To Be or Not To Be
A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!
~A Wise Man Said~
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
~When in Lancaster~
Life as PhD Student
Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Monday, February 20, 2017
Why I Don’t Buy into Positivity
There is a pervasive sentiment that positivity is the cure for all ills. Even if you’re on your deathbed, there will be some who will tell you that if you are positive enough, you might come out of it alive. The more depressed you feel inwardly, at the state of world affairs or personal affairs, the more pressure you feel to put on an outward mask of fake positivity. And there is enough pseudo-science out there that will tell you that if you smile for 21 days, you will actually start feeling happy on the 22nd. I have no idea where they dig these numbers from.
I personally find positivity or rather the cult of positivity positively negative. Negative in that it seems to impose inauthenticity or tells me in a rather roundabout way that my feelings if they are not all peachy are not ‘valid’ or ‘good’ and must be ‘fixed’. I thought I was rather alone in my animosity toward positivity until I read this academic article which nicely puts it as ‘the tyranny of positive thinking’. It says that if positivity is overly encouraged, say in an organisational setting, people may start keeping their misgivings to themselves or stop voicing any contrary opinions for fear of appearing ‘negative’. Positivity in other words could be a threat to critical thinking as critical thinking in a sense demands evaluating the ‘negatives’. Leaders’ emphasis on positivity may actually be a means of keeping out dissenting voices and propagating their own ‘positive’ narratives as true (the article gives examples of positivity mantras such as “bring me answers, not problems” or “you worry too much”)—for some reason positivity gets more easy acceptance as truth and anyone showing a negative spot is taken for the villain (he isn’t). Positivity also encourages a ‘blame the victim’ attitude. If the path to success is strewn with positivity, failure is just a direct result of not following that path! Organisations seem to think that positivity is good for productivity which it could be if positivity is all about being cheerful no matter what the situation; again, acknowledging that there is less to be positive about may actually create a more positive situation for the worker and ironically even for the organisation than to enforce the self-belief that all is well and good. The article also brings up an example of a US President who didn’t like “pessimism, hand-wringing or doubt” actually diminishing the administration’s ability to deal with disasters! (clearly, wishing them away didn’t work!)I value authenticity and critical thinking over positivity. I see no harm in optimism and hope, in fact, they certainly help you move on from a place of despair, but I’d rather look at despair in the eye and then move on than pretend that it doesn’t exist or clamp down on people who see it for what it is. I’d rather listen to a practical assessment of problems and try to fix them than pretend that things will get better if I just keep feeling positive that they will. In my opinion, excessive positivity is as bad as excessive negativity—both distort the situation and move the focus away from a solution.
Monday, February 13, 2017
With so much nonsense going on in the world (I mean TRUMP of course), I am worried about something. The more idiocy I see around me, the more the rise of the stupid, the more I start wondering, not so much whether God exists, which I wonder all the time, but an option not infinitely better: Is God rational? Even the manner in which we humans define ‘good’ today, thanks to the trouble philosophers have gone to over the ages to ferret out various definitions of the word, more or less tends to be rational. But, we have no means of knowing today as we didn’t back then whether God himself/herself/itself is rational.
And suppose for a moment that God’s definition of ‘good’ is not a rational one. What happens then? Truth, honesty, justice, integrity, loyalty, equality… all this good stuff… all these values… what happens to them? What if all this doesn’t exactly lead you to God or to heaven? We don’t know what else does except that some extremely religious folks seem to think you could go to church as a sort of backdoor entry to heaven without all the other inconvenient claptrap.
I guess life would cease to have any meaning if it weren’t founded on a rational system of ideas, not just rationality on earth but equally important as seen from above. If someone committed a crime and did not get caught, one could still say that he will one day meet his maker and have to answer for his crimes. One could say that because one believes that one’s idea of crime and justice are the same as that in heaven. But what about the complex modern day crimes or onslaughts against ‘good’? They are not as simple as a murder where a life is clearly lost. How would God judge those crimes? There is no way to know.
I for one believe that rationality is the best means we have with us for apprehending a ‘good’ world. Rationality not disconnected from empathy, of course. What I fear are ironically people who make an appearance of religiosity at the expense of rationality. I’d rather have the philosopher’s version of ‘good’ than the priest’s—no offence to the priest but his followers don’t give one confidence.