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Re: [xmca] Fwd: The Privilege of Absurdity

Being part of a project or "system of activity" invariably involves sharing in the norms of belief which flow from the project's self-concept, and such norms almost invariably include a division of labour. And /within/ projects "equality" is far from a ubiquitous norm. I think everyone is a dupe to a nonparticipant in the project.


Greg Thompson wrote:
I, for one, am deeply skeptical of how intentional are the "creations of
elites." The elites certainly benefit from these creations, but I think
that they are dupes just like the rest of us. The elites just happen to be
the "lucky" dupes (depending, of course, on what you mean by "lucky").

My sense is that it's dupes all the way down! (or "up," as the case may be).


p.s.  Seems better to look at the structure of the system for the key to
the problem.

On Wed, May 23, 2012 at 11:15 AM, Jay Lemke <jaylemke@umich.edu> wrote:

And not just cultural mediation, but cultural politics. If we strip away
the rhetoric of sacred and moral values, we find, I think, that all such
grand causes for which people fight and die, or just slave away, are the
creations of elites who benefit from the naive trust in these ideas,
symbols, and rituals by large numbers of other people. I think the usual
term for such people is, unfortunately but accurately, dupes.

I do not believe that evolution has endowed our species with any special
propensity for being duped by false gods. Our herd comfort in grand causes
and ideals may be real enough, but it is simply the political manipulation
of the underlying human capacity for mediation by symbols (discourses,
images, ideologies, etc.) that gives cover to the pursuit of their own
interests by elites.

The problem is not even so much that all such gods are false. It is that
they are gods made by other people to serve themselves. And I would
emphatically include in this analysis the traditional churches and their
religions as well as historical and modern ideologies of more secular
kinds. It is customary in polite society to simply tolerate these forms of
mass deception for the comfort they give to those who have little else, but
I think we know that this is not the path to a better world for all.


On Tue, May 22, 2012 at 5:25 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

I have a suspicion that cultural mediation may play a role here. What do
you think?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Scott Atran <satran@umich.edu>
Date: Tue, May 22, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Subject: The Privilege of Absurdity
To: COG-SCI-REL-L@jiscmail.ac.uk

Science and Religion Today

Humans define the groups to which they belong in abstract terms. Often
strive for lasting intellectual and emotional bonding with anonymous
others, and make their greatest exertions in killing and dying not to
preserve their own lives or to defend their families and friends, but for
the sake of an idea—the transcendent moral conception they form of
themselves, of “who we are.” This is the “the privilege of absurdity; to
which no living creature is subject, but man only’” of which Hobbes wrote
in *Leviathan*. In*The Descent of Man*, Darwin cast it as the virtue of
“morality … the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and
sympathy” with which winning groups are better endowed in history’s
spiraling competition for survival and dominance. Across cultures,
group identity is bounded by sacred values, often in the form of
beliefs or transcendental ideologies, which lead some groups to triumph
over others because of non-rational commitment from at least some of its
members to actions that drive success independent, or all out of
proportion, from expected rational outcomes.

For Darwin himself, moral virtue was most clearly associated not with
intuitions, beliefs, and behaviors about fairness and reciprocity,
emotionally supported by empathy and consolation—which constitute nearly
the entire subject matter of recent work in the philosophy, psychology,
neuroscience of morality—but with a propensity to what we nowadays call
“parochial altruism”: especially extreme self-sacrifice in war and other
intense forms of human conflict, where likely prospects for individual
even group survival had very low initial probability. Heroism, martyrdom,
and other forms of self-sacrifice for the group appear to go beyond the
mutualistic principles of fairness and reciprocity....

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Jay Lemke
Senior Research Scientist
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
Adjunct Full Professor, Department of Communication
University of California - San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California 92093-0506

New Website: www.jaylemke.com

Professor (Adjunct status 2011-2012)
School of Education
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Professor Emeritus
City University of New York
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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1608461459/

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