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  1. #1
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Default Does absolute power corrupt absolutely?

    This platitude came up in some random thread online and I started thinking about it. It seems that power provides opportunity for a person to be whatever they are most naturally. It is the removal of constraints on behavior. One reason I wanted to examine the psychology of power is because a loss of power has capacity to corrupt as well. Those who have been made to feel powerless are brought to a cross-roads where they choose to (1) regain their power through inner strength, changing what they can, and finding the ability to let go of what is beyond personal control or (2) they regain their sense of power by extracting it from others, by making others to feel powerless.

    What intrigues me is that while power may be a means by which people are corrupted, so is powerlessness. This is of course a complex issue, but could make for an interesting discussion? References to outside sources (philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, etc.) are always welcomed in addition to personal insight.

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    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
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  2. #2
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toonia View Post
    How 'bout it?
    The greater the power, the less requirement to draw upon social conformance, which leads to our interpretation of corruption.

    ie: I need to get along, reasonably well, with my flat mates... but those with enough power could probably murder them in their sleep without any worries.

    Enough power simply removes the limits one has on ones actions and our actions are all defined by these external limits. Eventually we do become reconditioned and whatever moral standards we had before change to reflect the new reality that we find ourself in.

    (edit: the lack of power change is also the period of being reconditioned to a new environment - over enough time, the "King" does become a lot more like a "Commoner", but until then, the methodology of an ex-power broker is still very "corrupt")

  3. #3
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toonia View Post
    It seems that power provides opportunity for a person to be whatever they are most naturally. It is the removal of constraints on behavior.
    Yes, that's exactly it: The person is free to do whatever they desire most to do. So behavior is now a directly correlated expression of will.

    One reason I wanted to examine the psychology of power is because a loss of power has capacity to corrupt as well. Those who have been made to feel powerless are brought to a cross-roads where they choose to (1) regain their power through inner strength, changing what they can, and finding the ability to let go of what is beyond personal control or (2) they regain their sense of power by extracting it from others, by making others to feel powerless.
    That's an interesting spin on things.

    Yes, when one's desire is thwarted, one either submits to the external constraints and builds up the internal resiliency needed to survive without desire being fulfilled; or one seeks to dominate outwardly, to wrest power to oneself.

    As a small tangent, what about the ideas that "innocence is impotence" and "only the guilty have power?"
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    I would have to say that just about anyone would be corrupted if they were given absolute power. For instance- if you knew that you could demand an A and get it in your class would you even bother buying the books or showing up? And think about the ability to smite one's enemies!
    I think that a quick study of dictatorships around the world can show us that anyone who has the ability to get near-absolute power really doesn't deserve it and will use it in a corrupt manner, and anyone who gets absolute power will use it to help themselves or their causes, which leads to corruption.

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    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Well, it leads to corrupt behavior, but not the corruption itself. The truth is, everyone is already corrupt/flawed. Power just removes your incentive to conceal it, and magnifies what already exists. Of course, not everyone would be corrupt in the same way. Some leaders would show paranoia and too much patrol/laws. Some would succumb to lasciviousness/materialism. Some would just torture their people on purpose and derive pleasure from their suffering. Some would focus on world/universal conquest and simply be oblivious to the conditions of their people. Some would try to implement an ideology that was unbalanced, that may have been positive at one point, but has become cohesive/negative due to it's being forced on people.

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    This is def. a theme in a book we read in English; multiple ones actually.

    I believe it, actually.

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    I think that only a very little percentage of people have moral standards that are internalized enough to keep them when in power. This percent is probably the same as the one that is ready to refuse to obey authority in situations such as this:

    Milgram experiment - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    This percent concerns people who have arrived at a higher state of morality as defined by the psychologist Kohlberg (Kohlberg's stages of moral development) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. They no longer see morality as relative and internalize universal principles. I think absolute power corrupts because such a few percent of people have actually internalized ethical principles and are ready to risk their a) security, b) image, c) relations with others and d) self interest for it.

    Assessing a person's morality should be a prerequisite to deciding if that person is fit to handling power. Only people who have attained this state will be able to be relied upon for exercizing "absolute" power:

    In Stage six (universal ethical principles driven), moral reasoning is based on abstract reasoning using universal ethical principles. Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and that a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws. Rights are unnecessary as social contracts are not essential for deontic moral action. Decisions are not met hypothetically in a conditional way but rather categorically in an absolute way (see Immanuel Kant's 'categorical imperative'[13]). This can be done by imagining what one would do being in anyone's shoes, who imagined what anyone would do thinking the same (see John Rawls's 'veil of ignorance'[14]). The resulting consensus is the action taken. In this way action is never a means but always an end in itself; one acts because it is right, and not because it is instrumental, expected, legal or previously agreed upon. While Kohlberg insisted that stage six exists, he had difficulty finding participants who consistently used it. It appears that people rarely if ever reach stage six of Kohlberg's model.[11]
    While a philosopher might debate that this stance does not make sense, I think it is necessary in order to exercize fair power. Somebody who has attained such a high stage of development is in fact a rebel to society, because his principles commit him to disobeying unjust laws in favor of higher principles. Ironically, the person the most fit for handling power and with the most integrity is at risk for being outcasted by his social group at an early stage for going against the grain.

    The paradox of power is that the ones the most likely to attain it are the ones less likely to exercize it properly. It takes qualities contrary to exercizing fair power to attain it. To get power nowadays, one must be ready to be political and to manipulate others. However, a person with true integrity always rubs at least some people the wrong way which prevents his progress.

    The Lord of the Rings shows this very well. The only one apt at handling the ring is the one that seemed the most unfit to handling power... It is the one ready to fight for his principles, to a point where he seemed "stupid" by others for doing so.

    Truly ethical behavior will often be considered as stupid by so called "intelligent" people. I am the most wary of people who consider themselves intelligent and see morality as relative. Those are generally the sharks that will manipulate circumstances and excuse their behavior with apparently rational thinking.

  8. #8
    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    why didn't I think of Milgram! I've read that study about 8 times and watched several documentaries on it! (this is what happens to people who study sociology and psychology for their fun classes) I'm glad someone remembered it!

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    Senior Member prplchknz's Avatar
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    I think the people who are least aware of their ability to be corrupted are more likely to be. Not saying those aware won't be. Once you take out all restraints that keep us in line then what is their to hold anyone back? I stay out of politics, or positions of power as I can see me being corrupted once I have too much power, hell I probably am corrupted but the legal system and my own paranoia keeps me in line, and if I was above the legal system then well...

    In other words if I ever run for president, don't vote for me. No matter how much you agree with me on the issues do not vote for me.

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    same here....If someone offered me position of worldly power tomorrow for a trial run, say, i'd be over the moon.... but then i'd get my head screwed on and i'd then throw a party for all zen masters and hand it over to them

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