The Fundamental Philosophical Failure

May 11, 2012 Posted Under: philosophy

Our sense of group identity is the fundamental failure of our species, perhaps of all intelligent life.

The problem arises when a group starts believing the importance of its agenda supersedes that of its originating group.

This happens first in governments, a proxy for the group itself when we were hunter-gatherers.  The necessary belief underpinning the capability to make group war is that, because my group contains me, it is more worthy of surviving than your group.  But then that sense of group superiority also occurs in religions, and in government bureaucracies, where it becomes dangerous to the group as a whole.

The most heinous example is secret police units or spy agencies.  Because of the perceived need for secrecy to protect the state, the “coin of the realm” becomes the secrets themselves, never to be revealed lest that sharing dilute the power of the secret police.  A current example is the Attorney General of the United States prosecuting witnesses for testifying in secret congressional hearings about the failures of our intelligence agencies, despite whistle blower laws specifically protecting such disclosure.

Why does it not happen so much in governmental sub-units, like states and cities, and mostly not in corporations, at least until they get “too big to fail”?  Or is it just less visible in these?

I often try to think of problems like this in analogies with other aspects of evolution.  If we behaved this way, your hand, having a sense of itself and its own importance in the role of providing food for the rest of the body, might decide it was the most important and cut off the leg for food in an emergency.  Clearly such a choice should not be made by the sub-unit, the hand, but only by the actual self, the brain.

How can we organize our political structures to properly obey the lines of authority, and not separately establish themselves as more critical to the survival of the entire group?

One possible solution suggests itself –> like the felony murder rule whereby a death occurring during the commission of a crime becomes a murder attributable to all the criminal participants, a blackmailer becomes a co-conspirator in the crime he is offering to not make public.  This could be extended to any form of duress and, including the corresponding civil reparations, would provide the legal leverage to put the spy gamers out of business.

The more I think about all this the more evident no simple solution has not already been thought about.  A great deal of our literature is about the conflict between authorized actions and independently perceived “greater good”.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

*