Absolutization - The Source of Dogma, Repression, and Conflict - Robert M. Ellis

Absolutization - The Source of Dogma, Repression, and Conflict - Robert M. Ellis


Absolutization - The Source of Dogma, Repression, and Conflict - Robert M. Ellis

Robert M. Ellis [+-]
Middle Way Society
Robert M Ellis has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a Cambridge BA in Oriental Studies and Theology. Originally from a Christian background, he spent about 20 years practising Buddhism, including as a member of the Triratna Order. However, he now describes himself as a Middle Way practitioner without exclusive loyalty to any one religious tradition. Over the last 20 years he has developed Middle Way Philosophy, initially in his Ph.D. thesis. This is best described as a practical and integrative philosophical approach, incorporating many elements not only from Buddhism but also from psychology, neuroscience, and other aspects of Western thought. In 2013 he founded the Middle Way Society (www.middlewaysociety.org) to develop and apply Middle Way Philosophy beyond the limitations of the Buddhist tradition, both in theory and practice. Robert has earned a living for more than 20 years as a teacher and tutor of philosophy and related subjects. He has previously published both academic and introductory books about Middle Way Philosophy, and recently a parallel book on Christianity, ‘The Christian Middle Way’.


a. Repression and Conflict The insight of psychoanalysis is the recognition of conflict between different parts of our psyches that try to repress each other. This basic model, stripped of unnecessary elaborations, can also be supported by neuroscience. Conflict occurs between sets of associated desires and beliefs, emerging at different times, but each using absolutization to maintain its position over the others. This model can also be applied to socio-political conflict, which is between the desires and beliefs that are dominant within individuals at a particular time. b. Projection Projection, as distinguishable from normal features of perception, occurs when we take a particular meaningful feature of an object to be its only relevant feature. We take this feature to be the ‘real’ or essential feature of the object and thus have a metaphysical view that excludes alternatives, with all the other dimensions of absolutization. Such projection can also be reversed into an equally deluded opposite when we assume that that feature is instead totally absent from the object. c. Confirmation Bias ‘Confirmation bias’ is a broad term that covers lots of other biases, all of which refer to our tendency to interpret new information only in terms of existing beliefs. Biases involve the substitution of fast processing for slow. These are absolutizations at the point where alternatives become relevant, but we either remain deceived by the bias, or react by taking the opposite view that our biased view is completely false. Bias at this point is indistinguishable from fallacy. d. Substitution Substitution is typical of absolutization, consisting of the use of an easier process instead of a harder one. In cognitive psychology this is often taken to involve substituting a simpler deductive process for a more complex one. However, once complex deductive processes have been made easier through practice, they start to substitute for more complex inductive or experiential investigations. Even those trained in science may switch to deduction when outside their area of comfort. e. Group Binding Absolutization is a shortcut for binding groups and exerting power, by creating unquestionable shared belief on which group identity is dependent. Four recognized biases provide evidence for group binding: the ingroup-outgroup bias, groupthink, social proof and false consensus. A reaction against group binding may produce negative absolutization for a counter-group or for individualism. This is not an inevitable feature of group relationships, which can instead be based on our experience of solidarity, and even the use of power can be made conditional. f. Archetypal Function The concepts of infinite openness that are often used in absolutizing beliefs can also have a beneficial archetypal function. This function depends on the provisionality of the context in which such concepts are used, and works by creating associations between archetypal symbols and experiences that involve moving beyond a limited identification (such as aesthetic, moral or religious experiences). This function means that religious traditions should not be reductively associated with absolutization, but rather credited as having mixed effects in need of critical differentiation.

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Ellis, Robert. Psychology. Absolutization - The Source of Dogma, Repression, and Conflict. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 129-163 Oct 2022. ISBN 9781800502062. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=44328. Date accessed: 28 Feb 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44328. Oct 2022

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