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 For what shall it profit a man...?

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Temperance
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PostSubject: For what shall it profit a man...?   Mon 21 May 2012, 12:35

On the quiz thread mention has been made of the bestselling book, "The 48 Laws of Power", written by the American Robert Greene.

The book has nearly 400 five-star ratings on Amazon UK and is apparently a favourite with political analysts, business leaders and the criminal elite. Here are Greene's "laws":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_48_Laws_of_Power

Greene's work is certainly not original: many of his ideas are taken from Machiavelli's "The Prince" and from Sun Tzu's "The Art of War".

So is this actually a good guide as to how we should proceed if we wish to gain and to keep "power"? Have successful leaders always followed these laws? Elizabeth I, Stalin, Maggie Thatcher and Thomas Cromwell were all reputedly avid readers of Machiavelli, and it could be argued that Thatcher only fell from power when she made the fatal mistake that Machiavelli warned of: she allowed herself to become hated rather than feared. Cromwell (TC, not OC) came to grief because he broke Greene's number one rule: "Never outshine the master" (or at least don't make him sleep with an unattractive German).

But has Machiavelli been misread and misunderstood all these years? Interesting article here from History Today:

http://www.historytoday.com/vincent-barnett/niccolo-machiavelli-%E2%80%93-cunning-critic-political-reason

Vincent Barnett suggests that more perspective on Machiavelli's political philosophy can be gleaned by examining his Discourses on Livy. Is this so, I wonder? And he mentions someone I've never heard of - an eighteenth-century historian of philosophy - William Enfield. Enfield apparently thought that "The Prince" was written as political *satire* rather than political *philosophy*.

Surely not?

So, just wondered really what folk think about power, power games and powerful people. I've always preferred the "Be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves" approach to life myself, but being wise isn't easy, and I suppose in the real world doves get eaten - usually by the snakes.
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Mon 21 May 2012, 15:21

Well, I've glanced at the 48 rules and it's clear why I haven't made it to the top - I'm just too lazy and too inconsistent to be so self aware and so self disciplined. I can't even sulk because I get bored.
They're hardly revelatory though, are they? Perhaps he should have produced a pocket edition and called it 'The Little Book of Being a Bastard'. £1.99 in your local card shop.
If power requires so much hard work and concentration, they're welcome to it.
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Mon 21 May 2012, 19:46

I read Machiavelli's "El Principe" years ago and, while I understand how shocking he might have been to a 16th century thinker, I really have never understood why he, Machiavelli, should be so reviled today. His writings may, possibly, have been revolutionary when originally published ... but they are hardy revolutionary today, surely they're just common sense advice to any ruler who hoped to hang on to his throne! Why should the man be so reviled? "The Prince" is just a sychophantic essay to get in with the the big boys who controlled the city where he lived (Florence).

PS : And even in translation it's a darn sight better written than most modern "self-help" manuals!


Last edited by Meles meles on Tue 22 May 2012, 22:49; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Got my centuries muddled... or a typo)
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Mon 21 May 2012, 21:13

How do you know how they are written? - I don't touch them with a barge pole. Like Ferval, they might make me feel I am just a little bit lazy and unmotivated. No, I'm not unmotivated to do what I fancy doing, only what I don't.

But I thought Machiavelli's writings were considered worthy even when I was a student - I seem to remember we were assured that the word Machivellian and Machiavelli's actual words weren't much connected. (I think we only studied The Prince.)
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Tue 22 May 2012, 21:23

@ferval wrote:
They're hardly revelatory though, are they? Perhaps he should have produced a pocket edition and called it 'The Little Book of Being a Bastard'. £1.99 in your local card shop.

No, they aren't "revelatory", but I don't think Robert Greene's book should be dismissed as complete "crap". I've been reading it in the garden all day and it is better than I expected.

In fact, as mentioned on the quiz thread, RG has brought out what he call a "concise" version of his 48 Laws. This edition omits all the boring historical anecdotes and classical allusions (Greene studied Classics at university), stuff which presumably successful business people and busy criminals can't be doing with. A shame, because the examples, stories and quotations (I bought the original version) are actually very interesting. I like the one about Fouquet's party to end all parties, thrown to impress Louis XIV (Law One: "Never Outshine the Master") - the story ends with a neat quotation from Voltaire: "When the evening began, Fouquet was at the top of the world. By the time it had ended, he was at the bottom."

The 48 Laws of Power isn't just another "self-help" manual; there is rather more to it than that.

I don't believe Machiavelli's writings really shocked any of the educated power elite back in the 16th century. He was saying nothing new - just putting down on paper the philosophy they all understood and actually lived by. People had to pretend to be horrified because Machiavelli seemed to be disregarding accepted morality. He wasn't of course. Isaiah Berlin put it nicely when said that M.'s work was shocking only to some, "not because it was amoral or immoral, but because it was based on a completely different and competing morality: namely that of classical paganism, with its focus on the world rather than the soul, and on this world rather than the next."

I supose those trained in the classics understood that Machiavelli was not being necessarily cynical about Christianity - he just considered it other-worldly: in his "religion" - classical paganism - "both ethics and the sacred are inseparable from the social and political dimensions of human nature; as such, they contrast sharply with theist transcendence."

But I'm still thinking about whether there have in fact ever been truly devout Christian leaders who really did try to follow Christ's advice to be "as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves" - and who survived among the wolves.

Henry VI - a king some believed was a saint - was all dove and no serpent, so he got called Daft Harry and was battered to death in the Tower. Not an encouraging example.

But then there is Frederick III of Saxony ( Frederick the Wise, but not Innocent?) - he seems to have been a thoroughly good egg. He was remarkable in that he is commemorated as a Christian ruler in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church, and, what's more, Pope Leo X (the one with the elephant) awarded him the Golden Rose of Virtue in 1518 (but that was a bribe, so I suppose it doesn't count).

Golden Rose of Virtue from a Renaissance pope - what a farce it all was!

Right, back to the 48 Laws now - I'm on Law 4: "Always Say Less Than Necessary".
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Wed 23 May 2012, 10:28

Oh blow Law 4 - could I just add something else?

Machiavelli apparently did not argue that Christianity as a private belief system was wrong or untrue, but that it could, if taken too seriously by rulers *and* citizens, be detrimental to the efficient and safe running of the state: "Christianity turns people away from the world, away from the collective responsibilities of citizenship, towards individual salvation. That is the effect of its 'truth'."

Isaiah Berlin again: "...a man must chose...One can save one's soul, or one can found or maintain or serve a great and glorious state; but not always both at once."

I wish I knew more about the ethics of classical paganism, but I wonder if this clash of ideologies/philosophies/belief systems (I'm not sure what is the correct term) is what Robert Bolt was referring to in his "A Man For All Seasons" - and yes, I know it is deeply unfashionable to admire Thomas More or Robert Bolt's play these days.

More says to Wolsey:

"I think that when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short road to chaos."

But are we now living in the worst of all possible worlds? Fans of Robert Greene's book do not seem to have any understanding of the classical idea of "virtu" (strength, skill, martial prowess and so on) for the good of the city-state, but neither do they understand the idea of submission to a higher power for the good of one's soul (and indeed for one's happiness). But then both of these ideas, misunderstood and misapplied, can lead folk down strange and twisting paths.


Nowadays it all seems to be I, I, I to the tune of Me, Me, Me - but Greene's book could perhaps be a good *starting* point for a discussion of ethics with young people - especially as he seems to be so admired by those bent on a criminal career.


Last edited by Temperance on Wed 23 May 2012, 13:17; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Wed 23 May 2012, 13:13

Nicely ironic Guardian article here about Greene's meeting with someone called 50 Cent who apparently is a very rich "gangsta" rapper. This paragraph struck me:

"This is one of several moments at which 50 Cent seems a little taken aback by the icy absolutism of Greene's amorality. 'I always say when you've been reading The 48 Laws of Power you need to go read the Bible after...' But Greene has a different opinion. 'The Bible? The Bible is just one story of incest, adultery and murder after another. It's worse than the 48 laws.' "

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2009/sep/05/50-cent-robert-greene-interview

One of the comments posted after the article:

"The central and successful aim of Greene's books is to make pathetic tossers see a cunning Renaissance strategist in their reflection - a suave, cunningly diabolical angel instead of the ugly jack ass."

Anyway, I'm glad I've read the Laws; at least I now know what all the fuss is about.

PS Caro - interesting what you said over on the quiz thread about narcissism and the Emily Longley case.
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Wed 23 May 2012, 14:59

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the result of trying to live according to The 48 Laws Of Power, you can't help feeling, would be a constant hyper-vigilance – "Am I giving the impression I want to give?" – that would exhaust you and perhaps drive you insane.
And paranoid, nihilistic and utterly contemptuous of everyone, including, probably, yourself unless of course you were all these to start with.
It does make me wonder though, could this be at least one reason why leaders who, in the beginning, gained power with some notion of altruism and good intentions ended up as monomaniacal dictators?
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Wed 23 May 2012, 16:01

Gained power for good intentions? Or are they mere control freaks who delude themselves into believing that only they have the only answer and would enforce it on all? Shades of Tony Blair and his justification for everything "it was the right thing to do"!

Sorry this is over my head, and I think, sometimes we look for answers in some where none exist. I feel like giving this Greene fellow a good clip behind the ears and tell him to get over himself.
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Wed 23 May 2012, 16:44

I was thinking more of the leaders of popular revolutions who end up as at least as oppressive as those they overthrow.
Greene strikes me as an utter charlatan that's found a cash cow, Wiki is remarkably uninformative about him, does anyone know any of the personal stuff? Has he a partner or anybody who would admit to being a friend or relative? If the things he writes are indicative of his genuine philosophy, I doubt it (in both senses!).
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Thu 24 May 2012, 08:43

@ferval wrote:
Quote :
the result of trying to live according to The 48 Laws Of Power, you can't help feeling, would be a constant hyper-vigilance – "Am I giving the impression I want to give?" – that would exhaust you and perhaps drive you insane.
And paranoid, nihilistic and utterly contemptuous of everyone, including, probably, yourself unless of course you were all these to start with.
It does make me wonder though, could this be at least one reason why leaders who, in the beginning, gained power with some notion of altruism and good intentions ended up as monomaniacal dictators?

Apparently power acts on the brains of some just like cocaine:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/9228257/Like-baboons-our-elected-leaders-are-literally-addicted-to-power.html

Addicts and gangsters. It is worrying.

Everyone knows Lord Acton's comment about power corrupting, but he also said this:

"And remember when you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that."
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Thu 24 May 2012, 09:17

To me the question mark over Greene (and probably over Machiavelli too) is essentially whether what is written represents primarily an analysis of powerful peoples' behaviour, or if it should be taken as a recommendation to emulate such behaviour according to the "rules" as laid out. Personally I see use of the term "rules" as the give-away term here. It implies quite overtly that the pursuit of power is best conducted according to these tenets, and therefore implies covertly that the pursuit of power is a worthy aim in itself.

What is of course missing from Greene's rather simplistic "philosophy" is in fact a philosophy. There is no attempt to analyse consequence, even less attempt to analysing motive, and a complete aversion to analyse the behaviour described in a moral context. In the real world these are considerations that individuals cannot ignore, or at least those who tend to ignore them are exactly the type of creatures who either end up wielding power detrimental to everyone around them, or in prison.

Living in a country recovering (if that's the term) from a recent atrocity perpetrated by someone whose own lack of morality, sense of consequence and basic social intelligence was justified in his own eyes through (amongst other fallacies) citing Greene's so-called "instructions" as principled analysis - "however unpalatable it might be to the majority" - I admit that I tend to judge Greene's book therefore mainly in a context of social morality, and find it lacking. Greene might attempt to describe his "observations" as amoral. In so far as they are observations in his head he is right. However he does not have to be a genius to see that their publication phrased in advisory tones is not amoral at all. Beyond lining his pocket I am not sure that Greene knows or even cares about the consequences such irresponsible claptrap engenders.
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Thu 24 May 2012, 10:52

Mmm. There's a telling final sentence in Greene's "Acknowledgments" - the dreadful irony of it seems lost on him.

"Finally, to those people in my life who have so skillfully used the game of power to manipulate, torture, and cause me pain over the years, I bear you no grudges and I thank you for supplying me with inspiration for "The 48 Laws of Power".

I keep thinking about George William Russell's lines from "Germinal":

"In the lost boyhood of Judas

Christ was betrayed."
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Thu 24 May 2012, 18:32

I suppose this oeuvre could be the result of a mind damaged by dreadful experiences but I don't believe it. I see this as the result of the sheer, calculating opportunism of a failed something or other and the blatant manipulation of his target market. However interesting the anecdotes and allusions might be, they are only the window dressing on what is The Little Book of Megalomania and the laws have as much depth and insight as the simplistic aphorisms in The Little Book of Any Damn Thing.
If he's so smart, why isn't he employing his own dicta to be, at the very least, President. OK he's making a few bob but if he believes this crap, he must aspire to real power. No, either he's a total fake or he's taking the piss.
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Fri 25 May 2012, 08:16

@ferval wrote:
I suppose this oeuvre could be the result of a mind damaged by dreadful experiences but I don't believe it. I see this as the result of the sheer, calculating opportunism of a failed something or other and the blatant manipulation of his target market. However interesting the anecdotes and allusions might be, they are only the window dressing on what is The Little Book of Megalomania and the laws have as much depth and insight as the simplistic aphorisms in The Little Book of Any Damn Thing.
If he's so smart, why isn't he employing his own dicta to be, at the very least, President. OK he's making a few bob but if he believes this crap, he must aspire to real power. No, either he's a total fake or he's taking the piss.

But surely the horrifying truth is that it *isn't* crap, ferval - this is how many successful people operate and always have operated. History is full of examples that prove that yes, the "Laws" do work - *if* your aim is simply to manipulate, to control, to gain power for your own ends, for your own gratification. But using power wisely or well - and whether indeed having power does actually make you respected and content - these are ideas that Greene chooses not to examine.

But that said, I agree that he is a fake, a charlatan. I've already wittered on too much, I know, but may I add a little more? I'm fretting quite a bit about all this.

The problem is that the book isn't "little" at all - it's 430 pages - and it's very cleverly presented. It looks rather like a text book and it gives to the unwary the impression of scholarship and deep thought. Greene's list of sources for his "illustrations", a list which includes Thucydides, Herodotus, Plutarch, Montaigne, La Fontaine, Guillaume de Lorris, Castiglione and Nietzsche, is impressive. As the writer of the Guardian article noted, Greene writes well. His style is slick and convincing. I certainly fell for it - at first - and I'm supposed to be a reasonably intelligent and "educated" woman.

But by the time one gets to about Law 10, one's sense of unease is growing. Nordmann is absolutely right when he says there is no real *philosophy* here, no wisdom, no acknowledgment that power does tend to corrupt and that, if it is *not* to corrupt, it should only be used in the service of others (is that sentimental claptrap?). Haven't truly great men and women always understood that the proper exercise of power means terrible responsibility - it is a burden, a duty, not a pleasure? I'd like to ask Robert Greene what he thinks of Elizabeth I's comment: "To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it is pleasant to them that bear it."

I quoted the lines from "Germinal" not because I was being soft and sentimental about "poor" Robert Greene. I agree that he's probably a middle-class kid who's been more humiliated than badly damaged, and that his sad little "revenge" is to make a lot of money. No, it's the really badly damaged who read his book and think that here they have found validation for a certain way of life - a way of life that is actually evil - they are the ones who worry me. In Greene's book such kids think they have found an answer, a creed, a salvation.

How on earth do you teach them that they haven't?
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Fri 25 May 2012, 08:47

Quote :
But surely the horrifying truth is that it *isn't* crap, ferval - this is how many successful people operate and always have operated.

Is it? My direct experience of so-called powerful people is that they are much more prone to delusion than normal people, this that you state above being just one of these delusions - that they "operate" according to precepts designed to attain and hold on to power. In reality what they dress up as (and even sometimes believe is) intelligent strategy is simply badly thought out sordid opportunism, facilitated by an extreme deficiency in conscience.

The real tragedy is not that we allow these megalomaniacs run our lives but that we often allow the most stupid, most conceited and most delusional megalomaniacs rise to the highest positions of power. To do this we also, to some extent, buy into the delusion that they themselves live by and therefore must take responsibility for the phenomenon, probably a far greater share of responsibility than any of these power junkies can honestly claim. We "pretend" along with them and tolerate them because we recognise that society requires governance, and it is just a shame that positions of governance attract a huge amount of these delusional fools. It is a compromise we make to keep things going.

Greene is just a more virulent product of that phenomenon which is based on quite a lot of self-deceit on everyone's part. He is prepared to propagate that deceit, his prime motivation being to profit from the pretence.

It is difficult to contemplate either him or those whose actions he claims to have rationalised without getting a bad taste in one's mouth. It is even more difficult to contemplate what megalomaniacal behaviour this propagation of a deceit encourages without feeling a real sense of trepidation. What happened in Oslo was just one example.
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Fri 25 May 2012, 10:09

But Temp, the version that seems to sell is the concise edition - £1.44 from Amazon - and who is going to buy it? Apart from the likes of yourself of course, surely it's either the sociopath who really doesn't need any external validation, already he knows he is the centre of the universe and this would just allow him to dress up his pathology in pseudo philosophical terms, or the deeply inadequate who almost certainly doesn't have the ability to effectively implement the canon.
You ask how can we teach them otherwise, can one 'teach' empathy? I suspect that the pschopathology comes first and that Greene and his like have effect only at the margins by making these people feel more justified in doing what they would do anyway. It's when the vision and policies of the powerful sociopath become implemented on a wider scale that the much more dangerous situation occurs where there is societal and constitutional valorisation of behaviours that we consider as 'evil'. I really don't believe that any book can make a good person bad, as it were, rather it might make an already bad person feel better about being so.
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Fri 25 May 2012, 14:51

Good point Nordmann, those that would be powerful only become powerful because we accept them as such, therefore we are all participants in the same game. Mmm
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Fri 25 May 2012, 22:47

@nordmann wrote:
Quote :
But surely the horrifying truth is that it *isn't* crap, ferval - this is how many successful people operate and always have operated.

Is it? My direct experience of so-called powerful people is that they are much more prone to delusion than normal people, this that you state above being just one of these delusions - that they "operate" according to precepts designed to attain and hold on to power. In reality what they dress up as (and even sometimes believe is) intelligent strategy is simply badly thought out sordid opportunism, facilitated by an extreme deficiency in conscience.

The real tragedy is not that we allow these megalomaniacs run our lives but that we often allow the most stupid, most conceited and most delusional megalomaniacs rise to the highest positions of power. To do this we also, to some extent, buy into the delusion that they themselves live by and therefore must take responsibility for the phenomenon, probably a far greater share of responsibility than any of these power junkies can honestly claim. We "pretend" along with them and tolerate them because we recognise that society requires governance, and it is just a shame that positions of governance attract a huge amount of these delusional fools. It is a compromise we make to keep things going.

Greene is just a more virulent product of that phenomenon which is based on quite a lot of self-deceit on everyone's part. He is prepared to propagate that deceit, his prime motivation being to profit from the pretence.

It is difficult to contemplate either him or those whose actions he claims to have rationalised without getting a bad taste in one's mouth. It is even more difficult to contemplate what megalomaniacal behaviour this propagation of a deceit encourages without feeling a real sense of trepidation. What happened in Oslo was just one example.

Well said Nordmann, I everyday learn from you.

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Sat 26 May 2012, 07:50

@ferval wrote:
But Temp, the version that seems to sell is the concise edition - £1.44 from Amazon - and who is going to buy it? Apart from the likes of yourself of course, surely it's either the sociopath who really doesn't need any external validation, already he knows he is the centre of the universe and this would just allow him to dress up his pathology in pseudo philosophical terms, or the deeply inadequate who almost certainly doesn't have the ability to effectively implement the canon.
You ask how can we teach them otherwise, can one 'teach' empathy? I suspect that the pschopathology comes first and that Greene and his like have effect only at the margins by making these people feel more justified in doing what they would do anyway. It's when the vision and policies of the powerful sociopath become implemented on a wider scale that the much more dangerous situation occurs where there is societal and constitutional valorisation of behaviours that we consider as 'evil'. I really don't believe that any book can make a good person bad, as it were, rather it might make an already bad person feel better about being so.

Well, I've just put the book in my loo - the best place for it. I feel very annoyed that I have contributed £9.82 to Green's retirement fund, but I try to excuse myself by thinking that at least there are some good historical anecdotes in my version. Perhaps I can use them to gain complete mastery of the quiz thread.

But to be serious again because in truth this is a horribly serious subject, I agree with both you and Nordmann.

"What good fortune for those in power that people do not think," as Adolf Hitler once remarked.

And on the subject of lost boyhoods - I wonder if either of you have come across the work of Alice Miller?

http://www.naturalchild.org/alice_miller/adolf_hitler.html

Thomas Cromwell was also the child of an abusive drunken thug of a father - he regularly received severe beatings.

There's also that other more subtle form of abuse explored so brilliantly in Lionel Shriver's "We Need to Talk About Kevin" (the book is much better and far more disturbing than the film). It's about the inability of some parents to set boundaries, but it's also about rejection and withholding of love. Put both together and you can rear a monster.

But how indeed do you "teach" empathy - or love? Love to the loveless shown? Wouldn't have worked with Kevin though, and Germany was a good Christian nation.

*Try* to teach empathy through literature? And make sure history is taught well - including a compulsory module on Power?

In haste.
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Sat 26 May 2012, 09:55

On a lighter note, last evening I was baby sitting and, before mum and dad left, I watched as granddaughter deployed quite a number of Greene's laws as she endeavoured to get her own way over bedtime, supper and TV/story telling/game arrangements.
There's an old joke about the definition of a gentleman being someone who can play the accordion but chooses not to: perhaps the definition of a mature and rounded adult is, someone who understands these laws but chooses not to employ them, at least not inappropriately.
I suppose that, like most things, it's a continuum, a question of degree. We almost all, to some extent, do acknowledge the effectiveness of these techniques and use them but temper them with empathy and sympathetic conscience. On the other hand, without some empathetic understanding of how these can be effective in their impact on others, could they be usefully employed?

Literature, I agree does allow the development of emotional understanding but only if the reader has the facility to care about the characters to start with - oh this too much, away for coffee and planting some more seedlings, in a caring and empathetic manner of course.


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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Sat 26 May 2012, 11:25

A capacity for empathy cannot be taught, but it can definitely be reinforced. I take the view that all people are born with a capacity both for and against developing empathy, but not any means at the outset to articulate or express the concept so therefore dependent on other means to approach the task cognitively. Much indeed like all facets of a small child's potential, if it is not demonstrated coherently by others so that it can be emulated by the child it runs the risk of being suppressed, ignored or simply lost altogether as the child becomes an adult.

Empathy, in one way, is simply an extension of the survival instinct in that it can save quite a lot of time for the individual when learning what lies around the figurative corner if they can place themselves in the position of someone undergoing an experience and draw conclusions from the process. It is life experience by proxy and quite a skill when honed, but it is also the very basis of vocational careers such as nursing, teaching etc when that skill is then employed on others' behalf as a natural development of innately realising the advantage of having it. Empathising with others gives rise to a concern for their development and well-being as well as one's own.

Reinforcement at a very young age begins with a proper understanding and appreciation of consequences. When a small child realises that actions have consequences they hold the key to rationalising, interpreting and feeling for others whose actions will also incur consequences from which they themselves can learn. Without that basic key it is almost impossible to expect that a child will develop any coherent sense of responsibility, even for their own actions. Empathy, along with other social traits, is a victim of that lack.

If a lack of empathy could be viewed as a disability then Greene's book and others like it are tutorials for fellow sufferers on how not to feel bad about their disability and how to make it work to their benefit. Given that not having much empathy with or regard for others is the very root of their disability then it is no surprise that "success" is then measured in terms of material gain for the individual and inflicting one's will on others. But to me that just makes the whole thing pathetic on top of everything else.
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PostSubject: Re: For what shall it profit a man...?   Sun 14 Sep 2014, 23:13

In his 2012 book Mastery, Robert Greene outlines the lives of various leaders in their fields both historical and contemporary. Among the contemporary subjects is computer program writer Paul Graham who himself is also an essayist. One of his more interesting essays is entitled How to Disagree. It's something of a misnamed article, however, because it doesn't actually give advice on disagreement as such. What is does do, though, is to list 7 levels of disagreement which range from name-calling up to refuting a central point.

P.S. In criticising the misnaming of the article I have possibly reached disagreement level 4 (i.e. contradiction).

P.P.S. Level 4 is called 'DH3' by Graham who starts his list from nought (i.e. DH0). But then what does one expect from from a coder.

P.P.P.S That P.P.S. above is a level 2 disagreement by the way - (i.e. ad hominem).
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