Sam’s new post is excellent and slightly clarifies some of his points presented in FREE WILL. But… I do take issue with this fragment of his post:
“We should admit that a person is unlucky to inherit the genes and life experience that will doom him to psychopathy. That doesn’t mean we can’t lock him up, or kill him in self-defense, but hating him is not rational, given a complete understanding of how he came to be who he is. Natural, yes; rational, no. Feeling compassion for him would be rational, however—or so I have argued.’
Why is ‘hating’ irrational and ‘feeling compassion’ rational. How can this be conclusively proven? Is it irrational to ‘hate’ terrorists? Why can’t an individual homo sapien express the emotion of hatred toward another member of his/her species for his/her violent actions. Why do we have to take into account the lack of free will? How does that alter the results? I don’t understand why that changes things. I would think it’s rational to ‘hate’ a violent person’s actions and understanding that they have no free will, just want them killed to eliminate them from the gene pool and as a deterrent for them ever committing another deadly act. Can ‘hate’ never be rational? Is Sam’s opinion only valid within the context of Judeo-Christian values? This bothers me.
Harris here uses says hate is irrational because often the term presupposes having an object of blame, that is, an irrationally narrow view of the causal factors for whatever it is we are objecting to. You ask why you can’t express hatred towards someone. Well, you CAN, but chances are you are doing it for irrational reasons, such as “eliminating gene pools”. I’m not sure if this is a genuine inquiry or a hate speech so I’ll just wrap up.
Hate can be rational. You can hate a violent person the way you hate an deadly hurricane. But understand that trying to ethnically cleanse the world of ‘hateful’ people is sort of self-defeating in your case (get it? :p).
What do you mean by rational?
The Popperian understanding of rationality is about having thinking methods that reliably correct errors.
In this sense, the hate emotion is not a rational method of thinking. Often hate/anger causes one to make more thinking errors. Why? Because the person is focusing on his own hate of the other individual instead of focusing on *why* that individual behaved that way and what sort of thinking caused him to behave that way.
In this sense, all negative emotions are not rational.
Also, Sam’s idea that hate is natural is wrong. He means that hate is part of human nature, that *all* people experience this emotion. The reality is that hate, like all negative emotions, is caused by a thinking error. For most people that thinking error is a subconscious idea that they haven’t discovered yet. And they may never discover it. For some people, they do discover the thinking error and they do correct the mistaken idea, i.e. solve their problem.
Interesting but there probably is a rational application to all human/animal emotions. If we think all hate is irrational it’s only because we don’t understand it enough. Obviously, we are evolved to have the capacity to hate for a reason. It is rational to hate under certain circumstance. All hate can’t be ‘evil’ or wrong.
You said “all hate can’t be evil or wrong”. What do you mean by that?
Are you saying that the hate can increase (or maintain) rationality (i.e. thinking methods that promote error corrections) as compared to non-hate? I disagree.
Or do you mean to say that hate has its purpose, so its useful, and thus hate in certain situations is good? If so, please provide a hypothetical situation that explains that hate has a useful purpose.
How could any human emotion increase or maintain rationality? I think emotions, thoughts or actions can be rational or not. If someone rapes or murders your loved one, isn’t it rational to hate that person? It should be rational for any animal to experience the emotion of hate towards a violent perpetrator. I don’t know if any emotion should be judged rational or irrational. It is what it is. Actions can be rational or irrational based on emotions. For example, can’t you hate someone for a rational reason but take action that is irrational towards that person? A rational being doesn’t have to act on every emotion. Can’t we have strong emotions, heck, even embrace our emotions but act in a restrained, rational and even non-emotional way?
> How could any human emotion increase or maintain rationality?
It can’t. Thats my point.
> I think emotions, thoughts or actions can be rational or not.
I think you’re using the common sense view of rationality. I’m using the Popperian view of the word. So, a single thought, a single emotion, a single action, can not have the quality of (Popperian) rationality or irrationality. Only methods of thought, methods of emotions, or methods of actions, can have the quality of (Popperian) rationality or irrationality.
> If someone rapes or murders your loved one, isn’t it rational to hate that person?
I just noticed that I interchanged the term hate with the term anger. Anger is an emotion. But hate isn’t. Hate means an intense dislike, which isn’t an emotion. But if you were angry, this is an emotion. And if you are angry, your mind is clouded. So it could make it more difficult for you to interact with and think about your loved one. So it might be harder for you to talk to your loved one about her thoughts and feelings about the rape event.
> It should be rational for any animal to experience the emotion of hate towards a violent perpetrator.
Here you are using the word rational as right. But the Popperian view of rationality is not about right (not mistaken) and wrong (mistaken). Its about having thinking/behavior methods that make for correcting more of one’s mistakes.
> I don’t know if any emotion should be judged rational or irrational. It is what it is. Actions can be rational or irrational based on emotions. For example, can’t you hate someone for a rational reason but take action that is irrational towards that person?
But all actions people do because of their thoughts. They can’t be separated. So if I do a bad act, its because I had a bad idea to do that act and the reasons I have for that act are bad too.
> A rational being doesn’t have to act on every emotion. Can’t we have strong emotions, heck, even embrace our emotions but act in a restrained, rational and even non-emotional way?
Right. And that is good. We should control our behaviors. And I think you would agree that we should also control our emotions.
Note, though, that being angry can cloud the mind, making it more difficult to think clearly, and thus allowing one to make more thinking mistakes. And by definition (the Popperian definition of rationality), clouded thinking means more difficulty in catching thinking mistakes.
Note also that we can think about our emotions, and the underlying causes, and we can discover thinking errors in there, and work to fix them.