Through my previous question on ideology and instinct, a more fundamental query was encountered. In both individual and collective minds, semantic decay can result in mental threads out of alignment with the being's instinct. This effect is perhaps more pronounced in the collective mind as a result of groupthink. In either case, the longer and older the chain of reason, the higher the chance of semantic corruption and decay.

A contrast might be mentioned here between circumstantial change and semantic decay, two causes of instrumental corruption. A goal set in the past, such as a plan to carry out a particular task, like obtaining a certain item, can later become obsolete or unnecessary, per circumstance. Yet, without reflection, the feeling of necessity or value can mistakenly remain. In the case of semantic decay, a change in mental framework, meaning of symbols, or connotation can replace the interpretation or effect of previously acquired beliefs and ideologies. Yet, without revisit, the perceived rightness or value can persist.

Mental threads, or processes, can run through a single mind or a collective mind. The latter thread can be classed as distributed cognition, where multiple minds process asynchronously the steps of thought. Whether a single or collective, in both cases the mind can be extended, where artifacts and external representations, such as on paper and machine, provide memory and processing enhancement.

Agency is possessing goal-directed behaviour toward satisfying one's will. Yet instrumental corruption acts as a lens against one's will, poisoning one's autonomy and diverting cognitive threads to an agent of decay. Unlike present deficits of intellect, which may lower the efficacy of one's journey, this cancer of the will changes the direction of one's path.

In the case of an individual, an intuitive sense of wrongness or dissatisfaction should help to limit the extent of diversion in one's life purpose; but the more distracted or mentally bogged the lifestyle, perhaps the greater the detour. In the case of a collective, on the other hand, the phenomenon of groupthink can result in longer, blinder, and more insidious deviation from the good life.

One might argue that a computer virus is an extra-will agent within the system.

Are these mental threads of instrumental corruption also extra-will agents?

  • Programmed computer virus only fits hard mechanic determinism without any willpower from the computer itself to choose counter options or from virus itself to choose anti-counter options, perhaps a more suitable metaphor is user trick-and-test by the designer behind the virus. Any nontrivial ideology will inevitably get tested again and again in numerous different ways, so any extra-will agent interference is common. And often times the corruption test from within the fundamental-oriented group may be more destructive and corrosive than external agents. Group think may be such internal test. Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 1:45
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    The desire for cohesiveness in a group may produce a tendency among its members to agree at all costs. This causes the group to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation like sometimes a non-optimal answer gets the highest points without extensive critical discussion and comparison with other alternative answers. As Arendt famously stated "No one has the right to obey", you're right "the phenomenon of groupthink can result in longer, blinder, and more insidious deviation" as it adds another test to each individual's will which is what ultimately matters.. Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 2:05

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On the group level I would say an outdated and pathological ritual is more like a disease, requiring treatment or intervention, whereas misinformation and disinformation is more viral, requiring anti-virus. Note, disinformation is often someone else's deliberate 'will agent'.

On the individual level, I'm reminded of Trigant Burrow's writing where he says people can become confused and ill by persuasive misinformation and literalism. A good solution is stepping back, detachment, and restart.

  • So basically we have exterior manipulation and interior confusion. Both cases involve a fragmented internal agency, both from internal confusion, but only one by external will. An exterior agent can sow confusion by altering connotations, frameworks, and symbols. The subject, gaslit into insecurity, is then more vulnerable to "guidance". First you create the problem (confusion). Then you sell the solution ("clarity").
    – Michael
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 18:00
  • Misinformation & disinformation can be called out, interpreted. Part and parcel of 'interpretive leadership'. Helps if the media works. Outdated customs are trickier - they have more historical inertia. More controversial. Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 19:25

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