Friday, January 14, 2011

New Escapologist on exercising free will.
Heidegger gave the name “They-Self” (or Das Man in German) to the state of being which is governed entirely by the herd instinct. The “They-Self” is you in everyday life: it is the Parent-You, the Work-You, the Neighbour-You. In other words, it is the you that plays the roles and lives by the rules that society, not you, construct. Heidegger described the “They-Self” succinctly when he wrote, in his seminal work Being and Time, “Everyone is the other and no one is himself.” For Heidegger, the “They-Self” is the most basic form of our existence; the “They-Self” comes first and the “I-Self” comes afterwards, if at all.

Stanley Milgram’s findings are disturbing because they prompt us to ask, “How would I act such circumstances? Would I act as “Them” or as “I”? It is a question with frightening implications and which often leaves us believing vainly that we would be in the minority. As Mosley rightly points out, such a belief is a terrible delusion.

The question of whether or not we exercise our free will is not limited to life or death scenarios. It is a question which can be, and should be, addressed in everyday life. As Heidegger argues, it is in everyday life that people tend to relinquish their individuality and become a part of “Them”. The real test of individual freedom for most of us will not be in the dramatic scenarios fabricated by psychology experiments but in the way we live out our lives. Everyday choices, while rarely a matter of life or death, are always a matter of freedom.
Everyday choices, while rarely a matter of life or death, are always a matter of freedom.

well, thats the existentialist code, yet...what does Milgram's old study (however trite) on Obedience suggest? Humans follow orders, even to the point of torturing others. There does appear to be something like a Herd Mind. Now, a few people may be aware enough to overcome the Herd Mind, but ...conditioning of a sort does occur, and social-economic parameters exist. The brass orders a biblethumping soldier to torture a "hadjee," and he does.

The existentialist, or even Hegelian Freedom has a heroic aspect, but...prisoners are not usually free to escape. The po' folks down a few blocks are not exactly free to be Bloombergs or Bill Gates, are they. At times, the ex. thinkers sound rather close to affirming bourgeois freedom and liberty, ie the freedom to own property (or large estates in the Black Forest, etc).

That said, ...the french school (Camus rather than Sartre por moi) at times spoke of a sort of no-man's view of Freedom--post-marxist-- of desperate choices, not unlike Dostoyevsky's gamblers and outcasts which I understand to an extent.
Milgram's study shows that 65% of subjects are totally inauthenticate - will administer the fatal shock when ordered to do so. But there's hope, most will feel some remorse or discomfort. Ignore the man, the they, and respect your own intuition - finely crafted by millions of years of evolution.
This reminds me of my recent comment regarding "not being myself." I do not know yet whether it is a distinction between human being and human behavior that is involved? Or whether it is a distinction between kinds of human being?

I don't know how to be without doing. So therefore am I my doing, my deeds? Or am I something in addition?

Our court system allows for a distinction between the deed and the motivation. But that has to do with passing judgment on the behavior, once it is established that the deed was done.

For my interests, the question is limited to the authentic and inauthentic options. Does authentic mean that which I can be held accountable for? No, since it is whether I hold myself accountable or whether another holds me accountable. So 'authentic' has to do with the judgment I pass? Therefore, when I am "not being myself" I am excused from full responsibility? Yet it is 'I' who passes judgment? What part of me gives me permission to not be myself?
Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that one can act authentically with either choice? It seems to me that Heidegger's analysis isn't really saying the inauthentic is when you act in the fashion of the "Them" but rather the existential nature of ones act. That is the same actions could take place and be either authentic or inauthentic.

Relative to Milgram's study I think one could easily argue that even those who rejected orders were doing so because of a herd morality which saw such things as wrong. That acting would be just as inaunthentic as those who followed orders. All that differed were the orders they were following...
I can see that. If I was brought up to never harm anyone, and if I then refuse to shock the person in the Milgram experiment, I'm just going along inauthentically.

It's hard then for me to see where the ontological authenticity would come into the decision. If I don't just go along, like the "they", and instead reflect on my decision, that's like Socrates trying to figure out whether an decision is virtuous or just going along with the demos.

How would a decision be ontologically authentic instead of ontically virtuous?
That is the same actions could take place and be either authentic or inauthentic.

IOW, one could authentically decide to agree to follow orders, and....smoke the chandala. Thats what's great about authenticity: it can be used in about any circumstance to justify any act.

Seriously, I doubt say Nietzsche, at least, would have approved of Milgram's study, which as most know had many problems (ye olde halo effect, etc) and the reliability probably more like 50%. It's still interesting of course, but........says something about the psychology biz as much as it does about humans. At any rate, Milgrim and similar researchers called into quesiton the "rational man standard" beloved by social scientists and economists --but Im not sure it proves a Herd Mind , or the "They." It may just prove...at certain times in controlled circumstances people (especially Americans) go along with what appear to be authorities. But in another setting...maybe not.
To pass judgment on someone else as being "inauthentic" seems to me to be inauthentic. MH does describe the "They," not as something about others but as something each one of us is capable of being. It's not a way of diagnosing others but of better understanding ourselves.
“They-Self” or "the They" for "das Man" are poor translations, because unnatural and awkward in English. "Man" used to correspond to the neutral English pronoun, "one", but one does not say that these days. Instead "people" stands in for das Man, as in "people do things like that", "people think that...", "people don't like..." This brings das Man home in English -- to the eery rule of (the) people. When what people say and do and 'think' dominates and lays down the rule, this is said to be "democratic", i.e. good. For better or worse, ours is the age of Here Comes Everybody.
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