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

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

Criteria for a Response: Error Focus

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. Falsification and Error Focus Error focus is a more effective approach than positive focus for avoiding confirmation bias as a dimension of absolutization. It suggests that we make incremental progress towards objectivity, not by eliminating absolutely false claims, but by identifying absolutizations as the erroneous how of judgement. This is reliably but not absolutely available to us from reflection on individual experience of past judgements, and applies equally to all kinds of judgement – individual or social, scientific or moral. b. Refining Shadow Avoidance A focus on avoiding error is an avoidance of evil in the sense of threats from absolutized human judgement, that we have learned to recognize in ‘evil’ characteristics. This is the most practically important part of our response to the shadow, which also includes ‘natural’ evils. It is better targeted than the identification of evil as sociopathic character, which involves the projection of one variable feature as necessary to a character as a whole. c. Emotionally Positive Context Although logical negativity is conventional and reversible, the idea of error may still have emotionally negative associations for us. These can be put in a wider positive frame by a growth mindset that puts error in the context of wider success, so are not a sufficient argument against error focus. The development of a growth mindset may be aided by mindfulness, imagination and critical thinking practices.

Notify A Colleague


Ellis, Robert. Criteria for a Response: Error Focus. Absolutization - The Source of Dogma, Repression, and Conflict. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 248-259 Oct 2022. ISBN 9781800502062. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=44333. Date accessed: 25 Jun 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44333. Oct 2022

Dublin Core Metadata