Law of Attraction Arguments, Part 9: “Mindless”

Titlepic: Law of Attraction Arguments, Part 9: 'Mindless'

What is the focus of Farber’s ‘Mindless’ argument against Law of Attraction? Does he succeed in showing that there is something wrong with Law of Attraction?

KEYWORDS: actions, arguments, challenges, law of attraction, future, goals, mindless, philosophy, plans, present, psychology, thinking, visualization.

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Note: This article is part of a series on arguments against the Law of Attraction. All articles in this series are available from the overview page called “Law of Attraction: Is It Real?

I have previously talked about Neil Farber’s article called “The Truth About the Law of Attraction“, in which he has presented fourteen arguments to prove that the Law of Attraction is not a true principle in the universe.

And that article may, of course, make some beginners question the idea of getting into the art of the Law of Attraction. For if the Law of Attraction is not true, what would be the point of learning more about it?

Today’s exercise is then to take a look at Farber’s ninth argument, the “Mindless” argument. And the plan is to first try to reconstruct his argument (for he typically is not presenting his arguments in a strict and formal way). And then I will go through all the premises and the conclusion to see if everything hangs together in a valid and sound way.

So let’s get going!

PART 1: THE ARGUMENT

Here is Farber’s opening sentence in his own presentation of the “Mindless” argument:

“To invoke LOA, you need to live continuously in an unreal future as you anticipate that it will be once you’ve achieved your goal and only visualize a successful outcome.”

The problem, already at this point, is this: Why has Farber christened his argument “Mindless”? For if it were true that Law of Attraction followers live as he has described it in the above quote, they would be living in their mind almost entirely. So isn’t “mindless” the worst possible description of what such Law of Attraction practitioners would be doing?

But there are two possibilities why Farber nevertheless has chosen that word as the name of this argument. One possibility is that he simply likes the word itself. For “mindless” really sounds non-attractive. So it would serve well as a way to put the Law of Attraction in a bad light, if the argument itself is not strong enough to do the real work.

Another possibility is more certain. The usage of “mindless” is supposed to be contrasted with the word “mindful”, both of which are accepted terms in the realm of modern psychological research. And this is why he talks about the virtues of mindfulness and about how that is proven to generate happiness, etc.

So we can now ask this: How does this argument work? Why is Law Attraction not a mindful practice, according to Farber?

To answer that question we will now reconstruct his argument in a more formal way, since he has not really presented it in a well-structured fashion. So let’s see how it plays out!

Argument 9: “Mindless”

Here is how I have reconstructed Farber’s “Mindless” argument (Argument 9):

P1.Mindfulness is the nice practice of an increased awareness of, and attentiveness to, the present moment, as it plays out in one’s surrounding physical world.

P2.And the beneficial quality of mindfulness is also documented in various scientific studies, which confirm that greater satisfaction and happiness is indeed achieved by those who practice it.

P3.But the students of Law of Attraction typically spend lots of time in their private fantasy dream world, as they want it to manifest in the future. So instead of living as normal people do, such students live their lives without regard for the present.

P4.So such students do not practice mindfulness but mindlessness.

P5.Therefore, such students will not experience the satisfaction and happiness that those who practice mindfulness are experiencing.

P6.Hence, the Law of Attraction is a false principle.

PART 2: MY RESPONSE

In Part 2 I am looking at each of the six propositions in Argument 9 to see if they work. Are all of these statements true, and also relevant to the argument as a whole? If they are, then Argument 9 is sound. But if only one of the premises is false or irrelevant, then Argument 9 must be considered unsound. And then it must be dismissed.

Proposition P1: Mindfulness is a Nice Practice

So let’s first start with proposition P1:

P1.Mindfulness is the nice practice of an increased awareness of, and attentiveness to, the present moment, as it plays out in one’s surrounding physical world.

So the idea here then is that mindfulness is “connected” to the present moment. Farber defines it like this in his article: “Being fully aware of and attentive to the here and now is mindfulness”.

Now, the interesting thing about mindfulness is that it is not really about “being more in the world” than normal people are, but rather about “being less in the world” than ordinary people are. For even if it certainly focuses on “the here and now”, it is the decreased connection with the world that seemingly accomplishes the relief that is one of its “benefits”.

For the whole idea of mindfulness originally comes from the Buddhist religion, where they engage in a “detached awareness” of both inner and outer events. This idea was then used by Ellen Langer to form the “mindfulness” concept in Western psychology (Pyszczynski 2010, p. 745b), as seen in her 1978 essay and in her 1989 book (cf. Peterson and Bossio 1991, p. 13). [note 1]

Thus, Pyszczynski states (pp. 745b-746a):

“Common aspects of mindful states include a clear awareness of one’s inner and outer worlds; a suspension of efforts to categorize, evaluate, or judge ongoing events or experiences; and an orientation toward the present.”

So the conclusion to draw from this description is that mindfulness can not really be applied “in the real world” when interacting with people. For if one must stop categorizing and stop evaluating and stop judging, one would not be able to do any type of demanding work, whether intellectually based or not. In other words, mindfulness practices (which sometimes are referred to as “mindfulness meditation”) seem only to be appropriate to engage in when one is not in a working environment that demands efficiency and quick decisions.

Now, one problem here is also that Farber has not revealed to us exactly which type of mindfulness school he is referring to, or which activities he is thinking of. For the fact of the matter is that there are different varieties of mindfulness available. Here is what James B. Lane says (2005, p. 372a)

“The literature contains terminology referencing to a number of related concepts and techniques, including ‘mindfulness training’, ‘mindful practice’, ‘mindfulness-based’ interventions, ‘mindfulness meditation’, and, most simply, ‘mindfulness’. To complicate matters, there is a similar, but distinct, social psychological construct of ‘mindfulness’ with a different origin and separate theoretical and research literature…”

Summing up: Even though we may consider P1 to be true, there are still questions: Which type of mindfulness is Farber talking about? And in what circumstances and environments would he use it, or not use it, in the context of proposition P1?

Proposition P2: Studies Show Mindfulness Is Good

Here is how proposition P2 is formulated:

P2.And the beneficial quality of mindfulness is also documented in various scientific studies, which confirm that greater satisfaction and happiness is indeed achieved by those who practice it.

There very well may be studies out there that support the idea that “greater satisfaction and happiness” can be achieved in some circumstances and for some people when using mindfulness.

But Farber has not mentioned any such study (no name of study, no authors, no publication date, no name of academic journal, no page numbers, etc.). Hence, he has not provided us with any evidence to support proposition P2.

Therefore, we cannot conclude that proposition P2 is true. So his whole “Mindless” argument falls apart.

Proposition P3: But LoA Students Aren’t in the Present

Here is proposition P3 in Argument 9:

P3.But the students of Law of Attraction typically spend lots of time in their private fantasy dream world, as they want it to manifest in the future. So instead of living as normal people do, such students live their lives without regard for the present.

There are two problems with proposition P3. The first problem is that Farber seemingly believes that Law of Attraction is about visualization and living in a dream world in order to succeed with one’s manifestations.

Admittedly, many authors of the Law of Attraction do talk about visualization and about how one can picture oneself in a fantasy dream world. But who is saying that one should do that all day long?

No authorized account of the Law of Attraction recommends their students to “spend lots of time in their private fantasy dream world”. Typically, if visualization is used at all, the recommendation is that such practices should be short in duration, just as one’s meditations should be short in duration (15 min max). But some students don’t visualize at all. And not all students have such powers anyway (i.e., aphantasia).

Also, it is very clearly stated in the authorized accounts that visualizations and “fantasy dream worlds” are not at all necessary for successful manifestations. Focusing on visualizations is just a philosophy promoted by non-authorized accounts of the Law of Attraction. According to the authorized accounts of the Law of Attraction, the universe already knows all those millions of details of exactly what we want, even if we don’t visualize them. Visualization is only for fun, and for feeling good. Visualization does not “make” any manifestations appear in our space-time reality; only feeling good does that.

Now the second problem with proposition P3 is that it says that “students live their lives without regard for the present”. This is also false. Such students live their lives with more focus on the now than most people out there. Why? Because they know that their true power is only found in the now, in the present moment. So they are very sure to make the best of as many “now” moments as ever possible.

Thus, proposition P3 is false. For the students of the authorized versions of Law of Attraction do not act like proposition P3 says.

Proposition P4: So Such Students Practice Mindlessness

Here I am discussing proposition P4 in Argument 9, which goes like this:

P4.So such students do not practice mindfulness but mindlessness.

What shall we say about proposition P4? Well, there are several things about it that don’t really work.

Our first observation is this. As we have seen previously, proposition P3 is not true. So it is not possible for Farber (or anyone else) to just continue with P4 as if nothing had happened. Because P3 is not true, and because P4 is dependent on P3, then P4 is automatically also not true.

And even if we would be kind enough to let that pass, it would not matter. For the fact that someone is not practicing mindfulness does not automatically make them practice mindlessness (whatever that term signifies). For there aren’t just two ways to use one’s mind. In other words, that is just some version of the fallacy of a false alternative or a false dilemma (cf. Kelley 1994, pp. 146-147; Michalos 1970, pp. 87-88). [note 2]

Another problem here is that Farber’s own definition of mindlessness has little to do with the kind of mindlessness that is discussed in the scientific literature. For example, the definition that Susan Beers uses is this (1996, p. 445):

“MINDLESSNESS: interacting with the world in an automatic fashion, following habitual scripts.”

So if we compare the “mode of operation” of Farber’s idea of a typical student of the Law of Attraction (as described in proposition P3), we see that it does not match at all. According to Farber such a student should be mostly in a fantasy dream world, and not “interacting with the world” so much. Also, according to Farber, such a student is engaged in “fantasies” (i.e. non-habitual creation of new dream worlds), as opposed to “following habitual scripts” in the physical world.

Another example of a psychological definition of the word “mindlessness” is this, which is found in Peterson and Bossio (1991, p. 13):

“When we are mindless in the way that Langer defines it, we are neither zombies nor stuporous. Rather, we act smoothly and efficiently, carrying out well-learned routines without devoting conscious attention to their details. Mindlessness becomes an issue only when a well-learned routine fails to work in given circumstances.”

Once again, this definition has little to do with the (alleged) behavior of the students described in proposition P3. This definition accentuates that “mindlessness” is how most people in the world act. Such people are not “zombies” and they are not lethargic, but are working very smoothly in the world. This fits very badly with the picture in proposition P3, where those students are described as being very different from ordinary people. [note 3]

Therefore, Farber’s idea of “mindlessness” has little do with any scientific definition of “mindlessness”. His definition of “mindlessness” apparently has been designed exclusively for the purpose of discrediting the Law of Attraction.

So what do we make of this? Well we have two alternatives, both of which are detrimental to Farber’s argument. First, if we use either of the two the scientific definitions of “mindlessness” referenced above, it doesn’t fit with the behavior described in proposition P3. So then we cannot claim that such students practice mindlessness.

And if we use Farber’s own definition of “mindlessness” it may fit with the behavior described in P3. But the behavior in P3 is not the real behavior of students of the authorized version of the Law of Attraction anyway (which is why P3 is not accepted as true). So then we cannot claim that the students of the authorized versions of the Law of Attraction practice mindlessness either.

Therefore, P4 cannot be considered true.

Proposition P5: Thus Such Students Won’t Get Mindfulness Benefits

Here I am discussing proposition P5 in Argument 9, which goes like this:

P5.Therefore, such students will not experience the satisfaction and happiness that those who practice mindfulness are experiencing.

Proposition P5 is dependent on propositions P2, P3, and P4. But since none of them are proven true, then P5 is also not proven true.

And even if we were to consider this proposition anyway, we would have to say that it is not a good idea to even try to use P5. Why? Because even if one were to grant the idea that such students would not get the same results that mindfulness practitioners get, that would not rule out that such students could not get similar or better results using other ways.

So not using mindfulness does not necessarily mean worse results; it could also mean better results, in some situations and circumstances.

In any case, proposition P5 is already shown not to be true. So Argument 9 is already completely out.

Proposition P6: Hence Law of Attraction Is False

Here I am discussing proposition P6 in Argument 9, which goes like this:

P6.Hence, the Law of Attraction is a false principle.

Proposition P6 is dependent on all the above premises. But since most of them are not proven true, proposition P6 must necessarily also not be proven true. Hence Farber’s whole argument is unsound, and can be safely dismissed.

CONCLUSION

Farber’s “Mindless” argument (Argument 9) is not a sound one. It is — wait for it — mindless. Although we may have considered P1 to be true, that doesn’t help. For P2, P3, P4, P5, and P6 all are not proven true. So the whole argument is a no-go.

Consequently, Farber has accomplished nothing with this argument, in terms of discrediting the Law of Attraction. So we find, once more, that there is no evidence that Law of Attraction couldn’t be real or couldn’t be true. Law of Attraction can still be cent percent true. And, according to my own experience, it absolutely is.

So why not embrace this opportunity to learn more about the Law of Attraction? You are most welcome to read my “How to Master the Law of Attraction” article, to get an overview of what it’s all about, and to see whether such a way of life might inspire you to a happier and more successful life.

Chris Bocay

NOTES

  1. These two works by Ellen Langer are: 1) “Rethinking the role of thought in social interaction” in J. H. Harvey, W. Ickes, and R. F. Kidd, eds., New directions in attribution research, vol. 2. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum (1978); and 2) Mindfulness. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley (1989). For a short review of Mindfulness, see the annotated bibliography in Beers (1996, p. 448b). For a comparison between Langer’s mindfulness and the Buddhist version, see Compton and Hoffman (2013, pp. 91-92).
  2. My understanding of Farber’s strategy (or tactic) is that he sets up a “mindfulness” vs “mindlessness” dichotomy. So if something is not “mindfulness” then it must be “mindlessness”. Therefore, according to him, there are no other alternatives than that. And that is, of course, a bad setup, for there may be lots of other alternatives.
  3. Some other interesting descriptions of mindlessness are the following. A nice discussion is found in Ellen Langer’s article called “Mindfulness Versus Positive Evaluation” in the Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology (2009, pp. 279-295). Another article called “Mindfulness and Cultivating Well-Being in Adults” by Laura Hsu and Ellen Langer describes some of the differences between mindfulness and mindlessness (2014, pp. 1027-1028). A shorter account is found in Chawla and Marlatt’s article “Mindlessness-Mindfulness” in the Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology (2010, pp. 1001b-1003a). Another concise account is found in Nick Baylis’s article “Teaching Positive Psychology” in Positive Psychology in Practice (2004, pp. 210-211).

REFERENCES

  • Baylis, Nick (2004), “Teaching Positive Psychology” in P. Alex Linley and Stephen Joseph, eds. Positive Psychology in Practice. Foreword by Martin E. P. Seligman. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. [Link to book]
  • Beers, Susan E. (1996), “Functions of Consciousness” in Frank N. Magill, ed. International Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2 vols. London, England and Chicago, Illinois: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. [Link to book]
  • Chawla, Neharika, and G. Alan Marlatt (2010), “Mindlessness-Mindfulness” in Irving B. Weiner and W. Edward Craighead, eds., The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. Fourth Edition. 4 vols. Volume 3: Magnetic Resonance Imaging – Questionnaires. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. [Link to book]
  • Compton, William C., and Edward Hoffman (2013), Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness and Flourishing. Second Edition. [No place:] Wadsworth Cengage Learning. [Link to book]
  • Hsu, Laura M., and Ellen J. Langer (2014), “Mindfulness and Cultivating Well-Being in Older Adults” in Susan A. David, Ilona Boniwell, and Amanda Conley Ayers, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Happiness. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Link to book]
  • Kelley, David (1994), The Art of Reasoning. Second Expanded Edition. New York and London: W W Norton & Company. [Link to book]
  • Lane, James B. (2005), “Mindfulness Meditation” in Michel Hersen and Johan Rosqvist, eds., Encyclopedia of Behavior Modification and Cognitive Behavior Therapy. 3 vols. Volume 1: Adult Clinical Applications. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. [Link to book]
  • Langer, Ellen (2011), “Mindfulness Versus Positive Evaluation” in Shane J. Lopez and C. R. Snyder, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Link to book]
  • Michalos, Alex C. (1970), Improving Your Reasoning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. [Link to book]
  • Peterson, Christopher, and Lisa M. Bossio (1991), Health and Optimism. New York: The Free Press. [Link to book]
  • Pyszczynski, Tom, et al. (2010), “Experimental Existential Psychology” in Susan T. Fiske, Daniel T. Gilbert, and Gardner Lindzey, eds., Handbook of Social Psychology. Fifth Edition. Volume 1. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. [Link to book]

Copyright © 2022 by Chris Bocay. All rights reserved.

First published: Tue 13 Sep 2022
Last revised: Tue 13 Sep 2022

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