In response to the titled statement:
Errors are popularly believed to be markers that indicate flights from reality when the subject had the option of choosing with better judgment. The more affective aspect of this concept is the latter half of the clause (when the subject…), because the act of labeling something as an error is predicated upon the socio-moral obligation of ought, or the cause-and-effect concept of should. The only reason we apply critiques like better judgment is because the overarching incentive (or power) structure determined that a different way of thinking would produce a more sound or accurate grouping of effects. In other words, if we drop the thoughts about why we think we make errors, we may be able to understand on a more rudimentary level what it means to produce action, because as I just stated, making errors involves two distinct conceptual steps which traipse around as simple and raw, but are in fact loaded.
What do I mean loaded? Well, conceptual loading is responsible for many miscategorizations because people unknowingly adopt premises they may not believe in--or have reflected upon--simply because those premises are tucked into a clause that is easy to agree with. This is the case with errors. Errors are loaded for many reasons, but mainly because errors only exist after they have been committed. They are ghosts. So in a raw sense, people do not make or produce errors, they get labeled as having erred because the effects they produce did not fall into alignment with the overarching incentive (or power) structure.
This does not mean relativism has a free pass. Relativism still exists. It is just that the concept of error is dependant upon hindsight. If you act on foresight, your actions are simply labeled as actions! This keeps responsibility in the matter (relinquishing relativism) because we can still produce different effects for our actions, should they be demonstrated as more optimal. We just need orient ourselves to forward-thinking, rather than backward-thinking. Just because we came to the conclusion that a different network of effects is optimal does not mean that the original set of effects we bore were in error, it simply means we made a choice.
So how does this effect objective reality? All this talk of reorienting our perspective toward causes and effects is worthless if we do not establish some kind of objective parameters, because those parameters are what help guide us through greater reality. Ironically, the parameters were always there; the network of our thoughts and actions in relation to reality became subjectified when we introduced the concept of error due to those human-specific categorical qualifiers of ought and should, and the backward-thinking process.
I watched a brief video last night of a bear cub stuck on one side of a concrete median on a freeway. It’s mother had already scaled it, and once she realized her cub could not climb it, she reached back over and grabbed it’s nape with her teeth and pulled it over. Did the mother err in not carrying the median over in the first place? No. Reality just imposed itself on her—as will happen, it is reality after all—and once she observed the immediate restriction, she solved the problem. The same goes with people, but instead of seeing limitations in how greater reality effects us, we label our actions as in error, as if we should have known better, like we are some great Gatekeeper. Hence, errors are not made, errors are labels attached to the back of our shoes as we walk through life to keep the overarching incentive (or power) structures in place.
I am not going to say that all causes produce equal effects, as if this discussion advocates conceptual communism. I will say that all causes produce effects which can be understood and further adapted (optimized). Just like the mother bear who adapted to the immediate restrictions of her situation, we can adapt to the perceived restrictions (because we have a reflective imagination) of our situations and choose differently if it suits us. But since our cause and effect network is so rich and diverse and constantly changing, it seems utter nonsense of restrict ourselves to error labels. This is where objectivity becomes pertinent; the more objective one is, the more they can acknowledge and adapt to greater reality and the panoply of causes and effects, producing more informed and adaptive actions, rather than the subjective person’s very final and definitive error label.
Something happened yesterday which struck me like a blow to the head. A spooked bear ran by the back of my apartment complex, then up through the abutting woods. I heard its aggressive grunts and loud footfalls through a wide-open back door. I was surprised and impressed because I had not seen or heard a bear up to that point. I walked outside to watch it in the woods. By that time it was about fifty feet in, back to walking slowly and minding it's business.
My next door neighbors wedged themselves in their back doorway, refusing to come out. They told me it could attack me/us/anything it came across. They also told me that it made a mess of their bird feeder the day before. They kept telling me that it could attack me. I dismissed them and for a few minutes watched it saunter through the woods. When I finally went inside I heard other neighbors having a safety talk in the front of the complex. They each admitted in some way that they loved rural Connecticut but being that close to bears was not kosher.
Bears are indeed powerful creatures, and next to humans are the apex predator in this area. But this matter has very little to do with bears. Or nature in any sense.
It has to do with how we perceive, judge, and interact with our environment. The folks in my complex clearly like trees and the sound of birds, but apparently disapprove of larger natural things like coyote and bear. I find the line they drew in the sand very suspect because it shows that they do not take nature on its terms and appreciate it in itself, yet operate on confirmation bias. In other words, they make their experience with nature all about human-pleasure and affirmation.
Just saying human-pleasure bothers me. Makes me think of Nazi medical experimentation on Jews, and the horrors of the Colloseum. Yes, those are extremes, but look at the principle: The criteria for operation what was most pleasurable for the humans in power. My neighbors demonstrated that their power is in their ability to separate themselves from the harshness of the natural environment. Why do you think they stayed in the doorway and barked safety concerns at me as I stood outside?
I find it telling that when humans impede upon each other in the way that we impede upon nature, we immediately voice complaints of being violated and oppressed. We can raze forests, build dams to decimate salmon populations, and build huge coal-breathing ocean vessels that destroys whales' ability to use sonar appropriately. But when nature comes too close to us without our permission, we throw a fit and and profess some kind of civil violation.
Here is the interesting & scary part: When we impede upon nature, nature does not respond as we do, yet adapts if it can. Problematically, human-centric humans interpret this as condonement because (circularly) the standard for determining and judging bad behavior is created by what those very humans determined as pleasurable or self-affirmative. Do you see the problem? If you tailor the standards of judgment to reflect what you want, then you become inherently self-centered--arguably, narcissistic--because everything that is not you (nature!) becomes marginalized and transgressed because it does not follow your self-satisfying modus! This is why this is more than about bear; it represents a circular ethical purview.
Granted, nature does not speak our human language, but as the philosopher Parker Kristhoffer pointed out to me recently, why is it we cannot understand it's language? When we talk to dogs they know what we are saying. They read our gestures, tone, and words. However, we humans in all our glory still cannot interpret a conversation between two dogs. Is it because civilization has taught us not to listen? Maybe. I just know we have trouble hearing the non-human world, even though we assert we are the most intelligent species. Thus, it is plausible our human-centric egos self-create boundaries of empathy.
Distinguishing boundaries and constructing categories for our behavior is natural because it is one of the most basic forms of judgement we humans perform. My problem with circular ethical purviews is that we take our compulsion to draw boundaries and mutate it into enabling ourselves to be destructive to things that do not fall in our purview; i.e. bears, coyotes, etc. Circular ethical purviews are thus mutually exclusive with enlightened, objective perspectives, because the latter is not all about us.
A circular ethical purview is clear when one builds assumptions into their perceptions and interpretations. Is that not why we build assumptions in, in the first place? To affirm ourselves? If we were not interested in affirming ourselves than we would allow the environment to present itself more fully, and in the example of the bear that ran through my backyard, would have caused my neighbors to interpret the event much more rationally than banding together to talk about how bears could kill us. (As if bears just hang around and plot how to kill humans...)
Let me be clear: Humans are much more dangerous than bears because we have the ability (and apparent craving) for malice. Natural animals only attack when cornered, when you threaten their young, or in extreme instances--and if they have the wherewithal--when hungry.
I find it sad and ironic that human-centric boundaries (safety, power, money, etc.) cause humans to cripple at the sight and presence of one of our natural siblings whom do not operate according to those boundaries. Bears are our brothers, our sisters, etc., they do not want to kill us. The only creature on earth with the capacity for that desire is the human.
Click the RSS FEED button below to receive notification of new essays.