Saturday, February 27, 2010

Psychology Class- Part 12 of 12

Well, we are finally at the end of my Psychology Class series. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the link for the introduction post. If you haven't read the series, nothing in this post will make sense.

In the introduction, I promised that I would conclude by explaining my own behavior with regard to my requirement to take this class (plus two more). As I was going through the class, I noticed one peculiar thing about the psychological theorists: they would develop a theory and seemed to apply it to everyone, except themselves. The Behavioral theorists performed experiments and theorized that all behavior was the result of the environment. My question to them is simply this: "What environmental factors caused you to do the experiment?" The theorists never attempted to answer such a question. These theorists seemed to act as if they, themselves, were "immune" to or "above" their own behavioral theories. I've noticed this with some other theorists in other disciplines, but I won't go into those right now. This is why I felt that it is important that after I posted the series, that I analyze myself based on what I have posted.

My resistance to taking the extra classes was simply based on my emotions and limited perspective. My emotions: I was so deeply committed to the idea of graduating four months sooner, that I was not able to see that these extra classes might actually do me some good in other parts of my life. This speaks to the strength of emotions. Emotions are usually the first to react to any idea (prior to thinking something through reasonably). If I had taken the time to think through the advantages of the extra classes, then I would not have had as much emotional resistance.

As soon as I could put my emotions to the side, my mind was open to the possibility that these classes might not be so bad. As I mentioned in the introduction, I really should do more of letting God guide me. His perspective is complete, while mine is extremely limited (hence my unfounded, emotional reaction). I showed, in first few parts of the series, that I believe that the Cognitive perspective encompasses all the perspectives. It can explain peoples' behavior based on the fact that they have a limited perspective. I took that further to say that when a person does not have a complete perspective, it may cause unwarranted (and flat-out "wrong") reactions (such as mine), along with further actions to those reactions (the defense mechanisms show up quite often here).

If you remember, you will recall that I mentioned that the Cognitive perspective, even though it encompasses all the other perspectives, undermines its own reliability. It does this because it is a limited perspective, yet states that limited perspectives cause people to behave in ways that may not be in accordance to reality. The way that this undermining can be overcome is to realize that God is omniscient, and he guides us when we do not have all the information (if we allow him). When I was able to realize what was actually going on, I was able to change my attitude toward and my behavior in these classes.

Many Christians struggle with simply trusting God to lead their lives (myself included). We want to know every little detail and understand every possible outcome before we make a decision. We want absolute control over our lives. This behavior is explained in the fallen nature of man. By default, we crave absolute control. By default, we resist help. By default, we think that we can somehow "make it" on our own. By default, we are prideful. By default, we are stubborn. Just because we believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior, does not mean that all those things disappear- we are still sinners (even after the initial acceptance), and are constantly in need of Jesus Christ. When we recognize that fact, then all those default positions are reduced (they still don't disappear, though).

Our emotions are the most powerful barrier between us and our recognition of truth. Through this class, God has opened my mind to see that I can't be as rigid as I have been in the past. I have observed that I don't get as intellectually frustrated with people when they are staring at an answer, yet can't see it. I understand that emotions cloud people's vision (including my own). This understanding has helped me to see where the Holy Spirit works on the unbeliever- at the emotional level, to open the heart and the mind to the truth. Until the Holy Spirit removes the emotional barrier for the unbeliever, the unbeliever will continue to rationalize away answers provided to his questions. However, as an apologist, I must never refuse to "provide an answer for the hope that is within me"; that answer may be the final one that is needed for the Spirit to break through the person's emotional barrier.

For easier navigation in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12


  1. This comment links this post and the prior video with the mathematician.

    "Until the Holy Spirit removes the emotional barrier for the unbeliever, the unbeliever will continue to rationalize away answers provided to his questions."

    Isn't the operation of rationalizing the opposite of emotional neutralization? The former implies the use of reason and logic (logos); the latter emotion (pathos).

    But anyway....
    I was viewing your prior post by the mathematician and a thought popped into my head, curious what you think.

    Dawkins doesn't reject God via sola pathos (only emotion) - Dawkins has the school boy argument (similar to "turtles all the way down"), which at least originates in reason.

    But the school boy argument ultimately fails to defeat the ontological argument because the question "who created the uncreated" reductio ad absurdum; nor does it capture the true meaning of God in the ontological argument (at least the formulation I am thinking of).

    So it's not so much that Dawkins lacks faith due to pathos (emotion), but that his reasoning is simply flawed....

    I'm in a pickle.... but I'm wondering if weak arguments like the school boy argument are not unlike a person making an error in a difficult geometrical proof; turning in the proof to the professor - and not realizing they have simply made a mistake in reasoning.

    I guess pathos comes in when you bring up the challenge to Dawkins.... "Well if not God, then it must be an infinite regress?" to which Dawkins must then say, "I don't know" (which is honest in so far as he is an empiricist, but at the most that should lead to agnosticism not atheism) or "suppose we change the topic" (which is precisely what they critique the theist for doing in 'turtles all the way down').

    The move from agnosticism to atheism is inconsistent with Dawkins' empiricism (pathos in action). The argument of who created the uncreated is inconsistent with the definition of uncreated (logos error).

    What do you think?

    One thing I've wondered about rationalism.... is given people's differing cognitive abilities - is it possible for someone to make a logical error, and even if pointed out to them, be unable to recognize it?

    It's different than emotional neutralization (pathos), they aren't failing to recognize their error due to emotional faculties - but they are simply cognitively unable to recognize their error.... or at least I've wondered if that is possible.

    Dawkins is a smart guy. I don't claim to know anyone else's psyche, nor am I very confident that a person can know another's psyche.

    Perhaps he knows the schoolboy argument doesn't really work against the ontological argument - but he uses it anyway because his audience will pay for his book either way (cui bono?). At least his goal with the God Delusion seems to be to explain atheism to a popular audience - which is different from trying to contribute to academic philosophy.

    Or perhaps he thinks the idea of an uncreated being is absurd and infinite regress makes sense.... But he hasn't spent enough time on the Kalaam argument.... Oh I don't know.

    I guess it's just easier to say the schoolboy argument fails as as a counter to the ontological argument.


    I will be so glad when my last philosophy class is over with.

  2. I'm talking about rationalization in the Psychological-Defense-Mechanism sense (definition). Not the philosophical sense (definition). See Part 10.

    Even though you are using a different definition than what I did in this series, I do see an important point in what you are saying. That will be addressed in a future post that is scheduled to publish in April.

    I have mixed feelings about the ontological argument. I've debated for a few months whether I wanted to tackle it or not. I haven't done much research into it, so my feelings might change by the time I'm done. If you think that I should cover this, let me know.

  3. I think what I was getting to (to sum the above up).

    You, post 11/12 - "Logic and reason will not steer us wrong; however, our emotions can. "

    Logic and reason can steer us wrong though if we don't use it properly. Think of making a mistake on a math calculation. It's not necessarily our emotions - but our improper use of reason or our limited knowledge of facts.

    The ontological argument... if you do cover it, make sure not to leave out Gaunilo, Hume, and Kant's critiques and how you would get around/beat them, or if they make the ontological argument untenable. Did you have a specific formulation in mind, Anselm, Descartes, ?


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