Hallucinated Implications Creep (HIC): A bane of our time

 


Let me invite you to a thought experiment that you can conduct in the privacy of your own mind. Carefully observe your own inner reaction to the following statement of mine, which truthfully reflects my opinion on the matter: 

Donald Trump is a pathologically narcissistic, dangerously manipulative, clinically psychopathic and conspicuously unintelligent individual whose sole priority is himself, and who has no scruples about lying through his teeth so to deceive and use millions of people for the sole sake of his own personal agenda.

I've chosen my words so to deliberately evoke a strong emotional response in you. Now that you are aware of my opinion, you can conduct the thought experiment—whose results only you will ever know—by checking which of the statements below you now think apply to me:

  1. Bernardo would have voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
  2. Bernardo is a liberal/lefty/democrat.
  3. Bernardo likes Joe Biden.
  4. Bernardo doesn't espouse conservative values.
  5. Bernardo is a manipulative elitist.
Make a mental note of how many of the 5 statements above you are inclined to think are applicable to me, because of my opinion about Trump. Now let's try another sincere opinion of mine:

Consuming red meat regularly is something that we, at an individual level, should stop doing for our collective sake.

Don't overanalyse it, just check which of the following statements you feel apply to me, given my sincere opinion above:

  1. Bernardo is ignorant of the nutritional value of red meat.
  2. Bernardo doesn't understand that meat consumption is entirely natural for predatory primates such as ourselves.
  3. Bernardo is too romantic and naive about animal suffering, for nature is ruthless anyway.
  4. Bernardo is trying to take away my personal right to choose my own diet and life style.
  5. Bernardo is not sympathetic to the economic needs of animal farmers.
You, of course, know where I am going with this, given the title of this essay. Therefore, you are more-than-likely analysing all this with much more attention than usual, so to find whatever trap I might be laying for you. That's fine, but keep in mind that, under normal circumstances, you would be judging my opinions much more spontaneously and unthinkingly than in the context of this essay, and that is what I am trying to get at.

In this spirit, here is another sincere opinion of mine:

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is unjustified, criminal and completely unacceptable. It should be opposed economically, politically and militarily by the West.

Now, what do you think applies to me, given my opinion above?

  1. Bernardo doesn't understand that NATO's eastwards expansion was provocative towards Russia.
  2. Bernardo is ignorant of the plight of Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the Donbas and Crimea.
  3. Bernardo is a hypocrite, for Western powers have carried out criminal military interventions in other countries.
  4. Bernardo is a hypocrite, for the West supports authoritarian regimes in the middle east.
  5. Bernardo wants World War 3 and nuclear apocalypse.
Now go back and look more carefully at each of these three opinions of mine. This time, avoid the emotional knee-jerk reaction and analyse objectively what follows from my opinions and what doesn't; what I did say and what I didn't. If you do it carefully, you will see that none of the five seeming implications listed below each opinion is actually entailed or implied by the respective opinion. If you think any of them is, you are suffering from what I shall call 'Hallucinated Implications Creep,' or HIC, a very common bane of these troubled times.

Let us now review all this together, starting from my third opinion expressed above: it is perfectly coherent to both agree that NATO's expansion was a needlessly provocative step and believe that such a provocation doesn't justify—not even remotely—the barbaric invasion of another country. It is perfectly coherent to both think that the Ukrainian government has neglected the needs and rights of its Russian-speaking citizens—which it probably did—and believe that a barbaric invasion that indiscriminately kills and maims all Ukrainians, Russian-speaking and otherwise, is not the way to address the issue. To acknowledge that the West is guilty of criminal military actions does not mean that it is OK for Russia to do so now, let alone at a much greater scale; two wrongs don't make a right. The regretful Western support for totalitarian regimes elsewhere in the world doesn't mean that the West should overlook Russia's ravaging of another country in Europe; compounding a problem doesn't solve it. And finally, it doesn't follow from any of the above that I want a nuclear apocalypse; I just think that we shouldn't surrender to criminal totalitarian regimes such as Russia's because of a remote risk of wider confrontation. Otherwise, we might as well hand over everything we have to North Korea tomorrow. If the risk of nuclear confrontation justifies cowardly surrender, where does the surrendering then stop?

Notice that the key error here has to do with creating false dichotomies.

Now let's shift our attention to my perceived need for dramatically reducing our consumption of red meat. It doesn't occur to many—perhaps not to you either—that such an opinion may be motivated by, and based on, reasons other than the ones you would ordinarily expect. As a matter of fact, my key motivation for urging a reduction of red meat consumption has to do with the extremely inefficient, wasteful use of resources—think of land, energy, water, etc—required by intensive, industrial-scale red meat production (on a side note, only intensive red meat production can satisfy current demand levels, let alone the expected future demand as countries in Asia become more affluent). With the same resources, much more food—calories, proteins, vitamins—can be produced with much less detrimental environmental impact, feeding a lot more people more affordably. To mention only one example, red meat production is driving the destruction of the amazon, both directly—i.e. land clearances for pasture—and indirectly—i.e. land area used for the production of animal feed. As such, my opinion has little to do with the health value of red meat, the naturalness of predation, your personal dietary rights, etc. You may just have projected all that on me, but if so, that was your own hallucination, not anything I said.

Indeed, the error here has to do with assuming certain motivations or justifications for my opinion. In other words, the error is attributing to me something I did not say.

Now on to Trump. My opinion about his character is an opinion about, well, his character; not a global statement of general political positions or sympathies. As a matter of fact, I am largely a conservative, in the sense that I live my life rooted in certain traditions, have a strong sense of historical continuity and context, a relationship with the very land under my feet, have respect—even a feeling of responsibility—towards my ancestors, and a profound appreciation for a truly religious life. I have a deep anti-elitist mentality—which is rather obvious in both my work and interviews—and generally do not sympathise at all with Hillary Clinton. Were I an American citizen, I would have nullified my vote in 2016, as a protest against what I perceive as a profoundly dysfunctional two-party system.

The error here is trying to bin every political opinion in one of only two baskets. So if I am against Trump, I can only be pro Biden, right? If I detest Trump, I can only be a liberal and not a conservative, right? And so on: everything is either black or white—or rather, blue or red. This is, of course, silly. Indeed, it is entirely arbitrary and extraordinarily implausible to imagine that society is so simple as to allow for a binary classification of every position.

Hallucinated Implications Creep (HIC) is characterised by false dichotomies, unjustified assumptions, projections, implausibly simplistic categorisations, failures to recognise what was said and, perhaps even more importantly, what was not said. It renders us blind to every nuance and subtlety, thereby being literally stupefying.

The projections and hallucinations underpinning HIC spread like a web of false inferences and unjustified conclusions, creeping through the entire social dialogue like a virus. Indeed, it has come to characterise what passes for the present social dialogue. It causes us to talk past one another, fail to see what is being said, fail to understand what is and isn't entailed or implied by what is said, and generally make a mess of everything. It makes us argue against mere hallucinations—ghosts, fantasies—like deranged zealots, seeing enemies everywhere. It renders it impossible to find consensus.

HIC is a cognitive plague that social media has amplified to a level never before seen. And it may be our demise.

PS: You probably noticed that I've switched to British spelling. It's just that I have a newly-developed aversion for the letter 'Z' and what it has come to represent in 2022.
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27 comments:

  1. Many people keep insisting that red meat is necessary for a healthy life. I don't know how this bizarre claim emerges, considering that it is a classified probable carcinogen.

    Thanks for a nuanced and reasonable post, as always.

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    1. Cheers. Just one subtlety though: what has been shown to be carcinogenic is _processed_ red meat, not fresh red meat. For most predatory primates, however, red meat is just a very occasional treat in a life of foraging for fruits and vegetables.

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    2. The WHO classifies red meat in general as a type 2A carcinogen, while processed meats are classified as Group 1 carcinogens.

      Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/cancer-carcinogenicity-of-the-consumption-of-red-meat-and-processed-meat

      I'll quote the relevant sections from the website for easy reading access:

      "What do you consider as red meat?"

      "Red meat refers to all mammalian muscle meat, including, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat."

      "Red meat was classified as Group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans. What does this mean?"

      "In the case of red meat, the classification is based on limited evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer as well as strong mechanistic evidence."



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    3. Wow, worse than I thought then... I confess to being surprised by this.

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    4. Why quote so much from WHO but not the truly important bits?

      "Eating red meat has NOT yet been established as a cause of cancer."
      "more than 700 epidemiological studies provided data on red meat"
      https://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/

      So, after 700 epidemiological studies, WHO wasn't able to establish a link between red meat consumption and cancer. WHO only suspects red meat causes cancer based on mechanistic conjecture. Furthermore, bear in mind that if WHO was able to establish a link between cancer and red meat consumption using epidemiological studies, it would've been a mere correlation, not a causal link, since all that epidemiological studies can establish, are just correlations.

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  2. Interesting post. What you described is something I call the Plague of Either/Or Thinking. I also notice that it's easier for some to just label someone they disagree with as a "far right lunatic" or a "Communist" rather than engaging in a conversation. It's easier to demonize than it is to debate.

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  3. I love the frame of HIC. Could I ask what (if anything) separates metaphor from hallucinated implications? Wallace Stevens talks about the "exhilaration of change" with regard to metaphor and I'm wondering if this greediness leads to the creeping hallucinations you identify.

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    1. Metaphor is a way to communicate something, while HIC is a misapprehension. Metaphor is on the sender's side, while HIC on the receiver's. I am not familiar with Stevens but, in general, one is better off being cautious about anything that 'exhilarates' the emotional mind without _some_ rational underpinning.

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    2. Since in order to sending something along you first neeed to grasp it, is it fair to say that metaphor is an apprehension while HIC is a misapprehension? Also, "creep" implies a series so HIC would be a series of misapprehensions. That would explain a lot of the metastatic toxicity in social media.

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  4. I don't know you. I wouldn't assume anything!

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  5. I would call this the psychical Black and White illness. In todays society we do not care if we know much, we only care about status and being right. Many of the popular "intellectuals" today (Dawkins,Harrison...) are seriously affected by HIC, if you are not a materialist you are most likely to be a religous creationist or an esoteric (In my opinion esotericism is a very interesting topic ) "idiot". There is only black and white, this is the reason why we are a materialist society, we simply lack of deep thought. Today you are either a materialist or dualist ;)

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    1. Do people, even intellectuals actually disect their own thinking in such a way? Even people that claim to analyze thought to this level I find are applying it to someone else rarely to themselves. Change is always easy as long as someone else is doing it. To me we spend a great deal of time and energy generating an accident report identifying cause while the ship is in the process of sinking. Instead of living life we are analyzing life. Maybe that is an effort to feel some sense of control. A wise man once said the secret to life is balancing the horror of being a man with the wonder of being a man.

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  6. I blame Aristotelian logic and the Law of the Excluded Middle.

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  7. I couldn't bring myself to have an opinion as hard as I tried. I assume many people disagree with my opinions and if their opinions differ significantly from mine in a critical area I lump them into the "worthy opponent" category. I too am what I would consider a conservative by nature in that I believe in personal responsibility, hard work, honesty, severely punishing violent criminals regardless of their justifications for their behavior. In other words all of those values attributed to white males by progressives. As to Trump I like him a lot. What does that mean in a world where I will never meet or know the man except through the 2 deminsional world that the media paints. It means in my mind he does the right thing more than likely for the wrong reasons. In certain areas of life that is the most I can hope for. As to the red meat issue I am completely indifferent. It is an issue that not only is it on the back burner it probably isn't even on the stove. I taught public high school for 4 years and I remember reading a survey done in about 1965 on what teachers saw as the main behavioral problem in the class room. The answer was chewing gum. Let me tell you that doesn't even make the top 1000 now. I think issues like to eat or not to eat red meat will very soon be an issue of days gone by.

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  8. Surely Bernardo meant "frequently" rather than "regularly" in the context of red meat. Regularly could be every birthday. Frequently means something else entirely.

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  9. I am thankful to finally come across something emphatic on the subject. At first I was rather flustered as while reading, I could not find that any of your suggested options based on your stated opinions are applicable or valid as derived conclusions - and I had expected at least one hit in each category. Nice trick, as it might cause people to choose at least one, as they assume there must be one. Reading on, naturally it made total sense and elicited a little (satisfied) smile on my part.
    I have been thinking a lot about this subject as well and what interests me are the causes.
    What you describe is also leading to and feeding the many conspiracy theories that are around. It is the same mechanism and a consequence. Conspiracies and manipulation exist and if real can be proven if investigated. But the avalanche of conspiracy theories that exist today and are broadcast and compounded by social media is to say the least worrying.
    The mechanisms you describe in HIC, which to me are a symptom of a general lack of ability to think logically fosters deep suspicion in minds which then manifests as conspiracy theories.

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  10. This deep suspicion doubts what is 'real and 'not real', then makes it real by choice, much as each individual makes his own little universe real.
    Too much 2nd hand, altered information is around and as one could spend a life-time studying subjects and sifting information according to its veracity, - often even faced with the possibility of not being able to obtain all information necessary if attempts have been made -, people seem to decide simply on what is plausible within their framework of thinking and what they can identify with. Data are used to confirm existent viewpoints and elaborate on them rather than reflect and draw new conclusions. What doesn't fit the preconceived ideas is rejected. Most people can't see beyond their horizons and are even often not willing or able to see multiple viewpoints objectively. It is easier to simply adopt a standpoint firmly and fit everything into their system of plausibility, no matter what, rather than admitting that they cannot obtain or process all possible information or worse, are incapable knowing their limitations (which would require self-objectivity).
    They prefer to feel safe and at home with stagnant or in their thinking plausible views rather than face the complications of an overwhelming flood of indiscernible input. They seek to find orientation within confusion and grasp onto fixed ideas for stability.
    They appear as localised units of consciousness lost in disorientation within a multitude of mind appearances manifesting as their physical universe, so they become fixed in the apparently more abstract world of ideas (btw: I'm not nicking your terminology; I was actually rather excited to see it as I have started using this way of description 20 years ago. I suppose once realised there is only one way of saying it...).
    Deep suspicion goes hand in hand with deep uncertainty on any truth, may it be relative or not. Living in self-deception over reality already, it is easy to create further 'truths' to find orientation.
    Not capable of differentiation (i.e. seeing differences), the highest form of applied intelligence bar intuition, they can only associate (i.e. perceiving only similarities) incoming flows of information with their existing convictions and prejudices or assimilate through a process of identification (i.e. seeing only sameness) rather than clearly discerning differences, similarities and identities .
    The inability to see and think with a multitude of viewpoints prohibits differentiated and dialectic thinking. The blind leading the blind leads to conflict and war.
    The proliferation of fake, false and altered information is the new version of divide and rule. Who or what is ruling?
    As it is the human who seeks order within entropy and succeeds to some degree and temporarily within a slither of the universe that follows its inevitable course of decay, it is also the human who now, not consciously organising these energies and denying responsibility of cause in a self-created universe, allows any coherent systems to decay. Conscious reason brings order, ignorance is the impossibility and inevitable destruction of reason.
    Ignorance causes entropy as it fails to comprehend cohesion of thought pervading created systems, unable to read patterns that appear only under the scrutiny of differentiating intelligence. Patterns that are like a hidden order within entropic chaos. That is how we can re-order, re-track and resume cause.

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    1. My question is so what? I don't mean that in an ugly way. I have very rarely seen people act on their conspiracy theories or act in any way actually. As a general rule people don't change unless confronted by a significant emotional event, I.e. a war like Ukraine, quit red meat after diagnosed with colon cancer, quit drinking after liver problems. The people that do act have always acted and they are few and far between. Now those same people will get their data from the same type of sources they have always gotten it. So in my mind people are a gazillion times better at reacting than acting. When I read the tea leaves I see the world heading in a direction that will provide a great deal of significant emotional events and therefore lots and lots of reacting. My advice would be to someone is to prepare yourself as best you can to stay out of the way of the oncoming freight train. As a born again Idealist I take great comfort in believing that this is a temporary condition no matter how good or bad things go because we all return to mind at large and at some point . When one looks at the size of the universe my fears and joys just aren't that important.

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    2. "So what?" is always ugly as it is dismissive. That's why a need is felt to stress that it is not.
      Thought speculations elicit a "so what?" when reflection is considered futile in general. There are many people who consider philosophy futile. The reaction resp. rejection does not let you look further so you will never know what answers you might find. The horizon hangs low through your choosing. No philosopher would have ever dedicated a thought or written a book by simply reacting with a "so what?" Rather he asks "what so?", "How so?", "Why so?"
      I am not an accomplished philosopher like BK but regarding my own thought and writing (German) I will only ask myself "So what?" to make sure I've gotten down to the point.

      Why stay on the surface?
      I note with interest that you have drawn from my comment only fragments that seem to go along with opinions you already have.
      Might you display the same mechanisms as in HIC? You draw out only that which you can fit in to your way of thinking that you have anyway and do not go beyond?
      My comment isn't primarily about conspiracy theories, rather I try to highlight the underlying mechanisms of HIC and conspiracy theories are merely an associated phenomenon I used to reflect on possible causes of both within mind and consciousness. It is trying to go deeper than their surface manifestations.

      "Stay out of the way of the oncoming freight train":
      Avoid - that's one of the ways of dealing with danger when there is a tiger in the room. There are minimum five. I am choosing one that is not normally listed: face.

      "Rarely seen people act on their conspiracy theories or act in any way":
      It is not whether they act upon them - it is the lack of discerning thinking that turn masses into sheep that will never realise how they are manipulated and how they contribute to that manipulation themselves. And it is not just that they are manipulated but the fact that if they will not reform their perceptions of mind they will never achieve freedom of relatively independent thinking which is the only way how the effects of mass self-hypnosis can be dissipated to reveal the true origins of what is perceived.

      "When one looks at the size of the universe my fears and joys just aren't that important":
      The space of your mind is the size of the space of the universe said the ant who looked upon the moon and saw herself...

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    3. So what you are saying is you are a person that puts a lot of profound words together with little action. There seems to be a plague of such people in western society. That can only exist in a very affluent society. In Ukraine those people probably are having very few philosophical discussions. We have created a culture that worships self importance and I think the conditions that have allowed that to exist are quickly coming to an end.

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  11. Mercy!
    I am not saying that. Also, thoughts always precede action. My actions have not been disclosed to you.
    If you don't like philosophical discussion, WHY are you posting on this site?
    I have taken the time post here because I do seek philosophical discussion and direct input on my thoughts which are related to BK's essay - which unfortunately is not forthcoming. Disappointing.
    Charming to call me a plague and self-important, whose living conditions are coming to an end.
    Please refrain from addressing me further.
    All constructive comments by anyone else are warmly welcomed, in fact eagerly anticipated.
    Maybe you take a few moments of silence and self-reflect. As the Philosopher Sloterdijk said in an interview just last week: "Every higher capacity for reflection consists of the mind turning against itself and undoing its simplifications."

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    1. I assume Bernardo has his hands on the throttle and has the capacity to cancel me at any time. If you choose to take my comments personally that is certainly your privilege. My goal is to direct the conversation in a direction that addresses the practical application of the philosophical concepts of idealism which I do believe are real. Unfortunately for me so many of the discussions come down to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I have always enjoyed Bernardo's focus on parsimony. I fail to see how using a philosophy that requires the disection of every thought to it's smallest components as very parsimonious. It's amazing to me how many people love to drone on and on about their particular view of what dance the angels are doing. For me for Idealism to be
      applicable the really smart people are going to have to frame it
      somewhat like a religion with an action/reaction based on questions like what is our purpose?, how do we deal realistically with the complexities and paradoxes of life?, how do we incorporate the knowledge that we never die into our judgement and more importantly our physical risk taking based on our moral beliefs. And all of those issues are going to have to come with a cost/benefit analysis otherwise all of this talk is just verbal/emotional self indulgence.

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    2. I think you may be misusing the idea of parsimony. The point of this essay has nothing to do with dissecting and hair-splitting people's views; it's much simpler and straightforward than that: it's to be aware of what the person said and what the person didn't say. That's all. What is unparsimonious and unreasonable is to derive a hole string of false implications from what the person has attempted to say. There is no justification for attributing to people views or positions that they have not expressed, by misconstruing what they attempted to say. I don't think doing so is forgivable in any sense whatsoever. It means simply indulging in untruth and misrepresentation, which is never OK. You are burning a straw man here, which is in itself -- and ironically enough -- a form of HIC.

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    3. I of course disagree with you. I am continually astounded with how ineffective intellectuals are at creating anything other than hot air. In fact they stay as far away as possible from anything that can actually be applied. You tell me how this latest lesson on human psychology can be applied effectively. Is it that a person reads this and goes "Oh now I am going to stop eating red meat."? Or I am going to work myself up about Ukraine because it is the only conflict in the world that matters. Or is the true test is that we come to the same conclussion you come to on a given issues. I agree with you on the fact that the world is in a bad way and if one wants to point to human thinking being the root of the problem then fine. I don't agree that one intellectual's perceived ability to identify bad landings and speculating on their causes does diddly squat in fixing the problem. All it does is invite meaningless discussions. So my goal is to attempt to challenge this stupor I see people in as the ship sinks. I feel like there may be an answer or a peice of an answer of some kind in recognizing some of the greater truths in Idealism just as in Chritianity or Bhudism in approaching the problem. Let's say I see Idealism as a further refinement in those previous efforts. Idealism changes nothing only it allows maybe a clearer view of reality. So now that we have that clearer view how do we apply it. And believe me Bernardo you aren't going to hurt my feelings one bit if you cancel me on your blog nor will it stop me from buying your next book. My frustration is my frustration and in a way you are my only point of contact on this issue but you are far from being my only source of this frustration. Hasta Luego

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    4. Bernardo: Thank you.
      In general:Thought does not only precede action, it shapes worlds. So to re-define action one could call thought primary consciousness action resulting in the appearances of reality of cause and effect. That is the value of thought. The one who is caught in his own thought might only find liberation through the considerations of others of higher reflective capacity as they share source. That is the value of thought.

      Parsimony does not mean that one reduces one's thinking. It means rather the opposite as to arrive at an adequate, differentiated and clear explanation of a phenomenon made with the fewest possible assumptions one first has to determine what these could be. To get there one has to know all possibilities and aspects involved. That requires in-depth thinking in detail - without that, sifting through down to the important elements is not possible. Mind views information and assigns meaning.
      It could be compared to a gifted top musician who is able to ad hoc improvise a whole concert with other musicians that sounds perfectly planned and rehearsed to an audience. He only arrives there by having spent years of practice embracing all possible nuances and expressions of his craft. The result is a display of sheer ease, clarity and simplicity, all boundaries of effort transcended.
      In other words, to be able to solve a problem one first needs to perceive that it even exists and what all its ramifications of causes and effects are. It has to be defined. Only then one can pose it succinctly and come to a solution.
      Therefore, it is just as Sloterdijk said -  if I may interpret the earlier quote: in undoing the simplifications of one's mind through reflection one goes through a process of viewing all 'complications' that now through perception of all involved viewpoints emerge, to then arrive through further dedicated reflection again at a form of simplicity which in fact is clarity based on selection of essential elements verified through a process of differentiation.
      At the beginning lies self-reflection which could be called the first duality as it is like consciousness looking into a mirror, becoming aware of itself.
      I would only add to that: one first needs to be able to admit that one's mind has unintelligently simplified in the first place.

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  12. But Bernado, how are you going to spell pizza? :)

    I'm sympathetic to the idea but it only serves to reinforce the connotation and association to the thing you are
    opposed to. You are essentially giving it power and ownership, not the opposite. I have a quite associative mind and have learned that while I do need to avoid things sometimes, it's mostly about my mentality, that direct and whether or not I reinforce the association, consciously.

    Abstinence is a poor solution. And no one has ownership of basic symbols, especially letters and even more so a warmongering dictator. Your mind shouldn't have to conform in this way.

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  13. I didn't find myself making any of those assumptions about you *shrug*. But, I catch your drift. One only has to say 'I voted Brexit', to discover how readily people will jump to all sorts of bizarre conclusions. (I didn't actually vote, but where's the fun in that?)

    As for red meat, there's no evidence its bad for you, but I agree - its production is problematic.

    But, I can't agree that the solution is to avoid a healthy dietary component and potentially accept poor health. The solution is fewer consumers, not lower individual consumption.

    I'd argue we have 'stepped out' of the evolutionary process, so it follows we no longer have a justification for producing so many offspring.

    It's an awkward subject, but really, is it not the case that all modern environmental problems boil down to the same root cause: too many people?

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