so, welcome to maps of meaning. so the firstquestion i guess i might have is, what, why are you here? anybody got an interesting reason?>>[student answers: uh, i want to be able to manipulate reality to my best interests.]>>that's a good plan. >>[student answers: yeah.] >>except for the manipulate part.[laughter] >>[student answers: maybe my wording is off?]>>it's okay. >>it's better to work with reality, generally,than to manipulate it cause it tends to hit back. anyone else? yeah.>>[student answers: uhh, my friend took this class a couple years ago and he kind of threatenedme to take it.]
>>oh yeah. >>[student answers: cause apparently he saidthat the course actually changes likeï¿½] >>for the, for the better?>>[student answers: yeah.] [students' laughter]>>that's good. >>[student answers: you made him write a shortstory or something, and made him want to become an author. now he's a published author.]>>really? >>[student: yeah]>>is he any good? >>[student answers: i never read his bookactually.] [students' laughter]
>>ooh. some friend you are. no wonder he threatensyou. yeah. >>[student answers: i audited this coursesix years ago, and the course changed the way i see the world. so i want to see aftersix years what happens now.] >>you want to see if it'll change back?[students' laughter] well that's good. so why did you decide, why, uh, why afterall this time did you decide to come back? >>[student answers: well i thought about thethings you discussed in the class over those six years, but now, um, it's been awhile andi want to refresh myself and see, you know, with the new experience i've had, and thenew things i've learned, how and what i can
take from it now.]>>hmm, hmm. well that's very, um, dedicated and hopefully useful. >>[student answers: my friend said that hehad a spiritual awakening from taking this course.]>>god, i hope i didn't see that. he did, eh? >>[student: yeah]>>did he give you any, any, like, any, description or? was it associated with an epileptic seizure?[students' laughter] >>[student: it was associated with a lot oflike, visions] >>oh really, eh? oh that's interesting. yeahthat can get out of hand, that sort of thing, you know. no, that's, that's interesting.i mean, one of the things that i experienced
when i started to learn some of the thingsthat i'm going to talk to you guys about is a very radical increase in the intensity andclarity of my dreams. it wasn't pleasant, by the way. but, it was useful. most usefulthings aren't that pleasant. so you're in for some of the same punishment, i guess that'sthe plan, is it? [student answers] >>alright, alright, anybody else?>>[student answers: i sort of have an independent interest in existential psychology. nietzsche,jung, etc. this seemed like a good place to discuss it, and i took your previous class,personality.] personality?>>[student answers: i liked it a lot.]
>>when did you take that?>>[student answers: couple years ago.] >>yeah? yeah, well it's a good preparationfor this class. now, is there anybody here who doesn't have any idea what this classis about, and more or less showed up because the time is right or anything like that? soyou don't really have any idea what you're in for? alright, well i'm gonna jump right into itbecause why not? so i'm gonna talk to you for about two hours, and then you can havea break, and then i'm gonna tell you what you have to do in the class. but, by thattime you'll know if you wanna take the class because you'll know whether or not you wereinterested in what i told you about. so i'm
going to video the class - i always do that.so the videos will be online, ones from previous years are online as well. so hopefully that'llbe a useful resource. it shouldn't take me as much setup time the next time as it didme today. i'm still getting used to this equipment. so, i wanna tell you why i'm telling you thethings that i'm going to tell you. when i was approximately the same age that you peopleare, probably a little bit older as i imagine you guys are around 21 or something like that.i was probably about your age and a couple years older. first year i was in graduateschool, in particular, which i guess was in 1985, so i was 23 then. that was in 1985, and there are a couple oftimes in the late 20th century where the cold
war really came to a peak. and one time, iguess, was probably in about 1957 when, i think it was 57. i hope i have my dates right.whenever stalin announced that he had developed a hydrogen bomb, and i don't know how muchyou guys know about hydrogen bombs, but all you really need to know about a hydrogen bombis that they use atom bombs as a trigger. so they're quite the weapon, and the ussrand the us made some very, very big ones. they're big enough to make the thing thatwas dropped on hiroshima look like dynamite. so, hundreds and hundreds of times bigger- maybe thousands of times. it's been awhile since i looked into it. and then in 1962, there was the cuban missilecrisis - i have a good story about that. so,
about ten years ago, i went down to tucson,arizona to a conference on consciousness there. and they have that conference fairly frequentlyin tucson. it's become quite a popular conference even though it isn't clear to me that we knowanything more about consciousness than we did before the conference started. and, tucson'skind of an interesting town. it's in the middle of the desert, the cool desert, with the bigsort of saguaro road runner cactuses. but it's also extremely dry there which is, ofcourse, what you'd expect given that it's a desert. so one of the things that americansdo with tucson is store old fighter planes there. and so there is an airplane museum,which is an amazing place. it has maybe 500 planes including john f kennedy's air forceone, which is the jet that he used to zoom
around the world - it didn't have a showerby the way. it's funny because on the outside it lookedlike a modern jet, but on the inside, it looked pretty much like it was from world war twobecause 1962 is a lot closer to world war two than it is it now, in all sorts of ways.even the rockets that went to the moon looked like they were built by people who were usingworld war two technology - they were full switches, mechanical switches, and it's prettybasic. anyways, as well as the airport museum, which is a very interesting place - there'sb-52 bombers there and all sorts of things. those things are huge. there's also an airportgraveyard where they store old fighter jets and there's a lot of old fighter jets so there'sacres, and acres, and acres, and thousands
and thousands of old mothballed fighter jetslined up in the desert. so that's kind of cool in a strange way, but there was one otherthing down there that i went and saw which was a decommissioned nuclear missile siteand it was an intercontinental ballistic missile site and those were built in the fifties andearly sixties, and they were major league rockets, those things. i think the silo, causewe could go into the silo, and it was certainly farther across in diameter than this room. i would think probably twice as large as thisroom, so you can imagine how big a missile that would be - it's not your grandmother'smissile. it's a major league piece of armament, and out on the grounds - these things wereunderground, deep underground, because they
didn't want them to get blown up if they werebombed, so they buried them quite a long ways down and to get into it, you had to go throughthis massive steel door that was like a huge safe door except, you know ten times as big,and ten times as thick. out in the yard of the nuclear missile site, there were fenceswith barbed wire on them of course, and there was a missile cap. it'd be the nose cone ofthe missile. some of these missiles had single warheads, which were more than sufficientto demolish a city and some of them had multiple warheads, so they would shoot out into spaceand then come back into earth and then they essentialy break apart or disperse into multiplemissiles and then you can really bomb the hell out of whatever you were going to bombinstead of just destroying one city.
and so, the nose cone was sitting out thereand that was a pretty freaky looking thing, i'll tell you. like it was big. it was aboutseven feet high i would think, and maybe about the same amount across. it was made of thisplastic, kind of variegated plastic material that was about three-quarters of an inch thickand then it would melt off, of course, on re-entry because as i said these things shotout into space, and so that was kind of unnerving really, in a serious way. so we're at themissile site and you know, i mentioned your grandmother's missile. there was actuallya reason for that. it was a bit of foreshadowing because it was a very funny place becauseat the front of the missile site there was sort of this museum set up, you know, andit had pictures of reagan and gorbachev on
it because they decommissioned the missilesites when detente occurred and then when perestroika hit, and the soviet union startedto collapse, and so there were all these pictures of reagan and gorbachev from 1984 and so themuseum was kind of like a time capsule of 1984, and the people who were running it were,like, retired arizonans. and they were like your grandparents, assuming you have retiredarizonans for your grandparents. but they're real friendly and they're prettyhappy to show you their nuclear missile museum and it was sort of like being in their recroom, except that it was a nuclear missile site and they were hospitable and it was weird,you know. it's like welcome to - you don't welcome people to a nuclear missile site.it's just not reasonable and so it was very
disconcerting and it was disconcerting thatit was locked in the 1980's and then it was disconcerting that it was friendly and hospitableand, you know they were kind of proud to show it off and happy to be there, and then whenyou went down into the nuclear missile silo proper - the control center, it's sort oflike star trek, you know, from 1966 or 1967 except more primitive. i don't remember ifthe star trek control command area was modeled after the nuclear missile site control systemsor if it was the other way around but i suspect it was that they were modeled after the nuclearcontrols but that was really 1950's - like the whole place was painted in that pastelgreen that, you know, late fifties and early sixties people really liked.
and it had this 1950's - what would you callit - aesthetic. and you wouldn't necessarily think that a nuclear missile site would havean aesthetic but it does, and it looked like high tech 1957 technology. so they broughtyou into the control room and the control desk was probably - or the module or whatever you mightcall it - was about three times as long as this - maybe four times. it was a pretty impressivepiece of machinery and the way you launch the missiles was not too secure in my humbleopinion. what happened was, one guy wore the key around his neck. and then another guy wore the key around his neck. in order to launch the sites, you had to putthe keys in the same time, and they were far enough apart so nobody could stretch theirarms, you know, which was kind of the high-tech
part of it. so, and, he had to put a key in,and you both had to turn the key for 10 seconds. okay, so, and one thing you may know aboutballistic missiles or you may not, is they're not cruise missiles. once you set those thingsoff, they're not coming back. they're bullets. that's what makes them ballistic. you know,if you aim a gun at someone and you shoot, and you decide halfway, when the bullet's halfwaythere, maybe that wasn't a good thing to do, it's a little late because you're not tellingthat bullet to come back. and it's the same with ballistic missiles,and those things are going a lot faster than bullets, you know, like a 22 bullet goes aboutthe speed of sound, but a ballistic missile, that thing has to go around 7 miles a secondto get out of the gravity o f the earth. now
i'm not sure they go quite that fast becausethat's escape velocity right, you need to do that to get out of the gravitational well.but to get out there into space, you have to be damn close to 7 miles a second. so it'sa bullet, a very large bullet with a very explosive head on it going 7 miles a second.and once you turn those two keys man, that's it. there's no turning back. that's that.and so they took us through a simulated launch which still kind of, it's still an uncannyfeeling remembering that, you know, because it's a hell of a thing to apprehend. and thenthey told us that the keys were in once. right. so we were ten seconds away. now they wouldn'ttell us when, but we know when. it was during the cuban missile crisis.
so, you know, there are a couple of timesin the latter part of the 20th century, where we made it through the eye of a needle, webarely bloody well made it. and, the cuban missile crisis was one of those points. butin the early 80's, things were heating up pretty badly too. in about 1984, there wasa movie that came out, called the day after. you guys probably don't know about the dayafter. but it was the most watched movie that had ever been broadcast on tv at that point.and basically what it showed was, what a city would be like, the day after the united stateshad been bombed into total desolation by a soviet missile attack. and you know, it wasa pretty hair raising movie. and one of the things that was quite interesting about itwas that ronald reagan later said that he
watched that movie and that was actually partof the reason that he entered into detente talks with the soviets. now you know, reagan had been basically beenscaring the hell out of the soviets. he had called them an evil empire, which the liberalsweren't very happy about, but the soviets man, they were an evil empire. there's absolutelyno doubt about it. it's not obvious how many people the soviets killed, during their communistrevolution and years following that. but the estimates range from twenty to sixty million.now that's a lot of people. like even if it's twenty million, that's three times as manypeople as were killed in the holocaust. you know, the soviets starved six million ukrainiansin the 1930s and that was just to get warmed
up. so the idea that the soviets were an evilempire, it's like, it's a strong word, but there's absolutely no doubt that it was trueand the more we learn about what happened, especially during the stalinist period, althoughlenin was no picnic. he pretty much created the stalinist monster that followed him. the more we learn about it, the more horribleit becomes. and the soviet system was operated, the economy fundamentally ran on slave labor,for what economy there was. what happened with reagan in part was, first of all thesoviet union was falling apart because there's just so long you can keep a sinking ship afloat.and something that big can die twenty years before it falls over. a system like that canstumble along half-gutted and still manage.
and so, by the time reagan had come along,the thing had probably pretty much burned itself out as a consequence of internal contradictions.but he ramped up american military spending to a staggering degree. and part of the ideabehind that, at least that's what the republicans would have everyone believe, and that mightbe true, is that they're just going to spend the russians right into bankruptcy - and theybasically did, and so that was that for the soviet union and it fell over in 1989 whichwas like, that was a good day. that was a really good day, and the weird thing is thatno one saw it coming. and that was shocking. one day the soviet union was there and thenext day, the su was gone. and there was gone cia analysts that said hey yea, they're aboutready to crumble, you just have to blow on
them and they'll fall over. it was a shockto everyone. you know, and then, it was very iffy in theaftermath whether or not it would hold. yeltsin, who was a terrible drunkard, but actuallya pretty courageous, well he was russian, you know. he was a pretty courageous guy andhe faced down reestablishment by the totalitarians on a tank. you know, that was good for himbecause that was pretty frightening too. anyways i'm telling you all this because when i grewup, most of the people i knew were convinced that there was no bloody way we were goingto make it to the 20th century. you know, and i think, i remember discussing this withall of my friends frequently, and you know some people kind of use that as an excuse,you know like what the hell's the point, you
know, we're gonna blow ourselves up anywayso i might as well drink vodka until i fall over. and you know, that's not really a particularlymoral way of looking at it, but i'm telling you that there was no shortage of thinkingthat this was so insane that this would certainly end in absolute catastrophe. and it damn near did, like it wasn't somekind of collective delusion. you know, there were times, in fact, there was a story recentlypublished, about a russian general who was given the order to launch the missiles. therewas a mistake in reading on their display, showing that missiles were coming from northamerica across the poles towards russia, and he was told to launch, but he didn't. well,good for him, but, that's a little too close.
really. and you know, there's all sorts ofother crazy things that had happened during that period of time. so for example, i read this book by an ex-kgbguy who said he worked in a biological warfare lab in the soviet union. they killed a numberof people by accident when some of their bugs got out, on the order of 500 people, whichis a lot of people, but it's not like 250,000 people. but it's a lot of people. but whatthose geniuses were trying to do was cross ebola with smallpox. so small pox is unbelieveably- the combination of smallpox and ebola is extraordinarily easy to transmit and veryvery very fatal. and so, they were trying to cross it and then aerosolize it so youcould distribute it in canisters and blow
it over cities. nice bit of scientific investigation.perfectly reasonable scientific question - can it be done? so, you know, it was a pretty crazy periodof time. and all human history - what did dostoevsky say about human history? the onething you can say about it is that it's not rational. the very word sticks in your throat,so it's always been crazy, and it's crazy now, but it was really crazy then. and so,we got through that, and thank god, you know, as far as i'm concerned, the world is a lotbetter place now than it was, well it is, thirty years ago, forty years ago, fifty yearsago. things are way better now, you know, you hear a lot of doom and gloom about howwe're gonna destroy the planet, but we probably
aren't. the population is gonna stabilizeout at around 9 billion. we already have 7, we can handle another 2. there's gonna be some extinctions - we'reeating up the ocean like insane piranha - that's mostly a fault of public policy, but it lookslike we're probably gonna squeak through the century with a bit of damage and then thingsare gonna settle down. it's highly probable if theres anything vaguely human left in ahundred years, that the big problem will be population is rapidly decreasing. and that'salready happening in european countries, it's happening in japan, it's going to happen inchina. and so you know, by the year 2100, the most populous country in the world isgoing to be nigeria, not china. china is going
to lose people like mad, because they havea one child policy. and everybody in china is getting old, so it's not going to be hyperpopulated. anyways, so i was interested in all this because i had felt i'd grown up - ididn't feel like i'd grown up under its shadow - i had grown up under its shadow. it was something in the back of our mindsall the time. and there was a question underneath that, a couple of them, and one was - howis this possible? how could it be that the world could divide itself up into two armedcamps - hyper armed camps - tens of thousands of nuclear missiles, more than enough to wipeout the enemy many times over. i don't remember what the american arsenal peaked out, buti think it was more than fifty thousand nuclear
weapons. i dont know if theres fifty thousandtowns in the soviet union. maybe they were gonna bomb moscow fifty times or something,but after the first two or three, it's probably more or less irrelevant. so it was really,it was really crazy. and i don't know if you know this, but - and i believe this was duringthe kennedy era, i hope i got this right. one of kennedy's genius boys came up withthe - because kennedy's administration was run by a lot of harvard graduates and a lotof ivy league graduates so they were supposed to be pretty intelligent, but intelligenceand wisdom are not the same thing. anyways, they established a policy which was calledmutual assured destruction, which means if you hit me, i kill you, and then you killme so it would be better if we didn't bother.
and the acronym was mad - mutual assured destruction.it's like, you know just thinking about that, it's a chilling thought - it's like what horribleentity thought that up as a joke. you know you think well is that some politicians ideaas wit? where'd that come from? so thats a hell of a thing to make a joke about. mad.well that was right, it was definitely mad. and you know the odd thing is that we didntblow ourselves up and we didnt have a third world war, and you can't make a solid claimthe invention of nuclear weapons was necessarily the worst thing that could've happened becauseeven the soviets who were completely insane, and of course the maoists who were probablyeven worse, they weren't insane enough to start a nuclear war.
now stalin, there's evidence - there's debateabout it - but there's evidence that stalin was basically murdered, partly by khrushchev,who was his successor. when stalin died, khrushchev and three other people were in his house andwhat happened the night stalin had died is not clear. but i read a book recently calledstalin, interestingly enough, that was written by a guy who had access to the fullcommunist party archives, which was a relatively new thing, and that was his conclusion. healso believed stalin was gearing up to do an invasion of europe, and that he didn'tgive a damn about how many cities would have to be bombed in order for the soviets to rollthrough. and stalin, he was like that. stalin was perfectly capable of taking entirenations of people out in eastern europe by
train and shipping them out to siberia inthe middle of winter with nothing to eat and no tools and letting them live, which of coursethey didnt - and that meant women, and children, and men shorn of all their belongings andthrust out into the middle of nowhere to perish or live as they saw fit. and if they perished,so much the better, as far as stalin was concerned. he wasn't exactly the sort of person the ideaof nuclear war would necessarily stop, and it's certainly possible that's what he washoping for because when we look at people like stalin and hitler, we think they're afterworld domination. you think in some sense that's kind of a positive motivation - notreally - but it's like if you have a corvette and someone steals it, you can think welli know why they stole it, they wanted to have
the corvette! it's an understandable motivationto want power, it's not necessarily an admirable one, but sometimes power is a perfectly reasonablething to pursue. but, i don't have any idea why we ever assumed that those guys were aftervictory. you should never make the presupposition thateveryone is out to win - some people are out to lose, and the more people they take withthem, the better. when hitler died, he committed suicide in a bunker way down below in berlin,when berlin was on fire and europe was burning. and as far as i can tell, that was what hitlerwas after from the very beginning. he was interested in fire as a purifying agent. he's a fire worshipper in some sense, becauseif you look at the nuremberg gatherings of
the nazis, they were spectacular, spectacularcelebrations - unbelievably dramatic and impressive, and they frequently featured fire. and fireis a purifying agent, and hitler, by the end of ww2, he was pretty contemptuous of thegermans because they really hadn't served him well. now, it wasn't like he thought maybeit wasn't such a good idea to start a whole second world war, because he was a littleon the narcissistic side you might say. but by the time the russians came marchingin and germany was in ruins, hitler was perfectly happy to have the allies tromp all over thecitizens, because that's what they deserved anyways. and so, that's the sort of guy hewas, and so, why we would assume he wanted to win just because that's what he said issomething i've never been able to understand.
the kids who shot up columbine didnt wantto win, they wanted to kill as many people as possible to make a point, and then theywanted to kill themselves - just in case you didnt exactly get the point. and the pointwas: the more destruction, the better, and if i have to go along with it, hey no problem,that just makes me a little more serious than i'd otherwise been. those sort of motivationsare not pleasant to understand. we have enough documentation about events like that, especiallythe mass killings. those guys have written down exactly why they do it. i have some excellentbooks on extraordinarily vengeful serial killers and mass murderers. i know exactly how theythink.there's a great book on this sort of thing, if you're interested in this sort ofthing called panzram.
and carl panzram was a serial killer and rapistwho lived pretty much early in the 20th century. he was a tough, delinquency sort of kid, froma large family. when he was 13, 14, they sent him off to some reform school. it was runby the same sort of people that had run canada's residential schools. so you know, they werebasically predators on children. and of course, he was raped, and brutalized, and tormentedin all sorts of horrible ways, but he was a tough guy. when he came out, he decidedthe human race wasn't really worth that much and that he was going to wreak as much mayhemas he possibly could for the rest of his life. he raped a thousand men. he killed dozensof people. he kept track of the dollar value of the buildings he burned down. like, thiswas a serious guy. he was bent on destruction.
and that's that. what were his dying words? first of all, therewas a committee, i believe of women, that intervened on behalf of him, cause they wereanti-capital punishment, and he said to them, if i remember correctly, that he wished thehuman race had one neck so he could put his hands around it and squeeze. so that was hisway of pointing out to the people who didn't think that capital punishment was justifiedin his case, that they maybe weren't thinking clearly. then to the hangman, he said hurryup, you hoosier bastard. i could kill ten men in the time it takes you to kill me.you don't get a statement like that from someone who isn't thoroughly committed to what he'sdoing. so, the situation in the world found
itself involved in really had me thinking.part of it was well, what the hell's going on with all these weapons, and how can itpossibly be anyone thinks that's a reasonable solution. how did it come about that thiscould even occur, and what are we thinking. there's that, and there was also the why arepeople so damn convinced on either side of this argument that they're right enough torisk everything for - which is a perfectly good question.and then there was the malevolence issue, with how much of this was wanting to see yourside win and everything to do with wanting to see everything lose. and then and then there was another issue which was, well areboth sides wrong? are both sides right? because
that's more of a cultural relativist approachbecause yeah, yeah, the communists believe one thing and the bloody capitalists believeanother and they're just as bad. who believes what is completely arbitrary because beliefsystems are arbitrary, and so maybe they're both right or they're both wrong. i thoughtwell, either of those conclusions were pretty damn dismal because well, if they're bothright, what are you gonna do? have them talk it out? i don't think so. and if they're bothwrong, that's not much better. and then if one's right and the other's wrong - well doesthat mean anything? like is it possible for one belief system to be more right than anotherbelief system because of course, that's certainly not a tenet of moral relativism, and you mightthink of that as the standard intellectual
approach to morality, and has been for thepast hundred years. i think, by the way, that that's a reprehensible morality. i'll tell you why, as we move through thecourse because one of the things i tried to find out was was what we were fighting for- assuming you give the west a bit of a benefit of the doubt and assume that some of the thingswe stand for, we actually stand for and we aren't just posturing, parading - groundedin anything? or was it just arbitrary opinion? so, that's what we're going to talk about.we're going to talk about why people believe the things they believe. what psychologicalfunction does belief perform. we're going to talk about malevolence. as far as i cantell, malevolence is the willingness to do
evil, and i think the best definition of evil- and i've thought about this for a long time, like what constitutes evil, and it's complicated- but i think if you want a one line summary, it's the desire to do harm for the sake ofthe harm. so you have to think about it as a kind of art form. look. if you have a terrorist and you thinkhe's hidden an atom bomb in the stadium, and you think well, he's not gonna tell me - youhave good evidence - he's not gonna tell me unless i torture him. i don't think you shouldtorture him because torture is wrong. but you know, if you do that and you really believehe's hidden an atom bomb in a stadium, at least you have some justification for whatyou're doing and it's not necessarily that
what you're doing is evil - it might be wrong.it might be misguided. but who's to say in such a situation as that. it certainly shouldbe illegal. but at least you can say there's a plausible explanation for it, but lots ofsituations where there's absolute horror, there's no plausible explanation for whatsoever.i can give you an example. one of the things that used to happen in auschwitz, if i remembercorrectly - auschwitz, i don't know what you guys envision when you guys envision concentration camps.concentration camp, it's a funny name first of all because it's not really a camp. youknow what i mean, but a concentration camp isn't like a prison. thats easy to envisionthem like a prison. those bloody things were cities. they had tens of thousands of peoplein them. they were massive. at least, they
were large towns. so these were very big places. anyways, at the typical concentration camp,the trains would come rolling in and of course people had been packed into the damn trains,well, worse than animals. they'd be packed standing, and lots of people just died inthe cars, especially if they were old or little or had some respiratory problems or somethinglike that because they would overheat if they were cramped in the middle of people or theywould freeze to death along the outside because they would freeze against the wood. but thatwas okay, it just made the job easier when they finally landed at auschwitz. and then,once they were in auschwitz, the guards would play tricks on them. one trick would be toget some poor son of a bitch, who'd you know,
been torn away from his country, who had hisfamily destroyed, who knew where he was going, who was half dead for six different reasons.maybe he didn't even speak, or she didn't even speak that was most common there, guardedby absolutely ruthless barbarians who wanted to do nothing else but make people as miserableas possible in the most creative possible ways. and so, what they would do was, some of theprisoners, they would give them wet sacks of salt - and so those weighed about a hundredpounds - and they'd have them carry from one side of the compound to the other. well, that'snot so bad, when you're really, really innovative in your capacity to perpetrate evil, and thenext thing they made them did was carry them
back. you think about that, you know, andthis is something you have to understand if you really want to understand evil is thatit's an aesthetic, it's an art form. the reason that was such a terrible torture was, wellpartly because these people were already ruined, and a hundred pounds is a lot of salt, andmaybe it was winter and they didn't have any shoes, and - you know, like it was just brutallabor. but solzhenitsyn, when he wrote about thegulag archipelago, he said, you know even if you were a prisoner and they were havingyou build a wall, you could at least take some damn pride in building the wall. youcould lay some bricks out, and you could say well this suck and it's really horrible andeverything but you know, i built a straight
wall. that's something. but if you have totake a sack of wet salt from one side of the compound and then carry it back, the net consequenceof that is zero. it's zero. and of course, the famous sign on the outside of the concentrationcamps were work will set you free. right? now that's another joke. it's likemutual assured destruction, and the only way you could - a joke like that is satanic. there'sno other way to think about it. a joke like that comes out of the deepest depths of humanmalevolence. then the work that sets you free, it wasn't even work. it was a parody of work.and the purpose of the work was to destroy you, but not quickly because that's not asterrible as destroying you slowly. so these are very very terrible things. part of whati thought about in relation to people's belief
systems was people are territorial. chimps- i don't know if you know this or not - chimps basically go to war.jane goodall discovered that a couple of decades ago and it really, really was hard on herbecause she was kind of a rousseauian. for those of you who don't know, jean jacquesrousseau was a french philosopher and french philosophers have an awful lot of sins ontheir conscience and rousseau was certainly one of them because rousseau was the firstfully articulate promoter of the idea that human beings were basically good. so we hada good soul in a moral sense, but we were corrupted by our social institutions. so,as far as rousseau is concerned, it was kind of a noble savage idea.
like the human being in their raw form hasa pure soul and then you give them to parents, and you give them to teachers, and they getinto politics, then there's group disputes and they get all corrupted. well that's it.i don't even know what else to say about that except that it's absolutely moronic, but it'san appealing proposition if you're a naive optimist. i mean, first of all, it doesn'texplain where malevolence comes from because the people created the institutions, so itjust puts you into an infinite regress. chicken and egg. if the institutions are reprehensiblebut the people who built them aren't, then where did the reprehensible elements of theinstitution come from? he might think thats its an auto generatingconsequence of organizing people, but you
know it's a pretty specious theory. of coursehe had a counterpart, a philosophical counterpart, thomas hobbes and hobbes said basically exactlythe opposite, that people were vicious and cruel, and unless you put them in straitjackets- fundamentally - and made them obey, everything was going to go immediately to hell. and when you saw what happened in iran whenthe americans waltzed in, and then the power structure disintegrated, it was a hell ofa lot more like hobbes than rousseau. you took out the tyrant at the top and it wasn'tlike everyone got all peaceful and loving all of a sudden. it was like absolute chaosreigned. of course, you can rationalize that. anyways, rousseau had five children by a maid- an illiteral maid - that was his mistress,
and he put every single one of them in orphanages,and of course they perished because orphanages at rousseau's time were not exactly a luxuryresort. even up until the beginning of the 20th century, who were under one years ofage, who were in care institutions die, partly disease and that sort of thing. but partlybecause they weren't touched, cared for physical, even if they were fed. and 200 years ago,they weren't even fed. anyways, nonetheless, people maintained the optimistic idea thathuman beings were basically good and were corrupted by institution. it's a very commonidea in universities. university people are always complaining aboutthe corrupt nature about this institution, and that institution, while they sit herein the warmth with the electricity on. it's
surrounded by wealth that characterizes maybeone tenth of one percent of the entire world's population, and they complained about howoppressed they are and how nasty the institutions are. well, you know you actually haven't beento a nasty institution because they get pretty damn bad. most of the institutions in theworld are like that. so, it isn't exactly clear that people are pristine in their heartand corrupted by institutions, although i'm sure that happened. it happened with panzramfor example. anyways, this has been a line of philosophicalspeculation that's - i would say, constituted one of the unspoken fundamental assumptionsof western intellectuals in particular. jane goodall thought, in many ways, the same way.she thought chimps were basically animals,
they're okay. they co-exist relatively peacefullywith one another. even carl rogers - who i talk about a bit in my personality class - hethought that people were basically fundamentally good and that institutions made them bad.but the problem is, you look at chimps and they're a fair bit like us. bonobos - you can look at them too, they'regenetically quite related to us, so we're a weird mixture of the two. but chimps, likethose things, there is no evidence that they really have any internal control over theiraggression at all. there was a horrible case about two years ago, where a woman was interactingwith a chimp and it tore her to pieces, and they can do that. it took her face right off,and they have about the strength of six men.
an adult male chimp can break a three hundredpound test cable. those things are really, really strong, and they're not friendly. so in arnhem zoo for example, there has beena troop of chimps there that have been followed by an extremely brilliant primatologist namedfrans de waal, whose work i would very highly recommend. de waal is a very smart guy, andhe's looked at the origins of morality in chimpanzees, from you know, a biological perspective.it's very, very nice work - very, very clear-headed. but you know, he's recounted absolutely horrificstories about chimpanzee behavior. one of the stories he talked about, for example,was you kind of have this idea that there's a male chimp hierarchy. it's roughly true- there's a female hierarchy too, but the
males in the chimp world anyways, tend tobe the dominant ones. you know, you kind of think of a dominantprimate as a prize fighter. he's ruling because of his physical prowess. now that turns outnot to exactly be true. in this particular case, the guy who was running the chimp troopwas a bit of a bully, and he wasn't making any friends. that's not such a good idea becauseno matter how tough you are by yourself, two weaker guys can probably take you out, andthat's what happened during frans de waal's observations. two chimps attacked the leader. they had acoalition, they were grooming each other, they were pals. and chimps are pretty goodat remembering reciprocal relationships, and
having friendships. they have a very highlysocial structure. they just tore him apart. the things they did to him, like you don'teven want to know about. so chimps really have no upper limit on their capacity foraggression. and when they hunt, because chimps hunt, they like meat - they often hunt colobusmonkeys, and they weight about 35 pounds. a colobus monkey is a major league animal,and they eat those things alive. and they scream while they're being killed, and thatdoes not slow the chimps down one bit. so it's not obvious the chimp is really a creatureof a lot of empathy - especially the males. the females are likely more empathetic becausethey have to deal with infants for long periods of time. what seems to inhibit the aggressionof male chimps isn't anything they hold internally.
it seems that when they get hyper aggressivein the troop, the troop gets more and more agitated and basically shuts them down. soyou can imagine maybe you're in a rough bar, and some dingbat who's half-psychopathic andhas had two pints of alcohol, is starting to cause a tremendous amount of trouble. he'snot going to shut himself down, but the rest of the troop might. and that kind of meansthe control over the aggression is externalized. it's not a consequence of superego control.we like to think that we control our own aggression, but i'm not so sure about that.if you read things like - there's a great book, a horrifying book published about twentyyears ago called the rape of nanking, which is - the woman who wrote it committedsuicide and that suffices to tell you what
the rape of nanking was all about. it's astory about the japanese in ww2 going into a chinese city called nanking where, i believe,about 350,000 people were killed. the nazis in that story were the good guys,so you can imagine the kind of brutality that was going on there. but, there's absolutely,perfectly well documented evidence that the japanese soldiers engaged in competitive brutality.so really what happened was the japanese had been pretty militarized by world war ii, andthey adopted a prussian education system. the prussians and germans, pre 20th centurygermans, were basically interested in educating obedient soldiers because it was a militaristicculture. the japanese kind of adopted that because they were pretty sick of being kickedaround by the europeans - pretty successfully
because they defeated the russians in theearly stages of the 20th century. it was quite a shock to everyone in europe,and a cause for great celebration in japan. anyways, they militarized the hell out oftheir young men, and taught them basically that the japanese were a master race, andthat other people were subhuman. it's a very common human way of thinking, by the way.i would say it's really the default way human tribes think about other tribes. i mean, it'sa little more complicated than that because human tribes tend to trade with other tribes. so it's not all demonization, but a lot ofit is. if you look around the world in the anthropological literature, what you see isthat the names that most tribes have for themselves
is something like the human beings, or thepeople, indicating that the rest of the people aren't really people. they're barbarians,or you know. they live out where the sun is being eaten by the dragon of the night. theword barbarian is a word that comes from the greeks making fun of how non-greeks spoke.they thought they went bar bar bar bar bar, something like that. so anyways, whatgoodall found was that the chimps - the chimp adolescents in particular, particularly themales - would patrol the borders of their territory in groups of three or four, oftenwith a female or two. but the females didn't seem to be really the - they were more partof the group rather than the initiators. but what the chimps would do is if they founda chimp from another troop, even if that was
a chimp that had moved from their troop inthe not too distant past and joined another, cause sometimes the males leave and they goto other troops. if they outnumbered them, they would tear them to pieces. it looked like that was why they were doingthe border patrol. they're out looking for trouble. they're gangs, roughly speaking,and they were looking for trouble. but the point of it is that - and they would onlyattack if they outnumbered because chimps can, i wouldn't say they can count, but theyhave a rudimentary notion of group size. i don't think you can count without being ableto verbalize, but you can estimate at a glance. so when i say tear apart, that's exactly whati mean. there's no upper limit on the brutality.
so goodall discovered that first, and shedidn't tell anybody about it. now she had a reason. some of them might think we're ideological- oh the lovely chimps, and fair enough. but some of it was also that she thought thatmaybe the chimps had been corrupted as a consequence of their contact with human beings and theirnatural behavior had been somehow transformed. and that's not - it's reasonable to be cautiousas a scientist before you go out and say hey chimps go to war. isn't that revolutionary,because it is. it just ends the idea that our war-like, malevolent nature is just afunction of culture. like if chimps do it, well what are they pervertedby their own culture? i don't think so. i mean there are more and less violent chimpcultures, and there's more and less violent
baboon cultures. there's some culture variance,but since goodall's time, this sort of behavior has been documented on many, many chimp troops.so that's us, in a nutshell. it's not self evident if you put the typical adolescentmale, who's not a very well formulated personality, and you know - because he's not that individualand he hasn't seen much of the world. the typical guy who goes into the army is kindof on the margins of society. maybe he's not particularly bright. i'm not trying to beinsulting by that, but it's not exactly a high end job. you put someone like that in a place wherethere's no rules. it's like who leads where there are no rules? well the probability thatit's the friendliest and nicest people is
very, very low. so what seemed to happen innanking was the japanese soldiers took their cues from the people with the most brutalimaginations people can have pretty brutal imaginations,especially when they start to compete. so, i was interested in that. what exactly wasat the core of that malevolence. i think it's uniquely human. the chimps would go and tearapart, but basically they're just going to kill them. that's their goal, and maybe itmight take awhile, but it's not going to take four weeks whereas if you're a human being,you can draw out your enemy's death for a very, very long. part of that is the desire to producethe misery and suffering that's attended on the death. only human beings have the imaginationto do that. that's why i think in the book
of genesis where people's eyes are open andthey become self conscious, they also learn the difference between good and evil. onceyour eyes are open and you know what you're like, once you know you're naked and vulnerable,you can exploit that in other people. only human beings have that kind of knowledge.so the fact that we know we can be hurt makes us particularly dangerous because if i knowhow i can be hurt, i sure know how you can be hurt. so it's a nasty situation. i'm kindof interested in the motivation for that. you look at the columbine kids, for example,and the mayhem they produced was trivial to the mayhem they were planning. if it was upto those two guys, they would have bombed detroit flat. they had visions of exactlythat. and it was a media spectacular, and
they didnt do it because they were poor kidsin some sense who were bullied. that is an idiotic explanation. it's not true. everybodyis a bloody outsider. i'm sure there isn't a single one of you who doesn't have a memoryfrom junior high where you were an outcast in one way or another. maybe some of you weren't,but it's very, very common. to think of that as sufficient motivationto shoot people cold bloodedly in a high school - sorry, that's a little on the naive side.so i'm very, very interested in what makes up that motivation because malevolence plusnuclear weapons isn't a very good combination. it doesn't look to me that we can afford thatunconscious malevolence anymore because we're just too powerful, and if the wrong personends up being like that with the wrong weapons,
it's like game over. i've also become convincedwhile i'd been looking through this that the problem that we're discussing is not a sociologicalproblem, or a political problem, or an economic problem because a lot of what you read - anda lot of political scientists will tell you this sort of thing because they're basicallycloset marxists - is that they'll tell you the reason for struggle between nations iseconomic. i think that's absurd, not because it isn'ttrue, but because it doesn't actually address a more fundamental issue which is okay, economicstruggle is a struggle about who has access to what's valued. but, there's nothing selfevident about what's value. that's the problem. it's like you have the idea of natural resource.oil is not a natural resource until you have an automobile.
the interplay between cultural value structuresand what constitutes a natural resource is so tightly put together - except for maybeair and water - that saying there are natural resources which means things of intrinsicvalue, and that's what people fight over. well, you've made the mystery disappear insidethe word natural resource. you haven't solved anything. well the question is why would peoplefight over things that they value? well because there's all sorts of things you can value,like peace. so, it's not a sufficient explanation and it's also not clear to me people's primarymotivations are economic. well it's not trivial, but i would say themotivation isn't really economic. it's more related to dominance hierarchy position, andthat's fundamentally a sexual motivation especially
for men because if men are higher up thedominance hierarchy, women are more attracted to them. so you could say that's economic.i don't think it is. economic is just a secondary consequence of that. i don't believe, by theway, that's a theory because there's excellent documentation on hyper aggression in adolescentmales, and the best evidence suggests that adolescent males become hyper aggressive whenyou put them in situations where they can't win. then they become hyper aggressive andattempt to formulate a dominance hierarchy so that some of them can rise to the top andbasically be attractive. so you can call that economic if you want,but i think you're pushing your luck with that sort of explanation. well, so that'sbasically the background. so, when i was investigating
this, i first started studying political scienceand i actually liked that quite a bit in the first couple years because i was basicallyreading political philosophy. it's actually worthwhile reading great political philosophersbecause a - they could think - and b - you think like they think even if you don't knowit because one of the hallmarks of a great philosopher is that his ideas or her ideassink into the culture so deeply that a hundred years after they were written, they thinkthey've always thought that way. that's one of the things that's happened tofreud. one of the things people understand is that theres an unconscious and that's itsmotivated by sexual drive. it's like what's so brilliant about that? yeah, well it's obviousonce freud points it out. so anyways, i started
- i took political science and literaturewhich i also found was extremely useful because great literary people have great things tosay. like dostoevsky's novels absolutely flatten me. he's so brilliant and i've never readanyone who takes moral question so seriously. for example, if you look at crime and punishment,which is a book i would highly recommend, dostoevsky is an absolute model of a trueintellectual. i say that because in crime and punishment, for example, dostoevsky hadthis character named raskolnikov, and you guys can identify with raskolnikov becausehe's a university student and he's your age. now he's having a rough time because he'sin st. petersburg and he doesn't have any money and he lives in this tiny little roomwhich basically has a bunch of clothes on
the bed which he sleeps in, and he's basicallystarving to death. he only has bread to eat, and he's a law student.so he's having a rough time. st. petersburg at the end of the 19th century is kind ofa rough place. some of you guys probably have it pretty bad, but raskolnikov kind of hadit pretty bad. and so, he's half starved and half delirious. also, his ideas are very addledbecause he's one of the first russians who really considered himself an atheist. russiawas a medieval society until the late 1900's. it was sort of like quebec before 1960. i'm serious about that, because quebec wasbasically the last european country, so to speak, that underwent a secularization, andthat happened in about 1960. quebec families
went from an average size of about 12 to 13to about 1.2. lowest birth rate in the world. and all the quebecois were married, and noneof them are now, and they were all catholic, hardly any of them are now. it was an overnighttransformation. that's partly what fed quebec nationalism. there was actually a study thatwas released by the gallup organization. i've only heard it referred to in one meeting wherethey indicated if you were a lapsed catholic in quebec, you were ten times more likelyto be a separatist. that's really worth thinking about right, because religion just collapsesand nationalism just rises up to take its place because you need a bloody belief structurebecause, what are you gonna do? wander around aimlessly?
that's not fun. it's not useful. so, you justjump from one structure of belief to another, or you fall apart. so that's also somethingvery much worth knowing. anyways, raskolnikov, he thinks he's a pretty educated guy and thinkshe's pretty smart, and he is pretty smart but he's like smart arrogant, not smart wisebecause he's 21. what the hell does he know? he doesn't know anything, but he's smart.he's contemptuous about other people because he's probably smarter than most of them andhe confuses that with knowing what's going on. he lives in this little horrible apartment,and he has a really horrible landlady - this is where dostoevsky is a genius - like raskolnikovhates his landlady, and dostoevsky tells you why. then you think well yeah, i'd hate hertoo. so, she's miserable. she owns a bunch
of apartments. she charges too much rent forthem. she tortures all the people that rent fromher in every possible way she can. the places are filthy. she doesn't provide any furniture.she hoards money, and doesn't do anything with it, so she lives in absolute povertyand filth. she's a cruel person in every possible way. plus she has a niece who isn't very bright,and she basically treats her like a slave. so, she's not doing anyone any good. that'sraskolnikov's idea. and then, he gets a letter from his mother and his mother basically tellshim that his sister's going to go marry this rich guy because she's in love with him, andthat'll solve all of his monetary problems so he could keep going to law school.
but he reads between the lines and he realizespretty quickly that this rich guy is a real miserly scum rat, and he's gonna treat hissister and his mother absolutely miserably, and his sister doesn't really love him anyways,and the only reason she was marrying him is so raskolnikov can go to school. so he's notvery happy with that, and fair enough. you can understand his motivation. so he's starvingand he's full of these ideas and they're also sort of nietzschean. like atheistic ideashit russia really hard because it went from seriously orthodox christian in every possibleway to unbelievably skeptical in one generation. it just fractured the society. it's partly why communism became so absolutelyattractive for the russians, and dostoevsky
also details that extremely brilliantly inthe book called the possessed or the devil's. it's a wonderful book. it's hard to get into,you have to read about 200 pages before it really kicks in, but russian novels are sortof like that. so anyways, raskolnikov is thinking these sort of super man-ish, rationalisticideas, and he thinks, well you know there's no evidence that there's any real moral hierarchy.and you can easily make a case that the reason that people aren't really moral, they're justcowardly - and this is a nietzschean observation. most of what you'd call your morality isn'tmorality at all. it's just you're too afraid to do what you want, and because you're tooweasly to admit that, you say you don't do those things because it isn't moral. but itisn't true.
you'd love to do them if you were brave enough,but you aren't. so people misread that to say what nietzsche thought that all moralitywas cowardice. that isn't what he thought. he thought all cowardice masqueraded as morality.that's a whole different thing. so anyways, raskolnikov is thinking about these things.he's thinking, well i can be lawyer. i can be a good one. i'd help people. i'd help thepoor people. what the hell good is it for me to wander around starving like this. itdoesn't seem reasonable. my sister's basically going to go prostitute herself for this richguy, and that sucks. there's my landlady and she's an absolutely reprehensible creatureand everyone agrees, and she's old and worn out. and she has this person she keeps asa slave. maybe i should just get rid of her.
what i love about that is that - like thishappens almost all the time in universities, i would say. whenever you hear people whothink they're smart having a discussion. what they generally do is that they have an idea,and then they have an idea about the person who has a different idea. the idea about theperson who has the different idea is that their idea is stupid. so what they do is producea caricature of that person's idea, and then they blast it. then they think, wow i've wonthat argument. which is really - it's pathetic. it's a strawman argument. it's a sign of aweak mind. what you do if you really want to have an argument with someone is you helpthem. let's say you're a right winger and you're arguing with a left winger, or you'releft winger and you're arguing with a right
winger. it's like, you want to make theirargument as magnificent as you possibly can, and then see if you can undermine it. that's what you do because then you're gettingsomewhere. like any idiot can make a strawman and light it. dostoevsky never does that.he makes the people - like when he sets up two ideas to go to war, he embodies both setsof ideas in the most powerful characters he can imagine. so in the brothers karamazov,for example, the two people, the two protagonists basically - there's a bunch of them - butbasically one of them is named ilyusha, and the other is named ivan. and ilyusha is kindof an innocent guy. a good guy fundamentally, a little on the naive side. religious, butnot in the way that he can defend. it's more
like a natural expression spirit, and he'sin a monastery, and he's a follower of this famous monk. he's kind of into orthodox christianityin his benevolent and sincere way. but he's not much of an intellect. and ivan, his older brother, he's good lookingand tall. i believe he's a soldier. he's an impressive guy, and he's got a viciously cuttingintellect. he just tears ilyusha apart every chance he gets, across the whole book. youcan see two parts of dostoevsky fighting it out in the book because part of dostoevskywas highly spiritualized, not least because he was epileptic and that often - for reasonswe'll talk about later - that often exaggerates spirituality. also because he was a deeplyspiritual person and also a tremendous intellect.
and so, he was at war inside and he put thoseparts of him out into these characters, and let them just go at it. it's brilliant, youknow. ivan makes the best argument for atheism that's ever been written. it's really powerful.he talks about all these terrible things that were being done to children in russia at theturn of the century, back in the late 1800's. he talks about this one situation where theparents of this one girl locked her in a freezing outhouse overnight. she was crying and screaming,and telling them that she was sorry. and they just left her in there and she froze to death.it was like front page news in russia at the time, maybe in moscow, or maybe in st. petersburg.dostoevsky lifted that argument and he said to - he had ivan ask ilyusha, well this isthe sort of thing god permits? he said the
whole damn world isn't worth that. the sufferingof one child in a situation like that. how can you possibly see that something likethat can exist and wander around with your boneheaded belief and a benevolent god? wouldyou lock a girl in an outhouse and let her freeze? if that meant other people would behappy? and of course ilyusha says, no i would never do that. so ivan tells him that, yeahyou wouldn't do that but this god you imagine exists would be perfectly pleased to let somethinglike that occur. and you know ilyusha has no idea what to say about that. that's justa fragment of ivan's argument. he's like punching at him like mad. i think the way ilyusha basicallyresponds is by trying to live a good life. he can't argue. ivan's better at it than heis, plus there's this vicious strain of critical
thinking about religion that's being waftedin from western europe. there's 300 years of philosophical force behindit, and ivan is its mouthpiece. it's like ilyusha and russia itself is just blown apartby that. they have no defense against that. the bloody western europeans had 300 yearsto get used to it. the russians had like ten years. it just fragmented them. they werelike waiting for the new messiah, and they sure got one. both dostoevsky and nietzscheprophesied about what happened to russia forty years before it happened. that's bloody amazing.to think you could look that far into the future and actually get it right. i mean,things didn't change quite as fast there as they are now, but you know, it wasn't likethe victoria times were static. there were
a lot of things going on. to get that rightover four decades - those guys were in touch with something very deep that was going onunderneath the substrata of western civilization. alright, so i'm thinking about belief structuresand i'm thinking about malevolence and i'm think about the psychological role that thesesorts of things are playing because it occurred to me at some point, something like - an ideasomething like this. this actually tormented me for about six months. i would say, wheni had been thinking these things through - i would say about five years at this point - iwas really obsessed by it. i was thinking about this literally every minute of the day,from the time i woke up till the time i went to sleep. it was really manic, probably. atone point i got to this conclusion. i thought,
okay well here's the situation. it's prettyobvious that people need belief structures because first of all a belief structure orientsthem to action so you have to believe that one thing is more valuable than other to justact. so, why did the chicken cross the road? wellbecause he thought the other side of the road was better than the side he was on, obviously. you know, because whenever you're moving,the implicit hypothesis of your movement is that the thing you're moving towards is betterthan the thing you're leaving, unless you're self destructive because otherwise, why bother?so what that means is that you don't move without a value structure, and you don't getto not have one. you might say, well i don't
believe in anything. it's like, well, yousay you don't believe in anything, so technically you can't make an argument for what you believeor you don't know what you believe. but if you're not just sitting there, vegetating,then you believe something otherwise - you act it out. you have to have a belief system or you fallapart. so you're nihilistic or depressed or hopeless. that's certainly - like who wantsthat? that's not good. it's painful. depression is no joke. i know someone who had a veryserious illness. it was an illness that destroyed part of this person's body. it destroyed theirjoints, and they also had clinical depression. i asked this person at one point - okay, youget to have a choice. you get to get rid of
the illness that's destroying your joints,so they had to be replaced, or you could get rid of the depression. he said, i'd get ridof the depression first, no problem. so that's worth thinking about. if you believe nothing,and you're hopeless and you've got no value structure, the place you end up is not good.and i'm sure lots of you have experienced that. i mean most people - especially thepeople who are more likely to come to this class - most people, by the time they're yourage, have gone through a dark period or two for whatever reason. relationship breaks upor maybe you lose the meaning in your life or someone betrays you or someone gets sickor you get sick or, you know, some tragedy comes along and knocks you flat. you think,what the hell, what's going on? why isn't
any of this worthwhile? and it's a good questions,but you can't go there because that's like death. then the other problem is, let's say you dohave a belief system. alright, so what happens if i have a different one? what are we supposedto do about that? you can't give up yours cause then you're done. i'm not gonna giveup mine for the same reason. but it isn't clear that we can inhabit the same part ofthe earth peacefully if we don't believe the same things. so i - when i sorted that allout, i thought well that's it man. we're basically - that's it. we're done. we can't not havea belief system, and if you have one, you can't not fight. we're too well armed to fightnow. we're not just going to collapse into
nihilism, although that happens quite a bit.so, game's over. well, it turned out that that was wrong, thank god, but it took mean awful long time to even begin to understand how that could possibly be wrong because asfar as i could tell, those were the options. so another thing we're gonna try to figureout is not only exactly why people have belief systems, exactly what a belief system is,and why they compete, and why you can't just get rid of them. but, we're also gonna figureout what it is that you might be able to do about the fact that you're going to inhabitplaces with people who don't have exactly the same belief systems as you. and in somesense, it's really a problem of social being, right? and creatures have been trying to solvethis problem ever since, well we don't know
how long. i like to use lobsters as an examplebecause lobsters arrange themselves into dominance hierarchies, and they have very complex socialbehavior. they don't have much of a brain. so you can have pretty damn complex socialbehavior without having much of a brain. lobsters have been around for around 400 million years. so us, roughly speaking, since we had a sharedancestor with the lobster a very long time ago, we've been trying to figure out how tocoexist with other creatures that don't precisely share our belief systems for 400 million years.and we've been sufficiently successful about it so that we're both social, and here weare. so obviously, there's ways that it can be dealt with; although i think we don't necessarilyunderstand them very well. i didn't want to
just understand what it was about belief systems,you know, about their necessity and their function, and the way the become pathologist.i wanted to figure out if there's also a pattern to the processes by which belief systems aremodified and negotiated so that belief systems that have different structures can coexistin the same place peacefully. it's a vital question right? because mostof you are going to get married, successfully or unsuccessfully. and even if you don't,you're going to live with someone for a long period of time, and you're going to find outthey're not like you, and that's extremely annoying. but, what are you gonna do? you'reeither going to be a slave, or a tyrant, or you're going to negotiate because those areyour options. and negotiation is extraordinarily
difficult because you have to figure out whatyou want, and you probably won't even admit it, and second of all you have to listen toyour stupid partner about what they want. then you have to try to figure out how tomake both of them possible. well, slavery, tyranny; that's comparatively easy from acognitive perspective, compared to actually trying to figure how you can be mutually satisfiedin the same space, but you can do it. that's the thing. there is a process, andit's identifiable. so i want to talk to you about belief systems and their psychologicalsignificance. what they're like. what function they can perform, but i also want to talkto you about how they transform because they do right? they change, especially with humans.so they can change - that means they can modify.
and that means, at least in principle, thatwe could have a dialogue. now dialogues, that's rough, but the alternative is war. that'spartly why you're supposed to listen to your enemy because if you don't listen to yourenemy, the only other thing you can do is fight with them. that's it. >>[student asks: you talked about how beliefsystems can often modify, so they can be close together. isn't that what political perspectivesbasically is?] >> you mean it's the desire for that to happen.well, i would say it's partly the desire for that to happen. thing is, whenever i lookat a political movement, especially an ideological group, i think okay, there's a bunch of thingsyou're for. fine. what are you against? because
one of the things about people that have adoptedideological positions like to presume is that all of the right is on their side. that makesthem very unconscious of their shadow, from the jungian perspective. the nazis had allsorts of positive reasons for what they're doing, but the negative reasons were theretoo, and you could easily make it a case that the negative reasons were really the reasons. when i look at ideologues, i always think,yeah yeah that's what you're for, but i don't really think all the good people are on yourside. and b - i know that negative motivations are more powerful than positive ones. so yousay you're for things, but you're against them too, so let's start with that. i startedthinking about this after i'd read george
orwell. i love george orwell, by the way.how many of you know who george orwell is? wow, really? that's impressive. how many don't?okay, well that's good. that's amazing. how the hell did you learn about george orwell?is it 1984? animal farm? >>[students answer: animal farm.] >>okay, okay, well that's good because georgeorwell - i tell you - george orwell was the first western intellectual who figured outwhat the hell was going on in the soviet union. and he did that in the mid forties, early.it was complicated because we sort of knew what was happening in the twenties and thethirties. there was lenin, and that wasn't so good. there was the russian civil war.there was the idea of universal communism,
that wasn't such a good idea, for as far aspeople who didn't want to become communists were concerned. and then there was what happenedin the ukraine in the 1930's. the evidence was starting to pile up, but unfortunatelywhat happened was the spanish civil war, and the lefties were pretty much the good guysin the spanish civil war. it was like a microcosm of the second world war. the lefties werefighting the fascists, and some of the lefties were communists, but some of them, i think,were people genuinely fighting for freedom. a lot of north american literary figures wentto spain to fight on the side of the - against the fascists. and so fair enough, the fascistswere obviously reprehensible, clearly. so that kind of muddied the water, right, becausethe fascists were bad and that sort of means
the people that are fighting them are good,and some of them are communists. there was pretty good reason for people to be radicallysocialist at that point in human history because the plight of the working man was relativelyunpleasant. george orwell wrote a book called the road to wigan pier, and he wentup to this town, that was a coal mining town and just looked at their life. so here's partof their life. so, you basically work a seven and a half hour shift when you're a coal miner,and you think oh that's not too bad by 1930 standards, and it's like yeah except you haveto go down to the coal mine tunnels and they're not eight feet high and carpeted. they'relike four and a half feet high and rough, and poorly lit, and the air is terrible. sobasically, you have to chimp walk or crawl,
up to three miles, just to get to work. andthen you'd have to do that at end of your shift, and you don't get paid for that. that'sjust your commute. then of course what you're doing when youget there is it's absolutely filthy. it's unbelievably noisy and brutally difficult.coal miners, they had no teeth, but their bodies were absolutely perfect. they wereunbelievably powerful and strong because all they did was incredibly intense physical labor.it was bloody rough. and the housing most people had, it's like fifty families for oneouthouse. that's probably good enough to describe it. often they were row houses, and the rowhouses had no back doors. they had no paths between them, and all the outhouses were atthe back. so, that meant if it was twenty
below and it was the winter, and you weresick then you'd get to go all the way around your block to get to the damn outhouse andmaybe there was only one there, and you'd line up with fifty people so that - you know.orwell, he was an upper class guy basically, and he was trying to help himself overcomehis upper class prejudices. he was a real, documentarian of the terrible working conditionsof working class people. he wrote this book called road to wiganpier but one of the things that orwell said - he wrote this story about these poorgod damn coal miners, it's like yeah how about some social legislation so that these peopleand their children aren't absolutely brutalized nonstop. but then he wrote the last half ofthe book and he wrote it for the left book
club which was a socialist group that wouldpublish a book every month or so. what he did was, he wrote a critique of socialism- of british socialism, and he said yeah this sucks man. it's like we should be on the sideof the working people, but the socialists i meet, they're not on the side of the workingpeople. they're like tweed wearing middle class hyper intellectuals who never go anywherenear the working class because of their class prejudices and for all sorts of other reasons. and they don't like the poor at all, theyjust hate the rich. i thought - i had been a member of the ndp for a long time at thatpoint and there's always something a little off about it, especially the radical end likewhat's with you guys? it doesn't look like
benevolence as far as i can tell. there'sa lot of whining and complaining and resentment. what's that about? i read orwell, and i thoughtaha! right. if you hate the successful, if you hate the rich - rich by the way is whoeverhas more money than you, but that's how you define rich - and the best way to mask yourresentment is to pretend you're on the side of poor. and i read that and thought, that'sexactly right. that's also what made me psychoanalytically oriented because one thing psychoanalystsalways do, always, is if you say you're - here's how i'm positively predisposed, the psychoanalystsays, how are you using that to mask something easy and malevolent you're doing? and that'sa very very useful question. it's not always correct, but it's correct a lot more thanpeople generally like to think.
you know, it's like the mother - or the witch- in hansel and gretel. you know this story right? this guy gets married. he's got a coupleof kids, and his new wife doesn't really like the kids. you have a hundred times higherchance, by the way, of being abused by a stepparent than by a biological parent - just so youknow. so the stepmother doesn't like the kids. she tells the guy, well why don't you justput those kids out in the woods. so out they go, out in the woods. so they're lost kids,right, they have nowhere to go. so they're wandering out there in the forest. what happens?they come across a gingerbread house. you think wow, you're a starving kid. gingerbreadhouse, that's good news right. not only is it a house, but it's made out of candy! howcould anything be possibly any better? so
in they go. well and then there's this grandmotherlytype there and she starts to fatten them up. she puts, i think it's hansel, in a cage.she gets gretel, after a while, to basically work as their scullery maid and it becomesquite obvious to the children that she's actually fattening them up so she can put them in theoven and eat them. and so, i think what hansel does is i thinkgretel gives him like this bone from some animal and the old witch is half blind, andevery time she reaches in to sort of reach his leg, he gives her the bone and so she'sjust not all that interested in eating him. anyway, the kids end up pushing her in theoven and closing it, and getting the hell out of there. so you know it's a happy ending,as far as fairy tales go. but it's an oedipal
story, right? it's a classic story, but anoedipal family. be bloody wary of people who do too much for you. right. it's like if youhave a mother, or any other relative for that matter who's fattening you up on mercy andcandy, the probability that her basic goal is to eat you enough so that you never leave- the probability is extraordinarily high. and that's no joke. you know, one of the thingsthat you do learn if you read about the sorts of people who burst out of their mother'sbasement and go shoot up dawson college is often that's exactly the situation they'vebeen in. they're burning with resentment in their uselessness down in the basement forfive or six year. they don't have to leave. they don't have to become independent. everything'sdone for them, so they never have to do anything
for themselves. it's not pretty, and so oneof the rules for dealing with people - and i know this is actually a rule for dealingwith elderly people in hopes for retired people - is that do not do anything for anyone theycannot do for themselves. you're stealing from them when you do that. and it's a greatrule of thumb for kids. once they can dress themselves, they dress themselves. if theycan set the table, even if it takes twenty minutes, it's like, they're setting the table.you're not doing a favor by helping them do anything they can do themselves. it's kindof harsh, but it beats the hell out of the witch in hansel and gretel so anyways, one of the things we're goingto look at as well, is the dark side of positive
motivations. now how are we gonna do this?one of the things you might ask yourself is how in the world do you know if somethingis true? now, the first thing i would suggest is that the attitude you guys should bringto this class is that nothing that i tell you is true. okay, now i don't mean you shouldbe arrogantly skeptical because that's not appropriate. but, you should bring every criticalfaculty you have to bear on what i tell you to see if you can chip away at it becausewhat you want to do is you want to build yourself a body of knowledge that you cannot undermine.and the way you do that is by trying to undermine it, by hacking away at the foundation witheverything you've got, and if the ideas can withstand a total onslaught, then you've gotsomething. you've got a foundation. you've
got something you can stand on that's gonnabe there when things get rough. so i'm gonna tell you what i found that'sbeen useful to me when things got rough, but i don't expect you to assume that that's gonnawork for you, and i don't want you to - like i want you to listen and to think, but i wantyou to keep your wits about you. now, i'm gonna tell you how i go about to determinewhether something is true. now first of all, there's different definitions of truth. sowe're gonna flip back and forth between two. one definition of truth is an objective definition,but we don't have to talk much about that cause you guys already know what that is;but there's another definition of truth that i think the best way of defining it is aspragmatically true. pragmatism is a branch
of american philosophy, and it's a very sophisticatedbranch of philosophy. in fact, i actually think it's the most sophisticated brand ofphilosophy. probably because it makes the least claims.what the pragmatists state, basically, is well you really don't know anything. you don'thave ultimate knowledge about anything, so your knowledge always bottoms out in ignorance.so then the question is well, how do you know then, if anything is true? and the pragmatistswould say, in a sense you don't. what you know always is if something is true enoughfor a particular function. so for example, your theory about getting to the door mightbe that you can stand up and walk there, and you might - well god only knows what mighthappen on the way there you know. maybe there'll
be an earthquake, or a ceiling tile mightfall on you. who knows? maybe you'll have a heart attack. so you don't know whetheryou can get there; you can infer from past experience, but if you get there then whatyou can say is my statement about truth was sufficient so that the outcome was what thetheory predicted. so in some sense, what the pragmatists are saying is that every timeyou make a statement, especially if it's related to action, that you offer a theory of truthalong with that statement, implicitly which is that this is true enough if what i predicthappens happens. and so, it's a very nice theory eh? it doesn'trequire you to be omniscient about anything for things to be true enough, and you areignorant - you don't know everything about
anything, and so obviously you're workingin the world with partial knowledge, and it works - not all the time. you get old, youget sick, you die. you're not gonna work it out thoroughly. so we're gonna use the pragmatictruth framework and we're gonna use the objective truth framework. and one of the propositionsthat i'm going to make to you is that the stories that are associated with our deepestmoral intuitions are pragmatic truths, and that you need pragmatic truths and you needobjective truths, and you need pragmatic truths because you don't just need to know what theworld's made of. you need to know what to do about the fact that the world's made outof things. and because human beings are motoric creatures, we act in the world. we act onthe world, so what we need to know is how
is it that you should act on the world. thatis not a question that could be addressed by objective methods. technically right? becauseit's actually a value question. what should you do? science, by its very methodologies,refuses to answer such questions. people confuse the fact that science is valuefree, sort of, with the idea that existence is value free. like that's philosophicallyprimitive, i would say, because science was actually set up to get rid of the value ofthis objective value in its technique. so you can't say we set this thing up to getthe values and all the values fall. it's like there's no value. no, no, you put that domainout of the range of consideration. that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. it's just a different- it requires a different philosophy, a different
outlook, different techniques, different tools,different methods of proof. all of these things. so part of what we're gonna do - i'm gonnause objective truth as much as i possibly can because i think that a lot of what psychology,as a science, has been able to offer in the last hundred years has been extraordinarilyuseful for elucidating some of the issues that we're going to discuss. because we reallyhave made some progress in understanding the psyche, especially at a biological/behaviorallevel. we got some pretty solid information, it's not perfect but it's helpful. so we're gonna draw on a bunch of sources.we're gonna draw on stories. we're gonna draw on literature. we're gonna draw on philosophy.we're gonna draw on religion. we're gonna
draw on mythology. we're gonna draw on biologyand psychology. there's this idea which you should've learned about - which you should'velearned about if you're a psychologist - called multi method multi trait matrix. this wasinvented back in the 1950's. i think it was meehl and cronbach. it was a famous paperthat was published in the 50's. everyone's supposed to know it. no one ever pays attentionto it. but, what they were interested in is how do you know if when you say that somethingexists, like let's say anger, does anger exist? well, the answer seems self evident. it'stricky because generally no one comes up to you and says anger. they tell you a littlestory where they use words related to anger in the story and you sort of derive what theymean by angry from the context.
the context is important in defining the reality,so you don't know if the central idea, anger, can be pulled out of the context and you cansay that's a thing like iron is a thing, or like mercury is a thing. maybe it's not. maybeit's a pattern or maybe it's something that is a convention or you know, maybe there'sall sorts of things that are associated with it. so, one of cronbach and meehl's fundamentalclaims was that in order to determine whether or not something existed, you had to be ableto detect it using different methods. now, it's tricky because it's not obvious whatconstitutes a different method. so you kind of have to make a judgment but i would sayyou use a multi method, multi trait means of determining what's true with your senses.how many do you have? six, because you have
proprioception. why? well let's say five,for the sake of simplicity. why? why not one? >>[student answers: to increase the likelihoodof it being true. you could see something but not touch it. that might be a mirage maybe.so there's multiple reasons for it to be pointing to the probability of it being true.] >>yes, well that's exactly it. and you wantit to be - so the sense idea is a really good one because you can see sense uses differentmodalities. it's like obviously the eyes rely on electromagnetic radiation and the earsrely on vibrations in the ear, and touch is really an atomic phenomena in some sense becauseyou're feeling the outer surfaces of electrons with your electron surfaces. there's taste,which is again a molecular level phenomena. and smell.
so our idea kind of is, is if all five ofthose things detect it, it's sufficiently real so we can use it to guide our actionsand we won't be wrong. so it's five dimensions - you need a five-dimensional analysis, andthat's evolved. you might say, well let's call that a good estimate. you need five waysof detecting something before you can be sure it's true. now you know, when you're learningabout experimental psychology, p is less than 0.05 and you use a measurement, and then youdetermine whether the probability that that has manifested itself exceeds a certain levelof chance. if it does, then the thing exists. but that's actually not right. it's not rightfor experimental psychology, and experimental psychologists have known it since the latefifties. you have to demonstrate the damn
thing exists multiple different ways. now,what constitutes a different way can be subject to debate. it's a complicated thing to sortout, but you can kinda figure it out right? maybe use a physiological measurement andself report or something like that, or you self report another report. maybe you don'tneed five, but you probably need three, or something like that depending on the - sowhat i'm going to do is tell you a story, roughly speaking, and i wanna make the storyevident at five or six different levels of analysis. and i want to show you how the storyis the same at all these levels of analysis. now, the one - one of the potential flawsof that method is this. joseph campbell, for example, wrote about hero mythology. someof you have probably read the hero of a thousand
faces. one of the criticisms about josephcampbell and people like him, is that they read the stories of multiple cultures, butthey have an a priori framework. because of the a priori framework, they only see whattheir theory tells them that they're going to see. they don't look for the exceptions, so it'sa problem with pattern recognition. you may be able to recognize patterns where they don'texist. now, my method could be criticized on that grounds. but, the way i've tried toprotect myself against that was to make sure i drew from enough sources so that the probabilityi would be able to tell a coherent story across all those different types of methods is vanishinglysmall. now you're going to have to decide
if that's true. i'll tell you roughly, thedimensions of analysis. the ideas that i'm going to talk to you about, i've put intopractice personally. they work for me. they work for the people that i've taught themto, so those are family members often, but not only family members, lots of other peoplebecause i'm also a clinician right? so it seems to work quite nicely. i have a lot ofpeople write to to me and tell me the ideas have worked. so, i've got multi rater reliability.and then, i think it's manifest biologically, and i think it's manifest culturally, andi think it's manifested in these very, very old stories and anthropologically and so forth.you know, make up your own mind, you can see. the other thing - i don't really know whatto do, what to make of this. you know sometimes
you have an intuition of truth. it's likemaybe you're describing a problem to someone and they say this seems to be at the heartof it. they give you a formulation, and it kind of goes click. yeah, that's how all thosethings hang together. it's a pattern recognition mechanism. people generally have the feelingthat when something like that happens, something of truth has been revealed. now, a very commonresponse from the students i had in these courses is that i never tell anyone anythingthey don't already know. and the reason for that, what i'm hoping is the reason, is thatwhat i'm outlining is archetypal structures and you know, i've drawn a lot of my workfrom jung and was very interested in archetypal structures. so, what will happen - and i thinkit will happen - is i'll tell you a story,
you'll think oh yeah right, that's what thatmeans, and i see in here all the things that it explains. so you'll have this sense, andthat's the - we talked about your friend with the spiritual awakening. often, one of thecognitive phenomena that accompanies a spiritual awakening is the connections of many, manydiverse phenomena into an overarching unity. and you feel that, like as a radical simplification.it's something like that, a decrease in entropy, or something like that. it's a very, verypowerful sensation. i mean, there's other sources of what you might call spiritual experiencesas well, but that's certainly one of them. and so you can see you know, i'll tell youthese stories; you can think oh well - how does that story manifest itself in your experience?that's a phenomenological level of truth.
so the phenomenologists - branch of philosophy- started by heidegger, not exactly but let's say extended as well as anyone extended it,by heidegger. heidegger thought that western philosophy had gone wrong basically since thetime of socrates which is quite a long time. and he said that we became interested in whatthe world was made of, and how we knew things, and what we should've been interested insteadwas the nature and quality of being. what he meant by being isn't the objective world.what he meant by being was the manner in which you have experience. so there are elementsof being that aren't objective elements. so i would say pain is a phenomenologicalreality. it's not something you can - you can index it objectively, but the index isnot the phenomena. and you know, is your pain
real? this is a question for people who thinkthere's no such thing as meaning. like you try to argue yourself out of pain and seehow far you get. you might think, well that's not the sort of meaning i meant. well youknow, a negative meaning is a place to start right? because if something's negative andit's real, it does imply that there's something positive that's real. it might be harder toget a hold of it, but at least it's not pain. but, pain - descartes, and i'll close withthis. you guys can have a break. descartes implemented a method called radical doubtwhen he went on his philosophical journey. what descartes looked for was one thing hecouldn't doubt. cause he was probably clinically depressed
and he was doubting everything, like how doi know the world isn't just a mirage made by an evil demon to obfuscate reality fromme. well his conclusion was that the one thing that he could not dispute was that he wasand could think. now i don't think descartes really meant what we meant by think. i thinkhe meant more by what we would mean by experience because thought has become a much more narrowlydefined term since the time of descartes. so i don't think he meant i think thereforei am, i think he meant something like i experience. i have experience, therefore i am. regardlessof that, modern people think about it as thought. heidegger was different. heidegger basicallysaid, the one thing you can't dispute is that experience is your experience. it exists.it's almost by definition, it's like the definition
of exist. and then he was interested in what the fundamentalelements of existence were. and they're not atoms, like the fundamental elements of theobjective world. they're more things like pain, and for me that was the thing that stoppedme from doubting. it's like, i cannot doubt the existence of pain. it seems real. i mightsay it seems more real than anything else. now, you might say you don't believe that,but i would say i don't care what you think you believe. i'll watch you when you're inpain, and every single one of your actions will indicate that you believe in it. andnot only that, but that you can't not believe in it. it's there, and it's there so muchthat that's a meaning.
and so it's in that way that heidegger thoughtout existence, or as experience as composed of meaning. so part of the reason this courseis called maps of meaning is that because one of the things we're going to look at isthe structure of meaning, and we're going to start with negative meaning because frommy perspective - look you can doubt whether or not good exists. but once i'm done tellingyou the things that i know about human history, there won't be a single person in this roomwho thinks that evil doesn't exist. and you might think that's a bloody horrible thingto learn, but it's not. it's unbelievably useful because once you can establish somethingthat you cannot deny, you can move from that. i think you can hypothesize that if you'recapable of detecting radical evil, i'll tell
you about unit 731, or you can look it upyourself - i wouldn't recommend it by the way. once you can identify radical evil and youthink, well that's just - beyond a doubt that's reprehensible. there's no justification forthat whatsoever, no matter what, whenever. well then you've got something to stand on,and you can start thinking, well what's the absolute opposite of that thing? it mightbe, how is it that you can conduct yourself so that in your sphere of influence, the probabilitythat anything like that is reduced to the absolute maximum? well, that's a reasonablymoral question. and i don't think it's something you can dispense with with a casual nihilism.i don't think a nihilist can dispense with
it, because even nihilists suffer. thank godfor that. it's their only source of potential salvation. sometimes they notice it - oh i'msuffering from all this nihilism, maybe that indicates there's something flawed in it.it's always possible. okay, so let's take a break. we will come back at, what time is it? 2:58 2:58? okay. come back at 3:15. we will see you then. and then i will talk to you more about the technical elements of the class.