Friday, August 12, 2005

Self Justification

> Vera at Philosophy et cetera looks at self justification arguing it is morally wrong.

But Vera's arguments are a bit confused so to make it clear in the context of this more politically oriented blog an example of what were talking about is how a person from the far left might say "social welfare is good" possibly because at some stage they needed or still need social welfare. And a person on the far right might say "tax is theft" partly because they want to excuse having evaded tax. These are not the only possible reasons for having these opinions but even if they are the core reason you can’t tell because the person will already have self justified their positions with all sorts of other more socially acceptable reasons.

The problem that arises from self justification is that you get two people arguing about politics (for example) both of whom have already justified that no reasonable person could oppose their position. You therefore get an irresolvable argument. This causes the debate to no longer be a search for truth or the best result and instead one of how to beat the other side.

This is not to say that these things are not sometimes useful.
For example a standard psychological trick for people with "bad" behaviours is to
Separate out the part of them that is causing the problem - give it a name (like the devil or "the alcohol" or a psychological disease etc) and then allow the person to hate it and not the rest of them. It is largely nonsense but it is a useful tool.

However if one cares one can make a reasonable improvement in regard to reducing the amount of unreliable self justification one does. It is hard but I can think of a few simple mind exercises that can help.
One example is to spend some time intentionally not saying anything one is not absolutely sure of or that could be a lie of omission. You will soon realise how difficult that is and how many things are a function of self justification.
Of course you dont have to go htat far - noticing any cases of self justification can be interesting.


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