Psychology and Philosophy should be studied much more thoroughly in my opinion. It provides an insight into the mind that unfortunately most people are missing. For instance, in philosophy there are multiple modes for determining whether something can be considered moral. Utilitarian Ethics is sort of a reductionist approach that favors actions that maximize happiness and minimize suffering. It puts weight behind the consequences of an action as opposed to the intention. Deontological Ethics is the position that the morality of an action is described by how it fulfilled the obligation of duty or a set of rules. It favors intention as opposed to consequences.
When you apply these concepts of ethics to how people today come to conclusions about politics in the US you will find that there is a rather disturbing dissonance between liberals and conservatives in relation to how they view the importance of intention and consequence. Gun control is an excellent example, and I believe that Ted Nugent displays the problem rather well in the video below.
Ted makes the point that a person's moral compass can be determined by how he or she views the right to defend oneself. He goes on to say that he feels that many people are attempting to steal his right to defend himself. This view is getting a lot of attention in the media and, without making claims about how widespread it is, I think it's important to examine why people feel this way. Why do people feel that there is a force at work that is destroying their right to defend themselves from harm?
When you make the statement that the government should not have the right to take away our guns you fail to examine the effect it may have on those that should not have guns and the results that may ensue. Alternatively, when you state that the government should outlaw guns you fail to examine the effect that it may have on the people that need to defend themselves. But do they need to defend themselves? Is there a force at work that warrants the use of guns to defend oneself?
Muggers are a good example. So with that logic we can conclude that people should have the right to carry a handgun to defend themselves. But the proceeding question is usually about the bigger guns like rifles and automatic weapons. People use rifles to kill their food. Clearly, rifles shouldn't be outlawed. But what about automatic weapons? What are they used for? Furthermore, do people often need to reload in the process of defending themselves or catching dinner? Does one often require armor piercing bullets to penetrate armor that a mugger or deer may be wearing? Is it often that one must fire a whole clip at an attacker or one's prospective food? Essentially, is it necessary that people have access to large amounts of bullets, large clips, large bullets, and automatic weapons? Or is there something else that people feel is threatening them?
Sometimes the government is the answer. People are afraid that they may one day need to defend themselves from the government. But is that really a sound argument? Do you really think that armor piercing rounds and an automatic weapon are going to keep you adequately safe from a government that spends more money on tools of war than all of the first world countries combined? Do you really expect to protect yourself from helicopters, tanks, bombs, and trained personnel? And that's what you will get if you are lucky. The US government has drones, snipers, aircraft, and sea craft that can kill you from miles away. Retrospectively, maybe this is why people fear the government. We know that if the government really wanted to they could take you in the night and torture you without any judicial oversight and without you ever being able to defend yourself in court. We know that if the government really wanted, they could tactically bomb our home[s] from hundreds of miles away. We know that our government surveils people in our own country who are often innocent. We know that our government, if it really wanted to, could do just about anything it wants without anyone knowing and without negative consequences.
Maybe we are rightfully afraid of the government. But what about psychology? How does that come in to play? How we are raised has a lot of influence on our behavior. If you have friends and family that care about you throughout your life and refrain from applying abusive behavior, more often than not you will have a well adjusted confident person. But when you have a child that has been abused in some way, when you have a child that has had to go through hard times, you will find that as they grow up they are more defensive. They will be less social and more interested in protecting themselves and their children from what they perceive as bad. Unfortunately, a child's mind is rather malleable. When a child undergoes abuse or hard times their views on reality can become skewed.
When you have a large group of people that are constantly and irrationally afraid you have a large group of people that want to defend themselves. And when you examine our nation's past you see a bloody and abusive history. It's no wonder that our nation spends so much money on war. But when you look at it this way you see that the very thing that is a result of us wanting to defend ourselves is the thing that is causing us discomfort. We want to defend ourselves from the very same thing that we created to defend us. And it's causing arguments abound because some of us realize that if we change our original behavior, the behaviors that we had when we moved to this land, we can change the quality of life in our nation. We can prove statistically that reduced access to guns equals reduced gun crime. We know that if we teach people about gun safety people will be more safe about their guns. Anyone that really examines the psychology and philosophy behind gun control can see that we can come to a moderate and reasonable conclusion about gun control: a conclusion that can satisfy the needs of the American people as well as protect them from harm.
The study of Utilitarian Ethics and Deontological Ethics can help us understand why we keep making bad decisions in politics and how to stop it. One who argues that consequences are more important than intention or vice versa does not understand ethics at all.When you say that it's okay to kill someone despite their upbringing, like Ted Nugent implied, you ignore the alternatives. Imagine being in the situation with the soccer mom taking her children to soccer practice. What conclusions can you draw about the man that car jacked and killed her? When we only focus on the consequences of the killers actions it's easy to respond with "she should have had a gun." And when we only focus on the intentions of the killer it's easy to say we should have put him in a better home when he was young. But if we consider both we see that their is a more realistic and balanced political response. We can come to a conclusion that both responds to the cruel truth of how the killer grew up and to respond to the cold hard truth that if she had a gun she could have survived.
On one hand we have a situation where if the woman had a gun she could have protected herself. And with the previous statements I made about what weapons should be allowed she could protect herself and possibly have avoided the situation altogether because it would have been harder for this man to have acquired a gun (he's been in and out of jail all his life). On the other hand we have people that grow up in abusive situations that essentially cause them to become criminals. We need to respond to both problems.
I understand the anger that people have when they see situations like this. You may think that the whole situation could have been avoided if she had just shot the guy on the spot. But is the problem really avoided? What if she had just driven off and successfully got away? Was the problem avoided or is their still a car jacking killer on the loose? Clearly, the gun did not solve the problem. Too often we ignore the important psychological factors behind our actions. If we take a moment to realize that we could have removed that man from the situation that caused him to be a carjacking killer we instantly see an even better option than the gun. We see a future for a man that could have been a positive one instead of a negative one. The car jacking killer could have become a veterinarian, a doctor, or a psychologist all because we changed the environment he was in when he was very young.
So with all that said what can we say about our method of problem solving? Are we really doing it right? Should we be focusing on guns? Or should we be focusing on helping people grow up in loving families? Should we be advocating the death of criminals? Or should we be advocating better parenting? Fear has a real and tangible impact on the way we think and I believe that if we find ways to pragmatically work through our fears and consider both the consequences and intentions of people the world could be a much better place.