Friday, June 12, 2009

Positive thinking's negative results

This article in the The Economist claims,"for some people, optimistic thoughts can do more harm than good" which doesn't surprise me. It says:
Self-help books through the ages, including Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 classic, “The Power of Positive Thinking”, have encouraged people with low self-esteem to make positive self-statements. New research, however, suggests it may do more harm than good.
Baseless optimism not in sync with reality will definitely do harm. It is bad for individuals and it is bad for societies. People today seem to be high on this opium of ignoring reality and indulging in baseless optimism. I'll quote from the "Brief summary of Objectivism."

The universe exists independent of consciousness. Man is able to adapt his background to his own requirements, but "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed" (Francis Bacon). There is no mental process that can change the laws of nature or erase facts. The function of consciousness is not to create reality, but to apprehend it. "Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification."

The philosophic source of this viewpoint and its major advocate in the history of philosophy is Aristotle. Its opponents are all the other major traditions, including Platonism, Christianity, and German idealism. Directly or indirectly, these traditions uphold the notion that consciousness is the creator of reality. The essence of this notion is the denial of the axiom that existence exists.

Today people seem to be in the business of recreating reality whole sale for other people. It is a lack of philosophy which makes these people live in a chimeric world. It is easy to retreat from reality even when you have caught glimpses of it because it is so god damned harsh. Now it is tough to cure a disease if you can't diagnose it in the first place. If we have an inkling of reality then all the "positive self-statements" in the world will not fool us and instead cause even more distress as claimed by the Economist article. It is the other lot who is "blind" and flailing about asking for the very next confident con artist to come to his help who are in a worse shape.

What is required is a system of philosophy advocating reason. It exists in form of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, presented in detail in works- both non-fiction and fiction (Atlas Shrugged, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, The Virtue of Selfishness.)
In her own words, Objectivism, holds that:

1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.

2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.

3, Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.

4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others.


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