Christopher Avery on responsibility

[2009-11-28] psychology, life
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Christopher Avery has a nice take on the topic of responsibility:
In his view, if something goes wrong, the mind has several automated responses, none of them completely adequate (in order of increased maturity):

  • Denial
  • Lay blame
  • Justify: Interestingly, he does not think that justifying one's actions is useful and puts this activity in a category similar to laying blame.
  • Shame: Obviously, beating yourself up over something that went wrong is as unproductive as beating someone else up.
  • Obligation: There is a lot of honor in the idea that someone “has” to do something. On the other hand, using the words “have to” (as in “I still have to do the dishes”) automatically creates friction as no one likes to be forced to do something, even by oneself.
Avery suggests that true responsibility goes beyond all these automated responses. One can work towards the goal of responsibility by refusing to accept some of the mind’s simpler answers for a given problem.