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Sunday, December 18, 2011

New Post at

All new post, as well as the old post, are now at Mind In Psychology

Iphone 5, Facebook, Google+: A New World

What can Facebook, iphone 5 and Google+ tell us about our motivations and our economy?  You spend hours on Facebook, eagerly search for friends on Google+, and you would sell all duplicate  organs to any black-market organ dealer with a dirty butter knife to get the iphone 5.

Wikipedia Link About Google Plus
These things have one thing in common, one primary motivator. They're all social. This is remarkable for one reason. Generally, we motivate people with secondary reinforcers which are not social. We use grades, money and threat to keep people doing what we think they ought to do. Hell, we think we need them to keep us doing what we think we should do and even what we want to do. 

We're trapped by tertiary tokens. They're tertiary in that they don't have an intrinsic link to what we do for them, and their tokens because they're meaningless outside our agreement (except threats). For instance, a grade is given as a signifier or achievement, of getting beyond a class, but it doesn't contain any direct motivation to learn. In fact, you could get great grades without learning anything meaningful at all. 

Money is the same. We think we need to pay people to achieve greatness. But, psychology shows over and over that great financial incentives might actually hinder productivity and creativity. So why, considering all the problems with tertiary tokens, and all the considerable amounts of time we spend on Facebook,  Google+, all the money (or organs) we hope to spend on the new iphone 5 do we think we that money and grades are the best reinforcers and motivators---why when it's obvious that the greatest reinforcers are social in nature. 

Why haven't we moved to an economy that takes advantage of development for the sake of mastery in social context, and why haven't we moved from educational systems that work on grades to systems that facilities the intrinsically social nature of knowledge to have learning in motion? It seems like laziness. No, it is laziness--and it is fear. 

We say, "It's the best we have!" but we've deluded ourselves. It's not the best we have; it's the best we had. We just don't have the character and strength to apply the knowledge that we've gained over the last 100 years to our world. It might inconvenience us. By us I mean: Those who have the comfort of a developed system. We made it the old system and we don't want to learn another even if it is better for the world. We feel safe there. 

So while the world and the market goes on revealing the nature of a healthier more productive world with sites like Facebook and Google+, and products like the iphone 5, we continue in our old ways, sacrificing a better way because we made it in an old world. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Philosophy of Chatroulette and Freedom: The Impossibility of Free Will

Have you ever been really bored--I mean REALLY bored--and jumped on Chatroulette (link to Wiki)? You know the nights I'm talking about: Facebook Chat is empty, your significant other is asleep and you've gone and drank 6 cups of coffee, thoughtlessly---And, done so just an hour before your obviously optional bedtime? Think about who you chose to spend time chatting with on Chatroulette (link to Did you actually choose them? Did you sit and think: "this is what I want, this is the specific trait I'm looking for in a conversation, and I'll apply all this in the split second before I or the other person hits 'NEXT'"?  I know I don't.

You click "Start", some oddness draws you in, you realize what it is you're looking at---and quickly click "Next". Despite your permanent trauma, you're onto another oddity, and then another and another. Finally, you settle on a lonely girl from China, or some Wiccan  trying to charge his badly drawn sigils. You didn't think about this; It just happend. So consider this moment of ambiguity in your the moment of decision. Did you chose this? 

In some sense, you could say you chose this little moment of Chatroulette-voyeurism/conversation because it was you who acted.  But, where was your Free Will? Did you choose the reasons out of which you chose that specific person? Did you choose your voyeuristic tendencies, your addiction to coffee or your manic need for company? I didn't. I don't. So what's what my point? 

In other situations, any other situation, there is always this constitutive/necessary element of your choice---that thing that determines what you choose and chose---that  you did not choose.  Just like on Chatroulette, you cannot choose the reason out of which you choose. It's just more obvious on Chatroulette. Free will implies a choice of what causes you to choose. It implies that you are conscious of and constantly in control of everything that determines how you choose. This is impossible.

]This is the Chatroulette paradox: you cannot choose the  reasons out of which you choose or it would lead to infinite regress. Either your choice is completely random (which also implies reasons (for another conversation)), or you have something driving the choice. There's always something driving the choice. You need to bottom out in some reason for acting. And, if a reason for acting is the necessary condition for you having chosen anything at all, then you couldn't have chosen those reasons. 

Chatroulette provides an intuitive "bottoming out". (This is a  double entendre (get it, Rock bottom?)). It provides a bottoming out because you didn't choose the reasons you acted: you simply acted. So next time you're on Chatroulette, consider the choices you make. You can't have free will, but realizing that might make you get introspective. 

Resources on Choice and Free Will: Free Will
Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy Free Will Choice

Saturday, December 10, 2011

To Reject or To Ignore, That is the Question

How do you deal with a person who just doesn't like you? Let's call her Cindy, for example's sake. You've gone through all the nice options: You've smiled at Cindy, bought her coffee and  even invited Cindy out with you and your cadre of compadres. Now, Cindy isn't just someone you want as a friend, she's someone you interact with everyday at work and school, and who you desperately need affirmation from (she reminds you of mom).  You played the nice card, and nice didn't work. Now, the only option you have is not-nice. So what not-nice option are you gonna take?

You could reject her. You could walk away when she talks to you, make rude comments about her and let it be known, "I don't like her". Or, you could ignore her. You could make it a point to act like she doesn't exist. When you walk by her desk, you keep looking at the cooler; when you see her on the street, you pretend like you don't; and when you're in class, you sit far away. You act like she someone you don't know. 

An article in the Journal of Personality and Social psychology,  shows that many times there's a difference in the kind of focus created in each method, whether you reject or ignore Cindy. It is likely that if you reject her, she will develop a prevention-focus. In other words, she's going to prevent feeling rejected--like by avoiding you. You don't want this to happen (though you really should) so you're left with only one option: Ignore her. 

But, ignoring her isn't just your last options; it works. According to the article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,  if you ignore her, you create a much different focus. Instead of making her want to escape the pain of rejection, you are likely to create something called a promotion-focus. A promotion-focus is obvious, it will make her feel the need to socialize with you. She will focus on promoting your relationship. 

Out of the all the options--nice, reject or ignore--if nice doesn't workout, then: Ignore. Just be careful, don't take the ignoring too far or it becomes rejection. So if she tries to be nice, give her a little nice back. Keep a little mystery though. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Uniting Care Ethics, Nietzsche and Foucault

Any union of Care ethics and Nietzsche hammers on the senses, leaving the ring of “contradiction” resounding in the mind. However, this may be apparent rather than actual. If we read Nietzsche as speaking in more metaphorical than literal sense, as some have suggested, and Nietzsche himself may have suggested (Montanari, 201; Nietzsche, Ansell-Pearson & Diethe, 2007), then we discover that this is not as certain a contradiction as it feels, and indeed Nietzsche’s supreme affirmation of life might be realized in Care. Together, Nietzsche and Care offer a critique of justice-based ethics, and with the help of Foucault a possible foundation for a more appropriate ethical theory.

There are several problems that need to be resolved before using Nietzsche and Care to create a critique of Justice ethics. Some may interpret Care wrongly which would initiate a damning critique of care using a Nietzschian critique. Nietzsche would disdain a revaluing, or a will to power, that defines itself opposed to something else that is strong and active and revalues a passivity as strength. Also, unlike care, Nietzsche seems to promote the individual more than any kind of relationship. However, as we’ll see this isn’t as much of problem as it seems, and together the two perspectives merge to reveal that justice based ethics are floating around with out content, without the perspective or the individual. 
When Carol Gilligan introduced what she thought was a poverty in modern ethics, she labeled the sides Justice and care, where justice was the current paradigm and understanding of ethics and Care represented a feminine perspective that might be able to revalue ethics. I will use the terms Care and Justice ethics broadly—encompassing many different ethical disciplines, much as she does—but I will define them in a way that is informed by other Care thinkers. Justice will be defined as that which starts from a universal, independent, atomist, separate conception of a self and forms general rules from that self, and then applies those general rules to specific cases, and that values rational control over emotion, where emotions can only get in the way of ethical action. Care on the other hand, I will define as an ethic that focuses on the specific, highly contextual elements of a person in relationship. Care mbraces emotion as providing a partial basis for morality and moral understanding, where there is an appreciation and focus on attention, context and narrative, as well as, a focus on communication in moral deliberation, where specific trumps the general.
At first, it feels apparent that Nietzsche would be apposed to a Care ethics because it promotes, well: care. However, you can read Nietzsche two ways. You can read him literally, where the strong should have recourse to whatever makes them great. Or, you can read him more metaphorically as some think he should be read, and he himself implies (Montanari, 2011; Nietzsche et al.), and a different picture emerges. In this construal, or interpretive lens, Nietzsche is only saying we should be letting man be free to be great in activity, without the burden of feeling self hate (Nietzsche et al.). Nietzsche wants continually forming exemplars, something that affirms life, life that is only actualized in activity (Montanari, 2011). Care ethics might be a development of this activity. There is more to say about Neitzsche that affirms Care ethics, but we must deal with the fact that Nietzsche would see anything as vile that redefines itself against the strong and revalues activity as weakness and inactivity as strength and some might see care ethics as affirming weakness.
 This seems like a problem for Care ethics, as it seems to be attempting to revalue something that has been considered inherently weak, and even less human, as something strong (Held 1990). However, there are two ways, broadly construed that an ethic of Care can be conceived. The first may fall impotent prey to this critique. This perspective on Care can be conceived of as a response to masculine domination, and an effort to revalue the world, making the weakness of promotional inactivity inherent in femininity to be considered strong. In this view, proponents of care would be defining themselves against masculinities activity. This aspect or version of Care would say masculinity devalues a woman’s place and makes her creature who has less ethical potential than man, as a gender, and so it must be changed so that it does not have this bias (Jaggar, 1995). However, to argue that that Care is simply saying that it’s an unjust practice, so we need to revalue it would be would be in error. It is certain that some of the motivation that facilitated the perspective of care was a concern that women’s concerns were devalued. However, that being as it may, there is a second stronger concern that predominates in care and this is the Care that I refer to in the rest of the paper.
 This version or aspect of Care doesn’t define itself in antithesis to male domination; but, instead, it seeks to develop a positive theory that can possibly replace Justice ethics and account for its many flaws. This theory perceives a serious poverty in ethics that results from certain historical assumptions that define the rules of the game that justice ethicists are playing. They attempt to replace, or at very least inform, a justice ethic that has been male dominated (Held, 1990). The Care ethicist, here, attacks a conception of ethics that predominantly men formed from overly narrow, a priori assumptions (Held, 1990; Jaggar, 1995). There’s good reason to believe the second perspective is true, or at least more frequently true, of care ethics. Most of the literature—like writings of Walker, Jaggar and Held—focus on the narrow historical assumptions and impoverished concepts that they believe are empty of any real meaning. In the formerly mentioned care perspective, the perspective results from concerns about how women are valued; in the later, care is a positive theory that results from a privileged perspective.
Virginia Held (1990) reveals that the feminist or care ethicists are focused on the issue of reality. She believes there is something about justice ethics that doesn’t account for our lived in the world experience, where we are creatures in social-emotional context. In addition, She holds that woman have a special moral access because of their cultural role as caregivers to children. This role makes them sensitive to the emotional, interpersonal elements of ethics. It makes them sensitive to the emotional and self-constituting element of relationships in ethical decisions. Men may not be as sensitive to this, according to Held. And possibly as a result of Justice ethic’s lack of perspectival privilege.
 Due to the male domination of ethics, they’ve created this unrealistic decontextualized, neutral “person”. The Justice ethicist attempt to make sense of man socially (ethically) by postulating an unrealistic, misleading fiction of man born and raised outside of culture (Held, 1990). So they’ve conceived of a general “person” and out of that created ethical principles to apply to very specific, complex and situations. The theoretical man without context isn’t a person at all because an actual person is formed behaviorally and ethically within a family, with father, a mother and all the inculcations that culture offers through practices and relationships.
Nietzsche adds to this, in full agreement that this general man of justice is a fiction, and an foolish place to start an ethic. Whereas for Care, Justice ethics doesn’t account for the feeling person in context and through time; Nietzsche shows that Justice ethicist can never know the agent they postulate because a person is only ever known historically, after the fact, even the individual only recognizes himself historically by remembering his actions (Montanari, 2011; Nietzsche et al.). Because we are only ever looking at our actions in hindsight, and from that evaluating who we are in the moment, we can only catch glimpses of who we are (Montanari, 2011; Nietzsche et al.). Additionally, through genealogy, looking at humans through history, we can only ever see the contingency in what we have perceived to be necessary (Murdchadha, 2005), so to postulate a fixed ideal would be gross a mistake and terrible assumption.
Both Care and Nietzsche give a provocative attack on justice ethics but they also do more: they may offer a replacement. They reveal that the foundations of justice ethics, namely rationality, doesn’t provide complete access while claiming to do so, and indeed it starts drawing conclusions from an assumption riddled foundation of what it means to be a human agent. They show the oddness of making inferences from a stripped down, de-contextualized, de-relationshiped person to persons who are each individually born and raised in the highly variable context of deep emotional social connections. Nietzsche complete this because he revealed that you can only know yourself in part because you only know yourself as an agent by looking back on a past action. But, now Foucault provides a way to unify both perspectives. He exposes that the agent can only be realized historically within relationship.
Foucault sensitizes us to the fact that we are constitutively social creatures. We don’t simply grow up as individuals in society; instead, our very individual identity form from within our social relations, and as Held (1990) points out the content of own law is “comprehensible” only in reference to norms, values and concepts. All of these are constitutively social. Foucault elucidates how we as agents are self-defining but only with the precondition of already presents ideas, rule and practices that we didn’t invent ourselves. The practices we find ourselves within define what counts as truth, and these are indeed not just limitations for truth but the preconditions for any truth at all, including any self knowledge, as culture defines how you are able to value yourself by defining what counts as value. Foucault shows how we are the Nietzschian  ideal of the active agent, but the precondition for those actions to be counted as anything are that they are counted as something by others, that what you do makes sense only within a social context.
Here we get the active agent, but who can only do so with the preconditions of certain rules and values present and embodied in his the social practices. Since this agent is active and changing, but socially valued and forming from with that system of values, the best ethic would be one that creates an environment that allows diverse action to arise out of the social. Care provides such an ethic because it focuses on the specifics of situation and the specific needs of each individual. It at once allows for diversity and fosters the community out of which it grows. Because the social, emotional context provides the preconditions for a self in history, fostering those relationships of care  provides a greater ability for diverse action. It focuses on the specific instead of the general, where the general forces the agent in preformed and unrealistic conceptual boxes. The ethic of Care allows for the agent to act spontaneously, see his self historically, and to promote the conditions for his own historical reflections.
Care ethics and Nietzsche together reveal the insufficient moral theories of justice ethics and the flimsy foundations out of which Justice ethics forms. They also, with the help of Foucault possibly provide the first conceptual blocks for an ethical ideology that takes advantage of realistic agents within a context of realistic agents all creating a context of care out of which creative, spontaneous and diverse actions can arise and be recognized as such by both the agent and those around him.

Foucault (Assigned Reading). The ethics of the concern of the self as a practice of freedom. Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, 281-301.
Held, V. (1990). Feminist transformations of moral theory, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 321-344.
Jaggar, A.M. (1995). Caring as a Feminist Practice of Moral Reason, 179-202.
Montanari, D.J. (2011). Nietzsche and “getting it wrong”. Philosophy and Literature, 35, ­190-198.
Murchadha, F.O. (2005). Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger: thinking freedom and philosophy, British Journal of the History of Philosophy, 13, 361-373. doi: 10.1080/09608780500093319.
Nietzsche, F. W., Ansell-Pearson, K., & Diethe, C. (2007).On the genealogy of morality. Cambridge Univ Pr.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happiness and How to Prevent Suicide: Finding Happiness While Exploring Suicide.

I've often wondered what the remedy is for  the unhappiness that seems ubiquitous to our culture. I mean, what does the average person need to be happy? What is the core of happiness for most people? Hell, what would make me happy! The answer came to me while preforming a literature search for a lab that studies ostracism. I realized  that If I want to know what makes a person happy,  I need to find out what they can't live without. Or, in other words, find out what--if taken away--would make them want to kill themselves.  

The general answer is the group. If you take away the groups, then you take away the will to life. The two major issues that create the wish to commit suicide are simply social. The first is the a feeling of belonging. If a person feels like they don't belong to a group that they value, then they are likely to have suicidal ideations.

 They're going to be miserable. In fact, a person cannot avoid feeling the pain of not belonging if they are ostracized. Recent studies have shown that regardless of how confident you are, you're going to feel pain, actual pain, at being ostracized. Our brains are wired to be hyper-sensitive to being ostracized in any way. and even something as simple as a diverted eye gaze can stimulate the pain response. 

You may say, "I don't have pain when I'm rejected". The quick answer to this is that the way this that you probably just let it go when the brain activates the pain response. You don't attend to and so you forget about it. However, some people whether through biology, bad relationships or both cannot let this go, and reflect on it well after the fact. 

Each act of ostracism or rejection makes them feel more and more like they don't belong and causes them to develop an expectancy, where they look for signs of rejection everywhere, and do so automatically. They find it everywhere because they have a  confirmation bias. So they become sensitized to everything, perceiving more and more, everyday, as a sign that they don't belong. 

The second issue that adds to the sense of not belonging to create the perfect storm of suicide a feeling of being a burden. The key feeling here is "I'm a hindrance to everyone around me" or "the group would be better off without me".  This is the best predictor of the violence of the method of suicide. Varying on this trait is the difference between the suicide attempter popping a bottle of aspirin or a bullet. The more they feel burdensome to their family, friends and others, they more likely they are to use a more permanent method of attempting suicide. This is the single best predictor of a person moving from  attempter to an actual corpse.

 Feeling like you just don't belong, or  worse, like you are a burden to those around you is tightly connected to the will to live. It's reasonable to believe that if this is so connected feeling unhappy, that turning the dial the other direction can increase the will to live and happiness. My revelations is that everyone just needs to feel valued and accepted. That's the key to happiness.

So I've made some rules for myself:

1) When in doubt, be warm and friendly--it fosters friendship and intimacy and keeps me from making someone else feel like they don't belong.

2) Look at myself and everyone else through the eyes of "What they're good at" rather than from the critical perspective. So, to use a cliche: See the good in everyone, including myself.

3) Constantly make attempts at building new relationships. This means taking chances.

4) Divert my focus from memories of rejection and feelings of failure to:

5) Constantly remind myself of the healthy relationships that I have, as well as how I can, and do, contribute to those relationships in healthy ways.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Understanding Consciousness: The Distinction Between Mind and Brain

In my last article, Psychiatry, Mind-body Dualism and Sensation, I went through allot of content in a very short writing. In this one, want to be a little more concise and deal less with the whole of consciousness and thought and more with the parts. 

I said that for the relationship to exist between practitioner and client to exist in psychiatry, there are only 3 options that can exist for thought: Matter causes consciousness; matter is in lockstep with consciousness and matter and consciousness are both separate from each other; or matter and consciousness are exactly the same thing from different perspectives. I argue that it is the last option that is the truth. 

The reason for this is that matter (causal aspect of world) and consciousness (perspectival aspect of world) have nothing in common. They are two fundamentally different kinds of qualities. One is 3rd person observable and the other is necessarily first person. 

I should say something about the necessity of first person in consciousness. In order to feel as a person, you must experience as if you were that person. The only way to experience something as that other person or conscious being, you must become that person. And, obviously, you are not observing them any longer; instead you are them. The causal aspects (matter and energy) are observable in some way. They effect the world around them in way that affects us in a sensory way.

Consider the brain stripped of all its sense organs and stripped of thought only allowing it consciousness. It is obvious at this point that the only thing that the brain is conscious of is itself. And, now, remember that there is the necessary distinction between consciousness and matter, a distinction of internal perspective and external perspective, first person and third person. 

So, the first 2 options---mind and body in lockstep and body causing mind---cannot work and only the last option works: mind (consciousness) and body (Material, causal world) are the same thing from different perspectives. Because consciousness and matter are so fundamentally different, one can not cause the other. Because matter can cause a change experience, there is some relationship between consciousness and matter. Because it is not a causal relationship, and because the degree of difference is one of perspective, and because consciousness changes in the form (thought) because of changes in material,  consciousness must be the material's perspective of itself---the same things from different views.  

If as I say in the last post, that possibly everything---at least certain kinds of material---have two perspectives, material and mental, and it is the material the changes the mental, then we shouldn't be looking for consciousness in the brain. We should be looking for the memory of consciousness instead. We should be looking for a place in the brain where change and stability create the memory of consciousness. When we find that point where the changes from new associations and sensation, meet stability, we have found the place where we get the memory of consciousness. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Psychiatry, Mind-body Dualism and Sensation.

One of the greatest obstacles facing psychology is there isn't a single paradigm. You can't unite treatment and research into a single cohesive, exponentially building theoretical structure without a single paradigm. Too much information is lost between differing theoretical groups. This quandary stems from one major problem: There isn't an adequate distinction between mind and body.

This has been a thorn in the side of philosophy for thousands of years. It seems to have no solution. However, psychologist, psychiatrist and other mental health professionals need not struggle in the frame work and discipline of philosophy. They've worked themselves into a rut. We can apply philosophical style reasoning without burdening ourselves with a philosopher's baggage.

We can do this by stripping psychiatry down to it's core conceptual features, by narrowing our scope of inquiry to what we must assume to do valid and reliable scientific work. There is a point where even our methodological assumptions demand metaphysical assumptions. Psychiatric work demands one major assumption: the physical changes the mental.

In every case, a counselor, psychology or psychiatrist, is using the material/causal world to change the mental world. A counselor speaks to the client, and the client's ears pick up sound waves that impact chemical and neuronal brain structures; and a psychiatrist provides the obvious physical influence of chemicals in a readily tangible pill.  Though this may seem obvious, it's not insignificant.

It reveals a relationship between consciousness and matter, mind and body.  For this relationship to exist, between mind and body, there are 3 choices: Matter causes consciousness; matter is in lockstep with consciousness and matter and consciousness are both separate from each other; or matter and consciousness are exactly the same thing from different perspectives.

In order to know which of the three is the correct answer, consider what happens when we have a visual experience. When we see something, we don't see that something; instead it strikes our retinas and a cascading reaction begins. Instead we have an experience. The brain changes because of that pattern of stimulation, and it causes a patterned experience. Neurons fire, they release transmitters and the physical structures of the brain changes. That pattern of change that specific experience.

The brain's experience is of the pattern. However, consider that the consciousness qua consciousness--consciousness without pattern and simply as presence---is completely different. It is purely perspectival, receptive and necessarily first person.

Matter and Consciousness would be incapable of creating one another. They have nothing in common. However, consciousness always has shape and quality. It is either red or blue, happy or sad, square or circle---it is always something. Consciousness isn't caused matter (causal things), it is the form of consciousness that is caused by the shape of matter. So thought, the form of consciousness, has something in common with matter---namely its shape.

So the shape of matter changes the shape of consciousness. And, we are still left with the same problem. How does consciousness interact. They don't. They are two aspects of the same thing. Consciousness is matters perspective of itself. However, saying this seems to make no sense because there is allot of my body, and only a little of it is conscious. This problem can be solved by considering sleep research.

When a person shaken awake, they remember what they were dreaming about, but if they weren't, then they may consider themselves unconscious all night. The reason they think they were unconscious is because they don't remember.  Memory is inhibited in sleep states. They were feeling and thinking, but long term potentiation (memory) was suspended. Everything may be consciousness, like us during sleep, but  not everything has memory.

Memory of other states is necessary for considering one's own consciousness. You must remember consciousness in the past to consider it.

But, it's more than memory because the brain is the same shape. Its shape should be conscious of itself. However, what its not remembering is its change. Change is required for cognition and memory. There is a constant change of brain states. We're always in one state, that one moment of consciousness, but that one moment contains traces of the past. It has sensory echoes. Like an after image in the eye, we always have the past connected with our present, one vivid experience overlaying a weaker impression of the last one---but still leaving trace recognition of it. Our past experience is in our present experience.

To further this point, consider habituation. If you look at the same image for long enough, you no longer see it. Your nerves become habituated and no longer "see" that stimuli. What cognition provides that is different from other bits of matter is that it is in the right ratio of change and stability. Neurons, physical units, remain mostly the same---in the same position or shape---but have a electrical charge change it slightly. It retains a shape, only slightly changing. While, at the same time, it is rapidly changing.

This doesn't just happen on the micro aspect of the brain---where neurons change and do not change---it occurs on the macro level. Different parts of the brain change at different rates. Many parts of the brain change far faster  than others. The faster changing parts of the brain, like the hippocampus, access the slower changing parts of the brain where it indexes information.

There is a constant flux of change and stability. There is contrast. It is in this contrast between memory, fading experience and brighter fresh experience that is causes us to remember our own consciousness. Consciousness is matter's perspective of itself. Memory and change allow us to remember our previous consciousness through a delicate balance of change and stability.

It is in reconciling this change and stability with modern theory, that we will discover how to unite our psychiatric theories.  This is a start. In order to build a cohesive paradigm, you must start with a firm foundation. Psychiatric theories must build from the smallest units, piece by piece, so that the rest of a staggering large network of theoretical information can find unity. The beginning piece is reconciling Mind and Matter. Matter and Mind do not interact. They are two of the smallest aspects of our universe that are only conceptually distinct. All matter is probably "conscious," but it doesn't have the right ratio of change to stability that allows it to recognize its own consciousness. We do. It is in our highly associative, interconnected brains that this ratio is found in its perfection. Change and stability are united in some golden ratio.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The News, Ethics and Politics: Our Futures And Their Power

Eliminate politics. It is a bad venture. It has been for thousands of years, and it will be for thousands of years to come---if we don't cure it like the disease that it is. Lets face it even the brightest of us don't understand everything, and no one truly knows even a good portion of economics, social science and world diplomacy. Each of those requires extensive, almost infinite, information about equations, human nature in groups and as individuals and about thousands of cultures. There is literally no way to know it. However, in our modern political scene, we pretend like we do. We act certain. We feel certain. We are deceiving ourselves.

Since when have you opened up an advanced text book to realize you know everything in it---even when you've been in that field for years? Any professional knows that there is literally more information in an given, single, professional field than any one hundred trained professional's can assimilate, let alone one person.  And, there our thousands of professional fields and specialities that are required to run the government for even a day. And each of those have hundreds or thousands of people diving up the understanding and responsibility of those areas. 

Yet, when we vote, we think we can decide whether or not someone had done the right or wrong thing in there field. We pretend that we know what philosophy is best for running our  nation's finances, whether it is better to lighten taxes or increase them, whether to drill or not to drill, whether to attack or not to attack. We are wrong. These are not simple problems that can be solved with a civilian's mind, or even a brilliant professional's mind. Each of those problem requires infinitely complex mathematical,  behavioral, economic and cultural calculations that requires thousands of brilliant minds to understand and act upon.

However, this is what politics tells us: "You understand it all, and you know you can trust me, so vote me because you know I am right". Meanwhile, they're spoon feeding your only information. And, you take it up eagerly because believing is far better than feeling lost in the chaos of information you can't understand. Believing that Joe the Plumber or Sarah Palin can run a nation makes you feel more equipped to handle the world.

In reality, you are busy surviving, feeding your children and working your job, and you are just one person. You can't understand. the best that you can hope for is that you play a significant piece in the puzzle. The best way to play a piece in the puzzle is to vote people in who are qualified to make those decisions. In this world of constant psychological manipulation that is an impossible choice. There is no way to make the right decision. 

And, that is how we need to exercise our power in this democracy: we need to find a way so when we make a decision we can have a real, trustworthy reason to believe that it is correct, and not just deceptive certainty. 

We need to break it down. What do we want for our nation? We want to live healthy, happy and free. We want our nation's power to protect and promote these. We want crush corruption, and optimize our government so that it serves our desire for a health and happiness in the long and short term. We can do that by effective watch-dogs, and the best candidates. 

We must fix our watch-dog and find a way to choose our candidates that eliminates political manipulation, whether wielded through a news agency or a  politician. The way to do this is to make the News a different kind of profession, held to the same standards as a doctor or lawyer. A profession that is not for entertainment value, but that genuinely seeks to uncover corruption and bring truth to the public. News agencies need to become a new legal category, where the size and influence of the agency is limited by strict rules, and where the news agencies are held accountable by other news agencies and the public. Every story that is meant to report news on politics or world happenings should have reliable and valid resources,  recorded and verifiable.  If they don't there should be serious consequences, consequences that are independent of the government, but no less binding.

The other side of this is politicians themselves can manipulate, and subtle differences between the candidates can warp the vote in wrong way. For instance, you can predict elections based on how tall the candidate is. This preference for taller people could cause us to choose the wrong person. And there are many more ways that are both intentional or not intentional that we can be influenced to vote in the wrong direction. 

In order to snip our own self-defeating mental heuristics out of the process, we need to limit the kind of information that we receive. We should do this by law. The law must say that we never see our candidates.  The only criteria that can be known---and posted and easily accessible to the public must be: IQ, Education, Grades, Languages spoken, Experience, Financials and Other criteria set by a committees of the best professionals who deem these to be important in decision making and background experience.  Political affiliations of the candidates should never be mentioned.  Specially designed tests for candidates need to be taken and posted, as well, that gage leadership skills, charisma, and cultural and economic understanding.

The only way to fix a broken system is to redesign it. Our system is broken because we don't have the kind of understanding and control we think we do. We aren't actually making choices---we're being unconsciously told what to do. We're leashed. We're leashed to other's information, other's opinions and other's persuasive charisma. Beef up the watch-dogs and eliminate the political scene by eliminating the manipulation. Eliminate politics. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Certainty and Sensation: Glenn Beck, Fox News and MSNBC.

Be sure. Read your books, e-mails and web pages; watch your Fox News, MSNBC and be sure. This is the subtle but brutally persuasive and destructive culture that we live in. We think we know. We are taught to grab onto something and be sure about it. I was watching Glenn Beck the other day, in a family members home, and I was struck by his smug face and general demeanor of certainty. But, not just his certainty: the entire audience looked and acted certain. Then it struck me that the words aren't the indoctrination. It's the certainty.

Most people have heard of classical and operant conditioning (If not, read the links below). Most people know that they can associate two things in their mind. However, what most people don't know is the profound and unconscious power that these principles play in their life. A clever person can use these to associate a behavioral disposition and feelings with a certain stimuli---say  colors, shapes or persons---and then cause that behavioral disposition and feeling almsot whenever they want.

Fox News, MSNBC and their ilk are do this very well. They stimulate dopamine with bright colors and high emotion to stimulate a feeling of certainty. There is a human principle called the availability heuristic. And, it is a mistake of the human brain, which sacrifices speed for accuracy, where what most quickly comes to the forefront of the mind is considered most certain. Emotion, bright colors and other things that stimulate salience---something that causes a person to notice it or feel it more keenly---places it into the human memory more firmly than other less vivid and visceral stimuli and therefore causes it to come into conscious awareness faster and brighter. It creates the feeling of certainty.

Fox News and MSNBC have created and associated this feeling with grammar, certain key words, certain color combinations,  certain intonations and anything else they please. They stimulate, grow and exacerbate the feeling of certainty to epic proportions and then associate it with their choice of political ideas, books, products and political candidates. They do all this without the audience ever know it's being done.

People like what Fox News and MSNBC want them to like; people get angry at what they want them to get angry at; and people do what they want them to do. All the while, the audience is sure that they are correct, when they are being led along like a well trained dog---believing whatever their master wants.

People like Glenn Beck and stations like Fox News and MSNBC are the master of these people. And, the behavioral principles are so powerful that they have reached inside the audiences very soul. And from there, they are shaping our nation by their clever marketing (brain washing). People are voting on spoon fed opinions and on carefully selected facts and taught to be sure about only one source---FOX or MSNBC.

Stop them. They are shaping our nation according to commercial and political interest. Not the interest of gullible nation that voted them in. They are making a sham of democracy by brilliantly wielding psychology. Stations like Fox News and MSNBC change the way voting is done and even the entire culture. We shouldn't limit free press, but we need to stop kind of wholesale manipulation of the people. Right now we have less choice than a person in China. Our restriction is just less obvious.

Politics isn't a normal institution. It wields the greatest nations. It shouldn't be treated like a normal institution or group. So, in order to stop the manipulation, we need to limit the amount of information candidates are allowed to announce. They shouldn't announce that they are running. There should be third party, highly watched, watchdog sites and sources that list the qualifications of the candidates, and keep their names private---like education, grades, experience (filtered), finances, Ratings of general charisma (for diplomatic reason), net worth (within a range), IQ and other cognitive test and any other useful and on point category 

We should eliminate dichotomous labels like democrat and republican and make it about actual qualifications and not cookie cutter categories. By doing this, we have eliminated the power of someone like Glenn beck or stations like Fox News and MSNBC. People are not voting on labels they are voting on actual qualifications without the colors and emotion.

Descartes And Cogito Ergo Sum: The Cartesian Mistake.

You think therefore you are---right? You can't deny that when you think that you exist as something, even if that is some unknowable being. Perception, even the perception of your own thoughts, is a guarantee of existence because to perceive something is the analytic a priori guarantee of being a perceiver. But, it isn't the thought, the content, that determines your existence; instead, it is sensation. Perception always starts with sensation. It is the very foundation---it is perception without form.

This is where Descarte went wrong with his idea of Clear and Distinct Ideas. He thought that if something was clear and distinct, it was  as we see it.  After all, our thoughts are clear and distinct, and what more can guarantee that something is true than similarity to what is sure. Some people think that he is caught in a form of circular reasoning with Clear and Distinct ideas---The Cartesian circle--however, he's not saying that God stamps his stamp of authority on clear and distinct ideas. Clear and Distinct Ideas are sure because the clearness and distinctness of our thoughts is what makes our existence sure. 

However, this is just a missing distinction that probably resulted as a result of lacking the right language. He failed to make the distinction between the form of feeling (thought) and feeling (qualia, presentness, pure consciousness). There can be sensation without thought; but, there cannot be thought without sensation. Sensation is a priori necessary for thought. So feeling, qualia, presentness is always first and formost, metaphysically and epistemically primary. 

He blended simple consciousness and the form of consciousness (thought) into one into a single word or concept and built the rest of his theory on that. The use of that one ambiguous word, Cogito or Thought, that one failed distinction, brought his entire theoretical structure crumbling down.

I think therefore I am should be I feel therefore I am; I think therefore I am should be about qualitativness and not form found as thought; I think therefore I am is a reflection of the form of thought on the qualia. I think therefore I am is a reflection and is the a statement about the reflexive recognition of the qualitative nature. I think therefore I am is simply the the recognition of the presentness of consciousness.

Helpful articles:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Is The Meaning Of Life?

When I was a child, I danced from tree to tree, swung from tree to water, and lived with dear, beetles, snakes and birds. In the rain, in the myste and in the heat I reveled in the color of my experience. My quintessence was the shape of my experience. I was the feeling of balance and height as I looked down from the top of a tree; I was the sight of a brightly color frog, bird or flower; I was the myst after a rain and the smell of the earth. I was what I felt.

Somewhere in time, I lost the child. I forgot that I am my experience. I am the form of my experience. I gave my experience to something outside myself that I cannot know, something other: I made myself two. The external and the internal. I searched out God, and said: "Show me who I am". I searched out spiritual things and said: "Where is my essence?" I searched out knowledge in academia, and asked myself: "Does meaning exist?"

All the while, I shriveled. The cancer of my own search devoured the child, slowly, so I didn't notice. But as I searched continually, I realized God was just a fold of my mind, the spiritual was just my feeling, and the academic was just a meaningless pattern. And, I was alone. I was stripped of everything that gave me hope. But, ultimately, the end, the abyss of ambiguity that my search had led me to led me to the beginning: I am my experience. I am the love I have for my child, my brother and my lover. I am the compassion I feel. I am the color red and green, and I am the joy of falling.

In my search I was led to meaning itself. Meaning is feeling. I am the child who know that he is because he feels. I am an experience that is changing and knew. I am the child who is no longer broken and split in two by his own intellect. The meaning of life is the form of experience. Meaning is all that is left when everything else is gone.

The meaning of life is a color, the meaning of life is a sound, the meaning of life is a smell, the meaning of life is warmth, the meaning of life is the profoundness that is constitutive of experience. The meaning of life is before knowledge, the meaning fo life is the truest and most sure. The meaning of life is the experience of sensation, the qualitativeness, that  makes knowledge possible. The meaning of life is to make experience as rich as it can be in yourself and the knowledge that it is in others.

The meaning of life gives you ethics, pragmatics, knowledge and everything else because you are the guardian and creator of experience, the spontaneous expression of self. Be conscious of sensation, and you have the foundation of all knowledge and everything important.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

About the Comments: Killing a Vegan: Degrees of Subjectivity. .

  Thank you all for your comments. They were enlightening. However, I noticed an area of misunderstanding. There are some distinctions that I hoped were clear from post, that I now realize are not. They are not intuitive, and though simple, they are not easy to see.

First, Killing a Vegan: Degrees of Subjectivity is a discussion on ethics. It is a hoping to find some sort of understanding in the area of animal rights, and our ethical responsibility to them. Sometimes emotions clutter our reasoning, and while they motivate moral actions, sometimes they prevent progress in dialogue. Like the abortion debate, the animal rights debate is cluttered with allot of emotion that obscures a deeper progress in ethical and legal understanding.

Why are we worried about animals? Why do we care? Well, because we are equipped with a machinery that allows us to experience another's---including an animal's---pain as if it were our own. Our empathy allows some access to another's suffering. It does this by using external cues. We see it squirm, we hear it squeal and we watch it run in fear. However, there is a difference between a feeling, like suffering, and the behavior, like squirming. It is the case that many times these are associated in humans. But, the feeling and the behavior are not the same and they don't always correspond. Also, what we consider pain isn't always suffering. I stab myself with a pen and I feel pain, but today it is a distraction from my excessive anxiety, and distracts me from my emotional suffering. The pain at that point is not suffering. The anxiety is.

What I want to know is what causes suffering. And, in order to say anything about suffering, we need to know the difference between suffering, pain and the behavior associate with the two. If we know what causes suffering in a person (what brain region or trait), we can say when it happens in an animals or which animal it occurs in and which it does not. In this way, animal right activist can say something that has substance in the debate, something that would be very hard to fight, something that people can relate to and conveys truth.

If I am doing research on nervous system tissue in my lab, should I be concerned with the pain I am causing it? Does it suffer? If that doesn't suffer, then how much more tissue and complexity is required for it to suffer? At what point should we living tissue become a being worthy of ethical consideration? At what point does it really suffer as we as humans suffer? If my finger (which has a great deal of neural complexity) fell off and could be reattached, but was still alive, should I be concerned about how it feels? Killing a Vegan: Degrees of Subjectivity is an article that wants to know where we draw the line? We need to know where we draw the line so we can advance in our discussion, in our ethics and in our laws.

So, at what point does a piece of tissue gain moral consideration?  When is it aware of itself as a suffering beings?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Killing a Killer Without Ending His Life: A Syringe, a Revelation and a Happy Ending

Let's say I'm a serial killer. I like to kill people, and I have friends who like to hunt in a group and rape, torture and kill, and we don't have a type. Big, small, pretty, ugly, man, woman, adult or child, it doesn't matter. And, in this group I am truly happy. I have friends, people I relate to and enjoy being around, and who watch my back---we're like brothers cut from the same cloth, the cloth of death. We enjoy what we do, immensely. It gets our blood pumping, gets us money, unites us in camaraderie and the purpose, and the sense of power has given us all a sense of efficacy that has lifted us up from the gutter. We're motivated to do better and now feel like we can. Murder is our therapy; murder is our life. We have seen our genius that all the test told us we had; we've seen our predatory nature which we're too clever to reveal; and, we know we will never get caught---we only hunt in a nation where one of our group is the son of a homicidal dictator. It's like we have the Ring of Gyges. There is no law for us, we have no empathy and we crave the high of the kill.

Killing a Vegan: Degrees of Subjectivity

Have you ever Stepped on a nail and not felt it--then: Pain Strikes you. You've been standing on the nail for a minute, but because you had your mind focused on the hottie walking by, you didn't notice it. This is revealing. It reveals that pain (the phenomenological pain) is a process of higher order functions. The "I" becomes aware of the of the pain and then it becomes "I-pain". In psychology, there is a distinction between aversive reactions and physiological response to a stimuli and the phenomenological pain response to a stimuli. Aversive reactions can take place without pain, but are many times accompanied by pain---emotional or physical, which are processed in the same area of the brain (see last months Scientific American). Now, humans and higher order animals can feel pain, but lower order animals may not feel phenomenological pain because they don't have the "I" concept or the ability the higher order brain functions to process suffering as anything more than a stimuli and response. When we talk about ethics with animals, we should consider degrees of suffering.

Plagiarism, Cheating, Ethics and the Failure of Higher Education.

Cheating, plagiarism and the lack of learning has become a serious problem in academic institutions. These issues are of vital concern for the educators, the students, the nation and even the world, especially the democratic world. In order to address a problem, we must first know the reasons for the problem and what kind of problem it is; and, then, and only then, frame a solution to that problem. The issues that I will address in this post are: roots of cheating, plagiarism and being educated without learning; and I will address if cheating, plagiarism and being educated without learning are a moral issues, are practical issues or if they are both---and how it is what it is.


First, I need to clarify some terms. I will argue using behavioral terminology. People do what they think is good: people do what reinforces them at a higher frequency than without reinforcement. People don't do what they find to be bad: People avoid what punishes them. Reinforcement increases a behavior; punishment decreases a behavior. There are two types of reinforcement: positive (R+) and negative (R-). Think of the positive and negative not as terms of valence (valence can be in the terms punish or reinforce) but like the mathematical concept.

Positive reinforcement means you are providing something that results in a better state of affairs, like if I gave you food when you were hungry, and this state, getting the food, results in being more likely to do what got you the food. The food was added so it is positive.

Negative reinforcementmeans that you take something that is aversive away, and it results in an increase of behavior because it results in non-aversive state taking on a reinforcing quality because of the contrast between a punishing state and a non-punishing state. When a behavior or group of behaviors results in a better state of affairs because of something bad is taken away, then this is negative reinforcement. This is what happens if you are being shocked, and you do something right and the shock stops, so you are more likely to do what caused you not to be shocked anymore. The shock is taken away so it is negative. Positive (P+) and negative (P-) work the same way for punishment (P+ & P-), except punishing behaviors reduce the likelihood of a behavior. So I would add pain (P+) to stop you from doing something; and I would take away a pleasure (P-) to get you to stop doing something.

Good Valence (VR=Valence Reinforcing) and Bad Valence (VP=Valence Punishing). When I talk about Valence I am talking about whether something feels intrinsically good or intrinsically bad, something intrinsically choice-worthy or intrinsically not choice-worthy. And, when I use the term valence I am also talking about both the phenomenological essence as well as its objective, causal underpinnings as one. In contrast, reinforcement and punishment don't always have a VR or a RP, but always have neural underpinnings. However, a bad valence is almost always punishing and a good valence is almost always reinforcing, so I have made valence VR and VP have R and P stand in to show intrinsically, qualitative goodness or badness.
Secondary Reinforcer: A secondary reinforcer is something, and object or word, that has been associated with something that is naturally and intrinsically reinforcing, like food, and that takes on its reinforcing ability or VR to some degree.
Token: (T) A token is a word or object that is given as a secondary reinforcer to a behavior.

The Argument:

As a student, looking into the future, longing for a time when I am financially secure and have a career, grades mean everything. Somehow in my limited emotional, fiscal and time resources I need to read for hundreds of pages, determine the salience of the material and remember it, and then I need to do research, write papers, feed and train my dog, keep track of my bills, keep track of my finances, eat and manage my friendships and family. Any one of those can be daunting for a person whose brain is matured and living life in the prefrontal cortex. However, most college students are still reasoning out of the seat of emotions, the amygdala. This results in a highly emotion based thinking. This doesn't just mean that they reason less, it means that their feeling drives are stronger and more compelling than reason because their emotions and other feeling states are not being regulated. It means that sometimes, they simply cannot force themselves to do their work.

In addition, to the problem of emotion, you must consider that sometimes studying for hours on end for endless assignments, and rushing from one paper to the next, one test to the next, and feeling anxiety about your next grade is unnatural and unhealthy for the body. You must deny many social-emotional needs, force yourself to sit at a desk, down some nasty coffee and move your eyes in a line for hours. And, when all is said and done, you may pass the test, but you forget almost everything. And, honestly, you can never do enough. Sometimes your eyes simply wear out and you realize: I can't read anymore, but I need to.

What happens to learning in this situation? Learning becomes devalued, secondary reinforcers like grades become most salient and trained helplessness sets in. Learning takes a back seat, the intrinsic reinforcing and motivating power of knowledge is degraded or destroyed, and a student comes face to face with their inability to get it all done, and the fact that even if they get it all done---they're not going to remember it anyway.
Tertiary Tokens: Looking at the Wrong Thing.

Mental stimulation and fascination are natural motivators and and reinforcers. They work. Also, the strongest reinforcer, bar drugs, for a human is social reinforcement. And using natural reinforcer, which are present in the environment and directly applicable to all learning---those motivators and reinforcers are at the very core of real learning, for people learn knowledge to pass knowledge on and make them more effective and affective in social situations. School can offer both of these reinforcers directly by arranging a class around interaction and personal fascination. However, what happens instead of using these reinforcers and motivators, most schools use grades.

There are several problems with grades: They are weaker reinforcers, they are not maintained by the natural environment and they are tertiary goals that focus on the achievement of tokens (A or B) rather than learning that is intrinsically motivating and reinforcing. In behavioral modification the goal is to create something called a behavioral trap, where the target behavior is maintained by reinforcement found in the environment. Unnatural reinforcers, ones that are not clear in the natural environment will cause a behavior to go into extinction, where the behavior is not longer activated due to the lack of reinforcement. However, if the environment reinforces a behavior it will become embodied in the person's mind/brain and continued through life and spontaneously enacted. Grades do not offer this: you don't get A's and B's on paychecks or for personal creativity or for a self owned business. And, even if you did, it wouldn't be very reinforcing; rather you would probably feel overly controlled. The reason other institutions do not use these is precisely because they steal a person's sense of autonomy, self-motivated behavior, and of self appraisal and are so far removed from unconditioned reinforcers and powerful secondary reinforcers, like fascination, curiosity and social reinforcement, that they don't work well at all. There is more I will say about tertiary reinforcers, but that deserves its own section.

Evaluative Conditioning:
Evaluative Conditioning happens when a neutral or RV (reinforcing valence) stimuli is paired with a PV (punishing valence). When this happens, the neutral or RV stimulus takes on the aversive quality of PV. One of the great problem with graded education is that it makes learning less about learning and more about achievement that is uncertain and competitive, where you have to be almost inhuman to achieve a competitive edge. And, in many instances, you cannot be inhuman and so linear as to keep you butt in a chair for hours on end, forcing information into your brain. Humans have internal concepts, like the idea of learning and the behaviors that are to achieve it, and these can be associated with a valence, good or bad. When you associate these concepts with being dry, un-pleasurable, stagnant, linear and forced, you have associated learning with this valence, a PV, a bad naturally not choice-worthy feeling.

The first problem is that learning becomes associated with the uncertainty of achievement and the stresses of pushing yourself beyond what is even healthy. The learning concept, while it could be intrinsically reinforcing, takes on a PV. It becomes aversive. While a person is in school, their grades may be high, but since in many cases the students grades are maintained by a negative reinforcement, or escape conditioning, and week reinforcers---when they leave the learning behaviors will stop. And, when there is a chance to avoid learning behavior even while in school, the student will be likely to avoid it because the concept of learning and the behaviors associated with it have become associated with PV.

In addition, because a person can study for hours, till their eyes can't read anymore, and still not get through the material and still not remember the material later, they can develop trained helplessness. Trained helplessness is a concept that has been tested in many situations. When an animal or person is confronted with constant failure, even when they get a chance to escape that failure or punishment, they will not use that way out. They are paralyzed by trained helplessness. Many students have so associated learning with failure that even when they are given the chance to learn, they will not take it. They have been educated, but the only thing they have learned is to avoid learning.

Tertiary Tokens: The Wrong Goal.
Given that learning has been so devalued and even aversive, and that students can get grades without actually learning, the grade becomes the goal. You do what you can for the grade; the idea to be learned is rather devalued or meaningless. So students become achievement oriented and not learning oriented. It is a clear goal, with clear methods. Ideas have become devalued as inaccessible.

Cheating is a disdain for the value of one's own ideas. It represents either that a student does not care about the value of ideas, or not caring about the value of their ideas or not believing they can have a good idea. So in this case the problem is the idea, the knowledge and synthesis of knowledge. Ideas no longer have power for the idea maker and/or the idea maker feeks inept. Since ideas don't have motivating, intrinsic value anymore, and the student is faced with a possible personal failure that could jeopardize their future family, social, fiscal and career life, cheating many times is a very salient option---and one that does not have immorality attached. They see their life and achievement come in contrast with a token, a grade, and the choice would be clear for any moral person---I choose the person's happiness over some meaningless token.

This is also a problem with teachers: teachers face hurting a student's future, emotional well being and social capital by giving a bad grade. The token grade is meaningless; the person's well being is meaningful. To hurt that person would be antithetical to educations---an ideal of hope---because to hurt that person's future because of a shallow social construct would defy the ideal of hope of a better future. Teachers are also aware that if they don't appeal to the average student that they risk promoting only the very bright minority. And, to do so is antithetical to common sense and democracy, where we are trying to have massess of successful people and not just a small elite. So in many cases to give a bad grade could be considered unethical.

Education, now, is conflating the beautiful, self-maintaining power intellectual growth with a valence of stress, trained helplessness and being cheap. It has made learning a means to an end rather than an end in itself. We must solve this problem, and the solution needs to happen in all academic institutions from kindergarten to graduate school. In order to solve this issue, grades should be dropped for social maintenance and periodic intellectual growth checks and followup, and the reinforcement from intrinsic interest. School should create a behavioral trap that capitalizes on fascinations, curiosity and the desire to develop intellectually in a community of thinkers, and decontextualizes learning from a thing that happens just in class to something that happens all the time. Math, reading and writing should be presented as tools to engage in personal, natural interest, rather than something that has no bearing on the immediate interest of a person's life. Education needs to become human and move away from educating and more towards a community of learning, where ideas still have their intrinsic, unconflated power. And, where the tools of learning become associated with the powerful, natural, valence of beauty and accessibility of learning and ideas.

It is the context of education---the tertiary goals and the punishing valence where ideas have lost power---that promotes cheating, plagiarism and weak learning. If ideas were meaningful to the student, they wouldn't cheat---cheating wouldn't makes sense. They would seek to learn all the time. However, it is moral for them to cheat, or for teachers to have weak classes because the students aren't really going to learn, the power of ideas is weakened and there is so much on the line for these fledgling adults. Cheating is just human interest, like a happy life, against weak tokens and some indirect, gaunt idea of social fairness. It is not the students who cheat and don't learn, or the teacher who keep the curriculum easy who are wrong; it is the overal context that steals the power of ideas that is unethical. Grades and the achievement orientedness of education have made cheating moral because it pits person against token, where it would be immoral to choose token.

Wolves In The Trees: A Moral Myth

Morality is a problem. The concept of morality now creates greater harm than good. Whereas it was once a useful transparent drive---something we are not aware of---now it has become harmfully deceptive. It masquerades as something that is real aside from our instincts and gives the appearance of fact that is not there. It forcibly asserts its own truth and commands its realness apart from the person---when in fact it is nothing more than the person's constitution moving the person and that person's feelings.

Morality requires free-will. If you don't require free-will, then what you call morality is simply a mistake of action no different from turning on the wrong road. For instance, If I kill my neighbor because he was standing in the road and I didn't see him, I haven't done anything immoral. However, if I walk into his front door and kill him by shooting him after planning the assault for days, most people would say I have done something immoral.

In one case I had no intention to kill; in the other I intended to kill. So the immoral act seems to be wrapped up in intention. But, a person who kills another cannot choose their reasons for killing---they simply acted on them. The intention is the beginning of an action. They also cannot will an intention strong enough to stop if they do not have that intention. It is a logical impossibility and a cognitive impossibility that a person wills or intends what they would will or intend. In the case of intending an intention, they would have to intend their first intention.

If I have had no choice in any meaningful sense, because my reasons have been determined, then I have only acted by necessity. If I have acted by necessity, then I have not intended an immoral action; I have simply acted while being aware of an aspect of my own internal causation [This also has drastic consequences for our conceptions of will and action]. If this is the case, then referencing intention is superfluous. The action of killing with or without intent is meaningless in a moral sense because it is no different from an accident. "Moral" simply doesn't exist as anything.

We feel moral or immoral. Things strike us as right or wrong. It seems to be a built in category to people. We see this, it has certain qualities, it gets put into this natural, empty category with a valence of "morality (good, bad)" attached. It is a feeling with a compulsion attached. However, it doesn't exist as a real existant thing qua morality.

There is a problem though. Intention doesn't seem to be a meaningless aspect of what we call "morality" or life. There is something important about it. So why would we have this mechanism---whether built-in, learned or both---that pushes such import on a "moral" agent and on agents intent? Why is there the difference between an intentional action and an unintentional action?

The answer is simple. An intentional action reveals intent which, in turn, reveals the reasons for the action: the stable disposition of the actor. An accident reveals little; an intentional action reveals a complex, thinking entity which is actively seeking harm. It is greater likelihood that Bob, a serial killer, is going to actively seek out a gun and shoot me than it is that Frank, a meek accountant friend of mine, is going to accidentally shoot me because he happend to find a gun in his desk (Bobs prank).

When I go hiking and camping, I'm not afraid of a deer accidentally running me over and breaking my bones. Its unlikely. However, I am concerned about wolves. They are actively seeking a prey. Their internal disposition is to hunt, kill and eat---and eating me is a distinct possibility. Now, lets say that I am a primal man, or a hippy (who hunts), with a wife, children and chickens. If I see a wolf, I am likely to kill it. It represents an active source of danger to my wife (she's petite and weak.The anti feminist ideal), my children and has already killed several of my chickens. My first response is to kill that wolf because I know its dispositions towards violence. Its intent is to kill as a stable disposition. Not only that, but I will probably actively seek to kill wolves, especially the ones that cross my path, because this reduces the likelihood that I will loose a kid, my hot lady or a meal.
We do the same same kind of mental calculations when we see someone who intentionally has done something wrong, like murder. He is fundamentally dangerous, at his core. He is wrong because he is unsafe to let be loose around us and our children.

We condemn any person, or it is adaptive to do so, that reveals such a dangerous character because one we can stop their characters progression towards danger through disapproval or we can end their threat by getting rid of that person.
In addition, you might say that we call lots of things immoral that aren't directly dangerous, like certain sexual improprieties. How does this fit into the development of need for an idea of objectively moral. However, these people still represent dangers for two reasons: they are not social constrained, and they are not predictable. Immorality, as conceived by many cultures, typically revolves around acts which if left unconstrained would result in danger. And they reveal a lack of inhibition. If a person can't keep it in his pants, like he has sex with any one he meets who is willing, he shows that he is not able to regulate his sexual desires---which could lead to incest, rape, hurt emotions (like jealousy) or a break down of certain social constructions, like marriage (which in times past was necessary for raising children and giving the male reproductive rights).

When a person violates social constructions, they reveal this lack of inhibition for one, and they reveal that they might not care about the constraints that the people find safety, reward and significance in. We consider them morally wrong because they break down our ability to make stable social structures. For instance, we may call a liar immoral because he always intends (acts out of his personality) to lie and that lying will be consistant. He is completely unpredictable. He may not directly harm you, but he can indirectly harm you by giving you bad information, violating a contract or slandering you. He is a threat to a stable culture.

This has many implications for justice. We are sentencing prisoners to death or imprisonment because some of us believe they deserve it and this is the natural reciprocity of justice. However, if we saw them as flawed, we might seek to fix the flaw rather than cage or eliminate it. Our methods would be different. If a prisoner is metaphysically immoral in a sense we cannot ever even have access to, because it is part of free will for he is evil, then we will seek to completely destroy him from our midst. If he is not constituted right for the context of the culture and the autonomy of other people, but the reasons for this failure are things we can address, we would look for ways to fix that person and head off others who would develop like him.

Believing in an objective morality was once highly beneficial and adaptive; however, now it may not be. The above example shows that a clear elucidation of what we are talking about when we talk morals can change the ways we look at a situation. If I keep looking wolves in the same old way, I might wipe them out and destroy the food-chain destroy my sustenance; If I see one person as moral or immoral objectively, then I might kill off someone that reveals a solution to the overal problem; or I might accidentally confuse something as wrong and dangerous that is not and destroy it. Many wars have been fought on the grounds of objective morality. This side believes that that side is wrong, vile, objectively immoral and the other side feels the same about that side. They cannot fix the issue, to have peace, because they cannot see the other side as being something that they can integrate: for that side is fundamentally bad. If something is fundamentally bad, in a way that is out there somewhere in free-will-land, and hence not fixable, then the only way to solve the issue is to dominate or destroy the other side.

If we see problems as reconcilable within the objective modifiable world, then we will, given our general human constitution, seek fix that problem. For we wouldn't see a person or nation as fundamentally bad, but, instead, as a problem with reasons that can be fixed. To see our world outside of the moral instinct, allows us to see it in the larger context and solve problems that are problems and ignore what are only apparent problems. We'll seek to understand wolves as wolves and see their greater part of the ecosystem or as our potential and useful pets. And, if it turns out, we simply cannot survive with certain wolves, like serial killers, we can always destroy that threat---but, we need to make sure we are not creating a bigger one.

The problem of placing intrinsic qualities, like morally good or morally bad, is that they are not fixable except by elimination---which could create greater atrocities to human flourishing---because you simply cannot chose to compromise with evil. It is intrinsically bad, completely un-choice worthy. However, if we bring moral down to the level of pragmatic in the context of human empathy, we will see problems that have far more solutions than an either/or choice. Morality presents us with false dichotomies. We need more than dichotomous thinking in a complex society, where we have evolved in or structure and even biology, beyond the day to day living of a simple forager or pre-modern. We simply can't deal with macro problems with micro concepts.