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Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite 1: Consistently Inconsistent

02/20/2013

Kurzban starts by laying out his case that humans are inconsistent. We “believe” (rough use of the term really) in contradictory things at once. First he establishes that brain damaged patients can hold two contradictory beliefs (split brain, alien hand), and then moves on (thankfully) to normal humans and their inconsistencies (optical illusions, locking the fridge door). With a few examples, he tries to establish that sometimes info does not travel from one place (consciousness for example) to another (visual models). The big thesis is that these facts (among others I hope), are best explained by a modular theory of mind, which is the evolutionary perspective of how our brains have come to be- different “modules” that perform independent functions, and which sometimes have conflicting ends, explain our inconsistencies.

This book seems to touch on a lot of areas I’m looking into. The rationality part is obvious, but this may help shed some light on personal identity and consciousness. Good pick.

Kindle Notes:

This book is, rather, an attempt to explain why we act the way we act, and, perhaps partly in our defense, to show that if we are wrong a lot, well, being right isn’t everything. My argument is going to be that much, or at least some, of what makes us ignorant, mind-numbingly stupid—and hypocritical—is that we evolved to play many different kinds of strategic games with others, and our brains are built to exploit the fact that being knowledgeable, right, or morally consistent is not always to our advantage. Because humans are such social creatures, while being right is still really important, it’s very far from everything (101).

In this book, I try to persuade you that the human mind consists of many, many mental processes—think of them as little programming subroutines, or maybe individual iPhone applications—each operating by its own logic, designed by the inexorable process of natural selection; and, further, that what you think and what you do depends on which process is running the show—your show—at any particular moment (119).

What’s worse, because so much of what goes on in our heads is inaccessible—that is, we don’t know why we think what we do, an idea recently made popular by, among others, Malcolm Gladwell in Blink—we are often not able to say what’s really causing our behavior (124).

As neuroscientist Chris Frith put it, “the mark of the self in action is that we have very little experience of it. Most of the time we are not aware of the sensory consequences of our actions or of the various subtle corrections that we make during the course of goal-directed actions” (272).
Note: Check the source for elaboration.

An important consequence of this view is that it makes us think about the “self” in a way that is very different from how people usually understand it. In particular, it makes the very notion of a “self” something of a problem, and perhaps even quite a bit less useful than one might think (423).

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