Justifying the Justification

In our exploration of counterfactuals, we explored regrets and the principle of explosion, and how I think they could effect human behavior. In this post, we’re going to explore knowledge, and how its requirement for justification may alter human psyche.

Overlooking for a moment the complications posed by Gettier problems, philosophy has essentially continued to operate on the principle that knowledge is justified true belief. The obvious question that this definition entails is how one can know whether one’s justification is sound. One must therefore provide a justification for the justification. That justification itself requires justification, and the questioning continues interminably.

The conclusion is that no one can truly have knowledge of anything, since it is, due to this infinite regression, impossible to satisfy the justification element. In practice, this has caused little concern to philosophers, since the demarcation between a reasonably exhaustive investigation and superfluous investigation is usually clear.

How does this effect human behavior? In what areas do we seek justification? Performance, looks, or any number of other things.

If you were obsessed with looking good, you may seek the opinion of others. You may stare in the mirror. Even if you think you look good and others say you look good, they could be wrong. You could be wrong. So if you seek knowledge of your good looks, you may never be satisfied with your justification. And if you’re never satisfied with the justification, you may never be satisfied with your looks.

There is undoubtedly always room for skepticism. If there is an infinite regress in the justification, where do you draw the line? When do you accept the justification?

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology


The Karate Kid Phenomenon

I recently saw a portion of the Karate Kid on TV, and I couldn’t help but think: I don’t remember all of these people being so young. Last time I saw this, I looked up to the main character. Now he seems like a child. 

Obviously, it has probably been at least a decade since I’ve seen the movie. But what phenomenon is this? Why would I perceive characters so differently? How could my age factor into my perception of others? 

Subconsciously, we must know our age relative to those we see. Because while we change, college kids stay the same age. What changes is us, and the people that are in college, but the age of the people in college stays the same. Therefore the change is not them, it’s us. In our perception of ourselves.

Perhaps, we always compare others to ourselves. Looking for those subtle and not-so-subtle signs of aging. And as we age, we see less of those signs in those younger than us. So as we accept the slow progression of these negative attributes of our own beauty, we cannot help but notice the lack of these attributes in those younger than us. As we accept those as part of our reality, we notice that these attributes are not part of those realities of those younger than us.

MS Paint _ Microsoft Paint Online.png
A simplified sketch of comparing flaws. Normalization is the adaptation. And the numbers at the bottom are the perceived difference in age.

Our perception of ourselves is the zero point. Every time we look in the mirror, we are different. We change slowly over the course of our lives. We age. And we adapt to each new perception of ourselves.

You’ve heard the story of the frog being boiled alive. By slowly increasing the temperature, the frog never notices the change.  I think this story closely parallels this psychological mechanism. We are not aware of the change in us, because our aging is the combination of many small changes over a long period of time.

Overcoming Narcissism

On my highs, I am everyone else is beneath me. There is no one worthy of me. My confidence is so high that it feels like a waste of time to talk to my friends and family.

On the lows, everyone is above me.
My life and everyone in it is so much better than me that I can’t get words out. Afraid to take action. Afraid to be myself.

Nothing has changed except my view of self. And the only reason my view of self has changed, is because I am looking at a metric that is changing. I am comparing myself to different people.

The only time I am content is when I feel like I have accomplished something great or I am hanging around people that I think I am better than. 

This is what I think narcissism is. It’s sometimes called self love. And it’s associated with all sorts of negative traits, including:

  • Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from other people
  • Continually demeaning, bullying and belittling others
  • Exploiting others to achieve personal gain
  • Lack of empathy for the negative impact they have on the feelings, wishes, and needs of other people
  • Fixation on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.
  • Self-perception of being unique, superior, and associated with high-status people and institutions
  • Need for continual admiration from others
  • Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others
  • Intense envy of others, and the belief that others are equally envious of them
So many correlate narcissism to manic depression because of the narcissistic supply. Essentially, as long as a narcissist gets ample praise, they are elevated above everyone else. And I posit that this elevation is what they love. This is where they establish their sense of self.

So as the supply weans, they begin to doubt their superiority. And because their personality is built on that, they fall into depression. If who they are is dependent of feeling like they are better than everyone else, who are they when they don’t? 

Their sense of self is not based on truth, but on praise. And praise ebbs and flows. As does the mental state of a narcissist.
But you see, nothing actually changes in the world. The narcissist is still right where he was before, but he was never where he thought he was.

Thus, the personality cannot be built on others. Or an false elevated view of self. As long as you think that you are better than you are, you are living a false reality. So while in the narcissist’s mind he is deserving of praise, in reality, he is not. So when there is a shortage of praise, they fall into the realm of other people, where they were all along.

To him, it’s a shortage of something deserved. He believes he is better, so he expects additional praise. If the praise is there, he believes he is better. If the praise isn’t there, he starts to doubt his superiority.

The question is whether he is lacking praise or superiority. If he is lacking superiority, he is probably not lacking praise. If he is lacking praise, he is probably not lacking superiority.

If I am the standard, and I compare everyone to myself, of course no one will measure up. But when I realize that I am not the standard, I can see that I am not superior. And if I am not superior, I am not lacking in praise.

Also, if I am the standard I would expect special treatment. You can see where the list of attributes above would follow. 

The solution then, is simple. We need a new standard. A true standard. 

There is only one person I am supposed to compare myself to. And I will always fall short. Everyone falls short. Which makes me equal to everyone else. Always.

I can look at myself and compare myself yesterday to myself today. And in this comparison strive to be better. More like Jesus.

If I stray, I dip below my former self and further away from Jesus. There is no reason to despair, because I am still the same in relation to the standard that I was before.

So I am wedged in between my former self and Jesus, permanently. I can never do anything to eclipse his glory. I am a sinner in need of salvation, just like everyone else. Any gifts I have are not mine, but God’s. Therefore the praise is not mine, but God’s. As I take my proper place between my former self and Jesus, I can be confident that this is where I’ll stay.