Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To Thine Own Selves Be True Or Not To Be

OK, I'm going to run the following up the flagpole with no warning, explanation, introduction or excuse:

With regard to the enigma posed by our capacity for self-deception, the first key to the puzzle is the fact that in virtually all human cultures, deception connotes dishonesty, and dishonesty is fundamentally immoral.

A further key to be considered is that along with many animals, we humans have several higher level assessment systems, or selves, that communicate with each other, but are essentially unable to monitor the apposing assessment operations. Hence their machinations, if and when, have been de facto concealed.

And, as to the self appearing to deceive another self, immorality, as humans see it, would not have been a factor - nor become a hindrance to the evolution of our biologically deceptive functions. Primarily because these now inherent calculative strategies have been derived from largely successful results of various species' past experiences, where consequences were less dependent on the "truth" or purity of the data than on its relevance to the tactics that best addressed the problems. And this stratagem is not so much about the invention of new data (although if need be that will happen) as the determination of that relevance by what seems to fit the situation, and the selective exclusion of what seems not to. So that in the end, the functional segments from which the accuracy of some data will be effectively concealed have almost from the start "agreed" to the arrangement.

Thus despite what we instinctively tend to feel, deception has no moral implications in that dynamic. A "self" will be deceived, but not be lied to. Because it "trusts" the deceiving self to do, or to have done, the manipulation of the data for their mutual benefit. This inducive self is not there to determine "truth" for it's own sake, but to discern whatever elements of probabilistic fact will make the system work.
(Example - to alleviate the paroxysm of fear sparked by the emotional self, the more motivated rational self will consciously select out data to reassess the probabilities of success, until everyone involved feels happy with the arrangement, and their new vision of the eventual consequences - the accuracy of which needs only in the end to be approximate.)

But then the argument will be, if the self in question knows it's being "deceived," that's really not deception - because there won't be any need or reason to accept the accuracy of the input, which had been the only purpose of the exercise. The answer is, in my view, that the "agreement" the systems have with each other calls for the manipulative act to happen when the deceiver determines it's supposed to, so that the self it happens to won't know this in advance or want to know it. Obviously it's a malleable arrangement and not all that cut and dried, as there's certainly more overt and suspicious manipulation going on within the systems, but which will largely involve the efficacy of the strategic process, rather than a question of the "motives" of the parties.

All this a lot like the "white lies" arrangements that we have with one another in most if not all human societies.

And is it this inherent inability of our internal systems to monitor and direct their operations without any form of moral compass that's led to consequences of self-deception that are self-destructive? Especially so, the more this evolutionarily cobbled system seems to evolve itself - or the more "human" we animals have become?
And have the moral strictures within our various cultures had to evolve accordingly to counter this very problem - to deal with the weakness externally that we can't overcome internally?
And how successful will such strictures ever be, when so far we've treated this as a problem generated by some fantastical external forces, i.e., good and evil, rather than by our self-concealed internal machinery? (Or machinationry if I may coin the term?)

Stay tuned.