Posts Tagged ‘Human Free-Will’

New Strategies for Cultural Self-Managment (2)

October 17, 2012

New Strategies for Cultural Self-Managment (2)

A dear friend of mine challenged me to provide some specific recommendations to America regarding how to correct our precipitous decline that began sometime around the early 1960’s.

Actually, with the exception of when I published some recommendations in a newspaper article in the late 1980’s, I have long avoided suggesting remedies to our many problems. It has been challenge enough for me to define the classes of our self-defeating collective behaviors. Having done this to a significant degree, my next project was to identify and explain some of the biological, psychological and social principles and mechanisms by which these maladaptive behavior problems were both stimulated and reinforced within our population.

I remain convinced that one cannot identify effective solutions to problems unless they first define the problem in measurable terms and, if possible, identify the probable causes of the problem. Know the probable causes of a particular problem may not always be essential to it’s solution, but it is a distict advantage to the problem solver.

Therefore, the reason that I had stopped focusing upon solutions to America’s behavioral problems is because I thought it premature to present them for consideration. In fact, it may still be premature to do so. However, I have now done the my best to define the problems and identify many of the numerous principles and mechanisms that underlie their proliferation in our Socioculture.

I therefore agree with my friend that it is time to make some practical suggestions as to how to stem the tide of an increasing great many maladaptive and destructive behaviors within our American population.

Unfortunately, any suggested solution to our social/behavioral problems raises a whole new set of problems to be confronted. Presuming such solutions could be deduced, how could they be implemented in a Democratic Republic such as ours? If this were Communist China, or Theocratic Iran, etc., solutions could simply be imposed. But to do this would destroy the fundamental features of America that have propelled its ascendency to greatness in the world.

America was founded upon a fierce quest for liberty and independence from governmental despotism. By liberty and independence, I mean the constitutional right of individual citizens to “make their own choices” about their behaviors and life-styles, without interference from the forces of government.

I differentiate liberty from freedom. The concept of liberty is straight-forward in its meaning, as I use it here. On the other hand, freedom is a more complex idea that can be debated from various philosophical perspectives (I.e., determinism, Indeterminism (free will), metaphysics/ religious issues, etc.). I will leave the “freedom” issue out of my discussion by simply acknowledging that the actions of all humans are heavily influenced by their genetic history, their history of learning , their current biological state, and the state of their current environment. In the animal kingdom, the higher the animal resides on the phylogenetic scale, the more influence its unique history of learning has upon the its actions.  This statement is most true of humans.

Never-the-less,  as marvelously successful as psychological scientists have been in accounting for the causes of our human behavior patterns, there is much yet to be learned.  There still remains a great deal of unpredictability that is unexplained when trying to account for all of the actions of any particular individual. We may take on faith that the unexplained will someday be accounted for by various principles of biology, genetics and learning. For the present, however, this hope remains a matter of philosophy and faith.

The matter of  unpredictable human behavior represents the remaining temple of human “free-will” and I will not enter it here, at this time. I have learned, while practical problem solving, that to do so creates more heat than it does light.  It is not essential that this matter be resolved in order to proceed with sensible plans to generally improve the collective behavior patterns of our population and  the sustainability of our socioculture.

The big question is how can we increase the occurrence of essential good behavior patterns in America and decrease the occurrence of destructive, bad behavior patterns in America? Another equally big question is how can we do this without destroying the economic , political, religious and social liberties of our citizens—-which is the essence of America’s being?

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 10/17/12

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