November 26th, 2005

No, I'm really studying

So I've been doing shitloads of reading wrt self-awareness, both objective and subjective. A big debate at present is over whether self-awareness is good or bad for your self-esteem. The prevailing thought is that being more conscious of your self causes unfavorable comparisons between your actual and ideal selves; thereby causing you to reduce your evaluation of yourself. One of my favorite concepts (more "pet" than favorite; I tend to tie it in to whatever I'm reading, esp. lucid dreaming (and there's actually research on the connection between the two!)) is the locus of control (no relation). Becca played a Christine Lavin song for me this weekend about people who claim to be victims but really volunteer themselves for all sorts of shit that happens to them. It sparked a small discussion between us about our respective loci of control. She claims to believe herself a victim more often, whereas I blame myself for everything (remember, I learned to lucid dream by telling myself I was never going to have another nightmare again, end of story). Thus:
"...Self-focused people saw themselves as more responsible for both positive and negative events. Subsequent research, however, found that high self-awareness promoted defensive, external attributions for negative events, presumably because people wanted to avoid the amplified experienced [sic] of failure." —Silvia & Duval, 2001

The last line refers to the concept that losses loom larger than gains (we covered this in the same class where I got paid $5 to dance, remember?). One thought that came of has to do with religion. I've always believed that an internal locus of control is a good thing, as the texts usually portray external loci of control to be typical of the "woe-is-me" helpless school of thought. There's a flipside at work here, which I will unofficially call the Crusader Phenomenon. Are religious people more prone to take risks because the outcome is "as god wills it"?

I've been toying with a similar concept, when I recently decided that believing in a deterministic universe may actually be conducive to risk-taking. The argument goes like this: In a deterministic universe, you can't be responsible for your crimes (or your accomplishments!) because they were "fated to be." In a universe governed by freewill, you are (usually, depending on your locus) responsible for any spectacular cock-ups you commit. But in a deterministic universe, you're free to be as risk-taking as you like; if you fail, it was predetermined anyway! You couldn't have dodged that particular bullet anyway, so you might as well enjoy the ride. Of course, choosing to be risky entails freewill, but you don't tell yourself that.

Obviously, I could talk even a veteran philosopher's ear off (and have, including a doctor of canon from the Vatican when I still "went to church") on the subject of freewill; after all, I was raised on Rush. It was one of the first philosophical concepts that I encountered, and is partially responsible for my love of thought (and thought about thought, or metacognition). But back to the subject of the Crusader's Phenomenon: does belief in an external locus of control (you know him as "God"; it's just another of 'his' nine billion names) allow people to be braver or more adventurous? There's been plenty of discussion over the importance of the concept of a diety, and whether one is even necessary. I'm clearly an athiest, so apologies tendered to anyone who's offended by the fact that I am speaking very analytically about your respective lords. But god does exist, in the minds of billions of people around the world. My own personal athiesm began when I reasoned that it would make no difference in my life whether there was a god or not. That may not be the case. Desmond Morris postulated in his seminal book The Naked Ape that god was an offshoot of the alpha-male concept, externalized from the tribe to facilitate cooperation (I may be bigger than you, but we both work for the Big Invisible Guy, so we'll work together rather than fight). That's cool, but a bit dated, evolutionarily (this is the real reason creationism fundamentalists hate evolution; everyone knows that seven days shit was just made up). But does the godhead confer benefits to modern man? Possibly. If I lead the French to war against the English and we lose, then I fucked up. But if I get "visions" and then fuck up, hey, it was the will of god. Wasn't that an episode of the Simpsons, where God had told someone from England the same thing he told Jean d'Arc so that no matter which side came out on top, they'd both praise His name? Of course, I've since then come up with lots more arguments for why belief in god is illogical and irrelevant to me (and sorry, I can't just switch my locus of control; it's not THAT internalized). But I've also mellowed a lot on the whole "yanking the curtain back" for people who still do believe.

Food for thought? How about a Thanksgiving Banquet?! (or just a Lot of Food, for anyone not in the US)
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Silky Smooth; PDE

Those lucky bastards, the didn't have to work

Ok, so I spared you a bit on this entry. I could've made it about ten times as huge as it is (nevermind the links no one will click; they're mostly optional). All this from a paragraph in a research paper. So, what do I do with myself? Grad school? Become a researcher? Write books that sell 2,000 copies, mostly to academics? Or become a writer, and write stuff that fires my imagination (I'm still way proud of the way that worked out, what with tying all of the micro-mythos together so neatly) and sell millions of books, though maybe not until after I'm dead (e.g. Robert E. Howard, Philip K. Dick, lots of other famous dead guys)? Or PLAN C?!! I totally don't know what I want to do with myself in 6 months. I'm going to try to see my advisor during his office hours this week and see what he can tell me about grad school. I feel like I have too much wrok going on to start thinking about this stuff. Blah.

I would love to do advanced degrees for some time in the future. One for writing/English, one for psychology, and one for my secret (and forbidden!) love; philosophy. Because no one ever got rich as a philosopher, right? But shit, I was born to drop ontological bombs on your eschatological paradigms. An' shit. Actually, my true secret (and forbidden!!) desire is to become a philosopher/rapper. But don't tell anyone.

Over dinner this Thanksgiving: "I dropped a phat record all about solipsism. It's got crazy hits on it; but you've never heard it because I only made one copy."
Yes, I actually said [words to that effect].
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