Ho Anthropos Phusei Say-What? Zöon

Aristotle famously proclaimed that “Man is a political animal,” though “social animal” would be a better translation. It might be more accurate still to call him a blaming animal. After all, blaming is one of the things that we can do that no other creature can. Only in cartoons does the family cat claim that it was the family dog that ate the lasagna. So unique is the human ability to attribute one’s own actions to others that one might envisage an “Economics of Blame”, studying the precise mechanisms whereby factual input becomes blaming output.

This could well be integrated into a “Theory of Everybody”, because blame is the flip side of self-esteem. Just as Freud postulated a psychic energy he called the Libido, that like a mountain stream could cut its own channels downhill, we might postulate a Quantum of Valuation, that divides itself between esteem of self and blame of others.

Now, the conventional wisdom has long been that self-esteem is such a wonderful thing that it has beneficial and even panacea effects on everything and everybody, so that the more a person loves himself, the less he is inclined to blame others or indeed say or do anything to their detriment. Well, now, the conventional wisdom is the last gasp of the Christian doctrine of sanctification, namely that good works proceed from assurance of salvation, and as such it is a piece of speculative metaphysics. In particular, it depends on a idiosyncratic meaning for the word ‘self-esteem’ that turns its equation with benevolence into an empty tautology; if the apparently self-esteeming person is not benevolent, then he is not “really” self-esteeming at all; which judgment is impudently recycled to “prove” the original maxim. Has this “real” and allegedly healthier self-esteem ever been observed in the wild?

Observation of our actually existing fellows, on the other hand, suggests precisely the contrary, that the more self-esteem a person possesses, the more he blames other people for whatever happens to him that is hard to reconcile with his inflated sense of his own worth. It used to be called amour-propre and led to duels. And how indeed could it be otherwise? That is a simple cognitive-dissonance process. I am wonderful, but this has happened to me, ergo someone bad has made it happen.

Posted on July 4, 2013 at 11:00 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, A Theory Of Everybody

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