Stop Avoiding Instinct
“You can only keep an old tradition going only by renewing it in terms of current circumstances.”
In the collective reasoning process of our society by which we work out our ideals, the aspect of reason itself—let alone the aspect of collectivity—has been left wanting. More and more of the virtues and values we believe are believed because we have been told to believe them, not because they are actually believed. In other words, we are expected to hold virtues and values without being told why, without the individual’s power of reason ever being consulted. In this way, by our ideals being fed to us rather than being assented to out of our own reasoning, we are more like dogs being trained than individuals being educated. It is no surprise, then, that our society lacks the sense of strong and durable virtues.
While it is impossible to tell someone to believe something, it is possible to convince someone to believe something, and the road of convincing is a highway through the heart of our own reason and instinctual inkling. If reasoning for any given view fails the test of instinct — if that reasoning is either not believed or not provided at all — it is unlikely that the given view can withhold resistance and thus be held for any meaningful length of time, even if it is seemingly agreed upon.
Because our own instinct for truth is being side-stepped—because the individual reasoning is avoided—the virtues and values we do hold are held flimsily, and are lacking a stable, supporting foundation from which to support potential counter-pressures or other forms of provocation.
I believe that the way to common understanding is through reason, not dogma. I believe that the ideal can only be achieved by going through, not around, instinct. Dogma is not only a short cut, but a short cut that doesn’t even reach the desired destination — if something cannot be reasoned, it should likely not be maintained. As well, if we don’t truly believe the things we are meant to think, I don’t take there is a point to thinking them at all. For we should only have the values we deserve to have, that we have deduced for ourselves, that we believe in as a whole, lest these values not be our own.
Think of all the values you have been told are the paragon of the Good: diversity, equality, inclusion, for example, but whose reasons for being wholly desirable have never been explained. Do you really believe these values? Are you able to reason why diversity is preferable? Are you able to defend, with reason, not name-calling, the principle of diversity against someone who doesn’t believe in it?
All of this is not to say these values aren’t in fact valuable—they very well may be—it is only to say it is dangerous to assent anything to the realm of unimpeachable good without being told why, and further without the reasoning being understood by those meant to hold the value. Indeed, too much of our present knowledge comes from being told, and too much of modern day education is indoctrination—being told what to think—and not being taught how to think in the first place. Again, it is not that the values that are wrong, necessarily, it is their method of validation, or lack thereof, to which I take exception.
Like the laws must follow due process when they come down, our ideals must follow a due process also on their way up, especially if we wish them to remain ‘up there,’ so to speak. Because our present values such as diversity have been assigned rather than argued for, they are not truly held but merely assumed and, crucially, false, in the end, for they are values not authentically believed. For example, while we can agree that equality sounds desirable, and while we generally understand what is meant by equality, merely being shown the destination, the end-point, is to not achieve the destination at all, it is only to project the weak hologram-like mirage of the real thing and call it true substance. The second you try to touch it your hands go right through—the holographic representation looks real, but isn’t.
For it is him who masters our minds by the force of truth, and not to those who enslave them by violence, that we owe our reverence.
Will Durant (speaking on Isaac Newton)
Values derived outside the path of reason are not really values at all. If we wish to flourish as a society built around a set of values, we must try to return to this convincing, this authentic reasoning process, that has led us so far. Otherwise, as stated, we do not really believe the values we are told to have, and thus do not really have values at all. When the polarization of society is lamented, I take such avoidance of our common quality of instinct to be the chief reason.
The sense is that everything has already been decided, and that nothing is to be found. That, because of this, an instruction manual rather than a guidebook is needed, as all possible virtues and values have already been weighed against each other, and that this process is over, the kitchen is closed, enjoy your meal and don’t complain, you can either eat or starve, there is nothing else to eat. Increasingly, modern society is an ill-formed instruction manual that some follow and some some choose not to follow, rather than a guidebook that cannot be escaped, no matter if the advice is taken or not. When the ideals of society are in the form of an instruction manual rather than a guide, it is natural that individual qualities of agreeableness and disagreeableness form a sort of insurmountable fracture that a more humble guidebook would not create in the first place.
In simply being told to believe what we are meant to think our reasoning is not being renewed. And what this means is that our reasoning is being lost. And what this further means is the values this previous reasoning supported are being lost. Reason, like knowledge, is not automatically inherited. However, reason is active, while knowledge is static, and knowledge can be explained in a way that reason cannot be. Every generation must relearn their ideals if they are meant to have any. Sure, we are given the mechanisms to have knowledge, to reason, but the reasoning itself is not heritable. Because something has been reasoned before, doesn’t mean it never needs to be reasoned again. For example, because we found that free speech was a chief virtue of free society before, it does not mean it is assumed that we know it to be so now.
Quite apart from the loss of true values the loss of reason clears the way for, a symptom of the absence of collective reasoning is individual’s removal from the metaphorical reasoning table of society. In a democratic system, the instinct of the individual is ultimately the backbone—as well as the potential undoing—of a free society. However, this duality is not a bad thing, and is in fact something to be embraced as a condition of freedom: that good or bad remains on the forever account of the ethic of the free individual. For, if society were automatically good, it could not be free.
Rousseau holds that a strong state should educate her citizens in reasons to overthrow it, and yet have them choose, by their own volition, not to. True freedom is when we are able to be good, or bad, and choose to be good. To not allow instinct is to falsely attempt to force good (or bad), because whatever is forced doesn’t last precisely because it is forced, by basic human nature, and further cannot be said to be good or bad at all.
You should, in science, believe logic and arguments, carefully drawn, and not authorities.
Let us take the ideal of social equality, and present two versions of arguments in support of it:
A. Argument around instinct: All humans are equal, therefore deserve to equal rights, protections, and privileges.
B. Argument through instinct: All humans are not equal, but still deserve equal rights, protections, and privileges.
Which argument structure do you think is most compelling? You might try to say, along the lines of Argument A (which I realize is presently a tautology), that we are all equal, therefore we deserve to be treated equally. Some may believe this to be the case, others won’t, others think some aspects of us are equal and others are not. In any case, the statement is not instinctual, for its end do not go through instinct. Instinctually, I can use my senses to see great difference all around me, in basic aspects such as height, weight, colour, general variations in appearance and makeup between each and every human.
What you might say instead is, along the lines of Argument B, (which I realize is presently an incomplete argument) that while we are not all equal, we need to treat each other equally, so as to never create any precedence for people to be treated differently because of their race, ethnicity, colour, height, age, religion, etc, as eventually, or theoretically, you might be the race, ethnicity, colour, height, age, religion, etc, that is treated differently. We are not all equal, but we deserve equal treatment. I’m not saying this is exactly correct, but it is more agreeable than simply asserting that everyone is equal, and it does not try to deny the differences apparent to every individual. Training our instinct to behave is a condition to living in society. Instinct need not be avoided, as it will come to makes itself known, whether it is initially acknowledged or not.
Argument B offers one path for why equality is desirable, and no, it is not because we are all equal. To claim as such, as is often being claimed now, is an absurd offence against the basic judgment of instinct that rightly says otherwise, which will eventually find otherwise, and which may not see the same conclusion when it does. Specifically, because the conclusion of Argument A is hedged on the false premise, the true conclusion is at a danger of being lost if and when the initial premise is proved false. If someone were to find themselves unequal to their neighbour, all of the sudden, the present argument that humans should have equal rights falls apart, and any consequence is possible.
‘But I’ll tell you the path my reasoning took.’ (Euripides, Hippolytos, 439)
In our society, we are not shown reason to have a path: only an end. Because we are not shown these paths that reason takes, because the involvement of our own individual instinct is intentionally avoided, we are splintered, polarized to the extreme, from people at the magical destinations, to those that nowhere near it, because they are not offered any refuse except in the end of the path itself. When you tell people to either take a vaccine or be an ‘anti-vaxxer’, you disallow any mixed opinion. You absolve an entire middle ground, through which individuals might wish to venture halfway down the path, slowly, then further down the path, slowly, reasoning step by step—a just procedure of decision-making, by the way—because the path no longer exists at all. There is the end, or there is another end at the other end of the absolute (such as anti-vaxxing). As such, many of us are forced to take a side without choosing, mostly from a scarcity of availability anywhere else.
On account of this, our conversations combative rather than constructive, and held on grounds where reason does not exist. Those that do not offer reason complain of conspiracy. It’s creating a conspiratorial environment ripe for conspiracy. Why are you surprised, for the existence of a conspiracy is argued for with as much reason as you offer for your explanations of our assumed values: none.
In the end, let us never mix up universal values to being automatic values. Let us never allow values to be adopted automatically. Let us never stop reasoning the reasons for our ideals, for this is how they go undefended, and then are lost. And because we have gone through the realm of instinct, we might actually achieve and endure the ends we seek. If any values are to be truly held, instinct and the individual power of reason that instinct underpins are not to be avoided.
I believe in dignity of human heart and trusting the benevolence of instinct is an appeal to this dignity. I do not believe in the subversion of the human mind. I believe in the ability of the human mind, the individual, to advance the society of which is apart and not the society to advance the individual without his own assent. If human nature doesn’t win in the end, we wouldn’t have made it this far. Instinct is to be empowered, not avoided. Stop avoiding instinct, and we might have a society we all can be proud of, or at least be able to reason exactly why not, and thusly reason toward a better future.
“True education can only start from naked reality, not from a delusive ideal.”