17 July 2013

adaptation cf. repression

● One occasionally sees the idea expressed that people ‘ought’ (in some sense) to have a positive attitude to modern life, warts and all, and not carp about it.
Typically, two different ideas are conflated here.
There is (i) the question of how to best get on with life, given the prevailing conditions. This may require a certain amount of adaptation.
Separately from this there is (ii) the question of what one’s attitude should be when it comes to having a say in policy debates, or when voting.
As far as (ii) is concerned, it would be foolish not to express your own preferences honestly. If there is something you mind about, why should you repress your native reaction – because ‘trained’ psychologists or philosophers produce arguments to the effect that you shouldn’t mind? In fact, any such argument is almost certain to be flawed. It’s obviously impossible to prove that a feeling is ‘wrong’.
Even if the feeling could be interpreted as maladaptive, or otherwise pathological, on some Freudian or similar system of analysis, it is nevertheless a feeling which you happen to have, and probably cannot do anything about, even if you wanted to.
A democracy in which everyone chooses what they think they ought to choose, or what they think would be best for other people, or for society as a whole, is potentially far more dangerous than one in which everyone chooses selfishly. Democracy, to the extent it works, is predicated on the aggregation of genuine individual preferences.