I think the most interesting conversation here from a philosophy perspective was between Natalie and Jeremy. There was a lot to unpack there.
First, Natalie seemed deep in a web of rationalizations about her social status in the tribe. She told Jeremy that she was getting along with everyone, and she was extremely resistant to Jeremy’s warning that she was not. This is probably connected to a phenomenon that some psychologists call “self-enhancement”. People tend to be over-optimistic about their social status and abilities. For example, most drivers think they have above-average road skills, which is of course statistically impossible.
One of the reasons that self-enhancement exists is that it can be a successful strategy for survival and reproduction. For example, people with an inflated sense of their physical attractiveness will likely be more confident with potential romantic partners, and confidence can be attractive in itself, creating a positive feedback loop. Another example is that if you think you’re a better worker than you actually are, you might convince your boss that you deserve a raise. In fact, people with realistic assessments of themselves might be defeated by others who are less physically attractive or worse workers, because the over-optimistic people might project such an air of confidence that the rest of society believes them.
What does self-enhancement say about the human condition? Is the lesson that we have to lie to ourselves in order to be happy and successful? That can be difficult to swallow, since most humans also seem to generally value the concept of truth. Even if we try to correct for our self-enhancement by assuming that our “real” social status and abilities are less than we feel in our guts, how much correction is accurate? If we correct too much, we can slip into unreasonable self-defeating behavior, but if we don’t correct enough then we’re still arrogantly fooling ourselves. And even if we somehow assess our level with almost-perfect accuracy, unless we truly are at the top in the areas that we value, the knowledge of the gap between ourselves and the best can often lead to depression.
However, despite the successfulness of self-enhancement, it can go overboard if the difference between perception and reality is so large that a person is at risk of not correcting fatal mistakes. Right now, this seems to be the case with Natalie. Which raises the question of how Natalie has continued with this problem unchecked for so long. One clue was given by Jeremy, who pointed out that Natalie has been “married for 24 years, so someone loves her as she is. That means she’s not making any changes.” In a society where resources are generally abundant for survival and child-rearing, humans have a lot of leeway for unrealistic beliefs, especially if they have enabling partners.
Just as a pedantic side note (since this is “Philosophy and Survivor” after all), Jeremy was trying to achieve a logical contradiction by wanting Natalie to recognize her own lack of self-awareness. If she could do that, then she wouldn’t have lacked self-awareness in the first place. Just for the hell of it, I’ll try to lay it out in symbolic logic:
- If a person is un-self-aware, then she does not comprehend her own personality traits.
(∀x)[(Px ^ u) ⊃ (∀y)(¬Cxy)]
- Being un-self-aware is itself a personality trait.
(∀y)(u ⊃ y)
- Therefore, a person who is un-self-aware does not comprehend that she is un-self-aware.
(∀x)[(Px ^ u) ⊃ (∀y)(¬Cxu)]
Jeremy also mentioned that Natalie sometimes confuses ideas with action. When we imagine ourselves doing something, MRI scans have shown this triggers many of the same areas of the brain as when we actually perform the action. This probably causes us to feel some of the pleasure of the act without doing it. It’s why many people have loved the book The Secret, which literally makes a virtue of confusing ideas for action. It’s also the source of the phenomenon called “slacktivism”.
PS: Christian and Nick have apparently never shopped for appliances at Sears. The best name for a partnership of people from Kentucky and Baltimore is obviously the “Kenmore Alliance“.