Why is it Easier to Organize Evil than Good?
Surviving the nature of human nature
Posted Oct 31, 2015
I’m on vacation travelling from Amsterdam to Marseille in Southern France with many stops savoring the wines of Provence. At the moment, I am now visiting the “City of Popes” where many resided during the 14th century to escape the chaos in Rome. This is a region of France with some of the best wine, most beautiful Medieval villages, and where the Popes built a fortified and palatial palace within the walled city of Avignon.
When not a tourist with camera, my thoughts turn to the more “cosmic” question of Good and Evil inspired by my presence in this ancient city; a subject that must have concerned the Popes; only I’m looking through the lens of a psychologist who has contributed to the development of a new science of values called axiological science.
I recall the ease of organizing Evil as opposed to Good is seen in Hitler’s war following on the heels of World War I in the 20th century. Before that there were centuries of European wars including The Thirty Year War and The Hundred Year War which swept across the countryside in which I'm travelling; wars involving individual and collective humiliation, nationalism, ideologies, apocalyptic thinking, the subtleties of pseudocultural paranoia, and of course religion; all of which demonstrate the fragility of mental life and the importance of common ground best recovered these days by developing the science of values in support of moral education.
As I tour Avignon’s Roman ruins and Palace of The Popes, I think about why it is easier to organize Evil than Good, and what about human nature makes this so. When I ask the question of others they have no answer! I assumed the answer must be found in the biology and psychology of human nature as well as the psychology of collectives such as societies, communities, and civilization itself; including the psychology of our civilization with tensions around the tragic flaw of an asymmetric evolution of natural science without moral science.
Transpositional and Compositional Values:
Inclined to think in terms of values, my thoughts turn to the axiological concepts of “Transposition” and “Composition” which have to do with how we combine values. I offer the following to explain what I mean:
In my youth I read stories by James Fenimore Cooper which dealt with the American frontier and Indian life. At times they "transported my imagination" into the darkness of woods at night where the sound of a broken twig or branch under foot can be the harbinger of danger. I knew the sound because in "real life" I would go Coon Hunting with dogs at night with my father, his pals, and my brother in rural Western Massachusetts. This sound at night suggests the presence of someone and all this might imply! This is the context and meaning of “Transposition.” On the other hand, the noise of a stream of running water or wind in the trees is the meaning of a “Composition of values." Put simply, a “Transposition” is analogous to sawdust on ice cream, while a “Composition” is analogous to chocolate on ice cream (1).
Such terminology concerns value-vision based on how we habitually combine Feeler (Intrinsic), Doer (Extrinsic), and Thinker (Systemic) values forming the three dimensions of value within our "inner world of values." An internal world that is parallel and somewhat analogous to our external world of three dimensions involving length (L), height (H), and width (W). "Navigational" strategies apply to both, and so it's not surprising we talk about a "moral compass."
My friend and colleague in Germany, Uli Vogel, refers to these dimensions of value within us as the active "Human," "Factual," and "Principal" dimensions of value which "interpret and process" the more passive sensations of five sensory modalities which include vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. The point is, our ever expanding values and valuations become organized around three cognitive dimensions dedicated to forming structural values and exercising valuations. The structure and functional dynamism of these dimensions have emotional and behavioral consequences which can be identified and measured employing axiological science and psychology!
Values Gone Mad:
Let's consider an example of transposition of values "gone mad" (i.e., the existence and use of a negative value combination "gone mad"). I have in mind the pathology (i.e., very bad habit ) of "treating persons as things all the time while insensitive to doing so!” This amounts to an extreme devaluation of the uniqueness, individuality, and infinite value of a person. This "Transposition" is encountered in some forms of mental illness. It is a definition of Evil. It is behavior associated with some schizophrenics, psychopaths, and borderline personalities like Adolf Hitler (Why so many Germans followed him to war is another story involving many "nodes" and "moving parts" discussed in previous blogs).
Consistently treating a person as a "thing" is a hallmark of Evil as opposed to Good. In this context, Good involves the recognition of the singularity, individuality and uniqueness of persons. The sensitivity and insensitivity to "Transpositions" of "Self" and "Others" is rooted in human nature; meaning the "gun is loaded." In response, we must educate and build a society that avoids pulling triggers indiscriminately and recklessly. This begs questions concerning critical thinking, scientific method, values, moral reasoning, moral science, and moral education aimed at building tomorrow's preventive psychology today in support of preventive medicine; recalling that health care is the fastest growing failing business in the world today!
The General Capacity to Value and Beyond:
Discriminating "Combinatorial Transpositions and Compositions" is specifically related to our individual and collective General Capacity to Value (GCV). This in turn is based on how we organize and exercise Feeler, Doer, and Thinker values behind degrees of value-vision, value-astigmatism, and value-blindness or degrees of "seeing with values" beyond the five modalities of pure sensations. The cognitive processing dedicated to values and valuations (i.e., value-vision) allows us to go from the “is” of sensation to the “ought” of valuation, and hopefully without greatly impaired value-vision.
I’m suggesting Evil (Represented by the Black Face) involves seriously disturbed value-vision made up of pathological value-combinations called "Transpositions" which result in anti-self, anti-social behavior; while Good (Represented by the White Face) involves more pro-self, pro-social value "Compositions.” These outcomes are in turn related to changing levels of sensitivity, balance, priority, and plasticity of Feeler, Doer, Thinker dimensions of value-vision "driving" emotions and behavior. People differ in their overall General Capacity to Value as well as function in each of the three dimensions of value!
This isn't "blue sky," "theoretical talk." We can test and measure these axiological variables (Transpositions, Compositions, General Capacity to Value, Feeler value-vision, Doer Value-Vision, Thinker Value-Vision, and their interactions), and come up with hypotheses concerning personality profiles and useful clinical, and vocational information. Like the quantum mechanics of physics, psychology deals in hypotheses and statistical probabilities because of the large number of interacting variables involved, and Axiological Science and Axiological Psychology are no exceptions.
But, in the final analysis, must we assume Good and Evil, as well as Heaven and Hell, are "other people;" or is there more to it than this? The Hitlers of the world turn values upside down and inside out in the service of existential egos producing lethal “Transpositions of Madness!" It's important that we are able to spot such behavior and react appropriately. Our new science helps us do just that! The behavior in question is grounded in evolutionary biology and developmental psychology where the impact of mass psychology (i.e., the zeitgeist, climate-of-opinion, mass-mind, weltanschauung or spirit-of-the-times) is often ignored! Axiological Psychology is needed to more properly understand the interesting co-play and counter-play (i.e., dynamism) between the psychology of individuals, the psychology of collectives, and their interactions! The loss of interpersonal face-time with the explosion of more impersonal social media is speeding up this dynamism involving individuals and collectives and psychology needs to catch up!
Because “Transpositions” grab attention and evoke fear we think more about them and dwell on them more than "Compositions;" recalling that “fear attracts.” "Compositions" favor habituation rather than arousal and selective attention. This makes it easier to organize the "Transpositions of Evil" than the "Compositions of Good." There is also the biological advantage of “Transpositions” favoring basic adaptation and survival, but it is the value "Compositions" that allow us to flourish!
There is something very biological about "Transpositions" and very psychological about "Compositions." We're dealing with discrimination at the level of values and valuations which is reflected in seeing the metaphorical "trees from the forest" and vice versa.
We are dealing with valuations which is cognitive processing dedicated to the formation of values and valuations. We are also dealing with the "conservation of energy" where Thinking (i.e., Systemic ideation or valuation) and Doing (i.e., Extrinsic ideation or valuation) are less of a burden on "cognitive machinery," and less complex than that related to the cognitive processing of Feeling or intrinsic ideation. This has consequences! In the words of my friend and colleague Steve Byrum, "the Systemic (Thinking) and Extrinsic (Doing) are less complex than the Intrinsic (Feeling), and so once again the paths of least resistance triumph" ... making it easier to organize Evil than Good.
Avignon and History:
As I walk around the preserved Roman Coliseum before me and head to the Palace of the Popes, in a region of Provence often painted by artists, I note the extreme lengths to which the Romans went to organize Good around the “Compositional values" of their "bread and circus" for the masses. History tells us how they also entertained the masses with Lions eating slaves in the Coliseum. This savage act exploited the power of “Transpositional” values to capture attention, thrill, and entertain. I see before me how the Popes had taken elaborate measures to protect themselves against real-world “Transpositions" (Forgive the persistent abstraction of "Transpositions" and "Compositions," but I'm trying to breath life into these concepts) by living securely within an elaborately walled city, inside a massively fortified Palace, while promoting the “Compositional" or humanistic values of Good for the faithful.
In the spirit of breaking an egg to make an omelet, the Roman organization of values (i.e., which included balancing "Transpositions" and "Compositions) managed to build, but not sustain, an empire. This was a consequence of their superior organization of civic life around the bread and circus, and military life around aggressive and well organized military policies. The "barbarians" they faced existed in greater numbers but were less organized. The Romans proved better at organizing Evil than the "barbarians," but fell short when it came to organizing Good over the long term, and in the end Rome collapsed from within; apart from being poisoned by lead in their food and water. Romans fell victim to the nature of human nature involving the superior management of facts, but mismanagement of values; referring to the unfinished business of managing “Transpositions” without the guidance of a science of values and morals beyond the mere adoption of Christianity. Does this sound familiar? Should we draw lessons from this? I'm thinking that as important as religion is it isn't enough!
The Popes to their credit, were more involved than Rome with the balancing of "Transpositions" and "Compositions" aimed at maximizing Good for the faithful. Their relative skill with “Compositional Values" allowed the adopted Religion of Rome to outlast the Rome. These days, the legacy of half-smart humanism, without moral education, is beginning to wear thin in today's world in need of an education that goes beyond merely learning one's ABCs and 123s. I'm thinking as important as today's education is it isn't enough!
The Two Palaces:
The city before me, Avignon, got me thinking about all this as I recovered from climbing the many steps of the Papal Palace (Photo No. 2 Below).
I couldn't avoid comparing this experience with that of climbing the steps of the Potala Palace (Photo No. 1 Opposite) of the Dali Lama at Lhasa, Tibet many years earlier. It was in 1959 the Dali Lama fled to escape the chaos of the Tibetan rebellion, some five hundred years after the Popes fled Rome. It was in 2002 I visited Tibet while touring China. I recalled on leaving the Potala Palace how a Priest turned to me, shook my hand firmly, and said very thoughtfully, "we shall meet again!"
I then recalled how this region of France had passed from Roman hands to “barbarians” organized around tribal fiefdoms, then Kingdoms, then a nation-state as it benefited from the 18th century Age of Reason, which also gave birth of the United States of America on another continent. A historical process that seeded humankind with the unintended consequences of an asymmetric evolution of natural philosophy to natural science without the evolution of moral philosophy to moral science.
I remembered how the natural philosophies of alchemy and astrology evolved into the natural sciences of chemistry and astronomy respectively. This gave us natural science as we know it today. The stagnation of moral philosophy is very real, and it amounts to an accident of history we have yet to recover from. It is the tragic flaw in the character of societies, civilizations, and their discontents the world over. It is something that must be managed, if not cured, and let's hope all the songs declaring how you can "never change the world" are wrong!
We are left with a world where it continues to be easier to organize Evil than Good: no different from Roman times! Historiography, the study of history, appears to be no remedy without the intervention of value science to help us understand values with a precision approaching our understanding of facts! Perhaps then we will find a way to bridge the divide between the "is” and the “ought” of our existence; for there are values in the world of facts and each requires its own system of science. Without achieving this, there can be no science of behavior, psychology, economics, sociology, and so forth!
The Problem Revisited:
From my perch at Avignon, atop a “mountain of history,” enjoying the wines of Provence, I continue to think about the problem of organizing Good and how it must be rooted in the nature of human nature fostering the conclusion that “we’ve met the enemy and it is us.” Wandering about the ruins and restorations of this ancient city, I thought of Nietzsche who had written that Beyond Good and Evil is "survival of the fittest." He had also written that Beyond Good and Evil there is "love." How he resolved the apparent contradiction escapes me. Perhaps it is my reading of him that confuses me in this regard.
Not to worry, I reach for another glass of wine recalling my participation in the discovery of Axiological Science (i.e., Value Science) beyond good and evil; a science that rejects "Social Darwinism" in favor of "Love;" a new science promoting culture-free, religiously-neutral moral education and moral reasoning capable of enriching all humanistic traditions including philosophy and the religions of the world in need of support from an Axiological Science perspective!
At Avignon I looked back on having rejected Hartman's theory of value in 1973 as an intern at the Ellis Institute, but with satisfaction for having rediscovered and taken him seriously in 1979 when few in my profession did so. Indeed, none had stepped forward to plan, execute, and publish the peer review research needed to prove or disprove this philosopher's contributions to the study of values. Knowing there was no way I"d be scooped, I proceeded at my own pace to go where no one had gone before, never looked back, and succeeded in establishing the validity of Hartman's contributions which had inspired my search for an approach to values having clinical relevance beyond academic relevance!
Wine, Remembering, and Celebrating:
With a camera in hand and the comfort of a glass of wine, I took satisfaction in having personally published research spanning some twenty-five years as summarized in the pages of The New Science of Axiological Psychology. Research which supports philosopher Hartman's theoretical achievement, mathematical modeling, and value profiling methodology. I want to believe that Hartman and my achievements resemble in many ways the relationship that existed between Charles Darwin and T. H. Huxley; for in some respects, it can be said I have become Hartman's "Bulldog" much as Huxley became Darwin's "Bulldog."
Yes! I mean to compare Robert S. Hartman with Charles Darwin given the scope and importance of Hartman's theoretical achievement. Let's not forget he received a nomination for the Nobel Prize in recognition of what he had done. On the other hand, I don't want to sell myself short! "Bulldog?" Doesn't my publish research supporting Hartman's Theory of Value effectively transform it into a Science of Value in keeping with the role and importance of reason plus empiricism in the history of science and the scientific method?
Towards a Better World:
This new science promises to save natural science from itself and humankind from itself at a time of growing cynicism concerning both! I also took satisfaction in having posted Psychology Today blogs aimed at introducing this new science to the wider world beyond the "Hartman Circle" of pioneers engaged in developing and applying this new science. If this sounds slightly grandiose, blame the wine and my surroundings! Better yet, acknowledge how we have worked hard developing this new approach to values and the normative values we call morals!
I also thought about blogs covering other topics such as my interest in biological medicine long before it became fashionable with advances in molecular biology and genetics. I hoped to have shed some axiological light on psychology and biological light on medicine; the two fields which have held my professional interest for many years as one trained in psychology at Austin and biology at Amherst. As I move about Avignon with my Leica M9 and Digital Canon engaged in street photography and in search of photo-ops, I recalled the blog I wrote entitled Discover Your Self Through Photography.
Photography teaches me to see with sensations. Axiological science teaches me to see with values. Of course they overlap! Neither sensations nor values (i.e., empiricism and reason) are enough to "find" ourselves or "save" us from ourselves. In a formal sense, sensations and values come together with the help of yesterday's "scientific method" and today's "axiological science." We need the reason of minds and the empiricism of sensations. This is consistent with the philosophy of Aristotle and Kant which oppose to the half-smart philosophies of Hume's empiricism and Decartes' reason! It's common sense these days, but this was not always the case. Let this be known to all promoting the new discipline of "Philosophical Counseling" in this century!
In pauses between photo-ops, I also recalled the three dimensions of the physical space I was moving in and how ironic it is that our puppeteer mind, pulling the strings of our puppet brain, is organized around three dimensions of value producing Triaxiomatic Value-Vision. Equally interesting is the fact that my perception of color, captured by cameras, is also organized around three primary dimensions of color called Trichromatic Color-Vision. Finally, I recall the quote from Ecclesiastes 4:12 that reminds us how "a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
As you might expect Triaxiomatic Value-Vision is very different from Trichromatic Color-Vision. It is based on the organization of values and valuations around three dimensions of value referred to as the Feeler (Human-Intrinsic); Doer (Practical-Extrinsic), and Thinker (Principal-Systemic) dimensions of value (During our long march developing the science of values, I have my friends and colleagues Wayne Carpenter (i.e., "Feeler, Doer, Thinker") and Uli Vogel (i.e., "Human, Practical, Principal") to thank for their more intuitive relabeling of Hartman's philosophical terminology (i.e., "Intrinsic, Extrinsic, Systemic").
The descriptive, explanatory, and predictive powers of these dimensions is thoroughly supported and validated by my transparent, peer-reviewed, published research beyond proprietary considerations. The merciful organization of values around three dimensions keeps us from "choking" on values as they grow in number from their "humble" origin in the biology of "protoplasmic irritability." This enables their more effective use meeting the demands of adaptation, survival, and flourishing.
Sitting at a Café, observing people and the mix of Medieval and contemporary surroundings, I recalled how Hartman did not use the mathematics of Factor Analysis I had studied in college to "break out" these core dimensions of value. Instead, he used the mathematics of "set theory" which I never studied in college.
Colonel Frank Forrest, Ph.D. (West Point Graduate) and I often discussed "set theory" at annual meetings of the Hartman Institute. I remember listening to his careful explanation of how it worked and his thoughts concerning the scoring of Hartman's test of values, and how Hartman's theoretical achievements, including the definition of Good, and my empirical research converged to give us the science of values the ancients dreamed about, and the best minds of history had failed to discover.
Frank and I, in agreement with others on our long march, believe axiological science has come along just in time, and that it promises to enrich lives in years to come while improving our ability to organize Good in a world where the organization of evil has stolen the show since the beginning of time.
With all this behind me, and having had enough red wine for the day, I move on! Let it also be known that I am not "crying" because my vacation in France is coming to an end....I’m smiling because it all happened!
© Dr. Leon Pomeroy, Ph.D.
Avignon, France, October 31, 2015
(1) Technical Note: "Transposition" and "Composition" are important because our science of structural values and dynamic valuations can measure them. They are correlated with problems in living just as the sensitivity, balance, order of influence, and plasticity of the three core dimensions of value relate to problems in living. The degree of confusion (i.e., value--vision vs. value-astigmatism vs. value-blindness...to employ the "optical metaphor") concerning them varies among individuals.
Consider the following: In the axiological range of "Compositions" would you value "a good meal" more or less than "a baby?" In the axiological range of "Transpositions" would you value "nonsense" more or less than "a rubbish heap?" How about your ranking of the relative importance of "My working conditions are poor and ruin my work" (i.e., a "Transposition") vs. "I feel at home in the world" (i.e., a "Composition")? Some comparisons are "no brainers," others we struggle with, and still others at the frontier of change in today's society and world pose a real challenge to moral reasoning (e.g., medical ethics), legal reasoning (e.g., supreme court decisions), and so forth.
There are many other examples of "Transpositions" and "Compositions" to plug into our test asking patients or clients to rank a total of nine "Compositions" and nine "Transpositions. This eighteen item test has a pleomorphic "face validity" in response to the linguistic proxies (e.g., "a good meal," etc.) chosen to represent each of the eighteen mathematical formulae forming the basis of the test known as The Hartman Value Profile (HVP). I've used this test in my practice for many years, apart from my published research examining its cross-cultural and biomedical validity; and its use profiling the personalities and clinical status of combat veterans, POWs, patients with different problems in living, students, doctors, substance abusers, and high achievers.
Finally, there are many business entrepreneurs engaged in marketing this test (HVP) to clients on a proprietary basis in many countries throughout the world today; all of which reflects favorably on the validity of our new science of values behind it all. This test of values is important because it is at the tip of a revolution in science which holds many unexplored implications and potential applications. You're likely hearing about it here for the first time because it remains one of the world's best kept secrets at the moment.
p.s. Paris! May your spirits soar !!!
Returning to the US before the tragedy of November 13th, and as a former resident of Manhattan for thirty-three years with vivid memories of 911, I share the sadness of it all. I know that in the end the power of Good & Love in the World will triumph over this new face of Evil & Hate. I trust our developing science of values will make it easier to spot and deal with this and all forms of Evil in years to come!
November 15, 2015