509. Process philosophy
509. Process philosophy
The notion of ‘thymos’ goes back to the classical Greeks: Homer, Aristotle and Plato. Its root meaning is ‘fume’ or ‘vapour’ (Cairns 2019). When one is in thymos, one is in one’s vapours. For Aristoteles it is mostly anger, for Plato it was a pivot between logic and desire. It is the urge, volition, the emotion-laden drive to action. The ‘guts’ to act, one might say. Logic, rationality, becomes active through thymos. The metaphor has been used of a visceral body carrying a head of reason (Mirhady 2007: 55).
Thymos can be positive, in love, commitment, care, pity, endeavour, adventure. I used it as a characteristic of entrepreneurship. I associate it with Nietzsche’s Dionysian excitement, ebullience, transgression, high spirit, and will to power, next to Apollonian harmony and balance. It can feed virtue. It can drive environmentalists, feminists and freedom fighters. It can also be negative, in hatred, resistance, aggression, rage, seething resentment. Geranesh (2020) talks of the ‘white thymos’. of Trump’s followers, in their resentment of losing white privilige and supremacy. Loss of privilege is felt and sold as inquality, offense. Hostility is dressed up as love, love for traditional America and Christian values, defending them against immigrants and liberals, in eruptions fed by the hotbeds and nuclear fusion of social media.
I connect thymos also to David Hume’s dictum that ‘rationality is the slave of the passions’, and his claim that benevolence is natural, automatic, instinctive, not based on reason. This connects with evolutionary epistemology and sociology, which claims that empathy emerged from the evolution of humanity in its history of hunter-gatherers, from some 300-400.000 years ago, where collaboration was required for hunting big game and for defense, which demanded the ability to imagine oneself in the perspective of the other, in empathy.(Tomasello 2016, Campbell 1974). Being buried deeply in our make-up, it is instinctive and non-rational, automatic, triggered by emotion.
Much of our choice and decision making is based on routines, automatic behaviour that we have developed to free attention to more urgent and new conditions, as in having a coversation while driving a car. In that sense, lack of rational attention is rational. Not to get caught in constraining routines where they fail, as when in driving an accident is about to occur, thymos is needed to catapult us out of them, to pay attention to new conditions and reflect on appropriate action. Thymos, in the form of fear, or lure, desire, or opportunity, sets the agenda and purpose for reasoned deliberation.
Rules and institutions appeal to utility or deontology, duty, in rational evaluation, where one falls into the hands of self-interest, in free-riding or deceit. Emotion-laden instinct overrules that for costly solidarity and benevolence that rational self-interest would refuse. However, it can overshoot in fanaticism, fundamentalism, exclusion, as in white thymos, or religious or ethnic zeal.
Cairns, D. (2019), ‘Thymos’, The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.013.6180.
Tomasello, Michael (2016), A natural history of human morality, Cambride MA: Harvard University Press.
Campbell, D. T. (1974), ‘Evolutionary epistemology’, in P. A. Schilpp (ed.), The philosophy of Karl R. Popper, Lasalle, IL: Open Court, 412– 63.
Geranesh, B.(2020), ‘Weaponising white thymos: Flows of rage in online audiences of the alt-right’, Cultural Studies, 892-924.
507. Meanings of authenticity
Such deviations are not necessarily bad. They may still be sufficiently authentic in the experience of the diversionary tourist. They may help to preserve at least part of traditional culture.
506. Virtue, ethics and Kierkegaard
With Kierkegaard, I still have a puzzle concerning his treatment of time, in particular the notion of the moment, the present, as a cut in the flow of duration, where you have the freedom to make a choice, take a decision, make a commitment, for giving direction to your life. In a book of mine about process philosophy that will appear in April 2021, I make the following of it: the moment is the derivative, the differential, of duration. With an object moving in time and space, the derivative is its speed. When that is zero, there is stagnation. Here, there is no choice, no ‘elan vital’, as Bergson called it: one lets oneself be dragged along.passively.
Jan Keij, 2015, Kierkegaard seen differently (in Dutch), Zoetermeer: Klement
505. Foucault and Chomsky
504. Virtue and causality
2. 2, Agent-directed: in terms of the agent with her character, defined as durable inclinations, and emotions, feelings, routines, impulse. This has been criticised for failing to give moral evaluation of acts. It looks only at intentions, not at results
3. 3. Action- directed: evaluating the extent to which an action is virtuous; the extent that the action ‘hits the target’ of the virtue. But intentions do also matter. One can do the right things by accident or for the wrong reasons.
Final cause (with what purpose): the good life, the interests of others, virtuous acts
Formal cause (how): character, feelings etc., and practical wisdom (Aristotle: phronesis)
Material cause (with what means): experience, other people
Conditional cause (circumstances):to be considered by practical wisdom
Exemplary cause (role model): the virtue virtuoso.
503 Covid-19 and morality
1.Permissiveness of instrumental harm: harming some people for the good of the whole.
2 Impartial benificence, with more empathetic concern.
1. Concern about human life, correlating with permissiveness concerning instrumental harm
2. Focus on public health, correlating with impersonal beneficence
The table below indicates which responses loaded positively (+) or highly so (++), and which loaded negatively (-) or highly so (--) on the PC’s
saving younger patients ++ --
vaccine development ++ --
animal rights -- ++
data protection -- -
virus tracing ++ +
informing protocol breach + ++
protecting a friend - --
wanting economic activity - --
physical distance + ++
all patients equal -- ++
Effects on these PC’s were studied of: the two moral stands, contextual factors , the five personality traits and demographic variables, with a total of 15 explanatory variables. The contextual factors were: per capita number of deaths, per capita number of confirmed Covid cases and.personal proximity to Covid. The demograhic variables were gender and age.
The two utilitarian stands agreed on prioritising public health over non-health concerns. Impartial beneficence had a negative effect on prioritising ventilator use and on lowering thresholds on animal rights, and instrumental harm had the opposite effect.
Per capita number of deaths, and per capita number of confirmed Covid cases had a positive effect on both principal components of responses.The effect of personal proximity had no effect on the PC’s, indicating that societal impact was considered more important,
In contrast with the rationality of institutional rules, morality is accompanied with emotions When policies and messages go against one’s morals, this can produce negative emotional reactions and polarisation, as we now observe across different countries. Their thesis was that conflicts between public health messages and moral values evoke emotions. Trevors and Duffy (2020) tested their thesis that conflicts between public health messages and moral values evoke emotions. They investigated the self-reported emotional responses of 518 people in the US to public messages with purported refutations of common Covid-19 misconceptions (e.g. that the flu is.just as bad if not worse than Covid). from 12 states The sample was not representative for the whole country, but ‘purposeful’, from communities known to be strongly opposed to social distancing identified in previous research as among the highest to favour immediate return to normal economic activity.
Respondents completed five prior knowledge items, a modified version of the ‘Moral foundations Questionnaire (MFQ)’ and read 5 short messages that refuted misconceptions, and then reported their emotional response, whether the content of the message conflicted with their personal views and/or views of their community, and the extent to which they believed the refutation and skimmed it quickly.
Factor analyses were conducted, , separately on the MFQ and the emotion response items.Three factors were found from the MFQ that elained 39% of variance:
Binding ,with eight items, indicating an ethic of group cohesion and social order
Individualising, with six items, indicating a preference for individuals. In aliberal ideology.
Libertarian, with four items, indicating a preference for autonomous exercise of liberties.
On emotion response, three factors explained 55% of variance:
Anxious, with variables anxious, scared, hopeless, and threatened
Hopeful, with variables hopeful, relieved, hapy, curious, surprised
Doubtful, with variables doubtful, bored, angry, confused.
Concerning the results, there were complicated interactions between the variables, for which I refer to the publication. Salient results were the following: Overall refutations did increase factual knowledge, and this accounted for 60% of post test score variance. Conflict of the messages with beliefs, hopefulness, doubtfulness and skimming had a negative effect on learing, and belief and prior knowledge had a posiive effect. Binding and libertarianism had a negative effect on learning when the corrections conflicted with views, and individualising had a positive effect.
Overall, the study showed that indeed the effectiveness of refutations depends on moral values. Strong moral concerns for individual well-being are more likely to let people undate their Covid beliefs, while ‘morally valued group cohesion or individual freedoms are more likely tot o affectively or cognitiovely reject corrctive informtion’, and ‘Public health actions undermined valued social ties or personal autonomy’.
The conclusion of the authors is that ‘Corrections should be adapted to connect with the morality of recipients, … link to concerns for fairness and suffering for the individualising stand, obeying authority, defending purity, and patriotism for the binding stance, and self-protection for the libertarian stand.
Everett. J,A, C. Colombatto, V. Chituc, W.J. Brady and M.J.Crockett 2020, ‘The effectiveness of moral messages on public health behavioural intentions during the Covid-19 pandemic’, preprint, Dept. of Psychology, UK: University of Kent
Navajas, J., F.A.Heduan, G. Garbulski, E. Tagliazucchi, D. Ariely and M.Sigman 2020,’Utilitarian reasoning about moral problems of the Covid-19 crisis’, OST preprint, https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/ktv62 .
Qian, K. and T. Yahara. 2020, ‘Mentality and behaviour in Civid-19, emerging status in
Japan: influence of personality, morality and ideology’, Plos One.17/t e0235883
Trevors, G and M.C. Duffy 2020, ‘Correcting Covid-19 misconceptions requires caution’,