Why do we all have such a hard time agreeing on issues of politics, religion, and morality?
According to moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind, groups like liberals and conservatives operate on different “moral foundations” that make it fundamentally difficult for them to understand each other (although it’s not impossible).
One great metaphor in the book used to describe morality is that it’s “like a tongue with 6 different moral taste buds.”
But just like we all have the same taste buds yet different tastes in food, it’s also true that we all have the same moral taste buds yet different tastes in morality.
As a result different groups are more sensitive to different moral taste buds over others. This is a big factor that shapes the differences in our moral beliefs.
Metaphors are a way to explain one experience in terms of another experience.
For example, think of the metaphor “The movie was a roller-coaster.” In this metaphor, we are comparing the experience of watching a movie to the experience of a roller-coaster, even though objectively the experiences are very different.
A metaphor works by highlighting “conceptual similarities” between two different experiences. So a movie can be a roller-coaster in the sense that it has “ups” and “downs,” and is an overall exciting and thrilling experience.
According to the classic book Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, metaphors are essential for thinking and understanding our world in deeper ways, especially abstract concepts like “love” or “happiness.”
In fact metaphors are so embedded in our society and culture that we often use metaphors all the time without even realizing it.
Basic metaphors like, “I’m feeling up” or “I’m feeling down” are common ways we describe our emotions in terms of a physical orientation (where happiness is considered “up,” and sadness is considered “down”).
To George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, metaphors aren’t just fancy ways of saying things – they have a direct influence on how we see our world and how we interact with it.
Over the past century, psychology has discovered a lot about how individuals can live happier and more successful lives. A lot of this research is covered in the many articles I write for The Emotion Machine.
But what’s just as fascinating to me is how much we can also learn from older philosophies. For example, my personal philosophy is influenced by a whole range of different schools of thought, including: Existentialism, Buddhism, Taoism, Objectivism, and – the subject of this article – Stoicism.
The truth is we don’t need to subscribe to only one school of thought. Instead we can learn from multiple schools and borrow what works for us, and ditch what doesn’t.
Stoicism is a philosophy first started in Ancient Greece in the 3rd century BCE. One of it’s primary teachings is to “focus on what is in your control and ignore what isn’t in your control.”
To follow this teaching, the Stoics knew that we had to observe reality as it is, and not always as we want it to be. Because only by honestly observing our world can we correctly discover what’s in our power vs. what isn’t.
Here is a collection of thought-provoking quotes from Marcus Aurelius’ classic work Meditations, which help describe this power of seeing things as they are and why this is so important.
There used to be a time when memory was the foundation of an intelligent person. Before books, cellphones, and computers, everything a person learned had to be stored inside their mind.
In Ancient Greece, scholars would use elaborate memory techniques to remember full speeches, poems, stories, and historical facts.
Today we don’t have as much of a need to learn these memory techniques (often referred to as “mnemonics”). We don’t need to “internalize” memories, because we can just “externalize” our memories in whatever device we are closest to.
For example, how often do you really remember someone’s phone number? You probably just enter it into your phone right away as someone tells you it. Or at worse you write it down on a piece of paper.
A recent study shows how our reliance on smart phones leads to more “lazy thinking.” In many ways, technology teaches us that we don’t have to use our minds anymore.
And of course technology has been a huge benefit to society, but in what ways can learning mnemonics and the “art of memory” still benefit us today?
We often play many games between ourselves and others.
But by “games” I don’t mean sports, or video games, or board games. Instead “games” are a form of dishonest communication – usually with ulterior motives involved.
In Eric Berne’s influential work Games People Play, a “game” is defined as a set of ulterior transactions with some type of payoff in the end. This “payoff” doesn’t have to be material – it can also be psychological or social.
Many times we aren’t even aware of the games we’re playing on a daily basis, because they are so embedded into our society and our way of thinking.
In this article, I go over 3 different games that we play to avoid taking responsibility. These games are based off of Eric Berne’s work, but I’ve modified some of them to better fit the theme of this article.
By becoming more aware of these games, you can hopefully do better at avoiding them in the future. To win these games, we often have to stop playing them.