Thursday, October 11, 2012

Consistent inconsistencies

‘Why everyone else is a hypocrite’, with else prominently popping up, indicts the reader as the veritable point of reference. No offence therein because being ignorant, wrong, irrational and hypocritical can make one feel better off than being knowledgeable, correct, reasonable and consistent. No wonder, there are any number of people around us who died famous, wealthy, and wrong.

Teasing and amusing at the same time, ‘Why everyone else is a hypocrite’ is about mutually inconsistent contradictions in human brains. Using principles of evolutionary psychology, Robert Kurzban has cleverly confirmed the Greek definition of hypocrite as someone who ‘pretends to be better than he really is, virtuous without really being so.’ And there are reasons for people to have double take on matters because they desire to have the best of both worlds.

Mind is wired to generate behavioral inconsistencies. Explaining the functioning of modular mind through evolution, Kurzban reveals that the mind generates contradictory beliefs, vacillating behaviors and inflated egos at the same time. Our modular minds didn't evolve for consistency, but for patchwork multitasking such that at any given time we should think of ourselves not as ‘I’ but as ‘we’ – a set of interacting systems that are in constant conflict.

This might be one reason that politicians appear to be such hypocrites. In reality, however, politicians may not actually be much more hypocritical than the rest of us. It is just that the rest of us skate by without anyone noticing. Politicians, on the other hand, have to offer genuine sounding rationalization to wriggle out of it. For them, the ultimate rationalization is the phrase, ‘I just couldn't help myself.’

Loaded with humorous anecdotes, this book is an attempt to explain why we act the way we act, and, perhaps partly in our defense, to show that if we are wrong a lot, well, being right isn't everything. Explaining varied implications of our consistent minds, Robert Kurzban reveals why it is perfectly natural to believe that everyone else (including you yourself) is a hypocrite and will continue to be so whether or not anyone likes it....Link

Why everyone else is a hypocrite
by Robert Kurzban
Princeton University Press, New Jersey
274 pages, US $ 17.34

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