Temptation and Justification

The first thing to say is that if you have never been tempted you are not human. The second thing is that in the previous post, Faust who deems himself smart and learned never the less invites Mephistopheles over his threshold. Doh! Faust thought he was outwitting but ended up outwitted. Our cleverness can be our undoing, we think we can outsmart.

To set this up I am going to use a hypothetical example, which is a social norm of sorts. As such it may be that you think that I am making a fuss about nothing. Nevertheless, bear with me. It is “socially acceptable” to a degree to snoop on others on the internet, to covertly read their blog or trawl through their social media. There is a kind of fascination and because we think nobody is watching we might indulge a little too much, that may lead to voyeurism and obsession. Temptation is there by the megabyte.

If we come across the media of someone known to us, we might take a cursory glance out of curiosity and leave it there. At this level there is no harm. If we imagine that they may say something about us in that media, we get nosier. If we have a grudge or a crush on someone, we might start to delve ever deeper. We kind of know we did not ought to be doing this, however there is a temptation. We can start to make weird justifications. “If he/she did not want me to be looking at this then they would not have put it up.” “He or she is actually inviting me.” At which point we could alert the person of our presence by leaving an electronic calling card, such as a thumbs-up or we can continue our surveillance. By now our behaviours have become more than a little furtive. So, we start to justify things even more. “I’ll only take one more look.” But that one becomes many. We may even develop a habit. “I’ll see what weird shit Fred has been up to today.” If we think we might somehow get an advantage over Fred through our continued surveillance we are now starting to justify that surveillance on strategic grounds. “Better keep an eye on Fred in case there is something I can use later, Fred may be out to get me.” Once things have gotten to this stage we will never reveal to Fred that we have him under our microscope.

Before long the temptation to carry on something which is “up to no good” has taken hold and we have thoroughly justified it and continue to do so.

Whenever temptation presents there is nearly always some justification as to why it is OK to yield to temptation, either live or post hoc., the two go together. Human beings are adept at dreaming up a whole host of justifications to allow themselves to do dodgy shit.

Having cued this up:

What do you reckon, do temptation and justifications often skip along hand in hand?

Justification-world – The Dying of the Light

When you hear a justification does it make your spirit soar?

Maybe it does, and it is only me who is weird. We are surrounded by justifications, entombed and our hearts pierced by the countless stakes of them. It appears all so reasonable. We have to justify pretty much everything we do in conversation, in job applications and even to the parrot in its cage. The endless stream of justifications, it turns the world grey and anodyne, bereft of colour. And by our justifications we do some pretty bad shit, it is OK though, because it is thoroughly justified.

To what part of us do justifications speak? Is it our hearts? Is it our pseudo-rational mind? Is it our linguistic core processor?

It is by justification that we silence and assuage the remnants of our conscience and muffle whatever residue of spirit lies mortally wounded within us. And we think we are so very clever in acting like this. Somewhere there is a mountain of babies, piled Everest high. And these are the babies we threw out with the bathwater, because of our insistence on justifications.

We do not see that there is a Dying of the Light. And in any case should we do, we can easily justify it away. And before long all we will be left with are our lovely justifications. We shall knit patchwork blankets out of them and lie beneath them in the hope that they will keep us warm, when the light is no more.

Whilst we shiver, in justification-world we shall feel thoroughly justified, if a little indignant.

Are You Reasonable?

Many think that being reasonable is a good thing, they may even aspire to the accolade of reasonable man, thinking that this might imply a sound, comprehensive faculty of discernment and weighing all the angles of an argument. But reason only goes so far, so often it merges with excuse and justification. And these have to be sold to others. It takes a brave man to point out that a justification is not the same as something fully reasoned. There is a major fallacy associated with reason and this is that almost inevitably it is based in a socio-political context. The two things are inextricably linked, because reason has to it the normative basis of what society deems reasonable. As a consequence, reason, strange as it may seem, can be causal of atrocity. If we don’t like the way a bunch of a-rabs are behaving then it is reasonable to effect regime change which causes death, destruction and a massive migration crisis; which in turns leads to unrest at home. Reason is not infallible and more often it is a way of arguing for something we want, seek or desire. It is a pretend pseudo-logic used to justify.

Reason is a tool for manipulation, it lies aback the salesman’s pitch and the advertiser’s enticement. The reason for using this lovely fifteen compartment washing capsule is that it is so much better and more convenient than our competitor. Their washing capsule has only fourteen compartments, Q.E.D., our capsule is better, and you need to pay that little bit extra to join the enlightened users of the novel quantum chromodynamic washing system. Should you do this instantaneously you will be transformed into a model, a sex goddess and a perfect mum, who will be the envy of all and sundry.

OK, I have over-egged this, but do you get the idea? Reason can be used to manipulate.

Reason can have a convenient and expedient, self or group centred myopia.

What is reasonable in one socio-political context, is unreasonable in another. And reason has a poor memory, it is also selective. For example, many claim to be Christian and unless I am mistaken vengeance is not a Christian value. Yet we have people, claiming to be Christian insisting that it is fair that a child murder be punished as an adult and for life in the USA. The victim can no longer walk the earth; therefore, the perpetrator must be locked away until they die. The reasoning is faulty. It is used to manipulate a desired outcome, in this case vengeance. It is not fair that the perpetrator should be free, ever.

Attached to this notion of reason is this equally bizarre notion of fair. Many a highly paid executive justifies an inflated salary on grounds of fairness, but it is a selective justification in which the more able arguer wins a greater salary. What is fair can be only in the eyes of the person making this claim. Everybody else is wrong. If one is using reason, it is not reasonable that there is such a huge pay differential. It is skewed, but the skewing need not be so marked. To be true some are simply greedy bastards.

To be reasonable, is to be malleable, able to be reasoned. One can be persuaded, influenced, convinced, manipulated, brainwashed and brow beaten by reasons. The peer group and this “social consensus” thingamajig is a major component of reason. It is man-made and as a certain Vulcan might say, illogical.

At the back of reason there is often an agenda, simple as.

Having perhaps tainted this notion of reason:

Am I a reasonable being?

Is this a good thing?

Has my reason ever gotten me into trouble?

Is reason comprehensive and all encompassing?

That Which We Justify

To discuss this topic, I am going to come out of heart and back into concrete mind.

I’ll start with a question first. Do you notice when you start justifying something to yourself?

In justification-space many things seem to be OK. We can justify all sorts of stuff to ourselves and thereby feel thoroughly justified. We might seek to invade another country to remove its leader, so we look around for some justification that will mean that the upcoming slaughter is fine. At the merest whiff of weapons of mass destruction, we have our standard, our flag, behind which we can unleash hell. This is perhaps an extreme example. But we can find justifications for a whole bunch of stuff, that is mean, dodgy, cowardly, shabby, vindictive, greedy, you name it. We kind of know that we did not ought to be doing it, so we hunt around for a plethora of justifications so that we can bury our conscience under them. And then we share our justifications with others to justify our actions. If it is a group effort we can sample the justifications of others and increase the overall justification count. We can talk ourselves into something and we can talk ourselves out of something. We may silence our conscience so that we can indulge in whatever it is. Maybe later we may regret, but for now we want to do something so bad, that we in our cleverness can find sufficient justifications. Under these the basic spirit, the motive behind actions lies buried. We then start to think that because of our justifications “it” is great idea, good, true and thoroughly justifiable. We can get all caught up in an idea, even if it isn’t so bright and then we must execute that idea.

I’ll interject another question. Do we suspect that by the time we are looking to justify we are already straying from the path of what might be termed righteousness?

This tendency to justify is a part of the common dream. We all do it. We have to explain what we did over Christmas and justify our choice of holiday destination, car, career, partner, dog and political affiliation. It is part and parcel.

Under the flag of justification some pretty nasty shit is done. Justification is the primary method of silencing the conscience, the heart.

Having cued this up:

Are justifications a good or a bad thing?

Have I ever justified something to myself that was shabby and off?

Justify your answers.