Introduction to Antiprocess


Preamble Views of Mind Motivations Thinking About ... Filters — 1 Filters — 2 Antiprocess Conclusion


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Let's have another look at a fruitless debate...

A contrary remark is baffling unless we know about antiprocess

It's because of antiprocess that we get situations such as this one. It looks like the person is deliberately missing the point — whatever that means — but in fact he is not. He's probably doing his best, but his efforts are being compromised by his fears and desires — particularly as they relate to his beliefs. His mind is protecting him by processing dangerous information without letting him see it.


Earlier, I gave the following formal explanation of antiprocess:

Antiprocess is the preemptive recognition and marginalization of undesired information by the synergistic interplay of high-priority acquired mental defense mechanisms.

Let's take that definition apart...

... the preemptive recognition ... means that antiprocess filters information before it reaches conscious awareness.

... marginalization of undesired information ... means that antiprocess doesn't have to destroy information for it to be effective. All it has to do is dispense with it somehow. The information is "undesired" because it threatens one's state of comfort.

... synergistic interplay ... means that antiprocess can call on one's entire set of skills. The smarter you are, the smarter your antiprocess is. Listen to a debate involving one of the primary proponents of Young-Earth Creationism if you want to see this in action.

... high-priority acquired mental defense mechanisms means that the mental "shields" are given primacy over other concerns (such as the search for truth). I included the word "acquired" because I believe that most (and possibly all) of our wrong-headed mental defense mechanisms are either reinforced, taught to us, or picked up by osmosis throughout our lives.

Skeptical note: Look over a list of rhetorical fallacies some day and note how many of them get used on a regular basis by people who don't even know what they are. How did they pick them up? I believe they learned them by osmosis, because nobody is deliberately and willfully teaching them to think illogically.

And Now That We Know?

The first time I noticed antiprocess was around 1973. I was the thick-headed individual in question, defending some arcane issue of religious doctrine. I was astonished to find this kind of deep dishonesty within myself. However, it wasn't until 1991 that I had even a faint idea about what was actually going on. For over 20 years thereafter I watched in baffled amazement as people argued in circles, never realizing why they couldn't come to an agreement.

Now I understand one of the reasons. Knowing this has saved me a lot of time and energy. I no longer bash my head against the walls of antiprocess. If somebody believes something, and they're not hurting anybody, I generally leave them alone.

Meanwhile, I continue to watch myself for antiprocess. Spotting it in other people is fairly easy. Spotting it in myself is much more difficult, because it hides from introspection, and is always ready with a convenient rationalization. In my case in particular, it might take this form: "Surely you can't be guilty of antiprocess —you invented the term!"

As I said earlier, I'm not really saying anything new. Many people already conduct their discussions with sensitivity to the needs of others. Here's a poem about that kind of approach...

Copyright © 2003 by Timothy Campbell
If you speak to a person's heart
instead of talking at their brain
You won't be forced to repeat yourself
over and over and over again

It is my belief that even the most logically-reasoned argument will be far more effective when we have a compassionate appreciation of the other person's humanity.