What are religious experiences and whence do they arise? I raise the question because certain observations seem to challenge the adjective “religious” as being produced by spirit forces outside oneself. Here are the first two observations:
If God is spirit (John 4:24), then God is not an entity existing in space and time, as we human beings do. We humans are existents, bound in space and time during our brief lives. God, on the other hand, appears to be nothing more than a concept, an invention of the human imagination, whose nature and character changes with each religious group and/or individual. Hence, it appears that God, however conceived, has no independent being, which exactly corresponds to any of those ideations of the human mind.
The rationale for this surprising statement is self-evident when viewed from the perspective of the history of world religions. Each religion (and there have been a lot of religions through human history) conceives God differently, yet the adherents of this or that religion believe that God is exactly like what they conceive. In short, they believe their view is the only accurate and true view that captures the essence of God. But, alas, different understandings of God do exist in other religions and the adherents of these other religions likewise think that their understanding of God is exactly how God is.1
Here is the third observation:
Spirit may still be “tangible,” however; depending on how it is conceived. If spirit is conceived as an entity that takes up space, like visible steam from a tea kettle, or the nearly invisible vapor arising from a heated substance, or the taste left in the rum cake when the “spirits” have evaporated, then it is tangible. If spirit is not left-over taste, or vaporous mist—or something barely visible to the naked eye; that is, if spirit does not leave an image on the retina of the eye, what is it?
I would suppose that God, as intangible spirit, is likely a denizen of a parallel spirit(ual) universe, a complex that does not occupy space and time. In this case, God is not part of the physical universe, but “over there” in the spirit(ual) universe, along with other invisible spirits (good, evil, and unclean), demons, devils, Satan, and other spiritual forces, such as angels, the Prince of the Power of the Air (Eph 2:2), the Principalities and Powers in heavenly places (Eph 3:10), the world rulers of the present darkness (Eph 6:12), the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Eph 6:12), angels, principalities, powers (Romans 8:38), etc.,2 and including the myriads of other spirits humankind has invented through time.
I boil these three lengthy observations down into three propositions: (1) God, if God there be, does not occupy space and time and (2) is not part of our universe; (3) our human inability to access God directly renders any description of God completely subjective and idiosyncratic.
If these propositions have any merit, then what we think of as a “religious” experience is simply a human response to a perceived “attraction” from a putative spirit world,3 and the “substance” of our religious experiences is all of our own making; it arises from within an individual and is formed by human experience; that is, it derives from what we have been taught by others, from our personal reading, from social conditioning, and the like. In other words, we humans create at a subliminal level “religious” experiences for ourselves out of our personal experiences.
William James, in his Varieties of Religious Experience. A Study in Human Nature, examines religious experiences by beginning with individuals who claim to have had such experiences. He examines “the feelings, acts and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.”4 For an experience to qualify as religious, James cites three criteria: it must reflect religious luminousness, philosophical reasonableness, and moral helpfulness. He finds that the essence of religion is human feeling “characterized as a zest for life” coupled with a sense that there is something wrong with us that requires a solution whereby we can be saved from wrongness by connecting with higher power. There are two types of religious psyches: the healthy minded who are unburdened by a sense of sin, and the sick souls who are burdened with a sense of sin. Conversion occurs for the latter person, whereby the divided and unhappy self becomes unified and happy. James has been criticized for relying too closely on liberal-Protestant sources and citing insufficient non-Christian anecdotes. This brief statement of the analysis of religious experience sounds very similar to what I stated in the preceding paragraph.
I realize that many will object that I have gone off the deep end by claiming that spirits, Holy or otherwise, are not found in our universe. Spirits, however, like God, can only be analyzed indirectly through the anecdotal claims of human beings who claim to have experienced them. Our inability to examine spirits directly renders any attempt to describe them completely subjective and idiosyncratic. In short, the evidence for spirits, Holy or otherwise, derives from the psychological makeup of the human beings who claim to have experienced them.
Something to think about!
Missouri State University
1Hedrick, “God Does not Exist” pp. 168-70 in Unmasking Biblical Faiths, 168.
2Hedrick, “From Where does a Sense of the Divine Come,” pp. 170-72 in Unmasking, 170.
3Hedrick, Matter and Spirit: Making Sense of it All,” pp. 174-177 in Unmasking, 176-77.
4Varieties of Religious Experience. A Study in Human Nature (New York: Longmans, Green and company, 1905). I am following a review of the book by Tim Knepper: http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/relexp/reviews/review_james01.htm
I request all readers to refer to my postings in your previous blog where I suggest that the spiritual dynamics of the ancients are the equivalent of the psychological dynamics of this era, and that psycho/social behaviors like genuineness and empathy are the equivalent of the ancients' living by the holy spirit.
No one gave an opinion previously but I an really interested in what others might think.
Gene, I've never read any personal accounts that the ancients lived by the holy spirit... Their writings were idealogical with no practical examples. Personal diaries didn't exist sadly so all I have to go by are Paul's platitudes and the psalmists's poetic piety. People back then did not share personal experiences. Would be nice if that were the case because that's how we learn- from other people's anecdotal and personal challenges... And how they overcame them.
The small amount of responses to this blog are a reflection of its author. Did you look at the footnotes? Just a bunch of re-hashed old blog entries, no new thoughtful insights or perspectives. Charlie goes round and round with the idea "God doesn't exist" because subjective experiences are anecdotal and cannot be examined directly. But he offers no credible explanation as to why they cannot be analyzed directly.
Only tangible things are found in this universe. Really? We cannot examine anything subjective or idiosyncratic. Does Charlie have a mind? Does his mind occupy space and time? Is it tangible? The use of Charlie's mind and feelings and emotions is anecdotal and subjective. Does that make them inferior and useless and a waste of energy?
The Bible is 100% subjective and anecdotally written. Yet it somehow attracts the attention of academically trained minds. Wonder why that is. Elizabeth
Elizabeth, I did not speak specifically enough. By the "ancients" I meant the Pauline Christian communities who believed that "for freedom they were set free (from the legal demands of Torah)" to live Christ's gift of the "fruits of the spirit." (.e.g., Galatians 5)
I don't agree with your assessment of Charlie's writing efforts, and I enjoy the challenges he presents. But I do find that most scholars aren't flexible about what I call "extreme rationality."
My opinion is that a constructive approach for my learning would be an open-minded dialogue between you and Charlie on one specific subject you might choose.
PS: It's not just me who has noticed a different tenor here at the blog, my husband who was a student of Charlie's from the late 80's has commented upon certain attitudes that weren't present during the time of his association with his respected professor. I've shared blog entries with him from previous posts, and my husband particularly noticed a different side to Dr. Hedrick in the political ones, and was very surprised by what he read. He said "That's nothing like the Dr. Hedrick I knew."
Yes, I see what you're getting at Gene but for me it's such a slippery slope when it comes to Christianity. These lovely "fruit of the spirit" communities gave birth to a horrible intolerance of what they condemned to be "Jesus killers," meaning every last Jewish man woman and child. The "Law" of which the Psalms extols as being the word of God and giver of life and wisdom... Suddenly Paul the bad tempered bully proclaims it to be a heavy burden and noose around the neck. So for me- I just don't buy into the idea that the fruit of the spirit is any better than Torah observance. That's just my personal take. Others sea it differently.
Unless I can be corrected, I do see Christianity as a very cruel and harsh religion compared to Torah observant Judaism. Christians use their scriptures as weapons to harm innocent Jews and even fellow Christians who are seen as heretics. I know of no Jewish heretic being burned at the stake. Yes, they did have animal sacrifices but ho human sacrifice as that practice was forbidden. Which is why Jews are horrified at the crucifixion of Jesus since no righteous man can atone for the sin of an unrighteous one. (can't think the exact reference just now) If there were no Christians, there would have been no Kristallnact and no Holocaust. The writings of early Christians about Jews cannot be swept under the rug and left out of the Christian "fruit of the spirit" legacy.
I guess it's just hard for me to evaluate the fruit of the spirit aside from the horrific treatment of the Jewish people at the hands of many of Christ's followers. The empathy you describe in your original question is not found in Christianity in my opinion. I find most Christians to be intolerant, cruel, and in many ways heartless. But not all.
I ddi not learn the virtue of empathy, kindness, compassion, genuineness, or any authentic behavior from a Christian. I learned it elsewhere. Where did you learn these traits? Elizabeth
Elizabeth, I congratulate you that you have found a home in Torah observant Judaism. I've no personal experience from within that community, but my 25yr mentor and psychologist colleague and his family are Conservative Jews. There, of course, is no defense of the actions of the Christian Church across centuries of persecution and murder of those of Jewish heritage.
I grew up in a conservative Christian home (Evangelical United Brethren). No prejudice against Jews was expressed there. A number of my school friends were Jewish. The virtues you speak of in your last paragraph were initially encountered in some form in my home. They were further honed in some respects through my Seminary studies and pastoral experience, and in my psychologist training I was persuaded by Carl Rogers' Client Centered Counseling Theory that they were the most effective way to relate to clients. Of course, such things cannot be faked; there must be a natural base in the heart for their expression.
I’ve heard the phrase “religious experience” most often to describe happenings in sports or music by those who are devoted to a group or person and experience the extraordinary on field or stage, whether as a spectator or participant. It seems to have entered the secular world as an action that transcends normal prowess. These are, or have become, “religious experiences” that don’t rely on the supernatural... The “rule book” has changed; the players control their own movements.
Incidentally, I find Wm. James’ statements only relevant to Christianity and the odious Pauline/Augustinian canard that all are sinners and “Original Sin,” respectively.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Genuineness & empathy are character traits, two of many positive values of a civilized society, whether religious or secular. “Tribes” have the need of civility in order to hold the group together, giving it strength. I’d personally not consider them as “holy,” per se, but they are part of the “whole” of a healthy society, well documented in antiquity, in histories, autobiographies/biographies, orations, discourses, drama and letters. They are even found in the Bible and in later texts like Sirach,, though I wouldn’t use “Paul” as the “poster boy.” The basis for Pauline thought about “sin” is an odd and deformed interpretation of the Eden fable (Romans 2-8).
Dennis Dean Carpenter
When I wrote "Bible," I meant the Jewish canon, not the Jewish canon plus the Christian "testament"... I see them as two separate entities.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Hi Dennis, we agree that genuineness, empathy, etc. are character traits and part of the "whole" of a healthy society, and well-documented. I think that most personalities have the capacity to manifest these traits if rightly stimulated by those whom the individual respects. The Pauline communities thought that replacing legal demands with the inspiration of behaviors for which there is no law was the right way to go. (Galatians 5:22-23) I think that the biggest problem was the expectation of a second coming because that put pressure of the communities to be inward looking rather than society transforming.
Jesus also doesn't seem to have been a legalist but perhaps persuasionist would be a good word: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; Do grapes and figs come from thorns and thistles? Why do you see the sliver in your neighbor's eye, and not the timber in your own?, etc.
There is also this really interesting interpretation, in the gospel tradition, of giving up reliance on legal demands: 1. "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence (spirit fighting to replace law), and the violent (spirit filled) take it by force (ignoring/breaking the law)." (Matt 11:12, NRSV). 2. The law and prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. (Luke 16:16, NRSV).
Gene, Jesus was indeed a persuader and not a legalist. I have nothing against his teachings or lifestyle and do not hold Jesus in any way responsible for the actions of those who harmed their Jewish brethren. That had nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus- I don't for one minute believe he spoke those infamous words about the Jews being the children of the devil (Jn. 8:44) The communities and churches that arose after Jesus's death took the "fruit of the spirit" idea and turned it into commandments and behavioral rules. Again, I don't hold Jesus responsible for that.
Orthodox Jews do not follow legal demands but obey the Word of God... As Christians are called to do as well... Both groups believe in their heart they are "obeying God's Word and God's commandments," each according to their scriptural texts. I don't think there's a Christian out there who says it's ok not to follow the Word of God or to disobey his commandments. Naturally, many Christians pride themselves upon going BEYOND these legal requirements of obedience to God's Word- and look down their noses at their Jewish counterparts whom they accuse of being "tethered to the Law." This was how Judaism was taught to me in school and church.
No, my teachers were not anti-semitic in the legal sense of the term. But I heard over and over that the Jews "had scales over their eyes," "the Jews hearts have been hardened to the Gospel," and "the Jews rejected the Messiah" which is why they were destined for hell. In the very same breath, however, these teachers would say "Oh but we LOVE the Jewish people... We want them to be saved from hell!! Look how loving and gracious we are to them, we're trying to save their souls." Very confusing and very hurtful to Jewish people.
One of the ways I learned the true practice of empathy was the experience of suffering in my own life. Suffering can be quite a powerful teacher. I learned to see things from a different person's perspective. Instead of judging rabbis and orthodox Jews, I started listening to them. And I learned quite a bit. I am forever grateful for their wisdom and their generosity and their forbearance. They do indeed have the truth on their side.
Yes I still identify as a Christian, always will. If it weren't for Jesus, who would have reached out to non Jews and shared the word of God with them? One criticism I have with Judaism is there's no interest in reaching non Jews. Jesus changed that. I will always and forever be a Christian- maybe some of my beliefs and views are unorthodox, but I don't go around announcing them to people. I meet people on their own level and connect in whatever way is compatible with their present state of mind.
Hope that makes sense, Elizabeth
Gal. 5.16-26 (not just vss. 22-23) is an example of Greco-Roman lists of virtues and vices, a widely used persuasive technique. Technically, Galatians comes across as protrepsis, in which the author is trying to convince a group his is the superior way. This was a purpose of lists. In this one, “flesh” is associated with “desire,” which in a Greco-Roman world (of the “superior” man) gave it a negative connotation. The list of behaviors linked disqualify and also are, in typical fashion for the Paulines, linked with “works” and “law,” repeated almost incessantly, associating them negatively with Judaism. Then he throws out a short list of what he considers mutually exclusive alternatives that are positive. This is, in this case, persuasion through disjuncture. It is a technique that other “letter” writers and writers of orations and discourses used. (Dio Chrysostom, Pseudo-Crates, Cicero, Demonsthenes, etc.) A modern example might be a TV PSA about health or political ad. I wouldn’t use it as a basis for a religious community, merely a civil society. Those are Stoic and Cynic virtues found in those days.
Of course, the Paulines do include, along with lists (vices/virtues, hardships) and examples (personal, from contentious people, sexually immoral people & examples from scripture), the rules of the author. For instance, any “Pauline communities” with 1 Cor. (which was written to everyone everywhere) was on the whole a handbook of church rules, with lists, personal examples, and even an exhortation for his group to “imitate” him. In the Galatian example, he closely contrasts honorable traits with dishonorable ones.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Hi Dennis, I don't disagree with your analysis. My interest is the experiential differences associated with the power of "legal" authority and the compelling power of "spirit" behaviors against which there are no laws.
Gene, to what church are you referring when you say legal authority? Do you mean a Christian church or a Jewish synagogue? The only legal authority that comes to mind for me are the Pharisees and maybe the Church of England... But I do think those institutions have progressed into modern ideology these days. I don't personally know of any church/synagogue who utilizes legal authority to compel righteous behavior.
However, I do know of many, many churches that compel and preach obedience to the Word of God. That is definitely present in fundamentalist and Evnagelical churches. (Catholic church is a different animal) I mean yes, there is persuasion used, but also a strong bent on strict obedience to the Word of God. "Faith without works is empty," etc. Were you taught to be obedient to God's Word?
Do you see any correlation between the doctrine of obedience and the power of legal authority? In other words, is there any connection or are they two completely different concepts? Thank you, Elizabeth
Hi Elizabeth, I'm not referring to any church. I'm talking about outer and inner authority. I'm talking about personal motivation. Is one motivated primarily by what an authority says (person, book, organization, etc.) or is one motivated primarily by experience of the interpersonal worth of a behavior.
Yes that is an interesting question, Gene, when you put it like that. I would say that the vast majority of people have no idea what motivates them because they are not consciously choosing their behavior. They act and react unconsciously. In other words, they're on auto-pilot.
No one can say with any degree of certainty what motivates our behavior because we don't stop to think beforehand. But something I do recognize in myself and in others is this- pain. We will always choose the less painful option, even if it's destructive like drugs or alcohol. We will move away from something we see as being painful and we move towards anything that is seen as more pleasant or pleasurable.
Away from pain- towards pleasure. (Pleasure isn't always immoral, there are healthy pleasures) That's the only motivation that has ever made any sense to me- the legal authority stuff is just a "crock" in my opinion. If anyone purports to be a follower of the law- the real reason is that not following the law is a less painful option... but all of this is decided upon so quickly that the person is not even conscious they're doing it. Elizabeth
Hi Elizabeth, I agree with your pleasure/pain motivation analysis. The argument in philosophy classes was always should one shoot for the greatest GOOD or the greatest NUMBER.
The issue for me would be which personal pleasures bring about the greatest advancement for human culture. I vote for the fruits of the Spirit of the early Christian community, without the hindrance of a second coming expectation, and for the interpersonal skills associated with contemporary psychology research: genuineness, empathy, etc.
with respect to the pleasure/pain motivation: what do you do with a soldier in a foxhole who throws himself on a hand grenade to save the rest of his buddies? Or other soldiers who at the command of charge run forward into the withering fire of the enemy. Or a mother who is a poor swimmer jumping into deep water when she sees her child in trouble. Or firemen who rush into the fire at the risk of his/her own life, etc.? I am sure that you can add more examples to the few I have mentioned.
Are you saying that seeing your buddies die in a foxhole is the LESS painful option? Wouldn't it be MORE painful to see your buddy die?
Are you saying that seeing the withering fire of the enemy advance into your own territory and kill your fellow combat men- is that the LESS painful option? Wouldn't be it more painful to see your brothers in arms sliced to bits?
Are you saying that a mother would find it LESS painful to see her child die of drowning? Wouldn't it be more painful to watch him lose his life than her own?
Perhaps.... if one is a completely self-centered person, that would be the less painful option. Depends on your definition of pain. Elizabeth
It's always a recommended practice to check one's definitions before jumping into the discussion at hand. Pain doesn't necessarily refer to physical pain and pleasure doesn't mean satisfying fleshly appetites. As Gene stated, it gives some people pleasure to serve and benefit their fellow man... even if it's at the expense of one's physical well being.
Hi Charlie, perhaps "pleasure" must be understood broadly.. In each case the goal was to "save fellow soldiers," "save the child," "save property and lives." I don't think they primarily made a choice for pain or danger but primarily for saving life, which in the broadest sense of the word would include pleasure or feeling positive about optimal behavior.
Reactions to emergencies trigger responses originating in the autonomic nervous system. They aren’t triggered by thoughts of the betterment of civilization but by “danger signals,” which include heart rate, muscular activity, and hormones “cut loose” by the hypothalamus to the pituitary to the thyroid, which makes more energy available. There isn’t time to “think” about the situation. One just reacts, as do other organisms when danger is present. While one might choose a career that puts one in danger because of a need to better humanity, actions under emergency situations are not "thought out."
Dennis Dean Carpenter
I agree with Dennis. The people in my examples acted on the spur of the moment. If there were time to ponder the situation their actions might have been different. But as I tried to set it up, thee was only time to act not think. In my view these examples challenge the pain/pleasure principle, at least as you are applying it. If they do not, please tell me how it is possible to falsify the pain/pleasure principle.
The above posts are speaking about instinct. Some people's natural instinct is to run away from danger and allow the suffering of another human being to take place. Other people have a different in-born instinct. Why do different people have different instincts and different impulses when confronted with danger? That answer is above my pay grade.... other than to say it gives some people pleasure to sacrifice their own well being in order to benefit their fellow man. Why does that require a bunch of thought and planning? If one has an instinct to rescue another soul from danger- why wouldn't it give them satisfaction or pleasure? Elizabeth
Upon further reflection, one could reasonably conclude this about "instinct:" If one gains a certain degree of pleasure or satisfaction from being self absorbed, self centered, selfishly oriented- then naturally their instinct would be to run away from danger and leave behind their loved one to die. In other words, their instinct would be to avoid personal pain at any and all costs. Someone else on the other hand gains satisfaction or pleasure from helping others... so their instinct in an emergency would be to rescue the individual at all costs because it would be MUCH more painful to stand by and do nothing. In other words, it would cause them MORE pain to see their fellow human suffer. Selfish people are not capable of having or even understanding that kind of instinct in dangerous situations.
Psychological stress (caused by such as one’s job, money, interpersonal relationships, health, etc.) is not the same as an emergency response (in onset, intensity or duration) and is confronted in a more predictable manner with, depending on learning and the culture using the culture in which I live, adaptive behaviors (like exercise, group involvement, meditation, “time off,” etc.), maladaptive behaviors (overeating, overdrinking, hypertension, some forms of eczema, as well as psychosomatic disorders), or a combination of these. We indulge in behaviors, some consciously and some unconsciously, to cope with constant effects of stressors. I don’t really look at pleasure and pain as anything but responses one has toward a stimulus.(S-O-R relationships.)
Pleasure and pain are facets of existence. The Stoics considered pleasure, pain, desire and fear as the four emotions which, because they can become “passions,” one should avoid because they were based on false ideas about reality that overwhelmed “right thinking.” Seneca added “anger” to these (Wilson, The Greatest Empire, p.93).
Dennis Dean Carpenter
For almost 50 years I've lived on a relatively busy corner about two blocks from the local high school and YMCA. I often tried to live out in imagination how I would react in the split second that one of my own children or another child might run out in front of a car. I think most parents do that kind of self-analysis, and it's hard to imagine that soldiers and firemen wouldn't do the same regarding job dangers. So I think that there's some pre-conditioned choice even in these extreme situations and that we are not total slaves to the autonomic nervous system.
In my own imaginings I am probably a coward, extending the definition of pleasure to personal safety at all costs. One who would throw him/herself in front of a car to try to save the child would be expanding the definition of pleasure to include heroic endangerment.
Dennis is right- pleasure/pain are instinctive responses that arise on an unconscious primal level before thinking takes place. We then use our thought and intellect to justify whatever actions are taken to avoid pain and satisfy pleasure. ("Satisfaction" can be used in place of pleasure... Pleasure has an immoral connotation to it for some reason). People use thought and intellect to justify their behavior after the fact. Elizabeth
Terms are important. I wasn’t speaking of “instinct.” Technically, Instinct is not a useful term. Defined psychologically, an instinct was considered an “unlearned behavior patterns that appear in the same form in every member of the species at a certain point in its development” (Zimbardo, Psychology and Life, p.180. Unfortunately for those who pushed that idea, behaviorists showed that these behavior patterns are learned and can be modified. Furthermore, anthropologists (like Margaret Mead ) pointed out that “instincts” vary from culture to culture. Simply put, instincts are learned behaviors that vary from group to group. We act “instinctively” because we have learned the action.
Pain & pleasure aren’t observable behaviors, per se. Pain is a body’s reaction to harmful stimuli. Pleasure is a reaction to pleasing stimuli. In both endorphins (neurotransmitters) are triggered. How one expresses pain or pleasure constitutes the behavior. And this varies from group to group, person to person.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
That is true, the programmed/conditioned actions are taken to avoid the experience of pain and fulfill the experience of pleasure or satisfaction. The social conditioning becomes so ingrained that it is instinctual. In other words, the individual reacts unconsciously and automatically according to their instinct- regardless of Dennis's preference for the term.
Yes individuals define pleasure and pain very differently. "One mans trash is another mans treasure ; One mans pain is another mans pleasure." We avoid the pain and seek the pleasure- in whatever way those EXPERIENCES are defined by the individual.
NO ONE here has defined the term pain or pleasure as a behavior.
A "response" is defined as a behavior in reaction to a stimulus. That's what the "R" in S-R(Stimulus-Response)means when studying behavior. ( That was in response to "pleasure/pain are instinctive responses" and the last sentence of the post above.)
One can't "ingrain" what is defined in dictionaries as "innate" (instinct), by definition. Innate means "already there at birth."
Dennis Dean Carpenter
A response is not always defined as a behavior. The dictionary doesn't mention inner and outer responses? The inner emotional response can lead to the behavior. People have emotional responses, behavioral responses, mental responses, verbal responses. Action is subsequently taken as a result of an emotional response. Repetitive emotional and behavioral responses become ingrained, instinctual, reactionary... And happen unconsciously. People will react so quickly they don't even remember saying or doing something after the fact. This is the result of conditioning and repetition for years and years and years. That's why it's so hard to change certain ingrained behaviors. I'm using the term ingrained as being the result of repetitive and unconscious responses and reactions. Doesn't matter whether it was there at birth. But split some more hairs and dissect away "instinct" "ingrained" to the heart's content.
Bottom line, people behave in ways to avoid pain and fulfill pleasure however those experiences are defined. And responses to painful and pleasurable stimuli can be behavioral, emotional, verbal, mental, physical.... There are endless ways to respond.
Elizabeth, you were the one who said above, “It's always a recommended practice to check one's definitions before jumping into the discussion at hand.” I agree that it is important to know the professional meanings and etymologies of words before using them to try to make a point that concerns the discipline. Since you are using the terms, I am just providing definitions of terminology, as we use them in the field of learning. If you want to use technical terms in a different way, that is your prerogative. It totally negates your position about "checking one's definitions." That is moot.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Then it would be helpful to explain how your outdated definition of "instinct" in any way applies to a comment I made to Gene back on August 14: "No one can say with any degree of certainty what motivates our behavior because we don't stop to think beforehand. But something I do recognize in myself and in others is this- pain. We will always choose the less painful option, even if it's destructive like drugs or alcohol. We will move away from something we see as being painful and we move towards anything that is seen as more pleasant or pleasurable." Charlie jumped in and wrongly interpreted the word "pain" to mean physical pain instead of emotional pain. Naturally Dennis had to jump into the chili bowl with a dissertation on "instinct" which wasted time. Why waste so much time about a definition of instinct? What on earth does that have to do with avoiding pain or seeking pleasure? Dude, we get it. You don't like the idea that people behave in ways to avoid pain/pursue pleasure. That general idea is offensive to Charlie and Dennis's intellect for some reason which neither can articulate. Hence the war on "instinct."
August 16: "I don’t really look at pleasure and pain as anything but RESPONSES one has toward a stimulus.(S-O-R relationships.)"
Then August 17: "Pain & pleasure aren’t observable BEHAVIORS, per se. Pain is a body’s reaction to harmful stimuli. Pleasure is a reaction to pleasing stimuli. In both endorphins (neurotransmitters) are triggered. How one expresses pain or pleasure constitutes the behavior."
August 18: "A 'RESPONSE' is defined as a BEHAVIOR in reaction to a stimulus."
Pain/pleasure are responses but not observable behaviors. Yet for some reason a response is defined as a behavior. If that's supposed to make sense, we'll take your word for it.
Gene, I think you probably already know this but I am a fifty year old housewife and I do not have a college degree. My husband has a Master's degree and always spoke very highly of Dr. Hedrick. He told me some very interesting theories about the highly enlightening research Dr. Hedrick was conducting in the late 80's with regard to "Jesus statements," or something to that effect.. I just remember him telling me that Dr. Hedrick was part of a group of scholars who were conducting a seminar to determine which statements in the Gospel were indeed attributable to Jesus and which ones were church tradition. I had never heard of such a thing coming from a fundamentalist family who were seduced into joining a cult and swindled out of a substantial sums of money... My ears perked up when he spoke of a respected professional who challenged the inerrancy of "God's Word."
Just want point out the the "pain/pleasure" so-called "principle" is merely an observation I've made over the years... No it's not provable or falsifiable in any way. I don't feel the need for anyone to draw conclusions from it- just subjective analysis on my part. Never intended for scholars or higher academia to draw conclusions from my limited experience and historical reference.
All that to say, I was getting a lot out hearing your perspective and point of view. I assumed it was painfully obvious to everyone in this blogosphere that i'm NOT a scholar and am NOT qualified in any way to make scientific judgments or conclusions. I was set back on my heels, but wanted you to know it was nothing personal against you and hope that our discussion was held in favorable regard.
Listening and learning will never go out of style, so keep being a good listener. You never know who may be strengthened and encouraged by it. Elizabeth
A comment on your August 16 and 17 comments:
Pain and pleasure, when one is contemplating one's potential actions, become ends or goals, it would seem to me. One reflects on two possible outcomes one of which leads to a pleasurable outcome and the other to a painful outcome. One then chooses to avoid the painful outcome (whether physical or emotional)and take the least "painful" course of action. Is that not the case?
When one does not contemplate one's actions, and acts on the spur of the moment without thinking or considering that the result will be a painful outcome or a pleasurable outcome, what do you call that?
Just because one "contemplates" before taking action does not mean they know what the outcome will be... You are taking into account all kinds of variables and data to consider, which are endless. You can continue to contemplate forever weighing pros and cons... At some point you stop contemplating and considering the possibilities and make a snap decision.
There's really no way of knowing how one comes to a final decision to take action. You can say you contemplated it beforehand, but that's not proof of any real reason why you took the action.... other than you finally stopped considering everything and made a snap choice.
Thinking/considering/contemplating have nothing to do with why we avoid pain and move towards something pleasing. These motivations take place at a subconscious level where reason cannot penetrate. People identified with their intellect have a difficult time grasping the role of the subconscious aspect of the mind. That's why they sometimes choose things that will lead to painful outcomes and have no idea why they did so- their intentions have no power.
The subconscious mind does not reason- it associates. It will associate certain things with pain and certain things with pleasure. There's no reason involved. That is why it's so hard to get people to change certain behaviors that lead to painful outcomes. And the subconscious mind has a much bigger role in your actions and behavior than you would like to realize, very few people do. Elizabeth
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