Friday, 13 July 2007

Do Choices Drive Humanities Philosophy?

The assumption that choices should drive our philosophy, is I think, back to front. Rather, our philosophy is first internalized and that then drives our choices. If choices were first cause, then to burgle an individual's house or to mug an old lady, would be the choice we had made and our philosophy would be molded round those choices.

All of us start to internalize moral premises from a very early age, those internalized, 'moral maps' influence our behavior and the choices we make. The ability of an individual to make 'good or bad' choices, that may be either constructive or destructive to others, Is I think, based on those internalized moral premises, or if you like rules of moral engagement with the World.

If we remove mental illness from the equation, of what may guide an individuals behavior; then we have removed that psychology (of course mental illness can alter one's philosophy too, such as in Schizophrenia), of course their are other psychological routes to behavior, such as 'need and greed'. Nevertheless, and despite this, much of our behavior is guided by our 'inner-world-view, or if you like, our philosophical map of our self, others and the external environment.

A child bought up in a house full of muggers and thieves, may well grow up with a world-view, that mugging and thievery are apt and proper modes of 'mental transport', in getting from one meal ticket to the next. This behavior that leads to choices, is of course built up on the foundation of an internal philosophy and the choices follow from that philosophy; not the other way round.

The child mind, is of course very acceptable to adult verbal persuasion. Indeed, it has been noted many times before, that children are often very gullible to adult 'reasoning', that is often entirely unreasonable. It does not seem at all difficult, to convince a child of Santa Claus and even God.

The first formal training in the process of thinking, in terms of philosophy, for children - Probably comes from the first yes and no answers to questions and the do or don't 'orders' of restraint placed on children in every day situations.

If a child goes in a sweet shop with a friend and the friend tries to coerce them to steal a chocolate bar, if he or she has been grounded in a philosophy that tells them 'stealing is morally unacceptable', then their philosophy will hopefully trump the coercion. But if the friend happens to be very coercive and the child steals the bar of chocolate, then it is of course a choice that has overridden their world-view, that says 'don't do it'. But, it is not the choice that drives the philosophy in this instance, rather, it a choice that is in conflict with the deeply ingrained world-view...

In most instances of this sort, if the child is well grounded in a world-view that identifies the immorality of theft, then the child will simply feel guilty, and will probably never do it again. However, if the child hangs round with the same friend and is constantly coerced into thievery, then the child may begin to change its internalized world-view from 'it's wrong to steal' to 'I'm a thief'. This change in the internal world-view, will then guide the child's new choices.

Whatever choices in life we make, good or bad, it is likely that they are guided by our world-view. Our world-view is a complex puzzle of ideas, thoughts, presumptions, moral codes, ethical sign posts - et al, that we have internalized. Much of that internalization began in early childhood.

When a criminal is genuinely rehabilitated, they start making different choices. The change in the criminal, does not simple come about by making different choices, the change is far more subtle. The change starts with an overhaul of the individuals world-view, that change can be dramatic. Such individuals will not even think like criminals anymore. Indeed, the idea of committing a criminal act will seem abhorrent to them, they have totally changed their world-view, in terms of philosophical choices in knowing what is right and what is wrong.

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