Absolute beliefs

Deep Thought, ethics / Saturday, October 18th, 2008

I’ve been having long discussions with Kan (@ Lucid Dreaming) about limiting beliefs and how our mind plays tricks on us. Or rather we use the tricks as crutches, to avoid having to run hard. Or avoid being uncomfortable. Or because thats how our mind evolved because of our childhood environment. And these can be specific individual level beliefs – about what I see as my level of ability or comfort or wealth or success. These beliefs tend to be deep rooted, and unconscious, and require a great deal of cud chewing and cogitation and an a-ha moment before you get to a stage of realisation. And they manifest themselves in the walls you keep banging your head against – and you ask why does this always happen to me? – for eg: falling repeatedly for bad boys or ice maidens..

But these are micro level issues, in the sense that these are limiting beliefs held at an individual level which to a large extent are function of nurture.

On the other hand (I’m training to be an economist) you have the tricks nature plays on you through your mind  – what you might call evolutionary ‘beliefs’ or hard coded stuff – propagation of the species kind of stuff – for eg the whole courtship ritual – which can be overcome with conscious decision making. To bring awareness to the fact that our systems have certain tendencies which are based on the need to pass on our genes – and these tendencies have conscious rationalizations in our mind – but these rationalisations are really false beliefs/tendencies, because they are a) not reached through a process of conscious reasoning and b) they are not meant to maximise individual or even potentially social outcomes – but are based on achieving optimum evolutionary outcomes ( read Eliezer Yudkowsky’s  post ‘Why does power corrupt ‘)

So keeping in mind, both these macro and micro level tricks our mind plays on us, how do you decide on a code of ethics and guidelines for what you do and what you don’t? (here’s another post from Eli – End’s don’t justify the means ) So potentially the reason you didn’t go through action x to achieve outcome y is because you a) you really didn’t want to get y and/or b) you get a higher personal payoff by holding onto your code of ethics which prohibit action x. 

So for eg: though you would do anything to say win the heart of the office beauty, you still can’t woo her since she is your friend’s girlfriend and your code says – Bros before h0s. Now the standard thought experiment about killing n to save n+x (where n and x >0) can be discussed.
And the second layer to it – how our reality is a manifestation of the beliefs in our mind. So the fact that I often find myself  in situations where I need to do x to achieve y implies that I am consciously or sub-consciously making choices which lead me to these situations. Which requires a basic rebooting of the operating system I use, and also begs the question – is there an absolute of what’s right? Or even our own absolute?
The fact that we might not have any absolutes, just relative values which we weigh up every time against the payoffs is not particularly exciting. But if you go down the road of limiting beliefs, it’s hard to avoid this conclusion.

* apologies for what is a rambling and poorly constructed post, but it’s midnight here and these questions have been rattling around inside my head for some time now

** also maybe this entire post is just me rationalising, trying to stick to my behaviour and arguing against change.
*** for the record: I would have done anything, but I just couldn’t do that.

btw: Is it just me or do you agree with Scott Adams – I am afraid Obama could lose the election – that’s another post

Leave a Reply