Archive for January, 2014


This is just a brief article to publicise my official website and my indiegogo campaign to raise funds for an ethical game I have designed.

 

 

I’d also like to apologise for being very slow to respond to comments. I’m afraid I’ve never formed good correspondence habits. I tend to be one of those people from whom you might receive a xmas card in January. However, I will make the effort this year to be more prompt in responding. Just know that I appreciate your feedback very much even if you don’t hear back from me. I am particularly apologetic to Robert Jordan, Ph.D. Robert submitted a very interesting description of a hypothesis he has been working on in relation to belief formation. I will get back to you Robert. If you want to have a read of it, it is in the comments section of my article “Cognitive Style and Belief Formation”.

 

If you’d like to have a look at my website it is at http://toradellin.com.au . There is a widget link on the website to my Indiegogo campaign, but this is the direct link http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ethical-elven-game/x/3419958  .

More articles are on the way.

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Practice Compassion

This is a stencil illustration of my mother that I created soon after her death in 2010. She was a person who lived a life for others. She was a person who had a deep well of forgiveness and compassion for others. On her grave stone I had inscribed “Resting here is Margaret Adele Thomas, beloved mother and unassuming princess among humanity . A soul of great beauty, compassion and self-sacrifice. She is my greatest role model in life.

When I created this work, as well as missing my mother deeply, I had been reminded of that iconic image of Che Guevera that is now commonly found on the t-shirts of non-conformists around the world (many of whom I would suggest don’t understand the idea of communism nor know much about Ché Guevera’s personal history). His image has come to represent the idea of revolutionary change in society. Those familiar with history will recognise that although revolution is responsible for a lot of interesting things in human culture, it hasn’t ever delivered a utopian society. In fact it very often leads to a lot of harm and suffering with just a change in the demographics of the people inflicting the suffering and those receiving.

There is something far less drastic than revolution that is far more effective in bringing us closer to a utopian society. That thing is compassion. Unlike emotions like anger, hate and fear, which originate in the basal ganglia, neurological structures that we inherited from our reptile ancestors, empathy and compassion are a product of cerebral activity. In other words, a person without these cognitive skills is emotionally stupid, cognitively impaired. It is not strength to be without compassion, it is weakness, pathological weakness. If you don’t believe this statement, ask yourself, who in our community are completely devoid of empathy and compassion. It is the psychopaths, people who rape, murder, torture, molest children without the slightest feeling remorse. They do not represent an evolved or evolving humanity. Those without compassion or who devalue compassion represent a diseased state of being.

Thus, I created this image to illustrate how each of the billions of individuals on this blue planet has the power within themselves to generate a revolutionary change in society, without revolution.

Compassion is evolved, compassion is strength.

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I generated this image to illustrate some important points regarding ethics and ethical/moral reasoning.

The title, “Ethics = empathy x respect squared” is not meant to be taken as a genuine algebraic formula, it is merely a play on Einstein’s formula for energy, E=mc^2. It expresses the idea that two very key elements to an ethical character are a) that a person is capable of empathy for others, and b) that they are prepared acknowledge the right of others to be treated with respect. By making reference to Einstein’s famous equation, which has had a significant impact on our understanding of the universe, I’m attempting to illustrate how ethical reasoning is of fundamental importance to our functioning as a social entity.

The sagital section of the brain, is arbitrarily delineated into four sectors. Each of these represent four qualities that I’ve held for a long time to be essential to being a good human being, virtue (ie engaging in prosocial behaviour and thought while refraining from antisocial behaviour and thought), compassion (the product of empathy), understanding (ie making the effort to use reasoning and evidence in making ethical decisions while refraining from ignorant thought processes such as stereotyping, bigotry etc), and finally tranquility (if a person has a calm mind then they are more able to reason clearly, perceive evidence, and less likely to react in emotive and antisocial ways).

In the lower right area of the work is listed what developmental psychologists recognise as the universal and sequential levels of cognitive development in the human species. These are the levels identified by the researcher Nancy Eisenberg. You will note that I have labelled the first three levels as being religious levels (with the label placed over the basal ganglia to represent that these are very basal modes of ethical reasoning). If you examine the moral instruction given by major religions you will realise that the forms of reasoning they use fit into these low level categories. Studies have indicated that religion in fact retards the development of ethical cognition, with followers often not rising above the sterotypical level. This is defined as representing a 7 to 12 year old level of reasoning. The majority of people tend to only reach the empathic level of moral reasoning, with only a small number developing partially internalised principles and strongly internalised principles. People tend to switch between different styles of reasoning depending on the circumstances. The reason few people obtain the higher levels of ethical reasoning is that little to no emphasis is placed upon the development of these skills in our education systems. Even the use of an already available curriculum such as P4C, Philosophy for Children, would be enough to help rectify this situation, leading to a more prosocial school environment and society.

Finally, in the lower left area I have simply listed the three major principles of ethical reasoning used in ethical philosophy and applied ethics. Individuals who reach the sixth level of moral reasoning often discover these themselves. It is my contention that the aim of each individual and the aim of education should be to raise everyone’s consciousness to the highest level of moral reasoning that they are capable of.

Just do a websearch for “myths about child abuse” and you will find that there are a number of cruel myths that surround child sexual abuse that make it difficult for victims to recover from the scars left by sexual abuse. The one that I think is the worst and cruellest is this one: “Victims of child sexual abuse grow up to become child sex abusers themselves”.

This fallacy creates the fear in the victim that if they tell anyone about the abuse, they are then going to be an object of suspicion themselves for the rest of their lives. This additional fear, (along with the fear of not being believed, called a twisted liar, being an object of disgust and so on), very powerfully robs the victim of the ability to disclose to anyone what has happened to them. Corollary to this fear is the hurt that people would believe them capable of the sadistic behaviour of the monster or monsters who abused them. This false belief held by the community at large, robs them of the hope that they could ever gain a sense of respect or acceptance from others. They feel as though they would be the social leper that acquaintances wouldn’t want to see near anyone’s children, nor having children of their own. And so they stay silent. It is a very effective myth for the real abusers to perpetuate when you think about it.

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In the criminological and psychological research literature it has become clearer and clearer that there is absolutely no basis to this poorly conceived belief. As the Australian Institute of Criminology points out in it’s report “Misperceptions about child sex offenders” by Kelly Richards
(ISSN 1836-2206), there is no causal relationship between being sexually abused and becoming a sexual abuser. Very few victims become abusers themselves. When this does occur, it is not as a result of the sexual abuse. The fact that most victims do not become abusers and that most abusers were never abused should be enough to destroy this myth. One can only hope, I say with an ounce of pessimism, that the public will become more educated as to the facts and that the cruelty of such false beliefs will fade over time. Thus making it easier for victims to heal and feel an accepted part of humanity rather than an outcast.

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