas.  For What It’s Worth, there are battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right if everyone is wrong.  Yes, Buffalo Springfield fans, a grain of truth was sung and few paid any attention to the words.

I don’t read a great deal of philosophy these days unless I wish to know a bit more on certain topic.  I was once reading quite a bit of metaphysics and subjects like ontology and epistemology.  You know, First Causes or the proof of the existence of god.  Perhaps I’m just a cynic but it you want proof of god’s existence, turn the word around and look down the street.  One can see god trotting from tree to tree leaving proof of hie existence behind for other to follow.  The whole of religion hangs upon the proof of any god’s existence.  If there isn’t any god then what are you worshiping and why are you giving priests and “holy” men an excuse for living on your dime?  Des Cartes stumbled on to something very interesting when he came up with his idea of the duality of man’s being.  Body and soul must be separate in existence, else where did the soul reside?  When the body dies the soul still lived and all the popes in Rome could never explain why the difference.  Indeed, the battle goes on as we examine the brain and try to figure out just where consciousness resides and how it “lives” in that mass of several billion neurons.  This is the duality of nature.

But it isn’t just neuroscience and religion that have problems with the duality of nature.  Physics has had to grapple with that theme for a century.  That particle of light, the photon, seems to have two identities in nature.  It travels in the form of a wave of energy.  But when it strikes some object is does so as a solid particle.  How can this be?  We still don’t know.  It may be the case of false assumptions or knowledge of which we do not possess at the moment.  To our particle of light, that photon, it could care less what we do and do not understand about its existence, it’s life can be described in earth time as a million years unless it is absorbed by some object.  Duality of nature exists in many forms.  The concept and reality of life and death exists and despite our best efforts we understand little of either.  We might say that all life is movement in the universe and non movement is death.  But is that really so?  Close, but no cigar.  We get back to the case of souls which have no physical existence but reportedly move from an earthly sphere to their particular reward somewhere non physical, heaven or hell or somewhere inbetween.  Choose your dogma.

Living in this world as human beings we are beset with a basic conflict, a duality of existence.  Oh, that’s right, your public education never gave you instruction on that subject.  The duality of beings, human and many who are otherwise, is that we exist as individuals within groups.  Now in an ant colony one has the queen, who is busy making genetic clones of herself and the other two classes, workers and soldiers.  In the bee colony the queens to be get fed the royal jelly, for ants, I’m not sure.  But humans, apes, dogs and cats, are not exact copies of each other.  There is genetic variation within the group.  Hence, while the ant colony can think and move as one the human group can’t.  No such thing as a mob mentality or group thinking, although we may think almost alike when in a group and thus tend to go along with everyone else.  In the higher life forms, group living has a function.  Too often we see the term group as a monolithic single entity and that is a false assumption.  I can group a million different numbers together but each number retains its identity until I perform some operation such as addition.  When you all every one of those individual numbers together they lose their individual identities and become one number.  But we can’t do this with individual living animals, of which we are a member in that grouping.

Individuation is an important concept for it recognizes individuality and individual differences.  Yes, my immediate family has, with each member a great deal more in common than with a group of strangers half way round the globe.  But we also have our differences and sometimes those differences are greater than we think, for it is a matter of the levels of differences.  If I have an IQ of 190 and my brother only has one of 110, then I share more in common on that level with someone on the other side of the globe with an IQ similar to mine.  But if my brother and I share similar athletic ability then we share a commonality.  Notice that I speak in terms of commonness or commonality, not alikeness.  Two ants from the same colony are exactly alike, not the same thing for humans or dogs (gods excepted).  Thus our behavior towards individuals differs from our behavior to all members of our group.  We are lazy dogs and tend to abstract large collections of individuals into a monolithic entity, complete with its own behavior and intelligence.  hus a crown or mob is not some single entity but a collection of individuals who have come within proximity of each other for no other reason than happenstance.  Now it may be that this collection of individuals have semi organized themselves into something of a leader or leaders led group and thus may have some purpose, however ill defined and however ill led.  The collection of individuals into a group maybe nothing more that an individual need to dissent and thus the group assumes a collective dissent.  Or it could be a battalion or well trained soldiers attacking the castle walls, each acting in concert to the general and specific plans of their leaders.

Unfortunately, those who think in terms of abstraction, especially when it comes to human behaviors, tend to make the same false assumptions and logical fallacies.  All men are created equal and if you are a feminist, then add women to the group (and if your are a radical feminist, you exclude that lower form called man).  This is a wonderful abstraction of presumptuous false thinking.  Let’s rephrase that into its correct form.  All humans are created with individual variation and thus not exactly equal, but are entitled, by the consent of the whole, to equalness of treatment.  Now we are making a little more sense.  An individual with Down’s syndrome are not endowed with that equalness that the political thinkers like to present.  Their ability to use their brains is limited and is their ability to control their bodies.  Out of kindness, or more likely out of a need to really see these individuals as they truly are, we call them mentally handicapped, as if they were missing an arm or a leg but otherwise were normal human beings.  These individuals are not normal individuals, they are special cases and thus should be treated not as equals but as special cases in need of a standard of care the normal individual would be able to provide for himself.  In a hunter-gather society such a deficient child would have been killed very early, its disability would be seen as too great a strain on the resources of the collective group.  Its right to live would be far less equal to the normal infant.  But in our present civilizations we have the luxury of excess resources to indulge the life of such an infant.  Thus we boast about enriching the life of such a child no matter how marginal that enrichment may be.

Notice that in my example above we put the welfare of the individual, albeit a special case individual, above the interests of the group.  Any time we make individuals special cases or groups of individuals special cases we shift more resources to those individuals and groups of individuals.  We say we are doing this in the name of equality but that is really a scam, for we have not defines equality but in a vague and disturbingly biased manner.  Let’s assume that I commit some crime worthy of a trial by jury.  Now, as a writer of some talent and am not the equal of those who have little or no writing ability.  But it is my right as with those not my equals to have a trial by jury if they commit some crime and are found out.  Okay, now the jury would be composed of individuals who are my peers.  But who are my peers?  Those who cannot write a word?  How about writers of great accomplishment?  No, I am not their equal.  Then the jury must be composed of those writers who possess a similar talent.  Yes, I have stretched the example a bit but only to make the point that equal is a relative term, not an absolute one.

The other half of the equation for the duality we, as animals possess, is the collective good, abstracted as the group and usually projected as a monolithic entity.  But any group is composed of leaders and members or followers, if you like.  Unlike the other animals, of which we claim some commonality, we tend to form memberships in various groups that have nothing to do with the family group.  A troop of monkeys are usually related by birth.  That is, there are a couple of Alpha males who do the impregnation of the females, hence one will share the genes of one of the males with several other members of the group.  Essentially, the female half of the gene pool will more exclusive and the male half less so.  Within this troop of monkeys we have the division and pecking order.  The alpha males will have the one recognized dominant male with the other alpha males ranked by the order of their relative dominance.  The females will also have a dominance ranking.  Then there will be the family groups where we may have mother, aunt, sister, niece, nephew, son, daughter, and grandsons and grand daughters in their relative order.  Those males who are not alpha and thus reproducing males will have their own group and dominance ranking.  There are complicated behavioral patterns and individuals may be displaced or admitted to any particular sub grouping within the troop.

We humans are born into the family group, usually the norm, but not always.  We become members of other groups that are peripheral to the .family and one or tow such groups may even supplant the original family group into which we were members by birth.  We will also form our own family group as we have children.  But the prime directive is not the existence of the group over the individual, it is the existence of the individual within the group unless that is no longer possible.  What may be good for the group of individuals may not be good for a single individual member.  And as any grouping of individuals, whether they be human or lower forms in the animal kingdom, there is no absolute equality of being.  We may love to believe that we are all equal but that is an abstract intellectual term.  We do not all look alike or act alike or have the same abilities.  These attributes order us into a relative ranking that can vary from group membership.  We may try to provide some sense of abstract order by creating guiding principles of behavior.  Now cooperation is one of the unwritten behaviors for survival of both individual and group.  But we like to complicate our lives a little more that that.  So we come up with the biblical ten commandments (more or less a universal dictum) to guide our behavior.  Thou shalt not steal.  A nice general principle.  But it is a little vague, it does not define stealing.  So we come up with more specif laws that try to define what theft is and what defines ownership.  Then we go so far as to decide that stealing form individuals by force is worse that stealing with the use of force.  And then we put a time of day and a place of theft.  Oh we just have so much fun splitting hairs.  The problem with definitions is that it allows those who understand that absolutes are arely absolutes and can be gamed or cheated.

If you study political science or social science you will never discover these basic assumptions.  Instead, you will use abstraction to erect a top down structure that never fits now even works well.  Political science and sociology is about abstract ideals, not the reality of human behavior.  You look at human behavior through a lens of abstract culture and mistake much of what you observe.  You form expectations that are rarely met because those expectations are forms on false premises.  There is no such thing as social justice, there is only social coercion to a set of irrational expectations bases on false assumptions about human behavior.  Unfortunately, all those efforts are doomed to failure, always have been, always will be.

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