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Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

Why do people do bad things?

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on December 23, 2012

I have often wondered how people do things that seem “bad” and do not even recognize it as something not virtuous. Why do people not hesitate even slightly before doing something that I find “wrong”? I truly believe in the goodness of our original being. Then why does a Virtuous creation do “bad” things? Here’s an attempt to answer that question.

“The effort for self preservation is the first and only foundation of virtue. For prior to this principle nothing can be conceived, and without it no virtue can be conceived…..

….No virtue can be conceived as prior to this endeavor to preserve one’s own being”—–Spinoza, Ethica

If we believe in self preservation being the most important virtue, then it is not difficult to see how “bad” can be virtuous. What allows this contradiction to exist is the way in which we human beings have expanded the definition of “Self”. In an ideal world “Self” would mean the collection of body,mind and soul. In the real world “Self” includes another parameter which we shall label as “Ego”.

Proposition 1: People only do Virtuous things. We are innately Virtuous.

Proposition 2: Virtuous actions are Good

Enquiry: Why do People do Bad Things?


Virtue= Self Preservation

In Ideal World, True Self = Body+Mind+Soul (All factors are independent of what lies outside an individual)

In Real World, False Self = Body+Mind+Soul+Ego

Ego adds a 4th Dimension that introduces the influence of the external world into the “Self”. Self-preservation is no longer the survival of only the body, mind and soul but it is now the survival of a false image of the self which is a reflection of how the world around us views us.When we untertake actions that work towards the preservation of this “False Self”, we lose sight and understanding of Virtue.

Nature has trained our minds to instinctly recognize that whatever we do to preserve ourselves is Virtuous. Hence what we do to preserve ourselves must necessarily be good. Hence preservation of the self is a virtue and hence any action undertaken to ensure this is good. But this applies only when Self = True Self.

When Self=False Self, we are tricked into believing that what we our doing to preserve this “False Self” is virtuous. And hence we do not question the nature of our actions that preserve this “False Self”. We continue doing bad things without any guilt because we are tricked into believing that since they are preserving our “Self” they must be virtuous and hence good.

Therefore, in the real world, virtuous actions can be bad, because self preservation is actually the preservation of the “False Self”. People do not regard a bad action as evil because that action of theirs is preserving their “False Self” and hence they do not hesitate before doing such things. Their brains are tricked into thinking that the preservation of this “False Self” is a Virtue.

To rid our world of this “Bad”, we will have to be able to differentiate the “True Self” from the “False Self”. Once this is achieved, we will only be concerned with preserving the “True Self” and since this is a real virtue, all actions emanating from it will be good.

As always, comments welcomed.

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Part 2- Humility Is Not A Virtue:Spinoza

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on October 16, 2012

“Humility is a sadness which arises from the fact that a man considers his own lack of power.Moreover, insofar a man knows himself by true reason, it is supposed that he understands his own essence,his own power. So if a man,in considering himself, perceives some lack of power of his,this is not because he understands himself but because his power of acting is restrained.

Humility is pain arising from a man’s contemplation of his own weakness of body or mind.”

-Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics

In an earlier post of mine, I used this proposition to explore the differences between western and eastern philosophy and attempt discovering the reasons behind their varied approaches. Today, I wish to delve into the reasoning behind this proposition. It is one that challenges a belief I have held on to for a long time and to encounter a theory that labels one of my traits as a “pain” and weakness can be quite disturbing. Unfortunately, Spinoza does not expand on his statement and leaves a lot of the interpretation to the readers.

From where I sit, if I look towards the East I see cultures that have forever celebrated humility and exhibit it in their daily interactions, both personal and professional. If I look towards the West, I observe behavior that exudes extravagance, outspokenness and unbridled confidence. And both are doing just fine. The more I analyze Spinoza’s words, the more I come across logical evidence that supports, as well as negates his argument. It truly is one of the few propositions of his that have been highly influenced by the environment in which he grew up. I am sure if Spinoza was in 17th century India or Cambodia, his views about “humility” would have been quite the opposite.

So at this very moment, and on this very issue, I will lean towards the East and beg to differ with one of my favorite philosophers. Maybe its the ego in me, but I would like to attribute my humility to a spiritually guided thought than to a weakness of body and mind.

Which side are you on?

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »


Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 22, 2012

The opening page of Spinoza's magnum opus, Ethics

The opening page of Spinoza’s magnum opus, Ethics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Every Science begins as Philosophy and ends as Art, it arises in hypothesis and flows into achievement”- Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy

The key to innovation could not have been put in a more succinct manner. Compare this to one of the most successful consulting strategies in the world and you realize how hypothesis driven problem solving techniques yield better and faster solutions. Time to quote another one of my favorite thinkers, Spinoza. “…the motion and rest of the body must arise from another body, which has also been determined to motion or rest by another..”-Ethics

Spinoza was laying down his propositions for defining existence, body and mind. But if you apply the same postulate to science you find a relation with Newton’s First Law, that of Inertia.

The more one explores, the more one observes the symbiotic relationship that exists between philosophy, science, art and business. Exploring all dimensions can yield miraculous discoveries.Not surprisingly, the best discoveries and inventions have been realized by individuals who conducted research in multiple disciplines.

Posted in Management Consulting, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Humility Is Not A Virtue:Spinoza

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 19, 2012

“Humility is a sadness which arises from the fact that a man considers his own lack of power.Moreover, insofar a man knows himself by true reason, it is supposed that he understands his own essence,his own power. So if a man,in considering himself, perceives some lack of power of his,this is not because he understands himself but because his power of acting is restrained.

-Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics

Not surprisingly, this has been a prevalent thought in Western Philosophy and a key tenet that differentiates it from Eastern thought. While the Athenians, Stoics, Epicureans and others treated man as part of a society and framed definitions inspired by man’s interaction with his external surroundings viz. the state, fellow humans et al., Eastern philosophy focused on the individuality of a man, his struggles with his inner beings, the divinity that lay within him.

So why the two different approaches? One possible explanation could be that while the Athenians were struggling to find the answer to a Utopian form of state, the East may have already figured out the best form of governance. The East was already beyond the struggles of community living and had now reached a level of spirituality where the biggest struggle for a man was against the forces within and not without.

Posted in Management Consulting, Philosophy, Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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