Archive for The Philosopher’s Corner
You have limiting beliefs. So here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to understand what limiting beliefs are. You’re going to learn about all the problems they cause. Then, you’re going take a deep look inside yourself and find out what your limiting beliefs are, and you’re going to work on ridding yourself of those limiting beliefs. This may seem scary, or confusing if you don’t know what limiting beliefs are, but fear not, for I shall help guide you through this process.
What are Limiting Beliefs?
As the heading to this section suggests, let’s start by talking about what limiting beliefs are. A limiting belief is any belief you have which prevents you from doing something or hinders your ability to do it. These beliefs can manifest as a result of many different things such as your relationship with you parents, a traumatic life events, social conditioning, etc…
There are a couple questions which need to be addressed immediately. Limiting beliefs are always wrong. When I say ‘wrong’ I mean that they do not correspond to reality. The reason a limiting belief will always be incorrect is because a proper assessment of reality can never hold you back, even if the assessment identifies a roadblock to success. An accurate belief will allow you to navigate the world more effectively and actually accomplish what you would like to accomplish.
Identifying Limiting Beliefs
We are biologically constructed to have limiting beliefs, but we are also biologically constructed to have adverse physical reactions when we process or think about these beliefs. Concurrently, and I’ll elaborate more on this in the next section, we are biologically constructed to physically resonate with actual reality. Through our perceptions, we have an actual print of reality somewhere in our minds. When we cognitively process that image and put it into words our brains can consciously work with, we recognize that, and it triggers a physiological response. So how can you identify limiting beliefs?
Throughout your day, you will find yourself thinking about particular assessments of the world and of other people. When you think about these things, take a moment to look at how your body is responding. Do you have a dull weight-like pain in your solar plexus? Have you started sweating a little bit more? Are the muscles in your back and neck suddenly carrying more tension? Are you losing track of where you are and what you’re doing because you’re lost in your thoughts? Are you losing motivation to act? Is your mood becoming increasingly sad or worried? If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you are processing a limiting belief.
Let’s take a common example that many students deal with. The belief looks something like this, “My major gives me way more work than anyone else.” When students, particularly in the hard sciences, think about the work they are faced with, they often have the adverse physiological responses mentioned above. This belief is perpetuated throughout our college education system by students and faculty alike. The trouble is that this belief limits a student’s ability to act to resolve the tasks they have to complete. The student accepts his/her reality as one of constantly being stressed and overloaded with work. In reality, the national average of difference in hours of weekly work between the most demanding and least demanding majors is approximately 5 hours. That’s it, 5 hours over a 7 day week, less than one hour per day. However, stress assessments of students across the country consistently show that students studying in the “more demanding” majors have much higher stress levels completely disproportionate to the amount of work they have to do. The reason for this is that the limiting belief prevents students from actually searching for ways to improve their workflow and task management. It also prevents them from completing their work as efficiently as they would otherwise.
There are some key types of limiting beliefs you need to be aware of. One type is the example used above. It’s a perpetuated inaccuracy about a quantitative aspect of reality. Another good example is, “There aren’t enough hours in the day for everything I need to do.” Another type of limiting belief is a perpetuated inaccuracy about a qualitative aspect of reality. So, for example, “Engineering is harder than Anthropology.” There is quantifiable way to measure “harder,” and the difficulty of any discipline is relative to the person studying it. A final type of limiting belief you should be aware of is the affirmation. Sometimes, limiting beliefs will disguise themselves as false appreciations or happiness. For example, “I am happy with my relationship,” or, “My career is right on track.”
Learning to identify your limiting beliefs is the first step to getting rid of them and opening up your world to an entirely new set of possibilities.
Getting Rid of Your Limiting Beliefs
As I mentioned earlier, we are biologically constructed to resonate with reality. Think about any time in your life when you have had an epiphany. Relive the physical responses that your body underwent. You probably sat up straighter, your eyes widened, you facial muscles lost tension, etc… The reason is because your brain recognized that you had processed an image of reality which you already had but were not consciously aware of.
Let’s think about this logically. For every statement you make like this ones I used as examples above, there are a total of five logical permutations. One of these permutations must be true. Let me use an example to explain what I mean. Take the statement, “All apples are red.” It has the following 4 permutations:
All apples are red
All apples are not red
Not all apples are red
Not all apples are not red
At least one of these statements has to be true. And, you may have noticed that when reading them, you realized that #3 and #4 were both true, and you probably responded to that realization physically in some way. In order to rid yourself of your limiting beliefs, you need to phrase them in the statement form like this one and write down each of their permutations. Then, read the statements aloud to yourself. When you get to the one (or two) which are true, you will know it immediately. Some of these realizations may scare you initially, and you may be reluctant to accept them. The key to ridding yourself of these beliefs is to approach the process with a completely open mind.
Once you arrive at reality, you will no longer cling to your limiting belief. The next step is to actually act on your newly discovered knowledge. If your realization is about another person, go talk to them about it. If it’s about your work management, talk to people who can teach you way to better manage your time. Acting on your realizations reinforces them and prevents your limiting beliefs from taking hold again.
I realize this may seem like a tall task, but it is definitely manageable. Follow this simple outline, and you will become a completely new person.
This has been the question for quite some time. Before I begin talking about this contentious issue, let me be clear. I am not asking whether or not atheists can have morals. Obviously, they can. Morals can exist without a belief in God. How do I know this? I have met atheists who have a sense of right and wrong. The real question I want to tackle is whether or not it logically makes sense to attribute “right” and “wrong” to anything without a concept of eternal consequences. The answer is no, it doesn’t make sense. Here’s why.
There are two types of ethical constructs, deontological and consequentialist. All moral frameworks fall into these two categories. Let’s start with deontological frameworks. Every such theory begins with a presumption of some eternal end toward which every good action strives or which every human character is developed. Therefore, the concept of eternity is already built into the deontological construct. Deontology is predicated upon the existence of some eternal result which does not abide by the constraints of temporality. I have also never met a deontological atheist, nor heard of one. With that in mind, we can safely say that deontological moral systems do not make sense without some conception of eternity to back them up.
The more contentious, and important I think, to discuss are the consequentialist systems like utilitarianism. Most all atheists I have met are consequentialist in some fashion or another. Their moralities are predicated upon principles of doing good, not causing harm, helping other people, etc. In other words, an action’s “goodness” is determined by the consequences it has, and certain consequences like causing suffering are bad while others like causing happiness are good. Independent of the individual problems with these theories is the question of whether or not they can logically function without the existence of eternal consequences.
Well, I contend that the answer seems pretty simple. How can a system which determines morality based upon consequences work if consequences don’t last forever. What do I mean by this?
Well, let’s take a fairly common principle: murder is wrong. Ok, well, why is murder wrong in the consequentialist world? Because it causes death, or pain, which are both bad. But here’s the problem; everybody is going to die anyway. And if there is nothing after death, then why is killing somebody so wrong? Because you violated their rights? Well, they were going to die anyway. So why do their rights matter now? What is the consequence of me killing somebody? They die, which they were going to anyway. I get the death penalty (worst case scenario), but I was going to die anyway. In the world without God, the final consequence of every action or chain of actions is death. Therefore, every action ultimately holds the same moral value, which is no value at all.
Let’s make this more complicated. Where do we draw the line of consequences? Suppose you save somebody’s life, but that person turns out to be a serial killer. How do we evaluate your original life saving action? Some would say we value immediate consequences only because we cannot see that far into the future. Well, then the Heaven/Hell system seems better because it already has eternal consequences in place, so the problem of being able to see the final consequence is eliminated.
But ok, let’s agree for the sake of argument that we can attach value to temporal consequences. How do we attach that value? Well, every society does it on its own, right? So, we’re left with an absolutely relativist system in which no morality is better than the next. We can determine which moralities are better though, based upon the benefit/harm that they cause, right? The problem is that the evaluations and definitions of benefit/harm are also relative, and we’re back to square one.
Eternal consequence is necessary for any moral system to logically make sense.
For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. Thomson, she is the author of the very popular and influential work “A Defense of Abortion” in which she argues, quite effectively for many, in favor of a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Lately, I have found that many non-academics and philosopher types are becoming aware of Thomson’s argument, which has been dubbed the violinist argument, and incorporating it into their own canon of pro-choice literary reserves. Unfortunately, of all such people I have encountered, very few have actually read Thomson’s work or taken the time to understand the argument, let alone logic in general. Rather, they have heard a summarized version of the argument. In reality, Thomson’s argument should not be convincing to anyone who can think critically or analyze arguments. My recent irritation has led me to write this post detailing precisely why the argument is not even really an argument. This is not to say that a woman should not have the right choose, but rather that I feel it is necessary to clear up the uninformed discourse which pervades this issue.
In “A Defense of Abortion” (the full text of which is linked below) Thomson attempts to eliminate the problem with calling the fetus a life. In short, her argument contends that it is possible to have the right to violate somebody’s right to life. The pro-life argument follows as such:
1. It is wrong to take an innocent human’s life.
2. The fetus is an innocent human.
3. Therefore, it is wrong to take the fetus’s life.
Most people find contention with the second step, arguing that the fetus is not a human life. Most everyone will agree that it is wrong to take an innocent human’s life for obvious reasons (social contract, value of human life, respecting human dignity, whatever philosophical justification you choose to adopt). Thomson, however, gives her analogy of a violinist and argues that it would be OK to let the violinist die in this case. The trouble, though, is that she never argues it would be OK, she just says it would, without providing any justification for it and hoping people will agree with her on emotional appeal, which a good number of people do. Her argument is as follows.
1. You wake up, and the Society of Music Lovers has kidnapped you. You have been hooked up to a violinist with a deadly kidney disease so that your kidneys can filter poison from him because you are the only person in the world who can save the violinist.
2. You are informed that the violinist’s right to life outweighs your rights, and therefore, you cannot disconnect the violinist until his ailment is cured, however long that may take.
3. Your reaction to this command is that it is absurd.
4. Therefore, there is a problem with the pro life argument which says that the baby’s right to life outweighs the mother’s right to her own body.
Well, this may sound like a convincing train of thought. However, a very brief examination will reveal that it is really not an argument at all. Thomson has simply provided an analogy which makes pregnancy look like a ridiculous burden. I’m surprised she needed an analogy to do that in the first place. The problem with her argument lies primarily in part 3 and the link between 3 and 4. First, the reaction may not necessarily be one of visceral opposition. I, for one, would recognize the situation I have been placed in and accept that, regardless of my suffering, killing an innocent person would be a far more egregious moral crime, and I would not disconnect the violinist. Continually, Thomson never provides a link which merits the “Therefore” in part 4 of her argument. Just because your reaction to the situation is a negative one, why does that entail that the moral obligation to keep the violinist alive does not exist? This logic would mean that peoples’ emotional reactions to moral questions determine the right thing to do. In this case, we would have to legitimize terrorist actions. It is further surprising to me that a philosopher would so blatantly use emotional appeal to support an argument and that the academic community would so readily hop on the bandwagon.
In short, the argument is not an argument. Thomson’s article is weak and should not have been published. Most importantly, people should stop trying to convince me to be pro-choice using Thomson’s argument without actually having read her work, let alone having understood the argument. There are far better arguments for a woman’s right to choose, and it is tragic and severely irritating to see people clinging to the violinist to vehemently.
For the full text of “A Defense of Abortion”
There is a long tradition of people who contend that suicide is not morally impermissible. Yet, I am not convinced. I have a simple question which I believe demonstrates the immorality of suicide. I have not yet received an answer from anyone I have asked. So I open this discourse up to you. The question is below; please feel free to share your thoughts.
Murder is immoral because it violates somebody’s right to life. My rights only extend to the point where your rights begin. So, when I use my rights to violate yours, it is immoral/unjust.
My question is why my rights are different. Why is it morally permissible for me to use my rights to violate my own? Why does my autonomy extend beyond my right to life (if it does)?
There is an increasing movement, particularly in the medical community, to classify addictions as diseases, and to gear “treatment” for them accordingly. Medical professionals are claiming more and more that the biological elements of an addiction outweigh any choice element the individual may have. I completely disagree with this position. It is a position that is not motivated by actual reality, but rather by a mistaken perception of the increased utility of a different perspective. In this post, I want to discuss some of the common arguments supporting the disease theory of addiction and contend that they are misguided.
The first argument I want to discuss is perhaps the most common. It is articulated by Dr. John Halpern in his 2002 article “Addiction is a Disease“. Like many other medical professionals, Halpern contends that there must be a dominant biological component of addiction because people would otherwise stop once they realized that the harms outweigh the benefits. This argument seems to make sense, but you don’t have to be an incisive scholar to point out all the things that are wrong with it. The condition that people need to realize that the harms outweigh the benefits is complicated enough in itself. Different people place different value on different things. If we all thought about potential harms and benefits in a reasoned way, then nobody would go bungee jumping or skydiving. People wouldn’t eat fast food, and there would be no such thing as Olympic gymnastics. Yet, nobody will claim that proclivity toward these behaviors is a disease. The gymnast who trains from the age of seven to win the gold medal at the Olympics is applauded. However, she has likely done irreparable damage to her body, shortened her lifespan, and altered her metabolism for the rest of her life. Not to mention, such training is incredibly emotionally taxing as well. Is that worth the Olympic gold? To some, it definitely is. To others, it really isn’t. This argument ignores the subjectivity of value systems. As outsiders, we can easily sit back and say that the harms of addiction outweigh any perceived benefits, but we don’t actually understand the extent of those perceived benefits. Addicts do not make this distinction as easily. Continually, this argument assumes that people behave in a reasonable fashion when faced with obvious facts. If this were true, there would be no suicide bombing. The global warming problem would be solved, and there would be no nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, most of the world does not operate reasonably. This does not mean, however, that everyone has some sort of disease.
Research studies further contend that repeated use of an addictive substance can alter structures in the brain or body which make it much more difficult to stop. I do not dispute this point. In fact, it is fairly obvious that toxic substances will alter one’s body and mind. However, the point to be noted is that this exposure needs to be repeated. This means that, before a certain point, the power of choice is far greater than any biological imperative. As such, the person can prevent themselves from going down the addiction path to begin with. Granted, the willpower required to overcome an addiction is much greater than the willpower required to prevent an addiction. The point is that, in both instances, willpower is what is required. More importantly, any change in neurological chemistry occurs as a result of the behavior. This means that it is the person’s actions which lead to their body being damaged or altered. The biology does not precipitate the behavior, but rather the other way around. As such, it is difficult to claim that addiction is a disease.
Those arguments aside, there are a lot of problems with the disease theory of addiction. It directs efforts in a misguided way to try and find a “cure.” Unfortunately, you cannot cure an addiction with other chemicals. A person can be forcibly detoxed in a hospital, and the symptoms of detox can be managed with medication, but that is the extent of what can be done. A person can be “weened” off tobacco, but that requires giving them doses of nicotene. This is no different than anti-depressants. The pills help the symptoms of depression, but they don’t get rid of the underlying problem(s) causing the depression to begin with. Furthermore, the disease approach divests the addict of responsibility. If an alcoholic kills somebody drunk driving, they can’t claim that they are subject to a disease, and that disease made their behaviors uncontrollable. Addiction is not an unavoidable uncontrollable mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. The person is aware of what they are doing, and they are doing it voluntarily. I will grant that the decision to say “No” is not an easy one. Addiction is a very difficult problem to overcome, but that does not make it a disease.
So what does all this mean? I can sit here and say that addiction isn’t a disease, but I should also provide a way to interpret addiction which is better, should I not? Well, logically speaking, I don’t have to, but I will nonetheless. Addiction is a behavior which can be caused by a variety of emotional problems. Some people become more prone to addictions because of abuse, social circumstances, or the need for affection. People can have issues with their parents, or be troubled by the loss of a loved one, and all these things can make them more prone to trying addictive substances. When it comes to cigarettes, social circumstances are likely what cause most people to become addicted. People want to fit in or look cool, and that leads them to indulge in these substances. Like depression and anxiety, addiction is an emotional state associated with particular chemical states in the brain. However, it is best addressed not through medication, but through interactive therapy. Addiction can be managed, but only cured if the underlying problem which led to it in the first place is addressed, just like depression and anxiety. At the same time, it is up to the addict to seek help. There are effective therapies for addiction, but none of them work if the addict does not have the will to follow through.
Throughout history, mental problems and illnesses have been stigmatized and addressed using a variety of illegitimate methods from genital mutilation to shock therapy. As a response, the modern medical community is attempting to treat mental issues like other biological illnesses which can be treated using medications or surgical procedures. Unfortunately, mental issues are more complicated. They are not caused by pathogens, and their associated chemical states cannot be easily addressed by biological interventions. There is a middle ground, however, which does not stigmatize psychiatric issues, and yet does not medicalize them either. These issues need to be better understood in the context of the individual to which they apply, and therapies need to be developed to address them. This will require a more in depth understanding of the person, and it is difficult territory to navigate. Nevertheless, difficulty does not mean that the path is the wrong one to take.