Psychology Helped Create Our Moral Malaise. It Can Also Help Cure It

To Paul Vitz, the widespread revelations of powerful men committing sexual offenses against women are but a symptom of a larger crisis of morality, which modern psychological theories played a part in bringing about. But now, he writes, newer psychological research is affirming age-old notions of virtue:

The problem began in the early 1950s, when the first signs of the coming sexual revolution emerged. After the Great Depression and World War II, the country turned toward prosperity and consumerism. At that time, psychological problems were commonly interpreted as arising from sexual repression and moral prudishness. The understanding of personal problems as caused by moral failings or weak character was on the way out. Among the signs of this change were the Kinsey reports, Playboy magazine, and the rise of advice columns offering psychological answers.

Already in the 1950s, and more so in the 1960s, psychologists emphasized “self-actualization,” where the self—presumed to be all good—should break from all inhibitions and choose its own values and way of life. The goal was to be without restrictions, and even without interpersonal commitments. . . .

Fortunately, since its heady days in the 1960s and 1970s, psychology has become wiser. Newer theories have emphasized strong and supportive interpersonal relationships throughout life as necessary for psychological health. Even the importance of forgiveness has been introduced into psychology, de-emphasizing the isolated autonomous person. Still more significantly, the field of psychology has discovered—really, re-discovered—the importance of virtues and character strengths to a flourishing life. . . . There is now good evidence that the character strength of self-control, or self-regulation, . . . is more important than IQ as a predictor of academic performance. Indeed, self-control has been found to be a long-term predictor of what is termed “a flourishing life.”

Our culture needs to recognize again what we once knew, an insight that is found in all the world’s major cultures: that the good man and the good woman are persons of good character. For men especially, this means regaining control over their sexuality and aggressiveness. And this time around, psychology can probably be of help.

Read more at First Things

More about: History & Ideas, Morality, Psychology, Sexual ethics

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority