• Dlaw
    14
    Hi Forumites,

    I am having a problem that may be familiar to many of you - especially these days. That is, I have a family member who has a really flawed philosophy of human nature and it's leading to problems.

    Basically, her idea is an extension of the low-impulse-control model of addiction expanded to a Neo-Calvinist view that a human being's true nature is this sum of their worst misdeed - that is, when the person's true nature is revealed by stress, drugs, whatever.

    I find this view so appalling and maddening that I have trouble calmly rebutting it, insofar as I see this thinking as so destructive, perpetuating stereotypes and some of the worst behavior.

    Can you help me calmly form an argument here? And please, if you are a Neo-Calvinist (or might be called one by people who were trolling you), help me understand that side of the argument. I really mean it.

    I just have a terrible time when I'm confronted by ignorance (which I define as a refusal to think things through, rather than a collection of misimpressions or unknown arguments)
  • anonymous66
    626
    I can relate as I grew up among Calvinists and even identified as a Calvinist for many years. What helped me was when people just kindly and gently pointed out problems with my position and asked me difficult questions.

    You could find cases of people who were addicted to drugs and then changed, sans any religion. It's hard to argue with evidence.

    I agree that gentleness and patience is the way to go.
  • Dlaw
    14
    Thanks for your response.

    So when I'm dealing with humans, I really feel I'm dealing with evolved animals who took on the habits of a social species, succeeded to an an extent unprecedented in Evolution, and are still working out the kinks.

    How does it FEEL to be a Calvinist? Do you walk around thinking you really know the truth about people - just you and God? I can't imagine that.
  • anonymous66
    626
    The Calvinists I knew just acted like and convinced themselves that they knew God's will: How to interpret the Bible, what one must do to be saved, how to worship, the one True Doctrine, etc. They were quick to point out why they believed that anyone who disagreed was wrong.
  • Dlaw
    14
    Huh.

    So did this feeling of certainty help when they confronted a new problem?

    For me, feelings of certainty began to dissolve early in life, as I learned how much I didn't know.

    I also learned the value of looking at a problem from a "devil's advocate" position.

    Does none of that ring true for Calvinists?
  • anonymous66
    626
    In my experience, fear is a big factor. If you know what God wants, is it a good idea to change your mind? To doubt? Satan is about doubt. God is about certainty. We would tell ourselves scary stories about people who "fell from faith" and how horrible that would be. They would allude to 2 Peter 2 and "dogs returning to their vomit".

    You might want to check into the back stories, though. My dad was an alcoholic from a family of alcoholics. For him, it's either Calvinist Young Earth Creationism or going back to drinking. In his mind, there is no middle ground. There's just a lot of black and white thinking.
  • BlueBanana
    901
    What are your arguments against calvinism?
  • Dlaw
    14


    Honestly, I don't know where to start.

    I'm not being facetious.

    I feel like Calvinism starts out as a misguided attempt to solve a conundrum that doesn't need solving and then blossoms into destructive nonsense that ultimately leads to Rand and the Alt-Right.

    It's kind of like a foil to my beliefs.
  • JustSomeGuy
    307
    Honestly, I don't know where to start.

    I'm not being facetious.

    I feel like Calvinism starts out as a misguided attempt to solve a conundrum that doesn't need solving and then blossoms into destructive nonsense that ultimately leads to Rand and the Alt-Right.

    It's kind of like a foil to my beliefs.
    Dlaw

    So your problem is that you don't actually have any counter-argument for what you are trying to argue against. You're basically saying "I think this is wrong but have no real reason, so give me reason." When you have a specific belief as your end-goal, that is extremely detrimental to actual learning.

    I don't mean to be disparaging or insulting or anything, I'm just saying I don't think your current approach is going to be effective or helpful to you in any significant way. You seem to just be looking for a quick fix--you want other people to argue for you. If you had a real understanding of your own beliefs and the beliefs you disagree with, you would easily be able to argue for/against them yourself.

    It seems to me what you should be focusing on first and foremost is why you believe what you believe. Learn all you can about the positions you espouse, to make sure you do in fact agree with them and (more importantly) understand them. Then once you have sufficient understanding of your own beliefs, learn all you can about the beliefs you claim to disagree with. You cannot argue against something that you don't understand.
  • T Clark
    3k
    I am having a problem that may be familiar to many of you - especially these days. That is, I have a family member who has a really flawed philosophy of human nature and it's leading to problems.Dlaw

    Ok, let's be philosophical about this. You say she has a flawed philosophy of human nature and it leads to problems. What kind of problems? Is she behaving badly toward your family members or others. Saying offensive things? If so, the issue is not with her philosophy, it's with her behavior. Deal with that. You don't need to change her mind.

    Or is the problem that she starts arguments with you? That she disagrees with you? If so, and you want to remain calm and kind, you can do one of two things - 1) Discuss things with her like she's a good philosopher. Don't necessarily use the discussions on this forum as a guide. Remember, it's an intellectual exercise, it can be a game. It doesn't have to be a fight. 2) If that won't work, don't get involved in discussions with her.

    Thought - the fact that you say her view of human nature is "flawed" indicates to me you are not particularly open to listening to her point of view. Why should she listen to you?

    Most importantly, you fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is 'Never get involved in a land war in Asia,' but only slightly less well known is this: "Never take advice from anyone on The Philosoophy Forum about social or psychological issues." Or any issues really.
  • anonymous66
    626
    Basically, her idea is an extension of the low-impulse-control model of addiction expanded to a Neo-Calvinist view that a human being's true nature is this sum of their worst misdeed - that is, when the person's true nature is revealed by stress, drugs, whatever.Dlaw

    I was focusing on this. As I mentioned in a previous post, it seems to me that counter-examples are in order.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Basically, her idea is an extension of the low-impulse-control model of addiction expanded to a Neo-Calvinist view that a human being's true nature is this sum of their worst misdeed - that is, when the person's true nature is revealed by stress, drugs, whatever.Dlaw

    There isn't a true nature, since everyone is always evolving, though each of us probably do have a core values system which is more difficult to significantly change. It seems to be reasonable to suggest that aspects of a person's nature does manifest under more extreme conditions. So you might agree with her somewhat since it is not all that unreasonable. It is the True thing that creates problems because it ignores that people are evolving as they learn - which is really the whole thing about life.
  • BlueBanana
    901
    To be fair, we don't have any arguments for the view to disprove. Nothing can be disproven if they take their claim as a premise that just contradicts the premises of your own.

    As for the actual counter arguments, you could try something along the lines of the following:
    -There's no absolute personality, it always depends on the current context
    -Even if the previous is false, there's no evidence what's described is the base personality
    -The thought experiment of two different persons that act the same way under stress or drugs, but in some other situation act differently. Personality means how a person reacts to situations so they have different personalities, so their true personalities can't be deduced from individual situations.
  • Dlaw
    14
    I think the problem for me is that when people are judgmental, they have (in my view) chosen ignorance over open-mindedness and I can't abide that. It just makes me so crazy I can't think through my objections because why am i making them in the first place?

    The second aspect is a little cynical, I admit, but I have never found any judgmental person who is willing to dismiss themselves or people who have real power over them with the same disregard as they dismiss people who don't impact them directly, so I tend to assume that judging people is a gateway to moral bankruptcy.
  • Dlaw
    14
    Also, I may have over-emphasized Calvinism somehow.

    I was using "Neo-Calvinist" as a shorthand.
  • Dlaw
    14
    Thank you, this was very interesting.

    I'm an atheist who LOVES theology.

    What can I do?
  • anonymous66
    626
    I've been around the block a few times, and my beliefs have changed significantly over the years. Calvinist->Ecumenical->Agnostic->Atheist ->???
    I'm not sure any label fits me any more, and I don't really like labels. I kinda hope there is a good God out there somewhere, but I don't really like going to church. And I also like theology. And Christian existentialism (Marcel, Shestov, Berdyeav) Check out my Gabriel Marcel thread.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I think the problem for me is that when people are judgmental, they have (in my view) chosen ignorance over open-mindedness and I can't abide that. It just makes me so crazy I can't think through my objections because why am i making them in the first place?

    The second aspect is a little cynical, I admit, but I have never found any judgmental person who is willing to dismiss themselves or people who have real power over them with the same disregard as they dismiss people who don't impact them directly, so I tend to assume that judging people is a gateway to moral bankruptcy.
    Dlaw

    Everyone judges others all the time. You just judged people who you feel are judgemental. No harm, but recognize everyone does it.
  • Dlaw
    14
    Well, let's be careful about what we mean when we say "judge".

    To me, being "judgmental" means that to some extent you are immune to further evidence and you've taken empathy out of the picture.

    I'm trying to be empathetic, but I'm frustrated and confused.
  • Ying
    217
    How to deal with bad philosophy? You moonwalk away without breaking eye contact.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I understand that you have your perspective which you feel comfortable with but others may see it differently from their perspective. Have you considered that your family member may be considering you as too judgemental. It goes with the territory of being human. You feel you are empathic? Ok be empathic. You may not agree, but differences exist among people in life.
  • Dlaw
    14

    Nice answer
  • Dlaw
    14
    Point well taken.

    When in your mind does an attitude become so offensive to you that you can't feel empathy?

    Possibly I'm too upset.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    When in your mind does an attitude become so offensive to you that you can't feel empathy?

    Possibly I'm too upset.
    Dlaw

    It's alright to feel offended. That is also part of being human. Sometimes I walk away. With a family member, I try to understand. It's different based upon the situation. But in all cases, I recognized I am with another human with all of the characteristics of humans.
  • Dlaw
    14

    Yeah, you're right. I have really found a weakness in myself here.

    I just see red and get intolerant.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Yeah, you're right. I have really found a weakness in myself here.

    I just see red and get intolerant.
    Dlaw

    Don't we all?
  • JustSomeGuy
    307
    Yeah, you're right. I have really found a weakness in myself here.

    I just see red and get intolerant.
    Dlaw

    This seems to be a fairly universal trait, in my experience. I know several people who are the same way. They're all very intelligent, but they get offended easily and lose their rationality. I think the only thing we can do is allow less things to offend us. Very few things offend me, and I rarely have this issue, so for what it's worth I would suggest trying to change your outlook so that you don't allow things to offend you as easily.
  • fishfry
    476
    I find this view so appalling and maddening that I have trouble calmly rebutting itDlaw

    It it intellectual rebuttal that's important here? Or the emotions stirred up by family dynamics? Perhaps this is more of a psychological problem than a philosophical one.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.2k
    Welcome to The Philosophy Forum.

    I love to argue with people, and discuss, and explore, but I have pretty much ceased being a fan of trying to educate my relatives. My siblings have become progressively more conservative (we are all over 70) one of them in particular is an ardent Calvinist of some sort. She wants to save her siblings, but with me, at least, she usually ends up in a rage because I don't, won't, can't agree with her.

    She is better off, clearly, wrapped up in the Baptist Bullshit Calvinist Cocoon. It gives her mental certainty and security. She needs those things (like we all do) and while she is more than intelligent enough to pursue other views, lacks the educational background to do so on her own.

    So we don't talk about politics or religion anymore, which are of course the two most interesting of all topics. Money is a touchy area too, as are some parts of our common history. We can talk about health very successfully. We're all reasonably healthy, but at our age health problems are always just around the corner, either in the past or the future. Weather, crop yields, gossip about other people, and that sort of thing work well too.

    Just avoid philosophy, religion, politics, and economics, the idiot occupying the white house, congress, and the like and everything will go fine.
  • T Clark
    3k
    Everyone judges others all the time. You just judged people who you feel are judgemental. No harm, but recognize everyone does it.Rich

    People say that to me all the time but it is not true at all. You can hold people responsible for their actions without being judgmental about them, which is what's important. It's not that hard, you just talk about their behavior instead of them. I'm not saying I'm always put this into practice successfully, but I try with some success.
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