4. Attitudes to the world

a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior

This section addresses how individual psychology influences one’s attitudes towards the world and its constituents. In essence it is about two quite different modes of being that differ in intellectual development and their attitude towards authority. This becomes apparent in the form of different degrees of self-empowerment and disempowerment, and eventually in whether individuals and societies structurally thrive or dwindle.

A short outline of these two modes of being follows below. Much more background and details follows in the subsections.

Dependent thought

Also authoritarian thought or shallow understanding

The least developed mode of being can be called ‘authoritarian’ or ‘dependent thinking’ and can be interpreted as a shallow understanding of reality that leads to a strong and generally subconscious urge to reduce the complexity of the world through an acceptance of and adherence to external authority and intolerance to and suppression of diversity. Because authoritarians feel forced to exhibit a particular type of behavior they are not (fully) deciding on their own behavior. A large majority of the populations is characterized by this mode of being. In fact everyone starts in this mode of being during childhood, and as long as you do not learn to develop the quality of your own thought processes far enough so that you can rely on your own judgement most of the time you remain in this mode of thought for the rest of life. Maslow call this ‘deficiency cognition’ because this mode of though is characterized by problem solving: where the problem is indicative of a deficiency of some sort (otherwise it is a problem that can be ignored without consequences). All forms of deficiency cognition are targeted optimization (problem solving).

Independent thought

Also libertarian thought or deep understanding

The more developed mode of being can be called ‘libertarian’ or ‘independent thinking’ and can be interpreted as a deeper and more pervasive understanding of reality in combination with an individual urge and ability to use the innate dynamics of the world to co-create shared benefits. Essentially, libertarians can decide on their own goals without any reference to of influence of external authority. Only a minority of the population of our Western societies is characterized by this mode of being. This mode of thought is the result of well-developed critical thinking capacity that is continuously used to dispel erroneous beliefs and to adopt more empowering beliefs. The result is a more realistic “truthful” and empowering understanding of the world and one’s role in it. This gradually erodes the need for external authorities that determine the content of your thoughts and beliefs. Maslow calls this ‘being cognition’ because it is a form of cognition that optimizes the quality of our ‘being’ in this world in the absence of pressing problem. Being cognition is for pervasive optimization.

Life-time development.

The gradual transition from dependent to independent thought is a multi-year (or multi-decade) irreversible process: with the possible exception of extreme events (such as torture and brain trauma) it is impossible to unlearn your understanding of the world. So the axis authoritarianism—libertarianism is a measure of general understanding. The deeper and more pervasive one’s understanding of the reality, the more libertarian the attitude towards the word, and the shallower and fragmented one’s understanding of the “world” the more authoritarian the attitude.

Each individual will combine both authoritarian tendencies in response to adversity and libertarian tendencies in response to opportunities. The authoritarian attitude is prevalent in situations that are interpreted as too complex to cope with comfortably and authorities of some sort should come to the rescue and — essentially — their directions followed. The libertarian attitude is prevalent in all situations within comfortable coping capacity.

Depending on their level of understanding of the world some people will exhibit more frequent authoritarian tendencies and others more frequent libertarian tendencies. To sharpen the contrast between the two modes of being we typically oppose their stereotypes and compare them in terms of stereotypes. The table below reflects the main differences (more on this in the rest of this section).

The psychological concepts discussed in this table (see also summary of attitudes towards the world) define much of [he psychology that underlies geopolitical dynamics].

The psychology that underlies geopolitical dynamics
Thought mode Coping Pervasive optimization
Topic Authoritarian - Dependent thinker - Immature thought - Deficiency cognition - Protection of agency Libertarian - independent thinker - Mature thought - Being-cognition - Pervasive optimization
Purpose of thought Coping: i.e., maintaining agentic adequacy through problem solving Pervasive optimization through understanding and co-creating reality
Success type Successful coping with a problem (possibly at the cost of other aspects) Pervasive optimization −- optimizing everything in the context of the whole
Success emotion Pride Happiness
Failure emotion In a social setting: shame Unhappiness
Type of authority External authority, to be obeyed, served, and supported voluntarily Internalized authority in the form of sound judgement and self-direction (via right hemispheric strengths)
Role of authority External authority essential to maintain conditions for behavioral adequacy Able to self-maintain proper conditions for behavioral adequacy
Attitude towards authority Authorities to be supported in all efforts Authorities to be questioned, controlled, curtailed and, if need be, challenged, ridiculed, or ignored
Source of [beliefs] Authority (e.g., role-model) derived beliefs accepted as truths Authority endorsement of beliefs irrelevant, truths self-discovered from participatory learning
Reasoning The conclusion justifies the reasoning. Is the conclusion what it is supposed to be? The reasoning justifies the conclusion. Is it veridical, does it work out well?
Preferred mode of thought Intelligence + rationality Understanding + creativity
Fear free behavior Situationally appropriate culturally sanctioned behavior Responsible and quietly exploratory behavior, usually almost in distinguishable from situationally appropriate culturally sanctioned behavior
Fear laden behavior Reduction of complexity through suppression of diversity, intolerance of difference, and if need be violence Greater tranquillity, sharper cognition, and more vigilant defense of tolerance
Main weakness Propensity to self-entrapment and self-enslavement Underestimation (or complete oversight) of the problems authoritarians have with libertarian behavior/complexity
[Driving emotion The fear of doing things wrong, of loosing control, and of being inadequate Interest in the world. Discovering more optimal ways to co-create the broadly beneficial future

Note the cell’s in bold. These form important determinants of geopolitical development because they explain the typical mode of thought characteristics of servants of hierarchical organizations (and therefore the dominant mode of though of globalization).

Section overview

    1. Two attitudes towards a complex world
    2. Two brain hemispheres
    3. In- and external authority
    4. Agency, autonomy, motivation, appraisal
    5. Four basic states of mind
    6. Motivation, authority, and co-creation
    7. Open-ended development
    8. Why we think
    9. Shallow and deep understanding
    10. The roots of violence
    11. Summary of attitudes towards the world