4.11 Summary of attitudes towards the world


Summary of political attitudes towards the world

The concept map below is addressed in some detail in an audio interview for the Corbett report

The concept map below summarizes much of the content of the previous subsections, in particular Two attitudes towards a complex world, Left versus right hemispheric strengths, In- and external authority, Motivation, authority, and co-creation and especially Why we think.


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The center of the figure is dominated by the terms authority and agency and their definitions. These definitions are so general that they apply to both the pressing problem mode (left-hemispheric) of thought and the pervasive optimization (left hemispheric) mode of thought. Yet both modes of thought (and their associated hemispheres) approach these two concepts quite differently.

For the left hemisphere the agency of, especially but not exclusively, others is a problematic source of unpredictability that is to be curtailed. For the right hemisphere the agency others is a solution because it allows the spreading of responsibility over the maintenance of the living environment over many different self-thinking and self-deciding agents.

The table Left and right hemispheric political attitudes below contrasts a fair number of typical contrasts that one might formulate on the basis of the of the sections on Authoritarianism and [Attitudes towards the world]. It is up to the reader to determine whether these lead indeed to a useful set of observations.

Left and right hemispheric political attitudes
Topic Left hemispheric political attitudes Right hemispheric political attitudes
State of the world Problematic Opportunity filled
Driving motivation Fear to loose control over one’s life. In extreme cases fear of death Confidence in capacity to cope with life’s challenges and use its opportunities for further improvement. At best love of life
Main goals Solving, mitigating, postponing, or otherwise coping with immediate or pressing problems. Pervasive optimization as continual process
Measure of success Goal achievement, typically in terms of the realization of clear and measurable objectives Improvement of overall quality of life, increased understanding of the world, the realization of novel opportunities and strengthened relations, and personal and societal growth.
Adverse consequences Inadvertent consequences accepted as long as pressing problems are addressed (or better solved). Inadvertent, harmful, or unfair consequences as sign of incompetence.
Power and wisdom No real separation between the concepts of power and wisdom. Power mistrusted and wisdom highly valued.
Concept of freedom Absence of fear, fulfilled needs, and a sense of personal adequacy Full agency, being unconstrained (other then through personal responsibility) to self-decide and self-initiate behavior.
Approach vs avoidance Approach as confrontation. Avoidance as detachment and objective observation. Approach as participation. Avoidance as withdrawal
Preventable political situation Anarchy: interpreted as a society without (state) actors that maintain society within acceptable bounds, curtail deviant behavior, and punish transgressions. Dictatorship: unnecessary curtailment of individual agency and the realization of goals other than pervasive optimization.
Ideal political situation A stable and fear-free society in which one can be “happy” Anarchy: interpreted as a society without (the need for) coercive external authority limiting self-expression, self-development, and pervasive optimization
Role of politics Politics as an isolated/separate part of life and by “professionals”. Political behavior as support of favorite authorities. Politics by everyone and with each act as a vote in a desired direction
Responsibility Minimal personal responsibility for own political actions: “the politicians made a mess of it” Personal responsibility: “we should do more, I can adapt my life even more”.
Economic role As consumer and producer of products and services As co-creator of a sustainable and just future world.
Role of money As a reflection of value and a storage of influence (to be hoarded) As a way to promote the local economy and to “vote” and express or withhold support (to be circulated).
Social and natural environment A source of trouble. To be shaped and curtailed to remain within coping capacity A source of opportunities. To be intimately familiarized with and constructively stabilized though participation
Source of belief base Beliefs of external authorities adopted to reinforce authorities and to promote uniformity Personal experiences, individually appraised beliefs adopted on the bases of quality
Globalization and centralization Globalization and centralization highly valued to reduce diversity and to curtail controlled dynamics Globalization and centralization interpreted as an unnecessary thread to local optimization and individual agency (freedom).
Localization and decentralization Localization and decentralization not understood as a possible benefit, and treated as a source of preventable diversity and lack of consensus Localization and decentralization understood as essential for local (and pervasive) optimization.

Some remarks:

  • One might get the impression that right hemispheric strategies are typical for relations among friends and for relations in the neighborhoods while left hemispheric strategies more typical for the largest scales of human organizations (states, multi-national corporations, UN, geopolitics).

  • Most of the time right hemispheric modes of though seem more appropriate, however in times of (real) crises left hemispheric strategies might be superior. That is the reason why (contrived) crises are so useful for the power structures. But not all crises are contrived and not all situations are for manipulation.

  • It is probably quite feasible to develop the table above more and use it to score the policies of states, multi-national corporations, the UN, think tanks, and so called charities. This then can serve as a basis to determine whether these serve self-serving purses (benefitting the elite) or broadly empowering purposes (benefitting all or many).

  • Many high-level functionaries in states, multi-national corporations, the UN, think tanks, and in charities are libertarians in many aspects of their life bolstering their influence and allowing and convincing them to support them to create the conditions for pervasive optimization might be an effective strategy for long term improvement.

  • By valuing and supporting “wisdom” related strategies and punishing or ignoring “power” related strategies in these organizations it might be possible to gradually shift the balances in these organizations. This does however require active participation of many people in combination with a deep understanding of the world in general and the cognitive basis of geopolitics in particular.

Summary of the two modes of thought

The table below is a cognitive science summary of the two modes of thought.

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 solving/addressing pressing problems 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 Sense of inadequacy, 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