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sociology - the structure of analysing belief systems

the problem of moderation

New translation, the Magna Carta

herds and the individual - sociology, the ephemeral nature of groups
counting beliefs - irrational associations
the problem of moderation
language for manipulation, exaggeration and hypocrisy
logicians, 'logic' and madness
intelligence and madness
irrational actions - analysis of behaviour

co-operation and being nice
covid and nuclear explosions -
expanding and dying chains

the individual or the common good
productivity and production
language for manipulation, exaggeration and hypocrisy
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The problem of moderation continues from Irrational actions- analysis of behaviour.
Here, abelard considers the propensity to generalise situations, ideas, behaviours, choices.

"The perfect is the enemy of the good"
Voltaire [1694—1778]

  1. All universals are unsound/confused.
    (See Gödel and sound sets and Why Aristotelian logic does not work

  2. In the real world, every tree is different.

  3. There is an irrationalist project to build 'sociology' on the foundations of Aristotelian logic, following its useful applications in the physical sciences of 'inanimate' objects.

  4. This has led to attempts to categorise societies into insecure groups such as democracies and dictatorships.

  5. Humans, in their 'laziness', or time-saving efforts, look at inchoate realities and attempt to force confused information into categories.

  6. Bob looks at a tree and thinks "that will make a nice table".
    Henry VIII dreams of turning it into a battleship.
    A squirrel sees the tree as an attractive home-base.
    Jim looks forward to the shade it will provide on a hot, summer's afternoon.
    Jennifer cursed the tree for blocking her view from the kitchen window, and tries to pressure Jim into cutting it down.
    A myriad of ants and caterpillars live among the leaves, or set about eating them.
    The tree just continues about its business of growing taller than its neighbours as it seeks the sunlight, and wishes everyone else would leave it alone.
stability or change
trying to make sense of humans' cacophony
confusion between the real world and ideas from people in the real world
how does one analyse actions that work despite they are, by common versions of reason or 'logic', irrational?
Schrodinger and his pussycat
Vilfredo Pareto
Arthur Ransome
the gene and the meme
Bertrand Russell
fictive groups—I want, Thou shall not kill
clear the mind
democracy and liberalism
what is 'emotion'?
end notes

related reading about sociology and socialism
    stability or change
  1. There is no such thing as stability.
    Everything is changing all the time.
    Build a house or a pyramid in the desert and, given time, they will change.

    In among this maelstrom, life strives to maintain homœostasis and fights against 'death'/change, a struggle that always fails.

    Humans have become semi-conscious of the struggle, and often confuse themselves into believing that they can prevail.

    In this process, there is a fight for wealth, power, and some imagined, unlimited resources (see crowding in Feedback and crowding).

  2. trying to make sense of humans' cacophony
  3. The human attempts to weave all the bits of incoming light, sound and data into a coherent and unified story or pattern. They often call that picture their personality, religion, a theory, or ethnicity, as they try to co-ordinate their struggles with allies - labelling these allies their 'nation', a 'village', or family.

  4. None of these assemblies in individual heads form a clear unity outside those heads.

  5. 'Sociology' tries to use these collections as objects in the real world, but they are abstracts and arbitrary. These collections vary from head to head, in the real heads.

  6. The sociologists and other dreamers have even come to believe that they can invent 'perfect' or desirable (to them) societies.

  7. These fairly random assemblages gain collective names like Marxism, or Islam, or Democracy.

    confusion between the real world and ideas from people in the real world
  8. So we have random assemblies that become adopted in the real world, and others that remain as theories and in books.

    The distinction between the fictions becomes muddled and often dangerous.
    For instance, during the early twentieth century, members of arty groups such as the Bloomsbury Group wrote novels that fictionalised their lives and the lives of others in the group and of their acquaintance. They also wrote reviews of each others' books, in an incestuous dilettante whirl of dancing and general trivia.

    Another example is television social series like Coronation Street and East Enders which, while feeding the vicarious pleasures of peeping through curtains at other people's petty private lives, also are written as social engineering, now generally in the direction of socialism, political correctness, and the mediocre.

  9. 'Them' is 'the enemy' or the competing 'tribe'.

  10. Thus much of strife takes place in a world of the imagination - a world that is thereby turned from confusion and beliefs into real mayhem and war.
    Other people's lunacy becomes your reality.

    As Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), with a nod to humans' animal emotional inheritance, said:
          "It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow too fond of it."

  11. By the 'leader's' wish to control, your life is defined by struggling for freedom or by conforming to the sheep fold.

  12. Most leaders are more concerned to cling to their thrones than to encourage education, or to develop enhancement of lives in that society.

  13. The more such 'leaders' cling to power, the greater the reaction develops. The more insecure they become, the more paranoid they become,
    until they find they are riding the tiger, too frightened to let go.
    By then, such a 'leader' is thrashing around like a terrified child, as their society sinks into a bloodbath.

  14. What is to be done?

how does one analyse actions that work despite they are, by common versions of reason or 'logic', irrational?

Schrodinger and his pussycat
Each person is part of the system, and almost all seem not to appreciate that well. This furthers the errors of Aristotelian 'logic'.

Erwin Schrödinger [1887- 1961] is best known for his work regarding quantum theory, in particular his thought experiment of 1935 involving a cat, used in order to explain the flawed Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum superposition.

In the imagined (thought) experiment, a cat is supposed as being enclosed in a box with a radioactive source and a poison.

The poison would be released when the source emits radiation (it being tiny enough that there is only a 50/50 chance of it being detected over the course of an hour).

A Geiger counter detects radiation, a hammer smashes a phial of poison, and kills the cat. 

Until the box is opened and the cat's state is observed, according to some interpretations of quantum mechanics, the cat is considered to be simultaneously both dead and alive - that is, probablistically.

Schrödinger correctly claimed that was ridiculous because it is impossible for an organism to be simultaneously alive and dead. Thus, he reasoned that the Copenhagen Interpretation must be inherently flawed. 

The Copenhagen Quantum Physics Interpretation of quantum physics says that an object in a physical system can simultaneously exist in all possible configurations, but observing the system forces the system to collapse and forces the object into just one of those possible states - a clear nonsense.

This is a problem faced a hundred years ago in quantum physics where, with anything you examine, you become an important part of the system which is being examined. You cannot examine anything without it being prodded, and the prodding changes the system being studied.

The problem with the Schrodinger's cat thought experiment is the confusion between you not knowing the state of the cat with claims that it is in more than one state at a time, and confusions between probabilities of future states with the real position when it is merely that it is unknown at present. Your knowledge, or lack of knowledge, of the state of the cat is not the same as the state of the cat.
This is called a thought experiment - no real cats were harmed.

It is vital when examining a system to start by clarifying just what system it is that you are studying.
Is it the car?
Ist the cat in the road?
Is it the driver?
Is it the driver with the car?
Is it the road?
Is it the road and the car?
Is it the driver and the road?
Is it the road and the cat?
And so.

Trying to hold variables still in order to make a problem easy to understand is good and well. However, the moment you forget there are arbitrarily many other variables to which you could attend and that nothing is 'still' in the real world, you will likely draw dubious and unduly dogmatic conclusions. This is aggravated by those who talk for the collective or for other people, using phrases such as "People should...", "people feel...", "we should...".

Thus, people also confuse their perceptions of the world with the results of their actions on the world.
In any human interaction in which you participate, you are part of 'the system'. Even the canon will not work until you light the blue touch paper, no canonball will be perfectly spherical despite the theoretical parabolas of mathematics, and so on.

Vilfredo Pareto

Vilfredo Pareto [1848-1923] refers to various forms of allegedly non-'scientific' thinking, such as praying for victory or believing in victory according to esoteric signs. Yet that behaviour leads to courage and self-belief, and so can contribute to achievement in the form of self-hypnosis while reading signs to believe what you will.

Pareto also refers to beliefs that an objective can be met through a daft theory such as 'socialism'. Aron asks the interesting question whether the followers would still have pursued their beliefs even had they known the real outcomes of chaos, mayhem and mass murder. By the look of today's world, many would.

I wonder whether cults like socialism have ever and anywhere produced net benefits, beyond the most short-term.

Just as with the cat, the person and the way their behaviour changes must be considered with matters like prayer, and thence on the result of those actions on real battles and the like.

Many self-improvement systems rely on this sort of effect and, of course, religions attempt to be self-improvement systems.

The human, and humans' responses, are a part of the system. To make claims like prayer has no effects is quite as foolish as to be sure that you can cure cancer by prayer alone. But teaching altruism may well provide more effective scientists and even public donations.

Pareto objects to the ascetic and similar foolishnesses detected in Neitsche, as the socialist sect works to kill 'god' and live without concern for others. Yet without law or 'god', there is no care for others. Meanwhile, socialist loons dream of careless utopias and end up killing by the millions and destroying wealth.

Pareto also aptly describes revolution and history as being merely a process of one elite replacing another.


Arthur Ransome
Much of what humans believe is nonsense, for instance, their beliefs that they are members of some supposed group:

"A man does not set out saying, 'I am going to be a bohemian' ; he trudges along, whispering to himself , 'I am going to be a poet, or an artist, or some other kind of great man,' and finds Bohemia, like a tavern by the wayside …"

… and, looking into the tavern, catches glimpses of a hundred others as extravagant as himself, he tells himself with utter joy that here are his own people, and, being like everyone else is a gregarious creature, throws himself through the door and into their arms. There are no bohemians in the desert."
[Bohemia in London, pp. 284; 286]

Here, the idealism of youth meets a shallow mind. Almost all socialists have a similar combination. Most rebellious youth believe they will 'change the world ' against which they are 'rebelling'.

"When Felix Dzerzhinsky founded the Cheka, the Bolshevik secret police, in December 1917, announcing, "We represent terror - this must be stated openly - a terror that is absolutely essential in the revolutionary period we are passing through," Ransome defended this too, in a way that may ring bells today. The Reds [claimed they] were protecting a 'legal' government against White counter-revolutionaries, who were indulging in "aimless, terrible, revengeful slaughter". The greater the threat from such insurgents, the more justified the Reds in defending the security of the people. Paranoia fed terror, but having convinced himself of the Bolsheviks' right to rule, Ransome stuck to his guns. He defended censorship of the press, the suppression of democracy, and even downplayed execution without trial."
[Quoted from theguardian.com]
See also selected quotations by George Orwell

H.G. Wells and other Fabians - a socialist with a rather better mind;
with several reviews

The claim to be speaking for the collective - the swarm - is among the worst of human delusions. Even being voted into government conveys no special wisdom. While the swarm may in some circumstances arrive at a more efficacious solution than an individual, and while democracies tend to resolve difficulties of conflicting interests, and while dictatorships descend into the madhouses of fear and ego, there is no easy guarantor of tranquillity anywhere, or even of economic thriving.

the gene and the meme

The scientism that enthuses about the gene misconstrues human reality. The gene passes bodies onto the future. Intelligence and and discovered methods pass information and wealth forward through culture. It isn't a Roman nose or blond hair that enhances human wealth and happiness. It is Newton's simplified law of motion, or even the tidier classifications of life from Mendel and Darwin.

Having ten children passes far less value to the future than quantum dynamics or relativity theory, or transactional psychology.

The swarm may be examined bee by bee, as is done by Seeley, or the swarm may be considered as a functioning unit. Some try to analogise the human brain to the swarm, while others try to look at the swarm as some model of human society, but the individuals bee, or human, or even neurons, are not equivalent to the swarm or the nation.

All analogies are false.

John Donne claims that no man is an island, but every bee has its place in producing honey and more children - or less. Without individual scientists, we'd have no high-producing grains and no efficient killing machinery. Human problems involve judgments and judicious usage - not some neat, simplified rules available in an easily accessible, reliable guide book. Though such attempts are available in quantity and in law libraries - attempts are well larded with human ego, and much shorter on objectivity.

Liberation can lead to a breakdown of law and to a disregard for others. Such a vacuum encourages dictatorships of force and violence. Extremes are always foolish. Anarchism can lead the immature into ego-driven arrogance - blessed are the meek, the humble.

From a 1946 essay by Bertrand Russell

This quotation from Bertrand Russell is on balance and his worries about 'extremism'. Such patterns can be seen in many a person.

"The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice. If you take your children for a picnic on a doubtful day, they will demand a dogmatic answer as to whether it will be fine or wet, and be disappointed in you when you cannot be sure. The same sort of assurance is demanded, in later life, of those who undertake to lead populations into the Promised Land. “Liquidate the capitalists and the survivors will enjoy eternal bliss.” “Exterminate the Jews and everyone will be virtuous.” “Kill the Croats and let the Serbs reign.” “Kill the Serbs and let the Croats reign.” These are samples of the slogans that have won wide popular acceptance in our time. Even a modicum of philosophy would make it impossible to accept such bloodthirsty nonsense. But so long as men are not trained to withhold judgment in the absence of evidence, they will be led astray by cocksure prophets, and it is likely that their leaders will be either ignorant fanatics or dishonest charlatans. To endure uncertainty is difficult, but so are most of the other virtues. For the learning of every virtue there is an appropriate discipline, and for the learning of suspended judgment the best discipline is philosophy.

"But if philosophy is to serve a positive purpose, it must not teach mere scepticism, for, while the dogmatist is harmful, the sceptic is useless. Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or of ignorance. Knowledge is not so precise a concept as is commonly thought. Instead of saying “I know this,” we ought to say “I more or less know something more or less like this.” It is true that this proviso is hardly necessary as regards the multiplication table, but knowledge in practical affairs has not the certainty or the precision of arithmetic. Suppose I say “democracy is a good thing”: I must admit, first, that I am less sure of this than I am that two and two are four, and secondly, that “democracy” is a somewhat vague term which I cannot define precisely. We ought to say, therefore: “I am fairly certain that it is a good thing if a government has something of the characteristics that are common to the British and American Constitutions,” or something of this sort. And one of the aims of education ought to be to make such a statement more effective from a platform than the usual type of political slogan.

"For it is not enough to recognize that all our knowledge is, in a greater or less degree, uncertain and vague; it is necessary, at the same time, to learn to act upon the best hypothesis without dogmatically believing it. To revert to the picnic: even though you admit that it may rain, you start out if you think fine weather probable, but you allow for the opposite possibility by taking mackintoshes. If you were a dogmatist you would leave the mackintoshes at home. The same principles apply to more important issues. One may say broadly: all that passes for knowledge can be arranged in a hierarchy of degrees of certainty, with arithmetic and the facts of perception at the top. That two and two are four, and that I am sitting in my room writing, are statements as to which any serious doubt on my part would be pathological. I am nearly as certain that yesterday was a fine day, but not quite, because memory does sometimes play odd tricks. More distant memories are more doubtful, particularly if there is some strong emotional reason for remembering falsely, such, for instance, as made George IV remember being at the battle of Waterloo. Scientific laws may be very nearly certain, or only slightly probable, according to the state of the evidence When you act upon a hypothesis which you know to be uncertain, your action should be such as will not have very harmful results if your hypothesis is false. In the matter of the picnic, you may risk a wetting if all your party are robust, but not if one of them is so delicate as to run a risk of pneumonia Or suppose you meet a Muggletonian, you will be justified in arguing with him, because not much harm will have been done if Mr Muggleton was in fact as great a man as his disciples suppose, but you will not be justified in burning him at the stake, because the evil of being burnt alive is more certain than any proposition of theology..."

In the days of long ago, there may have been some almost excuse, but there is none after a century of experience of the murderous and destructive cult of socialism and other forms of extremism.. And yet you will meet it every day in the circles of would-be nonconformists - in Britain, look at Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Milliband, actual and previous Labour Party leaders

Very few people seem to be able to maintain a balance between idealism and realism. Those who see the corruption usually tend to throw the baby out with the feelthy corruption. The idealistic youth often morphs into the cynical oldster with no intervening moderate stage - thus is much of human ego.

fictive groups—I want, Thou shall not kill

If I strive for a world ruled by the edicts, "Thou shall not kill", or "Thou shall not bear false witness", then clearly I have no common interest with those driven to kill for god or for kicks. I listened to a Mormon escapee say, "They say group marriage is about god's will, but it isn't - it's all about sex". Who knows what people believe, only their acts are public.

Things happen for reasons. It does not matter whether poor humans believe the reasons are 'good' or 'bad', or that the reasons believed are realistic or magical.
It is worthwhile to seek realistic reasons.

Thou shalt not kill is good for me, it is probably good for others. I can probably get a democratic consensus that it is 'good'.

relative ethics

A wolf pack decides to hunt a poor lickle wabbit. If they succeed, that is good for the wolves.

This concentration on some absolutist 'good' and 'bad' does not seem to me to accord with the real world. I prefer 'it works' or 'it doesn't work'. From which comes a question of 'works for whom?' The world does work, is that not a 'reality'?

If the wabbit does not dodge, then perhaps you can say that the world has not worked for the wabbit. You cannot surely make the claim that the world will stop, other than perhaps for the wabbit.
God is in his heaven and all is right with the world. The wabbit doesn't understand god's purposes and neither do humans.

It would seem a bit of a stretch to then claim the world does not work for god, or that a person or the wabbit know better than god!

One person, or society, may believe killing wabbits is 'a good thing' and another may regard it as 'bad' or uncivilised - some value rabbit stew more highly than others. Some think controlling rabbits or eating them is alright, while others may avoid killing insects. Others even kill for fun and call it 'sport'.


Evolution in action is part of he real world in which we live. Creatures fill ecological niches to the extent of the energy available to them, but humans have and continue to develop new energy sources.

A wealthy society can afford ethics/morality. When a society reaches the limits of available energy, the individuals and groups will start to fight over the resources. This tendency to fight/compete over resources is built into evolution, and thus individuals will contend by instinct over resources, even when those resources are adequate or even plentiful.

If humans are to limit contention and the associated tribulations, it requires laws and understanding - that is education - into the nature of this situation.

Contextualised thinking.

It is not a good idea that the individuals in a group swallow wholesale that group's theories and dogma.

magical thinking

I take it that everything that happens is there for a purpose - for real reasons. To refer to irrationality or madness is itself a reflection on reason - an expression of preferences, not some sound universal natural law of the universe.

You and others may well have good personal reasons for rejecting forms of behaviour, and you may vote on it, and you may call your votes and your laws 'good' or even bad. However, pretending that your preferences have some authority from the universe requires much more than your and your society's preferences and approval.

Some believe it a duty to die for one's country, but not duty to lie for it (Montesquieu). Others claim that a person with a different opinion about the merits of their homeland will swear the patriot is 'lying' whereas the patriot will claim the uber-liberal is a renegade and a coward.

One person's madness is another person's reality.

Only with caution/prudence and tolerance will you improve the lot of humans at large.

"Thou shalt not kill" is established for excellent personal —> and thence democratic reasons - it is not random or against the real universe in which we find ourselves. It is a rule that suits and serves the interests of most people and societies. See co-operation and being nice - suckers, grudgers and cheats.

A rational society starts by defining its objectives, for example, "thou shalt not kill". Christian societies have been refining this objective for over two thousand years, as, for instance, in just war theory and self-defence and it was founded in laws long before that. Only once objectives have been defined can a rational society develop its legal code.

How much will society devise a code of live and let live, particularly in a murderous state such as where socialism or jihadism is developing power on its borders which now includes the whole planet. To stop wars does not necessitate stopping polygamy or banning blasphemy', but it does imply stopping primitives from developing nuclear-tipped missiles.

Distancing and subsidiarity can limit contention by devolving power and by creating local responsibilities down the political/social road. Such devolution and societal management may curtail hubris.

clear the mind

An idea may be useful, but that does not make the idea the real world. But an idea, however foolish, can effect, change and damage the real world through the acts of people. Whether people regard the act as damaging or as useful depends on their ideas/theories about the world.

The ability of people to cling onto what they wish to believe is amazing. They even cling to beliefs that things would have been different if only some other thing than what happened had happened instead!

And yet many are remarkably easily taken in by the vehemence and apparent confidence that such nonsense is asserted - a dominance little removed from head-butting sheep.

democracy and liberalism

A society can vote for foolish, dangerous and authoritarian governments.
Your freedom ends when you step on my toes.
Do you step on my toes when you throw litter, or make a robot (that may take my job)? Is there sanity in me concerning myself with your rude words/blasphemy?
Are you treading on my toes if you spread AIDS or antibiotic-resistant bugs? One wife sneaking off may infect the whole tribe.
Perhaps better we learn to cure the disease.

Life is experimental, the more we learn, the more we can improve our lot. The more there is tolerance the more the collective can manage with a non-conforming individual, but people have irrational inclinations to cling to past habits.

New generations forget. New generations learn to deal with changing situations. The older generation and books remember old failures and old problems.

Sociology is not static with fixed rules and laws, despite humans hungering for stasis. Nor even is physics, despite human vanity and seeking for security.

What is 'emotion'?

I shall treat 'emotion' not as some complicated, academic interest, but as simplist reactions. That is, I shall treat 'emotion' as a thought-less response to an input. The response is thought-less in that there is no thought involved - no forebrain activity. This can be seen in Pavlov's experiments of conditioned responses, or in your own salivating when you see a hamburger advertisement, or when you react to a harsh, a 'rude' or a 'blasphemous' word.

My own close observations lend me to believe that most behaviour and reactions of most people can thus be more easily called emotion than be called concious thought or reason. Much is unexamined conditioning from childhood, not my idea of a thoughtful society or life at all.

A great deal of human interaction looks to me like attempts to manipulate other people's emotions, rather than sane seeking after agreements and even when such contracts are apparently agreed, great efforts are made to renege upon them!

None of this makes for comfortable or efficient living societies, but it does increase resentments aggravated by cults and individuals that seek engender and exploit such resentments.

Perhaps Christian theology is more wise and developed that cod psychology of Marxist scientism!

All extremes are foolishness.

Emotion is encouraged/evoked /induce in order to confuse, but I am against it.
But you should have gathered that by now.

now read
explosions -
expanding and dying chains



Smart swarm by Peter Miller (in particular, chapter 2, pp. 33-43, mostly on the work by Thomas Seeley)

Smart swarm by Peter Miller

Avery, 2010, hbk

ISBN-10: 1583333908
ISBN-13: 978-1583333907


Avery Trade, pbk,
reprint 2011

ISBN-10: 1583334289
ISBN-13: 978-1583334287

$10.88 [amazon.com] {advert}
£7.19 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

Avery, 2010
Kindle edition


$13.36 [amazon.com] {advert}

  On the various ways individuals animals and insects respond in groups.

end notes

  1. Quantum physics
    The science of very small objects.
  2. Muggletonianism
    "Lodowicke Muggleton (1609–1698) was an English religious thinker, who gave his name to Muggletonianism, a Protestant sect which was always
    small, but survived until the death of its last follower in 1979. He spent his working life as a journeyman tailor in the City of London and was imprisoned twice for his beliefs. He held opinions hostile to all forms of philosophical reason, and had received only a basic education. He encouraged quietism and free-thought amongst his
    followers whose beliefs were predestinarian in a manner that was distinct from Calvinism. Near the close of his long life, Muggleton wrote his spiritual autobiography which was published posthumously."
  3. Idealistic irrationalism
    You can see further roots of this attack on the family in On bourgeois marriage at Précis of the communist manifesto and extracts from Das Capital.

on sociology on socialism 'social' economics supporting resources
and background documents
For more on sociology and socialism:

Introdution - socialism & sociology
sociology - the structure of analysing belief systems

Labour Party pamphlets:

return to the index

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